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New England Burns Jet Fuel To Keep Lights On 230

Posted by timothy
from the molasses-burns-well-too dept.
First time accepted submitter inqrorken writes "During the recent cold snap, New England utilities turned to an unconventional fuel: jet fuel. Due to high demand for heating, natural gas supplies dropped and prices skyrocketed to $140/mmBtu and prompting the Mid-Atlantic RTO to call on demand response in the region. With 50% of installed generation capacity natural-gas fired, one utility took the step of running its jet fuel-based turbines for a record 15 hours."
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New England Burns Jet Fuel To Keep Lights On

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  • Jet Fuel? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sokoban (142301) on Saturday January 25, 2014 @05:27PM (#46068421) Homepage

    You mean, Kerosene? I guess Jet Fuel sounds cooler though.

    • No, they mean kerosene-gasoline blend, more commonly knows as jet fuel.

      • Re:Jet Fuel? (Score:5, Informative)

        by crmanriq (63162) on Saturday January 25, 2014 @05:43PM (#46068557)

        From Wikipedia (ya, I know...) on "Jet Fuel"

        "Jet fuel is a clear to straw-colored fuel, based on either an unleaded kerosene (Jet A-1), or a naphtha-kerosene blend (Jet B). It is similar to diesel fuel, and can be used in either compression ignition engines or turbine engines. .... if it fails the purity and other quality tests for use on jet aircraft, it is sold to other ground-based users with less demanding requirements, like railroad engines."

        So still not much of an event, other than to say "ooh, wow. Jet Fuel."

        • Re:Jet Fuel? (Score:5, Informative)

          by icebike (68054) on Saturday January 25, 2014 @06:22PM (#46068783)

          You might be tempted to believe this was just the usual "Headline Hype" on the part of Forbes.

          However, in this case it was an appropriate use of the term since the units fired up were in fact combustion turbines, (jet engines turning turbines), also used on many Navy ships.

          As a consequence, the grid operators have resorted to some rather unusual steps. Energy Choice Matters reported today that ISO-New England asked Public Service of New Hampshire (PSNH – a subsidiary of NorthEast Utilities) to operate its entire generation fleet this week to help keep the lights on. This included firing up several infrequently-deployed combustion turbines which ran on jet fuel.

          These are usually used as a source of last resort. They are usually avoided even for peaking demand. They are loud, suck fuel like crazy.
          They exist for precisely this type of emergency, fuel shortage, scheduled down time of gas fired plants, or any grid failure.

          In Alaska where I lived for 30 years, you saw exhaust from the turbines, you knew your next electric bill was going to hurt, because hydro and gas plants were down. You also knew that the LAST backup system was in use, so you stoked up the wood stove and turned off all unnecessary electrical load.

          • Re:Jet Fuel? (Score:5, Informative)

            by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 25, 2014 @06:38PM (#46068925)

            suck fuel like crazy

            That's not even an understatement. At my utility we have three such units which would only be run on emergency, and we have fairly reasonable storage tanks on site, but once they start running it's only a matter of time before they run out, and tanker trucks can't unload fuel as fast as these things burn it.

            • by Gothmolly (148874)

              "once they start running it's only a matter of time before they run out"

              Thanks, Dr. Romero.

          • by OneAhead (1495535)
            It would somewhat surprise me if these large terrestrial/naval turbines had the same stringent purity requirements as their lightweight high-performance counterparts used in aviation. Probably GP is right and these things run on kerosene that doesn't quite meet the standards for being labeled "Jet-A". Which doesn't mean they're fuel-efficient or cheap to operate... burning metric tons of kerosene in large turbine engines won't make for cheap electricity, regardless of its grade.
            • by LWATCDR (28044)

              They probably are using home heating oil. Jet engines can run on just about anything that burns. What you do not want is too much soot or any abrasive material in the fuel.

            • Re:Jet Fuel? (Score:5, Informative)

              by dbIII (701233) on Sunday January 26, 2014 @12:07AM (#46070631)
              They are the same thing as in the jets, but since a lot of them are pretty old (but low hours) they are back from when the fuel requirements were a bit lower. Also I suspect a lot of the requirements are related to safety in situations where you cannot park a fire truck on the wing instead of actual engine operating requirements.

              burning metric tons of kerosene in large turbine engines won't make for cheap electricity

              It's expensive as hell which is why these things are normally a fallback for unusual peak loads.


              Some jet engines used for power generation have been adapted to use different fuel sources, such as a little 20MW Avon jet that's running on coal seam gas in one project.

          • by LWATCDR (28044)

            Actually a lot of peaking plants now are natural gas fired turbines. Natural Gas is a lot cheaper than jet fuel.

            • by icebike (68054)

              Actually a lot of peaking plants now are natural gas fired turbines. Natural Gas is a lot cheaper than jet fuel.

              Exactly, but in this case, as the summary mentions, there was a shortage of gas (or fear of shortage) and they fired up
              the jet turbines.

              • by LWATCDR (28044)

                I wish people would stop calling them jet turbines they are gas turbines. They are not the same engines used on planes. They share the same core but often will have extra exhaust turbine stages. Even the engines on modern jet airliners are not really "jet engines" anymore since most of the thrust comes from the fan on a turbofan engine and not the jet exhaust.

          • These are usually used as a source of last resort. They are usually avoided even for peaking demand. They are loud, suck fuel like crazy.
            They exist for precisely this type of emergency, fuel shortage, scheduled down time of gas fired plants, or any grid failure.

            That may have been the case once, but combustion turbines are now the preferred complement to highly variable wind, as they spin up fast. Ironically, this "green" solution uses considerably more fuel than combined cycle gas turbines alone to produce the same amount of energy. (30% efficiency for 70% of the time while wind produces no energy, versus 60% efficiency 100% of the time with CCGTs alone.)

            • by dbIII (701233)
              Don't blame wind. The turbines have been a peak source for decades. A lot of them are built from 1950s jet turbines FFS.
        • Re:Jet Fuel? (Score:5, Informative)

          by Runaway1956 (1322357) on Sunday January 26, 2014 @12:38AM (#46070781) Homepage Journal

          Great post - that little buzzword, "jet fuel" really doesn't mean what the uninformed think that it means.

          A couple points:
          There are various grades of jet fuel, and those various grades are suitable for a number of uses. Aboard ship, we burned JP4 in our boilers. JP5 would burn just as well, with less soot, but it was more expensive so we always specified JP4 in our fuel requirements.

          I've often read stories of aviation facilities rejecting fuel deliveries when it failed one test or other. That fuel is invariable accepted as a lower quality fuel, and used in less demanding aircraft, or used for power generation, or even used for diesel fuel.

          As for TFS, the reference to " an unconventional fuel" is completely off target. Following the links, one discovers that the generation plants have turbine powered generators ready to go online at a moment's notice. There is nothing "unconventional" about their use, other than the economic pressures which dictated their use. It is simply unusual for jet fuel to become more available and/or economical to use than natural gas. In short - the generation companies were ready at a moment's notice to fire up these jet fuel generators, which really are quite "conventional".

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        No, they mean kerosene-gasoline blend, more commonly knows as jet fuel.

        Not exactly. While Jet B is a 70/30 blend, The more widely used Jet A/A-1 fuels are kerosene.

      • Re:Jet Fuel? (Score:5, Informative)

        by rotorbudd (1242864) on Saturday January 25, 2014 @06:54PM (#46069011)

        "No, they mean kerosene-gasoline blend, more commonly knows as jet fuel."

        Jet fuel has no gasoline in it.
        In fact most turbine aircraft engines are limited to just a few hours of operation with any amount of gasoline mixed into the fuel.
        After that you you get to overhaul the hot-end with the added bonus of tossing some very expensive turbine wheels of blades away

        • Jet fuel has no gasoline in it.

          Jet-B is 30% kerosene and 70% gasoline blend. It is used for better cold weather performance.

      • What is the primary difference between gasoline, and any diesel or kero fuel? Gasoline is explosive, whereas all of the heavier oil fuels burn instead of exploding. Just about the last thing that any operator of an oil based combustion engine wants, is an explosive fuel. Gasoline will readily destroy any of those engines in pretty short order.

        Tractor trailer operators on the highway often put a gallon of gasoline in their fuel tanks when it is extremely cold, to make the engine run warmer. A gallon of g

        • Well, I dont have to extrapolate. Google Jet-B fuel.

        • Re:Jet Fuel? (Score:5, Informative)

          by fnj (64210) on Sunday January 26, 2014 @01:00PM (#46073469)

          What is the primary difference between gasoline, and any diesel or kero fuel? Gasoline is explosive, whereas all of the heavier oil fuels burn instead of exploding. Just about the last thing that any operator of an oil based combustion engine wants, is an explosive fuel. Gasoline will readily destroy any of those engines in pretty short order.

          Complete and utter bullshit. Ever heard of detonation? An atomized near-stoichiometric gasoline-air mix, port-injected and then compressed in the cylinder, burns smoothly under proper conditions in a gasoline (spark ignition) engine, and detonates loudly and roughly when improper conditions are allowed to occur. In a diesel (compression ignition) engine, the fuel is SUPPOSED to burn promptly at the instant of injection. It CAN'T burn any more quickly than it is injected, and the injection is controlled. The precise profile of the burn is controlled by the profile of the injection. Modern diesels have several injection events (up to a dozen or so) spread out in time for each cylinder cycle. If you inject gasoline or kerosene instead of diesel fuel, it doesn't "explode" any more or less than when you inject diesel fuel. Or you can inject peanut oil.

          The reason pure gasoline or a high percentage of gasoline as fuel is destructive to modern diesel engines has everything to do with the extremely high pressure injection system and next to nothing to do with combustion. The injection pump and injectors are designed for the specific lubricity characteristics of diesel fuel. Change that to gasoline and you will quickly destroy thousands of dollars' worth of parts. Heck, even too high a percentage of biodiesel is destructive to modern designs. Usually anything over 5% bio will void the warranty.

          You (DISCLAIMER!) put either gasoline or diesel fuel in a (SMALL!) open container in a cool, well ventilated area, and try (CAREFULLY!) to light it with a match, and the first thing you may find is that it is difficult or impossible to light it that way. If you put a wick in it, you can light either one easily, and they BOTH burn completely controlled, just like an alcohol lamp. If you atomize any of them, gasoline, diesel fuel, or alcohol in air and light the mixture, they will ALL explode.

          Gasoline has a much lower flash point than the others. All that means is that a dangerous vapor can form around an open container if not adequately ventilated, and that vapor if ignited can explode. For gasoline, the flash point is far below room temperature, and actually below even very cold winter temperatures - excluding arctic circle and beyond at their very coldest.

          The autoignition temperature of gasoline (280 C) is actually a little HIGHER than #2 diesel fuel (256 C) and substantially higher than jet fuel (210 C) and kerosene (220 C), but the flash point is much LOWER than any of them.

          The state of the diesel art circa 1980 was much more forgiving. The owners manual not only allowed mixing up to 10% gasoline with the diesel fuel to prevent gelling, it specifically allowed for using a mixture of gasoline and fresh straight 10 weight motor oil as an alternative fuel when nothing else was available. They would also run just fine indefinitely on 100% biodiesel, or even a variety of unprocessed vegetable oils.

          Even my 1999 VW was run by me for a substantial period of time on both 20% biodiesel and straight 100% biodiesel with no ill effects whatever (although by that time anything over 5% was disclaimed by VW)

    • It would be even cooler if the headline was about burning napalm :)
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Except that they add a few additives to it when its actually 'Jet Fuel'. Eg: they don't recommend burning 'Jet Fuel' in a kerosene heater because the additives make it stink (a bit more). When you run straight kerosene in Jet Aircraft, it doesn't burn quite as nicely (I've seen Russian MiG 29's burning straight kerosene, and they smoke a bit when spooling up and taxiing on the runway). I also assume they weren't burning JP4 (but I also assume that the locals don't have SR-71 Blackbirds laying about). I

    • Back when I was in the Navy in '72, we often used small quantities of jet fuel, known as "JP5," as a paint thinner. (I'm talking about 1 cup or less, mostly used to clean brushes.) I was told at the time that it was basically kerosene. Now, however, I'm wondering if it had some special additives to help it work jet engines, especially in the jet turbines that helicopters use.
    • Re: Jet Fuel? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Turboglh (816701)

      I overhaul the Pratt & Whitney units used by a lot of utilities, and their use in high demand situations isn't uncommon, that's why they're installed.

      Also, the choice of fuel on older units is predominately liquid fuel (jet a), with a mix of dual fuel (usually started on liquid and switched to gas for running) and straight gas.

      So, unless you have a dual fuel setup on your units, you're stuck running whatever fuel you always use and you have no choice in switching based on the fluctuations in fuel costs.

  • Invisible Hand (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Mateorabi (108522) on Saturday January 25, 2014 @05:29PM (#46068441) Homepage
    So this wasn't an equipment failure requiring a backup, but just market price fluctuation: The cost of natural gas per Watt generated went above the cost per Watt of the fuel for the backup generators, due to the high demand for natural gas as demand rose as temperatures fell. Sounds like Econ 101.

    1. Why didn't the wholesale electric prices rise in tandem with the gas price to keep generation economical? Capped by fixed residential rates?

    2. Why didn't the generators use the derivatives market to hedge against spikes in gas prices so they'd be able to keep buying as demand/price rose?
    • Re:Invisible Hand (Score:5, Informative)

      by khallow (566160) on Saturday January 25, 2014 @05:43PM (#46068565)

      2. Why didn't the generators use the derivatives market to hedge against spikes in gas prices so they'd be able to keep buying as demand/price rose?

      I don't know. But this was allegedly predicted [northeastgas.org] by analysts.

      A central challenge is that - especially in New England - most power generators do not contract for firm gas pipeline capacity under their unilateral control and instead rely on "if and as available" gas non-firm capacity, or, in some cases, capacity held by third parties. Pipeline capacity has routinely been added to meet the needs of gas customers who desire firm service and are willing to execute firm contracts for such service.

      The majority of gas-fired power generators in New England opt for non-firm gas transportation services. The generators have long observed that the electric market does not provide the proper incentives to encourage them to contract for firm transportation. NGA has encouraged the development of solutions to this power market dilemma, which causes uncertainty for the entire regional energy market.

      So apparently, pipeline capacity is built based on "firm capacity" contracts, but the peaking load generators don't have the incentives to purchase those contracts.

      • Re:Invisible Hand (Score:5, Interesting)

        by rmdingler (1955220) on Saturday January 25, 2014 @05:56PM (#46068629)
        FTA: Natural gas is classified as a 'just in time' fuel delivery system.

        This anomaly was preceded by huge increases in the underlying natural gas spot market price, in perfect timing with the additional cold bestowed on the region by Polar Vortex storms.

        Surely, speculators didn't drive up the price of a commodity right before the storm hit?

        • Yes. More natural gas burned on a winter. Who could tell. Maybe its a FAIL swan event.

        • Re:Invisible Hand (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Attila Dimedici (1036002) on Saturday January 25, 2014 @06:24PM (#46068793)

          Surely, speculators didn't drive up the price of a commodity right before the storm hit?

          Yes, it would have been much better for DEMAND to drive up prices right after the storm hit so that consumers would be unable to see the price rise coming and reduce their reliance on natural gas and suppliers would be unable to increase production to meet (and profit from) the increased demand (perhaps by rerouting from other areas which would not need the natural gas as desperately). Yes, that would be much better. ?s

        • Re:Invisible Hand (Score:5, Insightful)

          by icebike (68054) on Saturday January 25, 2014 @06:35PM (#46068905)

          Not to mention that storing enough gas on site to run a generation facility is pretty much impossible and dangerous.

          Even spec prices don't do you any good unless you have a direct pipeline to the source. Most places are on the large pipe network, and there is no way you can blindly pump gas in form your spec source and expect it to arrive ONLY at the those sites with spec contracts.

          Its easier to just add a fuel surcharge to the end user's electric bill. Which is exactly what happens in most places.

      • I know a case where the pipeline pumping station for one of the largest gas fired generators in northern California staved money buy getting a deal on curtailable power (like letting the utility shut down your AC during brownouts).

        PG&E are 'super geniuses'.

        • by icebike (68054)

          Of course with a pipeline full of gas, they could fire up their own generators, no?

    • by zippthorne (748122) on Saturday January 25, 2014 @05:49PM (#46068599) Journal

      NE is violently opposed to building any energy infrastructure.

      For instance the Weaver's Cove LNG terminal proposal in Fall River, MA was ultimately shot down because regulators believed there wasn't enough demand for natural gas in NE, despite the region having one of the highest prices for natural gas in the country. Apparently price is not an indicator of demand.

      Fall River is also in the process of shutting down a coal power plant (which the local residents are apparently dancing with glee over, despite the two huge cooling towers they made them build recently) , which is presumed to be replaced by natural gas capacity elsewhere in the region.

      • by Mashiki (184564) <mashiki.gmail@com> on Saturday January 25, 2014 @06:39PM (#46068931) Homepage

        NE is violently opposed to building any energy infrastructure.

        Of course they are, they buy it all from Canada for less than what we pay for it at home. And about half the time the NE-US buys it at us from a loss on our side, you really don't *need* to build new power plants or generators---unless you want to supply on your own side. As it stands, you're getting a hell of a deal from us.

        • by khallow (566160)

          Of course they are, they buy it all from Canada for less than what we pay for it at home.

          Sounds to me like the problem isn't buying cheap natural gas, but getting enough of it into New England.

          • by Mashiki (184564)

            Sounds to me like the problem isn't buying cheap natural gas, but getting enough of it into New England.

            No pipes in a lot of cases. The NG network is somewhat limited, but we've got massive ready reserves of it in Canada, and it's all sitting capped off. We could easily sell it to the US, but there's no real piping to run from AB/SK/MB to those areas of the US. We do ship it by rail car that way though.

    • Re:Invisible Hand (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Rich0 (548339) on Saturday January 25, 2014 @06:13PM (#46068733) Homepage

      Why didn't the generators use the derivatives market to hedge against spikes in gas prices so they'd be able to keep buying as demand/price rose?

      Well, they might very well have had hedges to allow them to buy at normal prices, but then they're left with a choice - take that super-expensive gas that they can buy and burn it, or turn around and sell it to somebody else at market price and burn something else. If they can get more selling the gas than it would take to fuel their generators with jet fuel, then they're going to sell the gas and buy jet fuel.

      Just because they have the option to burn gas doesn't necessarily compel them to do so...

      • by Rich0 (548339)

        Just because they have the option to burn gas doesn't necessarily compel them to do so...

        Sorry - one other thing. This isn't a bad thing at all. If some utility has the right pipelines so that they can burn either gas or jet fuel, and the former is in super-high demand and the latter isn't, then it is actually good for the public that they burn the jet fuel and alleviate the shortage of jet fuel. That keeps prices on gas lower for homeowners, who can't just use their trusty oil pipeline to operate their jet fuel home heating unit.

    • Re:Invisible Hand (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Animats (122034) on Saturday January 25, 2014 @06:26PM (#46068817) Homepage

      Ah, the "markets will fix everything" (but didn't read the linked article) types.

      Wholesale electric prices did rise, to about $950/MWH, for about half an hour around 5 AM EST this morning. That didn't last long. It's now around $150/MWH. The price goes up and down by a factor of 3 or so in a normal 24 hour cycle.

      There's hedging going on in power, natural gas, and weather. But it doesn't affect the amount of generating capacity online on an hour by hour basis.

      Read PJM 101 [pjm.com] to understand how this works. Electric power in the PJM region is normally driven entirely by markets. However, PJM grid control in Valley Forge, PA can order "non-market actions" to keep power on, and generating companies (which are not all utilities) are obligated by their contracts with PJM to obey those instructions or pay huge penalties. PJM doesn't do this often. Yesterday and the day before, though, were bad days. Both days, there were Max Emergency Generation alerts . The longest was from 19:19 EST on Thursday to 08:45 Friday. That's because some generating capacity was down, and peaking plants had to be used to make up capacity. That's part of what peaking plants are for.

      Wind power didn't help. Wind power was at a low when power was most needed. Even with wind farms spread over many states, wind power in the PJM area goes up and down over a 4x range.

      (Sometimes power is really cheap. The price can even go negative. Load varies over about a 3x range during a normal day, and around 2-5 AM, it's at minimum. All the plants that burn fuel shut down first. Much of PJM's power comes from Ontario Hydro, and when they have too much water in their reservoirs, they have to let some out through their generators. So they continue to produce power even if the price they're being paid briefly goes below 0. Adjusting the output of nuclear plants is slow, and they'll also sometimes generate even if it costs them. The wind farms usually prefer to shut down rather than pay, and so, late at night, sometimes the giant wind turbines feather their props and slow to a stop.)

    • by stomv (80392)

      1. They did. The bulk power market in New England, managed by ISONE, uses locational marginal prices. They also use economic dispatch, subject to voltage control, transmission capacity, and other reliability issues. The LMPs were enormous during the cold snap. And, while the LMPs were high, it won't be reflected (much) in the electric bill because the power companies (the folks you send a monthly check to) have long term fixed rate contracts with generators, so they're not paying the spot price.

      2. Gas gener

  • by acidradio (659704) on Saturday January 25, 2014 @05:37PM (#46068519)

    In recent years there has been a movement to quickly shutter "old" power plants that run on fuel sources like coal, oil and other less environmentally friendly fuels and totally replace them with natural gas plants. Natural gas has come way down in price also which helps force that along. But what happens when supplies of natural gas either radically go up in price or become limited due to some other distribution problem? It's a good thing that they had these peaking units ready at the standby along with a sufficient amount of fuel.

    Where I live (Minneapolis) a number of the local coal power plants have been completely converted to natural gas. There is still one large coal-fired plant though north of town (Xcel Energy's Sherco) that is not viable to convert to natural gas at this point and still runs on coal. Sherco was the quintessential baseload coal fired power plant cranking out 2400MW through three units. It has now be relegated to being a peaking unit for the most part, turned up and down as necessary. Recently one of the three turbines violently shattered, had to be rebuilt and was offline for many months. Sherco is the kind of power plant that was meant to be fired up and ran continually for a couple of years without downtime and without significant variation in the throttling/output. I can only speculate but I don't think that treating it like a peaking plant and constantly varying the output is good for it... and a number of other similar power plants around the country.

    • by Rich0 (548339)

      That is one of the problems with market-based solutions. The CEOs get bonuses based on this quarter's profits, and they don't have to pay them back when the company tanks next quarter. This leads to a lot of short-sighted risk-taking. If you're the company running on a more expensive fuel for diversification then you get clobbered in the market while your competitors burn gas. Sure, you'll do better if gas prices spike, but chances are that you'll be bankrupt before that happens, or even if gas prices s

      • by Attila Dimedici (1036002) on Saturday January 25, 2014 @06:28PM (#46068831)
        This is not a problem with market-based solutions. It is a problem with a certain segment of our politicians waging a "war on coal". As to "why drug companies don't make new antibiotics", well that would be an interesting theory, if it were true that they do not actually do so. The main reason that it appears that drug companies don't make new antibiotics is because all of the "easy" ones have already been developed.
        • by Rich0 (548339)

          As to "why drug companies don't make new antibiotics", well that would be an interesting theory, if it were true that they do not actually do so. The main reason that it appears that drug companies don't make new antibiotics is because all of the "easy" ones have already been developed.

          There have been a couple of new antibiotics over the last 20 years, but if you look at them almost none of them make much money. An "easy" drug costs about as much to develop as a hard one - most of the costs are in the clinical trials and you need to bribe (er, compensate) the doctors to sign up subjects, otherwise you don't get approval to market the drug.

          It isn't like erectile dysfunction drugs are super-easy to develop - it is just far more lucrative to do so.

          What I'm saying here is hardly controversia

          • by khallow (566160)

            otherwise you don't get approval to market the drug.

            Whoops, how does that fit into your market-based narrative? It might take a small handful of people to find and develop a new antibiotic, but it takes a army to test it so that it gets approved by the FDA and similar organizations.

          • The erectile dysfunction drugs were all initially being developed for other purposes. It was an accident when the first one, during testing for its original purpose, was discovered to help erectile dysfunction. The others were all the similar drugs under study for the original purpose that the first one was being developed for when the news broke.
            So, the fact that drug companies have developed new antibiotics, but haven't made much money is in your mind evidence that market based solutions have failed? An
  • In other words... (Score:5, Informative)

    by MrLogic17 (233498) on Saturday January 25, 2014 @05:38PM (#46068523) Journal

    During peak load, the utility ran peaker plants. This isn't unusual.

    Now, running a high cost peaker for 15 hours, that's noteworthy.

    • by Gothmolly (148874)

      Is it? Citation needed. What's a "normal" peak burn or set of burns?

    • by mendax (114116)

      During peak load, the utility ran peaker plants. This isn't unusual.

      Exactly, many utilities have peaker plants for this purpose and they use something like jet engines to run generators. This is not exactly news. The utility faced a massive crunch due to the cold and they used Plan B.

  • I wonder if "First time accepted submitter inqrorken" comes from a warm climate; I remember that the facilities managers at a national park near where I lived would price out fuel oil, diesel, and Jet-A for oil-burning home heat in the employee housing every hear. The prices fluctuate based on a lot of factors, including refinery over-runs, gluts and shortages based on transport industries, etc., so while it was unlikely, it wasn't unheard of for Jet-A to be the cheapest option.

    • Actually, the Northeast is home. While shale gas has brought a ton of jobs to the region, and has helped to limit energy costs (just look at European residential electric rates!) we're using it in a blundering fashion. The point here is that we can't just switch everything over to the current wonderfuel - there are other articles, from the polar vortex earlier this year, that report that the Northeast's gas pipeline capacity was maxed out. As ever, we've got to be smart.
      • by Ol Olsoc (1175323)

        Actually, the Northeast is home. While shale gas has brought a ton of jobs to the region

        Living in the fatted area, "a ton of jobs" is industry codswaddle. The jobs are mostly subcontractor type jobs, and as soon as they are done in your area, those jobs disappear. It's only reasonable, you need a fair number of people to drill the wells and bring them online. After that? almost no one. In my area, it was about 2 years. There have been some sad stories about idiots who thought they were long lasting jobs. I recall one form a restaraunt owner who was shocked. She saw dollar signs, then had to la

  • And too cheap to meter! Oh, and there's trillions of barrels of oil RIGHT HERE IN THE USA, and, and .... cold fusion and biofuels!

    Or not.

    • by rrohbeck (944847)

      Your forgot Thorium and LENR. Me, I prefer burning unicorns. They only emit rainbows.

  • iced... (Score:2, Interesting)

    Sounds like an excuse to bust out the extraordinarily high price cap. First shut down the coal plants, then free up prices. Newly minted fortunes. Thanks, Obama the careless.
    • The US electric generation system was deregulated in 2002 by the same people who brought you the worst economic disaster since the Great Depression and two useless wars.

      Nothing to do with the current administration.

      Sorry to disappoint you.

  • to jet somewhere warmer like sunny OZ. http://www.weather.com.au/ [weather.com.au]
  • I wonder what will happen next year, after Vermont Yankee is shut down and the grid loses 2 GW of base load?

    Also, anyone have any statistics on wind production over the same period?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I live in Maine. Originally for the south midwest. VERY south midwest. That said, from what I've seen up here, in Maine, New Hampshire, Mass. there's so much waste in heating going on that with proper backing of several billion and a 10 year plan, I could double that money redoing select pre-40's buildings into modern energy efficient levels.

    Where I live, its costing $400-500 a month right now in heating oil. That will likely go through March, somewhat into April. Getting on a yearly contract for heating oi

    • by Lumpy (12016)

      "Where I live, its costing $400-500 a month right now in heating oil"
      yet people who own homes are too damn cheap to pay a company $2000 to upgrade your insulation in the home and attic.

      If you own your home and you pay $500 a month to heat your 1929 uninsulated home, you have no right to complain about your heating bill.

      I bought my home and that summer paid for blown in insulation to all walls and the attic, I then went around and measured each window and ordered 1 window a month and replaced them myself.

      I

    • What is really need are tax incentives to move off all of these heat means and go to geo-thermal HVAC. For most of the lower 48, geo-thermal is truly the dirt cheap way to go. But it kills me that most of that heating oil is imported from Venezuela.
  • [OT] mmBtu? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by multi io (640409) <olaf.klischat@googlemail.com> on Saturday January 25, 2014 @06:38PM (#46068927)

    Due to high demand for heating, natural gas supplies dropped and prices skyrocketed to $140/mmBtu

    Off-topic question: Do these people actually invent new units of energy for each application?

    Wikipedia [wikipedia.org]

    A BTU is the amount of heat required to raise the temperature of 1 pound (0.454 kg) of liquid water by 1 F (0.56 C) at a constant pressure of one atmosphere.[1] As with calorie, several BTU definitions exist, which are based on different water temperatures and therefore vary by up to 0.5%.

    The unit MBtu or mBtu was defined as one thousand BTU, presumably from the Roman numeral system where "M" or "m" stands for one thousand (1,000). This is easily confused with the SI mega (M) prefix, which multiplies by a factor of one million (1,000,000). To avoid confusion many companies and engineers use MMBtu or mmBtu to represent one million BTU.

    Somebody must have thought really long and hard to come up with that stuff.

    • It's how we engineers keep our supply of labor artificially low.

    • by fnj (64210)

      MM or mm to mean million is a moronic bean counter business MBA practice. It should have died a horrible death many decades ago. MM in the real world is nonsense for mega mega, which should be T for tera. And mm is millimeters in the real world.

      M (mega) is million, k (kilo) is thousand.

      Any idiot can convert BTU to MJ, but when you see M as a multiplier and it doesn't even mean million, how moronic is that?

  • Here is a secret. Jet Fuel is KEROSENE.

    I can burn "Jet Fuel" in my cheap garage kerosene heater.

    Honestly Journalism is getting worse and worse these days, it seems that the only thing you need to be a journalist is to dress like a hipster and not have any ability at all to do research or have any education about the subject.

    • shhh. The vast majority of /.'s did not know that either. Keep in mind that it is a secret.
    • by couchslug (175151)

      Jet fuel is of course more abundant than plain kero, but it's also much more expensive due to additives and purity levels required for use as aviation fuel.

      Folks who have access to free JP-8 drained from aircraft undergoing maintenance often run it in their diesel trucks as it's compatible with diesel engines.

    • by Ol Olsoc (1175323)

      Here is a secret. Jet Fuel is KEROSENE.

      I can burn "Jet Fuel" in my cheap garage kerosene heater.

      Honestly Journalism is getting worse and worse these days, it seems that the only thing you need to be a journalist is to dress like a hipster and not have any ability at all to do research or have any education about the subject.

      Another thing I'm curious about. I would assume that these power companies store their fuel on site (this is an assumption, I do not know for sure). But if they do, the fuel must be cycled through, as it does not last forever as good grade fuel. This situation happens with emergency power for radio tower trsnmitter sites. They use a certain amount of fuel for regular tests, but they have to renew the fuel eventually. You do that by running the old fuel through thesystem in most cases.

  • Why do we let these eco-terrorists even live so far north where they have to burn up all the world's fuel? It's not like any of these people are actual lumberjacks who need to live there. They might as well be eating spotted owls on rye bread with mayo!
  • Seriously, we need to move to thorium reactors for main systems, along with EOS energy for providing on-demand need.
    • Move to India in a decade and you may get that. Otherwise file it under bullet trains as a technology that isn't going to happen in the USA no matter how good it is.
      The nuclear lobby killed it because they saw it as a threat to interests that depended on Uranium.
  • Whatcha gonna do? (Score:2, Flamebait)

    by reboot246 (623534)
    The coal-fired electric generating plants will eventually all be shut down (thanks, Obama!); nuclear is never going to be accepted (or done right); natural gas is going to go through the roof when most of it is being used to generate electricity; and oil is considered a nasty fuel. Solar and wind may be nice, but they're years away from being able to supply our energy needs.

    You better hope the Earth is getting warmer because that's the only thing that will keep you from freezing your ass off.

    Satisfied now?
    • We are flaring off immense amounts of natural gas because the infrastructure to collect it isn't done yet, and many natural gas companies have closed in wells because of recent low prices.

      Really there isn't a lot of concern here except the fact we are experiencing some unusual weather. Such events are generally short term.

      Still I'd like to see more R&D on nuclear. Once the gas is gone we are going to want it.

  • The whole area around New England and the state itself are virulently anti-energy. Vermont banned fracking even though they have no recoverable natural gas reserves; they did it just to make a headline. New England might have a deposit in the Hartford Basin, but we'll never know because just like its neighbors New England is also well on its way to banning recovery. New York has managed to inflict [zerohedge.com] record gas prices on itself this month.

    So shiver in the dark as far as I'm concerned. Shut off your extrava

    • Except this is not at all specific to New England.

      It covers PJM, which is Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia, NE, and New York as well.

      Basically it is the entire north eastern quadrant of the United States.

  • There was a story yesterday about life being the best way matter found for thermodynamics second law [simonsfoundation.org]. Humain activity this is an improvement over general life: we burn as much energy as we can. And now a jet fuel, which obviously cost more to produce than conventional fuel.

    Preserving environment was not easy, and now we have thermodynaics second law against us.

  • Burning Jet fuel is just the beginning..
    Historically, it's not uncommon for some New England colonies not to make it through the winter.

  • It's a frequently used source of power to cover high peak loads in a lot of places. Expensive as hell to run but the capital costs are relatively low and the lead time to implement it is short. So a lot of places have it but only fire it up,when the peaks go very high.
    When I was in power generation the state network had three jet engines set up like this to cover peak loads (in addition to the older jet engines which were reserved as emergency backup generators for when a power station was isolated, shut
  • Peak load assets (Score:3, Informative)

    by prisoner-of-enigma (535770) on Sunday January 26, 2014 @10:48AM (#46072609) Homepage

    What *should* be scary but is being ignored by the larger public is how utilities are increasingly running "peak load" assets as if they were "base load" assets. To wit, combined-cycle turbine plants are not usually designed for continuous operation like this; they're designed to be brought online during peak load *only*. Base load assets like coal and nuclear carry the non-peak loads. The peak load assets are going to have much more intensive maintenance costs if they keep running them like this, leading to higher prices for consumers and the ugly potential for brownout/blackout when these peak load assets break down unexpectedly.

    Disclosure: I'm a tech consultant working with TVA right now, and this info comes direct from people who run these assets. We *need* more base load assets like coal and nuclear, but government regulations are making that extremely difficult. Indeed, we're having to *shut down* coal plants due to new government regulations, further stressing an already-fragile national power infrastructure. Thank god we're *finally* building some new nuclear assets (TVA's Watts Bar Unit 2, and Georgia Power's Plant Vogtle Units 3 and 4) but we need to be doing this on a much larger scale to meet growing demands for power. Conservation will only take you so far; at some point -- a point I think we passed some years ago -- you must expand capacity to keep your system fault-tolerant.

I tell them to turn to the study of mathematics, for it is only there that they might escape the lusts of the flesh. -- Thomas Mann, "The Magic Mountain"

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