LNG and the environment
Ramesh K. Sujanani, Contributor
THERE IS an article by Michael Bryce in The Gleaner of May 6, 2012, concerning the choice of an LNG (liquefied natural gas) plant (fossil fuel) for handling up to 460MW over the next three years.
We have probably flogged this topic to death, and no consideration is made of environmental effects. Coal is understood to emit a poor environmental footprint, which includes a significant emission of sulphur and nitrogen oxides, which produce acid rain. Coal is also a fossil fuel, with emissions of other harmful gasses.
What about LNG? In 2006, there was a large amount of greenhouse gas emissions, which is the cause of global warming, a subject about which we have a lot of comment. In fact, 81.3 per cent of these gasses come from the burning of fossil fuels, including coal.
The main emissions of LNG are these same global warming gases, particularly carbon dioxide and methane. Though methane (sometimes called marsh gas) accounts for only 1.1 per cent, it traps heat 21.5 per cent more than carbon dioxide.
There are new developments in LNG techno-logy, in which heat is fed back into the emission source and causes a further burning of the greenhouse gases; but this raises the capital cost of the plant. It still will retain a certain amount of sulphur and nitrogen gases.
At the current prices of LNG, the cost of energy production is lower, and the fuel may be consi-dered efficient at that price. Now, I understand a combined cycle plant, which is what is being considered, is the most efficient, especially when most of the diesel plants in our reserve can be converted to LNG, and a combined cycle may be set up in their operations.
But, what about capacity? We need 460MW to suffice within the next three to five years, and that is what seems to be consistent with current needs.
Within the next 10 years, we shall need more than 1000MW to satisfy our needs, so what do we do then? Do we wait seven years and find we are hopelessly behind on energy production, as is our present situation? No, this needs more planning.
The least emissions are available in renewable energy resources, which are still not sufficient or efficient enough to satisfy a significant part of our need. The most emission-free source of energy, the one that has least environmental effect, and the one that is sufficient, is nuclear power.
The problem here is that you have to buy a plant anywhere from 500-1000MW at least. Nuclear plants take a lot of investment, but a great deal of the costs lie in safety, control and disposal measures, and it would take around seven-ten years to build. But the plant will last 50-70 years before you need to demolish it. The timing is right for Jamaica, and we can perhaps grow our economy somewhat faster, and save on the expenditures for LNG plants; though we can have them operational for standby and reserve capacity.
I am, therefore, challenging the Office of Utilities Regulation, Jamaica Public Service Company, and the Gordon Shirley Committee to consider this last option.
I suppose in these matters there is no simple solutions, only intelligent compromises.