EPA Makes Plans to Curb Plane Emissions

The Obama Administration has initiated talks on restricting the aerospace industry’s greenhouse gas emissions, stating that it might take some time before exact regulations take effect.

According to the EPA, like the automobile industry and power plants, airplanes also negatively impact human health; thus, restrictions are necessary. Creating the regulations will take some time — nothing will be enacted while Obama is in office, and will be the next president’s responsibility.

The EPA is waiting for the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), which is tasked with creating international aviation regulations, to develop worldwide carbon emission rules. The deadline is February 2016; ICAO members are obligated to enact international regulations approved by the agency. The EPA is collaborating with multiple international agencies, like the ICAO, to create aerospace regulations.

Environmentalists would like the EPA to issue their rules before February 2016 because they worry that the ICAO — an agency that works with both the EPA and airline industry — will be biased and present lenient restrictions. Environmental groups want the US to lead the way.

Per the Flying Clean campaign, flights in and out of the US constitute almost one-third of the world’s airplane emissions; airline emissions will likely double by the end of 2020 if nothing is done soon.

Of course, Republicans have their issues with Obama cutting airplane emissions, specifying that airfare prices will skyrocket and hurt domestic air travel. Airline companies agree, explaining that they have already done so much to curb emissions, including using fuel alternatives, enhancing aerodynamics, and using lighter inflight materials. As reported by the International Air Transport Association, decreasing an airplane’s weight by 5.5 pounds is equivalent to a one-ton cut in yearly carbon emissions.

But the aviation industry continues to grow: more and more people are flying each year. Although air flights only comprise 2 percent of worldwide emissions, it’s projected that by 2020, international flights can reach 70 percent above 2005 numbers, regardless of whether fuel efficiency is advanced by an annual 2 percent.

To combat this, in the past, the EU tried to enact the Emissions Trading System, which was subsequently banned by the US, China, and other countries. With the support of both Democrats and Republicans, Obama even passed the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme Prohibition Act of 2011, which banned American airlines from partaking in the EU’s system.

Airlines have pledged to limit their emissions by 2 percent every year until 2020, when emission growth will cap. The ultimate goal is for the aerospace industry’s emissions to be at half 2005′s numbers by 2050.

At this point, using newly-made airplanes that have better fuel economies are our best bet. Boeing has introduced its new 787 Dreamliner and Airbus has introduced the A350, both of which are more fuel efficient but not in wide use just yet.

(From New York Times)

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

June 16, 2015

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“Norsk Hydro to acquire German aluminum recycler” – Recycling Today, 3 March 2015

Norwegian aluminum and renewable energy company Norsk Hydro is purchasing WMR Recycling GmbH, which, according to Hydro, means Hydro will be the leading entity in aluminum scrap sorting technology.

WMR utilizes x-ray transmission and other forward-thinking technology to sort scrap; the facility has the ability to sift through 36,000 metric tons of scrap annually. The aluminum scrap will also be used to provide material for Hydro’s other Europe-based recycling plants. Hydro will employ some of WMR’s technology to improve their Neuss, Germany-based used beverage can (UBC) plant so that it runs on a closed-loop recycling system.

Hydro recycled almost 1.1 million metric tons of aluminum in 2014, but now that number will surely climb. In 2013, Hydro was working with WMR to transfer some of its aluminum scrap supply to Hydro’s recycling facilities.

Hydro’s move will reflect Norway’s high appetite for a low carbon lifestyle, which will now be aided by an intensified recycling culture.

(From Recycling Today)

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

March 4, 2015

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“Making CO2 an Energy Asset” – Wall Street Journal, 16 July 2014

Though carbon dioxide has had a disastrous impact on our environment, the energy industry can actually use it for some good: inserting CO2 into oil fields actually boosts oil production.

Coal-burning power plants emit man-made CO2 into the air, and oil drillers typically find their CO2 underground caverns or industrial facilities. However, New York-based electricity manufacturer NRG Energy Inc. is aiming to do things a little differently. NRG’s new strategy is to trap CO2 emitted from one of its Houston coal-fired plants and siphon the CO2 to a nearby oil field. NRG and its Japanese partner JX Nippon Oil & Gas Exploration Corp. will be given half the extra output. The project is hoped to be finished by 2016.

NRG, JX Nippon, and the US Energy Department are spearheading the Petra Nova Carbon Capture Project, with the aim to simultaneously decrease pollution from coal-burning plants while increasing oil output.

Yet, it’s an expensive process, and many utilities’ participation in carbon capture has been unfavorable. Atlanta-based Southern Co. is wrapping up on a Mississippi power plant that will transform coal into combustible gas while also ridding the gas of pollutants, like CO2. It’s costing the company $5.5 billion, the priciest coal plant in the US.

Another method where the industry has tried, and failed, is ridding flue gases of carbon after the coal has been used. Part of the process is selling the CO2, but carbon has never sold for enough to rationalize the effort and money used to strip the carbon in the first place. Adapting a coal-fired power plant to new technology is more expensive than building a new gas-fired power plant.

NRG’s project will be different, because instead of selling carbon, the project aims to make a profit from selling the supplementary oil. The CO2 that NRG will funnel into the oil field is predicted to increase oil generation by 10,000 barrels per day — from its current 500 barrels to 15,000 barrels.

When additional CO2 is introduced in underground oil reservoirs, the gas forces the remaining crude to rise to the surface. Overall, the DOE expects that oil production will expand to 360,000 barrels per day in 2020, and 580,000 in 2030.

A majority of the CO2 used to pump oil out of reservoirs originates from underground caverns and other natural formations, and industrial projects. A bulk of our man-made CO2 comes from the power industry, which uses a lot of coal since it’s a cheap source of power. The power industry is also our largest unused CO2 supplier; there might be a bright future for NRG’s project after all.

(From Wall Street Journal)

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

January 23, 2015

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“Partnership seeks technologies to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired plants” – The Lane Report, 21 July 2014

Kentucky is currently building its first carbon capture pilot unit at Kentucky Utilities Company’s E.W. Brown Generating Station in Harrodsburg. The $19.5 million project has been funded by national, state, and educational entities to help Kentucky’s lifeblood, coal, from becoming severely undercut by limits in carbon emissions.

Obama’s Climate Action Plan has introduced steep cuts in existing power plants’ emissions levels — Kentucky’s answer to new climate policy is to further explore carbon capture technology. The aim of the “catch and release” pilot system is to show how carbon capture technology can be advantageous to existing power plants, determine ways to improve the system, and analyze the practicality of producing carbon capture systems on a large scale. The system will be ready for testing in the fall; testing will end mid-2016.

Though pricey, the hope behind the carbon capture technology is that it will generate affordable, cleaner energy that will retain Kentucky’s coal industry. Coal has always been a cheap and abundant source of energy in the state, but the federal government’s changing regulations on how to improve the US’s environmental issues is altering coal’s role in Kentucky. Coal-supporters see Obama’s newly proposed climate policy as a “war on coal,” and this is Kentucky’s fight to preserve the state’s leading industry.

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

August 1, 2014

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