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Grid Scale Life Cycle Analysis of Greenhouse Gas Implications of "Renewable Energy," and E Storage.

The paper I'll discuss in this post is this one: Grid-Scale Life Cycle Greenhouse Gas Implications of Renewable, Storage, and Carbon Pricing Options (Sarah M. Jordaan, Qingyu Xu, and Benjamin F. Hobbs, Environ. Sci. Technol. 2020, 54, 17, 10435–10445). The authors' institution is Johns Hopkins University.

We are now half a century into the grand experiment in which humanity first cheered for, then funded research on, then spent trillions of dollars on, and then bet the future of the planet on, so called "renewable energy." This was not, of course, the first time that the world had experienced a world built around "renewable energy." In fact, the world had survived upon renewable energy for many thousands of years, but abandoned it beginning in the early 19th century because as the world population grew, the vast majority of people, even more so than today, lived short miserable lives of dire poverty mired in ignorance and peasantry.

The exploitation of dangerous fossil fuels - the waste of which is currently rapidly destroying the planet - led to the creation, in many countries, of an industrial culture that ultimately led to the creation of a middle class, although vast pockets of dire poverty continued and still continue to exist. If you are reading this text on a computer - and it's difficult to imagine there is any other option for you to do so, no one prints the trash I write - you are a participant in that still existing and active industrial culture.

When I was a kid, I hoped to get good enough with German that I could translate Goethe's Faust. I never got there and went on to other things, but thinking about Faust now, it does seem that having been written at the end of the 18th century, Gothe certainly presaged the 19th and 20th centuries.

Du flehst erathmend mich zu schauen,
Meine Stimme zu hören, mein Antlitz zu sehn,
Mich neigt dein mächtig Seelenflehn,
Da bin ich! – Welch erbärmlich Grauen
Faßt Uebermenschen dich! Wo ist der Seele Ruf?
Wo ist die Brust? die eine Welt in sich erschuf,
Und trug und hegte; die mit Freudebeben
Erschwoll, sich uns, den Geistern, gleich zu heben.
Wo bist du, Faust? deß Stimme mir erklang,
Der sich an mich mit allen Kräften drang?

For the last 50 years there has been a broad, and now generally accepted, claim that the industrial culture could be maintained by a reactionary return to so called "renewable energy." So called "renewable energy" of course, never completely disappeared. The most successful form of so called "renewable energy" is of course hydro energy. In the early 19th century, many of the textile plants in say, New England (and elsewhere), as well as grain mills, relied on the use of hydromechanically driven machinery, water wheels, and of course, later on, on an increasingly massive scale, dams to generate electricity, hydroelectricity.

We are fresh out of major rivers to destroy, however, more or less.

The reactionary view that the world should adapt its industrial culture to so called "renewable energy" - which needed to be abandoned to build that culture in the first place - has, for most of its history, had little interest in the displacement of dangerous fossil fuels, but was more interested in preventing the rise of the only more or less infinitely scalable form of energy ever discovered on this planet, nuclear energy.

Over the years, having spent my life trying to understand things on the deepest level my tiny little mind is capable of reaching, I've looked into the origins of the anti-nuclear movement, a movement that is, in my opinion, killing people and killing the world.

In my generation, of course, there was some rationale for the anti-nuclear movement in the times of my childhood, a rationale that was far more emotional than practical. During the 1950's various countries around the world, with the United States and the former Soviet Union being the most egregious participants, engaged in ever more stupidly testosterone driven exercises in open air nuclear testing, culminating in the absurd "Tsar Bomba" nuclear test on the Soviet arctic island of Novaya Zemlya. Many people my age can remember huddling under their desks at school, famously ducking and covering, to survive a nuclear blast. In October of 1962, two testosterone driven world leaders, John F. Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev nearly stumbled into vaporizing their countries.

This actually happened.

Another correspondent wrote about Tsar Bomba a short while ago in this space. It is here: Russia Just Declassified Footage of The Most Powerful Nuclear Bomb Blast in History

Long ago and far away, I also wrote about it as well: Every Cloud Has A Silver Lining, Even Mushroom Clouds: Cs-137 and Watching the Soil Die.

The argument against open air nuclear testing was greatly (and correctly) advanced by noting that such testing widely distributed radioactive materials throughout the atmosphere, where it settled on land and into the sea. Those radioactive materials are still here by the way. The half-life of cesium-137 is 30.167 years. This means that as of this writing, in 2020, about 26.99% of it still remains. In my post of 11 years ago, I noted that this radioactive cesium has value in helping people track the erosion of soils.

I very much recall growing up fearing the element cesium - I was certainly aware of it in elementary school I was probably in my late teens before I realized that there was cesium that was not radioactive.

Welch erbärmlich Grauen Faßt Uebermenschen dich!

What horror grasps you, you superman!

Funny...funny...today, as an old man nearing the end of my life, I'm rather fond of cesium isotopes, thinking they might do great things for the humans that come after me. I wish we had more of the stuff, not less. I think quite a bit about cesium, even more than I did in elementary school, when it terrified me. That's just me though. But yes, I was a child once.

It turns out, as I learned reading an obscure book that was on the shelves of either one of Rutgers University's libraries or Princeton University's libraries that one place the early anti-nuclear power movement got its birth was very near where I grew up cowering in fear of cesium-137, on Long Island.

When I was a boy the power company on Long Island was called LILCO, the Long Island Lighting Company. In the late 1950's LILCO announced plans to build three nuclear power plants, one at Jamesport, on the Eastern North Fork, one at Shoreham, and one in Lloyd's Neck.

The one to which I lived closest was on Lloyd's Neck. In these times, no one would try to build any kind of industrial facility in a place like Lloyd's Neck. It's where wealthy people live, very wealthy people. Although I grew up less than 10 miles away, I never felt like I could even set foot in Lloyd's Neck when I was growing up, although I did once go to a house there. My best friend's girlfriend's Mom was a maid in one of them, and one time when she was sick, her daughter, my friend's girlfriend, asked my friend and I to drive her up to the house so she could clean the house so her mother wouldn't get fired. The owners went away, and we all went in to clean the house. It had an indoor swimming pool. "Wow!" We said. "Wow!" Before then, we didn't know that people could afford something like that.

Rich people don't like industrial facilities in their neighborhood. They bring traffic, and roads and pollution, and well, poor people who aren't maids. The people living in Lloyd's Neck had lots of resources, and pointed out that there was something called "nuclear waste" and it contained exactly the same kind of stuff that came out of Tsar Bomba, the American "Big Mike" and Bravo and oodles of other nuclear bombs. It was unsafe, they said.

So LILCO, understanding that rich people are essential for all life on Earth, cancelled the Lloyd's Neck plans pretty damn quick, but built Shoreham, which built on the momentum of fear of nuclear materials established by the good folks in Lloyd's Neck, but built Shoreham, which generated lots of "exposes" by Newsday, so that Jamesport was cancelled and Shoreham, although completed and having undergone preliminary critcality testing, never operated, was sold to New York State for one dollar, which shut the plant permanently. LILCO went bankrupt.

Let me tell you something: People died because Shoreham didn't operate. They died from air pollution, dangerous fossil fuel waste that actually has a long history of killing people.

As a young man, I was among those who demonstrated against Shoreham. History will not forgive me, nor should it.

So we bet the planet on the reactionary vision that our industrial culture could survive on so called "renewable energy." Of course it hasn't done so, and it isn't doing so, but we still hear any that word quite a bit about what so called "renewable energy" could do. It's 2020. I've been personally hearing - and for a long time believing - that so called "renewable energy" could power the world.

My whole life...my whole life...

I am personally running out of time, and all those prayers in which I used to believe, prayers about the coming renewable energy nirvana will be "lost, in time."

They weren't honest prayers in any case, reactionary as they were, inasmuch as they were completely uninformed prayers, more mysticism than fact.

Since we have bet the planetary atmosphere on so called renewable energy, one would think that we really, really, have thought the whole thing through on a grand scale.

If one spends a lot of time poring through the scientific literature - something I routinely have been doing for decades - one can come across thousands upon thousands of papers in various journals all about so called "renewable energy." I've read through a significant number of them over the years, certainly, at various levels of depth, thousands of them. Almost uniformly the opening sections of these scientific papers speak - it's a cultural imperative almost everywhere on the planet - in praise of so called "renewable energy." Increasingly one sees here and there, a few examples of dissidence with respect to the decided point that vast amounts of money and effort should be thrown at "renewable energy," - I am less alone in this than I used to be - but overall the papers speak in positive terms. One hears the same stuff that one hears in the general public, how the price of so called "renewable energy" is falling so that it now "cheap," how the use of so called "renewable energy" represents a strategy for addressing the climate crisis caused by dangerous fossil fuel waste, how so called "renewable energy" is sustainable, and of course, how fast so called "renewable energy" is growing. Although these claims widely published in magical "peer reviewed" papers - "peer review" is allegedly magical and somehow not subject to the flaws and frailty of humanity, cultural and otherwise - I contend that all of these statements are either disingenuous, counterfactual, dishonest, or in some cases, outright delusional.

Anyway, you would think, having bet the future of the planetary atmosphere on a reactionary return to the use of so called "renewable energy" to support all of humanity's needs, that the effects on scale , a grand scale that the whole thing had been well thought through, even though the decision to abandon renewable energy and replace it first with dangerous coal, then with dangerous coal and dangerous petroleum, and finally with coal, petroleum and (most recently) dangerous natural gas was never thought through, was it?

According to the authors of this paper, however, even on the scale of large electric grids, the situation was not well thought through.

They write:

Climate change is among the most pressing challenges for the electric sector, due to the prominence of fossil fuels in the present generation fleet. While the U.S. power sector has experienced substantial emissions reductions in recent years, fossil fuels were still the dominant source of electricity at 63.5% of generation in 2018, with 35.1% of generation fueled by natural gas and 27.4% fueled by coal.(1) The grid has been changing not only from coal to gas but also with a growing portion of intermittent renewables: wind and solar PV have grown from 55000 to 272000 Gigawatt-hours per year (GWh/year) and 76 to 60000 GWh/year, respectively, from 2008 to 2018.(2) Provided that the costs of renewable technologies continue to fall, energy storage is broadly considered one of the most attractive solutions with notable potential to balance the intermittency of variable renewable power (namely, wind and solar). The true environmental benefits of new storage capacity are challenging to discern due to the overall dynamic interactions between power plants and storage inherent to the operations of an electric grid, particularly in comparison to policy options such as carbon pricing. But generation is only one part of the life cycle of power systems: the life cycle includes additional processes, such as materials extraction to construct power plants, upstream fuel extraction (where applicable), operations, and transmission of the electricity to consumers. Our analysis addresses these challenges with an examination of grid-scale greenhouse gas emissions through an integrated analysis of optimized technology-policy scenarios that captures the full supply chain implications.

Life cycle assessment (LCA) provides a robust method for examining these upstream and downstream emissions as a cradle-to-grave approach to quantifying the environmental burdens of products or processes from materials extraction to waste disposal (cradle to grave).(3,4) Present emissions models, however, are limited in their capability to estimate life cycle emissions changes at subnational scales and hourly time steps.(5,6) When quantifying the life cycle emissions of an electricity grid, national assumptions about the generation mixes are typically applied, neglecting to account for the regionalized differences and temporal dynamics implicit to power systems that can result in variable emissions results.(7) Similar challenges have been noted for other air pollutants(8,9) and water consumption.(10−13) Data that characterize dynamic grid interactions can result in more realistic life cycle emissions and nuanced understanding of their spatial and temporal distributions, but that requires that LCAs leverage information at more refined spatiotemporal resolutions.(14−16)

To the authors’ knowledge, there has yet to be a comprehensive evaluation of the life cycle emissions associated with different configurations of renewable capacity additions, storage capacity additions, and carbon pricing options at the scale of grids (i.e., rather than individual technologies). In order to perform such an evaluation, robust methods must model the life cycle environmental and economic impacts of such changes at the grid-scale. A review of models that estimate the emissions of grid operations uncovers two approaches: (1) use of historical data or (2) use of power systems and market models based on optimization methods.(6) In this paper, the latter approach is taken because a focus will be on the synergistic impact of low-carbon technologies (i.e., storage and renewables) and market mechanisms (in this case, carbon prices) for which there is a lack of relevant historical data.

I have added the bold. As for their disclaimer, "To the authors' knowledge..." it is in accordance with my own view, but it seems to me that there is real evidence for the claim that there has yet to be a "comprehensive evaluation," inasmuch the oft repeated disingenuous statement that "renewable energy is cheaper than coal..." (...or gas, or oil, or nuclear...) doesn't ever refer to when it is cheaper and what the value of energy might actually be on those occasions that it is cheaper.

At midnight a solar cells is of course a stranded asset with zero value. One should however also ask - and few people ever do - whether a solar cell has any value when it producing near peak energy if and when - this actually happens - the price of wholesale electricity is zero or less than zero, the low prices realized because electricity being produced copiously by so called "renewable energy" at a time when no one actually needs it. Consideration of this question might go a long way to explaining why the highest consumer electricity prices in the OECD are found in Denmark and Germany.

To offer a word on the "growth" of wind and solar power as described in the text, which happily is not, described - as it so often is on "green energy" websites hyping these forms of energy - as "spectacular, usually along with rather innumerate "percent talk," let me repeat the operative phrase above:

The grid has been changing not only from coal to gas but also with a growing portion of intermittent renewables: wind and solar PV have grown from 55000 to 272000 Gigawatt-hours per year (GWh/year) and 76 to 60000 GWh/year, respectively, from 2008 to 2018.

In "percent talk" this can, again, disingenuously, made to sound spectacular. Being familiar with this type of misleading rhetoric, here's how this horseshit would likely sound: Solar Energy production from 2008 to 2018 grew by almost 79,000%!!!! Wind energy production grew by almost 500%!!!!

A GigaWatt-hour (GWh) is a unit of energy, not a unit of power that is so often used to justify the disaster that so called "renewable energy" represents, by pretending that peak power is the equivalent of average continuous power. One GWh is equal (exactly) to 3.6 trillion joules. It follows that 272,000 GWh is the equivalent of 979 petaJoules, or 0.979 exaJoules. Similarly, 60,000 GWh is the equivalent of 217 petaJoules or 0.217 petaJoules. Given the number of seconds in a sideral year, 31,557,600 seconds, this translates to an average continuous power of 31,300 MW for wind, and 6,900 MW for solar. Overall, this is the equivalent of about 37 average size power plants capable of operating continuously, for example, nuclear plants.

This sounds great, until one recognizes that neither solar nor wind actually produce continuous power, nor is the power they produce actually even produced in any kind of synchronization with demand. Their production is, in fact, subject to the vicissitudes of weather. This means in theory, one needs 31,300 MW of redundant power capacity to back up wind, and 6.9 MW of redundant power capacity to back up solar. If that capacity does not exist, then the system crashes and there is not enough power to serve all customers; a situation recently observed in portions of the very grid that the paper discusses.
Recently. Very recently. During a heat wave. A heat wave that almost certainly took place because climate change has not being addressed and isn't being addressed.

Yeah...yeah...yeah...I know...batteries, batteries, batteries…batteries will save the world, in the same way so called “renewable energy” saved the world, which – looking at CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere as of yesterday, it didn’t.
Most renewable energy advocates turn into that appalling and dangerous idiot Ayn Rand when the cost of nuclear power plants are discussed. Thankfully that idiotic old biddy Ayn Rand kicked off, although many of the poor thinkers who embraced her cartoonish view of the world are regrettably still with us, acting, in fact, on her stupidity and venality, the view that selfishness can be ethically excused among the social animals that human beings represent. Ayn Rand is dead, but her conceits are still killing people. So, I claim, will the conceits about batteries, a subject the authors' discuss in the paper under discussion.

By contrast, if we were less Randian, and thus bothered to care for future generations, and thus spent money to build infrastructure that would serve future generations rather than our own – in other words did something for which there was little in it for us but lots in it for humanity – we would build nuclear plants. The primitive technology of the 1950’s, constructed using primitive computational devices, built nuclear reactors that demonstrably worked for better than half a century; it is now understood that we can design and build them to last decades longer.

I say this a lot: A nuclear power plant is a gift from one generation to another. My father’s generation built the Oyster Creek nuclear power plant, and for nearly twenty years of my life, it kept the lights on where I live in New Jersey without causing a single loss of life.

There is no record of batteries lasting half a century; even the most advanced are converted into electronic waste in ten to twenty years. This means that infants born today will, as young adults, assume responsibility for disposing of this stuff; and no, there is no real infrastructure or technology for cheaply and easily doing even that, despite all the glib hand waving rhetoric one sees and hears.
Anyway, the authors discuss a large area that has significant so called “renewable energy” infrastructure, and little nuclear structure. As is the case with all “renewable energy” paradises, the largest single portion of energy is comprised of dangerous fossil fuels: In this grid dangerous natural gas comprise 40.5% of the capacity, “only” according to the authors “40.5%.” This is slightly more than the largest form of so called “renewable energy,” hydroelectric dams, and includes those that represent an assault on, for just one example, salmon, as well as that which converted the Colorado River Delta ecosystem into a desert, where, as of this writing September 6, 2020, according to the forecasted temperature in Yuma Arizona is expected to peak at 47oC (114 oF).

We are, I think, more or less out of additional major rivers to destroy.

Peak electricity demand generally takes place in the late afternoon, early evening. In a post here that was essentially pure data with very brief commentary, I showed the hour highest power peak demands in California in July of 2019:

Hours of the Top 50 CAISO Electricity Loads in California, July 2019.

Here is the salient part of the commentary minus the sarcasm:

The first column is the power demand; the second is the ranking of the demand, and the last is the hour of the demand (on a 24 hour clock.)

It seems the top ten all took place in the early evening hours, while among the top 20, 6 occurred in the late afternoon, with the other 14 being in the early evening.

Here is real time data collected from the CAISO site at around 6:10 pm EST, 3:10 PST September 6, 2020 on California's Energy demand live and projected for the day, and supply both current and throughout the period beginning at noon on this date:

(Because of an error in preparing the graphics file for this post, the line supply graphic immediatly above was recorded at 4:00 pm PST, 7:00 EST.)

This data can be accessed (in real time) here: CAISO Today's Outlook

It appears the wind isn't blowing all that strongly today, but there's plenty of sunshine. There are people however, that as the day proceeds, and the power requirements climb to a significant portion of total system capacity, the sun will, um, go down. I tend to believe these people, owing to the experience of having lived in California. In fact, this seems to take place everywhere, earlier in the winter than in summer.

All of this is relevant since the authors are writing about a grid that includes California. They write:

The study area is the Western Interconnection comprising the western geographic area of North America, where the grid is synchronously operated (Figure 1).(39) Of the United States, all of Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Washington are part of this interconnection in addition to parts of Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, South Dakota, Texas, and Wyoming. Parts of Northern Mexico are included in addition to the Canadian provinces of British Columbia and Alberta. While coal and natural gas remain strong contributors to the region’s power supply, they combined represent only 40.5% of the 249 GW of the region’s generating capacity.(40) Of the total capacity, hydroelectric power ranks first at 38.2%, followed by natural gas (27.4%), coal (13.3%), nuclear (8.5%), wind (6.6%), solar (3.1%), geothermal (1.9%), and other sources (1.2%). The Western Interconnection was selected as the study region due to its importance to Western North America: it serves 80 million people and spans more than 1.8 million square miles.(41) Further, a series of recent efforts have resulted in vetted optimization scenarios that examine the influence of different renewable-storage-policy configurations with the JHSMINE model, created in collaboration with the Western Electricity Coordinating Council (WECC).

Figure 1:

The caption:

Figure 1. Map of JHSMINE reduced 300-bus network of Western Electricity Coordinating Council of North America. Dots represent nodes of the grid, and triangles represent the location where new renewable generation can be sited. Red/Orange lines are existing AC/DC lines, and blue lines are equivalent lines that are results of the network reduction.

(The blue lines are apparently computational artifacts to reduce computational complexity and thus computer time, thus they are virtual power lines, nor real power lines.)

This next graphic is very important I think, since it delineates the system boundaries for the calculations.

The caption:

Figure 2. Simplified scope of the grid-scale LCA, with systems boundaries for each technology based on NREL’s harmonization studies.(17,46−51) Life cycle emissions are estimated using NREL harmonization data for each type of generation modeled in JHSMINE, adjusted for each power plant’s operational efficiency using their heat rates. Results from the JHSMINE model determine the optimized interactions between energy types and storage on the grid, under 21 scenarios of renewable energy, storage, and carbon pricing options. Our analysis and discussion focus primarily on upstream emissions as NREL’s harmonization studies found that emissions impacts are weighted toward the upstream.

Some commentary: The cost of "turbine manufacture" should not exclude mining - although it is not clear whether or not it is included in manufacturing costs. A major component of a wind turbine system is steel, and the manufacture of steel in turn, depends very much on mining both iron ore and more importantly coal. The amount of steel required to construct, and for that matter to replace wind infrastructure depends sensitively on the lifetime of these devices. Data from the comprehensive master register of wind turbines maintained by the Danish Energy Agency, which I have analyzed elsewhere multiple times suggests that the average lifetime of a wind turbine is slightly less than 18 years. In addition, it must be clearly stated that the environmental impact carbon and otherwise of magnets is something of a black box, since almost all of the neodymium and dysprosium in the world is mined in China and it is well known that besides extraction from the minerals, solvent extraction techniques for lanthanide separations are dependent on dangerous fossil fuel based solvents.

Secondly, uranium mining is still required to run the existing nuclear infrastructure, although the disassembly of Soviet and American nuclear weapons negotiated by Al Gore in the 1990's did lead to a temporary decline in this requirement, regrettably not including plutonium. However, the most recently approved nuclear reactor in the United States, the Nuscale reactor, I believe is a "breed and burn" reactor of a type that, with wise use of plutonium, suggests that a need for uranium mining can (and should) be eliminated for centuries, since the uranium (and thorium) already mined is sufficient to supply all human energy needs for centuries without the use of a single piece of coal, a single kg of natural gas, a single liter of oil. There is no effort to exploit this possibility, nonetheless it is real.

The next graphic points out, very clearly, the carbon cost of nuclear energy, as well as various other schemes for producing energy, and importantly for storing energy by various technologies:

The caption:

Figure 3. (a, b) Life cycle results for individual technologies compared to grid-scale scenarios. Individual technologies for comparison include coal, petroleum, natural gas combustion turbine (GasCT), combined cycle natural gas (CCGT), concentrating solar power (SolarThermal), solar photovoltaic (solarPV), wind and geothermal (Geo). Scenarios include different configurations of storage additions (Pumped Hydro (PH), Compressed Air Energy Storage (CAES), and Battery Energy Storage Systems (BESS)), new wind capacity, and different prices on carbon dioxide (none, $20/tCO2, $58/tCO2, $100/tCO2) (see Table 1). Part a compares the grid-scale LCA results to life cycle results for individual technologies. Part b shows more clearly the results for the grid-scale scenarios. Note that these results are based on the aggregate power plants using annual estimates.

Note that this graphic, consistent with many other papers written on this topic clearly shows that in terms of carbon cost, nuclear power is lower than solar PV, lower than solar thermal, lower than geothermal, and comparable with wind power when the wind is blowing. No matter what technology is utilized to store wind (or solar) energy, the carbon cost is significantly worse than nuclear power.

The big, big, big, big, big difference between nuclear and solar and wind, however is that nuclear energy is reliable. Above I noted that to cover the average continuous power of solar and wind energy on the grid described herein, in fact, 62 MW of power at a mininum.

An typical nuclear power plant most common in the US operates at about 33% thermal efficiency, producing about 3000 MW thermal, 1000 MWe. This means to displace 31,000 MW of so called "renewable energy" and the 31,000 MW of redundant power infrastructure (in reality, if not in fantasy, gas power) 31 nuclear plants of the type built in the 1970's using 1950's and 1960's technology would be required. Much of the thermal energy of nuclear fission is thus wasted. I have personally spent years convincing myself that the thermal efficiency of nuclear power plants could be more than doubled via strategies that take some of the techniques used by the dangerous natural gas industry, with respect to combined cycle performance, and that nuclear heat can be utilized to generate electricity when needed and to perform other tasks, including but hardly limited to making fuels and remediating the environmental disaster we have left for all future generations in absolute contempt for them.

I've discussed all of that, and will discuss more of that, elsewhere.

To close out the discussion of the paper, here's a little bit about the carbon cost of these grids, coupled to time, similar to the real time California data shown above:

The caption:

Figure 4. (a–d) Mean life cycle grid emissions for each scenario, estimated at hourly time steps for each of the four representative days modeled in JHSMINE.

At no point, do any of these "renewable energy/storage/carbon tax" scenarios produce electricity as cleanly as nuclear power does, as shown in figure 3 above.

If we gave a rat's ass about the future - clearly we don't - we'd cut the crap and face reality - but I doubt we will.

I hope you are enjoying the Labor Day holiday should you be fortunate enough to not be working during it. I would implore you to not behave as if the Covid crisis is over - it isn't - and thus to maintain all safety procedures consistent with your health and the health of others. Have a safe evening and a safe holiday!

Bats and Wind Farms: The Role and Importance of the Baltic Sea Countries...and Biodiversity...

The paper I'll discuss in this thread is this one: Bats and Wind Farms: The Role and Importance of the Baltic Sea Countries in the European Context of Power Transition and Biodiversity Conservation (Simon P. Gaultier,* Anna S. Blomberg, Asko Ijäs, Ville Vasko, Eero J. Vesterinen, Jon E. Brommer, and Thomas M. Lilley,* Environ. Sci. Technol. 2020, 54, 17, 10385–10398.)

This paper is open sourced under a creative commons license.

Bats of course, are getting a bad rap because of their unique immune systems which make them carriers for pathogenic virions . Still I rather regard them in the same way as I regard birds; which is to say they matter to me. I oppose their extinction.

Back in 2017, in this space, I appealed to a book in my personal library called Why Birds Matter. That post is here: A Minor Problem For Sound Science of the Effect of Offshore Windfarms on Seabirds: There Isn't Any.

I'm an old time environmentalist, in the John Muir tradition: I believe that environmentalism precludes, rather than encourages the transformation of pristine wilderness into industrial parks for energy production. Apparently my kind of environmentalism has gone out of fashion, but frankly, despite being somewhat unpopular, I'm not inclined to change my mind: I still agree with John Muir.

Denmark - bless their offshore oil and gas drilling souls - keeps a complete register of all its operating and all of its decommissioned wind turbines on land and at sea. It can be found here, in either English or Danish, your choice: Data for existing and deregistered facilities (end of 07 2020) - uploaded 31 August 2020

The most recent monthly production figures for all the operating wind turbines in Denmark - apparently over 6,200 of them as of this writing - in the period between June 20 and July 20, 30 days, was 1,307,912,614 kWh. This is approximately 4.708 petaJoules. This was a period of 30 days, and each day has 86,400 seconds in it. This means that average continuous power output, average, not (as is actually obtained) lumpy power output, was 1,817 MW for all the wind turbines in Denmark.

A typical nuclear power plant built on 1970's technology and still operating today - most nuclear power plants operate between 90% and 100% capacity utilization - will produce about 1000 MWe in a relatively small building. This means that two relatively small buildings containing nuclear reactors built on 1970's technology could produce reliably as much energy as all the wind turbines in Denmark, all 6,200+ of them.

...without killing seabirds...

...without killing bats...

Without requiring 6,200+ steel posts transported by huge trucks or huge barges powered by diesel fuel and made out of iron ore heated in coal fired blast furnaces containing coke made from coal by heating it coal fires.

Admittedly, my kind of environmentalism is out of fashion.

I only refer to the full article however. Again, it's open sourced. Anyone who gives a shit about bats, or birds, or about the fact that the trillions of dollars thrown at so called "renewable energy" has failed to address climate change, can read it for one's self.

Let me just say that I disagree with the first lines of the paper which read as follows:

Wind power is a valuable asset for energy transition as it is an efficient and sustainable way of producing energy.(1,2) Moreover, it generates near-zero greenhouse gas emissions during its operation in contrast to fossil fuels, and the approximate payback time for wind turbines in Europe is only a few months.(3,4) However, wind farms can have negative impacts on biodiversity, by destroying habitats during the construction phase and causing bird and bat mortality during the operating phase.(5,6) Bats (order: Chiroptera) are already facing numerous threats worldwide, and given their low reproductive output, it is vital to consider them in wind power development.(7,8)

Despite the first observations of wind turbines causing bat mortalities dating back to 1972,(9) serious questioning of the impacts of wind power on this taxa only emerged at the end of the twentieth century, with increasing observations of dead bats at wind farms.(10,11) Before this period, consideration of bats in wind farm projects was not mandatory, partly because of a general lack of knowledge on bats; thus, farms were constructed in areas that now would be considered inappropriate because of an associated high collision risk for bats. Research has now produced hundreds of studies, articles, and books on the phenomenon and its characteristics to help understand the impacts of wind farms on bats, and creating effective mitigation for current and future wind power.(12−18)
Our understanding of the topic is mainly based on studies from Central Europe and North America.(7,19) However, there is little knowledge on the impact of wind farms on bats in the European boreal biogeographic region, a part of the continent significantly different from Central Europe (Figure 1). Conditions vary with latitude but generally this region possesses shorter summers, less light, lower temperatures and precipitation, and a longer snow cover than the rest of Europe.(20,21) The European boreal biogeographic region is mostly covered by forests (60% of the area) or wetlands (8% in average, but it reaches 50% in the northern part of the region).(21)...

Wind power is not, in my view, "a valuable asset for energy transition." No "transition" is taking place. By appeal to raw data - something called "facts" - one can easily show that the wind and solar industries combined and including geothermal and tidal energy are growing much, much, much more slowly that the use of dangerous fossil fuels in this century.

The rate at which carbon dioxide, a dangerous fossil fuel waste, is accumulating in the atmosphere has reached as of 2020, a rate of 2.4 ppm/year, almost double the rate observed in the 20th century.

Nuclear plants built in the 1970's still operate. One can show that the lifetime of a wind turbine, by appeal to the aforementioned data tables at the Danish Energy Agency's wind turbine database, that the average lifetime of a Danish wind turbine is less than 18 years. This means, every twenty years, they all need to be replaced, on average, which is some measure, undoubtedly why they remain what they have always been; useless for the address of climate change; and useless for the arrest in the use of dangerous fossil fuels.

The paper concludes, after a fairly detailed discussion of the parameters connected with bat ecology and the industrialization of wild spaces to build "wind farms," thus:

The impacts of wind power on bats in Europe is a unique issue that requires more collaboration and standardization of research within the countries to resolve the problem because it affects the same species and sometimes the same populations across the continent. At the same time, Europe offers a great diversity of climate, biome, and habitats influencing species in a plethora of ways, resulting in significant differences in individuals of the same species whether they are located in Southwestern or Northeastern Europe. These differences need to be studied to obtain a better understanding of the various species or phenomena.
Unfortunately, the issue of the impacts of wind power on bats is still not entirely acknowledged in some countries, such as Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Russia, or Sweden. Data on bat biology and ecology are lacking and they are necessary if a comprehensive knowledge base is to be created with respect to the impacts of wind turbines and in order to solve the issue. A legal framework has also been delayed on the subject, most likely because of the missing data. All these requirements have to be addressed quickly because of the constant rise in the construction of wind farms in these countries, and above all, because of the important role Northeastern Europe has for bats.

Again, if interested, if "bats matter," you can read it yourself.

I trust you will enjoy the upcoming holiday weekend safely.

Separation of Scandium from HCl-Ethanol Leachate of Red Mud by a Supported Ionic Liquid.

The paper I'll discuss in this post is this one: Separation of Scandium from Hydrochloric Acid–Ethanol Leachate of Bauxite Residue by a Supported Ionic Liquid Phase (Dženita AvdibegovićDženita Avdibegović
and Koen Binnemans Ind. Eng. Chem. Res. 2020, 59, 34, 15332–15342)

Red Mud, also known as Bauxite residue is a troublesome side product of the aluminum industry which is primarily addressed by impoundment reservoirs, landfills, etc.

A recent news item in the journal Science discussed this problem and included this picture:

Red mud is piling up. Can scientists figure out what to do with it? (Service, Science Aug. 20, 2020).

Scandium is the first "d element" in the periodic table, but is often treated as if it were a lanthanide element, because of the closeness of its chemistry with the lanthanides; however there are no real concentrated ores of the element and thus, even though it is not particularly rare, it is very, very, very expensive, with prices in the thousands of dollars per kg. The element is strong, and light, much like its neighbor in the periodic table, titanium, for which plentiful ores (the wonder substance, TiO2) exist.

It is known that when scandium is alloyed with aluminum, it can greatly improve the strength of the metal.

The paper under discussion addresses the recovery of scandium from red mud. I am familiar with one of the authors, Dr. Binnemans as a result of a very nice review article he authored many years ago, owing to his expertise in the chemistry of ionic liquids with respect to the f elements, the lanthanides and actinides: Lanthanides and Actinides in Ionic Liquids (Binnemans, Chem. Rev. 2007, 107, 6, 2592–2614)

From the introduction to the more recent paper cited at the outset of this post:

Scandium is a scarce and expensive rare-earth element.(1) As a consequence, its commercial applications are still limited. Its major uses are in solid oxide fuel cells and as an alloying metal for aluminum. The addition of no more than 0.35–0.4% of scandium to aluminum alloys results in a material with superior mechanical strength.(2,3) Scandium is rarely found in nature in concentrated ore deposits but is obtained as a byproduct in the extraction processes of other metals such as the rare earths and uranium.(4)

Bauxite residue (BR) or red mud is an alkaline byproduct generated in the Bayer process for production of alumina from bauxite ore. Its global annual average production is estimated at 150 million tonnes.(5) It is commonly disposed by lagooning or “dry stacking” methods. In the lagooning method, BR slurry is pumped into storage ponds. BR disposed in such a way can create safety and environmental issues, such as contamination of surface and ground waters by leaching of alkaline liquor and other contaminants.(5) Dry stacking is used as the preferred method for BR disposal in order to reduce the potential for leakage of alkaline liquor and increase the recoveries of soda and alumina.(5) Both methods for disposal of BR require a substantial area of land, which could be used, for instance, for forests or agriculture. BR has attracted a lot of research attention in the past years as a resource for metals or as a building material.(6−12) BR can also be a valuable resource of scandium, but the scandium concentration is dependent on the type and origin of the bauxite ore.(13) For instance, Greek BR contains around 120 g tonne–1 of scandium, which is much higher than the average abundance of scandium in the Earth’s crust (22 g tonne–1) and high enough to consider this BR as a resource for scandium recovery. The main metals in BR are iron, aluminum, calcium, sodium, silicon, and titanium, and these elements are present in much higher concentrations than scandium.(14) Greek BR also contains other rare-earth elements (e.g., yttrium, lanthanum, neodymium) besides scandium, but their economic value in BR is much lower than that of scandium.

Typically, scandium is recovered from BR by hydrometallurgical methods or by a combination of pyrometallurgical and hydrometallurgical methods.(15) BR or its slag after a pyrometallurgical treatment is leached with mineral acids followed by recovery of the dissolved elements in the leachates by precipitation methods, solvent extraction, or ion exchange...(15−20)

...In the present study, the enhancement of the selectivity of sorbents for scandium is investigated by tuning the composition of the solvent in which scandium is dissolved. The selectivity for scandium over iron is investigated in batch mode from aqueous solutions and solutions with green, organic solvents (ethanol, 2-propanol, ethylene glycol, and polyethylene glycol 200). The investigated sorbents are a supported ionic liquid phase (SILP) betainium sulfonyl(trifluoromethanesulfonylimide) poly(styrene-co-divinylbenzene) [Hbet–STFSI–PS–DVB], bare silica (SiO2) and silica modified with ethylene diaminotetraacetic acid (SiO2–TMS–EDTA) (Figure 1). The SILP has been previously used to recover scandium from BR leachate with nitric acid.(17) Scandium was selectively eluted from the SILP column with dilute phosphoric acid, but the uptake of other major components of the BR leachate was also significant, which diminished the amount of leachate that could be processed. Therefore, an improvement in selectivity of the SILP by a solvometallurgical method is further investigated.

Figure 1:

The caption:

Figure 1. Sorbents tested for scandium recovery from BR leachates: (a) SILP Hbet–STFSI–PS–DVB, (b) silica, and (c) SiO2–TMS–EDTA.

An issue with red mud is that it generally contains quite a bit of iron, and therefore one must achieve selectivity in such a way that the scandium is highly concentrated and the iron rejected. (Since we are living future generations with the best ores depleted, it is possible that red mud will be another form of garbage than we leave them to sift through for materials.) Red mud also contains considerable sodium, which is why ethanol in HCl appears to be a fairly good solvent system for achieving separations:

The intrinsic selectivity of a sorbent for a given metal ion is influenced by several factors: (a) the mechanism of sorption, which is typically governed by the functional groups of sorbents, the coordination sphere, and the charge of metal ions, (b) the kinetics of the sorption, and (c) the sorption medium, including the presence of metal complexing agents. Here, the selectivity of the three sorbents (SILP, SiO2, and the SiO2–TMS–EDTA) was explored by variation of the sorption medium. The selective uptake of scandium was investigated from water, ethanol, isopropanol, ethylene glycol, and PEG-200 solutions containing scandium and iron in equimolar concentrations. In previous ion-exchange studies, it has been pointed out that scandium(III) and iron(III) separation from BR leachates is challenging because of the similar charge density of these ions and their similar hydration enthalpies.(18) As it is also one of the major elements in the leachate of BR, iron was chosen for the sorption studies as a competitive ion to scandium.
Both scandium and iron were nearly quantitatively sorbed by the SILP from their binary aqueous feed (Figure 2a). However, about 88% of scandium was recovered from the ethanolic feed by the SILP with a negligible amount of cosorbed iron. Moreover, the sorption of scandium was still higher (98%) than the sorption of iron (55%) even from the feed comprising ethanol and water in 1:1 volume ratio. The recovery of scandium and iron by the SILP takes place by exchange of their positively charged species in the feed for protons of the carboxyl-group of the SILP.(29) In aqueous acidic solutions of ScCl3 of concentration below 0.255 mol L–1, scandium is predominantly present as hexaaqua complex [Sc(H2O)6]3+. Neutral or anionic species like ScCl3, [ScCl4]−, or [ScCl6]3– are not formed, even in the presence of an excess of chloride ions.(30) Therefore, in the tested 1 mmol L–1 aqueous feed, scandium(III) is present as [Sc(H2O)6]3+ which is exchanged with the protons of the SILP.

SILP = (Supported Ionic Liquid Phase.)

Some more pictures from the text:

The caption:

Figure 2. Sorption (%) of scandium(III) and iron(III) from 2.5 mL of their 1 mmol L–1 aqueous, organic, and aqueous–organic mixtures of ethanol (EtOH), isopropanol (i-Pr), ethylene glycol (EG), and PEG-200 by 25 mg of the sorbents: (a) SILP, (b) SiO2, and (c) SiO2–TMS–EDTA. The 1:1 ethanol, 1:1 isopropanol, and 1:1 PEG-200 are feeds comprising water and the solvent in 1:1 ratio.

The caption:

Figure 3. Concentrations (mg L–1) of elements in the leachates of the Greek BR: (a) minor elements (scandium and yttrium) and (b) major elements (calcium, aluminum, sodium, silicon, titanium, and iron). The BR was leached with 0.7 mol L–1 HCl in water (aqueous leachate) or 0.7 mol L–1 HCl in ethanol (ethanolic leachate) at room temperature and with a liquid-to-solid ratio (L/S) of 10.

The caption:

Figure 4. X-ray diffractograms of the Greek BR (pristine BR) and the solid residues after leaching with 0.7 mol L–1HCl in water (BR after aqueous leaching) or 0.7 mol L–1HCl in ethanol (BR after ethanolic leaching). The dotted red lines emphasize the particular reflections of NaCl in the diffractograms.

The caption:

Figure 5. Breakthrough curves of BR leachates with (a) 0.7 mol L^(–1) HCl in water (aqueous leachate) or (b) 0.7 mol ^(–1) HCl in ethanol (ethanolic leachate) by 2 g of the SILP. The flow rate was 0.1 mL min^(–1).

The caption:

Figure 6. Recovery of elements by 2 g of the SILP from 1 mL of BR leachate with 0.7 mol L–1 HCl in water (aqueous leachate) followed by elution with 9 mL of 0.1 mol L–1 HCl in water, and from 1 mL of BR leachate with 0.7 mol L–1 HCl in ethanol (ethanolic leachate), followed by elution with 9 mL of ethanol.

The caption:

Figure 7. Chromatography separation of scandium (Sc) from (a) aqueous or (b) ethanolic BR leachates. Mobile phases: (A) 1 mL of leachate of BR followed by 9 mL of 0.1 mol L–1 HCl for aqueous leachate (a), or 9 mL of ethanol for ethanolic leachate (b); (B) 0.1 mol L–1 HCl; (C) 0.1 mol L–1 H3PO4; (D) 2 mol L–1 HCl. Flow rate of leachates was 0.1 mL min–1 and of eluents was 0.5 mL min–1. Dashed lines mark the volume of each mobile phase. Dotted lines mark the elution of iron (Fe).

Some more commentary from the text on metal separations:

Generally, iron separation from common minerals of the major base metals (e.g., Cu, Zn, Ni, and Co) is a major challenge in hydrometallurgy.(58) The present study in which iron(III) is separated from the BR leachate using ethanol and the SILP demonstrates the potential of solvometallurgical methods for tuning flowsheets for metal recovery. On the basis of environmental impact and toxicity, ethanol is generally considered as a green solvent.(59) It can be produced from biomass and is usually available in large quantities at a low price.(59,60) Therefore, apart from its performance ethanol is a sustainable solvent, which is the requirement for solvents used in solvometallugry...

Corn is physically green, of course, but I question whether corn ethanol is really "green," in the way many people take it. I do believe that it may be possible, with sufficient energy, to generate from carbon sources, including carbon dioxide, ethylene, from which ethanol can be conveniently made. Ethanol from corn may not be sustainable owing to the depletion of phosphate ores; we'll see.

The authors in any case continue:

...After scandium was separated by elution, the column was regenerated with 2 mol L–1 HCl (Figure 7). The column effluent after elution of the remaining components of the aqueous leachate of BR was mainly composed of a mixture of the major elements, namely iron, aluminum, and calcium (Figure 7a). Silicon and the majority of titanium were separated from other elements in the first fractions. The mixture of silicon and titanium can be used, for instance, in the synthesis of titanium silicate materials for catalysis and adsorptive separations.(61) By elution of the remaining components of the ethanolic leachate of BR (Figure 7b), titanium was collected in fractions together with aluminum and calcium. Their mixture can be considered as a potential precursor of a CaO–Al2O3–TiO2 slag for steel refining.(62) Moreover, their fractions were free from iron, as iron was eluted with ethanol in the initial fraction, along with silicon. The iron-silicate fraction could be considered as a resource for abrasives for blast cleaning. Another potential application is in the production of FeCl3, which is used for wastewater treatment and in the production of printed circuit boards.(63) Yttrium was eluted with 2 mol L–1 HCl along with the major components of both aqueous and ethanolic leachates. The separation of yttrium has not been performed since the focus of the present study falls on opportunities in solvometallurgy for scandium recovery. However, it has been shown by the previous studies that yttrium can be well separated by gradient elution of the SILP with phosphoric acid.(17)

The UV spectra may be out of context outside of the full text, but it bears on iron separations.

The caption:

Figure 8. UV–vis absorption spectra of BR leachates with 0.7 mol L–1 water (aqueous leachate, dashed blue line) or with 0.7 mol L–1 ethanol (ethanolic leachate, full green line).

The peak at 221 corresponds to the aquo/chloro complex of iron (III).

Excerpts from the conclusion:

Screening of the three sorbents (SiO2, SiO2–TMS–EDTA, and the SILP) for recovery of scandium from water, ethanol, isopropanol, ethylene glycol, and PEG-200 solutions revealed the potential of the SILP for scandium separation from the ethanolic leachate of BR. The BR was leached by 0.7 mol L–1 HCl in ethanol or in water. The leaching efficiencies of scandium and a vast majority of other elements were similar to both lixiviants. However, the sodium concentration in the ethanolic leachate was significantly lower compared to that in the aqueous leachate due to the limited solubility of sodium chloride in ethanol. Moreover, silica gel formation was suppressed by leaching with 0.7 mol L–1 HCl in ethanol, unlike when the leaching was performed with 0.7 mol L–1 HCl in water. In the breakthrough curve studies with the aqueous BR leachate, the uptake preference of the elements by the SILP was Si ≈ Ti < Na < Ca ≈ Fe ≈ Al < Sc < Y. The sequence was in part reversed when the uptake of the elements was performed from the ethanolic leachate, that is, Si < Fe ≈ Ti < Sc < Al < Y < Ca < Na. The reversal in trend was partly rationalized based on the change in solvation of the metal ions in the ethanolic leachate. Iron(III) was easily separated from the majority of other components of the BR by elution with ethanol in column chromatography with the SILP...

... About 84% of scandium was separated from other components of both leachates of the BR by elution with 0.1 mol L–1 H3PO4. Still, a high sample throughput and concentration of scandium from the ethanolic leachate by the SILP was not achieved. Apart of iron and silicon, other major components of the ethanolic BR leachate were recovered by the SILP along with scandium. Nevertheless, the study gives new insights on how a simple change in solvent in which metals are dissolved greatly affects the entire process for metal recovery...

What we are leaving for our children, our grandchildren, and indeed our grandchildren's great-great grandchildren is a huge pile of waste while we squander materials on fantasies like so called "renewable energy."

Be that as it may, we are leaving clues about how something might be done in even harsher times which are surely coming out of our indifference. This little paper is intriguing, I think.

Have a nice day tomorrow.

SARSCov2: In silico approach toward identification of unique peptides of viral protein infection.

The paper I'll discuss in this post is this one: In silico approach toward the identification of unique peptides from viral protein infection: Application to COVID-19. It's one of those pre-peer reviewed papers out of BioRxiv.

There's nothing particularly earth shattering about it; it borders on obvious, but not so obvious that anyone would think of doing it: In that sense it's creative. That said, most of the software tools mentioned are public domain, and one could in theory do it at home, which is easy to say, but these authors did do it, and thus are worthy of credit, admiration and appreciation. (It's quite possible that other people have done it as well.)

Most people working in proteomics will be familiar with the tools mentioned therein.

I mention the paper, because it's a nice tutorial on how things work; and is a reflection of the growing power of big data information systems and mass spectrometry, as well as a cheerful reminder that things may not be as bad as one sometimes hears: We have great tools for science, should we not destroy science.

The idea is fairly simple: Do an in silico translation (from the genomic data on the Sars-CoV2 virus) to the coded proteins, then do an in silico enzymatic digestion to find the possible peptides that can be detected by mass spec, eliminate peptides that exhibit cross reactivity with other sequences in endogenous proteins; eliminate those with likely analytical complications; eliminate those that represent genetic instabilities and isoforms, and voila: You have a diagnostic/developmental tool for investigating infection if you also have a nice mass spectrometer.

This graphic from the paper shows the process:

The introduction gives a nice feel for advances. When I was a kid, I used to make analytical tools called "radioimmunoassay assay" (RIA) kits, which involved labeling a species with a radioactive substance (almost always 125-I or more rarely, tritium) and then subjecting it to competitive binding experiments to an antibody to determine the concentration of the analyte. Most young scientists today never used (or necessarily even heard of) RIA kits, although at one time they were "the bee's knees." These were ultimately subsumed by other types of fluorescent/luminescent/electrophotochemical detection systems, the best known being "ELISA," now readily available commercially in monoplex (one protein at a time) and multiplex (lots of proteins at a time) formats. Collectively these systems (including RIA) are known as "ligand binding assays." (LBA).

I will be dead in a few years, but I predict that shortly after I check out of living systems, mass spectrometer will have rendered most LBA systems more or less obsolete, and the authors of the paper suggest as much.

The identification of peptides expressed unique to pathogens is required for the development of diagnostic assays as well as vaccine targets. Antibody based techniques such as enzyme linked immunosorbent assay rely on antibodies raised against specific peptide targets. Mass spectrometry (MS) based diagnostic assays typically require many rounds of optimization to identify peptides that are unique in both sequence or in chemical characteristics to distinguish them from the complex host background.1

The detection of viral proteins in body fluids can be a rapid and specific diagnostic for infection in severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).2–4 During the 2003 (SARS) outbreak, non-MS based methods of protein detection proved to be more successful5,6 than LCMS methods.7–9 Non-MS based methods, such as western blots, enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISAs), and protein arrays, rely on antibodies for the detection of proteins. Given recent studies concerning high variability in antibody production, LCMS-based methods are an attractive alternative approach for the rapid identification of small molecules, proteins, and peptides in clinical settings where consistency is paramount.10,11

In the 15 years since the 2003 SARS outbreak, LCMS technology has experienced a revolution led primarily by increases in the speed, sensitivity, and resolution of MS instruments. Today, protein array and antibody-based methods are falling out of favor in both research and clinical diagnostics, due in large part to the improvements in LCMS technology.12,13 A review of this growth by Grebe and Singh described a clinical lab with no LCMS systems in 1998 that completed over 2 million individual LCMS clinical assays in 2010.14 Incremental improvements in rapid sample preparation techniques, chromatography, and data processing have also contributed to the increasing use of LCMS-based clinical testing. A 2013 study demonstrated the level of advance by identifying 4,000 yeast proteins in one hour of LCMS run time, identifying approximately 75 proteins/min at a rate 100 times faster than studies a decade prior.15

The full paper is open sourced; anyone can read it. It's a little bit technical, but it is a nice overview of how things work for anyone who is interested.

Here's how their in silico analysis worked out:

The caption:

Figure 1.
A summary of the peptide numbers as they are removed from an increasingly complex theoretical proteome background.

Good thinking. Good idea.

If we get a President who doesn't hate science like the racist moron in the office now, we will beat this disease.

Occurrence State and Dissolution Mechanism of Metallic Impurities in Diamond Wire Saw Silicon Powder

The paper I'll discuss in this post is this one: Occurrence State and Dissolution Mechanism of Metallic Impurities in Diamond Wire Saw Silicon Powder (Yang, Wan, Wei, Ma, Wang, ACS Sustainable Chem. Eng. 2020, 8, 33, 12577–12587).

Although it has no bearing on the scientific integrity paper, it begins with a statement that is demonstrably untrue, yet widely believed, one of the two statements to which I have added bold below in the introductory text from the paper. Here is the introduction:

The growing concerns of the traditional energy crisis, the global energy shortage, and pollution associated with the use of traditional energy sources have gradually led to the replacement of the conventional fossil fuel-based energy structure with a renewable energy-based structure.(1−3) Consequently, with the rapid development of the photovoltaic (PV) industry, the demand for solar-grade silicon has increased sharply because of its wide applications as the predominant photoelectric conversion material.(4) Si wafer-based solar cells are the main solar-cell products in the PV industry, accounting for 95% of the total production in 2017.(5,6) The current silicon wafering technology, namely, diamond wire sawing (DWS), has the advantages of a higher feed rate, low surface roughness, and a clear operating environment.(7,8) Diamond wire saw silicon powder (DWSSP) waste is a material generated during DWS. It is a micrometer-sized powder containing numerous metallic contaminants.(9) DWSSP is also considered to be a serious threat to the workplace due to the potential hazards of exothermic oxidation, its highly inflammable properties, and the creation of dust pollution.(10) Like for red mud, the conventional treatment methods for DWSSP, including landfilling and stacking, threaten both human health and the ecosystem due to the complex nature and substantial volume of DWSSP.(11) It is well-known that the selective recovery of metal in multicomponent systems is highly desirable for sustainable metal resource recycling and refractory solid waste treatments,(12) and it is important to develop environmentally friendly processes for the valorization of industrial residues and end-of-life products.(13) Consequently, there is no doubt that the recycling of silicon is both environmentally and economically favorable.(14)

It is simply not true that so called "renewable energy" has replaced, or is replacing, gradually or otherwise, dangerous fossil fuels to any extent at all. The use of dangerous fossil fuels has continuously been growing at an alarming rate since the 20th century through the 21st. In many of my posts here I post a table I prepared from recent editions of the International Energy Agency's World Energy Outlook, which reports on the actual energy consumption of the entire human race.

Here is a table of sources of energy taken from the International Energy Agency’s 2017, 2018, and 2019 Editions of the World Energy Outlook, the last three editions published:

(In this table, I have converted MTOE in the original tables in to the SI unit exajoules in this text.)

World Energy Outlook, 2019

World Energy Outlook, 2018

World Energy Outlook, 2017

Of course, every edition of the World Energy Outlook that I have in my files for this century - probably between 10 and 15, I'm too lazy to look right now - talks about the projected growth of so called "renewable energy" in "scenarios."

I have a few editions from the 20th century, less slick, but more realistic.

The fastest growing source of energy in the 21st century has been coal. For the last year for which data is available, despite all sorts of claims that coal is dying, 2017-2018, the use of coal grew. Mostly this has been driven by China, where they are still debating adding even more coal plants.

Coal grew faster - at 2.97 exajoules for annual growth that year - than did "other renewable energy" which includes solar, wind, geothermal and tidal combined, which grew by 1.63 exajoules in that period.

Despite statements by politicians I enthusiastically support about how many jobs putative "clean energy" will create, it has proved to be the case that the overwhelming majority of the solar cells manufactured, and pretty much everything else, on this planet are manufactured in China.

One reason of course, that China is able to manufacture most of the world's "stuff" is lower worker safety standards, although as the second bold statement in the introduction above.

The second statement in bold in the introduction above lists some of the hazards to workers and to the environment connected with solar PV cell manufacture, these connected with diamond wire saw silicon power, abbreviated DWSSP throughout the rest of the paper. The hazards listed speak for themselves.

These are not, of course, the only hazards associated with PV manufacture. Some are concerned with the fact that the reduction of silicon dioxide - the familiar chemical form of almost all the silicon on Earth, and all naturally occurring silicon - is by heating silicon with carbon. The main source of carbon on this planet is coal.

Silicon is purified by converting it into the liquid trichlorosilane which is then distilled. In 2014, a trichlorosilane distillation plant in the Mie Prefecture of Japan exploded, killing 5 workers instantly and injuring 13.

Of course, industrial accidents happen all the time, and domestic energy accidents do as well - every once in a while one will read about a house exploding and killing people. (Such an explosion killed people near where I live a few years back, and I believe I saw one reported in the media recently.) None of this is remarkable except for maybe this: The trichlorosilane explosion in Mie Prefecture instanteously killed more people than radiation from the destroyed Fukushima nuclear reactors instantaneously killed (zero), and neither event killed as many people as seawater killed.

We couldn't care less how many people are killed by seawater of course, but we never forget if people are merely exposed to industrial radiation while ignoring the fact that people are continuously bathed internally and externally by natural radiation.

Odd world; crazy world; disturbingly crazy world; no wonder it's dying.

The authors of this paper propose to mitigate the hazard of diamond wire saw silicon powder, something they propose to do by removing metals in the powder using strong acids.

To recycle silicon derived from DWSSP, increasing the yield of high-purity silicon is an imperative issue that needs to be resolved.(15) The metallurgical route has become a popular method for silicon purification due to its low cost and environmental friendliness associated with its sustainable process.(16,17) As leaching is the primary and essential stage for the recovery of metals in comparison with pyrometallurgical treatments,(18,19) the metallic impurities present in DWSSP could be removed with a cost-effective compatible acid leaching pretreatment process. Since 2019, several methods have been presented for the purification and recovery of silicon from DWSSP. It is evident that this topic has become a research hotspot and has garnered significant interest from researchers.(20) The authors’ previous studies have investigated the kinetic mechanism of Al removal via HCl leaching,(21) the dissolution and mineralization behavior of metal elements,(22) and the Si core–SiO2 shell structure.(23) Moreover, the kinetic mechanism of iron removal with H2SO4 leaching,(24) multicomponent acid purification,(25) the combined process of slag treatment and acid leaching,(26) and acid leaching followed by induction furnace melting(27) have also been investigated by other research groups...

...In this study, different leaching tests were conducted to reveal the dissolution mechanism of metallic impurities. The common impurities present in DWSSP were sufficiently removed, and two occurrence states of impurities were defined based on their different dissolution behaviors. Moreover, the corresponding dissolution mechanisms were derived...

An issue in these dissolution studies is the formation of silicon dioxide, an unacceptable impurity in solar cells and other silicon devices. This is discussed in the full paper.

Pictures from the paper:

The caption:

Figure 1. SEM characterization of the DWSSP elements mapping: (a) Micro-images for DWSSP′ and (b–g) mapping images for different metallic impurities.

It is important to note that the elements discussed, with the exception of nickel, are not appreciably toxic, however the mode of contact is important. This is dust, and as such the tissue in which it is most likely to be deposited is lung tissue. I personally do not know off hand the effect of reduced silicon in lung tissue, but silicosis, a disease associated with the deposition of silica (silicon dioxide is well known. I suppose one could look up data about these issues, whether something rather like black lung disease is associated, but frankly, I don't think we'd care. Solar energy is "green."

Leaching with hydrochloric acid:

The caption:

Figure 2. Relationships between Al removal and leaching parameters: (a) HCl concentration, (b) leaching temperature, and (c) leaching duration.

Then they get a little nastier, adding an acid mixture close to aqua regia and the scary acid HF. HF dissolves silicon, and in fact, silicon compounds like silica and silica derived products like glass. Presumably the idea is to partially dissolve the silicon to get at the impurities.

The caption:

Figure 3. Impurity removal efficiency of different acid regeants in leach II: (a) the removal efficiency for the different lixiviants and (b) the effect of the HF concentration in the mixed acid solution on the removal efficiency.

The effect on particle size and the changes as suggested by X-ray diffraction.

The caption:

Figure 4. XRD patterns of different materials for the two-stage leaching process (a) the XRD results for DWSSP′ after different leaches and (b) the particle size distribution for DWSSP′ after different leaches.

Silica is an impurity to be avoided of course; the whole point of all this processing is to convert impure silica into pure silicon. This graphic refers to that side product:

The caption:

Figure 6. Silicon and silicon dioxide peak obtained by XPS analysis for the two-stage leaching process: (a) the XPS spectra for DWSSP′ after different leaches and (b) the average SiO2 thicknesses for DWSSP′ after different leaches.

A graphic on the mechanism:

The caption:

Figure 9. Schematic diagrams of the dissolution mechanism and occurrence state of the metallic impurities in DWSSP during the two-stage leaching process.

A cartoon on the proposed process:

The caption:

Figure 10. Recommendation route for silicon recovery from DWSSP

The author's conclusions:

In this study, the occurrence state and dissolution mechanism of metallic impurities in DWSSP during the acid leaching process were determined. The main findings were obtained as follows.

1. The combined process of two-stage acid leaching with 4 M HCl and 2 M HCl + 2.5 M HF was proposed to facilitate the removal of metallic impurities from DWSSP.

2. The leaching results indicated that there are two occurrence states of metallic impurities in the DWSSP. The first type can be easily dissolved in HCl solution, while the elimination of the second type of retained impurities depends on the disintegration of the SiO2 shell, as the SiO2 layer creates a barrier to the dissolution of this type of impurity. For this reason, the removal of metallic impurities can be facilitated via HF addition.

3. The occurrence state of metallic impurities in DWSSP demonstrated the retention of metallic impurities caused by the propagation growth process of the amorphous SiO2 shell. This provides evidence to support the recommended route for the recovery of silicon from DWSSP with an effective acid leaching flow design.

Well then...

I feel like Debby Downer sometimes...

There is a wide spread belief that so called "renewable energy" will save the world. It is of course a kind of cant among us in the Democratic Party, some of us advocating for the "Green New Deal" which is certainly popular among many of us. Regrettably, I argue that the "green new deal" is neither "green" (where "green" is a code word for "sustainable" and "environmentally benign" and "safe" ) nor "new" nor much of a deal, to be honest.

The problem with so called "renewable energy" isn't silicon dust in people's lungs. That's small when compared with the vast death toll associated with the normal use of dangerous fossil fuels. The problem is that it's not working, not even close to working, to address climate change or to ameliorate the vast death toll associated with dangerous fossil fuels. This remains true despite vast cheering, incredible sums of money and huge quantities of matter thrown at it in an almost sacrificial ritual that cannot be stopped because for humanity it has always been an issue that faith can be stronger than reality until at least, reality bites.

Speaking only for myself, I believe reality is biting, big time.

The defining point of my liberalism, and I suspect the liberalism of many others, is that facts matter.

It is a fact that the huge investment in so called "renewable energy" has done nothing to address climate change. Climate change is getting worse, not better. The number of people being killed by dangerous fossil fuel waste, aka "air pollution" remains where it has been for many years, around 19,000 people a day, far more than Covid kills.

A fact..

A fact...

We in the Democratic Party, of course, very much - and rightly so - want to save the world, not only from fascism, because in a fascist world politics trumps science, but also from environmental disaster.

It is not enough to simply push the bad guys out of the way. It is essential to govern well.

Governing well does not include advancing programs that do not work.

In a way, I regret the Republican Party's suicide and its abandonment of principle in favor of personality. A principled opposition makes one stronger, not weaker, because to succeed, one must have one's ideas challenged.

I implore everyone to keep this in mind: Unchallenged ideas don't work very well as ideas, nor, for that matter, as policy.

I wish you a pleasant and relaxing Sunday in these challenging times.

Mitigating the Impact of Thermal Binder Removal for Direct Li-Ion Battery Recycling

The paper I'll discuss in this post is this one: Mitigating the Impact of Thermal Binder Removal for Direct Li-Ion Battery Recycling. (Bradley J. Ross, Michael LeResche, Donghao Liu, Jessica L. Durham, Erik U. Dahl, and Albert L. Lipson,* ACS Sustainable Chem. Eng. 2020, 8, 33, 12511–12515).

There is a widespread belief that energy storage is "green" because the stuff whose massive environmental and technical flaws it's supposed to mitigate, so called "renewable energy," is "green."

Unshakable and persistent faith in these beliefs is destroying the planetary atmosphere, since no amount of energy storage infrastructure built, nor the massive amounts of money and matter thrown at so called "renewable energy" has had any result on the acceleration of climate change or, for that matter, the acceleration of the use of dangerous fossil fuels that mostly drive climate change, or the accumulation of the dangerous fossil fuel waste, carbon dioxide, in that atmosphere which provides most of the mechanism for climate change.

That's a fact. Facts matter.


Happily the paper under discussion reports something that rather pleases me - since I often rail against the criminal social practices (human slavery) that drives the cobalt mining industry - that the amount of cobalt in lithium batteries is being reduced, not eliminated, but at least reduced. That's some good news. The bad news is that it makes the lithium battery industry even less economically viable than it already is - in fact it's not economically viable - meaning that the fate of lithium batteries is going to involve even larger landfills than those with which our party hardy generation has left behind, in total unbridled contempt for all future generations.

There is also widespread belief that hand waving assertions about "recycling" are something other than expressions of this same contempt: In my personal experience, the type most prone to this hand waving are generally bourgeois assholes who want to brag about their stupid solar cells on the roofs of their McMansions powering their Tesla electric car, something they do whenever they are confronted by the reality that in 25 years, all their solar cells and all their batteries are going to be one of the most intractable forms of toxic waste there is, electronic waste, this on a scale of hundreds of millions of tons.

Don't be recklessly brave and head over to the E&E forum to discuss this fact. Facts are not all that impressive there, at least among some of the clientele.

Nevertheless, facts matter. Facts matter.

Another one of the more intractable waste problems the world faces, among many, is the accumulation in the environment of compounds containing the (very strong) carbon fluorine bond. I've written a number of posts in this space about aspects of these compounds, chiefly in connection with perfluoroalkyl sulfonates, carboxylic acids and related compounds. These bonds are also of course, found in Teflon, in a material most of us have utilized in various ways - I have - and they are important components of certain classes of fuel cells, hydrogen fuel cells, where the fluoropolymer Nalfion plays an important role.

It turns out - and I didn't actually know this until yesterday - that fluoropolymers are components of lithium batteries.

That's what this paper is about: Fluoropolymers in lithium batteries.

The introductory cartoon:

From the introduction:

With the introduction of mass-produced electric vehicles, there is a growing need to find appropriate recycling methods before their batteries reach the end of life. Currently, battery recycling is not profitable and is solely reliant on the recovery of the various metals. Cobalt is the most expensive of these metals; therefore, it is the most profitable to recycle. However, cobalt is gradually being eliminated from Li-ion battery cathodes as a way to increase the nickel content, which increases the capacity of the cathode, lowers costs, and reduces reliance on sources of cobalt that utilize poor labor practices.(1−3) The reduction in cobalt content makes processes that only recover the metals less attractive. However, there is still substantial value in the cathode material if it can be recovered in an intact condition.(4) This type of recycling is termed direct recycling, but so far, there have not been any commercially successful processes for direct recycling.

Current battery recycling technology relies on methods that are similar to mining techniques. One such method is the use of pyrometallurgical processing, where the battery materials undergo carbothermal reduction after shredding. One of the byproducts of the this process is a slag, which is often discarded or used as aggregate though Li can be extracted from it.(5) The product of interest is a metal alloy that is refined using a variety of processes, such as hydrometallurgy, which yields high-purity individual metals or metal salts.(6) Another option is to utilize hydrometallurgy directly, which employs acids to dissolve the metals from the battery. These metals are then separated by various processes, and the metals or metal salts can be sold.(7−11)

A direct recycling process for Li-ion batteries requires different unit operations throughout the process to preserve the cathode materials while separating the cathode from other materials. Once the cathode is separated and removed from the aluminum foil, the conductive carbon black and adhesive binders must be removed. Typically, the binder used in lithium-ion batteries to adhere the particles to each other and to the aluminum foil is poly(vinylidene difluoride) (PVDF). Removal of PVDF is required, because relithiation and rejuvenation processes will likely require temperatures that decompose the polymeric binder, and removal allows for simple usage of recycled cathode in current manufacturing processes. Binders can be removed with the use of solvents, mechanical methods,(12) or thermal methods. There have been a number of reports utilizing thermal decomposition to remove binder from various cathode materials. These studies demonstrate the effectiveness of this method to remove PVDF and carbon black, but few report electrochemical performance data.(13−21) Lee et al. have reported the successful removal of PVDF binder from pristine LiNi0.8Mn0.1Co0.1O2 (NMC 811) with good electrochemical performance through the use of annealing at 780 °C without any additions.(14) In order to prevent deleterious effects, the removal of the PVDF and carbon black must be performed in a controlled manner that is optimized for that material. After binder removal, end of life Li-ion battery cathode materials will be partially delithiated.(22) There are a number of methods to relithiate cathode materials including solid state,(23) hydrothermal,(24) and electrochemical processes...(25)

The authors describe the goal (and presumably outcome) of their work:

...To address these challenges, we developed a thermal process that can mitigate the deleterious effects of binder removal through the addition of LiOH·H2O. A thermal process eliminates the need for a large amount of organic solvent that would be needed to adequately remove the binder. Thermogravimetric analysis with mass spectroscopy (TGA-MS) helped with elucidating when the materials are removed and the types of gases evolved during the process. These results were utilized to optimize the processing conditions and demonstrate effective binder removal. Furthermore, this process was extended to both remove binder and relithiate the cathode material in a single step. To understand why this process is effective, X-ray diffraction (XRD) and scanning electron microscopy (SEM) with energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (EDS) were used for analysis.

Some experimental procedures used in the process:

LiNi0.333Mn0.333Co0.333O2 (NMC 111) powder was procured from Toda America Inc. In order to create a consistent delithiated cathode material for testing, chemical delithiation was utilized instead of electrochemical methods. The chemically delithiated NMC 111 was prepared by mixing the cathode in a solution of K2S2O8 at 50 °C for 15 h. The material was then washed with water and filtered followed by acetonitrile washing before drying. Inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry analysis of the chemically delithiated material indicated that approximately 10% of the lithium was removed.

The electrode materials for binder removal were prepared using methods similar to cathode coating...

...Binder removal experiments were done using a muffle furnace (Nabertherm) with a 200 L/h flow of dry air. The 500 °C processing used a 0.5 °C/min ramp rate and immediate cooling at 2 °C/min. The 925 °C processing used a 0.5 °C/min ramp rate to 500 °C and then 2 °C/min to 925 °C for 8 h before cooling at 2 °C/min. LiOH·H2O (FMC) was ground and sieved using a 45 μm sieve before being acoustically mixed (Resodyn LabRAM II) with the electrode material.

The heat here, of course, requires a lot of energy to recycle materials in this "energy storage" material.

A figure from this text:

The caption:

Figure 1. Thermogravimetric analysis with simultaneous mass spectroscopy of a sample consisting of 92 wt % NMC 111, 3 wt % PVDF, and 5 wt % carbon black.

Do not be deceived by the picoampere scale on the right. In a GC/MS coupled TGA (thermogravimetric analyzer) a tiny sample is thermally decomposed and then a tiny sample of the tiny sample of decomposition gases is injected into the gas chromatograph and detected by the mass spectrometer, the latter being an extremely sensitive device.

One of the decomposition products of the PVDF is unsurprisingly hydrogen fluoride gas.

In my career, when I was still in the lab, I got to work with some pretty hazardous chemicals, chromium VI, lead, mercury, phosgene, a war gas that was responsible for thousands upon thousands of death in the First World War, sodium cyanide, dimethyl sulfate, sodium metal, potassium metal, radioactive iodine, radioactive cobalt (57, not 60) and of course HF, hydrogen fluoride.

In all those years there was one, and only one, occasion where I was truly afraid for my life. Some guys who worked for me came to my office to tell me that a piece of apparatus on which I had worked had leaked pure liquid hydrogen fluoride all over the hood. When I went to look, it was a large amount, and fuming prodigiously. Since I had obviously failed to properly train and properly supervise them, given the outcome, and thus the route responsibility lay with me, I asked them to leave the lab, suited up and cleaned up the mess myself with copious amounts of calcium carbonate. I was literally shaking when I was done.

It was maybe, ten to fifty grams. Some oil refineries use this stuff on a ton scale, as a cracking catalyst. Just saying...

I'm sure that Nalfion manufacturing plants do as well...

And I guess, so do factories, making PVDF for "green" lithium batteries.

Nasty stuff, hydrogen fluoride, scary stuff, in my opinion, far worse than phosgene. (To be perfectly clear, I would recommend its use in nuclear fuel reprocessing, but that's another issue entirely.)

The authors in this paper claim that the hydrogen fluoride gas, however, reacts with the residual metals in the electrode undergoing recycling.

The decomposition products of the PVDF include CO2, H2O, and HF. The signal during the decomposition of PVDF at mass 19, indicating F, is likely HF that splits during the mass spectrometry ionization process. The carbon black then decomposed with the peak of decomposition around 500 °C as indicated by the strong release of CO2. Interestingly, at temperatures exceeding 900 °C, additional fluorine is released, which is accompanied by a mass loss. This is a strong indication that HF reacts with the cathode material. This fluorine release is likely accompanied by lithium loss and phase decomposition at high temperatures that would be expected to release anions from the structure. This is consistent with the weight loss seen at these high temperatures. With this information, we propose the following likely reactions:

So be it. Who am I to say no?

The goal is to directly recycle electrodes, and it is noted that reaction with HF can pull lithium out of the electrode, thus degrading its performance. Therefore the authors add quantities of lithium hydroxide to the reaction to prevent this from happening.

Hence the following figure:

The caption:

Figure 2. Electrochemical cycling rate performance between 2.7 and 4.3 V of NMC 111 cathode that was mixed with 3 wt % PVDF and 5 wt % carbon black, and then had these materials removed at 500 °C with or without added LiOH·H2O.

The performance of electrodes under various conditions:

The caption:

Figure 3. Electrochemical cycling rate performance of chemically delithiated NMC 111 cathodes as compared to the pristine material. The material without binder was mixed with the LiOH·H2O and annealed at 500 °C. The 500 and 925 °C were mixed with 3 wt % PVDF and 5 wt % carbon black before being mixed with LiOH·H2O and heat treated.

The caption:

Figure 4. SEM secondary electron (SE) and EDS elemental imaging of NMC 111 cathode after binder removal with 4 wt % LiOH·H2O.

A heating process to decompose the carbon black and PVDF binder can be an effective methodology for recycling Li-ion battery materials. This process benefits from the addition of a Li source to counteract the tendency of fluorine to pull out Li from the structure. The additional Li can react with the F and Mn from the NMC to form another phase. Additionally, a one-step process can be used to remove binder and relithiate the material; however, this requires higher temperatures than that in the simple binder removal. Although this process does somewhat degrade performance, it should be noted that these studies were utilizing 3 wt % PVDF, and commercial manufacturers typically use substantially less. A reduction in binder amount will lessen the detrimental impacts of binder removal. Overall, this process is a straightforward methodology to remove the PVDF binder and relithiate the cathode material and help enable direct recycling. An efficient direct recycling process has the potential to enable profitable recycling of Li-ion batteries thereby mitigating the effects of their disposal while reducing the costs of Li-ion batteries.

It's not clear that this process will make lithium battery recycling economically viable.

For all my whining about lithium batteries here and in other posts in this space, it should be said that I own a few computers with lithium batteries, so a claim to innocence would not stand scrutiny.

History will not forgive us, nor should it, and to be perfectly clear, I am part of "us."

I trust you're having a pleasant afternoon.

Sources of Water Contributing to Sea Level Rise Since 1900.

The paper I'll discuss in this post is this one: The causes of sea-level rise since 1900 (Frederikse et al., Nature 584, 393–397 (2020))

Most of the time, I incorporate the title of papers I discuss in this space - to the extent possible - in the title of the post, but as it happens, this paper would be better titled as I have done. The main cause of sea level rise is climate change; followed by the removal of fossil ground water for irrigation and ultimately evaporation and transpiration.

The latter cause, the unsustainable mining of fossil ground water for agriculture, as I learned in this lecture a while back, contributes significant amounts of water to the rise in sea level: During the lecture, Dr. Robert Kopp, the speaker, estimated about 10% of sea level rise was attributable to mined ground water, if I recall correctly. Examples of places where fossil ground water is mined in vast amounts are the Ogalalla aquifer underlying significant portions of the American Midwest, and the California aquifer underlying the San Joaquin Valley. Both aquifers are being rapidly depleted and without a source of water, as agricultural zones they will die.

Thinking about all of this has lead me to have elaborate geoengineering fantasies - they are just that, fantasies - involving supercritical water desalination of the surface waters of the very dirty inland sea, the Gulf of Mexico, a process that would involve supercritical water oxidation of microplastics increasingly found there, persistent organic pollutants, oil residues from the far from ameliorated Deepwater Horizon data that went down the memory hole even while the earlier event at Fukushima which in many ways was less odious, didn't, as well as the recovery of carbon dioxide - most of this dumped dangerous fossil fuel waste is in the oceans where it acidifies it, - as well as valuable minerals like calcium, magnesium, uranium, and perhaps copper and zinc, and perhaps most importantly, the phosphorous (and more carbon dioxide) resulting eutrophication generating biomass caused by runoff into the Mississippi from Iowa and neighboring states as part of the so called "renewable energy" disaster represented by ethanol production for motor fuels.

In my fantasy, the water from this process is steam driven to central North America to restore and refill the Ogalalla and other depleted mined waters, Owens Lake, the California aquifer and the dead Colorado River delta. It's a nice fantasy, but it's just that a fantasy. While remotely feasible, I think, it is clear that humanity is far too stupid to embrace such an idea because of the source of energy such a scheme would require. Humanity would rather believe that so called "renewable energy" will save the world. It hasn't saved the world; it isn't saving the world; and it won't save the world, but as we are seeing, to some amazement, the early 21st century is a period in history where the embrace of lies has subsumed and battered the truth.

Happily, truth is not a function of belief, and it will, as it must, because it is truth, reemerge in smarter times.

As for fantasies, sometimes one realizes something like them, but most often not. Meeting someone like my wife was a fantasy I had as a young man, but in many ways she is different, indeed better, than the fantasies. Reality doesn't always suck, but sometimes it does. Acting on fantasies however can also go very badly: Many popular energy fantasies from the last quarter of the 20th century have caused more harm than good. Things are getting worse because of our reliance on the so called "renewable energy" fantasy. Whether reality of draining a little of the ocean by supercritical water desalination would prove to be as good as the fantasy of doing so, will almost certainly never be known.


The paper refines Dr. Kopp's estimation that I remember from Dr. Kopp's wonderful lecture.

I will not see the like again.

(The death of science lectures as a result of Trump's incompetence and lies about Covid-19, is yet another tragedy, perhaps a relatively minor one, among the thousands, that the normalization of his lies and acceptance of his ignorance and corruption has caused. No matter how great a President Joe Biden proves to be; it will be a very long time before we're past this damage, generations probably, caused by this nearly missed triumph of stupidity and racism.)



The abstract, available from the link to the paper above, is worth reading. From the paper's introduction:

Global-mean sea level (GMSL) has increased by approximately 1.5 mm yr^(−1) (refs. 1,4,5) over the twentieth century, modulated by large multidecadal fluctuations6. Changes in GMSL are the net result of many individual geophysical and climatological processes, with some of the largest contributions coming from ice-mass loss and thermal expansion of the ocean. The level of agreement between the sum of these individual contributions and the observed changes in GMSL—often described as the ‘sea-level budget’—is a key indicator of our understanding of the drivers of sea-level rise7. Multiple studies show closure of the sea-level budget within their stated uncertainties since the 1960s and over the era of satellite altimetry since 19938,9,10. However, rates of GMSL change and their contributions to the budget over the entire twentieth century, and especially the first half of the twentieth century, have not yet been fully explained or attributed. Previous observation-based studies concluded that the GMSL budget for the whole twentieth century could not be closed within the estimated uncertainties2,3. Various explanations for this non-closure have been proposed, including an overestimation of the tide-gauge-derived rates of GMSL change11 and underestimation of the ice-sheet contribution12, but there is no agreement yet on the cause of this discrepancy13.

Over the past few years, revised estimates of the main known driving processes of global sea-level rise that cover the entire twentieth century have become available14,15,16,17, the spread among different estimates of twentieth-century glacier mass loss has been reduced18, and improved mapping methods and correction of instrumental bias have resulted in higher estimates of the contribution from thermal expansion since the 1960s19. In parallel, estimates of twentieth-century GMSL change have converged to lower rates than previously estimated, as a result of improved reconstruction approaches, spatial-bias correction schemes, and the inclusion of estimates of local vertical land motion (VLM) at tide-gauge locations4,9,20. As a result of these developments, the GMSL budget needs to be re-estimated, to determine whether the observed sea-level rise since 1900 can be reconciled with the estimated sum of contributing processes...

...To obtain estimates of changes in global ocean mass (barystatic changes), we combine estimates of mass change for glaciers16,21, ice sheets14,22,23,24,25 and terrestrial water storage (TWS). For the TWS estimate, we consider the effects of natural TWS variability17, water impoundment in artificial reservoirs26 and groundwater depletion27,28. For 2003–2018, we use observations from the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE)29 to quantify the barystatic changes. We estimate changes in sea level due to global thermal expansion (thermosteric changes) from in situ subsurface observations30,31,32 over the period 1957–2018, and combine these estimates with an existing thermosteric reconstruction15. To obtain an estimate of GMSL changes and their accompanying uncertainties, we combine tide-gauge observations with estimates of local VLM from permanent Global Navigation Satellites System (GNSS) stations and with the difference between tide-gauge and satellite-altimetry observations.

The authors note that many traditional methods of measuring sea level, notably tide gauges, are subject to significant variability:

Each tide-gauge and VLM record is affected by glacial isostatic adjustment (GIA) and by the effects of gravity, rotation and deformation (GRD) from contemporary surface-mass redistribution due to changes in ice mass and TWS

VLM here is "vertical land motion" and TWS is "terrestrial water storage" - for example, dams. The authors note that another so called "renewable energy" disaster affecting sea levels - in this case it slowed sea level rise - was the widespread enthusiasm for the construction of these dams, which they state peaked in the 1970's.

Graphics from the text:

The caption:

a, Observed GMSL, and the estimated barystatic and thermosteric contributions and their sum. b, The barystatic contribution and its individual components. The TWS term is the sum of groundwater depletion, water impoundment in artificial reservoirs and the natural TWS term. c, 30-year-average rates of observed GMSL change and of GMSL change as a result of the different contributing processes. d, 30-year-average rates of GMSL change due to the barystatic contribution and its individual components. The shaded regions denote 90% confidence intervals. The values in a and b are relative to the 2002–2018 mean.

GMSL = Global Mean Sea Level. The word barystatic refers to mass transfer, that is ice to seawater, groundwater to seawater, etc. The "static" root of the word is misleading.

The caption:

Figure 2
a, Fraction with all components included. b, Fraction after omitting the TWS component. The shaded regions denote 90% confidence intervals.

The caption:

Figure 3

a–f, Observed basin-mean sea level, and the estimated contributions and their sum, for the different basins (as indicated on the map). Contrary to the global case, GIA causes basin-mean changes in sea level, and so is included in the sum of contributors. The shaded regions denote the 90% confidence interval. The values are relative to the 2002–2018 mean.

There's quite a bit of interesting detail in the discussions of the full paper's text. It's worth reading if one can access it. I do hope to find some time to spend with it.

From the authors' conclusions:

We reconstructed the GMSL since 1900 and compared it to the sum of the contributing processes. We found that these processes explain the observed twentieth-century GMSL trend and match the multidecadal variability pattern, except for the low rates in observed sea-level rise during the 1920s. Barystatic changes are the primary contributor to sea-level rise, with glacier mass loss being the largest component. Reservoir impoundment caused a substantial, albeit temporary, slowdown of GMSL rise during the 1970s. The relative contributions of thermosteric and barystatic changes to GMSL vary with time. On basin scales, trends and multidecadal variability deviate from the global mean, mostly as a result of variability in the steric component...

...Closure of the twentieth-century sea-level budget, as demonstrated here, implies that no additional unknown processes, such as large-scale deep-ocean thermal expansion or additional mass loss from the Antarctic Ice Sheet, are required to explain the observed changes in global sea level. Such additional processes had been speculated to explain the non-closure found in previous studies of global sea-level budget2,3,12. Our demonstration of closure of the global-mean and basin-mean sea-level budget forms a consistent baseline against which process-based and semi-empirical sea-level projections can be benchmarked, without the need to compare against either the sum of processes or observed sea level37. The downward revision of the estimated sea-level rise and updated estimates of the driving processes, particularly the increased estimated glacier mass loss, result in a consistent picture of twentieth-century GMSL rise and its underlying causes.

Cool paper, I think.

I hope you will have as safe and as enjoyable weekend as is possible in these dire times.

For anyone who knows the area, what is Kenosha like, and why do they have a racist police chief?

I'm just curious as to what kind of city and city government would have a cop who thinks it's OK for a cop to shoot an unarmed black man seven times in the back while letting a white kid who openly shot and killed people walk?

Is the town generally racist?

Wired on Waste: Leaving Behind Toxic Trash

I generally don't read the popular press on issues but this news item from the pop website came to me in one of my science news feeds.

It's rare to hear reality on energy anymore, and the atmosphere, as well the land and the sea reflect that.

In fact, the subtitle of the article from Wired below has a stupid oxymoronic statement about a "boon for clean energy."

An intractable waste problem on a scale of millions of tons of solid toxic waste is a "boon for clean energy?"

You can't get a degree in journalism if you've passed a college level science course.

There are many, many, many scientific publications on recycling electronic waste, by the way, and frankly, having read oodles of them, it's not pretty, and by the way, almost all of the processes depend on the use of dangerous fossil fuel derived reagents, highly corrosive reagents, and of course, being "distributed" transport by dangerous fossil fuel powered vehicles to effect.

The sad thing is that this situation exists for a hyped form of energy that has never been, is not now, and never will be a significant form of energy; it always has been, always is and always will be trivial.

Another way our fantasies have screwed all future generations:

Solar Panels Are Starting to Die, Leaving Behind Toxic Trash

By 2050, the International Renewable Energy Agency projects that up to 78 million metric tons of solar panels will have reached the end of their life, and that the world will be generating about 6 million metric tons of new solar e-waste annually. While the latter number is a small fraction of the total e-waste humanity produces each year, standard electronics recycling methods don’t cut it for solar panels. Recovering the most valuable materials from one, including silver and silicon, requires bespoke recycling solutions. And if we fail to develop those solutions along with policies that support their widespread adoption, we already know what will happen.

“If we don’t mandate recycling, many of the modules will go to landfill,” said Arizona State University solar researcher Meng Tao, who recently authored a review paper on recycling silicon solar panels, which comprise 95 percent of the solar market.

By contrast to 78 million tons of solar electronic distributed waste, so called "nuclear waste" having supplied roughly 20% of all American Energy going back to the 1980's, and including all so called "waste" generated by commercial nuclear power since the industry was founded in the late 1950's, amounts to about 80,000 metric tons, in a few highly concentrated locations.

Neither of these figures compare to the hundreds upon hundreds of billions of tons of dangerous fossil fuel waste that have accumulated in the air, as well as on the land and in the sea, while we all waited like Godot for the grand renewable energy nirvana that did not come, is not here, and will not come.

Combined, worldwide, all of the solar and wind facilities on the entire planet have never, not once, produced the 28 exajoules of energy that nuclear energy has routinely provided every damned year since 1990, preventing the release of more than 30 billion tons of dangerous fossil fuel waste, this while being vilified as "dangerous" by a population of people who have never, not once, given a shit about the six to seven million people who die each year from dangerous fossil fuel and "renewable" biomass combustion waste each year, aka, air pollution.

Global, regional, and national comparative risk assessment of 79 behavioural, environmental and occupational, and metabolic risks or clusters of risks, 1990–2015: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2015 (Lancet 2016; 388: 1659–724) One can easily locate in this open sourced document compiled by an international consortium of medical and scientific professionals how many people die from causes related to air pollution, particulates, ozone, etc.

Prevented Mortality and Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Historical and Projected Nuclear Power (Pushker A. Kharecha* and James E. Hansen Environ. Sci. Technol., 2013, 47 (9), pp 4889–4895)

If you think the solar and wind industries will solve the energy waste problem, a suggested reading for you: The Myth of Sisyphus.

Have a nice evening.

Lincoln Project: Dear Daughters.

I'm surprised I don't see this one posted here - unless I missed it - but damn, these guys are good:

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