Mineral Future

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  • #97262 Reply
    michael norton

    As we are moved towards Net Zero, our future will be increasingly minerals based. Unless Graphene and or Ambient Temperature Super Conductivity coughs up, will may soon be snookered. There is thought to be less economically recoverable Copper than we will require for an Electric Future. At the moment Copper is only considered economically recoverable down to one part in two hundred. The more sparse the Copper, the more Diesel, Methane and water you need to get your mineral out.
    It would be possible to recover Copper down to 1/400 but it would be many times more expensive. For a full Electric Future it is thought that the U.K. Grid would need to be four times its present size.

    #97298 Reply

    Hopefully I’ll return to this thread soon as this is an important topic; decarbonising is going to be a lot more difficult than most people suspect. in the mean time, a lot of resources can be found at Prof. Tom Murphy’s blog, Do the Math. I’ll just post one link for now:

    Inexhaustible Flows?

    #97299 Reply

    Oh, I suppose I should really post this too:

    Guide to Posts

    #97305 Reply
    michael norton

    I just read the piece “Inexhaustable Flows?”

    “Make no mistake: “renewable” energy is not the same as sustainable technology.”

    That is the point, I was trying to make.

    Even if we do build out 50% plus of Electricity Generation by (known) renewable technology, we have to remember that most power plants do not last more than one hundred years, many last only a few decades, then, much needs to be rebuilt.

    #97344 Reply

    I hope this is on point.

    Together with the demand for hugely increasing quantities of minerals for the generation of more electricity through renewables, we are looking at vastly more electricity in itself being required.

    Replacing fossil-fueled engines for cars, heating and cooking for homes, and industrial processes such as smelting being all new demands on supply, we have to consider how well the grid itself is going to have to adapt.

    1.32 million barrels, or 264,000,000 litres, of oil were consumed in the UK each day during 2022 ( https://www.statista.com/statistics/332028/oil-consumption-in-the-united-kingdom-uk/ ), and over 7,000 cubic feet of gas per day. That’s a heck of a lot of energy that electricity is going to have to replace, and be delivered.

    Substations and even the conduits to streets and individual houses will all have to be uprated, not to mention the many millions of houses where the old fuse cabinet is incapable of dealing with and distributing the load.

    Since there seems to be absolutely no state-level movement for this huge electrical infrastructure upgrade, it is rather fanciful to suppose that it will all just ‘happen’ in time for the scheduled net zero deadline.

    • This reply was modified 1 week, 5 days ago by degmod.
    #97347 Reply
    michael norton

    100% agree glenn_nl.
    I have been following the development of the French European Pressurised Reactor Two, in Flamanville it should come on stream, later this year. It was proposed to cost €3.3 billion.
    It is now thought it might cost more than twenty billion Euros. So more than six times as much.
    This was the type for Hinkley Point C , a double pot.
    This has also experienced a massive spike in costs. New pylon have been developed and have been installed from Hinkley Point towards Bristol. A tunnel was cut through the Limestone of the Mendip Hills.
    The pour for each reactor base has been described as massive.
    Concrete is made from Limestone.
    When you break up Limestone, you are breaking up Carbon that has been sequestered for 340,000,000 years.
    Masses of Carbon is then released into our atmosphere.
    So, net Zero, it is not.

    #97354 Reply
    michael norton

    We have Pumped Hydro, maybe good for one hundred and fifty years.
    We have Nuclear Reactors possibly good for sixty years.
    We have Wind Farms, maybe good for forty years.
    We have Solar Farms, maybe good for twenty Years.
    It will all need replacing at end of life.

    #97353 Reply
    michael norton

    This week the government announced that £200 million of our money were going to be invested in a nuclear fuel plant in Cheshire.
    Partly this is to cut Mr. Putin out of the deal but, perhaps mainly about making the fuel for the future Rolls Royce Small Modular Nuclear Reactor programme.

    #97360 Reply
    michael norton

    Recently our Prime Minister and our Chancellor together both attended the Nuclear Submarine manufacturing base in Barrow in Furness.
    Although this event was not mentioned by the BBC?
    They announced a massive increase in apprenticeships for the Nuclear Industries.
    Nuclkear Power Stations.
    Small Modular Nuclear Reactors.
    The AUKUS Programme and the confirmation of our Nuclear Deterant.
    The |Nuclear Deterant programmes whole life cost ios thought to be one third of a trillion pounds.
    All to go.

    #97363 Reply

    We have to use less energy, and less of lots of other things too. We either do so out of foresight, or Mother Nature will impose it upon us and we’ll learn the hard way, if we survive. There are reasons we evolved as organic beings rather than resembling wheeled vehicles made of metals. The easy availability of fossil fuel energy has lulled us into a fantasy in which we believe we have superpowers. We don’t.

    Glenn_nl, yes, I’d say that’s on topic – though the 264 million litre of oil looks high, and the 7000 cubic feet of gas looks low, and there seem to be too many orders of magnitude between the two figures, and I can’t really explore further because Statista.com doesn’t list the gas for me and insists I create an account…

    Building all this new electric infrastructure will, of course, require energy. Introducing…
    The Energy Trap.

    And on michael’s electric vehicle topic:
    My Chicken of an EV – helplessly watching my PHEV battery decline

    #97375 Reply
    michael norton


    Fuel: uranium oxide (UO2)

    • Average fuel enrichment level: 3-5 % U-235
    • Annual fuel consumption: 32 metric tons
    • Overall efficiency: 37%

    Two things that I note: Only 37% efficiency; I guess this means converting the fuel into steam?
    32 metric tons of processed fuel each year is a lot.

    All this fuel is obtained by open cast mining, usually done in some poor, far-off land, certainly not France.
    I can not really see that this is sustainable.

    #97377 Reply
    michael norton

    The Autorité de Sûreté Nucléaire (ASN), France’s nuclear regulatory authority, has granted British energy company EDF approval to commence the startup of the Flamanville 3 nuclear plant in 2024, following a 12-year delay.

    The plant, situated in north-western France, has been given the go-ahead by the ASN to initiate the fuel loading process, conduct trials and eventually begin operations.

    The decision concludes a rigorous review process involving almost 600 inspections of the reactor’s construction by the regulator.
    Twelve-year delay. If this is going to be part of the future, perhaps think again?

    I had not known that EDF was now British?

    #97382 Reply

    “Only 37% efficiency; I guess this means converting the fuel into steam?”

    Yes, 30% to 40% is typical for most forms of thermal generation of electricity, for instance from coal or oil. The newer “combined cycle” gas turbine plants do a bit better, approaching 50% I think. But generating electricity via heat is inherently inefficient due to the laws of thermodynamics, specifically Carnot’s theorem.

    The key parameter is the proportion between the absolute temperatures (i.e. measured in kelvin) of the hot end and the cold end of any heat engine; the greater this is, the higher the efficiency. But even freezing point is 273 kelvin, so to achieve even 50% efficiency, the hot end has to be at least twice that.

    Maximum possible available efficiency = absolute temperature difference divided by absolute hot end temperature.

    This is why power stations have cooling towers, or use river or ocean water for cooling; it’s to keep the cold end of the heat engine as cold as possible, to increase efficiency.

    “32 metric tons of processed fuel each year is a lot”

    It’s very little compared with “264,000,000 litres of oil” per day that glenn_nl quoted above – that must be around 250,000 tonnes, though I have my doubts about that figure.

    Of the 32 metric tons, only the U235 is fuel. At the quoted enrichment level of 3% to 5%, between 95% and 97% is just the impurity U238. It all ends up as long-lived high-level nuclear waste though.

    #97395 Reply
    michael norton

    James Blythe inventor of the wind turbine, 1887

    #97502 Reply
    michael norton

    Partially the new electric future is about neodymium magnets.
    These are made with rare earths minerals and mostly come from China.
    China had a 92 per cent share of the annual global magnet production in 2020.
    If everything comes from China, what will the rest of the World do to earn a living.
    If we get our food from abroad, our fertilizers from abroad and our manufactured items from abroad, what will be left for us to do?

    #97504 Reply
    michael norton

    One possible benefit to the United Kingdom Economy is in the mineral extraction business of polyhalite.
    Polyhalite is an evaporite.


    Apparently we may have enough under the North Sea to allow about 125 years of mining.
    As the war in Ukraine grinds on into the third year, basic produce and products are more expensive and harder to buy.
    Much of the World’s fertiliser comes from Ukraine / Russia / Belarus.
    If you cut right down on how much fertiliser you apply, you quickly get a diminishing crop yield.
    Polyhalite might save the World from famine.

    #97507 Reply

    Especially in the ‘developed’ parts of the world, we urgently need to completely change our way of life, so there’s plenty of productive work to be done – quite possibly too much, and the task becomes greater the longer action is delayed. Agriculture needs to be revolutionised because the current system is too dependent on fertilisers, degrades soil, destroys habitats and biodiversity, and produces emissions when it could and should be sequestering atmospheric carbon instead. Industry, transport, and energy production, distribution and use all need to be revolutionised too. And we need to relocalise to cut down on transport, of both goods and people; that would bring employment closer to where people live.

    There’s been plenty of research so what needs to be done is well understood. The only problem is to prise politics out of the grip of big money so we can start getting on with it.

    #97516 Reply
    michael norton

    Clark, I do agree it might be best if we went back to organic agriculture. Especially for the living soil.
    There is a problem, that the Green Revolution (Third Agricultural Revolution) essentially allowed the population of Earth to multiply by four or five times. So, if we cut out all mineral fertilisers, won’t many starve.
    Apparently Polyhalite should not add much to the Greenhouse Effect.

    #97519 Reply
    michael norton

    Population of Earth year 1900 = 1.6 billion
    Population of Earth year 2024 = 8.1 billion
    so in one a quarter centuries our population has multiplied by five times.

    Partially, that has happened by using mineral fertilisers.

    #97551 Reply

    Michael norton, on the Climate Change Denialists (who get all shy) thread, you asked:

    “Maybe we should all stay at home and give up all socialising/enjoyment?”

    I think the latest post at Do The Math has something of an answer:

    Once dropping the problematic cosmology that defines the point of life in terms of human “accomplishment” in the narrow context of modernity, a universe of other values systems becomes available to offer sustenance. To think otherwise is to arrogantly assume that thousands of generations of humans who came before were miserable because they had not found their “special purpose” (not referring to The Jerk movie, here). Modernists are nodding, because this sounds right according to their mythology. But that strikes me as delusional bull$#!+! Joy is part of the package of being human, and always has been! Likewise, all the other plants and animals of the world are not frikin’ miserable because they lack modernity! I could turn the tables and say that the modernity disease produces far more misery (for all life) than any other worldview that has ever existed on the planet.

    #97587 Reply
    michael norton

    So what is your suggestion for keeping eight billion people fed Clark?

    #97593 Reply
    michael norton

    Surely, we can’t just set seven billion people adrift without a life raft, just to suck up to the climate alarmists?
    I would have much preferred we had stuck with organics. As circa 1700.
    That ship has sailed for the majority of the World, if they are to eat.
    So what to do in the short/medium term.
    Well, it does seem that as the World has got a little warmer and much wealthier, we have a little time to plan, also birth rate is plunging in the developed World.
    Once women had eight children, each, now they tend to stick to just a couple.
    Two children a woman, is slightly less than replacement numbers.
    So as people get wealthier, they have less children but those children live longer.
    That does not sound so bad?
    If the sea rose a few feet, would that be so bad?
    If the World got two degrees warmer than 1800, would that be catastrophic?
    If the Arctic sea ice allowed ships to sail across for four months a year, is that so awful?
    I do not see catastrophic consequences. I see some improvements in life expectancy.
    Why not embrace the changes and enjoy our lives?

    #97600 Reply

    Michael, I suggest Citizens’ Assemblies. It shouldn’t be up to me because I’m as fallible as the next person. Let’s decide together. That’s why I’m with Extinction Rebellion; the three demands:

    1 – Tell the Truth,
    2 – Act Now,
    3 – Decide together.

    Two degrees warmer might not sound much, but the last ice age was only four degrees cooler; the ice came down to where I live in Essex, and where Boston USA is now was a mile under it. Averages mislead; really, the “global temperature” is just an abstract parameter for scientists to use. The heat of ten Hiroshima nukes per second is how fast our world is heating up. In a decade or two the Arctic will have melted, and who knows what happens after that; I know my summer drink warms up in minutes once the last sliver of ice has gone.

    If I sound alarmist, that’s because there’s an emergency.

    #97624 Reply
    michael norton

    Apparently, if we in the United Kingdom want an all-electric future we will have to build out our electricity grid by four times.
    That will cost a stunningly large amount of money; I would guess several trillions, or two or three years of total UK GDP. An almost unimaginable task by 2050.
    Have they trained the workers to do these tasks?
    The South Wales Steel Industry is being closed down this year. Where will the steel come from?
    Are the cable factories already built?

    #97625 Reply
    michael norton

    “Hinkley Point C” was proposed to cost eighteen billion pounds, now expected to cost £44,500,000,000.
    That’s going to be very expensive, if other electrical build out costs two and a half times as much?

    I think EDF has said that the next couple of double-pot reactors should be a bit cheaper as they now know how they go together. Also a workforce has been trained.

    #97640 Reply

    “The South Wales Steel Industry is being closed down this year.”

    Is it? This is Tata Steel or someone, isn’t it? I thought Tata were upgrading from coal-fired smelting to electric arc furnaces – albeit with a reduction of several thousand employees.

    “…we will have to build out our electricity grid by four times.”

    I know; it doesn’t look practical to me. This is an example of why we need a complete rethink of the economic system, leading to a new way of life – one that uses a lot less resources, especially energy.

    If the warnings had been heeded when they were given, starting half a century ago, we’d be in a much less urgent situation now.

    #97642 Reply
    michael norton

    Clark, I think TATA are closing down South Wales Blast Furnaces, before they have initiated electric steel manufacture.
    This will put many thousands out of work. Partially, this is said to help save the planet by stopping using coal.
    I doubt those put out of work by TATA will be much interested in Net Zero?

    #97660 Reply
    michael norton


    The French are reporting that the Russians have done scientific work around Antarctica and the Russians claim that the seas around The Falkland Islands have ten times as much Oil and Gas as was in the North Sea, a massive Bonanza for the United Kingdom.


    #97670 Reply

    “I doubt those put out of work by TATA will be much interested in Net Zero?”

    Do they want to avoid global disaster? Do they want their children and grandchildren to have decent lives?


    Careful what you wish for.

    The people you call “alarmists” are primarily scientists – in lots of different fields, including climate science, marine science, biology, palaeontology, agriculture, food security, energy – the list goes on and on. These are people who have made it their life’s work to develop expert understanding in their fields of study. The vast majority of them warn that humanity must change course or face disaster.

    If a mechanic tells you that your engine oil needs to be topped up or your engine will seize, and that your tyre is damaged and must be replaced or it will blow out, do you dismiss such expert warnings as “alarmism”?

    #97684 Reply
    michael norton

    James Lovelock is quoted as saying that the sustainable number of people of Earth, should be about half a billion.
    Well, we are now at about 8,100,000,000. In one and a quarter centuries the number has gone up by five times.
    If we do not use fertilizers, how will we feed all those people?
    If we are to have an all electric future, electric cycles, electric mobility scooters, electric motor cycles, electric cars, electric buses, electric train systems, electric heating, electric cooking, electrically manufactured metals, electrically powered computing,
    where will all that electricity come from?
    It is being said that more than 20% of the electricity use in the U.S.A. is for computing, more energy consumed than is used for all their flying.
    There certainly are no easy answers, unless billions die.

    #97703 Reply

    “If we do not use fertilizers, how will we feed all those people?”

    Eating less animal products would help – a lot. Human livestock outweighs humanity two to one! And most of those animals are going through their most intensive growth phase which requires intensive feeding, after which they are slaughtered. Or, they’re adult female cattle kept artificially in their most intensive suckling phase, which again requires a lot of food. Humans eating plant matter directly requires several times less land and fertiliser, and cuts back on methane emissions too.

    #97704 Reply

    Vegan plant milks are several times more expensive than cow’s milk, partly due to economic pressure from the big marketers, and partly due to government subsidies, tax breaks etc. that were instigated decades ago. In a lot of coffee shops you have to pay extra for vegan milk.

    #97705 Reply

    Michael, the government should step in to help the TATA workers – this is the sort of thing that governments are meant to be for! Of course, this lot won’t do it.

    This is the meaning of a “just transition”, and is why we need local People’s Assemblies, and national and international Citizens’ Assemblies. We need to decide together how to change, not have it imposed on us by a political class who serve Big Money and think they know what’s best for the rest of us.

    #97741 Reply

    Mineral shortages, and abusive extraction companies:

    There’s already a shortage of critical minerals for renewable energy just as the industry’s human rights abuses come to light, by Hannah Sharland in the Canary

    On Friday 17 May, the International Energy Agency (IEA) warned of a looming shortage of critical minerals. Notably, these are materials that manufacturers use for renewable energy technologies. […] For example, the IEA calculated that announced projects will be able to meet only 70% of copper and 50% of lithium requirements in 2035. […] The IEA forecasts the combined market size of key energy transition minerals is set to more than double to $770bn by 2040 as countries target net zero emissions by mid-century.

    So far, the IEA are highlighting lack of investment rather than an absolute shortage of minerals. But as with TATA, the transition is unjust. Workers are exploited and their local environment is devastated, with the minerals exported to richer parts of the world for products the locals don’t even use much themselves.

    #97740 Reply
    michael norton

    Clark, I have no intention of ever giving up eating meat, although tonight I did consume home made pea soup, which was great. I think my main point is that, if we in the U.K. are to have a government envisioned “full electric future”, the government need to very clearly state how they aim for us to accomplish that government wish? How they think we can fund a grid build out to four times its present size (the present grid took one hundred years to achieve). How they will gain base load to balance renewable electricity.
    How working class people will independently be able to move around to find work, for example.
    What will be the end game for workers who dug coal or made steel with coal and limestone?
    How they will make the water companies provide cheap, clean drinking water to us masses.
    How they will bring back a working and affordable postal service.
    How they will expand apprenticeships. Will they ban flying?
    Will they ban dog ownership?
    If humans must not eat meat, then neither should dogs.
    What has New Labour to say? What will they do to make our lives better other than ULEZ?

    #97748 Reply

    Michael, think of WWII. Unimaginable changes were imposed on the British population – rationing, blackout, conscription, vehicles adapted to run on gas, transformation of all industry, evacuation of children out of cities… People accepted this because they understood that there was an emergency; they understood that the alternative would be worse.

    Does that spirit still exist, or are we all too soft and lazy now?

    If you’re not convinced that an emergency exists, you should be posting on glenn’s Climate Change Denialists (who get all shy) thread. If you are convinced, well I entirely agree that current political parties aren’t remotely up to the job; as you rightly point out, there’s an eff of a lot to get done. But it can be done; WWII proved that.

    #97749 Reply
    michael norton

    Nearly a fifth of Ireland’s electricity is used up by data centres, and this figure is expected to grow significantly in the next few years.
    If pensioners are asked to turn down their heating to save fuel.
    If water companies increase their prices massively, causing poor people to vastly reduce their use of water. If ordinary working people are priced out of car ownership, then can’t reasonably get to work.
    If rich people can fly but no tax is paid on aviation fuel.
    Yet big tech can use as much electricity as it wants.
    If rich people’s pets eat steak.
    Will this fight to save the planet be equally shared by all?

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