The Anonymous Widower

Lithuanian Gas Pipeline Hit By Large Explosion

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on the BBC.

This is the sub heading.

A large blast has hit a gas pipeline in the Pasvalys region of northern Lithuania, near the Latvian border.

This Google Map shows the location of the explosion.

Note.

  1. Country borders are marked as white lines.
  2. The site of the explosion at Pasvalis Vienkiemii, is marked with a red arrow.
  3. Pasvalis Vienkiemii is about a hundred miles from Vilnius.
  4. About a hundred miles to the East of Pasvalis Vienkiemii, is the point, where Belarus, Latvia and Lithuania meet.
  5. Russian territory is about a hundred miles further to the East.

I have experience of the quality of borders in that area.

South-West of Lithuania and lying between that country and Poland, there is the small Russian enclave of Kaliningrad.

These pictures show the border between Poland and the Kaliningrad enclave of Russia.

If the borders between Belarus, Latvia and Lithuania are as secure as this, they are almost an open invitation to saboteurs to enter and do damage.

 

January 14, 2023 Posted by | Energy | , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Lützerath: German Coal Mine Stand Off Amid Ukraine War Energy Crunch

The title of this post, is the same as that on this article on the BBC.

This is the sub-heading.

From her tiny wooden treehouse, which sways precariously in the winter wind, a young woman watches an enormous mechanical digger tear into the earth below, its jaws edging ever closer to the village which she’s determined to save.

And these two paragraphs outline the protest.

Lützerath, in western Germany, is on the verge – literally – of being swallowed up by the massive coal mine on its doorstep.

Around 200 climate change activists, who are now all that stand in the way of the diggers expanding the Garzweiler opencast mine, have been warned that if they don’t leave by Tuesday they’ll be forcibly evicted.

But this is not about coal or bituminous coal, as we know it in the UK, this mine will produce lignite or brown coal.

Read both Wikipedia entries linked to the previous sentence and you find some choice phrases.

For bituminous coal.

  • Within the coal mining industry, this type of coal is known for releasing the largest amounts of firedamp, a dangerous mixture of gases that can cause underground explosions.
  • Extraction of bituminous coal demands the highest safety procedures involving attentive gas monitoring, good ventilation and vigilant site management.
  • The leading producer is China, with India and the United States a distant second and third.

For lignite.

  • It has a carbon content around 25–35%. and is considered the lowest rank of coal due to its relatively low heat content.
  • When removed from the ground, it contains a very high amount of moisture which partially explains its low carbon content.
  • The combustion of lignite produces less heat for the amount of carbon dioxide and sulfur released than other ranks of coal. As a result, environmental advocates have characterized lignite as the most harmful coal to human health.
  • Depending on the source, various toxic heavy metals, including naturally occurring radioactive materials may be present in lignite which are left over in the coal fly ash produced from its combustion, further increasing health risks.
  • Lignite’s high moisture content and susceptibility to spontaneous combustion can cause problems in transportation and storage.

I don’t think, that we’ve ever burned lignite in the UK for electricity, as it is just too filthy.

This map shows the mine.

Note.

  1. The autobahn at the West of the map, is a six-land highway, so gives an idea of the scale.
  2. The village of Lützerath is towards the bottom of the map in the middle.
  3. What has been left after the mining, is going to take a lot of restoration.

It almost appears that some of the scenes of devastation, we are seeing in the Ukraine are also happening in Germany due to the frantic search for energy.

A 1960s-Educated Engineer’s Attitude To Coal

I was one of about four-hundred engineers in my year at Liverpool University in the 1960s.

  • Quite a few of those engineers were from coal-mining areas and some were children of miners.
  • I remember the graduate recruitment fair at the University in 1968, where the representative from the National Coal Board sat there alone, as if he’d got the 1960s version of Covid-19.
  • Some went and talked to him, as they felt sorry for him.
  • As far as I know, not one of us, went to work for the National Coal Board.

Engineers and other graduates of the 1960s, didn’t feel that coal was the future.

Had Aberfan and the other pit disasters of the era killed coal as a career, amongst my generation of the UK population?

What Should The Germans Do?

It is my view that whatever the Germans do, burning brown coal, should not be on the list. It’s just too polluting.

This article on euronews is entitled Germany And Poland Have A Dirty Big Secret – An Addiction To Brown Coal.

A few years ago, I was in Katowice on Poland and I have never seen such pollution in Europe, since the smogs of the 1950s.

The euronews article says this.

In eastern Germany some members of a little-known group claim they are being ethnically cleansed, not by militia groups, but by the coal mining industry.

Bulldozers have so far destroyed over 130 Sorb villages to make way for the mining of Europe’s dirtiest kind of fossil fuel – brown coal, or lignite as it is also known.

Brown coal mines are open cast and devour vast tracts of land. As well as whole villages farming and wildlife are destroyed.

The Penk family live in the village of Rohne. They feel their whole culture is also being destroyed.

Note that the Sorbs have a Wikipedia entry, which says there are 60,000 Sorbs in Germany.

One thing the Germans are doing is investing in the UK renewable energy industry.

  • RWE own or part-own over 7 GW of offshore wind farms in the UK, some of which are under development.
  • enBW and BP are developing 3 GW of offshore wind farms in the UK.
  • Over twenty offshore wind farms use Siemens Gamesa turbines.
  • The NeuConnect interconnector is being built between the Isle of Grain and Wilhelmshaven.

Would it not be better for the physical and mental health of German citizens, if they abandoned their dirty love of brown coal and spent the money in the North Sea?

January 10, 2023 Posted by | Energy | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

UK Space Agency And NNL Work On World’s First Space Battery Powered By British Fuel

The title of this post, is the same as that of this press release from the UK Government.

This is the sub-title.

The UK Space Agency and the National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL) are to collaborate on the world’s first space battery powered by Americium-241.

And these three paragraphs outline the project.

This work, commissioned and funded by the UK Space Agency from NNL, will be delivered in a new £19 million laboratory in Cumbria equipped with next-generation equipment and technology. It will deliver a sovereign supply of fuel for space batteries in the context of a global shortage, enabling the UK and its partners to pursue new space science and exploration missions.

Creating new highly-skilled jobs in the North West of England, it will drive innovation in radiochemistry and separations science and open a new market for the UK space sector.

Atomic space batteries, also known as Radioisotope Power Systems (RPSs), release heat as the radioactivity within them decays. The heat can be used directly to prevent spacecraft from freezing and it can be converted into electricity to power onboard systems. The batteries go on working for decades, without need for maintenance over the many years in which a spacecraft could be travelling.

These two paragraphs explain, why there is a need for a new type of atomic space batteries.

Considered ‘mission critical technologies’ by space agencies in the UK and around the world, all the Apollo missions had an atomic battery in tow, as has every rover that has gone to Mars. Until now, these have been powered by Plutonium-238, a radioisotope produced only in the US, where supply is limited, and Russia, so an alternative is urgently needed.

NNL, the UK’s national laboratory for nuclear fission, has been working on this endeavor since 2009, when its researchers first discovered that Americium-241, an alternative to Plutonium-238, is produced during the radioactive decay of used fuel from nuclear reactors and that it emits power for over 400 years.

With the supply plentiful – the new laboratory is being opened at NNL’s flagship Central Laboratory on the Sellafield site, home to the largest resource of Americium-241 available for extraction in the world – the new collaboration will turn a proven scientific concept into a fully-realised technology. It will be operational within the next four years and is expected to be first used on the European Space Agency’s Argonaut mission to the Moon and for future missions into deep space.

It would appear that Americium-241 has several advantages over Plutonium-238.

  • Plutonium-238 has supply problems
  • Who in their right mind, would buy a product like this from Russia or China?
  • The batteries have a life of 400 years.
  • There is plenty of suitable nuclear waste at Sellafield, from which Americium-241 can be extracted.

It looks like the first batteries could also be available in four years.

Aunt Margery

My late wife; C’s Aunt Margery was a lady, who needed a pacemaker. I seem to remember that after several of her pacemakers had run out of power and were replaced, and eventually she was fitted with a nuclear-powered pacemaker in the 1970s or 1980s.

This page on the Stanford University web site is entitled The History Of Nuclear Powered Pacemakers. It was written by Matthew DeGraw.

Many of these pacemakers in the 1960s and 1970s, were powered by Plutonium-238.

The last paragraph is entitled The Rise Of Lithium Battery Pacemakers And Fall Of Nuclear Pacemakers, where this is said.

Despite the often longer life-expectancies, nuclear pacemakers quickly became a part of the past when lithium batteries were developed. Not only did the technology improve, allowing for lighter, smaller, and programmable pacemakers, but doctors began to realize that this excessive longevity of nuclear pacemakers was excessive. Lithium pacemakers often last 10-15 years allowing for doctors to check in on their patients and replace either the batteries or the pacemakers themselves with new and improved technology as it is develops in those 10-15 year spans. While there are still several remaining patients with nuclear-powered pacemakers functioning in their bodies, it is likely that in the next few decades as these patients pass away, so will the once promising nuclear pacemakers.

Would the use of Americium-241 to power a nuclear pacemaker transform the economics of these devices?

I wonder, if there’s a cardiologist out there, who by chance reads this blog, who could answer my question!

 

December 9, 2022 Posted by | Energy, Health, Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ukraine Tender Would Pair Hydroelectric Plants With Large-Scale Battery Storage

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on Energy Storage News.

This is a must-read article, as it outlines the damage that Russia is doing to Ukraine’s energy generation.

It also reports how the World Bank is trying to help.

November 30, 2022 Posted by | Energy, Energy Storage | , , , , , | Leave a comment

How Did The Ukrainians Attack The Crimea Bridge?

No-one seems to know what happened on the Crimea Bridge, which appeared to catch fire.

  • Was it the Ukranians?
  • Was it some of Putin’s enemies in Russia?
  • Was it an accident?
  • Did a battery in an electric car explode?
  • Was it a suicide bomber?
  • Was it a drone strike?
  • Was it a drunken lorry-driver, who hit something?

We just get more and more questions.

But here’s two questions, that can be answered.

Was the train going from Russia? For my theory to be feasible, it must have been going from Russia into Crimea.

Did more than one part of the train catch fire? Someone said it did.

The Track Layout

I have been looking at the track layout over the bridge on OpenRailwayMap, which shows everything. It appears a couple of kilometres. to the South (Russian) side of the bridge there is a set of sidings and/or freight loops.

This OpenRailwayMap shows the sidings in relation to the bridge.

Note.

  1. The main line is shown in orange.
  2. The bridge is in the North-West corner of the map.
  3. The sidings are shown in black alongside the main line in the South-East corner of the map.

This second map shows the loops and sidings in more detail.

Note.

  1. Trains in Russia run on the right track, whereas the UK runs on the left.
  2. There are actually two sets of loops; one has extra sidings and the other doesn’t.
  3. Both loops can be accessed from both tracks and directions.

Unfortunately, the Google Map of the area shows the construction phase.

Did the freight train stop overnight in these sidings and proceed at first light? After all it might be going a long way and drivers needed time for sleep, some food, vodka and a few ciggies.

Whilst it was stopped did Ukrainian saboteurs sneak in and fix bombs with timers to the train? After all kids sneak into our sidings at night and graffiti the trains.

The timers could even have been fitted with GPS, so they went off on the most vulnerable part of the bridge.

This could explain the timing and how the train appeared to have been hit more than once!

For a raid, it would be much easier than say what the Norwegians did in WW2 to blow up the heavy water plant at Telemark, where they didn’t lose a man.

A Picture Of The Train Fire

This picture shows the train fire.

Note.

  1. It appears that the carriageway nearest to the camera has collapsed.
  2. If we assume, the break point is now lying on the seabed, it points to the pier with the light-coloured rectangle on top being the failure point of the road bridge.
  3. According to OpenRailwayMap, who handily show carriageway directions, that is the carriageway to Crimea.
  4. The rail bridge is double-track and appears to be reasonably intact.
  5. The train also appears to be intact, except for some fire damage.
  6. If the train was going to Crimea, it would be on the track nearest to the camera.

I do think, that if it was explosions on the train that caused the bridge collapse, there would be more damage on the other carriageway and on the railway.

The Collapse Of The Crimea-Bound Carriageway

This reminds me very much of the collapse of the Cleddau Bridge in Wales, during construction in 1970.

Wikipedia says this about that collapse.

Errors in the box girder design caused the collapse during construction in 1970. The bridge became operational during 1975.

If I remember correctly, during construction, the bridge was effectively overloaded. I can certainly remember lots of discussion about the failure in the office, where I worked in ICI at Runcorn.

I am not suggesting, that there were errors in the Russian calculations, but that something happened to take the bridge outside of its safety limits.

Suppose, there was a large explosion near the pier, where the break occurred, could it have caused the bolts holding the sections of the bridge to shear and allow the bridge to fall, as the pictures show.

It is certainly looking that a major truck bomb, is the cause.

CCTV pictures have been shown, that purport to see a truck exploding.

Was It A Suicide Attack?

I don’t think that the type of traditional suicide attacks, as practiced by the Islamic State and others would be carried out by either Ukraine or Russia. Although Chechens did use suicide attacks in their war against Russia.

But I do think it would be possible for a driver to stop a truck, put out warning triangles or whatever is the law in Russia and then be picked up by a friendly driver.

Alternatively, they could wait until the truck exploded and then make a getaway under cover of the fire. They could even jump into the water and be picked up by a boat.

If the Russians were behind it, they would have the ability to use a hired driver from perhaps a local agency.

Suppose, a hired driver were to be told to take a truck load of watermelons to Sebastopol and bring the truck back. A quick look would confirm the watermelons, but I doubt, the driver would find the bomb underneath.

If the driver was killed would the Russians mind.

The Ukrainians might not either, but they’d have the problem of getting the truck deep into Russian territory, without being detected.

The Truck On The Bridge According To The BBC

This article on the BBC is entitled Crimean Bridge: Who – Or What – Caused The Explosion?.

The article says this about the truck.

Security camera footage released on social media showed a truck – allegedly from the Russian city of Krasnodar, an hour’s drive from the crossing – moving west across the bridge at the time of the explosion.

Russian officials named a 25-year old Krasnodar man, Samir Yusubov, as the owner of the truck, and said an older relative, Makhir Yusubov, was the driver.

But close examination of the footage seems to show that the truck had nothing to do with the explosion.

Note.

  1. If the truck was going West it was going from Russia to Crimea, this meant it was on the carriageway furthest from the railway.
  2. The truck was on the carriageway that collapsed.

Does that rule out a truck bomb?

The View Of A British Army Explosives Expert

The BBC article also says this.

“I’ve seen plenty of large vehicle-borne IEDs [improvised explosive devices] in my time,” a former British army explosives expert told me. “This does not look like one.”

A more plausible explanation, he said, is a massive explosion below the bridge – probably delivered using some kind of clandestine maritime drone.

“Bridges are generally designed to resist downwards loads on the deck and a certain amount of side loading from the wind,” he said. “They are not generally engineered to resist upward loads. I think this fact was exploited in the Ukrainian attack.”

That sounds feasible to me, but the BBC article also has this paragraph.

If this is how Ukraine managed to attack the Kerch Bridge, hundreds of miles from Ukrainian-controlled territory, then it’s one of Kyiv’s most ambitious operations so far.

If that is true, it certainly is an ambitious operation, that ranks alongside the St Nazaire Raid in World War II.

A Structural Engineer’s Thoughts

This article on New Civil Engineer is entitled How The Crimean Bridge Explosion Caused Multiple Spans To Collapse.

It is the thoughts of Andrew Barr at the University of Sheffield and it well worth a read.

Conclusion

We’re still a long way from the truth.

 

 

October 8, 2022 Posted by | Transport/Travel, World | , , , , , | 5 Comments

‘A Gift For Putin’: Czech E-shop Sells Tanks And Grenades To Support Ukrainian Army

The title of this post, is the same as that of this story on expats_cz.

This is the introductory paragraph.

The Czech Republic has been among the most active countries in supporting the Ukrainian military with donations and sales of weapons and ammunition, including shipments of Soviet-era tanks, multiple rocket launchers, howitzers, infantry fighting vehicles, and anti-aircraft weapons.

I hope the gift, will calm Vlad the Mad.

October 3, 2022 Posted by | World | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Are These Two Stories Related?

These are two stories recently published in Railway Gazette.

Deutsche Bahn Sells Arriva Businesses To Private Equity Holding Company, which starts with this paragraph.

Deutsche Bahn has reached agreement to sell its Arriva local transport activities in Denmark, Poland and Serbia to München-based private equity holding company Mutares SE & Co KGaA.

That is fairly clear and is probably related with the German government’s desire for DB to concentrate on its core business.seren

This article on Railway Gazette is entitled RENFE Looks At Entering UK Rail Market Through Open Access Partnership, which starts with this paragraph.

Open access passenger service developer Grand Union Trains is working with Spain’s national operator RENFE and private equity firm Serena Industrial Partners on a proposed service between London and Wales.

That also is fairly clear and would bring competition to services to and from South Wales.

It would also help in the financing of Grand Union Trains.

The article also says the following.

  • RENFE seem to be expanding into partnerships to run services outside Spain.
  • A parkway station at Felindre will be build to avoid the reverse at Swansea, that would save 20 mins.
  • It will be a high quality service with new electro-diesel trains.
  • Four trains will be needed.
  • A 2025 start is envisaged.

Will this partnership with Grand Union Trains proceed with the development of Grand Union Trains’ London and Stirling service?

I have some thoughts and questions.

Will Deutsche Bahn Sell Other Arriva Businesses?

I think this is a reasonable question to ask, especially, as Deutsche Bahn owns two Open Access Operators in the UK; Chiltern Railways and Grand Central Trains.

  • Both operators have a good reputation.
  • Both operators need to decarbonise, either by updating their current stock or buying new trains.
  • Both operators have solid niche markets, where they are often responsible for the stations.
  • Both operators have expansion plans.

Would RENFE and Serena Industrial Partners be interested in taking over Arriva UK and developing the business?

The Talgo Factory At Longannet

I believe that there is reason to believe that one of Talgo’s reasons for a factory in Scotland, is that it could have been used to build Russian and dual-gauge trains for Eastern Europe. The trains would have been delivered by ferry from Rosyth.

There is also the not-small matter of the fleet for Rail Baltica, for which Talgo will surely be a bidder.

But Russia’s attack on Ukraine has scuppered that plan, or at least delayed it for a few years. But now, there could be a much larger market for trains in Eastern Europe and especially Ukraine.

If RENFE Acquire Open Access Operators In The UK, They Will Need New Trains

They will certainly need new trains for the South Wales operations, if they go ahead, but if they were to decarbonise Chiltern and Grand Central, the order could be substantial.

With one Spanish train factory in the UK and another a possibility, I would suspect any train order would go to a Spanish train-builder.

If the orders fell right, could we see Talgo’s factory at Longannet built after all?

October 1, 2022 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Wabtec Signs $600M MoU With Kazakhstan Railway Company

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on Seeking Alpha.

This is the introductory paragraph.

Wabtec announced Tuesday signing of a $600M memorandum of understanding with Kazakhstan Temir Zholy for 150 FLXdriveTM battery-electric shunters and modernization work to transform the mainline fleet into NextFuelTM liquid natural gas-powered (LNG) locomotives.

Note.

  1. It is for 150 shunting locomotives, which is not a small number.
  2. A lot of the work will be done in Kazakhstan.
  3. Wabtec certainly seem to be getting their FLXdrive technology about.
  4. Obviously LNG locomotives must be a good route to reduce carbon emissions for diesel locomotives.
  5. The Kazahks seem pleased with the deal for economic and decarbonisation reasons.

But what surprises me about this deal, is that it has not gone to Russia. Does this say something about Putin’s lack of friends.

September 22, 2022 Posted by | Energy, Transport/Travel | , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Putin Burns $10m Of Gas A Day In Energy War With The West

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article in The Times.

This is the first paragraph.

Russia is burning off an estimated $10 million of natural gas a day from a single plant, leading to accusations that President Putin is deploying his country’s vast energy reserves as a weapon against Europe.

It just showed the sort of idiot we’re dealing with!

  • He doesn’t care about the planet.
  • He’s effectively burning his country’s cash reserves.
  • He’s spurring Western engineers on, to on the one hand find ways to beat him and on the other to find ways to make our gas go further, so we don’t need to buy his bloodstained gas.
  • If he thinks, that he might provoke a war with Finland, I suspect the Finns are too bright for that.

They’ll be waiting and if the Russian Army should invade, they’ll get the kicking of a lifetime, just like Stalin’s thugs did in the Winter War of 1939-1940.

I

August 27, 2022 Posted by | Energy | , , , , , | 5 Comments

The EuroAsia Interconnector

The Wikipedia entry for the EuroAsia Interconnector, introduces the project like this.

The EuroAsia Interconnector is a proposed HVDC interconnector between the Greek, Cypriot, and Israeli power grids via the world’s longest submarine power cable (310 kilometres (190 mi) from Israel to Cyprus and 898 kilometres (558 mi) from Cyprus to Greece, for a total of 1,208 kilometres (751 mi)). Connecting Kofinou, Cyprus to Hadera, Israel and Korakias, Crete, Greece and stated to finish construction in 2023.

When completed it will have a capacity of 2 GW.

From Wikipedia, it appears that at least initially, Israel will export electricity produced in gas-fired power stations from their own more than adequate supplies of natural gas.

In Andrew Forrest’s Fortescue Future Industries Inks Deal With Kingdom of Jordan For Green Hydrogen Study, I published this Google Map of Jordan.

Surely, in the future, the EuroAsia interconnector could be carrying solar generated green electricity from Iraq, Jordan and Saudi Arabia to Cyprus and Greece.

As, according to Reuters, Greece covers about 40% of its annual energy needs with Russian gas, this can’t be good for Vlad the Mad and his bloodstained gas.

 

 

July 25, 2022 Posted by | Energy | , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments