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Is Coal the Fuel of the Future?

February 25th, 2015

As the nation continues on a pathway towards energy independence, that venerable old standby — coal — is rumored to be on its way out as a source for power generation. But those stories about coal’s demise may actually be premature as engineers continue to devise new methods to reduce the emissions created when burning coal to generate electricity. Still, mining and transporting the commodity carries a large environmental cost.

Will engineering innovations allow coal to be the fuel of the future, or will its cheap cost cause developing nations to ignore the environmental risk? Let’s take a closer look.

Engineering a Cleaner Burning Coal?

A variety of engineering innovations are being leveraged with the hopes of reducing coal’s carbon footprint. Scrubbing emissions is one common technique used to lessen pollution from coal-fired power plants. This is very expensive, however, with a newer $5.2 billion power plant in Mississippi producing electricity at a cost of $6,800 per kilowatt. Simply put, this is the most expensive power plant ever built.

Other techniques like pulverization and gas extraction also require too much investment to make clean coal economically viable for most of the world.

Coal Still Expected to Be Used Decades from Now

Undaunted by the risks of climate change, much of the world relies heavily on coal as a power source, even as mining becomes a more difficult and expensive process. The Federal Energy Information Administration predicts that the United States will still generate 32 percent of its electricity from coal, which is only down 10 percent from today.

Even as other wealthy countries — including China — are hoping to ramp up their use of other energy sources, India and others on the African continent looking for the most inexpensive solution, are expected to increase their coal consumption over the next few decades. This creates an opportunity for engineers to make green energy options more feasible from an economic standpoint.

If improving the carbon footprint of power generation is something that inspires you, furthering a career in energy engineering makes sense. As one of the top engineering staffing companies in Washington State and a great source of Seattle engineering jobs, put The Talley Group on your contact list. Make it a point to meet with us as soon as you can!

Five Networking Mistakes all Oil and Gas Engineers must Avoid

August 5th, 2014

Networking remains a vital part of career development no matter the industry. If you are an oil and gas engineer, you need to grow your professional network, leveraging both local opportunities and online sites like LinkedIn.

Untimely mistakes can also detract from your networking efforts. Here are five missteps you need to be sure to avoid when attending a professional networking opportunity.

1. Only Interacting with those you already know at an Event

Networking events are designed for professionals to meet new people in their field. Interacting only with people you already know at an event defeats the purpose of attending. Get over any shyness and introduce yourself!

2. Not Maintaining a Confident Demeanor

It is important to exude confidence when networking. Believe in yourself and your engineering abilities and it will show when meeting new people at any professional event.

3. Don’t Treat your Network as a One Way Street

Of course you want to grow your professional network, but so do the other attendees at this event. Make it a point to introduce anyone you meet to others with whom you maintain a professional relationship. One way networks aren’t valuable to any career.

4. Networking isn’t about collecting Business Cards

Focus more on talking with and learning about your new connection before asking for their business card. Some professionals merely collect a ton of business cards with little forethought on what to do with them. Establishing a true connection is more important than a piece of card stock.

5. Never Following Up is a Big Networking Mistake

Following up with each your new contacts after any event truly establishes a professional connection. If you don’t follow up, chances are you will be forgotten with only a lonely business card to trigger a memory. Don’t let that happen!

Remember these potential networking mistakes before heading off to your next professional event.

If you need any additional advice on professional networking in the oil and gas industry, talk to the experts at The Talley Group. As one of the top engineering staffing agencies in Washington State, they are a great source for Seattle engineering jobs. Be sure to schedule a meeting with them today!

2014 U.S. Renewable Energy Breakdown

June 24th, 2014

Statistics reveal that nearly 82 percent of energy in the United States still comes from fossil fuels. While a move towards renewable energy exists — wind is the fastest growing renewable source — more development of alternative energy sources is needed. With that in mind, let’s take a look at a breakdown of the progress of American renewable energy in 2014.

Wind Energy continues to slowly grow in Capacity

As of 2012, the United States boasted installed wind turbines that provide 60 Gigawatts of electricity generating capacity. This country’s wind resources have the potential to generate over 10,000 GW of electricity. Even with that promise, the estimates for installed wind capacity only reach 500 GW by 2050.

Considering that one wind turbine providing a megawatt of electricity displaces nearly 2,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year, additional investment in wind power bodes well for the environment. A wind power capacity of 300 GW keeps 825 million metric tons of CO2 out of the atmosphere on an annual basis.

Reducing the Cost of Solar Energy is Key

Solar panels covering only 0.6 percent of the United States provide enough energy for the entire country. Unfortunately, the price of solar energy equipment is what’s holding back faster adoption. The Department of Energy developed the SunShot Initiative with the hopes of reducing the costs of solar energy by 75 percent before the end of this decade.

If SunShot is successful, the expectation is that 27 percent of U.S. electricity demand will be met by solar sources by 2050. This will result in a 28 percent decrease in greenhouse gas emissions over that same period.

Geothermal and Hydrothermal Sources offer Promise

Geothermal power sources in the United States currently keep 22 million metric tons of CO2 from polluting the atmosphere. These sources are primarily available in the Western U.S. along with Alaska and Hawaii. The amount of geothermal electricity from power plants is expected to increase from 17 billion kWh in 2011 to 56 billion kWh by 2040, making this energy source beneficial for the environment.

If the promise of renewable energy inspires you to take you engineering career to the next level, make it a point to talk to The Talley Group. As one of the top engineering staffing agencies in Washington State, they are a great source for Seattle engineering jobs. Give them a call today!

How to Advance Alternative Energy

November 15th, 2013

Despite significant government subsidies and investment, the alternative energy industry could be growing at a faster rate. While some of this lack of growth is due to Great Recession and its slow recovery, the advent of “fracking” technology that subsequently led to the increased availability and lower prices of natural gas also played a role in slowing the development of newer energy sources.

In short, the alternative energy industry needs to compete better with carbon-based energy sources, especially natural gas.

Sharing Ideas on Growing Alternative Energy

Recently the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) held a day long symposium in Washington D.C. focused on developing strategies to advance the growth of solar, wind, and other alternative energy sources. At this forum, Dr. Patrick Phelan from the U.S. Department of Energy noted that while these energy sources can’t yet provide a similar ROI as oil and gas, they are poised to get there within the next five years.

The promise of Concentrated Solar Power is still a ways off in being cost effective, but advancements in materials and manufacturing hopefully will make this unique technology — picture the “old magnifying glass with the sun” trick — viable in the future. CSP may even outstrip “regular” solar power in efficiency once it matures.

Combining Alternative and Traditional Energy Sources

Speaking of solar power, it appears there will be some use of the technology to help support generation at utility stations. There was also some discussion about using thermal energy in the world of transportation to supplement traditional fossil-based sources. Recent advancements in this area have lessened the use of expensive fuels in experimental military aircraft.

These kinds of hybrid applications, combining both alternative and fossil-based energy sources, appear to be one promising way to leverage the promise of solar and thermal energy, while their economics are still being developed.

If the development of alternative energy is something that inspires you in advancing your engineering career, talk to the experts at The Talley Group. They are one of the leading engineering staffing firms in the Seattle area, with the expertise to ensure your career takes off. If you are looking for alternative energy jobs in Seattle, contact us today.

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