Oceans

That the sea unites, no longer separates’ – Fernando Pessoa

Nearly 80% of the world’s wastewater is discharged into the sea without treatment, and plastic makes up 85% of marine litter. Today 11 to 12 million tons of plastic waste enter the oceans every year. If nothing is done this number will double in 2030.


According to the scientific journal PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences), more than 8 million tons of plastic are associated with the Covid-19 pandemic, of which a large amount ended up in the sea.





Between 1946 and 1993, the oceans were abused as a nuclear waste dump. The US government conceded to the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) that up until 1970, the country had disposed of 90,000 barrels at different locations in the Pacific and North Atlantic. After the fall of the Iron Curtain, the USSR admitted to IAEA that in Soviet times, around 1,9000,000 cubic meters of nuclear waste disappeared in the Arctic Sea and almost 150,000 cubic meters went into the Pacific Ocean and Baltic Sea.




Nobody was able to provide exact numbers for the amount of radioactive waste that was dumped. Protests by Greenpeace finally brought about change and in 1994 all countries that had previously used the oceans as a nuclear dump signed a moratorium that still stands today.


However, the metal barrels were not designed to ensure a permanent containment of radioactivity at depths of several thousand meters and there is proof of burst barrels and contamination of seawater.





Speaking at the opening of the 2nd UN Ocean Conference in Lisbon – hosted by Portugal and Kenya and attended by more than 7000 people from 142 countries – secretary general António Guterres said that ‘we cannot have a healthy planet without a healthy ocean’ and that the ‘egoism of nations is hampering efforts to agree on a long-awaited treaty to protect the world’s oceans’. Of the 64% of the high seas that lie beyond territorial limits, only 1,2% are currently protected.




Portuguese PM António Costa committed to classifying 30% of the country’s marine areas by 2030 and to recognize the oceans as a source of decarbonization and energy autonomy. In this regard, he wants to reach a 10-gigawatt capacity for renewable ocean energies by 2030.
‘I hope – he said – this Lisbon Conference will be a milestone in humanity’s reunion with the oceans’.

One of the most salutary interventions, however, came from a Brazilian biologist, who stressed ‘the world’s seas are sick because society is sick’.


Enjoy the week            Aproveite a semana                        (pic Público/Sapo)








Transition

‘Two-thirds of our electricity comes from renewable sources’

Portugal has ‘decarbonized’ from burning coal. In January 2021 the coal-fired power plant located in Sines was closed and the power plant in Pego (Abrantes) shut down in November. However, according to the tabloid Correio da Manhã, both companies continue to produce electricity from the burning of coal in Spain, from where it is imported into Portugal.


Two-thirds of the electricity in Portugal nowadays comes from renewable sources: hydroelectric(28%), wind (24%), solar (8%), and biomass (7%).

The country’s current photovoltaic solar capacity of 1775 megawatts (MW) was increased by 700 MW last year, the biggest increase ever. In wind energy, 2021 was also an excellent year with 126 MW more wind power than in the previous year.


Portugal’s largest solar power plant was inaugurated in the mountainous terrain of the Serra do Caldeirão in Alcoutim (Eastern Algarve). The 660,000 panels generate enough electricity (220 megawatts) to power 200.000 homes.



Europe’s largest floating solar power plant in a hydroelectric dam – located in the Alqueva reservoir – will start operating next month. The 12,000 floating solar panels – with a size of four soccer fields – have a capacity of 5 MW.

In the Atlantic – 20 kilometres off the coast of Viana do Castelo – there are three giant wind turbines. One of them – 190 metres high – is the tallest in the world. They are set on floating platforms attached with 40 metres long chains to the seabed and in operation since 2020. The turbines are capable of supplying around 60.000 homes with electricity every year.


In March the government approved the acquisition of 10 electric ferries, connecting Lisbon with Seixal, Montijo, Cacilhas and Trafaria across the Tagus river. With these vessels, the shipping company saves around 5.3 million litres of diesel corresponding to an emission of 13 thousand tons of CO2.

The port of Sines will be the stage for a mega-investment of 1.3 billion euros in green hydrogen and ammonia to be produced from renewable sources. The hydrogen (H2) project will install an electrolysis capacity of 500 MW allowing an annual production of 70 thousand tons of green hydrogen. The ammonia project combines green hydrogen and nitrogen to produce green ammonia, an essential component for the fertilizer industry.


Portugal’s first lithium refinery will be sited in Setúbal. The production – with an initial capacity of 30,000 tonnes of lithium per year, enough to create batteries for 700,000 electric vehicles – will start by the end of 2025.

‘Energy powering of the plant will be green’ – stated the Portuguese Galp consortium – ‘minimising dependency on natural gas’. Nothing in GALP’s statement, however, refers to the fierce opposition in the Portuguese communities, that have been earmarked for lithium mining!



Enjoy your week          Aproveite a semana               (pics PtRes,Ptnews)