Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Methane, Methanol: Simple Fuels Making Sense

Methane is CH4, methanol is CH3OH. The simplest hydrocarbon, the simplest alcohol. Small molecules that promise to explode the petroleum monopoly on liquid fuels, likely leaving Mssrs. Chavez, Putin, Ahmedinejad, Qadafi and company in tears. Why? Because they're cheap and easy to make, and besides working in IC engines and fuel cells as is, they can be chemically converted to more complex hydrocarbons, plastics, and other organic compounds.
MCI has been pursuing the development of a process for the synthesis of methanol (CH3OH)—later used in the production of olefins and aromatics—using the CO2 emitted from factories and hydrogen obtained from water photolysis. The effort is part of the company’s strategy to develop innovative processes to contribute to significant reductions of greenhouse gases.

The pilot plant, located at MCI’s Osaka plant, will have a production capacity of approximately 100 tonnes of methanol per year, using about 150-160 tonnes of CO2 emitted the Osaka plant. Construction of the ¥1.5 billion (US$13.7 million) plant will begin in October, and is due for completion in February 2009. The plant is projected to come online in March 2010. _GCC
While using CO2 from emissions may make sense from a "greenhouse gas" point of view, the biosphere could really use that CO2. Much more reasonable to grow the biosphere and then make methanol from biomass. Brian Westenhaus looks at the prospects for methane in automobiles etc.
I have a certain confidence that.....the compressed methane route for fuel is going to have a few good years. It may be much longer than that should the biomass people come up with a cheap process to convert biomass carbon back to hydrocarbon in methane form. This is a crack in the gasoline monopoly..... Just to throw out another bit for the future - methane is one of the leading contenders for fuel cells too....Methane is way past being a fuel to watch. It’s time to look into how it might work and the costs to change over. _NewEnergyand Fuel
In other energy news, giant conglomerate ADM is collaborating with John Deere and chemical giant Monsanto to develop productive uses for corn stover and other crop residues.
The companies will work together to identify environmentally and economically sustainable methods for the harvest, storage and transport of corn stover—the stalks, leaves and cobs of corn plants. Corn stover can be used in feed for animals, as biomass to generate steam and electricity or as a cellulosic feedstock for biofuel production.

Stover is usually left on the field, where, in proper amounts, it helps reduce soil erosion and build up soil organic matter. A 170-bushel-per-acre corn crop, which was the average last year in Iowa, also produces about four dry tons of stover. The United States Department of Agriculture forecasts that in 2008, farmers will harvest 12.3 billion bushels of corn, resulting in approximately 290 million tons of stover. _GCC
While you were sleeping, hundreds of thousands of people were dreaming up ways to create more energy cleanly and economically. The news media will be the last to know what is going to happen.

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Blogger Snake Oil Baron said...

"While using CO2 from emissions may make sense from a "greenhouse gas" point of view, the biosphere could really use that CO2. Much more reasonable to grow the biosphere and then make methanol from biomass."

While it is a good point, since humans are the ones liberating the CO2 from it's location, we ought to get the first crack at using it. Even if we eventually diverted most CO2 emissions to algae farms and localized enrichment of energy crops grown in a contained manner, and even if we recycled much of the CO2 from methane and methanol, there would probably be enough escaped CO2 to facilitate the fertilization of increased biosphere productivity (or maintain current levels if solar activity is falling).

5:40 PM  

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