Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Weyerhaeuser to Add Cellulose Processing to Mills

The vast North American lumber industry is a natural match to the cellulosic biofuels, chemicals, and electricity industries. A huge amount of cellulosic mass is wasted in the lumber industry for various reasons. That biomass can be converted to very valuable products. Forestry giant Weyerhaeuser is looking more closely at its options.
Lignol Energy Corporation, a cellulosic ethanol and biochemical company, has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Weyerhaeuser Company to explore the development of commercial applications of biochemical outputs from Lignol’s proprietary biorefining technology.

The parties have also agreed to evaluate the development of a commercial-scale Lignol biorefinery plant at or near a Weyerhaeuser mill site. The MOU excludes applications for transportation fuel. The initial scope of the MOU involves the testing of certain biomass feedstocks within Lignol’s facilities, including the company’s integrated industrial-scale biorefinery pilot plant located in Burnaby, British Columbia.

Lignol uses a modified solvent based pre-treatment technology for cellulosic biomass, originally developed by a former affiliate of General Electric, and then further developed and commercialized for wood-pulp applications by a subsidiary of Repap Enterprises Inc. The technology produces a clean pulp that converts biomass feedstock rapidly into fermentable sugars with high yield and lower enzyme costs.

The process also produces co-products with revenues that mitigate the costs of production and commodity risks, including a high-quality cellulose fiber with applications in certain specialty markets and high-purity lignin (HP-L Lignin), an organic compound that is differentiated from other types of lignins that are typically produced as by-products in the traditional Kraft pulp manufacturing process. _GCC
Most of the emphasis on cellulose by the forestry and paper industries has been on cellulosic ethanol and other liquid fuels, but cellulosic electricity and cellulose-derived chemicals may prove to be even more valuable in the long run.

Along the same lines, Choren and Norske Skog/Xynergo are cooperating on evaluation of Biomass to Liquids (BTL) in Norway.

Production of high quality jet fuel from vegetable oils is progressing nicely.

Big industry around the world is entering the biomass and biofuels arena. Earth is the only biological world that we have discovered. For a sustainable energy future, bio-energy will stand alongside nuclear fusion, solar, and geothermal as the cleanest and most reliable energy sources on this planet. Nuclear fission and oil equivalent from coal, gas, oil sands, oil shales, and heavy oils will provide the energy bridge we need to cross from here to there.


Monday, September 29, 2008

Exxon-Mobil Looks at Gasoline from Coal

Synthesis Energy Systems (SES) has entered an agreement with Exxon-Mobil Research and Engineering to examine and develop gasoline from coal, via gasification produced methanol. The methanol approach is a competitor to the Fisher-Tropsch method of producing liquid hydrocarbon fuels from syngas.
This approach to converting coal to gasoline first gasifies the coal, then converts the resulting syngas to methanol for use by the MTG process. The conversion of methanol to hydrocarbons and water is virtually complete and essentially stoichiometric in the MTG process. The reaction is exothermic with the reaction heat managed by splitting the conversion in two parts. In the first part, methanol is converted to an equilibrium mixture of methanol, dimethyl ether (DME), and water.

In the second part, the equilibrium mixture is mixed with recycle gas and passed over a shape-selective catalyst to form hydrocarbons and water. Most of the hydrocarbon product boils in the gasoline boiling range.

ExxonMobil calculates that a feed of around 4.6 million t/year of coal can produce about 1.4 million t/a gasoline—about 36,000 barrels per day. Yield and capital costs are dependent on the coal quality: ash content, moisture content, sulfur and heating value. _GCC
If this process is a more economical producer of gasoline-from-coal than the F-T process, it may see a lot of use. The big obstacle to advanced energy from coal, oil shale, oil sands, heavy oils, and other sources (such as nuclear) is the Luddite US Congress--and the threat of a new Luddite administration in the White House if Obama/Biden are elected.

The fear of CO2 -- which has what plants need -- is one of many pseudo-environmental concerns that has wrapped frigid fingers of fear around the minds of western government leaders. So much so, that they flirt with disastrous and suicidal policies of energy starvation, which contribute to the inevitable economic hardships they cause by over-regulation, over-taxation, and rampant corruption. It is time for things to change, but unfortunately, these corrupt and fearful "leaders" are fixed in place--barnacle-like leeches.

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Friday, September 26, 2008

Coal Polygeneration: Cleaner, More Efficient Coal

A new special report from Nexant provides information on the exciting new possiblities from the co-production of power,chemicals, or fuels using clean and efficient coal gasification technologies.
Advanced coal gasification technologies have raised the efficiency of coal conversion far above that of conventional coal combustion. As a result, these advanced technologies offer the promise of economically and environmentally acceptable uses of coal for chemicals and liquid fuels.

One of the more promising advanced development concepts is polygeneration from coal. Polygeneration involves the gasification (or conversion) of coal to produce synthesis gas (syngas) that can be simultaneously used for the generation of electricity and in the manufacture of chemicals and liquid fuels. This approach offers an integrated strategy for optimizing the value of coal.

In polygeneration from coal, electricity is produced in conventional integrated gasification/ steam turbine combined cycle (IGCC) systems, while commodity chemicals (methanol, ammonia, and their derivatives such as olefins and acetic acid from methanol and fertilizers from ammonia) or liquid fuels (methanol, diesel, dimethyl ether (DME), and gasoline) are produced via state-of-the-art chemical processes.

Since 2006, the unprecedented rise in prices of crude oil and other forms/sources of energy, along with a range of technology advances, has resulted in a significant favorable change in coal's potential investment economics. In the interim, despite price volatility, mid-2008 prices are still well above those in the first quarter of 2008. Thus, we observe that many petrochemicals can now be made very competitively on a full cost basis by using syngas made via polygeneration. Polygeneration-based syngas as a feedstock is demonstrating increasing competitiveness. _Nexant
The greatest obstacle to the use of clean, efficient coal polygeneration is the US Congress--particularly Nancy Pelosi, Barbara Boxer, Harry Reid, and their co-religionist US Congressional believers in the orthodoxy of carbon hysteria. Boxer, Pelosi, and their ilk have brought the US economy to the brink of disaster, and US energy supplies to a choking point. Religion and legislation should not be allowed to mix, but Pelosi and Boxer are mixing it up at a record pace.

If US voters decide in favour of the carbon hysteria orthodoxy in November, by giving Boxer and Pelosi's co-religionists complete control of the US government, they will have slit their own throats. Such a suicidal gesture will not be the end, but it will be the acceleration of some very bad times.

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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Gasoline Refineries Slowly Come Online, Long Term Oil Prospects Better Than Stated

R Squared Blog provides a rough timetable of Texas gasoline refinery recovery after Hurricane Ike. Short term shortages of refined petroleum products are likely so long as refinery capacity is overwhelmingly located in the direct path of violent storm systems.

As for oil itself, the long-term prospects are much better than the news media reports. Better means of exploration, discovery, and recovery will continue to expand proven reserves. With the addition of unconventional oil-equivalents such as oil sands and shale oil, oil reserves expand into the next century. With the use of ever increasing reserves of oil and gas via CTL and GTL, reserves of liquid fuel from fossils expands even further.

But if you then add the exponential improvements in development of algal biofuels, oilseed biofuels, a growing range of other biofuel crops, and improved methods of making liquid fuels from sunlight + atmospheric CO2, and you discover that the long-term prospects for liquid fuels are not only very good, but they are extremely good.

The news media is in the business of manufacturing crises and angst--to attract viewers and readers. Perennially frightened and anxious viewers and readers boost advertising revenue for media conglomerates. Reality is not what you read in the papers or see on the boob tube. It's a lot bigger, brighter, and more intense. To deal with reality requires thought, logic, wisdom, contemplation, and anticipatory vision. These are all things the media is lacking.


Biomass to Electricity Backed by Energy Giants

Besides the biomass to electricity projects being backed by America's largest energy cooperative previously discussed at AFE, an even bigger North American cellulosic electricity play is being made by a cooperative venture between US and French energy giants.
Two of the world's largest energy conglomerates, France's AREVA and Duke Energy, yesterday announced at the annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative, that they will jointly develop biomass power plants in the United States. The joint venture will be called ADAGE Biopower, which will facilitate the development of biopower plants that will use wood waste and other biomass to produce electricity. The project comes at a time when Americans face soaring energy costs, when climate change is becoming a tangible problem, and when other renewables find it difficult to deliver power in a reliable manner.

The AREVA/Duke agreement is one of the first biomass-to-electricity partnerships in the United States between major energy companies. Biomass is already the largest renewables sector in the EU, but now it seems the green baseload power solution is crossing the pond in earnest (less than a week ago, America's largest cooperative power supplier announced a $1.5 billion investment in biomass).

According to the agreement, AREVA will design and build biomass power plants. Duke Energy Generation Services (DEGS), a commercial power business unit of Duke Energy that owns and develops renewable energy, will manage operations. For each project, ADAGE will negotiate power purchase agreements and fuel contracts, and secure suitable sites. Hence, ADAGE will provide customers a fully integrated solution.

This project comes at exactly the right time as Americans face soaring energy prices and look to meet rising electricity demand with green energy sources. The ADAGE biopower facilities will respond to our nation's need for new baseload energy alternatives. - Jim Rogers, Duke Energy CEO

AREVA is developing a 50 megawatt (MW) design for ADAGE, with the intent of maximizing standardization wherever possible and take advantage of a fleet approach. A 50 MW ADAGE biomass plant would provide electricity for approximately 40,000 households and would avoid 400,000 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions per year compared to coal.

AREVA has extensive experience in the biomass sector, having designed and built more than 100 biopower facilities in Europe, Asia and South America with capacity of more than 2,500 megawatts. We are delighted to partner with Duke Energy, which has a growing portfolio of renewable assets throughout the U.S. market, and tremendous experience in operating power plants. - Anne Lauvergeon, CEO of AREVA _Biopact
These plants will be in the 50 MW to 150 MW range, and will provide reliable baseload power--unlike wind and solar which are inherently unreliable in the absence of meaningful utility-scale electrical storage.


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Two Process Platforms for Bio-Synthetic Gasoline

Trace Process Left to Right
Trace Process Bottom to Top

These images come from Brian Westenhaus' posting today, which looks at the work of James Dumesic at University of Wisconsin and Randy Cortright of Virent Energy Systems.
When one looks at the two paths the similarity is quite interesting. While the process paths diverge, the basics and the chemistry look quite similar. This is good, sophisticated stuff, both at the beginning and at the process end, even though the steps between are different.

....Competition is great, but I wonder at this date if these two teams might be so close as too much intelligence is shared between them. May the cool heads rule, the money behind them get sensible and bring both to production letting the best technology win, or each finds it own best application. _NewEnergyandFuel
Apparently the two men co-founded Virents Energy Systems in 2002, but Dumesic left the company to work in his UW lab, to work on the platinum/rhenium process pictured above and discussed previously at AFE.

This simple look at two divergent approaches to the chemical creation of bio-synthetic gasoline should give the casual observor at least a glimpse into the feverish competition driving this important field.


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Ultrabattery: First In A Long Line of Advanced Non-Combusting Powerplants?

Australia's CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization}, has developed a promising "ultrabattery" concept that combines a supercapacitor and a lead acid battery in a single unit. The ultrabattery is being developed for commercialisation by a Japanese battery maker and a US manufacturing company.
The exclusive sub-license agreement will see the UltraBattery distributed by East Penn to the automotive and motive power sector throughout North America, Mexico and Canada while Furukawa Battery Company will release the technology in Japan and Thailand.

Previous tests show the UltraBattery has a life cycle that is at least four times longer and produces 50% more power than conventional lead-acid energy storage systems. The technology is approximately 70% less expensive than the NiMH batteries currently used in hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs).

The UltraBattery’s PSOC (partial state of charge) and rapid charge/discharge cycle life is four times that of a conventional lead-acid battery. The ability to deal with PSOC pulse charge/discharge cycles overcomes a major difficulty for application in hybrid electric vehicles.

The technology is scheduled to be commercially available in the automotive market and for motive power applications throughout Japan, Thailand, North America, Mexico and Canada within two years. _GCC
The combination of lead-acid battery with a supercapacitor provides much better power density for acceleration, along with longer charge/discharge cycle life. The future addition of a fuel cell stack to the combo, would provide the high energy density for combustion free, long-range transport applications.

It is the ability to combine the special strengths of these different storage and non-combustion generation devices that will allow for a much smoother transition from the internal combustion engine vehicular fleet to an "all electric" vehicular fleet.

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Big Boosts in Oil Shale Production Possible

Worldwide oil shale reserves are in the multiple trillions of barrels of oil equivalent. The world's scientists are fighting energy obstructionists in the US Senate to develop this vital energy resource--and are showing progress.
The basics of releasing oil from oil shale is to heat the rock, either after mining in a retort, or in-situ via the use of electric heaters. (Earlier post.)

The easiest way to increase the efficiency of this method is to increase the thermal conductivity of the system or increase the reduction of the oil viscosity by using some additives. Metallic additives cause changes in the nature and the amount of fuel formed during in situ combustion.
—Hascakir et al. (2008)

Results from the in-situ heating simulations for oil shale (OS) samples. Click to enlarge. Data: Hascakir et al. (2008)

The researchers used oil shale samples obtained from different oil shale deposits in Turkey and added three different iron powders at three different doses were used. The experimental results were simulated using a commercial reservoir simulator, where the data required for field-scale simulation were obtained through history matching of production data and temperature distribution inside the core. They also simulated field-scale application of in-situ electrical heating .

Because iron powders help increase the thermal conductivity of the system, heat transfer was accomplished more efficiently, yielding increased oil production at laboratory conditions. Also, iron additives have a catalytic effect that increases the reaction speed. The chemical reactions between iron powders and shale oil help to break the chemical bonds by increasing the temperature and magnetic effect of iron powders on the reduction of oil viscosity, which caused an increase in the oil production after the addition of iron powders.
—Hascakir et al. (2008)

.... _GCC
More on this research from Brian Wang.


Monday, September 22, 2008

Versatile Sorghum Can Grow in 80% of World

Sorghum is not yet well known as an energy crop, but it is being situated as an important ethanol feedstock across parts of Texas and the US mid-southwest.
“Sorghum, by nature, is drought tolerant,” he said. “That provides a unique opportunity.” Studies in West Texas show sorghum can produce significant tonnage on relatively small amounts of water.

“It’s also adaptable. Sorghum bicolor (the most common sorghum) will grow in 80 percent of the world.”

He said the sorghum genome has recently been sequenced, “the second cereal to be sequenced. We now have tools available (for enhanced research).”

....Sorghum offers an opportunity to deliver tons of biomass on a limited amount of water. Sorghum can withstand conditions with either limited water or too much.”

Lust said a new generation of researchers and entrepreneurs offers potential for improved opportunities for sorghum as a renewable fuels crop. “Increased acreage worldwide is another advantage. Sorghum can be part of an international solution to renewable fuels.”

He said an advanced definition of biofuels in the energy bill “makes sorghum unique. It also leaves a small carbon and nitrogen footprint. We’re just learning about the compositional analysis of biomass.

“New sorghums have the potential to be some of the great biofuels crops,” he said. “Sweet sorghum could double the gallons per acre when combined with cellulosic or ligno-cellulosic ethanol.” That’s accomplished by using the sweet sorghum sugar extraction for ethanol and then using the biomass for cellulosic conversion. _Source
As scientists learn which biomass crops do best on what land, and in particular crop rotations, farmers will be able to produce much more biomass than at present--just at the time when producers will be gearing up to produce more cellulosic electricity and cellulosic biofuels.

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India Still Aims to Produce 20% of Its Diesel from Bio-fuels By the Year 2017

India's climate can support a large number of tropical oilseed crops that do not grow well in colder climates. The country is proceeding with ambitious plans to produce large portions of its liquid fuels from oilseeds within the next ten years. Jatropha is a main contender, but a number of other tropical oilseed plants are also being studied.
...jatropha oil is not the only source of biodiesel. The shrub has a more elegant rival in pongamia pinnata, or Indian birch, a silvery tree revered for its shady canopy and medicinal properties. Its crescent-shaped pods also contain seeds which can yield about 30% of their weight in oil, according to Roshini International Bio Energy, a firm based in Hyderabad. It has joined hands with the Andhra Pradesh government to plant the trees in three of Andhra Pradesh’s 23 districts. It is also venturing into neighbouring states and to Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Uganda. The goal, says Anil Reddy, Roshini’s founder, is “to plant 1 billion trees on this planet”, covering an area half the size of Denmark.

India’s enthusiasm for biofuel may seem odd only months after the country’s finance minister described conversion of food crops into biofuel as “a crime against humanity.” But D1-BP and Roshini point out that their favoured crops need not compete with food crops for land or water. Both are hardy plants that can grow on dry, stony soil. S.K. Kothari, Roshini’s technical director, says 150 acres of pongamia requires only as much water as a single acre of traditional crops.... _Economist
These crops require a lot of care in their early growth, and do not produce high yields until between 5 and 10 years of growth after planting. Farmers need to be patient.

But both jatropha and pongamia provide benefits beyond the oilseed. Farmers will need to learn to integrate the oilseed crops into an integrated system of multiple synergistic crops, and not rely on monoculture farming. If local farmers are unable to provide the necessary self-discipline to grow these crops, it is quite likely that large financial interests such as national and multi-national energy corps, will move in on the best land to grow the much needed alternative to petroleum.

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More on Sugar to Gasoline Unique Catalysts

The platinum-rhenium catalyst devised by University of Wisconsin scientists takes solutions of sorbitol or glucose in water at high temperatures and quickly converts them into an interesting oily mix of chemicals. This mix of chemicals is then passed over various catalysts to produce hydrocarbons.
In the first reactor, a sugar-water solution is passed over a platinum-rhenium catalyst at about 500 K. This strips five out of six oxygen atoms from the sugar, creating a mixture of various hydrocarbon compounds, such as alcohols and organic acids. The compounds form an oil-like layer that floats on top of the solution.

The oil is transferred to the second reactor, where it is passed over various solid catalysts, resulting in a range of hydrocarbon molecules that make up gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel. For instance, a copper and magnesium-based catalyst produces the hydrocarbons found in diesel and jet fuel. Gasoline contains hydrocarbons in which carbon atoms are connected in branched and ring-shaped structures, while carbon atoms in diesel and jet fuel form long, linear chains. The alcohols and organic acids in the oil from the first step could also be used to make plastics and industrial chemicals, Dumesic says.

...Whether or not biogasoline competes with its petroleum counterpart, it might still make more sense than making ethanol, Regalbuto says. One of the most expensive parts of producing ethanol is the energy-intensive distillation step, in which ethanol has to be separated from water. Hydrocarbons such as gasoline and diesel, meanwhile, float to the top, so they are easier and less expensive to separate. Plus, he says, "you're getting a fuel that's 30 percent more energy dense [than ethanol]. So it's cheaper to make, and it gives you 30 percent more gas mileage." _TechnologyReview
More from PlatinumToday:
"Most of the oxygen atoms are removed, leaving an oily mixture of alcohols, ketones, carboxylic acids and some cyclic compounds.

"These compounds are monofunctional - they only have one functional group, which makes them much more adaptable for subsequent conversion.

"Petroleum has a high energy density, and not all engines currently in use are suitable for conversion to run on ethanol."

Although the finding marks a significant step forward, Mr Dumesic also explained that it may be some time before the new system can be implemented commercially on a mass scale. _PlatinumToday
The main obstacles to widespread adoption of this technique are the need for better conversion of cellulose/hemicellulose to sugars, and the need to find less expensive catalysts that will accomplish roughly the same process as the rhenium/platinum catalyst and other specialty catalysts.

Close study of the nano-energetics involved at the active catalytic sites should yield alternative catalysts to make the process more economical. And the task of breaking down cellulose/hemicellulose into simple sugars is being simplified and made more economical almost daily. This catalytic approach to making bio-petroleum may very well prove competitive to the best of LS9, Amyris, or Craig Venter.

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Sunday, September 21, 2008

Nice Bioenergy Links and Summaries

Lignocellulosic materials are the most abundant biomass available on earth. In the United States, one study showed that 1.2 billion metric tons (1.3 billion tons) of crop residue could be collected without decarbonating the soil. _Source
It is estimated that one billion tons of biomass are needed to replace 30 percent of current annual petroleum consumption in the United States alone. _Source
The use of biomass for both generating electricity and producing liquid biofuels is still in its infancy. The infrastructure is still being developed and tweaked for efficiency and yield. But scattered across North America, different local and regional constituencies are beginning to comprehend the distributed and decentralised promise of the abundant biomass of North America.
A $1 billion investment in at least two power plants will use leftover timber products - in abundant supply in Georgia - to generate electricity for nearly half the state's residents supplied by electric membership cooperatives.

Tucker-based Oglethorpe Power Corp, the nation's largest cooperative-owned electric generator, announced Thursday it will build two 100-megawatt plants to be fueled by the sawdust and wood chips from pine trees harvested for pulp and timber. Increased demand could prompt the utility to add a third plant by the planned 2015 start-up date. _Source
At this time, the choice appears to be between using food crops for fuel, or using non food crops and biomass, such as algae, jatropha, or lignocellulosic materials. That is a false dichotomy, parroted by people who know nothing about energy or agriculture. In reality, everything relating to bioenergy is a dynamic tradeoff heavily dependent on global economics, government decisions, climate effects on crops, etc etc.
The best energy crops may be those that are multipurpose and allow farmers to respond to market changes by combining food, feed, fiber, and biofuel product streams. Many advances have already been made with conventional plant breeding using molecular genetics and plant physiology to significantly improve crops. These technologies can also lead to significant improvements in bioenergy feedstocks.

In the future, engineered plants may be the solution to low- cost, abundant feedstocks. By tweaking plant genes, scientists can encourage production of more biomass or change a plant's cell wall composition so that it can be readily converted into biofuels or industrial products such as lubricants, inks, fabrics, or glue. ARS has 20 gene banks across the country that can be used to design, develop, and produce better energy crops.

....Because of the wide variation in biomass feedstocks and their impacts by geographic location, research is being conducted on many of these issues on a regional basis. Land grant and other universities, as well as ARS, are evaluating various crops for suitability and sustainability based on eco-region, genetic variation, and production economics. Some land grant universities have joined together in five geographical locations throughout the country to address regional biomass feedstock capabilities in terms of sustainable production for energy purposes. _Source
Only idiots such as Pelosi, Boxer, Reid, etc. try to dictate energy policy from a central golden throne. Those dunderheads cannot even legislate an offshore energy bill properly, without completely making a monumentally corrupt mess of it.

The sooner power is distributed from the central haven of fools called Washington DC to more regional and local control, the better.


Friday, September 19, 2008

Bioenergy Gold Rush: Biomass, Algae, etc

The bioenergy gold rush is taking place in the laboratories and agricultural test fields of the world. The beneficiaries will be local and regional areas with the leadership and human capital capable of taking initiative and building the appropriate infrastructure in a timely fashion.

University of Wisconsin researchers have devised a new way of making bio-petroleum from sugars. This opens the way for a scaling up of production of bio-petroleums once cheap and economical sources of sugars are available--such as lignocellulosic derived sugars.

Algal biofuels remain tantalizingly out of commercial reach, although a Bill Gates investment in Sapphire Energy puts that firm over the $100 million mark in financing. Here is a brief summary of the state of the art in algal biofuels.

A large number of biomass crops are competing for "best biomass feedstock" including switchgrass and miscanthus. Camelina, sorghum, hemp, and a number of fast growing trees and shrubs are also in the running.

Gasification remains one of the frontrunners for efficient conversion of biomass to energy and fuels. Spanish researchers have devised an innovative method for BTG, or biomass to (syn)gas. From syngas, almost any type of liquid fuel can be synthesised.

Different biofuel and bioenergy crops grow best in different environments. Thinking small--on a local and regional scale--allows one to match resources with needs. Trying to solve all problems with one solution is foolish, and worthy only of lawyers , politicians, academics, and journalists.

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Thursday, September 18, 2008

Biomass to Grow Quickly Important

Different forms of biomass are competing to see which can outgrow the other. From fast growing poplars, to hemp, to eucalyptus, to the giant reed Arundo.

Scientists are better learning how to most economically and sustainably produce high yields of biomass feedstock for the growing numbers of biomass to fuel and biomass to electricity projects being created around the world.

Earth's biosphere is expandable far beyond current human understanding. By utilising marginal lands, desert lands using salt water tolerant crops, and ocean growing crops such as seaweed, humans can produce far more biomass feedstock than the pessimists of biomass currently estimate and model.

For liquid fuel purposes, better oilseed crops, specialised microbes, and algal oil may prove more economical and simpler than converting biomass to liquids--in the long run. But for purposes of electrical generation and CHP, biomass will be difficult to beat--once the local and regional infrastructure for densifying the mass and making it more transportable is created.

As always, nuclear power remains the best option for powering large metropolitan areas. But for most of the huge areas of Earth in between and surrounding large cities, biomass should be plentiful and suitable for CHP, power generation, and small to medium scale production of liquid, solid, or gaseous fuels.


Canadian Oil Sands Production to Increase to Over 3 million barrels per day by 2015

The increase in bitumen production from Canadian oil sands will be from just over million bpd to just over 3 million bpd. US and Canadian pipelines and refinery capacity should keep pace with this expansion.
Strong growth in oil sands production during the past few years has been an important contributor to global supply and provided the US with the prospect of a secure source of supply from Canada. Bitumen production from Alberta's oil sands during 2007-15 will increase to 3.1 million b/d from 1.2 million b/d.

This outlook is based on an assessment of individual projects that are currently in production or likely to come on stream. It also anticipates delays to projected start-up dates and less than full utilization rates due to anticipated technical problems. _RedOrbit
More details at the source.

Advances in THAI extraction and other advanced in situ processes, may lead to even faster production increases from oil sands.

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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

9 to 1 Energy Return from Sugar Beets?

Nova Scotian beet farmers expect big things from their beets-to-ethanol crop harvest this year.
Coles said sugar beets have twice the ethanol potential as corn and, for every unit of energy they put into producing the beets, they expect to get nine units of energy in return. He said there is a significant amount of cropland currently out of production and this initiative could help revitalize it. They hope to have 5,000 acres in active beet production next year and they’re moving toward 17,000 acres, although not all necessarily in Nova Scotia. Parts of our province could even produce winter beets, and ABC has several locations lined up to test such a crop. _checkbiotech
Interesting alternative to maize, and beets can be grown across a very wide range of climates, where sugar cane will not grow.

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More Oil from Canadian Oil Sands Coming Right Up

Trillions of barrels of oil equivalent sits in Canadian oil sands, waiting for better extraction methods. Brian Wang thinks this method may be what the oil doctor ordered. Better methods of extracting the trillions of barrels of oil equivalent sitting in US and Canadian oil shale are also in the pipeline.
If the Capri/Thai processes are successful then Canada's oilsands, other oilsands and heavy oil deposits around the world will have higher recovery rates using a more economic process and the oil will be upgrading in the ground to a higher and more valuable quality. This would be the technology that would crush peak oil for several decades and allow an orderly transition to a post oil world. The processes would enable trillions of barrels of oil to be economically accessed. In a few months the Capri process could be proven out and the energy world would be changed. Oil technology would change the world by unlocking the oilsand and heavy oil around the world. Trillions of barrels of oil would become economically feasible. It [will be a (AF)]world and game changer. _NextBigFuture
The profitability of oil shale and oil sands extraction processes depend upon oil prices being above $80 a barrel. With rapid advances in algal and biomass biofuels, along with more nuclear, better industrial heat recovery, higher efficiencies, and shifting to an electrical vehicle fleet, high oil prices for the indefinite future are a bad bet.

Previously published at Al Fin

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Hot Rocks Low Temperature Geothermal Update

Brian Westenhaus takes an interesting look at progress by low temperature geothermal company Raser.
Barely a year into the geothermal business the Raser idea is based on good working technology. They are using an off the shelf award winning heat pump from United Technologies set up to drive a generator instead of a motor driving the compressor as done successfully by Gwen Holdmann up in Alaska....Raser has reported some progress. But the avalanche of press releases that haven’t panned out to the liking of the stock-tracking people isn’t building a lot of confidence.

...Raser is saying that they have optimized the generators to run on source temperatures of between 200 to 300 degrees F. This is a range that works for much wider areas of geothermal resources than temperatures needed for full flash steam generation. Gwen Holdmann and UT have shown full function at 165 degrees.

...The project is in Beaver County Utah. On August 12 they took delivery of the first 50 generator units from UT and have announced they are all in place as of September 4th with the cooling towers and hook up to go. It’s expected that these 50 generators will output 10 megawatts continuous. That will be something, a sure start on growth, as reports have the capital cost approximating wind farm and solar thermal installations but with 24/7/365 output for a very different economic picture. Reports say that Raser has eight projects underway in Utah, New Mexico, Oregon and Nevada.

The design is for modular generators, so that one module can be maintained while others continue to operate. Modular building also reduces costs. Raser is estimating investment recovery in 12 to 18 months. _NewEnergyAndFuel
Very fast implementation, and very favourable investment recovery estimates. Are they just blowing smoke, or is this for real?

Bank of America subsidiary Merrill Lynch is backing Raser, and the proof of the pudding will happen quite soon. We will not be kept in suspense long.

Raser's stock price has been fluctuating wildly, which suggests that opportunity may be knocking for those with liquid investment capital.


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Flywheel Energy Storage at Supersonic Speed

Beacon Power Corp. says it has a better idea: massive rotating flywheels that store power like giant alkaline batteries spinning at twice the speed of sound. _BostonGlobe
Flywheel storage stores energy in kinetic form--rapidly spinning wheels, ready for almost instant tapping in case of power failure. But the problem with them is their lack of energy density: they simply cannot hold enough backup energy for more than a short period of time. Rotating energy is defined by its mass and rotational speed. Beacon's flywheels weigh 2500 pounds, but it is Beacon's higher speeds that pack the power:
Beacon Power flywheels are 2,500-pound cylinders made of carbon fiber and fiberglass, and bonded with epoxy. Each is mounted on bearings that generate a magnetic field to support the flywheel, so it floats inside its steel casing. Friction is almost nonexistent. When the flywheel is spun to its full speed of 16,000 revolutions per minute, it can store the energy for hours with little loss.

"The surface speed on this thing would be Mach 2," or twice the speed of sound, Capp said. But these flywheels don't generate a sonic boom, because they operate in a vacuum to reduce friction even more.

At the base of each flywheel is a motor-generator system like those found in hybrid cars. When electricity is added to the system, it acts as a motor, speeding up the rotation. To release power, the system acts as a generator, translating the rotation to electric power and feeding it into the grid....Each flywheel can store enough power to run a typical US home for a full day. But they cost $200,000 apiece, and while Capp hopes to cut the cost to $100,000, they're still far out of the average consumer's price range.

Instead, Beacon Power hopes to address a constant nuisance for electric utilities: precise regulation of power.

...Beacon Power plans to build storage arrays, with dozens of flywheels buried underground inside vaults made from concrete sewer pipes.

A standard shipping container stuffed with computers and power cables controls the array and links it to the electrical grid.

When there's extra power available, Beacon Power would buy it and use it to spin the flywheels. When the grid needs an extra burst of juice, the flywheels can convert the stored energy back into electricity, which is resold to the power network.

"You can almost think of it as recycling electricity," said Gene Hunt, company spokesman. Beacon Power would make its profit by charging a fee for its power regulation service.
Utility load leveling is an incredibly important task. Without utility-scale storage devices, power distribution can be extremely tricky and prone to errors.

In safety terms, it is a good idea for them to bury these massive speedy spinners underground in strong concrete vaults. I wouldn't want to be around when one of these giant tops explodes.

More at MarketWatch

Can you find the error in this NextEnergyNews article?
The company currently building a massive commercial scale system that is capable of storing 5 million watts of power.
Absolutely right! One can supply 5 mega watts of power, but one cannot store 5 mega watts of power. One stores mega watt hours, not mega watts.

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Monday, September 15, 2008

Peak Oil and Oil Price Tumble

If one is a loyal reader of The Oil Drum Blog, one pretty much believes whatever is written there--regardless of what the real world is doing. If oil prices go up, it is due to peak oil. If oil prices go down, it is due to peak oil. It really is all about peak oil, to a peak oil punkass (POP).

The same type of "one-explanation fits all" mentality is present in the Climate Catastrophy Orthodoxy. If temperatures rise it is global warming. If temperatures fall, it is global warming. It's all global warming to a holy warmer.

Being a true believer--in whatever cause--means not having to think for yourself. While such faith in the "daily talking points" provides ready explanations for the phenomena of the day, the ability of the person's brain to reason tends to atrophy.

Take the recent 7 month low in oil futures. To a POP, there is something wrong causing oil prices to behave against fundamentals. All types of surreal conspiracy theories--usually involving Bush, Cheney, and the evil neocons--rise to the surface to explain why the globe has not already run out of oil, and why cannibalism and utter debauchery have not taken over the entire Earth yet.

Certainly oil production has not gone up that much to explain the drop. But oil consumption has dropped on several fronts, for several reasons. And the big boost given oil futures by speculators on the up side can have a matching depressant effect on prices on the down side.

One has to wonder how POPs are investing these days. With all of that "insider knowledge" that the price of oil is going above $500 a barrel any day now, why are they not making a veritable killing in the futures market? Blaming the evil neocons for the "inexplicable" behaviour of prices can only satisfy the true believers for so long. What dark conspiracies will bubble up from the subconscious next, to explain the real world's utter duplicity?

Follow the charade yourself, at links such as the one above. It is not as if POPs had any insight into their behaviour--at least not enough to be a bit more discrete.

Peak Oil, when stripped to its basics, is utterly trite and worthless in terms of predicting economic phenomena in a timely and meaningful way. For POPs, however, it is important to always believe that one knows a secret that others are too stupid to comprehend. That is fine with me.

But in the real world, to make money on markets and exchanges--as well as in business--it pays to leave one's ideologies and wishful thinking at home.

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Sunday, September 14, 2008

Cogeneration, CHP, Heat Recovery

A typical coal plant has an efficiency in the low 30% range, meaning 65% or more of the energy is wasted. CHP can improve the plant efficiency to the 60%-80% range._Source
Excess heat production in US industry could potentially provide up to 20% of the nation's electrical power. For now, most of that energy goes into the atmosphere and is lost. With increased heat recovery methods, that heat will be converted to useful power. Some new plants, such as a Hormel meat processing plant in Texas, and other new plants are beginning to salvage waste heat for useful purposes--including electric power.
More than half of the energy potential in traditional power generation goes up the stack as waste heat. In contrast, the UTC Power fuel cell power system converts heat exhaust into heating and cooling, turning potential waste into useable energy. While central powerplants achieve conversion percentages in the lower 30s, the PureCell® system can attain energy conversion efficiencies up to 90 percent. High system efficiencies translate into greater fuel utilization, thereby conserving natural resources and energy. _Source
Here is more on co-generation, or Combined Heat and Power (CHP):
Any place energy is wasted, there's a chance to capture it and do useful work. The scale of waste heat in a steel mill, cement plant or silicon plant makes the potential obvious, but there are a few other types that take a sharper eye.

The heat from a power plant, instead of being lost in a cooling tower or surrendered to the atmosphere, can be used for local heating via underground hot water or steam pipes to nearby businesses, homes or industry. There's a limit on how far the heat can travel, hence the name, district heating. Once more common, today in the US this is mostly limited to college campuses and a few old downtown neighborhoods.

Anytime there is a pressure drop in a pipe, a backpressure turbine generator can capture the lost energy. For example, long distance natural gas pipelines operate at high pressure and when the pressure is reduced for local distribution, some of the significant energy originally used to pressurize the pipe can be recovered. This is sort of like regenerative braking for gas lines. An investment of $8 to $10 billion could capture 6.5 GW, another bargain at $1,250 to $1,500/kW. Steam pipelines are more numerous and have even more potential. The college campuses with district heating mentioned above could also be producing some fuel-free power where ever the steam pressure is reduced from transmission pressures to the pressure used in buildings.

Many industrial processes have leftover gas or create some low quality gas that can be burned. Quite often, this is simply flared ( that is, burned ) at the top of a smokestack. I watched flaring gas coming off steel mill blast furnaces for years as a kid in Gary, Indiana without knowing what it was. In any event, I was awed by 15 foot high tongues of flame dancing on top of a 300 foot high stack. Other sources are oil refineries, auto painting plants, carbon black plants and ethanol refiners.

One more advantage of CHP is that the electricity usually doesn't have to travel far and rarely requires new transmission lines. Unlike many large utility plants sited far away from population centers, most CHP installations are already where there are people and power demand. _Co-Generation
Technically, co-generation is the combined generation of useful heat and electricity. CHP is an equivalent term. Heat recovery, on the other hand, can refer to the retrofitting of heat recovery technology to previously wasted process heat, to yield electric power and/or other productive energy from waste heat. The distinction may seem too fine after the fact, but is quite meaningful at the design stage.

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Saturday, September 13, 2008

Energy News: Nuclear Stands Tough, More

Hurricane Ike has interfered with gasoline supplies, and other forms of energy delivery, but Ike failed to stop the Texas STP nuclear plant.
The South Texas Project nuclear power plant, located about 60-miles southwest of Galveston, Texas, said on Saturday it continued to run at full power throughout Hurricane Ike.

The South Texas Project power station has two nuclear reactors that can produce a combined 2,560 megawatts of electricity.

"The South Texas Project (STP) nuclear power plant continued to operate safely and reliably throughout Hurricane Ike, as the storm made landfall near Galveston and moved inland this morning. Both units remain at full power," the company said in a press release. _Source
Nuclear power is expected to grow in use globally. Emerging countries such as Brazil and China have particularly ambitious plans for nuclear power.

Some firms are planning to generate electricity and produce biofuels from hazardous waste. More power to them, and us.

Algae biofuels continue to be developed across the US, including Florida. Smaller countries that are traditional leaders in the seaweed industry, such as Japan, Ireland, and New Zealand, are also hot on the trail for algal biofuels.

The Earth is not suffering from a shortage of energy supplies, or potential energy supplies. The shortage is one of imagination and applied intelligence, as well as a shortage of skilled manpower. The deficit is a deficit of educational practises, and a deficit of responsible political leaders--particularly in the US Congress for the past two years.


Friday, September 12, 2008

Gasification Hits the Real World

High temperature, oxygen-controlled gasification turns carbon sources such as coal or biomass mostly into gaseous H2 and CO (syngas). These two gases can be converted via either chemical or biological means into a wide range of fuels--including gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, ethanol, methanol, etc etc. These carbon-to-fuel processes can be made very clean, with virtually no toxic byproducts remaining after the conversion process. Brian Westenhaus reports on progress coming directly from the long work of the Gas Technology Institute (GTI) in Illinois.
The GTI has been researching gasification for over 50 years and now has extensive experience in designing, constructing and operating gasification systems. Two systems are patented, and licensed now. One is coal gasification and the other is biomass gasification. Multifuel plants that combine the two are now commercialized and built and building in Finland and China for a world total of 4 industrial sized gasification units. These actually work with tens of millions of dollars behind the projects and serious production coming to consumer markets..... _NewEnergyandFuel
Brian goes on to describe several gasification ventures, and their various ongoing commercial projects. A very nice summary update.

Canadian company Nexterra is a subcontractor for a gasification plant at Oak Ridge National Laboratories in the US.
The Nexterra system will replace ORNL's existing natural gas steam plant by converting locally sourced woody biomass into clean burning syngas. The syngas will produce 60,000 lbs/hr of saturated steam to displace 75 MMBtu/hr of fossil fuel traditionally used to heat the campus. Once operational, the system will reduce campus fossil fuel consumption by 80 per cent.

Nexterra is supplying the complete gasification system from fuel handling and storage through to the exhaust stack. Engineering design is underway and the system will be delivered in late 2009. _Biotech
As Brian relates above, gasification projects are being built around the world, at accelerating rates. Coal gasification to liquid fuel provides the option of producing the full range of liquid fuels.

Small gasification and refining plants located at the coal mines themselves, provide a much more economical and clean way of turning low-grade coal into cleaner, more versatile fuels. It will take time to build the infrastructure, but expect significant (around 5%) displacement of petroleum by gasification within 5 years. As experience builds and technology improves, the growth rate should accelerate.

Coal deposits exist to provide hundreds of years of production. Biomass production is essentially limitless, when taking into account marginal lands and coastal onshore and offshore biomass production.

Previously published at Al Fin

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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

More Small Revolutions in Bioenergy

Synthetic bacteria that can produce ethanol.
"Our new microorganism, called TM242, can efficiently convert the longer-chain sugars from woody biomass materials into ethanol. This thermophilic bacterium operates at high temperatures of 60oC-70oC and digests a wide range of feedstocks very rapidly," said Paul Milner.

The scientists estimate that some 7 million tons of surplus straw is available in the UK every year. Turning it into ethanol could replace 10% of the gasoline fuel used in this country.
The debate about food vs. fuels has occupied a lot of small minds around the world. But there really is no debate--once you take account of the abundant resources of the sea and seawater.

What is the potential for algal biofuels?
"As a transport fuels feedstock, algae can produce up to 10,000 gallons of biodiesel feedstock per acre per year compared to soybeans at 50 gallons per acre and canola/rapeseed at 120 gallons per acre," said Will Thurmond, Chairman of Research and Development for the NAA and author of the Biodiesel 2020 study. _Source
The big drop in palm oil prices is fueling renewed biodiesel production in Southeast Asia. Unlike the great "food vs. fuels crisis" of last spring, no riots are taking place on this news--so it isn't news at all, according to the media.

Finding the most efficient and economical way of shipping fuels and feedstocks will help the fledgeling bioenergy industry find its way. In the early stages, the smallest margins can make the difference between profitability and extinction.

With bioenergy, one uses the feedstock that is at hand. In Louisiana's bayou region, sugar cane grows quite well. Cane is being used as feedstock for a new cellulosic ethanol plant in the bayou--while the technology of cellulosic breakdown is perfected.

The smart operators will make allowances for rapid shifts in feedstock prices and availability. Do not bet your farm on one crop or one bioenergy feedstock.

Bioenergy remains the best near-term renewable energy potential. Solar thermal is getting bigger, and will help--once energy storage improves, and the technology shakeout in the field takes place. The same applies to photovoltaics--although PV will take longer to hit large scale viability due to difficulties with electrical storage vs. heat storage. Enhanced geothermal will eventually be a huge resource--viable from Antarctica to the Arctic to undersea habitats to the remotest island. Others, such as OTEC, wind, tidal, wave etc. will find niche usefulness.

But ever since humans learned to control fire, bioenergy has occupied the community hearth of hearths. Fossil fuels are forms of bioenergy that take a long time to fossilize. So only nuclear energy--among the large power producers--is non-bioenergy.

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Scientists Discover Ways to Recover More Oil

Here is an interesting look at a breakthrough in oil recovery from carbonate rock--where more than 50% of the world's oil resides.
When we think of oil reservoir rock what is in mind is a rock sponge with tiny pores filled with oil. As the oil moves to the well the pressure is reduced. Rock compresses poorly so very little is gained after the pressure from gas above or water below is taken off by production. Those little pores have been an issue for decades. The realization that the organic chemistry aspects of the calcium rock and the available chemical reactivity of seawater is now a documented and understood.

What this should mean is that there will be continued production from oil fields thought to be past economic productivity. The researchers are looking onto the application of seawater into limestone formations, which are also organic formed rock. It may well be possible to greatly enhance these reservoirs too.
Better oil recovery through chemistry. Expect a lot more of this. The greedy tyrants of OPEC expect more oil production, which is why they are clamping down on members who produce too much.
It seems that OPEC has grown fond of the idea of oil >$100/bbl. Iran and Venezuela have both been making noise about the need to cut production to defend that price, and today OPEC announced that they would indeed be cutting production by half a million barrels a day.....Just another 'above ground' factor that is going to keep oil from falling much below $100. OPEC has the pricing power to achieve this. In fact, a big part of the reason the price got there in the first place was that OPEC cut too much for too long a couple of years ago. Not only did this tighten up supplies, but it also led to a lot of speculation that OPEC oil production had peaked. _RobertRapier
Intelligent observers of oil understand that most of the oil is still in the ground--by far. Political peak oil--a la Pelosi and Boxer as well as a la OPEC--keeps the oil supply tight and the price of oil high.

Even if the moronic US Democratic Senators finally decide to take the shackles off of US oil production, the US has several years of tight energy supplies coming--thanks to Boxer, Pelosi, and OPEC.

It may be time for Oynklent Green [OTC:OYNK] to take a look at all the people who are responsible for choking off energy supplies. It makes sense that the people responsible be made to give their all, to redeem themselves for their misdeeds. Call it Karma, or Kismet.


Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Energy Meanderings

Brian Westenhaus has a fascinating look at methane storage in various forms. Methane is more energy dense than hydrogen, but storage issues still need addressing.

Brian Wang looks at a number of energy topics, including the up-rating of a number of US nuclear plants and the development of an engine that will be able to utilise any type of spark ignited fuel. Brian also recently presented an interesting update on annular nuclear fuel rods, which may allow up to 50% uprating of current water-cooled fission reactors. Worth a look.

The future of agriculture for food and fuels lies in crop modification. Of course, humans have been modifying crops for thousands of years. Gene-mod tools are just more useful devices for the tool kit.

Pennycress is receiving a lot more attention as a winter biodiesel crop for inter-cropping with soybeans.

Tallow from animal fat rendered at slaughterhouses may become an important source of biodiesel.

More on the Omnivore Engine discussed in the link above to Brian Wang.


Monday, September 08, 2008

More on Biofuels from Camelina and Cellulose

Camelina is a cold to moderate weather oilseed crop with higher oil yields than soy or maize, which can be intercropped with wheat--boosting subsequent yields of wheat. Camelina can grow on marginal land using little water.

In other news, a new carbon-based catalyst for cutting cellulose up into simple sugars for fermentation has been developed at the Tokyo Institute of Technology.
The researchers developed a catalyst consisting of amorphous carbon bearing SO3H, OH, and COOH groups. Although the carbon material has a small surface area, and the acid density is only 1/10th that of sulfuric acid, they found that the catalyst was as effective as sulfuric acid in hydrolyzing cellulose.

Furthermore, the apparent activation energy for the hydrolysis of cellulose into glucose using the carbon catalyst is estimated to be 110 kJ mol-1, smaller than that for sulfuric acid under optimal conditions (170 kJ mol-1). The carbon catalyst can be readily separated from the saccharide solution after reaction for reuse in the reaction without loss of activity.

The researchers attributed the catalytic performance of the catalyst to three factors: its ability to adsorb β-1,4 glucan; its large effective surface area in water; and SO3H groups tolerable to hydration in the carbon material. _GCC

Hawaii is working hard to develope a home-grown biofuel feedstock to make it independent of expensive fossil fuels--that have to be shipped in. Sorghum is being studied as a possible improvement over sugar cane for the island state.

Africa is one epicenter of land acquisition by big money interests, in the quest for big biofuel. While other tropical lands are being used by big money as plantation sites, Africa is receiving a lot of international attention at this time.
Africa offers oil farmers virtually ideal conditions for their purposes: underused land in many places, low land prices, ownership that is often unclear and, most of all, regimes capable of being influenced.

The land is unusable, says the Ethiopian energy and mining minister in Addis Ababa, the country's capital. "It's just marginal land," say officials at the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources in Dar es Salaam. "The whole thing is nothing but positive," says the district administrator of Kisarawe, who is responsible for the Sun Biofuels project. "We have convinced the people." In his rudimentary office, which lacks both a computer and a copy machine, he leafs through the planning documents. _BW
In Africa, the people have very little to say about large projects that may affect their quality of life. Dictators tend to make such decisions without consulting the people. Sadly with the rise of dictatorial socialism in South America, the same is becoming true in the tropical areas of that continent as well.

China and India are leading the way in building vast biofuels plantations in Africa, South America, and Southeast Asia. But European companies are beginning to join the bio-gold rush as well.

Unfortunately, much of this development smacks of "neo-colonialist exploitation", with the dictators themselves as the colonial raj's, and the big money interests in India, China, Europe, etc. as the moneybag financiers.

There are good ways to develop tropical oilseed industries, and there are very bad ways. Guess which ways seem to have the upper hand for now?


China's Economic Prospects Dimming

Higher shipping costs from China to the developed world is making the "outsourcing model" developed a decade ago obsolete. Manufacturers are discovering that those high long-distance shipping costs are stripping away their profits.
With fuel prices at record highs, the cost of sending a standard 40-foot container of goods has gone from $3,000 in 2000 to about $8,000 today, squeezing profit.

So this summer Kazazian, chief executive of Exxel Outdoors, a Los Angeles-based maker of recreational equipment, did something radical: He moved the manufacturing back to Haleyville, Ala.

Soaring energy costs, the falling dollar and inflation are cutting into what U.S. manufacturers call the "China price"-- the 40 to 50 percent cost advantage once offered by Chinese producers.

The export model that has powered China and other Asian countries for three decades will be compromised if fuel prices continue to rise, said Stephen Jen, a managing director for Morgan Stanley.

"Globalization has gone a little bit too far. It has overshot," Jen said. "We're not saying Asia is going to crumble, but we are saying Asia enjoyed extraordinary conditions in the past. Now the conditions are changing very quickly because of the energy shock, and Asia is coming under pressure."

The ripple effects have been far-reaching. The trade imbalance between the United States and China -- a source of political tension for years -- is beginning to right itself as Chinese exports fall and U.S. exports rise. Global trade routes are being transformed, suggesting a possible return to a less integrated world economy.

The model of outsourcing to China emerged at a time when oil was going for $20 a barrel. In the past few months, oil has been trading at about $110, and many experts say it will eventually hit $200.

This has led some companies to move production from China to northern Mexico, next door to the U.S. market. But others have chosen to relocate inside the United States.

Midwestern steelmakers are doing booming business as steel exports from China to the United States slowed down by 38 percent in the first seven months of the year while U.S. steel production rose 10 percent. Manufacturers of furniture, electronic appliances and textiles are also among those shifting production back.

The most prominent company in the group might be Thomasville Furniture, which was criticized a few years ago for sending several thousand American jobs overseas. It announced in June that it was returning production of an entire line of upholstered and wood furniture to the United States. The company says it will add 100 jobs in North Carolina.

A lot of factors in the economic equation are bound to change between now and 2020. Looking back, we will understand why China's stratospheric dreams collapsed.


Sunday, September 07, 2008

Clean Coal Technologies Breathe New Life Into an Ancient Fossil Fuel

Coal contains a lot of pollutants such as mercury. Burning coal tends to release the pollutants into the air where it can damage numerous ecosystems, including human bodies. Better coal to energy technologies hold the promise of extracting the energy from coal, but separating the pollutants where they can be safely stored away from living systems. That is clean coal.

Other types of coal powerplant technologies are also called "clean coal." These technologies go further, and separate the CO2 from the exhaust gases of a coal burn. The CO2 is then either used for productive uses, or is sequestered underground or undersea. A modified Swedish owned plant in Germany is trying to learn the best ways of sequestering CO2 from exhaust.
The U.S. produces half its electricity from burning coal—and pumps out more than 40 percent of its carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in the process. Vattenfall—the enormous Swedish electric company—has a similar problem, though it sources most of its electricity in that Nordic country from dams and nuclear power plants.

The company also owns a slew of dirty, old coal-fired power plants in the former East Germany. These plants burn the dirtiest form of coal, lignite (a.k.a. brown coal), which is soft because it’s still damp and produces much more polluting soot when burned.

With the onset of a new CO2 emissions trading scheme in the European Union, Vattenfall decided to build a demonstration project at its lignite-burning power plant in Schwarze Pumpe. The technology is called oxyfuel, and it basically relies on burning coal in pure oxygen and CO2 rather than normal air.

By stripping out the nitrogen and other gases, the burning coal produces mostly water vapor and nearly pure carbon dioxide. After condensing the water, the CO2 can be bottled and pumped underground (in this case, into an old natural gas field to get even more methane out of the ground).
Okay, so it isn't the most elegant way of separting CO2 from exhaust. It costs energy to produce the pure O2 in the first place, so it is not actually economical at this point. Not without absurd carbon trading scams so prevalent in Europe these days.

Eventually an economical way of separating CO2 from exhaust will be developed, just as economical ways of separating other useful materials from exhaust, waste, garbage, and castoffs will be developed. Best stop wasting all those valuables, humans.

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Saturday, September 06, 2008

Can Canada Neutralise Russia's Energy Blackmail?

Russia has never hesitated to act the bully whenever it was in a position to do so. Putin's invasion and ethnic cleansing in Georgia was just the latest in his attempts to control all energy flowing westward to Europe from the Caspian and central Asia. Is it possible that meek and mild Canada might play a significant role in neutralising Putin's bombastic threats of a new and dangerous cold war?
A new Cold War looms, many are concluding, financed by Russia’s new found energy wealth and fueled by appeasement. Is the free world doomed to decades of hostility due to Europe’s energy vulnerability?....Alberta’s might as an energy power is now based largely on the ongoing development of just seven oil sands projects, most of them on the ultimate scale of 300,000 to 400,000 barrels of oil a day. Add three or four projects from Alberta on that scale to produce another 1.2 million barrels of oil per day and Europe’s entire oil dependence on Russia can be eradicated. A democratic peace-promoting country would have come to Europe’s rescue, providing not just oil but the steel needed in Europe’s spine.

....With oil now at $100 per barrel and production costs about $10 a barrel and expected to fall further, the profitability of oil sands is immense. No subsidies can be justified, economic or environmental.....Clean coal has the same emissions profile as natural gas, and it is getting cleaner still.
Oil sands are following the same route to rehabilitation. They still consume too much water, but less than half as much as before.

...Alberta’s oil sands represent one of the planet’s largest reservoirs of energy — some 2.5 trillion barrels of crude bitumen from which 300 billion barrels are estimated to be available, an amount that rivals the reserves of Saudi Arabia. They need to be developed properly: cleanly, to protect the environment, and quickly, to promote peace and stability. _NationalPost
Only political fools would shut down oil sands, shale oil, and clean coal on the basis of "climate change" or other delusions. But political fools abound in both Canada and the US. It is long past time for the people to wake up the corrupt politicians in provincial, state, and national government who have been hanging the populace out to dry for so many years.

In the US, Pelosi, Boxer, Salazar, Reid, etc. etc. need to be hoisted on their own petards, dunked in hot tar, coated in feathers, and run out of town on a rail. Canada could perform similar actions on its own corrupt politicos who want to starve the country of energy and energy income.

Political peak oil is alive and well in North America. But the time may be approaching when it will become necessary to kill it off--at least for a few election cycles.

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The Impending Crash and Burn of Peak Oil

Brian Wang presents convincing reasons for the significant and sustained uptick in natural gas production in the US and Canada. Peak oil pundits are stumbling over themselves--in the face of falling oil prices and rising natural gas supplies.

Natural Gas production is going up by a lot in the United States. This was noted at Peak Oil Debunked about a month ago.

The peak oil people such as Mike Ruppert and Matt Simmons were saying in 2003 and since then that natural gas production was heading for a sharp decline.

Now even some peak oil people are changing their tune. Gail at the oildrum has agreed that natural gas production will increase in the USA.

The U.S. has enough natural gas resources to last up to 118 years, or 2,247 trillion cubic feet (Tcf), according to the study by Navigant Consulting for the American Clean Skies Foundation based on a mid-2008 estimates.

...In Canada, The Horn River basin as 500 trillion cubic feet in place....B.C.'s Horn River Basin, near the Northwest Territories, has generated early estimates upwards of 28 tcf (trillion cubic feet) in potential shale gas reserves. To the south lies the Montney sand, shale and siltstone tight gas play, which the B.C. government pegs at 80 tcf of tight gas in place.

In the Saint Lawrence Lowlands of Quebec, Forest Oil Corp. compares its Utica shale gas discovery (estimated four tcf potential) to the legendary Barnett shale in Texas. On the East Coast, wildcatters are testing the potential of the Frederick Brook shale formation of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.

In a February report, Raymond James Ltd. calculated that a move from vertical wells to horizontal improved Montney economics from break-even to a 27% expected internal rate of return.

....In the Mackenzie Delta, three natural gas discoveries total 5.8 tcf. Further north in the Arctic islands, 16 gas discoveries amount to a further 17 tcf. Benoit Beauchamp, executive director of the University of Calgary's Arctic Institute of North America and a former Geological Survey of Canada field geologist in the Far North, estimates the remote region's potential at 117 tcf of gas plus nearly four billion barrels of oil.

Canada's oilsands motherlode - Alberta estimates that its buried treasure totals 1.7 trillion barrels of bitumen in place......

Shale Gas at wikipedia _NextBigFuture
This supports information provided earlier at this blog and at Al Fin Energy. And since gas can be burned in transportation vehicles--or converted to liquid fuels--it really is a big deal. The problem with peak oil junkies is that they are addicted to doom, and are willing to cut corners to remain convinced that doom is coming. Reality is not in it, as far as they are concerned.

Planet Earth has barely been explored, up until tomorrow, for fosssil fuel reserves and other strategic materials. Even the rich Persian Gulf area (including Saudi Arabia) has had less than 1% the number of exploratory wells drilled than has North America. The reason for that is that there is so much oil flowing now--more than they want to supply actually, that they do not want to undergo the expense of drilling new exploration wells when there is no current need.

Reality bites, when you believe something so strongly as peak oil or climate catastrophe, but without evidence.

Previously published at Al Fin

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Friday, September 05, 2008

UK Juices Up On Electricity from Biomass

The UK already has plans for a combination of over 1 GW of biomass electricity, plus additional electricity from biomass co-fired with coal at traditional coal plants. Many of the planned biomass generating plants are located on the coast, allowing for inexpensive marine transport of biomass fuel. Other plants will be inland, and supplied by locally grown biomass crops.
The market for biomass, whether from recycled wood, processing co-products (palm kernel or distillers grains, for example), agricultural wastes (straw, chicken manure and so on) or energy crops is growing rapidly....

Biomass is also being embraced by traditional energy generators. As well as the ability to co-fire biomass in its coal plants, E.on has announced plans for its third dedicated biomass power station in the UK. If approved, the 150MW power station at Bristol's Royal Portbury docks would bring its total planned biomass capacity to 219MW. It already operates the 44MW plant at Stephen's Croft near Lockerbie and has just been awarded Section 36 consent for a 25MW plant in Sheffield.

....Last year ScottishPower announced plans to secure 250,000t of energy crops for use in its Cockenzie and Longannet power stations, a scheme which the generator claims could see up to 35,000ha of land contracted by 2013 to produce short-rotation willow coppice and feed barley for the generator.

Drax, the UK's largest coal-fired power plant, is also investing heavily in biomass. As well as its existing capacity to generate 100MW of power by co-firing biomass through its coal mills, it is also investing in a new facility to allow the generation of an additional 400MW of power from the direct injection of biomass. Drax is also developing a pilot project to produce pellets from locally sourced straw, which could produce about 100,000t of pellets a year.

As part of its biomass procurement plans, Drax is looking for up to 300,000t a year of miscanthus from the surrounding area. Consequently miscanthus specialist Bical needs about 20,000ha of land, although the firm's Mike Carver stresses this will not mean wall-to-wall energy crops. "It's actually a fraction of the land that was previously set-aside," he says.

To secure supplies, Drax and Bical have negotiated a new contract price of £60 per oven dried tonne, with the generator paying for delivery on top of this. Bical's figures suggest that with a 13-year index-linked contract, miscanthus could deliver an average net margin between £284 and £487/ha, compared with £124 to £279/ha for more traditional combinations of winter wheat, oilseed rape and/or beans. _Source_via_Biopact
For purposes of gasification and co-firing, the biomass that grows fastest is best. Over time, the best methods of compacting and densifying biomass will be developed, to economise on transport fees. That suggests a huge economic opportunity for local and regional processing and pre-processing operations, which should be an ongoing opportunity for many decades.

Almost paradoxically, the better and more efficient the local and regional processing/pre-processing operations, the more likely that the actual utilisation of biomass will take place centrally--to take advantage of economies of scale. But there will always be room for small scale local/regional utilisation of compacted biomass due to tradeoffs in transportation and power utility costs.


Glasgow Scientists Promise Fuel from Sunlight

The Solar and Bioenergy Research Centre at the University of Glasgow is targetting research in biofuel crops and various biological processes that could see sunlight and atmospheric carbon dioxide turned into liquid biofuels.....

Scientists at the University of Glasgow are researching several different approaches to turning sunlight into liquid fuels. From artificial photosynthesis, to sun-energised conversion of CO2 to fuel, to the development of microbes and crops for converting solar energy to liquid fuel--Glasgow researchers are on the job.
The four main areas of the new centre's research will be:

*Biofuel Crops - Development of BioFuel crops for high biomass production on marginal land.
*Biomimetic Systems - Application of biological principles to designing efficient artificial systems for converting sunlight into liquid biofuels.
*Catalysis - Development of catalysts for generating liquid biofuels from carbon dioxide and complex biopolymers such as lignocellulose.
*Microbial Fuel Cells - Development of microbial fuel cells for generating electricity, and liquid and gaseous biofuels from organic waste and sunlight.

... _NewEnergyFocus_via_Bioenergy
The one potential problem for all solar energy approaches including bioenergy, is that the sun seems to be slowing down temporarily. Less intensity of sunlight, more cloud cover and rain, shorter growing seasons, and cooler temperatures are all expected from the quieter sun. Sunspot activity is the lowest in 100 years.

If the Earth's current cooling trend accelerates due to less solar energy reaching Earth, Luddites such as Nancy Pelosi, Barbara Boxer, Ken Salazar etc. who try to block access to life-saving fuels such as coal and oil shale and vital electric power from nuclear energy, will be treated most unkindly.

Previously published at Al Fin


Thursday, September 04, 2008

Algae to Jet Fuel, Seawater to Oil Recovery

Arizona State University researchers Hu and Sommerfeld are taking their research on converting algal oil to kerosene (jet fuel) to the commercial level with $3 million in research--via a spinoff company called Heliae Development.
This biofuel project will focus on the commercial production of kerosene from algae using patented technologies developed by Professors Qiang Hu and Milton Sommerfeld at ASU’s Laboratory for Algae Research & Biotechnology. The research efforts of Hu and Sommerfeld in algal-based biofuels and biomaterials have already moved from the laboratory to field pilot-scale demonstration and production.

Hu and Sommerfeld have identified specific algal strains that can convert a significant portion of their cellular mass into oil comprising a group of medium-chain (C10–C14) fatty acids which, after deoxygenation treatment, closely mirrors the length of the hydrocarbon chains found in kerosene.

Kerosene, when mixed with minor amounts of fuel additives, is known as JP8 or Jet A, suitable for use in jet aviation applications. A competitive advantage of the medium-chain fatty acid-based kerosene production is elimination of an expensive chemical or thermal cracking process, which is otherwise necessary for long-chain fatty acids commonly found in animal fat, vegetable oils, and typical algae oils. _GCC_via_NextEnergyNews
In other news, a modified form of seawater may allow increased oil recoveries from limestone reservoirs by up to 60%.
Researchers at the University of Stavanger in Norway report that injecting a modified seawater fluid—“smart water”—into limestone oil reservoirs for enhanced oil recovery (EOR) could help boost oil extraction from those reservoirs by as much as 60%. Their findings are scheduled for the 10 September issue of the ACS journal Energy & Fuels.

In the study, Tor Austad and colleagues note that more than 50% of the world’s oil reserves are trapped in oil reservoirs composed of calcium carbonate, rocks that include chalk and limestone. The average oil recovery from carbonates is generally lower than for sandstone reservoirs.....

Increased oil recovery means more reserves, and a longer period of time before "peak oil"

Oil prices are already high enough to slow demand for oil in developed countries without subsidies. Prices are also high enough to stimulate the development of alternative fuels and energy technologies. That is simple market economics, which peak oil doomsters are clearly unschooled in. But it may be the stimulation of new technology for oil discovery, recovery, and utilisation efficiencies that break the back of the doomer alarmist grifters and scam artists.

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Wednesday, September 03, 2008

New Ford Direct Injection Ethanol for Both More Power and Better Fuel Economy

Ford is developing a way of boosting fuel economy by injecting ethanol directly into the air-fuel mixture in the combustion chamber.
According to sources at PickupTrucks.com, the Bobcat is essentially a turbocharged engine running at a high compression ratio. Typically, this combination results in disaster, but Ford's system has a trick up its sleeve in the form of ethanol injection.

The Bobcat builds on Ford's Ecoboost engines by including a direct injected ethanol nozzle that adds small amounts of ethanol to the standard port injected air/fuel mixture. The ethanol cools the combustion chamber to prevent premature detonation, allowing the turbocharged engine to run extreme compression ratios.

The system promises 5 to 10 percent greater fuel economy than EcoBoost engines, which already promise a 20 percent increase over Ford's traditional engines. Turbodiesel enthusiasts already know that high compression plus a turbo equals gobs of torque, which is why the Bobcat is speculated to be a potential replacement for the large diesel power plants that power Ford's heavy- and super-duty trucks. A 5.0-liter turbo V-8 with ethanol boost could be rated at 500 horsepower and 700 foot-pounds of torque. _Source_via_Biofuelsdigest
Smaller engines for the same power--but better economy--may become a common theme in transportation and industry. The theme underlying that approach is "doing more with less." As humans begin utilising nanotechnology, advanced biotechnology, and other disruptive technologies made possible by the affluence produced by market economics, this will be a much more widespread theme. "More with less" will be built into just about all products and systems.

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Energy from Chickenshit In the Netherlands

A 36.5 MW electricity plant in Zeeland will supply electricity for 90,000 homes in the Netherlands.
The biomass power plant will utilize approximately 440,000 tons of chicken manure, roughly one third of the total amount produced each year in the Netherlands. Many European countries, including the Netherlands, suffer under an excess of different types of animal manure that pollute the environment. Costly methods are used to avoid it being spread out over land, to process it or to avoid creating the excess in the first place. Using the manure as a carbon-neutral energy source has become the most efficient, environmentally-friendly, and cost-effective of all management options.

Interestingly, the biomass power plant is more than merely "carbon neutral". If the chicken manure were to be spread out over farm land, it would release not only CO2, but also methane, a very potent greenhouse gas. By using the manure for power generation, the release of methane is avoided.

The biomass power plant - unique because it exclusively burns chicken manure - has a capacity of 36.5MW, and will generate more than 270 million kWh of electricity per year. The facility is located on the Moerdijk in Zeeland, and will serve approximately 90,000 households. _Biopact


India Looks to Colonise South America, Myanmar

While China is hard at work colonising Africa, India is looking farther abroad to South America in order to provide the necessities for its growing population.
“We have formed a consortium of 14 vegetable oil companies, which is in talks with the governments of Paraguay, Uruguay, and Myanmar for buying large tracts of land for cultivating soya bean, sunflower and pulses,” Ashok Sethia, president of the Solvent Extractors’ Association of India, said.

....Analysts say factories and property developers are buying up farmland, while farm output is also restricted by the poor development of irrigation facilities across much of the country.

“There is too much pressure on our farmland and the government knows it has a difficult task ahead in maintaining food supplies,” Sethia said. _Source
China and India have both outgrown their available resources, due to the gross inefficiencies under which both systems of government operate. Other nations do well with higher population densities, but the corruption present in the systems of India and China are difficult to expurgate.

China is already sponsoring the wholesale destruction of ancient rainforests in Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, etc. for the valuable hardwood and to make way for huge palm oil plantations. Unfortunately, the third world colonisers are likely to destroy the quality of the land that they appropriate, leaving their host countries even poorer than when they began.

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