Monday, June 30, 2008

Oil Shale Secrets: Over 1 Trillion Barrels On Tap

If the current US Congress has anything to say about it, the US will be starving for energy and fuel within the next few years. Trillions of barrels of oil equivalent are buried within North America in the form of shale oil, oil sands, coal, and gas. Nancy Pelosi and Barbara Boxer intend for as much of that black gold as possible to stay in the ground, far away from American consumers.
Geologists estimate the rocks hold over a trillion barrels of oil.

“That is more than all the reserves of the Middle East,” Vawter said.

But this mother-load is locked deep inside deposits across three states.

"Oh gosh, if you took just an acre, you are probably looking at 100,000 barrels of recoverable oil,” Vawter said....

Cobiella met Terry O’Connor of Shell Oil. She asked him: “how much oil did you pull from here?”

“We pulled 1,800 barrels of oil plus a substantial amount of natural gas, also,” he said.

All from a tiny 30-by-40 foot patch tucked inside a Shell Oil compound that was top secret.

When he saw the results, what did he think?

“We were really happy!” he laughed.

Shell's revolutionary approach involves dropping electric heaters deep underground to heat the shale to 650 degrees. At that magic temperature, oil and natural gas separate from the rock and can be pumped to the surface - all with minimal impact to the surrounding area.

“And with a modest amount of processing this is the final product we go, which can be used for jet fuel, diesel fuel and naphtha for gasoline,” O’Connor said.
Raytheon's microwave technique should provide even higher yields--with less use of power and precious water resources.

As long as the US government maintains its anti-energy attitudes, the American people will suffer. And if the American people suffer, the US economy suffers. And if the US economy suffers, the world economy suffers. It is a dangerous game that is being played by the Pelosi's and the Boxer's of Congress. They may not like how it all turns out.

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Ireland and New Zealand: Seaweed Leaders?

Island nations, Ireland and New Zealand, are located almost precisely diagonally half a world apart from each other--both North and South, and East and West. Interestingly, both Ireland and New Zealand are looking at ways of making a common natural resource--seaweed--an increasingly profitable enterprise. Seaweed is a type of multi-cellular algae that can be quite prolific in areas where other plant life is scarce.
'Compared to other bioenergy crops (eg rapeseed, canola, peanut, oil palm) there are a number of species of algae that have higher areal productivities, higher oil content and that can grow in saline waters.

'These apparently very favourable properties have generated a frenzy of interest and activities in the field of energy production using algae, both microalgae and seaweeds.'

He continued, 'For biofuel production the algal biomass needs to be produced at a cost of around $US1 or less per kg. In order to achieve this ambitious goal there is the need for year-round reliable high productivity algal culture and all factors (eg, algae strains, algae culture, harvesting and further downstream processing) need to be optimised and efficiently integrated.'

Ireland boasts 16 commercially useful seaweed species, with additional species being added as more research is carried out. Ireland's location off Western Europe, surrounded by clean seas, is a major selling point to the world market. __BioenergyCheckBiotech
New Zealand also has a long tradition of seaweed cultivation, and Air New Zealand is one of the airlines looking at seaweed, algae, and oil seeds to fuel their fleet.

Most likely, to replace petro-fuels with biofuels, it will be necessary to use significant areas of both land and ocean for growing fuel crops--until advanced synthetic biology finds ways to boost bio-production far beyond current known limits.

Japan, Korea, and China are other countries making use of extensive seaweed cultivation. But coastlines alone may not be enough. As discussed previously, artificial islands or seasteads may become important "ocean farms" for production of bio-energy--turning vast regions of mid-ocean "deserts" into scattered oasis, teeming with useful life.

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Approaches to Algae Energy

Algae is one of the most primitive forms of life. But this primitive lifeform may help provide a bridge for humans to pass relatively unscathed from the petroleum economy to a more sustainable economy. Inventive researchers are trying different approaches:
Microalgae, the simplest and most primitive plants, are generally more efficient converters of solar energy than terrestrial plants and have a much higher energy potential. This possibility has lured entrepreneurs and venture capitalists into the research fray.

Start-ups in the United States and elsewhere are investigating myriad processes and products derived from two basic models: closed or open systems.

Closed systems use photobioreactors, clear containers that allow growers to carefully control the species and the environment...Open systems grow algae in ponds, raceways, or even in the wild.

LiveFuels uses open ponds to grow algae that are indigenous to the local environment, hoping that this will avoid the invasion problem. Since algae need nutrients to grow, including nitrogen and phosphorous, the company plans to feed agricultural runoff water - polluted with nitrogen and phosphorous fertilizers - into its ponds...

Bionavitas, of Redmond, Washington, also grows native algae, but in deep, narrow canals, with a special optical system to bring light to the algae beneath the surface. It too hopes to harness nutrients from polluted wastewater; and because intense carbon dioxide inputs can speed growth, it envisages setting up sites next to a factory that could funnel smokestack emissions directly into its canals.

Vertigro, a U.S. company based in Vancouver, Canada, is testing single varieties of algae, grown in bioreactors that resemble hanging plastic bags, to see which grows best in a closed environment and produces the most oil. Its business plan is to sell its system to companies that would use it for commercial biofuel production...

Blue Marble Energy is putting algal biomass in anaerobic digesters to produce industrial chemicals and methane. The latter is combusted in a turbine to generate electricity and could also be used in fuel cells, said the chief executive, Kelly Ogilvie. Saleable byproducts include ammonia, anhydrous ammonia, and other industrial chemicals currently made with petroleum.

"It all comes down to how much is it going to cost to get a gallon of that oil," ...costs currently range from $6 to $100 a gallon, depending on the method...To reduce that cost the laboratory is focusing on the development of commercial co-products, like ethanol or animal feed, which could help to improve profitability.
The devil is in the details. Profitability depends upon trimming the process to its essentials, making the best use of products and by-products, and the continual application of focused innovation.

Algae do not ask for much. Sunlight, CO2, minimal nutrients, saltwater, brackish water or wastewater. It should not go unstated that it is business that is driving this promising approach to cleaner and more sustainable energy. Environmental lobbies seem focused strictly upon acquiring more power and money, for apparently inbred reasons of their own.


Saturday, June 28, 2008

Me, Mad? Are You Insane???

You are looking at me strangely, but what I tell you is true. You think that solar cells and wind turbines are the measure of natural energy. Bah! I tell you that you are much too timid. Look more deeply into the Earth, for example--into the volcano!
Alaskan officials announced the exploration of the state's volcanoes, saying they could be exploited to provide energy for thousands of homes.

Companies are being invited to lease the rights to explore geothermal resources beneath Mount Spurr, a snowcapped 11,070-foot volcano that most recently erupted in 1992 showering much of Anchorage with volcanic ash. _Source
Yes, are you starting to understand? Or look to the madness of the atmosphere, and seize the power of the tornado!
Michaud got the notion of a man-made tornado — what he calls the Atmospheric Vortex Engine (AVE) — while working as an engineer on gas turbines.

The AVE structure is a 200-meter-wide arena with 100-meter-high walls. Warm humid air enters at the sides, directed to flow in a circular fashion. As the air whirls around at speeds up to 200 mph, a vacuum forms in the center, which holds the vortex together as it extends several miles into the sky. _Source
Or, better yet, call down lightning bolts from the sky! You scoff, but I have seen it.
The mobile laser system is capable of creating long plasma channels inside clouds by firing ultra short laser pulses. Measurements before and after the experiment revealed that the laser system was able to increase the electrical activity inside the cloud, in the general direction where the beam was pointed, thus determining local electrical increasing the laser pulses by a factor of 10, they would be able to create longer plasma channels, in order to trigger air-to-ground electrical discharges.

Lightning triggering rockets are only 50 percent efficient and require a lot of time and money to operate. By using a laser system, the process could become much faster, cheaper and could be used for a series of applications which cannot be carried out with the current technology. _Source
But perhaps you are not impressed? Perhaps you have looked at these things before and think them beyond the grasp of men. Then you will surely scoff at this--energy from hydrogen to hydrino conversion! A hoax, you say? If a hoax, it is the most elaborate hoax I have seen!
BlackLight Power has invented a novel chemical process of causing the latent energy stored in the hydrogen atom to be released as a new primary energy source. This allows the negatively charged electron that is otherwise in a stable orbit to move closer to the naturally attracting, positively charged nucleus to generate power as heat. BlackLight Power has recently achieved a breakthrough in power generation by the invention of a solid fuel that uses conventional chemical reactions to generate the catalyst and atomic hydrogen at high reactant densities that in turn achieves very high power densities. Plant designs utilize continuous regeneration of the solid fuel mixture using known industrial processes, and the only consumable, the hydrogen fuel, is obtained ultimately from water due to the enormous net energy release relative to combustion. _Source
I dare you to visit the site and study the papers that describe the science and technology involved! We will then see who it is that is insane! (more here and here)

The things I could tell you ... tapping the energy of the stars for example, or creating an artificial black hole. Or a matter-antimatter power generator! What about powering a reactor with nectar distilled from moonbeam residue?

I tell you, since my last lightning experiment, I cannot remember anything from the past, but these energy ideas fly through my mind at the speed of light! Yes, I see you looking at each other and shaking your heads. But I do not have time for your doubts. I hear a thunderstorm approaching. I must quickly gather my apparatus and climb the tower steps....

Previously published at Al Fin

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Friday, June 27, 2008

Would You Believe 65% of Petrol from Biofuels?

A study by America’s Departments of Energy and Agriculture suggests that even with only small changes to existing practice, 1.3 billion tonnes of plant matter could be collected from American soil without affecting food production. If this were converted into ethanol using the best technology available today, it would add up to the equivalent of 350 billion litres of petrol, or 65% of the country’s current petrol consumption. And that is before specially bred energy crops and other technological advances are taken into account. _Economist
Whether 30% or 65%, obviously replacing a sizeable part of world petroleum consumption with biofuels would make a difference to the geopolitics of oil. Much lower oil consumption would put the oil dictatorships of Africa, South America, Asia, and the middle east, into a far less potent and threatening posture. Terrorist groups supported by such dictatorships--like Hezbollah, FARC, al Qaeda, etc. would likewise lose influence and power to disrupt normal activity.

Long-term prospects for oil are poor, given the technological ability to replace petroleum with more renewable energy sources. It is only a matter of working through the processes and letting the market sort them out.


Thursday, June 26, 2008

30 per cent of All Liquid Fuels from Biomass

Biomass to liquid fuels (BTL) is a potentially lucrative industry, being pursued by numerous companies from different directions. One popular approach with biotechnologists, is the development of micro-organisms and enzyme systems capable of turning biomass into diesel, jet fuel, and gasoline.
Amyris first studied the highest performing compounds of diesel, gasoline and jet fuel, then tinkered with the genetic structures of E. coli and yeast to produce bioequivalents, Renninger says, leveraging the same cutting-edge technology previously employed to produce pharmaceutical-quality medicines at commodity-level prices. ...It projects commercial production of some 30 million gallons of diesel as early as 2010, with production of gasoline and jet fuel roughly one and two years behind, respectively.

LS9 plans to open a pilot facility this summer and a 50- to 100-million-gallon plant three years later, producing a drop-in replacement for diesel, as well as a biocrude to be processed in traditional refineries. Rogue scientist J. Craig Venter, who helped lead an international consortium of scientists to map the human genome, has announced plans to engineer bacteria able to create hydrocarbons not just from sugars, but from CO2 pulled straight from the atmosphere.

"If you look at where sugar cane is in Brazil, or at where biomass will be here in the near future, we're pretty confident that we can compete with oil around the $50-a-barrel range," Pal says. "The key driver of the cost really is the cost of raw materials."

... Until technologies exist to easily derive sugars from tough cellulosic material, such as corn's remaining stalks, leaves and cobs, companies like LS9 and Amyris are likely to feed their fuels with sugar cane—a relatively green source of easy-to-use sucrose, albeit one with limited domestic potential.

As the world continues to consume some 150 million gallons of oil every hour, any potentially game-changing solutions will need not only to work, but to work cheaply and at truly massive scales.

"We could be harvesting on a sustainable basis over a billion tons of dry biomass in the United States if we got serious about it, and that would get us somewhere close to 30 percent of our liquid transportation fuels," NREL's McMillan says. "So while sucrose is undoubtedly part of the solution, to really get that huge volume impact, you have to go to those cellulosic feedstocks."
Once mature, these approaches could compete with petroleum fuels as long as oil is at least $50 a barrel. Once optimised, they will be viable with oil as low as $30 a barrel. But by then, who would want to buy oil at all? Environmental mandates and regulations will probably put oil and coal off-limits, once bioenergy, clean nuclear, enhanced geothermal and other advanced renewables combined with utility scale storage and improved transmission capacity come on-line.

With various unconventional approaches to nuclear fusion on the horizon, along with other even more unconventional approaches to unlimited energy--it is important for all viable approaches to clean energy production to be pursued, to bridge the gap.

Long-term, bioenergy makes sense primarily for small, local economies--particularly in the third world. But until the potential of clean, big energy is achieved through nuclear and other physical means, humans will need to fall back on their oldest energy source. Bioenergy: solar energy with its own built-in storage.

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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Combined Heat and Power for Food Plants

Many types of food processing plants including sugar and starch refiners, breweries, cereal makers, potato processing plants, etc. can use the organic waste byproducts of their normal operations to create fuel that will both provide process heat and generate electricity for plant operation--CHP. If they are truly thrifty, they can then mine the waste heat from processing to generate yet more electricity, and sell it to the utility if it exceeds their needs.
The Royal Brewery CHP plant will produce 7.4 megawatts (MW) of thermal power and 3.1 MW of electricity, fueled by a mixture of spent grain left over from the brewing process and clean wood waste. Wood is required due to insufficient quantities of spent grain.

Before the spent grain is fed to the boiler, the moisture content is reduced from 80 percent to 60 percent, Kuitunen explains. “That is good enough for our combustion system.”

Food processing giant Tate & Lyle PLC is installing a biomass-fired CHP system at its east London sugar refinery. Wheat husks, a byproduct of flour production, will fuel a $41.4 million, 65-MW biomass boiler. Using biomass will slash energy consumption from fossil fuels by 70 percent, with a corresponding 70 percent reduction in carbon emissions. Steam produced by the boiler will generate electricity and satisfy the refinery’s process heat requirements. Excess power produced by the system will be sold to the National Grid.

McCain Foods in Whittlesey, U.K., constructed an 828,000-square-foot covered anaerobic lagoon to process wastewater from the U.K.’s largest french fry factory. Wastewater containing potato starch generated during processing is piped to the lagoon and produces more than 400-standard-cubic-feet per minute of biogas. The firm may add other potato wastes, such as peels and nubbins, to increase biogas production.

Initially, the biogas fueled a boiler to produce steam but an engineering study determined that more value could be derived from the biogas by producing electricity, explains Carmine Fontana, vice president of gas processing for Ontario, Canada-based Eco-Tec. The biogas now feeds a General Electric Jenbacher reciprocating engine that produces more than 1 MW of electricity, satisfying 10 percent of the plant’s electrical requirements. Heat generated by the engine warms the lagoon.

Austria-based Agrana, one of Central Europe’s leading sugar and starch producers, recently installed a $10.5 million AD system at its sugar refinery in Kaposvár, Hungary. The digester processes spent beet pulp and beet syrup to produce almost 3.9 million cubic feet of biogas a day.

The biogas feeds the plant’s boiler to produce steam, which drives a turbine generating electricity and is used for process heat. The biogas replaces 60 percent of the plant’s energy requirements and cuts carbon emissions by 10,000 tons.

Insource is focusing on six sectors in the food and drink industry that are well-suited for waste-to-energy systems: distilling, brewing and soft drinks, red meat, dairy products, fruit and vegetables, frozen and chilled foods. “We are looking for high volumes of consistent types of wastes, which work best with the technologies available,” Coate says.

The company is currently working with five major U.K. food and beverage companies. “In many cases, AD and CHP are the most appropriate technologies,” Coate says. However, the company can deploy a wide range of technologies since no single technology can treat all wastes.

Recently NISP started working with Severn Trent Water, the U.K.’s largest independent water company, to divert industrial food waste from landfills to STW’s AD plants across the U.K. “There is a big move in the U.K. for companies to build new AD plants to process food wastes,” says James Woodcock, NSIP practitioner. “Being familiar with STW and the water industry in general, I thought there are a lot of these plants in existence already treating sewage mixed with industrial waste.”

STW utilizes AD to treat more than 700,000 gallons of wastewater and sewage a day. Biogas produced by the digesters fuels CHP units generating 154,000 MW hours of electricity, representing 17 percent of STW’s electrical requirements. Thermal energy is used in the treatment process.

Adding industrial organic wastes to STW’s AD systems will increase biogas production and renewable energy generation, improving the sustainability of the treatment process. Industrial food waste producers will benefit by cutting waste disposal costs by as much as two-thirds over landfill costs, Woodcock says. __BiomassMag
Most large plants have the ability to either cogenerate heat and power, or the ability to mine significant amounts of waste heat to create electrical power. Being able to use waste products as fuel to power the CHP is an added dividend.

Ethanol biofuels makers have been learning critical lessons about resourcefulness in the face of rising fuel costs. The ones who succeed will be the ones who take advantage of every source of energy they can find--particularly energy that once was considered "waste."

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Getting Heavy Oil to Market, Clueless Obama Declares War on Canada Oil Sands

Heavy oil from oil sands in Alberta and Saskatchewan are moving to fill the gap in US supply caused by problems in Venezuelan and Mexican supplies.
* Already the world leaders in bitumen production and an important producer of conventional heavy, Canadians have roughly doubled their non-upgraded bitumen production in less than four years.
* American decision-makers would be delighted to replace politically volatile Venezuelan supply with low-risk Canadian product, and Venezuela’s present leadership would be equally happy to develop markets elsewhere.
* Mexico’s supergiant Cantarell heavy oil field is in steep decline, but Canada has the productive potential to offset the shortfalls.
* The isolation of the Canadian prairies from the world’s sea lanes and from America’s major refining centres means bitumen producers can’t freely compete in world markets. Consequently, they get lower prices.
* As price-takers in North American markets, Canada’s producers have to settle for lower profits, and the province has to settle for diminished royalty revenue. __Seekingalpha
Meanwhile, presidential hopeful and baby senator from Illinois, Barack Obama, has been making ominous noises about the prospects for the tar sands market in the US.
Yesterday, Mr. Obama vowed to break America's addiction to "dirty, dwindling and dangerously expensive" oil if elected U. S. president -- and he said one of his first targets may well be imports from Canada's oil sands. A senior advisor to Obama's campaign said it's an "open question" whether Alberta's oil sands fit with Obama's vision for shifting the U. S. dramatically away from carbon-intensive fuels.

The moves follow the adoption in December by the U. S. federal government of a law that bans federal procurement of alternative fuels that generate more greenhouse gases than "conventional sources," which could include oil from the oil sands. A campaign by the Canadian sector to exclude Canada's oil has yet to bear fruit.

Meanwhile, California has adopted low-carbon fuel standards that disfavour Canada's production. __NP
Each of these moronic moves by various US governments and officials have pushed gasoline and oil prices ever higher on the futures markets. One could easily be forgiven for asking the question: "Whose side are these morons on, anyway?"

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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Proving Oil Shale at $30 a Barrel?

The Green River area of Utah, Wyoming, and Colorado is said to contain more oil equivalent than all the known reserves in Saudi Arabia. This has yet to be proven. If the US Congress would kindly get out of the way, several people in the oil industry would like to have the chance to demonstrate the promise of oil shale.
Bullion Monarch Mining is pleased to announce it has begun construction on a pre-production demonstration plant to extract oil from oil shale. The plant is anticipated to demonstrate a scale feasibility of producing oil from oil shale at a target cost of below $30 USD per barrel.

...The oil shale is heated to approximately 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit, which releases the oil from the shale in a gaseous form, and then is cooled to become liquid oil. The pilot plant is expected to be completed by late 2008.

This patent pending process has been shown in advanced computer modeling done by the Idaho National Labs, part of the DOE, as a subcontractor for Emery Energy, to use less than three gallons of water per barrel of oil produced and has CO2 sequestering capabilities. EnShale's intent is to mine underground and disturb as little of the surface as possible. __EnergyDaily
This "gasification" method of creating liquid oil from oil shale appears to have minimal adverse environmental impact, compared to the nightmare scenarios that large and powerful environmental lobbies are using to sway congress.

Another approach developed by Raytheon using microwave energy may actually use less energy and be cleaner than the EnShale approach. It is important that the US Congress step back and allow the industry to test the resource and demonstrate its capability to extract the resource responsibly. A period of high oil prices that seriously impact national industry is a time for these irresponsible legislative prohibitions to end.

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Monday, June 23, 2008

Portable Biomass Gasifiers on the Move

Biomass gasification to syngas is becoming the most efficient means of turning waste biomass and garbage into electrical energy. In Iraq, portable gasifier/generators will be undergoing field tests by the US military throughout the summer until August. The use of portable on-site gasifier/generators in Iraq should cut down on the military fuel convoys that have been subject to ambush and deadly IED attacks.

In Washington DC, Auburn University students have been demonstrating their own portable gasifier-on-a-trailer system to the public and hopefully to clueless US legislators.
Auburn University is showing off its mobile bioenergy unit in the nation’s capitol this week, converting wood chips into electricity on the back of a truck near the National Mall.

The mobile unit, used to promote awareness of biomass energy technologies, converts wood chips, switchgrass and other agricultural byproducts into gas, which can be used to generate electricity or converted into liquid fuel. __Source
The synthetic gas can then be used to fuel an engine that can produce electricity to power and heat remote operations such as poultry houses, green houses or other comparable business operations. The unit can be fueled using wood chips, but AU researchers want to see if other feedstocks, such as poultry litter, and a variety of woody residue materials can also be used.

In addition to demonstrating concepts for generating electrical power and heat, using renewable resources abundantly available in Alabama, AU’s Center for Bioenergy and Bioproducts will work with Alabama Power and Community Power Corporation to identify possible economic improvements of this distributed gasification capability as a supplement to more traditional energy sources, such as coal and water.

The use of small gasifiers, like the AU unit, distributed to poultry farms, saw mill operations or other operations where renewable resources are plentiful and do not have to be transported long distances can help power companies meet their renewable energy goals. Both in the field and on campus, the unit becomes a real world classroom helping to train engineering students to form a pool of gasification-trained engineers ready to enter the workforce in this critical energy area. __Source
Gasification of waste biomass and garbage creates H2 and CO, or syngas. Syngas, once cleaned, can either be:
  1. burned in gas turbines to generate electricity
  2. fired to create steam--which can then be used to drive steam turbines to generate electricity.
  3. fermented to make alcohols
  4. run through a F-T process with catalysis to make a wide range of hydrocarbons.

The most economical and high yield methods of performing all of the above tasks--and likely others--are being intensively worked out by scientists, engineers, and inventors around the world.

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Sunday, June 22, 2008

Dynamic Fuels LLC, BTL, Fischer-Tropsch a "Go"

The company Dynamic Fuels is a partnership venture between Syntroleum Corporation and Tyson Foods, located in a Gulf Opportunity Zone--a tax free enterprise area.
Dynamic Fuels will initially use the Syntroleum “Bio-Synfining” process—a biomass-optimized third-stage of Syntroleum’s full Fischer-Tropsch-based synthetic fuels process—to produce renewable diesel and renewable jet fuel. Bio-Synfining in essence treats fats, greases and vegetables oils as a Fischer-Tropsch wax, and upgrades them to renewable diesel (R-2) and renewable jet fuel (R-8).

...A planned second stage to the plant will add full biomass-to-liquid (BTL) processing to the operating Bio-Synfining plant. In other words, in addition to upgrading oils, fats and greases, Dynamic fuels will also gasify biomass, process the syngas in a Fischer-Tropsch reactor, and flow the resulting FT wax into the third Bio-Synfining stage.

The Bio-Synfining stage converts the triglyceride molecules in fats and oils to normal paraffin isomers through hydrogenation, thermal depolymerization and isomerization. The result is conversion to a full bio-hydrocarbon molecule.

The Geismar plant will have a production capacity of 75 million gallons per year, with synthetic diesel being the primary product.

The plant will apparently be able to use biomass and bio-oils as feedstock, as well as coal and gas. All feedstocks will be refined to liquid fuels such as diesel or jet fuel. A flexible feedstock facility will be able to take advantage of the most economical, plentiful, and advantageous feedstocks as they become available throughout the year. Ideally, the amount of re-tooling and equipment modification when converting from feedstock to feedstock would be minimal.

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More on Direct Carbon Fuel Cells

Converting coal and biomass carbon directly to electricity offers several advantages:
* Combines effective methods that extract the liquid hydrocarbons from coal and produce a solid carbon fuel
* Generates two separate energy products (liquid petroleum and electricity) from coal, America’s major domestic energy source
* Utilizes fuels with high sulfur content and doesn’t require expensive sulfur-sensitive catalysts
* Logistics fuels produced are low sulfur
* Does not require hydrogen to generate electricity
* Reduces dependence on foreign oil
* Provides independent source of logistics fuels
* Exceeds 35% efficiency of current coal-burning electrical-generation plants

The DCFC generates electricity from solid carbon using an electrochemical process which is more efficient than combustion. The process converts a 100 megawatt-hour amount of coal into 33 megawatt-hours equivalent of transporation fuels and 31 megawatt-hours of electricity.

DCFC technology doesn’t require expensive sulfur-sensitive catalysts, so it effectively utilizes fuels with high sulfur content, and does not require any hydrogen to generate electricity.
Using torrefied biomass allows you to avoid the costly pollution (mercury etc) extracting steps necessary when processing coal for this purpose.

More information at this PDF reprint file Fuel Cell Review

The emphasis to this point has been on using coal for efficient direct electrical generation. As the infrastructure for biomass torrefaction matures, it is likely that this process will be used for direct conversion of the less toxic biomass product.

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Saturday, June 21, 2008

Hybrid Fuel Cells and the Bioenergy Future

UK researchers have combined two types of fuel cells, and made some important discoveries about the use of solid carbon--including biomass carbon--in efficient fuel cell power production.
Direct carbon fuel cells run on solid carbon fuel and typically use solid oxide or molten carbonate electrolytes to transport ions between the electrodes. John Irvine at the University of St Andrews and colleagues made a hybrid direct carbon fuel cell containing both types of electrolyte. They found that the binary electrolyte system enhanced carbon oxidation because carbon was oxidised not only on the electrode surface but also in the carbon-electrolyte slurry...

Solid carbon, which comes from various sources such as coal or plants, packs a lot of energy into a small volume, making it an attractive fuel. Irvine states that coal will be a major energy source in the future but, unless it can be converted into electricity more efficiently, will lead to an increase in carbon dioxide emissions. Fuel cells could be the answer, he says. 'Carbon fuel cells offer very high efficiency of conversion and, if implemented in the correct way, can yield two to three times the amount of energy for a given amount of coal compared to conventional thermal generation,' he explains. __Source_via_fuelcellworks
The carbon fuel cell appears to be an even more efficient means to produce cellulosic electricity than using the gasification to turbine (steam or gas) routes. Thermal generation from coal or torrefied biomass may achieve 30% to 40% electric generation efficiency (above 50% in combined cycle operation). Fuel cell generation efficiencies might reach above 80% combined cycle, eventually higher.

The promise of 90% or higher efficiencies from biomass electricity production is a potent goal.

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Friday, June 20, 2008

Oil Speculators Can Go Both Ways

Oil speculators in the commodities market have been at least partially responsible for the inflated runup in oil prices in recent weeks and months. The psychology of oil speculators--their beliefs concerning current and future supply and demand (S&D) and real world events that may impact on S&D--determines how far they will go in driving prices, often erratically.

Larry Kudlow offers his support to the beleaguered oil speculator, and suggests that the best way to get the speculator to influence prices downward is to project a "reality" of increased supply into the future:
The Democratic argument — which I heard again last night on my show from Robert Reich — is that it will take ten years to lift new oil, which will never help today’s price problem. Obama says exactly the same thing, as do Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, and all the rest. But they’re forgetting the role of oil traders.

Oil futures markets have contracts that run out five years and beyond. If these traders — or “speculators” — believe new oil supplies are on the way in the future, they will sell those out-year contracts. And before long market arbitragers will backward-ize those price drops toward the spot market, bringing prices down there as well.

In other words, trader/speculators can be very handy instruments of energy (and economic) policies. If demand exceeds supply they are buyers. But a prospective future supply increase makes them sellers. In a free market prices move both ways. And if Sen. McCain would take the time to learn this he could respond accordingly to Obama’s silly criticism that we shouldn’t drill because it will “take too long.” __RealClearMarkets
So it is not really necessary to have more supply than demand, or more demand than supply. It is only necessary that speculators believe that S&D are in a particular configuration, or will be in the future. Those who can influence the beliefs of speculators may be the ultimate puppet-masters, if they can act without detection, and reap profits without ruining a good thing.


Thursday, June 19, 2008

Synthetic Biology Approaches to BioEnergy

Agrivida is one of a number of companies using designer proteins to help produce biofuel. Companies such as Amyris Biotechnologies, Codexis, Gevo, LS9, Mascoma and SunEthanol are trying to develop custom enzymes using synthetic biology to convert non-food biomass into fuel. But unlike Agrivida, most are focusing on growing microbes that will digest the crop in a refinery. __Bioenergycheckbiotech
Working mostly behind-the-scene, biotech companies are trying to cash in on the ravenous appetite of the global economy for fuel. Petroleum prices are currently in control of global economies, and at current levels high oil prices are beginning to put on the economic brakes. To prevent inflation, many central banks have raised interest rates or are threatening to do so.

Bio-energy holds the promise of a virtually limitless, sustainable fuel supply. Call it "solar energy with its own built-in storage." Synthetic biology takes conventional bioenergy approaches, adds steroids and methamphetamine, and threatens to add nitrous oxide and rocket fuel.
...tweaking enzymes and bacteria to our own ends - a process called "synthetic biology" - is potentially big business. For instance, scientists are working on a new generation of corn that will rot from the inside out once harvested and heated, to produce higher-yielding biofuels.

...Now the US-based company Agrivida aims to insert a gene that will make an enzyme that does nothing until the corn is heated in a reactor to around 60C. Triggered by the heat, the enzyme will change shape and function, attacking the tough materials that form the cell wall.

Artificial enzymes are already used in medicine and biological washing powder. But most are the result of accelerated "directed" evolution from enzymes found in the wild. For its protein switch, Agrivida needed an enzyme designed almost from scratch, as nothing in nature came close to doing the job.
Some companies want to use engineered micro-organisms as living enzyme system reactors. Other companies want to use the enzymes outside of the organism in a reactor. The common element is the flexibility of protein catalysts--enzymes--in design and biosynthesis. Protein engineering is a form of bio-nanotechnology--a growing field. Understanding that molecular nanotechnology is the long range goal, but knowing that biology has already mastered one form of molecular nanotechnology, gives nanotechnologists an excellent starting point.

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Advanced Geothermal Under Study

EGS are systems of engineered reservoirs created by drilling deep wells into hot rock, fracturing the rock, and circulating a fluid through the wells to extract heat. __GCC
The US Department of Energy is offering up to $90 million to advance the state of the art in enhanced geothermal energy production. By the year 2050, enhanced geothermal may generate 20% of the electricity produced by US utilities.
The DOE report found that there are three critical assumptions about EGS technology that require thorough evaluation and testing before the economic viability of EGS can be confirmed:

1. Demonstration of commercial-scale reservoir. This requires stimulation and maintenance of a large volume of rock (equivalent to several cubic kilometers) in order to minimize temperature decline in the reservoir. Actual stimulated volumes have not been reliably quantified in previous work.

2. Sustained reservoir production. The MIT study concludes that 200°C fluid flowing at 80 kg/sec (equivalent to about 5 MWe) is needed for economic viability. No EGS project to date has attained flow rates in excess of ~25 kg/sec.

3. Replication of EGS reservoir performance. EGS technology has not been proven to work at commercial scales over a range of sites with different geologic characteristics. __GCC
The actual available energy in the hot dry rock layers far exceeds all energy used by humans on Earth. It will require new technology to retrieve that energy, however. Geothermal is baseload energy--available 24 hours a day, every day. Until we have space-based solar, or until utility scale electrical storage is cheaper than dirt, that advantage puts geothermal far ahead of other renewables.

Let's see, 20% of US electricity from enhanced geothermal, 20% of US electricity from waste heat recovery--before you know it, you're talking about real power.


Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Three Crops of Sugar Cane a Year in Vietnam

Vietnam's economy is picking up for multiple reasons. Besides providing abundant, cheap labour to companies avoiding China, Vietnam also has an ideal climate for growing a large variety of bioenergy crops including sugarcane, cassava, and rice.
Vietnam was chosen for the project because of the access to cheap raw material there. Cassava, byproducts from rice processing and sugar cane will be used to make the biofuel. The climate in Vietnam permits the production of three crops per year of those materials.

...Rostekhnologia owns shares in two other joint ventures in Vietnam, the Simprimfiko fishery (50%) and rubber producer Visorutex (32%). Rostekhnologia received its share in the latter company by reinvesting part of Vietnam’s debt to the USSR in its plantations. __Bioenergycheckbiotech
Vietnam should also present an ideal climate for growing a wide array of tropical oilseed crops including jatropha, pongamia, moringa, palm oil, and coconut. Brazilian diesel trees also require a tropical or sub-tropical climate.

Until algal oil becomes economical to produce, developed world markets in more temperate climates must either use 1st generation bio-oils such as soy and rape, or import higher yield oilseeds from tropical growing regions. Already, large new developments of palm oil are being installed in several nations of Southeast Asia and Africa. Large plantations of palm oil will unfortunately be destabilising both ecologically and economically to the small scale local economies of many of these regions. See more on this topic in regard to D.R. Congo here.

Much preferred for the sake of small regional economies, is the co-cultivation of oilseed shrubs such as jatropha and moringa with other crops--to supply local needs and to provide local cash for other expenditures.

It is Al Fin's hope that many of the NGO's dealing with third world micro-economies will abandon their self-righteous attacks on biofuels, and become pro-active in promoting small, local scale industry and agriculture in bioenergy.


Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Nuclear Safety Primer

Energy from Thorium blog provides a series of basic articles on nuclear safety worth looking over.





Highly recommended for anyone wanting to become more informed on safety issues in nuclear power. Al Fin sees nuclear energy as a very useful baseload energy source that needs much wider implementation. The Thorium fuel cycle is inherently safer than the current Uranium fuel cycle, since Thorium is not easily bred to weapons grade materials.

Nuclear fission is a bridge technology meant to provide clean, reliable energy for both special-use applications (long distance ships, space colonies, remote location facilities), and general electrical energy provision. Nuclear fusion with direct conversion to electricity (without requiring heat engines) and without significant radioactive waste, is the ideal energy form for the indefinite future--in addition to solar, geothermal, OTEC, biomass/biofuels, and renewables specific to location. Farther out, matter-antimatter reactors and even more exotic forms of energy will probably be required.

For more information on progress on the Bussard electrostatic confinement reactor, see NextBigFuture


Breeding High Energy Super-Sorghum Promising

Mendel Biotechnology and MMR Genetics are collaborating to create a new "super-sorghum" for biofuels and biomass.
MMR Genetics and Mendel will jointly establish a bioenergy nursery, which will be used to breed new, high-performing sorghum cultivars with unique biofuels characteristics. Richardson Seeds will produce commercial quantities of selected cultivars.

..."Sorghum has the genetic potential - because of its yield capacities, adaptation ranges, and germplasm diversity - to provide superior second-generation biofuels and assist in alleviating dependence on fossil energy sources,” said Dr. Fred Miller, senior sorghum breeder and owner of MMR Genetics. “MMR Genetics and Mendel will be able to move our high quality forage and biomass programs to exciting new levels through our association by creating tailor-made commercial feedstocks for these new markets.”

Under the terms of the agreement, MMR Genetics will contribute germplasm, breeding know-how and services, and nursery operations; Mendel will provide funding and research and breeding assistance and will have exclusive commercial rights to selected cultivars. Richardson Seeds will provide seed production research and produce commercial quantities of selected cultivars. __BioenergyCheckBiotech
Such biotech applications of gene engineering to biofuel feedstock should yield fairly quick results. Anyone judging the future of biofuels upon current maize-to-ethanol processes is apt to miss the mark quite badly.

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Monday, June 16, 2008

MicroReactor Biodiesel and $30 a Barrel Crude

University of Texas at Arlington researchers have developed a microreactor the size of a small suitcase that can make biodiesel from vegetable oil in less than four minutes (usually takes 90 minutes), and do so in a continuous process. The same process promises to convert cheap "brown coal" into heavy crude oil for $30 a barrel.
"Because the mixing of the reactants takes place on a micro scale, the complete chemical reaction is much faster than in a traditional batch reactor," Dr. Billo explained.

"When many micro-reactors are used in parallel, one large operation can produce the same amount of biodiesel per year as a traditional batch production plant."

Size of a suitcase

Dr. Billo also pointed out that traditional plants costs tens of millions of dollars, but a micro-reactor plant would cost tens of thousands of dollars to process the same amount of biodiesel fuel. And each micro-reactor will be about the size of a small suitcase.

Now Dr. Dennis has added an emphasis on turning liquefied lignite into heavy crude oil that could be used by existing refineries to produce gasoline, motor oil and other petroleum products such as plastics. __Source__via__BiofuelsDigest


A Most Revealing Graph

What is lacking in the entire "food vs. fuels" debate is a sense of proportion. Read more.

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The Future of Corn Ethanol: Making the Most of It

A Kansas based company has developed a way to make something for almost everyone out of each grain of field corn used in its corn ethanol process.
The new technology, developed over a decade of research at ICM plants in Colwich and St. Joseph, Mo., adds new product lines to the ethanol production process while reducing the consumption of fossil fuels, enzymes and water, said David Vander Griend, president of ICM.

The process -- called Total Kernel Optimization or TKO -- will be unveiled Monday at the International Fuel Ethanol Workshop in Nashville...The new process can be installed in an operating ethanol plant without interrupting current production, Vander Griend said. Paying for the upgrade by using revenue from increased product lines is expected to take 18 to 24 months.

The new process is "dry mill" or "dry fractionation" as opposed to the current "wet milling" process that produces human food such as corn oil, corn starch and high fructose corn syrup; ethanol, and distillers grain for animal feed.

It more fully separates the components of the corn kernel to create germ, endosperm and fiber.

From the germ, oil and protein are harvested for the human food market.

The endosperm provides starch and protein. The starch becomes ethanol and the protein is human food.

The fiber from both becomes fuel to power the plant. __Source__via__BiofuelsDigest
A lot of innovations packed into one new process. This is important, given the high cost of feedstock and the public concern over potential diversion of food to fuel.


Sunday, June 15, 2008

Heat Recovery: 20% of US Electrical Energy Possible Without Burning Any More Fuel’s estimated that energy recovery systems installed in the U.S. industrial facilities could produce up to 20 percent of the country’s electricity needs without burning any additional fossil fuel. Source
Recovering electrical energy from industrial waste heat is a growing enterprise. Gigawatts of energy are escaping into the atmosphere as waste heat, when they could be recovered and turned into much needed electrical power--to power the new electric vehicle fleets and to empower economic growth.

China Energy Recovery Inc. is taking advantage of this valuable niche in China and Southeast Asia and Africa.
China Energy Recovery Inc. has announced the completion of two major waste-heat recovery systems in China, as well as plans for others in Malaysia and Congo. The company has also identified business development potential in the emerging biofuels industry that runs parallel with heat generation.

...The energy recovery systems installed by CER in China are capable of generating approximately 14 megawatts of electricity and nearly 27 megawatts of directly usable heat energy through the capture and harnessing of waste-heat, the company said in a press release. The Malaysian project is intended for a biofuels combustion system with a planned production of 3 megawatts of electricity and 2.9 megawatts of heat energy, according to the company.

Qinghuan said CER has extensive experience in installing and operating systems in various industries, such as steel manufacturing, cement, paper mills, and petro-chemical. “Our systems have proven effective under extremely demanding circumstances and in many different types of industries,” he said. “We’re looking forward to these opportunities to expand our services into new regions and to further demonstrate to the global community the advanced solutions for heat energy recovery CER has achieved.” __Biomass
The ability of a society to make productive use of waste is a good measure of its level of evolution.

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Moringa Oleifera--Edible Weed Produces Oilseed

Considered one of the world’s most useful trees, as almost every part of the Moringa tree can be used for food, or has some other beneficial property. In the tropics it is used as foliage for livestock. Wikipedia

Almost every part of the Moringa Oleifera plant is useful, yet it grows like a weed, without intensive cultivation. Only recently has Moringa been considered as an oilseed biofuel source.
“It has not been optimized as an oilseed crop, and there is no really easy harvest technique right now,” Tyson says. Presently, the leaves and pods are harvested by hand like jatropha. Mechanical seed harvesting equipment needs to be developed to commercially produce Moringa as an oilseed feedstock. Also, there’s not a lot of good seed yield data on Moringa, although Tyson says her literature search indicates yields of about 3 tons of seed per hectare (1.37 tons per acre), a bit less than what is currently reported as potential jatropha yields. The seeds contain 30 percent to 40 percent oil that is high in oleic acid. The meal yields about 61 percent protein. “The data on the oil quality is excellent,” she says. “It’s better than sunflower oil.” Meier adds that preliminary analysis shows biodiesel made from Moringa has better oxidative stability than biodiesel made with most other feedstocks, although the cloud point is similar to tallow and thus rather high. On the plus side, the seeds are relatively easy to crush using nonsolvent-based crushing techniques, he says.

“[Moringa is] certainly of interest and we’re trying to promote interest and research,” Meier says. “We’re looking for a collaborator on additional research.” He and Tyson speculate how it might be introduced into the United States. “It is rather complicated to develop a new crop in the United States,” Tyson says. However, she thinks it could be introduced much like soybeans were, being grown first in milder climates and moving northward as new varieties are developed to tolerate the colder climate. __Biodiesel
Moringa, like Jatropoha and Pangomia, is being groomed as an oilseed crop for biodiesel production. All three have similar oil yields. But they are distinctly different from each other, and should not be seen as interchangeable.

The incredibly nutritious nature of the various parts of the moringa plant suggest a possible role for moringa in space colonies where multi-functional organisms will be valued.

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Saturday, June 14, 2008

Keep Generating Power 24 hours with Combined Solar Thermal + Biomass Energy Plant

PG&E is finally discovering creative ways to provide baseload power to a very finicky California State government. By combining solar thermal power in the day, and biomass electric generation at night, the power utility will be able to produce renewable energy in a baseload form.
"This hybrid technology combines two renewable resources abundant inCalifornia -- solar energy and biofuel from the Central Valley," said Fong Wan, vice president of energy procurement at PG&E. "We will continue to add these types of innovative renewable energy sources to our power mix as we work to provide our customers with some of the cleanest energy in the nation and meet our state's climate change goals."

Martifer's renewable hybrid projects combine Luz solar thermal trough technology and steam turbines powered by biomass fuel to produce hybrid solar-biofuel renewable electricity. The incorporation of biofuel increases the overall production of renewable power by allowing for around-the-clock production of clean energy, even at night or when sunlight is not at its strongest. Each hybrid project will require 250,000 tons of biofuel annually, to be supplied from a combination of locally-produced agricultural wastes, green wastes and livestock manure. These projects are expected to begin operation in 2011. __Source
Biomass energy is simply solar energy with built-in storage. Although some forms of solar thermal provide a few hours of thermal storage for after-sunset power generation, in general when the sun goes down so does utility solar power. By using a form of renewable energy as a reliable backup for the dark hours, PG&E can provide reliable power without upsetting the incompetent yet fastidious ninnies who occupy the offices in California state government buildings.

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Friday, June 13, 2008

Sorghum in Place of Corn and Cane

Sorghum can provide bio-alcohols by multiple routes. Sweet sorghum contains sugars that can be fermented directly. Grain sorghum produces starches that can be converted to fermentable sugars similarly to maize starches. And the prolific cellulosic fibre in sorghum provides a plentiful cellulosic feedstock for newer cellulose-to-bioalcohol processes.
"Currently, feedstock for commercial ethanol production is about 95 percent from corn grain and about 4 percent from sorghum grain," Wang said. "Grain sorghum is a reasonable feedstock for ethanol and could make a larger contribution to the nation's fuel ethanol requirements.

"Due to climate variability and continuing decline of water resources, utilization of dry land to grow sorghum and forage sorghum is critically important to ensure available energy resources and sustainable economic development. Sorghum requires 40 percent less water than corn to grow and can be produced in the semiarid regions of the nation and the world," he said.

Major sorghum-producing states include Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. Sorghum outperforms corn on dry land. However, Wang said that sorghum has been underused for industrial applications, especially for bioenergy. He said there has been little research conducted on performance of grain sorghum for ethanol, especially on sorghum biomass - stalks and leaves - for biofuel production.
Al Fin is famous for saying: ethanol is for drinking, not for fuel. But given the high price for gasoline and diesel, even Al Fin is amenable to compromise on this point. In the long run, butanol and bio-gasoline make better fuels than ethanol. And neither butanol nor bio-gasoline are worth very much as beverages.

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Thursday, June 12, 2008

Forestry Waste for Diesel, Ethanol, Furfural

Cellulosic biomass can be turned into just about any hydrocarbon fuel that human chemical engineers can imagine. A lot of dead wood is sitting about forests thanks to the pine beetle. Ethanol producers in British Columbia, Washington, and Alabama are eager to put that waste to good use.

A Norwegian company is planning to make diesel fuel from wood waste.
The venture called Xynergo aims to build a prototype plant near Norske Skog's Follum plant in 2010. A full-scale facility could be on stream in 2015, producing enough fuel to meet about 15 percent of Norway's annual road transport diesel needs.

"We are now entering an exciting and demanding phase for production of second-generation biofuels," Xynergo managing director Klaus Schoffel said in a statement. __Bioenergy
Algenol is collaborating with Mexican BioFields to grow an algae that secretes ethanol in a continuous process.

Meanwhile several countries worldwide are looking at furfural, a byproduct of wood pulp processing, as a viable diesel substitute. Furfural burns much cleaner than regular diesel.

The wood pulp industry is well positioned to act as a bioenergy spearhead. By turning "waste" into useful energy, large pulpers are adding to their cash flow slowly but appreciably.


Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Vanadium Redox Flow Cells At Work in Canada and Alaska -- A "Game Changer"

Utility-Scale flow cell batteries promise a "perfect fit" with large solar and wind energy projects. In Canada and Alaska, VRB Power Systems Vanadium flow cells are already helping to smooth the output of wind turbine projects.
VRB vanadium flow battery technology is already smoothing wind turbine output for remote power hybrid wind-diesel applications in northern Canada and Alaska and providing frequency regulation, voltage support and blackstart capability.

These locations have turned to wind power because electricity costs have become unreasonably high due to the growing costs of diesel generation and to gain the environmental benefits associated with a renewable resource. A VRB flow battery is introduced to the hybrid wind-diesel system to firm up the wind power and to ensure that the generator runs on the most efficient setting. "With the current high cost of diesel in these remote communities, the pay-back for investments in storage is very attractive," said Brian Beck of VRB Power Systems. VRB claims that solar can also be added to this system.
Another promising utility-scale electrical storage method is the Sodium Sulfide (NaS) battery from NGK Insulators, Ltd., Japan.
With over 200 megawatts (MW) of NaS batteries installed worldwide, Japan-based NGK Insulators, Ltd is another battery storage company hoping to capitalize on that rapidly growing market. The company's NaS batteries, used mainly for load leveling, enable companies to sell cheap off-peak wind power during peak times, thereby fetching a higher price. There are 34 MW of these batteries being installed near the 51-MW Rokkasho wind farm, making it the largest combined wind and storage project in Japan. Stored indoors to protect them from the corrosive salty air of the region, 17 sets of 2-MW NaS battery units (each battery unit consists of 40 50-kW modules) are monitored alongside the weather and the Rokkasho wind farm in a control center.

New technological applications such as the sophisticated vanadium flow batteries of VRB Power and the NaS systems of NGK combined with a variety of other storage options such as pumped hydro and compressed air systems demonstrate that the intermittency concerns often associated with renewables like wind and solar are quickly becoming manageable issues.

Pumped hydro and compressed air systems do not have ideal availability or scalability. That is why the development of the redox flow cell and other scalable electric storage methods are so important to the rapid expansion of solar, wind, and other intermittent renewable energy schemes. Not to mention routine load-leveling which would save utilities significant sums of money every year, once implemented.

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Biomass Energy: Incremental Improvements Lead to Sustainable Fossil Replacement

Cellulosic electricity is accomplished in three stages:
1. Pre process the biomass for size and moisture content
2. Gasify the biomass in an oxygen-free atmosphere
3. Use the clean syn-gas to drive a heat engine, generating electricity.

This case history comes from Stoke-on-Trent, UK. A new 4.5 MWe cellulosic electricity plant is scheduled to come on line sometime this summer. But the engineers were having trouble with ash removal, an important adjunct to the gasification step. They were unable to devise a way of removing the ash, while maintaining an oxygen-free gasification environment.
Maintaining an oxygen-free gasifier is essential.

BioMass Engineering had tried using traditional screw feeders and airlock hoppers to remove and store the ash, however, these allowed ingress of oxygen into the process.

The company contacted Ajax Equipment to assist in overcoming the problem.

Ajax devised a plug screw feeder solution to remove the ash from the gasifier and filter.

The screw densifies the ash as it leaves the screw to create an impenetrable barrier.

"Adopting a plug screw feeder allows BioMass to run the process continuously, the ash being removed without oxygen entering the system," said Eddie McGee, technical director, Ajax Equipment.

Jim Campion, managing director, BioMass Engineering, commented, "The way Ajax Equipment approached the problem, and worked with us to find the right solution for removing the ash, has allowed us to improve the overall process reliability".

This Stoke-on-Trent renewable energy plant is set to come into operation mid 2008. __Source
For most "gee-whiz future-addicts" such a mundane industrial story only makes them yawn. But it is such incremental innovations that lead to long-term profitability and adaptation of new methods of energy production and manufacture.

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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Mariculture Biofuels--Seaweed to the Rescue!

The oceans of Earth are considered the birthplace of life. Oceans receive most of the sunlight and absorb and convert most of the CO2 produced by nature--including humans. Now mariculturists are experimenting with seaweed a partial solution to the world's energy price crisis. Understand? Sunlight plus CO2, a priceless combination for plant life.
The oceans are the largest active carbon sink on the planet, covering more than 70 per cent of its surface area, and are predicted to grow as sea levels rise. Our seas also receive a larger proportion of the world's sunshine than land does, particularly in the tropical and subtropical belt where land is scarcer.

To agriculturalists, the oceans are vast and grossly underused fields well provided with sunlight and water.

...In Costa Rica and Japan, seaweed farming has been re-established to produce energy. It can quickly yield large amounts of carbon-neutral biomass, which can be burnt to generate electricity. High-value compounds — including some for other biofuels — can be extracted beforehand.

We have calculated that less than three per cent of the world's oceans — that's about 20 per cent of the land area currently used in agriculture — would be needed to fully substitute for fossil fuels. A small fraction of that sea area would be enough to fully substitute for biofuel production on land.
Three percent of the world's oceans to fully substitute for fossil fuels? What about using seasteads as centers of mariculture, in addition to all the other renewable energies they will utilise?

How difficult would it be to create an oasis of sea life on the normally life-depleted "desert" of the high seas? Most sea life lives along island and continental shores, and continental shelves and seamounts. What could a serious movement into seasteads do toward expanding life in the oceans?

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Inventing a New Type of Clean Coal: Carbonite

It sounds suspiciously like "Kryptonite", but Carbonite is the creation of coal researcher Richard Wofe. He says it burns hotter and more cleanly than conventional types of coal.
“What we’re doing is taking the coal apart and putting it back better than it was naturally,” he told his audience of four coal industry insiders who met with him on a recent Saturday in a dusty barn in Lebanon, Va.

Wolfe, the son of a West Virginia coal miner and a former Abingdon-based coal researcher now residing in North Carolina, calls the end result “carbonite,” a glossy chunk of rock that looks more like a burned brownie than coal.

He said it burns hotter than coal and can power generators that make electricity, but without spewing as much carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the air as regular coal.

The same chunk also could be used in the steel industry, home heating or even water purification.

Simply put, carbonite is the combination of two types of coals heated at high temperatures with a secret catalyst. Wolfe declined to name the catalyst because he intends to patent both the process and the product.

The byproduct of Wolfe’s kiln-based cooking process is methane gas, the main ingredient for natural gas, which often is used to fire steam boilers at electric plants. The orange-yellow methane gas could be seen through the kiln viewport rising from the drum after less than an hour into the burning process.

It’s one byproduct that can be scraped from carbonite for resale.

Gas to power cars and oil – just like the black gold shipped from the Middle East – can be extracted from the carbonite. After all, oil eventually becomes coal, Wolfe explained. What sets carbonite apart is that it produces 25 percent less carbon dioxide than natural coal, half as much sulphur dioxide and no mercury. _NEN
For now, many people high in governments around the world seem to believe that CO2 emissions are a problem. They are wrong, of course. In fact, it is the mercury, the sulfates, the soot etc. that are the problems--the pollution. CO2 is not a pollutant, it is what plants need and love.

Still, Wolfe's invention--if it proves economical--promises to reduce actual pollutants released into the atmosphere, so it should be a positive development. He might try to sell it to the Chinese--the world's biggest polluters--but they would probably just copy and counterfeit his technology and give him nothing in return. Still, it might be worth it just to "help save the polar bears!"


Monday, June 09, 2008

Jatropha Fuel $43 a Barrel to Undercut Petroleum

Jatropha Curcus is an oil seed shrub/tree that grows well in warm weather climates such as South Asia, SubSaharan Africa, and the tropics of the Americas. With improvements in cultivation and refinement, jatropha fuels could cost close to $40 a barrel--instead of the over $130 a barrel of petroleum.
The jatropha-refined fuel is significantly cheaper than crude oil. It could cost an estimated $43 a barrel, or about one-third of Friday's closing price of $138.54 for a barrel of crude oil....The weed, which resembles a fruit tree, can be grown virtually anywhere, doesn't need much water or fertilizer and is not edible. In India, the plants are mainly used as hedges to keep cows out of farm fields. In the U.S., some researchers have been growing the trees to process biodiesel that can be used in automobiles and factory machines.

...Within the nut were two seeds resembling peanuts. They contained 30 percent to 40 percent oil. Researchers looking at various crops discovered that the quality of jatropha oil was better than most for making jet fuel. Jatropha fuel also produces about half the harmful carbon emissions of fossil fuel....Researchers here have found that an acre of the plant can yield about 300 gallons of oil, or five to seven times more than feedstocks such as soybeans. __Bioenergy
Better methods of refining plant oils to fuels are quickly removing the barricades to using biofuels in aircraft and large diesel engines. High oil prices are driving industry to develop alternative fuels, in the face of growing inflationary pressures.

Unless the US Congress wakes up from its long "nap at the wheel", the only alternative to bioenergy as a replacement for petroleum is a deep worldwide recession. Of course, if the US Congress takes its handcuffs off US energy producers, nuclear and domestic fossil fuels will take off and help the US economy rebound from the oil-price induced doldrums. Recovery of the US economy would go a long way toward driving the global economy to recovery.

The US Congress shows no sign of sanity, so if industry knows what is good for it, it will push full speed ahead for bioenergy.

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Sunday, June 08, 2008

Oil Bubble Testing Limits of Expansion

What has been driving the cost of oil so wildly and erratically over the past several weeks? Where will it all end? How high can the price of oil go without toppling the global economic cart?

Before getting to the underlying causes of the current rapid expansion in the oil price bubble, we should consider how much higher oil may go in this cycle. The answer is, not much higher. The reason is that global economies are having trouble dealing with current prices. Any higher and a global recession will ring the gong on this act.
...the price of oil is extremely cyclical - that is, it tends to rise during economic booms and fall during contractions. It dropped 44 percent in the last recession (from November 2000 to November 2001), 48 percent from October 1990 to January 1992 - and 71 percent from July 1980 to July 1986. __Source
A full blown recession is not required to trigger an oil price drop, but if it happens, the fallout for many financial institutions will be worse than fallout from the recent credit crisis.

All consumers are beginning to cut back on oil consumption. Current high prices are driving consumption down, and will eventually drive production (and substitution) up.
It takes a while to develop new supplies of oil, but the signs of a surge are already in place. Shale oil costing around $70 a barrel is now being produced in the Dakotas. Tar sands are attracting investment in Canada, also at around $70. New technology could soon minimize the pollution caused by producing oil from our super-plentiful supplies of coal.

"History suggests that when there's this much money to be made, new supplies do get developed," says Brown.

That's just the supply side of the equation. Demand should start to decline as well, albeit gradually.

"Historically, the oil market has under-anticipated the amount of conservation brought on by high prices," says Brown. Sales of big cars are collapsing; Americans are cutting down on driving. The airlines are scaling back flights.

We've learned another important lesson from the housing market: The longer prices stay stratospheric, the worse the eventual crash - simply because the higher the prices and bigger the profit margins, the bigger the incentive to over-produce. __Source
But why have oil prices shot up so quickly? 1. Huge recent demand from China, India, and other emerging nations. 2. Recurrent, transient political turmoil in oil producing regions 3. National oil companies that have no incentive to modernise production as long as prices remain elevated 4. The reduced value of the US Dollar causes oil prices to rise relatively 5. A speculative bubble driven by index fund/pension fund investing.
Much of the rise in oil price is the result of activity on the New York Mercantile Exchange, the energy exchange. This is activity by index funds and pension funds that are investing in oil futures, not for direct use but as financial assets for profit. That contrasts with activity by oil producers and consumers who buy and sell to smooth out fluctuations in price and delivery.

These financial institutions – index funds and pension funds – are neither buying oil nor selling it. They are passive investors in commodities. They have invested $260bn (€169bn, £133bn) in commodity markets, compared with $13bn just five years ago. Much of this money is in oil.

...The best way to counter speculation is to make it less profitable. Step one is to protect the regular traders in the real oil economy (those who intend to close their positions by making or taking delivery of oil) and charge them a lower margin than those who have no intention of plying the oil trade. The purely financial traders must be made to pay a proper price for their speculation. This can be done simply by increasing the margin that they have to put down to trade as open interest, from the current 7 per cent to about 50 per cent. __FT
This huge speculative bubble is often overlooked due to peculiar bookkeeping allowed by a government loophole.
Even though they are speculators, they are not included in the data as speculators. Because they get their exposure from an investment bank, they are ultimately listed as a commercial. In total, they represent an enormous part of the commodities markets. But they are providing liquidity, so what's the problem? They are not actually hoarding the commodities. The price is still set at the spot price. But.

But that is not the whole story. They are making it difficult, if not dangerous, to short the market. When massive buying comes into the market, it moves the market and sends the signal to the market that prices are rising. Momentum players move in, and prices rise some more. __Source
Prices continue to rise more, and more, and more . . . because in effect, a ratchet has been inserted into the mechanism allowing quick price rises, but working against falls in price.
Hiding as commercial accounts, thru a Commodity Futures Trading Commission exemption to avoid speculative position limits, these institutional-investors use commodities index-futures to hold positions in oil. But not as traditional buyers of oil would, but as financial speculations. This feeds the demand side, without ever, actually demanding oil. Eighty two percent (82%) of WTI futures [net increase from 01/01/03 to 03/12/08] was purchased by institutional-investors [Testimony of Michael Masters before the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, U.S. Senate, p.3, May 20, 2008].

He further notes that Index Speculators “never sell” their positions but, “roll their positions by buying calendar spreads.” True, their positions are closed but then they are continuously reopened. According to Michael Masters the increase in institutional-investor position's on WTI futures increased 539% over five and one-quarter years [102% per year on average]. Momentum in price attracts attention and so more and more institutions enter trades, ratcheting the price upward. How can experts claim that such an influx of non-traditional buyers into index-futures, at this magnitude, does not effect spot prices?

Answer: they cannot. The pricing signal that index-speculators are sending to the spot market is a false signal. Their financial demand is only for oil futures, not barrels of oil. For persons to claim it is really the huge demand [2% per year + marginal decline] or supply disruptions [that never happen] is to be otherwise engaged. __Source
Even George Soros is concerned about the level of speculation by pension and hedge funds in the oil market. Soros recently testified before Congress on the issue. Now Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut is threatening to close down these big money price ratcheting speculators with the power of federal legislation. Given the paper profits these fund managers must be showing right now, imagine their concern over Senator Lieberman's comments.

What should you as a small investor do? Stay out of it. Oil prices may finally tip the US into a recession before all of this is settled. If so, the current bubble would not doubt pop, but it would not be long before the onset of the next bubble--unless substantive reforms are made in US fiscal policy, Federal Reserve policy influencing the value of the US dollar, and CFTC (Commodities Futures Trading Commission) policy in regard to "long-only" index futures.


Saturday, June 07, 2008

Oynklent Green Looks at the American Congress

We at Oynklent Green [OTC:OYNK] refuse all political endorsements and all government grants and backing. We feel it is important for us to maintain strict neutrality, given the sensitive nature of our feedstock. However, we at OYNK believe that we should disclose to potential investors and the public, how we go about selecting our prime feedstock.

Currently, our list of official feedstocks contains only corrupt politicians and trial lawyers. But we must select only the very most corrupt of politicians, because otherwise who would be left? The same is true for trial lawyers. So, in the interest of full disclosure, we will occasionally post information on AlFin 2300 Energy to help keep the public informed as to our selection process.

In the US Congress, we follow voting on all important energy issues. In this area, it is clear whether votes are being guided by the desire to help the US maintain energy independence, or are motivated by corrupt hidden vested interests. Following is a summary breakdown by political party on important energy votes in the US Congress:
ANWR Exploration
House Republicans: 91% Supported
House Democrats: 86% Opposed

House Republicans: 97% Supported
House Democrats: 78% Opposed

Oil Shale Exploration
House Republicans: 90% Supported
House Democrats: 86% Opposed

Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Exploration
House Republicans: 81% Supported
House Democrats: 83% Opposed

Refinery Increased Capacity
House Republicans: 97% Supported
House Democrats: 96% Opposed


91% of House Republicans have historically voted to increase the production of American-made oil and gas.

86% of House Democrats have historically voted against increasing the production of American-made oil and gas. __Source
Clearly, within the US House of Representatives, Democratic Congressmen have voted against the interest of US citizens at least 86% on average on important energy issues. This puts Democratic Congressmen (including Nancy Pelosi) at the very top of the list for prime feedstock for the OYNK "corrupt politician to bio-energy" process.

According to various world corruption indices, the US is far from the most corrupt government in the world. Even so, within a moderately corrupt system, certain politicians are bound to stand out as being closely connected to notorious felonious corrupters of political systems, both locally--as for example Chicago, Detroit, or San Francisco--or nationally.

We at OYNK are watching out for you. Watch us as we provide a multi-faceted service for you, our customers.


Friday, June 06, 2008

Using Local Crops and Weeds for Energy

Innovation Fuels Inc. in New York State is looking into using weeds such as mustard seed, penny cress, and camelina, to produce biodiesel in an interplanting scheme with corn and soybeans.
Biodiesel and ethanol -- two alternatives to gasoline and diesel -- have been criticized for diverting food crops to fuel. Ethanol producers mainly use corn to produce the gasoline additive.

Fox blamed the recent surge in food prices on the rising costs of energy, not the production of biofuels.

He said the weeds being explored as oil sources can yield 80 to 100 gallons of biodiesel per acre, compared to 40 gallons per acre for soybeans. __CheckBiotech
In Hawaii, the Oceanic Institute is looking for ways to make the islands more food and energy independent from the mainland. They are looking at tropical crops such as jatropha, castor bean, kukui nut, and coconut for producing biodiesel locally.

The soaring costs of energy means that isolated locations such as Hawaii pay a premium for all food and supplies deliveries.
With shipping fees going up, growing our own food here will keep company costs down.

"Right now a lot of the feed industry is looking for products like this because transportation charges have just doubled," says Warren Dominy Ph.D, Oceanic Institute, Director, Aquatic Feeds and Nutrition department.

..."If we are able to provide a fee from them for these biodiesel plants it will help rebuild this industry and hopefully save a lot of jobs throughout the state," says Dominy..."I think the estimates are anywhere from 5 days to 2 weeks of food if we have a major disaster that we could feed everybody in the state so we need to start using some of our ag lands for food," says King, Pacific Biodiesel.

"If we could be making fuel for an island on that island we're saving all that energy going back and forth all that efficiency and conservation is gonna add to sustainability," says King.
The main driver of higher food and commodity prices is the cost of fuel and transportation. The main driver of higher transportation costs is higher fuel costs. The main driver of higher fuel costs is a speculative feeding frenzy combined with rising demand led by China and other emerging nations.

It makes sense for people living in cool and temperate climates to focus on crops that grow readily, like weeds, that can be interplanted with ordinary food crops. It also makes sense for people living in tropical climates to focus on tropical species with high yield. Both approaches use local strengths in an attempt to drive local economies.

The ominous political clouds on the US horizon suggest an intent on the part of future elected officials to drive the US economy toward a socialist, central command economy. That is an entirely counter-productive strategy, but exactly the approach likely to be favoured by the likely incoming junta.


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