Sunday, January 31, 2010

Thorium Power: What You Can Learn From Comments

Wired magazine published an interesting article on Thorium nuclear reactors last month.  If you have not brushed up on Thorium reactors recently, you may enjoy reading the article.  A better way of learning about Thorium power is by reading the blog Energy from Thorium.  

Kirk Sorensen, the proprietor of Energy from Thorium, is featured in the recent Wired article, but he is more thoroughly featured in the comments following the article. A particularly fascinating exchange of views occurred in the comments between Sorensen and George Herbert -- a self-proclaimed anti nuclear proliferation advocate.

Reading the exchange between the two gentlemen will give you an idea of the types of objections that anti-nuclear activists will present, in an attempt to shut down even safer forms of nuclear energy such as Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors (LFTRs).

No matter what innovations a person attempts to promote to solve problems of energy shortages, there will always be activists and advocates of one persuasion or another seeking to use legal and political leverage to shut you down. Thorium energy is no exception, apparently. Even with energy grids crashing due to lack of baseload and dispatchable power sources, political activists will continue trying to shut down all reliable forms of energy.

President Obama recently made noises suggesting that he would promote increased funding guarantees for nuclear power. Always look for the hidden motive and for the later "I never said that" flip flop. Look for whose palms may be greased, and who may reap the golden harvest of government graft. Because wherever the "Chicago Way" is involved, somebody's gonna get the business.

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Saturday, January 30, 2010

Can Flywheels Make Wind Energy Reliable?

Big wind energy suffers from a host of problems. Wind power is not baseload power -- it is too intermittent to rely on for routine daily loads. Wind power is not dispatchable -- it is unable to rise and fall at will in order to meet unanticipated loads and overages. Wind power is expensive -- without subsidies it would die outright. Wind turbines and gearboxes break down and must be replaced far more often than time-proven power sources -- at enormous cost.

Can flywheels help?
One of the big challenges for solar or wind power is that they are intermittent, not constant. The sun only shines half the hours at best (not even counting clouds or rain), and similarly, the wind does not blow continuously. To make these energy sources more practical, efficient power storage is necessary; you need to be able to top up the “battery” when the power is on and then use it to provide electricity at night, on overcast days, or when the air is still.

As reported by the New York Times Monday, a Massachusetts company thinks it has a solution to the problem of energy storage: flywheels.

A flywheel is a nothing more than a heavy wheel that rotates or spins freely. If you connect it the right kind of dual-purpose electric motor—some electric motors, like the ones in hybrid and electric cars, can function as both motors and generators—you can use the motor to spin the flywheel up to speed when there’s a surplus of power. Then, when you need energy, you slow down the wheel and convert its momentum back to electricity. If the wheel is heavy enough and spinning fast enough—the ones that Beacon Power is installing near Albany, New York, weigh a ton each and spin up to 16,000 times a minute (267 times a second)—you can store an enormous amount of energy in them. _Source
Flywheels themselves are untested at the scales that they would be needed for large-scale wind farms and solar facilities. They are mechanical, and more prone to breakdown than a solid state form of storage would be. They are expensive. Flywheels may help with dispatchability -- load leveling -- but they cannot correct for extended periods without wind.

Small and medium scale wind power can be quite useful for particular niche applications and for off grid. Large scale wind and solar are markedly inferior to nuclear and clean coal in virtually every way -- but particularly in terms of reliability.

Al Fin power engineers like the concept of the flow cell battery for utility scale load leveling, once the bugs are ironed out. Such an approach would have to be paired with gas turbines, and would be extremely useful as long as the baseload power was provided by nuclear, enhanced geo, or clean coal / biomass.

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Friday, January 29, 2010

Gasification Opens Many Doors to New Energy

Using a gasifier, you can turn biomass, coal, or any carbonaceous material into syngas -- a mixture of hydrogen, carbon monoxide, and traces of methane etc. This gas can be burned as a fuel similar to natural gas. Or it can be fermented into alcohols. Or it can be used in a synthesis process such as Fischer Tropsch to produce diesel, gasoline, jet fuel, plastics, or high value chemicals. Let's look at a company that gasifies biomass and uses the syngas to produce electricity:
By properly controlling the air injection arrangement the feedstock pile temperature is kept below the sublimation, vaporizing or melting temperatures of the noncombustible solids, and at the same time vaporizes the volatiles using the energy from partial combustion of the wastes. The resulting syngas is sent to a chamber, or “low NOx (nitrogen oxide) oxidizer,” where it is combusted much like natural gas or propane and is then used to make heat, which can be converted into steam, power or hot water.

Prouty says the key benefit of the SALT system is that a hot air turbine is used instead of water for power generation. The company has a partnership with Walled Lake, Mich.-based turbine manufacturer Williams International, and has spent the past three years working with Williams to optimize a biomass turbine. The companies’ collaborative work was showcased in the fall of 2009 with the commissioning of a project at Sietsema Farm Feeds in Howard City, Mich., which now hosts the state’s first gasification plant and the world’s first hot air turbine powered by biomass.

...For further testing, HTI is constructing a $3.5 million biomass development center, which Prouty says will house four different styles of gasifiers and different forms of power generation. The machines will be larger than pilot scale—big enough to prove formulas for a smooth transition to full-sized machines. “What we want to be able to do is, when a customer brings in a material, we can prove out exactly what the right recipe of waste should be, and determine which full-scale gasifier will work best with it,” Prouty says. “We’ll prove the process and the air emissions, so that as they move into their permitting and design phases they know exactly how the material will perform in the gasifier.”

HTI has offered the center to Michigan State University, which will provide researchers to work on new gasification concepts and prove out any operational characteristics HTI may encounter. While the center is being built, Prouty says, interest in gasification projects continues to mount. _Biomass

Biomass to electricity is a good way of dealing with various types of waste materials.   As more companies take the route of providing their own process power and heat using waste materials, we may see the mining of landfills as an amazing source of economic vitality in this brave new world of Obama - Pelosi GUCs.


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

LS9 Breeds E. Coli Microbe to Produce Diesel Fuel

The E. coli directly secretes the resulting biodiesel, which then floats to the top of a fermentation vat, so there is neither the necessity for distillation or other purification processes nor the need, as in biodiesel from algae, to break the cell to get the oil out. _ScientificAmerican
LS9 is one of several companies racing to engineer fuel-producing microbes that can compete with fossil fuels -- eventually putting the oil companies out of the fuel business altogether. The January 28 issue of Nature details the impressive progress of LS9 scientists in creating a breed of E. Coli capable of secreting diesel fuel from biomass.
"We incorporated genes that enabled production of biodiesel—esters [organic compounds] of fatty acids and ethanol—directly," Keasling explains. "The fuel that is produced by our E. coli can be used directly as biodiesel. In contrast, fats or oils from plants must be chemically esterified before they can be used."

Perhaps more importantly, the researchers have also imported genes that allow E. coli to secrete enzymes that break down the tough material that makes up the bulk of plants—cellulose, specifically hemicellulose—and produce the sugar needed to fuel this process. "The organism can produce the fuel from a very inexpensive sugar supply, namely cellulosic biomass," Keasling adds.

The E. coli directly secretes the resulting biodiesel, which then floats to the top of a fermentation vat, so there is neither the necessity for distillation or other purification processes nor the need, as in biodiesel from algae, to break the cell to get the oil out.

This new process for transforming E. coli into a cellulosic biodiesel refinery involves the tools of synthetic biology. For example, Keasling and his team cloned genes from Clostridium stercorarium and Bacteroides ovatus—bacteria that thrive in soil and the guts of plant-eating animals, respectively—which produce enzymes that break down cellulose. The team then added an extra bit of genetic code in the form of short amino acid sequences that instruct the altered E. coli cells to secrete the bacterial enzyme, which breaks down the plant cellulose, turning it into sugar; the E. coli in turn transforms that sugar into biodiesel.

The process is perfect for making hydrocarbons with at least 12 carbon atoms in them, ranging from diesel to chemical precursors—and even jet fuel, or kerosene. But it cannot, yet, make shorter chain hydrocarbons like gasoline. "Gasoline tends to contain short-chain hydrocarbons, say C8, with more branches, whereas diesel and jet fuel contain long-chain hydrocarbons with few branches," Keasling notes. "There are other ways to make gasoline. We are working on these technologies, as well." _SciAm

LS9 may be slightly ahead of some of the competitors in producing a fuel directly from biomass, which separates itself from the microbe and aqueous solution without the need for a costly separation step. It seems likely -- given the success of analogous pharmacological microbiological production schemes -- that LS9 will be able to scale up production to commercial scales well within the expected 10 year interval.

Such early successes should put a great deal of pressure on big money projects being supported by Exxon, Shell, BP, Chevron, Bill Gates, Vinod Khosla, Dow, DuPont, and a score of other financers of biomass to energy projects.

The cruel, greedy dictators of the petro states may well consider selling as much oil as they can while there is still a demand for the dirty old fossil variety.


Oil Prices are in Play: No Safe Harbour There

Chemical engineer Robert Rapier is normally quite reserved and cautious in his predictions. But Robert recently predicted that in 2012, US oil imports will be up, the price of oil will be at least $150 per barrel, or both.

I doubt that Robert will win any bets on such predictions. But when it comes to oil prices, there are no truly safe bets.

US petroleum imports for 2009 were down 9.2%. Not all of the drop was due to reduced economic activity. New oil and gas finds had a lot to do with it. New pipelines from Canada bringing oil sands to US refineries plus new Gulf of Mexico finds can reduce imports in the future.

In fact, the general outlook for petroleum prices for the near future does not look that good. Again, not all of the downside is due to reduced demand due to economic downturns.

Canadian oil sands activity appears to be enjoying a definite uptick.

And it is not just US oil companies that are interested in the Gulf of Mexico.

Peak oil doomers have been predicting $500 a barrel oil prices for many, many years now. Their deadlines come and go, yet they are not discouraged. They come up with an excuse for earlier failures, and "reasons" why the next prediction is certain to come true. And on it goes . . . .

Robert Rapier is not a doomer, but neither is he in possession of a generalist's knowledge of all of the factors that influence oil prices. His numbers relating to the facts of energy are likely to be correct. His predictions, not so much.

Political peak oil -- due to wars, prohibitions, nationalisations, incompetence, and other actions of oil dictators and wannabe dictators -- can change the picture instantaneously. The Obama - Pelosi regime (including the Obama EPA) is bringing incompetence to new heights, and malicious regulation, taxation, and litigation to the economic breaking point.

Something has to give, and I suspect it will be the O - P reich, if there is any justice in the world.

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Wind Power: Another Economic Bubble Inflating

The growth of the wind power industry has been phenomenal. Governments are promoting wind as an important solution to carbon climate catastrophe -- even though wind provides less than 2% US electricity. A lot of money is being poured down the wind power drain. How far can this bubble inflate before the sad truth about wind's empty promises are exposed?
Total [US] installed capacity leapt 40% to 35,159 megawatts, solidifying its lead as the nation with the most wind power capacity. The next largest producer, Germany, only grew its capacity about 20% in 2009 to 25,000 megawatts.

...Yet there's a huge catch. Despite having its best year of growth ever, the industry still experienced net job losses. Its outlook also remains uncertain -- unless more government incentives are doled out:

The problem with wind is that it is too expensive, it is unreliable, it breaks down frequently, it occupies large areas of land, it is dangerous to nearby humans, and it robs society of resources it needs to provide truly reliable power sources.

Investors are being scammed into investing in a massive fraud, and government officials are pitching in with billions of dollars of tax money.

Americans need to learn to distinguish between valid plans to provide critical energy supplies, and scams such as large scale wind power. Boone Pickens wants you to invest in his scheme, and make him even richer. He's got a lot of government money already -- courtesy of the O-P reich. He wants a lot more of your money. Will you give it to him?


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Fusion Gets a New "Pinch"

New Energy and Fuel looks at a new "pinch" approach to fusion, from MIT and Columbia, called LDX -- levitated dipole experiment.
The experiment confirms the seeming counter-intuitive prediction that inside the device’s magnetic chamber, random turbulence causes the plasma to become more densely concentrated – crucial step to getting atoms to fuse together – instead of becoming more spread out, as usually happens during turbulence. MIT is using the term “pinch effect” to describe the observation, a term we’ve heard before from other fusion developers.

...The team is saying say that if the turbulence-induced density enhancement exhibited by the LDX could be scaled up to larger devices, it might enable them to recreate the conditions necessary to sustain fusion reactions, and thus may point the way toward abundant and sustainable production of fusion energy.

... _NewEnergyandFuel

Read more at the link above, and follow the links to the original sources.

It sounds as if the MIT and Columbia researchers are several decades away from useful fusion, and are strenuously fishing for research grants. If so, they are chasing ITER, which is likely to be a losing proposition in an atmosphere of shrinking budgets worldwide.

If the small fusion projects such as Bussard IEC and Focus Fusion do not pan out, it may be well into the second half of this century before the larger scale mainstream fusion approaches begin to show real promise. Such a timeline would strain the ability of regular crude oil to support transportation. But of course, by then, advanced methods of CTL, GTL, BTL, and other longer range fuel production methods will be productive. Also by then, advanced fission should have broken the barriers placed by faux-environmentalists -- making possible an ever growing fleet of electric vehicles. By 2050, utility scale electric storage should be available to provide dispatchable power from renewable energy sources such as solar.

For wind energy to provide a substantial part of electric power, it will need a revolutionary new approach -- one that probably no wind power designers have even dreamed as of yet.


Monday, January 25, 2010 Oil Market Summary for 01/18/2010 – 01/22/2010

New measures by Chinese authorities to curb bank lending reversed a rally in energy prices early in the week, bringing West Texas Intermediate futures down more than 4% in the second half of the week to below $75 a barrel by Friday.

China continued its efforts to slow down its economy and prevent overheating, and told some banks to stop making certain kinds of loans. The Chinese move on Wednesday hit all commodities across the board, from gold to lead, with the prospect of slower economic growth in the country.

Not even the news that China’s oil imports in December exceeded 5 million barrels of oil a day for the first time could stop the decline.

U.S. data, meanwhile, showed that demand for oil had slipped 1.8% in the four weeks leading to Jan. 15 from the like period a year ago, when the U.S. economy was in the grip of a recession. Crude inventories declined in the week, against expectations, but gasoline inventories rose. Continued milder weather in the Northeast further dampened heating oil prices.

News that utilization of U.S. refinery capacity fell to its lowest levels since the 1980s drove home the point that demand for distillates was lagging. Refinery utilization in the previous week dropped 2.9 percentage points to 78.4% of the 17.6 million barrels per day total capacity, the lowest level in two decades except for periods when hurricanes shut down refinery operations.

The U.S. and China are the world’s top two oil-consuming countries, so the signs of weakening demand in both were bearish for energy prices.

As if all that wasn’t enough, the announcement by the White House on Thursday of tough new measures to limit banks’ proprietary trading threw a double whammy in energy markets. There were concerns that Wall Street banks, among the biggest energy traders, would have to cut back their activities. Plus, the news sent equities into a tailspin, and dragged down commodities prices.

The uncertainty about U.S. bank restructuring reversed the dollar’s climb against the euro, which had also weighed on crude oil prices. After dropping below $1.41, the euro bounced back up above that level at the end of the week.

But continuing concerns about Greece’s debt and new uncertainty about whether Ben Bernanke will be confirmed for a second term as Federal Reserve chairman supported the dollar and were likely to dampen any strong rise for the euro, analysts said.

By Darrell Delamaide for who have recently launched a Free Market Intelligence Report which focuses on unique Geopolitical and Investment News which enables readers to spot trends and events in the marketplace and reduce investment risk. To find out more visit:

Originally published at:

Al Fin's comment:  No matter what Bernanke does, it will be the equivalent of sprinkling spices onto pig excrement in an attempt to make the Obama - Pelosi fiscal mis-management more palatable to buyers of US financial instruments.  Bernanke makes a fine scapegoat, so why wouldn't Obama wish to keep him on?


The US Will Need Nuclear and Coal Energy for Decades

The airheads who promote a rapid transition to wind and solar power -- away from coal and nuclear -- are in charge of the US at this time. If they achieve even a small part of their agenda, the consequent devastation to the US economy and suffering of the American people will be vast.

More nuclear power is absolutely vital to the US:
The Electric Power Research Institute expects nuclear to provide 29 percent of U.S. power by 2030. To expand nuclear, Case and others are lobbying Congress to allow "clean" energy rather than just "renewable" energy to qualify for federal loan guarantees under the energy bills.

But what about wind? Wind provides more power than solar panels, but it's even more sporadic and unpredictable. Wind turbines only produce power 20 to 30 percent of the time and often produce power at night when it's not needed. Nuclear plants generate power more than 91 percent of the time, one of the highest uptimes of any source of power, according to my colleague Eric Wesoff who recently wrote a nuclear report. _GreenTechMedia

Coal energy is growing ever cleaner -- outside of third world countries such as China, that is. A creative engineering industry in the US is finding ever cleaner uses for the abundant coal resource found within the nation's crust.
Turning coal into liquid fuels is nothing new, but such processes have been inefficient and produced large amounts of CO2 emissions. Accelergy's approach is different because it uses "direct liquefaction," which is similar to the process used to refine petroleum. It involves treating the coal with hydrogen in the presence of a catalyst. Conventional technology for converting coal to liquid fuels breaks the coal down into synthesis gas, which is mostly carbon monoxide with a little bit of hydrogen; the hydrogen and carbon are then recombined to produce liquid hydrocarbons, a process that releases carbon dioxide. Because the Accelergy process skips the need to gasify all of the coal--which consumes a lot of energy--before recombining the hydrogen and carbon, it's more efficient and produces less carbon dioxide. "We don't destroy the molecule in coal. Instead we massage it, inject hydrogen into it, and rearrange it to form the desired hydrocarbons," says Timothy Vail, Accelergy's president and CEO. _TechnologyReview

Wind is a disastrous mistake, that European nations such as Denmark, Germany, and the UK will be paying for decades into the future. Bad decisions based upon faulty assumptions.

It is time to base future energy plans upon baseload and dispatchable power providers. Wind is neither. Wind is suitable only for small isolated niche applications. And in absolutely no case should you ever stake your life upon the inconstancy of the wind.

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Sunday, January 24, 2010

Critical Look at Wind Energy Guest Slideshow

Courtesy of John Droz

Wind energy is attractive in a theoretical way. The energy is there if you can only take it and use it. Wind energy can be practical on a small scale in certain locations. Eventually we will find a sustainable way to use wind energy on a large scale. Until then, it will be a huge, ideologically driven misallocation of resources.


Friday, January 22, 2010

Hotelling's Rule Beats Peak Oil Doom Every Time

The “Hotelling rule”, named after the late US mathematician Harold Hotelling, states that the price of an exhaustible commodity should converge towards the price of a substitute resource. _National

Peak Oil Doom is all about the massive devastating crash of the world economy that occurs, shortly after world crude oil production "peaks." The movement has collected a lot of adherents over the years, and several websites are dedicated to perpetuating the pornographic pleasure that peak oil doomers experience when contemplating the world after peak oil.

There is a serious problem with peak oil theory. It tends to ignore other forms of energy besides crude oil, which can be substituted for crude. Taking all the potential substitutes for crude oil into account tends to change the picture significantly.
From shale gas in North America to big new discoveries off the coasts of Venezuela and Israel, the recent appraisal of a huge Turkmen gasfield, new Australasian, Russian and Yemeni liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects and initiatives to reduce gas flaring in Nigeria, Russia and Iraq, it has never been clearer that the world is floating on a party balloon of gas.

Ironically, the more geologists search for oil, the more they usually find gas.

Consequently, gas prices have fallen in markets where the commodity trades freely.

Not so long ago, gas produced from oilfields was considered a nuisance, and it was burned as waste.

Now gas is a valued commodity for heating, power generation, the production of petrochemicals and fertiliser, for pushing more oil out of the ground, and even for conversion into synthetic crude oil and for use in some diesel engines.

Like oil, it can now be shipped around the world in tankers as well as moved through pipelines. If global warming continues, LNG tankers may soon ship gas from the Arctic.

Because of its infrastructure requirements, however, gas has most often been sold under long-term contracts linked to crude prices. In future, if Dr Austvik is right, crude markets may follow international gas prices. _National

Important new crude oil discoveries are being made on the continent and continental shelves of North America. But North America with its massive coal reserves, its trillions of barrels of oil sands bitumens and oil shale kerogens, and its massive new finds of natural gas, is in an excellent position to substitute "home grown" fuels for imported crude oil, if necessary.
Texas A&M University said US methods could increase global gas reserves by nine times to 16,000 TCF (trillion cubic feet). Almost a quarter is in China but it may lack the water resources to harness the technology given the depletion of the North China water basin.

Needless to say, the Kremlin is irked. "There's a lot of myths about shale production," said Gazprom's Alexander Medvedev.

If the new forecasts are accurate, Gazprom is not going to be the perennial cash cow funding Russia's great power resurgence. Russia's budget may be in structural deficit. _Telegraph

There is of course another kind of oil -- bio-oils. Bio-oils from microbes are the next big liquid fuels revolution (after CTL coal-to-liquids, GTL gas-to-liquids, and BTL biomass-to-liquids). It will take 10 to 20 years for microbe-produced oils to begin hitting the market and begin enacting Hotelling's Rule of economic substitution. BTL, CTL, and GTL will hit the markets much sooner.

And then there is the nuclear revolution -- safer and more efficient reactor designs just waiting for more enlightened governments in North America, Europe, and elsewhere to approve the next obvious step in large scale power generation.  It takes about ten years to construct a modern nuclear plant once approved, but the Luddites in the Obama - Pelosi government and its alliance with the reactionary faux environmental factions are obstructing every form of useful new energy as far as possible -- including nuclear.

Peak Oil Doom is the twin of Climate Catastrophe Doom.  The two movements conveniently dovetail, since Peak Oil Doom uses Climate Catastrophe Doom in an attempt to deny the use of coal, gas, kerogens, bitumens, heavy oils, and even regular crude.  These faux environmental political movements are oriented around the hobbling of the industrial base of the western world.  It is simply a matter of the consolidation of political power through energy starvation and a general economic hardship.

But the plan will not work, unless the Obama - Pelosi government is allowed to complete its well mapped agenda. There are several reasons -- including this one -- to doubt that the O-P Reich will have enough time to finish the job.

There are plenty of reasons to be concerned about the future of human governments and human society. Falling into a zombie panic over phantom doom will help no one.  It will only prevent us from doing what has to be done.

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Thursday, January 21, 2010

Exxon Biofuels, Megawatt Solar Thermal, Better Nukes

Six months ago, Exxon announced a $600 biofuels research initiative. The money is already being put to use. The team is predicting comercial scale algal fuels production within 8 to 10 years.
...the assembled biologists and chemists at ExxonMobil and its partner, Synthetic Genomics, are off to a raring start.

“We’re at full speed right now,” Dr Emil Jacobs, the vice president for research and development at ExxonMobil, said this week while attending the World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi. “The good news is we’re no longer writing agreements. We’re doing real work.

“I think we need a very aggressive programme and to advance this as fast as we can,” he said.

Two years ago, the US genomics pioneer Craig Venter, who co-founded Synthetic Genomics, said that if oil companies did not want to invest in his biofuels technology, he would develop a solution without them. Now he is looking at taking advanced biofuels to prime time within a decade with the biggest international oil company of them all.

Commercial-scale “biomanufacturing” of biofuel from algae could begin in eight to 10 years, Dr Jacobs predicted. _Bioenergy

An Australian solar thermal company announced a plan to create a 1 MW solar heat ray, using an intricate new technological scheme for concentrating solar energy.
"The down beam is about a megawatt," said Wayne Bliesner, the inventor.

So what happens next? The heat passes into a chamber of liquid calcium simmering at 800 degrees Celsius. A stream of pressurized hydrogen is introduced and the temperature is raised to 1000 Celsius. The increased temperature turns the liquid calcium into calcium hydride, a reaction that generates a tremendous amount of heat, Bliesner said. That heat is then fed into a specialized Stirling Engine designed by Solar Fusion and then converted to electricity.
Read the story above. The entire mechanism is quite elaborate -- which introduces many opportunities for failure. Yet the system combines solar thermal plus an exothermic (but reversible) chemical reaction plus a specially-made high temperature Stirling engine. Al Fin science historians tell me that the 1 MW solar beam reminds them of Archimedes.

Brian Wang presents a summary of how new nuclear technology can lower the costs of energy. In the process, Brian becomes involved in a debate with Eric Drexler on small nuclear fusion.

Brian covers the issue of new nuclear technologies as well or better than anyone else on the web.

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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Energy Bits

If you look at the oil production vs. oil demand graphs between now and 2030 for Europe, China, and India, you will see the same thing: production is going down, while demand is slated to go up. That means that either oil imports will have to increase significantly, or these important countries and regions will have to learn how to make their own oil. It is that realisation which is driving much of the investment in next generation biofuels.

We knew that Europe was increasing its use of biomass to generate electricity. We knew that Brazil was beginning to fire ethanol in gas turbines as a replacement for natural gas. Now Japan is increasing its co-firing of biomass with coal for power generation.

An interesting use of biomass in the US is to provide power and CO2 for the production of algal biofuels.
The plant at full capacity will require 33.5 tons per hour of wood waste feedstock provided from the surrounding area. The plant will produce approximately 24 MW of electrical power at $0.06 per KW and 20 million gallon annually of bio-diesel at $2.00 per gallon. The plant will operate 24 hours a day and when completed provide 60 jobs. EQI would be an owner and operate this facility.

Energy Quest’s advanced modular gasification design will result in lower set up costs and increased efficiencies. The gasifiers will provide clean syngas fuel for the power generators. The Algae CO2 capture system will be provided by others and completely built in Piedmont.

The stack gases containing CO2 are captured and ducted to Algae growing pod clusters as feed for the growth of Oil (lipid) producing Algae. Algae grows in water. The lipid laden Algae is harvested from the pod growing clusters several times per day. The Algae is then dewatered to a sufficient level to feed into the lipid extraction process. Once the lipids have been extracted from the Algae it is fed into the lipid oil to diesel conversion process. Using this process will yield 200 litres of bio-diesel from every ton of CO2 produced from the biomass combustion process. _DomesticFuel

In Wisconsin, a biorefinery is being built to utilise wood biomass to produce electricity, steam, and heat for a paper mill. The biorefinery will also provide biodiesel to be sold on the market.

Thorium continues to generate discussion, as energy planners seek to develop safer, more plentiful sources of nuclear energy without significant weapons proliferation risks.

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries has begun production at a new plant expansion for producing forged turbine blades for nuclear power plant generators. Mitsubishi provides highly specialised turbines for steam, gas combustion, and hydroelectric applications. It is important for energy analysts to understand that a potential shortage of such top quality specialised turbines could be a serious bottleneck in new power generation construction sometime in the foreseeable future.

Political entities that place frivolous and artificial restrictions on current construction of power plants, will face severe hardships in the future when they finally realise how badly they need new power construction -- after they have delayed so long that they placed themselves at the back of the line for new construction.


Powder River Basin Coal The Best Value per MBTUs

Chemical engineer Robert Rapier has provided a comparison of costs per million BTUs for various energy sources. It is an interesting beginning point for discussion.
Current Energy Prices per Million BTU

Powder River Basin Coal - $0.56
Northern Appalachia Coal - $2.08
Natural gas - $5.67
Ethanol subsidy - $5.92
Petroleum - $13.56
Propane - $13.92
#2 Heating Oil - $15.33
Jet fuel - $16.01
Diesel - $16.21
Gasoline - $18.16
Wood pellets - $18.57
Ethanol - $24.74
Electricity - $34.03 _Source, Sources, and Conversion Factors

This is the type of comparison that the Obama - Pelosi crusade for energy starvation does not want you to see. But there it is, stark and plain.  It is important to separate issues of cost from peripheral issues such as "carbon climate catastrophe" and "peak oil."  

The only way that Powder Basin coal can be used cleanly is via gasification -- preferably using Integrated Combined Cycle Gasification with Combined Heat and Power production (IGCC with CHP).  IGCC extracts more energy from the fuel, using both gas and steam turbine cycles.  CHP makes productive use of the "waste" heat, making the entire enterprise above 80% efficiency.  Powder Basin coal is cheap and dirty, but it can be used cheap and clean using IGCC plus CHP.    If you want liquid fuels, you can convert cheap, dirty coal to cheap clean liquids using gasification plus Fischer Tropsch catalysis etc.

Forget the carbon sequestration, unless you have an algae farm or other productive use for the CO2 you are sequestering.   Carbon sequestration is a horrific waste of resources.  It virtually eliminates the advantages of IGCC while doing nothing for the environment except necessitating the use of even more fuel.

When the people understand the issues behind the grand crusade of the Obama - Pelosi Revolutionary Reich for redistribution, energy starvation, economic depression, and social justice, they tend to vote against it.

Published earlier today at Al Fin

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Dense Plasma Focus Fusion Film Festival

In honour of a recent unveiling of an ongoing dense plasma focus project in Las Vegas, NV, by National Security Technologies (H/T to Brian Wang), Al Fin Energy presents a Dense Plasma Focus Fusion Film Festival, for your edu-tainment pleasure. The first two videos are short and sweet. That last one is over an hour long -- a Google Tech Talk by physicist Eric Lerner of Lawrenceville Plasma Physics.

Al Fin physicists are partial to the Bussard IEC fusion approach, but several of them admitted to Al Fin that the "quasar appeal" of dense plasma focus exerts a strong attraction. The simplicity of the basic approach of dense plasma focus as explained by the videos above and by the Focus Fusion Society, suggests that it should take relatively little time and money to either prove or disprove the feasibility of the approach.


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Unprecedented Use of Ethanol in Gas Turbine Generator

General Electric has collaborated with Petrobras in Brazil to create the first gas turbine power plant to run on ethanol instead of natural gas. GE modified the turbine specifically to run on the renewable biofuel made from sugarcane. If the conversion holds up well, it should be just the first of many examples of high-efficiency gas turbine generators to run on renewable biofuels.
Installed in the Benfica Industrial District, in Juiz de Fora (state of Minas Gerais), the plant has two 6000 GE LM aeroderived turbines manufactured by General Electric (GE), and its total installed capacity is 87 MW. It is connected to the National Interconnected System (NIS) and has supply contracts in effect through 2020. One of these turbines, with an installed capacity of 43.5 MW, was adapted to also run on ethanol.

The conversion of the turbine involved the replacement of the combustion chamber, of one of the injector nozzles, and the installation of peripheral equipment (receipt system, tanks, pumps and filters) which allow the receipt, storage and flow of ethanol to the turbine.

GE developed the new combustion chamber especially for the use of ethanol and natural gas. The equipment was installed in the turbine in Brazil, at Petrobras’ Turbo Machine Workshop, in Macaé. Through an agreement with Petrobras, GE is following-up on the tests and will be entitled to use the data that are obtained to improve and market the technology to other plants in the world.

...The results have been very satisfactory in the first days of testing. In 150 hours of power generation with ethanol, from December 31 to January 13, there was a 30% reduction in NOx emissions, compared to those caused by burning natural gas.

The Center for Natural Gas and Renewable Energies Technologies (CTGAS-ER), a partnership between Petrobras and SENAI, assembled a monitoring station at the Juiz de Fora TEP to measure nitrogen oxide (NOx), carbon oxide (COx), and sulfur oxide (SOx) emissions in real time.

Power generation from ethanol opens major opportunities for the country, with economic, energetic, and environmental gains. In addition to the energetic security derived from diversifying the sources of generation, there is also the creation of a new market segment for ethanol in Brazil and abroad, the reduction of the atmospheric emissions levels, and the possibility of negotiating carbon credits on the international market by means of the Clean Development Mechanism (CLM). _tbpetroleum

In other news, research on the pyrolysis of wood pellets using microwaves suggests that microwave pyrolysis of biomass may have a future. Pyrolysis is one of the main methods of increasing the energy density of biomass, along with gasification, torrefaction, and drying/compression.

This report on the materials revolution in relation to nuclear energy is worth reading for anyone interested in near to mid-term developments in nuclear power. The report also discusses the use of glasses and cements for the encasing and long-term safe storage of hazardous nuclear wastes not suitable for recycling.

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Monday, January 18, 2010

Jack Frack Ice Fracture Changes Oil Outlook

Water expands almost 10% of its volume when it freezes. This natural ice fracture technique allows for a repeated fracture "jacking" effect in oil well fracking, to release around 5% more oil from a well.
Repeating the freeze-thaw cycles over many hours .... creates a “jacking” effect, with the cracks running farther and farther out from the well bore, much like a crack in a car windshield gets longer with each heating and cooling cycle.

Kosakewich believes “This technology is a game-changer, and allows the small and medium-sized firms a chance to compete with the big firms, which are publicly traded and can raise a lot of money.” A plan to be tried in a mature oilfield in the Pembina reservoir, will be to rework the depleted areas, with the help of PetroJet, a Calgary company that uses revolutionary fluid-cutting technology to auger through installed well casings and create new horizontal bore holes. “They can go 50 meters out from the existing vertical bore in four directions, and we can frac in all these directions. Even if we can recover only three to five per cent more oil from these fields, that represents an incredible reserve of light, sweet oil from existing fields, and with all the infrastructure in place,” Kosakewich said.

...Liquid CO2 still flows under pressure at minus 55 C. It’s pumped down a small inner pipe. The liquid CO2 flows back to fill the space between the inner pipe and the almost three-inch outer tube. Water is pumped down to fill the space between the outer tube and the eight-inch borehole. The water is slowly frozen – expanding and cracking the surrounding rock. The high pressures inside the refrigerant pipe protect it from damage. _NewEnergyandFuel

Such advanced methods of improving oil recovery will allow for a higher percentage of extraction from previously "exhausted" wells.   Such technologies are being applied in North America and other non-OPEC regions.  But eventually -- in the next 50 years perhaps -- such technology may be applied widely in the Persian Gulf area, when that region is "exhausted."   But probably not, since by that time better alternatives for energy and fuel will be available.

Put simply:  OPEC and other oil dictatorships have nationalised most of the world's oil -- artificially limiting world oil supplies (political peak oil).  Private oil-cos must scrape the bottom of the barrel, and are doing so profitably.  They are motivated.

 Most of the world's oil and gas supplies have not been located yet.  Huge volumes of oil have been located but not tapped.  Of the fields currently being tapped, most of the oil remains in the ground for dozens of reasons primarily centering on politics.

But all of that will become irrelevant as the world moves beyond oil to more plentiful and sustainable energy supplies such as advanced fission and eventually fusion.  (solar, biomass, and geothermal will become important, and other dark horse candidates may emerge)

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Sunday, January 17, 2010

Saltwater Biomass in Abu Dhabi for Jet Fuels

UOP LLC, a Honeywell company, the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology in Abu Dhabi, Boeing and Etihad Airways are establishing a research institute in Abu Dhabi—the Sustainable Bioenergy Research Project (SBRP)—that will use integrated saltwater agricultural systems (ISAS) to support the development and commercialization of biofuel sources for aviation and co-products. _GreenCarCongress

If You Can Grow It There, You'll Grow It Anywhere . . .

Halophytic plants are able to thrive on brackish and salt waters. Halophytes such as Salicornia can be irrigated with salty water, grow normally, then be harvested for biomass -- producing multiple crops per year.
The integrated approach uses saltwater to create an aquaculture-based farming system in parallel with the growth of the mangrove forests and Salicornia, a plant that thrives in salty water. These biomass sources can be sustainable harvested and used to generate clean energy, aviation biofuels and other products. The closed-loop system converts aquaculture effluent into an affordable, nutrient-rich fertilizer for both plant species. Developing low-cost, non-petroleum fertilizers is a key to achieving reductions in carbon emissions from any biofuel source. This technology has been pioneered by Dr. Carl Hodges of Global Seawater Inc., who has been engaged as special advisor to the project.

The development of low-cost, non-petroleum fertilizers is one of the keys to achieving genuine carbon emissions reductions from any biofuel source. This seawater farming concept has been successfully implemented in Mexico and Northern Africa by Global Seawater Inc., which will provide advice and insight to support the SBRP in Abu Dhabi. _GCC

One of the most common arguments made against the future of biomass energy, is the claim that there is not enough arable land on the planet to produce enough energy crops to make a difference in the long-term energy equation.   Assuming the charge is true (it is not), what if you did not require "arable" land to grow your energy crops?   Salicornia loves desert land and saltwater.  Algae love deserts and saltwater.  A large number of near-future gene-engineered crops and microbes will thrive on saltwater in the desert.  Just add sunlight and CO2, and perhaps a bit of saltwater aquaculture etc. to round out the ecosystem.

The involvement of Honeywell and Boeing in the Abu Dhabi project suggests that at least a few fairly educated and reality-driven individuals have looked at the pros and cons -- and decided to go ahead.

Most of the naysaying about biomass energy comes from academics who wouldn't know one end of an industrial process from the other.  Professors who never had to balance a budget in their lives, who never did an honest day's work in their lives, perhaps.  An unfair accusation to some, but many modern academics fit the picture of being better at polemics than at solving problems and getting things done.

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Saturday, January 16, 2010

A Significant Limitation of Large Wind Energy Projects

Large scale wind energy suffers from many problems. The UK recently discovered one of those serious problems:
...the shortfall in power generated by wind during cold snaps seriously undermined the Government's pledge on Friday to build nine major new wind "super farms" by 2020.

"If we had this 30 gigawatts of wind power, it wouldn't have contributed anything of any significance this winter," he said. "The current cold snap is a warning that our power generation and gas supplies are under strain and it is getting worse."

Coal stations are currently used as back-up generation when there is a surge in demand for gas and the wind does not blow – which both tend to happen during cold weather.

However, increased dependence on wind farms will coincide with a European Union directive shutting down Britain's dirtiest coal and oil fired power stations.

The UK has committed to switching off these stations by 2015, leaving it uniquely vulnerable to gas shortages and the intermittency of wind farms.

The EIUG, which represents the major steel, chemicals, paper, cement, glass, ceramics and aluminium companies,
said many of its members were worried about the prospect of future gas rationing.

"It will be industry that gets its gas switched off first," Mr Nicholson said. "Just imagine going through the winter we're having now when energy demand has gone back up to pre-recession levels, we're more reliant on wind and 60pc of supply comes from gas compared with 40pc now.

"What is industry going to switch to using?"

Andrew Horstead, a risk analyst for energy consultant Utilyx, said current plans to build 30 gigawatts of wind farms could have serious consequences for the security of the UK's energy supply in harsh weather conditions.

"This week's surge in demand for energy in response to the cold weather raises serious concerns about the UK's increased reliance on wind power," he said. _Telegraph_via_SmallDeadAnimals
If you are a true believer in "green utopian crusades", you will merely smile, shrug, and say "screw industry"!

But green utopian crusaders can only spew their nonsense when they are being coddled by the wealth of industrial societies. Primitive societies do not breed frivolous green utopian crusaders (GUCs). They are too busy surviving against the worst nature can throw at them.

I wonder how Oynklent Green [OTC:OYNK] works on GUCs?


Friday, January 15, 2010

Smart Chemistry: Catalysing a Better Biodiesel

Turning plant oils into high quality liquid fuels is not easy. Most biodiesels are actually methyl or ethyl esters, rather than pure hydrocarbons. They may not perform the same as petro-diesel -- particularly at cold temperatures. In addition, if you can create pure hydrocarbons, you can refine them into any hydrocarbon fuel that you want.

A new, potentially low cost catalytic process that produces hydrocarbons instead of esters, has been announced by researchers at Applied Research Associates' labs in Florida.
Benefits of the non-ester fuels can include higher energy content than alcohols or ester-based fuels; excellent combustion quality, similar to Fischer-Tropsch fuels (low soot and high cetane); good low-temperature properties (viscosity, freeze point, pour point, and cloud point); and superior thermal stability, storage stability, and materials compatibility.

...The process involves three main production steps:
The CH process that converts triglyceride to biocrude. The CH reaction is the key conversion step in the triglyceride to biofuel process.
Decarboxylation and hydrotreatment of the biocrude resulting from step 1.
Fractionation of the resulting non-ester biofuel into JP-8, naval distillate, and gasoline cuts. _GCC
Of course, you have to grow the bio-oils first, before you can convert them to jet fuel, diesel, and gasoline.

In other biofuels news, researchers in Thailand are looking at sweet sorghum as an alternative to sugar cane -- as an ethanol feedstock.
Thailand's current ethanol production depends on cassava and sugarcane, both of which are winter crops.

"Sweet sorghum would be the new option for the ethanol producer. Since farm products are seasonal, which we cannot control, we need different crops in different seasons to ensure we have raw materials all through the year," said Mr Krairit. Feedstock prices would also be less volatile, he added.

Sweet sorghum supplies would be ready in the rainy season, said Mr Krairit.

Khon Kaen University began research and development into sweet sorghum at its fields and laboratories several years ago after it found the crop's high sugar content could suit production of ethanol as well as sugar.

"We also plan to develop further products from sweet sorghum. We think it could be a material for bioplastic as well as chemical substances for food ingredients."

India and China are also looking at developing sweet sorghum as a raw material to secure ethanol raw materials, he said.

Sugarcane is currently cheaper than sweet sorghum as a source for ethanol in Thailand but sorghum could be competitive when cane and cassava are out of season, he said. _BangkokPost_via_Biofuelsdigest
Sorghum has a much wider climate range than sugar cane, is more resistant to cold, and requires less water.

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Thursday, January 14, 2010

New Technology for Gasification, Nuclear, Geothermal....

In order for the world's economies to climb out of the current quagmire, several types of plentiful energy supplies will be needed. Long-term energy sources include solar, nuclear, geothermal, and biomass (one form of solar).

A new method of gasification of industrial and solid municipal wastes promises to provide large new supplies of clean energy -- while turning landfills into valuable repositories of wealth.
The process was developed in collaboration with Cascades Engineering and Projects, a division of Cascades Canada Inc. The system uses high-pressure high-temperature steam in an oxygen-free reactor, thereby reducing environmental impact. This new technology allows faster reduction of carbon-based materials to produce synthetic gas that can easily be converted to fuel or other forms of energy, as needed.

This project, developed in accordance with the City's Sustainable Development Action Plan, in agreement with the Green Municipal Fund criteria and in conjunction with the government MSW objectives, will significantly reduce the amount of waste Salaberry-de-Valleyfield sends to landfill. It will also produce substantial savings on costs generated by the transportation and disposal of waste. Furthermore, the City of Salaberry-de-Valleyfield's continued association with Global Clean Energy on this project will eventually lead to the creation of a new source of biodiesel to fuel some of its installations and reduce its energy costs. _via_BiofuelsDigest

Nuclear engineers at Idaho National Laboratory are looking into the use of graphite for future nuclear reactors.
Windes said Great Britain has been using reactors with designs similar to what his team is proposing since the 1950s. The United States researched graphite for nuclear purposes for decades, but with oil prices and enthusiasm for nuclear power plunging, the program was shut down in the 1980s, Windes said.

Windes' team in Idaho Falls is now dusting off that old research.

"We're trying to improve upon those old designs," he said. "In some ways, we're just reinventing a wheel that's already been invented, which is the price you pay for dropping something."

But Windes' team is working with some significant advantages. Scientists today have the benefit of perspective when they revisit old experiments, as well as better instruments and access to much more advanced grades of graphite, he said.

Graphite isn't a perfect solution to all nuclear problems. Over time, exposure to radiation causes it to shrink, distort and ultimately crack, Windes said. The INL team is conducting experiments largely focused on how to solve this problem.

The team placed a graphite sample in INL's Advanced Test Reactor in September, where it is exposed to similar conditions as a next-generation nuclear reactor, Windes said. The sample is scheduled to be removed in May 2011 and tested for thermal, physical and mechanical changes. _USNews
This is one area where new molecular manufacturing techniques will pay off. Pure graphite may not hold up to the necessary punishment over a long period of time -- but molecularly modified graphite certainly will. Better nuclear reactors are desperately needed, to expand the use of nuclear power.

Enhanced geothermal energy is a potentially limitless source of heat and power, but recent concerns over seismic side effects threaten to limit geothermal's use. New single-well technology appears to provide all the advantages of enhanced geothermal, without the seismic risk.
The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) has a project investigating a new type of Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS) - single well geothermal. Single Well Geothermal potentially resolves many of the problems with conventional EGS - lower environmental impact, less ground water contamination, and mercifully less seismic events.

Another advantage to Single Well Geothermal is that there are over 4,000 abandoned bore holes from the oil and industry that can be used for the geothermal industry and the single well architecture. _GTM

Europe is quickly expanding its biomass electricity industry.
Currently, about 800 mono-firing power plants in 23 countries convert thermal energy from the incineration of wood, black liquor or other biomass into electrical energy. The electrical power of these plants increased from 5,300 MW in 2003 to 7,100 MW at present. “We expect a further increase of the capacity up to more than 10,000 MW until the end of 2013,” said the authors. _Bioenergy

The University of Arizona receives a grant to develope fuels and products from algae.
"To tackle the problem of large-scale production of algae for fuels and other products we have to have a better understanding of everything from the biology to the interfacing with existing petroleum processing plants," Ogden said.

"We're looking at the whole thing," she said, "from growing algae to putting fuel in your tank."

Belief in "carbon climate catastrophe" from burning fossil fuels, is more a religion than a science.


Canada Gots the Big Pipes

What good is trillions of barrels of oil-equivalent, if you cannot get the crude to the refinery or the market? Several pipeline projects address this concern, including the Keystone Pipeline, the Alberta Clipper Project, and the Enbridge Expansion.  (via New Energy and Fuel)

These pipelines transport crude oil from oilsands to refineries in Illinois and Oklahoma.
Canada is also host to pipelines that transport Alaskan natural gas south to markets.

New refineries are also to be built in Alberta and Saskatchewan, to serve the Canadian market.

With millions of billions of barrels of crude waiting to be used -- to soften the transition to a more sustainable energy economy -- Canada is not just sitting around twiddling its thumbs, like a certain government in Washington DC seems to be doing.  Get all the details on these projects from Brian Westenhaus.

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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Canada OIl Sands Update

From SeekingAlpha:

The oil sands in Canada will see higher capital spending in 2010, as exploration and production companies start to restore spending on projects that were cut during the panic of 2009. Production from existing projects will also continue to increase during the year.

Production Expected To Ramp Up

....The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers estimates that production from the oil sands will be approximately 1.8 million barrels per day by 2012, and 3.25 million barrels per day by 2020. This updated estimate incorporates cutbacks announced during the sharp drop in commodity prices and the recession.

Kearl Oil Sands Project
Imperial Oil (NYSE: IMO) recently announced that it would move forward with Phase I of the Kearl oil sands project. The first phase will have a capacity of 120,000 barrels per day, coming on line in 2012. Imperial Oil is 69.6% owned by Exxon Mobil (NYSE: XOM).

Firebag Project
Suncor Energy (NYSE: SU) also announced its 2010 capital expenditure plan, which contained $950 million in spending for phases 3 and 4 of its Firebag development. Each of these phases will have capacity of 68,000 barrels per day, and phase 3 will be on line in 2012. Other companies may also announce the restart or initiation of projects in 2010 as economic growth restarts.

One smaller cap company with leverage to activity in the oil sands is Oil States International (NYSE: OIS). The company's well site services segment provides lodging and other services to workers on site at projects.

This leverage to oil sands activity for Oil States International is highlighted by a recent contract announcement. The company received a contract to provide accommodation for the Kearl oil sands project, and it will expand capacity at its Wapasu Creek Lodge from 2,900 to 5,000 rooms.

Delayed Projects Restarting And Carrying On
Capital will continue to flow to various oil sands projects in Canada, as various companies carry on and restart projects that were delayed by the recession and credit crisis of the last two years. Source

New pipelines will support oil sands production

Canada will not allow Obama - Pelosi to bully it on oil sands

Canada's energy resources are vast and growing.  Faux environmentalists continue to focus on carbon hysteria as a way of denouncing oil sands development.  But energy starvation from misguided regulations and taxes would create far greater environmental devastation in the long run than a careful development of energy resources to support the economies of the most environmentally conscientious political entities the world has ever known.


Energy News and Views

DuPont prepares to fire up its cellulosic ethanol demo plant on 29 January 2010. The plant will accept both agricultural waste and biomass crops as feedstock.

ZeaChem's approach to cellulosic ethanol may give it a jump-start over competitors. "ZeaChem’s technology is a parallel hybrid system of fermentation and gasification. This hybrid process achieves 40% higher yield than other cellulosic processes. ZeaChem’s patented biorefining process uses an acetogen – a species of bacteria naturally adapted to digest the tough carbon chains of cellulose – to extract the maximum amount of energy available from the feedstock. ZeaChem offers the highest yield, lowest production cost and lowest carbon emissions profile of any known biorefining process."

California startup Cobalt Biofuels aims to produce bio-Butanol from "non-food" biomass. Butanol has several properties that make it a superior biofuel to ethanol for use in most modern internal combustion engines.

"White coal" (pressed biomass briquettes) is becoming a popular and economical fuel in many parts of rural India. (via Bioenergy) The briquettes are made from agricultural waste which farmers have no use for -- creating a new and welcome cash stream to poor rural areas.

The Jatropha genome is being tweaked to improve oil production. Jatropha is potentially one of the best of the 1st generation oilseed crops -- since it can be co-cultivated with other cash crops, and even with food crops, making more efficient use of land.

Canadian company develops process to produce both cellulosic ethanol and sweetener xylitol from wood chips. The key to profitability and competitiveness in the biofuel industry is to make full use of resources. The ability to produce multiple profitable products efficiently from the same feedstock gives a company flexibility to meet changing market demands.

Obama's green jobs initiative likely to prove one more disaster on top of an already disastrous Obama presidency.


New Gulf of Mexico Natural Gas Find May be Huge

The new discovery of a potentially huge new natural gas field is a reminder to energy analysts that most of the Earth's surface remains unexplored for its energy and mineral wealth.
The discovery points out the potential for yet another frontier for oil and gas development in an area of the Gulf of Mexico called the Outer Continental Shelf that has been drilled extensively for nearly a century. The difference is the depth and the quality of the pre drilling seismic studies. The studies plus the newly drilled well suggest the same rock and sand layers that in recent years yielded major oil and gas discoveries several hundred miles out in the Gulf may be equally rich with oil and gas in shallow water areas, where exploration and production is much easier and cheaper. There might be a groan heard from those deep water investors if oil prices plummet someday. For U.S. refiners and consumers this is great news.

It’s sure to draw investment back to shallower water depths. This will be another energy stimulus program run by private citizens. _NewEnergyandFuel
Meanwhile, the price of oil hovers around US $80 a barrel, stimulating significant new exploration for energy reserves within non-OPEC countries. Since gas can be converted to liquid fuels (GTL), any new discovery of natural gas is also a discovery of new liquid fuels reserves. The same applies for coal (CTL) and other carbonaceous minerals. Even massively renewable biomass (BTL) will soon be seen as an important source for gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, and other important fuels and chemicals.

You see, peak oil is not just about oil any longer. It is about fungible energy supplies, substitutable energy supplies. So, surprise! The world's supply of energy will only grow larger -- unless political peak oil instituted by statist dictators and deluded climate utopians dooms us to energy starvation.


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Nano Cavitation Approach to Algal Oil Harvesting

Cavitation Technologies sells equipment for a wide array of purposes -- from food processing to wastewater remediation to desalination, and now for economically separating algal oil from algae.  The process involves the application of massive imploding pressures on the algal organisms.
This technology is able to extract oil from Algae on a continuous basis for commercial applications, resulting in another renewable fuel technology from CTI. The algae industry is poised to dominate the world of biofuels and we are prepared to participate in supplying the world with what we believe to be the most advanced technology.

...Extraction can be broadly categorized into mechanical methods as well as chemical methods. The most efficient method is cavitation based extraction. By utilizing CTI's cavitation reactor, the extraction processes can be greatly accelerated. CTI's Nano reactor is used to create cavitation bubbles in a solvent material, when these bubbles collapse near the cell walls it creates shock waves and liquid jets that cause those cells walls to break and release their contents into the solvent.

Algae is often referred to as the "Ultimate" renewable energy source, we are excited to offer a technology that refines and accelerates the process considerably. _Bioenergy

Current methods of producing algal oil cost between $20 and $100 a gallon -- clearly not competitive with fossil diesel or other biodiesels. But as each expensive step in the algal-oil production process is treated to technological breakthroughs, the price of production is incrementally reduced.

Al Fin biofuels engineers predict that algal oil will achieve price parity with petro-diesel in the lab, within 10 years. Full-scale industrial parity will take between 15 and 20 years. Within 30 years, algal (and other microbial biofuels) will have captured 30% of the transportation fuels market.

The US military is pursuing various approaches to bio-jet fuels and biodiesel as a strategic imperative. If the civilian US government under Obama (or anyone else) declares an official policy of "energy starvation", or "political peak oil", the military must get its fuel somewhere without bowing to the oil dictatorships of the world. The military is willing to pay more for its strategic supplies if it must.

The US consumer is more limited in its resources, and will have to wait longer for giga-scale biofuels.


Monday, January 11, 2010

Do Hedge Funds Affect Energy Prices?

Guest Article by Darrell Delamaide

Regulators Seek to Throw Light on Hedge Fund Impact in Energy Trading

Do hedge funds have an impact on energy trading?

While the answer might seem intuitive, the debate as to whether they actually do has come to resemble the medieval theological dispute about how many angels can dance on the head of the pin.

Because, like angels, many trades in energy futures are invisible, and it is often not possible to pinpoint where they take place.

And yet, for most of us, including lawmakers on Capitol Hill, it seems obvious that when hedge funds buy and sell billions of dollars worth of oil and gas futures, it must be having an impact on energy prices. While hedge funds and other speculative traders would never dream of taking delivery of a barrel of oil, their trading activity affects the prices for actual consumers of oil and gas and their downstream customers – or so it would seem.

When Gary Gensler, a former Goldman Sachs banker and Treasury Department official, was nominated last year as chairman of the Commodity Futures and Trading Commission – the chief regulator for energy futures trading – he reversed the CFTC party line that speculators don’t have an impact on energy trading.

“I believe that excessive speculation in commodity futures can cause sudden or unreasonable fluctuations or unwarranted changes in commodity prices,” Gensler said in a written response to lawmakers’ questions ahead of his nomination hearing.

Gensler went on to pledge that if confirmed, he would have the CFTC guard against such speculation.

While he stopped short of saying that excessive speculation had taken place in the run-up of energy prices in 2008, he did express the opinion that the rapid growth of commodity index funds and increased hedge fund allocation to commodity assets contributed to the “bubble in commodities prices that peaked in mid-2008.”

He noted that non-commercial investors sometimes account for up to 90% of open interest in a contract. (Open interest is a calculation of the number of active trades for a particular market, and is used as an indicator whether trading is becoming more or less active.)

Gensler’s answer, enshrined in draft legislation currently before Congress, is to make trades more visible by requiring all over-the-counter derivatives to trade through an approved clearing house. While the thrust of new legislation is to get a better handle on financial derivatives such as credit default swaps, it will give regulators a better picture of all derivatives trading, including energy contracts.

At the same time, the CFTC and the Securities and Exchange Commission both are beefing up their ability to monitor hedge fund activity. The SEC for the first time will require hedge funds to register as investment advisors, and Gensler has pledged closer oversight of the funds that it supervises as commodity pool operators.

The industry, predictably, is pushing back. In congressional testimony on the new legislation, the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, the largest futures exchange in the world, and other exchange operators presented studies based on CFTC data to show that large positions held by index funds and other managed money were not “routinely detrimental” to the commodity markets in the period January 2005 to June 2008.

“All of the trader groups displayed instances of non-optimal behavior (including small traders), but none were consistently harmful to the studied markets,” they said.

A task force of the International Organization of Securities Regulators (IOSCO) released a report last March that came to a similar conclusion.

“While reports reviewed by the task force concluded that fundamentals rather than speculative activity was the plausible explanation for price changes, the task force has made a number of recommendations to improve the transparency and supervision of these markets,” IOSCO said.

These included suggestions regarding information about the underlying commodities, access to and sharing of information about trading positions, beefing up enforcement powers, and improving global coordination.

The spectacular collapse of the Amaranth Advisors hedge fund in 2006 when it lost $6 billion on natural gas futures did pull back the veil on hedge fund activity in energy markets. Amaranth built up its huge position in natural gas futures through OTC contracts that exactly mirrored the contracts on the New York Mercantile Exchange but remained hidden from regulators, who were unable to enforce position limits designed to rein in speculative trading.

In hearings about Amaranth before various House and Senate committees as well as at the CFTC itself, it became clear, at least to many lawmakers, that contracts on unregulated trading venues can influence prices.

The case was so straightforward that it prompted the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to flex its new post-Enron mandate to stop manipulation of energy prices by pursuing disciplinary action against Amaranth.

This led to a turf war with the CFTC, which claimed exclusive jurisdiction over futures trading and argued that FERC’s mandate extended only to spot trading. FERC countered that when activity in the futures market affected spot prices, it was authorized to act.

Those proceedings ended in a joint settlement last August, before either CFTC or FERC held their administrative hearings and before an appellate court could decide the jurisdictional issue.

But the Amaranth case remains as a reminder of what a hedge fund can do in energy markets if these trades are not more transparent. Legislation bringing more visibility to the market and strengthening the hand of regulators will ensure that hedge fund activity in the energy markets will be more closely monitored and limited.

This article was written by Darrell Delamaide for who focus on Fossil Fuels, Alternative Energy, Metals, Oil Prices and Geopolitics. To find out more visit their website at:


Peak Oil Can Be Pushed Past 2040? Brian Wang

With rapid advances occurring in the development of microbial fuels, biomass fuels, nuclear fission reactor design, solar thermal, fuel cells, etc., the need for fossil fuels will decline markedly sometime within the next 30 years. Brian Wang suggests that "Peak Oil" can be delayed beyond 2040 using technology that is now near development.
Singularity Technology is not needed to push peak oil past 2040, but related super technology would be needed to move beyond oil and fossil fuels around that timeframe. Although enhancing current nuclear fission technology with factory mass produced deep burn reactors and a shift to electrification could also enable a substantial shift from oil and fossil fuels. I expect that earlier than expected success with nuclear fusion (IEC fusion, Field Reverse Configuration - Tri alpha Energy/Helion Energy, and/or dense plasma focus fusion) will demonstrate success this decade and begin commercialized energy generation 2020-2025. The energy picture could be totally changed 2025+ especially if manufacturing technology improves as well.

Conventional technological progress is also making more supplies of natural gas and coal available and increasing the efficiency of the power plants by up to double current levels (30% increasing to 50-70% efficiency. _NBF
Brian goes on to discuss several new methods of oil recovery, and improved efficiencies in recovery of oilsands and in refining oil and other fossil fuels. Many links are included.

Americans are living under the agenda of energy starvation -- political peak oil -- as implemented by the Obama - Pelosi administration. But if the US ever cleans its government of the vampires who infest its every department and bureaucracy, the abundant possibilities that exist, will be more obvious.

The US Constitution never permitted presidents or congress to implement massive social engineering. The current congress and executive have stepped well beyond constitutional limits on government. They intend to go much further.


Friday, January 08, 2010

Not So Fast, Peak Oil

Endless Oil
Technology, politics, and lower demand will yield a bumper crop of crude
"Only about 32% of the oil [in reserves] is produced," says Val Brock, Shell's head of business development for enhanced oil recovery. Shell estimates 300 billion barrels and maybe more might be squeezed out of existing fields, much of it once thought beyond retrieval. Peter Jackson, IHS Cambridge Energy Research Associates' London-based senior director for oil industry activity, has reviewed data from the world's biggest fields. His conclusion: 60% of their reserves remain available.

The fact that there's still oil for the taking is driving Shell and other majors to come up with new technologies, which are expensive to develop but worth it when crude is riding high. While the price has fallen considerably from the peak of $147 per barrel in 2008, it is still far above what many oilmen expected a few years ago. "You will see companies going into the deep water, going into the arctic, using the best technology," says Maugeri, who sees the oil industry as a dynamic system that responds rapidly to changes in the economic and political environment.

Even if the new technologies add just a few percentage points to the recovery rate, such gains add years to global supply and boost the industry's profits. So the technology of coaxing oil out of the ground is constantly improving. Heating up heavy oil, as at Schoonebeek, is one new trick. Companies can add heavy polymers to the water they blast into a production site to push more oil out; the polymers add weight to the water and increase the pressure on deposits. (Shell is trying such technology on the Marmul field in Oman.) Another tactic is to inject soap into the ground to break the surface tension that makes leftover oil cling to the rock.

Simple methods can help mature oil fields produce more and even uncover bigger reserves than imagined. A study of fields in Indonesia by IHS CERA found that it wasn't uncommon for them to produce more than double initial estimates. Petroleum engineers help the fields live longer just by drilling new wells or installing better pumps. "As a field ages, the operators learn more...that allows them to tweak their operations," explains Leta K. Smith, a Houston-based analyst for IHS CERA.

Sharp falls in production can be arrested. Output at Samotlor, Russia's largest field, was plummeting in the late 1990s. The field's owner, TNK-BP, formed in 2003, has since managed to boost production by a third. Adjusting the placement of the pumps in the wells yielded big gains, while three-dimensional seismic technology gave a better glimpse of the oil-bearing structures under the ground. _BusinessWeek

Squeezing more oil out of the ground

PDF Peak Oil Realities PDF

It takes time, work, intelligence, and an open-minded pursuit of truth, to break through the scams and the garbage to the most likely realities beneath. Most people are not equipped. But for those who are, some potential profit plays remain.

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Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Another Algal Fuels Collaboration

“We believe that genetically modified algae provides the best, large-scale, sustainable solution to the multiple resource limitations the global economy is experiencing, providing high-quality alternatives to fossil fuels, petro-chemicals and protein sources without impacting arable land and water,” said Dr. Noam Gressel, co-founder and board member of TransAlgae. _Bioenergy
Genetic modification of micro-organisms is almost certain to transform the liquid fuels industry. Not overnight. Give it 20 years. But between now and 20 years from now, a lot of things will be happening that you may not hear about from the MSM. You may well wake up one morning and discover that everything has changed.
Endicott Biofuels, LLC, a Houston-based, next-generation biodiesel producer, and TransAlgae, Ltd., an algal biotechnology company, have signed a Memorandum of Understanding for the development of algae as a potential transportation fuel and renewable chemical feedstock source.

TransAlgae’s mission is to develop commercially viable algae strains for a variety of algae biomass growth platforms in order to deliver cost effective transportation fuels as well as other non-energy applications.

For the past year, Endicott has been involved in a fully flexible feedstock development program for the production of biodiesel, which includes algae oil-to-biodiesel commercialization. Among its future development plans are technologies that provide a higher degree of freedom for algae producers in algae strain selection and algae oil extraction for the production of biofuels. _Bioenergy
Algae can produce oil for fuel, but it also produces biomass that can be turned into fuels. Algae also makes good proteins for animal (including human) feed, and is used in the human cosmetics industry, among others. Most of the world's future plastics may be made from algal hydrocarbon production.

The monetary potential for tomorrow's algal tycoons is enormous -- into the trillions of 2010 US dollars. That is why billions of dollars of research goes into the nascent algal industry -- even though in 2010 algal oil is nowhere near competitive with fossil oils.

Micro-organisms are the future of liquid fuels. But we have to get to the future to enjoy it. That means we will have to create open access to all forms of energy today -- oil, coal, gas, kerogens, bitumens, nuclear ..... The energy starvation policies of Obama, Pelosi, Boxer, Salazar and the other incompetents in US government, will not get us there.

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