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.



Blogger Ronduck said...

In lieu of turbines from Mitsubishi we could build Stirling engines to convert the heat output of our nuclear power plants to electricity. Or I could be missing something.

But if I am right then we could work around a shortage of turbines.

4:27 PM  
Blogger al fin said...

Yes. Nice try, with some potential there.

The idea is to extract as much electrical energy (via mechanical) from the heat as possible.

The ideal would be to cascade as many heat cycles as possible on top of each other, to extract every bit of heat difference you can.

Every cycle loses energy as heat, but if you can use the waste heat from that cycle as the operating heat for the next cycle, you can keep it going.

Some of the new fission reactor designs are gas cooled, so they could drive gas turbines at the top end, steam turbines next, then lower level cycles below that.

The Stirling cycle would be near the bottom of the cascade, capturing lower level heat energy.

Check out Heat Engines at Wiki, and consider how you would stack your different heat cycles.

I like the idea of combining the Brayton, the Rankine, the Stirling, and the Kalina cycles in a heat cascade. There might even be enough heat at the end for low level thermoelectrics, but I doubt it.

(think of it as a series of waterfalls, with the cycles operating at higher heat on top, followed by the next higher, etc.)

6:22 PM  
Blogger Ronduck said...

Gas cooled reactors are not new. The British came out with the Magnox reactor and later the Advanced Gas Reactor. These designs could be licensed from the Brits without the need to reinvent the wheel, or the reactor. The AGR currently works with two reactors under the supervision of a single control room, with the two reactors producing about 600MW. We could start by building a copy of their latest version and then scale up the reactors to gigawatt class, that way a single control room would only watch over one reactor. The AGR also has a concrete containment vessel instead of a steel one, eliminating the need to buy specialized steel in Japan. Finally, here in AZ there was talk for awhile of adding another reactor to the Palo Verde reactor complex, but if that were to happen a new source of water would have to be found to feed the cooling circuits. The existing reactors on the PV site use treated sewage water, but I don't think there would be enough to go around for another reactor. All thermal power plants built west of the Mississippi river in the US will have water supply problems so gas cooled thermal plants will probably be the wave of the future. In fact, future coal fired plants should be gas cooled.

My concern with using Sterling engines was not just the availability of Japanese parts, but also I hold to the position that highly engineered parts should be avoided when lower tech, easier to build parts are available. Land is relatively cheap in the US so even if Sterlings take up more space they would still be worth it if they could be built cheaper.

I really feel we are running in circles on this since all of the design work you are suggesting has already been done.

7:49 PM  

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