Friday, April 30, 2010

Optimistic Timelines for Algal Fuels


Scientists at the University of Michigan are producing bio-oil from microalgae in just minutes -- using heat and pressure.
“We make an algae soup,” Savage said. “We heat it to about 300 degrees and keep the water at high enough pressure to keep it liquid as opposed to steam. We cook it for 30 minutes to an hour and we get a crude bio-oil.”

Using high temperatures and pressure lets the algae react with water and break down, releasing the native oil. Proteins and carbohydrates within the algae also decompose, increasing the fuel yield.

“We’re trying to do what nature does when it creates oil, but we don’t want to wait millions of years,” Savage said. “The hard part is taking the tar that comes out of the pressure cooker and turning it into something you could put in your car, changing the properties so it can flow more easily, and doing it in a way that’s affordable.”

With that in mind, Savage and his colleagues are looking at using catalysts to increase the energy density of the algal fuel. They also hope to reduce its viscosity and cut its sulfur and nitrogen content. _Wired
More here. The U. Mich. method involves a pyrolytic conversion of algal biomass to biocrude. Other approaches to algal fuels attempt to coax the microalgae into excreting large quantities of bio-oil continuously -- without having to kill or destroy the algae in the process of making biodiesel. Still other approaches aim to gasify algal biomass to syngas, then proceed to make synfuels from the syngas using catalytic syntheses such as Fischer Tropsch.

According to optimistic forecasts at Emerging Markets Algae 2020 PDF, biofuels producers will be producing up to 6 billion gallons per year of algal biofuels by the year 2025.

Japan is looking at converting rice paddies into algal biofuel and aquaculture ponds.

Origin Oil is developing a process to convert wastewater into jet fuel, using algae

As rapidly as algae is capable of growing with a bit of sunlight and CO2, if scientists can tweak the organisms so as to maximise oil production, the algal and microbial fuels industry could go from promise to powerhouse in just a few years. Say, 10 years to significant impact on energy markets, 20 years to providing roughly 30% of liquid fuels.


3 Microbial Fuels Projects -- Out of Hundreds

The Geobacter bacterium could be the biofuel-generating machine of the future, producing energy-rich butanol costing as little as $2 per gallon.

A project seeking to accomplish this, headed by Derek Lovley and colleagues at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, received $1 million in funding today from the Department of Energy's Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E). It was not even the largest grant, with 37 projects receiving $106 million to further their research in this second round of funding.

The Geobacter project is part of a new wave of biofuel generation experiments that feed electricity into tiny critters and generate valuable "electrofuels" as a product. _NYT

E. Coli:
The E. coli bacteria that can sicken bad-meat burger eaters may someday help power their cars through the next fast-food drive-through.

The U.S. Department of Energy yesterday put $6 million toward a potential biofuels game-changer that will play out in a research project led by a Hub bioengineering start-up.

“This is our biggest grant to date,” said Jason Kelly, founder of Ginkgo BioWorks. “It’s a great opportunity for us. It’s going to help us expand, and it’s part of our strategy of moving into alternative energy.”

After celebrating near their South Boston offices last night, the MIT-born outfit will now dig in and refine the process of a common bacterium converting carbon dioxide and water into isooctane, a key ingredient in gasoline. _BostonHerald

Joule claims its process could produce up to 15,000 gallons of diesel and 25,000 gallons of ethanol per acre per year at full-scale production.

The technology involves microorganisms growing on solar platforms that resemble green solar panels. The organisms take sunlight and carbon dioxide in the air – photosynthesizing in the same way as any green vegetation – and then secretes biofuels.

The process – called Helioculture – produces renewable diesel fuels in a single-step, continuous process the company says could help cut the use of petroleum-based fuels.

Bill Sims, president and CEO of Joule, said the technology was “commercial-ready”, adding that it could have a rapid scale-up allowing full production to start in 2012. _BrightEnergy
Clearly some microbial fuels projects are further along than others. The potential fuels will range from gasoline to diesel to jet fuel to butanol to cellulosic ethanol to methane or propane.

No one expects large scale sommercialisation of microbial fuels before 2015. 2020 should see microbial fuels (including algal fuels) beginning to have a distinct impact on fuel supplies and prices worldwide. By 2030, microbial fuels and other biofuels should supply close to 30% of liquid fuels globally.

Microbial products will also increasingly substitute for petroleum in the synthesis of plastics and high value chemicals.


Thursday, April 29, 2010

Hyperion Power Generation Modular Nuke News

Image from NewEnergyandFuel

Hyperion Power Generation was featured in the pages of Inc. recently (h/t Brian Wang), with something of an update on its small nuclear reactor progress. The article follows Hyperion's John Deal to the UK, where Hyperion plans to set up its first modular reactor factory. Deal is on a sales tour of the UK.
Deal gives a quick sketch of how his nuclear plant works: A room-size reactor is buried underground, where the uranium fuel heats up metal, which in turn heats up water sent to a conventional electricity-generating steam turbine above-ground. "The specifics are boring," says Deal. "I'll send you a white paper with all this technical junk in it." This will be Deal's excuse for follow-up contact.

"The top question you'll get from your customers," he continues, "will be about safety and security." And that just happens to be Hyperion's strong point. He goes on to describe how the more conventionally designed mini nuke offerings from other competitors resemble "big teakettles," in which boiling water around the nuclear core provides cooling and heat transfer, with a "real potential for failure." (No turbine water runs through Hyperion's metal-filled reactor.) No nuclear power vendor wants to explicitly invoke the specter of a nuclear catastrophe, but Deal has doubtless said enough to help Barnes recall the sorts of radioactive steam plumes associated with the Three Mile Island and Chernobyl accidents -- accidents that haunt the industry. "Our reactor is more like a battery," Deal says. Bad guys can't get at the sealed core, he says, and even if they could, they wouldn't be able to do anything with the molten, non-weapons-grade mess. "We're not quite as efficient as the others," he admits. "But who cares? We're about safety and security, and we make our price point."

...The reactor is sealed at the factory and shipped to the customer's site for burying. It runs for seven to 10 years, without requiring refueling or tampering with. Other reactors need human intervention, and that's where accidents tend to occur, Deal observes. After the Hyperion unit is spent, customers can swap in a new reactor "cartridge," simply leave it buried, or let Hyperion dig it up and take it away for recycling.

"There's plenty of heat available," Deal tells Barnes. "That's free energy, and Mace could use it to set up a water- or sewage-treatment business." Another profit-line suggestion, though it's an unlikely one -- most power plants give off heat, and the obvious opportunity is to provide warmth to buildings, not to clean water and sewage. As it turns out, though, water is one of Deal's obsessions. He sees nuclear power as a means to an end: to address the lack of clean water that leaves huge swaths of the planet mired in sickness, poverty, and even warfare. It's an obsession that drove him in 2002 to start a wind-power company in New Mexico. But unreliable winds, regulatory hassles, and objections from many locals to rows of hilltop wind turbines left Deal discouraged and the company in limbo.

That's when he ran into Otis ("Pete") Peterson, a scientist at the U.S. government's Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico who had a design for a tiny nuclear plant (and who is now the company's chief technical officer). Deal wasn't a fan of nuclear power, but he wondered if a small-scale generator could be the key not only to green energy but also to clean water. Such a device, after all, could be easily shipped to and set up alongside any small town or village, where it could sit safely underground, cheaply turning out electricity for homes, factories, and irrigation -- along with water-cleaning heat.

..."We have great connections with the U.S. military, and they're not bound by regulatory agencies," he says. "We have political connections who see us as having a chance to be the ones who lead a U.S. nuclear renaissance. We're overcommitted on orders. We keep hearing, 'When will you be able to ship us one?' And we hear it in a lot of different accents. And we're not worried about the approval process. The reception from the agencies has been great, and we expect the process to take less than two and a half years. This thing was designed to be approved. We've got $200 million of U.S. National Lab research behind us.

Brian Wang also looks at research to develop advanced UO2 - BeO beryllium alloy fuel for nuclear reactors. It is claimed that the superior heat conduction properties of the beryllium oxide skeleton will allow the fuel to be burned longer and deeper -- resulting in more economical power production overall.


Trillions of Barrels of Oil Equivalent Strain to Break Free


For decades, the oil shales of Wyoming, Colorado, and Utah have wanted to break free of the rocks, to provide the US with abundant -- trillions of barrels -- oil equivalent. But the kerogens of oil shale are tightly bound to the rock, and have not been easily or economically extractable until recently. General Synfuels International claims to have developed a clean, economical process for exploiting these trillions of barrels of oil-equivalent. But will Obama - Pelosi let them develop the fuels, even if they can?
General Synfuels International (GSI), a subsidiary of Earth Search Sciences, Inc., has formed the $10-million “Patriot’s Oil Shale Technology Fund L.P.”, to complete funding of the Phase 1 construction of a full-scale prototype oil shale plant under construction in Rock Springs, Wyoming.

The goal of this research and development type partnership is to prove the GSI Omnishale superheated air (SHA) in situ technology can recover large amounts of oil and gas products from American oil shale and oil sands in an inexpensive, economically viable and environmentally acceptable manner.

...In 2009, GSI secured an exploration agreement for lands in Wyoming and rights to a separate oil shale resource opportunity in Colorado. _GCC

For ideological reasons, the current Obama - Pelosi US government is dedicated to energy starvation -- the preventing of all large scale viable energy production in the US. But the US public is growing angry over the many suicidal policies of the O-P reich -- which are not consistent with many of the pre-election promises and public assurances of O-P.

If the US can find its way to energy abundance -- in spite of its horrifically ideologically inept government -- many of the underpinnings of the nanny state will collapse in the ensuing waves of economic prosperity.


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Genetic engineering has always held the keys to a robust bioenergy response to possible fuel shortages. One of the companies best personifying the "can do" approach to advanced biofuels, is Chromatin, Inc. Chromatin specialises in the production of artificial "mini-chromosomes", or gene stacks, that are designed to be inserted into a plant's genetic apparatus, to harness the plant's natural dynamics for the purposes of making a higher yield of fuels. Chromatin aims to use this technology with sorghum -- a hardy plant capable of producing grain, sugar, or biomass.
...sorghum holds additional advantages as a preferred biomass source for sustainable bioenergy production the company points out:

It is capable of growing across a wide geographic area within the US, offering a broad opportunity as a multi-regional, locally-available dedicated energy crop;

Sorghum thrives on marginal lands, is water and nutrient efficient and provides a low overall environmental footprint; and

Sorghum does not directly compete as a domestic food resource.

Sorghum is ideally suited as the energy crop for the future. Sorghum is adapted to 80% of the world's agricultural land, is very drought tolerant, is extremely efficient on less than optimum soils, and has a very favorable carbon footprint compared to other major grain crops. By joining forces with Chromatin, we will speed the development and distribution of advanced sorghum bioenergy feedstocks worldwide, while continuing to support our existing customers. This is truly a step forward for sorghum.

—Larry McDowell, SPI’s President, and Chromatin's Director of Seed Operations

Chromatin will be further building and commercializing its sorghum product portfolio over the near term. Using a phased approach as a platform for improving sorghum over time, the company will use technologies such as compositional screening and analysis, marker assisted breeding and gene stacking to deploy proprietary feedstocks near term and ultimately to optimize sorghum for specific bioprocessors’ needs. _GCC

Other researchers will turn their genetic expertise to transforming sugar cane, tobacco, maize, and other plants to produce higher yields of fuels. Yet other researchers are hard at work producing high yield algae, cyanobacteria, and other microbes for biofuels, chemicals, and plastics. Even more researchers will turn to the transformation of bioenergy crops and microbes for arid and saltwater environments.

Watson and Crick started an avalanche of human ingenuity, back in the early 1950s. That is as it should be.

In fact, most of humanity's resources should be devoted toward promoting greater human ingenuity in solving problems -- rather than in promoting government graft and neo-fascist corporatist greed, as we see in Obama - Pelosi and other modern national governments far too often.


Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Bioenergy News

Cambridge Mass. startup Joule Biotechnologies changed its name today to Joule Unlimited. Joule received a fresh $30 million in funding, and its pilot plant in Texas is scheduled for completion this summer.
The growing 40-employee company plans to use its new funding for its pilot plant underway in Leander, Texas, which is expected to test its solar fuels. The funds, which are also expected to later fund its demonstration efforts, came from undisclosed institutional and private sources that joined Flagship Ventures, Joule’s founding venture capital investor. Sims wouldn’t disclose how much the company has raised to date.

...The funds are also anticipated to support developments in genome engineering, bioprocessing, and hardware engineering to optimize productivity and generate product samples, offering validation of the company’s process beyond the lab.

On the biology side, Joule has advanced its diesel product, produced from the same Helioculture process that makes its ethanol. Sims said the company has already shown the production possibilities of diesel and can start demonstrating at a faster pace.

“Once the piloting is done, we are going to be very focused on diesel,” he said.

A demonstration facility is expected to follow the pilot plant in the summer of 2011, with a commercial facility in 2012 centered on diesel. Sims said Joule expects to be fully commercial by 2013. At full-scale production, the company projects producing up to 15,000 gallons of diesel per acre annually, at costs as low as $30 per barrel equivalent. _CleanTechMedia

French oil giant Total is investing in Coskata -- cellulosic ethanol plasma gasification startup. Coskata also has ties to General Motors.

BP and DuPont are teaming together in the bio-butanol company Butamax. Their plans are quite ambitious in comparison to other bio-butanol startups.
We are coming online this year. The UK demonstration plant commissions in Q3, and is designed to help us prove out the integrated technology. We’ll enter the US market and be commercially viable in late 2012 and early 2013, and at commercial scale. Our focus will be ethanol plants retrofitted to biobutanol , and the sales of licenses to other plants that can retrofit to biobutanol. We are also looking at entering Brazil on a commercially viable basis in 2013. Our focus there will be exports to strategic markets, including US and Europe.

...We needed to have a technology that could be applied to an existing plant – its an add-on, There are two areas when you retrofit, one is in the fermentation, one is distillation. We have an advanced yeast technology, in that we have altered yeast to make other alcohols. The discovery that Dupont and BP have been working on is a yeast that can produce at commercial scale and cost.

... We are at a threshold where its time for us to seek out partners. demonstrate biobutanol at an energy equivalent basis – not volume – at partity with bioethanol – Discovery is still moving towards our commercialization target of having parity with ethanol on an energy equivalent basis [note: the same production cost per BTU of fuel energy] and by 2013 we will have that commercial viability. _BiofuelsDigest

A study of New York biomass resources concludes that New York state could supply 16% of its liquid fuel using biomass to liquids technologies. 16% may not sound like much to some observers, but in reality it is a huge quantity to trim from the liabilities ledger for any economic jurisdiction.

Naturally Scientific claims to have made a deal with China to build 6 $50 million facilities to produce bio-oils using CO2 and cell cultures. The cell culture approach is distinctly different from conventional biomass, seed oil, or microbial approaches to producing bio-oils. It will be fascinating to learn more details as they come out.


Monday, April 26, 2010

Spallation Drilling Offers Hope for Deep Geothermal

Deep rock drilling is extremely expensive, but in order to take maximum advantage of enhanced geothermal energy, we have to drill many thousands of feet into the hot rock. The links and video below point toward a possible solution: spallation drilling.
Brian Westenhaus took a recent look at the growth in the number of geothermal projects across the US. And a recent Seeker Blog article on geothermal energy suggests that spallation drilling should provide an economic means for drilling at the necessary depths for high quality heat.  The graph below shows the projected economic benefit of spallation drilling vs. conventional deep rock drilling.

Hydrothermal spallation was invented and patented by cofounder Bob Potter and Jefferson Tester of MIT. The patent is owned by MIT and licensed exclusively to Potter Drilling.
An animation of how hydrothermal spallation works.

An animation of how hydrothermal spallation works.
Chad Augustine MIT PhD Thesis Chemical Engineering

Summary of Potter Geothermal project funded by US DOE

Description of hydrothermal spallation drilling at Energy Boom

2006 Technology Review interview with patent holder Jefferson Tester

Adapted from a post published at Al Fin, The Next Level


Sunday, April 25, 2010

China Scours Entire World for Coal

China's international coal buyers are reaching out to coal producers around the world. From Australia, to South Africa, to Russia, to the US, China struggles to compensate for shortfalls in domestic coal production by using imported coal.
China has become a net coal importer, and its import volumes continue rising rapidly. During the first quarter of 2010, China imported 48.2 million tons coal, increasing by 2.4 folds compared with the same period of last year, and accounting for near 7 percent of its total coal consumption. A projected coal consumption of 3.2 to 3.3 billion tons for 2010 could put total net coal import at 150 to 200 million tons for the whole year.
Import volumes of all types of coal except for Anthracite that is heavily used as a feedstock for fertilizer and other chemicals soared up dramatically. Coal import sources were extended to almost all major coal producing regions of the world including the US, Canada, Columbia and South Africa. Indonesia, Australia and Vietnam remained as the leading sources, followed by Russia, Mongolia, South Africa and Canada. Evidently, coastal provinces in China are increasingly relying on import. _Source

While western utilities are attempting to move toward cleaner gasification coal plants and the co-firing of biomass with coal, the top priority in China is energy, clean or dirty -- period.

Up to 90% of China's GDP is being churned into infrastructure building -- much of which is going unused and unoccupied, and will collapse and crumble anyway within 20 - 30 years due to poor construction. An "infrastructure to nowhere", in other words. But it is crucial for China to maintain its economic activity at all costs, for the time being, and as long as China is not at war and is not exporting enough to drive the economy, it must use infrastructure-building as its core economic driver. Thus the frantic consumption of the world's energy and material resources.

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Saturday, April 24, 2010

Using Waste Engine Heat to Cool Your Car


Sorption Energy is a UK company aiming to commercialise vehicle air conditioning systems based upon adsorption heat pump technology. The Sorption units will operate on the waste heat from normal engine operation, rather than parasitising mechanical power from the actual engine output. Sorption aims to save 10% or more of fuel costs during warm weather by this method.
The operation of adsorption heat pumps and refrigerators is based on the ability of porous solids (the adsorbent) to adsorb vapor (the adsorbate or refrigerant) when at low temperature and to desorb it when heated. Adsorption heat pumps thus use an adsorbent chemical rather than a mechanical compressor, and are driven by heat rather than mechanical work.

The systems often use natural refrigerants such as water, ammonia or methanol; Dr. Critoph and Sorption Energy prefer ammonia as a refrigerant and active carbons as the adsorbent.

Adsorption heat pumps are cyclic in operation and require a condenser, expansion valve and evaporator similar to those used in conventional compressor-driven systems. However, the compressor is replaced by the adsorption system.

The basic system consists of two linked containers, one of which contains the solid adsorbent (the generator). The other is the combined evaporator and condenser or receiver in which the refrigerant is evaporated and condensed.

At low temperature and pressure, the adsorbent contains a high concentration of refrigerant, while the receiver contains only refrigerant gas. When the generator is heated, the refrigerant is desorbed, raising the system pressure. Refrigerant condenses in the receiver, rejecting heat and producing a useful heat output if the system is to be used as a heat pump. Here, the evaporator is located outside the building and extracts energy from the surrounding air, transferring it back to the system and eventually to the condenser and generators for use in the dwelling.

Cooling the generator back down to its initial temperature completes the cycle and causes the adsorbent to readsorb the refrigerant. The system pressure is reduced and the liquid refrigerant in the receiver evaporates, absorbing heat. This produces the useful cooling effect if the system is to be used as a refrigerator. Here, the evaporator is used to extract heat from the space to be cooled. The heat from the condenser and the generator cooling is typically dumped outside.

Although the heating and cooling provided by a single generator is discontinuous, it can be made continuous by operating two or more generators out of phase. _GCC
Sorption is a spinoff from University of Warwick, UK, and utilises some significant breakthroughs in adsorption heat pump technology developed at Warwick which improve the efficiency of the system appreciably, and makes the actual devices much smaller and more manageable for small vehicles such as cars. The Sorption devices are based upon an activated carbon / ammonia pairing using a highly compact plate heat exchanger using nickel brazed shims and spacers.

Here is an analysis from USC / CSULB looking at the use of adsorption heat pumps in mass transit vehicles in the Los Angeles area.

This type of heat pump has been used on board satellites, and on shipping containers. They can be driven by any type of heat source, including solar heat. For automobiles, the use of waste engine heat to drive the heat pump is reasonable, and could result in significant savings during summer months. The heat pump could be used for heating the vehicle during cold weather, of course, but conventional automobile heating systems already utilise waste engine heat to keep car occupants warm.

The possibility of using this technology for domestic home and apartment heating purposes is being considered as well -- contingent upon finding an economical and reliable heat source to drive the system, and absolute proof that any system using ammonia as a refrigerant would be safe for household use. Methanol is an alternative coolant.

Cross-posted to Al Fin

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Friday, April 23, 2010

Another Approach to Profitable Algae Farming

BioCentric Energy Holdings Inc. has announced the commercialisation of its closed-loop algal photobioreactor (PBR) system for dual production of Omega 3 fatty acids and algal biomass. Omega 3 fatty acids are valuable nutraceuticals used in food and medical products production and as a dietary supplement. Algal biomass can be used for multiple purposes -- as feedstock for biofuels, in animal feed, or as feedstock in plastics or chemicals production.
Each closed-loop module is designed to encompass one acre of land. By strategically positioning five modules on the property they will have the economic advantage of sharing the Siemens PLC system as well as the harvesting, dewatering and sharing extraction equipment.

During the initial site assessment on the Southern California properties, the Company identified the water and carbon sources (and the quality thereof), along with the temperature range and climate, the soil characteristics and the physical topography of the land. This was the first step in determining if the land would be suitable for the algae farm. The next step for BioCentric Energy is to finalize the choice of the robust algae strain (Omega-3 EPA) that will grow quickly within the confines of the targeted location. BioCentric Energy's goal is to begin immediately with the grading and civil engineering of the land and subsequently install the integrated closed-loop PBR system by early summer 2010. Once the PBR system is installed, optimized and sterilized, the inoculation of the algae into the system will begin. _Marketwire_via_Biofuelsdigest
The trend for biofuels makers is to exploit every possible product in its process, and to utilise every aspect of its feedstock to save operating costs -- as when maize ethanol producers burn corn cobs to generate process heating, saving on natural gas costs.

Newsrelease and video on BioCentric's plans


Thursday, April 22, 2010

ZeaChem Proves Key Step - Pilot Plant Due Online This Year

ZeaChem's goal is to produce fuel from wood. The only ones to complain would be the termites, and they have no significant lobby in Washington DC.
The ZeaChem process goes something like this (illustrated in the above diagram):
  1. Woody biomass (e.g. hard- and softwood, grasses, corn stover, etc.) goes in one end.
  2. That woody stuff gets chemically separated into two groups: sugars and “everything else.”
  3. The sugars are sent to a fermentation tank where, using nothing but already existing and proven microbes, they are fermented into acetic acid. A key benefit of this type of fermentation over traditional fermentation with yeast that you see in corn ethanol facilities is that it produces no carbon dioxide. Yeast fermentation produces one molecule of CO2 for every molecule of ethanol. You can see the problem there.
  4. The resulting acetic acid then goes through a process called esterification to convert it to ethyl acetate.
  5. The residue of “everything else” that is left over from the initial chemical separation is then gasified and turned into hydrogen and other syngases.
  6. The hydrogen is then combined with the ethyl acetate to make ethanol in a process called hydrogenation.
  7. The other syngases are burned to generate the necessary steam and electricity needed to run almost the entire process from beginning to end.

Now that ZeaChem has proven its esterification step it is ready to set up its pilot plant sometime before the end of 2010. The company has an advantage over most other biofuels companies in that its key intermediate -- ethyl acetate -- is itself a valuable chemical on the market, and could be sold instead of ethanol, should the market dictate.

Now we will see which approach for producing ethanol from cellulose is best: ZeaChem's indirect path, the direct to ethanol fermentation, or the gasification to fermentation approach favoured by Coskata.


Critical Fuel System Engines Burn Gasoline Or Diesel, More

Critical fuel combustion engines can intake gasoline or diesel fuel or any mixture of both along with alcohol additives for operation at 16:1 compression ratio with major fuel efficiency and emissions gains. Very fast fuel burn takes place before reaching combustion chamber walls thereby reducing thermal losses. Efficiency is further enhanced by ability to operate unthrottled lean, misfire free out to 80:1 air fuel ratio. HC, CO and particulate emissions are cut to insignificant levels. EGR rates up to 50% with stable combustion are achieved with very low NOX levels. Combustion experts believe this will permit operation with very little if any exhaust aftertreatment when the system is optimized. _ ai-online

It is about time that heat engine designers came up with a better internal combustion engine design. If an engine could run on virtually any liquid fuel without causing damage to itself, a big part of the "peak gasoline" brouhaha would evaporate almost instantly.

The ability to run on ethanol, vegetable oil, diesel, gasoline, methanol, biodiesel, all of the above, and more -- provides an incredible degree of latitude in where a motor vehicle might be able to operate on the planet.
Another aspect is the impact on emerging bio fuel producers who must judge the future demand for middle distillate vs. gasoline type fuel if critical fuel combustion engines become mainstream. In this connection, it will be interesting to learn vehicle operator reaction to the prospect of being able to choose gasoline or diesel fuel at the retail pump. In turn, as critical fuel vehicles come into widespread use that can accept fuel with lower octane and cetane values, comes the question of whether a new fuel grade might evolve.

As a factor in the overall fuels issue, it can be argued that rather than billions of dollars in U.S. tax credits spent on ethanol to cut emissions and foreign oil, these objectives could be better achieved by tax credits for use of critical fuel combustion. On balance it would appear that existing light vehicle diesels fitted instead with critical fuel combustion technology may be the earliest to reach the market due to their existing high compression, robust architecture. de Boer suggests that IC gasoline engines intended for use with turbocharging also have robustness suited to high compression critical fuel operation. _ai-online


Norway and Sweden Team Up to Test Thorium Reactor

Although Norway separated from Sweden in 1905, the two countries can still get together for special occasions and projects. Alf Bjorseth, founder of a large solar energy company Renewable Energy Corporation (REC), is promoting an important reactor test of thorium energy concepts by the energy startup company Thor Energy PDF. The project is being sponsored by Swedish utility Vattenfall, and will be conducted at a Norwegian reactor site.

The experiments by Thor Energy are aimed at generating vital data to test the feasibility of safe, large-scale power production using the thorium cycle.
Thorium, he noted, isn't perfect. Thorium power plants do create radioactive waste. The nuclear waste from a thorium reactor, however, would mostly consist of unspent fuel. It does not result in materials that can be upgraded into weapons easily. (This slide deck from Thor has more info.)

"It is still a nuclear reaction, but we don't get plutonium at the end," he said.

Plutonium, in fact, could be mixed into the thorium fuel rods so the reactors could effectively help reduce the stockpile of nuclear waste while generating power. Additionally, the 232-isotope material that is needed for a thorium reactor occurs naturally, eliminating the need to enrich it.

The Indian government, small outfits like Thorium Power and TerraPower in the U.S. and even some established nuclear companies have discussed the possibilities of thorium for years. NuScale Power, which has created a modular reactor, is said to be examining thorium. Coastal thorium reactors potentially could even be exploited to power desalination plants. Senators Orrin Hatch and Harry Reid have promoted thorium in the U.S. -- that's a thorium accelerator in the picture.

Although some early reactors burned thorium, the industry shifted to uranium because of the large amounts of heat generated by that fission reaction, which in turn throws off the capital-per-gigawatt calculation. Thorium proponents [hope] those controversial side effects, combined with more information about thorium, could change the picture.

"We believe it is not a technical challenge. The challenge is to generate the data," he said. _GreentechMedia
It is telling that one of the world's leading proponents of solar energy finds it necessary to invest a significant amount of time and effort into developing a form of nuclear energy. If the experiments are successful, and point the way toward large scale utilisation of the thorium cycle, it is likely that China, India, and perhaps Japan and France, will be in a position to scale the technology up.

The US, under Obama - Pelosi, has been in full-scale energy starvation mode toward any viable forms of large-scale power and energy production. The US will almost certainly be caught flat-footed under the current administration.

Thor Energy powerpoint slides PDF


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Novel Approaches to Biofuels

MIT's Technology Review has a story on Joule Energy's micro-organism, with a novel genetic switch incorporated:
Joule's bioengineers have equipped their microörganisms with a genetic switch that limits growth. The scientists allow them to multiply for only a couple of days before flipping that switch to divert the organisms' energy from growth into fuel production. While other companies try to grow as much biomass as possible, Afeyan says, "I want to make as little biomass as I can." In retrospect, the approach might seem obvious. Indeed, the startup Synthetic Genomics and an academic group at the BioTechnology Institute at the University of Minnesota are also working on making fuels directly from carbon dioxide. Joule hopes to succeed by developing both its organisms and its photobioreactor from scratch, so that they work perfectly together. _TechnologyReview

Joule's approach is exactly the opposite of that taken by a team from the University of Michigan. They maximise biomass in order to pyrolyse the entire bulk of algae into bio-crude.
The pressure-cooker method the U-M researchers are studying bucks the trend in algae-to-fuel processing. The conventional technique involves cultivating special, oily types of algae, drying the algae and then extracting its oil.

The hydrothermal process this project employs allows researchers to start with less-oily types of algae. The process also eliminates the need to dry it, overcoming two major barriers to large-scale conversion of microalgae to liquid fuels.

"We make an algae soup," Savage said. "We heat it to about 300 degrees and keep the water at high enough pressure to keep it liquid as opposed to steam. We cook it for 30 minutes to an hour and we get a crude bio-oil."

The high temperature and pressure allows the algae to react with the water and break down. Not only does the native oil get released, but proteins and carbohydrates also decompose and add to the fuel yield. _EnergyPublisher

Genencor is taking an even broader approach, by engineering a microbe that can produce both biofuels and isoprene -- synthetic rubber for tires.
Genencor, the industrial enzyme specialist, has engineered a microorganism that can produce a version of isoprene that is chemically identical to the 1.7 billion pounds of isoprene created annually with fossil fuels. This so-called BioIsoprene can then be converted into jet fuel, diesel, polymers or synthetic rubber through additional chemical processes.

...How these different products get to market will vary. The company could ship raw BioIsoprene or establish joint ventures for finished or semi-finished products. Revenue from Genencor comes to around $800 million a year.

"One of our core competencies is the design and optimization of the cell factory," LaDuca said. "We make microorganisms to do work for us." _GreenTechMedia

Bioenergy, biofuels, high value chemicals, cosmetics, nutraceuticals, and animal feed. All of that and more will be produced routinely from microbes, biomass, agricultural and forestry waste, municipal waste, and other assorted materials currently considered worthless garbage.

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A List of Remote Sensing Technologies from the USGS

Aeromagnetic surveying (10 items) 
Aeroradiometric surveying (1 items) 
Hyperspectral imaging (3 items) 
IFSAR (4 items) 
Infrared imaging (12 items) 
LIDAR (5 items) 
Microwave imaging (1 items) 
Multispectral imaging (11 items) 
Panchromatic imaging (1 items) 
Radar imaging (2 items) 
Thermal imaging (1 items) 
Visible light imaging (1 items) 

Satellite images (29 items)
Such remote sensing technologies can be used when prospecting for oil and gas, coal, and minerals such as gold, copper, iron, etc. As the newer forms of magnetic, electromagnetic, gravimetric, laser, infra-red spectra, gamma ray spectra, etc are refined and combined in more sophisticated manners, the new finds of energy and mineral deposits will continue.

Many of the new finds are coming in from locations that would have never been suspected from older technologies of exploration.

High oil prices drive the full range of research related to oil exploration, discovery, production, and the revival of "depleted" wells. This is only the beginning.


Eagle Ford, Bakken, Elk Hills Only the Beginning

Impressive new oil finds in Texas, California, North Dakota, and the Gulf of Mexico are encouraging to oil prospectors.

Although North America is by far the most over-explored continent in terms of fossil fuels resources, with the price of oil above $75 a barrel, we can expect the new finds to keep coming. The combination of new remote sensing exploration technologies with new drilling technologies means that "everything old is new again" in terms of finding rich energy deposits -- even in North America.

Many oil fields are considered depleted after giving up 33% or so of their oil. But now, even in the old fields once thought to be dead, new technologies of production are bringing dead wells back to life, squeezing ever higher proportions of residual oil out of the wells.

If technology can do all of that for North American fields -- the most picked over and extensively prospected and drilled of all the continents -- what do you think it will do for the massively rich oil fields on other, far less explored, continents?

Peak oil doomers believe that this is the end. They think that oil peaked in 2005 and it is all downhill from here. But smarter folks are beginning to see that this is only the beginning. Not only is there far more flexibility in demand than people thought, but there is also a great deal more flexibility on the supply side than most people expected.

If high oil prices continue, if the easy money policy of central banks combined with the ongoing speculative frenzy -- investors desperate to find safe yet high yielding investments -- continue, the higher prices for oil will bring a lot of new players into the oil discovery and production markets. It is already beginning to happen.

And that is a good thing, because it is better for big money to be invested in solving a problem like energy supply, than to be jumping around from one huge investment bank's speculative division to another.

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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Oil Sands Get Ready to Rock and Roll

Every year, the Canadian Heavy Oil Association and the Society for Petroleum Engineers hold a one-day symposium on the technical advancements and research being conducted in the oilsands.

It's structured as an off -the-record symposium, which means no papers are published or handed out; the purpose is to bring forward the research being conducted in oilsands to encourage discussion and information sharing.

Word has it that it's the best place to get a handle on what's going on in oilsands research and development.

On Monday morning, the room was packed with engineers -- sporting the occasional pocket protector -- and one could easily imagine any one of the four physicists from the Big Bang Theory sitcom among the participants.

And, as the lucky outside observer, it's clear to me within a few presentations that the criticism generously levelled at the oilpatch for its lack of research and development is misplaced. _CalgaryHerald
Oil prices in the $80 range are spurring oil exploration and production technologies. Canadian oil sands represent a huge resource of more than 1 trillion barrels of oil equivalent. At these prices for oil -- even if demand stays flat -- the technology of producing oil sands is only going to get better.
Today, the focus continues to be on increasing efficiency and decreasing costs, but along with that is a new angle -- minimizing the environmental footprint at the same time.

To borrow from Maslow's hierarchy of needs, it's an industry that has figured out the extraction puzzle -- the basic needs -- and can therefore move up the triangle to addressing the environmental challenges.

The fact that the research and development is not taking place behind lab benches and using endless Petri dishes doesn't mean the work isn't being done; it just happens in a different form -- on-site and in real time.

All this is important in the context of the role Alberta's oilsands will play in the global energy equation.

The reaction to oil prices being over $80 US per barrel has been wide-ranging...

...there is more than enough pipeline capacity into the U.S. destined for refineries capable of processing the bitumen, which means that difference in pricing between light and heavy oil are expected to continue to be very narrow.

Therefore, the work being done in the oilsands to improve efficiency and decrease the environmental footprint is even more important than ever. _CalgaryHerald_via_EnergyTribune

Current high prices for oil are largely the result of monetary policy at the world's central banks, and a current lack of safe harbour investments for large investors due to the ongoing recession. High oil prices continue to exert a moderating influence on oil demand in the US. Severe demand destruction could easily set in should speculation get out of control as happened in the summer of 2008, when multiple financial bubbles burst almost simultaneously.

The best course for governments is to structure their tax and regulatory infrastructure in such a way as to reward entrepreneurs and startups -- rather than to tax and regulate them to death, and starve them of energy as the Obama - Pelosi regime seems intent on doing.

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Eagle Ford: "Hundreds of Billions Worth of Oil and Gas"

New seismic technologies allowed prospectors to find liquid hydrocarbons in shales, even though the plays are deep and narrow – 12,000 feet down and usually only a few hundred feet thick. To efficiently drill these finds requires so-called "horizontal drilling," where rigs first must bore down to the oilfield and then veer sideways through it. The combination of these new technologies is releasing huge amounts of liquid hydrocarbons in the Eagle Ford.

Consider just one company's recent results. On April 7, EOG Resources announced drilling results from 16 test wells drilled across a 120-mile trend. Yes, that's right – a 120-mile trend. Based on the initial results and a core analysis, EOG believes it will produce 900 million barrels of crude from these wells over the next decade.

Mark Papa, EOG's CEO, says of the discovery: "We believe the South Texas Eagle Ford horizontal crude oil play will prove to one of the most significant United States oil discoveries in the past 40 years." _DailyWealth
Eagle Ford, a new shale oil discovery in South Texas, looks as if it may prove to be quite exceptional. Besides being a rich field of shale gas, Eagle Ford is one of the rare shale gas fields to also contain significant liquid hydrocarbon.
You need to understand one critical thing about the Eagle Ford play in South Texas: It holds liquid hydrocarbons, not just gas. And there's a lot of liquid in it, not just a little.

So-called "condensate" is the holy grail of the natural gas business. It refers to the amount of liquid (think butane) that's mixed in with the gas that's trapped in "tight" shales.

Shale gas plays have been the driving force in the onshore oil and gas business for the last decade. You might even have heard of some of the big fields by now: Barnett, Fayetteville, Haynesville, and Marcellus.

Shale plays are big, rich resources... but they normally hold only a little condensate. Eagle Ford is proving to be a notable exception – it is rich in condensate. More information about the size of the field and the volumes of condensate and gas is coming out almost every day now, and the numbers get better and better. A year ago, only a dozen drilling rigs were working across the entire play, which stretches across more than 30 counties. Today, more than 50 rigs are drilling well after well.

Judging by the pace of the drilling and the production rates of each new well, these 50 drilling rigs should allow production to grow to nearly 40,000 barrels of oil per day within the next 24 months. That's roughly $1 billion worth of oil per year at current prices.

Keep in mind... this is just from the handful of rigs working Eagle Ford in 2009. Those estimates don't include the value of the gas that will also be produced. And those estimates don't take into account the hundreds of additional rigs that will be put to work. Oil production is going to ramp up quickly.

I expect Eagle Ford to yield more than $2 billion in oil and gas by 2013 and to increase steadily for at least 20 years. These numbers mean Eagle Ford will probably produce hundreds of billions worth of oil and gas over the next 30-40 years. _DailyWealth

It is growing increasingly clear that the Obama administration is not serious about the development of domestic hydrocarbon resources. This lack of seriousness on the part of the nation's government puts the US at a serious disadvantage -- and makes America increasingly vulnerable to foreign oil producers, often state supporters of terrorism.

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Monday, April 19, 2010

2010: The Year of the Biofuel Pilot Plants?

The state of the art in biofuels has gone far beyond "moonshine" corn ethanol. With second and third generation biofuels moving from the labs into the pilot plants, 2010 may prove a pivotal year in the quest for a growable, sustainable liquid fuel. After the pilot plants are proven, the processes must scale up to commercial scale -- beginning in 2011 and 2012.
“I think this is the year of the pilots,” says Riggs Eckelberry, president and CEO of California-based OriginOil Inc. The company is one of several working to optimize algae production for biofuels and while Eckelberry recognizes that widespread production and competition with petroleum is 20 to 25 years away, he believes 2011 will bring about the first small-scale commercial systems.

“Scaling up will require time,” he says. “It’s a lot of brick and mortar. I still see scale, commercial programs at three to five years out. I think 2011 is going to be a very good year for showing that we’ve got commercial systems.” _biomassmag
It will take about ten years for biofuels to start to make an impact on world liquid fuels markets, but in the meantime, smart operators will look for profitable niches -- to jump start their profits and attract new investors.
Co-locating algae ponds at wastewater treatment plants would allow larger-scale growth, while providing more money to the plants, along with benefits such as waste energy, CO2 absorption and nutrient cleaning. “The fact is, wastewater is the home run for algae,” Eckelberry says, adding that it provides the most bang for the buck currently. Cultivating algae in a wastewater environment is 20 percent more profitable than other processes, he says. “Wastewater treatment plants have lots of nutrients,” he says. “So algae solves the problem by eliminating the denitrification stage.”

Researchers at the University of Virginia recommended co-location with wastewater treatment plants in a recent study, “Environmental Life Cycle Comparison of Algae to Other Bioenergy Feedstocks.” Published in Environmental Science & Technology, the report found that algae cultivation (excluding conversion) consumes more energy, has higher greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and uses more water than switchgrass, canola and corn. That environmental footprint, researchers concluded, comes primarily from upstream impacts such as CO2 demand and fertilizer, two major barriers to commercial and widespread production that can be alleviated by co-location at wastewater treatment plants or other areas that emit CO2.

“We were surprised by what we found initially,” says Andres Clarens, assistant professor at the university’s civil and environmental engineering department and lead author of the paper. “At the end of the day, the main conclusions here were that algae cultivation, at least as it’s envisioned or was envisioned for much of the ’90s and recently, in terms of open ponds, has a big environmental footprint.” But terrestrial crop production has improved greatly with experience in the past 100 years and so can algae growth. “It’s a pretty clear upward trend,” Clarens says of other crops, such as corn. “I think we’re standing at the bottom of that hill with algae.”

The message of the paper is there’s some low-hanging fruit in algae production, Clarens says. “If we’re serious about algae, we need to find a way to get nutrients from other sources, other than just dumping bags of fertilizer into the pond,” he says. “That’s never going to be a winner from the environmental standpoint and probably not from a financial standpoint, either.”
Entrepreneurs and biofuels managers cannot afford to stand still in a dynamic marketplace. Modern maize ethanol producers, for example, have grown far more savvy in their use of water and process energy/heat. The smartest producers are doing well, many of the others have had to sell out. That is how capitalism works -- and it works far better than central control and mandate by government.

The same type of shaking out process will occur in all biofuels and bioenergy enterprises. Some companies will be good, some will be lucky, some both, and some neither. There will be biofuels and bioenergy billionaires and bankrupts both. Success in honest business has always been a moving target, requiring fast thinking and quick feet.

The approaches that offer the most promise for bioenergy include thermochemical approaches (pyrolysis and gasification), algal / microbial fuels, cellulosic fuels, biomass co-firing with coal, better biodiesels, and better catalytic processes for refining bio-products to gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, etc.

Pilot plants for cellulosic alcohols, algal fuels, and gasification to biofuels via FT synthesis, are all either under construction or just starting up and under production. The bioenergy industry is not just sitting on its government mandates -- it is already working its way along a path to profitability and energy revolution.

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Sunday, April 18, 2010

SEC Charge Against Goldman has Volcanic Impact on Energy Markets: Guest Article from

SEC Charge Against Goldman has Volcanic Impact on Energy Markets

Oil Market Summary for 04/12/2010 to 04/16/2010

Oil prices plunged on Friday after the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission charged Goldman Sachs with fraud in its marketing of certain subprime mortgage securities, amid a general sell-off in financial and commodity markets.

The allegations against one of the biggest market makers in virtually every markets dampened speculation heading into the weekend. Much like the volcanic eruption in Iceland spewed a cloud of dust over northern Europe that grounded all air travel, the SEC charge cast a pall over financial markets.

The May contract for West Texas Intermediate, which expires next week, settled down $2.27 or 2.7% at $83.24 after briefly dipping below $83 in the wake of the SEC announcement. The benchmark contract settled at $84.92 a week earlier.

Goldman Sachs had no immediate comment. Prices had been drifting lower in equities and other markets prior to the announcement, but fell sharply afterwards, led by a plunge of more than 10% in Goldman shares.

Some analysts speculated that prices could rebound on Monday once the dust has settled, but market participants remained uncertain about the long-term impact of the SEC charge on Goldman’s business and on that of other major banks.

In the past, Goldman has rejected charges of misleading investors when it sold securities that it subsequently shorted in its own trading, asserting that that is the role of a market maker. Goldman is one of the biggest participants in the energy futures markets.

Oil prices started the week soft, but firmed up after Wednesday’s inventory report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, which showed a small decline in crude inventories after 10 successive weeks of increases.

An unexpected decline in April consumer sentiment reported on Friday, however, led to new doubts about the strength of the economic recovery and depressed prices. The market had been expecting a reading of 75 after 73.6 in the previous month, but instead the index came in at 69.5.

The inventory report on Wednesday pushed oil prices up 2.1%, to $85.84. But the monthly outlook from OPEC released the same day actually revised its forecast for 2010 demand for OPEC oil downward by 135,000 barrels a day from the previous month, to 28.8 million barrels a day. The group’s expectation for the overall growth in oil consumption also trails that of other analysts.


By. Darrell Delamaide for who offer detailed analysis on Crude oil, Geopolitics, Gold and most other Commodities. They also provide free political and economic intelligence to help investors gain a greater understanding of world events and the impact they have on certain regions and sectors. Visit:

Al Fin comment: The long term effect from attacks on Goldman depend upon how far the Obama administration wants to carry the attack. So far, the SEC announcement can be seen as a shot across the bow -- and a preparation for passing Senator Dodd's radical financial reforms. If Obama can get what he wants from the financial sector without having to take Goldman to court, he will move on to the next item on the agenda.

Of course, Germany and other "wounded parties" may not be so quick to let go of the attack. Obama may have given overseas sovereigns the opening they needed to go after large US financial interests, starting with Goldman.


Survivalists: Remote Controlled Portable Biodiesel Factory

On the US west coast, opposite California's Channel Islands, is a small US naval base that is trying out a remarkable biodiesel manufactory: ARIES (Automated Real Time Remote Integrated Energy System). ARIES converts non-food feedstock into high quality biodiesel by remote control. The Port Hueneme naval base is trying out the unit to see if it can be used for more forward bases. But if you are a survivalist, ARIES may sound like a nice little unit for your compound.
ARIES is equipped with a new and revolutionary element: remote control technologies that provide real-time sensing and management of key chemistry and processing parameters. The tools were developed by Aerojet, the same company that developed remote sensing and automated technology that sent man to the moon.

Real-time sensing can eliminate lengthy testing steps such as transesterification, which can take up to 1.5 hours, according to Russell Teall, Biodiesel Industries founder and CEO. When the reaction can be seen as it’s happening, those tests become unnecessary. “It’s a major advancement,” he said. “It’s the first time that sort of technology has been applied to biodiesel. It speeds things up by a factor of two.” The system includes stop points where it will show readings, asking if the operator would like to proceed with the reaction.

...The system also monitors the feedstock characteristics in real time. It can take several kinds of feedstocks including yellow grease, animal fat, energy crops, waste agricultural products and more. Not only that, but they can be mixed together. “You have to know what sort of characteristics the feedstock has,” Teall said. “Separating is burdensome, but ARIES can mix them up and tell you what the characteristics are on the fly.” The system will also recommend the best formula for the process with those particular feedstocks, leaving less room for operator error. The best feedstock mix depends on the location and climate. Teall cautions dependence on one feedstock can be unsustainable and vertical integration is crucial.

The Navy will make good use of the remote-controlled system, as it has identified 20 locations for the initial rollout, Teall said, adding that he doesn’t know a timeline for their establishment. The Navy has an obligation to meet between 20 percent and 50 percent of its energy needs internally by 2012. “So it’s going to be a fairly rapid rollout,” he said. The Navy’s immense consumption of fuel prompted the seven-year project, which began in 2003. “They’re the largest user of biodiesel in the world and it’s important they have access to their fuel,” Teall said.

The integrated energy system makes ARIES applicable to non-Navy endeavors, as well. The system produces about eight times more power and heat than it needs for its own processes. “In the international market, there’s a huge need in rural communities to create income and businesses that don’t exist right now,” Teall said. He cites India, where about 150,000 villages are without electricity. “It becomes a very efficient source of local heat.” _BiomassMag

Spokesman Teall above refers to using ARIES in rural Indian villages, but who is he kidding? ARIES is one expensive piece of hardware (if you have to ask how much, you can't afford it)! Only the US military and wealthy survivalists need apply.

More info here.

If you can afford an ARIES for your survival bunker (or remote off-grid cabin in Patagonia), you may also consider the self-fueling, free-roving robot that lives off biomass and can patrol a wide perimeter around your location while you are sleeping.

Remember, just because world economies and governments are committing debt and demographic suicide, is no reason that you have to. Although the fancy new tools of energy, nanotech, biotech, and transportation are not meant for collapse-of-civilisation use, always keep in mind the off-label uses for any technology.

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Saturday, April 17, 2010

Coal Reserves Reach Far Beyond Gas and Oil

The World Coal Institute estimates “there are over 847 billion tonnes of proven coal reserves worldwide,” enough “to last us over 130 years at current rates of production,” compared to 40 or 60 years worth of oil and gas. Known reserves tend to expand over time as companies find more and improve extraction technology. Our nation contains huge reserves of coal. _GJFreePress

If the US government invested half as much in developing clean extraction and use of coal as it dumps into the wind and solar rat-holes, the US would have no problem with energy supplies or energy balance of payments deficits to state sponsors of terrorism such as Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, or Russia. Coal is the ace in the hole that the energy-starvation reich of Obama and Pelosi have sworn never to play. China and India, on the other hand, are quite willing to use any coal they can get.
On the demand side, a ramp-up in Chinese steel production has turned the country from an exporter to a net importer of coal. Whereas China has built up significant stocks of base metals, inventories of iron ore and coking coal remain tight. Further, Investec Securities cites the impact of the consolidation of China’s steel industry, which will lead to the use of larger blast furnaces, and a need for high-quality hard coking coal, which cannot be sourced domestically. In addition, demand continues to grow in India, which at present consumes less that 7 per cent of the world’s coal against China’s 41 per cent. _TimesOnline
The US is burning coal more cleanly than ever, and with a little investment could do even better -- and still start to wean the country off terror-sponsor sourced oil. Investing in mine safety would also cut an already-low rate of coal mining fatalities.

Eventually, coal will be mined robotically, and by in situ gasification. But moving to those methods will also require investment. Instead, Obama - Pelosi is content to fizzle it away on jive castles in the air.

Advanced economies have to develop all of their energy sources to bridge the gap between the oil economy and the electric economy. If those economies are governed by zombies, they will experience prolonged recessions.


Algal Fuels a Better Use of Land than Other Biofuels?


The map shows relative land areas to supply the US with fuels from different bio-sources, using today's technologies. But technologies will change to provide increased yields at lower costs. Besides, what kind of a moron wants to depend upon only one form of energy?

It is important for advanced western nations to develop a healthy energy mix -- not to rely on any one form of energy as a primary energy supply. That is why it is folly to push for only one form of new, clean, sustainable energy. It is wise to develop multiple energy sources -- such as algal and other microbial fuels, biomass energy, enhanced geothermal, clean nuclear, domestic gas, clean coal, domestic oil, and unconventionals such as oil shales and oil sands.
"We estimate the pricing of our diesel products at as little as $30 per barrel," says Bill Sims, CEO of Joule Biotechnologies, a bioengineering firm focusing on the renewable biofuels market. "The big prize is to be competitive with fossil fuels, not with other biofuels."

How It Works
His firm's "Helioculture" technology takes their genetically engineered organisms—to protect their intellectual property they won't name them, but Sims says they are "algae-like"—and exposes them to sunlight and carbon dioxide in what look like solar panels.

The organisms then secrete diesel, along with other usable chemicals.

Sims is aiming high. He estimates his technology can take a large share of potential $1-trillion markets in diesel and related chemicals.

...As a fuel crop, algae stacks up well against other biofuel feedstocks currently in production or in development.

A report from cleantech research firm Greener Dawn on the sector says most algael biofuels firms working on products now expect to get 4,000 to 6,000 gallons of fuel per acre.

Joule's Sims says his firm is targeting annual output of 15,000 gallons per acre.

By comparison, corn-based ethanol produces about 400 gallons of fuel per acre, its cellulosic ethanol counterpart up to 800 gallons per acre and soybean biodiesel a mere 40 gallons per acre, according to research from Sandia National Laboratories cited in Greener Dawn's report.
Of course, it is easy to make claims, and not so easy to back them up. Nevertheless, given that most informed observers do not expect algal fuels to make a dent in world fuels supplies until 2020, that gives algal (and other microbial fuels) companies ten years to deliver.

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Exploring the Magic of Thorium Energy

At the end of this effort, we will have destroyed our 100 tonnes of highly-enriched uranium from weapons. We will have destroyed our 100 tonnes of weapons-grade plutonium from decommissioned weapons. We will have destroyed the 700 tonnes of plutonium and other actinides in the spent nuclear fuel. We will have essentially eliminated the issue of spent nuclear fuel as a concern. We will have replaced the coal and gas electrical generation in the country. We will have added enough additional electrical generation to the nation’s grid to power electric cars rather than gasoline-powered ones. We’ll have cleaner air. We’ll have cleaner water. We’ll keep hundreds of billions of dollars in our country because we’ll be energy-independent. And we will have solved the energy crisis permanently.

All of this is unlocked by the fundamental properties of thorium. We can make it happen. May we have the wisdom to do so. _KirkSorensen
Kirk Sorensen wants to shift energy production away from fossil fuels toward a sustainable method of nuclear fission based upon thorium. Thorium is three times more plentiful than uranium, is less prone to being used for nuclear weapons proliferation, and can be used sustainably while burning up dangerous weapons-grade nuclear materials, and potentially hazardous nuclear waste from more conventional fission plants.
Thorium can be used in accelerator driven nuclear reactors, can be utilised in liquid fluoride thorium reactors, and now comes news that a company called Thorium One is developing a thorium - plutonium - MOX fuel that can be used in "existing infrastructure for nuclear reactors."
The Vancouver, Canada-based company is attempting to fund the development of a new fuel design—called Thorium Plutonium MOX—that it says can be used in existing infrastructure for nuclear reactors in the production of nuclear energy that does not create bomb-usable waste.

There are currently 440 nuclear reactors operating in the world with uranium-based nuclear energy (see Nuclear power is green power, says expert).

...The company is on a mission to become an integrated international nuclear fuel company, developing its product for nuclear utilities using the chemical element thorium, instead of uranium.

“Thorium can be used as a nuclear fuel that can act as a supplement to uranium in nuclear reactors,” he said.

The waste product of the thorium fuel cycle, uranium-233, can be separated and reprocessed or recycled for use in new fuel, Thorium One said. _CleanTech_via_NextBigFuture

The best source for learning about the promise of thorium power is Kirk Sorensen's website, Energy from Thorium (EfT). The archives of EfT are loaded with well written tutorials on various aspects of thorium power. The sidebar has links to useful videos, articles, websites, books, and piles of PDF documentation dealing with thorium energy and other aspects of nuclear energy.

Thorium offers an opportunity to turn weapons and waste into useful and abundant, clean, sustainable energy.

Why haven't we heard more about Thorium from our government, our news media, our thought leaders in academia and punditry, and the rest of the "leading lights" of society?


Friday, April 16, 2010

Biodiesel Developments

According to the inventors, the Mcgyan process has the following benefits:
Flexible feedstock; animal or plant sources of lipids can be used.
Current waste products can be turned into fuel.
No use of strong acids or bases in the process.
Fast reaction times (seconds).
Cheap feedstocks such as waste grease and animal tallow as well as a variety of plant oils can be converted to biodiesel.
The metal oxide based catalyst is a contained in a fixed bed reactor thereby eliminating the current need to continuously add catalyst to the reaction mixture thereby reducing the amount of waste produced.
Unwanted side reactions with free fatty acids producing soaps are eliminated, thereby reducing the amount of waste that must be disposed of properly.
Insensitive to free fatty acid and water content of the feedstocks.
The catalyst does not poison over time. _MCGYAN

A biodiesel plant based upon the rapid MCGYAN process is being built in Northern Iowa.
...aside from its speed, the recently developed MCGYAN process, which uses a metal oxide reactor to convert different waste products into fuel, offers several advantages over the traditional way of producing biodiesel.

... the process is so new, state and federal regulations need to catch up.

“The regulations have really not kept up with the technology so we're sort of dealing with some old thinking around that," he said.

While he says EPA regulations will cause them to slow the start of production. The prototype refinery in Minnesota is now selling fuel which is helping to speed their development.

"So the technology is a proven technology and they are producing ASDM quality biodiesel at that plant," said Luetscher. _KIMT
Another new approach to bio-oils is the retrieval of useful oils from hog manure.
When it comes to providing an alternative source of oil, pig manure ain’t no small potatoes. According to an article by Steve Giegerich in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, one pig generates up to 8 pounds of manure per day. The research team estimates that a 10,000-hog farm could produce about 5,000 barrels of crude oil per year. The bottom line: instead of ending up with a manure waste disposal nightmare, hog farms could see an increase in income of up to $15 per hog.

...The manure-to-oil process uses thermochemical conversion, in which heat and pressure act on organic compounds in a revved-up, tightly controlled imitation of the much longer process that occurs in nature. In order to develop a commercially viable method, the research team ditched the catalyst required by the conventional process, and they figured out a way to keep pig hair and dander from fouling the equipment. The team also skipped the conventional first step, which would be to dewater the manure. Instead, their process uses raw manure containing 80% water. The use of raw manure requires more heat to activate the conversion, but the researchers note that could be captured and recycled with a heat exchanger. _CleanTechnica
Both of these projects are relatively local and small scale -- yet they are poised to have a significant positive effect on local economies and employment.

One of the many deficiencies of large scale hyper-centralised government, is the focus upon central large scale projects and bureaucracies to the neglect of the vast outer reaches of land and population. Bio-energy has the potential to empower local and regional economies, independent of big government. In fact, as you can read above, big government is a tremendous drag on the development of newer rural technologies.


New Oil Supplies Grow, Oil Demand Shaky

The IEA is increasing its 2010 oil supply outlook for Canada and Russia. Non-OPEC producers are expected to continue increasing their output this year.
“Non-OPEC prospects are looking brighter,” the Paris- based adviser to 28 countries said in the report. “Upstream investment decisions made before both 2008’s price surge and slump are starting to bear fruit. New upstream projects are coming online and ramping-up production.” _Businessweek

OPEC is concerned that speculation may be driving the price of oil more than actual demand. Saudi ministers are likely to ramp up production to prevent prices from being driven up too high.
Saudi Arabia, OPEC's most important member which helped rally other members around the $70-80 price preference last year, hasn't weighed in on the subject but some OPEC delegates say the kingdom will likely quietly push more oil into world markets to prevent prices from rising too much.

Saudi Arabia, a moderate on prices among OPEC members, has around 4.5 million barrels a day in spare production capacity--more than the total capacity of OPEC's second biggest producer, Iran--and could produce more barrels in order to keep oil inventory brimming and maintain a lid on prices. _Ordons

China is beginning to clamp down on local demand for diesel and gasoline, by raising local prices for the fuels.
China, the world’s second-largest energy user, will increase gasoline and diesel prices by as much as 4.6 percent starting today after global crude costs climbed.

The average retail gasoline and diesel price will rise by 320 yuan ($47) a metric ton, the National Development and Reform Commission said on its Web site yesterday. The NDRC said the fuel price gain will add 7 basis points to the April consumer price index month-on-month. _Bloomberg

Peak oil pundits typically expect oil demand from China to continue to drive fuel prices up -- in spite of an ongoing recession in the US and Europe. Peak oil believers also claim that neither OPEC nor non-OPEC producers have significant spare production to satisfy any rebound in global oil demand -- when it finally comes.

Reality check: Both China and India (and Russia and Brazil) are exporting nations. Russia is particularly vulnerable if oil prices fail to rise over $100 a barrel. But China and India are vulnerable to a continued global recession as well.

If demand for BRIC goods continues to decline, there will be little basis for any big jumps in oil demand from China and India.

There are significant questions about the reliability of economic figures coming out of China's CCP government. While 60% of China's GDP is connected to the construction and real estate boom, the sad truth is that Chinese construction is shoddy and prone to collapse prematurely, and Chinese real estate has bubbled to such an extent that no one can afford to buy it except speculators.

Of course there are limits to any physical resource that originates on a finite planet. But that truism is precious little foundation for building the hugely ambitious house of cards known as peak oil doom.

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Thursday, April 15, 2010

A Strong Economy Needs Abundant Energy Resources

It's the Economy, Stupid!

The Obama - Pelosi regime appears to be a bit confused as to what it is supposed to be doing. Therefore they have spent an undue amount of time doing things they shouldn't. Like closing off vast areas of promising fossil fuels deposits to development, thus instituting energy starvation upon an already struggling economy. Talk is cheap, Mr. President. But what you are doing is not helping to put Americans back to work, nor is it helping to provide the vital energy that the American economy needs.
Barack Obama made a big fuss over his plan to open more U.S. acreage to exploratory oil and gas drilling. But wildcatters aren't overly excited about the prospects. Though the plan added acreage in Alaska for possible leasing, some choice sites there were yanked. Drillers still have to wait for environmental studies before a lease sale may be held. Even then, they'd need to do seismic surveys and get federal air permits before touching drill bit to earth. Expect environmentalists' lawsuits, too.

The President asserted that "drilling alone cannot come close to meeting our long-term energy needs." Really? A study released in February by the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, prepared by researchers at defense contractor SAIC and nonprofit research house GTI, finds that the U.S. has more than 200 billion barrels of oil and 2,000 trillion cubic feet of natural gas that are recoverable with today's technology. That's more than most OPEC nations. If fully developed, it would be enough to eliminate our 10-million-barrel daily diet of foreign oil for half a century.

Most of the bonanza is in federal waters, at least 50 miles offshore, along the outer continental shelf (OCS). Onshore, the biggest prize is Alaska, with some 15 billion barrels, much of it in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Opening up more federal acreage--only 17% is available now--would bring a windfall to the U.S. in bonuses, rents and royalties. Fishkind & Associates also figures that developing Florida's western coast would lead to 50,000 new jobs. Or we could just keep importing oil from Venezuela. _Forbes

Mr. Obama's grades in college and law school are still embargoed -- off limits to citizens of the country that is supposed to be putting their trust in the man. Mr. Obama's speech writers and political operatives deserve high marks, over all. Mr. Obama himself? Still waiting for something good.

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