Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Important Advances in Fuels & Chemicals from Bacteria, Biomass,

Exciting E. Coli Biorefinery from JBEI
E. coli bacteria normally cannot grow on switchgrass, but JBEI researchers engineered strains of the bacteria to express several enzymes that enable them to digest cellulose and hemicellulose and use one or the other for growth. These cellulolytic and hemicellulolytic strains of E. coli, which can be combined as co-cultures on a sample of switchgrass, were further engineered with three metabolic pathways that enabled the E. coli to produce the fuel substitute or precursor molecules.

The JEBI team chose to implement pathways that produce alcohols, linear hydrocarbons, or branched-chain hydrocarbons to test the integration of the biomass-consumption pathways with the “extensive” biosynthesis capabilities of E. coli. The team chose:

Biodiesel. Biodiesel can be made by E. coli in vivo in the form of fatty-acid ethyl esters (FAEE). They encoded a six-gene FAEE production pathway on a single plasmid and introduced the construct into a strain of E. coli. Using a co-culture of two strains grown in minimal medium containing 5.5% w∕vol IL-treated switchgrass, they produced 71 ± 43 mg∕L of FAEE. This corresponds to 80% of the estimated yield obtainable with this pathway from the amount of sugars anticipated to be released from 5.5% switchgrass by the Cel and Xyn10B enzymes.

Butanol. Butanol has been proposed as a gasoline replacement because it is fully compatible with existing internal combustion engines. Based in part on previous work, they constructed a heterologous butanol pathway encoded on a single plasmid. A co-culture yielded 28 ± 5 mg∕L butanol from defined rich medium containing 3.3% w∕vol IL-treated switchgrass. A control strain produced 8 ± 2 mg∕L butanol from pretreated switchgrass.

Pinene. The monoterpene pinene is an immediate chemical precursor to a potential jet fuel. The pinene synthesis pathway was encoded on a single plasmid. A co-culture yielded 1.7 ± 0.6 mg∕L pinene from pretreated switchgrass.

The pre-treatment of the switchgrass with ionic liquids was essential to this demonstration, according to Gregory Bokinsky, a post-doctoral researcher with JBEI’s synthetic biology group and lead author of the PNAS paper.

If properly optimized, I suspect you could use ionic liquid pre-treatment on any plant biomass and make it readily digestible by microbes. For us it was the combination of biomass from the ionic liquid pretreatment with the engineered E. coli that enabled our success.

—Gregory Bokinsky
The JBEI researchers also attribute the success of this work to the “unparalleled genetic and metabolic tractability” of E. coli, which over the years has been engineered to produce a wide range of chemical products. However, the researchers believe that the techniques used in this demonstration should also be readily adapted to other microbes. _GCC

Another significant advance from the JBEI is a beefing up of the starch content in switchgrass, which will make conventional fermentation of alcohols from switchgrass much easier.
The team of JBEI researchers, working with researchers at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS), has demonstrated that introducing a maize (corn) gene into switchgrass, a highly touted potential feedstock for advanced biofuels, more than doubles (250 percent) the amount of starch in the plant’s cell walls and makes it much easier to extract polysaccharides and convert them into fermentable sugars. _BrianWestenhaus

Amyris is raising the stakes in the biomass-to-chemicals market with a significant acceleration of its Biofene (farnesene) product, via expansion of its partnership with oil giant Total. Farnesene is an important precursor for the production of multiple high value chemicals, including fuels.
Amyris has developed advanced microbial engineering and screening technologies that modify the way microorganisms process sugars. Amyris is using this industrial synthetic biology platform to design microbes, primarily yeast, and use them as living factories in established fermentation processes to convert plant-sourced sugars into renewable chemical and transportation fuel products.

...Amyris is scaling its Biofene production in Brazil, Europe and the United States through various production arrangements; the company signed its sixth production agreement in October...

Farnesene is a 15-carbon isoprenoid hydrocarbon molecule that forms the basis for a wide range of products varying from specialty chemical applications to transportation fuels such as diesel. When used as a fuel precursor, farnesene can be hydrogenated to farnesane, which has a high cetane number (58). Amyris modifies farnesene to become renewable diesel. _GCC

Labels: , ,

Is Codexis [NASD:CDXS] the Next Apple (NASD:AAPL)?

It’s Apple 2002 promise, at Apple 2002 prices. Now, can Alan Shaw and team pull it off? At Codexis, they think so – do you think so? We’ll continue to watch the space closely. _altenergystocks
The case for Codexis looks interesting, in the intermediate run. Rather than to make biofuels from valuable cane sugar, Codexis intends to make high value chemicals and fuels from the leftover bagasse.

Codexis' argument is based upon possession of a large mass of free and renewable feedstock -- cane bagasse -- and a portfolio of advanced and economical cellulose-to-fuels and chemicals technologies it has been developing.
Sugarcane is 1/3 sugar, 1/3 bagasse and 1/3 tops and leaves, in round numbers. As mechanical harvesting brings the tops and leaves off the fields and into the mix, it can release the bagasse for higher value creation opportunities, than simply burning it to generate power, as happens today.

Given a 50-mile radius, says Shaw, there are opportunities for utilizing up to 60,000 metric tones of bagasse, per project, in the nearer term, and up to 100,000 MT in the future.

$600 billion, by the numbers

That bagasse is already paid for, aggregated at the mill. You can make $3 fuels or $6 chemicals from it, with feasible margins on either. Say, at 100 gallons per tonne. And there are more than a billion tonnes of bagasse available from the land that the Brazilian government has approved for cane cultivation. So, somewhere north of $600 billion in value, just in the bagasse.

Which is where the value really lies, says Shaw. The cane sugar, he says, is too exposed to the food markets and commodity speculation. But no one eats bagasse, and you need advanced technology to unlock the value. That’s a barrier to entry that preserves value, he says. _altenergystocks
And every year, roughly the same amount of bagasse becomes available at roughly the same price -- free.

Of course the $600 billion figure represents the potential value in all the bagasse in Brazil. But the first advanced technology company capable of profitably utilising the bagasse -- converting it to valuable chemicals and fuel economically -- is likely to move rapidly to gain access to a significant portion of this newly valued resource.

And there are a lot more countries in the world where sugar cane could potentially be grown, if it were worth a person's while to do so.

Can you imagine a situation where sugar cane were grown for the bagasse, with the sugar produced as a by-product? Such a thing would make the food for fuels debate seem almost ridiculous. Particularly if other waste biomass residues were to become utilised on a similar scale.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Secret New Fusion Company Claims Working 1 MW Reactor

A secretive new fusion startup based in Australia is claiming to have developed a working 1 MW fusion reactor the size of a rice cooker, and is now working on a 10 MW reactor. The company claims to generate a 1 MW output from a 40 W input, and claims to be working with both the Australian and the US military.
... one interviewee, in a face-to-face conversation in an exotic location abroad, told us of a small company he’s involved with that he claims has built a working 1MW fusion reactor the size of a rice cooker (though it’s dubious that approximation includes the requisite shielding, cooling, turbines, etc.) The company is now apparently in the process of building a 10MW version that it plans to trial in 2012.

... Our source, concerned he was telling us too much, initially wouldn’t even reveal its name.

The fission wonder down under?
As mentioned, this company and its story seem to have all the elements of a Hollywood thriller:

Harnessing the power of nature! The analogy most often applied to fusion is harnessing the reaction of the sun. But this company’s fusion reaction, fueled by deuterium and tritium, isn’t nearly as high temperature, our source claims, and is more “rooted in nature.” Specifically, the reaction is said not to require the high temperature, high pressure or accelerated particles of others’ approaches. “The key is not how many neutron hits you generate, but how you sustain them, how well you can control them.” For a 40-watt power input, the reactor is said to be able to generate a megawatt.

Exotic locales! The company is based in Australia. Why? “Everyone’s expecting big nuclear innovations to come out of China, or France,” said our source. But it’s replicated its intellectual property and technology “around the world in case they get infiltrated.”

Self-funded by mad scientist! The technology’s inventor has apparently tinkered with his design for 40 years, and self-funded the company’s early stages, reinvesting income from earlier lucrative inventions. Now, strategic investors are said to include family money, such as a Shanghai real estate baron and decedents of American industrialist John Pitcairn, Jr.
Culture of secrecy! The company’s secrecy about its actual progress makes Apple look sophomoric. In development since the 90s, it has sworn employees and investors not to let on how successful its research has been. It’s said to have retained the former head of Israel’s counter terrorism unit as its chief of security.

No to takeover offers! The company is said to have already fielded a buyout attempt by General Electric (NYSE:GE). The founder apparently didn’t want the invention owned by just one corporation, characterizing it an invention for mankind, apparently.

Requisite military involvement! The company is said to be secretly working with the Australian Air Force and Navy, and the U.S. Department of Defense, and aims to trial a 10MW version of its reactor in 2012 with an Australian utility.

Political and industrial upheaval! If fusion can be made to work at scale, it could indeed affect the world in profound ways. All the ingredients for drama!

More about this secretive company, and other companies working to radically improve nuclear power as we know it today, is available in Kachan’s new Emerging Nuclear Innovations report, just released. This 64-page report rounds up 6 months of looking carefully at the nuclear power industry for companies best placed to usurp big, conventional fission of the type that powers the 432 non-military nuclear reactors that exist worldwide today. _Cleantech
Well that is a lot to take in at once. A natural, immediate skepticism begins to set in early in the description of this Australian wonder-fusion device. And yet, the stakes are so high, that one cannot help but wish to learn more.

Dallas Kachan is the author of the Cleantech story excerpted above. Mark Halper is the author of the Kachan report referred to above, which is offered for $1,295 to single users.

Al Fin energy analysts suggest waiting until more information is forthcoming from conventional channels or press release -- unless you have a burning desire to learn more immediately, and have no better use for the $1,295. The report itself covers a wide range of other issues, and is only likely to mention the Aussie fusion project in brief. At this point, there is no reason to expect any more from the Aussie rice cooker fusion than from Andrea Rossi's LENR device.

But simply hearing about efforts such as this helps to keep us on our toes. Because eventually, one of these breakthroughs will turn out to be real, and revolutionary. And if we have not trained ourselves how to react to such an event, we are likely to be quite lost.

Another interesting nuclear news tidbit


Electrofuels: The Best Way to Turn Sunlight to Energy?

Electrofuels are made with energy from the sun and renewable inorganic feedstocks such as carbon dioxide and water in processes facilitated by nonphotosynthetic microorganisms or Earth-abundant metal catalysts.

“The electrofuels concept is an effort to decouple the production of liquid fuels from fossil fuels and land use, which is starting to constrain our daily lives,” said Gregory Stephanopoulos, a chemical engineering professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and leader of the conference’s organizing committee. _CEN


Bypassing photosynthesis allows engineers to devise alternative means to create chemical energy out of sunlight, at higher efficiencies than photosynthesis might allow. The image above portrays both chemical and biological catalysts being energised by sunlight to facilitate the synthesis of multiple fuels and chemicals. The use of entire biological micro-organisms which have been gene-engineered to use more efficient, non-photosynthetic pathways for synthetic production of high value chemicals and fuels, is one likely approach.
“The name of the game for electro­fuels is to find more efficient ways to capture solar radiation in a form that’s usable for transportation,” commented Eric J. Toone, a chemistry professor at Duke University and deputy director of ARPA-E. The agency was created in 2009 with funding from the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act to boost development and commercialization of technologies that reduce U.S. dependence on foreign energy sources.
“When looking at the amount of solar energy that is captured by a plant and the net amount of that energy it can harness, the value is on the order of 0.1 to 0.2%,” Toone said. “On the other hand, we know we can capture and convert solar energy to electricity at higher efficiency, on the order of 20% for current silicon photovoltaic cells. In the electrofuels approach, we’ve tried to bring together the best of both worlds, to develop catalytic systems capable of highly efficient energy assimilation from inorganic molecules for the direct production of fuels.”

...Stephanopoulos’ group at MIT has an electrofuels project under way that taps two customized microbes: One produces acetate from waste CO2 and H2 from sunlight-driven water electrolysis and the second microbe converts the acetate into a triglyceride that can be processed into a fatty acid methyl ester, which is the primary component of biodiesel.
Reporting on another technology, microbiologist Derek R. Lovley of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, described a lab-scale electromicrobiology approach to electrofuels that takes advantage of some microbes’ ability to make electrical contacts with materials. His team is growing Geobacter or Clostridium bacteria on iron(III) oxide films on carbon electrodes. The microbes consume electrons released from the electrode as their energy source and metabolize CO2. Differently engineered bacteria can produce compounds such as acetic acid or butanol. _CEN
And this is just the beginning. We cannot expect accomplished bio-revolutionaries such as Craig Venter, to reveal all the details of their latest projects. Nor can we expect rapid up-and-comers such as Jay Keasling to openly discuss everything on his mind.

The sun has always been an enormous influence on human civilisations and cultures. It is likely that as soon as humans discover the best ways to utilise the energies of the sun -- and to copy the physical processes that drive the sun in labs -- a new revolution in human existence will be incited.

Labels: ,

Monday, November 28, 2011

Suicide by Idiocracy: Governments Pursue Big Solar and Wind Over a Cliff

The alternative energy market is still an artificial market; except for a handful of novelty customers rich enough to afford inefficient green tech, firms and households only choose green tech when subsidies bring the price within range or regulations force people to choose expensive green products.

Two years ago, when delusional greens thought they were on the way to a global carbon treaty, green tech looked hot. But as that project collapsed under its own weight, the prospects for the green market withered. The recession strengthened public opposition to expensive new green regulations, and the European financial crisis means that countries like Spain...and Greece have no more budgetary room for frills. _WRM
Government subsidies and mandates are still pushing the development of unreliable and expensive big wind and big solar projects. In fact, as a direct result of subsidies, big wind and big solar investments are rivaling investments in more reliable and traditional forms of energy. The resulting destruction will not occur as a result of the spending on wind and solar, but rather will be due to the lack of spending on more reliable forms of energy. Energy starvation -- with resulting failure of industries and loss of jobs -- will be the inevitable result of underinvestment in essential and reliable forms of energy.

Government subsidies for big wind and big solar are having other adverse effects. According to uber-technologist and venture capitalist Nathan Myhrvold, government support of the wind and solar industries is hampering essential innovation in those fields. The "kiss of death" for many industries seems to be the over-generous support of government, often as a form of payback for campaign supporters.

While US President Obama is complaining that the Chinese are subsidising their own solar industry, the Chinese are beginning to look into the Obama administration's support of insider wind and solar companies such as Solyndra. Investigations into corrupt dealings can be a two-way street, and Chinese crony capitalists do not appear to be willing to be pushed around by crony capitalists in the US.

Chinese solar firms are taking huge losses. And yet, despite the losses, Chinese solar companies continue pushing price levels downward for solar panels. The problem for the solar industry in China is unlikely to go away soon.

Labels: ,

Big Wind A Catastrophic Choice: Fatal Policy of Blackouts

'Unstable' renewable energy sources increase the risk of 'supra-regional' electricity blackouts with multi-billion pound consequences, insurance giant Allianz has warned....

"Traditional scenarios only assume black-outs for a few days and losses seem to be moderate, but if we are considering longer lasting blackouts... the impacts on society and economy might be significant," the report said.

Outages could also be trigged by cyber attacks, terrorist action, natural disasters or solar storms - eruptions of charged particles from the surface of the sun which can distort magnetic fields and destroy electricity transmission lines. One such storm knocked out power for six million Canadians in 1989, with the next forecast for 2012. _Telegraph_via_GWPF
But as more of Europe comes to depend upon unreliable and dangerously volatile sources of energy such as big wind and big solar, the chances for devastatingly prolonged blackouts rises along with this dangerous dependency.

Humans living in advanced societies have come to take their electrical supplies for granted. They assume that when they flip the switch, the electrical device will instantly and reliably turn on. But green energy policy makers in the EU are aiming to give their constituents a taste of third world quality in their electrical service. And the odds are, that one Europeans catch on to what is being done to them, they will revolt.
In eastern Germany, turbines in strong wind can produce more than all German coal and gas plants put together, while the need to switch off turbines in high winds causes a drop-off in electricity of 12GW - equal to two nuclear power plants. Outages are likely if there is too little demand or storage capacity to accommodate the jumps in supply.

Leading risk analysts modelled a worst-case scenario in which transformers are knocked out in the United States, causing outages to cascade through the grid into Canada, Russia and Scandanavia.

Credit cards and cash machines would stop immediately, and petrol pumps and refineries would shut-down within six hours. Back-up generators powering hospitals, stock exchanges, emergency services and sewerage plants could run out of fuel within days.

Industry would grind to a halt, cooling equipment would fail and homes would go without food supplies, water or heating, leaving families spending winter around open fires. Allianz predict it would take a year to get the transformers back online. The cost to insurers would top one trillion dollars and chronic power shortages would continue for up to a decade.

"Blackouts during the last ten years in Europe and Northern America have demonstrated an increasing likelihood of supra-national blackouts with accompanying large economic losses," the analysts wrote. _Telegraph_via_GWPF
Greens of the lefty-Luddite persuasion have shown themselves to be particularly indifferent to the possibilities of catastrophic energy and power disruptions arising from the energy policies which they advocate. This is not so surprising, given the covert-but-understood subtext of dieoff.orgiasm that lies at the heart of green energy policies. Greens wish for the human population of Earth to die off to the point that there are only somewhere between 100 million humans and 1 billion humans remaining. But now that greens have come to power in the US and the EU, they are beginning to implement the very policies which could create the long series of cascading catastrophes which could help trigger such a die-off.

Keep your eyes open, and get to work on your own redundant systems -- just in case.

Labels: , ,

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Peak Manpower -- The Other Threat Besides Political Peak Oil

The need for more skilled energy workers has become acute around the world. In many countries, severe energy shortages are forcing the temporary shutdowns of important industries -- adding further economic hardship to an ongoing global recession. Here is what they are saying about Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, where recent government policies have thrown energy industries topsy-turvy:
More than half of energy and utilities firms in Germany, Austria and Switzerland see an urgent need in specialist talent, according to energy and utilities consultancy firm Baringa.

Germany’s recent phase-out of nuclear technology, the transition to renewables, and growing demand for mobile workforces and energy-efficient construction are seen as key new requirements and challenges in the area.

...Partner at Baringa, Maik Neubauer says: “An amazing 69% of the companies surveyed have not yet aligned their HR planning and strategic development with the new requirements of the energy market. This is a cause for concern, especially if the business risks posed by not being able to recruit the right people at the right time are being underestimated.” _Recruiter
The ill-advised move to shut down reliable nuclear power plants in favour of expensive and unreliable big wind eneryg, is a mistake that will haunt these nations for decades -- at least until they take strong steps to reverse their poor moves.

In the North Sea area, a shortage of skilled oil workers is hampering development of rich new oil & gas finds.
ASEVERE shortage of skilled engineers could threaten to hinder the predicted North Sea boom. Industry commentators are reporting the oil market is set for a bumper growth period following the discovery of lucrative new fields.

...A recent survey claimed that more than half of the firms consulted said attracting the appropriate skilled staff presented them with their toughest challenge. But with a lack of the right personnel existing within the industry, just how are they meant to meet the future demand? _PressandJournal
In Australia, industries are questioning whether women can be trained to fill the shortage of skilled workers in the mining sector, which is particularly active. Unfortunately, these industries are likely to discover that the introduction of women into a male-dominant workplace brings a whole new set of problems, dangers, and liabilities to the company and to fellow-workers alike. Jobs are a cost -- and a potential liability to a company -- after all.

In nations with extremely low birth rates and rapidly ageing societies, sending more young women into potentially dangerous workplaces is not the brightest idea that anyone has had.
"There's a tremendous shortage of skilled workers," said Craig Giffi, a vice chairman of the consulting firm Deloitte. A recent survey it did found that 83% of manufacturers reported a moderate or severe shortage of skilled production workers to hire.

Pay levels provide evidence. While hourly wages in the broad category of maintenance and repair workers rose 6.4% from 2007 to 2010, increases were 10% in the subcategory of heavy-vehicle mechanics and 15% for specialists in electrical repairs on commercial and industrial equipment. The implication is that employers were competing for a limited pool of qualified workers.
The Deloitte study found that 74% of manufacturers said a shortage of skilled production workers had a "significant negative impact" on either their productivity or expansion plans. _WSJ_FoxNews
The shortage of skilled workers extends virtually around the globe.
More than half of U.S. employers report having a hard time finding people to fill some of their most critical positions. Quite a few countries around the world are experiencing the same problem, according to a global survey by international employment agency, ManpowerGroup.

... According to this year’s ManpowerGroup survey of 39 countries, 34 percent of employers worldwide say they have trouble finding qualified workers. While 52% percent of U.S. employers have the same problem filling critical positions, Japan, India and Brazil have the most difficult time.

...The hardest jobs to fill are technicians, skilled trades, sales representatives that require highly technical knowledge.

Jatan Shah, Chief Technology Office of QSC Audio says his company has been expanding and hiring. But he says finding the right worker for positions from engineers to plant workers has been a challenge. “It takes anywhere from three months to a year to fill certain positions.

New Zealand is hiring -- and has to travel overseas to find qualified workers in many areas.

University graduates in a wide range of subjects, simply lack practical skills for the modern workplace. Industries must invest a great deal of money in training new hires, and it is not clear that the aggravation of training and the risk of lawsuits by female and minority employees will ever be compensated by productivity -- particularly from graduates of women's studies, ethnic studies, or third world underwater matriarchal basketweaving cultural studies.

The "feminisation" -- or dumbing down -- of many formerly rigorous university studies programs has left employers doubtful of the quality of new college graduates.

Even India finds that its industries must spend a great deal of money training fresh hires driectly out of school:
Most Indian IT firms also have to invest significant amount in training freshers to get them job ready.

At Infosys for one, freshers go through an average of 3-6 months of training before becoming billable....Companies invest heavily on training and upgrading talent. _TOI

So, the problem is seen in both the high paying skilled blue collar sectors, and in the technical college educated sectors. And employers are feeling the pain, and having to cut back on established lines as well as cancelling other projects which they could have embarked upon -- if only they had the skilled workers.

This shortage of skills -- a human capital shortage, really -- is adding a negative impact to the already dire situations of western nations coming from unwise policies of debt, demography, bureaucratic overreach, and energy starvation.

In the energy industries, manpower shortages can lead to the shutdowns of important industries, with further degradation of an already degraded economic climate.

In the US, the Obama administration is pursuing a policy of intentional energy starvation, with all of its toxic fallout on the economy. In other parts of the world, the problem is likely to be only incidental to generally unwise governmental policies.

Regardless, government is one of the ways in which a society can be starved of energy -- in the form of political peak oil, or political peak energy. Peak manpower skills, and manpower skills shortages are the other significant way. Both problems are ongoing in the midst of general problems of debt and demographic decay.

Parts of this article were cross-posted from Al Fin blog.


Friday, November 25, 2011

The Power of Wishful Thinking -- An Untamed Force

Caveat: This is not an endorsement of Foster Gamble's "documentary." Rather it is a glimpse into a mindset which is likely to lead to an enormous waste of resources chasing after the innumerable will of the wisps which the human mind is capable of conjuring from nothing. Optimism is a good thing. But it has to be reined in by rational checks and verification.

More at Pesn
Thrive is directed by Foster Gamble, of the Proctor and Gamble empire, who left that corporate empire to pursue something he felt was more in keeping with his soul. The movie portrays his journey to find truth and meaning. _Pesn
This is the type of thinking that is well suited to modern psychological neotenates and academic lobotomates. The Occupy Wall Street personality would find much to confirm their innate biases, in this full length 2 hour video.

But no matter how much you want something to be true, if there is "no there, there," you can only waste your time, and throw good money after bad.

This kind of popular delusion is likely to grow more common, as the fruits of the "great educational dumbing down" of the last few decades come to ripen across society's breadth.

Rational optimism and innovative thinking are the way out of the deepening problems of energy starvation, political peak oil, carbon hysteria, population phobia, and other man-made problems. Both rationality and optimism are crucial to the future human enterprise.

But because ideologues have taken over western academia, media, and politics, most modern humans are not taught to think from multiple perspectives -- the only path to rationality. Instead, young humans are indoctrinated in a dominant political correctness which forbids all rational doubt or discourse. In such an inbred climate, humans cannot learn to think clearly. The end result is what you see on the news every evening.

The human mind does need to be unleashed. But it first must be trained to seek out and develop fertile fields of thought. The mind must be given the skills and competencies to recognise productive pathways and to distinguish dead ends early enough to avoid an excessive waste of time and resources.

More: The video below takes a quick look at the politically correct religion of carbon hysteria. The fact that the world is teetering on the brink of a $15 trillion to $30 trillion massive redistribution scam -- which would put the finishing touches to the demolition of the world's advanced economies -- tells you how easily human societies and governments can be led down the primrose path. Nobel prizewinner Daniel Kahneman helps us understand this human tendency toward self-delusion.


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Lessons and Developments in Cold Fusion / LENRs

Ruby Carat of the Cold Fusion Now website introduces us to a series of short video segments from a talk on cold fusion from Dr. Michael McKubre of SRI. Ruby describes the content of the videos and provides useful links to more information. These videos provide useful background into LENR / cold fusion from both historical and scientific standpoints.
Francesco Piantelli began exploring Ni-H cells in the early nineties. It is this type of reaction on which inventor Andrea A Rossi based his Energy Catalyzer steam generator. Dr. McKubre will discuss that development at the end of the talk because as a news topic, its “hot and interesting.” He also says “Some recent results at SRI seem to support the idea that nickel and light hydrogen also can support nuclear level excess heat.”

In video 2 following, he says of the excess heat generated by a cold fusion energy cell, “This amount of heat is 100 or 1000 times the sum of all possible chemical energies combined.” _ColdFusionNow

Developments in LENR have continued apace, with Andrea Rossi traveling to Massachusetts for negotiations (via Ecatnow) on the setting up of a LENR manufacturing plant there. Rossi is predicting the production of electricity from E-Cats (via Ecatnews) within a year. Defkalion has also announced the imminent readiness of their own LENR product for testing.

But the most interesting development by far is the announcement by Brian Wang (via Brian Westenhaus) that accomplished materials scientist Brian Ahern intends to publicly explain the science of LENRs as an obscure attribute of nano-magnetism.
Apparently, energy localization at the nano-scale circumvents the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics. Nature evolved to take advantage of these energy exchange mechanisms available only at this size scale (which is why ordered structures can be created from chaos, such as after the big bang.) This phenomenon was identified in 1996 as Oscillons in relation to Chaos Theory, but has never been clearly understood until now.

Ahern states ” In 1995 we made a major and fundamental discovery regarding nano-material properties. This almost completely unknown to most technologists. All materials processed within certain tolerances experience very different vibrational modes than all other aggregations of matter. It provides a concise explanation for the bioenergetics observed in all aspects of nature.” _BrianWang

As mentioned before, it is the science of LENRs, rather than the possible revolutionary economic impact, which interests Al Fin energy scientists and analysts the most. Although opinion here is mixed, most Al Fin analysts see Andrea Rossi's antics as something of a circus sideshow.

We are still waiting for scientists and engineers to convincingly demonstrate the consistent and precise production of excess heat from LENRs, and on an economical basis which can be safely and commercially scaled up.

The set of McKubre videos beginning with tape 1, above, should provide a useful introduction to the topic for newcomers.

McKubre Q&A and wrapup -- worth a look


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Gene Expression Boosts Algal Biomass by 50 - 80%

Martin Spalding

Scientists at Iowa State University have taught algae to rev its biomass production engines at full speed -- even in the presence of artificially high CO2 levels. They succeeded in boosting algal biomass production by between 50% and 80% in high CO2 environments, as a result. This is a revolutionary discovery, since algae is already the most prolific biomass crop available, and grows in salt water, brackish water, wastewater, as well as fresh water.
In nature, algal growth is governed by the amount of carbon dioxide available. In relatively low carbon environments [such as Earth's atmosphere], two genes — LCIA and LCIB — are expressed to capture more CO2 and direct it into the cells, promoting growth. However, when algae live in an environment with enough CO2 to promote growth, the two genes shut down. The researchers found that expressing them, even in carbon-rich environments, significantly increases growth.

“Based on some prior research we had done, we expected to see an increase, probably in the 10 to 20 percent range” researcher Martin Spalding (pictured) said in a statement. “But we were surprised to see this big of an increase.”

Spalding first tinkered with each gene individually to see what effect it had on the algae, Chlamydomonas reinhardtii. Expressing them individually yielded a 10 to 15 percent increase in biomass. Expressing them together boosted it 50 to 80 percent.

The excess biomass naturally becomes starch, increasing the biomass around 80 percent. Using existing mutated genes, Spalding can direct the algae to make oil instead. That requires more energy, increasing biomass just 50 percent.

Algae are attractive biofuel feedstock because it grows quickly and thrives in everything from seawater to irrigation runoff to sewage. _Wired
Earth's atmosphere possesses pitifully low levels of carbon dioxide. If the levels of CO2 were reduced very far, all plant life on Earth would die, the gas is so scarce. Plant life craves more CO2, and typically thrives in greenhouses with artificial CO2 levels up to 3X atmospheric CO2 or higher. If producers could nearly double the biomass production of algae by exposure to high CO2 environments, the area required for algal growth for any particular target of production, would be cut in half.

Most analysts assume that it is the lipid component of algae that must be maximised in order to make algal biofuels and chemicals viable, but that is not necessarily true. Using a process known as IH2 (integrated hydropyrolysis and hydroconversion), raw biomass can be converted to high value chemicals and fuels directly.

Eventually, it will become easier to tweak algae to produce very high volumes of oils and other particular chemicals directly. But that may take between 10 and 20 years. There is no need to wait for that, when IH2 technology can make algal fuels and chemicals affordable much sooner. Particularly when combined with augmented growth approaches such as devised by the Iowa State researchers.

Labels: , ,

Over 100 Gigawatts of New Electrical Generation Capacity Discovered!

100 Gigawatts of genuine, baseload, 24 hour a day, 7 day a week available power generation capacity has been sitting under our noses all along, waiting for someone crafty enough and ambitious enough to utilise it. Here is how it works out:

Scientists at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Guangzho have determined that abandoned oil wells offer an average of 54 kW of electrical power. And with over 2.5 million abandoned oil wells in the US alone, that works out to over 100 GW of electrical power capacity, standing by for anyone willing to install the necessary plumbing and small generators.
Old oil and gas wells often plunge several kilometres deep to reach reserves. Refitting their shafts to circulate water could provide an easy way to extract this energy, says Xianbiao Bu and colleagues from the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Guangzho.

The team proposes a pipe-within-a-pipe design. Water would flow down one pipe to the bottom of the well, heat up and then be pumped up an inner pipe to the surface, where it would drive a turbine (Renewable Energy, DOI: 10.1016/j.renene.2011.10.009).

Xianbiao believes that a typical well could produce around 54 kilowatts of electricity - not much compared to a full-sized power plant running on coal, gas or nuclear energy. But with an estimated 2.5 million abandoned oil and gas wells in the US alone, huge stores of energy could be going untapped. _NewScientist

This resource is not a centralised GW scale power source, such as a nuclear or coal power plant. But the availability of a reliable source of power -- which might easily add to MW scales in many areas -- could easily provide a financial focus for meaningful economical activity.

And here is an idea that will make EROEI aficionados unhappy: Reliable, decentralised power in old oil fields might be put to use in the production of new oil wells. It is said that the best place to look for new oil, is where old oil has been found. What an irony if geothermal electricity using abandoned oil wells puts a new spin on those words.


"Endless" Biofuels Proving Themselves on Land, Sea, Air

Neste Oil of Finland has produced award winning aviation biofuels, advanced biofuels for land vehicles, and is now participating in an extended marine fuels test by the Port Authority of Rotterdam.
Neste Oil, the Port of Rotterdam, and the Rotterdam Climate Initiative have launched a trial in which a Port Authority patrol boat will run for an extended period on Neste Oil's NExBTL renewable diesel. This will be the first time that NExBTL renewable diesel has been used in a marine environment. The pioneering trial, which is due to last a total of 1,000 hours, will measure the patrol boat's exhaust emissions and engine performance, and gather operational experience.
"The new trial launched by the Port of Rotterdam marks a new and positive step forward for Neste Oil," says Kaisa Hietala, Neste Oil's Vice President, Marketing. "Our NExBTL fuels have already shown what they are capable of in terms of performance and lower emissions on the road and in the air, and now we will have the opportunity to see how our renewable diesel performs in marine use as well." _Neste_via_GCC

Gevo, Inc., maker of bio-isobutanol, has submitted its advanced biofuel for testing by the National Marine Manufacturers Association as a blendstock with marine fuels -- to replace ethanol additive. It was found that isobutanol could be combined at higher levels with marine petro-fuels than ethanol, and did not suffer from phase separation when water entered the fuel system -- unlike ethanol. More details and links

Neste biofuels are hydrotreated and refined, producing an advanced high performing biofuel with superior burning characteristics to traditional biofuels, and significantly cleaner emissions than petro diesel. The Neste products can serve as a drop in replacement for land and air combustion engines, and are likely to serve as well for marine engines.

Other advanced biofuels -- such as isobutanol -- serve as additives to significantly extend petro-fuel supplies. Such extenders will have a significant effect on supplies and prices, over time, as production and distribution of the biofuels becomes more efficient at all stages in the new infrastructure.

Biofuels will be available in increasing supplies into the foreseeable future. The quality and quantity -- as well as versatility, affordability, and availability -- of these fuels will continue to improve.


Monday, November 21, 2011

Oil Resource In Place: 6 to 8 Trillion Barrels Conventional with an Equal or Greater Quantity of Unconventional Oil Equivalent In Place

I suggest that we concentrate on recovering a significant portion of the 6 to 7 trillion barrels of trapped conventional oil safely and at an affordable cost. EOR is a part of the solution to the world’s energy needs and we need to pursue technology that is affordable, safe, and available today. _OilEdge

The amount of conventional oil-in-place is somewhere between six and eight trillion barrels, depending on whether you go with the Conservative or Target Scenario, though again this number has continually grown over time. The volume of non-conventional oil-in-place is rather murkier, with a Conservative Scenario figure of seven trillion barrels and a Target Scenario number of roughly eight trillion barrels or higher. _World Energy (PDF)

While estimates vary, approximately six to eight trillion barrels from conventional resources, with the same or more from unconventional resources, are believed to be in-place and ... untapped. _Energy and Climate Wars

The question is not running out of oil. The question is not even about running out of affordable oil, or being able to keep up with demand for hydrocarbon fuels. The real question is about the political will to face the desperate need for reliable, affordable energy. If politicians choose to ignore the needs of their societies for the sake of a fistful of campaign contributions and votes from special interest lobbies, then peak oil -- political peak oil (the only kind of peak oil you will ever see) -- will devastate the land.


Endless Fields of Abandoned and Rusting Wind Turbines the last 30 years, the United States has had 14,000 wind turbines abandoned. Apparently, once the subsidies and the wind run out, these 20-story high Cuisinarts are de-bladed and retired.

...“The symbol of Green renewable energy, our savior from the non existent problem of Global Warming, abandoned wind farms are starting to litter the planet as globally governments cut the subsidies taxes that consumers pay for the privilege of having a very expensive power source that does not work every day for various reasons like it’s too cold or the wind speed is too high.”

...Andrew Walden of American Thinker explored nearly 2 years ago the demise of the 37-turbine wind farm at Kamaoa Wind Farm in Hawaii: “Built in 1985, at the end of the boom, Kamaoa soon suffered from lack of maintenance. In 1994, the site lease was purchased by Redwood City, CA-based Apollo Energy. Cannibalizing parts from the original 37 turbines, Apollo personnel kept the declining facility going with outdated equipment. But even in a place where wind-shaped trees grow sideways, maintenance issues were overwhelming. By 2004 Kamaoa accounts began to show up on a Hawaii State Department of Finance list of unclaimed properties. In 2006, transmission was finally cut off by Hawaii Electric Company.California’s wind farms — then comprising about 80% of the world’s wind generation capacity — ceased to generate much more quickly than Kamaoa. In the best wind spots on earth, over 14,000 turbines were simply abandoned. Spinning, post-industrial junk which generates nothing but bird kills.” _DailyMail
The inept US President Carter's policies triggered the first great wind boom and bust. The equally inept US President Obama's policies are bringing about the next great wind bubble and bust.

Endless fields of abandoned and rusting wind turbines. Perhaps somewhere near your home town. A huge waste of resources, fueling the huge debt burden to be passed down to future generations. All for nothing but to fund crony political supporters of Obama, and to salve the consciences of the green zombie hordes.

Meanwhile, the inept US president is obstructing the use of reliable and affordable domestic US resources, for totally false reasons of political expediency.

More: A reality check on fracking from Brian Westenhaus

Even more on the earth shaking effect of fracking on the US

No thanks to Obama, the oil & gas boom is bringing high paying jobs to several parts of the US.


Sunday, November 20, 2011

Fossil Fools in Washington DC: A Simple Lack of Practical Wisdom

The idiot zombies in Obama's EPA, Interior Department, Energy Department, Department of Interior, Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and Department of Agriculture can pretend that the country will function just fine without fossil fuels. They find it easy to ban offshore drilling, coal mining, coal power plants, oil sands pipelines, arctic drilling, shale gas & oil drilling, safe new nuclear reactor designs, etc etc. No skin off their nose, no sir!

Meanwhile, the nation they are supposed to be leading and guiding sinks more deeply into debt and dysfunction, for lack of any genuine leadership. Politics as usual, except more so. More cronyism, more corruption, more obstruction and destruction toward the private sector, more disregard for the welfare of the productive classes, entrepreneurs, and small business.

Human ingenuity wants to make things better and more workable. But government zombies have their own ideas.
The Obama administration’s decision to delay the Keystone XL pipeline project, which would increase Canadian oil imports, should be viewed as a warning that the government is willing to oppose new energy production either directly or indirectly. If anyone had any illusion that the State Department’s decision was about a route through Nebraska, Daniel Kammen, an Obama 2008 energy adviser, left no room for doubt: “The real issue isn’t the route. It’s what’s in the pipeline.”

This Keystone XL decision, combined with project permitting delays in Alaska, moratoriums in the Gulf of Mexico and regulatory uncertainty surrounding new shale gas production would leave an objective observer to question if there is any will to move production beyond traditional Middle East suppliers.

Today, the choice for America is stark. If we support North American energy production, the United States increases its own energy security, creates more liquidity in the global market, and creates jobs in refining, and downstream industries such as fertilizers and chemicals. Alternatively, we can continue down the path of increasing reliance on foreign energy sources that could be unstable or hostile. The onus is now on Washington to seize the moment and stop obstructing the opportunity created from advances in technology. _Hill

There are clean ways to utilise all forms of fossil fuels -- even coal! But instead of using the massive US coal resource to rebuild the US industrial infrastructure, US governmental obstructionism is forcing coal producers to ship all their product overseas -- to a country that actually wants to do something with it.

People are saying that oil will soon run out. They say oil is a finite resource, and therefore it is obvious to them that oil will soon run out. Is it possible that something is wrong with their logic?
Coal not only did not run out, no matter how much was used: it actually became cheaper and more abundant as time went by, in marked contrast to charcoal, which always grew more expensive once its use expanded beyond a certain point, for the simple reason that people had to go further in search of timber. Had England never used coal, it could still have had an industrial miracle of sorts, because it could have (and did) use water power to drive the frames and looms that turned Lancashire into the cotton capital of the world. But water power, though renewable, is very much finite, and Britain’s industrial boom would have petered out as expansion became impossible, population pressure overtook income and wages fell, depressing demand.

This is not to imply that non-renewable resources are infinite–of course not. The Atlantic Ocean is not infinite, but that does not mean you have to worry about bumping into Newfoundland if you row a dinghy out of a harbour in Ireland. Some things are finite but vast; some things are infinitely renewable, but very limited. Non-renewable resources such as coal are sufficiently abundant to allow an expansion of both economic activity and population to the point where they can generate sustainable wealth for all the people of the planet without hitting a Malthusian ceiling, and can then hand the baton to some other form of energy. _MattRidley
A simple idea: use the energy resources which you have, to create better, longer-lasting resources -- such as advanced nuclear fission and eventually fusion -- for the future.

Why didn't the zombies in Washington think of that?


Friday, November 18, 2011

Shale Boom Spreads; Green Energy Crashing and Burning

The boom in shale gas & oil is spreading to other sectors of industry, despite the effort of Luddite greens inside and outside the Obama administration.
...a huge, 100-year source of cheap gas will make plenty of winners...

Chemical and fertilizer manufacturers like Dow and Potash, for example, use gas as a fuel and a feedstock. And pipeline companies—when they’re run right—make money by moving molecules from place to place. As gas prices fall electric utilities will start burning more of it and the commodity will find its way into new uses like truck fleets.

“The guys who win when shale gas grows are the ser­vice guys, the pipeline and processor guys, and the end user of this product,” says David Pursell, managing director at Tudor, Pickering, Holt & Co., an energy investment bank in Houston.

Kinder Morgan’s $21 billion takeover of El Paso Corp.—at a 45% premium to its 52-week average price—is clear evidence of pipeline capacity’s rising value. Other pipeline takeover targets include Williams Cos. and Holly Energy Partners.

Brad Handler of Credit Suisse in New York also sees a “very bullish outlook for services businesses”...

Overseas the shale play is just beginning. Geologists have found huge deposits in the U.K. and Poland, yet the entire international pressure-pumping fleet outside of Russia is just 2 million hp, Pursell says. Shale gas “is everywhere, and if you’re going to see significant growth in production, you’re going to have to see a lot of growth in horsepower,” he says. _Forbesvia_GWPF
Meanwhile in Europe, where the green revolution has been roaring along for many years, the limits to wishful thinking are beginning to enforce themselves. In Germany, Spain, the Netherlands, and several other EU countries, the many problems of trying to fit inappropriate energy technologies into modern industrial infrastructures are beginning to become intolerable.
The current Socialist government, forecast to be ejected from power in general elections on Sunday, axed subsidy tariffs for solar photovoltaic (PV) electricity technology projects in December last year. Spain is the world’s largest per capita wind energy producer, with subsidies for renewable energy having fostered a €20bn sector that has become a pillar of state energy policy....

...The government argues that the action was needed to reduce the financial deficit in Spain’s electricity market, where end-user prices have been consistently too low to cover suppliers’ costs. _GWPF

Almost all solar companies are deep in the red, wind turbine manufacturers complain about lack of demand and are reporting growing losses. The stock index Renixx, which lists 30 international Greentech companies, has lost 56 percent since the year-high in April. _GWPF

The bumbling administration of US president Barack Obama is attempting, for ideological reasons, to take the US down the same ruinous path that European nations have already shown to be a trap. In a one-two punch of devastation, Obama is pushing unreliable green energy technologies onto the US power system while attempting to destroy the use of more reliable energy technologies such as nuclear, offshore oil, Canadian oil sands, shale oil & gas, newer clean coal technologies, and other proven energy winners.

It is unclear why Mr. Obama is pursuing the path to energy failure. No one can see inside the US President's mind, after all. But if the US is to climb out of its current economic quagmire, it will need to pursue quite a different approach.

More: The TransCanada Corp has upped the stakes in the Keystone pipeline standoff with President Obama. Within days of Obama's announcement that he will delay making a decision on the pipeline, TransCanada has submitted a re-routing plan which appears to address all of the US president's objections to the route. The ball is in Obama's court, but it is likely that he will ignore it, since he is in a poor position to play this game to begin with.

Needless the say, the battle over the Canada oil sands pipeline is far from over.

Labels: , ,

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Fuel Cells are Coming On for Scalable Backup and Transportation

You can get a good idea of where fuel cell technology and markets are going by reading through the Fuel Cell Today Industry Outlook 2011 (PDF) report. Fuel cell markets are growing particularly well in Europe and North America, although Asian markets are also seeing significant growth.
Image Credit: Fuel Cell Basics
The fuel cell schematic above shows a generic hydrogen / oxygen fuel cell. Modern fuel cell developments allow for a wide range of fuels which act as hydrogen donours, from methane to diesel to coal to sugars.

Utilities are starting to look at fuel cells for several applications:
Utility adoption of fuel cells can include multiple levels, such as:
Residential combined heat and power (resCHP) for units up to 10 kW per single home and 20 kW per multiple family dwellings.
Baseload generators in commercial buildings and public facilities.
Non-spinning and spinning reserves.
Grid strengthening.
Energy storage for time shifting of renewables.
Off-grid power production._FierceEnergy
Fuel cells are being used at all scales, from industrial backup to remote off-grid applications to power supplies for portable consumer electronics and cellular phones. Fuel cells appear to be particularly resilient in the face of natural disasters, which is reassuring -- since one of the main applications for fuel cells is for backup power when the grid goes down. Perhaps if the Fukushima nuclear reactors had been backed up with fuel cells, at least some of the backup power might have survived to help prevent the meltdown.

Fuel cell researchers are becoming quite clever at substituting low-cost materials for expensive platinum, thus lowering the costs and extending the markets for fuel cells.

Fuel cells are finding applications as power sources for various transportation vehicles -- including airplanes! Military UAVs in particular are utilising fuel cells to achieve quiet flight. An interesting look at a fuel cell hybrid UAV

One particularly fascinating type of fuel is the bacterial fuel cell. The fuel cell discussed in the linked article is meant to purify waste water, but other bacterial fuel cells are meant to generate hydrogen gas, or electricity.

Fuel cells would also be suitable for wilderness resorts and retreats. Propane-powered fuel cells would be particularly appropriate, although if an operator combined some form of H2 generation via renewables with a hydrogen / oxygen fuel cell, he might just hit on the best possible use for wind and solar energy.


Wilderness Refineries to Produce Gasoline from Wood?

CORE BioFuel Inc. intends to turn millions of tons of forestry wood waste and bark beetle kill into gasoline.
Images via CORE BioFuel Inc

Under contract with CORE, RECAT Technologies Inc. successfully completed a set of test runs of the catalytic reaction producing gasoline from dimethyl ether (DME), the only to date non-commercialized step in CORE’s patent-pending MKS Gasoline Synthesis Process.

Our reaction performs even better than we expected, with excellent conversion of DME to gasoline. The catalyst for this reaction did not produce benzene—which the EPA has determined should not be present in gasoline unless lower than their current criteria levels. Removing benzene is difficult and expensive and our process does not incur this cost. Utilizing similar operating parameters, our reactor actually produces a gasoline superior to ExxonMobil’s well-known commercial MTG (Methanol-to-Gasoline) process. Our gasoline octane rating is 94, which means it can be blended successfully with lesser grade refinery gasoline to meet retail pump 92 octane requirements. Our testing also determined that operating costs will be lower because we have less volume to recycle than in an MTG process—we produce more of what we want and less of what we don’t want. Our catalyst also costs less, and is a robust catalyst, which can be re-used.

—Larry Melnichuk, Vice President of Process Design and Development
CORE says the MKS Th technology is industrially proven and the process is a scalable, efficient, cost effective approach to producing carbon neutral, benzene-free gasoline. _GCC

CORE’s patent-pending MKS (Melnichuk-Kelly-Stanko) Gasoline Synthesis Process is a thermochemical process combining gasification and catalysts to produce an essentially carbon-neutral 92 octane gasoline (Zero Fossil Input (ZFI) Gasoline), according to the company.

Incoming biomass is chipped and dried to the desired moisture content. The dried wood chips are fed into a gasifier where they are converted to a synthesis gas and inert ash. The synthesis gas is then processed through a series of catalytic steps, with the end products being gasoline and distilled water. Conventional heat exchangers and steam turbines are used throughout the plant to produce sufficient electricity to operate the facility.

The Houston, British Columbia demonstration plant will produce approximately 18 million gallons of gasoline, 6 million gallons of distilled water, and will generate its own electric power. _GCC
This approach is energy intensive, and suitable only where large quantities of biomass are availoable at low cost. Overall profitability will depend upon the ability of the operators to keep costs low, as well as ingenuity in marketing products and co-products.

The company claims that its process is profitable without government subsidies. But the company also seems to be angling for carbon credits of some type, and appears to be framing its process to fit into pre-existing government mandates.

Realistically, natural gas GTL processes should allow more profitable production of unconventional liquid fuels at today's low prices for gas, for most industrial regions.

The economics of biomass to fuels for remote areas and islands far off from mainland, may tip the balance toward the biomass approach in some cases, where biomass growth is prolific and fossil fuel access is exceptionally expensive.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

US On Track to Exceed Old Hydrocarbon Peak Production

The United States is on track to beat its previous peak production of oil, natural gas and natural gas liquids, according to an analysis by consulting firm PFC Energy.
The analysis projects that the United States will become the world’s top producer of those fossil fuels by 2020. Though Saudi Arabia will continue surpass it in oil production, the United States’ booming shale gas business will make it the global leader in well-borne fossil fuels, according to PFC Energy.

Domestic energy production has declined since the early 1970s, when the United States peaked at about 22 million barrels of oil, natural gas and natural gas liquids per year, the analysis noted. About 45 percent of the product was oil and 43 percent was natural gas.
The United States is poised to hit 22 million barrels of oil equivalent again in 2020. _FuelFix
My firm belief is peak oil will only come into consideration when the education and science into extraction techniques has peaked and that will not happen in the foreseeable future. _OilVoice
The significant new oil find in Colorado, seen in the image at left, is just one small drop in a very large bucket of new oil & gas finds across the continental US. Even under the burden of US President Obama's energy starvation agenda, US oil & gas producers are finding a way to push back against political corruption and the anti-energy bias of the modern green Luddite movement.
Anadarko Petroleum Corp. said that land it controls in northern Colorado may hold more than a billion barrels of recoverable oil and natural gas, the latest sign that U.S. energy production is set to surge. _WSJ
With production of oil & gas surging from Texas to North Dakota to Louisiana to Pennsylvania -- and new discoveries coming to light on an almost daily basis -- the outlook for US onshore oil & gas is quite bright. Unless, of course, the green dieoff.orgy camp of energy starvationists -- so dominant within the Obama administration -- can manage to engineer a political shutdown of energy in the US.

Labels: ,

Garbage Gasification Power Gaining Global Traction

Dozens of companies -- large and small -- are vying for the rights to access municipal waste disposal landfills, to get in on the riches of fuel and power from garbage.

The US military has been in the forefront of the gasification of garbage for purposes of sanitation and energy production. First the US Army, next the US Air Force, and now the US Marine Corps are learning how to fit small, portable gasification plants into their strategic planning.

One company has signed a billion euro agreement which allows it to mine many of the world's landfills for solid waste to turn into fuels and power, via gasification.

This is one form of decentralised power and fuels production at its most extreme, since the sources of garbage are even more decentralised and diffuse than the sources of biomass, if one starts at the beginning. The same is true for municipal sewage, which can also be turned into fuels and energy.

It has been worth society's while to create an infrastructure for centralising and disposing of wastes and garbage -- for purposes of sanitation alone. How much more will it be worth developing even better infrastructure to achieve both sanitation and energy + fuels?

Labels: ,

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

US President's Clueless Policies Continue to Weaken US

If the United States chooses to cut itself off from its largest, most reliable, and most durable supply of crude oil, from where will it, with its continuing high use of transportation fuel, get its future imports? Crude oil production in two other major U.S. suppliers in the Western hemisphere, Mexico and Venezuela, has been declining (by, respectively, more than 20 percent and more than 15 percent between 2005 and 2011), and in the Middle East the United States faces enormous competition from China.

By preventing the oil flow from Canada, the United States will thus deliberately deprive itself of new manufacturing and construction jobs; it will not slow down the increase of global CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion (OK, by two weeks, perhaps); it will almost certainly empower China; and it will make itself strategically even more vulnerable by becoming further dependent on declining, unstable, and contested overseas crude oil supplies. That is what is called a spherically perfect decision, because no matter from which angle you look at it, it looks perfectly the same: wrong. _Vaclav Smil

Vaclav Smil

If the US President were to pay attention to intelligent voices for a change -- such as the voice of Vaclav Smil, quoted above -- he would probably make a lot fewer mistakes, and his country would be in a much stronger position.

Unfortunately, Obama's bad ideas are not limited to the energy sector:
President Barack Obama continued his efforts to make China stronger and America weaker during last weekend’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Hawaii. How? By pressuring Chinese President Hu Jintao to increase the value of the yuan relative to the dollar. If successful, this policy will make Americans poorer relative to the Chinese.

The theory behind the Obama Administration’s weak dollar policy is seductive, but wrong. _Forbes
One must look for a long time to find anything that Obama has done right. So sad, and so preventable.

Obama has invested deeply into the green scams and bubbles of his crony friends and supporters, while suppressing and prohibiting all possible forms of energy which are reliable and plentiful.

Without huge government subsidies, big solar and big wind are not viable. Neither are truly viable even with the huge subsidies which are proving ruinous to government budgets from Spain to California -- but without the subsidies, these renewables quickly go nose down into a crash and burn.

If the US re-elects their clown president, they will be committing suicide as a nation. Even with a more rational administration, there is no guarantee that the US can pull out of its steep nosedive.

Hope for the best. Prepare for the worst.

Labels: , ,

Shell Oil is Counting on Biofuels for the Long Term

Shell sees a place for gas, hydrogen and electricity, but Reijnhart was clear that: “We see biofuels as the single most important alternative to hydrocarbons in mobility in the next 20 years.”

Reijnhart several times stressed Shell’s strategic intention to operate “at scale” in the biofuels market, with particular reference to its recent launch of Raizen, its $12-billion joint-venture with Brazilian sugar and ethanol producer Cosan. _GCC

Brazil is a good place for biofuels and biomass to chemicals projects. Its tropical climate provides a year-round climate for growing multiple croppings. Sugar cane is a particularly rich source of both sugars and cellulosic biomass. Large areas of Africa are similarly well-endowed for biomass production.
Reijnhart said that first-generation and second-generation biofuels were different pillars of the same long-term strategy. He suggested that breakthroughs in the production of cellulosic ethanol will come in the early 2020s. Noting that this is part of the long-term future for biofuels, he emphasized Shell’s commitments to R&D in the next-generation technology. _GCC

Brazil is beginning to produce biofuels in the Antarctic for local fuel use -- note the fashionable coverage of the food vs. fuels debate on the video at the link. You know that when the UN gets involved, the excrement is certain to be piled very deeply.

But back in the real world, biomass production is limited only by human ingenuity, just as all energy and food production is limited by what our brains can conceive. As we discover better ways to convert biomass to high value chemicals, valuable materials, fuels, and electrical power, we will find ways to expand the total volume of terrestrial biomass far beyond what is currently thought possible. This will be done by utilising areas and resources for biomass growth which are not currently thought of as croplands or crop nutrients.


Monday, November 14, 2011

US President Obama Busy Creating Energy Jobs -- For Other Countries

The Obama administration continues to create energy jobs...for other countries that is. Friday I wrote about the Obama Administration's decision to delay the decision to make a decision on the fate of the Keystone Pipeline and that delay may kill the project and all the jobs that went with it. The Wall Street Journal writes today, "Just a few days after the U.S. said it would delay approval of an oil pipeline that would boost Canadian exports to the U.S., Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Sunday the country would push to sell its crude to Asian markets instead. " t Obama, for the sake of politics, cost the country 20,000 good paying jobs. But don't worry he is spending a lot of money on high risk, low return energy sources.

Read more: _Community.Nasdaq
By slowing down US domestic coal, natural gas, kerogen oil shales, offshore oil, and imports of Canadian oil sands, Mr. Obama is helping overseas producers from Russia to Venezuela to Iran to Saudi Arabia. Obama has provided generous loan guarantees to Brazil to help develop its rich offshore oil & gas. By way of bailouts to the EU, Obama has indirectly helped to subsidise Spain's ruionous green energy economic destruction program -- after Spain itself had been forced to back away from subsidies for its own bad programs.

Obama's generous domestic subsidies have been geared to benefit wealthy campaign backers such as George Kaiser, General Electric, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, the wealthy and connected family of Nancy Pelosi, and George Soros. Even if all of Obama's $billion green projects fail, his cronies will still get their loot -- guaranteed!
The government often backs questionable ventures, but throwing taxpayer dollars at risky projects without regard for proven market truth is counterproductive. The new loans are the latest offense for the Department of Energy and the Obama Administration—and they are heading straight for another deep failure that promises another expensive lesson for taxpayers.

As a country deep in debt, America does not need to waste money on President Obama’s political favors and errant energy subsidies. _Heritage
Follow the links for more details.

US President Obama's feckless cronyism and blatant disregard for the economic well-being of the US and US taxpayers -- present and future -- would be reason enough in themselves to seek a replacement with all due expediency. Sadly, that is just the beginning of Mr. Obama's malfeasance in office. And even more sadly, with the support of the US skankstream media, the incompetent clown may be given another four years of economic destruction, on top of his one remaining. Should that occur, expect the survivalist and prepper movement worldwide to become one of the the greatest boom economic sectors of all time.

Labels: , ,

Is $56,000 Too Much to Pay for a 5 kW Home Fuel Cell?

Lake Oswego Review Clear Edge Power

The Clear Edge Power 5 kW residential fuel cell runs on methane, and sells for $56,000. It is estimated that owners will pay roughly 9 cents per kWh in some states, when all incentives and subsidies are taken into account. In many other states, of course, the owner will pay more.
ClearEdge has sold 120 CE5s since introducing its first fuel cell in April 2010 and has back orders to sell another 1,063. The company raised an impressive $73.5 million in venture capital in August to help it expand into Europe and Asia.

The CE5 produces electricity on site from piped-in natural gas, with up to 40 percent less carbon dioxide emissions than electricity produced at massive utility gas-fired power plants. When state and federal subsidies are factored in, the long-term cost of the electricity is as low as 9 cents per kilowatt hour in some states, Ford says. That’s half the price charged by some California utilities, where prices are much higher than in the Northwest. PGE’s typical residential rate is about 11 cents a kilowatt hour.

Local buyers include a McDonald’s Restaurant in Jantzen Beach, a Hillsboro fire station, the Sylvania campus of Portland Community College and PGE. Bigger demand is coming from Palm Springs and San Diego, where electricity prices are high, as well as overseas.

Ford, a former defense industry executive at Lockheed Martin Corp., took the reins of the 8-year-old company in 2008, when ClearEdge had 20 employees. Now it has 200 employees in Hillsboro plus roughly 25 elsewhere. And it’s poised for more growth.

Ford predicts the company will become profitable in two months.

Within a few years, he says, ClearEdge could produce 10,000 fuel cells a year at its Hillsboro plant and hit $750 million a year in sales. That would require about 1,500 employees at the headquarters and adjacent assembly plant, he says.

...In mid-November, Ford says ClearEdge will release a family of new fuel cells to complement its 5-kilowatt cell, which produces enough electricity to power four or five typical Portland homes. ClearEdge expects to introduce 10-kilowatt, 15-kilowatt, 20-kilowatt and 25-kilowatt models, Ford says.

In addition, the company will release a direct-current version for the telecommunications market and a power unit for data centers. _LakeOswegoReview

The ideal home fuel cell would run on fuel that could be stored locally in an underground tank. Besides home power, it should also supply home space heating and hot water. That might require a separate heat storage unit -- molten salt, graphite, etc. And as long as you are digging a hole for a large storage tank, you should also dig deep trenches for geothermal heat exchange for both heating and cooling purposes.

The unit pictured above provides heat, but to integrate the heat into your home system would presumably require additional engineering.

The most valuable feature of the Clear Edge unit is independence from the power grid. But as featured, you would still be dependent on the natural gas supplier. Alternatively, Clear Edge has been said to be able to use propane in its fuel cells, which is much easier to store (in liquid form) in quantity at home than methane. Propane fuel cells are catching on with the US military.


Sunday, November 13, 2011

Gas to Liquids: Carbon Sciences Provides Alternative to Shell & Sasol

A typical GTL plant consists of three core components: 1) syngas generation, which converts natural gas into syngas, 2) Fischer-Tropsch processing, which converts syngas into hydrocarbons, and 3) liquid fuels upgrading, which converts hydrocarbons to liquid fuels such as gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel. It is generally accepted in the industry that the syngas portion of a GTL plant is the most expensive.

Carbon Sciences' proprietary catalyst technology is aimed at reducing the cost of syngas production by eliminating the expensive requirements for oxygen and steam. Instead, the company's syngas technology uses freely available carbon dioxide to react with natural gas. To provide a complete GTL technology solution, Carbon Sciences will integrate its proprietary syngas technology with Fischer-Tropsch technology and liquid fuels upgrading technology licensed from other companies to deliver an end-to-end GTL plant design. This complete solution will be available for licensing to the natural gas industry for use in small to medium size GTL plants. Carbon Sciences will begin the commercial process by offering pre-feasibility and feasibility study services. _MSNBusiness_Marketwire
Shell Qatar Pearl Plant

The huge price spread between crude oil and natural gas opens a vast opportunity for gas-to-liquids producers to make billions in quick profits. The Shell Pearl GTL plant in Qatar is slated to earn $6 billion in profits every year! But that is a very large and expensive GTL plant.
Mini GTL Plant from GasTechno

Various schemes for scaling down the GTL process have come from Oxford Catalysts, GasTechno, and now from Carbon Sciences. These smaller scale GTL production plants will allow a lot of options for profitable GTL production for smaller scale operators.
Carbon Sciences GTL Scheme

The commercial viability of GTL technology has been proven by some of the largest oil & gas companies in the world. After investing $19 billion in a world scale GTL plant in the State of Qatar and creating more than 52,000 jobs, Royal Dutch Shell announced the first commercial shipment of GTL fuel products on June 13, 2011. Named Pearl GTL, the plant is capable of producing 260,000 barrels per day of oil equivalent products using only natural gas instead of crude oil. According to Shell, Pearl GTL will produce enough liquid fuels to fill over 160,000 cars a day and enough synthetic base oil each year to make lubricants for more than 225 million cars.

More recently in September 2011, Sasol, the South African energy and chemical giant, announced plans to build the first United States GTL plant in Louisiana to produce GTL transportation fuels and other products. The Sasol project is expected to cost $10 billion and will create over 5,000 new high-paying direct and indirect jobs.

Byron Elton, CEO of Carbon Sciences, commented, "The days of cheap, easy oil have passed, and the era of natural gas is upon us. We recently attended the annual GTL conference in London to meet with industry colleagues and congratulate Shell on its history making GTL success. The consensus at the conference was that oil prices will remain strong and natural gas prices are expected to remain low, leading to a lucrative future for gas to liquids technology. Forecasts show that total recoverable global natural gas resources will last over 250 years. Shell, Sasol and others in our industry have proven the economics of GTL technology that will free us from crude oil by tapping into the vast reserves of natural gas to power the needs of the world." _MSN Business Marketwire
While Mr. Elton may not understand all the mechanisms of inflated oil price which have presented his company with a golden opportunity, he is quite correct to predict a continuing price spread between oil and natural gas -- for at least the near to intermediate future.

Carbon Sciences website describes their breakthrough technology

More news on Sasol, another large GTL contender


Newer Posts Older Posts