Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Carbon trading and carbon capture.

Carbon trading is a key to reducing greenhouse emissions by the cheapest means. I've found a good documentary on it.

I believe that all kinds of solutions are needed and none should be overlooked.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Socialist Luddite plans for Greenhouse wont cut-it but capitalist R & D can!

The Stockholm network has come up with a set of scenarios that model global energy and greenhouse trends.
It’s discussed at green cars congress:
Devil in the Details: Three “Profoundly Disturbing” Carbon Scenarios

I'll Assume you've read it.
Ok the three Luddite socialist models so nicely described in the Stockholm report clearly don't work! So where's the real solution? The model that's missing is the one George Bush has been pushing.
"It’s the technology stupid!"
The 80 or so break through renewables per year we're seeing now all get capital, factory floors and buy up old energy technology distribution network (or get bought by them). A down turn in the rest of the world economy only serves to free up such capital, labour and factories.

We see a global deployment with biofuels at $30 a gallon and renewables and clean coal at 4.5c a kilowatt hour.
Metal air batteries, Nickel Zinc, cheap lithium and better ultra-capacitors combined with lightweight but stronger car bodies result is clean cars that go 130 km on a charge. The lighter weight can be achieved with carbon, aluminium, plastic panels with air bags in them and in the crumple zone. Some of these cars are biofuel plug-in hybrids for those that need more flexibility. The average car travel distance per day is 65 km.

These are recharged by an integrated mix of solar PV, Solar thermal, wind, wave, and run of the river hydro/currents plus waste to energy in most cities. All new car-parks are designed with charging points and many old ones are also equipped.
A massive investment in fast trains in the Midwest of the USA, Australia, China, India and Eastern Europe is done with semi-private bond financing.

Throw in a massive 5 year deployment of ‘clean energy systems Inc’ clean coal technology in ALL the coal power plants. And then turn the CO2 into man made carbonates. Mine slurry & tailings plus CO2 = building materials.
What? Who told you clean coal would take 15 years? Oh those that can't do it, that's who!

All these technologies are coming out of the labs world wide in a massive and truly amazing deployment. When you add up the capacity of each of these technologies, they can power the world three times over.

Oil, gas and dirty coal may be obsolete within 15 years and green house reversing may begin within 20. Yes I said reversing! If the carbon in biomass is fed to clean coal power plants, then turned into carbonate building materials [chalk, plaster] then we can pull the carbon out of the atmosphere as fast as we put it there.
Carbon pricing will work in some rich countries but the third world can't afford them. However all these technologies will be profitable even in the third world.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Could Clean Coal be easy, quick and cheap?!

In Australia Clean Coal has been hotly debated. It's rejected by many as a tool to divert greenhouse attention away from the coal industry. Most skeptics of clean coal have not thought through the motivation of the clean coal people. Those that have given it thought, believe its either a way to buy time for the industry until the climate skeptics win (a very unlikely event even if temperatures plummeted and the Arctic refroze tomorrow). Or that the industry is trying to hang on until a crisis forces governments to buy them out of the sector with large compensation packages. That may happen.

In reality no scientist or businessman advocates a technology that he or she believes will not work. The advocates of clean coal are genuinely seeking an answer that is a win win solution for both coal and climate. All genuinely believe that coal power will and must continue into the future as a viable energy technology. That our civilization is built on the cheap energy of coal and oil. Many in the green movement also believe this idea: arguing that the era of cheap energy is gone and with it global trade, travel and western wealth will all cease [or even be banned].

The coal advocates costing of wind and solar may be out of date. However as long as coal is cheaper than unsubsidized renewables they will be unconvinced by the arguments for renewables. They are also acutely aware that the third world can't afford carbon taxes or to pay subsidies of any kind. However China and India still can afford dirty coal.

The challenge then is not simply to forcibly replace coal but to make all energies as cheap and easy as coal or make coal as clean as solar. Given the global growth in energy demand we need to do both.

Australia has several very useful projects in coal gasification including Solar enhanced pyrolysis of coal to gas, hydrogen production with CO2 capture. Deep geological sequestration experiments are under way in Victoria.

I believe geological sequestration will never be permanent because the CO2 is already a resource thanks to Carbon sciences. This Company wants to convert CO2 into man made chalk and plaster. Artificial carbonates made from mine tailings and CO2. The process is cheap and pays for itself and the carbon is immobilized for millennia with no risk. This and the technologies outlined below produce a powerful tool that can be used on the large scale within a few, 1 to 8 years. We need not wait for 2025!

Many have noted that money is being pulled from some clean coal projects world wide. This is not because governments have given up on clean coal but is because some projects are already obsolete. In the USA two of the discontinued projects were related to sulphur and mercury respectively; not CO2 related at all.

Clean Energy Systems has a prototype technology at a very low cost. It’s unlikely that they are either overstating their technology or understating the cost of their burner; particularly if it can be mass produced. This device burns Coal slurry in pure oxygen in a burner derived from rocket technology. It can be mass produced and if it can be retrofitted to existing power plants then, again, deployment could take a half dozen years instead of a quarter century.

I know enough about oxygen production to know that we can reclaim most of the energy used to produce it. Oxygen is produced by refrigerating air down to a low enough temperature that it liquefies or dissolves in various solutions. The cryogenic (but not liquid) nitrogen produced, if it is heated with waste heat will expand powerfully and can drive an auxiliary turbine. As I said reclaiming most of the energy.

Also if adequate oxygen storage is added we can use off peak energy from any source to make the oxygen thus any energy that would have been wasted is reclaimed, amplified and used to facilitate clean coal. There are also plans to create a huge fleet of hydrogen fuelled cars, buses and other vehicles. If you use electrolysis to make hydrogen you also make oxygen. For each mole of hydrogen you make half a mole of oxygen. Only a true fool would throw that resource away! It is essentially free in both monetary and energy terms. A clean coal plant can't make oxygen by electrolysis. Renewable energy would be needed; but its a perfect job for renewables that don't match the minute by minute demand of the grid.

If a powerplant can be built with these technologies integrated in, the debate would be over. The age of cheap clean coal would begin. It would be easy to convince the Chinese and India to accept and deploy the same technology in place of dirty coal and nuclear technologies.

Some solar, wind and biomass technologies will compete with such clean coal technology. Ausra, nanosolar, suncube and solar chimneys. Most established wind power will compete. General Compression and Flodesign should also be competitive with cheap clean coal. There are other technologies that will compete.

Only this clean combustion technology can, over time, reverse greenhouse gas emissions by burning biomass with the coal to produce energy and carbonate building materials. Eventually the coal oil shale, tar sands, etc will run out leaving only biomass and plastics to fuel these plants. By then solar will have matured to the point where it's ubiquitous, has integral storage and is as cheap as house-paint.

Those advocating renewables need to welcome clean coal into the fold, now that it has arrived, and call it what it now is, another renewable energy: Clean Combustion. It's good for ~1200 years on coal and much longer on oil shale or tar sands,and then almost forever on biomass and plastics garbage.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Strategic Speculation

Much of the rise in food prices, particularly corn, has been pushed up by heavy speculative buying on commodities markets. It strikes me that if someone wanted to kill biofuels then buying up the feed stocks and holding them would be an easy tactic. Those that are pro-biofuels need to ask such question. Yes we have drought in key agricultural areas and yes there is growing demand but neither explains why these new grain market speculators are not taking a profit by selling now that the prices are very high. However if the objective was to kill biofuels by pushing the feed stocks up and taking huge amounts of food from the market, then it is easy to see why a buy and hold position would be taken.

It also occurs to me that if you really wanted to kill biofuels you might buy up the edible by-products, dry distiller’s grains with Solubles and soy meal/ soy flour, at a price of $80 a ton and ship it to land fill. Some how somewhere we have LOST 40 million tons of DDGS and an unknown quantity of soy meal. If the Chicago board of trade listed all these by-products we would clearly see how we have not actually sacrificed any protein production capacity. If wet distiller’s grains can be made into food instead of producing DDGS, then even more edible food would be produced. In Biofuels we really can "have our cake (the fuels) and eat it" at the same time.

Who would have an interest in killing biofuels? Most of the Oil industries are just shareholder companies; Exxon Mobil has major investments in key components of lithium batteries. Shell invests in solar. They could all buy into the renewables at any time and some are.

The most likely actor in this game is Arab sympathisers with hard line Islamic (Wahhabism) extremism. If biofuels replaced oil then the spread of Wahhabist teaching, that prepares people for more extreme ideas like Al'Qaeda, would cease and Islam would be much less powerful.

A buy and hold position would also be cost free. The Middle East has ample money in its sovereign funds and private family accounts. Grain prices move slowly. They can buy, hold and as long as they eventually sell at just above the buy price, they can’t make a loss. It all looks like a normal transaction but the second attempt at replacing oil with biofuels lies in ruins.

Remember we have been here before after the first oil shock. A dozen Biofuels were researched and moved to production and at the critical point OPEC dropped the price of oil to record lows to kill everything. Hundreds of projects died, millions were lost. We are on the look out for the same tactic this time and with Russia back in the oil export game OPEC can’t kill biofuels with a simple price drop.

If the speculators are politically motivated and are trying to kill the biofuel industries what do we do? Only governments have the power to ask who these speculators are and check to see if they are likely to be engaging in an attack on the west. If this is true then laws must follow; Disclosure legislation that forces them into the light of day. Action to mandate that if food is horded via the global commodities and futures markets is remobilised. Hopefully this may not be necessary, I believe in free markets; simply naming the speculators may drive them to sell.

The biofuels did not cause the food crisis!

It’s all stupid propaganda and media hype. When you make a ton of ethanol you make a ton of Dry Distillers Grains with Solubles [DDGS]. When you make a ton of biodiesel from soy you get 5 tons of soy flour or 1 ton of soy meal. It’s all STILL food; High protein food stuff at that. It’s been used up by the livestock food industry, pet food [I suspect] and in some cases it’s been made into food for humans. Some has been wasted because the food industry was not ready for the huge boost in production occurring in the USA and Europe.

The main drivers of the food crisis is panic buying by governments and others. The speculators that messed up the US real estate market are jumping in to food speculation. The price of oil and thus fertilisers has pushed up costs. There have been huge GM crop failures in Asia that have gone under reported. The organic farmers in the third world are laughing loudly but the media doesn’t want to know about good news.
The fair trade people have contributed by making the world prices known to third world farmers. They can't be conned into selling very cheap to middlemen any more. I think that’s good news because the poor prices in the third world prevent farm capitalization. Even Organic farmers need some capital for seed stocks, irrigation, harvesting technology and workers.
The famous Tortilla riots were due to price rises caused by a bakers union wage claim but they blamed the price on corn from ethanol to throw the screaming mob off the union boss’s scent. See:

Ethanol and biodiesel can both be sustainable if you do six sensible things.
(1) Power the tractor and trucks on biofuels. [Or solar electric]
(2) Use solar thermal to heat the feed stocks and do 80% of the distillation.
(3) Install food plants at the ethanol plants to make noodles etc from the 1 to 3 kg of wet distillers grains produced per gallon of ethanol.
(4) Feed some of the DDGS or soy flour to livestock on or near the farms where the grain/beans came from. That way the nutrients go back to the soil and you get ample nitrogen.
(5) Convert sewerage from those livestock to sterile fertiliser where possible and send it to cellulosic ethanol crops, orchids and fibre crops. It can be used on non food crops but this is easier to sell to the public in some places if its used on non food crops.
(6) Read

All these steps, or versions of them, will work with most cellulosic ethanol and algae oil as well as grain ethanol, or rapeseed and soy biodiesel. And yes that means food from switch grass and wood chips in the long term.
The cereals ethanol industry was always meant to be transitional to cellulosic ethanol and algae oil. Both are coming faster than expected so there are fewer cereals based ethanol projects being developed as people move to these more advanced options.
All biofuels projects face a challenge with conflicting economies and dis-economies of scale. The industry and government often fail to grasp these details. Measures 4 and 5 above tend to favor small plants on the farm but governments and the multinationals don't grasp this point.

Update: It was coming  fairly fast until some idiots voted for Obama and he shut down most of the programs while still holding the rights so no one can pursue them privately.