# Name your favourite BioFuel Technology

Discussion in 'Earth Science' started by Singularity, Feb 20, 2006.

1. ### Walter L. WagnerCosmic Truth SeekerValued Senior Member

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2,555
Most cost-analyses I've seen were done when oil was stable at about $15-$20/barrel for decades.

With oil now at $70/barrel and climbing, many technologies which were not economically feasible now become quite promising. I suspect that many people will begin purchasing and using home-stills to produce alcohol, to which they might add 15% gasoline. Later, energy companies will get in on it, and begin producing larger amounts, highly competitive with gasoline. Also, FYI, 'vegetable' oil is, for example, corn oil (Mazola, i.e. from maize) from the corn seed, or soy-bean oil from the soy bean seed, palm seed oil and coconut oil from the palm seed; oils produced by plants, primarily in their seeds as an energy storage method, but which can be squeezed out and extracted, and burned much like mineral oils (from the ground - i.e. from the mineral). As noted by KM GURU, much of the energy is in other parts of the plant, but takes more processing for extraction. Many plants produce prodigious quantities of oil, and others are very fast growers, but producing sugars and cellulose primarily, and lesser amounts of oil. It will take a while to sort out the best crops for the best areas. So, will the farm-rich countries replace the oil-rich countries as the money barons? 2. ### Google AdSenseGuest Advertisement to hide all adverts. 3. ### draqonBannedBanned Messages: 35,006 ethanol...thats my favorite biofuel. 4. ### Google AdSenseGuest Advertisement to hide all adverts. 5. ### 2inquisitiveThe Devil is in the detailsRegistered Senior Member Messages: 3,181 Dr. Wagner, you might like to read the estimated yields of biodiesel from algaculture. There are varieties of algae that have a high oil content, and grow rapidly, producing crops that can be harvested several times a year. Current estimates of oil production are in the range of 5000 to 20,000 gallons per acre, per year. Here is a link from wiki that gives an overview and some inks: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Algaculture A study was conducted in 1998 by the National Renewable Energy Labratory on the feasibility and projected cost of biodiesel derived from algaculture. At that time (1998), it was estimated that biodiesel from agae would be at least twice as expensive per gallon as diesel refined from petroleum. But we all know what has happened to the price of a barrel of oil since 1998. Here is a link to the paper prepared for the U S Department of Energy: http://www1.eere.energy.gov/biomass/pdfs/biodiesel_from_algae.pdf A combination of nuclear, wind, tidal, etc. used in the production of electricity, and biodiesel and alcohol used for our vehicles, may let at least some countries become self-sufficient in their energy needs. 6. ### Google AdSenseGuest Advertisement to hide all adverts. 7. ### SingularityBannedBanned Messages: 1,287 is Ethanol made from Sugar or Sugarcane waste ? Its good that Oil is Expensive, the greed of cheaper BioFuel with more Margin will shape our future energy sources for good. 8. ### kmguruStaff Member Messages: 11,757 Ethanol is made from the Sugarcane Juice...when fermented... All tropical climate can produce sugar cane which produces more juice than sugar beets and perhaps corn - plant for plant...now if we can grow a sugar cane to 8 feet high, we can double the production... 9. ### erich_knightErich J. KnightRegistered Senior Member Messages: 108 10. ### MaastAF E-7 RetiredRegistered Senior Member Messages: 101 Does anybody have a reference for the amount of organic waste (not including sewer waste) generated by the US or other industrialized country in a year? The CWT plant I cited earlier is taking chicken waste from a Con-Agra chicken processing plant (feet, heads, guts, feathers, etc) and economically turning it into a high quality diesel fuel, which they then sell to local fuel stations. I'd live very much to know how much fuel we could get using that process if we were able to convert all or most of our organic waste into a liquid fuel. Gaseous hydrogen has such a low energy density and is so difficult to deal with (store, transport, dispense) that I think it'll never get far. Its much easier to bind the hydrogen into a liquid fuel and crack it at its point of use. 11. ### Walter L. WagnerCosmic Truth SeekerValued Senior Member Messages: 2,555 A new coal-to-diesel plant is coming on line in the US. They plan to convert waste coal (low grade, non-marketable, which is apparently about 30% of the coal that is mined) into diesel, using techniques developed by the Nazis in the 1920s to 1930s (and which fueled the Nazi war effort!). They are projecting their cost to be about$50/barrel, so that will give them about a $20/barrel profit at today's prices. However, I suspect that their profit margin will increase over time, as I believe that that cost estimate factors in the cost of the plant construction, amortized over 7 years, and once that's paid for, then the profit increases tremendously (and the primary costs are only the waste-coal, labor and maintenance). What would be nifty about all of this is that I suspect that char-coal (coal made by charring plant material, driving off the volatile Hydrogens, Methanes, etc, leaving behind primarily the carbon of the cellulose structures) would also work. If so, then the 95% of the energy left in the field when corn and other bio-diesel fuels are grown, could instead also be harvested and converted into charcoal and then into diesel. Wow, wouldn't that be great. If I were wanting to invest in the energy market, that's where I'd be putting my money nowadays, since converting charcoal into diesel doesn't add to the CO2 in the atmosphere like burning of fossil fuels does. 12. ### Billy TUse Sugar Cane Alcohol car FuelValued Senior Member Messages: 23,198 You, if anyone, should know by now, having fallen several times already for companies that have a technically possible, but not actually new (I can get a patent on a pencil if I make it have seven sides etc) and very likely un economical idea that they are trying to sell to foolish investors, not to get very exicted by their press releases. It should be a dead give away if at the bottom of their press release it state that "These are forward looking statements" etc. 13. ### Billy TUse Sugar Cane Alcohol car FuelValued Senior Member Messages: 23,198 I have posted here seveal times the fact that pure ammonia is easy to make liquid at modest pressure and cheap (farmers spread it on their ground!) A liter of liquid NH3 has more hydrogen in it than a liter of pure hydrogen, H2. Find a way to economically crack it and confirm that you get net energy and your fortune is made. (Even the green will not stop you from releasing the residual N2 into the air as air is already 80% N2.) 14. ### Billy TUse Sugar Cane Alcohol car FuelValued Senior Member Messages: 23,198 I do not know how many times I must tell that there is no TECHNICAL problem with solving the energy problem. - This must be the 17th time I have tried to make that point. There are dozens of technical solutions. The one you are suggest is well known, old and has been used in despiration despite it high cost twice. In Nazis Germany as you mention and in Aparthide South Africa, when the world had that country under tight embargo. In both cases, the high cost of this fuel (which left little resources for other things) was a very substantial part of the reason for their collapse. 15. ### erich_knightErich J. KnightRegistered Senior Member Messages: 108 Their Clostridia H2 production patents look strong to me. Patent # 5804406, 5707824, 5654194, 5641645,and 5639675 I called the head of waste management at my local Coor brewery and he seems interested And Welch Food's has the system totally integrated into their production process using the 60% H2 for power and the 40% CO2 is bottled and sold. 16. ### Billy TUse Sugar Cane Alcohol car FuelValued Senior Member Messages: 23,198 Most patents are "strong." All should be. That is not the point. Economic viability is the point. There are many technical solutions to the energy problem. (I am going to keep count more accurately on how many times I have said that - that was # 18.) There often arise pollution problems associated with economic activity. For example, power companies will pay to have the sulpher removed for coal taken away. Brewery and food processors generate huge volumes of waste water - probably second only to paper mills. They all will subsidize anyone who will or can help them out of legal troubles with environment agencies. Thus, some process that are not economic in general become economic in some special suituations, but do not think that this implyies they are economic solutions to the energy problem. I do admit that every little bit helps, so certainly I support these local recovery/ recycling concepts. For example, Welsh Co may be able to met some of its needs for hot water by burning gases that come for it waste products, but I doubt it pays to separate H2. I.e. if there is also some CO produced, burning that too into CO2. etc is cheaper than separating the H2 out. MacDonald may find that they can burn the old oil to help cook the french fries etc. Many things that were not economical when natural gas was cheap will be come economical in the high cost energy era, but do not be deluded to think that these local, usually internal recovery, processes are going to make a significant dent in the liquid fuel problem. - Only alcohol and bio-diesel can do that, but then only with major conservation efforts, getting rid of suburan sprawl is the place to start, but the US has run out of time for that. Only a "1D" instead of "2D" infrastructure is suitable in the high cost energy era, (I.e. rail corridors with high rise apartments along them with green parks between and district heating as several countries have done for years is what will survive. Talk about your "social Darwinism" - well it is coming and will eliminate the US as "unfit.") Last edited by a moderator: May 12, 2006 17. ### Walter L. WagnerCosmic Truth SeekerValued Senior Member Messages: 2,555 Billy T: I like your idea about ammonia (NH3). It should make for a good fuel (it makes a good explosive ingredient), and perhaps some work is warranted in this area to find an ideal burning mixture. And true, release of H20 and N2 into the air shouldn't be a problem. But watch out for NO and NO2, which are highly acidic (nitrous/nitric acid). Actually, it's the same idea as Maast's about binding Hydrogen to another atom, and then 'cracking' it at the point of usage. H2 gas is notoriously difficult to handle. The small size of the H2 molecule lets it readily squeeze between the atoms of all metals, making them brittle and prone to cracking (and exploding, in the case of pressurized H2). Lining such vessels with a ceramic-like material serves to retard such brittilization (if that's a word?), but it still remains as a problem. I'm not certain how that's being handled with the few such H2 stations now operational in central California. Now, as to the coal-to-diesel plant coming on line in the US. It is a commercial scale plant, not a pilot plant. True, they are buying coal 'seconds', likely quite cheaply, but they did their cost-analysis back when oil was at$50/barrel, and it proved economical at that price.

As I mentioned, the great difficulty of such 'new' technologies (even though, as you mentioned, it was in use in Germany, S. Africa, etc.) is developing the physical infrastructure. Once the physical infrastructure is in place, however, it becomes very inexpensive. There are no additional materials costs in converting coal to oil (other than the cost of the water, which I'm sure you will admit is quite cheap). True, the water has to be heated - but then with all that coal lying around that can be burned in a boiler, that's cheap too. And as Maast said, the Hydrogen of the water is then attached to the carbon of the coal, which is then made into long-chain hydrocarbons, in liquid form at STP for ease of transport, etc.

And the reason the Germans ran out of oil during WWII was not because it was expensive to produce from coal, but because those damn crazy Americans and Brits kept bombing the shit out of their production facilities (and pardon my Greek), so by the time the 'Battle of the Bulge' came around, they had to resort to siphoning diesel wherever they went, and always carried siphon tubes with them. Reminds me of the thieving going on at parking lots these days, with people stealing gasoline.

Now, back to our original thread. To make it bio-diesel, we should convert char-coal made from freshly-dead plants, instead of converting the coal of long-dead plants.

If I were a betting man, I'd bet that we'll see lots more coal-to-diesel plants in the future, and that people will start charring things like almond-husks, corn-stalks, etc. and feeding them into charcoal-to-diesel plants.

By the way, during WWII, some people in Australia developed charcoal cookers for their cars (due to the gasoline shortage), and wood was fed into a hopper, and the gas released when the wood was heated and charred was fed directly into the carburetor; the charcoal was a waste product. It was damn ugly looking, though.

18. ### CarcanoValued Senior Member

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6,865
Some engineers are already working on your idea apparently:
http://www.greencarcongress.com/2005/05/zap_and_apollo_.html

Last edited: May 14, 2006
19. ### MaastAF E-7 RetiredRegistered Senior Member

Messages:
101
Ammonia sounds like it'd certianly work and would be ideal (have to look into how much energy per liter to make vs how much you get out of it)

One big problem though, pure liquid ammonia is nasty stuff, there might be some serious regulatory and public safety stumbling blocks to its use. One leaky fuel tank and it'd be yanked, not to mention all those people pumping ammonia into their tanks, somebody is sure to screw up, even a minor accident would put people in the hospital, if you spill a little gasoline its no big deal, spill a little ammonia and you'll clear the fuel station at least.

Is there a variant of ammonia thats not so nasty? Chemistry is my weak suit.

20. ### kmguruStaff Member

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11,757
Do not forget, it will clear your Sinuses...

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21. ### CarcanoValued Senior Member

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It is somewhat poisonous, but smells so bad that its presence is unmistakable. It also breaks down quickly in the evironment, isn't flammable, and causes no harm to plants. Methanol by comparison, is very poisonous, more difficult to detect, and can seep into the ground water.

Last edited: May 16, 2006
22. ### Walter L. WagnerCosmic Truth SeekerValued Senior Member

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2,555
Ammonia volatilizes quite readily, and is a gas at STP. It also readily dissolves in water to form NH4OH (ammonium hydroxide), which is a strong base. The Ammona gas (NH3), when inhaled, combines with the mucous membranes into ammonia water (NH4OH), giving one that nasty feeling of breathing a strong base. Like KMGuru says, it'll clear your sinuses!

I haven't thought enough about other methods of 'carrying' ammonia, from which carrier it could be released and then burned. Water is the common one, but you'd have to have a HUGE carrier tank, which would not be practicable.

The links provided by Carcano to the NH3 fuel cell technology are interesting, and it appears to be a good method for carrying the Hydrogen, and then cracking it where needed, as suggested by Maast. I presume the Nitrogen is converted to N2, so that it is pollution free (N2 and H2O as emissions).

The prototype fuel-cell cars rely upon transport and storage of Ammonia Gas (it liquifies quite readily, either by compression or by cooling below STP), so I guess they believe they've got the leakage problem licked. Probably like pumping LNG, in which you have to screw on the male portion of the fitting to the female portion (and hey, I didn't invent the terminology!), in order to prevent any leakage.

Anyway, it sure seems better than driving around with tanks full of liquified Hydrogen gas.

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