Name your favourite BioFuel Technology

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

  1. MetaKron Registered Senior Member

    At this rate it would be easiest to build a hybrid steam-electric car with a firebox that uses solid fuel. Then compress whatever, recycled paper, sawdust, or corncobs into pellets or feed it wood.

    All this other crap is expending more money on new and strange technology than it would take to put a colony on Mars.
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  3. Carcano Valued Senior Member

    And we could train squirrels to shovel more pellets into the firebox every 5 miles...

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  5. erich_knight Erich J. Knight Registered Senior Member

    By Mark Clayton | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

    BOSTON * Isaac Berzin is a big fan of algae. The tiny, single-celled
    plant, he says, could transform the world's energy needs and cut
    global warming.
    Overshadowed by a multibillion-dollar push into other "clean-coal"
    technologies, a handful of tiny companies are racing to create an
    even cleaner, greener process using the same slimy stuff that
    thrives in the world's oceans.

    Enter Dr. Berzin, a rocket scientist at Massachusetts Institute of
    Technology. About three years ago, while working on an experiment
    for growing algae on the International Space Station, he came up
    with the idea for using it to clean up power-plant exhaust.

    If he could find the right strain of algae, he figured he could turn
    the nation's greenhouse-gas-belching power plants into clean-green
    generators with an attached algae farm next door.

    "This is a big idea," Berzin says, "a really powerful idea."

    And one that's taken him to the top - a rooftop. Bolted onto the
    exhaust stacks of a brick-and-glass 20-megawatt power plant behind
    MIT's campus are rows of fat, clear tubes, each with green algae
    soup simmering inside.

    Fed a generous helping of CO2-laden emissions, courtesy of the power
    plant's exhaust stack, the algae grow quickly even in the wan rays
    of a New England sun. The cleansed exhaust bubbles skyward, but with
    40 percent less CO2 (a larger cut than the Kyoto treaty mandates)
    and another bonus: 86 percent less nitrous oxide.

    After the CO2 is soaked up like a sponge, the algae is harvested
    daily. From that harvest, a combustible vegetable oil is squeezed
    out: biodiesel for automobiles. Berzin hands a visitor two vials -
    one with algal biodiesel, a clear, slightly yellowish liquid, the
    other with the dried green flakes that remained. Even that dried
    remnant can be further reprocessed to create ethanol, also used for

    Being a good Samaritan on air quality usually costs a bundle. But
    Berzin's pitch is one hard-nosed utility executives and climate-
    change skeptics might like: It can make a tidy profit.

    "You want to do good for the environment, of course, but we're not
    forcing people to do it for that reason - and that's the key," says
    the founder of GreenFuel Technologies, in Cambridge, Mass. "We're
    showing them how they can help the environment and make money at the
    same time."

    GreenFuel has already garnered $11 million in venture capital
    funding and is conducting a field trial at a 1,000 megawatt power
    plant owned by a major southwestern power company. Next year,
    GreenFuel expects two to seven more such demo projects scaling up to
    a full pro- duction system by 2009.

    Even though it's early yet, and may be a long shot, "the technology
    is quite fascinating," says Barry Worthington, executive director of
    US Energy Association in Washington, which represents electric
    utilities, government agencies, and the oil and gas industry.

    One key is selecting an algae with a high oil density - about 50
    percent of its weight. Because this kind of algae also grows so
    fast, it can produce 15,000 gallons of biodiesel per acre. Just 60
    gallons are produced from soybeans, which along with corn are the
    major biodiesel crops today.

    Greenfuel isn't alone in the algae-to-oil race. Last month,
    Greenshift Corporation, a Mount Arlington, N.J., technology
    incubator company, licensed CO2-gobbling algae technology that uses
    a screen-like algal filter. It was developed by David Bayless, a
    researcher at Ohio University.

    A prototype is capable of handling 140 cubic meters of flue gas per
    minute, an amount equal to the exhaust from 50 cars or a 3-megawatt
    power plant, Greenshift said in a statement.

    For his part, Berzin calculates that just one 1,000 megawatt power
    plant using his system could produce more than 40 million gallons of
    biodiesel and 50 million gallons of ethanol a year. That would
    require a 2,000-acre "farm" of algae-filled tubes near the power
    plant. There are nearly 1,000 power plants nationwide with enough
    space nearby for a few hundred to a few thousand acres to grow algae
    and make a good profit, he says.

    Energy security advocates like the idea because algae can reduce US
    dependence on foreign oil. "There's a lot of interest in algae right
    now," says John Sheehan, who helped lead the National Renewable
    Energy Laboratory (NREL) research project into using algae on
    smokestack emissions until budget cuts ended the program in 1996.

    In 1990, Sheehan's NREL program calculated that just 15,000 square
    miles of desert (the Sonoran desert in California and Arizona is
    more than eight times that size) could grow enough algae to replace
    nearly all of the nation's current diesel requirements.

    "I've had quite a few phone calls recently about it," says Mr.
    Sheehan. "This is not an outlandish idea at all."
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  7. 2inquisitive The Devil is in the details Registered Senior Member

    Yes, I've read of several methods that are being studied to grow the algae. One is to use greenhouses, similar to those used to grow vegetables in water, for warmer areas in the U. S. A shallow 'pond' would be enclosed by the greenhouse for growing the algea, which would then be harvested by a mechanized screen or such periodically. A one acre greenhouse could potentially produce several thousands of dollars worth of biodiesel/ethanol per year. I really don't know practical this method may or may not be. Algea-for-fuel is a new technology that is being examined in several ways.
  8. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

    I believe that the energy released if the three H in NH3 are converted to H2O that you will get about twice the energy as you would from a liter of pure liquid hydrogen. First reason is that there are 1.7 times as many H in the liter of NH3 than H2. Second reasons is that the decomposition of 2NH3 to N2 + 3H2 is exothermic. (There is an "activation energy" barrier that makes NH3 stable.)

    How much energy one needs to put in to make (in a practical sense) the NH3 from N2 and H2 gases, I do not know, but it is at least as large as the exothermic energy released as NH3 is broken up again.
  9. kmguru Staff Member

  10. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

    I agree. Title is: The hydrogen hoax. It makes many of the points I have posted here earlier, but fails to note, as I have, that most if not all of the non-governmental money behind the hydrogen fuel nonsense comes from the oil industry (and considering that many governments are controlled by the oil industry, if not actually headed by ex oil CEOs as the US government is - perhaps it is not necessary to say "non-governmental" but just: almost all of the money supporting the hydrogen fuel nonsense is oil money augmented by taxer payer's money the oil headed government can put into this nonsense.

    The reason why the oil industry is so enthusiastic for hydrogen fuel is that it will never be the serious threat to their control of the energy the economy runs on that alcohol is. Unlike oil, which has only a few easily controlled sources, alcohol can be produced almost anywhere, but is most economical if from sugar cane grown in tropical lands. If developed nations, like US and Europe, ran their cars on alcohol the power of the oil industry would be destroyed - that is why a few million dollars for promotion of hydrogen fuel by the oil companies is money well spent, from their POV, especially if a large part can be the tax payer's money via government they control and/or head up.
  11. kmguru Staff Member


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  12. valich Registered Senior Member

    Hydrogen fuel cells are on the way up. Next year a company in India, with a Canadian company, will be producing a hydrogen fuel cell car. See the posting under "Water as Fuel - General Forum"

    But is hydrogen a BioFuel? "Bio" means "life" or from living organisms or plant material, like carbon or coal? How about pedal power?
  13. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

    I went to your site where I found your comment:
    You do realize that while the H in H2O is essentially free, getting it separated from the O is very expensive. Both in dollars and in energy. - I.e. the energy required for the separation is approximately 50% greater than the energy in the Hydrogen fuel you get to run the car on. - Not very attractive also because hydrogen is expensive fuel and very hard to store. (All storage systems greatly increase the weight of the car as they weigh at least one pound for every pound of hydrogen stored. You are making energy consumption increase. You want to reduce car weight, not increase it. You want to use energy efficiently, not waste it inefficiently producing your fuel.

    PS1 - Much more economically you can boost you gas milage, at least on long trips, by using a tank of propane the same way. I.e. set a small propane flow into a hose and place the end of hose in to the air intake of the gasoline motor. The extra propane fuel will effectively displace some of the gasoline energy requirements. You should set the idle speed of motor so low that it will not run without the propane flow or motor will "race" at red stop lights etc. Also all your savings (mainly in gas taxes) will be lost the first time you forget to shut of the propane flow when arriving at your destination.

    PS2 - It would appear that you have been very effectively brain washed by the oil companies. - See my prior post for details.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 28, 2006
  14. MetaKron Registered Senior Member

    The most effective and non-polluting fuel-based system is going to be a hybrid that uses a very efficient steam engine instead of internal combustion. What "they" don't like about that is that it can and will be adapted to use biomass fuel like wood.
  15. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member


    Few wood fires can be described as "non-polluting" (especially high resin woods like pine.) - That is most obvious error.

    Some what lesser error is fact that wood is a relatively bulky fuel. What would a "wood filling station" look like? Perhaps like a supper market with row after row of wood stacks? LOL

    Not a third error, but the main reason that the old Stanley Steamers (which held world speed record for many years) were considered to be impractical is the 20 minute delay to get the boiler hot enough to drive away on a cold winter day.

    "very efficient steam engine" reflects your lack of understanding the physics - I.e the reason they do not exist. Steam engines are limited to the Carnot limit (T-t)/T were t must be greater than temperature of hot summer day and T is limited by the pressure / temperature characteristics of steam. If T is made large then the pressue is very large and the boiler walls are very thick.The boiler heavy is very heavy compared to a fule tank, so the car frame is heavier etc. and the efficiency of the resulting heavy car is low for two reasons: Excessive weight and the Carnot limit.

    Thanks for a good laugh.

    Summary: I strongly doubt wood* will be a significant mobile fuel so long as liquid fuels are available and alcohol is a renewable liquid fuel, cheaper than gasoline, less polluting than wood, and much more efficient than steam engines.
    *Coal would be better as it is denser energy, but equally polluting. Even in vehicles where weight is not too important, like train locomotives, steam is impractical and very polluting in comaprison to liquid fuels.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 29, 2006
  16. MetaKron Registered Senior Member

    Billy, you might try reading what I write before writing your critique.

    Steam engines give us just about the best fuel efficiency that you will ever get. They are much less polluting when used with the traditional liquid fuels. They can be run on wood. I never said that they were nonpolluting with wood. Wood is often available free. Woodburning for heat can be relatively nonpolluting if you use a catalytic converter, but the point is that a steam engine hybrid electric is more adaptable than an IC engine without a lot of modifications.

    I said a hybrid setup. You don't worry about the warm-up time, especially the warm-up time of a design that is a century old, because of the reserve power in the battery.

    It is much more practical to recover heat from the steam that the engine uses because it is pushing a constant load so you gain more efficiency.

    The Carnot equation is bullshit. I've been over that before. Maybe you believe that the dishonest bellhop problem makes a dollar magically disappear.

    As far as your good laugh goes: Fuck you.
  17. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

    Tell me what temperature you think the steam will have, and I will tell you the maximium possible efficiency. Carnot is well established - you are not. I will let others decide where the bull shit is.
  18. MetaKron Registered Senior Member

    A first year algebra student should be able to see it. Carnot is well established. So is racial bigotry. Try learning how to tell the difference between right and wrong.
  19. MetaKron Registered Senior Member

    And for the love of Christ, some of the criticisms here of the use of wood for energy have been absolutely stupid. I have carried literally tons of wood the distance from the source to the house just cleaning up the goddam yard. The energy expended in fossil fuels varied from zero to a gallon of gas for hundreds of pounds of usable fuel. Jerks.
  20. Walter L. Wagner Cosmic Truth Seeker Valued Senior Member

    Anyone know much about current charcoal technology?

    My bags of briquets cost a fortune, considering the cost of the starting material. ($10/small-bag, while the wood used to make the briquets is well less than $1). But they sure make great BBQs.

    Do they take wood and chip it, heat it to drive off the volatiles, and compress it into briquets; or do they compress it first, then heat it to drive off the volatiles? Do they collect the volatiles, or burn it, or what? What woods are being used - is it waste wood from other processes, or specially collected for the briquets?

    I suspect that many other ceullitic materials would do well for making charcoal. Can the volatiles be liquified and separated (methane, propane, water, etc.)?

    It just seems that we used to use wood a lot for steam engines (the US was built on wood-fueled steam engines, until coal became cheaper) and that we waste a lot of wood. The forest industry tries to be efficient nowadays for housing materials, but there is still a lot of wasted cellulose left in the field (stumps, branches, etc.). At some point, as oil prices continue to rise, collecting that waste left in the field, or growing wood for charcoal, will become economical. I suspect we're already at that point, with a nearly four-fold increase in oil prices in just the last five years.

    Besides, coal-to-oil technology is now economical, with such oil costing about $60/barrel -- and I see no reason that charcoal could not be used instead of mined coal.
    Last edited: Jun 8, 2006
  21. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

    I do not, but am foolish enough to guess:

    I think it must take more energy to chip wood first, so I bet it is still made somewhat like in the old days - partial oxidation in a reasonably closed furnace. (Probably a long one with a steel link belt to makes the process reaonably continuous. Wood pieces, not more than 10 lbs each, in at one end and charred wood out at the other. The "distructive distilation" vapors being burned in this "kiln" in the process as the heat source.)

    Perhaps while still hot, the emerging flow of charred wood / charcoal merges with some sort of low melting temperature "clay binder" as both are added or feed to the grinder/ mixer, which may be keep hot by some of the extraced, not-fully-oxidized kiln vapors. As this mix emerge, a still hot powder, it is hot pressed into a 'bricket sheet" between two large "dimpled roller drums" which are almost in contact and also that are water cooled on the inside so out the other side comes a continuous sheet (wide as the dimpled drums) with lots of densely spaced bulges in it that are the brickets.

    This sheet then rolls between the "flex breaker rolls" and brickets and sheet pieces fall down an inclined rotating tube to "polisih off the rough edges of the bricket (where they were attached as part of the big sheet) and to assure that no large pieces of the thin sheet remain unbroken. From there they both "flow" over an inclined vibrating screen (holes only a little smaller than the brickets) that gravity collects the small "sheet pieces" by "fall thru the screen" and a belt returns the now small pieces of the sheet (that were between the brickets in the sheet) back to the mixer/grinder again (nothing lost). At the the end of the vibration screen, the brickets on it drop slightly onto a different belt that takes them up to the top of the "bagger machine."

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    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 8, 2006
  22. MetaKron Registered Senior Member

    Not much use making wood into charcoal for energy production. Just cut it to size and ship it. Kiln it at a few hundred degrees in a nitrogen atmosphere for long enough to sterilize it if necessary.
  23. sderenzi Banned Banned

    I think the best method is to abandon all forms of transport that require non-renewable resources. The problem with all biofuels is that any opposing country can easily destroy them given the right methods. That would basically leave the country helpless

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