Friday, March 27, 2009

Not great news for ethanol either...

Turning coal into liquid fuel just took a big jump forward.

The process of cooking coal into liquid fuel, on the other hand, has already proven itself on a massive scale. Take coal, add some water, cook it, and you've got a liquid fuel for your car. The hydrogen in the water bonds to the carbon and voila: hydrocarbons, such as octane. It's the very fact that coal-to-liquids could work that make them such a scary idea for people devoted to fighting climate change.
The Nazis used the so-called Fisher-Tropsch process to provide up to half of their transportation fuel needs during World War II. Later, South Africa began a major coal-to-liquids program during the Apartheid era and now maintain the world's largest CTL industry in the world. The country's factories produce 160,000 barrels of fuel a day, a little more than all the residents and businesses in Utah use each day. The traditional process uses carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and hydrogen as the ingredients in the molecular soup that gets turned into hydrocarbons. The Science process uses just CO2 and hydrogen. Glasser's new production method allows them to set a lower limit on the amount of energy that would be needed to transform solid coal into fuel.
The very best possible CTL process would require 350 megawatts of input to make 80,000 gallons of fuel; the current process uses more than 1,000 megawatts.
Even with the small efficiency gains, a large, domestic, carbon-intensive source of transportation fuel would throw a wrench into many plans to reduce emissions from vehicles. [
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Even with high-muscle political backing, biofuels are eventually subject to the same competitive challenges as any other product in the marketplace. We're seeing now how sub-$50 oil clobbers the business model for corn ethanol, imagine if we were making gas from our own coal and couldn't use the national security argument.

5 comments:

Ol James said...

personally, I'm rooting for Kudzu to be the next alternative.
On a side bar Mr. John. A program on RFD, (Prairie Farm Report). I saw where Farmers in Canada, were pumping the exhaust from their tractors into the ground while they were planting. The exhaust ran via a hose to a fan that forced it thru into the air seeder.
I hope you have seen this or similar practices. Whadda ya think about this process??? One Farmer says it cuts his fertilizer use and enriches the soil. Any Thoughts??

John Phipps said...

james:

My take: utter nonsense.

Jay said...

The science behind pumping exhaust into the ground: The temperatures and pressures achieved inside the engine can change atmospheric nitrogen into nitrous oxides. Also, since we are talking about a combustion reaction, one of the products is moisture.

This is not for sequestering carbon.

Ol James said...

Here's the link to the story-
http://www.cbc.ca/canada/manitoba/story/2006/06/23/mb-farm-exhaust-2006062.html
And here is the link to their website-
http://www.bioagtive.com/?s=1&p=142&op=138
The data on the yields and tissue make for some interesting reading. If yall get time check em out.

Anonymous said...

John,--in Courier and Post paper in Charelston,SC on Saturday they had retired GM executive talking about ethanol and its wastes and how it is terrible for marine engines (mainly water issues), old motors,plastic fuel tanks and fuel sitting for extended periods,,,will try to get the link...on a personal note when we went too 10%ethanol it plugged all our fuel filters and some injectors...co-op supplier said it was from ethanol cleaning up all the "crap" in our fuel tanks and gas tanks and fuel injection motors have high pressure that will force fine particles through filters into injectors..Cost of repairs $1,100...co-op paid the bill---personal side I can't see big benefit too ethanol and we feed ddg's but would rather just use corn---regards-kevin