July 17, 2008

Nuclear Gas

This is old, but I promised myself an entry a day, so if you have haven't seen the Green Freedom plan, and you have a quarter hour to read an overview, have a look.

The idea is pretty simple: take normal octane combustion (qualitative equations, not balanced)
C8H18 + O2 => CO2 + O2 + Energy
and flip it on its head to get:
H2O + CO2 + Energy => C8H18 + O2

In the latter, you're basically storing the energy -- with some amount of inefficiency -- as C-H chemical bonds. So the plan is to build a buttload of new nuke plants and attach what amounts to an octane factory, using the output from the power plant to push the chemistry. Result: Air + Nuclear Power = Gasoline. No drilling, no change to our current autos, just good ol' gas. Downside? Getting the chemistry to work with proven methods puts a gallon produced this way at $4.60. Not much worse than a few places in CA these days, but basically not worth doing unless gas from petroleum stays as high as it's been for as long as it takes to build the power plants.

So why is this interesting? If any of the chemical steps in the process gets an upgrade -- a better catalyst, a shortcut across one or more steps -- the price could become more competitive. Further, building up something like this is probably a very good hedge against supply difficulties with OPEC or others. It also means that we aren't totally boned if non-food-feedstock biofuels don't pan out.

Though it's not nearly as fun as my idea for using a fleet of nuclear submarines to farm whales for their tasty meat and sweet, sweet whale oil.

Posted by: leoncaruthers at 10:02 PM | No Comments | Add Comment
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