July 20, 2008

How much methanol?

From NewEnergyAndFuel

To give some feel for this potential, a ton of wood would make between 165 to 185 gallons of methanol. The U.S. alone generates 240 million tons of wood waste each year, which would yield at least 39.6 billion gallons of methanol. U.S. paper mills could add another 9.3 billion gallons. The uncounted tons of trash and garbage would add still more. Methanol can be made from oil, natural, gas, coal and there remains more than half of the U.S. farm acreage that isn’t in production now that could add hundreds of millions of tons annually. Methanol can even be made from CO or CO2 with a hydrogen source made available.

I had thought that the yield was far lower, based on some other articles I'd read, but I was specifically looking at the Fischer-Tropsch process. I need to ask/look around and see how the author might have got to "1 ton of wood = 165 to 185 gallons of methanol".

Posted by: leoncaruthers at 09:31 AM | No Comments | Add Comment
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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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