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Chapter 9 – Energy Policy
- Prosperity Depends on Energy
- Prosperity stabilizes population
- Therefore, Energy can stabilize Population worldwide too
The Future of Energy is Thorium – 6th TEA Conference AttendeesSo, let’s take a look at what are the more promising, sustainable sources of energy that can carry us all most easily into the next cycle of clean, inexpensive, abundant and sustainable power.
Low-CO2, Usually cheapest, Renewable, ConcentratedWhenever you can dig down into the earth to heat a sufficient amount of water to a sufficient temperature, you can run a city on the energy created. How is this possible? I will take you back to grade 1 Geography class, you might recall that our planet is a naturally-occurring Thorium Nuclear Reactor, and so the deeper you drill, the hotter it gets. The Nuclear Reactions below our planet’s surface create both tremendous heat, and the strong electro-magnetic fields that prevent our planet’s atmosphere from being blown away as they have on Mars. Like our moon, Mars has no molten core and, therefore, it has a much less powerful magnetosphere. http://ircamera.as.arizona.edu/NatSci102/NatSci102/lectures/earth.htm Geothermal Energy is abundant, clean, renewable and can be generated almost anywhere. The map above shows the heat energy of Canada at 6.5 kms below surface. The deepest bore-hole in the world is in Kola, Russia at 12 kms (7.5 kms) deep. The Earth’s center is 6,400 kms (4,000 miles) so this barely scratches the surface and probably does not extend through half of the distance to the earth’s mantle. Temperatures at the bottom of Kola are 180 degrees Celcius (356°F). http://www.iflscience.com/environment/deepest-hole-world/ To get more heat, simply dig deeper. Commercial 6-km (18,000 ft) “fracking” wells cost $8 - $12 million to dig, so count on a cost of roughly $20 million to drill a feed and return hole for a geo-thermal plant. Compare this cost to roughly $2 billion for a Rapid Breeder Uranium Reactor - which heats water to 300°C; or a Thorium Fluoride Salt Reactor – which heats water to 700°C for around $300 million. With Geo-Thermal, engineers dig holes/bores and then pump heated water into the drilled hole, create steam from the return, and you have a power plant. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geothermal_power In 2015, there were 18,500 Geo-Thermal Power Plants Worldwide, almost double the number from 2010. Canada has no Geo-Thermal Plants in 2016. The chart above shows that the efficiency of Geo-Thermal plants are widely dependent on the heat of the water extracted. If water temperature is low, efficiency can be low as well. If water temperature is higher, efficiencies of 20% and more are possible. The Unit Cost of Geothermal in New Zealand is 20% shown below in Green with boxes lower than High-CO2 alternatives of Coal and Natural Gas (CCGT).
http://www.nzgeothermal.org.nz/price.htmlIn countries where Natural Gas is abundant and cheap, often a Carbon Tax makes the difference between Geothermal being profitable and very profitable. Water and Steam are most often used to generate electricity in turbine-driven power plants because steam expands very rapidly to 1000-times the volume of water. Pressurized Water at 300 degrees takes a very large turbine (perhaps the size of a high-school classroom) and a relatively large volume of water to generate. Water heated to 700 degrees under pressure however, takes far less water and a much, much smaller turbine to extract more electrical energy. Lava and molten rock reaches 700 to 1200 degrees Celcius (1,292 to 2,192 degrees Fahrenheit) and so stable but active volcano ranges like the one in Hawaii, create highly economic geo-thermal power plants – but most other locations can furnish heat with the right plant.
Low-CO2, Very High Efficiency, Concentrated, RenewableHydro (Water) Turbines operate at very high efficiencies of 85% and can work to create clean electricity for decades. Hydro can require very expensive generating station startup costs – including the construction of dams and sometime massive reservoirs. Installation will tend to consume a lot of CO2, but once built will operate with very low emissions and with few interruptions.
Low-CO2, Non-renewable, Concentrated Energy outputWhen you want clean reliable energy and you want it in close proximity to large populations where geothermal is marginal, cheap, plentiful, 30% Efficient Thorium Nuclear Reactors fit the bill. Unlike our basic training, there are many different possible types of nuclear reactors; almost as many as there are models of cars today. Thorium Reactors were designed at the same time and place as our far more expensive Rapid Breeder Uranium Reactors, in the Oak Ridge National Laboratories near Nashville, Tennessee, U.S.A. in the mid-1950s and 1960s. A Thorium Molten Salt Reactor (fed with Uranium oddly, but designed for Thorium) ran for five-years alongside a Rapid Breeder Uranium Reactor. The Director of the U.S. Nuclear Power Research Program stated very clearly that Thorium was the better choice for civilian power needs; Thorium was better for reasons of safety, economy, reliable power production, and somewhat more responsible radioactive waste management. http://www.thoriumenergyalliance.com/downloads/thorium_Energy_Generation.ppt As the slide above explains, a 6 kg nodule of Thorium in a liquid-fluoride reactor has the energy of:
- 230 train cars of Bituminous Coal
- 600 train cars of Brown Coal
- 440 cubic feet of natural gas (that’s 15% of a 125,000 cubic meter LNG tanker)
- 300 kg of enriched (3%) Uranium in a Pressurized Water Reactor
Low-CO2, Inexpensive Cold, Expensive Hot, ConcentratedClean, safe energy forever. Cold Fusion’s name has changed to LENR (Low-Energy Nuclear Reactions) recently; I suspect the reason, to be brutally honest, is to ease the scientific peer-reviewing community’s embarrassment at having irresponsibly ignored and even snubbed important development and research into Cold Fusion since Doctors Pons and Fleishmann first announced its discovery 25-years ago in 1989. This slide from Brillouin Energy explains that there is enough energy in the hydrogen of a glass of water to power 30,000 homes. Real world measurements on how concentrated are Cold Fusion reactions have yet to be publicly announced but clearly there is fantastic potential. The reason for the excitement is that Cold Fusion appears to work as a power amplifier, taking one unit of power and returning six to ten just like it – and we are still in early days. Nuclear Fusion does not create radioactive waste, as does Nuclear Fission. Of the two, Nuclear Fission has been far easier to make work reliably than has Fusion. If there was ever a case to say that money is a very bad thing; or that academia’s peer-review protocols are failed as well, surely Cold Fusion’s bungled reputation, legal, patent and financial encumbrances surrounding the development and rapid rollout of safe Cold Fusion Power Plants showcase both. With too many accredited scientific voices, governments, and major companies pouring money into LENR to ignore in 2016, 2017 promises to be a disruptive year for the status quo power industry. http://www.e-catworld.com/2016/09/16/new-scientist-cold-fusion-is-back/ LENR is in the public domain and, by any name, this new energy technology promises no less than simple, clean, abundant and sustainable energy. Hot Fusion too is right around the corner. Cold Fusion is exponentially simpler and less expensive than “Hot” Nuclear Fusion reactions – which are still to be proven in full-production trials. The expectation of scientists is that Hot Fusion should be available within the next ten years. Germany recently succeeded in completing a successful test of its Hot Fusion plant when it momentarily created a successful plasma stream in a trial within this past year. Plasma, the fourth state of matter, streams out of a Hot Fusion reactor at temperatures in the billions of degrees Celcius; a temperature far too hot to be contained by anything other than very strong magnetic fields.
High-CO2; Reliable, ConcentratedCombustion is one of the least efficient means of extracting energy from matter. Our total life-time energy needs would require us to combust enough firewood to fill a gymnasium. In comparison, the fission of Thorium, could supply that same amount of energy very safely with a Billiard-ball-sized amount of readily available rare earth.
- Gasoline combusts with 15% Efficiency
- Diesel combusts with 30% efficiency – this is the highest efficiency of any combustible fuel.
- Natural Gas – 5% to 10% efficient
- Fuel Oil – 5% to 20%
- Coal – 15% to 60%
- Clean Fuels – 30% Efficient (see Clean Fuels below)
Low-CO2, Efficient, Concentrated, Renewable
$5.27 cents per KwhSuitable from high-sun regions, concentrated, reflected sunlight is used to superheat water or molten salts to temperatures of 550 degrees Celcius. The molten salts method retains heat for power generation when the sun is not shining but it also requires a morning startup procedure that gets the plant up to operating temperature using alternate fuel sources. In this configuration, the molten salts heat water into steam which drives Steam Turbines. The design does unfortunately, kill bird-life; the air at the tower is superheated and birds flying into the pond-like mirrors, quite literally burst into flame at a rate of one every two minutes at times. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_power_tower
Low-CO2, Reliable, Least Safe, Expensive, ConcentratedVery expensive to build and operate; not appropriate in close proximity to very large populations; security of facilities and spent fuel is also very expensive and the risk of melt-down and radioactive contamination exists although on only three occasions. http://www.world-nuclear.org/information-library/safety-and-security/safety-of-plants/safety-of-nuclear-power-reactors.aspx Nuclear fission remains a heavy-lifter in clean power generation throughout the world. There are 470 of this type of Nuclear Power Plants in operation. Fukushima’s accident was the first meltdown in 25 years – and Uranium reactors can never explode like an atomic bomb either. Explosives require much high levels of enrichment than the 5% fuel used in reactors. Russia’s brilliant new floating nuclear fission reactor ships are another mobile power-generating option based on a proven 50-year icebreaker design. This solution is designed to pull up beside major cities, in China and elsewhere, and supply mobile power on demand (Diggs, 2015) (OKBM, n.d.)
No-CO2; 8% efficient, Clean, DiluteUses Heat-sources, anytime of the day or night, to create electricity directly from the flow of electrons across semi-conductors (using the Seebeck effect). Once semiconductors are attached or exposed to heat sources like steam pipes, wood stoves, or even the temperatures within your car in summertime, heat is converted into electricity. Replacing the alternator in a car with a thermoelectric exhaust pipe lining, is one example application. TECTEG Manufacturing, is working with McMaster University to produce high amperage cells for high-temperature environments. Its devices are engineered to deliver 100-200 amperes (enough electricity to meet the peak needs of a modern home). (see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YhynSkFlJOs and http://insights.globalspec.com/article/98/can-thermoelectric-generators-compete-against-solar-photovoltaics)
Low-CO2, Renewable, Dilute, Unreliable, ExpensivePhotovoltaics continue to mature. The drawback with Solar is that the sun is a weak energy source and unreliable and can only generate energy during the day - and then an energy-storage battery grid is needed. The most efficient photovoltaic energy conversion panels can still only convert 46% of the sun’s energy - with affordable commercial panels at 15%. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YhynSkFlJOs). The other main problem with Solar is the sun is a relatively weak, dilute, energy source Germany leads the world in investment in Solar and Wind and this fact has forced them to also increase their dependency on Coal. Electricity rates have had to climb so high as to lead many citizens into Energy Poverty.
Low-CO2, Expensive, Dilute, Unreliable, Renewable.In addition to being one of the most expensive energy sources, wind is a weak and unreliable energy source as well. Wind power generators operate at efficiencies of 40% but it takes thousands of multi-million dollar fans to generate a significant amount unpredictable energy. Wind systems consume quite a lot of CO2 in their manufacture and installation, but then run with no emissions thereafter. Maintenance is an ongoing expense and energy may not be available to the power grid when demand requires it. One very concerning worry in Canada has been the fact that surplus power generated in off-peak times (times without local demand) by wind-farms has had to be sold to other neighboring governments at a lower cost than its production cost. With Hydro (Water) Turbines and other generators, power output can be “feathered” or steamed-off (adjusted up or down) as needed to make power available as needed at all times and not more at undesirable times. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gas_turbine https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=17xh_VRrnMU Some reports have explained that battery cars create more CO2 than gasoline cars due to their primary reliance on Coal Plants for 13+ hours of charging on a regular basis. If you are running a hybrid car less than 50kms per day, the smaller battery permits solar recharging and creates no CO2, but much larger batteries, like the ones in the all-battery cars must be plugged into the power grid. As soon as cost-effective, longer lifespan, faster charge-time batteries can replace current technology, then and only then, will battery-powered car become a superior alternative to gas and perhaps even diesel vehicles too. Promising Battery Technologies to look forward to, include the Carbon-Polymer direct-charge batteries, Vanadium Redox Flow batteries (G1 VRB) or perhaps Graphene Nanosheets. Direct-charge systems permit direct charging to the atoms of the carbon polymer array instantly. Today, atoms within battery cells must pass charge to neighboring atoms in sequence – requiring many hours to permeate a large pool of battery atoms such as the designs found in a larger battery grid on a battery car today. A direct-charge system promises to drop charge times down to perhaps 15 minutes; or something comparable to a refill of fuel at a refilling station. I had heard that these batteries might be available in 2016, but so far there have been no announcement. Fuels are transportable energy. Gases, fluids, and solids – as in coal, wood, charcoal, peat, pellets (made from wheat, corn, and rye and other grains), uranium, thorium, and even solid-rocket fuels made of aluminum and other components. Fuels are either combusted or they are reacted in a nuclear fission or fusion process. Early on, wood and coal were combusted to boil water and create steam-piston propelled trains and even cars. With the invention of the carburetor in 1876, liquid fuel could be used to combust in large engines directly – and we have used either gaseous (propane or natural gas) or liquid fuels in our cars ever since. As an aside, an inventor named John Weston is running a 1992 GEO Storm GSI 469 mpg (miles per gallon) on gas fumes directly - with or without a carburetor... http://fuel-efficient-vehicles.org/energy-news/?page_id=968 A little on-line investigation shows that a handful of others seem to keep an Air & Vapor Flow System working pretty well. News of a Pogue Vapor Carburetor that was suppressed in the 1930s by big investors’ concern for lost oil profits, has been an urban legend since the 1940s. I will let the reader be the judge but clearly the catalytic converter’s role to reburn missed fuel shows a potential for Improvement.
Clean Fuel & 100-MPG Diesel-HybridsUltra-Low-Emission alternatives to combustible fossil-fuels have existed since the Fischer-Tropshe process was first developed to create Paraffin Oil in 1925. A viable alternative to fossil fuels is far from new technology, and it cannot come soon enough as fossil-fuels are far and away the dirtiest form of fuel that we can combust. Today, Audi Automotive and parent company Volkswagen, are building cars of the future - as you might expect. You might not also realize that they are manufacturing fuel oils of the future too. Audi makes crude oil from electrolyzed water (H2O) and recovered carbon dioxide (CO2) in a 70% efficient process that creates an ultra-low emission Blue Crude™. (Gray, 2015) Audi’s clean hydrocarbon crude uses the same Fischer-Tropsche process that has been around since the 1920s (Davis, 2015). Its zero-carbon-footprint process makes use of wind energy. Carbon Dioxide sources include simple, safe home recipes like baking soda and vinegar (Calkins, n.d.), CO2 Air Recapturing, Natural Gas and other common sources. This Clean Crude needs only to be refined to create component diesel fuels, gasoline, kerosene, and aviation fuel as needed, just like a fossil-fuel based crude oil would. You could choose to refine gasoline from this Blue Crude, but the most efficient combusting fuel and engine combination is a diesel-battery hybrid configuration. Diesel fuel takes less energy to refine from the crude, it has the highest energy recovery of any other combustible fuel source, and even without a readily available 100 mpg (miles per gallon – not a mis-print) hybrid configuration, is almost twice as efficient as a gasoline vehicle at highway speeds. Audi’s President runs this fuel in his A8 and he reports that this fuel makes a car run quieter and with more power too. The reasons to adopt Blue Crude are compelling. The combustion power of Audi’s e‑Diesel fuel is greater than that of fossil-fuel diesel, it makes cars run quieter as well, and it is expected to be available to consumers for approximately the same price per liter at retail pumps – equal in cost, or less than, fossil-fuel-based diesel. Blue Crude could be used in our current fuel distribution system easily as well, without expensive modifications. The only waste by-product from manufacturing Blue Crude is oxygen – which might lead to bigger insects and smarter people after much time - but the problem of what to do about all that clean air is a problem for another book. Assuming that clean fuel additives can be found to guard against solidification in cold temperatures, and other practical storage considerations, I imagine that it might even be possible to create a food-grade version of this product – although, why would you choose to drink it? Cost is of little consequence when a combination geothermal reactor and nearby Blue Crude refinery could provide a limitless supply of clean burning mobile fuels in the same way that the USS Nimitz Aircraft Carriers desalinate water through electrolysis for a crew of 6,000 every day for the past forty years. Volkswagen, Audi’s parent company, is one of the few companies to bring an affordable diesel car to North America which is surprising considering Europe’s predominant preference for more-efficient Diesel vehicles.
- Diesel fuels made from water and Carbon Dioxide, can be fabricated cost effectively in Zero-Carbon-Footprint processes, and burns with Near-Zero Emissions.
- A Diesel-Hybrid configuration would bring Diesel Vehicles to 100 mpg almost immediately.
- Gasoline-based cars prevent us from developing cleaner, cost-effective alternatives to fossil-based Crude Oil.
- Diesel was originally developed to burn Paraffin Oil made from coal and natural gas. This hydrocarbon burns with 50% fewer emissions and Crude Oil was a dirtier alternative that Oil Companies made to work in Diesel engines.
- Diesel takes less energy to refine, and its higher combustion efficiency takes the same car almost twice as far on the highway over gasoline.
- Diesel does not dissolve in water making spills and environmental cleanups easier.
- Diesel is a lubricant that ensures long engine life – where gasoline is “a corrosive” that wears out engines more quickly.
- Diesel cars last longer, have fewer maintainable parts, lower running costs and set the high-bar for reliability, often continuing to operate for 500,000 to 1,000,000 kilometers and beyond during their service lives (double, and more, than gasoline engines).
- Diesel fuel detonates through high compression only and is not flammable.
- One can run a diesel passenger car for 10 hours without stopping as a tank of fuel will often sustain almost 1000 km of highway driving.
- Replacing all cars with Diesel equivalents would reduce total energy needs by 15% and more overall (depending upon the country).
Alcohol Fuels – Methanol, Bio-Diesels, etc.Hydro-Carbons also create alcohols which can burn in today’s gasoline automobiles as well. Ethanol in a 5% to 40% mix is the only form of alcohol that is consumable by humans, but I think that all other forms of alcohol are deadly poisons. Methanol - is so poisonous that just a thimble-full can cause blindness in humans and animals. What makes Methanol especially unsafe for humans is that it dissolves in water, which means that spills or pipeline leaks -especially those pipelines that extend underwater, are a very great environmental concern. Fossil Fuel Oils, diesel, gasoline, kerosene, aviation fuel, and others, do not dissolve in water. BioDiesels contain a certain percentage of Methanol and Glycerines that dissolve in water as well. Audi’s Clean Diesel, created by Fischer-Tropshe Method, does not dissolve in water.
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- Chapter 9 – Energy Policy
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