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October 13, 2006

Comments

Engineer-Poet

At that price, it makes a perfectly good household cogeneration unit.

Matt

But it runs on coal. Hows that good for the environment? I guess this falls into the category of efficiency.. but efficiency is supposed to be low / no / negative cost.

This thing is fancy technology & it runs on coal. One step forward, two steps back?

amazingdrx

Yep Matt leave it to the DOE to encourage coal. The CeO2/copper fuel cell previously described here runs on multiple fuels.

That means a power plant could use coal and then channel the CO2 through an algae system that would produce biodiesel and methane. Then the methane could replace the coal.

It's a way to transition away from fossil fuel to solar energy stored by photosynthesis in the algae.

The DOE ought to be encouraging the multifuel SOFC with the hot gas turbine that gets 75% efficiency, with the possible addition of infrared photovoltaics for another 10 to 15%.

But of course any scheme designed to replace fossil fuels or nuclear power is politically incorrect in a government run by former and future energy corporation officials.

Even the NRDC and other environmental groups have endorsed "clean" coal. Democratic governor of Montana Brian Scweitzer is touting the coal gasification/coal to diesel project in his state as environmentally friendly. Yet he never mentions developing the huge wind power resource in his state.

He even tried to claim that the coal is not burned in this process and the CO2 will be sequestered by pumping it underground. He's a very good politician and an honest man, but has been deluded by industry propaganda.

Eyes shut to the reality of global climate change need to be opened.

Engineer-Poet
That means a power plant could use coal and then channel the CO2 through an algae system that would produce biodiesel and methane. Then the methane could replace the coal.
It's "amazing" that some people don't grasp the fact that mass is conserved in this process.
david foster

How do the 35% and 50% efficiency numbers compare with the efficiency of a plant combining coal gasification with an "H" series combined-cycle turbine?

mcr

Ok...

As a recent "forced-convert" to the clean coal lobby whom is willing to dip his toe in it from time to time at upmost need...

but as an embracing fuel cell fan (thanks to amazingdrx !!!) ... and particularly the even better integrated gasification fuel cell (IGFC) system that incorporates a hybrid SOFC/gas turbine model in particular... what I term a "combined-cycle electrochemical-thermal reactor"


In this:
I take the "coal" bit inconvient but - ok provided combined with "clean coal technologies" and at a push....

My point is similar to Dave Foster's above.

What are the prospects of getting the efficiencies up to the magic 60% level? (as in IGFC's)...

What are the real prospects for SOFCs? Long term?

Mark C R, (chemist) in UK

Robert

SOFCs are not terribly picky about their carbon source. This project uses coal because coal is cheap, but make coal expensive, and similar technology can run on biomass or some fractions of municipal waste.

mcr

One of the problems with biomass is trace impurities sometimes being a problem:

q.v. - contamination with Free Fatty Acids (FFAs) in biodiesel manufacture for example.

SOFCs seem pretty tolerant - but I still want to know whats the next likely development with them?

Power increases?
Efficiency increases?
Size decreases?


What generation is this of SOFC and whats the next one going to be like??

Mark C R (again!)

Stephen Boulet

Well, this is a great alternative to the situation currently in the US, where it's recommended that fish intake from lakes be limited due to mercury contamination. Not to mention acid rain. These problems get nowhere near the attention they deserve.

Energy independence can't be achieved without coal in the short to medium term, and this beats burning it.

Stephen Boulet

Engineer-Poet

The efficiency of a large simple-cycle GE turbine can reach 40%, and I understand that 60% is achievable in combined-cycle service.  But that's not the right standard of comparison.

At a price of under $1500 for a 5 kWe unit, the proper comparisons are to:

  1. Vehicle engines operating near idle (allowing main engines to be shut down while stopped and even moving slowly), and
  2. Small stationary generators.
In those roles, it would kick some serious butt.  More to the point, small stationary generators can be cogenerators.

Imagine if the first 17,000 BTU/hr or so of your household heat demand came with 5 kW of electric power.  The electricity could run just about everything you've got (all at once), or you could feed back some of the electricity to a heat pump to make more heat.  At an EER of 12, you'd get 60,000 BTU/hr out of the heat pump and another 17,000+ BTU/hr from the fuel cell's waste heat - all for about 35,000 BTU/hr of fuel.

If this thing can run on unleaded gasoline, it could almost certainly run on natural gas or propane.  It might run on heating oil too.

The potential is huge:

  • Cut space-heating fuel needs by over 50%.
  • Allow heating fuel to substitute for coal or natural gas in remote powerplants.
  • With a PHEV, allow cogeneration to displace fuel burned in vehicles.
  • Provide backup power.
THIS sort of thing should be high on our list of products required for energy security.

amazingdrx

Overcomplex vehicle design poet. why have an internal combustion system and a fuel cell system? When battery electric is so simple and has unlimited range with fuel cell backup.

Fuel cell/microturbine (with infrared photovoltaic cells for another 10%) backup for electric plugin cars. The Franklin model runs on any fuel and is non-fouling with inexpensive materials, CeO2/copper.

It's a backup generator for the home/grid by plugging the car into natural or biogas in a stationary mode. Cogeneration home heating is also possible.

And why use liquid fuel to run heat pumps in homes? plenty of grid power from renewables would be available for that. Liquid fuel is expensive and emits CO2. It should only be used for vehicle backup generation and aircraft.

A comprehensive approach based on the best technology is what is needed. Designed to address the twin problems of global climate change from CO2 and oil war.

It may not seem as urgent as WW 2 war production was, but I think it is.

Remember how the government chose the jeep design? That's where we are at now.

This call by DOE for fuel cell designs is a good start. But where is the best design in this mix? Franklin fuel cells.

Conservation of mass? The algae feeds on waste water, power plant emissions, air, plenty of mass. It's not a closed system where all the mass from the biodiesel has to get back into the system.

The larger the solar collectors, the more waste water, the larger the amount of biogas, and the lower demand for backup power from the grid (due to a higher and higher precentage of wind, water, and solar power and conservation and storage); and eventually the pulverized coal is an emergency energy source that is hardly ever used.

This provides a gradual transition away from coal. And all those concentrating solar collectors designed to grow algae can produce cogeneration building heat and even photovoltaic electricity.

Thanks mcr, I think we will convince others too, but will it be in time?

amazingdrx

And if this is the cost of the prototype units, imagine the cost of mass produced SOFCs. Even with the infrared photo voltaics, and turbine added in order to reach 85% efficiency it's going to be way below the already mass produced natural gas and coal fired systems.

One of these medium sized units running on biogas from say 20 local farms and with the algae system to make it's own biogas, and pulverized coal as the last resort emergency power, could backup a locality whose only other source was renewable wind, water, and solar with distributed storage.

The biodiesel produced might even provide enough backup fuel for local resident's electric plugin vehicles. Once local areas become independent and even start to put power back onto the grid, this alternative model will spread of it's own accord.

It will out compete other energy systems in the marketplace. An economic playing field leveled out with capital access and mass production for renewables, and subsidies cut to nuclear and fossil fuel, will revive the US manufacturing economy, jobs, and tax base. Retiring this huge debt built up by oil war.

Engineer-Poet
Overcomplex vehicle design poet. why have an internal combustion system and a fuel cell system?
Ask BMW, they're the ones who intend to use it.
It's a backup generator for the home/grid by plugging the car into natural or biogas in a stationary mode.
With systems so cheap, it makes no sense to carry an extra fuel system around in the car AND leave the house unpowered when the car is gone.
And why use liquid fuel to run heat pumps in homes?
If propane is your cheapest option...
Conservation of mass? The algae feeds on waste water, power plant emissions, air, plenty of mass. It's not a closed system where all the mass from the biodiesel has to get back into the system.
You proposed turning the plant output into biodiesel and methane, then using the methane to replace the coal fuel.  You did not grasp that the carbon output must equal the carbon input, and any product removed from the system (as biodiesel or anything else) must be replaced by something.  A continuing coal input would be required.

This is the sort of cluelessness for which I detest you.  It is apparently incurable.

This provides a gradual transition away from coal.
The direct-carbon fuel cell running on charcoal provides a much faster transition.

Jim, you might want to think about removing spam a lot quicker - rapid cleanup seems to be a really strong deterrent.

Mark C R (aka MCR)

"This is the sort of cluelessness for which I detest you. It is apparently incurable."

There's no need for flame attacks - or to get unreasonably personal! LETS KEEP THE DEBATE CIVIL PLEASE

"You did not grasp that the carbon output must equal the carbon input, and any product removed from the system (as biodiesel or anything else) must be replaced by something. A continuing coal input would be required."

As I understand the "theoretical Algae systems" - 100% of the carbon comes from ATMOSPHERIC CO2 ???

This was my understanding - and a basic principle - otherwise this would not be a renewable energy technology????


Mark C R (aka MCR)

Sorry - well the remaining carbon for producing biodiesel would come from the traditional BIOMASS sources? The remaining CO2 would be via atomospheric CO2... converted by photosynthesis by the algae?


Just for clarification on my part...

Mark C R

amazingdrx

The poet can be a bit nasty Mark, hehey. Only a problem for his credibility really.

The additional carbon needed to replace the carbon lost to the biodiesel is provided by composting animal, human, and farm waste into biogas. Then the biogas is sent through the fuel cell emitting more cO2 to keep the algae growing at the accelerated rate.

But as you say, this system can entrap CO2 from the atmosphere if it runs short. An elevated rate of CO2 beyond atmospheric levels is what accelerates the algae growth so the emissions from the fuel cell only have to boost that level, not provide all the cO2.

Charcoal? From trees poet? Yikes, you want to power our society with trees? Like Haiti, good luck with that.

BMW has a 600k hydrogen fuel cell car too, not the most practical engineering endeavor.

Argue the practicality of the technology with facts instead poet, citing an authority like an auto company adds very little to the discussion given the resistance of most auto manufacturers to inovation.

A home powered by solar and wind with battery storage and biogas backup is not powerless without the car plugged into it.

Propane is no one's cheapest alternative. Heat ought to be provided for homes from wind and solar, and as a last resort, grid power running a heat pump in the home.

mcr

*amazingdrx: the same goes for you on the flame attacks - credibility doesn't count for anything here really - except of course James Fraser's - but hey I'm a regular - so it counts a lot... plus its merely a way of learning new things for further research and staying informed.


Anyway, I'm dubious about the whole biodiesel-algae system - I'll need to do further reading. And this "mass is conserved" thing needs further reading also.

So give me any urls to relevant research in this area - then that will be great.

Sending me an email on this is not a problem amazingdrx

... although any spammers reading this be warned - I'll report your IP addresses to domain administrators and Spamcop.net etc... needless to say I have anti-spamming software too.

Definition of Spam - "unsolicited, unwanted mail or posts"...

Because I hate spammers and phishers.

amazingdrx

https://thefraserdomain.typepad.com/energy/2006/10/vertigro_algae_.html#comment-23623140

Large scale proof is on the way. So they say.

Engineer-Poet

Quoth MCR:

As I understand the "theoretical Algae systems" - 100% of the carbon comes from ATMOSPHERIC CO2 ???

Unfortunately, no; the systems are intended to be fed from the effluent of fossil-fired plants.  There are two reasons for this:
  1. The productivity they get relies upon high concentrations of CO2; IIUC, atmospheric levels yield much less and don't justify the sort of infrastructure they require.
  2. Letting air flow through the system also means spores of wild algae, predators, parasites and other organisms which slash the productivity of the system.

Biomass burners could feed such algal systems too, but the supply of biomass falls way short of what's required to feed conventional vehicles under a Business As Usual (BAU) scheme.  "The Billion-Ton Vision" projects 1.3 billion tons/year of available biomass, of which perhaps 520 million tons is carbon.  The USA uses 7.3 billion barrels of oil per year, with around 310 pounds of carbon per barrel; that's 1.1 billion tons of carbon right there.  Then there's our billion ton/year coal habit....

Business As Usual is clearly not going to cut it.  All systems need a radical re-think.  We appear to have all the necessary technologies somewhere between the labs (DCFC's) and widespread installation (ice-storage air conditioners, wind farms) but the internal combustion engine is going to lose its starring role to name just one big shift.

And quoth the nitwit:

Charcoal? From trees poet?
Not unless they were already being processed for forestry products and the bark, sawdust, etc. was available.  Also from crop wastes, yard waste, switchgrass, Miscanthus, and the like.  If you process the 1.3 billion tons to 390 million tons of charcoal (roughly 11 quads' worth) and feed it through direct-carbon fuel cells at 80% efficiency, you'll get about 8.8 quads of work (electricity) out.

At 14.9% tank-to-wheels efficiency, the vehicle fleet takes 140 billion gallons of fuel and produces only 2.6 quads of work.  If you took 1.3 billion tons of biomass and fed it through e.g. Iogen's process (87 gallons of ethanol/ton), you'd get only 113 billion gallons of ethanol (making about 1.3 quads at the wheels) - barely more than half the 210 billion gallons required to replace US gasoline consumption.

It's clear that a sustainable future does not rely on liquid fuels in internal-combustion engines.  At best, they (including ethanol) play second fiddle.  If you could do arithmetic, you'd know this.

But perhaps you could go write for some rag like Popular Science.  I dropped my subscription twenty years ago because the editors couldn't even get their units right, but you'd fit right in.

amazingdrx

The large PH swing in algae growing systems will take care of microbial competition. Extra filtered air injected with the turbine out gas before it is disolved in water to feed the algae can take care of any extra CO2 needed.

As I pointed out already, only elevated levels of cO2 are necessary for the higher growth rates needed, not that all the cO2 from all the products of the algae is captured.

Wood and cellulose burned? Those same products can be used in a fuel cell at many times the efficiency. But why curtail any natural carbon sequestration from photosynthesis to provide energy? It is not necessary and that sequestration on conservation reserve land now stores one third of US CO2 emissions.

Increasing conservation land area, along with a change to renewable energy, could actually reverse greenhouse gas levels.

All the energy needed can come from wind, solar, and water power. The only reason for algae fuel systems is to make liquid fuel, with it's safe, concentrated energy storage for vehicles. Once batteries have attained a similar power to weight ratio, no liquid fuel will be needed.

Cellulose waste from trees and crops ought to be used for products like chip board that sequester carbon in home building materials and the waste unsuitable for that should be composted back into the soil.

Making charcoal takes energy anyway. Digesting waste to produce biogas actually yields heat energy. Crop waste that can't be returned to the soil can be added to human and animal waste digestors to produce biogas to feed the fuel cell.

At least you got the demise of the ICE right! good work.

Perhaps you should renew your Pop sci subscription poet? Or just continue to read my blog for free, hehey.

Engineer-Poet
The large PH swing in algae growing systems will take care of microbial competition.
If you don't have a cite for that, I'm going to assume that you made it up. [1]
Extra filtered air injected with the turbine out gas before it is disolved in water to feed the algae can take care of any extra CO2 needed.
You keep inventing details and ignoring salient points:
  • The out-gas is not pressurized and does not dissolve in water as such.  The algae are grown on wet media around which the gas circulates; pressurizing such a large gas flow would be energy-prohibitive [2].
  • If the off-gas is 15% (150000 ppm) CO2, doubling the amount of CO2 by adding air would involve 390 times as much air.
  • The concentration of CO2 in the gas would be reduced from 15% to about 770 ppm.  What does that do to the algae growth rate?
  • How much extra system volume is required?
  • What does it do to evaporative losses?
I really don't expect you to have verifiable (meaning, something other than your own say-so) data to back up your claims here.  I just want anyone reading this to see how much people should trust your word.
Wood and cellulose burned? Those same products can be used in a fuel cell at many times the efficiency.
If you had actually read what you purport to be replying to, you would have seen the words "direct-carbon fuel cells" [3].  These offer something close to 40% field-to-terminals efficiency, and the heat and chemical energy in the off-gas from the carbonization process is free for other uses.  Iogen's process only yields about 48% efficiency from biomass to ethanol (conversion losses to work are on top of that) and has no secondary energy stream.  You'll probably have similar issues with fermentation of algal carbohydrates.
Increasing conservation land area, along with a change to renewable energy, could actually reverse greenhouse gas levels.
You beg the question of how much energy is required and how you could obtain it without carbon emissions.  I've tackled this issue, including dealing with variable supplies.  What have you done?
Cellulose waste from trees and crops ought to be used for products like chip board that sequester carbon in home building materials and the waste unsuitable for that should be composted back into the soil.
Chip board isn't a very good building material, and it both rots and burns.  Further, it does nothing to address the nation's energy issues.  My solution is to convert rot-prone cellulose to charcoal, and plow some fraction of the charcoal into croplands.  This sequesters carbon for thousands of years, and increases the nutrient-holding capability of the soil a la terra preta.
Making charcoal takes energy anyway. Digesting waste to produce biogas actually yields heat energy.
Biogas digesters do not generate warmth.  Charcoal production does.
Perhaps you should renew your Pop sci subscription poet? Or just continue to read my blog for free, hehey.
I'm tired of reading drivel coming from "science" editors who not only can't do unit analysis, they don't understand that "isotopes" and "nuclides" are near-synonymous concepts.  That's why I haven't taken a second look at your blog either. [4]

If you want to earn brownie points, start doing your homework before posting.

[1] I'm sure you make most of this up.
[2] But I forget, you not only don't do unit analysis, you don't even do arithmetic.
[3] Mis-reading is a habit of yours.  I've come to expect you to mis-cite most of your "references", probably because you failed to understand them or never bothered to read them in the first place.
[4] I offered my editorial services to PS until I gave up on them, but you were SOL from the get-go.

Mark C R (aka MCR)

Poet:"I'm tired of reading drivel coming from "science" editors who not only can't do unit analysis, they don't understand that "isotopes" and "nuclides" are near-synonymous concepts."

Unit analysis ala - dimensions analysis...
A-level physics as they say here in the UK...

Poet - stop with insults and same for you drx.


I'll add something to this debate - by not directly questioning you Poet - but have you looked at this recycling technology?

https://www.sterecycle.com/index.htm

It produces an "organic fibre" product that I find interesting as an alternative feed? - that may require some pretreatment (pyrolysis???)...

What is the difference between "charr-ing" and pyrolysis anyway??? (poet?)

I might be being thick - but ar'nt they one and the same?

Engineer-Poet

Haven't seen that before.  I can't quite tell what the product is supposed to be good for, though the separation of plastics and whatnot is an excellent thing.

Pyro (fire) lysis (breaking down) appears to include charring as a category.

Engineer-Poet

See if I can close that tag.

starcycle

In this situation, the runner posts(shows) an impertinent physical condition, while the others sink into the effort. At the conclusion of the journey(running) this runner shows an exceptional state of coolness, as if he had crossed(gone through) only some kilometres.

heating


If you have looked into solar energy as a method for heating your home, panels are usually the first things that come up. There are, however, other unique methods.

The Solar Heating Aspect You Have Never Heard of Before

The power of the sun is immense. The energy in one day of sunlight is more than the world needs. The problem, of course, is how does one harness this power. Solar panels represent the obvious solution, but they have their downside. First, they can be expensive depending upon your energy needs. Second, they do not exactly blend in with the rest of your home.

Passive solar heating represents a panel free method of harnessing the inherent energy found in the sun for heating purposes. If you come out from a store and open the door of your car in the summer, you understand the concept of passive solar heating. A wide variety of material absorbs sunlight and radiates the energy back into the air in the form of heat. Passive solar heating for a home works the same way as the process which overheats your car in the parking lot.

tony

If you can linkup various systems, even better

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