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July 16, 2006


Paul Dietz

CTL technology is very competitive today; the IRR for a CTL plant at current oil prices could exceed 100%/year, if you go by this presentation.

What this means is that the price of oil will come down, surely as falling off a cliff. There's just too much money to be made in replacing it.


I'd prefer to replace #4 with fuel algae.


The big issue here is that we would be replacing fossil fuels with fossil fuels. Shale and coal are even worse than oil and gas when it comes to CO2 emissions, and sequestering billions of tons of CO2 per year from power plants and sequestering CO2 from vehicles period seems far too impractical. Burning those kinds of liquid fuels (from F-T) does little to reduce city air pollution.

F-T/cellulose ethanol from biomass is a good thing, though. The great thing with these is that they can take a very wide array of feedstocks.

A better thing to do (than use fossil fuels) might be to tame the most wasteful user of transport fuels: the personal automobile. Automobile makers need to be aggressive with electric plug-in hybrids, and (like you say) the government should discourage the use of inefficient vehicles. The electricity should be generated with renewable and nuclear energy.


Recent reports from Shell and Raytheon indicate that oil from shale is feasible. Both processes involve in situ heating of the rock and collection from numerous wells. According to Shell, their process will break even at $30/barrel equivalent and produces much more energy than it consumes. I suspect we will need all four technologies mentioned and more. The article didn’t mention nuclear, wind, wave, algae, geothermal, and solar, all of which will be part of the mix, to a greater or lessor extent. Their goal is a tough one, but possible.


"a nonprofit group of legislators and governors called the Southern States Energy Board,"

No mention of wind, wave, solar power, or electric cars, which is no surprise.

I believe this generally southern US sphere of influence will stick with combustion and nuclear, while renewables powering electric vehicles will happen in the northern US and the rest of the planet.

It is becoming a case of the corporate friendly politics of the southern US versus the rest of the planet. On energy policy as it has become on US foreign policy.

Would it be better from a practical stand to go forward on renewable electric transportation without their support? I think so.

Better to let them go their own way and we go ours. Freedom of choice and economic competition can decide the eventual winning strategy in energy policy.

The CO 2 problem can be solved even if the gas guzzling (or ethanol guzzling) continues in that limited region of the planet as long as the rest of the world goes green.

And if the nuclear waste and leakage problems are roughly confined to that region the rest of the planet can tolerate it. Look at Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and Chernobyl. Isolated contamination is not the end of the world.

I think this is a case of honest political and scientific disagreement that only capitalist competition can resolve. All we ask is a fair playing field free of influence peddling and tax subsidies.


Here is a retro idea that doesn't require tens of billions of upfront investment: commuter car-pooling to and from work.

It has the potential to double (even triple or quadruple) fuel efficiency overnight.

Check out my blog: http://time-is-energy.blogspot.com/ (July 16th) for how a $1/mile incentive might work.


CTL technology is very competitive today; the IRR for a CTL plant at current oil prices could exceed 100%/year

CTL is a greenhouse gas nightmare. I would rather syncrude from coal be priced at $70/bbl with the carbon sequestered than $40/bbl otherwise. I agree with you that large scale CTL is inevitable. I just hope we do it right.

Michael Cain

Shell is, in their public statements, much more cautious than "feasible". They have some pilot work and some very interesting systems engineering, but describe the next few years as "research" to determine if the process can be commercialized. They estimate that the amount of electricity required to produce a million barrels per day from the shale would be roughly half of the current total electricity production in Colorado. Their EROEI figures assume that electricity is all gas-fired at 50% efficiency; it seems unlikely that they will be able to gain access to that much gas; if the source is coal at 30% instead, the figures are not nearly so good. One issue that eventually emerges for any new generating plant in Colorado is the availability of water. Essentially all the water in the state is already spoken for, in some cases more than once, so finding available supplies can be difficult.

A back-of-the-envelope calculation suggests that 5,000 2.5 MW wind turbines at 30% duty cycle could provide the necessary power. If Shell wants to build those for us, however, I am strongly in favor.


You're quite right. Shale oil from coal fired electricity is almost an energy loser. But who cares, if you can make a buck of the stuff?

Your idea of using wind turbines is especially good because the heating of billions of tonnes of dirt is totally insensitive to variations in wind power (I guess...). Only thing is, the electric heaters have to be rated at three times the average load. I'm sure that will add 1-2% extra cost to the project and therefore deem it "unrealistic"...

But seriously, if you need 4,000 MW new power for a huge energy sink like shale oil, it is ideally suited for renewable energy and wind is currently the cheapest form. If the wind turbines are built right on top of the electrical heaters, there's no need for a costly electrical grid, although I would not recommend that solution.

On a different note, I seriously hope they leave the stuff in the ground because a new gigantic source of CO emissions not really what the world needs...

Paul Dietz

One issue that eventually emerges for any new generating plant in Colorado is the availability of water.

One can build thermal powerplants with 'dry' cooling systems, which condense steam in a heat exchanger that transfers the heat directly to the air. This has been done in Wyoming where cooling water was unavailable, and also om the northeast at a location where clouds from an evaporative cooling system could have caused traffic accidents.

Jesse Jenkins

Jim, you write, "I am anxious for the full report to come out and find out what credential the author has."

Isn't Bezdek one of the co-authors of the Hirsch Report? I'm pretty sure he is.

Lloyd E. Weaver

This is not an OK proposal as it does not include a hefty dose of oil conservation. Increase power efficiency to IGCC future standards of 52% and free up 400 million tons/yr of coal, enough with CTL to make up to 3 million bbl/day. Then fix personal vehicles and big trucks with streamlining, better transmissions and engines, and we nearly eliminate oil imports. Add an electric train system to decrease plane and road travel and it's done and it’s sustainable. This is a much better way then just an oil production focus. And, if one examines ice core data and satellite data, all CO2 arguments (reductions, sequestration, the whole works) are junk science. Warming is sun changes driven, not CO2 driven.


This proposal would be pretty effective in eliminating our dependence upon foreign oil. However it would do little in the way of improving greenhouse gas emissions and stopping global warming. As previously stated coal burns much dirtier than gasoline. I think a simple E85 mixture might be more effective and more of a viable solution.

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