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Thread: Alternatives to oil

  1. #1 Alternatives to oil 
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    It is pretty much a cliche today that peak oil is almost upon us. I don't want to debate that, but the alternatives. Once peak oil hits, fuels from crude oil will start to increase in price more and more. What are our alternatives, and will they be enough to prevent a serious economic disaster?


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    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic View Post
    It is pretty much a cliche today that peak oil is almost upon us. I don't want to debate that, but the alternatives. Once peak oil hits, fuels from crude oil will start to increase in price more and more. What are our alternatives, and will they be enough to prevent a serious economic disaster?
    Methanol can be synthesized the same as Hydrogen, from Water, Air, and Electricity. So can CH4 (AKA "Natural Gas", or "Methane"). Either of those fuels can run an automobile. In the case of Methanol its Octane rating is actually greater than that of gasoline, so other than making sure certain metals (such as aluminum) are not present in the gas line (because Methanol corrodes them over time) you do not need to make any further modifications to run it in a standard combustion engine. In fact, Methanol is actually safer than gasoline if you get in an accident. It's only drawback is having 1/2 the energy by volume, which means you can only go 1/2 as far on a tank of gas. It's also possible to crack Methanol or CH4 from coal.

    OPEC deliberately keeps its price within a few dollars of the next most viable alternatives, so really what will likely happen when they run out of oil, is the price of gasoline will go up by like maybe 2 or 3 dollars a gallon. At the same time, the overall economy of the USA will improve dramatically because the additional cost of Methanol is due to the additional labor required to make it. Depending on where we get the energy, it's fair to say that almost all of the cost of Methanol is labor cost. Instead of paying a bunch of highly entitled Arab royals for the privilege of drilling in their oil field (mostly mineral rights), we'll be paying American workers to produce something with their hands.


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    Hi Kojax, how do you think about hydrogen economy? Is this also an alternative? Thanks.

    Quote Originally Posted by kojax View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic View Post
    It is pretty much a cliche today that peak oil is almost upon us. I don't want to debate that, but the alternatives. Once peak oil hits, fuels from crude oil will start to increase in price more and more. What are our alternatives, and will they be enough to prevent a serious economic disaster?
    Methanol can be synthesized the same as Hydrogen, from Water, Air, and Electricity. So can CH4 (AKA "Natural Gas", or "Methane"). Either of those fuels can run an automobile. In the case of Methanol its Octane rating is actually greater than that of gasoline, so other than making sure certain metals (such as aluminum) are not present in the gas line (because Methanol corrodes them over time) you do not need to make any further modifications to run it in a standard combustion engine. In fact, Methanol is actually safer than gasoline if you get in an accident. It's only drawback is having 1/2 the energy by volume, which means you can only go 1/2 as far on a tank of gas. It's also possible to crack Methanol or CH4 from coal.

    OPEC deliberately keeps its price within a few dollars of the next most viable alternatives, so really what will likely happen when they run out of oil, is the price of gasoline will go up by like maybe 2 or 3 dollars a gallon. At the same time, the overall economy of the USA will improve dramatically because the additional cost of Methanol is due to the additional labor required to make it. Depending on where we get the energy, it's fair to say that almost all of the cost of Methanol is labor cost. Instead of paying a bunch of highly entitled Arab royals for the privilege of drilling in their oil field (mostly mineral rights), we'll be paying American workers to produce something with their hands.
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    Hydrogen is more efficient and inexpensive to make, and easier to reconvert back into electricity, but it's a beast to try and store or transport. For automobiles, it has to be highly pressurized in order to fit very much of it into the gas tank, which creates concerns over what might happen in a traffic accident. There is some progress being made, though. For example, some researchers in Oregon discovered that it's possible to increase the storage capacity by putting chicken feathers in the gas tank.

    Feathered fuel tank soaks up hydrogen | OregonLive.com

    If the storage problem could be solved, then Hydrogen would be the most elegant solution. For now, however, it would almost be easier to react the Hydrogen with CO2 and create Methane or Methanol, and then move those products, since they can be transported via pipeline or truck or boat using existing methods.
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    Quote Originally Posted by kojax View Post
    Hydrogen is more efficient and inexpensive to make, and easier to reconvert back into electricity, but it's a beast to try and store or transport. For automobiles, it has to be highly pressurized in order to fit very much of it into the gas tank, which creates concerns over what might happen in a traffic accident. There is some progress being made, though. For example, some researchers in Oregon discovered that it's possible to increase the storage capacity by putting chicken feathers in the gas tank.

    Feathered fuel tank soaks up hydrogen | OregonLive.com

    If the storage problem could be solved, then Hydrogen would be the most elegant solution. For now, however, it would almost be easier to react the Hydrogen with CO2 and create Methane or Methanol, and then move those products, since they can be transported via pipeline or truck or boat using existing methods.

    Did you mean converting hydrogen to methane by the following reaction? CO2+4H2 --> CH4+2H2O (under catalyst) There are other ways, but this one much increases the cost of methane from hydrogen. I read the press report, but did not find a publication or patent about carbonized chicken feathers for hydrogen storage. They may still in the middle of developing the product.
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    Metal hydrides possibly better than chicken feathers. Nuclear power to synthesize fuels, other threads on forum explore such possibilities, with notable contributions from kojax, Prince, and other luminaries. Much of interest and worth to be found there, enjoy.
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    Quote Originally Posted by tradesman View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by kojax View Post
    Hydrogen is more efficient and inexpensive to make, and easier to reconvert back into electricity, but it's a beast to try and store or transport. For automobiles, it has to be highly pressurized in order to fit very much of it into the gas tank, which creates concerns over what might happen in a traffic accident. There is some progress being made, though. For example, some researchers in Oregon discovered that it's possible to increase the storage capacity by putting chicken feathers in the gas tank.

    Feathered fuel tank soaks up hydrogen | OregonLive.com

    If the storage problem could be solved, then Hydrogen would be the most elegant solution. For now, however, it would almost be easier to react the Hydrogen with CO2 and create Methane or Methanol, and then move those products, since they can be transported via pipeline or truck or boat using existing methods.

    Did you mean converting hydrogen to methane by the following reaction? CO2+4H2 --> CH4+2H2O (under catalyst) There are other ways, but this one much increases the cost of methane from hydrogen. I read the press report, but did not find a publication or patent about carbonized chicken feathers for hydrogen storage. They may still in the middle of developing the product.
    Yeah that's the reaction I was thinking of. You lose a lot of the energy, but methane is a lot easier to transport or store than hydrogen.

    On the Solar thread it was mentioned that a German company has devised a way to make Methane directly from CO2, water, and electricity at 60% efficiency, which is about the same efficiency for Hydrogen electrolysis from water, so it would make more sense to use that method, I guess. If we're making them directly the two fuels are about the same in that respect. That is, unless there's a more efficient Hydrogen process I haven't heard of. Here's some good numbers for fuel cells conversion.

    Fuel cell - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    -
    Electrolysis - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


    Basically about 60% efficiency both ways, for a total of 36% of the energy getting preserved.


    As for natural gas, there's this.

    Gas turbine - Wikipedia, the free encyclopediaApparently gas turbines can also achieve 60% efficiency when they're combined with steam to harness the waste heat. So, if we believe the German company's claim of being able to make CH4 at 60% efficiency, then Hydrogen and CH4 are approximately equal to each other in that respect.
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  9. #8  
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    We have our alternate ideas, and though they are not implementing non subsidized energy, the energy providers are doing their research. We will have in place, other means of energy, when they are more affordable than oil.

    Just that simple.
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    Not quite, there is the hysteria factor to consider.

    See DDT, which killed far fewer birds than wind power, being banned for stupid reasons, and Silent Spring is STILL in bookstores listed as "nonfiction". But yes, people will not be going back to kerosene lanterns en masse unless all become Amish or some equally unlikely scenario.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wild Cobra View Post
    We have our alternate ideas, and though they are not implementing non subsidized energy, the energy providers are doing their research. We will have in place, other means of energy, when they are more affordable than oil.

    Just that simple.
    Our disagreement is whether private sector analysts know what's best for the country.

    I think those people have tunnel vision. They know what's best for their own specific company, given present market conditions. They don't forsee how those market conditions might change if everyone did something together. Those aren't the kind of decisions they're tasked with analyzing. It's the problem with an over-specialized mind set. I don't doubt that they're educated and smart people. They're just too narrowly focused on one thing.
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  12. #11  
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    Quote Originally Posted by kojax View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Wild Cobra View Post
    We have our alternate ideas, and though they are not implementing non subsidized energy, the energy providers are doing their research. We will have in place, other means of energy, when they are more affordable than oil.

    Just that simple.
    Our disagreement is whether private sector analysts know what's best for the country.

    I think those people have tunnel vision. They know what's best for their own specific company, given present market conditions. They don't forsee how those market conditions might change if everyone did something together. Those aren't the kind of decisions they're tasked with analyzing. It's the problem with an over-specialized mind set. I don't doubt that they're educated and smart people. They're just too narrowly focused on one thing.
    I hope you don't think the government knows better... If you ever figure out how to take the bureaucracy and politics out of the government and politicians, then maybe they could do more good than harm.

    It only takes a few companies to see the future, and when the time comes, they will be the big dogs. I trust the creativity of the human race, and that is something that cannot be subsidized.
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Finger Prince View Post
    Not quite, there is the hysteria factor to consider.
    Yes, and that is something that should be ignored in science.

    What are you suggesting anyway? That we use government influence to placate the people who scare easily?
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    Hysteria is not exclusively generated by government, nor is pseudoscience. The only remedy Prince can see is the assiduous cultivation of critical thinking in the population at large, something unlikely to be welcomed by the government or the private interests which control it, and most of us.

    Creativity cannot be subsidized? OK, how long would it take creativity alone to build Saturn V rocket, for example? There is a place for organization and discipline, and if you think bureaucracy and politics cannot be just as pernicious in private sector as in government, Prince has news for you. Corporate stupidity and inertia are just as bad as anything we the people have sent to Washington D.C.- where private interests and lobbyists are still thriving.

    If bullshit could serve as an "alternative to oil", TSF alone could power the world for the foreseeable future- despite this Prince is most charitably disposed to forum and members of same.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wild Cobra View Post
    I hope you don't think the government knows better... If you ever figure out how to take the bureaucracy and politics out of the government and politicians, then maybe they could do more good than harm.
    The worst is when the two see eye to eye. Then it's up to the people to know what's best for themselves and fight for it.

    Huge companies don't like to find themselves in an environment where their hugeness doesn't pay off (including their huge ability to afford to send Lobbyists to Washington.) It's better to be at the mouth of a bottleneck, so everyone has to go through you. Then you can charge whatever price you want. Solar and Wind would be a decentralized affair, as would the synthetic fuels industry. Instead of negotiating an exclusive arrangement with some Saudi Prince, they'd have to go around and buy out every start up syn fuel company that enters the market.

    As a nation, we're better off if they have to do that, but as a company they're anything but better off.

    It only takes a few companies to see the future, and when the time comes, they will be the big dogs. I trust the creativity of the human race, and that is something that cannot be subsidized.
    Historically, how often has this happened? The trans-continental railroad was built on the promise that the government would grant huge tracts of land to whatever rail company managed to connect East and West first.

    Rail transportation in the United States - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    The Dams on the Columbia River weren't built until the government financed it.

    Bonneville Dam - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    It sucks to be the company that breaks ground on something, only to have others build on what you've accomplished and crowd you out of the industry. The first one to do something is always out the largest expense. So, if that's not made up for, then the company that breaks ground is always shooting itself in the foot.
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    Compressed Air is pretty efficient
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    Takes energy to compress air, or liquefy, or pump it. Is like winding spring in old fashioned wristwatch, spring powers watch, but what powers spring?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compressed_air_car
    Last edited by The Finger Prince; November 19th, 2011 at 06:27 AM. Reason: added link
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    True, but most of our options are like that. The important question is how much of the original energy do we get to keep. I looked it up after Japith mentioned it, and it appears to be not too bad.

    Compressed air energy storage - Wikipedia, the free encyclopediaThe worst of the 3 options claims 53% Thermal efficiency. Not sure if that's round trip or not. The best of the three looks to be kind of a pie-in-the-sky dreamer's tech. The middle option claims 70% round trip efficiency which is quite exceptional. I don't know that the middle one would be practical for automobiles, but certainly as a storage medium for power plants.
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    Thanks, interesting point! For a engineered methane electrolysis from CO2, I speculate that the efficiency of the production of CO2 should be counted in. This adjustment may make methane production with a little lower efficiency than water electrolysis for hydrogen.

    Also, I am not quite clear about your mention on the 36% efficiency. Which two process did you combined to have this number? The electrolysis production and the fuel cell application? I am wondering besides fuel cell if we could use hydrogen gas/methane gas in a combustion engine.


    Quote Originally Posted by kojax View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by tradesman View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by kojax View Post
    Hydrogen is more efficient and inexpensive to make, and easier to reconvert back into electricity, but it's a beast to try and store or transport. For automobiles, it has to be highly pressurized in order to fit very much of it into the gas tank, which creates concerns over what might happen in a traffic accident. There is some progress being made, though. For example, some researchers in Oregon discovered that it's possible to increase the storage capacity by putting chicken feathers in the gas tank.

    Feathered fuel tank soaks up hydrogen | OregonLive.com

    If the storage problem could be solved, then Hydrogen would be the most elegant solution. For now, however, it would almost be easier to react the Hydrogen with CO2 and create Methane or Methanol, and then move those products, since they can be transported via pipeline or truck or boat using existing methods.

    Did you mean converting hydrogen to methane by the following reaction? CO2+4H2 --> CH4+2H2O (under catalyst) There are other ways, but this one much increases the cost of methane from hydrogen. I read the press report, but did not find a publication or patent about carbonized chicken feathers for hydrogen storage. They may still in the middle of developing the product.
    Yeah that's the reaction I was thinking of. You lose a lot of the energy, but methane is a lot easier to transport or store than hydrogen.

    On the Solar thread it was mentioned that a German company has devised a way to make Methane directly from CO2, water, and electricity at 60% efficiency, which is about the same efficiency for Hydrogen electrolysis from water, so it would make more sense to use that method, I guess. If we're making them directly the two fuels are about the same in that respect. That is, unless there's a more efficient Hydrogen process I haven't heard of. Here's some good numbers for fuel cells conversion.

    Fuel cell - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    -
    Electrolysis - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


    Basically about 60% efficiency both ways, for a total of 36% of the energy getting preserved.


    As for natural gas, there's this.

    Gas turbine - Wikipedia, the free encyclopediaApparently gas turbines can also achieve 60% efficiency when they're combined with steam to harness the waste heat. So, if we believe the German company's claim of being able to make CH4 at 60% efficiency, then Hydrogen and CH4 are approximately equal to each other in that respect.
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    Last edited by Wild Cobra; November 19th, 2011 at 04:40 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wild Cobra View Post
    Prince sees plenty of "hype", all right. Electrolysis of water without generating oxygen, hmmm. Conspicuous by absence are figures and details, so, caveat emptor. Prince thinks this is a crock of something but would be delighted to be proven wrong.
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