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Thread: Tapping the hydrocarbon seas of Titan.

  1. #1 Tapping the hydrocarbon seas of Titan. 
    Forum Professor mmatt9876's Avatar
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    Saturn has a moon called Titan that could have seas of liquid hydrocarbons. This could be a source of energy if we could affordably tap it. What would we have to do to affordably tap the hydrocarbon seas.


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    Forum Bachelors Degree x(x-y)'s Avatar
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    They are lakes of liquid methane to be precise- as Titan undergoes a methanological cycle instead of an hydrological cycle. And, by what do you mean "tap them"? Are you suggesting that we send spacecraft to collect this liquid methane to transport back to Earth for use as a fuel? The costs would be much higher than the money obtained from using it as an energy source, it could also be a disaster environmentally- we'd be introducing large amounts of "extra-terrestrial" hydrocarbons into our planets' system, accelerating climate change immensely. Not a good idea, in my opinion.


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  4. #3 Re: Tapping the hydrocarbon seas of Titan. 
    Moderator Moderator TheBiologista's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mmatt9876
    Saturn has a moon called Titan that could have seas of liquid hydrocarbons. This could be a source of energy if we could affordably tap it. What would we have to do to affordably tap the hydrocarbon seas.
    Develop propulsion systems, radiation shielding, launch technologies and life support systems sufficient to set up manned industrial outposts and a regular manned/unmanned cargo route between Earth and Saturn orbit.

    By which stage, hydrocarbons will probably (or hopefully) be largely irrelevant to our energy needs.
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    Forum Professor mmatt9876's Avatar
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    My idea for cutting the costs of the missions would be to raise the spacecraft into orbit by a space elevator. Then we could propel the ship with our nuclear weapons. This would be a good way to dispose of them.
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    Forum Bachelors Degree x(x-y)'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mmatt9876
    My idea for cutting the costs of the missions would be to raise the spacecraft into orbit by a space elevator. Then we could propel the ship with our nuclear weapons. This would be a good way to dispose of them.
    So, all we need to do is design and build a safe, working space elevator as well as testing nuclear weapon propulsion of space craft? As "The Biologista" stated, by the time we manage to do this (if we ever do, that is) hopefully fossil fuel energy would be largely phased out.
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    Moderator Moderator TheBiologista's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mmatt9876
    My idea for cutting the costs of the missions would be to raise the spacecraft into orbit by a space elevator. Then we could propel the ship with our nuclear weapons. This would be a good way to dispose of them.
    Space elevators are decades away at best, possibly centuries. If we haven't weaned ourselves off hydrocarbons by then, we're won't have a technological civilization, let alone a space faring one- we'll have an anarchic, dying mess.
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    There's probably as much frozen methane on the sea floor as there is in Titan. It's also easier to get to. I hope we never develop it though, extracting and using methane on this scale would be a climate nightmare.
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    Forum Professor mmatt9876's Avatar
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    Perhaps the carbon dioxide and such emitted could be channeled into space via the as of yet uninvented space elevator to prevent global warming.
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  10. #9  
    Moderator Moderator TheBiologista's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mmatt9876
    Perhaps the carbon dioxide and such emitted could be channeled into space via the as of yet uninvented space elevator to prevent global warming.
    Only helpful if that process uses less energy (and produces less carbon) than we're getting rid of, does it at a reasonable cost relative to the amount we're getting rid of and finally that CO2 placed in geosynchronous orbit doesn't return to Earth.
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  11. #10  
    Universal Mind John Galt's Avatar
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    There seems to be a universal view here that hydrocarbons are of interest as an energy source. Surely they are far more interesting as a chemical foodstock? There are a wealth of materials which use hydrocarbons as a starting point: dyes, rubbers, synthetic fabrics, plastics, solvents, detergents, adhesives, etc.

    I've always though it was rather ridiculous that we burned this incredibly valuable commodity.
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  12. #11  
    Moderator Moderator TheBiologista's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ophiolite
    There seems to be a universal view here that hydrocarbons are of interest as an energy source. Surely they are far more interesting as a chemical foodstock? There are a wealth of materials which use hydrocarbons as a starting point: dyes, rubbers, synthetic fabrics, plastics, solvents, detergents, adhesives, etc.

    I've always though it was rather ridiculous that we burned this incredibly valuable commodity.
    Now that seems like a much more plausible rationale for going to Titan. Plus there's loads of water ice that we can use in our fusion generators, assuming we ever figure out how to build those.
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  13. #12  
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    Quote Originally Posted by x(x-y)
    The costs would be much higher than the money obtained from using it as an energy source
    Empty space is frictionless, so aside from the energy cost of lifting the methane off of the surface of Titan, and giving it an initial velocity, the rest of the trip to Earth consumes no energy at all. It takes a while to arrive, though.

    The costs would be all upfront, or most of them would be anyway. We'd have to build automated infrastructure and get it into space. Then we'd have to find a source of oxygen, so that infrastructure/machinery could power itself off the Methane.

    The big worry is the global warming thing you mentioned. What happens when hydrocarbon fuel is so widely available that all 6 billion residents of Earth are driving around in big SUV's?
    Some clocks are only right twice a day, but they are still right when they are right.
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  14. #13  
    Universal Mind John Galt's Avatar
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    Look, it's a dumb idea. The cost of the infrastructure, the large delta V needed to get from Titan to Earth, the problems of bringing the methane back to surface, the unattractive ratio between methane delivered and methane to power the process, all of these items and more render it wholly impractical.

    This is intuitively obvious. Those of you advocating its value need to put forward detailed numbers that demonstrate this is not the case. You will be unable to do this, so lets just drop it here.
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