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By Robert Rapier on Apr 29, 2010 with 140 responses

BP’s Oil Rig Disaster May Bring an End to Support for New Offshore Exploration

Under normal circumstances, I would be all over the story of last week’s BP oil rig disaster. By now, you all know that BP suffered an explosion and a fire in the Gulf of Mexico in which lives were lost and an unprecedented leak a mile below the surface of the ocean is occurring. Because of pressing deadlines (which after this week should be dealt with) I have barely kept up with any news at all. But as I watched the news trickle in over this, I couldn’t help but think the implications will be very far-reaching.

There are a number of angles in this story. It highlights the fact that the oil industry can be very dangerous, and accidents happen that can have serious consequences to health and the environment. We unfortunately have accidents in the oil industry every year. Helicopters crash ferrying workers to and from rigs. People die during routine maintenance for a variety of reasons – almost all of which were avoidable. But I believe the implications of this tragedy are going to be felt for a very long time.

Momentum was building for opening up new areas to offshore exploration. By all accounts, the U.S. does have a fair amount of oil offshore (although not nearly enough to make the U.S. energy independent), as well as in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). As our oil supplies deplete and prices continue to climb, support for drilling offshore was almost certainly going to increase. Further, my personal belief is that we are going to have a significant shortfall of oil ten years from now, and any fields that are being developed now could take some amount of pressure off of those shortfalls.

I think the BP disaster changes the dynamic significantly. We have heard during this debate about how long it has been since the U.S. suffered any sort of rig disaster that resulted in an oil spill, and that there were really no worries about any oil ever washing up on beaches in Florida or California. Now, environmentalists have a fresh new example to point to when proponents push for drilling. Florida Governor Charlie Crist has already been quoted as saying that this closes the door on drilling off of Florida’s coast as long as he can prevent it.

So I believe the long term implications of this incident will be to exacerbate our slide down the backside of peak oil. Fields take a long time to develop, and fields being developed now may have been producing oil in 5 or 10 years. But I believe this window of opportunity has now closed, and it will be much more difficult to find broad support for expanded drilling.

I have explained my position on this in the past: I think we should drill and use the proceeds to fund programs for reducing our oil dependence. I am trying to think practically here, and I think what will happen if we don’t develop the oil we have will be more dependence on oil imports as opposed to a hastening of a transition to renewable fuels. There will be an element of the latter, but it won’t be enough.

Footnote: For the curious, over the past six months I have written four book chapters for different compilations. One was on bioenergy from forestry products, one was on the global energy picture, one was on diesel and distillates in general, and the last one – due this week – is on the potential of jatropha and algae as renewable energy options. After completion of this last chapter, I have no more outside writing obligations that should keep me from posting here regularly once more.

  1. By Jim Takchess on April 29, 2010 at 3:58 pm

    I was glad you commented on this.
    Two comments I heard on NPR mentioned about this situation.

    * BP fought suggested safeguards for this design.

    * Oil Rigs at simalar sites have a auto shutdown device at ocean floor level that could of limited the spill

    This I’m sure will be discussed and investigated in the near future. I’m not saying it’s true or false but these are talking points that will follow.

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  2. By Laura on April 29, 2010 at 4:26 pm

    When gas hits $5.00, drilling will suddenly have broad support again.

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  3. By od on April 29, 2010 at 5:03 pm

    I believe it was a Transocean rig being operated by BP. I found this summarization on another site, sounds like a terrible accident. Hopefully something can be learned from it!

    For the benefit of AT readers, here is what we think happened from our
    office in Houston. We know the well was drilled and the casing cement
    job was underway. This secures the steel casing that lines and supports
    the hole and prevents the casing from moving. They were using a “foam
    cement” due to the depth, which has less density and will not seep into
    the formation due to the low head pressure. During cementing the well
    “kicked” or took a sudden inflow of gas for some reason. Because the
    foam cement is compressible, the pressure gauges at the surface did not
    register a sudden spike in pressure, which would have triggered
    activation of the blow out preventer at the ocean floor. The increse
    was gradual and hard to interpret. The gas reached the surface before
    the crew new it was there, and the blowout quickly bypassed the cement
    pumps and ignited, probably knocking out the control system and the
    hydraulic system in the first few seconds. After that the fire was
    uncontrolable as the flow of gas could not be cut off. Everyone that
    died was on the rig floor, and probably died instantly.

    I believe Laura is correct. This will have short term negative consquences, but when gas spikes again it will be a distant memory.

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  4. By Rufus on April 29, 2010 at 6:50 pm

    Thunderhorse, and Neptune are producing at about 50% of what was expected; Jack will probably never show a profit, and the Brazilians are “reevaluatng” Tupi. Meanwhile, we’re stalled out (and, have been for 5 yrs.) in the 73 million barrel/day range.

    China is upping consumption about a Million bpd/yr; and if you add in India, the rest of the Asian/Pacific, and the OPEC countries you’re probably looking at 2 mbpd increase in demand, annually.

    Meanwhile, DDCE, Poet, and Novozymes are continuing to insist they can turn switchgrass, and other cellulose into ethanol for about $2.00/gal.

    Good Grief! What does it take?

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  5. By rrapier on April 29, 2010 at 7:17 pm

    Meanwhile, DDCE, Poet, and Novozymes are continuing to insist they can turn switchgrass, and other cellulose into ethanol for about $2.00/gal.

    Good Grief! What does it take?

    First, count me among those who do not believe they can do it. In fact, if you just back out the biomass costs, you can see that the implicit assumption must be that the biomass is, and will continue to be free, very cheap, or negatively priced. I don’t believe that’s a good assumption.

    But if they think they can do it – and POET is making money – what on earth is stopping them from rolling these things out just as quickly as they can? This is capitalism; if they have a better, cheaper mousetrap then what other motivation do they need?

    RR

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  6. By rrapier on April 29, 2010 at 7:20 pm

    I believe Laura is correct. This will have short term negative consquences, but when gas spikes again it will be a distant memory.

    The problem is that the debate is playing out right now. The momentum was building. That will all be gone for a while, and the process will need to start again. Further, it will be a more difficult fight next time due to this incident. Environmentalists have fresh ammunition. So even if the public screams for drilling, it won’t come soon enough to help them. Once they start screaming, even if everyone agreed that drilling was the right thing to do it would probably be 5 years before anything showed up at the service stations.

    RR

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  7. By Wendell Mercantile on April 29, 2010 at 7:49 pm

    Has there been any consideration of the possibility of sabotage by some group opposed to President Obama’s announcement in support of limited offshore drilling a couple of weeks ago?

    An offshore drilling rig “accident” could easily swing the momentum his announcement generated. The timing of this BP incident could hardly be more propitious for those who are passionate in their opposition to offshore drilling.

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  8. By Rufus on April 29, 2010 at 8:11 pm

    They can do it. The cost is in the enzymes, and the cost of the enzymes is plummeting. They’re down to $0.50 per gallon of ethanol, now, and common sense tells you they’re going to get it lower. The plant isn’t that expensive; they’re just adding a pre-treatment step, not a huge, energy-intensive gassifier.

    The “trick” will be to build “small,” local biorefineries, using biomass from close-by, marginal land, and using the product “Locally.”

    Broin would be crazy to start up right now, when he can wait a couple of months, and get loan guarantees, which should translate into a lower interest rate for himself, and his shareholders.

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  9. By armchair261 on April 30, 2010 at 12:42 am

    Public commentary on this event will probably dominated by emotion, as cool heads are generally hard to find in Washington and the general public when the talk turns to oil. It might be worth putting the spill in context.

    This is the first major offshore drilling related spill in the US since Santa Barbara in 1969 (that I know of anyway). By far the more serious risk is from tanker incidents, but tankers will continue to ply Alaskan, Gulf of Mexico, Atlantic, and Pacific coast waters regardless of whether new areas are open to drilling.

    Through 2006, there were over 58,000 wells drilled in OCS waters. To that we can add thousands more in state waters, as well as for the years after 2006. So the risk of a major spill is probably something like 2 in 70,000 over a 40 year period.

    It wouldn’t occur to politicians or the public to ban coal mining after a serious accident (such as the recent tragedy), or commercial air travel following a plane crash. Politicians and the public seem to recognize and accept the risks in those industries. In those cases, the focus is rightly on operator practices, not hostility towards, or punishment of, the industries in general.

    It should be the same for oil. Offshore oil development policy makers need to take a step back and consider the historical record as well as the technical causes of the recent spill. Was it an operator error? Was it negligence? Or was it an unpredictable geological event?

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  10. By paul-n on April 30, 2010 at 1:03 am

    Armchair, good points all, but there’s one difference here compared to air travel and tankers.
    And that is that this well was drilled in mile deep water, most of the previous offshore wells are shallow wells.
    When something goes wrong at a well head mile down, it’s a lot harder to deal with than several hundred feet down.
    There is not nearly as much experience in really deep offshore drilling – the vast majority of those 58,000 holes were in shallow water, and likely from fixed rather than floating rigs.

    It may be that we are starting to reach the limits of technology here – where the risk of something going wrong is greater, and the consequences of an accident are much greater, and our ability to correct it is smaller, and the time it takes to do so is longer.

    All of these factors multiply together to make more problems more likely. I don;t think this will be the end of (deep) offshore drilling, but one more incident and I’d say it’s all bets are off.

    I do think it will be the end of any new offshore drilling in areas where it isn;t happening or approved already.

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  11. By od on April 30, 2010 at 1:40 am

    I’m still not convinced how much this will change the dynamic of offshore drilling. We did have the Pemex spill in the GOM in 79 that was spilling 10-30,000 barrels of oil every day for 10 months. Granted that accident happened a lot further off the coastline than the present disaster. Maybe they will set new limits of the proximity to the coastline for new drilling? Guess time will tell. I pray they can get this spill contained very soon.

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  12. By rrapier on April 30, 2010 at 1:54 am

    They can do it. The cost is in the enzymes, and the cost of the enzymes is plummeting.

    Enzymes were never the limiting factor for cellulosic ethanol. I have told you this before. Enzymes were always prohibitively expensive, but that was not the only – or even the biggest problem. The biggest problem is the low energy density of the biomass, and the fact that you are only getting a fraction back out as ethanol. There is no solution to that problem. It may be that cellulosic is marginally economical in some situations in which biomass is essentially free, but that isn’t a scalable model.

    RR

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  13. By armchair261 on April 30, 2010 at 1:56 am

    Paul,

    A fair point (as far as he statistics go), but I don’t think water depth itself is a risk factor when it comes to well blowouts, so I don’t think that the risk of anything going wrong is necessarily greater (I’m not sure if that’s what you meant). Blowouts like these are generally caused by unexpected overpressured sediments, and overpressured section can just as easily be found onshore or in shallow water as in the deep water. I think the issue here related to water depth is more the difficulty of cleanup and the consequences.

    Having said that, I’m not sure if a leak originating at the wellhead or in the subsurface would be any more difficult to repair at 8,000 ft than it would be at, say, 600 ft. Both would seem to be a lot more of a technical challenge than a leak at say 50 ft water depths, but I’d like to hear an engineer’s thoughts on this.

    On average several hundred deep water wells (defined as depths > 1000 ft) are being drilled annually in the Gulf of Mexico (and more in Brazil, Angola, and other deep water areas). So there is a record of thousands of wells completed in deep water and up to now only one major related spill. So very long odds still, I believe.

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  14. By Rufus on April 30, 2010 at 3:27 am

    If you can get 70, or 80 gal/ton, and get five, or six tons/acre (and, actually, a lot of areas in the South should yield up to ten, or more tons/acre,) and not have to transport it too far it’s plenty “energy-dense.”

    Remember, you’ll have No cost for fossil fuels, and even have a decent co-product (lignin pellets.)

    Cellulosic has Always been about “Enzyme Cost” (and, transportation.)

    Cellulosic is perfect for the “small” solution. Unfortunately, there’s not a Strong “Lobby” for “Small” solutions. In fact, there’s NO lobby for the “small” solution.

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  15. By Rufus on April 30, 2010 at 4:01 am

    What you’re missing, RR, is that we’re entering the “Age of Biology.” Here is a perfect, albeit old-tech, example.

    http://www.dtnprogressivefarme…..7189b50380

    Add some Kura Clover in with the Prairie Cordgrass, and you’re looking at a possible 10 ton/acre crop for the lowland prairies. The Kura Clover fixes the nitrogen, and thus, keeps your growing costs down, while it’s adding biomass.

    That new refinery in NC (De ?) uses “winter” barley. Adds a 3 rd crop, and doesn’t interfere with their normal corn/beans rotation. (no “land-use change.”)

    Take the county I live in. There is “some” pretty fair cotton/beans land, a few acres of marginal corn land, and a whole lot of very marginal land. One year you’ll see some sunflowers, the next year the field will be fallow. The next year you’ll see some crappy little beans that might do 20 bushels, maybe less.

    If those farmers could raise 4 tons of biomass/acre, and could get $50.00/ton they’d think they were in hog heaven. Even if it cost them $100.00/acre to raise it.

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  16. By rrapier on April 30, 2010 at 4:23 am

    Remember, you’ll have No cost for fossil fuels, and even have a decent co-product (lignin pellets.)

    You aren’t going to have any co-product, because it is going to take all the energy content in the lignin to purify that dilute ethanol solution. That’s what you are missing: Half of your biomass is going to be used just to remove water from ethanol.

    The jatropha story is a perfect example, and I am going to get into that in a few days. It was supposed to be the wonder plant. Grows great in arid conditions. Yields oil that makes a good biofuel. Can be grown on marginal land. What’s not to like?

    Turns out that things are usually more complicated. Yesterday it was jatropha, tomorrow it is camelina. Yet as someone e-mailed me today, we never seem to ask why that last wonder crop failed before jumping onto the next one.

    http://www.ecoworld.com/energy…..check.html

    http://www.upi.com/Science_New…..272395583/

    People overlook various pesky details, and suddenly the wonder crop isn’t so wonderful any more.

    My prediction? 10 years from now you are going to be scratching your head, wondering why it didn’t play out like you thought it would. The reason it won’t is your basic assumptions are wrong. That’s the very same reason jatropha has faltered.

    RR

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  17. By Douglas Hvistendahl on April 30, 2010 at 8:53 am

    For straight biomass, no economics, the french intensive method had a record of around 80 ton per acre, an average of around 48 ton per acre. So why don’t we see many truck farms using this? Labor requirements are very high . . . I’ve only read of one that uses this method today. A more recent variation, the french biodynamic method, uses less fertilizer, less water, and a bit less labor, but is still only suitable for truck farms. For cellulosic? Forget it! It would be possible to use waste materials in at least some instances, but small and distributed will be important. I wonder about the economics of pelletizing to reduce transportation costs?

    For the long run, solar PVT, where both electricity and heat are used looks likely to be a winner. However this requires the electrification of transportation before it can be a competitor for petroleum, and there are resource issues there due to battery materials needed, unless someone works out a practical CAES storage for vehicles. Several groups are working on this at present.

    Unless we get a breakthrough technology, our economy for the next few decades is likely to resemble a seven foot man trying to walk under a five foot ceiling!

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  18. By Douglas Hvistendahl on April 30, 2010 at 8:56 am

    Just thought – some vehicles have run using a wood gasifier. Clumsy, heavy, & dirty, but using pellets might reduce some of the problems.

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  19. By Kit P on April 30, 2010 at 9:10 am

    I have a 20+ year old POS POV PU
    running on E10 that is agile, clean, and light. I have a fireplace
    too if I need a hobby that involves wood.

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  20. By Rufus on April 30, 2010 at 10:46 am

    I’m looking at what Inbicon, Poet, and Genera are doing, NOW. You are the one that’s just blowing smoke. The simple fact is there IS a lot of lignin left over.

    Right Now, there are a lot of people that are “scratching their heads,” and admitting that Rufus was right about Corn Ethanol, and in ten years a lot of people that will be scratching their heads, and admitting that “Rufus wuz right” about cellulosic.

    As for me, there’s hardly a day goes by that I don’t spend some portion of it “scratching my head (and other parts,) and wondering “whut hoppened” about something.

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  21. By Pete on April 30, 2010 at 12:44 pm

    Rufus said:

    I’m looking at what Inbicon, Poet, and Genera are doing, NOW. You are the one that’s just blowing smoke. The simple fact is there IS a lot of lignin left over.

    Right Now, there are a lot of people that are “scratching their heads,” and admitting that Rufus was right about Corn Ethanol, and in ten years a lot of people that will be scratching their heads, and admitting that “Rufus wuz right” about cellulosic.

    As for me, there’s hardly a day goes by that I don’t spend some portion of it “scratching my head (and other parts,) and wondering “whut hoppened” about something.

    I see Rufus & RR going back and forth about cellulosic ethanol, enzyme costs, and other bio-fuel related matters.  Just chiming in about a company I recently heard about, “Joule Unlimited” (http://www.jouleunlimited.com/) , formerly Joule Biotechnologies.  They claim to: “produce compatible fuels directly from sunlight and waste CO2 in a single-step, continuous process that requires no costly biomass intermediates, processing or dependency on precious natural resources”.  Recently declared one of the ten most important emerging technologies to watcth by Technology Review (http://www.technologyreview.co…..rgy/25077/).
     

    I know press releases are cheap and easy, but Robert, have you heard of or had a chance to review Joule’s process technology and claims?

    Thanks.

     

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  22. By Benny BND Cole on April 30, 2010 at 12:50 pm

    Excellent post, but I do have one quibble: Calling someone an “environmentalist” for being opposed to certain actions, in this case offshore oil drilling.

    As I often say, “Everyone becomes a greenie-weenie when the rendering plant is proposed for their neighborhood.”

    And, people along the Louisiana shoreline may have lots of reasons for being worried now: Fishing related jobs, tourism reductions, clean-up costs. Even non “environmentalists” will be worried about those results.

    I happen to support offshore drilling, though with the proviso it happen offshore at Palm Beach FL and Newport Beach CA first, and then only can proceed to other parcels.

    Pollution is a real cost not captured by the price signal. It is good classic economics to want to control pollution, and good public policy.

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  23. By rrapier on April 30, 2010 at 12:50 pm

    I’m looking at what Inbicon, Poet, and Genera are doing, NOW. You are the one that’s just blowing smoke. The simple fact is there IS a lot of lignin left over.

    You are confusing what people are “doing” with what people are promising. Are people rolling out commercial facilities? No. If the economics were right, they would be, and not sitting around waiting for the government to fund them. Two years ago I could have told you what BP and D1 Oils were doing with jatropha. Massive undertaking, which later fell apart when reality sank in.

    Do you know how to do a rough heat and material balance? Work one up for a ton of biomass, and tell me where the extra lignin is. Assign values for percentage of cellulose and lignin in the biomass, as well as the heat content of the biomass and finished product. Keep in mind that you will be distilling a 4-8% solution of ethanol.

    Right Now, there are a lot of people that are “scratching their heads,” and admitting that Rufus was right about Corn Ethanol

    Right in what way? That billions of dollars per year in taxpayer subsidies, a federal mandate to use their product, and protective import tariffs can create an industry? That said industry continues to maintain that it needs these to survive? I don’t think anyone would have ever doubted that. So you will have to clarify exactly what it is that you are right about. If that is our metric for cellulosic – that we can funnel massive dollars in and create an industry, then yeah, I agree that this could be done as well. We have had that capability for 100 years. It’s not good energy policy, nor is it good for taxpayers. But the rent-seekers benefit.

    RR

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  24. By rrapier on April 30, 2010 at 12:53 pm

    I know press releases are cheap and easy, but Robert, have you heard
    of or had a chance to review Joule’s process technology and claims?

    I was sitting at a table at the Pacific Rim Conference with several algae experts when Joule gave a presentation on what they are doing. To put it mildly, the general consensus was extreme skepticism over some of their claims. I believe I wrote a little bit up on it at the time of the conference; I will have to look back at my notes.

     

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  25. By Rufus on April 30, 2010 at 1:25 pm

    Inbicon

    http://www.inbicon.com/Biomass…..yback.aspx

    is producing 1.4 Million Gallons/Yr at THIS PLANT from wheat straw. They have enough lignin to run the operation, and enough left over to sell. They, also, have a molasses coproduct for cattle feed.

    If you’ll click around on the tabs you’ll see the process, pictures of the refinery, the contracts they’ve signed to build 6 full-scale biorefineries, etc.

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  26. By Dave on April 30, 2010 at 2:16 pm

    RR,

    I follow your blog. I appreciate your in-depth analyses and generally agree with your assessments.

    I’ve worked in the biofuels technology industry for the past few years, where some of my focus has been on new strain engineering technology for producing better fuels–sometimes called synthetic biology. I’m intimately familiar with the companies in this space (LS9, Amyris, Joule, Codexis, Synthetic Genomics, others).

    As with other industries, the biofuels industry seems to be generally divided into those who actually put steel into the ground and build, and those who try to invent completely new technology. The builders tend to understand scale and process, but have limited vision. The inventors have vision, or rather many visions, but lack an understanding of scale and process. The industry requires both incremental improvement and disruptive technology.

    A handful of biofuels strain engineering companies, including those listed above, are moving towards commercialization with fermentation microbes that produce finished fuels that won’t require distillation (as with ethanol). While many of these technologies are just a year or two out of the lab, the companies are moving quickly towards commercialization. Including them in projections for the future may seem premature. However, from a tech point of view, omitting them will almost certainly give an inaccurate picture of what biofuels buildout will look like beyond 2015 (esp. when talking about cellulosic ethanol, requiring distillation, as the only cellulosic fuel).

    In the case of Joule, I am very familiar with the skepticism that it faces and some of it seems to be simply because it’s a new kid on the block with dreamy visions out of MIT. In the case of current algal biofuels, there’s quite a bit of nonsense out there, and any honest assessment puts algae far from commercial viability.

    In Joule’s defense, I will say that their team of strain engineering biologists are the most impressive that I’ve engaged with in any of these companies, and I’d even go on to say that they’re better by a significant margin (smartest approaches). The founder’s claim is that their system will integrate very good module engineering with strain engineering. I believe that this is important, as their strains will likely secrete fuels that will need to be collected continuously in a bioreactor.

    I consider it likely that they will create a closed bioreactor system that is superior to all others. From this point of view, the company is to be taken seriously. Critics from “conventional” (legacy??) algal companies shouldn’t be taken seriously, as their technologies don’t have a prayer of a chance. That said, I will remain quite skeptical of Joule’s absolute productivity claims until they’re validated.

    Any thoughts from you on new strain engineering technologies? I realize that this is just one piece of the puzzle.

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  27. By rrapier on April 30, 2010 at 5:27 pm

    Inbicon is producing 1.4 Million Gallons/Yr at THIS PLANT from wheat straw.

    I bet they aren’t. You see, plants always tend to advertise their designed rate as their actual operating rate, when their true operating rate is a fraction of what they had hoped to make. Iogen provides a perfect example. All the news articles stated their design rate as their production rate, when in fact their production rate was 1/10th of design. That’s what happens when you pilot things; they don’t run at the rate you thought because the nature of piloting is there are all sorts of unanticipated issues.

    They have enough lignin to run the operation, and enough left over to sell.

    This is why I asked you to do an energy balance. You would see that there isn’t any excess energy in the process. There can be if you are supplementing with fossil fuels. For instance, biomass boilers are problematic, but if you used natural gas to run the process you could have a nice lignin co-product. This of course means you are using natural gas to produce lignin. But if you do an energy balance around the process, you will see that any leftover lignin will be less than the fossil fuel inputs into the process.

    Apply some common sense for a moment. After the straw is processed, it is a sopping wet mass. Does that seem like a good fuel to you? You have to dry it, which takes energy, and then you have to use what’s left to get the water out of the ethanol. They may just let it air dry in the lab, which would improve the energy return, but you can’t get away with that in a scaled up commercial process. You can do lots of things in the lab that become impractical at scale.

    It’s details like this that you miss, but that explain why there are no commercial cellulosic ethanol facilities.

    RR

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  28. By rrapier on April 30, 2010 at 6:17 pm

    I’m looking at what Inbicon, Poet, and Genera are doing, NOW. You are the one that’s just blowing smoke. The simple fact is there IS a lot of lignin left over.

    I want to return to this comment from Rufus, and show it for what it is. I know I can count on Rufus to make claim after claim that falls completely apart under scrutiny. He says I am blowing smoke, but it didn’t take long to get to the bottom of the claim which was that they are doing these things NOW (his emphasis). They were producing 1.4 million gpy of ethanol, lignin byproduct, and cattle feed. Those are typical Rufus claims, and here is the truth, again typical of what I have found when I dig into Rufus claims.

    The plant cost $53 million US dollars to build a facility that is designed to produce 91 barrels per day. That is a capital cost of about $600,000 per daily barrel. Corn ethanol or an oil refinery come in at around $20,000 per daily barrel for capital.

    Worse, I can find no evidence that the plant is actually running. They indicated that they intended to start the plant in the fall of 2009, but then they are silent (as far as I can see) on whether they actually got it started. So much for Rufus’ claim of 1.4 million gallon per year NOW. Anyone who knows anything about scaling up processes will know that even if they have started (and I would like to see Rufus produce evidence of this) it takes a very long time of tweaking to ramp up rates.

    So again, typical Rufus claim. The claim doesn’t stand up to scrutiny, and since it was a pro-ethanol story Rufus didn’t bother to scrutinize it himself. Ironically, this company has a process called HYPE:

    http://www.inbicon.com/Project…../HYPE.aspx

    Rufus, I think we all concede that by feeding enough money into these processes, people will build plants and ethanol can be produced. After all, that technology (as I have pointed out many times) has existed for 100 years. It just isn’t economical.

    RR

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  29. By rrapier on April 30, 2010 at 6:21 pm

    Any thoughts from you on new strain engineering technologies? I realize that this is just one piece of the puzzle.

    I went back, and looked, and here is what I wrote about Joule following the Pacific Rim Summit:

    Then there is Joule Biotechnologies. They gave one of the talks at lunch one day. To say people are skeptical is an understatement. I don’t really know what to make of them. I can’t find enough information yet to give them a really thorough critique, but I am not a big fan of issuing press releases following lab tests. Note that they haven’t yet advanced to pilot scale (that comment came out during the talk – that they were moving toward piloting), and they are already making pretty bold claims about yield, cost, and solving the energy crisis. Personally, I think I would wait to see how these things scale. As one cellulosic ethanol executive commented this past week, “These things don’t scale like you think they should.” That’s right, they don’t. That’s why most technologies don’t make it out of the lab. Always better to make conservative claims and then deliver beyond expectations than to make wild claims and fall short.

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  30. By Rufus on April 30, 2010 at 6:21 pm

    Well, it’s a pretty large plant, and they began production in Aug, 2009; and they’re sticking to their story.

    http://www.inbicon.com/Project…..plant.aspx

    But, you know how those Danes lie. Glad you straightened us out.

    [link]      
  31. By rrapier on April 30, 2010 at 6:25 pm

    Well, it’s a pretty large plant, and they began production in Aug, 2009; and they’re sticking to their story.

    Or you are just making one up on the back of wishful thinking. Maybe I am just blind, but can you please quote where they said they have started the plant up? The page you keep linking still says “Scheduled startup.”

    But, you know how those Danes lie. Glad you straightened us out.

    Typical Rufus response when one of his claims has failed the scrutiny test.

    RR

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  32. By od on April 30, 2010 at 6:34 pm

    Ok what the hell is going on in the GOM? A second oil rig has no overturned! Maybe you are right Robert, bye bye offshore drilling on the US coasts.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/…..59221.html

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  33. By Rufus on April 30, 2010 at 6:35 pm

    They started production in Dec, 2009. I took “MY” research to the Max. I clicked on the “about Inbicon” link.

    http://www.inbicon.com/SiteCol…..eement.pdf

    I remember those ethanol-fueled cars running around the COP 15 at Copenhagen were fueled with Inbicon’s ethanol.

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  34. By talli on April 30, 2010 at 6:41 pm

    Rufus

    I’m in favor of cellulosic technologies as well, so much so that I co-founded and am the acting CEO of such a company. That being said, I think RR is absolutely right.

    There is no one in the world that has a working system, or is even all that close. You’re right in that the enzymes have been the bottleneck until now, but the truth has always been that ultimately the greatest contribution to the price of a biofuel would be the feedstock. 

    RR is also right in pointing out the problem with distillation. In order to achieve energy efficient distillation (5-6% EtOH in the broth) requires /at least/ 20% biomass (assuming 80-90% yield in sugars). The reason is that if you can’t get to 5-6% EtOH, you end up boiling the ocean. Take a look at Table 1 here to get a sense of the relative BTUs needed to get 1-4% moonshine out: http://www.ces.purdue.edu/extm…..e-117.html

    Unfortunately, speak to anyone familiar with cellulose chemistry and they will tell you it’s basically impossible to work with more than 10-15% biomass due to the viscosity of the slurry, the difficulty of achieving uniform temperature and ph and the ridiculous amount of protein needed to break down that much polysacchride.

    RR’s other point about lignin is also true. We could probably produce cost-competitive cellulosic EtOH as long as we keep finding cheap sources of natural gas. But then we don’t have terribly green fuel. If we want to keep out moonshine pretty, then we certainly need to find a carbon neutral way of producing heat for distillation.

    I’m not saying that any of these problems are insurmountable. If I believed they were, I wouldn’t have started my company. But we’re sure not there yet. 

     

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  35. By Rufus on April 30, 2010 at 6:42 pm

    As for the cost, I’m not sure it means much. 1) It is a Demonstration plant, and 2) I’m not sure from reading that press release that the cost of the Electrical Power Plant isn’t included in the cost of the project.

    [link]      
  36. By Kit P on April 30, 2010 at 6:43 pm

    Nice link Rufus. Very good graphics.
    I would have thought it was a construction site until you were
    corrected.

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  37. By Rufus on April 30, 2010 at 6:55 pm

    Jeff Broin inspected the Danish site when he was in Copenhagen, and is now betting his money, and reputation on producing 25 Million Gallons in 2012.

    The guy that produces more ethanol than ANY OTHER HUMAN BEING ON EARTH says he will not only power the cellulosic production from the lignin, but he will power the 50 Million gpy corn plant, Plus most of Another 50 Million gpy corn addition from the lignin (of course, he is planning, I believe, to get some of his lignin from the kernel, itself.

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  38. By moiety on April 30, 2010 at 6:56 pm

    Right gentlemen back on topic, this is not an ethanol enzyme thread.

     

    Regardless of any comments we have a number of deaths which we perhaps should recognize.

     

    The problem is of course multi fold; one which we could never hope to fully understand here. The fact being though that rigging is dangerous and if not that, at least difficult. I again find it strange that when the coast of the use is threatened by a major oil disaster the government is sending aides etc.

     

    The other point in the environment is that there are strategies for new rigs; such as this was, to prevent the problems that this calamity has now raised (never mind the lobby against installing such measures). In maybe 3 weeks we have an attempt to close this well. Anyone care to tell me what the coast is going to look like if that fails?

     

    Well Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges and all that.

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  39. By Rufus on April 30, 2010 at 7:02 pm

    Talli, they use between 20%, and 40% Dry Matter.

    http://www.inbicon.com/Technol…..ocess.aspx

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  40. By rrapier on April 30, 2010 at 7:02 pm

    Rufus said:

    They started production in Dec, 2009. I took “MY” research to the Max. I clicked on the “about Inbicon” link.

    http://www.inbicon.com/SiteCol…..eement.pdf

    I remember those ethanol-fueled cars running around the COP 15 at Copenhagen were fueled with Inbicon’s ethanol.


     

    Then why did you just tell us that it started in August 2009? No, in fact you did what you always do. You took a press release as fact, when the press release didn’t even say what you claimed it said. Now you are trying to recover by digging for a press release that contradicts when you said they started. But hey, at least I give you credit for finding a quote that the plant has started. If that’s taking research to the max, then our definitions of max would be quite different.

     

    But there is no mention of them anywhere running at that capacity, even though you claimed that’s what they are doing right NOW. I want a quote from someone that says they are running at the rate you claimed they are running at. A design rate is not the same thing as an operating rate. These two sentences are very different: We designed a plant to produce 1.4 million gpy. We designed a plant that is producing 1.4 million gpy. Again, ask Iogen. Or ask Range Fuels.

     

    But you buy the hype. In fact, you go out of your way to sell it by spinning press releases into far more than they said. Yet not only do you claim a design rate as an operating rate, but you claim an annual rate for a plant that hasn’t even run for 6 months. Wait until they show sustainable capacity at that rate. My guess is – and I have seen plenty of these – they are struggling with all sorts of issues they weren’t expecting, and downtime in the first year especially will be significant.

     

    This, though, is why I don’t spend much time refuting your claims. You spin and spin and try to recover, but in the end you never admit that you got it wrong (or that you can’t support what you said). So it just wastes my time to try to refute you. Oh, there was that time that you said ethanol plants were getting 10% of their energy from biomass. I knew you got that wrong, called you on, and you did admit the error on that one. But if I hadn’t called you on it?

     

    RR

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  41. By Rufus on April 30, 2010 at 7:07 pm

    Here’s an animation:

    http://www.inbicon.com/Biomass…..works.aspx

    Notice the waste heat is being used in all processes.

    [link]      
  42. By rrapier on April 30, 2010 at 7:09 pm

    Jeff Broin inspected the Danish site when he was in Copenhagen, and is now betting his money, and reputation on producing 25 Million Gallons in 2012.

    Wrong. He is betting taxpayer money on it. If he were truly convinced, he wouldn’t have to wait around for that. But let’s not kid anyone about whose money is being gambled.

    Further, you are once again making implications that aren’t true. He didn’t decide to build this as a result of visiting Copehagen, as your sentence above implies. They that that in the works well before then.

    RR

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  43. By Rufus on April 30, 2010 at 7:20 pm

    I’m sure Poet will have some money at risk. Not to mention Time, and Reputation.

    Poet’s cellulose plant has, indeed, been in the works for several year, but he, evidently, saw nothing in Denmark to cool his ardor.

    [link]      
  44. By moiety on April 30, 2010 at 7:21 pm

    Rufus said:

    Here’s an animation:

    http://www.inbicon.com/Biomass…..works.aspx

    Notice the waste heat is being used in all processes.


     

    Fair enough since we are so far of topic but could you hazard a guess on one of their technologies. I guess the CO2 capture is amine based?

    [link]      
  45. By Rufus on April 30, 2010 at 8:11 pm

    I don’t know the process, Moiety. I assume it’s the same process all the corn ethanol plants use. About 20 to 25% of them, I believe, sell their CO2 as a coproduct.

    [link]      
  46. By rrapier on April 30, 2010 at 9:38 pm

    Here we go:

    http://latimesblogs.latimes.co…..lling.html

    In the wake of the disastrous oil spill spewing in the Gulf of Mexico at a rate of 210,000 gallons a day, the Obama administration is backtracking from plans to authorize new off-shore oil drilling off the coasts of Alaska and Florida.

    Many species are already suffering and worse is expected as the looming environmental disaster barrels toward the Gulf states. Migrating birds, nesting pelicans, river otters and mink along Louisiana’s fragile islands and barrier marshes — all are endangered. Still, enviros everywhere probably see a silver lining.

    [link]      
  47. By rrapier on April 30, 2010 at 9:46 pm

    As for the cost, I’m not sure it means much. 1) It is a Demonstration plant,

    Of course being a demonstration plant has never stopped you from suggesting it can scale up to fuel the entire country. You tend to do this a lot with processes that are in the lab or being piloted.

     

    RR

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  48. By Peter on April 30, 2010 at 10:24 pm

    What we need is a risk free, low cost way to get all of our energy. All that is needed if for our genius political class to apply their trained and precise mental apparatus to the problem, raise taxes a bit more, and we will have a solution ASAP.
    It is always best to avoid any situation where humans could die or the environment could be harmed. Cancel coal mining, oil exploration, and all manufacturing activity where someone might be hurt or killed. If these things are done by people in foreign countries, we won’t have to see the nasty results on the TV. We can always just print more money or better yet, just borrow it. Check out Greece for an outstanding example.

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  49. By Rufus on April 30, 2010 at 11:07 pm

    Today they closed the Louisiana Capline offshore crude terminal (off of St. James) due to the spill (likely do not want tankers spreading the spill and fire risk on the water). This is where crude oil import tankers tie up to unload for the Louisiana area refineries. Gasoline is up another 5 cents today wholesale.

    Next the L.O.O.P.? Then the Houston Ship Channel? I don’t think you’ve thought this through, Robert. Have you considered the Billions, and Billions, and Billions that will be lost when/not if this stuff gets on that white sand over at Pensacola, Destin, Fort Walton Beach, Santa Rosa? They’ll Never get it out.

    I would guess we could have built A Thousand biorefineries, of the size I want, with the cost of this one oil well. And, what if the product cost $2.50 to produce instead of $2.00, or $2.25?

    Tell that to the people down on the Gulf in a month or so.

    [link]      
  50. By Rufus on April 30, 2010 at 11:24 pm

    What is the cost to the Country if we end up with Rationing, and a “Crashed” Economy? A $Trillion?

    [link]      
  51. By russ-finley on April 30, 2010 at 11:43 pm

    Benny BND Cole said:

    Excellent post, but I do have one quibble: Calling someone an “environmentalist” for being opposed to certain actions, in this case offshore oil drilling.

    As I often say, “Everyone becomes a greenie-weenie when the rendering plant is proposed for their neighborhood.”

    And, people along the Louisiana shoreline may have lots of reasons for being worried now: Fishing related jobs, tourism reductions, clean-up costs. Even non “environmentalists” will be worried about those results.

    I happen to support offshore drilling, though with the proviso it happen offshore at Palm Beach FL and Newport Beach CA first, and then only can proceed to other parcels.

    Pollution is a real cost not captured by the price signal. It is good classic economics to want to control pollution, and good public policy.


     

    Good points. What exactly is this bogeyman called an environmentalist? I’ve seen long debates over the definition. Seems everyone has their own.

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  52. By Rufus on April 30, 2010 at 11:59 pm

    TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) – Florida Gov. Charlie Crist has declared a state of emergency in several Panhandle coastal counties because of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
    Friday’s executive order covers Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, Walton, Bay and Gulf Counties.

    The order says “The resulting oil slick is generally moving in a northerly direction and threatens Florida’s coast.”

    [link]      
  53. By rrapier on May 1, 2010 at 12:18 am

    Good points. What exactly is this bogeyman called an environmentalist?

    The only thing is, I wasn’t using that in a derogatory manner. When I say “environmentalists will be upset”, I consider myself among their numbers.

    RR

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  54. By rrapier on May 1, 2010 at 12:20 am

    I don’t think you’ve thought this through, Robert. Have you
    considered the Billions, and Billions, and Billions that will be lost
    when/not if this stuff gets on that white sand over at Pensacola,
    Destin, Fort Walton Beach, Santa Rosa? They’ll Never get it out.

    Thought what through? I am not sure what exactly you are responding to.

     

    I would guess we could have built A Thousand biorefineries,
    of the size I want, with the cost of this one oil well. And, what if
    the product cost $2.50 to produce instead of $2.00, or $2.25?

     

    But your guess is based on piloting results, which as we saw earlier are going for about $600,000 per daily barrel. You can’t pick and choose the best piloting results and then turn around and presume costs will be comparable to conventional ethanol plants.

     

    RR

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  55. By russ-finley on May 1, 2010 at 12:20 am

    At some point you just have to draw lines. The risk of this happening is why offshore drilling is opposed. Obama’s timing could not have been worse.

    If it becomes profitable to use nuclear bombs to mine fossil fuels in Yellowstone,  are we going to oppose it or not? Wonder how big the Gulf of Mexico dead zone will extend this year ; )

    We have to move away from the  internal combustion engine, not seek a replacement liquid fuel for them.

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  56. By rrapier on May 1, 2010 at 12:22 am

    What is the cost to the Country if we end up with Rationing, and a “Crashed” Economy? A $Trillion?

    That’s pretty much what I think we will get in about 10 years, which is why I supported drilling.

     

    RR

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  57. By paul-n on May 1, 2010 at 12:43 am

    While all this attention has been focussed on the growing oil slick, a second oil rig accident has occurred, this time a small inland waters  rig capsized and sank while being towed to a scrapyard…

    http://www.reuters.com/article…..5Q20100430

    Not a big deal, really, but timing could not be worse.

    I predict renewed interest in the oil sands and oil shale…

    [link]      
  58. By Rufus on May 1, 2010 at 12:58 am

    You conveniently skipped over my point no. 2, which is that it looks as if that amount covered the ethnol biorefinery, And the electrical generating plant.

    Think about this: All of those Poet plants were built by “Broin.” Jeff Broin studies various plants, including the one in Denmark, and says, “I believe I can produce cellulosic for $2.00 (including “Capital” Costs.) He’s working with Novozymes, who is working with Inbicon, and Novozymes says, “you betcha.”

    Who ya gonna believe?

    I’m going with the guy that produces 1.3 Billion Gallons of Ethanol every year (and, whose family has built many successful ethanol plants.)

    [link]      
  59. By Rufus on May 1, 2010 at 1:04 am

    I predict, Paul, that more people will notice this:

    http://e85prices.com/iowa.html

    E85 selling for $1.86 all over the place.

    [link]      
  60. By rrapier on May 1, 2010 at 2:38 am

    You conveniently skipped over my point no. 2, which is that it looks as if that amount covered the ethnol biorefinery, And the electrical generating plant.

    I skipped over it, because you have zero evidence of it. You just threw it out there because you hoped it was true. But you are actually supposed to support the points you make. It isn’t up to me to refute all of your “reckoning.” And until you support it, it is just wishful thinking on your part and I am not going to spend time refuting it.

    I’m going with the guy that produces 1.3 Billion Gallons of Ethanol every year (and, whose family has built many successful ethanol plants.)

    Successful with a mandated, subsidized, and tariff-protected commodity. In that arena, he has certainly been successful.

    RR

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  61. By paul-n on May 1, 2010 at 3:03 am

    Yes Rufus, more *people* might notice that, but more *capital* will be invested in oil sands and shale.

    If jeff Broin is waiting to invest in his own industry, I can;t see oil companies (other than Valero) jumping at the moment, or anytime soon.

    [link]      
  62. By od on May 1, 2010 at 4:02 am

    They are now saying that it could be spilling 25,000 BARRELS, not gallons, per day! Insane.

    This is going to ruin the gulf state economies if it is not shut in very soon. I wasn’t extremely worried at first, because I naively believed what BP was saying, now I wouldn’t be surprised if the 25k bpd is an underestimate.

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  63. By od on May 1, 2010 at 4:12 am

    Robert Rapier said:

    What is the cost to the Country if we end up with Rationing, and a “Crashed” Economy? A $Trillion?

    That’s pretty much what I think we will get in about 10 years, which is why I supported drilling.

     

    RR


     

    Wow… <10 short years until rationing. That is pretty doomy. I hope you are wrong, but am afraid you are right.

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  64. By moiety on May 1, 2010 at 6:10 am

    Rufus said:

    I don’t know the process, Moiety. I assume it’s the same process all the corn ethanol plants use. About 20 to 25% of them, I believe, sell their CO2 as a coproduct.


     

    That was not very nice of me but it shows me your standard. Amine based CO2 capture should never ever be used on an ethanol plant.

     

    http://www.pureco2nfidence.com…..y_flow.pdf

    or

    http://www.geabrewery.com/geab…..ndkw73fb7r

    give a start on what is required. This is a technique first used in 1912 or so.

     

    The issue i have is you use the claims of POET etc far too easily without putting in scrutiny and with apparently a lack of the process engineering involved. I am pro bio-x (where x maybe fuels or plastics) but RP is correct. Doing the energy balances gives a good indication of scale and that scale is not good. There has to be a step change and the technologies from POET do not achieve such a step change (maybe a 20% gain if proven).

    Right now we are using an area approximately the size of South America to partially feed the world. If population rises to 10 billion we need another Brazil. And then we want to use more land for fuels (and lets not consider water stress).

     

    The bottom line is for every bushel we will still generate 17 lb or so of CO2 which ultimately we may have no use for. And then we get to evaporation and distillation.

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  65. By takchess on May 1, 2010 at 6:27 am

    WSJ article on BP

     

    http://online.wsj.com/article/…..TopStories

     

     

    [link]      
  66. By Rufus on May 1, 2010 at 9:41 am

    The thing is, Moiety, “Reality” keeps proving the “engineers who comment on blogs” Wrong. I use Poet a lot because, as RR put it, they are the Gold Standard for ethanol producers. Their plants use less energy, and produce more ethanol per bushel than any others’.

    I remember a couple of years ago, the engineers were quoting Patzek, who proved that a corn ethanol plant could not Ever get over 2.7 gal/bu. The thing was, even then, some plants were getting 2.8, and 2.9 gallons per bushel.

    They were claiming it would take such, and such number of acres to replace 10% of our fuel (the usual amount was “ALL OF IT,”) and, today, we’re replacing 9% on, basically the same number of acres.

    For one thing, they were quoting Patzek’s 130 bu/acre instead of today’s 165 bu/acre. They, also, weren’t allowing for how the distiller’s grains would replace a significant portion of the primary use of field corn, Cattle Feed.

    Now, Moiety, you’re not only witnessing “Peak Exports” of Oil, and a Ravenous Chindia, but the end of offshore drilling in the U.S. And, you want to try embarass me for my lack of engineering education, and RR wants to quibble over whether the only “Immediate” answer we have will cost $2.00 to produce, or $2.50.

    Horsehockey.

    [link]      
  67. By Kit P on May 1, 2010 at 12:18 pm

    “When I say “environmentalists
    will be upset”, I consider myself among their numbers.”

     

    I like music does that make me a
    musician. It is amazing how many call themselves environmentalists
    but do not really make much of an effort to understand how to protect
    it.

     

    “We have to move away from the 
    internal combustion engine, not seek a replacement liquid fuel for
    them.”

     

    Who is we and why? Sure Al Gore wrote
    a book but does not practice what he preaches.

     

    We have engineered the ICE to the point
    where pollution is not a problem most places in the US.

     

    “the engineers were quoting Patzek,”

     

    Not this one Rufus. The job of the
    engineer in fix the problem not explain why it can not be fixed.
    Since I am now using E10, it looks like some engineers are doing some
    mighty fine work.

     

    When engineers start making comments
    about macro economics based on taking ECON 101, I think they are
    making up stuff.

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  68. By rrapier on May 1, 2010 at 1:29 pm

    RR wants to quibble over whether the only “Immediate” answer we have will cost $2.00 to produce, or $2.50.

    If you think that’s what I am quibbling over, then you have never heard a thing I have said. I am not quibbling over cost. I would be happy if cellulosic ethanol could deliver a long-term cost of $4/gallon. What I am quibbling over is the ability to maintain some sort of reasonable cost in the face of 1). Very low energy density of biomass; 2). Very high capital costs for the plants; 3). Very marginal net energy return from the process. 4). Biomass costs that will almost certainly rise over time.

    Those are some of the reasons I don’t believe cellulosic can be a scalable solution. It can be a niche solution, and the technology certainly exists (and has long existed) to convert cellulose into ethanol. It is just that the low energy density of biomass means that as you try to scale the process, you are spending ever more energy and labor to go out and collect biomass for the plant. This ultimately limits the size of the plant, which also means that the capital costs per barrel will be excessive.

    RR

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  69. By rrapier on May 1, 2010 at 1:33 pm

    Not this one Rufus. The job of the engineer in fix the problem not explain why it can not be fixed.

    This is the same Kit who said that LichtBlick’s home CHP units were a gimmick and would never amount to anything. Mr. Inconsistency strikes again. Meanwhile, VW can’t keep up with the demand, the engines are achieving total heat and power efficiencies in the range of 90%, and people all over the world are calling up wanting to know how they can get one. Maybe I should send them to you so you can explain why it won’t work.

     

    RR

    [link]      
  70. By Rufus on May 1, 2010 at 2:07 pm

    Jeff Broin, who produced 1.3 Billion gallons/yr of ethanol while many were going broke, and who has studied this for years says that he is sure he can produce cellulosic ethanol for $2.35/gal (including capital costs,) and Thinks he can do it for $2.00 gallon by 2012.

    And, YOU think he’s off by a factor of Two.

    As I have said from the start: I’m not an engineer. I was a danged good insurance salesman, and a pretty fair gambler. I’m betting on Jeff Broin on this one.

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  71. By Kit P on May 1, 2010 at 3:52 pm

    “Maybe I should send them to you so
    you can explain why it won’t work.”

     

    Wow, RR how far out in left field are
    you?

     

    This is what I like best about RR. How
    inconsistent his analysis is. If RR would like to do more than
    parrot a 9/09/09 press release with more information, I will be glad
    to evaluate it as something more that a gimmick to con consumers out
    of cash.

     

    http://www.volkswagenag.com/vw…..rship.html

     

    “these natural-gas-fired home power
    plants”

     

    I believe Honda GE makes them makes
    too. I am sure they work fine and there may be some good
    applications like a hotel with a large demand for hot water.

     

    For the average consumer they are a
    gimmick.

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  72. By rrapier on May 1, 2010 at 5:36 pm

    And, YOU think he’s off by a factor of Two.

    You never hear a word I say. The price of an energy product is going to be closely tied to the price of the energy inputs it takes to make it. It may be that under some circumstances Broin can hit those numbers. But it isn’t scalable, nor will it be cheap from a capital cost standpoint. But I am looking beyond what it might cost today, and toward whether it can be a scalable petroleum replacement. What will happen is that competition for biomass will drive the price up, and the energy and labor to transport the low-density biomass will make it prohibitive to go too far out to get the biomass.

    In other words, I am focused more on the long-term implications.

    RR

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  73. By rrapier on May 1, 2010 at 5:45 pm

    How inconsistent his analysis is. If RR would like to do more than parrot a 9/09/09 press release with more information

     

    Whoa there, partner. That’s not how this works. I linked to a press release on what they were doing. If you mistook that for an analysis, then you have never seen an analysis. Regardless, YOU started jumping to conclusions. So I think it might be a good idea for you to ask for more information if you want to make conclusions. That’s not what you did. You jumped on the press release and starting pontificating. So next time I presume you will request more information so YOU can make the analysis before telling us your conclusions.

     

    For the average consumer they are a gimmick.

    What is the average consumer? For the average consumer in cold climates, they make a lot of sense. The combined heat and power efficiency is around 90%. They also may make sense where there is a year round demand for air conditioning, as you can use the heat to drive an AC. Where they would make the least sense is in temperate climates with inconsistent demand for hot water.

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  74. By Rufus on May 1, 2010 at 6:15 pm

    Here’s where your argument falls apart, Robert: We know that the successful plant will be a smallish plant that doesn’t “Transport” the biomass very far. Thus, there will be no competition to speak of between biomass that’s separated by more than 15, or 20 miles, at the most.

    Indeed, a lot of counties could probably support a 10 Million gpy cellulosic plant without going out more than 5, or 6 miles for their feedstock.

    Let’s look at it. Let’s say you can get 7 tons of biomass/acre, and 80 gallons of ethanol/ton. Some areas would yield higher amounts of biomass, and some people say they can get more than 80 tons, but those number seem “reasonable,” I think.

    That would yield 560 gallons/acre. Let’s just cut it down to 500 gal/acre for ease of calculation. We would need 20,000 acres, or 31.25 sq mi. Or an area with a Radius of approx. 3.15 miles.

    The average county is about 1,100 sq miles, or thereabouts. You could put one of these on each “end” of the county, and that would yield about 60 Billion Gallons of Ethanol, Annually.

    You’ve used a bit over 5% of your area, and it’s very unlikely that you’ve put this in the middle of your best farmland.

    And, it is just impossible to make the argument that there will be any “competition” for the biomass, and thus run up prices.

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  75. By roberto on May 1, 2010 at 6:16 pm

    Robert Rapier said:

    Fields take a long time to develop, and fields being developed now may have been producing oil in 5 or 10 years. But I believe this window of opportunity has now closed, and it will be much more difficult to find broad support for expanded drilling.

     

    How about this accident’s generating broad support for rapidly advancing ocean thermal energy to the marketplace?  Beyond a public clamor of resistance to oil drilling, how about the public’s also clamoring for that?  Here are some reasons why that ought to happen:

    As detailed in my essays that you have kindly posted on this blog, 100 MWe commercial ocean thermal plants could begin operating in the Gulf of Mexico—along with oil rigs—within this decade, once a 5 to 10 MWe pilot plant has been successfully operated off Hawaii.  But to help make that development happen under U.S. auspices, the Obama Administration and the Congress ought to be encouraged to embrace that objective.

    Each megawatt of baseload ocean thermal power can displace 40 BBL of oil daily in places like Puerto Rico.  Thus a 100 MWe plant would save some 4,000 BBL of oil daily, which ironically is about the amount of oil presently being spilled daily.  And even larger ocean thermal power plants in the Gulf of Mexico could soon begin cabling electricity to shore into places like Key West, Tampa, New Orleans, and Brownsville.

    Also ironically, many of the outstanding engineering accomplishments of the offshore oil industry are now being spun off into the design of ocean thermal plants and plantships, which lends increasing confidence toward achieving their technical and economic viability in the marketplace.

    [link]      
  76. By rrapier on May 1, 2010 at 8:52 pm

    Here’s where your argument falls apart, Robert: We know that the successful plant will be a smallish plant that doesn’t “Transport” the biomass very far.

    The argument doesn’t fall apart since I specifically addressed it. The problem you run into at small scale is the capital and operating costs per daily barrel escalate as the size gets smaller. That’s why you don’t see lots of little 10 million gpy ethanol plants or oil refineries. They try to get as big as they can get because of the capital and operating costs. This is a well-known issue in the energy business, which is where your argument falls down.

    A lot of smart people have studied this at length Rufus. A lot of people with years of experience in the energy business. It looks easy to a “retired insurance salesman” because you only see a tiny bit of what it takes to do it and therefore you conclude that there is nothing to it. Further, you constantly jump to conclusions on the basis of lab results and yet you have no commercial unit to point to as a model of what you want to be rolled out across the country. There are good reasons for that, which I have tried to explain to you. The balance is between low energy density of biomass, which limits the size of the plant, against plants that get more and more expensive at smaller size.

    You could put one of these on each “end” of the county, and that would yield about 60 Billion Gallons of Ethanol, Annually.

    Wouldn’t that put the guy right across the county line with his ethanol plant at the end of his county have trouble competing against that? :-)

    And, it is just impossible to make the argument that there will be any “competition” for the biomass, and thus run up prices.

    It isn’t impossible to make when we actually observe that taking place. I remember one of the CEOs from one of the cellulosic companies (maybe Zeachem, but I would have to check my notes) going on and on about people who don’t seem to think biomass availability is going to be a problem. He said effectively “There just isn’t that much available biomass out there, and there is increasing competition for what is there.” So your theory is nice and all, but it directly contradicts the observations. Go out and try to secure contracts for biomass and you will see.  You will quickly find the competition, and you will find that farmers want top dollars for selling you their biomass – especially if they are being asked to grow something new and unconventional.

    RR

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  77. By rrapier on May 1, 2010 at 8:55 pm

    How about this accident’s generating broad support for rapidly advancing ocean thermal energy to the marketplace?  Beyond a public clamor of resistance to oil drilling, how about the public’s also clamoring for that?

     

    Welcome, Bob! I was just thinking about something like this earlier today. If all that comes out of this is closing the door to offshore drilling, we will be truly in deeper trouble on the back side of peak oil. So this also needs to increase the urgency of finding scalable solutions that could actually replace a fair fraction of our depleting reserves.

     

    RR

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  78. By Rufus on May 1, 2010 at 11:06 pm

    Ah, but the good folks at UT – Genera/Vonore are way ahead of you, Robert. They are building the model as we speak. The gov is helping them to guarantee the farmers a market, and is sweetening the pot a bit with matching funds. This won’t last forever, but it will assure the farmers that it is worth it to make the switch, or in most cases, bring the marginal land into production.

    As for Capital costs following size, it’s worth noting that size has not been the determining factor as regards profitability of ethanol plants. In fact, Poet operates plants only half as large as most of the plants that went bankrupt.

    The advantage of a lot of small plants is reproducibility. “Cookie-Cutters.” Before the big building craze in 2007 it was costing about $65 Million to build 50 Mgpy corn ethanol plant. I don’t see any reason why you couldn’t build a lot of small cellulosic plants (10 mgpy) for $25, or $30 Million/copy. That would give you a “Capital” cost Principal, and Interest amortized for 20 yrs. of approx. $0.35 gal.

    With an enzymes/yeast cost of $0.60, a feedstock cost of, say, $0.60, no transportation costs to speak of, and burning lignin for process energy. A labor cost of $0.15/gal, and even w/o coproducts it’s starting to look like a doable thing to me. It’s, Always, been the “Enzyme” costs.

    [link]      
  79. By Kit P on May 1, 2010 at 11:41 pm

    “For the average consumer in cold
    climates, they make a lot of sense. The combined heat and power
    efficiency is around 90%.”

     

    Where is your analysis RR?

     

    First, “efficiency is around 90%”
    is an absurd claim.

     

    Second, there is NIMBY. I have a spark
    plug from a gas fire ICE on my book shelf. The last thing I want is
    an ICE in my utility room turning a generator. The only ‘whine’ I
    want in the evening is red wine from Spain.

     

    Third, there is cost. RR seems to
    think he can make electricity cheaper than his utility by using CHP.
    It does not make any sense but I am willing to listen to RR analysis.

    [link]      
  80. By rrapier on May 2, 2010 at 12:28 am

    Before the big building craze in 2007 it was costing about $65 Million to build 50 Mgpy corn ethanol plant.

    That is about $20,000 per daily barrel, which is consistent with my experience. But….

    I don’t see any reason why you couldn’t build a lot of small cellulosic plants (10 mgpy) for $25, or $30 Million/copy.

    That’s $38,000 per daily barrel, which is both inconsistent with what I know (and I have priced a lot of different biomass conversion plants) and inconsistent with what the EIA says cellulosic plants cost. The truth is, it has been a very long time since one was built, but the biomass handling piece alone will run you $15 million. We also know that the one you cited yesterday was $600,000 per daily barrel. So your costs estimates have zero basis in reality. It is just hope on your part.

    RR

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  81. By rrapier on May 2, 2010 at 12:49 am

    First, “efficiency is around 90%” is an absurd claim.

     

    Wrong. You just don’t know anything about CHP, and it shows from your comments:

     

    http://www.epa.gov/chp/basic/e…..iency.html

     

    Although, CHP systems typically achieve system efficiencies of 50 to 80
    percent, higher efficiencies can be achieved. For example, ExxonMobil’s
    Beaumont Refinery in Beaumont, Texas, operates a 470 MW CHP system that
    achieves an operating efficiency of 88 percent, requiring approximately 37 percent less fuel than typical onsite thermal generation and purchased electricity.

     

    I have a spark plug from a gas fire ICE on my book shelf. The last thing I want is an ICE in my utility room turning a generator.

     

    Yet people all over the Northern Hemisphere have boilers fired with fuel oil in their basements. So a lot of people are already far more comfortable with the idea than you are.

     

    Third, there is cost. RR seems to think he can make electricity cheaper than his utility by using CHP. It does not make any sense but I am willing to listen to RR analysis.

     

    It doesn’t make sense to you because you don’t understand the principles of CHP. That’s why you called it a gimmick. When you talk about making electricity cheaper, you are missing a very big component of the problem. So my advice to you is to spend a bit of time learning about CHP before you tell us that it won’t work.

     

    RR

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  82. By Kit P on May 2, 2010 at 8:38 am

    RR over and over you demonstrate your
    ignorance of making electricity.

     

    You have to wonder if RR has even the
    slightest clue of the difference between a 470 MW CHP system at a
    refinery and a 2 kw CHP in a house.

     

    “boilers fired with fuel oil in their
    basements”

     

    RR apparently does not know the
    difference between a hot water boiler and an ICE.

     

    “When you talk about making
    electricity cheaper, you are missing a very big component of the
    problem.”

     

    What problem? Stick to being a
    chemical engineer at a refinery or pony up with a calculation to back
    up your claims about this gimmick.

     

    There is nothing new with ICE being
    used for CHP. Every car that I have driven since used waste heat to
    keep passengers warm in the winter. Yet it is not something people
    do to heat their houses.

     

    It is like ocean thermal power. When
    practicality is considered it is just a dumb idea. A gimmick if you
    will.

     

    Ethanol on the other hand is very
    practical. A few year after the 2005 Energy Bill we are exceeding
    production and Americans are enjoying E10.

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  83. By LittleWally on May 2, 2010 at 9:45 am

     

    1) On the original post: 
    Obama is likely to take advantage of the same opportunity as he did with the financial
    system disaster – remember Rahm Emanuel’s “Don’t let a good crisis go to waste” comment. 
    I don’t think it’s hard to imagine that this will provide the Obama EPA
    and DoE etc a huge amount of leverage over an industry that they have
    largely demonized.  This will allow them to extract some hugely
    significant concessions along the entire Oil & Gas environmental
    impacts / climate front.  And unless the current disaster begins to
    moderate very soon, I’m not sure I can blame them.  The oil industry
    should be held fully accountable for the original accident and the near
    and long term responses.  I’m comfortable that BP will step up to the
    plate like Exxon did for the Valdez and provide adequate compensation
    and cleanup, but there are aspects of the environmental impacts that can
    never be adequately covered, especially if there is large mortality of
    wildlife and impacts to the fishing resources.   I’m way less worried
    about dirty beaches and some short term tourist impacts.  Where was the
    MSRC – the emergency response organization the oil companies created
    after Exxon Valdez – weren’t they supposed to get out in front of these kinds
    of disasters?  

    And there are a few great comments sprinkled into the discussion as well.  Thanks for those!

    [link]      
  84. By LittleWally on May 2, 2010 at 9:52 am

    2)  On the dreams for a near term ethanol nirvana:  All of the excitement over cellulosic is almost exactly what was being said 3
    years ago when DoE first funded the first 6 major commercial scale
    projects.  Of course we’ve made a huge amount of progress in those 3
    years, but it’s pretty clear we are not much closer to even these first
    experiments at commercial scale.  I think there is a good chance biomass
    can make a substantial contribution to biofuels for transport, but it
    just is not going to happen as quickly and easily as most of the
    promoters try to make us believe. I think POET has done a great job, but
    it’s hugely ridiculous to predict that their success with corn cob
    cellulosic is inevitable until we at least get a couple of years of
    operating data from their Liberty project.  That will be 2014, and then
    another 2 years to begin adding more capacity at other POET plants. BTW, I also think that there may be sustainable ways to increase corn ethanol way past the current 15 BGY mandate cap, and that might make way more sense than cellulosic – but that will take some concessions from the corn farmers, like mandatory BMPs.
    My
    big questionmark about POET is that their pilot scale plant is only
    20,000 gal/yr.  Does either Rufus or RR think POET can really scale up 1000x to 25 MMgy
    without problems?  If so, why did Genera build a 250,000 MGY pilot plant
    in TN for their corn cob experiments – seems like a big waste of $$ if a
    20,000 gal plant would be good enough for POET??

    Lots of cellulosic pilots out there producing more and longer
    than POET or Genera.  KL claims they have been making 1.5 MMgy at their
    Upton WY plant for several years – but apparently that’s not been enough
    to convince investors or DoE that they can scale up profitably.  Think
    Verenium also has a 1.5 MMgy pilot. 

    I’ll be very curious to see
    if BP pulls the trigger to build the 36 MMgy ‘energy cane’ plant in FL
    with Verenium.  That decision should be imminent??  Post Deepwater Horizon, will BP now
    accelerate their green image with even more aggressive biofuels support,
    or will their earnings be damaged enough that they won’t have as much
    spare cash to promote that side of their production future?

    Finally, from what I can see, it looks like DoE has stopped any new cellulosic ethanol research, and is focused on 3rd and 4th gen drop-in fuels.  Biomass production / logistics stuff is basically the same for either, so that support continues.

    [link]      
  85. By Rufus on May 2, 2010 at 10:41 am

    All good questions, Li’l Wally. I want to think about a couple of them. As for KL, I think they have the same problem as Range. The technology is too expensive, and is likely a dead end.

    I think Poet Can scale up. They have the most experience of anyone in the ethanol business, and management/ownership is “hands-on.” They have taken their time, and done it right. Jeff Broin was able to study Inbicon, and Abengoa, and has taken the time to build trust with the farmers that will provide his feedstock. They, also, have Built many ethanol plants. They know what it costs. In short, they have ALL the advantages. Of course, if Novozymes, and Dupont-Danisco hadn’t come through none of it would have mattered.

    Genera, to some extent, was able to “go to school” on Poet (who went to school on Inbicon.) And, again, none of it would have mattered w/o the vast improvement is affordability of the “enzymes.”

    The “Enzymes” were the Game Changer.

    [link]      
  86. By russ on May 2, 2010 at 11:26 am

    @ Robert – What the little admiral means is show him a calculation he dosen’t know how to do!

    İ don’t think he even understands what you were talking about.

     

     

    [link]      
  87. By russ on May 2, 2010 at 11:33 am

    İ should have said ‘doesn’t understand’. – Sorry about that!

    [link]      
  88. By takchess on May 2, 2010 at 12:27 pm

    Since we are meandering through Topics a little. I am interested in what people think of this arrangement which is in RR backyard.

    http://www.treehugger.com/file…..energy.php

    The combo with the electrotherm is interesting.

    [link]      
  89. By Kit P on May 2, 2010 at 12:36 pm

    You could explain it to me Russ. First
    you find out how much it the CHP costs. Then you tell me how many
    hours it runs before maintenance and the cost of that maintenance.

     

    Then Russ you would tell me how much it
    cost to heat with a natural gas and how much you spend on
    electricity.

     

    Then you could calculate the ROI and
    gain in efficiency.

     

    Neither RR or Russ can do those things
    because they do not know.

     

    If RR wants to make up some
    hypothetical case to tell me I am wrong that actually proves my
    point. Either it a gimmick or you have data. All RR has is a press
    release.

     

    For example, Russ like RR can cut and
    paste without bothering to understand what they are reading. When I
    investigated hot water heat pumps I was able to find what they cost,
    performance, and consumer reviews. If fact GE had a very good web
    site for me to make an informed choice. Currently my state is
    offering a rebate.

     

    Wait for it!

    [link]      
  90. By Kit P on May 2, 2010 at 1:20 pm

    Takchess, the solar thermal in RR’s
    back yard does not work even by renewable energy standards.

     

    How do I know. When organization have
    press release about what they are going to do, they have press
    releases about well it works. Still waiting for a press release that
    says that.

     

    Solar thermal works okay for peaking
    assuming Hawaii has similar to California daily loads as California.

    [link]      
  91. By rrapier on May 2, 2010 at 2:00 pm

    RR over and over you demonstrate your ignorance of making electricity.

    LOL! This is classic Kit. Get caught making a claim that is demonstrably false and then lash out with all sorts of insults. Priceless.

    You have to wonder if RR has even the slightest clue of the difference between a 470 MW CHP system at a refinery and a 2 kw CHP in a house.

    I do. The 470 MW system often does not have as much use for the waste heat and a larger proportion ends up being dumped in a cooling tower. Further, that was merely an example to show you that these “absurd” efficiencies of around 90% can in fact be achieved with CHP. Clearly this is news to you, but that doesn’t make it absurd to people who know about these things.

    RR apparently does not know the difference between a hot water boiler and an ICE.

    Keep going Kit. You are showing the side of you that we have all come to love. The side that gets caught showing his ignorance, and tries to compensate with insults.

    Stick to being a chemical engineer at a refinery or pony up with a calculation to back up your claims about this gimmick.

    Kit, I would have thought that this would be something you would have done before erroneously claiming that the efficiency numbers were absurd. For a CHP system – which you continue to demonstrate that you do not understand, the efficiency is (Utilized power output + Utilized thermal output)/Fuel Input. Now your turn, champ. Tell us why it is absurd to reach an efficiency of 90%. Let’s see you back up your claims with something more than bluster.

    There is nothing new with ICE being used for CHP. Every car that I have driven since used waste heat to keep passengers warm in the winter. Yet it is not something people do to heat their houses.

    Well you will have to write a letter to LichtBlick and VW and let them know. They can’t keep up with demand, but they should probably just stop since this is not something people actually do according to a technician at an electric utility. Further, there are loads of homes around the world that are heated with the water output from a CHP plant. Maybe it is you who should stick to commenting on issues that you actually grasp.

    Ethanol on the other hand is very practical. A few year after the 2005 Energy Bill we are exceeding production and Americans are enjoying E10.

    Yes, as long as it is mandated, subsidized with our taxpayer money, protected from competition by tariffs, tied to our food supply, and is enabled by cheap natural gas. You bet. That sounds like a viable long-term energy solution.

    RR

    [link]      
  92. By rrapier on May 2, 2010 at 2:10 pm

    First you find out how much it the CHP costs. Then you tell me how many hours it runs

    before maintenance and the cost of that maintenance. Then Russ you would tell

    me how much it cost to heat with a natural gas and how much you spend on electricity.

     

    Yes, Kit, because these basics are clearly the sort of thing that would have slipped the mind of two companies – one being VW mind you – developing and rolling these systems out on a large scale. They simply failed to do the most basic due diligence. One wonders how VW has been so successful since they don’t know how to do basic due diligence.

     

    Neither RR or Russ can do those things because they do not know.

     

    Kit’s ignorance on full display. I am starting to think Kit is just a little nervous about the implications for his own industry. As one utility CEO said to me last week “This could obsolete the electric utility industry.” Now I wouldn’t go quite that far, as there are lots of places that don’t need a steady supply of hot water, but it is certainly no gimmick as Kit continues to suggest.

     

    All RR has is a press release.

     

    You keep telling yourself that this is all I have, and then you can try to guess why demand for them is so high. Clearly people haven’t thought this out as you have and are all throwing their money away. Or perhaps you just don’t know much about this and yet have still decided to make conclusions. Keep in mind that your little microcosm is not the entire world.

     

    RR

     

    [link]      
  93. By rrapier on May 2, 2010 at 2:14 pm

    takchess said:

    Since we are meandering through Topics a little. I am interested in what people think of this arrangement which is in RR backyard.

    http://www.treehugger.com/file…..energy.php

    The combo with the electrotherm is interesting.


     

    Jim, this set-up works, but the power it produces is expensive. It is reported on a regular basis with monthly reports the utility files. The idea has been around for a long time, and solar thermal does have the potential to produce firm power. The real question is whether it can do so and compete with the established sources (which in Hawaii are primarily liquid fossil fuels).

    RR

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  94. By rrapier on May 2, 2010 at 2:20 pm

    The “Enzymes” were the Game Changer.

     

    If you keep telling yourself this, you are going to be scratching your head over the fact that this so-called game-changer didn’t lead to commercial plants. The fact is – and I have told you this before – that corn cobs are a pretty easy feedstock to work with. Most biomass is woody biomass, and when processed it produces all sorts of nasty inhibitors. That, more than the specifics of the process, are why KL or Iogen hasn’t scaled up.

     

    This is why I keep saying cellulosic will be a niche. There will be specific situations in which it may produce some fuel. But those will be very specific. Corn cobs may be one situation in which it works.

     

    RR

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  95. By Benny BND Cole on May 2, 2010 at 2:54 pm

    On the term”environmentalist.”  I know RR did not use it in a dismissive manner.  

    But, do we call people who support the current US defense budget “militarists”?

    I must confess, I do not have handy a better word for those who recognize the limitation of the price system in controlling pollution. 

    It will be interesting to watch how this blow-out affects the US energy debate.  I was “pro” offshore drilling. Now, I am not so sure.  I had not contemplated the costs of a deepwater blowout. 

    We can conserve so much more oil than we can ever drill offshore.  And oil prices are set on the global market, so offshore drilling will not bring prices down much. 

    We have many alternatives–natural gas, PHEVs, and with the LEAF, even BEVs. Rufus and his E85.  

    Might be time to get serious about a national energy policy.  Well, it was time 20 years ago, but better late than never. 

     

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  96. By Rufus on May 2, 2010 at 3:48 pm

    KL specializes in Pine Trees. I guess they were wanting to get those beetle-killed Pine trees for “free” feedstock. The thing is, “Trees” are Tough. They use 400 Degree Steam to soften it up. This puts their cost up to around $3.50/gal. That’s why They haven’t gone commercial.

    Iogen? Owned by Shell? – I don’t know their process. Why speculate?

    Both Inbicon (wheat straw,) and Vonore (corn cobs) list switchgrass as their next feedstock (presumably, because it’s the next easiest.) Poet is talking about licensing their process for switchgrass. If switchgrass comes in within 5 – 10% of the efficiency of cobs, and straw it sounds okay.

    Again, this really depends on the price of gasoline. If you think it’s going to stay below $3.00, forever, you’ll look at it one way. If you think we’re going to be paying higher prices, you might look at it my way.

    As for Brazil, they’ll never be a player. They’re allowed to bring in, through the Caribbean Basin Treaty, up to 7% of our prior year’s production Exempt from the Ethanol Tariff, and they’ve never come close to reaching their allotment. Cane isn’t nearly as great a feedstock as many of those that were trying to kill “corn” were making it out to be. It’s highly labor intensive (Brazil will, eventually, have to crack down on the “semi-slave” labor. In fact they prosecuted one of the large companies for it last year,) and cane has to be processed within 3 weeks of harvest. That means your refinery sits idle most of the year.

    Their transportation system is a mess (very few railroads,) and Petrobras has held back any progress on any pipelines. Brazil is a Socialist mess of a country, and will never be able to compete with a local Tunica Co. biorefinery in supplying ethanol to Tunica, Ms. Just ain’t gonna happen. With tariffs, without tariffs, with tax credit, w/o tax credit.

    BTW, notice I have not used the producer, or blenders tax credits in any of my calculations. I, personally, think you would have to be a moron to commit tens of millions of dollars to an ethanol refinery whose profit depended upon what the U.S. Congress was going, or not going, to do next year.

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  97. By rrapier on May 2, 2010 at 4:32 pm

    They, also, have Built many ethanol plants. They know what it costs.

     

    They have never built a cellulosic ethanol plant, and that is a significantly different animal. Many more process steps, and a more complex purification system. Also a substantially different biomass handling area.

    [link]      
  98. By Kit P on May 2, 2010 at 4:57 pm

    “I do. The 470 MW system ..”

     

    But RR, you did not give any data on a
    2 kw system. You demonstrated no knowledge of the 2 kw system. To
    know the difference, you have to know both systems. You keep making
    the same claims without supporting information.

     

    RR you brought it up, now follow
    through.

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  99. By Kit P on May 2, 2010 at 5:38 pm

    “Jim, this set-up works, but the
    power it produces is expensive. It is reported on a regular basis
    with monthly reports the utility files.”

     

    Do you have a link? What is your
    criteria for working? 2%, 5%, 10%, 20% 90% capacity factor.

     

    To hear the solar advocated talk the
    power is free.

     

    One utility scale PV plant predicted 20
    % CF and got 19%. It works!

    [link]      
  100. By rrapier on May 2, 2010 at 5:58 pm

    Kit P said:

    But RR, you did not give any data on a 2kw system. You demonstrated no knowledge of the 2 kw system. To know the difference, you have to know both systems. You keep making the same claims without supporting information.

     

    RR you brought it up, now follow through.


     

    Kit, you have asked for efficiency equations. You have received them and I asked you to show me where you think 90% efficiency is “absurd.” You made that claim, and I want to see you explain it. I am still waiting for you to demonstrate that you have any clue as to how these systems work. The measure of efficiency is going to be based on how much of the hot water can be utilized. That will vary on a day to day basis. If I have a consistent demand for hot water, I can achieve consistently high efficiencies. When you understand this, you will understand that an efficiency calculation is only done if you know details on how the hot water is utilized.

     

    So instead of generically asking for more information – while ignoring the information I have given you – why don’t you specify the exact information you require to evaluate a 2 kw system (which this isn’t, by the way)? Further, why don’t you explain how to use the information I give you? Finally, shouldn’t you have asked these questions from the beginning before declaring it to be a gimmick? A little additional background reading for you:

     

    http://www.spiegel.de/internat…..35,00.html

     

    That claims an efficiency of 94%, which is probably achievable at times (if you understand how to use the equation I gave you, you can think of cases in which that might be) but won’t be consistently achievable.

     

    RR

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  101. By Kit P on May 2, 2010 at 7:51 pm

     

    “Kit, you have asked for efficiency
    equations.”

     

    No, I asked you to plug in the numbers
    to support your claim.

     

    “When you understand this, you will
    understand that an efficiency calculation is only done if you know
    details on how the hot water is utilized.”

     

    Duh! So you are saying you do not
    know. That what I thought.

     

    It is a gimmick RR.

     

    “but won’t be consistently
    achievable.”

     

    No really! Excuse my sarcasm but your
    childish answer deserves it. You made a claim RR and now are backing
    off. So what per cent of the time do you think it is achievable?

     

    “A little additional background
    reading for you:”

     

    Further supporting my claim.

     

    “Nor did they have a concrete idea of
    how the relatively expensive (€20,000 or $29,000) mini thermal
    plants would be able to survive in a competitive energy market.”

     

    For $29,000 I think you would want to
    know what the ROI is.

     

    “If all goes according to plan,
    Volkswagen’s auto-production facilities in Salzgitter will be able to
    churn out 10,000 mini powerplants every year.”

     

    From the VW press release:

     

    “LichtBlick plans to network 100,000
    of these home power plants to form the largest power plant in
    Germany,” Friege explained.”

     

    So RR, how is there plan working?
    According to RR they can not keep up with demand. I am skeptical but
    I am still waiting for fool cells in every house. As least those
    make less noise.

     

    Hypothetically that is.

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  102. By rrapier on May 2, 2010 at 8:37 pm

    No, I asked you to plug in the numbers to support your claim.

     

    You asked for me to pony up a calculation. I have given you the equation, which you seem to be completely unfamiliar with. Now I want you to show me where it is absurd that a unit can operate at 90% efficiency? I can plug in numbers for you based on the efficiency of the engine, and then make assumptions about the utilization of the hot water. In reality, this will vary on a day to day basis, and the efficiency will be much higher in some applications. But I want you to show me why 90% is absurd. Your claim. Back it up. You have the equation. You just don’t know how to use it.

     

    Duh! So you are saying you do not know. That what I thought.

     

    Is English your first language? I said nothing remotely resembling that. I said it depends on the application. If I am heating a home in a cold weather climate, then the efficiency will be ultimately defined on the temperature that the water feeds in and is returned at.

     

    No really! Excuse my sarcasm but your childish answer deserves it. You made a claim RR and now are backing off. So what per cent of the time do you think it is achievable?

     

    Stick your sarcasm where it belongs. You are being sarcastic because once more you didn’t read for comprehension. I said I don’t think 94% is consistently achievable. That is not me backing off on my claim, because my claim was that efficiencies were around 90%. But you continue to show ignorance here. You should just stop and try to learn a bit more about these systems so you stop looking so foolish. I repeat, efficiency will be a case by case situation depending on the utilization of the hot water. If there is zero utilization, then you won’t have a good efficiency. This does not seem to be sinking in, so you resort to insults and sarcasm.

     

    Further supporting my claim.

     

    You haven’t supported any of your claims. I am still waiting for you to show me why 90% is absurd.

     

    For $29,000 I think you would want to know what the ROI is.

     

    Well, first they don’t cost $29,000. That was VWs projection before joining up with LichtBlick, which you would have understood had you read the next paragraph. The total cost is less than $29,000, but the cost to the consumer is only around $7,000 which covers installation and maintenance. Second, you never seem to be concerned with the overall costs of ethanol. If we could get heavy subsidies, these engines could be “free” courtesy of taxpayers. Would that be OK then? I guess so, applying your criteria for corn ethanol. Third, if you are interested in buying one, you will certainly get to review all of the ROI models to make sure this is the right fit for your family’s energy needs.

     

    So RR, how is there plan working?

     

    I already told you. They can’t keep up with demand, and have a backlog of orders. Many of these units have been in place for a long time in Hamburg, so they have a lot of data already to support the roll-out.

     

    Now, you are wasting my time unless you back up your claim that 90% efficiency is absurd. If you don’t do so in the next post, then we know you can’t; that you were just spouting off. You can tell us all day that this won’t work, but in the meantime they are working. This isn’t like some hypothetical fuel cell in people’s homes. These actually exist in lots of homes already. (Of course if the tables were turned and we were talking about ethanol you would be complaining that I am being negative about what can’t be done while people are out there doing it).

     

    RR

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  103. By Rufus on May 2, 2010 at 10:35 pm

    What is this thing you ll are talking about? An ICE? Runs on Nat Gas? Produces electricity, and waste heat? Good for an area where you have nat gas, but no electricity? Where would that be?

    Sounds nuts.

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  104. By rrapier on May 2, 2010 at 10:49 pm

    Good for an area where you have nat gas, but no electricity?

    No, good for an area where you have natural gas, and need more electricity. Ideal and most efficient for cold climates that need heat most of the year. Not so ideal for temperature climates, but may work well for climates that need AC year round as the waste heat can be used to boil a refrigerant.

    These units are being added to replace old furnaces and boilers, and are being used to feed electricity back into the grid. So they are being used to deal with demand growth – not a lack of electricity.

    RR

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  105. By Rufus on May 2, 2010 at 11:00 pm

    If I owned it it would break down on the coldest night of the Century. I’ll pass.

    I do need to buy a small emergency generator, though. One that’ll run on ethanol, I guess. :)

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  106. By rrapier on May 2, 2010 at 11:16 pm

    If I owned it it would break down on the coldest night of the Century. I’ll pass.

    Nah, it isn’t like biodiesel, which can’t handle the cold. These things are made by VW.

    RR

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  107. By Wendell Mercantile on May 2, 2010 at 11:31 pm

    …corn cobs are a pretty easy feedstock to work with.

    But corn cobs only magnify the logistics problem because they have such a low density. Back in the days of the pioneers on the Great Plains, they would only burn corn cobs for heat as a last resort because a corn cob fire requires almost constant feeding to keep it going.

    Speaking of buring corn stover: I was traveling in the countryside yesterday and saw a corn field that had several hundred huge round bales of stover waiting to be picked up. Whoever did it had cleared the field right down to nothing but dried corn stalks only about 2″ high. They didn’t leave much stover to decompose back into the soil to sustain its tilth.

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  108. By Rufus on May 2, 2010 at 11:40 pm

    If it’s an infernal combustion engine it’ll “break down.” And, if it’s mine, it won’t break down at any but the worst time.

    I just can’t see it. There’s a market for a few thousand, perhaps, tens of thousands, of almost anything. And I guess a ($20,000.00 ?) subsidy will bring a few more, but I don’t think it’ll ever “play in Peoria.”

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  109. By Kit P on May 3, 2010 at 8:36 am

    Here is the calculation that RR can not
    do.

     

    Since heating and hot water is already
    provided by natural gas, 6000 kwh is needed for electricity. That
    means the CHP is running at 34 % capacity factor. At 10 cents a kwh,
    that is a 48 year pack period, 72 years if maintenance is included.

     

    Assuming that the heat is needed 50 %
    of the time, the averaged gain in thermal efficiencies would be:

     

    (90-40)/2 = 25%

     

    Or 65%

     

    Not bad but it illustrates the issue
    with CHP, you need a very large demand for process heat.

     

    “only has to pay for the energy
    actually used — a sum significantly lower (or so Lichtblick claims)
    than the cost of heating with gas.”

     

    RR claims the cost are lower but
    someone has the pay the costs. I think I could do it for $10k but
    that is still 25 year pack period. Cut the cost again, 12.5 year
    pack period.

     

    My data is ten years old but using the
    same technologies, we can get ROI acceptable to utilities on the 1
    MWe scale using dairy farm manure.

     

    From VW

     

    “LichtBlick plans to network 100,000
    of these home power plants to form the largest power plant in
    Germany,” Friege explained. With an output of 2,000 megawatts,
    this decentralized power plant will have the same capacity as two
    atomic power plants.”

     

    RR says,

     

    “Second, you never seem to be
    concerned with the overall costs of ethanol. If we could get heavy
    subsidies, these engines could be “free” courtesy of taxpayers.”

     

    The issue here is increasing the
    productivity of your workers while reducing the demand for foreign
    sources of energy with the net result being a higher tax base.

     

    The French have a plan also. They are
    building a 1600 MWe nuke plant with a design life of 60 years and a
    CF of 95%. While the thermal efficiencies do not meet RR criteria,
    this source of electricity does not depend on NG from Russia.

     

    “I already told you. They can’t
    keep up with demand, and have a backlog of orders.”

     

    I do not find RR a very credible source
    of information on energy for producing electricity. How many have
    they sold, how much electricity has been produced, how much NG has
    been saved?

     

    When RR knows those things, he will be
    then be forced to agree that it is a gimmick.

     

     

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  110. By Kit P on May 3, 2010 at 8:54 am

    “Sounds nuts.”

     

    The NG is supplied with the permission
    of Putin.

     

    “These things are made by VW.”

     

    Now that is funny.

     

    “I do need to buy a small emergency
    generator ..”

     

    I do not recommend it unless you live
    some where electricity supply is unreliable and you have special
    needs like being on a respirator. A better plan is to have an
    emergency supply food and water. I have my emergency supply of
    firewood in case an ice storm takes out power. Since we have
    underground utilities, it is not very likely.

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  111. By Rufus on May 3, 2010 at 12:39 pm

    N. Ms loses electricity quite often in the Winter. I’m “all-Electric,” also.

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  112. By rrapier on May 3, 2010 at 12:50 pm

    Since heating and hot water is already

    provided by natural gas, 6000 kwh is needed for electricity. That

    means the CHP is running at 34 % capacity factor. At 10 cents a kwh,

    that is a 48 year pack period, 72 years if maintenance is included.

     

    Fail. Multiple times Kit has been asked to back up his claim that 90% efficiency was absurd, and this is the handwave he comes up with. Your calculation is wrong right out of the gate because you made three fundamental mistakes in your assumptions. First, you don’t have the cost correct, so your payback numbers are wrong. Further, your capacity factor is way off, because these engines actually feed electricity back into the grid; they aren’t merely dependent on what the consumer uses. These things are networked together, which is why this isn’t the same thing Honda was selling. Finally, your cost assumptions for electricity are completely wrong. Remember, your microcosm is not the world.

     

    Assuming that the heat is needed 50 %

    of the time, the averaged gain in thermal efficiencies would be:

     

    (90-40)/2 = 25%

     

    LOL! Kit suggests that I can’t do a calculation, and then he proceeds to butcher it. That is NOT how you calculate the efficiency for a CHP plant. You probably should stick to areas you are more familiar with, instead of trying to baffle everyone with BS. I asked you multiple times to back up your contention, and it is clear that you can’t. The 90% already contains an assumption on how often the heat is needed. As I have said multiple times (and which you merely repeat as if you are telling us something new) you need certain heating demands for this to make sense. But you can’t calculate the efficiency without knowing the average temperature of the water leaving and returning to the system. You also have to know the efficiency of the engine. Real engineers understand that. Pseudo-engineers try to BS.

     

    Nice try at convincing people you know what you are talking about. I especially like how you opened with “RR can’t do the calculation” and then proceeding to hand-waving. So Kit, I am sorry but I do not find you to be a very credible person on the topic of producing electricity – despite your claims of expertise.

     

    RR

     

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  113. By Rufus on May 3, 2010 at 1:08 pm

    This is a Monster.

    Starting this fall, all new 2011 Buick Regals will have flex-fuel capability. The first boatloads of Regals from Germany have begun rolling off at the docks in New Jersey this past week and are being sent out to dealers. The first several months of Regal production will all be powered by a gasoline-only version of General Motors’ normally aspirated 2.4.-liter inline four.

    Once the 2.0-liter direct injected turbo four starts arriving in late August both engines will be able to run on either gasoline or E85 ethanol. The turbo will be GM’s first production E85-capable turbocharged and direct-injected engine. The engine was originally developed for the new Saab 9-5 which rides on the same Epsilon II platform as the Regal; GM decided to install it in the U.S.-spec Buick as well. The new Regal has been available in China since late 2008.

    According Jim Federico, vehicle line executive for the global mid-size platform, combining direct injection and turbocharging will allow the new engine to get much closer to the volumetric fuel efficiency of gasoline while running on ethanol. Until now, normally aspirated flex-fuel engines typically have gotten about 15 percent worse fuel efficiency on ethanol. The Regal engine should cut that deficit to the mid-single digits and future versions should be closer.

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  114. By Rufus on May 3, 2010 at 1:21 pm

    5% loss of fuel economy (and, going to get better,) and more power on a fuel that’s selling for $1.86 gal in the Midwest.

    There’s a New Sheriff in town. This is HUGE!

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  115. By rrapier on May 3, 2010 at 1:25 pm

    By the way, Kit:

     

    I do not find RR a very credible source

    of information on energy for producing electricity. How many have

    they sold, how much electricity has been produced, how much NG has

    been saved?

     

    Do not ask me questions if you merely dismiss the answers when I give them to you. You asked a question and I gave the answer. I don’t know if they have released publicly the numbers that have been sold, but they hoped to sell 10,000 in the first year, and they have been unable to keep up with demand. So you can read between the lines even if the information has not been made publicly available.

     

    RR

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  116. By Wendell Mercantile on May 3, 2010 at 1:27 pm

    Here’s another plan for you Rufus: Anaerobic digestion or gasification of the sludge from your sewage. Couple that with your garage-based enzyme converter, and you should be able to go completely off the grid. ;-)

    Sludge, the solids that remain after sewage has been cleaned into effluent, has a high B.T.U. content (a measurement of fuel’s energy); it burns efficiently and well. Other aspects of wastewater treatment can also reap energy: anaerobic digestion (whereby bacteria munch on the organic contents) produces methane, which with turbines can become combined heat or power. Microbial fuel cells can use bacteria to get electricity from sewage, while gasification, a high-temperature process, can reap fuel-ready gas from sludge. Why continue to flush away a resource whose value, even under the dim light of a sewer gas lamp, should be blindingly obvious?

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  117. By Wendell Mercantile on May 3, 2010 at 1:32 pm

    …combining direct injection and turbocharging will allow the new engine to get much closer to the volumetric fuel efficiency of gasoline while running on ethanol.

    It definitely has potential Rufus. I’ve known Saab has been playing around with this for the last several years. It’s kind of surprising to see GM actually take advantage of it.

    Now if we can just speed along the process of not needing to use corn for the vast majority of our ethanol.

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  118. By Rufus on May 3, 2010 at 1:36 pm

    Eventually, Mercantile, ALL sewage, livestock manure, etc will go through an anaerobic digester, I think. It’s not new technology (Brooklyn, for example, has been doing it for a long time,) but it’s not as easy as some make it out to be.

    Dairy Farms have been doing this, with varying degrees of success, for a few years. The good operations have done Very well. The ones that went about it haphazardly, thinking it was going to be “easy,” have had problems.

    It’s a Big plus, though. The dry residue is an excellent fertilizer, and completely safe. Depending on whose figures you use you could provide the electricity for 15, or 20 million houses in the U.S. just off Cattle Manure, alone.

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  119. By Rufus on May 3, 2010 at 1:40 pm

    Well, THAT does it. The Rapture is, indeed, upon us. Wendell, and Rufus agree on two things, back to back.

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  120. By Wendell Mercantile on May 3, 2010 at 2:27 pm

    Dairy Farms have been doing this, with varying degrees of success, for a few years.

    We have several dairy farms in my area that have installed anaerobic digesters. I support that fully. Even a couple that have digesters and large utility-scale wind turbines on their farms. In my opinion, those farmers are on the leading edge.

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  121. By takchess on May 3, 2010 at 4:16 pm

    The scrutiny on cementing will focus attention on Halliburton Co., the oilfield-services firm that was handling the cementing process on the rig, which burned and sank last week.

    http://online.wsj.com/article/…..stpop_read

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  122. By moiety on May 3, 2010 at 4:36 pm

    With regard to anerobic digestion

     

    http://www.inforse.dk/europe/w…..as_ENG.doc

     

    Perhaps a separate thread.

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  123. By Rufus on May 3, 2010 at 5:38 pm

    Oops, I got so excited I forgot the link.

    http://green.autoblog.com/2010…..this-fall/

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  124. By Kit P on May 3, 2010 at 10:14 pm

    Wendell you are correct dairy farms
    anaerobic digesters are both a good way to make electricity and
    reduce the environmental impact of farming. I recall reading a
    report on a farm in Wisconsin who biogas output was higher that
    theoretically possible. The report did not speculate about the
    reason but the dairy farm used shredded newspaper for for bedding.
    Dairy cow manure contains enzymes that break down cellulose (that
    what cows do).

     

    Here is a link to the AGSTAR program:

    http://www.epa.gov/agstar/index.html

     

    The project data that Moiety provided
    are examples of how the Netherlands and Germans are at the cutting
    edge with termophilic anaerobic digesters. While we are talking
    about hundreds of on farm anaerobic digesters, the EU has thousands.
    The feed in tariffs in Germany make a lot of that happen.

     

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  125. By moiety on May 4, 2010 at 3:08 am

    The real advantage for these is the CO2 reduction; for the skinnerup site in the reference payback is at best 7 years on total investment based on fuel oil savings and electrical revenue.

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  126. By Kit P on May 4, 2010 at 6:38 am

    The largest benefit of dairy farms
    anaerobic digesters in the semi-arid western US is reduction of wind
    erosion a significant natural cause of water pollution. Without
    irrigated agriculture the area is a dust bowl.

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  127. By Lila on May 10, 2010 at 6:11 pm

    I don’t get anything your saying………… too confusing for my little brain :(

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  128. By Lila on May 10, 2010 at 6:13 pm

    I am doing a paper on stopping oil rigs do you think we should stop oil rigs or not??? just reply cuz i dont feel like reading the whole website :)

     

    -LILA :P

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  129. By rrapier on May 10, 2010 at 11:27 pm

    Lila said:

    I am doing a paper on stopping oil rigs do you think we should stop oil rigs or not??? just reply cuz i dont feel like reading the whole website :)

     

    -LILA :P


     

    It depends on what people are willing to give up. If they aren’t going to voluntarily give up a large portion of their fuel consumption – and drilling stops – then shortages may result. So I guess people would be giving fuel consumption whether they wanted to or not.

     

    I will be honest; I would like to see us drop our oil consumption so we don’t have to go to the ends of the earth to get oil. But in the society we have built, there will be implications if we stop oil rigs. So you just need to consider what those implications may be.

     

    RR

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  130. By moiety on May 11, 2010 at 2:57 am

    One of which is that ~15% of crude oil goes into making other commodities such as plastics and bulk chemicals. Stopping oil 100% will stop many things aside from fuel.

     

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  131. By Lila on May 11, 2010 at 8:11 pm

    Thanks for the help! This is a very confusing subject because of the many different opinions but I appreciate the reply :)

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  132. By BERGE JOULAKIAN on May 16, 2010 at 9:03 am

    To stop the leak, can’t you simply insert an inflatable cap in side the pipe and inflate it?

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  133. By Kit P on May 16, 2010 at 1:17 pm

    From NEI

    http://neinuclearnotes.blogspo…..tomic.html

     

    “One of the issues of the oil spill
    in the gulf has been the issue of liability – that is, how much on
    the hook should BP, in this case, be for the spill. Currently the
    figure is $75 million.”

     

    “The Price Anderson Act – the world’s
    first comprehensive nuclear liability law – has since 1957 been
    central to addressing the question of liability for nuclear accident.
    It now provides $10 billion in cover without cost to the public or
    government and without fault needing to be proven. It covers power
    reactors, research reactors, and all other nuclear facilities.”

     

     

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  134. By vicente gutierrez on May 16, 2010 at 4:20 pm

    just crimp the pipe if one crimp doesn’t work then multiple crimps should do it

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  135. By vicente gutierrez on May 16, 2010 at 4:20 pm

    just crimp the pipe if one crimp doesn’t work then multiple crimps should do it

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  136. By Kit P on May 21, 2010 at 12:56 pm

     

    “Navy pollution response experts have shipped 98,000 feet of oil containment boom as of May 20, to the Gulf of Mexico, as part of the combined effort to reduce the environmental impact of the underwater oil spill at an exploratory oil rig off the coast of Louisiana.”

     

    http://www.navy.mil/search/dis…..y_id=53517

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  137. By Rev on June 20, 2010 at 11:04 pm

    June, 20th, 2010AD,
    Dear Blogdesk;
    At least the oil is organic and that should make it easier to mop up with the latest spongebob technologies, Bob being the name of the newly retired BP CEOs yaucht as featured in the JP Morgan Yaucht Race off the South Coast of the British Isles. Bob went forth and actually came in fourth, truly amazing performance! Presently, 33,000 clean-up personnel and twenty billion dollars are assembled in the Gulf Coast region and a bank in the world oil capitol of Houston, near the fabled Texan Riviera, site of much global condominium investments and wonderful oil personnel from around planet earth, the best of the “small people.” The Hurricane could be rounding the Florida Keys past Castro’s mansion near Habana, Kooba, and hopefully does not pull a Jackson Pollack, splattering a blender of pollock and extra-virgin organic oil plumes all across the Gulf Sates and inland a hundred miles. The Oil spill, now larger than Kansas, is that 50,000 square miles could also reach the peaceful country of Mexico quite soonish, where humble peasants dependent on subsistence mail order pinyata migrations only during brief periods in order to send great grandparents to correspondence schools…in summary; energy, real estate, tourism, airlines, cruiseships, banking, exotic latte baristas and chimachunga farmers msut simply wait, eyes glued to the weather radio with lighted candles at the ready!!!!

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  138. By russ on June 22, 2010 at 9:31 am

    Crimp off the pipe? Kind of like putting a paper clip on it?

    The damage seems to be well below the seafloor – just a bit difficult to do on the surface and impossible down there!

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  139. By GPS Tracker on October 20, 2011 at 1:18 pm

    I may only be a GPS Tracker specialist, but I think the BP incident should still be receiving mainstream attention. The Gulf has still not healed from Katrina or the oil spill, but it is like everybody has already forgotten about the incidents.

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  140. By GPS Tracker on October 20, 2011 at 1:14 pm

    IMO, BP was never held to the level of accountability they should have been. Did they fork over billions? Yes, but the horrific damage they caused from negligence cost more than billions of dollars. Hopefully, we learned something from this disaster to prevent it from ever happening again

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