Posts tagged “methanol”
My Energy Quest in the Desert
Some readers are aware that I am presently in Arizona working on a project. At some point I will write an in-depth article about the things I am working on, but today I want to pull the curtain back just a bit.
In a series of articles in 2010, I wrote about methanol’s potential as an alternative fuel. I dealt with the common criticisms about methanol — toxicity, corrosion, energy density — and I argued that methanol was a more economical and better technical solution to diversifying our energy options away from oil than is corn ethanol. (In fact, it doesn’t have to be either/or, but methanol has never stood a chance against corn ethanol politics).
In response to my methanol articles, BiofuelsDigest wrote Methanol: Biofuel to love or hate?, which suggested that I might have a conflict of interest with my defense of methanol. My response to that was that I had zero financial interests in methanol, and my company had zero financial interests in methanol. We had never produced methanol, and we had no plans to produce methanol. So there was no conflict of interest except as someone who was interested in the technical and economic merits of methanol from an energy policy standpoint. CONTINUE»
Can Oil Supplies Grow Fast Enough to Keep Prices in Check?
I, along with my editor Sam Avro, recently conducted a broad-ranging interview with John Hofmeister, former President of Shell Oil and currently the head of Citizens for Affordable Energy, a non-profit group whose aim is to promote sound U.S. energy security solutions for the nation. In the first part of this interview Mr. Hofmeister spoke of A Difficult Decade Ahead For Oil Prices and Supplies. In this installment, he sets forth his vision of a sound energy policy for America.
The Hofmeister Energy Plan
Mr. Hofmeister’s plan consists of the following elements:
- Set a national objective in the United States to get back to the production level of the 1970s and 80s of 10 million barrels a day;
- Reduce our imports by 5 million barrels a day by using natural gas as an alternative to the internal combustion engine oil products:
- Use compressed natural gas for trucking to displace 2 million barrels a day of imported oil, and,
- Convert natural gas to methanol for flex fuel engines to reduce imports by another 3 million barrels a day;
- Continue the journey toward more higher efficiency automobiles and continue the journey to more electrified vehicles as well, both batteries and hydrogen fuel cells.
Last week I received an email from John Bockris, a retired Distinguished Professor from Texas A&M University. I presume Professor Bockris had come across some of my writings on methanol, as that was the topic of his correspondence. I don’t think Professor Bockris realized that we had met when I was a first year chemistry graduate student at Texas A&M. At that time he was one of the most well-known professors in the chemistry department. (See also: Methanol versus Ethanol: Technical Merits and Political Favoritism)
I asked for permission to publish our correspondence, and permission was granted. My reply to him is in blue. Just one correction. He referred to me as Dr. Rapier. When I was halfway through my chemistry Ph.D. at Texas A&M, it had become clear to me that chemical engineering salaries were much higher. So I switched to the chemical engineering department and got my Master of Science degree. Thus, I am merely “Mr. Rapier”, or more preferably just “Robert.”
I include his contact information in case anyone wants to engage with him about methanol. CONTINUE»
As I wrote yesterday, I believe that the U.S. is moving fundamentally towards a point where it will be a major net exporter of energy, especially of refined oil products.
Everything we’re hearing now in the political sphere and in the press is about how bad the spike in gas prices is for the American economy. But – if we are to become a major energy producer – that cannot be true. It is no longer the case that high oil prices are unrelentingly bad for our economy: they’re only bad for oil consumers. Here in DC, we’re pounded by API’s ad campaign that three are over 9 million people directly employed by the oil and natural gas industry. In a total national workforce of 154 million, that means that almost 6% of the workforce is employed by the industry.
Certainly, we’ve seen the low unemployment rate in North Dakota as proof that an energy boom can create jobs. Last fall, the Wall Street Journal ran a very widely read article, “The Non-Green Jobs Boom” saying how clean energy was failing to produce jobs, but there were lots in traditional energy sources.
Just a note that this weekend I leave for an extended business trip, with visits to Seattle, Washington D.C., Germany, Massachusetts, Vermont, and California. I will be on the road for about four weeks, but will try to keep to my schedule of posting new columns on Mondays and Thursdays. Next Monday I will have a story up on Virent’s progress in producing gasoline from biomass, and following that I have a number of stories and guest posts to choose from. I was recently asked to participate in an energy roundtable at Focus on China’s Energy Future and the Shale Gas Question. It is no secret that I feel that China’s moves stand to continue sending shock waves through the… Continue»
I began to hear rumors about a week ago that Range Fuels had started to produce some methanol from their plant in Soperton, Georgia. This week they announced that they have indeed begun to make some product: Range Fuels Finally Gets its Cellulosic Plant Running Georgia — After a two year delay, Range Fuels is producing methanol fuel from its commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol facility in Georgia. The company initially said the plant in Georgia would be producing up to 20 million gallons of fuel in 2008. Then it got pushed back to 2009. It is now finally operating in the second quarter of 2010. The delay is not out of the ordinary for cellulosic ethanol producers. Because of the technical… Continue»
The previous essay sparked a lively discussion about the potential of methanol as a fuel, so I decided to write an essay particularly devoted to methanol. I was especially motivated to write this because of hypocrites who profess to be all about renewable energy and weaning the U.S. off of foreign oil – which explains their rabid support for corn ethanol – and then when the conversation turns to methanol they start to bad mouth it. When talking about methanol, hypocrites will tell you that “it is toxic.” But these people have never raised that issue over highly toxic denatured ethanol. They speculate that capital costs will be low for cellulosic ethanol but high for methanol. They complain about the… Continue»
I just became aware that BiofuelsDigest wrote a story on my recent blog on Range Fuels, and got some comments back from Range Fuels’ CEO David Aldous: Battle of the Falling Timbers Aldous said pretty much what I would expect the CEO of Range Fuels to say. He defended his company, and complained that the funding includes money for future phases. That may be, but it is true that Range recently went back to the DOE for more money. If they are already funded for future phases, then why not show us what you can do before asking for more money now? The truth is that the early public statements from those involved with Range – prior to them getting… Continue»
A couple of people have now written to ask for comments on the story from Green Car Congress about the Polish CO2 to methanol scheme. Here is the story:Report: Polish Power Plant and University to Cooperate on CO2 to Methanol Trial Here is the bit I immediately focused on: Nazimek says his “artificial photosynthesis” process is based on the photocatalytic conversion of water and carbon dioxide under deep ultraviolet light. Synthesis of 1 kmole (32 kg) of CH3OH from CO2 and H2O requires 586MJ of energy, according to Nazimek’s calculations. (Methanol has a HHV of 22.7 MJ/kg, or 726 MJ/kmole). So the implication there is that you are getting more energy in the form of methanol than you put into… Continue»
I am still traveling for a few days, and will be back in Scotland on January 13th. One of the e-mails I received while I was traveling was a guest submission. The author wrote: Mr. Rapier After reading a bit of your blog, I am sending this to you in the spirit of promoting a lively debate. Please find attached a practical approach to achieving energy independence. It is a construction project rather than a research project. It does require some tinkering with the market; however, the energy market is not a free market today and the governments setting the price of oil are either overtly or covertly hostile to our interests. The plan is simple and for the most… Continue»