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Friday, February 9, 2018

THE FUTURE OF ENERY: Biofuels and the Open Ocean

The future of energy has become one of my favorite talks around the world.  Yesterday, I focused on the state of electricity today.  Most of government funding around the world on clean energy for the past half a century has gone to sustainable electricity production.

However, some battery R&D has helped shape the current dominance of lithium batteries for all forms of storage, including transport.  One asks, what happened to other forms of ground transportation options, and biofuels come to mind.  It's as simple as this:
  • As long as petroleum sells for less than $100/barrel ($2.38/gallon), the exotic ethanol, butanol and methanol pathways will remain non-competitive.  Ethanol from corn was a debacle, for most of this bio-alcohol came from corn, raising the price of this commodity and hugely affecting the cost of grains.   American farmers loved it.  Tax credits for ethanol expired six years ago.
  • In time, cellulosic bioethanol should become competitive.  Not now.
  • Biomethanol from the gasification and catalysis of biomass continues to show good promise, especially for the direct methanol fuel cell to replace lithium batteries to serve as the bridge to, one day, hydrogen.  Can't believe it was almost a decade ago that I wrote in the Huffington PostSimple Solutions for our Biofuel Problem.
  • Entepreneurs have long been promising algae biofuels for $1/gallon.  First, this will not happen and second, with some comprehensive R&D over the next decade, biofuels from microorganisms could well become competitive when oil reaches $150/barrel.  While "bugs" are at least twice as efficient in converting sunlight into biomass than any land crop, the high moisture content and nature of the process make this pathway very challenging.
Any progress on sustainable powering of ships at sea?  Well, the Royal Navy has Astute, a nuclear submarine capable of operating for a quarter century.  A typical aircraft carrier does not have to be refueled for 20 years.  But a nuclear-powered ship for transport and industrial application?  I would not be surprised if this begins for shipping.
  • The Eco Marine Power Aquarius MRE system is experimenting with tapping into both the winds and sunlight, together, where the sails are of photovoltaic cells.
  • There is the B9 ship concept for cargo using sail propulsion for 60% of the power and bio-bas for ancillary engines.
  • The Aghina Marina, a kite ship using sky sails, has been proposed.  Ten years ago the U.S. Military Sealift Command used a kite to power the MV Beluga SkySails, a 400-foot cargo ship.
  • The Flettner Rotor Ship utilized vertical spinning cylinders.  German engineer Anton Flettner used Magnus effect propulsion as early as 1922.  Here on the Windagain PTE Ltd.
  • The NYK Super Eco-Ship has been designed for operation by 2030.  NYK is Japan's Nippon Yusen Kaisha.

6.  STX Eoseas hopes to reduce power and carbon emissions by 50%, using duel fuel LNG diesel electric generator sets and sails:

  • Finally the Wallenius Wilhelmsen's E/S Orcelle, which will release no emissions into the atmosphere.  It will combine sails, solar panels and wave energy converters to generate 100% of vessel's needs.  The ship will transport cars and goods around the world.  The orcelle is an endangered south-east Asian dolphin, and E/S stands for Environmentally Sound.  When,?Maybe in 20 years.

All the above and I haven't even yet mentioned ocean thermal energy conversion and the Blue Revolution. Over the next few days I will post on them, next generation air travel and fusion, then dabble into how Dark Energy could well become the ultimate source.


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