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Synthetic fuels could create 'new economy'


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#1    Render

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Posted 05 December 2012 - 10:37 AM

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The United States could eliminate the need for crude oil by using a combination of coal, natural gas and non-food crops to make synthetic fuel, a team of Princeton researchers has found.
Besides economic and national security benefits, the plan has potential environmental advantages. Because plants absorb carbon dioxide to grow, the United States could cut vehicle greenhouse emissions by as much as 50 percent in the next several decades using non-food crops to create liquid fuels, the researchers said.
Synthetic fuels would be an easy fit for the transportation system because they could be used directly in automobile engines and are almost identical to fuels refined from crude oil. That sets them apart from currently available biofuels, such as ethanol, which have to be mixed with gas or require special engines.

http://www.princeton...tion=topstories


#2    and then

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Posted 05 December 2012 - 11:33 AM

I seem to recall Germany relying on a form of this later in WWII due to lack of petroleum.  It makes more sense to me than the same tired approach to wind and solar.  I have nothing against either but they have not proven viable in the scale they would be needed so it's time to find an alternative to the alternatives.

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#3    Render

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Posted 05 December 2012 - 11:39 AM

View Postand then, on 05 December 2012 - 11:33 AM, said:

I seem to recall Germany relying on a form of this later in WWII due to lack of petroleum.  It makes more sense to me than the same tired approach to wind and solar.  I have nothing against either but they have not proven viable in the scale they would be needed so it's time to find an alternative to the alternatives.

you are correct
The Role of Synthetic Fuel
In World War II Germany


http://www.airpower....-aug/becker.htm

Germans & Synthetic Fuel.


After World War I, the Germans began to look strongly at synthetic fuel production.  The naval blockades, imposed on the Germans during World War 1  had taught them a lesson.  Also, they were alarmed by reports, rampant then as now, that oil reserves around the world were about to be exhausted (Peak Oil!).    When Hitler came to power, he was determined to make Germany independent of imported oil (sounds familiar?) and it was only natural that a high-technology country such as Germany, with large deposits of coal and lignite, would turn to the production of synthetic fuel from coal and lignite.


The various processes involved in producing synthetic fuel are discussed in the previously referenced article by Dr. Becker. One such chemical process of utmost importance was the Fischer-Tropsch Process.   Hydrogenation of coal and lignite played a key role in the synthetic producing processes.


(It should be noted that modifications of the Fischer - Tropsch Process are in use today and the process is used in some efforts to produce a suitable synthetic liquid fuel from non-petroleum products.)


http://vanrcook.trip...uelshortage.htm



Oil from Coal in World War II Germany

http://www.brighthub...les/100044.aspx




#4    Doug1o29

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Posted 05 December 2012 - 01:54 PM

View PostRender, on 05 December 2012 - 10:37 AM, said:

Synthetic fuels are a two-edged sword.  Turning coal and natural gas into synthetic crude does not reduce carbon pollution; it just shifts it to a new source.

Using farm land to grow fuel crops takes those acres out of agricultural production and results in higher food costs.  BUT:  the same technologies used in producing cellulose-based fuels, such as cellulose ethanol, can be used to make ethanol from wood waste, or biomass harvested from now-unused land.  For example, the driving surface of most county roads in the US occupies less than half of the right-of-way.  The rest is just holding the world together.  These areas can be used to grow biomass.

I am surrounded by thousands of acres of farms abandoned during the Dust Bowl, now growing only cedars.  These could be converted to biomass production without ever being plowed - just chain the cedar, then run a harvester over the site each year.  This not only allows harvesting of biomass, but preserves many of the non-crop native plants as well.  It's a win-win!


Thanks to the Bakken, the US will soon be energy-independent again, for a little while, at least.  We need to use this reprieve to develop other energy sources, of which ethanol fuels are one.  The problem:  business has a short planning horizon.  It takes a long-term investment to guarantee energy independence in forty or fifty years.  That requires government.  And in the US we are hamstrung by a sizeable anti-government ideology.

But maybe...  The current crop of Tea Party Republicans is working overtime at discrediting their cause.  If they succeed, we will be free of them in another election cycle or two.
Doug

Edited by Doug1o29, 05 December 2012 - 01:55 PM.

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#5    questionmark

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Posted 05 December 2012 - 02:27 PM

View PostDoug1o29, on 05 December 2012 - 01:54 PM, said:

But maybe...  The current crop of Tea Party Republicans is working overtime at discrediting their cause.  If they succeed, we will be free of them in another election cycle or two.
Doug

Don't hold your breath... the only thing I am afraid of is brain dead...'cause there are so many....

Now, to synthetic fuels, it is possible if we could collect the carbon content of waste products (i.e. garbage, compost material, slaughter rests, saw dust and so on) and use that as basis for the fuel. It would not reduce the need of fossils to zero (more than that would be needed) but surely could make a big dent into the need. Conservation, especially in the US (as most other industrial nations are light years ahead in that field due to high taxation), could make the biggest difference.

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#6    Br Cornelius

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Posted 05 December 2012 - 03:51 PM

Synthetic fuels have very poor energy returns on the energy needed to make them. Going down the synthetic fuel route ensures higher net emissions and more expensive energy at the point of use. Its a classic example of refusing to address the fundamental underlying causes of the crisis and attempting to maintain business as usual at any cost.

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#7    Doug1o29

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Posted 05 December 2012 - 04:30 PM

View Postquestionmark, on 05 December 2012 - 02:27 PM, said:

Now, to synthetic fuels, it is possible if we could collect the carbon content of waste products (i.e. garbage, compost material, slaughter rests, saw dust and so on) and use that as basis for the fuel.
St. Louis generates 5% of its power needs by burning its garbage, mostly paper.  No synthetic fuel here:  the garbage is used as is.

The paper mills at Valiant, Oklahoma; Hawesville, Kentucky and Chillicothe, Ohio all burn sawdust or mill waste to generate their power needs.  Valiant produces enough that it sells power back to the grid.  The power is profitable enough that Valiant buys sawdust and "hog fuel" just to burn.  It has the advantage that "hog fuel" is a by-product of chip production, so even when they are buying very low-quality wood, they are getting some chips out of it.  High-quality wood produces lots of chips and some "hog fuel," so the two go together.

TVA was looking at including whole-tree chips in mix with coal a few years ago.  Figured it would cut emissions.  For some reason the deal fell through.  Don't know what happened.

There are three synthetic crude plants operating in the US using turkey waste.  They only make about 25,000 gallons a day, a drop in the bucket, but it gets rid of the waste and produces a light sweet crude.  They've probably exhausted the turkey waste supply.  Any process that concentrates biomass offers similar opportunities.

Maybe we could just use biomass, chips, garbage, etc. as fuel without converting them.
Doug

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The beginning of knowledge is the realization that one doesn't and cannot know everything.
Science is the father of knowledge, but opinion breeds ignorance. --Hippocrates
Ignorance is not an opinion. --Adam Scott

#8    questionmark

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Posted 05 December 2012 - 07:55 PM

View PostDoug1o29, on 05 December 2012 - 04:30 PM, said:

St. Louis generates 5% of its power needs by burning its garbage, mostly paper.  No synthetic fuel here:  the garbage is used as is.

The paper mills at Valiant, Oklahoma; Hawesville, Kentucky and Chillicothe, Ohio all burn sawdust or mill waste to generate their power needs.  Valiant produces enough that it sells power back to the grid.  The power is profitable enough that Valiant buys sawdust and "hog fuel" just to burn.  It has the advantage that "hog fuel" is a by-product of chip production, so even when they are buying very low-quality wood, they are getting some chips out of it.  High-quality wood produces lots of chips and some "hog fuel," so the two go together.

TVA was looking at including whole-tree chips in mix with coal a few years ago.  Figured it would cut emissions.  For some reason the deal fell through.  Don't know what happened.

There are three synthetic crude plants operating in the US using turkey waste.  They only make about 25,000 gallons a day, a drop in the bucket, but it gets rid of the waste and produces a light sweet crude.  They've probably exhausted the turkey waste supply.  Any process that concentrates biomass offers similar opportunities.

Maybe we could just use biomass, chips, garbage, etc. as fuel without converting them.
Doug

And, while those 1% may be commendable examples there is still that 99% where it does not happen. Getting those 99% in the boat would make a big difference in energy usage.

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