# Gasoline alchemy from water vapor and CO2

This seems almost scam quality – only time will tell if it is just another pipe dream.

From WUWT Tips and Notes by J B Williamson;

A small British company has produced the first “petrol from air” using a revolutionary technology that promises to solve the energy crisis as well as helping to curb global warming by removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Air Fuel Synthesis in Stockton-on-Tees has produced five litres of petrol since August when it switched on a small refinery that manufactures gasoline from carbon dioxide and water vapour.

The company hopes that within two years it will build a larger, commercial-scale plant capable of producing a ton of petrol a day. It also plans to produce green aviation fuel to make airline travel more carbon-neutral.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/exclusive-the-scientists-who-turned-fresh-air-into-petrol-8217382.html

UPDATE: In comments, Ric Werme points out:

The Naval Research Laboratory is using an electrochemical acidification cell (see image below) to take seawater through a two-step process to capture carbon dioxide and produce hydrogen gas. Carbon dioxide is concentrated in seawater at levels 140 times greater than in the atmosphere. A portion of it is carbonic acid and carbonate, but most is bicarbonate. Harvesting all that carbon coupled with the hydrogen is what the electrochemical acidification cell does employing a catalyst similar to that used to create synthetic oil from coal but with much greater efficiency.

## 231 thoughts on “Gasoline alchemy from water vapor and CO2”

1. AndyG55 says:

Removiing CO2 from the air is a VERY, VERY BAD idea !!!

2. Steve (Paris) says:

What happens to trees when you suck all the CO² out of the air? Doesn’t all that green stuff turn grey and die? And we all starve to death. Are Paul Elrich and John Holdren investing in this business by any chance?

3. AndyG55 says:

ps.. I do , of course mean, in commercially viable fuel quantities.

4. It would seem to require more energy than it provides, if you ask me.

5. Steve (Paris) says:

How much “energy in” does it take to suck a ‘ton a day’ of ‘gasoline’ out of the air?

6. Mike McMillan says:

Applied cold fusion, no doubt.

7. I do see only one problem: the energy needed to transform CO2 into fuel costs more energy than you can obtain from burning that fuel again. Just a matter of chemical energy balances… So, where is the gain?

8. Brian H says:

As a contribution to decarbonization it is of course worthless, even were decarbonization not inane. The oceans will outgas CO2 to restore any trivial reduction such a process achieves.

9. K.Periasamy says:

Why do you waste others time also by publishing such silly science fantasies ?

REPLY: Why do you waste time reading things with “alchemy” in the title if you know you won’t like it?

10. Merovign says:

Yeah, I’m Going To Need To See The Math On That.

Basically they’re turning electricity (coal) and chemicals into other chemicals, from what they say. Probably less efficiently than the alternatives, and with the added benefit of starving poor innocent plants.

I’m also glad I don’t live on the same planet as the commenters there. Serious cortisol poisoning must result and/or cause.

11. MangoChutney says:

If the climate scientologists are correct, wouldn’t extracting CO2 from the air bring about an ice age and starve all the plants?

12. Merovign says:

I think the “gain” here is taking advantage of green mania and jumping on the green gravy train, to put it bluntly.

13. Max Roberts says:

Pure scam, not enough CO2 in the air for this to work, and they need electricity for the manufacturing. More wind turbines needed apparently, or a sea barrage.

“provided we can get the funding going”

They hope to qualify for millions of pounds of government money, until they go bankrupt, but by then the cash will have vanished.

“We don’t have any of the additives and nasty bits found in conventional petrol, and yet our fuel can be used in existing engines,”

Um, don’t those additives help the fuel to burn smoothly.

Comments are fun, Independent readers seem to be a little bit weird to say the least.

14. Merovign says:

Perisamy: Think of it as a “Friday Funny.”

Like the Wind-powered electric car.

15. David, UK says:

Although the process is still in the early developmental stages and needs to take electricity from the national grid to work, the company believes it will eventually be possible to use power from renewable sources such as wind farms or tidal barrages.

Only a paper so blinded by ideology such as the Independent could print such fairyland nonsense. Unless by “possible to use power from renewable sources” they mean “possible to use power that is 0.01% from renewable sources.” Such idiocy.

16. Espen says:

If the process uses the input energy efficiently (something I really, really doubt) this could perhaps be an interesting alternative to batteries, a way to store energy from solar and wind power on the days they actually deliver.

17. a jones says:

Yes. I was going to post this in Tips and Notes but the gentleman beat me to it.

this is not a new technology, it dates back at least 70 years and probably further with various people tinkering with it.

Yes it can produce hydrocarbon fuel, the simplest is methanol but higher order paraffins are perfectly practical.

The problem is that it takes more energy to do this than is got from burning the resulting fuel. The factor is between one and half to two and half times the energy input to that recovered from the synthetic fuel.

Which is fine is you have such a source of abundant energy which cannot be transported and need to turn it into portable fuel. it is also why it attracted a lot of attention in WW2 and later after the 70’s oil crisis.

Otherwise like everything else about alternative energy it is yesterdays news.

What did not work then doesn’t work now. And never will.

Kindest Regards

18. dp says:

Let me see if I have this right – they are taking two kinds of ash – CO2 and water, and making fuel from it. Normally in a process breakdown there is a “and a miracle occurs here” claim when you take two unlikely ash piles and combine them to produce yet more energy at no cost. Not buying it. The miracle, that is.

19. Mike Spilligan says:

If it seems too good to be true ……… Well, you know the rest.

20. stuartlynne says:

Making the assumption that this works best as a carbon sequestration system…. one wonders how much energy it would take to get reasonable recovery from a large source. E.g. a coal fired power station… and would the power exceed the amount produced by the plant.

21. ryan-p says:

Um, I don’t get it. It seem fairly elementary (granted I couldn’t go out and do it right now without research) to reverse the process of burning fuel, recombining it in the presence of large amounts of energy as they seem to be doing. I don’t see any special breakthrough, you’re not going to get any more energy back from burning the fuel than it took to manufacture it. The only use I could see is if the process was made fairly efficient for storing energy… maybe I missed something.

22. If you mount input of the device at the end of your car’s exhaust pipe and its output is fed into the car’s petrol tank, you get for-ever free motoring.
That is what I call progress, need I say more.

23. JJ says:

Ferdinand Engelbeen says:

I do see only one problem: the energy needed to transform CO2 into fuel costs more energy than you can obtain from burning that fuel again. Just a matter of chemical energy balances… So, where is the gain?,

The only gain would be in the utility of the fuel vs the primary energy source. Storage and transport benefits. No real gain if using fossil fuels as the primary energy, as those are already excellent energy storage and they can already be made into transport fuels by processes that have less production chain losses than fuel->heat->motion->eletricity->fuel is likely to entail.

If the efficiency of the process is decent, it could be useful for running transport on nucular ;)

If the efficiency is really high, it could cause environmental catastrophy by enabling the exploitation of diffuse, intermittent, low quality energy sources like wind, wave and solar.

24. “provided we can get the funding going”

They hope to qualify for millions of pounds of government money, until they go bankrupt, but by then the cash will have vanished.

Yep. They are a bit late to the trough if you ask me. They should have started promoting this four years ago when the US was handing out tens of billions of dollars for this sort of nonsense. It would have been pretty simple, really. Just “invest” a few thousand in the right political campaign, set up your business, then wait for the tax dollars to come pouring in. Simple, really.

In 2009, US President Obama took the entire year’s income tax revenue, ALL of it, and dolled it out to political supporters in what was framed as an “economic stimulus” program. I believe that is the largest heist in world history of which we are currently aware.

25. son of mulder says:

Simple questions “There are 20 million vehicles in the UK. Assuming maximum efficiency of their engines, how much electrical power would be required to provide a full sustainable supply of this new petrol? How does that compare to the total UK output of electricity currently and by what factor would the number of installed wind turbines have to be increased to meet this additional demand?”

26. anengineer says:

They have a lab bench scale demonstration that can make a gallon of petrol/gasoline in over a month. They hope within 2 years to scale it up 15000x to make a commercial(?) scale plant that can make 360 gallons (8.5 barrels) of petrol/gasoline per day. No mention of costs of the apparatus, level of energy inputs, or energy conversion efficiency.

The major problems I have with this are:
1. You can’t scale up that much in a single step with any reasonable expectation that it will work.
2. Scaling up has always been the failure point for all these ‘green fuel’ ideas. To date few have made it successfully to the pilot plant stage, none have really made it past.
3. 360 gpd is not a commercial scale plant, it barely qualifies as a pilot plant.
4. We need to know the energy input to output conversion ratio. Simple entropy would seem to guarantees that it is going to be abysmal.
5. Cost. Cost. Cost. There has to be a catalyst involved if nothing else. How much is needed? How much can we MAKE? There are limits, for example, on the amount of platinum available.

27. Patrick says:

Only works with significant Govn’t funding.

Alchemy fantacy! Creating “Gold”…

28. And I apologize to the mods for the changing username but after I post an initial comment, WordPress makes me log in for some reason and subsequent comments are posted under this name unless I remember to click the “Change” button. I’m not intentionally playing multiple sockpuppets here. My previous posting in the thread was as “crosspatch”.

29. Kasuha says:

Yes it sure is possible to make gasoline from CO2 but that process is bound to be extremely energy inefficient. There’s no way to create gasoline from CO2 without spending way more energy than can be used by burning that gasoline back to CO2. Such gasoline is not going to be cheap. And where exactly are they planning to take that energy from, I wonder…

30. Robert A. Taylor says:

This is 18th and 19th century chemistry. Probably producing octane, a higher alchohol, or a mixture of various hydrocarbons. Perhaps they’ve developed a new catalyst or something. In any case it requires more energy in to crack water and carbon dioxide.

31. Thon Brocket says:

Interesting. If it works, it’s effectively the battery – the energy-storage technology – that has always been the missing link in the wind / solar paradigm.

So unhook all those wind-turbines and solar-panels from the grid, and use them to make gasoline on-site, instead – sort of like having hundreds of small oil-wells. A single unconnected generator powering a chemical process is a lot more easily and efficiently operated than one which has to be hooked up to the supply grid; so that gets rid of all the well-know problems of intermittency and back-up requirements that plague renewable generation. Go back to coal, gas and nuclear for electricity; but now the clean/green effect is switched to getting rid of fossil petroleum for transportation. Two big advantages there: reduction of local pollution – NoX, diesel paticulates and so on – and geopolitical; not having to import oil from Venezuela and Saudi Arabia would be Good News.

Extracting CO2 from the atmosphere (400 ppm, right?) seems dumb, though. Get it from the coal-fired stations at a thousand times the concentration.

32. Ian H says:

The energy for this is coming from electricity?

If so then I imagine the aim is to produce fuel for transport and feedstock for chemical processing in a hypothetical nuclear powered future. You probably wouldn’t use this stuff to run your car – batteries for doing that are getting better and that niche is closing fast. But I have yet to see any proposals for a battery powered passenger jet.

33. Espen:—-could perhaps be an interesting alternative to batteries,
JK:——The problem is that fuel is converted about 30% to mechanical energy, while electricity in a battery is at least double that when considering battery losses + motor losses.
Thanks
JK

34. Tobias Ostien says:

Strike.

One- A whole lot of mays and coulds.
Two- A whole lot of lack of numbers in regards to energy input vs. output.
Three- If it’s too good to be true…there’s money in it somewhere.

You’re out!

35. Claude Harvey says:

As always, it’s a matter of “the ratio of energy in versus energy out”. As soon as I hear them talking about getting that “energy in” from wind and solar I smell a poor ratio to be defended by the argument that it doesn’t matter because wind and solar energy is free…..NOT!

36. Eddieo says:

I suppose that the potential for storage is the issue since it would obviously take more energy to produce the “gasoline” than can be obtained by burning it later.

I expect this company is more about trying to suck green grants out of the fatuous British government than sucking CO2 out of the air to make petrol.

It’s almost as if they sat down one day, trying to write the perfect subsidy application, and this is what they came up with; not only does it provide ‘renewable’ petrol, but wait, there’s more! — it reduces CO2 levels too!

38. Gras Albert says:

Joule Unlimited have just commissioned their first industrial sized plant near Hobbs, NM, which is growing Ethanol and/or Diesel in a single step continuous process using bio-engineered enzymes, waste industrial CO2, waste water and sunlight. Land use is non arable (no effect on food production) and the process has delivered 10,000 US Gals per acre annually with eventual productivity to reach 25,000 gals per acre at a production cost as low as \$1.28 per gal (\$0.30 per litre).

There is already a worldwide infrastructure for distribution, it’s carbon neutral and it’s sustainable which is probably why you can’t invest in the company because the Arabs, Russians and Germans already have.

Joule’s renewable fuel platform will best the scale, productivities and costs of any known alternative to fossil fuel today, with no reliance on biomass feedstocks or precious natural resources. Our inputs are sunlight, waste CO2 and non-potable water. Our output? Millions of gallons of clean, renewable fuel that drops into existing infrastructure.

39. Bair Polaire says:

The company can and has used carbon dioxide extracted from air to make petrol, but it is also using industrial sources of carbon dioxide until it is able to improve the performance of “carbon capture”.

That’s what I expected. Extracting CO2 from air is being done since more than 100 years. I doubt they can beat the industry leader on that:

The start-up of the world’s first air separation plant in 1902 initiated the development of the cryogenic industry. Today, several hundred engineers and specialists work at Linde for the worldwide sale and contract execution of plants recovering the air components oxygen and nitrogen as well as the various rare gases.

Over 2,800 air separation plants in 80 countries bear witness to the outstanding market position of Linde in this field of technology.

http://www.linde-engineering.com/en/process_plants/air_separation_plants/index.html

Maybe they have developed a new process to efficiently turn CO2 into petrol. That alone would be good news.

40. There’s nothing so improbable, in principle, in extracting water and CO2 from the air and turning it into fuel. Plants do it all the time. What it needs to make it viable is a cost-effective energy source. At present thery’re just using electricity off the grid,
Clearly this is just a proof of concept, and a very long way from a usable technology, but it could make sense in time, especially in relation to unreliable intermittent energy sources like wind and solar. We all know these are inherently lousy ways to make electricity, principally because electricity cannot be stored. It also requires expensive infrastructure to transport it from where the wind and sun are found to where the power is needed. Using them to make fuel, on the other hand, could make sense in some places, if the technology can be developed.

41. Scarface says:

Well, if they hang their machine at the exhaust pipe of an electricity generator on petrol and feed the generator the produced output of their machine and it keeps on running, then I think they’re up to something (perpetuum mobile, anyone?). Subsequently, they will have to turn to industries that produce CO2 (and there are many of them), so they don’t have to deplete the atmosphere and starve plants and life as we know it..

Otherwise, and that will probably be the case, it will need grants or taxes to make up for the loss of energy. And the energy produced will therefore cost more than tradional sources. In that case I like this idea better than wind or solar, but in the end I don’t like energy that needs grants and taxes at all, so I guess this invention will not be viable enough to outlive the green energy hype/hoax. I think it is just not sustainable, in a normal world.

42. Rob L says:

Feasible but wasteful. Making hydrocarbon fuels with CO2 extracted from air is almost economic if you have a large cheap source of high temperature heat like a nuclear power plant (I’ve seen estimates as low as \$50 per barrel equivalent), but to do it using electricity is incredibly wasteful as electricity is already a very high quality form of energy – far more so than hydrocarbon fuels. It makes the process several times more expensive.

The best place to do this would be somewhere really really cold, like Svalbard as less energy is required to separate CO2 from air

43. ckb says:

If they are reversing this reaction

C8H18 + 25 O2 → 16 CO2 + 18 H2O

good luck to them! The first thing you need to do is split the water, probably by electrolysis. Then you need to add energy to break more bonds and rearrange things. No wonder they want to hook it up to “free” power sources like wind and solar.

Iceland runs on some hydrogen because of all their excess geothermal energy – they put it into electrolysis. But they are smart enough to have hydrogen powered vehicles.

There’s no need to go past the “lets split the water” phase.

44. Without more information about what chemicals are the result of the synthesis, it is hard to make a proper evaluation. But it could be a useful alternative to the hydrogen based fuel cell model that was being pushed once upon a time. Linked to thorium nuclear it may be a useful technology for motor racing fuels in a few hundred years when all fossil fuel carbon is used.

45. Lewis P Buckingham says:

This may work if there is a research grant in it as well as bonus carbon credits.
from what little I remember from organic chemistry they would need a lot of heat and pressure to build a mixture of alkanes, which would mean it would need more energy to make petrol than would be useable when burnt.

46. Edim says:

“What happens to trees when you suck all the CO² out of the air?”

Oceans outgas CO2 and nothing changes.

47. LazyTeenager says:

Well when you burn petrol you get energy out. To reverse the process you need to put the same amount of energy back in, plus extra to cater for inefficiencies. So where do they get the energy required from?. If its solar/ nuclear fine. If its coal burning you have lost again due to inefficiencies.

48. It is interesting because Petrol is very energy dense and we know how to use, store and transport it efficiently. Electricity isn’t so convenient especially for moving vehicles. In an ideal world one could run power stations at full tilt the whole time keeping up their efficiency and use any spare juice to make petrol for instance at night time. You could even build windmills and tidal power stations far out to sea, or far from civilisation, and ship the energy they produce back to us as Premium grade. So even if it takes more electrical energy than it produces fuel energy that isn’t necessarily an end to it.

49. Like Ferdinand Englebeen says. Currently, fossil fuel + water + Oxygen = CO2 + water + energyA.
The reverse reaction is CO2 + water + energyB = carbonaceous material + water + CO2.

Unless there is a subtle twist that has eluded brilliant brains for decades, Energy B will need to be larger than Energy A. Any evidence that it is? Are we back to perpetual motion machines again?

50. roger says:

A ton of fuel a day! About 250 gallons a day then in two years time from the commercial plant they plan to build.
I believe that this was mainly privately funded up till now and I do not expect George Osborne to be assisting with further funds any time soon for the reasons listed below.
They also require a massive increase in wind turbines to make this venture green and that is not going to happen.
The enormous and burgeoning costs of our green energy dash are coming home to roost with energy bills now to the fore as the hottest of political potatoes.
13% of every gas and electric bill sent to consumers goes to cover wind, PV and replacement transmission costs and those costs are escalating rapidly without delivering the much vaunted financial returns promised by their adherents.
The genie is out of the bottle and our politicians can now see the catastrophic results of their naive stupidity looming on the already troubled financial horizon as Germany looks to soak up the French and Dutch spare capacity this winter, thus increasing the price of the 7% of consumption that we already are forced to import due to their past havering and incompetence.
The cold winter presaged by the still borne EL Nino will open many more of the publics’ eyes as heating costs empty their purses.
Some of the old, poor and weak will inevitably miss next spring.

51. Jakehig says:

If there was a hint of energy balance and viability in this process it would surely be better employed on a CO2-rich exhaust stream from some industrial process. Why take it out of the air when you could get it at vastly higher concentrations before it gets to the atmosphere?
An obvious candidate would be steam reformers used for generating Hydrogen: the exhaust is essentially CO2 and water vapour.

52. TomVonk says:

No need for a very complicated chemistry to see that this “idea” doesn’t make much sense.

Just consider : CH3OH+O2 -> CO2 + H2O (I skip balancing the equations).
Yes this is just burning methanol in air and you know that it burns well (700 kJ/mol what is quite big)
So the reverse CO2+H20 -> CH3OH + O2 would need 700 kJ/mol energy investment to make it happen. As this is not easy, one clearly sees that this process consumes more energy than it produces. Eventually much more depending on efficiency.

One could then consider CO2+H2 -> CH3OH + H20 (1) which would already not be “gasoline from air” because one needs hydrogen as intermediary and there is no hydrogen in the air.
I suspect that their “technology” is one form or other of this reaction..
This reaction is lightly exothermic (produces energy at a rate 50kJ/mol) what seems nice.
The reverse (CH3OH + H20 -> CO2 + H2) is the well known and studied methanol steam reforming.
The problem with the reaction (1) is that the methanol production is in competition with the CO2 shift reaction (CO2+H2 -> CO + H2O) which is preferred so that (1) hardly happens.
Of course one could then go one step farther to H20 + CO -> CH3OH which is actually how methanol is produced industrially.So this is nothing new.

In any case what stays is that any artificial fuel production with CO2 as primary ressource needs hydrogen.
As there is no hydrogen in the air, one has to produce it.
So you either electrolyse water what is hugely energy inefficient or you tear off hydrogen from water by carbon. As the latter generally produces CO2, you win nothing, are back to the departure point and spend huge amounts of money doing it.

Now one could construct a wind farm and say that it will be used to electrolyze water when there is too much wind. This would be adding insult to injury. First wind farms are not the best way to produce power – if economy is your target, construct gas turbines or nuclear power plants.
Second and more importantly the problem of wind energy is not that there is too much of it but too little (wind mills work at best at 25% efficiency).

In conclusion : gasoline from air is possible and the technologies exist, Some of them for more than 100 years. But there is a reason why nobody is doing it – this gasoline is so outrageously expensive that nobody would have enough money to buy it to just drive a car.

53. Nullius in Verba says:

Surely this is the Fischer–Tropsch process, developed in the 1920s?

CO2 is heated until it decomposes, forming carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide reacts with water to produce hydrogen, and carbon monoxide with hydrogen (helped along with a few catalysts) forms alkanes. The Germans used it to generate fuel in WWII when oil imports were cut off. I think the South Africans had a go, too.

Efficiency is reportedly 25-50%.

54. Bloke down the pub says:

If this relied on fossil fuel to power it there is no way that it could be financially viable. The only thing that makes this a possibility is that wind turbines produce most of their electricity when there is no market for it. By using that, otherwise wasted, energy they can make a business case but that would end the moment the wind boondoggle was cut off at the knees.

55. mwhite says:

This is the main front page story

56. Qumbaqa says:

This sounds very interesting, with a hint of uotopia if I may say, at first glance.
However, as one reads into this text, the word “inefficiency” springs up a lot. If these scientist as yet, have efficiency issues with their production yet set targets as small as two years and 15 years, I sense a capitalist, money-making driven rush job in the pipeline.
So long, it seems like a whole lot of investment will have to go into this venture, a whole lot of energy will also need to be used although the output seems way smaller. in a state where fossil fuel companies have fought tooth and nail to stay afloat (even starting wars and exploiting less protected countries), what are the chances that they will take such competition lightly, considering the word “compete” seems to pop up in the article quite often as well.
I for one, if I were a potential investor would not consider funding this project untill I were convinced this will yield results and every step of the process is well planned and thought through.
Interesting read however… interesting concept as well.

57. steverichards1984 says:

The flexibility of the Carbon element is truly outstanding.

The oil industry have always been able to process long chains C-H-O etc to make amazing products that we rely upon everyday.

They do not perform this particular manipulation because it is too costly in energy input.

I am sure there are some organic chemists reading WUWT who will be able to tell us the energy budget.

I expect it will be horrendously inefficient, I suspect we will need windmills x1000

58. mwhite says:

“The company hopes that within two years it will build a larger, commercial-scale plant capable of producing a ton of petrol a day”

I wonder where the money is coming from????

59. Mervyn says:

Air Fuel Synthesis in Stockton-on-Tees has produced five litres of petrol since August when it switched on a small refinery that manufactures gasoline from carbon dioxide and water vapour.

Gasoline manufactured from carbon dioxide and water vapour? Sorry, simply impossible!

As the saying goes, when something looks too good to be true, it’s usually because it is!

Can’t people see this is crap? It sound like something from an April Fools comic book.

60. mwhite says:
61. Not thermodynamically efficient. Better to start with methane from bio-digesters and work on the methane at least the hardest extraction is done by some bacteria at near zero energy costs.

62. PhilM2 says:

It could solve lots of problems. Just convert all the wind turbines to gas stations and have a little green light come on half way up the tower when it has made a tank full. No infrastructure required and it could catch rainwater for it’s raw material. No need for electric cars at all.

63. michael hart says:

People can, and have, extracted gold from sea-water. But the cost of doing so makes it uneconomic. Similar principle here. You have to put more energy in than you get out, as required by thermodynamics. What is the energy-efficiency of their process?

They used hydrogen as their energy source, so how is the hydrogen generated? That returns us back to fossil fuels, or electrolysis of water with, for example, energy from nuclear power.

64. I have on my shelf a book entitled “Nuclear Transmutation of Stable and Radioactive Isotopes in Biological Systems” by Vladimir I. Vysotskii and Alla A. Kornilova. Vysotskii is Professor, Head of Dept of Theoretical Radiophysics in Kiev, and Kornilova is Director of Innovation Centre, Physical Faculty Senior Researcher at Solid State Physics Dept in Moscow State University.

Biological transmutations is alchemy by another name, the supposedly impossible transmutation of one element into another. It evidently happens under our noses all the time, and thankfully the Russians are open to investigating this without prejudice.

With that caveat, I fully endorse the concerns here as to whether this H2O / CO2 process can ever be economically viable, let alone good practice. I’m more interested in magnetism and tracking down the hints coming in from reverse-engineering from Roswell etc. But I’m not going to stray any further into that here. It would be OT.

65. Ceetee says:

No word raises my hackles quite like “Funding”. Too often it’s a polite expression used by rent seekers to expropriate hard earned tax. If they want funding, they should sell some of their magic petrol.

66. Thermodynamics dictates that the efficiency of the energy conversion will be less than 100%.
It will take substantially more energy to produce this synthetic fuel that you could obtain from using it.
Where is all that energy going to come from?

67. Ferdinand Engelbeen says:

I do see only one problem: the energy needed to transform CO2 into fuel costs more energy than you can obtain from burning that fuel again. Just a matter of chemical energy balances… So, where is the gain?

When the words “CO2″ and “Sustainable” appear suddenly all cost calculations are useless, which has been proved so many times in the past….

68. TomVonk says:

steve Richards

I am sure there are some organic chemists reading WUWT who will be able to tell us the energy budget

I just did that above and my degree is not organic chemistry.
It is very easy to establish the lower bound by taking methanol – every chain longer than methanol will just be more difficult and expensive to make so we’ll stay with the simplest to have a lower bound.

CH3OH + O2 -> CO2 + H20 (equation non balanced) is just methanol combustion in air and releases 700 kJ/mole.
So doing the opposite, starting with CO2 and H20 and finishing with methanol will cost you at least 700 kJ/mol.
How far above this lower bound of 700 kJ/mol you will be depends on how inefficient all your other processes are.
Obviously to make happen a reaction in the opposite direction than a combustion will need a great deal of auxiliary processes each with its own inefficiency.

69. michaelozanne says:

Does this new technology involve a genetically engineered plant called a Triffid?

70. Dr Ken Pollock says:

This just shows that few people understand the second law of thermodynamics, although many commentators can draw the right conclusions without mentoining it. The BBC news item said they would need energy to make it work but it was renewable energy, so that’s all right then…Clever chemical engineering by all means, but don’t imagine it has got anything to do with a new energy source or making it cheaper or any other significant question that we may face in our energy future. Solve the energy crisis? Yes, just like electric cars do…alchemy is the right word!

71. DirkH says:

ckb says:
October 19, 2012 at 1:10 am
“Iceland runs on some hydrogen because of all their excess geothermal energy – they put it into electrolysis. But they are smart enough to have hydrogen powered vehicles.

There’s no need to go past the “lets split the water” phase.”

Iceland actually runs a Methane synthesis plant as well. Still experimental, but working.
There is a very good reason to go past the “lets split the water” phase.”
Tanks leak hydrogen; and hydrogren makes steel brittle.

72. Rosco says:

Isn’t this simply an offshoot of carbon sequestration – catch the exhaust from power stations etc ?

I also saw some scheme Audi had a scheme to sequester exhaust CO2 from factories into a fuel source – has to be better than turning food into biodiesel while millions starve !

73. wayne Job says:

My thousand head of unicorn tended by one hundred pixies can produce one thousand gallons a day of fuel. This fuel will propel the largest SUV one thousand miles per gallon {US gallon} more using the standard English gallon.
The only problem I have is with the Pixies, they are demanding two hundred dollars an hour for their work, the unicorns are happy to do it for free. The pixies are unionized and thus I have a cash flow crisis. Catastrophic global warming would be averted entirely with my fuel and a grant of four billion dollars would see the full commercialization of my product, transforming the transport industry. This very powerful fuel burns without producing any pollutants including zero CO2.
I trust you will receive my application for grant monies with kindness and an open heart.

P.S. The pixies are very difficult to deal with, some help from government negotiators would be appreciated. Faithfully yours.

74. TomVonk says:

Nullius in Verba

Surely this is the Fischer–Tropsch process, developed in the 1920s?

Yes I am 99,99% sure that this is an Nth variation on Fischer Tropsch synthesis.
The big difference being that F-T starts with synthesis gaz (CO+H2) which is clearly NOT “air”.
So they have to introduce supplementary 2 stages :
1) CO2 – > CO (this happens in coal furnaces)
2) H2O -> H2 (there are many ways all needing investments and energy).

So this whole “alchemy” which is known for 100 years can be resumed by :
Air (CO2,+ O2,+ H20) -> synthesis gaz (CO2 + CO + H2) -> liquid fuel (Fischer Tropsch)
The simplest case being obtained when the liquid fuel is methanol.

And indeed you are right – the world’s leader for Fischer Tropsch is the South African company Sasol. But they use in the process …. the horrible CO2 emitting coal:)

75. Richdo says:

Any Chymist worth his salt knows that spiritus sylvestre can be made to Texas tea if only the King will part with but a fraction of his treasure. Indeed it is quite simple and within the grasp of any Son of the Art: “Ubi palam locuti fumus, ibi nihil diximus”

76. Hot under the collar says:

When you consider the price of petrol in the UK, most of the cost being tax, if this process is not taxed to death then commercial viability is feasible in the future. What we also require is viable renewable energy currently unavailable.

77. John Doe says:

Tom Vonk puts it well enough for anyone to understand. The utility is in the form of the finished product. That you need at least as much energy to establish the chemical bond energy in the finished product as what comes back out through combustion is a given in all situations due to conservation of energy. The key to turning this from green folly into a boon to mankind is getting the energy needed to establish the chemical bonds from sunlight. That’s demonstrably possible as every photosynthetic organism turns sunlight into chemical bond energy. What we need to do is step up our game in synthetic biology and create some new organisms that have no purpose in life other than producing paraffins. Natural organisms can’t compete if all they do is produce paraffins so what we must do for our artificial organisms is protect them from competition and in return for that they pay us back with hydrocarbon fuel manufactured from air, water, and sunlight. It’s just a matter of time until this happens. Synthetic biology is a young and incredibly complex science. Even the simplest photosynthetic bacteria have incredibly complex molecular machinery which must be reverse engineered and the task is made more difficult by the machinery being so small as to defy direct observation. But we have the tools now and they are being refined and made cheaper every single day. It’s just a matter of time.

78. mwhite says:

Carbon neutral liquid fuels – an investment pitch by Air Fuel Synthesis

79. cedarhill says:

With enough nuclear power plants eve Los Alamos can produce hydrocarbons and do it on a huge scale. But even the NYT has been reporting the “catch”

http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/02/13/federal-lab-says-it-can-harvest-fuel-from-air/

If they’ve managed to reduce the cost of production, they should get on a green-fueled jet and apply at Los Alamos.

However, one hopes the folks will win the science prize down at the local grade school.

80. Doubting Rich says:

A ton a day from a commercial-scale plant? That’s about 1400 litres a day! Less than £2000 value retail, even today.

81. Josualdo says:

Having bravely produced 5 L of petrol in three months of operation, according to the Telegraph article.

There seems to be another way, operating for years – look for biopetroleum Alicante.

http://www.biopetroleo.com/english/

82. Tony McGough says:

I don’t think that “Funding” is a swear word. Isn’t that what venture capitalists do?

The obvious energy inefficiencies of this process are not denied – the price of the energy you put into the process is what you pay for the energy density and convenience of the fuel you get out.

If it works out to be worth while in the end, good luck to them – by all means make petrol from overnight electric power, water and CO2. What’s wrong with that?

83. As ajones and others have said, it is perfectly possible to do this. Whether it is practical on a commercial basis is a whole nuther animule. Looking at the photo, I didn’t see anything that looked like hydrocarbon handling equipment, nor does PVC and polycarbonate look adequate to handle temperatures and pressures I assume would be necessary. Commercial CO2 generators (concentration from air) are available. Why he would use atmospheric water vapor when the liquid is readily available and more controllable is beyond me. It would seem that catalytic reduction would take a great deal of heat and fairly high pressures, much higher than the plastic shown in the picture would take. No description of what hydrocarbon mix he is produce. The real question is not that it can’t be done or that it is alchemy, but how much per gallon does this cost? Nice thing about lab experiments and pharmaceuticals is that you can make extraordinarily expensive chemicals without really worrying about the cost. Gasoline isn’t in that class.

84. MikeB says:

The Independent article is written by Steve Connor who believes in everything, including global warming, and so gives a sort of fairy tale account as if any scientific description would be beyond him and his readers. A more detailed description of the process can be found in the Daily Telegraph.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/energy/fuel/9619269/British-engineers-produce-amazing-petrol-from-air-technology.html

The “petrol from air” technology involves taking sodium hydroxide and mixing it with carbon dioxide before “electrolysing” the sodium carbonate that it produces to form pure carbon dioxide. Hydrogen is then produced by electrolysing water vapour captured with a dehumidifier. The carbon dioxide and hydrogen are then combined to produce methanol which in turn is passed through a gasoline fuel reactor, creating petrol.
You could probably get this to work but, as many have pointed out, only by putting more energy in than you are ever going to get out
The only justification for this would be: it is powered by windmills so it’s free and doesn’t produce carbon dioxide ( although Sodium Hydroxide is also a limited and expensive resource compared to oil).

85. Roger Carr says:

On hearing this m’lady said: “Their air must be very polluted.”

86. What it looks to me is a process called Sabatier, it has been proposed for the Mars Direct mission where a small plant would make Methane out of CO2, Hydrogen and bucketload of energy.

Now on Mars this would be a great idea, because Mars Direct planned a so called Earth Return Vehicle, it would be send to Mars with a (small) nuclear reactor, 6 tonnes of hydrogen and said Sabatier processor combined electrolysis would produced 112 tonnes of oxygen and methane to fuel the Return vehicle.

But it cost more energy to produce these fuels than they deliver. The only reason to use it is because it saves weight that had to be send to Mars. Back here on Earth its rather pointless to work with this.

87. David L says:

Where are they getting the energy for their scheme, i.e. reversing the chemical reaction of turning hydrocarbons into water and CO2 (amoung other thing).

88. TomW says:

Hmmm, water and CO2…. Ah yes, can I get some scotch with that?

And since I hale from America, a few of the Arctic’s newly formed ice cubes?

89. So far, they”re running about 220,000 pounds per litre (without including the cost of distribution).

Heroine is cheaper. A lot cheaper.

I wont hold my breath.

90. Robert of Ottawa says:

Burning gasoline creates CO2 and H2O and releases energy. So, to make gasoline from from CO2 and H2O, they must add energy. Don’t see the net gain here.

91. Kev-in-Uk says:

I see no real point in adding a comment, as others have already correctly pointed out the numerous flaws.
However, no-one has said this yet:

and really, that is all this topic needs or deserves!
regards to all

92. DaveS says:

There is, or at least was, an experimental site in the US somewhere using solar to do the same thing – those in the UK may remember a BBC TV programme presented by James May a couple of years ago in which he visited the site. So, as others have mentioned, the concept is hardly new; whether it can ever be practical is another matter. Must be a quiet news day at the Independent.

93. richardscourtney says:

Hot under the collar:

At October 19, 2012 at 3:11 am you assert

When you consider the price of petrol in the UK, most of the cost being tax, if this process is not taxed to death then commercial viability is feasible in the future. What we also require is viable renewable energy currently unavailable.

No! it is NOT “viable”. It uses more energy than it produces. You need to look up ‘perpetual motion’ if you don’t understand why this makes it non-viable.

And we have adequate “renewable energy” for centuries to come in the forms of fossil fuels and nuclear energy. These energy sources are as “renewable” as any other because all energy was created at the Big Bang and all energy flows are stages towards the Heat Death of the universe. Anything which utilises those flows increases entropy.

Richard

94. lurker passing through, laughing says:

Sounds like a scam. Unless there is a huge breakthrough in catalyst technology there is no way this could be done with a positive energy result. How do you get CO2 out of the air, AND breakdown the CO2 and H2O, AND rebuild it into a complex molecule like gasoline without amazing catalysts or huge amounts of energy- much larger than the resulting gasoline?
If someone made a game changing development in applied catalyst tech, it would very likely have been noticed somewhere.
This is a scam to take advantage of the CO2 obsessed and the credulity they have regarding anything to do with energy.

95. I’ll see if I can dig up something I read recently from the US military. They’re looking into producing jet fuel on carriers to provide some buffer from needing to be supplied in dodgy parts of the world. The energy source would be the on board nuke, so no magic needed there, the hydrogen source is all around them, so no magic needed there. Cost, not an issue, but apparently pretty reasonable compared to refueling ships and whatnot.

96. jimmi_the_dalek says:

Most of you seem to be forgetting that plants do water + CO2 + sunlight -> hydrocarbons all the time. OK so they not give a hydrocarbon you can use directly for fuel, and this pilot plant is not solar powered, but the idea is not totally stupid – it is why various biochemists have been tinkering with the mechanism of photosynthesis for decades.

97. Dan says:

The system works if you have spare power from an atomic powered aircraftcarrier and the odd squillion. See following article – otherwise scamarooney.
Fueling the Fleet, Navy Looks to the Seas
Daniel Parry, US Navy News 24/9/2012

Refueling U.S. Navy vessels, at sea and underway, is a costly endeavor in terms of logistics, time, fiscal constraints and threats to national security and sailors at sea.
In Fiscal Year 2011, the U.S. Navy Military Sea Lift Command, the primary supplier of fuel and oil to the U.S. Navy fleet, delivered nearly 600 million gallons of fuel to Navy vessels underway, operating 15 fleet replenishment oilers around the globe.

Scientists at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory are developing a process to extract carbon dioxide (CO2) and produce hydrogen gas (H2) from seawater, subsequently catalytically converting the CO2 and H2 into jet fuel by a gas-to-liquids process.
“The potential payoff is the ability to produce JP-5 fuel stock at sea reducing the logistics tail on fuel delivery with no environmental burden and increasing the Navy’s energy security and independence,” says research chemist, Dr. Heather Willauer.
NRL has successfully developed and demonstrated technologies for the recovery of CO2 and the production of H2 from seawater using an electrochemical acidification cell, and the conversion of CO2 and H2 to hydrocarbons (organic compounds consisting of hydrogen and carbon) that can be used to produce jet fuel.
“The reduction and hydrogenation of CO2 to form hydrocarbons is accomplished using a catalyst that is similar to those used for Fischer-Tropsch reduction and hydrogenation of carbon monoxide,” adds Willauer. “By modifying the surface composition of iron catalysts in fixed-bed reactors, NRL has successfully improved CO2 conversion efficiencies up to 60 percent.”
A Renewable Resource
CO2 is an abundant carbon (C) resource in the air and in seawater, with the concentration in the ocean about 140 times greater than that in air. Two to three percent of the CO2 in seawater is dissolved CO2 gas in the form of carbonic acid, one percent is carbonate, and the remaining 96 to 97 percent is bound in bicarbonate. If processes are developed to take advantage of the higher weight per volume concentration of CO2 in seawater, coupled with more efficient catalysts for the heterogeneous catalysis of CO2 and H2, a viable sea-based synthetic fuel process can be envisioned. “With such a process, the Navy could avoid the uncertainties inherent in procuring fuel from foreign sources and/or maintaining long supply lines,” Willauer said.
NRL has made significant advances developing carbon capture technologies in the laboratory. In the summer of 2009 a standard commercially available chlorine dioxide cell and an electro-deionization cell were modified to function as electrochemical acidification cells. Using the novel cells both dissolved and bound CO2 were recovered from seawater by re-equilibrating carbonate and bicarbonate to CO2 gas at a seawater pH below 6. In addition to CO2, the cells produced H2 at the cathode as a by-product.

These completed studies assessed the effects of the acidification cell configuration, seawater composition, flow rate, and current on seawater pH levels. The data were used to determine the feasibility of this approach for efficiently extracting large quantities of CO2 from seawater. From these feasibility studies NRL successfully scaled-up and integrated the carbon capture technology into an independent skid to process larger volumes of seawater and evaluate the overall system design and efficiencies.
The major component of the carbon capture skid is a three-chambered electrochemical acidification cell. This cell uses small quantities of electricity to exchange hydrogen ions produced at the anode with sodium ions in the seawater stream. As a result, the seawater is acidified. At the cathode, water is reduced to H2 gas and sodium hydroxide (NaOH) is formed. This basic solution may be re-combined with the acidified seawater to return the seawater to its original pH with no additional chemicals. Current and continuing research using this carbon capture skid demonstrates the continuous efficient production of H2 and the recovery of up to 92 percent of CO2 from seawater.
Located at NRL’s Center for Corrosion Science & Engineering facility, Key West, Fla., (NRLKW) the carbon capture skid has been tested using seawater from the Gulf of Mexico to simulate conditions that will be encountered in an actual open ocean process for capturing CO2 from seawater and producing H2 gas. Currently NRL is working on process optimization and scale-up. Once these are completed, initial studies predict that jet fuel from seawater would cost in the range of \$3 to \$6 per gallon to produce.
How it Works: CO2 + H2 = Jet Fuel
NRL has developed a two-step process in the laboratory to convert the CO2 and H2 gathered from the seawater to liquid hydrocarbons. In the first step, an iron-based catalyst has been developed that can achieve CO2 conversion levels up to 60 percent and decrease unwanted methane production from 97 percent to 25 percent in favor of longer-chain unsaturated hydrocarbons (olefins).
In the second step these olefins can be oligomerized (a chemical process that converts monomers, molecules of low molecular weight, to a compound of higher molecular weight by a finite degree of polymerization) into a liquid containing hydrocarbon molecules in the carbon C9-C16 range, suitable for conversion to jet fuel by a nickel-supported catalyst reaction.

98. Well, that was easy. Googling |military carrier jet fuel seawater| yields many links.
I forgot – carbon source would be CO2 from seawater, not air.

Alternate energy breakdown

According to the journal article, which was written by Navy researchers, here’s how 100,000 gallons of JP-5 could be made in a day:

Step 1: A processing plant would extract carbon dioxide from 2.35 billion gallons of water – enough to fill the 2012 Olympic swimming pool 2,400 times. This water would yield about 11.9 million gallons worth of carbon dioxide.

Step 2: Another process will produce hydrogen from ocean water. Through reverse osmosis, fresh water will be extracted from ocean water. The two hydrogen atoms from the freshwater molecules will be separated from the oxygen atom. The hydrogen atoms will be collected while the oxygen atoms will be vented away.

Step 3: The hydrogen and carbon dioxide from the first two steps will be used in a catalytic conversion process. The end result is water, heat, and, most importantly, synthetic hydrocarbon, or fuel. Theoretically, the process could be tailored to produce any sort of hydrocarbon fuel, not just JP-5, according to the report.

The analysis estimated fuel from this process would cost between \$3 and \$6 per gallon, including initial start-up costs. The report cited the Navy’s 2011 average cost for JP-5 at \$3.51; media reports have put that number closer to \$4. These prices don’t include shipping and storage costs, which would be cut drastically or eliminated by making JP-5 at sea.

“Historical data suggest that in nine years, the price of fuel for the Navy could be well over the price of producing a synthetic jet fuel at sea,” the journal article says.

99. “We’ve taken carbon dioxide from air and hydrogen from water and turned these elements into petrol,” said Peter Harrison, the company’s chief executive
=========
The earth does this every day. Water, limestone and iron are heated under pressure within the earth’s interior to produce hydrocarbons. These float up through the crust where they are either captured by rock formations or boil off into the atmosphere to become part of the carbon cycle.

So called fossil fuels are not made from the fossilized bodies of plants and animals. They are made from fossilized CO2, carried along with water by plate tectonics into the earth’s interior. Iron is extremely abundant in nature, being the stable byproduct of both fission and fusions and forms the core of the earth.

100. jimmi_the_dalek says:

Oops, left a step out there – plants naturally produce carbohydrates not hydrocarbons, but getting from carbohydrates to hydrocarbons biologically is a lot easier than H2O+CO2 directly to hydrocarbons.

101. higley7 says:

It is less costly to convert animal (human?) tissue to fuel than it is to make it from air.

There is absolutely no way that this can come out with an energy gain as ALL processes must have energy losses, regardless of which way it is going, burning the fuel or making the fuel. That is why biofuels are not a gain, as the processing from planting seed to fueling a car ALL have to have losses.

Sure, if we had NO fuel from the ground, we would find the expenses of biofuels palatable. As that is not the case, then biofuels are a patent waste of everything involved, except, of course, the people receiving huge government subsidies to make something that would not be marketable on the open market.

This has nothing to do with saving money or being cost efficient. It is all about a maniacal need to use any means, no matter how stupid or expensive, to make save the planet from a delusional threat. It’s an excuse to pursue stupid things.

This is also another cry for “Funding, please.”

102. Jimbo says:

This story reminds me of electric cars that use fossil fuel generated electricity to charge up their batteries. A bit like solar and wind requiring (always on) fossil fuel generated power for when the wind don’t blow and the sun don’t shine. I smell another scam in the works.

103. Fred from Canuckustan. says:

Don’t tell Obama about this. He is desperate and running out of looney tune Eco Greenie companies to give rich rides on the Rent Seeking Express Gravy Train.

104. pochas says:

We can now expect a constitutional amendment requiring 10 percent of all liquid fuel to be made out of thin air.

105. pochas says:

Hot under the collar says:
October 19, 2012 at 3:11 am

“When you consider the price of petrol in the UK, most of the cost being tax, if this process is not taxed to death then commercial viability is feasible in the future. ”

Commercial viability? What’s that?

106. anthony holmes says:

I seem to remember that there is an awful lot of empty space in the huge towers of the wind turbines . Why not put a petrol producing plant inside it , the power is ‘on tap’ so can be switched to producing fuel when it isnt wanted for producing electricity . Lots of room for storage below and the fuel can be tapped off into petrol tankers when needed.
Imagine tens of thousands of giant petrol pumps filling themselves automatically for next to no cost – wouldnt that upset the price of oil!! .

107. What Did I Tell You!? says:

Ever notice there’s not a big push on Sterling engines to mitigate all this free, heat energy?
Pfft.

It’s crime.
It was crime before Al Gore went on tour for chicks and checks to recoup his presidential loss,

it was crime when he advertised it as real science the first time,

it’s been crime ever since.

Period.

108. The Naval Research Laboratory is using an electrochemical acidification cell (see image below) to take seawater through a two-step process to capture carbon dioxide and produce hydrogen gas. Carbon dioxide is concentrated in seawater at levels 140 times greater than in the atmosphere. A portion of it is carbonic acid and carbonate, but most is bicarbonate. Harvesting all that carbon coupled with the hydrogen is what the electrochemical acidification cell does employing a catalyst similar to that used to create synthetic oil from coal but with much greater efficiency.

109. MarkW says:

There’s a lot of carbon in a gallon of gas. There is not a lot of carbon in a cubic meter of air.

You’re going to have to process a lot of air to get enough carbon out of it to make commercial quantities of gas.

110. matt says:

How to make octane from CO2 and H2O? Simple. You get a plant, water it, give it CO2, wait for it to grow, then bury it in the ground for a few million years under heat and pressure, then you suck up the juice, dstil it, and you have octane!

111. Pamela Gray says:

Hahahahahaha! GASP hahahahahahah!!! SNORT hhahahahahahahahah! PLEASE hahahahaha! STOP hahahahahah!

112. Andyj says:

The only way this will pay is to produce from free electricity. Why not simply sell the free electricity? A higher profit is guaranteed.

After all, Britain’s electric prices are at this minute going through the roof!

So, the fact of the matter is they intend to sequester carbon tax monies to pay its hidden cost of liquid fuel production.

No matter how you look at it. It’s a scam.

113. Legatus says:

Technology like this was used by the Germans in WWII (synthetic oil plants), how is this new? How soon we forget.

It can work IF we have enough cheap power, due to “green” power, we do not. We can have enough power if we use two technologies, nuclear and solar power satellites. The greens have managed to stop both, the first due to the “nuclear disaster” in Japan that has, to date, killed or injured absolutely no one (horrors!), and the second they shut down even a small scale test of beaming power to earth with microwaves by inventing imaginary fears and getting the courts to believe them (typical).

114. Henry Clark says:

Liquid fuels are like a battery in a way: They are already more expensive per unit of energy contained than some other sources of energy. That’s why, for example, there is almost no oil-powered electricity generation in the U.S. (only a few diesel generators when being portable is the priority), as has been uneconomic after the 1970s.

Managing to synthesize gasoline without the result being slightly more expensive than the conventional gasoline competition and thus a losing business proposition by default would be doubtful (unless we had the massive expansion of low cost energy like nuclear power which the environmentalists stopped). But there is nothing magical about synthesizing gasoline. Fundamentally, you need a carbon source, a hydrogen source, and an energy source. Back in WWII, Germany was synthesizing gasoline using coal as the carbon source. Conversion starting from the more oxidized form in CO2 adds to energy requirements but is totally physically possible. The crux of the matter is the economics.

Although using thermal energy as much as possible can be cheaper, to start with an example of electricity:

Electricity costs vary by source of production and country, but let’s say \$0.05/kilowatt-hour for example.

Gasoline contains around 130 megajoules/gallon, so roughly around 36 kilowatt-hours of electricity costing around \$1.80 would be required to synthesize a gallon of gasoline in that example, except for such being increased up to multiple times by inefficiencies. Accounting for costs other than input energy alone (such as capital costs) would also increase the figure. On the other hand, usage of nuclear thermal power would improve the economics (substantially cheaper than nuclear electric power or electricity in general currently).

A more sophisticated look at synthesizing fuel:

The analysis “estimated a capital cost of \$5.0 billion for an 18,400-bbl/day synthetic-gasoline plant and \$4.6 billion for a 5,000 tonne/day methanol plant. Nuclear power accounts for more than 50% of the total plant capital investment. The estimated operating cost is \$1.40/gal for synthetic gasoline and \$0.65 for methanol. Because the capital investment is high, a profit margin of \$0.50 per \$1.00 of sales or more is needed to yield an acceptable return on investment. Therefore, the price of gasoline at the pump must be about \$4.60/gal, and price of methanol at the plant gate must be \$1.65/gal for these base cases.”

A number of new technologies of varying technical risks (not considered in our economic analyses) offer promising opportunities for lowering these prices in the future. These include innovations in material science, reactor technology, and compressor technology. Electrolytic cells account for ~20% of the total capital investment required for a synthetic gasoline plant. General Electric can fabricate alkaline electrolyzers from Noryl plastic for a significant cost savings. Use of this material for both the hydrogen electrolyzers and electrolytic stripping cells could result in substantial savings. Advances in material science that make steam electrolysis commercially feasible could reduce both capital costs and energy consumption as well. If just these improvements are realized, the price of gasoline at the pump would be reduced to \$3.40/gal and the price of methanol at the plant gate would be reduced to \$1.14/gal.

http://www.lanl.gov/news/newsbulletin/pdf/Green_Freedom_Overview.pdf

Actually where making inroads against the competition could be easier than in the general market would be to synthesize fuel for deployed military units to reduce the logistics train. While gasoline may cost \$4/gallon retail at the pump today and be worth less for the price manufacturers could sell it for before taxes, getting fuel to some places costs significantly more. The U.S. Navy has looked into synthesizing jet fuel with nuclear power using CO2 from seawater (a little different from getting the CO2 from air but the basic idea being related) and hydrogen from water.

Incidentally, contrary to a lot of environmentalist BS, we will never run out of plastics either: They can be synthesized just as much so, even starting from air and water if needed.

115. W. Sander says:

They do not say anything about the thermo-chemical processes. Can it be the Cerium-reactor? (10.1126/science.1197834). Without even basic information on the process and the input-output energy-relationship it is not worth reading.

116. Pamela Gray says:

My previous comment was not one of my finer ones but this post reminds me of the odd patents file folder. This clearly needs promoting next to the patent for the contraption affectionately known as the pants puller upper. Yes, it can be done, but the punch line is why?

117. rgbatduke says:

The point (to the extent that there is one) is that gasoline, octane in particular, is a near-perfect way of storing a huge amount of energy in a very small volume and mass. Gasoline has an extraordinarily high recoverable energy density — much higher than batteries, for example — and can yield that energy back “explosively” rapidly. Hydrogen, methane, propane, butane, all have to be compressed or liquified under pressure and are hence much more difficult to handle or store or distribute compared to gasoline. So let’s concede that gasoline is a “desirable” fuel for cars in particular, at least until such a time as some sort of storage battery is invented that has a comparable energy density and that can be recharged as fast as a gas tank can and that doesn’t have a “memory effect” or explosive/toxic properties even worse than the explosive/toxic properties of gasoline (which are considerable).

So sure, I’ve fantasized about putting a collector on my roof and using it to run my car. Here’s how the numbers work out. Sunlight delivers perhaps 700 $W/m^2$ to the rooftop during optimal times of day. We average it out, count the number of square meters, work out efficiencies, and perhaps I can get (being generous) 5 kW from my rooftop for 8 hours a day — call it 40 kWh (although it is more likely going to be more like 20). That’s just over one gallon of gasoline assuming perfect conversion efficiency. Gasoline has a whoppping 33 kWh per gallon! No way I’ll get perfect conversion efficiency, so in the real world it would take days to make a gallon and even using the energy to charge up a chevy volt would be far, far more efficient in terms of transportation, and that would still suck because yeah, dumping all 40 kWh straight into the battery of a volt without loss (ideal fantasy world) still only moves the volt about as far as the gallon of gasoline would have, 30 or 40 miles.

That’s enough to make it feasible for me to run an electric vehicle off of my own rooftop’s energy supply at zero MARGINAL cost once I invest in rooftop solar collector and the vehicle itself for the amount of driving I typically do when NOT on the road for a trip with energy to spare for the household (where it would of course be of far more use, far more efficiently) but economically it is a disaster — rooftop collector breaks even on recovered energy costs only with a 13-20 year amortization as it is, the chevy volt is enormously expensive and I NEVER recover its amortized marginal cost compared to buying a cheaper car and paying for a lot more gasoline.

Then there is diesel. Diesel has an even higher energy density than gasoline — the highest of the commercially available liquid fuels except for kerosene (jet fuel) at 37 kWh. And the lovely thing about diesel is that it is basically just oil, and many, many plants make oil out of sunlight, air, and water already. Some of this is straightforward — growing peanuts, rapeseed, hemp, corn, olives, oil coconuts — and extracting the oil. So far, biodiesel grown this way doesn’t break even compared to regular diesel, except when it is recycled cooking oil already used for its primary (more expensive) purpose where this use is quite profitable. However, if it becomes part of a comprehensive plan to use e.g. hemp — oil from the seeds, paper, rope and clothing from the fiber, alcohol or methanol from the sugars/starches, (hell, mental entertainment from the leftovers:-) it might well become profitable (even very much so).

But the more interesting possibility is the development of commercial scale production of biodiesel from e.g. algae. So far, this hasn’t reached break even, although it has come reasonably close. There are a bunch of technical problems to overcome, although there are a lot of very competent people working on those technical problems and a lot of them probably CAN be overcome — they are a matter of clever engineering or plausible advances in the science. There is at least one large scale plant under very serious construction by people who expect to make money from it, and at the same time use it as a real-time engineering platform to solve those problems and gradually refine the process beyond the break-even point to the very profitable point. They have deep pockets and I wish them well (and think it reasonably likely that they will succeed).

This is almost certainly going to be far more efficient in every way than the process described in the top article. The actual energy conversion of sunlight and deconstruction of water and CO_2 is done by chlorophyll, which is remarkably efficient. There is every chance that by a combination of genetic engineering and forced evolution they can increase the fraction of energy that goes into high-grade oils by as much as an order of magnitude compared to levels in naturally occurring alga. There are again auxiliary products one can make for additional profit out of the harvested material once the oil is extracted.

It still won’t work as a rooftop collection process, though, I don’t think. My rooftop would have to produce a gallon of refined biofuel a day, and I just don’t see that happening. If it did, that would represent (say) \$4/day in recovered investment, call it \$1200/year, which means that in a decade it would STILL only break even on a financed original installation cost of \$8000 with zero annual maintenance costs. Not a winner, again, compared to straight up PV solar even now, but something that potentially could be a big winner at turning useless desert with accessible water into a steady flow of fuel.

None of these so far compete with converting coal into gasoline, and all of them risk the development of a really efficient storage battery that permits electricity to actually compete with gasoline as a primary fuel for cars, where now it does so only on a toy basis, enormously expensive and hence only for the rich seeking to be “cool” instead of smart.

rgb

118. Ed Zuiderwijk says:

The Germans used this process in WW2 to make synthetic fuel from browncoal. They used the flue gas from the powerstation that generated the energy to run the conversion from CO2 and hydrogen to methanol. The only thing “new” is using atmospheric CO2. They require an atomic plant to generate the electricity needed for any industrial scale production.

In green technology as in anything else: you gain some, you lose some.

119. MikeN says:

So maybe they will be powered by a solar plant or a windmill. Even with more energy used, the carbon GHG intensity of fuel is reduced.

120. G. Karst says:

We also know how to transform elements via neutron bombardment. I think thorium transformation to U233 may be somewhat more scalable and efficient. We are presently extracting energy from transformed elements (plutonium) in our current reactor designs.

Alchemy has limited practical use, but I daresay, we are already exploiting the magic, in our present day power reactors. GK

121. Mike McMillan says October 18, 2012 at 11:50 pm

Applied cold fusion, no doubt.

Do you really wanna go there?

(Prof. Emeritus George Miley would disagree for instance)

.

122. Jordan J. Phillips says:

When you burn petroleum products you get water vapor and CO2 because that’s lower in energy than hydrocarbons and molecular oxygen. If they want to synthesize hydrocarbons from air, they have to climb back up that energy hill. What is the energy source for climbing this hill? If the energy source is manmade, then you are just burning energy to push a ball back up a hill to let it roll back down.

Smells like a scam.

123. John B., M.D. says:

K.I.S.S. principle. Keep it simple, stupid.
Hydrolyze H2O into H2 + O2 and either combust it or invent an efficient fuel cell to capture the energy.
At best, the proposal in the article is too highly energy intensive with multiple costly steps. More likely it is fraud looking for a grant, with the promise of cold fusion and perpetual motion.

124. I think that pulling Co2 out of the atmosphere is a very bad idea we would be pulling so much out eventually that we risk killing the plants we need to live on.

125. more soylent green! says:

Plants already combine CO2 and water. The next step is geological, but in the end, that’s what all our fossil fuels come from.

I don’t see how this will scale up into anything economical (I’m skeptical, after all) but I’ll wait and see before passing judgement.

126. Jason says:

Don’t plants stop growing at 150-180 ppm? The carbophobics don’t realize that we came within 100 ppm or so of becoming extinct.

127. Matt says:

@ Robert of Ottawa

The gain isn’t in absolute energy, the gain is supposed to be in efficiency of transportation and storage.

Electricity can not be used as a vehicle fule with any efficience because you have loses in both transportation to the vehicle and storage in the vehicle. There is no know way to store electricity without loses over time even with no load.

This is essentially a scheme for powering vehicles with electricity by converting electricity into a liquid fule.

One of the entrants into the Progressive automotive X-prize was pushing a similar scheme using an amonia based fule. Their plan was not to use ambient C02, but to co locat production plants with fossil power plants using the C02 rich exhaust as well as electricity from the plant as inputs.

I don’t know all the math involved so I don’t know if the supposed gains in transportation and storage using electricity -> liquid fule -> vehicle over electricity -> vehicle are real or not.

128. Scute says:

As happened with the ventilated roof a few weeks ago, commenters are wilfully misinterpreting the article so as to take a sideswipe at renewables. Warming skepticism is not incompatible with a green stance. There are many benefits from renewables other than the CO2 issue. Because they are long-term factors they get overlooked but are no less important for that.  Mitigating the dependence on imported oil, gas or coal is one. Facing up to peak oil and subsequent oil price hikes is another. Distributed production allows for a robust energy network with high tolerance to redundancy- a factor that impacts on a country’s ability to defend itself.

For what it’s worth, I think the petrol-from-air idea won’t be proved viable but no one knows that until the research is done. There are a lot of ‘if’s’ but at least the researchers state them or at least allude to them.

They make several points very clearly:

– The process requires an energy input. We all know that this means the air and water vapour in their petrol form are energy vectors, just like hydrogen from electrolysis used in fuel cells. There’s no attempt to suggest it’s free energy. The only make-or-break issue with regard to input/output is the efficiency ratio. It’s always less than 100% but that doesn’t make it unviable as a way of making fuel.

– They are looking at niche markets. This is an indication that they realise they might not be able to change the world but acknowledge that every little helps. Sure, the researcher says it might transform the economic and environmental landscape of Britain but it’s OK to live in hope of greater things if you have identified a workable scenario at a more modest level.

– The researcher was acknowledging the cost/benefit issue in relation to rising oil prices: “You’re in a market place where the only way is up for the price of fossil oil and at some point there will be a crossover where our fuel becomes cheaper.” In other words he is conceding that for a time it might not be viable but at a point in the future it could be. There’s nothing wrong with that observation, given his 15 year horizon with regard to working towards a commercial scale refinery.

Mr Harrison, the researcher, sounds perfectly sensible in everything he says. The fact that the Institution of Mechanical Engineers has gone up there and verified it for themselves suggests strongly that the process is not whacky science, free energy or totally unworkable in the real world. Rather, that it is probably a long shot but more research will tell. This is all sensible, guarded optimism for something that might work at least in a niche market a long way in the future.

Mr Harrison also says, “It looks and smells like petrol but it’s a much cleaner and clearer product than petrol derived from fossil oil”. I suspect it is composed entirely of short chain hydrocarbons due to being built up from CO2 and H2O as opposed to the conventional fossil fuel refinement process of cracking whereby long chain hydrocarbons are broken into smaller ones. The trouble with cracking is that some longer chain molecules remain, hence the “nasty bits” that Mr Harrison refers to. These are what make petrol burn inefficiently and produce pollutants such as soot particulates. In other words, this process is producing cleaner fuel, hence the references to aviation fuel and racing grade fuel.   I was going to mention in my list of benefits above that renewable fuels reduce other pollutants such as NOX gasses and soot particulates. I thought better of it because this is essentially petrol. However, that benefit does apply if this is indeed a higher grade, cleaner fuel (and is produced using renewables).

The greens don’t get off scott free in my book though.  Unfortunately, bias and spin abound on both sides of the debate. The Independent surreptitiously slops another coat of green on a report that is already looking quite environmentally friendly: As with the Daily Mail article about the 16 year flatlining temps the other day, I think the Independent is sailing close to the wind in making their own observations appear to be at one with the person they are writing about. Notice that the reporter says (ie. not Mr Harrison’s words):

” Being able to capture carbon dioxide from the air, and effectively remove the principal industrial greenhouse gas resulting from the burning of fossil fuels such as oil and coal, has been the holy grail of the emerging green economy.”

This is inserted cleverly between one of Mr. Harrison’s, admittedly, more breathless assertions and a reported summary of Mr Harrison talking about “using the extracted carbon dioxide”. I was caught out reading that first time round. I thought Mr Harrison was acknowledging that he was gallantly embarking on scrubbing all the man-made CO2 out of the atmosphere for us. Of course, he’s not- he knows the CO2 gets spewed straight back out as exhaust. He knows it’s CO2 neutral, which is good but isn’t the same as “Remov[ing] the principle greenhouse gas from tbe burning of fossil fuels…”. Only the Independent asserts that and should be ashamed of themselves for trying to put it into the heads of their readers.

Scute

129. numerobis says:

An aside: I was involved in some modeling for a methanol-from-atmosphere plant a long time ago at NASA. The goal was to get pure CO2 out of the Martian atmosphere and turn it into rocket fuel — CO+O2 or CH4+O2 — for a return trip. The amount of energy involved was gigantic, and only made sense because it is cheaper to produce electricity on Mars than to send up all the fuel from Earth. But rockets can’t burn electricity, you need chemical fuel (one reason to be excited about water on mars is that then you don’t need to bring hydrogen for your methane production).

There were two issues: purifying the nearly-pure CO2 atmosphere, and then converting pure CO2 to bipropellant. Well, and doing this flawlessly, since you couldn’t count on Bruce Willis smacking the plant with a sledgehammer whenever it broke.

On Earth, this invention is basically equivalent to the biofuels stuff. Biofuels use solar power to convert atmospheric CO2 to liquid fuel; the work this group is doing can use geothermal or fusion power instead (or coal, but that would be stupid), and probably uses a lot less land than jatropha or sugar.

130. Kelvin Vaughan says:

Financial News 2050

World shortage of carbon dioxide! The price of carbon dioxide shot up on the commodities market as the amount in the atmosphere fell to an all time low. Food prices have also soared as crops fail to grow.

Carbon Dioxide is a market controlled almost entirely by China – 97% of the worlds output now comes from China.

131. PDC says:
132. John R. Walker says:

This is basically how they make it.

http://www.airfuelsynthesis.com/technology/technical-review.html

Scaled-up plants are expected to work from a commercial source of waste CO2.

Site update following all the media hype –

http://www.airfuelsynthesis.com/news/83-petrol-from-air-an-update.html

It looks technically possible but the real-world energy input availability and costs don’t stack up.from my chair… And I’m not happy about anything that robs plants of their dinner ‘cos those plants become my dinner either before or after additional processing by a herbivore…

133. Ed Forbes says:

match this up with fusion power plants that “are just round the corner” and you convert electricity that is “too cheep to meeter” into a useful fuel. :-)

134. Benjamin Braddock, I’ve got one word for you: Thorium.

Steve Garcia

135. Chemistry OK, Technology possible, Economics??
The chemistry of obtaining hydrogen and carbon dioxide from sea water is sound. e.g. See in the studies by Meyer Steinberg on CO2 Fuel from the 1960s onward. For a popular discussion see Carbon neutral fuel
The challenge is getting the source energy to do so, and in bringing the costs down far enough to make this cost effective. Steinberg was exploring nuclear power.

136. michaelozanne says:

“No! it is NOT “viable”. It uses more energy than it produces. You need to look up ‘perpetual motion’ if you don’t understand why this makes it non-viable.”

Putting aside the “if it actually works” question, Its a possible avenue for waste energy scavenged from other systems, or from sources like windmills that can’t reliably be used for baseline production.

But as I say “If”……

137. This is a variation of the Sabatier process that has been known for a long time. As other poster’s have posited it takes more energy to make than it delivers. However, if we had a serious nuclear program, Thorium and Fusion, this would not be a problem and would be a carbon neutral means of creating portable energy that is better for the environment than batteries. Just to be sure, just making CH4 using the Sabatier process and then using that in fuel cells would be far more efficient from a total energy standpoint.

138. Matthew R Marler says:

This is not that new. Improved catalysts for this sort of thing are reported regularly. Omitted from the short excerpts above are the power source. Usually the power source is electricity, which if generated from PV panels or wind turbines, provides another way to store the unpredictable energy for later use, or to use it as fuel. There are catalysts that are powered directly by sunlight, without the need for the PV panels and wires between sun and catalyst. The laws of thermodynamics are not violated.

As with everything else, the next step is cheap mass production. If they can achieve that, the technology will spread without tax subsidy.

In some promotional literature, it’s called “artificial photosynthesis” instead of “alchemy”.

139. pat says:

The passage graph that accompanied the release appears to be absolute nonsense, geared to extract taxpayers money via grants.
Safety Tip: DO NOT LET THE DOE SEE THIS GRAPH.

140. Matthew R Marler says:

It is useful to remember that in some parts of the world liquid fuel supplies are both unreliable and expensive. This is likely to first prove economically viable, if it ever does, in places we don’t usually think about, like Pacific Islands, or the coasts of Africa or Chile.

141. KR says:

In effect hydrocarbon production from renewable energy sources can be considered a high density liquid battery – storing that energy for later or for distant use. Batteries are never 100% efficient round-trip, incidentally, and if the energy source is renewable, fuel cost isn’t the issue (sunlight and wind are free), just the one-time cost of the collection/production infrastructure. The gain is in a carbon-neutral transportation fuel – and transportation represents a significant chunk of CO2 emissions.

A distributed wind system can provide baseline power at about 1/3 to 1/2 it’s average power level (shown in Archer & Jacobson 2007, http://www.stanford.edu/group/efmh/winds/winds_distributed_jamc.pdf) – if the other 1/2 to 2/3 average power were devoted to producing methanol or petrol that would be a good use of the baseline excess. Or it could be even be run in gas turbines for load balancing.

142. Alpha Tango says:

I think the key quote is this:

“We are converting renewable electricity into a more versatile, useable and storable form of energy, namely liquid transport fuels.”

So it doesn’t matter if it takes more energy input :)

143. Mark says:

Espen says:

If the process uses the input energy efficiently (something I really, really doubt) this could perhaps be an interesting alternative to batteries, a way to store energy from solar and wind power on the days they actually deliver.

I suspect a more important factor would be how well the process handles an energy supply which can vary on a second by second basis.

144. Lester Via says:

Energy efficiency is meaningless as long as the energy input is coming from anything you don’t have to buy, such as sunlight. The only meaningful measure is the cost of producing the fuel. There are no laws of physics that prevent the design of a device that uses CO2, water, and sunlight to produce some useful liquid fuel such as methanol, ethanol, or even octane. Even if such a device were initially too expensive to be practical, the Japanese are masters at production engineering and may be able to turn the thing into a viable consumer product as they did with the video tape recorder – originally invented by Ampex and costing \$6,000 apiece back in the 1960s.
Imagine the loss of tax revenues such a device would cause. Governments would spend billions trying to figure out how and what to tax.

145. michaelozanne says:
October 19, 2012 at 9:30 am

> “No! it is NOT “viable”. It uses more energy than it produces. You need to look up ‘perpetual motion’ if you don’t understand why this makes it non-viable.”

Did you see my post above at 5:19 am?

Have you priced the cost of delivering jet fuel to an aircraft carrier in the middle of the Pacific? I think it makes all sorts of sense to use excess energy to make jet fuel while an aircraft carrier is traveling to a destination, and using the fuel once it gets there.

No tankers, perpetual motion, or other magic is necessary.

What process doesn’t “use” more energy than it produces? Waste heat and entropy are everywhere, yet there are many processes that are viable despite that.

146. I think most of the comments miss the point.

Back in the 60’s, when I was a student in a Jr college chemistry class, the instructor gave as an assignment. The task, as he stated it, if in the future we run out of petroleum products, we had to construct (on paper) from readily available basic building blocks (carbon, oxygen, CO2, H2O, etc) simple hydrocarbons that could be then combined to form oil.

Obviously the processes required energy to construct the molecules and basic thermodynamics says you cannot get more out of the end product than you put into it. Where you get the energy to construct the molecules was not part of the problem. With this approach, one can turn nuclear energy into oil, should we run out of the cheap stuff in the ground.

My chemistry prof was way ahead of his time.

147. Yes Dennis Kazura (11:06), most commenters missed the point. There was a long feature on this on the BBC World Service overnight including interviews with the company concerned.
I think the concept is best viewed as a method of energy storage. Probably better and more convenient than running your car off a battery of limited capacity. And a better use of wind farm production than feeding an intermittent supply to the electricity grid. That said the question still remains “Is it necessary?”

148. Chairman Al says:

There is nothing innovative here – it is old technology. The only reason this isn’t being done already is because it is not possible to scale up (fuel is a commodity) and it can never be affordable.

The first stage of the process would require massive amounts of Sodium Hydroxide. So effluent monitoring and treatment from any commercial scale plant would be expensive.

The second stage requires splitting H2 from water using electrolysis – this is massively expensive and requires large amounts of electricity (presumably only makes sense if they can find large enough quantities of renewable electricity). The only reason we are not running around in fuel cell powered cars is because there is no cheap source of hydrogen. If you want low carbon H2 this adds extra expense.

The third stage of the process is no cheaper. The Fischer-Tropsch process involves the conversion of the syngas, a mixture of hydrogen and carbon monoxide, into liquid fuels. Again it’s a very energy-intensive process that will require massive amounts of renewable energy to reach the high temperatures and pressures required. The yields are generally poor – again adding to the expense.

Finally the product is useless – its too pure and has to have the addition of presumably fossil impurities added to ensure efficient operation of today’s engines. Crude oil has aromatics and branched-chain alkanes and other impurities containing nitrogen and oxygen. These have lubricant effects in engines and help to swell rubber seals in fuel systems to prevent leakage.

Also would you listen to a company that puts out blatent lies?

From their Q&A:

1. Question: What if there is no shortage of oil? The conversion of coal and gas to liquid fuels is well established. Peak coal and gas are decades away. Furthermore, lots of shale gas has been discovered recently. There is no shortage of fossil fuels.

Answer: There is absolutely no evidence that this is true (just the opposite) but in any case we must reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050. The danger of runaway greenhouse effect is also a real one. The emission of carbon dioxide from transport on its own is enough to exceed the allowable emissions. Therefore the ability to capture CO2 from the air is a very useful and valuable technology. http://www.airfuelsynthesis.com/faqs.html

149. Steve Thatcher says:

Scute says:
October 19, 2012 at 8:18 am

This is inserted cleverly between one of Mr. Harrison’s, admittedly, more breathless assertions and a reported summary of Mr Harrison talking about “using the extracted carbon dioxide”. I was caught out reading that first time round. I thought Mr Harrison was acknowledging that he was gallantly embarking on scrubbing all the man-made CO2 out of the atmosphere for us. Of course, he’s not- he knows the CO2 gets spewed straight back out as exhaust. He knows it’s CO2 neutral, which is good but isn’t the same as “Remov[ing] the principle greenhouse gas from tbe burning of fossil fuels…”. Only the Independent asserts that and should be ashamed of themselves for trying to put it into the heads of their readers.

Scute
****************************************************************************************************
You beat me to it on the CO2 scrubbing front

Many others on this thread have not realised that this process is not removing CO2 from the air permanently – the fuel produced will be burnt and the CO2 returned almost immediately.

Similarly, others have worked out the cost of fuel produced in this manner (including the extra energy costs). All these calculations have omitted the fuel taxes imposed by most western governments which rely on huge taxes on motor fuel to run ” their” finances. This could add significant costs.

In most cases it will be cheaper to go on collecting the petroleum products being produced deep down in the earth, but I agree with the military uses of this process.

Steve T

150. Edim says:

“What process doesn’t “use” more energy than it produces?”

Burning fuels, for example.

151. Matthew R Marler says:

zbcustom: That said the question still remains “Is it necessary?”

I disagree. The question is “Can it be made to work cheaply enough?”

Cheaply enough for what? you may ask:

a. to drive industrial/economic development in places of the world where fossil fuel is now relatively expensive (relative to the EU) and deliveries are unreliable.

b. to replace gasoline/diesel fuel from petroleum and natural gas.

as to a, I think the answer is probably yes, now, in a few places in the world.

as to b, I think we’ll have a better handle on the answer 10-20 years from now. What economies of scale and improvements in the production process will be invented I have no clue.

152. richardscourtney says:

anthony holmes:

At October 19, 2012 at 5:57 am you say

I seem to remember that there is an awful lot of empty space in the huge towers of the wind turbines . Why not put a petrol producing plant inside it , the power is ‘on tap’ so can be switched to producing fuel when it isnt wanted for producing electricity . Lots of room for storage below and the fuel can be tapped off into petrol tankers when needed.
Imagine tens of thousands of giant petrol pumps filling themselves automatically for next to no cost – wouldnt that upset the price of oil!! .

Yes, imagination is a wonderful thing. It is a pity that reality is nothing like it.

I can imagine another source of “giant petrol pumps filling themselves automatically for next to no cost”: indeed, at no cost at all. You distil the farts from unicorns.

Richard

153. CRS, Dr.P.H. says:

Thanks, Anthony! I wish them well, but I have doubts their process will work.

The good news is, carbon dioxide is finally being recognized as a valuable substance. As a former consultant to the gas industry (BOC, Linde etc.) we would harvest CO2 from ethanol fermenters for use in beverage carbonation, substitute for acids in wastewater treatment and solvents for degreasing etc. It’s really a nice substance with many uses, and extremely non-toxic and biocompatible.

US govt is spending beaucoup of our bucks on trying to directly convert CO2 into fuel. Direct routes are expensive, but routes via bacterial fermentation or photosynthesis (mostly microalgae) are showing promise. I can produce diesel oil equivalent for about \$1/gallon.

Don’t worry about using up the damn “plant food,” there is no shortage of CO2 in the atmosphere & not likely to be. Better worry about “peak phosphorus,” my friends…..this is going to cause a shooting war and catch everyone off guard.

Nearly 90 percent of the world’s estimated phosphorus reserves are found in five countries: Morocco, China, South Africa, Jordan, and the United States. In comparison, the 12 countries that make up the OPEC cartel control only 75 percent of the world’s oil reserves.

http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2010/04/20/peak_phosphorus

154. Matthew R Marler says:

Ric Werme: Have you priced the cost of delivering jet fuel to an aircraft carrier in the middle of the Pacific? I think it makes all sorts of sense to use excess energy to make jet fuel while an aircraft carrier is traveling to a destination, and using the fuel once it gets there.

An excellent example.

155. Andyj says:

@rgbatduke
The average electric car uses ~300WH/mile.
The full processing (well to wheel) cost in electrical energy per US gallon of fuel is ~6.5KWH.

The scam to process C02 back into fuel means building up to 3x more wind turbines to overcome the inefficiencies of the process. They will gain extra carbon credits for this plus further carbon credits for the fuel plant.
ITS A SCAM!!!

156. richardscourtney says:

KR:

At October 19, 2012 at 10:09 am you repeat the canard floated by several others in this thread; i.e.

if the energy source is renewable, fuel cost isn’t the issue (sunlight and wind are free),

All energy is “free” but there is cost in collecting it and converting it to a useful form.

The energy density in fossil fuels and from nuclear power is so high that there is no possibility of so-called “renewable” sources of energy (except hydro-power) ever being competitive with them. That is why wind, biomass and solar were abandoned when the higher energy density in fossil fuels became available by use of the steam engine.

If wind power were really useful then oil tankers would be sailing ships.

Fuel cost is negligible but capital cost is high for nuclear power.
Fuel cost is negligible but capital cost is too high for viability of wind and solar.
(Maintenance uses fuel).

Richard

157. Donald Mitchell says:

Why extract CO2 from air when I am sure that any coal, oil, or gas fired power generator would be delighted for anyone to remove the CO2 from their exhaust? Wouldn’t it be cheaper to extract CO2 from an exhaust which might approach 20% CO2 as opposed to from air at 0.00038% CO2? There is also a ready source of water in either the exhaust from an oil or gas fired plant as well as from the cooling towers.

158. Manfred says:

It is supposed to be a future power storage under the assupmtion that renewable energy, particularly solar production goes close to zero.

Then efficiency considerations are not of interest.

Energy storage as fluid or gas is best compatible with todays demand.
What matters is, if solar energy will get that cheap (what I think will) and if such devices can be built at low cost, currently not.

159. Manfred says:

This is supposed to be a future power storage under the assumption that renewable energy cost, particularly solar energy production goes more or less to zero.

Then efficiency considerations are not of interest.

Energy storage as fluid or gas is best compatible with todays demand.
What matters is, if solar energy will get that cheap (what I think will) and if such devices can be built at low cost in the future, currently not.

160. Tony Nordberg says:

Well, what is needed is a source of enormous pressure, heat, and percolating water rich with dissolved carbonates .All are freely available at the ocean-thermal vents.

But hey! isn’t that where the methane and those other hydrocarbon deposits came from in the first place?

161. Annie says:

Just testing….my first time access in the comment box for days.

This alchemy is going on in my part of the world; I hope they leave some CO2 for the plants! The cold wet weather this ‘summer’ has played havoc in this neck of the woods.

162. SPIGOT says:

“has produced five litres of petrol since August”

Oh well that’s all right then, stop the gas refining at
conventional refineries tomorrow, we don’t need it anymore.

I smell sh*t !!!!!!

163. son of mulder says:

son of mulder says:
October 19, 2012 at 12:19 am

I think I’ve answered my own question ref above. Corrections appreciated.

To run the current UK road transport systems using fuel from the new process would require 249,300 UK wind turbines assuming the process to produce the fuel is 40% efficient. Another 100,000+ to include aviation. Currently there are 3,873 wind turbines installed. If you want a career then try wind turbine maintenance.

(WP=Wind Power in the following)
A. Road Transport UK in 2011
B. Oil Equivalent Energy used for road transport 39,775,000,000 KG
C. I KG Oil equiv Energy 42,000,000 Joules
D. Annual Road Transport Energy 1,670,550,000,000,000,000 Joules BxC
E. UK WP Nameplate capacity 2012 6,858,000,000 Watts
F. WP efficiency 30%
G .UK WP Output 2,057,400,000 Watts ExF
H. Efficiency of Conversion to petrol process 40%
I. Effective WP Output in process 822,960,000 Watts GxH
J. Seconds per year 31,536,000
K. Annual UK WP Output effective Energy 25,952,866,560,000,000 Joules IxJ
L. Factor to increase installed base by 64 x UK Installed base of WP D/K
M. No turbines installed 2012 3,873
N. Total Turbines needed to produce enough petrol 249,300 LxM

164. KR says:

richardscourtney – Amazing. You’ve quoted me out of context on the same thread. Compare what you quoted to what I said in full, which included infrastructure/collection costs.

High density? That’s what makes this thread, about producing hydrocarbons from renewable sources, interesting. Liquid fuels such as this are one way to distribute energy for high density uses, such as transportation fuel.

Cost? The levelized cost – over the lifespan of the plant – for new power plants (http://www.eia.gov/oiaf/aeo/electricity_generation.html) shows that onshore wind is currently neck and neck with cheapest/least efficient new coal plants, and ranges from 80-150% the power cost from gas turbines, depending on the turbine technology. And that cost is expected to drop ~25% over the next 20 years. Solar is 2 (PV) to 3 (solar thermal) times more expensive than fossil fuels, and has a longer way to go before becoming cost competitive – but PV prices are dropping like the proverbial rock given the Moore’s Law effects of increased production. Your cost claims simply don’t hold up. Keep in mind that when coal first started to be used as an electrical power source, it’s costs were huge too.

Renewable energy is currently >14% of US electrical production, wind and solar energy production is growing exponentially (http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/ezra-klein/wp/2012/06/19/are-we-wildly-underestimating-solar-and-wind-power/).

Personally, I believe the term “fossil” applies not just to the fuels, but to attitudes associated with them.

165. Chairman Al says: The only reason we are not running around in fuel cell powered cars is because there is no cheap source of hydrogen.

The problem with hydrogen is the same as the problem with natural gas: there is no way to store the gas without a large expenditure of energy to compress it (and waste heat) and the extremely heavy containers to hold it (unless you go cryogenic which requires even more energy and has its own problems with storage. To make matters worse there is a loss of available energy (cooling) as the gas is released from pressure.

In San Diego they had (maybe they still do) natural gas powered transit buses that had two roof mounted high pressure tanks that ran the length of the bus which replaced the much smaller diesel tank.

If one could figure out the storage issue, hydrogen would be viable.

166. Tsk Tsk says:

numerobis says:
October 19, 2012 at 8:20 am

An aside: I was involved in some modeling for a methanol-from-atmosphere plant a long time ago at NASA. The goal was to get pure CO2 out of the Martian atmosphere and turn it into rocket fuel — CO+O2 or CH4+O2 — for a return trip. The amount of energy involved was gigantic, and only made sense because it is cheaper to produce electricity on Mars than to send up all the fuel from Earth. But rockets can’t burn electricity,
———————————————————-
Actually, they can, but they won’t produce enough thrust to get you into orbit (or even off of the ground). But that did get me to thinking about Zubrin’s Mars Direct some more. If I’ve got a nuke pile sitting on Mars to make fuel, why not go all the way to NERVA and just extract/crack water to get the H2 fuel? Presumably just technical maturity, but who knows…

167. Tsk Tsk says:

Ric Werme says:
October 19, 2012 at 10:41 am

Have you priced the cost of delivering jet fuel to an aircraft carrier in the middle of the Pacific? I think it makes all sorts of sense to use excess energy to make jet fuel while an aircraft carrier is traveling to a destination, and using the fuel once it gets there.
————————————
Presumably you would want to size the system to produce enough fuel to handle daily flight operations or perhaps just a little under that. It seems like you could reduce the fuel storage and handling needs on the carrier that way which would free up space and make the ship more survivable.. One other thing I’m wondering about is life impact on the carrier’s reactors. I haven’t done the calculations but I would expect that this would result in a noticeable shortening of the time between refuelings which would have to be factored in. Still seems like a good idea to me…

168. The Fischer Tropsch process starts with carbon monoxide, which can be produced from oxygen, carbon and heat. Since CO readily oxides to CO2, reversing the process on any commercial scale ought to be interesting.
Concentration of CO2 would be needed, but that’s relatively simple. An adsorption process can be used.
These guys have quite a “green” scam going.

169. CRS, Dr.P.H. says:

Donald Mitchell says:
October 19, 2012 at 1:44 pm
Why extract CO2 from air when I am sure that any coal, oil, or gas fired power generator would be delighted for anyone to remove the CO2 from their exhaust? Wouldn’t it be cheaper to extract CO2 from an exhaust which might approach 20% CO2 as opposed to from air at 0.00038% CO2? There is also a ready source of water in either the exhaust from an oil or gas fired plant as well as from the cooling towers.

Exactly, Don! Technologies are being developed to capture this fossil fuel carbon dioxide very efficiently & cost-effectively. It is an under-utilized byproduct (as are most pollutants) that will eventually be the basis for its own branch of the chemical process industries. Once an economic value is given to it, it will become a commodity & the utilities will charge for it. Watch and see.

The same thing happened with SO2 scrubber gypsum (used to make wallboard), coal ash (used to make cinderblock) etc. Industry is very creative in re-packing its waste & re-selling it to consumers!!

170. Ian L. McQueen says:

Galloping decimal point

@ Donald Mitchell 1:44 pm

CO2 is 0.038% or 0.00038 (fraction), not 0.00038%

IanM

171. Lester Via says:

CO2 is presently a byproduct of the Great Plains Synfuels Plant boondoggle near Beulah, North Dakota, that produces methane from coal. They pipe the CO2 to Canada to sequester it by pumping it underground into oil wells.

Using hydrogen as a fuel is not viable even if storage problems are solved. The cheapest way to produce hydrogen is from methane and it would be cheaper and more energy efficient to use methane directly as the fuel rather than to produce hydrogen from it.

172. Lester Via says: The cheapest way to produce hydrogen is from methane and it would be cheaper and more energy efficient to use methane directly as the fuel rather than to produce hydrogen from it.

I think the issue is what happens when hypothetically the methane runs out (not that it ever will, given the ongoing biological processes) which pretty much leaves water as a source of hydrogen. There has been recent advances using catalysts and nanotechnology to reduce the energy required to generate hydrogen from water, so it is just a matter of time before it becomes an economical method. The marketplace will see to that.

173. richardscourtney says:

KR:

At October 19, 2012 at 4:25 pm concerning outrageously expensive windpower you lie

Cost? The levelized cost – over the lifespan of the plant – for new power plants (http://www.eia.gov/oiaf/aeo/electricity_generation.html) shows that onshore wind is currently neck and neck with cheapest/least efficient new coal plants, and ranges from 80-150% the power cost from gas turbines, depending on the turbine technology.

That is PRICE not COST.

Windpower cost = price + subsidy + backup cost

Windpower is a scandalous rip-off of the public. But you know that, don’t you?

Richard

174. As Steve Paris in a comment above said “What happens to trees when you suck all the CO² out of the air? Doesn’t all that green stuff turn grey and die? And we all starve to death.”

What happens when you suck CO² out of the sea on an industrial scale. Don’t the fishes and other sea creatures like the salt water soup mixed the way that it is ? Change the sea and we potentially have a huge negative effect on our food chain and we all starve to death.

175. cassandraclub says:

Ken Pollock is right: don’t ignore the second law of thermodynamics.
There is no free energy, there is no easy way out.

176. Rich Lambert says:

Often the terms “renewable” energy and “green” energy are used. Energy is not renewable nor does it have a color or the properties of good or bad.

177. richardscourtney says:

cassandraclub:

Yes, this thread has been snowed by ‘green’ dreamers and, as Ken Pollock says, they have no idea of the fundamentals.

Some of he daft ‘green’ notions displayed are so silly that it is not possible to ridicule them.

Richard

178. Chairman Al says:

Green Dreamer – courtesy of Supertramp.

Green dreamer, you know you are a dreamer
I said green dreamer, you’re nothing but a dreamer
I said ’far out, – what a day, a year, a laugh it is!’
You know, – well you know you had it comin’ to you,
Now there’s not a lot I can do

Green dreamer, you stupid little dreamer;
I said ’far out, – what a day, a year, a laugh it is!’
You know, – well you know you had it comin’ to you,
Now there’s not a lot I can do.

179. more soylent green! says:

I’d like all of you solar and wind energy proponents to start a city powered only by wind and solar. No fossil fuels, no nuclear, no internal combustion engines. Electric cars and buses only.

Try that out and get back to us in a few years and let us know how it’s working out.

180. rgbatduke says:
October 19, 2012 at 7:02 am
I can get (being generous) 5 kW from my rooftop for 8 hours a day — call it 40 kWh (although it is more likely going to be more like 20). That’s just over one gallon of gasoline assuming perfect conversion efficiency. Gasoline has a whoppping 33 kWh per gallon!
=========
Exactly, this is what most folks aware not aware of. How little energy a solar panel puts out as compared to fuel. Residential electricity rates are about \$0.1/kwh, so a gallon of gasoline is about the same as \$3.30 worth of electricity.

In the example above, a rooftop of solar panels is going to cost \$ 100K easily. To produce the equivalent of maybe \$1500 worth of gasoline a year in energy. This might at first look like a 1.5% return on your money. However, the panels don’t last forever and are subject to wear and tear. Which means you must factor in this cost, which is going to be at least 5% a year, allowing for a 20+ year replacement. So, in reality, the panels are losing about \$3500 every year.

181. ShrNfr says:

I can make gas from CO2 and water vapor too. It is a highly proprietary process that I have in my “plant(s)”. Even better it uses solar energy too and it is organic. Never mind that I use as much energy to produce it as it will provide, it is GREEN!!! I will do an IPO of this later this year after I suitably flog and carpet post like a Harrop (as in Barrie).

In other news, it appears that the cabbage heads are returning with new schemes of wonderment.

182. Matthew R Marler says:

more soylent green! I’d like all of you solar and wind energy proponents to start a city powered only by wind and solar. No fossil fuels, no nuclear, no internal combustion engines. Electric cars and buses only.

That makes no more sense than a city powered solely by gasoline. If the choice is between gasoline-powered home air conditioning and solar-powered home air-conditioning, then solar-powered home air conditioning wins out in most of the world. In some parts of the world solar for home lighting (and powering sewing machines) already beats out diesel for home lighting. The cities of the future will have a more diverse and stable source of electricity than what they have now, and solar and wind will be parts of that.

Solar power may eventually be cheaper than gas-powered electricity; it already is more productive than an equal area of hydropower (imagine a solar farm beside Lake Mead) and more reliable. As it becomes cheaper, it will spread, and in a few places of the world it is the cheapest source of electricity now, even without subsidies.

Solar and wind are not panaceas, but neither are they phantoms.

183. Matthew R Marler says:

richardscourtney: If wind power were really useful then oil tankers would be sailing ships.

Don’t be absurd.

If batteries were really useful, then oil tankers would be running on batteries.

If gasoline were really useful, then oil tankers would be running on gasoline.

If hydropower were really useful, then oil tankers would be running on gasoline.

We will never have an economy where all of the energy is of a single source and kind.

184. Matthew R Marler says:

richardscourtney: Yes, imagination is a wonderful thing. It is a pity that reality is nothing like it.

All of technology was imagined before it was built.

185. Matthew R Marler says:

ferd berple: Exactly, this is what most folks aware not aware of. How little energy a solar panel puts out as compared to fuel. Residential electricity rates are about \$0.1/kwh, so a gallon of gasoline is about the same as \$3.30 worth of electricity.

That depends on where you live, and those are current costs. In 2032 we’ll want to redo the calculations for Arizona, central India, and Namibia.

186. richardscourtney says:

Matthew R Marler:

At October 20, 2012 at 11:18 am you say to me

Realism may be many things, but not “stupid”.

People can “imagine” whatever they want. And if they change their imaginings into something economic and practical then they make fortunes. But I object to people imagining perpetual motion machines or uneconomic and useless windfarms then expecting me to be forced to pay for the realisation of their dreams.

Richard

187. Matthew R Marler says:

richardscourtney: imagining perpetual motion machines

That will matter when someone proposes a perpetual motion machine. This thread is about fuel from H2O, CO2 and electricity, where the source of electricity might be cheap, like wind, solar or (as suggested in a comment), nuclear power. What made your comments “stupid” was your blanket dismissal of possibilities that are obviously possible.

If [insert power source here] were useful, it would be used in oil tankers. Billions of people find pedal power useful, and it does not power a single oil tanker. Billions also have plenty of sun and wind but no cheap or reliable fuel. If the technologies that already exist can be mass-produced at low enough cost, someone will sell those people fuel made from solar, CO2 and H2O. Perpetual motion machines are not in the mix.

188. richardscourtney says:

Matthew R Marler:

At October 20, 2012 at 12:24 pm you continue to misrepresent what I have said in this thread and the most outrageous example is your writing as a quotation of me

If [insert power source here] were useful, it would be used in oil tankers.

I actually wrote at October 19, 2012 at 1:43 pm

If wind power were really useful then oil tankers would be sailing ships.

and what I did write is self-evidently true.

For thousands of years wind was the power source for ships. And the cargo of oil tankers is oil, and oil is used as their fuel. No shipper would consume his cargo without good reason, but fossil fuel has displaced windpower for all shipping including oil tankers. The reasons are both cost and reliability. The cost or the unreliable nature of windpower each alone stops wind from being “really useful” for shipping and for power generation: both problems together make it completely untenable except as a method to ‘farm’ subsidies.

Our ancestors did not abandon hydropower when fossil fuels became available because they were not stupid. But they did abandon biomass and windpower and their reason for that was also because they were not stupid.

As I said in the same post where I used the oil tanker illustration

All energy is “free” but there is cost in collecting it and converting it to a useful form.

The energy density in fossil fuels and from nuclear power is so high that there is no possibility of so-called “renewable” sources of energy (except hydro-power) ever being competitive with them. That is why wind, biomass and solar were abandoned when the higher energy density in fossil fuels became available by use of the steam engine.

Indeed, rgbatduke explains this same subject in more detail in this thread at October 19, 2012 at 7:02 am.

Richard

189. Scute says:

@richardscourtney

I presume you eat food to live. Unless you live on bread alone (102% efficient) you are alive and commenting thanks to the biggest perpetual motion machine scam in history, still going strong with 7 billion grateful adherents:

http://www.theoildrum.com/node/6252

I was happy enough to skim past your comments after the first few but then I realised there might be some people who are here, eagerly trying to get up to scratch on the science and fall into the same trap as you have if they read “perpetual motion” enough times. That’s the only reason I’m slipping this comment in. Well, that and the fact that these other guys seem to be having some difficulty convincing you despite their cogent arguments.

190. Catcracking says:

Gasoline alchemy indeed!!!
This is an appropriate title and unfortunately describes the state of “comptetence” that is currently being extensively applied to develop alternatives fuels. Just look at the track record of the current administration. They know how to pick failures. As long as a foolish government policy or some rich thermodamically challenged millionaire funds these activities there will be unethical folks taking their \$\$\$ while making claims of replacing big bad oil with a green solution.

From the article:
“However, Professor Klaus Lackner of Columbia University in New York said that the high costs of any new technology always fall dramatically.

“I bought my first CD in the 1980s and it cost \$20 but now you can make one for less than 10 cents. The cost of a light bulb has fallen 7,000-fold during the past century,” Professor Lackner said.

This shows the stupdity of the zealots. High costs ALWAYS fall dramatically regardless of how bad the technology actually performs? Certainly there are lots of ideas that are in the dustbin because the economics never make sense. This common green claim has no substance if fact and is used to avoid admitting a mistake and avoid doing proper economic studies!

Another similar claim for making ethanol from CO2:

“Recycling of CO2 is not a new idea by any means. Every chemistry book has a section outlining the process reactions. What is different, we do not use microbes and operate at room temperature/atmospheric pressure. The process is primarily based on a heterogeneous catalysis and co-catalysis that is not a microbe. This is entirely new and yes, the process works. Our pilot plant converts CO2 into sugar. It seems some are caught up in material balances and say the process can not work because the material balance is not correct. Again, the process works very well. The process is proprietary and will not be discussed. We are just saying, there is a low cost solution to produce sugar from CO2 that is outside a microbiological route. We also developed a fast fermentation process to very quickly convert CO2 into ethanol and capture the fermentation CO2 to produce more sugar. The goal is to cut biofuel production costs significantly and this is one such route to accomplish this goal. Thanks for your interest and comment.”

One common problem with these concepts, Capturing CO2 is not inexpensive, and when captured needs to be compressed to a higher pressure, stored, and transported. It is hard to believe it will ever be economic despite what the Professor from Columbia thinks.

191. richardscourtney says:

Scute:

I quote all of your post addressed to me at October 20, 2012 at 1:32 pm because it is so ridiculous I would not want people to read my reply out of context. It says
I presume you eat food to live. Unless you live on bread alone (102% efficient) you are alive and commenting thanks to the biggest perpetual motion machine scam in history, still going strong with 7 billion grateful adherents:

http://www.theoildrum.com/node/6252

I was happy enough to skim past your comments after the first few but then I realised there might be some people who are here, eagerly trying to get up to scratch on the science and fall into the same trap as you have if they read “perpetual motion” enough times. That’s the only reason I’m slipping this comment in. Well, that and the fact that these other guys seem to be having some difficulty convincing you despite their cogent arguments.

There have been NO “cogent arguments” for ‘renewables’ in this thread. Lots of ‘green’ wet dreams but nothing that approaches a viable and economic reality.

The “7 billion adherents” mostly exist because renewables were abandoned.in favour of the greater energy intensity available from fossil fuels. People need energy to survive and the human population took off when the energy of fossil fuels became available initially by use of the steam engine.

Indeed, your link goes to a site that lists the energy requirements of food production. You are deluded if you really think a return to biomass and a return to horses, oxen and slaves could replace the agricultural production enabled by fossil fueled tractors.

At present the world population is conservatively estimated at 6.6 billion and it is expected to peak at conservatively 8 billion around the middle of this century. Those additional billions need energy to survive. Burning wood and dung will not provide anywhere near enough of it. The only sources of sufficient additional energy are fossil fuels and nuclear power. Most of the needed increased energy supply has to be from fossil fuels because there are limits to the uses of energy from the end of a wire.

The idea that the increase in needed energy could come from renewables is not merely daft: it is evil. It condemns billions of people – mostly children – to death. The existing population was achieved by abandoning such low energy density sources and adopting fossil fuels instead.

Whether you like it or not, a device for producing energy which consumes more energy than it provides IS a perpetual motion machine. Don’t try the idiotic assertion that you could use a ‘renewable’ to provide the excess energy. If that energy were useful then it would be foolish to throw some of it away by using it as an input to the device.

Read the post from Catcracking at October 20, 2012 at 2:02 pm and try to learn something before again putting both feet in your mouth when making a post.

Richard

192. Spector says:

Kirk Sorensen has stated that conversion to the much safer, highly efficient molten salt, fluid fueled nuclear reactor technology (thorium-breeders or the simple uranium burners advocated by Dr. David LeBlanc) could be used to produce low-cost artificial transportation fuels.

LFTR in 5 minutes
“Published on Mar 31, 2012 by Jerry Chan”
5 likes, 0 dislikes, 221 Views; in this case 5:06 min (This is a clip)
Transportation fuels covered at the three minute mark.

Dr. LeBlanc’s position is that for now, there is enough uranium to enable the first generation molten salt reactors to be simple enhanced uranium burners.

The reduced waste mentioned here is the dangerous long-lived, fissionable transuranic waste.

Solid fuel rods have to be removed after only a small fraction of the nuclear fuel has been consumed, because they become distorted by the buildup of nuclear waste products. Molten salt, fluid fueled reactors would not have this problem so it is expected that much less (perhaps only 10%) fuel would be required for the same energy production.

193. richardscourtney says:

Moderators:
Thankyou for finding my reply to Scute. However, it seems its formatting is muddled. Hence, I am now resubmitting it in hope that this version has corrected formatting.
Richard
———————–

Scute:

I quote all of your post addressed to me at October 20, 2012 at 1:32 pm because it is so ridiculous I would not want people to read my reply out of context. It says

I presume you eat food to live. Unless you live on bread alone (102% efficient) you are alive and commenting thanks to the biggest perpetual motion machine scam in history, still going strong with 7 billion grateful adherents:

http://www.theoildrum.com/node/6252

I was happy enough to skim past your comments after the first few but then I realised there might be some people who are here, eagerly trying to get up to scratch on the science and fall into the same trap as you have if they read “perpetual motion” enough times. That’s the only reason I’m slipping this comment in. Well, that and the fact that these other guys seem to be having some difficulty convincing you despite their cogent arguments.

There have been NO “cogent arguments” for ‘renewables’ in this thread. Lots of ‘green’ wet dreams but nothing that approaches a viable and economic reality.

The “7 billion adherents” mostly exist because renewables were abandoned.in favour of the greater energy intensity available from fossil fuels. People need energy to survive and the human population took off when the energy of fossil fuels became available initially by use of the steam engine.

Indeed, your link goes to a site that lists the energy requirements of food production. You are deluded if you really think a return to biomass and a return to horses, oxen and slaves could replace the agricultural production enabled by fossil fueled tractors.

At present the world population is conservatively estimated at 6.6 billion and it is expected to peak at conservatively 8 billion around the middle of this century. Those additional billions need energy to survive. Burning wood and dung will not provide anywhere near enough of it. The only sources of sufficient additional energy are fossil fuels and nuclear power. Most of the needed increased energy supply has to be from fossil fuels because there are limits to the uses of energy from the end of a wire.

The idea that the increase in needed energy could come from renewables is not merely daft: it is evil. It condemns billions of people – mostly children – to death. The existing population was achieved by abandoning such low energy density sources and adopting fossil fuels instead.

Whether you like it or not, a device for producing energy which consumes more energy than it provides IS a perpetual motion machine. Don’t try the idiotic assertion that you could use a ‘renewable’ to provide the excess energy. If that energy were useful then it would be foolish to throw some of it away by using it as an input to the device.

Read the post from Catcracking at October 20, 2012 at 2:02 pm and try to learn something before again putting both feet in your mouth when making a post.

Richard

194. Lester Via says:

The selling price of any alternative fuel will have to be considerably lower than the present price of gasoline. The world’s crude oil price is now set by users bidding against each other for the limited supply available rather than by those producers that are willing to sell it the cheapest. OPEC sees to this by agreeing to limit how much oil they will pump out of the ground, a tactic which is a violation of the laws of most developed countries.

Anyone building a full scale synfuels plant will quickly go bankrupt unless it can compete with gasoline that sells for less than half the present cost. OPEC will simply increase production thus lowering the cost of gasoline to whatever it takes to maintain their oil monopoly by pricing competition out of the market. The only way that is certain to prevent this from happening is to have the capability of doing without any OPEC oil by increasing the non-OPEC oil production capability. Just the threat of a serious worldwide “drill baby drill” effort to increase non-OPEC oil production would cause a immediate drop in oil prices as OPEC is not run stupid people.

195. Matthew R Marler says:

Catcracking: High costs ALWAYS fall dramatically regardless of how bad the technology actually performs? Certainly there are lots of ideas that are in the dustbin because the economics never make sense.

With knowledge that we have now, would you bet that this technology costs more or less than 10% of what it costs now, 20 years from now? At that time will liquid fuels from carbonaceous deposits cost more or less than what they cost now?

Functioning gas turbine engines were first operated in about 1939. Their development was entirely government funded. Do you think it will take longer to make this technology commercially feasible than it took the governments of the world to make turbine engines commercially feasible? For solar, we know the answer is “Yes”; given that solar is where it is today, it seems to me that catalyzed manufacture of liquid fuel from PV panels has a good chance to be commercially feasible in less than 20 years, especially for the populations of humans who have sun, water, but no reliable supplies of gasoline or diesel fuel.

Taking a hard line on what costs can’t possibly be reduced sufficiently to make a technology commercially feasible strikes me as being foolish.

196. Matthew R Marler says:

richardscourtney: If wind power were really useful then oil tankers would be sailing ships.

and what I did write is self-evidently true.

Let me try again more directly: an energy source can be really useful and yet not be used to power oil tankers — pedal power for example. That wind power is not used to power oil tankers is irrelevant to the discussion of whether wind power is useful.

197. Matthew R Marler says:

richardscourtney: (except hydro-power)

Why did you except hydro-power? The “energy density” of wind and solar compare favorably with the energy density of hydro-power. Besides that, solar and wind can be harvested in flat locations and places that don’t have water, like Iowa and West Texas. Hydropower in San Diego County is kind of a joke: what comes from the Colorado River goes elsewhere, but we have a lot of wind and sun.

I don’t deny that nuclear power is great; what I deny is that we know for sure that it will always be cheaper than wind and solar in all places for all time. The costs of the wind and solar technology have been reduced much more than the costs of nuclear in the last 20 years.

198. bushbunny says:

I didn’t see the programme but No.1 son, said, they have produced petrol from air. One problem it took months to produce 5 litres and well – maybe in the future they can do a lot better?

199. richardscourtney says:

Matthew R Marler:

I copy all your post at October 20, 2012 at 5:17 pm because – like all your posts – it is so mind-blowingly stupid that anybody only reading a rebuttal could think the rebuttal is an exxageration of it. You write to me saying

richardscourtney:

If wind power were really useful then oil tankers would be sailing ships.

and what I did write is self-evidently true.

Let me try again more directly: an energy source can be really useful and yet not be used to power oil tankers — pedal power for example. That wind power is not used to power oil tankers is irrelevant to the discussion of whether wind power is useful.

Any energy source can have a niche use. Your example of “pedal power” is an example of this. Pedal power is useful for some personal transport over short distances. But it is ridiculous to claim “pedal power” is useful for bulk transportation.

In other words, pedal power is not really useful so it only has a niche uses.

You imply that if “pedal power” were connected to drive shafts then it could be really useful for transportation; i.e. it could usefully power ships, trains, trucks and mass transport systems. Indeed, in the example of ships, oars were used for thousands of years and are still used for small boats, but galleys are not used now. Since you advocate this by using it as an example, then I suggest you volunteer to be a galley slave.

Are you really trying to say that because pedal power has a small niche use then that indicates pedal power can provide a useful contribution to the electricity supply of a grid!?

And you suggest that windpower is useful because pedal power has some small, niche uses!

Windpower also still has some small niche uses. For example, windpower is still used to pump irrigation water in places distant from a power source, but is not now used to power ships or mills although it did for centuries.

As I pointed out in an earlier post, windpower relies on the wind and is extremely expensive. The unreliability of wind or its cost would each alone rule it out as a viable source of bulk power, for example, to supply to an electricity a grid supply. If it were really useful then owners of present-day mills and factories would still use it as a power source: but they don’t.

Windpower as a supply to electricity grids is a rip-off of the public: it is politically mandated as a method to ‘farm’ subsidies. I strongly suspect you are employed by Big Wind as a propagandist because, otherwise, I fail to understand how anybody could want to post the kinds of outrageous nonsense with which you have snowed this thread.

Richard

200. richardscourtney says:

Matthew R Marler:

I am bothering to reply to your daft post at October 20, 2012 at 5:24 pm because it demonstrates the type of (deliberate?) falsehood with which you have been trolling this thread as a method to preovide your pro-wind propoganda. It begins saying to me

richardscourtney: (except hydro-power)

Why did you except hydro-power? The “energy density” of wind and solar compare favorably with the energy density of hydro-power.

I chose hydro-power because it has much higher energy density than normal winds (windfarms only operate when the wind is strong enough but not too strong).
Indeed, as I said, that is why hydro-power continued to be used when windpower was discontinued because the greater energy intensity of fossil fuels became available by use of the steam engine.

I will explain the difference between the energy intensities of windpower and hydro-power in a manner that any reader can understand. But before that I briefly mention it is because water is denser than air, and the energy in air increases with the cube of the wind speed.

Most people saw the news videos of the Boxing Day tsunami that struck Japan. They saw the water moving in at a speed which would not have been a problem if it were air. At that wind speed people could have walked down a street. But at that water speed the streets were demolished by the immense power of the moving water.

Richard

201. Scute says:

@richardscourtney (October 27 4:27pm)

Richard,

Richard said in reply to my comment of October 20th 1.32pm:

“There have been NO “cogent arguments” for ‘renewables’ in this thread. Lots of ‘green’ wet dreams but nothing that approaches a viable and economic reality.

“The “7 billion adherents” mostly exist because renewables were abandoned in favour of the greater energy intensity available from fossil fuels. People need energy to survive and the human population took off when the energy of fossil fuels became available initially by use of the steam engine.

“Indeed, your link goes to a site that lists the energy requirements of food production. You are deluded if you really think a return to biomass and a return to horses, oxen and slaves could replace the agricultural production enabled by fossil fueled tractors.

“At present the world population is conservatively estimated at 6.6 billion and it is expected to peak at conservatively 8 billion around the middle of this century. Those additional billions need energy to survive. Burning wood and dung will not provide anywhere near enough of it. The only sources of sufficient additional energy are fossil fuels and nuclear power. Most of the needed increased energy supply has to be from fossil fuels because there are limits to the uses of energy from the end of a wire.

“The idea that the increase in needed energy could come from renewables is not merely daft: it is evil. It condemns billions of people – mostly children – to death. The existing population was achieved by abandoning such low energy density sources and adopting fossil fuels instead.

“Whether you like it or not, a device for producing energy which consumes more energy than it provides IS a perpetual motion machine. Don’t try the idiotic assertion that you could use a ‘renewable’ to provide the excess energy. If that energy were useful then it would be foolish to throw some of it away by using it as an input to the device.

“Read the post from Catcracking at October 20, 2012 at 2:02 pm and try to learn something before again putting both feet in your mouth when making a post.

Richard”

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxEND OF RICHARD’S COMMENT

Wow! What a pointless rant. I didn’t think you would think I was advocating a return to the stone age. Anyone who had read your assertions regarding perpetual motion and then saw my link would get what I meant. But it seems I need to spell out the simple message therein that negates your argument:

A process (agriculture) produces a fuel (food) which feeds a machine (your body) at vastly greater input (energy needed for food production) than output (you typing, walking, running).

Yet producing food and eating it to stay alive is clearly a viable energy input/output equation despite being way less than 100% efficient (as has been the case since the most basic forms of auxiliary energy replaced muscle power). You are not a perpetual motion machine and neither is the process used to make your fuel. You must agree with that if you are alive and well and buy your food from the shops. Indeed, your robust support of modern agriculture (which I would heartily second) proves that you do agree, quote:

“You are deluded if you really think a return to biomass and a return to horses, oxen and slaves could replace the agricultural production enabled by fossil fueled tractors.”

That observation proves my point admirably: fossil fueled tractors (and other energy inputs) consume more energy than the food energy they produce. Absolutely nothing wrong with that. Yet you call the process of fuel from air a perpetual motion machine (despite its being a process and not a machine). So, by the same token, we have to conclude that you would call modern agriculture a perpetual motion machine. It is clearly not and neither is fuel from air, for the same reason. That reason is that you gain added value, or utility, from the conversion and the cost of the excess energy over and above 100% is the price that is paid- willingly so in the case of food, the value added being life; and yet to be ascertained in the case of air to fuel, the value added being ease of transportation and energy density.

If you really believed your energy input can’t exceed energy output argument it would be you, not I, who would be advocating a return to the stone age- using muscle power to produce your food. Hunter gathering or bashing clods in a field with a hoe are the only way to feed the human machine with fuel that contains more energy than that used to produce it.

If you continue to believe that perpetual motion is being touted here, please just go and look it up somewhere. You’ll find that such systems are described as closed systems, independent of outside energy input and impossible for that reason. If you present an argument against air to fuel while invoking energy input, as you have, then you have strayed from perpetual motion territory right there at the outset.

I think, on reflection, you probably did understand the simple food energy analogy I was making. It certainly does seem surreal having to explain such a simple concept for you while other readers look on with what must be bemused astonishment.  So please don’t wilfully misrepresent my comments in future and in such an insulting manner. I don’t do so with your comments nor with anyone else’s.

Scute

202. richardscourtney says:

Scute:

I read the first paragraph of your post at October 21, 2012 at 4:41 but no more because it is offensive and untrue nonsense. If that is what you want to write then I can get similar and better in a book of childrens’ jokes.

You clearly fail to understand irony. Only idiots promote perpetual motion. I explained why much of what was being promoted by ‘green’ idiots posting to this thread is perpetual motion.

Agriculture is a different activity from making energy by using more energy. It is about growing crops. And you certainly WERE advocating a return to so-called renewables which IS “a retrograde step”.

I did NOT misrepresent the astonishingly stupid post that provided “Matthew R Marler’s pedal power comment”. It is so outrageously ridiculous that it is not possible to ridicule it. I remind that it said

Let me try again more directly: an energy source can be really useful and yet not be used to power oil tankers — pedal power for example. That wind power is not used to power oil tankers is irrelevant to the discussion of whether wind power is useful.

People can ride bicycles so windpower is useful?
Do you really want to defend that idiocy?
Windfarms farm ‘subsidies’: they are a rip-off of the public: nothing more and nothing less.

And it is silly to claim – on the basis of that – I “try to make intelligent people look like dunces by taking their sensible argument and pretending they meant the opposite by turning around 180 degrees.”

I do not try to do any such thing because there is no need. I explain the stupidity of the comments from people such as Marler and you. Why would I want to misrepresent those comments when those comments shout about the idiocy of their providers?

I did not bother to read more of your post because I cannot be bothered with more of such nonsense.

Richard

203. Mark says:

Chairman Al says:
The only reason we are not running around in fuel cell powered cars is because there is no cheap source of hydrogen.

Nothing to do with a liquid being rather easier to transport and store than a compressed gas?

204. stpaulchuck says:

“renewable” energy already costs three times as much as conventional and not all of that is transmission costs. So let’s say they really get this efficient, I’m betting it still costs twice as much as conventional delivered at the user. I guess I’m kind of underwhelmed.

205. Scute says:

@ richardscourtney October 21st at 6:16am

There you go again. Turning our arguments round 180 degrees. You’re digging a hole and don’t know when to stop.

Scute

206. Big Don says:

Because of their extremely high energy densities, hydrocarbons make excellent fuels for dynamic vehicles. Energy density doesn’t matter so much in stationary applications, but when you have to move your potential energy around with you, it is of paramount importance. Whether or not a scheme like this will ever be viable will depend on the cost of synthesizing hydrocabon fuels vs. the cost of drawing them up out of the ground. If we were to get to a state where it is cheaper to synthesize the fuel (say we develop an infrastructure of thorium-based nukes, producing really cheap electricity) than to draw it from the ground (having to go to increasingly exotic methods to extract oil from increasingly remote reservoirs), then it may happen. But not likely until then.

207. Lester Via says:

We will never run out of fossil fuels – as its scarcity increases, so will its cost, and at some point its cost will exceed the cost of alternatives. At that point, alternatives will replace fossil fuels without any government initiatives or taxpayer subsidies. Until that point in time arrives, the construction of full scale plants as anything other than an experiment intended to uncover any unforeseen problems with a new technology is a waste of resources.

The Great Plains Synfuel Plant may have been justified as such an experiment (even though that wasn’t its stated purpose) but we are not dumb enough to invest in more of them in an attempt to solve any energy problems. A few large wind turbines, for example, would be sufficient for experimental demonstration purposes. Huge arrays of wind turbines requiring taxpayer subsidies are a monumental waste of tax dollars. Money that would be better spent looking into new ideas for alternatives – even investigating seemingly harebrained schemes to turn water and CO2 into gasoline is better than just letting the wind blow it away.

208. richardscourtney says:

Scute:

I have saved our entire exchange and bolded your final post at October 21, 2012 at 8:32 am.
And I intend to use the resulting presentation – with that final post as the demonstration – whenever I am asked to explain ‘psychological projection’.

Thankyou. The result has made the unpleasant business of interacting with you worthwhile.

Richard

209. richardscourtney says:

Lester Via:

Thankyou for your excellent post at October 21, 2012 at 10:35 am.

Since 1994 it has been possible to produce synfuel from coal at competitive cost with natural crude by use of the Liquid Solvent Extraction (LSE) process. We operated a demonstration plant in North Wales and it proved both the technical and the economic viabilities of the process. The process was invented and developed by the UK’s Coal Research Establishment (CRE) on behalf of UK government which owned CRE. The IPR of LSE is now owned by UK government.

The existence of the process sets a limit to true cost of crude for the reasons Big Don outlines at
October 21, 2012 at 9:28 am. Bulk crude producers are constrained from lowering production to a degree that would enable economic viability of constructing the infrastructure to produce LSE product. And ensuring that constraint was the purpose of developing the process.

Richard

210. Matthew R Marler says:

richardscourtney: People can ride bicycles so windpower is useful?
Do you really want to defend that idiocy?

You made that up. I agree it’s comical.

Luckily, all these power sources are under continual development, so we’ll be able to discuss relative costs for the rest of our lives. If the costs of the proposed technology (“artificial photosynthesis”) are brought below the costs of the alternatives, then the technologies will thrive without subsidies. Meanwhile, be thankful that you enjoy reliable delivery of cheap fuel.

211. Catcracking says:

Matthew R Marler says:
October 20, 2012 at 5:10 pm
“Taking a hard line on what costs can’t possibly be reduced sufficiently to make a technology commercially feasible strikes me as being foolish.”
I agree that it would be foolish, however, that is not what I said.
Why would you set up a phoney strawman?
What I was relating to was the “always” claim by the professor:
“However, Professor Klaus Lackner of Columbia University in New York said that the high costs of any new technology always fall dramatically”
Only a gullible person would believe this claim or deceptive person would make or support this claim.
As I said “Certainly there are lots of ideas that are in the dustbin because the economics never make sense.”

What I find interesting is that you would so strongly defend what is obviously nothing more than a press release with very little technical detail as to how they can make gasoline from CO2 but backed up by a Professor’s claim that costs ALWAYS dramatically fall. Unfortunately I have seen so many failures in the past 12 years.
Go to the following website for a partial list of failures supported by our tax dollars:

http://finance.townhall.com/columnists/maritanoon/2012/10/07/romney_to_obama_you_pick_the_losers/page/full/

Why would anyone trust brief press reports with this track record for exaggerated claims?

212. Matthew R Marler says:

richardscourtney: But before that I briefly mention it is because water is denser than air, and the energy in air increases with the cube of the wind speed.

that only matters in places that have lots of water falling or flowing downhill. Where the Niger River flows through the Sahel, you can get more power from the wind than from hydropower. Closer to home, the California Electricity crisis began when a multiyear drought failed to refill all the source reservoirs and the hydroelectricity supply fell (that wasn’t the only thing, but it was the closest thing to a “proximate cause” — absent the droughts, or if they had occurred 3 years later, there would have been no electricity crisis.) In San Diego County, one wind farm will outproduce the hydropower of the entire rest of the county because there is so much reliable wind and so little water.

The density of water is irrelevant where the water doesn’t flow in sufficient quantities.

For a smart fellow, you ignore an awful lot of possibilities in an awful lot of places. I would never recommend wind power to a gas-rich and coal-rich place like Pennsylvania. But I think it may eventually prove commercially viable in other places.

213. Matthew R Marler says:

richardscourtney: Any energy source can have a niche use.

Would be good to end on that note of agreement. That is the claim I have been making about non-fossil and non-nuclear power.

But I shall add: if the cost of the energy source can be made to decline, then it can expand into other niches. As the costs of wind and nuclear continue to decline, they will continue to expand, as did the “niche” turbine engines before them.

214. Catcracking says:

Matthew, here is a better list of failures and the cost that would make any reasonable person say:
“Lets stop this nonsense before we are bankrup and get some qualified engineers screening these investmentst”
As a matter of full disclosure, I did some consulting on Range fuels. No 23.
The complete list of faltering or bankrupt green-energy companies:
1.Evergreen Solar (\$25 million)*
2.SpectraWatt (\$500,000)*
3.Solyndra (\$535 million)*
4.Beacon Power (\$43 million)*
6.SunPower (\$1.2 billion)
7.First Solar (\$1.46 billion)
8.Babcock and Brown (\$178 million)
9.EnerDel’s subsidiary Ener1 (\$118.5 million)*
10.Amonix (\$5.9 million)
11.Fisker Automotive (\$529 million)
12.Abound Solar (\$400 million)*
13.A123 Systems (\$279 million)*
14.Willard and Kelsey Solar Group (\$700,981)*
15.Johnson Controls (\$299 million)
16.Schneider Electric (\$86 million)
17.Brightsource (\$1.6 billion)
18.ECOtality (\$126.2 million)
19.Raser Technologies (\$33 million)*
20.Energy Conversion Devices (\$13.3 million)*
21.Mountain Plaza, Inc. (\$2 million)*
22.Olsen’s Crop Service and Olsen’s Mills Acquisition Company (\$10 million)*
23.Range Fuels (\$80 million)*
24.Thompson River Power (\$6.5 million)*
25.Stirling Energy Systems (\$7 million)*
26.Azure Dynamics (\$5.4 million)*
27.GreenVolts (\$500,000)
28.Vestas (\$50 million)
29.LG Chem’s subsidiary Compact Power (\$151 million)
30.Nordic Windpower (\$16 million)*
31.Navistar (\$39 million)
32.Satcon (\$3 million)*
33.Konarka Technologies Inc. (\$20 million)*
34.Mascoma Corp. (\$100 million)

*Denotes companies that have filed for bankruptcy.

215. Matthew R Marler says:

Catcracking: “Lets stop this nonsense before we are bankrup and get some qualified engineers screening these investmentst”

You omitted Worldcom, Enron, GM, DEC, American Motors Corporation, TWA, Kodak and Consolidated Aircraft.

Let’s stipulate that in most places in the US and EU and most developed nations wind and solar are not cost-competitive against gas and coal, for most purposes (maybe solar is good for irrigation in the Imperial Valley and lighting schools and businesses in Southern Arizona.) However, the prices have been driven up because demand has increased much faster than output ( favor increased American output of petroleum and natural gas, but I would be surprised if prices fall 25%.) As America’s exports of natural gas increase, the domestic prices of natural gas will probably continue their recent increase. Over the past 2 decades, the costs of electricity from wind and solar have decreased. With the usual caveat that the future can not be predicted accurately, and for sure not 2 decades in advance, there is every reason for optimism that continued R&D will continue to drop their prices. Starting small, the aircraft and airline industries grew because they received great sums of government support, more than the alternative energy industries have received — that includes my favorite example of turbine engines. One of the basic justifications for the federal subsidy is to develop the technology to where is is commercially viable, and solar and wind look set to achieve that goal, despite the disasters that you listed.

Outside the US and EU, there are billions of people who have no electricity, no reliable deliveries of gasoline, gas, or natural gas, but who have plenty of wind and sunshine. If the rest of the world economy grows, those people will never have electricity from fossil fuels because they can’t outbid the rest of the world, but they might soon be able to afford electricity from solar and wind power.

I am not saying you don’t have a case, I just don’t think it is decisively against further R&D of these alternatives.

216. Catcracking says:

Matthew,
I am not against properly vetted R&D, in fact a good potion of my career has been engineering support of new energy technology development even to this day. I once worked for one of the largest energy companies with one of the largest R&D development programs (not government funded), and still do/did a lot of consulting on developing new technologies, including failed number 23 on the list. The Company I retired from had a vetting process (gates) to prevent throwing millions of dollars at commercialization of a development that did not show a chance of achieving economical success, This is lacking in the US government because they do not employ the best talent and fall prey to political decisions and funding campaign contributors.
I am too experienced to buy into the mantra that” high costs of any new technology will always fall dramatically” with time. That is a lame excuse for all the failures listed above. Let’s be honest, the administration is blinded into believing that throwing \$\$\$ at something like a car battery will overcome the laws of thermodynamics, physics, and chemistry. Private companies have been searching for a better battery in Labs for decades and know better not to build a multi million dollar production plant for a battery and a car when the batteryt does not even store sufficient energy in the LAB. The public are smarter than the DOE as evidenced by the sales of electric cars that run on “dirty” coal!!
The reference I gaveabove is looking for funding to convert CO2 to ethanol, and you can invest based on your beliefs. Before investing however I think you should know that while feasible, it is not cheap to capture CO2 from air since it is only 0.04 %. That is one of the many reasons why I am a skeptic which has served me well over a long career.

217. richardscourtney says:

Matthew R Marler:

You began our interaction when at October 20, 2012 at 11:14 am you called “absurd” a clear, sensible and realistic illustration I had provided. And you tried to ridicule my illustration.

Now, after I have shown it is your silly assertions that are absurd and ridiculous, you wave an olive branch. I will notice that after you wave a white flag by admitting windpower is a rip-off of the public.

Richard

218. Spector says:

In the eventual post-carbon era, when the Earth’s remaining petrochemical energy is so difficult to recover that its continued use as a common fuel is impractical, I believe that only some form of nuclear power would support our current population levels. People of the future are going to face a planet largely denuded of the easily obtainable resources that support our current technical civilization. I suspect that many of the high-tech green (natural) energy solutions proposed today would not be practical once the resources required become too expensive for personal use.

With natural power, I believe some minimal area, perhaps on the order of one acre per person or per family will be required to collect the energy for the population of the planet. Those promoting an economy driven by green energy alone should realize that they are also promoting a probable return to pre-industrial population levels.

There have been two books with the title “The End of Growth” which say we may have reached a limit because we can no longer exponentially increase the production of resources required to support an exponentially increasing population. These also deal with the fact that our current economy is structured on the presumption of continual exponential growth and government policies based on trying to renew growth by increasing government debt may be likened to the case of a pilot, who, flying a plane at maximum flight altitude, tries to get more lift by increasing his angle of climb and stalls backward out of the sky.

Someday, California residents may not appreciate the fact that their high taxes may have to be paid to some other country so that the price of gasoline will be cheaper over there.

219. Matthew R Marler says:

Catcracking,

I think we have gone over the relevant issues enough for this thread. I review local prices each summer, and I’ll do the same next summer.

220. Matthew R Marler says:

richardscourtney: you wave an olive branch

That was not an olive branch, it was a notice that you agreed with me on my main point.

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow there will be new developments and new prices.

221. Spector says:

RE: Matthew R Marler: (October 22, 2012 at 2:10 pm)
in the nick of time, more on Artificial Photosynthesis here:
No matter how you slice it there is only a fixed amount of sunlight arriving at the Earth’s surface. Facilities used to collect solar energy diverted to creating fuel must compete for space with facilities using solar energy to create food and space for the natural environment.

There are many high-tech resources that are becoming ever more difficult to obtain. We have already depleted many native resources. There is no one suggesting that the fiscal problems in California could be solved by an all-out search for those huge gold ore bodies that ‘must’ be just out of reach.

It is hard to escape the fact that huge tracts of land will have to be devoted to solar energy collection and the energy return on energy investment will be low with most high-tech solar energy collection solutions, when one considers the extra energy required to extract special resources needed to construct them. Even with massive government funding, solar and wind power solutions have had a hard time exceeding one percent of our total energy supply.

I believe, only a wise exploitation of nuclear energy offers any hope of replacing carbon combustion as a primary energy source for mankind at the rate we are accustomed to. Nuclear reactions have on the order of a million times the energy of a chemical carbon bond. The point has been made that existing solid fuel nuclear technology may be suboptimal because it burns only a small fraction of the fuel and is non-sustainable due to the steady accumulation of dangerous, long-lived transuranic waste products. However, molten salt, fluid fueled reactors are claimed not to have these problems because they burn (or fission) almost all their fuel and transuranic waste, leaving behind only the short-lived, benign, radioactive fission fragments.

222. CRS, Dr.P.H. says:

I see this stuff popping up all the time….carbon dioxide is a valuable substance. Petronas is a serious player, unlike some guy in a garage someplace in England!!

Petronas and Lanzatech to recycle CO2 into chemicals
Capture, Oct 15 2012 (Carbon Capture Journal)

– Waste CO2 from Petronas operations will be captured by LanzaTech’s process to create acetic acid.

LanzaTech, a producer of low-carbon fuels and chemicals from waste gases, and PETRONAS, the national oil company of Malaysia, will work together to accelerate the development and commercialization of technologies to produce sustainable chemicals from carbon dioxide and natural gas.

The agreement blends Petronas’ experience and assets in the petroleum industry with LanzaTech’s gas fermentation technology to create an economical and sustainable source of high value chemicals.

223. Matthew R Marler says:

Spector: I believe, only a wise exploitation of nuclear energy offers any hope of replacing carbon combustion as a primary energy source for mankind at the rate we are accustomed to.

Spector, I look forward to the day when the US starts to build new nuclear power plants at the rate we constructed our current set. Over the time it would take to do that, about 25 years, we should continue to invest in R&D in wind, solar and biofuels as well. It’s foolish to say that we know for certain now that they will never be cheap enough to make a useful contribution, because the costs are being reduced by active research. As to your argument about the amount of land needed, that argument is weaker for solar, wind and biofuels than it is for hydropower, and we know that hydropower is useful.