Energy, Resources, Money, and Technology

Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach

I’ve made some statements lately that I’d like to reprise.

• There is never a shortage of resources. It’s a shortage of cheap enough energy to get the resources economically.

• Energy and money are inextricably linked.

• Making energy expensive hurts, impoverishes, and even kills the poor.

• Technology is not bulldozers. It’s getting more production using less energy.

People say, well, what about water? What if there’s a shortage of water? How does that relate to your statements above? You figure out how to manufacture water?

grapheneFigure 1. Graphene is a one-molecule-thick form of carbon, arranged in a hexagonal pattern. SOURCE

I’d like to illustrate all four of these statements with a recent news article, from Reuters:

Pentagon weapons-maker finds method for cheap, clean water

(Reuters) – A defense contractor better known for building jet fighters and lethal missiles says it has found a way to slash the amount of energy needed to remove salt from seawater, potentially making it vastly cheaper to produce clean water at a time when scarcity has become a global security issue.

The process, officials and engineers at Lockheed Martin Corp say, would enable filter manufacturers to produce thin carbon membranes with regular holes about a nanometer in size that are large enough to allow water to pass through but small enough to block the molecules of salt in seawater. A nanometer is a billionth of a meter.

As you might guess, they make it out of graphene.

“It’s 500 times thinner than the best filter on the market today and a thousand times stronger,” said John Stetson, the engineer who has been working on the idea. “The energy that’s required and the pressure that’s required to filter salt is approximately 100 times less.”

Damn … a factor of a hundred? Two orders of magnitude less energy required? Are you aware what that will do?

Well … without cheap energy, it won’t do much at all, will it? … it takes a large amount of energy to pump the seawater through the reverse osmosis filters, even new graphene filters.

But with cheap energy? It can make the deserts bloom, quite literally. Israel’s doing it now, they are currently desalinating about three hundred million (300,000,000) cubic metres of water per year. That’s seventy-nine billion gallons, (79,000,000,000). And plants are now under construction to more than double that amount.

How much water is that? Well, when the new Israeli plants are at full capacity it will be enough to cover all of Israel’s current agricultural land with about 6″ (15 cm) of water. And they’re already doing it at a reasonable cost, even before the latest development. Right now, it’s about five gallons for one cent ($0.01).

cost efficiency isreal desalinationFigure 2. Cost per cubic metre (black) for desalinated water around the world. I have added the cost per 100 US gallons in blue. The four outlined plants are in Israel.

Now, with the new graphene filters, the cost of water should be dropping, perhaps even by a factor of ten, for people from Algeria and Cyprus to Trinidad and Israel. And since this is just a filter and can be made in any shape, it can be made as a pin-to-pin replacement for filters in existing desalination plants. This can only be good news for the poor of the world.

Let me look at all of that discussion of desalination in terms of my statements reprised above:

• Technology is not bulldozers. It’s getting more production using less energy.

This is at the heart of the new development of the graphene filter for the reverse osmosis desalination of seawater.

• Making energy expensive hurts, impoverishes, and even kills the poor.

If a country has to pay twice as much for its energy, it will pay twice as much for its water. This hurts everyone, particularly the poor.

• Energy and money are inextricably linked.

The cost of the water is a function of the cost of energy.

• There is never a shortage of resources. It’s a shortage of cheap enough energy to get the resources economically.

If energy is cheap, then with technology many, many things are possible … including using endless seawater to turn the deserts green. On the other hand, if energy is expensive, resources are no longer economical, water costs more, and people suffer.

That’s all,

w.

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Shortages only exist when prices are fixed below market value. By definition, they cannot exist otherwise.

Kevin Hilde

Hey Willis …. something I’ve been thinking about for years now ….. maybe you can tell me why it wouldn’t work or why nobody’s done it already (or maybe they have.)
Use gravity to create the pressure for osmosis. Specifically, build huge silos in water several hundred feet deep, have filters down near the base, pump the water out of the silos, and let the weight of the ocean refill the silo through the filters.
If someone can engineer strong enough support for the filter medium and a way to easily swap out filters, the only energy necessary is that which pumps the water ashore from the constantly refilling base of the silo.
Patent # xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Kevin Hilde
(It can’t be that easy, can it?)

Nice article, Willis. I agree. We have abundance. That governments the world over are insisting on expensive energy is suicidal. We’ve been brought up to trust in fear, believe in scarcity and hate our own human nature. We HAVE the technology now to unleash cheap energy the world over. The whole world would bloom. We really have to shift the scaremongers out of the way, they are destroying everything for everyone – worse, most of them know they are doing exactly that – they really have to go.

BioBob

Sorry Mark, that is incorrect.
Shortages also exist where consumption (market size) exceeds supply (production). This can be temporary (due to distortions eg hoarding) or permanent (due to commodity rarity like the supply of passenger pigeons). In the later case, no possible increase in price will increase the supply.

F-35. Late. Over-budget. Doesn’t meet performance criteria. “Made” by LockMart.
Very low on the credibility scale at the moment.

Henry Clark

The primary resources needed by civilization are water, energy, metals, hydrogen + carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen.
Water is illustrated well in this article.
On energy, there is all from the surge in natural gas reserves by fracking now to what even Wikipedia notes on thorium: “Even common granite rock with 13 PPM thorium concentration (just twice the crustal average, along with 4 ppm uranium) contains potential nuclear energy equivalent to 50 times the entire rock’s mass in coal,[82] although there is no incentive to resort to such very low-grade deposits so long as much higher-grade deposits remain available and cheaper to extract.[83]”
13% of even the average rock, amongst quadrillions of tons in Earth’s crust, is comprised of the metals used most: iron and aluminum.
Hydrogen and carbon are abundant, from methane hydrates to H2O+CO2 to other available sources. Those plus an energy source allow Fischer-Tropsch synthesis of plastics if needed.
Nitrogen (such as for Haber process fertilizer) is nearly 4/5ths of air, with the rest mostly oxygen.
As even part of Wikipedia notes, under criticisms of peak element claims:
“As some illustrations, tin, copper, iron, lead, and zinc all had both production from 1950 to 2000 and reserves in 2000 much exceed world reserves in 1950, which would be impossible except for how “proved reserves are like an inventory of cars to an auto dealer” at a time, having little relationship to the actual total affordable to extract in the future.[58] In the example of ‘peak phosphorus,’ additional concentrations exist intermediate between 71,000 MT of identified reserves (USGS)[59] and the approximately 30,000,000,000 MT of other phosphorus in Earth’s crust, with the average rock being 0.1% phosphorus, so showing decline in human phosphorus production will occur soon would require far more than comparing the former figure to the 190 MT/yr of phosphorus extracted in mines (2011 figure).[58][59][60][61]
Anti-industry ideologues speak in terms of vague “resources,” but, if looking at specifics accurately, the BS in their claims is exposed.

Kevin Hilde

I guess my question is ….
Assuming water level inside the silo is kept below filter level ….. is the energy required to pump the fresh water to the surface equal to the energy that would otherwise be required to desalinate at the surface?

Andrew C. Parker

Reverse osmosis is not only for desalinization. The EPA’s recent redefinition of what constitutes drinkable water has forced my local water company, at great expense, to pipe all water sources, ground and surface, to a central location where it is then mixed with water from a reverse osmosis unit to bring it into compliance with the new standards. If the EPA continues behaving like the nation’s homeopath, nearly all the water may need to go through reverse osmosis in a few years.

Desalination is already becoming competitive with drilling, pumping and piping for some markets if I remember correctly. More irrigated agriculture results in more rain down wind due to transpiration and water-nucleating aerosols from plants. As water condenses to make this rain I seem to recall it would create low pressure that could draw more moist air inland from the coasts but maybe that is too much speculation and wishful thinking on my part. Add the info described here recently about higher CO2 greening the planet and livestock being used to green deserts and there is a lot of potential.
Before disposing of the higher salt water made in the process, it might be possible to regain some of the energy used. There have been companies experimenting with using salinity differences between water from rivers and water from the sea to generate electricity. If you had a desalination plant some distance from a river supplying one area, the river supplying another, you could send some of the river water to meet the higher-salt waste water at an electrical plant halfway between them. As it combined the fresh and briny water it would have better efficiencies than just using seawater and it would mean no extra dilution would be needed to dispose of the desalination waste brine need shore.
Whether all that is practical is not for me to say. But a large decrease in desalination costs will alter our world for the better.

They also mention the new filter as being much stronger than current filters which means fewer replacements and longer lifespans resulting in lower labour costs.

wikeroy

” Israel’s doing it now, they are currently desalinating about three hundred million (300,000,0000, cubic metres of water per year. two hundred billion gallons, 200,000,000,000). And plants are now under construction to more than double that amount.”
Yes, and that is why the leftists are against Israel, and pro Arab countries. Even though Israel is the only democracy in the area. They are anti capitalism/democracy. Even though that is the only system we have today that can help the poor. Inject some capitalism and everyone benefits. Inject priesthood systems, and everyone suffers.

Felflames

Kevin Hilde says:
March 17, 2013 at 11:55 pm
I guess my question is ….
Assuming water level inside the silo is kept below filter level ….. is the energy required to pump the fresh water to the surface equal to the energy that would otherwise be required to desalinate at the surface?
Depends partly on geography.
Potentially if you had a coastline reasonably close to a depression lower than sea level, for example, the dead sea, you could construct a series of tunnels that would gravity feed, and you could potentially generate energy by using turbines in the tunnels.
The up side is, you get clean water, power, and it is a passive design.
It would work for example in california where the “salton sea” is shrinking from lack of water.
It was a large rift valley, below sea level,mostly barren desert.
The Salton Sea was made accidentally when a flood overwhelmed sluice gates on the Colorado river ,and for 3 years the entire flow flooded what was previously a desert.
For a while, towns sprang up along the edges , but with the river flow corrected, evaporation began shrinking the sea.

Star Craving Engineer

Mark says:
March 17, 2013 at 11:05 pm
BioBob says:
March 17, 2013 at 11:29 pm
More pertinent to this post, shortages exist where the resources are there for the taking but governments forbid the taking.

John

The idea behind making energy expensive is the same idea that led to Bretton Woods. The whole point IS to keep the poor poor!! This is how socialism is maintained and propagated. It’s not difficult to see. The World Bank and IMF lend money to even the most undemocratic bananarepublic, in exchange for ‘austerity measures’, in order to make sure the poor stay poor. Poor people vote for the socialist candidate and for further control by the state. The money from the IMF and World bank never goes to the population, only ever to governments. When money goes from one government to another it can only ever lead to the expansion of government. The climate change myth is just another tool in their arsenal to make sure socialism will continue. The fact that the World Bank is a huge driving force in propagating the climate change myth is not coincidental. Perhaps you think this is another conspiracy theory, but do your own research and you’ll see what I’m saying here is supported by facts.

A.D. Everard said @ March 17, 2013 at 11:29 pm

Nice article, Willis. I agree. We have abundance. That governments the world over are insisting on expensive energy is suicidal.

Agree… apart from that last sentence. Governments are hardly committing suicide — more like murdering their constituents. Perhaps if we started killing them in power it could be considered suicidal.

Ben D.

Good post. But I have serious doubts that possibilities like this which are conducive for supporting more people on this planet will be embraced by whoever it is that sponsors the UN IPCC. Iow, I think there is a touch of Malthusianism affecting some members of our race at the top end of the food chain.

dave38

The Pompous Git says:
March 18, 2013 at 1:04 am
Agree… apart from that last sentence. Governments are hardly committing suicide — more like murdering their constituents. Perhaps if we started killing them in power it could be considered suicidal.
More like self defence!

A fan of *MORE* discourse

Willis, if a Lockheed-Martin press release claimed to build a perpetual-motion machine, would you believe it? Neither should you believe Lockheed-Martin’s desalination press release.
The engineers who post on SlashDot have established that the gains in energy efficiency claimed in the Lockheed-Martin press release are thermodynamically bogus.
Please try to be less credulous and more critical in your scientific reading, Willis!
Perhaps cheap carbon energy has downsides too? A good starting-point is Michael Ross’s
The Oil Curse: How Petroleum Wealth Shapes the Development of Nations.

Kevin Hilde,
No, it won’t work. Lets say the pressure at the bottom of the silo is X PSI. The pressure required to pump the water to the surface is therefore also X PSI. If the pump has to produce the same pressure, you may as well just pump it straight through the filter and skip building the silo.

Disko Troop

Where do we put the salt?

Willis’s eagle soars again. Bravo!

pete50

Kevin
There are lots of ways to fine tune desalination. Two parts of the process are 1) remove the salt concentrate away from the filtration system entry and 2) pre-clean the source water. There are lots of little creatures in sea water and they block up filters. Easy access to the filters is a must.

View from the Solent

Disko Troop says:
March 18, 2013 at 2:11 am
Where do we put the salt?
===============================
On our chips (fries) 😉

Climate Ace

Bravo to the scientists and the engineers. I have long had my fingers crossed that technology devleopments would catch up with the rising human population so that people no longer have to go hungry.
Cheaper desalination by way of improved filters is, therefore, excellent news. It would reduce the amount of CO2 pollution emitted into the atmosphere just so people can drink clean water. It would reduce the amount of energy required for irrigation cropping. It might reduce the draw-down on freshwater systems where biodiversity loss in many areas is reaching catastrophic proportions. It would reduce or possibly even eliminate the global drawdown on fossil waters that underpins food production for so very much of the world’s population. It would almost certainly increase food supply to such an extent that global food commodity prices will decrease, with hunger becoming a small-scale, accidental occurrence rather than the large scale chronic issue it is right now.
As for cheap energy, who could possibly argue against cheap energy? It is a no brainer.
I heartily support cheap energy. Of course, to figure out the real costs of energy, the full costs of energy need to be included. Otherwise, you might not have cheap energy. You might have expensive energy for which you pay some of the costs now and some of the costs later.
One example would be Fukushima. To calculate the real costs of nuclear power, you would have to tip in the loss of production over a lare area around Fukushima, and the on-going costs of ‘temporary’ accommodation for the 150,000 people who, two years on, are still displaced.
Similarly, where cheap energy depends on emitting CO2, then the full costs of the energy would need to include either the costs of preventing AGW or the costs consequent to AGW, whichever choice humankind makes.
In relation to cheaper water by way of reduced energy use, the trick in the first instance will be to produce the graphene filters at a scale and a cost that is actually cheaper than current filters… something that has yet to be achieved. Large amounts of research funding are obviously going into potential applications for graphene, and into scaling graphene production up, so we should be seeing rapid developments.

johnmarshall

F-35 poorly designed from poor concept. The Harrier was brilliant, the US Marines love it and us Brits have just scrapped all ours. Same thinking behind the UK energy policy, push prices up to pay for the subsidies to afford the unaffordable wind turbines. this has driven 20%, and rising, of the UK population into energy poverty. Disgracefull!

Silo in the ocean.Pump the water out.
Put filter in bottom of silo.The ocean will fill
the silo.You know water seeks it’s own level.
But what do I know? [;)
Alfred

Willis, 2 points concerning Israel:
1. The amount of desalinated water has reached a point where there is no need to pump water from the sea of Galilee anymore, except for keeping the lake from overflowing. Also the authorities started pumping water into dried up streams previously dried by overuse.
2. Last winter was exceptionally wet (well, at least the first half), and most of Israel had above average precipitation. However, since the cost of building the desalination plants was already paid for, the water prices will not drop in the next few years.
As you said – technology is not about needing more energy, it is about needing less.
Eyal

In response to Robert Willie, my understanding is that you need a very high pressure high velocity pump to make the system operate effectively. I can’t see a silo doing this. The pump needs to push the saltwater pass the screens at more than ten times the permeate water that exits the membranes. So if did have a silo, you need a much smaller pump to feed it, but a very large high pressure pump is required to work against the osmotic pressure of the process.
The retentate is bled off back into the ocean. The process slows as the recentate increases in salt concentration. Hence the need to feed and bleed.

rogerknights

To calculate the real costs of nuclear power, you would have to tip in the loss of production over a large area around Fukushima, and the on-going costs of ‘temporary’ accommodation for the 150,000 people who, two years on, are still displaced.

Such costs don’t apply to nuclear plants that aren’t 1) built along the coast in a region liable to tsunamis and 2) built with their emergency power generators in the basement.

rogerknights

Climate Ace says:
Similarly, where cheap energy depends on emitting CO2, then the full costs of the energy would need to include either the costs of preventing AGW or the costs consequent to AGW, whichever choice humankind makes.

There are no net costs to AGW, only benefits (global greening). There are only net costs to CAGW, which depends on climate sensitivity, which is looking lower and lower as each flat-lined year goes by.

William Heritage

Could this system be used to filter altenative biofuel

Dodgy Geezer

Willis,
I have some form in this argument, having had a big fight with the UK government (DEFRA and Water Council) last spring over it.
The UK government, and the water companies, held (and continue to hold) the view that water is a scarce commodity, and getting even scarcer, so we must all save it. They have an aim of dropping average water consumption per capita in the UK by 20%, driven by a European directive.
Water provision is certainly getting scarcer in the SE of England, where population expansion has been rapid. The water companies there had planned a dozen new reservoirs to be built to keep pace with the population movement. Every one of these has been halted on government orders, because providing that water would breach the plans to CUT water consumption.
The strange view of the authorities is that using less water is in some way good in itself. I have tried to make the following points:
1 – water is a commodity which is never ‘used’ it circulates through us as part of a cycle
2 – it can never, therefore be ‘short’. There are, and will remain, cubic kilometers of water for every person on the planet.
3 – when ‘water shortages’ are mentioned, what is really meant is that there is a shortage of water abstraction and storage capability. In a word, water infrastructure. The raw material can never be short.
4 – so discussions about ‘water shortages’ are really discussions about how much infrastructure we are willing to install and pay for. NOT about ‘saving the natural world by using less of a scarce resource’.
This view has been officially rejected by the UK government, in favour of the view that “water is an obviously scarce resource, so we must use less of it”. So your comments that modern technology will enable easy access to as much water as we need will fall on stony ground here. Energy, water and many other commodities essential to life are NOT to be allowed to be cheap. Otherwise we would use ‘too much’ of them. It is this attitude, based on green activism in government, which needs to be addressed.

Gene Selkov

Kevin Hilde says:
> Use gravity to create the pressure for osmosis.
We’re out of luck here because soluble salts tend to concentrate around local elevation minima. Wherever there is a source of water above the level where it is consumed, it usually is very close in quality to pure rainwater that only needs gentle scrubbing with absorption filters (if any at all). The pressure required for desalination can be as high as 15 atmospheric pressures (depending on the desired salt rejection ratio). Therefore, to use gravity for reverse osmosis, your source of salt water must be 150 metres above your head. I can’t imagine any such place. So desalination always requires pumping just to bring the water up to your floor level, plus whatever pressure is required for reverse osmosis.
A membrane that is more permeable to water is going to reduce the required water head above floor level, but you still need to get it there, and then there is the cost of flushing (unlikely to work well) or replacing the filter when it gets clogged.

hmmm….

Jon T

I can’t believe only one other poster on here has pointed out that the Lockheed-Martin claims are themordynamic nonsense. I thought there was supposed to be a degree of basic scientific literacy on here, but it seems in short supply on this particular thread. Willis, in particular, should have known better than to pass on this claptrap.
Don’t believe me? Look up Osmotic Power on Wikipedia or wherever. The Norwegians have built a power plant that runs on the salinity difference between freshwater and seawater. So why not just use Lockheed’s magic membranes to split the salt from freshwater and then recombine them to make power, and don’t let the first law of thermodynamics get in your way.
Graphene may well provide an improvement, some day. I hope so. But ‘approximately 100 times less energy’? Get real please

Jon T

Clarification – that should have read ‘…Lockheed’s magic membranes to split seawater into freshwater and concentrated brine’ instead of ‘split the salt from freshwater’. Seeing thermodynamics affronted brings out the ranter in me I’m afraid.

Water? Seriously? Exactly how are we going to run out of water, living on a planet that is covered more than 72% with water? And why would you need to manufacture water? Water doesn’t go away. What isn’t used up. When you drink water, does it become some other molecule?

Lew Skannen

Since we are forever being threatened with climate related natural disasters you might like to add another statement to your list:
The best defence against natural disasters is prosperity.

Jon T and others, it’s not “scientific illiteracy”, it’s lack of subject knowledge combined with an unexpectedly optimistic mode of expression. I know diddly about osmosis.
At first blush the claims seemed reasonable, amounting to “we can save energy, isn’t technology neat?” to which the initial reaction of a lot of people would be “oh that’s neat!” Evidence in thread. But that isn’t the only reaction, the sceptics and detail pickers who have the subject knowledge come along and point out the problems.
Should Willis have known better? You’re assuming he knows anything about osmosis beyond the basics.
In a world where everything is so pervasively negative and downbeat all the time is it really a surprise when people react to apparently positive news with a little more credulity? It’s abnormal to see a positive spin on a story about technological advancement. We’re faced witha constant barrage of “humans are evil and destroying the planet!” and we want something else. Something positive.
Lack of subject knowledge and a desire for hope. Not illiteracy. Not everyone can know everything.

Billy Ruff'n

Disko Troop says:
March 18, 2013 at 2:11 am
Where do we put the salt?
———————-
On the steak from the cow that ate the grass that grew in what was once a desert. Progress!

Bill_W

Fan of More Dissonance,
Lockheed’s claims may be exaggerated. Or it may have simply been misinterpreted. Perhaps they are talking about manufacturing costs as well.
Definitely will need smaller pumps that are cheaper if there is less resistance to passing through the filter.
It’s also possible that the link provided on Slash-Dot saying reverse osmosis is only 25% more than the lowest cost is including the energy to pump the water through the filter, which in this case would be lowered. The within a factor of two of theoretical minimum is probably talking thermodynamics and therefore you would not be able to do better than that. However, lower costs to make the filter would obviously still be relevant.
This is all moot because what Willis said is that lower energy costs are good and that being able to make desalinized water faster and more cheaply is a good thing.
It doesn’t matter if in the end it is only 10% cheaper. If countries that are now not as efficient as Israel is switch to this, their costs could drop several fold, which is good.

RACookPE1978

The “thermodynamics” is straightforward: LOTS of energy is needed to compress the source salt water: That increases temperature of the water (some), velocity (a modest amount), and pressure (a lot.) More energy is needed to pump away the brine, to pump away the newly clean water.
Sure, you can get “a little” bit of energy back by re-combining the water – somebody brought that up above n this thread – but net requirement is energy to compress the water to very high pressure. And to make all those high pressure pipes, pumps, seals, and valves and fittings. More time and energy and manpower to build the system itself and control it. More time and energy and manpower to build the low pressure water systems to pipe away to their users the clean water. ….. And don’t forget to separate, store, and dispose of the contaminated reactive brine: Those concentrated dissolved salts are nasty.
Like a generator trying to run as a perpetual motion machine or a flywheel trying to drive itself, you will need more energy “in” to separate the chemicals in the water from the chemical and physical bonds of the water and salts.
And all of this is because the enviro’s are running around screaming “We are running out of water?”
Well, yes. In only a few places where THERE NEVER HAS BEEN ANY CLEAN PURE FRESH WATER BEFORE!

Gary Pearse

Trouble with a 1nm filter is how easy it would plug. I suppose an outfit like Lockheed must have figured out this problem. You would have to first filter out fine solid matter to clean up the seawater, I would think.

ralfellis

Eyal Porat says: March 18, 2013 at 3:36 am
1. The amount of desalinated water has reached a point where there is no need to pump water from the sea of Galilee anymore, except for keeping the lake from overflowing.
_______________________________
Eh? The ‘overflow’ from the Sea of Galilee is the river Jordan, and it would be nice to see some water in that, as it has not flowed for years (unless I am always there in the wrong season). Also, the ‘drain’ for the Jordan is the Dead Sea, and there has been much hand-wringing about the level of the DS dropping by many meters. The DS desperately needs a bit if extra water from the Jordan. (Better still if it was topped up from the Med via a hydro-electric station, but that project was never built for some reason).
In addition, Israel needs to stop pumping subterranean water. This underground reservoir was hailed as the great water supply for Israel, until they found out that it was fossil water, and was not being replaced. Hence the drive now for desalination plants.
And bravo for Israel. Israel gets a lot of stick from the left wing media, especially from the BBC which has a irrational hatred of all things Israeli. Yet Israel is the only high technology democracy with a good standard of living in the region (despite a defense budget that would be ruinous to most Western nations), – while all the other failed states around it offer their people nothing more than poverty, deprivation, corruption and despotic theocracies.
.

Bruce Cobb

Laugh Of the Day, from Climate Ace above:
As for cheap energy, who could possibly argue against cheap energy? It is a no brainer.
I heartily support cheap energy.

ralfellis

squid2112 says: March 18, 2013 at 4:36 am
Water? Seriously? Exactly how are we going to run out of water, living on a planet that is covered more than 72% with water? And why would you need to manufacture water? Water doesn’t go away. What isn’t used up. When you drink water, does it become some other molecule?
___________________________
Squiddy – are you serious, or are you a troll? Or are you a traditional Liberal-Green fantasist, who knows diddly-squat about the real world?
Fresh water is a real problem in many parts of the world, because populations are increasing (more water usage), populations are eating more and wearing more clothes (much more water needed), populations are getting richer (rich people use more water), and Obama wants the land to supply our fuel too (much, much more water required).
Have you ever wondered why there is no megapolis in the center of the Sahara Desert or the middle of Australia? Cities need fresh water, which is why Syria and Iraq were so upset when Turkey built the Euphrates dam. Hey, even the perennially wet London ran out of water in the noughties (2000 – 2010), because there is insufficient water storage in the SE of England. We had the wonderful spectacle of the Mayor of London telling its residents not to flush their toilets so often – and this in a 21st century Western capital city. Disgraceful.
So yes, Squiddy, we can run out of water, and the result would be a reduction in sanitation resulting in disease, and a reduction in farming resulting in famine. Not to mention the fact that many industrial processes and many fabrics depend on water for production, resulting in layoffs, poverty, and a huge reduction in standard of living.
.

T. G. Brown

My understanding of Willis’ point was: 1) Reduction in energy (Willis speculated on a factor of 10, not 100 as in the LM press release) means lower cost for desalinization; 2) Cheaper energy means less expensive fresh water, and vice versa. I found the Israeli data especially striking–at the end of the day, cost is proportional to energy.
Several groups are reporting orders of magnitude increases in water permeability: From MIT: “nanoporous graphene membranes are able to reject salt ions while letting water flow at permeabilities several orders of magnitude higher than existing RO membranes.” (dx.doi.org/10.1021/nl3012853 | Nano Lett. 2012, 12, 3602−3608) Of course, that is not the same as making an energy claim. See also
http://nanopatentsandinnovations.blogspot.com/2012/07/graphene-new-approach-to-water.html
And from University of Chicago:
http://genesisnanotech.wordpress.com/2013/03/10/nanotechnology-key-to-new-desalination-system/
It is possible (and happens often) that the press people made the mistake of equating permeability with energy. In this case, though (and I had to read the quote several times) the engineer seems to be separating out the energy required for physical separation (a fixed quantity) from the energy required to push the water through the filter. The former is the thermodynamic limit; the latter is what they are claiming improvement on.

John Law

rogerknights says:
rogerknights says:
March 18, 2013 at 3:46 am
“To calculate the real costs of nuclear power, you would have to tip in the loss of production over a large area around Fukushima, and the on-going costs of ‘temporary’ accommodation for the 150,000 people who, two years on, are still displaced.
Such costs don’t apply to nuclear plants that aren’t 1) built along the coast in a region liable to tsunamis and 2) built with their emergency power generators in the basement”
Absolutely correct.
It is hard to comprehend the stupidity of the Japanese Regulator, to a) allow the siting, and b) to leave the emergency generators to be exposed to flooding.
Japan like the former Soviet Union has a culture which discourages challenge from below, hence stupid decisions go unchallenged.
Certainly the UK safety case approach and Regulator interaction would preclude such obviously stupid arrangements to be employed.
Japan like the Soviet Union, has a culture which [discourages]
[Something trimmed or skipped? Mod]

jlawson

“No, it won’t work. Lets say the pressure at the bottom of the silo is X PSI. The pressure required to pump the water to the surface is therefore also X PSI. If the pump has to produce the same pressure, you may as well just pump it straight through the filter and skip building the silo.”
Seems to me if all you’re doing is establishing a pressure gradient across the filter, you don’t NEED to evacuate the water to below the filter level – all you’ve got to do is pump out the top 100 feet or so and you’ve got a pressure gradient of about 40-45 psi. From der Wiki, it looks like you’re needing a minimum of about 600 PSI for sea water desalination with current membranes.
If you can drop the pressure needed by a factor of 10, instead of having to pump out over 1400 ft of silo you’ve only got to pump 100 or so. And the silo idea becomes a bit more feasible. You’re going to have pumps either way, (on the input side, to get it up to pressure, and on the output side to direct the flow) so why not let gravity do some of the work for you?
Still have a bit of work to do on prefiltering the water and figuring out a way to swap filter media on a system that’s continually at a 60 PSI pressure without introducing any contaminants, but it wouldn’t require any complex remote handling gear. 100-110 feet is within SCUBA limits, I believe…
Of course, this anticipates that the pressure required WOULD only be about 60 PSI. There’s no numbers really supporting that conjecture right now.

Kevin Hilde

@ Robert Wille …. Thanks, that’s the answer that should have been obvious to me.
Other responders, thanks for indulging me.