Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Dieoff by crop failure

Many limits to growth doomers think that we have no way in hell of increasing the food supplies enough to feed future populations.

The best estimate by the world health organization is that crop yields need to increase fifty per cent over the next century to feed the estimated 9 billion people (highest case) that will then be resident on our planet.

The crop with the biggest potential would be rice, since half the world's population depends on rice.

Unfortunately, the growth in rice yields has stagnated for the last thirty years or more. In the 1970s the green revolution doubled yields but since then there have been no more breakthroughs of that magnitude although small gains have been made.

Recently however, that changed, with the discovery of a new gene variant that produces a 10 per cent increase in yields in the field.

Two different and independent teams of crop geneticists at Nagoya university in Japan and the Chinese Academy of Science in Beijing, identified the gene variant and tested them in the field in modified rice crops.

The Japanese team was able to increase yields up to 52 per cent but did not conduct a field trial. The Chinese team conducted a field trial and increased yields by 10 per cent.


Not yet.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

New Coal to Liquids Process significantly more efficient

Yet another process which will shore up hydrocarbon based heavy trucking during the depletion phase of peak oil has been created.
Previously there has existed the Fischer-Tropf process which allows conversion of coal to liquids, with significant energy costs, coal and other inputs including hydrogen.

This new process has been developed by a company called Quantex Energy based out of Calgary, Alberta and is significantly more efficient than the Fischer Tropf process to the point of estimating that it could be easily scaled to "millions of barrels per day in North America".

See www.quantex.com for news. Quote from the site follows:

"Quantex Energy Inc is developing a process which seeks to refine coal as easily and inexpensively as crude oil processing. Taking advantage of the fact that the hydrocarbon refining industry has already developed the technology for "upgrading" heavy hydrocarbons such as Venezuelan Orinoco crude, or Alberta Oil Sands crude, Quantex Energy Inc seeks to produce liquids that meet the same specifications as heavy crude.

This new process is in distinct contrast to processes of the 1970s and earlier, which assumed that coal should only be made only into sweet light crudes. Consequently, protocols of the 1970s called for adding 30 pounds of hydrogen per barrel of synthetic crude, in turn requiring enormous high pressure reactors with hour long processing times. In contrast, the Quantex Energy Inc process requires only a few pounds of hydrogen to liquefy coal. It is primarily a depolymerization and cracking process. The reasons why the Quantex process is perceived to be advantageous compared to conventional direct liquefaction are:

* Requires significantly less hydrogen per barrel versus other CTL technology
* Hydrogenation is accomplished through a patent pending process
* Requires only minutes of processing time rather than hours in the break through bio-hydrogenation reactor
* Is accomplished at pressures significantly lower then competitive processes
* No molybdenum or cobalt catalysts are required.

Unlike the Fischer-Tropsch indirect liquefaction process, the Quantex coal to liquids process produces no carbon dioxide during the liquefaction process. The Quantex process is not based on gasified coal at all. Rather, the Quantex process is a simpler-cheaper-faster direct liquefaction process, which seeks to produce commodity fuels and chemicals-particularly heavy products such as pitches and heavy crude at the lowest achievable pressure and residence time.

Hence, given the enormous amount of coal reserves in Canada and the United States, the Quantex process can be scaled to the level of millions of barrels per day at a fraction of the cost of conventional liquefaction schemes."

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Peak Oil Specific Wind Intermittency Game Changer

Some German researchers have come up with an additional and novel way to store excess power from wind turbines when more power is being produced than can be absorbed by the grid: they convert it into natural gas. At a 60% efficient conversion rate with electric power already being 4X as efficient as fossil fuel we are looking at something very very interesting.

The full story is found at Science Daily.
Following are some selected quotes

ScienceDaily (May 5, 2010) — Renewable electricity can be transformed into a substitute for natural gas. Until now, electricity was generated from gas. Now, a German-Austrian cooperation wants to go in the opposite direction. In the future, these researchers and entrepreneurs would like to store surplus electricity -- such as from wind power or solar energy -- as climate-neutral methane, and store it in existing gas storage facilities and the natural gas network.
One advantage of the technology:it can use the existing natural gas infrastructure. A demonstrationsystem built on behalf of Solar Fuel in Stuttgart is already operating successfully. By 2012, a substantially larger system -- in the double-digit megawatt range -- is planned to be launched.

For the first time, the process of natural gas production combines the technology for hydrogen-electrolysis with methanisation. "Our demonstration system in Stuttgart separates water from surplus renewable energy using electrolysis. The result is hydrogen and oxygen," explains Dr. Michael Specht of ZSW. "A chemical reaction of hydrogen with carbon dioxide generates methane -- and that is nothing other than natural gas, produced synthetically."

The storage reservoir of the natural gas network extending through Germany is vast: It equals more than 200 terawatt hours -- enough to satisfy consumption for several months.

"The new concept is a game changer and a new significant element for the integration of renewable energies into a sustainable energy system," adds Sterner. The efficiency of converting power to gas equals more than 60 percent. The predominant storage facility to date -- pumped hydro power plants -- can only be expanded to a limited extent in Germany.

Starting in 2012, they intend to launch a system with a capacity of approximately 10 megawatt.