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On ABCs of LNG

John,

The sulfur is removed when they form LNG.  By virtue of liquefying the gas the process requires the gas to be pure. 

Yes there is varying quantities of H2SO4 in conventional natural gas when it comes out of the ground, but synthetic natural gas is pure, and landfill gas is even dirtier than conventional gas.  Methane hydrates in the ocean, though not commercial today, are meant to be ultra-pure.

Personally I find it interesting that this particular topic gets such little attention. Many of us burn methane and propane in our homes with no exhaust at all.  You can not do that with biomass, gasoline, diesel or coal without making people sick becuase of all the contaminants.  Meanwhile our society is ravaged with cancer, heart disease and asthma that is in large part due to breathing air polluted by the exhaust from all of our contaminated fuels.  Imagine the beneficial health impacts for our entire society if we mandated all of our fuels be as clean as LNG.  We have the technical capability to produce ultra-pure fuels we just choose not to do it for economic reasons.  So rather than pay the price upstream at the refinery we pay the costs downstream in the form of illness and healthcare.

April 17, 2014    View Comment    

On ABCs of LNG

Geoffrey,

I would add to your review the excellent safety record of marine LNG transport, which after decades of operation and millions of sea miles traveled has never seen a major spill or disaster.  

Two main reasons why are the construction of the ship with insulated containers, unlike oil transport which still often has the hull of the ship containing the oil and is prone to disasters like the Exxon Valdez spill. 

Secondly, when LNG is spilled it evaporates quickly leaving behind no trace, as long as combustion is avoided.  Obviously if the vapors catch fire a major explosion can happen, but the flammability range of natural gas is fairly narrow which is why it does not happen often.

Natural gas is non-toxic, a rarity among our fuel choices and a feature I wish was more widely appreciated.  You can pour LNG into a glass of drinking water and after it vaporizes off the water is still safe to drink.  Try that with gasoline or diesel.

LNG is pure methane, devoid of particulates, sulfur, nitrogen and any other criteria pollutants.  It is not simply a 'cleaner' fuel than other fossil fuels, it is the cleanest possible.  The only exhaust is CO2 and H2O, which has GHG impacts but is otherwise non harmful to human health.

 

April 16, 2014    View Comment    

On Can Nuclear Power and Renewable Energy Learn to Get Along?

Jesse,

I agree on the water desalination point which points to the need for a high energy future.

Here is more info on Dutch analysis of Power to Gas.  They view it as an important element for integrating renewables into the overall energy system.

http://www.dnv.com/resources/position_papers/systems_analyses_power_to_gas_a_technology_review.asp

http://www.ecn.nl/docs/library/report/2013/l13009.pdf

http://www.dnv.com/binaries/dnv%20kema%20(2013)%20-%20systems%20analyses%20power%20to%20gas%20-%20technology%20review_tcm4-567461.pdf

What I have yet to see, except for a little bit from the US Navy, is analysis on using nuclear power in a power to gas scenario.  Why does nuclear have to be limited to producing electricity?  How about a purpose built nuclear plant for CO2 and H2O electrolysis?  It would change the business model for nuclear entirely, rather than selling power for pennies per kWh one could produce ultra pure Air Force grade jet fuel or natural gas.  The Europeans are not doing this analysis because they are trying to move away from nukes, but there are plenty of nuclear advocates that could make the case.  Nuclear would benefit from high temperature electrolysis which is more efficient than just relying on electric power to do the job.

 

 

 

April 15, 2014    View Comment    

On Can Nuclear Power and Renewable Energy Learn to Get Along?

Jesse,

I see no reason that nuclear and renewables cannot work together.  It obviously does require flexible energy storage, which is conceivably available as synthetic hydrocarbons.  Germany has been moving forward on this front in a variety of technical platforms, some of which I wrote about here:

http://theenergycollective.com/ed-dodge/314481/renewables-and-natural-gas-are-partners-part-ii-proof-concept

CO2 splitting and H2O electrolysis, done together or separately, can provide near limitless scale for storage and upgrade low cost electricity into high value hydrocarbons.

In the USA the low price of natural gas undercuts efforts for producing synthetic gas, but the technology is widely available and it could readily absorb any excess grid power from renewables.  CO2 splitting or CO2 methanation could play the same role, allowing us to utilize at least some captured carbon.  These systems could sit passive on the grid waiting for cheap electricity to be available.  This also bypasses the problem hydrogen has for lack of infrastructure, because hydrocarbons already fit the existing systems.

I find it interesting that Power to Gas gets such little attention in American discussion of renewables when it is an active policy in Germany (of course they pay much higher prices for natural gas).  Renewables do not need to be limited to either electric power or biofuels when synthetic hydrocarbons can bridge the gap.

Taken further, a policy of actively promoting synthetic hydrocarbons could change power grid management away from curtailment and demand-response and towards the enablement of electrolysis systems acting as power sinks ready to absorb all the electricity you can provide.

April 15, 2014    View Comment    

On Fueling the Industrial Heartland

David,

Certainly it takes energy to split CO2, but considering the situation is that we need to find solutions for diverting CO2 from the atmosphere, raises the question of whether we can identify low cost and low carbon energy sources to convert CO2 back into higher value hydrocarbons as a matter of carbon recycling.  

The equation CO2 + H2O + energy (and catalyst) => CO-H2 + O2 offers a path towards the production of synthetic fuels plus a valuable oxygen stream.  Plenty of companies and researchers are working on variations of this reverse combustion theme.   

April 2, 2014    View Comment    

On Fueling the Industrial Heartland

David,

What is Shell's or your opinion on recycling captured CO2 back into industry for use as a raw material in the production of fuels, chemicals and plastics?

Does Shell have active research in this space?



April 1, 2014    View Comment    

On Another Blueprint for 100 Percent Renewables by Mid-Century

Robert,

I believe it is extremely important to find marketable, practical uses for CO2 in order to finance CCS broadly.  I am continuing to pursue these pathways even if my calculations today are not satisfactory to you. 

As I remember you objected to my headline, not the substance of my argument, and I noticed plenty of criticisms of some of your recent headlines as well.  But debates over grammer are silly when there are much bigger problems to worry about.

March 15, 2014    View Comment    

On Exporting Liquefied Natural Gas Is A Dreadful Idea For The Climate

The benefit of transporting LNG is its excellent safety record compared to crude oil.  Methane is a GHG, but it is also non-toxic and safe for the environment if allowed to dissipate.  

Sales to Europe are unlikely with today's pricing so we are not going to challenge Putin much.  US gas is all earmarked for Asia where they pay the highest prices.

March 14, 2014    View Comment    

On Another Blueprint for 100 Percent Renewables by Mid-Century

Jacobson is a fraud.  I wrote about his New York plan here:

http://theenergycollective.com/ed-dodge/301031/critique-100-renewable-energy-new-york-plan

I'm all for implementing as much renewables as makes sense, but the notion that we can simply displace hydrocarbons (and nuclear) completely is without merit.  He offers no actual real world performance measures of anything.  All he has is a bunch of Excel spreadsheets, not functional engineering designs.  There are so many holes in his model it is difficult to know where to begin. 

You may notice that no respected engineering firms or energy industry leaders endorse these plans.

March 14, 2014    View Comment    

On What are the Realistic Costs and Benefits of the New EPA Tier 3 (Reduced) Gasoline Sulfur Regulation?

I agree that synfuels will take over the moment they are more cost effective than increasingly expensive petroleum.

It is heartening to see the EPA tighten down on sulfur, it is important that we move to clean fuels, it is the primary reason I favor natural gas.  Sulfur restrictions are pushing maritime towards LNG and away from bunker fuels which is great.

As to the engineering specifics of reprocessing CO2 I really could not answer that though I would like to know the answer myself.  It is important that we improve our methods of handling CO2 directly.

March 13, 2014    View Comment    

On Flying Without Fossil Fuels: The Need For High Energy Density

We will never run out of hydrocarbons.  We already hit peak oil right on schedule around 2004 when oil prices shot up above $100 a barrel.  Rather than go into decline, production has only gone up. The lesson learned is that even if petroleum becomes increasingly expensive there is no limit to hydrocarbons in general.  There are endless supplies and until you can outperform them from a military perspective we will continue to use them.

We can manufacture synthetic jet fuel and diesel that is superior to todays using long proven technologies for reasonable costs.  Using gasification technologies diverse carbon resources ranging from lignite and other low grades of coal, garbage, biomass, petcoke, peat and more can be converted into a wide variety of fuels, chemicals and power.

Among the advantages of gasification includes the ability to separate out all the pollutants and convert them into commodities for sale.  Pure fuels, for which methane is the gold standard, impart tremendous benefits on society by not polluting the air, soil and water with toxins that are killing us every day.  Every step the EPA takes to ratchet down on sulfur levels helps push the entire industry towards synfuels and natural gas, which is great.

As for carbon dioxide, obviously there is an important role for renewables, efficiency, nuclear, micro-grids, etc.  But we will continue to rely on hydrocarbons and so it is imperative to deal with the CO2 directly.  We need to capture every bit of CO2 we can, move it by pipelines, find marketable uses for as much as possible and sequester whats left.  Beyond that we need to use the soil as a carbon sink, grow plants and restore soil on every square inch of God's green earth.  Its a greenhouse effect right?  Embrace it, grow plants, go green.  We are not doomed, there are solutions.

March 13, 2014    View Comment    

On What are the Realistic Costs and Benefits of the New EPA Tier 3 (Reduced) Gasoline Sulfur Regulation?

John, 

This is an interesting analysis that echoes API's concerns about the regs.  It's a fair point to make that it might not be effective to focus on gasoline when other grades of fuels are still very dirty.

My question is, at what point do increased regulations on fuel pollutants push the market all the way into synthetic fuels?  

It is my understanding that F-T fuels are very clean, look as pure as water and smell like candle wax.  Is it reasonable to think that entire refinery industry could one day transition to producing ultra-pure fuels across the board?  Coal to liquids are not far off from being competitive today and petroleum prices are projected to rise as the industry goes after increasingly challenging resources.  Perhaps a benefit of rising fuel costs could be a justification to produce ultra-pure synfuels.

March 12, 2014    View Comment