Sign up | Login with →

Comments by Jim Baird Subscribe

On Climate Change: US Drought More Costly Than Hurricane Sandy?

Thanks for the moral support Paul. To be fair a lot of Canadians hold Max's view that we should withhold water. I think this is akin to the 1 percenters striving to accumulate even more but they are entitled to their opinion. As always it is the middle of the road that needs convincing I am happy to make the effort. In all honesty I haven't seen much support from the U.S. side of the border for this proposition either. 

June 2, 2013    View Comment    

On Climate Change: US Drought More Costly Than Hurricane Sandy?

Max, it is also written, "Let he is without sin cast the first stone."

We Canadians don't have a hell of a lot to crow about on the climate front.

June 1, 2013    View Comment    

On The Renewable Energy Reality Check

Paul, I am glad you have been partially persuaded on the OTEC front. The threat to aquatic fauna and flora is on the surface varities as was pointed out in The Existential Imperative: Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion. Thermal stratification is cutting off the flora (phytoplankton) from the nutrients they require to thrive to produce the oxygen we breath and with their demise there goes the base of the fauna's foodchain.

See also World's fish seek cooler waters, study finds,

Pumping heat to the depths produces convection which would bring phytoplankton nutrients back to the surface. The sensible heat of water is 1 calorie, while the specific heat of evaporation of water is 540 calories so you can move heat by moving 540 grams of water from the warm to the cold or you can vaporize 1 gram of water and move it to the cold in a heat pipe with the same result. By moving the 540 grams you move a lot of flora and fauna and some or perhaps all will be destroyed. The heat moved in the heat pipe is in a closed system and thus the aquatic life is not impacted. The cold sink is massive compared to the surface so you raise the temperature less at depth than on the surface and again this heat will rise with convection. (The sensible and specific heat ratios are similiar with most working fluids that would be used in an OTEC system). To my mind, this is why the heat pipe makes more sense than your suggestion of piping hot surface waters to the depths or Toshihiko Sakurai's reverse approach of pumping cold water to the surface using OTEC as the power source - absent the production of electricity - Sea Surface Cooling System Utilizing OTEC.

Potential thermal runaway due to increased sea surface evaporation combined with the threat to ocean flora and fauna from a warming ocean, make this an existential problem, requiring a solution at any cost, to my mind in any event.

The fact that it can be resolved by producing power with the same EROI as the oil sands my Prime Minister likes to proclaim makes Canada an "Energy SuperPower" is a bonus that is being squandered?   

As to the raw materials we don't have, virtually all of these exist in abundance in solution in the oceans. OTEC brings their recovery in reach.

May 26, 2013    View Comment    

On The Renewable Energy Reality Check

A stanford thesis shows the mean EROI for OTEC is 4, excactly the same as for Canada's oil sands. This is for conventional OTEC using piping one order of magnitude greater than necessary. 

Hard to figure what all the fuss about the KeystoneXL pipeline is about, considering by your analysis the oil sands are an energy source we can "forget about". 

How much energy is it going to take to clean up after the high EROI fuels? With CCS you pretty much have to cut the EROI of your fuel of choice in half so all of a sudden OTEC starts looking pretty favourable in comparision to oil sands.

As the paper says, " The energ return on investment only offers one possible comparison; in order to further enable evaluation of renewable and non renewable resources,other contrasting features of the two types of resource need to be compared."

Like maybe one provides a world my grandchildren can live in, the other does not.

May 25, 2013    View Comment    

On The Renewable Energy Reality Check

Schalk we approach the planet's hard physical limits by not implementing the right kind of renewable energy.

Approximately 90 percent of the heat accumulated due to global warming has gone into the oceans and as seen in the following diagram the bulk of this heat accumulates about the equator.


The second law of thermodynamics states that an isolated system, if not already in a state of thermodynamic equilibrium, spontaneously evolves towards it.

Another way of putting this is heat moves from the area of warmth towards the area of cold until a state of equilibrium is attained.

It is clear from the diagram and experience that the coldest regions of the planet are at the poles. To move heat from the equator towards the poles, Nature relies, in part, on the first law of thermodynamics: heat and work are forms of energy transfer. Energy is invariably conserved, however the internal energy of a closed system may change as heat is transferred into or out of the system or work is done on or by the system.

Nature converts some equatorial heat to mechanical energy in the form of tropical cyclones and from the top of the cyclone heat radiates away from the equator towards the poles.

Unfortunately, this process works against mankind. Tropical storms cause death and destruction and the heat moved towards the poles melts the icecaps causing sea levels to rise more that they are already due to thermal expansion.

The permafrost also melts releasing tons of the greenhouse gases methane and carbon dioxide in a potentially catastrophic feedback.

Besides the poles, another massive cold sink resides on our planet in the depths of the ocean as shown in the following diagram.


In accordance with the second law of thermodynamics ocean surface heat is mixing with the cold water heat sink and a recent study indicates this is happening more rapidly than was expected. To the extent it may have masked the amount of global warming that was occurring over the past decade.

Ocean thermal energy conversion accelerates the movement of sea surface heat to the depths and converts some to mechanical energy. It turns cyclones on their head and in so doing prevents the movement of massive amounts of tropical heat towards the poles with damaging consequences and positive warming feedbacks.  

The water holding capacity of air increases by about 7% per 1°C warming, which leads to increased water vapor in the atmosphere.

If there is a 1°C change caused by CO2, water vapour will cause the temperature to go up another 1°C and when other feedback loops are included, such as increased evaporation, the raising of cloud levels and melting of permafrost, the total warming from a potential 1°C change caused by CO2 is, in reality, as much as 3°C.

Since such an increase puts us in potentially catastrophic circumstances it is imperative that both CO2 and water vapour levels be maintained at or below current levels.

Only one form of renewable energy accomplishes this. 

May 24, 2013    View Comment    

On The Solution Is Finding New Answers

Thanks for this Gary.

Being called a beginner is a lot more reassuring than naive or a fool.


May 20, 2013    View Comment    

On OTEC and Energy Innovation: The Willie Sutton Approach

CO2 becomes a supercritical fluid  at 31°C and 73 atm. The closer it gets to this temperature and pressure the more it acts like a liquid and thus the less volume you need to move a turbine.

Melvin Prueitt's patent Heat Transfer For Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion shows a table of various working fluids and the work you can get out of them using a heat pipe of 1 meter in diameter. He was a physicist with Los Alamos and calculted these figures on a program OTEC.exe which is propriatary to DOE.

Heat moves in a heat pipe in vapor because the pressure at the evaporator end is greater than at the condensing end. The rate can approach the speed of sound. You don't have to pump the vapor down.  You have to pump the fluid up.

Hopefully the Prueitt explains the process more effectively than I can.

May 16, 2013    View Comment    

On OTEC and Energy Innovation: The Willie Sutton Approach

Rob, many of the ocean areas conducive to OTEC are also increasingly becoming dead-zones due to eutrophication and over-fishing. I see the oxygen in part being a solution to the eutrophication problem and if Boyce is right, and we are losing the initial source of the atmosphere's oxygen and a current source of 50%, then that which is not dissolved en route to the surface would replenish the phytoplankton shortfall.

Hydrogen is hard to transport but it can be converted at its source to NH3 or CH3OH which are not but are non or low carbon transportation fuels. My preference would be to work of the transportation problem however because hydrogen is as much a water currency as it is an energy currency and the production of both at the point of need addresses two needs.

I became interested in OTEC in the 80s while working on a book plotted around the extraction of the ocean's vast, dissolved, resources which OTEC could make available. The interest was revived a few years ago when thinking of ways to combat sea level rise and more recently by the potential to limit storm damage.

OTEC could address the sea level problem five different ways even as it provided all of the energy we need; converting heat to work to reduce thermal expansion, electrolysis to convert liquid volume to gas, desalination - OTEC Open Cycle - and terrestrial use of ocean volume, movement of surface heat to the depths where the coefficient of expansion of at 4C is half what it is at the surface, and the sapping of ocean surface heat that causes storms which in turn are the main driver of tropical heat towards the poles, which in turn is melting the icecaps and permafrost.

It is a costly approach, but again the heat pipe reduces the main driver of this - the cold water pipe - from a diameter of 14 meters to produce 100MW to 1 meter and thus the supporting infrastructure can also be massively reduced. And I believe its cost deserves to be offset by the savings derived from limiting SLR and storm damage.

With respect to stored thermal energy I trust the following two diagrams are self explanatory.


Re cost effectiveness, I fully agree with IK's most recent post that, "prototypes should be built and tested that's the only way to encounter the full range of problems you would not predict."


May 16, 2013    View Comment    

On OTEC and Energy Innovation: The Willie Sutton Approach

A hurricane is effectively an atmospheric heat pipe releases heat energy at the rate of 50 to 200 exajoules (1018 J) per day, equivalent to about 1 PW (1015 watt). This rate of energy release is equivalent to 70 times the world energy consumption of humans and 200 times the worldwide electrical generating capacity, or to exploding a 10-megaton nuclear bomb every 20 minutes. Wikipedia. Hurricanes operate on the same thermodynamic limit of about 20C. There are as many as 21 major storms a year even though there is a major release of heat in each storm because most of the heat of evaporation in returned in the latent heat of condensation of raindrops. A heat pipe would return heat to the surface in the condensed fluid the same way.

Nature can destroy use or we can learn from her example?

May 15, 2013    View Comment    

On OTEC and Energy Innovation: The Willie Sutton Approach

A heat pipe helps by moving heat with phase changes of the working fluid as opposed to bringing the cold sink essentially to the surface with a massive movement of water. The heat pipe is a closed system, 1/10 the pipe size, and the fluid and vapour movement is in isolation from the bioshere. You would need a large volume of working fluid but with CO2 this is neither a great cost nor risk.

May 15, 2013    View Comment    

On OTEC and Energy Innovation: The Willie Sutton Approach

Rob my only quibble is; oil from the Middle East also has transits great distances to reach its market. Converting ocean energy to an energy currency with electrolysis addresses sea level rise by converting liquid to gas and OTEC conversion of heat to work reduces thermal expansion as well. As to operating fluids James Lau suggests CO2, which would not be environmentally risky. 

May 15, 2013    View Comment    

On Climate Change and the Carbon Bubble Reality Check

Schalk, I have no objection to CCS provided those who are profiting from polluting the planet pay for it. Otherwise the 99 percenters are paying triple, for their profits, for the damage and now they would have us pay to clean up there mess, even as they rake it in hand over fist.

My grandfather was an Alberta rancher 100 years ago.

I know BS when I see it.

This is IT!

I am not an advocate of solar or wind. OTEC however is 3 times as efficient as either due to the intermittence factor and addresses the existential threat to my grandchildren, which I take seriously.

In an earlier post you claimed this solution was too resource intensive - massive structures - and that the production of power mid-ocean was a long shot.

Oddly enough Middle East petroleum has to transit these very same oceans, which contained tremendous mineral potential in solution.

OTEC provides both the energy and water movement to access this plenty and remedies the environment even as it produces all the energy we need.


May 5, 2013    View Comment