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On Deniers Mistakenly Say that Global Warming Has Ended

Henry, the deniers that trouble me are those who refute that the hiatus is the analogy for how we should deal with the problem. Warming is trapping heat as you indicate, mostly in tropical waters.

The second law of thermodynamics dictates that this heat flows to a cold heat sink and the line of least resistance is towards the poles where the icecaps are vulnerable.

The deep oceans are an equally great cold sink but as the natural tendency is for heat to rise it is a slow process for trapped heat to migrate there. A NASA study shows there has been no measurable warming of the ocean below 2000 meters over the past 8 years.

There are two explanations for the hiatus. The first is stronger than normal trade winds are driving heat into the eastern Pacific. It is pushing the thermocline down by about 50 meters but it is anticipated when these winds revert to normal the heat will rapidly return.

The second is thermohaline circulation is pulling the heat down into the Atlantic. But even if this is the case, the researchers who put forward the theory say it only gives us an additional 10 to 15 years before global warming resumes with its previous intensity.

Eco-Business points out, “One urgent question that needs answering is how much longer the water near the surface can continue to absorb the extra heat which human activities are producing. Another is what will happen when the oceans no longer absorb heat but start to release it. The answers could be disturbing.”

A heat pipe, using the phase changes of a working fluid, can overcome the natural resistance to rapid heat movement into the deep oceans. Ocean thermal energy conversion systems based on these movements can produce as much energy as is currently derived from fossil fuels.

They are a positive response to the problem of trapped heat and an adaption of the natural analogy.



October 20, 2014    View Comment    

On Short-Circuiting Sea Level Rise

Roger you are off on your dimensions by at least 2 and probably 3 orders of magnituge. Luis Vega calculates condensers and evaporators for a 16MW assembly would be 34 m (L) x 13m (W) x 16 m (H). For a 100 MW plant that makes a total square area of 44,200m3 as opposed to your 27,000,000. 

Dr. James Lau, PhD in Physics, has calculated the the exchangers would be even smaller for his design, US patent 8,484,972, coming up with 2500 cubic meters for an 18MW plant or roughly 14,000 cubic meters for the 100MW plant.

Using Dr. Lau's calculations, I constructed the Autocad rendering shown at The evaporator and condensers are of the falling film design and each has a radius of 31 meters and the five tiers of 14,000 pipes each total 65 meters in height.

Considering what is required to maintain an inhabitable planet is the movement of ocean heat to the deep the low temperature gradient heat engine is just the ticket. It moves 20 times more heat than power obtained. While 14 TW of OTEC power would take care of 294TW of surface heat 14 TW of your nuclear power would add an additional 28TW of waste heat to the oceans, which is the last thing the planet needs.




October 15, 2014    View Comment    

On Short-Circuiting Sea Level Rise

Roger, producers are fighting over the LNG markets that require transoceanic shipments. Hydrogen would be conveyed the same way. Further hydrogen produced by electrolysis at a depth of 1000 meters arrives at the surface pressurized to 100 bar. The Toyota fuel cell vehicles is looking at pressures of about 650 bar in their tanks but the energy required for pressurization is logarithmic so 100 bar puts you well down that road.

Working at those depths you can also desalinate water virtually for free because it takes from 65 to 70 bar to desalinate sea water.

Rather than gigawatt sized plants I think it more likely 100 MW plants would be optimal, thus you would be looking at about 250,000 of these to fill the need.

In WWII the allies built 637,248 planes and 54,932 ships, virtually all of which were writeoffs by the end of the war. OTEC plants on the other hand would be self financing so I think if there is any insanity involved it is in not making the effort that solves the problem.



October 15, 2014    View Comment    

On Short-Circuiting Sea Level Rise

Wikipedia, a 100 MW OTEC power plant would require 200 exchangers each larger than a 20 foot shipping container. A 20 ft container is 33 cubic meters thus 200 is 6600 cubic meters. A far cry from 27,000,000.

October 15, 2014    View Comment    

On Short-Circuiting Sea Level Rise

Vega's design for a 50 MW plant moves 142,300 kg/s of cold water to the surface to condense 2,750 kg/s of anhydrous ammonia. With the heat pipe it is only the working fluid that is circulating between the surface and the cold sink thus there is at least a 50 percent improvement in terms of parasitic losses.

October 15, 2014    View Comment    

On Short-Circuiting Sea Level Rise

Between the evaporator and condenser is 800 meters of vapor pipe exposed to cold water below the thermocline, which further facilitate the condensing process.

October 15, 2014    View Comment    

On Short-Circuiting Sea Level Rise

Oliver, Prof. Gerard Nihous of the University of Hawai is considered the authority on the amount of energy that can be produced with OTEC. In his latest work he puts that potential at 14TW or 250,000 100 MW plants. This is what we currently get from fossil fuels but others have put the potential as high as 25 TW. This energy will be produced in the tropics and will require an energy carrier like hydrogen to get it to market. (Don't forget much of the world's oil and gas comes from the Middle East requiring transportation over equally long routes.)

Also that tropical heat is driven by the second law of thermodynamics towards the poles where it melts the icecaps.

A group lead by Greg Rau of the University of California Santa Cruz have developed a technique for producing "supergreen" hydrogen by the electrolysis of sea water that removes and stores atmospheric carbon dioxide while generating carbon-negative hydrogen and producing alkalinity, which can be used to offset ocean acidification.

Your wikipedia link points out the thermally efficiency of OTEC has a theoretical maximum of 6 to 7 percent but in reality existing efforts are half that.

A 2010 NOAA study found the upper layer of the world’s ocean was storing enough energy to power nearly 500 100-watt light bulbs per each of the roughly 6.7 billion people on the planet - . I make this to be about 335 terawatts.

The thermal efficiency of the heat pipe design is about 5 percent so to produce 14 TW with the design you would have to pump 280 TWh into the deep and the conversion would bring the benefit to 294TW or just about all what is currently being added.  And with the heat pipe you pump zero water from the depths because only the working fluid vapor is moving from the surface to the cold sink, where it is condensed and then pumped back again. This requires the movement of about 8 m3 of ammonia for a 50MW plant as opposed to about 150 m3 of water every second. The parasitic losses of this system are about half of the other.

There are a lot of climate and energy wins with such a system.


October 14, 2014    View Comment    

On Energy With Benefits

Figure 1: components of  global warming for the period 1993 to 2003 calculated from IPCC AR4

From Skeptical Science article

This is supported by the latest Deep Argo research.

October 14, 2014    View Comment    

On Energy With Benefits

Thanks for the support Max. Hopefully you will learn more in a post I believe will be out today related to a Simon Fraser University competition regarding sea level rise.

October 14, 2014    View Comment    

On Energy With Benefits

Max lack of funding has insured the modelling we all seek is non existant. I am collaborating with a group that includes a former Chief Technologist with NASA and the Director Emeritus with the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute of the University of Hawaii. Both of these gentlemen have been associated with OTEC from the outset. We also have two engineers, one of whom who has long experience with OTEC, a PhD in Physics with over 20 patents and Dr. Greg Rau of the University of California, Santa Cruz. He is a collaborator in the University of Victoria Water and Aquatic Sciences Research Program as well as our conscious and advisor on the issues that concern you. It is his assessment that there are a lot of environmental winners associated with the deep water condenser OTEC design. He also has developed a hydrogen production technique that removes and stores atmospheric carbon dioxide while generating carbon-negative hydrogen and produces alkalinity, which can be used to offset ocean acidification. It is a natural adjunct to our OTEC technology because an energy carrier is required to bring the ocean generated energy to shore. Believe me we have debated these issues extensively and are actively seeking the funding necessary to first properly engineer the system, then build a small ocean going prototype to test it  and then slowly begin the build out of the systems that Paul Curto, formerly with NASA, has remarked is by far the most balanced means to face the challenge of global warming

October 14, 2014    View Comment    

On Should the Climate Movement Turn Down the Radicalism?

Neil, the Harper Government in Canada represents the flip side of this argument.

As Andrew Leach, the Enbridge Professor of Energy at the University of Alberta points out in an article today, "They chose to kick sand in the face of the environmental movement in Canada. They chose to talk down to American objections. They chose to take a very heavy-handed approach in terms of talking up the possibility of not needing the U.S. market."

Michael Cleland, the Nexen executive-in-residence at the Canada West Foundation says in the same article, concerning the impact of the government's actions on the oil and gas industry, "The loss of public support, I think it borders on being crippling."


October 13, 2014    View Comment    

On George Shultz: "Climate is Changing," and We Need More Action

“One of the real breakthroughs is when someone figures out long-term storage capacity,”

Nature figured that out decades ago. She is storing heat that otherwise would be baking us in the ocean.

The breakthrough will occur when sufficient numbers of us understand that the conversion of this heat to usable power and the movement of 20 times more into the deep ocean remedies the problem.

James Hansen has advised, “The rate of ocean heat uptake determines the planetary energy imbalance, which is the most fundamental single measure of the state of the Earth’s climate."

In a Nature article, whe he was asked, "Is climate change going to be less extreme than you previously thought?" James Lovelock replied, "we were all so taken in by the perfect correlation between temperature and CO2 in the ice-core analyses [from the ice-sheets of Greenland and Antarctica, studied since the 1980s]. You could draw a straight line relating temperature and CO2, and it was such a temptation for everyone to say, “Well, with CO2 rising we can say in such and such a year it will be this hot.” It was a mistake we all made.

We shouldn’t have forgotten that the system has a lot of inertia and we’re not going to shift it very quickly. The thing we’ve all forgotten is the heat storage of the ocean — it’s a thousand times greater than the atmosphere and the surface. You can’t change that very rapidly."

It is time to stop being taken in by climate and energy solutions that have little to no real impact.

October 5, 2014    View Comment