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Saturday, September 4, 2021

What future holds for energy and climate?

Energy industry is at a crossroad. It must now find a new direction to address the climate issue while to continue to supply energy to the world. The options are very clear. It can find new ways and means to genuinely address some of the mistakes of the past by inventing new methods to address the problem irrespective of the cost involved because time is not in our favour. Alternatively, one can redirect the issue using new terminologies and jargons and temporarily buy some time till finding an alternative and lasting solution to the problem. The first option will take time and cost more, and the second option may not take time and cost less. It seems most of the companies are choosing the second alternative. But how? Renewable energy is defined as “a source of energy that is available from the nature that can be constantly replenished”. This will guarantee the sustainability. But we are used to Carbon based fuels and technologies and therefore we also need a renewable Carbon that can substitute fossil fuels so that existing technologies for power and transportation can be used. Biomass is also derived from plants and animals like fossil fuels, but it is different in terms of time scale, and it can be replenished quickly unlike fossil fuels. It is basically made up of Carbon, Hydrogen and additionally oxygen, like fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas but free from sulphur. Therefore, one can use the same technology such as combustion, gasification and pyrolysis etc and convert a biomass into energy, chemicals and fuels while claiming them as “renewables”. It will require oxy-combustion and gasification methods and unfortunately usage of pure Oxygen will be inevitable.Therefore, both Carbon as well as Hydrogen derived from biomass becomes “Green” and “renewable”. In addition "Green Hydrogen" using renewable energy sources such as solar and wind by water electrolysis will help decarbonisation by capturing and converting CO2 emissions into a Syngas. It requires a steep fall in the cost of renewable electricity to less than $20/Mwh and Carbon emission to be taxed at least @ $250/Mt to discourage fossil industry. Once we establish green and renewable Carbon and Hydrogen then it is only a matter of generating a syngas, combination of Hydrogen and Carbon monoxide with various ratios to synthesis various chemicals including bio crude oil that leads to refineries to produce petrol, diesel and aviation fuels. We will be back into the game but with different brand called “Green and renewable”; it is "an old wine in a new bottle" Everybody is happy and politicians can now heave a sigh of relief and feel comfortable. One can also use “blue hydrogen’ as a mix to green hydrogen and synthesis various downstream chemicals such as Ammonia, urea etc. Thus they can use them to decarbonise the fossil economy. In either way there is still an issue of CARBON EMISSION that needs to be addressed. They may claim biofuel as Carbon neutral, but it will not stop the increasing concentration of GHG into the atmosphere or climate change. Therefore Carbon tax will be inevitable. Bioenergy and renewable energy may increase the sustainability but will not address the issue of global warming and climate change. Nature does not discriminate between ‘bio-carbon’ and ‘fossil carbon’. Only “Carbon Recycling Technology” can address the problem of global warming and climate change. The simplest method will be to to collect CO2 emission from all petrol and diesel engines in a liquid form using a retrofittable device in the vehicle and convert them in a centralised facility to Syngas using renewable Hydrogen .The syngas can be converted into renewable crude using F-T reaction hat can be processed in a refinery for recycling into petrol, diesel and aviation fuel so that we can eliminate technologies such as large batteries and Fuel cells. By this way we can ensure the CO2 level in the atmosphere is stabilised and existing infrastructures are utilised. The availability of biomass for a radical change will be an issue especially in Asia where growing population requires more land for agriculture and deforestation is a common problem. Perhaps we need completely a new electricity generation technology that can "drive electrons to flow in a super conductor" and a magnetic storage using a cryogenic fluid. Unfortunately not many researchers are working in this direction.

Monday, August 9, 2021

Irreversibility leads to unsustainability

The classical example of “Entropy” which manifest itself as a waste heat and inefficiency is also an irreversible reality. Current electricity production technologies heavily depend on converting thermal energy into an electrical energy which also guarantees generation of huge amount of waste heat. It is not just the emission of greenhouse gases (GHG) and waste heat that goes along with it but also bulk of the waste heat dissipated by way of convection and radiation into the environment since the time of industrial revolution has contributed to global warming. About 59.40% of thermal energy generated so far has entered the atmosphere. For example, US consumes about 105 EJ (Exa joules) each year out of which 62EJ enters the atmosphere as a waste heat. Successfully harnessing this waste heat will be a valuable contribution in solving global warming problem. The solution for global warming and climate change lies in harnessing the available Carbon from the atmosphere and the sea but also the waste heat from the atmosphere and the sea. About 90% of heat dissipated since industrial revolution has been absorbed by the sea. Total amount of fossil fuels consumed worldwide since industrial revolution is estimated at nearly 140,000 TWH (Tera watt hours).  1 TWH is equivalent to 3.44 x 1o^12 Btu. This dissipated heat has accelerated global warming and further exacerbated by GHG (greenhouse gas) effect caused by CO2 and water vapour and triggered the change in climate worldwide. The heat dissipated and absorbed by the sea has been distributed across the globe by ocean currents. Increasing seawater salinity caused by evaporation and concentrate discharge from seawater desalination plants word wide and cooling water from thermal power plants have retained bulk of the heat and distributed across the oceans thus elevating seawater temperature. Such warming ocean in addition to warming atmosphere have contributed to melting glaciers in the poles. Oceans are acting as a sink for both heat as well as carbon thereby acidifying the seawater. The pH value has been reduced from 8.2 before industrial revolution to 8.00 at current level which may look like a big difference, but it has absorbed billions of tons of CO2 to cause the above reduction in pH value. In natural systems such as atmosphere and the oceans a slight variation will have a huge impact due it is vastness in area. Normal human body temperature is about 36.9 C but an increase of 1.5 C (101.12F) will cause hospitalisation. Natural world is very sensitive even to minor changes and that is why human activity has to be restricted and not to cause imbalance to the natural systems. In other words ”Entropy” is an integral part of the natural world and any irreversibility caused by  human beings will lead to unsustainability. For example burning fossil fuel is an irreversible chemical reaction which invariably lead to unsustainability. It is not only about the sustainability but also the economic viability that will determine the future of energy industry. It is a low efficiency technology that is currently predominant in electricity generation.The key is the maximum utilisation of thermal energy released by combustion of fossil fuel but also recycling released Carbon in a closed system using CRT (Carbon recycling technology) which can achieve zero emissions.