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Monday, April 9, 2012
Bioethanol has successfully substituted Gasoline as a fuel for cars both in the form of blends with Gasoline or individually as an Anhydrous Ethanol. This successful demonstration by Brazil opens up new generation of cars called flex-fuel cars that allow usage of various blends of Ethanol and Gasoline.Bioethanol can also be used to generate Hydrogen onsite by steam reformation so that even Fuel cell cars such as Honda FCX can be felled by Bioethanol.This makes Bioethanol unique as an alternative fuel for transportation. It also facilitates onsite power generation using Fuel cell, replacing diesel engines. Substitution of Gasoline by Bioethanol has several advantages over other alternative fuels. The biggest advantage with Bioethanol is, it is renewable and it allows reduction of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and it will be eligible for Carbon credit. It can be produced by both developing as well as developed countries using locally available agriculture produces such as cane sugar, corn, tapiaco, sorghum etc. Hydrogen generated from Bioethanol is also free from Sulfur compounds normally associated with natural gas, making it an ideal fuel for Fuel cell application in cars, as well as for power generation using SOFC (solid oxide Fuel cell) or PAFC (Phosphoric acid Fuel cell).The resulting high purity Hydrogen 99.99% can be used as fuel for all type of transportation including Fuel cell Buses, scooters and even boats. The stoichometric reaction of steam reformation in presence of catalyst can be represented by the following chemical reaction: C2H5OH + 3 H2O---------- 6H2 + 2 CO2 The Ethanol and water mixture is preheated and the vaporized mixture is fed into a catalytic reactor. The resulting Hydrogen is contaminated with carbon monoxide. This gas mixture is separated using membrane such as Palladium to get Hydrogen with less than 50ppm CO as contaminant. Such purity is acceptable by Fuel cell such as SOFC as well as PAFC.In future a small micro-reactor for on-board reformation may be possible making Fuel cell cars with onboard liquid fuel storage. Commercial reformers consumes about 0.88 lits of Bioethanol of 96% purity to generate 1 Nm3 of Hydrogen with 60% conversion. This translates to $ 5.90 per Kg of Hydrogen. Fuel cell cars offer a mileage of 240 from 1 kg Hydrogen costing only $5.90. For onsite power generation 1 kg Hydrogen generates as much as 15Kw electricity and 20Kw heat .Onsite Hydrogen generation with steam reformation also facilitates using SOFC and PAFC for high temperature power generation applications. They are ideal for CHP (combined heat and power) applications for 24x7 operations like hospitals, hotels and super markets. These fuel cells are silent in operation without any emissions except water vapor. Governments should encourage Bioethanol production and distribution for both transportation and power generation. There is a fear that Ethanol could be diverted for potable purposes illegally depriving Governments of potential reveneues.But this can be solved by denaturing Bioethanol and making it unsuitable for potable purposes. Denaturants such Pyridine has no effect on steam reformation and number of denaturants are available. Such policies will allow transition from fossil fuels to Hydrogen or Bioethanol.This is a simple and straight forward step any Government can take irrespective of the size or type of a nation. But it requires political will, determination and leadership. Developing countries need not wait for big greenhouse emitters such as US, China and India to make a decision on their Carbon emissions but start introducing Bioethanol as fuel locally.
Sunday, April 1, 2012
Photovoltaic (PV) power is becoming popular worldwide as an alternative to grid power for various reasons. It gives an energy independence and freedom, it helps reduce greenhouse gas emission and combat global warming, it helps people taking advantage of various Government subsidies and incentives, and it also generates some revenue by selling surplus power back to the grid. At the end of the period you own the system and claim depreciation and some tax benefits. All these compelling factors may motivate people to opt for PV solar power. But you should also do some maths and make a cost benefit analysis to choose a right system for you. When there is a good sunshine day after day and throughout the year, PV solar is a good proposition and can be really rewarding. Unfortunately, that is not the reality. There may be many cloudy, rainy and fogging days in a year and your PV solar capacity may be overestimated or underestimated. You know the actual data only after one or two years of life experience. It is a long term financial and ethical decision one has to make and the decision should be absolutely right. You can make such a decision by carefully examining all the factors, not just by looking at the initial cost but looking at operating and maintenance costs during the life cycle and all the costs and benefits associated with them. Storage batteries are inevitable in PV solar systems, especially for grid independent systems. Even with grid connected PV solar system the design and installation of a correct battery bank, controllers and rectifiers are important issues. In this article we will discuss about grid independent system because many developing countries in Africa and Asia do not have 24x7 uninterrupted grid power supplies. Many people living in islands have to manage their own power by using diesel generators. This is the stark reality. Let us assume that you design a system assuming a daily average power consumption of 25,000 kwhrs/day, which is suitable even for a medium size family in US. We made an optimum design study between two systems; first containing PV solar,battery,controlle for grid independent power supply; and second system with PV solar, battery, water Electrolyzer,Hydrogen storage and PEMFuel cell and a rectifier for grid independent system, based on the same power consumption of 25,000kwhrs/day. You can clearly see the difference between the two systems by the following data. This financial analysis was made assuming there is no Government subsidies and incentives. Grid independent system with battery storage for 25,000kwhrs/day power: Total NPV (net present value):$ 342,926 Levelized cost of energy: $2.94/kwhrs Operating cost/yr: $22,764 Grid independent system with Hydrogen storage for 25,000kwhrs/day power: Total NPV (net present value): $ 169,325 Levelized energy cost: $ 1.452/kwhrs Operating cost/yr: 8,330 The number of batteries required in the first case is 17 numbers. In the second case, number of batteries required is only 2. Obviously, the levelized cost of power using PV Hydrogen (storage) is less than 50% of the power generated using PV battery (storage) for the same energy consumption of 25,000kwhrs/day. The operating cost is only one third for PV Hydrogen system compared to battery system. Batteries are indispensable in any renewable energy system but reducing their numbers to the lowest level is important, when the life of the system varies from 25 years to 40 years. The numbers and the cost of battery will make all the difference.
Thursday, March 15, 2012
There is a general opinion that Hydrogen is currently very expensive compared to Gasoline and Diesel. It depends on how you generate Hydrogen. We have been using Gasoline and Diesel for several decades and actual cost of crude oil is much lower than what we are paying for Gasoline and Diesel at the service stations. Crude oil is formed naturally and all the costs involved are for pumping, transportation and refining. The cost of energy spent on transportation and refining is also comparatively low. It is the geopolitical situation in the world, supply demand gap, Government taxes and levies, inventory levels, financial market and distributors play a key role in fixing the price of these fuels. Hydrogen can be generated from tap water without involving fossil fuels at all. But Governments are spending on research and development of Hydrogen generation using fossil fuels such as natural gas and coal. It is understandable that these sources are suitable for bulk production of Hydrogen on an industrial scale. We will also be able to use existing fossil fuel infrastructure to the maximum extent. But the flip side of this approach is Hydrogen generated by this route is still not pure enough to meet Fuel cell requirements. This Hydrogen may be suitable for Hydrogen combustion engines. Why they are not suitable? For example, Hydrogen is generated from natural gas by steam reforming,Syngas is generated as an intermediary product which is a mixture of Hydrogen and Carbon monoxide; but also other impurities present in natural gas such Sulfur,Phosphrous and Mercaptans etc.Natural gas has to be purified to remove all these impurities before it can be subject to steam reformation. In spite of an elaborate purification methods adopted, Fuel cell suppliers are reluctant to guarantee the life of their Fuelcell.The Fuel cell uses expensive Platinum as a catalyst which can be readily poisoned by the presence of impurities in Hydrogen, produced from natural gas. This is one of the main reasons why Hydrogen becomes expensive by this route. Industries can pay high cost for this Hydrogen, but ordinary citizens cannot afford to pay. Hydrogen can be generated directly from tap water by simply electrolyzing it using a Direct current such as solar and wind. If we use grid power, it requires about 68kwhrs of electricity, costing about $3.40 per Kg of Hydrogen. Assuming Hydrogen will cost about $5 per kg after compression and storage, it is still worth the cost. This Hydrogen will give a mileage of 73.4 miles/kg using Fuel cell car. This is equivalent to 3.67 Gallons of Gasoline costing approximately $13.76 at the rate of $3.75 per gallon. It is very clear that Hydrogen is cheaper than Gasoline or Diesel. At the current price,Gasoline costs 275% more than Hydrogen gas. By converting existing coal and oil based power plants into IGCC, Integrated Gasification and Combined Cycle plants, Government can reduce the current emission levels of greenhouse gases, and at the same time supply electricity at the prevailing rates. We do not have to import oil or gas. Government should fund conversion of coal and oil fired power plants into IGCC plants and create Hydrogen infrastructure, by producing more Hydrogen Fuel cell cars and Hydrogen service stations. By adopting this policy, US Government can bring down the prices of crude oil in the international market which will help reduce the prices of all other petrochemical products like fertilizers, plastics, drugs and cosmetics. The crux of the issue is to divert petroleum products from fuel use to other uses. At the same time Governments can reduce their greenhouse emissions to the level demanded by scientists. By reducing the cost of solar panels to less than $1.00 per watt, Renewable Hydrogen will become a commercial reality and that will be the end of fossil fuels.
Friday, March 9, 2012
Renewable Hydrogen is the key that can provide us energy independence in the twenty first century. Fossil fuel usage will still continue for some more time because the world has already invested massively on fossil fuel infrastructures. The stacks are too high for them to switch over to renewable over night. It is the Mother Nature who provided us coal, oil and gas all these years using her manufacturing process under the earth over millions of years. But we human beings exceeded her tolerance limit by emitting greenhouse emission by our rapid growth in population and industrialisation.We failed to discover an alternate fuel in time and continued with an age old technology with all its inefficiencies. Inefficiencies breed pollution. We were keen to use the heat of combustion by burning a fossil fuel to generate electricity or drive our cars, but paid no attention to the gases released during such combustion. We learnt Thermodynamics and the relationship between heat and work, but failed to understand the consequences of gases of combustion and its impact on our environment. There are two issues involved in burning a fossil fuel to generate electricity. The heat of combustion is an exothermic reaction and we get certain amount of heat. Then we convert this heat energy into electrical energy and the overall efficiency of such conversion is about thirty-five percent. Only thirty-five percent of the heat input energy becomes electrical energy and the remaining sixty-five percent heat along with gases of combustion are released into atmosphere. Of course part of this heat is recovered in a commercial plant, but the bulk of heat is released into the atmosphere as greenhouse gases. We failed to understand the potential of Hydrogen even though we used Hydrocarbon for several decades. We even discovered Urea, the fertilizer that caused ‘green revolution’ in agriculture, using the same Hydrogen present in the Hydrocarbon feedstock. It is time for us to make best utilization of a fossil fuel to its maximum potential when we burn each kilogram of fuel. We should burn coal not just with air but also with steam so that we can generate Hydrogen rich gas that can run a gas turbine in a combined cycle or run our cars on roads. Such a conversion will lead to a substantial increase in energy efficiency as well as in greenhouse gas emission reduction. Governments in industrialized countries should make it a mandatory to convert all their power plants to syngas generation as described above. They should also discourage new plants using fossil fuels with punitive power tariffs and encourage renewable energy projects with higher tariffs. Governments can also impose similar tariffs for transportation depending upon the fuel used such as fossil fuel or Hydrogen. Governments should encourage renewable energy projects such as solar and wind to generate Hydrogen from water as centralized power plants and distribute DC (direct current) by rural electrification. If the country side is electrified using this system then, agriculture, business and industries can thrive in rural areas. Direct current (DC) distribution net work can be installed in rural areas and encourage people to use energy efficient appliances such as Direct current air-conditioners with energy star ratings and tariffs. Governments can bring about these changes by adopting a ‘carrot and stick ‘policy to encourage renewable and discourage fossil fuels. Solar energy is the key from which all other forms of energy emanate such as wind, geothermal and ocean thermal energy conversion system. It is of paramount importance to increase the efficiency of renewable systems and improve energy efficiencies of appliances we use. It is simpler to use LED bulbs using a Direct current generated by Renewable Hydrogen. It is once again the Mother Nature, who can come to the rescue of human beings through solar, wind and water to generate clean energy for the twenty first century. Energy generation and distribution is no longer a business or revenue issue but a moral and ethical issue for Governments. It is only people who can bring about such sweeping changes by electing the right Government who can care for the environment. The future generation will judge us only based on what kind of an environment we leave them behind.
Thursday, March 8, 2012
Coal is an important fuel that helped industrial revolution. It is still a predominant fuel for power generation in many parts of the world. It is also an important raw material for number of chemicals and they directly compete with Hydrocarbons such as Naptha.It is abundantly available and it is cheap. We are still able to generate electricity at 5 cents per kwhr using coal. But, now we are entering into a new phase of energy generation and distribution, due to changing environmental and climatic issues of the twenty first century. We require completely a new fuel to address these issues; a fuel that has a higher heat content, which can generate more power per unit value of fuel, and yet, generates no pollution. It is a challenging job and the world is gearing up to meet these challenges. They affect the whole world because any issues concerning energy impacts each and every one of us. Many industrialized countries around the world are reluctant to sign an agreement that compels them to reduce their greenhouse emission to an acceptable level set by UN panel of scientists. Governments such as US, China and India are reluctant to sign such an agreement because their economy and growth depends upon cheap energy, made from coal. Such an agreement will be detrimental to their progress, and the leaders of these nations are not prepared to sign such an agreement. They also understand that world cannot afford to continue to use coal as they have used in the past. It is simply unsustainable. It is a precarious situation and they need to carefully plan their path forward. On one hand, they need to maintain their industrial and economical growth, and on the other hand they need to reduce their emissions and save the world, from catastrophic consequences of global warming. A simple analysis of the fuel will indicate that Hydrogen is a potential energy source for the future. It has energy content at least five times more than a coal for a unit value. Coal has an average heat content of 5000 kcal /kg while Hydrogen has an average heat content of 39,000 kcal/kg. Coal has a number of impurities such as ash, sulfur, phosphorous, other than carbon. Burning coal will emit greenhouse gases with toxic fumes that have to be removed. Therefore, these industrialized countries are now looking ways to generate Hydrogen from coal; that too at a cost which will be comparable to other current fuels such as natural gas. It is not an easy task because natural gas is formed by Mother Nature over several hundred thousand years. It is readily available and there is no manufacturing cost except processing cost. We are used to free energy from Mother Nature. This is the crux of the issue. Hydrogen is the most abundantly available element on earth; yet it is not available in a free form. It is available as a compound, for example, joined with oxygen forming water H2O molecule; or joined with Carbon forming Methane CH4 molecule.This Hydrogen should be separated in a free form, and this separation requires energy. How can coal, which is just a Carbon, generate Hydrogen? It requires an addition of water in the form of steam. When coal is gasified with air and steam, a mixture of Hydrogen and Carbon dioxide is generated, known as Syngas (synthesis gas). 2C + H2O+O2 ------- 2H2 +2 CO2 The syngas is separated into Hydrogen and carbon dioxide using various methods using their difference in densities. The Hydrogen can be stored under pressure for further use. Research work is currently under way to capture carbon dioxide for sequestering. Carbon sequestration is a method of capturing carbon dioxide and storing it in a place where it cannot enter the atmosphere. But the technical feasibility and economic viability of such a system is yet to be established. Carbon sequestration is a new concept and the cost of sequestration can potentially increase the cost of energy derived from Hydrogen despite the fact, Hydrogen has energy content five times more the carbon. However, there is no quick fix for our energy problems, and we have to reconcile to the fact that the energy cost will increase in the future but eventually reduce the greenhouse emissions. These developed countries should at least disclose to the rest of the world, how they plan to reduce their emissions and their action plans; such disclosure should be subject to inspection by UN panel. In the absence of any concrete mechanism, it will be impossible to stop the global warming in the stipulated time frame considering the fact that a number of coal/oil/gas fired power plants are already under implementation.
Tuesday, March 6, 2012
We have been using fossil fuels like diesel, petrol and natural gas for power generation and transportation from the time of industrial revolution. The basic fuel and the combustion technology are practically the same with efficiencies less than 40%. In fact we have become very complacent with both the fuel and the combustion technology and there were no major research and development on both the above issues. In fact we became completely dependent on these two issues and there was no substantial breakthrough either in substituting the fossil fuel or in the combustion technology. The basic reason behind this situation can be attributed to the discovery of electromagnestism, which opened the way for electricity generation as well as transportation. In both these industries, the key component is the motor which provided a rotary motion. This rotary motion generates electricity in turbines and such motion is created by combustion of a fuel, which is invariably a fossil fuel. We have been carrying on this for few decades before the emission of greenhouse started rising abnormally and became an issue. We are now at cross roads wondering what the future holds for the world. Is it possible to carry on the business as usual or look for an alternative source of energy? We started looking at various sources of energy as an alternative. Any alternative energy source should meet two critical parameters namely the lower or no carbon emission and sustainability. Low carbon can be achieved by few methods. The immediate option is to maximize the energy efficiency of existing systems so that for the given input of fuel the output is much higher than what we have achieved all these years. But this increase in efficiency should be substantial in order to achieve the emission levels of greenhouse suggested by the UN panel on climate change. The second option will be to switch over to different fuels with less carbon emission e.g., coal fired power plants switching over to gas fired power plants using combined cycle. Retrofitting organic Rankin cycle as a bottoming for steam turbines to squeeze out some extra energy. Decentralizing the power plants in a phased manner in favor of distributed energy systems where gas, instead of electricity, can be supplied to individual industries, to generate their own power using CHP process. All these measures can help reduce the emission level but our dependency on fossil fuel will still continue. W can look at a completely different fuel source and new technology for power generation and transportation. If we examine carefully there are not many alternative fuel sources except Hydrogen that could meet these parameters. We are also trying to develop bio fuels. But biofuels are also organic chemicals with carbon backbone which will generate greenhouse emission. Moreover bio fuel sources such as palm oil, corn are also food sources. There is an indiscriminate deforestation and plantation of palm trees in tropical countries like Malaysis, Indonesia and PNG. The focus is now shifting to carbon based organic compounds like biofuel and biogas. This will create a situation where food crops will be substituted with energy crops creating food shortage.But the carbon dioxide level in the atmosphere may not be reduced drastically by these methods. We need to develop an energy source which does not emit any carbon emission and at the same time we should be able to use existing technology to the possible extent. Only Hydrogen can meet these requirements. In the current situation it is impossible to substitute fossil fuels in a short span of time. We can reduce fossil fuels by blending with Hydrogen to the maximum extent possible so that we can achieve two objectives. We can reduce the carbon emission and at the same we can deploy Hydrogen as a blended fuel with fossil fuel rather than pure Hydrogen. Since Hydrogen is a very light gas and readily form an explosive mixture with oxygen, this opens up a new opportunity to develop Hydrogen assisted combustion process in power generation as well as in transportation. It will be easier to handle a mixture of natural gas and Hydrogen for combustion in Gas turbine, or spark ignited reciprocating engines, as well as, gasoline combustion engines in cars. This will also gives us an opportunity to develop advanced and competitive systems like Fuel cell as an alternative technology for combustion process in due course of time. The hydrogen assisted combustion technology is much easier, faster and economical and at the same time reduce the greenhouse emission to an accepted level. But the source of such Hydrogen cannot be natural gas but only renewable sources. The renewable technologies such as solar, wind, geothermal, OTEC (ocean thermal energy conversion) should generate renewable Hydrogen. This is the key for sustainability as well as for greenhouse gas mitigation. These two benefits are too attractive to ignore and it is time we move from total fossil fuel to Hydrogen blended fossil fuel. The blended fuel along with the energy efficiency measures suggested above should go hand in hand, so that we may get over this turbulent period of financial crisis and global warming. It is also possible that Hydrogen assisted combustion be adopted for coal fired power plants by simply firing coal slurry, finely powdered coal blended with water and conveyed pneumatically for firing boilers and also for gasification process to generate syngas for IGCC (Integrated gasification and combined cycle) applications. Syngas production will be critical in the near future for a smoother transition from fossil economy to Hydrogen economy irrespective of the route we adopt.
Saturday, February 25, 2012
Globe is warming at an unprecedented rate since industrial revolution due to the effect of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere; according to a panel of scientists in IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change).Thousands of scientists from 30 countries formed IPCC under United Nation to study the problem of global warming and reported to the world. IPCC published a detailed report and it gave an apocalyptic scenario about global warming. They warned that the carbon dioxide level in the atmospheres has increased from 316ppm in 1959 (13% higher than preindustrial level) to current level of 380ppm in 2005, which is 35% above preindustrial level. This dramatic increase in the level of CO2 is due to the human activities. The major contributing gases are Carbon dioxide, Methane, Oxides of Nitrogen, CFC (Chlorofluorocarbons) and Ozone present in the atmosphere. Bulk of the emissions is from power plants and automobiles using fossil fuels. Other process industries like cement plants are also major contributors of greenhouse gases. The enhanced effect of global warming is due to the absorption of invisible infrared radiation coming from the warm surface of the earth. On an average, sun’s light reaches the earth at the rate of 343W/m2 and about 30% of this value is reflected and about 70% is absorbed. The amount of invisible infrared radiation absorbed depends on the concentration of greenhouse gases present in the atmosphere. According to IPCC their findings on global warming are unequivocal, and if the world does not act now, then, we will be facing dire consequences in the near future. Doubling CO2 emission will increase the global temperature from 2-4.5C. But many skeptics say the IPCC report is apocryphal and they have their own theories to support their skepticism. Many climate models proposed by various international institutions projects an average temperature rise of 3.4C above year 2000 level if we do nothing and carry on the “business as usual”. The consequences of global warming are far reaching. An increase of 3C rise in temperature will result in sea level rise up to 4 to 6 mts in the next few thousand years. About 10% of the world population lives in less than 10 mts above sea level and majority of population lives within 10km of sea level. We have already witnessed few islands in pacific (example, Bougainvillea, Sulawesi) inundated with seawater. Maldives and Bangladesh are good examples. They predict shortage of fresh water in many parts of the world and severe draught and flooding in other parts of the world. We have already witnessed these incidents in Northern Queensland in Australia and in Europe, and prolonged draught in Texas, bushfires in Australia and in Russia. Majority of Indian subcontinent is suffering from lack of drinking water. Unscrupulous exploitation of ground water for agriculture purpose has made the situation worse. Many plants, animals and species will face greater risk of extinction. An increasing acidity in seawater due to excess absorption of carbon dioxide will affect aquatic organisms such as shell, coral and shellfish. We are already witnessing bleaching of corals at Great Barrier Reef in Australia. Global warming will displace millions of people due to draught and flooding and consequently leave millions of children malnourished. Water born diseases and infectious diseases will affect many people. Tropical diseases such as dengue and malaria will be widespread. These consequences are real, if the world does not act on greenhouse emissions. One need not be a rocket scientist to understand that human behavior and activity has caused irreversible damage to the plant earth for several decades. We unearthed fossil fuels and converted them into plastics and dumped them in every water ways, parks and beaches. The exponential growth in population and industries has driven many animals, tropical forests into extinction. Each and every one of us who are 50 years and above would have witnessed the unfolding consequences of environmental degradation in our life time. What kind of plant earth we will be leaving behind for our future generations? Every religion on earth has predicted the future of humanity and the final days and hours with deadly consequences for their actions. All native people whether they are Indians from Americas, Aborigines of Australia or Shamans of Indonesia or Natives of Alaska, have time and again raised their voice against indiscriminate destruction of land, water and air in the name of science and industrial growth. But no Government listened to their voice and we are here still struggling with unemployment and poverty. Mayan civilization is a well known civilization in ancient world and their seven prophesies are matters of great debate in the recent past. Their prophecy is ominously similar to what IPCC panel predicts except the “end of the world in Dec 2012”. I quote third, fourth and fifth prophesy out of seven Mayan prophecies here, which are relevant to global warming: “The third prophecy states that there will be change in temperature, producing climatic, geological and social changes in magnitude without patterns and at astonishing speed. One of them will be generated by man in his lack of conscience to care for and protect natural resources of the planet and other generated by sun, which will increase its activity due to increasing vibrations.” “The fourth prophecy says that anti-ecological conduct of man and greater activity by sun will cause melting of ice in the poles. It will allow the earth to clean itself and green itself again, producing changes in the physical composition of the continents of the planet. The Mayans left a register in the Desdre codices that for every 117 spins of Venus, the Sun suffers new alterations and huge spots or solar eruption appears”. “The fifth prophecy says that all systems based on fear, on which the civilization based on, will suffer simultaneously with the planet and man will make a transformation to give way to new harmonic reality. The system will fail and man will face himself and in this need to recognize society and continue down the path of evolution that will bring him to understand creation. Only one common spiritual world for all humanity that will end all limits established among many ways to look at God will emerge”. Perhaps, Jesus too expressed his displeasure with human behavior according to the Gospel of Thomas: Jesus said, "Perhaps people think that I have come to cast peace upon the world. They do not know that I have come to cast conflicts upon the earth: fire, sword, war. For there will be five in a house: there'll be three against two and two against three, father against son and son against father, and they will stand alone."
Friday, February 24, 2012
I use the word ‘renewable Hydrogen’ for the Hydrogen derived from water using renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, geothermal, wave energy, ocean thermal energy conversion systems and biological processes. Hydrogen is clearly the energy source of the future because it has got the highest energy content, compared to any other fossil fuels such a diesel, gasoline, or Butane. The energy content is more than three times that of natural gas, which is currently considered as the cleanest commercial fuel available in the market. The heating value of Hydrogen is 61,100Btu/lb compared to 23,879 Btu/lb of natural gas. Moreover, only Hydrogen can guarantee a complete reduction of Carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The problem with renewable Hydrogen is the cost, at current situation. The DOE (department of energy, USA) has targeted a cost for Hydrogen production at $10to $15 per mmBtu, which is comparable with current Natural gas cost. Currently bulk of the Hydrogen is commercially produced by steam reforming natural gas. However; this process will emit carbon dioxide at the rate of 11,888gms per Kg of Hydrogen produced. Though the cost of Hydrogen by this route is cheaper, mitigation of carbon dioxide is clearly an environmental issue. However it is an important route during the transition process from fossil fuel to a full- fledged Hydrogen economy of the future. Natural gas is increasingly in demand and the price of natural gas keeps increasing as the supply demand gap widens. Large natural gas liquefaction plants are already in operation in many parts of the world and number of new plants are under implementation or under planning stages. Japan, South Korea, Taiwan are three largest importers of LNG (liquefied natural gas) from Australia in Pacific region. There are many coal seam methane gas facilities already in operation in Australia and many are under planning. Due to the disaster at Fukashima nuclear plant, Japan has stepped up its import of LNG. India and China, which have been traditionally using coal as a major fuel, have started importing LNG for their power plants. This has pushed the prices of LNG in the international market significantly. Though LNG is relatively a cleaner fuel, it is very expensive to build import terminals. Moreover countries like India and China do not have a good distribution network by pipelines.The economy of scale also favor only large capacity LNG plants and terminals. However it is not a sustainable solution in the long run considering the fact that supply of natural gas also keeps dwindling steadily. Despite all these obstacles, Governments around the world are looking only for short term solutions like LNG, simply because it is an easy fix. Biogas can be generated from organic waste and waste waters by anaerobic digestion. Many sewage treatment plants around the world have started generating biogas to generate power and use captively and to export the surplus power to the grid. Similarly municipalities are also implementing projects to convert ‘waste garbage’ to ‘energy’. However, the scale of operation favors only large capacity plants in larger cities. However these biogas plants will still emit carbon dioxide because biogas will be combusted using conventional engines, micro turbines and Fuelcells.This is once again a temporary solution only. We need to look beyond all these technologies to really reduce the greenhouse emissions. The only option is by Renewable Hydrogen and we need to take steps to make it a commercial reality. Biohydrogen is another potential technology. However the technology is still in a nascent stage but it is promising. Renewable Hydrogen using renewable energy sources are our best bet. Countries have already started investing in renewable energy infrastructures such as solar and wind. They can as well plan for renewable Hydrogen so that they can be certain about three things. One, they can generate and use uninterrupted power supply without importing oil or gas. Secondly they can be certain that greenhouse emissions can be reduced to pre-industrialization level. Thirdly they can be certain about the final cost of energy and its stability in the long run. These are three important factors every citizen of a country is looking for. It requires political will, determination and swift action on the part of individual Governments.
Thursday, February 23, 2012
Carbon is the backbone of an organic life on earth. Every life from the smallest microorganism to human beings is made up of carbon. A cycle called ‘carbon cycle’ that decomposes carbon into carbon dioxide which is used to synthesis Carbohydrates by the process known as ‘photosynthesis’ in presence of water and sunlight, as described in the following equation: 6 CO2 + 6H2O + sunlight → C6H12O6 + 6O2 The oxygen generated during the above process and carbohydrates sustains life of animals and microorganism on earth. These lives consume oxygen and carbohydrates and releases Carbon dioxide by respiration into the atmosphere. The released carbon dioxide breaks down carbohydrates and other organic matters and regenerates carbon dioxide for reuse by animals and other lives. Not all organic matters are decomposed and part of it is stored as carbon biomass in the roots of plants and other organic matters and buried under earth. After millions of years these organic matters turns into fossil fuels under pressure and at elevated temperature. Carbon is distributed on earth, in water and in atmosphere. Due to increase in population and industrial growth over several decades the carbon dioxide increased gradually in soil, water and atmosphere. Carbon dioxide is also released by natural events like volcanic eruptions. But the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere increased rapidly after industrialisation, when industries unearthed buried fossil fuels and burnt. In fact we are burning carbon at a faster rate than it is regenerated. It is purely man-made and it increases the presence of carbon dioxide both in atmosphere as well as in oceans. The rapid increase of green house emission started 240 years ago when industrial revolution started. The consequences of this unabated greenhouse gases due to combustion has caused ‘global warming’ with many consequences. As I have mentioned in my previous articles, power generation and transportation are the two major industries that emit bulk of the greenhouse emission. Both industries use age-old technologies of combustion. The world has been complacent about fossil fuels and grossly indifferent to industrial pollution for decades. Global warming is looming as the biggest threat of the twenty first century, yet we are not acting. Politicians deny global warming and they want to carry on the business as usual, at the peril of the future generations. Powerful countries like US, China and India are reluctant to pass a unanimous resolution to set target for carbon emission, while smaller nations remain as powerless onlookers. These powerful nations can drag the rest of the world with them to face the wrath of the Mother Nature with disastrous consequences for their inaction. It is quite obvious that world have no choice but switch to cleaner energy sources and leave the fossil fuels buried deep under the earth. A new paradigm shift in the way we generate energy and use them is the key for the survival of mankind. We need to develop Hydrogen as an alternative fuel source and Government should encourage innovations in such technologies, while they simultaneously price carbon. In the absence of a concrete legislation and mechanism to penalise polluters, industrie will continue to use fossil fuels. A simple cost benefit analysis will indicate that taxing on polluters and simultaneously introducing renewable technologies will benefit the world in the long run.
Wednesday, February 15, 2012
Are you wondering how to beat the heat in this summer, especially with power outage and blackouts, when everybody turns on their airconditioners? The grid fails with overloading, when all the air conditioners are switched on simultaneously, in a city. The situation is worst, when the grid fails and nobody has got power. This can be detrimental for IT companies, call centers, hospitals, hotels, schools supermarkets, continuous process industries, and even homes. Why not use a hybrid chiller, that runs both with solar as well as with electricity or gas? It can also be used with diesel power generators with waste heat recovery system. It is economical, reliable and flexible, and it makes sense for business and industry. Air-conditioners are major power consumers in tropical countries, where power outages are common and frequent. It directly affects the production, sales and profitability of a business. Hybrid air- conditioners are not available off the shelves in stores, but should be specifically designed and installed to meet your specific requirements. It depends on the country, location, power situation, number of sunny days in a year and Government regulations. There are business and industries that will use a substantial power for their air-conditioners. It is absolutely essential to maintain a comfortable ambience for a good working environment and productivity. In order to reduce your energy bills, you can plan to install a hybrid chiller. At least part of the load can be shared by PV solar power and hot water that can be installed on your roof top. If you have a diesel or gas fired engine or standby power generator, the engine jacket and exhaust cooling water can be supplemented with hot water. Hybrid chiller uses both an absorption chiller as well as an electric chiller. It offers flexibility to optimize the utilization of your cooling plant. A combination of solar hot water, waste heat from engines and off-peak power tariffs are taken into account while designing the system in such a way, the customer get the best economic outcome. During peak hours when grid power is in great demand and costs more money, the system will use solar hot water and gas heated hot water to run the absorption chiller, while eclectic chiller will take advantage of off-peak electrical power with lowest tariff, during night times. Hybrid systems can be installed with least disruption to your existing activities so that there will be no production or man-hour loss. Hybrid chiller is ideal for business and industries located in countries where government assistance is available, for renewable energy projects, by way of subsidies, cabon credit or other incentives. We will be presenting a case study in my future articles for small hybrid chiller installations. Companies interested in exploring this opportunity may contact us by sending an email, with all relevant informations, so that we can suggest you a proposal with costing and feasibility study. I encourage business and industries whose energy monthly bills are high with substantial portion towards air-conditioning, to contact us by email at this website. You will also be eligible for carbon credit to the extend you save your greenhouse gas emission!
Monday, February 13, 2012
Why I say “water and clean energy, are two sides of the same coin?” At the outset, it may sound odd, but in reality, these two are closely interconnected. Let us examine, step by step, how they are connected, to each other, and what are the implications, in terms of cost, and environmental issues. Take for example, power generation industries. The two basic materials, any power plant require, are, fuel and water. It does not matter, what kind of fuel is used, whether it is a coal based power plant or liquid fuel based plant like Naphtha, or gas based plants, like piped natural gas or LNG Of course, this statement is applicable only, for existing, conventional power generation technologies, and not for PV solar or wind energy, technologies. Let us consider, only power generation, involving conversion of thermal energy, into electrical energy. Today, more than 80% of power generation in the world, is based on thermal power, including nuclear plants. What is the usage of water in power plants? All thermal power plants use steam, as the prime motive force, to drive the turbines, (gas turbine is an exception, but, even in gas based plants, the secondary motive force, is steam, using waste heat recovery boilers, in combined cycle operations). The quality of water for conversion into steam is of high quality, purer, than our drinking water. The second usage of water is for cooling purpose. The water consumption by power plants, using once through cooling system is 1 lit/kwhr, and by closed circuit cooling tower, it is 1.7lit/kwhr .Only about 40% power plants in Europe, for example, use closed circuit cooling towers, and the rest use only ‘once through’ cooling systems. The total power generated in 2010, by two largest users, namely US and China, were 3792Twhrs and 3715 Twhrs respectively. The total world power production, in 2008 was 20,262 Twhrs, using following methods. Fossil fuel: Coal 41 %, Oil 5.50%, Gas 21%, Nuclear 13% and Hydro 16%. Renewable: PV solar 0.06%, PV thermal 0.004%, Wind 1.1%, Tide 0.003 %, Geothermal 0.3%, Biomass &others 1.30%. (1Twhrs is = 1,000,000,000 kwhrs) The above statistics, gives us an idea, on how much water, is being used, by power generating plants, in the world. Availability of fresh water, on planet earth, is only 2.5% (96. 5% oceans, 1.70% ground water, 1.7% glaciers and ice caps, and 0.001% in the air, as vapor and clouds).The world’s precious water source, is used for power generation, while millions of people, do not have water, to drink. The cost of bottled drinking water is US$ 0.20 /lit, in countries like, India. This situation is simply unsustainable. The prime cause, for this situation, is lack of technology, to produce clean power, without using water. The power technology, we use today, is based on the principle of electromagnetism, invented, by Michael Faraday, in the year 1839. That is why, renewable energy, is becoming critically important, at this juncture, when the world is, at the cross road. In order to overcome, the shortage of fresh water, many countries are now opting, for seawater desalination. Desalination, again, is an energy intensive process. For example 3-4 kwhrs of power is used, to desalinate 1 m3 of water. This power has to come, from fossil fuel fired, thermal power plants, which are often co-located, with desalination plants, so that, all the discharge, from both the plants, can be easily pumped into the sea. Since, the world is running out of fresh water, we have to look for alternative source of water. In countries like India, the ground water is being exploited, for agricultural purpose, and the ground water is getting depleted. Depleting water resources is a threat to agriculture production. It is a vicious circle. That is why, distributed energy systems, using Hydrogen as an alternative fuel, is an important step, towards sustainability. One can generate Hydrogen from water, using renewable energy source, like solar or wind, and store them, for future usage. The stored Hydrogen can be used to generate power, as and when required, at any remote location (even where there is no grid power).The water is regenerated, during this process of power generation using Fuelcell, which can be recycled. There is no large consumption of water, and there is no greenhouse emission. It is a clean and sustainable solution. The same stored Hydrogen can also be used as a fuel for your car! Therefore; one can say “water and clean energy, are two sides of the same coin”. (The above statistics are based on Wikipedia data).
Saturday, February 11, 2012
There is a myth, that electric cars will eliminate greenhouse emissions, and reduce the global warming. Electric cars will not reduce the greenhouse emission, because, you still need electricity, to charge your batteries. Companies promoting electric cars, are now planning to set up their own battery charging stations, because, you have to charge the batteries of these electric cars, every now and then. Otherwise, they will not be able to market their electric cars. Moreover, there is currently no battery in the market that can last more than 28 hours between the charges, though many companies are trying to develop superior batteries. One company claims a battery capacity of 300whr/kg, for their Lithium polymer battery, much superior than other batteries, which can run 600kms, with 6 minutes charging. Though, new batteries such as semi solid Lithium ion batteries, based on the principle of ‘flow batteries’, are promising, it is still, a long way to commercialization. President Obama, has set a set a target of 1 million electric cars in US roads, by 2012.It is estimated that US has to produce about 40 billion dollars worth of domestically produced batteries. A lithium ion battery, which weighs less, and stores more energy, is the promising technology. But, the Lithium resources are limited. Battery is the heart of an electric car. It is true, that electric cars do not emit smoke, or make noise like petrol cars. But, these two factors alone, are not sufficient, to substitute traditional, fossil fuel powered international combustion engines. It is equally true, that electric cars can reduce green house emission, to an extent, where fossil fuel consumed cars, are replaced with electric cars. To that extend, the fossil fuel consumption by these cars are reduced. But, the power to charge the batteries, will still, have to come from the common grid. Unless, the power generation technology, using fossil fuels is changed, there will be no dramatic greenhouse gas emission reduction, by introducing electric cars. Alternatively, if cars are built on Hydrogen based fuel, either using a conventional internal combustion engine, or by using Fuel cell, then, a substantial amount of greenhouse emission, can be eliminated. However, the Hydrogen generation, should be based on renewable energy source only. Whichever way, you look at it, renewable energy is the key. Those Governments and companies, who do not invest in renewable energy technologies and systems, now, will have to pay a heavy price, in the future. But, even those companies, investing on renewable energy technologies, should look beyond current technologies and systems. The best starting point, for these industries will be, to substitute ‘storage batteries’ with ‘stored Hydrogen’. It is much simpler, to install PV solar panels or wind turbines, and to generate, Hydrogen, onsite, from water. You can store Hydrogen in fuelling stations, and fuel the cars. Honda was the first entrant into this market, who was focusing fuel cell technology, using compressed hydrogen gas. Alternatively, such Hydrogen can be generated from ‘Biogas’ generated from biological wastes and waste treatment plants. All necessary technologies are currently available to make it happen. Governments can try to promote small townships with Hydrogen fuel stations, and show case such models, to the rest of the country or other nations to follow. This will help nations, to reduce their greenhouse emission, and at the same time, they can become self sufficient in their energy requirements. They no longer, have to depend on polluting oil and gas, from few Middle Eastern countries. Countries, like India with impressive economic growth, heavily depend on oil imports, and any slight fluctuation in oil prices, can easily upset such growth. It is time Governments around the world; take a serious look at Hydrogen, as their alternative energy source. It is just not good enough, to promote renewable energy technologies, but they have to develop generation, storage and distribution technologies also, for Hydrogen. What is needed at this hour, is ‘will, determination and leadership’ on the part of the Governments like US, China and India, that can set an example, for the rest of the world, by investing in Hydrogen economy.
Friday, February 10, 2012
Water and Energy, are two sides of the same coin. It is known, from the famous equation E=mc2, of Albert Einstein, that, a tiny amount of mass is a vast storehouse of energy. But, even the molecular Hydrogen, as a result of water decomposition, is a promising energy source, of the future.However, the amount of energy used, to split water, into Hydrogen and Oxygen, is higher, compared to the amount of energy, that can be generated, from the resulting Hydrogen, using Fuel cell. But, this problem can be mitigated, by using renewable source of energy, such as PV solar, Solar (thermal), wind energy, geothermal energy, ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC) etc.The cost of renewable energy, is still considered expensive, for two reasons. We are used to cheap energy, from fossil fuels, for decades, and most of the investments, made on fossil fuel infrastructures, have been already realized. 2. A complete switch over, to renewable energy technologies, will require massive new investment.Unlike, investments made on fossil fuel infrastructures, over several decades, the investment required, for renewable energy infrastructure, is not only massive, but needs to be deployed, in a shorter span of time, simultaneously all over the world. There is no basic infrastructure in renewable energy industry, in existence, to make this change. Meanwhile, the unabated emission of carbon dioxide, by fossil fuels, is certainly, causing global warming. There are many skeptics, on the science on global warming. Such skepticism does not stem from the fact, that they have a concrete proof, but, ‘such skepticism’ serves, their vested interest. Politicians, who are in power, do not want any increase in the cost of energy, which is unpopular among people, may, eventually, throw them out of power. They say, they want to serve people, with low cost energy, but, neither politicians nor the common man understands the consequences of such measures. It will be our future generations, who will face the brunt of this skepticism, by facing fuel shortage or unaffordable cost of fuel, erratic climate change, and frequent natural catastrophies.It is time, for the world, to act decisively and swiftly, and move towards renewable energy, by massive investment, and creation of new skills and jobs, on a very large scale. The companies who have massively invested in fossil power plants, and the governments who depend on the support of such companies, and who want to keep the energy cost low, because of its popularity, are the major skeptics of global warming. The hidden cost of environmental challenges, and its consequences, is much higher, than the savings, due to cheap fossil fuels. It requires a paradigm shift and a sense of social justice, in the minds of Governments and companies. It is not all that difficult, to switch over to cleaner technologies. In fact, most of the technologies are already available, and it requires only a ‘will, bold decision and leadership’ by Governments. Any clean energy solution, should be sustainable in the long run. Hydrogen can meet not only the sustainability, but even the transition, from fossil fuel to Hydrogen; will be smooth. ‘Clean Energy and Water Technologies’, is working, both on water and energy technologies, to make Hydrogen future, a reality. To start with, all existing fossil fuel infrastructures can be modified towards Hydrogen generation, and fuel cell based power generation infrastructures. Of course, this will require large investment, but compared to a complete shift to renewable energy, it will require only, a relatively smaller investment. For example, all fuel stations can be converted into Hydrogen stations, by simply installing steam reformers, including LNG based fuel stations. All gasoline based automobiles, can be either fitted with Hydrogen IC engines, or converted to fuel cells, similar to Honda FXL models. If the Governments, all over the world, can agree for such conversion, and a complete shift to Hydrogen economy, then, it can become a reality, in the next decade. We have to focus on ‘Renewable Hydrogen’, which can come from seawater, using renewable energy source, and ‘Bio-hydrogen’ using biotechnology from waste organic matter. The future generation will not only have a cleaner and affordable fuel, but a more sustainable future!