Hydraulic air compression site in Sudbury, Canada
Modern man is used to power distribution via electricity. There is an alternative though, that was once used in fairly sophisticated places like Paris: pneumatic power distribution. Pneumatic power distribution comes with efficient storage possibilities of excess renewable electricity (CAES). It’s even possible to contemplate skipping intermediate electric conversion altogether and use your wind turbine as a compressor.
A research project in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada, wants to (re)introduce pneumatic technology in a mining environment. The pressure is generated via falling water from high altitude (the hydraulic part), in a near-isothermal, energy efficient process.
[aceee.org] – Hydraulic Air Compressor (HAC) Demonstrator Project (pdf, p17)
[lowtechmagazine.com] – History and Future of the Compressed Air Economy
[douglas-self.com] – The Paris Compressed-Air Power Network
[canadianminingjournal.com] – Innovation: Hydraulic Air Compressor (HAC) launch in Sudbury
[laurentian.ca] – Hydraulic Air Compressor (HAC) Demonstrator
[deepresource] – Europe Chases CAES GWh Energy Storage
[Source] The place of CAES in the grand storage scheme
A company from British Columbia claims it can remove CO2 for less than $100/tonne. Significantly the company is financially backed by large companies like Chevron, Occidental and coal giant BHP.
Lithium-ion batteries are short-lived, which is fine for phones but not for grid applications. Liquid metal batteries were born from the practice of electrochemical aluminium smelting (electricity in, aluminium from oxide out), but operating in reverse. Electrons come from the lighter metal on top, where the corresponding ions are travelling downwards through the electrolyte in order to recombine with the electrons at the boundary of the heavier liquid metal at the bottom. For the rest, no mixing takes places and the three layers remain separate. During discharge the top layer gets thinner and bottom layer thicker, during charging this reverses. There is no need for membranes. Degrading of the system is nearly absent. Donald Sadoway c.s. formed a company now called Ambri.
P.S. in a latest development, Sadoway seems to be using a membrane after all, see Nature link below.
[wired.com] – Inside the race to build the battery of tomorrow
[wbur.org] – A Low-Tech Approach To Energy Storage: Molten Metals
[wikipedia.org] – Donald Sadoway
[wikipedia.org] – Molten-salt battery
[news.mit.edu] – A new approach to rechargeable batteries
[greentechmedia.com] – Ambri Still Chasing Its Liquid Metal Battery Dreams
[ambri.com] – Company site
[phys.org] – New battery made of molten metals may offer low-cost, long-lasting storage for the grid. Liquid electrodes solve the problem of degrading solid ones.
[nature.com] – Faradaically selective membrane for liquid metal displacement batteries
[chemistryworld.com] – Solid electrolyte boosts liquid metal battery
[wikipedia.org] – Donald Sadoway
He is a noted expert on batteries and has done significant research on how to improve the performance and longevity of portable power sources. In parallel, he is an expert on the extraction of metals from their ores and the inventor of molten oxide electrolysis, which has the potential to produce crude steel without the use of carbon reductant thereby totally eliminating greenhouse gas emissions… As a researcher, Sadoway has focused on environmental ways to extract metals from their ores, as well as producing more efficient batteries. His research has often been driven by the desire to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while improving quality and lowering costs. He is the co-inventor of a solid polymer electrolyte. This material, used in his “sLimcell” has the capability of allowing batteries to offer twice as much power per kilogram as is possible in current lithium ion batteries…. In August 2006, a team that he led demonstrated the feasibility of extracting iron from its ore through molten oxide electrolysis. When powered exclusively by renewable electricity, this technique has the potential to eliminate the carbon dioxide emissions that are generated through traditional methods… In 2009, Sadoway disclosed the liquid metal battery comprising liquid layers of magnesium and antimony separated by a layer of molten salt that could be used for stationary energy storage. Research on this concept was being funded by ARPA-E and the French energy company Total S.A. Experimental data showed a 69% DC-to-DC storage efficiency with good storage capacity and relatively low leakage current (self discharge). In 2010, with funding from Bill Gates and Total S.A., Sadoway and two others, David Bradwell and Luis Ortiz, co-founded a company called the Liquid Metal Battery Corporation (now Ambri) in order to scale up and commercialize the technology.
Project SOLID of the University of Eindhoven/the Netherlands. Burning iron from [0:44]
The world of science and technology is wrestling with the question how to power the engines of the future, post fossil fuel. Batteries, hydrogen fuel cells, biomass, exotic fuels like ammonia, methanol and several others. There is one overlooked possibility though: iron. Few people realize that iron can burn, a process also known as oxidation or “rusting”. If you have fine iron powder at your disposal, burning can go really fast:
Researchers at four universities around the world, Eindhoven (NL), Bochum (D), Orleans (F) and McGill (CA), are working on the possibility of metal powder-as-a-fuel, notably iron. The idea is to burn iron powder in an external combustible space and use the generated heat to drive an engine, for instance a Stirling engine or Rankine cycle-based generator, see video at the top of this post:
[wikipedia.org] – Stirling engine
Stirling engines have a high efficiency compared to internal combustion engines, being able to reach 50% efficiency. They are also capable of quiet operation and can use almost any heat source.
[wikipedia.org] – Rankine cycle
McGill University in Montreal is also busy researching the possibilities of metal powder as fuel:
|Fuel||Specific Energy MJ/kg||Specific Energie kWh/L|
[wikipedia.org] – Energy density
[deingenieur.nl] – First System to Use Iron Powder as Fuel Has Been Built
Why is iron so suitable for this process? ‘Firstly, iron has a high energy density, and burns at a high temperature of up to 1,800 °C… Some industrial processes need temperatures of up to 800 or 900 °C, which is way beyond the scope of heating air with electricity via heat pumps’… For example, iron powder can be made with different shapes of grain, but it has not yet been determined which shape is most suitable… Another challenge the team has to deal with when scaling up is handling the emissions generated by the process. NOx is released at such high temperatures, and possibly also particulates, and both will have to be filtered… The most important obstacle is perhaps the unfamiliarity of iron as fuel. Although some four universities around the world are carrying out research into metal fuels, it’s really unknown territory for the students.
[sciencedirect.com] – Direct combustion of recyclable metal fuels for zero-carbon heat and power
Metals are promising high-energy density, low-emission, recyclable energy carriers…. Metal fuels, produced using low-carbon recycling systems powered by clean primary energy, such as solar and wind, promise energy densities that are competitive to fossil fuels with low, or even negative, net carbon dioxide emissions… This paper proposes a novel concept for power generation in which metal fuels are burned with air in a combustor to provide clean, high-grade heat… The metal-fuel combustion heat can be used directly for industrial or residential heating and can also power external-combustion engines, operating on the Rankine or Stirling cycles, or thermo-electric generators over a wide range of power levels… The energy and power densities of the proposed metal-fuelled zero-carbon heat engines are predicted to be close to current fossil-fuelled internal-combustion engines, making them an attractive technology for a future low-carbon society.
[tue.nl] – Iron powder clean alternative
On an industrial scale, fuel cost will be double that of fossil fuel. But if the cost of CO2-emissions are factored in, this increased cost could be bearable… The (TUE) students developed a 20 kW installation that burns iron and produces hot water and electricity via a Stirling engine. The next step will be 100 kW installation.
After combustion, of course, you’re left with a pile of rust—iron oxide. The usual way of recycling it into iron is to reduce it with coal in a blast furnace. But that, of course, results in carbon emission. But Bergthorson is hopeful. “There are novel techniques to reduce iron oxide using pure hydrogen, or the use of biomass in chemical looping combustion, using gasified biomass or gasified coal, or by electrolysis, which is not yet commercially developed.”… If you would want to back up power for solar and wind energy, you could stockpile metal fuels and burn them in a retrofitted coal-fired power plant that has the appropriate collection systems for the combustion exhaust on it. The coal power plant infrastructure is already there,” says Bergthorson.
[metalot.nl] – Iron powder as fuel
In the future these so-called metal fuels will provide our coal-fired power stations and cars with the energy they need… The volumetric energy density of iron powder is at least three times higher than that of hydrogen’…‘And you do not have to transport this powder under high pressure or extremely low temperatures.’… by burning it to rust powder in an external combustion engine. You can also use it to store solar energy, according to postdoc Yuriy Shoshin. ‘We can already convert solar energy into hydrogen. Then we use the hydrogen to reduce rust powder to iron powder.’… iron is cheap, easily manageable and reusable. Shoshin: ‘We still have to adjust the reduction techniques to the process, but the reactions are known.’… ‘We expect to be able to reuse the iron for about a hundred times.’… But how can you derive energy from iron powder? ‘You burn it’, says Shoshin. First you distribute the iron powder in the air by means of an electrical field. Then a small spark activates the reaction of oxygen and iron in the air. The iron oxidizes into iron oxide. That reaction warms up the environment, which causes other iron particles to oxidize. ‘This reaction is similar to what happens in coal-fired power stations’, says Shoshin…. The researcher are still looking for a way to collect the rust particles after use, otherwise it will be difficult to reuse them. The Goey is now considering filtering, because with sizes of 1 µm the particles are quite easy to catch… In order to make the combustion easier Shoshin wants to use iron particles in the shape of a sponge in the future. ‘This morphology is generated during the reduction of iron and creates a larger surface. This makes the iron more reactive… Pouring this fuel into a normal combustion engine does not seem to be an option. The powder would get caught between the cylinder and the piston and this friction would cause the engine to break… At this time we are considering an external combustion engine or some kind of steam system similar to those used in the coal-fired power stations.’… Even though the technique still needs to overcome some obstacles, metal fuels are already drawing the attention of companies. De Goey is in contact with a coal-fired power station willing to test whether iron can replace coal. The people from Eindhoven think metal fuels will become indispensable in a few years time. ‘We really have to get rid of the coal, and metals are a good alternative’
[mcgill.ca] – Metal particles as the clean fuel of the future?
[cbc.ca] – Metal as fuel? Canadian scientists busy to make it happen
[vattenfall.com] – HYBRIT: Pilot Plant for creating Fossil-free steel
[newscientist.com] – Electrolysis may one day provide ‘green iron’ (2006)
[newscientist.com] – Powdered metal: The fuel of the future (2005)
[tue.nl] – IJzerpoeder: schone brandstof voor industrie die van het gas af moet
[metalot.nl] – Iron powder as fuel
[springer.com] – Electrolysis of iron in a molten oxide electrolyte
[wikipedia.org] – Donald Sadoway
Site comment: the advantages are obvious: iron powder is very easy to store, handle, trade and transport. One can achieve high temperatures during burning and heavy batteries are not necessary (but iron powder as fuel in a vehicle is rather heavy as well). However, the links above provide only material about the burning of iron oxide. What they don’t do is give information about the required reduction of iron-oxide to iron to make the complete cycle work. The efficiency of that process is crucial to the success of an iron-based fuel cycle. Don’t open that champagne bottle yet though:
[twitter.com] – Donald R. Sadoway
Sadoway’s molten oxide electrolysis makes liquid iron at 2.5 to 3.5 kWh/kg. Plus tonnage oxygen by-product!
Burning iron powder yields 5.2 MJ/kg or 1.44 kwh/kg, see table above. In other words, electrolysis round-trip efficiency is not that great: 41-57%. Note that this applies to efficiency of transforming molten oxide in molten iron. Additionally you must heat your oxide powder and next somehow convert molten iron into iron powder, which inevitably will come at additional energy cost.
What a difference technology makes! Where some, mostly in the doomer corner, claim that it costs more energy to extract tar sands and convert it into fuel than you get in return, here a study that paints a different picture. While tar sands do indeed have a very low EROI, perhaps in another 7 years they could surpass a value of 10 and as such could contribute to complete the energy transition.
[mdpi.com] – Energy Return on Investment of Canadian Oil Sands Extraction from 2009 to 2015
DONG of Denmark did it again. After acquiring the 1.4GW Hornsea-UK project in the North Sea, they now will build an even bigger 2GW project off the West coast of Canada. For DONG this means an expansion beyond European borders and the Danish wind energy giant could ascend to become one of the global players in wind power that in a few decades will have replaced the mainly Anglo oil majors (“Seven Sisters”). European Seven Brothers, anyone?
[cleantechnica.com] – DONG Partners With NaiKun Wind Energy Group To Develop 2GW BC Offshore Wind Site
[4coffshore.com] – Naikun Haida Energy Field Offshore Wind Farm
[4coffshore.com] – Events on Naikun – Haida Energy Field
[deepresource] – DONG to Build World’s Largest Offshore Wind Park Hornsea-UK
[wikipedia.org] – Seven Sisters (oil companies)
[deepresource] – The Seven Brothers – Europe Taking Lead in US Offshore
A team of the Dutch national news NOS traveled to the northern tip of Canada (68 degrees Northern latitude), that is Fort McPherson, to report about the visible effects of climate change. Note that both men are dressed in shirts (18-20 degrees Celsius), the environment is surprisingly green and there is no snow or ice and instead lots of mosquitoes. In the old days winter temperatures of minus 30-40C were normal, nowadays minus 20C is the new normal.
[wikipedia.org] – Fort McPherson, Northwest Territories
New energy big picture book by Vaclav Smil: “Energy and Civilization”.
[amazon.com] – Energy and Civilization: A History
[anoutsidechance.com] – Energy And Civilization: a review
[deepresource] – Vaclav Smil on Energy Transitions
[wired.com] – This Is the Man Bill Gates Thinks You Absolutely Should Be Reading
People turning their ordinary garden in a vegetable garden. We did it as well. A freezer full with food from your own garden and powered by your own solar panels, that’s a new quality of well-begin.
Gepubliceerd op 14 dec. 2015
“I’m not a millionaire but I feel like one,” declares Gabriel Pliska. This Vancouver, B.C. urban farmer gives a tour of a residential front yard garden, including planted boxes in the boulevard strip beside the curb. Several homeowners provide him yard space and water for cultivating veggies, flowers, herbs, wildlife habitat and beauty. They receive beautifully tended gardens all year round (and some produce, too!) Gabriel harvests veggies for CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) boxes and sells the surplus at a weekly growers market. Gabriel’s “hyper-local” enterprise is achieved almost entirely on bike. We finish with images of his “guerrilla garden” on an unused railway spur, accompanied by a music track of with his own lyrics “Garden Nostalgia.” Episode 298.
The chairman of ASPO Kjell Aleklett reports of a recent visit to the Canadian oil sands mining operation in Fort McMurray.
[Google Maps] – Fort McMurray
[aleklett.wordpress.com] – A visit to the heart of Canada’s oil sands industry – Fort McMurray
The road Fort McMurray to Fort McKay passes the heart of the Canadian oil sands industry.
I travelled from Fort McMurray to Fort McKay, a distance of 58 km. Along that route I passed near part of the heart of Canada’s oil sands industry including Suncore Mine, Syncrude Mine and Shell Mine.
Before I arrived in Fort McMurray I had no real understanding of the size of the area from which oil sands are mined. If one draws a circle of 50 km radius then that will encompass the heart of the mining activity. A little less than I had imagined… Places where industrial activity is ongoing, especially where mining activity is occurring, are not pretty to look at. The oil sand mining along Highway 63 is a clear example of this. But they show also that it is possible to rehabilitate these areas.
The oil production rate is currently 1.9 million barrels per day (Mb/d). The current lower oil price makes it uncertain whether this production rate will increase. In our 2007 publication we predicted maximal possible production from the oil sands in 2015 at 3.5 Mb/d so it is clear that current production is not following our “crash programme scenario”. According to Canada’s prognoses production in 2025 will be 4.5 Mb/d, a rate that seems far from possible…. In the OSCA text on the oil sands they give Canada’s producible oil reserves as 173 billion barrels, of which the oil sands represent 168 billion. If the production rate increases to 2.7 Mb/d then sufficient oil sands exist for over 150 years of oil production.
Editor: report confirms that from an energy perspective, Canada is probably the country one needs to worry about least. Low population density, lots of hydro-power, lots of space with large wind power potential.
[youtube.com] – Fort McMurray
With all the US sabre-rattling vis a vis the Gulf region over the past decades, one would expect that the Gulf is the most important supplier of oil to the US. Well, it is not, Canada is. In fact Canada exports nearly twice as much oil to the US as Saudi-Arabia does.
The diagram shows that the US is in a relatively comfortable geopolitical position when it comes to energy security, as more than half of its supply originates from the western hemisphere, and as such threatened by no one and access is limited only by the scruples of the US military, which is even at shorter supply than the oil involved.
So why all this US interest in the Gulf region? Take a look at this map (see page 9 source, the explosive German army peak-oil study):
After the demise of the USSR, the US is the only political entity left with global hegemonic ambitions. Although the US does not have the resources to occupy every piece of land on the globe, it does have the resources to control access to ca. 3/4 of the world’s fossil fuel reserves (mostly sealanes), confined to a relatively small part of the world (‘strategic ellipse’ as the German army study calls it). Control the oil, control the oil dependent nations.
Published 25 March 2013 – Energy transitions: a future without fossil energies is desirable, and it is eventually inevitable, but the road from today’s overwhelmingly fossil-fueled civilization to a new global energy system based on efficient conversions of renewable flows will be neither fast nor cheap. Distinguished Professor and author Vaclav Smil explores technological transitions of past, present and future that are critical for understanding how to shift to a low carbon future.
Vaclav Smil presents as part of WGSI’s Energy 2030 Summit (June 5-9, 2011).
Ontario, Canada now has 1200 windturbines in operation. This should be doubled in the next few years. In the end that figure could be as high as 6,400. Ontario’s original goal was to have 10,700 megawatts of power from wind, solar and bio-energy in place by 2018. An Energy Ministry spokesperson said it appears that target — enough energy to power millions of homes — will be hit three years earlier, by 2015. At the end of 2013, we will decide whether to raise the 10,700-MW target,” he said. Citizens are not amused and fear for the value of their property. Read more…