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Energy With Benefits

Jim Baird's picture
Owner Thermodynamic Geoengineering

inventor,Method and apparatus for load balancing trapped solar energy Ocean thermal energy conversion counter-current heat transfer system Global warming mitigation method Nuclear Assisted...

  • Member since 2018
  • 368 items added with 453,499 views
  • Apr 9, 2014

The world needs a new energy system that will bolster the environment rather than making it uninhabitable to most living things.

Before designing and building such a system, it behooves us to consider what is wrong with what we have and how we can improve on that.

If it weren’t for climate change there would be no need to immediately consider a new energy system because existing fuels are sufficient to last through this century, at a minimum.

Climate change, which is inexorably turning our planet into a hostile environment, is primarily, about 57 percent, the consequence of burning fossil fuels from which we derive close to 85 percent of the energy we consume. We burn these fuels to produce a gas that will expand and drive a piston, turn a turbine or produce thrust that will drive an aircraft or some other means of transportation forward.

It is self-evident therefore the new energy system will have to be carbon free, yet be able to drive a piston or a turbine and produce thrust.

In nearly all cases we have to cool the gas used in a thermal cycle so that it can be condensed and reused and/or cool the fuel burning engine so that it does not overheat.

In most cases the coolant used for this purpose is water, which is becoming scarce in many regions due to climate change.

Furthermore warming water and reduced river flows caused by climate change  have led to reduced production, or temporary shutdowns, of many thermoelectric power plants in recent times.

According to the Virginia Water Resources Research Center, an average of 95 liters of water is required to produce 1 kilowatt-hour of electricity.

Then there are the vast quantities of water being used to develop unconventional fossil fuel resources such as Alberta’s oil sands, which consume between .8 and 2.4 barrels of fresh water for every barrel of oil produced, depending on whether the oil is derived in situ or the bitumen is mined. And fracking’s water use is set to bring drillers into conflict with cities and farmers.

Thermal processes are also inherently wasteful. Per the following diagram for a reciprocating engine, only about a third of the heat produced from burning the fuel is converted to work, which is about the same return derived from thermal electric power plants whether they are fueled by gas, coal, oil, nuclear or fusion energy.


When transmission and other constraints are factored in, the U.S. economy converted only 14 percent of the total energy consumed in 2010 into useful work according to John Laitner of the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.

As he points out, “One can easily imagine that waste of this magnitude creates an array of costs that can easily weaken the nation’s economic and social well being.”

Besides thermal waste, nuclear and coal generated power have well documented waste issues and the conveyance of fossil fuels to the end user and electricity to the consumer are problematic as well. As are the production of offshore oil and gas and nuclear power.

So what are we left with, bearing in mind decarbonisation requires the replacement of 85 percent of the world’s current energy supply? Plus the World Energy Congress forecasts the demand for primary energy will increase between 27 and 61 percent by 2050.

Solar and wind are the obvious choices but they are intermittent which is why electricity storage systems are in vogue. They are required to bridge the gap when the primary source is unavailable.

Like carbon capture and sequestration, electricity storage, is a redundant, unnecessary, expense. The oceans are already storing more energy than we can consume and this is the principal manifestation of, as well as the greatest concern with climate change as this heat is causing sea level rise and tropical storms.  

Only one thing has demonstrably reduced atmospheric warming in recent times and that is the movement of heat into the deep ocean, which also reins in tropical storms and sea level rise.

If we could produce the energy we need by following this example we would kill two birds with one stone.

As pointed out here, here, and here that is precisely what would be accomplished by producing energy with an ocean thermal energy conversion system of the deep water condenser design.    

Most of the best places for producing this power are a significant distance from shore so to get the power to where it is need it has to be converted to the energy carrier hydrogen, which is another way of desalinating sea water.

When this hydrogen is converted back to energy on shore in either a fuel cell or a combustion engine, water, which Matthew Simmons pointed out, is even more priceless than oil, with out it we cannot create modern energy and there is nothing to eat, is reconstituted.

For the Asian market, hydrogen produced with OTEC would also be the nearest available energy resource.

In a stationary fuel cell water exhausted from the energy production process can be captured and put to direct use.

Hydrogen is also the thrust producer in many rocket engines.

So make that, three birds with one stone.

No, make that four because instead of creating waste heat such a system converts existing heat to productive energy.

Add another because no radioactive waste or ash is produced.

Add another because this would be base load energy and hydrogen is available on demand so there is no need to build excess capacity to handle only peak loads.

Add another because a hydrogen transportation accident would produce little environmental damage.

Add another because a production accident, particularly if the systems working fluid is carbon dioxide, would also produce little damage.

So that’s pretty much makes a whole flock of problems solved with one energy system that can produce as much as we currently derive from fossil fuels.

So what is the holdup to the resolution of our energy/environment conundrum, besides the obvious resistance from entrenched interests?

The one most often proffered is cost, which according to Luis Vega in his 2010 paper  Economics of Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC): An Update would be less than 0.18 $/kWh.

As Lindsay Wilson of  Shrink That Footprint shows in the following graph that is about the median of average national electricity prices and less than half that of Denmark which is primarily dependant on wind.

So again, what is the hold up? There is so much to gain and in the alternaive everything to lose.

james filippi's picture
james filippi on Apr 11, 2014

james filippi's picture
james filippi on Apr 11, 2014

Video below of what is happening in California at municipal wastewater treatment plants using fuel cell technology to produce 3 value streams of electricity, hydrogen and heat all from a human waste! This is pretty impressive in my opinion for hydro-refueling infrastructure.

“New fuel cell sewage gas station in Orange County, CA may be world’s first”

“It is here today and it is deployable today,” said Tom Mutchler of Air Products and Chemicals Inc., a sponsor and developer of the project.

2.8MW fuel cell using biogas now operating; Largest PPA of its kind in North America

Microsoft Backs Away From Grid


DFC ERG Nat Gas / Fuel Cell Hybrid / Enbridge – Fuel Cell Energy

Robert Bernal's picture
Robert Bernal on Apr 12, 2014

We should use the nuclear closed cycle to power all of the processes necessary to make liquid fuels from the excess CO2 from the water. The power is unlimited and intrinsically cheap. What we need to do is fight the silly anti-nuclear crowd so that the world will have the clean power necessary to do large engineering projects such as OTEC, if only for the sole purpose of mitigating global warming and sequestering the excess CO2.

Max Kennedy's picture
Max Kennedy on Oct 14, 2014

Jim, I feel that this has tremendous potential.  I am unable to find modelling or experimental evidence regarding concerns I have previously raised such as the possibility of setting up local convection cells, disrupting plankton/food web, disrupting deep water currents, determining area of impact and so on.  It may be we haven’t the knowlege to set up meaningful models to address these things.  I feel that they won’t be an issue but as a person that believes in making knowlege based decisions not ones on “feel” I ask you to direct me to any papers that have addressed these concerns.  If we don’t have the knowlege to address them then you need to be forthright on that.  It may be that a full scale test may be required to obtain the requisite information.  If so please so indicate.  Due to the potential of the technology I would be in support of doing such a trial.  Given the potential I am more in favour of this than of the nuclear option which has a history of not meeting expectations.

Max Kennedy's picture
Max Kennedy on Oct 14, 2014

Thankyou for the straightforward reply.  You have no idea how good it is to see such in the vast ocean of not answering the question asked or outright prevarication.  As you are considering these potential negatives in a thoughtful manner please know that you have my support for taking this to trials.  The H2/CO2 connection you speak of, and I won’t ask details as it is probably proprietary, comes as a welcome bonus.  Look forward to hearing more regarding this project.

Max Kennedy's picture
Max Kennedy on Oct 14, 2014

Can you comment on where the data for the last graphic about where the heat is going came from in the Simon Fraser link?

Max Kennedy's picture
Max Kennedy on Oct 14, 2014

Excellent, Thankyou.

Jim Baird's picture
Thank Jim for the Post!
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