“This is not the first time this research team has extracted
methane from gas hydrates. In 2002 they drilled down at the Mallik site
and heated the gas hydrates to bring methane to the surface. Using heat
required a large input of energy. In this experiment they lowered the
pressure of the gas hydrates. Lowering the pressure for extraction required
significantly less energy than heating.
“Scott Dallimore, with Natural Resources Canada and chief Canadian
scientist for the program, said the results of the Mallik tests were
“ "A sustained flow (of methane) was observed," he
“The Japanese are interested in tapping undersea gas hydrate reserves
off their coast, but they must first find out if it is economically
feasible. The Mallik site is of interest to them because it is easier
and cheaper to research the gas hydrates from the surface.
“Dallimore said this was only early research, and it could be
years before it is ever determined if gas hydrates are economically
and environmentally feasible as an energy source.
“As a fuel, methane is much cleaner burning than gasoline or
oil. If countries like Japan could tap into gas hydrates they could
significantly reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.
“However, methane gas can release naturally from certain permafrost
environments and on its own it is a potent greenhouse gas that is 21
times more active than carbon dioxide.
“ "We need to undertake long-term research and development
and quantify the amount of gas hydrates in the Delta if we want to realize
the commercial potential," said Dallimore. "We also must address
environmental issues including the processes controlling methane release
in the natural environment." ”
“Mr Jubow said a large mature tree would yield about 40 litres
of diesel a year, which equated to about 12,000 litres per hectare of
“ "It becomes astonishingly viable for a farmer to have
a piece of his most productive land to get the tree up and running and
then he can be independent from the fuel companies for the rest of his
life," he said.
“They are known to produce fuel for 70 years.
“While the fuel cannot be stored for more than a few months it
can be tapped.
“But even if it is left too long, it thickens into copaiba oil,
which is used in alternative medicines and fetches around $100 a litre
in the United States.
“And at the end of the tree's life, it can be milled to produce
a light brown timber favoured by cabinet makers.”
“coolearth solar energy plants consist of inflated
mirror concentrators which gather sunlight and focus it onto photovoltaic
cells. These concentrators [...] cost orders of magnitude less per collected
area than conventional mirrors.”
“By suspending the concentrators, vast areas of land can be easily
converted for solar energy production, with limited environmental impact.
The ground beneath the concentrators remains free for other uses, such
as farming or ranching.”
Note that the efficiency rating for such a solar
farm is not specified.
“A new analysis shows that the energy balance of biodiesel is
a positive ratio of 3.5-to-1. For every unit of fossil energy needed
to produce the fuel over its life cycle, the return is 3.5 units of
energy, according to new research conducted at the University of Idaho
in cooperation with the U.S.
Department of Agriculture (USDA). The announcement of the increase
- up from 3.2 - was made today at the National Biodiesel Conference
& Expo in Orlando.
of Energy National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) and USDA had produced
the first comprehensive life cycle inventory for biodiesel in 1998.
That landmark research found a 3.2 energy balance for biodiesel, while
petroleum diesel yielded only 0.83 units of energy per unit of fossil
energy consumed. The many changes that have occurred in the U.S. biodiesel
and agricultural industries since the 1990s prompted researchers at
the University of Idaho to update the study in cooperation with the
USDA. Both the 1998 and 2007 study are based on biodiesel production
from soybeans, which according to U.S. Census data is responsible for
more than 80 percent of 2007 estimated biodiesel production. Biodiesel’s
energy balance improved in the 2007 study even though the new analysis
is more comprehensive than previous work, and even extends to the energy
required to manufacture the farm machinery used to produce soybeans.”
“The researchers found national soybean yield data from 1975 to
2006 shows that the yield has increased at the rate of 0.6 bushels per
acre per year. Yet, the fertilizer application rate has essentially
remained the same and the herbicide application rate has declined to
one-fifth of its rate in 2000. Reduced herbicide applications have the
added benefit of requiring less diesel for field spraying.
“At the processing level, technology improvements at soybean
crushing facilities led to 55 percent less energy needed than what was
reported in the NREL study [...]”
At the bottom of this
Biodiesel Conference blog entryis an audio
interview with Jon Van Gerpen from Idaho University, who headed this research.
In this interview, Van Gerpen forsees the gain rising to about 3.9:1 when
2007-2008 database figures are included.
“Contrary to environmentalists’ claims, Britain is not
overwhelmed with radioactive waste and has no radioactive waste ‘problem’.
“By 2040 there will be a total of 2,000 cubic metres of the most
radioactive high-level waste (9), which would fit in a 13 x 13 x 13
metre hole - about the size of the foundations for one small wind turbine.”
“[...] Gwyneth Cravens, a novelist, journalist and former nuke
protester. Her new book, Power to Save the World: The Truth About Nuclear
Energy, is a passionate plea to understand, instead of fear, atomic
“Her conclusion? Every day spent burning coal for power translates
into damaged lungs and ecosystem destruction. If the world wants to
keep plugging in big-screen TVs and iPods, it needs a steady source
of power. Wind and solar can't produce the "base-load" (or
everyday) steady supply needed, and the only realistic -- and safe --
alternative is nuclear.”
“A family in four in France, where they reprocess nuclear
fuel, would produce only enough waste to fit in a coffee cup over
a whole lifetime. A lifetime of getting all your electricity from
coal-fired plants would make a single person's share of solid waste
(in the United States) 68 tons, which would require six 12-ton railroad
cars to haul away. Your share of CO2 would be 77 tons.”
“The nuclear navy has operated more than 250 reactors since
the 1950s, and they have never had an incident involving a release
from a reactor. This is because (naval nuclear chief Adm. Hyman) Rickover
ensured that every individual was considered accountable.
“When Three Mile Island happened, and there was a commission
held to investigate why it happened, Rickover basically said you
need to do things the way we do in the nuclear navy. The nuclear
utilities and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission took that advice
“If you just leave a reactor alone, it will shut itself down.
If a reactor doesn't have enough water, it will shut itself down.
Humans probably do make mistakes, but they have tried to make these
reactors as human-proof as possible, and I think everyone has learned
from Three Mile Island.”
“Our whole approach is that you don't construct a reactor, you
assemble it," Kadak says. "Think about LEGOs: You just clip
them together." This could shorten construction time to as little
as two years; if a part breaks, the module containing it could be replaced
quickly. Kadak envisions small 250-megawatt reactors, with additional
units added to meet demand, making the initial cost lower than that
of current 1000-megawatt giants.
“Starting next year, both China and South Africa intend to build
full-scale prototype pebble beds based on a design developed in Germany
in the 1960s. However, the concept being considered in Idaho will produce
hotter gas. "The Chinese and South African reactors will be close
to 1550 F," says Weaver, who is coordinating the pebble-bed program
in Idaho, "and we want 1650 to 1830 F. Those 100 degrees can make
a huge difference." The extra heat will run the electricity-generating
turbines more efficiently, and--crucially--meet the threshold for efficiently
generating hydrogen from water.
“Hydrogen is currently produced from natural gas by a process
called steam reformation, which releases 74 million tons of heat-trapping
carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year. As a cleaner alternative,
researchers are trying to figure out the best way to split the H from
H2O. A team at Idaho National Lab recently showed that electrolysis--using
electricity to split the water molecule--is nearly twice as efficient
at the high temperatures made possible by a pebble-bed reactor.”
“Nuclear weapons are no longer inextricably linked to power
plants. Centrifuge technology now allows nations to produce weapons-grade
plutonium without a reactor. Iran's nuclear weapons threat, for instance,
is distinct from peaceful nuclear energy.
“Nuclear reactors offer a practical path to the hydrogen economy.
Excess heat from the plants, instead of fossil fuels, can be used for
electrolysis. It also can address the increasing shortage of fresh water
“Together with a combination of solar, wind, geothermal and hydroelectric
sources, nuclear energy can play a key role in producing safe, clean,
reliable baseload electricity.”