Aug 31, 2012 Energy Talks
Potter Drilling has launched the next phase of research into their technique for drilling to hot rock for geothermal heat energy. With financial backing from Google getting the science past early work using air, Potter has crossed the development threshold to draw more funding.
The new drilling technique that uses superheated steam instead of air is being tested this year. The technique relies on superheated steam to drill through the hard crystalline rocks that contain geothermal heat. The method for generating the superheated steam was developed by Oxford Catalysts, based in the UK. Dave Wardle, business development director for Instant Steam technology at Oxford Catalysts, said current drilling techniques are laborious and use rotating drill bits to cut through the rock. “With crystalline rock you wear out the drill bits very fast,’ he said. ‘This new technology provides a chemical way of cutting rock at reasonably fast speed. There are no moving parts.”
The system works with a catalyst developed by Oxford Catalysts and a special drilling tool designed by Potter Drilling. The “Instant Steam” catalyst is contained inside the drill head, which is attached to a flexible coiled pipe. Wardle explained that when peroxide and methanol are piped into the catalyst bed, the catalyst carries out a combustion reaction and produces 800º C steam. That’s hot.
When the steam contacts the rock surfaces it causes the rock crystalline grains to expand. As the grains expand, micro-fractures occur in the rock and small particles, called spalls, are ejected. According to Oxford Catalysts Potter Drilling is not the first company to use spallation drilling technology. Using air, spallation drilling was used commercially between the 1940s and 1960s for ore mining and was adapted to geothermal drilling by the US Department of Energy in the 1970s. Air spallation drilling demonstrated impressive drilling performance, producing 8 inch to 12 inch boreholes to depths of 1,100 feet at rates faster than 50 feet per hour in solid granite.
The Potter drilling process starts by applying a high-intensity fluid stream to a rock surface to expand the crystalline grains within the rock. When the grains expand, micro-fractures occur in the rock and small particles called spalls are ejected. The process is accelerated by several factors including inherent stress in the rock formation.
Using steam and fluids allows much deeper drilling, with Potter expecting to get to as much as 30,000 feet, a depth that would allow exploiting geothermal extraction across much of the U.S.
Using fluids and heat pose three other advantages. The borehole is much more stable, the rock particles and chips can be carried out from extreme depths, and adding the heat greatly improves the early work using air in faster drilling speeds.
Potter and its financial backers believe this technology could be the key to furthering power generation from geothermal energy, which currently only generates 10,000MW around the world. It’s sure to turn heads in the petroleum and deep rock mining world as well.
Going for geothermal heat in the absence of hot subsurface water as is most common now, is being called engineered geothermal systems or “EGS.” Potter’s point is this is different to other forms of geothermal power because EGS power plants can be developed anywhere that hot impermeable rock exists below ground. But you have to bring your own water. I might suggest that water or gases could be used to move the heat from depth, especially if the water is lost downhole.
Stuart Haszeldine, an expert from Edinburgh University’s School of Geosciences offers that many consider geothermal energy a renewable source and electricity produced from it would have a relatively low carbon footprint, saying, “The carbon cost is the drilling of the hole, but these holes last for many decades.”
Haszeldine expects that electricity produced from geothermal energy plants have the potential to be on a similar cost level to coal-fired power plants.
The EGS concept, originally know as Hot Dry Rock, was pioneered and patented in the early 1970s at Los Alamos National Laboratory by Potter Drilling cofounder Bob Potter and his coworkers. EGS is one of the few sources of renewable energy with the promise of solving the increasing global demand for energy while addressing climate-change issues—and doing so for a price that is competitive with coal. The graphic that follows is from the Potter page explaining EGS with a Flashplayer and a small video from Google explaining the potential of EGS.
The EGS being man-made may be developed anywhere that hot impermeable rock exists. That opens up a great deal of territory to low cost heat energy extraction. Worthy of note is that the drilling issue and the technologies downhole are the matters of interest. Binary systems for withdrawing the heat are in operation now with development work under way for more and better types of systems. The electrical generation would be standard, with models chosen by energy availability.
Geothermal remains a slowly developing field, but is getting pushed by smart private investors such as Google who is funding Potter. The geothermal resource is huge, a relatively simple concept to explain and lacks the sexiness of much of the technology that is in development for alternative energy sources. Its also energy extraction, not a fuel so can go straight to grid so allowing more electrification. Its also should be quite low cost an important matter for getting and keeping the economy moving and growing.
This is a good field. It lacks the sexiness, but when the full details are known, it should be the “cash cow” investors dream about. Thanks, Google. Go Potter go!
Original post: New Energy and Fuel
Aug 31, 2012 Energy Talks
The fall in oil consumption was most dramatic following the escalating price of crude oil to $145.16 per barrel on July 14, 2008 then at any other point over the last several years. Price elasticity, a key concept in Economics 101, which measures the impact of price change to changes in unit volume sold, is helpful in determining which products have readily available substitutes or which, like oil are inelastic with no real substitutes.
As illustrated by Benjamin Graham and David Dodd in their book Security Analysis, 1940 edition, during the 1930’s the economy had a dramatic impact on spending and consumption particularly on discretionary items such as travel. In one illustration, the change in demand was most pronounced in railroad revenues where tickets purchased for railroad travel, declined 51% from 1929 to 1993 as measured by gross receipts for the railroad industry. Over this same period, spending on the consumer staples (inelastic demand), such as electricity encountered a decline of only 9%.
While almost everyone would agree that the current economic climate is one of the most challenging since the 1930’s, a quick review of oil consumption over the last several years illustrates that demand has not significantly contracted, suggesting driving habits only changed when prices escalated to over $100 per barrel. Oil consumption dropped only 4.9% from January 2008 through January 2009.
Figure 1 Oil Consumption
As seen from Figure 1, the sharp drop in oil consumption in September 2008 of 8.3% appears as an aberration when measured over the whole year. The fact there are no real substitutes for oil in the transportation industry illustrates two important points: 1) structural changes to driving patterns are required to see appreciable changes to oil consumption and 2) how vulnerable we are as a nation with no readily available substitutes for oil in the transportation systems.
Figure 2 Oil Demand in China and India
With China and India undergoing significant structural changes as they rapidly migrate towards motor vehicles for transportation suggests the demand for oil should continue to grow relatively unabated. Until the price of oil climbs back over $100 per barrel, we will not see the structural changes necessary to develop alternatives to oil in the transportation market.
The bottom line: energy and in particular, oil has not experienced a dramatic drop in demand during 2008 suggesting driving patterns were influenced more by the price of oil then the struggling economy. We must begin to shift emphasis to alternative energies such as solar as well as hybrids and electric vehicles.
Here is the original: Green Econometrics
Aug 30, 2012 Energy Talks
Roger Pielke Sr. wrote on June 4th 2009 a short piece on how “climate science” papers, if there is such a reputable thing, are short circuiting the scientific method so causing falsehoods and a dangerous trend in science that deserves attention from taxpayers, grantors and others interested in good science, properly done, factually accurate and useful for humankind.
Pielke points out, as others and I have in the past that much if not all the “climate science” is based in assumptions and built out using computer modeling. No experimentation is done. No testing, no verifiable conclusions, no facts.
But Pielke goes a little further, he’s calling to account the publishers of the “climate science” to adhere to the minimum standards of the scientific method. With peer review responsibilities on his resume’ Pielke has good reason to see the problems of credibility when peer review journals and the following media rush to print sensationalism rather than science.
I repeat here again, a computer model is not a fact. The reliance on computers, programs and the assumptions or data input is only, at best, a speculation. Pielke offers the six steps common to describing the scientific method condensed by sciencebuddies.org as:
- Ask a question
- Do background research
- Construct a hypothesis
- Test the hypothesis with experimentation
- Analyze the data for conclusions
- Communicate the results
But today, the peer review publishers are short-circuiting the scientific method. Having read a few it’s much more like: pose a conclusion, construct a hypothesis, prove it with your computer and press release your results. Its insulting, to the informed readers, the scientific institutions providing the resources and others researching properly.
What’s lost is accurate descriptions of how the real world functions. When one has a hypothesis that can withstand testing one has a fact, until a test comes along that unravels the theory. That’s how humanity got out of the wild into civilization.
Aug 30, 2012 HVAC
Heat Pumps can be a very economical way of heating and cooling your dwelling depending on geographical location and the cost of electricity in your area. The volatile costs of natural gas, propane, and oil has enabled these conditions where it can be cheaper to heat with a heat pump than with fossil fuels. There is a common conception that a heat pump blows cold air and while this can be true in some cases it is not true to all heat pumps.
If a heat pump is blowing cold air when in the heating mode then it needs to be looked at because there exists a problem that needs to be corrected. Even when the outside unit kicks into the defrost mode the unit should provide adequate heat to heat the zones which it serves. Again, if it is not providing adequate heat then it needs to looked at for a technical problem that needs correcting. A well designed heat pump system, working properly and efficiently, can provide competitive and economical heat for your dwelling.
Author: High Performance HVAC