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Roger Brown
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Does anyone but me think that a growing biodiesel industry based on oil seeds is a bad idea? If this industry is already having large effects on global feedstock trade what are the impacts going to be when it grows to a size where it can make a significant impact on carbon emissions? We really need to get some better ideas than this.
@Gasbag, The batteries are not "under development". They are ready for large scale manufacturing. Here is a statement from the BASF/NGK press release ( "The new concept complies with the latest safety standards for energy storage installations, such as UL1973 and UL9540A, and underlines the high degree of safety for NAS installations. NAS batteries are long-duration, high-energy stationary storage batteries. They feature long life and enhanced safety and can provide a stable power supply over six hours or longer. In more than 20 years they have been deployed at over 250 locations worldwide, with a total output of almost five gigawatt-hours. NAS batteries are used for various use cases, including stabilizing of renewable energy and optimizing its utilization, through peak shaving and load balancing as well as emergency power supply. NAS Batteries are one of key contributors to a successful energy transition and carbon neutrality. BASF will begin deliveries of NAS MODEL L24 in the second half of 2024."
NGK Insulators high temperature (320C) high capacity sodium sulfur batteries for grid storage first went into mass production in 2003. No one has followed their lead on this technology, but they have survived the onslaught of lithium ion batteries. This latest improvement will further extend the lifetime of this technology.
There was an earlier discussion ( of similar technology from the company Hycamite. As was mentioned in that discussion the catalyst and the membrane has to be really inexpensive, since there will not be market for all of the carbon produced if this technology is scaled up to the point where it can make a significant impact on CO2 emissions.
@Roger Pham A while back you were promoting PHEVs as means of easing the demand on copper since the electric motor of a PHEV could be smaller and less powerful than in a BEV. Unless I am missing something a plug-in FCV cannot accomplish the same thing. Of course one could lower the demand on copper simply by accepting lower performance (i.e. lower acceleration and lower high end speeds). This choice is unimaginable within the better, faster, continually more profitable paradigm of economic development. Nevertheless this option is physically possible and even socially possible if we have the imagination to embrace it.
Not all of the non-edible crop biomass is "waste". Putting crop residues back on the field can be an important technique for moisture retention which is of particular significance in a world with more frequent spells of very dry weather. Putting crop residues back on the field also recycles nutrients. In the case of corn stover the biomass produced is so large that it is impractical to put it all back on the field. In this case bio-refineries which co-produce fertilizer and other products are potentially valuable. The question is how much demand can sustainably be put on biomass. The aviation industry is looking to biomass to decarbonize air transport. People are working to develop biomass based road asphalt and plastics. Some people are proposing to use biomass based methanol to decarbonizing shipping. And now we have a proposal from a major metal producer to use biomass to decarbonize iron and steel production. We need someone to be thinking about biomass utilization from a total ecosystems and food production perspective so that we can get a realistic assessment of how much carbon we can get from such sources with out adverse effects on food production or biodiversity.
A more gradualistic approach to emissions reductions is certainly more economically conservative than an attempt to aggressively push a short term conversion to an electrified transportation system. However it is not clear that such a gradualistic approach can stave off economic disaster caused by the economic externalities of climate change. The aggressive promotion of electric cars is still a fundamentally "conservative" strategy which assumes that the paradigms of high performance high use automobiles and private credit markets (for which the process of turning money into more money at an exponential rate is the most fundamental measurement of societal health) must be preserved. The question in my mind is whether or not these paradigms and an ecologically intelligent human society are consistent with one another. Samuel Butler in "God the Known and God the Unknown" wrote: "MANKIND has ever been ready to discuss matters in the inverse ratio of their importance, so that the more closely a question is felt to touch the hearts of all of us, the more incumbent it is considered upon prudent people to profess that it does not exist, to frown it down, to tell it to hold its tongue, to maintain that it has long been finally settled, so that there is now no question concerning it... Almost any settlement, again, is felt to be better than none, and the more nearly a matter comes home to everyone, the more important is it that it should be treated as a sleeping dog, and be let to lie, for if one person begins to open his mouth, fatal developments may arise in the Babel that will follow... The discovery that organism is capable of modification at all has occasioned so much astonishment that it has taken the most enlightened part of the world more than a hundred years to leave off expressing its contempt for such a crude, shallow, and preposterous conception. Perhaps in another hundred years we shall learn to admire the good sense, endurance, and thorough Englishness of organism in having been so averse to change, even more than its versatility in having been willing to change so much... Nevertheless, however conservative we may be, and however much alive to the folly and wickedness of tampering with settled convictions-no matter what they are-without sufficient cause, there is yet such a constant though gradual change in our surroundings as necessitates corresponding modification in our ideas, desires, and actions. We may think that we should like to find ourselves always in the same surroundings as our ancestors, so that we might be guided at every touch and turn by the experience of our race, and be saved from all self-communing or interpretation of oracular responses uttered by the facts around us... Whether the organism or the surroundings began changing first is a matter of such small moment that the two may be left to fight it out between themselves; but, whichever view is taken, the fact will remain that whenever the relations between the organism and its surroundings have been changed, the organism must either succeed in putting the surroundings into harmony with itself, or itself into harmony with the surroundings; or must be made so uncomfortable as to be unable to remember itself as subjected to any such difficulties, and therefore to die through inability to recognise [sic] its own identity further... So with politics, the smaller the matter the prompter, as a general rule, the settlement; on the other hand, the more sweeping the change that is felt to be necessary, the longer it will be deferred. The advantages of dealing with the larger questions by more cataclysmic methods are obvious. For, in the first place, all composite things must have a system, or arrangement of parts, so that some parts shall depend upon and be grouped round others, as in the articulation of a skeleton and the arrangement of muscles, nerves, tendons, etc., which are attached to it. To meddle with the skeleton is like taking up the street, or the flooring of one's house; it so upsets our arrangements that we put it off till whatever else is found wanted, or whatever else seems likely to be wanted for a long time hence, can be done at the same time." The question is whether the era of gradualistic changes addressing the ecological impacts of human economic activity (e.g. air and water pollution laws, automobile emission regulation and engine efficiency regulation and so forth) are no longer adequate and a major reorganization of social paradigms is required.
Mahonj, Yes, we have made lots of infrastructure decisions based on the assumption of unlimited supplies of cheap fossil fuel. My point and Scientific American's point is that it might be wise to begin a long term planning process that is based on other assumptions. Making a transition to a culture which is not automobile centric will have large interim costs (as opposed to long term equilibrium costs) but the question is whether acting under the assumption that what is must continue to be indefinitely will have even higher costs in the long term.
Scientific American, which I regard as center-left techno-optimist in its outlook has published two editorials in the last six months claiming that building a gazillion electric cars is not the right approach to decarbonizing our transportation system. Instead they suggest things like bicycle and pedestrian friendly infrastructure, better mass transportation and so forth. In the nineteenth century the invention of the bicycle was considered a means of human liberation since a huge swath of people could afford to own them who could not afford to own horses. The modern geared bicycle with pneumatic tires, which is a technological miracle compared to the clunky monstrosities they were riding in the nineteenth century, could still be a means of human liberation if we had to imagination to conceive it. It all depends on what you want to be liberated from.
Dave, Thanks for the links.
Hi Dave, I have read previously about the possibility of using basalt fiber to reinforce concrete in place of steel rebar. The problem with rebar is that it rusts so that the life time of such composites is limited compared say to the dome of the Pantheon which is close to 2000 years old and still going strong. Your reference is the first time I have heard about the possibility of general usage of basalt fiber in composite materials.
That a technology exists that can potentially produce carbon free aluminum at reasonable costs relative to the Hall–Héroult process is a good thing. However, if you are hoping to drive down carbon emissions over the next couple of decades serious barriers still exist. For one thing the inert anode process is not ready for prime time and once it is ready sunk costs in existing plant will slow down the transition to the new technology. In the mean time in a business as usual economic scenario global aluminum consumption is projected to rise at 2.6% annual rate ( Furthermore an adequate carbon free energy supply with a good time profile and direct costs comparable to fossil sources is not a slam dunk within the next couple of decades. A significant reduction of total emissions from aluminum in the next couple of decades within a business as usual economic growth scenario is not guaranteed. And we do need a reduction and not just a slower growth rate. I suspect that we will have consider lower per capita consumption of aluminum in addition to technological innovation if want to do something serious about climate change.
Gryf wrote: "The cost of Aluminum depends on the cost of electricity, so it is usually made where the cost is very low and typically using Hydroelectricity." A concern I have if we go down an all renewables path with their inherent time variability is that hydroelectricity will become a extremely precious commodity with lots of economic actors vying to get a piece of the pie. I think we will have to push recycling really hard and accept lower standards of consumption if we really hope to get to net zero carbon on a timely basis.
@Gryf, Thanks for the information. 3.8kWh/Nm3 to 4.5 is a big range. In their specs for the alkaline electrolyzer NEL lists 4.5 kWh/Nm³ for the power consumption ( the same as for their PEM electrolyzer ( Do yo know under what circumstances are they getting down to 3.8kWh?
Hysata's web site says ( that they have improved the energy requirements for alkaline electrolysis from 52.5Kwh/kg to 41.5Kwh/kg. I checked the web site of NEL which is a well established manufacturer of alkaline electrolyzers. The quoted energy consumption of their flagship product is 4.7Kwh/Nm3 = 52.5Kwh/kg ( which is consistent with Hysata's numbers. If they have really achieved 41.5Kwh/kg it is a gigantic step forward, but getting that kind performance from an alkaline electrolzyer is inconsistent with a lot of published literature.
I don't understand how Hysata can achieve 95% efficiency with a low temperature alkaline electrolysis system. My knowledge of electrochemistry is limited, but the conventional wisdom from people working on high temperature solid oxide electrolyzers is the high temperature enables higher efficiencies based on thermodynamic principles. For example ( "Theoretical thermodynamic efficiency for both H2O and CO2 electrolysis increases with increasing temperature. As the temperature is raised from 25° to 800°C, the theoretical voltage for splitting of H2O or CO2 falls by 20 to 30% [see details in (13)]. In practice, when both thermodynamics and kinetics are considered, temperature-related efficiency gains are far higher"
The only proposal I have see for collecting CO2 on shipboard involves the use of solid oxide fuel cells. I do not know what the economics for collecting CO2 from a methanol/lignin blend in a traditional combustion engine would look like. The use of lignin is also concerning. The aviation industry wants to use biomass to decarbonize air travel. People are working on developing road asphalt produced from biomass ( In my mind a real concern exists about how much new demand we can place on biomass without negative impacts on food supply/ecological diversity.
@SJC, I don't think I declared enmity to the double use of fossil carbon. I simply declared an interest in developing a long term strategy which gets us to zero emissions.
"Resolving this roadblock could pave the way for using catalysts such as cobalt phthalocyanine to convert CO2 waste into methanol fuel efficiently on a large scale." If the CO2 waste is from fossil sources this proposal is only a stop gap which will not lead to zero emissions. On the other CO2 recycling from methanol could lead to a zero emission technology. It has been along time since I read about methanol powered turbines so I did some Internet searching. It is clear that methanol turbines with carbon capture are an active subject of research. For example I found a paper published on Mar 15, 2024 on a pre-reforming methanol powered turbine with CO2 capture ( The the body of the paper is behind a pay wall but an extensive introduction is available on line. From the introduction: "Based on a 530 MW GTCC plant, thermodynamic analysis reveals a 4.6% energy efficiency increase, a 4.3% exergy efficiency boost, and an 82.2% CO2 recovery with a 0.354 MJ/kgCO2 energy penalty. The proposed design yields 454.4 M$ more profit than the reference power plant throughout its lifespan. Additionally, sensitivity analysis indicates optimal conditions for MSR at approximately 250 °C, a 1:1 water-to-methanol ratio, and a higher reaction pressure preference." In order for such a system to emission free the other 18% of the CO2 would have to come from the atmosphere either via biological capture or by direct air capture. I am not trying to promote a methanol economy in which methanol is our primary energy carrier, but if there are economic niches which require long term energy storage then this technology could conceivably help to fill them.
From Liquid Wind's web site ( "With access to renewable energy from wind, solar or hydropower, and fossil free CO2 captured from bio-fueled power plants, our facilities can produce green methanol that has a significantly reduced carbon footprint compared to conventional methanol derived from fossil fuels." With bio-captured CO2 there is some chance of reasonable fuel production costs at least at a small scale. Scaling up may be difficult because of the ecological cost of using biomass as a primary fuel source. I have seen several proposals for recycling CO2 (i.e. from fuel cell powered shipping and from methane powered turbine generators). In considering such uses of methanol there is no need to go overboard and propose a "methanol economy" in which methanol becomes our primary energy carrier. Nevertheless introducing some amount of methanol recycling could increase the size of the economic niche that could be served by zero emissions e-methanol without putting undue stress on the earth's biospheric resources.
@Bernard, I don't know amount most EVs but some premium cars are fitted with them ( As an option they cost about £1,000.
These heat pumps are an interesting development since climate control for passengers/operators is a significant issue in determining the battery life in EVs. Rheinmetall is clearly focused on larger commercial vehicles and not smaller sized passenger cars. I don't know if that is because of perceived profitability or because there is some economy of scale which makes larger sized units more economically feasible. I am not a big believer in car culture anyway.
From HH2E's web site ( "HH2E’s strategy is centred on maximising the use of curtailed power, aiming to transform these otherwise not generated green electrons into a powerful force for the production of green hydrogen." I am not sure how the economics of this strategy will work out. Batteries are expensive and entail energy loss (I believe NAS batteries are about 85% efficient), but they can lower electrolyzer costs since you no longer have to size your electrolyzer bank to accept the full amount of any expected excess power. NAS batteries have a storage time of six hours at full power but the NGK web site ( indicates that they can operate at 1/3 power without loss of efficiency so that storage times of up to 18 hours are possible. Nevertheless I suspect that using only curtailed power will result in fairly low electrolyzer capacity factors.