Friday, April 1, 2011

More on Synthetic Fuels

Cruising the internet for different Synthetic Fuel (synfuel) projects is not turning up as much as I would have expected. I am not sure if it is double top secret or if no one cares. There are various estimated costs for LNG, COAL or natgas synfuel project and once in a while a biomass combination project is found by Google.

My latest kick is the biomass combo synfuel applications. As I mentioned in America the Saudi Arabia of Trash, the US has a prime time need for biomass conversion into something. Straight biomass conversion is very difficult and not particularly efficient. Maintaining the reactor (that would be a chemical reactor)temperatures with a standard fuel source makes the whole process much easier.

The reasons are numerous for combination biomass/standard fuel processes. The biomass has to be dried to maintain a consistent energy input, biomass has different ash and trash to control than standard fuels. Scrubbers for trash to cash biomass are more difficult without a more constant source temperature.

The estimates for synfuel production to be cost effective hover around $50 US a barrel. That has long since been met, implying to me that there should be more buzz about new plant starts. Then, synfuels are not the holy grail of alternate green fuels.

The trash to cash synfuels should really be given a little better consideration by both sides of the ridiculously polarized supporters of saving the planet or our lifestyle. While not perfect, it reduces more than one problem, waste disposal, carbon emission reduction and less dependence on foreign sources of oil. That is without the hydrogen enrichment which can really boost production and drop GHG emissions.

I suppose the art of compromise is lost in these ridiculously polarized times. One paper I recently found finds that it is the government's failure, which I have to remind everyone, is our failure. Central governments are great at some projects, but really suck at the majority. While there are many that will argue against me, the market is better able to perform most things cost effectively. Regulations are of course needed to protect the environment and public, but let's get real, regulations that are overly conservative strangle creativity in energy options.

For some odd reason, we as a people cannot focus on the overall impact, only the little nits which everyone loves to pick. Zero is a number that applies to a lot of things, but risk is not one of them. Risk versus reward is something that has to be carefully considered in all aspects of life. The risk of things unfamiliar seems to invoke fear instead of curiosity. Why we can't look at risk pragmatically is a puzzle that will lead to our downfall if we don't solve it.

If you can, do a little research on waste as in trash and synfuels. If you have an open mind you can run the numbers or find someone to run the numbers. The numbers will tell you that biomass/standard synfuels is a potential win worthy of some support from both sides of the aisle.

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