Monday, April 02, 2007

Stinky Refineries, Air Cars, and The Farm of Tomorrow

One of the Brickmuppet's Crack team of Science Babes rejoices at her as yet unexplained lack of nostrils as she emerges from the lab to report on the latest hurdles faced by the biofuel industry...namely that refineries STINK!

It seems that Changing World Technologies new thermal depolymeryzation plant in Carthage has had an odor problem. As it is located on the grounds of a turkey processing plant their denials may carry a bit more weight than they normally would, however, it should be noted that their process is quite odoriferous especially as in this case it deals with rotting flesh.
One of the things this test plant was to test was stink reduction tech. They were shut down in 2005 due to smell complaints, but reopened when it was discovered that most of the stink was not theirs and they installed more scrubbers. Anyone who remembers the crab factory in Hampton or has been to Smithfield when the wind is blowing from the pork packing plants, will be amazed that they are able to function reasonably well in an urban area.

Just a few miles out and with better scrubbers and the stench problem would actually seem lickable. Discovery Magazine had an update on their earlier article a year ago.

According to the ccompanies website they produced 600,00 barrels of bio-diesel in April of last year.

Brickmuppet blog has been following this for a while. Note that with turkey guts the system fuels itself and produces a surplus, it is unlikely that that holds true for other types of waste, but given the presence of an external non-polluting source, like nuclear power. The process promises to revolutionize both waste disposal and fuel production. This is one of the few biomass ideas that seems to be panning out. Here is the potential as described in the original Discover article .

PLASTIC BOTTLES: Clear (polyethylene terephthalate) and translucent (high-density polyethylene)
MUNICIPAL LIQUID WASTE: 75% sewage sludge, 25% grease-trap refuse
HEAVY OIL: Refinery residues, heavy crudes, and tar sands
TIRES: all kinds, including standard rubber and steel-belted radials
MEDICAL. WASTE: Transfusion bags, needles and razor blades, and wet human waste

Yields an output for the respective garbage type...

PLASTIC BOTTLES: 70 pounds oil, 16 pounds gas, 6 pounds carbon solids, 8 pounds water
MUNICIPAL LIQUID WASTE: 26 pounds oil, 9 pounds gas, 8 pounds carbon and mineral solids, 57 pounds water.
HEAVY OIL: 74 pounds oil, 17 pounds gas, 9 pounds carbon solids.
TIRES: 44 pounds oil, 10 pounds gas, 12 pounds carbon and metal solids, 4 pounds water
MEDICAL WASTE: 65 pounds oil, 10 pounds gas, 5 pounds carbon and metal solids, 20 pounds water.

Even if most of these don't reach break even energy wise, with nuclear or other nonpolluting external energy sources the process has the potential to solve a great deal of our waste and fuel problems.

From smelly gunk we go to a car that runs on clean pure air....(Well, it would run on stinky air too I'm sure). Jim Fraiser reports on a new Franco-Indian project to produce a car that runs on compressed air...not to exciting until you see the alleged stats:

  • Are light weight vehicle that can reach speeds up to 220 kmph.
  • MDI's vehicle's have fiberglass bodies which makes them light, silent urban car.
  • The vehicles do not have normal speed gages. Instead, they will have a small computer screen
  • Both ends of the seat belt are anchored to the vehicles floor for greater safety.
  • The vehicle's uses a patented electric system that makes the car 20 kilos lighter and considerably quieter.
  • There are no keys - just an access card that can be read by the car from your pocket.
  • In the single energy mode MDI cars consume around US$1.00 (Rs 45) every 60 miles (100 km).
  • There is no pollution from the car.
  • The vehicle's driving range is close to twice that of the most advanced electric cars (from 200 to 180 miles (300 km) or 8 hours of operation).
  • The recharging of the car will be done at gas stations in 2 to 3 minutes at a price of Rs 90, once the market is developed.
  • The car also has a small compressor that can be connected to an electrical network (220V or 380V) and will recharged the tanks completely in 3 or 4 hours.
  • The car's oil (a liter of vegetable) only needs to be changed every 50,000 km.
  • The temperature of the exhaust is between 0 and 15 degrees below zero and can be used for air conditioning of the car.
I'm impressed, but skeptical...the math seems....wrong. 180 miles on compressed air....when a propane car which actually has energy other than decompression generally has comparable range.

IF it works as advertised (and that is a big "if") then this, is a very exiting development indeed....especially with the 4 minute recharge time! More here.

Tangentially related to energy tech is this astoundingly cool piece in NY Magazine on an agricultural New York City!

Skyscraper farms! Go read the whole thing, breathe it in and look at the future farms as they might have been imagined at the '39 Worlds Fair.


The farm of tomorrow....feeding millions in far less space.

Of course the implications for space colonies are cool too. :)

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