Renewables & hydrogen – May 22

May 22, 2007

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Many more articles are available through the Energy Bulletin homepage

Energy from hot rocks – an example of the hurdles for innovators

Robyn Williams, ABC National
Prame Chopra: This tale begins when my colleague and I discover that Australia has a huge untapped green energy source. It could meet all the nation’s energy needs for thousands of years, and it won’t create greenhouse gases, because it uses naturally occurring hot rocks in the sub-surface. Cold water is pumped down and hot water is brought back up, to run a power station. As we’ll see, this science seems easy when compared with the nightmare of commercialising it. ..

David Fisher: And where will the electricity go?

Prame Chopra: Initially there is a small market locally. Innamincka has got a population of ten, so they need some beer in the fridge to be kept cold, I guess. But more practically there’s the large gas processing production facility at Moomba which is about 80 kilometres away as the crow flies. More long-term, 40 megawatts and beyond, we need a power connection to the national grid, basically, and the most likely place to put that is the closest point in the grid which is the Olympic Dam mine site in South Australia, the Roxby Downs uranium and copper mine run by BHP Billiton which is a huge energy consumer, and it’s on the grid. ..
(19 May 2007)
Sympathetic interview as Mr Chopra describes the many hurdles the company has faced.-LJ

A who’s who of Indonesian biofuel

Bill Guerin, Asia Times
JAKARTA – Some of Indonesia’s most influential and politically connected companies have refocused their business strategies and are joining hands with foreign investors to push forward the government’s multi-billion dollar ambition to transform the country into the world’s leading biodiesel producer.

But there are major political, financial and environmental risks to the grand designs, which arguably are being understated and threaten to complicate the emerging industry’s outlook. The same local companies now leading Indonesia’s biofuel drive incurred and defaulted on huge foreign debts in the wake of the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis.

Few fully repaid their debts and today they still dominate the country’s logging, wood-processing and pulp industries. Several also have highly suspect environmental records.

Now, they are landing big new foreign joint-venture deals to develop the nascent biofuel sector, including major investments in palm-oil plantation development and big new processing facilities that benefit from government incentives and policies aimed at rapidly developing the sector. ..

Environmentalists say the expansion of oil palm plantations continues to come at the expense of natural forests rather than the conversion of already denuded land because of the better soil conditions fresh-cut forest lands provide. The annual forest fires that rage through Indonesia and frequently smother neighboring countries in smog are started mainly by palm growers to clear land for new planting.

More significantly, perhaps, the biofuel industry’s economics are less than clearcut. Energy analysts note that biofuel projects around the world – even those benefiting from fat government subsidies – would be uncompetitive should crude oil prices fall to about $50 per barrel. Energy consultant Rudy Salim told Asia Times Online that any incentive for making and selling biodiesel produced with Indonesian palm oil will essentially disappear when crude palm oil prices reach levels above $650 per tonne. ..
(22 May 2007)

Biomass fuels likely to be just one step in the search for a solution

Editorial, Lufkin Daily News
We’ll be the first to admit that we don’t know enough about biomass as an energy source to know how significant it will be in addressing the energy crisis.

Quite likely, it will be only one of many alternatives we’ll have to adopt in adjusting to the fact that the supply of cheap fuel is not limitless.

It isn’t going to be easy, painless or cheap for any of us. We didn’t just pretend not to hear the first warning bell when it sounded in 1973, we pretended that it was a call to an all-you-can eat buffet. ..
(20 May 2007)

New Process Generates Hydrogen From Aluminum Alloy To Run Engines, Fuel Cells

Press Release, ScienceDaily
A Purdue University engineer has developed a method that uses an aluminum alloy to extract hydrogen from water for running fuel cells or internal combustion engines, and the technique could be used to replace gasoline.

The method makes it unnecessary to store or transport hydrogen – two major challenges in creating a hydrogen economy, said Jerry Woodall, a distinguished professor of electrical and computer engineering at Purdue who invented the process.

“The hydrogen is generated on demand, so you only produce as much as you need when you need it,” said Woodall, who presented research findings detailing how the system works during a recent energy symposium at Purdue. ..
(20 May 2007)
Contributor David Emanuel writes: It’s always about the cars. Always about keepin’ the car-nage operating at “peak” efficiency. Always about the d*mn cars. Keep ’em runnin’, or die tryin’…literally!

Tags: Biofuels, Biomass, Geothermal, Hydrogen, Renewable Energy, Technology