So Dies Peak Oil

Point out news stories, on the net or in mainstream media, related to polywell fusion.

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djolds1
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So Dies Peak Oil

Postby djolds1 » Wed Jan 19, 2011 3:53 pm

A brave new world of fossil fuels on demand
NEIL REYNOLDS
From Monday's Globe and Mail

In September, a privately held and highly secretive U.S. biotech company named Joule Unlimited received a patent for “a proprietary organism” – a genetically adapted E. coli bacterium – that feeds solely on carbon dioxide and excretes liquid hydrocarbons: diesel fuel, jet fuel and gasoline. This breakthrough technology, the company says, will deliver renewable supplies of liquid fossil fuel almost anywhere on Earth, in essentially unlimited quantity and at an energy-cost equivalent of $30 (U.S.) a barrel of crude oil. It will deliver, the company says, “fossil fuels on demand.”

We’re not talking “biofuels” – not, at any rate, in the usual sense of the word. The Joule technology requires no “feedstock,” no corn, no wood, no garbage, no algae. Aside from hungry, gene-altered micro-organisms, it requires only carbon dioxide and sunshine to manufacture crude. And water: whether fresh, brackish or salt. With these “inputs,” it mimics photosynthesis, the process by which green leaves use solar energy to convert carbon dioxide into organic compounds. Indeed, the company describes its manufacture of fossil fuels as “artificial photosynthesis.”

Joule says it now has “a library” of fossil-fuel organisms at work in its Massachusetts labs, each engineered to produce a different fuel. It has “proven the process,” has produced ethanol (for example) at a rate equivalent to 10,000 U.S. gallons an acre a year. It anticipates that this yield could hit 25,000 gallons an acre a year when scaled for commercial production, equivalent to roughly 800 barrels of crude an acre a year.

By way of comparison, Cornell University’s David Pimentel, an authority on ethanol, says that one acre of corn produces less than half as much energy, equivalent to only 328 barrels. If a few hundred barrels of crude sounds modest, recall that millions of acres of prime U.S. farmland are now used to make corn ethanol.

Joule says its “solar converter” technology makes the manufacture of liquid fossil fuels 50 times as efficient as conventional biofuel production – and eliminates as much as 90 per cent of carbon dioxide emissions. “Requiring only sunlight and waste C0{-2},” it says, “[this] technology can produce virtually unlimited quantities of fossil fuels with zero dependence on raw materials, agricultural land, crops or fresh water. It ends the hazards of oil exploration and oil production. It takes us to the unthinkable: liquid hydrocarbons on demand.”

The company name honours James Prescott Joule, the 19th-century British scientist. Founded only four years ago, it has begun pilot-project production in Leander, Tex. Using modular solar panels (imagine an array of conventional panels in a one-acre field), it says it will quickly ramp up production this year toward small-scale commercial production in 2012.

Joule acknowledges its reluctance to fully explain its “solar converter.” CEO Bill Sims told Biofuels Digest, an online biofuels news service, that secrecy has been essential for competitive reasons. “Some time soon,” he said, “what we are doing will become clear.” Although astonishing in its assertions, Joule gains credibility from its co-founder: George Church, the Harvard Medical School geneticist who helped initiate the Human Genome Project in 1984.

Joule began to generate buzz toward the end of 2010. When U.S. Senator John Kerry toured the company’s labs in October, he called the technology “a potential game-changer.” He noted, ironically, that the company’s science is so advanced that it can’t qualify for federal grants or subsidies: The government’s definition of biofuels requires the use of raw-material feedstock.

In December, the World Technology Network named the company the world’s top corporate player in bio-energy research. Biofuels Digest named it one of the world’s “50 hottest” bio-energy enterprises, moving it ahead 10 places in the past year (from 32nd to 22nd). Selected from 1,000 eligible companies around the world, 37 of the “50 hottest” are American-based – another reason not to count out the U.S. just yet.

Conventional fossil fuels are formed from solar energy, too – in a process that takes zillions of bugs and millions of years. Joule’s technology ostensibly produces the same products in less time. In other energy-producing roles, vast quantities of microbes are already hard at work underground, loosening hard-to-recover crude oil. It could be time for science to bring these bugs up into the light of day.
Vae Victis

Nik
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Location: UK

Sunshine States...

Postby Nik » Wed Jan 19, 2011 5:08 pm

Well, that's the end of UK as an oil producer when the Continental Shelf wells run out...
:(
Looking on the bright side, Australia may find itself a major petrochemical exporter to eg Japan, given that it is politically stable and can probably feed the bugs with CO2 captured from its coal-burning power stations...

FWIW, arid parts of eg China may soon be pressed into service...

And, yes, lots of US states may soon be rubbing hands in glee...

Piped CO2 beside piped oil, anyone ??

ladajo
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Location: North East Coast

Postby ladajo » Wed Jan 19, 2011 5:09 pm

Well now.
How much CO2? And how do we source it?

Said in the blind without doing ANY digging yet on the topic.

Skipjack
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Postby Skipjack » Wed Jan 19, 2011 5:37 pm

Well the fact that the US uses about 20 million barrels A DAY put the whole thing into perspective...
You would need about 10 million acres to fill that demand.
Of course you can not simply make a big hole, fill it with water and release the bacteria...
I am also wondering how that bacteria would behave, if released into the wild. Lots of questions...

djolds1
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Postby djolds1 » Wed Jan 19, 2011 5:38 pm

ladajo wrote:Well now.
How much CO2? And how do we source it?
Suck it right out of the atmo. Carbon-neutral.
Vae Victis

kurt9
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Location: Portland, Oregon, USA

Postby kurt9 » Wed Jan 19, 2011 5:52 pm

Skipjack wrote:Well the fact that the US uses about 20 million barrels A DAY put the whole thing into perspective...
You would need about 10 million acres to fill that demand.
Of course you can not simply make a big hole, fill it with water and release the bacteria...
I am also wondering how that bacteria would behave, if released into the wild. Lots of questions...


16,000 square miles of algae ponds will meet the current U.S. demand for hydro-carbon fuel. Its not good, but its not bad either. Its certainly doable. Perhaps the through put can be increased with algae based on true synthetic biology (like Venter's idea). If push comes to shove, devoting 16,000 square miles to syn fuel production is certainly preferable than going back to 1800's living standards.

I still think thermal production of hydro-carbon fuel from either fission power plants or, if successful, Bussard IEC fusion plants is the better way to go.

chrismb
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Postby chrismb » Wed Jan 19, 2011 6:29 pm

I believe this story to be bogus. I'll tell you why it is bogus... because it has been announced...

If any 'reasonable' person could produce a commodity with value on demand, then they'd just get on and make the stuff and sell it. All you have to do is just keep on buying land, keep on making the stuff, keep on buying land, etc., until you have saturated the market. If all you need is some land, 'cos the bugs breed themselves, the CO2 is free as is the sunlight, then why would you go tell anyone about it?

If such a story is ever real, the first we should ever know about it is quantities of bio-fuels being sold in amounts that are not immediately explicable. In fact, we'd see the price begin to come down. That would be the first we hear of it.

Think it through, guys.... as Sherlock Homes would say 'it's elementary..'

crj11
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Location: Connecticut

Postby crj11 » Wed Jan 19, 2011 6:36 pm

If you have all the capitol that you need, then there might be no need for publicity, but otherwise, generating buzz for your company is a good way to get additional investment.

Maui
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Postby Maui » Wed Jan 19, 2011 7:09 pm

crj11 wrote:If you have all the capitol that you need, then there might be no need for publicity, but otherwise, generating buzz for your company is a good way to get additional investment.

If they had what they say they have, they wouldn't need to advertise for investment; they'd have people banging down their door to invest.

chrismb
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Joined: Sat Dec 13, 2008 6:00 pm

Postby chrismb » Wed Jan 19, 2011 7:15 pm

crj11 wrote:If you have all the capitol that you need, then there might be no need for publicity, but otherwise, generating buzz for your company is a good way to get additional investment.
Not really. *Real* investors will ask the same question I'm asking - get a bank load to buy real-estate. On your own terms. No splitting of profits. It's too suspicious to offer a deal that's too-good-to-be-true. Opportunities that look like they are too-good-to-be-true are usually too good to be true.

Once you can show the bank an income, they'll give you some more, etc...

Tom Ligon
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Contact:

Postby Tom Ligon » Wed Jan 19, 2011 7:45 pm

E. coli as a photosynthetic organism strains my credulity. That is an organism that lives where the sun don't shine, and it is a a facultative anaerobe.

Unless they've spliced in cyanobacteria genes for photosynthesis, this would represent an entirely new and revolutionary energy pathway. We have learned to understand photosynthesis fairly well, but engineering a new system instead of plagurizing nature would be Nobel Prize stuff, and would not spring forth as a claim to be a new fuel source.

Betruger
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Postby Betruger » Wed Jan 19, 2011 8:09 pm

So that scenario doesn't add up. Let's see what else is possible:

In the article, it does mention solar panels.
The Joule technology requires no “feedstock,” no corn, no wood, no garbage, no algae. Aside from hungry, gene-altered micro-organisms, it requires only carbon dioxide and sunshine to manufacture crude. And water: whether fresh, brackish or salt. With these “inputs,” it mimics photosynthesis, the process by which green leaves use solar energy to convert carbon dioxide into organic compounds. Indeed, the company describes its manufacture of fossil fuels as “artificial photosynthesis.”
[...]

“Requiring only sunlight and waste C0{-2},” it says, “[this] technology can produce virtually unlimited quantities of fossil fuels with zero dependence on raw materials, agricultural land, crops or fresh water.
[...]

The company name honours James Prescott Joule, the 19th-century British scientist. Founded only four years ago, it has begun pilot-project production in Leander, Tex. Using modular solar panels (imagine an array of conventional panels in a one-acre field), it says it will quickly ramp up production this year toward small-scale commercial production in 2012.

So maybe it's not the organisms but the technology ("the manufacture"), the whole package which E.Coli is one component of, that mimics photosynthesis. IOW the press article language is a very crude vulgarization for laymen.

The one remaining inconsistency I see (in blue), though, is that it first says water is required, but then omits water in a second such list of requirements. That could be just bad press writing, which fits with said vulgarization that's prone to mislead non-laymen.

crj11
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Location: Connecticut

Postby crj11 » Wed Jan 19, 2011 8:14 pm

It is not ecoli, it is cyanobacteria

http://biofuelsdigest.com/bdigest/2010/ ... and-water/

Betruger
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Joined: Tue May 06, 2008 11:54 am

Postby Betruger » Wed Jan 19, 2011 8:26 pm

Oops.

So the press article author is really no good.

And if there's much competition in patenting (finding a working design) for such fuel producing bugs, the industry/public fame might be what motivates such press coverage.

D Tibbets
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Postby D Tibbets » Wed Jan 19, 2011 8:31 pm

I fail to see what is remarkably new here. This is basically what algae does. You need the sunshine, and surface area to produce given amounts of product. Perhaps they have tweaked the efficiency of the bacteria somewhat, or modified the environmental limits the bacterial can tolerate, otherwise nothing new.

As far as environmental hazards. If the bacteria escaped into the seas, you might get algae blooms worse than currently, and even a resetting of global CO2 levels to slightly(?) lower levels. In a worse case scenario this might actually lead to runaway global cooling.

Dan Tibbets
To error is human... and I'm very human.


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