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“Over two-thirds of today’s proven reserves of fossil fuels need to still be in the ground in 2050 in order to prevent catastrophic levels of climate change” – a warning by scientists.

There is a great deal of debate on climate change due to man-made Carbon emissions and how to control it without any further escalation. The first obvious option will be to completely stop the usage of fossil fuel with immediate effect. But it is practically not feasible unless there is an alternative Non-Carbon fuel readily available to substitute fossil fuels. The second option will be to capture carbon emission and bury them under ground by CCS (Carbon capture and sequestration) method. But this concept is still not proven commercially and there are still many uncertainties with this technology, the cost involved and environmental implications etc.The third option will be not to use fresh fossil fuel  for combustion or capture and bury the Carbon emissions but convert the  Carbon emissions into a synthetic hydrocarbon fuel such as synthetic natural gas (SNG) and recycle them. By this way the level of existing Carbon emission can be maintained at current levels without any further escalation. At least the Carbon emission levels can be reduced substantially and maintained at lower levels to mitigate climate changes. It is technically feasible to implement the third option but it has to be implemented with great urgency.

One way of converting Carbon emission is to capture and purify them using conventional methods and then react with Hydrogen to produce synthetic natural gas (SNG)

CO2 + 4 H2 ———> CH4 + 2 H2O

The same process will be used by NASA to eliminate carbon built-up in the flights by crew members during their long voyage into the space and also to survive in places like Mars where the atmosphere is predominantly carbon dioxide. But we need Hydrogen  which is renewable so that the above process can be sustained in the future .Currently the cost of Hydrogen production using renewal energy sources are expensive due to high initial investment and the large energy consumption.

We have now developed a new process to generate syngas using simple coal, which is predominantly Hydrogen to be used as a Carbon sink to convert Carbon emissions into synthetic natural gas (SNG). The same Hydrogen rich syngas can be directly used to generate power using gas turbine in a simple or combined cycle mode. The Carbon emission from the gas turbine can be converted into SNG (synthetic natural gas) using surplus Hydrogen-rich  syngas. The SNG thus produced can be distributed for CHP (combined heat and power) applications so that the Carbon emission can be controlled or distributed. By implementing the above process one should be able to maintain Carbon at specific level in the atmosphere. Existing coal-fired power plants can retrofit this technology so that they will be able to cut their Carbon emissions substantially; they can also produce SNG as a by-product using their Carbon emissions and achieve zero Carbon emission at their site while generating revenue by sale of SNG.

Coal is the cheapest and widely used fossil fuel for power generation all over the world. Therefore it will be a win situation for everyone to use coal and also to cut Carbon emissions that can address the problems of climate change. Meanwhile research is going on to generate renewable Hydrogen cheaply directly from water using various technologies. But we believe we are still far away from achieving this goal and we require immediate solution to address our climate change problems.

Recently BASF made a press release : http://www.basf.com/group/press release/P-13-351‎ claiming a break-through technology to generate Hydrogen from natural gas without any CO2 emissions.

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The climate is changing with increasing global warming caused by man-made Carbon emission. The economic impact of global warming can no longer be ignored by Governments around the world because it is impacting their budget bottom lines. Weather is becoming unpredictable. Even if Meteorological department predicts a disaster 24 hrs in advance, there is nothing Governments can do to prevent human and economic losses within a short span of time but evacuate people to safety leaving behind all their properties. Governments are forced to allocate funds for disaster management every year caused by severe draughts, unprecedented snow falls, and coastal erosion by rising sea levels, flash flooding, inundation and power black outs. We often hear people saying,” we were completely taken by surprise by this event and we have never seen anything like this in the last 50 years” after every naturals disasters explaining the nature and scale of disasters. Nature is forcing Governments to allocate more funds for disaster managements and such allocations have reached unprecedented levels. The cost of natural disasters around the world in 2011 was estimated at $ 400 billion and in 2012 it was estimated at $160 billion. The only way to fund these disasters is to tax Carbon pollution which causes global warming. Countries should take long-term decisions that will save their current and future generations to come.  They should understand how Carbon is emitted and what the best way to curb such emissions is. It is a global issue and its requires a collective solution.  There is no use of pricing Carbon when economic recession can jeopardize the pricing mechanism? Global warming is a moral and social issue and not just an economic issue.

Developed countries have emitted bulk of the Carbon since industrial revolution while developing countries such as India and China were emitting less carbon in spite of their vast population due to their lowest per capita consumption. But that trend has now changed with rapid industrialization and economic growth of India and China and other developing economies. Australia is still a leading emitter of Carbon in the world in spite of their low population because of their high energy consumption, availability of cheap and high quality Coal and increasing mining, industrial and agricultural activities. That is why Australia is one of the first few countries who introduced Carbon tax while rest of the countries is still debating about it. Now it is clear that Carbon emission is directly proportional to industrial, economic and population growth of a country and it can be easily quantified based on the growth rate of each country. It is time countries agree to cut their Carbon emissions to sustainable levels with a realistic Carbon pricing mechanism and sign a world-wide treaty through UN.

“THE EUROPEAN UNION carbon emissions trading scheme—the biggest in the world and the heart of Europe’s climate- change program—is in dire straits. The scheme’s carbon price has collapsed. The primary reason: The economic recession has suppressed manufacturing, thereby reducing emissions and creating a huge over- supply of carbon emissions allowances. Carbon trading is a market approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions in which each facility involved is given an emissions cap for the year, and each year that cap is reduced. A firm must record and report its facilities’ emissions and must obtain allowances for its total emissions. An allowance permits a facility to emit 1 metric ton of carbon dioxide or its carbon equal; some allowances are given for free by the government, others can be bought at auction or from other firms. If a facility exceeds its cap, the company operating it has options: It can cut emissions, buy allowances from other companies, or get allowance offsets by reducing emissions at another pollution source. The cost of an allowance is referred to as the car-bon price and is driven by market conditions such as supply and demand. If the low-carbon price continues, the region’s ability to meet long-term reduction targets for greenhouse gas emissions will be severely hampered because the trading scheme will fail to provide money for clean-tech programs and incentive for manfacturers to adopt cleaner technologies. The trading scheme is a key component of the EU’s climate-change strategy because about 40% of all greenhouse gases emit-ted in the region fall under EU’s control. The mandatory scheme applies to 11,000 industrial installations, including power plants and major chemical facilities, across all 27 member states, as well as in Croatia, Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway. The aviation sector has been included in the scheme, but its active participation has been deferred to allow for an international agreement on aviation emissions, which is expected to be concluded in the fall. The goal of the European Commission, the EU’s administrative body and the architect of the emissions trading scheme, is to reduce all greenhouse gas emissions by 20% from 1990 levels by 2020. To contribute toward this goal, the trading scheme has targeted a 21% cut in the emissions of participating sectors by 2020 from a 2005 baseline. In recent weeks, however, the EU carbon price dropped to a new low of $5.20 for each metric ton allowance of CO2, down from a high of $23 in 2011. This is despite an annual reduction of the EU emissions cap of 1.74% through 2020 and the introduction on Jan. 1 of a new phase of the scheme requiring companies to purchase allowances. AT ITS CURRENT carbon price, the EU emission scheme’s role in encouraging chemical firms to ditch fossil fuels and adopt greener technologies “is meaningless,” says André Veneman, director of sustainability at AkzoNobel. Many of the industry’s investments in low-carbon technologies that are marginally financially viable also will likely be delayed, he says. Without a strong carbon price, the underlying push to clean-tech in the EU will come only from the price of oil, Veneman adds. Veneman and other experts say that a carbon price of between $68 and $135 is required if industry as a whole is to be forced to shift onto a new low-carbon footing. Yvo de Boer, special global adviser for climate change and sustainability for KPMG—an audit, tax, and advisory firm—and form EUROPEAN SCHEME IS IN FREE FALL Record-low CARBON PRICE threatens to derail transition away from fossil fuels and ability to meet climate-change targets.” Source: EUROPEAN SCHEME IS IN FREE FALL Record-low CARBON PRICE threatens to derail transition away from fossil fuels and ability to meet climate-change targets ALEX SCOTT, C&EN LONDO

The burden of Carbon tax should be borne by both power generators as well as consumers. Even if the Carbon tax is imposed on emitters it will eventually be passed on to consumers. Either way the cost of energy will increase steeply or there is no way to avoid such escalation if we want to keep up our power consumption levels or our current life style. In other words people will have to pay penalty for polluting the air either by generating or consuming power that causes Carbon pollution. All developed countries that have polluted the atmosphere with Carbon emission should be taxed retrospectively from the time of industrial revolution so that emerging countries need not bear the full cost of global warming. Such a fund should be used for developing renewable and clean energy technologies or to purchase Carbon allowances. Current mechanism of Carbon pricing does not penalize countries who caused the global warming in the first place for hundreds of years but penalizes only countries who now accelerate the rate of Carbon emission. Such an approach is a gross injustice on the emerging economies and not at all pragmatic. Most of the developed countries are currently facing economic recession resulting in plummeted Carbon price. This will only encourage existing Carbon emitters to emit Carbon cheaply and penalize Renewable energy and clean energy technologies with higher tariffs and drive them to extinction. In spite of Carbon level in the atmosphere exceeding 400 ppm according to the latest report, the world is helpless to cut the Carbon emission anytime sooner making our planet vulnerable to catastrophic natural disasters. Countries that are reluctant to pay Carbon tax will pay for Natural disasters which may be many times costlier than Carbon tax. Countries like US, European Union, Japan, Australia the largest power consumers and countries like Saudi Arabia, Russia, Venezuela, Iran, Iraq, Libya the largest oil producers should bear the cost of Carbon pollution that caused the globe to warm sine industrial revolution. Such a fund should be used in developing innovative Renewable energy and clean energy technologies of the future. More than anything else the rich and powerful countries should declare global warming as a moral issue of the twenty-first century and take some bold and hard economic decisions to save the planet earth..Allowance overloadCarbon pricing downward trendcost of Natural disatersEU carbon trading

 

Brine dischage in Gulfchemical usage in desalinationDesal capacityDesalination capacity in the worldsalinity levels in Gulf regionwater cycle

Water and energy are two critical issues that will decide the future of humanity on the planet earth. They determine the security of a nation and that is why there is an increasing competition among nations to achieve self-sufficiency in fresh water and clean energy. But these issues are global issues and we need collective global solutions. In a globalised world the carbon emission of one nation or the effluent discharged into the sea from a desalination plant changes the climate of the planet and affects the entire humanity. It is not just a problem of one nation but a problem of the world. The rich and powerful nations should not pollute the earth, air and sea indiscriminately, hoping to achieve self-sufficiency for themselves at the cost of other nations.  It is very short-sighted policy. Such policies are doomed to fail over a time. Next generation will pay the price for such policies. Industrialised countries and oil rich countries should spend their resources on research and development than on weapons and invent new and creative solutions to address some of the global problems such as energy and water. With increasing population and industrialisation the demand for energy and water is increasing exponentially. But the resources are finite. It is essential that we conserve them, use them efficiently and recycle them wherever possible so that humanity can survive with dignity and in peace. It is possible only by innovation that follows ‘Nature’s path.

The earth’s climate is changing rapidly with unpredictable consequences .Many of us are witnessing  for the first time in our lives unusual weather patterns such as  draughts, flash flooding,  unprecedented   snow falls, bush fires, disease and deaths. Although we consider them as natural phenomena there is an increasing intensity and frequency that tells us a different story. They are human induced and we human beings cause these unprecedented events. When scientists point out human beings cause the globe to warm there were scepticism. We never believed we were capable of changing the entire weather system of the globe.

We underestimate our actions. By simply discharging effluent from our desalination plants into the sea, can we change the salinity of the ocean or by burning coal can we change the climate of the world? The answer is “Yes” according to science. Small and incremental pollution we cause to our air and water in everyday life have dramatic effects because we disturb the equilibrium of the Nature. In order to restore the equilibrium, Nature is forced to act by changing the climate whether we like it or not.

Nature always maintains“equilibrium” that maintains perfect balance and harmony in the world. If any slight changes are made in the equilibrium by human beings then Nature will make sure such changes are countered by a corresponding change that will restore the equilibrium. This is a natural phenomenon. The changes we cause may be small or incremental but the cumulative effect of such changes spanning hundreds of years will affect the equilibrium dramatically.

We depend on fossil fuels for our energy needs. These fossils were buried by Nature millions of years ago. But we dig deep into the earth, bring them to surface and use them to generate power, run our cars and heat our homes. Our appetite for fossil fuels increased exponentially as our population grew. We emitted Carbon into the atmosphere from burning fossil fuels for hundreds of years without many consequences. But the emissions have reached a limit that causes a shift in Nature’s equilibrium and Nature will certainly act to counter this shift and the consequences are changes in our weather system that we are now witnessing. The only way to curtail further Carbon emission into the atmosphere is to capture the current Carbon emissions and convert them into a fuel so that we can recycle them for further power generations without adding fresh fossil fuel into the system while meeting our energy demands.

We can convert Carbon emissions into a synthetic natural gas (SNG) by using Hydrogen derived from water. That is why I always believe ‘Water and energy are two sides of the same coin’. But cost of Hydrogen generation from water will be high and that is the price we will have to pay to compensate the changing climate. Sooner we do better will be the outcome for the world.

In other word the cost of energy will certainly go up whether we price the Carbon by way of trading or impose Carbon tax or pay incentives for renewable energy or spend several billions of dollars for an innovative technology. There is no short cut. This is the reality of the situation. It will be very difficult for politicians to sell this concept to the public especially during election times but they will have no choice.

Similarly serious shortage for fresh water in many parts of the world will force nations to desalinate seawater to meet their growing demand. Saudi Arabia one of the largest producers of desalinated water in the world is still planning for the highest capacity of 600,000m3/day. This plant will discharge almost 600,000 m3/day of effluent back into the sea with more than double the salinity of seawater. Over a time the salinity of seawater in the Gulf region has increased to almost 40% higher than it was a decade ago. What it means is their recovery of fresh water by desalination will decrease or their energy requirement will further increase. Any increase in salinity will further increase the fossil fuel consumption (which they have in plenty) will increase the Carbon emission. It is a vicious cycle and the entire world will have to pay the price for such consequences. Small island nations in pacific will bear the brunt of such consequences by inundation of seawater or they will simply disappear into the vast ocean. Recent study by NASA has clearly demonstrated the relationship between the increasing salinity of seawater and the climate change.

According to Amber Jenkins Global Climate Change Jet Propulsion Laboratory:

“We know that average sea levels have risen over the past century, and that global warming is to blame. But what is climate change doing to the saltness, or salinity, of our oceans? This is an important question because big shifts in salinity could be a warning that more severe droughts and floods are on their way, or even that global warming is speeding up...

Now, new research coming out of the United Kingdom (U.K.) suggests that the amount of salt in seawater is varying in direct response to man-made climate change.  Working with colleagues to sift through data collected over the past 50 years, Peter Stott, head of climate monitoring and attribution at the Met Office in Exeter, England, studied whether or not human-induced climate change could be responsible for rises in salinity that have been recorded in the subtropical regions of the Atlantic Ocean, areas at latitudes immediately north and south of Earth’s tropics. By comparing the data to climate models that correct for naturally occurring salinity variations in the ocean, Stott has found that man-made global warming — over and above any possible natural sources of global warming, such as carbon dioxide given off by volcanoes or increases in the heat output of the sun — may be responsible for making parts of the North Atlantic Ocean more salty.

Salinity levels are important for two reasons. First, along with temperature, they directly affect seawater density (salty water is denser than freshwater) and therefore the circulation of ocean currents from the tropics to the poles. These currents control how heat is carried within the oceans and ultimately regulate the world’s climate. Second, sea surface salinity is intimately linked to Earth’s overall water cycle and to how much freshwater leaves and enters the oceans through evaporation and precipitation. Measuring salinity is one way to probe the water cycle in greater detail.”

It is absolutely clear that the way we generate power from fossil fuels and the water we generate from desalination of seawater  cannot be continued as business as usual but requires an innovation. New technologies to generate power without emitting Carbon into the atmosphere and generating fresh water from seawater without dumping the highly saline effluent back into the sea will decide the future of our planet. Discharge of concentrated brine into sea will wipe out the entire fish population in the region. The consequences are dire. Oil rich countries should spend their riches on Research and Developments to find innovative ways of desalinating seawater instead of investing massively on decades old technologies and changing the chemistry of the ocean and the climate forever.

 

The arctic ice cover is steadily shrinking over a period opening new polar shipping routes. Recently a Norwegian ship was carrying a LNG Carrierto Japan through Russia, marking the beginning of new polar shipping route. There was a short documentary film on disappearance of an entire Aral Sea from the map, due to evaporation, caused by construction of dams by Russian authorities restricting the flow of rivers into Aral Sea. These dramatic events are happening right in front of our eyes. Yet, there are many Governments and people around the world are still questioning whether Global warming is real and is it man-made? Well, people do not accept science when it come to global warming because it causes them much inconvenience and embarrassment for Governments. They do not want to face the reality but prefer to postpone it for another day. This is what happening with super powers and industrialized countries in the world. But how long can they sustain such skepticism and postpone urgent actions that are necessary to save the future generation of mankind?

• Arctic sea ice is projected to decline dramatically over the 21st century, with little late summer sea ice remaining by the year 2100.

• The simulated 21st century Arctic sea ice decline is not smooth, but has periods of large and small changes.

• The Arctic region responds sensitively to past and future global climate forcing, such as changes in atmospheric greenhouse gas levels. Its surface air temperature is projected to warm at a rate about twice as fast as the global average.

Attached  Sea ice concentrations simulated by GFDL’s CM2.1 global coupled climate model averaged over August, September and October (the months when Arctic sea ice concentrations generally are at a minimum). Three years (1885, 1985 & 2085) are shown to illustrate the model-simulated trend. A dramatic reduction of summertime sea ice is projected, with the rate of decrease being greatest during the 21st century part. The colors range from dark blue (ice-free) to white (100% sea ice covered).

“Satellite observations show that Arctic sea ice extent has declined over the past three decades [e.g., NOAA magazine, 2006]. Global climate model experiments, such as those conducted at NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL), project this downward trend to continue and perhaps accelerate during the 21st century.

The Arctic is a region that is projected to warm at about twice the rate of the global average [Winton, 2006a] – a phenomenon sometimes called “Arctic amplification”. As Arctic temperatures rise, sea ice melts—a change that in turn affects other aspects of global climate.

While beyond the scope of GFDL’s climate model simulations, other research suggests that Arctic sea ice changes can impact a broad range of factors — from altering key elements of the Arctic biosphere (plants and animals, marine and terrestrial, including polar bears and fish), to opening polar shipping routes, to shifting commercial fishing patterns, etc.

An Ice-Free Arctic in Summer

The three panel’s attachments are snapshots of how late summer Northern Hemisphere sea ice concentrations vary in time in a GFDL CM2.1 climate model simulation. The figures depict

Sea ice concentration – a measure of how much of the ocean area is covered by sea ice, and the climate model variable that is most similar to what a satellite observes.

By the late 21st century, the GFDL computer model experiments project that the Arctic becomes almost ice-free during the late summer. But during the long Arctic winters (not shown) the sea ice grows back, though thinner than is simulated for the 20th century. The rate at which the modeled 21st century Arctic warming and sea ice melting occurs is rapid compared to that seen in historical observations. Abrupt Arctic changes are of particular concern for human and ecosystem adaptations and are a subject of much current research (Winton 2006B).

The modeled summertime Arctic sea ice extent (the size of the area covered by sea ice) does not very smoothly in time, as a good deal of year-to-year variability superimposed on the downward trend. This can be seen in the graph to the right and also in animations found at www.gfdl.noaa.gov/research/climate/highlights.

By the end of the 21st century, the modeled summer sea ice extent usually is less than 20% of the simulated for 1981 to 2000. The Arctic sea ice results shown here are not unique to the GFDL climate model. Generally similar results are produced by computer models developed at several other international climate modeling centers. Though some uncertainties in model projections of future climate remain, results such as these, taken together with observations that document late 20th century Arctic sea ice shrinkage, make the Arctic a region that will continue to be studied and watched closely, as atmospheric greenhouse gas levels increase.

Climate implications of shrinking summer sea ice Melting sea ice can influence the climate through a process known as the ice-albedo feedback. Much of the sunlight reflected by sea ice returns to space and is unavailable to heat the climate system. As the sea ice melts, the surface darkens and absorbs more of this energy. This, in turn, can lead to greater melting. This is referred to as a “positive feedback loop” because an initial change (sea ice melting) triggers other responses in the system that eventually acts to enhance the original change (inducing more sea ice melting).

At GFDL, research has focused on the role of the ice-albedo feedback in the enhancing simulated Arctic warming and on the potential for this positive feedback loop to lead to abrupt changes [Winton, 2006a]. A somewhat complex picture has emerged that shows the ice-albedo feedback as a contributor, but not necessarily the dominant factor in determining why modeled Arctic surface air temperatures warm roughly twice as fast as the global average. It also has been found that, for the range of temperature increases likely to occur in the 21st century, the Arctic ice-albedo feedback adjusts smoothly as the model’s ice declines, by reducing the ice cover at progressively earlier times in the sunlit season. This smooth adjustment maintains a fairly constant amplification of Arctic temperature change on global average warming.

The details of how Arctic feedback processes act in climate models at various modeling centers differ, and so analysis and computer model development work continues to better understand and to cut uncertainties in Arctic climate change simulations.”

While many scientists are alarmed by the widening expanse of open water in the Arctic, blaming it on global warming, shippers see a new international route. The MV Nordic Barents is lugging 40,000 tonnes of iron ore from Norway to China on a shortcut through melting ice – and is making a little history in the process. It is the first non-Russian commercial vessel to attempt a non-stop crossing of a route that skirts the receding Arctic ice cap.

Business Times, Singapore report (6 September 2010):

The MV Nordic Barents is lugging 40,000 tonnes of iron ore from Norway to China on an Arctic Ocean shortcut through melting ice – and is making a little history in the process.

Steaming east along Russia’s desolate northern coast, the ship departed on Saturday as the first non-Russian commercial vessel to attempt a non-stop crossing of a route that skirts the receding Arctic ice cap.

‘We’re pretty much going over the top,’ said John Sanderson, the Australian CEO of the Norwegian mine where the iron ore comes from.

By using the northern route from Europe to Asia, the Nordic Barents could save eight days and 5,000 nautical miles of travel thought to be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to the owners of its cargo.

While many scientists are alarmed by the widening expanse of open water that the ship will traverse, blaming it on global warming, shippers see a new international route.

Sanderson’s ASX-listed Northern Iron Ltd has sent 15 ships to China since it began mining in the northern Norwegian town of Kirkenes last October. All steamed south, then east through the Suez Canal or around the Cape of Good Hope.

To reach Chinese steel mills hungry for ore, they had to brave pirates in the Indian Ocean.

The Arctic route is no picnic either. On Saturday the polar ice sheet remained almost as big as the US mainland. But over the summer it has shrunk about as far from the Russian coast as it did during the biggest Arctic melt on record, in 2007, according to the Nansen Environmental and Remote Sensing Center.

And the Russians are waking up to the business potential of a route that was mostly reserved for domestic commercial vessels in the past.

‘Suddenly there is an opening that gives this part of the world an advantage,’ said Felix H Tschudi, whose shipping company is Northern Iron’s largest shareholder.

Willy Oestreng, chairman of research group Ocean Futures, called the trip of the Nordic Barents ‘historic’.

‘The western world is starting to show an interest and a capability to use that route,’ he said.

Two days after Russia and Norway agreed last April to settle a 40-year-old dispute over economic zones in the Barents Sea, government and business leaders of the two countries met in Kirkenes to sweep away hurdles to international shipping.

Russian law still requires icebreaker escort even where ice danger is small, due to a lack of onshore mechanical or medical support. But fees and rules are starting to loosen.

‘Russian companies and Russian authorities are now ready to assist,’ said Mikhail Belkin, assistant general manager of the state-owned Rosatomflot ice breaking fleet.

Lots of Russian vessels have plied the passage, and two German ships traversed it last year with small cargos delivered to Russian ports. But the Nordic Barents, an ice-class Danish bulk carrier chartered by Tschudi, is the first non-Russian ship with permission to pass without stopping.

Rosatomflot has assigned two 75,000-horsepower icebreakers to the vessel for about 10 days of the three-week voyage.

Tschudi won’t say how much Rosatomflot is charging but praised it as ‘cooperative, service-minded and pragmatic.’

‘Today the route is basically competitive with the Suez Canal, and we can subtract the piracy risk,’ he said.

Excluding icebreaking fees, a bulk ship that takes the Arctic route from Hamburg to Yokohama can save more than US$200,000 in fuel and canal expenses, Mr. Oestreng said. — Reuter.

Disappearance of Aral Sea from he map.

“In the 1960s, the Soviet Union undertook a major water diversion project on the arid plains of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan. The region’s two major rivers, fed by snowmelt and precipitation in faraway mountains, were used to transform the desert into farms for cotton and other crops. Before the project, the Syr Darya and the Amu Darya rivers flowed down from the mountains, cut northwest through the Kyzylkum Desert, and finally pooled together in the lowest part of the basin. The lake they made, the Aral Sea, was once the fourth largest in the world.

Although irrigation made the desert bloom, it devastated the Aral Sea. This series of images from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite documents the changes. At the start of the series in 2000, the lake was already a fraction of its 1960 extent (black line). The Northern Aral Sea (sometimes called the Small Aral Sea) had separated from the Southern (Large) Aral Sea. The Southern Aral Sea had split into eastern and western lobes that remained tenuously connected at both ends.

By 2001, the southern connection had been severed, and the shallower eastern part retreated rapidly over the next several years. Especially large retreats in the eastern lobe of the Southern Sea appear to have occurred between 2005 and 2009, when drought limited and then cut off the flow of the Amu Darya. Water levels then fluctuated annually between 2009 and 2012 in alternately dry and wet years.

As the lake dried up, fisheries and the communities that depended on them collapsed. The increasingly salty water became polluted with fertilizer and pesticides. The blowing dust from the exposed lakebed, contaminated with agricultural chemicals, became a public health hazard. The salty dust blew off the lakebed and settled onto fields, degrading the soil. Croplands had to be flushed with larger and larger volumes of river water. The loss of the moderating influence of such a large body of water made winters colder and summers hotter and drier.

In a last-ditch effort to save some of the lake, Kazakhstan built a dam between the northern and southern parts of the Aral Sea. Completed in 2005, the dam was basically a death sentence for the southern Aral Sea, which was judged to be beyond saving. All of the water flowing into the desert basin from the Syr Darya now stays in the Northern Aral Sea. Between 2005 and 2006, the water levels in that part of the lake rebounded significantly and very small increases are visible throughout the rest of the time period. The differences in water color are due to changes in sediment.”

 

All existing power generation technologies including nuclear power plants uses heat generation as a starting point. The heat is used to generate steam which acts as a motive force to run an alternator to produces electricity. We combust fossil fuels such as coal oil and gas to generate above heat which also emits greenhouse gases such as oxides of Carbon and Nitrogen. As I have disused in my earlier article, we did not develop a technology to generate heat without combusting a fossil fuel earlier. This was due to cheap and easy availability of fossil fuel. The potential danger of emitting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere was not realized until recently when scientists pointed out the consequences of carbon build up in the atmosphere. The growth of population and industries around the world pushed the demand for fossil fuels over a period which enhanced the Carbon build up in the atmosphere.

But now Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) systems have been developed to capture the heat of the sun more efficiently and the potential temperature of solar thermal can reach up to 550. This dramatic improvement is the efficiency of solar thermal has opened up new avenues of power generation as well as other applications. “CSP is being widely commercialized and the CSP market has seen about 740 MW of generating capacity added between 2007 and the end of 2010. More than half of this (about 478 MW) was installed during 2010, bringing the global total to 1095 MW. Spain added 400 MW in 2010, taking the global lead with a total of 632 MW, while the US ended the year with 509 MW after adding 78 MW, including two fossil–CSP hybrid plants”. (Ref: Wikipedia)

“CSP growth is expected to continue at a fast pace. As of April 2011, another 946 MW of capacity was under construction in Spain with total new capacity of 1,789 MW expected to be in operation by the end of 2013. A further 1.5 GW of parabolic-trough and power-tower plants were under construction in the US, and contracts signed for at least another 6.2 GW. Interest is also notable in North Africa and the Middle East, as well as India and China. The global market has been dominated by parabolic-trough plants, which account for 90 percent of CSP plants.As of 9 September 2009, the cost of building a CSP station was typically about US$2.50 to $4 per  watt, the fuel (the sun’s radiation) is free. Thus a 250 MW CSP station would have cost $600–1000 million to build. That works out to $0.12 to $0.18/kwt. New CSP stations may be economically competitive with fossil fuels. Nathaniel Bullard,” a solar analyst at Bloomberg

New Energy Finance, has calculated that the cost of electricity at the Ivanpah Solar Power Facility, a project under construction in Southern California, will be lower than that from  photovoltaic power and about the same as that from natural gas  However, in November 2011, Google announced that they would not invest further in CSP projects due to the rapid price decline of photovoltaics. Google spent $168 million on Bright Source IRENA has published on June 2012 a series of studies titled: “Renewable Energy Cost Analysis”. The CSP study shows the cost of both building and operation of CSP plants. Costs are expected to decrease, but there are insufficient installations to clearly establish the learning curve. As of March 2012, there was 1.9 GW of CSP installed, with 1.8 GW of that being parabolic trough” Ref: Wikipedia.

One Canadian company has demonstrated to generate Hydrogen from water using a catalytic thermolysis using sun’s high temepertaure.The same company has also demonstrated generating base load power using conventional steam turbine by  CSP using parabolic troughs. They store sun’s thermal energy using a proprietary thermic fluid and use them during night times to generate continuous power. The company offers to set up CSP plants of various capacities from 15Mw up to 500Mw.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is a raging debate going on around the world especially in US about the global warming and its causes, among scientists and the public alike. When IPCC released its findings on the connection between greenhouse gas emission and the global warming and its disastrous consequences, there was an overwhelming disbelief and skepticism in many people. In fact many scientists are skeptical even now   about these findings and many of them published their own theories and models to prove their skepticism with elaborate ‘scientific explanations’.   I am not going into details whether greenhouse gas emission induced by human beings causes the globe to warm or not, but certainly we have emitted billions of  tons of Carbon in the form of Carbon dioxide into the atmosphere since industrial revolution. Bulk of these emissions is from power plants fueled by Coal, oil and gas. Why power plants emit so much Carbon into the atmosphere and why Governments around the world allow it in the first place?  When the emission of Oxide of Nitrogen and Sulfur are restricted by EPA why they did not restrict Oxides of carbon? The reason is very simple. They did not have a technology to generate heat without combustion and they did not have a technology to generate power without heat. It was the dawn of industrial revolution and steam engines were introduced using coal as a fuel. The discovery of steam engines was so great and nobody was disturbed by the black smoke it emitted. They knew very well that the efficiency of a steam engine was low as shown by Carnot cycle, yet steam engine was a new discovery and Governments were willing to condone Carbon emission. Governments were happy with steam engine because it could transport millions of people and goods in bulk across the country and Carbon emission was not at all an issue. Moreover carbon emission did not cause any problem like emission of oxides of Sulfur because it was odorless, colorless and it was emitted above the ground level away from human beings. However the effect of Carbon is insidious. Similarly, power generation technology was developed by converting thermal energy into electrical energy with a maximum efficiency of 33%.This means only 33% of the thermal energy released by combustion of coal is converted into electricity. When the resulting electricity is transmitted across thousands of kilometers by high tension grids, further 5-10% power is lost in the transmission. When the high tension power is stepped down through sub stations to lower voltage such as 100/200/400V further 5% power is lost. The net power received by a consumer is only 28% of the heat value of the fuel in the form of electricity. The balance 67% of heat along with Greenhouse gases from the combustion of coal is simply vented out into the atmosphere. It is the most inefficient method to generate power. Any environmental pollution is the direct result of inefficiency of the technology. Governments and EPA around the world ignore this fact .Thank to President Obama who finally introduced the pollution control bill for power plants after 212 years of industrial revolution.  Still this bill did not go far enough to control Carbon emission in its current form. Instead of arguing whether globe is warming due to emission of Carbon by human beings or not, Scientists should focus on improving the science and technology of power generation. For example, the electrical efficiency of a Fuel cell is more than 55% compared to conventional power generation and emits reduced or no carbon. Recent research by MIT shows that such conversion of heat into electricity can be achieved up to 90% compared to current levels of 35%.Had we developed such a technology earlier, probably we will not be discussing about GHG and global warming now. MIT research group is now focusing on developing new type of PV and according to their press release: “Thermal to electric energy conversion with thermophotovoltaics relies on radiation emitted by a hot body, which limits the power per unit area to that of a blackbody. Micro gap thermophotovoltaics take advantage of evanescent waves to obtain higher throughput, with the power per unit area limited by the internal blackbody, which is n2 higher. We propose that even higher power per unit area can be achieved by taking advantage of thermal fluctuations in the near-surface electric fields. For this, we require a converter that couples to dipoles on the hot side, transferring excitation to promote carriers on the cold side which can be used to drive an electrical load. We analyze the simplest implementation of the scheme, in which excitation transfer occurs between matched quantum dots. Next, we examine thermal to electric conversion with a glossy dielectric (aluminum oxide) hot-side surface layer. We show that the throughput power per unit active area can exceed the n2 blackbody limit with this kind of converter. With the use of small quantum dots, the scheme becomes very efficient theoretically, but will require advances in technology to fabricate.” Ref:J.Appl.Phys. 106,094315c(2009); http://dx.doi.org/10.1063/1.3257402 Quantum-coupled single-electron thermal to electric conversion scheme”. Power generation and distribution using renewable energy sources and using Hydrogen as an alternative fuel is now emerging. Distributed energy systems may replace centralized power plants in the future due to frequent grid failures as we have seen recently in India. Most of the ‘black outs’ are caused  by grid failures due to cyclones, tornadoes and other weather related issues, and localized distribution system with combined heat and power offers a better alternative. For those who are skeptical about global warming caused by man-made greenhouse gases the question still remains, “What happened to billions of tons of Caron dioxide emitted into  the atmosphere by power plants and transportation  since industrial revolution?”.          

All forms of renewable energy sources are intermittent by nature and therefore storage becomes essential. Energy is used mainly for power generation and transportation and the growth of these two industries are closely linked with development of energy storage technologies and devices. Electrical energy is conventionally stored using storage batteries. Batteries are electrochemical devices in which electrical energy is stored in the form of chemical energy, which is then converted into electrical energy at the time of usage.

Batteries are key components in cars such as Hybrid electric vehicles, Plug-in Hybrid electrical vehicles and Electrical vehicles – all store energy for vehicle propulsion. Hybrid vehicle rely on internal combustion engine as the primary source of energy and use a battery to store excess energy generated during vehicle braking or produced by engine. The stored energy provides power to an electric motor that provides acceleration or provides limited power to the propulsion. Plug-in hybrid incorporates higher capacity battery than Hybrid eclectic vehicles, which are charged externally and used as a primary source of power for longer duration and at higher speed than it is required for Hybrid electric vehicles. In Electric cars, battery is the sole power source.

All electric vehicles need rechargeable batteries with capacity to quickly store and discharge electric energy over multiple cycles. There are a wide range of batteries and chemistries available in the market. The most common NiMH (Nickel Metal Hydride) used Cathode materials called AB5; A is typically a rare earth material containing lanthanum, cerium, neodymium and praseodymium; while B is a combination of nickel, cobalt, manganese and/or aluminum. Current generation Hybrid vehicles use several Kg of rare earth materials.

Lithium ion battery offers better energy density, cold weather performance, abuse tolerance and discharge rates compared to NiMH batteries. With increasing usage of electrical vehicles the demand for lithium-ion batteries and Lithium is likely to g up substantially in the coming years. It is estimated that a battery capable of providing 100miles range will contain 3.4 to 12.7 Kegs of Lithium depending upon the lithium-ion chemistry and the battery range. Lithium -ion batteries are also used in renewable energy industries such as solar and wind but Lead-acid batteries are used widely due to lower cost.

The lithium for Cathode and electrolyte is produced from Lithium Carbonate which is now produced using naturally occurring brines by solar evaporation with subsequent chemical precipitation. The naturally occurring brine such as in Atacama in Chile is now the main source of commercial Lithium. The brine is a mixture of various chlorides including Lithium chloride, which is allowed to evaporate by solar heat over a period of 18-20 months. The concentrated lithium chloride is then transferred to a production unit where it is chemically reacted with Sodium carbonate to precipitate Lithium Carbonate. Chile is the largest producers of Lithium carbonate.

Though Lithium ion batteries are likely to dominate electric vehicle markets in the future, the supply of Lithium remains limited. Alternative sources of Lithium are natural ores such as Spodumene.Many companies around the world, including couple of companies in Australia are in the process of extracting Lithium from such ores.

Manufacturers produce battery cells from anode, cathode and electrolyte materials. All lithium-ion batteries use some form of lithium in the cathode and electrolyte materials, while anodes are generally graphite based and contain no lithium.   These cells are connected in series inside a battery housing to form a complete battery pack. Despite lithium’s importance for batteries, it represents a relatively small fraction of the cost of both the battery cell and the final battery cost.

“Various programs seek to recover and recycle lithium-ion batteries. These include prominently placed recycling drop-off locations in retail establishments for consumer electronics batteries, as well as recent efforts to promote recycling of EV and PHEV batteries as these vehicles enter the market in larger numbers (Hamilton 2009). Current recycling programs focus more on preventing improper disposal of hazardous battery materials and recovering battery materials that are more valuable than lithium. However, if lithium recovery becomes more cost-effective, recycling programs and design features provide a mechanism to enable larger scale lithium recycling. Another potential application for lithium batteries that have reached the end of their useful life for vehicle applications is in stationery applications such as grid storage.

The supply chain for many types of batteries involves multiple, geographically distributed steps and it overlaps with the production supply chains of other potential critical materials, such as cobalt, which are also used in battery production. Lithium titanate batteries use a lithium titanium oxide anode and have been mentioned as a potential candidate for automotive use (Gains 2010), despite being limited by a low cell voltage compared to other lithium-ion battery chemistries.” (Ref: Centre for Transportation, Argonne National Laboratory)

Usage of power for extraction of Lithium from naturally occurring brines is lower compared to extraction from mineral sources because bulk of the heat for evaporation of brine is supplied by solar heat. However Lithium ion batteries can serve only as a storage medium and the real power has to be generated either by burning fossil fuel or from using renewable energy sources. Governments around the world should make usage of renewable power mandatory for users of Electrical vehicles. Otherwise introduction of Lithium ion battery without such regulation will only enhance carbon emission from fossil fuels.

 

Chemistry has revolutionized human life and it has affected each and every one of us in some way or other for the past several decades. We were happily using these chemicals in our everyday life without really understanding their side effects.Individuls and companies who invented and commercialized chemical products were keen to offer end products to consumers often without explaining the side effects of such chemicals.They themselves were not fully aware of long-term consequences of such chemicals. Classical examples are Chlorine and its derivatives.

Chlorine is a common chemical that is used even today in many countries to disinfect drinking water in water treatment plants. Their usage is sill continued though they found that Haloethanes, which are formed by the action of Chlorine on decayed organic leaves in water storage, causes cancer (carcinogenic). DDT is another chemical that was used widely as a pesticide, known as “atom bomb of pesticides”,  until their side effects proved deadly for human beings and to the environment. It was officially banned in USA in 1972 by EPA, though it is still continued in some third world countries. Bleaching powder in another example of powder disinfectant ( a popular form of disinfectant used on roads in India when  prominent political leaders visit municipalities; though they are only chalk  powder with no traces of residual Chlorine).

A whole range of dyes known as coal-tar dyes derived from coal  were used in many applications including ‘food colors’, later substituted by petroleum-based organic chemicals. These ‘food colors’ are now substituted with ‘natural organic colors’ such as vegetable colors derived from vegetables and fruits. Industrial chemicals, both organic and inorganic have caused serious environmental damages all over the world for several decades, but Governments, companies and EPA did not realize the deadly consequences of some these chemicals for a long time. The ‘Bhopal Gas tragedy’ in India is one such grim reminder of such consequences.

Chemicals are not natural products even though one can separate them into various organic chemical molecules but some of the consequences of such separation and usage are not fully understood. Many natural herbs have outstanding medicinal values and when consumed in a Natural form, it has absolutely no side effects and they show tremendous therapeutic values. But when you isolate certain molecules from such herbs (Alkaloids) and used as a drug, they can cure a disease but at the same time, they create many side effects. Nature offers such drugs in a diluted form that is quite compatible to human beings. One such example is ‘Vinblastine’ and “Vincristine’, anti-cancer drugs derived from a herb called ‘vinca rosea’.

Of late there is awareness among companies, people and Governments about Green technologies that can help protect the environment. Greenhouse gas and global warming is one such issue. When Petrol or Diesel, an organic chemical known as Hydrocarbon is burnt, it not only generates power but also emits greenhouse gases such as Carbon dioxide and oxides of Nitrogen, that cause globe to warm. We were happily burning away such fossil fuels until scientists raised an issue on emission of ‘greenhouse gases’ in recent past. When we deal with chemicals and chemical reactions, the molecule is transformed into a new molecule and often such reaction cannot be reversed.It is not a physical change but a chemical change. When we convert water into steam, we can get back water by condensing steam; but when you convert Chlorine into PVC (Poly vinyl chloride) plastic, there are environmental consequences and reversing PVC into Chlorine gas in not easy, though it is technically possible with environmental consequences.

One has to observe and learn from Nature what is good and what is bad when developing a new technology, because such development will not only affect the environment but also many generations to come. When Nature teaches how to turn sugar into Alcohol by fermentation using air-borne microorganisms, we should follow Nature to make alcohol. We know how to turn Alcohol into PVC, but we do not know how to make biodegradable PVC from Alcohol. Companies call it ‘Green Chemistry’, but not until we can make a biodegradable PVC. Human knowledge is imperfect and we can learn ‘Green chemistry and Clean Technologies’ only from Nature and not by deviating from the path of Nature.

We now generate electric city from heat, obtained by combustion of fossil fuel such as coal, oil and gas. But such combustion generates not only heat but also greenhouse gases such as Carbon dioxide and oxides of Nirogen.The only alternative to generate power without any greenhouse gas emission is to use a fuel with zero carbon. However, oxides of Nitrogen will still be an issue as long as we use air for combustion because atmospheric air has almost 79% Nitrogen and 21% oxygen. Therefore it becomes necessary to use an alternative fuel as well as an alternative power generation technology in the future to mitigate greenhouse problems.

Hydrogen is an ideal fuel to mitigate greenhouse gases because combustion of Hydrogen with oxygen from air generates only water that is recyclable. Combining Hydrogen with Oxygen using Fuel cell, an electrochemical device is certainly an elegant solution to address greenhouse problems. But why Hydrogen and Fuel cell are not commonly available? Hydrogen is not available freely even though it is abundantly available in nature. It is available as a compound such as water (H2O) or Methane (CH4) and Ammonia (NH3). First we have to isolate Hydrogen from this compound as free Hydrogen and then store it under pressure. Hydrogen can easily form an explosive mixture with Oxygen and it requires careful handling. Moreover it is a very light gas and can easily escape. It has to be compressed and stored under high pressure.

Generation of pure Hydrogen from water using Electrolysis requires more electricity that it can generate. However, Hydrogen cost can be reduced using renewable energy source such as solar thermal. The solar thermal can also supply thermal energy for decomposing Ammonia into Hydrogen and Nitrogen as well as to supply endothermic heat necessary for steam reformation of natural gas into Hydrogen. On-site Hydrogen generation using solar thermal using either electricity or heat can become a commercial reality. Hydrogen generation at higher temperatures such as Ammonia decomposition or steam reformation can be directly used in Fuel cell such as Phosphoric acid Fuel cell.

Phosphoric acid fuel cell is a proven and tested commercial Fuel cell that is used for base load power generation. It is also used for CHP applications. Hydrogen generation using solar thermal and power generation using Fuel cell is already a commercial reality and also an elegant solution to mitigate greenhouse gases. Large scale deployment of Fuel cell and solar thermal will also cut the cost of installations and running cost competing with fossil fuel.Fuecell technology has a potential to become a common solution for both power generation and transportation.

While Government can encourage renewable energy by subsidizing PV solar panels and discourage fossil fuel by imposing carbon tax, they should give preference and higher tariff for power purchase from Solar thermal and Fuel cell power generators. This will encourage large-scale deployment of Fuel cell as a potential base load power source.

Coal is the single largest fuel used for power generation all over the world, due to its abundant availability and established infrastructure and technology. However, greenhouse gas emission poses a significant challenge in continuing the usage of coal as prime fuel. Currently, Natural gas is favored as fuel for power generation and number of LNG (liquefied natural gas) plants have been set up in many parts of the world. Coal seam methane gas is another potential source that competes with natural gas. Basically, Methane is the major constituent of such gases in the form of Hydrogen  and they are suitable for both combustion as well as for gasification for power generation. Countries who are endowed with large deposits of coal such as Australia, South Africa, Indonesia have advantages in clean coal technologies and in reducing their greenhouse gas emissions. There is an opportunity for coal-fired power plants to continue their operations, if they can solve the greenhouse gas emission and other pollution problems associated with coal. Number of companies are now re-evaluating clean coal technologies such as IGCC and carbon capture and reuse.

As we have seen in previous articles, Hydrogen is the key in developing clean coal technology of the future. That is why, gasification technology such as IGCC (Integrated Gasification and Combined Cycle) is gaining importance over combustion technologies because that is the only way we can introduce a Hydrogen molecule in the combustion by way of ‘Syngas’. By introducing Hydrogen, we not only can improve the thermal efficiency but also use the heat of combustion to the most by combined cycle with reduced GHG emission. It also facilitates the usage of existing and known power generation technologies such as, steam turbine and gas turbine, as well as, new technologies such as Fuel cell and Hydrogen turbines.

Coal in the form of pumpable liquid (CWS –coal water slurry) is another key milestone in developing a clean coal technology. Countries like China and Indonesia have been using coal water slurry for power generation successfully. Finely powdered coal is mixed with water in the ratio of 60:40 along with dispersant such as Lignosulfonate as additives to make a finely dispersed, viscous liquid that resembles heavy petroleum oil, ready for combustion. It is easier to handle pumpable oil than a solid coal.

A novel products called ‘colloidal coal water’ (CCW) is a finely dispersed colloidal coal in water with additives such as surfactants and dispersants with specific formulating agents leading to certain rheological properties is a key development in clean coal technology. The coal water slurry now used does not have long-term stability and storage properties like colloidal coal water fuel. The work is under development and it is expected that such finely dispersed colloidal coal water mix resembling a liquid hydrocarbon may be named as ‘liquid coal’ for all practical purposes will become a low-cost fuel in the future power generation.

This ‘colloidal coal liquid’ can be easily gasified or used as liquid fuel for combustion equipment such as boilers and also serve as precursor for a number of chemical product synthesis as downstream products. The emitted Carbon dioxide can be captured cryogenically and separated in a pure form for potential application such as ‘Natural Refrigerant’ and to synthesize number of chemical products. Clean coal can become a commercial reality provided we re-evaluate the coal preparation, gasification methods and to contain emitted carbon into a useful product of commerce.

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