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Jet fuel from seawatersynthetic  Crude oil -Pilot plantFT recator for syntehtic crudeRecent news from USA has got the attention of many people around the world. “Scientists with the United States Navy say they have successfully developed a way to convert seawater into jet fuel, calling it a potentially revolutionary advancement. Researchers at the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) developed technology to extract carbon dioxide from seawater while simultaneously producing hydrogen, and then converted the gasses into hydrocarbon liquid fuel. The system could potentially shave hours off the at-sea refueling process and eliminate time spent away from missions.” They estimate the cost of the jet fuel will be anywhere between $3 and $6 per gallon.  It may not be able to compete with traditional petroleum sources due to high energy requirement. However, the main attraction of this process is to extract Carbon dioxide absorbed by the ocean to avoid acidification and to mitigate climate change while making petrol as a Carbon neutral fuel. Ocean has become a rich source of Carbon (Carbon sink) absorbing excess atmospheric Carbon dioxide caused by human beings. Generating Carbon neutral fuel such as SNG (synthetic natural gas), diesel and petrol from air and sea water will be the fastest way to reduce Carbon from the atmosphere. Probably Governments, business and industries will embarrass this concept much quicker than any other mitigating methods simply because it is a revenue generating proposition with a potential to earn carbon credit.

Carbon-neutral fuel is a synthetic fuel (including methanegasolinediesel fueljet fuel or ammonia) that is produced using  carbon dioxide recycled from power plant flue exhaust gas or derived from carbonic acid in seawater  and renewable Hydrogen. Such fuels are potentially carbon-neutral because they do not result in a net increase in atmospheric greenhouse gases.  It is a Carbon capture and recycling (CCR) process.

“To the extent that carbon-neutral fuels displace fossil fuels, or if they are produced from waste carbon or seawater carbonic acid, and their combustion is subject to carbon capture at the flue or exhaust pipe, they result in negative carbon dioxide emission and net carbon dioxide removal from the atmosphere, and thus constitute a form of greenhouse gas remediation. Such power to gas carbon-neutral and carbon-negative fuels can be produced by the electrolysis of water to make hydrogen used in the Sabatier reaction to produce methane which may then be stored to be burned later in power plants as synthetic natural gas, transported by pipeline, truck, or tanker ship, or be used in gas to liquids processes such as the Fischer–Tropsch  (FT) process to make traditional fuels for transportation or heating.

Carbon-neutral fuels are used in Germany and Iceland for distributed storage of renewable energy, minimizing problems of wind and solar intermittency, and enabling transmission of wind, water, and solar power through existing natural gas pipelines. Such renewable fuels could alleviate the costs and dependency issues of imported fossil fuels without requiring either electrification of the vehicle fleet or conversion to hydrogen or other fuels, enabling continued compatible and affordable vehicles.A 250 kilowatt synthetic methane plant has been built in Germany and it is being scaled up to 10 megawatts.” (Wikipedia).

We have been writing about renewable hydrogen (RH) for the past couple of years and often use the phrase, “Water and energy are two sides of the same coin” because we can mitigate climate change using renewable hydrogen (RH) even while the fossil fuel economy can carry on as usual.

By generating Carbon neutral fuels using excess Carbon from air and sea and hydrogen from water (even seawater) using renewable energy sources, the problem of global warming and climate change can be solved because we will not be adding any further Carbon into the atmosphere than what it is today!

Instead of generating solar and wind power and storing them in batteries it will be prudent to generate Carbon neutral fuel from CO2 already available in the system and use them as usual. Meanwhile Hydrogen based power generation and transportation   can be developed as a long term solution.

Fossil-fired power plants produce CO2 (Carbon dioxide) which could be captured and converted to CO (Carbon monoxide) for production of synthetic fuels. CO2 can be converted to CO by the Reverse Water Gas Shift Reaction, CO2 + H2–> CO + H2O. CO could then be used in the F-T reaction with additional hydrogen from water-splitting to produce synthetic fuel such as diesel and petrol as carbon neutral fuels.

 Synthetic fuel by CO2 Capture + H2 from Water-splitting:

Reverse Water Gas Shift                          CO2 + H2 —->  CO + H2O

F-T reaction                                             CO + 2H2 —-> CH2 + H2O

 

Water-splitting                              3H2O + Energy –> 3H2 + 3/2O2

Net reaction                         CO2 + H2O + Energy —>CH2 + 3/2O2

 

In this case, no coal is needed at all, and CO2 is consumed rather than produced. The excess O2 would be used in the fossil power plant that provides the CO2, simplifying CO2 capture. There is currently considerable effort underway on developing CO2 capture systems for new and extant power plants. The increasing concern with Global Climate Change suggests that there is a reasonable likelihood of such plants operating in the timeframe associated with synthetic fuel from carbon dioxide. Such a synergistic system has the potential to significantly reduce our current emissions of CO2 since the carbon in the coal is used once for power production and then again for liquid hydrocarbon fuel synthesis.

Synthetic fuel plant with capacities as low as 1000 barrels/day are commercially feasible using specially designed micro-reactors as shown in the attached photograph (ref: Velocys). Utilizing carbon dioxide from sea and air is the smartest way to mitigate climate change while maintaining fossil fuel based power plants and automobiles without any change or modifications. The same technique can also be applied for biomass gasification plants.

 

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Seawater desalination is a technology that provides drinking water for millions of people around the world. With increasing industrialization and water usage and lack of recycling or reuse, the demand for fresh water is increasing at the fastest rate. Industries such as power plants use bulk of water for cooling purpose and chemical industries use water for their processing. Agriculture is also a major user of water and   countries like India exploit ground water for this purpose. To supplement fresh water, Governments and industries in many parts of the world are now turning to desalinated seawater as a potential source of fresh water. However, desalination of seawater to generate fresh water is an expensive option, due to its large energy usage. However, due to frequent failure of monsoon rains and uncertainties and changing weather pattern due to global warming, seawater desalination is becoming a potential source of fresh water, despite its cost and environmental issues.

Seawater desalination technology has not undergone any major changes during the past three decades. Reverse osmosis is currently the most sought after technology for desalination due to increasing efficiencies of the membranes and energy-saving devices. In spite of all these improvements the biggest problem with desalination technologies is still the rate of recovery of fresh water. The best recovery in SWRO plants is about 50% of the input water. Higher recoveries create other problems such as scaling, higher energy requirements and O&M issues and many suppliers would like to restrict the recoveries to 35%, especially when they have to guarantee the life of membranes and the plant.

Seawater is nothing but fresh water with large quantities of dissolved salts. The concentration of total dissolved salts in seawater is about 35,000mgs/lit. Chemical industries such as Caustic soda and Soda ash plants use salt as the basic raw material. Salt is the backbone of chemical industries and number of downstream chemicals are manufactured from salt. Seawater is the major source of salt and most of these chemical industries make their own salt using solar evaporation of seawater using traditional methods with salt pans. Large area of land is required for this purpose and solar evaporation is a slow process and it takes months together to convert seawater into salt. It is also labor intensive under harsh conditions.

The author of this article has developed an innovative technology to generate fresh water as well as salt brine suitable for Caustic soda and Soda ash production. By using this novel process, one is able to recover almost 70% fresh water against only 40% fresh water recovered using conventional SWRO process, and also recover about 7- 9% saturated brine simultaneously. Chemical industries currently producing salt using solar evaporation are unable to meet their demand or expand their production due to lack of salt. The price of salt is steadily increasing due to supply demand gap and also due to uncertainties in weather pattern due to global warming. This result in increased cost of production and many small and medium producers of these chemicals are unable to compete with large industries. Moreover, countries like Australia who have vast arid land can produce large quantities of salt   with mechanized process  competitively; Australia is currently exporting salt to countries like Japan, while countries like India and China are unable to compete in the international market with their age-old salt pans using  manual labor. In solar evaporation the water is simply evaporated.

Currently these chemical industries use the solar salt which has a number of impurities, and it requires an elaborate purification process. Moreover the salt can be used as a raw material only in the form of saturated brine without any impurities. Any impurity is detrimental to the Electrolytic process where the salt brine is converted into Caustic soda and Soda ash. Chemical industries use deionized water to dissolve solar salt to make saturated brine and then purify them using number of chemicals before it can be used as a raw material for the production of Caustic soda or Soda ash. The cost of such purified brine is many times costlier than the raw salt. This in turn increase the cost of chemicals produced.

In this new process, seawater is pumped into the system where it is separated into 70% fresh water meeting WHO specifications for drinking purpose, and 7-10% saturated pure brine suitable for production of caustic soda and Soda ash. These chemical industries also use large quantities of process water for various purposes and they can use the above 70% water in their process. Only 15-20% of unutilized seawater is discharged back into the sea in this process, compared to 65% toxic discharge from convention desalination plants. This new technology is efficient and environmentally friendly and generates value added brine as a by-product. It is a win situation for the industries and the environment. The technology has been recently patented and is available for licensing on a non-exclusive or exclusive basis. The advantage of this technology is any Caustic soda or Soda ash plant located near the seashore can produce their salt brine directly from seawater without stock piling solar salt for months together or transporting over a long distance or importing from overseas.

Government and industries can join together to set up such plants where Governments can buy water for distribution and industries can use salt brine as raw material for their chemical production. Setting up a desalination plants only for supplying drinking water to the public is not a smart way to cut the cost of drinking water. For example, the Victorian Government in Australia has set up a large desalination plant to supply drinking water. This plant was set up by a foreign company on BOOT (build, own and operate basis) and water is sold to the Government on ‘take or pay’ basis. Currently the water storage level at catchment area is nearly 80% of its capacity and the Government is unlikely to use desalinated water for some years to come. However, the Government is legally bound by a contract to buy water or pay the contracted value, even if Government does not need water. Such contracts can be avoided in the future by Governments by joining with industries who require salt brine 24×7  throughout the year, thus mitigating the risk involved by  expensive legal contracts.

 

How many of us think  about the Sun and Sea, when you drink ‘Mineral water’ from that ‘PVC bottle’; or think about the PVC cables that transmit power to your home; or  eat  meal with a pinch of salt or bicarbonate; or when your municipal water treatment plant use Chlorine to disinfect your drinking  water? All these come from sea water energized by sun’s light, day after day, for several decades.

Every year 111 billion liters of seawater are evaporated using solar energy to produce 1.1 billion liters of brine. The amount of solar energy required to produce this, is equal to 11 million tons of coal, valued at US$ 1.10 billion. The brine is then crystallized to produce 2 million tones of solar salt, the essential raw material for 18 basic inorganic chemicals, including soda ash. Soda ash and Caustic soda are two fundamentals raw materials to chemical industries, as steel is to the engineering industries. This above statistics applies to one single manufacturer, and there are hundreds of manufacturers around the world.

Sun and sea are two great gifts of Nature to mankind. But industries use three great resources  namely Sun, seawater and a vast stretch of land often free of cost. Companies convert  seawater  into  salt using sun’s energy, manufacture valuable chemicals, sell them with profits   and then dump all toxic wastes on the soil and discharge all the industrial effluents back into the sea, polluting not only the source of their raw materials but also killing thousands of marine species they call ‘sea’ as their home.

Governments and EPA (government agencies) turn a blind eye to such pollution and give them clearance year  after year in each country for several decades, because they depend on taxpayer’s money to run their Governments. The manufacturer use these natural resources free of cost or at a fraction of  cost and make huge profits to their shareholders and pay tax to the Government, to make sure  that Governments don’t interfere with their activities. What is really happening is few rich and powerful are able to exploit the natural resources and enrich themselves with the help of Governments  at the cost of earth, water and air, we human beings habitat.

This avaricious exploitation of Nature has driven not only human beings but many animals and species to extinction. Basic needs of life such as water and air are polluted, man-made waste are dumped indiscriminately on soil, polluting the earth and ground water. The plastic manufactured using Nature’s sun and sea water, are dumped back on earth as non-biodegradable pollutants. This is how we repay Nature.

Human beings have caused an irreversible damage to Nature in the name of science, technology and industrialization at the cost of future generation, while enriching few rich and powerful. The damage is irreversible,  because we are forced to continue the same path to avert any disruption to our growth story. As long as we value materials over morals and ethics, there is no future and Nature will eventually turn its back with vengeance. We value how much a person is worth financially  rather  than, what a person can contribute to the uplifting of human beings and Nature. This is the crux of all problems in the world, including the financial crisis we are currently facing. We created the monster called ‘materialism’ and the same monster is now destroying humanity.

 

 

 

Seawater is the largest source of Fresh water as well as the source of Hydrogen energy.However; Seawater cannot be used directly for these applications and it requires further treatment. Seawater has a number of dissolved salts and the TDS, total dissolved solids, of seawater is about 35,000ppm (parts per million).The commonly used industrial desalination process is by RO (reverse osmosis) as well as by multi flash distillation (MFD). Both these processes are energy intensive.RO process requires electrical energy and MFD requires thermal energy. Most of the countries in Pesian  Gulf use desalination process to convert seawater into drinking water as well as industrial water. These oil rich countries depend on the desalinated seawater as their main source of drinking water supply. In the desalination process by RO, the TDS level of seawater is reduced from 35,000ppm to 500ppm, meeting the WHO (World Health Organization) specifications for drinking purpose. The advantage with reverse osmosis process is it can remove even the smallest bacteria and virus, during the desalination. The water can further be disinfected by the injection of Chlorine before distributing for drinking purpose.

Majority of Desalination plants use RO process because it is economical. There is a worldwide shortage for safe Drinking water and more and more SWRO plants are coming up in various parts of the world. The technology of RO has advanced so much that the cost of desalinated seawater can compete with surface water in many parts of the world, especially in Gulf region where the energy cost is low. The rapid increase in population and industrial growth has created a greater demand for fresh water.

In conventional SWRO process, only 35-40% of fresh water is recovered and the balance 60-65% is discharged back into the sea as a highly saline brine, with TDS levels exceeding 65,000pm, almost double the salinity of seawater. Similarly most of the power plants located on sea coasts are using seawater for cooling purpose. In once through cooling system, the seawater is circulated into the power plant to condense steam in turbines and returned back to the sea. The temperature and salinity of the returning water into the sea is always higher than the intake water. Some oceanographers feel that such slow increase in salinity of seawater affects the temperature of the sea and the climate.

However, discharge of highly saline brine into the sea has become routine and EPA (Environmental and Pollution Authority) of various countries routinely approve such discharge, claiming it does not affect the marine life much. The environmental impact study conducted in one country is routinely followed by many countries and invariably conclude that such discharge has a very little or no impact to the environment. Human beings are concerned only with their environment and not with the Ocean environment where variety of marine species live. Our oceans have been heavily polluted from the time of industrial revolution by oil spills, toxic industrial effluent discharges, desalination and power plant discharges. The TDS levels of seawater in Gulf region has considerably increased in the past few decades. The TDS levels are about 50,000 ppm against conventional levels of 35,000PPM.The oceans are acidified by absorption of excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere due to greenhouse gas emissions.

The power required to desalinate seawater is directly proportional to the osmotic pressure of seawater. The osmotic pressure increase as the TDS level increases, which in turn increases the energy consumption by desalination plants. A recent report from US government says that fresh water will become a serious issue after a decade and even wars may be waged between countries for the sake of fresh water. The human activities not only cause global warming but also changing the chemistry of our oceans. Steadily dwindling fish population is a clear sign of changing chemistry and biology of our oceans. In the absence of a proven scientific evidence to show that  human beings cause these changes in the ocean, we will carry on our business as usual until we reach a point of no return.

If you add salt to the water, it will not boil at 100C at 1 atmospheric pressure but slightly at a higher temperature. It is high school physics. When the salinity of the ocean increases from 35,000ppm to 50,000ppm, does it not affect the evaporation of the sea, which condenses into a cloud and come back as a rain? Does it mean there will be less precipitation in the future? Even if the ocean is under constant circulation, the overall salinity level keeps increasing.

Water makes up seventy-one percent of the planet earth and ninety-eight percent of it makes up the ocean.  It is a single source of water for all forms of life on earth and it also plays an important role in climate changes in the atmosphere. Ocean is the biggest heat sink and absorbs sun’s heat and also a carbon sink absorbing excess carbon dioxide from atmosphere. The surface temperature of seawater is warmer than the temperature at the bottom of the ocean. Sun supplies solar energy to the ocean. In fact the water temperature in Deep Ocean is about 15-20C less than the surface temperature, and it is used as a working fluid to cool buildings by evaporative cooling without using any electricity like commercial air-conditioning.

OTEC (ocean thermal energy conversion) system is a potential method of generating power using the temperature gradient between ocean’s surface water and ocean’s deep water. A temperature difference, as small as 15 -20C is enough to generate power using Kalina cycle, like geothermal energy systems. Commercial plants using this technology are already in operation in few countries. The biggest advantage with open cycle ocean thermal energy conversion system is the fresh water (desalinated ocean water) as a by-product. This technology is unique because it can generate not only power but also drinking water from sea without polluting the air with greenhouse gas emissions. In fact this technology should be deployed commercially is many islands around the world, where there is always a demand for power and drinking water.

“Water, water, everywhere but not a drop to drink”. It is the situation in many islands and many parts of the world. Islands like Maldives and Mauritius should adopt this technology to generate power and supply drinking water without burning fossil fuels like diesel or setting up desalination plants. Of course, the economy of scale and finance is an issue in many islands.

PNG (Papua New Guinea) is one of the biggest islands in Pacific Ocean where there is s severe shortage of   power and water. The country is endowed with rich minerals, oil and gas but the basic necessity like power and water are in short supply. OTEC will be an ideal solution for such islands. Fresh water supply is going to be a major issue in parts of the world due to global warming and climate changes. In countries like India, drinking water is in short supply and a number of seawater desalination plants are coming up. Bottled waters are expensive and unaffordable to a common man. This will only increase the power requirements in the country when there is already a massive shortage of power. OTEC is an ideal solution for India with its long coastal line.

One of the major issues with current power generation technologies is the pollution. In any combustion process involving fossil fuel the combustion products like carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and Oxides of Nitrogen (the greenhouse gases) will contribute global warming. What is the level of such emission and how fast the globe is warming is a futile argument. The pollution can be small in term of PPM (parts per million) but the cumulative effects over several decades is a major issue and that cannot be simply dismissed. There are many places where the Arsenic content in drinking water is above certain acceptable levels (only in ppms) but such small excess cause debilitating health conditions. This is the same argument with greenhouse emission and global warming. It can be gradual and insignificant but it will reach a tipping point and dramatic changes can happen all of a sudden. Nature has got its own mechanism to adjust any imbalances and keep up certain equilibrium. But humans cannot take them for granted and pollute the air and water indiscriminately. There will be a price to pay.

 

Ocean is the largest and inexhaustible source of Hydrogen. Currently Caustic soda plants use sodium chloride (salt) brine as the raw material for conversion into Caustic soda; the by-products are Hydrogen and Chlorine. Caustic soda plants are currently using Hydrogen as a fuel or use to manufacture Hydrochloric acid. They can generate on site power using Hydrogen to offset their energy cost. In both water electrolysis as well as brine electrolysis, Hydrogen is a product and Ocean water is the largest source of such Hydrogen. In fact countries should generate Hydrogen using desalinated water and OTEC power. The stored Hydrogen is a stored energy that can be used as and when required. That is why we believe ‘water and energy are two sides of the same coin’.

 

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