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"Farming" Natural Gas... Your Thoughts?

01/08/2007 12:52 PM

CR4 Members - I would like your comments on a process that involves employing various, naturally occuring consortia of microbes to generate Methane gas from hydrocarbon rich geologic formations. The process goes generally like this:

1) Identify Under-Utilized Hydrocarbon Rich Zone (Depleted Oil Producing Formation, Coal, Oil/Tar Sand, Shale)

2) Inocculate the Zone with Known Methanogenic Microbe Consortium

3) Supplement the Microbes with Nutrients

4) Collect the Methane Produced

The workings of methanogenic microbes are very evident daily to each of us and are the same are culprits when considering greenhouse emmissions from cattle, etc. Same idea here as Biomass Digesters. One interesting thing about biogenic production of Methane (most Natural Gas is thermogenic in nature?) is the possibility of converting previously un-recoverable (technologically or economically) stores of long hydrocarbons (Oils, Tars, Coals) into a gas that would be recoverable by means of drilling. Geologists admit that over 40-50% of all the oil in place is not recoverable and the world is rich with coal that can not be feasible mined. This may be a way to better utilize the existing production-consumption infrastructure for natural gas to produce a realativly "clean" hydrocarbon energy source until a better/cleaner energy is widely available. Might this be an "agricultural" approach to fossil fuel utilization as opposed to the current "hunter/gatherer" methods?

http://www.lucatechnologies.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=home

http://www.lucatechnologies.com/content/index.cfm?fuseaction=showContent&contentID=10&navID=10

WyoPatriot

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#1

Re: "Farming" Natural Gas... Your Thoughts?

01/09/2007 12:25 AM

It has interesting possibilities of course, like so many other things.

The biggest problem with natural gas right now isn't any supply shortage. We are presently producing (on a worldwide basis) a much larger amount than we can use. The problem is that where it is being "produced" is geographically removed from where it is "needed", or even "wanted" which results in the seeming absurdity of vast amounts of natural gas being "flamed off" at the well heads as an unwanted byproduct of many oil fields. Neither pipelines or LNG (liquified natural gas) facilities and transport technology are practical in many cases at present to connect the source to the consumer.

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#8
In reply to #1

Re: "Farming" Natural Gas... Your Thoughts?

01/09/2007 10:34 AM

Greg G,

Agreed, too many operations do waste ridiculous amounts of gas en route to producing oil. Much like skimming off the cream and dumping out the milk. In many ways handling natural gas is more difficult than handling oil. Expensive pipelines, compressor stations, and processing plants and distribution infrastructure are needed for gas, but they can just put the oil in a bucket (or super tanker) and deliver it to the market. In my experience the Canadiens are very responsible in handling how un-wanted natural gas is handled. Much of that "responsibility" is mandated by their government regulatory bodies. Fact is that it is easier (cheaper) to vent or flare the gas than deal with it properly.

WyoPatriot

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#2

Re: "Farming" Natural Gas... Your Thoughts?

01/09/2007 3:25 AM

Why is everyone always looking to harvest the fossil energy?

If we would start to harvest all the gasses that go round in sewers and water treatment plants, stop flaming off, ....

The results are gasses that can't be used to drive ICE's ,but can perfectly used to fire a boiler to generate steam for electricity and heat for household needs. (or to drive a Stirling engine)

If the basic heating of a house would be underfloor heating, the heat from condensers in electricity plants could be used to heat those houses. (40°C supply is perfect, the energy loss is less and the pipes poses no danger).

Approx 60% of the energy we use to generate electricity is exhausted to the environment. At the same time, we start to burn more oil and gas to heat our houses. (or some really intelligent people do it with electricity)

For remote locations small CHP systems can solve a lot of problems.

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#3
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Re: "Farming" Natural Gas... Your Thoughts?

01/09/2007 7:14 AM

I used to design and build large stirling engine to be powered by natural gas from landfill sites and sewerage. I was living in Norway at the time, and as there is very little earth covering there the landfill sites were put in old quarries. The Norwegians had a problem with this as a lot of the gas produced by anaerobic bacteria would leak through natural cracks in the rocks and into houses and factories, the result was that the gasses would explode. The Norwgians then sunk wells into landfill sites to collect these gasses and burn them off. As most landfill sites in Norway have administrastive offices, I explained to them that using a stirling engine heated by these gasses would produce all the electricity and hot water they needed. I demonstrated this to them by doing just that. The cooling water for the stirling engine once it has passed through the engine heated the offices during the winter period, and as the stiling engine was coupled to an alternator they had more than enough electricity than they needed. Someone, I couldn't figure out who, leaned on the company so they abandoned the experiment after six months. Since then, in Viborg in Denmark they have produced a very sucsessful plant with a stirling engine using landfill gas. If anybody would like a copy of the plans and subsiquent experiment then I will copy them for you. I would also like a reply to this comment.

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#4
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Re: "Farming" Natural Gas... Your Thoughts?

01/09/2007 7:43 AM

Do you know about the projects that are subsidized by the EU to install CHP systems in your private house?

It is a Stirling engine of 3 or 5 kW mechanical output, heated by natural gas. There are also experiments set up to organise a distributed production of electricity (1000 houses in a Dutch village, should start up this year)

Farmers could easily do this and I would assume that some of them do, they are master in survival and getting EU funding.

I'm interested to investigate to do some business in this domain. For me this is the way to cope with the energy shortage that will surely be created when all the nuclear fission plants need to shut down after 40 years of service.

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#9
In reply to #4

Re: "Farming" Natural Gas... Your Thoughts?

01/09/2007 10:50 AM

Yes, here in the UK we also have such a system. It is comprised of a gas water heater for both hot water and house heating,the residual heat is used to heat a stirling engine to produce electricity. In 1986 I made such a system myself and installed it in my house, it was a success. But as I could not get either state or EU funding I had to abandon the project to produce these units for domestic use. Wherever I went to seek funds I was told that the system was unfeasable, but I knew that one day a someone with money and clout would succeed. I also installed a stirling engine in my 32ft sea going boat, this power of this unit was 22bhp. It was an alpha type stirling engine with four cylinders, and the fuel was bottled gas (propane). If you would like any more details about these projects then I will gladly supply them to you.

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#10
In reply to #3

Re: "Farming" Natural Gas... Your Thoughts?

01/09/2007 11:12 AM

Scapolie,

Sounds like you had a very nice project in place, foolish of them to discontinue it once already up and running. I do work in the oil and gas industry, I hope that does not disqualify me from speaking on this topic in the minds of some.

I have worked on a similiar project that used stand-alone (not grid connected) microturbines to generate electricity from methane gas vented off ahead of coal mining operations in NE Wyoming. The microturbines worked well in that they had the ability to efficiently burn fuels with widely varying heat value (300 btu/ft3 to 1400 btu/ft3) and composition (up to 30% H2S). These would work equally well with land fill gas I think.

Coal mining is BIG business where I live. Wyoming produces ~ 35% of U.S. coal with 90% of that total being mined within a half hour drive of my home. http://www.nma.org/pdf/c_production_state_rank.pdf Coal currently accounts for ~ 48% of total U.S. electricity generation. http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/electricity/epa/epat1p1.html

Recovering methane gas ahead of the mining operations was once integral with the mining, but now has become a separate and distinct business.

WyoPatriot

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#20
In reply to #10

Re: "Farming" Natural Gas... Your Thoughts?

01/09/2007 12:21 PM

Wyopatriot Thankyou for your reply, and no it doesn't disqualify from speaking on this topic topic. I really like your idea about the micro-turbines it sounds great to me. As an engineer with knowledge about gas turbines I am very iterested in your project. In 1979 a friend of mine had constructed a 18ft speed boat and was thinking along the same lines as you for his power plant, but was unable to find or buy one. I procured a turbo charger fro a small Datsun (now nissan) car, to this I added a combustion chamber. I then coupled a reduction gear to the whole assembly, it worked like a dream. The speed boat reached speeds of 48knots. So I wish you all the best in your project

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#23
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Re: "Farming" Natural Gas... Your Thoughts?

01/09/2007 1:10 PM

WyoPatriot. If you contact me by e-mail then I will gladly help you. My e-mail address is: garnets@blueyonder.co.uk

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#24
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Re: "Farming" Natural Gas... Your Thoughts?

01/09/2007 1:29 PM

WyoPatriot. For the last 70 years there have been vast improvements on stirling engines, read the book; Stirling engines by G. Walker, ISBN 0-19-856209-8. Using exotic materials they can be up to 40% efficient. Some of my best engines were 36% efficient, but it is difficult to obtain this without pressureising the engine. To produce an efficient engine you will also need a high delta-T, where the combustion of the gasses is about 1000k and the heat sink as near as possible to 300K, thus giving a delta-T of about 700 degrees celcius.

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#13
In reply to #3

Re: "Farming" Natural Gas... Your Thoughts?

01/09/2007 11:22 AM

Hi, I would be very interested in getting in touch with you. We are looking at developing large format Stirling Engines and I would be keen to understand what you did in Norway. I also worked and lived there for a while. Send me an e-mail with your contact details please to alfrobertson@northeastenergy.eu

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#6
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Re: "Farming" Natural Gas... Your Thoughts?

01/09/2007 10:21 AM

Gwen,

All of your points are well taken. Let me elaborate on one of my previous statements, "the possibility of converting previously un-recoverable (technologically or economically) stores of long hydrocarbons (Oils, Tars, Coals) into a gas that would be recoverable by means of drilling."

I should have noted that the promise I see in this technology is in fully utilizing the energy sources (particularly oil) that have already been drilled. There are hundreds of thousands of dry, inactive, or "stripper" (very low production volume) wells out there that in fact still have 40-50% of the orriginal oil still in place. This oil is not revoverable with todays methods or the oil companies would get it out.

It seems that the vast amount of energy that is left behind by current production methods could be recovered by converting it to gas. I am all for that when considering that so many of the wells, production facilities, pipelines, etc. are already in place (no additional drilling or other impacts should be required). These old wells get plugged and abandoned with lots of oil still in the ground and that is a shame.

WyoPatriot

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#12
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Re: "Farming" Natural Gas... Your Thoughts?

01/09/2007 11:22 AM

You are right: Before going to North Alaska or deep water wells we should try to get the energy out of the existing wells, who are closer to the consumers.

I recently did a design for the heat tracing of a 3000m deep water well, personally I think it is stupid but with barrel prices going over $70 and some producing countries promising $100 it starts to be attractive.

These farmed gasses are usually not from that quality that they can be transported over long lines (that is also why they flare off) or pressurized by compressors.

But as there are pipe lines transporting gas over the seabed, offshore produced electricity can easily be transported to the mainland.

Global energy is of big importance today, looking to the responds of the threads.

Gwen

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#25
In reply to #2

Re: "Farming" Natural Gas... Your Thoughts?

01/12/2007 10:22 PM

Gwen:

The obvious problem is the cost of the insulated piping networks, with pumps, valves, meters etc etc.

By suggesting 40°C temperature water, you have solved one problem but added another bigger one: To move heat in the form of hot water, you have a choice of "high" temperature water at a "low" flowrate, or lower temperature water at a higher flowrate. To move a given quantity of heat that is the tradeoff. High flowrates mean larger pipes, bigger pumps, etc etc. You need an acceptable heat gradient between the water temp and the room temp in order to deliver enough heat in the building, and when you have cooled your supply water below that temp it is useless for further heating so you either have to discharge it or pipe it back to the CHP. Generally, therefore much higher water temperatures, or steam are indicated for maximum efficiency.

However I grasp the point you were trying to make and it is a valid one: how can we utilize "low quality" waste heat? The best answer is that if and when it becomes economic to do so we will. Increasingly tighter environmental related legislation and higher penalties on waste are political mechanisms that will skew the economics in that direction, above and beyond just the cost of fuel.

We have no energy crisis in terms of ever running out of sources, just a temporary "crisis" involving our present reliance on fossil fuels, their escalating costs, and the pollution caused by their utilization with present technologies. Things will likely get worse before they get better, but have no doubt they will get better. In my youth, no one talked about environmental issues and now it is a very big topic. What I'm trying to say is that we have a self correcting mechanism that when we screw things up so bad we can't ignore it, we fix it. We have already reached the point of "can't ignore it" so after a few more years of stumbling around, wringing our hands we will start to fix it. It won't be the world we knew as children, but in many ways it will be "better" than it is now. We are already cleaning our rivers, punishing polluters, eliminating ozone depleting fluorocarbons etc etc. The progress is uneven, and sometimes one step forward and two back, but we are increasingly focusing our attention on our use of energy and stewardship of our planet and overall moving in the right direction. Conservation will play a huge role, and I don't mean by living in cold, dark houses and pedaling a bike to work.

We all fall prey to the mist of "history in the making". I think people a century from now will look back on our time as one where we started to address the issues of energy and the environment in a responsible global way. Humankind has never done that before (no doubt in large part because we never had to, but also because we were never able to).

I enjoy reading your posts!

Regards,

Greg

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#29
In reply to #25

Re: "Farming" Natural Gas... Your Thoughts?

01/15/2007 2:59 AM

Good morning Greg,

Your points were of a high validity: CHP isn't used on a large scale as it costs to much on install base.

It has been tried and executed several times but the systems are difficult to maintain.

To get an economical balance point between water temperature and piping size the choice for steam/boiling water is made very quickly.

The efficiency of the thermal conversion is going down so it is not wanted by the energy producing companies; Why would you install a system that costs an enormous amount of money, and takes down the efficiency of your complete installation?

The way Seaplaneguy tries to sell his system is much different: distributed production. Produce your heat where you need it: in the houses. There where you can profit of the low quality heat in adopted water-room heat exchangers (floor heating, ...)

Where I live (Belgium) hot water distribution is not used or a relique of the past. (fed by high efficiency gas boilers as the electricity production has been stopped a long time ago) We also tend to live distributed, we all want our garden and driveway. High rise is only used to home the poor. The problems of low quality heat distribution are even higher: long pipes and low interest in decent maintenance as the poor tend to have a low voice/importance.

I like to communicate positively, and I don't like the rude language that sometimes is used. Everyone has the right to express his opinion, nobody has to agree. And a good laugh is never wrong.

Regards, Gwen

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#5

Re: "Farming" Natural Gas... Your Thoughts?

01/09/2007 10:06 AM

In the USA, farming subsidies are allocated by size...the bigger the farm/farm corporation, the more subsidy you get. This obviously distorts market forces so that small farms are nearly untenable; only corporations large enough to make campaign donations can survive. Actually, it works like this in most parts of the world for obvious reasons...politicians like corporations large enough to make campaign donations.

So small farm owners make their real money on the side; often with trucking, driving a school bus, or in my case, medical product development. There are far more poor farmers than rich farm corporations. There is no seed money other than what comes out of the poor bloke's pocket. So here's the question:

Does anybody have plans for onsite power generation that can be cobbled together with chewing gum and bailing wire?

Is there an inexpensive way to turn agricultural, poultry/livestock waste into useable energy?

I'd be happy to work with somebody to develop something...

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#7
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Re: "Farming" Natural Gas... Your Thoughts?

01/09/2007 10:27 AM

I'm not sure if they still exist, but there was a magazine called "Mother Earth News" that did an occaisional book - one of their books was titled something like "Handbook to homemade energy" - in it they discussed methane production from animal waste, specifically from hogs. It is something that supposedly was done quite extensively in Australia, though I don't know if they still make much that way. The initial outlay can be quite expensive, but you can start small and work up. The big hog farms had concrete digesters they loaded with fresh manure (they left a small amount of feedstock from the last batch to start the next batch) - it can make quite a bit of heat but adding external heat can speed the process up quite a bit. After a bit of digesting, you have pretty high grade methane coming out, used on the farm for heating, generating electricity, powering vehicles I presume, a little to run the burners under the digesters, etc.

I am surprised that in a state like North Carolina where there are more hogs than people, the farmers are trying to figure what to do with the manure instead of building some digesters. Remember the floods a few years ago, when the manure lagoons washed away and polluted downstream to the Atlantic?

I understand the initial capital outlay could be tremendous, but aren't we already paying to have it hauled away anyway? At least if we digest it first, we can make the fuel to haul the leftovers away! Seriously, we have a huge resource at our fingertips that we just throw away.

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#11

Re: "Farming" Natural Gas... Your Thoughts?

01/09/2007 11:13 AM

Regarding the difficulty of capturing natural gas at remote production sites...

Are there any feasible ways to convert natural gas to another form that would be more convenient to handle and transport?

I'm not a chemist or an engineer but it seems that, perhaps, a processor might be designed which could chemically convert natural gas into a liquid hydrocarbon. Even if the process were not especially efficient, using gas that would otherwise be wasted as a power source might offer a better route of recovery than compression.

I do not know what the minimum size requirement would be but, for production sites within reasonable reach of a rail line, a processing center that could be constructed on one or multiple linked rail cars might be a solution. Some combination of a spur line from the main railway to host the processing cars, at whatever length was justified, and piping from the wellhead(s) could be constructed to link the supply and the processing center.

Any merit to this?

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#14
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Re: "Farming" Natural Gas... Your Thoughts?

01/09/2007 11:27 AM

The process is called Liquefaction. (I'm not sure on the englisch)

But as stated earlier: the gas need to be of a decent quality.

The LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas) importance is growing by the day.

There are floating tanks planned for the coast of Italy and California, The liquefied gas is transported around the globe in tankers.

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#16
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Re: "Farming" Natural Gas... Your Thoughts?

01/09/2007 11:34 AM

Are you familiar with the extraction and use of methane generated in landfills. The gas is often flared but frequently is scrubbed and used in the power generation industry.

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#17
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Re: "Farming" Natural Gas... Your Thoughts?

01/09/2007 11:44 AM

I'm not that familiar with the complete technique but I do know that even in landfills they stock the gas and analyze it before they decide what to do with it. (Using in a gas engine or flare off)

It is through the gas IC engine that I touched the subject.

But I think that a Stirling engine could do something with the energy of a flare.

Those off shore flares are extremely powerful.

I once happened to be below a flare in the harbour when there was snow: the snow melted by the heat of the 180m high emergency flare tower.

There once was a time that Propylene was flared off: nobody could do something with it. Now they have to crack NAFTA to have sufficient Propylene for the PP production.

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#19
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Re: "Farming" Natural Gas... Your Thoughts?

01/09/2007 12:06 PM

It becomes a matter of economics. The majority of landfill gas collection systems I have been associated with are remote and do not generate the quality or quantity of methane to support use. Nonetheless the gas is monitored in place for safety reasons, collected and flared where necessary. Where it is attractive is in landfills colocated with power generation facilities and direct piping is practical. BTU's are BTU's after all.

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#21
In reply to #14

Re: "Farming" Natural Gas... Your Thoughts?

01/09/2007 12:48 PM

Standard liquefaction of natural gas (essentially, chilling the gas below its boiling point so that it is in a liquid state) is not what I was referring to. I understand that process and appreciate the complexities of chilling and transporting the chilled liquid methane. My question, rather, was whether there might be a chemical process that would convert gaseous methane into something useful but simpler to transport, such as methanol.

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#15

Re: "Farming" Natural Gas... Your Thoughts?

01/09/2007 11:33 AM

Your thinking in principle is great but is your problem not that methanogenic bacteria are essentially aerobic while your typical downhole and formation environment is anaerobic. In fact it is a common late life problem in producing reservoirs which have sea water injection - you get SRB' - sulphate reducing bacteria, naturally occurring which find themsleves in an ideal environment and strat producing loads of H2S which isnt good for prduction pipework to say the least. It is flammable but not much good to you nonetheless.

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#18
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Re: "Farming" Natural Gas... Your Thoughts?

01/09/2007 11:50 AM

Alf robertson,

I am not an expert but I believe methanogens (different consortia or strains) are viable in both areobe and anerobe environmnets. Google "aerobic methanogen" and "anaerobic methanogen" and each yeild lots of information. The USGS has done research in indentifying and quantifying natural gas sources that are known to be biogenic in nature and in anaerobic environments. They have even distributed some grant money to study the process put forth in this thread to produce "new" gas in "real time".

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#22
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Re: "Farming" Natural Gas... Your Thoughts?

01/09/2007 12:52 PM

alf robertson. I am sorry about my mistake, it should have read; Anaerobic. In Norway we compressed and cooled the gas before cleaning it. Also as the heater head of the stirling engine was constructed of acid resistant cobalt-stainless steel we did not have a problem of corrotion caused by H2S.

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#26

Re: "Farming" Natural Gas... Your Thoughts?

01/13/2007 4:06 PM

Would you say over time this would become a self sustaining cycle with infinite productive capabilities?

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#27
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Re: "Farming" Natural Gas... Your Thoughts?

01/14/2007 7:53 AM

ISO Retired. The answer is, that it would go a long way to minimising the output of methane gasses escaping into the atmosphere, while at the same time producing energy. If we were to collect 50-60% of bio fuels including sewerage, we could produce an awfull lot of electricity, while at the same time cutting down on greenhouse gasses. The collected or generated gasses cannot be used to fuel a conventional IC or diesel engine satisfactorily, because these gasses are very dirty. But using a stirling engine is a different matter. In a stirling engine combustion chamber or burner these gasses are burned at a greater temperature than in any IC or diesel engine, typically--1000-1400 degrees celcius. At these temperatures, such chemicals as H2S which is a component of bio-gas are broken down and burned, thus eliminating them from the exaust and into the atmosphere. There are vast amounts of bio-fuels on this planet that every government refuses to admit to, and to which we should base one of our energy needs. I have conducted many experiments on bio-fuels using my self produced stirling engines, and I have come to the conclusion that we can sustain a viable balance between energy use and production and nature without harming our planet. The problem in this world is that we discovered oil, which in turn produced powerfull oil companies, which today do not want to relinquish this power. Most governments have their fingers in these pies that were created by oil companies, but I believe that in the 21st century we must start to realise that what was alright for the 20th century is not the solution to the 21st or the 22nd century, but we must now move on. I would appreciate your comments on this matter?

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#28
In reply to #27

Re: "Farming" Natural Gas... Your Thoughts?

01/14/2007 7:18 PM

I believe that this is part of the future for sustainable energy globally. However it is not at hand today or tomorrow but with time and along with nuclear energy the trend will change to its favor in abundance.

The time this world has depended on fossil fuel in its existence has been but a blink of the eye. From wood to coal to coal oil and then natural gas spans a length in time far greater than this upstart from crude. However those sources were long in the change from one to the other. Convenience, efficiency and cleanliness along with dwindling sources helped make those changes occur as they will for bio fuels and nuclear sources.

I believe we will not see this in our lifetime but it will come just as sure as the car replaced the horse.

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Users who posted comments:

alf robertson (2); andyhorning (1); Anonymous Poster (2); Greg G (2); Gwen.Stouthuysen (6); ISO Retired (2); Pepper (2); Scapolie (7); Sleddriver (1); WyoPatriot (4)

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