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How far can you transport steam?

06/17/2007 8:03 PM

The oil sands extraction plants in Northern Alberta are massive users of natural gas to generate steam for the various extraction processes. Some involve mining and extraction plants, others involve in situ heating of the bitumen by injecting steam into wells and extracting the bitumen from near by wells.

It has been suggested that construction of CANDU nuclear plants could reduce the green house gas generation and save the natural gas for markets like the United States. One of the problems is the distances over which the various projects are distributed and the ability to pipe steam over long distances.

How far can steam be transported by pipelines? Given the environmentally friendly nature of nuclear generated electricity, are electrically powered steam boilers practical on an industrial scale? The intent is to minimize the number of nuclear plants required or to maximize the effectiveness of a single one as I realize that electricity can probably be transmitted more efficiently over long distances than steam.

I apologize, that was two questions.

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#1

Re: How far can you transport steam?

06/18/2007 11:13 PM

all depends on the intended use and pressure-low pressure steam (15PSI)is used for heating buildings a fair distance away and higher pressure is generally reserved for power plants and folks like utilities con ed that sell steam for heating buildings at a large scale at low psi.

it all depends on the end user and potential energy losses from a to b.

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#2

Re: How far can you transport steam?

06/19/2007 1:30 AM

1- Transport "electricity" from a central nuclear power station to the location and generate steam locally. It is comparatively cheaper.

2- If the whole pipe is a heater, steam can be transported to any distance. It is costly.

3- Alberta is a cold place. however it has sunshine. Use solar power and generate power locally. In Alberta it will be about 600 watts/square meter. The running cost will be low.

Regards

Helping hand

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#4
In reply to #2

Re: How far can you transport steam?

06/19/2007 3:53 AM

Not only does Alberta have Cold winters but depending on where you are in the province you may only have 6-8 hours of daylight in the winter. In the summer we have so much daylight that it is almost impossible to get young children to bed.


Solar is a non starter in many parts of this province.

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#13
In reply to #4

Re: How far can you transport steam?

06/20/2007 2:46 AM

Solar energy need sunlight. The Place where oil Sand is available is Calgary. Long days means long hours of solar energy.

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#22
In reply to #13

Re: How far can you transport steam?

06/21/2007 7:07 PM

The oil sands are not in Calgary, they are at least 400 miles further north where winter days are very short and solar is a non-starter. It is to expensive to be of much use to anybody anyway. Especially when compared to the volumes of cheap energy available from a nuclear power plant.

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#23
In reply to #2

Re: How far can you transport steam?

06/21/2007 7:11 PM

As previously stated the oil sands are located in an area that has very short winter days so there is not much solar energy available. In Edmonton where I live we have 6-8 hours of daylight during the winter and the oil sands are another 240 miles north of here so the winter days will be even shorter, and the summer days even longer.

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#3

Re: How far can you transport steam?

06/19/2007 3:29 AM

One of the phenomenal rack railways in Switzerland has recently commissioned two new steam lcomotives that are 'fired', for want of a better word, using electric current fed from the existing overhead wire.

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#5

Re: How far can you transport steam?

06/19/2007 5:24 AM

Has anyone considered using the natural thermal heat available a few thousand feet directly under the site. In Cornwall (UK) they drilled deep holes to extract natural heat via recirculating water from the surface. I don't know how advanced this technology is but it seems a good way for a mining Company to get steam for this particular process.

Come to think of it why isn't the Earth's natural core energy being used for the benefit of us surface dwellers?? Just think of the energy savings.

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#6
In reply to #5

Re: How far can you transport steam?

06/19/2007 7:52 AM

I was wondering, if we all using thermal heat wouldn't this cool down the earth? Wouldn't this be good to compensate global warming? In the worse case, going back to the ice age?

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#7
In reply to #6

Re: How far can you transport steam?

06/19/2007 9:21 AM

I think you should keep in mind a bit more about proportion. Abel ; )

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#28
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Re: How far can you transport steam?

06/25/2007 1:07 PM

It would very marginally cool the rock formations in the region where the heat was extracted. Overall, energy converted to electricity nearly all eventually ends up as heat at ground level - so no significant benefit other than replacing generation that would otherwise produce greenhouse gases.

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#29
In reply to #28

Re: How far can you transport steam?

06/26/2007 9:14 AM

What if any effects does heat extraction have on the stability of the geological formations?

in northern california, in a town called geyeserville, it seems to have increased the frequency of earthquakes.

careful study should be undertaken in unstable regions.

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#30
In reply to #29

Re: How far can you transport steam?

06/26/2007 12:56 PM

If the increased frequency of earthquakes at Geyserville is due either to more localised stress concentrations or to improved lubrication of the fault, the increase in frequency would tend to be accompanied by a decrease in magnitude. That is, in the past you might not have had earthquakes for hundreds of years, but then there could have been a relatively large one. That may not be such a bad trade-off.

On the other hand, the earthquakes could be due to the high temperature differentials and erosion caused by evaporating waste water. That would be a real downside - but at least their sizes are likely to be relatively small.

I'd be interested to know...

Fyz

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#8
In reply to #5

Re: How far can you transport steam?

06/19/2007 11:15 AM

There are geothermal power plants but they are not that many in the US comparison to coal, water and natural gas. One that I know of is in Mammoth Lakes, CA. It's an extinct volcano. If this is a requirement, that would explain why there aren't too many around in the US.

Residential heat pump applications are becoming more prevalent. However, they are still expensive upwards of $20,000 for conventional systems and more depending on how deep you need to drill. Here's an article from the San Francisco Chronicle:

http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2001/07/14/HO121723.DTL

You can find a lot more information with a quick google.

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#14
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Re: How far can you transport steam?

06/20/2007 3:33 AM

Thermal wells do produce megawatts, in alberta they need gigawatts.

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#15
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Re: How far can you transport steam?

06/20/2007 3:37 AM

"An ocean is made of a large number of droplets, Grasshopper."

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#17
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Re: How far can you transport steam?

06/20/2007 3:43 AM

Yes, but a thermal extraction does use the heat of the earth of several square miles.

You will not be able to put another one just a mile from the first.

A thermal well is only active for approx 30 years, then it needs to recover for 100 years. Unless you drill above an hot spot but there the heat is usually available on the surface.

You should start thinking: can we get more energy out of the oil sands than the energy it costs to get it out?

Is it all worth it?

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#25
In reply to #5

Re: How far can you transport steam?

06/22/2007 3:29 AM

According to the news this morning, it seems that the most likely energy source for Cornwall in the future is the heat from arson attacks on buildings...

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#9

Re: How far can you transport steam?

06/19/2007 11:21 AM

Steam pipelines can be extended to a few kilometers as long as you use "hot insulation" characterized by suitable type, sufficient thickness, and its good heat resistance, and using the optimum type of steam traps to discharge the condensed steam.

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#10

Re: How far can you transport steam?

06/19/2007 1:50 PM

it depends on your cost objective. The cost of high pressure (2500 #(hot) steam distribution piping is very high. High alloy is necessary for strength, and expansion loops are also significant issues.

Also, 'STEAM FLOODING' is really mixed steam/hot water. The 'beauty' of the ubiquitous oil field 'steam generator' is it easily handles high TDS feed water because it generates 80-90 % quality 'steam'.

'Conventional' high pressure boilers require high purity feedwater and one-way total loss of the clean condensate results in very high water treating costs.

What would probably work better is distribution of high temperature 'hot oil' or molten salt to local steam generators. Piping costs would be much much lower. Even though some heat efficiency is lost due to the 2 stage heat transfer, and additional heat exchange area, this will be much lower total installed cost and much safer too.

Long distance distribution of high pressure steam is not really attractive due to piping costs.


A high quality engineering 'FEED' project was performed by Bechtel in the early 80's for Lagoven (Venezuelan oil company prior to PdVSA) for development of the heavy oil deposits in the Orinico. Local 'oil field' steam generators were much lower costs in all ways.

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#11

Re: How far can you transport steam?

06/19/2007 1:50 PM

There is already a lot of research going on into geothermal energy which shows that deep drilling 2 to 6km into granite will produce Hot Rocks at 200 degrees Celsius sufficient to prove several megawatts of energy on the surface. You can read more at:

http://www.ncl.ac.uk/press.office/newslink/index.html?ref=1181137200

and the latest EU project at:

www.soultz.net

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#12

Re: How far can you transport steam?

06/19/2007 3:46 PM

Trivia

In the early 30s on up to the later 80s, I know for sure that the entire downtown Rochester New York area was heated by steam from the local power company. Also parts of the Eastman Kodak plant and Gerber Foods were steam heated. The steam was generated at the RG&E station 3 river falls plant, sent through two topping turbines to make electricity and lower the pressure and then sent out for heating all the buildings. In the buildings there were conventional radiators where the steam was condensed. The condensate was routed through a special condensate water meter and the customer was billed by the number of pounds of condensate water that went through the meter. There were several miles of insulated steam pipes under the streets. If water leaked into the manhole and came in contact with the hot steam pipe it would boil off and make steam come up from out of the pavement, especially in winter. About every manhole there had to be an expansion loop. Its supprising how much longer a steam pipe gets when it's hot. I suspect some form of this installation is still in operation but by now the equipment must have been replaced.

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#16

Re: How far can you transport steam?

06/20/2007 3:37 AM

Electric tracing and your line will be functional forever.

We are able to heat 30km from one feed point.

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#18

Re: How far can you transport steam?

06/20/2007 11:14 AM

I see a lot of conjecture and hopeful thinking. Hard engineering and economic analysis showed central highpressure steam generator (irrespective of fuel source) a poor choice due to the high cost of the high pressure distribution piping. Long distance steam delivery in arctic conditions is not simple. The distribution piping has to be kept dry to avoid destructive liquid hammer. One cannot simply vent condensate from traps -it quickly freezes up at the outlet and plugs. (-60 F with 40 MPH wind conducts a lot of heat!) Electrical tracing will not work because the operating temperature is too high and the electrical insulation fails.

Molten salt (or molten metal such as sodium) is technically and economically preferred. However, there is significant perception of detrimental factors that are not true.

Molten sodium was the coolant in the first commercial nuclear power plant and demonstrated over 40 years of trouble-free operation.

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#19
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Re: How far can you transport steam?

06/21/2007 3:36 AM

Here I have to stop you: Electrical tracing will not work because the operating temperature is too high and the electrical insulation fails.

Yoe need to install a proper heater from a decent quality.

You are right in the condensate traps: impossible to prevent the condensate from freezing when leaving the outlet.

Another problem with steam is that you need to get the condensate back in the boiler as this water is of the right quality. Or you need to make the correct water each time again.

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#20
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Re: How far can you transport steam?

06/21/2007 3:48 AM

Another problem with steam is that you need to get the condensate back in the boiler as this water is of the right quality. Or you need to make the correct water each time again.

In 1994, the cost to a nearby factory of producing boiler-feed-quality water from town mains at ambient temperature came in at about £0.6 Sterling per tonne. The value of hot condensate of the same quality as a substitute feed at 90degC came in at over £1.6 Sterling per tonne once the energy value was added to it. The difference in value at the steam production rates then was sufficient to justify the spending of over £100K Sterling on piping additions and alterations, and the installation of new condensate return sets across a number of buildings.

Today it would be called "recycling".

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#21
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Re: How far can you transport steam?

06/21/2007 3:52 AM

You will need to trace this condensate return, no problem for me.

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#24
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Re: How far can you transport steam?

06/21/2007 7:17 PM

In this case the condensate can not be reused because it will be mixed with sand and heavy oil. It is currently a once through process using natural gas to produce the steam. Some natural gas is also reformed to get the H2 necessary to upgrade the bitumen. The result is lots and lots of CO2.

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#26
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Re: How far can you transport steam?

06/22/2007 3:58 AM

As I asked before: is it all worth it?

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#27
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Re: How far can you transport steam?

06/22/2007 10:01 AM

Currently both the oil companies and the government are making money, so it must be worth it. The question is whether or not there is a better way with less environmental impact.

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