Vegetable oil or Nuclear fission

Against the backdrop of the comfortable references commonly made to how plentiful hydrogen is, I think the real challenges to producing hydrogen fuel in an efficient, industrialized manner is seriously under-estimated and under-reported.

Most of the people I talk to in the Superconductor and Energy communities assert that generating sufficient hydrogen fuel manufacturing capacity can only happen in one way. Renewable energy, for all its advances, still faces massive challenges to offering the enormous additional capacity that is project for the next 30 years. More feasible solutions such as “sustainable” energy all center on fusion (distant future) and 4th Generation fission (near-mid future) nuclear energy concepts.

A paper by France’s nuclear research center, CEA, discussing promising technologies for 4th-generation nuclear system, states: “A clean fuel hydrogen clearly has a bright future. There is one condition: the development of production processes that are less polluting than the ones used today, which consume lower amounts of hydrocarbons and generate less greenhouse gases.”

The paper continues: “Among the twenty major categories of concept being considered, six have already been chosen as deserving of public research support for their development. Among them, the two most advanced steps in the range of gas reactors being studied by the CEA are the extremely high temperature reactor for producing hydrogen and the fast neutron/complete recycling system for sustainable energy development.”

Looking to nuclear to fuel the future makes sense: it is very hard to imagine where the trillions of extra kilowatt hours are going to come from at all, let alone from very poorly understood technologies from equally poorly understood markets. However, the uncertainty is not grounds for caving in to the pro-nuclear juggernaut.

To give just one example of the hundreds of alternatives that should be evaluated, funded, and pursued, the other day I came across an interesting study: Renewable hydrogen from nonvolatile fuels by reactive flash volatilization.

Converting renewable fuels such as vegetable oils or biodiesel into hydrogen or “synthesis gas” (hydrogen mixed with carbon monoxide) without the buildup of unwanted carbon. The hydrogen could be used for fuel cells and on- board combustion in low-emission vehicles, and the synthesis gas can be used to produce larger molecules, including synthetic liquid fuels and chemicals. The low volatility of these biofuel feedstocks not only leads to soot production when they are used directly in internal combustion engines but also causes them to coat industrial catalysts with a deactivating layer of carbon, thus hindering their conversion to lighter products. James Richard Salge and colleagues show that if heavy fuels such as soy oil or biodiesel are sprayed onto hot rhodium-cerium catalysts as fine droplets in the presence of oxygen, the fuels can self-heat and fully react to form hydrogen without carbon formation and catalyst deactivation.

Mark Bitterman, Executive Editor, Superconductor Week

4 replies
  1. fakir005
    fakir005 says:

    The Blog is totally correct. First the Land is even more scarec than the petroleum. It would be more profitable to develop it for condominiums. As a matter of Fact some company but a department store Lord and Tayler for just under $1.6 Billion. The new Owners are looking for new uses for the land the Department Store is built on. Thee owners think they can immediately turn a profit by making a hotel or or condominiums. They are not thinking of closing the department Store. Only moving it into a smaller less expensive location. May be they would make more profit if they reduced their advertising costs by renting pixels at Sites like PIXELS HOMEPAGE instead of utilizing pay per click ads.

  2. chalacuna
    chalacuna says:

    Personally i prefer vegetable oil and other biofuels. It is much safer compared to Nuclear plants.Yes its true that land is limited, but if we try to see beyond the cities.. thousands of acres of barren lands. If only we could use it to propagate oil producing crops such as peanuts, beans,and other plants which could be converted as biofuels then it would be reasonable enough to for vegetable oil.

  3. ..
    .. says:

    Land needs to be conserved in its undeveloped state to preserve biodiversity.Also, expansion of agriculture to produce fuel crops implies additional pesticide usage. By contrast, wind turbines don't need pesticides, and wind turbines can be erected on land that is already being used as pasture or cropland. In other words, the land becomes dual-use. Nuclear energy and wind have a much smaller "footprint" on the landscape than would biofuels projects.

  4. 1st Choice Grease
    1st Choice Grease says:

    Vegetable or any kind of cooking oil has other uses, thanks to concerned citizens and scientists who have discovered new ways on how to make use of recycled cooking oil.
    New researches are very promising as more people look for ways on how to combat various economic and environmental problems that we face today.

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