The Bullroarer - Thursday 31st July 2008

NZ National Business Review - TAG making good profit on NZ oil

The company controlling New Zealand's Cheal oilfield, oil and gas producer and explorer, TAG Oil Ltd, says it was making $US50 ($NZ68) surplus on every barrel of oil it pumped out of the field last year.

ABC - World 'needs Australia's platinum to build cleaner cars'

An Australian researcher has warned that the drive to put cleaner, hydrogen-fuelled cars on the road will stall unless new reserves of platinum are found.

Platinum is one of the key components of catalytic converters, catalysing carbon monoxide from exhaust fumes.

It is also a critical component of fuel cells for hydrogen-powered cars.
"If we go to more and more uses of platinum we're going to need more than they can produce," Professor Mavrogenes said.

"Existing reserves would meet less than 20 per cent of the world's platinum demand if all cars went hydrogen." - Marine energy generation fund open for application

Round two of the four-year government funding initiative to kick-start the deployment of marine energy generation devices in New Zealand opens today.

Energy Minister David Parker is calling for interested parties to apply for funding from the Marine Energy Deployment Fund, which is offering grants of up to $2 million a year over four years. - NZOG reports $234.6m full year revenue

New Zealand Oil and Gas (NZOG) is reporting full year revenue of $234.6 million, up from $4.2 million the year before due to earnings from the Tui area oilfields off the Taranaki coast.

NZ Herald - Not enough wind, not enough rain - TrustPower earnings slump

TrustPower says earnings will be hit by a lack of wind for its turbines and a lack of rain for its dams during the first part of this year.

Courier Mail - Qantas kicks economy passengers off flights

A NEW computer check-in system is causing chaos for Qantas passengers, with economy class customers being kicked off flights to make way for business class frequent flyers.
Dozens of travellers are being turned away at check-in desks across the country, following the launch of the new system on Saturday, The Courier-Mail reports.

The system limits seating for economy passengers to the rear of the plane - even if spare seats are available towards the front of the plane - giving priority to business class flyers.

While it has been labelled "a nightmare" by Qantas employees, bosses said it was a "supreme" way to manage bookings.

SMH - Beach Petroleum Limited Quarterly Report

A significant portion of oil hedges have been closed out, notably
for the period July to December 2008, allowing greater
exposure to potentially higher oil prices in global spot price
markets during that period, particularly noting the increasing
trend for Tapis benchmark prices to rise above WTI prices.

Otago Daily Times - Researchers say fuel will erode Air NZ profit

Air New Zealand is well placed to weather the fuel crisis affecting airlines around the world but it may come at high cost with slashed profits and a period of no dividends, a research report by brokers ABN Amro Craigs says.
Last year's after tax profit was $221 million but this year increased fuel costs are expected to be the main contributor to a 48% decline in profit to $112.8 million, followed by a further decline the following year to $95.5 million, the research forecast.

The Australian - Car tariff cuts 'no help to economy'

CUTTING tariffs and government assistance to the car industry would not benefit the wider Australian economy, according to new modelling for the sector released on the eve of the handover of the Bracks review of the sector

SMH - GE Energy to build 'clean coal' plant

Global giant GE Energy says it could build a coal-fired power station in Australia by 2015 that would be the first in the nation to bury its greenhouse gas emissions.

GE Energy is garnering support from governments and industry this week to build a commercial-scale Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC) power plant that costs about $3 billion.

If approved soon, the plant could be ready to operate in another seven years, GE Energy says.

The Age - Aircraft could flock to save fuel, says academic

AIRCRAFT flying in geese-like formation, refuelling at service stations in the sky and making extra stops over long distances have been suggested as radical ways for airlines to save fuel.

Nick Lieven, dean of engineering at Bristol University, told the Asia Pacific Aviation Conference in Sydney that such "wacky" measures could be considered if the oil price kept rising.

Professor Lieven said studies had found that "flocking" could provide a fuel saving of about 20%.

Otago Daily Times - NZ is Saudi Arabia of wind, Meridian tells hearing

New Zealand is regarded as the "Saudi Arabia of wind" and is perfect for wind farm energy production, an Environment Court appeal hearing in Cromwell was told yesterday.

Meridian Energy wind technical strategy manager Paul Botha, of Wellington, said the 92sq km site proposed for Project Hayes was one of the best he had seen in 14 years of working on wind energy projects around the world.

"Wind farm sites of the size and wind quality of Project Hayes are rare in New Zealand and internationally. I don't believe there is another site in the country which has the same or comparable qualities and is matched by only a few others in the world," he said.

The Australian - Petrol watchdog quits after 3 months

AUSTRALIA'S first petrol commissioner has resigned less than three months after taking on the job of holding retailers to account.

ABC - Keep rail fares attractive, warns Iemma

New South Wales Premier Morris Iemma has warned the pricing regulator that any discussion about train fares should focus on making it a more attractive form of transport than the car.

The Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) has recommended CityRail increase fares by 30 per cent because its costs have increased significantly, but prices have not followed suit.

ABC - Traffic expert scathing about M4 extension

The New South Wales Government is facing further criticism of its transport plans for Sydney from the man it hand-picked to help solve the city's infrastructure problems.

Otago Daily Times - Wind power key, says leading scientist

A lead New Zealand scientist believes renewable energy production can minimise risks associated with climate change, outlining his views yesterday during an Environment Court appeal hearing for the largest wind farm development in the Southern Hemisphere.

I think the article about platinum demand for hydrogen fueled cars might be exceeding the bounds of credibility - lets see a few hydrogen powered cars on the roads (and the refuelling stations fo them) before we start celebrating our fortune to be made digging up platinum...

"Existing reserves would meet less than 20 per cent of the world's platinum demand if all cars went hydrogen."

I took this a different way... this suggests to me that the "hydrogen economy tm" is not possible until we can split water without using rare metals, at room temperature, like autotrophs.

And note the simplistic argument here.

"At $2,100 an ounce - and remember that is more than twice the price of gold - at that sort of price and if it was to go higher, we could then start looking at lower grade deposits,"

This was picked up by a few astute commenters after the article... see

31 Jul 2008 1:56:01pm
If you're using platinum for fuel cells you face a number of issues:

1) If you're producing hydrogen from electricity (by electrolysis of water) then you will lose about 75% of the energy in the inefficiencies. (Batteries are more efficient)

2) If you're getting hydrogen from natural gas, you're going to create a lot of CO2 in the process.

3) Fuel cells are more complex than most currently available batteries.

4) Storing hydrogen (safely) in a vehicle is still a difficult proposition and the energy density is low.

5) Creating a network of hydrogen filling stations (probably by retrofitting existing service stations) is a long way off. Contrast this with the easy availability of electricity.

and Dann who hints at the thermodynamic and material constraints

31 Jul 2008 12:17:20pm

In order to mine all this extra platinum without producing extra emissions, we'll need to convert all the mining equipment to run off hydrogen first.

Of course, in order to do that we'll need a heap of extra platinum.

Ah - now I see the problem... :)

In fact this fairly decent exchange in the quasi mainstream media is kind of encouraging.

I read a journal paper once that suggested that on the side of some US highways there is enough platinum deposited from the degradation and ablation in catalytic converters to make mining viable!

Platinum and Palladium concentrations can be used as tracers of urban anthropogenic inputs into aquatic systems.

UPDATE 11:15 AUG 1

Good God.
And it may just have been achieved

The Guardian

Scientists have found an inexpensive way to produce hydrogen from water, a discovery that could lead to a plentiful source of environmentally friendly fuel to power homes and cars.

Daniel Nocera, a chemist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has developed a catalyst made from cobalt and phosphorus that can split water at room temperature, a technique he describes in the journal Science. "I'm using cheap, Earth-abundant materials that you can mass-manufacture. As long as you can charge the surface, you can create the catalyst and it doesn't get any cheaper than that."

The Press Association

Now scientists believe they have overcome the problem using technology inspired by photosynthesis in plants.

The system allows small amounts of electricity from solar panels to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. A similar water-splitting reaction occurs during photosynthesis. Later, the gases can be recombined in a fuel cell to produce carbon-free electricity.

Electolysers which split water are already used industrially, but are extremely costly and do not work in everyday conditions.

The new process is cheap and operates at room temperature, with neutral acidity water.

Now to commercialise it.
If true, and it can be mass produced as stated... I might just have to become a techno optimist!

Update 2
Posted to EB... but further reading reveals that the breakthrough on the catalyst is for the oxygen side of the reaction. You still need platinum on the hydrogen side... of course research is proceeding on this to.

Abstract to In Situ Formation of an Oxygen-Evolving Catalyst in Neutral Water Containing Phosphate and Co2+

Wow! This is inspirational news, but remembering "cold fusion", I'll keep my champagne corked until it's commercialised.

Against the odds, maybe Marn Ferguson's blind faith in techno-fixes has been justified after all!

I also had a cold fusion flashback...

Mind you, although this might be a useful means of producing H2 I still don't see that it will automatically lead to H2 powered cars. We should get away from that idea.

It might however satisfy some critics of the ammonia storage of sunlight - where a bug bear (without much justification) was possible loss of hydrogen.

Dear oh dear:

We really need something more like this:

The Infinite Improbability Drive is a wonderful new method of crossing vast interstellar distances in a mere nothingth of a second, without all that tedious mucking about in hyperspace.

It was discovered by a lucky chance, and then developed into a governable form of propulsion by the Galactic Government's research team on Damogran.

This, briefly, is the story of its discovery.

The principle of generating small amounts of finite improbability by simply hooking the logic circuits of a Bambleweeny 57 Sub-Meson Brain to an atomic vector plotter suspended in a strong Brownian Motion producer (say a nice hot cup of tea) were of course well understood - and such generators were often used to break the ice at parties by making all the molecules in the hostess's undergarments leap simultaneously one foot to the left, in accordance with the Theory of Indeterminacy. Many respectable physicists said that they weren't going to stand for this; partly because it was a debasement of science, but mostly because they didn't get invited to those sort of parties.

Another thing they couldn't stand was the perpetual failure they encountered in trying to construct a machine which could generate the infinite improbability field needed to flip a spaceship across the mindparalysing distances between the furthest stars, and in the end they grumpily announced that such a machine was virtually impossible.

Then, one day, a student, who had been left to sweep up the lab after a particularly unsuccessful party, found himself reasoning this way:

"If," he thought to himself, "such a machine is a virtual impossibility, then it must logically be a finite improbability. So all I have to do in order to make one is to work out exactly how improbable it is, feed that figure into the finite improbability generator, give it a fresh cup of really hot tea... and turn it on!"

He did this, and was rather startled to discover that he had managed to create the long sought after Golden Infinite Improbability Generator out of thin air.

It startled him even more when, just after he was awarded the Galactic Institute's Prize for Extreme Cleverness, he got lynched by a rampaging mob of respectable physicists who had finally realized that the one thing they really couldn't stand was a smartass.

- Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Even one model that you could actually buy would be a start. As things stand, we have a handful of models running around the US and Japan, with 'wall/refueling station-to-wheel' efficiencies below that of BEV's, that you can't buy even if you were god, and have a handful of refueling stations available for use.

Not that it matters. Fuell Cells aren't robust enough for private vehicle use, and will need something of a breakthrough to become so. Niche applications are available, but enabling Mass, CO2-free Private transport isn't one of them.

I vote for the development of the onbaord 200KW, cold fusion reactor as the most desirable alternative fuel source for cars and trucks. Haven't quite got the heat to drivetrain converter worked out yet but I'm sure that the market will come up with it as soon as it sees the need!

Best hopes for cold fusion.

Funny, I always thought of New Zealand as the "Siberia of Wind" rather than the "Saudi Arabia". Global Warming must be impacting in a big way!

RE: Qantas kicks economy passengers off flights

Ah, so that's how they plan to cut costs. :)

RE: GE Energy to build 'clean coal' plant

So, the first one might be running in about a decade, will only sequester 50%, at most, of it's emissions, and costs at least three times as much as the equivilant amount of CSP(peak). Brilliant...

Fly me to Planet Petrol...

NASA scientists have announced that at least one of the giant lakes previously spied on Saturn's moon Titan contains liquid hydrocarbons...

There's got to be a Hollywood script in this. How about "Mad Max IV - The Final Frontier"...?

ExxonMobil has already announced a drilling program.