Two thoughts for a quiet Sunday

Watching CSPAN this morning I heard that the EIA believe that all the refineries will be back by Christmas- then hastily corrected to say within the limits of approximation.  Then further corrected to there being about 300,000 bd short at that time (which is the Conoco Philips refinery with the flooded switchgear).  They also expected Gulf production to be back at pre-Katrina levels by March, but it was not clear if this included some new production (say Thunder Horse) to make up the losses.

They also predict a slightly colder winter than NOAA, but clarified this by pointing out that they review heating needs, so that they look at who needs what where, rather than overall temperature changes.  Thus there is a difference in the overall perception because, for example, a higher demand for fuel in the North East may over-ride a reduction in the South.

And to be mildly mischievous a response to a comment.

In a comment on Saturday's open thread Dave said "you can't stoke coal into your car's engine to run it."   Um! Actually there was a demonstration back when there was a British National Coal Board in which the Minister drove around London in a car powered by micro-fine coal suspended in water and used as a diesel fuel.  It worked.  There have been trains powered by this coal:water suspension, fed into their diesel engines, that have worked. (Since this was all before the Internet became popular I am having a hard time finding electronic references to these).

The University of Alaska-Fairbanks is supposed to be running a test with a generator to demonstrate that it is possible way of changing to coal. Unfortunately it appears that they cannot currently find an Alaskan supplier for the fuel, and so a preliminary test will take place in Kentucky with a smaller power system.  However, to run this mixture the coal must first be ground to below 5 microns, and there were some problems in ensuring that enough ash is taken out of the coal to stop erosion of the cylinder walls of the engines, in the earlier test programs.

It does not appear to have a whole lot of momentum behind the program, but it does answer Dave's comment. (Oh, and yes there are better EROI figures on coal crushing than the usual ball mills etc, but that is another program that seems to have disappeared from the American scene, although there is an apparent current interest in picking up the idea in China.)

Watching CSPAN this morning I heard that the EIA believe that all the refineries will be back by Christmas- then hastily corrected to say within the limits of approximation.  Then further corrected to there being about 300,000 bd short at that time (which is the Conoco Philips refinery with the flooded switchgear).  They also expected Gulf production to be back at pre-Katrina levels by March, but it was not clear if this included some new production (say Thunder Horse) to make up the losses.


and the plot thickens...  (and the NE shivers a little more)

I've seen in the past week several estimates for the low cycle in working nat'l gas in March and very silly statements about low pressure in the system etc.  Folks, the graph u commonly see has no "real" Zero base.  This graphic is a top third, if u will, of a larger representation of the total nat' gas which is in the magnitude of about 8500-Bcf.  In short, the conventional graph is looking at the top 5k to 8.5K portion.

Also, some have questioned my sanity wrt my September forecast for 900-Bcf as the next cycle low. Well, we will be releasing the October Energy Reserves shortly and we have upped to low cycle point to 950-Bcf based on better news from the Gulf, as outlined by Stuart. In watching the other estimates it is my humble opinion that all have missed the LNG import component.  Remember last winter, when long-term contracts in the Pacific were as low as $2.25?  Not much of it was destined for the USA but that was indicative of the marketplace and the future for Nat'l Gas thax to lotsa new terminals and ships (many from Poland).

In 2004, the USA imported 650-Bcf.  680 in 2005.  And 1000-Bcf is the estimate for 2006.

Similarly with crude, of the over 700-Mb in the SPR, only 13 were needed for refinery shortfalls.  As the Secretary for Energy keeps saying, "what we have folks is a fear of shortages!"

I am humbled by the versatility of coal as a liquid fuel and stand corrected.
I could be wrong about this, but I vaguely recall reading that Rudolf Diesel himself had done some experiments with using finely powdered coal for his newly-invented diesel engine.

As pointed out, the ash content of the coal is a major stumbling block.

But, in times of crisis people come up with all sorts of half-assed yet workable ideas. I've read that in Sweden during WW II, some cars were equipped with wood gasifiers that essentially pyrolyzed wood and fed the pyrolysis gas into the engine's carburetor. Or course, it also sent all  manner of gums and goos into the engine as well, and thus caused engine damage and resulted in the need to do frequent engine overhauls, but the point is that people were able to drive their cars without petroleum-based fuel, albeit rather poorly.

Guys, there is no need to speculate about the viability of coal to gasoline or diesel.  The process (Fischer-Tropsch) is commercial, with four large plants in operation world-wide.  One coal-based plant in Secunda, South Africa, supplies 30% of the country's gasoline and more for diesel.  

All of us peak-oil students need to familiarize ourselves with F-T since it is a proven and least-disruptive route to the post-peak economy. (This is especially the case for the U.S. which is the Saudi Arabia of coal).

So for all who are interested, these are the steps in the F-T process:

(1) Pulvurized coal is gasified--partially oxidized--to CO and H2 (if it was completely oxidized, i.e. combusted, we would have CO2 and H2O as products instead); the CO/H2 mixture is called synthesis gas or "syngas" for short.  Note that the heavy metals like mercury mostly end up in the ash and not in the syngas.

(2) The sygas can be cleaned using a number of different technologies, such as scrubbers and/or hydrodesulfurizers.  The Sulfur content in the syngas can be lowered down to 1 ppm without any exotic technologies.  

(3) The clean syngas enters the F-T reactor where it comes into contact with an iron or cobalt catalyst.  The desired reaction is given in Eq 1 below:

CO + 2 H2 --> -(-CH2-)- + H2O     (1)

The -(-CH2-)- is the hydrocarbon chain which represents the liquid product.  If the chain is 10 to 20 carbons long, we have diesel.  If it is 9 to 14 we have kerosine/jet fuel, and so on.

(4) Note that since coal has a high carbon-to-hydrogen ratio, the syngas will not have the desired 2:1 H2:CO ratio for Eq 1.  So a "shift" reactor is used upstream to convert some of the CO to H2 through the "gas-water shift reaction" of Eq 2.

CO + H2O --> CO2 + H2            (2)

(5) Depending on the F-T reactor operating conditions, the product will need to be refined differently to make gasoline, diesel, kerosine, or chemicals.  Overall, the refining section is nothing new and many of the existing crude refineries can be used to convert the products of Eq 1 into fuels that today's cars, buses, trucks and planes can run on.  

(6) The fuels are low in sulfur (because of the ease of gas cleanup in Step 2), and in the case of diesel, better performing (the highly linear chains lead to higher cetane numbers).  Low sulfur means better catalytic converter performance.  There are no aromatic compounds (alkyl benzenes or polynuclear aromatics)-- these lead to particulates in the tail gas, and can cause cancer.  

So in terms of product quality, F-T synthesis makes a much more environmentally friendly fuel than the highly aromatic hydrocarbon that is recovered from tar sands and oil shales.

On the negative side, the overall thermal efficiency (or EROEI) of the coal based process is about 60%.  Clearly this extra inefficiency translates to incrementally higher green-house gas generation (cf Eq 2).  

The reason I am giving this "lesson" is because I have noticed some degree of skepticism on this web site regarding the viability of coal-to-liquids.  Sure, it will increase our CO2 generation; but for an economy so dependent on the internal combustion engine and so blessed with coal, it is the most viable medium-term post-peak strategy I can think of.

and CO2 from a coal gasification plant in Beulah, ND is being shipped via pipeline to Canada where it is being injected underground into the Weyburn oil field.
but for an economy so dependent on the internal combustion engine and so blessed with coal, it is the most viable medium-term post-peak strategy I can think of.
Up to now, crude oil is used for transportation and coal for electricity generation. A widespread use of fuel from coal-to-liquids for transportation  could put even more pressure on our coal consumption already soaring to satisfy our growing need for electricity.

Other question: What quantity of coal is required to produce one gallon of fuel?

Coal is essentially CH, oil is CH2. Coal is variable in composition, much more than oil, in terms of C, H, S, and solids. Oil also has large amounts of water in it's makeup, if it's not anthacite. I don't think any oil in the world has more than 1% solids. Indonesian coal (from Borneo?) is probably the lowest sulfur and solids around.
A good rule of thumb is that you burn two CH to get CH2 and CO2 and power, that is, one ton of dry coal will make one half ton of oil and two tons of CO2. Very roughly.
In real life the plant will produce power and oil at whatever ratio is profitable, at roughly two cents a kilowatt hour baseload, ten cents a kilowatt hour for peaking (using a turbine to burn stored CO from the burner side of the plant) and two dollars a gallon for methanol, which will sell retail for three because of taxes, transport, etc.
Unless the Saudis really so have all the oil they say they have, in which case oil will go back to ten dollars a barrel and bankrupt all the synfuel plants.
There is another problem. Technological advances could abolish liquid fuels completely. In the case of carbon nanotubes we could have energy densities that would give us not merely flywheels that will drive our car across the country before requiring a "fillup", but enough power density to run an aircraft, probably a flying saucer ducted fan design.
How lucky do you feel?
I'd go with some syfuel plants, just in case.
Depending on the quality of the coal, the F-T liquid fuel recovery is 1.5 to 2.5 barrel per ton of coal (1 Bbl=42 gal).  The higher the moiture and ash content of the coal, the lower the liquids yield.  High volatile bituminous coals are considered best for F-T synthesis.

I have seen pictures.  Not many cars need to have a chimney.
Rudolf Diesel used gasified coal in his early engines. Many european and american cities of the late 19th century gasified coal on a large scale for gaslights, cooking, and as boiler fuel. Diesel simply compressed this gas to about 500psi and injected it into the cylinder. M.A.N. sold early diesel engines which included a coal gasifier.
It was what we call syngas, they called it water gas.
I remember back in the 80's some work was done on cars using Stirling engines.  If that had been kept up, by now there would be cars that could run on anything that burns.
You can go one better.  Plug-in hybrids will run on anything that generates electricity; you can't burn wind or hydropower, but you can charge batteries with it.
EP, you've been pounding the table for many months on the viability of plug-in hybrids, and I think you are spot-on.  The future of auto transport in the developed world, IMHO, lies in electric hybrid (or perhaps one day fully electric) vehicles.  Battery life and charging times may improve dramatically as a result of nanotechnology.

We don't need radically improved batteries either; we can do one heck of a lot with old, cheap lead-acid.  We'd have to redesign our vehicles to make good use of them, though; this prevents e.g. Toyota from turning an Echo into a plug-in Prius with 50 miles of gas-free range.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge comes to mind-this slurry must be some sort of willing suspension of disbelief. As we cruise down the road fueled by black colloidial goo, we could have the Fischer-Tropp family singers say "So Long, Farewell" to the age of oil. Personally, I think we just go for a coal-fired external combustion engine-Stanley Steamer, anyone?
I just wish we could use a "suspension of disbelief" to power diesel engines.  Our problems would be solved.
This has been troubling me for some time now...

Remember pre hurricanes, every week, we'd hear reports like "we're at capacity" and, "there is no more refining capacity", etc?

After the first hurricane, we had some ~$3/gal gas.  Then after the second hurricane, and some refining capacity got shut down..  The result?  Gas has been ~$2.19/gal for the last couple of weeks...  Something does not compute..

2 things come to mind:

A lot of people down south that don't do too much driving these days now?(no car?)

Supposedly, the EPA requirements for having different fuel blends around the country have been removed and now they are making the easiest, simplest blend so that is why the prices are at what they are now and not ~$4/gal or more?  Considering how things were and how things are and all..

Just seems strange to me.

remember we are importing more refined product now.
Strange to me also.

And I challenge anyone to show me a US Stat showing where we have lost over 10% of our gasoline refinery output.  That's not MMS but actual inventory somewhere.

The LOOP was/is the only facility in the US capable of handling Supertankers and the NO port is closed or intermittent.

So where's all this new import unloading?

And weren't world tankers at capacity before Katrina?

And finally, Thunderhorse is down for AT LEAST a year with over $100 million of damage to the platform, meaning it will have to be taken into Somewhere, stripped to the hull and refitted.

Deepwater GOM may never be back to pre Katrina levels. this is off subject, but Greg Nyquist in his blog "State of the Economy" makes an intresting comparison between Rome and America. One of the reasons for the fall of Rome- he contends, was the end of cheap energy (slave labor), as with US and end of cheap energy (oil). It is entitled Economic Regression, Rome and America Compared. Dated Sept 20
Oh boy.  I've seen many of these kinds of comparisons over the years, and they always leave me cold.  They inevitably rely on a warehouse full of assumptions and (sometimes) forced analogies.  They always feel like the social science equivalent of those mathematical "proofs" that show 1 + 1 = 3 or something similarly brain bruising.

I haven't read the one you linked to, but I will tomorrow, when I have the time and sufficient working gray cells to do it justice.

We could make end-use energy a lot cheaper if we weren't so wasteful with what we do upstream (I've written a bunch of notes on this).  Wind isn't going to get any more expensive, and there's something like 2150 quads/year available (humanity uses only 400 quads/year of energy from all sources).  Neither is solar PV, and we may have 4:1 reductions in their cost coming depending on which technologies work out.

The world is awash in energy, our only problem is being held back by vested interests and a surfeit of stupidity.

Not so much stupidity, maybe.  In the short-term, like 1-2 years, businesses always make the most money by not doing anything different.  If you're addicted to a corporate rate of return of 15-20% per year, you will find it extremely hard to pull the trigger on multi-billion dollar investments.

Plus we've outsourced a lot of our capability to actually build things like refineries, gasifiers, etc.  

Yes, stupidity.  On the societal level, at least; anti-competitive laws which prevented industrial users from cogenerating electricity with their process-heat boilers built a heck of a lot of waste into our system, and we'd have had much cheaper (and probably cleaner) electricity without them.  That's just one example.

We can't afford these things any more, and we've got a lot of work to do to fix the consequences (such as no proper markets in electricity at retail and just one product of this, no good demand-side management).

You can use syngas with different catalysts (methanol, dme, gasoline, or diesel), you can use battery cars, you can use coal products with steam, or stirling, or thermophotovoltaic (use infrared from combustion gas to make electricity using thin film photovoltaic).
You can use coal in diesel cars after you leach out the ash using supercritical CO2 leach, or acids and bases.
You can use lysed or pyrolised waste paper to make fuels. You can use liquid nitrogen to get motive power and airconditioning. You can use all of them separately to add up to what you need collectively.
Lots of ways to move wheels around with today's engineering and off the shelf capabilities. Oil is just cheaper and already has the infrastructure.
Yep.  It still comes down to somebody actually investing in building the infrastructure before it's too late.
Hence the underlying reason for the post.  The basic inertia inherent in the car and transportation fleets requires a fuel compatible for their use for some time to come.  The coal:water slurry answers that need.
Peak Oil made the front page of US Today, today.
"Debate brews: Has oil production peaked?"

The article has the "four horesmen of the appocalypse" quote from Defeyyes, and mostly consists of competing quotes from  Yergin and Simmons.

Long ago I was asked to comment on a government report entitled, as I remember  "Do we need a new automotive engine" in which a stirling was discussed.  My answer, given with almost no thought at all, was "No.  if you have a liquid (which is all they talked about) run it thru a diesel engine.  Diesel engines are good and getting better all the time.  Forget about stirlings, they are heavy, complex, need expensive metals, and have as yet unsolved problems with oil exclusion seals, and also they are sluggish and unresponsive".  Unfortunately, the government then went ahead and spent about $300 million on stirlings, coming up with what I said, and the project died as it should have.

BUT. if you do not have liquids, or want to use stuff that diesels or turbines do not like much, and if you are willing to forget the crank stirling and go for a free piston stirling riding on gas bearings and pumping gas over a high speed turbine alternator, then the answer is yes, we could do well with a stirling vehicle engine.  I would run mine on wood pellets.