Abiotic Oil

I believe we need to get off of oil as an energy source for environmental reasons so I’m not entirely sure that the oil company promoted peak-oil scenario is entirely a bad thing, but it is a lie.

One could go on and on, there are thousands of articles on this subject, but the bottom line is that Russia has drilled over 300 deep wells, through granite and basalt bedrock caps, and put them into production to overtake Saudi Arabia as the worlds largest oil producer.

In a joint venture with the Chinese, the Russians have drilled twenty deep wells in Viet Nam in an area where there was no sedimentary basin, and thus should not have, according to the fossil fuel theory, been oil there, yet there was. The Chinese are now drilling similar wells in North Korea.

The ramifications for the world economy are good, energy exists to fuel it’s expansion. The ramifications for the environment are bad. Like the climate on Venus? If we continue to burn hydrocarbons as our primary source of energy, that’s what we’re going to have.

I’ve wondered if perhaps those really in control of this planet aren’t aware of this and knowing human traits have created “peak oil” as a means of forcing us towards alternatives because we are just not intelligent enough or forward looking enough to make the transition voluntarily.

If so, there is a problem, the clamp the created energy shortage places on the economy takes away the very resources necessary for the creation of the infrastructure necessary to move away from hydrocarbon fuels.

I believe the answer lies in education, instead of using television to condition people to accept nothing more complex than what can fit in a fifteen second clip, we need to start genuinely educating people, ween them away from oversimplified sensational fifteen second clips and into more in-depth and genuinely useful information.

I believe we should be pursuing many environmentally friendly alternatives simultaneously. Controlled hydrogen fusion should be brought on-line as fast as possible, and I do believe that if we really made a crash effort we could have it in production in 5-10 years.

In the meantime, we should invest heavily in wind, solar, geothermal, ocean current, ocean thermal, and other technology.

I believe that we should biofuels only where the energy product is significantly greater than required to grow, harvest, and process the energy crop, and, where it can be done in a sustainable manner without depleting the soil, and where it does not compete with needed food production, or where we can organic waste products into fuel.

I believe there is a place for a particular type of nuclear fission plant, a fast-flux plant capable of burning actinides, primarily as a means of destroying existing stockpiles of long term high level nuclear waste with energy production as a byproduct, rather than burying that waste and creating a problem for future generations.

One argument against wind power has been that the intermittent nature of this power source limits it to no more than a 15-20% contribution to the grid, but I would suggest otherwise and here is why.

The solution to the intermittent problem is to significantly overbuild capacity and when more energy is generated than can be readily absorbed by the grid, use that excess for fuel production or store it. Fuel production can be hydrogen, or it can be aluminum which can be used in a type of battery in which it is oxidized and electricity is produced, or a number of other potential forms. Storage can be hydrological, that is pump water uphill during power surpluses, release it through a turbine to a lower reservoir during shortages. There is also a type of battery using liquid electrodes and that can be used to store power on a utility scale. Similar strategies can be used for solar power, tidal power, and any other intermittent sources.

The earth will continue to have cycles of heating and cooling with or without our input, but those of nature occur over a longer period of time and nature is adapted to accommodate changes at the slower natural pace.

There is some good news, methane, which is actually a far more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, approximately 100 times more powerful, and which accounts for approximately 30% of greenhouse warming even though it constitutes a much smaller percentage of the atmosphere than carbon dioxide is leveling off and no longer rising at a fast pace. It is believed this is because it has reached a state of equilibrium where it is destroyed as fast as it is being put into the atmosphere. This is positive news because it means that one non-trivial component of global warming is not continuing to increase.

The reason we need to bring hydrogen fusion online in spite of the fact that we could accommodate existing needs via renewable sources, is density and economics. Fusion uses deuterium as the primary fuel. Deuterium constitutes one of every 2000 hydrogen atoms in sea water. There is enough of it to provide all of our energy needs for 15 billion years. The only waste product produced is helium. Tritium is also required, but it can be bred in a lithium blanket. A reactor starting on deuterium alone will initially produce little energy but in 48 hours of operation it will breed enough tritium to become a net energy producer.

With controlled hydrogen fusion we can solve many of the worlds problems. Since the fuel is everywhere, no one nation or power will have a lock on this energy source. This is the reason why it is being developed so slowly now, this is not a situation desirable to big oil. The fuel is, for all intents and purposes, free. This makes it practical for energy intensive applications like desalinating water. Many industrial processes which could be used to recycle waste products if it were not for the cost of energy will become viable.

Unlike wind, solar, and other renewable sources which are not energy dense, limited in scalability, and not portable, controlled hydrogen fusion reactors could be build anywhere we want to build them. Need a large amount of energy to transform lunar regolith into water, air, and other raw materials? No problem build a fusion reactor there.

The moon even has a potential fuel, He3, that is more attractive for fusion because all of the products are charged particles allowing reaction energy to be directly converted into electricity without the need for a thermal cycle. Additionally, this means no neutrons (and actually that’s not 100% true, there are some smaller reactions that take place that do generate some neutrons), so there are not the problems with neutron activation and embrittlement present with deuterium-tritium reactions.

Initial fusion reactors will be physically large, but as superconductor technology continues to improve and our understanding of plasma physics and how to best confine plasma continues to evolve, this will gradually reduce there size, and who knows what breakthroughs may emerge.

The most efficient design at this time is a spherical tokamak, this is a design with a short aspect ratio. It has been determined experimentally that a nearly spherical plasma configuration is easier to confine than early tokamaks which where the plasma was a more elliptical torus.

However, there are some new configurations being examined that may have the potential to achieve far higher temperatures and pressures necessary for advanced aneutronic fuel cycles.

Smaller future designs may expand our reach in space, how far we can travel in a reasonable period of time. Maybe we can send a probe to Alpha Centauri and examine it’s planetary system up close.

None of this will be possible if we keep doing what we’re doing, burning hydrocarbons for energy; all this will accomplish is slow suffocation and environmental disasters.

Category: Future

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