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Japanese test DME plant (100MT/day) tests wood as a starting material.

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NNadir Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Aug-21-06 11:53 AM
Original message
Japanese test DME plant (100MT/day) tests wood as a starting material.
Edited on Mon Aug-21-06 12:30 PM by NNadir
DME, dimethyl ether, is in the early phases of industrialization. This flexible fuel, suitable for use in diesel engines without much modification, also can replace natural gas, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), refrigerants and other CFC and HFC applications, and can, theoretically at least, be used to store off-peak energy such as wind power that may be available at night. Potentially the fuel could also be used to convert nuclear energy into motor fuels. As a gas with a critical temperature higher than the boiling temperature of water, it can be shipped and stored as a liquid without refrigeration in all weather extremes.

As an environmental fuel, it is nearly ideal. DME exhibits low toxicity, and a very, very short atmospheric lifetime, a few days. This limits it's potential greenhouse gas potential. In fact, its only environmental draw back is that it's decomposition in the atmosphere gives the same products as methane (natural gas)

Asia has already begun to build a commercial infrastructure for the use of DME has a motor fuel and for use in power plants.

I have discussed some details elsewhere previously about this infrastructure:

Unfortunately, as DME is a very simple molecule, one may think of it as methylated water, it is accessible through many starting materials, some better than others. Japan, Qatar, Iran and other nations are making DME from natural gas. This allows the shipping of so called "stranded natural gas" that cannot be economically shipped as gaseous methane, but can be shipped as the pressurized liquid DME.

Natural gas is, of course, environmentally unacceptable, as it is a fossil fuel.

It is also industrially planned to make DME from coal, the worst of the three terrible fossil fuels. Although the DME so produced will burn more cleanly than simply burning coal directly, the matter remains of the fact that nobody knows how to dispose of the most dangerous form of energy waste known, carbon dioxide. (This carbon dioxide is temporarily sequestered in the DME itself, but is released when the motor fuel is burned in an IC engine or turbine.) Obviously DME from coal is unacceptable from an environmentalist view point.

The Japanese and the Swedes however, are both working on DME provided through the agency of biomass, specifically wood products. For the Swedes, it's mostly - like the vast majority of renewable energy schemes - it's mostly talk. The Japanese however have built a demonstration plant that they are using to test multiple sources of DME. Specifically they are using waste plastic - a portion of the garbage that in the US is classified as "renewable" energy - plastic mixed with wood side products - and wood side products neat.

The plant has been running since 2002. (A smaller pilot plant at 5MT/day ran in the late 1990's.) It has tested the economics of these various products and the information is available on line in the form of presentation slides:

If you are interested in how much energy 100MT/day of DME represents, of course, 36,500MT/year. The energy value of DME is about 29 billion joules per ton. A barrel of oil is about 6.1 billion joules. Thus the demonstration plant produces the equivalent of around 17,300 barrels of oil per year.

The plant has been scaled to such a level that it can now go industrial. The matter is, of course, a function of cost. If the DME from biomass is more expensive than coal based or natural gas based DME, this speaks to the need for an international carbon tax.

My personal favorite means for producing DME in the long term, is hydrogenation of carbon dioxide, possibly in an Olah type reversible fuel cell. Hydrogen, like the DME it could be used to manufacture, is available from many potential sources, including the cleanest form of scalable continuous energy known, nuclear energy.

Edited for factor of ten mistake.

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jpak Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Aug-21-06 12:17 PM
Response to Original message
1. DME = Destroying Mother Earth
Until they make it out of biomass or use renewable energy to produce it, it's a threat to the childrens and the planet.
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hunter Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Aug-21-06 01:16 PM
Response to Reply #1
2. I'd be fascinated to read your version of utopia, jpak...
Personally, I don't believe there is any energy technology that can support the level of industry and environmental destruction that cheap oil and natural gas have afforded us, not even coal.

But if the economic contractions caused by oil and natural gas depletion and global warming are not managed wisely, tremendous damage will be done to the natural environment by desperate populations.

Of all alternative energy schemes, unwise biomass-to-energy processes have BY FAR the most potential for destroying large areas of the natural environment. Just imagine how all those people who now support expanded oil drilling in Alaska might look at trees if an economical trees-to-fuels process was available to them.

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jpak Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Aug-21-06 02:09 PM
Response to Reply #2
3. You know my version of utopia already
It's been posted many times.

It's coal coal coal

Didn't see them posts????

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NNadir Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Aug-21-06 02:59 PM
Response to Reply #2
4. The rise of the coal industry in Britain was the result of deforestation
Edited on Mon Aug-21-06 03:27 PM by NNadir
for fuel purposes.

I had a thread covering this subject some time ago:

An excerpt of the excerpt there:

During Elizabeth's, reign, dozens of commissions were sent out by the central government to investigate the wood shortage around the nation, and each one confirmed the serious decline of the forests. Contemporary writers were alarmed about the loss of England's woods, and they wrote of huge forests that had been greatly decayed and spoiled. This destruction meant not only a fuel shortage...but also of the most important building material of the time...

...By 1600, London's population had reached 200,000, nearly twice that of 50 years earlier..."

People have difficulting remembering the 1970's, of course, never mind the 1600's.

However the Japanese DME program intends to use waste wood I believe. DME can easily be made from saw dust, branches, bark, even leaves. DME can be made from just about anything that contains carbon.

Ironically sources of carbon are the biggest problem for DME synthesis. Hydrogen is easy to make.

I often speak of DME produced by hydrogenation of atmospheric carbon dioxide. This is theoretically possible, but I must assert the same criteria for my ideas as I assert for the ideas of others: There are no industrial plants anywhere on earth that hydrogenate carbon dioxide obtained from the atmosphere for any purpose, for the synthesis of DME or for the synthesis of other synfuels and/or products. 100% of the plants that removed carbon dioxide from the air and reduce it are, in fact not industrial plants but are instead, living plants. I contend that we should use this model for constructing our industrial system.

With this in mind, I applaud the Japanese effort. It's a help. It is important that we have a DME infrastructure. I note that all DME plants, even those run on coal, can in theory be converted to plants that run on other starting materials.

I imagine that the first DME plants that are built that actually built for the hydrogenation of carbon dioxide will actually use carbon dioxide that is separated from the dumped carbon dioxide effluent that characterizes the industrial use of fossil fuels. Probably it will be coupled to some failed sequestration program somewhere at sometime. This is on some level piss poor, since the carbon dioxide will eventually find it's way into the atmosphere when burned in transportation devices or power plants. Still it won't be as bad as the status quo, since the carbon dioxide will be doubly used before being indiscriminately dumped into the air.

Of course, if we continue to dump carbon dioxide in the air indiscriminately there will probably be a negative feedback in the sense that billions of people will be killed in the exercise.

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jpak Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Aug-21-06 03:08 PM
Response to Reply #4
5. Not so - Britain, like most of Europe, was deforested for agriculture
Population growth (and the use of inefficient stone hearths) outstripped the sustainable yield of remaining British forests.

But I do believe, however, they have forests in the UK today...
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