Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Electricity from forestry and agricultural residues

I'm sharing a video about animated and exciting days of commissioning of a biomass gasification system. In particular this is the very first run of the engine, after 2 days of unsuccessful attempts (because of a very stupid technical issue of wrong pipe connections). All the people present are from my research team at University of Florence. I'm going to put a link to this post in my doctoral thesis I am writing at this time.....Cheers. 

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

World energy deficiency explained with a photo

Well, let's see the photo first....

This is the so called DeepWater Nautilus, an offshore drilling dig. Never heart about? Well, maybe something about its sister, the very similar DeepWater Horizon?

On the upper right part of the picture there is an oil drilling dig of Montana during year 1954. Proportions are correct.

And so what? Technology is improved, 56 years later we can build bigger, stronger, semi-submersible, ultra deep rigs. As long as we can manufacture higher sky scarpers, GPS driven cars, more powerful computers etc etc.

Yes, sure, but the point of this post is not technological improvement. The point of this blog is about the effort behind technological improvement.

Can you just imagine how many more people, how much more steel, how much more energy has been used to build the Deepwater Nautilus (97 meters height) than the Montana rig (16 meters height)?

Yes, that is the point. A barrel of conventional oil is more or less the same, and has the same amount of energy embedded, that is the energy we can use: 1.472.827 Kcal

So what's the difference between 1954 oil extraction and the 2010 oil extraction by Deepwater Nautilus?

The difference is that energy out of dig is the same 1.472.827 kCal as before, while energy used drawing out that same amount is more, much more. As explained by the difference of size and complexity of two machines in the photo.

EROEI is a number explaining this, it means Energy Return On Energy Invested, and it explains how much energy we spend to get new energy. EROEI 10:1 means we spent 1 to get 10, EROEI 1:1 means we spent 1 to get 1 (thus we did a useless job).

Well, this article asserts that EROEI of US oil was 100:1 in 1930's, that was 30:1 in 1970's and that was 18:1 in 2000.

OK, by the way, below a larger photo of Montana dig....:)

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

"In time" (2011) by Andrew Niccol

The movie is not superlative but I write about because it gives us a wonderful opportunity to think about a very big issue: the production of wealth (money, GDP or anything else that we mean by "material value"). 

In the movie, people do not exchange things and services with money, but with Time, each man has its own amount of Time (some more and some less) and uses it as a currency. Powerful way to show how personal assets allow us to enjoy material things, and powerful way to show us how to better control people giving them less and less. 

But this is not the point, many movies has been arguing those issues.

The really unusual idea spread by this story is that the total amount of wealth (say Time) on the planet is finite. While someone gets more Time someone else, in some other part of the world, gets less: a zero-sum game (factories in the movies are not manufacturing time, only bracelets and other credit-card-like-tools to manage time).

The world we have been living in for the past decades has not been this way, in a growing economy if someone gets rich is not because someone else gets poor, simply new wealth is created and added to the economy: wealth created not moved.

Well, if we are facing a zero growth future (for whatsoever reason) we are getting in era where earning is neither innocent nor worthing? For centuries skills and ability of men created for us a lot of stuff, and we loved that stuff and the people who created. But in a zero growth economy? Will we appreciate people who just take out wealth from other people hands?

Monday, 27 February 2012

Energetics of "The matrix", the movie

"The Matrix" (1999) is one of the best movies I have ever seen, a deepest thought about Power-to-Knowledge link. I like to think that most important thinker of this relation, French philosopher Michel Foucault, would have loved it.

This post is to analyse the movie from an energy point of view, let me explain that.

The screenplay tells about machines overtaking humankind and using people as batteries to produce energy, this because humankind shaded sunlight before being defeated, trying to cut energy source to machine. That is, no longer renewable energy for the world, just the finite energy present on earth.
One could expect that the only energy remaining is fossil fuel, but no mention in the movie about that. To be honest one renewable energy in such a condition is still possible, this is geothermal energy, and correctly the movie explains (without showing) that a small group of undefeated rebels is using it in their deep underground caves (Zion).

Machines are willing to use neither fossils nor geothermal, they decide to use the nervous system of men, which generates a series of electrical impulses going up and down through human body. This can technically be a sort of "unforeseen energy", but is more similar to fossils than to geothermal energy, it is non-renewable: dead people is liquefied and converted in feeding for humans still alive.

This can lead only to an outcome: energy from humans will peak and than decrease its rate, and finally machines will run out of energy. Please read this recent post if require further explanation about the concept of peaking for finite resources.

I've always dreamt of being capable to interfere with movies scenes, talking to characters, say suggesting to Janet Leigh: get out of that bathroom! a Psyco man is going to stab you! Same thing with Keanu Reeves and friends: stop fighting with machines! join the Zion community and just wait, machines will run out of energy, then you win!

If that was the final, "The matrix" would give us a powerful argument about renewable energy importance, and about myopia when using non renewable energy.