Synopsis: The 2020 Institute advocates U.S. energy independence by converting our fueling infrastructure to methanol. We’ve calculated the costs to domestically manufacture methanol at $2.90 per gallon of gasoline equivalent. We advocate limited mandates to force enough domestic production of methanol and methanol powered vehicles to be energy independent by the year 2020. Please read the remainder of this page for a more detailed explanation of the policy changes and existing technology needed to realize this transformation.
The 2020 vision encompasses a national mobilization following this general framework:
Policy: Replacing oil based fuels with methanol as our primary means of energy conveyance in the transportation sector will not be as difficult as one might think. Methanol has only about half the BTU’s of gasoline; however, its high octane level of 112 allows for substantial performance gains in an internal combustion (IC) engine. Methanol is primarily made by steam reforming natural gas and by gasifying biomass or coal. The 2020 Institute proposes utilizing electricity to electrolytically convert water into hydrogen, and then using a catalytic reaction to combine this hydrogen with carbon monoxide to produce methanol. A successful methanol transformation should adhere to the following policy initiatives: A) Begin mandating gradual increases in the production and sales of well engineered and fuel efficient methanol powered engines and vehicles: http://www.epa.gov/otaq/presentations/sae-2002-01-2743.pdf. B) Incentivise increases in electricity production utilizing all sources (please review our energy sources section).
- C)Incentivise the capture and beneficial use of carbon monoxide to fuel the nation’s production of methanol. D) Establish new and improved efficiency standards in all other sectors of the economy, and incentivise the upgrading or demolition of low efficiency buildings and industrial facilities. E) Establish a loan guarantee program to ensure any loan for a company participating in the methanol transformation will be protected from financial loss. This institute is 100% market oriented; however, the time has come for limited mandates and subsidies designed to divert the nation’s economy and our way of life from collision with an energy disaster. Energy independence will also have the intended effect of staunching the Islamic militarism that is currently being financed indirectly and possibly directly by our energy spending.
While natural gas is acknowledged to be the cheapest feedstock to produce methanol, it as well as coal are even now compromised by supply and access constraints similar to those of petroleum. They lack the ability to economically and sustainably supply our nation’s long-term energy requirements. Catalytic synthesis of methanol from H2 and CO is a far more intelligent choice. This option would also allow for seamless integration of infinite supplies of cheap power in the advent of perfected cold fusion technology.
The process: Water in the form of steam or liquid is exposed to an electric current in a process known as electrolysis. Electrolysis separates water into oxygen and hydrogen: http://www.ne.doe.gov/hydrogen/HTE.pdf. Hydrogen is the element forming all high-energy chemical bonds found in gasoline, methanol, and all other fuels. Carbon monoxide is usually found in concert with CO2 as a product of inefficient combustion. It can be captured and purified from emission source streams, as seen on this web page: http://www.caloric.com/cms/upload/pdf/calcor.pdf. CO along with H2 and natural gas (CH4) can be captured by gasifying coal or biomass, or from a variety of other emission sources. The carbon monoxide and hydrogen are then combined to form methanol in an exothermic catalytically charged reaction. Methanex Corp has already perfected this catalytic reaction: http://www.methanex.com/education/methanol/english/main.html. Methanex focuses on the production of methanol from natural gas; however, the process can easily be “adapted” to use the primary reactants of pure hydrogen and carbon monoxide. (Please examine the following (H2 Calculations) and (CO Calculations) which display our “worst case scenario” calculations.) These calculation pages demonstrate why 2.67 billion MWh plus 1.17 Trillion Kg CO will be required to replace our current gasoline and diesel requirements. A plentiful supply of hydrogen gas is only a matter of creating enough electricity to electrolyze water, 2.67 billion MWh is 68.8 percent of the 3.88 billion MWh generated in the U.S. every year. The nexus of any energy strategy is to be found in our country’s capacity to produce enough domestic electricity and capture enough carbon monoxide to fuel this critical transformation. One can see from the following gasification study that gasifying approximately 1.169 Billion (English) tons of wood/wood waste per year should provide enough carbon monoxide to generate a sufficient amount of methanol to replace current petroleum fuel consumption (assuming 100% CH4 & CO2 to CO reformation): http://www.fpl.fs.fed.us/documnts/fplgtr/fplgtr12.pdf. Our nation’s energy dilemma could be solved relatively quickly and cost effectively with a maximum effort using the available electrolysis and gasification technology.
The payoff: Most of the technologies have either short or manageable payoff periods and are relatively easily accepted by mainstream American business. At 9.2 cents per kWh (average residential rate), 1 gal methanol would cost about $0.876 in electricity costs. http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/electricity/epm/table5_6_b.html. The Calcor Standard Low Temperature Purification process produces 99.98% pure CO at roughly 34 cents per kg CO: http://www.caloric.com/cms/upload/pdf/calcor.pdf ($.40/m3 CO / 1.184 kg CO/m3 CO). If one substituted gasified “waste” biomass syngas for the LPG or CH4 used in the Calcor process (assuming a relative carbon/price parity), one gallon of methanol would require about $1.625 in CO costs: (CO Cost Estimates). Synthesizing methanol using the same feedstocks and processes identified above should cost a total of about $2.50 per gallon. (These figures exclude the marginal equipment and operation costs for the relatively low-pressure exothermic reaction that combines the CO and H2 to actually produce methanol.) Since a properly engineered methanol IC engine requires approximately 1.16 gal methanol to achieve work parity with a standard gasoline engine, the total cost to the producer in a gallon of gas equivalency is only $2.90 per gallon. The use of new IC technology will reduce this $2.90 per gallon figure in the near future. Regardless of fuel cell development, enhanced IC engine designs are about to emerge with dramatically increased relative efficiencies: http://www.quasiturbine.com, or simply read between pages 2 & 3: http://www.quasiturbine.com/QTMarchettiSthSixStroke0509.pdf.
While a total cost break down is not yet available, and no one company actually employs the following technique, this institute now proposes much of the nation’s carbon monoxide production needs could be met effectively and efficiently by the following procedure: First, slow-pyrolysis is used to generate up to 35% charcoal and high volumes of CO gas from biomass or municipal solid waste. CO2 emissions scrubbed from industrial sources could then be utilized to more than double CO production, via the chemical reduction of charcoal (CO2 + C = 2CO) and via the Calcor process mentioned above.
Of course, the 2020 Institute still advocates replacing traditional coal power with coal gasification technology, which is capable of producing vast quantities of CO and H2 while producing electricity.
This biomass strategy is a result of the following page: http://www.chm.bris.ac.uk/motm/co/coh.htm. Special thanks to Dr. Mike Thomson for an excellent web page!
Financing: If we assume that equipment would not be for sale if it could not make a profit for the buyer, the long-term financing of our methanol transition should pay for itself by virtue of this assumption. There’s a great amortization calculator available at the following page: http://www.eloan.com/s/amortcalc. It is a handy tool to show how a million dollar piece of equipment can pay for itself with yearly payments of about $75,000 in only 20 years at about 4.5 percent interest. The above figure of $1,000,000 is purely arbitrary, however, the concept that we can finance our own way out of this energy hole is very sound. Vigorous financing in conjunction with tax incentives, guaranteed loan interest rates, purchasing mandates and the resourcefulness of American entrepreneurialism will lead the USA to energy independence!
The alternative: Without energy independence, we face perpetuated involvement with the Middle East and perhaps new confrontations with other global competitors. Although the invasion and subsequent democratization of Iraq may have been a good call in terms of WMD threat mitigation, as well as a humane gesture to Iraq’s formerly oppressed people, we should not conclude that this segment of the war on terror effort has made our energy stance any more tenable. The United States of America is wise enough and resourceful enough to pursue both a strong defense and energy independence. The hourglass of our nation’s lifespan may rely on the course of action that we as a nation choose to take from this moment on. Adapt to succeed, or perhaps we’ll suffer a grave consequence for our unwillingness to change/improve. Many past civilizations are now relics of the history books for their refusal or inability to change and adapt with changing times. As evidenced by the oil supply modeling available from http://www.peakoil.net/, momentous times of change are now upon us, how will you respond? We welcome support from everyone, in whatever form, in whatever amount. We as a country have recently heard the call for volunteerism in the aftermath of a most grievous national tragedy. The 2020 Institute respectfully asks you to please consider the pursuit of energy independence as a perfect choice among the many great causes.