Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Cheaper fuels, independence from foreign oil within easy reach, consultant says

By James Pletcher Jr. , Herald-Standard
August 13, 2006

A car that gets 500 miles per gallon powered by $1 or less per gallon fuel made in Fayette County?
Neither is a fantastic claim nor are they science fiction, according to Barry Hanson, a retired engineer and a member of BERA, the Biomass Energy Research Association. He works as a renewable energy consultant.

Hanson has written a book, "Energy Power Shift,'' and is a proponent of emerging technologies that offer alterative forms of power delivered by sources much more plentiful and less expensive than oil, natural gas or gasoline.

Hanson has a broad understanding of both energy issues and applications with a formal education in chemistry and work experience as both a chemist and a mechanical design engineer.

Hanson was a project manager for Beckett Harmon Colvin and Day Inc. of Denver, Colo., where he was responsible for the design development and mechanical systems construction documents for commercial and industrial projects.

Hanson and his wife, Alice, have hands-on experience with alternative energy, having designed their home and business facility using passive solar, wind and photovoltaics. They now live on 80 wooded acres in far northern Wisconsin, a mile from the nearest utility line.

"The implication is that we can control our economic destiny with local resources,'' Hanson said in a telephone interview from his Wisconsin home.

"No one has come after me and told me my engineering assumptions or calculations are off base. We could do it on every corner and the reason we aren't should be questioned vigorously by the media and people who care about wealth and jobs in this country. These jobs could be kept in this country.

No more foreign oil

"I contend you don't need foreign oil at all and you don't need nuclear power at all.''

Hanson said more than $300 billion each year "leaves this country from crude oil alone.''

Earlier this summer, Hanson spoke to members of the Uniontown Kiwanis Club while on a visit to his wife's relatives in Uniontown.

"What I told the Kiwanis is that Fayette County will lose about $200 million to $210 million a year because they have to purchase energy from outside the region.

"They can keep a lot of money in the local community instead of letting it go out to purchase energy in the form of electricity or transportation fuels. The focus (of his talks) is that there is a real economic implication for a region,'' he said.

The obvious question when speaking to Hanson is why isn't the government or industry pouring funds into these alternatives to end America's reliance on foreign energy sources.

"We are talking about energy policy because that is what is controlling it. This administration favors profiting from oil within the next 12 to 15 years. This is a fairly well-substantiated, well-known policy and how it came about.

"The intention here is they want to profit from oil in the short term before anything else gets too large a foothold. But this has changed somewhat in the 2005 Energy Policy Act. It allowed some loopholes from pressure from people who are seeing the alternatives. So there is some allowance for non-corn ethanol. A process like this is actually covered in this legislation so someone should be able to qualify for loan guarantees or subsidies based on the fact they are producing ethanol,'' he said.

"The policy is made for the benefit of nuclear and oil companies but we are losing the jobs to the UK, Germany, Japan, Spain, and once those are lost we will be behind the curve.

"We won't be able to get those jobs back. Exxon might be sitting just fine right now, but there is something horribly wrong when we are looking at the benefits to this country. These policies are misguided and benefiting these corporations to the misbenefit of this country.

"Unfortunately, the business world and political world are not interested in the best interests of a region or a county,'' Hanson added.

Benefits to region

"The potential exists now to put into place some of these emerging technologies to allow regions, counties or local areas to make use of the energy resources they have available in the form of waste or biomass. In this region, it could be low-grade coal where you have quite a bit of high-sulfur coal that can't be sold for a good price, so it ends up in a pile somewhere.''

Hanson reviewed a project he is consulting on in Superior, Wis.

"They are putting in a $25 million waste-to-ethanol facility that will use waste off a garbage truck, sewage sludge and quite a few used tires and wood wastes from some manufacturing processes to create ethanol. Some of the wastes will also be used to directly create electricity,'' he said.

"To give you an example of what can be done, say you have 150,000 tons of waste. They could gasify it in a two-stage gasifier to bring all the material up to about 2,200 degrees Fahrenheit. There is no flue because they don't combust the material. There are no emissions to go into the environment on a continuing basis. This process turns all the material into carbon monoxide hydrogen. It is injected into a reactor as a fluid that contains bacteria that converts the gas directly into ethanol. This plant could do from 7 to 8 million gallons of ethanol a year and could generate about two megawatts of electricity per year, or enough to power 17 billion kilowatt hours per year that would power a couple of thousand homes.

"You are taking resources from the community within hauling distance and converting it into end-use energy. If you have an operation like this where county government can put this into place, they could bring it in for from $10 million to $12 million.

"One module shows the facility would create about 40 direct jobs and many indirect jobs for a total of about 200 permanent jobs.

"It's like anything else. You would have job numbers based on how much capital investment you made. You would have direct job creation and possibly from two to three times more indirect job creation.

"The main thing is you are keeping the money local and you are able to do it with a community where everybody needs the product and spends a lot of money on it. On that $200 million you are spending outside, you could recoup $160 million with these types of processes.''

Emerging technologies

Hanson said the "exciting thing about these newer and emerging technologies is that they enable a small entity to get into this business. You don't have to have a nuclear plant or coal-fired plant to make this product.''

Another alternative to gasoline is butanol, which can be made in a process similar to ethanol.

Hanson explained ethanol has a composition including two carbon atoms while butanol contains four.

"You can opt to put butanol into engines without modification, where ethanol has to be mixed with other things. My personal opinion is that butanol is the fuel to look at and keep your eye on as a breakthrough fuel that will have a real impact on our economy.

"They are doing research on it at Ohio State and Illinois State universities where they drove an older model passenger car to California that polluted less and got about the same gas mileage.

"You make butanol in a bioreactor or with a fermentation process or, a third way, in a fissure-controlled synthesis, which makes syn-gas, which is carbon monoxide and hydrogen, into just about any kind of fuel you want.

"This process was developed during World War II by the Nazis who used it to produce fuel.''

Ethanol, butanol or other fuels, he added, could be made for 60 to 70 cents a gallon.

"Fayette County, for example, could do this and lower taxes and create jobs. They could sell a transportation fuel for less than $1 a gallon. All they would have to do is put in a co-op fuel station and let the marketplace take care of itself. Put in the station and then see if people are willing to buy the product for $1 or less a gallon,'' he said.

The end result would include improvements in jobs and the environment,

"You wouldn't be importing any more oil and you would not be paying for military involvement to protect foreign sources of oil where the country now is spending about $75 billion a year, and that's according to the administration's own figures.

"You currently not only have a trade deficit in Fayette County, but you have one in the entire country. You could eliminate that deficit for oil and it would become a lot a safer because it would eliminate terrorist targets. So, you have social values as well.''

Ample supplies of fuel

The best "feed stock,'' for such a facility, Hanson said, are used tires and sewage sludge, both of which are amply available.

"You will get from 150 to 160 gallons of fuel from one ton of waste. The tires are loaded with BTUs (British Thermal Units) and so is waste plastic. Sewage sludge contains water and is needed in the process. In the end, you could get well over 100 gallons of ethanol for one ton of waste. That's a good example of how you can use a resource.

"We have enough waste and biomass to run the whole U.S. But there are other processes. There is anaerobic digestion, which is much more economically viable today. You can produce 25 tons of cane per acre, put it into an anaerobic digester in the ground, let certain bacteria digest it and make methane. With this process, you can make methane for about $3 for 1 million BTUs. Methane is now wholesaling for $8 to $10 per million BTU.

"There is also a fast pyrolsis where you take just about any type of woody waste and break it down into methane, syn-gas, a pyrolosis oil, which you can use in turbines.

"There are other kinds of gasifiers. They all take some kind of waste and do something with it in terms of syn-gas or electricity. Even slaughterhouse wastes could be used. There are also gas-to-liquid and coal-to-liquid processes where you can convert coal or natural gas into a liquid fuel. There is biodiesel where you use vegetable oil and there is landfill gas recovery,'' Hanson said.

Combining technologies

"I talk about other technologies that you can incorporate along with this,'' Hanson said.

Among these, he added, are high temperature fuel cells.

"These are taking center stage,'' he said, explaining they run on carbon fuels placed into a solid oxide fuel cell, which makes electricity and heat with no emissions, quietly, on site.

"You no longer need a (electric) transmission line. It costs more to transmit the electricity than its costs to generate it and that's where all the problems are. There are 40 to 50 of these in place in the country now. There's one in Ohio where they capture leaking methane from a coal mine and provide electricity to a small town nearby.''

Hanson said Los Angeles (Calif.) County also installed a fuel cell that makes heat and electricity.

"In my book, I talk a lot about plug-in hybrid vehicles, where you can use these fuels and get 500 miles per gallon. No one has argued with me, and the book is endorsed by a scientific group that does not frivolously endorse stuff. (The endorsement comes from the Union of Concerned Scientists, an international organization of scientists/citizens whose membership includes more than 100 Nobel Prize winners).

"Energy analysts also went over my book pretty closely.

"If someone thinks I'm kidding about 500 miles per gallon, I can show you how to do it. No one has picked my bones over those calculations.

"My book talks about waste, solar, wind and how they factor in just fine in creating energy. You could do 22 percent of the electrical demand in wind alone in this country without any kind of problem putting it into the grid when the wind doesn't blow. That's an industry that is growing fast, about $3 billion a year.

"The research in wind is continuing forward. About 90 percent of the wind generators are made in Europe, in Denmark, a country with a third of the population of Pennsylvania that's doing from $4 billion to $5 billion a year in wind generation,'' he said.

Hanson's book has been out about two years and he plans to revise it as new technologies come on line.


More information on Hanson's book is available online at www.energypowershift.com. He can also be reached at 1-800-945-5782.

No comments: