How economical is our energy?

Reflections on fusion history, current events, and predictions for the 'fusion powered future.
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Re: How economical is our energy?

Post by AnGuy » Mon Jul 26, 2004 3:04 am

>As an engineer ,I'm appalled at the massive cost of business.
>You would think after a century it would have been improved by now.
>Do you think the wooden square wheel will debute this year?

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Richard Hull
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Re: How economical is our energy?

Post by Richard Hull » Mon Jul 26, 2004 6:22 pm

This is for marvin.

I never talked about pumping water against a 6000 foot head. The oil is that which is needed to defeat the head.

Water will flow into the well via gravity (zero energy cost). It is the energy needed to get the water to the well head in the middle of the desert that is the energy loser. We still have to pump and haul. Water is indeed denser than oil and uses more energy per unit volume to pump and haul from where it is to where the well is.

Secondly, I mentioned that economics was not an issue in my discussion, only the energy spent versus the energy delivered and for the gasoline fraction only.

I think Dave and some others got the gist of my discussion.

In the end, it really doesn't matter either economically or energy wise.

We do what we have to do regardless and squander energy at one point or many points to place it in another form somewhere else. If there is a total net energy loss it is of no real concern to those in the biz. To an engineer it is something to cry over. As long as the bean counters at each stage are happy, then it is also an economically viable venture.

The salient point becomes that any competing process to oil or any other FULLY ESTABLISHED, IN PLACE, INFRASTRUCTURE of the type which I outlined. has got to come to the table with amazing results and super efficiencies all along the way to even begin to unseat that which is so well established and entrenched.

All this while the established process need not look into its own assests and atributes, for it is in place and wroking everyday regardless of oozing pustules of energy loss. It is smooth and ever flowing.....Millions place bread on their tables each day due to it......Millions more depend on its continued functioning enabling them indirectly to place bread on their tables.

Richard Hull
Progress may have been a good thing once, but it just went on too long. - Yogi Berra
Fusion is the energy of the future....and it always will be
Retired now...Doing only what I want and not what I should...every day is a saturday.

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Re: How economical is our energy?

Post by ChrisSmolinski » Tue Jul 27, 2004 2:00 am

And the interesting thing is that, even though oil may be an "inefficient" form
of energy, it's one of the best things we've got going. Sad but true. At the end
of the day, and at the bottom of the balance sheet, the numbers work out OK.

I'm a big proponent of fission, but I'd be curious to know what the fully
burdened costs are. Some of them are difficult to define, and many are sunk
costs anyway. One thing oil has going for it, and fission could, is economies
of scale. It's difficult to get a new technology going because you have all
those one time costs to amortize. But of course the problems with fission are
not engineering, that part is well known and old hat. The problems are
political. Fission, along with breeder reactors to make full use of uranium and
eventually thorium, would give us a few thousand years of energy. Maybe by
then we'll figure out fusion. Probably not.

Has anyone ever written a science fiction story about the idea of our current
civillization using up all the "easy to get" stuff (energy sources like coal and
oil, and high grade ores). Then there's a major collapse, and another dark
ages, which the world is never able to get out of, because the easy to get
energy and raw material sources are all gone, so they're never able to get
past that level to where they could use say fission again. I'm sure this story
has been done, if anyone knows the title of such a tale, let me know, it would
make for interesting reading.

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Re: How economical is our energy?

Post by DaveC » Tue Jul 27, 2004 4:51 am

This is certainly a good exercise in raising our engineering and other consciousness about energy.

A couple of points not yet made are... to remind everyone of the pictures that made front page, when Saddam Houssein blew up the Kuwaiti Oil flields as he fled in the Gulf War? There were oil geysers... everywhere!! Think aboutthat for a minute. There is literally Zero energy cost for pumping the oil out of many of the the Mid East wells.

I heard the following figure years ago, from a physicist friend who was comparing the potential of Siberian oil versus that of the Middle East. He quoted the figure of $0.25/barrel cost of oil from middle east, versus $3.00/barrel for Siberian oil. This 12:1 ratio, sets out the economic hurdles for the Russian participation in the crude.oil marketplace, and show why Middle East Oil figure so prominently in our national political agendae.

Some other factors to keep in mind, are that once the excavations take place and the piping is in...the energy expended is rapidly overshadowed by the energy transmitted.

A quick example to illustrate: Excavation for a 48" line, would require a trench some 6 x 8 ft in size to give a 4 ft cover..This is about 253, 488 cu ft of soil to remove per mile. AT 150 lb/cu ft and an avg lift of 6 ft ( 4 ft avg depth plus 2 ft to pile it..) =228 million ft -lb of work. Sounds like a lot of energy.

One kilowatt-hr is the energy equivalent of 2.655 M ft-lb of work.

Thus to excavate for a mile of moderate sized oil line, we need to put out 85.86 Kwhr of energy. At electricity in CA, some $20 worth of energy. In terms of gasoline equivalents, (1gal regular gasoline = 36.1 kwhr) just under 2.4 gallons of gasoline. or about $5.00 .

Now we all know, that you can't actually excavate a mile long trench, 4 ft wide and 8 ft deep on 2.4 gallons of any fuel, but that only measures the inefficiency of out digging machines. Multiply the above theoretical number by any factor you think reasonable. 20, 50, 100.. whtaever.

How many gallons of gasoline could the 48" line pass per hr? Its volume is about 94 gallons per foot. Thus a mile of line would hold just under half a million gallons of gasoline (496.3Kgal./mile). At one mile/hr (1.46 ft/sec) the gasoline value is about $1 M dollars per hr - a one mph flow !!

I don't know know how fast the flow is in these lines, and of course they usually pump crude, not gasoline. But the idea comes across... that there is a substantial return on the energy investment.. and thus these companies make money hand over fist.

Hats off to RIchard for this stimulating thread!!.

Dave Cooper

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Richard Hull
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Re: How economical is our energy?

Post by Richard Hull » Tue Jul 27, 2004 2:56 pm

The purpose of this thread was really to prepare for other questions down the road. There will be lots of them.

How much energy was expended at the Hiroshima/ Nagasaki Sites versus the energy needed to make the U235 and Pu cores alone! Those are, of course, poor examples, for probably 20,000 times the energy delivered was expended in the effort of getting the stuff on target.

We just were not that good at getting the job done on the first pass.

Now however, we can breed PU as an after thought to normal fission which, itself, still demands the hard to separate U235. (We only need enrich it to a few percent in modern power plants)

I know of no power reactors using anything other than U235..........Right?

Still, the U enrichment process remains a very energy hungry business. The old TVA and water falling over a cliff really helped settle the electrical bill in the past.

Still, what is the current state of the art ENERGY efficiency U rock in the ground to watts tumbling out of Surry or North Anna here in VA??

Inquiring minds want to know.

Before someone mentions this, I realize we have mountains of remaining yellow cake piled high from the cold war yet to refine and that active Uranium mining in the US is a distant memory. Still the stuff cost us at the front end. A tremendous amount of energy was spent here in just getting the yellow cake. There was zero concern on the part of the government in obtaining the product for they just saw a "Red under evey bed".

This is now a resource that costs us nothing up to the yellow cake. So, it is from this point in the process to watts out of the nuke plants.

Richard Hull
Progress may have been a good thing once, but it just went on too long. - Yogi Berra
Fusion is the energy of the future....and it always will be
Retired now...Doing only what I want and not what I should...every day is a saturday.

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Re: How economical is our energy?

Post by dfryer » Tue Jul 27, 2004 7:45 pm

As I understand it, the CANDU reactors (Canadian Deuterium-Uranium) don't need the fuel to be enriched at all.. and if the reactor goes haywire you just drain the heavy water moderator and the reaction stops. If someone more familiar with the subject could correct me, I would appreciate it.

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Re: How economical is our energy?

Post by 3l » Wed Jul 28, 2004 12:03 am

Hi Daniel:

You can't just drain out the moderator out of a Candu reactor.
You must replace it with plain water to stop the reaction.
The fuel is at several thousand degrees and will burst into flames.
President Carter spent some of his midshipman days helping to extinquish the fire at the NRX Chalk River Facility. A moderator accident flooded the basement of the NRX Facility with heavy water from the reactor caldera. With no moderator to cool them,the blazing hot fuel bundles were exposed to ambient air
burning with vigorously ferocity.
Ala Chernoble

The NRX was the military prototype for the Candu Reactor.
It was so radioactive that each midshipman worked five minutes
then evacated the area.
All the 50 midshipmen from Anapolis Nuclear School got a lifetime dose containing that fire with sand and a bucket.

Happy Fusoring!
Larry Leins
Fusor Tech

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