Thursday, September 04, 2003

A new way to transport and store natural gas?

From Technology Review:
Nearly 95 percent of the known gas fields in the world are too small to justify the costs required pipe the gas to a plant, turn it into a liquid, and then transport it on specially equipped tankers.

But a handful of researchers have an idea that could make these fields worth mining: rather than figure out cheaper ways to transport this cleaner-burning energy source from point A to point B as a liquid, why not change natural gas into a solid substance that’s easier and cheaper to transport?

Japanese researchers Hajime Kanda at Mitsui Engineering and Shipbuilding in Tokyo and Yasuhara Nakajima of Japan's National Maritime Research Instititute think they’ve found a solution with the aid of hydrates, solid crystals in which natural gas—composed chiefly of methane—is caged inside of water molecules.

For decades, researchers have been looking for ways to gather these crystals from their deep-ocean deposits and reap what they expect could be a natural gas harvest. Kanda and Nakajima are taking an opposite approach. Rather than extracting methane from hydrates, they want to turn methane into hydrates—essentially, transforming the colorless and odorless gas into small pellets that can be easily stored, transported, and eventually turned back into natural gas. A few months ago Mitsui, in partnership with Osaka University, opened a demonstration plant near Tokyo to promote the concept and show that it works. If the Mitsui’s process proves feasible and economical, many untapped natural gas deposits could become vital energy sources.

Changing natural gas into a hydrate form for cheaper transport gained attention in the early 1990s. Norwegian petroleum engineers first proposed the idea after comparing the transport economics of liquid natural gas to natural gas hydrates, knowing that hydrates could store large amounts of natural gas in a small space. “More than 180 standard cubic feet of gas can be stored in one cubic foot of hydrate," says Rudy Rogers, professor of chemical engineering at Mississippi State University, and an authority on industrial use of gas hydrates.

Another major advantage: “transporting natural gas as hydrates can be done at higher temperature and lower pressure than liquid natural gas, and the risk of ignition in transport is much lower,” explains Hugh Guthrie, who studies natural gas at the U.S. Department of Energy's National Energy Technology Laboratory in Morgantown, WV. Much of the high cost of liquid natural gas comes from temperature and pressure demands on piping, shipping, and storage facilities.
Could cheap natural gas powered vehicles follow? This will be an interesting technology to watch.

New Source Review - what it really means

Per Lynne Kiesling:
Much of the angst regarding the revisions to the NSR process flows from a lack of perspective. Perhaps an example of the EPA’s revised approach to NSR applied to a residential scenario will help "clear the air".

The owners of an older home notice that their water heater has begun to leak and must be replaced. While shopping for a new water heater, they discover that new water heaters of the same storage capacity and energy input are available with higher efficiencies than their old unit and that these higher efficiency water heaters would thus use less energy to produce the same amount of hot water and cost less money to operate. They decide to purchase one of the more efficient water heaters.

However, the salesman then hands them a copy of an EPA document entitled “Homeowners’ Guide to NSR Compliance”. The homeowners read the guide and learn that, if they replace their old water heater with a more efficient water heater of the same storage capacity and energy input, they will also be required to bring all other aspects of their home and its energy using equipment into compliance with current codes and standards. This would involve replacing their existing heating and cooling system with a new system which meets the minimum efficiency standards established by the National Appliance Energy Conservation Act (NAECA) and perhaps also their current clothes washer and dryer, range, refrigerator, etc. It would also require that they replace their current windows or add storm windows, increase the insulation levels in their walls and ceilings, renew caulking and weather stripping and take other energy conservation measures required by the codes in their state and/or city.

On further reflection, the homeowners decide that the extra operating cost of the new, but lower efficiency, water heater is not so bad compared with the cost of bringing their entire home into compliance with current codes and standards all at once. This decision does not make their home less energy efficient than it was before, but it does leave it less efficient than it might otherwise have been, at least until the next time the water heater requires replacement.

Wednesday, September 03, 2003

Always jump a gun...

Here's an interesting post from Dipnut. Not that he doesn't have other good stuff, but I can't link it all...

Baby one more time...

According to Drudge, "Britney comes out swinging for Bush". And they weren't talking about her next costume:
Britney Spears came out swinging for President Bush on Wednesday during an interview with CNN's Tucker Carlson.

CARLSON: A lot of entertainers have come out against the war in Iraq. Have you?

SPEARS: Honestly, I think we should just trust our president in every decision that he makes and we should just support that, you know, and be faithful in what happens.

CARLSON: Do you trust this president?

SPEARS: Yes, I do.

CARLSON: Excellent. Do you think he's going to win again?

SPEARS: I don't know. I don't know that.



Here is a tribute to an obscure New Jersey hair band I liked. They disappeared suddenly in the early 1990's long ahead of the mass extinction that followed. Near as I can tell lead singer Sandi Saraya is a soccer mom now.

US National DanceSport Championships are in Miami this week

Any DanceSport junkies out there? The US Championships are in Hollywood, FL this week. You've already missed one day - hurry up and get down there. It's a chance to see pros from around the world, such as Christopher Hawkins and Hazel Newberry.

Go Dan and Nicole!

Call me "Tomato Can"

Ya know, winning isn't everything. And all too often the winners fail to admire the one thing that makes winning possible. Losers.

I know this firsthand. You see, on Saturday I was in a dance competition in Dayton, OH in which I participated in 5 events. In each event I had exactly one opponent - the same guy each time. And I lost every time. I guess a spin doctor would say I came in second 5 times and the other guy finished next to last.

I stayed until the bitter end to watch the awards being presented and found that my nemesis also won an award for being the best student. Ha! The same thing happened to me in St. Louis last March - a guy beat me every time we competed and won the best student award.

That made me wonder - if they hadn't been able to run up the score against me, would they have won the awards? Can I trade on this and get my opponents to pay my expenses and entry fees from now on?

Hey, it's not so strange - some have made a career out of it. Ever heard of Mouse Strauss? He was a boxer who said "I was the first and only fighter who ever tried to make an art out of being an Opponent...I never trained, but I knew I had enough in the tank to go three rounds. I always tested their chin, but if I couldn't knock 'em out, I'd look for a soft spot in the canvas, wait for a big punch and close my eyes."

And then there's Red Klotz and the Washington Generals. They were a team that traveled with the Harlem Globetrotters to provide competition, and of course they and their predecessors almost always lost.

So make me an offer...

Tuesday, September 02, 2003

Test your crime IQ

Now think a minute - if you were going to steal something and didn't want to get caught, what would be the last thing you'd steal? I think Kathy Kinsley has the answer. Good grief, if this guy were a doctor he'd be doing appendix transplants.

Flash your lights, get a ticket?

Flashing headlights on your car is a handy signal for several purposes. It's a handy way to show people where you parked. If you have a security remote for your car, it's a way of telling you that you have just locked your car, or alarming if someone tries to break in. If you're driving, it's a courtesy to people who are passing you when they are pulling a trailer so they can know when they can pull over. And it's a classic way of warning oncoming drivers that there's a speed trap ahead.

Which is why flashing your lights can get you busted in Cleveland. A cop says "Basically they are obstructing our duty and our job to enforce the law."

Well cry me a river. I thought that the idea was public safety, not revenue for municipalities and excuses to jack up insurance rates. Flashing lights as noted above contributes to public safety, and I've actually had cops flash brights at me as a warning when I was speeding. And some municipalities have been notorious for funding themselves via speeding tickets or other predatory behavior against drivers passing through, such as Ludowici, GA, and Fruithurst, AL. Many others are listed here. (But the forces of justice are fighting back, and sometimes they win).

As for insurance rates, well...if traffic law enforcement were more uniform things would be different. And if you get a ticket and can't keep it off your driving record, you must not have tried.

Gosh, I seem to have wandered off topic - surely that hasn't happened before. Anyway, IMO this light flashing prohibition is pretty dim.