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View Diary: Sunday Train: Unleashing the Political Power of Bio-Coal (128 comments)

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  •  Geography (0+ / 0-)


    This is a great topic. I do research in this area (biomass torrefaction, hydrothermal carbonization, etc) and am reasonably knowledgeable on the technical aspects of the technology, and reasonably knowledgeable about the economics of producing "biocoal".

    (By the way- I've started calling the carbonized product "BioCarbon" in all research proposals; it seems very catchy in the environment of carbon awareness.)

    I'm still reading through your lengthy post, and will comment more. However, I did want to make a point regarding geography. Actually, two points. (1). The U.S. is already exporting biomass, just like Latvia and other Baltic States. New pellet facilities have been recently built in the Southeast for this purpose. Markets are in Europe, which has a rather progressive carbon policy for energy.

    (2) It sound trite, but coal and biomass don't happen in the same place. This is important, and gets at the underlying politics you alluded to. Coal is good politics in places where there's a lot of coal, such as West Virginia, Kentucky, Illinois, and Wyoming. These are not places with great reserves of forestry. There are huge tracts of timber available for commercial use today in Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and also in Oregon and Washington. These forests used to provide pulp for pulp and paper mills, but that industry has mostly closed its doors, and moved off shore. Thus, there could be (but isn't yet) a groundswell of political support for new biocoal plants in the southeast and in the northwest. But that won't be from the same workers who've been laid off from a coal mining job.

    -5.38, -2.97
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    by ChuckInReno on Tue Oct 01, 2013 at 03:34:24 AM PDT

    •  Yes, biocoal travels as well as coal ... (0+ / 0-)

      ... and most pelletized biomass do not travel as well.

      Biocoal is a far more suitable feedstock for Direct Carbon Fuel Cells than pelletized biomass, so the process of producing biocoal, with substantial electricity co-generation at the point of production, and then consuming biocoal in, in the immediate future, coal-fired power plants, is more open to direct conversion of the biocoal energy consumption to DCFC with ultimate efficiencies likely to be in the range of 80%. That is, evidently, well beyond the Carnot Limit on efficiency of coal-fired power plants.

      For the above policy, the only difference between biocoal and biochar is that biocoal is briquetted and biochar is a powder, so powdering rather than briquetting biocoal produces biochar, and crushing biocoal briquettes also produces biochar, which can be used as a soil treatment to substantially improve the health of marginal soils. Therefore, the decision on whether to use biocoal as biochar or as a fuel source does not have to be made until its time to either shop the biochar to the consuming farmer or the biocoal to the consuming power plant. Given that the appropriate role for biomass electric power in a country with the Wind and Solar resource of the United States is to act a dispatchable power source to fill in gaps between daily available supply and demand, this flexibility combined with the long term stability of biocoal in storage is invaluable, since it allows the price floor mechanism to be the open offer price for biocoal for sequestration.

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      by BruceMcF on Tue Oct 01, 2013 at 11:34:46 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  DCFC? (0+ / 0-)

        Can you provide a link to the use of biocoal for DCFC? I've never seen this.

        The role of DCFC for dispatchable or baseload power is purely hypothetical, since the technology does not yet exist, in any practical means. If you're talking about solid-oxide fuel cells, then yes, these are commercial. But without a very expensive first step for gasification, I don't think they can be configured to run on solid fuels.

        -5.38, -2.97
        The NRA doesn't represent the interests of gun owners. So why are you still a member?

        by ChuckInReno on Wed Oct 02, 2013 at 02:59:59 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Of course its under research ... (0+ / 0-)

          ... at an early stage of research, with a range of materials and other design problems to be resolved before it will be ready to enter development, but then DFCF's entering development is not a pre-requisite to the use of biocoal, so under a Pedal to the Metal approach, the one would not wait on the other.

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          by BruceMcF on Wed Oct 02, 2013 at 04:35:31 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

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