[ExI] One that didn't exactly work out.

Keith Henson hkeithhenson at gmail.com
Fri Nov 8 21:08:14 UTC 2019

Subject: A proposed way to replace natural oil with renewable oil

To: Power Satellite Economics <power-satellite-economics at googlegroups.com>

There are two recent news stories that started this line of thinking.

First is the recent MIT release on a method to inexpensively capture CO2.


The second is the story about the world's lowest PV bid.


One much larger is being planned.


The first article says the capture method will work in the air.  It
takes about one GJ to capture a ton of CO2.  A GJ is 278 kWh.  At 1.69
cents per kWh, it will cost about $4.70 per ton of CO2.  Or $17.23 per
ton of carbon.  14 tons of oil has 12 tons of carbon at a cost of
$206.  Per bbl, the carbon would cost about $2.00

Oil is approximately CH2.  Making hydrocarbons is scaled off the
34,000 bbl/day plant Sasol built 12 years ago in Qatar, it would take
about 30,000 plants.  10,000 if the plant size was moved up to 100,000
bbl/day, but that may take too large a PV farm.

CO2 + 3H2  yields CH2 + 2H2O
44    +   6                 14  + 36

It may take reverse water gas shift to make the CO2 into CO.  It is
also possible that the CO2 might be electrolyzed to CO and O2 at a
lower energy cost than making the extra hydrogen.





At 50 MWh/ton, 6 tons of hydrogen would take 300 MWh.  That makes 14
tons of oil or 21 MWh/ton of oil. At 7.33 bbl/ton the energy required
for a bbl of oil is about 3 MWh.  For an energy cost of $16.90/MWh,
the hydrogen energy cost is very close to $50/bbl.

Add $2/bbl for carbon, and ~$10/bbl for the capital cost of the F/T
plant.  Carbon-neutral synthetic oil (fuel actually) would cost
~$62/bbl, possibly less with more process optimization.  For example,
there is no reason for inverters, the PV DC output can directly power
the electrolysis cells.  This should reduce the cost of energy in
hydrogen below 1.69 cents per kWh.

The take-home is that in some places PV has gotten so inexpensive that
it would be possible to make carbon-neutral synthetic hydrocarbons to
replace natural oil for about the same price.

The area needed for the PV is huge, 120% of Saudia Arabia or about 28%
of the Sahara Desert.  (check these numbers, 100 million
bbls/day/34,000 bbl.day, ~30,000 plants at ~90 square km/plant.)

34,000 bbl per day is a rate of around 1466 bbl/hr.  At 3 MWh/bbl for
the hydrogen, the average input to the hydrogen cells would be 4.25 GW
and the peak about 4 times higher.

Sunlight comes down at a ~GW/km^2.  Between the peak to average and
the PV efficiency, a factor of about ~20 needs to need to be applied.
This takes the PV area per plant up to 85-90 square km.

It could be done over a number of years, but the cost is going to be a
problem.  If we built the plants at 3000 a year, that alone would be
$3 T.  I am not sure what the capital cost for the PV would be,
probably 4-5 times the billion-dollar plant cost.

I don't believe this option has been considered in the context of the
global effects of CO2.

After checking the math and finding I had the area off by a factor of
ten, I am not so sure it is something that could be considered.  The
Sasol plants cost a billion dollars.  30,000 would be $3 T a year for
ten years. Also, the area needed is so large that much black PV might
cause serious weather problems.

Sigh, it's not easy to make use of renewables, especially PV.

As Mike Sneed notes, for the same power from power satellites the
rectenna area would be around 1/5th.


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