Chelsea Green Publishing

Chelsea Green Blog

Reduce, reuse, rediesel

Autobloggreen reports on a universal carbon-into-diesel development.
From sewer sludge to affordable clean dieselResearchers from UC Riverside and a small company announced a new process yesterday that allows them to create diesel from pretty much anything that contains carbon. The process can convert sewer sludge, wood, agricultural waste, plain old trash, and even plastic into a gas, and then turning the gas into high-quality diesel. While other gasification processes have been developed in the past, this process promises to be significantly more cost effective. The gasification is achieved by using hydrogen and steam at nearly 1,500 degrees to break apart the feed stock into a gas. Traditional gasification methods use oxygen instead of hydrogen and require large amounts of energy. The new process is also a lot faster, adding to the cost savings. While the process of gasification normally takes about an hour, the new process reduces this to about 6 minutes, a tenfold improvement. The current production cost is about $1 a gallon, but retail would be higher. A pilot plant will be built, and it will be able to convert 10 tons of waste per day into fuel. Getting rid of waste, and producing fuel at the same time sounds like a win-win situation to me.
I’d like to know what the net energy is here. 1,500′ (I’m assuming Farenheit) is pretty durn hot and makes for a demanding production process. Plus you apparently need free hydrogen; from electrolysis? Anyone know where the cheapest, least energy demanding hydrogen come from? (That’s not a trick or rhetorical question. I’m really asking.) Oh, I see from the comments on the Autobloggreen page that, one guys says, commercial hydrogen comes from fossil fuels–probably stripped out of natural gas. That sounds about right.


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