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Tue Mar 30, 2021, 09:40 PM

Don't worry, be happy. We can make ethylene glycol with solar and wind power from, um, coal.

I'm not really even going to discuss this paper other than to say you can make anything "green" simply by drawing a picture of a wind turbine and a solar cell. The paper is this one: Low-Carbon Path of Geographically Matched Hybrid Energy Utilization: A Coal-To-Ethylene Glycol Process with Hydrogen from the Coupled Wind/Solar Power

(Xiaofei Shi, Qi Wang, Siyu Yang, and Yu Qian ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering 2021 9 (12), 4583-4599)

Here's the graphic at the abstract:



Don't you just feel all "green," just looking at it?

Don't worry, be happy.

Excerpt from the opening of the paper:

Ethylene glycol (EG) is an important organic compound and intermediate used in energy, plastics, fuels, and chemical industrial processes. China is the world’s largest EG consumer market.(1,2) Due to the shortage of oil and gas resources, China is highly dependent on EG imports. With the rapid development of the polyester industry, the market demand for EG continues to grow, making the situation of EG shortage in China last for a longer period.(3)

Currently, there are two routes of large-scale EG production in China: the oil-based ethylene oxide hydration route (OtEG) and the coal-based oxalate hydrogenation route [coal-to-EG (CtEG)].(4,5) As there are not enough oil reserves, CtEG is of great interest to China. As of September 2020, there have been more than 30 CtEG plants in operation in China, with a total annual EG production capacity of more than 10 million tons. In addition, there are more than 20 projects under construction or in planning. It is estimated that nearly 50% of EG production in China will be in the catalog of coal-based routes in 2025.(6)
The hydrogen-to-carbon mole ratio of coal is generally less than 1.0, which is far less than that of the EG product in the range of 1.95–2.05. Water gas shift (WGS) is used to convert H2O and CO into CO2 and H2, resulting in carbon emissions up to 3.1 t/t-EG.(7) Therefore, reduction of CO2 emissions in the process is a critical and technical challenge. Integration of hydrogen-rich resources with a coal-based process is considered an effective way to reduce carbon emissions. A number of scholars have coupled coke oven gas and coal chemical processes to produce olefins, natural gas, methanol, and EG.(8−11) Compared with the traditional coal-based process, these integrated systems improve the exergy efficiency and carbon efficiency in some way, with a reasonable economic performance. From the perspective of life cycle assessment, coke, as the other product of the coke oven gas production process, will cause high-intensity carbon emissions during the combustion process.(12,13)

Looking for a true low-carbon hydrogen source is of great significance to the clean utilization of coal. Increasing global energy demand and attention to sustainable development have promoted the development of wind and solar energy utilization technologies.(14) Wind energy and solar energy are widely distributed and global-wide available. The global potentials of wind and solar power generation far exceed the current total energy consumption.(15) As of 2019, the global installed capacity of wind power reached 1270.0 TW h, and the installed capacity of solar power reached 584.6 TW h. In the past 10 years, the proportion of wind power and solar power generation in the total global power generation increased from 3.0% to 9.3%.(16) With the rapid increase of wind power and solar power capacity, a large amount of unstable electricity puts a greater pressure on the grid, making power curtailment a common phenomenon.(17)

Hydrogen production from electrolysis of water is a mature technology that has been applied on a large scale.(18) The route of electrolytic hydrogen production using wind power and solar power is one of the most environmentally friendly methods.(19)


We're just all awash in that wind and solar hydrogen, aren't we? I remember hearing here, some ten or fifteen years ago, all about that great wind to hydrogen pilot plant on the Norwegian Island of Utsira, and how it was going to change the world.

Meanwhile, at the Mauna Loa Carbon Dioxide Observatory, this week:



Less than 10 years ago, just after or around the time I was hearing all about the wonderful wind to hydrogen plant on the Norwegian Island of Utsira - it briefly powered 10 homes before being shut off for "lessons learned" - we passed 400 ppm for the first time. That was in 2014.

Don't worry be happy.

Schematic of the wind and solar and coal to ethylene glycol plant:



The caption:

Figure 6. Flowsheet of WPCtEG.


I assume it stands for "Wind Power Coal to Ethylene Glycol.

I was a child of the 1970's, and frankly, my generation got polyester between our ears.

History will not forgive us; nor should it.

Don't worry; be happy.

Have a nice day tomorrow.

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Reply Don't worry, be happy. We can make ethylene glycol with solar and wind power from, um, coal. (Original post)
NNadir Mar 30 OP
-misanthroptimist Mar 30 #1
NNadir Mar 30 #2
cstanleytech Mar 31 #4
NNadir Mar 31 #5
StevieM Apr 8 #6
NNadir Apr 8 #7
StevieM Apr 8 #8
NNadir Apr 8 #9
cstanleytech Mar 31 #3

Response to NNadir (Original post)

Tue Mar 30, 2021, 10:27 PM

1. On the whole, polyester is less dangerous than nuclear waste.

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Response to -misanthroptimist (Reply #1)

Tue Mar 30, 2021, 10:53 PM

2. You can believe that if you want.

I'm always curious whether or not people who carry on about how "dangerous" so called "nuclear waste" is can tell me exactly how many people have actually died from this big scary "dangerous" stuff about which they actually know next to zero.

Today about 18,000 people to 19,000 people died from air pollution. The same thing happened the yesterday, and the day before yesterday, and the day before the day before yesterday...ad infinitium.

I never get tired of citing from this series of paper on deaths from risks, from one of the world's most prestigious medical journals:

Here is the most recent full report from the Global Burden of Disease Report, a survey of all causes of death and disability from environmental and lifestyle risks: Global, regional, and national comparative risk assessment of 79 behavioural, environmental and occupational, and metabolic risks or clusters of risks, 1990–2015: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2015 (Lancet 2016; 388: 1659–724) One can easily locate in this open sourced document compiled by an international consortium of medical and scientific professionals how many people die from causes related to air pollution, particulates, ozone, etc.

The commercial nuclear industry is now well more than half a century old.

I often challenge people carrying on about so called "nuclear waste" to identify in the data tables of this paper - or elsewhere - as many people who have died from this allegedly "dangerous" stuff during the entire period of commercial nuclear power operations, from so called "nuclear waste," as will die in the next eight hours from air pollution, much of which results from not using nuclear power.

I of course, know intimately what the constituents of used nuclear fuel are; and I find that to a man or woman, critics of used nuclear fuel don't know shit from shinola about this valuable material.

I consider it a fact that selective attention devoted to so called "nuclear waste" to the exclusion of dangerous fossil fuel waste is a very good reason why the future is being destroyed by climate change.

Facts matter.

Because I find this view intellectually and ethically appalling, I often end my posts with this statement: "History will not forgive us nor should it."

By the way, if one were to spend any time in the scientific environmental literature - which I do pretty much every damned day - one would recognize that one of the greatest risks to the planet actually includes the accumulation of synthetic polymers on the planet, polyester being just a subset of the materials causing this very dire and important catastrophe.

But hey, I wouldn't expect people invested in selective attention to know that.

Have a nice day tomorrow.

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Response to NNadir (Reply #2)

Wed Mar 31, 2021, 06:17 AM

4. I just remembered I meant to ask you something.

In other threads you have pointed out the negative impacts from solar and batteries such as the need rare earths and the impact it causes so what is the impact in comparison to nuclear plants?
After all the fuel does have to be mined and they do have to build the plants which does take alot of things like the cement and other materials that they have to use for shielding.

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Response to cstanleytech (Reply #4)

Wed Mar 31, 2021, 06:48 AM

5. First of all...

...the uranium and thorium already (the latter dumped as a side product of lanthanide mining) is sufficient to provide all the world's energy demands, no oil, no coal, no gas, and far fewer lanthanides, is sufficient to supply all of the world's energy demands for many centuries) in a breed and burn scenario. Many of these types of reactors are in late stages of development, and I'm sure I've written about them many times.

I consider that a lot of these options for breed and burn type systems have yet to be seriously evaluated.

If you compare the concrete in used nuclear fuel canisters at a nuclear plant that has provided electricity for half a century with the concrete used to install an offshore wind farm that will be landfill within 20-25 years, while failing to produce as much energy as the nuclear plant, this while requiring a back up plant, you will appreciate that the mass density makes the concrete requirements for nuclear plants trivial by comparison.

It is not that nuclear power requires no mass, only that its energy to mass ratio is trivial compared to everything else.

As is the case with risk and loss of life, nuclear energy does not need to be mass free to be vastly superior to everything else. It only has be vastly superior to everything else, which it is.

I could go on indefinitely about this point, but I hope this short answer suffices.

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Response to NNadir (Reply #5)

Thu Apr 8, 2021, 05:28 PM

6. I have a question.

As you know, I periodically enjoy picking your brain for thoughts on the future of energy.

I know you are a big fan of DME. But presumably we would get most electricity from nuclear plants under your plan of action. And it doesn't appear that your plans include using DME for cars. That would leave two remaining areas of our energy economy: space and water heating and manufacturing.

Is it correct that this is primarily where you envision DME being used? How easy would it be to substitute it into our energy delivery systems? And is there any future at all that you can see for it in the transportation portion of our energy economy?

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Response to StevieM (Reply #6)

Thu Apr 8, 2021, 07:58 PM

7. Some answers to your questions:

While I am definitely not a fan of the car CULTure, which I believe needs to be phased out as quickly as possible, there are some remote systems for which self-propelled machines are necessary, tractors for farms, for one example, ambulances, delivery vehicles, and certainly emergency vehicles like helicopters, fire trucks etc. DME is the perfect fuel for these applications; I cannot after all of these years think of any portable fuel that based on a combinatorial analysis will score as well.

DME can substitute for any application for which dangerous natural gas is used, with the caveat that in some spaces, the use of different sealing materials is required. The difference between DME and dangerous natural gas is that methane is a greenhouse gas, the second most important driver after carbon dioxide after climate change. This is a function of its relatively long atmospheric lifetime which is on the order of decades. By contrast, the average lifetime of DME is about a week.

One could combust DME in homes that now use natural gas, and in fact, those using propane or other forms of LPG. Like propane and LPG, DME is easily liquified, and it is a better refrigerant than either.

The critical temperature of DME is about 150C, meaning that under certain circumstances it can transport heat as a liquid, and in theory therefore, it could be used without combusting it in heat pumps to provide local heating. This is something of a long shot, but one could imagine systems where one uses DME in one case as a heat pump, or if its heat has been exhausted by use in this fashion, then by combustion.

It is, frankly, a wonder fuel, and the reason it is not used is not because it's not better than everything else, but it is because of bad habits. Like the much hyped and in my view silly affection for hydrogen, DME is not a primary source of energy. It is stored energy, albeit thermodynamically superior to all that battery crap people keep advocating, a disaster waiting to happen. (It is happening, and history will not forgive us for it.) DME can be manufactured by increasing the efficiency - recovering exergy - of high temperature devices, nuclear energy being the only sustainable and environmentally acceptable means of providing this heat, as part of a heat exchange network.

Unlike the appalling bourgeois idiot Amory Lovins, I don't view energy efficiency as a tool for reducing energy use, but rather one for expanding energy use by extending it to the billions of people who currently lack access, aka "poor people." This is consistent with human development goals.

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Response to NNadir (Reply #7)

Thu Apr 8, 2021, 09:11 PM

8. I appreciate your taking time to answer my questions.

You obviously have an enormous amount of knowledge about these issues, and we are lucky to have you as a resource to expand our understanding about complicated energy systems.

Here is the question I cannot get out of my mind: what is your second-place choice for the future of cars? Let me explain.

I cannot even begin to imagine that our country, or any country, will elect a government that does away with private automobiles. And it is hard to imagine dictatorships doing it either. Even if it could work in cities, it would seem to be impossible in the suburbs and especially the rural areas.

Let's suppose the environmental situation gets really bad. Even then I think that governments--and the people--would be inclined to try other alternatives before getting rid of them. And that is assuming they even could get rid of them, logistically, without shutting down a whole lot of things.

My point is that getting rid of cars seems to be a much more complicated transformation then getting electricity from nuclear rather than fossil fuels, or getting heat from DME or an electric heater rather than natural gas. In other words, I just can't see the legislation being passed.

So what do you think is the least bad option? What could be done that, in your mind, would allow us the best shot (or second best shot) at avoiding the moment when the feedback loops kick in and carbon starts being released from the soil and permafrost? What will allow us to keep the problem from reaching such explosive levels that we don't have enough time to get our geoengineering program up and running, so at least we can do some damage control against the worst possible ending? In other words...a game-over ending.

Let's think about this in terms of avoiding human extinction, while still recognizing that humankind is about to undergo a whole lot of pain. I wish we could do better but right now the evidence does not seem to support that we will. So I will prepare for the next best thing, which involves things like envisioning a wide-spread geoengineering plan starting around 2050. But I also recognize that there will be limits as to what the best geoengineering plans can accomplish. So we need to begin implementing a major transformation right now.

I am curious if you have--or could contemplate--a second choice for the future of cars. DME? OME1? Solid state batteries? Sulfur ion batteries? Some type of biodiesel?

I realize that this is not a question whose answer is in line with your stated beliefs. Please understand that I would not have asked you if not for the tremendous amount of respect I have for your incredible degree of knowledge concerning these matters.

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Response to StevieM (Reply #8)

Thu Apr 8, 2021, 09:59 PM

9. From Rome to Michu Picchu to Teotihuacan to Athens to Caracol to Ankor Wat the world is littered...

...with the ruins of cultures that could not imagine the end of their way of life.

The suburbs, including the one in which I live, will be ruins sooner or later, because the car CULTure is not sustainable by any means, not here, not in China, not in France, nor Japan, nor Belize.

The car CULTure - and let's be clear I'm a participant - is the largest single example of the much (to my view, disastrous) hailed idea of "distributed energy," which in the end works out to distributed pollution, the most intractable form of pollution there is.

I am often amused - this used to happen a lot in California when I lived there - when legislatures announced plans to repeal the second law of thermodynamics. Unfortunately, this is a very popular idea on our end of the political spectrum, our answer to creationism and climate denial.

This said, the least worst option for dragging its inevitable demise out is, as I indicated, DME fueled compression engines, perhaps in a hybrid conformation. This is rather like taking an anti-neoplastic agent for pancreatic cancer; it won't save your life, but it might make you feel better, even briefly extend your life, and allow you to imagine that you are not, in fact, dying.

As for geo-engineering, I think about this all the time, and in my view, there is one and only one pathway to doing this, which is to physically remove carbon dioxide from the air, possibly using the ocean as a concentrating device. This, I think, is barely on the edge of "feasible," but it won't be simple or cheap. It won't make the Ayn Rand types - who stupidly crow about how "cheap" so called "renewable energy," is while not bothering even for a moment to think about real numbers - stop making stupid statements to the contrary.

One should realize that to do this, to geoengineer the planet in such a way as to restore it, every joule of energy ever released in the combustion of dangerous fossil fuels will need to be produced again along with the additional energy required to live, and far more problematic, every joule per kelvin of entropy ever released in the combustion of dangerous fossil fuel must also be reversed.

This is a consequence of both the first law and second law of thermodynamics.

There is one, and only one, form of sustainable energy that can do this. We seem to hate it. It's "too expensive" and "too dangerous" for people who seem to believe that climate change is not "too expensive" and "too dangerous." From my perspective, this view is completely and totally insane.

It is frankly impossible to produce both the energy we need to live and the energy to recover all of the carbon dioxide ever dumped by the historical combustion of dangerous fossil fuels using glass coated with semiconductors, batteries, and wind turbines that need replacement every 20 years. The belief that this is possible is, in my view, participation in a kind of delusional cult of denial, not much different from outright climate denial of the Jim Inhofe/George Bush/Donald Trump types.

As you note, however, it impossible for political figures on any end of the spectrum to tell the truth or to act on the truth about any of these realities. It is a normal human condition to avoid confronting reality until reality squashes a human culture like a bug. It is not true that it "can't happen." History teaches it always happens. In a democracy, this is the fault of the citizens; in autocracies or dictatorships, this is slightly less true, but the effect will still be the same.

We may be left with "least worst," but "least worst" is still fatal.

I'm sorry to be cynical, but it's how I see things.

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Response to -misanthroptimist (Reply #1)

Wed Mar 31, 2021, 06:12 AM

3. Technically true but really the risk of being exposed to that is pretty low.

Granted it can happen like with Fukushima but if good well planned safeguards are taken beforehand the risk of something like that happening is rather negligible.

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