Monday, September 24, 2012

Energy: "The Potential of Methanol"

In January's "Possibly Major Materials Science Breakthrough: '"Carbon Dioxide Super Scrubber?"' I used my usual approach to writing, assuming the reader is smarter than I am, and let them figure it out by asking "Why is a Nobel Laureate (Chemistry) fooling around with this stuff?"
Here's more from Robert Rapier's Rsquared blog:
Last week I received an email from John Bockris, a retired Distinguished Professor from Texas A&M University. I presume Professor Bockris had come across some of my writings on methanol, as that was the topic of his correspondence. I don’t think Professor Bockris realized that we had met when I was a first year chemistry graduate student at Texas A&M. At that time he was one of the most well-known professors in the chemistry department. (See also: Methanol versus Ethanol: Technical Merits and Political Favoritism)

I asked for permission to publish our correspondence, and permission was granted. My reply to him is in blue. Just one correction. He referred to me as Dr. Rapier. When I was halfway through my chemistry Ph.D. at Texas A&M, it had become clear to me that chemical engineering salaries were much higher. So I switched to the chemical engineering department and got my Master of Science degree. Thus, I am merely “Mr. Rapier”, or more preferably just “Robert.”
I include his contact information in case anyone wants to engage with him about methanol.

Dear Dr. Rapier,
I am writing to you in respect to the tar sands controversy and wanted to point out a couple of things which I think influence the debate.

The figures are such that the total tar sands would not last very long.  I read that the total tar sands which are projected to exist at this time is 276 billion barrels of oil.  The daily use by the world is 0.1 billion barrels.  So this supply from the tar sands would only last us around 2000-3000 days; therefore, they are hardly worth developing.  Of course this view is totally different from some other who paint the tar sands as though they were tremendously available.  I thought this at the beginning but after I looked up the facts, I concluded that there is not much tar sands oil to depend on.

To be impressed by tar sands, the supply would have to at least last us for 50 years to cover all the trouble that would be needed to process the oil from them.

At the moment, the thing I believe is necessary to be understood by you and other experts in the field of the future atmosphere is the scheme that I have been putting forward since 2008, partly with the help of George Olah who has written two books on The Methanol Economy.  He thinks, and to some extent I agree, that methanol is the ideal replacement for gasoline.  It is very like gasoline in its properties so that a change over need only minimal engineering....MORE
Professor Olah is the above-mentioned Nobelist.