Monday, March 12, 2007

'Big Oil' Must Go Nuclear

From ThisIsMoney:

Shell and BP will have to go nuclear if they want to remain 'supermajor' leaders of the global energy industry.

That is the startling finding of a major report into the energy industry in the age of climate change by JPMorgan.

The US investment bank envisages that 'Big Oil' will play a significant role in the future redevelopment of nuclear power.

The JPMorgan report suggests that within 10 years, nuclear will be at the top of the agenda for a world preoccupied with clean, green energy and replacing diminishing global stocks of oil and gas.

Nuclear is also likely to come to be seen as the only effective future for the socalled 'hydrogen economy', when powercharged fuel cells replace oil in the global automotive industry and elsewhere.

This could definitely be great if oil companies get into the nuclear game. They have plenty of market capital to build new reactors in the first place and would be able to fund billion dollar projects without blinking.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

I have no problem with this really, but I don't think hydrogen is a particularly attractive fuel.

The ideal motor fuel is the simple molecule dimethyl ether, which is now being widely commercialized in Asia.

DME can be obtained via nuclear means.

I have written about this option, albeit sloppily, elsewhere:

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2006/11/24/195214/27

Before anyone tells me that the separation of carbon dioxide from air is energetically intense, I need to note that such separation (equilibrium driven) drives all life on earth.

-NNadir

Ruth Sponsler said...

I viewed this statement from the JPMorgan analyst as an indication of a generally favorable attitude on Wall Street toward nuclear power. I took the comments mostly as a "general" indication of large investor groups' sentiments on nuclear energy.

A favorable disposition of investment banks toward nuclear energy is necessary for future major developments in the area, especially given the recent history concerning the TXU buyout and cancellation of plans for several coal-fired power plants.

The positive attitude shown in this article bodes well for the financial and legal aspects of new build.

(I see the possibility of plug-in-hybrid vehicles as technologically more feasible at this time than hydrogen fuel cells).

More at We Support Lee.

GRLCowan said...

The separation of carbon dioxide from air is not energetically intense, not compared to the energy then required to convert it and water vapour into fuel and oxygen. However, although boron cars are harder to develop, people will want them.

--- G. R. L. Cowan, former hydrogen-energy fan
Oxygen expands around boron fire, car goes

robert merkel said...

There are any number of ways in which the heat released by nuclear reactors could be used to power transport vehicles. I haven't heard of dimethyl ether, but nuclear can certainly be used to make hydrogen, and it can be used to charge batteries, and it can be used to run electric trains.

But in any case, just replacing coal-fired power stations will be a pretty good start :)

robert merkel said...

Ruth:

Personally, I think we might just see a lot of pure battery electric vehicles in the not too distant future, given the development of things like the Tesla Roadster and, even more impressive, the Phoenix electric pickup truck.

Whichever way it pans out, it seems to me that just about every option for transport fuel (except biofuels, which have severe environmental problems of their own) requires a stationary energy source that doesn't emit CO2 somewhere in the mix.

Anonymous said...

What kind of range does that Tesla have? How long is the charging cycle? I don't mind the prospect of a few hours' charging time going to work and back. Probably okay on range for that as well. Now, making my annual trek to the beach might be a bit of a challenge. I can "recharge" my gas guzzler at the pump in a few minutes, and go another 400 miles without much problem, and make it there in a day.

Matthew66 said...

My problem with dimethyl ether (CH3OCH3) is that it is a hydrocarbon, which will release CO2 when burned. I don't really see the point in replacing one hydrocarbon with another if the aim of the exercise is to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Hydrogen produced by electrolysis of water seems to me to be a better option, although I am not an expert.

GRLCowan said...

Using nuclear energy to pry hydrogen out of water would be part of the process of making nuclear gasoline or nuclear DME; I used to think motorists would want to use pure hydrogen directly, but now understand that despite repeated production of prototype hydrogen cars dating back to the early 1970s, no ordinary motorist wants such a car. And they have reason in not wanting them.

Ideally, nuclear production of a fuel hydrocarbon would take out the CO2 from the atmosphere that will be put back when the fuel burns; that's why NNadir and I were talking about the energetic cost of that extraction.

--- G. R. L. Cowan, former hydrogen-energy fan
Oxygen expands around boron fire, car goes

Anonymous said...

Anon -- That Tesla Roadster's a sweet little car. It's specs are on the order of 0-60 mph (100 km/h) in about 4 seconds, with a top speed of 130mph. It can travel approx. 250 miles on a single charge, and takes 3.5 hours to recharge. At this time, I'm not ready to trade in my traditional vehicle, but if the price were right, it'd sure make a great "fun" car. FYI, the site's www.teslamotors.com

Anonymous said...

The Tesla would work for almost all of the "routine" driving I do, assuming it has reasonable passenger/payload capacity. It just wouldn't work for the occasional long distance trip. Unfortunately (or not), my annual vacation is important to me. I need to go about 800 miles each way. If they could double the range per recharge, it might be doable, since we stay overnight at the halfway point, and I can pay the motel operator for the KW-HRS I would tap from him to do the recharge. Is the battery technology up to snuff? I don't want to be spending $5-$10K every three years to replace the battery pack.

Kevin McCoy said...

Actually, it might be more accurate to say that Big Oil must go nuclear again. Old-timers will remember that there was once an Exxon Nuclear. It owned the nuclear fuel manufacturing facility in Richland, Washington. The plant is still functioning, but now it is run by AREVA.

Anonymous said...

And don't forget Gulf General Atomics Co., which also had a part ownership in later incarnation by Shell. Philips Petroleum also had a hand in with management of what is now INL, formerly the National Reactor Testing Station in Idaho Falls.