Coal? …Fold

For all the issues with gas via fracking, at least it’s not coal.  Whine all you want about some “war on coal,” it’s just a lesser fuel, from both a chemical and financial standpoint.  Natural gas has been displacing coal since the Eighties- oooh, that tree-hugging Reagan!- due to Wall Street hassles, not so much today’s environmental movement.  I’ll get to Wall Street, though.

People who do physics, and in particular thermodynamics, become familiar with condensed matter issues, separate from the rest of the field.  Solid-state physics (and to a lesser extent true liquids) have issues versus gases and plasmas.  Namely, their enthalpies of fusion, and of vaporization.  In street terms, it takes energy to melt a solid into a liquid, and still more energy to vaporize that liquid.  Lots of energy.

This matters because only gases burn.  Yup, hard for people on the street to understand, but coal itself does not burn; neither does wood or any other solid.  Liquids, neither (technically).  Condensed matter must be heated to produce volatiles; only then do those volatiles mix with oxygen and burn.  That volatilization energy isn’t free, of course- it had to come from the previously-burnt volatiles.  This is partly why campfires are hard to light.  Coal, wood, and other solids are like land animals, trying to tread water before they can even start paddling forward.  Gaseous fuels, though, are like fish, swimming because… they’re fish, and they swim rings around land animals without a thought. Continue reading


The Coming Natural Gas “Crash”

This year I’m thankful… I’m not exposed to gas fracking!  Not literally- by exposure to hydraulic fracturing fluids- and not financially either, vested in petro-speculation.  I had always cast an eye toward fracking, for one simple reason if nothing else: I, along with others, remember the last boom and bust in natural gas.  And while few are alive from the really big boom and bust, the lessons are written for anyone willing to read them.  You know, “due dilligence.”

Good signs of a bubble: sudden growth, with multiple investment opportunities, going down past professional financiers to prosumers and onto “Main Street” (however you define that).  Not so good sign: opacity, as in opaque deals, pricing, and even basic processes and technologies.  That is bad since, without informed deals, prosumers and Main Street (and even some pros) jump in for fear of missing out on a boom, with little time (or possibly even ability) to do their due dilligence.  That is also… present in spades in the situation at hand.

Of course, some people will make out like bandits; there are always some in every bubble.  The better question is who, because everyone thinks it’s going to be them.  It’s obvious they can’t all be, can they?  Of course everyone can’t be- in a turnabout, the success of a few is predicated on them beating out the rest.  Continue reading

OP-Ex? (or Indonesia, BOOM)

First Norway, then Iran, now Indonesia.  Even oil-rich nations can’t ignore the future.

The Iranian government had previously turned to natural-gas vehicles.  Tehran is highly polluted, and this “oil-rich” nation is actually fuel-poor.  It doesn’t have enough refineries to turn crude oil into finished fuels, nor enough hard currency for refinery construction.  What oil they have, then, should be saved for export (and gaining hard currencies), meaning Iranian motorists should consume something else.  Natural gas uses much less refining, and is hard to export due to handling and packaging issues.  Iran then encourages its drivers to fill up on domestic natural gas, saving their oil.

Now add electricity.  The government is promoting hybrid cars and electric bikes, even founding a lithium battery factory.  The electricity can be generated by natural gas (a more efficient usage anyway) or with the low-grade residues from oil refining- “bunker fuel,” the dregs of the process.  Or, by solar, which is not a problem in A DESERT.

Indonesia, too, is seeking modern vehicle tech.  Despite being an oil exporter, Indonesia sought natural gas and EV technologies from the US delegation after the recent Beijing summit.  Indonesian cities are also choked with scooter and diesel exhausts; the nation also wants to export what oil it has, and not just light it up.  In Indonesia’s case, they’ve been developing biodiesel from tropical plants as an oil substitute.  It’s clear, though, that biodiesel only goes so far.  There’s only so much land that can be sown with palms, and it’s nowhere near enough.  Indonesia is approaching a third of a billion people, yet wants to stay an oil exporter.

The future isn’t approaching, it’s here.  We can export it.  And yet, I’m still hearing haters.  Why?  Because “you can’t put a gun rack in a Volt,” and other “probably”s… including from people who complain about the dollar.

See also: Bhutan, BOOM, From The Land of The Ice and Snow:, Nor-way To Go!, The Shells Fell From His Eyes