The goal of this series is to suggest alternative ways of consuming the products of crude oil. Previously, I mentioned that the consumption of gasoline and diesel is to be, slowly but surely, greatly reduced; and electricity is going to take over, generated primarily by methane, sun, wind, and water. The question is what to do with all this oil, primarily naphtha and diesel? Here are some suggestions.
Fuel cells take materials, like hydrogen and hydrocarbons, and generate electricity. Oxygen is added from air and an oxidation-reduction reaction takes place. In the case of hydrogen, the waste is essentially just water. Methane, alkanes, naphtha, and diesel can also be used in place of hydrogen. The carbon footprint is still there with regard to automobiles utilizing hydrocarbon (methane, gasoline, diesel) fuel cells. but fuel cells are almost 5 times more efficient than internal combustion engines. So, the footprint and pollution is actually lower per unit of energy derived. Nevertheless, I think that stripping the hydrogen off the hydrocarbon (methane reforming), using the hydrogen for the fuel cell, and using the left over carbon for pencils is the best path.
Carbon Dioxide Sequestration
This process is best suited for power plants where the exhaust, carbon dioxide, is piped into the ground and “sequestered”. Sequestration is very effective, holding the carbon dioxide for thousands of years. The gas will leak to the surface; thus, a seal must be found. Underground seals that keep carbon dioxide sequestered are depleted oil/gas reservoirs, rock formations with saline water, and deep underground coal beds. This way you can run a power plant with all the coal, diesel, and fuel oil required – just pump the carbon dioxide back into the ground.
In 1986, I wrote a class research paper on the use of bacteria to clean up water pollution. So, I know this technology has been around for a while and that microbes do in fact break down hydrocarbons. However, after all these years, it appears that the technology is stuck in the research phase, and that the mechanisms of reaction are still unclear and fuzzy. Nevertheless, after searching the internet; I found that two types of bacteria, used together, can break down petroleum. One bacteria converts the hydrocarbons to carbon dioxide. The next microbe, called a methanogen, converts the carbon dioxide to methane. This methane can them be used in cars or power plants. Although, the microbial solution is slow, it can be done. This method is used for sewage systems and sludge aeration processes. It can be done for petroleum.