Monthly Archives: November 2017

Your Questions About Sustainable Energy Without The Hot Air

Robert asks…

How many 75-gallon barrels of waste corn oil should be collected for 1 entire year? moreinfo below?

Methane (CH4), or natural gas, is commonly used all over the world as a source of energy and fuel. Many homes in the United States combust methane to generate heat for hot water heaters, central air heaters, and is used extensively in gas powered stoves and ovens. Currently methane is mass-produced in a variety of different ways, many of which are not sustainable or environmentally friendly. Many people have started producing their own methane in a variety of different ways. Even though most of these methods are not very efficient, they can be somewhat sustainable if reclaimed or waste materials are used from local sources. One way to “home-brew” methane in a decently sustainable way is to collect waste vegetable oil from various local restaurants and “pyrolyze” it with high heat (typically ~700 K) in the presence of oxygen. Pyrolysis is a very similar chemical reaction to combustion; however, it differs in the types of products it makes.

Corn oil, a commonly used vegetable oil at fast-food restaurants, is composed of approximately 65% by mass linoleic acid (HC18H31O2) and 35% by mass oleic acid (HC18H33O2). In reality there are many other components of corn oil, but these are the main ingredients. The un-balanced reactions below show the pyrolysis of linoleic and oleic acids, respectively, in the presence of oxygen.

HC18H31O2(l) + O2(g) CH4(g) + CO2(g) + H2O(g) + H2(g)

HC18H33O2(l) + O2(g) CH4(g) + CO2(g) + H2O(g) + H2(g)

This year approximately 580. kg of methane in the home was used for heating, hot water, and stove/oven use. How many 75-gallon barrels of waste corn oil should be collect to produce methane for 1 entire year? The density of oleic and linoleic acids are very similar, you may assume both are 0.90 g/cm3. Additionally, you may assume the percent yield of methane production from corn oil pyrolysis is 100% (in really it is much smaller). To make this problem easier, you may assume 65% of the methane produced comes from linoleic acid and 35% of the methane produced comes from oleic acid.

admin answers:

President Bush thought this process was some sort of answer.


It does a number of things that make it impractical.

1. It prevents people from being fed. Every acre that you put into corn production for inefficient SUV’s is 1 acre that cannot be used for feeding starving people, including some Americans.

2. It takes a huge amount of energy to change either of those two hydrocarbons into a simple chemical like CH4 is frightening to calculate. 700o is about 500oC which is hotter than a kitchen oven gets and that is not a trivial consideration.

3. Can you imagine 330 million people all running around to get wasted cooking oil? I can’t either.

4. Not 100% efficient?? My, what is the efficiency?

OK I’m done with my rant. Sorry. I can’t see how you can do this problem without knowing some Chemistry. I think I’m in the math section. I would say we have to balance the equation and proceed, but it scares me to think you may not know enough to go on. There are an infinite number of ways to balance this thing. Here’s one.

HC18H31O2(l) + 12.5O2(g)  6CH4(g) + 12CO2(g) + 3H2O(g) + H2(g) If this is the actual process, it means that 1 mole of linoleic acid produces 6 moles of Methane.

So the mass of the methane is 580 kg * 0.65 = 377 kg
The number of moles of methane = 377000/16 = 23562 moles of methane.
That means that you need 3927 moles of linoleic acid. Just how many grams is that?

1+18*12 + 31 +2*16 = 280 grams per mole

3927 * 280 = 1099560 grams
1099560 / 0.9 = 1221733 cc I take you are using US gallons in this.

1000 cc = 1 L
1221733 cc = x Liters = 1221 L

There are 3.78 L in a US gallon

1221L/3.78 L/gal = 323 gallons

1 barrel = 75 gallons
x barrels = 323 gallons

x = 4.31 barrels.

I’ll give you the second equation balanced. You can work out the rest of it for yourself. Just follow my numbers.

HC18H33O2(l) + 11O2(g) ==> 6CH4(g) + 12CO2(g) + 4H2O(g) + H2(g)

Sorry, I thought you were posting from the United States. My rant holds true for any country that produces corn.

Paul asks…

How might an introduced plant species kill native plant species? ?

A. An introduced plant’s rapid growth can deprive native plants of sunlight.
B. An introduced plant’s rapid growth can deprive native plants of food.
C. An introduced plant can cause soil loss from erosion.
D. An introduced plant’s rapid growth can deprive native plants of oxygen.

2. What is one of the greatest threats to biodiversity on Earth?
A. habitat destruction
B. loss of drinking water
C. decrease in food supply
D. pollution

3. In which biome is biodiversity most threatened?
A. tropical rain forest
B. grassland
C. taiga
D. wetland

4. The Alaskan pipeline is raised up on “legs” in areas along caribou migration paths. Why was it built this way?
A. to prevent damage to the pipeline by caribou
B. to prevent harm to the caribou by the pipeline
C. to prevent habitat fragmentation
D. to prevent caribou from migrating to the wrong habitat

5. Why might an introduced animal species overrun native species in an ecosystem?
A. Its population size is smaller than those of native species.
B. It is more energy efficient, so it eats less food.
C. It is a predator of the native species.
D. It often has no natural enemies.

6. What does the Endangered Species Act do?
A. It provides food for endangered species.
B. It protects organisms that are near extinction and their environments.
C. It protects populations of animals from predators.
D. It protects endangered plant species only.

7. Which term describes the practice of managing resources so that current needs are met without harming future generations?
A. species introduction
B. sustainable development
C. habitat fragmentation
D. biomagnification

8. Why does clear cutting lead to a loss of biodiversity?
A. Lumber companies kill the animals in an area when they cut trees.
B. An entire ecosystem is destroyed when all the trees in an area are cut down.
C. Too much sunlight enters the area after the trees are cut down.
D. Tree seedlings cannot be produced.

9. Which of the following techniques can help prevent populations of slow-growing fish from being depleted?
A. fishing gear review
B. rotation
C. fishing bans
D. harvest reduction

10. Which law regulates emissions from automobiles and industrial factories?
A. Clean Water Act
B. Endangered Species Act
C. Clean Air Act
D. National Environmental Policy Act

admin answers:

1.) A & B
2.) A
3.) I am not sure. The answer may be C or D even though A gets the most publicity.
4.) C – Actually the Alaskan pipeline is on legs to prevent the hot oil from melting the permafrost of the tundra.
5.) D
6.) B
7.) B
8.) B
9.) C or D
10.) C

Do check my answers against your text and class notes, because I may not be completely right, according to your class.

Powered by Yahoo! Answers

Your Questions About Renewable Energy Group

Jenny asks…

help with senior capstone project ideas?

I want to do something related to HVAC, Renewable Energy, Heat Pumps, Solar area but am having trouble with ideas.

I have about 2.5 months in a group of 3 people to create something.

Any ideas would help. This is the hardest part, getting the idea.

admin answers:

From a practical standpoint, may I suggest finding the highest return on investment on some common home upgrades. These may not be true, but will give you an idea, IE if I spend 15 years in my home and have solar panels installed on day one, I will see x thousands saved. Or say if I had blown in insulation in the attic improving my R factor by x on day 1 and I stay in the home for x years I will see a return on investment of yyyy.

From the engineering perspective this project could be really simple because its just looking up data, but from the actual applicable perspective it could be amazing. The true value will be taking these data points, comparing them, and then providing PRACTICAL REAL WORLD advice. Set up a website. Depending where you are located you could correct for climate, IE for the US, up North Solar Panels ROI wont be as high, as if you were in the Florida Keys

There isn’t that much physically you could do with this concept, but the data should be out there to provide useful results. Bonus points from me for providing home owners with actual useful data.

Steven asks…

What funding/grants are available for energy efficient businesses?

I would like to start a privately owned “Green” business that utilizes energy efficient appliances and solar panel energy. I am also a woman teaming up with an individual of minority decent. I know there are funding possibilities for such things, but I don’t know where to start. Please advise!

admin answers:

The grants given for businesses are for those who seek to research and discover renewable energy sources — not for simply using environmentally friendly appliances and solar panel energy

It is hard to find grants to start a business. Unlike the myths that some perpetuate, federal government and even private foundations hardly give grant money for starting a for-profit business.

One possible exception is for companies developing or exporting agricultural goods, including food and forest product. Another exception could be the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) or Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs , which fund the research and development of technological innovation that meets specific government needs.

Your best bet actually will be from the states if they offer grant programs for women (or any other special interest groups — minorities, women, disabled, veterans, etc). Or check with non profit organizations, particularly women organizations if they offer grants. Examples include

Iowa Women’s Foundation
New Mexico Women’s Foundation

Even SBA does NOT give out grants. From the SBA website

“The U.S. Small Business Administration does not offer grants to start or expand small businesses, although it does offer a wide variety of loan programs. (See for more information) While SBA does offer some grant programs, these are generally designed to expand and enhance organizations that provide small business management, technical, or financial assistance. These grants generally support non-profit organizations, intermediary lending institutions, and state and local governments.”

Nonetheless, you can go to the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) and – these are two sites created by the federal government to provide transparency and information on grants. Browse through the listings and see if you can find any grant that would support a for-profit venture.

Here is a listing of federal grants for small businesses. See if there is any available for individuals for starting a business — THERE’S NONE.

Most of the federal grants are given to specific target groups with specific requirements (e.g. Minority business owners involved in transportation related contracts emanating from DOT – Grant#20.905 Disadvantaged Business Enterprises Short Term Lending Program

Grants are also often given to non profit groups or organizations involved in training or other similar activities (grant 59.043 Women’s Business Ownership Assistance that are given to those who will create women’s business center that will train women entrepreneurs

Powered by Yahoo! Answers