Wednesday, December 20, 2017

PEAK WATER: What I'm Doing About It

by Glen Hendrix

Everyone has heard of peak oil. Lester R. Brown, founder of the venerable environmental think tank Earth Policy Institute wrote in 2013 that peak oil literature was extensive, but it is peak water that is "the real threat to our future". Economist and ex-Bank of England Monetary Policy Committee member Willem Buiter said "Water will eventually become the single most important physical commodity-based asset class, dwarfing oil, copper, agricultural commodities, and precious metals".

There are three types of peak water; peak renewable water, peak non-renewable water, and peak ecological water.

Peak renewable water is like a river. In some cases, entire rivers disappear before they reach the ocean because of human consumption. Growth along that river is stymied because there is no more water. This is the case now with many rivers here in the U.S. and around the world.

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Peak non-renewable water is like an aquifer. Aquifers can recharge, but the timeline is such that for humankind and its insatiable thirst, they may as well be finite. About 40% of aquifers around the world are being used quicker than they replenish themselves.

Peak ecological water is where usage has begun to effect the environment to the point where that damage is greater than the economic benefit of using the water. This can result in species being lost and the natural ability of wetlands to purify water disabled. 

All three of these peak water definitions are applicable to many areas of the U.S. and the world and will continue to increase in magnitude as population growth climbs. Throw a monkey wrench like climate change into the mix, and the results may very well be catastrophic. Flood events like Harvey take our minds off of the real possibilities of drought. California is still in a drought condition. Texas lakes had taken a precipitous dip before recent rains filled them up again. It should be noted, however, that scientists believe there was a drought covering a large portion of the Southwest United States several hundred years ago during which it basically did not rain for 10 years. That got me to thinking that we, as stewards of the Earth and captains of our destiny, should be on a more proactive arc to mediate or prevent the upcoming catastrophe that would occur if there was not enough water to drink or grow crops. It has been suggested that the next wave of global conflict might very well be precipitated by the lack of precipitation, and it may occur within the next 50 years.


Imagine a machine that works with the Sun, the wind, and cold ocean brine to provide clean, fresh water. Water so pure you have to add a little sodium bicarbonate to give it taste. This machine, once built, provides the electricity it needs to run itself and excess power is pumped back into the grid.

We call it the Sun, wind, cold ocean water; but it is all really just the Sun. It's uneven heating of the Earth's surface causes the wind. Even the energy transferred to the air from our spinning planet is traceable back to our primordial sun disk's swirl of transferred kinetic energy in the formation of the planets. The cold water that hides in the ocean's depths provides a vast heat sink, like a dark negative energy. Again, useful only because the Sun has heated the surface of the water and the air to provide that useful temperature difference.

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This machine allows the Sun to do most of the work. The Sun evaporates the seawater to create humidity. The Sun moves this humidity to the machine with the wind it creates. The machine takes this wind and turns a wind turbine, providing power. The machine uses this power to pump that cold water from the ocean depths into a heat exchanger. With that cold ocean water on one side of the heat exchanger and warm, humidity laden wind on the other side, a condensate forms. This condensate is pure water, even purer than the rain.

This machine is not a complete fantasy. It is becoming real. The patent was just allowed through a conversation with the patent examiner the second week of December, 2017. Merry Christmas, me! The attendant issue fee and documents have been sent back to the Commissioner of Patents. Merry Christmas, Commissioner.

Making the test coils.

Nesting the coils.

Testing of the first small prototype has begun. It consists of two nested helical 1/4" diameter copper coils inside an aluminum cylinder. The whole coil assembly is about 8 inches in diameter and 30 inches long. A fan at one end blows air at 4 mph through the coil. The cold water reservoir representing the depths of the ocean is an old Omaha Steaks styrofoam shipping container lined with a garbage bag. A submersible pump shoves a gallon of cold water through the coil every 5 1/2 minutes. The first tests were run during the first two weeks of August this year. Some of the results are in.

Leak testing the completed coil.

The styrofoam container was filled partially with water and partially with ice, giving an ice slurry that started out cold, melted, and got warm pretty quick. So the water production runs were done in batches from 1 to 2 hours long with air temp, water temp, and humidity averaged over that time period. An old Evian bottle was carefully measured and marked into a graduated cylinder to catch the output.

Fabricating the coil casing stiffeners - cardboard with taped edges, painted white, then coated with plastic to make them waterproof.

Fan installed on one end of coil can.

Open end of coil and can assembly with the inlet and outlet of the coil.

From these production runs come some averages. The average air temperature was 87 degrees F. Average water temperature was 47 degrees F. Average gallons per houre per square foot of coil was .01911 gallons.

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This machine works best in tropical and subtropical climates. This is because the disparity between the cold ocean water and the surface water/ air is greater. The greater this difference, the more potential energy there is to be exploited. Let's imagine one such machine bolted to the side of an oil production rig in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Texas. Let's turn on the pumps and see how it does. The average temperature (year round) is 72 degrees F. and the average humidity is 60%. Let's make it simple and conform the results of the experiment to these averages in a linear fashion through ratios.

Test coil and cold water reservoir connected by tubing.

The experimental production saw an average 87 degrees F. air temperature and the Gulf average is 72 degrees F. Since air holds more water at a higher temperature we will adjust the result downward with a factor of 72/87 = .83. The humidity in the experiment was 66% and the Gulf average is 60%. The adjustment factor will be 60/66 = .91. Cold ocean water should be about 38 degrees F. Since the colder the better, the adjustment factor will be 47/38 = 1.24. The big difference is the air flow. At average 18 mph, there will be much more air flow over the coil than at 4 mph in the experiment. That would give an adjustment factor of 18/4 = 4.5.

Another shot of the test equipment set up and running.

This assumes that air flow can be transmitted through the coil as was done in the experiment, and that the coil can process 4.5 times the humidity out of the air as easily at 18 mph as at 4 mph. I have done some airflow experiments using long radius ducting and a conical scoop. Preliminary results suggest horizontal wind velocity can be diverted 90 degrees without being diminished. More experimentation will have to be done but let's see what happens if we apply these adjustment factors to our experimental output: .01911 gallons/hour/foot squared x .83 x .91 x 1.24 x 4.5 = .081 gallons/hour/foot squared.

Long radius elbow attached to conical scoop with less than 60 degree apex angle.

Scoop and elbow assembly taped to the open rear window of my car. Drove around comparing speedometer with anemometer.

I have designed a prototype heat exchanger for the production of water that is 5 feet in diameter and 20 feet long. That is not a very big heat exchanger. It has 5,850 square feet of condensation surface. On average that 5 feet diameter, 20 feet long device could produce 474 gallons per hour, 11,376 gallons per day, and 4,152,000 gallons per year. If that water was bottled and sold in the grocery store competing with the lowest priced spring water (about 88 cents per gallon), it would retail for about 3.65 million dollars.

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Let's say I have accumulated mistakes so that I am off by a factor of three. Take the four million divided by three so now we have 1.217 million. The heat exchanger and attendant equipment would run an estimated quarter million and last at least for several years, so the gross would still be nearly a million dollars a year. Although one of these machines would be like owning your own spring, I am not really interested in going into the bottled water business. It's just a way to point out the financial viability to people that might be thinking of investing. I'm thinking big units and enough of them to supply agriculture and cities with the water they need for the future.

That's just the water. This machine can produce power as well. Theoretically, a lot of power. This portion of the machines's abilities are going to require testing similar to the tests for water production. At this time I cannot make any claims about the power production. But if it only produced enough power to maintain the cold water pumps, it would still be a breakthrough in cheap water production.

In addition to the water and power, there is chilled air as a byproduct which can be used as air conditioning or as a cooling source for refrigerated warehouses storing food. But wait, there's more. The cool seawater that comes from the outlet of the heat exchanger is loaded with nutrients for sea life that can be used for the farming of fish and shellfish.

This device could obviously be used on offshore platforms as a water source, saving the transportation cost of bringing it from shore or distilling seawater. The Seasteading Institute is proposing floating nations at sea. It would certainly come in handy for those. Any tropical or subtropical climate will be ideal. That includes about forty percent of the Earth. Maybe there won't be wars fought over water in the next 50 years after all. Merry Christmas!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

How It Works!

One trillion dollars U.S. market alone. A real figure to keep you reading. See how we get there.

This machine extracts fresh water and electricity from the ocean using a combination of cold ocean water and wind power.  Peak Water; What We're Going To Do About It was the first blog and is a general description of this technology. Basically, cold ocean water is pumped through a heat exchanger in the top of a tower. Ambient air ducted through the tower powers a turbine. Condensed water is extracted from the heat exchanger. Further detail about unit size versus quantity of water and electricity produced is provided below.

This technology is patent pending. The numbers talked about here are theoretical but give a sound starting point to what can be expected of the real thing. A small prototype would (1.) demonstrate that it works and (2.) verify the quantities of water and electricity produced. The purpose of this blog is to attract interest in financing this important step. The ultimate goal is to have enough of these built and working to get back on track for planetary CO2 emission goals and keep our climate from reaching a tipping point beyond which it will be hard to recover - and to make billions of dollars. Full disclosure. Here is a picture of the device for handy reference while I talk about it.

fresh water, power, free from ocean, next big thing, venture capital, best investment

We're going to assume the device pictured here is a 120 foot diameter cylinder about 700 feet tall with a 200 foot tall rectangular elbow on top of that. Four hundred feet is under water providing stability. It could be much smaller, but not much bigger. Also, we are going to assume the setting is the Gulf of Mexico where temperatures are warm and the air is humid (the hotter the surface environment, the better it works). The average wind speed is 18 mph, average temperature is 74.2 degrees F., and the average humidity is 60%.

We'll start at the top and work our way down. Because the wind collector is about 300 feet above the ocean's surface the wind is going to blow about 4 mph more on average. The elbow at the top gathers the wind. It is 200 feet tall and 120 feet wide. With the doors open, the wind-gathering area is about 60,000 sq. feet. This wind is squished into the top of the cylinder which has an area of 11,300 sq. feet. That is a ratio of 5.3 to 1. All that air is being scrunched up and forced down a vertical tube. With that ratio a 22  mph wind should become 117 mph going down this vertical tower. No, it does not. There's a lot of frictional losses. Some of the air backs up in the collection cone and spills out around the edges. It's a process that is estimated to be about 50% efficient. The air going into the top of the cylinder is only going 58 mph. It then goes through the heat exchanger. This is a specially designed heat exchanger to allow a large throughput of air with as little impediment as possible. Even so, it will reduce the air velocity by about 30%. Our 58 mph becomes 41 mph.

As the air leaves the exchanger it is much cooler (55 degrees F) and denser and begins to accelerate down in a reverse stack affect. As it drops the 200 feet to the wind turbine it gains another 15 mph to hit the turbine at 56 mph. Here's the link to input numbers to calculate the stack effect.

We will now calculate the wind power density at the turbine to find out how much energy we can extract. WPD=1/2 density of air x velocity of air cubed. In this case the wind power density works out to 19,309 watts per meter squared. Our turbine area is 11,300 ft sq. That converts to 1,050 square meters. The total watts is 1,050 x 19,309 = 20,274,450 watts or 20.2 MW (megawatts).

Water is easier to estimate but less accurate. That's because the math involved in determining how much water will condense out on the heat exchanger is very complex. But we can look at how much water is available and a realistic percentage of what we can extract.

We know the area of the heat exchanger and the velocity of air. The area is 11,300 square feet. The velocity is an average of the inlet 58 mph and the outlet 41 mph which is about 50 mph. That's about 3 billion cubic feet per hour.

There are .0094 pounds of water in a pound of air at 60% humidity. A pound of air at 74 degrees will take up about 13 cubic feet of volume. There are 230 million pounds of air going through the heat exchanger per hour. 230x.0094=2.162 so there are approximately 2.2 million pounds of water going through the exchanger per hour. That's 275,000 gallons of water per hour. Let's say we can get only 20 percent efficiency in removing this water. Fifty-five thousand gallons per hour times 24 equals 1,320,000 gallons of water per day. It's nearly half a billion gallons of water per year. Free (after capital costs). It would provide 170,000 households their average daily consumption of 80 gallons per day. If it were bottled and sold to the public at the current average price of $1.21 per gallon it would bring in close to $600,000,000 per year. But let's say only 8% was bottled and the rest pumped into the general water supply so that water brought in just $50,000,000 per year.

How much is our electricity worth? The average residential customer payed about 12.5 cents per kwh (kilowatt hour). We're producing about 200,000,000 kwh per year so that's about $22,300,000 dollars per year. If you are selling electricity to a utility company this amount will be somewhat less.

We now have combined possible revenues of $72,300,000 per year. How much did it cost to get there? Keep in mind this is a much simpler device than an offshore rig; even simpler than a cruise ship. A cruise ship costs about $2.50 a pound to fabricate. Let's figure we can get this built for $2.25. The unit as described above weighs about 7 million pounds. About $16 million. Transportation and anchorage $5 million. Twenty miles of cable and pipe to transport electricity and water at $1 million per mile = $20 million. Miscellaneous expenses of $2 million. That's a total of $43 million.

$72 minus $43 million leaves $29 million in profit the first year. Second year it will be $72 million minus $2 million in maintenance. Since there are offshore rigs out there over 40 years old, we can assume our simpler structure has at least a 40 year lifespan. The total revenue is $2.8 billion. And that is just one unit. Imagine 200 units in the Gulf of Mexico, 50 on the east coast of Florida and 150 off the south coast of California. Now we're talking a trillion dollar market in the U.S. alone. Now think of the Middle East, India, Pakistan, South America, South Africa, Philippines, and Australia. Another couple of trillion. Per year.

Now you know what I know. I am currently building test modules to pin down the numbers thrown about here. I would like to build a small working prototype. I am looking for the least awkward way to finance that prototype? Has anyone reading this developed similar sized projects? Incorporate? Kickstarter campaign? Venture Capital? Shark Tank? Your input would be helpful here. For more information, read my blog "Peak Water: New Technology Shows Promise".


Glen Hendrix

Monday, July 6, 2015

Peak Water: New Technology Shows Promise

With all the talk of peak oil, it is hard to believe that something as important as peak water may have already come and gone with no equivalent hue and cry. The major constriction for producing food for a burgeoning population is water - not land. According to the International Food Policy Research Institute, nearly 5 billion people, about half of global grain production, and 45% of the GPD ($63 trillion dollars) will be at risk due to lack of water with current consumption practices. Eighteen countries; including the big-three grain producers China, India, and the U.S.; are now over-pumping their aquifers. For 20 years Saudi Arabia was self-sufficient in growing wheat. They have nearly exhausted their aquifer and will quit growing wheat in 2016. Recent droughts in California and Texas seem bad but there is evidence that a major portion of the Southwest U.S. underwent a 10-year drought with hardly a drop of rain several hundred years ago. Inexpensive fresh water production is needed.

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One of the largest storehouses of energy lies quietly at the bottom of the ocean. It is not oil, and it is not methane hydrate. It is cold water. Specifically, it is deep ocean water, also known as DOW, from the upper levels of the Midnight Zone at 3,300 to 13,200 feet deep. Approximately 90% of the ocean by volume is deep ocean water. This water is at a temperature of 32˚ to 37˚F. More correctly, it might be called a storehouse of a relative lack of energy because it is only the combination with a more energetic (warmer) mass that results in an extractable form of energy. That more energetic mass would, of course, be the warm upper regions of the Twilight Zone and the Sunlight Zone of the ocean and the tropospheric layer of the atmosphere.

courtesy Wikipedia

Although this is the coldest water, anything 2,500 feet and deeper in the ocean is about 46˚F, which is considered "cold ocean water" and is usable for the applications described here. More than 90% of the oceans are greater than 2,500 feet.
The best place to exploit this temperature differential is in the Tropics where the temperatures near and above the surface of the water are mild to hot year around. Fortunately, approximately 40% of the world's surface lies in the Tropics and it includes a lot of DOW and cold ocean water. While a tropical climate is the most efficient location for extracting water and power, an appreciable percentage of the North and South temperate zones have sufficiently warm weather to make this practical. For the United States that would include the coastline and offshore of states along the Gulf of Mexico, the eastern coast of Florida and the southern coast of California.
Cold ocean water in combination with warm, humid tropical and subtropical air will provide an opportunity to meet water and power needs for the future.For just the cost of equipment and maintenance the system described here will provide both water and electricity. It is basically a tower mounted on a spar-type, offshore platform. Deep, cold ocean water is pumped into a gas-to-liquid heat exchanger in the top of the tower. Wind is concentrated and re-directed into the heat exchanger. The air becomes cooler and the humidity condenses out onto the surface of the heat exchanger and is collected. Because cool air is denser it accelerates toward the bottom of the tower; essentially a reverse stack effect. A wind turbine at the bottom of the tower harvests the wind energy before it leaves through openings around the base of the tower. The collected water and generated electricity is sent to shore.

Another version is built on the shoreline and uses an onshore reservoir to store the water. This stored water produces electricity that makes up for slumps in production from the wind turbine.

Another version is free-floating with its own propulsion. With the ability to produce electricity and water, it will become a base for mining, aqua farming, recycling ocean plastic, or scientific studies. These could be very independent, almost like tiny nations with their own GPD and tax laws. They could move wherever needed to provide power and fresh water as well as food.

This free ranging version could work in conjunction with special sea-going barges. These would store fresh water and hydrogen from the electrolysis of sea water. When the barge is full, it is towed the nearest port in need of water and fuel.

Barge to lighter water and hydrogen to shore. Top tank is for hydrogen, bottom two for fresh water.

The central spar provides stability for the tower even in high winds and heavy seas. Although it resembles an offshore drilling or production rig, it is much more simple and less expensive. It is even simpler than a cruise ship to construct. Cruise ships are currently running between $2 and $3 dollars per pound to construct. 

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A unit 120 feet in diameter, 300 feet tall (the spar below the surface counterbalances and structurally stabilizes the tower even in high wind) could produce 20MW on average and between two and five million gallons of water per day. At 7 million pounds it would cost about 18 million dollars. The electricity and water produced would retail for about 25 million dollars per year so the unit could conceivably pay for itself in a year. A hundred of these in the Gulf of Mexico could provide the same amount of water as the Brazos River watershed and as much electricity as a large nuclear plant. That would also provide the ability to cool the surface water temperature of a large area and reduce the strength of storms and hurricanes before they reach land.Advantages:

Bird deaths eliminated.

The sound of the wind turbine is mitigated by being encased.

Flickering shadows on the surrounding landscape are eliminated.

Maintains a cool environment for heat-generating parts of the turbine no matter what the       external weather.

The horizontal plane of the turbine blade allows more efficient, longer lasting bearings to be used.

The horizontal plane of the turbine blade also eliminates gravity and wind load fluctuations, making the blade construction lighter and cheaper.

The seawater in contact with the inner, hard-to-clean surfaces of the heat exchanger is too cold and salty to form algae, minimizing maintenance.

No chemicals to leak into the environment.

Produces power even when the wind is still due to the reverse stack effect.

No azimuth yaw mechanisms needed to keep wind turbine aligned.

If located at sea, eliminates land purchase or rental.

Nutrient rich deep ocean water can be used for aquatic farming near the surface. Because it is cool, it can retain more oxygen than surrounding warmer water and cuts down on bacterial growth.

There's plenty of "fuel" since 90% of the ocean's volume is between 32 and 37 degrees Fahrenheit and 40 percent of the world is tropical or subtropical.

Provides enormous quantities of refrigerated air as a byproduct.

Courtesy JiaJenn31 of Deviant Art

The production figures quoted above are theoretical but based on known weather factors for the Gulf coast and physical laws concerning thermal flow and wind power production. Currently, a small test module is being built to evaluate exactly how much water might be produced. A separate test module to accurately measure reverse stack effect velocities is in the design stage.

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What would be ideal is to build a small working model to test the system as a whole. Currently there are not enough funds available for that project but it is also in the design stage. If anyone is interested in this patent pending concept and would like to help out, please contact Glen Hendrix at the very least, this solution can bridge the gap for humanity's needs for clean power and fresh water until nuclear fusion or some other technological breakthrough can carry the load.


Glen Hendrix