ORCA Synthetic Fuels


     by: Terry I. Eade, Ph.D.

The current methods of producing & utilizing the vast amount of fuel necessary to keep our vehicles, airplanes, and ships running are often at odds with of our desire to protect the environment and combat global warming.  As we deplete existing sources of crude oil, we face increasing costs when forced to go into the arctic, deep-ocean, or rough terrain to locate, harvest, and transport crude oil.  These new sites introduce even more difficult challenges to protecting the environment.  Harvesting fuel from shale and tar sands provides an alternative to conventional oil wells but drives up costs and creates new environmental problems.  Seeking fuel from abroad also has negative economic and political consequences.  Realizing that the non-renewable supply of crude oil is being depleted, both here and abroad, we need to find new alternatives.

Wouldn’t it be great if there were a renewable energy generation process, which avoided all these negative aspects, like being able to produce gasoline out of thin air?  Or even better, being able to create synthetic gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel by taking the carbon out of the air that our gasoline, diesel & jet engines put there in the first place, making the air even cleaner than it was before.  The frosting on the cake would be if the process would also replenish some of the oxygen that our internal combustion and turbine engines consumed as they operated.

Well this pipe dream could become a reality if the Orca Wave Energy SystemTM (US Patent 8193651), developed by AEEA (Alternative Energy Engineering Associates, LLP), is adopted.  This system proposes using fleets of barges hinged together to produce electricity by harvesting ocean wave motion.  Since our system would operate in the open ocean, it would not detract from the aesthetic beauty of our coastlines nor interfere with our shipping, fishing, or recreational activities.  The barge fleets can operate away from the shoreline because they are both energy producing and energy transporting vessels.  The designation “ORCA” was chosen to describe our system because of its Oxygen Releasing and Carbon Absorbing properties.

The process involves capturing the wave motion through hydraulic pumps attached to the hinging mechanism between the barges and then converting this hydraulic energy to electricity via on-board generators, using the electricity and water to generate hydrogen via electrolysis, and then combining the hydrogen with carbon dioxide scrubbed from the air to produce methanol.  This procedure uses a patented chemical process developed by Meyer Steinberg, a consultant to AEEA on this project.  The final step is to run the methanol through a catalytic dehydrator to produce synthetic gasoline, diesel fuel, or jet fuel.  All of these processes are based on sound scientific data by recognized authorities and preformed at sea.

We are also providing a smooth transition to the future.  Our proposed process goes from wave energy to electricity to hydrogen to methanol to synthetic gasoline and diesel fuel.  As society moves to more environmentally friendly fuels such as M85, pure methanol, direct methanol fuel cells, hydrogen fuel cells, or stored electrical power, we will be ready to support that technology with our Orca system equipment and methods.

Our system is very environmentally friendly.  Every gallon of synthetic gasoline produced by our system releases 19.4 pounds of oxygen and removes 17.7 pounds of carbon dioxide from the air, essentially reversing the negative impacts of gasoline engines on the atmosphere and oceans.  Our system is also much more efficient than other environmentally friendly energy producing systems.  For example, an acre of farmland growing soybeans will yield ethanol equal to 40 gallons of gasoline each year. Our Orca system produces 250,000 gallons of gasoline per acre of ocean surface each year without displacing crops, forest or pasture land.  The Orca system will also remove 2,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide per acre per year while the bio-crop removes only 16 metric tons per acre per year. Even if everyone switched to electric cars we would still have substantial carbon dioxide pumped into the air since most of our electrical power is provided by fossil fueled electrical generating plants.

We are not the first ones to develop a system that uses wave energy to create usable power.  Several systems have been designed, patented, and a few are being field-tested or are in production.  However, these systems are designed to be located close to shore, and permanently anchored to a fixed location. One reason for this is that the majority of these systems are designed to convert wave energy to electricity and need an electrical cable to feed that power into the land based power grid.  The second reason is that they need anchoring cables, or a physical mounting, to hold the devises in place and keep them oriented toward the anticipated direction of the oncoming surface waves or underwater currents.  Most of these devices also have unique physical designs, which drive up their capital costs of implementation.

AEEA’s Orca Wave Energy SystemTM is different in several respects.  First, it is designed to operate in the open ocean where the wave energy is highest and the system does not provide a visual or physical obstruction.  We have gathered a great deal of data about wave activity on the outer continental shelves off the west and east coasts of the United States to compute the efficiency of our system.  Second, our system uses standard ocean-going barges, which are 50’ wide by 200’ long by 13’ deep, as the starting point of the system design.  To make sure that barges of this physical size adapt properly to the amplitude and phase of the specific waves being encountered, the system utilizes an inter-barge, computerized control mechanism to measure the wave characteristics and modulate the stiffness of the connecting mechanisms between the barges to guarantee the most efficient recovery of the wave energy.  The system is also set up to capture energy from both swell waves and wind waves, even though they may be coming from different directions.  Third, our system converts the wave energy to gasoline, diesel fuel, or jet fuel, which are all stable, easily transported, and much less of a potential threat to the natural environment than crude oil.  Fourth, it uses carbon scrubbed from the air in the production of synthetic fuels. This reduces the carbon in the air, essentially recycling the carbon released into the air when the hydrocarbon fuels are used.  The electrolysis process used to release hydrogen from the water also releases oxygen into the air, again replenishing some of the oxygen used by internal combustion engines.  Fifth, because of its size, design, flexibility and maneuverability, the barge fleets would be able to survive rough seas and storms better than either existing ships or energy systems located close to shore.  Sixth, the two delivery barges located on opposite corners of the fleet have a crew, a bridge, and diesel powered generators to drive the electrical engines on these barges and enable them to transport their fuel cargo to shore.  The electrical engines on all barges at both ends of the fleet are also used to relocate the fleet, keep it in place and orient it to the wave fronts for maximum energy recovery.

I presented our system at the Ocean Renewable Energy Conference in Portland, Oregon in September of 2012.  Our system was different from all of the other systems represented at that conference on four different counts. (1) It was the only system that did not operate close to shore, (2) did not produce electricity as its final product, (3) was economically competitive, and (4) had the ability to adapt to various wave conditions.  Most of the presentations and panel discussions were broken down into two categories.  The first category dealt with how to get along politically & legally with commercial fishermen, harbor authorities, sports fishermen, oyster farmers, recreational boaters, and those who did not want to see yet another commercial activity which would mar the aesthetic beauty of the coastline.  The second category dealt with how to get legislation that would set quotas on utility companies or provide subsidies and tax credits for otherwise unprofitable wave energy systems.  I was very glad that none of these problems related to our system. We have made presentations at electrical engineering and chemical engineering conferences as well as at this wave energy conference and received positive feedback from the professional attendees.  We have had our articles included in two engineering publications.

We estimate that a fleet of 64 barges would produce approximately 5 million gallons of synthetic gasoline per year.  An initial capital investment of $140 million pales in comparison to $4.2 billion for a one gigawatt nuclear power plant, $3.5 billion for an offshore oil platform or an even larger outlay for a hydroelectric dam.  This comparison is made to show that all major energy systems are expensive.  With a $4.2 billion initial capital investment we could launch 30 of our floating factories.

If the equipment were financed, an investment of $25 million would be enough to establish the first fleet and provide seed capital for expansion.  Without any subsidy or preferential pricing, it would make a profit of $1.37 per gallon or a 27% return-on-investment (ROI).  Without any further investment, the reinvestment of earnings would grow the operation from 1 fleet to 47 within 12 years and produce an annual profit of $362 million.  If the equipment were not financed, the initial investment would be $150 million and produce a 10% First year ROI.  By reinvesting profits and adding capital, there would be 24 fleets in operation in the twelfth year.  At that point annual earnings would be $419 million or a 16% ROI on a total investment of $2.6 billion with $4.1 billion in assets and no debt.

We know that the oil wells, both on land and at sea, will run dry and that we will eventually run out of places that will accept and can safely store nuclear waste materials.  However, the AEEA Orca Wave Energy SystemTM described above will continue to produce fuel from the ocean for as long as the wind blows and the moon remains in its orbit.  So we are committed and positioned to support the national and international goals of renewable, efficient, safe, and environmentally friendly energy production, distribution, and utilization.

We envision the transition to our system to be gradual.  First, it could be used to accommodate the increasing demand for gasoline, diesel fuel, and jet fuel rather than face the higher marginal costs involved with the discovery, harvesting, and transportation of crude oil from new arctic and offshore oil wells.  Second, it could replace conventional methods as conventional equipment wears out and existing wells run dry.  Eventually it could become our primary method of producing vehicle fuel. Our system is capable of producing the estimated 135 billion gallons of gasoline consumed in the United States each year using only a small amount of ocean surface area equivalent to a 29 by 29 mile square.

The Orca system could also have valuable military applications.  It would free us from dependence on foreign sources of fuel, reduce fuel costs, and add to the global operations capability of our land, air, and naval forces.  It would also be easier to defend than a supply line stretching half way around the world.

This energy system couldn’t come at a better time.  In addition it creates jobs building, equipping, and operating the barge fleets. It also gives us the ability to produce our own fuel, in perpetuity, without depleting our natural resources or harming the environment.  All while providing a smooth transition to the future by supporting current, transitional, and future energy methodologies.  Finally, it keeps more of our money here at home and gives us an industry from which we can export raw materials or the technology to produce these products abroad.

For answers to the most commonly asked questions about our system click on the Question & Answers link on this site.  If you want to know more about the technical aspects, the financial aspects, or the physical testing of the system, just click on one of the three links above. If you want to look at our activities to date, just visit our blog section.  You can also email me at teade@aeea.us if you have questions or comments.

This information is the intellectual property of AEEA and is protected by US Patent 8193651.