Author Topic: TEOTWAWKI Power and Fuel Sources - PROS and Cons  (Read 936 times)

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Online Weisshaupt

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TEOTWAWKI Power and Fuel Sources - PROS and Cons
« on: October 13, 2016, 03:28:29 PM »
Electrical Power is intrinsic to our modern quality of life, and it can become a major survival factor depending on ow bad things get.  A calorie you don't expend pumping water or grinding or turning or sawing or  harvesting is a calorie you don't need to produce as food.  Avoiding Injuries by using power tools and lights, could be the difference  between making it and snuffing it.   Yes, the human race got along fine without electricity for  thousands of years, and you could too, but having it is a huge advantage, even if you can only use it sparingly.

Any electricity system will have a generator , optional (Chemical) battery  storage, and loads that do work. These loads can be AC (alternating current)  or DC (Direct Current) .  An Energy conversion is ALWAYS lossy - energy is typically lost as heat.

Ironically, many of our appliances use electricity to produce heat  - baseboard heating, electric ranges etc.  This is about as wasteful as it gets.. anything that needs to be heated post TEOTWAWKI needs to be heated by burning a fuel  directly, be it water, or your home.  Make sure your plans do not include electric heaters of any kind unless ther eis no way to avoid them (  say an Aquaponics tank you need to keep at 68 degrees..  even so take steps to reduce that load as much as possible via solar heated water  exchange etc. ) 
You can charge a battery just using a long cable, a rectifier and time. The wire acts as an antenna (AC)  and channels that energy to the battery (DC)  and then to earth ground.   Its slow, but if all you want is emergency power for a short period it could be used.

Solar panels use semiconductors and quantum effects to produce an DC  electric current,  this will typically be used to charge a Battery -  An Inverter will take that DC current and convert it to AC , or you can use only DC loads.

Fuel Cells convert hydrogen  to electricity directly.  As a technology  they have promise, but tend to be more expensive per KW than Solar , and they just aren't a real solution right now IMO. In another 5-10 years... if we get them...

Fueled generators burn a hydrocarbon to rotate a shaft to generate electricity - They can be either AC or DC ( A Welding rig typically does both)  They can be used to charge a battery/inverter system , or the power they produce can be used directly .  Fuel is typically perceived as gasoline or diesel,  but natural gas, propane, alcohol,  methane, or wood gas (hydrogen)  are also viable - and probably easier to obtain sources.

Gasoline is the worst. Difficult to refine, dangerous to store, and the shelf life, even with stabilizers is poor.

Diesel is a little better than Gas, but not much. Kits are available that allow you to make your own bio-diesel, but this presumes a supply of an oil - the first diesel fuel was peanut oil.  That may or may not be practical depending on what is around you and what services are still running. Nearly every tractor out there will be diesel, and you will be stuck with needing some.  Its quite common for farms to have large tanks of the stuff, but it will go bad over time.

Kerosene - Easily made, and can be used to run a diesel. This fuel will be available to anyone with oil sale they can heat up -  and mixed with engine oil etc, will probably not damage a diesel too badly. 

Propane is a great fuel  - long shelf life, no one questions large purchases, and you can use it for cooking, running a generator or heating your home. A properly equipped main  tank will allow you to fill smaller cylinders for use elsewhere.

Natural Gas - generally delivered via pipeline - requires grid pumps to keep working. Pretty much the cheapest fuel however.  Dual Fuel appliances cost a little more, and most gas appliances have "conversion kits" -  having a Natural Gas line for normal times and the ability to convert to propane for times that are less normal,  will give you some amount of longevity  if fuel supplies are sporadic.

UPDATE: If you have a natural gas well,  tat is about as good as it gets. Hard to find. Regulations make it hard to keep

Alcohol -  This used to be the farmer's fuel of choice (along with kerosene) - Early Fords were designed to use it, and many modern vehicles have a sensor that will allow the vehicle's engine to determine  O2 mix. But there is simply less energy in a gallon of Alcohol compared to Gas. Of course any biological matter can be fermented. Some  designer bacteria are being developed that may be able to directly convert cellulose to alcohol -  but without that you are fermenting sugars. The good news is a stainless steel still is relatively cheap  to purchase, and this becomes a potential revenue/trading  source in addition to fuel. I have no doubt alcohol will be heavily abused after things go really south. - Further you need to expend energy to distill it , so you main benefit is having it as a liquid fuel vs  a solid one ( wood)

Wood Gasifier - There were commonly used in WWII by citizens with no other way to power their vehicles. You basically burn wood really really slowly, distilling a layer of wood on top - this releases hydrogen which can be captured and shoved into a gasoline engine - apparently  without ill effects.   H2 gas is difficult to collect and store, the system requires a lot of attention , and this is basically a DIY  piece of equipment, but a neat option if wood fuel is abundant.

Update: Hyrdo electric -  if you have a good water flow on your land, this is an option, but since the EPA has claimed jurisdiction on pretty much every water way  - even your little stream is considered navigable now- diverting a stream throug a hydroelectric plant or building a dam is now prosecutable

Update: Wind. Wind doesn't blow all of the time. In order to generate real power you need 20-30 mph winds consistently with current technology, and te turbines need regular  maintenance - which means going aloft every 6 months to a year, or lowering the mast to the ground.  On  a cost to KW -HR  solar is a much better choice in almost every circumstance.

SO back to electric power generation.. Solar is expensive, but panels can be expected to last 20 years or so and they are maintenance free. They are bulky and not the easiest things to steal, and they operate near silently ( the Inverter fans make some noise)  - Designing an all DC house can remove the inverters and increase efficiency on the order of 20-30% , but DC appliances and bulbs are specialized and more expensive. DC also doesn't carry very far, so in an all DC system the loads should be as close as possible to the batteries and the Panels. In the modern world Photo voltaic solar makes almost ZERO economic sense. You will be lucky to break even under current economic conditions.  Post TEOTWAWKI however, I think they will pay for themselves many times over - quiet, dependable power.

Generators are significantly cheaper, but produce a lot more noise, and burn fuel.  .which you will constantly need more of.

Many inverters allow the use of BOTH solar power and a generator to charge and run the same set of batteries and power the same loads.  Choices are good. Choices are also more expensive.

Under either system batteries can be used, but they add inefficiency as energy is lost in heating the batteries during charging, and again during discharging.  However a battery system  means you can run silently at night and still enjoy the calorie saving benefits of electric power.  With proper sizing batteries can also make up for shortfalls in production ( cloudy days for solar, days you don't dare run a generator or are without fuel)  Batteries  are of course , stupidly expensive.  Deep Cycle lead batteries , golf cart batteries , or specially designed solar Lead cells all have a shelf life. Anywhere from 3 to 20 years.  Your best choice is Iron-Nickel batteries -  they are near indestructible and last decades. Edison's original batteries are still working fine. . They also  take up the most room and weigh a ton.

Some work is being done using super capacitors  to store energy, and if that pans out they will replace batteries like these. But like Fuel Cells its all very promising but nothing that has real practical application for the cost as of yet.

« Last Edit: October 17, 2016, 12:03:50 AM by Weisshaupt »

Online richb

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Re: TEOTWAWKI Power and Fuel Sources - PROS and Cons
« Reply #1 on: October 13, 2016, 04:09:51 PM »
I think if I can get a bug out location,  I want a place with a natural gas well of its own, as the storage of the fuel is in the ground itself,  and hidden from the majority.  I think that would be the most ideal TEOTWAWKI situation.  They do exist in a number of locations in the US.   

You could power HVAC equipment,  most major appliances directly.   With a liquifier you could power vehicles as well.   You could generate electric with it and store it with batteries intended for solar,   so the generator only has to run once in a while to refill the batteries.     

I think it would be the only way to keep as much of the modern lifestyle we are used to.  It would also be easier to conceal as its easier to hide a well head then an array of solar panels.   I do not intend on returning to the stone ages if I can help it.   

Online Weisshaupt

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Re: TEOTWAWKI Power and Fuel Sources - PROS and Cons
« Reply #2 on: October 13, 2016, 05:58:23 PM »
I think if I can get a bug out location,  I want a place with a natural gas well of its own, as the storage of the fuel is in the ground itself,  and hidden from the majority.  I think that would be the most ideal TEOTWAWKI situation.  They do exist in a number of locations in the US.

They exist.. but
So my little bit of land is right in the middle of oil and gas country.  The SOB of a former owner kept the mineral rights and then sold them to a big conglomerate without even asking if I would like to purchase them . But without Mineral rights none of the gas under your land is yours.  The cost of drilling and producing from one is immense ( see link)  so when you do find properties with their own well, its not 100%  owned by the property owner in most cases.  The property owner may get a share of the gas, but its far more common for them to get a check. That is certainly what happens here in my neck of the woods.  Come TEOTWAWKI , possession will ten tenths of the law, but  the number of properties with a well, with the right population density. the right climate, the  right water and so forth is going to be quite small - not to mention the well itself can pollute your water...   

So yes, having a natural gas well on the property is ideal, but not the easiest thing to come by along with the other factors you are looking for..If you can get that in your property that  is awesome.  I have yet to see one property out here , in Colorado's #1 Natural Gas producing county, listed  with a private natural gas well.  I look.. it would be detailed along with water rights.   Perhaps back East this sort of thing is more common. Out here,  not so much .

I should also add Methane Digester to the above list.. Seems to work well with pig crap ..

Online Weisshaupt

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Re: TEOTWAWKI Power and Fuel Sources - PROS and Cons
« Reply #3 on: October 14, 2016, 02:09:10 PM »
Here was a fun resource I found.  I suspect other States will have something similar.

Want to see every Freaking Well in Colorado?

I used the search tool to look for domestic Natural Gas wells.  I found ONE in Weld County -  the #1 Natural Gas producing county in Colorado. . I  found two in an adjacent county (Larimer)  - I found 48 in all of Colorado.

The private Larimer county's wells were 2500 feet deep.  The one in Welds was  5000 ft.   The commercial wells around me seem to go to 7000 or more.

And  out of how many wells?  Well each red dot on this map shows you a well in Weld county.

and it doesn't do it justice.  That red area is red dots on red dots.

Zooming in a bit we see stuff like:

So yeah, totally awesome if you can get a property with a domestic Natural Gas well.  Maybe they are more common in other places, but it would appear that they aren't very feasible in my State.

UPDATE: So I tried finding domestic wells ( House gas)  in West  Virginia --

There seem to be 800 or so  such wells Statewide  - most "operated" by companies not homeowners ( may be regulatory in nature) 
Another resource suggested there were 1500 such wells.  That is still a pretty small number for a State.  And West Virginia has other issues - like massive population densities on every side.  That isn't to say its not a choice, only that there are tradeoffs.
« Last Edit: October 14, 2016, 03:04:06 PM by Weisshaupt »

Online AlanS

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Re: TEOTWAWKI Power and Fuel Sources - PROS and Cons
« Reply #4 on: October 14, 2016, 05:57:08 PM »
- most "operated" by companies not homeowners ( may be regulatory in nature) 

Yes, sort of. I'm not sure about the states you spoke of, but most places have a liability concern with wells. Most home owners can't afford it. By liability, I mean the ways and means (or assets) to abandon the well once it's depleted. Most states (and feds) require the hole to be cemented so low below the surface, the casing (pipe) pulled up, and dirt put on top. Back to the natural state.

That's one concern to remember. ALL wells are finite in size. It all depends on the size of the reservoir and how much is drawn out every day as to how long they last.
"Malo periculosam, libertatem quam quietam servitutem."

Thomas Jefferson