back to article Top-killing, crisp spam and cooling the Tube

Dave asks: I was kind of surprised to see nothing about the BP oil spill, or least nothing I could find. That's a good idea. Anyone working in the field want to step forward? To whet your appetite, Steve McIntyre unearthed with some interesting remarks from David Eyton BP's former Vice President, Deepwater Developments Gulf …

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Heating

With regards to the comments over heat, there is a large difference in how useful large amounts of low-level heat (e.g. just above room temperature) and the sort of heat levels used to heat water, or generate steam for electricity generation.

With regards to using the heat from tube tunnels to warm local buildings, I can assure you it's not something that has passed the Cooling the Tube team by. Unfortunately there are a number of fairly serious reasons against it. Such as running however many miles of pipework about from tunnels underground, with buildings covering them, to somewhere useful. Then there's also the heating systems used in modern buildings, I believe they are more distributed now rather than a single boiler room in a basement, which means the complexity of piping the heat about the buildings also becomes massively more complicated and expensive. Heat re-use solutions simply haven't stood up to the analysis, being impractical or far too expensive.

Saving £2 a week on the radiator bills doesn't justify the hundreds of millions (if not more) widespread adoption of such a scheme would cost to implement.

London Underground are serious about climate change, as well as making the temperature of the network more bearable in summer. The Cooling the Tube team have been investing serious time and money assessing real-world solutions, unfortunately so many of the 'ideal' suggestions simply collapse upon scratching the surface.

One of the best things being done to cool the tube is by reducing the amount heat being generated, the traction system (friction braking and traction rail losses) is a major heat-source (passenger body heat is fairly negligible by comparison) - so they're looking at reducing this heat generation by increasing the use of regenerative braking and lower-loss conductor rails. Better to stop making the heat in the first place than then have to try and get rid of it.

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Fix cause - good idea!

I've been travelling on the London Underground for 30 od years and the temperature never used to be a problems, but its the last 10 years or so that its started to be an issue. In fact, since the new trains came into service funnily enough! So what are these new trains doing that create so much extra waste heat and how can they be made more efficient?

Fixing the cause of the heat is an eminently sensible solution - its also a greener solution as it will theoretically be more energy efficient that creating another infrastructure to counteract the waste heat, using more energy and resources.

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Okay but what about fridges?

In some parts of the world temperatures are below freezing for a good part of the year. Yet the fridges sit inside expensively warmed homes to have their contents expensively cooled down again.

Surely someone could come up with a way of piping outside air into the fridge once that air drops to the appropriate temperature? Then all you need to run the thing is a small fan rather than compressor etc. In countries like Canada you could save a bunch over winter.

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Boffin

@Maty

If it is cold enough outside for this to be practical, then what is happening inside is that the fridge/freezer is moving heat from inside the fridge to the air of the room it is in, reducing the need for that room to be heated seperately.

Where it gets silly is where you have a fridge that is kept in an air-conditioned room in a warm climate, better then to move it outside, even if that does mean the fridge itself has to work a bit harder.

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Go

you know what?

I had the exact same idea during the snowy time at the start of the year!

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"Why can't these heat exchangers be linked to our water heaters"

Because it's not worth it, with the losses in the system etc.

Tube idea might work out though.

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Shawn White

That looks like an advance fee fraud to me.

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Anonymous Coward

Do you think...

That the crisps might have been unexpectedly detained, but a small payment will facilitate their early release?

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Unhappy

Crisps detained?

"Ilse of Wight Border guards are now demanding 1,500,000 [ONE MILLION AND FIVE HUNDERD THOUSAND] jars of pickles in exchange for your crisps."

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Anonymous Coward

Oil spill solutions

The overriding concern I have is why in the hell are we serially testing ways to fix this. Given the incredible potential impact on an ecosystem that provides a major portion of our seafood, there is no cost too great. Instead our government sits on its' butt while things are tried.

There have been absorptive products offered (from the Seattle area) but no takers. the little "booms" are simply stupid in the conditions (and I seem to remember that the ones saturated are not being replaced - read the oil is being re-emitted from the back side). Damn I hate how our government handles things. Have hearings, point fingers, after the disaster has happened; don't fix it before it spreads. Why would we possibly rely on an oil company to fix it rather than concentrating our national resources. We have a lot of really smart people. And we can consult with a whole bunch more. And I voted for him because he was hiring smart people.

I even submitted a possible solution early in the disaster. Burn it. How stupid was the engineering effort that did not foresee the possibility of ice formation. Solution - take the containment structure, add an air source, add an ignition source (my suggestion is a plasma torch (common equipment). Combustion is absolutely controlled by the availability of oxygen. Ignite the escaping stream of oil. Heat eliminates freezing of volatiles. Oil recovery stack becomes chimney. Resulting air pollution is trivial compared to wetland and ocean resource destruction. Simple. Cheap. Fixes the immediate problem until they finally finish screwing around and cap it.

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Not too well informed

They're serially testing them because doing everything at once can lead to unexpected interactions which could potentially cause more harm.

What should the government do? Nuke the borehole? All the expertise is IN the oil industry already - maybe the industry really IS the best vehicle to clean this up, because they're the most motivated and have the expertise. Where the government can make a difference is onshore.

The absorptive products you mention have not been certified by the EPA, so can't be used. They're fast tracking the certification - and BP have been looking at securing reliable supplies - the quantities they need are not on hand and in many cases the capacity does not exist to keep up with the kind of demand that they have.

As for the burning, it sounds good to me! I have read that it was suggested at one point, but rejected, although I have no idea why.

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Boffin

If freezing is the problem then.....

Why not just freeze it......?

Run a High Pressure CO2 line down into the hole and switch on the taps. Simples.

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Re : If freezing is the problem then....

I think the freezing problem was caused by the solid so-called methane hydrates (clathrates actually) that form at low-ish temperatures and high pressures when methane is in contact with water.

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Megaphone

Obviously Obama is an oil engineering specialist

and now The Government is selfishly hiding their knowledge.

You, AC, sound like a manager. You think that someone in a position of power shouting at underlings will speed up any process, especially when that person doesn't know anything about the process in question, even when the engineers themselves are struggling.

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improved viscosity of wildlife

Life imitates art...

http://www.theonion.com/articles/massive-oil-spill-results-in-improved-wildlife-vis,895/

Thumbs up for the Warren Zevon reference ...

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Hot fridges

The heat *is* a by-product to be gotten rid of. It's a quirky design, one bit getting hot makes the other part cold, but the part that gets hot is designed like a radiator in order to shed the heat quickly. Why? Because there is no heater in a fridge. It works as follows: Gas (I'm not sure exactly WHAT the gas is these days) is compressed (that black tub at the bottom of the back of the fridge) to a highish pressure. As it is compressed, its temperature rises. The gas is then passed into the condenser (the big radiator grille) where the heat is removed and the gas turns back into a liquid. This liquid then goes through a device sorta like a nozzle where the pressure is suddenly lowered. The liquid, in the lower pressure, turns back into a gas, and as it does so its temperature drops dramatically. By this point we're the pipes and stuff inside the fridge. You know, the ones with ice stuck to them. The next step is to enter the compressor as a gas, and we've just gone full circle of how the fridge works. The thing is, the radiator is a condenser. Doing anything with that heat OTHER than chucking it away would likely stop the fridge from working as it should.

EVEN if it was possible to capture this heat for hot water, it would be WORSE than useless as it would be, what, 40-45 degrees tops? If that? There's a reason why immersion heaters must have a controllable thermostat that defaults to 60C. Anything less, but warm, can turn into a haven for some pretty nasty bugs. Between you and me, I'd rather waste some heat than risk a dose of Legionella.

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Re : Hot fridges

I think STB and many of the rest of us know how fridges work. The essential problem is that their waste heat is low-grade and limited and it would require extensive modifications merely to boost the temp. of the input water to a heating system by a small amount. This heat in any case adds to the warmth of the house (most of the year). In the case of industrial scale warehouse freezing units or office block air-conditioning units recovery of waste heat could potentially be much more effective

The underground problem is unfortunately similar - although the commuters swelter the temperature is actually quite low and removing the heat in a useful manner would be quite involved and inefficient.

Far better as suggested above is to remove the necessity by not having as much waste heat to begin with if this is feasible.

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Pint

But

If you can fill the hot water tank with pre-warmed water, it takes less energy to raise its temperature to 70 degrees, than it does to heat much colder water.

Beer because you can generate heat by sticking it in the fridge.

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It's not limited to homes either.

What about those serried ranks of fridges and freezers in air-conditioned supermarkets?

This is what I meant by my closing paragraphs: those supermarkets are *throwing money away* by cooling down a store that's being heated by commercial-grade fridges and freezers, not just their customers. Eliminating this expense is clearly in the owners' interests, and this is where the eco-activists should be focusing their efforts. Get the "quick wins" first. By the time they get back to badgering private homeowners, the techniques and technologies used to solve these problems on an industrial and commercial scale should be ready for the home too.

The Tube's approach is a good example of eliminating the causes, rather than attacking the symptoms. I'd like to see more of this, though I'm not entirely convinced this is the reason why the foot-tunnels at Charing Cross station are like a sauna.

(Just a random thought: is there enough heat generated by the Tube to thaw snow from the roads and pavements in key areas of London? Some of the older motorway viaducts in London were built with under-surface heating. Given the problems we've had in recent years, this seems like a much more elegant solution than carting salt in from Northern Ireland.)

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Go

Fridge, don't refrige

In keeping with dr48's dictum..."Better to stop making the heat in the first place than then have to try and get rid of it.", I've always wondered about the following possibility.

Why, in the higher latitudes of the continents where much of the year is spent in near- or sub-freezing temperatures, are not home fridges (and, even, commercial ones) equipped with a thermostatically controlled intake from, and exhaust system to, the outside - properly filtered, screened etc, of course? That is, take in cold air from the outside to chill the fridge portion when temps approach freezing and to chill both the freezer and fridge portions when temps fall some way below freezing - using simple volume regulation with tiny fans for degree of chill required.

The refrigeration units for summer would have to have the same capability as present, so there would be no savings in initial construction there. Although such a vent system would add to initial cost, it could be very simple in design and operation adding only a little to that cost and retrofitting existing units with external vent systems might be possible for little cost (letting it simply supplement existing cooling with original thermostat allowed to do its normal job). Additionally, waste heat from normal operation of the heat exchanger in winter would be lost to home heating, so another "negative" value there - but not much as this is a very inefficient method of heating.

However, on balance (and taking dust-to-dust, total environmental impacts into account) it appears that there would be substantial savings over present units - for both owners and environment. First, the electric current drawn in winter would be substantially reduced - proportional to latitude. Second, the reduced wear on the refrigeration mechanism could extend the life of existing fridges by 0.3 to 0.6 times (indefinitely in arctic regions?) - where replacement and disposal/recycling costs are major factors in environmental impact that too often go un-noted when promoting the latest and greatest "green" appliances and cars. Third, the exhaust, properly designed, could vent heat-exchanger heat from the house in summer.

Of course, smart moms and smart houses of old in the northern latitudes have always used "cool entry vestibules" as small pantries for things needing cool storage, but modern ones, not so much. In any case, a huge number of fridges and power stations in northern climes might benefit from such a simple change.

Recognizing that many "... 'ideal' suggestions simply collapse upon scratching the surface." , I'm hoping this isn't one of them. Commence scratching!

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Boffin

Heat exchangers

Heat exchangers come in all types, the ones on fridges just happen to be air cooled. Industrial building chillers use water as the medium to be cooled this cold water is then pumped around the building and used in small heat exchangers in each room, the warm water then being returned to the chiller to be re-cooled, thus saving tons of refrigerant.

A similar principle can be used for chillers that are located in basements, where the condenser part of the chiller has cool water flowing around it that absorbs the heat from the condenser, this warm water is then pumped to the roof where it is cooled through evaporative cooling where by water sprayed onto a coil containing the warm water is evaporated by large fans blowing over the coil thereby cooling the water inside which is pumped back downstairs to be used again.

(cooling towers are not always used, most beer coolers just have a coil with water flowing through it that is passively air cooled then fed to the condenser of the unit indoors)

The condensers for fridges generally kick out temperatures of around 40-50ºC which would be ideal for preheating water for showers etc the problem would be the need for cooling of the evaporator when showers aren't being used, so you would need an alternate method of heat rejection when no hot water is being used (cooling tower?) so it would be possible but not practical.

Legionella is not really an issue as all the water in the heat exchanger is contained in a sealed system, the problem comes from the cooling towers which are an open system and need to be treated regularly.

The problem with evaporitive cooling is that the amount of cooling achievable is limited by two factors, the ambient temperature and the humidity of the air for cooling the cooling towers, for example, air at 25ºC and 100% humidity would only be able to cool to 25ºC as there can be no more water held in the air hence no evaporation and no extra cooling, air at 25ºC but 50% humidity may be able to cool to 20ºC (i can't remember the exact maths i'm afraid) as evaporation aids the cooling (think of wind on a wet finger)

Sorry for the lengthy post

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(untitled)

1 Kilocalorie is the energy needed to raise the temperature of 1 litre of water by one degree (Celsius),

So yeah thats a few mars bars saved right there :-)

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"The 19th Century was the last heyday of the generalist"

I have a strong empathy with this view however generalists tend to have a broader range of solutions to problems which can range from the totally brilliant to completely insane. There's the problem - many generalists ( I'm NOT going to call them amateurs ) will think of a poor solution and spend considerable time and effort pursuing it - all the time complaining that others don't understand them. Unfortunately the ones with good ideas often find themselves in the same situation !

I spent a lot of my working life trying to be objective about my ideas but it is rather difficult to give up on a 'neat' notion.

The main advantage a specialist has (apart from formal training in the theory of the area) is in-depth experience and a collection of heuristics that allow for a more rapid assessment of situations.

But long live the polymath.

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Absolutely!

Let's hope the 21st Century is the age of the Connectivist, the semi-specialist with enough grasp of the problem to point the good ideas from the generalists into the funnel of specialist research. If Lovelock was half a century younger, I'd be thinking he was ideal if he could drop the pessimism. Now if we could just stop journalists from calling them mavericks...

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Stop

Generalists - top down or bottom up makes a difference

Methinks that there are far too many "top-down" generalists these days - with a thin line between such generalists and dilettantes who have never looked too deeply into anything, and too few "bottom-up" generalists - those with deep understanding of several divers fields who are able to discriminate between connections that count and Freudian free-associations.

Of course, it is far easier and faster to spew ideas when unencumbered by detailed facts and substantiated theories. It can take a systematic bottom-up generalist several pages to unwind the musings of a top-down's single-paragraph, of seemingly relevant word-salad, and show it for the hoax that it is. However and unfortunately, in the current environment, where number and speed of ideas delivered overwhelm all else, the dilettante has the decided advantage. By the time the bottom-up can deliver a rebuttal, the conversation (blather?) has moved on to a new topic.

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Re : Generalists - top down or bottom up makes a difference

Agree entirely. An inordinate amount of time can be spent refuting a poor idea by a someone who is ignorant of the basic principles of an area. The recent 'discussions' in The Reg. about siphons being a notable example

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Unhappy

Brazil?

A friend has been working on a drill ship off Brazil. The depth they were drilling in was far greater than the ship was designed for. They re-painted the Plimsoll line! Also the moon pool was unusable as it was so far underwater. Six weeks after the IMF forced Brazil to privatize it's oil industry, Bingo! umpteen millions barrels of oil was discovered! Now all owned by you know who....not the people of Brazil though. What's the chances of that?

With regard to re-claiming molecules.

When I lived in Germany the local big drug company had a 400ft. chimney to get the waste products out of the valley. On certain days it fell back in. Believe me, that shit was probably only good for chemical weapons!

Please donate my crisps to charity.

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Re : Brazil?

What has re-painting the Plimsoll line got to do with the depth of water the ship was working in ?

It shows how heavily it's loaded - that's all

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Boffin

@Chemist

Simple, if you have 3000mtrs of pipe hanging beneath the boat instead of the 1000mtrs that it was designed for, the ship be more heavily loaded.

Agora você entende?

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Re : @Chemist

I take your point. Re-painting a plimsoll line is a serious breach of maritime law ( I think ) and must surely void any insurance.

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Anonymous Coward

I didn't read all of it...

...because this is random spiel from someone that is green in the mind but a complete failure at economics.

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h 6
Unhappy

I blame

I blame both sides of the Atlantic--BP and Halliburton for fucking my gulf.

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Lazy, wasteful people and ignorant politicians.

Oil exploration involves human beings and machines working at the limits of the physically and mechanically possible. Accidents will happen. This sort of thing isn't done by CGI like in the movies. Whatever legislation US politicians pass, and the whole political thing smells a bit like the first stage of a backdoor attempt at the quasi-nationalisation of US oil reserves, oil exploration can never come with the assurances we'd like. The more you do it, the greater the risk. The obvious best practice is to reduce your use of the stuff to the minimum. The worst offender at energy waste? The US, whose president recently green-lighted more oil exploration off the US coast. And no, nuclear is not the solution, because of the risk and the waste. Only an idiot or a politician (usually one and the same) would think it was. We don't need a different pollution problem, we need to change our behaviour.

Not that anyone comes out of this draped in glory. How many times in the last year did you, dear reader, choose not to make a plane or car journey for environmental reasons? Anyone? Anyone at all? Most people I know hop on a plane the first chance they get for a holiday and treat their cars as toys.

There is no chance of a democratic government ever reducing energy use to the point at which climate change can be beneficially affected. They know that they would simply be voted out if they restricted the waste inherent in how we live our lives or sought to make any serious alterations to the continuous consumption upon which are economy is based.

Banning all non-essential air travel permanently, laying rail tracks over the motorway system, redeveloping land around communities for local food production, switching from a stock market casino that runs on self-generating rumours to a stable, real value-based economic system, implementing a VAT system based on sustainability, switching to built-in non-obsolescence, banning energy waste and implementing distributed energy production wherever possible would be the bare minimum to start. None of this will happen, and we will hardly be in a position to express moral indignation when the population of China switch from bikes to cars.

I doubt there will be any change. And when it all starts to go pear-shaped, everyone will blame the government or the scientists. Everyone but themselves.

Any change has to come from the ground up, and that means you. This is a consumer society that has to lose the addiction to consumption if it is to survive.

Prove my pessimism wrong. Decide to make a real difference to how you live your life today, for your children and your species. Then get your family to join in. Then urge your neighbours. Because nothing else is going to work and nobody else is going to do it for you.

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FAIL

2nd law

The second law of thermodynamics unfortunately limits the amount of useful work that can be extracted from a given temperature difference. This is the fundamental reason why waste heat is wasted rather than recycled indefinitely. But before you write to your local MP to have it repealed, I should mention that the second law is also the only thing in modern physics which gives time a direction. Without the second law, nothing would ever happen on a macroscopic scale, and so The Reg would have infinitely less news to report. This, I think we would all have to admit, would be a bad thing.

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Flame

Nobody noticed the real atrocity in all that?

My blood ran cold when I read this:

'...they got several leading greens to come out and say "no - given a choice we'd rather reduce carbon emissions and if that means democracy has to go then (reluctantly) that will have to happen".'

So these tree-hugging fuckwads are quite happy to sell the last remaining vestiges of our freedom down the river in the name of saving the planet. If anyone has any doubts that the environmental lobby would, if ever it gained power, institute a green dictatorship and send us back to the dark ages they should be dispelled well and truly by that statement. And all I can say is FUCK THAT.

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Don't knock isolation

Complex systems are a lot more difficult to diagnose and repair. Pumping heat short distances is a fairly simple thing that only gets more complex when it has multiple jobs and longer runs. A window AC unit is easier to fix or replace than a centralized one. Also, when the ice cream in the freezer melts it's nice to know it has nothing to do with how much hot water was used in the shower.

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Black Helicopters

Specialism vs Generalism

Issac Asimov's short story "The Dead Past" may provide a clue.

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Anonymous Coward

Greens

Presumably the green fascists wouldn't be in favour of one of the last great initiatives by their favourite political model, enforced population control. No, thought not. I guess they think its ok to force everyone else to wear a hair shirt to support their preferred religion but I'm willing to bet that giving up the right to breed out of control is a step too far.

Careful what you wish for greenies, you might get it.

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h 6
Unhappy

Top kill

Top kill failed. Fuck BP.

Beyond Petroleum? More like Bastardize Planet.

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What about.....

Really interesting comments, top job!

About waste heat, it's been niggling me for years about the wasted HOT HOT exhaust gas which gets pumped out of my combi-boiler

Now I know its toxic apparently, but surely there must be some use for it. I've been racking my (very addled) brain cell and could only come up with some sort of sealed pipe affair running around my garage to heat it before being vented outside

Everyone here must have much better ideas though!

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Re: Oil spill solutions

After due care and consideration I have decided that BP have 'run the numbers' and decided that totally fucking up the environment in the Gulf Of Mexico is a secondary concern to maintaining operation of the well head that is currently spuking oil all over the place.

It cost them money to drill it, if they can keep it then that gives them production capacity for more profit, and the last thing they are going to do is kill it.

Here is a loopy idea.

Crimp the pipe and weld it shut. Surely Fucking problem solved?

Oh no.... actually we want to piss about the shop because this well head, if we get to recover it, will make us shedloads of money plus we are drilling two more for extra capacity, uhm to relieve the situation......

Bollocks Fucking Bollocks Fucking Bollocks.

Some FuckHead ran the sums of what they will have to pay out for verifiable reported damage, which they will contest, versus what the well head is worth to them.

Fuck You BP

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Horizon replies...

Yup... it was for shit.

Latest idea is you crimp it, weld it shut and then pump concrete down

it.

Colour [color] me cynical but my guess is you are trying to keep that

wellhead operational for production capacity and sod the consequences

elsewhere.

Or are you saying it is damaged to the extent that if you did try to

seal it it would tub its nuts and you would end up with a bigger mess

than the one you have created to date?

You disgust me.

Camilla

On Sun, 2010-06-06 at 16:21 -0500, Horizon Support wrote:

> Dear ,

> Thank you so much for taking the time to think about and submit your proposed solution regarding the Horizon incident. Your submission has been reviewed for its technical merits. Unfortunately, the team has determined that your idea cannot be applied under the very challenging and specific operating conditions we face. All of us on the Horizon Support Team appreciate your thoughts and efforts.

>

> Sincerely yours,

> Horizon Support Team

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