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Power Earth Science

"Vetrolium" From Agricultural Waste 438

junctionvin writes "The company Sustainable Power Corp. claims to have created a form of bio-crude oil from agricultural refuse. They use agro-waste from cracked soy beans, rice and cotton seed hulls, grain sorghum, milo, and jatropha and turn it into bio-crude oil. This crude can then be further refined into everything from gasoline to jet fuel and just about every petrochemical in between. The CEO is quoted: 'Our biggest problem is that we are too good to be true. We can literally replace every gallon of gasoline, diesel and jet fuel in the United States using just 12 percent of the waste byproducts in the country.' They also claim that their fuel burns to near 100 percent efficiency." The article doesn't mention what price the "vetrolium" would command in today's market or going forward, except to report the CEO's promise "to one day sell his gasoline for $1 less than the pump price for regular fuel, no matter what the cost. 'Even if it's $2 per gallon, I'll sell mine for $1,"' he said."
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"Vetrolium" From Agricultural Waste

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  • by conspirator57 ( 1123519 ) on Friday July 11, 2008 @09:44AM (#24151519)

    vaporware, literally.

    • by jrmcc ( 703725 ) on Friday July 11, 2008 @09:45AM (#24151537)
      I bet snake oil gets more MPG than this idea...
    • vaporware, literally.

      It may take an amount of time equal to that of the development of Duke Nukem, but gosh darn it, he is gonna follow through with his promise! I think the topic of the next vaporware list should be these promised technologies.

    • by Kamokazi ( 1080091 ) on Friday July 11, 2008 @09:50AM (#24151579)

      Nah, we'll hear about them in a few months.

      You know, after the company goes bankrupt from this guy embezzling the millions of investment capital they get from this announcement.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Theres more than one way to make money.
        Perhaps hes betting that the PetrolCorps(e) will buy him out to keep his invention OFF the market.

        • by avandesande ( 143899 ) on Friday July 11, 2008 @02:56PM (#24156137) Journal

          Let's get real. Supposing the stuff was real, what distribution network would they use to get the fuel to consumers? Who would have the capital to improve on the process and then market the fuel oversees? I don't think oil companies care where the oil comes from as long as they can sell it.

      • by ozmanjusri ( 601766 ) <aussie_bob@@@hotmail...com> on Friday July 11, 2008 @10:20AM (#24151957) Journal
        You know, after the company goes bankrupt from this guy embezzling the millions of investment capital they get from this announcement.

        His previous endeavour [ussec.us] is still chugging along.

        I think he may have discovered a sustainable income source. It's kept him fed for a few years at least.

      • by 0100010001010011 ( 652467 ) on Friday July 11, 2008 @11:59AM (#24153483)

        You know this is how the Germans survived WWII? [wikipedia.org] Even though they had no

        GTL is looking to be the next "big thing" bio-fuels. Now I'm not saying that this guy has figured out all the hard stuff that is holding big corporations back, but there's a chance.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gas_to_liquids [wikipedia.org]
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biomass_to_liquid [wikipedia.org]

        If the cost of diesel fuel goes much higher I might look into buying some from racing stores [hiperfuels.com]. Shipping is the killer right now.

        There are a few people running it on the forums and say it's great. [tdiclub.com] 63 Cetane Number, 20% more BTU vs regular D2, etc, etc.

        • All it takes is a little napkin math
          With this process, just one bushel (60 pounds) of organic waste can yield about six gallons of bio-crude, Rivera said.

          Six gallons of biofuel weighs about 48 pounds. That is like an 80% yield. I would believe this with pure animal fat or vegtable oil, but to say you can get that from "cracked soy beans, rice and cotton seed hulls, grain sorghum, milo and jatropha" is complete BS. The biofuel would have more engergy in it than would even be available in the waste if it
      • by mcrbids ( 148650 ) on Friday July 11, 2008 @01:46PM (#24155091) Journal

        Nah, we'll hear about them in a few months.

        You know, after the company goes bankrupt from this guy embezzling the millions of investment capital they get from this announcement.

        It's understandable that you'd be cynical. But there's definitely reason for hope. Another company has successfully done something similar at a turkey plant. The company is called Changing World Technologies [changingworldtech.com] and the technology is called thermal depolymerization [wikipedia.org]. My understanding is that they're making money, but only just barely. Waste turkey parts are apparently in higher demand than expected, and the work doesn't qualify for an expected govt subsidy.

        Nonetheless, the technology is real, it works, and does what's claimed - turns garbage (of a specific type) into oil. I have little doubt that with refinement, this technology and others like it could be made to work.

        That doesn't reduce the likelyhood that this CEO is blustering snake oil that will never materialize - the fact that similar stuff has been proven to work may make it more likely that he's blowing it. But it's by no means a definite certainty.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 11, 2008 @10:10AM (#24151835)

      I personally will drink my vetrolium with a bit of tomacco juice, thank you very much.

    • by Junior J. Junior III ( 192702 ) on Friday July 11, 2008 @10:25AM (#24152029) Homepage

      vaporware, literally.

      Running on vapors? That's nothing, I can get my car to run (sometimes, anyway) on nothing but pure vitriol. If your car has fuel invective, it may be able to use this highly volatile energy source as well.

    • by pla ( 258480 ) on Friday July 11, 2008 @10:38AM (#24152225) Journal
      vaporware, literally.

      Although TFA has a few obvious errors, they apparently just use thermal depolymerization to crack just about anything organic into a light crude-like goo.

      Not at all vaporware, and not even all that difficult (though not something you can really do on a small scale, thus the need for VC).

      The biggest "problems" with it appear mostly regulatory... At the same time we have everyone crying about the price of energy, we have just about every viable alternative energy proposal shot down for completely assinine reasons ranging from cosmetic to FUD.
    • by Ex-MislTech ( 557759 ) on Friday July 11, 2008 @10:45AM (#24152341)

      True these are snake oil too I guess ?

      Valcent Vertigro Algae Oil:

      http://thefraserdomain.typepad.com/energy/2006/10/vertigro_algae_.html [typepad.com]

      Coskata $1/gal Ethanol partners with General Motors:
      (non-crop oriented ethanol)

      http://www.autobloggreen.com/2008/01/13/gm-and-coskata-announce-worldwide-cellulosic-ethanol-partnership/ [autobloggreen.com]

      Bacteria the eats waste and releases petroleum:

      http://thegoodcity.wordpress.com/2008/06/19/bacteria-that-eat-waste-and-poop-petroleum/ [wordpress.com]

      • by Sandbags ( 964742 ) on Friday July 11, 2008 @01:04PM (#24154517) Journal

        Take a look at this. Some good friends of mine work for this research firm in South Carolina. They went live with a project today that they have been working on for nearly a decade.


        Basically, it's an idea for using wind and other free power to turn water into H2, then combine that with sequestered and other forms of CO2 to make hydrocarbons. It can be done at a very competitive cost to refining oils, and at quite a profit at existing prices.

        Yes, it will take a few trillion in investments, but since it has significant profit potential, it's only a matter of time until the money is invested. This process works, using todays technology, it simply has to be built...

        It's not vaporware, this is the real deal, a good solution that is feasable, and the patents for it are all filed and ready to be licensed.

        They are actively requesting people to read their information, and find the faults in it. Prove to them it can't be done...

        The site just went live a few hours ago, so keep checking over the next week or two as they add to the challenges and references sections, and expand on the details. Contact them with your feedback.

        As a close friend of the family, and a network engineer, I'm doing my part to spread the word. I have nothing to do with the product, process, or any of the information in the site, but I am on a ton of forums, and this looked like a great place to chat about it.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by IBMOOSE ( 609850 )

      I agree,
      I sent them an email via their "Contact us" page with the following text. Note that my email address reflects that I work for a major newspaper, maybe they will be forthcoming with some details or run like Hell one or the other :)
      Here is the text of the message I sent them...

      Your site and news release is suspiciously light on details. No disrespect intended, but a little detail on your process would go a long way towards lending your cause some credibility You may wish to read the posting on "Slashd

    • by Zemran ( 3101 ) on Friday July 11, 2008 @11:54AM (#24153375) Homepage Journal

      He says "we are too good to be true" and he is telling the truth...

      Trouble with a lot of these wonder solutions is that you do not really know yet how environmentally damaging the production process is. If it is possible I would be happy to pay more to get less reliant on areas of the world that we should get away from... (speaking as someone living in Azerbaijan [north of Iran])

  • awesome (Score:5, Funny)

    by stoolpigeon ( 454276 ) * <bittercode@gmail> on Friday July 11, 2008 @09:44AM (#24151531) Homepage Journal

    tfa says it burns without generating any heat. i'll be taking a bath in this stuff every night, setting myself on fire, and running around the block screaming. i think the neighbors will get a real kick out of it.

    and it will burn off completely. when it's done- no odor or residue. i mean how great can it get?

    • Re:awesome (Score:5, Funny)

      by Minwee ( 522556 ) <dcr@neverwhen.org> on Friday July 11, 2008 @09:55AM (#24151649) Homepage

      tfa says it burns without generating any heat. i'll be taking a bath in this stuff every night, setting myself on fire, and running around the block screaming. i think the neighbors will get a real kick out of it.

      Congratulations, you've just described something called 'alcohol'. Your neighbours already get a kick out of seeing you run around the block screaming after drinking a bathtub full of it.

      • Re:awesome (Score:5, Funny)

        by TripMaster Monkey ( 862126 ) on Friday July 11, 2008 @10:04AM (#24151759)

        Congratulations, you've just described something called 'alcohol'.

        Alcohol burns without generating heat?

        I had better sell my Bunsen burner stock ASAP.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          Why sell? Bunsen burners run on gas.

          Alcohol lamps, of course, are another story....

          • Re:awesome (Score:5, Funny)

            by hey! ( 33014 ) on Friday July 11, 2008 @10:34AM (#24152143) Homepage Journal

            That's the point. Think of the next generation of students, who no longer will have to play with dangerous bunsen burners in the lab. Instead they'll fashion glassware and boil solutions in the safe, heatless flame of an alcohol lamp.

            For that matter, what about people who use alcohol in their backpacking stoves? Since the alcohol doesn't burn with any heat, they can safely use their stoves in their tents.

            There's no end to applications for this miracle material. We could replace the water in our fire sprinkler systems with cool burning alcohol, which would starve the fire of oxygen while burning at a temperature too low to cause damage.

            I want to point out the obvious here that I'm being sarcastic. Although anybody who can't figure that out is arguably not long for this world, I'd rather not have their demises on my conscience.

      • Re:awesome (Score:5, Informative)

        by hey! ( 33014 ) on Friday July 11, 2008 @10:24AM (#24152007) Homepage Journal

        Hmmm. An alcohol flame gets plenty hot. Hot enough to melt glass rods if you don't have a bunsen burner handy, so temps can probably reach over 1000 degrees F.

        Alcohol flames burn so clean that they look innocuous. You also can do some impressive stunts that exploit the cooling effect of alcohol evaporation. These seem to have combined to create the myth that alcohol burns cool. Anybody mucking around with alcohol flames for amusement would be well advised not to believe this.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Minwee ( 522556 )

          Anybody mucking around with alcohol flames for amusement would be well advised not to believe this.

          All this and yet my suggestion that it was okay to drink a bathtub full of alcohol went completely unchallenged.

          Sometimes I wonder about you people.

        • Re:awesome (Score:4, Funny)

          by oxidiser ( 1118877 ) on Friday July 11, 2008 @11:47AM (#24153261)
          So, what you're saying is... fire hot? Interesting.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by raddan ( 519638 )
          I am not a chemist, but I am a backpacker, I can verify what you say is true. I have made several of these stoves [caseyandemily.com] (PDF warning), and they work amazingly well. Better, in fact, on most counts than my commercially-made and comparatively expensive backpacking stoves. They are also very lightweight. The main thing for me is: I can buy fuel damn near anywhere. That was a problem for my butane and white gas stoves.

          Anyhow, the interesting thing about these is yes, sometimes it's hard to tell if they're lit
    • Re:awesome (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Otter ( 3800 ) on Friday July 11, 2008 @10:05AM (#24151769) Journal
      Also, while I mostly spent Auto Shop getting beaten up so may have missed something important, isn't that heat what makes a normal engine work?
      • Re:awesome (Score:4, Informative)

        by Tinamil ( 1149455 ) on Friday July 11, 2008 @10:11AM (#24151873)
        No, normal engines work by using the expanding gasses that are a product of combustion to exert pressure to move the cylinders.
        • Re:awesome (Score:5, Informative)

          by budgenator ( 254554 ) on Friday July 11, 2008 @10:58AM (#24152541) Journal

          The Ideal gas law [wikipedia.org] is PV=nRT, so while the increased number of moles of gas will inherently increase the combustion chambers pressures and temperature, but the lion's share of the pressure increase is due to the exothermic nature of the combustion heating the gasses.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by wattrlz ( 1162603 )
          The gases in question expand, mostly, because they are hot. That's why you can do a quick back-of-the-envelope calculation for Carnot efficiency or Otto efficiency by comparing the difference between the peak combustion temperature and the exhaust temperature.
      • Re:awesome (Score:4, Informative)

        by Penguinisto ( 415985 ) on Friday July 11, 2008 @10:26AM (#24152043) Journal

        Mostly - fuel/air vapor is compressed, then detonated. The expansion of that detonation pushes the piston. Heat causes the majority of that expansion force.

        The trick is that their fuel is either: cold as Hell to start with (e.g. like putting dry ice in a bottle of water and sealing the bottle - there's still heat involved in making the detonation, but it's still way colder than pretty much anything immediately surrounding it), or dissipating the heat before the exhaust can get out of the tailpipe.

        The problem is that this alleged wunderfuel is still a hydrocarbon, which means that you still have carbon atoms to dispose of (lots of 'em), and the nature of a car's combustion process still involves compression and ignition of the fuel, which will still generate a lot of heat.

        Now some fuels do burn cooler than others, esp. in a short test run like the CEO was describing (for example, alcohol burns far cooler than gasoline), and a short test run with a cooler fuel will likely not give you as much heat in the exhaust (then again, on a really cool/cold day, a gasoline engine would only produce "some warm air" at your tailpipe if the engine has only ran for "a couple of minutes").

        As for what's in the stuff? *shrug* - I dunno. I'm not holding my breath until/unless I see some show up in marketable quantities, though.


        • Re:awesome (Score:5, Informative)

          by A Pancake ( 1147663 ) on Friday July 11, 2008 @11:03AM (#24152639)
          Technically speaking the air/fuel charge does not detonate, it deflagrates. In a gasoline engine detonation is a bad thing, and is marked by ping or knock.
        • Re:awesome (Score:4, Interesting)

          by saigon_from_europe ( 741782 ) on Friday July 11, 2008 @11:11AM (#24152747)

          I guess that CEO did quite good demonstration but the journalist did not get everything right. No smoke - that's ok and experiment proves that. No heat - that's rubbish, of course there was heat - experiment proved that. Efficient burning means that almost all amount really burns. You may think that every fuel does so, but it is not the truth. Coal for instance, does not burn fully. Gasoline is better, but there are still some unburned hydrocarbons. LNG is way better than gasoline, since almost everything goes to either C02 or water. "No smoke" means no visible smoke. You cannot see C02 nor water vapor. The more pure is the fuel, it burns better. Buy some gasoline from a pharmacy (they sell it for some reason), it burns perfectly. But what we buy as gasoline at the pump station is actually a mixture of many different hydrocarbons, and it does not burn so well.

          Long story short, if they are able to produce fuel without heavy hydrocarbons, aromatic hydrocarbons etc, it will burn almost 100%, without smell (i.e. unburned hydrocarbons) and without trace (again, unburned hydrocarbons).

        • Re:awesome (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Captain Hook ( 923766 ) on Friday July 11, 2008 @11:37AM (#24153123)

          The problem is that this alleged wunderfuel is still a hydrocarbon, which means that you still have carbon atoms to dispose of (lots of 'em)

          Carbon from this source wouldn't be a problem at all.

          The Greenhouse Gas problem is really about taking carbon which has been buried and effectively out of the biosphere for millions of years and dumping it into the air in quantities large enough to affect atmospheric carbon concentrations.

          All those Biofuels are effectively carbon neutral (or would be in an ideal world if we weren't using fossil fuels to harvest the feedstock) because the carbon in the feedstock has come directly from the atmosphere within the last 1-2, 10-20 years (depending on the feedstock).

          If we could run the entire worlds fleet of cars/buses/planes/trains on biofuels, it would have eventually balance out and have zero effect on atmospheric carbon concentrations.

          Biofuels have a single problem, in the last hundred years we have (in the west at least) got used to burning a fuel store which took millions of years to produce, biofuels have to produce energy in a 1:1 time ratio and there is simply no way to do that without a significant proportion of the earths surface being turned over to energy collection and conversion into an energy store.

  • by pablo_max ( 626328 ) on Friday July 11, 2008 @09:47AM (#24151547)
    Perhaps, but ever time I hear something like this, I still have the hope it really is true. Each time I'm wrong, but who cares! It would be awesome!
    • I'm a regular subscriber to Popular Science magazine, and I recall seeing several similar-sounding devices covered in there over the years.

      Maybe the problem is, most of them work great in a lab environment, as a "demo", but can't scale up to cost-effective, usable/functional products for the real world?

      Like what's going on with Frank Pringle's microwave emitter:

      http://www.popsci.com/popsci/flat/bown/2007/innovator_2.html [popsci.com]

      Or Joseph Longo's plasma trash converter thing:

      http://www.popsci.com/scitech/article/200 [popsci.com]

    • I firmly believe that one day, a new energy source will come, and it will blow us away, and the story on slashdot will be true. I firmly believe that in my lifetime we will see cheap, clean endless renewable energy from a currently undreamed of source. I also believe that this particular news story is horsecrap, and it's not even the first time I've heard the 'perfect garbage' horsecrap.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by budgenator ( 254554 )

      At best this is a variation on TDP [wikipedia.org], therefore it probably works, it definitely doesn't work as economically as the article implies, but you have to over-hype this stuff to get the attention of the venture capitalists. I expect that the ROI isn't really good enough to get the venture capital excited when compared with the risks involved.

    • by SatanicPuppy ( 611928 ) * <Satanicpuppy@nOspam.gmail.com> on Friday July 11, 2008 @10:25AM (#24152013) Journal

      That hope, that beautiful little flower of perfect happy hope, is how they take your money away from you.

      Let me tell you how the fuel of the future will come about. Some guy in a lab will come up with something that is woefully inefficient, and they will haggle with it for a decade with little funding and little respect, and it will become more efficient, and then more people will say, "Wow, maybe there is something to (insert inefficient process here)" and they'll start working on it. And a decade or so later it will be roughly equivalent to our current fuel in cost.

      People have been working on the idea of biofuels forever, and we've got some semi-decent methods out there, but every one of them is the fruit of a LOT of crappy thankless work done when oil was cheaper than bottled water.

      Likewise fusion; we know it can be done. One day we will do it, barring an intellectual dark age. But right now its an expensive boondoggle.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by couchslug ( 175151 )

      That sort of hope is what makes scams thrive.

      I don't "hope" for golden bullet solutions. I hope for market pressures to drive R&D that produces many different solutions to energy problems so we grow away from an energy monoculture.

  • Oooo magic! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SatanicPuppy ( 611928 ) * <Satanicpuppy@nOspam.gmail.com> on Friday July 11, 2008 @09:48AM (#24151555) Journal

    Sounds like a pump and dump to me. Their stock is at approximately nothing, this claim has no actual details of process. It also violates common sense (complete combustion from a hydrocarbon? They're not zero impurity fuels), and promises an astounding return from the use of a waste product. They make claims that they can put it into production very quickly, which is extremely unlikely given the issues with biofuel scaling.

    From their website:

    Matters discussed in this press release contain forward-looking statements within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. When used in this press release, the words "anticipate," "believe," "estimate," "may," "intend," "expect" and similar expressions identify such forward-looking statements. Actual results, performance or achievements could differ materially from those contemplated, expressed or implied by the forward-looking statements contained herein. These forward-looking statements are based largely on the expectations of the Company and are subject to a number of risks and uncertainties. These include, but are not limited to, risks and uncertainties associated with: the impact of economic, competitive and other factors affecting the Company and its operations, markets, product, and distributor performance, the impact on the national and local economies resulting from terrorist actions, and U.S. actions subsequently; and other factors available from the Company.

    I think that sums it up nicely.

    • Re:Oooo magic! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Mr. Slippery ( 47854 ) <tmsNO@SPAMinfamous.net> on Friday July 11, 2008 @09:57AM (#24151681) Homepage

      Not to say these guys are or aren't legit, but that's a pretty standard investment disclaimer. An annual report for even the bluest of blue chip companies will warn you how it contains "forward-looking statements" and how the sky might fall and result in a loss for stockholders.

    • Boilerplate (Score:3, Insightful)

      by sjbe ( 173966 )

      Matters discussed in this press release contain forward-looking statements within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. ... I think that sums it up nicely.

      While you are absolutely correct, that's just a standard bit of boiler-plate required by every company in financial statements so that they can talk about the future. Nothing special about this particular piece of boiler-plate.

    • by LWATCDR ( 28044 )

      The enter thing seems way to far fetched. Motors running without getting hot?
      Yea it would be freaking brilliant if it worked but until I see the chemistry or the cheap fuel I just don't think it is possible.

    • Re:Oooo magic! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Crowley ( 24666 ) on Friday July 11, 2008 @10:01AM (#24151729) Homepage

      Sounds like a pump and dump to me. Their stock is at approximately nothing, this claim has no actual details of process. It also violates common sense (complete combustion from a hydrocarbon? They're not zero impurity fuels)

      Having RTFA, they actually claim no by-products - by which they mean no smoke. If (and this is a *big* if) the hydrocarbon was burning with 100% efficiency - no soot being produced - then surely the chemical reaction is maximising the amount of CO2 that the engine will then pump out; simple high-school chemistry says that there are byproducts of the combustion, they are just invisible to the human eye. The byproduct is also quite honestly the one that we don't want. Ecologically, from a global warming POV, having diesel *not* emit useless soot is absolutely catastrophic, as the carbon has to go somewhere. It's either soot, or carbon dioxide.

      I still call bull on the claims, though...

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        CO2 emission from agricultural waste is a zero sum process. The problem with CO2 release from fossil fuels is that you are releasing sequestered carbon in the form of CO2. When you burn the by products of agricultural waste, or even wood for that matter, the carbon you release was all recently absorbed from the atmosphere. Carbon in == carbon out.

      • When you burn carbon based material, you do want it to burn to CO2. When the process of burning is incomplete, you get stuff like CO and soot. One is poisonous the other carcinogenic..

        The fact that we do not want to produce CO2 implies that we need more efficient engines and/or burn less fuel.

    • by spineboy ( 22918 ) on Friday July 11, 2008 @10:08AM (#24151813) Journal

      I wonder just how much "bio-waste" is available anyway, to supply this venture. Would the specific ingredients they require ever amount to enough so as to provide a significant percentage of a states fuel needs.

      The engine temperature observation from the story may just imply that the vetroleum has a very low flash point, or combustion temperature. My friends and I used to set our hands on fire with alcohol from alcohol burners, The alcohol burns at a fairly low temperature, and thus doesn't heat your hand much.

      Lower temperature burns would probably generate less side products, producing a cleaner smoke. That's nothing surprising nor revolutionary. It's actually a bad thing too, since the amount of power produced is also less (less heat -> less thermal expansion = less power)

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by LSD-OBS ( 183415 )

        And what you've said is not in any way at disagreement with what people are saying when they call this story bullshit.

        Anything that causes expansion can be used to drive a piston. This can include air heated by sunlight, or really slow burning hydrocarbons. Also, I'm sure everybody has played with burning methylated spirits and such.

        However, for the purposes of a combustion engine suited to road vehicles, you need decently fast (and therefore hot) combustion to make it practical.

        Therefore, this "Vetrolium"

    • I have to agree - this doesn't inspire confidence in me.

      I'd much rather see samples sent off to independent testing labs. Heck, I'm sure there's some mechanical equivalents to Dan [dansdata.com] out there.

      Heck, Popular Mechanics and consumer reports will occasionally provide free testing of various 'too good to be true' methods and devices.

      His idea, taken raw, sounds a lot like thermal depolymerization, which does have a test plant up. But the TD guys aren't proposing a 100% replacement for oil, or making claims that th

  • Even if it's $2 per gallon, I'll sell mine for $1

    Is it just me or does that sound like not the best way to run a business?

    • by Ec|ipse ( 52 )

      I agree, make a profit, but don't rape the customer.

      And in the off chance that it somehow replaces regular crude oil, would we start to see price increases?

    • "to one day sell his gasoline for $1 less than the pump price for regular fuel, no matter what the cost. 'Even if it's $2 per gallon, I'll sell mine for $1,"

      If gas is $10 a gallon he is promising to sell his for $9 a gallon (no matter how little it costs to produce). Not such a good deal now huh?

      Of course the claim of near 100% burn efficiency raises a lot of red flags as to the veracity of the claims.

  • by Syrente ( 990349 ) on Friday July 11, 2008 @09:49AM (#24151571)
    Oh man, I'm just waiting for all competing providers to declare 79 cents fuel - then Mr CEO would have to pay you 21 cents for using each gallon of his fuel. Won't happen, but a schadenfreudist can dream...
  • by Red Flayer ( 890720 ) on Friday July 11, 2008 @09:50AM (#24151581) Journal

    the CEO's promise "to one day sell his gasoline for $1 less than the pump price for regular fuel, no matter what the cost. 'Even if it's $2 per gallon, I'll sell mine for $1,"' he said."

    I can't wait until his product comes to maturity -- then demand for gas will be so low that the price will drop below $1.

    "Fill her up with regular, please. You can pay me in cash."

  • Energy Input? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by IAAE ( 1302511 ) on Friday July 11, 2008 @09:53AM (#24151617)
    Sure they can make a lot of crude and fertilizer out of their agricultural waste, but how much energy are they using to convert it? It's all good and wonderful that they can make gasoline out of "waste", but if the energy costs to convert it are more than the production and transportation costs from other sources, either conventional or unconventional (oil sands for example), they may not really be accomplishing anything useful... However, if they were using say a nuclear plant to power their conversion, that'd be a different story.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 11, 2008 @10:06AM (#24151783)

      I'm not in any way involved with the company, but I have read TFA and having done that I feel as if I can answer your questions and concerns in the same spirit:

      how much energy are they using to convert it?

      Absolutely none! The conversion process requires no energy at all, occurs instantaneously, and releases no harmful emissions. In fact, pure unadulterated sunshine blasts forth from the process at all times and bathes bystanders in with its gentle warmth.

      if the energy costs to convert it are more than the production and transportation costs from other sources

      This is not at all the case! The Vetrolium produced is immediately transported to fueling stations across the globe by faeries or the like. No energy whatsoever is required to do this and no harmful emissions are produced. Blasting forth from the fueling stations is pure unadulterated sunshine, to warm your cockles while you fuel up.

      they may not really be accomplishing anything useful

      Untrue! Think of something you want that uses physical raw materials? Got it yet? What you are thinking of can be produced as follows: Waste -> Vetrolium -> What you thought of + pure unadulterated sunshine. See what is missing? Harmful emissions are whats missing, which is why Vetrolium is so great.

      nuclear plant

      The need for atom splitting is entirely obviated by this Waste to Fuel converson process I'd like you to fund. No harmful emissions or byproducts of anything you don't want. No heat. No muss. No fuss. Shove your trash into the magic machine. When you feel warmed by the sunshine coming out, you'll know the process is up and running. Absolutely no hamrful emissions will be involved in any way.

  • by Nexus7 ( 2919 ) on Friday July 11, 2008 @09:54AM (#24151633)

    Algae biodiesel is far more advanced as vaporware than agricultural waste biodiesel. It claims 10,000 gallons per acre; whereas this agri-waste one claims 6 gallons per bushel. I heard that agri-animal-waste biodiesel claims 1000 gallons per cow. We need more consistency in our inflated vaporware numbers!

  • Fire the reporter (Score:5, Insightful)

    by LSD-OBS ( 183415 ) on Friday July 11, 2008 @09:56AM (#24151659)

    TFA: "Even after a few minutes of operation, the engine block was cool to the touch while the four-wheelerâ(TM)s exhaust pipe seemed to emit little more than warm, odorless air."

    So. This fuel is oxidised thermally neutral? So what's causing the gas to expand? What's driving the pistons?

    I'm not going to call bullshit on this whole story yet, but when a reporter thinks he sees crap like the above, he needs to ask WHY.

    I refuse to make puns about "hot air" :)

    • Yea, that's a massive screaming bullshit call in my book. If you're going to call it "bio-crude" which is weird in and of itself, you're going to have to accept that it is actually a fuel.

      The heat produced out of combustion is sort of required; heat warms up the engine. If there is no heat, there is not much energy in the reaction. If there is no energy, it's not much of a fuel.

      Even if, even if the manufacturing claims were accurate, the stuff doesn't behave like a hydrocarbon fuel.

    • I'll call bullshit on it. I can keep an open mind on all kinds of stuff and give the benefit of the doubt -- at least provisionally -- to claims that contradict established knowledge except when the claim involves a suspension of the laws of thermodynamics. Find an exception to those, and you've opened the door to perpetual motion and immortality, never mind auto fuel.

    • by spineboy ( 22918 )

      go search for my other post, as I'm tired of writing the same thing. It's very realistic, but produces poor power.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by jockeys ( 753885 )
      actually, if the engine is highly efficient, the "bang" phase will use most of the heat towards expansion (driving the piston), thus exhaust is cooler.

      just because there was a lot of heat in the burning, highly-compressed fuel/air mix doesn't mean the exhaust can't be cool. in fact, the hotter the exhaust (in naturally aspirated engines) the less efficient the piston. ideally, the movement of the piston would harness every bit of heat energy by decompressing the gas to ambient, but that's not going to h
  • Home Page (Score:5, Informative)

    by bizitch ( 546406 ) on Friday July 11, 2008 @09:56AM (#24151665) Homepage

    Here is their home page

    http://www.sustainablepower.com/ [sustainablepower.com]

    I can't decide which is harder to believe

    Their Science or the fact that they are a penny stock! - Wow who would have guessed that?

  • by Thelasko ( 1196535 ) on Friday July 11, 2008 @09:56AM (#24151677) Journal
    Is the bio-fuel from rice the same as the bio-fuel from cotton seed oil? Usually, it isn't. Different sources yield different products. A company that can produce a consistent product from a variety of different sources will make billions.
    • by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Friday July 11, 2008 @10:11AM (#24151857) Journal

      A diesel engine can run on just about anything, so what's the problem?

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Thelasko ( 1196535 )

        A diesel engine can run on just about anything, so what's the problem?

        A common misunderstanding among the general public. I design diesel engines, and these inconsistent sources of bio-fuel are a major issue.

        The largest problem being emissions. In engine design, we are currently at delicate balance in engine tuning to meet emissions standards. One thing we must assume constant, is quality of fuel. Using various kinds of fuels will cause variances in NOx or particulate over running the type of fuel the engine was designed for.

        There are also issues with oil change inter

  • by Bastard of Subhumani ( 827601 ) on Friday July 11, 2008 @09:59AM (#24151717) Journal

    Fuels from bodily waste. Will you choose peesel or shitroleum?

  • by stankulp ( 69949 ) on Friday July 11, 2008 @10:00AM (#24151721) Homepage

    They could just start making fuel and sell it on a small scale, then plow their profits back into their production facilities.

    Apple was profitable from Day One.

    This would be too, if it actually worked.

    The fact that they're not just doing it means they can't.

  • TFA Looks Sketchy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dire Bonobo ( 812883 ) on Friday July 11, 2008 @10:06AM (#24151777)

    Rivera claims that products made from Vetroleum burn at near 100 percent efficiency, leaving behind neither heat nor pollution as proof of the chemical reactions taking place.

    Burns without heat? WTF?

    Correct me if (when) I'm wrong, but doesn't no heat output mean no enthalpy [wikipedia.org] in the reaction means no ability to do useful work with that reaction? How is a reaction with no heat output supposed to do work in a heat engine [wikipedia.org] like your car?

    Your car converts gasoline into mechanical energy by mixing it with air and using the resulting explosion to push a piston (see, for example, here [mainspot.net]). Without heat output, how is the reaction supposed to cause the rapid pressure change needed to drive the piston?

    If "no heat output" is one of their big selling points, I don't see how this can be legit.

  • by Bob Uhl ( 30977 ) <eadmund42@NOsPam.gmail.com> on Friday July 11, 2008 @10:06AM (#24151785) Homepage
    This may or may not be a scam (my bet's on the former). But even if by some chance it is true, it's still a horrible idea. Think about it: it's taking agricultural waste and burning it up in car engines. It's one thing to burn petroleum--it's a nasty poisonous substance with few uses other than fuel, plastics and medicines.

    But agricultural waste is chock-full of valuable organic substances. It should be composted and returned to the soil so that it can fertilise the next year's worth of food. Burning it up is not all that different from burning corn in the form of 'ethanol' (really, just whiskey): it's just another way to take the last remaining topsoil in the United States and use it to fuel our car addiction, not entirely different from a junky selling his blood every day to get his fix.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by c ( 8461 )

      > But agricultural waste is chock-full of valuable organic substances.

      Well, yes and no. Specific agricultural wastes aren't necessarily balanced enough to be immediately reused, if you've even got enough land handy to be able to spread it as fertilizer. And composting takes time. On a large scale, storage, transportation and/or enrichment of ag waste is a huge problem.

      Pig shit from factory farms in places like South Carolina is the canonical example. Besides all of the above, it's also full of antibiotic

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by RGRistroph ( 86936 )

      But the article implies that one by product of his process is fertilizer. It emphasizes the cleaniness and clarity of the fuel. I think what the article is trying to imply, although it and the company's web site are extremely non-technical and informationless, is that the carbon is extracted from the feedstock to make fuel, and the "contaminants" of phosphorous, nitrogen, and minerals, are pulled out and labeled "fertilizer". Because of emissions issues it is unlikely that a fuel with nitrogen and phosph

  • From TFA:

    Now Rivera must convince potential investors that his trade secret - 21 years and $31 million dollars in the making - isn't just a bunch of smoke and mirrors.

    If his claims are true, this will be a trivial task. The fact that he keeps talking about how difficult it will be is telling.

  • Wrong market (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Dolohov ( 114209 ) on Friday July 11, 2008 @10:08AM (#24151819)

    Assuming for the moment that their claims are legit (TFA doesn't give us anywhere near enough information to evaluate them) it seems to me that the US is the wrong market for this. If I were in their shoes, I'd deploy this in China: the country's still very agricultural (that fertilizer might be worth a lot more there) but growing rapidly (i.e. they're looking for new sources of fuel, not just for cars but for power plants), there is a strong political will to invest in infrastructure, and they like to boast about any engineering feat. Prove it there, work out the kinks for large-scale production and refinement, then bring it west. That's what I'd do.

  • by Minwee ( 522556 ) <dcr@neverwhen.org> on Friday July 11, 2008 @10:13AM (#24151883) Homepage

    ...if it weren't for those pesky laws of Thermodynamics!

    Okay, it's not a perpetual motion machine but the article glosses over or completely ignores a few important details about his ultra-secret process, like just how much energy is required to produce and refine this stuff. He could make the nicest bio-diesel around, but if it takes fire barrels of oil just to make one barrel of it then he's going to have some troubles making his power plant work.

    "Our biggest problem is that we are too good to be true"

    Yup, that would be one way of putting it. I'd be happy to see this project succeed, but it has been tried before and always run into the same problems.

  • by BobMcD ( 601576 ) on Friday July 11, 2008 @10:13AM (#24151887)

    ...just like keep trying to do with the plant in my neck of the woods.

    http://www.res-energy.com/ [res-energy.com]

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thermal_depolymerization [wikipedia.org]

    Scroll to the bottom, under 'Current status' and 'Smell complaints'.

    Too bad there's not a section for 'pressure from big oil'. If it isn't the case today, it certainly will be tomorrow.

    This outfit in Carthage is already producing 500 barrels a day from guts and fat, at a profit of $4 per barrel. In January 05, their price was $80/barrel ($1.90/gal).

    The tech is real, so why don't we have the gas yet?

  • by profet ( 263203 ) on Friday July 11, 2008 @10:17AM (#24151921)

    Do they pay us to pump their fuel?

  • by Kirgin ( 983046 ) on Friday July 11, 2008 @10:19AM (#24151945)
    http://www.natchezdemocrat.com/news/2007/sep/28/judge-oks-rivera-fraud-suit/ [natchezdemocrat.com] Yup, do people that get scammed by these people not have access to google? That took me 32 seconds to find.
  • Oil Bubble (Score:4, Insightful)

    by sesshomaru ( 173381 ) on Friday July 11, 2008 @10:26AM (#24152041) Journal
    This Oil Bubble has been fun, huh? Sort of like the Housing Bubble, different than the Tech Bubble. With the Housing Bubble it was "oh no, real estate is going to just keep going up, after all, no one is making more land." Of course, looking at the situation now, it seems someone was making more land, at least with the price declines we've been seeing.


    Now we have an Oil Bubble, and it is fun in its own way. Peak Oil! We're all doomed, the great die-off! Foriegners are eating our lunch! Kuntsler hasn't been this happy since we were all going to be totally doomed by Y2K!

    Of course, I wouldn't mind seeing trains make a comeback, and some serious investment in improving nuclear tech, but I'm guessing that the current bubble will pop before we get very far in either on one them. You know its bad when, 12 U.S. airlines call on Congress to curb excessive speculation. [cnn.com]

    I'm wondering what the next Bubble will be. Some are thinking a Green Tech Bubble, but I'm hoping for a Water Bubble. You know, sort of like that episode of Darkwing Duck with the Liquidator.

    Of course, someone could do something about all the insane, emotion-driven speculation but that wouldn't be as much fun. It might lead to economic stability, and who wants that?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by DerekLyons ( 302214 )

      This Oil Bubble has been fun, huh? Sort of like the Housing Bubble, different than the Tech Bubble. With the Housing Bubble it was "oh no, real estate is going to just keep going up, after all, no one is making more land." Of course, looking at the situation now, it seems someone was making more land, at least with the price declines we've been seeing.

      Those, like myself, who invest in land and housing with an eye on making returns on a time scale of decades will do nicely. The bubble only hurt those who ha

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by khallow ( 566160 )

      Of course, someone could do something about all the insane, emotion-driven speculation but that wouldn't be as much fun. It might lead to economic stability, and who wants that?

      We can always pass a law making it so there's no uncertainty about the future and that everyone should be rational and omniscient. That would fix the bubble problem. In fact, that would be the only thing that could fix the bubble problem.

  • by Temujin_12 ( 832986 ) on Friday July 11, 2008 @10:31AM (#24152115)
    While I believe a lot of the claims made are a bit hyperbolic, this kind of biodiesel certainly is more scalable than food-crop based ethanol, and does have some promise (as well as problems).

    I make a point to follow emerging trends in new energy technologies and there is certainly no silver bullet (unless we can get cold fusion going). However, I'm also of the opinion that the US (and certainly most other nations) has the ability to independently supply its own energy through using a healthy balance of diverse energy technologies.

    Off the top of my head:
    • Solar (both photo voltaic and focusing mirrors): Huge potential (especially in south). This can be done both commercially as well as deployed residentially to offset customer's bills (and in some cases even sell excess energy generated back onto the grid).
    • Wave and tidal
    • Geothermal: Yellowstone is sitting on top of on of the earth's largest super volcanoes. I know it's a national park, but the material pumped from geothermal stations is water. As long as the infrastructure is responsibly deployed and maintained, this is a no brainier.
    • Wind: huge potential on coasts, mountain ranges, and through the entire mid-west. Concerned about the effects on birds? No problem. There are some pretty ingenious non-propeller turbines (some of which can work with wind blowing in any direction).
    • Hydro-electric dams: Tried and true.

    Combine this with newer technologies that reduce consumption.

    • LED lamps
    • Better fuel efficiency (fuel mileage, hybrid drives, alternative fuels)
    • Broader use of recycled goods
    • Better energy consumption of electrical appliances and devices
    • Thermal underground radiation for residential and commercial climate control
    • Better insulation requirements

    Again, none of the above (which are incomplete lists) alone can be a viable solution and each as their own set of problems to overcome. What is needed is a diverse portfolio of renewable energy technologies combined with a more conscious responsible use of resources. I really do believe that in doing this, there is a potential to achieve complete energy independence. What people seem to be having a hard time with is that this requires a huge infrastructural investment as well as the creation of a whole new industry. The infrastructural problems, I think, will work themselves out as the potential of ROI of these different technologies becomes attractive. A jump start from the government would help as well.

  • every year in this country, hundreds and hundreds of people are injured, maimed, and even killed by rattlesnakes, copperheads, coral snakes, cottonomouths, and the like

    what i do is i take specially trained teams into the places these vermin hide, and for free, for free, i take the snakes to a special pressing plant, where i press the snakes and turn them into a fuel you can use in your car!

    i call this amazing product...

!07/11 PDP a ni deppart m'I !pleH