Efficiency has improved: Limited work funded by DOE in places such as Argonne National Laboratory (ANL) and independent work by individual investigators has led to the development of high-efficiency heat exchanger designs and special alloys. In addition, a better understanding of biofouling and its control has been reached due to experiments conducted during the operation of OTEC test plants. These developments have markedly increased heat exchanger efficiency.
Fossil Fuel Prices have Surged: Rising oil prices have rekindled an interest on renewable energy sources. Prices of oil are expected to continue to increase (oil hit $135/barrel on May 23, 2008, and $5.00/gallon gasoline is coming soon). Other fossil fuel prices (coal, LNG, etc) will increase as demand surges in response to high oil prices.
Peaking of Oil Production: There is a growing consensus that worldwide oil production is reaching a peak and will soon begin to decline. Such a situation could result in very high oil prices. It has been projected that a decrease of only 4% in oil production can result in oil prices of $160/barrel or more. Further, decreasing availability of oil will increase demand for other fossil fuels, such as coal and natural gas, driving up their prices. This may have a severe effect on society. A number of key congresspersons have already raised warnings about this. Press here for more information. Congressman Roscoe Bartlett provided this presentation on peak oil during the September 2007 OTEC workshop.
The Energy-Water nexus: Energy is required to produce water and water is required to produce energy. As the cost of energy increases, the cost of producing and treating water will also increase. In addition, the need for increasing amounts of water for use in energy production will reduce the availability of water on a global basis. OTEC can be designed to produce both water and electricity, thus offering long-term environmentally friendly solution to this problem.
Combustible fuels are damaging the environment: Recent developments indicate that carbon dioxide generated from fuel combustion is a major factor in climate change. In addition, other products of combustion that are known air pollutants are also emitted in vast quantities.
In summary, present circumstances are ideal for the commercial implementation of OTEC.
How does OIA plan to implement OTEC commercially?
OIA's technical strategy draws from the extensive research and pilot investigations performed in the past by the Department of Energy, Argonne National Laboratory, the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, the University of Puerto Rico, the government of Japan, and major private contractors such as General Electric, TRW and others. More than $500 million were spent from the 1970's to the 1980's in such studies and investigations. OIA's technical specialists participated in many of these investigations. We have developed a design for a commercial OTEC powerplant, based on currently commercially available components and manufacturing capabilities, with some minor fabrication developments.
Our financial strategy is even more innovative. In addition to artificially low oil prices, the reason why prior attempts to commercialize OTEC failed was not technical, but commercial. Until recently, OTEC was much more expensive than other generating methods. Further, previous proposals for OTEC all were dependent on government funding. OIA's founders have developed an innovative financing strategy, based on private funding. Under current energy market and environmental conditions, OTEC is competitive with oil-based electric power.
(c) 2012 Offshore Infrastructure Associates, Inc.
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(c) 2010 Offshore Infrastructure Associates, Inc.