Author Topic: Why SpaceX isnít YET synthesizing methane in Boca Chica but IS using solar  (Read 35350 times)

Online Lee Jay

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>
But your furnace or water heater may be only 80% thermally efficient. 
>

Our furnace has an AFUE rating of 95%. In MI we seriously need it.

Was there something unclear about the sentence a few sentences later, "Yes, there are 95% efficient condensing furnaces..."?

Offline watermod

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Go to the energy god page for the US:
https://flowcharts.llnl.gov/
End the argument

Offline Robotbeat

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Old gas wells are frequently used to store gas for future use.  Like store in summer for use in winter.  The wells already had gas in them until they ran out of gas due to low pressure at the well head.  SpaceX might use the old gas wells as storage of methane for future liquification.  Thousands of cubic feet (how gas is measured in the US), can be stored in these abandoned wells in gas form under pressure.  Then release the gas to be liquified for liquid methane for rocket us. 

Even natural gas can be bought cheaply on the spot market in bulk and stored in these wells.  Or, gas could be made synthetically and stored.  If good records were kept on these wells as the gas was extracted, they know home many cubic feet of gas they can store in them.  It avoids the construction of large pressurized or liquified above ground tankage.  Makes perfect sense, especially if a lot of rockets are going to be launched from Boca Chica.

This is from another thread, and it's a *really* good point that I hadn't even thought of.

They could just use that old well for storage as well. Or, maybe start by tapping a bit of the methane that's left, and then keep all their infrastructure in place for liquefaction at that field and when they're ready to start synthesizing, they can just pump it into that field for super cheap long-term storage (allowing them to totally decouple their methane synthesis from methane demand, in terms of seasonal energy availability).
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Offline spacenut

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Also, whenever they decide to make methane, these wells could store it.  Solar is only good during the day when they can make the methane and store it for night launches.  These wells are a win-win situation.  Store cheap available natural gas now and whenever they begin to make methane, use these storage wells which are on site.  No need for large storage domes. 

Offline Robotbeat

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Also, whenever they decide to make methane, these wells could store it.  Solar is only good during the day when they can make the methane and store it for night launches.  These wells are a win-win situation.  Store cheap available natural gas now and whenever they begin to make methane, use these storage wells which are on site.  No need for large storage domes.
Yeah, and I suspect the well is large enough for seasonal variations, not just daily.
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Offline spacenut

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They would not have drilled a well initially if there wasn't a good payback source of natural gas.  Just a few days worth would not be worth the cost.  A few years worth would recoup the cost of drilling and make a profit.  If they played out, they only have air in them, unless water got in them, and the natural gas or methane can be pumped in and the air out.  Methane is lighter than sea level air and will rise, so a pipe can be inserted near the bottom while natural gas or methane is pumped in.  This would allow for the air to be released and when methane starts to come out, valve off and continue pumping to the maximum the pumps can produce and monitor pressure to make sure there is no leaching into the surrounding rock.  They can do this with air first to see how much pressure the well will take before it begins to leach out. 

From what I understand there are about 5 (+/-) wells at Boca Chica.  This may be able to store thousands of ft^3 of gas for future use.  Why bring it by truck, when you can pipe it in on a continuous bases over time.  Just a small 2" (50mm) pipeline can store a lot of gas over a 24/7 time when not launching.  It can be ran along the roadside like utility via Brownsville to Boca Chica if there is not already one there when the wells were producing.  If it has been abandoned it would have to be tested for leaks before activating.  This is done with air and peppermint or gas odorant.  Lots of cheap simple things can be done now. 
 

Offline CuddlyRocket

Solar is only good during the day ...

Boca Chica seems a reasonable place for a wind turbine (or two)!

Offline Lar

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They would not have drilled a well initially if there wasn't a good payback source of natural gas. 
As I understand it, the well was there already. I didn't think SpaceX drilled any new gas wells.
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Offline Okie_Steve

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Except for the water well that they drilled, SpaceX bought the land with the wells extant. There is one nominally producing  horizontal gas well and a vertical injection/disposal well in the yellow pipe grassy patches near the front center of the site. Nearer to the entrance beside the huge pipe elbows is another yellow pipe grassy patch with two more horizontal wells. One used to be a producing gas well and was plugged and then redrilled a different direction from the same surface location, resulting in a dry hole that has not been plugged.

The nominally producing gas well has a diagonal surface pipe running over to the suspected generator pad.

For gas storage it might be possible to drill out the plugged gas well and use it or maybe even the dry hole formations.

Offline spacenut

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They would not have drilled a well initially if there wasn't a good payback source of natural gas. 
As I understand it, the well was there already. I didn't think SpaceX drilled any new gas wells.

I was referring to the initial drilling of the well maybe 20-30 years ago or more, whoever drilled it would not have if it didn't have a good payback.  So, it is there, and SpaceX can reuse it to store gas.   Don't know how big the underground hollow cavity is but maybe ground penetrating radar could determine that.  Also, if the original owners knew how much gas was extracted and how much pressure it had.  That can give you an idea of how much methane can be stored. 

Online edzieba

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The gas well was drilled, tapped, and not-technically-but-in-practice abandoned once continued operation was beyond economic value. The only reason it was not capped at that time as required by law is that capping is expensive, and technically 'operating' a few grams per year is cheaper. It is safe to assume that any gas remining is either too low in volume to make extraction worthwhile, too poor quality to make extraction worthwhile, or both.

From the other discussion:
It's an interesting idea for bulk storage, but it would almost certainly require reprocessing of the extracted gas before it can be used as propellant (regardless of how pure the methane you pump in is, it's going to pick up contaminants before you pump it back out) in addition to re-chilling and re-compressing back to a liquid, as well as road transport to the launch site tanks. That seems like a lot of work in order to have the fleet of tankers drive a short distance to your LCH4 reprocessing site rather than drive a slightly longer distance to existing LCH4 reprocessing and storage sites near Brownsville already owned and operated by someone else. Given that you'd need to purchase and transport LCH4 from those facilities to fill the gas reservoir in the first place, as well as needing an on-site tank farm to collect the re-extracted and post-filtered post-liquified gas again before it can be unloaded to tankers to move to the launch site, it seems like a lot of hassle to go to for little benefit.

Offline Robotbeat

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It makes more sense for storing on-site synthesis than trucked in LNG. There are byproducts in synthesis anyway.
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Offline Okie_Steve

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The gas well was drilled, tapped, and not-technically-but-in-practice abandoned once continued operation was beyond economic value. The only reason it was not capped at that time as required by law is that capping is expensive, and technically 'operating' a few grams per year is cheaper. It is safe to assume that any gas remining is either too low in volume to make extraction worthwhile, too poor quality to make extraction worthwhile, or both.

From the other discussion:
It's an interesting idea for bulk storage, but it would almost certainly require reprocessing of the extracted gas before it can be used as propellant (regardless of how pure the methane you pump in is, it's going to pick up contaminants before you pump it back out) in addition to re-chilling and re-compressing back to a liquid, as well as road transport to the launch site tanks. That seems like a lot of work in order to have the fleet of tankers drive a short distance to your LCH4 reprocessing site rather than drive a slightly longer distance to existing LCH4 reprocessing and storage sites near Brownsville already owned and operated by someone else. Given that you'd need to purchase and transport LCH4 from those facilities to fill the gas reservoir in the first place, as well as needing an on-site tank farm to collect the re-extracted and post-filtered post-liquified gas again before it can be unloaded to tankers to move to the launch site, it seems like a lot of hassle to go to for little benefit.

Yes and no. Given the extreme glut of natural gas in the US market due to shale gas fracking there could still be considerable reserves available that are not economically viable to produce *AND TRANSPORT TO MARKET* but which could make sense to produce for local consumption. What that potential local use might be is still unclear. Generator, hydrogen source for insitu practice, propellant, liquification/purification  practice pending a pipeline etc,.

Offline Lar

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If you want to store gas, is it safe to put gas into a dry hole? I would think you would want to find a formation you knew was gas tight, or was when you stopped pumping out, anyway.

The dry hole might have reached an area where fractures led to the surface and let gas leak out, no? I have no idea if that's geologically correct though.
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Offline Nomadd

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 It's not likely that well is going to be good for that much. For the cost of servicing that well and putting it back into production they could probably run a 12" pipeline to the Annova facility 5 miles away. It's also not known if the disposal well is still usable.
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Offline CameronD

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If you want to store gas, is it safe to put gas into a dry hole? I would think you would want to find a formation you knew was gas tight, or was when you stopped pumping out, anyway.

The dry hole might have reached an area where fractures led to the surface and let gas leak out, no? I have no idea if that's geologically correct though.

It's certainly amusing to think that your wonderful store of gas might be being sucked out by the next guy down the road - hey if it's in the ground it's free, right??

A far more common practice (over this way anyways) that is probably not that much more expensive in the long run is to compress it for storage (as CNG) in tanks on site and/or road transport to someplace else by the highest bidder.
« Last Edit: 01/14/2021 01:29 am by CameronD »
With sufficient thrust, pigs fly just fine - however, this is not necessarily a good idea. It is hard to be sure where they are
going to land, and it could be dangerous sitting under them as they fly overhead.

Offline spacenut

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The gas well was drilled, tapped, and not-technically-but-in-practice abandoned once continued operation was beyond economic value. The only reason it was not capped at that time as required by law is that capping is expensive, and technically 'operating' a few grams per year is cheaper. It is safe to assume that any gas remining is either too low in volume to make extraction worthwhile, too poor quality to make extraction worthwhile, or both.

From the other discussion:
It's an interesting idea for bulk storage, but it would almost certainly require reprocessing of the extracted gas before it can be used as propellant (regardless of how pure the methane you pump in is, it's going to pick up contaminants before you pump it back out) in addition to re-chilling and re-compressing back to a liquid, as well as road transport to the launch site tanks. That seems like a lot of work in order to have the fleet of tankers drive a short distance to your LCH4 reprocessing site rather than drive a slightly longer distance to existing LCH4 reprocessing and storage sites near Brownsville already owned and operated by someone else. Given that you'd need to purchase and transport LCH4 from those facilities to fill the gas reservoir in the first place, as well as needing an on-site tank farm to collect the re-extracted and post-filtered post-liquified gas again before it can be unloaded to tankers to move to the launch site, it seems like a lot of hassle to go to for little benefit.

Capping a well, oil or gas that is above ground is easy compared to deep sea wells which are much harder.  They usually have a valve on the drill pipe they can just close.  If the pressure is real high it is harder to close.  If the well plays out, it has very little pressure.  I believe these wells at Boca Chica are valved off and capped if they are not producing. 

The deeper the well, usually the higher the pressure.  The BP well was deep offshore.  You not only had the pressure of the earth against the well below the water level, but the water pressure alone was hard to work against to cap the well.  My company had a well in Mobile bay that produced over 1,400 psi for several years and never lost pressure.  It is expected to last many years.  It produced so much gas they ran a large pipeline from Mobile bay all the way to Bimingham.  This line also fed into the cross country pipeline going to Florida, middle Alabama and Georgia and one going across the northern part of Alabama feeding Atlanta.  Other gas was also coming from Texas and Louisiana. 

Offline Nomadd

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 You don't get to just cap a well and forget about it. It needs to be plugged at the end of it's life, which isn't a small operation when it's almost 2 miles deep. If you wait too long and the casing starts to deteriorate, you have a problem.
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twitter.com/thesheetztweetz/status/1352735219766464512

Quote
SpaceX  ó through subsidiary "Lone Star Mineral Development"  ó intends to drill natural gas wells near the company's Starship facility in Texas, likely for the methane that fuels its Raptor rocket engines, reports Bloomberg's @SergioChapa:

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-01-22/spacex-plans-to-drill-for-natural-gas-next-to-texas-launchpad

https://twitter.com/thesheetztweetz/status/1352735971297665024

Quote
Lone Star is in a legal dispute with Dallas Petroleum Group before Texas' energy regulator, over ownership claims inactive wells on an 806-acre plot of land.

Offline Okie_Steve

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The Bloomberg article has this tidbit about fracking equipment at the site.

"During Fridayís hearing, Dallas Petroleum CEO Matt Williams shared aerial photos that he said showed company equipment near the wells had been disconnected, while drilling and hydraulic-fracturing gear it doesnít own had been moved onto the property."

Interesting. Not that I could identify or tell oil field equipment apart even if my life depended on it mind you.

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