Industries which would be most likely to profit from fusion?

If polywell fusion is developed, in what ways will the world change for better or worse? Discuss.

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jsbiff
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Industries which would be most likely to profit from fusion?

Postby jsbiff » Mon Aug 30, 2010 2:32 pm

I want to start this by saying that, obviously, it's a bit early to do any kind of 'investing' in Polywell - we don't even know that it works yet! But, I've also been thinking lately, that some day in maybe 2 or 5 years, we *might* all wake up to have all the news media proclaiming the advent of cheap, clean energy - either from Polywell, or maybe Focus Fusion, or some other approach.

The question then, is what are the most likely investment targets? Obviously, whoever creates/patents the first net-power fusion device would be an early investment target.

I'm thinking I'd be watching for announcements from companies in the following industries:

* High Tech Industrial Manufacturing - whoever 'invents' the first practical fusion reactor isn't likely to be in a position to mass-produce the parts for building them. They would probably partner with some large industrial manufacturer like GE or one of the Japanese or Chinese Manufacturers. Building the reactors would likely be a strong revenue stream for whatever companies get these contracts/licenses.

* Regional Energy Utilities/Generation companies - That's sort of a no-brainer, but this'll come down to execution, so it's not too clear ahead of time which energy companies would be the best to invest in. That'll just require watching the companies closely to see who is executing best.


But, the real interesting question is, what industries might benefit a lot from fusion, but aren't so obvious. . .

* Oil - I wonder, I've heard that there is a lot of oil available in different types of geological deposits, such as the Tar Sands in Canada as one example, but the problem with those oil deposits is that it takes significant amounts of energy to extract that oil. Seems like cheap on-site fusion reactors could suddenly make a LOT of oil become available much cheaper than it is now?

* Large Ships (Commercial Cargo, Passenger/Cruise, etc) - obviously, the Navy has interest in fusion for use aboard ships. If the tech is small enough, simple enough, and safe enough, is there any reason it couldn't be deployed on commercial large ships? If it were, would it have a revolutionary impact (e.g. they could start to make larger, or faster, commercial cargo ships which could deliver more cargo in less time, thus making shipping 'cheaper', and increasing shipping profits?)

* Commercial bulk materials processing (Steel makers, aluminum makers, chemical makers) - Could a large bulk materials processor potentially install fusion reactors on-sight to reduce their energy costs substantially vs. buying from the Grid?

Those are mostly all I've come up with, so far. But, I'm wondering if anyone else can think of any industries which would be, probably, very good targets of early investment for deployment of fusion energy?

Aero
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Postby Aero » Mon Aug 30, 2010 2:54 pm

Of course there is aluminum refining. A direct conversion polywell might result in a transportable power plant, to be set up at the mine. This way, the refining could be done at the mine site. This would almost eliminate transport of ore and the attendant costs for trucks and trains and roads, not to mention the cost of buying electricity for mining and crushing.

Oil was mentioned. Not everyone realizes that oil refineries use about 7% of the feed stock to generate heat for the fractional distillation process. Once some smart process engineer invents an efficient way to retrofit a transportable polywell generator to replace the asphalt burners, road construction costs should go down and refinery profits up.
Aero

jsbiff
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Postby jsbiff » Mon Aug 30, 2010 9:23 pm

Aero wrote:Of course there is aluminum refining. A direct conversion polywell might result in a transportable power plant, to be set up at the mine. This way, the refining could be done at the mine site. This would almost eliminate transport of ore and the attendant costs for trucks and trains and roads, not to mention the cost of buying electricity for mining and crushing.


I've been thinking about your comment. I'm not sure it makes sense to me. . . even after you refine it, it still needs to be shipped to somewhere (warehouse or something). I don't really know much about aluminum refining but my question would be, what would come out of the 'field refinery'? Would you be making ingots which would be shipped somewhere to be formed into other more useful forms (sheets, pipes, girders, wires, etc)? Or would you be trying to form it into all those different shapes on site?

I don't think you'd try to form it into those different forms on site (that seems like it would need a lot of different equipment - basically, a whole factory on site), so I'm going to assume some sort of ingot.

When you refine aluminum ore, is the resulting product substantially less volume and/or weight than the original ore? The reason I ask is that, either you have to ship ore, or you have to ship ingots, but in the end, you have to ship something. If you get a significant reduction in the volume and weight you have to ship, then you might get substantial savings, so that might be worthwhile.

Are the 'waste' products from aluminum refining commercially useful? Can they be disposed of safely on-site, or do they have to be shipped somewhere for safe disposal? I ask because, if the waste products are useful, then you'll have to ship them anyhow, so there's perhaps not much savings by refining before shipping. If they are not useful, but cannot be disposed of on site, then you have to ship them anyhow for disposal, so you might not get much savings on shipping costs (although, in some circumstances, it still might be cheaper to ship the waste separately - if the distance from the mine to the disposal site is much shorter than the distance from the mine to the refinery to the disposal site, then you might save significant amounts of money by not shipping the 'waste' to the refinery as part of the substance of the ore then shipping it again after refining of to disposal).


Oil was mentioned. Not everyone realizes that oil refineries use about 7% of the feed stock to generate heat for the fractional distillation process. Once some smart process engineer invents an efficient way to retrofit a transportable polywell generator to replace the asphalt burners, road construction costs should go down and refinery profits up.


That's an interesting point.

From an environmental standpoint, cheap fusion power could (in the short run), paradoxically, increase worldwide oil production and use (if production increases, price of a bbl of oil would probably drop a bit, leading to increased consumption as price falls). So, I wonder how 'good for the environment' fusion power would really be? I think long-term it could be very good, like everyone thinks, but short term, it might lead to a heck of an oil and gas boom.

Still, I think fusion would probably likely quickly displace coal? Is there any way which cheap fusion power might result in more use of coal instead of less? Would cheap energy allow more use of coal in processes like Fischer-Tropsch that turn coal into gas/diesel?

kunkmiester
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Postby kunkmiester » Mon Aug 30, 2010 10:26 pm

Well, you're getting rid of quite a bit of weight from the ore, and you're also eliminating one whole section of the logistics chain.

Dozens of metals could be viably refined with plasma processes, but they need the sheer, cheap power the polywell provides. It's one of the holy grails--once you can vaporize anything for cheap, purifying stuff becomes very simple--at least once we can work out the processes.
Evil is evil, no matter how small

KitemanSA
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Postby KitemanSA » Tue Aug 31, 2010 11:36 am

jsbiff wrote: When you refine aluminum ore,
Refining Aluminum (aluminium to our British friends) take two basic steps. Ore to alumia, alumina to aluminum. The ore (bauxite typically) is about 40% alumina and the rest is a mixture of mostly useless crud. Other than water, the only other element used in the first step (Bayer Process) is sodium (Na). And I believe it can be recycled. The outputs are aluminawhich goes to the next step and "red mud" which has to be disposed of. My guess is that it would be ok to place it back where it came from, maybe after some drying and vitrifaction (energy). The second step needs alumina and... carbon. The Hall–Héroult process electrolyzes the alumina and produces aluminum and oxygen which combines with the carbon electrode and evolves as CO2.
jsbiff wrote: is the resulting product substantially less volume and/or weight than the original ore? The reason I ask is that, either you have to ship ore, or you have to ship ingots, but in the end, you have to ship something.
Whether the Aluminum + carbon is easier to ship than the alumina is an issue, but it seems reasonable to at least refine it by the first step before shipping. Leave the red mud behind.
jsbiff wrote: If you get a significant reduction in the volume and weight you have to ship, then you might get substantial savings, so that might be worthwhile.
Espesially when shipping is difficult. However, bauxite is widely available and in a number of places, the shipping capability is already set up.
jsbiff wrote: Are the 'waste' products from aluminum refining commercially useful? Can they be disposed of safely on-site, or do they have to be shipped somewhere for safe disposal?
The red mud needs disposal. Reinternment (with or without vitrifaction) seems a good idea.

jsbiff wrote: Still, I think fusion would probably likely quickly displace coal? Is there any way which cheap fusion power might result in more use of coal instead of less? Would cheap energy allow more use of coal in processes like Fischer-Tropsch that turn coal into gas/diesel?
As you say, if cheap power raises all people across the world to the US level of prosparity, this could lead to increased coal usage as you foresee. Expecially if the Lithium limit is tighter than the others.

So we may have just identified the main usage of Polywell, distilling of sea water to get the Lithium, with fresh water as a very desirable byproduct. :wink:


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