Author Archives: Sean Work

About Sean Work

Sean Work is the President of O.C. Search Consulting, Inc. as well as the blog editor of blog.kissmetrics.com. You can follow him on Twitter @seanvwork, connect with him on Linkedin, or "encircle" him on .

The Answer to Climate Change & Carbon Goals? Carbon-Neutral Synthetic Fuels for Electric Power Plants

Porsche has announced that they plan on building a carbon-neutral fuel refinery in Chile. Thanks to Chile’s sunny, windy climate, Chile makes for an ideal location to generate carbon-neutral fuels.

How does it work?

Well, you can capture CO2 from the atmosphere and hydrogen from water to make almost any hydrocarbon you can think of. It’s just a matter of chemical processing and some input energy to do the work. If you have carbon-free energy from wind and solar, you’re able to produce carbon-neutral (maybe carbon-negative) combustible fuels.

The original idea was to replace crude oil-based automotive fuels

And that’s a good idea. It may turn out that it’s a lot easier and perhaps less expensive than conventional oil drilling and oil refining. It’d be hilarious if it turned out to be the case, because honestly, this concept and science aren’t new. The only thing that’s somewhat new is solar, which means we could have been making this fuel in the 1980s.

But why not run conventional electric power plants with these fuels?

To me, this is the most immediate need. Most conventional power plants on the West Coast of the U.S. burn natural gas to make electric power. Why not swap that out with carbon-neutral synthetic fuels (or syngas)?

Many cities and states have carbon-neutral goals that are coming down the pipe. This might be the quickest way to achieve those goals. Electric power plants provide the base load consistently to their customers and users. Wind and solar are great, they just provide consistent power and most of the infrastructure just isn’t in place. But if you want to hit carbon goals quickly, a carbon-neutral fuel makes the most sense since you don’t have to create smart grids, or build hundreds of square miles of solar panels. Just switch fuels.

Let’s hope that the U.S. government puts some emergency pressure on getting this technology going ASAP.

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what is my carbon footprint

What is my carbon footprint?

I’m spending a lot of time this year ramping up my tree planting initiative. I’m most likely going to merge it with my business objectives over at Judicious, Inc.

Last year I had a 100 tree goal and hit it!

This year I want to do 1,000 and also see if I can get some other companies to match me. It’d be cool to try to get 1,000 companies on board!

The main reason why I chose this tree planting goal is to reverse my carbon footprint. So the first thing I needed to look at was my own carbon footprint.

There are a lot of carbon footprint calculators online. I chose trees.org/carboncalculator/ to start off this analysis.

Here’s what I came up with:

what is my carbon footprint

Background on my numbers

Gasoline

I have this weird habit of only putting in $25 in the tank each week. Around these parts that gets you about 7 gallons.

Air Travel

I really don’t do much air travel these days. I have kids that go to school so traveling just ain’t a thing in our lives. We did do Hawaii this year so I put down 5,000 miles for the round trip.

Trains and Subways

I never use em.

Electricity and Gas Usage

I used 250 kwh a month in my calculations and multiplied by 12 (I’m rushing here this morning, please let me know if I botched that!).

I have no idea how much gas we use. I don’t think we use that much. I grabbed 125 therms a month off the SoCal gas website (from their example bill).

My Calcs Don’t Seem To Include Food, Clothes and Products That I Buy

This particular calculator ignores this which is a big part of your carbon footprint.

How Many Trees Do I Need To Plant?

Well, there’s a specific calculator for that at: carbonify.com/carbon-calculator.htm

how many trees do I need to plant to offset my carbon footprint

My carbon footprint apparently ranges between 15 to 30 tons a year and I need to plant around 150 trees a year to offset this. Now of course, there’s a ton of debate on whether or not trees help offset your carbon footprint. Trees obviously use CO2 to grow, however, they also release CO2 when they die. In my mind, it’s better to have an organism like a tree taking out CO2 and increasing the number of trees to do that every year. Think of trees as carbon storage. Instead of it being the atmosphere it gets locked up in a tree – from anywhere to a few years to a few decades. It’s a rate problem.

Additionally, reforestation has tons of benefits for wildlife, local climate, preventing desertification, etc. Reforesting, deforested areas is a good idea.

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billions of cars replacing breathable air with CO2 H20 NOx

Billions of Cars Replacing Breathable Air with CO2, H20 & NOx Every Day

I got this hair up my you know what to create a video explaining my perspective on climate change, combustion, cars, energy, etc.

And man-o-man, is video editing time-consuming or what?!?

Hopefully, as I get more hours behind Screenflow, I’ll be a little quicker at busting out videos.

Right now I’m dedicating an hour a day to content creation – whether it be a video or a blog post. This regiment has helped me keep chugging along. I used to have a habit of starting a blog post and then never finishing it. Usually, doing billable work is the priority throughout my day, so content creation gets the back burner. But no longer! I’ve scheduled it in for every day of the week, M – F. Continue reading

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we are eating micro fibers

We’re Eating Our Clothes. Let’s Stop Purchasing Synthetic Clothing.

Plastic clothing.

Sounds cheap, right?

But when marketed as “NEW ULTRA HIGH-PERFORMANCE THERMO-LINED ATHLETIC GARMENTS OF THE 21ST CENTURY” – people seem buy em.

Well, now you’re eating your plastic clothing fibers any time you have seafood these days. To me, this is just another rush-to-market-new-technology fail. Continue reading

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easy ways to reduce your carbon footprint

Two Super Easy Ways To Reduce Your Carbon Footprint & Reforest Your Planet

I generally think it’s a bad idea to assume that your government is going to solve the issues of pollution, deforestation, and CO2 production. There’s just a possibility they’ll never do it. That’s why it’s really important that individuals take it upon themselves to be the change they want to see. Continue reading

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Star Struck

I just went outside and looked up at the stars.

And I remembered this extraordinary moment in my life..

I was working on the International Space Station as a structural engineer. I came home one evening and the Space Shuttle was approaching the Space Station. It happened to be passing over my city that evening. I must have known the time because everyone at work must have been talking about it that day.

Sure enough, at the time it was supposed to be passing over (I think it was 8 or 9pm), you could see this tiny little speck of light getting closer to this slightly brighter speck of light. Both specks were traveling across the sky together, roughly at the same rate.

To see something you’re working on flying overhead in orbit is, well, it’s trippy.

It’s funny, I haven’t thought about that moment in years. And even when I did, I didn’t have the same “wow” memory. But tonight I had enough time to myself to really take it all in.

There’s no big conclusion to sum up here. It was just a wild moment in my life I wanted to publish. I guess if there’s any take away – try to slow down once a week, reflect and reset.

Oh yeah, that mission was probably in 2001 or 2002. Nope – had to be 2001. I’ll find out.

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battery powered car air conditioning

Automakers Should Provide A Battery Powered A/C Option

When it starts to get hot around Southern California you’ll notice more and more people sitting in their cars with their engines on just to run their air conditioning.

I just came back from lunch and I saw three people doing this in two different parking lots. With that sample, that’s a lot of people running their engines in parking spots all over California right at this moment. I’d say that’s easily 10,000 stationary cars burning gasoline right now. Continue reading

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Can Drones Save Yemen? Perhaps DroneTech Can Partner with the UN or Unicef To Save Lives.

I wrote this quickly. I wanted to get the idea out there and polish it up later. It’s about life and death.

Unfortunately, many of the first drones were made for military purposes. Hundreds of millions of dollars were poured into research and development for drone-based military projects. Now that number is in the billions.

Not to save lives. But to kill people.

Think about that. There are billions of dollars available to develop technologies designed to kill humans.

I gotta ask: why can’t we spend billions on technology programs designed to save lives? I’m really scratching my head on that one…

Aren’t we humans awesome? With all our creativity and industrious energy, the first thing we think of is: How can we use this technology to kill people?

There is hope.

There have been some recent developments to use drones to help people in remote places. By asking a question on Twitter, I found out about Zipline (which strangely enough doesn’t link to a website from their Twitter account).

Zipline’s slogan is “Lifesaving deliveries by drone”.

Alright then. Let’s talk!

There’s no better use case for this technology right now than in Yemen.

Tell me that it wouldn’t be a good idea for the UN or UNICEF to team up with tech companies to fly food and water to the worst war-torn regions of the globe.

For example, in Yemen people are cut off from food and water. 50,000 people have died of famine since 2015. Seems like we should do everything in our power to help these people.

My Crazy Idea

Now companies like Zipline have developed drones that can fly large payloads hundreds of miles. For some reason, I thought up with another solution.

I’m thinking 10,000+ solar-powered (personal / toy sized) drones that fly daily from Eritrea to the neediest parts of Yemen.

distance eritrea to sanaa yemen

I used the Phantom 3 drone as my template and run some numbers…

The Phantom 3 can apparently fly 50 mph. That means the trip from Eritrea to Sanaa Yemen is 3.5 hours one way. If the drone leaves at 9 am and drops off supplies by 12:30 pm, it can return by 4 pm. Thanks to the region and latitude, there’s plenty of sunlight for this journey. I suppose the drones could be programmed to land if it’s too cloudly and continue on the next day or when weather permits.

Now the question is: can you make a solar power drone?

Let’s start with power requirements:

This Quora article goes over the power requirements of a Phantom drone.

15.2 volts at 8.1 amps

Power = Amperage X Voltage

Power = 15.2 x 8.1 amps = 123.12 watts.

So can a solar panel power this drone? And how big would it have to be?

A 39.7″ x 26.7″ solar panel can put out 400 watts.

That’s about 1,060 square inches of panel. But we need 31% of that bad boy, so 329 sq inches. So, call it a 19″ x 19″ panel.

what does 19 inches by 19 inches look like

Imagine a 19″ x 19″ solar panel with four rotors coming out of each corner. And cargo bay underneath.

The payload of the Phantom 3 is 2.5 lbs. But that’s the max payload.

With that said, I definitely think food bars would be an easy payload for this type of mission. Water would be more difficult, but not impossible. 8oz bottle of water is 1/2 lb.

So imagine a swarm of small drones carrying small payloads of food and water, doing daily missions, dropping 10,000 mini payloads a day. It seems like a worthy cause, worth the effort and the funding SHOULD be there for it. I know of plenty of lame B2B tech startups that get a few million bucks for software the world really doesn’t need. The world needs this technology.

Potential Issues

  • 19″ x 19″ is kind of big. That’s a lot of drag. I don’t think it’s a blocker, but hopefully, there’s better panel tech out there that can deliver the same power but slightly smaller.
  • One difficult problem with Sanaa is the altitude is 7,000 ft. I’m not sure if that really matters for drones. If anything, the performance will probably increase.
  • Winds could be an issue. The program would need some great meteorologist on board.
  • One issue I was wondering about is – would delivering food and water to Yemen just get in the hands of the “bad people”. My solution is that the drones just continually drop food and water everywhere so it’s like an easter egg hunt. It’s not like the case where warlords can hijack a truck full of aid. The supplies would be constantly dispersed randomly in regions that need it.
  • Seven hours of continuous use may overheat the drone motors. This is an area I’m not familiar with, but I suspect it could be a problem

Other Ideas

  • It’s possible a traditional airplane drone will work better (when it comes to duration issues). Ideally, you can fashion the wing with solar panel in a way where the panel is no longer a “bad drag” creator and actually contributes to lift. I prefer the helicopter style drone because you can more easily pinpoint payload drop off and drone landings.
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Cold Fusion

Uuhh, Yeah – I’d Take A Closer Look At Cold Fusion. Seems Like a Lot Has Changed.

I was twelve in 1989.

Somehow I had heard about cold fusion way back then. It was in the news a lot that year and considering I only had access to a handful of television channels, I probably absorbed some of the noise going on with the cold fusion hoopla. I also surrounded myself with a decently sized crew of nerdy kids, so that probably helped. Continue reading

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