Breaking Waves: Ocean News

04/12/2014 - 19:54

Tagged great white detected twice near Albany after 5m-long humpback was washed up on Saturday morning

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04/12/2014 - 18:04

The tops on our milk bottles are changing colour and the reason may surprise you Continue reading...

04/12/2014 - 16:00

'Triple or quadruple renewables', say experts, as pressure grows for UK to deliver on eco priorities Continue reading...

04/12/2014 - 02:03

UN panel's third report explains how global dependence on fossil fuels must end in order to avoid catastrophic climate change Continue reading...

04/12/2014 - 01:55

The Institute of Cetacean Research has indicated that whaling could resume despite the International Court of Justice ruling

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04/11/2014 - 17:54

Documentary starring ex-footballer is an excellent opportunity to portray the reality of life in the rainforest

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04/11/2014 - 15:20


(Click to enlarge) Flying a radio-controlled replica of the historic WWII P-51 Mustang red-tail aircraft — of the legendary Tuskegee Airmen — NRL researchers (l to r) Dr. Jeffrey Baldwin, Dr. Dennis Hardy, Dr. Heather Willauer, and Dr. David Drab (crouched), successfully demonstrate a novel liquid hydrocarbon fuel to power the aircraft’s unmodified two-stroke internal combustion engine. The test provides proof-of-concept for an NRL developed process to extract carbon dioxide (CO2) and produce hydrogen gas (H2) from seawater, subsequently catalytically converting the CO2 and H2 into fuel by a gas-to-liquids process. (Credit: U.S. Naval Research Laboratory)

Navy researchers at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL), Materials Science and Technology Division, demonstrate proof-of-concept of novel NRL technologies developed for the recovery of carbon dioxide (CO2) and hydrogen (H2) from seawater and conversion to a liquid hydrocarbon fuel.

(From ScienceDaily) – Fueled by a liquid hydrocarbon — a component of NRL’s novel gas-to-liquid (GTL) process that uses CO2and H2 as feedstock — the research team demonstrated sustained flight of a radio-controlled (RC) P-51 replica of the legendary Red Tail Squadron, powered by an off-the-shelf (OTS) and unmodified two-stroke internal combustion engine.

Using an innovative and proprietary NRL electrolytic cation exchange module (E-CEM), both dissolved and bound CO2 are removed from seawater at 92 percent efficiency by re-equilibrating carbonate and bicarbonate to CO2 and simultaneously producing H2. The gases are then converted to liquid hydrocarbons by a metal catalyst in a reactor system.

“In close collaboration with the Office of Naval Research P38 Naval Reserve program, NRL has developed a game changing technology for extracting, simultaneously, CO2 and H2 from seawater,” said Dr. Heather Willauer, NRL research chemist. ”This is the first time technology of this nature has been demonstrated with the potential for transition, from the laboratory, to full-scale commercial implementation.”

CO2 in the air and in seawater is an abundant carbon resource, but the concentration in the ocean (100 milligrams per liter [mg/L]) is about 140 times greater than that in air, and 1/3 the concentration of CO2 from a stack gas (296 mg/L). Two to three percent of the CO2 in seawater is dissolved CO2 gas in the form of carbonic acid, one percent is carbonate, and the remaining 96 to 97 percent is bound in bicarbonate.

NRL has made significant advances in the development of a gas-to-liquids (GTL) synthesis process to convert CO2 and H2 from seawater to a fuel-like fraction of C9-C16 molecules. In the first patented step, an iron-based catalyst has been developed that can achieve CO2 conversion levels up to 60 percent and decrease unwanted methane production in favor of longer-chain unsaturated hydrocarbons (olefins). These value-added hydrocarbons from this process serve as building blocks for the production of industrial chemicals and designer fuels.

In the second step these olefins can be converted to compounds of a higher molecular using controlled polymerization. The resulting liquid contains hydrocarbon molecules in the carbon range, C9-C16, suitable for use a possible renewable replacement for petroleum based jet fuel.

The predicted cost of jet fuel using these technologies is in the range of $3-$6 per gallon, and with sufficient funding and partnerships, this approach could be commercially viable within the next seven to ten years. Pursuing remote land-based options would be the first step towards a future sea-based solution.

The minimum modular carbon capture and fuel synthesis unit is envisioned to be scaled-up by the addition individual E-CEM modules and reactor tubes to meet fuel demands.

NRL operates a lab-scale fixed-bed catalytic reactor system and the outputs of this prototype unit have confirmed the presence of the required C9-C16 molecules in the liquid. This lab-scale system is the first step towards transitioning the NRL technology into commercial modular reactor units that may be scaled-up by increasing the length and number of reactors.

The process efficiencies and the capability to simultaneously produce large quantities of H2, and process the seawater without the need for additional chemicals or pollutants, has made these technologies far superior to previously developed and tested membrane and ion exchange technologies for recovery of CO2 from seawater or air.

04/11/2014 - 15:00

New Forest: The shrub's fine spines are a prickly sign of being in ancient woodland

Scarlet is not a springtime forest colour, so the two gleaming berries by the track brought us to a standstill. Set within the foliage of a small dark green shrub, they caught the sunlight and asked to be noticed. Their parent needs to be approached with caution. Anyone pulling the branches aside to get a better look soon regrets it. They immediately encounter spines so fine they can hardly be seen, but, oh, can they be felt. This is butcher's broom, a sure sign we are in a stretch of ancient woodland. A tease from beginning to end, who'd guess that this plant, once so aptly named "knee holly" in some country areas, is a member of the lily family? Even its "leaves" are not leaves at all. The true leaves are just papery scales on the stem. What appear to be leaves are really flattened side shoots that broaden out to look like them, and it's from the middle of these that a single greenish flower forms, not much bigger than a match head.

We are on our way to see a fine display of daffodils drifted through an area of woodland. The filtering sun highlights both the blooms and the undulations as the ground drops away, creating an enchanting overview. As we watch, a roe deer breaks cover and bounds into the far distance, the broad white patch on its rump telling us what it is. Perhaps its abrupt arrival at the top of the slope was unsettling. Almost at once, a fox appears and works its way along the edge of the trees. It pauses, nose pointed towards us as though catching our scent from several hundred metres, before vanishing into a field we only glimpse between the trunks.

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04/11/2014 - 13:58


(Click to enlarge) A dead sea turtle lies in oil in Louisiana’s Barataria Bay in 2010. (Credit: Joel Sartore, National Geographic)

Four years after the biggest oil spill in U.S. history, several species of wildlife in the Gulf of Mexico are still struggling to recover, according to a new report.

(From National Geographic / by Christine Dell’Amore) – In particular, bottlenose dolphins and sea turtles are dying in record numbers, and the evidence is stronger than ever that their demise is connected to the spill, according to Doug Inkley, senior scientist for the National Wildlife Federation, which issued the report. (See “Gulf Oil Spill: One Year Later.”)

The Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded on April 20, 2010, killing 11 people and spewing more than 200 million gallons (750 million liters) of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. Since then, various government agencies and nonprofits, including the National Wildlife Federation, have been studying the region’s wildlife to track the impacts of the oil.

The report, a compilation of published science since the spill, reveals that “the Gulf oil spill is far from over,” Inkley said.

“The oil is not gone: There is oil on the bottom of the Gulf, oil is washing up on the beaches, and oil is still on the marshes,” he said.

“I am not surprised by this. In Prince William Sound, 25 years after the wreck of Exxon Valdez, there are still some species that have not fully recovered.” (Related: “Oil From the Exxon Valdez Spill Lingers on Alaska Beaches.”)

However, BP, which operated the now-defunct oil well, claims that the report “is a piece of political advocacy—not science.

“For example, the report misrepresents the U.S. government’s investigation into dolphin deaths; as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s own Web site states, that inquiry is ongoing,” BP said in a statement provided to National Geographic.

“The report also conveniently overlooks information available from other independent scientific reports showing that the Gulf is undergoing a strong recovery. Just this week, a study published by Auburn University researchers found no evidence that the spill impacted young red snapper populations on reefs off the Alabama coast.”

Hit Hard

The report examined 14 species that live in the Gulf. Those include:

—More than 900 bottlenose dolphins have been found dead or stranded in the oil spill area since April 2010. If you stretched the corpses lengthwise, that’s 1.5 miles (2.4 kilometers) of dead dolphins, Inkley said. Scientists know that is more than in previous years because they’ve been recording deaths and strandings in the Gulf for a decade.

Ongoing research also shows that dolphins swimming in oiled areas are underweight, anemic, and showing signs of liver and lung diseases. (Related: “U.S. Dolphin Deaths Rise to 300; Cause Still a Mystery.”)

A top predator like the dolphin falling ill is a sign that species further down the food chain are also having trouble, Inkley said.

“When you have sick dolphins, it tells you there’s a problem here and it needs to be investigated.”

—There are five species of sea turtle that live in the Gulf, and all of them are listed as threatened or endangered by the Endangered Species Act. About 500 dead sea turtles have been found in the spill region every year since 2011—”a dramatic increase over normal rates,” according to the NWF. What’s unknown is how many turtles died at sea and were never recovered by scientists.

—An oil chemical from the spill has been shown to cause irregular heartbeats in the embryos of bluefin and yellowfin tuna. That’s a critical stage of development for the fish, so there’s a lot of concern that the damage could cause heart attacks or deaths, Inkley said. (Related: “Odd Animal Deaths, Deformities Linked to Gulf Oil Spill?“)

—Loons, birds that winter on the Louisiana coast, are carrying increasing concentrations of toxic oil compounds in their blood.

—Sperm whales that swam near the BP well have higher levels of DNA-damaging metals in their bodies than in the past. The metals in their bodies, such as chromium and nickel, are the same ones that were present in the well.

Long Way to Go

Overall, “we have a long way to go in understanding the full impact,” Inkley said.

To that end, NWF and the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will continue monitoring wildlife in the oiled region—the latter is required to do so by the Oil Pollution Act.

Restoring the oiled ecosystems is a goal, Inkley said, but he added oil is tough to remove, especially in marshes and in the deep ocean. That’s why NWF is emphasizing prevention—in particular, adopting alternative energy resources that are not carbon-based and won’t cause oil spills.

“I’m still haunted by the ‘walking dead’ brown pelicans covered head to toe in the oil,” added Inkley.

“We must not let this happen again.”