Energy Return on Energy Invested ERoEI is an important concept in fossil fuels.
Energy Return is the usable energy generated from any particular source fuel, while Energy Invested is the energy needed to produce and deliver that fuel. As a simple ratio, this gives some measure of value for a particular source of power.
For fossil fuels, ERoEI is a moving target. This chart taken from the Post Carbon Institute video release We Are Here [watch] shows that early in the Oil Age, US domestic oil energy returns were 100 to 1 meaning, for every unit of energy used to get oil, 100 units of energy were liberated by burning it.
One-hundred-fifty years later, while greater efficiency has allowed maximum energy combustion, fossil fuel input costs have risen dramatically. Energy returns for US domestic oil have plummeted to around 3, and the trend continues lower.
In Potential Advantages and Impacts of LENR Generators of Thermal and Electrical Power and Energy published in the most recent issue of Infinite Energy #103 magazine [.pdf], author and LENR researcher David J. Nagel surveys the possible impacts that low-energy nuclear reactions LENR could have if adopted widely by the public. One of the huge factors that contribute to the cited impacts are the high-energy returns possible with LENR-based generators, also called lattice-assisted nuclear reactions LANR or cold fusion.
With LENR the energy returns are so high, the energy input becomes minute in comparison.
The reason? Cold fusion is a nuclear process. Energy is created from mass according to Einstein’s . These types of fusion reactions are millions of times more powerful than chemical burning of fuel. Small amounts of fuel can provide large amounts of power.
But this isn’t the nuclear power that imperils our world today.
Cold fusion is a low-energy process that occurs in the tiny spaces between atoms in a metal through quantum effects and fractal resonant frequencies. A gentle nudging initiates the excess heat reaction to slowly release energy using no radioactive materials.
Units of energy are called Joules. Lifting an apple one meter against Earth’s gravity takes about 1 Joule of energy. The unit of power Watt delivers 1 Joule each 1 second.
But you don’t have to really understand what a Joule is to see the energy generated from fusion is super-dense.
|Source||Energy in Joules||in words…|
|Energy released burning 1 liter oil||12 million Joules|
|Electrical energy used in average home daily||50 million Joules|
|Energy released burning 1 kilogram coal||1.6 billion Joules|
|Energy released by fission of 1 kilogram uranium-235||56 trillion Joules|
|Energy released by fusion of hydrogen in 1 liter of water||70 trillion Joules|
|US annual energy consumption||100 million trillion Joules|
|World annual energy consumption||500 million trillion Joules|
|Annual energy generation of Sun||10 million trillion quadrillion Joules|
Using and Understanding Math 4th ed. Bennett/Briggs
Year 2000 data Energy Information Administration eia.doe.gov
When protons and deuterons fuse, together with each other or other atomic nuclei in the metal host, the resulting nuclei has a slightly smaller mass than if we added up all the mass of the original nuclei together. The missing mass was turned into energy.
The fuel used in the first studies of cold fusion conducted by Drs. Fleischmann and Pons twenty-three years ago was deuterium, a hydrogen isotope. Those early types of energy-producing cells combined deuterium with the metal palladium in an electrolytic bath contained in a small Pyrex container.
Deuterium can be extracted from seawater. One out of every 6400 atoms of hydrogen in the ocean is a deuterium atom. Electrolysis is used to separate the deuterium from the hydrogen. Making a water out of deuterium D2O (instead of H2O) is called “heavy water” and is used as the liquid solution the metal electrodes are immersed in. Deuterium gas can also be “loaded” into the metal for a variation on the cell.
What is the input energy used to separate the deuterium fuel? One calculation estimated 50 kilowatt-hours for electrolysis to separate the deuterium.
With this figure, fusing one gram of deuterium into helium could provide an energy return of 3,000.
The palladium metal is not consumed in the cold fusion process, and can be recycled and fashioned for use again. The energy input from metal mining turns trivial while full environmental protections during all extraction and processing become economically viable.
“There are tons of heavy water on earth, enough to last 3.2 billion years at present energy consumption rates”, writes Jed Rothwell.
That’s twenty-trillion tons of deuterium fuel – just on Earth. Taking only a tiny portion of this brings no harm to our marine ecosystem, but can power the entire world for millions of years. But that’s not all. Newer cell designs use plain hydrogen and the metal nickel. Nickel is plentiful on Earth and plain hydrogen, also called protium, is the H part of H2O making the abundance of hydrogen fuel virtually limitless.
While the extraction of oil has been subject to higher input energy costs, shrinking the energy return, the cost for producing hydrogen is likely to go down, reducing the energy input for cold fusion and allowing the energy return to move even higher.
And if that doesn’t already sound too good to be true, there’s even more.
A particular feature of the cold fusion technology is “self-sustain” mode, whereby the reaction does not require energy input to either initiate, or, continue. Experiments performed by JP Biberian and his team diffusing deuterium gas into a pure palladium nanopowders required no electrical input to initiate the excess heat effect. Andrea Rossi‘s Ecat has operated in self-sustain mode when, after initiating the generator, the input power was turned off, and the generator kept running.
When there is no energy input, the denominator of the Energy Gain ratio is zero, which makes the ratio approach infinity. This feature is key to the enormous returns that cold fusion energy generators can provide. But these generators won’t “runaway”. Getting too hot melts the metal material hosting the reaction, destroying the nuclear active environment, and stopping the process.
ERoEI is a measure of the Oil Age. To apply the ERoEI concept to cold fusion is like trying to use Newtonian mechanics at the speed of light where Relativity is required.
Perhaps the most important feature of cold fusion energy is its cleanness. Using no radioactive fuel, emitting no CO2 emissions, and creating no radioactive waste, cold fusion offers a second chance for humanity to set right the ecological damage wrought by one-hundred-fifty years of fossil fuel consumption and unrestrained exponential growth, freeing humankind to peacefully explore the meaning of life on Earth with a renewed optimism and vigor.
There are other measures of energy gain that apply to the technology itself, the efficiency of the device, the quality of the steam product, etc. These will be elucidated in further posts.
Cold Fusion Now!
 Abd ul-Rahman Lomax estimated:
“Deuterium can be purchased for under $0.50 per gram. If the
electricity costs $0.01 per kilowatt-hour, then the production of a
gram of deuterium could take about 50 KWH. (Basically, they
electrolyze the water over and over. Each cycle increases the
deuterium fraction, because of preferential evolution of hydrogen, as
I understand it.)
A gram of deuterium fused to make a gram of helium will release,
because of the very slight loss of mass in the formation of helium,
23.8 MeV per He-4. A gram of helium contains Avogadro’s number of
helium atoms divided by four, the atomic weight of helium, or about
1.5 x 10^23 atoms. Producing this helium, then, releases 35 x 10^23
MeV, which is about 150,000 KWH. ERoEI of 3,000. ”
 Cold Fusion and the Future by Jed Rothwell [read]