So, I’m waiting at the platform for the local commuter train on my way into town. I see Mick, retired electrician, dressed in a Stasi-like black leather jacket.
We start to talk, and climb aboard. I explain I’ve just written a draft of a book on Renewable Gas. I pause a few seconds to let him pin down that idea.
We talk about gas from landfill sites, and how expensive it is to retrofit methane-capturing equipment to already-established tips. I say there’s potential to make gas from the landfill waste itself, not just its methane emissions. We talk about the potential for biogas from sewage sludge at wastewater treatment plants. I say there are new techniques that do anaerobic digestion at an advanced rate. And then I say I’m also looking at a much larger opportunity to manufacture gas by reacting renewable hydrogen with waste industrial carbon dioxide.
He says, we used to manufacture gas. From coal. Yes, town gas. Although it’s dirty. Yes, but you can mitigate environmental impacts. For example, if you have a slagging gasifier all the really toxic elements come out as vitrified glass.
I’ve seen that, he said, when I was doing a job in Scotland. I can’t remember where. It was just like glass, with stripes of different colours running through it.
I said there was a big consortium of British and Americans working on this in research units, including the state enterprise that eventually became British Gas. In the period 1974 onwards there was a research site in Scotland. Making SNG – synthetic natural gas. But the changeover to Natural Gas meant the closure of the research projects in around 1981.
Mick nods. He said over the years he’s been in a lot of gas processing facilities installing emergency power equipment.
Gas and power. Gas-to-power. I don’t quite get on to the story of Power-to-Gas before our seven minutes of train chat is up, and Mick the neo-Stasi and I part company.
[ UPDATE : Yes. We did talk about shale gas. We agreed that production of Natural Gas from the North Sea was declining, and that there are some people incredibly positive that shale gas production can be significant. I suggested it might not be. ]