The Energy Matrix
A Science Ebook e-zine
Spring 200
List of all editions

Ice from Coal

The energy matrix examines the full spectrum of future energy sources and associated problems.  It is meant to be a thought provoking publication for students who will be our future technocrats, engineers, and physicists.  We will include concepts such as solar, DG, CHP and concepts that are not practical today such as ice engines.  Send Comments to


Go to Summer 2007 Edition

Green Stimulus Package

President Barack Obama has said that he wants to fund projects that promote green or alternative energy starting day one of his administration. New Green Energy projects like transmission lines for Wind or Solar power will take years to plan and litigate.  No one wants power transmission lines in their back yard even if the back yard is the desert.  

This article is not about the controversies surrounding alternative energy.  However, recognizing that the bickering will continue makes it clear that only old technology that is already in use, can provide employment for those who are out of work.  Yet, I never hear of these projects in the mass media or in political debates. Yet their are many old proven technologies that save energy and can reduce energy consumption or produce more energy. 

The best projects to fund on day one are the ones that were started yesterday.    

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Corn Solar Collectors

The United States is looking at ethanol from corn as a renewable source of energy. The ethanol gets its energy from corn and the corn gets its energy from the sun.
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Ice from Coal ( Alchemy?)

No, this article is about thermodynamics not alchemy.  Most people get their ice cubes from coal and water.  That is they get the electric power that turns water to ice from coal powered electric power plants.

At this point, I hope you anxious to know how many pounds ice can be made from a pound of coal, because I am going to tell you. 
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Storing Carbon Dioxide
Though the effects of green house gases are debatable ( if you disagree you make my point), one effect is certain the cost of generating electricity from fossil fuels is going up. This is not debatable because utilities have already spent money storing fossil gases and continue ...
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There are two "T" in Carnot
Thigh and Tlow
End Joke
Not Funny? Try to forget it.


Heat Storage and Carbon Dioxide.

Though much about carbon dioxide storage has yet to be determined, three things are certain, that is that these stores will be huge, dense, and have temperature. The quantity of carbon dioxide that will be stored will necessitate high compression, huge volumes, and useful temperature.  The reason I say that the temperature will be useful is that there is such a large range of temperature that could be useful. A store of dense gas at twenty degrees Centigrade above room temperature would be used by a CO2/Air radiator for room heating. Stored CO2 at twenty degrees centigrade below room temperature might work well for direct cooling  (blowing air over  tubes with circulating dense cold CO2). Circulation of dense CO2  at or near room temperature would be great source of heat for the evaporator of a heat pump in heating mode.  CO2 at the same temperature would a great source of cooling of a heat pump condenser when the heat pump was operating in cooling mode..

Above ground insulated tanks of CO2 could be used for peak heat of day heat storage for heating, or they could be used to store the cool of the night as a heat sink for cooling systems during the peak usage hours of the day.


Index for all Editions


Combined Heat & Power (CHP) 

DC Power Grid

District Cooling

Ethanol Viability

Hybrid Cars

Ice made with Coal

Ice Energy Density versus Battery

Heat Storage


Nuclear Energy

Solar Heat Storage in CO2

Solar Heat Storage in Water

Storing Carbon Dioxide

Stoves - Corn Burning

Stoves - Wood Pellet Burning

Stoves - Coal Burning

Tar Sand Oil


Yucca Mountain

Substituting Coal for Diesel

Compact Fluorescent Lights








Coal to Ice (Mass Ice/Coal) ratio.


Electricity to Ice in Btu. 

My research indicated that small commercial icemakers (type used in restaurants and hotel lobbies) used between 4 and 22 kWh (kilowatt hours) to make 100 pounds of ice.  I choose 10 kWh for use in this Mass Ice/Coal estimate.

10kWh per 100 pounds = .1kWh per pound ice

.1kWh = 341.4 Btu

However since coal burning boilers/turbines/generators convert only one third (1/3) of heat input to electricity output, we can state that roughly 1000 Btu are required to generate .1kWh.

 1000 Btu from coal is required to produce one pound ice.  

Btu in pound of Coal

The Btu in a pound of coal varies from 8000 to 12000. I am choosing 10,000 Btu per pound in our Mass Ice/Coal estimate.

10,000 Btu per pound of coal


Mass Ice/Coal) ratio.

1000 Btu from coal required to produce one pound ice. 

10,000 Btu per pound of coal

Mass Ice/Mass Coal = 10 pounds ice/1 pound coal =10


One pound of coal is used to produce ten pounds of ice. One pound of carbon oxidized = 3.7 pounds of carbon dioxide.  


The Good old days

In the good old days ice was cut from lakes, placed on a horse drawn sled that ran on bio-fuel (hay, just joking) and than stored in ice houses for use in summer.  Mining coal even on a pound for pound basis is more efficient than cutting ice from lakes. Using the heavy equipment used in open pit mining won't help much. Remember bulldozers don't float.  Further more nature is very inefficient at freezing lakes or ponds. 

Nature and Ice 

Water expands when transforming from liquid to solid.  Thus, ice  forms on top or surface of lakes.  Ice is a pretty good  insulator, thus, in mainland USA ice thickness is limited from a few inches to a few feet.  This, prevents lakes from freezing clean to the ground and destroying all life.

Natures insulation system can easily be defeated with a little hydraulics. Consider two frozen lakes or ponds with 100 meters difference in altitude. Run a large pipe from the bottom of top lake to the top of lower lake.  Spray water from top lake on surface of bottom lake.  Spraying water on a high arc will enhance transfer of waters heat to air.  We all may have observed on TV, water from fire hoses freezing before it reaches the fire.  This occurs frequently in cities like Chicago and New York . Eventually, an air space will form under ice of upper lake and ice will collapse into water.  Ice mounds will be built up on lower lake, the weight will cause ice to collapse into water.  Forming a mixture of icebergs and water, further defeating natures insulation system.  

Building Glaciers

Digging ice out of totally frozen lakes with giant earth movers might be a lot easier than pit mining coal, but it is still labor/machine intensive.  It would probably be better to build a glacier on the side of mountains that could be bulldozed down hill to a train loading area for shipment to city.  An ice slurry would probably be a better way to transport ice to cities with district cooling systems, but I am not interested in designing a system.   I am interested in comparing  coal transport to ice transport, and coal is transported in freight cars.  

Glacier building is not a new concept. See Artificial Glaciers in Kashmir and Ladakh. 

Natural Glaciers are retreating and would difficult to mine for ice.  Artificial Glaciers could be located in locations that would make transfer to city by train feasible.


Cold mining versus coal mining.

Railroad Transport

One carload of coal  is required to generate the electricity needed  to produce ten carloads of ice using typical hotel and restaurant icemaker.  Of course having your ice delivered via a potable water pipe and an electric wire is both convenient and familiar.  Having your ice delivered to your hotel, restaurant, or home via a potable water line and a very cold ( -20 centigrade) insulated glycol/water line could also be a very convenient way of transporting ice over great distances. 

Many  cities are ten times closer to mountains or areas of extreme winter cold than they are to a coal supply.  Thus, coal mile verses ice mile shipping distance frequently falls in favor of ice.  Ice will usually be produced at high altitudes; therefore, gravity will power loaded train.  Actually if  a electric motor/generator system similar to that used in Hybrid cars were used to power train, than more  power could be generated by braking than is expended during periods of acceleration. See Reference 1.

Reference 1


Fluidizing and Slurries

In order to transport cold to homes and business via a system of insulated pipes, ice would have to be converted to a slurry (mixture of water and ice). Slurry could than be used to cool condensers of air conditioning and refrigeration units.  If slurry were rich in ice, it could be used directly in a water to air heat exchanger, then air conditioning could be achieved without a compressor.

Coal must also be fluidized (ground to dust) before it can be burnt in a power plant.  Fluidization allows coal to burn very hot and produce high grade steam (High Pressure superheated steam to drive turbine).  

You have to grind 10 times as much ice as coal to produce a slurry, but ice is easier to grind than coal.  I have no idea as to which process would cost most.


Comparing Ice (or cold water) to electricity for air conditioning.

Cooling with electricity (steam turbine)

12,000 Btu per 1.0kWh  for typical room air condition rated EER =12.

1.0 kWh = 3414 Btu.  However 3 times amount heat is required to produce the steam necessary to produce 1 kWh electricity. 

3 X 3414 Btu = 10242 Btu

10242/12000 = .85   Means that need .85 Btu input for each Btu of cooling.

Heat supplied to boiler/heat removed from room = .85
for a heat pump with EER = 12

Compare this to a base board electric heater. 

Heat supplied to boiler/heat supplied to room = 3
for an electric base board heater.


Cooling with Cold Water

Consider a old fashion hot water or steam radiator. Instead of using hot water for heat we will imagine that we are using cold water to cool room to 74 degrees Fahrenheit.  If the liquid water entered at 32 degrees and outputted at 33 degrees, we would get one Btu of cooling for each pound of water that flowed through the radiator.  It would take 12,000 pounds of water to flow thru radiator to achieve the cooling effect that 1.0 kWh of electricity produced in typical room air conditioner.  Of course if we heated the water 20 degrees Fahrenheit to 52 degrees, only 600 pounds of water would be required to achieve the same cooling effect as  1.0 kWh of electricity . A ice/water slurry with 13.9% ice would add another 20 Btu of latent heat cooling per pound of water/ice mixture. Total cooling would be 40 Btu per pound of water, and only 300 pounds of the ice slurry would be required to achieve the same 12000 Btu of cooling that 1kWh of electricity would produce in a typical room air conditioner.


Gravitationally Pressurized Open End Slurry Systems. (Theoretical)

System is almost identical to conventional high reservoir system that delivers pressurized water to many cities.  Except the reservoir water is mixed with ground ice when it exits  reservoir to form an ice/water slurry  before being piped to users.  This non-potable water/ice slurry could be piped to building for direct free cooling of water in a water to air heat exchanger. .  Slurry should be totally melted and slightly heated and piped to roof to cool condenser of roof heat pump.  There it could exit to an evaporative cooling pond used to cool water for condenser cooling of the third heat pump.  Water not evaporated could be drained into storm sewers or used to water lawns.






























District Cooling in Europe

The city of Amsterdam has an operating district cooling system.  Heat is dumped into a man made lake at depth of 30 meters.  Water is taken into heat exchanger at 6 degrees centigrade and returned...   

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U.S Congress to Investigate High Cost of Gasoline. ( 5-22-07)

They may not have to search very far.  In Brazil the majority of cars run on Flex fuel or pure ethanol.  In the United States less than a thousand gas stations sell flex fuel.  They are mostly in the Midwest where ethanol is produced from corn.  Brazil wants to export ethanol to us by ship.  They could supply ethanol to east coast and Gulf ports.  However, congress has placed a 54 cent per gallon  tariff on ethanol imports.

If populist congressmen really want to lambaste the oil companies, they should lambaste the oil companies for not placing  more flex fuel pumps in east coast gas stations.  Oh, but tariffs are cutting off the supply of ethanol to the east coast, so the pumps would not have much to pump.





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