Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion Powered Plantships

The initial goal of forming MJM Ocean Industries was to develop and deploy chemical processing plantships that would be powered by electricity generated by ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC). This idea still has potential, but additional research into alternatives for highly scalable sources of energy has uncovered options (remote offshore wind farms and open ocean kelp farming) that may have a lower cost for the initial investment. Another idea, would use remote ocean based nuclear power to generate energy intensive materials. The development cost and per plant investment would require a higher initial capital investment. However, nuclear power from molten salt reactors is likely to produce energy that is both cheaper and more benign than OTEC. A limited OTEC position in the global energy profile is still an attractive option. It is a worthy topic for investors to consider.

The three images at the top of the home page show three parts of the vision we have for a sustainable world. The left image is the origins of the idea. Plans were first hatched following the 1973 oil embargo. The image depicts a "conceptual design of a 100 MWe plant-ship concept for producing ammonia by using OTEC power." The image was from an 1979 OTEC Conference that was sponsored by DOE.

The middle image is a computer model of an OTEC plantship. This scale model of a proposed 400 Mwe plantship design was presented at the 1980 OTEC conference. The simulation was created as part of a study for a drydock platform for servicing the plantships. The ship is depicted floating in an ocean during a very high sea state. The simulation of physical interaction of models in a virtual world help illustrate an important point about constructing commercial scale plantships. Very large plantships will be extremely safe. Wave hight where the ships will operate is very small relative to the size of the ship hull.

The third picture shows the temperature map of the Pacific Ocean. The darkest red areas are ideal for grazing plantships. One conservative estimate of the available capacity for OTEC power is 5 TW. This is about 1/3 the current global demand for energy.

Reviving a good idea.

MJM Ocean Industry is developing technology that will lower the cost of building and deploying environmentally benign power plants that use ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC) to generate electricity. The electricity will power energy intensive chemical processes on very large floating structures (VLFS) that are located far from land in the wet deserts of the tropical oceans. This floating plantships will produce widely used raw materials, such as aluminum, methanol, and ammonia.

Using OTEC for chemical processing is not a new idea. Had Congress continued funding the development for a few more years during the early 1980s it is quite likely that a fleet of these OTEC powered plantships would be grazing the tropical oceans today. The Department of Energy invested heavily in the development of OTEC when the agency was first formed. The results of the pilot plants proved that the technology worked. OTEC had the potential to provide industry with a large scale plants capable of producing 24/7 base-load power. The simplicity and low-tech nature of the design result in very reliable and nearly maintenance free systems. The projected up-time for these power plants will exceeded coal and nuclear power by a significant margin. OTEC power has the potential to compete on price with coal and hydroelectric.

Congress passed the Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion Act of 1980 in support of this new industry. The Act defined the regulations for the industry, assigned regulatory oversight for the new industry and defined the rules for applying for licenses to build and operate OTEC facilities. Unfortunately, interest in OTEC dried up when the oil embargo induced a short term glut of petroleum. The price of petroleum temporarily plummeted.

Fast forward 25 years and the problem with petroleum dependency has been magnified by a growing global demand, climate change due to carbon dioxide, and peak oil. The plans for a fleet of  OTEC plantships are ready to be dusted off and applied to the same problem for which they were created. MJM Ocean Industry sees a great market opportunity in apply modern manufacturing automation technology to the construction of plantships in the production of new, innovative OTEC component designs. The automation capabilities that have been developed in the past 30 years can reduce the per unit cost of building plantships.