16 December 2008

Peak Oil: Meet Cellulosic Biofuels 2030!

German researchers have published a study revealing that by 2030 cellulosic biofuels using pyrolysis and gasification can provide transportation fuels to meet global needs using land not suitable for growing food.
According to Prof. Jürgen O. Metzger from Carl von Ossietzky Universität Oldenburg, and Prof. Aloys Hüttermann from the Universität Göttingen, a global energy supply based on biomass grown to generate electricity and produce fuel is both a sustainable and economical scenario, contrary to some other current research. Their findings are published online this week in the journal Naturwissenschaften.

The solution, according to Metzger and Hüttermann, is to plant fast-growing trees on degraded areas, and harvest the biomass for energy usage. This afforestation would not compete with the need for arable land for food production. The authors argue that the investment required for afforestation and transformation of the biomass to electrical energy, heat, fuels and chemical feedstock is actually sustainable and not more, probably even less, than what would need to be invested in infrastructure for non-sustainable fossil energy.

For their global overall estimations for transportation fuels, the two used the conversion of the lignocellulosic biomass to biooil (“bioslurry”) via pyrolysis and its subsequent gasification to a syngas followed by Fischer–Tropsch synthesis (biomass-to-liquids, BTL). _GCC
These conclusions suggest that there is no "food vs fuels" issue, and that current technology can solve the global transportation fuels demand in the intermediate future.

Al Fin feels that this study did not go far enough, since huge areas Earth's surface can be used to grow ocean biomass and haplophytic organisms on salty soil. In addition, the potential for growing abundant algae in desert areas using saltwater will multiply potential biofuels much more.

Further development of plant genetics, chemical catalysts, other synthetic and separation technologies, etc. will be helpful--but not necessary for biofuels to play a huge role in the future energy menu.

Previously published at Al Fin Energy

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Blogger Clifford J. Wirth, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus, University of New Hampshire said...

Maybe by 2030, that is too late, and too little.

Independent studies (reviewed in the Peak Oil Report


by Clifford J. Wirth) conclude that Peak Oil production will occur (or has occurred) between 2005 to 2010 (projected year for peak in parentheses), as follows:

* Association for the Study of Peak Oil (2007)

* Rembrandt Koppelaar, Editor of “Oil Watch Monthly” (2008 to 2010)

* Tony Eriksen, Oil stock analyst (2008)

* Matthew Simmons, Energy investment banker, (2007)

* T. Boone Pickens, Oil and gas investor (2007)

* U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (2005)

* Kenneth S. Deffeyes, Princeton professor and retired shell Geologist (2005)

* Sam Sam Bakhtiari, Retired Iranian National Oil Company geologist (2005)

* Chris Skrebowski, Editor of “Petroleum Review” (2010)

* Sadad Al Husseini, former head of production and exploration, Saudi Aramco (2008)

* Energy Watch Group in Germany (2006)

Independent studies conclude that global crude oil production will now decline from 74 million barrels per day to 60 million barrels per day by 2015. During the same time, demand will increase. Oil supplies will be even tighter for the U.S. As oil producing nations consume more and more oil domestically they will export less and less. Because demand is high in China, India, the Middle East, and other oil producing nations, once global oil production begins to decline, demand will always be higher than supply. And since the U.S. represents one fourth of global oil demand, whatever oil we conserve will be consumed elsewhere. Thus, conservation in the U.S. will not slow oil depletion rates significantly.

Alternatives will not even begin to fill the gap. And most alternatives yield electric power, but we need liquid fuels for tractors/combines, 18 wheel trucks, trains, ships, and mining equipment. The independent scientists of the Energy Watch Group conclude in a 2007 report titled: “Peak Oil Could Trigger Meltdown of Society:”

"By 2020, and even more by 2030, global oil supply will be dramatically lower. This will create a supply gap which can hardly be closed by growing contributions from other fossil, nuclear or alternative energy sources in this time frame."


With increasing costs for gasoline and diesel, along with declining taxes and declining gasoline tax revenues, states and local governments will eventually have to cut staff and curtail highway maintenance. Eventually, gasoline stations will close, and state and local highway workers won’t be able to get to work. We are facing the collapse of the highways that depend on diesel and gasoline powered trucks for bridge maintenance, culvert cleaning to avoid road washouts, snow plowing, and roadbed and surface repair. When the highways fail, so will the power grid, as highways carry the parts, large transformers, steel for pylons, and high tension cables from great distances. With the highways out, there will be no food coming from far away, and without the power grid virtually nothing modern works, including home heating, pumping of gasoline and diesel, airports, communications, and automated building systems.

This is documented in a free 48 page report that can be downloaded, website posted, distributed, and emailed: http://www.peakoilassociates.com/POAnalysis.html

I used to live in NH-USA, but moved to a sustainable place. Anyone interested in relocating to a nice, pretty, sustainable area with a good climate and good soil? Email: clifford dot wirth at yahoo dot com or give me a phone call which operates here as my old USA-NH number 603-668-4207. http://survivingpeakoil.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, 16 December, 2008  
Blogger CarlBrannen said...

The greenies will still complain about this. They'd rather see the land fallow.

Tuesday, 16 December, 2008  
Blogger al fin said...

Carl: Yes. And they'd rather see 90% of currently living humans dead, too.

Cliff: It would be nice if you could be a little more precise. In order to make a killing on oil futures, you'll have to provide better information than that. Thanks.

Petroleum infrastructure for exploration, drilling, refining, shipping, marketing, and distribution has been evolving for over 100 years. If it takes bio-energy a decade or three to scale up, perhaps it can be excused.

Of course solar thermal, geothermal, CTL, GTL, unconventional fossil fuels, nuclear fission, and perhaps nuclear fusion will all be competing to become the "next big energy source." Bioenergy won't be all alone as it begins filling in for conventional petrol.

The main thing that could throw us into the dark ages that Cliff is predicting, is bad government. We are reaping that in bumper harvest.

Wednesday, 17 December, 2008  

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“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act” _George Orwell

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