…and welcome to the last trading day in Q3, and the stormy conditions it brings. This week has dealt further downside pressure to natural gas, but no further low for the year as the themes of strong supply and weak demand continue. Crude has done a non-stop-flip-flop, remaining choppy but lacking conviction as Euro debt concerns continue, and as global economic worries ebb-flow-ebb-flow. Next week brings a new month, a new quarter, and a new set of data points to usher markets this way and that. But before then, enjoy the respite…with these bites: » read more
Posts Tagged ‘Jatropha’
This is one of those random posts I occasionally come up with…this week I figured I’d like to teach the world to sing see if I could relate the entire alphabet to Energyworld(tm). So here it goes:
A is for Algae – as discussed previously on the burrito, Algae is an unconventional yet plausible biofuel.
B is for Biofuel - US Gov’t has mandated 36 billion gallons of biofuels to be produced in 2022.
C is for Coal – approximately half of the electric power in the US is generated from coal.
D is for Diesel – diesel-powered cars achieve 20-40% better fuel economy than gas-powered ones.
E is for Ethanol – Henry Ford designed the Model T Ford to run on ethanol.
F is for Firewood – rubbing two sticks together to create fire can exert a lot of energy.
G is for Gasoline – burning a gallon of gasoline creates 19 pounds of carbon dioxide.
H is for Heating Oil – the Northeast accounts for 82% of heating oil demand in the US.
I is for Ice – a company has developed a novel way to store energy as ice.
J is for Jatropha – another unorthodox yet potential biofuel of the future, previously discussed here.
K is for Kryptonite – is commonly green, and has the power to kill Superman.
L is for LNG – there are 100 Liquefied Natural Gas storage facilities in the US.
M is for Methanol – is blended with gasoline as a fuel, and is also used in, err, formaldehyde.
N is for Natural Gas – 25% of energy used in the US in 2009 came from natural gas.
O is for Oil – the world’s proven oil reserves = 1,342,207,000,000 barrels.
P is for Permits – Carbon emission permits: up and running in Europe, baby steps in the US.
Q is for Quantum Leap – jumping from one energy level to another very quickly.
R is for RBOB – Reformulated Blendstock for Oxygenate Blending…aka…gasoline.
S is for Solar – Germany is the world leader for solar energy in relation to all energy produced.
T is for Turtle Power - heroes in a half shell.
U is for Uranium – is the most widely used fuel in nuclear energy plants.
V is for Vegetable Oil – used oil can be collected from restaurants and filtered to produce a biodiesel.
W is for Wind – the largest offshore wind farm in the world is set to open in the UK.
X is for Xanthidium - found in flint, the original fire starter.
Y is for Yeast power – übergeeky…a potential source of power for generators in the developing world.
Z is for Zest – a citrus-powered clock. What more do you need?
There is something about algae that I find absolutely fascinating. I don’t know if it’s because I find it so incredulous, but producing biofuel from squeezing seaweed really hard (presumably that’s how they do it) is mind-boggling to me. Hence its charm.
Algae, or Oilgae as those in-the-know like to call it (ie - not me), is taking over the mantle as the potential savior of biofuels, as the energy world scrambles to find a way to meet the renewable fuels standard, a law requiring the US (stipulated by,erm, the US) to produce 36 billion gallons of biofuel by 2022.
The US government, having passed the law five years ago, are obviously getting a little tetchy about achieving the goals they have outlined. The data aren’t fully in yet, but preliminary results indicate that the US has fallen short of their mandated level for 2009 of 11.1 billion gallons, and are keen to find a solution to such a behemoth of a problem. Hence, their interest in algae has been piqued, with $80 million in stimulus money recently paid out to research algae-based biofuels.
To add (bio)fuel to the fire, the cause is also not without the support of ‘big oil’. Exxon Mobil’s first ever venture into the green arena has been to team up with algae research company, Synthetic Genomics, in an initial $300 million joint venture. Admittedly, this is spare change (almost a gesture?) when compared to Exxon’s annual capital and exploration spend of approximately $30bln (= more than the US government’s renewable energy budget) . However, as an affirmation of algae’s potential, there doesn’t come any higher endorsement.
Last April the Pentagon tasked DARPA, who helped to develop some of the most revolutionary technology used today (from the internet to a propane-powered GPS system), to develop algae as a biofuel on a large enough scale to supply the entire US military. All becomes clear when it’s realized the US military is the largest single consumer of energy in the world (60 – 75 million barrels of oil a year); oil dependence on the countries you could potentially be at conflict with is not ideal.
As for the recent ripples of excitement, these were caused by an article in the newspaper, The Guardian, last weekend. It claims that DARPA’s research shows they are already producing biofuel from algae ponds at a cost of $2/gallon, and are months away from developing the technology to produce biofuel for $1/gallon – similar to gasoline costs. And we are not talking niche quantities here; a 50 million barrel-per-year refining operation could be up to speed within the next two years.
This revelation has taken the biofuel industry by surprise – even algae producers. This has also followed hot on the heels of a backlash against algae in a study released last month, which stated algae required much more water and energy to produce than originally projected. This claim was vehemently refuted by market players.
So in a bizarre twist, in a world where technological advancement is making madcap biofuel visions a reality, algae looks well positioned to lead, or at least be a part in this effort. In similarly interesting news this week, British Airways announced they will be producing their own biofuel from London garbage. Who would have believed even five years ago that jet fuel would be being produced from seaweed and trash? Modern life is indeed rubbish.
Something for the holiday week…..biofuels are clouded by the misconception they are based on such energy sources as cowpats and chicken-poop power. Please let the below serve to dispell this vicious, vicious rumor:
When countries such as Zimbabwe announce that they aim to achieve 10% of their fuel needs by 2017 from biodiesel processed from the weed-like plant, Jatropha, you realize something wacky is going on. While I think that Jatropha sounds like a character from Star Wars – Jabba the Hut’s second-string bounty hunter when Boba Fett is on vacation (I wonder where he’d go?) - it has been making headlines across the globe for a number of years now. This is because jatropha is a plant that is apparently environmentally sustainable; it can grow in desolate conditions on land not suitable for the majority of crops, it can survive on limited rain and does not require irrigation, and, the kicker: it yields a vegetable oil from seed pods which can be processed into biodiesel. Indeed, Zimbabwe is not the only country to be pursuing this potential opportunity. Air New Zealand tested a Jumbo Jet late last year on fuel partly derived from jatropha biodiesel. India is the current leading global producer of jatropha, with 4.5 million acres earmarked for growing the crop, providing a prime example of how such a crop can thrive in extreme weather conditions.
All is not rosy, however, with jatropha currently enduring a bit of a backlash. Not only has BP recently exited a partnership in a jatropha biofuel project to focus on ethanol instead, but a recent scientific study by Envirocare also concluded that jatropha requires more water than previously thought. There are also concerns that expanding the farming of jatropha could displace farmers and replace food crops.
Jatropha may not be a household name yet, but if it can overcome current headwinds and live up to some of its potential, part of the solution to global sustainability could sound strangely similar to a vacation-bound Star Wars bounty hunter….