Biofuels makers should stress energy density advantages - execs

09 March 2010 21:21  [Source: ICIS news]

HOUSTON (ICIS news)--Global biofuel producers should stress the energy-density advantage their products have against electric- and natural-gas-based vehicles, two industry executives said on Tuesday.

The overall market for liquid fuels should grow from a mid-80m bbl/day level currently to about 104m bbl/day by 2030, with transportation fuels representing about 60% of that market, said Thomas Eizember, a manager of corporate strategic planning for ExxonMobil.

Eizember spoke in a biofuels strategy session at CERA Week in Houston, sponsored by IHS Cambridge Energy Research Associates (CERA)

Within transportation fuels, specifically, that projection amounts to an increase of about a third by 2030, he added. Boosted by that increase, biofuels consumption should roughly double to 3m bbl/day in that time, Eizember said.

But to exceed those expectations, biofuels makers must stress their relative benefits to policymakers and consumers, Eizember said.

"One thing liquid fuels have, relative to lithium-ion and other electric batteries, is that they're a wonderful way of storing energy," Eizember said.

"They're extremely dense from an energy perspective. The energy density in gasoline, for example, is about 15,000 times the density of a lithium battery," he said.

With the global population anticipated to increase by 2bn by 2030 and global GDP expected to double, demand in the transportation sector should surge, Eizember said.

However, such a campaign for biofuels in the sector must be accompanied by continued technology developments to lower costs and to diversify those fuels that are reasonable options for an energy portfolio, panellists said.

"The only biofuel viable in the current economic environment is sugarcane ethanol in Brazil," said Jeffrey Jacobs, vice president of Chevron Technology Ventures. "We're a long way from where we need to be to make sure biofuels are a part of the energy portfolio."

"But we are working to reduce the cost of conversion technology, and we need policymakers to understand the complexity of our business, collaborate with us and commit time and funds to investing in technology," Jacobs added.

If those hurdles can be cleared, however, the opportunity for increased market share exists because "oil's monopoly on the transportation sector is starting to loosen", said Tiffany Groode, associate director with IHS CERA.

Beyond that, the success of biofuels on a country-by-country basis will depend on policies adopted by governments - including the percentage of bio-based ethanol allowed in gasoline blends - as well as production capabilities of domestic producers, she added.

The CERA Week conference lasts through Friday.

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By: Ben DuBose
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