ICIS Biofuel Conference

I am going to be giving a presentation at the ICIS Bioresources Summit on 4 December Hardwick Hall Hotel, Sedgefield, County Durham, which promises to be fun. The conference department has put it together and the speaker list (apart from me) looks to be quite interesting.

To make it a little more lively than might otherwise be the case I wonder if you could help me by quickly commenting on this post listing the five things that worry you most about biofuels and the five things that you think are the most promising about biofuels. It would be good to feed that back to the meeting.

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4 Responses to ICIS Biofuel Conference

  1. David B. Benson 30 October, 2007 at 12:32 am #

    Problems:

    (1) Biochar is a biproduct of pyrolysis, which produces biofuels. If the biochar is applied as agrichar, the PAHs in the biochar go into the ground. This might be a bad idea, but it seems nobody has researched it.

    (2) Cutting down tropical rain forests to grow oil palms is a VERY BAD plan.

    Good things:

    (1) Can slow down, at least, burning fossil coal.

    (2) Can slow down, at least, burning fossil oil.

    (3) Lots and lots of employment opportunities, in all parts of the world.

  2. Clare Bottle 31 October, 2007 at 9:00 am #

    Worrying things:
    1 – divisions between environmentalists;
    2 – reliance on hazardous chemicals for production;
    3 – reluctance of vehicle manufacturers to honour warranties;
    4 – poor quality ‘home-brew’ product damages the market for EN14214;
    5 – some feedstocks are unsustainable.

    Promising things:
    1 – potential for a paradigm shift in the relationship between energy generation and fossil fuels;
    2 – reduced carbon emissions through a renewable cycle of planting;
    3 – infrastructure (essentially, biodiesel can use existing storage & dispensing facilities, vehicles and vehicle mechanics);
    4 – diversification opportunities for arable farmers;
    5 – the future of second generation biofuels which will yield more energy and less waste per hectare of land.

  3. Mark C R UK 31 October, 2007 at 2:44 pm #

    Cons:
    1 – divisions between environmentalists; and hijacking of the entire political debate by “newcomers” to the issue
    2 – food v fuel (joined up thinking is required), essentially economic/market arguments/utilisation of resources
    3 – divisions between automotive, fuel, biofuel and political organisations over market share (“muddying of the waters”), with governments also involved
    4 – Palm oil in SE Asia contributing to the problem when it is being advertised as a “solution” – damaging entire industry
    5 – GTL (BTL) still not close with potential for “snake oil”, plus energy balance is not great (just look at existing GTL facilities) and is a technical challenge that needs to be overcome in addition to feedstock variability

    Pros:
    1 – infrastructure (biodiesel and 2nd/3rd generation biofuel use of existing facilities, vehicles (particuarly in new FC vehicles wih ultra high MPGs)
    2 – potential for reduced CO2 footprints (depending on feedstock) and the ability to convert waste (usually landfilled) to fuel
    3 – technology development and transfer at unparalleled level due to SUS-CHEM and similar international programs
    4 – diversification opportunities for arable farmers and technology developers in an enitrely new area of chemical/biological sciences (parallel technology/markets)
    5 – platform molecules from biomass; to utilise other metabolites as molecular feedstocks to replace other petrochem feeds (done taking into account realtive LCAs), helping develop greener and sustainable polymers and other devices that literally may be grown from scratch! (intersection with nano-technology/chemical sciences)

  4. Peter Lundgren 3 November, 2007 at 9:05 pm #

    Simon
    This appeared in the Lincolnshire Echo farming section last week and it raises a worrying question about the rush for biofuel, the responsibility of developed countries, and the implications for indigenous farmers and communities in some of the worlds most desperate regions.
    And it made me question whether this is proof that the idiots have finally taken over the asylum
    Peter Lundgren

    Biofuels will undoubtedly be a major influence on farming fortunes in the next few years changing not only the crops we grow but also attitudes towards the way we farm.

    But, as discussed before in this column, it is looking less and less likely that we will have a viable biofuels processing industry in this country.

    The influence of biofuels on farming in Lincolnshire will be driven by decisions made in North and South America – and, more recently, Africa.

    A report from the African Biodiversity Network highlights the biofuels initiatives in a number of Central African countries and the implications of developing a biofuels industry on the local economy and environment.

    Amongst the examples is Tanzania where 400,000ha of fertile land has been earmarked for sugar cane destined for ethanol production. Or the designation of protected virgin forest in Uganda for sugar cane production that has led to riots and three deaths.

    And, amazingly, 17 million ha of land in Ethiopia for ethanol production – of which 1.7 million ha is in the most fertile region.

    Twenty years ago, like most of the baby-boom generation, I was appalled at the plight of people in Ethiopia and applauded Bob Geldof taking on the complacency of world leaders.

    I remember Food Aid and farmer led initiatives like “Send a cow to Africa” and “Send a tonne” and it has been a particular frustration to farmers in Lincolnshire that we are forced to set-a-side our land whilst millions go hungry.

    Still the food aid continues to pour into the region and Ethiopia has become synonymous with the intractable problems that Central Africa has in feeding itself. Twenty years on and reports still demonstrate that the issues of poor soils and insufficient rainfall being the main impediment to peoples’ inability to feed themselves.

    But if a country has a chronic inability to feed itself how can it possibly find sufficient resources to support a biofuels industry? It raises the question, if soils and water are available why has so little been done to develop a viable food production system in the region?

    So what is going on?

    Put simply the EU has realised that its directive for 5% biofuel inclusion cannot be met from the productive capacity of EU agriculture. Fertile land is in short supply and with South America committed to supply the USA the only place left in the world for the EU to initiate a biofuels industry is Central Africa.

    EU based companies are moving in persuading governments to push small family farmers off their productive land and bulldoze protected virgin forest in order to release vast tracts of land for biofuel production. But the product of this land is not destined for domestic use but to meet the demands of European commuters.

    And the importation of biofuels from Central Africa will only contribute to the growing volatility in the world grain and oilseed markets – which cannot be good news for consumers, our domestic biofuels industry, or our region’s farmers.

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