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Report: Biofuels majority of non-OPEC oil growth

Bloomberg News via Houston Chronicle
Biofuels will account for 63 percent of oil supply growth from non-OPEC countries this year, taking global production of crop-based fuel to more than 1.5 million barrels a day, the International Energy Agency said today.
(13 May 2008)
Note that this is 63% of oil GROWTH from non-OPEC countries, not 63% of all non-OPEC oil. The amount of growth is much much smaller. -BA

New Source for Biofuels Discovered

University of Texas at Austin
A newly created microbe produces cellulose that can be turned into ethanol and other biofuels, report scientists from The University of Texas at Austin who say the microbe could provide a significant portion of the nation’s transportation fuel if production can be scaled up.

Along with cellulose, the cyanobacteria developed by Professor R. Malcolm Brown Jr. and Dr. David Nobles Jr. secrete glucose and sucrose. These simple sugars are the major sources used to produce ethanol.

“The cyanobacterium is potentially a very inexpensive source for sugars to use for ethanol and designer fuels,” says Nobles, a research associate in the Section of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics.

Brown and Nobles say their cyanobacteria can be grown in production facilities on non-agricultural lands using salty water unsuitable for human consumption or crops.

… Cyanobacteria are just one of many potential solutions for renewable energy, says Brown.

“There will be many avenues to become completely energy independent, and we want to be part of the overall effort,” Brown says. “Petroleum is a precious commodity. We should be using it to make useful products, not just burning it and turning it into carbon dioxide.”
(24 April 2008)
Contributor Dave L. writes:
An interesting article about an engineered bacterium at UT, which creates cellulose and sucrose and glucose. The cellulose is a form that is easily broken down into sugars. This is purely a research result, with no commercial process as yet. I don’t know what it “eats” to produce this stuff though.

BA: I don’t know how many articles I’ve read which promise that a new process “could provide a significant portion of the nation’s transportation fuel if production can be scaled up.” As they say, “If pigs had wings…” Not saying it’s impossible — just that the odds are very much against it.

World’s largest offshore wind farm in the works

Tom Bergin, Reuters
British utility Scottish & Southern Energy Plc (SSE) will build the world’s largest offshore wind farm and has awarded $3 billion in contracts to U.S. engineer Fluor Corp and Germany’s Siemens AG.

Despite industry doubts about the viability of offshore wind SSE said on Wednesday it would build the farm off Britain’s east coast.
(14 May 2008)

Wave/Geothermal – Energy Return on Investment (EROI) Part 5

Charles A. S. Hall and students, The Oil Drum
This is the final piece of a series on Energy Return on Investment from Professor Charles Hall’s EROI Workshop at SUNY. Today’s papers outline the energy technologies of wave and geothermal power, concluding a 5 part series

Most of the energy sources that we use or might use are dependent directly or indirectly upon the sun. This includes wave energy which is derived from wind (e.g. the sun). Nuclear, geothermal and tidal energies are different in that they depend upon nuclear decay within the Earth or Earth’s materials or, in the case of tidal, the processes of celestial motions.

The advantage of these energies are that they are truly immense. The main disadvantages are that they are, with a few exceptions, dilute and hence very difficult to extract energy from.

Another issue is that for some forms (e.g. heat from the ground) high quality energy (electricity) must be invested to extract low quality energy (heat), which can be a losing proposition even if the direct EROIs are positive. These issues for many situations imply generally low EROIs and hence low profitability.

On the other hand some hot steam procedures in very favorable sites have high EROI and generate high quality electricity via investment of general engineering and materials, which implies lower quality investment energy. So unless these most favorable circumstances can be applied more generally or better methods are derived it is likely that development will be quite slow.

On the other hand if and as EROIs from other fuels continue to decline they might be increasingly attractive. Tidal energies are likewise potentially enormous but there are few operational plants and we have not examined them. Daniel Halloran summarizes here such information as he could find on EROIs of various geothermal and wave energies. They are interesting but remain more as potential than realized energy and appear unlikely to effect our energy situation significantly for decades, if ever. As usual we seek your critiques and, especially, other hard literature that we missed.
(14 May 2008)