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Boeing Completes Flight Using Biofuel

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Ann R. Thryft
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Progress in using biofuels for transportation
Ann R. Thryft   4/24/2012 12:48:49 PM

Thanks for reporting on this. In Europe, biofuels are becoming common in road transport, and are about to enter usage in air transport. Although the US is behind Europe on such efforts, it's good to know we're at least getting started.

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Re: algae
aliphatic   4/24/2012 12:23:30 PM
Hmm. Different sources, different numbers.

I guess it depends on the source of the feedstock, as usual. There are numerous species of algae, and according to http://oakhavenpc.org/cultivating_algae.htm (which draws its info from NREL studies conducted during the first oil crisis, back in the 1970s), the following table is representative of average yields based on species:
Microalgal species Oil content(% dw)
Ankistrodesmus TR-87 28-40
Botryococcus braunii 29-75
Chlorella sp. 29
Chlorella protothecoides(autotrophic/ heterothrophic) 15-55
Cyclotella DI- 35 42
Dunaliella tertiolecta 36-42
Hantzschia DI-160 66
Nannochloris 31(6-63)
Nannochloropsis 46(31-68)
Nitzschia TR-114 28-50
Phaeodactylum tricornutum 31
Scenedesmus TR-84 45
Stichococcus 33(9-59)
Tetraselmis suecica 15-32
Thalassiosira pseudonana (21-31)
Crpthecodinium cohnii 20
Neochloris oleoabundans 35-54
Schiochytrium 50-77

Therefore, your yield/acre/year should range from 5000-15000 US gal.

All of these are aquatic algae, and since the apparatus for growing them is fairly simple, it's a sustainable process that uses very little energy in itself. The electricity required to run the apparatus can be solar-generated onsite.

Furthermore, since the growing facility a) does not produce environmentally harmful effluent, and b) is essentially self-contained, it can be replicated in and around environmentally-sensitive areas of the southwest with very little impact.

I agree that human-engineered technology has some impact. However, I would argue that technology such as algae production has a far lower impact than, say, tar-sands petroleum extraction.

At the very least, it should be added to the mix of energy-sources - that's all I'm saying.

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jeffbiss   4/24/2012 10:24:22 AM

Good point about algae production. It does appear that it is a far better choice than most. However, I haven't seen the yield as high as you indicate. According to "Renewable Energy from Algae Biomass", depending on technology, the yield ranges as follows:

Low end: 1,800 gal bio-fuel/acre-year
High end: 9,000 gal bio-fuel/acre-year

This is far lower than the 100,000 gal/acre-yr that you state. However, at the high yield range algae appears more doable:

Oil consumption/yr: (20 x10E6 bbls/day)(42 gal/bbl)(365 days/year)(125 kBTU/gal) = 3.8325x10E13 kBTU/year

Algae bio-fuel yield (according to http://www.algaewheel.com/usage/renewable-energy/, depending on technology):
Low end: (1,800 gal bio-fuel/acre-year)(125 kBTU/gal) = 225x10E3 kBTU/acre-yr
High end: (9,000 gal bio-fuel/acre-year)(125 kBTU/gal) = 1.125x10E6 kBTU/acre-yr

Algae equivalent acres:
(3.8325 10E13 kBTU/year)/(225x10E3 kBTU/acre-year) = 170.3x10E6 algae acres/year
(3.8325 10E13 kBTU/year)/(1.125x10E6 kBTU/acre-yr) = 34.1x10E6 algae acres/year

Additional acres under cultivation to produce algae bio-fuel to replace oil:
(170.3x10E6 algae acres/year)/(320.9x10E6 total acres planted in 2009) = 53.1%
(34.1x10E6 algae acres/year)/(320.9x10E6 total acres planted in 2009) = 10.6.1%

So, adding 10% agricultural land for algae production is a far better prospect than the others. However, that still has consequences for wildlife in the areas that would be used and there are other considerations for algae production that I don't know at the moment, such as energy requried to produce bio-fuel and other resource requirements. Of course, if we reduce our energy requirement, then the acreage required would drop and producing oil already requires resources, so the analysis is more complicated than what I show here.

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you're correct, but only to a point
jeffbiss   4/24/2012 9:43:59 AM

This is an article on the use of biofuels. The article states "The flight from Boeing's Delivery Center in Everett, Wash., to Tokyo Haneda Airport brings the airline industry a step closer to environmentally friendly and fuel-efficient long-haul flights", which brings up environmental issues, such as global warming and sustainability.

Environmentalism and sustainability is part of engineering, as is the economics of use. We, as engineers, must take into account all factors involving whatever we are designing, and that includes aspects not necessarily obvious at first glance.

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Derailing the Article
JimT@Future-Product-Innovations   4/23/2012 10:39:37 PM

You know, I enjoyed the article, and felt some hopeful reassurance in the successful trial flight.  Then, I read the increasingly turbulent comment threads, and was actually saddened by the extremist pontifications of some of the moderators.  I'm not impressed by the long-winded list of "supporting evidence", on either side of the alleged argument because this was not an article on Global Warming. 

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Re: biodiesel is a nonstarter
aliphatic   4/23/2012 10:18:36 PM

Whether we're impoverished or not, perhaps we should be smarter about what feedstock we use.

Algae produces far greater BTU/acre energy density than any of the feedstocks so far discussed in this forum. Not only that, but also produces waste methane that can be used to aid pyrolysis in the transesterification process.

100,000 gal. (or 13B BTU/acre - yes, that's Billion) trumps the other alternatives so far suggested, and it can be hydroponically grown in otherwise unarable desert.

I guess that's why the DOE is spending a cr*pload of money trying to develop this tech.

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Re: biofuels are nonstarters
jmiller   4/23/2012 8:48:46 PM
I am curious if you have done any research on the increased corn production in the U.S. in conjunction with the ability to grow corn after corn.  From the limited bit I hear from the news.  There is a concern of dropping corn prices due to the largest surplus in history.  It doesn't sound to me like we are running out of this resource.  Again, maybe I am missing something.

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Re: It's about population
jeffbiss   4/23/2012 3:52:26 PM

I cite wikipedia only because it provides a nice chart.

How much of any given energy source is left is irrelevant, what is relevant is it's availability with respect to production. The fact is is that there is very little elasticity in supply, coal, oil, gas, and that has very harsh consequences for an ever increasing population and the economy on which that population depends. For a discussion see "Can the Economy Bear What Oil Prices Have in Store?", "Study: World's 'Peak Coal' Moment Has Arrived", and "World Oil Reserves at 'Tipping Point'".

You can disagree with me and insist that we can engineer our way out of this mess but you have nothing to back that up. The fact is that fossil fuels are a finite resource, and we have depleted most reserves to the point that the industry is exploiting far more marginal reserves, reserves that yield less energy at a higher cost; If reserves were not in decline, then prices would not continually increase and industry wouldn't be drilling in such hostile environments, such as the deep Gulf. This is obvious to many who make a living investing in energy production and make their arguments to other investors as seen in "Jeremy Grantham: In the Face of Finite Resources, It's Time to Think About "Peak Everything",  "Officials Wake Up to Peak Oil", and "Peak Coal Theory: Peak Coal: Profit from the Peaks".

If you don't believe that overpopulation is a problem then you have to understand that currently the US uses about 20 million bbls of oil/day, which means that the per capita use is 0.064 bbl/person. Using the world's population of 7 billion, that means that for all people to attain a standard of living equal to ours, oil production needs to be 448.7x10E6 bbls/day or 5X the current production of 86.27x10E6 bbls/day. Also, as my previous calculation shows, that the US that has 5% of the world's population and uses 25% of its resources, we would need more than one earth to provide all people alive today with our standard of living, which is impossible.

As for reducing human population, all that's needed is to not create people who already do not exist.

With regards to the global warming debate, what evidence do you have that refutes the theory of anthropogenic causes? Please list these valid scientific articles. As for "There seems to be so little respect or consideration for the principles of the scientific method today", where is this applicable to climatology?

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Re: It's about population
JCG   4/23/2012 2:38:34 PM

While I agree on your remarks about concerns about biofuel, about the loss of food production to a less-efficient subsidized biomass fuel, I'm not a convert to the overpopulation/anthropogenic global warming scenario.

First, I looked up peak production of coal and oil.  Since you liked citing Wikipedia, I also used it for sourcing.  According to the sources cited by Wiki, there is an estimated 147 years of reserves-to-production ratio of 'proven' coal reserves.  These 'proven' reserves are those that have been found and drilled to such an extent that they are determined to be 'proven'. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coal).  Wiki also has mentioned that there is a 120 years of 'proven' oil reserves at current usage (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crude_oil).  While this is obvious not going to remain constant, this also applies only to 'proven' reserves.  By 'peak oil' production (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peak_oil), I'm assuming that you are referring to the Hubbert peak theory (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M._King_Hubbert).  The belief that we have already reached 'peak oil' would be an assumption of the Low EURR (Estimated (World's) Ultimately Recoverable Resources) peak having already passed (assuming 2 trillion recoverable barrels total, while 1.2 trillion has been used, USGS 95% confidence level) as opposed to the Mean EURR (3 trillion barrels), which is close to Chevron's estimates, or the High EURR (4 trillion barrels, 5% confidence level) (http://gulfpetrolink.net/Peak_AlHusseini.pdf).  To disagree with your statement that we can't engineer ourselves out of this one, I disagree.  These numbers are based on 1) a current level of exploration and 2) current level of technology for oil extraction.  In the U.S. our administration has all but ceased exploration on federally controlled lands and offshore leases by U.S. oil companies (although they freely allow Repsol and Chinese rigs to drill oil for Cuba off our leases) (http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2105598,00.html; http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/02/02/us-cuba-oil-idUSTRE8111S620120202).  There are reserves not found, and many wells that have been drilled but not 'proven' because they aren't as profitable for the large companies, so they'll cap them and lease/sell them to smaller oil companies to extract at smaller margins.  The reexamination of current reserves, such as the Bakken formation, back in 2008, was only estimated to have 3-4.3 billion gallons recoverable & non-recoverable, but various estimates now place the number up to 24 billion barrels, although current estimates are at 18 billion (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bakken_formation).  There are payoffs to be made in improving the efficiency of oil extraction/recovery... another improvement could also be made in refining, but we're closing down some of our inefficent refineries now due to the high cost of crude, let alone improving their efficiency (which is economically unfeasible given EPA regulation).  There are also other avenues to further develop, such as CTL (coal to liquid), natural gas, etc.  Even Hubbert was a proponent of solar and nuclear energy.

While I'm definitely open to global warming/climate change, I'm still not quite convinced its primarily anthropogenic.  To suggest that anyone who disagrees with global warming/climate change may be 'deluded' or an 'ideologue', while deriding your debater diminishes your argument.  There have been questions raised by CERN over solar emissions influencing cloud formation, which could have a bearing on global warming/climate change theories.  I've heard questions raised about the correlation between CO2 & global warming/climate change, and the rate of increase, and whether trending is accurate or cherry picked.  When I'd like to see source material, I'm more interested in scientific journals, such as this USGS article (http://volcanoes.usgs.gov/hazards/gas/index.php)  and this (http://www.agu.org/pubs/pdf/2011EO240001.pdf), which are far more influential than ranting and raving, calling skeptics names, and citing political hack junk science rags like The New Scientist, or 'An Inconvenient Truth'.  Not everyone that disagrees is a 'denier' or part of a conspiracy, just as not everyone who embracing climate change/global warming is a nutjob or part of a conspiracy.

I'm also curious about your take on overpopulation and its reduction... How do you suggest that we solve it?  Why are you absolutely sure that we've already overpopulated the planet?  Are you suggesting to go to Asia, home of 60% of the world's population and eliminating some, or are you on a eugenics crusade, wanting to pick and choose who lives and dies (U.N. Death Panel), or you simply suggesting that we eliminate the U.S. population as a starting point, since we're obviously the worst 'offenders' in resource management?  I'd like to think that you are talking about reduction through attrition, but given your statements I'm not so sure.  Do you have children?  If so, aren't you contributing to the problem?  How would you react to someone else saying that there are too many of YOU on this planet?  I guess you already know, since you've said it yourself.

Maybe I'm alone in being disturbed, not by the subject of the argument, but the nature and statements of the debate.  I agree with Warren on several points, but not all, but despite the calculations, which I haven't verified yet, I'm not overly keen to support you even if I agree with you because of your manner.  There seems to be so little respect or consideration for the principles of the scientific method today... I've seen stories about climate change proponents wanting to hunt down 'deniers' and burn their houses and families to the ground... or believe that skeptics are suffering from a mental disorder.  It seems that open debate is being squeezed out of our society, that mouths keep running but our ears are becoming closed... It seems that most, today, seem to have 'tolerance', but only for supporting thoughts and opinions.  It doesn't seem that the climate change debate is over... it doesn't look like it was really ever allowed to begin.

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Re: biodiesel is a nonstarter
warren@fourward.com   4/23/2012 12:39:44 PM
Well I have never heard anything so STUPID in all my life!  Getting along?

Thanks for noticing.  However, we are an impoverished nation.  Our government spends 3 times what it takes in, and that is the sign of a sick economy.  And that is all the above board spending they tell us about.

So, my new friend, we do have to call ourselves impoverished, because if any of us did that, (a) our credit would run out, or (b) we would go bankrupt, or (c) we would be arrested.  Or all three.  We are living on our grandchildren's good credit.


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