Monday, June 27, 2005

Plant Derived Plastics Becoming Competitive with Petroleum

LA Times reports on surge in plant based plastic production. As processing becomes more efficient and oil prices remain high, some of these goods are now cheaper than regular plastic.

To Replace Oil, U.S. Experts See Amber Waves of Plastic - Yahoo! News.
by Stephanie Simon, Times Staff Writer -- June 26, 2005:

With oil prices near $60 a barrel, goods made from grain also compare favorably on price. So chemists and engineers are racing to figure out how to substitute Iowa's bounty for Iraq's. The goal: to use crops, weeds and even animal waste in place of the petroleum that fuels much of American manufacturing. The Energy Department is so enthusiastic that it is aiming to convert 25% of chemical manufacturing to an agricultural base by 2030....
When Cargill launched its factory in 2002, its pellets were far more expensive than equivalent material made from oil. Wild Oats Markets, an early customer, paid 50% more for takeout containers made from the bio-plastic. But over the last two years, the Cargill plant has gotten more efficient — and oil prices have soared. The result: The "corn-tainers" in the deli now cost Wild Oats 5% less than traditional plastic, Wild Oats spokeswoman Sonja Tuitele said.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Texas State Geologist Says Fossil Fuels' Demise Oversold

The Texas State Geologist examines extraction technologies that are extending the era of petroleum.

"Fossil fuels' demise oversold:
Boring fact is oil not soon tapped out
" By Scott W. Tinker . Houston Chronicle. June 25, 2005. From the article:
In 1956, M. King Hubbert predicted correctly that U.S. oil production would peak in the early 1970s. As an aside, Hubbert predicted incorrectly that world oil production would peak in 1995. What Hubbert also missed is that advances in technology would allow producers to extract oil from known fields far beyond the technology capacity of his day. Because of these advances, the shape of the oil
production curve is not really a peak at all, but more of a bumpy mesa.
So what are the realistic near-term alternatives to conventional oil?

Fortunately, price and technology will allow for production of heavy
oil, tar sands and shale oil, whose combined global reserves far exceed those of conventional oil; coal liquefaction and gasification; improved gas-to-liquids technology; and alternatives to oil led initially by conventional and unconventional natural gas.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Study Compares Liquid Fuel Options

"Mitigating a long-term shortfall of world oil production" from World Oil Magazine. May 2005. Vol. 226 No. 5. By Robert L. Hiesch, Project leader, Roger Bezdek, and Robert Wendling.

A detailed study of what would likely be the result of an intensive implimentation of several different liquid fuel solutions at three different times: at world peak, 10 years before, or 20 years before. 15 years after the crash program begins, Heavy oil/oil sands are projected to give the largest result, followed by coal liquids.

These kinds of solutions could give us the time we need to develope options that are sustainable over an even longer period of tim, such as biomass and direct solar. From the article:
"The timing of a long-term or irreversible shortfall in supply is a
contentious subject that may be impossible to agree on, but the effects are not. Mitigating these effects is crucial to economic well-being. What they are, and how to manage the risks, should find widespread agreement.... This article highlights that the problem is one of adequate liquid fuel supply, not energy in general. Viable technologies to mitigate oil shortages are available for deployment. They include improved vehicle fuel efficiency, enhanced conventional oil recovery, and the production of substitute fuels. While research and development on other options could be important, their commercial
success is by no means assured, and none offer overnight solutions."