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Teeny Reactor Pumps Out Biodiesel

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11. Posted by Brendan (Respected Member 1824 posts) 10y

Ah, some good points Peter there are certainly some great benefits. Likewise some problems.

Quoting Wikipedia

The estimated transportation fuel and home heating oil use in the United States is about 230,000 million US gallons (0.87 km³) (Briggs, 2004). Waste vegetable oil and animal fats would not be enough to meet this demand. In the United States, estimated production of vegetable oil for all uses is about 23,600 million pounds (10,700,000 t) or 3,000 million US gallons (11,000,000 m³)), and estimated production of animal fat is 11,638 million pounds (5,279,000 t). (Van Gerpen, 2004)

For a truly renewable source of oil, crops or other similar cultivatable sources would have to be considered. Plants utilize photosynthesis to convert solar energy into chemical energy. It is this chemical energy that biodiesel stores and is released when it is burned. Therefore plants can offer a sustainable oil source for biodiesel production. Different plants produce usable oil at different rates. Some studies have shown the following annual production:

Soybean: 40 to 50 US gal/acre (35 to 45,000 L/km²)
Rapeseed: 110 to 145 US gal/acre (100 to 130,000 L/km²)
Mustard: 140 US gal/acre (130,000 L/km²)
Jatropha: 175 US gal/acre (160,000 L/km²)
Palm oil: 650 US gal/acre (580,000 L/km²) [6]
Algae: 10,000 to 20,000 US gal/acre (9,000,000 to 18,000,000 L/km²)

There is ongoing research into finding more suitable crops and improving oil yield. Using the current yields, vast amounts of land and fresh water would be needed to produce enough oil to completely replace fossil fuel usage. It would require twice the land area of the US to be devoted to soybean production, or two-thirds to be devoted to rapeseed production, to meet current US heating and transportation needs.

Soybeans are not a very efficient crop solely for the production of biodiesel, but their common use in the United States for food products has led to soybean biodiesel becoming the primary source for biodiesel in that country. Soybean producers have lobbied to increase awareness of soybean biodiesel, expanding the market for their product.

Quoting wikipedia

Some nations and regions that have pondered transitioning fully to biofuels have found that doing so would require immense tracts of land if traditional crops are used. Considering only traditional plants and analyzing the amount of biodiesel that can be produced per unit area of cultivated land, some have concluded that it is likely that the United States, with one of the highest per capita energy demands of any country, does not have enough arable land to fuel all of the nation's vehicles. Other developed and developing nations may be in better situations, although many regions cannot afford to divert land away from food production. For third world countries, biodiesel sources that use marginal land could make more sense, e.g. honge nuts [11] grown along roads.

Some research is going into the use of algae wich could be promising.

More recent studies using a species of algae that has oil contents of as high as 50% have concluded that as little as 28,000 km² or 0.3 % of the land area of the US could be utilized to produce enough biodiesel to replace all transportation fuel the country currently utilizes. Further encouragement comes from the fact that the land that could be most effective in growing the algae is desert land with high solar irradiation, but lower economic value for other uses and that the algae could utilize farm waste and excess CO2 from factories to help speed the growth of the algae. [12]

So like you say, it seems if we can come to some kind of balance, make a system of solar, biofuel, wind. It could look really good down the road. But, being that I am the constant nay-sayer, it will take not only 'new' types of energy exploitation, but also the populations realising that unlimited growth is not possible. I'm not sure how economists can function when they always push for "growth, growth, and more groth" every year.

12. Posted by Peter (Admin 5789 posts) 10y

Quoting Brendan

But, being that I am the constant nay-sayer, it will take not only 'new' types of energy exploitation, but also the populations realising that unlimited growth is not possible.

Hmm, I don't think I would consider you a constant nay-sayer. Usually, our roles are kind of reversed in discussions like this :)

But yes, fair points you have there (I hadn't actually looked into how much crops one might need). Certainly a combination effort between solar, wind and biodiesel would seem a good way forward. Wind is currently the most cost-effective of these options, but has the unfortunate disadvantage of leaving a considerable visual impact on its environment and the old killing-of-birds issue (a wind farm was blocked here recently by our Federal 'Government' with the extremely lame excuse that it would kill up to 1 orange-bellied parrot per year - see article).

But you're quite right that there also needs to be a push to reduce energy consumption. More energy-efficient cars need to form a big part of the future. Personally, I believe there should be government restrictions placed on the mpg a personal car is allowed to have.

13. Posted by Jase007 (Travel Guru 8870 posts) 10y

just ike to point out that i wouldn't trust wikipedia 100%, it's a bit too open to abuse. try encilapedia britanica (bad spalling i know but you get the point).

14. Posted by Peter (Admin 5789 posts) 10y

Quoting jase007

just ike to point out that i wouldn't trust wikipedia 100%, it's a bit too open to abuse. try encilapedia britanica (bad spalling i know but you get the point).

The difference has actually been found to be quite minimal. Wikipedia vs Encyclopedia Brittanica.

The obvious disadvantage the traditional encyclopedia has is the time it takes to make changes.

15. Posted by Jase007 (Travel Guru 8870 posts) 10y

Quoting Peter

Quoting jase007

just ike to point out that i wouldn't trust wikipedia 100%, it's a bit too open to abuse. try encilapedia britanica (bad spalling i know but you get the point).

The difference has actually been found to be quite minimal. Wikipedia vs Encyclopedia Brittanica.

The obvious disadvantage the traditional encyclopedia has is the time it takes to make changes.

I agree that the "old school" is slow to amend, but i'd still reccommend that anything that is of importance be verified by another method. Remember ANYONE can edit a page in wiki. It has been abused before, thats all i'm stating.

16. Posted by Peter (Admin 5789 posts) 10y

Fair enough. Though the same would then have be said of old-school encyclopedias. Certainly, if you need to get the facts absolutely straight, it's worth double checking your sources.

In this case, all Brendan was doing was giving some context to the discussion - and in that sense, the information on wikipedia can be assumed to be correct enough. Or is there a piece of that information that you find questionable?

17. Posted by Jase007 (Travel Guru 8870 posts) 10y

No, i'm not disputing the material as i don't know enough about agriculture (oil industry, yes).
It's just that i have a very cautious approach to printed figures when it comes to this type of thing as i know most industries publish what they want to be published.
It would be great if this type of technology went into production and could do what it says on the package, but remember the water driven car ot the hybrid water/petrol from aus?

Still dosn't stop CO2 ommissions though, but i can't se anything ever doing thaat in our life time

18. Posted by Q' (Travel Guru 1987 posts) 10y

From what little I know of biodiesel, the idea is that if you summed up all the energy it takes to produce, ship, distribute, refine, etc. etc. etc., it's less than the energy to do the same thing for the same amount of fossile fuel on a per unit of energy basis. So even if you get the same milage and produce the same number of pollutants from burning the same amount of fuel in your car, it's still cleaner from a life cycle point of view because you would've needed less energy (read less pollutants) than fossile fuels.

There's a number of things that have to happen before this concept becomes reality though. The guy in the article used catalyts to "refine" his fuel. I don't know his process in detail, but catalysts often require little or no energy input and is fully reusable. So it's theoretically a heck of a lot cleaner than those big oil refineries. But for instance, you might grow the fuel at the point of use and save the cost of shipping, but you have to spend energy harvesting it. So now you have to figure out a better way to harvest. And so on....

Hope that helps.

19. Posted by Brendan (Respected Member 1824 posts) 10y

Fair points about wikipedia, but like Peter says, it's a good enough source for a couple of the points I was making. True that it has been abused, but it is watched.

And likewise, the writers of any encyclopedia are going to biased on issues. I agree though, one should certainly cross-refernce.

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