Barky Bio-Fuel

Making a variety of Bio-Fuels from waste forest products.  The kicker?

The Professor also points out this process of using woody-bio mass is a high-level conservation process. “The beauty of this is, the woody bio-mass that we are talking about, the bark portion of the wood itself, can be used to supply the energy required for the process, the steam and electric power. It becomes kind of self-sufficient and reduces our demand for fossil fuel. We are very excited and very optimistic”, he said.

Down side (assuming this is legit in process and net energy)?  Do we have enough forest product/ag waste to offset oil use?
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8 Responses to Barky Bio-Fuel

  1. emdfl says:

    I’m guessing the answer to your question would be not just a “no”, but a not a chance forever.

  2. Mollbot says:

    so are they going to burn wood to process wood into biofuel?

    I can’t imagine the efficiency of that process would be very high.

  3. Wildman7316 says:

    Two things to think about:

    1. If they are not being allowed to cut trees for lumber or paper, what makes you think they are going to be allowed to cut trees for fuel?

    2. The fuel will either be ethanol, methanol (most likely) or butanol. All of these have less energy than gasoline or jet-a so you are going to lose range and/or load. If your range is tankage (volume) constrained, then say on regular fuel you had a range of 1000 miles, with butanol you would get 900 miles, with ethanol you would get 700 and with ethanol you would get 570. (did you ever wonder why the mileage one the Indy Cars was so bad? Now you know.) If you are weight constrained instead, they you are going to lose payload instead.

    As an aside, these alcohol fuels burn less cleanly than the petroleum based fuels some people want to replace.

  4. MadRocketScientist says:

    Again, assuming this is not another “pie-in-the-sky” bio-fuel scheme, they are claiming that the process uses less energy than it produces from the wood slurry (which is not entirely off the wall if they are using enzyme digesters or catalyst driven processes more than they are using heat).

    Also, they are claiming to produce ethanols and oil/diesel products (jet fuel being kerosene). While the ethanols aren’t as energy dense and kerosene or bio-diesel, if they can be produced at a significant net energy gain, then they are still useful in other areas.

    The trick with any such bio-fuel scheme is the same. It isn’t about the energy of the end product, it’s about making sure that the process, from the moment the first seed is planted, until fuel is ready to ship, requires less energy than it produces. This is the reason that using food crops for such is a waste. The energy budget is wrong because we spend so much energy planting and caring for the crop (fertilizers, pesticides included), then harvesting, transportation, and refinement all require energy.

    Using Ag waste is better, because you can ignore everything before the collection and transportation of the waste (although you do have to account for what the waste would have been used for normally).

    This is the reason I like Algae bio-fuels best, once the initial infrastructure is setup, your net energy gain is very large. The trick there is making enough to feed our needs.

  5. MadRocketScientist says:

    I should also add, that if there was ever a solid use for genetically modified crops, bio-fuel would be it. No one will be eating the crop, so those anti-GMO folks can go whine about something else. If the crop is pest & disease resistant, you need less pesticides to keep it healthy. They have GMO variants that are able to grow on land, and under conditions, that regular crops can not (reducing the need to grow on arable land). And if it is a high-yield variant, you’ll get a lot out of the available acreage.

    But I still think Algae is best.

  6. Kyle says:

    This isn’t much of an extrapolation from what is currently done in every automated sawmill. My father in law works for Weyerhaeuser and their mill has generated its own steam and electrical power using bark and other waste for a long, long time.

    However – this is one mill that provides its own material for this use. This is not scalable unless we are talking about full-on conversion to seriously efficient, dense, fast-growing trees, and as WA residents you all probably know what I’m talking about here – look at all the ag school experiments where flat farmland is being used to grow birch and other smallish trees for various testing.

    There is not enough timber being logged in the US at current for this model to be anything other than a blip, however. You’d have to totally convert to another model entirely. I think that by legalizing industrial grade hemp and switching to this ag model using hemp you would be talking.

  7. Jim says:

    This is just a variation of thermal depolymerization that has been around for years. The problem is that you take in a very LARGE amount of feedstock, and put out a relatively small amount of fuel.

    Around one to two tons of feedstock per barrel of fuel produced, at least as far as the petro equivalents go. The alcohols do help increase the yield.

    Algae is the only real way to go because you can produce your feedstock on sight and transport it in pipes via electric pumps or gravity. Every other feedstock has a higher energy requirement because it has to be transported to the processing sight.

  8. legalizing industrial grade hemp

    Not sure if anyone has done a study about how efficient it is to turn hemp into fuel. Good idea though, and might help overturn that idiotic ban.

    Algae is the only real way to go because you can produce your feedstock on sight and transport it in pipes via electric pumps or gravity.

    Agreed!

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