Biofuel?

Discussion in 'Alternative Energy' started by hillsidedigger, Sep 23, 2006.

  1. hillsidedigger

    hillsidedigger Well-Known Member

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    The first thread I've started at this site:

    I quickly searched here for a thread about biofuel, didn't find one.

    Thats OK, because beyond its current limited production, I think biofuel is a losing equation because good cropland is to important for other things.

    3 numbers:

    1 - Typical gross yield of biofuel from a good acre per year - about 1.5 barrels of oil equivalent with the net yield after accounting for the fuel needed to grow and process the biomass being about one barrel of biofuel per acre of good cropland per year.

    2 - Acres of good cropland in the United states - about 500,000,000.

    3 - US oil consumption per year - about 7 billion barrels.

    OK, if all the US cropland was used to grow biomass to convert to biofuel, less than 10% of the current US demand could be supplied.
     
  2. SolarGary

    SolarGary Well-Known Member

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    Hi,
    Mother Earth News has an interesting article this month on electric cars that also talks about biofuel cars.

    One point the author makes is that if the track to the sun to wheels efficiency of biofuel its very low -- about 0.07% (ie less than a tenth of a percent). This is mainly becuase the efficiency of plants in converting sun to carbohydrates is only about 1%. His put is that electric cars make more sense in this regard -- even with the low 15% efficiency of PV, the sun to wheel efficiency of an electric car charged with PV is about 5% -- much better than biofuels.

    Not sure how this holds up in the grand scheme of things, but it seemed interesting.

    Gary
     

  3. PyroDon

    PyroDon Well-Known Member

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    I would say it would depend a lot on the bio crop not to meantion the utiliztion of bio mass . consider oil producing crops once pressed for oil the mash can then be fermented to produce ethanol effectively double cropping .
    Your numbers have too many vaibles crop yeilds type of crop ammount of fuel produced , ammount of fuel consumed in production. Even human and animal waste can be converted to fuel .
    Though the real point is we need to reduce consumption
     
  4. hillsidedigger

    hillsidedigger Well-Known Member

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    The number of one barrel net gain in fuel per good acre per year is very optimistic under the best of conditions from what I've been able to research.
     
  5. PyroDon

    PyroDon Well-Known Member

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    Ok how many gallons of sunflower oil can be produce from an acre ??
    How many gallons of corn oil , canola, soybean ect . This only accounts for possible bio diesel production but the one barrel per acre sound very low .
    Maybe you should look into total vegitable oil production in the US currently. and keep in mind ethanol can increase that gross fuel production even grass clippings can product ethanol .
     
  6. hillsidedigger

    hillsidedigger Well-Known Member

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    One barrel is about 400 pounds of oil. Who gets much more than about 2,000 pounds of soybeans, corn or sunflower seeds per acre per year? And what percent of that produce is oil?

    Then, how much fuel, fertilizer, pesticides (all fuel based) to maximize the output of crops? When I get time, I have some links saved to answer some of these questions.

    Remember, the more biomass that is removed from the soil, the less it will produce next year. Overfertilization reaches a point of diminishing returns.
     
  7. PyroDon

    PyroDon Well-Known Member

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    the question is what is the ammount of veg oil produced currently to find the viablity you have to start with known numbers
    as for your statment of 2000 pounds being a high number sorry peanuts alone averaged 2463 in 1992 , cottonseed prduction was 941 million pounds
    this isnt counting sun flower soybean or other oil producing crops I think you need to do a bit more research before saying bio fuels cant supply the US .
     
  8. hillsidedigger

    hillsidedigger Well-Known Member

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    What? One year, 1992, peanuts were a little higher in per acre production? Is it every year? We are talking in round numbers, its not like 2500 pounds is much greater than 2000 pounds. One barrel, maybe a barrel and a quarter per acre, big deal, its sure not 10 barrels or the 20 barrels per acre it would need to be to make a real difference.
     
  9. PyroDon

    PyroDon Well-Known Member

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    the number of gallons or pounds of oil currently produced are there all you have to do is look at them we exported 1.8million pounds of peanut oil that year that doesnt include what we used domesticly or include various other oils produced. there are many natural oils produced in the US that can be used for bio fuel that can not be used as food production. There are some crops that yeild 30 % of their weight in oil and even a very few that yield nearly 50% .
     
  10. hillsidedigger

    hillsidedigger Well-Known Member

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    1.8 million gallons (about 14 million pounds) of exported peanut oil, huh.

    Consider the current US consumption of oil is approximately 3 trillion pounds per year (thats about 9,000 pounds per person per year, which means each American would require about 22.5 acres of good cropland to grow the crops for enough biofuel just for them and there's only about 1.5 acres of cropland in the country for each American)..

    I challenge anyone to calculate where biofuel from US crops can possibly provide more than 7% of that total (and thats with all 500 million acres of US cropland devoted to that task).

    Thats a staggering amount of fuel" And of course I'm dividing the total consumed in the country by the number of people in this country which does not mean that most individuals even start to directly use that amount. much of the oil that is used is burned in attempts to find, harvest, refine and transport oil, so no gain. The military uses alot also.
     
  11. ET1 SS

    ET1 SS zone 5 - riverfrontage Supporter

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    This has already been debated endlessly.

    American universitys has spent millions on studies to say that using American methods of commercial farming and production, it does take up more petroleum-oil then it does to produce oil substitutes.

    However this flys in the face of the fact, that other folks have been producing both oils and alcohol fuels without any petroleum-oil used.

    So who is right?

    Those who insist that it can not be done, may continue to insist such, and they can be very happy in their insistance.

    And those who are doing it anyway, may continue doing it, and they can be very happy doing it.

    And in this manner, both groups can be happy.

    We are getting a 100% alcohol vehicle next summer, once congress allows them to be imported. They have been commercially manufactured for over 10 years.
     
  12. rambler

    rambler Well-Known Member Supporter

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    As mentioned, some talk about it, some do.

    Here in the midwest we get 675 gal (5400lbs) of ethanol per acre of land - more than you required in fact. In addition, one gets 3100-3400 lbs of mash, or high-protien cattle feed. In addition, some CO. As well as several tons of eith organic matter or corn stover for cattle. We get over 12,000lbs of corn per acre.

    This is refined fuel of course, you are trying to compare to crude oil - which loses a lot as it is refined. So your billions of lbs of crude gets reduced some too. You are not comparing apples to apples.

    For soybeans, we get a bit over a ton of beans per acre, of which 30% is oil, the rest is very high protien hog & chicken feed. As anyone knows, oil seed crops such as beans, sunflour, peanuts are legumes, which fix their own nitrogen, as well as add some to the soil for next year's crops. They don't use much added fertilizer, only a little p & k.

    There are some real advances in digesting plant fibers into ethanol, which is low yeild per lb, but there are so very many lbs of cornstalk, wood waste, rice straw, and large stemmed grassed grown on marginal land available. None of us truely know where this will lead to, but it is pretty exciting.

    Methane digesting & other conversions of manure into fuel is also progressing very well. This should add a few % of 'free' fuel per acre of production.

    Reasonable folk seem to think we can get 20% or more of our liquid fuel needs from bio-fuels. Far more than your 7%.

    I don't believe biofuels are going to be -the- only answer to our fuel needs.

    But if we can supply 20 - 25%, that's one big step forward.

    You can stick with your numbers & say what can't be done. That's fine.

    Brazil is basically already proving you wrong, going ahead & doing.

    Some folks fear the 'big' companies taking over all of this. I'm sure that is possible. Here in Minnesota, farmer-owned coops are producing the end product. There are over 25 ethanol plants, with several more under way. And two bean crushing plants, with more planned. These are funded & owned by groups of farmers pooling their money & crops to make a go of things.

    The rendering plant (dead animals) even has gotten into producing biodiesel fuel by cooking out the stuff they get in.

    Windmills are on Buffalo Ridge in MN by the thousands, and a plant is openning up in a small town near the Ridge to produce windmill blades - obviously more are going in.

    Power plants have done studies on producing alfalfa, baling it, stripping the leaves off for animal feed, burning the stems for power production. On paper it seemed to work, tho no one is currently going ahead with the idea.

    Minnesota requires 10% ethanol for several decades in it's gasoline. We have required 2% biodiesel for a bit over a year now. Those mandates are going up to 20% and 5% over the next decade.

    I think my state will be in pretty good shape as the future unfolds. we will have options, and will have tried something, and find out what works.

    Those of you who say nothing can be done, and not worth trying - those are the people that I think will be in trouble.

    --->Paul
     
  13. travlnusa

    travlnusa Well-Known Member

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    I see grain ethanol as a stepping stone to other sources. Grass based fuels will be a large gain, as you are looking at more than one crop per year. Nor do I see any source replaceing oil by 100%.

    However, lets assume we reduce oil inports by X%, it is a move in the right direction in my opinion.
     
  14. hillsidedigger

    hillsidedigger Well-Known Member

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    Rambler, please further explain the 675 gallon per acre statement.

    typical corn yield even with high fertilization = 140 bushels per acre

    typical corn oil yield is 5% of bulk

    or about 50 gallons per acre, what am I missing?

    But of course, the 50 gallons could be converted to biodiesel but ethanol is alcohol from the starchy component of plants, hmmmm, more searching.

    Coal liquefication is a good shortterm replacement for imported oil.
     
  15. Ross

    Ross Moderator Staff Member Supporter

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    I agree with Rambler, certainly his crop yeild numbers are realistic. We'd get more like 9000 lbs of corn per acre but our season likley has less heat units. The one advantage of very big cropping operations is they do put crops into the ground very cheaply. i was talking to a fellow both selling and using GPS tacking guidance and lightbars hooked to harvestors and fertilizer spreaders through field mapping and if even half the savings he quoted are true the cost of production is falling dramatically. If the cost to return numbers are usign old production cost figures they're outdated before publishing. Personally I think we'll see a blended approach for a while and then solar and hydrogen will likely take the lead, with real cuts in consumption along the way. But that's just my take on it.
     
  16. DaleK

    DaleK Well-Known Member

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    What's more, current corn, soy and wheat prices are telling us there AREN'T more important things to be doing with the land than trying to boost biofuel uses. They certainly don't seem to want grains and oilseeds for CURRENT uses.
     
  17. rambler

    rambler Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Corn yields in southern MN have averaged 200 - 235 bu an acre the past 3 years. (I'm a little below average.)

    Ethanol is made from fermenting the starch/ sugar from the corn. You really don't have a clue if you are looking at the oil content! You may want to start over on your bio-fuel research. Current ethanol plant technology gives 2.95-3.05 gallons per bu of corn.

    Ethanol is a gasoline replacement, made from sugar or starchy plant parts.

    Biodiesel is a diesel fuel replacement, made from crop oils.

    You need more research. :)

    Here in southern MN both corn & soybeans grow real well. One provides a gasoline replacement, the other provides a diesel/ heating fuel replacement.

    Very different fuels tho.

    --->Paul
     
  18. hillsidedigger

    hillsidedigger Well-Known Member

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    Ok, granted, up to maybe 10 barrels or a little more of biofuel per acre per year might be possible within intensive effort (and thats gross yield, net yield is the big question)

    but:

    http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/energyresources/message/94702

    "Biofuels could end up damaging the natural world rather than saving it
    from global warming, argues Jeff McNeely in the Green Room. Better
    policies, better science and genetic modification, he says, can all
    contribute to a greener biofuels revolution.

    With soaring oil prices, and debates raging on how to reduce carbon
    emissions to slow climate change, many are looking to biofuels as a
    renewable and clean source of energy.

    The European Union recently has issued a directive calling for
    biofuels to meet 5.75% of transportation fuel needs by 2010. Germany
    and France have announced they intend to meet the target well before
    the deadline; California intends going still further..."
     
  19. YoungOne

    YoungOne Well-Known Member

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    Just to cause some mischieve (sp).....

    How much oil is in a whale :p
    Just kidding, interesting argument but I don't think any "fuel" will prevent the destruction of earth until we (as a WHOLE society) determine and learn to use less energy (its amazing how much power gets wasted in America). Here in the arid SW :p water can be several hundred to over a thousand feet deep. In most of AZ farming comunities water is removed with giant 600-1000hp turbine motors that can cost a farmer 30K a month in power, this is while there is surface water within a few miles. Regulatory agencies that want to protect the environment would rather the farmers run wells 24/7 through the summer consuming untold KW's and causing 80+ feet of subsidence (that is not a made up number - Google (subsidence "Harquahala valley")).
     
  20. ET1 SS

    ET1 SS zone 5 - riverfrontage Supporter

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    I attended a few wonderful workshops this past weekend.

    A couple of them were done by this really good biologist/farm advisor. He said that generally about 7% of the energy from the sun can be used by a plant. and maybe a tenth of that can be converted to calories, in bio-mass. We have been using the stored energy from past centuries, when we burn coal or oil or LPG. It was solar energy long ago, and it was stored-up for a long time. He made the point that there is no way for ANY usage of plant derived fuels to compare to petroleum fuels.

    There is just not enough calories from the sun being converted into fuel inside any plant, enough to cover our usage.