Sunday, July 31, 2005

what does $500/barrel oil-price world look like?

look past the obvious. alternative E surely would become relatively cheaper and become widely adopted. nuclear will likely be the next dominant source of E.

buy few people realize how prevalent oil has become as an input into many modern goods besides energy. for instance, oil is a raw material for plastic. if oil is $500/barrel, plastic prices could skyrocket and could become uneconomical to manufacture. yet we have become so dependent on plastic, almost as much as E itself, that rising oil prices could dramatically reshape the world based on the extinction of plastic alone.

what else would change with$500 oil?


Blogger JY said...

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Grad Student Believes Wood May Replace Oil Wed Aug 3,11:08 PM ET

A University of Idaho graduate student believes the answer to the world's crude oil crisis grows on trees. Juan Andres Soria says he has developed a process that turns wood into bio-oil, a substance similar to crude oil.

The process — in which sawdust and methanol are heated to 900 degrees Fahrenheit to create the bio-oil — is already drawing some interest from energy and wood product companies, Soria said.

"But because it's quite novel, there's a bit of reserve," he said.

Soria is testing his theory with the help of Armando McDonald, associate professor of wood chemistry and composites in the University of Idaho's College of Natural Resources.

Though the idea may sound far-fetched, Soria and McDonald say the theory has precedent in nature — coal is the result of trees being subjected to high amounts of heat and pressure.

"We're trying to speed up the process," McDonald said. "Rather than doing it in millions of years, can we do it in minutes?"

So far, Soria's research has focused on sawdust from Ponderosa pine trees, although he said any variety of tree could be used, including fast-growing varieties like those being cultivated for wood pulp. Only about 2 percent of the mass is lost in the heating process, he said. After the bio-oil is produced, he separates it by boiling points, or grades. So far, he said, he's identified oil grades that could someday replace gasoline, tar, glues and resins that make things like lawn furniture.

Ponderosa pine sawdust is only the beginning, Soria and McDonald claim. Next, they will begin testing to see if they can get bio-oil from pine needles and bark.

Soria plans to use the research in his dissertation for his doctorate. If the private sector likes the idea enough to back it financially, Soria said he could put together an industrial-size bio refinery in five years.

Still, he said, the bio-oil isn't likely to be an immediate competitor to crude oil. Crude oil currently costs about $60 a barrel, and bio-oil will only be competitive when the cost of crude oil reaches $80 a barrel, Soria said.

6:21 AM  

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