keskiviikko 15. syyskuuta 2010

Energy – a major global challenge of our time

Energy – a major global challenge of our time

International trade in goods and services was as a whole $10.159 billion[1] in 2005. It is 10-times more than in the 1960s. Germany maintains the top of the list with $971 billion. The US is second with $904 billion. China’s export earning is $762 billion with 28 % growth, surpassing Japan’s export of $596 billion. India earned $90 billion with 19 % growth. The top list dominates shares in world trade of commercial services which $2,415 billion in 2005, and 11 % as the annual growth. The dominant player of world trade is Europe that represents 43 % of both imports and exports. The second one is Asia with 25 % of imports and 27 % of exports. The third is North America with 22 % of imports and 14 % of exports. Africa is lagging behind with 3 % imports and exports. Due to economic and social reforms, China and India are sustaining annual GDP growth rates exceeding 10% and 8%, respectively. Robust GDP growth is creating seemingly insatiable energy demand in both of these countries. Most of global citizens become aware of the threatening situation when the former U.S. Vice President Al Gore calls for the U.S. to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. The big competitive edges are related to the sustainable development. An example is German where renewable energies have achieved a share of 14.2% of the country's gross electricity consumption in 2007[2]. The Revision of the Renewable Energy Sources Act fasters the progress in the near future.[3]

The World Energy Outlook report 2007 by the International Energy Agency (the IEA) projects that India’s and China’s growth of energy demand until 2030 will be 45% of total growth. If China’s and India’s per capita oil use will reach the same level as the U.S., this would fully deplete the world's remaining proven oil reserves in just 15 years. This is the main reason why the IEA warns that the price of a barrel of oil could rise to $159 by 2030 due to high growth in demand. Long term crude oil price increases reflect a long term supply/demand imbalance. According to a US Department of Energy (the DOE) report, overall worldwide demand for electricity is expected to expand 2-3% annually and reach 26.0 billion MWh by 2025. The rapid depletion of conventional energy sources such as crude oil, natural gas and coal will result in a shortage of these fuels for electricity generation. The International Energy Agency (IEA) warns that rising global demand could create a supply crunch as early as 2015. According to the IEA, current global oil production is 85 million barrels a day.

The IEA predicts output will grow to 118 million barrels by 2030, but this level of production is not enough to meet rising demand.

Gasoline is a complex mixture of over 500 hydrocarbons of which many are carcinogenic. Two ingredients of gasoline (benzene and butadiene) are topped list of the most dangerous airborne carcinogens[4]. Petrochemicals produced from oil are also used to make computers, air conditioners, home cleaning products, and clothes. This is 5% of the oil use. The vast majority of oil is used as gasoline. Today, crude oil use in traffic has reached a point of diminishing returns. Crude oil dominates fueling the transportation, although the US has 2% of crude oil reserves. 83% of the world’s proven oil reserves are in the Middle East. Proven oil reserves are shrinking. There have been no new major oil discoveries to replace the Middle East oil. In four decades, the U.S. crude oil imports from domestic use have risen from 0% to 60%. The top five net oil exporting countries (Saudi Arabia, Russia, Norway, Iran and United Arab Emirates), collectively accounting for about half of current world net oil exports, in aggregate are going to decline in net oil exports[5]. Small oil exporters like Angola can increase their net exports, but tend to have sharper production peaks and more rapid net export declines than do the larger net exporters.

The net oil export capacity that is the very lifeblood of the world industrial economy is draining away.

According to global temperature figures for 2007, the top 11 warmest years all occurred in the last 13 years[6]. The global climate change can be more serious as expected. Christopher Field, the leading member of the Nobel Prize-winning Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change, estimated that the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have increased by 3.5% in the 2000s instead increasing by 1% in the 1990s[7]. Given the greater than 80% reductions in greenhouse emissions we need to achieve in the coming few decades, the situation is confusing, since as a part of the global energy mix, coal is predicted to play a big role until 2030. The IEA forecasts coal to rocket in demand by 73% until 2030. Coal is the most carbon intensive way of generating electricity. The global warming is out of control. There is a risk of huge methane emissions from the subarctic tundra. This is a consequence of high methane production rates even at low temperatures[8]. Russia is holding 50% of the northern hemisphere’s terrestrial carbon. The massive forest fires in Siberia in 2003 are said to have released as much greenhouse gas into the atmosphere as the total EU reduction commitment under the Kyoto protocol. Although human populations are scarce, the city of Norilsk is the biggest single source of sulfur emissions in the world[9]. If all the methane currently stored in the permafrost of the western Siberian peat bog were released, its warming effect would equal to 73 years of current man-made CO2 emissions.[10]

The risk is that 1.000 billion tons of greenhouse gases will be released from the arctic, subarctic regions, boreal/ semi-tundra larch forests, etc. mainly from Siberia[11].

In the global economy, the leading industrial and industrializing countries are obliged to decrease per capita oil use. The only real options are natural gas and biofuels. Consumption of natural gas worldwide will increase 63% until 2030. Natural gas is the key fuel in the electric power and industrial sectors. Natural gas burns more cleanly than coal or petroleum products[12]. The national plans to reduce carbon dioxide emissions encourage the use of natural gas. Almost 3/4 of the world’s natural gas reserves are located in the Middle East and Eurasia. Russia owns 27.2% of the total, 1,680 trillion cubic feet of the world total 6,183[13] [14]. Russia’s extensive pipeline network reaches into Europe and in the near future China and South Korea. In addition, Russia is beginning to enter LNG markets[15]. It has traded pipeline gas for Atlantic LNG cargos, has plans to develop LNG export facilities to serve the Atlantic market, and soon will start exporting LNG from its Pacific coast. In 2005, 15 percent of the LNG exports from the region went to North America and Europe and 85% to Asia. Despite the increase in natural gas consumption, regional reserves-to-production ratios are substantial. Worldwide, the reserves-to-production ratio is estimated at 65 years. [16] The leading regions in the ratio are: Middle East 100 years, Africa 88 years, Russia 80 years, and Central and South America 52 years.

Biofuels are an important commodity globally. The EU’s Intelligent Energy Europe program set out an ambitious growth of biofuels[17] until 2020. The EU has established a bioethanol blend mandate for its member states of 5.75% by 2010, and 10% of all vehicle fuels by 2020. Brazil, the world’s biggest exporter of ethanol, requires up to a 25% blend of ethanol with all gasoline sold. The U.S. Energy Bill provides $170 billion in technology, infrastructure, and biofuel refineries[18]. The alcohol constitutes about 10% of the volume of the biodiesel. Among the most land-efficient and energy-efficient methods of producing alcohol is from hydrolysis and fermentation of plant cellulose. At heart, biofuels are a form of solar energy, as plants use photosynthesis to convert solar energy into chemical energy stored in the form of oils, carbohydrates, proteins, etc. The yields of oil from algae are higher than those for traditional oilseeds, and algae can grow in places away from the farmlands and forests, thus minimizing the damages caused to the food chain.[19]

A photosynthetically efficient plant is algae. Algae can be grown next to power-plant where they digest the pollutants.

Hydrogen as a fuel has received widespread attention in the media. There are problems with using hydrogen as a fuel. The obvious is that hydrogen gas is explosive with low energy density. Hydrogen's volumetric energy density is 7% of that of biodiesel. There are two main options for producing hydrogen, generating it from water, and extracting it from other fuels. Currently, most hydrogen used industrially is extracted from natural gas. The option of producing it from biomass is not realistic. Biomass can be converted to liquid fuels more efficiently, yielding a fuel with far higher energy density, and that can work in existing vehicles. Using innovative technologies developed by the Kurchatov Institute[20], the associated gas can reformed into hydrogen, which could be delivered via natural gas pipelines to the EU hydrogen markets[21]. For hydrogen vehicles, manufacturers have production stage vehicles ready. The problem is to scale hydrogen fuel production and distribution systems[22]. The hydrogen needs to be compressed to high pressures for storage in fuel tanks. While a hydrogen vehicle uses electricity to electrolyze water to get hydrogen for fuel, an electric vehicle uses electricity to charge batteries. Battery charging systems are 90% efficient, compared to the 70% efficiency for electrolysis. It is far more efficient to have electric cars rather than hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. The real revolution is perhaps coming in the near future when sustainable car technologies[23] penetrate global car markets[24][25]

Russia’s big natural gas, oil and coal resources provide a basement for hydrogen production. Billions of cubic meters of associated gas of oil and gas production are flared off every year.

The pattern of market revolution will be the same in rails and ships. The US has launched the Electrification of Transportation program including electric light rail/ streetcar and combined with a wind power program[26]. The synergy between rail transit and dense, urban cities is clear in the Russian heartland[27]. During the past half-century, aerospace and automotive companies have pursued ambitious R&D-programs globally; the energy efficiency of engines and transmissions were improved. Improvements in engines, materials, and aircraft designs have yielded big increases in the efficiency of air transport. Passenger rail locomotives have changed little. How efficient passenger trains could be if they were constructed with up-to-date engineering, and were coordinated with upgrading the national electrical grid? Investing in rail technologies rather than airplanes or automobiles is likely to produce the biggest efficiency gains overall. Aircraft have already approached their theoretical efficiency limits. Similar logic applies to automobile R&D generally, although electric cars and battery technologies might prove to be excellent. Given the nature of "fixed costs", it is much cheaper to install a particular technological improvement in a single unit (locomotive that moves 250 people) than to install that improvement in many units.[28]

Investments in rail-based transportation could yield substantial environmental and social benefits in the U.S., Russia, and China.

The so-called Cleantech is seen to be a next engine for economic growth. Global clean-energy markets are expected to grow to $226.5 billion by 2016, according to Clean Edge[29]. The global biofuels market will grow from $20.5 in 2006 to $80 billion. Solar photovoltaics (modules, system components, and installations) will grow from $15.6 billion to $69.3 billion; wind power installations will expand from $17.9 billion to $60.8 billion; and the markets for fuel cells and distributed hydrogen will grow from $1.4 billion to $15.6 billion by 2016. With an annual growth rate of 30%, the global clean-energy markets will quadruple within until 2016. Several investment funds are being established, and energy companies, including small and medium size firms, associations and even private persons are becoming more interested in green energy technologies and production[30]. Finland is preparing for cleantech that uses limited or zero non-renewable resources and creates less waste than conventional technologies. There are signs that commercializing of clean technologies is moving into mainstream business.

Russia has huge deposits of natural gas, 27.2% of the total. Russia is holding 50% of the northern hemisphere’s terrestrial carbon. The rail infrastructure is in the key position in Russia to minimize greenhouse emissions. Russia is the strategic partner for the EU in clean-energy markets. The development a proper rail-based strategy is the essential element of the new strategic partnership treaty.

[2]Taken altogether, renewable energies supplied 222 terawatt hours (TWh) of energy in the electricity, heating and fuel sectors. Their share of Germany’s total energy consumption rose to 8.5%. Turnover from the installation and operation of plants in Germany rose by 10% to EUR 24.6 billion. This was associated with further growth in the number of jobs in the sector, which employs about 249,000 people.
[4]Hall, J. V., V. Brajer, et al (2004) Risk of esophageal, ovarian, testicular, kidney and bladder. cancers and leukemia among Finnish workers exposed to diesel or gasoline engine, International Journal Cancer, 111 (2):
[5] The Export Land Model developed by Jeffrey Brown predicts that the rate at which exports decline accelerates over time and only a small percentage of a producing country's production is exported following peak production.
[6]The provisional global figure is dating back to 1850. The World Meteorological Organization (WMO), Michel Jarraud, at the Conference of the Parties (COP) in Bali. Eurekalert - December 13, 2007.
[8]Heyer, Jürgen, Berger, Ursula, Leontevich Kuzin, Ivan, Nikolaevich Yakovlev, Oleg (2002) Methane emissions from different ecosystem structures of the subarctic tundra in Western Siberia during midsummer and during the thawing period, Publication: Tellus B, Vol. 54, issue 3, p.231.
[9]These nickel smelters produce up to half of the world’s platinum. Sulfur dioxide emissions here have already destroyed an enormous amount of the forest in the region, and a reported one million hectares of forest are polluted.
[11]The emissions during the industrial time are only 650 billion tons as a whole. Tiede, 3/2009, 7.
[12] Natural-gas-fired generation is less carbon-intensive than oil- or coal-fired generation and is expected to remain more cost-competitive than renewable energy, making natural gas the fuel of choice for new generating capacity in OECD Europe. Led by demand in China and India, natural gas consumption in Asia is projected to expand rapidly. However, in both China and India, natural gas currently is a minor fuel in the overall energy mix International Energy Outlook 2007. Chapter 4: Natural Gas
[13] Source of gas deposits: “Worldwide Look at Reserves and Production,” Oil & Gas Journal, Vol. 104, No. 47 (December 18, 2006), pp. 22-23.
[14] The major part of gas reserves is located in the Middle East (Iran 15.8%, Qatar 14.7%, Saudi Arabia 3.9%, United Arab Emirates 3.5%, Iraq 1.8%, and Kuwait 0.9%) contributing about 40% of the total. The Middle East already exports significant quantities of LNG to customers in the Atlantic and Pacific basins. Other resource-rich countries are: the US 3.3%, Nigeria 2.9%, Algeria 2.6%, Venezuela 2.5%, Turkmenistan 1.6%, Kazakhstan 1.6%, Indonesia 1.6%, Norway 1.3%, China 1.3%, Malaysia 1.2%, Uzbekistan 1.1%, Egypt 0.9% and Canada 0.9%. International Energy Outlook 2007. Chapter 4: Natural Gas
[15]Liquefied natural gas or LNG is natural gas (predominantly methane, CH4).
[16] BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2006 (London, UK, June 2006), p. 22.
[17] Much of the world uses a system known as the B-factor to state the amount of biodiesel in any fuel mix, fuel containing 20% biodiesel is labeled B20, and pure biodiesel as B100.
[18]The BIO's (Biotechnology Industry Organization) vice president Brent Erickson says that "Such a new energy infrastructure has not occurred in more than 100 years. We are at the point where we were in the 1850s when kerosene was first distilled and began to replace whale oil. This technology will be coming so fast that what we say today won't be true in two years." Chemical & Engineering News - January 07, 2007.
[19]PetroSun, Inc. constructs and operates a biodiesel refinery near Coolidge, Arizona. The feedstock for the refinery will be algal oil produced by PetroSun BioFuels at algae farms to be located in Arizona. The refinery will have a capacity of thirty million gallons and will produce 100% renewable biodiesel. PetroSun BioFuels will process the residual algae biomass into ethanol. MarketWire - January 10, 2007.
[20]The Kurchatov Institute is Russia's leading research and development institution in the field of nuclear energy, founded in 1943 to develop nuclear weapons. Until 1991, the Ministry of Atomic Energy oversaw the Kurchatov Institute's administration. The Institute provides reports to Minatom, GAN (Gosatomnadzor), the Ministry of Industry, Science and Technology, and the National Academy of Sciences on specific research questions. The Kurchatov Institute is funded through the Ministry of Industry, Science and Technology, but federal budget resources represent only about 15% of its total financing. The Institute earns the rest itself through international cooperation and commercial projects. The Institute is comprised of 153 buildings; it employs 2,200 scientific associates and about 3,000 other personnel. The Institute's commercial activities are managed by an industrial park with more than 70 companies, which employs more than 2,000 people.
[21] There are programs going on in Russia for clean energy production including hydrogen generation and storage, fuel cells and hydrogen engines, in which companies like Gazprom are participating.
[22] With a single hydrogen fuel pump costing roughly $1 million, installing just one at each of the 176,000 fuel stations across the US would cost $176 billion - a cost that can be avoided with liquid biofuels that can use our current infrastructure.
[23] Battery electric cars are becoming more attractive with the advancement of battery technology (Lithium Ion) that have higher power and energy density. At 2008 fuel prices, battery powered buses are more economical than diesel or gasoline powered buses.
[24] Matti Roine/ The VTT
[28]Our greatest challenge is to stop manufacturing so many "needs" for more complex, ecologically-disruptive forms of transportation in the first place!
[29]Clean Edge is a leading research and publishing firm helping companies, investors, and governments understand and profit from clean technologies. Clean Edge, in the San Francisco and Portland Oregon, offers unparalleled insight and intelligence on the emerging clean-tech economy.
[30]Lauri Kinnunen

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