BIO-FUELING EUROPE

BIO-FUELING EUROPE
Manfred Ringpfeil: Nothing could be better for the environment than using natural carbon cycles more effectively and imaginatively, especially considering Europe's agricultural sector and highly sophisticated technology. In that way, bio fuels have the dual incentives of producing ‘cleaner' power as well as increasing European energy security.
Between the North Stream and Nabucco pipelines, natural gas supply will grasp Europe with tongs. Fossil carbon dioxide (CO2) will rise throughout Europe in amounts corresponding to the imported carbon, continuously polluting the atmosphere. Indeed, this is the price for Europe's energy security. In looking for alternatives, we should consider that between these tongs Europe possesses an intensive agriculture and highly sophisticated technology. Both can be used to produce the needed gas from indigenous renewable resources. Agriculture grows plants and biotechnological processing converts the plants into biogas - a 50:50 volume-percent mixture of methane and CO2. Such gas shows a unique advantage, emerging via plant photosynthesis from atmospheric CO2. If its methane part is burned to generate electricity or heat, the total CO2 produced would only fill that gap, which had been previously opened by the biogas production. The net change of CO2 concentration in the atmosphere would be zero, thus further climate damage would not happen.
Naturally, such processing is not for nothing. Agricultural production of plant material bears costs; so, too, does microbial production of biogas. However, nature has provided us with some precious advantages to limit these costs: Almost all types of organic material are nearly completely convertible into biogas; which means that the whole energy of the starting material will be retrieved in the methane component of the biogas.
Biogas separates voluntarily from its aqueous production phase. Therefore, diluted raw materials are welcome. Biogas is flammable and can be burned directly for energy production. Or, if wanted, the methane can be easily separated from the accompanying CO2 and transported or used in concentrated form as bio-methane (also referred to as "Bio-Erdgas" in Germany). In terms of its chemical properties, bio-methane equals the highest qualities of natural gas. Furthermore, and to reiterate, the CO2 produced from biogas combustion does not pollute the atmosphere and cannot cause climate damage, in contrast to the CO2 produced from natural gas combustion. In Germany, a biogas industry with a capacity of about 1000 MW has been established. This offers a chance to assess the ability of the biogas solution to compete as well as its opportunities to grow.
It is necessary to overcome the existing reservations concerning biological solutions. Technologically, these solutions offer viable alternatives. Biotechnology offers necessary tools, it creates jobs, and it offers possibilities for technology exports. The latter can even help to introduce the biogas solution in natural gas exporting countries. Finally, nothing will be better for climate protection than to leave fossil carbon-containing materials in their deposits and use the natural carbon cycle more intensely and imaginatively for production purposes. Biology and technology are perfectly compatible and, in certain cases, the best solution - especially regarding environmentally friendly energy production.
Harmful fossil-originated CO2 will not be built up if Europe produces its gas by this way. In Germany, a biogas industry has already been put on stream, which could be able to produce the same amount of bio-methane as North Stream will bring in fossil methane. In order to be able to do so, it needs considerably more plant material than used today and the optimisation possibilities must be fully realized. Today, the capacities are held more or less artificially on a low production level.
Bio-methane can be produced continuously over the whole year, day and night. Silage of the plant material allows the raw material to be held cheaply for biogas production, independent from the harvest, over the whole year without remarkable losses of energy. Biogas and bio-methane are storable in tanks and underground, and can be transported in pipelines. Furthermore, bio-methane can be used to produce liquid bio-fuels such as methanol, ethanol or higher hydrocarbons by well-known chemical catalyses. Thus, two main applications of fuel without the need for CO2 capture - individual heating and individual traffic - can be provided without climate damage. Bio-methane can also be used to blend natural gas in any desired ratio to reduce the output of fossil CO2 into the atmosphere.
Because of the complete miscibility of natural gas and bio-methane, the ‘tongs' can also be used to transport bio-methane that might be produced in the Siberian or Caspian Sea areas to Europe.
The invaluable advantage of the biogas route for Europe's gas provision is that it is completely free of any risk of climate damage, and does not require technical instalments on the consumer side.
Prof. Dr. Manfred Ringpfeil was a Managing Partner at Biopract in Berlin, an independent enterprise working in the area of industrial and environmental biotechnology.

19.02.2010, 5008 просмотров.

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