Presentations from the Orlando Energy Conference

The slides from all of the presenters at the recent Orlando Energy Conference are now all available online:

The Economics of Alternative Energy Sources and Globalization: The Road Ahead

Here is the link directly to my presentation:

An Overview of Global Energy Issues

Here are several of my slides, which give a flavor of my presentation:

The primary thrust of my message is that we are looking at a potentially serious energy crisis in the not too distant future as oil begins to deplete faster than renewables can fill the void. Globally, India and China will have a huge influence over the oil markets, driving prices eventually higher than where they were last summer. Times will continue to be very difficult for U.S. refiners as more refineries are built close to the source of the oil, but there will be occasional bursts of profitability. The last two slides talk about the platform that my new company is building.

The conference was heavily oriented toward agriculture, and there was a lot of discussion about the role for biofuels in agriculture. There were a number of high profile speakers, including Harry Baumes, an Associate Director at the USDA. I had the opportunity to speak with Harry one on one at dinner one night, where we primarily discussed U.S. ethanol policies.

57 thoughts on “Presentations from the Orlando Energy Conference”

  1. I'm not saying that this is THE answer; but, if we built One 25 Million gpy ethanol refinery in Every County we would be "coasting."

    It seems to me that You are, also, sort of moving in this "general" direction.

  2. How will the Chinese and Indian consumers afford gasoline when their US counterparts, who earn a substantially higher income, won't be able to? Do you expect China & India to subsidize prices indefinitely so their people can continue to drive?

    I was reading how demand destruction in mighty China was pretty severe when oil prices soared. I'll have to dig up the link again. I think this notion, that China & India's demand can only rise, is false.


  3. No. No Typo.

    You could, easily, put a 25 mgpy Still in every county. You would utilize MSW, yard waste, forestry waste, ag waste, some corn, or sorgum, maybe. Maybe some poplar, or switch grass.

    You wouldn't hardly know it was there.

    *The typical county is about 1,000 sq miles, and has 100,000 people. Probably 80,000 cars, and pickemups. Uses about 500 mgpy of gasoline, At Present.

  4. You ever wonder why all those County Courthouses are almost identical? Most of them were built during the Great Depression. Work Projects.

  5. If you did it all from corn, or sorghum you would only need (25 mil/500/640) 78.125 sq mi. An area about 8% of the county. Of course, you would have all of the co-products, also.

    However, the average county has availabe enough Municipal solid waste or about 10 million gallons/yr. There should, also, easily be enough forestry/ag waste for another 5 million gpy.

    So, now, you only need to get 40%, or 10 mgpy, from energy/ag crops.

    So easy it's frightening.

  6. Same way the landfill rounds up waste, anonymous. You pay for it. It'll come.

    Well, I guess it's a little different. The landfill's model is: YOU pay them.

  7. How long has gas been over $2.50 gallon? TWO companies (Enerkem, and Bluefire) have announced such projects for N. Mississippi in the last year.

  8. Well, don;t forget natural gas. No mention?

    Today's WSJ:

    And on Tuesday, Australian-based InterOil Corp. announced it had drilled a massive gas well in its Antelope (New Guinea) field. How massive? The well flowed at a rate of 705 million cubic feet of gas a day, which nearly doubled an earlier well in field that InterOil was so proud of they got Guiness to certify as a record setter. To help put in perspective just how big these wells are, Devon Energy recently bragged about a well in Louisiana that flowed at 30.7 million cubic feet a day

  9. rufus said…

    Same way the landfill rounds up waste, anonymous. You pay for it. It'll come.

    Well, I guess it's a little different. The landfill's model is: YOU pay them.

    December 03, 2009 11:22 AM


    Kinaudrach pretty much nailed it when he said that for biomass to energy facilities to succeed they needeed to charge a dumping fee.

    Where biomass has suceeded, this seems to be the model.

    In Renton, Washington where sewage is turned into methane the plant is supported by the water/waste-water fees on every ones sewer bill.

    Ao, not only does the Renton, WA (King County/Seattle) plant get the sewer biomass for free, but they are actually charging customers to deposit their "do-do" into the sewer system every time they send out a water/waste-water bill to their customers.

    Biomass to gas makes sense in this case, and the city sells the resultant methane to the local gas utility at a profit.


  10. There seems to be a disconnect in your presentation, RR.

    How can any serious person discuss the post-fossil future, and not mention nuclear fission?

    It is scalable to the whole planet. It has sufficient resources for 1-2 millenia. Doesn't even need to be subsidized (except to offset the political risks introduced by extremists in the environmental movement). Sounds a whole lot more "sustainable" than biofuels.

  11. How can any serious person discuss the post-fossil future, and not mention nuclear fission?

    Remember, you aren't seeing all the slides, nor are you hearing the presentation. This presentation was mainly about the liquid fuel situation, but I did discuss the need for expanded nuclear power.

    In fact, one of the presenters said that we didn't need nuclear power, and told him that anyone who takes a sober look at the supply/demand situation going forward is going to conclude that we need lots of nuclear. If they don't like coal, then the conclusion is that we need even more nuclear.


  12. If every county in the US matched Rufus's profile (100,000 people) there would be enough economic biomass to produce electricity and transportation fuel for the population. It might work for islands like Hawaii too.

    The Seattle metropolitan area population of 3,344,813. It is served by one very large mine-to-mouth-coal plant, one large nuke plant, and many large NG plants. The region does have lots of hydroelectric which used to be used for making aluminum but now is sold to California. That PNW regions also has several biomass plants and wind much of which is contracted to California.

    The reason people who live in large metropolitan areas do not know where their energy comes from is that energy facilities have been moved boondocks. Out of site out of mind. If

    String several large metropolitan areas together with only coal generation the pollution and the transportation burden causes city living to become toxic. That is why nukes are needed.

  13. I'm all in favor of more nukes. I'm, also, in favor of Batteries. I think the Volt-type car has a future. I dig Solar, and Wind. I, also, think we need to look into Ocean/River Current.

    Coal is fine with me. No "sequstration," please. The CO2 is good for the crops.

    Nat Gas is dandy.

    But, likker is kwikker.

    It all depends on the "price" of oil, folks. It's an "economic" thing, you know?

  14. We can produce 170 billion gallons of fuel with 100 million acres of switchgrass. That's about 10% of US farmland. And,for all you EROEI fans,they claim switchgrass has an energy payback 20X higher than corn. It's a perrenial crop that only needs replanting every 10 years. Very little water or fertilizer. What can't be turned into ethanol can be burned for electricity. It's gonna happen. It's only a matter of bringing the cost down…like Poet has done with corn cobs.

    Switchgrass Produces Biomass Efficiently
    A USDOE and USDA study concluded that 50 million U.S. acres of cropland, idle cropland, and cropland pasture could be converted from current uses to the production of perennial grasses, such as switchgrass, from which biomass could be harvested for use as a biofuel feedstock. Economically viable production of a perennial grass monoculture from which substantial quantities of biomass are removed annually is expected to require nitrogen fertilizer.

    "the optimal strategy would be to establish switchgrass, and in post-establishment years, to fertilize with 60 pounds of nitrogen per acre per year"

    That's what, half as much fertilizer per acre as for corn? How much ethanol per acre do you get with switchgrass as compared with corn?

  16. Clee,a bushel of corn needs about three lbs. of fertilizer. 1.25 lbs. nitrogen,.6 lbs. phosphate,and 1.4lbs. of phosphate. For a yeild of 150 bushels per acre,that's 450 lbs.

    Switchgrass is native to the Great Plains. It fed the buffalo,and was used to feed farm animals at one time. 80 million acres of farmland was required to feed the horses that pulled our buggies 100 years ago. Dejavu.

  17. Switchgrass can yield 1500 gallons per acre. Corn yields around 400. That's about a lb. of fertilizer for every gallon of corn ethanol. 1/25th of a lb. for a gallon from switchgrass.

  18. RR: "… told him that anyone who takes a sober look at the supply/demand situation going forward is going to conclude that we need lots of nuclear."

    Full agreement there, RR. It is the sheer scale of needed power demand that makes nuclear the only real alternative to fossils.

    Perhaps nuclear could play a part in biofuels too — using nuclear heat to extract transportation fuels from available biomass, thereby avoiding the Energy Return on Energy Invested issue that some contributors are having problems understanding.

    It would be interesting to get an estimate of how much biofuel could be created this way. I am still concerned about the very high share of planetary Net Primary Productivity that humans have already appropriated.

  19. You could, easily, put a 25 mgpy Still in every county.

    I'm not do sure of that Rufus. About three years ago, an ethanol company abandoned plans to build a still about 20 miles from where I live. Reason: They discovered during the due diligence phase of their planning that the natural gas pipeline to that area wasn't a large enough diameter to supply their needs.

    An ethanol still in every county in states like Illinois, Iowa, and Missouri would mean reworking our entire natural gas distribution infrastructure.

    As long as ethanol stills need an outside source of energy, there won't be a still in every county.

    I'm still waiting for Big Ethanol and Big Ag to fund a demonstration project proving a corn farm and ethanol still could power themselves. (If their EROEI is positive, theoretically it's possible. So why have they never put their cards on the table and actually proved to the naysayers they could do it?)

  20. Robert,
    (OT) This article about Allard R&D ran in our (very) local newspaper in TX. The article has a too-good-to-be-true feel to it (and an apparently deflated estimate of corn ethanol/acre yield). The company's web site seems more grounded. As a former Texas resident, I thought you might be familiar with them. If not, any thoughts? I'm not in the industry, only a layman. Two things struck me in particular. Allard mentions sweet sorghum as preferable to corn, a point I don't think I've seen made before. And the placement of the ethanol mini-refinery inside a greenhouse as a CO2 source to promote plant growth sounds like it goes further toward closing the loop.

  21. Kinuach, Los Alamos says we can use nuclear plants to pull CO2 from the air and convert it to biofuel with an electrochemical process. The footprint of the plant would be the same,and they claim the price would be competitive with other fuels. It's worth a shot imo. Google Green Freedom.

  22. Maury, most farmers don't use that much fertilizer, anymore.

    They're going to get a little over 160 bu/acre this year, and Poet is getting 3 gal/bu. That's 480 bu/acre.

    Also, don't forget the Co Products. You're still going to wind up with about 17 lbs of DDGS per bushel of corn. With the CO2, Water, and starch removed you will still have about 2/3 of the feeding value that you would have had if you'd never processed the primary grain.

    Wendell, and Kit: Some Counties will produce more than others. Many counties in Iowa, and Nebraska are obviously producing more than that at present.

    An example, Shelby Co. (Memphis) may not do 25 mgpy, but the County outside of Memphis that includes the landfill might do 50, or 100.

    I just wanted to make the point that "it's a big country," with 3,000 Counties, and Every county has some type of capability.

    As far as nat gas: you've got to read up on what's happening with companies like Poet, and Chippewa Valley. The days of being tied to a nat gas pipeline are coming to an end. Also, even today, there are many different types of refineries, and business plans. It's a Young industry.

    That 1,500 might be a bit high for the average switchgrass yield. Sorghum, when all is said and done will probably be in the five, or six hundred gallong/acre range. Still, very good for marginal land.

  23. Rufus~

    Here in my neck of the woods, farmers are having to harvest corn that is not yet dry to beat snowfall, and are now spending big bucks on propane to get its moisture content down once they've brought it in from the fields. In fact, the propane people are having trouble keeping supplied.

    Is Big Ethanol including all that propane in their calculations of corn ethanol's EROEI?

  24. 1500 was what an Alabama farmer got on his research plot Rufus. That's with no irrigation. You're right though. Averages reported are more like 1150 gallons per acre. Still,that's more than twice corns output,and it only needs planting once a decade or so. Don't be surprised if a lot of corn farmers rotate switchgrass on their land,or at least use it on the peripheries. It's perfect for erosion control and provides forage as well.

  25. This is nothing "new," or ground-breaking; but, it's interesting because it's coming from E. Germany.

    East Germany-based company Verbio has developed a process that combines ethanol, biogas and fertilizer production at the same location, Checkbiotech reported. A sister company buys crops from area farmers such as rye, wheat and corn, and turns them into silage. Those raw materials are made into starch for ethanol, while the proteins, fats and cellulosis structures are made into biogas. The residual minerals are converted into bio-fertilizer which local farmers use for the next harvest.


    There's a LOT of work going on "worldwide," right now.

  26. Then, again, Maybe I'm wrong. MSU has been working with this stuff for 12 years; and this is what's being written:

    Freedom Giant Miscanthus takes only one year to replace, as opposed to timber, which takes 20 years to replace due to the growing cycle.

    Freedom Giant Miscanthus also promises to stimulate rural economies, as it takes less land, costs less to grow, and is very profitable for farmers. For example, in the state of Georgia farms that grow Freedom Giant Miscanthus will see income rise more than $2 billion above crops that are grown currently. Freedom Giant Miscanthus produces over 3,000 gallons of ethanol per acre.

    According to Phillip Jennings, CEO of SunBelt Biofuels, the state of Georgia needs to plant 2.4 million acres of Freedom Giant Miscanthus to become energy independent.

    "In Georgia, we can take 10 percent of our commercial timber land or 24 percent of our crop land, and we would be where we need to be to sustain just this one state," said Mr. Jennings. "With 10 million acres of Freedom Giant Miscanthus, Georgia would become the number 7 OPEC fuel producer in the world."

    Giant Miscanthus

  27. The Miscanthus should do well in southern climes,but not so good up north Rufus. They have rhizomes,which cold weather can kill. I grow some ginger plants. Luckily,we don't have many freezes around here.

  28. I didn't know that, Maury; Thanks.

    The Univ of Illinois was messing around for several years with "Tropical Maize." They were getting huge yields from that. I wonder what happened to that research.

  29. Previously, phase one had concluded that enough woody biomass is available to support a plant, along with existing paper mills in the area. The new cellulosic ethanol plant would be on the site of a closed paper mill, according to Joshua Morby, New North spokesperson. “The primary focus for this effort was how to keep jobs in the region?” he said. “When that paper mill closed, we looked at what are some other potential uses of that facility, with cellulosic ethanol being one of them.” Phase two brought together individuals and companies that would make up such a supply chain and found significant interest in doing so among them, according to New North.

    This is the type of thing I expect to see more, and more of. Locals taking the initiative to solve "local" problems.

    Local initiative in Wisconsin

  30. From Rufus's Wisconsin initiative link: About 460,000 green tons of fiber from logging residue could be obtained from within a 65-miles radius of the plant

    The study doesn't say if that's 460,000 tons per year, or total for the life of the project.

    An 18-wheeler can haul approximately 40,000 lbs or 20 tons. That 460,000 green tons of logging residue means roughly 23,000 semi-truck loads.

    That's a lot of truck loads hitting the roads within that 65-mile radius.

  31. That'd by "per year," Wendell. About 13,200 sq miles.

    63 loads/day in an area of 13,000 sq miles.

    One load for every 209 sq miles/day.

  32. No, Takchess. The Univ of Tenn project at Vonore, Tn is probably as far along as anyone.

    The "challenge" is probably getting the farmers to grow switchgrass. These guys can't "gamble" on the deal working. They have families to feed.

    The folks at Vonore are "Guaranteeing" (it's backed by the State) the farmers a certain return. It's slow going, but it'll probably speed up if the "First One" works.

  33. 63 loads/day in an area of 13,000 sq miles.

    But all of those trucks coming in to one central point — the refinery. That means the neighbors living near the plant will be having 63 semi-loads a day pass by their homes.

    It also means the need to build a storage area near the plant to serve as a buffer to keep feedstock flowing on those days the trucks can't roll. Probably a fairly larges storage and staging areas since being out in the woods of northern Wisconsin picking up logging waste will be problematic for about six months of the year.

    That means sufficient space to pile up and store at least 260,000 tons of wood waste. That would be pretty big pile.

  34. Wendell, These are LOGGERS!

    I looked at Allard's website, and his video, etc. The guy appears to be "real." Whether he can sell any, we'll see. A "moonshiner" can do about what he's doing with a $200.00 still. And, wouldn't have to have a whole heck of a lot more knowledge than the eventual customer will have to develop.

    My take, anyway. I wish him well. I love a guy that's "trying."

  35. "That 460,000 green tons of logging residue means roughly 23,000 semi-truck loads."

    Sheesh,if the residue is 23,000 truckloads,imagine how many truckloads the logs themselves took.

  36. The logging industry is truly depressed. I imagine anyone in that area would Love to see a truck hauling "Money."


    The logging industry apparently doesn't have the political clout of Big Ethanol and Big Corn.

  37. Very good presentation. If only the average level of the energy debate could come close. Three comments : how is coal unsustainable, why no mention of nuclear (or I missed it?), and, much more importantly, if oil is about to become much more expensive, thereby driving everybody to use less and making alternatives more interesting, why on earth tax it to get the same result slightly sooner, knowing full that taxes will go into making the whole out of control bloated state apparatus bigger? (I know, you call for a trade off, but hey, c'mon, it's not the way government does things, is it?).

  38. Probably has more to do with "Housing," crashing, and "Print Media" dying…

    I wasn't talking about the cause Rufus, I was talking about the subsidies and tax credits they could get if they had political clout like Big Corn and Big Ethanol.

  39. "The logging industry apparently doesn't have the political clout of Big Ethanol and Big Corn."

    Ethanol from wood has a subsidy of $1.04 a gallon,compared to .45 for corn. Big Logging must have more clout Wendell.

  40. Ethanol from wood has a subsidy of $1.04 a gallon…

    One problem Maury, no one still has built an economical, full-scale production facility for making ethanol from wood.

    Lots of ideas out there, but nothing operational yet.

    Making methanol from wood would probably be a better course of action. We could also be making methanol from coal. We have a gazillion tons of coal, right here, within our borders.

  41. “One problem Maury, no one still has built an economical, full-scale production facility for making ethanol from wood.”

    Well Wendell I can see you missed this in a from a Rufus link:

    “Boardman OR: This project will use purpose grown hybrid poplar trees to produce fuel-grade ethanol
    using hybrid technology. Additional feedstocks such as agricultural residues and energy crops will also be evaluated in the pilot plant.”

  42. Kit clearly can't believe that just because ZeaChem is stating that it is building a pilot plant (250,000 gal/yr) that somehow that qualifies as a demonstration of the commercial viability of wood to ethanol? First, ZeaChem will need to finish their demo facility and operate that for a good bit before they can begin construction of a 'commercial scale' facility, so that's at least 3 years down the road. And they'll have to operate the commercial scale unit for a year or two before proving that really works? I wish them great success, but it will be a few years before we'll know.

    DoE/USDA stimulus funding today picked 19 potential 'winners' for future biofuels. Are all the other biofuel companies out there that applied for federal funds 'losers'? Which of these 19 will become economically viable? Certainly not all 19, probably not even 2 or 3? Who knows? Let's wait for the dust to settle before celebrating success, and also closely watch Range Fuels to see if they can do it (wood to ethanol / methanol) by next summer.

  43. “Let's wait for the dust to settle before celebrating success”

    DOE actually funding something besides studies on environmental justice, that is success. Maybe I have a low threshold for success but to many post here celebrate failure.

    Furthermore, this is a great area for biomass. The primary environmental problem near Boardman OR is natural wind erosion and hybrid poplar plantation hold the soil and knock down the wind. So the the dust settling has be proven, producing energy is a bonus.

    Also gasoline for the inlet PNW is barged up the river, ethanol could be barged back down with little additional transportation cost.

  44. Kit P,

    I'm well aware there are many proposals, concepts, laboratory demonstration models, and a handful of pilot "proof of concept" plants under construction of wood-to-ethanol plants. But I will happily stand corrected if there are any commercial, full-scale, profitable and able to stand on their own, wood-to-ethanol plants yet in operation.

  45. I see on your discovery/production chart that revisions are backdated. I would like to see charts like this figured both ways; backdated and not backdated. How do energy planners (and consumers like me) account for the impact of technology improvements if the revisions are not visible in real time and only in the past? Don't backdated charts discount the effect of technology improvements and magnify the downward trend in discoveries? If the oil was not counted upon discovery because it wasn't economical or feasible to get it out of the ground what's the harm in counting it as a new discovery at the time it can be exploited? It is actually a new resource because of technology or pricing, just as other energy sources come into play with technology or favorable pricing.
    Please post about your position on backdating. I searched your site and found no reference to that term. Thanks for a great blog.

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