Biofuels, by Henri Prevot

Automatic translation from french :


– A product now unnecessarily expensive; Tomorrow if the political decision is taken to reduce carbon dioxide emissions
– The technique: biofuel, as today, from only oil or sugar, or, as tomorrow, from all organic carbon
Quantities and costs – text written at the end of 2009, completed in June 2011

– Cost: In June 2011, the Ministry of Economy published an abridged and updated presentation of a study carried out in 2010; It shows that the cost of production by a Fischer Tropsch process would be 1000 € / m3, which leads to 1.8 € / l at the pump, including the TIPP of the diesel fuel. In order to do so in 30 or 40 years, it would therefore be necessary to increase by 2 c € / l each year, in constant currency. This is more than the assessment we made three years ago in “Too much oil!”, Which led to € 1.45 / l, but it is not dramatic and it is far less than this Which others announce, wanting to bring the price of fuel to 2 or 3 € / l. See here a note showing how the cost of production depends on the price of biomass, the cost of financing, and the price of electricity.

– The quantities that can be produced: a recent study published in September 2009 shows that crops and short-rotation coppice crops could produce 90 M dry tons out of 7 Mha of agricultural land while convertible agricultural areas are valued at 10 or 13 Mha, improving the environmental situation (phytosanitary, nitrates and water consumption). This biomass would produce 14 Mtoe of second-generation biofuel on agricultural land without external energy input; By providing external energy, it is therefore possible to produce more than 20 Mtoe by improving the environment. See the study published in the Cahier du Clip of September 2009 in particular his p. 34.
The values retained on this site, which surprised more than one, are therefore validated by this study. This is good news: in France, it is possible to halve CO2 emissions from vehicles and airplanes by increasing distances traveled, replacing one third of liquid fuel with electricity and producing more than 20 Mtep of biofuel.
Nevertheless, this requires a very large amount of electricity. Direct use of electricity is more efficient. The balance between biofuel and electricity will thus depend on the progress of batteries and nuclear production capacity. In the reference scenario revised in June 2011, the production of biofuel is only 12 Mtoe, the consumption of electricity by road or air transport of 8 Mtoe. But it is possible to provide 20 Mtoe of biofuel without increasing nuclear capacity if the biofuel is produced off-season using the available production capacity.
In 2010, Shell reported that it had developed a new chemical process and tested the fuel thus produced from lignocellulosic material; This process supposes that hydrogen and alcohol are brought from the outside. We do not know the energy and CO2 balances of this process or its biofuel production capacity per hectare.


– So today what to decide about biofuel?
It does not seem relevant to want to increase biofuel production today; It is better to start by burning the biomass.
A variant that combines taxation, regulation and market instruments to follow an optimum path: firstly develop heat use and develop efficient biofuel production techniques, and then develop the use of biofuel.

– But the government’s decision is different: the E85 (85% ethanol fuel) is expensive!


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