Wednesday, February 23, 2005

turkey guts and biodiesel

James Moe sent me this slashdot link, which references a link to this story about Changing World Technologies and another about them not being as profitable as hoped.

At the same time a link to the above Discover article popped up over at Flying Talking Donkey and Resource Insights.

Changing World Technologies claim they can convert anything carbon based into positive net energy - turkey guts, agriculture waste, tires, plastics. It all comes out as light sweet crude, distilled water and packets of soylent green.

EROEI - Per their web site, they can produce:
(Per) 100 BTUs available in our feedstock, approximately 15-20 BTUs are needed to provide energy for the plant. The remaining BTUs will be available for sale in a converted state.

That would be a self sustaining system, requiring only carbon based waste. However, one of the perils of dealing with a corporation which is selling itself to investors is that they often don't tell you everything. The Fortune article notes they are receiving goverment subsidies, (suspicious), yet the cost of their fuel is quite high (also suspicious, cost of turkey offal notwithstanding).

Their initial plant looks to be quite sizable from the pictures - yet produces around 500 barrels of oil a day. That is a pitiful dribble. It is claimed that this technology has the potential to produce four billion barrels of oil a year in the US, based on carbon waste available. The energy cost of the infrastructure to build and maintain these plants and transport waste around is not discussed.

Nonetheless, this looks promising, particuarly for environmental waste. And, I would not rule out that this technology can be self sustaining. It will be a closer shave than it is presented as.

A note of caution on this story or any carbon based fuel source: One scenario for this century is that an emergency measure to inter excess carbon, or remove as much as possible from the atmosphere and oceans, may become necessary.

In that light there is concern about a technology that takes things like tires, as unsightly as they may be, and inserts their carbon into the atmosphere. Tires are safer for humanity when they are sitting around and looking ugly, or shoring up the walls of permaculture homes.

Of course, current events imply humanity will burn every scrap of fuel available.


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