Wood chips and fuel.

As my readers well know, over the next twenty years, humanity has to replace the majority of the current 83,000,000 barrels of daily oil production that we rely on to day. And it has to be in a form that allows it to be used for transportation energy. In spite of the naysayers, we really have no problem with any other part of the energy equation.

In other words, we are going to survive this horrific shift in our energy options. Personal transportation will find better ways to access other energy forms through hybrids as we are seeing now.

I have already described the one best option for the production of transportation fuels, which is the production of biodiesel from a high oil algae feedstock. It promises to be super efficient and to be integrative with cattle farming. The theoretical numbers cannot be achieved today, but I think that a viable pilot operation can be run that could easily bring the cattle industry on side producing the requisite infrastructure. The feed byproduct alone may carry the investment.

There is one additional option, that meshes with my original thesis. That is forest management. Our technology now allows labor efficient protocols for forest management. The owner can salvage wood waste every spring from his forest in the form of wood chips and sawn blocks. We want to rebuild and transform our woodlands globally into maximal ecologies. This key element of forest management is poorly capitalized, yet if it is capitalized we can establish a waste wood stream that will be uniform and transportable.

In fact the vigorous removal of wood waste will stimulate strong regeneration of forest growth and suppress the prospect of powerful forest fires limiting us to managed brush fires.

This massive stream of wood waste can be be treated in two ways. The first and least desirable is atmospheric combustion that uses the heat to support pyrolysis. A liquid fraction will be driven of that can be used as a fuel. The rest will be either burned or converted into charcoal that may or may not be used for agriculture, though I suspect that is the only useful application without burning again.

The point is, is that the output is rather small and the quality is problematic and complex. There is currently a lot of enthusiasm around it, but I must admit that I am not overly optimistic. I simply think that we can do a lot better.

A lot better, means running this same feedstock through a high pressure chamber at 600 atmospheres and 600 degrees which reprocesses all the constituents to their simplest form. This is the principle of depolymerization. This approach is very promising and the wood waste provides a uniform feedstock that can be implemented globally. The output will be hydrocarbons.

Of course, creating this wood chip gathering infrastructure also opens the door for the folks who believe that it will be possible someday to convert cellulose into the constituent sugars. The key to all these technologies is a steady supply of waste wood chips that can then be processed.

The point that I want to make, is that a wood chip recovery program can be created at the national level, inducing the woodlot owners to start systematically managing the waste output of their forests and to stockpile chips. These chip inventories are then available for processing in some form while the superior forest management and economic considerations mature.

I will develop some numbers tomorrow, but in fairness, I do not think that we can use it to offset the largest fuel burner of all. It will help though.

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