An energy mix to replace the oil king?
On the end of oil, much more than its depletion, we currently have at least one certainty: the oil king has and probably will not have a prince, that is to say a successor who is so omnipresent in our life.
Indeed; there is no such abundant and easily exploitable natural resource (in all stages of exploitation) as oil.
Of course, there are gas hydrates oceans whose the deposit would amount to 4 times the land oil deposit (brrr it's cold in the back for the greenhouse effect): but these hydrates are not usable… for the moment.
Humanity's energy future will be made up of a mix of different solutions chosen according to the environment and the nature of their use with a common denominator: energy parsimony.
Before stating some of the most promising alternatives to oil, we would like to mention a critical fact.
A very common pseudo-scientific reasoning (and which journalists like to do or repeat) is to compare A SINGLE SOLUTION (example: bioethanol) with THE OIL SOLUTION and to say that because THIS SINGLE solution cannot replace petroleum then it must be abandoned. The comparison also exists between nuclear power and wind turbines (although in this case it is a little more justified because wind turbines are currently only profitable thanks to subsidies).
So if the energy efficiency of an alternative solution must be THE main factor in the choice of developing this solution, justifying the abandonment of a solution because it alone cannot replace all of our oil needs is anti-behavior. -scienfic!
For example, a biofuel with an energy yield less than unity such as corn ethanol for example, is a heresy that must be abandoned immediately, see Eco Balance of ethanol questioned).
Humanity's energy future could (should?) Consist of a multitude of solutions! And this is most likely what will happen except for a big geological or technological surprise ...
Mixing ideas or energy mix of the future
We have just mentioned it, except for a technological "surprise", oil will probably never be replaced by a single source as many want to do.
We believe that the solution will be a patchword of solutions, in short a mixture depending on the nature of the use and the environment.
Small horizon not forgetting that, the more a solution is short and simple, the more ecological it will be.
La solar concentration consists of making electricity by transforming solar radiation into electricity via a suitable fluid in a thermodynamic cycle (striling engine, steam turbine).
Concentration plants are much more interesting in terms of yield (3 to 5 times higher !!) than photovoltaic panels whose financial profitability is only linked to the subsidy policy. Yet in 2008, even more power stations based on solar PV panels were built than the concentration, whose technology is yet proven.
This is not the case with solar concentration which can make competitive energy so that the project is well thought out.
Solar concentration also makes it possible to make solar hydrogen, the only truly clean hydrogen (pending the hypothetical control of hot fusion).
BiomassToLiquid process (BtL): liquefaction of biomass.
This process, quite complex and still in development, can be very interesting in the event of the use of waste or of crops with a high creation of dry matter (miscanthus see below) in order to obtain a liquid fuel that is easier to use or transport.
ChemicalToLiquid (CtL) process: liquefaction of an inorganic compound, such as chemical waste (term proposed by Econologie.com)
Find out more: recently a company to be announced to be able to makeethanol with old tires.
FossilToLiquid (FtL) process: liquefaction of solid or gaseous fossil fuels
This is not a solution for the future, but research in this area could apply to solutions for the future.
So: the process Fischer Tropsh could apply to wood. Likewise, the liquefaction of natural gas could be applied to biogas.
Thermal energy of the seas or ETM
Extremely unknown solution which consists in exploiting the low temperature delta between the surface and the ocean floor via a thermodynamic cycle that could simply be compared to an inverted heat pump.
Its potential is immense and could alone currently cover more than 130% of humanity's electricity needs!
It is therefore a very promising solution for the future.
Third generation biofuels
The most promising current path is that of oleaginous microalgae which have a potential of 42 to 140L per ha and per year and this on non-agrarian surfaces, that is to say which do not influence the agricultural capacity for food. We recently put forward the idea of distinguishing the agrofuel of biofuels.
These microalgae can also be used to capture CO2 in a closed cycle and thus clean thermal power plants at CO2 level.
We could even imagine floating cultures on the seas and oceans if necessary !! A bit like the “floating” fish-farming ponds ...
Fast growing plants
Miscanthus, Sorghum, Very short rotation coppice (TTCR) ...
Dozens of very fast growing terrestrial plant species could very easily replace solid fuels like charcoal or even firewood. This biomass could also be used to be liquefied for use in transport.
And finally, learn to waste less energy
This is the common denominator of all these energy sources: we will have to relearn how to seriously consume less energy, or rather consume energy better.
That is to say create as much wealth and growth with less energy (ie improve energy intensity).
Conclusion: it is not only the energy that is exhausted!
That's what, end 2008, we see as sustainable solutions to alternative solutions currently in place.
Indeed; the attentive reader will have noticed that neither wind power nor solar photovoltaic power appear in this classification, and for good reason: in our opinion, they are not real sustainable solutions. Their “econological” potential is currently far too low.
Now, if the depletion of energy resources is present in everyone's mind, it is not the only resource that is running out. Metals are also affected by depletion...