Biofuel issues pure oils

The raw vegetable oil sector: problematic. by Yves LUBRANIÉCKI

Key words: greenhouse effect, extreme poverty, depletion of oil resources, pure vegetable oil used for energy purposes, agriculture


Currently, humanity is facing three of the most massive dangers it has encountered since birth:

1 - the increase in the greenhouse effect which squarely endangers biodiversity because of the rapidity of climate change,

2 - the end of oil, while the whole world economy is built on oil,

3 - the increasingly unbearable imbalance between rich and poor countries which, beyond the unacceptable human aspects, generates geopolitical tensions going crescendo all around the world.

The crucial point of these difficulties is access to energy. However, only one energy source provides good answers to these questions today: "pure vegetable oil" (HVP), we also speak of "crude vegetable oil" (HVB).

Indeed, using unmodified vegetable oil instead of the largest possible part of fossil fuels allows significant improvements thanks to a stabilization of the greenhouse effect, thanks to the implementation of an economy which preserves the reserves of nonrenewable fuels and thanks to the development of a healthy economic activity in the poor countries.
However, there are three unavoidable conditions to ask in advance, otherwise the remedy may deteriorate even faster the natural environment.


Despite the progression of a certain awareness over the past forty years, the environmental threat has not stopped specifying and increasing, in particular in three forms:

1st threat: The greenhouse effect

Today, and for only a few years, the population has started to realize a danger which is specific by its global character. It spreads to the entire planet and threatens all species by varying their environment through an already committed, global and too rapid modification of the Earth's climate. This is the increase in the greenhouse effect.
Its cause is of a biblical simplicity, essentially since the industrial revolution of 1850, the man rejects without counting in the atmosphere and in the form of carbon dioxide (CO2) the carbon that plants have fixed for 300 million years to make what we call "fossil fuels": coal, natural gas and petroleum. CO2 is one of the largest greenhouse gases and there is no "clean" fossil fuel. If you put fossil carbon at the entrance, you have the same amount of fossil carbon at the exit, whatever you do.
A figure, just to illustrate: 6 billion tonnes of CO2 emissions from human origin in 1950, 22 billion in 1989, 24 billion in 2000 (Source: US Department of Energy [1]).
With, among other things, the 8% and more annual growth rate of China and India which are added to those of the United States, Eastern Europe, Brazil, Turkey, etc. This phenomenon is not about to reverse, knowing that, roughly speaking, a point of economic growth results in a one point increase in energy demand and therefore in CO2 emissions.

2th threat: the lack of oil.

Experts are beginning to express very strong fears about when oil will start to run out. Thus, we are taking a first important step: the one where, definitively, the volume of demand exceeds the volume of discoveries of new reserves [2].
The next course, known as “peak oil”, is where the demand for oil will definitely exceed supply. This fateful date does not cease to move according to the expertises, but more and more clearly, it seems to approach in a threatening way for the economy of the world [3]. In any case, whether 5 years or 100 years of oil remains does not change the fact that to date we do not know how to answer the question: "What will we replace oil with?" ".

3rd threat: extreme poverty

At the same time, the difference between rich and poor countries improves significantly between North and Asia or between North and South America, but remains stubbornly unbearable between North and Africa. It does not "remain" unbearable, it continues to worsen with, in particular, countries in West Africa, Central Africa or East Africa stuck in an incompatible health, administrative and political situation with the slightest hope of development in the short or even medium term. With 25,4 million people living with HIV (source UNAIDS). In addition, the official agency "Roll back malaria" observes that "economists attribute to (only) malaria an annual growth deficit of up to 1,3% in certain African countries" [4]. Imagine the growth of France cut by one percent by a single disease!

There is no excessive pessimistic charge in this triple observation which is unfortunately no longer disputed by experts worthy of the name. We still have to wait for political decisions that will bring some peace of mind to the future of our children and theirs.
Of course, given the economic stakes involved, many people are proposing the solution that best fits, not the situation, but their interests. They thus completely ignore the dangers that their irresponsible attitude poses "for real" to humanity.

Read also: public voice on HVB

However, a solution exists…

A solution likely to provide a good response to the three threats mentioned above: the pure vegetable oil sector.

This consists of using unmodified vegetable oil, simply decanted, degummed and filtered to 3 microns, instead of fuel oil or diesel in the uses of diesel fuel or fuel used with an oil burner for heating.
In all these applications (this does not concern the gasoline sector), vegetable oil perfectly replaces petroleum.

Simply, today, it is not possible directly in a massive way, it would be necessary to make some very simple technical modifications to the devices used. For example, in some older cars with Bosch injection pump and indirect injection, you can use 100% sunflower or rapeseed oil without modification (maybe just install a small oil heating system for the 'winter).
Most conventional diesel vehicles can use up to 50% sunflower or rapeseed oil without major modifications. The most modern engines require the most important adjustments. They should be designed from the start to work with vegetable oil. This is neither more nor less complicated than what is done today for operation with oil.

Particularly since the work of Dr. Ludwig Elsbett, a German engineer who, in the 80s, had invented and developed a diesel engine that is perfectly polyfuel with petroleum and all existing oils, pure or mixed in any proportion ( 2000 usable vegetable oils are listed around the planet).

It's basically for political reasons that this engine, whose performance was comparable to the most recent high pressure common rail diesels of today, has never been manufactured industrially. Today, it is necessary for humanity to see industrialists take up these ideas to finally produce it on a large scale.

Auto mechanics in Germany modify vehicles on demand to allow them to use crude vegetable oil as fuel. This is allowed in Germany but not yet in France. However, since May 8, 2003, a European directive (N °: 2003/30 / EC) allows Member States to give this authorization [5]. But, to date, it is still not done in France. What difference can therefore justify this French attitude?

Why defend the use of vegetable oil instead of petroleum?

First of all, we must remember and keep in mind that the most useful and smartest energy source is that of energy savings, nothing must be done in this area without first optimizing use Energy.

But, this quickly finds a limit when you read the figures for growth rates in Asian countries or North American consumption. Even if economies are extremely effective everywhere, they will not change the problem much; they will barely save a few years or even a few decades, but they will have relatively few results in terms of the greenhouse effect and will have no effect on the extreme poverty of certain countries.

Also, subject to compliance with the three conditions sine qua not set out below, we can highly recommend the massive use of crude vegetable oil because it provides a simple and effective response to the three threats mentioned above.

1 - Regarding the greenhouse effect, the fact of using a fuel of unmodified vegetable origin makes it possible to ensure a balance between the carbon fixed by the plant during its maturation and the releases of carbon into the atmosphere linked to its combustion. We go to an annual carbon cycle and, in total, there is no more increase in the rate of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

2 - Regarding the lack of oil, the fact of having recourse to an unmodified vegetable sector makes it possible to envisage the use of this fuel for the whole of the sector, from the start of the culture to the spillage of the fuel in the tank of the vehicle or of the burner. No need for oil across the chain.

Today, it is not so, when we are told about “biodiesel”, we are talking about methyl ester of vegetable oil. However, it is first cultivated with the use of petroleum in cultivation, collection and transport and then distribution machinery. Then, it is the subject of forcing by fertilizers very greedy in fossil energy and releasing themselves for the use of nitrous oxide which is a powerful greenhouse gas. Finally, it is obtained by heating (a lot of energy required) the oil under pressure (a lot of energy required) in the presence of an alcohol (a lot of energy required to produce it). So that, if we make the total balance of the use of this “modified oil” sector, we see that it is extremely disappointing.

It would be immeasurably easier to modify at the origin, in their manufacture, the engines or the burners so that they could directly and indifferently consume pure oil or petroleum or a mixture of both. We understand that this would not pose any technical problem (except to persist in not wanting to settle them), but only a political problem.

Yes or no, will we accept to leave our grandchildren an oil-free planet with a seriously and durably broken climate or will we use this easy to access and use technology?

3 - Regarding the fight against extreme poverty, the cultivation of oilseeds is possible in almost all climates, that is to say in all latitudes. This is a major difference with oil which is not, far from it, evenly distributed around the planet. It is this parsimony in the distribution of petroleum sites that is at the origin of all the geopolitical complications that humanity has experienced since petroleum became king. How many millions of men and women on this planet have seen their lives, their freedom or their dignity sacrificed in the name of the access of the richest to the petroleum God?

Read also: European directives on biofuels

What if there was another way? A path that makes it possible to make many countries including some very poor, the poorest, producers of energy wealth. A path that would significantly reduce the concept of energy dependence since many countries, starting with our own, would become producers, even traders of energy, more "shock" to fear.

The idea here is to complete our European production by developing as much as possible the cultivation of oilseed plants, some of which are very productive, on land that is currently unused. These cultures could provide work and income for populations currently suffering from great poverty without jeopardizing the standard of living and employment of rich countries.

For once, there would be no contradiction, but complementary interests between the North and the South.

Required surfaces

In our reasoning, a liter of oil weighs about 920 grams.

The most productive oilseed in the world is the Guinean palm (Elæis guineensis). Per year, it produces at least 3 liters of palm oil per hectare and, another advantage, it fixes several tonnes of CO500 per year per hectare for 2 years. It obviously grows in hot countries and requires water to produce well. If we use it as a somewhat theoretical reference, to fix our ideas: to replace a quarter of the 25 billion tonnes of oil that man currently consumes per year, 3 millions of Km2 would have to be cultivated, about 5,5 times the surface of France.

In Europe, rapeseed or sunflower give around 8 to 900 liters per year per hectare and the arrival of our twelve new European partners will considerably change the situation in this matter because some have large agricultural areas and they will have to review their practices in the light of the future Common Agricultural Policy. These changes, combined with an energy policy giving pride of place to pure vegetable oil, will allow the cultivation of hundreds of thousands of hectares of oilseeds.

In poor countries, already such areas - or even hectares counting in the millions - are either left fallow for lack of markets for this or that crop, or devastated by deforestation or by burning and dedicated to 'abandonment because of the disappearance of the humus necessary for cultivation.

All of these lands could be used for the cultivation of certain well-producing oilseeds such as pourghère, which will also have the advantage of (re) constituting humus and thus enhancing these abandoned or in the process of being soils (The scientific name of the catch is jatropha curcas L. - 650 to 800 liters per hectare [6]).

Here as there, all this oil produced there will be traded: either locally, the village or the city produces its own energy (in both senses of the term), or nationally or internationally, the peasants organized as a cooperative supplying a vast market for energy oil which operates either vehicles or thermal power plants here and there. Let us not forget that this sector can operate with oil from one end to the other with, as a consequence: very little release of greenhouse gases during operation.

3 conditions sine qua non

These ideas seem immediately attractive, but they are only so on three cumulative and imperative conditions. Only one of these conditions is not met and change is not possible.

Condition 1: a technical, financial and political condition :

At first glance, this dossier seems to carry interests opposed to those of the oil tankers, but in fact it is nothing for two reasons: the first is that, sooner or later, they will be forced to heartbreaking conversions and the sector pure vegetable oil is by far the least different and least traumatic way for them to get over the obstacle. Vegetable oil is the product that most closely resembles petroleum. The second is that the profession of selling oil is closest to a profession that does not yet exist on a global scale: selling energetic vegetable oil. (Because the sector does not exist, we cannot speak of prices today: there is no demand, therefore there is no supply, therefore there is no The oils sold today are not purely energy, so they have specifications - therefore production and marketing costs - which are not those of future energy oils).

Oil tankers have the equipment and the know-how and putting them on the circuit is the best way to get their cooperation instead of their opposition. We can also make the same remark for oilers.

If you want the system to work, you need quality monitoring identical to that known for petroleum or for cooking or industrial oil. Only these professionals are able to work the question until success in acceptable time.

Perhaps they should be asked to think, with the engine manufacturers, of a product composed of a mixture of different unmodified oils with sustained energy potential and fluidity that would be comparable all over the world.

Read also: The oil is in the meadow

A bit like with oil today, we could optimize products for different types of uses: a - road vehicles and small boats or ships, b - trains and medium boats or ships, airplanes with diesel piston engines, c - large ships and diesel power plants, thermal power plants and, finally, jet planes. This may be the future of oil…

For this system to be put in place, it also imperatively requires the collaboration of political leaders because they have the legitimacy to impose international solutions. It is up to them to fix the local taxation which will determine the consumer price.
This system finally requires the collaboration of the financiers because they have the means to finance the necessary investments.

The second and third conditions below must be subject to a mandatory legal obligation for the validity of each supply contract and must be recorded in a written specification which must accompany the delivery.

If the specifications are not duly respected, delivery must not take place. If one does not follow such a restrictive legal procedure, the ideas contained in this note should not be implemented (This particular point is moreover in keeping with the spirit of the abovementioned Directive 2003/30 / EC. See for example: Art. 4 point 2 Point d).

Condition 2: an agricultural condition.

If this condition is not met, not only is change not possible, but it is not even desirable because the remedy would be worse than the disease. It's the same thing if you practice deforestation to plant oilseeds. It is better to continue with fossil fuels, destruction will also be inevitable, but a little slower ...

For the aforementioned reason that the use of chemicals in agriculture generates huge quantities of greenhouse gases, it is absolutely imperative that the farming methods used for the production of oilseeds use an agricultural concept. sustainable (i.e. which conserves resources and avoids chemicals). Or, at the very least, reasoned agriculture (chemicals are used, but only when necessary and only the quantity required), otherwise the remedy will be worse than the disease.

One could also mention the "integrated" agriculture which is a concept where the approach of exploitation is global. It takes into account the interactions between the different species cultivated close to each other to minimize the use of chemical inputs and to increase the beneficial effect of the complementarity of the natural processes between them [7].
A resource seems very promising and is currently the subject of studies in several American universities, it is micro-oleaginous algae (diatoms). They would contain large quantities of oil, would have a possibility of harvesting at a very rapid rate and would require little surface for a large yield [8].

In all cases, the elements to be protected to the maximum at the highest political level in the world are: water, air, soil, biodiversity and landscapes because they are the most valuable natural common goods for humanity.

Condition 3: a commercial condition.

These proposals would miss half of their objective if they did not lead to a significant improvement in the lot of the poorest populations on Earth.
A human worthy of the name must no longer accept to live comfortably on the same planet as billions of men and women who do not even have the minimum subsistence and who die each year by the millions of extreme poverty. This is all the more unbearable since there is now the present idea which guarantees both the essential standard of living for the richest and access to a "real life" for the poorest knowing that " real life "is not necessarily the transition to rock'n roll and brownish soda ...
To achieve this result, it is essential that the collection and trade of oil seeds and oils be organized according to fair trade rules, otherwise the stated development goal of poor countries will not be achieved and the differences will not make that grow.

Encouraging poor countries to become producers and exporters of wealth (on their behalf) is probably more intelligent and useful than giving them only even large subsidies.
To orient the planet permanently towards this solution, we must launch a movement of opinion today that generates enough pressure on politicians to understand that we can not wait.

We are changing era.
We are leaving a time when the technocrats were looking for ways to get the "vegetable oil" industry under the caudine forks of King Oil.
We will soon enter a new era where the main world source of energy in transport and heating will be pure vegetable oil and where oil will have to adapt to its requirements.
We have to look at this as a second chance that nature gives us. It is up to us not to make the same mistakes as with the deification of oil and it is up to us to optimize the resource and the financial gains to secure the future of our descendants. It is our responsibility. Pure vegetable oil is neither a king nor a god. It's a great tool for sustainable development, that's all.


[1] then "FAQ".
See: paragraphs # 9, # 12, # 22, # 27 and arts. 2 point 2 point j and art. 3 point 2 point a.
[7] EU report on agricultural biodiversity
[8] On this subject, see this page

Find out more: the excellent .pdf from the same author.

Benefits of pure vegetable oil as fuel

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