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Growing Oil

Currently, researchers are hoping to alleviate the US's addiction to oil by transforming sawdust and wood chips into bio-oil. This thick black liquid could very well become an environmentally friendly substitute for the majority of our current petroleum products.Bio-oil can be produced by using almost all organic material, including agricultural and forest wastes like corn stalks and chunks of bark mulch.

The process of changing the raw biomass into bio-oil produces a product that is simple and safe to transport and can be refined to yield high value fuels and chemicals."It is technically feasible to use biomass for the production of all the materials that we currently produce from petroleum," said Professor Robert C. Brown, director of the Office of Biorenewables Programs at Iowa State University.Currently, the United States has the ability to produce enough fresh biomass, in excess of one billion tons per year, to replace approximately one third of the yearly petroleum use, according to an April 2005 study by the U.S. departments of Agriculture and Energy.

Advocates recommend turning a large portion of that biomass, including scrap materials currently consumed in power production, into bio-oil to help relieve the USA's dependency on foreign oil and to help the slowing of global warming.Biomass is changed into bio-oil using a process called pyrolysis, where the organic materials are finely ground and heated at 400 to 500 degrees Celsius, without the presence of oxygen. In about two seconds, approximately 70 percent of the material vaporizes and is condensed into a dark liquid like espresso that contains more than one hundred organic compounds.Pyrolysis also creates gas, which is in turn used to fuel the process, and a soot called "char," which is carbon rich can also be burned as fuel or used as an organic fertilizer. This "char" can also be processed into charcoal filters or briquettes.Recently the focus on world oil domination has prompted researchers to start new venture organizations that focus on this new opportunity.

It has been an ongoing struggle for many as they founded their ventures when the oil industry was going strong with affordable process and plentiful supplies."Back then, there was not much interest in renewable energy," said David C. Boulard, Ensyn's executive vice president. So the company focused on producing chemicals rather than fuels, and found success with food flavorings especially "liquid smoke.".Ensyn now employs its patented technology, Rapid Thermal Processing, to create bio-oil that can be used as fuel.

Furthermore, resins used in the manufacturing of plywood and particleboard can be extracted from the bio-oil. There appears to be a limitless potential for more applications.Ensyn is planning to open its seventh bio-oil refinery summer 2006.Canadian firm DynaMotive is producing bio-oil fuels that are economically competitive because of the current spike in petroleum prices.In its basic state, DynaMotive's bio-oil can replace light petroleum fuel oil for use in power-generation. DynaMotive is also planning to produce automotive fuel.

Bio-oil is very different chemically even though it competes directly with petroleum based products. In comparison, it contains oxygen-rich ingredients. Bio-oil can be changed into a mix of carbon monoxide and hydrogen referred to as "syngas." Syngas is then processed into a high-grade hydrocarbon fuel, such as diesel.Alternatively, the syngas can be teamed with steam to produce pure hydrogen. Iowa State's Brown conjects that bio-oil gasification could be an efficient way to produce large quantities of hydrogen, that could be used as a major energy source.

DynaMotive is optomistic regarding syngas as the infrastructure is already established. Germany used gasification to convert coal into synthetic diesel fuel during World War II. South Africa used synthetic fuels as a substitute for petroleum imports during Apartheid.

Gasification is being viewed by many as a good way to reduce pollution from coal.Last September, DynaMotive announced that researchers in Germany had successfully converted its bio-oil into synthetic gasoline using existing gasification facilities and processes.DynaMotive plans to capture growing concern over climate change and world oil domination into a lucrative new market for its bio-oil. Some speculate that bio-oil market could be better than that of petroleum in the long term.

.David C Skul provides global market solutions to clients from all over the world. Please visit, read our articles, review our blog, and engage in global market discussions at http://www.relativitycorp.com.

By: David Skul



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