Growing alternative to petroleum

Various technical topics related to science, energy, climate change and coal & gas.

Growing alternative to petroleum

Postby HVPA_research » Wed Jul 21, 2010 12:32 pm

Tags: biosequestration, genetics, agriculture, oils, CO2, safflower

WILL farmers be soon growing their own vehicle lubricants? Or their toothbrush? Their phone?

This is a link to a recent article in Stock&Land Growing alternative to petroleum that is reviewing results of a scientific forum in Cairns this week, where 230 scientists from 20 countries gathered to explore the emerging prospects for plant oils.

Allan Green, deputy chief of CSIRO’s Plant Industry division and convenor of the forum, said the need to find a replacement for finite fossil fuel reserves and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions makes a case for the serious exploration of plant oils.

Plants will never replace the four billion tonnes of petroleum-based fuels the world now uses each year, Dr Green said, but about a tenth of fossil fuel use is in industrial chemicals and lubricants.

“The real end game is that we need to find another source of all the chemicals we use in industry - the plastics, the polymers that come from petroleum at the moment.”

“To do that you really need to make different oils, ones that have some of the properties of petroleum.”

A clear promise of plant oils is their lower contribution to greenhouse emissions.

“Every time we dig up fossil fuels we bring carbon into the atmosphere, and that raises the bar on getting emissions out of the atmosphere. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to keep pulling it out of the ground and then keep trying to sequester it back in there.

“Plants utilise carbon dioxide that’s already in the atmosphere, and we can make products from them and lock some of that CO2 away. It’s a sort of biosequestration system that in the long term might be able to maintain some sort of equilibrium in the carbon cycle.”

Dr Green expects that getting plants to produce the right sort of oils will take until 2015-2020.
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