Monday, May 26, 2008
My friends - Wake-up!
Take a look at this graph from "The Oil Drum":
Complicated? Nee. It shows you different scenarios by different agencies around the world about how much Oil is actually left to produce. Please note that every curve peaks between 2008 and 2012. That is now, today!
I wrote earlier about the possible Oil Bubble, you can read that story here, looking at the graph above it is probably likely that prices will just continue to raise, after all here is a clear example of supply and demand, no? Looking at the Oil price development from 1999 and projecting towards end of 2012 we see the following trends:
To compensate for the weak dollar I just added in the currency exchange rate to get the Oil prices in Euro and the truth is probably some where in between, so in the big picture Oil prices is not in a bubble, at least not a big one, we are running out of supply!
You may say that this is due to speculation, yes it is true in part, according to BBC yesterday the current invested "speculation" capital in oil commodity is equivalent to the current consumption of China, to put that in a context China is using some 7.500 thousand barrels per day and the world consumption is 85.000 thousand barrels per day. So less then 9% of the current oil price should be due to speculation, but probably a lot of people are banging on the continued raise so let's say that some 25%, or USD33 is due to speculation, still giving us a price per barrel over USD100.
This is my own crazy predictions, let us see what the traders on Wall Street thinks about the future of Oil:
So let us reflect a little about this and put things in our own perspective. Clean up the graph and put in concrete measures and you will end up with this:
In just 12 years, when Karl is to go into Secondary school and to start chasing skirts, oil is finished, no more, zip......maybe...
Let's assume that it is not that bad, so maybe another 10 years (Karl 24) another 20 years (Karl 34) no matter how we are trying, the generation that we have brought to the world will suffer badly in their lifetime, that is a fact.
Now this is only taking into account the use of oil, and its potential impact of the world as it is. What about the global warming issue:
So is Biofuels the answer to our problem? Well I am convinced that the current generation of Biofuels does more harm than good. You can argue this from many points of views and here is one point of view from the side of the spectrum that thinks current use of Biofuels are madness:
Earlier this year BBC ran an full week story about the state of Oil and Climate change and one thing that stuck to my mind was the fact that; if you drive a Range Rover Sport in London for a year on Biofuels, you use up are much grains enough to feed a whole village of 200 people in Africa for the whole year. I like Range Rover Sport, as a matter a fact I was thinking of getting one, but this is just crazy.
As a Swede I grew up with Greenpeace and Treehuggers and it was just not cool, nerds in funny bag packs and "no to everything" attitude. Now things are different and I do believe that the only way to change the current situation is to make CleanTech a business, and it will probably be the biggest business opportunity we have aver faced, it will dwarf the Internet craze back in the 90's.
If you are interested in CleanTech and would like to know some more, here is a great 20 minute report from BBC, link.
What we for sure can do today is to start reducing our energy consumption, drive less, go and change your light bulbs, use less heat/air-condition, use less water, reduce waste, etc.
Think through your current situation, think your next career move, what can you do, you are smart, you can help without sacrificing much, if any at all...
Join in and do your part - Today.
Thursday, May 22, 2008
I have used the information available on the web from Dr. Gedaliah Shelef who made some interesting research of Open Pond systems back in the late 70's maybe in the 80's, no date mentioned. Now remember that 1978 is 30 years ago and I was just starting secondary first, so some progress must have been made, I guess.
The second information is the information available from AlgaeLink, I have used the example of their 10 ton production plant for comparison, however the numbers are the same for all their production equipment.
Now when comparing the two systems there is one very important factor to keep in mind, Open Pond systems normally calculate yield in gram Algae per square meter per day (g/m2/day). The norm for Photo Bioreactors are to use gram Algae per cubic meter per day (g/m3/day). Now this is causing a lot of confusion and I guess that one way of sorting this out is to measure the yields in ton per area.
This make sense, since in the end the critical factor will be the area available for cultivation, not the volume. This is at least true for current solutions, both open pond and Photo Bioreactor, and until there is a solution for growing vertically the area used will be the biggest limitation.
Now when we are talking about yield per area there is also confusion between Hectares (1 Ha = 10.000 m2) and Acres (1 Acre = 4. 047m2). So to try to make some sense to the story, here is a summary:
You may want to download your own copy to play with here.
Now let us analyse this for a moment. To explain the columns the two first ones are based upon the Open pond system with the first column has the actual numbers and the second one a "guesstimation" about potential yield 30 years down the road (increase from 28 to 50 g/m2/day).
The three last columns are based upon AlgaeLink numbers, the first one has a yield of 1.500 g/m3/day as stated in their website, however this seems to me like rather wishful theory and hence I have reduced the two following columns to more realistic 600 g/m3/day and 300 g/m3/day.
What we get out of this analysis is that the Open Pond yield is somewhere between 35-60 ton/ha/year and that a Photo Bioreactor has a yield of 75-365 ton/ha/yr. This would indicate that the Photo Bioreactor is between 2-6 times as more effective, probably somewhere in between, lets say something like 3 times more effective.
So let us put this in perspective.
If we can achieve the theoretical targets of 15.000 gallons/acre/yr of BioDiesel from Algae (note I am using US units here to make it easier) in a Photo Bioreactor, we should be able to get out 5.000 gallons/acre/year from an Open Pond system, compare this to Palm Oil, 600 gal/ac/yr and Jatropha 60 gal/acr/yr.
This has some rather interesting implications for the future applications of Open Pond and Photo Bioreactors and the different potential application areas and market segments, however more about that some other time....
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
Jacob’s Cafe, a small Changi Village-based restaurant which opened in 2000, is the first participant in Asia Carbon Global’s Carbon Nil programme, making it Singapore’s first SME to become carbon neutral. For the past six months, Mr. Lim Tow Soon, Jacob’s Cafe’s proprietor and General Manager, has been working with ACG and with AUM Business Creation’s Mr. Per Dahlen to help make real Asia’s first Carbon Neutral programme for individuals, retail enterprises, and small- and medium-scale enterprises (SMEs).
For the first time in Singapore, Carbon Neutrality will no longer be limited to larger corporations. The new Carbon Nil platform, which Asia Carbon Global launched last year with UNFCCC-approved verifier TUV Nord, provides any individual, retailer, or SME the opportunity to address their own environmental impacts and discharge these responsibilities without undertaking any large investments or complex administrative solutions.
In the case of Jacob’s Cafe, its relevant greenhouse gas (GHG) emission sources for the year 2007 were assessed and measured by a team of CDM experts. This carbon footprint was then evaluated and verified by TUV-Nord, and a certification issued to confirm the emissions calculations. Through Carbon Nil, Jacob’s Cafe then purchased the equivalent voluntary emissions reductions (VERs) issued from green projects in the region, and then used these to offset its carbon footprint. Employing Asia Carbon’s Registry technology, the VERs are properly tagged and monitored so that they are permanently retired from the system.
Jacob’s Cafe intends to provide its clients with the opportunity to share in this programme by including a “carbon neutral charge” of 0.75% of the total bill. Simply put, each $100 spent in Jacob’s Cafe will mean an additional 0.75 cents for a carbon neutral dinner at the restaurant.
It is hoped that this demonstration showing how one’s carbon footprint can be truly offset with real and effective steps.
Friday, May 2, 2008
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
And what if this is just another bubble, I was myself very much involved in the last major bubble - the Internet bubble, and I hopefully learned from my mistakes, but have a look at the following chart, it looks very like a bubble to me:
In this graph you find in the oil price per barrel since 1993 plotted against the price of Natural Gas. In the two smaller graphs you have to your left, the 1929 stock market crash and in the right one, the Internet bubble crash, looks kinda similar to me, no?
What if now this is a bubble and we will return to lower oil prices, we I guess that is good for the majority of the people in the short run, current commodity prices just pushed some 100 million under the minimum level of existence, hence all the fuzz in the UN the past few weeks. But what about the environment in the long run? How much focus on Cleantech will remain when the oil returns to US$50 per barrel and the business drivers are not there any more?
Most people agree that you can make Ethanol profitable at US$90 and Biodiesel at US$60 per barrel, or if it was the other way around, does not really matter in this discussion, the reality will be that climate change warnings alone will not be enough to pull the CleaTech wagon through to a sustainable future, or will it?
The Internet brought with it Boradband, Google and Software as a Service, great inventions that we all benefit from. Will we be able to see the same thing in CleanTech even if the oil bubble bursts? Just looking into the Algae scene which you can read about in my other blogs, it looks frigtlingly much like the Internet photo scene in 1999 when I started ViaCarla together with Greg Lee. There were more then 200 start-ups back then and the total investments into the Internet photo space was at least US$500M over 3-4 years.
The trick will be to pick the oFoto, Shuttelfly of Snapfish amonth all the Algae technology companies out there. I have no doubt that Algae will be a very important ingredience in the future of fuels and climate change, but the question is how and when, as I can see it right now we are still 3-5 years away before we can see what emerges out of this industry. I believe that it will be something great, but it will probably look more like YouTube, Twitter, or Facebook then the early internet photosites in web 1.0.
As always I welcome comments to these simple reflections from a rainy but warm Singapore.
Friday, April 25, 2008
and here the response and follow-up discussions:
This study evaluates the claims made by GreenFuel Technology Corporation (www.greenfuelonline.com) and makes some very interesting reading. The basic conclusion is that using Algae Bioreactors for producing Biodiesel will only be competitive if the oil price hits over US$800 per barrel, in the best case!
Using physics theories and comparing this to the claims made by GreenFuel you will find statements like this in the report:
"As can be seen from Table 1, the maximum biodiesel yield from the S.W. USA is less than 1.5 gal/yr/m2. According to a construed example in GreenFuel’s patent application, an algal plant generates 342,000 bbl of biodiesel per year in a 1.3km2 area, which would translate into 11 gal/m2/yr. Given biodiesel’s energy content of 126,200BTU per gallon, this would equal to energy capture of 46.6W/m2 for a region with mean annual PAR levels of 105W/m2, or in other words a Q of 44.4%! Considering that the theoretical efficiency of photosynthesis is 27%, this claim is an unconscionable exaggeration that may get GreenFuel in trouble with the patent office."
I am a businessman and an entrepreneur not a scientist so of course I can not comment on this report but if the report is correct it is another indication to the problems associated to the Algae Bioreactors and seriously questions the viability of such ventures. I estimate that there are at least 10 start-ups experimenting with this technology with a total funding exceeding US$100M.
Previous research, most prominently the so-called "Aquatic Species Program" (ASP), which ran from 1978 to 1996 under the US National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), funded by the Office of Fuels Development, a division of the US Department of Energy. The program's conclusions (download .pdf) about the Algae BioReactor are:
"The Japanese, French and German governments have invested significant R&D dollars on novel closed bioreactor designs for algae production. The main advantage of such closed systems is that they are not as subject to contamination with whatever organism happens to be carried in the wind. The Japanese have, for example, developed optical fiber-based reactor systems that could dramatically reduce the amount of surface area required for algae production. While breakthroughs in these types of systems may well occur, their costs are, for now, prohibitive—especially for production of fuels. DOE’s program focused primarily on open pond raceway systems because of their relative low cost."
NREL's ASP research abandoned Algae Bioreactors all together and instead focused on the development of algae farms in desert regions, using shallow salt water pools for growing the algae.
Biopact (http://www.biopact.com/) has always taken a sceptic view towards Algae-2-Biofuel which you can read here and in this very long but worth reading article here. There is also an article with Dr. Krassen Dimitrov here.
If you would like to continue researching and know future developments subscribe to his blog here.
Thursday, April 10, 2008
Here a summary about different companies involved in Algae production for Biofuels. I will be happy to hear your comments and remarks. Should you have any additional information please feel free to comment or send me more information.
First of all here is the "algae crash course":
Solix Biofuels (US)
Green Fuel Technologies (US)
Global Green Solutions Inc.
Life Fuel (US)
BTR and Green Star (US)
Aurora Biofuels (US)
Shell and HR Biopetrolium (US)
PertoSun Inc. and Algae Biofuels Inc (US)
International Energy Inc. (CAN)
AlgoDyne Conporation (NL)
Circle Biodiesel & Ethanol Corporation (
XL Renewables (
Old Dominion University in Norfolk
No company link, but this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v
Other to see:
University of Minnesota (St Paul)
http://www.oilgae.com/blog/ (RSS feed)
http://www.unh.edu/p2/biodiesel/article_alge.html (Biodiesel numbers)