Sustainable bioenergy can dramatically reduce global carbon emissions #COP21

The COP21 talks in Paris came to a turning-point on Saturday, as an update to the draft agreement was released. Finance appears to be the over-riding issue as we settle in to the second week of the conference – but what about the solutions?

Did you know that more than half of the world’s annual carbon emissions could be prevented over the next 50 years by using sustainable bioenergy?

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According to research by Pacala and Socolow, outlined by the IChemE Energy Centre, 25 billion tonnes of carbon emissions can be prevented from entering the atmosphere – simply by switching from fossil-based petroleum to bioethanol as our primary transportation fuel.

So why aren’t we using it already?

The raw materials used in bioenergy production – food crops like maize and sugarcane – come with a lot of associated challenges. Food crops are by no means guaranteed; a bad season could have a detrimental effect, particularly in developing countries who rely on their crops as a means of livelihood. Concerns about the economical implications for developing countries have already been raised in Paris – and could be a deal-breaker for alternative fuels like bioenergy.

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Energy research in South Africa (Day 284)

284 days into my blog and counting. By now, I trust you’ve realised that the chemical engineering profession is truly global.  But it’s still all too easy to focus on our own back yard. So today, I’m heading south to see what Africa has to offer.

Last July, IChemE signed an agreement with the South African Institution of Chemical Engineers (SAIChE) that formalised collaboration and brought chemical engineering in South Africa closer to IChemE’s global community.

I recently went on a trip to South Africa, and during my time there I met with many IChemE and SAIChE members who shared stories of their work.

The coal rig

Photo Credit | NWU
The coal rig

One of the research projects that caught my attention comes from North-West University (NWU) in Potchefstroom, south west of Johannesburg.

Much of the research at NWU looks at different aspects of the energy challenge, including bioenergy, fossil fuels (coal), nuclear energy and energy management. Today, I’m highlighting two different aspects of NWU’s energy research: safer and more sustainable coal stockpile management and the production of biodiesel from waste cooking oils.

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Not just any old bioenergy (Day 74)

energy calculatorTen per cent of the world’s primary energy supply in 2009 came from biomass. Demand for bioenergy is expected to grow three-fold by 2050. But does it matter where this bioenergy comes from?

Bioenergy generated from biomass comes from a range of sources; e.g. corn, sugar, sugar beet, soy, energy grass, organic waste and wood etc. to name but a few.

But how can we be sure that these renewable sources are any better than traditional energy producing methods?

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