Renewable resource development - American Chemical Society

Renewable resource development: A Pacific/Asian perspective. By Victor D. Phillips. Approximately 60% of Hawaii's energy is used for transportation, w...
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Renewable resource development: A Pacific/Asian perspective By Victor D. Phillips

Approximately 60% of Hawaii's energy is used for transportation, whereas only 30% is used in the generation of electricity. Over 90% of the energy used in Hawaii is supplied by imported oil costing over $1 billion annually. This loss to the Hawaiian economy may be trivial, however, when compared to the potential impacts of global warming, including loss of beaches, diminishing of or shifts in tradewinds that could result in higher temperatures and less rainfall, and increased pest and disease problems (1).

To brake the accelerating export of dollars from the local economy and reduce the output of CO, from local vehicles, the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute (HNEI) is installing R & D programs in the production, conversion, and utilization of biofuels, particularly methanol-from-biomass, to replace gasoline and diesel fuel for ground transportation. Other R & D programs will study the mitigation of global greenhouse warming through strategies involving the oceans, tropical terrestrial systems, and energy alternativesincluding appropriate policy options for Hawaii, the Pacific region, and much of the rest of the world. The Hawaii Natural Energy Institute was founded in 1974 to help Hawaii become energy self-sufficient and thus more economically secure. Its mission is to develop local, renewable energy resources to replace imported petroleum with little or no degradation of Hawaii's unique, fragile ecosystems. Over the years, HNEI's research emphasis has changed from electrical power produc-

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En" (On. S c . Technol.. Vol 24 NO 7, 1990

Victor Phillips

tion to liquid fuels for transportation, environmental benefits of renewable energy development, and manufacture of high-value coproducts in renewable energy operations to enhance the economic viability of integrated systems (e& dyes and ceramics from geothermal resources; electronic components and aerospace applications from photovoltaic and wind technologies; food, pharmaceuticals and fresh water from Ocean thermal energy conversion; and paper, plastics, waste recovery, and industrial chemicals from biomass resources (2, 3). The cost per unit of energy service in Hawaii currently favors continued reliance on inexpensive imported oil. However, oil prices will rise as finite supplies dwindle and as the costs of oil production, conversion, end-use pollution, and waste disposal are included. Renewable energy technologies are becoming cost competitive. The HNEl research described below is organized into two complementary programs: one on alternative fuels and one on the mitigation of global greenhouse warming. Alternative fuels The alternative fuels program focuses on the production, conversion, and utili-

zation of methanol-from-biomass to replace gasoline and diesel fuel for ground transportation in Hawaii. Methanol can be "grown" by thermochemically converting fast-growing, high-yield trees and grasses harvested from biomass energy plantations into methanol. The CO, released by combustion of methanol produced from biomass feedstocks does not contribute to global warming because it equals the uptake of carbon in a cycle of combustion and photosynthesis. Switching to renewable methanol-from-biomass fuel would reduce atmospheric CO, levels because CO, emissions from gasoline and diesel fuel would be eliminated. The centerpiece of the alternative fuels program is the Hawaii Integrated Biofuels Research Program. Its objective is to evaluate the potential of several biomass resource-including woody crops such as eucalyptus and leucaena and herbaceous crops like sugarcane and napiergrass-particularly for utilization in thermochemical conversion processes to produce methanol as a transportation fuel. The results are directly applicable in the American territories throughout the Pacific Basin and Caribbean and in many parts of the United States and the world (3). The Hydrogen Energy from Renewable Resources Program assesses technology for producing hydrogen and hydrogen-rich chemicals from renewable energy resources. For Hawaii and other places where biomass is plentiful, production of methanol from biomass via gasification and catalytical conversion processes was determined to be the most cost-efficient form of hydrogen (i.e., methanol as a chemical container of hydrogen) from renewable resources. Work performed in this project includes the partial oxidation of high-moisture biomass feedstocks to produce syngas, the photoelectrochemical production of hydrogen, the conversion of solar energy with cyanobacteria, and the study of nonclassical polyhydride metal com-


0 1990 American Chemical Society



plexes as hydrogen storage materials 141. The Alternative Transportation Energy Conservation Program is designed to evaluate the current ground transportation systems in Hawaii-including a comparative analysis of gasoline, diesel, methanol, and electric vehicles, fuel production, distribution and storage infrastructure, and market analysis-and plan for a statewide transition to a methanol-based fuel system. A second aspect of this program is to test a fleet of electric vehicles equipped with methanol-fueled “range extenders” (Le., onboard electric generators) for performance, driveability, maintenance, and emissions parameters (5). The Alcohol Transportation Fuel Demonstration Project complements the preceding program by providing a state-of-the-art methanol fueling station, including an 8000-gal doublewalled tank with leak detecting system and flame arrester plus vent desiccant drier, fuel management for dispensing and accounting of fuel, and a methanolcompatible fuel p u m p dispenser equipped for vapor recovery. This project addresses some of the technical issues specifically related to using methanol to replace diesel fuel, including cetane enhancement requirements and engine corrosion (6). HNEI is cooperating with the Pacific International Center for High Technology Research (PICHTR), the Institute of Gas Technology, the Ralph M. Parsons Company (an architectural and engineering firm), the Hawaiian Commercial and Sugar Company, and others to develop plans to construct and operate a 50-200 dry tons per day medium-Btu biomass gasification facility

in response to a solicitation from the US. Department of Energy (7). The state of Hawaii has appropriated $4,120,000 in cost-shared funds for plans and construction of a methanolfrom-biomass pilot plant to be completed during the 1989-1991 biennium. The first phase of the project involves the gasification of biomass feedstocks to produce a synthesis gas. A second phase is anticipated to provide for the conversion of the synthesis gas to methanol. Global warming mitigation The other complementary HNEI activity is the Mitigation of Global Greenhouse Warming Program. In addition to its advanced R&D programs and active commercialization of abundant renewable energy resources, including energy efficiency improvements in all sectors of the economy, Hawaii has world-class facilities for the scientific characterization and monitoring of oceanic, tropical terrestrial, and atmospheric fluxes and signals of greenhouse trace gases, and for mitigation strategies and policy analysis for the Pacific region. HNEI has assembled and is coordinating an international consortium to address science, technology, and policy issues associated with characterizing and mitigating the greenhouse effect. This comprehensive effort includes obtaining original data needed to fill critical gaps in scientific knowledge of the greenhouse effect, particularly the role of the oceans, tropical terrestrial systems, and CO, and other trace gases. Existing information and the new knowledge generated above will enable more accurate predictions of when, where, and to what extent the impacts of global greenhouse warming may oc-

cur and how these impacts may be minimized or avoided. The overall program goal is to utilize the above data in applied research to identify and evaluate economically viable solutions (both technical fixes and policy changes), including energy alternatives, their e m nomic and social costs and environmental impact, and the sequence of technical and infrastructural steps necessary for their implementation (8). The Mitigation of Global Greenhouse Warming Program is divided into three integrated research components. Component A, High-Resolution Open Ocean Modeling of the Carbon Cycle: An Integrated Physical/BiogeOchemical Approach, will investigate the role of the Oceans in climate regulation and the potential for enhanced CO, removal through nutrient subsidy to marine algae in the open ocean. Component B, Responses of Tropical Terrestrial E m systems to Global Warming and Policy Options for the Pacific Region, will investigate the role of land plants as biological indicators of climate change and as agents for mitigating the greenhouse effect, atmospheric monitoring of pertinent trace gas and aerosol fluxes, economically viable land use, and environmental policy options for addressing global greenhouse warming. Component C, Energy Technology Options for the Pacific Region, will analyze improvements in utilizing fossil fuels, emerging renewable energy technologies and economics, introduction of a hydrogen fuel system, and policies for implementing the energy technology o p tions identified above in the Pacific/ Asian region. Our consortium’s program is designed to help federal agencies fulfill Enuiron. SCi.Technol., Vol. 24, No. 7, 1990 959

their responsibilities in two international research efforts to address global change. The first is the World Meteorological Organization/United Nations Environment Programme’s World Climate Research Program, coordinated in the United States by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, with input from the Federal Coordinating Council for Science, Engineering and Technology’s Committee on Earth Science and the national Climate Program Office. The second is the International Council of Scientific Unions’ International Biosphere/Geosphere Program: A Study of Global Change, with the US. contribution coordinated through the National Research Council’s Committee on Global Change. Two related HNEI projects involve marine algal production. The goal of the Mass Culture of Algae Utilizing CO, from Stack Gases Project, funded by the Electric Power Research Institute, is to capture CO, from power plant stack gases photosynthetically by marine macro- and micro-algal species and to convert this aquatic biomass into valuable commercial products. A potentially larger project with PICHTR involves determining the positive aspects of artificial upwelling produced by large quantities of deep, cold, low-pathogen,

nutrient-rich sea water made available through the process of ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC). PICHTR already has an ongoing $2.5 million per year ($7.5 million total to date) partnership with Japan and the U.S. Department of Energy on the OTEC project. Ironically, because it is a global threat, the greenhouse effect could be the most constructively unifying phenomenon yet experienced by humans. It offers us yet another challenge to persist as a species, to improve the living conditions and well-being of our own species, and to protect all of the other inhabitants of our planet, which are vital for our survival. It may even result in a switch to a safe and economical energy policy and system based on renewable resources-a switch necessary to preserve our grandchildren’s future (I).

References (1) Phillips, V. D. Testimony before U S . Department of Energy hearing on energy supply in Hawaii and Pacific nations and international competitiveness; Honolulu, HI, January 11, 1990. ( 2 ) Phillips, V. D.; Takahashi, P. K. Enuiron. Sci. Technol. 1989, 23, 10-13. (3) Phillips, V. D.; Chuveliov, A. V.; Takahashi, P. K. Presented at the World Hydrogen Energy Conference N o . 8, July 22-27. 1990, Honolulu, HI.

Hawaii Natural Energy Institute. “Hawaii Integrated Biofuels Research Program-Phase 1 Final Report”; US.Department of Energy/Solar Energy Research Institute Subcontract No. XK-818000-1; Honolulu, HI, 1989. Hawaii Natural Energy Institute. “Hydrogen From Renewable Resources Research Program Statement of Work”; U. S. Department of Energy/Solar Energy Research Institute Subcontract N o . RL-9-19016-1; Honolulu, HI, 1988. Hawaii Natural Energy Institute. “Alternative Transportation Energy Conservation Program Statement of Work”; State of Hawaii Department of Business and Economic Development Contract No. 22659; Honolulu, HI, 1987. Hawaii Natural Energy Institute. “Alcohol Transportation Fuels Demonstration Program State of Work”; U S . Department of Energy Contract No. DE-FGO188CE50280; Honolulu, HI, 1989. US.Department of Energy. “Federal Assistance Solicitation for Cooperative Agreement Proposals for a Biomass Gasifier Scale-up Facility”; FASCAP N o . DF-FS02-89CH10407; Washington, DC, 1989. Phillips, V. D.; Neill, D.R.; Takahashi, P. K. In Proceedings of the 9th International Congress on Energy and Environment; December 11-13, 1989, Miami, FL.

Victor D. Phillips is manager of bioresources and environmental research at the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute at the University of Hawaii of Manoa (Honolulu).He has a Ph.D. in ecology from the University of Colorado.

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Environ. Sci. Technoi., Vol. 24, No. 7, 1990