Renewable Chemical Feedstocks the Fossil Research Proposal

Excerpt from Research Proposal :

The feedstocks that are considered include going back on coal Gasification, and coal liquefaction, stranded natural gas and oil which was heavy and available from the 'oil shale' or 'tar sands', and biomass. Because of its eco friendly nature and sustainability biomass is to be considered as the better alternative. There are some technical barriers that have to be overcome in using biomass as alternate feedstock. Governments are now considering the aspects of power generation and production of transportation fuels. The know-how for the chemical industry is yet to be developed fully and this can be using feedstock alternatives to petroleum and using sustainable manufacturing practices. (McFarlane, 2006)

It is also argued that the resources and environmental pressures spring from the throughput of materials in the economy. That is determined by total output. Now total output could be considered again in the denomination of population and per capita output, and these two are according to Ronald G. Ridker the variables of environmental pressures. The energy situation is worse than that for non-fuel minerals because of the volatility of prices and the technological changes. Thus the nature of a change will be determined by the elasticities and domestic prices. The demand, import and other economic activities will change the way the existing resources and reserves of fossil fuel are used and the methods of using alternate resources. With regard to biomass and other alternate feedstock we can predict that the existing reserves are defined in terms of the total resources that are known, and we could therefore create the scenario where future reserves likely to be added to reserves in the next fifty years, and the total resources are the sum of these two categories. (Ridker; Watson, 1980, p. 15)

The current advancement in this sphere is limited. And there could be consequences for the agricultural markets if the feedstock is grown according to Hyunok Lee et al. There could be ramifications that are legal too, like the possible ethanol production, conflicting with that of the 'Clean Air Act', enhances the usage of 'corn' and gluten feed, an ethanol co-product in the U.S. Industrial uses it is argued are the potential source of additional demand. The advantage would be that bio-dependent natural resources have suitable 'environmental' elements, in comparison with alternatives which are 'petroleum' dependent. (Lee, et al., 1994, p. 22)

Environment Concerns

James H. Clark argues that in the fag end of the 20th century chemical needs were met to a greater degree with renewable feedstocks. But later the transition to non-renewables was ushered in. Today chemical feedstock supply is dominated by non-renewable carbon while it could be argued that there is a vast amount of carbon in the biosphere which if used could supply the carbon needs of the earth. The other sources like corn, paper pulp and other agricultural commodities therefore are better natural feedstock that are renewable and are also environment friendly. (Clark; Macquarrie, 2002, p. 305)

This has given rise to the term 'Green Chemistry and is defined by Robert J. Lempert et al. As having its origins from the 'U.S. Environmental Protection Agency -- EPA', which designated 'centers' or 'programs' within several universities, under the title of the 'Green Chemistry Institute', which was instituted with the collaboration of organizations and scientists with 'American Chemical Society'. The class of 'NGETs' -- "Next Generation Environmental Technologies" is the study of the arena of 'green chemistry' which is emerging nowadays in the field of science. 'Green chemistry' thus is a discipline which is based on 'chemical processes' design and products which is less harmful to the environment. (What Are Next Generation Environmental Technologies?, n. d.)

The technology that is based on the principle of green chemistry research is deemed as an NGET, this is vital because most environmental damage is being done by chemicals the concept of green chemistry becomes relevant. 'Green chemistry' might provide an important element of all of the NGETs, since several problems of the environment result due to 'chemicals' as well as their impacts on the 'society'. Bio-based processes have to be designed to create renewable feedstocks or biomass in conventional chemical processes. Feedstocks may be petrochemical based and also from the other natural sources. Enzymes and the chemical reaction they catalyze are important in using biomass for chemical derivatives. (What Are Next Generation Environmental Technologies?, n. d.)
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The million dollar question however is will the alternatives be sustainable?

Objectives and Sustainability

According to James H. Clark and Duncan J. Macquarrie, the concept of sustainable development is a component of all projects that are aimed at changing social, economic and environmental usages. These three are connected forces in the world. The role of chemistry as a science and industry touches all the three spheres. The chemical industry that has evolved in a scientific tradition is blamed for deterioration of the environment. Thus the scientists in chemistry are faced with the necessity of coming up with alternates for those processes that are either considered harmful or s is the case with fossil fuels, getting scarce day by day. (Clark; Macquarrie, 2002. p. 318)

One method that scientists adopt is to reduce the intensity of chemical processes which answers the questions of protecting the environment. The other option of finding alternate supplies of depleting resources is more complex and multiple ways are possible like recycling, and in some cases increasing durability that reduces consumption, and so on. Faced with a future where petroleum-based chemicals are going to scarce, the industries that depend on the chemicals are in imperative need to find alternate resources that not only perform in the same capacity but also serves the environment question in a positive way. (Clark; Macquarrie, 2002. p. 320) Then what are the current availability and future possibilities?

Bio Mass Possibilities:

The problem with biomass is that there must be a basic cultivation or agricultural operation which means diverting land resources from conventional agriculture to producing the necessary feedstock. Alternately existing bio feedstocks could be used for alternate purposes. In either case there is a need to redefine activities in multiple sectors. The change in agrarian sector and the use of land can be changed only if it is possible to show that changing the crop or pattern could be as beneficial as conventional crops. Biomass could also be recovered from industrial, agricultural and even human and city wastes. All these require the placing of a large number of systems that cater to one unit of the whole operation. The condition is that each unit has to be viable and profitable. Thus there must be changes in the national industrial and even in the social level for this to be practical. (Bozell, 2008, p. 642)

Models already exist for switching to biomass. For example Joseph J. Bozell in discussing the method of converting renewable carbon to chemicals says that the industry is experiencing a huge increase in both research and commercial interest. One possible solution is to construct a model of refineries in the same manner as the fossil fuel refinery and in fact the fossil fuel refineries could be tweaked to accommodate biomass input. This type of refinery is defined as the bio-refinery is now a recognized approach for transforming renewable raw materials into separate bio-based process. Successful bio-refinery operations could thus have two results, one being the replacement of nonrenewable raw materials sources like coal and the second a new economic expansion with a thrust and economic incentive to create robust bio refining industry. This can be simultaneous effects if the fuel and chemical industry requirement are integrated within a single operation. (Bozell, 2008, p. 644)

Joseph J. Bozell says further that the creation of such a refinery is not yet feasible on account of the lack of technology, which would otherwise facilitate the conversion of renewable carbon sources into useful marketplace chemicals. The raw materials would then be renewable. The bio-refinery in concept is similar to a petrochemical refinery, and contains three primary process operations that can be categorized as the raw material supply, converting the raw materials into refined components and bye products and delivery. Conceptually an Integration of fuel and chemical production within a single bio refinery operation gives the maximum return on investment. The process is similar to the process of ethanol. The byproducts are renewable carbon from biomass waste, and also source of aromatic chemicals. (Bozell, 2008, p. 645)

Therefore it becomes necessary to consider the biomass in detail. The term is defined by the 'UCS Fact sheet' as the energy derived from the sun. 'Biomass' is an element of 'renewable energy' since the energy it emerges from sun. Further, the processes involve a cycle in which by photosynthesis, 'plants' take the energy of the sun. This results in 'carbohydrates' and 'compounds' of complexity including oxygen, hydrogen and carbon. On…

Sources Used in Documents:


Aftalion, Fred. 1991. A History of the International Chemical Industry. Benfey University of Pennsylvania Press: Philadelphia.

Blackburn, John O. 1987. The Renewable Energy Alternative: How the United States and the World Can Prosper without Nuclear Energy or Coal. Duke University Press. Durham, NC.

Board on Chemical Sciences and Technology (BCST). 2005. Sustainability in the Chemical Industry: Grand Challenges and Research Needs - A Workshop Report. The National Academies Press.

Bozell, Joseph J. 2008. Feedstocks for the Future -- Biorefinery Production of Chemicals from Renewable Carbon. Clean-Soil, Air, Water, vol. 36, no. 8, pp: 641 -- 647.

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