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Ruby Sahiwal

Founder & Chairman , General Biofuels

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Is it possible to avert global warming by replacing "fossil coal" with biocoal?

To reverse global warming we need to eliminate approximately 7 billion tons of CO2 emissions annually. Worldwide coal consumption is 7 billion tons. This generates approximately 20 billions tons of CO2. Replacing about 2.5 billion tons of fossil coal with the carbon neutral biocoal will eliminate 7 billion tons of CO2 emissions thus solving the global warming problem. Is it possible to create biocoal that is cost competitive with "fossil coal"? What will it take to do so?

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  • Feb 6 2012: Yes. By a long yard. It takes approximately 4MW to run a plant producing 250,000 MT/yr. Add in the fuel costs for harvesting crops etc. At 22GJ/MT, this plant will produce fuel with energy value of 5,500,00 GJ and consume approximately 200,000 GJ. So, yes.
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      Feb 7 2012: do you have a resource for that? i suppose, based on what you said here, that the technology uses dried plants to make charcoal.

      i have some doubts, because there are methods to make pellets or brickets out of grass or sawdust. it sounds cheaper, but still not economic as of now. (i.e. more expensive than, say, natural gas.) this charcoal seems to be a more sophisticated, higher quality product, but also more expensive. so it seems even less marketable.

      i would like to see some fact sheets about that technology, especially focusing on ROI, prices, etc.
      • Feb 7 2012: In order to achieve market parity with Coal economics in terms of $/GJ I believe we need the following:

        Biomass at $10-20/dry ton
        Conversion Process $20-25/MT
        Capex of $200/MT

        I believe this is doable. High yielding grasses combined with mechanization can deliver biomass economics. Torrefaction and other processes borrowed from the mining and/or paper & pulp sector can deliver the right conversion processes. Not sure if the Capex piece is doable. I believe that is the key challenge.
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          Feb 7 2012: then you actually have the answer to your question. to get competitive bio coal, you need to bring the prices down to the level you just said.

          as i researched, hay for example sells for USD 50 there, or USD 25 equivalent here, still higher than the target.

          converting at that price also needs R&D.

          so go ahead, and good luck :)

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