Monday, March 31, 2014

the Need to Develop a Framework towards Sustainable Use of Forestry Biomass

Biomass is normally considered a "renewable and carbon neutral energy source" but unless the biomass is harvested in a sustainable manner with long term plans to regenerate those plants and trees, it would not remain a truly renewable and carbon neutral source. Here, we discuss some brief ideas on how to develop a basic framework for sustainable harvest of forestry biomass. 
The world (or at least the primary energy producers) need to focus on energy needs by region, biomass resource availability by type (crop residues, forest residue, methane (landfills/manure management, wastewater), urban wood residues and mill residues, and a discussion on the matching capabilities of these resources by economic extraction value. For the US and N. American regions, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden CO has some excellent interactive mapping tools available online [1].
Map of Forestry Residues (Contiguous lower 48 USA); Query source: NREL
A detailed thermodynamic analysis of the use with existing technologies should be estimated for a foreseeable short period of about five years. Beyond five years, we should develop synergistic technologies that can take advantage of cyclical solar energy to produce viable biobased fuel products in various biorefineries as well as biomass combustion units. The stakeholders involved in this could be the entities that own the forests (government units such as Dept of Environment/Forests, timber mills, businesses with leases on biomass use for energy), indigenous people/society that is dependent on forest for livelihood etc. In certain regions, the use of forest biomass should take the societal aspect also into consideration [2].
The efficient use of these forest residues and projections over next twenty years could have a significant impact on the ecological, economic and societal aspects for a large portion of our growing population. The balance between agricultural expansion into forest land, forest thinning practices and timber management’s impact on woody fuel production are all significant issues that need to be addressed by several states and also need to be addressed by consortia of multiple states in some cases. 
There is a pressing need for a real framework to be developed for carbon emissions measurement, the reach of regulatory bodies (existing and necessary new rules) and a quantification of the sustainability of forest use through an accounting and documenation procedure. Specific quantitative rules that assess the balance between use of woody biomass from forests in thermochemical processes versus other opportunistic fuel use should be discussed based on regional constraints. A thermodynamic analysis juxtaposed with heat rate needs for populations in the forestry’s harvest region would be one determining factor for the rate of forest thinning. A detailed look at the existing framework of rules for certifying the sustainability of forestry biomass use should not just be carbon centric but should also be water centric [3]. 
1. NREL. 2014; Available from:
2. Myllyviita, T., et al., Sustainability assessment of wood-based bioenergy – A methodological framework and a case-study. Biomass and Bioenergy, 2013. 59(0): p. 293-299.
3. WWF. Position Paper on Sustainability Criter for Forest Based Biomass in Europe used in Electricity, Heating and Cooling. 2012; Available from:


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Thursday, March 27, 2014

Fusion Energy Developments: for Space travel

It may not be the most efficient way of producing propulsion or power for consumption on earth, but for travel in the space/reducing travel time etc, fusion could be one of the best bets. 

So much so, that NASA has given two rounds of funding to a joint team of scientists from U Wash and  MSNW for a fusion based rocket project. Most of the big details of Slough et al's work is discussed in the paper (below) and Technews's article (link below).

One set of three rings weighing about 350 gm will be used for each implosion, Slough said. The pressure inside the rings will reach 600,000 atmospheres for a few microseconds, vaporizing the rings. The resulting superheated ionized metal will be ejected out of a divergent magnetic nozzle at high velocity. (link)

What I am really hoping is that this Lithium based fusion plasma reactor could spawn the development of a economical and safe fusion reactors for civilian power on earth.

This project has been partly funded by the NASA Institute of Advanced Concepts Review.

Sources: The Fusion Driven Rocket: Nuclear Propulsion through Direct Conversion of Fusion Energy    Slough et al. 2013 (PDF paper)


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Monday, May 20, 2013

Energy Topics - Weekend Reading


Instead of reading articles as soon as I see them, I am going to collect a few links here and hold on. Then, after review, I can write comments or analysis on them.

Friday's Reading List

Offshore Secret Files Expose Offshores Global Impact

How Volatility Boosts Career Resilience

US Offshore Wind: Still a Ways to go

Also look into:


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Sunday, October 28, 2012

Retail CNG Trucks - Chrysler RAM

Just read this news that Chrysler has offered CNG trucks to dealerships that can sell it to retail customers in 19 states starting soon..
More on this is covered here:


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Thursday, September 13, 2012

October-November Energy Conferences

Here are few of the upcoming conferences in the Pittsburgh Area where Energy would be a focus:

Pittsburgh Coal Conference
Oct 15-18, 2012;

American Institute of Chemical Engineers
Oct 28- Nov 2, 2012;

Unconventional gas
Nov 13-15, 2012;
DUG East 2012:


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Friday, August 17, 2012

Urban Transportation: Tata Motors Pod

A pod shaped vehicle meant for urban transport on small distance scales is under the works at Tata Motors.

More about it:


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Monday, June 18, 2012

Newspaper Record of PA Anthracite Mining Found in 1902 Aussie Newspaper

user corrected images and old text archives, newspapers, mags etc
Australian National Library - home page screenshot
I was looking for some information on Anthracite coals mined in Pennsylvania and conducted a preliminary internet search on mine locations. One result that showed up was very unique indeed, in that, it spoke about a mine (Mammoth) that has been closed for a while (and since reopened for possible coal-to-liquids projects). What struck me about this web-hit was that it was from a 1902 newspaper clipping archived in the National Library (Australia)'s site.

I did my bit in correcting the first two paragraphs of that particular newspaper article and would probably go back to correct more in the near future. If you have an interest in restoring historical items, this is one way to do it sitting in the comfort of your home! You would also be contributing to knowledge sharing.


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Sunday, April 11, 2010

Are we driving more efficiently?

Annual highway-vehicle miles per gallon of motor gasoline vs. Chained motor gasoline price

With gas prices inching back up to 3 $/gal, the accepted idea is that people are driving less because of higher gas prices. Does this graph support the idea? (I used data from Federal Highway Administration and EIA to get the data).


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The Energy Webring