Fossil fuels - the need for change to a more renewable, eco-friendly and sustainable source of energy is needed

Fossil fuels - the need for change to a more renewable, eco-friendly and sustainable source of energy is needed

Everyone wants oil, but it is running out. This is why Air Fuel Synthesis is such a promising technology, why we have strong ethical principles, and why we aim to scale up rapidly as our expertise develops.

Fossil oil supplies have permitted an exponential rise in human populations across the world and are consumed in every aspect of modern life.

Oil use is unequal: the USA consumes about 22 barrels of oil per person per year while the consumption of some developing countries is as low as 3 barrels of oil per person per year.

China’s population, a quarter of the world’s total, is expected to increase by an extra 200m people by 2030.  To raise their living standards to a European level is likely to increase Chinese oil demand fivefold. This could mean that their increased demand alone would be the equivalent of about 46% of today’s total global demand for oil.

At the same time, even the (very conservative) International Energy Agency predicts a fall in global oil production to about half today’s levels by 2030, as fossil oil reserves are depleted further (the world passed the point of peak oil production in the mid 2000s). Today’s global inequalities in wealth and access to resources are only likely to increase – with severe implications for the health and material well-being of whole nation states.

Responses to declining fossil fuel sources must be completely sustainable, yet also easily replace the many uses of fossil oil. Producing synthetic hydrocarbon liquids by the AFS method helps to reduce human dependence on fossil oil with benefits that address issues of:

  • Climate change
  • Energy security
  • Sustainability
  • Price predictability

Peak oil and the future

Bio-fuels, synthetic fuels, natural gas liquids, electric cars, even sustainable agriculture — all of these are responses to the impending fossil fuel crises, especially those associated with the peak in global oil production.

Shell Oil engineer M. King Hubbert first noted in the 1950s that all oilfields have a period of increasing production as they are brought online, a period of plateau or peak of maximum production, followed by a period of declining production. In graphical terms, the production versus time tends to follow a bell-shaped curve. Furthermore, what's true of a single oilfield is also true for any given geographical area, such as the US, for which there is very good data, and the world as a whole.

In 1956, Hubbert predicted that US lower 48 oil production would peak in 1970, and it did: From 1971 onwards, US oil production entered into a steep decline of about 3% per year. As predicted by Hubbert’s curve, the US lower 48 states now produce less than half as much oil as in 1970 (5 million barrels per day versus 10 in 1970) and no amount of drilling or technological advance – or indeed “fracking” has reversed the trend.

Peak oil is the point where oil supply can no longer keep up with demand and an “energy descent” begins. This gap — the difference between supply and demand — will grow every year and has huge implications, especially for the energy supply to non-oil producing nations.

When oil prices rose in 2008  (to $147/bbl), as the global economy expanded, supply constraints were estimated to be 2% below demand. A 33% price rise for every future 1% shortfall is a common rule of thumb in the oil industry. Price increases happen very rapidly and with each year of falling production (but still rising populations), the problem gets worse.

Oil use is pervasive and the US economy is very heavily dependent on oil. It is estimated that 10 energy calories are used to produce 1 food calorie, so food costs increase along with fuel, fertilizers, transportation, chemicals, etc. Given historical recessions following the 1973 Arab oil embargo, the 1979 Iran crisis and the 1991 Iraq war, it is easy to forecast that unrestricted oil-based unsustainable “growth” is over.

It is a common misconception that some Middle Eastern countries could just "turn up a valve" to pump more oil. If this was actually possible, they would have already increased production when prices were at their highest ($147/bbl in 2008). Even today, while in a global recession, partly caused by oil prices, crude oil prices remain above $100/bbl and the long-term trends are clear.

AFS will continue to develop its products to prepare for the inevitable economical and environmental risks associated with declining levels in fossil fuels, and the rise in cost as supply lessens.

To discuss the opportunities associated with creating a commercially sustainable viable alternative to fossil fuels,

contact +44 1325 247 910