Running out of oil before its time condemns the plane, but also the economy

Posted on January 8, 2023


in an article published on the website Atlantico Last December, Damien Ernst tried to show that Jean-Marc Jancovici’s claim that the disappearance of the oil condemned the plane was unfounded.

Unfortunately, a rational and clear examination of the consequences of this disappearance cannot lead to any other conclusion. Also, does acknowledging that the only way to prevent catastrophic climate change is to decouple the economy from staple food pose a significant risk to human societies?

According to Damien Ernst, in the absence of oil, the sustainability of air transport can be ensured by replacing kerosene obtained from coal by the Fischer-Tropsch process or by the same means from electrolytic hydrogen and CO.2 atmospheric.

Let’s take a closer look.

The first stage of the Fischer-Tropsch process produces hydrogen as a result of incomplete combustion of coal, which produces a hydrogen-carbon monoxide gas mixture according to the formula CH4 + 1/2O2 –> 2H.2 +CO.

The second stage of the process consists in subjecting this mixture to catalytic liquefaction, which undergoes water reformation and is directed to the appropriate dose of hydrogen: (2n+1)H2 + nCO –> CnH(2n+2) + nH2O. The fuel thus obtained is less stable and of lower quality than kerosene, especially due to its low octane number.

Air traffic status

Global air transport currently consumes about 360 billion liters of kerosene or about 300 billion kg or 0.3 billion tons of kerosene per year. Given that the low calorific value or LCV of kerosene is 10,300 kcal/kg and 1 Wh = 860 calories, estimate the energy produced by burning such a mass of fuel that yields an LCV of 12 kW/kg or 12 kW. MW/ton.

Thus, the NCV of 0.3 billion tons of kerosene is 3.6 billion MWh or 3,600 TWh.

That’s 3,600 TWh per year of energy that Damien Ernst thinks is reasonably possible to generate from coal or hydrogen-CO.2 It is ensured by the Fischer-Tropsch method. Why not ?

First of all, the coal sector

With the total energy efficiency of Fischer-Tropsch being 50%, it is necessary to ensure the supply of 7200 TWt/h of coal per year, that is, the following amount of this fuel with an NCV of 9.25 kW/kg should be extracted: 7200 bln. /9.25 = 778 billion kg of coal, or 778 million tons annually, is used in aviation alone.

Hydrogen-CO sector2 after

Given that we’re exempt from going through the Fischer-Tropsch coal-burning phase here, let’s just accept a generous 65% return to the second phase of the latter. On the other hand, to estimate the global productivity of primary production, H2 and CO2 Using electricity alone, we can only make the following rough estimate: assign it a generous value of 45%, derived from a change in electrolysis’s 65% efficiency due to the difficult-to-estimate, but probably moderate, efficiency in CO2 capture, storage and reduction. CHO2.

Hence, the overall electrical efficiency of kerosene production from H2 and CO2 R = 0.65 x 0.45 or hardly different from 0.3?

Considering that this kerosene should produce 3600 TWh of energy per year, the electricity required for synthesis cannot be less than: 3600/0.3 = 12,000 TWh. To be consistent with the Fischer-Tropsch approach to primary energy coal, let us add that this 12,000 TWh of electricity constitutes 30,000 TWh of primary nuclear power after applying a generous 40% generation efficiency.

Global production of nuclear and renewable electricity cannot fly more than three-quarters of the current fleet!

Fischer-Tropsch die H requirement2-CHO2 so it would be 12,000 electrical TWh/year… while the world production of renewable energy excluding hydro is currently 5670 TWh, and nuclear production is 2710 TWh, the sum of these two productions alone, i.e. 8380 TWh, only manages to fly 70%. world fleet… and at what cost?!

Limited and still overpriced air travel

At exactly what cost can synthetic jet fuel be produced this way, starting with electricity? We leave it to the reader to calculate how much 12,000 TWh per year would be paid today at around €300 per MW or even €50-60 per MW.

And that’s not all, because no one imagines the cost of producing an H2 It has been reduced to the consumption of electricity sold today between 4 and 7 euros per kilo, knowing that the price of an electrolyzer is given between 800 and 1000 euros/KW depending on the mode of connection to the network. And let’s not talk about proper CO capture and sequestration2 between 80 and 180 euros per ton depending echoes.

The same applies to the cost of producing fuel from coal, which is certainly not limited to the sunk costs of €70-80 per barrel: processing 778 million tonnes of coal per year with Fischer-Tropsch units costing €250 million each and €250 million each the need the processing of only 100,000 tons starts with an investment commitment of about 750 billion euros.

Look carefully into the future or expose yourself to the worst

Given the above, who can believe that one day our lands will be strewn with piles of slag and piles of pulverized coal to be used only for air transport? Who can even believe that a country, an industrialist or any cooperative group would dare to fly airplanes with synthetic fuel below $150-200 a barrel of oil?

However, what Jean-Marc Jancovici and his followers of the climate crusade, including unfortunately too many heads of state, can be blamed for is artificially inflating that price. They bear much of the responsibility for what is just beginning to emerge from the following dramatic observation.

In December last year, before the war in Ukraine, Saudi Arabia’s oil minister, Abdulaziz bin Salman, had already warned of a major risk of an energy crisis in the coming years due to the collapse of oil investments. He estimated that global production would decline by 30 million barrels per day – about 30% – by 2030; and this will not continue even if supply remains higher than demand in the coming months. The sharp insufficient investments in the exploration of new deposits and the development of the latest deposits no longer allow the renewal of production capacities. However, oil and gas will provide 57% of the world’s energy consumption for a long time to come. Thus, with the production of existing fields in the world decreasing by 4-8% per year, not only significant investments are not needed to stabilize production, but according to the Bloomberg agency, they will decrease by 30% in 2020. % is converted into oil and gas.

In summary, according to the Saudi minister, there will be a shortage of 20 million barrels per day by the end of the 2050s, which is more than the annual consumption of a country like the United States, and is still in this scenario. sustainable development sober The most optimistic of the BEA, that is, the most improbable.

In these circumstances, to continue to advocate the gradual abandonment of air travel and the adoption of increasingly sober lifestyles is not only an acknowledgment that the end of oil is the end of the modern economy, it is also deliberately subversive. else. Of course, the end of hydrocarbons will come one day, but according to the real experts, enough time will allow people to find an energy substitute, whose economies are already in jeopardy anyway. However, this substitute can only be nuclear fission and fusion, including for air transport. Therefore, less time can be wasted putting the package into R&D in these two sectors, as the energy needs of yet-to-be-invented substitutes for petrochemicals can be significant.

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