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Background

The estimated total annual bio-energy potential in the U.S. is about

350 million to
1 billion tons

In the current U.S. energy environment, there is significant emphasis on energy independence and concerns for climate change due to the use of fossil fuels including conventional LPG. The sustainable production of renewable and synthetic fuels (with CO2 recovery plus sequestration) is also receiving significant attention from private industries and government agencies. The total annual bio-energy potential in the U.S. is estimated to be about 350 million tons to about one billion tons; this includes agricultural and forest residues, energy crops and urban wood waste. As an example, at a total availability of 500 million tons and 100% utilization, about 2.0 million barrels/day (MMBPD) of bio-crude could be produced. This could be accomplished by using integrated biomass gasification for the production of synthesis gas, primarily a mixture of hydrogen and carbon monoxide, followed by synthesis gas conversion. Of this total biocrude, about 1,500-6,000 million gallons/year could potentially be bio-propane. As a perspective, during 2008, the total transportation fuel consumption in the U.S. was about 13 MMBPD, while odorized propane consumption was about 10,000 million gallons/year.

According to the proposed National Renewable Fuel Standard program under the Energy Independence & Security Act of 2007, the total annual renewable fuel used in transportation fuel each year should

increase from
9 billion to
36 billion gallons

 

by 2022

An important factor that may possibly influence future propane markets in the U.S. is the ongoing debate over reconciling climate change, energy efficiency and concern for the environment. An example is the recent EPA proposal in revising the National Renewable Fuel Standard program under the Energy Independence & Security Act of 2007. Under this proposal, the total annual renewable fuel (currently, mostly, ethanol and biodiesel) that (i) should meet specific Greenhouse Gas (GHG) reduction targets, and (ii) must be used in transportation fuel each year would increase from the current 9 billion gallons (Bgal) level in 2009 to about 36 Bgal level (~2.4 MMBPD) by 2022. Another state-level GHG regulation, the Global Warming Solutions Act, AB32, has been enacted in California; which requires monitoring/reporting of GHG emissions and bringing the state’s emissions into compliance with the Kyoto Protocol guidelines. In this context, the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) is interested in developing key R&D and business strategies for the commercial production of bio-propane (e.g., propane derived from biomass feed stocks) and synthetic propane (e.g., propane derived from non-petroleum fossil fuels : natural gas, coal or petroleum coke) based on technical and economic analyses of various promising technologies.

PERC is also interested in evaluating the potential of bio/synthetic DME (Dimethyl Ether; currently used commercially as a high-grade aerosol propellant), as a LPG supplement. Stored and transported like propane, DME is currently attracting worldwide attention as a supplement or alternative for LPG as well as for diesel and LNG applications. The World LP Gas Association (WLPGA) has observed that (i) DME and LPG can often be used, as mixtures or separately, as “substitutes”, and (ii) the LP gas industry is ready to welcome the use of DME. Multiple studies, including those by E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company, have shown that DME is benign, has low toxicity and is non-carcinogenic.

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