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'Chemistry of natural resources' focus of plenaries at American Chemical Society meeting

American Chemical Society

Problems producing biofuels, the role of gas hydrates in energy production and how to supply clean, safe water are the topics of three plenary talks at the 249th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS), the world's largest scientific society, taking place March 22-26 in Denver.

The presentations touch on the meeting's theme, "Chemistry of Natural Resources." The talks are among the more than 10,000 scheduled to take place at the meeting and will be held on Sunday, March 22, from 3 to 6:30 p.m., Bellco Theater, Colorado Convention Center.

Despite the passage of federal legislation designed to encourage development of advanced biofuels and substantial government funding for development of related technology, the amount of this energy that has been produced lags far behind what was specified. One speaker will explain the reasons. Another will discuss the role of crystalline inclusion compounds called gas hydrates in energy production. A third speaker will outline the right mix of science, policy and financial incentives to ensure that people and nature get a most valuable commodity: clean and abundant water.

  • Paul F. Bryan, Ph.D.: "The four horsemen of the advanced biofuels apocalypse: Sustainability, technology, profitability and politics"

  • Carolyn A. Koh, Ph.D.: "Fundamentals of gas hydrates and their role in energy transportation and storage"

  • Peter Kareiva, Ph.D.: "Water in the anthropocene: Too much, too little, too dirty"

The American Chemical Society is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress. With more than 158,000 members, ACS is the world's largest scientific society and a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

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The four horsemen of the advanced biofuels apocalypse: Sustainability, technology, profitability and politics

Despite legislation designed to encourage development of Advanced Biofuels (ABF) and significant government funding of technology development and demonstration, commercial volumes remain insignificant and lag far behind the "requirements" of the Energy Independence & Security Act of 2007 (EISA), aka "RFS-2." A few plants have been built and started up, but no company has yet built or even announced a second commercial facility in the United States. DOE Deputy Undersecretary Michael Knotek said that the nation needs: "1,000 refineries like this by 2040," at the recent opening of a cellulosic ethanol plant. At the current pace, 1,000 refineries would not be completed until a year only familiar to Star Trek fans; in any case, decades too late to have a meaningful impact on carbon emissions, dependence on imported crude oil, or the U.S. economy for anyone alive today. This presentation will highlight four major impediments to meaningful progress in commercial production of ABF, and discuss ways in which they might be addressed through actions of the technical, business, and government sectors, and of citizens at large.


Fundamentals of gas hydrates and their role in energy transportation and storage

Gas hydrates are crystalline inclusion compounds comprising hydrogen-bonded water cages that trap small gas molecules. Fundamental understanding of the structure-property relationships, and formation and decomposition processes of gas hydrates is critical in a number of energy applications. These application areas include: maintaining flow in oil/gas subsea pipelines without forming gas hydrate blockages (flow assurance); energy recovery from natural gas hydrate deposits in oceanic sediments and sediments under the permafrost in arctic regions; energy storage (natural gas, hydrogen) in clathrate hydrate materials. This presentation will discuss the state-of-the-art in gas hydrate energy technologies. Discussion will be also given to the drive towards discovering the key pathways and chemical and physical concepts underlying gas hydrate formation and decomposition. Such fundamental understanding can lead towards economic and environmentally sound strategies for controlling gas hydrates in flow line environments beyond conventional avoidance methods, to transporting natural gas or hydrogen in hydrate materials.


Water in the anthropocene: Too much, too little, too dirty

Some have said water is the next oil, anticipating scarcity of a resource for which there is no substitute. The stresses on water are well-known: too many people need it, human effluents are polluting it, climate change is creating extremes of drought and flooding, and agriculture must increase yields to feed a growing population and that requires ever-more water for irrigation. The solutions to too much, too little, and too dirty water is a mix of technology and natural infrastructures (wetlands, forests, floodplains, etc). The trick is finding the mix of science, policy and financial incentives that are environmentally intelligent and economically viable. Clean and abundant water is needed for both people and conserving wild nature - we all want water. Our challenge is to make sure people and nature both get the water they need.


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