Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Substitutes for Crude Oil in the $3 Trillion Global Chemicals Market

We have been assured by resource scarcity doomers that there is no substitute for crude oil. Believing that there is no substitute for crude oil is what makes it so easy for peak oil doomers to predict the collapse of civilisation, and the subsequent great human dieoff.orgy.

But what if human ingenuity were able to come up with better, cheaper, cleaner, safer substitutes for crude oil? Not only for transportation, but -- more lucratively -- for high value chemicals, polymers, lubricants, fertilisers, etc. that help make up the $3 trillion a year global chemical markets?
The global chemicals market is worth about $3 trillion annually, according to the American Chemistry Council. Its products can be found in 95 percent of all manufacturing processes. Much of it involves petrochemicals, which account for about 24 percent of the crude oil used in the U.S.

"A lot of brand owners, particularly those that rely heavily on packaging, are interested in protecting their long-term costs," said Douglas Smock, an analyst who wrote a report for market-research firm BCC Research that predicted a boom in plant-based bioplastics. "They want more predictable cost structures going forward. The high price of oil is responsible for the rapid emergence in interest in bioplastics."

...Ford Motor is using soybean foam in its upholstery. McDonald's is testing paper cups for hot drinks in place of polystyrene, which starts out as petroleum. Coca-Cola and PepsiCo are becoming bioplastic bottlers. A California cleaning-products manufacturer has set out to eliminate diesel from its fleet.

.... Ford said it has eliminated 5 million pounds of petroleum annually by using soybean-based cushions in all of its North American vehicles. The company said it got rid of an additional 300,000 pounds of oil-based resins a year by making door bolsters out of kenaf, a tropical plant in the cotton family.

One of the coming revolutions which will help create alternatives for crude oil in several mega $billion industries, is the coming of cheap, abundant, high quality process heat from non-fossil fuel sources such as HTGRs (high temperature gas cooled nuclear reactors). Look closely at the following images in order to discover some of the possible dividends of high quality industrial process heat from non-fossil fuel sources.

While many of the high value substitutes for crude oil can easily come from biomass and biomaterials such as biolipids, in the early stages far more will come from natural gas, coal, oil shale, etc. Methane hydrates will likewise be used on a large scale to substitute for crude oil.

The idea that there is no substitute for crude oil is doomer drivel. But don't tell the doomers that. They do, after all, have just as much a need for a purpose in life as anyone else. Even if that "purpose" is relatively vacuous.

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