Technological Improvements Raise the Energy Return For Energy Production

1. Improvements in Life Cycle Energy Efficiency and Greenhouse Gas Emissions of Corn-Ethanol from researchers at the University of Nebraska

Ethanol-to-petroleum output/input ratios ranged from 10:1 to 13:1 but could be increased to 19:1 if farmers adopted high-yield progressive crop and soil management practices. An advanced closed-loop biorefinery with anaerobic digestion reduced GHG emissions by 67% and increased the net energy ratio to 2.2, from 1.5 to 1.8 for the most common systems. Such improved technologies have the potential to move corn-ethanol closer to the hypothetical performance of cellulosic biofuels.


Long Lake partners pioneer new oilsands technique. Nexen Inc. and OPTI Canada’s $6.1-billion technological gamble appears to be paying off as first production of sweet synthetic crude flowed from the partners’ Long Lake oilsands facility this week. hermal oilsands projects use a massive amount of natural gas to generate steam, which is piped into the earth to soften up bitumen and enable it to flow through secondary wells back up to the surface. The technology being pioneered at Long Lake would reduce the need to buy the fuel by running somewhat of a closed loop system. Break-even point for Long Lake is around $5 US per thousand cubic feet to make gasification worthwhile in an environment where natural gas is expected to average around $6 per mcf.

3. Laser enrichment of uranium should be commercialized by GE in 2012. It could be ten times more energy efficient than centrifuges for uranium enrichment.

4. Hybrid laser fusion (transmutation) – nuclear fission system was proposed by Lawrence Livermore researchers as a followup to the funded National Ignition Facility.

This approach to fusion generates approximately 10**19 14.1-MeV neutrons per shot (about 10**20 neutrons every second). When used to drive a subcritical fission “blanket,” the fusion neutrons generate an additional energy gain of four to ten depending upon the details of the fission blanket, providing overall LIFE system energy gains of 100 to 300. (EROI 100-300).

Transmutation is 3-30 easier for each metric of a required system compared to a full fusion only system.