Renewable Chemical Feedstocks the Fossil Fuels Research Proposal

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Renewable Chemical Feedstocks

The fossil fuels are not renewable and in the near future will run out. Of the eighty thousand or more of chemicals on which all industries depend and which is the main domain of the chemical industry will face severe setbacks as a great percentage of the chemicals are derived from fossil fuel oil extraction processes and residues. The feedstocks that are provided by the petroleum industry will vanish. Therefore it is an absolute necessity that an alternate feedstock is found for these chemical industries and also that the new feedstock falls with the line and concept of green chemistry. In other words the redesign of the chemical industry will have to be done with absolute care of the environment and technologies that are friendly to the earth. There are partial successes but there is a lot of research needed to create the new feedstock.

Introduction

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The industries all over the world are accused of contributing to the environmental deterioration. The chemical industry is blamed more. The chemical industry today is almost entirely dependent on fossil feedstock derivatives, but we have to remember that even before petroleum was discovered the compounds that are now manufactured form fossil feedstock was manufactured form other natural elements. The difference in manufacture today is in immense proportions as compared to earlier times. Thus we have to note that the use of natural derivatives in chemistry is not new. However the use of oil and the development of technology prior to the Second World War began a new way of using fossil fuel derivatives in the industry. The chemical industry's growth was triggered by the Second World War and the later periods the industrial growth was due to the chemicals. Fossil oils provided a substitute for coal provided the chemical industry with abundant raw material, and resulted in the rise of chemicals, synthetic fibers, thermoplastics and fertilizers. (Aftalion, 1991, p. 319)

Research Proposal on Renewable Chemical Feedstocks the Fossil Fuels Are Assignment

Today the chemical industry is mostly dependent on the fossil feedstock which is a non-replenishing resource that is expected to dry up in the very near future. If the stocks fail to flow then the entire industry and many other industries that primarily depend on chemicals will also fold up. The chief economic concern is therefore finding a way so that the chemical industry has sustainable alternate feedstock. Secondly exploring such options also may throw up interesting new technology and processes and even new chemicals that are safer for humans and the environment. (Blackburn, 1987, p. 12)

If we acknowledge that the chemical industry depends on the fossil fuel for feedstock and the fossil fuel is fast depleting. Processes that are settled and used for manufacturing chemicals using fossil fuel will be the worst hit when the fuel base runs out. Bringing the depletion and reading it together with a host of problems that are created for the earth in using fossil fuel, the time has come to find alternate sources to feed the energy requirement and also derive the chemicals and substances from other sources other than fossil oils. This requirement is imperative because of the need for chemicals that is spiraling on one hand and the denouncement of chemical processes that cause environmental hazards and global warming. (Blackburn, 1987, p. 12)

The green chemical industry is here to stay and in view of all this solving the problem of finding a green chemical feedstock has become imperative. This was realized by the world community decades ago and the ponderings over the issue led the U.S. government which in 2006 was able to through the U.S. National Research Council identified Renewable Chemical Feedstocks as one of the main challenges for a sustainable chemical industry in the light of declining availability of fossil fuels over the next 100 years. Using a few suitable examples, discuss the lifecycle challenges presented by switching from fossil to biomass derived chemical feedstocks. The actual reason that there was interest in alternate fuel could be attributed to events that occurred far back in the 1970s. (Blackburn, 1987, p. 17)

The market conditions of petroleum caused concern and the interest in the alternate fuel and stock came as a result of the changes and the volatility of the oil market in 1973. This brought the question of energy and petroleum-based products into sharp contrast. This focus essentially cantered on energy matters and conventional energy supplies. As the costs of oil and gas declined the issue was left to rest and the question became academic. In the energy sector at least alternate energy is still considered a supply oriented market while other groups insist on increasing energy from other sours other than oil. If the question on alternate energy could be answered in the affirmative then the chemical stocks from petroleum-based production could continue for some more time if the oil is not used for energy purposes as it is now. The economic question then is at what costs this could be achieved. (Blackburn, 1987, p. 17)

This being a global concern debates and research were initiated which resulted in the focus of this issue in the Rio de Janeiro 'United Nations Conference on Environment and Development -- UNCED', during June 1992, and was also discussed in the Johannesburg 'World Summit on Sustainable Development' during August 2002, which resulted in an universal agenda that was adopted by 170 countries in seeking solutions to the challenges of the century on account of depleted resources that could trigger problems in all sectors of human life. Thus the agenda was to find 'environmentally' good as well as 'sustainable' usage of 'natural resources' which could be 'renewable'. This program has given rise to many experiments all over the world. (Bozell; Patel, 2004, p. 2)

One such arena is chemistry and the use for example of fats and oils as renewable feedstock. This becomes important in the production of base chemicals and many products are manufactured from the base chemicals, it is widely accepted that the better method of production of the base chemicals is very important for the sustainability of the chemical industry. Thus for the chemical industry the new processes based on renewable feedstock are significant. Joseph J. Bozell, Martin K. Patel show that back in 1995 energy consumption in Germany was "about 14 exajoule. The chemical industry used 1.7 exajoule, about 12% of the total and 45% of the energy consumed in all manufacturing processes." (Bozell; Patel, 2004, p. 2) Another factor for consideration is that the petrochemical base chemicals tend to have higher gross energy requirement. Gross energy could be described as the sum of process energy and feedstock energy and as opposed to this the base chemicals made out of biomass contain no feedstock energy. (Bozell; Patel, 2004, p. 2)

The U.S. National Research Council came with the finding that one reason why alternate sources are being investigated is because the demand for fossil fuels was limited earlier. With the global expansion the fuel requirement and fossil fuel feedstock demand has hiked considerably which will eventually cause its depletion. Environmental effects including global warming is also being felt. Rachel Carson's book the "silent spring" caused the public to take notice of the effects of chemicals and use of fossil fuel on the environment. These became the cause for the drive for alternate fuels. (National Research Council (U.S.), 2005, p. 46)

What ever be the cause today the chemical industry is forced to consider the alternate options. Over 80,000 chemicals are used in the United States, and constitute a $460 billion industry that is vital to the national economy. However the depletion of fossil energy sources has made its sustainability a question mark. Thus any research needs to move towards chemical products, processes, and systems that will help create sustainability. The chemical industry itself is a feedstock industry for modern industries and therefore, the chemical industry has to have a new paradigm of sustainability which requires the advancement the science and technology to support using alternate sources of inputs to bring about a foundation for sustainability. (Board on Chemical Sciences and Technology (BCST), 2005, p. 10)

The Economic Concerns

No new technology could be adapted and used unless there is firstly a commercial viability and secondly an economic means of production. The chemical industry has established itself in the last century with the production and distribution process systems in order. Creating an alternate feedstock will necessarily has to begin by addressing and solving questions of the economic impact and cost of such a diversification. If the alternate feedstock could provide a near equal market and cost ratios without requiring large investments, the market and investors will invest in the process. The business therefore views the proposition from the economic angle and this has to be satisfactory first. Thus the important consideration from the standpoint of business is the high prices for petroleum and natural gas. This makes the U.S. chemical industry attempt creating alternative feedstock for the production of commodity chemicals. (McFarlane, 2006)

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