Emissions from industrial activity

SoBT Engineer Discusses Possible Answer to the Impending Global Energy Crisis in New Article

The last few decades have seen an enormous rise in the demand for energy resources. While much of this can be attributed to industry growth across the world, much of the demand is also derived from increases in the global population. For perspective, the global population is estimated to grow to 8 billion by 2030, and with a similar swell in industry footprint, this will amount to a 50% increase in the global energy demand.

With 80% of worldwide energy dependent on fossil fuels, this increase in energy demands in turn will place an incredible burden on the environment in terms of emissions and greenhouse gases produced. There is therefore a recognised need for alternative energy sources to fossil fuels from both an environmental and economic perspective.

Dr. Burcu Gunes

Dr. Burcu Gunes

Dr. Burcu Gunes of the School of Biotechnology and DCU Water Institute has been researching alternative energy sources, and in recent times has published many articles with collaborators demonstrating the power of ‘biomass to bioenergy’ technologies which may address the impending energy crisis. Dr. Gunes has followed up on her recent publications with a critical review, recently published in Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, detailing the potential of syngas; a mixture of carbon dioxide, hydrogen and carbon monoxide, as one of many answers to the question of which alternative sources of energy we may become dependent on.

‘The demand for alternative energy sources has seen the world turn to the options such as biofuels, namely fuels derived from organic wastes’, explains Dr. Gunes, sole author on the recent publication. ‘However, the products of the processes responsible for the conversion of these natural resources into sources of energy are not without obstacles and limitations. For example, some of the organic matter derived from crops and agricultural residues can be difficult to breakdown, and require special treatments, such as those I research and develop, to isolate the resource material of interest’.

‘These processes can in themselves produce emissions such as syngas; a mixture of carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and hydrogen, and one of the emerging technologies is that which utilises this as a source of energy. This is of significant importance when you consider the high level of exhaust gases being released by energy-consuming industries such as steel manufacturing and oil refining in that there is an untapped source of energy’.

‘This means of harnessing as a waste product and implementing it as a resource is an approach which forms a circular economy, an approach which researchers are striving towards in terms of reducing waste whilst reducing the amounts of resources needed which drive these processes’.   

‘Moreover, the conversion of syngas into biofuels can be enhanced by using biofilms. This approach, together with other advantages such as allowing for high cell concentrations allow for a reduced energy consumption in the actual conversion process making these approaches a much more sustainable energy source at a time when alternatives to fossil fuels are being sought’.   

‘A number of facilities across the world have already adopted full-scale syngas fermentation operations. As advancements are made in sustainable approaches such as these, the practicality of implementing these approaches at a large scale becomes much easier, and we should see more and more of these facilities established in the near future.’

‘It’s by implementing measures like these which gives me hope that we will meet EU targets of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 95% by 2050, creating a brighter, cleaner, more sustainable future for future generations’.

For more information, the article can be found here.