Appendix: Can a Nuclear-Assisted Biofuels System Enable Liquid Biofuels as the Economic Low-carbon Replacement for All Liquid Fossil Fuels and Hydrocarbon Feedstocks and Enable Negative Carbon Emissions?

Report Date: 

April 2022




This report integrates the results of a series of studies and workshops to address the question: Can a nuclear-assisted biofuels system enable liquid biofuels as the economic low-carbon replacement for all liquid fossil fuels and hydrocarbon feedstocks and simultaneously enable negative carbon emissions? “Economic” is defined as economically competitive relative to other low-carbon replacement options for crude oil. “All” refers to the capability to replace the 18 million barrels of oil per day used by the United States. “Nuclear-assisted” refers to the provision of massive quantities of low-carbon heat and hydrogen at the refinery to fully utilize the carbon content of the cellulosic biomass feedstocks for liquid hydrocarbon production.

A system is proposed that decarbonizes about half of the U.S. economy while improving long-term soil productivity and sequestering carbon from the atmosphere. In the U.S. almost half the energy consumed by the final customer is in the form of liquid hydrocarbons produced from crude oil. Liquid hydrocarbons are used as (1) an energy source, (2) a method for daily-to-seasonal energy storage, (3) a chemical feedstock, (4) a chemical reducing agent, (5) a method to enhance high-temperature heat transfer in many furnaces and industrial processes and (6) other purposes. As a consequence, the U.S. consumes ~18 million barrels of crude oil per day to produce liquid hydrocarbons. While there are substitutes for liquid hydrocarbons for some applications, our assessment is that the costs and difficulty will dramatically increase if liquid hydrocarbon use goes much below the equivalent of 10 million barrels per day of crude oil. New uses of liquid hydrocarbons to partly replace coal and natural gas could increase demand beyond the equivalent of 10 million barrels of oil per day.



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