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January 24, 2011

Understanding the bias in the BP 2030 Energy forecast which shows no growth in nuclear energy

BP recently released its annual Energy Outlook report, which projects the world energy future to the year 2030.

Alfin has a theory as to why there is so little growth predicted for nuclear energy

A number of things about BP predictions tend to jump off the page:

* The extremely slow predicted growth for nuclear energy
* The rate of growth of energy utilisation for undeveloped countries
* The rate of expansion predicted for "biofuels"

The best way to understand that prediction is to understand how much of a threat clean, cheap, and abundant nuclear energy poses to the petroleum industry overall.



The rapid development of small modular reactors and molten salt reactors in particular, promise to make available huge quantities (trillions of barrels of oil equivalent) of bitumens and kerogens at a much lower cost than are presently feasible. Nuclear energy would also allow oil producing countries to export more oil which would otherwise be spent on cooling, desalination, and other electric power uses.
BP can predict a modest rise in renewables (solar and wind) because they are not threatened by those technologies. Solar and wind need to be paired with natural gas because of the intermittent nature of their supply (cloudy days, nighttime and windless days)


Petroleum companies feel that they can live with ethanol as a fuel additive, and ethanol supply is mainly what is being predicted to rise in the graph above. By 2020, methods for mass production of bio-butanol are very likely to begin to push bio-ethanol aside. In the same fashion, advanced hydro-treating of lipids along with Fischer-Tropsch fuels will produce far more valuable commercially available fuels than ethanol by 2020. Finally, microbial hydrocarbons should be ready to begin scaling up to industrial levels by 2020, with significant market impact by 2030.



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