Leading experts to meet in Singapore for conference on sustainable biofuels

The global biofuels market is worth US$240B by 2020 according to Pike Research Cleantech Market Intelligence (2009). The conference is a platform to discuss the next generation of biofuels, algal biofuels and cover opportunities and challenges of building a biofuels industry.

More than 30 international experts on biofuels – global scientists and policy makers – will converge in Singapore from 1-5 March 2011 for the Keystone Symposium on Biofuels conference. From USA, Europe, Asia and Singapore, they will share insights and solutions to Bioenergy: The Options for an Economic and Sustainable Future, Sustainability of Biofuel produced from non-food biomass, Algae Biofuels (Deriving fuel from algae), development of new biomass feedstocks and potential of Biomass Production in Southeast Asia.

World renowned climate scientist and author on The Forgiving Air: Understanding Environmental Change, Professor Richard Somerville, is the keynote speaker who will expound his views that science cannot specify the level of danger in climate. He will paint a compelling picture on how climate science can inform policy makers of the actions needed to be taken for the sustainability of our global environment. Professor Somerville holds the Distinguished Professor Emeritus and Research Professor, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego. He has been listed in Who’s Who in America and a speaker at the Lee Kuan Yew Distinguished Visitor lectures in 2007 on global warming and climate change policy.

The meeting of minds will identify promising avenues to a viable biofuels future and discuss research and policies. Economic and environmental considerations of biofuels technologies, as well as integration into the existing energy infrastructure will also be highlighted.

The scientific organisers of the conference are Professor Stephen P. Mayfield of the University of California, San Diego, Dr Martin Keller of Oak Ridge National Laboratory (a US Department of Energy-funded biofuels research center) and Dr. Jeffrey P. Obbard, formerly of Agency for Science Technology and Research’s (A*STAR), Institute of Chemical and Engineering Sciences (ICES). Citing the timeliness of this conference, Professor Mayfield said, “One of the greatest challenges we face today is to develop efficient, sustainable and scalable processes for converting sunlight energy into the food and fuel the world needs. No single renewable-energy strategy will be able to provide a total solution, but a combination of strategies that can be coordinated and integrated effectively has the potential to significantly decrease our dependence on fossil fuel. At this critical, pivotal time in mapping a new global energy strategy, this symposium will address the potential of cellulosic and algal produced bioenergy as part of a sustainable future for our planet.”

While total global biofuels production today is presently about 1% of traded energy, or about 20 billion gallons a year and a US$40 billion market, it is expected to reach 144 billion gallons per year by 2022 (a US $600-700 billion market), based on standards set by various governments for renewable energy use (source: US Department of Energy).

According to Professor Mayfield, the fact that the globe is expected to have completely exhausted its entire supply of liquid petroleum by 2047 (leaving only tar sands and oil shale) means that production of biofuels will need to be at least 50% as great as petroleum production volume by 2050 to maintain existing energy production rates. Since the world demand for energy is increasing at 2% per year, it is projected that by 2050 we will need to be producing the equivalent of 190 million barrels of oil per day or 2.9 trillion gallons per year, half of which (1.45 trillion gallons per year or 1,450 billion gallons per year) will need to come from biofuels.

Commenting on the conference, Dr Keith Carpenter, Executive Director of ICES said, “Singapore takes very seriously the issues of sustainability and security of supply of fuels and chemicals. This Keystone Symposium on Biofuels is part of our aspiration to be an innovation hub at the forefront of new and sustainable technology to address these challenges. We are heavily dependent on fossil fuels, as are many countries, and diversifying towards more sustainable resources is an important global issue, not only for Singapore, but for many countries. As a society, we face the problem of ensuring reasonable standard of living for all, and maintaining economic growth, while minimising the impact on climate change. Through A*STAR, Singapore is investing heavily in R&D from basic biology through engineering to demonstration of new technology. This conference comes at an important time in our development as we seek to work with academia and industry around the world to tackle what is one of the most important challenges facing humanity today.”

The Keystone Symposium on Biofuels conference is organised together with A*STAR and Keystone Symposia on Molecular and Cellular Biology. Keystone Symposia conferences are known for sparking collaborations as a result of their fairly small, intimate size as well as free time and poster sessions that encourage lively interaction. This meeting will feature a special networking dinner at the Asian Civilisations Museum which will allow visiting attendees to meet with key players of Singapore’s energy sector. A tour of Jurong Island will be arranged for the participants to gain first-hand insight on ICES biofuels research.

The Keystone Symposium on Biofuels conference is a celebration of the UNESCO1-IUPAC2 International Year of Chemistry (IYC) 20113 as chemistry and the multi-disciplinary biofuels fields are intertwined.

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