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Prof.dr.ir. B.J. Boersma

Clean natural gas substitute

"Sustainable, small-scale and flexible"

Bendiks Jan Boersma, Professor of Energy Technology


"So far, we have concentrated almost solely on thermal energy conversion," explains Boersma. "In practice this means traditional large-scale techniques using fossil fuels to produce electricity. Because of the huge CO2 emissions associated with these fuels they are not suitable for the long term. If we want to contribute to the future's energy supply we will need to conduct research on clean alternatives.

Natural gas substitute
"As a producer of natural gas, the Netherlands has invested huge amounts in a high-quality gas infrastructure. To prevent this capital going to waste, I believe we need to invest heavily in the development of a clean natural gas substitute, so that in twenty years time we will still be able to cook on gas. The only difference will be that the gas will be produced by gasifying waste or biomass, instead of being piped in from Slochteren."

Fuel cell
"A clean natural gas substitute is an excellent source of fuel for a fuel cell," continues Boersma. "If you produce electricity with a fuel cell and put the hot exhaust gases to good use, you can achieve an efficiency level of more than seventy per cent. That is considerably higher than traditional combustion processes. Fuel cell research is thus an important addition to our research agenda, as is research on the possibilities of using the low-grade residual heat generated by industrial processes. We also need to concentrate our research on small-scale energy production processes, because these have manyfold advantages. For example, by producing locally you stay close to the consumers and so suffer less network loss. Moreover, the low-grade residual heat can be used in the direct environment and the producer is more flexible."

Efficiency
"Alongside these new research themes, for the mean time our existing research continues to be extremely relevant. It will be many years before our energy supply is sustainable. Until that time we are dependent on fossil fuels, and therefore, we will need to develop techniques to limit the environmental effects of traditional power stations and improve their efficiency as much as possible." 

According to the recently appointed Professor of Energy Technology, Bendiks Jan Boersma, these are the characteristics of the future's energy suppliers. He wants to move his research group's focus away from the largescale application of fossil fuels and towards this prognosis.

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