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Geoscientist Online

Materials critical to the energy industry

Meaningful conversations on the wasteful use of resources and whether the resources themselves will soon be used up requires facts. Materials critical to the energy industry provides plenty.

This book gives the quantities and factors affecting the supply of naturally occurring materials that the energy industry uses. It works systematically through from geological/geographical sources to finished products, the so-called energy pathway. There is an informative introductory chapter on needs, provenance, extraction, production and usage. All useful for lecture-room discussion starters. Then there are 2-page spreads in small but very legible print and clear diagrams on 23 elements covering uses in the energy sector, properties and origins, sustainability, reserves, trade, ecological impact, processing, importantly substitutabity and recycling, with summary tables of producers, yearly production quantities and prices. Finally there are a glossary, references and extra data tables.

The book concentrates on the 23 elements which have significant applications in the energy industry. Selected rare earths are taken together (10/17 of the set). The rationale behind the selection is materials that are part of a final product, rather than those that might be used somewhere along the energy pathway, or are in danger of short supply. Hence the elements that help create exotic steels e.g turbine blades, and catalysts for product conversions and dopants for electronic semiconductor components are considered, but for instance zinc, tin, iron, manganese (no shortage) or mercury or gold (not in final products) are not.

Materials critical to the energy industry is clearly presented. The layout and the clarity of the prose and illustrations all win. Its style reminded me of my school inorganic chemistry book. Its 90 pages are full of facts capable of substantiating any debate covering materials supply to the energy industry for now or decades to come. It would also be a useful source of facts and figures for quiz enthusiasts whether for Mastermind or the local pub-night on science topics, particularly inorganic or industrial chemistry. If all the facts in this book could be remembered one would indeed be an expert!

If materials supply for the energy sector is your area of interest (e.g. policy maker, regulator, business, academic or concerned citizen) then Materials critical to the energy industry should be on your reference shelf. Even better, this book, based on sponsored research work by the Resource Strategy Department at Augsburg University, Southern Germany, is part of BP's Energy Sustainability Challenge, can be  downloaded free - see below.

I am enjoying learning from it.

Reviewed by Richard Dawe 

.  Published by  BP plc, London, UK. as part of a series that reflects the work of BP-sponsored Energy Sustainability Challenge, 2014 . pp90  ISBN  978-0-9928387-0-6 It can be downloaded at,
or here as a PDF - ESC materials handbook.