The renewal time of all resources- Maxergy 3.0

Everything is renewable – classification after growth rate – renewal time, flow rate .

As a result of some recent projects new insights developed over resources, that any resource is renewed. Its only a matter of time. But that implies that it must be able to calculate the renewal time rate . Per year and per hectare, like for trees. A first attempt has been made to illustrate this, and at the same time to make a classification of resources, in terms of:   regrowable, streaming, slow/sluggish, and artificial resources.

Long Read. Download as PDF: renewal-time-of-resources-maxergy-3-0-uk-010821 (for Dutch see


The renewal time of resources

In principle it seems simple: Thermodynamics teaches that everything degrades, energy and raw materials, within a closed system, that is, is diluted and usefulness to serve is lost. And when it comes to raw materials, the Earth is a closed system. So despite perhaps large stocks of materials here on earth, their use is degrading, we can’t do anything about that. Whether that is stone, ores and metals, or fossil fuels. Not to mention the annoying side effects such as pollution and climate change. So in the long run, only dust will remain. Think of rusting iron, peeling paint etc, Unless we put energy into it again. But if this is also from inside the system again, it still degrades as a whole.

And the only thing that doesn’t ‘run out’ or degrade is what comes from outside our system: and that’s only one thing: solar energy exclusively. And coincidentally, some terrestrial substances tend to reorganize themselves under the influence of that solar energy into useful concentrations again: the organic substances: in the form of wood in forests, of fruits and vegetables to plants, etc. (and yes, even in the form of animals and humans). That is the part that society can sustainably benefit from, that feeds each other and that can deliver / perform work. And that, in turn, is exclusively associated with ‘land’ as a medium to absorb, capture and convert that solar energy. (Land can be seen as a surface with air above it or a land surface with water above it).

And everything we use of those non-organic substances, degrades the system, or costs land to compensate depletion, from the only source that contributes from outside the system, solar energy.

Maxergy is based on that, to make it calculable in terms of land: what it costs on land: to live from those self-reorganizing resources, or to compensate / recover for that exhaustive resource use, the part that we often refer to as ‘non-renewable’ . [1]

That is to say, that’s how those resources are framed, as non-renewable, and MAXergy solved this by calculating what it takes to restore the original stock. Otherwise you will end up with nothing left left, and otherwise it would also be an unequal comparison: if one kind includes restoring ( organics) , and the other does not, would be exempted from it.

However, thinking one step further, in fact everything is flowing and renewable: everything renews itself on earth, even non-growing substances such as metals. Only, where the cycle for organic materials is years or decades, for inorganic materials it is millions of years. And this natural renewal can also be expressed in land surface required.


Arguing for both resource conditions, exhaustion with recovery impact, or natural flow impact, are the result of the unique situation of, on the one hand, the position of the earth in relation to a nuclear reactor, the sun, and the young state of the planet that is on its way to a equilibrium state, but whith still enough life in its core (volcanics, tectonics) to modify, renew, reorganize the resources, the surface, that land and its composition.

Maxergy is originally based on the first variant: calculating to compensate the exergy loss (the thermodynamic degradation, entropy growth), or the loss of concentrated matter, and expressing that in land needed to to capture that sole source of outside system, solar energy, for that recovery process. ( the resource concentration process, either organized by nature for organics or to be organized by man for non organic resources )

That seemed to be the simplest and most practical way to calculate and value the closing of cycles. Certainly compared to other attempts, such as by Odum, who wanted to calculate the original concentration of raw material in mountain ranges on earth by energy input, and he did. [2] Very complex, and it seemed more convenient to take that creation (as present on earth now) as a given and only calculate the recovery into that given form.

That seemed a more logical and practical route, but for many it is still not the most understandable route. What if there is a in between way of calculating: Not calculate how it all came about, or how the loss can be recovered, but calculate what currently still is formed, or is added, annually, to the earth stock in concentrated form? Being in fact our annual budget, or ‘income’. Perhaps that is a more understandable route. And arguing this way I realized that in fact everything is renewable.

Ergo: Any material is renewable… as long as you use less as is renewed over time.

Renewable does not necessarily mean regrowable. That is a category with a very short renewal time, based mainly on solar energy, which also binds CO2. We also call this biobased materials.

Not everything is regrowable, but everything is renewable! Sometimes fast, sometimes slow and sometimes extremely slow. That is to say, they are part of a continuously flowing process on earth, in the one case in sufficient volume so that humans can use it (more or less) with impunity.. in the other case so slowly growing (or flowing) that unless very high energy is put in, it cannot be used on a permanent basis on current consumption levels. The “renewal time” extends to millennia and even millions of years. Like coal formation. Or like metal ore depositions due to volcanism, for example. The time can be shortened, if we, as a human being, invest (a lot of) energy in it to collect diluted molecules from the background. (the Circular Energy) (see also the platinum example in [3] )

The substances with the shortest renewal time are the regrowables, obviously, such as plants.

Clay is an example of the second category, which I will call the ‘streamers’; that is not a regrowable, but relatively ‘fast’ streaming renewable material, in the sense that it is erosion material, originating from mountain ranges that are worn down by wind and water but are in turn pushed up again by tectonic forces. Not very fast in time, but the whole process still provides a considerable continuous volume flow. And it is of course speed times volume that determines the possibilities and potentials. For example, as sludge that is annually supplied by rivers coming from mountain ranges. Which traditionally (before fossil energy) was also a basic material, as loam was used directly for construction, or as input for brick factories along the rivers. Bricks are loam stones that have been hardened by a combination with a second source (usually energy from biomass at the time), and require less maintenance’ , and have higher load carrying capacity. Incidentally, burned clay does not necessarily have to be used for a building with a height of one or two floors, for example. And as long as the use of loam, directly or by industry, is no more than what is available via rivers on a yearly basis, it is a continuous stream, or a material that ‘regenerates itself’ . Maintainable for ages.

The first category, the regrowables, is mainly powered by solar energy, the second category, the streamers, by sun-derived wind and water erosion on the one hand, and by Earth core activism to push up mountain ranges on the other hand.

Metals are the best example of the third group, the extremely slow renewers (‘sluggish resources’‘): these are concentrated depositions of only the earth’s core via tectonic action or volcanism. However, this is going very, very slowly, so the system cannot keep up with the rate at which humans are currently using those substances. This is also visible in the decrease in concentrations in the ores found. It takes millions of years for those concentrations to be restored. In addition, it requires a great deal of energy to actually decompose those ores and to filter out pure substances and make them usable. Even for ores in fairly concentrated form, in that respect, an unsustainable choice. And those concentrations are declining rapidly, at current volumes. Incidentally, they do not disappear from the earth, but disappear as highly diluted and scattered dust in the background.

There is a fourth category, substances that do not occur naturally in the environment, which we as humans put together at the expense of a lot of energy and effort. Composed by humans, or ‘Man-made resources’ . Naturally derived from existing substances or molecules, but reorganized and combined into artificials, like ‘plastics’, mostly from oil , which itself belongs to the 3rd category.

All this brings me to the following categorization of available raw materials. (so not yet as products, that can significantly increase energy input)

table 1





Regrowable resources (‘biobased’)


wood, bamboo, hemp flax, straw, rapeseed, etc


Streaming resources (‘renewed, flowing’)


Loam, sand, pebbles, rock stone,



Sluggish resources ( ‘non renewed’ very slow streaming, depleting)


ores, minerals, metals, fossil fuels ,


manmade’ resources

(non-organic. not streaming)

Energy chemistry

Pvc, ppe, etc

The question is, can we also put numbers on that? So a little exploration.

Category 1 regrowable

The figures in this category are fairly well known: a forest supplies between 6 and 8 m3 of wood per hectare per year, between 3 and 5 tons, other crops are in the same range. (Potatoes can deliver 50 tons per hectare, but that is not the natural growth, that is increased growth due to the addition of other substances (from within the system), pesticides and fertilizers and so on, which decreases the EROI, the energy return on energy investment. And so the system loses quality more quickly from within, at the expense of short-term increased output. The same for greenhouse cultivation. On average in the Netherlands, 6 times more energy is used than food energy is released [4] Agriculture will have to go to a mode without fertilizers and pesticides, and without heavy equipment use, but that’s another story. [5]

Category 2 : Sediment calculation

2 loam/clay . An example is the for bricks, which reaches our country as sediment via rivers. [6][7]. The Rhine has a ‘sediment load’ upon entry into the Netherlands of 3.25 mega tons/year, (plus an additional 0.9 Mton soil load (coming from land – an intermediate station, which had the sediment previously received from wind and water erosion ).

Those 4.15 megatons come mainly from part of the Alps, but in fact can be counted as coming from the entire water catchment area, which is an area of ​​approximately 168,000 km2 for the Rhine. [8][9]

Suppose Germany has already extracted its part of loam, then the part that enters the Netherlands is entirely available for the Dutch land area. In addition, the Meuse also contributes something: 0.4 megatons.

So together 4.55 Mt for 40,000 km2 (being the Netherlands). By the way, keep in mind that we only have 40,000 km2 because we have not drained that same sediment for centuries, and has formed our land ….. (Which, by the way, we have been undermining that land again, first by peat extraction in previous centuries (the polders !), and now due to the sand and gravel extractions, for which open water is returned….Which come out handy as water storage at times of peak loads, but might there be a relationship there….? )

Anyway, divided over all land the process makes 1.85 tons per hectare-year of loam available in the Netherlands on an continuous annual basis.! That is the flow rate of loam through the cycle.

category 3

3a) Oil

Previously I already explored the formation of fossil fuels. [10] For example Oil, as calculated in the book People vs Resourcess [11]: The (still active) growth of oil is estimated at about 14000 liters per year, worldwide!

Let’s assume 1 liter of oil is about 1 kilo. 14000 liter is then 14,000,000 grams, divided by the world surface: 510 million km2. End sup in producing 0.027 grams per km2 per year, which is approximately the weight of 1 drop (1 drop is approx. 0.02 gr). In other words, per hectare its is 0.00027 gr/ha-year , approx 1/100 drop*.

Incidentally, another more direct route is also conceivable here: oil from rapeseed, or bio-diesel, for example. This yields a higher yield than the natural boiling and pressing process of biomass in the earth’s crust that lasts millions of years. From rapeseed we can calculate the harvest per hectare per year, and after processing, that yields about 700 liters, (from 4 tons of rapeseed per hectare and after deducting inputs).

Its obvious that for fossil oil we have long ago passed the use in balance with the natural flow/growth, Dukes estimates that was in 1888. The rapeseed route is the real potential, related to land use, for which humans take care of regeneration , and for balancing with the system ( ate least, if he wants to…)

3b) iron

As described above, the reasoning within Maxergy has always been to calculate how to make up for the loss, in other words: recovery of the (concentrated) stock, just as we do when calculating for biobased raw materials. This is expressed in the energy required for re-concentrating, the Circular Energy: the energy required for Exergy recovery, or entropy reduction, via a land-sun conversion route. So far the energy for this has always been calculated starting from re-concentrating material from the diluted background, such as dissolved iron ions in seawater, for example, by filtering that seawater. The filtering out of the so-called thermodynamic reference background, is a difficult concept for the understanding of the method. “Who is going to filter iron ions from the oceans?” is the response, there is enough iron. Sure, enough iron, and other metals, but the concentration is decreasing, and what applies to organic raw materials also applies to inorganic and scarcer raw materials: recovery must be included, otherwise you discriminate between different kinds of raw materials, and the quality of resources on earth deteriorates.

And by the way, the seawater route is already practiced: ocean water is filtered for drinking water (desalinization of seawater), and even used for lithium, attempts are already being made to extract it from seawater. [12]

In recent projects the insight arose that it is better to use the growth of the annual stock as the reference ( and as maximum), as calculated above for oil, without exhausting the stock .

That is perhaps much more understandable. For oil, this has been achieved approximately. But is it also possible to calculate a flow of iron ore stock forming….?

A possible approach for this, might be via a simplified route: iron deposits along water flows, so-called ‘primal’ banks. There is some data on that, such as that the

primordial iron formation only needs to take a few decades . (deposits of iron via groundwater route) [13] [14]

To extract one kilogram of usable iron from these river banks, about thirteen kilograms of iron ore and one hundred and thirty kilograms of charcoal were needed. To make one hundred and thirty kilos of charcoal, another 760 kilos of oak was needed. This amount is roughly equivalent to two to three oak trees.

In other words: 1 kilo of iron = 760 kilos of oak wood = 2 to 3 trees. In a Wageningen university report we find: “When those figures are translated into the amount of iron ore that was processed in the Achterhoek region between 1700 and 1900, we arrive at approximately 450,000 tons.” [15]

All that data combined yields the following approximate picture:

Suppose that this processed ‘primal ore’ came from deposits in the ‘eastern Netherlands’, namely Groningen 2324 km2 Friesland 3336 Overijssel 3319 Drenthe 2633 and Gelderland 4964 (Limburg had its own primal banks) and that half of this growth was in ‘decades’ ( and that the rest was older accretion (as stocks). Then (very speculative) 225,000 tons would have grown in that area of 16,500 km. Then that comes down to 136 kilos per hectare per 200 years, which is 0.7 kilos per ha-year. So that is the speed, or the space-time of iron renewability… !

That is the annual growth per hectare!! Maximum, because this is still very optimistic: it is probably much less because there are limited number of sites, and such large stocks have probably built up over a much longer period of time. And anyway, the large deposits in iron ore mines that are deposited via tectonics and volcanism, have a much slower process. But this first elementary primal calculation provides us with a first reference measure. If we were to stay below that, a huge step would already have been made in the balanced use of raw metals **.

(And for those primal deposits, the country also has to be in pristine condition, the Netherlands is now being overhauled every 30 years, so that primal ores does not get the chance to form.)

4 ‘manmade’ materials

For plastics, they originate in the base of oil and we can therefore use the same figures for this, supplemented with a much higher secondary energy input to convert them from oil into those plastics in a second step. (or we can use the renewable raw material route, that of bio-oil from rapeseed for example. )

With that data, the table can be expanded, and to this, among other things, the ‘renewal rate’ or the flow rate can be added.




flow rate’

Energie input raw material

EE range /kg (raw mat.)

CO2 effect (current net)

CE range (in EL ) [x]


Regrowable resources (‘biobased’)


wood, bamboo, hemp flax, straw, rapeseed, etc


2-20 ton/ha-year





CE equals growth speed


Streaming resources (‘renewed, flowing’)


Loam, sand, pebbles, rock stone,


1-2 ton/ha-year



Neutral- little negative*



Gypsum: 0,5 m2-jyear/kg




Sluggish resources (‘not renewed’ extreme slow forming, depleting)


ores, mineral, metal, fossil energy,

Extreme Low

0-1 kg/ha-year


20-220 MJ


3-30 kg/kg


~100 ha-jaar/kg


~ 400 ha-jaar/kg


Manmade’ resources

(inorganic. Not flowing)

Energy chemistry

Pvc, ppe,

Very low:

< 1 kg/ha-year




9-20 kg/kg

3600 ha-year/gram (oilbasis)

ijzer 2.650.000 MJ/kg / 700x 35 = 24500 MJ 108 ha=-jaar/kg(via koolzaaddiesel

This approach, that of renewability of all substances, therefore seems applicable, although it will still have to be determined for various raw materials what that flow rate is, even if it is approximate. But it makes the calculation easier than calculating all circular energy , back via a conversion technology (which itself also requires raw material compensation). Now the link to space-time or land can be made directly.

However, if the use of a resources exceeds the natural flow rate, it still is required to calculate with re-concentration, this time by man induced, ie to add Circular Energy to the equation !


In fact we can conclude, everything is therefore renewable, and is renewed in a certain volume in a certain time, with different energy supply processes underneath. Direct or indirect, fast or slow.

Each hectare of land provides us with a new crop of food , energy or material every year. Via different processes. If we don’t use more than that part, even oil and gas can be a form of renewable resource use!

Its the same story with regard to metals: every year a maximum of 35 million tons of iron is added, optimistically, as primal . Let’s assume that along different geophysical processes, such as tectonics and volcanism, it is the same, but then as ore : if we don’t use more than that, it is a renewable flow or source! (currently use is about 2160 million tons of ore, a factor of 60 more)

We say it is not renewable, but only because we use more than is being renewed! ( and don’t want to know that, that is, the industry does not want to be confronted with that truth) . And that applies to almost all raw materials.

But its not enough to to address only renewability: then we will have raw materials. Those raw materials concentrated by the earth system are in most cases not yet immediately usable, energy still has to be invested in them to (de-) form them, to make products from them. And that is called embodied energy, and it must also be of renewable origin. Or at least fit back into the flows in time. (= EE etc) And that will have to come from the sun and its derivatives anyway, to keep any chance of staying within the sustainable quantities. But the more laborious, the more land is needed to harvest that amount. Don’t just think about materials, even when we cook food we add energy to it, directly or indirectly from the sun, or when we process wood to build with, such as food energy in the form of work, for example, or energy from wind. See the column Embodied Energy in the table, these are also considerable amounts, especially if we as humans have to invest in it. (Incidentally, the embodied energy figures are often primary input, all kinds of secondary input are usually not included, the real figures ar much higher)


It is always a combination of volume, time or speed, and related to solar energy (from the outside system), so can this all be expressed in land, as already partly done in the above approach: directly, for the re-growth raw materials, such as wood or fossil fuel, or indirectly : space time required per volume.

And what if we use more? Then we have to compensate, as before, in CE Circular energy. In other words, charging for the recovery of the stocks, which requires extra land or space.


Everything is renewable, and is being renewed. On this planet, yes. Because of the special circumstance that on the one side the earth’s core still bubbles and fizzes, and on the other side, the sun can send a portion of energy towards us every day in the right proportion.

Both are slowing down, the earth is cooling down and is on its way to a dead planet. Just like the sun dies out at some point. That is simply the inevitable direction in the universe. The earth is in a very special circumstance, precisely in a balance for evolution to take place, although it will eventually suffer that same fate. Luckily all this takes some more billions of years.

We ignored that fact for a while, and stoked up supplies that had just been stored to create that state balance. Anyway, we’ve figured it out now and we don’t do that anymore. We are moving towards renewable energy. But not only that, the same applies to materials: only renewable materials, within the maximum flow rate.

Everything that is not renewed, regarding resources, is worthless.


* i.e. on an island of 2 ha pp, the oil well grows with 1 drop every 5 years…

** Converted per person globally, that is (because 2 ha/pp) 1.4 kg of iron per year as the maximum available…. In other words, 1 electric bicycle (21 kg), in 15 years…. And 1 e-car, weight 2 tons, in 1450 years (argument for converting existing cars…) 😉




[2] Odum, Howard, Environmental Accounting: Emergy and Environmental Decision Making

1995 ISBN: 978-0-471-11442-0

[3] platinum:

[4] De duurzaamheid van de Nederlandse landbouw : 1950 – 2015 – 2040, Meino Smit, 2018 WUR, isbn 9789463432894; 9463432892 ,

see for english summary:







[11] boek People vs Resources – restoring a world out of balance, Ronald Rovers, Publ. Eburon, isbn 9789463012553

[12] Lithium from oceanwater: