Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Biofuels Progress

Biotech company LS9 Inc. projects that its microbe-to-biofuels production will be producing bio-petroleum commercially within 3-4 years.
"So these are bacteria that have been engineered to produce oil," del Cardayre said. "They started off like regular lab bacteria that didn't produce oil, but we took genes from nature, we engineered them a bit [and] put them into this organism so that we can convert sugar to oil."

The company is focusing on diesel fuel, but the microbes can be "programmed" to make gasoline or jet fuel.

The bacteria used are a harmless form of E. coli. And the feedstock, or food for the microbes, can be any type of agricultural product, from sugar cane to waste such as wheat straw and wood chips. Choosing plants with no food value sidesteps one of the biggest criticisms of another synthetic fuel, corn ethanol, because critics say that corn should be used as food, not fuel. _CNN_via_Checkbiotech
On the biomass front, the Oak Ridge National Lab has chosen biomass gasification to help power its facility.
The Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), one of America's most important national science labs, has signed an $89 million energy savings performance contract with Johnson Controls, Inc. to apply advanced energy conservation solutions and to build a biomass gasification system with a 'super boiler' to power its campuses. Being the most competitive and reliable of all renewable energy systems, the biomass power plant will reduce the lab's fossil fuel requirements by 80% and, in combination with conservation efforts, push down energy costs dramatically.

The fact that such a major research organisation, with 4,200 staff, 3,000 guest researchers, 20 user facilities, and a budget of approximately $1.2 billion, chooses biomass as the energy source of its greener future, is highly significant. _Biopact_via_Bioenergy
Understanding plant feedstocks for bioenergy means understanding the plants down to the genomic level. Michigan State University researchers are compiling a genome data base of biofuels feedstocks, to help accelerate the discovery of the most prolific and productive biomass to energy feedstocks.
"Our biofuel genomic database portal will include information on any crop that can be used to produce cellulosic ethanol, including all the grasses such as corn, rice, maize, wheat, and other biofuel species such as poplar, willow and pine," Buell explained. "This will save researchers a lot of effort, so we expect it to be a valuable resource for scientists at MSU and around the world." _MSU_via_Checkbiotech
Bioenergy is simply solar energy with built-in storage. In the beginning, the bioenergy share of total energy used by humans will be small (other than routine woodburning for heat and cooking). The growth curve for bioenergy is likely to be much more robust than the growth curve for photovoltaics and wind energy have been over the past three decades.



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