Monday, September 08, 2008

More on Biofuels from Camelina and Cellulose

Camelina is a cold to moderate weather oilseed crop with higher oil yields than soy or maize, which can be intercropped with wheat--boosting subsequent yields of wheat. Camelina can grow on marginal land using little water.

In other news, a new carbon-based catalyst for cutting cellulose up into simple sugars for fermentation has been developed at the Tokyo Institute of Technology.
The researchers developed a catalyst consisting of amorphous carbon bearing SO3H, OH, and COOH groups. Although the carbon material has a small surface area, and the acid density is only 1/10th that of sulfuric acid, they found that the catalyst was as effective as sulfuric acid in hydrolyzing cellulose.

Furthermore, the apparent activation energy for the hydrolysis of cellulose into glucose using the carbon catalyst is estimated to be 110 kJ mol-1, smaller than that for sulfuric acid under optimal conditions (170 kJ mol-1). The carbon catalyst can be readily separated from the saccharide solution after reaction for reuse in the reaction without loss of activity.

The researchers attributed the catalytic performance of the catalyst to three factors: its ability to adsorb β-1,4 glucan; its large effective surface area in water; and SO3H groups tolerable to hydration in the carbon material. _GCC


Hawaii is working hard to develope a home-grown biofuel feedstock to make it independent of expensive fossil fuels--that have to be shipped in. Sorghum is being studied as a possible improvement over sugar cane for the island state.

Africa is one epicenter of land acquisition by big money interests, in the quest for big biofuel. While other tropical lands are being used by big money as plantation sites, Africa is receiving a lot of international attention at this time.
Africa offers oil farmers virtually ideal conditions for their purposes: underused land in many places, low land prices, ownership that is often unclear and, most of all, regimes capable of being influenced.

The land is unusable, says the Ethiopian energy and mining minister in Addis Ababa, the country's capital. "It's just marginal land," say officials at the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources in Dar es Salaam. "The whole thing is nothing but positive," says the district administrator of Kisarawe, who is responsible for the Sun Biofuels project. "We have convinced the people." In his rudimentary office, which lacks both a computer and a copy machine, he leafs through the planning documents. _BW
In Africa, the people have very little to say about large projects that may affect their quality of life. Dictators tend to make such decisions without consulting the people. Sadly with the rise of dictatorial socialism in South America, the same is becoming true in the tropical areas of that continent as well.

China and India are leading the way in building vast biofuels plantations in Africa, South America, and Southeast Asia. But European companies are beginning to join the bio-gold rush as well.

Unfortunately, much of this development smacks of "neo-colonialist exploitation", with the dictators themselves as the colonial raj's, and the big money interests in India, China, Europe, etc. as the moneybag financiers.

There are good ways to develop tropical oilseed industries, and there are very bad ways. Guess which ways seem to have the upper hand for now?

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2 Comments:

Blogger John Nicklin said...

So the poor people in Africa will remain poor even though their countries may become wealthy. Why does that not surpise me?

It will make other countries think twice about any aid agreements. Which will make the plight of the poor even worse.

They have the land to grow the crops, they will inevitibly have to provide the labour, but they will get nothing from it except continued poverty.

Pretty sad state of affairs.

9:56 PM  
Blogger J. Paige said...

Yeasts typically don't ferment 5-carbon sugars. Huge yield improvements available from getting robust strains that will ferment pentoses.

JP Straley

8:24 AM  

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