Wednesday, September 10, 2008

More Small Revolutions in Bioenergy

Synthetic bacteria that can produce ethanol.
"Our new microorganism, called TM242, can efficiently convert the longer-chain sugars from woody biomass materials into ethanol. This thermophilic bacterium operates at high temperatures of 60oC-70oC and digests a wide range of feedstocks very rapidly," said Paul Milner.

The scientists estimate that some 7 million tons of surplus straw is available in the UK every year. Turning it into ethanol could replace 10% of the gasoline fuel used in this country.
The debate about food vs. fuels has occupied a lot of small minds around the world. But there really is no debate--once you take account of the abundant resources of the sea and seawater.

What is the potential for algal biofuels?
"As a transport fuels feedstock, algae can produce up to 10,000 gallons of biodiesel feedstock per acre per year compared to soybeans at 50 gallons per acre and canola/rapeseed at 120 gallons per acre," said Will Thurmond, Chairman of Research and Development for the NAA and author of the Biodiesel 2020 study. _Source
The big drop in palm oil prices is fueling renewed biodiesel production in Southeast Asia. Unlike the great "food vs. fuels crisis" of last spring, no riots are taking place on this news--so it isn't news at all, according to the media.

Finding the most efficient and economical way of shipping fuels and feedstocks will help the fledgeling bioenergy industry find its way. In the early stages, the smallest margins can make the difference between profitability and extinction.

With bioenergy, one uses the feedstock that is at hand. In Louisiana's bayou region, sugar cane grows quite well. Cane is being used as feedstock for a new cellulosic ethanol plant in the bayou--while the technology of cellulosic breakdown is perfected.

The smart operators will make allowances for rapid shifts in feedstock prices and availability. Do not bet your farm on one crop or one bioenergy feedstock.

Bioenergy remains the best near-term renewable energy potential. Solar thermal is getting bigger, and will help--once energy storage improves, and the technology shakeout in the field takes place. The same applies to photovoltaics--although PV will take longer to hit large scale viability due to difficulties with electrical storage vs. heat storage. Enhanced geothermal will eventually be a huge resource--viable from Antarctica to the Arctic to undersea habitats to the remotest island. Others, such as OTEC, wind, tidal, wave etc. will find niche usefulness.

But ever since humans learned to control fire, bioenergy has occupied the community hearth of hearths. Fossil fuels are forms of bioenergy that take a long time to fossilize. So only nuclear energy--among the large power producers--is non-bioenergy.

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home

Newer Posts Older Posts