Sunday, November 30, 2008

Small Scale Gasification Power for Forests

The Biomax 25 gasifier produces roughly 25 kw of electricity using syngas created from woody biomass. Clearly such a gasifier/generator would be ideal for powering remote areas located in the middle of forests. The superiority of such a plant over a photovoltaic plant with the same electrical output can be shown by noting that the capacity factor for solar is .20 while for the Biomax 25 the CF is .65. Capital costs are approximately half for the gasification system compared to PV, and cost savings over a 10 year period are over $1 million in favour of the Biomax.

The US Forest Service and the DOE have been encouraging the use of such systems via grants. Recently, the Forest Research Station in Winnfield, Louisiana, has installed a Biomax 25 system in order to take advantage of its waste biomass to power its operation, plus sell excess power to the grid utility.
"The BioMax 25 is an innovative, cutting-edge device, which will strengthen (the Winn ranger district’s) environmental, energy and transportation management," according to information provided by the U.S. Forest Service. "In a ground-breaking, first-of-its-kind partnership, the National Forest System, Forest Research and State and Private Forestry (the three branches of the U.S. Forest Service all of which are represented at the Winn station) have developed a program to provide cheap, clean electricity while reducing dangerous forest fuel woody biomass."

Soon, the scientists of Forest Research at the Winn station plan to begin producing synthetic diesel with the unit as well. But more than anything, the unit will provide a platform from which the scientists can explore a number of issues, including what sorts of gases, at what levels, different types of wood can generate. The answer to this question, and others like it, can change much. _Source
Small scale gasification projects, such as this project, make ideal use of a local and regional availability of low cost feedstock in order to generate energy and liquid fuels which might otherwise come at a higher cost.

Such small scale plants are already proving profitable in remote locations of India, in Iraq and other small nations. Remote farms, ranches, forestry installations, and other enterprises that need power--but the cost of connecting to the grid might be prohibitive--can now consider this option. Such small gasifiers can be made portable on a standard semi-trailer, allowing a small mobile operation to carry its power generation with it.

More information at this PDF describing small scale biopower systems.

List of suppliers for gasification and pyrolysis systems.

List of suppliers for small and micro CHF systems.


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Obama Pelosi Boxer Killing US Energy Prospects

A modern economy rests upon abundant energy. If you cut off energy to an economy--like Obama, Pelosi, Boxer, Salazar and company are doing--you choke its economy. Around the US, energy Luddites in Congress and the incoming Obama administration are choking off the US' energy supply:
...yesterday, Evansville-based utility Vectren Corp. said uncertainty over potential federal carbon restrictions presented too much risk to commit to a 30-year contract to buy the gas. _Source
"Federal carbon restrictions presented too much risk..." Luddite anti-energy groups have a new friend in Obama to put alongside old friends Pelosi and Boxer.

The private sector is hunkering down, preparing to be set upon by Obama-empowered trial lawyers, unions, environmental lobbies, and activists of all stripes. Soon it will be open season on all large energy projects involving coal, nuclear, oil sands, oil shale, and quite possible biomass.

A brief visit to will explain much of the underlying philosophical basis of many of Obama's appointments, and the motivations of many left-leaning Congressional members. Carbon hysteria. Pseudo-environmental hyperbole and outright deception, for political and monetary gain.

The latest climate data suggests that the Earth is passing through a multi-decadal cooling phase. Climate model predictions are diverging wildly from actual observations. These anti-energy Luddites are helping to choke the US economy's life blood. These quasi automaton wrecking machines are so intent on their homicide that they are unaware that their philosophical underpinnings are collapsing.

They cannot invent, they cannot build, they cannot maintain. They can only destroy. An ideology fit only for opposition, not for leadership.


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Biomass Pyrolysis Product Bio-Char: Regenerating Depleted Soil Economically

When pursuing the bioenergy revolution, it is important to keep in mind the health and productivity of the underlying soil. Healthy, productive soil must be high in organic matter. Scientists are learning that biochar--a charcoal byproduct of biomass pyrolysis--can be a useful soil supplement for boosting the fertility of soils. This discovery is actually a "re-discovery", since Pre-Columbian indigenous people of Central and South America used charcoal to boost soil fertility thousands of years ago.
Substantial crop yield increases have been reported for the few trials where biochar has been added to agricultural soils.

“Biochar, or charcoal, contains most of the plant nutrients removed when the biomass was harvested and can slowly release them to growing plants,” Laird says. He lists additional agronomic benefits of adding biochar to soils:

*Lowers the density of clay soils, increasing drainage, aeration and root penetration.

*Increases sandy soils' retention of water and nutrients.

*Partially offsets the acidity of N fertilizers (liming agent).
Biochar is also cited as a "carbon sink" to lower the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. While soil fertility is obviously the most salient advantage to the use of biochar, if carbon hysteria is a useful motivation for some persons to "do the right thing", it is probably better than for them to be selling crack on the street. ;-)


Monday, November 24, 2008

Peak Oil: Meet Pyrolysis Oil

Pyrolysis oils are created when high carbon materials--such as biomass or old tires--are heated in the absence of oxygen. The materials in pyrolysis oils can then be refined and stabilised to use as replacements for petroleum oils. For tires:
Pyrolysis degrades tyres using externally applied heat. The chamber containing the tyres is oxygen free, so that the tyres decompose, giving off gas, then oil, leaving a mix of char and steel.

This is then separated, further refined and converted into constituent parts – steel, carbon black, oil and gas. As the process takes place in a sealed chamber, there are no noxious emissions. _Plastics&Rubber
For biomass, the end product of the pyrolysis reaction is a bit different, but highly serviceable.
Biomass pyrolysis oil, commonly referred to as bio-oil, is made from second-generation feedstocks such as agricultural and forestry residuals. The DOE defined the act of stabilizing bio-oil to include removing char, lowering the oxygen content, and reducing the acidity of pyrolysis oil because it’s naturally corrosive, unstable and difficult to transport. When the stabilization of bio-oil is successful, it could be used at petroleum refineries as a feedstock that is greenhouse-gas-neutral, renewable and domestically produced.

...Five funding recipients have been selected to date, including Illinois-based UOP LLC, a Honeywell International Inc. subsidiary that has partnered with Ensyn Corp., the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Pall Corp., and the USDA Agricultural Research Service’s Crop Conversion Science and Engineering Research Unit. The group’s project is centered on the development of a commercialized next-generation technology to refine bio-oil for use in power generation, as a heating fuel and eventually as a transportation fuel.

...North Carolina-based research institute RTI International will also receive funding for its proposal that primarily aims to develop highly active and stable catalysts for the stabilization of bio-oil, potentially resulting in a condensed bio-oil intermediate that has physical and chemical properties adequate for use as liquid transportation fuels in existing petroleum refineries or in standalone, centralized upgrading facilities. _Biomass
Another significant pyrolysis project involves a collaboration between European energy giant Siemens and the USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS).
The company will install a distributed control system based on Siemens’ Simatic PCS 7 Box technology on the ERRC’s bench-scale fluidized bed pyrolysis system. “We think distributed control will help accelerate second-generation biofuels and biochemicals development by improving the repeatability, consistency and efficiency of our research processes,” said USDA ARS Research Leader Kevin Hicks.

Siemens’ technology will help control the reaction process by controlling variables inside the reactor. This will allow researchers to have a repeatable environment where heat, pressure and other variables are automatically controlled. Controlling these variables will make it easier to compare the bio-oil produced from various biomass materials. “What we are really concentrating on is taking low-density biomass, having a consistent reaction and then being able to put it into this bio-oil form we can use,” Chmielewski said. One goal of the research is to identify the best feedstocks suited for specific end products.
As noted here previously, pyrolysis involves lower temperatures than gasification, and is done in an oxygen-free atmosphere. The products of pyrolysis are more complex than the products of gasification. Until now it has been difficult to achieve consistent quality of product, and effective chemical stability of product for storage and shipping purposes. As you can see from the articles above, a lot of money and quality effort is being expended to assure that pyrolysis products achieve a much bigger slice of the energy pie.


Sunday, November 23, 2008

Promising Coal to Liquids Plant in Ohio Gets Clearance -- But Will Obama's New Energy Reich Kill It All The Same?

A promising new coal and biomass to liquids project in Ohio has been cleared by the Ohio EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers. Using a feedstock of 70% coal and 30% biomass, the plant will produce 53,000 barrels of liquid fuels per day.
The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency has issued the third and final state environmental necessary to the Ohio River Clean Fuels (ORCF) project. Baard Energy will now proceed into final design and construction of the 53,000 barrel per day Coal/Biomass to Liquids plant (CBTL) at the Columbiana County Port Authority site in Wellsville, Ohio. (Earlier post.)

The US Army Corp of Engineers has also issued the only federal permit—the 404 streams and wetlands permit—required for the project.

The Baard project will co-feed the gasifiers with 30% biomass and 70% coal, and capture up to 85% of CO2. ORCF is developing plans to compress the CO2 into liquid form and transport it to the neighboring oil fields in Eastern Ohio for Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR).

...The ORCF plant will utilize just more than 20 million gallons per day of water from the Ohio River. More than 80% of the water used is needed for cooling (non-contact cooling water). More than 70% of the water used will be evaporated in cooling towers. About 7,000 gallons per day will be used by the employees (drinking water, showers and restrooms) and will be returned to the Wellsville waste treatment system. The rest of the water (about 30%) will be cleaned to Ohio EPA standards and returned to the Ohio River.

The plant is targeted to produce 50,000 barrels of FT diesel and natpha per day (16 million barrels per year); 3,000 barrels of FT LGP per day (1 million barrels per year); along with 2,000 GWh per year of baseload generation. _GCC
Such CTL/BTL plants hold enormous promise in utilising plentiful but low-quality coal--along with biomass--while providing an energy bridge to cleaner, more abundant, and more sustainable technologies coming in the next 20 years to 30 years.

Labels: ,

Friday, November 21, 2008

Syntec B2A: Better Catalysts for Bio-Butanol etc

Our process is compatible with any type of organic feedstock. It can be applied to agricultural, industrial and municipal operations, converting their waste streams into a value-added product. Syntec can take the leaves, stalks, and any left over biomass waste, and with our catalysts, convert it into a valuable fuel that can fill your gas tank and run your car.
Syntec Biofuel is an important player in the nascent biomass to alcohol industry. Now Syntec is focusing on the creation of efficient new catalysts for producing bio-propanol and bio-butanol from biomass and other waste streams.
Butanol is a promising alcohol biofuel and is currently used as a solvent and as a chemical intermediate in thousands of consumer products; it sells for in excess of $5 per gallon. Propanol plays an important role as a solvent in the plastics and polymers, pharmaceutical, paint and cosmetic industries. It is also used as a carrier and extraction solvent for wide range of natural products and also sells for in excess of $5 per gallon.

Currently, almost all butanol and propanol in the world is derived from fossil fuels. The commercialization of Bio-butanol and Bio-propanol will effectively reduce the carbon footprints of many major industries.
—Syntec CEO Michael Jackson _GCC
This Biofuels Digest summary lays out some of the recent activities of Syntec across North America.

As availability and price of feedstock for these new B2A processes becomes better defined, the longer term impact of B2A on the overall economy will be easier to predict. Biofuels is but one of many potential uses for bio-alcohols and other high value hydrocarbons and hydrocarbon derivatives.

Among the industries most interested in developments in this area are the petroleum industries, the chemical industries, fuels and utility industries, forestry, paper and pulp industries, the municipal waste industry, and agriculture. A thriving international market economy relies upon rational rules of trade that are not overly burdened by protectionism and nonsensical regulations.

Unfortunately, new leadership in the US promises to increase protectionist trade barriers and carbon hysteria-based energy regulations. These neo-Luddites will only slow the adoption of more rational and sustainable international energy industries.

Labels: , ,

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Wood Pellet Fuel in Hot Demand in Europe

In Europe, wood pellet fuel is used for residential, commercial, and industrial heating needs. In fact, demand for wood pellets in Europe is exploding.
Wood pellets are used in furnaces as a substitute for heating oil and natural gas. In Austria, for example, it is estimated that two-thirds of all new residential heating furnaces are pellet burners.

State-of-the-art cogeneration technology at the CompacTec facility converts renewable biomass into thermal and electrical energy. The thermal energy is used during manufacturing to dry the pellets while the electricity is sold to the local grid under the German green power program. _Energy-Daily
North America is on a similar trajectory, although several years behind Europe's appetite for wood pellets.
Demand for wood pellets continues to grow in Europe but Keppler admits that the United States has not had the same experience. He attributes the difference to a much larger industrial demand in Europe combined with greater usage of wood pellet-fired furnaces by residential and commercial customers. “In the United States you have a nascent wood pellet industry but given that so much of the United States is served by natural gas and natural gas heating to the home, we have not seen the same adoption here,” Keppler said. Most of the wood pellets produced in the United States are exported overseas. _Biomass
Woody biomass offers a huge new area of energy development, where only minimal technological advancement is required. Bioenergy projects using biomass for CHP are expanding in Europe and North America.

The big advantage for growing bioenergy crops and woody biomass goes to more tropical climates, however, where warmer climates and more constant sunshine can cause biomass to grow several times faster than at higher latitudes. This tropical advantage could serve to bootstrap several third world nations out of perpetual poverty--if only they had leadership enlightened enough to forego corruption and oppressive taxation and regulations. Unfortunately, corruption in the third world is almost universal. We can only hope that such corruption does not overtake the developed world as its populations are overtaken by third world immigrants and third world patterns of populist demagoguery.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Potential Algae Fuel: Lurking in the Swamps

The huge potential of algal biofuels is tempting enough to lure many dozens of startups and large investors. Still many years from profitable production, algal fuels may make their way into the economy by bootstrapping onto various collateral enterprises. For all its "behind the scenes" nature, the race is definitely on.
...algae's key attraction is that the organisms can be grown in sites as diverse as wastelands or deserts, so long as they are close to a water supply and preferably a rich source of carbon dioxide....With algae, the downstream oil to fuel conversion processes are coming along nicely - the challenges lie in the growth, harvesting and oil extraction...

...Designing the ponds or bioreactors that the algae grow in is a key challenge in increasing productivity, says Stephen Skill, who works on algae at the Plymouth Marine Laboratory, UK. Growing algae in photobioreactors, the industrial equivalent of a test tube, offers protection to the algae and enables full environmental control. But they are costly to build and not particularly suitable for large scale production of low-price oil.

...With more than 30,000 known species of algae, finding the most suitable strain is not an easy task. There will not be just one 'magic strain', points out Skill - a different species is likely to be needed for every location to ensure that a consistent amount of oil is produced all year round, despite fluctuations in temperature and sunlight. As each species of algae has evolved to excel in a specific location, the most suitable strains are most likely to be found close to proposed algae cultivation sites. _Bioenergy
Large oil companies such as Shell and Chevron/Phillips are part of the organised stampede attempting to hit the sweet spot of algal production. Algal biofuels are likely to emerge gradually, as different companies find the best combination of algal strains and oil extraction/conversion processes. The ongoing price of oil will have much to do with how quickly algal fuels emerge from the swamps.

Many other factors can affect the development of algal fuels--including government mandates governing greenhouse gas production, etc. Once government develops a strong interest in algal fuels, the effect on the market will become badly skewed, and standard methods of economic/industrial/technological prognostication go out the window.


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

International Biofuels Conference Brazil Online!

Biofuels 2008 is being held in Sao Paolo this week at the Grand Hyatt. Conference speakers will be dealing with the economics, technology, and politics of biofuels around the world.
Brazil is keen to see ethanol -- the carburant derived from processing organic materials -- used more frequently in vehicles around the world.

The South American country is the biggest exporter of ethanol, which it makes from sugarcane, and the second-biggest producer, after the United States.

The plummeting price of oil in recent weeks, however, has cast a shadow over prospects of boosting ethanol exports. A lower price for gasoline undermines the argument for biofuels.

There is also a lingering debate over food prices spiking because of increased farming of biofuel crops at the expense of traditional food crops.

The conference, in Sao Paulo, was to start with three days of technical discussions before ministers took over for the final two days. _AFP
Looking over the conference schedule, you might think that this is just another vacation for fat bureaucrats at taxpayers' expense. Fair enough. But that is to be expected, on the bureaucratic front. We expect better from scientists and technologists.

The real breakthroughs and advances will happen far from the world stage. The most important bioenergy breakthroughs will come via a convergence of biotechnology and nanotechnology. They may even come from the work of closet nanobio-hackers. Technology is getting a lot more interesting, now that very powerful tools of change are falling into the hands of ordinary people.

The energy Luddites in the narcissist-elect's new administration should think about that strong undercurrent long and hard before setting out to define a new age of planned energy scarcity and deprivation.


Monday, November 17, 2008

Geothermal Advantages Over Wind, Solar

The two largest renewable sources of energy supply for planet Earth are solar and geothermal. Solar energy is hampered by its diurnal cycle and vulnerability to bad weather. Geothermal is superior to solar at least temporarily.
The geothermal option has a distinct advantage over wind and solar power when it comes to pricing....Geothermal also has the advantage of being a dependable source of energy, and is not dependant on weather conditions or time of day.... a new technology called EGS, or enhanced geothermal systems, which will allow access to areas where underground heat is accessible but the water used for traditional geothermal production is not available, may revolutionize the field. If this technology - which is being researched by academics and private companies including Ormat - can become feasible, the world potential for production would jump phenomenally to some 200 GW, according to a recent MIT estimate. _JP
Actually, the world potential for geothermal is far higher than 200 GW. Everything depends upon the technology of materials, heat exchange, and energy transduction. All of those areas are in a state of rapid flux.


Sunday, November 16, 2008

Synthetic Biology and Biofuels: You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet

The best time to work on alternatives to fossil fuels is while fuel prices are temporarily low. Better prepare now, because when those prices start rising again it may be too late to block another energy-recession.

Synthetic biology is in its early bloom. Soon, it will begin offering a greater abundance of products such as fuels, plastics, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, and other things unimaginable now. Unless the ever-lurking Luddites burn the bridges before they are built. That is a danger under the current political current. But the need for alternative fuels is so apparent, that it is possible the Luddites in political control will overlook this one shining promise.
Synthetic biology refers to both the design and fabrication of biological components and systems that do not already exist in the natural world, and the redesign and fabrication of existing biological systems. As tools are developed to hone and refine this technology, researchers across multiple disciplines are finding novel applications for it.

...One company that provides the raw material for the creation of biofuels is Agrivida, an agricultural biotech firm that creates renewable, biomass-based alternative fuels and raw materials. “We are working upstream, making plants that are more easily degradable, primarily switchgrass, sugar cane, and corn,” states R. Michael Raab, founder and president. “We are focused on nonfood crops and crop residues that are degradable into fuel.”

...Gevo develops advanced biofuels technology based on butanol and its derivatives. “The magic isn’t in the biology alone,” according to Pat Gruber, Ph.D., CEO. “It’s in the chemistry, fermentation, processing, and genetic engineering all together; knowing what tools you need, and having the tools to make it happen.”

Dr. Gruber points out that three critical pieces of technology have helped Gevo produce these on a commercial scale. “We have a group that’s been working on this for 20 years or longer. Metabolic engineering of suitable host organisms make it possible to use carbon and energy efficiently for fuel production. Process engineering makes it possible to lower product separation costs and chemistry to produce valuable hydrocarbons.”

...Two other companies working in the metabolic engineering space are Mascoma and LS9. Mascoma recently received $26 million in DOE funding, which will be applied toward the development of a cellulosic fuel production facility that uses nonfood biomass to convert woodchips into fuel. Mascoma’s production facility is expected to produce 40 million gallons of ethanol and other valuable fuel products per year.

LS9 developed new metabolic pathways that efficiently convert fatty acids to a broad portfolio of petroleum replacements. It also discovered and engineered a new class of enzymes and their associated genes that catalyze the efficient conversion of fatty acids to hydrocarbons. They recombinantly produce hydrocarbons (oxygen-deficient biocrudes), fatty acid alkyl esters (biodiesel), and a variety of industrial chemicals from sugars via fatty acid biosynthesis.

...Codexis’ technology enables solutions for cost-effective, efficient, and environmentally sound production of pharmaceuticals, transportation fuels, and industrial chemicals, reports David Anton, Ph.D., vp, bioindustrials R&D. The company focuses on biocatalysts—enzymes or microbes that initiate or accelerate chemical reactions. At Codexis, biocatalysis is used to design faster, less costly, and greener chemistry-based manufacturing processes in the life science and energy industries.

According to Dr. Anton, Codexis’ technology makes it possible to customize enzymes capable of selectively and efficiently performing a desired chemical process that doesn’t exist in nature.

...SunEthanol was recently awarded a $750,000 Phase II Small Business Technology Transfer Program contract. This award, made as a follow-up for successfully completing a year-long Phase I grant, will allow SunEthanol to continue pioneering a process that converts plant waste into clean ethanol fuel in one simple step, saving time and money over the traditional two-step cellulosic conversion process, the company claims.

... _GenEngNews
Several more companies are mentioned and linked in the above Genengnews article. It is impossible to keep track of all the research efforts in synthetic biology that will influence biosynthetic fuels development. Every university biology or agriculture department with a significant research program will be working on this problem, in all likelihood. Whether or not the world economy improves, fuel prices will rise. If the Luddites in control suppress energy technologies, energy prices will rise out of scarcity. If the Luddites are given a well-deserved boot in the arse, energy prices will rise as economies improve. Those who are prepared will prosper. Those who are not prepared, will It is the harsh way of the universe.

Previously published at Al Fin

Labels: , ,

Saturday, November 15, 2008

$3.5 Billion Refinery Slated for Louisiana, Huge Coal to Gas Plant 300 BCF a Year

Massachusetts investment firm C Change Investments LLC of Cambridge, Mass, is pairing with an unnamed large utility company to build a $3.5 billion coal to gas plant producing 300 billion cubic feet of gas per year. That is equivalent to 7% of the amount of natural gas shipped to the US from Canada yearly.
In addition to producing synthetic natural gas — a cleaner form of gas created from coal and petroleum coke at extremely higher temperatures — the project would capture carbon dioxide and pipe it to offshore wells in the Gulf to improve extraction of oil and gas.

...The NC12 venture claims to have a game-changing catalytic technology that will convert coal along with petroleum coke from Louisiana refineries into synthetic natural gas at half the cost of other gasification technologies.

Among the company’s principals is John Preston, a senior lecturer at MIT’s Entrepreneurship Center. Preston and other investors bought patents for high-temperature liquid metal catalysts and the assets of Molten Metal Technologies in Fall River, Mass., according to NC12 materials.

It’s that technology that NC12 would employ in Louisiana. Allen said about 1.5 billion cubic feet of synthetic natural gas has been produced in Fall River and transported via pipeline, proving the company’s concept at that scale, he said.

At 2,700 degrees F, 32-foot high reactors with a 10-foot diameter house the gasification process. About 10 would be installed in a first phase in Louisiana and produce 50 billion cubic feet of synthetic natural gas per year, Allen said.
Such advanced coal to gas, coal to liquid, and coal to electricity plants are an essential part of the foundation for America's energy bridge to sustainability. In a few decades, utility scale storage will allow large scale use of solar and wind without the huge costs for backup energy currently required. In addition, enhanced geothermal energy will have been perfected in a few decades to provide large scale sustainable baseline power.

The combination of the new clean gasification technologies (of coal, biomass, shale, etc) with new modular nuclear reactors, should allow for a transition to cleaner and sustainable energy without the devastating interruption of a decade long depression.

If Obama, Pelosi, Boxer, Gore, and their pals step in to enforce nonsensical carbon hysteric EPA rules on CO2, all bets are off--and a multi-decadal depression starts to look likely. From Bush to Obama? Out of a simmering pan and into the hottest fire imaginable.

Labels: ,

Friday, November 14, 2008

Diesel from Sugar Cane, and Other Microbe Tales

Biotech company Amyris has opened a new "sugar cane to diesel" plant in Northern California. Amyris diesel is a higher quality than other biodiesels, and can be blended at up to 50 per cent concentration with regular petro-diesel.
"We're engineering the yeast, reprogramming it from making alcohols to making hydrocarbons," CEO John Melo said. "We started with E. coli (bacteria), which is what many other companies are doing, but we moved to yeast because we discovered that it was more scalable."

The company has also modified yeasts to produce chemicals; a sugar-derived jet fuel is planned for in about three years as well.

...Amyris' biodiesel can be blended at up to 50 percent concentration with petroleum diesel, higher than most biodiesel today, which means that it can be pumped through existing pipelines. Environmentally, Amyris' "renewable diesel" has lower carbon emissions than petrodiesel and burns cleaner, Melo said. _CNET
Other "green fuel" companies are hot on the heels of Amyris in the quest to produce high quality biofuels using microbial factories.
Solazyme, Sapphire Energy, Green Fuel Technologies, and Petrosun all use algae as the basis for their fuel production. By using algae, these companies are able to produce a wide variety of fuels that don’t contain sulfur, and don’t need anything more than CO2, sunlight and water to manufacture the fuels.

Like the modified yeast that Amyris uses, the algae used by Solazyme, Sapphire Energy, Green Fuel Technologies and Petrosun is genetically modified so that the algae produces the required fuel products.

Using Algae has several positive side effects. Except for water, sunlight, and carbon dioxide, no other ingredients are required. This means that corn, soy, and sugarcane can be used as food rather than to create fuel. The only land needed is that land that houses the algae greenhouses. _Source
And of course there are others in the race, just a bit further behind the frontrunners. Bioenergy will develop into an important source of energy and fuel, regardless of the outcome of current economic difficulties. The economics are sound--it is the technology that still requires a bit of tweaking and advancement.

Only a political disaster--such as the election of a carbon hysteric and environmental radical to the US presidency--could stop the impressive developments in new energy production. Already, the EPA is laying the groundwork for "energy starvation" in the US. Understanding the friendly relationship of the US Democratic Party with -minded individuals in environmental lobbies and trial lawyer constitutencies should allow smart persons to predict the short to medium term energy picture for the US at least. After they shut down coal, they may come after biofuels next.

Remind me again: Who is John Galt?


Thursday, November 13, 2008

General Electric + University of Wyoming = IGCC

General Electric has partnered with the University of Wyoming to find optimal clean solutions for burning Powder River Basin coal, and other Wyoming coals. GE has developed IGCC, integrated gasification combined cycle electricity generation from coal to an advanced state. This allows the clean and highly efficient production of electricity using both gas turbines and steam turbines in combined cycles. In addition, process heat can be produced for industry and general heating needs, further increasing overall efficiency and usefulness of the process.
Wyoming is uniquely positioned in the nation's energy landscape and has vast coal resources capable of supporting a substantial portion of the nation's energy needs. The state produces approximately 40 percent of all of the coal used in the United States to generate electricity.
The new center will include a small-scale gasification system that will enable researchers from GE and the university to develop advanced gasification solutions for Powder River Basin and other Wyoming coals. The research is expected to expand the range of coals that can be used with GE's integrated gasification combined-cycle (IGCC) technology for power plants. The facility is expected to be operational by 2012.

.... GE is a world leader in IGCC technology and has been at the forefront of IGCC technology since the Coolwater project, a 120 MW technical demonstration IGCC project started in 1984. GE's IGCC technology also has operated at the 250 MW TECO Polk I station in Florida for more than 12 years. Today, GE offers a 630 MW IGCC reference plant that produces 75 percent less SOx, 33 percent less NOx, 40 percent less particulate matter, uses 30 percent less water and offers 90 percent mercury capture, compared to a traditional pulverized coal plant.

In addition to providing a cleaner alternative for power generation, IGCC is well-suited for carbon capture. Carbon capture technology is in use in GE's industrial gasification applications around the world today. _Source
Regular readers of Al Fin Energy know that Al Fin is concerned about reducing pollution, but not particularly concerned about reducing CO2--which is far from being a pollutant. IGCC reduces the important pollutants that come from coal by a large margin.

If a radical environmentalist-driven Obama reich blocks such gasification coal plants on the basis of CO2 release, it would the the epitome of stupidity and self-destruction. Nevertheless, it is what we expect the Obama administration combined with the Pelosi/Boxer congress to do. Keep your eyes open, so that you will have the best possible options available to you.

Labels: , , , ,

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Algal Fuels Projects Getting Funded

Solix has already achieved production of 1,500 gallons an acre per year at a test plot in Fort Collins, and the company is expecting yields of 2,500 to 3,000 gallons an acre per year, said Mr. Henston.

In contrast, soybeans, the main source of biodiesel used in this country, yields 50 to 70 gallons per acre.
It is the huge potential fuel yields of algae that keep investors coming. Algae can take the CO2 effluent from a coal plant, and turn it into clean biofuel in abundant quantities. The various processes for producing algal fuels are still far from ready to compete in the marketplace, but dozens of well-financed efforts are underway and at various stages of progress. Solix plans to begin building its first commercial algae farm next year, on a reservation of Ute N.A. Indians.
Investors include on the Southern Ute Indian Tribe, on whose reservation, near Durango, the farm will be located; Valero Energy Corporation., the refinery operator; and Infield Capital, an investment fund.

Algae has held special appeal for renewable energy researchers — and some investors — because the organism readily converts sunlight and carbon dioxide into a hydrocarbon fuel, producing an oil that can harvested for use as biodiesel. And the more CO2 present, the faster the algae grows. _NYT
Solix is just one among many of competing algal energy companies. Consider it a "race within a race." Algal bioenergy itself is just one of many competing approaches to microbial bioenergy to replace fossil fuel energy. And microbial bioenergy is just one of many approaches to sustainable, clean bioenergy.
Algae companies are breeding faster than algae itself, it seems. Over 50 companies have been formed in the past few years that have crafted business plans to turn pond scum into fuel and/or oil, Tim Zenk, vice president of corporate affairs for the Sapphire Energy, told Greentech Media a few weeks ago (see Inside Sapphire's Algae-Fuel Plans).

Algae insiders and some analysts, however, note that only a few of these companies –Sapphire, Solazyme, GreenFuel Technologies and LiveFuels – have engaged in the kind of bio-engineering and fuel processing to actually produce oils (see The Iconoclasts of Algae). Who will win? Who knows. Solazyme and a few others say they will have oil in commercial production in about three years. Solazyme has already produced several industrial-sized barrels of oil. _GTM
Society at large will be a winner if even a few of the competitors strike it rich in the algal energy business. Because where one or a few succeed, others will follow with even better financing, standing on the progress of those who preceded them. Algal fuel is simply renewable oil--the best refutation to peak oil conceivable.


Monday, November 10, 2008

Torrefaction of Biomass: Useful Bio-energy Densification Strategy Growing Slow and Sure

Torrefied biomass:

* has a much higher energy density than raw biomass
* it allows for a dramatic increase in the distance over which the biomass can be transported to the plant (some studies show distances can be squared)
* because torrefied biomass is hydrophobic, it can be stored in the open, for long times, in the same infrastructures as those used for coal
* it requires less energy to crush, grind or pulverise torrefied biomass than it takes to crush coal, and the same tools can be used
* given its excellent combustion properties, the fuel can be readily co-fired with coal
Torrefaction of biomass takes place at temperatures of 200 to 300 degrees C, with little or no oxygen. 90% of the energy is retained, while eliminating roughly 20% of mass, including moisture. Torrefied biomass can be co-fired with coal in unmodified coal plants.

At this time only one biomass torrefaction plant is active on the planet Earth. A new plant is on the boards for North Carolina, with 10 other US torrefaction plants at various stages of planning.
During torrefaction the molecular structure of the wood is altered, enhancing some of the wood’s physical properties. Torrefaction liberates water and releases volatile organic compounds (VOC) through the devolitization of primarily the hemicelluloses and extractants. The lignins are loosened and have limited devolitization while the cellulose is nearly unimpacted at these temperatures. As the hemicellulose, which binds the cellulose, is burned away, the wood is unbound making it more brittle. This increases the grindability of torrefied wood and makes its handling properties more like coal. This unbinding also releases the last of the water not stored at the cell level, leaving the wood hydrophobic. During the torrefaction process most of the energy value of the wood is preserved with the product losing 20-30% of its mass while retaining 90% of its energy. The calorific value of the wood increases to 9,500-11,500 Btu per pound.

So far, there is only one commercial torrefaction plant operating in the world, located in the Netherlands. It supplies torrefied biomass pellets to large coal-fired power plants, who get a green credit for each ton of biomass they burn. Integro Earthfuels is now planning to open a similar plant in Roxboro County, North Carolina. The $12 million plant will have an initial capacity to produce up to 84,000 tons of torrefied biomass annually:

Currently, Integro is finalizing off-take agreements with local utilities and Universities with their own heat and power plants to provide them with a majority of the supply beginning in 2009. Integro will build 10 additional facilities over the next 6 years to meet the demand from coal-fired electricity producers.
The logic behind biomass torrefaction is quite sound. If the moronic Democratic Party controlled congress along with an eternally posturing Obama administration could get over their distaste for large-scale energy, perhaps they would drop the carbon hysteria that they have allowed to paralyse US energy production. The best thing for the fatuous morons would be to simply GET OUT OF THE WAY!

Oynklent Green is keeping tabs.


Friday, November 07, 2008

Basic Survival: Clean Water in an Obamanation

Modern humans need plentiful clean energy, but they also need clean water in abundant supply. Two interesting new approaches to water purification promise to expand the availability of pure clean water significantly.
A U.S. company has developed new revolutionary ways of purifying water in developing countries. California-based Pure Bioscience has developed a breakthrough platform technology called silver dihydrogen citrate (SDC), which is an electrolytically generated source of stabilized ionic silver.The chemical compound found to be safe, tasteless and odorless as water could eliminate the threat of dangerous viruses, like Cholera from drinking water in only 10 minutes. The company says Africa, where cholera and other water-born diseases are prominent stands a greater chance to benefit...Krall said the product would be most useful to most rural African communities who do not have easy access to improved quality water supply. _Source
In an Obamanation, such technology would also likely find a place in inner cities and other areas of widespread unemployment and economic devastation.

Another fascinating new approach to water purification comes from a company called Porifera:
Porifera, a spin out of Lawrence Livermore National Labs, has come up with a way to skirt the manufacturing problem and devise a product that leverages the unique thinness of single walled nanotubes. It has made a water filter of single walled carbon nanotubes. The tubes are packed closely together and the water flows through them like it flows through straws. Chirality doesn’t matter, said company representatives I spoke to at the California Cleantech Open, which held its award gala in San Francisco tonight. The opening of the tubes is so small (a few nanometers wide) that bacteria, biological material and other impurities get cleaned out of the water because they can’t fit where water molecules can. The filter will also likely be useful for desalinating seawater, although purifying wastewater will likely be the first application.

Another added bonus: because the impurities get stuck outside of the tubes, membrane fouling is less of a problem. It is difficult to clean traditional membranes because material can be caught inside the membrane. If bacteria or salts accumulate on the outside, they can just be swirled away with water.

Overall, Porifera’s array could cut the cost of desalination by 25 percent or more. In traditional purification and desalination systems, large amounts of energy are required to pressurize water and force it through a membrane. Here, gravity does a lot of the work. _Source
Combining nanotubes with solid-state water purification compounds such as silver dihydrogen citrate would provide a double safeguard. Nanotechnology promises far more revolutionary products along the same lines in the near future.

Basic needs of humans include food, water, shelter, clothing, sanitation, energy, and basic physical and mental health care provisions. Incompetent governments of the third world have difficulty providing even the basics. As governments of the western world begin to function more like third world governments, expect the same problems to crop up near where you live. Be prepared.


Thursday, November 06, 2008

Beyond Ethanol to Butanol: Retrofitting the Future

Synthetic networks for non-fermentative alcohol production from glucose in engineered E. coli developed by Dr. Liao at UCLA and licensed by Gevo. The red arrows represent the two-step conversion (KDC/ADH) of 2-keto acids to alcohols

Ethanol works well as low concentration blend with gasoline, but butanol has properties closer to gasoline, and can be blended easily at higher concentrations--without having to modify existing vehicles. If companies could economically convert existing ethanol production facilities into butanol production facilities, butanol could move closer to its rightful position in the biofuels hierarchy.

Gevo is taking the process one step farther, and plans to take convert their butanol into hydrocarbon components of gasoline!
Gevo, Inc. and ICM, Inc. have formed a strategic alliance for the commercial development of Gevo’s Integrated Fermentation Technology (GIFT) that enables the production of isobutanol and hydrocarbons from retrofitted ethanol plants.

...Our data says that it will cost less than $0.30 per gallon to retrofit an ethanol plant to make isobutanol. Isobutanol can be converted to gasoline blendstocks for less than an additional $0.25 per gallon. Think of it: gasoline from an ethanol plant for less than $0.60/gallon additional capital. _GCC
The economics of bioenergy will have to sort itself out over time. The only uncertainty is whether a crusading new political reich in the US will allow the economics of energy technology to do its market magic. It is quite likely that the Obama/Pelosi/Boxer rebellion and political riots will so badly interfere with the energy markets as to retard the development of sustainable clean energy for many years.

Government price controls, mandates, price supports, etc. are not a sustainable approach to energy. The market has to be allowed to work, to find the most economically sustainable approaches. If the US chooses to be the world's political retard as it appears, the center of innovation needs to move to a different location.

At this time, a likely successor to America's former market leadership is not easy to guess.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Biorefinery: Spend $30,000, Save $500,000 Yearly

Yes, if your operation runs several high mileage automobiles every day, this $30,000 biorefinery by Allard Research can churn out enough ethanol and biodiesel to save your operation $500,000 a year in fuel costs.
Texas-based Allard Research and Development is now selling the “world’s first mini-refinery” for consumer use that produces both ethanol and biodiesel. can crank out up to 120 gallons per day of ethanol and 450 gallons per day of biodiesel:

Consisting of two pieces of equipment — an ethanol boiler and the mini-refinery — the whole system can fit into an area of less than 30 square feet with 8 feet of clearance and is completely automated. _Domestic Fuel
You will need to find a source of vegetable oil--waste oil from restaurants is a good choice--and feedstock for fermenting ethanol. The ethanol boiler will distill ethanol fuel from fermented brew. The entire process is computer controlled and automated and can produce both ethanol and biodiesel simultaneously.

Regular readers of AFE will understand that the writers at this blog prefer cellulosic fuels or algal fuels to fuels from crops such as maize or soy. Of course, if the economics works out for your operation you may consider giving such a unit a go. Eventually small scale gasifiers plus small F-T units will allow ranches, farms, and other small fleet operators to make fuel from cellulosic biomass, or small scale bioreactors will allow direct production of fuels from biomass and CO2 using either biological systems of microbes or biomimetic systems of biologically derived or biomimetic enzyme systems outside of an organism.

Labels: ,

Monday, November 03, 2008

Cellulose to Diesel via SA Fungus

Nature uses sunlight, CO2 and water to create massive amounts of cellulosic biomass every year. The potential energy tied up in biomass will prove crucial in the effort to move from fossil fuels to more renewable forms of energy, over the next few decades. One microbial lifeform from the Patagonian wilds may boost the effort to convert biomass to fuels in an efficient manner.
What's exciting about the Gliocladium roseum fungus, however, is that it can both break down cellulose and synthesize the liquid fuel.

"A step in the production process could be skipped," Strobel said in a press release.

...."Its ultimate value may reside in the genes/enzymes that control hydrocarbon production, and our paper is a necessary first step that may lead to development programmes to make this a commercial venture."

The genome of the fungus is being analyzed at Yale University under the direction of Scott Strobel, a molecular biologist and Gary Strobel's son.

But beyond the biofuel implications, Strobel said that because the fungus can manufacture what we would normally think of as components of crude oil, it casts some doubt on the idea that crude oil is a fossil fuel.

"It may be the case that organisms like this produced some — maybe not all — but some of the world's crude," Strobel said. _Wired
Yes, and possibly some of the crude arose from abiotic sources. We simply do not know everything about the past or present--much less the future--of our planet.

Currently, the humans on the planet require energy, lots of energy. Many politicians of a moronic nature have threatened to prevent the development of clean coal, oil sands, oil shale, nuclear fission, and other critical energy "bridge technologies" between an oil economy and a more sustainable energy economy. Such foolish lightweight minds such as Gore, Obama, Pelosi, Salazar, Boxer, and the rest want to trifle with the future of the only intelligent species known to exist in the universe. That type of mentality should not go unchallenged, or be taken lightly. It should be dealt with firmly by those who understand basic underlying energy economics in the context of an increasingly unstable world political situation.

Unfortunately, the election of a narcissistic ideologue and radical to the US Presidency will do nothing but aggravate an already dangerously labile dynamic.


Newer Posts Older Posts