Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Nuclear Fusion and Fission: Alternative to Political Peak Oil

Brian Wang follows new developments in nuclear energy technologies, and has three recent blog postings worth looking at:

An Interview with the head of the Focus Fusion group

A look at how new modular nuclear reactors from India may change the energy equation

Suggestions for speeding the development and regulatory approval of new nuclear reactor designs

If the Obama / Pelosi outfit is successful in strangling the US energy supply, the damage to the economy at large will take decades in repairing. Political Peak Oil appears to be the ultimate goal of the new energy starvation reich. But it cannot happen unless the rest of the US Government, American media, and American society in general go along with the suicidal plans.

Nuclear energy -- particularly the safe, new, more economical designs -- would be able to evade the draconian carbon regulations favoured by the new reich. But faux-environmentalists and other entrenched Luddite interests appear determined to stop any effort to work around the broad plan of energy starvation. It will be "touch and go" for some time.


Wood Chips to Jet Fuel, Dust to Diamonds, Lynn Tilton Does It All Without Shrugging

When Al Fin learned about Tilton's Old Town Mill project to take a defunct paper mill and turn it into a potentially thriving wood chip to bio-butanol to jet fuel enterprise, he was quite impressed. While the bio-jet fuel project illustrates Tilton's "turnaround" ability to anticipate trends and to turn "dust into diamonds", it is just one of many projects that Tilton is working on. Follow the links to learn more about this modern "Dagny Taggart".

Dagney Taggart was the heroine of the Ayn Rand classic "Atlas Shrugged." Taggart was one of the competent pillars of American capitalism holding back the forces of government encroachment and societal decline. A gritty, smart, competent railroad executive, Dagny fought tooth and nail against the collapse of the massively interconnected economic system that she believed in, and played a large part in maintaining.

This determination to save the economic and industrial system of the US put Dagny at odds with the ever-grasping government -- and with a mysterious group of entrepreneurs, industrialists, and wealthy financiers who were disappearing from the face of the Earth. The ongoing disappearance of these important players in US and global capitalism made Dagny's work that much harder. When Dagny discovered that these capitalist cohorts were voluntarily dropping out of the system -- and inviting her to do the same -- she was infuriated, dismayed, and determined even more to succeed against all the odds. But that was before she met John Galt. Who is John Galt?

Lynn Tilton is the CEO of private equity firm Patriarch Partners. Tilton leads the $5 billion venture firm in the effort to "turn around" failing corporations and businesses -- to reverse the accelerating entropy of American business and manufacturing.

The video above gives a very thin slice of Tilton's ideas, achievements, and projects. Tilton's twitter feed is here, and she also has a blog, Dust to Diamonds.

What would it take to convince a person like Lynn Tilton that "going John Galt" was the only viable alternative remaining? Quite a lot, I am sure. But Brocko and his gang appear to be doing everything they can to eliminate all viable alternatives.

I wish Ms. Tilton continued good fortune in her projects. Turning around the American economy -- and thus the world's -- is no easy task. Too bad the US has elected a government that is doing everything possible to make that task impossible.

If Ms. Tilton ever does go John Galt, you had best look to your bugout plans.

Taken from an earlier post at Al Fin

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Monday, June 29, 2009

Gene Stacks, Cassettes, and Artificial Chromosomes: Giving Plants New Abilities

Chromatin is in the business of transforming plants with "gene stacks", to make crops hardier and more productive. Sugar cane is the latest plant to experience transformative change from Chromatin's gene stacking technology.
Chromatin has developed a novel approach to gene stacking, using the plant’s own DNA to deliver several genes. Under this agreement, Syngenta has obtained exclusive rights to use Chromatin’s stacking technology for trait genes in all plants from the genus Saccharum which includes commercial sugar cane varieties as well as energy cane, and crosses between Saccharum and other plant species. Syngenta obtained non-exclusive rights for use of this stacking technology in corn and soybean in 2007.

“Sugar cane growers and processors will benefit economically and environmentally from access to a combination of advanced traits that this technology could make,” said Ian Jepson, Global R&D sugar cane crop lead. “This new stacking technology, combined with the advanced plant varieties, crop protection choices, and our revolutionary new Plene technology will ensure our customers will have the best solutions in sugar cane and will give us a leading position especially in the large Brazilian market.”

Sugar cane is among the top crops grown today for use in sugar production and biofuels. Syngenta offers a broad range of crop protection products for sugar cane growers and is developing a novel planting technology planned for launch in 2010 under the brand name Plene that will help reduce production costs. New trait combinations in sugar cane could offer growers additional improvements in production efficiency and yield increases. _BiofuelsDigest
The technology to transform a plant by introducing new "gene sets" is in its infancy. It will be a few years yet before new strains of sugar cane will have the ability to grow in cold, dry high deserts, or on subarctic tundra.

But researchers are already introducing new genes into maize plants which will facilitate the conversion of cellulose in stover to simple sugars, for fermentation into fuels and high value chemicals.

As Al Fin always says, it's not nice to bet against Mother Nature. She knows where you live.

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Friday, June 26, 2009

Energy and Bioenergy News

Virent Energy Systems has developed a water based catalytic method for producing diesel, gasoline and other hydrocarbon fuels from sugar, starch, and cellulose. Virent claims that its process is competitive with fossil fuels at a $60 a barrel oil cost. Brian Westenhaus has much more.

Amyris Biotechnologies is opening a demonstration plant in Brazil to demonstrate the production of fuels and high value chemicals from the bagasse waste product left over after the processing of sugar cane. GreenCarCongress and BiofuelsDigest have more.

The University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, Buckeye Technologies, and Myriant Technologies are partnering to produce a wide range of high value chemicals, materials, and fuels from cellulose. Virtually every petroleum product used by humans could be substituted with a cellulosic product. Energy Daily has more.

Brian Wang has news on Liquid Thorium nuclear reactors and space based solar power.

More on space based solar from Brian Westenhaus

Converting from a petroleum based economy to an economy based on biofuels and electrical power from nuclear, space solar, enhanced geothermal etc. will require the use of coal IGCC, oil sands, oil shales, shale gas, heavy oils, offshore oils, methane clathrates, and all the other forms of energy that the Obama administration is in the process of shutting down. All of those fossil hydrocarbons are a vital bridge to better energy sources.

The Obama administration combined with the Pelosi Congress appear dedicated to bringing on political peak oil decades ahead of schedule. Combined with the ongoing (and worsening) financial crisis and ill-advised Obama mass-tinkering with the private / public sector balance of the US, the move to energy starvation by the US government is likely to be financially and strategically devastating for the country.

All of this is only possible with the active and conscious complicity of the news and entertainment industrial complex. It makes sense in a perverse way. In the news business, large scale suffering is newsworthy. Obama / Pelosi promise to make people suffer with their incompetent policies. It makes perfect sense if you are a total slime.


Thursday, June 25, 2009

BTL + FT = Synthetic Jet Fuel and Diesel

Rentech is taking its Fischer-Tropsch process and combining it with the Biomass-to-Liquid process of ClearFuels Technology Inc. to accelerate the production of synthetic jet fuel and diesel fuel from biomass. This partnership will begin at up to 12 US-based projects and expand outward from there.
ClearFuels has begun project development of multiple commercial scale biomass-to-energy projects in the Southeastern US, Hawaii and internationally that will use the integrated ClearFuels-Rentech design and will be co-located at sugar mills and wood processing facilities. The wood waste projects alone are estimated to have an aggregate annual capacity of more than 100 million gallons of renewable synthetic fuels and 30 MW of renewable power.

To facilitate the development process, ClearFuels plans first to install a demonstration-scale biomass gasifier at Rentech’s Product Demonstration Unit (PDU) in Commerce City, Colorado to produce syngas from bagasse, virgin wood waste and other cellulosic feedstocks. The gasifier will be integrated with Rentech’s Fischer-Tropsch Process and UOP’s upgrading technology to produce high-quality renewable drop-in synthetic jet and diesel fuels at demonstration scale. _GCC
In other bioenergy news, Chemrec is planning a biorefinery plant in Ornskoldsvik, Sweden, to convert black liquor to synthetic fuels. Converting the pulp/paper waste product (black liquor) to a useful fuel is becoming more popular in the paper industry worldwide. It is but one example of the increasing conversion of waste and pollutants into useful products and fuels.

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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Energy Starvation is a Top Reich Priority

...not one new commercial nuclear reactor design has been approved and built in the United States for 30 years.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Department of Energy were both formed in the 1970s to develop nuclear energy and thereby reduce our dependence on foreign oil. But neither has reduced our dependence on foreign oil, especially not with nuclear energy. _WSJ
Image Source
Under President Obama and Speaker Pelosi, the US government has no intention of allowing cheap and plentiful nuclear energy to blossom. A bloom of clean, safe modular nuclear reactors would allow the US economy to sprout new wings and grow in a thousand new directions. An economic renaissance based upon plentiful energy and free markets is the last thing the new O / P Reich wants to see. But it could happen if the government only allowed it to.
These new small reactors meet important criteria for nuclear power plants. With no control rods to jam, they are far safer than the old models -- you might well call them nuclear batteries. By not using weapons-grade enriched fuels, they are nonproliferating. They minimize nuclear waste. And they're economical.

All of the new start-up reactors are tiny compared to the 104 old ones, each of which was custom designed for and constructed at the site of its utility power plant. Small enough to fit on a large kitchen table, the new reactors can be manufactured at very low cost and shipped by truck to power-plant sites. As an Internet guy, these small fission reactors seem to me like the microprocessors that took over from the huge, air-conditioned, glasshouse mainframe computers.

As venture capitalists, we at Polaris might have invested in one or two of these fission-energy start-ups. Alas, we had to pass. The problem with their business plans weren't their designs, but the high costs and astronomical risks of designing nuclear reactors for certification in Washington.

The start-ups estimate that it will cost each of them roughly $100 million and five years to get their small reactor designs certified by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. About $50 million of each $100 million would go to the commission itself. That's a lot of risk capital for any venture-backed start-up
... _WSJ
The US government is certainly in no hurry to approve newer, safer reactor designs. Brian Wang looks at one government effort to develop a newer reactor design. From my perspective, it certainly looks a lot like "dragging one's feet," on the part of government bureaucracy. Keep in mind that government labs -- as helpful as they have been -- conduct research according to the academic model, which tends to stretch things out to the ultimate time limit. Corporate research takes economic imperatives into account, and often gets things done more quickly -- when government allows it.

Of course when government intervenes with tonnes of regulatory and bureaucratic requirements, no lab or enterprise in the world can get anything done efficiently or promptly.

More at Atomic Insights blog

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Monday, June 22, 2009

Bioenergy's Big Future

It is fashionable to express skepticism about the potential of bioenergy to solve many of the energy problems for large parts of the developed and undeveloped worlds. Here at Al Fin Energy, we reject fashion for the sake of realism. Planet Earth is a biological planet -- the only one we know of for certain. Biology is an excellent anti-entropic nano-conglomerate system. It is open-ended and almost endlessly modifiable. Biology can be scaled from the microscopic to the planetary.

Here are 3 very good articles dealing with bioenergy:

Brian Wang looks at 12 leading biofuel technology firms, and the prospect of a fast expansion of biodiesel production globally.

GenEngNews looks at alternative feedstocks for boosting biofuels production of several types. This article is a good complement to Brian Wang's article above, for a more comprehensive survey of the biofuels field.

And Brian Westenhaus takes a closer look at the use of diatoms in the production of biodiesel and bio-oils.


Friday, June 19, 2009

Diatomaceous Oils Make a Move

Brian Wang and GreenCarCongress recently looked at research into the use of diatoms to produce biofuels -- specifically diesel - like oils.
Scientists in Canada and India are proposing a variety of ways of harvesting oil from diatoms—single cell algae with silica shells—using biochemical engineering and also a new solar panel approach that utilizes genomically modifiable aspects of diatom biology, offering the prospect of “milking” diatoms for sustainable energy by altering them to actively secrete oil products. Their communication appears online in the current issue of the ACS’ bi-monthly journal Industrial Engineering & Chemical Research.

Richard Gordon, T. V. Ramachandra, Durga Madhab Mahapatra, and Karthick B note that some geologists believe that much of the world’s crude oil originated in diatoms, which produce an oily substance in their bodies. Barely one-third of a strand of hair in diameter, diatoms flourish in enormous numbers in oceans and other water sources. They die, drift to the seafloor, and deposit their shells and oil into the sediments. Estimates suggest that live diatoms could make 10-200 times as much oil per acre of cultivated area compared to oil seeds, Gordon says. _GCC
It looks as if oil yields from diatoms are comparable to algal oil production per acre. This means that research and development into diatomaceous oils will be in competition with R & D into algal oils. The only way to do justice to both areas of research is to slash funding for climate catastrophe orthodoxies in government, academia, industry, and the media -- and apply those resources to development of high yield biofuels.

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Political Peak Oil -- The Only Kind of Peak Oil

Brian Westenhaus presents an excellent example of how US government regulations are choking domestic energy supplies and driving up costs of industry, commerce, and daily life for every American.
Everyone world wide would be affected. Today the U.S. is a very small importer of natural gas. The proposed bill would certainly change that forcing the U.S. into the world natural gas market in a big way. _NewEnergyandFuel
How far will the Obama government go to create "political peak oil" and other fabricated disasters? And how long will it take for the American news and entertainment media to let the people know what is happening, to wake them up?

Government is creating political peak oil for reasons of its own. Someone benefits from the expanding web of regulations, taxes, fines, restrictions, and opening up to lawsuits that Americans are now experiencing. It is great job security for government bureaucrats, trial lawyers, and faux environmental activists, at the very least. But it is hell on the productive class of a country. Long term, this type of government destroys the productive potential of generations of citizens, until they wake up and get rid of it.The government is not the country. The government is a parasite on the country and on the people. The installation of particular persons in high governmental office leads to a pathological bloating of the parasite with the blood of taxpayers and commercial enterprise.

As long as government is kept strictly limited to the essential roles of protecting citizens from violence, theft, and fraud, the parasite can be managed. But the US government broke the chains put on it by the people and the Constitution in the early 20th century -- and has been growing oppressively larger in fits and starts ever since.

Under the current president, the US government has chosen to expand beyond all precedent, over a very short time span. This growth is very profitable to a select group of insiders -- labour unions, trial lawyers, campaign contributors, "connected" individuals -- but it is death to the people's hopes and dreams.

How will the people respond to the uncontrolled growth of the parasite?

Previously published at Al Fin

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Monday, June 15, 2009

Energy News

Brian Westenhaus takes a look at specific energy in batteries, and where the technology may be going.

Germany's venerable and vaunted chemical industry is making plans to shift from petroleum-based feedstocks to biomass feedstocks.

Mitsubishi hopes to build an ultra-clean coal technology power plant in Australia -- the first of its kind. It would combine IGCC -- Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (gas turbine cycle plus steam turbine cycle) -- with carbon sequestration. Talks are ongoing.Green Car Congress has more on the fascinating discovery of methane hydrates in Gulf of Mexico seafloor sands.

Atomic Insights blog looks at the potential impact of mPower modular nuclear reactors on the stock market.

Biofuels Digest looks at the use of algae for carbon sequestration. Algae need a lot of CO2 to grow optimally, and the best places to find CO2 are the chemical and fossil fuels industries.


Friday, June 12, 2009

BTL, Black Liquor Gasifiers, Diesel Fuel Cells etc.

Finland's Neste Oil continues to lead the pack for production of ingenious biofuels methods. Now it is teaming with Enso to build a BTL pilot plant for producing biocrude from forestry waste.
The demonstration facility at Stora Enso Varkaus Mill includes a 12 MW gasifier. It will be used to develop technologies and engineering solutions for a commercial-scale plant. The demonstration process units will cover all stages, including drying of biomass, gasification, gas cleaning and testing of Fischer-Tropsch catalysts.

Swedish Chemrec AB is now operating a demonstration plant to produce syngas from "black liquor", a waste product of the paper and pulp industry. Formerly considered a pollutant and a significant disposal liability, black liquor appears to be quickly becoming a valuable revenue stream for these companies.
The development plant, DP-1, has a capacity of 20 metric tons of solids per day, is oxygen-blown and has an operating pressure of 30 bar(g). It gasifies black liquor, a by-product in the kraft process, using the Chemrec entrained-flow, high temperature technology. This technology is differentiated in that from a renewable feedstock in a single step it achieves full char conversion and produces a gas which is very low in methane and tars&mash;important characteristics of synthesis gas for production of synthetic motor fuels or chemicals.

The US DOE Pacific Northwest National Lab is developing a process to reform diesel fuel for use in portable fuel cells, using pressurised steam. Such a process could allow autos, trucks, trains, etc. to run off more efficient diesel powered fuel cells instead of diesel engines.

Biofuels Digest has an update on progress from Coskata and Zeachem.
ZeaChem confirmed that it is developing both fuels and chemicals on C2, C3, C4 and C5 platforms, including the two-carbon cellulosic ethanol and four-carbon biobutanol. Eggeman said that the company can also produce the two-carbon ethylene, an intermediate used to make plastics and other products, which is a $26 billion market, and also can make ethyl acetate from the C2 platform for a $3 billion market for that product. ZeaChem also is targeting the 3-carbon propylene, a $10 billion market.

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mPower Modular Nuclear Reactor for TVA

Modular nuclear reactors provide a much more versatile load matching for utility and grid designers. Babcock and Wilcox of Lynchburg, Virginia, build a modular 125 MW nuclear reactor called the mPower. The US TVA is lining up to be the lead client for the mPower, possibly siting the first modular reactor in the Oak Ridge area.
Here is a bullet list of the key features of the mPowerTM as I see them:

* Pressurized water reactor (PWR) 17 x 17 fuel bundles
(Shorter than normal, but otherwise standard)
* Five year refueling schedule
* Fuel storage pool large enough for 60 years worth of fuel
* Adaptable to advances in LWR fuel
(MOX or thorium)
* Below grade construction in most locations
* Air cooled condensers
* Tall, thin pressure vessel
* Passive cooling
* Manufactured system with rail delivery to site
* American engineering and manufacturing (avoids queue at Japan Steel Works)
* 125 MWe of electrical power output
(I admit, I was wrong yesterday with my prediction of an even smaller system, but 125 MW is about 10th the size of the AP-1000.)

Knowing what I know about the company's performance for a very demanding customer, I feel reasonably confident that the timelines announced yesterday (design certification application in 2011, COL application in 2012, full license in 2015 and commercial operation in 2018) are not "stretch goals", but are reasonably achievable with some margin for the inevitable obstacles. _AtomicInsights
Medium sized nuclear reactors of this type can be "ganged" to achieve the power production of a full-sized 1 GW reactor, or can be distributed at strategic locations along the grid to provide critical baseload power for a region if adjacent grid regions shut down for some reason.

Like any nuclear reactor, it takes time to start up and shut down safely, so it would not serve as backup for unreliable wind power installations.

Small scale nuclear reactors -- smaller than the mPower -- would be ideal as local and regional baseload power in case of a large scale power shut down caused by EMP or excessive solar electromagnetic activity. In such a situation, available power components such as transformers and power electronics would be relatively scarce, and insufficient to support full scale power grid re-start. The grid would have to re-start in sections, as the components could be repaired, rebuilt, or replaced -- which could take years in some circumstances.


American Southeast Prime Bioenergy Location

KC Das, professor of engineering from the University of Georgia -- in the American southeast -- looks at the bioenergy prospects for his state (and region). His informed viewpoints tend distinctly optimistic for bioenergy.
Does Georgia have an advantage in bioenergy production?

Yes, because we can grow great quantities of biomass through our agriculture and forestry industries. Universities like University of Georgia, Georgia Tech and others provide the technology. The UGA Complex Carbohydrate Research Center is strong in the biological sciences. In addition, the Agricultural Innovation Center and the Georgia Environmental Facilities Authority assist companies interested in getting into the business through their “One Stop Shop.”

How much petroleum-based energy can be replaced with bioenergy in Georgia?

About 30 percent of our energy needs can be met with bioenergy today. By patching together multiple strategies, we can achieve this amount. This would include burning chicken litter to heat farms in north Georgia, fermenting outdated cola products for ethanol, generating biogas from cow manure on dairy farms, harvesting landfill gas for electricity and producing cellulosic ethanol from pine waste in south Georgia. All of these projects exist today in Georgia and many more are coming on line.

Cellulosic ethanol is being promoted as part of the next generation of bioenergy. Is it economically viable?

Yes, at the current price of oil, it is economically viable. But we must mass produce it. It should be in large scale production in five years.

In your opinion, is any one feedstock more viable than another?

Algae shows great promise because it grows rapidly in warm climates like what we have in Georgia. It can produce 2,000 gallons of oil per acre. Soybeans generate approximately 50 gallons for each acre. Extracting the oils from the algae is difficult, and we are working to resolve this problem.

What kind of biofuel research does your team at UGA conduct?

Essentially, we try different processes on a variety of agricultural and forestry wastes and fuel crops to create bioenergy. The wastes include peanut shells, poultry litter and forestry residues and promising fuel crops include algae, bamboo and kenaf. We’re not opposed to trying any feedstocks as long as there are great quantities available. Through a thermochemical process called pyrolosis, we heat biomass in the absence of oxygen to produce oil, gas and charcoal. UGA engineers and soil scientists collaborate to characterize the char and determine its value as a fertilizer or soil amendment.

We examine the entire carbon cycling process. Gasification is another thermochemical process we can use to make liquid fuels. This is done by heating the feedstock with a little oxygen. UGA CAES scientists work with researchers in the UGA Warnell School of Forest Resources to convert wood waste from sustainably managed forests into cellulosic ethanol. We look at the full life cycle of making biofuels and part of that involves pre-processing the waste. Biomass is heated at low temperatures to increase its energy density and remove less desirable properties. This works well for wood waste and makes it easier to transport and more efficient in co-firing with existing power plants. _Bioenergy


Thursday, June 11, 2009

Food Waste to Fuels

Humans in modern societies waste more food than they can imagine. But biofuels engineers and entrepreneurs are riding to the rescue, to turn what was once waste into useful fuels and energy.
Four ReFood plants already operating in Germany currently generate energy from food collected from 60,000 points across the country, using 14 logistics centres.

Like the German network, the British version will also use collection points located across the country, supported by the network of AD plants.

Anaerobic digestion involves organic wastes or energy crops being used to feed bacteria, which under controlled conditions generate a biogas that can be put through an internal combustion engine or burned to generate heat and power.

Mr Simpson said the ReFood technology was "very advanced" compared to other AD technologies available in the UK since it was designed around using food waste as a feedstock, rather than an adaptation of technologies using sewage sludge or farm wastes.

"As a result, the ReFood system is able to focus on recycling greater quantities of this type of material," he said.

Franz Bernhard Thier, a member of the board of Saria Bio-Industries, said: "ReFood has been operating on an industrial scale successfully in Germany for a number of years. We're delighted to be teaming up with PDM to bring both our areas of expertise together to create an offering that is really going to support food waste recycling and renewable energy generation in the UK." _bioenergy
While the uninformed debate over "food vs. fuels", more intelligent persons are looking into the future for ways to convert waste from an overabundance of food -- into energy and fuels.

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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Better Cellulose to Fuels Converstion Will Lead to Billions of Gallons Annual Biofuels

USDOE researchers at the Pacific Northwest National Lab are perfecting an efficient method of turning lignocellulose into biofuels and high-value chemicals.
PNNL scientist David King presented the work on 8 June at the North American Meeting of the Catalysis Society. A pair of metal chlorides (CuCl2 and CrCl2) dissolved in an ionic liquid (1-ethyl-3-methylimidazolium chloride ([EMIM]Cl)) at temperatures of 80-120°C collectively catalyze the single-step process of converting cellulose to HMF with an unrefined 96% purity among recoverable products (at 55.4 ±4.0% HMF yield).

The paired CuCl2/CrCl2 catalysts in the ionic liquid solvent show high activity for hydrolytic cellulose depolymerization. The product selectivity can be tuned by simply varying the CuCl2/CrCl2 ratio.

Cellulose depolymerization occurs at a rate that is about one order of magnitude faster than conventional acid-catalyzed hydrolysis. In contrast, single-metal chlorides at the same total loading showed considerably less activity under similar conditions. _GCC
What about those "billions of gallons of biofuels?" Novozymes says that Brazil is setting up to produce 2 billion gallons a year of ethanol from cellulosic bagass, cane biomass residue.
In Brazil, Novozymes has released a report projecting that, by 2012, Brazil could commence commercial-scale production of cellulosic biofuel made from sugarcane residues, and could produce up to 2.1 billion gallons of cellulosic ethanol by 2020.

Novozymes CEO Steen Riisgaard, presented the report’s findings at the Ethanol Summit in Sao Paulo, and said that the additional production could add up to $4 billion in Brazilian export revenue. Novozymes and CTC (Sugarcane Technology Center) in Brazil are studying the production of cellulosic biofuels in Brazil, while Novozymes confirmed that it continues to work with partners in Denmark, Sweden and Brazil on reducing the cost of enzymes to make cellulosic ethanol commercially viable. _Biofuelsdigest
This is the beginning of the beginning of the biofuels age. People who get stuck in the "food vs. fuels" faux debate, or who fixate on maize ethanol efficiencies or "water consumption" for biofuels, or "smaller than expected yields from jatropha plantings in Zambia" and so forth, are looking years and years into the past and pretending to see into the future.

Unfortunately, many of these retrograde thinkers occupy chairs in universities and government bureaucracies. They will do a lot of damage before they die off.

Regardless, there will be plenty of opportunities to keep forward thinking individuals busy, if Obama and his clowns don't shut off the power prematurely.


Tuesday, June 09, 2009

7th Annual Int. Energy Conversion Conference

From 2-5 August, 2009, in Denver Colorado, the 7th Annual International Energy Conversion Conference will explore a wide range of topics of interest to Al Fin Energy readers:
The 7th IECEC will explore the future of clean energy systems through a series of panel discussions and technical paper presentations. This year's hot topics include:

* Alternative power systems – such as fuel cell technology and solar system technology
* Biofuels, including biodiesel fuels and fuels created from food-waste
* Electric power systems which would replace traditional fossil fuel based propulsion systems
* Nanotechnlology applications for solar power systems, among many others. There will also be a discussion of future energy policy needs to answer the demand for “green” energy systems. _IECEC
In a special joint conference with the "Jet Propulsion Conference" the IECEC will also be taking a look at biofuels as the source of rocket propulsion fuel for space launch.
The 7th IECEC is sponsored by Battelle Memorial Institute and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. The 45th JPC is sponsored by Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company, and Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control.

For more information, visit http://www.aiaa.org/events/IECEC or http://www.aiaa.org/events/JPC, or contact Duane Hyland, at 703.264.7558 or duaneh@aiaa.org. Registration for both conferences is complimentary for credentialed members of the press.

AIAA is the world's largest technical society dedicated to the global aerospace profession. With more than 35,000 individual members worldwide, and 90 corporate members, AIAA brings together industry, academia, and government to advance engineering and science in aviation, space, and defense. For more information, visit www.aiaa.org. Bioenergy

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Sunday, June 07, 2009

Natural Gas to Europe, Residential Fuel Cells

The map of the proposed Nabucco natural gas pipeline suggests the scope of Europe's need for natural gas. With the global climate showing signs of reversing a recent warming trend, Europe risks freezing in the dark cold winter unless she finds a way to break her uneasy dependency on Russian fuels. North America and Australia already have plenty of natural gas (and coal).
Natural gas is a cleaner fossil fuel than coal or oil. Just as important, natural gas works well for fuel cells -- a form of power generation that is growing in importance. In fact, in Japan, in the UK, in the US, and in Australia, home fuel cells for combined residential provision of hot water, space heat, and electricity (CHP) is slowly becoming an important player in the overall power utility scheme.

Of course almost anyone with access to natural gas can provide home CHP (combined heat and power) using a gas-powered combustion generator. But with fuel cells, combined efficiency can reach almost 90%. With a combustion engine, combined CHP efficiencies are closer to 60%.

Regular Al Fin readers will recognise the theme of "independence" and "decentralisation" in the trend toward home generation of power. Being able to produce your own methane or methanol to power your own CHP fuel cell would be even better. Off the grid for power, hot water, heat, cooking, etc. makes you less vulnerable to the Obama / Pelosi reich energy starvation policies.
Cross posted at Al Fin

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Friday, June 05, 2009

Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor

Google Tech Talk Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor

The world needs safe nuclear energy by the Gigawatt and Terawatt. Since Thorium is far more abundant than Uranium, and less prone to being turned to nuclear weapons uses, the Thorium fuel cycle makes sense. The following Peswiki editorial discusses using the liquid fluoride thorium reactor in conjunction with coal gasification and solid oxide fuel cells, to provide the energy and fuel needed for the next few centuries -- or until cheap abundant nuclear fusion comes along.
For those individuals who understand the global energy situation the answer is quite clear and it involves advanced technology, chemistry, money, and political support. The comments in the clean coal comic truly express a viable technological solution which will lead to the realization of a long term solution going beyond the hundreds of years which coal and other fossil fuels would provide.

A 1000 MW nuclear reactor could produce 18,000 barrels of fuel a day with technology which currently exists. There have been several different Thorium reactors in operation within the past 40 years. So what happened? The era when these reactors were brought online was during the cold war. Uranium-fueled nuclear power plants are the suppliers of weapons grade plutonium which we use within our nuclear arsenal [hence their being favored]. The Yucca Mountain project is simply a nuclear weapons storage silo in disguise. The question I ask, which is more important, being whether we will destroy our planet or save it from our destruction?

There will always be a need for man to have the capability of defending itself but at what expense?

The thorium nuclear fission cycle eliminates the risk of meltdown and weapons proliferation while the byproducts have a reduced half-life on the order of 1/2 century rather than thousands of years. Thorium can be recycled and poses no direct risks to our environment unless the facilities themselves were attacked. Even in this situation we would not have another Chernoble. People fear nuclear energy because of the Three Mile Island incident and what they see on the History Channel. Thorium nuclear reactors have demonstrated their viability in the past so what is the problem? _Peswiki
Future energy needs will be filled using multiple energy sources. Biomass and microbe energy will be very important. But nuclear reactors of several types and sizes will be integral to the transition to clean and sustainable energy, power, and fuels. Coal, kerogens (oil shale), bitumens (oil sands and heavy oils), and various forms of gaseous fossil fuels will be critically important, using newer cleaner technology. Fuel cells will provide important improvements in efficiency in utilising liquid and gaseous fuels (solids too).

Looking at modern political planners who call themselves "green", we see that green is scarcity and death. The "green" approach is no cleaner and is far less sustainable than the wise multiple source approach. Today's leaders in Europe, the US, Australia, and other countries are stupidly green -- adherents of scarcity and death. We cannot afford these leaders or their bigoted and genocidal policies.

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Thursday, June 04, 2009

Algae to Biofuels Pathways

Microalgae offer “great promise” to contribute a significant portion of the renewable fuels target specified in the Renewable Fuels Standard. In the longer term, the roadmap notes, algal biofuels could provide sufficient fuel feedstock to meet the transportation fuels needs of the entire United States, while being completely compatible with the existing transportation fuel infrastructure (refining, distribution, and utilization).

However, despite their huge potential, the state of technology for producing algal biofuels is regarded by many in the field to be in its infancy.

There is a general consensus that a considerable amount of research, development, and demonstration (RD&D) needs to be carried out to provide the fundamental understanding and scale-up technologies required before algal-based fuels can be produced sustainably and economically enough to be cost-competitive with petroleum-based fuels. For this reason, a major objective of the Workshop was to help define the activities that will be needed to resolve the challenges associated with commercial-scale algal biofuel production and lay the framework for an algal biofuels technology roadmap.
—USDOE Algal Roadmap _GCC

Time, work, investment. More on algae future from Europe.

Several US companies are projecting competitive pricing for their algal fuels within 5 years. European Algae Biomass Association says they will take at least 10 to 15 years and even then may not be competitive. Are the European biofuels projects that far behind?


Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Simpler, Cheaper Biodiesel From Waste Oil

Chemical engineers at Univesity of La Guna in Spain have developed a simpler and less expensive method of producing methyl ester biodiesel from waste oils and vegetable oil triglycerides. The process involves substituting an easily separable solid catalyst for harsh basic catalysts such as sodium hydroxide. Highly basic NaOH creates side reactions that decrease yield and force expensive and time consuming purification steps that would be unnecessary using the La Guna researchers' method. The production facilities could be simpler and less expensive, and the production time from feedstock to product would be reduced.
Biodiesel is a cleaner burning fuel than diesel and a suitable replacement. It is made from nontoxic, biodegradable, renewable resources, such as new and used cooking oil and animal fats. Fats and oils are chemically reacted with alcohols (transesterification reaction) to produce fatty acid methyl esters (biodiesel). Glycerine, used in the pharmaceutical and cosmetic industry along with many other applications, is produced in this reaction as a byproduct. The processes and production of biodiesel (methyl esters) from vegetable oil and animal fats feedstock remain a strong growth market in the European Union as well as the United States and Canada.
The most commonly used technology for fats and oils transesterification is based on the use of batch reactors, in which a basic homogeneous catalyst is used. The use of homogeneous catalysts requires extensive conditioning and purification steps for the reaction products (methyl esters and glycerol) to separate the catalysts. In contrast, heterogeneous catalysts are easily removed from the reaction mixture, making the purification step easier.(1) Biodiesel production costs could certainly be reduced by using a heterogeneous catalyst for transesterification reaction instead of a homogeneous catalyst. This heterogeneous process provides higher quality esters and glycerol, which are more easily separated and further expensive refining operations are not needed.(2) _ACS


Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Hydrochloric Acid Process Converts Cellulose to Fermentable Sugars

The fermentable sugars are a gateway to advanced biofuels (biobutanols, biodiesel, jet fuel etc) and biochemicals (bioplastics etc). The HCL CleanTech’s process allows a large variety of feedstocks to be used with minimal configuration, requires very little water and self sufficient energetically. _BiofuelsDigest
For now, the best way of converting lignocellulosic biomass to liquid fuels is via either gasification or pyrolysis, with catalytic conversion to fuels. But a number of other processes are being developed using biological or chemical conversions -- without the gasifiers and pyrolytic units. These alternative approaches may eventually introduce a wider range of scaling into the bioenergy.
“Basically, the Company tackles the pre-treatment and hydrolysis step all at once, without use of enzymes,” said Burrill & Company Director, Greg Young. “Accessing cheap sugar locked in biomass is one of the greatest challenges now faced by those pursuing renewable fuels and chemicals. HCL CleanTech’s technology represents a step change in accessing these sugars, and drops into the pretreatment step of any fermentation-based process or chemical reforming technique which starts with oligosaccharides. We are eager to see this proven at scale, at which point it becomes immediately relevant to adjacent industries aiming to use biomass as a feedstock.” _BiofuelsDigest
Biomass can be feedstock for not only the biofuels industry, but the chemicals, plastics, and biomaterials industries as well. Advances and breakthroughs in one area are bound to have spillover effects in other areas of industry.

Backwater areas that previously had nothing to offer to attract jobs and investment, will suddenly discover that their economic prospects are rising on a groundswell of opportunity in bioenergy etc.


Monday, June 01, 2009

A World Floating In Methane

A recent USGS, US Minerals Management Service, and a group under the management of Chevron have done a survey of methane-rich sand reservoirs in the Gulf of Mexico. Brian Westenhaus reports:
...gas hydrate can and does occur at high saturations within reservoir-quality sands in the Gulf of Mexico with highly saturated hydrate-bearing sands discovered in at least in two of three sites drilled. Dr. Collett said, “In addition, we have found gas hydrate in a range of settings, including sand reservoirs, thick sequences of fracture-filling gas hydrates in shales, and potential partially saturated gas hydrates in younger systems. These sites provide a wealth of opportunities for further study and data collection that will enable significant advances in understanding the nature and development of gas hydrate systems.”

The project also featured a number of technical advances, including the use of an advanced suite of logging-while-drilling tools that provided unprecedented three-dimensional images of hydrate-bearing sediments. The wells sited at Walker Ridge, drilled to approximately 3,500 feet below the seafloor, were more than 1,000 feet deeper than any previous gas hydrate research well.

It all looks very good. _NewEnergyandFuel
Methane hydrates -- methane plus water -- have been found under the sea floor and under surface layers around the world. The quantity of methane within the Earth's crust is more than scientists imagined. More methane than oil, coal, conventional gas supplies. No one knows how much more, the exploration has just begun.

Besides methanol, methane is another near-ideal fuel for the coming age of fuel cells.

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