Monday, August 31, 2009

Smart Entrepreneurs Adapt to the Times

Northwest Renewable’s original plan was to begin producing corn-based ethanol at the Mint Farm in June 2008. But the company’s 31-acre property has sat idle since the company broke ground on the $100 million project in December 2006. In the years since, U.S. Ethanol’s parent company, Makad Corp., has been redesigning the plant to incorporate the newest technology and comply with air emission laws, Makad Corp. told The Daily News last November.

As bankruptcies and shutdown wracked the ethanol industry over the last year, Longview city officials say they’ve been working for several months with Northwest Renewable to develop the biomass power plant project.
Northwest Renewable LLC has planned construction on a bio-ethanol production plant for Longview, Washington, since 2006. But the economic downturn and shakeups in the ethanol industry caused them to change their plans: they are now planning a cellulosic electricity power generation plant.
Northwest Renewable, LLC, a Vancouver-based company owned by U.S. Ethanol, estimates the $72.5 million “biomass” power project will create up to 400 construction jobs and up to 70 permanent jobs through logging and processing of the wood products.

In addition to jobs, the 24-megawatt “biomass direct combustion electric power plant” also would significantly add to the city’s tax base when it is complete at 1100 Weber Ave.

Various wood-waste sources — including wood chips and hog fuel — would be burned to generate steam. The high pressure steam would drive a turbine to churn out power. _DailyNews_via_BiofuelsDigest
A lot of maize ethanol projects have shut down, or been abandoned in planning stages. But when a company has already invested millions in an ethanol project, it makes sense to convert the project to something more profitable, if they can.

Cellulosic electricity from biomass waste and from planned biomass growth, is a coming industry. As long as governments subsidize unreliable wind and solar plants, the need for reliable baseload backup power will grow. Nuclear may be the best baseload power, but cellulosic electricity from biomass is quite good as well. Wind and solar power plants combined with biomass power plants may eventually provide nuclear-shy California with the bulk of its home-grown electricity.


Sunday, August 30, 2009

$50 Billion Market for Benzene, Toluene, Xylene

Using Huber’s rapid new catalytic pyrolysis technology, Anellotech has already demonstrated commercially relevant production not only of gasoline and biofuel precursors but of benzene, toluene and xylene ... Global markets for these chemicals are in excess of $50 billion at present.

Anything you can make from crude oil, in the next 10 to 20 years we can make from biomass. One of the beauties of biofuel is that the products are indistinguishable from those derived from petroleum oil today. People are going to pull up to the gas station and pump fuel produced with this clean, green technology in their cars without necessarily being aware of it. All the changes will be made on the front end, at the biorefinery. Rather than refining crude oil we’re going to be refining renewable biomass.
—George Huber _GCC
Biomass can be made to grow with very little encouragement. Using techniques such as George Huber's rapid catalytic pyrolysis, biomass can be converted into fuels, fuel precursors, and precursors for the production of plastics, high value chemicals, and other high value feedstocks.

Industrialists must seek out petroleum oil wherever they can find it. But biomass can be grown across most of Earth's surface -- on both ocean and land. The energy density of biomass is lower than for coal, petroleum, gas, oil shales, oil sands, and heavy oils. But the energy contained within biomass can be made more dense, with various ingenious methods already well-known to engineers, industrialists, entrepreneurs, and venture capitalists. And biomass can be regrown at least once every year.

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Friday, August 28, 2009

Biocrude from Grass at Auburn University

Auburn University researchers have succeeded in using hydrothermal liquifaction to liquify switchgrass into biocrude at 235 degrees C. The image above (from Green Car Congress) illustrates the various means of converting biomass to fuels, at different temperatures. The lower the temperature utilised, the less process energy required, causing the process to be more efficient and economical.
More than 50 wt% of the organic carbon available in switchgrass was converted to biocrude after 20 minutes of steady operation at 235 °C in the presence of 0.15 wt % of K2CO3. At 260 °C, dehydration of biomass was favored over hydrolysis reactions.

The resulting biocrude consists of an aqueous phase and solid precipitates. The aqueous phase contains oligomers and monomers of five and six carbon sugars, degradation products (5-HMF and furfural), organic acids (lactic, formic, and acetic acid), 2-furancarboxaldehyde, and other phenolic products containing five to nine carbon atoms. The residual solid (i.e., biochar) contained mainly lignin fractions and a small amount of cellulose.

Using infrared spectroscopy and electron microscopy, they confirmed that subcritical water treatment leads to a breakdown of lignocellulosic structure. _GCC
The more tools in the toolkit, the better we can adapt biomass to human uses. Hydrothermal liquefaction should prove useful, along with pyrolysis and gasification, for breaking down biomass into its more fuel-like components.

Update: Speaking of pyrolysis,
In Massachusetts, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst recently granted a biofuels startup company, Anellotech, exclusive global rights to the university’s catalytic fast pyrolysis technology developed by chemical engineer and UMass Amherst faculty member George Huber for producing clean, green “grassoline.” Huber will serve as chairman of Anellotech’s scientific advisory board.

Anellotech will offer a low-cost, single-step process for turning forest residues and waste biomass into gasoline, diesel fuel, heating oil and renewable chemicals including benzene, toluene and xylenes. _BiofuelsDigest
The company predicts that its biofuels will achieve price parity with gasoline by 2019.

Various biofuels companies have predicted achieving price parity with gasoline anywhere from 2010 through 2020. As these products are incorporated into the overall fuel economy, they will influence the price of hydrocarbon fuels.

Sometime around 2020, biofuels should create a solid ceiling for the price of liquid fuels. From that point on, the race will be to the bottom -- to the most economical means of producing liquid fuels from microbes and/or biomass. Petroleum and other fossil fuels will find themselves increasingly sidelined as the economics of energy and chemicals pushes progress away from fossils.

Meanwhile, deep underground, oil fields will regenerate once again. Only by then, no one will care.

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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Minnesota Project Report PDF Available

The Minnesota Project released a study titled: Transportation Biofuels in the United States: An Update, which details the progress made in cellulosic ethanol and corn ethanol research, and discusses biofuels generally.

The study focuses on the four main cellulosic feedstocks, including: corn stover, miscanthus, switchgrass and wood. _Bioenergy
The Minnesota Projects PDF report provides some extremely favourable data for the future of biofuels for transportation. Looking at maize ethanol, cellulosic ethanol, algae biofuels, and wood biofuels, the report suggests that the corner has been turned, and that profitability and sustainability in biofuels is virtually here.

Maize ethanol is already produced with a positive energy balance, but the energy balance of cellulosic ethanol is far more positive. Algal biofuels holds the most promise of these approaches, and after current problems are solved will likely replace most of the current petro-diesel on North American highways.
Algae has excited scientists and environmentalists for years with the oil production potential it presents. Current estimates for the oil yield of algae are around 10,000 gallons per acre (Oilgae 2008). This potential compares quite favorably to other plant-oil crops including soybean (48 gallons per acre), safflower (83 gallons per acre), sunflower (102 gallons per acre), rapeseed (127 gallons per acre), castor bean (151 gallons per acre), coconut (287 gallons per acre), and oil palm (636 gallons per acre) (Addison 2008). This high production potential, if achieved, could drastically reduce acreage demands to produce biofuels and increase biofuels’ ability to meet demand. “If we were to replace all of the diesel that we use in the United States with an algae derivative,” says Solix Biofuels CEO Douglas Henston, "we could do it on an area of land that’s about one-half of one percent of the current farm land that we use now" (Haag 2007).

.....The positives of algae as a feedstock are clear: potential yields are high; it grows rapidly; it grows in salt water, freshwater, contaminated water, on land not suitable for food production, and at sea or in ponds, leaving land open for food production; and it grows better when fed extra carbon dioxide and organic material like sewage, providing the opportunity to clean up other problems during its production. Obviously research and development are still needed to increase the cost-effectiveness of algae biofuels for large-scale production. _ MinnesotaProjectPDF
Cellulosic ethanol from grasses and trees is not far off. But unless auto makers modify engines to run on high concentrations of ethanol, we will soon build up a glut of the product. The Russian beverage market may be a solution, but the population of the bear is shrinking, so another cure must be found.

Ethanol can be converted to hydrocarbons and other high value chemicals, so the problem may not turn out to be such a problem after all.

Most of the objections to biofuels apply mainly to 1st generation fuels whose production processes are already obsolete. The future of biofuels is much brighter than the primitivists and doomsayers project.


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Is Peak Oil So Stupid It's Not Even Wrong?

[An] argument — that the “easy oil” is gone and that extraction can only become more difficult and cost-ineffective — should be recognized as vague and irrelevant. Drillers in Persia a century ago certainly didn’t consider their work easy, and the mechanized, computerized industry of today is a far sight from 19th-century mule-drawn rigs. Hundreds of fields that produce “easy oil” today were once thought technologically unreachable. _NYT
As the author of the above NYT OpEd points out, peak oil doomists have too much at stake to look at both sides of the production and reserves equation. For peak oil fanatics, every jump in the price of oil is further proof that "the peak has passed!". "Over half the oil has already been pumped, all the easy oil is gone, and prices can only go up!", they keep saying time and again -- only to be proved wrong time and again.

Once an idea has infiltrated deeply enough into a human's thoughtways, it cannot be easily exfiltrated. But if the brain is alive and open to the outside world and its reality, it can happen. Just like oil wells that were once considered exhausted are now frequently found to produce as much or more using improved technologies as they produced originally. This will continue to be the case for most of this century.
Easy oil is probably running out because it was the first to be discovered and burned. But it wasn’t so “easy” when it was discovered. By the same token, the difficult oil of today will be tomorrow’s easy oil, thanks to the learning curve of technology expertise. Overall, “difficult oil” exploitation will be the survival and even prosperity key for many Western oil companies in a world that will be increasingly dominated by national oil companies.

It will take time, but I dare to make a prediction. By 2030 more than 50 percent of the known oil will be recoverable. Also, by that time the amount of known oil will have grown significantly, and a larger portion of unconventional oils will be commonly produced, bringing the total amount of recoverable reserves to something between 4,500 billion to 5,000 billion barrels of oil. What’s more, a significant part of “new reserves” will not come from new discoveries, but from a new ability to better exploit what we already have.

To be sure, by 2030 we will have consumed another 650 billion to 700 billion barrels of our reserves, for a total of around 1,600 billion barrels used up from the 4,500 billion to 5,000 billion figure. Yet, if my estimates are correct, we will have oil for the rest of the 21st Century._ScientificAmerican
Of course the oil markets themselves will remain volatile for as long as oil remains so irreplaceable. The oil markets will move up -- sometimes dramtically -- and they will move down. All of that will be based more upon socio-politico-economic events than upon the accessible supplies of oil in the ground.

The peak oil craze has much in common with the carbon climate catastrophe craze, and the population penetrance of the two fanaticisms tends to overlap significantly. But neither is based upon sound science, and both are largely driven by political and economic undercurrents -- out of sight of most unwitting adherents.

A relatively smooth transition into the post-oil era will require the use of a wide range of fossil fuel reserves -- including offshore oil, shale oil, oil sands, coal, gas, etc. The energy starvation approach of the Obama / Pelosi reich is not benefiting anyone except the prophets, politicians, and profit-takers of doom. The Obama / Pelosi policies are creating and worsening the scarcities the doomseekers have predicted. Political peak oil, political energy choke off.

And while Obama is using scarce US resources to prop up oil companies in Latin America, agents of his own reich are preventing US oil companies from engaging in the same type of offshore drilling that the latin companies are receiving Obama dollars to build up.

At this point, Obama's energy and economic policies are as disjointed as a cubist portrait, and as dysfunctional as an Arab or African government. One might even call the man a clown, if one were feeling particularly prejudicial toward clowns at the time.

Previously published at Al Fin


Monday, August 24, 2009

Biomass 09 Workshop Wrapup from 14-15 July

More than 300 people from 25 states and three Canadian provinces attended the two-day event, which was held July 14-15 at the Alerus Center in Grand Forks, N.D. During four main sessions, 30 different speakers focused on trends and opportunities in power utilization, biofuels, feedstocks and the use of biomass to generate heat and power.
The Energy & Environmental Research Center’s Biomass ’09: Power, Fuels, and Chemicals Workshop was held 14-15 July 2009 in Grand Forks, ND. Besides the typical faux enviro BS from politicians like Senator Dorgan (ND), some useful ideas were discussed.
...In the area of bioenergy, the U.S. has few incentives for large utility cofiring of biomass, Zygarlicke said. “But we are starting to see a positive slope.” Distributed biomass gasification is one good solution, he said. It requires low water consumption and simple gas cleanup, among other positive aspects....

...National trends in anaerobic digestion of agricultural manure have increased between 2000 and 2007 from fewer than 50 million kilowatt hours (kWh) per year to more than 200 million kWh per year, according to Dan Stepan, senior research manager with the Energy & Environmental Resource Center in Grand Forks, N.D., and a presenter at the organization’s Biomass ’09.

A key niche for the process is converting biomass materials to methane gas. In the U.S. this year, 98 anaerobic digesters are using dairy farm manure, 19 use hog manure, three use manure from caged layers, two from ducks and one each from boilers, beef and mixed manure, Stepan told the crowd.

“But there’s still potentially a large untapped resource,” he said. The potential biogas-to-energy production from swine farms is more than 3.1 billion kWh per year, he showed in a graph, and the potential from dairy farms is more than 3.3 billion. About half of the country’s wastewater treatment facilities have anaerobic digesters, but only 19 percent use the biogas, Stepan said. _Biomass_via_Bioenergy

Biomass can make electricity, it can make liquid fuels from methanol to longer chain hydrocarbons (via F-T), it can also make gaseous fuels from methane to synthesis gas, plus it can make solid fuels such as torrefied biomass -- biocoal -- and other types of high-density solid fuels.

In addition, plastics and high value chemicals can be made from biomass, which in many cases may provide a quicker return on investment. The fact that farmers, ranchers, foresters, entrepreneurs, bankers, and others who are close to the grass roots are looking more closely at biomass, signals a turning point toward a more renewable energy picture.

The only way to make wind and solar practical, is to back them up with a reliable baseload power source. Biomass could be that reliable backup, given enough development of infrastructure.


Friday, August 21, 2009

Efficient On-Site Conversion of Methane to Methanol

CH4 + H2SO4 + SO3 → CH3OSO3H + H2O + SO2 (a)

CH3OSO3H + H2O → CH3OH + H2SO4 (b)

SO2 + ½O2 → SO3 (c)

ΣCH4 + ½O2 → CH3OH (d)
Biomass to methane, via anaerobic digestion, is fairly easy. Now researchers at Max Planck Institute have devised a solid catalyst for efficient conversion of methane to methanol. This development opens the door to small-scale, local and regional biomass to methanol plants.

Methanol is one of the most ideal biofuels for fuel cell use -- better than hydrogen in many ways. It can also be a useful supplement / substitute for gasoline in automobiles, AND is an excellent feedstock for chemical synthesis of longer chain hydrocarbons.

Converting biomass to a denser form of energy, is one of the challenges facing the project to replace fossil fuels with biofuels. Local and regional conversion / densification plants will make the entire enterprise more feasible, and will bring some level of economic prosperity back to the outlands.

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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Hemp Tries to Replace Coal in Canadian Trials

The LaFarge Bath Cement plant is attempting to replace coal with biomass the energy-intensive process of making cement. Potential savings and sourcing advantages could be significant, once the system is worked out. Hemp is a likely biomass species for coal replaciment (or co-firing), with a very rapid rate of growth.
“I added no chemicals after planting and that’s one of the biggest savings right there,” he added.

One other positive impact of hemp is that it breaks the disease cycle of other crops, as it is added into a crop rotation, according to Gellatly.

Industrial hemp has been used for centuries for fine fibres, sail cloth, and rope. Some of the hemp Hart was harvesting was up to eight feet tall. Because of the length and strength of the fibres harvesting hemp is a special challenge, and Larry Palmateer of Tweed was brought in by Hart.

This hemp is destined for a furnace, so the strands were not preserved. Instead a special double ‘conditioning’ system on a disc-bine, notches the stalks at one inch intervals to aid in the drying.

“It’s the best machine we’ve found for hay and it helps condition it,” said Palmateer.

The mower is specialized to hemp because a normal mower would get gummed up by the long tough fibres. _Bioenergy
It may take a few more seasons to perfect the art, but hemp intercropping may do well somewhere in North America. Torrefied biomass cofires well with coal -- with proper adjustments.

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Mass (achusetts) Insanity! Political Peak Oil For Dummies

Peak Oil is easy to achieve: simply outlaw all forms of energy that might conceivably substitute for light sweet crude oil. That includes coal, oil shale, oil sands, heavy oils, nuclear, and now ...... biofuels!!! The state of Massachusetts has decided to ban all biofuels from algae, miscanthus, microorganisms, etc!!!
Under the proposed regulation, Massachusetts will ban the use of all non-waste feedstocks, which include algae, cyanobacteria, jatropha, miscanthus, switchgrass, or oils produced on a harvestable basis by microorganisms, such as employed by Joule Biotechnologies.
The action by Massachusetts regulators is particularly stupid, and indicative of what to expect under a regime of political peak oil and faux environmentalist dieoff.orgiasm.

Recent decisions by Obama's EPA and Pelosi's congress lead the entire nation in the same direction: energy starvation by decree. This is the result of extremists in high places, enabled and elected by a dumbed down electorate. It is only the beginning, unless individuals and groups begin to act in their own defense to block and reverse these trends.

The Earth needs wisdom, not extremism. If the green extremists have their way, they will destroy the Earth's ecosystems by shifting world power from governments and civilisations that have protected the environment, toward populations and civilisations that have always devastated the environment. Of course, the idiots are too far gone in their fanaticism to think the thing through.

Oynklent Green [OTC:OYNK], where are you?

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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Small Nukes for Rural Canada

Small nuclear reactors have proven their ability to provide reliable heat and power over several decades -- using a number of different designs. Now a venture company is forming a private corporation to provide small nuclear reactors to isolated communities across Canada.
Western Troy's CEO, Rex Loesby, commented, "As we worked through the feasibility process for our MacLeod Lake Project, we evaluated a number of electric power options. One option is a small nuclear reactor. We found there are a number of small reactor designs in operation and under development around the world and there looks to be an opportunity to work with one or more of these reactor designs to develop the technology specifically for remote communities and mine sites in Canada. Some of these small reactor designs have operated for decades without safety issues, nuclear reactors do not release carbon emissions, and there are communities and mines in remote locations throughout Canada that would benefit greatly from clean, safe, and relatively low cost electric power."

...Rex Loesby commented further, "What started out as an engineering exercise quickly grew into an idea that could be revolutionary for the development of northern communities and resources in Canada. We have begun to see this as much more than a commercial venture, but an opportunity for Canada to lead the world in clean energy development for remote sites." _Source
Small nuclear reactors are a natural fit for remote arctic and antarctic communities (as well as mid-ocean and outer space outposts). Providing ample quantities of electric power and heat, small nuclear reactor / generator installations provide the basis for local and regional development of all types -- including agriculture and mining.

Faux environmentalists oppose nuclear energy of all types, without understanding exactly what it is they are opposing -- or what they are forcing people to accept in its place. These faux enviros are in the process of completing the devastation of the US economy -- and would like to do the same thing to Canada.

So far, Canadians have been too smart to allow the faux's to gain an absolute upper hand.

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Monday, August 17, 2009

Getting Down to Bio-Business in Scotland

Rural businesses are set to discover how they can benefit from using or supplying biomass fuel thanks to a free workshop later this month.

Forestry Commission Scotland is hosting the free workshop at Gartmore House near Aberfoyle, on Wednesday, August 19 from 12.45-3.20pm (lunch is provided) with a site visit following on at the end of the afternoon.

Guest speakers will give delegates an insight into the many aspects of biomass – from its potential to be a cost-effective means of generating power for business premises of all sizes to the practicalities of installing a woodfuel boiler. There will also be opportunities to find out about the grant support that is available. _StirlingObserver_via_Bioenergy
Similar seminars have been held across North America over the past two years, as rural parts of North America, the UK, and Scandinavia begin to gear up to produce bioenergy on a local and regional level.

The single region with the most bioenergy promise is SubSaharan Africa, followed by South America, and South / Southeast Asia. But infrastructure of business, technology, and economics in North America, Europe, and Oceania is far advanced over the third world. Investors who are not into gambling will be more likely to invest in a developed country.

Once it becomes obvious that farmers, foresters, ranchers, entrepreneurs, engineers, and technologists can grow their own bioenergy gold in rural parts of the first world, the gold rush will be on. Scaling up biomass energy to supply a significant part of the first world's energy needs, will take time and work.

Given the susceptibility of energy industries to the global and national economic stresses, a certain amount of risk will be involved. But growing healthy economies on the local and regional scale is how the US and Canada grew so wealthy so quickly in the 1800s. Biomass energy suits a local and regional infrastructure.

Small to medium scale distributed pyrolysis and gasification plants -- close to the biomass harvest sites -- will supply liquids, densified solids, and gaseous fuels to more central refineries and processing plants.

It is true that most of the profits of any operation will accrue to the central refiner and distributor, but the total economic activity at the local and regional levels are likely to be huge.


Friday, August 14, 2009

Taking Your Algal Oil Secondhand

Various algal oil projects are looking at feeding algae to other species -- such as fish or shrimp -- then extracting the oil from the higher animals, rather than directly from the algae. In a sense, they would be letting the animals extract the algal oil, thus perhaps making their own oil extractions easier.
San Carlos, Calif.-based LiveFuels is hoping to develop biofuels from algae—squeezing the liquid fuel out of fish by feeding them algae for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

In fact, the fish eat more than one-third of their body weight in wet algae per day, filtering seven gallons per minute, CEO Lissa Morgenthaler-Jones said today.

The process doesn’t require electricity and has the potential to clean up ocean pollution.

While LiveFuels had previously described its business as pursuing oil extraction directly from the algae themselves, extracting it now from fish is a process the company has been exploring practically since it was founded, Morgenthaler-Jones said.

LiveFuels announced yesterday it has started a pilot facility in Brownsville, Texas. The facility—which includes 45 acres of open saltwater ponds on repurposed fish/shrimp farming land—is expected to be used to research optimizing algal productivity and increasing the rates of conversion of biomass into renewable oils.

The company had previously been operating on 150 acres in California, about an hour north of the Mexican border, but found that desert conditions weren’t optimal for growing algae. The Texas water also comes from shipping channels, so it is seawater Morgenthaler-Jones said. _Bioenergy
An interesting approach. The potential profits are certainly there. It comes down to the first alg-oil vender who can sell his product profitably. That company will be the proof of concept that should open the gates of investment to competitors even wider than at present.


Thursday, August 13, 2009

Dimethyl Ether from Black Liquor Gasification

Black liquor is a waste product of pulp and paper mills. For every ton of pulp produced, about 7 tons of black liquor by-product results. Finding an economical use for this waste will change the economics of the paper / pulp industry significantly. Dimethyl ether (DME) is one of many valuable products that could be made from pulp wastes.
In Sweden, Chemrec announced that they will break ground in September on a BioDME (dimethyl ether) demonstration plant project in Piteå. The project will be completed in mid-2010, and will demonstrate the production of an advanced diesel fuel, DME, from forest biomass over the black liquor route....

DME is generally used today as a liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) substitute, but diesel truck and bus manufacturers have operated DME-fueled prototype vehicles.....Approximately 7 tons of black liquor is produced in the manufacture of a ton of pulp. _BiofuelsDigest
Learning to take a waste product and turn it into energy builds character. It is much harder than printing money on a government printing press, and spending money that doesn't exist. But not all of us can be as smart or wizardly as presidents and congresspersons.

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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

70,000 Gallons per acre per year Algal Bio-Oil

This breakthrough biofuel yield from algae is being announced by Sun-Eco Energy, located in fragrant Chino, California.
With algae oil production yields indicated to be over 70,000 gallons/acre/year , an advanced method for producing the bio oil is being readied for commercial production.. This coincides with new reports that petroleum production is falling behind growing world demand for oil and need to restrict crop lands to food production.

Based on information provided by Hoyt Isom, chief information officer of SunEco Energy, Chino, California, the new high yield system has been proven in pilot production since 2007 and is being prepared for commercial scale oil production at a facility in Niland, California(Imperial Valley) . Production is being ramped up to 14.6 million gal/yr within 9 months.

The initial target is bio crude for refining into diesel fuel which SunEco expects can be sold at something under the current market price for petroleum fuel. It performs equally in diesel 20% to 50% blend with petroleum diesel.. Up to 82% reduced PM exhaust (particulate matter) emissions has been demonstrated with no loss in power..BiofuelsDigest
If SunEco can deliver on its high-yield promise, it will blow other bio-oil approaches out of the water. There is reason to be skeptical, based upon other failed optimists of the past. The search for investors in a recession can sometimes lead a company to overstate its prospects.

Still, all in all, it is good to see that some biofuels companies are pushing the envelope even in the darkest days of an Obama / Pelosi economic mismanagement. This may be the one to watch.


Monday, August 10, 2009

Ethanol Glut Looms on the Horizon

At the recent Fuel Ethanol Workshop, several companies, including Coskata, Dupont/Danisco, Iogen, Lignol, Poet and PureVision, announced that they already have production from their demonstration plants or will within the year. Most are processing about 1 ton of material into ethanol daily. From that ton of biomass, they are producing between 70 and 85 gallons of biofuels. Commercial production is expected to follow in a year or two.

Coskata was the most aggressive and said it is so confident of the production system that the company has decided to start licensing its proprietary technology later this year. Coskata’s process is far more robust than it originally had estimated because the company can process cellulosic feed stock from agricultural sources, urban land waste, forests and even a wide variety of manufacturing wastes. The company also stated that once its process is perfected, ethanol from cellulosic sources would be price competitive with gasoline even without any federal tax credit. _NDSU
Ethanol was once the fuel of choice for internal combustion engines -- before gasoline and diesel production were revved up. But modern engine materials cannot withstand the corrosive effects of highly concentrated ethanol such as E85 or higher. Either the engines must change, or biofuels producers will need to move to less corrosive biofuels such as butanol.

Ethanol producers will soon far outrun the demand for ethanol fuels, as production continues to gear up. Tariffs against Brazilian ethanol currently protect American ethanol producers from competition, but once cellulosic ethanol hits its production stride, there will be no protection from the subsequent ethanol glut.

That is why it is critical for "ethanol" producers to quickly move to more rational fuels such as butanol -- or to promote the production of flex-fuel and E85 engine technology. Ethanol fuel cells might be another rational response to the ethanol : ICE mismatch that currently exists and will soon be exacerbated by overproduction of

Cellulose has marvelous potential for producing electricity, syngas, process heat and space heating, butanol, plastics, high value chemicals, etc. Focusing on ethanol is short-sighted, and will inevitably lead to more problems. It is time to begin looking beyond two carbon alcohol.


Friday, August 07, 2009

Algae Growth Spurts and Pains

Algae, algae, algae. The research that is occurring on this second generation fuel has overfloweth the petri dish as just this week there have been five major algae announcements.

1. W2 Energy, based in Canada, announced that it has completed its Sunfilter commercial scale algae bioreactor.
2. Algaeventure Systems said that it has begun receiving orders for its algae harvesting, dewatering, and drying technology. The company that has placed the order is General Atomics.
3. Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC) at University of North Dakota was awarded a subcontract by SAIC to use its proprietary technology to produce jet fuel from algal oils.
4. Kent BioEnergy, based on California, announced that it is going to establish a division of the company in Charleston South Carolina, partnering with a Grant Know, a local entrepreneur.
5. Algenol Biofuels, a Florida based company, has threatened to leave the state and now they are working with CEO Paul Woods to entice his company to stay.


Microbe energy may well take 20 years to become a world class energy competitor. Synthetic biology and systems biology will combine with improved membranes, catalytics, and materials technology to evolve a wide array of microbial energy platforms. The end effect of the bioenergy revolution should be cheaper and more abundant energy, chemicals, plastics, and food products for people and animals.


Thursday, August 06, 2009

What Will Pelosi, Boxer, Obama, and Salazar do to Shut Down North Dakota Oil?

North Dakota as an oil patch state? Yes, probably in a decade or less. The state’s Three Forks-Sanish formation could rival nearby Bakken Play, a vast oil shale field. Together they could hold 200 billion barrels of oil, about four times Alaska’s entire oil cache. That’s enough black gold to provide the equivalent of 30 years’ worth of U.S. oil needs at current usage levels, without having to import one barrel from abroad. _Kiplinger_via_NewsAlert
We have heard a lot about North Dakota's Bakken Play -- particularly from Brian Wang's NextBigFuture. But larger oil fields wait to be tapped as the technology of oil discovery, exploration, and extraction is improved. Peak oil catastrophe dogma relies upon ignorance of remaining oil reserves, for credibility. As long as the profit motive is allowed to function in free societies, however, energy technologies will improve to exploit the abundant reserves of energy that wait unseen in the world around us.

Universities, the media, and the green political-industrial complex are united in the goal of energy starvation and industrial choke-off, along with population die-off. All of the policies of the Obama / Pelosi reich revolve around that underlying theme. Under the policies of the ruling reich, businesses will die, employment will plummet, home ownership will continue melting away, and power will continue to consolidate to the politically connected.

Peak oil catastrophe and climate catastrophe are two useful facades to facilitate the agenda. North Dakota is an awkward counterpoint to the talking points. There will be more -- many more. This is a time for those persons who have escaped the academic and media camps with their intellectual curiosity intact, to start paying attention. Things are soon to become interesting.

Cross-posted at Al Fin


Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Using the Full Range of Aquatic Plants for Energy

PetroAlgae is now reporting that, in its 5000-hectare system, it can produce 9-10 metric tons of purified high-value proteins per acre per year, plus 4700-6000 gallons of biofuels (plus biochar) per acre per year. This pencils out to up to 125,000 tons of protein per year, plus 75 Mgy of renewable fuels, for the full system.

The future is not years away but here today,” noted Executive VP Business development Harold Gubnitsky at the Florida Farm to Fuel Summit last week in Orlando. The PetroAlgae system costs, “several hundred million dollars,” according to the company, but has payback within three years, making the investment not for the faint of heart, but potentially lucrative. _BiofuelsDigest

We know about the promise of energy from algae and diatoms. But the full range of aquatic plants that could be used to produce abundant energy is far wider than most of us realise. Besides producing biofuels, aquatic systems can produce high value proteins and other nutrients and high value chemicals. The additional high value products provide for higher profits and more rapid payback of investment.
The first public hint that new breakthroughs were on the horizon arrived in early April, when a research team at North Carolina State University reported that it has realized up to six times the average corn starch yield by growing duckweed, a microscopic aquatic plant, using hog farm waste water. The researchers concluded that the process cleans up waste water and produces a high-yield biofuel, and the duckweed starch can be converted to ethanol at existing corn ethanol processors.

One of the advantages of the tiny aquatic plants is that so little of their biomass is needed to support their structure, since they float on water instead of standing freely in the air. As little as five percent of some species is fiber - with the rest an attractive mix of proteins, carbs and lipids.

The researchers said at the time that their process will work on any type of nutrient-rich wastewater, including municipal wastewater. However, the team was not far advanced in developing a large-scale system, indicating that they were in the process of establishing a pilot-scale demonstration of their system for growing, harvesting and drying duckweed.

Later in the spring, PetroAlgae was evolving its message to emphasize “microcrops” over “microalgae”, signaling that it was working on several different aquatic plant platforms.

Last week, Joule Biotechnologies made a cryptic announcement of a novel biofuel production system using a modified and otherwise mysterious aquatic, photosynthetic microorganism that, housed in a closed photobioreactor replete with brackish water, would use CO2 and sunlight as sources of reproductive energy. Lipids and fuels would be continuously harvested without destroying the micro-organisms. _BiofuelsDigest
These aquatic systems can be genetically tweaked and selected for optimal growth and targeted production, using high speed genetic screening and modification techniques as described by Brian Westenhaus.

The world of biological production of fuels, chemicals, and other high value products is just beginning. Stay tuned.

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