Sunday, February 21, 2010

Biofuels Progress Incremental on All Fronts

More efficient ways of producing biodiesel from plant oils will allow for a steady, year by year replacement of petro-diesel by sustainable diesel fuels.  These newer biodiesels will have better cold weather tolerance as well.

Aijaz Baig and Flora Ng developed a single-step solid acid-catalyzed process for the production of biodiesel from high FFA feedstocks. The solid acid catalyst based on a supported heteropolyacid catalyst (PSA) was evaluated for the production of biodiesel from soybean oil (SBO) containing up to 25 wt% palmitic acid (PA). This solid acid catalyst catalyzed simultaneously esterification (the reaction of fatty acids with methanol in the presence of an acid catalyst and water to produce biodiesel) and transesterification (the reaction of triglycerides with methanol in the presence of a catalyst to produce biodiesel).

The palmitic acid was converted to biodiesel with 95% conversion using the solid acid catalyst (PSA), and the soybean oil was successfully transesterified with 99% CBG (chemically bound glycerin) conversion.

The solid acid catalyst was used for simultaneous esterification and transesterification of soybean oil containing 10% PA, achieving more than 95% conversion of palmitic acid and 99% conversion of soybean oil. Analysis based on the ASTM D 974, ASTM D 6584, and EN 14103 standards confirmed the production of high-purity biodiesel from feedstock with high FFA content. _GCC

The conversion of biomass cellulose to fermentable sugars (for ethanol and butanol production) is another extremely active area of research.

Genencor, a division of Danisco A/S, introduced Accellerase DUET at the Renewable Fuels Association’s 15th Annual National Ethanol Conference last week in Orlando, Fla. This product is the latest generation in the company’s line of enzymes used to convert biomass into sugars, for subsequent production into cellulosic ethanol and other advanced biofuels.

With improved overall hemicellulase activity, Accellerase DUET builds on the advances in beta-glucosidase and cellulase activity previously made by Accellerase 1500. These additional improvements allow Accellerase DUET to achieve higher sugar and biofuel yields, often at 3-fold lower dosing, and to be feedstock- and pretreatment- flexible. _GCC
This news follows an earlier announcement by Novozymes regarding a new generation of cellulose converting enzymes.

Bio-butanol is a much better fuel than ethanol -- with higher energy content, much less affinity for water, a better substitute for gasoline in modern engines, less corrosive than ethanol, and also able to be added to diesel and burned in diesel engines.

In the UK, Green Biologics has updated the Digest on its efforts to develop as an industrial biotechnology company producing advanced fermentation technologies converting waste and by-products (eg molasses from sugar refineries) into renewable fuels and chemicals. GBL focuses on the production of bio-butanol. The technology is based on advanced microbes together with novel butanol fermentation and high efficiency separation processes.

GBL recently expanded its business in China, where it is working with two biobutanol producers to provide step change improvements in their process economics; GBL is introducing improved microbial and process technology to existing plant facilities radically reducing the cost of biobutanol production; converting them from corn feedstock to molasses and eventually to bio-waste cellulosic feedstocks readily available in China. _BiofuelsDigest

Biofuels and bioenergy will be hugely important in future energy calculations. But it takes time to develop the most efficient and scalable processes to produce the most capable fuels. Writing off biofuels would be a tremendous mistake for any analyst, investor, or policy maker.



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