Thursday, February 10, 2011

Many Roads Lead to Biofuels and Bioenergy

More: Waste & garbage super-giant Waste Management has partnered with Genomatica to develop methods of creating high-value and basic chemicals from municipal waste -- via syngas. The "waste to energy and other valuable products" is a common theme in biofuels and bioenergy.

The simplest path to bioenergy from "biofuels" is the combustion of woody biomass to generate electricity. An Alabama sawmill intends to use waste sawdust and bark to generate 7 MW of power. The mill will sell excess production to the local utility.

The gasification of biomass to syngas allows for multiple uses -- including direct syngas combustion, the fermentation of the syngas to alcohols, or the catalytic production of advanced Fischer Tropsch fuels. A research team at the Key Laboratory of Renewable Energy and Gas Hydrate, Guangzhou Institute of Energy Conversion, Chinese Academy of Sciences, has devised an improved method of catalytic steam gasification of biomass for production of synthetic fuels. The ever-present potential for altering the economic balance of biomass gasification to advanced catalytic fuels, keeps a lot of energy analysts vigilant and wary.

The anaerobic digestion of municipal waste and waste biomass is another fairly simple approach to the production of fuels -- often methane, or in the case of a new Vero, Florida plant, ethanol. The new Florida plant will use naturally occurring bacteria to ferment biomass-derived syngas anaerobically to ethanol.

New research suggests that a US farmer could fuel his equipment with biodiesel grown on between 5% and 7% of his acreage using canola or camelina. Here is an example of a farmer in Washington State who grows his own fuel.

Dry desert areas like US states Arizona or New Mexico could provide a perfect growing climate for algal fuels farming operations. Since such land is not desirable for ordinary food crops, most food-for-fuels agitators should be relatively unperturbed.

Advanced synthetic biology microbial fuels company LS9 has entered into its second business agreement with business giant Procter & Gamble, to provide the large company with renewable high value chemicals for its routine products and operations. This approach is a smart one for microbial fuels companies who wish to build profitable product lines, before trying to go head to head with petroleum fuels in the open market.

Seaweed -- or macro-algae -- is a prolific biomass crop, with 6 harvests a year and rapid growth. Since seaweed can be grown in salty or brackish water, it can greatly expand the growing area for biomass worldwide. A University of Illinois Urbana-Champaigne has further altered the genome of the yeast Saccharomyces Cerevisiae to allow even faster and more efficient fermentation of galactose in seaweed to ethanol. Quite a number of clever means of growing seaweed using saltwater are being devised, which will make wide-scale growing of this biomass crop for fuels more practical.

The planet Earth is a biological world -- the only biological world we know. Plants and microbes have evolved many ways to take advantage of primary solar energy and secondary chemical energies. Smart humans should eventually learn how to work with such evolutionary traits -- tweaking them to help biology to provide humans with most of the liquid fuels and many of the materials and chemicals they need.

The zero sum, doomer mindset, which is so common among academics and activists, is more an impediment to an abundant future than almost anything else on Earth.

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Blogger bruce said...

sorry, I see cold fusion, and biofuels as the next great development for the next century and the one after that and the one after that...

6:07 PM  

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