Sunday, April 17, 2011

More on Algal Biomass, Microchannel Gas to Liquids, BTL


PetroAlgae is an algal fuels company aiming for the near-term production of fuels from algae, in addition to producing animal feed co-product and electrical power. PetroAlgae is taking the algal biomass approach initially, and will presumably convert later to an "algal oils to biodiesel" approach to fuels as the technology matures over the next 10 to 20 years. This is the approach that Al Fin algal scientists and engineers have been recommending, for early algal fuels production.
Through a new agreement with Haldor Topsoe A/S and its U.S. subsidiary Haldor Topsoe Inc., PetroAlgae will now use catalysts provided from the subsidiary's Houston headquarters to enhance the oils produced through its algae refining process that includes coking and pyrolysis.

The agreement will also allow PetroAlgae to test the algae biomass produced from its system in refinery cokers and “validate the commercial viability” of the process according to John Scott, chairman of PetroAlgae. _BiodieselMag

In a fascinating development, Oxford Catalysts has shipped a microchannel gas-to-liquids demonstration plant to Brazil, for use by Petrobras. The plant was assembled in a plant in Asia, disassembled for transport, and will be reassembled at a Petrobras refinery in Fortoleza, Brazil, over the next 4 months.
The integrated GTL demonstration plant incorporates the Group’s proprietary microchannel reactor and catalyst technologies for the key Steam Methane Reforming (“SMR”) and Fischer-Tropsch (“FT”) steps of the GTL process. The demonstration is fully funded and managed by the Group’s partners Toyo Engineering Corporation and MODEC, Inc., in collaboration with the Brazilian national oil company Petróleo Brasileiro S.A. (“Petrobras”) which is hosting the demonstration at its Lubnor refinery in Fortaleza, Brazil.

The GTL plant will be reassembled at the demonstration site, and will then progress to the pre-commissioning and commissioning stages. These are expected to be completed within four months. The demonstration plant is scheduled to start up in September, subject to successful commissioning and availability of the required utilities from Petrobras. Following start up, the demonstration will operate for approximately nine months. _OxfordCatalysts

KiOR is pushing ahead with its IPO, aiming for a $100 million max target for its US biomass-to-liquids technology.
$1.80 per gallon: KiOR says its technology, scaled up to oil industry size, can turn wood chips into “biocrude,” then ship it to existing oil refineries to crack it into gasoline or diesel fuel, at a price of $1.80 per gallon — without government subsidies. UPDATE: Crude oil is measured in 42-gallon barrels, which would set the cost of a barrel of KiOR crude at about $76 — and oil was trading at $106.25 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange this morning, the lowest it’s been since March 30. As a rule of thumb, crude oil makes up about one-half to two-thirds of the price of a gallon of gas at the pump, which would price KiOR’s pump-ready output at roughly $2.70 to $3.60 per gallon. By way of comparison, conventional gasoline and diesel were $2.86 and $3.08 per gallon on the Gulf Coast as of March, and market prices for corn ethanol, biodiesel and sugarcane ethanol were $2.49, $4.78 and $3.50 per gallon, according to KiOR.
1,500 bone dry tons (BDT): That’s how much wood chip material KiOR will need to process every day to reach that super-low price of $1.80 per gallon. Its current demonstration plant, on the other hand, is set up to process 10 BDT per day and has been running since March 2010, which gives a sense of the scale KiOR is seeking to achieve in the space of a few years. _gigaom
KiOR's plans illustrate the near-term thermochemical BTL approach, using conventional wood chip feedstock. Other companies may choose a similar approach, but using other biomass feedstocks.

It is too early in the BTL game to know which feedstocks (other than micro-algae and macro-algae) provide the greatest amount of biomass on a reliable and sustainable basis. Entire industries will be required for biomass production, preprocessing, refining, distribution, and sales.

Almost the entire surface of the planet -- except polar regions -- is suitable for growing biomass -- both marine and terrestrial. As the best biomass feedstocks prove themselves over the next ten years or so, it will become easier to calculate the true potential for biomass to liquids fuels.

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