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.



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