Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Biorefineries, the Future of Algae Roadmap, and Dutch Methanol

There are several aspects of algal biofuel production that have combined to capture the interest of researchers and entrepreneurs around the world. These include:

1) high per-acre productivity,
2) non-food based feedstock resources,
3) use of otherwise non-productive, non-arable land,
4) utilization of a wide variety of water sources (fresh, brackish, saline, marine, produced, and wastewater),
5) production of both biofuels and valuable co-products, and
6) potential recycling of CO2 and other nutrient waste streams. _USDOEAlgaeRoadmat

The US DOE is attempting to promote breakthroughs in algae to biofuels research:
The three consortia selected for [USDOE] funding are:

Sustainable Algal Biofuels Consortium (Mesa, Arizona): Led by Arizona State University, this consortium will focus on testing the acceptability of algal biofuels as replacements for petroleum-based fuels. Tasks include investigating biochemical conversion of algae to fuels and products, and analyzing physical chemistry properties of algal fuels and fuel intermediates. (DOE share: up to $6 million)

Consortium for Algal Biofuels Commercialization (San Diego, California): Led by the University of California, San Diego, this consortium will concentrate on developing algae as a robust biofuels feedstock. Tasks include investigating new approaches for algal crop protection, algal nutrient utilization and recycling, and developing genetic tools. (DOE funding: up to $9 million)

Cellana, LLC Consortium (Kailua-Kona, Hawaii): Led by Cellana, LLC, this consortium will examine large-scale production of fuels and feed from microalgae grown in seawater. Tasks include integrating new algal harvesting technologies with pilot-scale cultivation test beds, and developing marine microalgae as animal feed for the aquaculture industry. (DOE funding: up to $9 million) _GCC

Algae and other forms of biomass and biomaterials will be converted to useful chemicals, fuels, feeds, plastics, and other products via biorefineries:
...a biorefinery might produce one or several low-volume, high-value chemical products and a low-value, high-volume liquid transportation fuel while simultaneously generating electricity and process heat for its own use or, potentially, for sale. The high-value products enhance profitability, the high-volume fuel helps meet energy needs, and power production reduces costs and avoids greenhouse gas emissions, the report says.

Around a dozen additional chemicals apart from syngas and fuels may currently be produced per refinery but, ultimately, the local market value for the final products will determine which products will be produced. The production of chemicals will be an important part of the economics of a biorefinery (flexibility to adapt to timely market needs), as the composition of plant material allows easy derivation of primary chemicals, quite different to those derived from oil. Consequently, a bio-based chemical industry will be built on a different selection of “platform” chemicals than those in the petrochemical industry.

—“The Future of Industrial Biorefineries” _GCC

Such a world class biorefinery will be built in Indonesia in a partnership between Elevance Renewable Sciences and Wilmar International -- a large global agribusiness group.
The joint venture will use Elevance’s proprietary biorefinery technology to produce high-value performance chemicals, advanced biofuels and oleochemicals. Large existing and rapidly emerging new demand exists for these products in surfactants, antimicrobials, lubricants, renewable biodiesel and green jet fuels.

The commercial-scale manufacturing facility will begin with a capacity of 180kMT (approximately 400 million pounds) with the ability to expand up to 360kMT (approximately 800 million pounds) of products. The facility will be located within Wilmar’s new integrated manufacturing complex now under construction in Surabaya, Indonesia. _BiofuelsDigest
Meanwhile in the Netherlands, BioMCN is building a methanol-from-waste-glycerin plant with a capacity of 250 million litres. (via BiofuelsDigest) Methanol is an excellent fuel for fuel cells and as a combustion additive, and can be used for many other processes.

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