Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Energy beets yield more ethanol with less energy for refining

These "energy beets" yield twice as much ethanol per acre as compared to corn kernels, and they yield sugar rather than starch. starch, as from corn kernels, must first be converted to sugar before conversion to ethanol.
Energy beets for the future of Kentucky farms and fuel | Business Lexington:
Roger Ford, CEO of Patriot, said that the company’s system would rely on natural gas, as corn ethanol does, to drive the process — basically a distillery yielding alcohol from the sugar. He said that processing beets would use natural gas more efficiently than the corn process. The beets yield sugar directly, whereas corn requires an extra processing step to convert starch to sugar.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Ethanol's high octane can help boost fuel economy

One of the ways to boost fuel economy in cars is to use turbo boosting. This way, a smaller engine using less fuel can output the same power as a larger engine. But turbo boosting and higher compression ratios necessitate the use of higher octane fuels. Ethanol can provide that higher octane, thus giving it a value beyond what its BTU content would indicate. Most current flex-fuel vehicles do not take advantage of ethanol's unique properties like higher octane.
Study Finds Automakers to Need Higher Octane Fuels to Meet New Mileage and Emission Standards BioFuels Journal:
At a blending octane rating of 113, ethanol and higher ethanol blends are uniquely poised to help automakers achieve stricter fuel economy and emissions requirements.

While most measure a fuel’s mileage based on British Thermal Units (BTUs), new engine technologies designed to meet higher fuel economy standards like turbo-boosted, downsized engines will require the higher octane level that higher level ethanol blends offer.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Ethanol plant to convert to biobutanol

Biobutanol has long been considered as the next step in biofuels because it can be used at higher perecentages in existing cars and works better with existing infrastructure. But it is only now beginning to show potential on a large scale as an ethanol plant in Redfield South Dakota will soon be converted to making biobutanol from corn kernels. They expect to get 40 million gallons of butanol from the same 18 million bushels of corn a year that had been converted into 50 million gallons of ethanol. Animal feed should continue to be an important byproduct also produced by the plant.
Redfield, SD, ethanol plant to convert to biobutanol:
Butanol has traditionally been used as paint thinner, cleaner and adhesive, but as a fuel additive it contains more energy than ethanol and could be blended into existing cars at higher percentages. Hitchcock said he expects the plant to be more profitable selling fewer gallons of the new product.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Car Batteries Tweaked for Power Storage

Axion Power International, a U.S. company, is the maker of a slightly re-designed battery that has been deployed for grid storage. If widely adopted, this kind of storage could enhance the usefulness of intermittent renewable energy such as wind or solar. It could be a valuable emergency backup for hospitals and similar facilities as well.
Car Batteries Could Give Power Storage a Jump - Bloomberg:
The battery is three to four times less expensive than its lithium and nickel-metalhydride counterparts and lasts “four to five times longer” than traditional lead-acid batteries.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Algae farming ramps up in Iowa

Algae farming takes advantage of warmth and CO2 from an ethanol biorefinery. These by-products are rarely harnessed in most ethanol production. It could mean important new revenues for ethanol producers.
BioProcess Algae and Green Plains Renewable Energy Break Ground For Algae Production Facility in Shenandoah, IA Grainnet:
The horizontal reactors have been successfully running outdoors since the fall of 2011 and this marks the next step in the project to commercialize algae focused on markets for animal feed, fuel, omega-3 products and high-value nutraceuticals.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Capturing flared natural gas

Apparently, the natural gas that comes along with oil production (associated gas) in smaller oil fields is usually flared because economies of scale are not sufficient to pipe the Nat gas out our liquify it. Carbon Sciences is announcing a technology which will allow this natural gas to be made into synthetic crude oil that can be mixed with the crude and piped our in the existing infrastructure used for the normally produced crude oil. If it is economical as they claim, this could be a good idea for profits, world oil supplies, and the environment.
Carbon Sciences - News:
Byron Elton concluded, “Associated gas is a big problem for resource holders and can negatively affect oil field economics. By converting this excess gas into synthetic crude oil using our low capital, clean-tech solution, we believe we can deliver both economic and social value to oil field operators. We intend to aggressively target oil field operators with our CarbonCrude solution.”

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Range Fuels failure a lesson in picking biofuel technologies

The Macon Telegraph ( recently ran an article looking into Range Fuels, a failed cellulosic ethanol venture that received considerable government backing. According to the article, they really only produced test batches of methanol, not ethanol, before proceeding to commercial scale. Obviously this was a huge risk since the end goal was production of both methanol and ethanol. Enthusiasm outpaced common sense. Hopefully lessons were learned.
Range Fuels failure raises the question: How much risk should the government take with taxpayer dollars? - Local & State -
Range apparently never produced ethanol. It produced a test batch of methanol -- wood alcohol, which is a lot cheaper and less useful -- before it shut down almost a year ago.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Global Natural Gas Consumption Regains Momentum

Natural Gas is making a comeback, and increased use for automobiles could accelerate the trend.
Global Natural Gas Consumption Regains Momentum Worldwatch Institute:
Driven by surging natural gas consumption in Asia and the United States, global use of this form of fossil fuel rebounded 7.4 percent from its 2009 slump to hit a record 111.9 trillion cubic feet ­ in 2010, according to a new Vital Signs Online report from the Worldwatch Institute. This increase puts natural gas’s share of total energy consumption at 23.8 percent, a reflection of new pipelines and natural gas terminals in many countries.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Commercial scale cellulosic wood to ethanol in the works

In these tough economic times it is encouraging to see a 20 million gallon per year cellulosic ethanol biorefinery being funded with majority private investment. This mans investors have some confidence that the Mascoma Consolidated Bioprocessing technology will make cellulosic ethanol profitable. The feedstock will be hardwood. The technology accomplishes hydrolysis and fermentation into a single step. The key is genetically modified yeast and bacteria, according to the Mascoma web site.
Ethanol Producer Magazine
Cellulosic ethanol technology developer Mascoma Corp. has finalized an agreement with petroleum refiner Valero Energy Corp. to finance the construction and start-up of its first commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol facility, to be located in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula near Kinross.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

GE Technology Turns Gas Flares Into Electricity

I've always cringed seeing the flares from crude oil processing, knowing natural gas was being lost where no infrasturcture exists to use or input the gas into pipelines. This article is about efforts by GE to use some of the wasted natural gas for producing electricity.
"Fire Power: GE Technology Turns Gas Flares Into Electricity GE Reports: The climate impact of the flares is the same as the annual emissions from 77 million cars, or 34 percent of the U.S. car fleet. If converted to carbon credits at $15 per metric ton, the emissions would be worth $6 billion.
But there is an upside. Billions of dollars in wasted natural gas could be used to generate reliable, affordable electricity and yield billions more per year in increased global economic output."

Friday, November 11, 2011

University of Minnesota Scientists and Master Gardeners Analyze Biofuel Feedstock Production and Potential to Improve Land Use | BioFuels Journal

A process called pyrolysis makes bio-oil and biochar from biomass such as perennial grasses. The bio-oil may be refined into various biofuels, while the biochar may be used as a fertilizer. If this fertilizer proves useful, it could be an important part of making the pyrolysis process profitable and sustainable.
University of Minnesota Scientists and Master Gardeners Analyze Biofuel Feedstock Production and Potential to Improve Land Use BioFuels Journal: “What is so exciting about this project is that it has the potential to improve soil fertility of large agricultural fields as well as small gardens,” said Jason Hill, assistant professor in the U's bioproducts and biosystems engineering department and one of the project’s lead investigators.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Joule Ethanol Production from Sunlight and CO2

Sources of waste CO2 are widely available, including corn-fed ethanol biorefineries. Therefor this ethanol production process could be a game changer if it is scalable and perfected as this company expects. They plan to begin commercial production in 2012. They say they have engineered microorganisms capable of continuous ethanol production using sunlight and CO2 as the inputs.
Joule Awarded Patents for High-Volume Ethanol Production from Sunlight and CO2: "These innovations, together with Joule's advances in bioprocessing and solar capture and conversion, will help Joule achieve an ultimate target of 25,000 gallons per acre annually – a rate that is 10X greater than that of cellulosic ethanol and 100X greater than corn ethanol – while requiring no depletion of food crops, agricultural land or fresh water. In addition, by eliminating the need for biomass, Joule avoids the burden of fluctuating feedstock cost and supply, as well as the energy-intensive, multi-step conversion of biomass to product. At full-scale commercial production Joule expects to produce ethanol for as little as $0.60/gallon."

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Pelletizing biomass for cellulosic ethanol feedstock?

Delivery and handling of bulky feedstock is one of the big barriers to commercial scale cellulosic ethanol production. Pelletizing might solve some of these problems, since the pellets could be handled much the way grain is currently handled. It remains to be seen whether the technology will turn out these pellets at a cost low enough to compete with corn kernels, especially since the biomass would need to be moved twice--first to the pelletizing plant, and then to the biofuel refinery. Pellets might also be useful for co-firing with coal at power plants, reducing output of pollutants.
Ethanol Producer Magazine | "The pellets can be used to co-fire industrial boilers, but they can also be used as a feedstock for cellulosic ethanol production, according to Russ Zeeck, chief operating officer of Pellet Technology."

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Iowa State engineer working with fungus for new ethanol food coproduct

I'm not sure most people know that corn ethanol production also results in DDGS animal feed. This article discusses a new food coproduct using a fungus feeding on leftover thin stillage. The result is more food for animals and possibly even people.
Iowa State engineer scales up process that could improve economics of ethanol production | "What van Leeuwen and a team of Iowa State researchers are producing is a fungus, Rhizopus oligosporus, that makes a high-quality, high-protein animal feed from the leftovers of ethanol production. The process of growing the fungus also cleans water from ethanol production so that it can be recycled back into fuel production. And the process, called MycoMeal, could one day produce a low-cost nutritional supplement for people."

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

POET producing high quality Corn Oil coproduct along with ethanol

This kind of value-added coproduct will increase the efficiency of ethanol and biodiesel production processes. Ethanol biorefineries have always produced more than just ethanol from the corn kernel. Now those coproducts can be higher in value.
POET Corn Oil to Supply Up to 60 MMGY Biodiesel Production | BioFuels Journal: "When corn oil is captured on the back-end of that process following BPX, it is a higher-quality product with a lower amount of free fatty acids.

'The corn kernel is an amazing thing,' POET CEO Jeff Broin said.

'As we continue research into more and more co-products, our ability to displace foreign oil continues to grow."

USDA Program to Fund Ethanol Blender Pump Installation

Blender pumps can dispense fuel with various percentages of ethanol. This might be the best way for fuel vendors to offer E15 (15% ethanol) after the recent approval for newer cars. They will be able to also dispense E85 for flex fuel vehicle owners from the same pumps.
USDA Announces Program to Fund Blender Pump Installation | BioFuels Journal: "The Obama administration has set a goal of installing 10,000 flexible fuel pumps nationwide within 5 years."

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Olives for Biodiesel, Ethanol

The waste product left over from making olive oil might be valuable for making biofuels.
Olives: A Feedstock for Food, Biodiesel, Ethanol and Medicine : Greentech Media: "Pomace also contains chemicals that are toxic to soil: The Israeli government has begun to regulate how it can be disposed.
Approximately 5 percent to 7 percent of the total olive mass, however, can be converted to biodiesel. The olive stone can also be converted into cellulosic ethanol. In other words, two fuels can be made from one feedstock."

Hybrid Biofuel plants for greater efficiency

A yet to be built biorefinery in South Dakota is being re-designed to produce both conventional corn kernel ethanol and cellulosic ethanol. It will also take advantage of a combined heat and power installation.
Plans for ethanol plant near Jamestown changed - Valley News Live - KVLY/KXJB - Fargo/Grand Forks: "The hybrid approach provides better economies of scale – reducing both capital and feedstock costs – and makes a stronger overall project."

Monday, February 14, 2011

Giant King Grass as Feedstock for biofuels

Higher tonnage per acre will help advance cellulosic biofuels. But there will still be the challenge of transporting and processing the incredible volume of material because of low energy density in these materials. On-farm processing such as anaerobic digestion might be an answer for the transportation dilemma.
VIASPACE Reports Independent Test Results for Giant King Grass as Feedstock for... -- IRVINE, Calif., Feb. 14, 2011 /PRNewswire/ --

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Agave as a biofuel source

Agave is a drought-tolerant crop suitable for semi-arid regions. The biomass potential is quite large.
Agave seen as excellent biofuel source - "'We need bioenergy crops that have a low risk of unintended land use change,' bioenergy analyst Sarah Davis said. 'Biomass from Agave can be harvested as a co-product of tequila production without additional land demands.'"

Friday, June 11, 2010

Co-locating Ethanol biorefineries and coal-fired power plants

The cellulose and hemicellulose from plant material can be an ethanol feedstock, while the lignin is great for buring in a power plant. Excess steam and heat from the power plant can be used in producing ethanol.
Cellulosic Ethanol and Power Plant Co-Location: Savings in Synergy - Ethanol Producer Magazine: "Our process modeling showed that in situations where a green electricity premium of $30 per MWh is charged, an ethanol price of approximately $2.10 per gallon (before any ethanol subsidies) is the break-even point for a co-location producer. Ethanol prices above this amount will allow the producer to make more money producing ethanol from just the cellulose and hemicellulose (and burning the lignin separately for power) than by burning the whole biomass feedstock."

Thursday, March 25, 2010

CRP Croplands could yield ethanol fuel while maintaining ecological benefits

CRP is the Conservation Reserve Program. The government pays farmers to maintain certain fields in grasses or trees. Often, this is land that is too steep for row cropping without extensive erosion. At first glance, you would think that removing biomass from these fields every year would reduce soil fertility. Actually, this is not necessarily so. Some plants, including most grasses, are stimulated to grow more strongly by mowing or grazing. This greater biological activity leads to tapping more nutrient reserves from deep in the earth and from the air. Bacteria and fungi work in symbiosis with plant roots to extract nitrogen from the air and from certain soil particles. These nutrients are translated into plant mass and greater organic matter in the soil.
Estimating Ethanol Yields from CRP Croplands / March 19, 2010 / Newsfrom the USDA Agricultural Research Service: "This extensive study also shows that CRP lands in the northeastern United States with a high proportion of tall native prairie grasses have the potential to produce more than 600 gallons of ethanol per acre. This energy can be produced while maintaining the ecological benefits of CRP grasslands."

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Ethanol-Optimized Engine getting closer

The octane and oxygen advantages of ethanol can overcome the fuel economy deficit. But it requires an engine designed to take advantage of these factors. Such an engine would be a game-changer in the automotive and energy world. The CEO of Growth Energy talks about their prototype engine:
Ethanol-Optimized Engine A Major Breakthrough for Producers - Ethanol Producer Magazine: "And, at blends of E40 to E50, the EBDI engine improves on the fuel economy of regular gasoline engines by as much as 10 percent. Think about that: One of the biggest criticisms of ethanol is that engines lose mileage when burning ethanol. But this engine proves that the problem isn’t the fuel—it’s the engine."

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Syngas from waste being delivered to cellulosic ethanol biorefinery

Through a plasma gasification process this facility is able to provide syngas with the right composition for conversion to ethanol. The feedstock can vary in composition, and this syngas could be tailored for other uses such as generating electricity. If plasma gasification proves viable on a large scale, it could provide the flexibility needed for large-scale utilization of waste products on a commercially viable basis.
ALTER NRG CORP. Alter NRG Corp. announces the Westinghouse Plasma Centre is delivering clean syngas to Coskata's ethanol facility: "Coskata's proprietary process was analyzed by Argonne National Laboratory, who found that every unit of fossil energy used, in turn generated up to 7.7 times the amount of energy which is significantly better than the current ethanol industry. It was also found that it reduces CO(2) emissions by up to 96 percent compared with a well-to-wheel analysis of gasoline. The feedstock-flexible process utilizes non- food biomass, thereby providing an opportunity to produce fuel-grade ethanol in greater quantities and at a lower cost point than that produced from food-based sources (corn, sugar, etc.)."

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Efficient new process uses CO2 in gasification

his new method of gasification could iincrease the efficiency and lower the cost of syngas prodtion from biomass. It makes direct uof CO2 -- a greenhouse gas. Syngas can then be made into many types of liquid fuels such as ethanol, or be upgraded for use as a natural gas substitute in cars, heating, generation of electricity, or other uses.
Columbia researchers explore new process to create greener fuels: "While a typical gasification process uses only steam to convert biomass into syngas, synthetic gas containing a mixture carbon monoxide and hydrogen, Castaldi’s new method replaces 30 percent of the water with carbon dioxide. Researchers believe that these findings carry exciting potential and hope the process will be able to improve the overall efficiency of fuel production when used on a large scale. Syngas can be converted into a variety of different chemicals and fuels, including diesel products."

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Switchgrass Uses Nitrogen Efficiently

Part of the reason Switchgrass is so efficient is the microorganisms that reside with the roots in a synergistic relationship. This USDOE study looks at biomass production from a profit potential perspective. This is important because the profit motive is still the most important consideration for farmers. They need to make a living. So we must take input expenses into account, such as fertilization.
Switchgrass Produces Biomass Efficiently - Renewable Energy World: "Biomass feedstock nitrogen study compares four grasses and finds that switchgrass is most efficient."

Friday, November 27, 2009

Cassava Ethanol to replace Kerosene as cooking fuel in Africa

Here's the kind of smart production and use of ethanol that I like to promote. Production will be small-scale and close to the cassava fields, reducing the energy and money spent on feedstock transportation. On the use side, ethanol becomes a much cleaner alternative to kerosene as a cooking fuel. I also suspect that there will be valuable coproducts left over from processing the cassava. I would like t find some more details. Nigeria: NCGA Signs N56 Billion Contract For Cassava Kerosene (Page 1 of 1): "The Cassakero project is targeting the installation of 10,000 small scale bio ethanol refineries in the 36 states of the federation including the FCT, over the next four years to produce daily ethanol cooking fuel requirement for 4 million families."