Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Scaling up biochar and pyrolysis for energy and agriculture

Pyrolysis means heating biomass in an oxygen-deprived environment. The result is pyrolysis oil, syngas (can be burned to make electricity) and biochar (a promising fertilizer). If it can be sacaled up, it could be an important solution for food production, greenhouse gas reduction, and clean energy production.
Carbon Sequestration, Agriculture, and Charcoal - Can Biochar Stop Global Warming? - Popular Mechanics: "Biochar goes beyond this, directly removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by stimulating plant growth as well as storing the carbon from decomposing plants in the soil as well as those that were burned to make it for as long as 5,000 years."

Friday, December 26, 2008

Interactions between ethanol, oil, and food prices

With the plummetting oil and food prices around the glode, we now have data needed in order to analyze what effect ethanol truly has on food prices. As the article below points out, food prices are tied more to oil prices than anything else. Ethanol production continues to expand even as food prices fall due to lower oil prices. All this should promt us to develop more regionalized and localized sustainable food systems that are less reliant on oil (fossil fuel) inputs.
Fact vs. Fiction on Food vs. Fuel - International Analyst Network: "At the height of the oil crisis, ethanol was responsible for keeping the price of oil 15% lower than where it would otherwise have been. This means that as vexing as some find annual ethanol subsidies of roughly $5.6 billion, the use of ethanol saved the U.S. economy in 2008 roughly ten-times that amount which otherwise would have ended up in the coffers of foreign oil-exporting countries - many of them hostile to us."

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Saltwater Crops May Be Key to Solving Earth's Land Crunch

Certain plants can be grown on land with a high salt concentration. Some of them could produce high biomass yields for cellulosic ethanol production. Most food crops cannot be grown on these soils, so they are largely under-utilized for farming.
Food vs. Fuel: Saltwater Crops May Be Key to Solving Earth's Land Crunch Wired Science from "His team's report for the agency estimates that salt-loving crops could be used to produce 1.5 billion barrels of ethanol annually on a swath of new agricultural land almost five times the size of Texas."

Recovering CO2 with Algae

Algae is capable of converting CO2 into biomass. The algae biomass can then be converted to ethanol or biodiesel. Costs will need to be brought down, however.
Untitled Page: "They propose to employ algae to scrub carbon dioxide from the flue-gases of coal-fired power plants _ of which Kentucky has many _ and use the algae to produce an oil that could then be refined into fuel."

Thursday, December 04, 2008

KMP begins ethanol shipment by pipeline

The cost of shipment by rail and truck has been a limiting factor for the ethanol industry. Pipeline transportation may provide an answer in some cases. Pipelines must be modified or designed for shipment of ethanol.
Press Releases: "HOUSTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Dec. 2, 2008--Kinder Morgan Energy Partners, L.P. (NYSE:KMP) today announced it is now transporting commercial batches of denatured ethanol along with gasoline shipments in its 16-inch Central Florida Pipeline (CFPL) between Tampa and Orlando, Fla., making CFPL the first transmarket gasoline pipeline in the United States to do so."

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Making Clean Energy from Waste with PEM

Especially in the current financial environment, renewable energy production will be much more competitive if it solves other problems at the same time, such as waste disposal.
Making Clean Energy from Waste - Renewable Energy World: "Rather than incinerating waste, InEnTec uses its Plasma Enhanced Melter (PEM) Systems to heat waste to very high temperatures using electrically charged gas (plasma), breaking down organic material and creating a variety of products."

Monday, December 01, 2008

Clean water and biofuel with algae

Scientists say a system for cleaning river water with algae is ready to go large scale. They want to then produce biofuels such as butanol from the algae. A small scale system is cleaning water flowing into Chesapeake Bay. aims to produce bio-fuel while cleaning up bay: "The constantly growing algae is vacuumed up with an everyday Shop-Vac. The gooey material, when dried, could be a prime catalyst for fermenting a bio-fuel."

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Iowa Ethanol maker to add algae bioreactors

Green Plains Renewable Energy Inc. plans to expiriment with algae production at an Iowa ethanol biorefinery. This could increase the efficiency of biofuel production by utilizing waste heat and C02.

GRAINNET News and Information for the Grain, Milling, Feed, Seed and BioFuels Industry: "Using advanced photobioreactor technology developed by the company from base technology licensed to the company by BioProcessH2O, BioProcess Algae expects to produce algae at Green Plains' ethanol plant in Shenandoah, Iowa, sustained by the plant's recycled heat, water and carbon dioxide."

Biodiesel and Ethanol from catfish ponds

PetroSun Biofuels proposes making biodiesel and ethanol from algae grown in Mississippi catfish ponds, producing both catfish and biofuels in the same space.
Grainnet Information for the Grain, Milling, Feed, Seed and BioFuels Industry: "Based on an annual potential production rate of 2,000 gallons per acre, the existing 80,000 acres of ponds would produce 160 million gallons of algal oil annually for conversion to biodiesel."

Friday, November 14, 2008

Biogas potential from U.S. livestock farms

Other countries have developed large-scale production of biogas and electricity from livestock manure. With the proper regulatory environmnet and incentives, the U.S. could do the same. This article and the comments are a good introduction to the benefits and challenges of biogas from livestock manure.
Biogas: what options for Slurry power in the US? - Renewable Energy World: "Intensive animal farming produces large amounts of waste – about 75 kg per cow, per day – that is both a source of methane pollution and a potential groundwater pollutant. Using anaerobic digestion to treat animal slurry can provide a solution to this problem, as well as renewable energy."

Ethanol biorefinery to be powered by landfill gas

Biogas (mainly methane) from a landfill will be used in place of natural gas as the process fuel used to turn corn and grain sorghum into ethanol. This should improve the energy balance of the ethanol produced and the city will receive a royalty.
The Robesonian > St Pauls Review > News > Ethanol plant permitted: "The plant will partner with Robeson County on the site. Robeson County, which signed a 15-year deal with Solv-It Technologies in February, 2007, will install a $1.1 million methane gas collection system to power the plant. The methane will be collected from the landfill."

Thursday, October 30, 2008

St. Joseph demonstration plant for next generation biofuels

Gevo and ICM are teaming up to build a demonstration plant in St. Joseph, Missouri. They will investigate Gevo's technology for converting standard ethanol biorefineries so that they can produce isobutanol and other alcohol-based chemicals from cellulosic agricultural waste materials. The technolofy is outlined here: The end result could be cost effective bio-based renewable auto fuels, diesel fuels, jet fuels, and plastics.
Gevo – Next Generation Biofuels: "“Our data says that it will cost less than $0.30 per gallon to retrofit an ethanol plant to make isobutanol. Isobutanol can be converted to gasoline blendstocks for less than an additional $0.25 per gallon. Think of it: gasoline from an ethanol plant for less than $0.60/gallon additional capital,” stated Gruber. “This technology is a win-win for both the agricultural and petrochemical industries. It opens up new and broader value-added markets to the agricultural community, and it provides the petrochemical industry with an easier route to incorporate renewable fuels and chemicals into their existing infrastructure,” said Gruber."

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

New Method Turns Wood into Sugar for Biofuels

German researchers appear to have a breakthrough in this new method for turning wood into simple sugars. Simple sugars can be easily turned into ethanol or other useful substances.
New Method Turns Wood into Sugar for Biofuels: "Up to now, conventional methods for converting cellulose to sugar have used acid baths or high temperatures and pressures that require massive amounts of energy. This new method, however, works by first dissolving cellulose in an ionic liquid so that the long chains are broken down into shorter, single stranded chains called oligomers."

Monday, October 20, 2008

Improving biobutanol production efficiency

Researchers at the USDA Agricultural Research Service are working on more efficient ways to produce celllulosic biobutanol, an alcohol with properties superior to ethanol. They are able to combine some of the steps necessary to make biobutanol from straw.
Banking on Biobutanol: "If scaled up further, the process could yield 307 combined kilograms, or 99 gallons, of acetone, biobutanol, and ethanol from 1 ton of wheat straw. The P260 strain produces a specific ratio of the three chemicals, but efforts are now under way at Peoria to develop genetically modified bacteria that will make only biobutanol."

Friday, October 17, 2008

UNL study shows ethanol production efficiency growing

Previous studies on ethanol production often used data from outdated technology. More recently, the ethanol industry is using less fossil fuels per unit of ethanol produced, and especially less petroleum.
UNL study: Ethanol energy efficiency growing - Grand Island, NE - Grand Island Independent: "Cassman said if the goal is to reduce dependence on imported oil, his research estimates that 13 gallons of ethanol are produced for every gallon of petroleum used in the production life cycle for corn ethanol."

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

New ethanol biorefinery will use barley

Construction has begun on an ethanol biorefinery in Virginia that will use barley as the primary feedstock. Using barley will open up large new areas of the U.S. Southeast for ethanol production. Aslo, barley is generally a winter crop, double cropped with soybeans in this region. This winter crop cuts down on soil erosion and runnoff into the ocean because soil is not left unprotected through the winter. So this is and instance where ethanol could provide environmental benefit and help preserve soil productivity.
DD Construction to begin on new ethanol plant

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Tropical sugar beet could benefit biofuels industry

Sugar beets are typically grown in cooler climates. However, Syngenta has released a variety that thrives in tropical climates with yields similar to suagar cane, but in less time and with less need for water. This could prove quite useful for ethanol production, both in sugar cane regions and regions too dry for growing sugar cane without irrigation. 
GRAINNET News and Information for the Grain, Milling, Feed, Seed and BioFuels Industry

Thursday, September 11, 2008

MO power plants to cut emissions by growing algae for biofuels

According to an AP article, two Missouri power plants plan to test a system that would use waste CO2 to grow algae that could be turned into ethanol, biodiesel, and animal feed. CO2 acts like a fertilizer for the green algae which also gathers energy from the sun via photosynthesis. If successful, the system could be implimented at numerous facilities that currently vent CO2 into the atmosphere.
Mo. power plants to cut emissions by growing algae -

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Company plans to scale up production of gasoline from biomass

Texas Engineering Experiment Station and Byogy Renewables say they have developed an integrated biorefinery that will take in any biomass, including cellulosics, and produces a biofuel that can be a direct replacements for gasoline, jet fuel, and diesel. All this at a competitive price, they say. They expect to scale up production within 2 years.
GRAINNET News and Information for the Grain, Milling, Feed, Seed and BioFuels Industry

Syngas from biomass gasification to power lime kilns

The gasifier unit being perfected by Nexterra Energy Corp. could also provide thermal energy for pulp mills, ethanol biorefineries, and many other facilities with biomass, displacing natural gas or other fossil fuels.
GRAINNET News and Information for the Grain, Milling, Feed, Seed and BioFuels Industry

Google Invests $10 Million in Engineered Geothermal

Engineered geothermal does not rely on existing hot water sources. Rather, water is injected into the dry hot rocks that are much more common. Steam from recovered water drives turbines to produce electricity. Much of the water is recycled by re-injecting. The potentail looks very good for this technology.
Warm Globe: Google Invests $10 Million in Geothermal

Monday, August 18, 2008

Variable Compression for better fuel economy on ethanol

With a high compression engine to take advantage of high octane, fuel economy on ethanol can be near that of fuel economy on gasoline. But most flex fuel engines are designed for optimum fuel economy on gasoline. That's why they get much worse fuel economy on E85. A variable compression engine like the research model described below could run with optimum efficiency on ethanol and gasoline. This would be huge for motorists, reducing cost per mile driven and making ethanol much more competitive with gasoline. 
Lotus developing efficient two-stroke OMNIVORE engine - Autoblog: "This engine design is expected to significantly increase fuel efficiency for sustainable bio alcohol fuels. The architecture features an innovative variable compression ratio system and uses a two-stroke operating cycle with direct fuel injection."

Thursday, August 14, 2008

New catalyst for ethanol from syngas being developed

Researchers at Iowa State University are developing a catalyst that can be more selective in producing ethanol from syngas rather than other products. Through gasification, syngas can be produced from almost any organic material including waste materials. This technology ofr gasification is already in use and well developed. Syngas can be upgraded to replace natural gas or a catalyst can be used to convert syngas to ethanol.
GRAINNET News and Information for the Grain, Milling, Feed, Seed and BioFuels Industry: "“You can use the waste product from the distilling process or any number of other sources of biomass, such as switchgrass or wood pulp. Basically any carbon-based material can be converted into syngas.
'And once we have syngas, we can turn that into ethanol.”"

Friday, August 08, 2008

Agaves: more ethanol with less water

Here is yet another ethanol feedstock that seems to hold great promise without the need for cellulosic ethanol technology (though it does yield large amounts of cellulose in addition to simple sugars). According to the linked article, Agave could produce much more ethanol per acre per year than corn or sugarcane, with additional coproducts available as well. All this while using much less water and growing on soils poorly suited for corn or sugarcane crops or other food crops. Agave is mainly grown in very dry regions of Mexico, but should be able to thrive in similar climatic zones of the southwest United States. This is a crop high in simple sugars, very easily and processed into ethanol fuel.
Mexico & Agaves: Moving from Tequila to Ethanol: "High in sugar content, the project team estimates that varieties of Agave tequilana weber can yield up to 2,000 gallons of distilled ethanol per acre per year and from 12,000-18,000 gallons per acre per year if their cellulose is included, some 14 dry tons of feedstock per acre every year."

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Grass crossed with sugarcane might yield more ethanol then sugarcane

A central Florida landowner estimates huge rthanol yields per acre possible from a cross between African Elephant Grass and Sugarcane. Like sugarcane, this grass is high in simple sugars, so ethanol conversion would be inexpensive and not require advanced cellulosic ethanol techniques.
Retired Lakeland Minister Thinks Grass Can Be Used for Ethanol The Ledger Lakeland, FL

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Miscanthus Shows Great Potential as Ethanol Feedstock

Trials by Illinois researchers indicate the perennial grass known as Miscanthus could produce 2.5 times more biofuel energy per acre as compared to corn. This is with much less fertilization and erosion as compared to corn cropping. The variety used is sterile, and invasion of nearby fields has not been a problem in European and U.S. trials. Breeding for increased biomass could raise yields still more. Higher yields per acre will allow for shorter transportation distance for biomass to the biorefineries. This perennial grass will grow on marginal soils and actually improve soil fertility and carbon content over time. That's why long-term rotations with these grasses could actually improve food production over time. Land previously marginal for food production could be better for food production after a number of years in grass.
Miscanthus Shows Great Potential as Ethanol Feedstock

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Renergie supports repealing ethanol Import tariff

A Louisiana biofuel company focused on non-corn kernel feedstocks is arguing that ethanol import tariffs should be eliminated. They argue that more supply would permit and promote a building out of infrastructure for use of ethanol beyond 10% blending. Blender pumps, especially, would allow blending of gasoline and ethanol at various proportions. Also, imported ethanol would be valuable for U.S. coastal areas located far from the midwest ethanol production regions. Additional arguments are included in the linked article.

Why the Ethanol Import Tariff Should be Repealed � Renergie’s Weblog

Monday, August 04, 2008

Biogas power from U.S. cow manure

The linked article describes large scale biogas production in Texas and California. Biogas can be used to produce electricity or can be upgraded as a direct replacement for natural gas. This upgraded biogas can be injected into the natural gas pipeline grid. The Texas facility processes manure from a nearby farm and mixes it with food waste. The output is able to power a little more than one house for every cow. If you add up the confined livestock numbers in the U.S., you will quickly see that the power potential is astounding, not to mention the great reduction in pollution. In the process of extracting biogas, manure is transformed into a fertilizer that is much more valuable for farmers and far less polluting, less reactive than the original manure.
Power from cow poo heats homes — Plenty Magazine

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Dominican complex plans ethanol and methane from sweet sorgum

Using Sweet sorghum as the main input, a Dominican agricultural complex plans to produce 100 million gallons of ethanol per year in addition to methane, hydrogen, and several types of livestock. Such an integrated system should be able to get more value from each ton of energy crop inputs. 
Firm announces $340 mn ethanol venture in Dominican Republic

Florida company tests sweet sorghum for sugar-based ethanol

A Florida company, Global Renewable Energy, is considering the kind of sorghum that produces lots of sugar-laden juice in the stems, similar to sugar cane. The ethanol would be made from this juice rather than grain. Ethanol is easier to make from these simple sugars, but the stems must be processed quickly after harvest because of spoilage. Refineries will need to be close to production fields. Florida's year-round growing season will be an advantage, and the sweet sorgum requires less water and fertilizer than does corn, the favorite ethanol feedstock currently.
Sebastian-based business hoping crop can play key role in ethanol production : Treasure Coast : TCPalm

New Pretreatment Technology Dramatically Increases Cellulosic Ethanol Yield

A new mild acid pretreatment process promises to increase sugar yields from cellulosic biomass by 10 times according to researchers at the University of Georgia. It also uses less harsh chemicals than previous processes and works for a wide variety of biomass materials.
New Biomass Technology Dramatically Increases Ethanol Yield From Grasses And Yard Waste

Monday, July 28, 2008

U.S. study: Livestock manure could be major power source

Researchers at the University of Texas found that biogas (mainly methane) from livestock manure could produce about 2.4% of U.S. electricity needs while reducing greenhouse gas emmissions. A useful fertilizer would be left as a byproduct. Currently, a large portion of livestock manure is wasted or even produces environmental contamination.
Cow power: the energy and emissions benefits of converting manure to biogas

Friday, July 25, 2008

Encouraging use of wasted heat

A tremendous amount of power is wasted in the form of heat from power plants. Changes in regulations related to retail pricing and emissions would likely encourage use of this heat resource through the market system. The rising cost of energy makes this more likely. Thomas Blakeslee's article linked below explains some of the details of these needed changes in regulations.
Heat is Power. Let's Stop Throwing it Away!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Native grasses build soil fertility

This news is very important to the food vs. fuel debate. A new study lends support to the idea that native grasses can improve the soil while providing biomass for biofuel production at the same time. Soils currently too exhausted for food production could be restored while providing biofuel feedstocks. With a long-term rotation, these soild could then be returned to food production. This would end the food vs fuel debate, and in fact would mean more biofuel production equals more food in the long run.
Switchgrass May Mean Better Soil

Sunday, July 20, 2008

KSU Reasearchers study Pelletizing for cellulosic ethanol

A major barrier for cellulosic ethanol from energy crops is transportation of huge volumes of biomass. KSU researchers want to find out whether pelletizing cellulosic biomass using proven technology could be an answer to this dilemma, reducing volume considerably. Pellets could also be handled with existing grain handling equipment, reducing infrastructure cost.
Kansas City infoZine News - Biofuels Proof of Concept Study on Producing Cellulosic Ethanol from Pelleted Forage Crops Nets K-State Team - USA

Friday, July 18, 2008

Increased biogas injection into Germany's natural gas grid

Improved injection technologies are helping the feasibility of putting upgraded biomethane into the natural gas system as a direct replacement for natural gas. this sdresses difficulties with moving biofuels to where they are needed. The article indicates Germany could soon provide 20% of natural gas needs from biogas.
Biogas Flows Through Germany's Grid Big Time

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Add Biogas to the T. Boone Pickens Plan

T. Boone Pickens propese massive wind farms to free up natural gas that is now used for generating electricity. Much of that natural gas would be used to fuel CNG (Compressed natural Gas) vehicles. These vehicles are proven and available already in some states. Honda makes one suitable for commuting. Driving cost is generally much less than gasoline.

My only suggestion would be to add biogas to the mix as a natural gas replacement. Biogas is mainly methane siphoned from landfills or produced by digestion of all kinds of organic materials, including sewage, livestock manure, and trash. We should be taking advantage of these resources!

More about the Pickens plan here:

FuturePundit: T. Boone Pickens: Wind For Electricity And Natural Gas For Cars

Monday, July 07, 2008

Biobutanol research makes progress

The Wall Street Journal reports on the current status of biobutanol research. It's still too expensive to be practical as a transportation fuel, but progress is being made toward getting costs down. Research is also confirming that biobutanol will be easier to transport by pipeline as compared to ethanol and it can be used at a greater proportion in non-flex vehicles.
Betting on a Biofuel -

Friday, July 04, 2008

New technology nets clean water byproduct from sugar cane ethanol production

Biorefineries using this new design will be able to capture water from the sugar cane rather than losing it to evaporation. This will make cane ethanol biorefineries into net producers of relatively clean water, reversing one of the concerns about biofuel production (water use). This process would not work for drier feedstocks such as corn kernels, but my guess is that it could be modified for feedstocks such as cane sorghum, sugar beets, and Jerusalem artichoke tops -- crops than can be grown across much of North America. This would be especially welcome in areas with lower rainfall.  

Dedini launches ethanol mill that produces water | Environment | Reuters

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Biofuels from abandoned farmlands

The Carnegie institute has released a study showing significant potential for biofuel production from feedstocks grown on land that has been worn out and abandoned around the world.
GRAINNET News and Information for the Grain, Milling, Feed, Seed and BioFuels Industry

Ottawa facility to turn waste to energy

Facility will convert 400 tonnes per day of city-generated trash to energy.
GRAINNET News and Information for the Grain, Milling, Feed, Seed and BioFuels Industry

Monday, June 30, 2008

Ethanol to be made from city solid waste in Canada

Using solid waste for biofuels makes sense where feasible because it pretty much eliminates the feedstock transportation issues faced with energy crops. It also keeps some waste volume out of landfills.
Edmonton to use waste for fuel

Friday, June 27, 2008

Prospects for Cellulosic Ethanol

This is a good comprehensive article on EcoWorld about the current status of ethanol pros and cons and how we might transition to cellulosic ethanol:
Cellulosic Ethanol

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Combining plug-in electric and biofuels

Check out this very important report about combining two well-developed technologies for greater efficiency and less reliance on imported energy. Small Flex-fuel engines can easily be combined with electric motors and the latest battery technology. Electricity is quite versatile in how it can be produced and used. It could be produced more locally by home-based solar, wind, and regional generation stations powered by biogas from landfills and municipal waste.
Driving Our Way to Energy Independence - commentary on flex-fuel, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Company plans ethanol from algae in Mexico desert

Algae can be gown in water unsuitable for other uses and on land unsuitable for most crops. This could improve biofuel production levels significantly if perfected.
Reuters AlertNet - Algenol trains algae to turn carbon into ethanol

New cellulosic ethanol technique claims $1.00 production cost

An Israel company claims to have perfexcted a technique that will bring cellulosic ethanol production cost to under $1.00 USD. The technique is applicable to the step where sugars are extracted from the biomass.
GRAINNET News and Information for the Grain, Milling, Feed, Seed and BioFuels Industry

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Ethanol getting credit for Missouri's lower gas prices

Finally, ethanol is getting credit for lowering gas prices. The article linked below credits Missouri's ethanol mandate as part of the reason that gas prices in Missouri are the lowets in the nation. I don't necessarily think a mandate is the way to go, but at least this shows ethanol has some benefit at the pump.
Cheap gas in Missouri - MSN Money

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Turning human waste into energy

An Indian company, Sintex, has developed a family-sized, self-contained digester that can turn food, animal, and human waste into enough biogas to satisfy a family's need for cooking and a a fertilizer as well.
Turning human waste into energy - Feb. 27, 2008

Report concludes biofuels not dominant factor in food price increase

Even if all biofuel production never existed, we would still be facing the high energy prices that make it more expensive to plant, fertilize, cultivate, harvest, transport, and process food crops.
Food Price Increases: Is it Fair To Blame Biofuels?

Friday, May 30, 2008

Concentrator photovoltaics solar energy breakthrough

IBM is working on a system that would concentrate the sun'd energy on a smaller area, thus requiring less PV cells and other equipment. This could make large scale power production more feasible.
IBM Research Could Lead to Reduced Costs in Solar Farm Technology

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Renewable Gasoline produced from Algae

Sapphire Energy announced production of a renewable gasoline from algae. This is not biodiesel or ethanol. It is a gasoline than can replace petroleum-based gasoline in any application and would be fully compatible with the petroleum pipeline system, unlike ethanol. They say their modular system can be easily scaled up and it works with water unsuitable for crop irrigation or drinking and on land unsuitable for food crops.
GRAINNET News and Information for the Grain, Milling, Feed, Seed and BioFuels Industry

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Volvo plug-In hybrid concept includes flex-fuel engine

The ReCharge Volvo concept car is a plug-in hybrid with motors in the wheels, eliminating the need for a drivetrain. This increases efficiency. In addition, the small flex-fuel engine serves only to recharge batteries. This means it can run at a constant rpm and be tuned for optimum efficiency and fewest harmful emissions when running on ethanol fuel. This is perhaps the best application for biofuels such as ethanol.
Volvo ReCharge Plug-In Hybrid Concept Car Review and Specs |

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Rice husk generator brings power to villages

Two University students have started a business that brings electricity to rural communities in India through gasification of rice husks. The idea could expand to other parts of the world.
Powering Villages from Rice Husks

Monday, May 12, 2008

Biofuels at Landfills

Scientific American posted this article about making ethanol from trash that would normally go to landfills. Methane escaping from landfills can be used to power the ethanol biorefinery.
Trash-Based Biofuels: From Landfill to Full Tank of Gas: Scientific American

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Automated home ethanol production appliance available

Perhaps home production of fuel for your vehicle is getting easier. A California comany is taking orders for an automated home ethanol production and dispensing unit. The feedstock is sugar or alcoholic beverages. The company claims a production cost of $1.00 per gallon. They will work with sugar distributors for supplying customers with the feedstock. Tax rebates are available to offset purchase cost. Learn more at the company web site:

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Ethanol from barley planned for new biorefineries

Not only does barley thrive outside the corn belt, but it can be grown on millions of acres of fallow ground in the winter in the U.S. Southeast without irrigation. That way it would not compete with food crops and in fact would tend to improve the soil (build organic matter) and lessen soil erosion. Biorefineries in the U.S. southeast would also be able to supply ethanol to customers in the southeast with much less transportation cost as compared to shipping ethanol from the midwest corn belt.
GRAINNET News and Information for the Grain, Milling, Feed, Seed and BioFuels Industry

Biofuels from bacteria

Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin have managed to develop a cyanobacteria (also known as blue-green algae, but not a true algae) that produces glucose and cellulose. The glucose and cellulose can be harvested without destroying the cyanobacteria. The cellulose is in a form that is easily made into biofuels such as ethanol. This could be a step toward producing much more biofuels on much less land, and on land unsuitable for food crops.
New Source for Biofuels Discovered by Researchers at The University of Texas at Austin | The University of Texas at Austin

Monday, May 05, 2008

Portable biorefinery turns trash into electricity

This sounds really cool. Purdue University scientists developed this system to solve two problemes at once for the military--disposal of trash and production of electricity where needed. The system produces ethanol and biogas (similar to natural gas). Both fuels are then burned in a specially designed generator. Such a setup could be designed to burn hydrated ethanol, which is considerably easier to produce than the anhydrous ethanol currently being used in U.S. automobiles. The article linked below does not address this aspect, but I assume it has something to do with the ability to design a small, portable system.
<p>Scientists develop portable generator that turns trash into electricity </p>

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Ethanol lowers overall cost of gasoline

The small portion of the food price increase that is due to ethanol production appears to be offset by a lowering of fuel prices according to this article:
Ethanol production saving consumers money

Monday, April 28, 2008

Manure gasification at Texas ethanol biorefinery

The aricle linked below has a nice diagrams and explanation of Panda Ethanol's manure gasification system. It will almost eliminate the use of natural Gas at the facility. Farmers in the area currently pay to have manure hauled away. Now Panda will haul it away at no charge to the farmers.
GRAINNET News and Information for the Grain, Milling, Feed, Seed and BioFuels Industry

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

E10 ethanol blend reducing fuel cost for Missouri drivers

I live in Missouri, and I've noticed gasoline prices around here are always considerably less than the national average. Perhaps ethanol is playing some part in this, as claimed in this article:
Missouri Ruralist

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Cattle power ethanol plant technology

Here is a nice description of an ethanol biorefinery powered by cattle manure:
Cattle power new ethanol plant technology

Friday, April 11, 2008

Company offers to provide cellulosic biofuel feedstock anywhere in U.S.

A provider for cellulosic feedstocks could be a vital piece in the biofuel puzzle for many biorefineries.
Domestic Fuel � Archives � Company Offers Wood for Cellulosic Ethanol

Green Gasoline Could be Better than Ethanol

Here is an example of technology possibly evolving from current biofules such as ethanol to better ones. The cellulosic "green gasoline" discussed in this article sounds like it could be a direct replacement for gasoline without the modifications needed fo high levels of ethanol:
Green Gasoline Could Power Future Cars and Jets

Thursday, April 10, 2008

bioethanol from trash could be significant

Concerned about fodd crops going for biofuels? How about using trash as a feedstock? The researcher mentioned in this article thinks the trash going to U.S. landfills each year could provide enough ethanol to replace the oil coming from the Middle East:
Cooking up a load of bioethanol - 07 Apr 2008 - Oil & gas news - NZ Herald: "the annual US refuse stream of about 500 million tonnes could theoretically yield up to 13 per cent of his country's transport fuel."

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Economist says ethanol plays very small role in food price increase

This research, not funded by the ethanol industry, concludes ethanol was responsible for no more than a 2% rise in food prices over 5 years.
North Platte Telegraph - Expert: Ethanol gets bum rap

Friday, April 04, 2008

Study shows switchgrass may be better than corn for ethanol

Switchgrass can be grown in many places and on many soils unsuitable for the major food crops such as corn. It also requires less irrigation. It is generally not irrigated, even in areas much too dry for growing most row crops without irrigation. This new study uncovers still more advantages of switchgrass:
Radio Iowa: Nebraska professor says switchgrass beats corn ethanol in several ways

Firm to make biofuel from algae found in waste streams

A New Zealand company about to begin producing "biocrude" from algae found in the waste stream from industry. Their technology is designed to purify the wastewater and produce biocrude in a sicngle process.
Emerging Energy News: Aquaflow steps up algae-to-biocrude project

Biosolid disposal system can also make syngas and electricity

This Florida system will use syngas (biogas) derived from the waste material itself to power the waste treatment process, saving the cost of purchasing natural gas. Larger systems, they say, will be able to make excess electricity as well, turning the system into a net power producer. As the cost of energy continues to rise, every municipality
should consider something like this when building or upgrading waste treatment facilities.
Sanford, Florida Chooses MaxWest Environmental Systems to Turn Sludge into Renewable Energy: "'Compared to the projected cost of natural gas, a fossil fuel, Sanford will save $9,000,000 over the 20-year life of our contract,' said Paul Moore, Sanford Utility Director. 'This technology has provided us with the opportunity to save money while managing our waste stream and protecting the environment.'"

Ethanol not the only cellulosic biofuel

Little-known biofuel alternatives to ethanol might actually be easier to make from cellulosic materials and just as useful. Biogas could replace natural gas and BioOil can replace heating oils. Here is an article about a Canadian company making BioOil from sawdust plus they make fertilizer and generate electricity in a cogeneration plant:
GRAINNET News and Information for the Grain, Milling, Feed, Seed and BioFuels Industry: "Dynamotive Energy Systems Ships BioOil and Char From West Lorne and Guelph, ON Plants"

Iowa ethanol facility wants to grow algae for biodiesel production

Green Plains Renewable Energy Inc. in Shenendoah, Iowa has applied for a grant to help with an algae to biofuels pilot project. Research has already shown that huge yields per acre of mainly biodiesel and some ethanol can be had from algae grown in water. Why do this next to an ethanol biorefinery? The carbon dioxide by-product from making ethanol can be used to help the algae grow faster--a very nice symbiotic relationship. The local newspaper has very good in-depth article here:
SW Iowa News - 'Green scum' at GPRE plant could be key to energy crisis: "'What's exciting is it's taking waste products from an ethanol plant, like water and carbon dioxide, 148,000 tons of which is dispensed into the air as a green house gas,' said Connell. 'They'll use that to produce massive amounts of algae.

'To put it in prospective, if you had a diesel car, one acre of algae would allow you to drive that car 370,000 miles, compared to about 2,400 miles on soybean oil, which is the basis for most bio-diesel.'"

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Firm wants to make electricity from cane

A Louisiana Comany has developed a special variety of sugar cane with high biomass for making electricity. They say it is easier to replant and more weather resistant than common cane varieties.
News : Cane-fueled (New Iberia, LA)

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Company to make ethanol from sweet sorghum juice in south

Renergie, Inc. will make ethanol from sweet sorghum juice in Louisiana and Florida. This presents several advantages over corn kernel ethanol, including lower energy use for processing and cultivation. Sorghum also thrives with less water and fertilization, while yielding more ethanol per acre than corn kernels. It also tolerates poor soils and widely varied soil types, including soils that are not very well suited for food production.
Biofuels News (Green Portal)

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Foundation to plant 1,000 acres of switchgrass in Oklahoma for ethanol

Planting large-scale for commercial production will accelerate the development of growing techniques and varieties that will maximize cellulosic ethanol profits, energy balance, and yield/acre. The Noble foundation is organizing these plantings on farms in the Oklahoma panhandle. 
Foundation to plant 1,000 acres of switchgrass in Oklahoma -

Ethanol from poplar with expected net energy ratio of at least ten

Corn-derived ethanol is usually considered to have a net energy ratio of around 2 or less. This new process will have a much better energy ratio. It will use fast-growing poplar trees as feedstock. These can be grown in regions and on soils unsuitable for row crops like corn and many other food crops.
The Energy Blog: ZeaChem Announces Poplar Tree Feed Stock Agreement for High Yield, High Efficiency Bio-Refinery

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

New process for cellulosic ethanol, butanol

ZeaChem, a U.S. company, claims they can produce cellulosic ethanol for 80 cents per gallon (wholesale) by extracting acetic acid from cellulose and hemicellulose, while also extracting hydrogen from lignin. The hydrogen and acetic acid are them combined to make ethanol. They say this process extracts more ethanol from a tone of material. They plant to use fast-growing poplar trees as the feedstock. They also claim to be able to easily switch to producing butanol or other fuel types should the market warrant a switch. This could be quite significant considering the advantages of butanol with regard to automobile and pipeline compatibility. More information at:
Is vinegar the secret ingredient for biofuels? | Green Tech blog - CNET

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Company estimates up to 1/3 of transport fuel needs could be satisfied by ethanol from trash

Considering all the worry in the media about ethanol taking land and resources from food production, the possiblility of producing large amounts of ethanol from trash that would otherwise go to landfills is tantalizing. It wouldn't require more cropland and it would keep valuable biomass from going to landfills.
Trash-Based Biofuels: From Landfill to Full Tank of Gas: Scientific American

Dairy farm could make ethanol from manure

There are ethanol biorefineries using methane from cow manure as a power source for the facility, but this if the first I've heard about actually making ethanol from manure. Methane also derived from the manure would provide power at the facility in this case as well. The process not only results in a renewable motor fuel, but odor is reduced at the farm as well. This is a major concern in some areas, and could make the process more attractive to farmers.
The Sturgis Online Community - News

Specialty gas stations tout biofuels as ‘earth-friendly’

Specialty gas stations are beginning to open across the nation specializing in biofuels. These retailers can use biofuels as a marketing angle, branding their operations as earth-friendly. The latest example is Zarco 66 in Topeka, Kansas: / New gas station touts its biofuels as ‘earth-friendly’

Ethanol pipeline from midwest to east coast proposed

This is the first proposal I've heard of for a large-scale ethanol pipeline. The initial cost would be high, but it would lessen the cost of ethanol transport over time. Currently, most ethanol is moved by truck or train. More info here:
Business News for the Central Pennsylvania region including the Harrisburg, York and Lancaster areas -

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

LifeLine Foods to Supply 100% Ethanol for IndyCar Series

Lifeline foods in St. Joseph Missouri was founded by farmers long ago to process corn kernels into food for animals and humans. They still do that, but now they separate the starches that aren't so good for eating and make that part into ethanol. They are also pioneers in energy efficiency. They get a lot out of every bushel of corn. Now they have been chosen to supplu ethanol fuel for the Indy Racing League.
LifeLine Foods Becomes 2008 Official Supplier of 100% Ethanol for IndyCar Series

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Coskata and GM Partnership and Process

The article linked below contains details on the Coskata and GM partenership and the process they will use to make cellulosic ethanol. The numbers look impressive for net energy balance, low water use, low cost, and flexibility in feedstocks used.

Coskata and GM Partnership - History and Process � - Start Today :: Save Tomorrow

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Thousands of acres of cellulosic energy crops to be planted near St. Joseph MO

Farmers near St. Joseph, Missouri will have the chance to be in on the next big thing in biofuels. Ceres, Inc. Will be supplying seeds and agronomic guidance for switchgrass, sorghum, and other energy crops designed for cellulosic biofuel production in a biorefinery to be engineered by ICM, Inc. This scale of production will allow for rapid advances in crop variety selection, agronomic practices, and processing technology.
Ceres to Supply ICM With Seeds For Cellulosic Biofuels Project

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Company producing biodiesel from algae

Solazyme is a company making biodiesel from algae. If perfected, this could push biodiesel production well past what is possible with oil crops such as soybeans. Read more at:
Domestic Fuel » Archives » World’s First Oil Producers At It Again

First American Cellulosic Plant in Production

KL Process Design Group appears to be the first company to build a commercial cellulosic ethanol biorefinery in the U.S. This Wyoming company is using waste wood, but could use cardboard and other waste paper products as well.
Domestic Fuel » Archives » First American Cellulosic Plant in Production

Friday, February 01, 2008

Iowa Power Fund to support energy independence projects

Iowans involved in renewable energy research and development might look into this new source of funding.
Sioux City Journal: Days of cheap energy are over, lawmaker says: "The Iowa Power Fund is charged with distributing $100 million in grants and loans over the next four years for projects which will help the state become energy independent."

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Energy expert proposes mandating flex-fuel for all U.S. sold cars

This is an interesting idea. I would only add that if we do this mandate, we should consider also mandating that these flex-fuel vehicles or a certain percentage of them be optimized for better fuel economy on ethanol. By taking advantage of ethanol's high octane, this would reduce our use of fossil fuels much more than just using standard flex technology that uses ethanol relatively inefficiently.
Energy expert touts 'flex-fuel': The author-engineer says vehicles that run on biofuels will help the U.S. break its oil addiction.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

cellulosic ethanol from switchgrass promises good energy balance

An abstract from a study by researchers at the USDA and University of Nebraska indicates ethanol from switchgrass should result in "540% more renewable than nonrenewable energy consumed" and overall emmissions of greenhouse gases would be 94% lower than from ethanol-free gasoline. Switchgrass field for this study were established on 10 farms across widely varied locations in the middle portion of North America. These results still need to be reproduced on a commercial scale, but this is perhaps the best indication to date that ethanol from switchgrass could be highly renewable and reduce greenhouse gases significantly. Soil erosion would be less as compared to traditional row crops as well.
Net energy of cellulosic ethanol from switchgrass -- Schmer et al., 10.1073/pnas.0704767105 -- Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

Monday, January 21, 2008

E. Coli for making butanol fuel

Scientists at the National Renewable Energy Lab are closing in on a better way to make butanol, an alcohol that has a higher BTU content than ethanol and better compatibility with gasoline. It can even be mixed with ethanol to improve its compatibility with gasoline. It also has a high octane rating, similar to ethanol, great for turbo-boosted engines. Butanol research deserves close attention as it could advance the use of biofuels considerably. Read more at: Biofuels News (Green Portal) -- Januaty 17, 2008 article by Alexandra M. Goho on

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Research confirms prairie grass could be good source of ethanol

A study by the USDA and the University of Nebraska found that switchgrass grown on marginal farmland in Nebraska, South Dakota, and North Dakota could yield 300 gallons of ethanol per acre. An acre of corn kernels grown in those same states, says an AP article, yields about 350 gallons of ethanol per acre on average. Many of the corn acres in those states are irrigated, however, while the switchgrass will not need irrigation. Fertilizer and pesticide inputs will likely be much less as well, and erosion will greatly reduced since switchgrass is a perennial and does not require annual tillage. In fact, soil planted in grasses tends to be improved over time. All in all, then, switchgrass could prove to be a profitable and beneficial crop for farmers and the quality of our soils and environment. The last remaining challenge is to design a viable system for cellulosic ethanol production. Several possibilities are about to be implimented.
from the High Plains Journal:
Research confirms prairie grass could be good source of ethanol

Friday, January 18, 2008

Florida company hopes to make ethanol from sweet sorghum

It's high time more was done with ethanol from sorghum. The potential yield per acre and energy balance could easily top ethanol from corn kernels, and without the need for cellulosic processing technologies. Sweet sorghum stems contain readily available simple sugars. This Florida venture seeks to replace dwindling citrus acres with sorghum for ethanol. -- Jeff Goettemoeller
Plan makes Brevard an ethanol producer | | Serving Brevard County and Florida’s Space Coast

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Cellulosic ethanol production could fight Gulf Dead Zone, help fisheries

This article discusses a benefit of cellulosic ethanol production that should be receiving more publicity. The perennial grasses and trees that could be used as feedstock do not require large amounts of nitrogen fertilizers. Widespresad production then, could reduce the "dead zone" in the Gulf of Mexico caused by fertilizer runnoff from corn and other annual row crops. At the same time, soil planted to perennials tends to gain in fertility, even when some biomass is removed periodically. -- Jeff Goettemoeller
January 16, 2008 -- by Rhett A. Butler:
Cellulosic ethanol production could fight Gulf Dead Zone, help fisheries

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Process gasifies biomass for ethanol production

This ethanol production process has the potential to be flexible and efficient. They claim they will produce ethanol for $1.00 per gallon. The intermediate product could possibly be upgraded to replace natural gas instead of reforming to ethanol this flexibility would be good for the economic viability of the operation. The company is Coskata. The press release is here:
Press Release - Launch

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Turbo, direct injection combo could make ethanol a fuel economy winner

Ford Motor Company has announced a major initiative to put a new engine design in a wide range of cars and trucks starting with model year 2009. Dubbed Ecoboost, the new design combines turbo boosting and direct injection, allowing a small engine to produce the same power and performance as a much larger engine. This article from Associated Press mentions the ecoboost engines will be "ethanol compatible." I assume this means they would be E85 compatible. If so, this is big news. If done properly, this kind of engine could actually get better fuel economy on E85 as compared to ethanol-free gasoline, thanks to the very high octane of ethanol. This concept is described in my book, Sustainable Ethanol, and on some of my previous blogs on EnergyAnswers. MIT developed an ethanol direct injection concept and I believe they were working with Ford. I can't find any mention of whether the Ecoboost in particular would do better on E85, but if it did, that would be a big boost for ethanol use. E85 is less expensive than standard gasoline in many areas of the country. If it provided equivalent or better fuel economy, that would be a huge incentive for motorists to seek it out and for more fuel station owners to begin offering E85 as an option.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Cellulosic ethanol crops could improve soil quality

One of the important points made in my new book, Sustainable Ethanol," is that ethanol can be produced from perennial crops while improving soil quality at the same time. This view is backed by USDA's ARS National Soil Tilth Laboratory in Ames, Iowa. In a study published in the 2006 Agronomy Journal, they found that a rotation including forage crops is better for soil quality as compared to traditional corn/soybean rotations or continuous corn. Perennial forage crops could be used as ethanol feedstock when cellulosic conversion technologies are perfected. Ethanol production could then spur improvements in soil quality which would improve long-term food security as well. Learn more about the study at:
Iowa Farmer Today