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."