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."

Friday, November 13, 2009

Investment in Ethanol from Sweet Soghum

DPG Investments LLC plans to invest in ethanol from Sweet Sorghum. This is a promising development becasue of the efficiency and simplicity of converting sorghum sugars into ethanol as opposed to starch from grain. Starch must be broken down into simple sugars. The drawback is spoilage of simple sugars and transportation costs for the raw feedstock.. Various approaches have been investigated for meeting these challenges such as making silage or on-farm pre-processing of sorghum cane. DPG's appeoach will to install small ethanol biorefineries on the farms where the sorghum is grown, integrating them with farming operations. This will drastically the cost of moving feedstock.
New Venture to Finance Sorghum-to-Ethanol Projects - Domestic Fuel: "A new venture could provide up to $376 million for projects that will turn sweet sorghum into ethanol"

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Flexible feedstock ethanol getting closer

Plasma gasification is one route to ethanol production. It can utilize just abot any carbon-based feedstock, includung municipal solid waste. Coskata is getting close to going full scale with this technology.
Coskata's new Lighthouse cellulosic ethanol plant, in depth — Autoblog Green: "Flex ethanol is the term Coskata is using for ethanol that can be made with almost any feedstock, i.e., ethanol made using the Coskata process."

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Iowa Ethanol producer deploys algae production

A Shenadoah, Iowa ethanol biorefinery is using waste heat and C02 to nourish algae production. In the future, algae could be used for feed, food, or fuel. The unveiling will be October 14, 2009.
BioFuels Journal - News & Information for the Ethanol and BioDiesel Industries: "Omaha, NE—Green Plains Renewable Energy, Inc. (NASDAQ: GPRE) announces the unveiling of BioProcessAlgae, LLC’s Phase I photobioreactor pilot project."

Hydrated Ethanol can increase diesel engine efficiency

CleanFlex Power Systems is retrofitting diesel engines to run on hydrated ethanol combined with diesel. The ethanol is a mixture of 40% water and 60% ethanol, dubbed EM60. Two separate tanks are used. the hydrated ethanol and diesel come together at the last second during combustion. The result is less emmissions and more horsepower. I consider this to be a high-efficiency use of ethanol. Click the link for an article with more details.
Precision Pays

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Biogas from waste comes to Flint

Let's hope this project works well, as it could then be replicated at many more waste treatment plants, reducing cost and producing renewable energy from a waste product. Biogas can be upgraded to use like natural gas, including as a fuel for converted vehicles or vehicles built to tun on natural gas.
Swedish Biogas Starts Construction Of New Biogas Plant In Flint City, Michigan, US - Energy Business Review: "The $8-million- to $10-million plant will be built on city's wastewater treatment plant. The project is expected to be operational by next fall. Human waste treated at the wastewater treatment plant will be used to create biogas."

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Distributed pre-processing for cellulosic ethanol

One of the biggest limitations for cellulosic ethanol is the need to transport huge quantities of bulky biomass. If this biomass can be easily processed to increase energy density near where it is harvested, this would decrease transportation cost. Pyrolysis is one such method. The result of pre-processing is then pyrolysis oil which could be shipped by pipeline or tanker. The article linked below hints at another possiblity--cellulosic sugar. This dry substance could be stored and shipped like grain.
BioFuels Journal - News & Information for the Ethanol and BioDiesel Industries: "Comet Biorefining has demonstrated this unique technology at pilot scale and estimates that cellulosic sugar can be produced for as low as 7 cents per pound based on laboratory testing."

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Fertilizer from corncobs

Nitrogen fertilizer is usually made from natural gas. Now bioammonia will be made from Iowa corncobs.
SynGest, Heartland plan to make bioammonia The Des Moines Register: "SynGest Inc. has signed a letter of intent with Heartland Co-op of West Des Moines to explore a partnership to make and sell ammonia from corncobs."

Thursday, July 30, 2009

TX facility produces High-Octane Green Gasoline

BioFuels Journal - News & Information for the Ethanol and BioDiesel Industries: "The gasoline was produced using Terrabon's licensed MixAlco™ technology to pre-treat and ferment biomass at the Company's advanced biofuels research facility, Energy Independence I, located in Bryan, Texas.
This process yielded organic salts, which were converted to ketones and then to high-octane gasoline."

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Synergy between ethanol, CHP, and electric cars

I agree with the linked article that we chould make more use of combined heat and power (chp) production and natural gas, but I do not agree with pitting these technologies against ethanol. CHP can be combined with ethanol production for greater production efficiency. On the use side, most people are going to want liquid fueled engines in combination with plug-in electric in order to extend the range. Ethanol or other high octane biofuels could be the perfect fuel for this application. A small engine running at a consant speed just for battery recharging can be optimized to make the best possible use of ethanol, thereby increasing efficiency of the system. There would be little or no fuel economy deficit when using ethanol in an optimized engine. 

CHP Electricity Powers Cars 22 Times Farther Than Ethanol! - Renewable Energy World

Innovative New Yeasts Could Help Cellulosic Ethanol Production

ARS researchers have been thinking outside the box. Rather than focusing only on the difficult task of converting xylose into ethanol, they developed yeasts that can use xylose for energy and thereby convert more of the glucose in the feedstock into ethanol. Xylose is a type of sugar that is found in cellulosic biomass. But many cellulosic type materials also contain glucose. Jerusalem artichoke stems and sweet sorghum stems might be good candidates.

New Yeasts Could Help Fast-Track Biofuel Production / July 28, 2009 / News from the USDA Agricultural Research Service: "The new yeast doesn’t directly convert large quantities of xylose into ethanol. Instead, xylose provides energy the yeast needs to grow and reproduce without oxygen. This means that the glucose that might have been used by the yeast to grow and reproduce is now available for fermentation, and the rate of ethanol conversion increases."

Monday, June 15, 2009

Developing a direct injected turbo ethanol engine

This article does a good job of explaining how an engine can be designed to take advantage of ethanol's properties to wipe out the usual fuel economy penalty. This kind of technology could be revolutionary.

AutoSpeed - Going Direct Injected Turbo Ethanol!: "When operated on ethanol blends such as E85, current flex-fuel engines pay a fuel economy penalty of about 30 per cent compared to gasoline. The EBDI engine substantially improves ethanol's efficiency, and performs at a level comparable to a diesel engine."

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Combining biogas, ethanol, and livestock production

This has been tried before. Hopefully thay've got it right this time. This combination should produce greater efficiency and preserve nutrients better. The material left after biogas production could be a valuable fertilizer.
Green Car Congress: Profile: Farmers EthanolFocusing on Sustainable Corn Ethanol Production and a Triple Bottom Line

Friday, May 22, 2009

Air-fueled Battery Being Developed

The article says this is at least 5 years from being available, but it could be big for electric cars, laptops, and other devices with batteries. I could also be used for storing wind energy.
Air-fueled Battery Could Last Up to 10 Times Longer - Renewable Energy World: "A new type of air-fueled battery could give up to ten times the energy storage of designs currently available."

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Sewage could help solve coming phosphate fertilizer shortage

According to the article linked below, "peak phosphate" may be a more urgent issue for our world than "peak oil." Rock phosphate mined from a few dwindling reserves is vital in world food production. Researchers at the University of British Columbia have developed a method for extracting nutrients from municipal sewage in a form that is useable on farms. It could also provide a valuable revenue source for municiple sewage plants around the world. The sewage plant carries the sweet smell of valuable phosphorus: "'Phosphate production is going to peak around 2035 and then tail off,' Dr. Ashley said. 'If we don't do something we are looking at mass starvation.'"

Plans for cellulosic ethanol in Missouri

This biorefinery would turn a wide variety of waste products and energy crop feedstocks into cellulosic ethanol and other valuable chemicals. Production of ethanol would start out at 10 million gallons per year, with the potential of expanding to 40 million gallons.
Marshall Democrat-News: Story: Company CEO explains details of biorefinery processes, products: "Irshad Ahmed, president and CEO of Pure Energy Inc. the company that is spearheading the effort to build a biorefinery complex in Saline County, spoke on the specifics of operations at the complex during the Saline Green Project town hall meeting, including how to involve local farmers."

USDA studies Watermelons for Ethanol

USDA researchers are looking for a way to use blemished watermelons ususally left in the field. They estimate 20% of the total crop goes unharvested. They are also looking at other crops with simple sugars--such as sweet sorghum--that could be rotated with watermelons to supply biorefineries more consistently. This would be a vital part of making the plan work. Another important aspect is that valuable neutraceuticals could be extracted from the watermelons in addition to the sugars for ethanol. This would prabably provide the primary revenue stream.
Watermelons Tapped for Ethanol / May 20, 2009 / News from the USDA Agricultural Research Service: "On average, a 20-pound watermelon will yield about 1.4 pounds of sugar from the flesh and rind, from which about seven-tenths of a pound of ethanol can be derived."

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Company plans to make biobutanol from dairy and wood waste

They plan to use gasification and then convert the gas to biobutanol. They say this will be more profitable than fermentation, even with a relatively small biorefinery. Biobutanol is easier to ship by pipeline than ethanol and has a higher energy density. The leftover material can be used as a fertilizer.
Company trying to turn waste into biofuel Statesman Journal: "Salem businessmen to turn dairy dung into butanol for vehicles"

Friday, May 08, 2009

Bioelectricity and liquid biofuels can work together

This study discussed at the link below finds it more efficient to generate transportation electricity from biomass rather than making the biomass into liquid biofuels for transpotation use. I don't doubt this, but I would suggest a combination is still the best in the form of a flex-fuel plug in hybrid. Without a huge an expensive battery array, a purely electric car simply does not have the range to satisfy most consumers. A small biofuel-powered engine running at a constant speed could extend the range quite efficiently. It would also allow quick refueling at fuel stations on long trips.
Also, I doubt the study considered direct injection of high octane biofuels. In this way, a small amount of ethanol or biobutanol can be leveraged to increase fuel economy tremendously. It only requires a small second fuel tank that would be filled infrequently. I suspect it would rival the efficiency of biomass electricity. It would be interesting to see that comparison.
Bioelectricity More Efficient than Ethanol for Transportation, Study Shows : Gas 2.0

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Ford E85 Direct Injection Boosting Study

Keep an eye on this one. Direct injection ethanol boosting could revolutionize driving and the ethanol industry.
Green Car Congress: Ford E85 Direct Injection Boosting Study: A Less Expensive Alternative to Diesel: "Improved engine efficiency leverages the effect of the limited supply of E85, compared to simply displacing gasoline as in an FFV [flexible fuel vehicle]...this leveraging can be very substantial, and has the effect of dramatically improving the net energy balance of ethanol, and therefore its beneficial impact on reducing petroleum consumption.
—Stein et. al. (2009)"

Institute researches Jerusalem Artichokes for ethanol

Jerusalem artichoke stems contain lots of simple sugars. Also, it is a perennial, so it would not need to be planted every year as with corn. Researhcers are working on Jerusalem Artichokes at the Institute for Advenced Learning.
Institute the backbone of regional efforts to go green | GoDanRiver: "“Jerusalem artichoke is a really cool plant,” said John Kennedy, director of research and innovation. “It has a lot of soluble sugar in it, and you need sugar to make ethanol.”"

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Solar power captured in space, beamed to Earth

They say radio waves would be beamed to earth where they would then be converted to electricity. Cost has been the obstacle until now. PG&E thinks they have lowered costs sufficiently.
Solar power captured in space, beamed to Earth "PG&E wants to put solar cells above the clouds, where they don't need to worry about anything blocking their view of the sun."

Biogas from industrial wastewater

Here is an example of energy production that helps solve a problem--wastewater treatment.
GRAINNET News and Information for the Grain, Milling, Feed, Seed and BioFuels Industry: "Ken's Foods Utilizes Anaerobic Membrane Bioreactor to Generate Biogas to Power Wastewater Treatment Plant Operation"

Friday, April 10, 2009

Ethanol from Duckweed

This "duckweed" is a fast-growing aquatic weed that would grow in wastewater. It would clean up the water from municipal wate treatment or livestock production. At the same timw, researchers say it would produce more starch per acre than corn. The starch could be a feedstock for ethanol in existing biorefineries.
GRAINNET News and Information for the Grain, Milling, Feed, Seed and BioFuels Industry: "North Carolina State University Researchers Find High-Starch Duckweed Could Be Utilized to Produce Ethanol More Quickly and Efficiently Than Corn"

Friday, April 03, 2009

Engines can retrofit to run on half ethanol and half water

Perhaps the most significant advantage of using dilute ethanol (aka hydrous ethanol) is that it shoul dbe less expensive to make. It takes a lot of energy to remove the last bit of water from ethanol.
GRAINNET News and Information for the Grain, Milling, Feed, Seed and BioFuels Industry: "Sand Point, ID—An Idaho company is developing an internal combustion steam engine that will run on 50% water and 50% ethanol."

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Bacteria for cellulosic biofuels from poor soil

A successful crop involves the cooperation of numerous microbes. Scientists have found that adding specific bacteria to poplar trees accelerates their growth considerably, even when they are growing on poor soils. These are soild that would be next to useless for row crops such as corn.
Scienceline » Bacteria for Better Biofuels: "Adding the right kind of bacteria, scientists find, can boost plant growth on poor quality soil."

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Making ammonia fertilizer from corn cobs

Here is an example of cellulosic technology thinkinging outside the box. It may be more efficient to make fertilizer from cellulosic material rather than liquid fuels. This would displace natural gas now used in the production of ammonia fertilizer.
Plant to make ammonia from cobs | | The Des Moines Register: "SynGest of San Francisco said it will make anhydrous ammonia fuel and fertilizer from corn cobs and other biomass from a factory to be located on 75 acres near Menlo."

Friday, March 27, 2009

Ethanol biorefinery using landfill gas as process fuel

Co-locating an ethanol plant near a landfill is one way to utilize landfill gas. Most landfills are not exploited as they could be.
GRAINNET News and Information for the Grain, Milling, Feed, Seed and BioFuels Industry: "The POET plant will utilize the landfill gas in a wood waste-fuel boiler to generate process steam."

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Methane form sewage to power buses

Plans are in the works to run city buses in Oslo, Norway, with biomethane extracted from sewage and food waste. These underutilized resources are available in any city.
Norway turns to poo-powered buses COSMOS magazine

Lower cost method for processing algae

ALgae is a potential feedstock for various biofuels such as ethanol or biobutanol. If the cost of harvest, drying, and dewatering can be lowered as much as the linked article mentions, it could make algae much more competitive.
GRAINNET News and Information for the Grain, Milling, Feed, Seed and BioFuels Industry: "'We have demonstrated a truly disruptive technology that reduces that cost by more than 99 percent - from $875 per ton to $1.92 per ton,' Youngs said."

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Ethanol pipeline studied for U.S.

It seems that some ethanol commentators are under the impression that ethanol cannot be shipped by pipeline. This is not strictly true. Many years ago, a U.S. compamy did some successful tests on shipping ethanol in a multi-product pipeline. Recently, Magellan and Poet announced plans to explore the possibility of building an ethanol pipeline from the midwest to the east coast. Brazil is already shipping ethanol by pipeline.
Poet, Magellan to study ethanol pipeline - Ethanol Producer Magazine

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Solazyme turning out auto-ready ‘crude’ from algae

Solazyme Inc. is using a non light dependent algae fed with biomass. The result is a sort of crude oil that can be made into many products including biodiesel. A bid advantage is he compatibility with existing automobiles and distribution infrastructure. Green Content - Algae fuel start-up Solazyme turning out auto-ready ‘crude’

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Dairy converts trucks to biogas power

A California Dairy is using biomethane from cattle manure to power two farm trucks.
GRAINNET News and Information for the Grain, Milling, Feed, Seed and BioFuels Industry: "Nationally, dairy cows could power about one million vehicles with clean-burning biomethane."

Friday, February 13, 2009

Plans to produce flex-fuel ethanol engine with better fuel economy

The British firm Ricardo expects to roll out a new engine design in 3-5 years that would run more efficiently on ethanol. They expect it to have only a 15% drop in fuel economy on ethanol, much better than the 30% drop experienced in most models today. This will make ethanol, such as E85, more cost-competitive and more attractive to consumers. The use of such engines in plug-in electric hybrids would create an attractive package in terms of fuel efficiency, low emmissions, and low cost of operation.
Ethanol stalled, but experts say it remains viable fuel option - Rebranding Michigan - Michigan Business Review – "It aims to leverage the higher octane and higher heat of vaporization elements of ethanol to increase fuel economy. It integrates direct injection technology, variable valve timing, exhaust gas recirculation and optimized ignition technology."

Direct Solar to Hydrogen Plant to be built in Australia

Water can be broken down into hydrogen and oxygen with electricity. This facility in Australia will use solar concentrators to directly heat water to 1000 degrees. At this level of heat a given amount of electricity can produce more than twice as much hydrogen in the electrolysis process. In essence, then, they are making hydrogen from direct solar energy (as opposed to solar electricity) by displacing some of the electricity needed for the electrolysis process.
Direct Solar to Hydrogen Plant Goes Up in Australia Hydrogen Cars and Vehicles: "Solar Systems of Hawthorne in Victoria, Australia is developing the country’s first and perhaps even the world’s first direct solar to hydrogen commercial power plant."

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Ethanol from Idaho agricultural waste

Solving two problems at once can make a process more economically viable. In this case, it is waste management and fuel production.
ISU Headlines » Researchers seek to create ethanol from Idaho agricultural waste: "They are not exactly alchemists trying to turn lead into gold, but almost: researchers from Idaho’s three largest public universities are seeking to create ethanol from the Gem state’s agricultural waste.
And they have a realistic shot at converting potato, sugar beet and other agricultural waste – perhaps even cow manure – into a fuel that can run in your car.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Iowa Plant To Create Fuel From 'Pond Scum'

If all goes as planned, The CO2 coming from an Iowa ethanol plant will soon be used to promote the growth of algae for additional biofuel production. This kind of symbiosis could become important for the biofuel industry.
Iowa Plant To Create Fuel From 'Pond Scum' - The Green Pages News Story - KCCI Des Moines: "SHENANDOAH, Iowa -- In Shenandoah, green algae is going from pond scum to a power source."

Tax incentives for biogas proposed

Perhaps the most important benefit of biogas production from waste manure would be the reduction of odor and water pollution from manure handling. It would also replace some natural gas and produce new rural jobs.
The Independent > Archives > News > Ag > Nelson, Johanns sponsor biogas bill: "Nebraska Sens. Ben Nelson and Mike Johanns are among the sponsors of legislation promoting the development of biogas — a natural gas substitute created by converting agricultural, animal or other organic wastes — through tax incentives."

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Bateria increases poplar biomass yield up to 50%

Poplar is being researched as a promising crop for cellulosic ethanol production. These trees grow very fast, even on marginal land unsuitable for most types of food production. It has long been known that many plants rely on organisms such as fingi and bacteria to optimize uptake of nutrients. The research described in the linked article seeks to optimize this relationship by innoculating with the most desireable types of bacteria. This technique might have applications for food crops as well. Farmers already innoculate legume crops on a routine basis to improve nitrogen fixation from the air. Other types of innoculation might be a good way to unlock the potential of nutrients found in the soil, but in a form that is unavailable to most plants.  
Greentech Media: Green Light � Blog Archive � Good News for Zeachem: Bacteria That Increases Poplar Growth

Thursday, January 22, 2009

AFEX Pretreatment could reduce cellulosic ethanol cost

A more efficient way of releasing sugars from cellulose could revolutionize cellulosic biofuel production.
MSU-patented process can reduce the cost of making cellulosic biofuels MSU News Michigan State University: "The AFEX (ammonia fiber expansion) pretreatment process, developed by Bruce Dale, University Distinguished Professor of chemical engineering and materials science, uses ammonia to make the breakdown of cellulose and hemicellulose in plants 75 percent more efficient than when conventional enzymes alone are used.The AFEX (ammonia fiber expansion) pretreatment process, developed by Bruce Dale, University Distinguished Professor of chemical engineering and materials science, uses ammonia to make the breakdown of cellulose and hemicellulose in plants 75 percent more efficient than when conventional enzymes alone are used."

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Biomass Gasification plus CHP in Denmark

A demonstration plant in Denmark is perfecting biomass gasification combined with CHP (Combined Heat and Power). The BioGas is used to power generators and waste heat is captured and used. This method results in more electricity produced from the biomass as compared to direct burning without gasification.
Biomass Gasification in Skive: Opening Doors in Denmark - Renewable Energy World

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Cornell technology makes small scale biogas more feasible

Biogas can be made on a farm or landfill scale with simple technology. Removing the hydrogen sulfide, however, has been a more complicated process and not suited to small scale. It is toxic and needs to be removed for many applications and to reduce pollution. Scientists at Cornell have developed a small scale solution for removing hydrogen sulfide that is suitable for farms and other locations outside the large refineries. Biogas than then be used in properly equipped engines for electricity generation, transportation, and other work.

Cornell Chronicle: Cornell technology makes biogas greener: "Cornell plant scientists have invented a new method that uses manure and other farm byproducts to remove toxic hydrogen sulfide from biogas -- a renewable energy source derived from the breakdown of animal waste."

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Companies turning algae Into jet fuel

The article linked below discusses these 5 companies: Solazyme, Inventure Chemical Technology, Sapphire Energy, Aquaflow Bionomic Corp., and Algenol Biofuels.

Algae in the Air: 5 Startups Turning Algae Into Jet Fuel