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.'"