Friday, January 29, 2010

Microbes Produce Fuels Directly from Biomass.

January 28, 2010
by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkley National Lab

California, United States [] A collaboration led by researchers with the U.S. Department of Energy's Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) has developed a microbe that can produce an advanced biofuel directly from biomass. Deploying the tools of synthetic biology, the JBEI researchers engineered a strain of Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria to produce biodiesel fuel and other important chemicals derived from fatty acids.

“The fact that our microbes can produce a diesel fuel directly from biomass with no additional chemical modifications is exciting and important,” says Jay Keasling, the Chief Executive Officer for JBEI, and a leading scientific authority on synthetic biology. “Given that the costs of recovering biodiesel are nowhere near the costs required to distill ethanol, we believe our results can significantly contribute to the ultimate goal of producing scalable and cost effective advanced biofuels and renewable chemicals.”

Keasling led the collaboration, which was was made up of a team from JBEI’s Fuels Synthesis Division that included Eric Steen, Yisheng Kang and Gregory Bokinsky, and a team from LS9, a privately-held industrial biotechnology firm based in South San Francisco. The LS9 team was headed by Stephen del Cardayre and included Zhihao Hu, Andreas Schirmer and Amy McClure. The collaboration has published the results of their research in the January 28, 2010 edition of the journal Nature. The paper is titled, “Microbial Production of Fatty Acid-Derived Fuels and Chemicals from Plant Biomass.”

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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Policy Developments Continue to Drive Biofuel Output.

Monday, January 25, 2010

GLOBAL - Once again the global biofuel industry grew in 2009, according to FO Licht.

They reported that global bioethanol in particular, and biodiesel production increased according to Peter Duggan, Strategic Information Services, Bord Bia.
In a bid to improve fuel security while also addressing greenhouse gas emissions from fuel usage, many governments have introduced new biofuel blending mandates.
While global bioethanol production increased by 12 per cent to 73.9 billion litres in 2009, growth levels have slowed as higher feedstock prices in 2008 reduced profitability in the sector.

The principal producer of fuel ethanol in the world is the United States. The USDA report that one third or 107 million tonnes of the total US maize crop will be used to produce 39.7 billion litres in 2010. Brazilian output slowed considerably in 2009 due to high sugar prices for cane, where prices more than doubled to $58/tonne. However, Brazilian ethanol production still increased by 2% to 24.9 billion litres in 2009.

In contrast, bioethanol production in the EU increased by 40 per cent to 3.9 billion litres in 2009. According to Strategic Grains, they suggest that four per cent of the EU wheat crop and six per cnet of the maize crop will be converted into ethanol in 2010.

Global biodiesel production grew by four per cnet to 16.4 billion litres in 2009, a modest improvement on 2008 levels, when oil prices had peaked. In 2009, EU output rose by more than eight per cent to 9.8 billion litres due to higher blending rates required.

Elsewhere, biodiesel production grew in Argentina, Brazil and Asia. This was offset by US production falling by 45 per cent to 1.7 billion litres in response to EU trade restrictions and lower domestic demand.

TheBioenergySite News Desk

Friday, January 22, 2010

Turning Plastic Wastes to Fuel.

Written by Sabrina Deparine
Monday, 18 January 2010 10:11

Based on statistics, the United States alone produces 50 million tons of plastic wastes annually. The figure is too much considering that plastics are low-value wastes, meaning, people may not bother that much to have them recycled because they could not give back favorable returns aside from the usual “saving the earth” sentiment. Wouldn’t it be nice if we can find a way to convert these low value wastes to something high-value that we can use again?

Perhaps this was the same question that Envion thought of. The company has opened a USD 5-million plant in Washington D.C. which can convert 6,000 tons of plastic wastes to nearly a million barrels of new material resembling oil. According to Michael Han, Chairman and Chief Executive of the company, their output product can be blended with other materials or components to produce gasoline or diesel.

Although the exact procedure in the plant is not disclosed, the plant can convert plastic wastes to fuel material for about USD 10 per barrel. Bales of plastics like beverage cups from coffee shops and fast food chains, margarine containers, planters and others are stored temporarily in a part of the plant premise, waiting to be shredded and fed into the machinery. They can also digest the blue bins and PET bottle caps. However, Han hastily added that they do not accept PET (particularly PET bottles with the “1” embossed at the bottom) in their plant because these have higher values in the recycling market.

Envion’s plant is equipped with two-story-high chemical reactor, internal agitator, and heating equipment that can give off infrared energy. The process is driven by electricity, not with open flame, so operators can control the temperature when converting plastic materials to liquid fuel. About 82% of the plastic wastes fed to the machine are converted.

The output is something similar to murky lemonade. It does smell like gasoline or diesel though. One oil company has already agreed to buy this material to blend them with motor fuel. Mr. Han is also currently in talks with other oil and petroleum companies and working out to secure a license for this Envion technology so it can be used around the world.

The process also produces a sludge-like by-product which can be burned for energy. Based on pilot tests, each ton of waste can produce as much as 3 to 5 barrels of oil-like product. Each barrel takes about 59 to 98 kilowatt-hours of electricity, roughly two or three days’ worth of electricity for a typical household. This means that the price of electricity per gallon is roughly around 7 to 12 cents.

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100 Percent Renewable? One Danish Island Experiments with Clean Power. ScientificAmerican

One small island in Denmark is technically 100 percent powered by sustainable sources of energy. Could the experiment succeed anywhere else?
By David Biello

TRANEBJERG, Samso, Denmark—It can seem as if the icy, cutting wind off the North Sea never stops blowing on this Danish island in winter, bending back the grass, whipping straight the flags, and setting mammoth wind turbines to their stately spinning. That's good news for Samso's 4,000 or so inhabitants, seeing as they own shares in 20 of the 21 turbines that either tower over the island or rise from the offshore waters of the Kattegat Strait, which connects the Baltic and North seas.

Some people see wind turbines as eyesores or complain about the sound of their whirring blades, but Soren Hermansen, chief proselytizer for the island's renewable energy experiment and director of the Samso Energy Academy, disagrees. "If you own a share in a wind turbine it looks better, it sounds better," he says. "It sounds like money in the bank."

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Thursday, January 21, 2010

Tax credits announced as biodiesel still suffers. BiodieselMagazine

By Nicholas Zeman
Posted January 14, 2010

The Obama administration coming out with billions of dollars from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to increase “clean energy manufacturing” could seem almost like a taunt to biodiesel producers.

President Barack Obama announced “awardees” of the $2.3 billion clean energy manufacturing tax credits as existing biodiesel producers languish over the lapse of their specific federal blender tax credit. “Projects are assessed based on the following criteria: commercial viability, domestic job creation, technological innovation, speed to project completion, and potential for reducing air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions,” the White House stated on Jan. 8.

There’s a word that describes the 2009 renewable fuels year—idle. Huge plants sat quiet for months as vegetable oils were high and diesel prices were not. Imperium Renewables Inc., which suffered an explosion at its Grays Harbor plant in Washington, said it was in no big hurry to make repairs while the tax credit is nonexistent. And just as the blender tax credit birthed the term “B99,” its expiration also killed it. Producers, such as Renewable Energy Group Inc., are offering the more expensive B100 in its place.

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Sunday, January 17, 2010

World’s largest landfill gas-to-liquid natural gas plant on line. BiomassMagazine

By Anna Austin

Waste Management and Linde North America have commissioned what they say is the world’s largest landfill gas-to-liquid natural gas plant at the Altamont Landfill near Livermore, Calif., producing enough fuel to power about 300 Waste Management waste and recycling collection vehicles.

The $15.5 million project received contributions from four state agencies—the Integrated Waste Management Board, the Air Resources Board, the Energy Commission and the South Coast Air Quality Management District.

The project is the first of its kind for Linde, according to Steve Eckhardt, head of alternative energy business development. He said since commissioning of the plant, which began in September, production has been ramped up to full capacity—about 13,000 gallons per day.

In a simplified description, trapped landfill gas is sent into a purification system to create a high-quality biomethane stream, which is then introduced to a liquefier. “It’s sent through a heat exchanger and passed against a cold mixed refrigerant, and that warm biomethane is turned into liquid natural gas,” Eckhardt said. “It’s sent right into storage tanks at the site, which are basically giant thermos bottles that keep the product cold.”

A tractor trailer picks up the fuel and transports it to Waste Management refueling sites about once a day, Eckhardt said. The plant typically requires two people to operate, but it can run unattended and be operated remotely so personnel are not constantly required on-site.

“We’re really excited about this plant’s progress,” Eckhardt said. “The commissioning phase went relatively well where we were able to get liquid natural gas produced in a timely fashion—we came on line without any major problems and that’s not easy to do with first-of-a-kind projects.”

Eckhardt says Linde will likely be involved in similar projects relatively soon. “We’re very excited, being the largest one in the world,” he said. “Today, conventional natural gas is used in many different types of fuels. What’s exciting here is that we’re using biogas, the lowest carbon fuel out there per the California Air Resources Board, to fuel a fleet of vehicles that already exists—it’s a great bang for a buck, a more environmentally friendly fuel and it’s produced domestically.”

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Saturday, January 16, 2010

Rice Straws: Inexpensive Renewable Source of Biofuels.

Written by Sabrina Deparine
Monday, 11 January 2010 10:13

A team of researchers from China have recently reported a discovery that can turn rice straw into a source of biofuel. Rice straw is the stem and leaves left behind after the grains have been harvested.

The new study conducted by the team details a new method of boosting the production of biofuels from rice straw. According to the expected results of the study, using rice straws as a renewable source of biofuels can increase the production by as much as 65%. No other further details about the study have been disclosed since it will be published in the ACS bi-monthly journal, Energy & Fuels.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

ISO standard to make bioenergy sustainable. BiodieselMagazine

Posted January 13, 2010

ISO will develop an International Standard to address sustainability issues linked to bioenergy. The standard will be produced by a new ISO project committee, ISO/PC 248, Sustainability criteria for bioenergy.

ISO/PC 248 will bring together international expertise and state-of-the-art best practice to discuss the social, economic and environmental aspects of the production, supply chain, and use of bioenergy, and identify criteria that could prevent it from being environmentally destructive or socially aggressive. The decision to develop the standard responds to the growing international interest in bioenergy, and the current lack of globally harmonized sustainability criteria.

Already some 29 countries are involved as participants or observers, including large markets such as China and the USA. Brazil (ISO member ABNT) and Germany (ISO member DIN) will provide the secretariat and leadership of the committee under a twinned arrangement. The future International Standard is expected to be a key tool in helping governments meet their alternative fuel targets.

Already a number of international initiatives require their signatories to find ways to substitute fossil fuels, and bioenergy has been identified as an alternative fuel with great potential.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said at the 9th Conference of the Parties, “We clearly need biomass as a source of renewable energy. We cannot do without the contribution to climate protection made by sustainable and ecologically produced biomass. But we have to make sure there is no conflict of aims.”

The future standard (ISO 13065) should make an important contribution to this global goal by for example, helping avoid technical barriers to trade on bioenergy. ISO 13065 will disseminate technical know-how and stimulate the ongoing pursuit for quality through the incentive to research.

In addition to tackling social and environmental issues, the standard will make bioenergy more competitive to the benefit of both national and international markets. ISO 13065 will be particularly valuable in helping developing countries producers to compete.
ISO/PC 248 will hold its first meeting in April 2010.

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Monday, January 11, 2010

Qatar National Entities And Airbus Announce Major Environmental Initiative. Qatar Airways

Sunday 10 January 2010

Doha, QATAR – Qatar Airways, Qatar Science & Technology Park (QSTP) and Qatar Petroleum (QP) announced today that they will jointly carry out engineering, economic analysis and move into the development of sustainable bio jet fuel that will also look into ways for production and supply, with the support of Airbus.
The ground-breaking initiative – a world first – comes just months after the State of Qatar’s national airline completed an historical milestone in the aviation industry.

Qatar Airways successfully conducted the world’s first commercial flight powered by a Gas-to-Liquid (GTL) fuel blend last October, which proved to be a significant development in the use of alternative fuels.

Addressing a press conference in Doha today, Qatar Airways Chief Executive Officer Akbar Al Baker said: “Building on the experience and success of the GTL Consortium, we now move to the next phase of alternative fuels while continuing to develop GTL further. While others talk, we take action!”

Seven months ago, Qatar Airways, Qatar Science & Technology Park together with US-based Verno Systems Inc., embarked on a very comprehensive and detailed feasibility study on sustainable Biomass-to-Liquid (BTL) jet fuel and possible by-products such as bio diesel.

This study looked at all available bio feed stocks that would not affect the food or fresh water supply chain. It also looked at existing and future production technologies with a viability analysis.

Based on the result of this in-depth study, the partners have agreed to establish the “Qatar Advanced Biofuel Platform” (QABP) which will lead activities in the following four areas:
-A detailed engineering and implementation plan for economically viable and sustainable bio fuel production
-A bio fuel investment strategy
-An advanced technology development programme
-Ongoing market and strategic analysis

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Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Biofuels 2010: Spotting the Next Wave

The Prometheus Institute has turned from solar energy to biofuels in a new study by Joshua Kagan and Travis Bradford that gives an economic analysis of all current and proposed generations of biofuels. The report charts a clear path forward for future biofuels over the next 13 years, with forecasts for a firm establishment of a diverse biofuels industry globally and significant growth for algae biofuels.

Biofuels have been in existence since the 1970s। Prior to 2010, every global commercial biofuel plant was either for first-generation ethanol or biodiesel. Biofuels are an inherently local proposition. The US is the largest ethanol producer in the world. In 2009, the US produced 10.5 billion gallons of ethanol (seven billion gallons of gasoline equivalence) using corn as a feedstock while the second largest producer, Brazil, created about eight billion gallons of ethanol (5.5 billion gallons of gasoline) using sugarcane. Europe is the most important biodiesel producer in the market, with European rapeseed accounting for 58 per cent of the global biodiesel produced in the world.

Although biofuels have been a resounding success in Brazil where they displace 50 per cent of gasoline consumption and do not use rainforest land, the US and European experience has been more controversial. The “food vs. fuel” debate, land and water-use constraints, questions about whether the energy and carbon savings of biofuels are grossly overstated, and the reality that most forms of first-generation biofuels are uneconomical without generous government subsidies have tainted the perception that biofuels are a worthy alternative form of energy.

The next few years will witness the commercialisation of “advanced” biofuels. In 2010, the first commercial “cellulosic” ethanol plants will go online. Known as a “second-generation” technology, cellulosic ethanol is produced via bio-chemical or thermo-chemical means from the non-food component of biomass.

The US government has mandated that 100 million gallons of cellulosic biofuel be blended into the nation’s gasoline supply in 2010 increasing to 16 billion gallons in 2022. Large players like BP, Shell, Chevron, POET, ADM, INEOS, Abengoa and smaller companies (with large backing) like Coskata, Range Fuels, and Verenium are all relentlessly pursing cellulosic biofuel.

Success for cellulosic biofuel producers will depend on many variables including:
access to consistent supply of affordable feedstocks,
ability to access project finance and/or government loan guarantees
improved economies of scale with production methods.

While second-generation cellulosic ethanol remains a major priority among policy-makers and venture capitalists, serious attention is being paid to third-generation algae biofuels. Known as a “drop in” fuel, algae can potentially serve the gasoline, diesel, and aviation markets (whereas cellulosic ethanol only displaces gasoline).

Certain strains of algae grow quickly and up to 60 per cent of its body weight can be lipids, which are easy to transform into petroleum replacements. Algae consume CO2, can thrive in brackish or salt water, and do not require cropland. Although there are significant economic and logistical constraints affecting the commercialization of algae, this report provides an in-depth explanation of those constraints and the likelihood that unsubsidized algae will become cost competitive with petroleum prices.

This 307 page report provides a thorough examination of the liquid transportation market. Through understanding the key supply and demand side drivers for petroleum, we created oil price scenarios through 2019. Since biofuels are attempting to replace petroleum, any discussion about the future of biofuels must be grounded within the context of the economics of petroleum. We find that by 2015, cellulosic ethanol will be the largest “advanced” biofuel, comprising 2.4 billion gallons of the estimated 50 billion gallons of global biofuel produced.

By 2022, algae biofuels are the largest biofuel category overall, accounting for 40 billion of the estimated 109 billion gallons of biofuels produced.

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