Monday, November 30, 2009

Big Oil and Biofuels: Who is Doing Who?

The following excerpt of a BiofuelsDigest article gives a fairly good rundown on which oil companies are supporting which biofuels efforts. It takes a lot of money to build a pilot demonstration project plant.
Verenium’s Bill Baum, addressing the San Diego-based BioCom group, told participants that, to reach true scale, “You’re going to have to raise capital on the order of $1 billion. So this is not a trivial type of thing. … If you don’t have a big brother with deep pockets, like a BP, like an Exxon or Shell, it’s going to be very difficult.”

Biologist Greg Mitchell, of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, added that pilot projects, not just bench testing in labs, are required to understand the engineering required for economically viable production. “We can’t just be doing it in a laboratory,” Mitchell told the BioCom group, “We’ve got to get the first 10 acres, first hundred acres.
“It’s going to cost money. We need the government. We need collaborations. We need big businesses.”

As reported in the Digest all throughout 2009, oil majors are moving steadily into the biofuels arena, as well as an increasing number of companies looking at renewable chemicals and plastics — such as Dow and Dupont. In the 2008-09 50 Hottest Companies in Bioenergy rankings, only one oil company, Petrobras, made the rankings — in 2009-10, look for four to make the Hot 50 and as many as eight, if their investments are considered.

So where are the oil majors today?

Shell. Incoming CEO Peter Voser – whosse company recently focused all its renewable energy activity on biofuels – is invested in Cellana, an algae JV with HR Biopetroleum, but confirmed that, since taking over on July 1st, he has not undertaken a visit to the JV’s operations in Hawaii. Shell is also an investor in enzyme pioneer Codexis, and cellulosic ethanol producer Iogen.

Petrobras. Seeking Alpha reports that “Petrobras has also been aggressively expanding its renewable energy programs in wind, solar and biofuel. Petrobras’ total biofuel production, particularly important for Brazil’s energy needs, is set to increase at a 17.9 percent annual rate through 2013.” The company has announced entries into first-fgeneration soy biodiesel and sugarcane ethanol, as well as an R&D effort aimed at producing cellulosic ethanol.

BP Biofuels. The company, which looks certain to enter the 50 Hottest Companies in Boenergy for 2009-10 and may lock down a high position, has a series of investments with Verenium, plus a JV with Dupont in Butamax, the biobutanol fuel developer; a joint venture with Martek to explore algal fuels development, and is co-venturing with British Sugar in a wheat ethanol plant in the UK. The company is also funding a $500 million grant to the Energy Bioscience Institute in Califonia which is researching advanced biofuels.

Marathon. Invested in cellulosic ethanol pioneer Mascoma.

Chevron. Is invested with Mascoma in a venture to produce ethanol and lignin. Also has a JV, Catchlight nrgy, with Weyerhaueser, to pursue biofuels made from forest waste. Also supports NREL in algal fuels research, and is investing in Solazyme.

Valero. The company now owns seven ethanol plants acquired from the VeraSun bankruptcy. Has a JV with Waste Management and Terrabon for renewable fuel development from waste; also is developing a 135 Mgy renewable diesel venture in Louisiana with Darling, using animal residues among other feedstocks.

Total. Invested in biobutanol pioneer Gevo.

ExxonMobil. Invested in a $600 million R&D partnership with Synthetic Genomics focused on the development of algal fuels.

China National Petroleum. China’s largest state-owned oil company has established a broad venture agreement with UOP to develop renewable, drop-in fuels.

ConocoPhillips. Its venture to produce biofuels from animal waste with Tyson is shuttered due to tax credit expiration, but it has a $5 million research investment with the Colorado Center for Biorefining and Biofuels.

Indian Oil. Signed an MOU to develop a microcrop-based biofuels platform in cooperation with PetroAlgae.

PetroVietnam. Developing significant ethanol infrastructure using sugarcane and cassava as feedstocks. _BiofuelsDigest


Biobutanol Finds a New Home in the UK

Whereas ethanol is around about two-thirds the energy density [of gasoline], with butanol we're in the high eighties [in terms of percent].

It's less volatile [than ethanol]. It isn't as corrosive, so we don't have issues with it at higher concentrations beginning to eat at aluminum or polymer components in fuel systems and dispensing systems. And it's not as hydroscopic--it doesn't pick up water, which is what ethanol can do if you put it in relatively low concentrations. So we can put it through pipelines. _TechnologyReview
BP and DuPont are building a new UK demonstration and development plant for production of biobutanol from biomass.
Kingston Research will construct a facility to scale-up technology to manufacture biobutanol from renewable feedstocks. The technology package will then be provided to Butamax Advanced Biofuels LLC, also a BP-DuPont joint venture based in the United States, which has been formed to commercialize and market biobutanol. (Earlier post.)

Biobutanol is a new lower-carbon fuel and we are excited about demonstrating this technology in the Humberside region. Biobutanol is a biofuel that can be made from all the same crops as bioethanol and can be blended into petrol at higher levels, which means that we’ll be able to introduce biofuels more quickly. In the future, it will be possible to convert bioethanol refineries to produce biobutanol, allowing this industry to make an even larger contribution to meeting the world’s energy needs.
—Luc Van Den Hemel, Kingston Research Limited General Manager

The BP site at Hull is also home to Vivergo Fuels, a joint venture between BP, British Sugar and DuPont. Vivergo is constructing a world-scale bioethanol facility that will begin producing bioethanol in 2010 and will play a major role in meeting the UK’s requirements for biofuels. _GCC

Butanol is a far superior renewable fuel than ethanol, but present yields are much lower. Industrial chemists, microbiologists, and engineers are working overtime to bring up the yields for butanol-from-biomass closer the levels achieved for ethanol. Since butanol is much easier to separate from water than is ethanol, overall costs for butanol may soon drop below those for producing ethanol.


Saturday, November 28, 2009

More On Upside-Down Peak Oil in US

US oil production peaked in 1970 at 9.637 million bpd. But US oil production in the US for 2009 is on schedule to achieve 5.268 million bpd -- more than any year since 2004. Oil imports have been dropping recently.
Projections from the U.S. Minerals Management Service (MMS) indicate that the primary driver for this year's U.S. oil production resurgence is actually just getting started. That driver is the Gulf of Mexico, where operators have begun launching a group of new fields, fulfilling what has been a decade-long focus on unlocking the promise of deepwater exploration there.

In its reporting, Platts concluded that with the jump in the Gulf of Mexico, combined with the emergence of two other new oil-production trends, it appears the U.S. has a chance of at least maintaining oil output in the range of five million to six million b/d for some years to come. "We see it above five million barrels per day for the next 10 years or so," Platts quoted Peter Jackson, senior director for IHS CERA, as saying. "There is still a tremendous amount of exploration potential in the U.S. and that plateau could be sustained."

The Gulf posted its biggest oil production year in 2002 with 1.556 million b/d, but only 61% of that total came from deepwater. In contrast, this year the MMS projects oil output of 1.213 million b/d with 76% from deepwater as the Gulf ramps toward an expected new oil production record of 1.635 million b/d by 2011

Besides growth in the Gulf, those other trends involve further development of the Bakken Shale oil play in North Dakota and success by a group of operators now training their onshore exploration sights toward new oil targets at the expense of natural gas.

The development of the Bakken into a robust, new oil province is well under way, according to data from EIA. Bakken oil output has already elevated North Dakota into fifth place among U.S. states for oil production with average daily output of 202,000 b/d at the end of 2008. But that number already appears to be old, even though is was 50% more than 2007 figures. For example, in June of this year, production in North Dakota had climbed to 215,000 b/d. _BusinessInsider
When oil production enters a long term expansion after a supposed 30 year old peak, it may be time for peak oil disciples to re-assess the meaning of their religion.


Friday, November 27, 2009

Siemens Makes Algae Harvesting Easier

Siemens has devised a method of using magnetite micro-particles to "magentise algae". The algae envelop the magnetic particles, and are then easily separated from the aqueous growth medium using a magnetic field.
The researchers put magnetite particles in the water with the algae. The algae enclose these iron oxide particles, which are only a few micrometers in size. The resulting mixture of algae and magnetite can then be extracted using a magnet without having to drain the water— a major cost and time factor in other harvesting schemes.

The new technology offers numerous advantages, Siemens says, including less water loss and more efficient cultivation. The amount of algae harvested can be determined by varying the amount of magnetite used. A certain amount of algae is left behind as the starting stock for the next population.

So far the new technology has only been used on the laboratory scale, but the Siemens researchers are confident that it will also work on a larger scale. _GCC
Using a "racetrack" shaped growing pond with gentle circular current, the culture could be moved continuously through a magnetic extraction station -- for continuous harvesting.

Enough algae would remain in the brackish water or wastewater to keep the process going.

A lot of issues remain if algal fuels are to become economical on a commercial scale. Each remaining problem will be solved several ways, until more optimal economic approaches are devised. Industrial engineers understand this. College professors generally haven't a clue.


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

$60 a Barrel Crude from Australian BTL / CTL Project

Rentech has developed a patented, proprietary and proven technology that economically converts syngas from fossil and biomass resources into hydrocarbons that can be refined into ultra-clean biodegradable synthetic fuels, specialty waxes and chemicals. _YahooFinance
Peak Oil, meet BTL / CTL. Rentech's CTL process can take high sulfur coal and turn it into clean energy PLUS! sell the extracted sulfur as a high value chemical. This approach points out a problem with the fake-enviros who are trying to shut down modern industry via energy-starvation. These false prophets see only problems, never solutions. As we have seen from CRU emails and commented code, they are not above deception, collusion, and intimidation in order to have their way with the public purse. Time to put them out to pasture, and consult real engineers and scientists for the purposes of finding solutions.
Australia’s Syngas Limited has engaged Rentech (NYSE AMEX: RTK) to provide Fischer-Tropsch fuels production preliminary engineering services for Syngas’ proposed commercial scale coal and biomass to liquids (CBTL) fuels facility in Southern Australia, known as the Clinton Project. This work builds on the Clinton Project Pre-Feasibility Study outcomes released in April 2009 by Syngas.

The Clinton Project is a large-scale coal-to-liquid (CTL) project with non-food carbon neutral biomass providing supplementary feed (CBTL) as part of the Company’s carbon management plan. The Clinton Project involves a fully integrated diesel production process, comprising onsite coal and biomass gasification; onsite power generation to meet process requirements; and Premium Diesel production, using Fischer-Tropsch technology. Access to five core proven technologies underpins the commercial scale development of the Clinton Project:

Gasification (Syngas production);
Power Generation;
Fischer Tropsch (Premium Diesel/liquid production);
Dewatering/Drying; and
Gas Conditioning.
Projected output of the Clinton Project is a maximum 13,000 barrels of diesel per day (15,800 barrels of oil equivalent per day or 5.3 million BOE per year); 62,000 tonnes per year of sulfur for industrial use; 350,000 tonnes per year of granular slag for use in road base/building products; up to 114MW of power during peak periods; and potentially potable water for local use.

Syngas projects about a 10% ROI at US$60/barrel of crude, which higher returns at higher oil prices. _GCC

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Ceres Works With Choren to Optimise BTL Feedstock

Ceres -- an "energy crop" company -- and Choren, the European BTL company, are collaborating to optimise the best strains of switchgrass and/or willow as BTL feedstock.
Feedstocks could represent up to 50% of the cost of producing transportation fuels.

Fine-tuning feedstocks will contribute greatly to process economics, enhancing the quality of the synthesis gas mixture and reducing the capital costs associated with the downstream gas-cleaning operations. This type of lock-and-key approach between feedstocks and processing technology will be critical in the commercial scale-up of the advanced renewable fuel industry.
—Christopher Peters, vice president of finance at CHOREN USA

In addition, Ceres and CHOREN plan to test commercial quantities of dedicated energy crops in a future collaboration effort at the world's first commercially operating Biomass to Liquids facility in Freiberg, Germany. _GCC
Choren's BTL process involves multiple stages of thermochemical processing to produce syngas, which can then be utilised for direct combustion or as feedstock for Fischer-Tropsch synthesis of liquid transportation fuels.

Labels: ,

Monday, November 23, 2009

Hydrogen Making the News

Brian Westenhaus has an interesting article dealing with producing hydrogen from algae. As Brian has often commented, the advanced biofuels movement is going to require a lot of hydrogen.

Cambridge Mass. startup Sun Catalytix has $3 million in venture capital to develop its catalysts for producing hydrogen from water using sunlight as an energy source. Some analysts see this as a good way of producing "fuel" for overnight generation of power at solar power plants.

Hydrogen is notoriously difficult to store safely, but Carnegie Institution scientists think they have discovered a means of hydrogen storage that might eventually be made safe and inexpensive.

Hydrogen will be particularly useful for fuel cell applications -- stationary rather than mobile -- and for catalytic production of biofuels from biological materials such as biomass and bio-oils.

For mobile fuel cell applications, methane and methanol fuel cells are likely to take the lead.


Friday, November 20, 2009

Peak Uranium? Not Just Yet

Brian Wang recently posted an update on uranium ore production out to 2020. Brian looks at a number of different U - producing nations and mines in answering the question of whether there will be enough Uranium for 2020.
Michael Dittmar has been getting some notice around the internet about a claim that uranium supplies cannot/will not be increased from uranium mines around the world Many people who are using his report do not have time to read through more than the highlights and assume that his work is thorough.

Dittmar is biased. Problems and errors with his four papers have been pointed out to him and he ignores it. Also, his work as a particle physicist is not very good either as he is willing to be scientifically dishonest and misinterpret research papers even when the authors are in the room during his presentation and telling him he is wrong.

...Jordan already had a lot of uranium in phosphate deposits. China National Nuclear Corporation General Manager Kang Rixin expects that the first batch of uranium from Jordanian resources will be transported home in 2010; the total quantity probably will be 700 tons. (Caijing Magazine July 5, 2009). It has been expected that the uranium from Jordan phosphate would scale to 2000 tons per year.

Russia is developing the Elkon mine

Russia is developing the Gornoe mine (600 tons) for 2010-2012.

2009 should have 48,000 tons of production

2010 should have 54,000-56,000 tons of production
another 3000 tons from Kazakhstan, Valencia in Namibia, Full year of Malawi production

The world is going to over 100,000 tons of uranium per year in a business as usual mode before 2020. A lot more than the IAEA/OECD projection seem likely from Kazakhstan and less from Canada until Cigar Lake gets sorted out and depending upon which projects proceed based on uranium prices.

Backstopping regular mining is the large supplies of HEU, LEU in Russia and the US (75,000 ton surplus at the DOE). Another backstop is the depleted uranium.

Eventually prices will go up and some deferred projects like 2300/t per year Midwest mine in Saskatchwan, Canada and full scale up Imouraren in Niger will occur (smaller scale opening likely)

In part 1 of Dittmars uranium doom prediction he offers a bet

For those interested, I am offering a bet that the 2009 and 2010 numbers will not be higher than 45,000 tons and 47,000 tons, respectively.

I am willing to take those bets as stated. I would win and be correct if the 2009 world uranium mining production numbers come out to 45,001 tons or higher and the 2010 production numbers to 47,001 tons or higher.

As indicated, I think 2009 and 2010 should come out much higher even with some delayed projects and the accident at Olympic Dam.

I also predict that Cigar Lake will be producing 4000 tons per year or more before 2020.

Africa and Kazakhstan will be where most of the new uranium production is added leading to 2020. Increases from Canada, Australia, Russia, Jordan and other places as well.

Beyond the highly enriched uranium that Russia is supplying (downblended from decommissioned nuclear bombs or unmade bombs.) The US Department of Energy (DOE) also has 75,000 tons of uranium. Shortfalls in uranium mining from delays can be made up for by nuclear utilities being willing to pay Russia enough or to make arrangements with the DOE. The million tons of depleted Uranium can also be enriched to make several tens of thousand tons of fuel.

As Brian points out, enriched uranium can be downblended and depleted uranium can be enriched. Underground mines have barely been tapped for Uranium, and even seawater has Uranium that can be extracted for fuels.

The killer of "Peak Uranium" is Thorium, which is not only far more plentiful than Uranium in the Earth's crust, Thorium can also utilise waste fuel from the world's nuclear reactors for the Thorium cycle in LFTRs.

Peak Uranium is in the minds of those who actually want to witness widespread energy starvation, violence, and devastation in the cities of advanced nations. Peak Oil doomers, Peak Uranium doomers, Global Warming doomers -- they are all of the same crop of "bystander chic" incompetents. Raised in a psychologically neotenous environment to lifelong irresponsible adolescence, they cast about for entertainment bloody enough to sate their vacuous mental appetites.


Thursday, November 19, 2009

Whatever Happened to Peak Oil USA?

The Peak Oil doom movement predicts rapid declines in oil production, once it has peaked. The peak for the US was supposed to have occurred decades ago. Yet instead of steady declines in US oil production, we are seeing increases. This was not supposed to happen.
US crude oil production for October averaged 5.36 million barrels per day, continuing at levels not seen since 2005, according to the American Petroleum Institute’s (API) Monthly Statistical Report.

Crude production from the Lower 48 states averaged 4.67 million barrels per day, up from both last year and prior months. Even though crude production last October had recovered from precautionary platform shut-ins in the Gulf of Mexico in the face of hurricanes Gustav and Ike last September, output levels then were still lower than this October’s by nearly 15%. Meanwhile, Alaskan output, at 696,000 barrels per day, slipped from last October by 2.8% but rebounded from this summer’s lows of less than 600,000 barrels per day.

The October production figures continue to detail the industry’s success story in the Gulf of Mexico, particularly the deep waters, as well as the way new technologies have helped bring on new production both offshore and onshore.

—API Statistics Manager Ron Planting

On the demand side, gasoline deliveries for October showed their first decline since May, dropping 0.5 percent from last October’s delivery surge that followed hurricane-related supply interruptions of September 2008. However, had deliveries a year ago followed a pattern more in line with historical patterns, API estimates that this year’s gasoline deliveries for October would have shown their fifth year-to-year increase in a row—though perhaps by only about one half of one percent. _GCC
No one knows how high oil production in the Bakken field of North Dakota may grow. No one knows how high oil production in promising offshore oil fields might grow.

What we have here, is political peak oil. If political kingpins around the world can initiate policies that clamp a lid on oil exploration and production, then oil production might easily stall, or drop.

But surely that is not the type of peak oil that has gotten so many fervent believers in such an uproar?


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Compressed Intensives on Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors

This approach to fission power really looks like the safest and most sustainable approach humans have discovered so far. Why isn't it being used? Have I ever mentioned that we are living in an Idiocracy? That is why LFTRs aren't being used.

25 Minute Intensive Intro to Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors

16 Minute Intensive Intro to Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors

H/T Charles Barton

I recommend watching the 25 minute video first, then watch the 16 minute video to reinforce the basic points. At that point, you should be ready to watch all three of the roughly 1 hour long intros to LFTRs here, here, and here.

Then go and read the archives of Energy from Thorium blog and Nuclear Green blog

On the recent topic of the Hyperion small reactor, in this post, Charles Barton looks at the Hyperion small nuclear reactor, and compares it to the liquid fluoride thorium reactor (LFTR). By the time I got to the end of the this short posting, I was convinced that the LFTR approach was better than Hyperion's approach.

Previously published at Al Fin

Labels: ,

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Nano: Putting Peak Oil Out of Its Misery?

Peak Oil could occur as early as the year 2030, according to most informed analysts. But most nations are not likely to be fully prepared for oil to peak so soon. Nanotechnology appears to offer a means of maintaining production in old wells, and making new wells more viable.
Nanoscience is well suited to play a critical role in advancing the frontiers of the oil and gas industry. Reservoirs are complex subsurface permeable rock formations containing oil, gas or both. They have diverse internal properties and can be can be skinny, flat, or fragmented, as shallow as 1000 feet or as deep as 30,000 feet. Nanoscale pores permeate oil-bearing rock, (low-micron range in sandstones, mid-nanometer range in carbonates). To propel the industry forward thus requires a strong understanding of nanoparticle, fluid and solid interaction basics. The study of surface interface for example is essential to understanding pore-throats and flow rates of oil.

Nanoscience also provides solutions for the extreme conditions of the harsh downhole environment (including high pressure, high heat -- properties up to 300C, 20,000 psi), and can protect equipment and prevent corrosion or fire. Many nanotech solutions in other fields with similar harsh environments (such as aerospace engineering) have already been developed that may have a tremendous impact on the oil and gas industry.

By providing solutions for sensing and intervention nanotechnology can help find and recover more conventional oil, improve oil-field data, and diversity sources of supply.


* The need to “sniff” for new pockets of oil (e.g. by using bacterial DNA or electromagnets)
* Enhanced resolution for subsurface imaging techniques

Reservoir Characterization:

Understanding rock-fluid interaction, their chemical composition and physical characteristics at different locations inside the reservoir (pressure, flow, temperature, pH, and hydrocarbon saturation)

* The need to determine adsorption/desorption of surface active materials and mineral surface charge (wettability)
* The sensors need to withstand high temperature and pressure to characterize deep reservoirs
* The need for better image and conductivity contrast enhancers (tracers, taggants, and nanoparticles that can change conductivity deep in the reservoir)

Reservoir Management:

* Enhanced remote imaging, real-time continuous monitoring of flow-rate, pressure and other parameters during production, wireless telemetry, in situ chemical sensing
* Accurate early warning detection and location of leaks (preventing environmental hazards) _NanoConferenceCairo
An international conference on the use of nanotech for the oil and gas industries is taking place in Cairo this week -- 18, 19 November, 2009.

Labels: ,

Monday, November 16, 2009

Direct Conversion Cyanobacteria: Where Will They Get the CO2 to Make Fuels and Plastics?

UCLA researchers have engineered a strain of cyanobacteria that can directly synthesise valuable chemicals isobutanol and isobutyraldehyde from CO2 and sunlight.
Researchers at UCLA led by Dr. James Liao have genetically engineered the common photosynthetic cyanobacterium—Synechococcus elongatus—efficiently to produce isobutyraldehyde and isobutanol directly from CO2. Isobutyraldehyde is a precursor for the synthesis of other chemicals, and isobutanol can be used as a gasoline substitute.

A paper on their work was published online in Nature Biotechnology 15 November. In December 2007, biofuels company Gevo acquired an exclusive license for a method developed by Dr. Liao for modifying the metabolic pathway of E.coli bacteria for the non-fermentative synthesis of higher alcohols including isobutanol, 1-butanol, 2-methyl-1-butanol, 3-methyl-1-butanol and 2-phenylethanol from glucose. Dr. Liao is on Gevo’s scientific advisory board. (Earlier post.)

The researchers modified S. elongatus by incorporating four genes from other bacteria into the structure. The new synthetic pathway begins with the photosynthetic conversion of CO2 to pyruvic acid; three further steps make isobutyraldehyde. Extracting the final product from the mix is a simple process.

The high vapor pressure of isobutyraldehyde allows in situ product recovery and reduces product toxicity. The engineered strain remained active for 8 days and produced isobutyraldehyde at a higher rate than those reported for ethanol, hydrogen or lipid production by cyanobacteria or algae. _GCC
Al Fin supports all viable approaches to biofuels and materials production, but like other methods of "direct conversion" of CO2 to fuels, this process is dependent upon a ready supply of CO2.

Dimwitted greens in academia, media, politics, and environmental organisations, may assume that there is more than enough CO2 in the atmosphere to drive these biofuel efforts. Sadly, CO2 is less than 0.04 % of Earth's gaseous atmosphere. For direct conversion to work, highly concentrated supplies of CO2 will have to be made available.

But if coal mines and power plants are to be shut down under Obamamania energy starvation policies, we may have to import CO2 from China -- using money borrowed from the Chinese.

A good plan, if you are a green rookie of dubious mental depth.

Labels: ,

Hyperion to Announce Design of 25MWe Modular Reactor

On Wednesday in Washington DC, and on Thursday in London, Hyperion Power Generation will unveil the design of its small modular 25 MWe portable nuclear reactor. Brian Wang reports on Hyperion's plans, and provides other details on the remarkable safety and portability of the small modular reactor.

Hyperion's 25 MWe reactor is factory built and factory fueled and re-fueled. It can be shipped by truck, train, or ship. It provides enough power for 20,000 modern homes. A single fueling is good for 5+ years. They are designed for burial underground, for additional safety. All for a mere $25 million -- or about $1,250 per household in a 20,000 home community. For over 5 years of baseload power and heat, a $1,250 investment is minimal.

Perhaps you think a 20,000 home community is too large for a survival refuge? It depends on the emergency. If you are living through a situation where the minimum viable population (MVP) comes into consideration, a 20,000 household community is very close to the proper size. Particularly when the community members are selected for their ability to contribute to the long term survival not only of the community, but of the science, technology, skill set, and cultural and philosophical wealth of the modern western world.

Every community built for survival, should have the skill and knowledge set to re-create a small modern university and a small advanced industrial town. These communities will need reliable baseload power for routine heat and electricity, as well as to power small industrial projects to promote survivability and sustainability.

Some extreme catastrophes may be resolved within a 5 year time period. A successful EMP attack, for example, would require between a year and 5 years for the central authority to re-assert control and to re-establish supply lines, power, transportation, and broadband communication to remote parts of a country. For such extended emergencies, the Hyperion reactor would see the community through the worst.

Other catastrophes would extend far beyond the Hyperion's designed lifetime. While the community might continue to extract heat and power from the reactor for several years beyond the designed re-fueling date, the output would decay rapidly after a certain point.

That is why a community containing relatively large numbers (thousands) of competent individuals is so important for long-term survival. And it is why it is so important that the community be provided a solid 5+ years of reliable baseload power and heat in the early stages of adjustment away from the former established order. Thousands of isolated and distressed individuals need reassurance and stability provided in as many ways as possible.

Under the current leadership of the large western nations, hard-won resources are being squandered at record rates. The earned leadership of the west is being abdicated by incompetent governments. Power abhors a vacuum. With the surrender of western power, other powers will rise.

The new powers will not be so squeamish about human rights, of course, but the new powers will be fragmented and at war between themselves. Large scale breakdown of order should be expected.

In the case of broad-scale anarchy and war, isolated nuclei of civilisation that can provide the nuclei of a re-coalescence of western liberalism may make all the difference in the course of the next thousand years of human history.


Sunday, November 15, 2009

Small Modular Nukes for the Future

Small modular reactors (SMRs) are the coming thing in nuclear power. Already proven for decades by the US military, they can be mass-produced in factories, using modern methods of quality control, to assure a safe and uniformly precise construction. Modular reactors can be scaled to match the demand from an isolated small village or seastead, to full scale mega-grid baseload supplier. They can be shipped anywhere in the world to a prepared site, and fueled either in the factory before shipping, or at the final destination after arrival and installation.

Some 40 SMRs are now at different stages of development or design. About a dozen are at advanced design stages and could be deployed within the next decade. These include integral PWR designs (IRIS, SMART, CAREM), floating NPPs (KLT-40S), high temperature gas reactors (PBMR, HTR-PM) and India’s advanced heavy water reactor (AHWR). _Source
The B&W [Babcock & Wilcox] mPower reactor is a 125 MWe integral PWR designed to be factory-made and railed to site. The reactor pressure vessel containing core and steam generator is thus only five metres diameter. It would be installed below ground, have an air-cooled condenser, and passive safety systems. It has a "conventional core and standard fuel" enriched to 5%, with burnable poisons, to give a five-year operating cycle between refuelling. (B&W draws upon over 50 years experience as the main manufacturer of nuclear propulsion systems for the US Navy, involving compact reactors with very long-life cores.) _WorldNuclearNews
Other small nuclear reactors well along in the running:

The International Reactor Innovative and Secure (IRIS) is a 335MWe pressurised light water cooled reactor. The reactor vessel houses not only the nuclear fuel, control rods and neutron reflector, but also all the major reactor coolant system components including pumps, steam generators and pressurizer. IRIS has been under development by an international consortium (led by Westinghouse) since 1999.


SMART is a 330MWt pressurised water reactor with integral steam generators and advanced passive safety features. Developed by the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute it is designed for generating electricity up to 100MWe and for cogeneration applications.


Argentina is developing an indigenous SMR known as CAREM and plans to build a 27MWe prototype (CAREM-25) in 2011 to demonstrate the technology. The distinct design features of the CAREM are: integral primary cooling system with in-vessel steam generators, control rod drives, and pressurizer; self-pressurization; and passive safety systems.


Twin KLT-40S reactors will be used in Russia’s first floating NPP, Akademik Lomonosov, scheduled for completion in 2011. The factory-built PWRs, similar to those used in Russia’s nuclear powered icebreakers, can produce 300MWt/70MWe for electricity generation or cogeneration of electricity and heat. The KLT-40S was developed by Russia’s OKBM (experimental design bureau for machine building).

Toshiba 4S

In Japan, the 4S (super-safe, small and simple) reactor is under development by Toshiba, with outputs of 30MWt and 135MWt. It is a pool type sodium cooled fast reactor with a core lifetime of about 30 years. The 4S has reached detailed design stage and pre-licensing negotiations with the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission were started in 2007.


China’s 200MW modular HTR-PM is a high temperature gas cooled reactor with pebble bed fuel and indirect supercritical steam energy conversion cycle. Full-scale demonstration is planned for 2013. Two-module plant configuration is foreseen for the commercial version. __NuclearEngineeringMag
Cross-posted at Al Fin

The main problem for small nukes will be government licensing and regulatory bureaucracy. Under the green rookie administration currently riding roughshod over US energy supply, doing anything productive will be hell.


Friday, November 13, 2009

China: A Potemkin Wind Village

The Chinese have built an impressive amount of wind power capacity. The problem: They didn't hook it up!!!
The government simply built too many windmills, without much consideration of economic feasibility.

They now sit idle in rows.

Caijing: According to EPIA, Inner Mongolia's installed wind power capacity approaches 3.5 gigawatts, and currently nearly one-third of that is sitting idle. The remaining two-thirds capacity is supplied by turbines that run erratically, shutting off and on according to demand.

"Wind power is too concentrated" in certain regions of China including Inner Mongolia, Ma said. "When there is wind, wind power plants need to generate electricity. But power grids get overwhelmed."

And that wastes money. Nationwide, some 5 million gigawatts of wind power generating capacity never made it to the grid during the first half of 2009. Since wind farm construction costs some 10,000 yuan per kilowatt, the total idle investment is worth about 50 billion yuan.

Construction of these idle windmills was likely included as part of the nations GDP calculation. Problem is, GDP growth as a measure of economic progress means nothing if money is simply wasted on uneconomic infrastructure. America take note.
Wind capacity means less than nothing. Only wind production is meaningful. And even wind production can be more of a problem than it is worth, since the wind blows at unpredictable times and speeds.

Airheads and Bubbleheads promote large scale wind power. More substantial persons go with baseload power sources.

Wind power has its place: small scale, off-grid, isolated locations. For long range cruising yachts, wind and solar are quite nice.


Exelus Biomass to Gasoline Receives DOE Grant

Image via Green Car Congress

The BTG process applies a series of moderate-temperature, catalyzed reactions to convert lignocellulosic biomass into gasoline-range alcohols. The BioGasoline produced by BTG has a high octane rating (greater than 105 using the (R+M)/2 method), and lower blending vapor pressure (RVP) and higher energy density than conventional ethanol.

The process consists of three steps: liquid-phase decomposition of a biomass slurry with lignin rejection; stabilization in a fixed bed reactor; and deoxygenation in another fixed bed reactor. The finished BioGasoline is then separated from the water, which can be recycled. __GreenCarCongress
The better the catalyst, the lower the temperatures used -- and less energy consumed -- in the conversion from biomass to gasoline. The more efficient the 3-step process, the higher the yield of product from feedstock. Each part of every step in the process can be improved.

The largest threat to this approach to BTL (biomass to liquid fuel) besides the government, is lower energy approaches using microbes and acellular enzyme systems which do not require even moderately high temperatures.


US Number One in Total Fossil Fuel Proved Reserves

Image via Robert Rapier
According to this Congressional Research Service PDF report (via Robert Rapier), the US has more total fossil fuels resources proved reserves than any other nation. Russia is a close second, China is a distant third, and Saudi Arabia and Iran are an even more distant fourth and fifth, respectively.
Because proved reserves are, by definition, economically recoverable, the proportion of the oil inthe ground that qualifies as proved reserves grows when prices are high, and shrinks when prices are low. That is, even without new discoveries, oil that may be sub-economic at $30 per barrel becomes economic at $60 per barrel and so the total proved reserves increase simply because price increases. In addition to the volumes of proved reserves are deposits of oil and gas that have not yet been discovered, and those are called undiscovered resources.2 _PDFCongResServreport
Robert Rapier remarks how eventual oil production can be several times as high as "proved reserves" for any given oil field.
In 1982, U.S. reserves were 27.9 billion barrels. In 2005, U.S. reserves were 21.8 billion barrels. But over the course of that 24-year period we produced 57 billion barrels of oil and pulled our reserves down by only 6 billion barrels. _RobertRapier

Over a period of time, proved reserves can actually grow despite pumping large volumes of oil from a field -- due to new discoveries, new technologies for recovery, and natural repletion of fields mistakenly believed to be near exhaustion.

The price of energy also helps determine recoverable reserves, since the higher the price, the farther energy companies are willing to drill, dig, and explore to find new resources.  Peak oil doomsters are not intelligent enough to comprehend the complexity of the energy picture.  They often mistake increases in the price of oil that are due to a collapsing dollar, for shortages of oil from global depletion.  They are not a meaningful threat to a smooth transition into a post-fossil energy age.

The really good news? The report essentially ignores the trillions of barrels of shale oil and heavy oils known to exist in the western US. It also underestimates the quantity of oil, coal, and gas reserves known to exist in large new finds. In other words, the US is tops in fossil reserves without even trying. The really bad news? Obama is president, Pelosi is Speaker of the House, and both of them intend to starve the US into economic coma, for reasons and agendas of their own.

Labels: , ,

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Gasification vs. Microbial Fermentation

There are two approaches to breaking the cellulose chains into simple sugars – thermochemical and biochemical.

Thermochemical conversion involves breaking down the biomass into a mixture of gasses and then converting the gasses into ethanol. Although thermochemical conversion is a relatively simple and well known technology, it is expensive and requires significant capital and energy expenditures.

Biochemical methods use enzymes to break down the cellulose chains. An analogy to this is a termite that utilizes enzymes to break wood into sugar. Other biochemical methods for breaking down cellulose chains can be some varieties bacteria and yeast which then also ferment the sugar into ethanol. _BiofuelsDigest
Gasification breaks down biomass into synthesis gas -- H2, CO, ( + small amount) CH4 -- which can be burned like natural gas, converted catalytically to fuels, plastics, or chemicals, -- or fermented into alcohols.

Gasification is ready to go, technologically, but requires up-front capital and technical expertise. It works for any carbonaceous material -- even cheap & dirty coal and garbage biomass. Dirty coal cleans up marvelously via gasification, and turns a nuisance mineral into a valuable energy. The same applies to garbage biomass -- which would otherwise be an expensive disposal problem.
Synthesis Energy Systems, Inc. (SES) has executed a revised license agreement with the Gas Technology Institute (GTI) for its U-GAS technology rights. The revised agreement expands the rights and further defines the terms for SES to sub-license U-GAS to third parties for coal, coal and biomass mixtures, or 100% biomass projects.

...With the reliable operations of SES’ 95%-owned Hai Hua plant in China this year (earlier post), and its success gasifying difficult fuels such as high-ash coal washing wastes, a high-ash sub-bituminous coal and most recently a lignite coal, SES says it is seeing significant interest from companies in the US, China, India and Australia for licenses to use the technology for both biomass and coal applications. _GCC
The microbial energy approaches will all need feestock materials. Most will use biomass of some type.
Companies such as Mascoma, Amyris, Virent, LS9 and Qteros, to name a few, are discovering technologies that shorten the feedstocks to ethanol cycle into two steps. For example, Mascoma’s transformative technology uses yeast and bacteria to produce ethanol from non-food agricultural and forestry materials sources such as switchgrass, wood, and agricultural waste feedstocks. Amyris, a company we explored last month, transforms Brazilian cane into ethanol and requires eight times less energy than converting corn to ethanol. Amyris’ renewable diesel has little sulfur and creates less particulate, carbon monoxide and hydrocarbon-exhaust emissions than fossil fuels. _BFD

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Next Generations Biofuels Feedstocks Conference

The Next Generations Biofuels Feedstocks Conference will be held in San Francisco at La Meridien Hotel Nov 16-17 2009.
The event will cover developments in Algae, Jatropha, Cellulosic and Wood Based Ethanol, Camelina, Biobutanol, Miscanthus, Sweet Sorghum, Drop in Fuels, Bio-Oils and Synthetic Fuels. For more information or to attend the event, visit Eckelberry, will speak in the Keynote Session of the Next Generation Biofuels Feedstocks conference in San Francisco on November 16, 2009.

Eckelberry [CEO of Origin Oil algal fuels company] will join representatives from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Algal Biomass Organization (ABO), Green Flight Foundation, Solazyme, Energy Biosciences Institute and Monsanto as a keynote speaker. He will join the keynote session "Plantation & Sustainable Feedstock Supplies," which will explore the potential role of next generation biofuels and their impacts on land use and sustainability _Moneycentral
Biofuels represent a threat to green fanatics who wish to starve western industrial countries of their energy supplies. Fundamentalist greens likewise view nuclear energy as a threat to their ability to shut the western economies down.

Fortunately, these eco-zealots and quasi-terrorists do not have total control over all western nations -- although they control large sections of the EU bureaucracy in Brussels, and the US executive and congress in Washington. It will be fascinating to watch the greens trying to shut down all viable forms of energy -- while supporting solar and wind, which are non-viable for baseload power at this time.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Sunlight + CO2 = Hydrocarbon Fuels and Chemicals

Joule Biotechnologies announced its process for microbial fuels production at the Bio Pacific Rim Conference in Honolulu.
unlike algae and other current biomass-derived fuels, the Helioculture process does not produce biomass, requires no agricultural feedstock and minimizes land and water use. It is also direct-to-product, so there is no lengthy extraction and/or refinement process.

The breakthrough was made possible by the discovery of unique genes coding for enzymatic mechanisms that enable the direct synthesis of both alkane and olefin molecules – the chemical composition of diesel. Production was achieved at lab scale, with pilot development slated for early 2011.

Because its organisms are being engineered to directly secrete hydrocarbon molecules, Joule will avoid costly steps such as large-scale biomass collection, energy-intensive degradation, or other downstream refinement. In addition, Joule’s process requires just marginal, non-arable land, no crops and no fresh water. __BiofuelsDigest
This is just an announcement of a lab finding, but it is an indication of the direction that the biofuels industry is eventually trending.

For those slow thinkers who are still worried that biomass production will not be able to keep up with the looming demand for biofuels, Ceres tells them to think again:
Energy crop company Ceres, Inc. plans to expand an advanced trait development project to increase biomass yields of several energy grasses by as much as 40% in coming years, while simultaneously decreasing the use of inputs such as nitrogen fertilizers. The project will be funded in part by a $5 million ARPA-E grant from the US Department of Energy (DOE). (Earlier post.)

Projections indicate that the Ceres traits alone could displace 1.3 billion barrels of oil and 58 million tons of coal over a ten-year period. Depending on cropping practices, 1.2 million tons of nitrogen fertilizer could be eliminated (about the amount of nitrogen needed for 24 million acres of cotton), among other benefits. _GCC
Most critics of biofuels in academia, media, government, and think tanks, are mere bureaucratic mentalities. They lack the imagination and resourcefulness that people in growing and innovative industries require as a basic prerequisite. It is no wonder that these bureaucrats are always several years behind what is happening.

Labels: , , ,

Monday, November 09, 2009

Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor Video Primer

Each lecture is about an hour long, on liquid fluoride thorium reactors. Via The Nuclear Green blog.

Labels: ,

4th Annual Cellulosic Biofuels Summit in DC

The 4th annual Cellulosic Biofuels Summit will be held next week at the Almas Temple Club in Washington DC, November 16 - 19. The first day will cover financing and investing, the second and third days will cover the technicals of cellulosic biofuels. The last day will look at the feedstock supply chain -- a crucial and often overlooked aspect of biomass energy. H/T Domestic Fuel

Biomass is not just about making fuels and generating power. It is also about high value chemicals, and plastics. Biomass can potentially replace up to 90% of petroleum used in making plastics. If you stop to think about all the uses of plastics these days, you will understand how significant that replacement will be.

The replacement of petroleum fuels, chemicals, and plastics by biomass products will be slow and incremental -- at first. But as techniques are perfected for all the phases of biomass energy and materials -- from investment, finance, feedstock supply and transport, production, and distribution -- the changes will come much more quickly.

Labels: ,

Friday, November 06, 2009

Rocketdyne Develops Compact Gasification Plant

Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne is developing a compact gasification plant. This plant is meant as a prototype for a large number of future gasification plants on the local and regional level, for processing biomass into syngas on a cumulatively large scale.
Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne teamed with ExxonMobil Research and Engineering (EMRE), Zero Emission Energy Plants, Ltd. (ZEEP), the Alberta Energy Research Institute (AERI) and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) to develop and commercialize compact gasification, a higher efficiency and lower cost alternative to current gasification systems.

The Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne gasifier provides a 90 percent decrease in size compared to competing systems, thereby enabling higher efficiency, and as much as a 25 percent reduction in cost with enhanced reliability.

—Jim Maser, president, Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne

The capital cost to build a commercial-scale compact gasification plant using Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne’s technology is estimated to be 20% less than conventional gasification plants. Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne’s compact gasifier is also expected to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by up to 10% compared to standard gasification technologies. EMRE is sharing development cost and collaborating with Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne to develop, demonstrate and license the technology. _GCC
Advanced gasifier designs such as this -- when put into mass production -- can jump-start the biomass energy campaign. A large network of such gasifiers across the bio-prolific regions of the globe, can take bio-energy production to a level barely dreamed of by most energy pundits.

While the US President and Congress promote an agenda of energy starvation, responsible adults within industry and commerce are laying plans for keeping the US economy from collapsing due to Obama - Pelosi reich energy famine.

Meanwhile, Oynklent Green [OTC:OYNK] continues perfecting its process of converting corrupt politicians into useful biofuels. The Chicago Way may acquire an entirely new meaning -- in the bioenergy field.


Thursday, November 05, 2009

Impressive Oil Yields from Australian Algae

The race is on for microbe biofuels. Algal oil has the potential to out-produce all other oil crops, but several technical challenges keep the costs of production relatively high.
Compared to soybeans that produce 50 gallons of oil an acre a year, some algae can average 6,000 gallons -- but it's not cheap to produce. Current algae growing methods use ponds and bioreactor columns, and algae float around suspended in water. Harvesting such a moving target systematically requires using very costly inputs like centrifuges and electricity. Even with these best technologies for algae growth and production, the end product biodiesel is expensive at about $56 a gallon. _Bioenergy
Researchers in Australia are leading the race in open pond production of algal oils -- they are producing at the rate of 2900 gallons per acre per year, on open ponds.
The project is working simultaneously on all steps in the process of microalgal biofuels production, from microalgae culture, harvesting of the algae and extraction of oil suitable for biofuels production, said Professor Borowitzka.
Based on current results, construction of a multi-million dollar pilot plant to test the whole process on a larger scale will begin in Karratha in the North-West in January and is expected to be operational by July.

Borowitzka said that the project has achieved production rates of 50 tonnes of algae per hectare per year (20.2 tonnes/acre), more than half of which is converted to oil. At 50% oil content (10.1 tonne/acre), that would work out to approximately 2,900 gallons·ac-1·yr-1.

These high production rates are expected to increase at the new pilot plant due to the even better climatic conditions in Karratha.

—Michael Borowitzka __GCC
While some researchers focus on achieving maximum production from open ponds, others are working toward similar goals for closed loop production of algal oils. Meanwhile, engineers and scientists are devising ways to pare down the costs at each stage in production. This research is taking place on all continents and in virtually all developed nations.

The Perth researchers have already beaten other methods of bio-oil production in terms of volume per year -- and they are just getting started. With the attention algae is receiving, we are on schedule for commercial production within 10 years and significant displacement of petroleum within 20 years.


Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Ever Cat Biodiesel Fast Continuous Process Producing 10,000 GPD in Minnesota

Brian Westenhaus recently presented an update on the progress of Ever Cat's very impressive continuous biodiesel production process. The process is reported to cut the cost of biodiesel production in half!
Basically, the process works like this:
· Raw fats and oils of any type are combined with an alcohol
· This mixture is fed through a sulfated zirconia column heated to 300 degrees Celsius
· Their Easy Fatty Acid Removal (EFAR) system recycles any unreacted raw material back through the reactor
· Excess alcohol is recycled back through the reactor
· Pure biodiesel comes out the end.

The advantages of the system are:
· No waste produced; No washing or neutralizing of the biodiesel is necessary
· 100% conversion of raw materials to biodiesel
· Any raw fat or oil can be used to make biodiesel
· Very efficient due to heat recapture from the column
· Sulfated zirconia catalyst never needs replacing
· Very small footprint of the reactor system, uses an extremely small amount of area for the amount of biodiesel produced
· Essentially no emissions and no waste stream from the process; Easy permitting from the government. _NewEnergyandFuel
Al Fin feels strangely attracted to this McGyan process used by Ever Cat. Perhaps the reason for this strange attraction is the apparent efficiency of the process. Perhaps it is the "continuous" nature of production as opposed to "batch" processes used by many biodiesel producers. Or perhaps it is because this process appears custom made for the Oynklent Green [OTC:OYNK] company, a company dear to Al Fin's heart.

Regardless, it appears clear that breakthroughs are being made in all aspects of biofuels production and refinement. Betting against biofuels is like betting against the sun rising.

Labels: ,

Another Big Oil Company Gets Behind Algae

Indian Oil Company is now the fifth world-class oil company (and 1st national oil company) to join the race to develop large-scale commercial algal fuels.
In India, Indian Oil Company became the fifth oil major and first national oil company (NOC) to decisively enter the algal fuel race, signing a MOU to enter into an agreement with PetroAlgae to license micro-crop technology for the large-scale production of renewable fuels.

The announcement is also the first between an oil major and an algal fuel developer expressly aimed along a commercialization path. Previous tie-ups have featured early-stage investment and R&D partnership. _BiofuelsDigest
Other big oil companies invested in algal fuels include Exxon Mobil, Shell, BP, and Chevron. Several other large oil companies are invested in microbial biofuels and cellulosic fuels.

A recent consulting report from SRI in Menlo Park states that a solid catalytic approach to biodiesel catalysis by Catilin LLC has the potential to reduce production costs for biodiesel by between 13 and 19 cents per gallon.
Catilin Inc. announced results from an analysis of its new T300 catalyst completed by SRI Consulting of Menlo Park, Calif. “SRI came to us and said they’d like to do an in-depth study and publish it for their subscribers,” said David Sams, vice president for business development. The independent study supported results from Catilin’s internal work as well as outside engineering analysis commissioned by Catilin. SRI Consulting concluded that Catilin’s solid catalyst process has a value advantage over the traditional catalytic process of 13 cents per gallon of biodiesel. When the capital expense savings are included, the advantage increases to 19 cents per gallon of biodiesel. _Biodiesel
Advantages of this solid catalytic approach are numerous, and Al Fin expects such approaches to biodiesel production to supercede current approaches very quickly.

Another solid catalytic approach -- the McGyan process (PDF) used by Ever Cat -- deserves its own post.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Corn Ethanol Triumphant: Good Omen for Biomass

Brian Westenhaus presents an optimistic story of corn (maize) ethanol triumphing over environmental obstructionists and academic thumb-suckers. Brian points to an amazing study (PDF) that catches the laggard academic research up to the ambitious reality of farmers and the ethanol industry. In other words, while environmentalists and academics have been sitting on their thumbs, real people in the real world have been accomplishing impressive things.
The study’s ethanol-to-petroleum output/input ratios ranged from 10:1 to 13:1 but could be increased to 19:1 if farmers adopted high-yield progressive crop and soil management practices, according to the study. Using advanced closed-loop ethanol production technology with anaerobic digestion reduced GHG emissions by 67% and increased the net energy ratio to 2.2, from 1.5 to 1.8 for the most common systems. These numbers are much better than the 1.5:1 so often seen and discounted to below 1:1 by non expert pundits. _NewEnergyAnd Fuel
Corn ethanol production did not reduce food production, since the total corn production increase more than compensated for the diversion of maize to ethanol. In fact, since dried distiller's grains (DDGs) byproduct from the corn ethanol process is used as healthy livestock feed, available food corn (for animals and people) has gone up. Apparently, virtually everything we have read about corn ethanol from pundits, academics, and mainstream journalists is wrong -- because the academics and intellectuals were using old data. [Editor: Maybe the pencil pushers have gotten lazy following the PC talking points. They forgot how to check the real world to confirm the validity of their marching orders for the day.]

The implications of this new study suggest that the transition to biomass (once cellulosic conversion to sugars is perfected) will be much smoother and productive than anyone predicted.  Since cellulosic crops grow on marginal lands, with minimal watering and cultivation, the energy return from biomass alcohol production should be even greater than for corn.

Read Brian's article and try to understand the growing sophistication of the corn ethanol industry. People in the industry have to make a profit -- unlike politicians, journalists, and thumb-sucking professors. And in the age of Obama - Pelosi, making a profit is becoming ever more difficult.

Labels: ,

Monday, November 02, 2009

Amazing Energy Potential In Synthetic Life Forms

UC Riverside researchers have developed an artificial "cellulosome" on the surface of yeast organisms, that may allow the yeast to break down cellulose for direct fermentation to alcohol.
A team of University of California, Riverside (UCR) researchers, led by Wilfred Chen, Professor of Chemical Engineering, has for the first time, constructed a synthetic cellulosome in yeast. According to Chen, this synthetic cellulosome is much more ethanol-tolerant than the bacteria in which these structures are commonly found.

Cellulosomes are self-assembled structures found on the the exterior of certain bacteria that allow the organisms to efficiently break down cellulose. The artificial cellulosome developed at UCR is highly modular and can be engineered to display ten or more different cellulases, the composition of which can be tuned to optimize hydrolysis of any feedstock.

Chen’s team is focusing on the conversion of non-food related materials like cellulosic biomass and wood wastes for conversion to bioethanol. According to the Chen, this construction is important because it could enable a more efficient on-step “consolidated bioprocessing” by maximizing the catalytic efficiency of cellulosic hydrolysis with simultaneous fermentation. _DomesticFuel
This is an intriguing and elegant approach to the problem of creating cellulosic fuels. Similar approaches using separate chemical catalysts are being developed, but the self-assembling cellulosomes may prove to be much more economical. The race is on between synthetic biology approaches and more traditional chemical approaches to bio-alcohols.
1. Innovation in biofuels in 2003, as represented by
global patenting activity measured in DWPI, was a
small area (only 341 patents) and was led by Japanese
companies (70% patented by Japanese companies in
top 13 patenting companies; 31% of patents were filed
in Japan).

2. Five years later, in 2008, patenting activity had risen by
550% to 1,878 patents.

3. In the latest period (January 2008 to April 2009) the
number of biofuel patents was 2,466. China has moved
in significantly (31% of patents were filed in China);
China shared top position with Japan (three companies)
in the Top 10 patenting companies. _BiofuelsDigest PDF

New patents for bio-energy production and for creating high value chemicals, foods, and plastics from biomass, are multiplying rapidly.  Anyone betting against biofuels at this stage is in danger of losing the bet.


Sunday, November 01, 2009

Biomass Fuel to Replace 20% of Diesel

A project sponsored by the EU aims to create a blended diesel composed of 20%  ethyl levulinate, 70% diesel, 1% special additive, .... to create a cleaner burning diesel that is more sustainable.  Such a blended fuel could create an almost immediate impact on the supply side of diesel fuels.
Ethyl levulinate (EL) is a novel diesel miscible biofuel (DMB) produced by esterifying ethanol with levulinic acid. The project will also use fast pyrolysis to convert the residue left over from biofuel production to bio-oil for subsequent upgrading to DMB.

EL has an oxygen content of 33%; a blend of 20% EL, 70% petroleum diesel and 1% co-additive has a 6.9% oxygen content, resulting in a significantly cleaner burning diesel fuel. The fuel has high lubricity, reduced sulfur content, meets all the ASTM D-975 diesel fuel specifications, and experiences no significant losses in fuel economy, according to Prof. Michael Hayes of the Carbolea Research Group at the University of Limerick in Ireland, the DIBANET co-ordinator.

The DIBANET project has received €3.73 million (US$5.5 million) under the Energy Theme of the EU’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7). In addition to the Carbolea Research Group, the DIBANET consortium comprises partners from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Denmark, Greece, Hungary and the UK.

DIBANET aims to:


Optimize the yields of levulinic acid from the conversion of biomass.

Improve the energy balance and the total biofuel yields possible from a feedstock by sustainably utilizing the residues in pyrolysis processes to produce a bio-oil that will be upgraded to a DMB.

Reduce the energy and chemical costs involved in producing ethyl levulinate from levulinic acid and ethanol.

Select key biomass feedstocks for conversion to levulinic acid, analyse these, and develop rapid analytical methods that can be used in an online process.

Analyze the DMBs produced for their compliance to EN590 requirements and, if non-compliant, suggest means to achieve compliance.
The conversion to sustainable liquid fuels will be a slow and incremental process -- at first. It will involve significant mistakes, a gradual accumulation of breakthroughs, significant company turnover, and a few big winners.

What is not considered is the potential benefit to local and regional players -- including farmers, ranchers, bankers, entrepreneurs, foresters, and the associated local and regional economies.

Biomass is not nearly so energy dense as petroleum, coal, or natural gas. The biomass industry will require a broadly based infrastructure to provide raw biomass, local pre-treatment for initial densification, transportation, regional treatment and processing, etc. Biomass networks will evolve wildly at first, and will be refined by actual market needs.


Newer Posts Older Posts