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    Taiwan's Feng Chia University has succeeded in boosting the production of hydrogen from biomass to 15 liters per hour, one of the world's highest biohydrogen production rates, a researcher at the university said Friday. The research team managed to produce hydrogen and carbon dioxide (which can be captured and stored) from the fermentation of different strains of anaerobes in a sugar cane-based liquefied mixture. The highest yield was obtained by the Clostridium bacterium. Taiwan News - November 14, 2008.


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Saturday, September 08, 2007

Germany's Biostrom Energy Group to build 10 biogas plants to feed renewable gas into national grid

Biostrom Energy Group AG, a 75.1% subsidiary of Germany's BKN BioKraftstoff Nord AG has acquired a further key order in the biogas segment. It has concluded an advance agreement with the city of Potsdam to construct ten biogas plants and two CarboCompact plants with a total volume of €26/US$35.8 million.

According to this agreement, the modular plants, with an output of 10 times 500 KW will be constructed from the middle of 2008 in Energiepark Linthe near Potsdam (southwest of Berlin). Biostrom Energy Group AG is currently constructing 17 plants with total output of 8.5 MW. The gas produced in the ten biogas plants in Linthe will be of natural gas quality and will be fed into the national gas grid.

Biogas is a mixture of gases which result from the anaerobic microbial decomposition of organic substances, of which 50-70% is methane – a top-quality energy source. Additional components are carbon dioxide (CO2) as well as traces of hydrogen sulfide (H2S), Nitrogen (N2), Hydrogen (H2) and carbon monoxide (CO). By upgrading and cleaning these components out of biogas, biomethane of natural gas quality can be obtained. When this renewable and carbon-neutral gas is fed into the main pipelines, it can be used for a range of end-uses, from home use to powering CNG-cars. Germany recently started looking into opening up the country's entire gas grid to accomodate biogas (more here and here).

Biostrom will supply the biogas plants with substrates obtained from dedicated energy crops. For this purpose, the company has taken out long-term leases on agricultural land. The 20-year leases will safeguard the supply of maize silage for the ten 500 kW biogas plants. Supplies for the CarboCompact plants - which include wood chips - will come from third parties:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

BKN BioKraftstoff Nord AG has specialized in project development for biogas plants and the production of biodiesel. Thanks to Biostrom Energy Group AG and its operating subsidiaries, which BKN successfully acquired in April, BKN now operates successfully on the market for biogas plants as a prime contractor, covering the entire value chain: from maintaining competitiveness standards for plant locations to project planning, permit acquisition, construction and operation of biogas plants as well as the efficient control of the plants.

Biological process control for biogas plants, supported by Biostrom’s know-how, is one of its particular assets. BKN's subsidiary BioDiesel Bokel GmbH, which stemmed from an agricultural distillery cooperative, currently has a capacity to produce around 50,000 t/year of biodiesel. The company has already substantially increased its revenues and earnings over the past few years.

References:
Biopact: Germany considers opening natural gas network to biogas - major boost to sector - August 11, 2007

Biopact: EU research project looks at feeding biogas into the main natural gas grid - April 08, 2007


Article continues

U.S. Forest Service: ethanol from forests can replace 15 percent of gasoline


The U.S. Forest Service chief Abigail Kimbell is proposing replacing 15 percent of the United States' gasoline with ethanol made from wood obtained from thinning unhealthy forests, while doubling the amount of carbon dioxide emissions absorbed by public and private forests.

Kimbell presented the proposal in a speech before the Society of Environmental Journalists in San Francisco. These are ambitious goals, and they would take a concerted national effort to reach.

New biofuel technologies
According to Kimbell, with the technologies now becoming available, the U.S. could replace as much as 15 percent of its current gasoline consumption with ethanol from wood — and not just any wood, but 'unhealthy' wood that is not being used for other purposes and that must be removed from forests to prevent wildfires. Second-generation biofuel technologies capable of converting this type of woody biomass consist of biochemical and thermochemical conversion techniques.

Of these technologies, the thermochemical pathway known as pyrolysis is most advanced and cost-effective. But biochemical conversion techniques, based on enzymes that succeed in breaking down lignocellulosic biomass, are receiving a great deal of research and investment. Alternative routes consist of gasifying wood and converting the syngas via Fischer-Tropsch synthesis into ultra-clean synthetic biofuels.

The wood for ethanol would come mainly from undergrowth that the 'healthy forests' law now requires to be removed to prevent wildfires. The Healthy Forests Initiative contains a variety of provisions to speed up such hazardous-fuel reduction and forest-restoration projects on specific types of Federal land that are at risk of wildland fire and of insect and disease epidemics.
A lot of our forests across our country are unhealthy because they're overstocked. There's a lot of unhealthy underbrush. That's where we're talking about getting the bioenergy from. It's from the reduction of flammable fuels in the forests — instead of just burning it up in piles or grinding it up. - Allison Stewart, spokeswoman U.S. Forest Service
Besides use for the production of liquid fuels, small-diameter trees and underbrush can also be used as solid biofuels to heat homes and to generate renewable electricity.

Questions
The biofuel plan is ambitious and it is not clear how the biomass logistics would work out. Thinning forests and removing underbrush is labor intensive and transporting this low energy density biomass to central biofuel facilities would probably be uneconomic.

However, several innovations have seen the light that allow for a decentralised production system. New forest residue harvesters integrated with wood chippers have been developed (earlier post), as have mobile pellet plants. Small, modular pyrolysis plants can be located close to the source of the biomass (more here). There, the wood would be transformed into bio-oil with a higher energy density. This oil can then be transported more efficiently to a central biorefinery that refines the pyrolysis oil into specific fuels ready for use in cars:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

The Forest Service estimates that America's forests — both public and private — offset about 10 percent of carbon emissions in the United States. Kimbell proposes a national effort to double that amount by 2020. The Forest Service manages 155 national forests and 20 national grasslands — an area equivalent to the size of Texas.

While producing biofuels, the Forest Service will at the same time be "doing a lot of replanting of new forests, where there are no forests now." Most of those are in areas cleared out by wildfires, floods and other calamities of nature.

Trees absorb carbon dioxide, but the science for measuring how much is unsettled. Some have suggested forests in temperate climates contribute to climate change, whereas grasslands would do more to reduce global warming.

Despite these uncertainties, the Forest Service is teaming up with the nonprofit National Forest Foundation to allow consumers to participate in a voluntary program to "offset" their carbon dioxide emissions by making charitable contributions that will be used to plant trees and do other work to improve national forests. Several such reforestation projects have been identified in the Custer National Forest in Montana and South Dakota and in the Payette National Forest in Idaho.

Picture: Fire Behavior in a small area that was thinned: fire burns low and on the ground. The U.S. Forest Service now proposes to utilize the removed underbrush and thinnings for the production of biofuels.

References:
Associated Press: Forest Chief Touts Ethanol to Power Cars - September 8, 2007.

KSBY: Forest Service chief urges using forests to power cars on ethanol - September 8, 2007.

Forests and Rangelands, official site of the U.S. Healthy Forests Initiative.

Biopact: Efficient timber harvester delivers wood chips on the spot, improves biomass logistics - August 19, 2007

Biopact: The mobile pellet plant - April 29, 2007

Biopact: Dynamotive begins construction of modular fast-pyrolysis plant in Ontario - December 19, 2006


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New Gasoline Direct injection (GDi) system optimized for biofuels lowers emissions and boosts performance

Delphi is launching a new, high-performance Gasoline Direct injection (GDi) system that is optimised for the increasing use of turbochargers and biofuels as a flexible, cost-effective solution to global pressures on emissions and CO2 emissions. Delphi is poised to supply the total system - including injectors, pumps, engine control units, electrical/electronic systems, fuel rails and fuel handling hardware - or individual components.

The heart of Delphi's homogeneous GDi system - named Multec 10 - is a new multi-hole injector, designed for homogeneous combustion and available with spray preparation options optimised for a wide variety of combustion chamber shapes and static flow requirements. Highly refined solenoid technology allows very fast opening and closing, which enables the Delphi system to provide a linear range of more than 15 (the relationship between maximum fuel flow and minimum fuel flow), substantially higher than today's best production systems.

Delphi's GDi system takes into account two key trends that we see in the requirement for gas injection systems. First, there will be rapid growth in turbocharging as engines are downsized to reduce CO2 emissions. Second, we see bio-fuel content of gasoline increasing, particularly in the United States and Europe. - Mark Shost, Delphi Engineering Director for Engine Management Systems and Products

Delphi injectors' high linear range make the system ideal for turbocharged applications, where significantly higher fuel rates on a full load are required without compromising fuel rate control at idle. Innovative engineering delivers zero pintle bounce when closing, with very low noise, making it the quietest injector on the market. Careful optimisation of the magnetic and hydraulic characteristics allows extremely high performance economically.

After tapping into extensive experience with biofuels in the South American market, Delphi achieved biofuel optimisation by carefully selecting and testing materials and coatings to ensure they will withstand high biofuel contents - like ethanol. For example, high-pressure fuel rails are manufactured from stainless steel with brazed caps instead of today's popular aluminium rails which may suffer from internal corrosion if run for long periods on biofuels:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

To increase durability, fuel-contacted parts inside the all-new high-flow fuel pump are constructed from stainless steel. The same pump can be adapted for all sizes of four- and six-cylinder application, providing component cost savings, part number reduction and simplified manufacturing. The pump delivers up to 150 bar pressure for homogenous charge applications and up to 200 bar for next-generation stratified charge applications.

Delphi's new GDi system is targeted to meet today's most demanding emissions requirements - including SULEV and EURO 6 - without the cost of a complex after-treatment system. After engine start, multiple injection pulses enable accelerated catalyst heating reducing unburned hydrocarbons, thereby allowing further cost savings by reducing catalyst precious metal content.

Coupled with Delphi's components is a comprehensive library of Engine Management Systems (EMS) control algorithms. This set of "state-of-the-art" algorithms uses a torque-based strategy that seamlessly aligns the driver's command to the powertrain output, thus simplifying the application of the Delphi system to various vehicles over a wide array of regional and customer driven requirements. Delphi continues to lead the industry in cost and flexibility through the use of innovative control algorithm solutions.

Multec GDi is ready for applications engineering today, with production expected early 2010. Delphi predicts that about 40 percent of new European gasoline vehicles will be fitted with direct gas systems by 2010.

Delphi is also developing a GDi system for stratified charge (lean) combustion engines named Multec 20. These systems require very low sulphur fuel to protect lean-burn-compatible catalytic converters, but offer a further fuel economy saving of around 15 percent. Delphi actuates its outward opening injector for stratified charge systems by a single coil, which offers a significant cost advantage over competitors' piezoelectric injectors. With the same external diameter as the homogenous charge GDi injector, systems can be fitted to engines with centrally mounted injectors with minimal, if any, revisions to the cylinder head. Due to the injector's solenoid actuation, the system can use the standard GDi ECU, bringing further simplification and cost savings.

To further increase the operating range and improve fuel economy on stratified GDi engines, Delphi has employed its Multi-Charge Ignition System. Multi-Charge features a coil-per-cylinder control system that enables longer spark duration, increased spark energy, and re-ignition in the event of combustion blow-out when liquid is present.

Firing multiple times in a short timeframe, Multi-Charge Ignition ensures initiation of robust combustion and compensation of fuel spray variation.


Delphi now has a complete range of diesel and gasoline injection systems that includes MPFI, GDi, Common Rail diesel and heavy duty diesel. All are compatible with widely used biofuels and are complemented by innovative fuel handling, evaporative emissions, transmission control, valve train, and aftertreatment solutions.

Image: Delphi Multec 10 GDi Multi-Hole Fuel Injector, designed for homogeneous combustion applications.

Article continues

Friday, September 07, 2007

Acid rain has a disproportionate impact on coastal waters

In a new study, atmospheric and marine chemists report that the release of sulfur and nitrogen into the atmosphere by power plants and agriculture plays a minor role in making the ocean more acidic on a global scale, but the impact is greatly amplified in the shallower waters of the coastal ocean.

The findings are important for the bioenergy community, because, compared to coal, the production of power from biomass substantially reduces all major emissions that lead to ocean acidification: sulfur dioxide (by up to 80%), nitrogen oxide (by up to 50%), and of course carbon dioxide. Even taking into account the emissions produced during the production of energy crops, the benefits compared to coal remain large (overview of data on lifecycle emissions of biomass for power generation at the U.S. Department of Energy - Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Biomass Program).


Maps depicting the model-estimated atmospheric deposition rates of carbon, nitrogen, and sulfur; alkalinity; and potential alkalinity to the ocean caused by human activity relative to conditions before the Industrial Age began. Source: Scott Doney et al, from Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Ocean acidification occurs when these chemical compounds mix with seawater, a process which lowers the pH and reduces the storage of carbon. Ocean acidification hampers the ability of marine organisms—such as sea urchins, corals and certain types of plankton, to harness calcium carbonate for making hard outer shells or 'exoskeletons'. These organisms provide essential food and habitat to other species, so their demise could affect entire ocean ecosystems.

The findings were published this week as an open access article in the online early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences; a printed version will be issued later this month.
Acid rain isn’t just a problem of the land; it’s also affecting the ocean. That effect is most pronounced near the coasts, which are already some of the most heavily affected and vulnerable parts of the ocean due to pollution, over-fishing, and climate change. - Scott Doney, lead author
In addition to acidification, excess nitrogen inputs from the atmosphere promote increased growth of phytoplankton and other marine plants which, in turn, may cause more frequent harmful algal blooms and eutrophication (the creation of oxygen-depleted 'dead zones') in some parts of the ocean.

Most studies have traditionally focused only on fossil fuel emissions and the role of carbon dioxide in ocean acidification, which is certainly the dominant issue. But no one has really addressed the role of acid rain and nitrogen:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Scott Doney, senior scientist in the Department of Marine Chemistry and Geochemistry at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), collaborated to analyse these effects together with Natalie Mahowald, Jean-Francois Lamarque, and Phil Rasch of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, Richard Feely of the Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, Fred Mackenzie of the University of Hawaii, and Ivan Lima of the WHOI Marine Chemistry and Geochemistry Department.

The research team compiled and analyzed many publicly available data sets on fossil fuel emissions, agricultural, and other atmospheric emissions. They built theoretical and computational models of the ocean and atmosphere to simulate where the nitrogen and sulfur emissions were likely to have the most impact. They also compared their model results with field observations made by other scientists in the coastal waters around the United States.

Farming, livestock husbandry, and the combustion of fossil fuels cause excess sulfur dioxide, ammonia, and nitrogen oxides to be released to the atmosphere, where they are transformed into nitric acid and sulfuric acid. Though much of that acid is deposited on land (since it does not remain in the air for long), some of it can be carried in the air all the way to the coastal ocean.


Perturbation maps of simulated surface water pH, dissolved inorganic carbon, and total alkalinity trends and air–sea CO2 flux due to anthropogenic atmospheric nitrogen and sulfur deposition. Source: Scott Doney et al, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
When nitrogen and sulfur compounds from the atmosphere are mixed into coastal waters, the researchers found, the change in water chemistry was as much as 10 to 50 percent of the total changes caused by acidification from carbon dioxide (map, click to enlarge).

This rain of chemicals changes the chemistry of seawater, with the increase in acidic compounds lowering the pH of the water while reducing the capacity of the upper ocean to store carbon.

The most heavily affected areas tend to be downwind of power plants (particularly coal-fired plants) and predominantly on the eastern edges of North America, Europe, and south and east of Asia.

Seawater is slightly basic (pH usually between 7.5 and 8.4), but the ocean surface is already 0.1 pH units lower than it was before the Industrial Revolution. Previous research by Doney and others has suggested that the ocean will become another 0.3 to 0.4 pH units lower by the end of the century, which translates to a 100 to 150 percent increase in acidity.

Ultimately, acidification leads to a reduced capacity of oceans to store carbon. Together with plants, marine organisms play the key role in nature's way of cycling carbon dioxide. If this mechanism comes under strain, ecosystems risk to get out of balance and may reach a tipping point after which more carbon emissions result in ever stronger negative effects. This is why it is time to act now on reducing the amount of greenhouse gases we put into the atmosphere, while reducing sulfur and nitrogen emissions as well.

Funding for this research was provided by the National Science Foundation, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

References:
Scott C. Doney, Natalie Mahowald, Ivan Lima, Richard A. Feely, Fred T. Mackenzie, Jean-Francois Lamarque, and Phil J. Rasch, "Impact of anthropogenic atmospheric nitrogen and sulfur deposition on ocean acidification and the inorganic carbon system", Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci., Published online before print September 5, 2007, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0702218104

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution: Acid Rain Has a Disproportionate Impact on Coastal Waters: Research Suggests Sulfur, Nitrogen Emissions Play a Role in Changing Chemistry Near the Coast - September 7, 2007.


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Australia and China partner to develop carbon capture and storage technologies

Australia and China have signed a partnership agreement that will pave the way for the installation of a post combustion capture pilot plant in Beijing next year. The collaboration is a first step towards the development of 'clean coal' technologies that capture and store carbon. The pilot plant will be installed at the Huaneng Beijing Co-generation Power Plant, owned by the China Huaneng Group, a state-owned energy enterprise. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Australia's national science agency, is the partner.

Biopact tracks developments in carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies, because they can be applied to biofuels. Such 'bio-energy with carbon storage' (BECS) systems result in the production of carbon-negative energy - the only energy system capable of doing so. Contrary to nuclear or renewables like wind or solar, BECS actually takes emissions from the past out of the atmosphere. Scientists have looked at BECS in the context of 'abrupt climate change', as the most feasible way of radically reducing atmospheric carbon dioxide levels (previous post). If implemented on a global scale, BECS can take us back to pre-industrial CO2 levels by mid-century (earlier post, here and here).

The agreement between CSIRO and the China Huaneng Group involves post combustion capture (PCC), a process that captures CO2 from power station flue gases (more here on pre-combustion capture). PCC is seen as one of the key technologies that can potentially reduce CO2 emissions from existing and future coal-fired power stations by more than 85 per cent.


The PCC process (image, click to enlarge) involves four steps:
  1. pre-cooling the flue gas
  2. capturing the CO2 using water-based solvent
  3. low-temperature stripping the CO2 from the solvent
  4. compressing and liquefying the stripped CO2
After capture, compression and cooling the carbon-rich liquid is stored using geosequestration techniques. Carbon can be permanently buried in deep saline aquifers, depleted gas or oil reservoirs, deep unmineable coal seams and adjacent strata or other deep geological formations.

Researchers at CSIRO have already developed a transportable pilot plant that can be coupled to different types of power stations (for example for brown or black-coal-fired) to test different solvents:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

The installation of the PCC pilot plant in Beijing forms part of the Asia Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate initiative (AP6) which first announced funding for PCC research in November 2006. Low-emission energy generation is a key research area for CSIRO and is important for China, a country that relies on coal to supply 80 per cent of its energy needs.
China is a nation undergoing an immense period of growth and energy security and supply is vital to support this process. With issues such as climate change at the front of our minds, this research – and the development of a diverse range of low-emission energy technologies – is now more important than ever. This is a priority for both CSIRO and the China Huaneng Group. - CSIRO Chief Executive, Dr Geoff Garrett
CSIRO has been working on collaborative projects with China for over 30 years, in areas as diverse as minerals and mining technology, plantation forestry, environmental sustainability, and crop science.

The AP6 program for PCC also includes a pilot plant installation at Delta Electricity’s Munmorah power station on the NSW Central Coast, with additional Australian sites currently under negotiation for PCC installation and demonstration.

PCC research in Australia is also taking place outside the scope of the AP6 program with the announcement of the Latrobe Valley post combustion capture project – a A$5.6 million endeavour that focuses on the reduction of emissions from brown coal power stations.

Top image
: A post combustion capture (PCC) pilot plant at CSIRO Energy Technology’s Newcastle site. Credit: CSIRO.

References:
CSIRO: Australia and China partner for a low-emission energy future - September 6, 2007.

CSIRO: Rolling out low emission technology using post combustion capture research - s.d.

CSIRO: Post combustion capture (PCC), factsheet.

Biopact: Abrupt Climate Change and geo-engineering the planet with carbon-negative bioenergy - December 21, 2006

Biopact: Biopact to chair Sparks & Flames conference panel on carbon-negative biofuels - August 08, 2007



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U.S. soybean farmers asked to use biodiesel to harvest this year's crop


Some analysts have warned that the production and conversion of low yielding biofuel crops requires vast amounts of oil inputs, weakening the energy balance of the fuel. One of the arguments is that the large number of combines, tractors and trucks needed to harvest, treat and transport feedstock all rely on petroleum fuels. However, others argue that, in principle, all these machines can be fueled by biofuels produced on the farm.

This is precisely what a consortium of soybean industry organisations in the U.S. is now calling for: with the harvest season closing in, the United Soybean Board (USB), the Illinois Soybean Association (ISA) and the National Biodiesel Board (NBB), are calling on American farmers to increase engine performance and create demand for their own soybeans by filling their tanks with soy biodiesel.

Given that soybeans yield very low amounts of oil compared to more suitable biofuel crops, the call is not made out of environmental or energy efficiency concerns. This is merely a way to boost demand and drive up prices. Still, the experiment is worth tracking, and hopefully some scientific data on the experience will be produced. It would be interesting to see what the final energy balance of soy biodiesel will be, and how the logistics of on-farm biodiesel production and use turn out.

Original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) representing Case IH, Cummins, Inc., and New Holland have joined the initiative.

Currently, soy biodiesel is used in approximately 700 commercial fleets, and more than 3,000 U.S. fuel distributors and retailers carry biodiesel. NBB estimates that 225 million gallons of biodiesel were used in the United States last year. Projections for this year top 300 million gallons. And it’s not just farmers using the product – truckers, heavy equipment operators and other general diesel users are catching on to soy biodiesel.


List of all known OEMs in the U.S. supporting soy biodiesel and their blend recommendations. Courtesy: NBB.
Industry support of soy biodiesel continues to grow. According to NBB, more than 20 OEMs across the U.S. approve soy biodiesel use at various blend levels in their engines (table, click to enlarge). Every major auto manufacturer approves the use of at least a B5 blend (5 percent soy biodiesel and 95 percent petroleum diesel).

Agricultural equipment manufacturers are also onboard in support of soy biodiesel, as Arctic Cat, Case IH Caterpillar, John Deere, Kubota and New Holland have recommended soy biodiesel use in their engines. New Holland is the first manufacturer to endorse up to a B20 blend in its engines:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

The soybean checkoff is promoting soy biodiesel to general audiences this summer through its co-sponsorship of the National Tractor Pullers Association (NTPA). The checkoff is displaying the benefits of soy biodiesel as well as other soy-based products at six pulling events across the Midwest and South.

USB is made up of 64 farmer-directors who oversee the investments of the soybean checkoff on behalf of all U.S. soybean farmers. Checkoff funds are invested in the areas of animal utilization, human utilization, industrial utilization, industry relations, market access and supply. As stipulated in the Soybean Promotion, Research and Customer Information Act, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service has oversight responsibilities for USB and the soybean checkoff.

Taking things a step further, researchers from Penn State University demonstrated earlier this year that B100 can be used in tractors without problems. For the past year, a demonstration program has been running two new, unmodified New Holland tractors on B100 biodiesel made from soybean oil with no petroleum-based component, with no ill effects.

In Europe, rapeseed producers often use pure rapeseed oil straight from their own farm to power their farm equipment. This, however, requires modifications to diesel engines.


References:

United Soybean Board: Checkoff Asks Farmers to Fill ’er up with Soy Biodiesel During Harvest [*.pdf] - August 28, 2007.

Biopact: Penn State University demonstrates B100 in tractors - June 14, 2007


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Centre For Jatropha Promotion & Biodiesel announces biodiesel distance training program

The Indian Centre For Jatropha Promotion (CJP) announces it is introducing a distance training program on Jatropha biodiesel production. Thousands of power point slides and a number of images and video clips teach students step by step about the science of growing Jatropha curcas, the drought-tolerant, oil-seed bearing perennial that thrives in poor tropical and subtropical soils. Courses on Jatropha crop development and biodiesel production from farm to fuel will be made available, as well as basic management lessons for creating a successful Jatropha biodiesel business venture.
Jatropha curcas has become an agricultural and economic celebrity with the discovery that it may just be the ideal biofuel crop, an alternative to fossil fuels for a world dangerously dependent on oil supplies and deeply alarmed by the effects of global warming. The jatropha grows in tropical and subtropical climates. Whereas other biofuel feedstocks, such as palm oil or corn for ethanol, require reasonable soils on which other crops might be grown, jatropha is prepared to put down roots almost anywhere. - Manish K. Sharma, CJP director
The distance training program provides an opportunity to those stakeholders who are pre-occupied with other important business tasks and do not get the time to attend the CJP's 5 day training programmes.

The course material consists of a number of audiovisual materials covering all aspects of Jatropha growing and producing biodiesel. A practical "learning by seeing" approach is taken:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

According to the CJP each hectare of Jatropha can produce an average of 800 gallons (3000 liters) of biodiesel per year from its nuts as well as more than 7500 lbs (3400 kilograms) of waste biomass. For biodiesel, Jatropha yields more than four times as much fuel per hectare as soybean; more than ten times that of corn.

CJP being an international knowledge centre for Jatropha oil crop and has gained extensive experiences and expertise for creating a 'Jatropha Failsafe Fuel Farm'. It is the only global organization which organizes a 'Worldwide Jatropha Specific Training programme'.

Image: a bunch of mature jatropha nuts ready to be harvested. Courtesy: CJP.

References:
Earthtoys: CJP announces Jatropha biodiesel distance training program - September 7, 2007.

Center for Jatropha Promotion: CJP Offers Jatropha Biodiesel Distance Training Programme - overview.


Article continues

Brazil and Mozambique sign biofuels cooperation agreement

Brazil and Mozambique have signed six bilateral agreements on social and economic cooperation, with the most important one being a commitment to join forces on the production of biofuels. Mozambique's president Armando Guebuza is currently in Brazil where he met with his counterpart and with biofuel industry leaders. Brazilian president Lula Inácio Lula da Silva has been extremely active in trying to help Africa benefit from its large biofuels potential. Promoting renewable fuels abroad has become his administration's top foreign policy priority.

The newly signed document establishes an action plan that will be drafted over the next 180 days, aimed at studying local conditions and at transferring technologies and scientific expertise on renewable bio-based fuels. The goal is to replicate Brazil's sustainable biofuel production model in the African country.
Cooperation on biofuels promises to open up a range of good opportunities for our companies and will serve many Mozambican citizens. Our country has an enormous potential for the production of raw materials for biofuels. - Armando Guebuza, president of Mozambique.
The leader of the African country stressed that this accord on technical cooperation serves his government's poverty alleviation strategies and helps protect the environment by fighting climate change.
The Africa policies of the government of President Lula show Brazil's commitment to helping the African continent overcome the constraints that hinder it to reach the development levels it is yearning for. - Armando Guebuza, president of Mozambique
President Lula said biofuels like ethanol and biodiesel will generate income and employment for the Mozambican population "who have all the necessary conditions to help supply the growing global demand for bioenergy".

The agreement further entails the training of Mozambican engineers and technicians, as well as the creation of a framework to help the African country create an internal and export-oriented market for biofuels.

Technical assessments show Mozambique indeed has suitable agro-climatic conditions and a large resource potential for the production of biomass, estimated to stand at around 7 Exajoules per year by 2015, roughly equivalent to the energy contained in 1.1 billion barrels of oil (i.e. 3 million barrels per day) (earlier post and here). It is no exaggeration to call the African country a potential biofuel 'superpower':
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

President Lula for his part said that Brazil would also help Mozambique develop its hydroelectric potential as well as its petroleum resources. Recently, the Maputo government announced that the East African country had launched an international auction for oil and gas exploration in several regions of the country.

Lula reaffirmed that the recent investment by Brazilian mining giant Companhia Vale do Rio Doce for the exploration of coal in the region of Moatize has triggered a new cycle of investment interest. Other Brazilian companies are currently studying infrastructure and energy projects in the African country.

Besides the biofuels agreement, the two countries signed collaboration deals on education, the fight against HIV/AIDS, agriculture and justice. Projects to be carried out by Brazil's International Cooperation Agency include building water purification and infrastructure projects in rural areas.

Importantly, president Lula announced his government's attention to establish a plant for the production of anti-retroviral drugs in Maputo. An office of the Fundação Oswaldo Cruz (Fiocruz) will be opened there as well. Fiocruz is a fund coordrinating technology transfers and expertise on the production of affordable anti-retrovirals. The Brazilian initiative is supported by the African Union.

Translated from Portuguese by Laurens Rademakers, Biopact 2007, cc.

References:

Brazilian federal government: Brasil e Moçambique formalizarão acordo na área de biocombustíveis, informa diplomata.

Agência Brasil: Lula diz que biocombustível será nova fonte de renda e emprego para moçambicanos - September 6, 2007.

Agência Lusa: Brasil assina acordo de biocombustíveis com Moçambique - September 6, 2007.

Biopact: Mozambique's Petromoc seeks to invest $408 million in biofuels - August 30, 2007

References to a case-study on Mozambique's potential can be found here:
Biopact: Journal "Energy for Sustainable Development" focuses on international bioenergy trade - November 05, 2006


Article continues

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Europe's largest coal-fired power station starts co-firing biomass

The Drax Group, which runs Europe's largest coal-fired power station, has revealed it is ahead of schedule with plans to improve efficiency of its 4000 MW power plant and cut carbon emissions by co-firing biomass. Drax set a target of producing 10 per cent of its output from biomass fuels by the end of 2009, equivalent to the output of around 500 wind turbines, and with it a reduction in CO2 emissions of CO2 by over two million tonnes each year.

The plant, which supplies 7 per cent of the United Kingdom's electricity, had made an early start to turbine upgrades and would see the installation of its first high-pressure turbine this month.

The site at Selby in North Yorkshire is the UK's biggest producer of CO2. The Drax Group has therefor begun to cut CO2 output by replacing much more of the coal it burns with renewable biomass both from agricultural residues as well as from dedicated, fast growing energy crops such as willow and elephant grass (Miscanthus x giganteus). Biomass is carbon-neutral, in that it absorbs as much CO2 while growing as it produces during burning. In the future, biomass energy will become carbon-negative when power plants are coupled to carbon capture and storage systems.

Drax's chief executive Dorothy Thompson said the station had recently been burning sunflower and olive waste and had briefly taken the level of biomass to 4%. The company also revealed half-year profits up 21% to £288m as it continued to benefit from supply deals agreed when electricity prices were higher.

But the company warned that margins had tightened as coal prices rose amid increased demand from China and India. This trend strengthens the case for more biomass co-firing:
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Drax also aims to reduce its environmental footprint through improving the thermal efficiency of iuts power station. Such improvements rely on recent advances in technology and tend to be capital intensive. Current technology options range from upgrading the turbines to retrofitting supercritical boilers.

Drax has committed to a £100 million capital investment programme to upgrade its high pressure and low pressure turbines. The result will be an improvement in overall baseload efficiency of 5%, taking it towards 40%, and an annual saving of one million tonnes of CO2.

This way, Drax hopes to contribute to the UK Government’s discussions on how best to achieve emissions reductions through existing policy mechanisms, such as the EU Emissions Trading Scheme.


Image: Miscanthus x giganteus, a fast-growing, high yielding energy grass used at the Drax power plant. Credit: Drax Group.

References:
Drax Group: Interim results announcement for six months ended 30 June 2007 - September 6, 2007.

BBC: Drax powers ahead with green plan - September 6, 2007.


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China unveils $265 billion renewable energy plan, aims for 15% renewables by 2020

China unveiled a two trillion yuan (€194/US$265 billion) plan to increase its use of renewable energy by 15 percent or the equivalent of 600 million tons of coal by 2020. The plan is meant to reduce the country's green house gas emissions while sustaining its economic growth. Bioenergy and biofuels take a large share in the proposed energy mix.

In 2005 China derived only 7.5 percent of its total energy consumption from renewable sources, roughly the equivalent of 160 million tons of coal. Now, Beijing says the People's Republic will develop hydropower, biomass and biofuels, wind power, solar energy, geothermal, tidal and biogas energy to replace 15 percent of the nation's coal, oil and natural gas consumption.

The plan was created by the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), China's macroeconomic management agency, which studies and formulates policies for economic and social development and guides the overall structuring of the economic system.

Under the renewables plan, 1 trillion yuan is slated for spending on pollution reduction and energy efficiency goals for 2010, 80 percent would come from companies and just 10 percent from central government with local authorities and others making up the rest.

Over half the proposed investment will go into large dams, which environmentalists criticise and some scientists believe are a significant source of methane, a most potent greenhouse gas.

Table 1 shows the share of the different renewables in China's new plan:


Geothermal and tidal energy are included in the plan but will make marginal contributions. Besides utilizing biomass for electricity generation, China will also cut its use of 10 million tons of oil per year and instead use 10 million tons of bio-ethanol and two million tons of biodiesel from non-food forestry and agricultural crops. The plan says that by 2020, 300 million people from rural areas will be using biogas as their main household fuel:
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Tax and fiscal policies will support the shift to cleaner energy, together with new rules for companies, which are expected to come up with most of the cash.

Power firms with over 5 GW of generating capacity have to get at least 3 percent of energy from renewable sources by 2020, Chen said, when asked about the role of large companies.

And China's central bank has already added the energy consumption and pollution records of over 12 million firms to a nationwide credit database as part of a push for greener growth, state media said on Tuesday.

Short-term reforms to China's system of state-set power prices have been rejected because higher tariffs would encourage construction of more coal-burning plants, rather than foster development of renewables.

The country is struggling to stop illegal construction of new plants, most of them coal-burning, as the national grid cannot always meet booming demand.

References:
Xinhua: China aims high in renewable energy usage - September 4, 2007.

Reuters: China plans $265 billion renewables spending - September 4, 2007.

Biopact: Greening the desert with biofuels: Inner Mongolia peasants show it's possible - August 14, 2007

Biopact: China to boost forest-based bioenergy, helps win battle against desertification - July 17, 2007

Biopact: China mulls switch to non-food crops for ethanol - June 11, 2007


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Report: 2006 record year for investments in renewables, annual growth projected to be 17% through 2013

A new report [*.pdf] by New Energy Finance shows 2006 was another record year for Venture Capital (VC) and Private Equity (PE) investment in the clean energy sector, with $18.1bn invested in companies and projects. This represented a 67% increase on 2005 ($10.8bn), and beat New Energy Finance’s original forecast.

However, this rapid growth in VC & PE investment only tells half the story: a significant amount of money ($2bn) resides in funds and has yet to be invested. During 2006 clean energy VCs invested only 73% of the total money available to them – a symptom of a competitive market where demand for deals is outweighing supply, thereby driving up company valuations.

During 2006 more investors sought out opportunities in clean energy, in response to high oil prices and the need for action climate on change. New Energy Finance has identified 1,859 VC/PE investors who have either made investments or stated their intention to do so. The analysts recorded 193 funds that invest in clean energy, and analysed 521 VC and PE deals in 2006, totalling $8.6bn for companies and $9.5bn for projects. This trend has continued, with a total of $10.6bn invested in the first half of 2007 (see Figure 1, click to enlarge).

Out of the total VC & PE investment of $18.1bn, 61% ($11.1bn) represented new money into the clean energy sector, as investors provided capital for technology development, company expansion and project construction. The remaining money, $7.0bn, was used to finance company buy-outs, and re-finance and acquire projects. All regions experienced significant growth in 2006 (see Figure 2, click to enlarge).

$7.1bn was invested in the Americas (AMER) - an increase of 83% on 2005 – as mainstream investors woke up to the opportunities in clean energy, especially in biofuels. Europe, Middle East & Africa (EMEA) saw $9.2bn invested (67% increase), mainly driven by PE investment in companies and projects. Companies and projects in the Asia & Oceania region (ASOC) received $1.8bn in investment (26% increase), driven by pre-IPO PE investments in Chinese solar companies and clean energy activity in other developing countries such as India.

At a sector level wind ($8.4bn), biofuels ($4.7bn) and solar ($2.3bn) attracted the majority (86%) of VC/PE investment (see Figure 3, click to enlarge). Mature technologies, such as on-shore wind and first generation/cornbased ethanol, attracted PE money for expansion and roll-out of production capacity. Solar raised a significant amount of money via the public markets, but also attracted the highest level of classic VC investment ($428m) typically into thin film and non crystalline silicon technologies. VC investment in in second generation biofuels technologies, including cellulosic ethanol, also increased ($235m):
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Encouragingly the average VC deal size has increased in the past year at almost each development stage (see Figure 4, click to enlarge). Average series C/third round investment rose 29% to $14.8m and average series D/fourth round deal size almost doubled to $20.7m indicating investor confidence in companies with technologies closer to commercialisation.

The annual report of VC/PE activity in clean energy technologies, companies and projects examines the investment trends in 2006 and the first half of 2007. The analysts divide deals into the following investment types:
  • Venture Capital describes the funding of development and commercialisation of new technologies, products and services. Of the $8.6bn total investment into companies 2006, classic venture capital for technology and expansion accounted for $1.6bn, with the US based companies receiving $1.3bn (81%).
  • Private Equity for Companies is investment in later-stage companies which have sufficiently mature businesses to allow some leverage, or which require capital to fund business assets. $3.2bn of private equity investment into companies was recorded, as European and Asian companies geared up for further fund raising via the public markets. A further $1.8bn changed hands through buy-outs and corporate spin-offs.
  • Private Equity for Projects defines investment in individual renewable energy or biofuels projects, or portfolios of such projects. A massive $9.5bn worth of renewable energy projects were financed in 2006 by PE investors (utilising significant leverage), with wind the dominant sector ($6.7bn), then biofuels and biomass ($1.7bn).
  • Private Investment in Public Equity (PIPE) is a transaction in which a PE-type investor takes a significant stake in a company quoted on the public markets. New investors drove PE investment in over-the-counter (OTC) markets and PIPEs to a total of $1.9bn, more three times the investment in 2005.
The outlook is positive, as an increasing number of investors seek out VC/PE investment opportunities across a range of sectors and countries. A healthy pipeline of 866 development stage pure-play clean energy companies is complemented by proven exit routes.


The leading investors are establishing successful track records and experiencing traditional venture style returns. All stages of VC and PE have seen a continued growth in investment activity in the first half of 2007, with VC investments already putting on a strong show (see Figure 5, click to enlarge). Based on industry-standard levels of leverage, we estimate that the amount of equity deployed during 2006 was $9.4bn. This represents 9% of the total transaction volume in clean energy in 2006 ($100.4bn).


New Energy Finance has updated its forecast of VC/PE investment from 2007. It now estimates that the total VC and PE invested in clean energy will grow at an annual compound rate of approximately 17% through to 2013 (see Figure 6, click to enlarge). During this period, the analysts expect over $262bn worth of VC and PE funded deals to be completed, absorbing over $146bn of equity. This will be leveraged in terms of later stage deals, buyouts and project financings, although the recent squeeze in the credit markets has yet to have an impact, and may slow down growth in some areas.

References:
New Energy Finance: Cleaning Up 2007. Growth in Private Equity & Venture Capital Investment in Clean Energy Technologies, Companies & Projects [*.pdf] - August 2007.


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North Carolina Biofuels Center launched, aims to supply 10% of state's fuel needs with advanced biofuels

Catalyzing an entire new industry for North Carolina is the long-term task of the newly established Biofuels Center of North Carolina, which moved to reality this week following its first board of directors meeting.

Funded with a US$5 million initial appropriation from the 2007 General Assembly, the non-profit corporation will in coming years implement North Carolina's Strategic Plan for Biofuels Leadership [*.pdf]. The plan was mandated by the General Assembly in 2006 and presented to its Environmental Review Commission in April of this year.

The plan offers a challenging goal: by 2017, 10 percent of all liquid fuels sold in North Carolina will come from next-generation biofuels grown and produced within the state. At current usage rates, production of almost 600 million gallons will be required.
Meeting this bold goal will require enormous commitment, new resources, and untold acres of energy crops across the state. Meeting the goal will also yield a sector of impact statewide, particularly for rural and agricultural communities. How often does a state have opportunity to create a large new industry with widespread benefit? - W. Steven Burke, chair of the Biofuels Center's board of directors
The strategic plan was shaped by a 24-member steering committee and more than 80 public and private participants from across North Carolina. Six months of discussion and ideas yielded 9 strategies to ensure that the state gains biofuels capabilities and benefit over the next 10-15 years.

The plan focuses the state's biofuels future on products made not from important food and feed crops such as corn, but rather from cellulosic feedstocks such as wood waste, animal wastes, and high-yield plants and grasses. With its rich forestry and agricultural resources, North Carolina is well suited to develop and grow such biomass:
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Key among the strategies was establishment of a neutral catalyzing and assisting agency to work with researchers, growers, production facilities, educators, and policy-makers.

Establishment of the Biofuels Center of North Carolina moves that key strategy to quick reality. The non-profit corporation will be headquartered at the newly established North Carolina Biofuels Campus in Oxford. The site is the former U.S. Department of Agriculture tobacco research facility that was turned over in 2005 to the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler and his department see biofuels as an increasingly important sector for the state's agricultural economy and have designated the campus for biofuels development activities.
The Biofuels Center is the right idea at the right time It's valuable for Granville County and people in Oxford but also for people across North Carolina. After all, we all need more biofuels. - Rep. Jim Crawford, representing House District 32 and Granville County and a lead advocate for the Center
Though many states are aggressively pursuing biofuels development, North Carolina is believed to be the first to establish both a central targeted agency and a central campus for support and activities. The catalyzing agency is patterned on the state's bold leadership move in 1984 to establish the North Carolina Biotechnology Center in nearby Research Triangle Park.

The Board will rapidly gain an executive director and small staff for the Biofuels Center. Programs will be established to fund research on crops strategically important across the state, to strengthen growing and production capacity, to initiate workforce training programs, and to address public awareness, policies, and federal funding.
The growing biofuels industry offers enormous opportunities for creating new jobs and decreasing America's dependence on foreign energy. It also provides the potential for strengthening our farms and rural communities by offering them a strong, sustainable and important long-term stake in America's energy strategy. The Biofuels Center of North Carolina will help to ensure that these possibilities and opportunities become realities. - Congressman G.K. Butterfield.
The strategic plan, led by five co-conveners, was mandated by legislation enacted in August 2006 – Senate Bill 2051 – written by Sen. Charlie Albertson and Rep. Dewey Hill.

References:
North Carolina Biotechnology Center: Fueling North Carolina’s Future. North Carolina’s Strategic Plan for Biofuels Leadership [*.pdf]. Submitted to the Environmental Review Commission, North Carolina General Assembly - April 1, 2007

North Carolina Biotechnology Center homepage.


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U.S. DOE funds Reaction Design to lead study on biofuel combustion processes

Clean technology chemistry company Reaction Design today announced that it has been awarded a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy for a two-year study of the chemical and transport phenomena that take place during biofuel combustion.

Reaction Design will lead a team of researchers from Chevron and the University of Southern California (USC) to create computer simulation tools that will speed the development process for engine designers and fuel manufacturers as they strive to integrate biofuels into their products. The development and validation of the detailed chemical mechanisms that govern biofuel combustion will focus on US domestic alternatives that show promise in reducing dependence upon foreign petroleum.

Project funding comes from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of FreedomCAR and Vehicle Technologies (OFCVT) with a mission to develop more energy-efficient and environmentally friendly highway transportation technologies that enable America to use less petroleum.

Specific goals of the FreedomCAR program are to identify fuel formulations optimized for use in 2007- and 2010-technology diesel engines that incorporate non-petroleum-based blending components, with the potential to achieve at least a five percent replacement of petroleum fuels. An additional five percent replacement is targeted for 2010 engine designs.

The U.S. Department of Energy is interested in advancing the characterization, understanding, and use of biodiesel fuels. There is growing evidence that fuel additives originating from biomass reduce soot formation in diesel engines during the combustion process by providing more efficient oxidation of hydrocarbon fuel fragments:
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Reaction Design’s work will focus on the detailed chemical mechanisms and simulation tools that enable accurate simulation of the combustion process. Armed with these simulation tools, fuel manufacturers can fully understand how various fuel components impact combustion behavior in current and future engine designs.
The results of this study will provide critical insight into the chemical behavior of biofuels. We are especially interested in biofuel combustion behaviors as well as their effects on emissions. Ultimately, the goal of our research is to aid our nation’s energy security by speeding the development and integration of US-based biofuels into the market and reducing our dependence on foreign petroleum. - Bernie Rosenthal, CEO of Reaction Design.
Earlier, Reaction Design was selected by NASA to develop fuel models for simulating the operation of jet engines with alternative fuels. The project will focus on providing needed tools for accurate simulation of combustion of Fischer-Tropsch fuels and biofuels in jet engines, with applications for both commercial and military jet engines.

The project's key objective is to develop a comprehensive set of fundamental data on the combustion of alternative jet fuels, using a surrogate fuel approach. The results will provide guidance to the planning and design of optimal fuel-production processes. Fischer-Tropsch fuels are produced from hydrogen and carbon monoxide, which can be developed from either coal or biomass fuel stocks. Combining large American coal reserves with clean technology processes such as Fischer-Tropsch, that convert the coal into liquid fuels that take advantage of abundant coal and agricultural resources increases U.S. independence from foreign oil.

Both the understanding of detailed chemistry and the processing power of computers have greatly increased in the last decade, enabling accurate simulation of combustion for enhanced, clean-technology design. Petroleum fuels, such as kerosene, contain hundreds of different hydrocarbon species that all contribute in specific ways towards ignition, flame propagation and pollutant formation. The traditional technique of simulating these fuels using empirically derived chemistry parameters does not provide the accurate emissions predictions nor the necessary detail required for use in design and optimization. Thus, the development of accurate surrogate fuel models for use in chemical kinetic simulations is a critical step toward enabling computer-aided engine and fuel design for petroleum and alternative fuels alike.

The two-year project will be led by Reaction Design with experimental support from researchers at the University of Southern California . Detailed chemical kinetics models will be developed and validated with experimental data to allow prediction of important parameters related to ignition, extinction, and pollutant formation for Fischer-Tropsch fuels and biofuels.

Reaction Design also leads the Model Fuels Consortium (MFC) to address the emerging challenges experienced by the automotive and fuel industry. The MFC engages industry luminaries in accelerating the development of software tools and databases to enable the design of cleaner burning, more efficient engines and fuels. Current members include Chevron, Conoco Phillips, Cummins, Dow Chemical Company, Ford Motor Company, Honda, L'Institut Francais du Petrole, Mazda, Mitsubishi Motors, Nissan, PSA Peugeot Citroen, and Toyota.


Reaction Design helps transportation manufacturers and energy companies rapidly achieve their Clean Technology goals by automating the analysis of chemical processes via simulation and modeling solutions.

Reaction Design is the exclusive developer and distributor of CHEMKIN (illustration showing a modelling sample), the de facto standard for modeling gas-phase and surface chemistry that provides engineers ultra-fast access to reliable answers that save time and money in the development process. Reaction Design also offers the KINetics software package, which brings detailed kinetics modeling to other engineering applications, such as Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) programs. Reaction Design’s world-class engineers, chemists and programmers have expertise that spans multi-scale engineering from the molecule to the plant. Reaction Design serves more than 350 customers in the commercial, government and academic markets.


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U.S. House approves Green Chemistry act, ACS calls it a 'smart step'

The U.S. House of Representatives has passed legislation seeking to improve federal coordination, dissemination and investment in green chemistry research and development. The Green Chemistry Research and Development Act of 2007 (H.R. 2850, *.pdf) aims to provide safer, more sustainable technological options to replace traditional products and processes.

Green chemistry can be defined on the basis of a few strong principles, such as the design of processes to maximize the amount of raw material that ends up in the product; the use of renewable, bio-based feedstock; the design of energy efficient processes; avoidance of waste and sustainable forms of waste disposal.

The use of renewable feedstock makes green chemistry a pivot of the emerging post-oil bioeconomy. Renewable raw materials are obtained from agriculture and forestry, from byproducts and biomass wastes of other processes; fossil fuels (petroleum, natural gas, or coal) or mined resources have no place in green chemistry.

The Green Chemistry bill was introduced in the House on June 25, 2007, by Reps. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.), Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.), Vernon Ehlers (R-Mich.), Peter Welch (D-Vt.), and David Wu (D-Ore.). On July 11, 2007, the House Committee on Science and Technology passed the bill by unanimous consent, and the bill yesterday passed the full House of Representatives by voice vote. Similar legislation was passed overwhelmingly by the House in each of the last two Congresses, but was not acted on in the Senate.

The world's largest scientific organisation, the American Chemical Society (ACS), today praised the vote as a 'smart step'.
Green chemistry is the ultimate proof that environmental and economic benefits in chemistry can be optimized simultaneously. The technologies that spin out of this novel research are the seeds that can sustain small business ventures and green corporate practices. From reducing and improving pharmaceutical processes, reinventing the home and construction business, to over-coming our climate and energy challenges, green chemistry is proving that economics and environment are not mutually exclusive. - Catherine T. Hunt, Ph.D., ACS President.
The bill dedicates resources at a number of federal agencies towards green chemistry R&D and improves interagency coordination. Under the new legislation, the National Science Foundation, the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the Department of Energy would work together to fund and coordinate green chemistry R&D. The interagency program would support merit-reviewed grants to individual researchers, university-industry partnership, R&D and technology transfer at federal laboratories, and the education and training of undergraduate and graduate students in green chemistry science and engineering:
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By concentrating on sustainable economic practices in the chemical industry, we can move towards a more sustainable vision of the future, Hunt said. In a letter to lead sponsor Gingrey, Hunt praised the interagency program set up by the legislation because it would strengthen the government's role as a true partner in promoting greener technologies.

ACS, through its Green Chemistry Institute, supports improving the environment through chemistry. ACS works closely with policymakers to encourage environmental decisions that promote sustainable resource usage and waste prevention in an economically viable chemical enterprise.

The American Chemical Society is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress and a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

References:
U.S. House of Representatives, 110th Congress, 1st Session, H.R.2850: Green Chemistry Research and Development Act of 2007 [*.pdf], September 4, 2007.

Eurekalert: American Chemical Society calls green chemistry bill a 'smart step' - September 5, 2007.

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Wednesday, September 05, 2007

A quick look at CNG ships

At present, the only way to transport natural gas is by pipeline or by LNG tanker. However, several organisations are designing a new class of ships that would transport natural gas in a compressed form. Such CNG carriers could tap so-called 'stranded gas' resources and bring them to nearby markets in a fairly uncomplicated way. Even though the concept of marine CNG transport has a long history, new technologies, high gas prices, recent geopolitical developments, the need for more flexible supply contracts and a global shift away from dirty fossil fuels to cleaner natural gas, have brought it back into the spotlight.

The latest innovations are important because the technology can also be used to transport biogas, a highly efficient carbon-neutral biofuel that can be made from dedicated energy crops. By looking at biogas as a 'stranded' gas reserve, a whole new range of energy options becomes available. Developing countries without natural gas resources but with good agro-climatic conditions for the production of biogas from energy crops could export to nearby markets with a growing demand for natural gas, and receive premium price for their carbon-neutral fuel. Unlike (stranded) natural gas, which has to be 'discovered', biogas projects can be carefully planned and located at the most optimal sites.

Moreover, in the future, biogas production systems will be established close to remote and relatively small carbon storage sites that would otherwise remain unused, and deliver carbon-negative methane (more at the Abrupt Climate Change Strategy website and here). Contrary to more conventional capture and storage (CCS) concepts which are tied to the particular location of an oil or gas field, or to a power plant, in this concept the production of the fuel can be made independent of its consumption site. Biogas from energy crops would be produced near a geological storage site, carbon dioxide scrubbed out and sequestered, and ultra-clean, carbon-negative biomethane would be shipped out using CNG ships (schematic, click to enlarge).

The feasibility of this concept - arguably the cleanest and most effective energy system to fight climate change - is currently being studied. The emergence of CNG ships makes it more promising. Versatile CNG tankers and strategically located biogas production could make for a perfect match.


Transporting gas in CNG tankers would have many advantages over LNG ships. The latter require extremely costly dedicated infrastructures: the ship itself, capable of handling the cryogenic liquid, liquefaction facilities at the upstream and regasification facilities at the downstream. They only make economic sense when they can tap into very large natural gas sources. For this reason, the number of LNG projects is very small with the consequence that supply contracts often involve very large volumes, few players and long time-scales. CNG ships on the contrary are flexible, scaleable and could open a genuine commodity market, with many producers servicing many consumers on a dynamic basis.

So who is developing CNG ships? And what kind of innovative technologies are being focused on? Five different companies are actively developing the concept: SeaNG, TransOcean Gas, and the Floating Pipeline Company, all from Canada, Norway's Knutsen OAS Shipping in collaboration with Det Norske Veritas and Europipe GmbH, and US company EnerSea Transport.

Three basic gas storage concepts are being looked at: (1) storing compressed gas in coselles - large coils of pipe wound into cylindrical storage containers -, (2) utilizing stacked pressure vessels (cylinders) made from light-weight composites, (3) moveable storage containers containing pipe sections, or steel or composite pressure vessels, that can be handled as an ordinary shipping container and can be blended into intermodal transport chains (rail and truck after delivery by ship). Let us have a closer look at these concepts.

COSELLE SYSTEM

SeaNG
SeaNG offers a solution for marine transport of natural gas over distances ranging from 200 to 2000 kilometers. Its CNG ships rely on the 'Coselle System' which is based on coiled pipe. SeaNG's Coselle CNG ship is the world’s first CNG ship to receive full classification approval.

The patented Coselle utilizes a new form of technology to contain compressed natural gas. Simply, it is a large coil of pipe wound into a cylindrical storage container. Typically, ten miles of small diameter, high-strength pipe is coiled into a reel-like structure, called a carousel. This carousel provides support and protection for the transportation and stacking of Coselles. The name “Coselle” originates from a contraction of the words “coil” and “carousel” and is a unique industry term developed a decade ago:
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The size of a Coselle may range from 15 to 20 metres in diameter and 2.5 to 4.5 metres in height, and it may weigh about 550 tonnes. A single Coselle carries about 3.0 million standard cubic feet (mmscf) of natural gas, depending on Coselle dimensions, and gas temperature, pressure and composition. The Coselles are connected by a proprietary manifold and control system.

The complete Coselle CNG delivery system consists of a ship combined with loading and offloading facilities. The gas is compressed at a loading terminal (onshore or offshore) and loaded into a CNG ship. The ship then travels to the offloading terminal (onshore or offshore) where the gas is decompressed and delivered to market.

The Coselle CNG Ships are designed for the safe and efficient carriage of compressed natural gas (CNG) in Coselles. Each Coselle carries about 3 mmscf of gas and can be stacked on the deck or in the holds of a ship. These stacked Coselles are then manifolded together using a system that allows for safe and efficient gas loading and unloading.


The size of the ship is best defined in terms of its carrying capacity. Sea NG has developed several ship designs, including:
  • 16 Coselle ship transporting about 50 mmscf of gas.
  • 84 Coselle ship transporting about 250 mmscf of gas.
  • 108 Coselle ship transporting about 325 mmscf of gas.
  • 144 Coselle ship transporting about 450 mmscf of gas.
The Coselle CNG Ships may run on natural gas drawn from their own cargo, with consequent economic efficiencies and environmental benefits. The fleet will be managed by Sea NG in cooperation with a leading international ship operator. The ships are also highly maneuverable, having twin screw propulsion aft and a bow thruster and do not require berthing tug assistance to enter harbours or moor at the load/discharge docks.

Coselles may also be loaded onto barges. However each barge would require an attendant tug while in harbour to comply with standard requirements of harbour authorities and international practice. Since there would be no efficiency gained by having fewer tugs than barges there would need to be compelling circumstances to use a tug barge system.


Knutsen OAS Shipping
Norway's Knutsen OAS Shipping collaborated with Det Norske Veritas (DNV), one of the leading experts on vessel design, pipeline design and safety assessment in the world, and with Germany's Europipe Gmbh, the leading pipeline fabrication company in the world to develop a similar concept consisting of pipes enclosed in cylindrical containers, but not wound like a coil. In this CNG concept the gas is stored under normal pressure in vertical cylinders on-board the vessel. The concept is based on several patents pending solutions. The 'pressurized natural gas' (PNG) system will not require sophisticated processing to maintain the gas stored in the containment system. Due to the operation under ambient temperatures, no isolation will be required to prevent heating during the voyage. The vertical cylinders will be prepared according to three main principles:
  • design, material selection and testing regime for the cylinder is according to the recognised offshore pipeline code DNV-OS-F101 (similar to ISO/DIS 13623);
  • end caps designed according to the International Gas Code (IGC) but with a minimum wall thickness not less than the cylinder wall; and
  • all material used for cargo containment piping, cargo deck piping, valves and fittings is NV 316 or similar, complying with the requirements for manufacture survey and certification given by normal rules for classification of ships.
The vessel itself is straightforward vessel design. Some special vessel arrangement is required to ensure maximum safety and functionality for the new application.

Knutsen OAS Shipping has worked jointly with Europipe GMBH in Germany to qualify the containment system according to new rules issued by DNV.


Full Scale Test Cylinder
Europipe has used the Mannesmann Research Institute and the containment system has been successfully qualified and approved by DNV according to the new DNV rules. This is an achievement that proves that CNG through the Knutsen PNG solution could become a reality. Europipe has already performed a trial production of the X-80 pipes and end caps according to PNG specification and DNV rules. These have been used for the qualification testing. Both fatigue and burst test has been performed. The fatigue test will ensure a PNG carrier lifetime of 40 years based on 50 loading per year. The burst test verified that sufficient burst capability remains in the cylinder even after a fatigue exposure of 40 years.

Knutsen OAS Shipping has performed the vessel initial design with input from DNV and independent naval architect expertise. The vessels have been discussed with several of the major shipbuilding yards. The yard input together with the Europipe input for the containing system has given Knutsen the possibility to price the vessels to a detailed level necessary in order to be able to determine the unit cost for transportation of natural gas by PNG vessels.


Several different types of vessel have been considered such as the offshore loading and discharging type PNG vessel and terminal-to-terminal type PNG vessel.

The offshore loading type vessel is based on Knutsen’s own experience with similar operation for oil. The vessel can apply the well-known submerged turret loading (STL) system from advanced production and loading (APL) systems. Other types of offshore loading systems are also being considered and detailed design and testing for a combined offshore/onshore loading and discharging system is on-going.

Several vessel sizes have been considered from small PNG carriers with gas carrying capacity down to 2–4MMSm3 to large PNG carriers with carrying capacity more that 30MMSm3.

The large size PNG carrier is capable of sailing with a speed of 17.5 knots and is very suitable for large volumes and/or long distance gas deliveries up to 3,000 nautical miles (nm). Similarly, smaller vessels can be built according to the volumes and distances required.

Gas transport using PNG vessels can be continuous if a minimum of three vessels is provided for gas transport from the gas source to the gas receiving part. More vessels can be added according to market demand, avoiding high initial tariff traditionally associated with other systems because of low utilisation.

Another advantage is that the gas quality that could be transported on PNG carriers are very similar to gas qualities allowed in pipeline systems. In fact, even richer gas could be transported in PNG carriers compared with pipelines, giving PNG carriers an advantage compared with LNG and even towards pipelines in some cases.

Compared with traditional LNG value chains, a PNG value chain would not require investments instorage and liquefaction facilities upstream and storage and regasification facilities downstream. This would make PNG an interesting new alternative for certain volumes/distances where LNG was previously considered the only option. Case studies indicate that for distances up to 3,000nm PNG could be more economic than LNG.

PNG offers an environmentally interesting solution. The vessel could be fuelled using natural gas, a favourable fuel compared with heavy fuel oils normally used in shipping – reducing the emissions of nitrogen oxides, carbon dioxide, sulphur and dust to the environment. Total energy demands are much less for PNG compared with LNG, while PNG, compared with pipeline, is very similar or better. Due to the heavy containment system, ballast water discharge would not be required. For some trades, this could be a very important environmental issue.

As part of the rule development, DNV performed a risk and safety assessment, that concluded that PNG transport is as safe as or even safer than comparable LNG transport – an important issue that must be considered when gas transport solutions are being established.

Because PNG delivery is performed with natural gas in gaseous phase, discharging could be far away from existing population. Discharging could even be performed offshore some distance from the shoreline and piped to shore. For some areas, this could be an advantage because of political risk or social unrest.

The PNG vessel operates at full pressure at ambient temperatures. This means that the containment system cannot be pressurised due to heat received from the environment. It also simplifies the piping arrangement and minimises piping and valves dimensions and system complexity. This again contributes to an increased safety.

The PNG carrier is based on known technology elements arranged differently. The vessel is a combination of an ordinary crude oil tanker and a container vessel while the containment system is based on ordinary pipeline fabrication principles. The cargo handling system is small in diameter with material and pressure rating that is well-known in the shipping and offshore industry.


COMPOSITE PRESSURE VESSELS / MODAL CONTAINERS

Trans Ocean Gas
Trans Ocean Gas is the only CNG proponent in the world that will use fibre reinforced plastic (FRP) pressure vessels to transport CNG by ship because, Trans Ocean Gas owns the patent rights to this method of CNG transportation.

FRP pressure vessels have been proven safe and reliable through critical applications in aerospace, in national defense, in the offshore oil and gas industry, and most importantly in public transit. The use of FRP pressure vessels overcomes all the deficiencies of proposed steel-based methods. The Trans Ocean Gas method using FRP pressure vessels is:
  • Light weight (1/3 of steel);
  • Corrosion resistant (thermoplastic liner);
  • Safe from rupture (leak before burst)
  • Highly reliable (probability of failure <10e-5);>
  • Resistant to ultra-low temperatures (-80C); and
  • Very cost effective
The Trans Ocean Gas CNG containment system is fabricated in modular cassettes for ease of installation and hook-up. The cassette system holds numerous FRP bottles vertically, with connecting manifolds on both the top and bottom of each cassette. The designed steel cassette frames help to isolate the gas containment system from hydro-dynamic movements and vibrations.

The cassette system also allows for 100 percent visual inspection while in service and the removal of condensed natural gas liquids at any point during a voyage. To ensure continuity of the corrosion resistant FRP bottles, the manifolds and piping network up to the first isolation valve are fabricated using duplex stainless steel.

Trans Ocean Gas intends to manufacture its FRP containment systems in Atlantic Canada. Trans Ocean Gas will license and lease its CNG systems to gas owners and entities that wish to transport bulk CNG. This will allow many countries and gas owners to economically transport their stranded natural gas reserves to new and existing locations for economic growth and development. Relatively little infrastructure will be required to gain access to this new source of energy through the Trans Ocean Gas CNG solution.

Since Trans Ocean Gas CNG is highly scalable, a wide range of gas production rates will prove viable. New or existing ships may be used to transport CNG using the Trans Ocean Gas method. High-speed voluminous container ship hull forms will make the most efficient FRP CNG carriers. Existing ships converted into FRP CNG carriers will have good short-term economics (e.g., for projects with a 10 year lifecycle). However, for CNG projects with longer lease terms, new ships may prove to be more cost effective. Trans Ocean Gas is also developing a barge-oriented solution for the Gulf of Mexico and other areas of the world that have relatively benign marine environments.

Floating Pipeline Company

The Floating Pipeline Company Incorporated too is building light-weight composite reinforced pressure vessels, known by the trade name of Gas Transport Modules (GTMs) [fact sheet, *.pdf], under license from TransCanada PipeLines Limited.


These GTMs will be used in a variety of transportation modes, including ocean-going ships, for the conveyance of natural gas, natural gas liquids and specialty gases.

A manufacturing facility has been set up in a 120,000 sq ft building in the Port of Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada for the purpose of manufacturing of the GTMs and outfitting of ships, barges, rail cars and road trailers.

The GTM technology consists of wrapping a steel 'liner' with glass fiber, reducing the weight of a conventional all steel pressure vessel by up to 40% and implying that weight for weight, up to 40% more gas can be carried in the GTM. This offers significant transportation cost savings as well as benefits in rupture safety, strength, fatigue life and corrosion protection.

The use of GTMs in ships has received "Approval in Principal" from Lloyd's register and full approval of ship design will occur when each project is identified.

In the GTM system, a number ships shuttle back and forth between loading and unloading areas. The CNG is supplied by a compressor to the ship through high pressure loading connections and the process will be similar to the filling of a CNG tank in a vehicle, though on a much larger scale. In practice, at all times there will be a ship docked at the loading site and one at the unloading site.

At the loading site as one ship is nearing its maximum fill pressure of approximately 3000 psig, a second ship will be berthed and connected so that when the first ship is full, a seamless switchover is made to the second ship so the essentially continuous flow is maintained. The first ship then steams to the unloading site. At the unloading site, a ship is already connected to a pressure letdown station and potentially a compressor station and gas will be either flowing or compressed at a constant rate into the delivery system. When the second ship arrives, it berths and it is connected to the delivery system so that when the ship that is presently there reaches its minimum heel pressure of approximately 150 psig, a seamless switchover can be made to the full ship and constant flow is maintained. The empty ship is then disconnected and steams to the loading area for filling.


STEEL PIPE SEGMENTS

EnerSea Transport
Finally, EnerSea Transport has developed its socalled 'VOTRANS' cargo containment system, comprised of many CNG bottles made from large-diameter steel pipe segments. CNG tank modules are formed by manifolding groups of these CNG bottles together. This arrangement is inherently scalable and provides segregated gas storage.



VOTRANS optimizes pressure and temperature to achieve improved storage efficiencies that are 60% to 100% greater than other CNG concepts. Lower operating pressure enables EnerSea to reduce wall thickness thereby increasing the volume of gas stored per ton of steel while simultaneously reducing total ship weight. The lower pressure also greatly reduces the compression and related fuel gas requirements for CNG vessel loading.

Gas is transferred into and out of these pipes using EnerSeaís proprietary gas displacement process, which is essentially an isothermal and isobaric operation. Other advantages of this process are:
  • Increased utilization of the natural gas cargo due to a greater evacuation efficiency of the containment system which results in lower residual gas volumes (1% or less) for the return voyage compared to about 10% with high pressure blowdown systems.
  • Accommodates a wide range of gas composition, including rich and associated gas
  • Advanced instrumentation and controls provide highly reliable and redundant monitoring and management capabilities
Dynamic process simulations completed by world class engineering groups validate the robust cargo containment and gas handling designs. EnerSea Transport says VOTRANS will meet or exceed all applicable gas carrier design criteria.

The heart of EnerSea's ship-based marine gas transport service is its VOTRANS gas carrier . The V800 class vessel illustrates the VOTRANS base case design specifications (specifications, click to enlarge).


EnerSea has developed a range of vessel size classes, including the V600 and V1000 for smaller and larger transport needs, respectively, to provide clients with an optimum gas delivery solution. These vessels may be further tailored to confidently meet a project's unique and demanding field requirements, such as specific capacity, gas composition, sea state, and loading and offloading rates.

The vessel lightship draft was designed to ensure that the vessel could be constructed and the cargo containment system could be installed entirely in dry dock. This also allows the vessel to be dry docked in numerous ports worldwide for servicing and maintenance.

The vessel has been designed to ABS Class Rules for the ship's structure and marine systems while the cargo containment system has been designed using API, ABS, and IGC codes where applicable. The cargo loading and offloading systems have been designed to comply with IMO, API and ABS guidelines and rules as applicable.

EnerSea worked closely with its partners "K" Line, HHI, Paragon Engineering, and Alan C. McClure Associates to develop the vessel design and ship specification.



Biopact Team, 2007, CC.

References:
Market Wire News – Marine CNG Poised for Commercialization as Numerous Projects Reach Funding Stage, Conference to Examine Ramifications [*.pdf] – April 27, 2007.

International Marine CNG Standards Forum [*.pdf] - August 19, 2005.

Knutsen OAS Shipping: Pressurised Natural Gas A New Alternative for Natural Gas Transport [*.pdf], The Oil & Gas Review - 2004.

EnerSea Transport: Prototype Testing Validates EnerSea’s CNG Transport System [*.pdf] - November 15, 2005.

Haszeldine, R.S. "Deep Geological Carbon Dioxide Storage: Principles, and Prospecting for Bio-Energy Disposal Sites" [*.pdf], Special Issue of Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change, Addressing the Policy Implications of Potential Abrupt Climate Change: A Leading Role for Bio-Energy - July 15, 2005.

Biopact: Pre-combustion CO2 capture from biogas - the way forward? - March 31, 2007


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Joint Genome Institute releases upgraded Integrated Microbial Genomes data management system

The U.S. Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute (JGI) announces it has released a powerful set of computational tools established to ease the visualization and exploration of genomes flooding the public domain. The tools are bundled in IMG Version 2.3 - the Integrated Microbial Genomes (IMG) data management system, which is publicly available. The JGI is at the forefront of genetic research into energy crops and organisms used for the conversion of biomass.

The content of IMG 2.3, upgraded with new microbial genomes from the Version 23 release of the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) Reference Sequence (RefSeq) collection, now includes fungi, protists (eukaryotic unicellular organisms), and plant genomes to enhance the breadth of comparative analysis. A new addition of particular interest to DOE is Pichia stipitis CBS 6054, a fungus with the exceptional capability to ferment xylose, five-carbon wood sugar, and yield high levels of ethanol.
Using comparative approaches is a powerful means to increase our understanding of gene function. My research is centered on fungi, so I am employing IMG 2.3 to advance our efforts to identify relevant pathways in fungi for bioenergy applications. - Scott Baker, Senior Research Scientist on the Fungal Biotechnology Team at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.
Baker and his colleagues, building on the pioneering work on fungal model systems that led to such biotechnology workhorses as Aspergillus niger, are currently investigating Aspergillus terreus, now incorporated in IMG 2.3, for its ability to produce itaconic acid. Products generated from itaconic acid via chemical catalysis could be used to displace petroleum-derived chemicals. This and other organic acids that can be produced by fungi and other microbes are highlighted in the DOE Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) Office of the Biomass Program sponsored Top Value-Added Chemicals From Biomass [*.pdf] study performed jointly by PNNL and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

Fungal genomes offer an expansive repertoire of enzymes needed for the deconstruction of plant biomass into its component sugars. The cost-effective production of cellulosic biofuels will undoubtedly involve fungal enzymes, and the ability to compare complements of enzyme families across organisms, with the tools packaged in IMG 2.3, will be essential to those researchers engaged in this effort.

The new version of IMG (image shows user interface, click to enlarge) contains a total of 2,878 genomes consisting of 729 bacterial, 46 archaeal, 40 eukaryotic, and 1,661 bacterial phage genomes, and 402 plasmids that did not come from a specific microbial genome sequencing project. Among these genomes, 2,609 are finished and 269 are draft genomes. IMG 2.3 contains 236 microbial genomes sequenced at DOE JGI, consisting of 157 finished and 79 draft genomes:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

IMG 2.3 extensions include an expanded controlled vocabulary of IMG terms, representing over 2,300 curated product names, and a growing collection of IMG pathways that form the foundation for composite IMG networks. IMG terms, pathways, and networks are used for improving the functional characterization of genes in ongoing studies related to carbohydrate utilization, cofactor biosynthesis, and methanogenesis.

Responding to the needs of the DOE JGI user community, IMG 2.3 provides enhanced support through "MyIMG Annotations," which enables users to associate related genes of interest with their curated annotations, including product name, and enzyme number. Other user interface extensions include reorganization of the organism and gene details pages and additional genome, gene, and function search capabilities.

IMG, accessible to the public here, is a collaborative effort between DOE JGI and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Biological Data Management and Technology Center (BDMTC). IMG is updated on a quarterly basis with new public and DOE JGI genomes. The next update is scheduled for December 2007.

The DOE Joint Genome Institute, supported by the DOE Office of Science, unites the expertise of five national laboratories, Lawrence Berkeley, Lawrence Livermore, Los Alamos, Oak Ridge, and Pacific Northwest, along with the Stanford Human Genome Center to advance genomics in support of the DOE mission related to clean energy generation and environmental characterization and clean-up. DOE JGI’s Walnut Creek, Calif., Production Genomics Facility provides integrated high-throughput sequencing and computational analysis that enable systems-based scientific approaches to these challenges.

Image: user interface map of the Integrated Microbial Genomes data management system. Credit: JGI.

References:
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL): Top Value Added Chemicals from Biomass. Volume I—Results of Screening for Potential Candidates from Sugars and Synthesis Gas [*.pdf], U.S. Department of Energy Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Office of Biomass Program (EERE), August 2004.

Joint Genome Institute: Integrated Microbial Genomes system.


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Toyo Engineering eyes 600,000 hectares for coconut production in the Philippines

According to the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) Japanese firm Toyo Engineering Corp. is about to complete a feasibility study on an integrated coco methyl-ester (CME) manufacturing plant that it plans to put up in the Philippines' northern region of Ilocos. Coconut oil derived from copra is utilized in the production of biodiesel, whereas husks and shells are a solid biomass feedstock that can be co-fired with coal, used as such in dedicated biomass plants or transformed through gasification and pyrolysis into gaseous and liquid fuels.

The venture, which will require an investment of at least 60 billion pesos (€946 million/US$1.3 billion), plans for the establishment of around 600,000 hectares of coconut farms in new areas, says Carlos Carpio, deputy administrator of the PCA. The new farmlands will use high-yielding coconut varieties. At an average yield of 3000 liters of oil and 15 tonnes of residual biomass, one hectare of high yield coconut trees produces around 305 GJ of energy.

Toyo Engineering is considering developing new areas where coconut could be planted to supply the feedstock requirement of the CME plant. The company is considering areas in the provinces of Pangasinan, Ilocos Sur, Ilocos Norte and La Union.

However, the PCA says a more cost-effective and feasible option is to use the wide coastal areas of these provinces. In this case, typhoon risks must be taken into account, but the cost advantage is considerable: opening up new areas for coconut farms would demand an investment of about 1 million pesos (€15,755/US$21,405) per hectare, while using coastal areas requires only 100,000 pesos per hectare.

Under Toyo Engineering's plan, the entire output of the CME plant will be shipped to Japan to supply the country’s growing demand for biofuels, both for fuel-dependent industries and the transport sector. Japan’s total diesel requirement reaches 40 billion liters a year, and plans for a CME blend of five percent will create a huge demand for this additive:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

The Philippine coconut industry, which has yet to recover from devastating effects of major typhoons late last year, recorded a decline in output of 4.93 percent in the first half of 2007. But coconut prices have bounced back from last year’s slump and increased by 23.97 percent this year.

The increase in copra prices has triggered demand for matured coconut, which in turn pushes up prices at the farm level.

Demand for Philippine agricultural land has been surging with the interest especially among Chinese companies looking for biofuel production overseas. Among the companies from China, Nanning Yong has firmed up negotiations with three local companies for the construction of three separate bioethanol plants worth a combined $105 million.

Documents from the Department of Agriculture show Nanning Yong is pursuing partnerships with SB Integrated Biofuels Co., Negros Southern Integrated Biofuels and One Cagayan Resource Development Inc.

Another company, Jilin Fuhua Agricultural Science and Technology Development Co. Ltd., has started ground validation and seed testing on farms for hybrid corn and sweet sorghum in Cagayan Valley, Isabela, Nueva Ecija and Pangasinan.

References:
Inquirer (Manila): Toyo eyes P60-B biofuel project - September 5, 2007.

Philippine Coconut Authority homepage.

Handbook of Energy Crops: Cocos nucifera L. profile.


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Report: Australia's biofuel production to double this year, despite drought

A report issued at the Advanced Global Biofuels Summit in Bangkok and prepared by energy consultants Mike Cochran of Ecco Consulting and Graeme Bethune of Energy Quest has found Australia's biofuel sector will double its output this year and becomes more sustainable despite drought in the country. Production will increase twofold to 600 million litres and could top one billion litres by mid-2009. This compares with Australia's national target of 350 million liters annually by 2010.

According to the report, biodiesel capacity is well ahead of demand, given a range of unfavourable market conditions including high feedstock costs and commissioning difficulties. However the industry outlook is improving as the cost of major biodiesel feedstocks such as tallow, canola and (imported) palm oil are beginning to move down from their highs earlier this year. In 2006-07, biodiesel plant production capacity increased by 390 million liters. A further 210 million liter capacity is currently under construction, expected to be fully commissioned by the end of 2008, bringing capacity to almost 620 million liters per annum.

Ethanol demand is being driven by a growing number of service stations providing the fuel and a wider range of feed stocks are becoming available. The number of E10 retail sites is expected to exceed 800 by the end of 2007 - around 13 per cent of Australian service stations and almost double the number 12 months ago. Production plants are running close to full capacity at about 120 million litres a year. With the expansion of plants and new production, capacity could exceed 300 million litres by the first half of 2009. If all plants currently on the drawing board come online ethanol production capacity could skyrocket to 1 billion liters by 2011:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Challenges
The report states that, while high oil prices provide an opportunity for biofuels to enter the transport fuel market, producers and world-be producers in Australia do face major challenges. These include the difficulties of trying to compete in the lower-value energy market with higher value food commodities.

The biofuels producers are also faced with a small number of buyers retailing a competing product, petrol or diesel. Other issues include consumer acceptability and product quality, capital investment requirements by consumers before they can take the product and the drought risk to feedstocks as well as the dominance of some feedstock supplies by a small group of companies.

The report says that developments in the past six months have confirmed that one of the keys to success for producers is low-cost feedstock. Imported materials are more competitive than locally produced oils, but waste material like tallow and used cooking oil for biodiesel remain the lowest cost feedstock.

References:
APAC Biofuels Consultants (Ecco Consulting, Energy Quest) : Biofuels in Australia - A growing sector [*.pdf] - November 2006.

The Australian: Biofuel industry to double this year - September 5, 2007.

Herald Sun: Despite costs, biofuel pumps - September 5, 2007.

Energy Current: Australia to double biofuel production - September 5, 2007.


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Tuesday, September 04, 2007

UCI and CODA Genomics collaborate to re-engineer yeast for biofuel production

Scientists from the University of California Irvine (UCI) and CODA Genomics today announced they are partnering on new research aimed at turning Saccharomyces, a common strain of yeast used in the production of beer, wine and bread into an efficient producer of ethanol.

Researchers at UCI’s Institute for Genomics and Bioinformatics (IGB) are using CODA Genomics’ patented gene-protein-production algorithms to tweak the genetic structure of the yeast strain. The fungus has the potential to efficiently turn switchgrass, hemp, corn, wood and other biomass materials into ethanol.

The $1.67 million collaboration, which began Sept. 1, is funded by CODA Genomics, an Orange County synthetic biology company, and a UC Discovery Grant that provides matching funds for innovative industry-university research partnerships.

Saccharomyces produces ethanol as a byproduct when it ferments sugars found in plant materials. In its natural state, the yeast processes the glucose that grows in these materials, but does not contain the necessary enzymes to process other sugars, such as xylose and arabinose, that are components of biomass. The bio-engineered version of the yeast will produce enzymes that can help it digest these and other sugars with equal ease, maximizing its ethanol production.

Scientists believe the bio-engineered yeast could use 80-90 percent of the sugars in biomass for ethanol production, up from about 20 percent with current technologies:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

“Ethanol could be an answer to the U.S.’s dependence on fossil fuels,” said G. Wesley Hatfield, principal investigator on the grant, a UCI professor emeritus and co-founder of CODA Genomics. “While there currently are yeast strains that can make ethanol from biomass, the existing process is very expensive and inefficient. We’re trying to build a better yeast strain – one that can produce more ethanol from the same amount of biomass by breaking it down naturally.”

The multidisciplinary research project involves UCI researchers in the schools of information and computer sciences, engineering and medicine, as well as researchers at CODA Genomics, which spun off in 2005 from UCI research.

CODA’s patented technology uses computer algorithms to design synthetic genes that self-assemble easily and generate protein in large amounts. This allows genes that occur naturally in certain organisms to be re-engineered to meet the needs of different organisms. When applied to Saccharomyces, the technology modifies the yeast so it can manufacture enzymes to break down a wider variety of sugars.

Even when the yeast is producing the necessary enzymes, inefficiencies in its metabolic pathways can slow the process. Pierre Baldi, IGB director and one of the project’s co-principal investigators, is computationally “optimizing” key enzymes to increase their efficiency. With computer algorithms, he is engineering compatibility of these key enzymes with various co-factors – the small molecules that help the enzymes work.

“Given the current energy crisis and global warming concerns, we are particularly pleased with this award,” said Baldi, who is also Chancellor’s Professor in UCI’s Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences.

Also involved in the multidisciplinary project are researchers from IGB’s Computational Biology Research Laboratory (CBRL) in the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology, and the labs of professors Suzanne Sandmeyer (biological chemistry) and Nancy Da Silva (biochemical engineering).

CBRL scientists perform the computation, gene design and gene assembly of the yeast proteins using CODA’s technology. Sandmeyer, a yeast molecular biologist, inserts the proteins into the yeast genome, ensuring the enzymes’ stability and their ability to function. Da Silva, a chemical engineer, ensures that fermentation conditions are optimal to maximize ethanol production.

“The CODA technology is already showing commercial success in therapeutic protein markets,” said CODA Genomics CEO Robert Molinari. “Now we are going to apply the unique approach to a large national problem.”

References:
University of California Irvine: UCI and CODA Genomics collaborate to re-engineer yeast for biofuel production - September 4, 2007.


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India's TVS Motor to roll out CNG-fueled motorbikes, allows leapfrogging with biogas

In a very interesting development, India's TVS Motor is set to launch CNG-powered motorbikes and three-wheelers on the huge Indian market next year. The motorcycles promise much lower carbon emissions and urban air pollution compared to petrol powered bikes, and would cut fuel consumption by up to 50 percent. Two- and three-wheelers are the major means of personal transport in many of the Global South's rapidly growing megacities. In Delhi, for example, close to 80 percent of households own a two-wheeler, not a car. In the highly developed world too the vehicles are making a come-back: in 2006, scooter sales in the U.S. soared by 200% as the bikes are increasingly energy efficient and tackle urban traffic congestion. In Europe some of the largest car leasing firms have recently begun introducing motorcycle lease plans for companies, with increasing success.

In what could be seen as a case of leap-frogging, the compressed natural gas motorbikes could eventually be fuelled by biogas in developing countries that are still building their fuel infrastructures. Biogas would be produced from local biomass resources near the point of consumption and coupled to CNG filling stations. The use of this green fuel would make such bikes very attractive on a well-to-wheel basis, since biogas is one of the most efficient and cleanest biofuels (earlier post). Even though a transition towards a CNG fuelling infrastructure requires large investments, countries like Argentina and Pakistan have shown that it is possible to make the switch. The latter country succeeded in getting 1 million CNG cars on the road in under two years time (earlier post). In India too, serious initiatives are underway to build a gas infrastructure for the transport sector.

For its part, Europe has demonstrated sufficiently that biogas can readily be used in CNG-vehicles. And when it comes to ideas for future mobility, it is no coincidence that a €3.35 million EU-financed research program on the most optimal and cleanest vehicle for urban transport resulted in the CLEVER, a CNG-powered three-wheeler that can readily use the biofuel (picture, click to enlarge).

TVS Motor, India’s third-largest two-wheeler manufacturer, announced the news of its CNG motorbike plans during a presentation of seven new products to be rolled out from its Hosur plant, including a range of CNG three-wheelers.
We will invest Rs 50-60 crore [€9/US$12.3 to €10.8/US$14.7million] every year to increase our capacities and launch new products. [...] We are close to launching hybrid and CNG bikes, which will bring fuel costs down by 50%. We are expecting major volumes from our CNG bikes. - Venu Srinivasan, chief managing director TVS Motor
Challenging Bajaj Auto on the three-wheeler front, TVS has invested Rs 150 crore [€2.7/US$3.7 million] to roll out petrol-LPG-CNG three-wheeler variants and is targeting 25% market share in the 540,000 unit market. "We are targeting major metros such as Delhi, Mumbai and Ahmedabad and the neighbouring markets of Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Africa for exports. Despite a general slump in the automobile sector, three-wheelers have shown consistent growth. There is tremendous demand from smaller cities and towns and our product has been customised to meet the demand of small operators," said TVS Motor senior vice-president for 3-wheelers HS Goindi:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

TVS Motor, which has faced reversals on the two-wheeler front with 10% negative sales in the first five months of the fiscal and had cut production to control inventories, expected a turnaround in 2008. “We are expecting flat growth during the festival period of October-December. We had strengthened our portfolio and entered the 125cc executive segment with Flame, that will being incremental sales and help us achieve positive sales in 2008,” Mr Srinivasan added.

The series of launches will give the two-wheeler major incremental 40,000-unit sales every month from early next year October taking the total monthly sales to around 1 million units.

With the aim to emerge as an Indian multinational in the automobile sector, TVS Motor will also invest Rs 200 crore (€3.6/US$4.9 million) in its Indonesian facility. There it would be launching two new products this year, taking the total tally to four.

References:
Daniel Sperlingand Eileen Claussen, Motorizing the Developing World [*.pdf] - Access, 24, Spring 2004, University of California Transportation Center.

The Economic Times: TVS to roll out hybrid, CNG two-wheelers - August 31, 2007.

TVS Motor: Seven new models [*.pdf].

Compact Low Emission Vehicle for Urban Transportation: CLEVER website.

Biopact: Report: carbon-negative biomethane cleanest and most efficient biofuel for cars - August 29, 2007



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Pro-Cana to invest $510 million in integrated ethanol, power, sugar and fertilizer plant in Mozambique

The Agencia de Informação de Moçambique announces that Pro-Cana, a private company with British interests, is set to invest US$510/€375 million for the construction of new plant for the production ethanol, sugar, electricity and fertilizers in the district of Massingir, in Mozambique's southern province of Gaza. The announcement comes after the recent news that the country's state-run oil company Petromoc is to invest an equally large amount into the biofuel sector (previous post).

Joana Matidiana, spokesperson of the government of Gaza, said that in the first stage, the project will generate at least 7,000 new jobs for the people of Massingir and surrounding areas, and "therefore it is welcome, as it will contribute largely in the fight against poverty in Mozambique".
It is beyond any doubt that production of ethanol is one of best opportunities for the country. [...] We want to diversify our economy because we don't want [...] to depend on just four major products of export. We would like to contribute with some other products, such as alcohol. We can also contribute with the export of electricity, as the sugar mill could also generate electrical power and sell it to the domestic market. - spokesperson of Mozambique's Agrarian Promotion Centre.
The owners of the company, the first to build a large integrated fuel-food-fertilizer plant in Africa, also own an ethanol plant in Brazil. The project in Massingir involves the establishment of 30,000 hectares of sugar cane, besides other infrastructures that will benefit the local communities. The proponents of the project are planning to develop pastures in the same area for cattle belonging to the local communities, as Massingir is one of the major beef producing districts in Gaza.

In the short term, the province as a whole is expected to be able to support the production of around 220 Petajoules of biomass energy in a sustainable way (i.e. without deforestation and without impacting local food, fuel, fodder and fibre supplies; map, click to enlarge):
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Besides biofuels and sugar, the new plant will generate electricity from bagasse, a byproduct of sugarcane. This would enable to decrease the consumption of power generated at the Cahora Bassa Dam, which could eventually be exported to other countries in the region such as Zimbabwe, South Africa, Swaziland, Malawi and Botswana, said the same source who asked not to be named.

"We are already working with the Ministries of Energy, Industry and Trade Ministry and Agriculture. The Energy Ministry has already established a task force to work on that area of ethanol, to evaluate the possibility to generate electricity", said the spokesperson.

The government believes that this "is an opportunity and that it must work fast, other wise it will run away to other countries".

Currently, the Mozambican authorities are in the process of expanding the sugar industry in Mozambique to diversify country's economy. In 2006, the Mozambican sugar industry achieved the highest production of the last 30 years, by producing 300.000 tons in the existing four plants currently operating in the country, namely Marromeu and Mafambisse, in the central province of Sofala and Maragra and Xinavane, in the southern province of Maputo.

The highest production ever reported in Mozambique was in 1972, when there were six factories operating in Mozambique.

Mozambique is seen by analysts as one of the African countries that contribute considerably to the continent's large biofuel production potential. Researchers affiliated with the International Energy Agency estimate that Mozambique can produce around 7 Exajoules of biofuels sustainably (earlier post; map, click to enlarge). The country currently consumes around 590,000 tonnes of oil products per year, the bulk being diesel (IEA data). This equates to around 0.18EJ. Achieving full energy independence is well within reach, with capacity to spare to supply international markets.

When it comes to the availability of land, the country currently uses around 4.3 million hectares out of a total of 63.5 million hectares of potential arable land, or 6.6 per cent (FAO). Moreover, some 41 million hectares of poor quality land are available for the production of energy crops that require few inputs and are not suitable for food production (earlier post).

A host of companies are investing in Mozambique's biofuel potential. Canada's Energem recently acquired a jatropha biodiesel project based on an initial 1000 hectares; it will begin planting a further 5000 hectares, and will invest in an additional 60,000 hectares over the coming years (earlier post). Chinese, Italian, Portuguese and Brazilian companies are active in the sector as well (more here).

Most recently, the government of India and Mozambique discussed the potential of the biofuel sector to alleviate poverty in the country (previous post).

Map credit: Batidzirai, B., A.P.C. Faaij, E.M.W. Smeets.

References:
Biopact: Mozambique's Petromoc seeks to invest $408 million in biofuels - August 30, 2007

References:
Agencia de Informaçao de Moçambique (via AllAfrica): British Company to Invest U.S. $510 Million in Sugar And Ethanol Plant - August 30, 2007.

Agencia de Informaçao de Moçambique: Petromoc Seeks Funding to Produce Bio-Fuels - 29 August 2007

Salvador Namburete: Mozambique's Experience on Bio-fuels [*.pdf], Minister of Energy of the Republic of Mozambique, presentation at the International Conference on Biofuels, Brussels, July 5-6, 2007.

Batidzirai, B., A.P.C. Faaij, E.M.W. Smeets (2006), "Biomass and bioenergy supply from Mozambique" [*abstract / *.pdf], Energy for Sustainable Development, X(1),
Pp. 54-81

Faaij, A.P.C., "Emerging international biomass markets and the potential implications for rural development" [*.pdf], Development and Climate Project Workshop: Rural development, the roles of food, water and biomass; opportunities and challenges; Dakar, Senegal, 14-16 November 2005.

Biopact: Mozambique-India partnership: biofuels for poverty alleviation - July 03, 2007

Biopact: Energem acquires jatropha biodiesel project in MozambiqueAugust 02, 2007

Biopact: Journal "Energy for Sustainable Development" focuses on international bioenergy trade - November 05, 2006

Biopact: Lusophone world and China join forces to produce biofuels in Mozambique - May 19, 2007



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Citroën launches C4 BioFlex in Europe

Citroën is to launch its first flexfuel vehicle in Europe this month. The 1.6-litre powered C4 BioFlex has the ability to run seamlessly on low-carbon E85 bioethanol, regular unleaded or a mixture of both.


Already well established in Brazil, where flexfuel models currently account for 80 percent of Citroën sales, the company is now introducing the technology to Europe as availability of E85 fuel increases. The car will initially be launched later this year in France and Sweden, where it is set to be priced the same as the equivalent petrol models. Both countries are implementing plans to make ethanol widely available, with 500 stations by the end of the year in France and 900 already established in Sweden. The last country imports a substantial amount of the biofuel from Brazil.

When E85 bioethanol is used in the C4 BioFlex, CO2 emissions on a 'field-to-wheel' basis drop by 40 percent compared to standard fuel. Its oxygen-containing, sulphur-free properties also help reduce other harmful pollutants, particularly carbon monoxide (CO). At the same time CO2 emissions fall by 5 percent from 169g/km to 160g/km on the combined cycle.

As an added bonus, when running on E85 bioethanol, performance for the 1.6i engine is boosted by 2.5 percent to give a maximum output of 113bhp (compared to 110bhp on standard unleaded) at 5,800rpm and a 4 percent improvement in torque from 147Nm to 153Nm at 4,000rpm:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

In order to accommodate the flexibility afforded to the C4 BioFlex, modifications have been made to the engine, such as the rings and valve seats, as well as the fuel circulation system, including the tank, fuel gauge and pump module, pipes and fuel filter.

The engine’s intelligent ECU software has also been adapted to monitor the alcohol content of the fuel mix, and automatically recalibrate the operating curve to optimise performance. As a result of all this, regardless of the fuel type or mixture, there is no discernible difference in the driving experience.

The choice to launch in Sweden is obvious: since the introduction of ethanol on a large scale there, rival automaker Saab's Biopower, which runs on E85, topped the list of most environmentally friendly cars. Its introduction has been a runaway success, taking almost 30% of sales in a segment that has already grown to account for 13% of the total car market there. For the first nine months of 2006, Bio-Power sales totaled 7,700 units. As a result, Saab raised its full-year Bio-Power sales forecast to 10,000 units, twice its original estimate.

References:
GreenCarCongress: Citroën Launching C4 BioFlex in September - August 20, 2007.

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Wärtsilä to build bioenergy plant for Finnish energy company Haapajärvi

Power engineering company Wärtsilä has been awarded the contract to supply the Finnish energy company Haapajärven Lämpö Oy with a biomass heating plant. The contract, which was signed in August 2007, specifies a Wärtsilä BioEnergy 7 plant to be delivered to Haapajärvi as an EPC delivery, excluding ground works. Hand over to the customer is scheduled for September 2008.

The output of the biomass plant is 7 MWth, with a reserve oil boiler of 8 MWth that will cover possible peaks in heating demand. The deal comprises the total process equipment, commissioning and training. The plant will produce heat for the Hasa sawmill in Haapajärvi, as well as for the 8000 inhabitant city of Haapajärvi, located in the middle of Finland. The fuel will be local wood residues, and ensures the customer clean and profitable energy.

The core of Wärtsilä biopower and bioenergy plants is the BioGrate combustion system. The patented BioGrate is a new-generation moving grate technique. The fuel input ranges from 3 to 17 MWth.

BioGrate is rotating grate with a conical primary combustion chamber (image, click to enlarge):
  • the fuel is fed from underneath to the centre of the grate since the heat radiators from the refectory lining bricks and the flames, the fuel dries in the middle of the grate without disturbing the burning fuel bed in the combustion zone
  • after the complete combustion of the residual carbon the ash falls from the edge of the grate to the ash space filled with quenching water
Wärtsilä's biomass-fuelled plants are clean and show a thermal efficiency ranging between 85 an 90 per cent. They are practical solutions for meeting the needs for renewable energy supplies with minimal environmental impact. The BioGrate combustion technology burns biomass fuels with high combustion efficiency and low NOX and CO emissions. The moisture content of the fuel can be as high as 65%, allowing for a large range of feedstocks. The SOX emissions of such wood-fuelled plants are negligible. The fly ash is removed from the flue gases in an electrostatic filter or multicyclone, in accordance with local norms:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Wärtsilä BioEnergy plants are highly modular, being based on well-proven standardised components with a conservative design approach. The plants can thus be delivered and installed quickly. Their proven technology results in a reliable, durable plant. They are also highly automated, enabling unmanned operation.

The customer had already gained positive experience from an earlier boiler plant supplied by Wärtsilä, and this, together with visits to a number of other Wärtsilä installations, was a key factor in the purchasing decision.

Wärtsilä announced earlier this year it had received an order to build six turnkey biomass-fuelled power plants in Germany. The total value of the order was approximately €100/US$135 million. The customer is the German-based company Bayernfonds BestEnergy GmbH & Co, which will utilize forestry residues to fuel the plants.

References:
Biopact: Wärtsilä to build six biomass power plants in Germany - May 10, 2007



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Origo enters global bioenergy sector in partnership with Pongamia grower RIBEC

Origo Sino-India Plc, an investment and strategic advisory company focused on the private equity markets of China and India, has entered into definitive agreements with Roshini International Bio Energy Corporation Ltd (RIBEC) to create an international joint venture focused on the bioenergy sector. Origo has taken a 20% equity position in RIBEC, while extending a convertible note of up to US$2,000,000 and retaining the right to invest an additional US$6 million in a pre-IPO private placement.

Headquartered in Hyderabad, India, RIBEC has the world’s largest plantation of non-edible, tree-borne biofuel feedstock with more than 40 million trees and seedlings. As a fully integrated bioenergy company, RIBEC is involved in the whole bioenergy value chain from plantations to refining and trading of biodiesel, bioethanol, biogas and biofertilisers. RIBEC is achieving rapid growth, with un-audited revenues for the financial year ending March 30, 2007 being US$5.87 million, and EBITDA at US$4.4 million. With operations and representation in India, China, Brazil and Africa, RIBEC intends to list on a major international stock exchange to provide further funding for its rapid expansion.

Established in 1996, RIBEC has more than a decade of research and development expertise and is a producer of non-edible feedstock from dry wasteland areas. RIBEC is a leading supplier of Pongamia Pinnata (known in India as karanj), a non-edible and drought-resistant tree with high yields of crude oil that recaptures rapidly growing greenhouse gas emissions and generates income to poor farmers and rural communities. RIBEC also grows Jatropha, a source of biodiesel whose residue can also be processed into biomass to power electricity plants.

The Pongamia tree’s advantages as bioenergy feedstock include:
  • Use of cultivable waste land
  • Does not crowd out edible food crops
  • Re-capturing or sequestering rapidly growing greenhouse gas emissions, helping alleviate global warming
  • Low water irrigation requirements
  • Allows for inter-cropping with other crops
  • Leaves and de-oiled cake are in demand as organic fertiliser
  • Economically advantaged as Pongamia qualifies for carbon credits
RIBEC is in close negotiations with a major international energy company about a possible joint venture for plantations and the refining of biofuel in certain geographical sectors.

In addition to taking a 20% equity position in RIBEC, Origo has extended a credit facility under which Roshini may draw down up to US$2,000,000 for working capital purposes and operational expenses associated with the expansion of RIBEC’s feedstock:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

The note is repayable in full in the event of an external financing round, or convertible into equity at the discretion of Origo at a 20% discount to the then applicable price per share. Origo has also been retained as a strategic consultant to assist RIBEC’s expansion and fundraising activities.

Origo is an established private equity investor and strategic consultancy business, which provides its shareholders with exposure to growth opportunities and private equity returns in China and India.

Origo’s business model is to generate capital gains from private equity investment in growth companies from which it also generates fees for consultancy services related to further fundraisings, M&A and strategic development.

Origo is aligned with two major institutions which provide a source of high quality deal flow. In China, Origo works closely with China Equity, a leading private equity firm, whose chief executive is on Origo’s board. In India, Origo has entered into a memorandum of understanding with SBI Capital Markets, one of the longest-established companies in the Indian capital markets. A former chairman of SBI is on the board of Origo.

Roshini International Bio Energy Corporation Ltd manages and owns the world’s largest non-edible, tree-borne bioenergy feedstock. With captive feedstock supply from its operations and representation in India, China, Brazil and Africa, RIBEC also is an integrated processor, refiner and trader of biodiesel, ethanol, gas and fertiliser.

Founded by Anil Reddy in 1996, RIBEC initially focused on research and development of Pongamia Pinnata and Jatropha Curcas feedstock in India. While still growing both Pongamia and Jathropa, the company has excelled in commercialising the farming and plantation the high-oil-yielding tree Pongamia.

RIBEC’s competitive position stems from years of research and development of Pongamia, developing a gene bank of “alpha” genetic material that enhances plantation yield, combined with specialised grafting, planting and irrigation techniques developed by RIBEC.

RIBEC’s primary business model is to work with farmers, contracting the plantations to the land owners, thereby reducing its working capital needs, with rapid growth being further facilitated by government and micro-finance institutions. When operating under contract farming system, RIBEC has the first right of refusal to buy the produce from the farmers with prices set by government regulated commodity pricing.

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Monday, September 03, 2007

Metabolic Explorer partners with IFP to develop propanediol from biodiesel byproduct glycerin

Metabolic Explorer (Metex), an industrial biotechnology company focused on the bio-production of green bulk chemicals announced that it has signed an agreement with the Institut Français du Pétrole (IFP) to accelerate the scale-up of its proprietary technology for the production of 1,3 propanediol (PDO) from glycerol, the major byproduct of biodiesel production.

PDO is a bulk chemical used in the manufacture of a new class of polyester fibres as well as coatings and plastic films. The chemical can be formulated into composites, adhesives, laminates, powder and UV-cured coatings, mouldings, novel aliphatic polyesters, copolyesters, solvents, anti-freeze and other end uses. The rapidly growing PDO market is forecast to be worth $3.5bn within the next five years.

Metex has developed a range of proprietary technologies which allow it to design highly efficient bacteria able to produce existing bulk chemicals from a wide range of renewable bio-based feedstocks. The fermentation methods provide sustainable solutions to the chemical industry, offering significant economic and environmental benefits over oil-dependent chemical processes.

Under the new agreement, the company expects to benefit from IFP’s in-depth technical expertise in production process design & engineering as well as in process economic optimisation for the development of a new benchmark process to manufacture PDO from glycerol (glycerin). The partnership will improve the global economics of the biodiesel production process and provides Metex with the feedstocks it needs to produce PDO.
Our agreement with IFP is one important step to ensure that we are developing the most economic industrial process for the bio-production of PDO. This collaboration strengthens METabolic EXplorer’s ability to develop economic bio-based solutions that are real alternatives to the current petrochemical processes. - Benjamin Gonzalez, CEO of METabolic EXplorer
The PDO process could play a crucial role in the overall economics of biodiesel production, thus highlighting the potential to transform the value chains of many post-petroleum bulk chemicals.

Others working on the similar green chemistry technologies have projected that optimizing biodiesel production in such a way that it yields a higher quality type of glycerol to be converted into PDO, could make the product 15 times more valuable (earlier post):
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

METabolic EXplorer is a leading 'green chemistry' company focused on the production of bulk chemicals. It has developed cell factories for five important bulk chemicals which together have current sales of approximately $11 billion. These products have applications in fibres, biodegradable plastics, paints, solvents and second generation biofuels. The company’s strategy to capture a significant element of major economic benefits that its novel technologies deliver is to use a collaborative business model to allow it produce and market its bulk bio-chemicals.

Metex is also involved in the development of biobutanol made directly from starch. This promising biofuel is produced in a way similar to ethanol, but has many advantages over the more widely used biofuel.

As an international research and training center, the IFP is developing the transport energies of the 21st century. It provides public players and industry with innovative solutions for a smooth transition to the energies and materials of tomorrow – more efficient, more economical, cleaner and sustainable. To fulfill its mission, IFP has five complementary strategic priorities: pushing back the boundaries in oil and gas exploration and production - converting as much raw material as possible into energy for transport - developing clean, fuel-efficient vehicles - diversifying fuel sources - capturing and storing CO2 to combat the greenhouse effect. An integral part of IFP, its graduate engineering school prepares future generations to take up these challenges.

References:
Metabolix Explorer: Agreement designed to develop an optimised production process for Metex’ proprietary bulk chemical PDO - Ausgust 30, 2007.

Biopact: Steps to biorefining: new products from biofuel leftovers - August 10, 2007

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Philippines identify areas for sugarcane production, to benefit 55,000 farmers

The Philippines' Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap announced that the country's Sugar Regulatory Administration has identified 60,250 hectares of new sugarcane areas that can produce as much as 274 million liters of bioethanol. These new areas for sugarcane will yield more than enough of the biofuel to meet the 2009 requirement which was set at 255 million liters.

Yap said the expansion of sugarcane areas for bioethanol production would help improve the lives of more than 55,000 farmers dependent on the crop.

In order to convert the feedstock into ethanol, about 10 medium-scale refineries would be needed. Interest to establish these is great, with both the local and foreign private sector seeing the Philippines as a relatively good investment opportunity. Recently, a 'Biofuels Country Attractivenes Index' placed the country in the top 15 of the most suitable bioenergy investment destinations mainly because of its central geographical position in the booming South East and East Asian market, its recent biofuel legislation and its suitable agro-climatic conditions for a range of crops.
We have enough land to meet sugar ethanol refinery requirements. What is left for us to do is plant the sugarcane. Compared with other feedstock, only ethanol from sugarcane can be produced in a totally renewable and environment-friendly process by using bagasse - a sugarcane waste material - to fuel boilers that generate the required steam and electricity for the distillery. - Arthur Yap, Philippines Agriculture Secretary
The island state currently has only 38,500 hectares of land planted to sugarcane. The scope for future expansion is large: studies by the Sugar Regulatory Administration showed a total of 377,182 hectares of land are suitable for planting sugar. 17.2 percent of these are in Luzon, 53.3 percent in Negros Island, 6.9 percent in Panay Island, 4.4 percent in the Eastern Visayas region, and 19.1 percent in Mindanao (map, click to enlarge).

Besides existing investments, Yap said the Department of Energy had reported that at least seven new investors have expressed interest in building sugar refineries that would have a combined annual capacity of 402 million liters of ethanol.

Sugarcane is estimated to yield of 4,550 liters of biofuel per hectare, making it one of the best energy crops. With the advent of cellulosic biofuel technologies, part of the fibrous by-product of crushed canes - bagasse - could be converted into liquid fuels:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

The Brazilian experience indicates that when bagasse is used to generate power, the energy requirements of an ethanol plant are easily met, which results in an excess of electricity. This excess is most often transferred to a grid that supplies green electricity to local populations. Often this requires the creation of a new grid infrastructure. With cellulosic biofuels, this could be avoided and more liquid biofuel could be produced instead.

The Philippines recently passed its Biofuels Act requiring a minimum of five percent of ethanol to be pre-blended with gasoline by February 2009, with the ratio doubling to 10 percent by February 2011. The same law requires all diesel engine fuels to be pre-blended with one percent coco-biodiesel. This blending ratio will double to two percent by February 2009.

Suitable crops for first-generation biofuels in the Philippines incude sweet sorghum, sweet potato, tropical sugar beet, jatropha and coconut.

Some major recent investments in the country's nascent biofuel sector include a US$1.3 billion project to be implemented by the UK's NRG and state-owned Philippine National Oil Co. (PNOC) (earlier post), and a US$150 million investment into a fully integrated ethanol processing facility in Central Luzon by US firm E-Cane Fuel Corp (more here).

References:

The Inquirer: Gov’t finds new areas for bioethanol production - September 1, 2007.

Biopact: Biofuels and renewables 'Country Attractiveness Indices' for Q1 2007 - May 24, 2007



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Israel's Merhav Group considers $700 million biofuel investment in East Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia

Jatropha curcas trees raised in Indonesia's East Nusa Tenggara province have a big potential to yield biofuel feedstocks, prompting Israel's project financing company Merhav Group to consider an investment of up to US$700/€517 million.

Merhav Group's president Gideon Weinstein outlined the plan during a coordination meeting with Kupang district head Ibrahim Agustinus Medah, after visiting a jatropha plantation established by the local administration there in 2006.

On the occasion, Weinstein was accompanied by Jacques Eshel and Yosef Ziv, other executives of Merhav Group, and officials of PT Manhattan Capital comprising Sudiro Andiwiguna, Setiawan Sudei, Muhammad Ansor and Herman Ndoen. Jakarta-based PT Manhattan Capital is a national company partnering with the Merhav Group for the development of biodiesel energy sources in Indonesia.

The Merhav Group, which invests in energy, infrastructure, agriculture and agro-industrial projects globally, would in a first stage invest US$350/€257 million in 50,000 hectares (124,000 acres) of jatropha plantations in Kupang district. In the longer run, the company would increase its investment to US$700 million to establish 100,000 hectares (247,000 acres) in the same region.

The Kupang district is located on the island of Timor in the southeast of the province (map, click to enlarge), where the climate is dry tropical. With leading expertise in agricultural water and irrigation management derived from Israeli research, the company is confident that the biofuel crop can be grown in the relatively arid region with a minimal input of water.

Weinstein said his company would invest in the entire production chain, including transportation facilities from energy plantations to warehouses and biodiesel production plants. A team will be sent to East Nusa Tenggara to prepare a feasibility study for the large project:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

PT Manhattan Capital has told Indonesia's agriculture minister and the energy and mineral resources minister about the projet, adding that the companies would want to cooperate with state-run agriculture firm PT Rajawali Nusantara Indonesia (RNI) to develop the jatropha curcas plantations.

Meanwhile, Weinstein said a port would have to be developed to allow the biofuels to be exported. This facility would be built on five hectares of land. Ibrahim said the Kupang district administration would organise a meeting with the relevant agencies to study the feasibility of such a dedicated port in the Sulamu area.

References:
Antara News (Indonesia's national news agency): Big potential of E. Nusa Tenggara biofuel plantation attracts Israeli investor - September 3, 2007.

AsiaPulse (via LexisNexis): Israeli group to invest US$700 million in jatropha cultivation in Indonesia - September 2, 2007.


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Towards a truce: environmentalists should use palm oil as a lever for conservation

The growing popularity of palm oil has been condemned by some conservationists from the West who see rainforest being given over to palms in Malaysia and Indonesia, with an appreciable loss in biodiversity. The push to plant more trees is easy to explain: palm oil is by far the most productive oil and energy crop and brings nearly instant profits to millions of small farmers and estates alike. Palm oil is one of the few sectors that bring social and economic development to poor communities in a straightforward way.

Palm oil producers for their part are fighting the conservationists, accusing the West of hypocrisy for criticizing their production while overlooking the fact that Europe and the US chopped down their own forests and destroyed biodiversity ages ago, a practise that allowed them to develop and modernise in the first place. Conservationists dictate poor countries how not to develop, but don't offer any credible alternative.

Attempts to create a compromise between the two camps have largely failed because of hard economics. The idea that 'avoided deforestation' or 'compensated reduction' could prevent new plantations from emerging is idealistic, because these schemes are 'top down' bureaucratic instruments. Palm oil brings cash to farmers directly, 'bottom up'. With rapidly growing demand from China and India, rising oil prices, the prospect of 'Peak Oil', and the advent of second-generation biofuel technologies, the crop is set to become even more attractive. With new technologies, palm oil not only delivers feedstock for biodiesel, but for cellulosic ethanol, biogas and solid biofuels (earlier post and here). Add new breeding and plant improvement initiatives that promise even larger yields (previous post), and the crop becomes virtually unavoidable.

Now a new paper in Nature thinks it has found a way to arrive at a truce. Lian Pin Koh and David Wilcove suggest the very high yield and high prices that make this crop so untameable could be turned to a biodiversity advantage. They propose that conservationists from the West buy small tracts of existing oil palm plantations, and use the revenue they generate to establish a network of privately owned nature reserves. Then at least they understand the economics of the sector and could push others towards more sustainable production.

According to the authors, a typical mature oil-palm plantation in Sabah, Malaysia, generates an annual net profit of roughly $2,000 per hectare. Based on the current price of $12,500 per hectare for existing oil palm-cultivated land, the capital investment could be recovered in just 6 years. After this initial period, a 5,000-hectare oil palm plantation could generate annual profits amounting to some $10 million, which could be used to acquire 1,800 hectares of forested land annually to be set aside as private nature reserves. New and more sustainable palm plantations can then be established on degraded land, which is feasible, but currently not preferred (more here).

Koh and Wilcove say the scheme would require collaboration between "large conservation donor groups to fund the initial investments and with local oil-palm companies for their expertise in running the plantations," but that the relationship could be a "win-win partnership... because NGOs would be able to protect forests using the oil palm revenue and the companies would be able to enhance their corporate image to satisfy environmentally-conscious consumers."

The authors think conservationist NGOs can participate in such joint ventures without losing their integrity if they go into it with the appropriate level of caution. Koh told Mongabay that there have been many examples of successful collaborations between environmental groups and industry leaders in the USA and elsewhere:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

However, he stressed that some green groups should remain well outside the partnership, serving as much-needed critical voices to pressure governments and oil palm companies to avoid further losses of pristine habitats.

Koh and Wilcove believe that the development of a premium market could help entice producers into working with conservationists.

"Because such oil-palm plantations would be motivated mainly by conservation objectives, they could provide the industry with leadership for the sustainable production of palm oil through environmentally-friendly management practices," they write. "This could also drive the development of a premium market for sustainable oil-palm products and thereby generate economic incentives for more palm-oil producers to adopt sustainable practices."

Koh and Wilcove appear to be optimistic that this price premium, as well as the "green" marketing benefits, can overcome the inherent conflict of interest between the two groups. After all, why would producers want to help set up direct competitors and fund opposition to oil palm expansion unless they were sure to get something tangible in return?

References:
Lian Pin Koh, David S. Wilcove, "Cashing in palm oil for conservation", Nature 448, 993 - 994 (29 Aug 2007), DOI:10.1038/448993a

Mongabay: NGOs should use palm oil to drive conservation - August 29, 2007.

Biopact: Report: large scale imports and co-firing of palm oil products can be sustainable - August 26, 2007

Biopact: Synthetic Genomics and Asiatic Centre for Genome Technology to sequence oil palm genome - July 11, 2007.

Biopact: And the world's most productive ethanol crop is... oil palm - June 21, 2006


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Mission Biofuels signs 3-year Jatropha feedstock deal with smallholders in India


Australia's Mission Biofuels Limited announces that its Indian subsidiary, Mission Biofuels (India) Pvt Ltd (MBIPL), has signed an agreement with an Indian district controlled entity granting it exclusive, long-term access to Jatropha Curcas seeds from already planted lands as well as access to additional land in the district that is to be planted with the oilseed bearing shrub over the next three years. The agreement is presented as a win-win partnership with government and small farmers, with the potential to replicate the model in other communities.

The district authority has formed a producer company which is owned by smallholder farmers and Jatropha growers in the district which will be managed by the district authority. The district authority has, from funding received from the state and central governments under various programs including the rural employment guarantee programs, planted over 25,000 acres (10,100 ha) of jatropha during the last three years.

The district authority will continue to plant more jatropha under these programs, with an estimated 12,500 acres (5000 ha) in the current planting season. The district has now transferred all planted and to be planted trees to this new producer company.
This win-win partnership provides an excellent example of how a forward thinking government authority can help to provide: sustainable benefits to people living in poverty; long term value accrual to the farmers as owners of the producer company; achievement of economies of scale; and benefits from the research and technical and commercial inputs from an integrated biofuels player. More districts should follow this example. - Mr. Ashish Swarup, CEO of MBIPL
Under the agreement, the first-of-its-kind in India, MBIPL has agreed with the producer company to:
  • provide technical inputs and know-how to the Jatropha Curcas farmers;
  • establish nurseries
  • provide a primary processing center in the district to augment the efforts of the producer company
This will enable MBIPL to gain exclusive access to all Jatropha Curcas seeds harvested in the district and will favorably impact the price MBIPL will pay for the Jatropha Curcas seeds purchased from the producer company:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

MBIPL has been in active discussions with some other districts for similar arrangements and is confident that this first success with a win-win agreement will help it finalize arrangements with some more districts in the region providing it immediate and long term access to large scale Jatropha Curcas seeds.

With the signing of this agreement, MBIPL says that it is well on track to achieve its 100,000 acres (40,700ha) of planted Jatropha Curcas target for 2007. MBIPL will continue with its efforts to increase the acreage further.

Mission Biofuels Limited is an ASX Listed company developing a 100,000 tonnes per annum biodiesel plant and a 12,000 tonnes per annum glycerine purification plant at Kuantan Port, Malaysia.


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Sunday, September 02, 2007

Tallgrass Prairie Center to implement Tilman's mixed grass findings


Last year, the bioenergy community was given a boost by the results of a study in Science on polycultures of multiple grass, wildflower and prairie species. The researchers, led by David Tilman, found that such plantations of mixed native energy crops can be carbon-negative, restore biodiversity, can grow on degraded land, and provide substantially more biomass for biofuels than the most promising monocultures. A bioeconomy based on mixed prairie grasses can restore the beauty of a lost landscape and helps soak up the vast amounts of carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere since the Industrial Revolution.

Known as the 'Tilman study' on 'low-input high-diversity grassland bioenergy systems', the findings showed that the polycultures yielded not less than 238 per cent more useable biomass than a single crop of switchgrass (long seen as the leading energy crop in the U.S.). Biofuels derived from the colorful fields resulted in 51 per cent more energy per acre compared to corn, the most widely used biofuel crop. Inputs of energy, fertilizer and herbicides were much lower as well. And because the perennial species store atmospheric carbon deep in their roots, they become part of a carbon-negative energy system.

The results of the study are highly important for bioenergy projects elsewhere, especially in the Global South, where plans are underway to establish large energy plantations (e.g. the African Miscanthus Plantations project in Western Africa). Instead of monocropping, baskets of local grass and herbaceous species could be grown that reinforce or restore local biodiversity and yield more sustainable, carbon-negative energy.

In an interesting initiative, the Tallgrass Prairie Center (TPC) at the University of Northern Iowa and the Cedar Falls Utilities (CFU) have now joined forces to researching ways to implement the findings of the Tilman study in a practical way to produce liquid and solid biofuels from such mixed grasses to generate electricity. Earlier this year, the TPC/CFU scientists secured $300,000 in state funding to start the project. The two groups will likely go back to the Iowa Power Fund board to seek additional money.

Tilman's study was conducted on small, hand-weeded plots of land. The TPC would like to expand the scope and work things out on a practical scale for farmers and energy producers. The scientists will look at how the polycultures thrive on poor soils, how the biomass should be harvested, how it can be turned into biofuels and how the fuel burns in power plants.

As in Tilman's study, the TPC will start its experiments on sandy, marginal agricultural land. They will plant 100 acres in the Cedar River Wildlife Area north of La Porte City. The researchers believe using the prairie plantings on marginal agricultural land would be beneficial on several levels: reducing soil erosion, cleaning water resources and producing more energy, healthy soils and better habitat for wildlife. They plan on planting a few different mixtures of prairie plantings and switchgrass, then comparing which is most productive:
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The research will evaluate how the prairie grass stands can sustain harvest. In a typical prairie planting, a prescribed burn every two to three years maintains the stand's health. Researchers will evaluate whether the prairies need the burning less with harvest or whether parts of the stand should be harvested each year in a rotation.

Bio-electricity
The research will also go into how the grasses are turned into a usable fuel. Experiments will turn the biomass into pellets or cubes and examine how the new fuel burns.

Electric generation would require massive amounts of biomass. Smith estimates the 100-acre field will provide just enough fuel for an eight-hour test burn at Cedar Falls Utilities.

CFU has two coal-burning plants, Streeter Station 6 and 7. Streeter Station 6, the older of the two plants, has the ability to burn 100 percent biomass.

The utility has experimented with burning various forms of biomass during the past several years, including corn cobs, oat hulls, cornstalks and switchgrass. CFU also worked at refining methods for producing cubes or pellets of biomass to make them into a form that can be burned in the power plant's stoker units. Most recently, CFU has worked to establish a supply chain of biomass material for burning in Streeter Station 6.

The joint study on prairie plants as biomass fuel will be done with an eye toward making the concept practical and commercial for utilities. Additional funding would make research on commercialization possible. For this reason the scientists are applying fo more research money from the Iowa Power Fund. This fund came out of a growing interest in alternative fuels and concern for reducing the reliance on coal and oil.

Restoring a lost landscape
The Tallgrass Prairie Center is a strong advocate of progressive, ecological approaches utilizing native vegetation to provide environmental, economic and aesthetic benefits for the public good. The center is in the vanguard of roadside vegetation management, native Source Identified seed development, and prairie advocacy.

The center primarily serves the Upper Midwest Tallgrass Prairie Region, but is a model for similar efforts nationally and internationally.

The TPC aims to develop research, techniques, education and Source Identified seed for restoration and preservation of prairie vegetation in rights-of-way and other lands. The center was stablished at the University of Northern Iowa in 1999 as the Native Roadside Vegetation Center.

The center has some major programs running: the Prairie Institute, the Integrated Roadside Vegetation Management Program and the Iowa Ecotype Project.

Recently the TPC helped produce a beautiful, awarded film titled 'America's Lost Landscape, the Tallgrass Prairie', which tells the rich and complex story of one of the most astonishing alterations of nature in human history.

Prior to European settlement in the 1820s one of the major landscape features of North America was 240 million acres of tallgrass prairie. But between 1830 and 1900, in the space of a single life-time, the tallgrass prairie was steadily transformed into monocultural farmland.

The new bioeconomy may restore this landscape and bring a source of energy and a range of bioproducts that clean the vast amounts of carbon dioxide emitted since the Industrial Revolution out of the atmosphere.


Photo: Iowa's climate supported a vast native tallgrass prairie prior to Euro-American settlement. Lavender spikes of blazing star, white balls of rattlesnake master, and golden rays of black-eyed Susan bloom in August at Williams Prairie State Preserve in Johnson County. Credit: Constance Tuthill / Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

References:
WCFcourier: Center researches grass as fuel - September 2, 2007.

The Tallgrass Prairie Center.

Biopact: Carbon negative biofuels: from monocultures to polycultures - December 08, 2006

Biopact: Scientists debate benefits of low-input high-diversity grassland bioenergy systems - June 15, 2007

Biopact: West-Africa launches 'African Miscanthus Plantations' project - April 01, 2007

Film: America's Lost Landscape, the Tallgrass Prairie.

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New York's Dept. of Environmental Conservation explores forestry residues as biomass for energy

Every year, one million tons of green energy rots on the vast Adirondack forest floor in New York State. Now, the State's Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is studying ways to convert that material to a woody biomass fuel. The plan is being supported by conservation organisations and environmental groups, and is part of New York's goal to have 25 per cent of the state's electricity coming from renewables.

The DEC has secured a grant from the U.S. Forest Service to explore the feasibility of converting leftover wood from logging operations on private lands into a solid biofuel source. The $64,000 award will fund a one-year project to evaluate whether there would be enough potential users in and around the Adirondack Park to make woody biomass a go. Covering around 6.1 million acres (24,000 km²), the Adirondack Park in the Northeast of the state is one of the largest forested state parks in the United States - roughly the size of the state of Vermont. However, more than half of the land is privately owned.
This is an idea we really want to explore. As we look for innovative ways to enhance the economic and environmental health of North Country communities, harnessing locally grown energy sources such as low-grade wood might be part of the answer. Also, the program could help private forest land owners in the Adirondacks find new markets for low-grade wood, contributing to a sustainable economy for the Adirondacks and reducing the region's reliance on fossil fuels. - Pete Grannis, DEC Commissioner
Typically, biomass residues from forestry operations consist of the tops of hardwood and softwood trees, including maple, birch, beech, white pine, spruce and fir, that logging operations discard. The study would focus only on private lands.

Currently, about two million tons of wood chips harvested from private Adirondack lands go into the low-grade wood market, as pulp or biofuel. Some of that goes to two cogeneration facilities in the North Country. DEC estimates at least another one million tons gets left behind.

The potential customers would be community colleges, prisons, other state facilities and additional medium-scale energy users because they have the capacity to store the wood chips. Also their heating and cooling systems incorporate the appropriate emissions controls to protect air quality. Currently, these facilities predominately rely on oil for fuel.

The study would evaluate interest, storage capabilities, heating systems and engineering concerns. It also would look at whether prospective customers could switch to wood and meet air emissions standards. Plans also include hosting at least two regional workshops:
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New York State has set a goal to have 25 percent of its electricity come from renewable energy sources by 2012. Woody biomass is one potential source. Further, State Forester Robert K. Davies said the project, if successful, could create a synergy between "benefits to the forest and biomass energy." Davies noted that DEC has been providing technical and other assistance to parties involved in the emerging woody biomass industry.

"The Northern Forest region of New York contains vast forestry resources that can be responsibly tapped to help meet our energy requirements in an environmentally sound way," Davies said.

The grants were awarded through the U.S. Forest Service’s Wood to Energy 'Jump Start' program.

"These grants are another step for the conservation of the hundreds of thousands of family forests in the Empire State. The future of private forests depends on markets that keep timberland valuable for use other than development," said Anne F. Archie, U.S. Forest Service Northeast Field Representative for State and Private Forestry.

The Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks, which recently helped form a new Adirondack Energy $mart Park Coalition, endorsed the woody biomass feasibility study.

"One of our goals is to make the Adirondacks a model of energy conservation and efficiency with an emphasis on renewable resources. The coalition considers the production of energy from woody biomass to be a critically important component of our vision for the region," said David Gibson, executive director of the Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks.

References:
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation: DEC Explores Woody Biomass as Alt Energy Source - August 31, 2007.


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