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    Mongabay, a leading resource for news and perspectives on environmental and conservation issues related to the tropics, has launched Tropical Conservation Science - a new, open access academic e-journal. It will cover a wide variety of scientific and social studies on tropical ecosystems, their biodiversity and the threats posed to them. Tropical Conservation Science - March 8, 2008.

    At the 148th Meeting of the OPEC Conference, the oil exporting cartel decided to leave its production level unchanged, sending crude prices spiralling to new records (above $104). OPEC "observed that the market is well-supplied, with current commercial oil stocks standing above their five-year average. The Conference further noted, with concern, that the current price environment does not reflect market fundamentals, as crude oil prices are being strongly influenced by the weakness in the US dollar, rising inflation and significant flow of funds into the commodities market." OPEC - March 5, 2008.

    Kyushu University (Japan) is establishing what it says will be the world’s first graduate program in hydrogen energy technologies. The new master’s program for hydrogen engineering is to be offered at the university’s new Ito campus in Fukuoka Prefecture. Lectures will cover such topics as hydrogen energy and developing the fuel cells needed to convert hydrogen into heat or electricity. Of all the renewable pathways to produce hydrogen, bio-hydrogen based on the gasification of biomass is by far both the most efficient, cost-effective and cleanest. Fuel Cell Works - March 3, 2008.


    An entrepreneur in Ivory Coast has developed a project to establish a network of Miscanthus giganteus farms aimed at producing biomass for use in power generation. In a first phase, the goal is to grow the crop on 200 hectares, after which expansion will start. The project is in an advanced stage, but the entrepreneur still seeks partners and investors. The plantation is to be located in an agro-ecological zone qualified as highly suitable for the grass species. Contact us - March 3, 2008.

    A 7.1MW biomass power plant to be built on the Haiwaiian island of Kaua‘i has received approval from the local Planning Commission. The plant, owned and operated by Green Energy Hawaii, will use albizia trees, a hardy species that grows in poor soil on rainfall alone. The renewable power plant will meet 10 percent of the island's energy needs. Kauai World - February 27, 2008.

    Tasmania's first specialty biodiesel plant has been approved, to start operating as early as July. The Macquarie Oil Company will spend half a million dollars on a specially designed facility in Cressy, in Tasmania's Northern Midlands. The plant will produce more than five million litres of fuel each year for the transport and marine industries. A unique blend of feed stock, including poppy seed, is expected to make it more viable than most operations. ABC Rural - February 25, 2008.

    The 16th European Biomass Conference & Exhibition - From Research to Industry and Markets - will be held from 2nd to 6th June 2008, at the Convention and Exhibition Centre of FeriaValencia, Spain. Early bird fee registration ends 18th April 2008. European Biomass Conference & Exhibition - February 22, 2008.

    'Obesity Facts' – a new multidisciplinary journal for research and therapy published by Karger – was launched today as the official journal of the European Association for the Study of Obesity. The journal publishes articles covering all aspects of obesity, in particular epidemiology, etiology and pathogenesis, treatment, and the prevention of adiposity. As obesity is related to many disease processes, the journal is also dedicated to all topics pertaining to comorbidity and covers psychological and sociocultural aspects as well as influences of nutrition and exercise on body weight. Obesity is one of the world's most pressing health issues, expected to affect 700 million people by 2015. AlphaGalileo - February 21, 2008.

    A bioethanol plant with a capacity of 150 thousand tons per annum is to be constructed in Kuybishev, in the Novosibirsk region. Construction is to begin in 2009 with investments into the project estimated at €200 million. A 'wet' method of production will be used to make, in addition to bioethanol, gluten, fodder yeast and carbon dioxide for industrial use. The complex was developed by the Solev consulting company. FIS: Siberia - February 19, 2008.

    Sarnia-Lambton lands a $15million federal grant for biofuel innovation at the Western Ontario Research and Development Park. The funds come on top of a $10 million provincial grant. The "Bioindustrial Innovation Centre" project competed successfully against 110 other proposals for new research money. London Free Press - February 18, 2008.


    An organisation that has established a large Pongamia pinnata plantation on barren land owned by small & marginal farmers in Andhra Pradesh, India is looking for a biogas and CHP consultant to help research the use of de-oiled cake for the production of biogas. The organisation plans to set up a biogas plant of 20,000 cubic meter capacity and wants to use it for power generation. Contact us - February 15, 2008.

    The Andersons, Inc. and Marathon Oil Corporation today jointly announced ethanol production has begun at their 110-million gallon ethanol plant located in Greenville, Ohio. Along with the 110 million gallons of ethanol, the plant annually will produce 350,000 tons of distillers dried grains, an animal feed ingredient. Marathon Oil - February 14, 2008.


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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Report: increase in corn ethanol production could significantly impact water quality and availability in the United States

If projected increases in the use of corn for ethanol production occur in the United States, the harm to water quality could be considerable, and water supply problems at the regional and local levels could also arise, says a new report from the National Research Council. The committee that wrote the report examined policy options and identified opportunities for new agricultural techniques and technologies to help minimize effects of corn biofuel production on water resources.

A National Research Council committee was convened to look at how shifts in the nation's agriculture to include more energy crops, and potentially more crops overall, could affect water management and long-term sustainability of biofuel production. Based on findings presented at a July colloquium, the committee came to several conclusions about biofuel production and identified options for addressing them. The results are published in a report titled 'Water Implications of Biofuels Production in the United States'.

In terms of water quantity, the committee found that agricultural shifts to growing corn and expanding biofuel crops into regions with little agriculture, especially dry areas, could change current irrigation practices and greatly increase pressure on water resources in many parts of the United States. The amount of rainfall and other hydroclimate conditions from region to region causes significant variations in the water requirement for the same crop, the report says. For example, in the Northern and Southern Plains, corn generally uses more water than soybeans and cotton, while the reverse is true in the Pacific and mountain regions of the country.

Water demands for drinking, industry, and such uses as hydropower, fish habitat, and recreation could compete with, and in some cases, constrain the use of water for biofuel crops in some regions. Consequently, growing biofuel crops requiring additional irrigation in areas with limited water supplies is a major concern, the report says (map shows the number of planned ethanol facilities, their water requirements and the availability of water - click to enlarge).

Even though a large body of information exists for the the United States' agricultural water requirements, fundamental knowledge gaps prevent making reliable assessments about the water impacts of future large scale production of feedstocks other than corn, such as switchgrass and native grasses. In addition, other aspects of crop production for biofuel may not be fully anticipated using the frameworks that exist for food crops. For example, biofuel crops could be irrigated with wastewater that is biologically and chemically unsuitable for use with food crops, or genetically modified crops that are more water efficient could be developed.

The quality of groundwater, rivers, and coastal and offshore waters could be impacted by increased fertilizer and pesticide use for biofuels, the report says. High levels of nitrogen in stream flows are a major cause of low-oxygen or "hypoxic" regions, commonly known as "dead zones," which are lethal for most living creatures and cover broad areas of the Gulf of Mexico, Chesapeake Bay, and other regions. The report notes that there are a number of agricultural practices and technologies that could be employed to reduce nutrient pollution, such as injecting fertilizer below the soil surface, using controlled-release fertilizers that have water-insoluble coatings, and optimizing the amount of fertilizer applied to the land:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

A possible metric to gauge the impact of biofuels on water quality could be to compare the amount of fertilizers and pesticides used on various crops, the committee suggested. For example, corn has the greatest application rates of both fertilizer and pesticides per acre, higher than for soybeans and mixed-species grassland biomass. The switch from other crops or noncrop plants to corn would likely lead to much higher application rates of highly soluble nitrogen, which could migrate to drinking water wells, rivers, and streams, the committee said. When not removed from water before consumption, high levels of nitrate and nitrite - products of nitrogen fertilizers - could have significant health impacts.

Nutrient and sediment pollution in streams and rivers could also both be attributed to soil erosion. High sedimentation rates carry financial consequences as they increase the cost of often-mandatory dredging for transportation and recreation. The committee observed that erosion might be minimized if future production of biofuels looks to perennial crops, like switchgrass, poplars or willows, or prairie polyculture, which could hold the soil and nutrients in place better than most row crops. The committee also identified other ways that farming could be improved, such as conservation tillage and leaving most or all of the cornstalks and cobs in the field after the grain has been harvested.

For biorefineries, the water consumed for the ethanol production process - although modest compared with the water used growing biofuel crops - could substantially affect local water supplies, the committee concluded. A biorefinery that produces 100 million gallons of ethanol a year would use the equivalent of the water supply for a town of about 5,000 people. Biorefineries could generate intense challenges for local water supplies, depending on where the facilities are located. However, use of water in biorefineries is declining as ethanol producers increasingly incorporate water recycling and develop new methods of converting feedstocks to fuels that increase energy yields while reducing water use, the committee noted.

The study was sponsored by the McKnight Foundation, Energy Foundation, National Science Foundation, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and National Research Council Day Fund. The National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, and National Research Council make up the National Academies. They are private, nonprofit institutions that provide science, technology, and health policy advice under a congressional charter. The Research Council is the principal operating agency of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering.

References:
National Academy of Sciences: Water Implications of Biofuels Production in the United States - October 10, 2007.

National Academy of Sciences: Water Implications of Biofuels Production in the United States: Report Brief [*.pdf] - October 10, 2007.

National Academy of Sciences: Increase in Ethanol Production From Corn Could Significantly Impact Water Quality and Availability if New Practices and Techniques Are Not Employed - October 10, 2007.


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Brazilian scientists identify elephant grass as a promising biomass crop; first projects already underway

Studies by the Agrobiology Centre at the state Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (Embrapa) are finding that elephant grass has great potential as a biomass crop that can be used for the production of green heat, power and electricity. A Brazilian company, Sykue Bioenergia, has already commissioned a first thermoelectric power plant that will be fuelled by the grass. It plans another 10 and aims for carbon credits. The market for the solid biofuel is potentially huge, as it can further be used in the iron, steel, aluminum, chemical and cement industries. Moreover, the highly efficient crop can be grown across the tropics, opening major perspectives for clean development and new export markets in the developing world. Experts see the emergence of a global solid biofuel market, similar to that of liquid biofuels.

Biomass champion
Elephant grass (Pennisetum purpureum - earlier post) is a species of grass native to the tropical grasslands of Africa. It is a tall perennial plant, growing to 2-4.5m tall (sometimes up to 7.5 m), with razor-sharp leaves 30-120 cm long and 1-5 cm broad. It is a cane-like species of grass which utilizes the efficient C4 carbon fixation path, resulting in high biomass productivity. When burned in biomass power plants it can generate 25 times as much energy as the amount of fossil fuel used to produce it. In short, the crop has an extremely strong energy balance. (Compare with the energy balance of corn ethanol, which is around 1 to 1, or sugarcane ethanol at 8 to 1).

The biomass crop can be used as an alternative to coal, which is fetching record prices (earlier post). As a solid biofuel it can be burned either in dedicated, highly efficient biomass power plants, in blast furnaces as an alternative to coal, or co-fired with coal in existing power plants.

According to Vicente Mazzarella, who has been studying elephant grass at the Sao Paulo state government’s Institute for Technological Research (IPT) since 1991, the crop is a champion when it comes to sheer biomass yields. Compare it with the popular eucalyptus tree, planted in Brazil to produce cellulose and charcoal: the tree yields around 7.5 tons of dry biomass per hectare a year and up to 20 tons a year in optimum conditions, while elephant grass yields 30 to 40 tons.

Furthermore, eucalyptus trees take seven years to reach a size worth felling, while elephant grass can be harvested two to four times a year, because of its rapid growth.

And its yield may be increased still further, since the species has hardly been studied and no genetic improvement efforts have yet been carried out. There are close to 200 varieties of elephant grass, and it will take time and effort to identify which ones are best suited to different soil and climate conditions.

Crop research
After 10 years of research, Embrapa’s Agrobiology Centre identified three varieties of elephant grass suited to energy production purposes because of their high yield without nitrogenous fertilisers. For use as a biofuel, the least nutritious varieties are sought, in contrast to its traditional use as animal feed:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

The reason is that nutrients like mineral salts produce ash that can damage iron and steel furnaces, Bruno Alves, an agronomist with the elephant grass research team at Embrapa’s Agrobiology Centre, headed by Segundo Urquiaga.

That is why tests were done using varieties that grow in poor soil, using the minimum amount of fertilisers, but still producing the highest yields of biomass.

The conversion of energy intake into energy storage (the energy balance) of the plant can be improved by biological nitrogen fixation, in which bacteria take nitrogen from the air and convert it to compounds that fertilise plants.

This is an area in which Embrapa’s Agrobiology Centre has accumulated much expertise in the last few decades, inoculating nitrogen-fixing bacteria into beans and sugarcane.

Biological nitrogen fixation limits itself to the nitrogen required by the plant, avoiding the risk of excessive nitrogenous fertiliser use, said Alves. He pointed out that nitrogenous fertilisers require the greatest amount of fossil fuel energy to produce them chemically, and that by avoiding its use, greenhouse gas emissions are also avoided.

Logistics, bioconversion
But elephant grass does present certain difficulties. It likes a lot of water, so its tolerance of the long dry seasons of the Cerrado, the Brazilian savannah where the largest extensions of land are available for cultivation, must be studied, as well as whether it will maintain its productivity level with less humidity.

Drying and compacting the biomass are also a challenge. Green elephant grass is 80 percent water, and it does not dry out in the sun, as eucalyptus does, but rots if left in piles. To dry, it must be cut up into small pieces, and some heat energy applied. Compacting is necessary for storage and transport because of the great bulk of the dry grass.

The ceramic industry, therefore, is likely to be the first user of elephant grass as an energy source. Medium-sized ceramic plants require less than 100 hectares of elephant grass grown nearby, which dispenses with compacting and transport. The dried elephant grass can be used in furnaces directly, instead of wood or natural gas. Other processes needing just heat or steam will soon be able to make use of this alternative fuel.

First grass powered station
A medium-sized electricity company, Sykue Bioenergia, has already commissioned a thermoelectric power plant that will be fuelled by elephant grass. The thermoelectric station will be built in Sao Desiderio in the state of Bahia in northeastern Brazil, by Dedini, an industrial company better known for building sugar mills and distilleries.

The Sykue power plant will cost 80 million reais (43 million dollars) and is due to come onstream in December 2008. It will have a capacity of 30 megawatts and will produce its own elephant grass on a plantation of 4,000 hectares. The company intends to build 10 such power plants soon.

Ana Maria Diniz of Sykue Bioenergia said grass had been chosen to power the new generating plant “due to its capacity to transform solar energy into cellulose via a totally clean, renewable and economically viable production cycle.”

The project will allow carbon credits of a million tons per year to be obtained, which can be sold on the international market to generate extra profits for the companies involved.

Huge market
Making charcoal from elephant grass, to substitute for coke or traditional charcoal made from wood, still needs further research. But environmental pressures and the threat of an energy deficit in Brazil may accelerate its development and stimulate investment from large steelworks and energy companies.

The potential demand for this alternative energy source is huge, said Mazzarella, who indicated five big markets. As well as steelworks interested in a new charcoal that does not contribute to deforestation, there is a group of large consumers of energy, such as the aluminium industry, the chemical and cement industries, and electricity distributors.

Biomass energy implies a key saving for electricity companies because it can supply extra electricity at times of peak demand, which is the most expensive to produce.

The mining industry, which imports coal to process iron ore into iron and steel for export, could use elephant grass compressed into pellets, similar to wood pellets, in its blast furnaces as an economical and environmentally friendly solution.

In Europe, the use of dry, compacted biomass pellets for heating is growing rapidly (earlier post, here and here), and elephant grass could open up export markets for Brazil similar to those for ethanol, Mazzarella said.

References:
IPS: Pasto elefante, nuevo campeón en biomasa - October 2007.

Fuel Alternative: Brazil to produce power from grass - July 24, 2007.

Biopact: E.ON UK submits application for 25MW biomass plant - July 20, 2007

Biopact: Biomass pellets revolution in Austria: 46% less costly than heating oil; most efficient way for households to reduce carbon footprint - October 06, 2007

Biopact: Report: biomass fastest growing renewable in EU, largest potential - September 15, 2007

Biopact: Interpellets 2007: conference looks at wood pellets as an alternative to fossil fuels - August 16, 2007


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Saskatchewan Biofuels Investment Opportunity Program approves $12.5 million in funding for two communally owned biofuel plants

ENSASK Biofuels Ltd. in Tisdale and North West Bio-Energy Ltd. in Unity have both been approved for a conditionally repayable contribution of up to $10 million and $2.5 million respectively under Canada's provincial Saskatchewan Biofuels Investment Opportunity (SaskBIO) Program (earlier post).

North West Bio-Energy Ltd. is a wholly owned subsidiary of North West Terminal Ltd., a farmer-owned inland grain terminal located one mile east of Unity, Saskatchewan. North West Bio-Energy Ltd. was established for the purpose of constructing and operating a 25-million litre per year fuel-ethanol facility.

ENSASK Biofuels Ltd. was established in 2006 to develop a wheat ethanol facility in North eastern Saskatchewan. The facility, scheduled to open in 2009, expects to produce 100-million litres of ethanol per year.
Through projects like ours, the SaskBIO program creates the mechanism to allow farmers and rural communities to participate in and profit from the new opportunities presented by the biofuels industry. - Jason Skinner, General Manager of North West Bio-Energy Ltd.
Communal ownership
The Saskatchewan Biofuels Investment Opportunity Program, administered by the Department of Regional Economic and Co-operative Development, is a four-year, $80 million provincial program that provides repayable contributions of up to $10 million per project for the construction or expansion of transportation biofuels production facilities in Saskatchewan:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

The program was created to provide farmers and communities the opportunity to participate through investment in the value-added biofuels industry, and began accepting applications in August, 2007.

Program applicants must have a minimum of five per cent farmer-community investment, and a minimum production capacity of two million litres per year for both new and expanding facilities.

Stressing the community-ownership factor Premier Lorne Calvert says about the program: "We created SaskBIO to provide an opportunity for farmers and communities to participate in the value-added biofuels industry in Saskatchewan through ownership of biofuels facilities. This program will also ensure that Saskatchewan is an attractive jurisdiction in which to build a sustainable biofuels industry."

References:
Government of Saskatchewan: Biofuels Facilities Approved for $12.5 million in Provincial Funding - October 9, 2007.

Biopact: Saskatchewan commits C$80 million to development of biofuel plants - community ownership - June 14, 2007



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Partnership to build first industrial-scale biodiesel plant leveraging solid catalyst

Benefuel, Inc., a new-generation biodiesel refining and distribution company, announced today that it will build the world’s first industrial-scale biodiesel refinery leveraging a novel solid catalyst that converts low-grade fats and vegetable oils into biodiesel. The plant, planned to be located in Seymour (Indiana), eliminates the need for water in the refining process and produces a market-ready glycerin by-product.

Benefuel will partner with Seymour Biofuels LLC, based in Indiana, to construct a 10-million gallon (37.8 million liter) biodiesel plant that uses Benefuel’s solid, acid catalyst. The catalyst, developed in collaboration with chemical engineers from India’s National Chemical Laboratory, can turn virtually any vegetable oil or high free fatty acid (FFA) animal fat directly into biodiesel without the need for costly pre-processing.
Biodiesel refiners have been looking for a breakthrough that reduces feedstock costs, addresses waste glycerin disposal, eliminates caustics in the processing stream and reduces the environmental impact typically associated with producing biodiesel. The economic benefits of a solid catalyst refinery far exceed those of conventional refineries, dramatically increasing operating margins to create a major shift in how the world produces biodiesel. - Rob Tripp, CEO of Benefuel, Inc.
Traditional biodiesel 'catalysts' are better described as chemical 'reactants', rather than 'catalysts', because they are destroyed during the refining process. Sodium and potassium hydroxides – the most common substances used to transesterify oils and fats into methyl esters - are consumed during production and must be washed out of the biodiesel crude. In addition to being discarded after each batch, caustic reagents must be neutralized with acid before the biodiesel can be recovered and then contaminate the glycerin byproduct with waste salts, which dramatically degrades its commercial value, as well as add costs to the biodiesel process.

Benefuel’s dual metal catalyst (DMC) solves the problem of reactant waste and glycerin contamination. The solid catalyst is not consumed during transesterification, eliminating the need for fuel washing – and making Benefuel the first biodiesel company in the world that places no demand on limited water supplies. Typical biodiesel refineries can require up to five gallons of water per gallon of oil feedstock to wash out spent reactant. A Benefuel refinery requires no process water at all.

Due to the unique nature of the DMC, methyl esters produced in a Benefuel refinery can be immediately blended (without washing) with petrodiesel to make biodiesel blends or used directly as the best B100 in the market.

In addition to high-quality biodiesel, Benefuel’s proprietary refineries also produce a 98 to 99 percent pure, technical-grade glycerin that has a multiple number of uses:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

An operator choosing to use long-chain alcohols (octane) will be able to make biolubricant base oils – all within the same refinery – which can be blended with petroleum base oils to make biodegradable lubricants for the ever-growing lubricant market. The DMC effectively refines a wide range of oil feedstocks, including both vegetable oils and animal fats up to 100 percent free fatty acids (FFA).

The DMC changes the fundamentals of the biodiesel refining equation, enabling a continuous flow fuel-processing model that is not possible in traditional stirred tank reactors (STRs). STRs convert feedstocks to methyl esters in “batches,” requiring significant labor inputs and stop-and-go production. The continuous flow model streamlines the production process and allows for constant output.

Because of this, a Benefuel refinery does not require manual batch testing for quality assurance. Each Benefuel refinery is continuously monitored cutting labor costs and eliminating down time.
You couldn’t ask for a better location for this facility than right here in the heart of soy country. The flexibility and simplicity of the Benefuel refinery will allow us to process a much broader range of feedstock in a much more profitable and environmentally friendly way. The valuable glycerin commodity and use of local feedstock will make this plant a model for distributed fuel production. This brings our energy supply back home. - said James Galyen, a partner in Seymour Biofuels LLC.
Officials with both companies expect to begin production later in 2008.

Benefuel, Inc. is a new-generation biodiesel refining and distribution company whose streamlined production process allows for distributed and scalable biodiesel plants that leverage local resources, enable cost advantages for producers and distributors, and facilitate expansion of the biofuels market.

Seymour BioFuels LLC is a closely held renewable energy investment company. It has completed a feasibility study and plans to construct a new biodiesel facility in Seymour, Ind. Benefuel’s patented technology will allow Seymour BioFuels to use multiple feedstocks and produce a premium, environmentally friendly source of energy. The city of Seymour was selected as the site for the plant because of its access to rail and interstate, as well as its access to local agriculture to be used for feedstock. Seymour BioFuels plans to market its end product to local distributors, thereby eliminating costs associated with bringing in fuel from outside sources. Seymour BioFuels is in the process of securing funding to begin construction of the new plant.

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Hyflux, BP and Dalian Institute of Chemical Physics team up to develop zeolite membranes for dewatering biofuels

Singapore-based Hyflux, petroleum major BP International Ltd and China's Dalian Institute of Chemical Physics (DICP) have announced plans to jointly develop and commercialise the use of zeolite dewatering membranes in the production of biofuels. By increasing the efficiency of the dewatering step, zeolite membranes have the potential to significantly reduce the energy costs of production of biofuels such as bioethanol.

The scope of the agreement covers the fermentation and synthetic alcohol dehydration of ethanol and propanol, and mixtures of alcohols and diols, specifically monoethylene glycol.

The first project of the three-party collaboration involves the dewatering of bio-ethanol using zeolite membranes. Bio-ethanol is produced by fermentation of sugars derived from starchy plants (corn, potatoes), sugar-rich plants (beets, sugar cane) or ligneous or cellulosic plants (wood, straw). Dewatering of alcohol is typically an energy intensive and costly process which involves adding large amounts of heat. Zeolite membrane technology (schematic, click to enlarge) has been proven to be especially cost-effective in the dewatering process and offers very significant energy savings when compared with conventional processes.
DICP is one of the most creative and innovative research institutes in China and has a track record of turning research into commercial application. Most recently we have commercialised our methanol to olefins technology using novel zeolitic catalyst and process development expertise. DICP are experts in zeolite membranes having worked on them for over 15 years. We have developed and patented novel methods for their preparation which has improved the efficiency of the membrane modules and provided an intermediate level of scale-up to show these can now be fabricated in a cost effective manner. - Dr. Tao Zhang, Director of DICP
Zeolites are crystalline structures made up of 'T-atoms' which are tetrahedrally bonded to each other with oxygen bridges. Zeolites are usually aluminosilicates, but other T-atoms such as P, Ga, Ge, B, Be and others can exist in the framework as well. Because of the regularity of the crystalline structure and the pores with angstrom size dimensions, these crystals, when grown together to form a membrane, can operate as separations devices for gas and liquid mixtures.

Zeolite membranes have advantages over other types of membranes in that they are highly stable under thermal cycling, high temperatures, and harsh physical and chemical environments which other membranes cannot withstand. The chemistry of the zeolites can be modified to provide catalytic properties, to change them between hydrophobic and hydrophilic surfaces, to change the pore size and structure (creating different types of zeolites), which make them useful for many different applications:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

The three-party collaboration will draw upon DICP’s technical knowledge in zeolite membrane technology, on Hyflux’s commercial experience in membrane manufacturing, membrane module manufacturing, process design and systems integration, as well as on BP’s worldwide fuel technology expertise, market network and know-how.
Transportation is an important area to address since it accounts for around 20 per cent of global emissions and increased blending of biocomponents offers a real option for progress in this area on a global scale. - Pek Hak Bin, Country President of BP Singapore
Hyflux believes that this is a significant milestone for the group to enter the field of clean energy. The company successfully commercialised its used oil recycling business last year, and the new partnership represents another potential business in the energy sector.

Looking ahead, Hyflux is optimistic about the potential spin-offs of the widespread applications of zeolite technology.
Zeolite membranes can also be effectively used in the dehydration and recycling of solvents. This will give Hyflux an added area of growth, which is to expand into new industrial sectors such as the fine chemicals and specialty chemicals and biochemicals. - Olivia Lum, Hyflux Group CEO & President
BP has extensive experience and investments in biofuel research and development in Europe, India, Australia, China and the USA, and was a pioneer in the area of zeolite membrane technology. In China, BP and DICP have been working together to research new clean energy technologies. BP also spearheaded the “Clean Energy: Facing the Future” programme in 2001 with the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Tsinghua University.

Global investment in biofuels accounted for some US$18 billion in 2006. By 2020, the estimated global demand of bio-ethanol is estimated to reach 120 billion litres.


Hyflux is one of Asia’s leading environmental companies, with operations and projects
in Singapore & Southeast Asia, China, the Middle East & North Africa and India. Specialising in membrane technologies, Hyflux is today an integrated solutions provider offering services that include process design and optimisation, pilot testing, fabrication and installation, and engineering, procurement and construction. It is also engaged in the commissioning, operation and maintenance of a wide range of liquid treatment systems on a turnkey or Design-Build-Own-Operate (DBOO) arrangement.

Hyflux currently focuses on four core businesses namely water, industrial manufacturing processes, specialty materials and energy (oil recycling) In 2006, Hyflux was awarded Water Company of the Year by the UK’s Global Water Intelligence at the Global Water Awards. It also made it to Forbes Asia’s Best Under a Billion List 2006.

Founded in March 1949, DICP is a multidisciplinary institute engaging in both fundamental and applied researches of chemistry and chemical engineering. With strong abilities for technological development, DICP has conducted researches in many fields, including catalytic chemistry, engineering chemistry, organic synthetic chemistry, chemical lasers and molecular reaction dynamics, as well as in modern analytical chemistry, especially in chromatography.

References:
Hyflux: Biofuel Joint Development - October 9, 2007.

Biopact: Mitsui Engineering to use zeolite membrane for ethanol dehydration - July 12, 2007




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U.S. DOE to invest $197 million in three large carbon sequestration projects

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announces that it has awarded the first three large-scale carbon sequestration projects in the United States and the largest single set in the world to date. The three projects - Plains Carbon Dioxide Reduction Partnership; Southeast Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnership; and Southwest Regional Partnership for Carbon Sequestration - will conduct large volume tests for the storage of one million or more tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) in deep saline reservoirs.

Biopact tracks developments in carbon capture and storage (CCS) because the technologies prepare the groundwork for applications in the production of carbon-negative bioenergy.

DOE plans to invest $197 million over ten years, subject to annual appropriations from Congress, for the projects, whose estimated value including partnership cost share is $318 million. These projects are the first of several sequestration demonstration projects planned through DOE's Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnerships (map, click to enlarge).

The formations to be tested during this third phase of the regional partnerships program are recognized as the most promising of the geologic basins in the United States. Collectively, these formations have the potential to store more than one hundred years of CO2 emissions from all major point sources in North America.

The projects include participation from 27 states and the Canadian provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba. They will demonstrate the entire CO2 injection process - pre-injection characterization, injection process monitoring, and post-injection monitoring - at large volumes to determine the ability of different geologic settings to permanently store CO2.

The projects awarded are the following:
Plains CO2 Reduction Partnership
The Plains CO2 Reduction Partnership, led by the Energy & Environmental Research Center at the University of North Dakota, will conduct geologic CO2 storage projects in the Alberta and Williston Basins. The Williston Basin project in North Dakota will couple enhanced oil recovery and CO2 storage in a deep carbonate formation that is also a major saline formation. The CO2 for this project will come from a post-combustion capture facility located at a coal-fired power plant in the region. A second test will be conducted in northwestern Alberta, Canada, and will demonstrate the co-sequestration of CO2 and hydrogen sulfide from a large gas-processing plant into a deep saline formation. This will provide data about how hydrogen sulfide affects the sequestration process. The Plains partnership includes North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Montana, Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri, and Wisconsin, along with the Canadian provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba.
  • Total Project Cost: $135,586,059
  • DOE Share: $67,000,000
  • Partner Share: $68,586,059
Southeast Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnership
This partnership, led by Southern States Energy Board, will demonstrate CO2 storage in the lower Tuscaloosa Formation Massive Sand Unit. This geologic formation stretches from Texas to Florida and has the potential to store more than 200 years of CO2 emissions from major point sources in the region. The partnership will inject CO2 at two locations to assess different CO2 streams and how the heterogeneity of the formation affects the injection and containment. Injection of several million tons of CO2 from a natural deposit is expected to begin in late 2008. The project will then conduct a second injection into the formation using CO2 captured from a coal-fired power plant in the region. The results of these projects will provide the foundation for the future development of CO2 capture and storage opportunities. The Southeast partnership covers Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana, and southeast Texas.
  • Total Project Cost: $93,689,242
  • DOE Share: $64,949,079
  • Partner Share: $28,740,163
Southwest Regional Partnership for Carbon Sequestration
Coordinated by the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, the Southwest Regional Partnership for Carbon Sequestration will inject several million tons of CO2 into the Jurassic-age Entrada Sandstone Formation in the southwestern United States. The Entrada formation stretches from Colorado to Wyoming and is a significant storage reservoir in the region. The partnership will inject CO2 into the formation after extensive baseline characterization and simulation modeling. The project will test the limits of injection and demonstrate the integrity of the cap rock to trap the gas. Information gained from the project will be used to evaluate locations throughout the region where future power plants are being considered. The Southwest partnership includes the states of New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, and Utah, and portions of Texas, Wyoming, and Arizona.
  • Total Project Cost: $88,845,571
  • DOE Share: $65,437,395
  • Partner Share: $23,408,176
Over the first 12 to 24 months of these projects, researchers and industry partners will characterize the injection sites and then complete the modeling, monitoring, and infrastructure improvements needed before CO2 can be injected. These efforts will establish a baseline for future monitoring after CO2 injection begins. Each project will then inject a large volume of CO2 into a regionally significant storage formation. After injection, researchers will monitor and model the CO2 to determine the effectiveness of the storage reservoir:
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These three projects will double the number of large-volume carbon storage demonstrations in operation worldwide. Current projects include the Weyburn Project in Canada, which uses CO2 captured during coal gasification in North Dakota for enhanced oil recovery; Norway's Sleipner Project, which stores CO2 in a saline formation under the North Sea; and the In Salah Project in Algeria, which stores CO2 in a natural gas field. The successful demonstration of carbon storage in these U.S. geologic basins by the Regional Partnerships will play a crucial role in future infrastructure development and sequestration technology to mitigate CO2 emissions.
Successful demonstration of large volume carbon capture and storage technology plays a key role in achieving President Bush's goals for a cleaner energy future. Coal is vitally important to America's energy security and this technology will help enable our Nation, and future generations, to use this abundant resource more efficiently and without emitting greenhouse gas emissions. - Clay Sell, Deputy Secretary of Energy
The newly awarded projects kick off the third phase of the Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnerships program. This initiative, launched by DOE in 2003, forms the centerpiece of national efforts to develop the infrastructure and knowledge base needed to place carbon sequestration technologies on the path to commercialization. During the first phase of the program, seven partnerships - consisting of organizations from government, industry and academia, and extending across the United States and into Canada - characterized the potential for CO2 storage in deep oil-, gas-, coal-, and saline-bearing formations.

When Phase I ended in 2005, the partnerships had identified more than 3,000 billion metric tons of potential storage capacity in promising sinks. This has the potential to represent more than 1,000 years of storage capacity from point sources in North America. In the program's second phase, the partnerships implemented a portfolio of small-scale geologic and terrestrial sequestration projects. The purpose of these tests was to validate that different geologic formations have the injectivity, containment, and storage effectiveness needed for long-term sequestration.

References:

U.S. DOE: DOE Awards First Three Large-Scale Carbon Sequestration Projects - October 9, 2007.

U.S. DOE: Carbon Sequestration Regional Partnerships.

National Energy Technology Laboratory: Carbon Sequestration Technologies.

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