Biofuel is a mixed bag. So far we have discovered that using food crops to produce fuel was a bad idea. I suspect that using or forests to create biofuel is a similarly bad idea. However, we feel that there is a lot of promise in creating fuel from algae as it can produce hydrogen, and be refined into diesel, gasoline and jet fuel etc. Current costs are running under four dollars a gallon, and we would expect this number to come down with improvements in technology and as the sales volume increases.
Lawsuit opposes permit for Michigan ethanol plant
Environmentalists sued Michigan regulators Tuesday over an air quality permit issued for a planned refinery in the Upper Peninsula that will produce ethanol fuel from wood chips. The Sierra Club lawsuit contends the Department of Natural Resources and Environment violated federal law by granting the permit in September to Frontier Renewable Resources LLC, which is preparing to build the plant near Kinross. Environmentalists say it will use more energy through burning natural gas than it will produce in ethanol. "The public is being asked to spend our dollars on a project that's going to lose energy and create very few jobs for the resources consumed," said Marvin Roberson, a forest policy specialist with the Sierra Club's Michigan chapter. Frontier is a partnership of Mascoma Corp. of Lebanon, N.H., and J.M. Longyear, a Marquette-based company that owns about 73,000 acres of forest in the Upper Peninsula. The venture has received $49.5 million in state and federal grants to build the plant and support research and development of its product, known as cellulosic ethanol. The Frontier permit meets the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's definition of a "sham permit" — one granted under conditions the applicant plans to change shortly after beginning operations.
Mascoma News: in the Michigan Upper Peninsula
Consolidated bioprocessing venture partners with Chevron for lignin offtake. In New Hampshire, Mascoma announced that it has entered into a feedstock processing and lignin supply agreement with Chevron Technology Ventures. Under terms of the agreement, CTV will provide various sources of lignocellulosic feedstock to Mascoma. [Editor: Burning Lignin represents an entirely new source of dioxins. Lignins bind chlorine and the burning of hydrocarbon in the presence of chlorine produces dioxins. Releases of particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxides, acid gasses, etc., all increase health risks to humans and degrade the environment. The list of human problems with these toxins is lengthy including the increased risk of asthma, chronic bronchitis, stroke, heart disease, cancer, endocrine, hormonal and immune dysfunction to mention a few. It is noteworthy that most of these toxins are odorless and colorless . . . thus citizens are damaged and don't even know it is happening until the problems rise to the level of sickness and their doctors say, "Oh my, wonder why you have cancer, heart disease or asthma . . . do you have a family history?" ]
Wood 2 Energy: a state of the science and technology report
In thermochemical processes, gasification conversion efficiencies can be affected by tar formation during the process and processes to treat this problem can be very expensive. Pyrolysis oils are very dense, improving transportation efficiencies. They can be processed into other products and chemicals, but do have low heating values, are high in ash, and have other characteristics that make them challenging to work with as fuel or chemical feedstocks. In bioechemical processes, enzymatic hydrolysis for liquid fuels and chemicals is the primary technology that has been refined in recent years. This process has traditionally been very expensive compared to grainbased fuels and other processes.
Biofuels cause four times more carbon emissions
Green fuels made from soy beans cause four times more climate-warming emissions than standard diesel or petrol, according to a European report into biofuels. Biofuels have already been criticized for causing food shortages in countries where land for rice or wheat has been displaced by fields of soy beans or sugarcane for fuel. Environmental campaigners say the latest report proves the renewable energy source is also bad for climate change, since carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas that causes global warming. The report for the European Commission, released under Freedom of Information rules, looked into the "indirect emissions" from biofuels caused by land use change. The worse example is soy beans in America. Because the land that used to grow soy beans for animal feed is now being used for biofuels, it means that more soy beans must be grown in the rainforests of Brazil to make up for the loss in the domestic market.
Trees Are No Longer Enough
Greenland shark may become new source of biofuel
Native to the cold Arctic waters, thousands of the sharks get caught and die in fishermen's nets off Greenland every year. The beasts -- which can be compared to the Great White Shark in size at seven metres (23 feet). At the Arctic Technology Centre (ARTEK) in Sisimiut in western Greenland, researchers are experimenting with ways of using the animal's oily flesh to produce biogas out of fishing industry waste. Anne-Marie Bjerg, a WWF specialist on ocean mammals, says the shark-for-biofuel project "is not a good idea, not at all," and wants to see other sustainable energy projects undertaken instead. "We know very little about the Greenland shark, which lives in a limited geographic zone, the Arctic," she said. We are opposed to the commercial use of marine mammals, such as the Greenland shark, which is not universal and whose population size is unknown.
Crop Residue May Be Too Valuable To Harvest For Biofuels
In the rush to develop renewable fuels from plants, converting crop residues into cellulosic ethanol would seem to be a slam dunk. However, that might not be such a good idea. With cultivation, organic matter tends to decline. Organic matter provides nutrients crops need, helps the soil hold water and contributes to the formation of soil clods that help prevent wind erosion. The percentage of organic matter in a given soil varies naturally from region to region, depending on climate, soil disturbance, moisture and vegetation. Generally speaking, more moisture leads to more vegetation, which is the feedstock for the microbes that break down residue into organic matter.
GM, Department of Energy partner in Jatropha biodiesel research
03/30/2010—General Motors and the U.S. Department of Energy have announced a partnership to develop a new form of the Jatropha plant for use in biofuel production. Jatropha is traditionally considered a weed, but when refined it can produce an oil that can be developed into biodiesel fuel. According to the Wallstreet Journal, Goldman Sachs suggested Jatropha as a top candidate for biofuel harvesting back in 2007, and it appears that now the D.O.E. and GM have finally taken notice. The plant is actually a tree-like weed, and is quite adaptable at growing in harsh climates and with poor soil in its natural state. The immediate advantage of Jatropha plants is that they can be grown in areas and under conditions that are otherwise unsuitable for other crops, such as corn.
Biofuel and Sustainability Reports
These reports, which were reviewed by an Advisory Committee, are based upon scientific manuscripts. Forestlands are expected to meet a long list of demands beyond energy production, including the production of water, wood and non-wood products. Humans also rely on these areas for the provisioning of many other services, including recreation, and people value the habitat forests provide to wildlife. There is also a strong need to maintain or enhance the forests’ ability to sequester carbon and thus help to mitigate global climate change. In the last five years, there has been a rapid increase in the demand for bioenergy worldwide. It will become harder and harder to balance various ecosystem services provided by forests
Bio-fuel growth raises concerns about forests
Forests are a treasure trove of limbs and bark that can be made into alternative fuels and some worry the increasing trend of using that logging debris will make those materials too scarce, harming the woodlands. For centuries, forests have provided lumber to build cities, pulp for paper mills and a refuge for hunters, fishers and hikers. A flurry of new, green ventures is fueling demand for trees and the debris leftover when they are harvested, which is called waste wood or woody biomass. ''There simply is nowhere near enough waste wood for all of these biomass projects that are popping up all over the place,'' said Marvin Roberson, a forest policy specialist with the Sierra Club in Michigan. Waste wood has become a sought-after commodity, prompting concerns that the demand might overwhelm supply and damage the ecosystem. But government officials say there's plenty available and they point to guidelines that are aimed at maintaining tree debris to give the soil nutrients. Many biomass projects are tied to the forests that extend across Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan and part of Ontario. Among them is Flambeau River Papers, a mill in Park Falls, Wis., that emerged from bankruptcy three years ago and is pinning its hopes for profitability on generating its own heat with woody biomass.
Questions About Biofuels’ Environmental Costs Could Alter Europe’s Policies
12-Feb-2010—A top European farm official has suggested that yet-to-be-released studies by the European Commission could be used to “kill” heavily promoted and subsidized biofuels by focusing on their total environmental impact. The suggestion, written in the margins of internal correspondence foreshadows a further retreat from the biofuel-friendly policies that the commission once called crucial in the fight against climate change. The industry has already been dogged by contentions that the main justification for policies supporting biofuels — that they are greener than fossil-based products — is unsound. Many environmental advocates claim that a large number of fuels grown from crops do not merit public subsidies or production incentives.
Business of Green: An appeal to slow down on biofuel
Europe's well-meaning rush to biofuels, the scientists concluded, had produced a slew of harmful ripple effects - from deforestation in Southeast Asia to higher prices for grains. In a recommendation released last weekend, the 20-member panel, made up of some of Europe's most distinguished climate scientists, called the 10 percent target "overambitious" and an "experiment" whose "unintended effects are difficult to predict and difficult to control."
Burn Up the Biosphere and Call It Renewable Energy: The New Taxpayer Bailout That Will Make You Sick AND Poor
The transportation biofuel mandate was adopted without clear consideration of the impacts of production on food, public health, direct and indirect land use, greenhouse gas emissions, soils, water or biodiversity. Since being passed into law, the critique of biofuels, particularly corn ethanol, has only grown deeper and more damning. Cellulosic fuels, not much available yet, will, according to mythology, avert these concerns because they are made from the inedible parts of plants. True, we do not eat forests, but creating huge new demands for wood is a recipe for disaster.
Mascoma biofuel plant in Upper Peninsula could cause job pains in Newberry
Kurt Chamberlain, general manager of the Louisiana Pacific plant in Newberry, said the facility he oversees is the smallest OSB plant in the country. But the plant, which uses aspen just as Mascoma would, is already having a hard time getting supplies. “It’s costly, and we already have to go farther away to get supply,” he explained. The company uses about one-third the amount of wood that Mascoma would use, but employs two to three times more people. “I’d question the value added of a project like this,” Chamberlain said. “It’s great for guys who have equipment in the woods, but the availability of wood is already strained.”
Net energy of cellulosic ethanol from switchgrass
Perennial herbaceous plants such as switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.) are being evaluated as cellulosic bioenergy crops. Two major concerns have been the net energy efficiency and economic feasibility of switchgrass and similar crops. All previous energy analyses have been based on data from research plots (<5 m2) and estimated inputs. We managed switchgrass as a biomass energy crop in field trials of 3–9 ha (1 ha = 10,000 m2) on marginal cropland on 10 farms across a wide precipitation and temperature gradient in the midcontinental U.S. to determine net energy and economic costs based on known farm inputs and harvested yields.
Thirteen Air Carriers Pursue Synthetic Fuel
12/15/2009—Air Canada, AirTran Airways, American Airlines, Atlas Air, Delta Air Lines, FedEx Express, JetBlue Airways, Lufthansa German Airlines, Mexicana Airlines, Polar Air Cargo, United Airlines, UPS Airlines and US Airways Sign Memorandum of Understanding Setting Framework for Future Purchase of Certified Synthetic Jet Fuel. Once operational, the facility is expected to create over 400 high paying direct jobs and over 3,200 indirect jobs according to the study. The Fischer–Tropsch process (or Fischer–Tropsch Synthesis) is a catalyzed chemical reaction in which synthesis gas, a mixture of carbon monoxide and hydrogen, is converted into liquid hydrocarbons of various forms. The most common catalysts are based on iron and cobalt, although nickel and ruthenium have also been used. The principal purpose of this process is to produce a synthetic petroleum substitute, typically from coal, natural gas or biomass, for use as synthetic lubrication oil or as synthetic fuel. This synthetic fuel runs trucks, cars, and aircraft engines.
Carbon dioxide in biomass gasification increases efficiency
The use of carbon dioxide in biomass conversion on a global scale has the potential to process tens to hundreds of megatons of carbon dioxide per year, the researchers believe. According to their calculations, using carbon dioxide during gasification of biomass fuel results in better emissions reduction than just the use of biofuels alone. For example, the incorporation of carbon dioxide in the low-temperature gasification of beach grass on a global scale could create a beneficial use for 437 million metric tons (482 million tons) of carbon dioxide, based on estimated transportation needs in 2008, according to the university. That’s the equivalent of taking about 308 million typical vehicles producing 6 metric tons of carbon dioxide or more per year off the road.
Biorefineries get $564m funding
Up to $483m will go to 14 pilot scale projects and 4 demonstration-scale biorefinery projects while the remaining $81m will go to Bluefire LLC to accelerate the company's construction of a cellulosic ethanol fuel facility in Fulton, Mississippi. The Bluefire project, which also got previous funding from the DOE, is expected to produce 19m gallons/year of fuel-grade ethanol using using wood wastes, mill residue and sorted municipal waste. The DOE said all the biorefinery projects will be matched with more than $700m in private and non-government cost-share funds amounting to a total investments of almost $1.3bn.
Microalgae are now receiving intense focus as a potential source of biofuels, particularly for use in diesel engines and aircraft. The chemical structure of fuels derived from microalgae strains can be quite different from that of terrestrial plants.
DuPont's seaweed venture nets DOE cash
E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co., which alongside Seattle-based Bio Architecture Lab (BAL) has secured $9 million from the Department of Energy to explore seaweed's potential as a feedstock for biobutanol, an advanced biofuel.
Green Algae Has the Potential to Take Over the Fuel Industry
Imagine new green high-rise buildings. No, not just green as in low carbon footprint, but buildings actually powered by green algae. Imagine green algae containers attached to the sides of high-rise buildings, reaching all the way to the roof. These containers, called photobioreactors (PBR), are similar to huge glass water tanks with algae, allowing sunlight to stimulate algae growth and produce highly efficient biofuel. The United States Department of Energy estimated that 15,000 square miles of algae (a bit larger than the size of Maryland) could replace all of the petroleum currently being used in the United States. By comparison, if you plant corn for biofuel use, you would need around 4 times the area of United States to meet current fuel level demands. Algae can take in 99 percent of CO2 and convert it into oxygen or biomass. This means that algae can soak large amounts of CO2 from polluted cities, thereby cleaning and filtering it to produce oxygen as well as biofuel.
Power from Pond Scum
Kevin Berner, the 52-year-old CEO and founder of Phycal, is betting that green lagoons of algae are the cure for America's fossil-fuel addiction. Algae plants are able to produce up to 100 times more oil per acre, than corn, according to the Energy Dept. Plus, algal ponds and containers can be put almost anywhere—from urban rooftops to vacant fields—so they need not displace other crops. And the plants can thrive in dirty or salty water, thus reducing the burden on reservoirs and aquifers.
First Algae Powered Car Will Cross the U.S. on 25 gallons
Just yesterday San Francisco saw the unveiling of the world’s first algae fuel-powered vehicle, dubbed the Algaeus. The plug-in hybrid car, which is a Prius tricked out with a nickel metal hydride battery and a plug, runs on green crude from Sapphire Energy — no modifications to the gasoline engine necessary. The set-up is so effective, according to FUEL producer Rebecca Harrell, that the Algaeus can run on approximately 25 gallons from coast to coast!
Algae Power Hits the Road
Algae produces 30 times more energy per acre than corn or soybeans and can grow in salt water, our worlds most abundant source. There are several startups bringing pond scum to fuel tanks, among them Solazyme who were caught driving around Sundance Film Festival this year with an oilgae-powered car.
Energy Production Breakthrough
Dr. Daniel Nocera and his research team have in effect created an artificial form of photosynthesis, which is the way plants use sunlight to turn water into usable energy. Using a cheap and easy to make catalyst, they produce a reaction that in turn produces a hydrogen gas. The hydrogen becomes a fuel, which can be burned or used to power a fuel cell to generate electricity on demand.
Bill Gates Invests in Algae Fuel
Arguably the world's most famous billionaire dork, Bill Gates, has just plopped some cash down on one of EcoGeek's favorite technologies...algae fuel. Sapphire Energy, which hopes to create fuel for cars from algae, is undergoing series B financing, and Gates and several other large investment companies brought up Sapphire's total invested capital to $100 M. That's a pretty good hunk of change.
Green Fuel Made at Home
The “Rivera Method” takes such agricultural refuse as cracked soy beans, rice and cotton seed hulls, grain sorghum, milo and jatropha and turns them into bio-crude oil. This crude – or Vetroleum, as Rivera calls it - can then be further refined into everything from gasoline to jet fuel and just about every petrochemical in between. With this process, just one bushel (60 pounds) of organic waste can yield about six gallons of bio-crude, Rivera said. What’s more, Rivera claims that products made from Vetroleum burn at near 100 percent efficiency, leaving behind neither heat nor pollution as proof of the chemical reactions taking place. To demonstrate, Rivera set fire to two samples of oil. The first sample – a few drops of conventional petroleum – burned briefly before dying out, leaving behind only wisps of black smoke and an unmistakable smell. The second sample – Rivera’s Vetroleum – not only produced a taller flame longer, but was clearly without smoke and smell.
This is one biofuel that lives up to its green billing in more ways than one. It's an emerald-green crude oil, produced by photosynthesis in algae, which could fuel cars, trucks and aircraft - without consuming crops that can be used as food. "This product can go right into today's oil pipeline," claims Jason Pyle of Sapphire Energy in San Diego, California, which developed the fuel. He says the "green crude" is similar in quality to naturally occurring crude oil. It is produced as a by-product of photosynthesis by a genetically engineered strain of algae, housed in tanks of treated waste-water and exposed to sunlight.
This is a biofuel produced from lignocellulose, a structural material that comprises much of the mass of plants. Lignocellulose is composed mainly of cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin. Corn stover, switchgrass, miscanthus, woodchips and the byproducts of lawn and tree maintenance are some of the more popular cellulosic materials for ethanol production. Production of ethanol from lignocellulose has the advantage of abundant and diverse raw material compared to sources like corn and cane sugars, but requires a greater amount of processing to make the sugar monomers available to the microorganisms that are typically used to produce ethanol by fermentation.
The Evolution Of An Eco-Prophet
"The pathway that I think is likely to be the winner is enzymatic hydrolysis, which essentially uses engineered enzymes to break down the cellulose, the lignin, into fermentable compounds that would then yield many more liters per hectare than any of the first-generation ethanol options," Gore tells me. "I think it's going to play a significant role … One of the many advantages of third-generation biofuels is that they can yield fuels like biobutanol that don't have any blending problems. You just burn them directly. Enzymatic hydrolysis, if I can make another point about that: there is no theoretical upper limit to how efficient they can become.
Peak Soil: Why cellulosic ethanol, biofuels are unsustainable and a threat to America
There are many serious problems with biofuels, especially on a massive scale, and it appears from this report that they cannot be surmounted. The absurdity and destructiveness of large scale biofuels are a chance for people to eventually even reject the internal combustion engine and energy waste in general. With every step required to transform a fuel into energy, there is less and less energy yield. For example, to make ethanol from corn grain, which is how all U.S. ethanol is made now, corn is first grown to develop hybrid seeds, which next season are planted, harvested, delivered, stored, and preprocessed to remove dirt. Dry-mill ethanol is milled, liquefied, heated, saccharified, fermented, evaporated, centrifuged, distilled, scrubbed, dried, stored, and transported to customers.
Feds Invest $564M in Advanced Biomass Projects
The U.S. Departments of Energy and Agriculture have selected 19 biorefinery projects in 15 states to receive up to $564 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. These projects were chosen to speed up the construction and operation of pilot, demonstration, and commercial-scale facilities for advanced biofuels, biopower and bioproducts using biomass feedstocks. Alpena, Michigan-based American Process Inc. has been awarded nearly $18 million for biofuel production, reports Manufacturing & Technology eJournal. The new plant will be constructed on a 29-acre site adjacent to DPI’s Alpena facility and will use DPI’s waste material to make cellulosic ethanol and sodium acetate, a commercial de-icer, according to the article.
Alpena refinery gets $18 million grant
ALPENA, Mich. — The federal government has awarded nearly $18 million to build a refinery in Alpena that will produce biofuels. The U.S. Energy Department on Friday announced the grant to American Process Inc. It's among newly chosen projects in 15 states designed to accelerate technologies for commercial-scale development of a U.S. biomass industry. The biorefinery will convert processed wood from Decorate Panels International, a hardboard manufacturing plant in Alpena, to cellulosic ethanol and potassium acetate. The project will go online in 2011. Gov. Jennifer Granholm says the refinery will bring 160 jobs to the Alpena area and strengthen Michigan's effort to be a leader in biofuels production.
Food Crop Conversion into Ethanol
Ottawa orders study into environmental, health effects of making renewable fuels
A study has been ordered into the environmental and health effects of producing ethanol and biodiesel after other countries found facilities that make renewable fuels could be behind problems with air, water and human health. Environment Canada notes there have been 394 reports in the U.S. over the last six years of biofuel plants running afoul of environmental and health rules.
Ethanol: Energy Panacea or False Promise?
Studies indicate that ethanol might guzzle more energy during its manufacture than it provides, and that it might strain valuable water resources. Recent findings also suggest fuels high in ethanol may pose an equal or greater risk to public health than regular gasoline.
Surprise: Ethanol as Deadly as Gasoline
''Ethanol is being promoted as a clean and renewable fuel that will reduce global warming and air pollution,'' said Stanford University atmospheric scientist Mark Jacobson. But he found the number of deaths and hospitalizations linked with respiratory ailments might increase if every vehicle in the United States used the latest automotive technology and ran on fuel containing high levels of ethanol. The findings counter the environmentally friendly image of ethanol fuels. Ethanol is made from corn and other plants, which naturally soak up carbon dioxide. Research suggests that ethanol production and consumption might therefore release less of this greenhouse gas into the atmosphere than gasoline use does.
Biofuelwatch actively supports the campaign for an EU moratorium on agrofuels from large-scale monocultures. Agroenergy monocultures are linked to accelerated climate change, deforestation, the impoverishment and dispossession of local communities, bio-diversity losses, human rights abuses, water and soil degradation, loss of food sovereignty and food security.