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PNW’s Feedstock Diversity and Supply Chain Potential Can Boost Green Jet Fuel

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Algae-based crude oil

Pacific Northwest aviation and renewable energy interests say there are encouraging signs of an emerging market for sustainable aviation fuels. And those same interests want to make it real.

The Sustainable Aviation Fuels Northwest consortium, in a report this month, concludes that no single feedstock or technology pathway is likely to provide sustainable aviation fuel at the scale or speed needed to produce and maintain jet fuel supply.

Therefore, the 132-page report, “Powering the Next Generation of Flight,” focuses on a portfolio of options, including different conversion technologies and sources of potentially sustainable biomass, including oilseeds, forest residues, solid waste, and algae.

Instead of trying to single out the best source of aviation fuels, SAFN emphasizes the need to create “complete supply chains that can draw upon diverse feedstocks.” Read the rest of this entry »

Written by William DiBenedetto

June 14, 2011 at 2:00 am

A solar ‘sledgehammer’ to produce biomass gas

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This is really neat but will using solar power to create fuel have long-term legs? We’ll see – at some point alternative, renewal fuel ideas will have to catch on, won’t they?

Anyway this one is called solar biomass gasification, a concept and process that’s been around for some time, mostly in university scientific research circles. A relatively new company that has emerged from that university research environment, Sundrop Fuels Inc., might have the drop on making a commercial go of it.

CEO Wayne Simmons puts it quite succinctly: “We’re going to convert the sun’s energy into liquid fuel using concentrated solar power to gasify biomass, then convert the resulting syngas into green gasoline or diesel.”

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Written by William DiBenedetto

August 6, 2010 at 2:00 am

PNW flys with biofuel

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Pacific Northwest aviation businesses and airports are flying together to promote aviation biofuel development in the region.

The “strategic initiative,” launched this week, includes Alaska Airlines, The Boeing Company, Portland International Airport, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, Spokane International Airport and Washington State University. The  “Sustainable Aviation Fuel Northwest” project is the first regional assessment of this kind in the U.S., according to a joint announcement from the group.

It will examine all phases of developing a sustainable biofuel industry, including biomass production and harvest, refining, transport infrastructure and actual use by airlines. It will include an analysis of potential biomass sources that are indigenous to the Pacific Northwest, including algae, agriculturally based oilseeds such as camelina, wood byproducts and others. The project is jointly funded by the participating parties and is expected to be completed in about six months.

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Written by William DiBenedetto

July 15, 2010 at 9:03 am

Toyota launches ‘Baby Prius’ concept

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Toyota Motor Company. the world’s largest carmaker, is launching a subcompact version of its hugely popular hybrid auto, the Prius.

A Detroit News report last month revealed that TMC was developing an all-new gas-electric car that will be smaller and more affordable than the Prius. It will also surpass the Prius’ 50 MPG average

Toyota this week unveiled the FT-CH concept at the Detroit auto show.

It is reported the car could cost about $3,000 less than the Prius while offering higher mileage than any other hybrid currently on the market.

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Written by William DiBenedetto

January 11, 2010 at 6:07 pm

U.S. kicks-in $2m to Washington State Algae Alliance

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The Washington State Algae Alliance, which includes two bioscience firms and the Washington State University, is set to receive $2 million from funding provisions in the 2010 Senate Energy and Water Development appropriations bill.

Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) was instrumental in securing the funding for the Alliance, which will jointly develop a new algae-based system for the production of sustainable and renewable fuels, chemicals, and chemical intermediates.

Targeted Growth, Inc. (TGI), Inventure Chemical and WSU are the Alliance members.

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Written by William DiBenedetto

December 22, 2009 at 5:32 pm

Nifty 50 in bioenergy

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Biofuels Digest this week released its annual Top 50 “hottest” bioenergy company rankings and renewable oils developer Solazyme took the #1 slot.

Rounding out the top 10 were: POET (#2), Amyris Biotechnologies (#3), BP Biofuels (#4), Sapphire Energy (#5) Coskata (#6), DuPont Danisco Cellulosic Ethanol (#7), LS9 (#8), Verenium (#9) and Mascoma (#10).

The rankings were based 50 percent on votes from a 75-member panel of international selectors, and 50 percent on votes from subscribers of Biofuels Digest.

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Written by William DiBenedetto

December 4, 2009 at 5:05 pm

KLM flies passengers with bio-kerosene

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If you were one of the passengers on KLM Royal Dutch Airline’s first passenger flight powered by bio-kerosene last week, then you were also one of the first to get a whiff of this new sustainable fuel, if indeed it is whiff-able.

The Netherlands airline also announced the formation of a joint venture to develop sustainable biofuels on a large scale. Called SkyEnergy, the consortium includes KLM, North Sea Petroleum and Spring Associates. In addition, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) will advise the consortium about the ecological aspects of the venture.

Peter Hartman, KLM’s president and CEO, said the test flight proved that “this is technically feasible. Government, industry and society at large must now join forces to ensure that we quickly gain access to a continuous supply of biofuel.”

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Written by William DiBenedetto

November 30, 2009 at 12:53 pm

Big bucks this month for renewable energy

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cleantech1More than $1.5 billion from two sources, one private and the other public, is going for renewable energy and clean technology projects.

The private venture capital firm Khosla Ventures said earlier this month that it closed on more than $1 billion in funding under two new venture funds with at least two-thirds of the money allocated for clean-tech investments, according to Samir Kaul, a general partner at the Menlo Park, CA firm.

On the same day the Department of Energy and the U.S. Treasury Department announced $503 million in government cash grants to 12 companies that are developing renewable energy projects.

Kholsa Ventures was founded in 2004 by Vinod Khosla, the founder and first CEO of Sun Microsystems. The firm offers venture assistance, strategic advice and capital for entrepreneurs working mainly in clean-tech areas such solar, battery, high efficiency engines, lighting, greener materials like cement, glass and bio-refineries for energy abd bioplastics, and other eco-friendly technologies.

In the two new venture funds announced early this month Khosla closed on a roughly $250 million Seed Fund designed to make investments of around $2 million each, Kaul says.

The firm also closed Khosla Ventures III at about $800 million, which will back companies with initial investments of $5 to $10 million.

This was Khosla’s first foray into raising funds from outside investors and the largest clean-tech funding by a single venture capital firm since 2007.

California Public Employees’ Retirement System (Calpers) was an investor along with other unidentified pension funds, university endowments and foundations.

Kaul estimated both funds will be invested over the next three to five years, adding that Khosla is looking into various sub-sectors of clean-tech with a special focus on building materials and bioplastics.

Those “are very big markets and they are growing and there’s a lot of consumer demand,” he said.

Current bioplastics investments by Khosla include Draths Corp. of Okemos, MI and Segetis Inc. of Golden Valley, MN. Its building materials portfolio includes two California companies, Soladigm of Santa Rosa and the cement company Calera Corp., of Los Gatos.

So far this year Khosla has added seven new portfolio companies in the clean technology sector. These include Skywatch Energy in solar, HCL CleanTech Ltd. in cellulosic sugars, Hybra-Drive Systems LLC in efficiency, and Rayspan Corp. and SeaMicro Inc. in information technology.

Stimulus grants awarded by DOE and Treasury are in the first round of about $3 billion in direct payments to companies in lieu of tax credits that will eventually support an estimated 5,000 biomass, solar, wind and other renewable energy production facilities.line “These grants will help America’s businesses launch clean energy projects, putting Americans back to work in good construction and manufacturing jobs,” said Energy Secretary Steven Chu.

Companies receiving the most money involved wid farm projects, including the Penascal wind farm ($114.1 million) in Sarita, TX; the Locust Ridge II, LLC wind project ($59.2 million) in Shenandoah, PA; the Canandaigua Power Partners, LLC wind project ($52.4 million) in Cohocton, NY; and the Wheat Field wind farm ($47.7 million) in Arlington, OR.\line Iberdrola Renewables Inc., a subsidiary of Spain’s Iberdrola SA was awarded $294.9 million for five wind projects, bringing the company’s investment so far in U.S. wind power to about $1 billion. The 12 winning projects could produce 840 megawatts of electricity, representing a 3 percent increase in total U.S. renewable electricity generation capacity, the Energy Department said.



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Written by William DiBenedetto

September 15, 2009 at 9:12 am

BP ventures with Verenium, Martek provide biofuels boost

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cellulosic ethanolVerenium Corporation (Nasdaq: VRNM) a developer of next-generation cellulosic ethanol from biomass and high-performance specialty enzymes, reported a net second quarter loss for the period ending June 30 of $28.9 million on declining revenue and higher operating expenses.

Slightly more than $8.9 million of the total loss was attributed by Verenium to its “non-controlling interest in consolidated entities,” so the net loss on the part of the Cambridge, MA, company was $19.9 million. That was an increase of nearly 30 percent over the comparable period in 2008.

Despite the losses as the company’s joint venture with BP, called Vercipia Biofuels, gets underway and as it gears up to eventual commercial biofuel production, Carols Riva, president and CEO, told analysts that Verenium continues to make “significant progress on many fronts.”

He said the company has continued its aggressive expense management initiatives to control operating expenses and to conserve cash,. Verenium also amended financial covenants related to its 8 percent convertible notes to eliminate some of their “onerous restrictions.” Riva says that will simplify its financial structure and give the company financial flexibility.

Riva said that despite significant challenges that the ethanol industry has endured over the past three years, government support for biofuels ”remains strong as our government leaders realize that an overdependence on imported oil remains a critical weakness in our economy.“

The $300 million Vercipia 50/50 venture was selected in June to proceed with due diligence on a Department of Energy loan guarantee for Venerenium’s first commercial project in Highlands County, FL. That project is scheduled to break ground in 2010.

Riva says the guarantee “could extend the project debt covering up to 80 percent of eligible costs.”

The company is also making progress on the “optimization phase” at its demonstration plant in Jennings, LA, and has operated the plant on sugarcane bagasse and energy cane.

Riva says that Verenium remains optimistic that the markets for its products “will stabilize and improve as economic activity recovers.” He acknowledged that softening market conditions have affected revenues, which declined 11 percent to 16.3 million during the quarter. The revenue deline was mainly on the enzyme side of the business, regarding a change in “revenue recognition,” and the discontinuation of two product lines.

BP is also forging aheead on another biofuels front with the announcement earlier this week that it has entered a $10 million joint venture with Martek Biosciences Coporation to develop microbial oil for biofuels. BP and Martek said they will work together to develop a “step-change technology for the conversion of sugars into biodiesel.

Under the terms of the multi-year agreement they said they want to establish “proof of concept” for large-scale, cost-effective microbial biodiesal production through fermentation. The sugar-to-biodiesel plan converts sugars derived from biomass into lipids using unique fermentation mico-organisms. The lipids are then converted into fuelmolecules through chemcial or thermocatalytic processes.

Written by William DiBenedetto

August 20, 2009 at 7:30 am

Dow and Exxon boost algae biofuel

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algae-2When Dow Chemical Co. and ExxonMobil get into the algae biofuel game it’s a sure sign that algae as a reasonable go-to alternative and renewable energy source has entered the big leagues.

Or is it? Is it more than the typical and familiar corporate lip service using green lipstick? For that answer, stay tuned.  It might take awhile.

Dow, Exxon and more recently the Department of Energy are giving algae biofuel major street cred while gaining huge PR benefits in the mainstream press and (ahem) the blogosphere.

Earlier this month Dow announced a hook-up with Algenol Biofuels Inc. to construct and operate a pilot-scale algae-based integrated biorefinery that will convert CO2 into ethanol. The planned location covers 24 acres at a Dow site in Freeport, Texas. Financial details of the deal were not disclosed.

Algenol has developed a third generation biofuel that makes ethanol directly from CO2 and seawater using hybrid algae in sealed clear plastic photobioreactors, a process the Bonita Springs, FL company has patented as its “Direct to Ethanol” technology. This process produces more than 6,000 gallons of ethanol per acre per year. That smokes the 400 gallons of ethanol per acre produced from corn.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), the Georgia Institute of Technology and Membrane Technology & Research, Inc. are also involved in the project mix with Dow and Algenol. They are contributing science, expertise, and technology to the pilot project, which they say will create a “breakthrough process for ethanol production.”

Algenol has also applied for a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to conduct the pilot. Upon approval of the grant, Dow and the other collaborators will work with Algenol to demonstrate the technology at a level that proves it can be implemented on a commercial scale.

Meanwhile DOE last week announced funding of up to $85 million over a three-year period from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for the development of algae-based biofuels and advanced, infrastructure-compatible biofuels. The department said it wants leading scientists and engineers from universities, private industry, and government “to collaborate in developing a thriving domestic biofuels industry.” The collaborations “will allow different sectors in the biofuels industry to work together on new technologies for producing advanced biofuels that can be brought to market without requiring major modifications to the existing fueling infrastructure.”

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Written by William DiBenedetto

July 21, 2009 at 10:04 am

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