Archive for the ‘biomass’ Category
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 »
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.”
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.
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.
It feels like a natural for the Scots to come up with a way to get energy out of whiskey.
If you like your whiskey neat or on the rocks or even if you don’t drink this is pretty neat: Helius Energy Plc and the Combination of Rothes Distillers (CoRD) formed a joint venture known as Helius CoRDe, that will build and operate a biomass energy plant using whiskey distillery by-products.
The proposed £50 million ($82.7 million) project would reduce the carbon footprint of the whiskey industry on the Scottish island of Speyside.
The plant will use whiskey distillery byproducts to fuel a 7.2-megawatt GreenSwitch biomass combined heat and power plant and a GreenFields plant that will turn the liquid co-product of whisky production, known as Pot Ale, into a concentrated organic fertilizer and an animal feed for use by local farmers.
Helius CoRDe will be responsible for the financing, construction and operation of the new plant. The project could save more than 20,000 tons of carbon dioxide each year when compared to CoRD’s current energy use, the distillers say.
“This agreement formalizes the work we have undertaken so far and sets out the structure for us to take this project forward to completion,” says Frank Burns, CoRD general manager. “ The ability to generate renewable heat and power and secure additional markets for our distillery co-products is a very exciting development for the malt whisky industry on Speyside.”
Officials said they anticipate that engineering procurement and construction contract awards likely will come soon, allowing plant construction to begin in early 2010. It will take about two years to complete project construction.
And there’s more recent action on the Scottish biomass front with word late last month that Forth Energy, a joint venture created last year between Forth Ports Plc and Scottish and Southern Energy is preparing to go ahead with the development of four dedicated biomass power stations at Forth Ports’ site in Scotland.
Plants are proposed for Dundee, Leith, Rosyth and Grangemouth. Installed capacity would total around 400 megawatts. Softwood sourced from forests in the UK and overseas would provide the main source of fuel.
Pot Ale is a high-protein co-product removed prior to final distillation of the spirit. The solid grain product removed from the mash tun, prior to fermentation of the liquor, is known as draff.
The GreenFields process takes the co-products from distillery operations (including process water, pot ale and draff) and turns them into “value inputs” such as biomass fuel, soil conditioner, animal feed and water for cooling and cleaning purposes.
The combined heat and power unit will use a combination of distillery co-products and wood chips from sustainable sources to generate the 7.2 megawatts of electricity, enough for 9,000 homes, which can be used onsite or exported to the National Grid.
CoRD was founded in 1904 to process the Pot Ale produced by the whisky distilleries in the Rothes area. It is owned by a combination of distilling companies – comprising The Edrington Group, Chivas Brothers, Glen Grant Distillery Ltd, Inver House Distillers, Diageo and Benriach Distillery Co.
“Biomass will play a major role in meeting the UK’s targets for emissions reductions, and [the Helius CoRde venture] is a model that has the potential to be rolled-out elsewhere. Drinking green whisky may give you a warm glow but it’ll also help to avoid warming the planet,” says John Seed, managing director of Helius Energy.
So drink responsibly and don’t drive but if you do overdo it on occasion the morning-after guilt might not be so bad, if you can remember the biomass angle. Or not.
Verenium 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.
Green Energy Resources signed a domestic biomass supply contract worth an estimated $300 million over 10 years with an unidentified U.S. power company. Normally I would not write this up because the company is not named — what are they ashamed or something? — but it is a big deal and a lot of money so it is of interest. The player eventually will be known.
GRE, based in New York City, says the contract contains additional provisions for monthly fuel adjustments and yearly inflation increases over its 10-year span. According to Green Energy it is the “largest known U.S. supply contract to date for a single supplier.” GRE estimated the biomass supply stream will begin in 2010.
Under the contract, the power plant requirements will exceed 1 million tons of biomass annually. “The contract is significant in reaching or exceeding Green Energy Resources projected revenue next year of $100 million,” it says.
Green Energy Resources, formerly New York International Log & Lumber Co, is publicly traded on the Pink Sheets under ticker GRGR. Its mission is to become a major provider of low-cost, high-quality wood fiber fuels.
The company also recently announced a commitment from a group of private financiers, also unidentified, for up to $10 million. It said the private lenders have agreed that the first loan tranche will amount to $2 million.
It is working with various power generating utilities, government agencies and corporations on carbon emission strategies. It says it is 100 percent Kyoto Protocol compliant.
It sources its biomass from urban wood waste streams, storm damage, cities and municipalities. It has been heavily involved in exporting wood chips to to European power plants.
The Los Angeles biomass technology company Rentech Inc., has completed two investment agreements with biomass gasification companies: It acquired 100 percent of SilvaGas Corporation and grabbing a 25 percent stake in ClearFuels Technology Inc.
Financial details of the moves by Rentech were not disclosed. With the acquisitions Rentech has broadened its technology portfolio and the range of its biofuel processing capability while increasing its geographic scope from Hawaii to Georgia.
Rentech, based in Los Angeles, said the agreements are “major steps forward” for its strategy of offering various options for converting urban and rural biomass feedstocks into energy products such as synthetic jet fuel, diesel fuel and electric power.
The company signed a definitive agreement to acquire Atlanta-based SilvaGas and its commercial-scale biomass gasification technology, which converts urban waste feedstocks into syngas.
Rentech also completed agreements with the Aiea, Hawaii-based ClearFuels, a bio-energy gasification and project development company. ClearFuels’ technology converts rural virgin cellulosic biomass feedstocks into syngas.
In addition to the 25 percent ownership interest in ClearFuels, Rentech said it has agreed to the installation of a ClearFuels biomass gasifier at the its Product Demonstration Unit (PDU), in Commerce City, CO. That facility is designed to produce more than 400 gallons per day of ultra-clean synthetic jet fuel, aviation fuel, ultra-low sulfur diesel, and specialty waxes and chemicals and is scalable for increased output.
The deal with ClearFuels also includes multiple licensing agreements for the Rentech Process at bio-energy facilities currently under development by ClearFuels.
With the SilvaGas acquisition, Rentech is acquiring a biomass gasification technology that has operated at commercial scale and is planned for deployment at Rentech’s Rialto Renewable Energy Center under a licensing agreement with SilvaGas. The SilvaGas gasifier can handle urban waste streams that are more varied than the virgin biomass streams that the ClearFuels gasifier has been optimized to convert, the company says.
Meanwhile, ClearFuels’ technology can convert rural virgin biomass feedstocks into syngas that is cleaner and requires less conditioning, leading to highly efficient conversion into synthetic liquid fuels, it said.
Integration of these complementary gasification technologies with Rentech’s syngas conditioning and cleanup technology will enable the company to offer integrated packages for renewable fuels and power production.
The collapse of the forest products industry, especially in Canada, has idled many paper and pulp mills but out of that continuing disaster comes an opportunity for biofuels and bioenergy.
There’s some evidence of that this week from the Government of Saskatchewan, even if it is a vaguely worded. The Canadian province reached an agreement with Iogen Energy and Domtar, a major Canadian paper and wood products company, which “sets the stage for the potential redevelopment of the Prince Albert mill site as a cellulosic-based ethanol plant and bioenergy facility.”
Under the agreement Iogen, a biotechnology firm based in Ottawa, would convert the Domtar pulp mill – idle since 2006 – into a facility that would convert cereal straw to cellulosic ethanol. If a final investment decision is positive, the province says, the multi-million dollar project, in partnership with Royal Dutch Shell, would also include a power plant generating electricity from forest and ethanol plant residues. Shell and Iogen are linked through a commercial alliance.
The money/investment part is also vague at this point because Iogen/Shell won’t make a final investment decision on the project until design and feasibility work is completed. If the project then proceeds Iogen will buy the mill assets from Domtar.
The Saskatchewan government would then assume ownership of the remaining mill property not involved in the Iogen bioenergy initiative, and take responsibility for the existing environmental cleanup obligations associated with the decommissioning of the pulp mill site. In exchange, Domtar would pay an environmental settlement fee to the province as compensation for its share of the environmental site obligations.
The quote, from Bill Boyd, Saskatchewan’s energy and resources minister: “Redevelopment of this mill site has been a priority for us, for our forest industry and for people of the area. A final decision still needs to be made by the company, but this agreement is an important first step in our commitment to find new uses for the mill facilities, new markets for our forest and agricultural resources and new forestry jobs for Saskatchewan people.” He called the deal a “win-win” situation for the forest industry and area farmers while showcasing new technology and new approaches from Iogen. So it’s a win-win-win, eh?
Iogen is planning public meetings later this month with communities and the First Nations tribe in the region as it evaluates the pulp mill site. The company also will move ahead with detailed engineering studies and the required environmental approvals.
The agreement is the “essential next step” for the Saskatchewan project, says Iogen Chief Operating Officer Pat Foody. “It allows us to proceed with the development and assessment work that will provide the needed input into the eventual decision whether to proceed.”
If it does proceed, the province said it would purchase green power produced from the plant and also “provide new growth tax incentives related to technology commercialization and transportation.”
First- and second-gen biofuels get White House boost
It looks like the Governors’ Biofuel Coalition got what it was looking for from President Obama – an endorsement of biofuels development, support for the continued viability of the existing ethanol industry and an invite to partner with members of the administration on energy independence.
In a letter late last month to the coalition leadership, Obama asked the Coalition to join him in implementing his Presidential Biofuels Directive, which was issued earlier in May.
The directive outlined the President’s vision for biofuels development and his expectations for key cabinet and administration officials to lead the Administration’s biofuels initiatives. The President noted that the Coalition’s February 2009 recommendations helped form key points of the directive, and led to the President’s request for the Coalition to work with “members of my cabinet to implement the directive.”
Biofuels are the “primary near term option for insulating consumers against future oil prove shocks and for lowering the transportation sector’s carbon footprint,” the president writes.
In the letter Obama says he is committed to the rapid development of “an array of emerging cellulosic technologies so that tomorrow’s biofuels will be produced from sustainable biomass feedstocks and waste materials rather than corn.”
He continues: “This transition will be successful only if the first-generation biofuels industry remains viable in the near-term, and if we remove long-standing artificial barriers to market expansion necessary for large volumes of of advanced renewable fuels to find a place in America’s transportation fuels system.”