Posts Tagged ‘biofuel’
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.”
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.
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.”
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.”
We’ll end the week on a high note with items from here on the left coast and one from the “other” Washington.
A new joint venture announced yesterday, called S4 Energy Solutions LLC, will develop, operate and market plasma gasification facilities for renewable energy generation from waste byproducts.
The joint venture “is expected to process waste from the country’s increasingly segmented commercial and industrial waste streams to produce a range of renewable energy and environmentally beneficial fuels and industrial products as well as to generate electricity,” the companies said in a joint press release.
The initial focus for S4 will be to process medical and other segregated commercial and industrial waste streams. Future commercialization plans could include the processing of municipal solid waste once the technology has been demonstrated to be economical and scalable for such use.
“We see waste as a resource to be recovered, and this joint venture with the PEM system will help Waste Management’s commercial and industrial customers maximize high energy value waste streams to generate valuable renewable energy products based on their unique environmental and logistical considerations,” said Joe Vaillancourt, managing director at Waste Management.
Under the plasma gasification process, waste materials are fed into a closed chamber where they are superheated to temperatures of between 10,000 and 20,000 degrees Fahrenheit using an electricity-conducting gas called plasma. The intense heat of the PEM™ rearranges the molecular structure of the waste, transforming organic (carbon-based) materials into an ultra-clean, synthesis gas (syngas).
The syngas could be converted to transportation fuels such as ethanol and diesel, industrial products like hydrogen and methanol or used as a substitute for natural gas for heating or electricity generation.
Alternative energy company Saline Green Project this week chose Marshall, MO, as the site for a commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol bio-refinery facility, producing renewable fuels, chemical products and electricity.
According to a report in The Sedalia Democrat the company has had an interest in opening a plant in Marshall for more than a year. Frank Imo, Saline Green CEO, said that local support for the project was encouraging and was a big factor in making the project possible.
Saline Green will provide start-up funds for the project, and will seek investors as it nears completion.
Saline Green spokesman Donte Tamprateep was quoted as saying that his company has been working with a group of scientists who helped develop the technology required to efficiently convert cellulosic biomass to its simple sugar state.
Cellulosic ethanol is a biofuel produced from wood, grasses and inedible plant parts. Tamprateep said the biggest challenge the company faced was finding a way to break down cellulose in a cost-effective manner.
The company apparently has hooked up with Pure Energy Corporation, which has invested more than $30 million over the last 15 years in an effort to develop the next generation of cellulosic ethanol technology.
“The Saline Green Project will serve as both a world-class sustainable energy production facility and also a showcase of cutting edge technology in the cellulosic ethanol, chemical and green electricity fields,” said Irshad Ahmed, president and CEO of New Jersey-based Pure Energy.
So why Marshall? One reason becomes apparent by looking at a map. The town of more than 12,000 is located in the middle of the country with excellent access to road and rail routes. From a supply chain distribution viewpoint, it’s a good choice.