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Posts Tagged ‘biomass

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

For 2010 it’s bioplastic, not plastic

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The future of plastics once fossil fuels run dry or the price for it becomes too expensive will hinge on bioplastics.

So says says Frederic Scheer, chairman, president and founder of Cereplast Inc., a Hawthorne, CA, company that designs and manufactures bio-based, sustainable plastics. But he also says, somewhat ruefully, that the bioplastic future is distant, measured in terms of decades.

Which is not to say that bioplastics’ present is particularly shabby: Scheer says that U.S. demand for bioplastics could exceed $10 billion by 2020. That’s a conservative estimate, he contends, but it’s still a “drop in the bucket” compared to the traditional plastic market, which is about $2.5 trillion.

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Written by William DiBenedetto

January 4, 2010 at 6:18 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

Sunday feeling: Scotland’s whiskey-byproduct biomass

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Helius_small@bodyIt 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.

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Written by William DiBenedetto

September 20, 2009 at 8:58 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

Big biomass supply contract for Green Energy Resources

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grassGreen 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.

Written by William DiBenedetto

July 1, 2009 at 4:47 pm

Rentech investments in biomass gasification

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RentechImageA5The 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.

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Written by William DiBenedetto

June 30, 2009 at 5:23 pm

Italy plans big investments in renewable energy

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italy_mainIndustrial Info Resources is reporting that Italy’s Observatory of Renewable Energy will invest nearly $60 billion between 2009 and 2020 in the country’s renewable energy sector.

Italy has set a target for the direct use of renewable fuels such as biofuels, wind and solar at 17 percent by 2020. That compares to only 5.2 percent in 2005.

It has a long way to go because it has the highest dependence on energy imports among the G8 group of nations: About 86 percent of its energy needs are met through imports.

The country traditionally has relied on hydroelectric power from dams located in the Alps, but in recent years the power generated from these sources has been equaled or surpassed by power imports from other countries. Natural gas supplies in Italy have declined, last year contributing 12 percent of the country’s total power demand, with its oil fields making up 7 percent of total demand.

Italy has the potential for several promising sources of renewable energy, notably geothermal–in which Italy is already a leader within Europe–hydroelectric, wind, solar and biomass, IIR says.

The Observatory says that wind will be the biggest winner in terms of investments, with an estimated 43 percent of investments being directed to windfarms. The Italian oil companies association, Unione Petrolifera, forecasts that wind farms could be capable of generating up to 20.5 terawatt-hours of power by 2020. Unione Petrolifera also forecasts that geothermal power, generated using steam produced from hot rocks located several kilometers underground, will reach around 7.5 TWh by 2020.

Last year, biomass-fed plants supplied almost 4 TWh of electricity. This sector is expected to receive 23 percent of the total forecast investment of $58 billion, which could supplying up to 11 TWh of power by 2020. Of the remaining renewable sources of energy, the Observatory estimates that photovoltaic and thermodynamic energy supplies will receive around 17 percent of the total investment, while hydroelectricity schemes will get 12 percent of the total investment, according to the IIR report.

Plans also are underway to add to Italy’s solar power generation. Enel SpA, based in Rome, plans to have a new solar thermal plant with a capacity of 5 MW in operation by the end of the year.

In January, Netherlands-based Econcern NV announced plans to build a 42-MW solar power plant in Puglia, located in southern Italy. The project, named Project Trullo, is expected to add 15 percent to Italy’s currently installed solar power generation capacity of 280 MW. Econcern anticipates that Italy’s installed capacity for solar power generation will grow to as much as 5,000 MW by 2020.

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Written by William DiBenedetto

June 12, 2009 at 12:22 pm

Sunday feeling: Fungible fungi? Solar dollars?

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Fungible fungi?

There are two guys, Eben Bayer and Gavin McIntyre, who want to line the walls of your home with mushrooms. Instead of getting the mold out they want to put put it to more unique and productive use.

green-styroThis is not something out of Alice in Wonderland, or maybe it is. Anyway they have developed a strong, low-cost biomaterial called Greensulate that could replace the expensive and eco-harmful Styrofoam and plastics used in wall insulation, packaging and other products. This could even be used for wind turbine blades and auto-body panels, the two say.  They even won a Popular Science Invention Award for their efforts.

“We like to call it low-tech biotech,” Bayer says. In the lab, they grow mycelia, the vegetative roots of mushrooms that resemble bundles of white fiber. But instead of soil, the roots grow in a bed of agricultural by-products like buckwheat husks, and those intertwining fibers give the material structural support. The mixture is placed inside a panel (or whatever shape is required) and, after 10 to 14 days, the mycelia develop a dense network — just one cubic inch of the white-and-brown-specked Greensulate insulation contains eight miles of interconnected mycelia strands. The panels are dried in an oven at between 100° and 150°F to stop mycelia growth, and at the end of two weeks, they’re ready to do their thing on the wall.

In 2007, the inventors incorporated under the name Ecovative Design and won $16,000 in funding through the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance. A year later, joined by now-COO Ed Browka and other team members, they took the $700,000 prize at the PICNIC Green Challenge in Amsterdam.

Ecovative, based in Troy, New York, has begun a trial run of Greensulate panels as replacements for insulation in a Vermont school gym. The partners expect to complete all industrial certification and testing by the end of the year.

They enlisted Jeff Brooks of the Timberline Panel Company to advise them on meeting American Society for Testing and Materials standards for building insulation. “If they get to the point where I think they’ll get,” he says, “there’s a chance there would be no reason to use conventional foam products.”

Solar dollars?

On another note entirely and away from dampish shadows and into the sunlight: Cleantech Group’s Neal Dikeman on Friday said his group is “actively looking to buy solar projects and development teams and pipelines. Primarily in the US, but will look elsewhere as well for the right opportunity.”

Contact him at dikeman@janecapital.com “if you are in that sector and looking for capital.”

Written by William DiBenedetto

June 7, 2009 at 8:28 am


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