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Councilman opposes expansion at JaxOn Energy biodiesel plant for safety reasons

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 10/11/2017 - 9:21pm

In Missouri, a councilman for Jackson is urging a “no” vote against the proposed expansion of the JaxOn Energy biodiesel facility, saying the plant is a safety concern for the neighborhood it’s located in that never should have been approved in the first place. He shared information with other council members showing how similar plants around the country had had accidents. The company produces biodiesel from various vegetable oils but didn’t make a comment to the press regarding the councilman’s concerns.

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Brazilian sugar mills keep focus on ethanol production

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 10/11/2017 - 9:20pm

In Brazil, mills shifted 53.5% of the sugarcane crush towards ethanol production during the second half of October, 3.6% higher than during the same period last year. Mills began switching towards ethanol production in mid-July or August and continue to favor it, helping to boost sugar prices in return. The volume crushed during the period was far lower than expected at 40.31 million metric tons, but higher sugar content in the cane helped to offset the drop in volume.

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University of Liverpool researchers make breakthrough converting CO2 and methane directly to liquid fuels

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 10/11/2017 - 9:19pm

In the UK, researchers from the University of Liverpool have made a significant breakthrough in the direct conversion of carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) into liquid fuels and chemicals which could help industry to reduce greenhouse gas emissions whilst producing valuable chemical feedstocks.

In a paper published in chemistry journal Angewandte Chemie they report a very unique plasma synthesis process for the direct, one-step activation of carbon dioxide and methane into higher value liquid fuels and chemicals (e.g. acetic acid, methanol, ethanol and formaldehyde) with high selectivity at ambient conditions (room temperature and atmospheric pressure).

This is the first time this process has been shown, as it is a significant challenge to directly convert these two stable and inert molecules into liquid fuels or chemicals using any single-step conventional (e.g. catalysis) processes bypassing high temperature, energy intensive syngas production process and high pressure syngas processing for chemical synthesis.

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Dutch ambassador to Malaysia said member states and European Commission not behind Parliament’s palm oil ban

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 10/11/2017 - 9:18pm

In Malaysia, the Ambassador to Malaysia from the Netherlands says the European Union member states nor the European Commission have a position on the recommendation made by the European Parliament to end the use of palm oil in biodiesel by 2020, instead saying that a balanced approach must be found that takes into consideration the rural development provided by palm oil production with the environmental concerns raised by MEPs. The European Parliament’s own initiatives such as the ban on palm oil do not become policy until member states agree and the European Commission has weighed in.

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Sierra Hotel: Los Alamos, Gevo to develop ultra long-range missile, aviation fuels

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 10/11/2017 - 2:30pm

Imagine, for example, a Boeing 777 being able to fly non-stop between any two cities in the world. Or F-18A/F Superhornets being able to add significant weapon loads, or add up to 30% to flight range. It’s like getting a new generation of aircraft without the multi-billion price tag. Gevo and Los Alamos National Lab have commenced a project to make it happen. The Digest investigates.

News has emerged from Gevo in Colorado and New Mexico’s Los Alamos National Lab that the two will collaborate to improve the energy density of Gevo hydrocarbon products to meet product specifications for tactical fuels for specialized military applications such as RJ-4, RJ-6 and JP-10, which are currently purchased by the US Department of Defense (DoD).

High energy-density fuels are currently used in air and sea-launched cruise missiles used by the US military forces. If this project is successful in scaling the fuels cost-effectively, there may be an even broader application in the general aviation sector, enabling higher energy density jet fuel that would provide superior mileage to traditional aviation fuels.

Gevo and LANL are looking to develop a low-cost, catalytic technology that would be bolted-on to Gevo’s existing isobutanol-to-hydrocarbons process to produce high energy density fuels). With the successful scale-up of this technology, it is believed that Gevo’s HEDFs could be produced at a lower cost than the petroleum-based equivalent, even at current oil prices.

ChemCatBio, a consortium within the US Department of Energy, awarded funding to LANL in support of the project.

The JP-10 backstory

Back in 2012, researchers at the Naval Air Warfare Center, Weapons Division reported that they had synthesized a fuel that had JP-10esque properties — including fuel density ranges from 137,000 to 142,000 BTUs per gallon — from a blend of biobased terpenese, including pinene, limonene and turpentine. They used Nafion, Nafion SAC-13, and Montmorillonite K-10 as catalysts and achieved 90 percent yields from selected feedstocks.

At the time, we reported that the military has been paying as much as $25 per gallon for for certain types of advanced, high performance fuel used in limited quantities, including JP-10. It costs so much to make by conventional means that its use is typically restricted to air-to-air and air-to-surface missiles.

The JP-10 conundrum

What makes JP-10 attractive? Specifically, it has 11 percent higher density than conventional JP-8 (Jet A) fuel – clocking in at 142,000 BTUs per gallon compared to 125,000 for jet fuel (gasoline, by the way, has 115,000 BTUs).

What makes it unattractive? Well consider the problem that Raytheon faced, when it saw JP-10 prices soar from $13.09 per gallon to $25 per gallon between 2006 and 2010.

Now, what military officials will assure you is that it costs so much because they’re not buying much – entirely true.

The whole problem of JP-10 is that, irrespective of volume, it is going to cost one heck of a lot if made from petroleum because refining the molecule in question, exo-tetrahydrodicyclopentadiene, from crude oil is like processing diamonds out of dirt.

The allure of terpenes

Back in 2014, a team of researchers from the Naval Air Warfare Center at China Lake and NIST, headed by Dr. Ben Harvey, observed in a journal article:

“Renewable fuels with densities that exceed those of conventional jet fuels by up to 13% can be generated from multicyclic sesquiterpenes. This advance has the potential to improve the range of aircraft, ships, and ground vehicles without altering engine configurations. In addition, as strategies to efficiently convert lignocellulosic biomass into sugars improve and organisms are developed that can utilize these sugar mixtures and convert them to sesquiterpenes, these fuels can be produced on a scale that would help supplant significant quantities of petroleum.”

The far, far frontier of hyper-dense fuels

It’s a relatively thin line between explosives and fuels — after all, the burning of fuel is a controlled exercise in explosion — and the current darling in explosives research, CL-20 (for purists, that’s 2,4,6,8,10,12-hexanitrohexaazaisowurtzitane — try pronouncing that at the end of a long day at the office), was originally developed by the Navy as a rocket fuel. It has a 5% improvement in detonation pressure than HMX, and HMX in turn has more than twice the detonation pressure of TNT. In short, these are nasty explosives.

Out there on the horizon — at almost a 30% increase in detonation pressure (and significantly more dense, too), are the nitrocarbons, and specifically octanitrocubane, known as ONC. As an explosive, it has a predicted detonation pressure more than 25% greater than HMX. It’s as nasty as they come.

One man’s explosive is another man’s fuel

But ONC has some interesting properties as a fuel. First of all, it’s dense — you can pack quite a bit of it into a missile. It’s high heat of combustion makes it possible for missiles to travel farther or carry more explosive power, without changing missile design.

But here’s the most interesting aspect. As it has no hydrogen, there isn’t any water produced when it burns, and you don’t see that tell-tale vapor stream behind a rocket or jet that uses it. Making the rockets or jets harder to track — it’s a threat-multiplier, and improves stealth.

All of which reminds us that a renaissance in fuel development — for military or aviation purposes — may well be upon us. The arrival of synthetic biology, a new generation of catalysts, improved lab skill and the availability of cellulosic sources for fuels — this potent mix of new materials and strategies is being employed in some of the US’s leading labs to explore the new opportunities for high-performance fuels.

Let’s look at some of the molecules that deliver at the 140,000 range of JP-10, and beyond.

140,000 BTUs

Exo-THDCP. Now, we’re in the range of the fuel spec known as JP-10. It’s also known, somewhat less euphonically, as exo-tetrahydrodicyclopentadiene, or exo-THDCP. Generally, this is rocket fuel, used in very small quantities because, made from petroleum it costs $25 per gallon.

Neoclavane. One candidate molecule is neoclovane. Harvey and colleagues noted “a fuel composed of only neoclovane would beexpected to have a density of B0.92 g mL1, with a calculated volumetric NHOC of nearly 141 000 Btu gal.” That’s definitely in the JP-10 range, and this research is based on the afore-mentioned real-world fuels development at Allylix.

160,000 BTUs

But what about the world beyond the 140,000 BTU range and JP-10. That brings us to the mysterious and high-powered RJ-5 military fuel spec, which calls for a net heat of combustion of 161,000 BTUs.

Perhydroinorbornadiene. Generally, RJ-5 is missile fuel, and is composed of perhydroinorbornadiene, a norbornadiene dimer. Norbornadiene is difficult and expensive to make — but what a fantastic target for synthetic biology and advanced catalysis. Not only do you have a ready market as high as $25 per gallon — the kind of pricing structure (that is, $25+ per gallon in the early days, reaching for mass markets later, at scale) is well-suited to technology development — not dissimilar to the structure for, say, iPhones and iPads.

But you not only have a great cost opportunity, there’s a good performance opportunity. It doesn’t only have to do with payload or mission range — technology delivered via flat-top carriers come into range sooner. 500 miles in additional missile range means that a 35-knot carrier, steaming into a hot spot, can project air power 12 hours sooner than a carrier carrying conventionally-fueled missiles.

Dr. Harvey and colleagues at China Lake have been investigating the potential to convert b-pinene into fuels that meet the RJ-5 spec. They reported:

Pinene dimers synthesized with these heterogeneous catalysts have a density and net heat of combustion comparable to JP-10. High density fuel candidates have been synthesized in up to 90% yield from β-pinene, a renewable strained bicyclic compound, which can be derived from wood and plant sources. These novel syntheses are based on heterogeneous acidic catalysts (also referred to as heteropolyacidic catalysts) including Montmorillonite-K10 and Nafion NR-50 which promote selective isomerization and dimerization of pinenes under moderate conditions (e.g., 80- 120°C, such as about 100 °C, and about atmospheric pressure).

Pinene is pretty abundant, all in all — given that it’s found in, er, pine trees. That pine-tree smell? That’s pinene.

Beta-pinene, used in Harvey’s work, can be found in parks all over the world via Maritime pine (pinus pinaster), which is native to North Africa and is currently grown in Hawaii and North Carolina, which is good news for the carriers out of Pearl or Norfolk.

Beyond 160,000 BTUs

Octanonitrocubane. Here, we move beyond the “work in some lab somewhere” level and into the world of “it’s possible, but no one’s yet working on it” . And right back to ONC, or octanonitrocubane. It’s been described as “the most powerful nonnuclear explosive known.”

Until the 1960s, it was not even believed that cubanes, which had previously been known strictly as a theoretical molecule, could be synthesized at all; then, a team led by Eaton and Cole at the University of Chicago managed to synthesize it in 1964. Cubane (C8H8) looks like a cube — with each of eight corners occupied by a carbon atom, to which is attached a protruding hydrogen atom. Cubanes are possessed of a level of “angle strain” that make them highly reactive, and highly explosive. Perfect for our purposes.

How explosive? As noted above, ONC is reported to have a 30% higher explosive presure than CL-20 explosives — it’s nasty. We haven’t seen NHOC figures for the molecules, used as fuel — but you can bet they are going to generate a tremendous amount of energy, and well above 160,000 BTUs.

Beyond ONC?

DNH and HNHAH. Well, consider DNH and HNHAH, known amongst their friends as dodecanitrohexaprismane (DNH) and hexanitrohexaazaprismane (HNHAH) have higher energy than ONC. Their part of a class of molecules known as “cage explosives” and you can read about them in Strategic Technologies for the Army of the 21st Century.

Last year in RSC advances, a team from the Institute for Computation in Molecular and Materials Science at Nanjing University reported “new strategies to design two novel and super-high energy cage explosives: dodecanitrohexaprismane (DNH) and hexanitrohexaazaprismane (HNHAH)…results indicate that DNH has much higher energetic properties than ONC…although HNHAH has lower energetic properties than DNH, it has higher energetic properties than ONC slightly.”

Reaction from the stakeholders

“High energy density fuels have the potential to increase the range of an aircraft or increase the payload that could be carried,” said Dr. Andrew Sutton of Los Alamos National Laboratory. “That gives an obvious tactical advantage, but if this could eventually be scaled for wider use then translating these benefits to commercial airlines would have an even greater global impact.”

“Currently, certain HEDFs are supplied by limited suppliers, so the DoD is interested in supporting alternative sources of these fuels, and potentially at a lower cost,” said Gevo CEO Dr. Patrick Gruber. “The added benefit that this would be a renewable fuel that helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions is just icing on the cake.”

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Dynamic Metabolic Control: The Digest’s 2017 Multi-Slide Guide to 10X Bioprocess Intensification

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 10/11/2017 - 2:11pm

The US Department of Energy is supporting a project from DMC Limited and Duke University to develop scalable and cost-effective next generation semi-continuous fermentation based processes for biofuels, reducing commercial scale capital costs 5-10 fold.

The rationale? Rapid engineering of robust microbial hosts enables the production of a broad diversity of fuels, specialty chemicals, flavors, fragrances, nutraceuticals, natural products, pharmaceuticals, and APIs.

What is Dynamic Metabolic Control? It is technology that dramatically reduces the cost and development timeline from discovery to commercial performance. It has the potential to democratize metabolic engineering efforts, creating a multitude of commercially viable bioprocesses and delivering sustainable routes to both new and existing products.

Essentially, it decouples growth from production, creating modular chassis strains that are rapidly configured to produce any molecule.

Duke University and DMC co-founder Mike Lynch prepared this overview on the technology’s progress and promise for the DOE Project Peer Review meetings.

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Ethanol remains sticking point after most recent round of EU-Mercosur talks

Biofuels Digest - Tue, 10/10/2017 - 7:31pm

In Brazil, following last week’s negotiations between the European Union and Mercosur countries, a Uruguayan official told Reuters that the EU must improve its offer on ethanol and beef or the deal won’t get done, echoing UNICA’s comments last week. The next round of talks is set for November 6-10 and potentially again in December. With trade relations with the US souring for both Mercosur and the EU, they are keen to get a deal done by year’s end, especially before the campaign for next October’s election in Brazil kicks off.

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Arbitrage window to China opens up despite 30% import duty

Biofuels Digest - Tue, 10/10/2017 - 7:30pm

In New York state, with ethanol prices at a one-year low, an arbitrage window to China has opened up. Even with the 30% import duty on ethanol, domestic prices in China are more than $300 per metric ton more expensive than US ethanol. With the import duty included, US ethanol is running at a $57-73/ton discount to Chinese supplies, which led to an offer for 30,000 tons for November shipment. Between January and August, since the import duty has been in place, ethanol imports have been at slightly more than 4,000 cubic meters.

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Mossi Ghisolfi looking to sell off Beta Renewables

Biofuels Digest - Tue, 10/10/2017 - 7:29pm

In Italy, Mossi Ghisolfi is in discussions with some private equity and industrial players who have expressed interest in buying Beta Renewables after the parent company suffered significant losses and a 90% drop in operating profit.

Big cost overruns at the parent company’s PET plant in Corpus Christi, Texas in addition to the sudden loss of the company’s managing director in 2015 has left the situation seriously weakened, prompting the decision to look to offload the biofuels company.

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Group of 96 NGOs write to ICAO condemning biofuels for aviation plans

Biofuels Digest - Tue, 10/10/2017 - 7:28pm

In Belgium, environmental and development organizations from five continents have written to the UN’s aviation agency (ICAO) condemning a proposal for large-scale use of biofuels in planes.

The letter signed by 96 groups states that using biofuels on a vast scale will inevitably lead to further palm oil expansion, which will cause more deforestation, increasing climate-changing emissions, and more land grabbing and land and human rights abuses. The proposals will be discussed this week by the International Civil Aviation Authority (ICAO) at its Conference on Aviation and Alternative Fuels in Mexico City.

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Italian UCO biodiesel production could jump with household collection

Biofuels Digest - Tue, 10/10/2017 - 7:27pm

In Italy, household collection of used cooking oil could boost feedstock for biodiesel to 200,000 metric tons per year from the 70,000 tons currently collected from 100,000 restaurants. Eni recycles the UCO into biodiesel at its 360,000 ton biodiesel factory that will increase to 600,000 tons in 2020. The company is also set to invest $282 million in another plant in Sicily. Using UCO helps the company to reduce the amount of virgin oil it must use to produce fuel.

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Brazil’s ANP auction sees 760 million liters of biodiesel contracted at 73 cents

Biofuels Digest - Tue, 10/10/2017 - 7:26pm

In Brazil, 760 million liters of biodiesel were contracted at the Brazilian Agency of Petroleum, Natural Gas and Biofuels’ most recent auction with a total value of $559 million at an average price of 73 cents per liter. A total of 35 companies offered 862.7 million liters for sale, 99.7% had the social fuel seal. The fuel contracted at the auction will be used to achieve the 8% blending mandate between November 1 and December 31.

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Wood Hole Oceanographic Institution to develop breeding program for sugar kelp

Biofuels Digest - Tue, 10/10/2017 - 7:25pm

In Massachusetts, researchers from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution will develop a breeding program for sugar kelp–Saccharina latissima, one of the most commercially important species–using the latest gene sequencing and genomic resources for faster, more accurate and efficient selective breeding thanks to a $3.7 million ARPA-E grant. The breeding program will build a library of genetic resources associated with plant traits that produce a 20 to to 30 percent improvement over wild plants. The team expects to develop novel genomic tools that will accelerate the production of improved plants while decreasing the need for costly offshore field evaluations.

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E15 bill fails to get a vote in Senate Environment and Public Works Committee

Biofuels Digest - Tue, 10/10/2017 - 7:23pm

In Washington, a bill that would have allowed for year-round sales of higher blends of ethanol was defeated and won’t get a vote in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee this year. Ethanol producers argue that allowing year-round sale of gasoline with 15 percent ethanol (E15) would help increase the number of credits that refiners must use to comply with the Renewable Fuel Standard — and ultimately drive down prices.

They had hoped to sway Democrats by touting the fuel’s lower greenhouse gas profile than gasoline, and the hope that allowing E15 to be sold all year would create higher demand for advanced biofuels with even lower emissions.

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Synova and the pursuit of clean, green and lean

Biofuels Digest - Tue, 10/10/2017 - 11:41am

A newer technology Synova Power has arrived with the promise of clean, green, lean stream of pipeline-quality natural gas from biomass.

There have been so many claims of “lean and green” over the years, we had better make some quick distinctions to highlight why this is a technology to watch.

Lean, green or clean?

Lean — in the sense of affordable. Green — in the sense of low-carbon. Clean — in the sense of workably pure, within a biochemical or thermochemical system. Virtually every technology that has come along has had, at best, two of the three.

Streams coming off a petroleum refinery, for example, have been lean and clean for years. And, since oil prices collapsed in 2014-15, more lean than ever. But they haven’t been green.

Streams coming off conventional biofuels refineries have been clean and green, but they haven’t been in most cases sufficiently lean, which is why walled-garden green markets established by the Renewable Fuel Standard have been so vital to them.

Streams coming off cellulosic biofuels or biogas refineries have been green, and in some cases (and increasingly) lean, but they haven’t been in most cases sufficiently clean, and that shortfall in clean has been keeping gas out of pipelines, poisoning catalysts, plugging up lines, and in other ways killing the rates and yields needed to make money in the cellulosic business.

The confusion between “clean” and “green” in the public’s mind has been a problem. Because most people see all cases of greentech as a subset of cleantech, we haven’t had room in the language for a definition of ‘clean’ that refers to a certain purity and composition that works efficiently and effectively within a refining or conversion technology, or a pipeline. It’s as if “clean” is a trivial distinction, but it most assuredly is not.

Take for example, biodiesel. It’s greentech and generally thought of as cleantech — all of it. Yet there are clean feedstocks such as pure vegetable oil, which are clean but not very lean — in the sense that bioconversion technology has long ago figured how to work with them, but the feedstock can costs more than the fuel, and the economics can get upside down in a hurry.

Then there are high free fatty acid feedstocks, such as brown grease — they are lean and they are green, you can buy them on the cheap and they give you a very low-carbon fuel. But many bioconversion technologies can work with none of them, and no bioconversion technology can work with all of them.

Here comes gasification to save the day

Gasification technology has been, for many people — a way around many of the problems of affordable feedstocks for a long time. Instead of trying to deal with the impurities and recalcitrant conversion challenges, say, of lignocellulose, why not just heat it up until you have that soup of carbon monoxide and hydrogen known as syngas?

That’s where bioconversion technologies like Fischer-Tropsch have come in — converting syngas into fuels. And, there are other technologies that have come along that work with methane, too. Calysta, Mango Materials, Synata, Siluria to name just a few.

But conventional gasification has been solving the problems of lean better than clean. Yes, gasifiers have allow for the use of the entire feedstock — no combusting of lignin because it can’t be otherwise used. But most gasifiers have either produced a stream that is not clean enough to use, or technologies like plasma gasification have solved the clean problem but at too high a cost.

So, we’ve seen trouble in the gas business in getting lean, green and clean.

Another example? You can find cheap renewable biogas from manure and it might be green but it won’t be clean when you get it, or lean after you’ve processed it. That’s why biogas technologies need the alternative green markets created by the Renewable Fuel Standard the California Low Carbon Fuel Standard, or by state-based Renewable Power Standards.

And,, some of the gas that’s come along where the claim has been that it is both lean and green, has turned out to be not very clean, and conversion technologies have found it unaffordably difficult to work with. KiOR and Range Fuels come to mind.

Introducing Synova and it’s MSW-to-energy technology

But let us turn to Synova and it’s claim to be clean, green and lean — having described the reasons why such a simple claim can be so alluring and, until proven, controversial.

The slogan for Synova goes like this: “When You Remove the Impurities, Waste is Pure Energy”.

The company, on its website, goes on to explain:

Quite simply, the world needs new sources of clean, reliable, baseload power. Synova’s process for recovering energy from mixed-waste removes the impurities and recovers conventional recyclables such as metal, glass, and certain plastics, as well as the chemical energy in the residual, a residual that would ordinarily be discarded in a landfill or worse. Removal of the impurities allows the chemical energy within to be used for the production of clean baseload power.

A simple diagram of Synova’s approach

So, in the context of our discussion above, the technology aims at something we already know is lean and green at its point of origin — municipal solid waste. You can make a very low-carbon energy or fuel from the biogenic fraction of trash, that’s been well-established for a long time. And, for the time present, MSW is lean, which is to say cheap, cheap, cheap. They’ll even pay you a tipping fee to take it away. That will continue so long as there are more nightmarish “build another landfill in someone’s backyard” problems than there are “come hither and we will convert your nightmare into a valuable material” opportunities. That is, for a while.

We visit negative cost feedstocks in our Way, Way, Way Back Machine

We saw that 10 years ago or so in the biodiesel business. Back in 2007, you could charge a restaurant as much as $25 a week to pick up and dispose of their waste fryer greases and oils. If you could find a technology that could convert fryer oil to biodiesel, you had the potential for a goldmine based in negative-cost feedstock and a valuable fuel sold at a premium to diesel.

But eventually enough technologies came along that could handle fryer oil — as well as rendering fats. These days, yellow grease is sold as a valuable commodity, and some weeks, pound for pound, costs more than diesel fuel.

But those future challenges lie far ahead for municipal solid waste. Right now, the disposal crisis is by far the controlling factor in pricing, and you can still get tipping fees for offtake of MSW. Eventually, that will progress to zero cost, then nominal offtake prices, then full market value. Someday.

For now, it’s lean and green. The trick of the bioconversion process, then, is two-fold. You have to create a clean gas without blowing up the economics. Which is to say: make it clean, keep it lean.

The Synova alternative

Here’s the Synova four-step claim in terms of efficiency (which relates back to cost), and purity, rendered in Harper’s Index style.

Average efficiency of classic energy from waste plants: 25%
Efficiency of a Synova integrated gasifier combined cycle gas turbine system: 36%

Typical size of a Synova power unit: 18MWe
Percentage of targeted contaminants are removed by the OLGA gas cleaning process: 99.9%

“The OLGA process strips gasified municipal solid waste (MSW) of tars and other impurities, leaving pure hydrogen, carbon, and oxygen,” the company says. “The process unlocks this clean, pure, and largely biogenic energy so that it can be used without harming the environment. Contaminants—small in volume—are removed and/or sequestered or recycled.”

“In addition, because the tars resulting from gasification contain roughly 15% of the chemical energy resident in the gasification feedstock, our process recycles them back into the gasifier in a way that ensures they are broken down and no longer form the unwanted compounds.”

“The gas has not been very pure from the sector,” Synova CEO Giffen Ott told The Digest. “You can tell from the dirty orange flame. Our gas is very pure. It’s now blue, like a kitchen stove. That means we can go into a Caterpillar turbine, or we can go into bio for chemicals or fuels.”

What’s the holy grail, when it comes to clean? That’s pipeline injection. In fact, the DOE has been working on supporting projects to make a pipeline-ready renewable gas stream — that’s been a goal of the biogas industry for some time.

The market opportunity

Here’s how Synova sees the opportunity:

Percentage of the world’s waste that is dumped or landfilled: 50%+ 
Highest fraction of Municipal Solid Waste a country has diverted to recycling or composting (Austria): 63% 
Capital required to address the first 80% of the unmet need: $500+ billion 
Number of WTE plants China plans to install in the next few years: 300+

The Dahlman and ECN connections

The Energy Center of the Netherlands has led alternative energy efforts, including a national quest to produce a pipeline-grade, synthetic natural gas from biomass. OLGA, MILENA, and a methanization process were developed at ECN for this purpose.

Royal Dahlman is a leader in process filtration and scrubbing systems for the refining and petrochemicals industries, with a 128-year history of research, development, and engineering solutions for high temperature, high pressure, abrasive or corrosive processes. Synova is a significant investor in Royal Dahlman.

DRT houses Royal Dahlman’s renewable energy initiatives and dedicated staff. When the Energy Center of the Netherlands  conceived and developed their OLGA tar removal process, Royal Dahlman was a natural fit for its commercialization. This, in turn, led to a similar role commercializing the ECN’s proprietary gasifier, MILENA.


Dahlman Renewable Technology is Synova’s key partner for technical development and it provides the design and engineering packages as well as arranges fabrication for the OLGA and MILENA systems employed by Synova. DRT has a worldwide exclusive license for OLGA, certain licenses for MILENA, and pending patents of its own for associated systems.

Capturing the opportunity

Together with Royal Dahlman, Synova has developed a turnkey, four-step solution:

1. Feedstock preparation (at a remote location or co-located with steps 2-4)
2. Gasification
3. OLGA gas cleaning
4. Power or chemical production

Here’s the model: develop or co-develop projects from the ground up, from sourcing the waste supply and choosing the site to securing offtake agreements; from connections and permits to arranging technology and construction agreements; from operations and maintenance to issuing debt and equity. Projects are typically structured so that no investment is required from the municipality (the waste supplier) or industrial host (the off-taker).

Modular designs are available for independent power, and can be leveraged for custom industrial applications or CHP designs. Royal Dahlman provides the OLGA kit—and MILENA, where applicable—and Synova sources the balance from established suppliers. Each unit in the kit is proven at scales equal to or greater than the scale of the first projects, for many years under industrial conditions.

The Bottom Line

Is it affordable? Does it deliver?

In energy markets, caveat emptor. Claims are not proof on the bench, proof on the bench is not technical success at scale, technical success is a component, but only one, of financial success. So, due diligence will be required.

New technologies must reside at the claim level until the market has had time to engage and evaluate the process and the economics. But conceptually, here’s a technology that has lean, green and clean all wrapped up into one. And that is a remarkable step — and makes this tech one to watch and watch carefully over the next months and seasons.

More about Synova here.

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Biofuel Production with the Sun, the Sea and Thermochemical Reactions

Biofuels Digest - Tue, 10/10/2017 - 11:02am

By Dr. Marcius Extavour, Senior Director, Energy & Resources, XPRIZE
Special to The Digest

Biofuels have a renewed and important focus in a time of growing recognition of the need for carbon neutral, carbon negative, and circular carbon solutions. Hydrocarbon drop-in fuels are among the leading products targeted by the CO2 conversion community, be it diesel, methanol, butanol, or others. New approaches to the science and technology of CO2-to-fuels may alter the energetics, the economics, and the business case to the point where bio-based CO2 conversion could be poised for a radical leap forward.

Driving realization of a robust circular carbon biofuel category, our semifinalist teams’ work in the NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE have shown that there are many ways to make a biofuel — presenting a series of exciting new technology platforms described below that may emerge from the competition into commercialization.

From Hydrochar to Carbon Negative Renewable Diesel

Taking a biological approach, Team Aljadix from Basel, Switzerland, plans to use carbon dioxide to grow microalgae in its large-scale process for carbon negative renewable diesel. (Digest readers may already recognize Team Aljadix from the 8-slide guide published in 2016.) The microalgae cultivation platform is an innovative design adapted from well-known sea surface platforms developed by others. The platform captures sunlight by operating in sheltered coastal locations in high sun areas (e.g. Mexico). This eliminates the need for land or freshwater and ensures a reliable source of energy to drive thermodynamics.

The microalgae is harvested using high-efficiency microfiltration (Global Algae Innovations; Liq-O-Flux). It is converted to biocrude using hydrothermal liquefaction (as developed by the Pacific Northwest National Lab). The biocrude can be blended with regular (fossil) crude and refined, or it can be directly upgraded by hydrotreatment to renewable diesel (the leading advanced biofuel).

The “secret sauce” in their process comes from a hydrothermal liquefaction (HTL) co-product: hydrochar. (Hydrochar is biochar made via a hydrothermal process.) For years HTL has seen difficulties because 5 to 15 percent of the carbon converts into tiny hydrochar solids, which plug tubes and reduce yields. Aljadix has solved this problem by turning it around. It turns out that the carbon in hydrochar is chemically inert, having been sequestered and permanently removed from the atmosphere. Aljadix captures the hydrochar and buries it. Since more carbon is bound up in the hydrochar than is released during the entire production process (e.g. the carbon released as a result of energy/materials consumed from cultivation through to processing), the result is a carbon negative renewable diesel. In this case, the carbon negative renewable diesel not only replaces fossil fuel but also claws us back from the carbon precipice (see here).

Aljadix has six corporate/supplier partners, a solid management team lead by Thomas Digby, Chris Chuck, PhD and Mike Allen, PhD, access to government funding (Canada, UK and Mexico), and healthy contact with potential angel investors, all of whom are looking for the right technical investor prepared to lead the next round term sheet.

Thermochemical Conversion to Methanol and Sellable Biochar

Jumping to California, Ventura-based Hago Energetics sees conversion of waste CO2 as a key to making valuable and profitable products with carbon negative technology. The company plans to monetize power plant emissions directly at the production site with an approach that comprises thermochemical conversion of CO2 to liquid fuels such as methanol, and to sellable biochar, with the aid of unwanted waste biomass and methane. Selling biochar along with the carbon neutral methanol makes this process very profitable compared to the standard process of making carbon positive methanol.

Comprised of seasoned individuals with over 25 years in the biofuels and biochar industry, the team is led by company CEO is Wilson Hago, PhD chemist, recent graduate of the Global Solutions Program at Singularity University, and current participant in the Silicon Valley SU Ventures Incubator. Looking to

leverage exponential technologies in carrying out the mission of lowering global carbon dioxide levels, the teams grand vision is to reverse global warming by burying billions of tons of biochar produced from the company’s process in the ground, while at the same time increasing the productivity of agricultural soils, improving forest soil health, and greening the deserts.

Hago’s work is moving fast – with plans to build the first demo plant in Denver, Colo., the company is looking for investors or partners to help it realize its grand vision.

Power of the Sun for Syngas or Methanol

A third scalable approach harnesses the power of the sun and the abundant greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, for the production of energy. Dimensional Energy’s founding team includes professor David Erickson, who in 2014 designed and patented novel waveguides for the production of biofuels in partnership with the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E). ARPA-E advances high-potential, high-impact energy technologies that are too early for private-sector investment. While this approach improved algal productivity, the technology was not commercialized.

Jump to 2016 — during Cohort 3 of NEXUS-NY, a NYSERDA funded clean energy accelerator, Jason Salfi and Clayton Poppe formed Dimensional Energy to address the challenge from the NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE. They soon partnered with Erickson and Tobias Hanrath who proposed combining two lines of work: the waveguide with catalysts that his lab was working on for photocatalysis.

The result? The team has gone on to invent a reactor platform technology which they call HI-LIGHT. Focusing more on photocatalysis at this stage, the reactor platform has the ability to select for two main outputs, syngas or methanol. As both an XPRIZE semifinalist and NSF-supported company, Dimensional Energy is collocating their HI-LIGHT reactor at the Cornell CHP Plant in Ithaca, N.Y., to convert CO2 emissions onsite.

Salfi has said that his focus has been on commercial solutions to solve the world’s most pressing problems, and the founding of Dimensional Energy and competing in the NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE is an extension of that lifetime mission. “With the Hi-LIGHT reactor we’ve previously demonstrated several multiples of increased growth rates for algae used in bio-fuels,” Salfi explained. “We are using the same technology here to increase light delivery to solid state catalysts, improving the overall efficiency of the reactor.”

Ramping Up with Capital Infusion

Innovation is alive, with teams that are driving increases in capacity providing more opportunity for forward thinking organizations that are committed to biofuels, today and in the future. Fuels derived directly from CO2 are attractive in the CO2 utilization community because of the sheer size of the global fuels market, and therefore their capacity to utilize carbon beneficially. For this pathway to live up to its promise as an important part of CO2 reduction strategies, or to be part of an eventual circular economy, it will be critical to not only see new science, technology, and business models applied to the problem, but also to be rigorous with life cycle analysis, carbon accounting, and environmental monitoring.

Carbon conversion and broader circular carbon innovation have the potential to support a massive future market of CO2-based products, including biofuels. They may also eventually help the world to achieve CO2 reduction targets at scale. Getting started takes ingenuity; acceleration requires capital and new investment. Working in tandem, these two elements can help us unlock a truly circular economy.

About the author

Marcius Extavour is the senior director energy and resources for XPRIZE and lead for the $20-million NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE, a global competition for conversion of carbon dioxide from power plants into valuable products. Over the past 15 years, he has applied a background in experimental physics and engineering to complex problems in industry, government, and academia. This work took him to the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, where he held the OSA/SPIE/AAAS Congressional Science and Technology Policy Fellowship, the Canadian electric utility Ontario Power Generation, and more recently the faculty of applied science and engineering at the Univ. of Toronto, where he served as Director of Government and Industry Partnerships. He has a BASc in engineering science, and an MSc and PhD in MSc quantum optics and atomic physics, all from the Univ. of Toronto.



Categories: Today's News

AVAPCO, Byogy and Petron consortium launches DOE-funded project for cellulosic biojet and nanocellulose

Biofuels Digest - Mon, 10/09/2017 - 7:52pm

In Georgia, negotiations with the Department of Energy (DOE) were completed and Phase 1 of the “Advanced Biofuels and Bioproducts with AVAP (ABBA)” project has begun. The ABBA project will co-produce full replacement renewable jet fuel, gasoline, diesel and Bioplus® nanocellulose from woody biomass in an integrated biorefinery at AVAPCO’s site in Thomaston, Georgia.

The project aims to demonstrate that co-production of high volume commodity fuels and low volume, high value co-products enables profitable biorefineries at commercial scale. ABBA integrates the biorefinery value chain by converting wood to cellulose and cellulosic sugars, which are then converted to cellulosic biojet and nanocellulose. Patented technologies and intellectual property will be provided by AVAPCO, Byogy and Petron. Technology collaborators also include the Renewable Bioproducts Institute at Georgia Tech and the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

The $3.7 million Phase 1 DOE award was made under the program “Project Definition for Pilot- and Demonstration-Scale Manufacturing of Biofuels, Bioproducts, and Biopower”. Its scope includes definition engineering, permitting, and financing activities. Upon successful completion of Phase 1, the project is also eligible for a subsequent Phase 2 award of up to $45 million from the DOE for construction and operation of the project.

Categories: Today's News

Gevo announces two collaborations with national labs on energy density and catalysts

Biofuels Digest - Mon, 10/09/2017 - 7:51pm

In Colorado, Gevo, Inc. announced it will be partnering with Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) on a project to improve the energy density of certain Gevo hydrocarbon products, such as its alcohol-to-jet-fuel (ATJ), to meet product specifications for tactical fuels for specialized military applications such as RJ-4, RJ-6 and JP-10, which are currently purchased by the US Department of Defense (DoD). ChemCatBio, a consortium within the US Department of Energy, awarded funding to LANL in support of the project.

Gevo and LANL are looking to develop a low-cost, catalytic technology that would be bolted-on to Gevo’s existing isobutanol-to-hydrocarbons process to produce high energy density fuels (HEDFs). With the successful scale-up of this technology, it is believed that Gevo’s HEDFs could be produced at a lower cost than the petroleum-based equivalent, even at current oil prices.

Simultaneous to that announcement, a sister announcement said it will be partnering with National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), Argonne National Laboratory (ANL) and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) on a project to fine-tune the composition of the catalyst used in Gevo’s proprietary ETO process, in order to improve performance and accelerate scale-up efforts.  ChemCatBio, a consortium within the US Department of Energy, awarded funding to the national labs in support of the project.

Gevo: The Digest’s 2015 5 Minute Guide

Categories: Today's News

Myanmar company looks to produce biodiesel from hombayniya to fuel water buses

Biofuels Digest - Mon, 10/09/2017 - 7:49pm

In Myanmar, a local company is getting some Australian agronomy support to grow hombayniya on the banks of the Yangon River as feedstock for biodiesel production. Farmers will grow the plants and supply them to the company for processing. The biodiesel will be used to fuel the water buses that travel along the river. Production could be up and running within about two years. Only Myanmar and India are said to have the appropriate soils to grow hombayniya plants.

Categories: Today's News

Saipol to cut 2018 biodiesel production by 54% due to Argentine imports

Biofuels Digest - Mon, 10/09/2017 - 7:46pm

In France, Avril’s Saipol says it will cut biodiesel production to 700,000 metric tons next year from 1.3 million tons in 2017 in light of increased imports expected from Argentina following the reduction of anti-dumping duties the end of September. The company says it was already facing hard times before the duty decision was taken but the result is like a nail in the coffin. The drop in production will lower demand for rapeseed in France by about 1 million tons.

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