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Helsinki International Horse Show to be completely powered by horse manure

Biofuels Digest - Thu, 10/05/2017 - 6:16pm

In Finland, the electricity used at this year’s Helsinki International Horse Show will be produced entirely with horse manure at Fortum’s Järvenpää power plant. The electricity consumption of the event taking place at the Helsinki Ice Hall will be about 140 MWh, and the origin of the electricity will be verified by theGuarantee of Origin system maintained by Fingrid. Producing the energy needed for the event requires the annual manure output of 14 horses. This is the first time in the world that the electricity for a major horse show will be produced entirely with horse manure.

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Brazilian soy oil demand seen jumping to 3.6 million tons in 2018 with B10

Biofuels Digest - Thu, 10/05/2017 - 6:15pm

In Brazil, soy oil demand is expected to jump to 3.6 million metric tons in 2018 as a result of the biodiesel blend increasing to 10% a year early rather than going to 9%. For the 8% blend in 2017, the demand is seen at 2.9 million tons. Soybean processing for biodiesel production will rise to 17.9 million tons next year from 14.3 million tons. Even though the blending increase will boost biodiesel demand, the increase isn’t expected to be felt by drivers at the pump.

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Thai Agro Energy Company facing fines and lawsuits for wastewater spill

Biofuels Digest - Thu, 10/05/2017 - 6:13pm

In Thailand, the Thai Agro Energy Company ethanol plant in Suphan Buri will be sued at a minimum by the industry ministry for violating the Factories Act and by residents of the 35 villages who suffered damage to property and local waterways as a result of the company’s wastewater treatment system overflowing last weekend. Fines could be lodged for illegally discharging wastewater and for the wastewater not meeting safety standards, fines that could reach up to $6,000 for each offence.

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Environmental NGOs tag team against biomass and biofuels in REDII

Biofuels Digest - Thu, 10/05/2017 - 6:12pm

In Belgium, environmental groups including WWF Europe, Oxfam, BirdLife Europe and Transport & Environment are hitting out at the proposed Renewable Energy Directive II’s continued support of biomass power where member state governments are allowed unlimited support of co-firing trees and crops at coal-fired power plants, calling it “burning taxpayers’ money” as well as the use of crops for liquid biofuels. They say more stringent sustainability criteria are required to fight global warming and ensure responsible resource use.

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Viridis Fuels launches crowdfunding campaign to build Oakland biodiesel plant

Biofuels Digest - Thu, 10/05/2017 - 6:11pm

In California, Viridis Fuels is fundraising for $8 million in equity on a crowdfunding platform to build a  $77 million community-based biodiesel plant in Oakland. The project seeks to produce 20 million gallons per year of biodiesel along with 4 million gallons of technical grade glycerin on a leasehold property at the Port of Oakland as well as distribute the fuels produced. The platform offers investment with an 8% return on a $5,000 minimum investment. In 2015, it received a $3.4 million grant from the California Energy Commission.

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Joint Genome Institute researchers identify genes to help boost biomass yield

Biofuels Digest - Thu, 10/05/2017 - 6:10pm

In California, working with the plant growth-promoting bacterium Pseudomonas simiae, researchers have identified 115 genes that negatively affect its ability to colonize a plant root system when mutated.

A plant’s health and development is influenced by the complex community of microbes that surround it. By identifying the bacterial genes that can alter how well microbes can colonize a plant, researchers can develop targeted approaches to improve plant health and growth for a number of applications, including increased biomass yield for biofuel production.

A plant’s health and development is influenced by microbes residing within the plant (endophytes), in the soil, and in the narrow region where the plant roots interact with the soil (rhizosphere). To better understand how microbes colonize the root environment, researchers at the Joint Genome Institute, a DOE Office of Science User Facility, and their collaborators at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute at the University of North Carolina, applied a genome-wide transposon mutagenesis approach on the model plant growth-promoting bacterium Pseudomonas simiae using the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana as a host to generate a genome-wide map of bacterial genes that affect the efficacy of microbial colonization.

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European Parliamentarians stand up for biofuels in REDII

Biofuels Digest - Thu, 10/05/2017 - 6:09pm

In France, the European Parliament’s AGRI committee rapporteur and shadow rapporteurs for ITRE and TRAN committees for the Renewable Energy Directive II echoed the need for policy stability for sustainable conventional biofuel producers through 2030 if there was to be hope that they would invest in advanced biofuels. At an event sponsored by the EU biodiesel chain in Strasbourg, a Purdue researcher who works with both the GTAP model used by the US and the GLOBIOM model used in the EU that shows high ILUC figures for oilseed crops said the GLOBIOM model needed more input from stakeholders to give a more accurate reflection of the environmental sustainability of biodiesel.

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Where are the algae fuel gallons? Bioreactors on a chip touted as a way forward

Biofuels Digest - Thu, 10/05/2017 - 9:50am

One of the themes that has been racing around the industry in the past week has been the suggestion that bioreactors on a chip are renewing promises for algal biofuels.

A development of interest in algae strain screening tech

That hopes have been revived along those lines is not entirely surprising, given that Cornell University scribe Alexa Schmitz authored an article last week titled “bioreactors on a chip are renew promises for algal biofuels”, spotlighting a compelling advance from researchers at Cornell affiliate Boyce Thompson Institute and Texas A&M.

Schmitz writes that “for over a decade, companies have promised a future of renewable fuel from algae. Investors interested in moving the world away from fossil fuel have contributed hundreds of millions of dollars to the effort, and adds that “despite high-profile demonstrations, promises have fallen short, and startups have revised business models to include production of specialty lipids, such as those used in cosmetics and soaps.”

Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, let’s observe that the Boyce/Texas A&M breakthrough is in a microalgae screening technology that indeed could bring down the costs and timelines of developing better algae strains.  Hyping the thin connection to algae-based fuels is, perhaps, as illustrative of a problem seen in algae-based R&D as much as an interesting solution that is now advancing.

As Schmitz observes, “A single algal cell is captured in a tiny droplet of water encapsulated by oil — imagine the tiny droplets that form when you mix vegetable oil with water — then millions of algal droplets squeeze onto a chip about the size of a quarter. Each droplet is a micro-bioreactor, a highly controlled environment in which algal cells can grow and replicate for several days, forming a genetically homogenous colony that goes through its typical biological reactions, including the production of lipids.

“This is the first microsystem that allows both lipid content analysis and growth-rate measurement at high throughput, whereas previous work could only do one or the other,” senior author and engineer Arum Han of Texas A&M told the Cornell news site.

It’s an advance worth knowing about, and you can learn more, here.

The 4 Real-World Problems of Algae Fuels

But, we’re not entirely sure if the world is well served by another group hailing a revolution in algae-based doesn’t address, head-on, the 4 actual, unsolved, continuing challenges in algae biofuels. Which, by the way, have little to do with improving the rate at which we screen for improved algae strains.

They appear, from our conning tower, to be:

1. The cost of algae day care.

2. Business plans previously focused on a single fuels use case and now focused on a single omega-3, astaxanthin, etc etc case  — instead of a thoughtful, offtake-driven and hedged set of applications that bring a crop from the drawing board to the real world.

3. Use cases based in drop-in solutions with higher costs to customers offset by compelling public benefits (emissions, energy security, employment) that the public is generally unwilling to pay for over the long-term.

4. Investor preference for technologies that deliver benefits to established crops vs novel crops with big potential markets. 

The search for better strains

To be sure, higher lipid production rates, faster metabolism and other traits are always welcome to have.

As Cornell observes:

Scientists are racing to identify a super algal strain that can reproduce faster and produce more lipid per cell. This summer, ExxonMobil announced the discovery of a strain with a single genetic modification that allows for twice as much lipid production per cell. But this is only a step in the right direction, as thousands of genes hold potential for further improving both traits.

With today’s gene-editing technologies, modifying algal genes can be relatively straightforward; however, identifying which genes to target is time-consuming and costly. Exposing an algal culture to a mutagen yields millions of unique, potentially improved algal cells that must each be tested for expression of a desired trait, such as increased lipid production. Mutated genes can then be identified through whole-genome sequencing.

“The important thing is to develop a tool that can screen millions of cells in a much shorter time frame and a smaller space. In a chip housing millions of droplets of cells, each droplet is like a flask or a bioreactor, and that’s how we can get results faster from just a tiny chip,” explains author and BTI postdoc Shih-Chi Hsu.

The Big However

According to results reported at Cellana’s algae demonstration farm in Kona, Hawaii — they’re able to sustain just shy of 23 grams of algae growth per square meter per day with nannochloropsis, an established production algae whose varietals have a lipid content of between 37% and 60% (check this review, here.)

Translating that into easier-to-compare terrestrial numbers, that’s 78 tons of biomass per hectare per year (reported here) and, using the lowest-end lipid content numbers, and about 31 tons of oil. If you prefer to think in acres, think 14 tons of oil.

By contrast, a soybean operation that does well might generate 0.3-0.5 tons of oil per acre per year — and soybeans remain the number one source for biodiesel raw materials in the United States, and deservedly so based on production volume and cost.

Suggestive that algae productivity isn’t the problem, and that the problem has been for some time finding a way to grow algae in a controlled, harvestable environment instead of its wild environments in ponds and on oceans. In other words, domesticating the crop.

So, where are the algae fuel gallons?

The world is replete in fuel-based farms on the drawing boards that have good economics and weren’t built.

Probably for the same reason that you, yourself, right now, are not investing your 401(k), IRA, or spare cash into algae — or many other investment opportunities that can offer attractive terms.

Where are you putting your money? Most people invest in publicly-held stocks, established companies, and bonds. Why? The risks of small-cap, private investment are difficult for investors to bear, and the accumulations of capital to raise domestic algae at fuel-economic scales are not for the faint of heart.

You can point a finger at oil prices which are at 10-year lows — but no one was building algae farms in 2003 when oil prices were, adjusted for inflation, also low. Some of that has to do with the march of technology — algae tech is better today than back then. But we don’t see Cyanotech expanding, either — and they make spirulina and astaxanthin at world-dominant scale and we live in times that people are paying big premiums for specialized consumables with health benefits.

Back to the Four Why Nots

Above, we identified four reasons for algae’s slow progress as a crop platform that can provide competition to corn and soybeans — much less petroleum.

We’ll make a few comments on each.

1. The cost of algae day care. Yield always matters, but the productivity of algae is not its most compelling problem. The cost of keeping it wet for growth and then getting it dry for use, is. This effort to develop magnetic algae at Los Alamos we thought was an interesting attack on a real problem.. Others will emerge, but one of the things you learn that are cool about grasses like corn is that dirt is cheap and that, at maturity, grasses stick out of the growth medium, making harvest a snap.

2. Business plans focused on a single use case with historically uncertain margins. Even motion pictures have better business plans that industrial biotechnology – based on a cascading set of time-based windows with higher prices now, and lower-prices later. Few algae technologies have really well-developed offtakes with smaller-volume, higher-margin customers and higher-volume, lower-margin customers — and a venture begins, and a lab experiment ends, with the arrival of a customer.

3. Use cases based in drop-in solutions with higher costs to customers offset by compelling public benefits (emissions, energy security, employment) that the public is generally unwilling to pay for over the long-term. Drop-in fuels that compete with $40 oil are almost always going to find a home, but not drop-in fuels that compete with $90 oil. Given the fickle nature of public support, algae fuel need to find public appeal based on differentiation, and not just the kind that shows up in arcane emissions math.

4. Investor preference for technologies that deliver benefits to established crops vs novel crops with big potential markets. You can raise a lot of money for a web-based service, but try raising money for an alternative to the World Wide Web. Given that algae is novel and there’s no way around it, what’s the solution? Scarcity; establishing farms where there are no farms — food security, fuel security, simplified logistics are reasonably proven-out reasons for investment rationales for taking a leap into novel technologies that doesn’t provide a novel benefit. Sometimes, the best way to sell an unproven lifeboat is to put a salesman onto the Titanic.

Where can you learn about the state of algae’s development and progress

The Algae Biomass Organization has its annual summit coming up in Salt Lake City at the end of the month, and you can learn more about that here.

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The Digest’s 2017 Multi-Slide Guide to High Productivity, Flexible Microalgae

Biofuels Digest - Thu, 10/05/2017 - 9:28am

This week we’ve been looking at major advances in crops and feedstocks and algae is very much in the mix in that respect – the sustainable production of microalgae with high productivity and flexible composition is of special interest and today’s slide deck in The Digest looks at that area.

This illuminating presentation comes from the work of Mohammad-Matin Hanifzadeh at the University of Toledo, working under the supervision of Dr. Sridhar Viamajala in the Department of Chemical & Environmental Engineering.

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Financing Bioeconomy Ventures, Pt. 9: Site Selection – Landscape Risk Analysis for Biomass Acquisition

Biofuels Digest - Thu, 10/05/2017 - 9:19am

By Thomas W. Robb, Daniel Lane and John Diecker, Lee Enterprises Consulting

Special to The Digest

In the cascade of the decision-making process for site selection of a biomass project, the first two things that must be determined are the availability of infrastructure to support the project AND the availability of feedstock to feed the process. Infrastructure availability is a straightforward process and is the established procedure of ticking things off the list of identified needs. Feedstock availability, however, can be somewhat difficult especially if the project is to utilize crop residues. Using published “book” values (tons biomass per acre related to grain yields) will not always give you the right answer. One must take it further and apply local sustainability criteria, such as competing uses (e.g.: erosion prevention), to arrive at the amount that will be reliably available year after year to support the feedstock needs of the facility. For annual energy crop feedstocks, sustainability criteria may also need to be applied: for these it’s not to modify yield projections, but to take into account any extra agronomic practices that must be applied and account for them in the acquisition pricing structure. The next factor to overlay on the feedstock availability side of this equation is how far out from the project site will you need to go to obtain the necessary quantities for the project. Lastly, the pricing of the feedstock needs to be determined. The premise of the rest of this article is that the biomass pricing will be competitive in the market. Obviously this will change depending on whether the feedstock is a dedicated energy crop, or a crop residue.

For many biomass based projects, product developers tend to stop at this point. Unfortunately, the work has only just begun to truly assess the validity of individual sites.

Components of Biomass Acquisition

Correct site selection evaluation must then go on to identify all the individual components in the landscape that can have an impact on the collection, harvest, storage, and transportation (CHST) of the feedstock. Then each of these components must be assessed for the risk (or benefit) associated with them, and if deemed significant, mitigation procedures must be developed and evaluated for not only effectiveness, but cost as well.

For project developers who recognize the need for this, many tend to want to see these lists and mitigation procedures developed and assessed in-house by the project team. And while this is certainly valid, there are other individuals that absolutely MUST be involved in not only the identification of the various factors, but also their importance, and how to mitigate them. These are the other stakeholders in the biomass availability equation, and those individuals who are producing the biomass, harvesting the biomass, storing the biomass and transporting it.

This process cannot be done in the vacuum of a corporate structure/office. One has to get out to the projected site and start to establish relationships with the biomass stakeholders and get their input in the development of the landscape issues and how to deal with them.

The sites required for biomass-based projects utilizing agricultural waste can be large in size. The size must be adequate to provide storage that accounts for the seasonal availability of this type of biomass while not taking high-quality agricultural land out of production.

Weather – The Most Critical Issue

Within the landscape of CHST, there are several issues that impact all acquisition and logistical issues and weather is probably the biggest one. There is a lot of data on annual rainfall. However the correct assessment of weather impact will also address unusual weather patterns and how often they can be expected. For example, wet weather during harvest time in the high plains can happen, however it’s not common and a factor of say, once every 20 years, this will have the potential of limiting harvested biomass by 50% or more. This will be different for the corn-belt areas of Illinois and Iowa where the potential could be once every 7 to 10 years. Similar weather-related issues exist in other parts of the world. Obviously the mitigation procedures for this risk will be different based on the expected frequency of the event. A plethora of other issues need to be determined and evaluated. While it’s certainly not complete, the following table gives an idea of some of the risks associated with biomass acquisition that must be addressed:

Biomass Availability Collection and Harvest Storage Transportation Competitive uses (mulch, erosion control, animal feed, others). Identification of who you will be competing with and how to deal with them Weather Weather Weather Competitive market pricing Soil compaction All weather access All weather road access Willingness of producers to supply at given price Estimation of working days per month Acceptability by neighbors Any limitation on road use during certain times of year (e.g., In some ILL counties, road structure is good, however rural roads have wt limit during winter) Support of local community including the SCS office, University and extension groups Estimation of work hours per day Fire Risk Fire Risk Average field size (larger fields are harvested more efficiently – lower costs) For baled material, impact of broken bales and “strings” left in the field Distance from fire department Allowable wt limit of loaded trucks Topographical issues with fields to be harvested Determination of any agronomic practices that may have negative impact on product quality (dirt content) Willingness of fire department to work with storage groups Truck dimensions (can you use multiple trailers per truck?) Soil types and determination of any differences in projected harvested amounts based on soil type Identification of who will do this and how to pre-qualify/train them Environmental regulations related to storage of biomass. And waste disposal in case of fire Identification of who will do this and how to pre-qualify them

Space limitations do not allow for a discussion of all the items in the table above. However, to give a flavor of what to look for, we will give some details on two of these items.

Soil compaction: It’s very common in the agronomic community to understand that soil compaction can have a negative impact on crop yields. The practice of making bales out of biomass, like any other farming practice, has the potential to compact soil. Raking and baling procedures only make one pass over any give area of the land, and unless the soil is wet, soil compaction is minimal. However, during the process of removing the bales from the field and transporting them to a field-side stack, operators tend to develop paths to drive on. While not noticeable at the time it is occurring, when the next year’s crop is about 50% grown, the lines of these paths start to show up as retarded growth. It’s especially noticeable during harvest time and the yield reduction can be readily apparent. This is the type of thing that the crop producer needs to be made aware of before the biomass is removed and adequate plans made to minimize it. With correct training, operators can minimize passes over the same area and therefore minimize soil compaction.

Bale binding strings: Bales being broken during the baling process is a fact of life, and it will occur. Operators not trained to account for all strings and remove them from the ground cause to a HUGE problem the next time the producer farms the land. From strings getting wound around equipment and causing the operator to stop to clean it out, to the string that gets wound around an axle and ultimately works into, and destroys a wheel bearing, this must be avoided at all costs. The author has had the unpleasant experience of talking to a farmer who had a $300,000 tractor end up in the repair shop to replace a wheel bearing due to a string left on the field getting into the bearing and destroying it. Repairs of this nature can be expensive (up to $10,000) in addition to lost productivity when the machine they are depending on is out of commission.

Summary

Evaluating a site for the availability of feedstock is not a quick process. It requires the systematic identification of all the various items in the landscape that can impact feedstock availability and supply, and the development of risk assessments and mitigating measures for each of them. It is also a process that absolutely requires the input of all stakeholders in the process – from the producer of the feedstock, through the CHST cycle and ultimately to the end user of the material.

About the Authors:

Thomas Robb, Ph.D., is a member of Lee Enterprises Consulting with 25 years’ experience in agriculture, biomass and related industries. He is a knowledgeable and proven executive with leadership experience producing results across diverse industries, including bio-energy, agriculture, pharmaceutical, research, education, government, and animal health. Skilled strategist who has successfully increased organizational value, improved P&L, and implemented positive change through the development of long-range business plans. Strong tactical leader with broad foundation of experience leading nearly every functional area of the business, including operations, business development, research, global supply chain, logistics, client relations, technology, procurement, and risk management.

Daniel Lane, Ph.D., is a member of Lee Enterprises Consulting with extensive experience in renewable chemicals process and technology development. Dr. Lane has held executive and senior leadership roles with multiple start-up companies in the renewables industry focusing on biomass conversion and scale-up of technology and processes. He has been instrumental to the design and construction of seven pilot- and demonstration-scale facilities around the world, producing first- (corn) and second-generation (cellulosic) ethanol, cellulosic sugars, and bio-based animal feeds from a variety of lignocellulosic feedstocks. Dr. Lane spent the first half of his career in process engineering and project management, commercializing technology with such companies as Procter & Gamble and Degussa, performing process and equipment troubleshooting, benchmarking, feasibility studies, and installing and commissioning myriad process packages. With his proficiency in process simulation and technoeconomic modeling, Dr. Lane is a recognized expert in technical assessment for both private and government funding sources and has helped companies secure over $170MM in financing.

John Diecker has 38 years’ experience in the electric power generation and transmission industry with over three decades of that experience in Southeast Asia. A member of Lee Enterprises Consulting, John has served as a technical, project management and project development consultant to power project owners, developers and contractors, including governments, state-owned enterprises, financial institutions and insurance firms. He has been involved in many types of renewable energy projects and his experience with biomass includes virtually all stages of project development from site selection, engineering, feasibility studies, fuel availability studies, environmental and community impact review, licensing, permitting and construction supervision through operations & maintenance.

 

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IEA sees biofuels as main renewable fuel through 2022 despite increased EVs

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 10/04/2017 - 7:00pm

In France, the International Energy Agency says in its new Renewables 2017 report that biofuels are expected to remain 90% of the renewable energy used in transport by 2022 despite a growing share of electric vehicles. Biofuel production is expected to grow 16% during the period as well with Asia taking the lead thanks to supportive policies and feedstock availability, but even so a concerted effort in policies globally could see that figure increase by another 13%. That best-case scenario, however, would only equate to 5% of transport fuel by 2022.

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Chilean city expands UCO biodiesel program into neighborhoods

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 10/04/2017 - 6:59pm

In Chile, the city of Concepción has launched a used cooking oil collection program to complement the UCO collection from restaurants last year in an effort to boost biodiesel production. Last year, 165,000 liters of UCO was collected but hope the project’s expansion will see 200,000 liters collected annually as a result. Various collection points around the city will be set up to collect small amounts of oil deposited in individual plastic containers to help reduce the amount of UCO households dump into the sewage system.

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ASTM proposes standard to characterize quality of biodiesel blends

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 10/04/2017 - 6:58pm

In Pennsylvania, proposed ASTM International standard will help characterize the quality of diesel fuels and biodiesel blends. The proposed standard (WK51775) is being developed by the committee on petroleum products, liquid fuels, and lubricants (D02). The proposed standard will be used to separate and determine the content of aromatics, nonaromatics, and fatty acid methyl esters (FAME) in middle distillates, including biodiesel blends with up to 20 percent by volume of FAME. The proposed method could be used by refinery plants, diesel fuel producers, and analytical laboratories.

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Biodiesel production up 8% in July in key Argentine region

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 10/04/2017 - 6:57pm

In Argentina, biodiesel production grew more than 8% in July in the key area of Santa Fe, with total production for the year through July reaching 1.2 million metric tons. The region’s 16 main producers accounted for 76% of national production that month, with about three-quarters of the volume destined for exports. More than 1.05 million tons of biodiesel were exported between January and August nationwide, up more than 15% on the year, at a value of $786 million.

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MEPs look at options for sustainable first generation biofuels post-2020

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 10/04/2017 - 6:56pm

In Belgium, an Irish MEP is demanding the European Commission stop painting all first generation biofuels with the same brush palm oil and start looking at those that can and are being produced sustainability for use post-2020. He said that without political certainty in the Renewable Energy Directive II through 2030 there won’t be any investors willing to punt for advanced biofuels. A Dutch MEP says sustainability criteria could be implemented to separate palm oil from other feedstocks that could produce more sustainable biofuels moving into the next decade.

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Maryland announces $3.5 million in grants for waste-to-energy

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 10/04/2017 - 6:55pm

In Maryland, the state’s energy agency will provide grants to selected grantees to install animal waste to energy projects. The program is open to businesses, government agencies, and non-profits in Maryland. The total amount available for the AWE Grant Program for State Fiscal Year 2018 is $3,500,000. Two AOI’s will be made available in FY18. Area of Interest One (AOI I) will target pilot or on-farm scale projects with capacities of less than 2MW. $2,500,000 will be made available for AOI I with a 40 percent cost-share required by the applicant. Area of Interest Two (AOI II) will target community or regional scale projects with capacities of greater than 2MW. $1,000,000 will be made available for AOI II with a 50 percent cost-share required by the applicant.

Applications are due by February 28, 2018.

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Missouri researchers develop modular biodiesel production facility

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 10/04/2017 - 6:54pm

In Missouri, researchers at the Missouri University of Science and Technology have developed a small, modular skid-mounted biodiesel production facility ideal for smaller communities and towns to recycle used cooking oil. The system uses a supercritical process that eliminates salt, allowing it to concentrate the glycerin/water mixture and significantly reduce the amount of glycerin produced in the process. It can also recycle the methanol, reducing the amount of inputs required. The work is funded by the National Science Foundation.

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Senators to meet with EPA administrator October 17 regarding RFS proposals

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 10/04/2017 - 6:53pm

In Washington, a meeting between Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Nebraska and the Environmental Protection Agency administrator has been set for October 17 where it’s expected they will voice their displeasure at the agency’s attempts to unravel the Renewable Fuel Standard by cutting the advanced biofuel blending mandate and allowing exported ethanol to generate RINs. Grassley and Ernst were assured before the administrator’s confirmation hearing that he would follow the RFS but it has quickly become apparent that isn’t his intention.

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8 fast flyers chosen for Top Cat: the big attack on biomass catalysis begins

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 10/04/2017 - 11:55am

Somewhere in the files of the Department of Energy it is called the Chemical Catalysis for Bioenergy Consortium. Inside the halls of National Labs, they call it ChemCatBio.

But it’s Top Cat — the gunslingers and mavericks of biomass catalysis.

They’re on a mission to bring forward commercial bioenergy applications two times faster and at half the cost  If it sounds like Top Gun, it oughta. The stakes are high, only the best need apply, washouts are the norm and ‘mission accomplished’ the only two words anyone wants to hear. It’s best on best, and there are no excuses in the Danger Zone.

Specifically, current research encompasses the following five themes:

  • Upgrading of synthesis gas and synthesis gas-derived intermediates
  • Catalytic fast pyrolysis
  • Hydroprocessing of fast pyrolysis and catalytic fast pyrolysis bio-oils
  • Upgrading biogenic carbon in aqueous waste streams
  • Upgrading of lignin, carbohydrates, and other biologically derived intermediates

Now at Top Cat they’ve chosen their eight elite industry partners via an announce this past week of $4.3 million in funding for nine projects that will help accelerate the development of catalysts and related technologies for the commercialization of biomass-derived fuels and chemicals.

As they say in DOE circles, “the selected projects will leverage the unique facilities and expertise at the U.S. Department of Energy national laboratories to address critical technical challenges in catalyst development and evaluation for biofuel and bioproduct applications.”

Or, as they said in Top Gun, “you can be my wingman any time.”

The Top Cat 8

Maverick, Ice and Goose step aside. Eight diffferent industry partenrs are leading 8 projects with TopCat labs to overcome catalysis challenges— the industry-led projects slated to begin in 2018 are:

  • Gevo will partner with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), Argonne National Laboratory (ANL), and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) to leverage their extensive catalyst characterization capabilities, with the goal of extending catalyst lifetime for the oxygenate-to-olefin process.
  • Visolis will partner with Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) to develop low-pressure hydrogenolysis catalysts for bioproduct upgrading.
  • Vertimass will partner with ORNL, ANL, and NREL to evaluate catalyst scale-up for ethanol upgrading.
  • LanzaTech will partner with PNNL to synthesize terephthalic acid from ethanol.
  • Gevo will partner with Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) to develop tactical aviation fuels through a photocatalytic approach.
  • ALD NanoSolutions and Johnson Matthey will partner with NREL to improve catalyst sulfur tolerance.
  • LanzaTech will partner with PNNL to enhance the quality of gasoline and fuel oil coproducts from the alcohol-to-jet process.
  • Opus 12 will partner with NREL to develop improved electrocatalysts for electrochemical carbon dioxide reduction.
  • Sironix Renewables will partner with LANL to intensify catalytic processes for producing bio-renewable surfactants.

All the projects are summarized in our Digest Multi-Slide Guide, here.

Top Cat: The Capabilities at the Labs

Here’s the detail on what each of the lab partners work on. Unfortunately, we don’t have a single TopCatTown to parallell Fightertown, as Miramar used to be known.

A national map gives it to you at-a-glance, as part of the Multi-Slide Guide. Here’s the hard data.

Controlled Surface Coatings for Catalytic Materials

Reducing catalyst deactivation and optimizing performance by the controlled deposition of thin films with desired thickness and chemical composition

Atomic layer deposition systems at Argonne National Laboratory and National Renewable Energy Laboratory provide the ability to deposit thin films with desired thickness and chemical composition onto 2- and 3-dimensional catalytic materials, including powder samples. These systems can deposit metal oxides, sulfides, selenides, and pure platinum group metals and have in situ diagnostics including quartz crystal microbalances, IR spectroscopy, and mass spectrometry. Integrated glove boxes allow for air-free handling and solid, liquid, and gas precursors are supported. Catalytic materials synthesized or modified by atomic layer deposition have shown better resistance to sintering under high temperature conditions and have shown enhanced performance by tailoring the active site for the reaction of interest.

National Laboratories: Argonne National Laboratory, National Renewable Energy Laboratory

Catalytic Membrane Synthesis

Reducing cost by combining separation and reaction into tubular catalytic membrane systems

Catalytic membrane systems developed at Oak Ridge National Laboratory are based on flexible, commercially viable inorganic membrane technology (metallic and/or ceramic) with deposited catalytic nanoparticles or surface coatings. These catalytic materials include zeolites, perovskites, metal carbides and nitrides, and metals/alloys. This scalable platform is capable of operating under high temperature, high pressure, and corrosive conditions and can be fabricated in tubular architectures, making it an ideal membrane reactor system for both thermochemical and biochemical biomass conversion applications.

National Laboratory: Oak Ridge National Laboratory

High-Throughput Synthesis and Evaluation of Catalytic Materials

Reducing the time required to develop advanced catalyst materials by reducing scale and employing robotic systems

High-throughput laboratories at Argonne National Laboratory and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory leverage integrated systems and robotics to rapidly prepare, test, and analyze catalytic materials on a small scale with tests performed in parallel to obtain replicates and improve data confidence. Compared to conventional systems, these high-throughput labs can reduce the time for catalyst synthesis and evaluation by up to 75%. The capabilities of these labs include:

  • Synthesis systems for preparing catalysts covering a wide range of composition space that allow for solid and liquid handling, viscous liquid and slurry pipetting, sample filtration and washing, pH monitoring, sample heating with stirring, and sample vial capping and uncapping.
  • Screening systems utilizing customizable batch and fixed-bed flow reactors for both gas phase and liquid phase reactions with automated sampling and sample analysis using gas chromatography and mass spectrometry. These systems are able to obtain reaction kinetics and can be operated over a wide range of process conditions relevant to biomass conversion, including pyrolysis bio-oil stabilization, hydrothermal processing, and synthesis gas upgrading.

National Laboratories: Argonne National Laboratory, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Advanced Catalytic Materials Scale-Up

Reducing the risk associated with the commercialization of new materials by linking the discovery of advanced catalysts with market evaluation and high-volume manufacturing

The primary objective of the Materials Engineering Research Facility at Argonne National Laboratory is to enable rapid validation, to shorten the development cycle for advanced materials, and to provide production-ready processes for the manufacture of advanced materials. This includes providing a systematic engineering research approach for the:

  • Development and specification of process conditions (at staged scale-up) for the production of bulk quantities of materials, which will enable scale-up and confirmation of accurate process costs and models
  • Production of large volume quantities of materials for performance validation and market evaluation of those materials
  • Identification, qualification, and specification of residual contamination limits on material purity and evaluation of their influence on performance
  • Evaluation and validation of emerging manufacturing technologies for the production of the proposed materials.

National Laboratory: Argonne National Laboratory

Advanced Catalytic Materials Synthesis

Accelerating catalyst development by establishing synthetic strategies to access targeted catalyst structures, providing control over composition, crystal phase, size, morphology, and active site characteristics

Advanced catalyst synthesis, paired with detailed characterization and testing, is a key component to catalyst research and development. Our diverse team of inorganic synthetic chemists, materials scientists and engineers, and chemical engineers offers expertise in the development of novel catalytic materials and engineered catalysts and supports. Our core capabilities range from tailoring the active site on the sub-Angstrom scale to controlling catalyst morphology at the nanometer scale to fabricating engineered catalyst particles at the micrometer-to-millimeter scale to designing hybrid enzyme-mimetic materials, and span a wide-range of materials and synthetic techniques:

  • Metal oxide nanoparticles through combustion techniques
  • Engineered metal oxide particles through gelation methods and structured mesoporous metal oxides through templating methods
  • Metal carbide and nitride catalysts through solid-gas reactions, including synthesis of supported nano-carbides and nano-nitrides
  • Zeolite synthesis with subsequent metal ion-exchange
  • Thermally and chemically robust Metal-Organic Frameworks (MOF) with tunable pore sizes and catalytically active centers comprised of earth abundant elements. These materials can be infiltrated with nanoparticles and dopants to tailor reactivity.
  • Solution-phase nanoparticle syntheses of metals, metal alloys, and metal phosphides
  • Functionalization of oxide materials and ligand exchange for metal and semiconductor nanomaterials
  • Soft chemical routes for the production of nanostructured hybrid materials made up of porous silicates, zeolites, perovskites, and other layered oxides that achieve enzyme-like reactivity while retaining the durability of conventional heterogeneous catalysts.

National Laboratories: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Los Alamos National Laboratory, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Sandia National Laboratories

The Bottom Line

Cool projects, and for the participants it’s up or out. As the movie put it:

Maverick: I feel the need…
Goose: …the need for speed!

Categories: Today's News

Top Cat: The Digest’s 2017 Multi-Slide Guide to ChemCatBio’s progress and projects

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 10/04/2017 - 11:30am

ChemCatBio is a research and development consortium dedicated to identifying and overcoming catalysis challenges for biomass conversion processes. Led by U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) national laboratories, we work with industry to rapidly transition R&D discoveries into commercial processes and grow the bioeconomy in the United States.

Current research encompasses the following five themes:

  • Upgrading of synthesis gas and synthesis gas-derived intermediates
  • Catalytic fast pyrolysis
  • Hydroprocessing of fast pyrolysis and catalytic fast pyrolysis bio-oils
  • Upgrading biogenic carbon in aqueous waste streams
  • Upgrading of lignin, carbohydrates, and other biologically derived intermediates

Here below is an amalgamation of the $4.3 million in new awards for industry-led ChemCatBio projects and an overview of the consortium’s locations and rationale — an illuminating look at the group’s progress and promise.

Categories: Today's News

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