A new coal to liquids plant has gone online in China that is expected to produce the equivalent of 80 barrels of oil per day. China Petroleum & Chemical Corporation, one of the largest crude oil and petrochemical companies in China and Asia, along with Tulsa, Oklahoma-based Syntroleum Corporation celebrated the grand opening of the Sinopec/Syntroleum Demonstration Facility (SDF) today in Zhenhai, China. The process uses the Syntroleum-Sinopec Fischer Tropsch technology and is able to convert coal, asphalt and petroleum coke to synthetic petrochemical products.
The two companies entered into a technology transfer agreement in 2009 and as part of the deal, Sinopec relocated its natural gas fed Catoosa Demonstration Facility to the Zhenhai Refining and Petrochemical Complex. Upon success at demonstration scale, Sinopec plans to build a commercial scale plant.
“We are pleased to be working with Sinopec on the SDF,” said Gary Roth, President and Chief Executive Officer of Syntroleum. “This facility will make a significant contribution to the global endeavor to pursue alternative feedstocks for growing economies.”
The Big Green Bus rolled into Dallas last week and subliminally, the people in its wake couldn’t help but think about french fries. Okay, so I’m exaggerating a bit but 13 students from Darmouth College converted a Greyhound bus that runs on biodiesel and vegetable oil derived from used cooking grease.
According to an article in the Dallas Morning News, the students have discovered that although the cooking oil must be filtered four times to get rid of any water before it’s used as a fuel, running on the oil is 90 to 95 percent as efficient as biodiesel.
“We really don’t notice a difference,” said David Garczynski, who will be a senior at Dartmouth in the fall. Coincidentally, Dartmouth is the home of Next Generation Scientists for Biodiesel co-founder, Lucas Ellis.
The students are spending their summer traveling across the U.S. to spread the word about sustainability. Not only does the bus run on renewable biofuels, but it is equipped with solar panels to power the equipment inside.
During his interview, Garczynski called living on the bus with 12 others “a lesson in social dynamics” but that he couldn’t resist the opportunity to travel the country and spread the word about something he is passionate about.
The theme of the trip for consumers is that “every little thing is valid.”
You can follow the Big Green Bus Tour here.
Want to move the angle of your solar panels? Got an app for that. At the touch of an iPhone, 382 solar trackers were brought into position perpendicular with the sun marking the completion of the largest solar installation in Vermont and according to AllEarth Renewables, the largest solar installation of its kind in North America.
The 382 AllSun Trackers use GPS and wireless technology to follow the sun’s path throughout the day producing more than 40 percent more energy than fixed solar according to AllEarth Renewables. The company manufactured the technology just four miles from the site of the 2.2 megawatt solar farm.
“This project not only produces renewable energy from the sun, it creates a lot of local clean energy jobs,” said David Blittersdorf, CEO and founder of AllEarth Renewables. “We’ve innovated and refined our AllSun Tracker so it can be affordably used to power homes or businesses, and at the same time make up a utility-sized farm like this project in South Burlington.”
The solar farm will sell an estimated 2.91 million kWh of power each year to Vermont’s Sustainably Priced Energy Development (SPEED) program. This is part of the state’s Standard Offer program that was established as part of the Vermont Energy Act of 2009. Attending the ribbon cutting event was Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin, Lt. Governor Phil Scott and Speaker of the House Shap Smith. They joined nearly 75 others on hand to commemorate the solar farm.
The U.S. government may not be able to figure out how to save our country from it’s multi-trillion dollar debt, but for the second time during his administration, President Obama has increased CAFE standards or the Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards. The goal for all new cars and light duty trucks manufactured in 2025 and beyond must be at least 54.5 miles per gallon (54.5 MPG) up from the increase to 35.5 mpg goal set for 2016 that was announced in 2009. This marks the largest mandatory increase in fuel economy in the history of the country; however it is short of the original goal of 62 mpg.
During a press announcement, President Obama cited this action would save consumers money at the pump – $1.7 trillion dollars in real fuel costs over the life of the vehicle and save families an estimated $8,200 in fuel savings over the lifetime of the vehicle, relative to the Model Year 2010 standard.
The movement to better fuel economy has been caused by many factors but concerns about prices at the pump, a dwindling supply of oil and climate change have all played major roles in causing auto manufacturers to finally spend some R&D in producing cars with better fuel mileage. The leading sector in improved mileage has been electric vehicles and hybrids, a combination of an electric vehicle with a gasoline engine (and some are flex-fuel vehicles meaning they can use up to 85 percent ethanol).
So what do consumers think about this move and who do they think will get their first? In a recent poll commissioned by LeaseTrader.com, 63.6 percent of respondents believe Hyundai is best positioned to meet these standards, even before 2025. During the week of July 18-22, 1,138 drivers from across the U.S. responded. Seventy two point four percent of the respondents are in favor of the higher fuel standards, but only 34.5 percent remain supportive if it means vehicle prices will rise more than $2,000.
Other results show that 63.3 percent of those polled believe the automakers already have the technology to significantly improve fuel standard technology and 47.2 percent believe domestic carmakers can be profitable under these fuel standards.
This has definitely been a summer of solar – both in terms of oppressive heat as well as dozens upon dozens of new solar power systems going online. Recently Public Service Electric and Gas Company (PSE&G) along with the Matrix Group, commissioned a 3 megawatt (MW) solar power project in South Brunswick, New Jersey that is part of PSE&G’s Solar 4 All program, aimed at helping the state reach it solar energy goals. The 12,684 crystalline solar panels cover more than 318,000 square feet of roof space and will produce enough power for 500 homes.
“We have put more than 43 megawatts of solar capacity into service over the last 18 months, and along the way created good jobs, developed the New Jersey solar market in a cost effective way and helped the environment,” said Al Matos, PSE&G’s Vice President – Renewables and Energy Solutions. “All of this solar power flows into the grid, to provide clean solar energy to all of our electric customers.”
Over three years, Solar 4 All will develop 80 solar megawatts, enough to power 13,000 average sized homes in New Jersey. The program is structured so the financial benefits – the value of the solar credits (SRECs), federal tax credits and the sale of the solar energy and capacity– are returned to customers by offsetting the overall cost of the program. In addition the solar now powering the South Brunswick site, Matrix also hosts a 2.8MW solar system in Perth Amboy that went online in January 2011.
Richard F.X. Johnson, Partner of Matrix Renewable Energy Services added, “We are extremely proud of the partnership we’ve established with PSE&G in New Jersey, where Matrix is committed to energy-efficiency best practices at the more than 10 million square feet of commercial space that we own and manage throughout the state, as well as the buildings owned by clients of our Renewable Energy Services division,” stated Johnson. “This solar venture gives us the ability to play a significant role in expanding access to clean energy— an important step toward achieving the state’s goal of becoming a recognized leader in the renewable energy arena.”
Biofuels Digest’s debut of “The 30 Hottest Companies in Renewable Chemicals and Materials” saw the top spot go to Genomatica. This honor, however, is not the first for the company. They also received the EPA Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award for its strategy and progress in producing industrial biochemicals. The “biochemical” market is a multi-billion dollar industry and they offer better economics and a smaller ecological footprint than traditional chemicals.
“The momentum in the renewable chemicals and materials space inspired us to run the first ‘hottest’ companies competition in Biofuels Digest history,” said Biofuels Digest founder and editor Jim Lane. “The Biofuels Digest community recognized the slew of meaningful technology, production and commercialization milestones Genomatica has achieved over the past year, and the solid leadership they provide for the industry.”
So what was it about Genomatica that helped them rise to the top spot? In 2011, they had already reached demonstration-scale production in partnership with Tate & Lyle. In addition, the company has signed a strategic memorandum of understanding for sustainable chemicals in Asia with Mitsubishi Chemical. As if that isn’t enough, they have also established a partnership with Gruppo M&G for biomass-to-chemicals in Europe and signed a joint development agreement with Waste Management to convert syngas to high-value chemicals.
“The readers and panelists of Biofuels Digest represent the forefront of our industry, so we are gratified by their recognition,” said Genomatica CEO Christophe Schilling. “The hard work, passion and perseverance of every employee and partner got us to this place, so it’s nice to take a moment and feel good about what we have accomplished so far this year.”
School bus transportation is heading for a new future of fuel choices with the unveiling the Blue Bird Next Generation Propane-Powered Vision school bus that is fueled by propane autogas. The Blue Bird’s grand entrance occurred during the School Transportation News (STN) Expo at the Grand Sierra Resort in Reno, Nevada.
The propane autogas bus is built on a Blue Bird chassis and powered by a Ford 6.8-liter V-10 engine with the ROUSH CleanTech liquid propane autogas fuel system. The bus boasts 362 horsepower, 457 pounds of torque. In addition, ROUSH says the technology will reap saving reductions of 30 to 40 percent on average when compared to diesel.
“Blue Bird’s Propane-Powered Vision has been the industry leader in alternative fuel offerings since its introduction in 2007. We are committed to providing state-of-the-art, reliable and efficient green solutions that our customers want and value,” said Phil Horlock, president and CEO of Blue Bird Corporation. “In partnership with established industry leaders, Ford and ROUSH CleanTech, the introduction of Blue Bird’s Next Generation Propane-Powered Vision will reinforce our leadership position by providing increased benefits and value to our customers.”
The bus meets all EPA and California Air Resources Board requirements and its success is owed in part to the Propane Education & Research Council who helped to fund the project. This is the second collaboration between ROUSH and Blue Bird. Together they launched a Type A school bus in September 2010.
“ROUSH CleanTech is excited to partner with Blue Bird to roll out this new propane autogas technology,” added Todd Mouw, vice president of sales and marketing for ROUSH CleanTech. “Hands down, propane autogas is the right choice for school districts. Propane autogas is safe, economical and the leading alternative fuel in the United States.”
U.S. Foodservice, located in La Mirada, Californa, has activated its new rooftop solar system consisting of 5,000 DelSolar modules. The system is powerful enough to provide 16 percent of the facility’s power needs each year, or about the equivalent of powering 150 average sized homes annually. The solar system was designed and installed by California-based Stellar Solar who has a goal of installing 6 megawatts of solar energy in 2011.
“This was a very exciting project to be a part of. Working with two global leaders in DelSolar and U.S. Foodservice was a great experience,” said Kent Harle, founder and CEO of Stellar Solar. Both of those companies are walking the talk when it comes to business practices that are sustainable and have a positive effect on the bottom line. Two thousand eleven is shaping up to be our best year ever at Stellar Solar and this project played a significant part in making that happen.”
In addition to the completion of this project, the company is also in the process of installing solar systems for Salk Institute in La Jolla, Vandenberg Air Force Base, Cedars Sinai Hospital, San Diego Cardiac Center and the City of Tustin. Stellar Solar also installs residential solar power systems.
Former South Dakota Representative Stephanie Herseth Sandlin will be a keynote speaker at the upcoming American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) conference being held in Des Moines Iowa August 22-24 in the Marriott Hotel. Her speech, “Our Sons’ and Daughters’ Ethanol Industry: Adjusting to New Realities and Enlisting More Allies,” will be given at 12:15 pm CST on August 23rd.
“The former South Dakota Congresswoman is a perfect fit to speak at our conference,” said Brian Jennings, Executive Vice President of ACE. “From her service in Congress as a champion for biofuels to her experiences on her South Dakota family farm, Stephanie has a good perspective and advice on how our industry can build new and winning coalitions to ensure American biofuels are the consumer fuel of choice.
Herseth Sandlin served in Congress from 2004-2011. She currently works for the OFW law firm based in Washington, D.C. In addition to her presentation, other conference topics include exporting ethanol, the implementation of E15 fuels, how to make blender pumps a reality, the health and clean air benefits of using biofuels, and more. The full agenda and online registration is available here.
“I am excited for the opportunity to address the ACE Conference,” said Herseth Sandlin. “I view this as a great way to share experiences and ideas related to what the industry needs to do in Washington and across the country to develop new and supportive relationships. Strengthening the coalition of support for all biofuels is essential to maintaining public policy progress and capitalizing on new opportunities, especially in a world of budget pressures and challenges to economic growth.”
“I hope to continue working with ethanol advocates in a way that can help move this industry forward and sustain it for the next generation of investors, stakeholders and advocates,” concluded Herseth Sandlin.
The renewable energy and agricultural industry today sent a letter to all Members of the House of Representatives urging them to vote no against amendments that would harm the growth of the ethanol industry. The coalition says moves such as prohibiting the Environmental Protection Agency from implementing the E15 waiver would “weaken efforts to reduce our nation’s dependence on foreign oil and cost U.S. jobs.”
The letter was signed by the American Coalition for Ethanol, Advanced Ethanol Council, Growth Energy, National Corn Growers Association, National Farmers Union, National Sorghum Producers, and the Renewable Fuels Association. The letter addresses a number of “anti-ethanol” amendments including one proposed by Reps. John Sullivan (R-OK), Gary Peters (D-MI), and Michael Burgess (R-TX) that would block the legal implementation of E15. The fuel blend of 15 percent ethanol and 75 percent gasoline (E15) is the most tested fuel ever.
Ironically, calls to cut biofuel support come at a time of high debt crisis for the country. Needless to say, the same legislators who oppose biofuels are those who continue to support status quo tax credits and subsidies given to industries like oil, natural gas and coal. And one way to bring revenue to the federal government, an idea Republicans vehemently oppose, would be to close tax loop holes, some of which are helping the these same industries. Yet the biofuels industry is in a position to not only help save consumers money at the pump, but also to infuse money back into local, regional, state, and federal budgets.
As our elected officials continue to bicker on the Hill over the budget, now is a good time to urge them to make some sound policy decisions such as keeping continued support for biofuels a federal priority.
The full text of the letter is below: Continue reading
The next Ethanol Safety Seminar will be held on August 3rd, in Indianapolis, Indiana. The event is sponsored by the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) and the Greater Indiana Clean Cities. This free seminar will be offered during two sessions: 9:00 am – 2:00 pm and 5:30 pm – 10:00 pm, at the Indiana Soybean Alliance/Indiana Corn Marketing Council. Attendees will learn about proper training techniques that first responders and hazmat personnel need to understand to properly respond to any ethanol-related emergency. Although the seminar is targeted to first responders, hazmat teams, safety managers, and local emergency planning committees, the general public is also welcome. Indiana is one of the top five ethanol producing states.
“The Greater Indiana Clean Cities has worked with fleets, both public and private, for more than ten years to implement alternative fuels and advanced transportation technologies,” said Kellie Walsh, executive director of the Greater Indiana Clean Cities. “As the use of these fuels and technologies expand across Indiana, ensuring our first responders are adequately prepared to respond to incidents involving these fuels is critical. We are pleased to partner with the Renewable Fuels Association to host this training session, focusing on ethanol safety, the third such event our Coalition has hosted in the past five years.”
The training is based on materials created by the Ethanol Emergency Response Coalition (EERC) and certificates of participation will be given to those who complete the course. Areas of training include firefighting foam principles and ethanol, ethanol blended fuel emergencies and response tactics for tank farm and bulk storage emergencies.
Robert White, director of market development for RFA added, “This fuel [ethanol] is transported via rail and truck to numerous fueling and storage locations throughout the state and country. It is important first responders and plant safety personnel are prepared in case of an ethanol related emergency. We are happy to provide the information they need to respond efficiently and effectively to an incident.”
Click here to register.
I switched gears this week and spent some time learning about ways the world can feed a burgeoning population. One emerging idea is through a “vertical farm,” an idea that has been promoted by Dr. Dickson Despommier, a former professor of microbiology and public health in environmental sciences at Columbia. He recently authored, “The Vertical Farm Feeding the World in the 21st Century,” which lays out the idea of growing our food vertically in greenhouse skyscrapers, rather than spread out over hundreds of millions of acres of farmland.
This idea has really captured my fancy and got my head spinning around all the ways it could be carried out. But let me take a step back. Today, our food travels on average 1,500 miles from field to table. Crazy. Much of our produce and fruits come from places like Mexico and South America. Wouldn’t it be cool if they could come from your own city?
That is exactly what Despommier is promoting. In the middle of an urban area could be a “vertical farm” that grows produce, fruits and grains and houses things such as fish farms. These future farms would grow our food year round while the excess waste, or biomass could be used to produce bioelectricity and biofuels. In fact, Despommier says that in some cases, a vertical farm could have up to five harvests per year.
He writes that ideally, they would be cheap to build, modular, durable, easily maintained, and safe to operate. A vertical farm would mitigate external influences on crops such as too much rain or drought and disease along with the need for fertilizers, herbicides or pesticides. Vertical farms would provide well-paying jobs and improve economics. He also believes they should be independent of economic subsidies and outside support once they are up and running and they should be profitable. Continue reading
I ran into Yingli Green Energy during the InterSolar North America conference a few weeks back in San Francisco. Today Yingli Solar, the brand that the company markets its photovoltaic (PV) products under, announced that its PV modules were installed in the largest solar plant in Greece. Yes, it would be odd if a solar plant did not create its energy from solar but strangely enough this happens. The 10 megawatt (MW) utility-scale solar project is located in Larisa and is estimated to produce enough solar power to energize nearly 3,700 homes.
The project was developed by Selected Textiles S.A., a Greece-based textiles group, through its wholly owned subsidiary, Selected Energy S.A., which specializes in the development and operation of renewable energy sources projects including solar and biomass energy. The construction company was Biosar Energy S.A., also a Greece-based solar system specialist that in addition offers maintenance and management services. The project was financed on a long term, non-recourse basis from the Project Finance team of Piraeus Bank. Piraeus Bank Group is the leading bank in Greece in green business financings.
“We are pleased to cooperate with STIAFILCO and Biosar to complete the largest solar plant in Greece,” said Mr. Liansheng Miao, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Yingli Green Energy. “Because of the country’s favorable natural solar irradiance and the Greek government’s strong commitment to renewable energy, Greece is considered an important market for PV. We continue to see increasing demand for our premium-quality solar products, which further confirms our leadership position in this market.”
Synterra Energy has taken a step forward in bringing advanced biofuels to commercial scale with the merger of Pacific Renewable Fuels and Chemicals and Red Lion Bio-Energy. Synterra will now own key intellectual property and assets designed for waste biomass conversion. This announcement signals the company’s move to commercial scale production of renewable fuels, chemicals and power from waste biomass from in integrated biorefinery.
“The Red Lion thermochemical conversion system and the Pacific Renewable Fuels and Chemicals catalytic synthesis process are industry leading technologies in their own right,” said Robert Schuetzle, CEO of Synterra Energy, Inc. “The integration of our two technologies creates a seamless proprietary biomass conversion system under a single commercial provider. The resultant innovative process integration is a design that provides process efficiencies, lowers unit capital cost, reduces the risk of securing adequate feedstock supplies, and mitigates technology risk of mixing and matching multiple platforms from separate process vendors.”
Synterra was awarded a $25 million DOE grant back in 2009 to demonstrate the commercial readiness of its integrated biorefinery technologies (IBR). Shortly thereafter, the 30-barrel per day demonstration project was initiated as the third scale up of its technologies. The company says it is able to produce biofuels, bioenergy and biochemicals with less impact on the environment and higher energy efficiencies as compared to other technologies. For example, the company says its synthetic diesel is a high-quality, zero-sulfur drop-in renewable fuel that has 89 percent lower greenhouse gas emissions than petroleum derived diesel fuel.
“Synterra Energy and its legacy organizations, Pacific Renewable Fuels and Chemicals and Red Lion Bio-Energy, have recruited top technical and business veterans from the alternative energy, petrochemical, multi modal transportation and logistics, catalyst, and environmental industries with extensive experience in research, development, demonstration and commercialization of new technologies,” added Alex Johnson, the company’s Chairman. “With this talented team of professionals, Synterra’s integrated approach to process design and experience in modularization of distributed plants, we have a compelling formula for further commercial success.”
Yosemite National Park’s new 700 kW solar system is now in operation. The project was completed by Suntrek Industries and incorporates over 2,800 solar panels that are estimated to produce 800,000 kilowatt hours of energy per year. The company collaborated on the project with the National Park Service, Taylor Teter and PIA and today all were on hand to celebrate the “flip of the switch” to solar power.
Suntrek project manager Alex Smith said, “Yosemite is the jewel of our National Park system and Suntrek Industries, Inc. could not be prouder of the fact that efforts of the NPS and the solar energy teams to design and build this project went without a hitch. We designed the systems so that we could produce clean solar energy from roof tops, car ports, construction yard walls, and the façade of the building itself. This was an architecturally diverse project for everyone to admire and all the components are made in the USA.”
The majority of the solar energy produced will be used to power the maintenance facility. The building walls faced South and are also at an angle making them ideal for solar panels. However, with limited space available the solar power team needed to be creative when designing the system.
Yosemite National Park Superintendent Don Neubacher added, “This energy-saving photovoltaic project reflects Yosemite National Park’s commitment to sustainable and renewable energy sources.”