Researchers at Rice University are finding more uses for the glut of glycerin brought about by the rise in popularity of biodiesel.
A story from the school says the researchers have found a way to use E. coli and other bacteria to turn glycerin into chemicals formate, succinate and other valuable organic acids. The article says the work is being featured in the journal Metabolic Engineering:
“Biodiesel producers used to sell their leftover glycerin, but the rapid increase in biodiesel production has left them paying to get rid of it,” said lead researcher Ramon Gonzalez, Rice’s William W. Akers Assistant Professor in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. “The new metabolic pathways we have uncovered paved the way for the development of new technologies for converting this waste product into high-value chemicals.”
About one pound of glycerin, also known as glycerol, is created for every 10 pounds of biodiesel produced. According to the National Biodiesel Board, U.S. companies produced about 450 million gallons of biodiesel in 2007, and about 60 new plants with a production capacity of 1.2 billion gallons are slated to open by 2010.
A year ago, this same team of Rice researchers found a way to convert glycerin into ethanol… at a cost of only about 40 percent of getting the green fuel from corn. This latest discovery is expected to help the bottom line of biodiesel producers.
Regulators have given Iowa-based Renewable Energy Group (REG) the green light for finalizing its buy of a U.S. Biodiesel plant in Houston, Texas.
This article from the Central Valley Business Times says REG will start producing biodiesel on July 7th:
The REG Houston facility could produce 35 million gallons per year it it runs at, or near, full capacity, the company says.
Under the contract, REG will manage production operations and ensure the finished biodiesel exceeds ASTM quality specifications. Soybean oil is expected to be the primary feedstock under the agreement.
The facility includes an on-site laboratory, raw material and finished product storage as well as truck, rail, deepwater and pipeline access.
All former U.S. Biodiesel Group employees at the Houston facility will remain on the job as REG staff.
An interesting piece was posted on the AgWeb.com web site that I thought made a pretty good argument in the food-versus-fuel debate.
Greg Anderson, a family farmer who grows soybeans near Newman Grove, Nebraska (and serves as an ex-officio member of the United Soybean Board Executive Committee) makes some pretty strong arguments that there is not a great food shortage brought on by the rise in popularity of biodiesel:
Historically, surplus soybean oil supplies dragged down the overall price of soybeans. There was, and still is, plenty of soybean oil for meeting the demands of food production. But the surplus needed to be utilized. That’s why the soybean checkoff helped develop the U.S. biodiesel industry through research funding to find new uses for soybean oil. One of those uses was soy biodiesel. Over time, the industry grew and provided great new opportunities for U.S. soybean farmers, not to mention increased energy security and environmental benefits for us all. This helped boost demand for soybeans, but not at the risk of sacrificing food use.
So where is the soybean oil going? Continue reading
City vehicles in Jacksonville, Florida’s will be running more and more on biodiesel… and the green fuel will help clean up the city’s waste.
This story from the Jacksonville Business Journal says the city is making 100 percent biodiesel at its fuel depot and mixing it to B20 to run in its diesel-powered vehicles:
Fleet management picks up used cooking oil from Naval Station Mayport, The Avenues and Orange Park malls and two Hooter’s restaurants in Jacksonville. The Avenues mall operations manager, Jim Leitner, said the free exchange is working well. The city provided stainless steel tanks about a year ago and has a weekly collection service.
When the division can accurately gauge its weekly B100 production capacity, it can begin signing on other restaurants for the service. Division Chief Sam Houston said the program will be “big business — important, steady business” for the city.
The city has invested about $68,000 in the plant, mostly on equipment, since it opened a year ago. Erik Preacher, who’s in charge of inventory control and financial administration for fleet management, estimates that the plant will pay for itself within the first few months of full operation.
The money the city could save is substantial. B100 costs about $4 a gallon on the market but only about $1.50 a gallon to make. Considering that Jacksonville was already purchasing about 80,000 gallons a year in biodiesel and the city uses two million gallons of diesel a year (which could be replaced by the cheaper, home-brewed fuel), you could see how the savings would add up. Now while I’m not sure that there is enough used cooking oil to make up the two million gallons of petroleum diesel, this project is certainly a step in the right direction.
Sixty days after it left port in Sagunto, Spain… and 14 days ahead of the previous world record… the 100 percent biodiesel-powered boat, Earthrace, has finished circling the globe faster than any other boat ever has before.
This update comes from the Earthrace’s web site:
Sagunto, Spain, 27 June 2008, 13.24 GMT: Earthrace, the world’s fastest eco-boat, has smashed the world speed record for a powerboat to circumnavigate the globe, knocking almost 14 days off the previous record.
The boat crossed the finish line in Sagunto at 13.42 GMT on Friday 27 June having travelled around 24,000 nautical miles fuelled by biodiesel to demonstrate and draw global attention to the potential for alternative fuel sources.
“This fantastic team of people and our astonishing boat have broken the record by a massive margin, said Pete Bethune, New Zealand skipper and owner of Earthrace, “I finally feel that all the sacrifices made, especially by my wife and daughters, have been worth it. I don’t even know how to begin to thank all the individuals and companies that have supported us along the way, some of them since the very beginning over five years ago. Without them, none of this would have been possible”
While it is the end of this world-record ride, it’s not necessarily the end of the road for the Earthrace. The boat and crew will start a two-year promotional tour, visiting Europe, the Caribbean, US and Australia, before returning home to New Zealand.
While big wind farms are part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s plan to have wind power make up 20 percent of the nation’s energy supply by 2030. But at least one small wind power generator is saying, “Don’t forget about the little guys.”
A press release from Kentucky-based Wind Energy Corporation, which uses a unique sail-like design (pictured right) for its wind turbines that is more friendly to birds and bats, says the company’s CEO, James R. Fugitte, says the DOE’s “20 Percent Wind Energy by 2030″ report puts too much focus on large-scale wind farms, new transmission lines and an overall major expansion of the electricity grid system in the U.S.:
“Utility-scale electricity, whether provided by fossil fuels or renewable sources like wind and solar, is not the sole answer to what ails us,” said Fugitte. “The best way for communities, institutions and commercial enterprises to mitigate rising fuel costs is to invest in on-site renewable energy generation assets that can work in conjunction with their traditional sources of power. On-site ownership also greatly accelerates attention to conservation.”
Wind Energy Corporation is a pioneer in the untapped commercial and community distributive energy market. “Distributive” means providing power directly to, and under the control of, consumers and businesses. While the government is focused solely on large wind farms designed to sell electricity into the overtaxed national power grid, Wind Energy Corporation is bringing an alternative wind energy solution to the marketplace. Continue reading
One of the nation’s largest power companies has added to its wind energy holdings. Charlotte, North Carolina-based Duke Energy has spent $240 million to acquire Vermont-based wind energy company Catamount Energy Corp.
This Reuters story has more:
Catamount has about 300 megawatts of renewable energy in operation, as well as about 1,750 megawatts of development interest in the United States and the United Kingdom.
Duke said the deal price does not include $80 million of assumed debt.
Duke bought Tierra Energy, a leading wind developer in Texas, in May 2007.
It said that combining Catamount with Tierra will result in an entity with more than 5,000 megawatts of wind energy under development in 12 states and about 500 megawatts of operating assets by the end of 2008.
A North Dakota commission is recommending that ethanol, biodiesel and wind play a larger role in that state’s energy future.
The Dickinson (ND) Press reports that the state’s EmPower Commission has issued 10 major goals with renewable fuels at the forefront. Here are some of the goals:
*Support the nation’s 25X25 Initiative to derive at least 25 percent of all energy produced from renewable sources by 2025.
*Increase installed capacity of wind generation to 1,500 megawatts by 2020.
*Produce 450 million gallons of ethanol by 2011 and develop both in-state and out-of-state markets for ethanol and associated byproducts.
*Build new biodiesel plants in North Dakota to produce 135 million gallons by 2015.
The commission, created by the state legislature last year, has worked for the last 10 months to come up with these recommendations and suggestions that also deal with conventional energy sources in North Dakota.
Over the next five years, Tuscon, Arizona will be buying more biodiesel buses for the city’s public transportation system.
This story from the Arizona Daily Star says Sun Tran, Tuscon’s bus system, is increasing the number of biodiesel buses… even as the green fuel already goes into a majority of the buses:
The transit system has a contract to expand its fleet of buses running on biodiesel, which already makes up about 56 percent of the buses on our streets. The other 44 percent of the buses run on CNG, said Michele Joseph, spokeswoman for Sun Tran.
Sun Tran plans to buy an additional 119 biodiesel buses over its five-year contract with bus manufacturer Gillig Corp. The buses are also capable of running on regular diesel, but Sun Tran does not use regular diesel in any of its buses.
Sun Tran uses B20 and B5 biodiesel blends in its 114 biodiesel buses.
The article points out that the new biodiesel buses are replacing an even cleaner-burning fuel, compressed natural gas (CNG). But the problem with CNG is that the city would need a new CNG fueling station… a costly proposition at this point. In addition, CNG-fueled buses have to refuel more often.
The amount of biofuels being produced in the world will double between 2010 and 2030… and that represents a significant increase from previous U.S. government estimates of how much ethanol and biodiesel will be produced in the future.
This story from Reuters says a report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration says biofuels will be “an increasingly important source” of global energy supplies over the next two decades:
Global biofuels production will rise from 1.3 million barrels per day in 2010 to 2.7 million bpd in 2030, with the United States accounting for almost half that growth, EIA said in its new long-term forecast.
The forecast marks a big jump from the EIA’s previous estimate of 1.7 million bpd of biofuels production by 2030.
The boost will help renewable fuels take up about 8.5 percent of global energy use by 2030, up from about 7.7 percent in 2005, the EIA said.
The report goes on to say that U.S. biofuels output will grow from half a million barrels each day in 2010 to 1.2 million barrels each day in 2030.
A group of junior high students from Boise, Idaho has won first place in the National Fuel Cell Competition at the 2008 National Middle School Science Bowl in Golden, Colo.
This story from KBCI-TV in Boise says it was a good chance for the students to learn… and the sponsoring U.S. Department of Energy to get some new ideas:
“Each team started out with their motor and this fuel cell,” said eighth grader, Alex Baca, one of the master minds behind the design of the car. “And it was up to you to design some kind of car.”
Five students from the Treasure Valley Math and Science Center at Riverglen Junior High school are bringing home the overall first place trophy in the National Alternative Fuel Cell Competition for their little hydrogen cell vehicle.
“This year we got a monster trophy, so we can show everybody this is what we did and this is what we got,” said Eddie Smith, an eighth grader on the team.
The US Department of Energy sponsored this week’s National Middle School Science Bowl in Colorado, all in search, for creative ideas when it comes to researching alternative fuels.
One of the students’ mentors said while hydrogen may or may not be the answer to the nation’s energy problems… but they won’t know if it is the answer until they ask questions like this.
On May 25th, 2008, an F5 tornado ripped through the town of Parkersburg, Iowa… killing six people and practically wiping out the small town in Northeast Iowa. Now, with some help from biodiesel, the town is rebuilding.
This story from Biodiesel Magazine says the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association and the Ames, Iowa-based Renewable Energy Group Inc. have announced a $10,000 donation toward the purchase of biodiesel to aid the recovery effort. And that has turned into a statewide money-raising effort:
“The idea was to round the price of diesel up to $5 a gallon and ask people if they would like to donate just a gallon,” an REG representative told Biodiesel Magazine. “We have been overwhelmed by the participation in this fundraising activity.”
KCPS Radio in West Burlington, Iowa, donated $1,000 accumulated from listeners, and although the deadline for helping to purchase biodiesel has passed, persistence to help continues. “My sidekick and I raised the money from our listeners in just one week,” said Chip Giannettino, KCPS station owner and morning show host. “In fact, we’ll exceed $1,000 as donations are still drifting in.”
Western Dubuque Biodiesel in Farley, Iowa; and Central Iowa Energy in Newton, Iowa joined REG and the IRFA in making addiitonal $500 donations. GATX Rail and the Iowa Biodiesel Board were also noted donators among dozens of others.
Electric utility giant Consolidated Edison… Con Ed as it is affectionately known… announced today it will run more biodiesel in its vehicles.
This company press release from the utility giant serving more than three million customers in the New York City area has more:
Con Edison’s fleet of approximately 1,700 diesel trucks is using cleaner-burning B-20 biodiesel fuel, 20 percent of which is derived from soybeans. The soy-based portion of the fuel is a renewable resource that will help the company offset almost 400,000 gallons of petroleum per year. Newer diesel vehicles also will be equipped with special exhaust filters for even cleaner tailpipe emissions.
“Whether reducing greenhouse gas emissions from our own facilities, or promoting ‘green’ alternatives and energy savings tips with our customers, Con Edison has been a recognized industry leader in advocating for a cleaner, safer planet,” said Randolph S. Price, vice president for Environment, Health and Safety. “We are committed to mitigating climate change, and will continue to embrace new technologies and progressive corporate policies that embody our pursuit of environmental excellence.”
The story goes on to say that Con Ed is replacing 50 of its smaller vehicles with hybrids this year and working on the development of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles.
Soybean growers say their crop is being unfairly maligned in the Food-versus-Fuel debate. Members of the United Soybean Board gathered in Indianapolis, Indiana this week, and part of what they are discussing is how to counter arguments supporting that viewpoint.
Gary Truitt’s Hoosier Ag Today has more details from the meeting:
During the discussion, there was considerable debate on how the soybean industry should respond to the Food vs. Fuel issue. Karen Fear from Montpelier, IN, said soy-biodiesel is being unfairly criticized, “We need to get the word out so that people back this more.” Jack Reed from Washington County said the soybean is a perfect example of how farmers can produce both food and fuel, “When you take the oil out of the soybean you will have 80% of the soybean left which is meal.” From that meal, you can make livestock feed and a variety of human food needs. Reed said it is not an either or situation.
Indiana USB representative Jim Schriver said, unlike ethanol, very little of soybean production is going into fuel production, “Only about 2% of our soybean production goes into fuel production.” He said the real issue is the price of oil. Not only is the high price of oil causing energy prices to rise, but it has caused a dramatic increase in soybean oil demand.
The story goes on to point out how this country is trying to find an alternative to outrageously high-priced petroleum… and soybean oil is a viable alternative. In addition, farmers are large users of energy, so why shouldn’t they be producing some of what they are using. Amen to that!
The government wants to know more about the biodiesel production operations in this country.
This story from Biodiesel Magazine says the U.S. Energy Information Administration wants a mandatory biodiesel survey. The information would be gathered in compliance with the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which directed collection of information on biofuels:
The survey would collect data on biodiesel and coproduct production, sales and tax credits, and feedstocks. “The survey is given to all registered biodiesel producers,” said Marie LaRiviere, Energy Information Administration spokeswoman.
The survey would be the first of its kind, although similar information has been gathered by the EIA in the past. “EIA has, in the past, estimated some of the data we will be collecting based on, among other things, program reports collected by the [USDA] Commodity Credit Corporation,” LaRiviere said, who added that the CCC program ended in 2005. “This survey will provide a more complete statistical picture of the biodiesel industry and provide it on a regular monthly basis.”
In addiition, the agency is also looking to collect historical data for a one-time supplement.