The “World’s Largest Urban Farm and Research Test Facility” is studying a wide variety of new feedstocks that hold promise for future sources of both ethanol and biodiesel.
Agricenter International recently offered a closer look at the new crops being grown there by the Memphis Bioworks Foundation AgBioworks program and BioDimensions, Inc. Among the crops that were planted this season were sweet sorghum (pictured), switchgrass, castor, pearl millet and sunflowers.
“Our intent with hosting this new crops field day was to educate people on the opportunities for these crops in the region by inviting a range of speakers to talk about crops from the field to the factory and also showcase these crops in the field, “ says Hillary Spain, AgBioworks 25Farmer Network Coordinator.
Spain says about 50 farmers and other interested individuals from throughout the region attended the field day on August 15 to learn about each crop, ask questions and see the crop under actual growing conditions in the field.
Saying it is on a path less taken, a Houston, Texas company is looking for alternatives to alternative energy.
To that end, Biotricity Corporation has announced through this press release poster on Reuters.com that it is pursuing a strategy to make energy out of biomass:
Biotricity’s technology can take raw waste products such as sawdust, wood chips, corn stover or begasse and convert them directly into electricity. Our feedstocks are abundant and cheap, and our estimated future cash flow compared to capital costs exhibits a far superior return on capital invested. By keeping our feedstock costs relatively low, we plan to produce green power faster and
cheaper than our competitors.
“At Biotricity, we believe America needs practical solutions to generating its energy at home in order to reduce our enormous dependence on foreign imports,” stated Tyson Rohde, CEO. “Many ethanol and biodiesel processes make for an interesting story, but often don’t make sense with current economic conditions,” he added. Biotricity has developed a new combustion technology for the burning of woody biomass to generate electricity to address America’s growing demand for green power. Biotricity will generate green power from renewable energy sources and expects to reduce carbon emissions that would otherwise result from the natural decay of the biomass it burns.
Biotricity is also touting its proprietary Biotricity Power Generator that makes electricity from biomass.
A Missouri plant that turns agricultural waste products into fuel pellets is the first to receive a payment from the USDA’s Farm Service Agency’s new Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP).
This USDA press release says the Show Me Energy Cooperative of Missouri conversion facility will get the funds aimed at paying producers for biomass materials for collection, harvest, storage and transportation:
“As the Obama Administration continues laying the foundation for a stronger, revitalized economy, biomass has great potential to create new, green jobs for American workers,” said Vilsack. “Biomass also has important environmental benefits to produce cleaner energy and reduce greenhouse gases.”
“Show Me Energy completed an agreement soon after our July 29th announcement and had biomass producers waiting,” said FSA Administrator Jonathan Coppess. “Agriculture Secretary Vilsack had a chance to see first hand the company’s successful operation during a recent visit to Missouri. He was impressed and excited about the opportunities that BCAP presents for agriculture, the
environment and the nation.”
According to Show Me Energy Cooperative CEO Kurt Herman, “Our plant produces fuel pellets from agricultural waste products, but could expand to produce cellulosic liquid fuels.”
The pellets, made from switchgrass, straw, corn stover, sawdust, woodchips and other biomass materials from more than 500 producers, will be used to heat homes and livestock facilities. It’s being tested at a power plant to see if it could supplement coal for electrical production.
FSA is urging other biomass conversion facility operators are encourage to sign agreements to get the same funds themeselves. MOre information is available at www.fsa.usda.gov.
Federal officials have handed out $4.2 million in grants for projects that will reduce the fuel for forest fires, while creating a green fuel source.
Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack says the grants to 17 small businesses and community groups will encourage development of woody biomass into fuel:
“By harnessing the full potential of woody biomass, America’s forests can produce renewable energy and new products and we can create new, green job opportunities for local workers,” Vilsack said. “These grants will help restore our forests by reducing hazardous fuels, handling insect and disease conditions, and treating forests impacted by catastrophic weather while creating markets for small-diameter material and low-valued trees removed from these areas.”
These funds are targeted to help communities, entrepreneurs, and others turn residues into marketable forest products and green energy. The Forest Service Woody Biomass Utilization grant program has been in effect since 2005 and has provided over $26.3 million towards various projects, ranging from biomass boilers for schools and prisons, to helping businesses acquire equipment that improves processing efficiencies. During this time period, 110 grants have been awarded to small businesses, non-profits, tribes and local state agencies to improve forest health, while creating jobs, green energy and healthy communities.
You can see the complete list of grant recipients here.
The Obama administration’s Rural Tour last week highlighted the Show Me Energy Cooperative in Missouri as an example of how crop residue can be used to create energy.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says the biomass facility is taking wood, corn stalks and other crop residue and converting it into pellets that can be used to produce energy or a substitute for propane on the farm.
“We have seen plants like this one that are using it as a substitute for propane, we have seen plants that are in the process of trying to use corn cobs for producing anhydrous ammonia,” Vilsack said. “It is continually amazing to me how innovative this country is and how innovative rural America is and can be with a little bit of incentive.”
Vilsack says the small plant costs about $8 million to replicate. “It takes crop residue from about a 50-100 mile radius, creates a new market for farmers, an opportunity for them to increase their bottom line, and at the same time, a chance for a local utility to meet its renewable energy portfolio standard requirements.”
Earlier in the week, Vilsack took the Rural Tour to his home state of Iowa where he served as governor for eight years. During an interview with the Des Moines Register, Vilsack discussed a variety of topics, including ethanol. The secretary stressed the need for higher ethanol blends and more FFVs. “This is a supply issue. What we need are more vehicles that have flex-fuel capability (to use up to 85 percent ethanol), more retail stations with blender pumps that allow the motorist to adjust to the blend they want.”
The Administration’s Rural Tour has been traveling around the country since June.
Bioengineering firm Joule Biotechnologies of Massachusetts recently unveiled a new technology that uses sunlight to directly convert carbon dioxide into ethanol. The process, called Helioculture™, produces what the company is calling SolarFuel™ liquid energy.
According to Joule, the conversion requires no agricultural land or fresh water, and leverages a highly scalable system capable of producing more than 20,000 gallons of renewable ethanol or hydrocarbons per acre annually.
“There is no question that viable, renewable fuels are vitally important, both for economic and environmental reasons. And while many novel approaches have been explored, none has been able to clear the roadblocks caused by high production costs, environmental burden and lack of real scale,” said Bill Sims, president and CEO of Joule Biotechnologies. “Joule was created for the very purpose of eliminating these roadblocks with the best equation of biotechnology, engineering, scalability and pricing to finally make renewable fuel a reality—all while helping the environment by reducing global CO2 emissions.”
Read more here.
A Maryland-based biotech/biofuel company is working on the development of a portable biofuel production system called “Follow the Crop.”
Atlantic Biomass Conversions president Bob Kozak recently explained the concept to Congressman Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD 6th) at his Go Green Energy Expo in Frederick, Maryland. According to Kozak, instead of bringing biomass to biorefineries, the bioconversion technology will go to the crops.
Following the model of combines that follow the harvest season, “Follow-the-Crop” modules will be deployed nationwide as energy grasses and crops are harvested.
These modules will convert biomass into high density biofuel intermediates, such as highly concentrated sugars, using the Atlanitc Biomass fast, low-cost enzyme system.
By creating a viable market for environmentally suitable “energy” grasses and agricultural residues grown in stands as small as 10 acres, the deployment of this system would improve the income of small and medium growers. This positive impact would greatly help rural economies throughout the country.
Read more about it here on the Atlantic Biomass Conversions website.
BBI International recently completed a county-wide biomass assessment and economic feasibility sponsored by The Agricultural Utilization Research Institute. The report is now available on the AURI website.
The report, authored by BBI in the fall of 2008 through spring of 2009, intended to define the amount of economically available biomass available in the county as well as explore the financial viability of several different conversion technologies.
Aitkin County is a unique geographical location in Minnesota. The 1,995-square- mile county is a transition zone that forms the northern border of the corn/soybean/wheat region of the state and the southern border of the heavily forested northern region of the state. The area is predominantly deciduous forests, wetlands and grasslands.
Ross Wagner, Aitkin County economic development & forest industry coordinator said, “We felt we had an economically viable biomass resource, but it was all based on anecdotal evidence. Until we could quantify what we actually had, any discussions of a project would be just talk.”
The report will now be used by the Aitkin County Economic Development agency as they work to leverage the abundant biomass supply in their county for economic growth and jobs.
Innovative waste company Fiberight is on the move. Relatively quiet over the past few years as they perfected their waste-to-fuel technology, they are now ready to showcase their enhanced fiber separation technology (EFST). The company is building ‘mini mills’ next to landfills in order to be close to their feedstock: garbage. This reduces their feedstock transportation costs. In addition, the ethanol produced will also be transported localy; another way to keep costs down. For several years, the company has been developing technology that sorts and transforms (aka recycles) trash into cellulosic fibers which are then converted to biofuels.
The chemicals and enzymes that that are used in the process to convert the cellulosic fibers to sugar are also “recycled” and its transformational system divides organic and inorganic wastes and converts then according to type. For example, cardboard is sorted with other cardboard.
As reported by Ethanol Producer Magazine, Fiberight CEO Craig Stuart Paul said, “We have a team that comes largely from the waste management recycling industries and biofuel engineering industries, and we’ve really taken the approach that we believe there is an existing infrastructure in waste management. In other words, a collection infrastructure we can intercept.”
Stuart-Paul continued, “Fundamentally there is more energy in the waste stream than there is in lignocellulosic streams that is easier, if you get things right, to extract. We take a series of waste streams of industrial scrap through commercial dry waste—such as office building waste, and MSW—and we separate and sequester the organic and inorganic fractions. Then in all of the inorganic fractions, we separate the hydrocarbons and the recyclables and the stuff we send off to landfills. The organic fractions we convert to cellulosic ethanol.”
Last week, Fiberight announced a research partnership with CleanTech Biofuels in order to gain third party validation of their reported yields and costs associated with their waste-to-fuel technology.
With the slurry of marriages and divorces in the biofuels and biomass industry, it is hard to keep up. In the municipal sold waste arena, CleanTech Biofuels has announced a joint research agreement with Fiberight to establish, “the anticipated yields and operating costs from using biomass produced by CleanTech Biofuels for the production of ethanol using Fiberight’s proprietary enzymatic processes.” Under this agreement, CleanTech will provide around 2,000 lbs of biomass feedstock derived from Chicago’s municipal solid waste to use in Fiberight’s conversion technology. CleanTech Biofuels is a company focused on developing technology to convert municipal solid waste into biomass to be used to produce biofuels such as ethanol.
According to Fiberight CEO, Craig Stuart-Paul, preliminary tests using the CleanTech biomass in the Fiberight system have been encouraging, with anticipated ethanol yields in excess of 80 gallons per ton of biomass used. Earlier successes point to solid waste as a viable feedstock to produce ethanol.
Ed Hennessy, CEO of CleanTech said of the agreement, “This research agreement with Fiberight is another step towards validating the use of our biomass as a feedstock for energy production. Our combined technologies are capable of turning the garbage from our communities into clean renewable energy. In a market where energy demand continues to grow and the cost of handling waste continues to increase, CleanTech is ideally situated to bring its technology to municipalities, solid waste haulers, operators of landfills, and materials recovery facilities.”
CleanTech’s biomass technologies are available for cities, solid waste haulers and landfill operators to produce renewable energy including electricity production and biofuel production.
A new report from the USDA says that farmers and ranchers could turn manure into energy without taking too much of it out of the fertilizer market.
This story from Biomass Magazine says the report, entitled “Manure Use for Fertilizer and for Energy,” points out that turning manure into energy is really underused in this country:
Interest is growing in manure-to-energy systems, but implementation remains scarce in the United States. Anaerobic digestion and combustion are the most common processes used to obtain carbon dioxide and methane for electricity generation, the report says. Most digesters are on-farm systems at dairy and hog farms and combustion can be beneficial to fuel large power plants with poultry litter and fed cattle manure, which have higher energy and lower moisture content. Only one combustion plant operates in the U.S., using litter from 6.6 percent of turkey production. Digestion systems cover less than 3 percent of dairy cows and less than 1 percent of hogs, according to the report.
Using manure for energy won’t impose substantial constraints on manure for fertilizer supplies, the report says, because the technologies do not consume the nutrients that are beneficial for plant growth. In anaerobic digestion, the nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium remain in the effluent to be spread on fields. Digestion also eliminates odors and nearly eliminates pathogens, according to the report. Combustion plants do burn nitrogen nutrients, but leave the phosphorous and potassium in concentrated form in the ash residues. In addition, manure-to-energy projects function in markets for fertilizer and energy and will be most economical in those areas where acquisition costs of manure are lowest, the report says. In turn, manure costs will be lowest where manure is in excess supply, with the least value as fertilizer, the report said.
The report goes on to say that economics is still the big stumbling point for wider implementation. Just 91 commercial dairy farms and 17 hogs farms were using digesters to turn the manure into energy, and there are few commercial combustion plants in the U.S. But it does believe that will change if there’s more public support for such ventures.
A new report says Missouri could become a real center for wind power, biomass, biogas and other sources of renewable energy, while creating thousands of jobs and more tax revenues, especially in rural areas of the state.
This story in the St. Louis Business Journal says the Natural Resources Defense Council report points out that Missourians spend more than $18 billion a year on energy for their homes, vehicles and businesses:
That comes to $3,000 in energy costs for each person in Missouri, and most of those dollars leave the state because 84 percent of Missouri’s electricity is generated using coal, almost all of which is shipped in from Wyoming, according to the report.
Among the report’s findings:
* Wind power — 25 moderate-scale wind farms would provide thousands of construction jobs, 550 permanent construction jobs, $15 million in property tax revenue and $75 million in ongoing positive local economic impact in Missouri.
* Biofuels — Cellulosic ethanol, which is made from crop waste and nonfood plants, could create thousands of jobs, hundreds of millions of dollars of economic activity and $13,000 in annual gross income for the average Missouri corn farmer.
* Solid biomass — Replacing 20 percent of Missouri’s coal usage with locally grown biomass would create an estimated 11,000 jobs.
* Biogas — Biogas production from cattle waste would be profitable at more than 200 large-scale livestock operations in 60 Missouri counties.
“Within Missouri’s borders are vast resources of wind, land and water — all the ingredients needed for Missouri to become a national leader in new energy development, creating tens of thousands of good jobs and substantial new sources of income for farmers,” said Martin Cohen, the energy policy analyst who authored the report.
You can read the entire report here.
I reported several months ago about VIASPACE’s plans to expand the production of Giant King Grass to be used to produce advanced biofuels. VIASPACE is currently growing Giant King Grass in southern China and pursuing opportunities in other regions and countries. Today, the company announced that their Chief Executive, Dr. Carl Kukkonen, will be making several presentations at the China Agricultural University and the Biofuels and Jatropha Markets Asia conference in Jakarta, Indonesia, June 29-July 1, 2009. His presentation is entitled, “Giant King Grass: An Energy Crop for Cellulosic Biofuels and Electric Power Plants.”
VIASPACE is developing the technology to create “grassoline” through the production of a fast-growing feedstock called Giant King Grass. This feedstock is able to produce low-carbon cellulosic biofuels as well as can be used as a replacement for coal at the heat source for electricity generating power plants.
According to Kukkonen, “In addition to biofuels, another near-term use of biomass such as Giant King Grass is to simply burn it, instead of coal or oil, in an electricity generating power plant. An existing coal fired power plant can replace up to 30% of its coal with biomass. Co-firing grass with coal can be accomplished by a straightforward modification of existing power plants, which does not require the large capital expense of building a new power plant. This is probably the simplest and cheapest way to reduce net carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants. However, new 100% biomass-dedicated power plants are also being built, as there are long-term operating and environmental benefits for biomass power plants, compared to coal-burning plants.”
A detailed article about the process was included in the latest edition of Scientific American magazine. The article’s authors believe that cellulosic biofuels are the most environmentally attractive and technologically feasible near-term alternative to oil and possess advantages, in contrast to first-generation biofuels from corn and other edible feedstock.
Burning deadfalls and brush in your stove or in your car might be a better option than having that same forest waste burn down your home.
One of the issues that the national forests and park lands run into each year is what to do with the fallen trees and underbrush that contribute to forest fires that threaten surrounding communities and the forest itself. While a certain amount of that material is needed to replenish the soil in the forests, too much of it leads to devastating forest fires (although I’m sure there’s another line of debate on how devastating or for whom).
Biomass Magazine reports the U.S. Department of Interior is investing $15 million of the stimulus bill into 55 projects in 12 states to reduce those hazardous fuels on federal lands that will protect at-risk communities while supporting local efforts to produce fuel (and jobs) from the biomass gathered:
The final selection criteria ensured project planning and environmental compliance work was complete or substantially complete and that projects have the potential to provide additional economic benefits to support local or regional employment through post-treatment use of biomass in wood products or power generation.
California and its large amount of trees is getting the biggest amount of funding at $3.3 million. Not surprisingly, Montana and Arizona, states with large forests as well, picked up the next biggest amounts at $2 million and $1.3 million, respectively.
You can see the complete list of projects and awards by state at this Interior Web site.
Solazyme, Inc., a company that develops technologies for renewable oil production, is in the process of testing sugars that are produced through a patented process designed by BlueFire Ethanol Fuels, Inc. The goal of the technology is to test the compatibility with Solazyme’s renewable oil process to produce the oil cost effectively and at commercial scale production. The sugars used in the process are produced through non-food cellulosic waste.
Arnold Klann, CEO of BlueFire Ethanol Fuels forecasts great results. “Our technologies are a great fit for each other,” he said. “Our patented acid hydrolysis process allows BlueFire Ethanol to utilize a variety of non-food feedstocks to produce sugars that can be used to make a variety of different types of fuels and chemicals. Supplying these low cost sugars to Solazyme’s technology provides them with the option of creating a variety of oils for the renewable energy industry and beyond.”
BlueFire Ethanol is currently focused on developing its first ethanol biorefinery in Lancaster, California. The Lancaster facility will use post-sorted cellulosic wastes diverted from landfills in Southern California to produce 3.9 million gallons of fuel-grade ethanol per year. The company was also awarded $40 million from the U.S. Department of Energy for construction of a second plant in Southern California, and has received the first installment of funding from the DOE for the development of the BlueFire Mecca, LLC plant in Southern California.
In addition to the production of renewable oil, Solazyme is also a leading algal synthetic biology company. The renewable oil produced from algae will not only be used as a replacement for fossil fuels, but also in cosmetics and cleaning supplies that have traditionaly used petroleum as an ingredient.