Oil giant Chevron and timber giant Weyerhaeuser are teaming up to make biofuels.
This story in the Seattle Times says the new company formed from the partnership, Catchlight Energy, will be looking to get the green fuel from cellulose and lignin:
Catchlight will initially have offices at Weyerhaeuser’s Federal Way headquarters and at Chevron’s San Ramon, Ca. homebase. Chevron executive Michael Burnside will be the new venture’s chief executive, and W. Densmore Hunter of Weyerhaeuser is chief technology officer.
Both firms will contribute technology and personnel. Catchlight may employ 30 to 40 people over time in its research and development effort, said Weyerhaeuser president Dan Fulton.
The venture will study “not only the technology, but also the commercial implications of creating a viable business there,” Fulton said.
The creation of Catchlight formalizes a partnership Chevron and Weyerhaeuser entered in April 2007. At the time, many energy and agricultural companies began seeking to leverage their expertise into the fast-growing biofuel business.
This is not the first time unlikely partners have teamed up to make biofuels. You might remember that “Big Oil” and “Big Chicken” (ConocoPhilips and Tyson, respectively) teamed up last year to turn chicken fat into biodiesel.
The chairman of the Renewable Fuels Association is excited about the developments in cellulose technology for the future of the ethanol industry.
“And we fully believe that many of these technologies will in fact be proven to be economically viable on a commercial scale,” said Chris Standlee, who is executive vice president of Abengoa Bioenergy in St. Louis.
He says support from the US Department of Energy through research grants is definitely helping to speed the process along. “We are fortunate enough to be the recipient of a grant to prove our cellulose technology on a commercial scale in a facility that we are building in southwestern Kansas,” one of six grant-funded plant that are scheduled to be in operation by 2010.
Standlee says the recent article in Science challenges the ethanol industry to step up its efforts to make sure the public gets the whole truth about ethanol, not just part of the story. “Even the study itself acknowledges the greenhouse gas emissions benefits of the use of ethanol,” he says. It just makes assumptions about land use for biofuels production that “just simply are not true.”
As chairman of the RFA, Standlee is looking forward to the upcoming National Ethanol Conference in Orlando February 25-27, to celebrate success and look forward to the future. “We have record attendance this year as we’ve had virtually every year since the start of the conference,” he said. “We expect somewhere in the neighborhood of 2500 people to be attending the conference. It really is an exciting opportunity.”
More information about the National Ethanol Conference can be found on the RFA website.
Listen to RFA’s “The Ethanol Report” podcast with Chris here, or subscribe to it on “The Ethanol Report” blog.
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The Southern Waste Information eXchange and the Florida BioFuels Association are sponsoring the 1st Annual Waste-to-Fuels Conference & Trade Show in Orlando, Florida on April 6-8, 2008.
The conference will provide a forum for informing the public and private sectors of the economic and environmental benefits of converting waste materials to alternative fuels such as biodiesel and ethanol as well as energy recovery. Registration information is on-line and those who register also receive a free one-year membership in the Florida BioFuels Association.
The National 25x’25 Steering Committee has responded to widespread media coverage of studies published by Science Magazine last week, saying they failed to report that there are ways to insure that future biofuels give us both a new renewable energy source and greatly reduced greenhouse gas emissions.
The journal Science reported last week that studies indicate clearing land for the production of biofuels would produce twice as much greenhouse gas as the use of biofuels would reduce.
The statement from the 25x’25 Alliance says, “environmentally sensitive lands should not be exploited in pursuit of renewable fuels. In fact, we have long held that the growing increase in demand for energy, along with food, feed and fiber, can be met with a boost in production facilitated by advances in technology.”
The group also says that development of cellulosic ethanol will not only minimize land use changes but help the environment. They note a recent study of the use of switchgrass for ethanol by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln showed that it produced 540% more energy than it took to grow it. Switchgrass offers many environmental benefits such as preventing runoff, putting organic material back into the ground improving soil and requires no pesticides or fertilizer.
BioEnergy International announced it has closed financing for Bionol Clearfield, enabling the 100 million gallon a year ethanol plant to begin construction in Clearfield, Pennsylvania.
“With the launch of the Clearfield Project, we have created a model of sustainability with partners Getty Petroleum Marketing Inc. and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” said Stephen J. Gatto, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of BioEnergy. “Near the birthplace of the modern petroleum refinery industry, this destination ethanol plant and our cellulosic pilot, will help usher in the next industrial revolution of biorefineries, that will provide Pennsylvanians with home grown fuels first from corn, then renewable cellulosic feedstocks such as wood chips and biomass.”
BioEnergy International, LLC is a science and technology leader developing biorefineries using proprietary biocatalysts to produce high value renewable fuels and biobased specialty chemicals.
Next generation ethanol company Coskata on Wednesday announced an agreement with ICM Inc. to design and construct a commercial ethanol plant using Coskata’s biological fermentation technology.
Last month, the young company made a splash at the North American international Auto Show in Detroit where a strategic partnership with General Motors was announced.
Bill Roe, president and CEO of Coskata said, “Coskata and ICM will speed the commercialization of a process that will convert biomass into advanced biofuels from a number of renewable materials, at a production cost of less than $1 a gallon.”
According to Dave Vander Griend, president and CEO of ICM Coskata’s thermal biomass conversion process offers promising technology.
“It has always been ICM’s mission to help sustain agriculture through innovation,” Vander Griend said. “Coskata’s production process makes them a valuable ally as we continue to pursue advancements in renewable technology towards the creation of advanced and cellulosic biofuels as directed by the recent Energy Bill.”
The location of the first Coskata plant will be announced at a later date, but officials say they expect the facility to open in 2010.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is funding a $738,000 three-year study by South Dakota State University looking at possible environmental changes that could accompany a shift toward new biofuel crops such as perennial grasses.
The three-year study will focus on land use in North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, western Minnesota and northern Iowa. “If you look at one of the maps by the Renewable Fuels Association, the hotspot of the activity is in this area,” said professor Geoff Henebry, a senior scientist in the Geographic Information Science Center of Excellence (GIScCE) at SDSU.
DSU research scientist Michael Wimberly said, “It’s a very complex system. We do not anticipate having widespread changes throughout the region. Because biofuels feedstocks are bulky, you want to minimize transportation costs. So it makes the most sense to be growing crops around ethanol plants. There are certainly lots of ethanol plants built, under construction, and planned. So you can imagine ‘patchy’ kinds of changes.”
Preliminary results should be available in 12 to 24 months.
In the SDSU photo – scientists Henebry (left) and Wimberly are examining possible environmental changes that could accompany shifts in land used for biofuels crops.
Big announcements for cellulosic ethanol recently prove that the next generation of the biofuel is here today.
This “Fill up, Feel Good” podcast features Reece Nanfito of EPIC and representatives from KL Process Design Group of South Dakota, which has the first commercial cellulosic ethanol facility operating in the United States that will now be providing the fuel for American Le Mans Series race cars.
The podcast is available to download by subscription (see our sidebar link) or you can listen to it by clicking here (6:30 MP3 File):
The Fill Up, Feel Good theme music is “Tribute to Joe Satriani” by Alan Renkl, thanks to the Podsafe Music Network.
“Fill up, Feel Good” is sponsored by the Ethanol Promotion and Information Council.
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A demonstration-scale cellulosic ethanol facility in Jennings, Louisiana is getting closer to completion.
Verenium officials held a site tour of the plant last week, according to an article in the Daily Advertiser. The plant, which officials hope to complete by the end of March, uses enzymes to make ethanol from plant material such as sugarcane bagasse and wood chips.
In February 2007, Verenium broke ground on a 1.4 million gallon-per-year demonstration plant right next to its Jennings pilot site. The company hopes to finish this second plant before April, where Verenium will fine-tune its enzymes, ethanol production and feedstocks (primarily local cane bagasse) before it goes full-scale with a third plant.
That commercial-scale third plant could make 25 million to 30 million gallons of ethanol per year from biomass as far away as New Iberia, if it were built in Jennings. Sites in Florida and Texas are also being considered for the third plant.
Verenium is a Massachusetts-based company that was formed in June 2007 through the merger of Diversa Corporation, a global leader in enzyme technology, and Celunol Corporation, a leading developer of cellulosic ethanol process technologies and projects.
Cellulosic ethanol is now in production at the first small scale waste wood commercial facility operating in the U.S.
Located just 1 mile South of Upton, Wyoming, the plant was engineered, constructed and is operated by KL Process Design Group. This is the result of six years of development efforts between KL and the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology.
“It is now possible to economically convert discarded wood into a clean burning, sustainable alternate motor fuel” said Randy Kramer, president of KL Process Design Group, a design firm that has been working in corn ethanol. “We’re proud of what this small company has accomplished, and believe that our design will be a cornerstone from which we can build our country’s renewable fuel infrastructure providing a better source of motor fuel, starting today.”
KL’s cellulosic ethanol plant is converting waste wood into a renewable fuel. The current production facility is utilizing soft woods, but successful test runs have occurred making use of waste materials such as cardboard and paper.
KL also announced today that the cellulosic ethanol it will be producing at the Wyoming plant will be used to fuel the American Le Mans Series Corvette Racing team running on E85.
Listen to an interview with Randy Kramer here:
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U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Samuel W. Bodman today announced that DOE will invest up to $114 million over four years for four small-scale biorefinery projects to be located in Commerce City, Colorado; St. Joseph, Missouri; Boardman, Oregon; and Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin.
“These project proposals were innovative and represent the geographic diversity that we strive for when making the widespread use of clean, renewable fuels commercially viable,” Secretary Bodman said. “Spurred by the President’s ambitious plan to reduce projected U.S. gas consumption by twenty percent by 2017, our goal is to aggressively push these technologies forward to get them out into the marketplace as quickly as possible, so they can have a real impact. Advanced biofuels offer tremendous promise for helping our nation to bring about a new, cleaner, more secure and affordable energy future.”
Building on President Bush’s goal of making cellulosic ethanol cost-competitive by 2012, these commercial-scale biorefineries will use a wide variety of feedstocks and test novel conversion technologies to provide data necessary to bring online full-size, commercial-scale biorefineries.
The companies receiving the grants are ICM Incorporated of Colwich, Kansas; Lignol Innovations Inc., of Berwyn, Pennsylvania; and Pacific Ethanol Inc., of Sacramento, California.
The Ethanol Promotion and Information Council and KL Process Design Group teamed up today to announce the first use of cellulosic ethanol in the 2008 American Le Mans Series. Corvette Racing, sponsored by EPIC, will be the first team to use the cellulosic-based E85 in competition.
“We could really find no greater stage to have the first use of cellulosic ethanol than the American Le Mans Series,” said Reece Nanfito, senior director of marketing for EPIC. “Obviously this is going to be a great demonstration that this fuel is available here and now, it is not a fuel that is five years or ten years down the road. The next generation of ethanol has really arrived today with this announcement.”
Tom Slunecka, Vice President of Business Development for KL Process Design Group, says providing cellulosic ethanol for the Le Mans Series brings it one step closer to consumer use.
“The reason that we brought the very first, very valuable gallons of this fuel to the American Le Mans Series was to demonstrate the power that this fuel has at home with every consumer,” Slunecka said. “Because the American Le Mans Series cars are the closest to production-style cars in the world of racing the relevancy of performance here is immediate and direct to that of consumers.”
Listen to Nanfito and Slunecka make the announcement in a press conference today from Sebring, Florida where during the fuel will be used first during the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring on March 15.
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In his final State of the Union address to the nation, President Bush once again acknowledged the importance of domestic fuels for energy security and the environment.
To build a future of energy security, we must trust in the creative genius of American researchers and entrepreneurs and empower them to pioneer a new generation of clean energy technology. Our security, our prosperity, and our environment all require reducing our dependence on oil. Last year, I asked you to pass legislation to reduce oil consumption over the next decade, and you responded. Together we should take the next steps: Let us fund new technologies that can generate coal power while capturing carbon emissions. Let us increase the use of renewable power and emissions-free nuclear power. Let us continue investing in advanced battery technology and renewable fuels to power the cars and trucks of the future. Let us create a new international clean technology fund, which will help developing nations like India and China make greater use of clean energy sources. And let us complete an international agreement that has the potential to slow, stop, and eventually reverse the growth of greenhouse gases.
A California company claims to have a new way to convert biomass into ethanol.
According to an article in the San Jose Mercury News, ZeaChem’s technique uses a proprietary combination of biotechnology and chemistry.
Zeachem’s “secret sauce,” according to co-founder and research executive vice president Dan Verser, is both how it breaks down biomass – waste wood from poplar trees at first – as well as how it uses wood residue to produce the hydrogen it mixes with acetic acid to make ethanol.
One key: A bacteria commonly found in the gut of a termite or in pond scum helps convert the trees to fuel. “Our bug is very tough,” said Jim Imbler, Zeachem’s president and chief executive officer.
ZeaChem has reported started designing a small-scale production facility in Oregon where they hopes to start making cellulosic ethanol using the process next year.
North Dakota State University and USDA’s Agricultural Research Service are working on ways to convert cropland to biomass production for energy use.
According to a university news release, the research is working to determine what crops would maximize biofuels production and to develop economically feasible management systems for transitioning in and out of bioenergy crop production.
“This project will strengthen and enhance ongoing research efforts on dedicated energy crop production,” says D.C. Coston, NDSU vice president for Agriculture and University Extension. “This agreement continues our effort to pull together the full set of capabilities within NDSU and position ourselves to be partners with others, such as the ARS’s Northern Great Plains Research Laboratory, to develop and grow biobased production.”