Berkeley is performing research on a type of bacterium enabling fermentation of sugars into diesel fuel. The process was originally invented nearly 100 years ago by Chaim Weizmann, the first president of Israel. This process generates product with higher energy density than that of ethanol.
Weizmann's process employs the bacterimum Clostridium acetobuylicum to ferment sugars into acetone, butanol, and ethanol. The researchers at Berkeley have developed a catalyst enabling removal of the acetone and butanol while leaving the ethanol behind.
The fuel generated appears to be very compatible with diesel.
In this case, the extractive fermentation process uses less than 10 percent of the energy of a conventional distillation to get the butanol and acetone out. This is where the major energy savings are.
Gevo is focused on the production of Isobutanol, a 4 carbon naturally occurring alcohol. Isobutanol is an important platform chemical that is a drop in replacement that should allow customers to replace petroleum based raw materials with Isobutanol derived materials without any modifications to their process.
Gevo has developed both a yeast biocatalyst for converting sugars from multiple renewable feedstocks to isobutanol and a separation unit designed for direct installation in existing ethanol production facilities.
As Gevo has a strategy of retrofitting existing ethanol production facilities, it will be able to capitalize on the major capacity for ethanol while enabling current ethanol producers to improve their margins through this retrofit.
The technology was demonstrated in a 1 Mega Gallon Per Year (MGPY) facality in St. Joseph Missouri.
Gevo's first commercial production facility was acquired in September 2010 in Luverne, Minnesota.
The Isobutanol generated through this type of process can be blended with gasoline (instead of ethanol) for use in vehicles a
Next Generation, Within the Year, Research Facility in SendaiOctober 20, 2012
Algae Biomass Next Generation, Within the Year, Research Facility in Minami Gamojouka,
Sendai October 20, 2012
This utilizes algae biomass such as Aurantiochytrium that absorbs organic materials and generates crude oil type hydrocarbons. This is a joint development of next generation energy initiatives by Sendai-shi, Tsukuba University, and Tohoku University. Within this year, research facilities will be provided at the waste water treatment facility “Minami GamojoukaCenter” (Miyagino-ku). Tsukuba University will start cultivation experiments on waste water samples rich in organic materials.
This was selected as a subsidized project by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology and Reconstruction Office in July as a reconstruction project from the Tohoku Earthquake. They anticipate receiving subsidies of 180 Million Yen per year for 5 years through 2016 (roughly $2.25 Million).
This facility will use the wastewater collected to the Minami GamojoukaCenter that was damaged by the tsunami and is being restored. They will use aurantiochytrium and algae that generates hydrocarbons through photosynthesis “Botryococcus” and strive for an efficient production method.
Tsukuba Universitywill be responsible for generation of the algae biomass and Tohoku Universitywill be
responsible for extraction and purification of the hydrocarbons. Propagation of algae provides an inexpensive way to clean up waste water.
According to plan, a roughly 200 square meter research facility with a laboratory and conference room will be built in the waste water processing building of the MinamiGamojouka Center. By November, Tsukuba University will start work on basic cultivation testing using wastewater from the center.
By 2015, they plan on building a large scale pilot plant within the center grounds to verify the test results obtained in research and cultivation equipment.
O Interview with Professor Makoto Watanabe of Tsukuba University
– Establish foundation technology in 5 years
Dream like research of making crude oil from algae is being accelerated due to the Tohoku major earthquake. If this can be reduced to practice it may have the potential of changing Japannational strategy with meager resources. I talked with Professor Makoto Watanabe (64) who is from Marumorimachi of Miyagi-ken of Tsukuba Universityand is the foremost research and key man in the project regarding this development.
Superiority of algae biomass of the many renewable energy options.
Solar and wind power provide electricity but in the case of algae, a liquid fuel is produced. Algae does not compete with foodstuffs. Production capacity is at least 10 times that of plants from which oil can be produced making amount of surface area needed lower.
Calculations indicated that 1,000 tons per year of oil can be produced from a 1.5 meter deep 1 hectare algae pool making it so an algae pool of 200,000 hectares could produce the equivalent of Japan crude oil imports. If production efficiencies improve, this number is not impossible. The goal is a production cost of less than 100 Yen (roughly $0.80) per liter.
- Issues regarding putting into practice.
Organic materials included in wastewater is insufficient for the cultivation of aurantiochytrium. We are
considering utilizing of activated sludge that is generated through wastewater processing that is a mass of organic material but technology for dissolving this is difficult to come up with. Constraining of costs for ventilation, mixing, dewatering, and concentration during production are also issues.
- Enthusiastic about testing.
I would like to establish base technology integrating wastewater cleanup and algae cultivation in 5 years. Then scale up and verify for 3 to 5 years thereafter and complete a system that will be
acceptable to the country within 10 years.
The hurdles are not low but if the project can be implemented in Sendai, the wave effect around the world will be major. If Japanbecomes an oil producing country, it will liberate the human race from restrictions on energy.
- Have heard that feelings regarding reconstruction are strong.
Wastewater processing facilities, marine products processing facilities, agricultural land
all were devastated in the disaster. If production of algae biomass is integrated well, I think it may add new function of generating energy and revive industry.
N2 Energy is different than the other companies that I have described so far. Rather than looking for new sources of energy they have a unique business model enabling getting what we are currently using to go farther. It is quite an exciting concept. In their distributed generation plants, they are combining wind and solar power with conventional fuels so in this regard they are using sustainable fuels (the sun will be around for much longer than you or I) for a part of the power their systems generate.
Their business model is to provide a system to a customer that the system owns and uses to generate their own power and thermal energy needs, or a combined heat and power system. If the customer is not interested in owning the system. N2 Energy offers another solution where N2 Energy owns the equipment and sells the power and thermal energy to the client at lower rates than what they were paying prior to introduction of the equipment. This business model works because of the combined heat and power concept. In very large power generator systems that use natural gas in gas turbines, roughly 50% of the energy in the natural gas is thrown away as heat. In utility scale gas turbine generators (on the order of 400 MW), there is no effective way to utilize this energy. In a combined heat and power system from N2 Energy, the waste heat from a relatively small turbine is used for heating water or process heat etc. so upwards of 80 to 85% of the original energy can be effectively used making the cost of the power and thermal energy substantially lower. This enables N2 energy to lower the costs to the customer substantially while being able to retain a portion for their own profit. It is a win win business model. On top of this, the natural gas used is stretched further or not as much is used so it is a win for the environment as wel
Green Power Incorporated is building a waste to fuel production plant. Their plant is mainly designed to handle Municipal Solid Waste (MSW).
The input to the plant is virtually any type of organic material from animal waste to foreste residue to household table scraps. Rather than burying this in the ground and having it turn into methane, put in one of these plants and turn it into a transportation fuel exactly like what we currently are using in our internal combustion engines.
The best part about it is that this type of plant can convert MSW and other types of organic material to transporation fuels at a price such that it can be sold on the market at lower than today's prices and still not require government subsidies. This is a major milestone in my opinion.
I visited Green Power and they ran the plant for me. They input some organic material into the plant and I was able to watch liquid fuels come out the other end. We then burned the fuel using an 8 inch piece of steel casing. Burning naptha in this manner was quite something to see. The piece of casing was roughly 2 1/2 feet tall and the flames shot out of the casing another 2 1/2 feet.
One of the nice things about this type of production plant is that it can accept any type of organic material, including algae. With use of algae everything that is carbohydrate (or hydrocarbon whichever way you want to call it) is converted to transportation fuel, not just the lipids. In addition to this
This is definitely the future of sustainable transportation fuel production.
FAME stands for Fatty Acide Methyl Ester. Researchers at the University of Texas are working on the development of a resin that binds with algae in water and then releases it in a 5% sulfuric acid/methanol reagent. The algae appear to dissolve in the sulfuric acid reagent and the esterified fatty acids are converted to FAMEs.
One of the most cost prohibitive steps to algae production is the requirement of pumping vast quanties of water with dilute algae for dewatering of the algae. This method makes it very inexpensive to capture the algae and could be as simple as running a belt made of this resin in the flow of the algae production channel.
Sapphire Energy was founded in 2007 based on th emission through development of a domestic renewable source of energy that is better for the environment and developed/generated domestically.
Sapphire is building open ponds that they are inoculating roughly every 2 weeks as a means for maintaining a mono-culture. This growing of algae does not require arable land or potable water. They started construction of a commercial demostration scale facility in the desert in New Mexico in June of 2011. This facility was completed very recently and will be generating 1.5 million gallons per year of Green Crude.
Sapphire has made a selection of algae and cyanobacteria providing an oil that mimics the structure found in light sweet crude. Similar to crude oil, this Green Crude is refined in a refinery and the end products meet the respective ASTM standards for jet fuel, diesel, and gasoline.
In 2009, Sapphire participated in a test flight using algae based jet fuel in a 737-800 twin engine aircraft.
The Sapphire system uses CO2 from a power plant and sunlight to produce the algae. When the algae are mature (roughly 14 days), they are harvested, the oil is captured and sent to a refinery for generation of fuels and other products and the remaining biomass is used as nutrients for additional algae.
The total cost of what we pay for algae is not just the price at the pump. A certain percentage of our miliatary defense costs can be attributed to requirements of continued energy import. In addition the lost opportunity costs of not having the jobs etc. within our country is significant.
While other companies are talking the talk, Sapphire is walking the walk. They have a commercial demonstration facility complete and as they continue to expand plan to have the capability of production of 100 barrels of oil per day by 2014.
Sapphire currently has offices or production facilities at 4 locations and employs more than 150 people.
Sapphire has a video describing their process and production located at http://www.sapphireenergy.com/news-media/Corporate-video/
Sapphire is at the forefront of technology that has the potential to change the world.
Enerkem uses a 4 step process to convert waste into biofuels and chemical intermediaries. These 4 processes are:
1. Preparation of feedstock
2. Gasification of the feedstock prepared
3. Cleaning the syngas generated
4. Catalytic synthesis
The synthesis gas generated from mixed waste and residues is suitable for production of biofuels and chemicals using proven well established and commercially available catalysts. Thus Enerkem has the ability to recycle carbon molecules in waste into useable products.
A main focus for Enerkem is the commercial production of cellulosic Ethanol. Rather than fermenting sugars from food, Enerkem can use the cellulose in carbon materials to generate biofuels.
Enerkem has a plant commissioned since 2009 that converts used electricity poles into biomethanol at the rate of 1.3 million gallons per year. That is a lot of methanol. Methanol production started in 2011 and they have been producing cellulosic ethanol since the spring of 2012. The plant is located close to a sawmill that recycles used electricity and telephone poles, turning the non-usable portion of these poles into something with value
Enerkem also has a plant under construction in Edmonton, Alberta as well as plants under development in Pontotoc, Mississippi, and Varennes, Quebec. The combined production of these plants under construction and development is expected to be 30 million gallons per year.
Enerkem is one of the leading companies with Waste to Fuel technology and are one of the few in demonstration level production with a commercial production plant under construction.
This is primarily an opinion based post and this is my opinion only I do not speak for anyone else.
I have been watching the incentives world for roughly 20 years now and haven't seen them to be very effective in doing what the intent of the incentive is; bringing the technology being incentivized to commercialization faster.
Government investment in research and development, in particular very early research such as what takes place in R&D labs around the US and in other countries is money well spent. The inventions and innovations that come from this research enrich and improve our lives. This is where medical and technological advancements have come from.
On the other hand government investment in commercialization of an industry does not appear to me to be a good investment. The wind industry in the US has struggled with booms and busts based on the whims of politicians that have come up with incentive schemes. Those who can come up with the best way to fanagle the schemes are those who win. Wind is finally getting to the point where it is close to being at the level of regular power. But, it has significant problems. Power generated from wind cannot currently be stored and it is not likely that it will ever be possible to store it economically. There is no power generation when the wind is not blowing. Another very major problem is that stagnant air leads to extremes in temperature. Only 15% of wind power is available during peak high temperatures and peak low temperatures. This means that there needs to be something to take up the slack when there is no wind blowing. This slack can be partially accounted for through changes in the amount of power generated at power generation dams. However, remaining slack has to be taken up primarily by gas turbines that are idle when the wind is blowing. The very major problem here is that there is capital cost in both the wind turbines and the gas turbines that are sitting idle to take the place of the wind turbines when there is no wind. It can be said that the wind power industry has come along way. The question remains, would the journey have been faster or slower without the incentives that have been used for the market?
Solar is another industry that has been heavily incentivized. I am aware of a market in the US where incentives covered over 80% of the cost of building a solar system. Even at this rate, the system still took 10 years to pay itself back (10 years of offset electricity to cover 20% of the cost of the solar system). This is the definition of a product not ready for commercialization. With strong worldwide incentives a couple of years ago, the solar industry grew by leaps and bounds. However, over the last year as enthusiasm for incentives has dwindled, demand in the industry has dropped considerably leading to a major over supply. This has dropped the price of panels considerably (not yet competative with grid power however) and it will likely bankrupt a large number of companies. In this particular industry, incentives has lead to problems like Solyndra receiving a $500 million loan from the government and then going bankrupt shortly thereafter. Again, while incentives have made it possible for the solar industry to grow tremendously, it has lead to a boom and bust cycle. Has this been the best thing for the country etc. Similar to the situation for wind, will incentives in solar enable the industry to reach grid parity faster? Another way to look at this is, is this a productive use of the funds, productivity, etc. of this investment. Could the talents, time, funds, and energy that has been focused into these incentives and industry because these incentives were there have been put to better use.
I for one believe that technologies need to stand on their own two feet not propped up by incentives or other funds from the government. In my opinion ideally, we would compare all technologies apples to apples and choose the best one. When I say apples to apples, I mean include all of the variables and all of the costs. For instance, in production of electricity from coal, if all of the pollutants, including CO2 were captured, it would be as clean as using a solar panel (assuming all emissions etc. generated when producing solar panels were captured). In this scenario, the technology to pick would be the one that was able to produce the power at the lowest overall cost over time.
In short, while I have not always been this way, I have come to disagree with use of incentives at the commercialization stage to attempt to bring a product to market faster. It appears to me that it causes as many or more problems than it resolves and in the end doesn't appear to have all that much of an effect on the ti
Solazyme was ranked #1 in the "50 Hottest Companies in Bioenergy" for 2011-2012. The details for this ranking can be found at Biofuels Digest; http://www.biofuelsdigest.com/bdigest/2011/11/09/solazyme-ranked-1-in-%E2%80%9C50-hottest-companies-in-bioenergy%E2%80%9D-for-2011-12/
Solazyme is a company that uses a fermentation type microalgae to convert plant sugars, including cellulosic sugars to fuels and other products. Rather than use a reactor capable of allowing the algae to convert sunlight into oil, the algae being used by solazyme can be used in a dark enclosed reactor. Using standard industrial fermentation equipment has enabled Solazyme to effieciently scale and accelerate the microalgaes natural oil production time to just a few days at commercial levels.
December 5, 2011, Dynamic Fuels, LLC a joint venture between Tyson Foods, Inc. and Syntroleum Corporation were awared a contract to supply the U.S. Navy with 450,000 gallons of renewable fuels. Solazyme, a renewable oil and bioproducts company, helped Dynamic Fuels fulfill this requirement. The contract was for 100,000 gallons of jet fuel and 350,000 gallons of marine distillate fuel. This will be used to develop a "Green Strike Group", vessels and ships powered by biofuel.
In addition to producing biofuels, Solazyme is also involved in producing chemicals and skin care products from oil that it has derived from Algae.
Solazyme has succesfulling commissioned an integrated biorefinery in Peoria, Illinois and has broken ground on a 100,000 MT production facility in Brazil, close to a sugar cane mill.
In an interview with Reuters, the CEO of Solazyme indicated that they would be able to produce oils for the fuel market at a cost of about $3.44 per gallon. Refining waould add another $0.50 per gallon.
Solazyme appears to be forging ahead with their goal of producing fuels from sustainable sources. More information can be found at www.solazyme.com