February 28, 2007

February 2007 Digest

The IPCC finally released their long-awaited summary of findings on global warming. Al Gore's movie won the Oscar for Best Documentary. Does that mean that people are finally convinced of the truth about global warming? Does it matter?

There are plenty of reasons to be concerned about the state of the atmosphere without having to declare one way or the other on the issue of global warming. Living in Los Angeles, raising a daughter with lifelong battles with allergies, bronchial congestion, and asthmatic inhalers, I am more concerned with particulate matter and reactive organic gases than I am about gradual global temperature increases due to greenhouse gas. No one has to convince me that we need to act now to clean up the air we breathe.

As ACORE attests, a welcome consequence of a switch to renewable fuels is that we will move closer to a carbon-neutral balance for our atmosphere. If we can simultaneously reduce our mountains of decaying trash and fire-prone wood waste to produce biofuels through bioconversion, so much the better for our environment.

BIOstock Blog--------------
SunOpta goes global with steam explosion biomass pre-treatment
Wood beats corn stover in U.S. cellulosic ethanol race
"Green Tags" reward Renewable Energy development
Trees-for-Fuel Biomass Plants Mitigate Fires

BIOconversion Blog--------------
BP invests in UC Berkeley/UIUC Biosciences Institute
Banking big on Renewable Energy
Corn Sugar Fermentation - Educational Videos
Wood beats corn stover in U.S. cellulosic ethanol race
Online game is a Climate Challenge
U.S. DOE backs funding of six cellulosic ethanol biorefinery projects

BIOoutput Blog--------------
The IPCC Report solution? Renewable Energy.
Green Options is the place to be
California's Transportation Action Plan targets 2020
INDY 500: Drivers, start your ethanol-fueled engine
Clean and Efficient Biogas Fuel Cells

BIOwaste Blog--------------
PyroGenesis' BIOwaste Conversion Systems
Small Town with a BIG green vision
Green Options for Recycled Paper

Each month we provide a similar breakdown of article titles from our favorite "companion" site - Biopact Blog. This list is kept current and is accessible in the right hand column of each of the three blogs.

Please forward a link to this digest to anyone you know who would be interested in keeping track of change that will affect us all. They can add their name to the mailing list on the BioConversion Blog.

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U.S. DOE backs funding of six cellulosic ethanol biorefinery projects

U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Samuel W. Bodman hosted a press conference today to announce selection of six cellulosic ethanol biorefinery projects that will contribute to the President’s goal of reducing U.S. gasoline consumption by 20 percent in ten years (President’s Bush’s Twenty in Ten Initiative).

The government's matching fund program was considered by many to be a necessary step to get cellulosic ethanol off the ground. With six separate initiatives being pursued by private industry, the better technologies will "rise to the top." Each is sited in a different region of the country using a broad array of feedstock - a testament to the universality of the bioconversion approach.

The project winners are a who's who of developers that have been chronicled on this BIOconversion Blog over the past year and a half. For more information on them, use the search engine at the top of this webpage.

DOE Selects Six Cellulosic Ethanol Plants for Up to $385 Million in Federal Funding
Funding to help bring cellulosic ethanol to market and help revolutionize the industry

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Samuel W. Bodman today announced that DOE will invest up to $385 million for six biorefinery projects over the next four years. When fully operational, the biorefineries are expected to produce more than 130 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol per year. This production will help further President Bush’s goal of making cellulosic ethanol cost-competitive with gasoline by 2012 and, along with increased automobile fuel efficiency, reduce America’s gasoline consumption by 20 percent in ten years.

“These biorefineries will play a critical role in helping to bring cellulosic ethanol to market, and teaching us how we can produce it in a more cost effective manner,” Secretary Bodman said. “Ultimately, success in producing inexpensive cellulosic ethanol could be a key to eliminating our nation’s addiction to oil. By relying on American ingenuity and on American farmers for fuel, we will enhance our nation’s energy and economic security.”

Today’s announcement is one part of the Bush Administration’s comprehensive plan to support commercialization of scientific breakthroughs on biofuels. Specifically, these projects directly support the goals of President Bush’s Twenty in Ten Initiative, which aims to increase the use of renewable and alternative fuels in the transportation sector to the equivalent of 35 billion gallons of ethanol a year by 2017. Funding for these projects is an integral part of the President’s Biofuels Initiative that will lead to the wide-scale use of non-food based biomass, such as agricultural waste, trees, forest residues, and perennial grasses in the production of transportation fuels, electricity, and other products. The solicitation, announced a year ago, was initially for three biorefineries and $160 million. However, in an effort to expedite the goals of President Bush’s Advanced Energy Initiative and help achieve the goals of his Twenty in Ten Initiative, within authority of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPAct 2005), Section 932, Secretary Bodman raised the funding ceiling.

“We had a number of very good proposals, but these six were considered ‘meritorious’ by a merit review panel made up of bioenergy experts. So I thought it would be best to front-end some more funding now, so that we could all reap the benefits of the President’s vision sooner,” Secretary Bodman said.

Combined with the industry cost share, more than $1.2 billion will be invested in these six biorefineries. Negotiations between the selected companies and DOE will begin immediately to determine final project plans and funding levels. Funding will begin this fiscal year and run through FY 2010. EPAct authorized DOE to solicit and fund proposals for the commercial demonstration of advanced biorefineries that use cellulosic feedstocks to produce ethanol and co-produce bioproducts and electricity.

The following six projects were selected:

1. Abengoa Bioenergy Biomass of Kansas, LLC of Chesterfield, Missouri, up to $76 million.
The proposed plant will be located in the state of Kansas. The plant will produce 11.4 million gallons of ethanol annually and enough energy to power the facility, with any excess energy being used to power the adjacent corn dry grind mill. The plant will use 700 tons per day of corn stover, wheat straw, milo stubble, switchgrass, and other feedstocks.
Abengoa Bioenergy Biomass investors/participants include: Abengoa Bioenergy R&D, Inc.; Abengoa Engineering and Construction, LLC; Antares Corp.; and Taylor Engineering.

2. ALICO, Inc. of LaBelle, Florida, up to $33 million.
The proposed plant will be in LaBelle (Hendry County), Florida. The plant will produce 13.9 million gallons of ethanol a year and 6,255 kilowatts of electric power, as well as 8.8 tons of hydrogen and 50 tons of ammonia per day. For feedstock, the plant will use 770 tons per day of yard, wood, and vegetative wastes and eventually energycane.
ALICO, Inc. investors/participants include: Bioengineering Resources, Inc. of Fayetteville, Arkansas; Washington Group International of Boise, Idaho; GeoSyntec Consultants of Boca Raton, Florida; BG Katz Companies/JAKS, LLC of Parkland, Florida; and Emmaus Foundation, Inc.

3. BlueFire Ethanol, Inc. of Irvine, California, up to $40 million.
The proposed plant will be in Southern California. The plant will be sited on an existing landfill and produce about 19 million gallons of ethanol a year. As feedstock, the plant would use 700 tons per day of sorted green waste and wood waste from landfills.
BlueFire Ethanol, Inc. investors/participants include: Waste Management, Inc.; JGC Corporation; MECS Inc.; NAES; and PetroDiamond.

4. Broin Companies of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, up to $80 million.
The plant is in Emmetsburg (Palo Alto County), Iowa, and after expansion, it will produce 125 million gallons of ethanol per year, of which roughly 25percent will be cellulosic ethanol. For feedstock in the production of cellulosic ethanol, the plant expects to use 842 tons per day of corn fiber, cobs, and stalks.
Broin Companies participants include: E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company; Novozymes North America, Inc.; and DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

5. Iogen Biorefinery Partners, LLC, of Arlington, Virginia, up to $80 million.
The proposed plant will be built in Shelley, Idaho, near Idaho Falls, and will produce 18 million gallons of ethanol annually. The plant will use 700 tons per day of agricultural residues including wheat straw, barley straw, corn stover, switchgrass, and rice straw as feedstocks.
Iogen Biorefinery Partners, LLC investors/partners include: Iogen Energy Corporation; Iogen Corporation; Goldman Sachs; and The Royal Dutch/Shell Group.

6. Range Fuels (formerly Kergy Inc.) of Broomfield, Colorado, up to $76 million.
The proposed plant will be constructed in Soperton (Treutlen County), Georgia. The plant will produce about 40 million gallons of ethanol per year and 9 million gallons per year of methanol. As feedstock, the plant will use 1,200 tons per day of wood residues and wood based energy crops.
Range Fuels investors/participants include: Merrick and Company; PRAJ Industries Ltd.; Western Research Institute; Georgia Forestry Commission; Yeomans Wood and Timber; Truetlen County Development Authority; BioConversion Technology; Khosla Ventures; CH2MHill; Gillis Ag and Timber.

Cellulosic ethanol is an alternative fuel made from a wide variety of non-food plant materials (or feedstocks), including agricultural wastes such as corn stover and cereal straws, industrial plant waste like saw dust and paper pulp, and energy crops grown specifically for fuel production like switchgrass. By using a variety of regional feedstocks for refining cellulosic ethanol, the fuel can be produced in nearly every region of the country. Though it requires a more complex refining process, cellulosic ethanol contains more net energy and results in lower greenhouse emissions than traditional corn-based ethanol. E-85, an ethanol-fuel blend that is 85-percent ethanol, is already available in more than 1,000 fueling stations nationwide and can power millions of flexible fuel vehicles already on the roads.

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February 16, 2007

Online game is a Climate Challenge

The BBC Weather Centre has a wealth of information on their Climate Change website about global warming - evidence, impacts, adaptation, policies, and links. They recently ran a Climate Change experiment that utilized the spare computing power of a quarter of a million participants - mostly throughout Europe and the eastern U.S. Through this huge distributed processing project, thousands of climate change models could be run and the results computed. Their findings:

• The UK should expect a 4°C rise in temperature by 2080 according to the most likely results of the experiment.
• Heatwaves are on the rise and, by 2080, summer temperatures of 40°C will be common. Winters will also be warmer.
• Summer rainfall is set to decrease and the UK can expect more frequent droughts
• Winters will bring less snow and more rain, especially in the north and west. Storms will be more frequent and more severe.
• Different regions around the world can expect varying levels of warming. New Zealand faces a smaller temperature rise than the UK's 4°C change, while Alaska should prepare for a greater increase

They recently published a free, online serious game that simulates the decision-making process engaged by world leaders in counter-acting the global warming phenomenon. It is important that each stakeholder of the energy/environment dialog recognize the need for coordination of many nations efforts to forestall the effects threatened by interlinked future challenges.

Thanks to our European friends at Biopact for supplying the base information on this story. Monitoring bioenergy stories from their well-researched viewpoint should be a part of the regimen for anyone that is serious about global approaches to solving the energy/environmental challenges before us. A monthly digest of their most relevant stories are published here - see February's digest.

Why make a game about climate change?

The BBC decided a game might be a good introductory route into climate change and some of the issues this creates for governments around the world. At times it was necessary to strike a compromise between strict scientific accuracy and playability. For this reason, Climate Challenge should not be taken as a serious climate change prediction. Wherever possible, real research has been incorporated into the game.

Apart from the primary goal of creating a fun game, Climate Challenge's producers aimed to:
• give an understanding of some of the causes of climate change, particularly those related to carbon dioxide emissions.
• give players an awareness of some of the policy options available to governments.
• give a sense of the challenges facing international climate change negotiators.

Players must respond to catastrophic events caused by climate change as well as natural and manmade events, which may or may not be linked to climate change. This aspect of the game is meant to give some idea of what could happen as the Earth's climate changes and also introduce the unpredictable nature of some natural events.

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February 8, 2007

Wood beats corn stover in U.S. cellulosic ethanol race

We knew it was coming. Vinod Khosla has finally made a bold move to back up industry-wide speculation that cellulosic ethanol would soon emerge as the next phase in ethanol production. The surprise is that wood would be the feedstock of choice given the vast headstart of corn-based biorefineries in the country and the obvious synergy of basing corn stover conversion technologies near sugar fermentation plants.

However, the high energy potential of wood cellulose, the ready available of cheap waste, and the search for a renaissance of forestry-based industries makes the announcement a welcome one to the "nation's woodpile" in the southeastern states.

See the Range Fuels, Inc. press release at the BIOstock Blog.

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February 7, 2007

Corn Sugar Fermentation - Educational Videos

There are not too many videos available online that can be used to educate the lay audience on the processes under discussion by this Blog. However, there are videos available that explain the processes involved in conventional sugar fermentation.

Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc., has compiled a series of brief WMV files that provide an overview of the processes involved in sugar fermentation.

Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc., a DuPont company, is the world's leading developer and supplier of advanced plant genetics to farmers worldwide.

With headquarters in Des Moines, Iowa, Pioneer develops, produces and markets a full line of top-quality seeds and forage and grain additives and provides services to customers in nearly 70 countries.

Tour an Ethanol Plant

Tour an Ethanol Plant
1. Dry Milling
(WMV | 01:02 | 1.64 MB)
2. Liquefaction
(WMV | 00:20 | 1.64 MB)
3. Saccharification
(WMV | 00:15 | 1.64 MB)
4. Fermentation
(WMV | 00:43 | 1.64 MB)
5. Batch Fermentation
(WMV | 00:20 | 1.64 MB)
6. Distillation
(WMV | 01:11 | 1.64 MB)
7. Molecular Sieve
(WMV | 00:34 | 1.64 MB)
8. Distillers Grain
(WMV | 01:19 | 1.64 MB)

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February 3, 2007

Banking big on Renewable Energy

It is not always easy to be a cheerleader or evangelist for a new technology paradigm. You have to be ready to accept rejection by the saviest skeptics - particularly the big banks.

People promoting expensive biomass conversion technologies and waste management reforms have felt their share of skepticism. They have come to realize that if public demand is waning, the banks will be unenthusiastic about risking their funds.

That's why 2006 was such an important year. It started in November, 2005 when one of the world's biggest and most forward looking banks, Goldman Sachs, announced that it would invest over $1 Billion in alternative energy - solar, wind, and biofuels. It turns out they exceeded that number by half.

Not wanting to be outdone, other banks appear to be re-evaluating their conservative opinions about environmental markets. This bodes well for a sustained effort to shift to renewable fuels and infrastructure. Where the banks go, the politicians are sure to follow.

For Goldman Sachs, Long-Term Greed Means Going Green
by Christopher Wright on The Katoomba Group's Ecosystem Marketplace

In November 2005 Goldman Sachs surprised many people in the financial sector when it announced an ambitious new environmental policy framework. The slew of green measures included commitments to consider the environmental and social impacts of investments, encourage the development of environmental markets, and reduce the investment bank's overall climate footprint.

"Goldman Sachs really pushed the envelope with [its] policy framework," says Jon Sohn, a senior associate at the World Resources Institute. "They are sending a message that valuing the environment can go hand in hand with wealth creation."

Due to strong demand and opportunity, it exceeded its original pledge to invest $1 billion in alternative energy by 50 percent.

Reflecting its appetite for innovation, Goldman also purchased a minority stake in Iogen Corporation, which is attempting to pioneer the conversion of agriculture materials like straw, corn stalks, and switchgrass into ethanol.

A notable finding of Goldman Sachs' research is that the impact of pressures from NGOs and SRI funds, or single pollution incidences, impacts shareholder value much less than government regulation. Accordingly, the investment bank has strongly come out in favor of regulation that creates long-term value for greenhouse gas emissions reductions and new technologies. Voluntary action, it reasons, is insufficient.

"We are not advocating for any specific federal regulatory policy," says Shah. "Rather, we want to inform decision-makers of good market-principles that they should think about."

Chapple agrees with this approach: "The best input into policy that investment banks can provide is to conduct and present research to government and stakeholders that identifies the obstacles they face in expanding their investments into alternative energy and clean technologies," she says. In turn, government should set clear policy targets and stick to them, thereby providing regulatory certainty for investors.

Based on its financial standing and reputation, Goldman Sachs is a bellwether for investors. When it speaks, Wall Street listens. So given its endorsement of the sustainability agenda, are we seeing the contours of a green arms race in the financial industry?

Well, perhaps. Last October Morgan Stanley tripled Goldman's $1bn commitment, announcing plans to invest roughly $3bn in carbon credits and energy projects to reduce greenhouse gas emissions during the next five years. In the long run, however, only effective and stable federal regulation can put a robust price on carbon.

Market analysts have called the U.S carbon market a "hibernating giant." With Goldman Sachs leading the way, the conservative wing of Wall Street seems to have woken up. And so the question is: when will lawmakers on Capitol Hill follow suit?

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BP invests in UC Berkeley/UIUC Biosciences Institute

It's only been three months since Californians voted down Prop 87 - The Clean Alternative Energy Initiative. We may never know what research and advancements would have resulted from the plan's taxation of California oil producers (mostly Chevron).

However, it now appears that we will see what BP's (aka British Petroleum or Beyond Petroleum) corporate investment in similar research will accomplish. Even though the $500 million represents about 1/8th the total sought by Prop 87, it will, in all likelihood, be more efficiently applied to solving the problems. If nothing else the major stakeholders in the bid winning collaboration - UC Berkeley, the University of Illinois/Urbana Champaign and the Lawrence Berkeley Lab had to compete for the opportunity. They also received the backing of the State government who made substantial tax concessions to make the offer more attractive.

Undoubtedly, this is good news for venture capitalists in Silicon Valley who are poised to read business implications into every innovation developed from the research. The Biosciences Institute is a great "seed" enterprise that will impact the rate of learning and deployment of important advances in bioenergy. Kudos to all parties involved.

Competition is key to stimulating advancements faster and more efficiently. Maybe Chevron, who stood to lose $3-4 Billion if Prop 87 had passed, will pick up the gauntlet and invest in a similar research collaboration elsewhere. Now that the formula has been set, there is more than one state interested in being home to biofuel development.

Here are some excerpts from BP's press release...

BP Selects Strategic Partners For Energy Biosciences Institute
University of California Berkeley, the University of Illinois and the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab join research effort

BP today announced it has selected the University of California Berkeley and its partners the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory to join in a $500 million research program that will explore how bioscience can be used to increase energy production and reduce the impact of energy consumption on the environment.

The Energy Biosciences Institute will perform ground-breaking research aimed at the production of new and cleaner energy, initially focusing on renewable biofuels for road transport. The EBI will also pursue bioscience-based research in three other key areas; the conversion of heavy hydrocarbons to clean fuels, improved recovery from existing oil and gas reservoirs, and carbon sequestration.

“The proposal from UC Berkeley and its partners was selected in large part because these institutions have excellent track records of delivering ‘Big Science’ – large and complex developments predicated on both scientific breakthroughs and engineering applications that can be deployed in the real world,” said BP Group Chief Executive John Browne. “This program will further both basic and applied biological research relevant to energy. In short, it will create the discipline of Energy Biosciences. The Institute will be unique in both its scale and its partnership between BP, academia and others in the private sector.”

Said U.S. Secretary of Energy Samuel W. Bodman. "As we continue to promote alternative energy as a means to strengthen our nation's energy security, it is important that private industry join in support of research to advance President Bush's goal of making clean energy sources, like bioenergy and biofuels, commercially available."

"I can’t tell you how excited I am that BP has chosen UC Berkeley and California for its new $500 Million Energy Biosciences Institute," said California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. "I’m proud that the private sector has recognized California’s leadership and commitment to clean energy. This is a perfect complement to our new low-carbon fuel standard which will cut carbon emissions 10 percent from our cars by the year 2020, and with research facilities like the Energy Biosciences Institute, California will continue to be a leader in the Cleantech industry."

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February 1, 2007

Biopact: February 2007 Digest

Biopact Blog writes many stories that are relevant to the study of BIOstock, BIOconversion, BIOoutput, and BIOwaste.

Rather than summarize and reprint excerpts from this excellent source of information, a breakdown of each month's most relevant titles is provided in one updated article...

Eyes in the sky: ESA images forests in 3-D to analyse biomass
Net energy of biofuels made from crops grown in the North comes at a high cost - study
Green giant Russia to produce 1 billion tons of biomass for exports
China to develop energy forests the size of England
Valencia to make ethanol from orange peels
Florida grants US$ 1 million to study cellulosic ethanol from sugarcane bagasse

BP selects Berkeley and partners for US$500 million energy biosciences institute
Can you tackle global warming? Play the Climate Challenge game to find out
U.S. to import biofuels from Brazil, Panama
DuPont outlines commercialisation strategies for biobutanol, cellulosic ethanol
Quick comparison of renewable energy and fossil fuel prices

Scientists propose cold storage of CO2
MIT scientists look at saline aquifers for CO2 storage
The bioeconomy at work: methane storage tanks for cars made from corn cobs
Going negative: carbon-burial test will monitor leaks
Capturing carbon with "synthetic trees" or with the real thing?
Climate change heating up China faster than rest of the world - report
Fuel Cell Energy signs 10-year manufacturing & distribution agreement for its biofuel capable fuel cells in South Korea
EU opens public consultation on carbon capture and storage
EU seeks to force transport CO2 rules on trade partners