June 30, 2008

Converting Smoke into Energy using Algae

Solena Group - an innovative international company whose mission is "committed to combating climate change by promoting renewable bio-energy to replace fossil fuel" - has projects deployed or under development for using plasma arc technology to cleanly gasify feedstock into syngas. Teamed with Rentech Technologies, they can convert the syngas into bio jet fuel. Otherwise they can use the syngas to produce clean, green electricity.

But what about emissions? Turns out they have an answer for that as well citing their development of air filtering technology at their Alicante, Spain research facility that take manufacturing fumes and, using algae to absorb the greenhouse gases, create new biomass that can be converted into bioenergy.

Here are some excerpts from a NY Times article that cited the company's carbon sequestering technology...

March 26, 2008
For Carbon Emissions, a Goal of Less Than Zero

Algae, which have a high energy value per pound and consume carbon dioxide, are being cultivated at a biofuel demonstration facility run by the Solena Group in Alicante, Spain.

IF the world is going to sharply reduce the amount of carbon dioxide pumped into the atmosphere by midcentury, then many businesses will have to go carbon neutral, bringing their net emissions of the greenhouse gas to zero.

But some could go even further by removing more CO2 than they produce. Instead of carbon neutral, how about carbon negative?

In academic and industrial labs worldwide, researchers are working on technologies to reach that goal. Success could create the ultimate green business — for example, one that produces fuel whose emissions are more than offset by carbon dioxide stored during production. The businesses would be successful if, as anticipated, Congress puts a tax on emissions or starts a trading plan that makes carbon credits valuable.

For some experts, it’s not a question of whether businesses will go carbon negative but when.

Carbon-negative technologies of some sort will be essential, said Daniel M. Kammen, director of the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley. The world is facing the certainty of massive emissions for decades to come from plants already running, he said, adding that atmospheric concentrations must be stabilized. “We’ve got such a carbon overshoot looming in the future that this is going to have to happen,” he said.

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said that an 80 percent cut in carbon dioxide emissions was necessary to avoid the worst consequences of climate change. But capturing the gas from coal plant smokestacks or switching to fuels that produce less of it when burned goes only so far.

“The great problem is actually removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere,” said Geir Vollsaeter, an environment expert and former general manager of carbon dioxide at Shell International, a subsidiary of the oil giant.

While much engineering work would have to be done to make a business carbon negative, the outlines are clear.

Take the concept of building a coal plant that captures and stores carbon dioxide. Such a plant could have zero emissions, because the coal would be turned into gas and processed to produce hydrogen and carbon dioxide. The hydrogen, a pollution-free fuel, would be burned, and the CO2 pumped underground for permanent storage.

But Robert Williams, a research scientist at Princeton University, said that not only coal could be gasified; you could also make the same fuel by starting with plant matter or other biomass.

And then, he said, “if you put any CO2 underground that is derived from biomass, that’s negative CO2 emissions.” That is because plants or trees — the raw material for the fuel —pull carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as they grow, and the gasification and storage takes that carbon out of circulation.

Mr. Williams said the more likely route would be to gasify a mixture of coal and biomass to keep the process carbon neutral. But the balance depends on the cost of separation and storage versus what kind of tax or other fee Congress might put on emissions.

A Washington company, the Solena Group, also has a carbon-negative plan, which emerged from the decision by regulators in Kansas last year to turn down a permit for two new coal-burning power plants because of the millions of tons of carbon dioxide they would produce. The regulators insisted that the builder of the plants, an electric co-op called Sunflower, had to permanently remove the carbon from circulation. Gov. Kathleen Sebelius and the Kansas State Legislature are still arguing over whether the plants should be built.

Solena says it can use the carbon. The company employs a high-temperature process to break up anything organic into a flammable gas. The organic material could be algae, which have an extremely high energy value per pound. And algae eat carbon dioxide.

Solena is in discussion with Sunflower to build a 40-megawatt power plant that would run on gasified algae; the algae would be grown in thousands of clear plastic cylinders, 3 feet wide by 10 feet tall, sitting in the Kansas sun and fertilized with sodium bicarbonate, made with carbon captured from Sunflower’s coal plant. For each 1.8 tons of carbon dioxide, the columns would yield a ton of algae.

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June 2, 2008

New Planet Energy to assume Florida Ethanol Project

A number of announcements have been made in the within the last month involving two of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) EPAct 932 grant winners.

First, on May 8th, Iogen announced that it was not going to build its first commercial scale cellulosic ethanol plant in Idaho after all - foregoing the US$80 million grant offered by the U.S. Department of Energy. Their press release is titled Canadian company nixes Idaho for ethanol plant, picks Saskatchewan. The Canadian government is putting a package together of $500 million to help fund next-generation biofuels plants and the American D.O.E. was unwilling to raise its grant amount.

Regardless of where the first plant is located, proving the commercial-scale base technology will provide comparative evidence of value and yield for future developments.

That means that there are now officially five EPAct 932 grant projects under development.

On June 2, 2008, Alico announced that it was backing out of its grant-winning cellulosic ethanol project. Its situation is different than the other developers because it is a land management company that was reliant on Bioengineering Resources, Inc. (BRI) for its syngas fermentation conversion technology. The license for the BRI technology for this project is now being handled by New Planet Energy, LLC which plans to take over development of the southern Florida plant at a location separate from Alico property.

New Planet Energy management includes many of the executives involved previously in marketing BRI technology. Gary Smith, NPE's Chief Executive Officer, served as CEO of High Plains Corporation from 1998-2001. He was Chairman of the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) from 2001-2002. The company is also retaining the consulting services of Craig Evans who managed governmental compliance for the EPAct grant for Alico.

Below are two press releases - first by Alico and secondly by New Planet Energy.

Alico to Discontinue Ethanol Efforts

LABELLE, Fla., June 2, 2008 (PRIME NEWSWIRE) -- Alico, Inc. (Nasdaq:ALCO), a land management company, announced today that it will no longer explore the development of an ethanol facility. As previously announced, the Company had been selected by the United States Department of Energy (DOE) and by the State of Florida to potentially receive grants and loan assistance to partially offset the costs of such a project. However, Alico will no longer pursue these grants.

During the past year, Alico has been working with New Planet Energy LLC on this project and NPE is continuing its pursuit of cellulosic ethanol. As a result of Alico's decision, Alico will have no further financial commitment or liability to New Planet Energy, the DOE or the State of Florida for this project. In reaching its decision to discontinue the ethanol project, Alico's management and Board of Directors determined that the risks associated therewith outweighed any reasonably anticipated benefits for Alico.

Alico Chairman and CEO John R. Alexander stated, "In reaching this decision, Alico will continue to focus on our core operations of real estate management, including agriculture and development opportunities, to provide returns for our shareholders."

About Alico, Inc.
Alico, Inc., a land management company operating in Central and Southwest Florida, owns approximately 135,500 acres of land located in Collier, Glades, Hendry, Lee and Polk counties. Alico is involved in various agricultural operations and real estate activities. Alico's mission is to grow its asset values through its agricultural and real estate activities to produce superior long-term returns for its shareholders.

CONTACT: Alico, Inc.
John R. Alexander
(863) 675-2966
La Belle, Florida

New Planet Energy to Assume Florida Ethanol Project

Alico, Inc., today announced that it was withdrawing from its role in developing an advanced biofuels plant using the gasification/fermentation technology of Bioengineering Resources, Inc. (“BRI”) in the State of Florida. Alico has been working with New Planet Energy, LLC (“NPE”) on this project for the past year.
“Despite Alico's decision not to go forward, New Planet Energy has assumed this project, has selected and is in the process of acquiring a site for the project in the State of Florida, and intends to pursue the venture to its successful conclusion,” it was confirmed by Gary R. Smith, Chief Executive Officer of New Planet Energy, LLC.

Craig Evans, who has served as an independent consultant to Alico, Inc. since the inception of its relationship with BRI, and who has been handling day-to-day operations for the project and for all grant and loan guarantee issues on behalf of Alico, has been hired by NPE Florida to assure that there will be complete continuity as part of the phased transition, Smith noted.

The New Planet Energy plant in Florida will produce ethanol from cellulosic feedstocks, initially from yard, wood and vegetative wastes, taking ethanol production beyond reliance on food resources in the production of biofuels.


Jim Stewart
Vice President, Marketing & Public Affairs, New Planet Energy, LLC

Craig Evans
Project Consultant to NPE Florida, LLC


Finally, a news story in the online Palm Beach Post reveals more information about New Planet Energy's plans in Florida from an interview with Project Consultant Craig Evans. Some excerpts from the story...

Start-up takes over abandoned ethanol project

Evans said New Planet Energy, also known as NPE Florida, has been working on the project with Alico for the past year. NPE will use the same technology that Alico was planning to use, a gasification/fermentation technology developed by Fayetteville, Ark.-based Bioengineering Resources Inc.

The goal is to produce 7 million gallons of ethanol a year in the first phase, then ramp up to 21 million gallons by late 2010 or early 2011.

By 2012 or 2015, plans call for the plant to produce 105 million gallons of ethanol a year, Evans said.
"That will be the first of 20 plants planned in Florida in the next five to seven years by this company," he said.

Jim Stewart, marketing and public affairs vice president for Los Angeles-based NPE, said the privately held company was formed in 2007 to assist in the commercialization of Bioengineering Resources' technology.

Alico's recent write-down and the tight credit markets made its board averse to risk, and recent news about ethanol's role in the energy crisis played a decisive factor, Evans said.
"The negative publicity about ethanol had a huge impact. That was the death knell," Evans said. "The whole food-to-fuel debate has been exaggerated."

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