[Due to the increasing size of the archives, each topic page now contains only the prior 365 days of content. Access to older stories is now solely through the Monthly Archive pages or the site search function.]
EPA proposes adding renewable diesel and naphtha from landfill biogas and butanol pathways to RFS
May 21, 2013
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued a proposed rulemaking for modifications to the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS2) program. The proposal also includes various changes to the E15 misfueling mitigation regulations (E15 MMR), ultra low sulfur diesel survey requirements as well as other technical amendments.
The proposed rules include various changes related to biogas, including changes related to the revised compressed natural gas (CNG)/liquefied natural gas (LNG) pathway and amendments to various associated registration, recordkeeping, and reporting provisions. It also adds new pathways for renewable diesel, renewable naphtha, and renewable electricity (used in electric vehicles) produced from landfill biogas.
EIA: US fuel ethanol production capacity little changed in past year
May 20, 2013
|US fuel ethanol production capacity, 1 January 2013. Source: EIA. Click to enlarge.|
US fuel ethanol production capacity was 13.852 billion gallons per year (903,000 barrels per day), as of 1 January 2013, according to the latest annual report released by the US Energy Information Administration (EIA). The report shows a 0.9% increase in the total capacity of operating ethanol plants compared to 1 January 2012 (13.728 billion gallons/year). A total of 193 ethanol plants were operating as of 1 January 2013, compared to 194 plants operating a year earlier.
Most of the existing fuel ethanol capacity (about 91%) is located in the Midwest (PAD District 2). Total nameplate capacity in PADD 2 is 12.6 billion gallons per year (822,000 barrels per day). The number of plants in this report includes plants that were idled or temporarily shut down during 2012.
Converting wastepaper to biocrude and hydrogen
May 12, 2013
|Biocrude compounds, product gas and reaction pathways from APR of wastepaper at 250 °C in presence of 5 wt % Ni(NO3)2 catalyst. Credit: ACS, Tungal and Shende. Click to enlarge.|
A pair of researchers at the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology have demonstrated homogeneously catalyzed subcritical aqueous phase reforming (APR) of wastepaper to produce biocrude and hydrogen. A paper on their work is published in the ACS journal Energy & Fuels.
Wastepaper can be a combination of newspaper—a lignocellulosic biomass containing cellulose (62%), hemicellulose (16%), and lignin (16%)—and used office printing papers which consist of mainly cellulose (85−99%) and negligible (0.4%) lignin. Using a homogeneous Ni(NO3)2 catalyst, they produced about 44 wt % biocrude from wastepaper slurry at 250 °C after 120 minutes of reaction time. The biocrude contained ∼1 wt % HMF/furfural, 7.5 wt % sugars, 49.1 wt % acids, and 42.4 wt % oxygenated hydrocarbons.
New ionic liquid biomass pretreatment method eliminates need for enzymes, reduces water use
May 09, 2013
|The new ionic liquid pretreatment of cellulosic biomass yields a biphasic solution, a lower phase rich in sugar and an upper phases rich in ionic liquid. (Courtesy of Simmons/JBEI) Click to enlarge.|
Researchers at the US Department of Energy (DOE)’s Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) have developed a new technique for pre-treating cellulosic biomass with ionic liquids that could reduce the cost of producing advanced biofuels from plant sugars.
This new technique requires none of the expensive enzymes used in previous ionic liquid pretreatments, and yields a biphasic solution—a lower phase rich in sugar and an upper phases rich in ionic liquid—making it easier to recover fuel sugars and recycle the ionic liquid. An open access paper describing this research has been published in the journal Biotechnology for Biofuels.
California Energy Commission adopts $100M investment plan for 2013-2014 for green vehicles and fuels
The California Energy Commission unanimously adopted the 2013-2014 Investment Plan Update to support the development and use of green vehicles and alternative fuels. The update sets funding priorities for the approximately $100 million in annual state funds under the Commission’s Alternative and Renewable Fuels and Vehicle Technology (ARFVT) Program, created by Assembly Bill 118.
Funding priorities through the ARFVT Program support fuel and vehicle development to help attain the state’s climate change policies. In addition, the program funds projects that assist in fulfilling Governor Brown’s Zero Emission Vehicles (ZEV) Action Plan, with a target of installing enough infrastructure to support 1 million ZEVs by 2020, and a 2025 target of having 1.5 million ZEVs on the state’s roads.
Study finds large-scale ramp-up in biofuel crops could result in warming in some tropical regions, cooling in temperate and polar regions
May 08, 2013
Global land-use changes caused by a major ramp-up in biofuel crops—enough to meet about 10% of the world’s energy needs—could make some regions warmer, according to a new integrated modeling study by researchers from MIT and the Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole.
Using an integrated assessment model that links an economic model with climate, terrestrial biogeochemistry, and biogeophysics models, the team examined the biogeochemical and biogeophysical effects of possible land use changes from an expanded global second-generation bioenergy program on surface temperatures over the first half of the 21st century.
U. Minn. team proposes strategy for automated selection of optimal biomass-derived fuel blends and synthesis paths
May 07, 2013
|Proposed strategy for connecting automated network generation and optimization. Credit: ACS, Marvin et al. Click to enlarge.|
Researchers at the University of Minnesota are proposing a novel strategy that simultaneously identifies (a) the most desirable biomass-derived chemical products for an application of interest, such as fuels, and (b) the corresponding synthesis routes.
In a paper published in the ACS journal Energy & Fuels, they describe the strategy, and then apply it to identify potential renewable oxygenates and hydrocarbons obtained from heterogeneous catalysis of biomass that can be blended with gasoline to satisfy ASTM specifications.
China team engineers cyanobacterium for significant increase in alka(e)ne production
May 06, 2013
Strains of the cyanobacterium Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803 engineered by researchers from the Qingdao Institute of Bioenergy and Bioprocess Technology (China) increased their production of alka(e)nes by some 8 times compared with wildtype strains. Alkanes are the major constituents of gasoline, diesel and jet fuels. An open access paper on their work is published in the journal Biotechnology for Biofuels.
Some of the same researchers had earlier reported the application of a consolidated bioprocessing strategy to integrate photosynthetic biomass production and microbial conversion producing ethanol together into Synechocystis sp. PCC6803, with the resulting engineered organism directly converting carbon dioxide to ethanol in one single biological system. (Earlier post.)
Latest status report finds California fuel providers continue pacing ahead of requirements of Low Carbon Fuel Standard; sufficient credits to meet full 2013 obligation
May 01, 2013
According to the latest status report on the progress of California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard (CA-LCFS) (earlier post), regulated parties in the LCFS—oil producers, importers and other fuel providers—continued to exceed the required reductions in carbon intensity specified by the standard. (Earlier post.)
Companies achieve LCFS compliance when credits equal deficits. According to the new report, from 2011 through Q4 2012, cumulative credits generated under the LCFS total 2,835,662 metric tons of CO2e, while cumulative deficits total 1,550,698 metric tons CO2e, for a net excess of 1.285 million credits (metric tons of CO2e). If all are available for use, the bank of excess credits represents about half of what is needed to cover the 2013 obligation.
Former president of Shell Oil calls for aggressive action on alternative fuels to break oil monopoly on transportation
April 30, 2013
John Hofmeister, former President of Shell Oil Company and founder and CEO of Citizens for Affordable Energy (CFAE), is joining the Fuel Freedom Foundation (FFF) Advisory Board. Fuel Freedom is a non-partisan, non-profit organization dedicated to opening the fuel market to allow alternative fuels such as ethanol, methanol, natural gas and electricity fairly to compete with gasoline at the pump. CFAE’s mission is to educate citizens and government officials about pragmatic, non-partisan affordable energy solutions.
“The purpose and the focus [of FFF] is exactly in line with what I promoted as president of Shell and subsequently as the founder of CFAE,” Hofmeister said to Green Car Congress. “From [these organizations’ standpoints], the reason we have to get away from doing nothing is that the public doesn’t fully appreciate or understand the situation it faces with respect to fuels’ futures.”
Ford / AVL study concludes mid-level ethanol blend attractive as a long-term future fuel for use in optimized engines in US
April 19, 2013
A study by a team from Ford Motor Company and AVL has concluded that a mid-level ethanol blend—greater than E20 but less than E40—appears to be attractive as a long-term future fuel for the US for use in engines optimized for the higher octane blend. The team presented a paper on their work at the 2013 SAE World Congress in Detroit. Ford engineers also presented two other papers evaluating the effects of low to mid-level ethanol blends in spark-ignited engines at the conference.
In the face of increased regulatory stringency (e.g., US CAFE, California LEV 3 and pending US Tier 3), the combustion engine community is gearing up for an intensified push to deliver higher efficiency engines with lower fuel consumption and emissions. One of the many emerging possible technology pathways to achieve those goals is the use of a future high-octane fuel in optimized, higher-compression-ratio engines. (Earlier post.) The study by the Ford / AVL team provides an overview of the effects of such a future ethanol-gasoline blend in such an engine.
Joule expands solar CO2 conversion platform to produce renewable gasoline and jet hydrocarbons
April 15, 2013
Joule, the developer of a direct, single-step, continuous process for the production of solar hydrocarbon fuels (earlier post), has extended its solar CO2 conversion platform to produce renewable gasoline- and jet fuel-range hydrocarbons.
Joule has engineered photosynthetic biocatalysts that convert waste CO2 into hydrocarbons through a patented, continuous process. Joule has been successfully scaling its process for making ethanol (Sunflow-E) while also developing long-chain hydrocarbons for diesel (Sunflow-D). With this latest development, Joule can now also directly produce medium-chain hydrocarbons which are substantial components of gasoline (Sunflow-G) and jet fuel (Sunflow-J).
DOE seeks input on environmental impact of engineered high energy crops for fuels
April 14, 2013
The US Department of Energy (DOE) has issued a Request for Information (DE-FOA-0000908, RFI-0000003) regarding the potential environmental impacts of engineered high energy crops, such as those being investigated under the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy’s (ARPA-E) Plants Engineered to Replace Oil (PETRO) program (earlier post), and potential future DOE programs to support the development and demonstration of such crops through field trials.
Such crops could be the source of significant fuel resources from biological production DOE said, noting that therefore it is extremely important to understand their potential impact on the environment. DOE will consider responses to the RFI in the development of an Advance Notice of Intent (NOI) to prepare a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS), which would analyze the potential environmental impacts of such DOE programs.
PNNL solar thermochemical reaction system can reduce fuel consumption in natural gas power plants by about 20%; future potential for transportation fuels
April 11, 2013
|PNNL’s thermochemical conversion device is installed in front of a concentrating solar power dish. Photo: PNNL. Click to enlarge.|
A new concentrating solar power system developed by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) can reduce the fuel consumption of a modified natural-gas combined-cycle (NGCC) power plant by about 20%. The system converts natural gas into syngas—with higher energy content than natural gas—using a thermochemical conversion device installed in front of a concentrating solar power dish. The power plant then combusts the more energy dense syngas to produce electricity.
PNNL’s system uses a mirrored parabolic dish to direct sunbeams to a central point, where the thermochemical device uses the solar heat to produce syngas form natural gas. About four feet long and two feet wide, the device contains a chemical reactor and several heat exchangers. Concentrated sunlight heats up the natural gas flowing through the reactor’s channels, which hold a catalyst that helps turn natural gas into syngas.
President’s FY2014 Budget boosts DOE vehicle technology spending 75% to $575M; $282M for advanced biofuels
April 10, 2013
President Obama’s FY 2014 budget proposal submitted to Congress provides $28.4 billion in discretionary funds for the Department of Energy, an 8% increase above the 2012 enacted level. Among the direct transportation-related highlights of the department’s budget proposal are $575 million for advanced vehicle technologies research, an increase of 75% over the enacted 2012 level; $282 million for the next-generation of advanced biofuels research; and the $2 billion Energy Security Trust to transition cars and trucks off of oil. (Earlier post.)
Other highlights include more than $5 billion (+5.7% over the 2012 enacted level) for the Office of Science for basic research and research infrastructure; $615 million to increase the use and decrease the costs of clean power from solar, wind, geothermal, and water energy; $365 million in advanced manufacturing research and development; and $147 million in research and development of smart grid investments, cybersecurity for energy control systems, and permitting, sitting, and analysis activities.
EIA: US consumption of alt fuels up 13% in 2011; E85 second behind natural gas; medium-duty vans had greater impact than LDVs
April 09, 2013
|Consumption of alternative fuels by vehicle type, 2011. Replacement fuels—i.e., E10 and biodiesel—are categorized separately. Source: EIA. Click to enlarge.|
Overall consumption of alternative transportation fuels in the US increased almost 13% in 2011 to a total of 515,920 thousand gasoline-equivalent gallons, compared to 457,755 thousand gasoline-equivalent gallons in 2010, according to the latest Alternative Fuel Vehicle Data from the US Energy Information Administration (EIA).
In alternative-fueled vehicles, consumption of ethanol (E85) increased 52% from the prior year’s consumption, an increase from 90,323 thousand gasoline-equivalent gallons in 2010 to 137,165 thousand gasoline-equivalent gallons in 2011. EIA attributed this to the increase in overall inventory of E85-capable vehicles. In 2011, E85 became the second-most consumed alternative fuel, behind natural gas (220,247 thousand-gasoline-equivalent gallons), and outpacing LPG (124,457 thousand-gasoline-equivalent gallons).
EBEI researchers shed light on how multiple cellulase enzymes attack cellulose; potential avenue to boosting sugar yields for biofuels
April 08, 2013
|PALM enables researchers to quantify how and where enzymes are binding to the surface of cellulose in heterogeneous surfaces, such as those in plant cell walls. Source: Berkeley Lab. Click to enlarge.|
Researchers with the Energy Biosciences Institute, University of California, Berkeley have provided insight into how multiple cellulase enzymes attack cellulose, potentially yielding a way to improve the collective catalytic activity of enzyme cocktails that can boost the yields of sugars for making fuels.
Increasing the sugar yields from cellulosic biomass to help bring down biofuel production costs is essential for the widespread commercial adoption of these fuels. A paper on their work is published in Nature Chemical Biology.
NSF to award up to $13M for fundamental work on sustainable production of electricity and transportation fuels
April 07, 2013
The US National Science Foundation (NSF) has issued a grants opportunity notice (PD-14-7644) for up to about $13 million in awards to fundamental research and education that will enable innovative processes for the sustainable production of electricity and transportation fuels. Processes for sustainable energy production must be environmentally benign, reduce greenhouse gas production, and utilize renewable resources.
The duration of unsolicited awards is typically three years. The average annual award size for the program is $100,000. Proposals requesting a substantially higher amount than this, without prior consultation with the Program Director, may be returned without review. Current interest areas in sustainable energy technologies are as follows:
Task 39 report finds significant advances in advanced biofuels technologies; hydrotreating accounting for about 2.4% of global biofuels production
April 06, 2013
|Capacities of the demonstration and commercial facilities sorted by technology. Source: “Status of Advanced Biofuels Demonstration Facilities in 2012”. Click to enlarge.|
Advanced biofuels technologies have developed significantly over the past several years, according to a status report on demonstration facilities prepared for IEA Bioenergy Task 39—a group of international experts working on commercializing sustainable biofuels used for transportation that is part of the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) implementation agreement for bioenergy, IEA Bioenergy.
Hydrotreatment—as exemplified by Neste Oil’s NExBTL—has been commercialized and currently accounts for approximately 2.4% of biofuels production worldwide (2,190,000 t/y), according to the report. Fermentation of lignocellulosic raw material to ethanol has also seen a strong development and several large scale facilities are just coming online in Europe and North America. The production capacity for biofuels from lignocellulosic feedstock has tripled since 2010 and currently accounts for some 140,000 tons per year.
US EPA proposing allowing high-octane, higher ethanol content fuels as part of Tier 3 regs; E30 as example
April 03, 2013
As part of the proposed Tier 3 rulemaking on vehicle emissions and gasoline sulfur content released last week (earlier post), the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing to allow vehicle manufacturers to request approval for an alternative certification fuel—such as a high-octane 30% ethanol by volume (E30) blend—for vehicles they might design or optimize for use on such a fuel.
Higher octane fuels can lead to higher compression ratios which in turn can lead to more efficient gasoline engines and reduced fuel consumption. With turbocharged gasoline engines, there is a double benefit: higher compression ratios and increased boost. (Earlier post.) Having approval for such a high octane certification fuel would, the EPA proposed in the Tier 3 Notice of Proposed Rulemaking:
Joint BioEnergy Institute researchers engineer plant cell walls to boost sugar yields and reduce cell wall recalcitrance for biofuels
April 01, 2013
|Genetically engineered Arabidopsis plants (#89) yielded as much biomass as wild types (WT) but with enhanced polysaccharide deposition in the fibers of their cell walls. (Image courtesy of JBEI.) Click to enlarge.|
Researchers at the US Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) have developed a new approach to decrease lignin content in biomass while preventing vessel collapse and have devised a new strategy to boost transcription factor expression in native tissues. A paper describing their work recently was published in Plant Biotechnology Journal.
Abundant lignocellulosic biomass could potentially supply the sugars needed to produce advanced biofuels that can supplement or replace fossil fuels, providing several key technical challenges are met. One of these challenges is finding ways to more cost-effectively extract those sugars.
Converting the acetone-butanol-ethanol mixture to drop-in hydrocarbons
Researchers at Auburn University report on the catalytic dehydration of the acetone-butanol-ethanol (ABE) mixture produced by fermentation by genetically modified Clostridium acetobutylicum. Their paper appears in the ACS journal Energy & Fuels.
C. acetobutylicum produces a mixture of acetone, butanol and ethanol via fermentation. While the catalytic dehydration of the individual components—n-butanol, acetone, and ethanol—has been studied, not much work has been reported on the dehydration or deoxygenation of the mixture as produced from the ABE fermentation process, Shaima Nahreen and Ram Gupta note in their paper.
Primus Green Energy to support gas-to-liquids research at Princeton University; comparing STG+ to other GTL platforms
March 28, 2013
|Schematic diagram of the Primus STG+ process. Click to enlarge.|
Primus Green Energy Inc., developer of a proprietary process to produce gasoline and other fuels from biomass and/or natural gas (earlier post), will provide financial support to engineers at Princeton University for general research on synthetic fuels, which will include assessments of various gas-to-liquids (GTL) technologies—including Primus’ own STG+—for sustainability and economic viability.
STG+ technology converts syngas into drop-in high-octane gasoline and jet fuel with a conversion efficiency of ~35% by mass of syngas into liquid transportation fuels (the highest documented conversion efficiency in the industry) or greater than 70% by mass of natural gas. The fuels produced from the Primus STG+ technology are very low in sulfur and benzene compared to fuels produced from petroleum, and they can be used directly in vehicle engines as a component of standard fuel formulas and transported via the existing fuel delivery infrastructure.
UGA/NCSU team engineers hyperthermophilic bacterium to produce industrial chemical building blocks from CO2 and H2; ARPA-E project
March 26, 2013
Researchers at the University of Georgia and North Carolina State University have used a unique temperature-dependent approach in engineering a hyperthermophilic archaeon, Pyrococcus furiosus to be able to use CO2 and hydrogen to produce 3-hydroxypropionic acid, one of the top 12 industrial chemical building blocks.
The research, reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of the Sciences (PNAS), was supported by the Department of Energy as part of the Electrofuels Program of the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) under Grant DE-AR0000081. (Earlier post.)
DOE launches Clean Energy Manufacturing Initiative; awards $23.5M to 5 more manufacturing R&D projects
The US Department of Energy (DOE) launched the Clean Energy Manufacturing Initiative (CEMI), which will focus on growing US manufacturing of clean energy products and boosting US competitiveness through major improvements in manufacturing energy productivity. The initiative includes private sector partnerships, new funding from the Department, and enhanced analysis of the clean energy manufacturing supply chain that will guide DOE’s future funding decisions.
As a part of its increased focus on manufacturing research and development, DOE also awarded $23.5 million to 5 innovative manufacturing research and development projects. This new funding for advanced manufacturing—as well as the $54 million invested in 13 projects during the first round of selections in June of 2012 (earlier post)—is to serve as a ground floor investment in CEMI.
UNSW team develops bio-inspired catalytic approach to chemical reduction for production of fuels and chemicals
March 25, 2013
Scientists at the University of New South Wales (Australia) have developed a new bio-inspired method for carrying out chemical reduction—an industrial process used to produce fuels and chemicals. A report on their work is published in the journal Angewandte Chemie.
Chemical reduction involves the addition of electrons to a substance, and is the basis of making many fuels, including the sugars that plants produce during photosynthesis. The catalyst designed by the team led by Associate Professor Stephen Colbran of the UNSW School of Chemistry mimics the activity of naturally occurring metallo-(de)hydrogenase enzymes that catalyse reduction, such as alcohol dehydrogenase in yeast, that helps produce alcohol from sugar.
JBEI team develops new one-pot process to extract biomass sugars from ionic liquid solutions
March 21, 2013
|Process of biomass pretreatment, acid hydrolysis and sugar extraction using alkaline solutions. Sun et al. Click to enlarge.|
A team from the Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI), Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has developed a novel one-pot process to extract sugars liberated from biomass in aqueous ionic liquid (IL) solutions. The new approach, described in an open access paper in the journal Biotechnology for Biofuels, potentially could significantly reduce costs of sugar production from lignocellulose by eliminating the need for costly enzymes and decreasing the water consumption requirements.
Many recent research and development efforts for cellulosic biofuels have explored a two-step bioconversion process involving: 1) liberation of fermentable sugars from lignocellulose; and 2) conversion of sugars into fuels and/or chemicals by fermentation. However, easily liberating the sugars and other monomers from cellulosic biomass for conversion is one of the major challenges to the cost-effectiveness of cellulosic pathways.
Mærsk Group exploring use of lignin-based marine biofuels; CyclOx and B21st
March 20, 2013
With an annual fuel bill of US$7 billion for vessel operations, the Mærsk Group continually considers ways to reduce its bunker fuel consumption. Greater efficiency is the primary way of achieving this; alternative fuels are another. Mærsk Group is currently involved in two projects focused on realizing the marine fuel potential of one of the world’s most abundant and sustainable biomass resources: lignin.
Lignin already has a variety of industrial uses because of its chemical characteristics, energy content and its abundance; yet its potential as a marine diesel fuel is a relatively uncharted area, says Peter Normark Sørensen, with Mærsk Oil Trading, the Mærsk Group’s oil buying arm.
NRC report concludes US LDVs could cut oil consumption and GHGs by 80% by 2050; reliance on plug-ins, biofuels and hydrogen; strong policies mandatory
March 18, 2013
|Projected rates of fuel consumption improvement under different scenarios relative to past experience and the 2016 and 2025 CAFE standards. Source: NRC. Click to enlarge.|
Light-duty vehicles (LDVs) in the US may be able to reduce petroleum use by 50% by 2030, and by 80% by 2050; and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 80% by 2050, according to the newly published results of a two-year study by a committee convened by the National Research Council.
Achieving those goals will will be difficult—but not impossible to meet—and will necessitate a combination of more efficient vehicles; the use of alternative fuels such as biofuels, electricity, and hydrogen; and strong government policies to overcome high costs and influence consumer choices. Given the importance of policy as a driver, the committee was also asked—somewhat unusually for a study of this kind—to explore policies, noted Douglas M. Chapin, principal of MPR Associates, and chair of the committee that wrote the report.
Tsinghua study compares two diesel-gasoline combustion modes; both deliver high efficiencies and low emissions
|The effects of gasoline ratio on indicated thermal efficiency of HCII and GDBF modes. Yu et al. Click to enlarge.|
Researchers at Tsinghua University have compared the combustion and emissions characteristics of two dual-fuel (diesel-gasoline) modes intended to integrate the advantages of both fuels to achieve high thermal efficiency and low emission targets. A paper on their results is published in the journal Fuel.
Gasoline Homogeneous Charge Induced Ignition (HCII) by diesel combines the port fuel injection of gasoline to form a homogeneous charge with the direct injection of diesel fuel as an ignition source. (E.g., RCCI, earlier post.) Gasoline/Diesel Blend Fuels (GDBFs) use a premixed blend of diesel and gasoline which is directly injected into the cylinder for combustion. (E.g., dieseline, earlier post.)
ARPA-E to award up to $20M to projects for bioconversion of methane to liquid fuels; seeking <$2/gge and ability to meet US demand for transportation fuels
March 17, 2013
The US Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Advanced Research Projects Agency - Energy (ARPA-E) has issued a Funding Opportunity Announcement (DE-FOA-0000881) for up to $20 million to fund the development of bioconversion technologies to convert methane into liquid fuels. (Earlier post.) This program envisions the development of transformative bioconversion technologies that are capable of producing liquid fuels economically from natural gas at less than $2 per gallon of gasoline equivalent and at levels sufficient to meet US demand for transportation fuels.
Of interest for the Reducing Emissions Using Methanotrophic Organisms For Transportation Energy (REMOTE) program are biological routes to improve the rates and energy efficiencies of methane activation and subsequent fuel synthesis, as well as approaches to engineer high-productivity methane conversion processes. REMOTE considers three technical categories:
DOE TEF project finds US can eliminate petroleum and reduce GHG by more than 80% in transportation by 2050; less use, more biofuels, expansion of electricity and hydrogen
March 15, 2013
|TEF project points to deep cuts in petroleum and emissions in the transportation sector by focusing on modes, fuels, and demand. Source: DOE. Click to enlarge.|
The US Department of Energy (DOE) released findings from a new project—Transportation Energy Futures (TEF)—that concludes the United States has the potential to eliminate petroleum use and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by more than 80% in the transportation sector by 2050. The project identifies possible paths to a low-carbon, low-petroleum future in the US transportation sector, and also looks beyond technology to examine the marketplace, consumer behavior, industry capabilities, and infrastructure.
TEF is organized into four research areas: light-duty vehicles; non-light-duty vehicles; fuels; and transportation demand. Findings are being detailed in a series of nine reports, six of which are now available.
Researchers use LCLS to get real-time view of chemical reaction; important insight into how catalysts work
An international team of researchers has used the ultrafast, ultrabright X-ray pulses of the Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS) at the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory (earlier post) to gain unprecedented views of a catalyst in action, an important step in the effort to develop cleaner and more efficient energy sources. A paper on their work is published in the journal Science.
The scientists used LCLS, together with computerized simulations, to probe the electronic structure of CO molecules as their chemisorption state on a ruthenium catalyst sample changed upon exciting the substrate. The study revealed surprising details of a short-lived early state in the chemical reaction, offering important clues about how catalysts work and launching a new era in probing surface chemistry as it happens.
SRI wins $925,000 DOE award to liquefy biomass for production of transportation fuels
March 13, 2013
Southern Research Institute (SRI) entered into a cooperative agreement with the US Department of Energy (DOE) to develop a mild liquefaction process that will economically convert biomass to petroleum refinery-ready bio-oils. The process will convert biomass to stabilized bio-oils that can be directly blended with hydrotreater and cracker input streams in a petroleum refinery for production of gasoline and diesel range hydrocarbons.
Dr. Santosh Gangwal, Southern Research principal investigator, said co-processing of bio-oil with petroleum refinery streams can help refineries comply with new renewable fuels standards (RFS-2.) The process will be evaluated and optimized using a continuous flow lab-scale biomass liquefaction system simulating the commercial embodiment of Southern Research’s liquefaction process. Also a lab-scale reactor will be constructed and tested for hydrotreating and cracking the bio-oils to produce gasoline and diesel range hydrocarbons.
Stanford GCEP awards $6.6M to 7 projects; focus on combining energy conversion with carbon-neutral fuel production
Stanford’s Global Climate and Energy Project (GCEP) is awarding $6.6 million to seven research teams—six from Stanford and one from Carnegie Mellon University—to advance research on technologies for renewable energy conversion to electricity or fuels and for capturing CO2 emissions and converting CO2 to fuels.
The 7 awards bring the total number of GCEP-supported research programs to 104, with total funding of approximately $125 million since the project’s launch in 2002.
ZeaChem begins production of cellulosic chemicals and ethanol, advances toward commercialization
March 12, 2013
|Zeachem’s C2 platform uses an acetogenic organism to ferment sugars to acetic acid, which is converted to ethanol. Source: Zeachem. Click to enlarge.|
ZeaChem Inc. has produced commercial-grade cellulosic chemicals and ethanol at its 250,000 gallons per year (GPY) demonstration biorefinery in Boardman, Ore. The demonstration facility is intended to showcase the scalability of ZeaChem’s biorefining process and serve as a stepping-stone toward large-scale commercial production.
Similar to a petrochemical refinery that makes multiple fuels and chemicals, ZeaChem’s demonstration facility is employing its C2 (two-carbon) platform to produce cellulose-based ethanol and intermediate chemicals such as acetic acid and ethyl acetate. (Earlier post.) The commercial market potential for all C2 products is $485 billion.
Codexis introduces next-generation Codexyme cellulase enzymes with improved performance for reduced costs
|Codexis has delivered significant improvements in enzyme performance (left) and enzyme manufacturing cost (right). Source: Codexis. Click to enlarge.|
Codexis, Inc., a developer of engineered enzymes for pharmaceutical, biofuel and chemical production, launched CodeXyme 4 and CodeXyme 4X cellulase enzyme packages for use in producing cellulosic sugar for production of biofuels and bio-based chemicals.
Codexis’ latest generation of advanced cellulase enzymes, CodeXyme 4 for dilute acid pretreatments and CodeXyme 4X for hydrothermal pretreatments, converts up to 85% of available fermentable sugars at high biomass and low enzyme loads. Combined with high strain productivity using the CodeXporter enzyme production system, this allows for a cost-in-use that the company believes will be among the lowest available once in full-scale commercial production.
Petrobras joining DIBANET biofuels consortium; diesel miscible biofuels from biomass
|DIBANET aimes to advance the art in several key areas in diesel miscible diesel production. Source: DIBANET. Click to enlarge.|
Petrobras is joining the DIBANET (Development of Integrated Biomass Approaches Network) consortium—a 45-month, €3.73-million (US$4.9-million) research project that is funded by the EU’s Seventh Framework Program. (Earlier post.) DIBANET is coordinated by the Carbolea Research Group at the University of Limerick in Ireland.
DIBANET focuses on the conversion, by non-biological means, of the lignocellulosic biomass residues and wastes of Europe and Latin America to platform chemicals, such as levulinic acid and furfural, and biofuels. More specifically, DIBANET is advancing the art in the production of ethyl-levulinate from organic wastes and residues. Ethyl levulinate (EL) is a novel diesel miscible biofuel (DMB) produced by esterifying ethanol with levulinic acid.
China-US team develops new platinum-cobalt nanocatalysts for low-temperature aqueous phase Fischer-Tropsch synthesis
March 07, 2013
Researchers from China and the US have developed Pt−Co nanoparticles (NPs) which proved to be effective and efficient catalysts for aqueous-phase Fischer-Tropsch synthesis (FTS) at 433 K (160 °C)—a lower operational temperature than can be achieved with conventional catalysts. A report on their work is published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.
Fischer−Tropsch synthesis is a well-established catalytic process that converts syngas derived from fossil fuels or biomass to liquid fuel products. As the process is highly exothermic and thermodynamically favored at low temperature, it is desirable to develop a catalyst system that could facilitate working at low reaction temperature while maintaining excellent catalytic performance, they note.
Researchers develop new Fischer-Tropsch catalyst and production method; Total patents both
March 05, 2013
A team of researchers led by University of Amsterdam (UvA) chemists has developed new Fischer-Tropsch catalysts—consisting of ultra-thin cobalt shells surrounding inexpensive iron oxide cores—that can be used to produce synthetic fuels from natural gas and biomass. The method used to produce the catalysts is based on an approach previously optimized for preparing magnetic tape for audio cassettes in the 1960s.
France-based energy major Total, which was part of the research team, has patented the new catalysts and the method for their preparation, naming the UvA researchers as co-inventors. The research has just been published online as a VIP (very important paper) communication in the journal Angewandte Chemie.
Shell to build LNG units in Gulf Coast and Great Lakes regions; two additional LNG for transport corridors in North America
Shell and its affiliates will build two additional small-scale natural gas liquefaction units to provide liquefied natural gas (LNG) fuel for marine and heavy-duty on-road customers in North America. Pending final regulatory permitting, these two new liquefaction units are expected to begin operations and production in about three years.
These two units will form the basis of two new LNG transport corridors in the Great Lakes and Gulf Coast regions. This decision follows an investment decision in 2011 on a similar corridor in Alberta, Canada. (Earlier post.) Shell is also working to use natural gas as a fuel in its own operations.
MIT team outlines path to low-cost solar-to-fuels devices; the artificial leaf
A team of researchers at MIT has described a framework for efficiently coupling the power output of a series-connected string of single-band-gap solar cells to an electrochemical process that produces storable fuels. The open access paper, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), offers a roadmap for direct solar-to-fuels devices.
The new analysis follows up on 2011 research that produced a proof of concept of an artificial leaf—a small device that, when placed in a container of water and exposed to sunlight, would produce bubbles of hydrogen and oxygen. (Earlier post.) The new work outlines a research program to improve the efficiency of these systems, and could quickly lead to the production of a practical, inexpensive and commercially viable prototype.
NASA begins ACCESS flight research to study effects of biojet fuels on engine performance, emissions and contrails
March 01, 2013
NASA researchers have begun a series of flights using the agency’s DC-8 flying laboratory to study the effects of alternate biofuel on engine performance, emissions and aircraft-generated contrails at altitude. The Alternative Fuel Effects on Contrails and Cruise EmiSSions (ACCESS) research involves flying the DC-8 as high as 40,000 feet while an instrumented NASA Falcon HU-25 aircraft trails behind at distances ranging from 300 feet to more than 10 miles.
During the flights, the DC-8’s four CFM56 engines will be powered by conventional JP-8 jet fuel, or a 50-50 blend of JP-8 and an alternative fuel of hydroprocessed esters and fatty acids that comes from camelina plants.
Engineered E. coli from Rice University part of USDA-funded project to develop drop-in fuels from biomass
A process developed by researchers at Rice University is part of a USDA-funded $6.6-million project to convert lignocellulosic biomass to infrastructure-compatible renewable diesel, bio-lubricants, animal feed and biopower. (Earlier post.)
Patent-pending fermentation processes created by Rice bioengineer Ka-Yiu San and his colleagues use genetically modified E. coli bacteria to produce fatty acids from hydrolysates. Dr. San said his lab already gets an 80-to-90% yield of fatty acids from model sugars and hopes to improve that over the next few years. (San and his team also recently published a paper on their work on engineering E. coli to produce succinate (an ester of succinic acid) from soybean mash in the journal Bioresource Technology. (Earlier post.)
EIA: cellulosic biofuels will likely remain well below EISA targets
February 26, 2013
|Planned cellulosic biofuel production by 2015. Source: EIA. Click to enlarge.|
US Commercial-scale production of cellulosic biofuels reached about 20,000 gallons in late 2012, according to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA). EIA estimates this output could grow to more than 5 million gallons this year, as operations ramp up at several plants. Additionally, several more plants with proposed aggregate nameplate capacity of around 250 million gallons could begin production by 2015, EIA said.
However, although cellulosic biofuels volumes are expected to grow significantly relative to current levels, they will likely remain well below the targets envisioned in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA). EISA set a target level of 500 million gallons of cellulosic biofuels for 2012 and 1 billion gallons for 2013, growing to 16 billion gallons by 2022.
UTS study details efficiency benefits of combining ethanol direct injection with gasoline port injection
February 25, 2013
|Variation of indicated thermal efficiency with increased EER at 3500 rpm and light load. Zhuang and Hong, 2013. Click to enlarge.|
A new study by researchers at the University of Technology, Sydney (Australia) is contributing more detail on the leveraging effect of combining ethanol direct injection with gasoline port injection (EDI + GPI) to reduce gasoline consumption in a spark ignition engine while retaining performance. (The EDI + GPI concept was proposed by MIT researchers in 2005. Earlier post.)
Existing methods of using ethanol fuel—e.g., in blends with gasoline or neat—do not make the best use of ethanol’s potentials in improving engine performance, they noted in a paper on their work in the journal Fuel. Ethanol possesses a higher octane number and latent heat of vaporization, which allow the use of higher compression ratios and consequently can lead to the increased thermal efficiency. Ethanol fuel’s higher combustion velocity could also help increase the combustion efficiency and minimize the energy loss.
California ARB proposing amendments to Clean Fuels Outlet regulation to ensure adequate hydrogen fueling infrastructure
February 19, 2013
The California Air Resources Board (ARB) will conduct a public hearing in June to consider adopting amendments to the Clean Fuels Outlet (CFO) Regulation with the intention of ensuring an adequate hydrogen refueling infrastructure to support the introduction and growth of hydrogen-fueled vehicles.
In January 2012, the Board adopted the Advanced Clean Cars (ACC) regulatory package adopted in January 2012 (earlier post)—a combination of the Low Emission Vehicle (LEV) regulations (for criteria pollutants and greenhouse gas emissions) and the technology-forcing Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) that pushes manufacturers to produce ZEVs and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles in the 2018 through 2025 model years. In addition, the ACC program included amendments to Clean Fuels Outlet (CFO) requirements that will assure that ultra-clean fuels such as hydrogen are available to meet vehicle demands brought on by amendments to the ZEV regulation.
DOE issues $13M funding opportunity for advanced coal gasification systems for power or fuels
February 17, 2013
The US Department of Energy (DOE) has issued a funding opportunity announcement (DE-FOA-0000784) for up to $13 million to support the development of advanced coal gasification systems. DOE anticipates making 5 awards under the FOA.
There will be three (3) Areas of Interest (AOIs) under the FOA. The first two—Coal Feed Technologies - Low-rank Coal Feed or Coal-woody Biomass Feed Technologies; and Lower-cost Oxygen Production Systems—will look to further develop and expand on concepts already included in the Gasification Systems Program that will significantly reduce gasification’s capital and operating costs. The third AOI (High Hydrogen Syngas Production) will begin exploration (through systems analysis and small-scale R&D) of novel technologies to reduce the cost of creating chemical-grade hydrogen and/or high-hydrogen syngas.
SDTC awards C$1.5M to support Molten Salt Catalyzed Gasification for hydrogen production; targeting reduced GHG footprint for oil sands synthetic crude
February 16, 2013
|Flowchart of the MSG process. Source: Western Hydrogen. Click to enlarge.|
A consortium led by Canada-based Western Hydrogen Ltd. will receive a $C1.5-million investment from Sustainable Development Technology Canada to support the development and commercialization of a new hydrogen manufacturing technology called Molten Salt Catalyzed Gasification (MSG), originally developed at the US Idaho National Laboratory (INL).
Hydrogen is necessary in the upgrading of oil sands bitumen into synthetic crude, but it is a costly and carbon-intensive part of the process, given current hydrogen production technologies. MSG converts natural gas into hydrogen with a 23% reduction in GHG emissions compared to steam methane reforming.
Researchers use LCLS x-ray laser to view simultaneously the structure and chemical behavior of Photosystem II catalyst; major step in studying catalytic processes
February 14, 2013
An international team of researchers has used an X-ray laser at the Department of Energy’s (DOE) SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory to look simultaneously at the structure and chemical behavior of the Photosystem II catalyst involved in photosynthesis for the first time. The work, made possible by the ultrafast, ultrabright X-ray pulses at SLAC’s Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS), is a breakthrough in studying atomic-scale transformations in photosynthesis and other biological and industrial processes that depend on catalysts, which efficiently speed up reactions.
This pioneering experimental technique can be used to further study photosynthesis and other catalytic reactions, the researchers said in a paper published in the journal Science.
UDRI researchers conclude that an algal renewable jet fuel strategy that maximizes the highest liquid fuel yield should focus on renewable diesel
February 08, 2013
Researchers at the University of Dayton Research Institute (UDRI) investigating the conversion of algal triglycerides to renewable diesel and HEFA (hydrotreated esters and fatty acids) renewable jet fuel have concluded that a renewable aviation turbine fuel strategy that preserves the overall highest liquid fuel yield from the renewable feedstocks would target the production of primarily diesel fuel.
Renewable aviation fuel would be recovered from the cracked fraction that naturally accompanies the hydroisomerization of the original n-alkanes derived from the algal triglycerides to the extent required for meeting an appropriate diesel fuel pour point specification. Such an approach would limit the loss of algal alkane fuel value to less than 10%, according to their paper published in the ACS journal Energy & Fuels.
Engineered bi-functional enzyme increases output of bio-alkanes; “protection via inhibitor metabolism”
Researchers at Brookhaven National Laboratory studying an enzymatic pathway that naturally produces alkanes—long carbon-chain molecules that could be a direct replacement for the hydrocarbons in gasoline—have discovered why the natural reaction typically stops after three to five cycles, and have devised a strategy to keep the reaction going. The findings, published in a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academies (PNAS), could bolster work in using bacteria, algae, or plants to produce biofuels that need no further processing.
The cyanobacterial pathway, consisting of acyl–Acyl Carrier Protein reductase and an aldehyde-deformylating oxygenase (ADO), converts acyl–Acyl Carrier Proteins into corresponding n-1 alkanes via aldehyde intermediates in an oxygen-dependent manner. In vitro, ADO turns over only three times; however, the addition of more ADO to exhausted assays results in additional product formation. ADO’s resemblance to a group of enzymes with which the Brookhaven scientists were familiar drew them into working to discover why the enzyme stopped working.
DOE seeking comment on draft $50M solicitation for new projects over 11 areas of interest to improve vehicle performance and decrease fuel consumption
February 02, 2013
The US Department of Energy (DOE) Vehicle Technology Program is seeking public comment on the draft of an upcoming solicitation (DE-FOA-0000793) totaling more than $50 million for new research projects that will develop advanced technologies to improve vehicle performance and increase fuel economy. As part of the Advanced Vehicle Power Technology Alliance between DOE and the Department of the Army, the Army plans to contribute $3.5 million in co-funding for several areas where there are joint development opportunities. The FOA supports the President’s EV Everywhere Grand Challenge. (Earlier post.)
DOE will release the final version after a period of public comment and revision. The FOA contains a total of 11 areas of interest (AOIs) in the general areas of advanced lightweighting and propulsion materials; advanced battery development; power electronics; advanced heating, ventilation, air conditioning systems; and fuels and lubricants. Specific AOIs are:
2013 SAE International High Octane Fuels Symposium: the potential for high octane fuels (Part 1)
January 31, 2013
The 2013 SAE International High Octane Fuels Symposium (HOFS) this week in Washington, DC, explored the pros and the cons of high octane fuels, with a particular focus on using ethanol as the source of the octane improvement.
The “obvious driver” for the consideration of a high octane fuel (HOF), said MIT Prof. Emeritus John Heywood, one of the speakers, is that higher octane fuels would lead to higher compression ratios which would lead to more efficient engines and reduced fuel consumption. With the spread of turbocharged gasoline engines, he added, there is a double benefit: higher compression ratios and increased boost.
Ionic liquids effective for pre-treating mixed blends of biofuel feedstocks
January 30, 2013
A collaborative study by researchers with the US Department of Energy (DOE)’s Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI), a bioenergy research center led by Berkeley Lab, and the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) has shown that an ionic liquid proven to be effective for pre-treating individual biofuel feedstocks is also effective at pre-treating multiple different feedstocks that have been mixed and densified into a blend.
The JBEI/INL study used four biomass feedstocks—switchgrass, lodgepole pine, corn stover and eucalyptus—representing the general classes of plants well-suited to serving as fuel crops, and mixed and milled them into either flour or pellets then pre-treated with 1-ethyl-3-methylimidazolium acetate ([C2mim][OAc]), the ionic liquid used at JBEI as a benchmark for biomass processing.
DC Circuit court vacates 2012 cellulosic RFS standard, affirms 2012 advanced biofuel standard
January 27, 2013
The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled this week in a case (#12-1139) brought by the American Petroleum Institute (API) against the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (earlier post), and vacated the 2012 cellulosic biofuel RFS standard while affirming the 2012 advanced biofuel standard.
API had filed the lawsuit with the DC Circuit Court challenging the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for what API called “unachievable” requirements for use of cellulosic biofuels in the 2012 Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). EPA’s 2012 rule requires that refiners and importers of gasoline and diesel must use 8.65 million gallons of cellulosic biofuels despite a lack of commercial supply of the fuel—a requirement that the API at the time called “divorced from reality.”
DeCicco: Transportation GHG reduction policy should focus upstream on fuel supply rather than downstream on choice of fuels in vehicles
January 25, 2013
In a new working paper, Prof. John DeCicco at the University of Michigan argues that to reduce transportation sector greenhouse gas emissions, the proper policy focus should be upstream in sectors that provide the fuel, rather than downstream on the choice of fuels in the automobile.
More specifically, he suggests that other than supporting fundamental R&D, programs to promote alternative fuel vehicles (AFVs) “are not currently warranted for climate protection. In addition to managing travel demand and improving vehicle efficiency, the implied climate policy priority is limiting net GHG emissions in fuel supply sectors.” The paper is available from the Social Science Research Network (SSRN).
EU launches clean fuel strategy; EU-wide standards of equipment and binding targets for infrastructure
The European Commission announced a package of measures to ensure the build-up of alternative fuel stations across Europe with common standards for their design and use. Policy initiatives so far have mostly addressed the actual fuels and vehicles, without considering fuels distribution. Efforts to provide incentives have been un-co-ordinated and insufficient, the EC said.
Clean fuel adoption is being held back by three main barriers, the EC said: the high cost of vehicles; a low level of consumer acceptance; and the lack of recharging and refueling stations. Refueling stations are not being built because there are not enough vehicles; vehicles are not sold at competitive prices because there is not enough demand; and consumers do not buy the vehicles because they are expensive and the stations are not there. The Commission is therefore proposing a package of binding targets on Member States for a minimum level of infrastructure for clean fuels such as electricity, hydrogen and natural gas, as well as common EU wide standards for equipment needed.
UDRI and Air Force researchers ramping up production of new renewable fuel formula for aviation
January 23, 2013
University of Dayton Research Institute (UDRI) and Air Force researchers at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base have ramped up production of a new research fuel formula and a fuel derived from seed oils, and now have enough fuel to move from lab testing to testing in engines and auxiliary power systems.
The ACS journal Industrial and Engineering Chemistry Research published an article about the work on the fuel formula—a research jet fuel composition comprising methyl-branched tetradecane isomers—led by Heinz Robota, Ohio Research Scholar in alternative fuels and the Research Institute’s alternative fuels synthesis group leader.
New metabolic engineering tool for microbial cell factories for chemicals, fuels and materials
January 22, 2013
A South Korean research team led by Sang Yup Lee at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) has developed a new metabolic engineering tool to construct efficiently microbial cell factories producing desired chemicals, fuels and materials. The new tool allows fine control of gene expression level by employing synthetic small regulatory RNAs; a paper on the work is published in the journal Nature Biotechnology.
Biotechnologists have been working to develop sustainable processes for the production of chemicals, fuels and materials from renewable non-food biomass. One promising technology is the use of microbial cell factories for the efficient production of desired chemicals and materials.
G2X Energy and EMRE sign methanol to gasoline technology license and license option agreements; plans for $1.3B natural gas to gasoline plant
January 18, 2013
|The ExxonMobil MTG process flow diagram. Source: EMRE. Click to enlarge.|
G2X Energy, Inc., a developer of natural gas to gasoline projects, entered into a licensing agreement to use ExxonMobil Research and Engineering Company’s (EMRE’s) methanol-to-gasoline (MTG) technology (earlier post) in the development of a world-scale natural gas to gasoline project. (Earlier post.) G2X Energy is the first to secure a long term multi-site agreement with EMRE for natural gas based methanol to gasoline projects.
G2X Energy says will leverage its strategic partnership with the Proman Group, a leading process plant engineering and operating company, and EMRE’s MTG technology to create a platform to expand natural gas’ role in the existing transportation fuels market.
USDA to award $25M for R&D for next-generation biofuels
January 11, 2013
The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) will award some $25 million to four projects to research and development of next-generation renewable energy and high-value biobased products—such as biofuels—from a variety of biomass sources.
The projects are funded by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) through the Biomass Research and Development Initiative, established in the 2008 Farm Bill. The Department of Energy will make additional awards through this program. Each award was made through a competitive selection process.
Proposed 5th edition of Worldwide Fuel Charter introduces new Category 5 for fuel efficiency and emission control
January 09, 2013
The proposed new 5th edition of the Worldwide Fuel Charter (WWFC5), which is available for comment through 28 February, introduces a new Category 5, which the Committee adopted to distinguish markets with highly advanced requirements for fuel efficiency as well as for emission control. The proposed WWFC5 provides automaker and engine manufacturer proposed recommendations for the quality of market gasoline and diesel fuel.
For gasoline, Category 5 raises the minimum gasoline research octane number (RON) to 95. For diesel fuel, this category establishes a high quality hydrocarbon-only specification that takes advantage of the characteristics of certain advanced biofuels, including hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO) and biomass-to-liquid (BTL), provided all other specifications are respected and the resulting blend meetes defined legislated terms.
Southern Research Institute wins $1.5M DOE award to test new coal-biomass-to-liquids method; seeking to reduce cost and environmental impact
January 08, 2013
Southern Research Institute has entered into a $1.5-million cooperative agreement with the US Department of Energy to test an innovative method for producing liquid transportation fuels from coal and biomass, thereby improving the economics and lifecycle impacts of coal-to-liquid (CTL) and coal-biomass-to-liquid (CBTL) processes.
The novel approach eliminates the conventional Fischer-Tropsch (FT) product upgrading and refining steps and enhances the ability of CTL and CBTL processes to compete with petroleum-based processes.
Flight and static engine tests of ReadiJet 100% renewable biojet show significant reduction in emissions, slight improvement in fuel consumption
|T33 tailing the Falcon 20 in a test flight to measure emissions. Click to enlarge.|
Results from the world’s first civil flight powered by 100% biofuel that met petroleum fuel specifications without blending released by the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) show that the biofuel used in the flight last October is cleaner than and as efficient as conventional aviation fuel. (Earlier post.)
Data collected in-flight revealed a 50% reduction in aerosol emissions when using biofuel compared to conventional fuel. Furthermore, additional tests performed on a static engine showed a significant reduction in particles (up to 25%) and in black carbon emissions (up to 49%) compared to conventional fuel. These tests also show a comparable engine performance, but an improvement of 1.5% in fuel consumption during the steady state operations.
California Energy Commission to award up to $2.45M for renewable natural gas for transportation fuels
January 05, 2013
The California Energy Commission’s Public Interest Energy Research (PIER) has released a Program Opportunity Notice (PON-12-506) for the award of up to $2.45 million to accelerate research, development and demonstration (RD&D) of advanced technologies to produce renewable natural gas (RNG) transportation fuels.
Examples of acceptable feedstocks include but are not limited to: waste-based biomass (both pre- and post-landfilled); agricultural residues; purpose-grown fuel crops; woody biomass and forest residues; animal manures; food waste; municipal solid waste (MSW); and sewage. Pathways by which renewable natural gas is to be derived for proposed projects can include fermentation; thermochemical processes, or any other means of producing RNG.
DOE awards $10 million to 5 projects for advanced biofuels and bio-based products
January 03, 2013
The US Department of Energy announced more than $10 million in funding to five new projects that will develop new synthetic biological and chemical techniques to convert biomass into advanced biofuels and bioproducts such as plastics and chemical intermediates.
Two of these projects will develop cost-effective ways to produce intermediates from the deconstruction of lignocellulosic biomass, while three projects will propose new conversion techniques to transform biomass intermediates into advanced biofuels and bioproducts.
Univ. of Washington and partners working to engineer microbes for conversion of methane to lipids for processing into liquid intermediates for diesel or jet fuels
In a $4.8-million project funded by ARPA-E (earlier post), the University of Washington, the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), Johnson-Matthey, and Lanza Tech are working to develop optimized microbes to convert methane found in natural gas into lipids for further processing into an intermediate liquid for diesel or jet fuel.
The University of Washington is taking the lead and focusing on genetically modifying the microbes. NREL will be in charge of fermentation to demonstrate the productivity of the microbes, both the natural organism and the genetically-altered varieties. NREL will also extract the lipids from the organisms and analyze the economic potential of the plan.
Researchers develop four-step catalytic process to produce petroleum refinery feedstocks from biomass sugars
|Molar carbon selectivities for different renewable petroleum refinery feedstocks obtained by hydrocycloaddition and hydrodeoxygenation of condensed furfural–acetone mixtures. Source: Olcay et al. Click to enlarge.|
A team of researchers led by James Dumesic and George Huber, both now at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, have demonstrated how C5 sugars derived from hemicellulose can be converted into a high-quality petroleum refinery feedstock via a four-step catalytic process. An open-access paper on their work is published in the RSC journal Energy & Environmental Science.
The renewable petroleum feedstock comprises normal, branched and cyclic alkanes up to 31 carbons in length and is similar in composition to the feedstocks produced in a petroleum refinery from crude oil. The new process can be tuned to adjust the size of the liquid alkanes.
Senate version of “Fiscal Cliff” legislation includes 12 energy tax extenders; boost for algae
January 01, 2013
Among the many extensions specified in the amended version of a House bill (H.R.8) passed by the US Senate on New Year’s Day by a vote of 89 - 8 to avoid the across-the-board increase in taxes currently called for by the “fiscal cliff” are a number for energy tax benefits.
The amended bill, now called the “American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012” and next to be considered by the House, contains 12 extensions outlined in Title IV of the bill, ranging from extension of production credits for Indian coal facilities to benefits for alternative fuels (including algal biofuels) and plug-in vehicles. The Sections are:
Cornell team quantifies uncertainty in life cycle assessments of algae biofuel production; suggests reporting results as ranges of expected values
A Cornell University team has used a Monte Carlo approach to quantify the role of uncertainty associated with process parameters in life cycle analysis (LCA) of algae-to-biofuel schemes for determining metrics such as Energy Return on (Energy) Invested (EROI) and global warming potential global warming potential (GWP). The results, reported in a paper in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology, show that uncertainties exist at all stages of biofuel production from microalgae, from cultivation to dewatering to conversion processes and production of coproducts.
This indicates, the researchers suggest, that the values reported in earlier studies are not incorrect, but, rather each represent a specific case. These cases should not be used solely to conclude whether algal biofuels are expected to be energetically viable or environmentally sustainable, the authors say. Instead, LCA results, especially those associated with developing technologies such as algal biofuel, should be reported as ranges of expected values to provide decision makers with reliable results, they conclude.
New catalyst for efficient bi-reforming of methane from any source for methanol and hydrocarbon synthesis; “metgas”
December 30, 2012
Researchers at the Loker Hydrocarbon Research Institute and Department of Chemistry, University of Southern California, have developed a new catalyst based on nickel oxide on magnesium oxide (NiO/MgO) that is effective for the bi-reforming with steam and CO2 (combined steam and dry reforming) of methane as well as natural gas in a tubular flow reactor at elevated pressures (5−30 atm) and temperatures (800−950 °C).
In a paper published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, they report that the bi-reforming effectively converts methane and its natural sources (natural or shale gas, coal-bed methane, methane hydrates) to what they call “metgas”, a 2/1 H2/CO mixture directly applicable for subsequent well-studied methanol synthesis with high selectivity. A typical single pass conversion at 7 atm is about 70−75%, which can be increased to 80−85% by adjusting the feed gas composition. Unreacted feed gases can be recycled.
Muons and ADNA proposing using accelerator-driven subcritical reactor for heat for production of synthetic fuels and chemicals
December 28, 2012
|Functional elements of the GEM*STAR reactor. Source: Muons, Inc. Click to enlarge.|
Muons, Inc., a private-sector high-energy accelerator physics firm, and ADNA (Accelerator-Driven Neutron Applications) Corp., are proposing using spent nuclear fuel (SNF), natural uranium, or excess weapons-grade plutonium (W-Pu) in a proposed GEM*STAR accelerator-driven subcritical reactor (ADSR) to provide the process heat and steam for the Fischer-Tropsch production of synthetic diesel from natural gas and other carbonaceous feedstocks (e.g., biomass or coal).
An initial proposed plant using GEM*STAR’s with the Fischer-Tropsch process would produce 70 million gallons of diesel fuel per year at an estimated cost of production of less than $2.00 per gallon, according to the company, while also dealing with the issue of waste nuclear materials.
JBEI-led team identifies galactan-boosting enzyme; important new tool for engineering fuel crops
December 21, 2012
An international collaboration led by scientists at the US Department of Energy (DOE)’s Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) has identified the first enzyme capable of substantially boosting the amount of galactan in plant cell walls. The GALS genes governing the enzyme may become important tools for developing bioenergy crops, the researchers suggest.
Among the key challenges to making advanced biofuels—i.e., drop-in bio-hydrocarbon fuels—cost-competitive is finding ways to maximize the amount of plant cell wall sugars that can be fermented into fuels. Galactan, which is a polymer of galactose, a six-carbon sugar that can be readily fermented by yeast into ethanol, is a target of interest for researchers in advanced biofuels produced from cellulosic biomass.
Neste Oil to produce 4,000 tons of NExBTL renewable aviation fuel as part of the EU-funded ITAKA project
December 19, 2012
Neste Oil has joined the ITAKA (Initiative Towards Sustainable Kerosene for Aviation) project, which is being funded by the EU to support the commercialization and use of renewable aviation fuel comprising hydroprocessed esters and fatty acids in Europe. Neste Oil’s role in the consortium will be to produce the renewable fuel used in the project.
The 36-month ITAKA project has been granted approximately €10 million (US$13.3 million) of funding under the EU’s Seventh Framework Programme for Research and Development (2007-2013). In addition to Neste Oil, the consortium members include companies and research centers in: feedstock production (BIOTEHGEN and Camelina Company España); renewable fuel production (RE-CORD); fuel logistics (CLH and SkyNRG); air transport (Airbus, EADS IW UK, Embraer and SENASA); and sustainability assessment (EADS IW France, EPFL and MMU).
Proterro secures $3.5M in new funding to advance its noncellulosic sucrose for biofuels and biobased chemicals; progress on patent on sucrose-producing cyanobacteria
December 18, 2012
|Proterro engineered cyanobacteria for continuous high-yield production of sucrose, which can then be used in the production of biofuels and biochemicals. Source: Proterro. Click to enlarge.|
Proterro, Inc.—the only company making sugar instead of extracting it from crops—has closed on a $3.5-million financing round led by current investor Braemar Energy Ventures. Proterro has engineered cyanobacteria (from the group consisting of Synechococcus and Synechocystis) that naturally produce only sucrose to secrete the sucrose in a continuous, high-yield process. The sucrose can then be used in the production of biofuels and biochemicals. (Earlier post.)
In addition, the company announced it has received a notice of allowance from the United States Patent and Trademark Office on a cornerstone composition of matter patent (US Patent Application No. 12/348,887) protecting the company’s sucrose-producing cyanobacteria and their new genetic code.
Repost: DOE will award up to $12M to research projects to drive down the cost of drop-in biofuels via thermochemical, direct liquefaction pathways
December 15, 2012
[Ed. Note: This is a repost due to the Typepad publishing system eating the original version posted on Friday. Apologies to those commenters whose comments have been lost.]
|Thermochemical pathways for producing bioproducts from biomass. Source: DOE. Click to enlarge. Click to enlarge.|
The US Department of Energy (DOE) announced up to $12 million in new funding (DE-FOA-0000812) for projects to drive down the cost of producing drop-in gasoline, diesel, and jet fuels from biomass via thermochemical, direct liquefaction pathways (i.e. fast pyrolysis, ex situ and in situ catalytic fast pyrolysis, hydropyrolysis, hydrothermal liquefaction, and solvent liquefaction). The funding will support up to five research and development projects that will boost biofuel yields from non-food-based lignocellulosic feedstocks such as agricultural residue, fast-growing poplar trees, and switch grass.
The FOA is addressing research and development (R&D) challenges that were identified at a stakeholder workshop held in December 2011 called “Conversion Technologies for Advanced Biofuels” (CTAB) and from a Request for Information (RFI) conducted in November 2012. (Earlier post.)
USDA awards $10M in grants to spur production of biofuels, bioenergy and biobased products
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced $10 million in research grants to spur production of biofuels, bioenergy and biobased products that will lead to the development of sustainable regional systems and help create jobs. Vilsack highlighted the announcement with a visit to Michigan State University, a grant awardee.
The long-term goal for the research projects, which were selected through a competitive process, is to implement sustainable regional systems that materially deliver liquid transportation biofuels to help meet the Energy Independence and Security Act goal of 36 billion gallons per year of biofuels by 2022.
NREL and Johnson Matthey in 5-Year collaboration on catalytic fast pyrolysis for drop-in biofuels
December 14, 2012
The US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) will partner with Johnson Matthey, a global specialty chemicals company, in a five-year, $7-million effort to produce economically drop-in gasoline, diesel and jet fuel from non-food biomass feedstocks.
The goal is to improve vapor-phase upgrading during the biomass pyrolysis process in order to lower costs and speed production of lignocellulose-based fuels; as part of the work, Johnson Matthey will supply and develop innovative new catalytic materials for such upgrading.
Topping-out ceremony for the Audi e-gas plant; synthetic methane production to begin in early 2013
December 13, 2012
|Components of the e-gas plant. Click to enlarge.|
Audi is celebrating progress on its e-gas plant under construction in Werlte, Germany with a topping-out ceremony. End products from the plant will be hydrogen and synthetic methane (Audi e-gas), to be used as fuel for vehicles such as the new Audi A3 Sportback TCNG. (Earlier post.)
The Audi e-gas plant, which can convert six megawatts of input power, will utilize renewable electricity for electrolysis, producing oxygen and hydrogen, the latter which could one day power fuel-cell vehicles. Because there is not yet a widespread hydrogen infrastructure, however, the hydrogen is reacted with CO2 in a methanation unit to generate renewable synthetic methane, or Audi e-gas. Chemically speaking, this e-gas is nearly identical to fossil-based natural gas. As such, it can be distributed to CNG stations via the natural gas network and will power vehicles starting in 2013.
New petroleum refining lifecycle model finds the variability in GHG emissions from refining different crudes as significant as magnitude expected in upstream operations
December 09, 2012
|Comparison of GHGenius, JACOBS, TIAX, and the new PRELIM gasoline greenhouse gas (GHG) estimates using base case estimates and variations from the scenario analysis. Credit: ACS, Abella and Bergerson. Click to enlarge.|
Researchers at the University of Calgary (Canada) have developed the Petroleum Refinery Life-cycle Inventory Model (PRELIM). PRELIM uses a more comprehensive range of crude oil quality and refinery configurations than used in earlier models and can quantify energy use and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions with detail and transparency the better to inform policy analysis, the duo suggests.
Using a scenario analysis to explore the implications of processing crudes of different qualities in different refinery configurations, and with a focus on oil sands products, they found differences of up to 14 g CO2eq/MJ of crude, or up to 11 g CO2eq/MJ of gasoline and 19 g CO2eq/MJ of diesel (the margin of deviation in the emissions estimates is roughly 10%). Put another way, “the variability in GHG emissions in the refining stage that results from processing crudes of different qualities is as significant as the magnitude expected in upstream operations”, they found.
EIA Energy Outlook 2013 reference case sees drop in fossil fuel consumption as use of petroleum-based liquid fuels falls; projects 20% higher sales of hybrids and PHEVs than AEO2012
December 05, 2012
|Transportation sector gasoline demand declines. Click to enlarge.|
The US Energy Information Administration released its Annual Energy Outlook 2013 (AEO2013) Reference case (the Early Release), which highlights a growth in total US energy production that exceeds growth in total US energy consumption through 2040.
Among its many findings, the Reference case suggests that US primary energy consumption will grow by 7% from 2011 to 2040 to 108 quadrillion Btu. However, energy use per capita declines by 15% from 2011 through 2040 as a result of improving energy efficiency (e.g., new appliance standards and CAFE) and changes in the way energy is used in the US economy. Further, the fossil fuel share of primary energy consumption falls from 82% in 2011 to 78% in 2040 as consumption of petroleum-based liquid fuels falls, largely because of the incorporation of new fuel efficiency standards for light-duty vehicles.
ARPA-E awards $130M to 66 “OPEN 2012” transformational energy technology projects
November 28, 2012
The US Department of Energy (DOE) Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E) has selected 66 research projects to receive a total of $130 million in funding through its “OPEN 2012” program. (Earlier post.)
The OPEN 2012 projects will focus on a wide array of technologies, including advanced fuels (13 projects); advanced vehicle design and materials (2 projects); building efficiency (3 projects); carbon capture (4 projects, two of which entail the conversion of CO2 to transportation fuel and chemicals); grid modernization (9 projects); renewable power (10 projects); stationary energy storage (8 projects); stationary generation (3 projects); thermal energy storage (5 projects); transportation energy storage (7 projects); and “other” (2 projects).
Study finds biodiesel from algae, yeast and bacteria can displace both petroleum diesel and soybean biodiesel
November 23, 2012
|Diesel engine torque output as a function of the engine speed (rpm) for the tested fuels. Credit: ACS, Wahlen et al. Click to enlarge.|
Biodiesel (fatty acid methyl ester) derived from oleaginous microbes—microalgae, yeast, and bacteria—can effectively displace both petroleum diesel and biodiesel produced from plant oils, according to the findings of a new study by a team from Utah State University.
The researchers, who reported their results in a paper published in the ACS journal Energy & Fuels, examined the properties, engine performance, and emissions for biodiesel produced from the microalgae Chaetoceros gracilis; the yeast Cryptococcus curvatus; and the bacterium Rhodococcus opacus.
DOE seeks input on barriers to thermochemical liquefaction conversion of biomass to drop-in transportation fuels
November 22, 2012
The US Department of Energy (DOE) has issued a Request for Information (RFI) (DE-FOA-0000796) to garner input from researchers in industry, academia, and other interested biofuels stakeholders to identify key technical barriers in converting biomass via thermochemical direct liquefaction pathways to transportation fuels in the gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel ranges.
Thermochemical direct liquefaction pathways are unique in their ability to accept readily widely varied non-food, high-impact biomass and to produce bio-oil feedstocks that may be further processed into a range of hydrocarbons that are similar to those found in crude oil derived products, DOE notes. This enables the production of gasoline, diesel, and jet range fuels and other co-products such as heating oil and chemicals. These technologies also have the potential to supplement petroleum-derived streams within a refinery.
DOE to award $11M to 20 new Clean Cities projects for alt fuel cars and trucks
November 20, 2012
The US Department of Energy (DOE) is http://apps1.eere.energy.gov/news/progress_alerts.cfm/pa_id=807 about $11 million to 20 new projects to help states and local governments to develop the infrastructure, training, and regional planning needed to help meet the demand for alternative fuel cars and trucks, including vehicles that run on natural gas, electricity, and propane.
Through the Department’s Clean Cities initiative, these projects address a range of community infrastructure and training needs, such as providing safety and technical training for fleet operators, mechanics, first responders, and code officials; streamlining permitting and procurement processes; and helping public and private fleets integrate petroleum reduction strategies into their operations. Projects include:
Researchers show combining torrefaction pre-treatment with catalytic fast pyrolysis improves quality of bio-oil
November 18, 2012
|Average of product distribution from the fast pyrolysis of pine without and with torrefaction pretreatment. Srinivasan et al. Click to enlarge.|
Researchers at Auburn University and North Carolina State University have shown that using a simple pretreatment process—torrefaction—improves the quality of bio-oil produced via catalytic fast pyrolysis.
In a paper published in the ACS journal Energy & Fuels, they reported that the combination of the torrefaction pre-treatment and shape-selective catalyst (H+ZSM-5) resulted in highly deoxygenated liquid product that was favorable for aromatic hydrocarbons. The total carbon yield from catalytic pyrolysis of torrefied biomass was 1.45 times the total carbon yield from catalytic pyrolysis of untreated pine.
Researchers present new explanation for the long-range transport of PAH pollutants
November 17, 2012
A team led by researchers from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory is presenting a new explanation for the long-range airborne transport (LRT) of polluting polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs); a paper on the work is published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.
Pollution from fossil fuel burning and forest fires reaches all the way to the Arctic, even though it should decay long before it travels that far. The new study found that PAHs trapped inside highly viscous semisolid secondary organic aerosol (SOA) particles during particle formation are prevented from evaporation and shielded from oxidation. In contrast, surface-adsorbed PAHs rapidly evaporate leaving no trace. The results will help scientists improve atmospheric air-quality and pollution transport models.
EPA denies waiver of Renewable Fuels Standard
November 16, 2012
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it has not found evidence to support a finding of severe “economic harm” that would warrant granting a waiver of the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS). The decision is based on economic analyses and modeling done in conjunction with the US Departments of Agriculture (USDA) and Energy (DOE).
In August, in light of drought conditions affecting the country, governors from several states requested a waiver of the national volume requirements for the renewable fuel standard program (RFS). EPA said that while it recognizes that this year’s drought has created significant hardships in many sectors of the economy, particularly for livestock producers, its analysis made clear that Congressional requirements for a waiver have not been met. Further, it found, waiving the RFS would have little, if any, impact on ethanol demand or energy prices over the time period analyzed.
Reaction Design introduces model fuel library resulting from work of Model Fuels Consortium
November 14, 2012
|Good fuel models are required for good predictions. Left: modeling using a reduced n-heptane model (34 chemical types) vs. data. Right: mofe accurate n-heptane model (174 chemical types) vs. data. Source: Reaction Design. Click to enlarge.|
Reaction Design is introducing the first volume of the industry’s most well-validated available Model Fuel Library, the result of seven years of research and validation under the Model Fuels Consortium (earlier post). MFC members included Toyota, GE Energy, VW, Suzuki, Petrobras and Conoco. The MFC is ending its work in December.
The Model Fuel Library is a subscription-based library which includes more than 40 fully validated, self-consistent components that can be used to simulate fuel effects in virtually all types of automotive and aircraft engines, as well as engines used for electric power generation. The components can be combined to model a large variety of new or existing fuel blends.
JBEI researchers discover gene to modify xylan for easier extraction and saccharification; most abundant biomass material after cellulose
November 12, 2012
Researchers with the US Department of Energy (DOE)’s Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) have identified a gene in rice plants the suppression of which improves both the extraction of xylan and the overall release of the sugars needed to make biofuels.
The newly identified gene—dubbed XAX1—acts to make xylan less extractable from plant cell walls. JBEI researchers, working with a mutant variety of rice plant—dubbed xax1—in which the XAX1 gene has been knocked-out found that not only was xylan more extractable, but saccharification—the breakdown of carbohydrates into releasable sugars—also improved by better than 60%. Increased saccharification is key to more efficient production of advanced biofuels.
UW Madison team develops streamlined process for biomass conversion to GVL for fuels and chemicals
Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison led by Dr. James Dumesic have developed a streamlined process for converting lignocellulosic biomass into chemicals or liquid transportation fuel. Using gamma-valerolactone (GVL) as a solvent, they converted the cellulosic fraction of lignocellulosic biomass into levulinic acid (LA), while at the same conditions converting the hemicellulose fraction into furfural. This is followed by conversion to GVL; essentially, the team is leveraging GVL to produce GVL, which has potential as an inexpensive, yet energy-dense, “drop-in” biofuel. (Earlier post.)
This process allows for the conversion of hemicellulose and cellulose simultaneously in a single reactor, thus eliminating costly pre-treatment steps to fractionate biomass and simplifying product separation. Pretreatment and extraction or separation steps can account for up to 30% of the total capital cost of a biofuels production plant.
IEA WEO-2012 finds major shift in global energy balance but not onto a more sustainable path; identifies potential for transformative shift in global energy efficiency
The global energy map is changing significantly, according to the 2012 edition of the Internal Energy Agency’s (IEA) World Energy Outlook (WEO-2012). The IEA said these changes will recast expectations about the role of different countries, regions and fuels in the global energy system over the coming decades. The report also finds that by 2035 global energy savings could be equivalent to nearly 20% of global demand in 2010.
The WEO finds that the extraordinary growth in oil and natural gas output in the United States will mean a sea-change in global energy flows. In the New Policies Scenario, the WEO’s central scenario, the United States becomes a net exporter of natural gas by 2020 and is almost self-sufficient in energy, in net terms, by 2035. However, given the ongoing reliance on fossil fuels, the emissions in the New Policies Scenario correspond to a long-term average global temperature increase of 3.6 °C.
NREL launches new alternative transportation web tools; planning, maps, data
November 10, 2012
The US Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has launched a new tool and redesigned DOE’s Alternative Fuels Data Center Web site to help fleet managers, municipalities and consumers choose from a variety of alternative fuels and energy efficiency strategies for reducing petroleum use, vehicle emissions, and operating costs.
The AFDC’s new Petroleum Reduction Planning Tool is an interactive Web application that allows fleet managers to evaluate the benefits associated with five alternative fuels—biodiesel, electricity, ethanol, natural gas and propane—along with a variety of efficiency measures, such as idle reduction and fuel economy improvements.
New fast hydrothermal process converts 65% of wet algae feedstock sample to biocrude in one minute
November 08, 2012
|Biocrude from Nannochloropsis. Credit: Savage Lab. Click to enlarge.|
A team led by Prof. Phillip Savage at the University of Michigan has found that with appropriate parameters, hydrothermal liquefaction (HTL) can convert 65% of wet algae (a Nannochloropsis species) into biocrude in one minute. The team, which has been investigating HTL processing of algae to biocrude—along with techniques for dexoygenating the product for subsequent refining—for several years, presented its latest results at the 2012 American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) Annual Meeting in Pittsburgh.
An hydrothermal process is one that involves water at elevated temperatures and pressures; hydrothermal liquefaction (HTL) is one of a number of methods for converting biomass conversion to biofuels or biofuel precursors. HTL avoids energy-intensive drying steps, and is thus more energy efficient for biomass with very high moisture content—such as microalgae—the researchers note.
Berkeley researchers integrate ABE fermentation and chemical catalysis to produce bio-hydrocarbon blend stocks from sugars at high yields
November 07, 2012
|A general approach to the catalyzed production of biofuels from the ABE fermentation mixture. Source: Anbarasan et al. Click to enlarge.|
Researchers at UC Berkeley have devised a new process that integrates chemical catalysis with extractive fermentation selectively to produce gasoline, jet and diesel blend stocks from lignocellulosic and cane sugars at yields near their theoretical maxima.
The process efficiently converts acetone–n-butanol–ethanol (ABE) fermentation products produced by Clostridium acetobutylicum into ketones via a palladium-catalyzed alkylation. These ketones can be deoxygenated to paraffins; these paraffins—from pentane to undecane—are components of gasoline, diesel and jet fuel. Tuning of the reaction conditions permits the production of either gasoline or jet and diesel precursors.
DOE issues request for information on conversion technologies for advanced hydrocarbon biofuels, feedback on draft CTAB roadmap
November 01, 2012
The US Department of Energy (DOE) has issued a request for information (RFI) (DE-FOA-0000775) to obtain input from stakeholders and the research community regarding technologies for the deconstruction of lignocellulosic biomass to intermediates and for the upgrading of biomass derived intermediates to hydrocarbon transportation fuels and blendstocks.
DOE is interested in stakeholder input specifically regarding: (1) the production of hydrocarbon biofuels or biofuel precursors from organisms that use lignocellulosic sugar as a carbon source (not including ethanol and butanol); the production of biofuels and biofuel oxygenates from lignocellulosic sugar or carbohydrate derivatives using catalytic means; the production of biofuels from bio-oil produced via direct liquefaction pathways (such as, but not limited to, processes like fast pyrolysis and hydrothermal liquefaction); and the production of lignocellulosic sugars from biomass using non-enzymatic processes.
IACT team using ALD to build nanobowls for tailored catalysts for biofuel production
October 27, 2012
A team of scientists from the Institute for Atom Efficient Chemical Transformations (IACT)—an Energy Frontier Research Center (earlier post) led by Argonne National Laboratory (ANL), and including Northwestern University, the University of Wisconsin and Purdue University—is using atomic layer deposition (ALD) to build nanoscale “bowls” that protect metal catalysts from the harsh conditions of biofuel refining.
In recent years, nanoparticles of metals such as platinum, iridium and palladium supported on metal oxide surfaces have been considered as catalysts to convert biomass into alternative fuels as efficiently as possible. Unfortunately, under typical biorefining conditions where liquid water may reach temperatures of 200 °C and pressures of 4,100 kilopascals (597 psi), the tiny metal nanoparticles can agglomerate into much larger particles which are not catalytically active. Additionally, these extreme conditions can dissolve the support.
Dresser-Rand licenses Expansion Energy VX Cycle technology for small-scale production of LNG
October 26, 2012
|VX Cycle block diagram. Source: Expansion Energy. Click to enlarge.|
Dresser-Rand—among the largest suppliers of rotating equipment solutions to the worldwide oil, gas, petrochemical, and process industries—has entered into a definitive agreement with Expansion Energy LLC under which Dresser-Rand is granted a worldwide exclusive (for capacities up to 100,000 gallons per day) license to Expansion Energy’s proprietary VX Cycle technology for the small-scale production of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG).
Dresser-Rand believes that the patented VX Cycle is the first technology to provide a cost-effective small-scale LNG production process with capacities as low as 1,500 gallons per day—smaller than any other LNG production system commercially available today. The VX Cycle yields approximately 85% LNG from every unit of natural gas that enters the plant, with 15% of the gas used as fuel for the prime mover that converts the NG to LNG, according to Expansion Energy. (A 90/10 ratio of product to fuel is possible with certain optimizations.)
Aemetis expands license agreement with Chevron Lummus Global for renewable jet and diesel fuel technology
October 19, 2012
Aemetis, Inc., an advanced fuels and renewable chemical company, signed an expanded, global license agreement with Chevron Lummus Global (CLG) for the production of renewable jet and diesel fuel by the conversion of existing biofuels and petroleum refineries. (Earlier post.)
The expanded license agreement grants Aemetis Advanced Fuels, Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of Aemetis, the use of the Biofuels ISOCONVERSION process to produce fuels that meet the necessary ASTM requirements for 100% replacement, renewable jet fuel and diesel in Aemetis biorefineries and joint ventures throughout the world. (Earlier post.)