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New Zealand Awards NZ$45.6M for Alternative- and Bio-Fuel Research; LanzaTech NZ$12M Low-Carbon Gasoline Project Leads

New Zealand’s Foundation for Research, Science and Technology (FRST) recently approved NZ$45.6 million (US$33.8M) in contracts for alternative- and bio-fuels research as part of a record NZ$785 million (US$582 million) in funding with more than two dozen research organizations in the foundation’s main 2008 investment round.

At the top of the awards for fuels contracts is a three-year, NZ$12-million (US$8.9 million) project by LanzaTech to develop a low-carbon biofuel that can be used with gasoline in blend ratios of up to 90% in older cars. LanzaTech is the developer of a process using bacterial fermentation to convert carbon monoxide into ethanol, and has backing from Khosla Ventures, among others. (Earlier post.)

The LanzaTech FRST project is to develop a second-generation “low-carbon petrol” biofuel from industrial flue gas waste that is targeted at the older Japanese imports that are large part of the country’s fleet.

Many older New Zealand cars are second-hand imports from Japan that cannot run successfully on petrol blended with more than three per cent ethanol, and many newer cars cannot run on ethanol blends above 10 per cent. LanzaTech’s proposal is to produce fuel from industrial gas waste that has the potential to replace up to 90 per cent of petrol without infrastructure changes or engine damage.

—Murray Bain, Foundation chief executive

The introduction of low carbon transport fuels is an important route to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Ethanol is a first generation biofuel and a great place to start, but LanzaTech see an opportunity to develop technologies to produce fuels that are more similar to petrol in terms of their handling and performance.

—Dr. Sean Simpson, co-founder LanzaTech

The FRST contract will enable LanzaTech to develop and scale up to an investor-ready stage a commercially viable process for producing low carbon gasoline, a second generation biofuel with higher energy density than ethanol.

The Foundation has invested smaller amounts from its TechNZ suite twice before in LanzaTech, but this investment of NZ$4 million a year for three years represents a major increase and is designed to help the company bring its technology closer to commercial operation. A pilot plant design has been developed that will allow biofuel production to be demonstrated at scale over the next 12 months.

The second-largest amount of funding (NZ$7.05 million, US$5.2 million) went to Verenium Corporation and Scion for the next stage of development by the New Zealand Lignocellulosic Bioethanol Initiative, a trans-Pacific research collaboration.

This initiative builds from previous collaborative research among Verenium, New Zealand’s Crown Research Institutes Scion and AgResearch, and New Zealand’s largest pulp and paper producer, Carter Holt Harvey, which recently announced the completion of a study which evaluated the infrastructure, technology and economics of a transportation biofuels facility using New Zealand softwood plantation forests as a potential feedstock.

The FRST award will support the further evaluation of the viability of producing cellulosic ethanol from New Zealand’s softwood forest resource through pre-treatment and enzymatic processing. Verenium will be bringing its enzyme and fermentation technologies to this program.

Alternative- and bio-fuels projects awarded FRST funding in the current funding round. Click to enlarge.

The Foundation for Research, Science and Technology is the funding agency that invests on behalf of the New Zealand Government in public good research, science and technology and in assisting firms with research and development initiatives. These investments are made to enhance the wealth and well being of New Zealanders. The primary production sector represented the single biggest area FRST made investments in with this funding round, according to Bain.


John Taylor

NZ$7.05 million would get them a good start on an infrastructure for Battery Electric Cars.

Instead they invest in reasons to cut down New Zealand's forests, and even more ways to pollute.

Anyone living in New Zealand should bitterly complain about their Government, and to their government.

Henry Gibson

England, NZ's ancestor, burned up much of its forests to start the industrial revolution. It is an easy calculation to find out how much forest is required to generate enough biomass to make enough fuel to supply the liquid fuel needs of NZ. Ordinary trees and plants are usually less than two percent efficient at converting sunlight into biomass.

Lumps of some kinds of coal can easily be seen to have annual growth layers and this would allow a calculation of the maximum productivity of plants in ancient times as well.

Presently the maximum solar input is about 1 kilowatt per square meter. This would also give an absolute maximum of energy that a square meter of land could collect by any means when integrated with the change of intensity during the day and the time. The fact that plants use a limited part of the light's wavelength lowers the efficiency of collection. Water is absolutely necessary for plant growth and is the main limitation.

Algae is said to be able to produce large amounts of oils to turn into biodiesel, but the solar input also limits how much can be made. The efficiency of use is not very high.

A large number of small solar parabolic reflector stirling engine generators are probably the cheapest and most efficient way of producing electricity from the sun. When produced in large numbers the cost can be quite low. Hydrogen can be generated by electrolysis and fed to bacteria with CO2 to produce liquid fuels. The bacteria chosen might best produce n-butanol which is compatible to many modern and ancient gasoline engines.

Calculations will show that there cannot be enough biomass grown by ordinary plants to support a modern civilization with the area available for the population. Many countries do not have even enough area for food.

Industrial factories that can make digestible food from many forms of cellulostic biomass might be a better use of such biomass, but now much of this production is left to goats, cows and mushrooms. Quorn might well be produced from hydrolysed trees, grass and cornstalks.

The fission of uranium and thorium can be done completely in accelerator driven reactors or breeder reactors. The cost of the uranium for such reactors is not a significant part of the cost of the electricity produced. A pound of uranium can be converted to the same amount of heat as 3,000,000 pounds of coal or about $30,000 dollars worth on todays market.

Nuclear, or any other kind of electricity, is first used to charge the batteries of plug-in-hybrid cars. Lead acid batteries have long been in commercial production that allow for their cheap use for plug in hybrid cars, but ZEBRA batteries have three times the energy per weight and higher efficiency and less maintenance and longer life, and can be used when the life cycle costs are appropriate due to mass production. Lithium batteries are not needed but can be used when the price is right for the purpose.

Small high-power but low energy cheap glass fiber flywheels should be used in cars for the temporary storage of energy for stops and starts. Energy is fed to and from the lead batteries at a much lower rate as needed.

Even old cars can be fitted with new larger alternators and batteries that are charged from the grid to supply power to the cars electrical system for fairly long trips, so that petrolium is not used for that purpose. The large alternator is used to do some charging with regenerative braking and to charge low batteries on long trips.

Hydrogen produced from nuclear fuels can be combined with CO2 for feed to bacteria to produce Butanol. The CO2 may have to be reacted with hydrogen to produce CO first. Then CO and H2 can be formed into methanol for modern cars or to store for later use. The methanol can be converted to dimethylether, DME for use as a propane replacement or a diesel replacement.

Vacuum glass enclosed solar collectors for heating water for houses for is probably the first and most economic solar energy use that the NZ government should require. The soil or large water tanks could store large amounts of heat for later use. ..HG..


Could someone explain why It is possible to produce Hydrogen from nuclear, but not renewables?
Something to do with "waste" heat, "dummy load utilization"? Centralised facility?
Why wouldn't these same conditions apply to renewables maybe even more so (except the waste heat).
A large installed fraction of renewables would have plenty of excess capacity to cover peaks and troughs. These plant will be connected by the grid, which should need to be upgraded and the Hydrogen and fuels processing plants can then be seen at grid nodes.
The same fuels plant could run down its reserves as grid load following.
This way the ability to match output to demand leaves a byproduct of hydrocarbon fuel processing from these "renewable" (forest, industry other) byproducts

Henry Gibson

Hydroelectric energy, solar electricity, and wind energy can be used to produce hydrogen, but the overall efficiency is very low compared to just using the electricity for charging batteries. Modern batteries can be thousands of times less costly than hydrogen production and use in fuel cells. They are also twice to four times more efficient.

Nuclear electricty is very cheap if you have already built the power plant and it is late at night and nobody wants to buy the power unless the price is low enough. Raw nuclear energy is even cheaper in terms of fuel costs, since a pound of uranium can produce as much heat as 3 million pounds of coal or 10,000,000 kWh. A pound of uranium has been priced as low as $8 several years ago, but as much as 100. A softdrink can sized, impossibly expensive, lump of isotope 238 can operate an automobile at full speed continuously for a persons life time. And is still found operating in a few permanent pacemakers in much smaller chunks less than the size of a grain of wheat. An ordinary steel pipe or canister is sufficient to protect a person from the very low energy nuclear radiation.

As nuclear submarines demonstrate, much nuclear power can be put into a small area where an acre of power plant area would suffice for the same power as many hundred of square miles of wind or solar collectors or reservoirs.

The word "renewable", in the energy world, is used to pretend that the energy is better and cleaner. Coal is renewable but we are using it faster than it is being renewed because there is not sufficient land area to collect enough solar energy to "renew" it. The calculations for the availability of solar energy ignores the cost of the land area and the collectors installed on that land area. Just try to buy land from native tribes or Manhattan developers to see how expensive land can be.

There is enough uranium and thorium to supply the world energy as long as the world exists for the next about five billion years.

With all of the experience of nuclear power plants, including Chernobyl and Three Mile Island, there is no reason to to use nuclear reactors buried a hundred feedt deep in the bed rock of Manhattan to supply heat, air conditioning and some power.

All of the real nuclear wastes, not the unused fuel or even with the unused fuel, could be dissolved in water and sprayed thinly over the deserts of Africa or America and they would never cause a noticble increase of the radiation in any human or animal that walked across the area. It would be better to dissolve it in the ocean. One radio-active atom cannot cause any more damage than the billions of radio-active atoms of Potassium that have always been part of live plants and animals. The are about 4000 explosions of these atoms every second in the average human of 70 kg. Live things have been radioactive forever and any damage is repaired just like a burn or a cut is healed. All live things eventually die.

It would be more useful the use sodium sulphur batteries to store electricity or to just produce sodium and chlorine from salt to sell later than to produce hydrogen. Fuel cells can be made that use sodium as a fuel. ..HG..

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