Archive | Biofuels & Biomass

Biofuel Maker Gevo Makes Strong IPO Debut

Biofuel and renewable chemicals maker Gevo is officially a public company, as shares priced at $15 began trading on the Nasdaq this morning.

The Englewood, Colo.-based company said it expected to raise $95.7 million after offering expenses. The stock climbed $2, or 13.3 percent, to $17 in afternoon trading, AP reports.

The company primarily uses existing facilities, retrofitting old corn ethanol plants so that they’re capable of converting cellolosic feedstocks like agriculture wastes into isobutanol, a fuel additive necessary for the production of plastic and other products, Reuters reports.

Gevo is retrofitting its first commercial plant, a facility in Luverne, Minn., which is expected to yield about 18 million gallons of isobutanol annually.

Gevo said it plans to sell bio-based substitutes for products traditionally made from petroleum, including solvents, refiners, fuel, plastics, fibers, and rubber.

As of the end of 2010, Gevo was backed by Khosla Ventures, Virgin Green Fund, Ventures International, Total Energy Ventures International, Burrill, and Malaysian Capital.

The company said it will use the IPO proceeds to acquire additional ethanol facilities to be retrofitted.

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Ethanol: EPA Approves More Corn-Based Fuel for Cars

The Environmental Protection Agency on Friday approved a blend containing higher amounts of corn-based ethanol for fuel in cars.

The decision green-lights a blend of up to 15 percent ethanol for cars and light-duty trucks manufactured between 2001 and 2006 – about 62 percent of vehicles. EPA regulations previously restricted ethanol content in gasoline to 10 percent.

“Recently completed testing and data analysis show that E15 does not harm emissions control equipment in newer cars and light trucks,” EPA administrator Lisa P. Jackson said in a statement Friday. “Wherever sound science and the law support steps to allow more home-grown fuels in America’s vehicles, this administration takes those steps.”

While the ethanol industry vaunted the decision, critics argued that the new regulations could be confusing for drivers of older cars. The Environmental Working Group, an advocacy group against ethonol, claims many service stations will choose not to offer the higher blend to avoid the expenses of new pumps and signs.

“It seems like corn growers and the ethanol industry are the only real winners here,” said Craig Cox of the Environmental Working Group, according to The Associated Press.

Ron Skjonberg, a senior vice president of ethonol manufacterer Poet, suggests some of the problems can be solved by the introduction of “blender pumps” that allow customers to turn a dial to select the level of ethonol. Such a system would also allow drivers of the rare cars that run on 85 percent ethanol to have easy access to that blend, the New York Times reports. Few gas retailers outside the Midwest offer E85 fuel.

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Biomass Gets a Boost: EPA Eases Up on Regulations

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is scaling back on greenhouse gas permitting requirements for facilities that burn biomass.

The EPA said it would take a three-year deferral to determine whether the biomass materials – which include farm waste, sawmill scraps and forest thinnings – should be considered a green resource.

The deferral came after members of Congress put pressure on the EPA to ease up on regulations, saying the stringent rules on industrial carbon emissions would get in the way of developing a new biomass industry that could act as a major job creator and a source of domestically produced fuel.

“We are working to find a way forward that is scientifically sound and manageable for both producers and consumers of biomass energy. In the coming years we will develop a commonsense approach that protects our environment and encourages the use of clean energy,” EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said in a news release. “Renewable, homegrown power sources are essential to our energy future, and an important step to cutting the pollution responsible for climate change.”

The EPA said it would amend the regulation issued earlier this month that included biomass facilities in emissions regulations. The new rule will go into effect July 1.

More than two dozen members of Congress contend that that biomass can be considered carbon neutral if regulators count emissions as something that would result anyway when wood rots.

Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber has launched an initiative to create jobs by putting people to work thinning national forests to reduce the threat of forest fires. To pay for those jobs, he’ll need nearby biomass-burning facilities that will purchase trees and branches from thinned woodlands.

Timberland owners, who have been struggling with declining lumber prices since the housing market tanked, say biomass should be considered a green fuel.

“It is now critical that we work together in the coming months on deliberate steps to support biomass energy production,” Dave Tenny, president of the National Alliance of Forest Owners, said in a statement, according to AP.

Others say biomass isn’t as green as it seems. Meg Sheehan of the Stop Spewing Carbon Campaign in Cambridge, Mass. claims that the EPA is ignoring the fact that biomass produces more greenhouse gas than coal.

“I find it very disturbing that the Obama administration and [USDA] Secretary [Tom] Vilsack are punting on making this decision until after the next presidential election,” AP quoted Sheehan as saying. “I think it shows extreme disregard for the health of the American people.”

Posted in Air Pollutants, Biofuels & Biomass, Global Warming & Climate Change, Trees & Forestry0 Comments

Gas Prices Will Rise to $5 by 2012, Shell Exec Warns

Gas prices will climb to $5 and rationing will be necessary by 2012 if ineffective governing continues, a former Shell executive said Tuesday.

John Hofmeister, former president of Shell Oil, told the Platts news service that political indecision could lead to all-time high prices at the pump and national shortages as soon as a year down the road.

“The politically driven choices that are being made, which are non-choices, essentially frittering at the edges of renewable energy, stifling production in hydrocarbon energy — that’s a sure path for not enough energy for American consumers,” Hofmeister said, according to UPI.

He predicted that lawmakers will panic when they “suddenly” realize they need to rework the U.S. energy strategy around 2012.

“When American consumers are short or prices are so high — $5 a gallon for gasoline, for example, by 2012 — that’s going to set a new tone,” he added.

Hofmeister also expects that the newly Republican-controlled House will make for political gridlock in 2011, fixing energy dependency on hydrocarbons and preventing the exploration of sustainable methods.

The national average price of unleaded gasoline rose Tuesday to $3.049 per gallon, up from $3.042 Monday, AAA said. Oil was up 10 cents at $91.03 a barrel on the Nymex.

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Biofuel Plant Nematodes Surveyed

URBANA, Ill., March 22 (UPI) — University of Illinois scientists say they’ve found widespread plant-parasitic nematodes in the first nematode survey of two plants used for biofuels.

The researchers at the university’s Energy Biosciences Institute said they discovered the nematodes in the top two energy-yielding cellulosic-ethanol feedstock plants — Miscanthus and switchgrass.

“Nematodes are a part of our soil systems,” postdoctoral researcher Tesfamariam Mekete said. “However, when it comes to potential crops for biofuel production, we simply don’t know which nematodes are present in these crops and at what levels.”

The 2008-09 nematode survey included samples from 37 Miscanthus and 48 switchgrass plots in Illinois, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, South Dakota and Tennessee.

The scientists said all sample sites had at least two nematode species that reduce biomass in most monocotyledon hosts. The damaging population thresholds for the nematodes to Miscanthus and switchgrass are still unknown, but the scientists said the population densities they encountered might present a potential risk to biofuels production when compared with threshold densities reported on other monocotyledon hosts.

“The high levels of nematodes found in our survey and the damage symptoms observed in infected roots suggest parasitism may contribute to the decline of biomass production … and predispose plants to attack by other soil-borne pathogens,” Mekete said.

Portions of the research that included Kimberly Reynolds, Horacio Lopez-Nicora and Professors Michael Gray and Terry Niblack have been published in the journal GCB Bioenergy.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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Micro-algae Explored As Renewable Energy

BUENOS AIRES, March 18 (UPI) — Micro-algae as a source of cheap renewable energy are at the center of new research being conducted at Argentina’s National Technological University.

The use of algae as a source of energy is being researched in different countries across the world and is at an advanced stage in the United States.

But as research has grown so has the realization that converting algae into energy may not be as cost-effective as originally thought possible. As a result, new research and investigation has been two-pronged, both to make optimum use of algae as a source of energy and to do it cheaply.

Scientists at the National Technological University of Mar del Plata, on Argentina’s Atlantic coast, said they focused on developing techniques that would be both economically viable and environmentally sustainable.

A production module already in place would seek to convert micro-algae into energy with the minimum amount of energy being used in the whole process. The scientists said they would seek to achieve a ratio below 1:5 — to limit consumed energy to below 20 percent of the energy produced.

A fundamental factor in the project is the replacement of high-cost raw materials, such as carbon dioxide and cultivation agents, with “environmental liabilities” like industrial waste and emissions and sewage mud, the university said.

The research work is being conducted with the participation of scientists and technicians with an established knowledge base in aquaculture, biotechnology, environmental engineering and phycology, MercoPress reported.

The production of biofuels, particularly biodiesel from marine micro-algae, has won support from environmentalists and politicians because it doesn’t restrict human food consumption, as is the case with soybean and other agricultural crops, and fresh water is not used. Sea water cools the equipment deployed to convert micro-algae into energy.

Analysts said it was too early to determine if energy produced from micro-algae could be cost-effective on a longer term and if the technology could be used for large volumes of energy.

A hectare of micro-algae yields about 8,000 liters of bio-diesel.

Argentina is reviewing its energy efficiency strategies amid a continuing economic downturn and changing demographics, with forecasts that the upwardly mobile younger generation, although environmentally conscientious, will be consuming more energy in the coming years because of changing lifestyles and improved living conditions.

Argentina began exploring the micro-algae project in 2008. Scientists began the work with micro-algae species carrying high oil content. The micro-algae was cultivated in pools of up to 2,000 liters during the four seasons of the year, then collected in vats before being transported for processing.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

Posted in Biofuels & Biomass, Energy Efficiency, Engineering, Food Consumption0 Comments

More Ethanol Usage May Be Bad for Earth

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind., March 11 (UPI) — A Purdue University study suggests the increased use of corn ethanol might boost the Earth’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Professor Thomas Hertel and his five co-authors said their new economic analysis of the effects of increasing use of corn-derived ethanol on greenhouse gas emissions confirms the corn-based biofuel is unlikely to reduce global production of carbon dioxide.

The study focused on how mandated increases in production of the biofuel in the United States will trigger land-use changes domestically and elsewhere. In response to increased demand for corn, the scientists said farmers convert additional land to crops. And that conversion can boost carbon dioxide emissions, the scientists said.

The investigators said their main conclusion is stark: The indirect, market-mediated effects on greenhouse gas emissions “are enough to cancel out the benefits the corn ethanol has on global warming.”

The study appears in the journal BioScience.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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China Shrub Shows Biofuel Promise

BEIJING, Feb. 23 (UPI) — China’s poisonous jatropha shrub is showing promise as biofuel and could boost the country’s efforts to reduce dependency on imported crude oil.

In the past, farmers planted the poisonous perennial only as a barrier to ward off animals from their fields. But Hong Kong-invested Shenyu New Energy Co. Ltd. sees the lush green shrub as a great moneymaker, with the potential to generate $59 million in annual sales.

“We are very confident about the biofuel industry. Many countries, including China, have realized the renewable energy industry would become a new engine for economic growth,” Gou Ping, Shenyu’s general manager told China Daily.

China, the world’s second largest oil importer, aims to include 2 million tons of biodiesel in its annual fuel consumption by 2020.

According to a report issued by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, China’s annual crude oil demand is forecast to be more than 400 million tons this year and increase to 563 million tons by 2020.

By 2008, Shenyu had 49,445 acres of jatropha in the province of Yunnan. The company hopes to develop 82,410 acres of the shrub in 2010, Gou said. To help reach that target, Shenyu has enlisted 320 households in the Yunnan town of Yongxing to plant 3,303 acres of jatropha.

Each jatropha seed produces 30 to 40 percent of its mass in oil, which can be processed to produce biodiesel for diesel-running cars. The remaining residue can be further processed as biomass feedstock to power electricity plants or as fertilizer.

Shenyu is building a $9.5 million jatropha oil processing plant expected to be online by the middle of this year. Initially, the factory will produce 3,000 tons of biodiesel annually. Gou said the site has the potential to produce 100,000 tons annually at full capacity but there is not enough jatropha to process just yet.

Yunnan aims to produce 500,000 tons of biodiesel annually by 2015, according to a development plan issued by the provincial government in September last year.

Gou said about 20 companies are involved with jatropha plantations and associated processing businesses. But most of them are small enterprises and many companies are dealing with financing issues and lack processing and quality-control technologies.

“China has tremendous resources and could be a very important player in the world’s research and commercialization of biofuels,” David Wang, president of Boeing China, said at the World Route Conference in Beijing in mid-September.

Wang noted that if China could transform 12.4 million acres of the country’s wasteland into jatropha plantations by 2020, the country’s biofuel production could replace 40 percent of the current global aviation jet fuel demand.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

Posted in Aviation, Biofuels & Biomass, Cars, Consumption, Electricity1 Comment

Obama Outlines Biofuel and Clean Coal Steps

WASHINGTON, Feb. 3 (UPI) — U.S. President Barack Obama Wednesday announced a series of new measures designed to boost biofuels and clean coal development efforts.

Speaking during a meeting with a bipartisan group of state governors at the White House, Obama said he’s taking three steps to develop and commercialize a sustainable U.S. biofuels industry, including a new Environmental Protection Agency rule to implement the long-term renewable fuels production goal of 36 billion gallons by 2022, up from the current 11 billion gallons.

Also, he said, the President’s Biofuels Interagency Working Group has released its first report in which U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Energy Secretary Steven Chu and EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson lay out a strategy to meet or exceed U.S. biofuels targets.

Obama also announced the creation of an Interagency Task Force on Carbon Capture and Storage to put in place a federal strategy to speed the development of clean coal technologies.

“Now, I happen to believe that we should pass a comprehensive energy and climate bill,” Obama said. “But even if you disagree on the threat posed by climate change, investing in clean energy jobs and businesses is still the right thing to do for our economy.”

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

Posted in Biofuels & Biomass, Coal0 Comments

Seattle to Increase "Garbage Power"

SEATTLE, Jan. 21 (UPI) — Seattle, which gets a small amount of electricity from its own trash, plans to increase its garbage power significantly, city officials say.

The city of 602,000 plans to outfit a second landfill to pump methane gas from refuse by 2012, adding to an existing landfill in Arlington, Ore., where Seattle’s garbage is taken by train, officials said.

The city first began getting electricity from the Arlington plant in October.

“This is part of our strategy,” City Councilman Bruce Harrell, chairman of the council’s Energy, Technology and Civil Rights Committee, told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. “This is part of our vision.”

A network of pipes moves the methane from the tons of garbage in the Arlington landfill into a compression facility, which sends it to internal combustion engines. The engines turn generators that produce 5.7 megawatts of electricity sent up the power grid, enough to supply about 5,600 homes.

Seattle uses about 1,132 megawatts, the Seattle City Light utility averages. About 89 percent of the utility’s power comes from hydroelectric dams, 5.6 percent from nuclear energy, 3.4 percent from wind, 1.3 percent from coal and 0.5 percent from natural gas, the utility says.

The methane-extraction arrangement is part of a 20-year contract between the city and national garbage-management firm Waste Management Inc. of Houston, which built the system and charges the city about $2.5 million annually, Harrell said.

Copyright 2010 by United Press International

Posted in Biofuels & Biomass, Coal, Electricity, Hydroelectric, Natural Gas, Waste Management0 Comments

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