Archive | Biofuels & Biomass

Brazil's Ethanol Fueled Plant on Stream

RIO DE JANEIRO, Jan. 21 (UPI) — Brazil has inaugurated its first commercial ethanol-fueled power plant amid questions being asked about the global impact of increased feedstock production on food agriculture.

The ethanol used in the plant comes from sugarcane, but other biofuels being researched for ecologically friendly attributes or all-weather use are using huge quantities of soy, sunflower and other oil seeds.

Although most of the crops used in feedstock for fuels are grown specifically for the purpose, analysts said acreage under food crops was falling internationally as entrepreneurs and governments allocated vast tracts of land to feedstock.

Brazil has announced extensive programs for producing biofuels from soy, sunflower and other oil seeds, including diesel for export that can withstand extremely cold weather.

The ethanol-fueled power plant in the state of Minas Gerais uses a flex-fuel turbine that was converted from running solely on natural gas to ethanol. The plant began its test operations Dec. 31 and currently is going through various stages of optimization, officials said.

Petrobras, the state-managed oil company, said the ethanol project gave Brazil a clear lead in the global quest for alternative, ecologically friendly sources of power generation.

Greater use of biofuels has been spurred in low-income regions, such as the Caribbean and West Africa, by cash constraints in countries that are finding high bills for crude oil and gas a major block to new development.

The ethanol-fueled turbine is part of a larger power generation complex that has other plants running on gas and oil, thermoelectric and hydroelectric sources.

Brazilian experts converted General Electric turbines for use with ethanol, Petrobras said.

The conversion involved the replacement of the combustion chamber, of one of the injector nozzles, and the installation of peripheral equipment (receipt system, tanks, pumps and filters) that allow the receipt, storage and flow of ethanol to the turbine, Petrobras said.

The company said it invested about $25 million in bringing the project to the correct stage, which will supply electricity for about 150,000 inhabitants.

Maria das Gracas Foster, head of Petrobras natural gas division, said the company had “great expectations” to demonstrate the viability and economy of generating electricity from an alternative to fossil fuels.

Industry analysts said ethanol use in power generation did reduce the carbon footprint of a plant without compromising volumes of electricity produced, but agriculture experts remain skeptical about the long-term impact of biofuels on the world’s food agriculture.

Brazil plans to produce a record 27.8 billion liters of ethanol during the 2009-2010 season, which will be a record.

Domestic demand for ethanol in Brazil has been boosted by the introduction of flex-fuel car technology. Petrobras has indicated it sees a major new business opportunity in the ethanol technology and is actively exploring international consumer markets with colder climates.

Industry scientists will be working with the Brazilian navy to test the reaction of biofuels to extreme weather conditions, including cold conditions in the Antarctic.

Copyright 2010 by United Press International

Posted in Biofuels & Biomass, Electricity, Hydroelectric, Natural Gas0 Comments

Company Turning Cow Fat into Motor Oil

OVIEDO, Fla., Jan. 20 (UPI) — A Connecticut company that turns cow fat into motor oil says it’s greasing engines from Florida to California, including cars in the American Le Mans.

The city of Oviedo, Fla., has become the latest customer of Green Earth Technologies of Stamford, Conn., The Orlando (Fla.) Sentinel reported Wednesday.

The company’s G-OIL has no odor, is similar in cost to regular motor oil and performs as well as its petroleum-based competitor, said Jeff Loch, who founded Green Earth in 2007.

The American Petroleum Institute has approved G-OIL for use in cars and it’s also being used in some soaps, cosmetics, mildew removers, lighter fluid and pest-control products, said Loch, who calls G-OIL a biodegradable and renewable resource processed in the United States.

Schenectady County, N.Y., is using G-OIL in its cars and American Le Mans has named G-Oil the official motor oil for its racing series that promotes green technology.

Copyright 2010 by United Press International

Posted in Biofuels & Biomass, Cars0 Comments

Sunflowers Could Provide Food and Fuel

VANCOUVER, British Columbia, Jan. 13 (UPI) — Determining the genetic makeup of sunflowers will lead to species that can be used for food and fuel, scientists in Canada said.

A joint venture between Genome Canada, the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Energy, and France’s National Institute for Agricultural Research aims to create a reference genome for sunflowers within four years.

The sunflower — the world’s largest plant family — contains 24,000 species of food crops, medicinal plants, horticulture plants and noxious weeds. The sunflower genome is 3.5 billion letters long, slightly larger than the human genome.

Once the genetic makeup is known, sunflower species could be crossbred to produce a plant that grows up to 15 feet tall with stalks up to 4 inches in diameter while producing high-quality seeds, said project leader Loren Rieseberg of the University of British Columbia, Vancouver.

“The seeds would be harvested for food and oil, while the stalks would be utilized for wood or converted to ethanol,” Rieseberg said. “As a dual-use crop it wouldn’t be in competition with food crops for land.”

Copyright 2010 by United Press International

Posted in Biofuels & Biomass0 Comments

Researchers Say Tobacco Could be Next Auto Fuel Source

PHILADELPHIA, Dec. 31 (UPI) — Cars of the future could be fueled by tobacco, genetic-engineering university researchers in Philadelphia suggest.

“Tobacco is very attractive as a biofuel because the idea is to use plants that aren’t used in food production,” said Vyacheslav Andrianov, assistant professor of cancer biology at Thomas Jefferson University’s Jefferson Medical College.

While tobacco can generate biofuel more efficiently than other agricultural crops, most of its oil is typically found in its seeds, the researchers say in a study published in Plant Biotechnology Journal.

Tobacco plants don’t generally produce enough seeds to be useful — slightly more than 1,300 pounds an acre.

But Andrianov and his colleagues found ways of genetically engineering the plants so that their leaves express the oil — in some instances, 20 times more oil than occurs in nature, Andrianov said.

“Based on these data, tobacco represents an attractive and promising ‘energy plant’ platform and could also serve as a model for the utilization of other high-biomass plants for biofuel production,” he said.

Biofuels — liquid fuels derived from plant materials — are entering the market due to factors such as oil price spikes.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Biofuels & Biomass, Cars, Energy & Fuels, Engineering1 Comment

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