Tuesday, August 14, 2007

New Biofuel


The start-up biofuels company LS9, of San Carlos, CA, is using synthetic biology to engineer bacteria that can make hydrocarbons for gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel.

Their goal is to design microbes that produce and excrete hydrocarbons.

The LS9 Renewable Petroleum biofuel will be clean burning, carbon neutral and capable of fulfilling our long and short term energy needs. Derived from diverse agricultural feedstocks, Renewable Petroleum liquid fuels will be compatible with current distribution and consumer infrastructure.

The company has $5 million in funding from Khosla Ventures, the venture capital firm of Vinod Khosla founder of Sun Microsystems. Khosla is known for his passionate evangelizing of biofuels. LS9 CEO Noubar Afeyan cautions that no one can tell the extent to which any biofuel will displace fossil fuels. “That is a subject of great debate and great prognostication,” he says. “The opportunity is so large that I don’t have to believe in much more than a few percentage points of market penetration for it to be worth our investment.”

The fuel production process is much simpler and requires less energy than ethanol. Where ethanol needs to be distilled, Renewable Petroleum floats to the surface of the reaction vat.

Via: Technology Review

Via: Sustainable Design Update

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Green Fuel Man Fined

This goes into the Government Waste and Harassment Category. (I really should make such a category)

A man in Illinois has been fined and threatened by the State of Illinois Department of Revenue for home brewing his own biodiesel. When you read this article try to estimate how much money the State of Illinois is spending to capture less than $250.00 in back fuel taxes.

From Treehugger:

From Daily Kos Diary, “…David Wetzel, a 79 yr old retired chemist from Decatur IL had been using recycled vegetable oil in his 1985 Volkswagen Golf diesel car for 7 years. This January, ” the State of Illinois Dept. of Revenue sent 2 “special agents,” Gary May and John Egan to his house. The two agents threatened the couple with felony charges and asked them to post a $2,500 bond!” According to the Herald & Review, where the full story is explained, a Republican State Senator has introduced a State bill “…which would curtail government interference regarding alternative fuels, such as vegetable oil…”I would agree that the bond is not acceptable, $2,500 bond,” Watson said, adding that David Wetzel should be commended for his innovative efforts.” (His car) gets 46 miles per gallon running on vegetable oil. We all should be thinking about doing without gasoline if we’re trying to end foreign dependency.”" The money quote from the first H&R article is this:- “David Wetzel wonders why hybrid cars, which rely on electricity and gasoline, are not taxed for the portion of travel when they are running on electrical power.” In a follow up story, H&R reported that:- “Dave Wetzel, who drove to the state Capitol from his Decatur home in his fryer waste-propelled 1986 Volkswagen, won the hearts of lawmakers as he told of his struggle with the “revenuers.”

Via: Sustainable Design Update

Monday, April 30, 2007

When IndyCar racers take up the Ethanol banner, you know things are changing – fast.

The 2007 season IndyCar Series is underway powered by Ethanol. The cars feature a new Honda designed engine and run on 100% Ethanol. All 17 races on line for 2007 will be run on Ethanol, including the Grandaddy of all American races, the Indianapolis 500. This exposure of Ethanol as a high quality racing fuel will certainly give Ethanol use a boost.

The specially modified engines from Honda are designed with higher compression to take advantage of Ethanol’s very high octane rating. Drivers are noticing the difference, “These cars have a lot more torque,” said Driver Marco Andretti, “They just jump out of the turns.”

“The IndyCar Series switch to ethanol has been great. We are definitely on the right path with ethanol. There is more power with the new [3.5-liter Honda Indy V-8] engine. It runs clean and it is better for the environment. So it is a win-win situation, and that is great for the series. Ethanol is another alternative to gasoline. If we can show that the IndyCar Series cars can run ethanol, then it is good for everyone’s street cars.”

—Tony Kanaan, 2004 IndyCar champion

The Ethanol Promotion and Information Council (EPIC) is working on a national marketing campaign around a partnership with the IndyCar Series. With both farmers and now Nascar fans getting behind Ethanol the market demand may outstrip our production capacity.

We have covered Ethanol in many previous posts. The SDU position on Ethanol is that we need to develop Cellulosic Ethanol instead of corn based ethanol. One promising technology is the MixAlco process for making Cellulosic Ethanol. MixAlco can make most of the fuel we need from agricultural waste, municipal solid waste and sewage sludge. If I were an investor, Venture Capitalist or just wealthy, I’d invest in the MixAlco process.

Via Green Car Congress

VIA: Sustainable Design Update

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Virgin Group to Invest 3 Billion in Renewables

Bill Clinton, Richard Branson and Al Gore

Sir Richard Branson needs fuel for his airline Virgin Atlantic. As a smart business person he sees the writing on the wall regarding fossil fuels. While we may run out of oil sometime in the not too distant future, we won’t run out of coal, but it is really hard to get a jumbo jet off the ground when it is full of coal. Sir Richard needs an alternative fuel, something that doesn’t come from unstable parts of the planet, something that can be renewed…

Sir Richard is investing in Ethanol. He is committing 3 Billion dollars to the development and distribution of the renewable fuel.

The founder of Virgin and Virgin Atlantic Airlines, Branson announced at the CGI he would invest all future profits of the Virgin Group’s transportation businesses — mainly airlines and trains — into renewable energy initiatives both within his own transportation companies and in new biofuel research and development projects.

“If we can develop alternative fuels, if people can take risks on developing enzymes, if we can try to get cellulosic ethanol, then replace the dirty fuels that we are using at the moment. Then I think we have got a great future, I do,” said Branson at the CGI.

The 10-year, $3 billion commitment follows the launch of his newest company earlier this month, Virgin Fuels, which pledged to invest up to $400 million dollars in renewable energy initiatives over the next three years, starting with the California-based ethanol company, Cilion, Inc.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Japan Ethanol Firm Uses US Technology

BioEthanol Japan is building a full scale cellulosic ethanol plant that will use wood scraps and sawdust as the bio feedstock.

Green Car Congress Reports:

BioEthanol Japan on Tuesday became the world’s first company to produce cellulosic ethanol from wood construction waste on a commercial basis.

The plant in Osaka Prefecture has an annual capacity of 1.4 million liters (about 370,000 gallons US). In 2008, it plans to boost production to 4 million liters (1 million gallons).

BioEthanol Japan was established in 2004 by five companies, including construction firm Taisei Corp., major trading house Marubeni Corp., Daiei Inter Nature System, and beermaker Sapporo Breweries Ltd.

Marubeni is supplying the process technology, which it has licensed from US-based Celunol (earlier post), to BioEthanol Japan.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Beyond Ethanol

There is more than one way to get liquid fuel from bio-mass. We have covered cellulosic ethanol in an earlier SDU posting (here). Now we look at making a mix of various alcohols from almost any cellulosic material, including municipal solid waste and sewage sludge. By using these waste streams as the fuel feed stock, the MixAlco process can provide a large fraction of our fuel needs without displacing valuable crop lands or using high energy crops such as corn.

The MixAlco process converts biomass from any source into organic chemicals and alcohols via lime pretreatment; non-sterile, acidogenic digestion; product concentration; thermal conversion and hydrogenation. Because they have low capital costs and relatively simple operation, the MixAlco pretreatment and fermentation steps may be carried out on-location at sewage treatment plants or municipal landfills. Several studies have shown that MixAlco is capable of economically converting dairy manure and chipped yard waste into carboxylic acids which can be converted to alcohol.

Professor Mark Holtzapple, holder of many patents on this process makes a great presentation at Texas A&M on the MixAlco process and his Star Rotor engine which is currently under development.

Check out Prof. Holtzapple's presentation here.