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.