New Zealand to Get First Major Biodiesel Plant

z energyNew Zealand will soon get its first industrial-scale biodiesel plant. This article from Radio New Zealand says the Z Energy plant will produce the green fuel from animal fat and is expected to make about 5 million gallons of biodiesel per year when it opens in June.

While the planned 20 million litre production will be just a fraction of the company’s total diesel sales of 860 million litres, Z Energy views it as a start in reducing greenhouse gas emissions from transport.

Even getting this far was a problem, according to Z Energy chief executive Mike Bennetts.

He said the globally low prices for crude oil make it harder for biofuels to compete.

The cost imposed under the Emissions Trading Scheme for burning fossil fuels was also low, which discouraged the use of clean alternatives such as biofuel and this affected the economics of the plant.

“They are marginal, and (as a listed company) we’ve always been very honest about that,” Mr Bennetts said.

But Z was pressing on, aiming to add 5 percent biofuel to its conventional diesel by June, and signing up companies such as Fonterra to commit to its product.

“We’ve been well supported by Fonterra, Fulton Hogan, Downers and New Zealand Post, to pay us a small premium to actually take the product.

“And then we are looking for the rest of New Zealand to follow through on some of the statements they make to use around ‘why don’t you guys do something about a less carbon intensive future?'”

Company officials say they made the project a reality by cutting start-up costs to a minimum.

‘Glitch’ Gives Mass. Biomass Debate Another Shot

massflagA technical glitch at a recent public hearing on a proposed Massachusetts biomass plant will give proponents and opponents to speak their minds on the project. This article from says the Public Health Council expanded its period for public comment on the proposed East Springfield biomass plant that developer Palmer Renewable Energy wants to build.

City Health Commissioner Helen Caulton-Harris wrote in an email that the glitch was due to the size of the auditorium, and the commission now needs more time as it seeks transcripts from a stenographer hired by the developer to record the meeting.

The comment period has been extended to Feb. 3. It was originally supposed to close this week, with the board taking up the biomass discussion again at its February meeting…

The hearing featured detailed presentations from both developer Palmer Renewable Energy and opponents of the project. Critics highlighted alleged pollution and health risks while the company’s attorney told the council that efforts to block the project are unlawful — and could trigger a $200 million lawsuit against the city.

Palmer Renewable Energy’s engineering and health consultants delivered testimony defending the project, telling the council it was safe and efforts to block it unlawful.

Neste’s Renewable Diesel Takes on Italian Alps

Neste_logo_pmsRenewable diesel is taking on the Arctic-like conditions of Northern Italy’s Alps. This news release from renewable energy producer Neste says oil and gas retailer Tamoil is using the renewable diesel at a 20 percent blend in its arctic diesel mix.

“We are happy to be able to help our customer Tamoil to be the first in Northern Italy to launch a renewable fuel with excellent cold properties into the market. Neste’s renewable diesel developed and tested in Finland offers uncompromised reliability and performance even in the harshest conditions, such as the Alpine mountain area,” says Kaisa Hietala, Executive Vice President, Renewable Products at Neste.

Neste’s renewable diesel does not contain any conventional FAME biodiesel, and therefore it can also be stored over long periods with full performance available immediately when necessary.

“The idea was born – says Aldo Lancia, Tamoil Italia Supply, Logistics & Wholesales Manager – from strong will to be the first, in Italy, to put on the market a diesel produced from renewable sources, clean and environmentally friendly, characterized by high performance at low temperatures. This was the demand of our customers, for this reason we decided to cooperate with who really considers the environment a precious resource”.

The release goes on to say the legendary Marcialonga cross-country ski race to be run this weekend will use Neste’s renewable diesel in Tamoil’s Gasolio Artico fuel.

Biomass Innovator to be Recognized by Elite Group

brucedale1An innovator in turning biomass into food and fuel will be recognized by an elite group. This news release from Michigan State University says Bruce Dale, a professor of chemical engineering and materials science at the school will be inducted into the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering’s College of Fellows.

Dale was nominated, reviewed and elected by peers and members of the College of Fellows for outstanding contributions in the biological engineering of transforming plant biomass to food and fuel to achieve a sustainable bioeconomy.

The College of Fellows is composed of the top 2 percent of medical and biological engineers in the country. AIMBE’s mission is to recognize excellence in, and advocate for, the fields of medical and biological engineering in order to advance society.

A formal induction ceremony will be held during AIMBE’s 25th annual meeting at the National Academy of Sciences Great Hall in Washington, D.C., on April 4. Dale will be inducted along with 160 colleagues who make up the AIMBE College of Fellows Class of 2016.

ExxonMobil, REG to Study Biodiesel from Cellulose

REGBig oil is partnering up with a giant in biodiesel production to explore the potential of biodiesel made from cellulosic sugars. This news release from Renewable Energy Group (REG) says the green fuel company is partnering with ExxonMobil to make the biodiesel by fermenting renewable cellulosic sugars from sources such as agricultural waste.

REG has developed a patented technology that uses microbes to convert sugars to biodiesel in a one-step fermentation process similar to ethanol manufacturing. The ExxonMobil and REG Life Sciences research will focus on using sugars from non-food sources.

“This research is just one way ExxonMobil is working to identify potential breakthrough technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, increase energy supplies and realize other environmental benefits,” said Vijay Swarup, vice president of research and development at ExxonMobil Research and Engineering Company. “The science is extremely complex, but we hope to identify new affordable and reliable supplies of energy for the world that do not have a major impact on food supplies.”

”REG has a long history of innovation in the production of advanced biofuels from lower carbon, waste feedstocks,” said Eric Bowen, REG Vice President and head of REG Life Sciences. “We look forward to this collaboration with ExxonMobil to advance our proprietary cellulosic sugar fermentation technology and capitalize on the combined power of cellulosic sugars and microbial fermentation to revolutionize the production of ultra-low carbon, cleaner burning advanced biofuels.”

Through the research, the two companies will be addressing the challenge of how to ferment real-world renewable cellulosic sugars, which contain multiple types of sugars, including glucose and xylose, but also impurities that can inhibit fermentation.

“As we research renewable energy supplies, we are exploring future energy options with a reduced environmental impact,” Swarup said. “Our first challenge is to determine technical feasibility and potential environmental benefits during the initial research. If the results are positive, we can then take the next step and explore the potential to expand our efforts and explore scalability.”

Terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

Researchers Release Hydrogen from Tough Biomass

dengResearchers from Georgia Tech have figured out how to release hydrogen from even the toughest sources of biomass. This article from Chemistry World says Yulin Deng and his team at the university developed a low-temperature electrolytic technology that can crack even molecules like lignin and cellulose, eliminating the need to use fossil fuels to release clean-burning hydrogen.

The process takes place in an electrolysis cell containing a membrane that protons can pass through, sandwiched between an anode and a cathode. Water containing both powdered biomass and polyoxometalate (POM), a metal oxide catalyst, is added to the anode side of the cell. By heating the solution or exposing it to sunlight, POM molecules can grab hydrogen atoms from the biomass, becoming H-POM. Applying a voltage across the electrodes causes the H-POM molecules to dump an electron onto the positively charged anode, and a proton into the electrolyte solution. The electrons flow around a circuit to the cathode side of the cell, while the free floating protons diffuse though the membrane and combine with these electrons at the cathode, forming hydrogen atoms. The atoms then react to form stable hydrogen gas, which can be collected.

Experts in deriving hydrogen from biomass have praised the new approach. ‘This process provides an open door to using smaller quantities of biomass and different biomass varieties for renewable hydrogen production,’ comments Chris Zygarlicke, at the University of North Dakota, US. And David King from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, US, says, ‘this is really interesting work … the claimed Faradaic efficiency for the process is extremely high.’

Deng and his team are currently working to make the method even more efficient. ‘Our goal is to collect 100% of the hydrogen atoms from biomass. We’re also looking for an industrial collaborator to scale up the technique.’

Researchers Feed Algae Cleaner CO2 for Biodiesel

melbourne1Researchers in Australia have found a way to feed cleaner carbon dioxide to algae, which would help in the production of biodiesel. This news release from the Melbourne School of Engineering says the new method purifies the carbon dioxide that is in power station flue gases by absorbing it into a liquid.

This liquid is then pumped through hollow fibre membranes. These hollow fibre membranes are like very long drinking straws, which can be immersed into the microalgae beds.

Professor Sandra Kentish, Head of the Chemical Engineering Department at the University of Melbourne and leader of the research team said that supplying purified carbon dioxide by extracting it from flue gases can work, but it is expensive and takes a lot of energy.

“In this work, we have found a way to purify the carbon dioxide and to supply it to the microalgae for a much more moderate cost and using a lot less energy,” Professor Kentish said.

“The CO2 moves directly from the liquid into the microalgae culture by permeating through the fibre walls. Aside from being a cheaper approach, our research has shown that the microalgae grow faster than in other work done to date,” said another team member, Dr Greg Martin.

The process can be used to produce other products such as chemicals, proteins and nutraceuticals.

Biodiesel Helps Plows Beat East Coast Blizzard

snow1As folks on the east coast have battled an historic blizzard this past weekend, some of the removal of the more than two feet of snow on the roadways has been done by plows running on biodiesel. This article from Bay Weekly from Annapolis, Maryland, says the green fuel went a long way in exposing the black roadway underneath that blanket of white.

When snow falls, George Sharps goes to battle.
As you read weather reports, he is revving his plow to be ready to fight his nemesis.
Sharps is one of 350 Maryland State Highway Administration operators who brave conditions that should keep the rest of us home. His mission: to clear 17,000 miles of state roads. He has one request of the citizens of Maryland as we send him into battle: “Stay home and let us do our jobs.”

Reducing Collateral Damage
Like any battle, snow-fighting operations have collateral damage. Roads are mauled and the environment — from your lawn to the atmosphere to Chesapeake Bay — ­assaulted.
Heavy diesel equipment consumes fossil fuels and belches out air pollution. The thousands of tons of salt and chemicals spread to melt snow and ice raise the sodium and chlorine levels of both groundwater and surrounding streams that feed the Bay.
New technologies and techniques are reducing the number of trucks on the road, hence the amount of fuel burned…

“Over the past few years, we’ve developed innovative ways to fight snow more efficiently with less environmental impact,” spokesman Charlie Gischlar told me the day I got behind the wheel of the crew’s main battle plow.

To control emissions and lessen the fossil fuel impact, this winter’s fuel is five percent biodiesel, derived from renewable resources like soybeans.

The article goes on to say that using biodiesel is just part of a bigger plan of Maryland going green when it comes to the black ribbon of highways.

Penn State to Turn ‘Scrub’ Trees into Biomass Fuel

PennStateextResearchers at Penn State University are looking at turning a tree seen as not much more than a weed into biomass. This article from the Centre Daily Times in State College, Pennsylvania, the school’s hometown, says researchers are working on a $10 million, 5-year project, funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, to grow shrub willow as the next great biofuel feedstock.

On the the edge of a cornfield just off Interstate 99 between State College and Bellefonte, researchers planted 34 acres of shrub willow in 2012 and sat back to wait. After one early harvest, Armen Kemanian, assistant professor of production systems and modeling, said he and his team waited three years for the plants to grow enough to mow them down.

That time came this month as equipment was brought in from New York, giant harvesters that drove over the 20-foot-tall crop, not only chopping them down but grinding them into chips. Each pass of harvester turned a long row of the skinny trees into a truckload of mulchy mass.

Three years of growth are expected to produce about 800 tons, but that’s one of the things Kemanian says they are measuring. There are other places that grow shrub willow for its biomass potential, like in New York and Canada. The Penn State study is exploring how the native Eurasian crop fares a little more to the south.

“We are working out some of the kinks,” said Michael Jacobson, professor of forest resources and Penn State and Kemanian’s NewBio co-chairman. “The point is, it’s very important to understand the economics. You can’t look at just one harvest and decide if it breaks even or not. There are 15 to 20 years of multiple cycles.”

The researchers say the willows planted in 2012 are expected to regenerate about seven times, leading to decades of harvesting. And it can be grown on land that wouldn’t normally support other crops.

Construction Well Underway at UK Biomass Plant

glennmont gb1They broke ground last month, and now construction is well underway at a new biomass plant in the UK. This news release from Glennmont Partners says its Port Clarence Renewable Energy Plant is a $227 million power station expected to enter commercial operation in 2018.

The 40MW plant is being built on land which has lain empty for many years and which is situated on the north bank of the River Tees, close to the Transporter Bridge. Fuelled by waste wood, the power station will generate electricity for the equivalent of 75,000 homes across the Tees Valley and elsewhere in the North East.

The construction of the plant is being carried out by Babcock Wilcox Lagan in partnership with Eco2, the company that originated and secured planning for the Port Clarence Energy plant in 2014. There are currently 40 people employed on the site and this is expected to rise to 300 people at the peak of the construction period. Once operational in 2018, the scheme will directly employ 30 people.

Leader of Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council, Councillor Bob Cook, said:

“Glennmont’s investment in our Borough is certainly welcomed as through the introduction of technologies such as biomass they can help grow our economy and create jobs for local people.

“I am delighted to see the Port Clarence Energy project begin to come to fruition and I’m looking forward to residents and businesses benefiting from the energy it will produce.”

“The Council is committed to working with the private sector to help them explore opportunities to develop renewable energy products like this which will help to reduce carbon emissions.”

Murray Paterson, UK Biomass Manager at Glennmont Partners said:

“The existing road and electrical infrastructure makes the Port Clarence area an ideal location for our renewable energy facility. We greatly appreciate the support that Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council has given to the project so far and we will work closely with the Council through the project’s construction and eventual operation. The Port Clarence Energy scheme will mean new jobs being created but equally important, it will be generating renewable energy from waste wood that would otherwise have gone to landfill. Port Clarence Energy is good for the local economy and the local environment.”