ONR Expands Green Reach in Asia-Pacific

The Office of Naval Research (ONR) is expanding its work in Asia-Pacific’s renewable energy sector. The announcement was made during National Energy Action Month where the Navy is promoting energy efficiency and conservation by participating in and hosting events around the world. The announcement comes after ONR’s work with the Chiang Mai World Green City that was established two years ago at Chiang Mai Rajabhat University with support from ONR. It uses solar cells, batteries for energy storage and a direct-current (DC) microgrid to power more than 20 buildings over 200 acres, including residences, offices, businesses and a vegetable farm.

Navy National Energy Month poster“Each new partnership we establish moves the United States and our allies closer to energy independence,” said Dr. Richard Carlin, head of ONR’s Sea Warfare and Weapons Department. “This system is unique in that it uses direct current to power an entire community. While this concept is perfect for isolated and remote communities, it also could be used in the future on naval installations and even ships at sea to bring power to our Sailors and Marines wherever they are.”

Scientists in Thailand plan to establish another smart grid-powered village at the University of Phayao and introduce sustainable technologies to military barracks and other communities throughout the country.

ONR now has turned its attention to Vietnam, where there is an abundance of solar, biomass, wind, geothermal, hydro and other rich renewable energy sources. The U.S.-Vietnam collaboration also will take advantage of investments made in Hawaii, where ONR is sponsoring a study of electrical grids for three naval bases. As part of that initiative, the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute (HNEI) and the Applied Research Laboratory at the University of Hawaii are working with the Naval Facilities Engineering Command to develop an action plan for the Navy’s energy needs in Hawaii.

“We are expanding our research collaboration to Vietnam to build off the success in Thailand and to support the United States in our pivot to the Asia-Pacific region,” said Dr. Cung Vu, ONR Global associate director for power and energy. “Vietnam’s remote rural, mountainous and island areas will benefit from ONR’s microgrid research, and the Navy will be able to increase its understanding of energy-efficient technologies through another key partnership.”

Renewables Continue to Gain Ground

Renewables continue to gain ground according to the latest “Energy Infrastructure Update” report renewable energy sources including biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar and wind, account for more than 40.61 percent of all new U.S. electrical generating capacity installed during the first nine months of 2014. Only natural gas provided more new generating capacity. The report was published by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s Office of Energy Projects (FERC).

Wind EnergyNew capacity in 2014 from the combination of renewable energy sources is nearly 35 times that of coal, oil and nuclear combined (3,598 MW vs. 104 MW). When looking at just September, renewable energy sources accounted for 2/3 of the 603 MW of new generating capacity put in service (367 MW of wind/60.8% plus 41 MW of solar/6.8%).

Of the 8,860 MW of new generating capacity from all sources installed since January 1, 2014, 187 “units” of solar accounted for 1,671 MW (18.86%), followed by 28 units of wind 1,614 MW (18.22%), 7 units of hydropower 141 MW (1.59%), 38 units of biomass 140 MW (1.58%), and 5 units of geothermal 32 MW (0.36%). The balance came from 41 units of natural gas 5,153 MW (58.16%), 1 unit of nuclear 71 MW (0.80%), 11 units of oil 33 MW (0.37%), and 6 units of “other” 7 MW (0.08%). There has been no new coal capacity added thus far in 2014.

Comparing the first nine months of 2014 to the same period in 2013, new generating capacity from renewable energy sources grew by 11.8 percent (3,598 MW vs. 3,218 MW). Renewable energy sources now account for 16.35 percent of total installed operating generating capacity in the U.S. – up from 15.68 percent a year earlier: water – 8.45 percent, wind – 5.35 percent, biomass – 1.38 percent, solar – 0.84 percent, and geothermal steam – 0.33 percent. Renewable energy capacity is now greater than that of nuclear (9.23%) and oil (3.97%) combined.

“The steady and rapid growth of renewable energy is unlikely to abate as prices continue to drop and the technologies continue to improve,” commented Ken Bossong, executive director of the SUN DAY Campaign. “The era of coal, oil, and nuclear is drawing to a close; the age of renewable energy is now upon us.”

Ansell Installs Biomass Boiler to Reduce Energy Costs

The Ansell factory complex in Biyagama, Sri Lanka has installed its second biomass boiler as part of company initiatives to be greener. The new boiler has a capacity of 12.5MW and will be the largest hot water boiler in Sri Lanka. Ansell Lanka already has a 10.5MW boiler installed at its premises, which reduced CO2 emissions by 11,000 MT per annum. From 2004 to 2012, CO2 emissions have been reduced by 36 percent across all of Ansell’s manufacturing facilities, with the global CO2 emission rate from 2013 to 2014 alone reduced by 6 percent. The company anticipates the reduction of a further 14,000 MT of CO2 emissions annually as furnace oil consumption will now be reduced to the bare minimum.

Screen Shot 2014-10-23 at 10.26.12 AM“This project represents another step forward in Ansell’s business strategy to conducting business ethically, transparently, and in ways that produce social, environmental, and economic benefits for communities around the world,” said Steve Genzer, senior vice president of global operations at Ansell. “We would like to thank the government of Sri Lanka for its continued support, and the more than 4,000 Ansell employees who are the driving force of implementing these green programs.”

The announcement is part of the company’s Green Productivity program, focused on energy management, and implemented within manufacturing operations across Ansell. Energy management at Ansell focuses on achieving the most efficient and effective use of energy and simultaneously reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Programs that have been implemented include the installation of equipment to recover energy from flue gas emitted from boiler chimneys as an energy source to heat water, the installation of energy efficient equipment to provide chilled water for manufacturing site cooling systems and the conversion of fossil fuels to renewable energy sources.

“While the forward progress made in the last 10 years has been incredible, this is only the tip of the iceberg in how Ansell will be doing business differently in the years to come,” added Genzer. “Ansell is committed to a number of sustainable and practical initiatives that are designed to make a positive and lasting contribution to the markets it serves and the community in general.”

Bioenergy Day Recognizes Importance of Biomass

bioenergydayYesterday was the Second Annual National Bioenergy Day, and more than 40 facilities and organizations throughout the U.S. and Canada opened their doors to show folks the benefits of using woody biomass for heating and electrical power production.

U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has continued to support bioenergy’s role in protecting the health of forests on federal lands, saying, “Renewable wood energy is part of the Obama Administration’s ‘all of the above’ energy strategy. The Forest Service works with its partners to support the development of wood energy projects that promote sound forest management, expand regional economies and create new rural jobs.”

“The continuation of National Bioenergy Day into a second year is truly exciting. We are grateful to our sponsors, particularly the U.S. Forest Service, for their dedication to raising awareness about the role of bioenergy in communities across the nation,” said Bob Cleaves, President and CEO of Biomass Power Association. “Today, all across the country, people are learning about bioenergy and how it helps local economies and forests.”

Some of the National Bioenergy Day sponsors include Biomass Power Association, U.S. Forest Service, Plum Creek, Pellet Fuels Institute, U.S. Industrial Pellet Association, and the Biomass Thermal Energy Council. You can learn more at www.bioenergyday.com.

Cooper Looks to Get Tires & Biofuels from Biomass

cooper-tires1A tire maker is looking to get tires and biofuels to keep those wheels rolling from the biomass of a plant. This news release from Cooper Tire says the company completed tire builds using rubber derived from guayule plants and new guayule related materials and also hopes to get biofuels from those plant materials.

This development was reported by Cooper to its consortium partners—PanAridus, Arizona State University, Cornell University, and the Agricultural Research Service of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA-ARS)—as the group met recently in Maricopa, Arizona for its third annual meeting and progress report on their $6.9 million Biomass Research and Development Initiative (BRDI) grant, “Securing the Future of Natural Rubber—An American Tire and Bioenergy Platform from Guayule.” The consortium received the BRDI grant in 2012 from the USDA and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to conduct research aimed at developing enhanced manufacturing processes for the production of solid rubber from the guayule plant as a biomaterial for tire applications, as well as evaluating the plant’s residual biomass for fuel applications. The consortium aims to harness biopolymers extracted from guayule as a replacement for synthetic rubbers and Hevea natural rubber used in the production of tires. It is also focused on genomic and agronomic development of guayule and the sustainability impact these biomaterial and bioenergy industries have on the American Southwest, where guayule is grown.

So far, the testing shows the tires are at least equal to tires made of components derived from the more traditional Hevea rubber plant.

Pacific Ag Bales Bundles of Energy

Bill Levy Pacific AgLast week Abengoa’s cellulosic ethanol biorefinery went online and is expected to produce 25 million gallons of advanced ethanol per year as well as 21 MW of bioenergy. But how exactly does the corn and wheat residue get from the fields to the biorefinery in a economical and efficient way? Enter Pacific Ag.

The company was founded by Bill Levy in 1998 and began by baling residue for growers and using the biomass for animal feed both in the U.S. and internationally. It was a natural progression for Pacific Ag to get involved in cellulosic production in the U.S. and to become a major supplier to the industry.

I asked Levy to talk about their residue removal model. He noted that since their inception, they have always focused on having a balanced residue program for growers and they are finding value for those products for them. So taking their successful model from the Northwest and applying it to the Midwest was a good fit. “The fundamentals of having residue removed on a timely basis and in a sustainable way is really the same,” explained Levy. Today they are in California, North Carolina, Iowa, Kansas and he says they have innovated to become “energy balers” because of the new bioenergy market for residue.

There has been talk about the best biomass model for the biofuels industry. I posed this question to Levy and he explained how they have refined their model to be financial feasible. “We have tried to make it easy for growers to be part of the program by taking care of the harvest, we own the machinery, we schedule the harvest or the removal of the residue, or energy crop with the grower and then we provide them with an income stream for that product,” Levy answerPacific Ag Hugoton Kansas teamed. “It’s very important that we have the size that allows us to invest in that equipment and a lot of times it doesn’t make sense financially for a grower to to invest in that harvest equipment just to harvest the residue.” Pacific Ag is the largest purchaser and owner of baling equipment in the world.

“So what growers enjoy is being able to sit back and enjoy a residue removal program and the income from that but not have to put a lot of effort into it,” added Levy.

Pacific Ag is looking for growers of rice, wheat, corn and other biomass crops who are interested in working with them. As cellulosic ethanol plants including Abengoa continue to ramp up to nameplate capacity, more biomass will be needed and Pacific Ag is ready to be the advanced biofuels partner to help make the cellulosic industry and the growers who plant the bioenergy crops, successful.

Learn more about Pacific Ag and how to become involved in the biomass energy revolution by listening to my interview with Bill Levy: Interview with Bill Levy, Pacific Ag

Abengoa Cellulosic Ethanol Plant Grand Opening photo album.

Allison Details Abengoa’s Cellulosic Plant

Danny Allison Abengoa Plant ManagerWho better to learn about how Abengoa’s cellulosic ethanol plant works then from Plant Manager Danny Allison. He explained to the standing room only crowd during Abengoa’s grand opening celebration, how the state-of-the-art biorefinery will produce cellulosic ethanol, bioenergy and other byproducts including ash that farmers can use as organic fertilizer on their fields.

Here is how the plant works:

Biomass: biomass harvested from local growers corn and wheat fields by Pacific Ag is delivered to the Abengoa plant to begin the ethanol production process. Each bale is quality tested for moisture, dust and other contaminants that could hinder the conversion process.

Biomass In-take Lines: six-packs of residue travel down conveyor belts to be separated into single bales by a singulator. Each bale goes through a chopper, cutting the biomass Biomass in-take lines at Hugoton Kansas Abengoa biorefineryinto easy-to-handle materials and then fed into a grinder.

Pre-Treatment: The pre-treatment process is where the starch is converted to sugars using Abengoa’s proprietary enzymes. From there fermentation occurs suing industrial yeast to convert the sugar to alcohol. At the end of fermentation, the liquid, now 5 percent alcohol, goes into a 1.3 million gallon tank, or beer well.

Distillation System and Ethanol Holding Tanks: All solids, water vapor and alcohol are removed. The now 95 percent pure ethanol moves to a column while the remaining 5 percent goes to the bottom for reprocessing and reclamation. After all impurities and water are removed, the finished ethanol is pumped to half-million storage tanks and ready for shipment by rail or truck.

Electrical Power Station: The Abengoa bioenergy plant will also produce up to 21MW of renewable electricity used to power the plant. Excess electricity will be fed to the grid for city use.

Learn more about the process by listening to Danny Allison’s remarks: Danny Allison Remarks

Abengoa Cellulosic Ethanol Plant Grand Opening photo album.

Researchers to Turn Biomass into Plastic

While turning biomass into energy has been most of the talk, some researchers are looking at turning biomass into a more valuable product: plastic. This article from the University of Wisconsin-Madison says researchers at that school, along with scientists from the University of Minnesota and Argonne National Laboratory, will use a $3.3 million U.S. Department of Energy grant to explore ways to produce renewable plastic precursors and other substances from biomass.

huber1“We’re trying to make very high-value commodity chemicals from biomass that can be used to make different kinds of plastics and plasticizers,” says George W. Huber, a professor of chemical and biological engineering at UW-Madison. “So many people have been focusing on fuels, which are a pretty low-value product — $600 or $700 per ton — but we’re going to be making products that are worth more than $5,000 per ton.”

Joining Huber on the UW-Madison portion of the grant are Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering James A. Dumesic; chemical and biological engineering Professor Christos Maravelias; chemical and biological engineering research Professor Bill Banholzer; and chemistry Associate Professor Ive Hermans. This team of researchers, who also are affiliated with the Wisconsin Energy Institute, bring to the project combined expertise in biomass conversion, process design, techo-economic modeling of biochemical and biofuels production, and catalysis.

Researchers at Argonne will provide high-throughput tools for screening large amounts of catalysts used in the biomass-conversion process, and University of Minnesota researchers will contribute expertise in separating products from the reactants and solvents used in their production.

The three-year project involves both elaborating the basic scientific principles involved in converting biomass into useful chemicals that are otherwise petroleum-derived, as well as developing efficient processes that can be scaled up in order to make bio-based production more competitive with petroleum refining.

Tanzania Mini-Grid Project Underway

Continental Energy Corporation, an emerging international energy investment company, announced that its Tanzanian affiliate, Ruaha River Power Company Ltd. has begun construction of the Phase-I development of its Malolo Mini-Grid. They have also begun signing up first subscribers from a waiting list of 400 customers. The Mini-Grids are being installed in an area surrounding the village of Malolo and three nearby villages, all located in the Kilosa District, Morogoro Region, Tanzania.

The Malolo Mini-Grid is the first of four separate, isolated rural “Mini-Grids” to be built, owned, and operated by the Ruaha Power, from which Tanzania flagit intends to generate, distribute, and sell electrical power directly to consumers at pre-payment meters. When complete, the four Malolo Mini-Grids will have a combined generation capacity of 300kW and each Mini-Grid shall directly deliver 75kW of power to a combined total of approximately 2,500 identified residential, commercial, and light industrial customers.

Phase-I of the Malolo Mini-Grid development is expected to begin delivering power by the end of the first quarter of 2015. It involves the installation and commissioning of the first embedded generators, a 25kW hybrid biomass gasifier and a 25kW diesel generation plant, together with more than four kilometers of low voltage distribution network.

The distribution network will be constructed to standards sufficient for connection to the national grid at such time as it may be extended into the Malolo Mini-Grid area. A 21,500 square-foot site near the village of Malolo has been acquired for the first generator house and power line easements have been arranged. Civil works and the construction of the first powerhouse and office has begun and are expected to be complete by year end.

A Phase-II development is planned to add solar PV capacity to complete a hybrid biomass-solar PV-diesel powered Mini-Grid. Ruaha Power plans to duplicate the Phase-I and Phase-II development at each of the other three villages, one after the other, upon completion of Phase-II of the first network.

How to Establish Biobased Production Chains

The Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RV0), Wageningen UR Food & Biobased Research has developed a method that can help companies and government authorities create biobased chains, from source materials to end products. The method was developed out of a need for companies to develop successful production chains for the production of biofuels or biomaterials from biomass-based resources.

According to senior scientist Wolter Elbersen at the institute for Food & Biobased Research, the method is mainly intended for businesses and investors looking to establish a biobased production chain locally, or for export to the Netherlands or other EU countries. “They often have trouble evaluating whether developing a biobased production or export chain is feasible or how it can be done commercially,” said Elbersen. “This method provides an insight into which factors are at play.”

Setting Up International Biobased Production ChainsThe method is a step-by-step plan for the development of a biobased export chain. It includes a classification of the various types of biomass.

Scientist Jan van Dam at Food & Biobased Research explained that an analysis was made of which crops and products are most suitable, and how market demands are expected to develop. “We then described how businesses or investors can use a SWOT analysis to evaluate whether a local crop is a good starting point for the development of a biobased trade chain. This includes factors such as the availability of the crop and the infrastructure, security of supplies, costs and the degree to which the source material can be produced in a sustainable way.”

The method also offers a list of criteria for determining the most suitable location for converting the source material into tradable products. It deals with questions such as which country has the best infrastructure and the most educated employees? Which location offers the lowest operational costs and the best logistics? And where do the co-products or by-products have the most value? This involves issues such as heat for heating networks, CO2 for CO2 fertilisation or lignin for new chemical products.