When determining how much a fuel reduces greenhouse gas emissions as compared to pure gasoline, most use Argonne National Laboratory’s GREET Life-cycle model (Greenhouse Gases, Regulated Emissions, and Energy Use in Transportation Model). In recent years, the model has seen some advancements and during the recent ACE Ethanol Conference, Dr. Jeongwoo Han, assistant energy system analyst with Argonne National Labs, discussed these changes.
As he explained, GREET has been updated and used to evaluate/update the environmental impacts of ethanol. Han’s presentation discussed the recent life-cycle analysis results of ethanol with the technology advancement as well as key issues in life-cycle analysis.
Final rules for the Clean Power Plan have been released by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as announced by President Obama. The plan calls for carbon reduction from the power sector (aka utilities) by 32 percent below 2005 levels in 2030. According to the EPA, power plants are the largest drivers of climate change in the U.S. emitting nearly one-third of all carbon emissions. This legislation is the first of its kind to set limits on carbon emissions for this sector.
During the announcement, the President said, “There is such a thing as being too late when it comes to climate change.”
The goal of the Clean Power Plan, and coupled with other pieces of legislation such as the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) is to reduce not only carbon emissions, but toxic emissions, from the two largest polluting sectors – power and transportation. By 2030, emissions of sulfur dioxide from power plants will be 90 percent lower and emissions of nitrogen oxides will be 72 percent lower, compared to 2005 levels. EPA said Americans will avoid up to 90,000 asthma attacks and spend up to 300,000 more days in the office or the classroom, instead of sick at home. And up to 3,600 families will be spared the grief of losing a loved one too soon. These statistics will be even better with the reductions from the transportation sector.
“We’re proud to finalize our historic Clean Power Plan. It will give our kids and grandkids the cleaner, safer future they deserve. The United States is leading by example today, showing the world that climate action is an incredible economic opportunity to build a stronger foundation for growth,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “The valuable feedback we received means the final Clean Power Plan is more ambitious yet more achievable, so states can customize plans to achieve their goals in ways that make sense for their communities, businesses and utilities.”
EPA said they received and reviewed more than 4.3 million public comments on the proposal, and participated in hundreds of meetings with stakeholders. The plan, according to the EPA, works by building on strategies states and businesses are already using. Today, the U.S. uses three times more wind and 20 times more solar energy than it did in 2009, and the solar industry added jobs 10 times faster than the rest of the economy. It safeguards energy reliability by setting common-sense, achievable state-by-state goals that build on a rapidly growing clean energy economy and gives states and utilities the time and flexibility they need to meet their goals.
The final rule establishes guidelines for states to follow in developing and implementing their plans, including requirements that vulnerable communities have a seat at the table with other stakeholders. EPA said it is proposing a model rule states can adopt, as well as a federal plan that they will put in place if a state fails to submit an adequate plan. Both the proposed model rule and federal plan focus on emissions trading mechanisms to make sure utilities have broad flexibility to reach their carbon pollution reduction goals. EPA also finalized standards to limit carbon pollution from new, modified and reconstructed power plants.
There were mixed emotions on the plan but general praise from environmental, health and the renewable energy industries that this was a bold move in a forward direction. Click here to read more about the Clean Power Plan from the White House perspective.
“If we’re serious about reducing Climate Change caused by Green House Gases, then we need serious actions,” said Joanne Ivancic, executive director of Advanced Biofuels USA. In her presentation, Ivancic laid out the salient points of the plan. “The first steps are including the price of Green House Gas (GHG) effects in non-renewable carbon fuels and committing serious money to renewable fuel research and infrastructure development.”
The Advanced Biofuels USA proposal uses lower priced renewable fuels to drive the consumer market. When the true costs of fuel become apparent, they argue, consumers will demand higher renewable portions of fuels for transportation, power and heat. The fee, which they base on current scientific estimates of climate change effects and mitigation costs, applies to only the non-renewable portion of liquid and gas used for transportation and stationary source combustion.
The fee would be between $50 and $100/ton of non-renewable carbon and translates into only 3.5 percent to 7 percent increases in current transportation fuel prices; or, less than the volatility we commonly experience in gasoline prices. The fee, Ivancic explained, will disappear as lower priced renewable fuels take over the market. Revenues from the fee will be used for two purposes:
Renewable Fuel R&D: An immediate Apollo type program should be funded with between 50% and 60% of the fees. It should be administered by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and be focused on getting affordable non-food biomass fuels and gases into the pipeline in less than seven years.
Renewable Fuel Infrastructure: The upgraded fuel pumps, decentralized processing/distribution modules, and temporary rebates to people not able to afford the initial lack of renewable fuel would be funded with between 40% and 50% of the fees. These programs would be run by the states.
Ivancic said the proposal will spur investment, innovation, installation and use of renewable choices. “Not only will we see a rapid reduction in GHG emissions,” she said, “but more important, a sustainable renewable fuel industry will create good jobs for Americans in research labs, rural towns, and urban manufacturing plants.”
Collection of this user fee would not require new bureaucracies. Existing consumer point-of-sale fuel and utility tax collections systems (for natural gas) would be used.
Renewable energy maker Joule has secured $40 million for its carbon dioxide-to-ethanol plant and has the green fuel meeting U.S. and European specifications. The company says the money will help build a staged industrialization of its patented, reverse-combustion process, including the near-term expansion of Joule’s production field in Hobbs, New Mexico and a longer-term build-out of a 1,000-acre plant to begin in 2017 able to produce 25 million gallons of ethanol per year.
“In the past six months alone, Joule has achieved rapid progress and impressive results that position the company well for industrialization. This progress will be bolstered by the newly committed funds and the continued support from our shareholders and strategic partners, including Audi,” said Serge Tchuruk, President and CEO of Joule. “Joule’s CO2-recycled fuel is on track to become a real answer for carbon neutrality. It provides a solution which is both practical and economical for global mobility and it can be implemented in the short term.”
“The call for global decarbonization is increasingly making headlines, and Joule is at the forefront of a CO2 recycling movement that can both reduce industrial emissions and generate economic growth,” said Noubar Afeyan, Co-Founder and Chairman of Joule and Senior Managing Partner and CEO of Flagship Ventures. “The company has proven the industrial viability of its approach and, with the strong new leadership team in place, is rapidly advancing towards market introduction within the next few years.”
– American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) D4806 – Denatured fuel ethanol for blending with gasolines for use as automotive spark-ignition engine fuel
– German Institute for Standardization (DIN) EN 15376 – Ethanol as a blending component for petrol
Joule wants to use the meeting of the standard to get new government approvals needed for commercialization of its ethanol fuel.
The EU-28 Member States and the European Parliament have agreed to introduce a market stability reserve in 2019 to tackle a glut of over 2 billion excess permits in the Emissions Trading System (ETS). At hearing the news, the European Windy Energy Association welcomed the move made between lawmakers to reform the ETS before 2021.
According to EWEA, the surplus of allowances is currently suppressing the carbon price and failing to hold Europe’s worst polluters to account over their emissions.
Policymakers have also agreed to transfer the backloaded and unallocated allowances into the market stability reserve before they flood the market at the end of the decade. The number of these allowances could be as high as 1.7 billion according to analyst estimates.
Ivan Pineda, Director of Public Affairs at the European Wind Energy Association, said, “The start date of 2019 shows that Member States are prepared to compromise. It is also pleasing to see that a substantial number of excess allowances will not be returning to the market and will instead go directly into the reserve. But we have to acknowledge that Member States and the Parliament could have been far more ambitious in the shake-up of the carbon market and that much more comprehensive reform is needed in order for this instrument to provide a meaningful signal to investors.”
“This Forum is an opportunity that should be grasped by Africa to take a vital step towards more sustainable transportation options. The potential of sustainable biofuels should be at the centre of these talks because they are the best sustainable transport option, both in environmental and economic terms,” said Bliss Baker, spokesperson for the GRFA.
Earlier this year the GRFA forecasted that 2014 global ethanol production would reach 90.38 billion litres and its use worldwide would reduce GHG emissions by over 106 million tonnes globally. “106 million tonnes or 21 million cars in GHG reductions is massive, it’s the same as removing all the cars registered in Malaysia off the road, but much more can be achieved if African leaders choose a path towards a more sustainable future for African transport,” said Baker.
While biofuel production in Africa has remained relatively low when compared to other regions, it has grown year on year with ethanol production alone now forecasted to reach 260 million litres in 2014. The domestic use of this ethanol fuel could reduce Africa’s GHG emissions by 325,000 tonnes.
“In addition to the important opportunity to reduce GHG emissions in transport, biofuels also offer African countries a fantastic opportunity to spark much-needed investment in agriculture, and, by creating jobs and boosting household incomes, poverty can be alleviated and food security improved. Sustainable biofuels are an important tool to help enable the revival of Africa’s rural communities, Africa’s political leaders need to promote them,” added Baker.
Baker said that African Sustainable Transport Forum attendees should note that the country’s biofuels opportunity was identified in 2010 by the World Bank when it released “Biofuels in Africa: Opportunities, Prospects and Challenges.” The report found that “a new economic opportunity for sub-Saharan Africa is looming large: biofuel production…Africa is uniquely positioned to produce these new cash crops for both domestic use and export. The region has abundant land resources and preferential access to protected markets with higher-than-world-market prices. The rapid growth in the demand for transport fuels in Africa and high fuel prices create domestic markets for biofuels.
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.
“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.”
Volkswagen of America, Inc. is continuing to roll out plans for its holistic approach to e-mobility. Beginning with the launch of the zero-tailpipe emissions 2015 e-Golf model later this year, Volkswagen will invest in carbon reduction projects to offset emissions created from e-Golf production, distribution and up to approximately 36,000 miles of driving. Volkswagen also named SunPower as the official solar energy partner power provider. Volkswagen believes they will be one of the first high-volume manufacturers to deliver a truly holistic approach to ultra-low-carbon mobility.
To help determine its carbon offset projects, Volkswagen has teamed with 3Degrees, a renewable energy and carbon offset services provider. By investing in carbon reduction programs, Volkswagen said they will offset the e-Golf’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that result from its production, distribution and from the estimated emissions produced from keeping the vehicle charged through the initial 36,000 miles of the vehicle’s life. Volkswagen of America chose to include carbon reduction efforts in California and in Texas with projects geared towards forestry conservation and landfill gas capture.
“Volkswagen feels it is important to look beyond the benefits of driving a vehicle without tailpipe emissions and to take a holistic approach to e-mobility,” said Oliver Schmidt, general manager, Environment and Engineering Office, Volkswagen Group of America. “We now have the ability to offer offsets that approximate the emissions created from production, distribution and the initial 36,000 miles of use.”
“Volkswagen is showing leadership by including carbon offsets standard with this e-Golf electric vehicle,” added Steve McDougal, President of 3Degrees. “As more people choose low and no emission cars, Volkswagen is making it possible – and easy – to think comprehensively about the greenhouse gas emissions profile of a vehicle.”
University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) scientists, under the lead of Amin Salehi-Khojin, UIC professor of mechanical and industrial engineering, have synthesized a catalyst that improves their system for converting waste carbon dioxide into syngas. The syngas is a percursor of gasoline and other energy-rich products and this recent achievement in the the research team’s process has brought the production of CO2 to energy closer to commercial viability. The study was published in the journal Nature Communications on July 30, 2014.
The research team developed a unique two-step catalytic process that uses molybdenum disulfide and an ionic liquid to “reduce,” or transfer electrons, to carbon dioxide in a chemical reaction. The new catalyst improves efficiency and lowers cost by replacing expensive metals like gold or silver in the reduction reaction.
Mohammad Asadi, UIC graduate student and co-first author on the paper said the discovery is a big step toward industrialization. “With this catalyst, we can directly reduce carbon dioxide to syngas without the need for a secondary, expensive gasification process,” explained Asadi. In other chemical-reduction systems, he noted, the only reaction product is carbon monoxide. The new catalyst produces syngas, a mixture of carbon monoxide plus hydrogen.
Salehi-Khojin, principal investigator on the study continued the explanation by noting the high density of loosely bound, energetic d-electrons in molybdenum disulfide facilitates charge transfer, driving the reduction of the carbon dioxide. “This is a very generous material,” said Salehi-Khojin. “We are able to produce a very stable reaction that can go on for hours.”
The proportion of carbon monoxide to hydrogen in the syngas produced in the reaction can also be easily manipulated using the new catalyst, said Salehi-Khojin.
“Our whole purpose is to move from laboratory experiments to real-world applications,” he said. “This is a real breakthrough that can take a waste gas — carbon dioxide — and use inexpensive catalysts to produce another source of energy at large-scale, while making a healthier environment.”
The world is about to see the first market-based, fixed-price funding program for solar and renewable technologies through a Feed-Out Program. The program, the brain-child of the Clinton Global Initiative America (CGI America) and Demeter Power Group, has a goal of helping modernize the nation’s power grid with distributed energy.
“The Feed-Out Program will bring together independent power producers and financiers to enable the lowest-cost, fixed-price offering for renewable energy,” said Michael Wallander, Demeter Power Group founder and president. “But unlike other similar ‘feed-in-tariff’ programs, the energy will be used on the customer-side of the meter.”
According to CGI, $1 trillion a year – a total of $36 trillion – is needed for investment in sustainable energy infrastructure to successfully reduce greenhouse gas emissions 50 percent by 2050. The Program will help tackle this challenge focusing primarily on funding for solar energy while also enabling cost-effective investment in energy storage, fuel cells and electrical vehicle car charging stations.
Yann Brandt, Demeter Co-Founder and EVP of Development noted, “What retail tenant or business owner would not want to save money on their energy bills while offering customers and employees the ability to shade their cars and power up with solar energy? We enable funding for solar-powered carports with electric vehicle charging stations at a net-negative cost to the customer.”
Demeter is contributing its finance mechanism – PACE3P – to help overcome credit-related challenges that have prevented scalable finance programs in the past. Demeter explained that PACE3P ties services fees to the buildings where the energy is used through a voluntary assessment on property tax bills.
Initially the Program will make financing available to commercial properties located in Northern California communities participating in the California FIRST property assessed clean energy (PACE) Program offered through the California Statewide Community Development Authority. Interested participants must register with Demeter to participate in the platform, which is expected to launch in the first quarter of 2015.