Algae.Tec Using Shipping Containers to Grow Algae

John Davis

Algaetecbioreactor1When it comes to alternatives to some of the more conventional sources of oils for biofuels, many companies are looking to go green. And some, such as the folks at Algae.Tec, are looking to green shipping containers to grow a literal green feedstock.

“What we wanted was a significant bulk outcome, in other words fuels and possibly food, producing the algae for cents on the liter, where many of the pond solutions [cost] dollars per liter to make it work,” explains Roger Stroud, the Executive Chairman of the Australia-based company. He says Algae.Tec’s enclosed photo-bioreactor contained in 40-foot shipping containers is a way to produce the green pond scum for those pennies of what it costs in open-air ponds. And they’re looking at producing biodiesel, jet fuels, and even food sources from the algae grown. But Stroud says they are still working on the commercialization process with demonstration projects just south of Sydney, as well as research and development in Atlanta, Georgia. “We’re confident in the outcome.”

rogerstroud1So why is Stroud so confident their system will be successful? Well, besides the testing and work they’ve done, he’s Australian, and that means he’s used to having to do big things against sometimes great odds. “Although [Australia] is a large continent, we’ve got [a small population]. So, we tend to be on the outside looking in, where in the U.S., you tend to be on the inside looking out,” and Australians have to look more to the world economy. That’s why Algae.Tec has worked vigorously to network globally. Projects pending in Brazil and Texas, as well as one in New South Wales, point to that global reach. Plus, he’s encouraged by the Americans’ commitment to algae and biofuels. It all comes down to the Australian, and maybe the algae industry’s, way of making the best of the opportunity that comes your way.

“We’re focused on our task, and we believe we can achieve a profitable outcome, given time.”

Listen to Joanna’s interview with Roger here: Interview with Roger Stroud, Algae.Tec

algae, Audio, biofuels

Green Biologics Wins Biobutanol Funding

Joanna Schroeder

Green Biologics has received funding from the Technology Strategy Board (TSB), based in UK, to engineer a bacterial host for biobutanol production. The project is in collaboration with the Clostridia Research Group (CRG) at the University of Nottingham which is funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).

137_clostridiumThe goal of the 18 month project is to develop a novel bacterial host for the production of 1-butanol from renewable feedstocks. The strategy focuses on the modification of a clostridium species (Clostridium pasteurianum) for the fast growing renewable chemicals market. According to Green Biologics, this microbe has many desirable features that make it an attractive fermentation host including fast growth rates, robustness and good butanol tolerance, but suffers from technical limitations.

In this project, the partners will deploy advanced molecular biology tools for clostridia and introduce synthetic metabolic pathways that increase the range of feedstocks and also improve butanol production. The deliverable will be a novel engineered strain C. pasteurianum that ferments starch to butanol in high yield.

Sean Sutcliffe, CEO at Green Biologics (GBL), said, ”We are extremely pleased to receive grant funding from the TSB. This award recognises GBL’s leading technical and commercialisation leadership position and also facilitates collaboration with the CRG led by Professor Nigel Minton from the University of Nottingham, a world expert in clostridial gene technologies.”

The CRG, one of the largest labs at Nottingham, develops and patents advanced gene tools for the modification and manipulation of clostridial genomes focused on strain enhancements.

“Green Biologics is developing next generation products using clostridia as production hosts. This project builds on GBL’s extensive industrial strain collection and opens up longer term market opportunities,” added Dr. Edward Green, CSO at GBL. “We are greatly encouraged by the recent alignment between the TSB and the research councils for Industrial Biotechnology which enables meaningful collaboration between academics and SME’s. Funding initiatives are essential to maintain a UK leadership position.”

biobutanol, biochemicals, biofuels

Switchgrass Versus Heating Oil

Joanna Schroeder

According to a recent study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), using switchgrass pellets could be a cheaper source of energy, instead of fuel oil to heat homes and businesses in the Northeast. Agricultural Research Service (ARS) researcher Paul Adler led efforts on a lifecycle analysis that compared costs of energy generation from coal, natural gas, fuel oil, and switchgrass in the form of energy-dense cubes, briquettes, and pellets.

burning switchgrassThe researchers calculated the economic outlays associated with switchgrass production throughout the supply chain, as well as greenhouse gas emissions generated by switchgrass production, densification, and conversion to heat and power. This included the first lifecycle inventory of switchgrass seed production and greenhouse gas emissions associated with seed production.

The analysis indicated that 192 pounds of “carbon dioxide equivalent,” or CO2e, was emitted for every ton of switchgrass dry matter that was sown, harvested, and delivered to densification plants for processing into pellets. CO2e is a measurement used to compare the emissions from various greenhouse gases based upon their global warming potential.

The researchers calculated that using switchgrass pellets instead of petroleum fuel oil to generate one gigajoule of heat in residences would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 146 pounds of CO2e. Totaling all costs associated with installing an appropriate residential heating system and fuel consumption, the team concluded that each gigajoule of heat produced using switchgrass pellets would cost $21.36. Using fuel oil to produce the same amount of heat would cost $28.22.

Adler is now working with Plainview Growers to determine how the carbon footprint differs between heating greenhouses with biomass and heating them with fuel oil. The results of the research were published in the journal, Environmental Science & Technology.

Alternative energy, bioenergy, Research

Fracking Subject of Next Farm Foundation Forum

John Davis

farmfoundationlogo3Getting natural gas out of the ground, especially by using hydraulic fracturing, better known as “fracking,” has been a hot topic lately, especially in agricultural areas. Our friends at the Farm Foundation will sponsor a free forum to talk about the issue from 9-11 am EDT, Wednesday, April 3, at the National Press Club, Washington, D.C.

Issues and policies related to natural gas extraction will be discussed by Shannon Ferrell and Larry Sanders, both of Oklahoma State University. They are the authors of a policy brief, Natural Gas Extraction: Issues and Policy Options, published by the National Agricultural and Rural Development Policy Center (NARDeP).

Also presenting at the Forum will be Brian Rahm, a post doctoral associate at the New York State Water Resources Institute. Other speakers are to be named.

Former Texas Congressman Charlie Stenholm will moderate a discussion after the presentation.

Sign up for the free event here.

Farm Foundation, Natural Gas

AFPM Attack on RFS, Inaccurate, Typical

Joanna Schroeder

The American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM) held teleconferences last week in an effort to discredit the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). During the call, AFPM blamed increased gas prices on renewable fuels, which, says, Tom Buis, CEO of Growth Energy, is false.

Manipulating data and spreading misinformation is not the way to educate lawmakers and drive policy decisions. Our energy security is a matter of domestic and national Gas in Mt Pleasant Iowasecurity, and the fact is the fossil-fuel-only approach of oil companies and refiners will do nothing for our growing energy needs except continue to feed our addiction to foreign oil and line the pockets of oil executives,” said Buis, who released the following statement.

“It seems unconscionable that AFPM would state that the presence of E15, the most tested fuel ever, would limit consumer choice if offered in the marketplace. However, when it comes to oil companies and refiners, they will say and do anything to protect their interests and bottom line. While they pretend to advocate for the consumer, they are actually intentionally blocking a choice and savings at the pump, while taking in excessive profits at the consumer’s expense.

“With regards to RINs, what we have here is a classic example of unregulated market manipulated by oil companies running wild. The biofuels industry creates RINs, but they have no place in the trading market – that is between oil companies and refiners. They are the ones driving this entire process, intentionally driving up prices as a way to blame other industries for their increasing profits and unending costs at the pump. I welcome Congressional oversight and an investigation to shed some daylight on these questionable practices.

“It is time for oil companies and refiners to get out of the way and let consumers and retailers make the voluntary decision to use higher fuel blends, such as E15. I am confident that once E15 becomes widely available, consumers will chose the homegrown fuel that helps support our economy and is better for our environment. And that is exactly what oil companies and refiners are afraid of – losing market share through fair market competition. So, they will stop at nothing to distort the facts and bend the truth to maintain the near monopoly they have on the liquid fuels market.

“Enough is enough – it is time to identify this ongoing blame game for what it actually is – an orchestrated sham by the oil companies and refiners to manipulate markets, cause panic and attempt to use false data to blame an industry that has grown to be a threat to their record profits and bottom lines.

“Bottom line – ethanol saves consumers at the pump and any information stating otherwise is simply false.”

biofuels, Ethanol, Growth Energy, RFS

Suggestions to Obama to Address Climate Change

Joanna Schroeder

PCAST logoThe President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST), a group of leading scientists and engineers who make policy recommendations to the White House, has released a detailed report outlining how the Obama Administration could address climate change in the near term. Climate change was a major topic during President Obama’s recent trip to Argonne National Laboratory as well as during his State of the Union.  The letter offers actions that would reduce emissions and better quantify climate-relates risks.

PCAST has called out these actions as “central” in addressing climate change:

  • Focus on national preparedness for climate change
  • Continue efforts to decarbonize the economy
  • Level the playing field for clean energy by removing regulatory obstacles, addressing market failures, adjusting tax policies and providing time-limited subsidies for clean energy when appropriate
  • Sustain research on next-generation clean energy technologies
  • Establish U.S. leadership on climate change internationally
  • Conduct an initial Quadrennial Energy Review (QER)

For each of the concept areas, PCAST offers precise steps on how President Obama can move forward. Example tactics include creating a national commission on climate preparedness, exploring a North American climate change agreement and improving energy efficiency standards using federal loan agencies. Click here to read the full report.

Climate Change, Environment

Florida Bill Would Repeal Ethanol Requirement

Cindy Zimmerman

hearing-bobbyA bill has been introduced in the Florida legislature that would repeal the state’s Renewable Fuel Standard Act.

Currently, the Florida law requires that all gasoline sold or offered for sale by a terminal supplier, importer, blender or wholesaler in Florida contain 9-10 percent ethanol, or other alternative fuel, by volume. Legislation to repeal that requirement was considered by the Florida House Regulatory Affairs Committee on Friday and Pensacola automotive technician and radio host Bobby Likis was there.

However, Likis was only was able to say that he opposed the bill before the hearing had to be ended for lawmakers to go to the floor. “I’ve answered over 100,000 questions live on air, many of which have addressed the ethanol issue with regard to engine damage,” said Likis, host of the syndicated Car Clinic Network. “I strongly oppose the bill.”

Likis, who is a strong advocate for ethanol, says he is prepared to do what he can to prevent the legislation from passing in Florida.

fl-hearing-1Also testifying against the bill was Patrick Ahlm with Alginol Biofuels, an industrial biotechnology company working towards the production of fuel from algae headquartered in southwest Florida. “We’ve raised $190 million since we were founded in 2006 by Florida residents,” said Ahlm. “Our focus right now is on operating our pilot scale facility in Ft. Myers.”

Alhm said they are looking toward a commercial facility. “Our technology does not require farm land, food crops or fresh water,” he said. “We respect the issues around mandates and traditional ethanol but when we go into the investment community, this sends a very bad signal about continuing to grow in Florida.”

Because the committee ran out of time, the bill sponsored in the Florida House by Rep. Matt Gaetz of Fort Walton Beach will be carried over to the next meeting.

Listen to the ethanol bill portion of Friday’s hearing: Florida hearing

Audio, automotive, Ethanol, Ethanol News, Government

Turning Cow Manure Into Brown Gold

Joanna Schroeder

In the heart of Wisconsin, a project is underway to produce energy from a resource that is in little danger of running low: cow manure, or “brown gold.” Thanks to a $7 million grant from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Biomass Research and Development Initiative (BRDI), the University of Wisconsin-Madison and several state companies have formed a consortium to pilot the conversion of dairy farm manure into useful product streams—a project that is expected to have significant environmental and economic benefits.

cute cowThe Accelerated Renewable Energy (ARE) project is already in progress at the 5,000-cow Maple Leaf Dairy in Manitowoc County, where animal waste is separated into different streams, or fractions, of processed manure. After small plant fibers in the manure are separated out and anaerobically digested to create biogas, liquids from the digestion process are used to fertilize crops, while leftover solids can be converted into useful chemicals and bio-plastics. Larger plant fibers, on the other hand, make great animal bedding and mulch, as well as a starting material for ethanol fermentation.

WBI director and Biological Systems Engineering (BSE) faculty member Troy Runge, who is a co-investigator of the project, is interested in supporting a renewable energy economy through the development of value-added products from biomass. Runge’s lab is analyzing the ARE project’s separation techniques to improve their efficiency and economic performance.

“We are performing many of the same separations that occur on the farm, but in the controlled environment of the lab to both measure and optimize the system,” says Runge.Read More

advance biofuels, Agribusiness, biomass, Research

Stover Harvesting Requires Careful Management

Joanna Schroeder

According to Purdue University researchers, removing corn stover from agricultural fields to produce cellulosic ethanol requires careful management to avoid adding greenhouse gas emissions and soil erosion to the environment. However, environmental impacts from stover removal can be reduced by switching to no-till corn or adding winter cover crops, but these practices likely would increase production costs, researchers reported in a study, “Environmental and Economic Trade-Offs in a Watershed When Using Corn Stover for Bioenergy,” published in Environmental Science & Technology.

“Some crop rotation and tillage combinations are more environmentally benign than others,” said Ben Gramig, a Purdue agricultural economist and the study’s lead researcher. “But there are water quality and greenhouse gas tradeoffs when collecting stover.”

As Gramig explains, stover is the parts of a corn plant that remain after grain harvest. Greenhouse gases from cropfields are released into the atmosphere when carbon escapes disturbed soils during stover removal. Emissions also occur when nitrogen fertilizer is applied to the land or crop residues decompose. Plowing fields loosens soil and, when combined with removing stover, causes increased soil erosion.

The study examined the environmental effects and costs of stover collection from eight corn-soybean rotation and continuous corn systems in a watershed typical of the eastern Corn Belt. The comparisons were made by combining results from watershed and greenhouse gas computer simulation models and minimizing the cost of stover collection, to select which farming practices to use in an agricultural watershed.

Read More

advance biofuels, Agribusiness, Carbon Dioxide, Cellulosic, corn, Research, Video

RFS & E10 Blend Wall White Paper Released

Joanna Schroeder

The U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee has released a “white paper” analyzing the federal renewable fuels standard (RFS) and the so-called E10 blend wall. On page two, the white paper highlighted that new fuels are banned from competing with petroleum products unless first approved for use by the federal government. According to the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA), this federal petroleum mandate hampers consumers from purchasing the ethanol blend of their choice.

Energy Chairman Upton John Shinkle:POLITICO“It has been more than five years since the RFS was last revised, and we now have a wealth of actual implementation experience with it,” the white paper explains. “In some respects, the RFS has unfolded as expected, but in others it has not. Several implementation challenges have emerged that received little if any consideration prior to passage of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. Furthermore, the overall energy landscape has changed since 2007. It is time to undertake an assessment of the RFS.”

In addition, the white paper examines issues for producers, refiners, auto manufacturers, and fuel retailers. and poses a number of questions for discussion. The committee is requesting interested stakeholders to send responses to these questions by April 5, 2013.

IRFA welcomes a full, fair, and factual review of the RFS by the House Energy and Commerce Committee.  However, the initial white paper focused on the so-called “blend wall” is very one-sided,” responded IRFA Executive Director, Monte Shaw. “In fact, it seems to approach every issue from the Big Oil point of view.  For example, despite the contention, there simply is no such thing as a real ‘E10 blend wall.’  The reality is that refiners are going to great lengths to construct an artificial blend wall through their own direct actions as an excuse to tear apart the RFS.  Such a conclusion by elected officials would be highly ironic given that the RFS was enacted with the expressed purpose of cracking the petroleum monopoly and forcing the oil companies to allow alternative options to compete – options like cheaper, cleaner, higher performing E15.

“In what was perhaps an unintended moment of balance, the white paper does highlight that federal law establishes a federal petroleum mandate – a federally enforced prohibition of any fuel that contains less than 85 percent petroleum.  The federal petroleum mandate is one of the biggest problems today preventing fuel competition, consumer choice, and lower cost fuel options for Americans,” concluded Shaw.

biofuels, Ethanol, Iowa RFA, RFS