Turning CO2 Into #Biofuels

Joanna Schroeder

Scientists from the University of Toronto (U of T) have discovered a way to turn carbon dioxide (CO2) into renewable fuels and chemicals through nanoengineering. Led by Professional Ted Sargent, Min Liu, PhD. and Yuanjie Pang, PhD, along with a team of graduate students and post-doctoral fellows in U of T Engineering, have developed a technique powered by renewable energies such as solar or wind. The catalyst takes CO2 and converts it to carbon-monoxide (CO). From there, the gas can be used to create carbon-based chemical fuels, such as methanol, ethanol and diesel. Their work is published in the journal Nature.

U of T Engineering researchers Min Liu (left), Yuanjie Pang and their team designed a way to efficiently reduce climate-warming carbon dioxide into carbon monoxide, a useful chemical building block for fuels such as methanol, ethanol and diesel.

U of T Engineering researchers Min Liu (left), Yuanjie Pang and their team designed a way to efficiently reduce climate-warming carbon dioxide into carbon monoxide, a useful chemical building block for fuels such as methanol, ethanol and diesel. Photo Credit: MARIT MITCHELL, U OF T ENGINEERING

CO2 reduction is an important challenge due to the inertness of the molecule.”We were looking for the best way to both address mounting global energy needs and help the environment,” said Pang. “If we take CO2 from industrial flue emissions or from the atmosphere, and use it as a reagent for fuels, which provide long-term storage for green energy, we’re killing two birds with one stone.

The process begins with the fabrication of extremely small gold “nanoneedles” — the tip of each needle is 10,000 times smaller than a human hair. The nanoneedles act like lightning rods for catalyzing the reaction. When the research team applied a small electrical bias to the array of nanoneedles, they produced a high electric field at the sharp tips of the needles. This helps attract CO2, speeding up the reduction to CO, with a rate faster than any catalyst previously reported. According to Liu and Pang, this represents a breakthrough in selectivity and efficiency which brings CO2 reduction closer to the realm of commercial electrolysers. The team is now working on the next step: skipping the CO and producing more conventional fuels directly.

The field of water-splitting for energy storage has seen rapid advances, especially in the intensity with which these reactions can be performed on a heterogeneous catalyst at low overpotential — now, analogous breakthroughs in the rate of CO2 reduction using renewable electricity are urgently needed,” said Michael Graetzel, a professor of physical chemistry at École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne and a world leader in this field. “The University of Toronto team’s breakthrough was achieved using a new concept of field-induced reagent concentration.

The research represents not only a new solution to a longstanding problem of CO2 reduction but opens the possibilities for storage of alternative energies such as solar and wind.

advance biofuels, Biodiesel, Ethanol, methanol, Research, Solar, Wind

New #Ethanol Blends Study Shows #Biofuels Benefits

Joanna Schroeder

A new report, “Summary of High Octane, Mid-Level Ethanol Blends Study,” released by the DOE’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Argonne National Lab finds multiple benefits if using high-octane mid-level ethanol blends in future optimized engines. The study found benefits ranging from increased vehicle efficiency to increased acceleration to significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs). Specifically, these mid-level blends, including E25 and E40 have more octane that allows automakers to manufacture more efficient engines without compromising performance.

Screen Shot 2016-08-04 at 8.19.18 AMThe authors of the report write, “The experimental and analytical results of this study considered together show that high octane fuels (HOF), specifically mid-level ethanol blends (E25-E40), could offer significant benefits for the United States. These benefits include an improvement in vehicle fuel efficiency in vehicles designed and dedicated to use the increased octane…Furthermore, dedicated HOF vehicles would provide lower well-to-wheel GHG emissions from a combination of improved vehicle efficiency and increased use of ethanol.

Growth Energy Director of Regulatory Affairs, Chris Bliley of the study, “This report reinforces what consumers know today – more ethanol means more consumer savings at the pump and less pollutants in the air we breathe. I am pleased that this report recognizes and confirms what we’ve said for a number of years – automakers can take advantage of ethanol’s high octane properties to achieve the administration’s ambitious climate goals. As the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and the California Air Resources Board undertake their mid-term review, they should appropriately recognize the ability of high-octane, mid-level ethanol blends to meet the future greenhouse gas and fuel economy standards.”

biofuels, blends, Ethanol, Growth Energy

.@EthanolRFA Heads to Sturgis

Joanna Schroeder

Sturgis T-shirtThe 76th annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is right around the corner and once again the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) is partnering with the Buffalo Chip Campground August 8-14, 2016. The Sturgis, South Dakota event is a good way, says RFA, to promote the benefits of high-octane, low-cost ethanol to the motorcycle community. This year also marks the 35th anniversary of the Buffalo Chip Campground rally.

RFA will again sponsor Free Fuel Happy Hours during the rally, providing a free tank of 93 octane E10 for motorcycles. The Free Fuel Happy Hours will take place August 8-10 from 1-4 MT each day at the crossroads, located just outside the main gate of the Buffalo Chip Campground. RFA Vice President of Industry Relations Robert White, who is an eight-year veteran of the rally, will be on hand to answer any questions as motorcycle riders fill up on the high-octane fuel.

“I am always excited to attend the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally,” said White. “It’s a great opportunity to educate the motorcycle community on the benefits of ethanol. E10 is a safe and reliable fuel blend that millions of motorcycle riders use every day and it’s covered under warranty by every major motorcycle manufacturer in the market. However, there continues to be misinformation about E15 and other higher level blends. There is no push for an E15 mandate, and no motorcycles should use it. The RFA looks forward to educating riders on the benefits of ethanol, while providing them with a free tank of fuel.

At the rally, RFA will also sponsor the ninth annual Legends Ride on Aug. 8, which has raised more than $400,000 for charity since its inception, and will have banners throughout the campground and jumbotrons, as well as giveaways, including a free t-shirt. RFA board members will also be present. Chuck Zimmerman will also be covering the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. Watch for live updates from his Twitter account and here on Energy.

biofuels, Ethanol, Ethanol News, RFA, Sturgis

BioEnergy Bytes

Joanna Schroeder

  • BioEnergyBytesDF1Attendees for this year’s Export Exchange have less than a week to take advantage of early registration, which ends this Friday, Aug. 5, 2016. The event is taking place in Detroit, Michigan October 24-25, 2016 with more than 500 attendees expected representing 30 countries. #ExEx16 takes place every two years and is hosted by the Renewable Fuels Association and the U.S. Grains Council. Click here to register.
  • Alliance BioEnergy Plus has announced that following discussions with the U.S. DOE, the company has submitted an application responsive to the DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) for the design and construction of a Demonstration Scale Manufacturing Plant for the production of Aviation Biofuels (JP-8) from cellulosic biomass such as yard waste, agriculture leftovers and woodchips, capable of being used in commercial jet aviation as well as military applications.
  • Tehran Times is reporting that he Italian private sector will invest $450 million to build a bioethanol fuel production plant in the Amirabad Special Economic Zone (ASEZ), north of Iran using inedible wheat.
  • Blossman Services has announced the offering of an Autogas LPG Evacuation Pump, designed to remove propane from autogas tank when service of repairs are required. The propane can be transfered from the vehicle fuel tank being serviced to another autogas vehicle, a refueling station or a separate LPG storage tank. The system can empty a Gen 3 OEM, fuel pump equipped LPI vehicle tank filled with 44 gallons of propane in 1.5 hours to zero PSI tank pressure without venting any propane into the atmosphere.
Bioenergy Bytes

UPS Drives 1 Billion Miles with Alternative Fuels

Joanna Schroeder

ups-1One year earlier than expected, UPS has driven over 1 billion miles using its various alternative fueled fleet. It’s “Rolling Laboratory” included more than 7,200 vehicles ranging from pedal power and electric-assisted bicycles, to electric and hybrid vehicles to natural gas, renewable natural gas, propane and renewable diesel. The “fuel” option is tailored for the geography from dense urban areas to rural countryside.

We had a big sustainability goal as we set out to make the most of our rolling laboratory by driving 1 billion clean miles in alternative fuel vehicles – that’s the equivalent of well over 4,000 trips to the moon,” said David Abney, Chairman and CEO, UPS. “While attaining this goal is new, our commitment to seeking out alternative fuels actually dates back to the 1930s when UPS tested electric vehicles. With more than 100,000 drivers logging more than 3 billion miles per year, our future depends on our ability to meet the growing demand for global trade while reducing our impact on the environment.

The move to sustainable delivery options kicked off in earnest in 2012 with a goal of driving 1 billion miles with alternative fuels by the end of 2017. With approximately 12 percent of its fleet converted to alternative powered vehicles, UPS hit that goal more than one year early.

ups-2The question wasn’t should we make alternative fuels work?” said Mike Whitlatch, UPS’s vice president of global energy and procurement. “Instead, it was ’What’s the best way to make alternative fuels work for UPS, and for the environment?’ After more than a decade of focus, we are now driving more than 1 million miles globally each business day in our alternative fuel and advanced technology fleet.”

Abney added, “Many congested cities around the world are implementing zero tailpipe emissions zones, and UPS is keeping ahead of the curve by investing in advanced technologies and creating the commercial delivery fleet of the future.

By the end of 2016, UPS will have invested more than $750 million in alternative fuel and advanced technology vehicles and fueling stations globally since 2009. That continued investment, combined with supportive government policies, and a collaborative set of partners has helped to expand development and utilization of alternative fuels, vehicles and infrastructure throughout the world.

Alternative Vehicles, Compressed Natural Gas (CNG), Electric Vehicles, Natural Gas, Propane, renewable diesel

Al-Corn Clean Fuel Celebrates 20th Anniversary

Joanna Schroeder

al-corn-20Al-Corn Clean Fuel in Claremont, Minnesota celebrated its 20th anniversary this week with members of the ethanol industry. The farmer-owned cooperative began operations in 1996 and now produces 50 million gallons of ethanol per year with plans to expand to 120 million gallons per year.

“It took courage and energy to create the organization that stands today as Al-Corn Clean Fuel; everyone played a significant role,” said Randall Doyal, CEO of Al-Corn and chairman of the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA). He added that Al-Corn was established in 1994 by local farmers who were looking for new opportunities to add value to their corn corp, starting operation in 1996 with 10 million gallons per year and growing steadily since then.

“Al-Corn Clean Fuel has been a leader within the U.S. ethanol industry and at RFA,” said Renewable Fuels Association President and CEO Bob Dinneen, who attended the celebration. “The company has been a local economic engine, providing jobs and investment opportunities to the area. Even today, some twenty years since it began, almost all of the farmer coop members live within 20 miles of Claremont.”

Even some of its board members like its current chairman, Rodney Jorgenson, have been with Al-Corn since 1994.

“When I think back over the last 20 years, I’m reminded of what can be accomplished when people band together with common purpose. As farmers, our goal was to increase the price of our corn through processing. I doubt any of us could have imagined the success we would have,” Jorgenson said.

The Al-Corn Clean Fuel ethanol plant also produces 132,000 tons of high protein livestock feed, 12 million pounds of corn oil and 70,000 tons of beverage grade carbon dioxide per year.

Ethanol, Ethanol News, RFA

Better Cold Weather #Biodiesel Performance

Joanna Schroeder

The European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) has announced new certified reference material (CRM) for cold filter plugging (CFPP) and cloud point (CP) temperatures of biodiesel. This material helps laboratories accurately establish the lowest temperature at which biodiesel can be used.

The JRC's new certified reference material will help establish the lowest temperature use of biodiesel. © Fotolia, nexusseven

The JRC’s new certified reference material will help establish the lowest temperature use of biodiesel. © Fotolia, nexusseven

According to JRC, the CP and CFPP of a fuel are temperatures where upon cooling the first precipitates become visible (CP) or block a filter (CFPP). Accurate measurement are needed to ensure fuel filters do not become blocked in cold temperatures. As such, they are vital for the practical use of any fuel during winter and are also important quality parameters for biodiesel.

To determine the cold-temp parameters, JRC processed a batch of biodiesel and studied the homogeneity and stability of the material. Subsequently, an intercomparison study among 11 expert laboratories from nine different EU countries was organized to establish the CP and CFPP values. After a technical evaluation of the results, the certified values were assigned in line with all requirements of ISO Guide 34. The newly released ERM®-EF002 will be used by laboratories to demonstrate the accuracy of their measurement results for CP and CFPP.

In 2014, JRC released ERM®-EF001, its first biofuel CRM. While this CRM carries certified values for many parameters relevant for biodiesel, the CFPP and CP were not certified. The new CRM closes this gap.

advance biofuels, Biodiesel

BioEnergy Bytes

Joanna Schroeder

  • BioEnergyBytesDF1The EPA has submitted an information collection request (ICR), “Cellulosic Production Volume Projections and Efficient Producer Reporting,” to collect information from potential cellulosic biofuel producers to aid in determining the annual volume standards. This ICR includes a questionnaire form to facilitate the collection of this information. EPA would also like to use a data form to collect information from certain producers and importers who have requested and been approved to use an “efficient producer” pathway. This data form would standardize collection of selected data points and allow better and more efficient compliance with the RFS program.
  • 100+ cities across the country will take part in the sixth annual National Drive Electric Week during the week of September 10th-18th, 2016. Organized nationally by Plug In America, the Sierra Club, and the Electric Auto Association, the event is designed to raise awareness of electric vehicles and celebrate sustainable transportation.
  • Providence Journal is reporting that Newport Biodiesel, a company that produces biodiesel from used grease collected from more than 3,000 restaurants, has received a $400,000 loan from the Small Business Loan Fund Corporation as well as a $400,000 loan from Webster Bank, to help the biorefinery expand. Once complete, the plant will produce up to 7 million gallons of biodiesel per year.
  • According to new U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) data, U.S. production of biodiesel rose 13 million gallons or 10.8% to 133 million gallons in May, with 66% of that total coming from the Midwest region, down 3 percentage points from April,  May 2015’s biodiesel output was 116 million gallons. Of the 969 million lb of feedstocks used to produce biodiesel in May, 56.14% was soybean oil, up more than 7 percentage points compared with April.
Bioenergy Bytes

Mexican #Ethanol Producers Consider Sorghum as Feedstock

Joanna Schroeder

A contingency of ethanol producers from Mexico recently visited the U.S. to look at the option of sorghum as an ethanol feedstock as the country’s industry continues to grow following the announcement by Pemex, the country’s state-owned petro company, to blend ethanol into its gas. Hosted by the U.S. Grains Council (USGC) in partnership with the United Sorghum Checkoff Program (USCP), the trade team visited Kansas and Texas to learn more about sorghum and its benefits. Earlier this year, a U.S. delegation of ethanol industry reps visited Mexico to discuss the success of the American ethanol industry and several biofuel policies.

sorghum_mexico_300x200Producers are looking to expand their plants,” said Heidi Bringenberg, USGC manager of global programs, who accompanied the team. “Some producers are currently using sugar cane and beets in production. This program gave them the opportunity to see how sorghum could be used too.

While in the states, the trade group participated in a lab tour as well as a workshop on purchasing strategies and risk management tools. In addition, the delegation received an ethanol plant tour. The aim of the day was to demonstrate the economic feasibility for Mexican ethanol producers to purchase American-grown sorghum.

Producers were able to see how flexible sorghum is,” said Javier Chavez, USGC marketing specialist in Mexico. “U.S. sorghum as an ethanol feedstock can be helpful for Mexican producers because it helps them ensure consistent supply without fully relying on local production.

The trade team is one of many coordinated by USGC to connect buyers and sellers of grains products such as sorghum. Buyers and sellers will also have an opportunity to network at the upcoming Export Exchange taking place October 24-25, 2016 in Detroit, Michigan.

biofuels, Ethanol, Exports, feedstocks, USGC

Will Pursuing #Bioenergy Require Trade-offs?

Joanna Schroeder

Will pursuing bioenergy require trade-offs? This question served as the basis from research out of North Carolina State University (NC State) and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) that finds that choosing how to meet bioenergy goals means making trade-offs about the impact on ecosystems and wildlife. The study primarily focused on the southeastern U.S. but the researchers believe the results could inform global bioenergy policy.

The yellow-breasted chat (left) and prothonotary warbler (right) thrive in different habitats. Meeting bioenergy goals means making trade-offs about which wildlife species -- like these -- will be most impacted. Photo credit: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

The yellow-breasted chat (left) and prothonotary warbler (right) thrive in different habitats. Meeting bioenergy goals means making trade-offs about which wildlife species — like these — will be most impacted. Photo credit: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

Bioenergy can refer to wood pellets burned to generate electricity or to liquid biofuels, and bioenergy sources range from crops like switchgrass and sweet sorghum to cultivated pine forests and natural pine and hardwood forests,” said Nathan Tarr, lead author of one paper on the work. “There are questions about how renewable energy targets that promote bioenergy may affect wildlife habitat and forest ecosystems. We wanted to better understand the potential impacts of bioenergy demand in North Carolina and, by extension, in the Southeast and beyond.” Tarr is a research associate in the North Carolina Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit at NC State.

To address these questions, the researchers first developed models that allowed them to translate bioenergy demand into projections of changes in the size and characteristics of ecosystems. The team discovered that the specific mix of biomass sources used to meet demand could play a significant role in shaping ecosystems, especially in forests that contain high biodiversity.

Our model results show that meeting bioenergy demand by harvesting biomass from forests retained more forest on the landscape, but the remaining forest contained less of the mature floodplain forests and longleaf pine forests that harbor biodiversity,” explained Jennifer Costanza, lead author of a second paper on the work and a research assistant professor of forestry and environmental resources at NC State. “On the other hand, using agricultural crops to meet demand reduced overall forest area, but spared more of the high-biodiversity forest land.

Ultimately, Costanza said the biomass sources they looked at caused substantial land use change, especially in the coastal plain region  – a biodiversity hotspot. Yet before completely coming to this conclusion, researchers used the projected forest changes determined in the first step to model habitat gains and losses for 16 wildlife species.- They were also able to assess what the use of different biomass sources might mean for various wildlife species.

The researchers found that realistic levels of bioenergy demand are large enough to cause large gains or losses of habitat for some species, and the specific mix of biomass sources used to meet demand resulted in trade-offs regarding wildlife habitats.Read More

bioenergy, biofuels, biomass, Research