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Biocrude? Algae-to-oil project aims to deliver
U.S. Energy Dept., company partner to seek cost-effective production

A California company and a Department of Energy research lab have announced that they’re teaming up to make oil out of algae – a potential fuel source that would be low on greenhouse gas emissions tied to warming.

LiveFuels Inc. says it will fund dozens of projects at Sandia National Laboratories with the aim of producing economically feasible “biocrude,” aka biodiesel, by 2010.

…Algal oil is similar to soybean oil, which can also be used to produce biodiesel, but can be grown on marginal lands unsuitable for food crops and even in brackish water, LiveFuels said.

The company estimates that all U.S. oil imports could be replaced by biocrude grown on 20 to 40 million acres of marginal lands that exist across the country.

…But not any algae will work. The cost-effective kind – as in making biocrude for less than $60 a barrel – is high in fats.

Commercially grown algae like Spirulina are high in protein and starch but low in fat. A few high-fat species of algae are promising, LiveFuels said, but the fats – at prices around $1,200 a pound – are cost prohibitive.

“‘Fat algae’ doesn’t sound like a biocrude oil feedstock, but the petroleum we use today is derived from prehistoric biomass (including algae),” LiveFuels said in a statement announcing the joint venture. “Nature’s biomass decomposition process occurred over millions of years under conditions of enormous heat and pressure…”
(27 Oct 2006)
The prospect of fuel from algae has been discussed on various energy forums. It’s an interesting idea, but a good news article should have more sources than just the company promoting the process. -BA

WTO must set rules for future biofuel trade-report

Missy Ryan, Reuters
WASHINGTON – A booming world trade in biofuels may be around the corner, a new report said on Friday, so the World Trade Organization and others must act now to regulate rules and standards that are “all over the map.”

“Everybody’s wildly producing biofuels, especially in developed countries,” said Charlotte Hebebrand, president of the International Food and Agricultural Trade Policy Council, which released the report on WTO rules and fuels like ethanol.

But with rules for things such as import standards varying from country to country, Hebebrand said the WTO, the World Customs Organization and national governments must work together to make sure that future biofuel trade runs smoothly.

“Uncertainty over biofuels classification, and the range of government measures to protect domestic biofuel production — from tax incentives, high tariffs and subsidies — risk stunting growth in trade,” the report said.
(27 Oct 2006)

Ethanol Could Corrode Pumps, Testers Say

Alexei Barrionuevo, New York Times
The farm-produced fuel that is supposed to help wean America from its oil addiction is under scrutiny for its potentially corrosive qualities.

E85, a blend of 85 percent corn-based ethanol and 15 percent gasoline, could be eating away at metal and plastic parts in pumps being used to dispense the fuel at gasoline stations, Underwriters Laboratories, the private product-safety testing group, said this month.

BP, the British oil company, said on Thursday that it would delay the expansion of E85 at its American gasoline outlets until the laboratories certified an E85 dispensing system. “BP is tracking this issue very closely,” Valerie Corr, a company spokeswoman, said.
(27 Oct 2006)

Turning forest slash into cash

Hewers of wood, Canadians are also learning to turn lumbering’s leftovers into fuel oil
Slash is the unwanted branches, stumps, tops and leaves of trees that are removed during logging. The standard industry practice is to burn slash at the side of logging roads. It’s estimated that about 15 per cent of wood resulting from logging activities is biomass from forest slash, though in Ontario the issue is still being studied.

Ramsay asked his staff to hunt around for technologies that could put slash to better use. A government team visited Sweden, Finland and Germany and came to realize there was potential to convert biomass into usable energy, and at the same time create new revenue for the struggling forest sector.

Last summer, the ministry decided to invest $771,000 to construct a prototype biorefinery that’s capable of converting slash into a carbon-neutral “bio oil.”

…Pyrolysis, as an approach, is well understood and used. It works by rapidly heating biomass to an extreme temperature — up to 1,000 degrees F — in an oxygen-starved chamber. Under such intense heat, the molecular structure of the biomass shatters, resulting in three usable materials: oil, charcoal and gas.
(30 Oct 2006)

Europe set for biodiesel boom – Goldman Sachs

Europe’s market for biodiesel is expected to more than double in value to about eight billion euros ($10.18 billion) a year by 2010, investment bank Goldman Sachs said on Monday.

Concerns about the security of oil supplies and climate change will drive output of the clean fuel up 35 percent by 2010 as companies spend up to three billion euros on production facilities, the bank said in a research note.
(30 Oct 2006)