Biofuels - Jan 30
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Many more articles are available through the Energy Bulletin homepage
More thoughts on ethanol after the State of the Union...what will farmers do, and have they read the research?
Heading Out, The Oil Drum
In the State of the Union message this past week, the President gave, as part of his solution to the increasing problems of gasoline supply, an increasing emphasis on ethanol. There has been some considerable debate about whether this will work, but I thought I would follow a couple of different thoughts today.
The first relates to what the farmers might be doing in order to benefit from this coming bonanza, and the second is to see how much research is actually being done. ..
(30 Jan 2007)
HO discusses research from the Food and Policy Research Institute on potential corn-ethanol production in the US and consequent impacts on production of other crops and food exports, and looks over existing publicly funded biofuels research programs.
A post by Spraxis on the technical challenges of cellulosic ethanol is worth reading also, its a vivid list.–LJ
The Sum of All Ears: Corn Cop-Out
Paul Krugman, NY Times via Economist's View
For those hoping for real action on global warming and energy policy, the State of the Union address was a downer. There had been hints and hopes that the speech would be a Nixon-goes-to-China moment, with President Bush turning conservationist. But it ended up being more of a Nixon-bombs-Cambodia moment.
Too bad... The only real substance was Mr. Bush’s call for ... ethanol to replace gasoline. Unfortunately, that’s a really bad idea. There is a place for ethanol in the world’s energy future — but that place is in the tropics. Brazil has managed to replace a lot of its gasoline consumption with ethanol. But Brazil’s ethanol comes from sugar cane.
In the United States, ethanol comes overwhelmingly from corn, a much less suitable raw material. In fact, ... researchers ... estimate that converting the entire U.S. corn crop — the sum of all our ears — into ethanol would replace only 12 percent of our gasoline consumption.
Still, doesn’t every little bit help? Well, this little bit would come at a very high price compared with ... conservation. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that reducing gasoline consumption 10 percent through ... fuel economy standards would cost ... about $3.6 billion a year. Achieving the same result by expanding ethanol production would cost taxpayers at least $10 billion a year...
What’s more, ethanol production has hidden costs.
(29 Jan 2007)
William Sweet, IEEE Spectrum
Making ethanol from crops has considerable, and growing, allure. ..
Even the United States—where ethanol is made from corn rather than sugarcane, a relatively expensive and inefficient process—is experiencing an ethanol boom. Besides the 100 ethanol plants already operating, at least 40 more are under construction, and another 100 or so are planned.
Traditionally, most ethanol factories have been relatively small mills, in which corn is crushed and processed. Such “dry mills” typically produce 50 million to 75 million gallons of ethanol per year and are fueled mainly by natural gas. Larger plants producing upwards of 100 million gallons per year are more commonly “wet mills,” where the corn is processed as a slurry. Wet mills typically rely on coal. But during the current construction boom, dry mills are being made larger, and more of them will also burn coal—about a quarter of the 40 under construction, by one estimate. ..
Besides using coal to fuel the production plant, a lot of energy is used to fertilize and irrigate the corn, and further, the corn may also have to be transported a long way to the facility. On average, about 40 percent of the energy needed to make ethanol goes into growing the corn and about 20 percent is needed to transport it, with the production plant accounting for the other 40 percent. But, of course, the energy costs and emissions associated with farming and transportation can be much higher than average. ..
Major biodiesel project on hold
Staff, Bangkok Post
The Charoen Pokphand Group (CP) has delayed a project to produce biodiesel from palm oil for the government, and shifted to growing and selling palm saplings to serve local plantations.
The costly state-backed integrated biodiesel project, which would invest in oil-palm fields and refineries for biofuels to blend with diesel for biodiesel, was abandoned following the ousting of the Thaksin Shinawatra administration.
"We are still interested in the biodiesel project, but there is no rush now," said Montri Congtrakultien, the president of the CP Group's crop-integration business.
He admitted that in light of continuing investigations into allegations of irregularities in a rubber-sapling project, the company had been reluctant to take part in any state contracts, particularly in the farm sector. ..
The market outlook for Thailand's palm-oil industry remained bright due to global demand for alternative fuel which could lead to a shortfall of raw materials, said Wiwan Boonyaprateeprat, president of Southern Palm Oil Industry (1993) Co, another large company that has invested in the palm business.
The affiliate of the Southern Group is among 10 companies that have approached the Energy Ministry to run a biodiesel plant.
Its Surat Thani project, which cost 1.2 billion baht, will have the capacity to produce 300,000 litres of palm oil per day.
Thanks to its own 30,000-rai palm plantation and a 99-megawatt electricity generating plant, the company sees the investment as viable.
"We're quite ready for the investment but clearer policy is necessary to prevent a battle for raw materials," said Ms Wiwan.
"If these plants are in operation, it could result in surging demand for palm nuts and might affect the palm-oil for cooking industry."
(29 Jan 2007)
NZ: Switch to biofuels moves closer to reality
New Zealand Press Agency, New Zealand Herald
A deal announced today between two Crown Research Institutes* and a US company is said to open up the possibility of New Zealand's entire vehicle fleet ultimately running on biofuels grown and manufactured in this country.
The three parties are CRIs Scion and AgResearch and San Diego-based Diversa Corporation which has pioneered the development of high-performance specialty enzymes. ..
Diversa would use proprietary metagenomic enzyme discovery and optimization technologies to develop robust enzymes designed for cost-effective wood biomass conversion and to improve fermentation performance, the partners said.
Diversa has commercialised enzyme products and has development-stage programmes in the biofuels sector. ..
"New Zealand is in a unique position of being able to investigate the real possibility of transforming from a petrochemical-based to a carbohydrate-based economy," AgResearch business development manager Richard Curtis said. ..
(23 Jan 2007)
*New Zealand’s Crown Research Institutes are government owned R&D corporations.