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    The government of the Indian state of Orissa announced its policy for biofuel production which includes a slew of incentives as well as measures to promote the establishment of energy plantations. The state aims to bring 600,000 hectares of barren and fallow land under Jatropha and Karanj. At least 2 million hectares degraded land are available in the State. The new policy's other objectives are to provide a platform for investors and entrepreneurs, market linkages and quality control measures. Newindpress - August 29, 2007.

    Brazil's state-run oil company Petrobras said today it expects to reach large scale cellulosic ethanol production in 2015, with the first plant entering operations as early as 2011. Lignocellulosic biomass is the most abundant biological material on the planet, making up the bulk of the structure of wood and plants. In a first phase, Petrobras intends to use bagasse as a feedstock. Reuters / MacauHub- August 29, 2007.

    Seattle based Propel Biofuels, is announcing a $4.75 million first round of capital from @Ventures and Nth Power. The money will be used to help Propel set up and manage biodiesel fueling stations. BusinessWire - August 29, 2007.

    BioEnergy International, a science and technology company committed to developing biorefineries to produce fuels and specialty chemicals from renewable resources, announced today the closing of a major US$61.6 million investment that will provide funding for the Company’s three strategic initiatives: generating secure cash flow from its conventional ethanol platform, product diversification through the introduction of novel biocatalysts for the manufacture of green chemicals and biopolymers and the integration of its cellulose technology. BusinessWire - August 28, 2007.

    German company Verbio Vereinigte BioEnergie, the biggest biofuels producer in Europe, says it is considering plans to invest up to €100/US$136.5 million in a biofuel production facility in Bulgaria. The company wants the new facility to be located close to a port and Bulgaria's city of Varna on the Black Sea is one of the options under consideration. If Verbio goes through with the plan, it would produce both biodiesel and bioethanol, making Bulgaria a major source of biofuels in southeastern Europe. Verbi currently produces around 700,000 tonnes of biofuels per year. Sofia News Agency - August 27, 2007.

    Czech brown-coal-fired power plant Elektrárna Tisová (ETI), a unit of the energy producer ČEZ, could co-fire up to 40,000 tons of biomass this year, the biggest amount in the company’s history, said Martin Sobotka, ČEZ spokesman for West Bohemia. ETI burned more than 19,000 tons of biomass in the first half of 2007. The company’s plan reckoned with biomass consumption of up to 35,000 tons a year. Czech Business Weekly - August 27, 2007.

    PetroSun, Incorporated announced recently that it has formed PetroSun BioFuels Mexico to establish algae-to-biofuel operations in the State of Sonora, Mexico. PetroSun BioFuels Mexico will enter into joint venture agreements to develop algae cultivation farms and extraction plants in Sonora and southern Arizona that will produce algal oil, algae biomass products and excess electricity for the Mexican and U.S. markets. MarketWire - August 27, 2007.

    China's Yunnan Province hopes to reach an annual output of 2 million tons (approx. 417 million gallons) of fuel ethanol by 2010, according to the province's fuel ethanol industry development plan released recently by the Yunnan Economic and Trade Commission, state media report. Interfax China - August 23, 2007.

    Seven companies have teamed up to create Kazakhstan's first Biofuel Association. Its aim is to integrate interested parties for creating favorable conditions to have the country’s biofuel industry developed. An initiator and coordinator of the Association is the National Holding KazAgro, the Agriculture Ministry’s press service informs. KazInform - August 23, 2007.

    Canadian forest products company Tembec today announced that it has completed the acquisition of the assets of Chapleau Cogeneration Limited located in Chapleau, Ontario. The transaction closed on August 15 and includes a biomass fired boiler and steam turbine with an installed capacity of 7.2 megawatts. Consideration for the assets consists of a series of future annual payments to 2022, with a present value of approximately $1 million. Newswire Canada - August 22, 2007.

    Taiwan's representative to Brazil, Chou Shu-yeh, is urging Taiwan's government and private enterprises to invest in Brazil's biomass energy sector. Chou was speaking at a workshop on global investment and trade opportunities in Taipei. RTi - August 22, 2007.

    An algae-to-biofuels startup by the name of Inventure Chemical has raised about $1.5 million to continue its development of a chemical process that turns algae into biodiesel and ethanol. One of the biggest backers of the company is Imperium Renewables, a biodiesel producer. Seattle Post Intelligencer - August 22, 2007.

    The government of India's Karnataka state has approved the blending of six million litres of ethanol with diesel for use as fuel in State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) vehicles. Automotive World - August 21, 2007.

    VeraSun Energy Corporation, one of America's largest ethanol producers, announced that it closed on its acquisition with ASAlliances Biofuels, LLC for three ethanol plants with a combined annual production capacity of approximately 330 million gallons (1.25 billion liters) per year. VeraSun - August 21, 2007.

    Fujitsu develops a biodegradable laptop chassis from corn-starch bioplastic. The material reduces carbon dioxide emissions by 15% compared to a chassis made from petroleum-based plastics. CNET Asia - August 20, 2007.

    India's Rana Sugars Ltd has decided to set up a new plant for producing ethanol in Uttar Pradesh with an estimated investment of €9 to 10.9 (US$12.2 to 14.7). The facility will have a capacity of 180,000 liters per year and will generate, besides ethanol, 26MW of carbon-neutral power from bagasse. Economic Times India - August 20, 2007.

    Prominent pro-democracy activists staged a rare protest in Myanmar's biggest city Sunday, marching against a massive recent fuel price hike. "We are staging this performance to reflect the hardship our people are facing due to the government's fuel price hike," said Min Ko Naing, a leader of the 88 Generation Students' Group. Myanmar's ruling military junta imposed a surprise 100 percent hike on fuel at state-owned gas stations on Wednesday. The move was followed by increases in bus fares and commodity prices. The Star - August 19, 2007.

    Canada's Cavendish Farms, one of the country's largest food processing companies is to build a biogas plant to recycle spent cooking oils, starch and sludge from its waste-water plant to fuel its potato processing operation. Use of the carbon-neutral biofuel will limit the amount of bunker C fuel oil currently in use by the company. The plant, expected to be ready for operation by next fall, has received a $14-million loan from the Province of Prince Edward Island. CBC - August 18, 2007.

    Basin Electric Power Cooperative told a U.S. Senate Energy Appropriations subcommittee that it is looking into capturing carbon dioxide from its Antelope Valley Station and sell it for enhanced oil recovery in the Williston Basin. Carbon capture technologies have not yet been applied to a power plant that uses lignite, or even subbitumious coal. The trial would be the first one to do so in the Midwest. Bismarck Tribune - August 17, 2007.

    The BBC World Service's current 'One Planet' programme focuses on revolutionary technologies and research that uses a next-generation of GM crops as factories for the production of new pharmaceuticals, green products and alternatives to petroleum-based chemicals. One Planet - August 16, 2007.

    Germany's Biogas Nord has been commissioned to construct a large multi-feed biogas plant with a capacity of 2.8 MW of electrical power in Romania. The value of the order is approximately €3.5 million. The plant will be built in the Transylvanian region close to the county town of Oradea. Interestingly, a synergy will be created by coupling the facility to the construction of a biodiesel plant. In so doing, the waste products resulting from the production of biodiesel, such as rapeseed pellets and glycerin, will be brought to the biogas plant as substrates. Ad-Hoc News - August 16, 2007.

    The University of Western Ontario's Research Park at Sarnia has received $10-million in funding for the development of biofuel technologies. The funds will be used for the creation of the 'Ontario Bioindustrial Innovation Centre' at the University, including the addition of a commercialization centre with incubator suites, laboratory equipment, pilot plant space and space for startup companies. The Observer - August 16, 2007.

    Philippine Bio-Sciences Co., Inc. (PhilBio) and its Clean Development Mechanism subsidiary in Cebu, has told the Central Negros Electric Cooperative (Ceneco) that it will soon open a 10 megawatt biogas plant in Cebu. According to the company, under current conditions electricity generated from biogas is around 20% less costly than that generated from fossil fuels. Philippine Bio-Sciences - August 15, 2007.

    Scientists, economists and policy experts representing government and public institutions from more than 40 countries will exchange the latest information on economic and technology opportunities at the U.S. Department of Agriculture's "Global Conference on Agricultural Biofuels: Research and Economics", to be held Aug. 20-21 in Minneapolis. USDA ARS - August 14, 2007.

    A company owned by the Chinese government has expressed interest in investing up to 500 million US dollars in a biofuel project in Indonesia. The company is planning to use jatropha as its raw material and is targeting an annual output of around 1 million tons. Forbes - August 13, 2007.

    Virgin Atlantic, Boeing and General Electric are within weeks of selecting the biofuel for a flight demonstration in the UK early next year. The conversion of biomass via the Fischer-Tropsch process is no longer amongst the biofuel candidates, because the process has already been demonstrated to work. Ground testing of the chosen fuel in a development engine at GE is expected to begin in October-November. The limited flight-test programme will involve burning biofuel in one GE CF6-80C2 engine on a Virgin Boeing 747-400. Flight Global - August 13, 2007.

    Japan's Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry said Saturday it plans to introduce a new preferential tax system in fiscal 2008 aimed at promoting a wider use of biofuel, which could help curtail greenhouse gas emissions. Under the envisaged plan, biofuel that has been mixed with gasoline will be exempt from the gasoline tax--currently 53.8 yen per liter--in proportion to the amount of biofuel included. If blended with diesel oil, biofuel will be free from the diesel oil delivery tax, currently 32.1 yen per liter. Daily Yomiuri - August 13, 2007.

    Japan's Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry said Saturday it plans to introduce a new preferential tax system in fiscal 2008 aimed at promoting a wider use of biofuel, which could help curtail greenhouse gas emissions. Under the envisaged plan, biofuel that has been mixed with gasoline will be exempt from the gasoline tax--currently 53.8 yen per liter--in proportion to the amount of biofuel included. If blended with diesel oil, biofuel will be free from the diesel oil delivery tax, currently 32.1 yen per liter. Daily Yomiuri - August 13, 2007.

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Thursday, August 30, 2007

NETL and USAF release feasibility study for conceptual Coal+Biomass-to-Liquids facility

The U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory (DOE/NETL) and the U.S. Air Force have released a study that examines the feasibility of producing 100,000 barrels per day of synthetic jet fuel from coal and biomass. The study made a life-cycle analysis and showed the coal+biomass-to-liquids (CBTL) facilities could cut emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), the primary greenhouse gas, by 20 percent compared to conventional petroleum processes. The resulting fuels would be competitive at current oil prices.

The study provides a performance baseline that can be used to show how CBTL with carbon capture and storage would capitalize on domestic energy resources, provide a buffer against rising petroleum and natural gas prices, and mitigate output of CO2.

The joint NETL/Air Force report, Increasing Security and Reducing Carbon Emissions of the U.S. Transportation Sector: A Transformational Role for Coal with Biomass [*.pdf] looks at a plant design that would gasify coal and biomass, and then convert the gas to jet fuel using Fischer-Tropsch (FT) chemistry (schematic, click to enlarge). The report is the first of a series of feasibility and conceptual plant design studies undertaken for commercial-scale FT plants employing co-gasification of coal and biomass.

At full capacity, a single plant, using the base-case configuration outlined in the report, would use more than 4,500 tons of high-sulfur bituminous coal and nearly 630 tons of corn stover per day. From this feedstock it would produce:
  • Nearly 7,500 barrels per day of diesel fuel or aviation jet fuel that, with additives, can be delivered to end-use customers.
  • More than 3,500 barrels per day of liquid naphtha products that can be shipped to a refinery for further upgrading to commercial-grade products or sold as chemical feedstock.
  • 11.1 megawatts of electricity that can be exported to the grid, in addition to the electricity generated for internal use.
An environmentally friendly energy producer, the conceptual plant is based on the use of “best available control technology” guidelines for sulfur, nitrous oxides, particulate matter, and mercury. In addition, CO2 will be captured and compressed for injection into a pipeline that will ship the CO2 to a sequestration site:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

The comparison of CO2 emissions between petroleum-derived diesel and FT diesel was based on a limited well-to-wheel life cycle analysis. The analysis for each fuel included the major CO2 sources from the production and transportation of the feedstocks to the refinery/plant, the CO2 emitted during production, and the CO2 emissions resulting from transportation of the diesel product to the end user and the combustion of the product. Most of these CO2 emissions, apart from the combustion of the fuel itself, result from the energy used in each processing step.

The major limit imposed on the life cycle analysis was that the CO2 emissions resulting from the construction of the CTL facility were not considered. To be conservative, no credit was taken for soil carbon storage by the biomass. Complete greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions were not considered. The study considered only emissions of carbon dioxide.

Three types of biomass were examined in this study: switchgrass, poplar trees, and corn stover. In all cases, Illinois #6 bituminous coal was used. A conceptual process design was prepared for a CBTL facility capable of co-feeding coal and biomass into a gasifier to produce a syngas suitable for FT synthesis. The conceptual design estimated the performance, size, and cost of the major pieces of equipment and provided the basis for estimating the CO2 emissions associated with the synthesis of FT diesel.

Most of the estimates for CO2 emissions associated with the production, transportation, and processing of feedstocks and end products were obtained from the Argonne National Laboratory (ANL) Greenhouse Gases, Regulated Emissions, and Energy Use in Transportation (GREET) Model version 1.7. GREET is a publicly available model that was sponsored by the DOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy and has been used to evaluate various fuel and vehicle systems for government and industry. It is a widely accepted model for estimating greenhouse gas emissions from fuels on a well-to-wheels basis.

The study is a well-to-wheels carbon analysis and includes the carbon dioxide emitted in production of the feeds to the CBTL plant, the carbon dioxide emitted during conversion of the input coal and biomass to FT fuels, and the transportation and combustion of these fuels.

Estimates for the CO2 emissions from a conventional refinery were obtained from multiple sources including GREET. A broad range of estimates were reported, depending on the assumed operating efficiency of the refinery.

Conceptual CBTL designs were examined for all three types of biomass. In these conceptual designs coal and biomass are gasified in entrained flow gasifiers and the raw synthesis gas is cleaned of impurities. The clean synthesis gas is then sent to slurry phase FT reactors where the hydrocarbon fuels are produced. Slurry phase reactor technology is under development by several companies and Sasol is utilizing these reactors at their Oryx Gas-to-Liquids (GTL) plant in Qatar. Slurry reactors have excellent heat transfer characteristics and allow high conversions of synthesis gas per pass. However, there has not been much commercial experience with these reactors and there are issues relating to hydrodynamics and separation of the wax produced in the FT process from the fine catalyst. Wax is produced to maximize the distillate yield. The wax is hydrocracked to produce additional distillate product.

For each conceptual plant, estimates were made for the amount of biomass that would have to be co-fed with coal to attain the target 20% reduction in CO2 emissions. In these plant configurations about 88% of the carbon dioxide emissions resulting from the conversion of the coal to FT fuels are captured and compressed to 2,200 psi. After compression it is assumed that the carbon dioxide is piped from the CBTL plant boundary.

In the analysis, except for one sensitivity case, no additional cost for sequestering or storing the carbon dioxide is included in the economics. In the sensitivity case a cost of $4.60 per metric tonne was added for carbon dioxide transportation, sequestering, and monitoring (TS&M). This increased the required selling price of the FT fuels by about 1.8 percent compared to cases with no costs for TS&M.

However, if the carbon dioxide could be sold for enhanced oil recovery (EOR) operations or other reuse it would have a net positive value and be a credit in the economic analysis. The results of the study indicated that FT diesel can be produced at the target CO2 reduction level by co-gasifying coal with a relatively modest amount of biomass. For woody biomass, the CO2 reduction target could be attained using 10-15% woody biomass by weight (7-10% by energy) on an as-received basis. For switchgrass, the CO2 reduction target could be attained using 12-18% biomass by weight (7-10% by energy) and for corn stover the needed amount is 12-18% biomass by weight (7-11% by energy).

As part of the study, a scoping level economic analysis was performed for the coal-only plant and the CBTL plants. Based on the economic parameters used in this study, the required selling price (RSP) of the diesel product was estimated to be about $71/barrel for a coal-only (CTL) plant. On a crude oil equivalent basis this would be about $55/bbl. For the woody biomass CBTL plants the RSP of the fuel is estimated to be about $76/barrel. On a crude oil equivalent basis, this is equivalent to $58-59/bbl or about seven percent higher than the coal-only case. For the corn stover and switchgrass plants the RSP of the fuel was estimated to be about $75/bbl. On a crude oil equivalent basis this is about $58/bbl. Some sources, including GREET, indicate that dedicated energy crops including short rotation woody biomass and switchgrass could further reduce the CO2 footprint of a CBTL plant. If the full soil carbon credit can be realized, it would be possible to meet the CO2 reduction goal with as little as 5-10% by weight woody biomass. However, whether or not soil carbon sequestration should be included and the amount of this credit is a controversial issue at present. To be conservative it was decided not to include this credit in this analysis. Because the percentage of biomass required is relatively low and within the range of the limited demonstration test data available for coal:biomass co-feeding to pressurized gasifiers, it is concluded that the proposed CBTL process is potentially feasible.

Energy crops
A limited resource assessment was performed to determine if sufficient biomass can be harvested and transported to a CBTL facility of sufficient size to be economically practical. It was determined that the biomass availability would not be a major limiting factor for CBTL plants in the 7,500 BPD diesel capacity range. This size CBTL facility would require a sustainable annual supply of biomass of about 1,000 TPD. For switchgrass and poplar with dry yields per acre of about 5-6 tons, the total land area required would be about 1,440 square miles (a radius of about 22 miles).

This assumes that only 8 percent of the land is available for production of the energy crops. For corn stover with a lower crop yield of about two dry tons per acre (half of the crop is left on the land for soil conditioning), the area required for sustained operations to produce 1000 TPD would be about 920 square miles (radius of about 17 miles) because the land available for production is assumed to be as high as 31 percent.

All three biomass types examined in this study showed nearly equivalent performance in the CBTL process. Regional land availability will be the most important determinant of which biomass type to use for a specific site. The reference plant studied was a 7,500 BPD diesel plant located in southern Illinois. This plant size was chosen based on a preliminary and highly approximate estimate for the amount of biomass that may be required. The report does not suggest that 7,500 BPD is either the maximum or optimum size for a CBTL plant. It was shown that larger plants of at least 30,000 BPD are feasible based on biomass resource availability. It is left as a recommendation for further work to perform a more detailed biomass resource and infrastructure assessment which would be needed to determine the maximum CBTL plant size that is technically feasible and to determine the optimum plant size for which economies of larger scale balance the increased cost of collecting larger quantities of biomass.

Time horizon
Multiple scenarios were presented with timelines for the build up of a CBTL industry. In the most conservative scenario, the production goal of 100,000 BPD is not attained until 2026. Incentives could stimulate the development of the industry. An aggressive hypothetical production ramp-up was prepared for the construction of seven CBTL facilities that would meet the DoD goal of obtaining 100,000 BPD of synthetic fuel by 2016. The ramp-up assumes that the first two plants will be small 7,500 BPD facilities of the same design as the reference plant. These first plants will use corn stover since this type of biomass is currently available. It is
assumed that over time, more plants will be constructed simultaneously; future plants will be larger in capacity (up to 22,500 BPD) and shake down periods for start-up will grow shorter. These later plants would use mixtures of switchgrass, corn stover, and woody biomass.

Although specific plant locations were not proposed, a national biomass resource assessment has forecast that there will be abundant quantities of suitable biomass available in multiple geographic regions in the U.S. by 2016 and that the hypothetical ramp-up is feasible with respect to resource availability.

Because biomass availability is often seasonal for some crops it is recommended that any CBTL plant have processing equipment on site that is suitable for several biomass types. Although this will increase capital cost, in that way when corn stover is available, after the corn harvest, the CBTL facility can utilize this crop predominately. When the switchgrass is available after harvesting, the facility could use this feed. The woody biomass should be available most of the time depending on the cutting cycle. The coal would act as the flywheel to keep the plant operating at a fairly constant output.

The concept of using both coal and biomass together to produce high quality FT fuels via gasification should be advantageous to both coal and biomass to energy technologies. Coprocessing biomass with coal can significantly reduce the carbon footprint of a CTL facility and the gasification route allows non-food product biomass-like cellulose and lignin to be used for energy production.

In conclusion, the report finds economic benefits for converting coal and biomass to liquids, based on the price of crude oil. At current crude oil prices of over $60 per barrel, the commercial-scale CBTL plant configurations are shown to produce products that are competitive in the liquid fuel markets.

National Energy Technology Laboratory: Increasing Security and Reducing Carbon Emissions of the U.S. Transportation Sector: A Transformational Role for Coal with Biomass - Department of Energy, National Energy Technology Laboratory and the Department of Defense, Air Force - August 24, 2007.


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