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    Biopact is moving to a new server this weekend, so at times the site may be difficult to access or temporarily offline. We should be up and running again on Monday. Biopact - October 27, 2007.

    U.S. oil prices and Brent crude rocketed to all-time highs again on a record-low dollar, tensions in the Middle East and worries over energy supply shortages ahead of the northern hemisphere's winter. Now even wealthy countries like South Korea are warning that the record prices will damage economic growth. In the developing world, the situation is outright catastrophic. Korea Times - October 26, 2007.

    Ethablog's Henrique Oliveira, a young Brazilian biofuels business expert, is back online. From April to September 2007, he traveled around Brazil comparing the Brazilian and American biofuels markets. In August he was joined by Tom MacDonald, senior alcohol fuels specialist with the California Energy Commission. Henrique reports about his trip with a series of photo essays. EthaBlog - October 24, 2007.

    Italy's Enel is to invest around €400 mln in carbon capture and storage and is looking now for a suitable site to store CO2 underground. Enel's vision of coal's future is one in which coal is used to produce power, to produce ash and gypsum as a by-product for cement, hydrogen as a by-product of coal gasification and CO2 which is stored underground. Carbon capture and storage techniques can be applied to biomass and biofuels, resulting in carbon-negative energy. Reuters - October 22, 2007.

    Gate Petroleum Co. is planning to build a 55 million-gallon liquid biofuels terminal in Jacksonville, Florida. The terminal is expected to cost $90 million and will be the first in the state designed primarily for biofuels. It will receive and ship ethanol and biodiesel via rail, ship and truck and provide storage for Gate and for third parties. The biofuels terminal is set to open in 2010. Florida Times-Union - October 19, 2007.

    China Holdings Inc., through its controlled subsidiary China Power Inc., signed a development contract with the HeBei Province local government for the rights to develop and construct 50 MW of biomass renewable energy projects utilizing straw. The projects have a total expected annual power generating capacity of 400 million kWh and expected annual revenues of approximately US$33.3 million. Total investment in the projects is approximately US$77.2 million, 35 percent in cash and 65 percent from China-based bank loans with preferred interest rates with government policy protection for the biomass renewable energy projects. Full production is expected in about two years. China Holdings - October 18, 2007.

    Canadian Bionenergy Corporation, supplier of biodiesel in Canada, has announced an agreement with Renewable Energy Group, Inc. to partner in the construction of a biodiesel production facility near Edmonton, Alberta. The company broke ground yesterday on the construction of the facility with an expected capacity of 225 million litres (60 million gallons) per year of biodiesel. Together, the companies also intend to forge a strategic marketing alliance to better serve the North American marketplace by supplying biodiesel blends and industrial methyl esters. Canadian Bioenergy - October 17, 2007.

    Leading experts in organic solar cells say the field is being damaged by questionable reports about ever bigger efficiency claims, leading the community into an endless and dangerous tendency to outbid the last report. In reality these solar cells still show low efficiencies that will need to improve significantly before they become a success. To counter the hype, scientists call on the community to press for independent verification of claimed efficiencies. Biopact sees a similar trend in the field of biofuels from algae, in which press releases containing unrealistic yield projections and 'breakthroughs' are released almost monthly. Eurekalert - October 16, 2007.

    The Colorado Wood Utilization and Marketing Program at Colorado State University received a $65,000 grant from the U.S. Forest Service to expand the use of woody biomass throughout Colorado. The purpose of the U.S. Department of Agriculture grant program is to provide financial assistance to state foresters to accelerate the adoption of woody biomass as an alternative energy source. Colorado State University - October 12, 2007.

    Indian company Naturol Bioenergy Limited announced that it will soon start production from its biodiesel facility at Kakinada, in the state of Andhra Pradesh. The facility has an annual production capacity of 100,000 tons of biodiesel and 10,000 tons of pharmaceutical grade glycerin. The primary feedstock is crude palm oil, but the facility was designed to accomodate a variety of vegetable oil feedstocks. Biofuel Review - October 11, 2007.

    Brazil's state energy company Petrobras says it will ship 9 million liters of ethanol to European clients next month in its first shipment via the northeastern port of Suape. Petrobras buys the biofuel from a pool of sugar cane processing plants in the state of Pernambuco, where the port is also located. Reuters - October 11, 2007.

    Dynamotive Energy Systems Corporation, a leader in biomass-to-biofuel technology, announces that it has completed a $10.5 million equity financing with Quercus Trust, an environmentally oriented fund, and several other private investors. Ardour Capital Inc. of New York served as financial advisor in the transaction. Business Wire - October 10, 2007.

    Cuban livestock farmers are buying distillers dried grains (DDG), the main byproduct of corn based ethanol, from biofuel producers in the U.S. During a trade mission of Iowan officials to Cuba, trade officials there said the communist state will double its purchases of the dried grains this year. DesMoines Register - October 9, 2007.

    Brasil Ecodiesel, the leading Brazilian biodiesel producer company, recorded an increase of 57.7% in sales in the third quarter of the current year, in comparison with the previous three months. Sales volume stood at 53,000 cubic metres from August until September, against 34,000 cubic metres of the biofuel between April and June. The company is also concluding negotiations to export between 1,000 to 2,000 tonnes of glycerine per month to the Asian market. ANBA - October 4, 2007.

    PolyOne Corporation, the US supplier of specialised polymer materials, has opened a new colour concentrates manufacturing plant in Kutno, Poland. Located in central Poland, the new plant will produce colour products in the first instance, although the company says the facility can be expanded to handle other products. In March, the Ohio-based firm launched a range of of liquid colourants for use in bioplastics in biodegradable applications. The concentrates are European food contact compliant and can be used in polylactic acid (PLA) or starch-based blends. Plastics & Rubber Weekly - October 2, 2007.

    A turbo-charged, spray-guided direct-injection engine running on pure ethanol (E100) can achieve very high specific output, and shows “significant potential for aggressive engine downsizing for a dedicated or dual-fuel solution”, according to engineers at Orbital Corporation. GreenCarCongress - October 2, 2007.

    UK-based NiTech Solutions receives £800,000 in private funding to commercialize a cost-saving industrial mixing system, dubbed the Continuous Oscillatory Baffled Reactor (COBR), which can lower costs by 50 per cent and reduce process time by as much as 90 per cent during the manufacture of a range of commodities including chemicals, drugs and biofuels. Scotsman - October 2, 2007.

    A group of Spanish investors is building a new bioethanol plant in the western region of Extremadura that should be producing fuel from maize in 2009. Alcoholes Biocarburantes de Extremadura (Albiex) has already started work on the site near Badajoz and expects to spend €42/$59 million on the plant in the next two years. It will produce 110 million litres a year of bioethanol and 87 million kg of grain byproduct that can be used for animal feed. Europapress - September 28, 2007.

    Portuguese fuel company Prio SA and UK based FCL Biofuels have joined forces to launch the Portuguese consumer biodiesel brand, PrioBio, in the UK. PrioBio is scheduled to be available in the UK from 1st November. By the end of this year (2007), says FCL Biofuel, the partnership’s two biodiesel refineries will have a total capacity of 200,000 tonnes which will is set to grow to 400,000 tonnes by the end of 2010. Biofuel Review - September 27, 2007.

    According to Tarja Halonen, the Finnish president, one third of the value of all of Finland's exports consists of environmentally friendly technologies. Finland has invested in climate and energy technologies, particularly in combined heat and power production from biomass, bioenergy and wind power, the president said at the UN secretary-general's high-level event on climate change. Newroom Finland - September 25, 2007.

    Spanish engineering and energy company Abengoa says it had suspended bioethanol production at the biggest of its three Spanish plants because it was unprofitable. It cited high grain prices and uncertainty about the national market for ethanol. Earlier this year, the plant, located in Salamanca, ceased production for similar reasons. To Biopact this is yet another indication that biofuel production in the EU/US does not make sense and must be relocated to the Global South, where the biofuel can be produced competitively and sustainably, without relying on food crops. Reuters - September 24, 2007.

    The Midlands Consortium, comprised of the universities of Birmingham, Loughborough and Nottingham, is chosen to host Britain's new Energy Technologies Institute, a £1 billion national organisation which will aim to develop cleaner energies. University of Nottingham - September 21, 2007.

    The EGGER group, one of the leading European manufacturers of chipboard, MDF and OSB boards has begun work on installing a 50MW biomass boiler for its production site in Rion. The new furnace will recycle 60,000 tonnes of offcuts to be used in the new combined heat and power (CHP) station as an ecological fuel. The facility will reduce consumption of natural gas by 75%. IHB Network - September 21, 2007.

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Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Ohio company demonstrates first-ever use of vegetable oil in solid oxide fuel cell

Highly efficient fuel cells are readily associated with hydrogen. But the production of hydrogen is problematic because it requires significant amounts of energy from a primary source. Often this source is a fossil fuel, resulting in large carbon emissions and 'dirty' hydrogen. Moreover, the gas is difficult to store and distribute, and would require the creation of an entirely new distribution infrastructure. For this reason, more and more researchers are looking at utilizing much handier biofuels directly in fuel cells. Such cells are more efficient than gensets based on internal combustion engines or than power plants relying on steam and combustion turbines.

Ohio-based Technology Management, Inc. (TMI) now announces it has successfully demonstrated the world's first kilowatt-scale Solid Oxide Fuel Cell (SOFC) system that generates electricity using vegetable oil from soybeans. The biofuel powered SOFC opens new perspectives for efficient decentralised power generation in off-grid locations utilizing locally produced fuels. This is especially interesting for the developing world.
We believe this is the first time a complete farm scale fuel cell system has ever been shown to convert unblended soybean oil into renewable electricity outside the laboratory. TMI is proud to be among the few companies in the world that are demonstrating that this revolutionary technology is not decades away, but just around the corner. - Benson Lee, president and CEO of Technology Management, Inc.
The project received contributions from the USDA Biomass Initiative Program, the Ohio Soybean Council and Ohio's Third Frontier Project, a $1.6 billion initiative that fosters the creation of high-paying jobs through innovation, research and development and the commercialization of next-generation products. TMI is collaborating with The Ohio State University's Biomass-to-Energy Program as part of an ongoing relationship examining the conversion of various biomass waste and organic matter into on-site electricity and marketable biofuels.

Solid oxide fuel cells use a hard, non-porous ceramic compound as the electrolyte. Since the electrolyte is a solid, the cells do not have to be constructed in the plate-like configuration typical of other fuel cell types. SOFCs are around 50-60 percent efficient at converting fuel to electricity. In applications designed to capture and utilize the system's waste heat (co-generation), overall fuel use efficiencies could top 80-85 percent.

Solid oxide fuel cells operate at very high temperatures—around 1,000°C (1,830°F). High temperature operation removes the need for precious-metal catalyst, thereby reducing cost. It also allows SOFCs to reform fuels internally, which enables the use of a variety of fuels and reduces the cost associated with adding a reformer to the system. SOFCs are also the most sulfur-resistant fuel cell type; they can tolerate several orders of magnitude more sulfur than other cell types. In addition, they are not poisoned by carbon monoxide (CO), which can even be used as fuel.

The design philosophy behind TMI's solid oxide fuel cell system is simplicity, versatility, small scale, unitized, modular market entry design, the ease of maintenance by end users, the efficient organization of internal components, and simplified construction of cells and stacks.
  • The SOFC systems are designed to work for the end user, in their own environment. They are easy to site and operate. One person should be able to maintain the SOFC systems without specialized tools, training, or specialized parts inventory.
  • The systems run on common, available fuels, whether liquid or gaseous and are compact enough to be sited wherever power is needed. Because they can be shipped overnight using common carriers like FedEx and UPS, users will be up and running in hours.
  • The SOFC systems can be added, removed and easily relocated without total systems shutdown. Multiple redundant systems ensure high availability of power and self back-up.
  • Individual systems are intentionally small and compact for ease of shipping and handling by one person. Their modularity allows them to be used as building blocks to produce as much power as is required. Systems can also be added on-the-fly to produce additional power or unplugged and moved to where power is required.
If biofuel-powered fuel cell systems, using renewable fuels like soybean oil, were available to small farms and agri-businesses across the Midwest's farm belt it would allow America's strongest engine for economic growth - the small business - to join with big business to help reduce our nation's dependency on foreign oil and consumption of fossil fuel, says Lee:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

The combination of Ohio's manufacturing, technology and agricultural strengths could create a new industry based on small-scale, on-site, distributed power generation operating on renewable biofuels such as soybeans. And, as the nation's fourth most energy intensive state, Ohio would benefit by being its own best customer.

As one of the few places where all phases of fuel cell development take place, from research and development to component suppliers and final product manufacturing, Ohio provides a supportive business environment for alternative energy companies.

According to the Ohio Business Development Coalition (OBDC), a nonprofit organization that markets the state for capital investment, the demonstration further points to Ohio's standing as a leader in innovative technology in alternative energy.
Ohio is at the heart of next-generation, alternative energy technology advancements. The state is attractive to executives because of its unique mix of micropolitan and metropolitan cities. This combination provides executives the resources and time to pursue their professional goals and personal aspirations without having to compromise one for the other. Ohio truly is the state of perfect balance. - Ed Burghard, executive director for the Ohio Business Development Coalition.
The fuel cell systems have been designed to be compatible with diverse applications and adaptable to unique situations. TMI’s target end users have continuous power applications in the low kilowatt range. The greatest value is for end users in regions with poor or intermittent power availability and weak or non-existent service support or fuel supply infrastructures. In this scenario the small size, ease of maintenance by local workforce and multi-fuel capability presents a very high value proposition over other modalities:

Truck auxiliary power units (APU): High fuel costs and "anti-idling" laws in over 20 states with severe fines when parked trucks fail to turn off their main engines. Early markets include long haul heavy duty trucks which are a major source of noise and air pollution. The picture shows the actual size and proposed location of a 2kW test unit now being engineered. Fuels will be diesel and biodiesel.

On-site stationary power. In rural and remote regions, where grid power is poor or absent, fuel cell systems operating on locally available fuels, including digester biogas provide a reliable alternative. Example applications include:

In developed economies: telecommunications towers and networks requiring high availability premium power, cathodic protection and safety monitoring for natural gas pipelines, and off grid residential and commercial scale buildings.

In third world economies: "village" power to provide clean water and refrigeration, lights for clinics and schools, and battery recharging for handheld electronic devices and supplement solar array battery banks.

Spontaneous Power
. Rapid response situations do not allow any planning for amount of power, location, or, except for the military, fuel availability:

For natural disasters or emergencies situations (e.g. tsunami, earthquakes, Katrina hurricanes, 9-11 terrorists), spontaneous power is needed to support base and satellite emergency relief teams and victims. Particularly when local service support infrastructure may be minimal or absent, the mobility, fuel interoperability and modularity have extremely high value.

For military scenarios: Military mobile command and control centers require quiet, auxiliary power and operation which operate efficiently on military logistic fuel (e.g., JP-8 kerosene). TMI’s system operates on military fuel (JP-8).

The use of biofuels has been demonstrated in other types of fuel cells, most notably ethanol which has been shown to work in Direct Alcohol Fuel Cells (earlier post). Biogas is being used in relatively large SOFC systems in which the methane is reformed first into hydrogen, within the fuel cell system (previous post and here). The EU recently awarded a grant of €5.8 (US$7.5) to a European consortium undertaking a three-year project to develop Large SOFC power plants that run on a multitude of (bio)fuels. The project, "Towards a Large SOFC Power Plant" started on January 1, 2007, with a total budget of €11 (US$14.2) million (earlier post).

PRNewswire: Ohio Demonstrates World's First in Fuel Cell Systems Technology - October 9, 2007.

Biopact: EU grant for biofuel capable SOFC power plants - January 31, 2007

Biopact: Offenburg students test world's first ethanol powered fuel cell vehicle - May 15, 2007


Anonymous said...

Wow! fascinating and hopeful. We could use a unit here for greenhouse heat and farm electricity. Potentially, fueled by our baby; hazelnut oil from new hybrid bushes. The hazel oil is 70% monounsaturates- usually easier to convert to anything than bean oil.


Any chance they need another demo site?

P.A. Rutter Badgersett Research

8:04 PM  

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