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    The University of East Anglia and the UK Met Office's Hadley Centre have today released preliminary global temperature figures for 2007, which show the top 11 warmest years all occurring in the last 13 years. The provisional global figure for 2007 using data from January to November, currently places the year as the seventh warmest on records dating back to 1850. The announcement comes as the Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), Michel Jarraud, speaks at the Conference of the Parties (COP) in Bali. Eurekalert - December 13, 2007.

    The Royal Society of Chemistry has announced it will launch a new journal in summer 2008, Energy & Environmental Science, which will distinctly address both energy and environmental issues. In recognition of the importance of research in this subject, and the need for knowledge transfer between scientists throughout the world, from launch the RSC will make issues of Energy & Environmental Science available free of charge to readers via its website, for the first 18 months of publication. This journal will highlight the important role that the chemical sciences have in solving the energy problems we are facing today. It will link all aspects of energy and the environment by publishing research relating to energy conversion and storage, alternative fuel technologies, and environmental science. AlphaGalileo - December 10, 2007.

    Dutch researcher Bas Bougie has developed a laser system to investigate soot development in diesel engines. Small soot particles are not retained by a soot filter but are, however, more harmful than larger soot particles. Therefore, soot development needs to be tackled at the source. Laser Induced Incandescence is a technique that reveals exactly where soot is generated and can be used by project partners to develop cleaner diesel engines. Terry Meyer, an Iowa State University assistant professor of mechanical engineering, is using similar laser technology to develop advanced sensors capable of screening the combustion behavior and soot characteristics specifically of biofuels. Eurekalert - December 7, 2007.

    Lithuania's first dedicated biofuel terminal has started operating in Klaipeda port. At the end of November 2007, the stevedoring company Vakaru krova (VK) started activities to manage transshipments. The infrastructure of the biodiesel complex allows for storage of up to 4000 cubic meters of products. During the first year, the terminal plans to transship about 70.000 tonnes of methyl ether, after that the capacities of the terminal would be increased. Investments to the project totaled €2.3 million. Agrimarket - December 5, 2007.

    New Holland supports the use of B100 biodiesel in all equipment with New Holland-manufactured diesel engines, including electronic injection engines with common rail technology. Overall, nearly 80 percent of the tractor and equipment manufacturer's New Holland-branded products with diesel engines are now available to operate on B100 biodiesel. Tractor and equipment maker John Deere meanwhile clarified its position for customers that want to use biodiesel blends up to B20. Grainnet - December 5, 2007.

    According to Wetlands International, an NGO, the Kyoto Protocol as it currently stands does not take into account possible emissions from palm oil grown on a particular type of land found in Indonesia and Malaysia, namely peatlands. Mongabay - December 5, 2007.

    Malaysia's oil & gas giant Petronas considers entering the biofuels sector. Zamri Jusoh, senior manager of Petronas' petroleum development management unit told reporters "of course our focus is on oil and gas, but I think as we move into the future we cannot ignore the importance of biofuels." AFP - December 5, 2007.

    In just four months, the use of biodiesel in the transport sector has substantially improved air quality in Metro Manila, data from the Philippines Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) showed. A blend of one percent coco-biodiesel is mandated by the Biofuels Act of 2007 which took effect last May. By 2009, it would be increased to two percent. Philippine Star - December 4, 2007.

    Kazakhstan will next year adopt laws to regulate its fledgling biofuel industry and plans to construct at least two more plants in the next 18 months to produce environmentally friendly fuel from crops, industry officials said. According to Akylbek Kurishbayev, vice-minister for agriculture, he Central Asian country has the potential to produce 300,000 tons a year of biodiesel and export half. Kazakhstan could also produce up to 1 billion liters of bioethanol, he said. "The potential is huge. If we use this potential wisely, we can become one of the world's top five producers of biofuels," Beisen Donenov, executive director of the Kazakhstan Biofuels Association, said on the sidelines of a grains forum. Reuters - November 30, 2007.

    SRI Consulting released a report on chemicals from biomass. The analysis highlights six major contributing sources of green and renewable chemicals: increasing production of biofuels will yield increasing amounts of biofuels by-products; partial decomposition of certain biomass fractions can yield organic chemicals or feedstocks for the manufacture of various chemicals; forestry has been and will continue to be a source of pine chemicals; evolving fermentation technology and new substrates will also produce an increasing number of chemicals. Chemical Online - November 27, 2007.

    German industrial conglomerate MAN AG plans to expand into renewable energies such as biofuels and solar power. Chief Executive Hakan Samuelsson said services unit Ferrostaal would lead the expansion. Reuters - November 24, 2007.

    Analysts think Vancouver-based Ballard Power Systems, which pumped hundreds of millions and decades of research into developing hydrogen fuel cells for cars, is going to sell its automotive division. Experts describe the development as "the death of the hydrogen highway". The problems with H2 fuel cell cars are manifold: hydrogen is a mere energy carrier and its production requires a primary energy input; production is expensive, as would be storage and distribution; finally, scaling fuel cells and storage tanks down to fit in cars remains a huge challenge. Meanwhile, critics have said that the primary energy for hydrogen can better be used for electricity and electric vehicles. On a well-to-wheel basis, the cleanest and most efficient way to produce hydrogen is via biomass, so the news is a set-back for the biohydrogen community. But then again, biomass can be used more efficiently as electricity for battery cars. Canada.com - November 21, 2007.

    South Korea plans to invest 20 billion won (€14.8/$21.8 million) by 2010 on securing technologies to develop synthetic fuels from biomass, coal and natural gas, as well as biobutanol. 29 private companies, research institutes and universities will join this first stage of the "next-generation clean energy development project" led by South Korea's Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy. Korea Times - November 19, 2007.

    OPEC leaders began a summit today with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez issuing a chilling warning that crude prices could double to US$200 from their already-record level if the United States attacked Iran or Venezuela. He urged assembled leaders from the OPEC, meeting for only the third time in the cartel's 47-year history, to club together for geopolitical reasons. But the cartel is split between an 'anti-US' block including Venezuela, Iran, and soon to return ex-member Ecuador, and a 'neutral' group comprising most Gulf States. France24 - November 17, 2007.

    The article "Biofuels: What a Biopact between North and South could achieve" published in the scientific journal Energy Policy (Volume 35, Issue 7, 1 July 2007, Pages 3550-3570) ranks number 1 in the 'Top 25 hottest articles'. The article was written by professor John A. Mathews, Macquarie University (Sydney, Autralia), and presents a case for a win-win bioenergy relationship between the industrialised and the developing world. Mathews holds the Chair of Strategic Management at the university, and is a leading expert in the analysis of the evolution and emergence of disruptive technologies and their global strategic management. ScienceDirect - November 16, 2007.

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Friday, December 14, 2007

Hunton Energy to build synthetic natural gas plant at Dow chemical facility; biomass as feedstock, CO2 captured and stored

In a very interesting development that shows the versatility of biomass, Hunton Energy and the Dow Chemical Company have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that will result in Hunton Energy building and operating a Synthetic Natural Gas (SNG) plant partly fed by biomass at Dow’s Oyster Creek Facility on the Texas Gulf Coast. Under the proposed 15-year agreement with Dow, the Hunton Energy facility is slated to produce SNG and will use steam turbines to produce additional power from its byproduct steam. Processes in Hunton’s gasification system will capture 100% of the CO2 emissions from the facility for use in enhanced oil recovery and utilize all other byproducts commercially.

Contrary to biomethane which is obtained from the fermentation of biomass into biogas that is upgraded to natural gas quality, SNG is obtained from the gasifiction of carbonaceous feedstocks. When biomass is used as the sole feed, 'renewable SNG' is obtained, called 'green gas' [*.pdf] or 'bio-SNG'[*.pdf] in Europe, to distinguish it from biogas. Interestingly, the carbon dioxide that is generated from gasification can be captured and stored, or used commercially. When SNG is made from a pure biomass feedstock, a fuel with an ultra-low carbon dioxide profile is obtained.

Hunton announces it will indeed utilize biomass such as wood chips and rice hulls besides petroleum coke slurry. These sources are fed along with compressed oxygen into a gasifier. The feed is converted into a high-temperature, high-pressure syngas consisting of CO, H2, H2S, and CO2. The syngas then passes through an acid gas removal process where CO2 and H2S are separated and captured. The H2S is converted to elemental sulfur and sold as a byproduct from the facility. The CO2 is compressed and fed into oil wells in the region for enhanced oil recovery (EOR):
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

After the removal of CO2 and H2S, syngas then passes through a methanation block where it is converted into a synthetic natural gas (SNG) of pipeline quality. Any inorganic materials, such as metals that naturally occur in the feed, are melted by the heat of the reactor.

The hot gas and the molten minerals travel from the reactor into a radiant cooler. The radiant cooler uses the high-temperature heat of the reactants to generate high-pressure steam. The steam will be sold to Dow Chemical Company located next to the gasification facility. Dow will use this steam in their chemical processes instead of burning natural gas to generate the steam. Utilizing the process heat increases the efficiency of the gasification facility and reduces emissions from the Dow plant.

Vaporized water in the gas is condensed, and the molten minerals solidify into slag as the gas cools. The byproduct slag will be sold into the concrete/aggregate market. Water recovered from the process is used to make the feed slurry. The water contains unconverted carbon from the process (schematic, click to enlarge).

Hunton Energy estimates a fourth quarter 2008 groundbreaking for the project.

Route to radical biohydrogen
Note that a similar gasification process can be used in the future to obtain a truly carbon-negative fuel, namely biohydrogen. The methanation step would be skipped and replaced by a shift reactor that combines the CO and H2O from the syngas to generate pure H2 and CO2 (schematic, click to enlarge). As in the bio-SNG process, the CO2 from gasified biomass can then be captured and stored, with the result that a radically decarbonized fuel can be produced: biohydrogen.

The peculiarity of such a carbon negative fuel is that, each time you use it (in a fuel cell or to generate large scale power and heat), you take historic CO2 emissions out of the atmosphere. Most people are have difficulty understanding this strange idea - 'negative emissions' energy has not yet penetrated the green consciousness, because they are so radical. All other electricity sources are carbon-neutral at best, that is, they do not add new emissions to the atmosphere. But they do not take existing emissions out of it. Carbon negative bio-based hydrogen does. Which makes it a most radical weapon in the fight against climate change.

More on the competitiveness of gasification based biohydrogen with the potential to capture CO2 can be found in this recent presentation to the European Parliament [*.pdf].

On a different note, a recent study of more than 20 different future hydrogen production and utilization pathways for transport, indicates biohydrogen from gasification is both the most efficient as well as the greenest production pathway on a well-to-wheel basis. It beats all other techniques which are based on natural gas and coal, or on the electrolysis of water using electricity from fossil fuels, nuclear or renewables like wind (more here).

Huntington's gasification process is the first large scale demonstration of the production of SNG, which opens the future for entirely green SNG and later carbon negative biohydrogen.

Dow: Dow Signs MOU for Gasification Facility Hunton Energy to supply Dow with synthetic gas and steam in Texas [*.pdf] - December 13, 2007.

Hunton Energy: Clean Energy SNG Plant slated for Dow Chemical Facility - Hunton Energy locates innovative gasification plant in Texas - December 13, 2007.

Dr. ir. Harold Boerrigter, "Green Gas (SNG) in the Dutch Energy Infrastructure Potential & Implementation" [*.pdf], Energy research Centre of the Netherlands (ECN) - ECN Biomass, Coal & Environmental research, March 30, 2007.

M. Mozaffarian, R.W.R. Zwart, H. Boerrigter, E.P. Deurwaarder, S.R.A. Kersten, " 'Green Gas' as SNG (Synthetic Natural Gas), a renewable fuel with conventional quality" [*.pdf], Bio-SNG, Contribution to the “Science in Thermal and Chemical Biomass Conversion” Conference, 30 August – 2 September 2004, Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada.

Biowasserstoff: The Green Hydrogen Economy now [*.pdf] - Presentation at the European Parliament, Brussels - January 10, 2007

Biopact: Hydrogen out, compressed biogas in - October 01, 2006


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