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    PetroChina Co Ltd, the country's largest oil and gas producer, plans to invest 800 million yuan to build an ethanol plant in Nanchong, in the southwestern province of Sichuan, its parent China National Petroleum Corp said. The ethanol plant has a designed annual capacity of 100,000 tons. ABCMoneyNews - December 21, 2007.

    Mexico passed legislation to promote biofuels last week, offering unspecified support to farmers that grow crops for the production of any renewable fuel. Agriculture Minister Alberto Cardenas said Mexico could expand biodiesel faster than ethanol. More soon. Reuters - December 20, 2007.

    Oxford Catalysts has placed an order worth approximately €700,000 (US$1 million) with the German company Amtec for the purchase of two Spider16 high throughput screening reactors. The first will be used to speed up the development of catalysts for hydrodesulphurisation (HDS). The second will be used to further the development of catalysts for use in gas to liquid (GTL) and Fischer-Tropsch processes which can be applied to next generation biofuels. AlphaGalileo - December 18, 2007.

    According to the Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatística (IBGE), Brazil's production of sugarcane will increase from 514,1 million tonnes this season, to a record 561,8 million tonnes in the 2008/09 cyclus - an increase of 9.3%. New numbers are also out for the 2007 harvest in Brazil's main sugarcane growing region, the Central-South: a record 425 million tonnes compared to 372,7 million tonnes in 2006, or a 14% increase. The estimate was provided by Unica – the União da Indústria de Cana-de-Açúcar. Jornal Cana - December 16, 2007.

    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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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Towards carbon-negative biofuels: US DOE awards $66.7 million for large-scale CO2 capture and storage from ethanol plant

We have been predicting the coupling of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies to biofuel production for a while. A first such large-scale project is now being funded by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). Following closely on the heels of three recent awards through the DOE's Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnership Program, the department today awarded $66.7 million to the Midwest Geological Sequestration Consortium (MGSC) for the Department’s fourth large-scale carbon sequestration project which involves the capture and geosequestration of 1 million tonnes of CO2 from Archer Daniels Midland's ethanol plant in Decatur, Illinois.

This project will demonstrate that it is possible to make 'carbon neutral' biofuels even greener than they are. During the fermentation of biomass, a stream of CO2 is released that is taken up by the new energy crops as they grow, closing the carbon cycle. But if this stream is captured before it enters the atmosphere and then sequestered in a geological formation to stay there for centuries or millenia, the greenhouse gas balance of the biofuel improves dramatically. The amount of CO2 that can be captured from ethanol production is around 5 to 10% of the original carbon input (roughly 3 tonnes of CO2 per 1000 liters of ethanol) (schematic, click to enlarge).

Capturing and sequestering CO2 from fermentation processes can be called a 'first generation' of CCS-to-biofuels coupling. When the ethanol from such a plant is burned in an ICE, it still releases CO2 into the atmosphere that is taken up again by the plants ('carbon neutral'), but a considerable fraction of the CO2 that occured during the production process has been taken out of this carbon cycle, making the fuel a lot greener. However, it is possible to make biofuels and bioenergy far more radical tools in the fight against climate change still, by completely decarbonizing them. This can be done by capturing and sequestering the CO2 from biohydrogen and during the combustion of biomass. The result is radically 'carbon negative' fuel and energy.

Such 'bio-energy with carbon storage' (BECS) systems yield 'negative emissions' energy. All other renewables, like wind power, biofuels-without-CCS, solar energy or even nuclear power are all 'carbon neutral' at best. That is, they do not add any or only small amounts of CO2 to the atmosphere. BECS however is 'carbon negative' and takes CO2 out of the atmosphere (schematic, click to enlarge). Scientists have found that if radical BECS systems were to replace coal fired power stations on a global scale, atmospheric CO2 levels can be brought back to pre-industrial levels by mid-century (2060), thus solving the climate crisis.

Capturing CO2 from ethanol plants is a relatively straightforward and cost-effective 'cold' process (CO2 can be drawn from the fermentation chamber easily). Next generation CCS-to-biofuels systems are more complex, because they involve the capture of CO2 before, during or after 'hot' processes such as gasification. This requires specially designed membranes or gas capture technologies still under development.

One great advantage of coupling CCS to bioenergy is that it overcomes the criticism often heard against carbon sequestration, namely that CO2 leakage from the geological formation would be catastrophic for the climate. This would be true if the stored CO2 were to come originally from fossil fuels because in that case, the leak would add CO2 to the atmosphere. But under BECS, the CO2 is biogenic and would not result in a net increase in CO2. Thus, this argument against CCS becomes senseless when the technology is coupled to biological CO2 sources.

In any case, the DOE's new project allows us to begin to take 'bio-energy with carbon storage' seriously. We have been hinting at the prospect for a long time. Now a first step towards the concept is being taken with considerable funding.

The Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnership Program's project will be led by the Illinois State Geological Survey will conduct large volume tests in the Illinois Basin to demonstrate the ability of a geologic formation to safely, permanently, and economically store more than one million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2). Subject to annual appropriations from Congress, this project including the partnership’s cost share is estimated to cost $84.3 million. Advancing carbon sequestration is a key component of the Bush Administration’s comprehensive efforts to pursue clean coal technology to meet current and future energy needs and meet President Bush’s goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions intensity 18 percent by 2012.

This partnership will demonstrate CO2 storage in the Mount Simon Sandstone Formation, a prolific geologic formation throughout Illinois, Kentucky, Indiana, and portions of Ohio. This formation offers great potential to store more than 100 years of carbon dioxide emissions from major point sources in the region. The partnership will inject one million tons of CO2 into one of the thickest portions of the Mount Simon Formation testing how the heterogeneity of the formation can increase the effectiveness of storage and demonstrate that the massive seals can contain the CO2 for millennia. The results of this project will provide the foundation for the future development of CO2 capture and storage opportunities in the region.

Researchers and industry partners will characterize the injection sites and complete modeling, monitoring, and infrastructure assessments needed before CO2 can be injected. MGSC plans to drill a CO2 injection well and then inject about 1,000 tons per day of carbon dioxide into the Mt. Simon sandstone, which is approximately 5,500 feet below the surface. The project will inject CO2 for three years before closing the injection site and monitoring and modeling the injected carbon dioxide to determine the effectiveness of the storage reservoir:

The Midwest Geological Sequestration Consortium will work with the Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) Company to demonstrate the entire CO2 injection process—pre-injection characterization, injection process monitoring, and post-injection monitoring—at large volumes to determine the ability of different geologic settings to permanently store CO2. ADM’s ethanol plant in Decatur, IL, will serve as the source of CO2 for the project:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

ADM will cost share the expense of the CO2, which will come from the company’s ethanol production operation. DOE will fund the dehydration, compression, short pipeline, and related facility costs to deliver the CO2 to the wellhead.
These projects demonstrate the potential of carbon sequestration technology, which will play a crucial role in achieving President Bush’s goal to harness advanced clean energy technologies to meet growing demand and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We continue to make robust investments aimed at moving carbon sequestration technology from the laboratory to actual large-scale field demonstrations and ultimately to the marketplace to with the help of our regional partners. - Bud Albright, Under Secretary of Energy
Today’s award to MGSC is the fourth of seven awards in the third phase of the Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnerships program. In October, Deputy Secretary of Energy Clay Sell announced the first three large volume carbon sequestration projects that total $318 million for Plains Carbon Dioxide Reduction Partnership, Southeast Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnership, and Southwest Regional Partnership for Carbon Sequestration.

This ten year initiative, launched by DOE in 2003, forms the centerpiece of national efforts to develop the infrastructure and knowledge base needed to place carbon sequestration technologies on the path to commercialization. The seven regional partnerships include more than 350 state agencies, universities, and private companies within 41 states, two Indian nations, and four Canadian provinces. During the first phase of the program, seven partnerships characterized the potential for CO2 storage in deep oil-, gas-, coal-, and saline-bearing formations. When Phase I ended in 2005, the partnerships had identified more than 3,000 billion metric tons of potential storage capacity in promising sinks. This has the potential to represent more than 1,000 years of storage capacity from point sources in North America. In the program’s second phase, the partnerships implemented a portfolio of small-scale geologic and terrestrial sequestration projects. The purpose of these tests was to validate that different geologic formations have the injectivity, containment, and storage effectiveness needed for long-term sequestration. The third phase, large volume tests are designed to validate that the capture, transportation, injection, and long term storage of over one million tons of carbon dioxide can be done safely, permanently, and economically.

US DOE: Energy Department Awards $66.7 Million for Large-Scale Carbon Sequestration Project - December 19, 2007.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good to see information disseminated about this important project. Most of the language on the page comes directly from DOE announcements, and is accurate in describing the project and its plans.

It is surprising, though, to see the statement that a "criticism often heard against carbon sequestration, [is] that CO2 leakage from the geological formation would be catastrophic for the climate."

Workers/researchers in the field of CO2 sequestration - of which I am one - generally do not list catastrophic leakage among the greater risks. We believe that thorough studies that are conducted before site selection will almost certainly (we can't be absolutely certain about anything) preclude selecting an injection site from which catastophic leakage is more than a very tiny possibility. Bear in mind that the CO2 is stored not in open underground caverns - as some may think - but in vast networks of tiny interconnected pores between sand grains. Catastrophic leakage from this kind of system is as difficult to achieve as catastrophic leakage of water from a wet sponge that is left alone on a countertop.

If large-scale leakage did occur at a particular site, then the atmosphere would suffer to about the same extent as if that particular injection project had not been attempted at all.

The main leakage question is really this, for a given site or overall: Given that some slow and minor leakage will occur at every injection site, will leakage rates be low enough - will the CO2 be stored for long enough - to make the whole project worthwhile? The activities of CO2 capture, compression, and injection inevitably generate still more CO2 - so it is important that leakage rates not exceed very low figures.


5:14 PM  

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