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    Biopact's Laurens Rademakers is interviewed by Mongabay on the risks of large-scale bioenergy with carbon storage (BECS) proposals. Even though Biopact remains positive about BECS, because it offers one of the few safe systems to mitigate climate change in a drastic way, care must be take to avoid negative impacts on tropical forests. Mongabay - November 10, 2007.

    According to the latest annual ranking produced by The Scientist, Belgium is the world's best country for academic research, followed by the U.S. and Canada. Belgium's top position is especially relevant for plant, biology, biotechnology and bioenergy research, as these are amongst the science fields on which it scores best. The Scientist - November 8, 2007.

    Mascoma Corporation, a cellulosic ethanol company, today announced the acquisition of Celsys BioFuels, Inc. Celsys BioFuels was formed in 2006 to commercialize cellulosic ethanol production technology developed in the Laboratory of Renewable Resources Engineering at Purdue University. The Celsys technology is based on proprietary pretreatment processes for multiple biomass feedstocks, including corn fiber and distiller grains. The technology was developed by Dr. Michael Ladisch, an internationally known leader in the field of renewable fuels and cellulosic biofuels. He will be taking a two-year leave of absence from Purdue University to join Mascoma as the company’s Chief Technology Officer. Business Wire - November 7, 2007.

    Bemis Company, Inc. announced today that it will partner with Plantic Technologies Limited, an Australian company specializing in starch-based biopolymers, to develop and sell renewably resourced flexible films using patented Plantic technology. Bemis - November 7, 2007.

    Hungary's Kalocsa Hõerõmû Kft is to build a HUF 40 billion (€158.2 million) straw-fired biomass power plant with a maximum capacity of 49.9 megawatts near Kalocsa in southern Hungary. Portfolio Hungary - November 7, 2007.

    Canada's Gemini Corporation has received approval to proceed into the detailed engineering, fabrication and construction phases of a biogas cogeneration facility located in the Lethbridge, Alberta area, the first of its kind whereby biogas production is enhanced through the use of Thermal Hydrolysis technology, a high temperature, high pressure process for the safe destruction of SRM material from the beef industry. The technology enables a facility to redirect waste material, previously shipped to landfills, into a valuable feedstock for the generation of electricity and thermal energy. This eliminates the release of methane into the environment and the resultant solids are approved for use as a land amendment rather than re-entering the waste stream. In addition, it enhances the biogas production process by more than 25%. Market Wire - November 7, 2007.

    A new Agency to manage Britain's commitment to biofuels was established today by Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly. The Renewable Fuels Agency will be responsible for the day to day running of the Renewable Transport Fuels Obligation, coming into force in April next year. By 2010, the Obligation will mean that 5% of all the fuels sold in the UK should come from biofuels, which could save 2.6m to 3m tonnes of carbon dioxide a year. eGov Monitor - November 5, 2007.

    Prices for prompt loading South African coal cargoes reached a new record last week with a trade at $85.00 a tonne free-on-board (FOB) for a February cargo. Strong Indian demand and tight supply has pushed South African prices up to record levels from around $47.00 at the beginning of the year. European DES/CIF ARA coal prices have remained fairly stable over the past few days, having traded up to a record $130.00 a tonne DES ARA late last week. Fair value is probably just below $130.00 a tonne, traders said. At this price, some forms of biomass become directly competitive with coal. Reuters Africa - November 4, 2007.

    The government of India's Harayana state has decided to promote biomass power projects based on gasification in a move to help rural communities replace costly diesel and furnace oil. The news was announced during a meeting of the Haryana Renewable Energy Development Agency (HAREDA). Six pilot plants have demonstrated the efficiency and practicability of small-scale biomass gasification. Capital subsidies will now be made available to similar projects at the rate of Rs 2.5 lakh (€4400) per 100 KW for electrical applications and Rs 2 lakh (€3500) per 300 KW for thermal applications. New Kerala - November 1, 2007.

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Friday, November 09, 2007

International maritime body rejects risky ocean geoengineering

In a shot across the bows of ocean geoengineering companies, the London Convention - the International Maritime Organization (IMO) body that oversees dumping of wastes at sea - today unanimously endorsed a scientific statement of concern on ocean fertilisation and declared its intention to develop international regulations to oversee the controversial activities. It further advised states that such large-scale schemes are "currently not justified".
We applaud the London Convention for addressing a major gap in global governance. The Parties meeting here this week confirmed that large-scale ocean fertilization schemes are not scientifically justified and they urged governments to exercise utmost caution when considering such proposals. - David Santillo, Greenpeace International’s Science Unit
Geoengineering refers to intentional large-scale manipulation of land, ocean or atmosphere in an attempt to ‘fix’ climate change. The governments meeting at the London Convention were confronted with a rash of private ‘carbon trading’ schemes that claim to sequester greenhouse gases by dumping large quantities of iron, urea or other additives into the sea. These techniques, known collectively as 'ocean fertilisation', claim to draw climate change gases out of the atmosphere by prompting growth of plankton. The geoengineers seek to win ‘carbon credits’ as a financial reward for these activities – despite the fact that international scientific bodies have warned of potentially devastating ecological consequences for marine ecoystems (previous post).

Moreover, recently a 47 strong research team of leading oceanographers and biogeochemists from the international oceanographic mission KEOPS confirmed earlier doubts on the scientific merits of the technique, and warned for potentially negative effects. What is more, they even concluded that ocean fertilization as currently proposed won't work (here).

Other geoengineering proposals include emulating volcanoes' cooling effects by pumping sulphur into the atmosphere (debunked as dangerous - earlier post), creating a giant space mirror (which would be prohibitively costly), or generating highly reflective clouds (more here). Some of these proposals have been simulated and shown to be very risky (previous post).

In its Fourth Assessment Report, Working Group III of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) discussed global warming mitigation strategies and said about geo-engineering:
Geo-engineering options, such as ocean fertilization to remove CO2 directly from the atmosphere, or blocking sunlight by bringing material into the upper atmosphere, remain largely speculative and unproven, and with the risk of unknown side-effects. Reliable cost estimates for these options have not been published. - IPCC, Fourth Assessment Report, Working Group III: Mitigation
The only technique seen as low risk, highly feasible and mentioned by the IPCC as one that could effectively help mitigate climate change, consists of the production of carbon-negative bioenergy (so-called 'bio-energy with carbon storage' or BECS systems). BECS is described as a geoengineering technique because it implies the creation of biomass plantations located at strategic places on the planet.

Ocean fertilization remains highly controversial, and the historic decision of the international body meeting in London this week came just as one company, Planktos, Inc., announced it had set sail from Florida, USA to dump iron in the ocean at an undisclosed location, possibly west of the Galapagos islands, known for their unique ecosystems.

A second private geoengineering outfit, Ocean Nourishment Corporation (ONC) of Australia, caused uproar this week in the Philippines with the discovery of a proposal to dump industrial urea in the ecologically sensitive Sulu Sea region. ONC is reportedly in discussions with the government of Morocco on another proposed dump:
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Geoengineering profiteers should have no right to alter the ocean commons for their private gain. Until now they’ve been exploiting the lack of international governance. The London convention is sending a clear message to geoengineering cowboys that ocean-dumping schemes are scientifically unjustified and must be regulated. We welcome the London Convention’s decisions on ocean-based geoengineering. We urge governments meeting at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Bali next month, as well as the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, to follow the London Convention’s lead and begin an international process to put all geoengineering technologies under intergovernmental oversight. - Jim Thomas, ETC Group
Meanwhile, a third private geoengineering firm, Climos, Inc. of USA, attended the London Convention meeting where it proposed a voluntary “code of conduct” for ocean fertilisation – a proposal met with little enthusiasm.

The London Convention decisions were greeted with enthusiasm in the Philippines, where civil society organizations, small-scale fishers and environmentalists are protesting a proposal by Ocean Nourishment Corporation ”to dump urea in the Sulu Sea. The groups will hold a press conference on Monday 15 November in Manila to outline concerns and actions in the region.
There’s clearly an urgent need for international oversight. We were alarmed to discover that a geoengineering company had already approached the Philippines government. Although no permit has been issued yet, at least one experimental dumping of urea has already occurred in the Sulu Sea – without a permit, without environmental assessment, and without public consent. - Neth Dano, Third World Network.
According to Hope Shand of the ETC Group, a civil society organisation which screens the responsible use of new technologies, the London Convention has taken a first, important step to prevent geoengineering abuses. However, it maintains its call for a moratorium on large scale and commercial geoengineering projects until there is public debate, intergovernmental oversight and thorough assessment of social, economic and environmental impacts. Geoengineering techno-fixes are not an acceptable response to climate change, the ETC says.

International Maritime Organization: London Convention.

ETC Group: London Convention Puts Brakes on Ocean Geoengineering - November 9, 2007.

Third World Network, SEARICE, Corporate Watch, ETC Group and Greenpeace South East Asia: Geoengineers prepare to pollute Philippine Seas as International Ocean Dumping Body Meets - November 5, 2007.

Rex Dalton, "Ocean tests raise doubts over use of algae as carbon sink", Nature 420, 722 (19 December 2002) | doi:10.1038/420722a

Biopact: The end of a utopian idea: iron-seeding the oceans to capture carbon won't work - April 26, 2007

Biopact: WWF condemns Planktos Inc. iron-seeding plan in the Galapagos - June 27, 2007

Biopact: Simulation shows geoengineering is very risky - June 05, 2007

Biopact: Climate change and geoengineering: emulating volcanic eruption too risky - August 15, 2007

Biopact: Capturing carbon with "synthetic trees" or with the real thing? - February 20, 2007

Biopact: IPCC Fourth Assessment Report: mitigation of climate change - May 04, 2007

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RWE and AEP to test carbon capture and storage on hard coal-fired power plant in West Virginia

American Electric Power (AEP) and RWE plan to collaborate in the testing of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology for modern coal-based power plants. To this end, the partners have now signed a Memorandum of Understanding. Alstom will also participate in this project, which will be implemented on the AEP hard coal-fired Mountaineer plant (1,300 MW) in New Haven, West Virginia.

Alstom has developed a capture process based on ammonia that is to be used for the post-combustion capture of CO2 from flue gas. This process will be tested in a demonstration plant with an electrical capacity equivalent to 20 MW by capturing and scrubbing a corresponding slipstream from the flue gas. This way, up to 200,000 tons of CO2 are expected to be captured and stored on-site in deep saline formations – salt water-bearing strata – per year.

Biopact tracks developments in CCS, because the technology can be applied to biomass, resulting in carbon-negative energy and fuels. This kind of negative emissions energy, also known as 'bio-energy with carbon storage' (BECS) takes historic CO2 emissions out of the atmosphere. This sets it apart from both nuclear and renewables like wind, ordinary biofuels or solar, which are all 'carbon neutral' at best (schematic, click to enlarge, and see previous post, here and here).

Recently, RWE Power signed a collaboration agreement with BASF and Linde on the testing of new 'scrubbing agents' for capturing carbon in a pilot plant at RWE’s lignite-fired power plant site in Niederaussem (earlier post). Now it is joining American partners to validate the technology further.

Once the captured carbon is stored, the complete technology will have been tested. This area is managed by RWE's upstream subsidiary RWE Dea. The sub-project "storage", which will also be carried out by AEP, is subsidized by RWE Dea. Site-specific investigations of carbon storage capabilities, inter alia at the Mountaineer plant site, have been conducted in the US since 2002.

During the investigations, an approximately 2,740-meter exploratory well and seismic studies determined that the site was suitable for deep geological storage of CO2. Battelle Memorial Institute, a global science and technology enterprise and a leader in carbon storage research, is serving as the consultant on geological storage. RWE Dea will contribute its upstream and gas storage expertise.

The overall project – demonstration plant based on chilled ammonia and storage – is set to begin in 2009, provided that the application of this capture technology in a small-scale Wisconsin pilot plant operated by Alstom and the Electric Power Research Institute is successful. AEP and RWE are participating in this project as well:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Once commercial viability of the capture technology is validated at Mountaineer, AEP plans to use Alstom’s chilled ammonia process on one of the 450-MW coal-fired units at its Northeastern Station in Oologah, Oklahoma. This commercial-scale system is scheduled to be operational at the end of this decade. It is expected to capture about 1.5 million tons of CO2 a year. The CO2 captured at Northeastern Station will be used for enhanced oil recovery (EOR).

AEP and RWE are members of the e8, a non-profit international organization composed of the nine leading electricity companies from the G8 countries. The e8 promotes sustainable energy development through electricity sector projects in developing nations worldwide.

8 November 2007 - American Electric Power (AEP), RWE and Alstom will collaborate during a planned validation of commercial-scale application of carbon capture and storage technology on an existing AEP coal-fired power plant.

RWE will join a project AEP announced in March when it signed a deal with Alstom, for post-combustion carbon capture technology using Alstom's chilled ammonia process. RWE will also participate in an associated project for deep geological storage of captured CO2.

RWE AG: RWE and AEP to test carbon capture and storage on existing Mountaineer hard coal-fired power plant in West Virginia - November 8, 2007.

Biopact: RWE Power, BASF and Linde to cooperate on CO2 capture technology - September 28, 2007

Biopact: A quick look at 'fourth generation' biofuels - October 08, 2007

Biopact: Carbon-negative bioenergy recognized as Norwegian CO2 actors join forces to develop carbon capture technologies - October 24, 2007

Biopact: Carbon-negative bioenergy is here: GreatPoint Energy to build biomass gasification pilot plant with carbon capture and storage - October 25, 2007

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New public-private hybrid rice group aims to raise rice yields in the tropics

A new international research initiative, linking the private and public sectors for the first time and launched on November 9 at the 2007 Asian Seed Congress, aims to boost the research and development of hybrid rice for the tropics.

The Hybrid Rice Research and Development Consortium (HRDC), established by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), will strengthen public-private sector partnership in hybrid rice, a technology that can raise the yield of rice and thus overall rice productivity and profitability in Asia.

The news is important for the bioenergy community, because one of the criteria that need to be met in order to tap the vast theoretical potential for biomass production (previous post), is increased and more efficient food production. Both processes go hand in hand. Rice is the world's most important food crop, grown on approximately 152 million hectares of land (statistics here).

Hybrid rice takes advantage of the phenomenon of hybrid vigor - known as heterosis - to achieve yields 15 to 20% higher than nonhybrid (inbred) varieties. Over the past three decades, the technology has helped China achieve food security, but has not yet reached its potential in the tropics - the place where food production can be vastly improved and where the largest bioenergy potential can be found.
National agricultural research and extension systems and other public sector organizations engaged in hybrid rice research and development will be among the primary beneficiaries of funds generated by the HRDC. Rice farmers in Asia will benefit from accelerated access to hybrid rice-based technologies such as more and better hybrids, good-quality seed, knowledge, and services provided by the private and public sectors. - Dr. Fangming Xie, IRRI senior hybrid rice researcher
IRRI and its partners in the public and private sector have led research on development of, and use of, hybrid rice technology in the tropics for almost 30 years. Successful deployment of hybrid rice in Asia, however, requires more effective cooperation between public research institutions and the private sector in research to overcome current constraints.

The HRDC will be hosted by IRRI and will have three major objectives:
  1. Support research on developing new hybrids with enhanced yield heterosis, improved seed production, multiple resistances to stresses, and grain quality.
  2. Support research on best management practices for rice hybrids.
  3. Improve information sharing, public awareness, and capacity building.
Public and private sector organizations and companies with interest in hybrid rice development are invited to become members of the HRDC. For private-sector members, annual financial contributions under the consortium structure will take into account the status of seed companies at different stages of development. HRDC members will have access to improved parents, hybrids, and breeding lines, including seeds and associated information:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

The HRDC will have a public-private sector advisory committee and will meet annually to provide information to its members on new plant genetic resources available or under development, review research on hybrid rice management, discuss new research priorities, and make decisions on other consortium activities such as capacity building for both the public and private sectors.

According to IRRI senior hybrid rice researcher Fangming Xie, the HRDC will significantly enhance the capacity for hybrid rice research and product delivery, while providing services and support to the private sector in its product development and delivery that will benefit the general public.

International Rice Research Institute: New hybrid rice group aims to raise rice yields in the tropics - November 9, 2007.

International Rice Research Institute: At Last, Tropical Hybrids - April 19, 2000.

IRRI / FAO: Adoption of Hybrid Rice in Asia - Policy Support - Proceedings of the workshop on policy support for rapid adoption of hybrid rice on large-scale production in Asia, Hanoi, Viet Nam, 22-23 May 2001, Rome 2002

Biopact: IEA report: bioenergy can meet 20 to 50% of world's future energy demand - September 12, 2007

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Al Gore invests in biofuels

Spanish renewable energy company Abengoa jumped as much as 7 percent Wednesday after an investment fund headed by former U.S. Vice President and Nobel Peace prize laureate Al Gore bought a stake in the firm.

UK-based Generation Investment Management purchased a small position in Abengoa, which specialises in biofuels, a company spokeswoman said. Abengoa declined to comment on the value of the Gore stake.

Abengoa was the top gainer on Spain's IBEX blue chip stock index Wednesday at 0842 GMT, trading at 29.30. The company is at the forefront of developing next generation cellulosic biofuels.

Gore won the Nobel Peace Prize last month, together with the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Chance (IPCC), for campaigning against climate change. He is chairman of Generation Investment Management, a firm which specialises in companies that promote sustainable development [entry ends here].
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Syntroleum announces successful completion of CTL demonstration; important for BTL technology and carbon-negative biofuels

Syntroleum Corporation, a synthetic fuels technology company, has successfully completed a demonstration of its proprietary technology designed to convert coal into clean synthetic liquid fuels. The test run utilized synthesis gas produced from coal and Syntroleum's proprietary cobalt catalyst technology in the conversion process. The 2,500-hour bench-scale test run was recently completed at Eastman Chemical Company's Kingsport, Tennessee facility.

Syntroleum says the demonstration is a very important step towards the development of biomass-to-liquids (BTL) processes resulting in synthetic biofuels. Importantly, because the cobalt catalyst used by Syntroleum localizes carbon capture to the shift reactor syngas product, it allows for easier CO2 capture and sequestration. With BTL technology combined with carbon capture and storage (CCS), a whole range of new bioenergy opportunities becomes available, including the production of carbon-negative biofuels. Unlike ordinary biofuels or renewables like wind or solar, which are merely 'carbon-neutral', these 'negative emissions' fuels take historic CO2 emissions back out of the atmosphere (earlier post).

Syntroleum's demonstration proved that fuels made from coal have the same superior synthetic Fischer-Tropsch (FT) qualities as those made from natural gas. The demonstration also indicated that Syntroleum's proprietary cobalt-based catalyst performs robustly under real-world coal-to-liquids (CTL) conditions, as was predicted from earlier extended life tests performed by Syntroleum.
We have now proven that the Syntroleum Process, and specifically our cobalt catalyst, performs very well on live coal syngas in a commercial environment. This is a great step for Syntroleum and we continue to believe that this technology will help pave the way to lowering our country's reliance on foreign sources of oil, by producing domestically sourced synthetic diesel and jet fuel. This successful demonstration under the most challenging condition of live coal derived syngas is also very important for the future of our Biomass-to-Liquids technology. - Jack Holmes, CEO of Syntroleum.
By showing that live coal derived syngas can be turned into liquids, biomass-to-liquids technology, which is less challenging, becomes a step closer. The syngas produced from gasifying such biomass feedstocks as corn stover, wood by-products, and chicken litter is more difficult to clean up than natural gas-based syngas (for gas-to-liquids production, GTL) but much easier than coal-based syngas. By demonstrating the commercial viability of its cobalt catalyst for coal, the company has addressed its suitability for any renewable feedstock.

The two major process steps in CTL (and GTL, BTL) production consist of gasification and Fischer-Tropsch synthesis (schematic, click to enlarge). After these steps, the liquids are further refined.

A gasifier converts coal feedstock into gaseous components by applying heat and pressure to the coal in the presence of steam and oxygen. A gasifier differs from a combustor in that the amount of oxygen inside the gasifier is carefully controlled such that only a relatively small portion of the fuel burns completely, minimizing the formation of carbon dioxide:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

The combustion and gasification reactions are shown in Eq 1 and Eqs 2-4 respectively. The reaction of Eq 2 is termed partial oxidation. Rather than burning, most of the carbon-containing feedstock is chemically broken apart by the gasifier’s heat and pressure producing syngas. Water introduced into the gasifier also takes part in the chemical decomposition of coal, producing carbon oxides and hydrogen as in Eq 3-4.

The produced syngas is primarily hydrogen and carbon monoxide with other gaseous components. The actual composition depends on the conditions in the gasifier and the type of feedstock. Typical coal syngas H2:CO ratios are in the 0.4:1 to 0.9:1 range. For FT conversion, the desired ratio is 2.1:1. “Ratio adjustment” via the water-gas shift reaction of Eq 4 is thus required to convert syngas to FT hydrocarbons. This may be done in the gasifier, a catalytic shift converter, or the FT reactor itself by using catalysts with water-gas shift selectivity (e.g. iron). For optimum operation of the gasifier and the FT reactor, the preferred option is the catalytic shift converter.

This has the added advantage of eliminating CO2 from FT reactor tail gas and simplifying carbon capture. All CO2 is captured after water-gas shift as part of syngas cleanup.

Note - this is where the potential of carbon-negative biofuels comes in: when the CO2 from the process is captured from an already renewable feedstock - biomass - and then geosequestered, the result is a negative emissions fuel that takes historic CO2 emisions out of the atmosphere as it is used.

Other major gaseous components found in the syngas stream are derived from the sulfur and nitrogen containing compounds found in coal. In addition to the sulfur and nitrogen components the syngas may contain metals, e.g. mercury and arsenic. The metals, sulfur and reactive nitrogen compounds are removed from the gasifier effluent to provide clean syngas for further processing. Non-combustible components e.g. calcium and silicon, typically leave the bottom of the gasifier as slag.

Fischer-Tropsch Conversion
The FT process uses a catalyst to convert syngas to hydrocarbon products according to the general chemical pathway given by the following equation:

There is a distribution of intermediate feedstocks generated during this FT chemical process including unreacted gases, short and long chain paraffins, olefins and alcohols. The type of catalyst and operating conditions impact the distribution of the intermediate feedstocks generated.

Standard refinery hydroprocessing and fractionation is used to convert the raw chemicals generated into commercial products, primarily transportation fuels. The unconverted syngas and light gas products in the reactor tail gas are used for internal power generation as shown in the schematic.

Eastman Chemical Company and Syntroleum Corporation have developed their respective technologies and expertise independently. The companies combined their experience to demonstrate that coal can be effectively converted to liquid hydrocarbons with a cobalt based FT catalyst.

FT catalysts have historically been based on iron or cobalt. While iron catalyst requires a lower initial investment, cobalt has numerous performance advantages such as higher activity, higher diesel yields, longer life, and lower water gas shift activity resulting in lower overall operating cost. The higher activity and longer life of cobalt catalyst offsets the initial higher cost.

By not causing water-gas shift in the FT reactor, cobalt catalysts localize carbon capture (CO2 sequestering) to the shift reactor syngas product. The CO2-concentrated syngas may effectively be scrubbed as part of the cleanup process shown in the schematic. Exposure to contaminants increases with the longer life of the cobalt catalyst resulting in increased potential for catalyst deactivation. Therefore cobalt catalyst must be designed consistent with commercially available syngas cleanup processes.

Syntroleum has invested over one million hours of run time in bench scale FT catalyst tests, much of it in Continuous Stirred Tank Reactors (CSTR) like those used in the present study. These tests include extensive studies on trace levels of various contaminants and a patented regeneration process. Syntroleum's regeneration process separates the catalyst from the wax matrix returning it to the original oxide form. The catalyst is then re-reduced, slurried and returned to the reactor.

This procedure has been demonstrated at lab, pilot, and demonstration scale, restoring catalyst activity from a wide range of deactivation mechanisms. With this background, Syntroleum was able to establish a maximum target level of contaminants in the syngas and designed guard beds through which syngas produced at the Eastman facility was processed. The combined experience of the two companies was essential in the success of the demonstration program.

Data on the gasification and FT demonstration can be found in a non confidential White Paper.

Jet fuels
These results in conjunction with the Air Force's successful testing of Syntroleum's Fischer-Tropsch jet fuel last fall and the recent certification of FT jet fuel for the B-52 H Stratofortress bomber create an opportunity for Syntroleum to supply synthetic jet fuel from several sources to help the Air Force meet its target of providing 50 percent of its needs with a 50/50 synthetic blend by 2016.

As previously announced, Syntroleum has contracted to deliver 500 gallons of renewable synthetic jet fuel for testing by the Air Force. This fuel will be made using Syntroleum proprietary Biofining(TM) technology using a mixture of low grade animal fats and greases as provided by Tyson Foods.

Based on preliminary testing, Syntroleum believes this renewable fuel has almost identical properties to the natural gas-based FT jet fuel used in the certification tests.

Syntroleum: White Paper: Fischer Tropsch Catalyst Test on Coal-Derived Synthesis Gas - s.d. [November 2007].

Syntroleum: Syntroleum Announces Successful Completion of Coal-to-Liquids Demonstration - November 8, 2007.

Biopact: A quick look at 'fourth generation' biofuels - October 08, 2007

Biopact: Syntroleum to deliver bio-based synthetic jet fuel to U.S. Department of Defense - July 09, 2007

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U.S. Senate farm bill puts $2.3 billion into biofuels

The 2007 U.S. federal Farm Bill has made it to the full senate, after passing the house in July. It contains a very strong support package for the development of next generation biofuels in the U.S. Iowa Senator Tom Harkin chairs the Senate Agriculture Committee in charge of the bill and presented its scope. Debate is expected to last for up to two weeks on the text which sets out agricultural support policies for the next five years.

Some $2.3 billion in federal support would flow to biofuels under the bill, half of it to develop cellulose as a companion to corn as a feedstock for fuel ethanol. The bill proposed a 'very robust' program in biofuels. It puts the U.S. on a path to produce 60 billion gallons of biofuels by 2030, roughly 10 times current output.

The package includes $1.1 billion to encourage farmers to grow biomass crops, in financial aid to construct ethanol plants using cellulose, found in grasses and wood, as a feedstock, and to help refiners buy biofuel feedstocks.

An additional $1.1 billion would be expended in tax credits for biofuels, including credits for cellulosic ethanol. Those provisions came from a Finance Committee bill that was merged into the panoramic bill drafted by the Agriculture Committee.

Cellulosic ethanol would be eligible for up to $1.28 a gallon in credits. The bill has a credit to small producer of 67 cents for cellulosic ethanol, the current 10-cent credit available to all small producers and the long-standing 51-cent tax credit for blending ethanol into gasoline.
[...] we confront a classic chicken-and-egg dilemma: Entrepreneurs won’t build cellulosic biorefineries in the absence of a reliable supply of feedstocks. And producers won’t grow the cellulosic feedstocks unless and until there are biorefineries to purchase them.

Well, in this bill, we address this dilemma very aggressively. On the supply side, we allocate $130 million over five years to the Biomass Crop Transition Program. We know it takes a few years to get crops like switchgrass started and established. So farmers are going to need financial assistance during the transition. And that’s what we provide in the Senate bill.

On the demand side, we allocate $300 million to support grants for biorefinery pilot plants, loan guarantees for commercial biorefineries, and support for repowering existing corn-ethanol plants and other facilities so they can process cellulosic biomass.

In addition, we continue the CCC bioenergy program with $245 million to support feedstock purchases for advanced biofuels production. And, we’re including about $140 million for biomass research and for biomass crop experiments.
- Tom Harkin, Chair Senate Agriculture Committee
A half-dozen senators want to add language to the farm bill to require the use of 36 billion gallons of biofuels by 2022, including 21 billion gallons of cellulosic ethanol, biodiesel and other alternative fuels. The mandate is now 7.5 billion gallons in 2012. Production is forecast for 6.5 billion gallons this year.
I’ll make this prediction: If we can preserve the Senate energy provisions in conference - and maybe get some additional funding for them, which we’ll certainly try to do – I predict that within five years we are going to see cellulosic biofuel refineries sprouting like mushrooms all across the country. - Tom Harkin
A more detailed overview of the provisions:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

  • $227 million for incentive payments to farmers to grow, harvest, transport and store biomass crops.
  • $422 million in grants and loan guarantees for construction of ethanol plants using biomass crops and to convert plants now using corn.
  • $425 million to help refiners buy feedstocks for "advanced biofuel production."
  • $270 million in grants and loans to expand production and use of renewable energy; 15 percent of money reserved for projects that convert animal waste to energy (biogas).
  • $2 billion in loan guarantees for biomass refineries and biofuels plants; half of the money for projects of less than $100 million, the other half for projects up to $250 million. Cost to government estimated as $800 million.
  • $500 million in loans, grants and loan guarantees to expand production and use of renewable fuels in rural areas.
  • $1.4 billion to help biorefiners buy feedstock for their plants and expand fuel output.
  • creation of a "biomass energy reserve" with five-year contracts that pay farmers an incentive to grow, harvest, store and transport biomass crops; must be within 50 miles of a bioenergy plant. Cost $75 million.
  • $200 million a year through 2016 for biomass research
  • purchase of surplus sugar to be sold to refiners to make ethanol
Producer and tax credits
  • Create small producer credit for cellulosic ethanol of 67 cents per gallon. Cost $282 million through 2012.
  • Extend small producer tax credit of 10 cents a gallon on up to 15 million gallons of ethanol from plants with capacity up to 60 million gallons a year for two years, to December 31, 2012. Estimated cost $57 million through 2012.
  • Create small producer tax credit of 10 cents a gallon, from December 31, 2007, for plants that produce ethanol with processes that do not use a fossil-based resource. Cost $211 million through 2012.
  • Extend production tax credits of $1 or 50 cents a gallon for biodiesel for two years, to December 31, 2010, and extend 10-cent a gallon small producer tax credit for 15 million gallons of fuel from plants with capacity of up to 60 million gallons a year for four years, to December 31, 2012. Cost $264 million through 2012.
  • Extend $1 a gallon tax credit for biodiesel created by thermal depolymerization. Credit is capped at 60 million gallons per year of co-produced fuel. Cost $211 million through 2012.
The cost of the tax credits is offset by three steps:
  • Reducing the 51-cent a gallon tax credit by 5 cent in the first calendar year after U.S. production tops 7.5 billion gallons. Raises $854 million through 2012.
  • Extending for two years, until December 31, 2010, 57-cent a gallon tariff on imported ethanol. Raises $25 million through 2012.
  • Excluding in calculations of alcohol eligible for fuel tax credit all but 2 percent of denaturant used to make the fuel undrinkable. Raises $284 million through 2012
U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee: Harkin: Farm Bill Energy Title Makes Investments in Nation’s Energy Security - November 8, 2007.

Reuters: Senate farm bill puts $2.3 bln in biofuels - November 8, 2007.

Biopact: U.S. House proposes US$4.5 billion for biomass research, biorefineries -
May 22, 2007.

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