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    The 4th Annual Brussels Climate Change Conference is announced for 26 - 27 February 2008. This joint CEPS/Epsilon conference will explore the key issues for a post-Kyoto agreement on climate change. The conference focuses on EU and global issues relating to global warming, and in particular looks at the following issues: - Post-2012 after Bali and before the Hokkaido G8 summit; Progress of EU integrated energy and climate package, burden-sharing renewables and technology; EU Emissions Trading Review with a focus on investment; Transport Climatepolicy.eu - January 28, 2007.

    Japan's Marubeni Corp. plans to begin importing a bioethanol compound from Brazil for use in biogasoline sold by petroleum wholesalers in Japan. The trading firm will import ETBE, which is synthesized from petroleum products and ethanol derived from sugar cane. The compound will be purchased from Brazilian petrochemical company Companhia Petroquimica do Sul and in February, Marubeni will supply 6,500 kilolitres of the ETBE, worth around US$7 million, to a biogasoline group made up of petroleum wholesalers. Wholesalers have been introducing biofuels since last April by mixing 7 per cent ETBE into gasoline. Plans call for 840 million liters of ETBE to be procured annually from domestic and foreign suppliers by 2010. Trading Markets - January 24, 2007.

    Toyota Tsusho Corp., Ohta Oil Mill Co. and Toyota Chemical Engineering Co., say it and two other firms have jointly developed a technology to produce biodiesel fuel at lower cost. Biodiesel is made by blending methanol into plant-derived oil. The new technology requires smaller amounts of methanol and alkali catalysts than conventional technologies. In addition, the new technology makes water removal facilities unnecessary. JCN Network - January 22, 2007.

    Finland's Metso Paper and SWISS COMBI - W. Kunz dryTec A.G. have entered a licence agreement for the SWISS COMBI belt dryer KUVO, which allows biomass to be dried in a low temperature environment and at high capacity, both for pulp & paper and bioenergy applications. Kauppalehti - January 22, 2007.

    Record warm summers cause extreme ice melt in Greenland: an international team of scientists, led by Dr Edward Hanna at the University of Sheffield, has found that recent warm summers have caused the most extreme Greenland ice melting in 50 years. The new research provides further evidence of a key impact of global warming and helps scientists place recent satellite observations of Greenland´s shrinking ice mass in a longer-term climatic context. Findings are published in the 15 January 2008 issue of Journal of Climate. University of Sheffield - January 15, 2007.

    Japan's Tsukishima Kikai Co. and Marubeni Corp. have together clinched an order from Oenon Holdings Inc. for a plant that will make bioethanol from rice. The Oenon group will invest around 4.4 billion yen (US$40.17 million) in the project, half of which will be covered by a subsidy from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. The plant will initially produce bioethanol from imported rice, with plans to use Hokkaido-grown rice in the future. It will produce 5 million liters per year starting in 2009, increasing output to 15m liters in 2011. The facility will be able to produce as much as 50,000 liters of bioethanol from 125 tons of rice each day. Trading Markets - January 11, 2007.

    PetroSun, Inc. announced today that its subsidiary, PetroSun BioFuels Refining, has entered into a JV to construct and operate a biodiesel refinery near Coolidge, Arizona. The feedstock for the refinery will be algal oil produced by PetroSun BioFuels at algae farms to be located in Arizona. The refinery will have a capacity of thirty million gallons and will produce 100% renewable biodiesel. PetroSun BioFuels will process the residual algae biomass into ethanol. MarketWire - January 10, 2007.

    BlueFire Ethanol Fuels Inc, which develops and operates carbohydrate-based transportation fuel production facilities, has secured capital liquidity for corporate overhead and continued project development in the value of US$15 million with Quercus, an environmentally focused trust. BlueFire Ethanol Fuels - January 09, 2007.

    Some $170 billion in new technology development projects, infrastructure equipment and construction, and biofuel refineries will result from the ethanol production standards contained the new U.S. Energy Bill, says BIO, the global Biotechnology Industry Organization. According to Brent Erickson, BIO's executive vice president "Such a new energy infrastructure has not occurred in more than 100 years. We are at the point where we were in the 1850s when kerosene was first distilled and began to replace whale oil. This technology will be coming so fast that what we say today won't be true in two years." Chemical & Engineering News - January 07, 2007.

    Scottish and Southern Energy plc, the UK's second largest power company, has completed the acquisition of Slough Heat and Power Ltd from SEGRO plc for a total cash consideration of £49.25m. The 101MW CHP plant is the UK’s largest dedicated biomass energy facility fueled by wood chips, biomass and waste paper. Part of the plant is contracted under the Non Fossil Fuel Obligation and part of it produces over 200GWH of output qualifying for Renewable Obligation Certificates (ROCs), which is equivalent to around 90MW of wind generation. Scottish & Southern Energy - January 2, 2007.

    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.

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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Carbon-negative energy revolution a step closer: Carbon8 Systems to capture CO2 from biomass through carbonation

The bioenergy community is excited about a new start-up that could play a key role in the mass introduction of carbon-negative bioenergy systems. Scientists from the University of Greenwhich who formed Carbon8 Systems have developed a technique that allows power producers to capture CO2 simply by turning it into limestone via a carbonation process. If the system is applied to biomass power plants instead of coal plants, the company says, 'negative emissions' are obtained. Negative emissions from energy means that CO2 is pulled out of the atmosphere. What is more, for tropical and subtropical countries that lack large limestone deposits - a key soil amendment to make acidic soils more productive - the process could result in an extremely important synergy that allows farmers to boost (energy) crop yields.

Renewables like solar, wind, hydropower or even a source like nuclear energy are all 'carbon neutral' at best. That is: they do not add new emissions to the atmosphere and have a relatively small carbon footprint over their lifecycle. But this is a weak result compared to carbon-negative bioenergy. Socalled 'Bio-energy with carbon capture' (BECS) systems go much further: they actively take CO2 from the past out of the atmosphere. This is so because as biomass grows it stores atmospheric CO2 in its tissue. When the biomass is combusted for electricity generation or transformed into a decarbonized fuel like biohydrogen, and consequently the CO2 resulting from this transformation is captured and stored, the result is a negative emissions balance.

This makes such bioenergy systems by far the most important tool in the climate fight. Table 1 (click to enlarge) shows the difference in emissions between electricity from fossil fuels, from carbon-neutral renewables like wind or solar, and from carbon-negative biomass. Whereas a kWh of coal-based electricity generates up to 1000g/CO2, and one based on photovoltaics around 100g/COeq, a kWh of carbon-negative bio-electricity yields minus 1030 g/CO2. In other words: the hyper-green energy removes the climate destructive gas from the atmosphere.

There are two main pathways to capture and store carbon from bioenergy systems. One is high tech and involves capturing CO2 from biomass power stations through a set of complex techniques, after which the greenhouse gas is transported via pipeline or ship and sequestered in geological formations such as depleted oil & gas fields, or saline acquifers. The other technique is based on storing biochar in soils, which could lead to a highly beneficial cycle of improved agriculture.


But now, a third option is emerging: capturing CO2 from power plants, gasification based biohydrogen reactors or waste incineration facilities and using it as a feedstock to produce limestone. Dr Paula Carey and Dr Colin Hills, both geologists from Greenwich, created Carbon8 Systems in 2006. They are commercialising the technology. (A competitor would be Carbon Sciences, Inc. but it currently only focuses on coal).

Dr Paula Carey says the process is in fact very simple and known as carbonation. Industrial waste, such as the ash obtained from municipal incinerators, or biomass ash from power plants, contains calcium silicates which react vigorously with CO2 to produce calcium carbonate, or limestone as it is more commonly known. This process occurs naturally but because of the relatively low concentrations of CO2 in the air the reaction can take years.

The researchers developed a process based around the mixture of calcium silicates, water and the right concentration of CO2 that speeds the reaction up so it takes only about 15 minutes. The result comes in the form of limestone pellets (picture), ready for use as a raw material in other industrial sectors (construction materials, cosmetics, etc). Carbon 8 Systems has a certain degree of patent coverage for the process and is now working to commercialise the technology. (Note: no word yet about the energy intensity of the process).

Asked whether the carbonation technique could also be applied to CO2 from biomass energy plants, Dr Carey replied:
Absolutely. What we are looking at is a genuinely carbon negative process. If you consider the advantage of biomass projects are that they are carbon neutral as emitted carbon had been absorbed as the biofuel grew then adding a technology that captures the CO2 when it is emitted and takes it permanently out of circulation is a carbon negative process.
Limestone and acid soils
Biopact would add that with the technique a new and highly interesting synergy could be emerging for developing countries in the tropics and the subtropics. As is well known, vast tracts of land in Asia, Africa and Latin America are dominated by highly problematic acid soils, often burdened by aluminum toxicity, which is known to result in poor agricultural yields. Around half the world's arable land suffers from acidity. However, there is a simple technique to increase the Ph of these soils: adding lime. However, many developing countries have a lack of this resource, which limits the scope for this most basic intervention.

Acidic soils worldwide: aluminum toxicity in acidic soils limits crop production in as much as half the world's arable land
Now if these countries were to produce carbon-negative bioenergy from locally grown energy crops in a decentralised manner and apply the carbonation process, they would obtain a large enough stock of limestone that can be applied to the acid soils, thus boosting crop yields. The lime pellets can easily be pulverized to obtain a product similar to agricultural lime. An amazing synergy based on this system would then emerge in which climate change is fought in the most radical way with negative emissions (for which carbon credits become available), access to rural electricity for poor communities is boosted, while agricultural output is increased, food insecurity tackled and pressures on land, water and forests reduced:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

The importance of lime for tropical agriculture should not be underestimated. In the 1970s and 1980s, Brazil, for example, based most of its agricultural zoning and planning efforts on the presence of lime deposits. Lime availability was seen as the key limiting factor and determined where which type of crops could be grown. The same logic is true for most other tropical countries with vast acid soil resources.

Other applications
According to Dr Carey other applications are for incinerators that produce CO2 from the chimney while also producing the ash needed to capture much of that CO2. Applying the technology to an incinerator means you would not only cut carbon emissions, the process would also treat the waste ash and make it less hazardous and the net result is limestone which can be reused as aggregate for the construction industry.

When it comes to the reduction in carbon emissions that could be achieved with this technology, Carbon 8 Systems estimates that 70,000 tonnes of ash would absorb between 10,000 and 20,000 tonnes of CO2. Beyond that the only constraint on how widely you could apply the technology would be the availability of the ash and the demand for the aggregate.

Commercialisation of the carbonation process is being worked on. The biggest challenge is capturing the CO2 from the chimney, though carbon capture systems for doing that are absolutely feasible and the company's scientists are working on developing the technology. When it comes to using the process to just treat the hazardous ash they can simply use bottled CO2. The researchers conducted a field trial last week using this process, following up on trials they did several years ago. They are also working with a waste company to get a full pilot using bottled CO2 up and running in the next two to three months.

Realistically speaking Carbon 8 Systems is thinking in terms of saving millions of tonnes rather than tens of millions of tonnes for the UK, due to the limitations in terms of availability of ash and demand for the end product. But the potential application of the technology is still huge, they think. It would be expensive retrofitting any system to existing incinerators, but it is expected that more incinerators and biomass power plants will be built.

Dr Carey is the commercial director of Carbon8 Systems as well as an academic a the University of Greenwich. She has a research background in geology and natural materials for the construction industry.

Map: Aluminum toxicity in acidic soils limits crop production in as much as half the world's arable land, mostly in developing countries in Africa, Asia and South America. Credit: Cornell University Chronicle Online.

VNU Net: To capture CO2, just add calcium silicate - January 29, 2008.

FAO Problem Soils Database: Acid Soils.


Blogger David B. Benson said...

Of course biocoal can be produced via hydrothermal carbonizaation and easily sequestered in abandoned mines or in carbon landfills. But alas, this simply costs (except for potential offset schemes).

1:36 AM  
Blogger erich said...

I have been in contact with several chemical engineers, both corporate and government, that basically tell me that the scrubbing technology faces no practical hurdles. But when it comes to dealing with the fraction of volatilized mercury up stream scrubbing will be necessary. The non-volatile uranium, thorium, fall out, and that radon also present in coal combustion is of no consequence for this process.

Their general feeling is that direct liquidfaction and IGCC approaches to clean coal are complicated, expensive and except for pumping CO2 down oil gas wells other deep geologic strata sequestration is untested , expensive and also limited in scope.

Injection of powdered activated carbon (PAC) into the flue gas is currently the front runner technology that is nearest commercialization for mercury (Hg) removal. The PAC needs to be further enhanced with halogens, like bromine, to be really effective with subbituminous coals such as Powder River Basin coals. The Hg-loaded dust is then removed with filter bags (bag houses) or electrostatic precipitators. A problem is that fly ash is typically removed in the same unit, thus resulting in fly ash containing extra carbon (and Hg). That carbon generally makes the fly ash useless as a concrete amendment, thus destroying by-product market value.

In high-sulfur bituminous coal combustion the Hg in generally in ionic form, and can be removed by wet scrubbers . Use of wet scrubbers is being expanded significantly to address mandated SO2 control, thus also achieving a simultaneous co-benefit of Hg removal. The potential downside is the eventual disposition of the Hg that shows up in the byproduct gypsum obtainable from the scrubber sludge. Workarounds are being looked at for these cases above.

10:56 AM  
Blogger rufus said...

Okay, you take the bio-char from the gassification? process, and mix it with the carbonate, and VOILA!

One heck of a Soil Treatment, eh?

4:38 AM  

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