<body> --------------
Contact Us       Consulting       Projects       Our Goals       About Us
home / Archive
Nature Blog Network

    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.

    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.

Creative Commons License

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Researchers to plant transgenic poplars to clean up polluted site; trees to be used for cellulosic ethanol

Purdue University researchers are collaborating with Chrysler LLC in a project to use poplar trees to eliminate pollutants from a contaminated site in north-central Indiana, a process called 'phytoremediation'. The researchers plan to plant transgenic poplars at the site, a former oil storage facility near Kokomo, Indiana, this summer. In a laboratory setting, the transgenic trees have been shown to be capable of absorbing carcinogenic trichloroethylene, or TCE, and other pollutants before processing them into harmless byproducts. When they have finished their job, the poplars, known for their high biomass yields, are intended to be used as a feedstock for cellulosic ethanol.

Richard Meilan, a Purdue associate professor, is currently at work to transform one variety of poplar suited to Indiana's climate; cold-hardy poplars are generally more difficult to alter than the variety used in a laboratory setting. The scientist says this site presents the perfect opportunity to prove that poplars can get rid of pollution in the real world.

In a study Meilan co-authored, published recently in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, poplar cuttings removed 90 percent of the TCE within a hydroponic solution in one week (previous post). The engineered trees also took up and metabolized the chemical 100 times faster than unaltered hybrid poplars, which have a limited ability to remove and degrade the contaminant on their own, he says.

The transgenic poplars contain an inserted gene that encodes an enzyme capable of breaking down TCE and a variety of other environmental pollutants, including chloroform, benzene, vinyl chloride and carbon tetrachloride.

Meilan says he believes the transgenic poplars will be able to remove the TCE from the site, named Peter's Pond, which was contaminated by tainted oil stored there in the 1960s. The chemical, used as an industrial solvent and degreaser, lies within 10 feet of the surface, making it accessible to poplar roots, the scientist adds. TCE, the most common groundwater pollutant on Superfund sites, is a probable human carcinogen and causes various health problems when present in sufficiently high levels in water or air.

Meilan said planting transgenic trees in the field remains controversial, primarily due to concerns that inserted genes, or transgenes, might escape and incorporate into natural tree populations. But the team is taking comprehensive steps to ensure that the transgenes don't escape into the environment.

Meilan has applied for a permit to grow transgenic poplars in a field, or non-laboratory, setting from the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, the government organization responsible for regulating such research activities. In order to comply with permit guidelines and to protect the environment, Meilan's team will take measures to prevent any plant material from leaving the site and will remove the trees after three years, short of the five it takes for poplars to reach sexual maturity:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Three years should be enough time for them to grow up, send down roots to suck the pollutants up and break them down, Meilan says. Then the researchers will cut them down before they have the chance to pass on their genes to the environment.

Besides their utility in phytoremediation, or pollution removal, poplars have promise as a feedstock for cellulosic ethanol. To investigate their potential in this area, the U.S. Department of Energy awarded a $1.3 million grant to Meilan and two colleagues, professors Michael Ladisch, agricultural and biological engineering, and lead researcher Clint Chapple, biochemistry.

They are currently investigating ways to alter the composition of poplar lignin, which provides rigidity to the plant cell wall by binding to strands of cellulose, a complex sugar that can be converted into ethanol.

Chrysler will fund the Kokomo project and said that the TCE is contained within an isolated water table at Peter's Pond and presents no public hazard.

The original study, led by University of Washington professors Stuart Strand and Sharon Doty, revealed that the transgenic poplars also were able to absorb TCE vapors through their leaves before metabolizing the chemical. Tree cuttings removed 79 percent of the airborne TCE from a chamber within one week. This suggests poplars could one day help mitigate air as well as water pollution.

If the project succeeds, poplars may be used for phytoremediation elsewhere. Poplars grow across a wide geographic range and in many different climates, Meilan said.

Phytoremediation with energy crops elsewhere
Earlier scientists have looked specifically at using energy crops for phytoremediation. Examples include hybrid poplars that could be grown to soak up polluted water from coal mining sites (earlier post) and miscanthus to clean up brown fields (more here and here).

Poplar has received attention from the bioenergy community as an ideal biomass crop. It is the first tree to have had its entire genome sequenced (previous post).

More recently, a pioneering EU-funded project called BioReGen which could green thousands of acres of derelict brownfield sites in North East England while providing climate friendly bioenergy announced it is expanding after successful trials. Scientists here explicitly use energy crops to clean up contaminated sites. The combination of phytoremediation, wildlife habitat restoration and renewable bioenergy and biofuel production here offers a win-win-win synergy.

Picture: Richard Meilan, shown inspecting a row of hybrid poplars, is developing a transgenic poplar capable of absorbing and breaking down various contaminants. His poplars will be put to the test this summer in a project with Chrysler LLC to remove trichloroethylene from a former oil-storage location in Kokomo, Ind. Credit: Purdue Agricultural Communication file photo/Tom Campbell.

Purdue University: Fighting pollution the poplar way: Trees to clean up Indiana site - January 10, 2007.

Biopact: BioReGen project expands: greening brownfield sites with energy crops and biofuels - December 10, 2007

Biopact: Scientists dramatically improve poplar's capacity to clean up polluted sites - potential to couple phytoremediation to bioenergy - October 17, 2007

Biopact: Energy crops and phytoremediation - new plants may soak up methane water - August 15, 2006

Biopact: Turning brownfields into greenfields with the help of biofuels - August 9, 2006

Biopact: France to use miscanthus to clean up polluted urban sites - August 22, 2006

Biopact: Virginia Tech researchers receive $1.2 million to study poplar tree as model biomass crop - June 26, 2007

Biopact: The first tree genome is published: Poplar holds promise as renewable bioenergy resource - September 14, 2006

Article continues

Tata's Nano is here - what now?

Tata Motors today unveiled its long-awaited Nano, the world's cheapest car. The "People's Car" could be for the developing world what the Volkswagen Beetle or the Fiat 500 were for Europe. The vehicle will cost 1 lakh rupees or €1700/US$2500, making it available to millions of people who are entering the rapidly growing lower middle class in emerging economies. Environmentalists from the West call the prospect a disaster in the making. Modernists in the developing world rejoice and see this as a historic day.

The Nano is described as "a comfortable, safe, all-weather car, high on fuel efficiency & low on emissions". The car was designed with a family in mind and has a passenger compartment that can seat four persons.

The small vehicle has a rear-wheel drive, all-aluminium, two-cylinder, 623 cc, 33 PS, multi point fuel injection petrol engine. This is the first time that a two-cylinder gasoline engine is being used in a car with single balancer shaft. The lean design strategy has helped minimise weight, which helps maximise performance per unit of energy consumed and delivers high fuel efficiency - an average of about 50 miles per gallon, or five litres per hundred kilometres. Performance is controlled by a specially designed electronic engine management system.

The tailpipe emission performance of the vehicle meets local regulatory requirements. In terms of overall pollutants, it has a lower pollution level than two-wheelers being manufactured in India today. The high fuel efficiency also ensures that the car has low carbon dioxide emissions, thereby providing the twin benefits of an affordable transportation solution with a low carbon footprint.

Tata calls those who criticise the small car "elitist" and their arguments "discriminatory". The company reacts especially to a recent column in the New York Times titled "No, No, No, Don’t Follow Us" written by popular columnist Thomas Friedman, in which he warned that the Nano is a highly retrograde initiative from a country capable of incredible innovation. The energy and environmental implications of millions more people driving personal cars could be enormous, for India and the world, he warns:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Friedman is right in calling for a country like India to 'leapfrog' our own development model, and to invest in, for example, modern mass transit. However, we feel that our modern consumerist ideology has penetrated most of the developing world so thoroughly, that warning for its dangers has become futile. The ideology has become a deep 'habitus', a pattern of feeling, imagining, desiring and thinking that structures all aspects of life, from the way space and time are organised to the manner in which we value and organise our social relations. The emerging middle classes of the developing world have become the staunchest proponents of this modernism.

The idea of 'leapfrogging' is likely to remain a fantasy dreamt up by people from wealthy societies that have already entered a post-industrial logic, after having gone through the long phase of modernity. Only when the system of consumerism in these emerging economies crumbles under its inherent limits - peak oil, catastrophic climate change or simply congestion in cities - will it rethink itself.

The best we can do, perhaps, is to encourage and support the creation of an eco-conscious avant-garde in these developing countries - people who urge their fellow citizens to develop an alternative, more sustainable development pathway.

Tata "People's Car" dedicated website.

Tata: Why critics of the Tata small car are barking up the wrong tree — January 10, 2008

Tata: Tata Motors unveils the People's Car - January 10, 2008

New York Times: No, No, No, Don’t Follow Us - November 4, 2007.

Article continues

Cassava-based ethanol could save Nigeria up to $6.1 billion by 2012

Africa's largest oil producer and OPEC member Nigeria is becoming increasingly interested in biofuels to meet its growing demand for fuels and to provide employment to its largely rural population. Contrary to the oil sector, which has caused civil conflict, perpetuates poverty, corruption, and deep social inequalities, thrives on foreign capital and has destroyed entire ecosystems in the country, the development of a local biofuels industry presents an opportunity for a brighter development path. Nigeria has an abundance of natural resources to produce green fuels efficiently, sustainably and in a cost-effective way. Especially the starch-rich tuber crop cassava, of which Nigeria grows more than any other country, is seen as having a major potential for the production of first-generation ethanol, cellulosic biofuels and bioproducts like renewable plastics.

According to the secretary of the Nigeria Cassava Growers Association (NCGA), Isaac Sunday Ojonugwa, cassava-based ethanol could save Nigeria up to $6.1 billion by 2012 by replacing imports of kerosene and gasoline. He added that the development of a cassava-driven bioeconomy would be a significant bonus for the nation, as the vast majority of its rural population can participate in the industry. Earlier estimates and announcements on the different industrial cassava plans that exist for the country put the number of new potential jobs at one to three million (previous post).

About 70 per cent of Nigeria's population are farmers, with 60 per cent of people in this most populous of African countries living below the poverty line. Declining farm commodity prices over the past years have kept these millions of people into poverty. The bioeconomy, high oil prices and the competitiveness of ethanol now offer them a unique opportunnity for development. Biofuels can fight misery like no other industrial sector.

According to the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), one of the CGIAR institutions, a cassava-based ethanol industry could, with a combined effort from the science and policy community, launch a rural renaissance that would benefit the poorest people across Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa (previous post). Likewise, the UN's FAO and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) think Nigeria could be ripe for a 'cassava industrial revolution' yielding vast new market and employment opportunities (see the FAO's study titled 'A cassava industrial revolution in Nigeria - The potential for a new industrial crop').

Even though Nigeria is a major crude oil producer, the country imports over half of its refined oil products because its own refinery capacity can't meet domestic demand. Producing biofuels in a decentralised way, can relieve this stress. Ultra-high oil prices have made cassava-based ethanol highly competitive. Thai researchers have shown the biofuel can be produced cost competitively when oil is over $60 per barrel. For this reason, the members of the Nigeria Cassava Growers Association think they are holding the future in their hands:
Nigeria-made renewable cassava based ethanol will directly displace the amount of petrol and kerosene we need to import offering our country critically the needed independence and security from foreign sources of energy. - Isaac Sunday Ojonugwa, NCGA secretary
Cassava is a tropical root crop that yields a large amount of easily extractible starch. It grows well with relatively low amounts of inputs and withstands stresses like drought. For this reason, it has become a basic food staple for most people in West-Africa. Traditionally, communities grew excess cassava on marginal soils as a tactic to prevent famine. The crop can stay in the ground for several years - in case of a food crisis were to emerge, farmers would rely on these 'reserves'.

In modern times, cassava has become a major industrial starch crop. Nigeria used to export the crop to the EU for use as an animal feed. But a new policy there, which boosted subsidies for European grain farmers, caused the sector in Nigeria to collapse. The emerging bioeconomy is now offering hopes for a revival in the sector.

The many potential social, environmental and economic benefits of cassava bioproducts are based on the efficiency of the way in which the crop generates energy-rich starch. Scientists recently produced the first comprehensive energy balance study of cassava based ethanol and found that it is very strong - the crop requires a limited amount of energy inputs for it to be grown, harvested and converted into fuel, for a high energy yield (more here).

The NCGA secretary pointed to the fact that cassava can be used not only for its starch, but that the crop also yields a large amount of above-ground ligno-cellulosic biomass: stalks and leaves. The residue-to-product ratio for cassava can be as high as 1, meaning that for each tonne of tuber produced, a tonne of residual biomass becomes available (previous post). This resource could be used as a feedstock for the production of next-generation biofuels in the biorefineries of the future:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Speaking about the economics of a cassava biofuel industry, Ojonugwa added that global ethanol production is estimated at 41 million tonnes per annum, valued at over $16 billion with a growth rate of 3 per cent per year. According to the secretary, only about 10 percent of global ethanol production is currently traded, but the statistics show that not enough ethanol is becoming available to meet rapidly growing international demand. The current supply deficit is estimated at 6 billion litres and is expected to grow by 5 per cent annually. Nigeria could become a player on this market, besides producing for domestic consumption.

The secretary further disclosed that SJH and Company, a US consultant, studied the economics of cassava ethanol and found that at an approximate cost of $60 million for a cassava ethanol plant, the value of a given local economy would expand by $110 million each year, generating an additional $19.6 million in income annually for small farmers.

He continued by saying that farmers who invest $20,000 in smaller local ethanol plants would achieve return on investment of 13.3 per cent per year over ten years, saying that in such a scenario the local price of cassava increases by an average of 5-10 per cent tonne, adding significantly to farm income in the general area surrounding the plant.

Nigeria has been interested in reviving its industrial cassava sector for a while now. Under the presidency of Olusegun Obasanjo, a 'Presidential Cassava Initiative' was launched, which aimed at providing incentives to cassava processors. Several Nigerian states have initiated their own programmes, often in collaboration with the country's state-owned petroleum company (previous post). and the country as a whole has been creating South-South partnerships on cassava fuels and products. One fo these is with the Cuban government, which is willing to share its expertise in cassava-to-ethanol technologies (previous post).

Meanwhile, some of the world's leading scientists are working on improving cassava. Amongst them Norman Borlaugh, father of the Green Revolution, who is sequencing the crop's genome in order to breed varieties for energy. His work is part of the bioenergy research at the U.S. Department of Energy's Joint Genome Institute (earlier post).

Earlier, we also pointed to research being undertaken by researchers from the International Atomic Energy Agency, who are using the latest plant breeding techniques to make cassava an even more interesting energy crop. The tools: nuclear techniques to induce mutagenesis and obtain mutant varieties, and space-breeding, which is based on a similar process but then relying on radiation from space that affects and transforms seeds into interesting varieties.

Finally, a major international effort is underway to sequence the genome of cassava, which might yield the genetic keys to unlocking new traits for improved yield, more protein and even novel industrial applications like the production of ethanol. The U.S. Department of Energy’s Joint Genome Institute is providing funding and technical assistance for the program.

Leadership (Abuja, via AllAfrica): Ethanol Fuel to Save Country $6.1bn By 2012 - January 10, 2008.

EIA: Nigeria oil production and consumption fact-sheet.

FAO/IFAD: A cassava industrial revolution in Nigeria - The potential for a new industrial crop, Rome, 2004.

Biopact: CIAT: cassava ethanol could benefit small farmers in South East Asia - September 24, 2007

Biopact: First comprehensive energy balance study reveals cassava is a highly efficient biofuel feedstock - April 18, 2007

Biopact: Cuba to assist Nigeria with ethanol production, agriculture - June 26, 2007

Biopact: Nigeria's cassava ethanol program to yield 3 million jobs - September 05, 2006

Biopact: Nigeria's Ondo state and NNPC sign agreement on cassava ethanol production, release funds - January 19, 2007

Biopact: Crop residues: how much biomass energy is out there? - July 14, 2006

Biopact: Space-breeding and nuclear techniques to improve cassava as an energy crop - March 23, 2007

USDA ARS: Scientists Gear Up To Decode Cassava Genome - August 30, 2006.

Article continues

Centia process efficiently yields bio-gasoline similar to unleaded gasoline

Diversified Energy Corporation announced that its Centia process, during a recent demonstration, produced a bio-gasoline fuel very similar to traditional unleaded gasoline. Centia is an advanced biofuels production process that takes any renewable oil input source (e.g. oils derived from agriculture crops, algae, animal fats, waste greases, etc.) and produces transportation fuels that are 1-for-1 replacements for petroleum jet fuel, diesel, and gasoline.

Fuels produced from Centia could be operated in engines, stored, and distributed in an identical manner to fossil fuels today. The process (graph, click to enlarge) was developed in 2006 by North Carolina State University (NCSU) (previous post) and has been licensed exclusively by Diversified Energy.

The tests were conducted at NCSU using demonstration reactors, operated under temperature and pressure with a proprietary catalyst developed specifically for the Centia bio-gasoline process. Starting with an input mimicking what would have originated as soybean oil, the process generated a fuel closely resembling the carbon number profile and molecular composition of unleaded gasoline. A mass conversion efficiency in excess of 90% was achieved.

Further development, optimization, and testing activities are being planned, including an end-toend Centia system demonstration to make bio-gasoline, Jet A-1/JP-8 (jet fuel), and renewable diesel.
The team is extremely encouraged with the bio-gasoline results generated to date. With over 243 million vehicles on U.S. roads (with a majority using gasoline), finding an affordable renewable drop-in replacement would be a major achievement. While additional development work is still required, these results emphasize the potential of Centia to produce a variety of 2nd-generation biofuels. - Dr. Henry Lamb, NCSU Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, lead investigator on the bio-gasoline work
In addition to the bio-gasoline results, a number of other Centia achievements have occurred in the last year. First, the team has completed the construction and demonstration of a glycerol burner that will safely burn the glycerol byproduct from Centia and provide an energy source back into the process. This same burner could make productive use of the crude glycerol generated from traditional transesterification-based biodiesel plants:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Next, continued development work has occurred on various steps in the process to show that the fundamental chemistry works regardless of renewable oil input source. Also, a bench-scale hydrolysis reactor (used for the first step in the process) has been fabricated in preparation for the end-to-end system demonstration.

Lastly, Diversified Energy has formed relationships with other engineering companies to provide expertise in commercialization activities such as large-scale process design and construction and catalyst regeneration and recovery.

Diversified Energy is also the developer of the HydroMax gasification process. Last month, the US Department of Defense selected the company and Velocys to design a portable synthetic fuel production system based on this gasification technology and Velocys’ advanced Fischer-Tropsch approach (more here).

Diversified Energy Corporation: Centia Biofuels Process Produces Bio-gasoline Similar to Traditional Unleaded Gasoline - January 9, 2007.

Biopact: North Carolina State University develops biofuels for jet airplanes - March 02, 2007

Biopact: Diversified Energy wins DoD contract for portable renewable synfuel plant - December 12, 2007

Article continues