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    The World GTL Summit will take place between 12 – 14th May 2008 in London. Key Topics to be discussed include: the true value of a Gas-to-Liquids (GTL) projects, well-to-wheels analyses of the GTL value chain; construction, logistics and procurement challenges; the future for small-scale Fischer-Tropsch (FT) projects; Technology, economics, politics and logistics of Coal-to-Liquids (CTL); latest Biomass-to-Liquids (BTL) commercialisation initiatives. CWC Exhibitions - February 4, 2007.

    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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Saturday, February 02, 2008

Scientists unveil mechanical gas capture and storage technique based on nanovalves

A team of Canadian chemists has unveiled an innovative process for capturing and storing gases based on nano-scale molecular valves, with potential applications in biogas and hydrogen, as well as in managing greenhouse gases in industrial operations. The invention is described in a paper published in the current online version of Nature Materials.
This is a proof of concept that represents an entirely new way of storing gas, not just improving on a method that already exists. We have come up with a material that mechanically traps gas at high densities without having to use high pressures, which require special storage tanks and generate safety concerns. - George Shimizu, professor of Chemistry at University of Calgary
The "molecular nanovalves" are based on the orderly crystal structure of a barium organotrisulfonate. The researchers developed a unique solid structure with this material that is able to convert from a series of open channels to a collection of air-tight chambers. The transition happens quickly and is controlled simply by heating the material to close the nanovalves, then adding water to the substance to re-open them and release the trapped gas.

Metal–organic frameworks have demonstrated functionality stemming from both robustness and pliancy and as such, offer promise for a broad range of new materials. The flexible aspect of some of these solids is intriguing for so-called 'smart' materials in that they could structurally respond to an external stimulus.

It is on the basis of such a stimulus-responsive framework that the gas capture device was developed: an open-channel metal–organic framework that, on dehydration, shifts structure to form closed pores in the solid. This occurs through multiple single-crystal-to-single-crystal transformations such that snapshots of the mechanism of solid-state conversion can be obtained.
Notably, the gas composing the atmosphere during dehydration becomes trapped in the closed pores. On rehydration, the pores open to release the trapped gas. For this reason, the new material represents a thermally robust and porous material that is capable of dynamically capturing and releasing gas in a controlled manner:
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The researchers from the University of Calgary and the Steacie Institute for Molecular Sciences (National Research Council of Canada) say it represents a novel method of gas storage that could yield benefits for capturing, storing and transporting a range of important gases more safely and efficiently.

The paper includes video footage of the process taking place under a microscope, showing gas bubbles escaping from the crystals with the introduction of water.
The process is highly controllable and because we're not breaking any strong chemical bonds, the material is completely recyclable and can be used indefinitely. - Shimizu
The team intends to continue developing the nanovalve concept by trying to create similar structures using lighter chemicals such as sodium and lithium and structures that are capable of capturing the lightest and smallest of all gases - hydrogen and helium.

These materials could help push forward the development of hydrogen fuel cells and the creation of filters to catch and store gases like CO2 or hydrogen sulfide from industrial operations, says co-author David Cramb.

Capturing and storing (or transforming) greenhouse gases from industrial operations is becoming increasingly important for a transition towards a future low-carbon world. For biofuels in particular, capturing CO2 from the production process is important to improve the greenhouse gas balance of the fuel. The new gas capture technique also has potential applications in capturing and storing biomethane, a fuel obtained from the anaerobic digestion of organic waste.


Brett D. Chandler, Gary D. Enright, Konstantin A. Udachin, Shane Pawsey, John A. Ripmeester, David T. Cramb & George K. H. Shimizu, "Mechanical gas capture and release in a network solid via multiple single-crystalline transformations", Nature Materials, advance online publication Published online: 20 January 2008, doi:10.1038/nmat2101.

University of Calgary: Rounding up gases, nano style - February 1, 2008.

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TU Delft launches bionanoscience initiative

The Technical University of Delft, in the Netherlands, announces it is creating a new Bionanoscience department. Bionanotech concerns research at the meeting point of biology and nanotechnology and is as yet largely unexplored. It is expected to become one of the key scientific fields of the 21st century with potential applications in medicine, industrial biotechnology, biofuels, agriculture and many other fiels. Over the next decade, TU Delft is set to invest €10 million derived from strategic assets in the new Bionanoscience department, which will form part of the university’s Kavli Institute of Nanoscience. Last week, the Kavli Foundation also agreed to help support the initiative financially by donating US$5 million.

Bionanoscience is the discipline where biology and nanoscience meet. The molecular building blocks of living cells are the focus of bionanoscience. The nanotechnology toolkit enables the precise depiction, study and control of biological molecules. This creates new insights into the fundamental workings of living cells. Furthermore, it is increasingly possible to use the elements of the cell, to the extent that – in a new disruptive field like synthetic biology – gene regulation systems, artificial biomolecules and nanoparticles can be developed and applied within the cells.

The incorporation of new biological building blocks in cells is highly promising for applications in, for instance, medical science and industrial biotechnology. This link to synthetic biology makes bionanoscience highly relevant in the quest to design dedicated bioconversion organisms for the efficient production of bioproducts and biofuels (more here).

Science at the interface of nanotechnology and biotechnology is also seen as having a wide range of potential applications in agriculture and bioconversion: from nanoprocessing biomass for cellulosic ethanol, to the development of nano-catalysts and nano-channels for plant oil based fuels; from cellulose nano-crystals and fibre-enhanced bioplastics, to the design of micro-dosing technologies for nutrients, fertilisers and pesticides, to intelligent nano-bio-sensors and environmental sensors that improve agriculture and make it more sustainable (previous post).

TU Delft's Faculty of Applied Sciences’ new Bionanoscience department will explore the full spectrum from nanoscience to cell biology to synthetic biology, and as such will naturally and strategically complement the activities of the existing Nanoscience and Biotechnology departments.

Investment in biologically oriented fundamental research and its potential applications is of great strategic importance to TU Delft:
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This research field is new and has a bright future, and the research into individual cells is at the cutting edge of science and technology. Cell biology is becoming increasingly an engineering discipline: the traditional approach of the biologist is rapidly changing into that of the engineer. This is the motivation behind TU Delft’s strategic decision to add bionanoscience to its research portfolio and by doing so enhance its international position and profile.

In addition to TU Delft’s €10m contribution, last week the Kavli Foundation also decided that it is willing to donate US$5m to the bionanoscience initiative. The new department will work closely with the Nanoscience and Biotechnology departments and will ultimately be the same size as the existing departments in the Faculty of Applied Sciences. To this end, the next few years will see an intensive recruitment drive to attract about 15 top scientists to the department.

Initial steps have already been taken towards creating structural European cooperation: the prestigious European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) in Heidelberg has indicated its willingness to work together with TU Delft bionanoscientists. EMBL is a major potential partner, in particular in view of the EMBL’s expertise in the field of molecular cell biology. Further discussions on cooperation will be held with representatives from EMBL during a Kavli-EMBL workshop in Delft on 12 and 13 February.

AlphaGalileo: TU Delft launches bionanoscience initiative - February 1, 2008.

Biopact: A quick look at nanotechnology in agriculture, food and bioenergy - December 13, 2006

Biopact: Scientists create first synthetic bacterial genome - importance for biofuels - January 25, 2008

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