Archive for the ‘biofuels’ category

Greenhouse Gases – What you Don’t Know, Part 2

March 26, 2007

26 Mar 2007 – Significant GHG’s include water vapor, carbon dioxide (CO2), and methane.  Scientific data shows methane in our atmosphere has increased 149% over the past 250 years while CO2 increased 31%.  The methane is a direct result of human activity on our planet, emitting from landfills, feedlots, livestock manure, human and animal waste treatment facilities.  Efforts are underway to tap these significant sources of methane emission – for fuel.  Increased atmospheric concentrations of the GHG methane have paralleled but lagged the following human population explosion of the past 250 years.

Year vs. Human Population
1000  –  10 million
1800  –  1 Billion
1927  –  2 Billion
1960  –  3 Billion
1974  –  4 Billion
1987  –  5 Billion
1999  –  6 Billion
2010  –  ?

(It took millions of years to reach 3 Billion inhabitants; 39 years to get the second 3 Billion)

It is clear where CO2 emissions come from and what influences them, but most of us are unaware that we influence methane and water vapor emissions as well.  In a “GHG contributers” pie, CO2 is but one slice.

If severe greenhouse effects cause severe global warming, wouldn’t an intelligent solution involve reduction of ALL GHG’s, not just CO2?

For example, we can irrigate deserts.  The question is “should we?” – especially since more appropriate places exist where crops are not currently being cultivated.  Localized greenhouse effects due to increased water vapor levels in these normally arid zones contribute to planet heat gain.

In some cases, suggested solutions may not meet our scrutiny.

What percentage of the carbon in ethanol and other biofuels is pulled out of the atmosphere by plants, and what percentage is “mined” by them from the carbon-rich layers of the soil?  What percentage of additional CO2 emissions results from the fermentation process of ethanol?  How much water is “mined” from the ground to produce ethanol?  How much energy is consumed to pump and process the water?  How much fossil fuel is required to cook the plant material when making ethanol?  What additional percentage of CO2 comes from this source?  Is this sustainable, or could we actually reduce overall CO2 emissions by fueling with natural gas instead of ethanol?

For this reason, ethanol may only be a “Bandaid”, but yet help transition us to a multi-faceted, sustainable energy solution such as solar-produced hydrogen.

The effects of our human populations weigh heavily on our environment.  Elimination and reduction of unnecessary and wasteful consumption of resources and products are ways we, as individuals, can address the interconnected issues of environmental sustainability.  As long as we are willing to make the effort.  I will; will you?

Looking out for the planet,

– Lars

Read Part 1 of the article


Global Demand for Renewable Energy Increasing

February 20, 2007

19 Feb 2007 – Remote generation is emerging as a trend in energy.  Whether it be from wind, solar, geothermal, biomass, biofuel, digester methane, biofuel, or thermal heat recovery – it looks to become a significant factor in energy production.

Now Johnson Controls, in a news release from their website today has announced an expansion in their business in designing, installing, and servicing these types of renewable energy sources.

Johnson Controls is just one example, but many more companies are expected to shift and expand business directions in order to take advantage of the emerging renewable market.

U.S. Moving Away from Corn-based Ethanol Support

February 8, 2007

7 Feb 2007 – The United States Department of Agriculture is directing more funds instead toward research and development activities  to improve conversion technologies for cellulosic ethanol.

$28 million is slated for research into higher efficiency and conversion of the cell walls of energy crops and crop residues into biofuels.  Another $10 million will support conversion of agricultural and forestry biomass into renewable fuels.  Read the USDA FY 2008 Ag Budget News Release for more info.

Food or Fuel blog entry.

Food or Fuel

February 5, 2007

Missouri River, Feb 4, 2007.  The United States is diverting ever-increasing portions of their foodstocks to motor vehicle fuel production.  Will there be enough food left to feed the rest of the world?

Divide the United States in half along the Missouri River.  If you look east you will see primarily biodiesel plants.  Look west and you see mostly corn-based ethanol facilities.

Current Biodiesel plants:  580 million gallons

According to the U.S. National Biodiesel Board, there are currently 86 biodiesel plants operating in the United States.  Seventy percent of these facilities are east of the Missouri River.  These eighty-six facilities have the capacity to produce 580 million gallons of biodiesel fuel per year.

Under Construction:  1400 million gallons

Interestingly, there are 78 biodiesel plants under construction or expansion, and two-thirds of them will be built east of the Missouri River.  Newer facilities are typically larger than existing facilities.  Annual production capacity for plants under construction or expansion is 1.4 Billion gallons per year, so demand for biodiesel raw materials will triple when these go online.

Raw Materials

Just what do these biodiesel plants use for raw materials?  The larger plants historically have used soybean oil.  But in April 2007 in Velva, ND a large, 85 million gallon plant using canola oil – is slated to go online.  Some biodiesel production facilities can use multiple feedstocks such as soybean or canola oil, recycled cooking oil, poultry fat, trap grease, cottonseed oil, or tallow.

E Diesel

E diesel is similar to biodiesel, in that it is a blended fuel product made from diesel fuel and up to 15% added ethanol.  It has been shown to burn cleaner and reduce particulate emissions.  Check it out for yourself on the E Diesel page of the official Government website for the Nebraska Ethanol Board.

In the United States, ethanol production facilities use enormous amounts of corn as feedstock.  A future article will discuss ethanol production facilities in the United States.

Ethanol Production without Fossil Fuels

January 25, 2007

Jan. 24, 2007 Mead, Nebraska – This $75 million E3 BioFuels plant is the first of its kind in the world.  It operates a patented, closed loop process, eliminating the need for fossil fuels in producing ethanol.

It comes as no surprise that this 24 million gallon per year corn-based ethanol refinery is located in the heart of the cornbelt:  Nebraska, the home of the Cornhuskers, and the second leading state in ethanol production.

What makes this facility special is its closed-loop, self-sufficient operation.  8 million bushels of corn per year is transported to the biorefinery and fed into the ethanol-making process.  A high-protein byproduct, wet distillers grain, is fed to the 28,000 beef cattle in the on-site feedlot.  228,000 tons of cattle manure per year is transported to an anaerobic digester where it decomposes, generating methane.  This methane is captured and burned as fuel to cook the corn in the ethanol process.

The entire operation is environmentally friendly and efficient.  As a standalone process, a feedlot would run the risk of polluting watersheds.  But not here.  Likewise, methane gas from manure normally just drifts up into the atmosphere.  As a greenhouse gas though, methane is 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide.  Typically, additional energy would be spent drying wet distillers grain to prevent spoilage and to facilitate transportation.  But with cattle just next door, this energy can also be conserved.  Overall, E3’s synergistic design turns each potential cost or hazard into an environmental and economic opportunity.

Click here to see the plant layout:

E3 BioFuels plans to build 15 plants within the next 5 years.

President Bush State of the Union address tonight: ENERGY

January 23, 2007

Jan 23, 2007 – There may be some surprises in tonight’s State of the Union address when President George W. Bush speaks of the many energy concerns of the United States of America.

Motor Vehicle Fuels

He will begin by reiterating the 2006 goal of energy dependence of the United States from Middle Eastern and foreign oil while pointing to those oil countries with increasing animosity towards the U.S., namely Iran and Venezuela.  He will continue by applauding industry efforts made in motor vehicle biofuel producton, such as plant-derived ethanol and biodiesel.  He will call for more biofuel facility development and likely will propose funding of energy technology and tax incentives for such purposes.

The President will explain the need for increased manufacturing of hybrids, flex-fuel and higher fuel economy motor vehicles:  cars, but especially trucks and SUV’s.  R&D for hydrogen storage and fuel cell technology may also appear in his talk.

Electrical Grid

In discussing U.S. electrical energy generation, President Bush may surprise the nation by connecting for the first time – atmospheric greenhouse gas buildup and global warming.  The recent global warming trend, which some scientists fear is reaching a “tipping point” from which this planet may not recover, is thought to be caused in part by increased levels of carbon dioxide, methane, and water vapor in the atmosphere.

Mr. Bush will logically proceed into a recommendation for development of clean nuclear power plants in America – to lessen emissions of carbon dioxide, to support the electrical grid and to preclude future brown outs.  Clean coal and coal gasification, plus wind, solar and other renewables are also probable topics.

Stay tuned to your local news stations tonight for some broad-based and bold initiatives by the President of the United States.

Energy Insanity – Biofuels for electrical powerplants!

January 12, 2007

 “As far as we know, there is not another utility combustion turbine electricity generator using or planning to use biofuels in the United States, and probably the world,” said Tom Joaquin, HECO senior vice president of operations.

Tom, there is a good reason for that.

More and more cities, states, and countries are proudly proclaiming their conversion to biofuels.  We should applaud and support the commitment to use biofuels in our motor vehicles.

But common sense must rein, folks.

Today I have a link for you that shows how we can be ignorant in our exuberance to pursue green technologies.  If I read the following press release too quickly, then I am the ignorant one and certainly deserve your harsh beating with the big stick that I wield.   You be the judge.

But folks, if you get nothing else from today’s thoughts, at least weigh the logic of the following:

Remember the distinction between ideal fuels for motor vehicles vs. land-based energy uses.  It takes large quantities of fossil fuel or natural gas to heat up and convert crops to biofuel, many times consuming one energy (natural gas) to create a second but more useable energy (biofuel).  If ethanol is the interim product, extremely large quantities of carbon dioxide are released to the environment during its production.  Now burn the biofuel to make steam to drive turbines to produce electrical power.  This generates more carbon dioxide with resulting energy losses for each subsequent energy burn/conversion.

Look at the extreme amounts of energy and carbon dioxide involved with this idea.  (Heck I’m spewing more than my fair share just thinking about it.)  Lots less carbon dioxide would be expelled to the atmosphere by burning a primary fuel such as clean natural gas – to generate electrical power directly!

If Al Gore’s movie has you concerned with carbon dioxide levels in our atmosphere, then you should be concerned about this foolish idea.  There are no Darwin Awards for businesses, only Chapter 7’s, 11’s and legacies to the citizens.  It is just wrong.

BTW, I plan to tell them so.  If you want to appeal to them as well, sign on, below.  Thanks for your consideration.  And keep looking out for the planet.

Reduce, reuse, recycle,


Here it is, but what’s with the long URL?

URL got your tongue?  Then go here and click on “News Releases”:

and look up:  HECO Issues RFP to Find Supplier of Biofuel–Ethanol or Biodiesel–to Fuel New Oahu Generating Unit (12/26/06)

Why don’t they just geothermally tap a volcano or two?  Plenty of decent CHP systems out there.  Or spend their grant money requesting a working hydrogen generator that uses solar energy.  Besides, the used oil from all the Chinese restaurants in the Western World couldn’t satisfy the oil demands of this thirsty, but dinky powerplant.