Farm and Municipal Waste to Bio Jet Fuel

Dean Sigler Biofuels, Diesel Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 1 Comment

United Airlines has united with two partners, AltAir Fuels and Fulcrum BioEnergy, to fly on sustainable alternative fuels.  Think of each flight being cleaner, using what formerly were unusable, land-fill-bound waste products, and certain to make United more sustainable, and flights less costly. Earlier efforts at producing biofuels relied on converting food, such as corn, into fuel, an uneconomical process that raised food prices and often used more energy than it produced in ethanol, for instance.  This was not sustainable and didn’t allow economic benefits for its users, so fell into disrepute quickly. Organizations like the United Nations spoke out against taking grains from the poorest among us to make fuels for jetsetters.  In their 2009 report, UNEP, the United Nations Environment Program, calculated that up to 34 percent of arable land would be required to produce the fuel necessary to maintain current     Powerful firms sometimes take farms from poor communities in third-world countries to produce biofuels, adding human misery …

Desert + Salt Water = Jet Fuel

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Masdar, the United Arab Emirate’s clean energy development program, is hosting Solar Impulse as it prepares for its around-the-world flight.  Beyond that, Masdar comprises five business units: Masdar Capital, Masdar Clean Energy, Special Projects, Masdar City and Free Zone, and Masdar Institute, “an independent, research-driven graduate university. Masdar Institute of Science and Technology is a multi-faceted research center, which although small at this time, seems to be fairly prodigious in the output of patents, patents pending and academic papers. The Institute heads a program to use “coastal seawater to raise fish and shrimp for food, whose nutrient-rich wastewater then fertilizes oil-rich halophyte plants that can be harvested for aviation biofuel production.”  Halophytes, as those who’ve listened to or read Dennis Bushnell’s comments will know, thrive in harsh conditions including a diet of saltwater. Working with a consortium including Masdar, Etihad Airways, Boeing and Honeywell UOP, and later joined by aerospace companies Safran and GE, Masdar Institute’s initial laboratory-scale demonstrations could …

Boeing and Embraer Embrace on Biofuels

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Brazil may become a central research and manufacturing site for biofuels, with Boeing and Embraer opening a joint sustainable biofuel research center, something that will rely on Brazil’s fertile land to supply non-food plants with which to make jet fuel.  Working in the Boeing-Embraer Joint Research Center in the São José dos Campos Technology Park, opened in January 2014, the companies are continuing to “focus on technologies that address gaps in creating a sustainable aviation biofuel industry in Brazil, such as feedstock production, techno-economic analysis, economic viability studies and processing technologies.” Boeing’s Research & Technology-Brazil (BR&T-Brazil) Center, one of the company’s six international advanced research centers, leads the collaboration with Embraer and works with Brazil’s research-and-development community “to grow Brazil’s capabilities and meet the country’s goals for economic and technology development while supporting the creation of innovative and affordable technologies for Boeing’s business units.” This is one of several biofuel development projects in the U. S., the Middle East, Africa, …

Copper Catalyst Makes Room Temperature Ethanol

Dean Sigler Diesel Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation Leave a Comment

We’ve written a great deal about ways of making so-called “bio-fuels,” those ethanol, methanol and even diesel substitutes that avoid the high toxicity and environmental harm of fossil fuels.  Often though, these substitutes require the diversion of foodstocks or the use of exotic catalysts and high energy inputs to trigger the appropriate mechanisms. Scientists as Stanford University may have found a way to use copper, though, to make ethanol without corn or other plants.  They’ve “created a copper-based catalyst that produces large quantities of ethanol from carbon monoxide gas at room temperature.” Matthew W. Kanan, Assistant Professor at Stanford, has been working toward this kind of biofuel production for many years.  His University profile contains the following: “The ability to convert H2O, CO2 and N2 into fuels using renewable energy inputs could in principle provide a viable alternative to the current dominance of fossil fuels. This prospect faces great technical challenges, the foremost of which is the lack of efficient …

Making Algae More Productive

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The Blog has looked at several algae-to-fuel manufacturers in its postings, and the U. S. Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, Colorado adds its name to that growing list, but not in the usual commercial way.   NREL claims to have developed a “unique bioreactor,” otherwise known as their Simulated Algal Growth Environment (SAGE) reactor, which controls light and temperature to test different strains of algae and simulates various locations in the United States where particular spores would be most prolific. NREL’s hope is to use SAGE to “produce algae that could someday compete with renewable diesel, cellulosic ethanol, and other petroleum alternatives as transportation fuel.” “It does so by revealing the intricate biochemical rearrangements that algae undergo when grown in different locations in the United States. The bioreactor has also demonstrated that algae grown in ideal climates and given the optimal amount of nutrients can produce not just lipids, but proteins and carbohydrates that can be …

Cost Competitive, Sustainable, and Boeing Likes It

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Green Air Online reports on “what could be a significant breakthrough,” Boeing’s identification of “green” Diesel as a new source of sustainable aviation biofuel.  Green Diesel is similar chemically to current aviation biofuels, emits “at least” 50 percent less carbon dioxide than fossil fuel over its life cycle, and could be blended directly with existing fossil-based jet fuels.  Similar to petrodiesel, this fuel has some specific definitions that distinguish it from “biodiesel.” According to Advanced Biofuels USA, “Renewable Diesel, often called “green diesel” or “second generation diesel,” refers to petrodiesel-like fuels derived from biological sources that are chemically not esters and thus distinct from biodiesel.  Renewable diesel is chemically the same as petrodiesel, but made of recently living biomass. “…Renewable diesel is chemically similar to petrodiesel… The term “renewable diesel” refers to all diesel fuels derived from biomass that meet the standards of ASTM D975 and are not mono-alkyl esters.”  The last line makes your editor again regretful he did …

Biofuels That Avoid Harm to the Food Supply

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Biofuel manufacturers seem to be making great progress in the application of their combustibles to aircraft use, while gaining momentum in the amounts produced.  Whether these will be economically and environmentally viable remains to be seen, but early indicators show hopeful signs. Biofuels have several advantages over the ancient plant life that has been squeezed for millions of years to give us eons-old pollution.  They burn cleaner, can be cheaper to produce, and with distributed growth and refinery centers, could reduce the cost and hazards of distribution. Several issues surround the new fuels, though, including the food-versus-energy debate.  The Environmental Working Group (EWG), for instance, has endorsed two widely disparate politicians for a bi-partisan attempt to mitigate problems associated with channeling food stocks into fuel feedstocks. “EWG commends Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) for taking action to address the environmental, economic and consumer harms that result from diverting corn for transportation fuel. The Corn Ethanol Mandate Elimination Act …

Engineered E. coli Mass Produce Key Precursors to Potent Biofuels

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Hearing of E. coli outbreaks usually makes us reconsider our fast-food dining choices.  Other possible, friendlier uses for the pesky bacteria, though, could show the way to clean energy production, making a “gasoline-like biofuel,” according to Harvard Medical School and Wyss Institute researchers. According to Harvard’s news release, “New lines of engineered bacteria can tailor-make key precursors of high-octane biofuels that could one day replace gasoline, scientists at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University and the Department of Systems Biology at Harvard Medical School report in the June 24 online edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “’The big contribution is that we were able to program cells to make specific fuel precursors,’ said Pamela Silver, Ph.D., a Wyss Institute Core Faculty member, Professor of Systems Biology at Harvard Medical School, and senior author of the study.” Gasoline has yet to be knocked off its top-fuel pedestal because synthetic, cleaner alternatives are often less powerful.  …

Carbon Free or Carbon Neutral – Could New Fuels Save Us?

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Three companies – Air Fuel Synthesis, Cool Planet Energy Systems, and Joule Unlimited – are generating comment and controversy for their approaches to creating different kinds of biofuels. They all promise extreme reductions in carbon emissions and lower prices at the pump. Their output could use existing infrastructure for delivery, making them all desire able commodities if their promise can be achieved. Cool Planet  Cool Planet Energy Systems claims to be, “The only company producing carbon negative fuels using plant photosynthesis to remove CO2 from our atmosphere.” Its now patented approach recycles its solid products back into the soil, and using more of the liquid fuel products cleans the air more quickly, according to the firm’s web site. The company’s process divides its output from plant-based sources into liquid fuel and bio-char, an activated carbon that can be used as a coal substitute or fertilizer and soil conditioner, in which instance it acts as a carbon sequestration material, reducing the …

Michelin Promotes Green Driving

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Michelin, the French tire people, have made available an informative series of booklets involving green transportation. Let’s drive electric! Electric and Hybrid Vehicles Let’s drive bio! What biofuels for what uses tomorrow? More air! Reduce CO2 emissions in road transport Let’s drive smartly! Connected vehicles and Intelligent transport systems Let’s drive safely! The new stakes for road safety Despite the exclamation point-laden titles and a general predilection toward electric or biofuel technology, the books tend to be even-handed examinations of real world costs and limitations of all types of “green” vehicles.   This editor recommends them for at least confronting issues that will be a continuing source of interest and concern for all of us.