Friday, June 7, 2013

Top 12 Ways to Transform Biofuels Using Materials Already Around Us

Top 12 Ways to Transform Biofuels Using Materials Already Around Us

June 04, 2013
Jim Lane, Biofuels Digest 
Great ideas abound for new feedstocks and novel infrastructure. We admire so many of them: jatropha, carinata, switchgrass, sweet sorghum, blender pumps, systems-at-sea, and so much more.

But what about technologies that bolt-on a different processing unit, but keeps everything else the same. Or uses an abundant, odious and low cost feedstock?

That’s a frugal fuel. In these nefarious economic times, why not make do with what’s already in place?

Here are our Top 12 ways to transform biofuels using materials — usually waste by-products, or lower-value materials — already around us.

12. Glycerine

There’s a small market for glycerin as a building block material, but it has been overwhelmed by the supply coming from some biodiesel operators who have been producing a pure enough glycerine for sale into the industrial glycerin market — many biodiesel operators haven’t been able to produce it at sufficient purity and it has been distributed at very little value into the feed market, or even landfilled.

Then, along come numerous technologies aimed at converting glycerine from a low-value product into a high-value target material, such as isoprene (the main ingredient in synthetic rubber).


In Spain, Universitat Juame researchers have developed a process to turn biodiesel waste into yet more valuable products. Any industrial process produces waste – including biodiesel. One such product is glycerine. The UJI Organic Synthesis research group has demonstrated a process to turn glycerine into glycerol carbonate which is used for processes involved in a range of products from cosmetics to plastics.

Then, there’s GlycosBio — they’ve set up shop in Malaysia to produce Bio-SIM (Bio-based Synthetic Isoprene Monomer), a specialty chemical that is in short supply globally with cost and yield advantages over petroleum based Isoprene and Isoprene from sugar based feedstocks.


11. Milo and biogas

Biogas is everywhere – biomethane is something that a lot of farmers are looking into using, after aggregating from animal wastes on the farm. But the value is low, if simply burned to generate power, and the economics are tough. Along come companies like Aemetis who have combined biogas with a switch from US corn to Argentine milo. As of Q4 2012, import costs for grain sorghum from Argentina – feasible for ethanol plants with access to deepwater ports – is running $0.90 per bushel less than corn.

A reference (100 million gallon) ethanol plant would require around 36 million bushels of sorghum, at full capacity. Savings vs corn? $33 million, or $0.33 per gallon.

To qualify as an advanced biofuel, fuels have to be made from qualifying feedstocks and achieve a 50% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared to conventional fuels. To date, with next-gen capacity just now being built, the winners in qualifying for Advanced Biofuels RIN’s have been biodiesel plants and imported Brazilian ethanol.

Now, those RINs are worth $0.40 each, compared to a nominal $0.03 for a corn ethanol RIN in a normal market (there’s been some disruption there in the past 8 months, but historically this has been the value). For a reference sized (100 million gallon) ethanol plant, the difference in value is around $37 million, or $0.37 per gallon. Now, biogas as we said isn’t cheap, but for the reference plant in our example, the net benefit is currently at $57 million per plant, per year — pure operating cash flow. Or $0.57 per gallon.

Comment by Anumakonda Jagadeesh

In the debate Food Vs Fuel the alternative is to grow plants with multiple uses which have care-free growth.
Yet another option is Biofuel from Agave and Biogas from Opuntia and power generation. Agave is a care – free growth plant which can be grown in millions of hectares of waste land and which produces Biofuel. Already Mexico is using it. Another Care free growth plant is Opuntia which generates Biogas. Biogas can be input to generate power through Biogas Generators. Biogas generators of MW size are available from China. Yet another option is Water Hyacinth for biogas. Water Hyacinth along with animal dung can produce biogas on a large scale and then power. In Kolleru lake in Godavari and Krishna Delta in Andhra Pradesh in India it is available in 308 Sq. Km for nearly 8 months in a year.

Crassulacean acid metabolism, also known as CAM photosynthesis, is a carbon fixationpathway that evolved in some plants as an adaptation to arid conditions In a plant using full CAM, the stomata in the leaves remain shut during the day to reduce evapotranspiration, but open at night to collect carbon dioxide (CO2). The CO2 is stored as the four-carbon acidmalate, and then used during photosynthesis during the day. The pre-collected CO2 is concentrated around the enzyme RuBisCO, increasing photosynthetic efficiency. Agave and Opuntia are the best CAM Plants.

Researchers find that the agave plant will serve as a biofuel crop to produce ethanol.

"Agave has a huge advantage, as it can grow in marginal or desert land, not on arable land," and therefore would not displace food crops, says Oliver Inderwildi, at the University of Oxford.The majority of ethanol produced in the world is still derived from food crops such as corn and sugarcane. Speculators have argued for years now that using such crops for fuel can drive up the price of food.

Agave, however, can grow on hot dry land with a high-yield and low environmental impact. The researchers proposing the plant’s use have modeled a facility in Jalisco, Mexico, which converts the high sugar content of the plant into ethanol.

Agave (Americana),Sisal Agave is a multiple use plant which has 10% fermentable sugars and rich in cellulose. The fibre is used in rope making and also for weaving clothes in Philippines under the trade name DIP-DRY. In Brazil a paper factory runs on sisal as input. A Steroid HECOGENIN is extracted from this plant leaves. Since on putrification,it produces methane gas, it can be cut and used as input in biogas plants. Also in Kenya and Lesotho dried pieces of Agave are mixed with concrete since it has fibres which act as binding.

Here is an excellent analysis on Agave as a biofuel:

Agave shows potential as biofuel feedstock, Checkbiotech, By Anna Austin, February 11, 2010:

"Mounting interest in agave as a biofuel feedstock could jump-start the Mexican biofuels industry, according to agave expert Arturo Valez Jimenez.

Agave thrives in Mexico and is traditionally used to produce liquors such as tequila. It has a rosette of thick fleshy leaves, each of which usually end in a sharp point with a spiny margin. Commonly mistaken for cacti, the agave plant is actually closely related to the lily and amaryllis families. The plants use water and soil more efficiently than any other plant or tree in the world, Arturo said. "This is a scientific fact—they don't require watering or fertilizing and they can absorb carbon dioxide during the night," he said. The plants annually produce up to 500 metric tons of biomass per hectare, he added.



Agave fibers contain 65 percent to 78 percent cellulose, according to Jimenez. "With new technology, it is possible to breakdown over 90 percent of the cellulose and hemicellulose structures, which will increase ethanol and other liquid biofuels from lignocellulosic biomass drastically," he said. "Mascoma is assessing such technology." Another plant of great use is OPUNTIA for biogas production.

The cultivation of nopal((OPUNTIA FICUS-INDICA), a type of cactus, is one of the most important in Mexico. According to Rodrigo Morales, Chilean engineer, Wayland biomass, installed on Mexican soil, “allows you to generate inexhaustible clean energy.” Through the production of biogas, it can serve as a raw material more efficiently, by example and by comparison with jatropha.


Wayland Morales, head of Elqui Global Energy argues that “an acre of cactus produces 43 200 m3 of biogas or the equivalent in energy terms to 25,000 liters of diesel.” With the same land planted with jatropha, he says, it will produce 3,000 liters of biodiesel.

Another of the peculiarities of the nopal is biogas which is the same molecule of natural gas, but its production does not require machines or devices of high complexity. Also, unlike natural gas, contains primarily methane (75%), carbon dioxide (24%) and other minor gases (1%), “so it has advantages from the technical point of view since it has the same capacity heat but is cleaner, “he says, and as sum datum its calorific value is 7,000 kcal/m3.

In the fields where Jatropha is being grown,Agave and Opuntia can be grown as Intercropping.

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