January 31, 2007

January 2007 Digest

The Renewable Industrial Revolution

After more than 150 years, the Industrial Revolution is overdue for a major retooling. No longer can we heedlessly combust biomass and fossil resources without consideration for the carbon emissions and potential energy that "floats out the smokestack." But what can possibly replace the status quo paradigm that we have based so much of our energy, industry, transportation, and lifestyle liberties upon?

This BIO "BlogRing" - BIOstock Blog, BIOconversion Blog, BIOoutput Blog, and the new BIOwaste Blog - is intended to help identify the multi-faceted pieces of emerging biomass technologies. - is intended to help identify the multi-faceted pieces of emerging biomass technologies. Like a Rubik's cube, the parts are inextricably linked together, but currently in disarray. By addressing each facet independently, challenging issues will become clear. By shifting perspective, new collaborative solutions can be synthesized. Not just one solution but many, because the ultimate solution for any market will depend upon the resources, ecology, and stakeholders of that market.

Here are their most significant developments of January 2007, organized by blog...

BIOstock Blog--------------
Utilizing Pine Beetle Wood Waste as BIOstock
Japanese wood-to-ethanol facility uses Arkenol process
CHINA: Choosing wood over corn for biofuels production
Low heat gasification converts woody biostock to energy
25x'25 Vision of BIOstock Supply
Food vs. Fuel: Over-reliance on Corn Raises Ag Prices
Celunol produces Ethanol from Wood using Bacteria
BIOethanol converted from pulping liquor
Food vs. Fuel? U.S. Farmers Can Produce Both
Black Liquor Gasification Technology Attracts Volvo Investment

BIOconversion Blog--------------
Biomass: Year-in-Review
Biomass Power Generation using Gasification
ALT Energy Stocks: The Future of Ethanol
FLORIDA: Cultivating a Bioconversion Industry
Low heat gasification technique to convert biostock to energy
Europe's "New Industrial Revolution"
Celunol launches commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol plant in Japan
Cellulose Ethanol Market Potential Report
ACORE: President Bush on Renewable Energy in 2007
Apollo Alliance pursues 'green-collar' jobs
Ethanol and Net Energy - EROI
The Renewable Path to Energy Security

BIOoutput Blog-----------------
FAQ: BIOoutput Blog
"Living with Ed" Begley, Jr. in Studio City
CALIFORNIA: Governor Targets Fuel Emissions
Electric cars - a boost for biofuels?
CHINA: Pollution threatens 2008 Olympics
BioButanol from Cellulosic Bioconversion
From Food to Fuel to Fashion

NEW! BIOwaste Blog-----------------
FAQ: BIOwaste Blog
Spinning “Gold” Out of Trash
Southern California Emerging Waste Technologies Forum
The Benefits of Conversion Technologies
Recycling’s “China Syndrome”
Plasma Gasification and Incineration Compared
CANADA: Municipal Solid Waste Disposal Options
CHINA: Pollution threatens 2008 Olympics
Using Algae to Recycle Flue Gas into Biofuels
U.S. D.O.E.: Strategies for Reducing Greenhouse Gases
CALIFORNIA: Air Resources Board tackles Global Warming
Impact of Global Growth on Carbon Emissions
Enforcing California's Greenhouse Gas Emissions Limits
BIOwaste Energy as Explained on the Energy Kid's Page
Expanded Recycling - a Key to Cutting Fossil Fuels and Global Warming
Mayors seek $4B to fight Energy & Environmental Challenges
MIT/PNNL Plasma Arc Waste-to-ethanol Solution

Each month we provide a similar breakdown of article titles from our favorite "companion" site - Biopact Blog. This list is kept current and is accessible in the right hand column of each of the three blogs.

Please forward a link to this digest to anyone you know who would be interested in keeping track of change that will affect us all. They can add their name to the mailing list on the BioConversion Blog.

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January 29, 2007

Black Liquor Gasification Technology Attracts Volvo Investment

Green Car Congress has run an article about an investment Volvo is making to help speed up the development of renewable fuels for the heavy vehicle industry.

They cite a Volvo Technology Transfer announcement and a report on the process developed by Chemrec AB of Sweden entitled Technical and Commercial Feasibility Study of Black Liquor Gasification with Methanol/DME Production as Motor Fuels for Automotive Uses—BLGMF.

Apparently their high-temperature gasification plant has recorded more than 1,100 hours of operating time producing syngas from black liquor.

Below is a snippet of the Green Car Congress article:

Volvo Invests in Black Liquor Gasification Company

Volvo Technology Transfer AB is investing in Chemrec AB, a company that has developed a technology for gasification of black liquor, a residual product from the pulp industry.

Chemrec has shown that there is an efficient process for converting biomass into renewable fuels. The Volvo Group has no intention of becoming a fuel supplier but wishes instead to continue to conduct engine development on a broad front. On the other hand, we do want to participate in the development of new processes for the production of alternative fuels.
—Anders Brännström, President of Volvo Technology Transfer

Using gasification rather than incineration to dispose of the black liquor creates a number of by-products including synthesis gas. With this synthesis gas it is possible to utilize known techniques to produce a range of vehicle fuels such as methanol, DME (dimethyl ether), Fischer-Tropsch synthetic diesel and hydrogen gas.

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Food vs. Fuel? U.S. Farmers Can Produce Both

The Biotechnology Industry Organization has released a study that addresses the question “Can American farmers feed the growing biofuel industry?” The report details the potential of cellulosic biomass as an energy resource and the promise of no-till cropping for greater residue collection. It also proposes guidelines and incentives to encourage farmers to produce, harvest and deliver sufficient feedstock to the growing biorefinery and biofuels industry in an economically and environmentally sustainable way.

Brent Erickson, executive vice president of BIO’s Industrial & Environmental Section, said, “Industrial biotechnology has enhanced the efficiency of biofuel production and made possible production of a range of polymers and chemicals from agricultural starting materials. The next challenge facing the biorefinery industry is producing, harvesting and delivering abundant feedstocks in an economically and environmentally sustainable fashion. This report begins to address that issue.”

Here are some statements from the report's Executive Summary:

Food Plus Fuel, Not Food or Fuel: U.S. Farmers Can Produce Both
The potential of cellulosic biomass as an energy resource and the promise of no-till cropping for greater residue collection.

In order to meet the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) goal of 60 billion gallons of ethanol production and 30 percent displacement of petroleum by 2030, new feedstock sources will be required to supplement high-efficiency production from grain. A robust sustainable supply chain for cellulosic biomass from agricultural residues and dedicated energy crops will be needed within a few years. Nearly 1 billion dry tons of cellulosic biomass could be supplied by U.S. agricultural lands in the form of crop residues and dedicated energy crops.

A growing list of companies has announced intentions to begin construction of cellulosic biorefineries. One challenge for the emerging cellulosic biomass industry is how to produce, harvest and deliver this abundant feedstock to biorefineries in an economically and environmentally sustainable way.

An environmental and economic ‘optimum’ removal will balance sufficient retention of residues to avoid erosion losses and maintain soil quality while using excess residue as biorefinery feedstocks.

Ultimately, growing demand for crop residues will likely prove a strong additional driver for the transition to more widespread no-till cropping. Once a market for agricultural residues develops, individual farmers or groups of farmers may elect to adopt no-till cropping to attract biorefineries to their area. Residue collection may also enable notill cropping in wetter regions, such as the northern Corn Belt, where excess residues currently hamper germination and reduce yields.

In addition to economic benefits for farmers, sustainable production and collection of agricultural residues has the potential to deliver substantial benefits for the environment, such as reduced runoff of soil and fertilizers. But the greatest environmental benefits may be to the global climate through reduced emissions of fossil carbon and enhanced sequestration of soil carbon.

Congress should consider adopting supportive policy measures in the 2007 Farm Bill, including:
• Funding for accelerated development and production of one-pass harvesting equipment;
• Development and distribution of simple-to-use soil carbon models to allow farmers to compute how much crop residue can be collected without degrading soil quality;
• Assistance to farmers to encourage the transition to no-till cropping for biomass production;
• Incentives for the development and expansion of short line and regional rail networks;
• Funding for demonstration projects to streamline collection, transport and storage of cellulosic crop residue feedstocks;
• Development of a system to monetize greenhouse gas credits generated by production of ethanol and other products from agricultural feedstocks; and
• Funding for programs to help farmers identify and grow the most suitable crops for both food production and cellulosic biomass production.

Cellulosic biomass from agricultural residues and dedicated energy crops represents a highly promising new source of feedstock material for the production of ethanol, renewable chemicals and a range of commercial biobased products. Residues from existing crops can be utilized to greatly expand current biofuels production. American farmers are poised to deliver.

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January 28, 2007

BIOethanol converted from pulping liquor

Just in from GRAINNET is a press release about a Wisconsin based-paper manufacturing company replacing their natural gas boilers with a biomass boiler or gasifier. The objective is to produce 20 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol per year from the paper plant's spent pulping liquor.

The technology will come from American Process Inc. who claims:

Biorefinery Initiative
American Process Inc. is active in the lignocellulosic biorefinery field. Our proprietary process AVAP (American Value Added Pulping) produces ethanol from wood in an integrated biorefinery application.

This is a good example of the kind of initiative we can expect as forestry industry companies search for ways to reduce waste, mitigate their greenhouse gas emissions, cut costs by becoming more energy self-sufficient - all while providing new revenue streams by capitalizing on the sky-rocketing demand for renewable energy and biofuels. How many WINS is that?

Here is the entire release:

American Process, Inc. to Provide Engineering Services to Flambeau River Bioenergy's 20 MMGY Cellulosic Ethanol Plant in Park Falls, WI

Atlanta, GA and PArk Falls, WI -- Flambeau River Biorefinery, LLC of Wisconsin has entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with American Process Inc. of Atlanta, GA to provide project management and engineering services for its cellulosic ethanol project at Park Falls, WI.

The new biorefinery will be constructed adjacent to the Flambeau River Papers facility in Park Falls, WI.

Flambeau River Papers, LLC makes 400 tons per day of book printing and copy grades on three paper machines.

The mill recently announced plans to replace its natural gas boilers with a biomass boiler or gasifier. This will make Flambeau River Papers the first energy independent integrated mill in North America.

The Flambeau River Biorefinery project will be the first modern U.S. based pulp mill biorefinery to produce cellulosic ethanol.

It will be designed to produce 20 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol per year from spent pulping liquor. The technology selected for this biorefinery is AVAP(TM), a patent pending process technology of American Process Inc.

This technology enables production of ethanol without putting additional pressure on the wood basket and without fossil fuel consumption.

The new biorefinery, as designed, will have a positive carbon impact of ~140,000 tons per year.

That is, it will displace carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Once in operation, it will increase employment at the Park Falls area by approximately 100 people.

A feasibility study and preliminary engineering were completed in August 2006, when Flambeau River Biorefinery, LLC applied for the Integrated Commercial Biorefinery Demonstration grant from the Department Of Energy.

The production of ethanol expected to begin as early as 2009.

The commercial production of cellulosic ethanol got a boost after Tuesday's announcements in the president's state of the union address that increased the emphasis on domestic renewable fuels production.

The Flambeau River Biorefinery project will be amongst the first industrial co-producers of pulp and ethanol from wood.

Flambeau River Biorefinery, LLC is based out of Park Falls, Wisconsin and is the owner and developer of the pulp and cellulosic ethanol facility to be constructed in Park Fall, Wisconsin.

For more information, call Ben Thorp, Flambeau River Bioenergy, at 804-873-6561

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January 20, 2007

Celunol produces Ethanol from Wood using Bacteria

Celunol Corporation out of Dedham, Massachusetts is making good on its commitment to help open commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol facilities this year using their proprietary wet biomass conversion technology.

The technology

The sugar in cellulosic biomass is locked up in the form of cellulose and hemicellulose. Cellulose contains glucose, the same type of sugar—a six-carbon (C6) sugar—that is found in cornstarch and that can be fermented to ethanol using conventional yeasts.  However, hemicellulose contains mainly non-glucose sugars—five-carbon (C5) sugars.  Conventional yeasts cannot ferment most non-glucose sugars to ethanol with commercially acceptable yields.

Celunol’s technology enables almost complete conversion of all the sugars found in cellulosic biomass.  This efficiency advantage, combined with the low input cost of cellulosic biomass, results in superior economics in the production of ethanol.

(Its) groundbreaking technology is based on the metabolic engineering of microorganisms. Its key element is a set of genetically engineered strains of Escherichia coli bacteria that are capable of fermenting into ethanol essentially all of the sugars released from many types of cellulosic biomass. This trait enables Celunol to achieve the required efficiency to make the process commercially feasible.

BioEthanol Japan Begins Production of Cellulosic Ethanol from Wood Scraps; Uses Celunol Technology

BioEthanol Japan on Tuesday became the world’s first company to produce cellulosic ethanol from wood construction waste on a commercial basis.

The plant in Osaka Prefecture has an annual capacity of 1.4 million liters (about 370,000 gallons US). In 2008, it plans to boost production to 4 million liters (1 million gallons).

BioEthanol Japan was established in 2004 by five companies, including construction firm Taisei Corp., major trading house Marubeni Corp., Daiei Inter Nature System, and beermaker Sapporo Breweries Ltd.

Marubeni is supplying the process technology, which it has licensed from US-based Celunol (earlier post), to BioEthanol Japan. Marubeni is also supplying the same technology for a wood ethanol project in Asia, and is also involved in a bioethanol project using sugar cane in Thailand run by the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO).

Celunol is a privately held company headquartered in Dedham, Massachusetts moving rapidly to commercialize its proprietary technology for producing ethanol from a wide array of cellulosic biomass feedstocks, including bagasse, agricultural waste, wood products and dedicated energy crops.

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Food vs. Fuel: Over-reliance on Corn Raises Ag Prices

Lester Brown of the Earth Policy Institute is a commited advocate for "an environmentally sustainable economy. He has written a book called Plan B 2.0: Rescuing a Planet Under Stress and a Civilization in Trouble:

Sustaining our early twenty-first century global civilization now depends on shifting to a renewable energy-based, reuse/recycle economy with a diversified transport system. Business as usual—Plan A—cannot take us where we want to go. It is time for Plan B, time to build a new economy and a new world.

Plan B has three components—(1) a restructuring of the global economy so that it can sustain civilization; (2) an all-out effort to eradicate poverty, stabilize population, and restore hope in order to elicit participation of the developing countries; and (3) a systematic effort to restore natural systems.

Brown has been getting press lately for uncovering what he sees as a gross underestimation of corn demand numbers for the ethanol industry by governmental agencies.

There is clearly a major liability whenever producers or consumers shift precipitously from one energy resource to another. Just this last spring, the decision of oil producers to switch en masse from MTBE to ethanol in large measure precipitated the gasoline price spike.

Unlike Mr. Brown, I don't agree that there needs to be a government crack-down on the licensing of ethanol plants. Let the market "separate the wheat from the chaff."

I believe that a lasting solution is best achieved by diversifying the source of feedstock from a harmful overreliance on a single biostock (corn or sugarcane) to the introduction of new biostocks such as other crops, ag waste, forestry, and urban wastes. For this to occur, we need incentives and regulatory reform for R&D and deployment of more decentralized plants - especially cellulosic ethanol pilot plant scale-ups of promising emerging technologies.

Below is Mr. Brown's alarming account of the unrealistic forecasting being promulgated by the USDA:

World May Be Facing Highest Grain Prices in History
by Lester R. Brown of the Earth Policy Institute

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) projects that distilleries will require only 60 million tons of corn from the 2008 harvest. But ...the Earth Policy Institute (EPI)...estimates that distilleries will need 139 million tons—more than twice as much. If the EPI estimate is at all close to the mark, the emerging competition between cars and people for grain will likely drive world grain prices to levels never seen before....

According to the EPI compilation, the 116 plants in production on December 31, 2006, were using 53 million tons of grain per year, while the 79 plants under construction—mostly larger facilities—will use 51 million tons of grain when they come online. Expansions of 11 existing plants will use another 8 million tons of grain (1 ton of corn = 39.4 bushels = 110 gallons of ethanol).

In addition, easily 200 ethanol plants were in the planning stage at the end of 2006. If these translate into construction starts between January 1 and June 30, 2007, at the same rate that plants did during the final six months of 2006, then an additional 3 billion gallons of capacity requiring 27 million more tons of grain will likely come online by September 1, 2008, the start of the 2008 harvest year. This raises the corn needed for distilleries to 139 million tons, half the 2008 harvest projected by USDA. This would yield nearly 15 billion gallons of ethanol, satisfying 6 percent of U.S. auto fuel needs. (And this estimate does not include any plants started after June 30, 2007, that would be finished in time to draw on the 2008 harvest.)

This unprecedented diversion of the world’s leading grain crop to the production of fuel will affect food prices everywhere. As the world corn price rises, so too do those of wheat and rice, both because of consumer substitution among grains and because the crops compete for land. Both corn and wheat futures were already trading at 10-year highs in late 2006.

With corn supplies tightening fast, rising prices will affect not only products made directly from corn, such as breakfast cereals, but also those produced using corn, including milk, eggs, cheese, butter, poultry, pork, beef, yogurt, and ice cream. The risk is that soaring food prices could generate a consumer backlash against the fuel ethanol industry.

We need to make sure that in trying to solve one problem—our dependence on imported oil—we do not create a far more serious one: chaos in the world food economy.

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January 17, 2007

25x'25 Vision of BIOstock Supply

The 25x'25 Alliance lobbies Congress on behalf of the producers of agricultural and forestry feedstock producers in the United States. Its purpose is to explore agriculture and forestry’s role in helping the nation meet its energy needs. After canvasing the opinions of hundreds of producers and dozens of agricultural associations it formulated a target:

By the year 2025, America’s farms, ranches and forests will provide 25 percent of the total energy consumed in the United States from renewable sources, while continuing to produce safe, abundant and affordable supplies of food, feed, and fiber. This goal will be met by producing bio-based fuels for transportation, harnessing wind energy, capturing and converting sunlight into energy, converting agricultural wastes and by-products into energy sources, and growing biomass for energy production.

It has a rapidly growing number of members ranging from the American Farm Bureau Federation and the National Farmers Union to the Natural Resources Defense Council and Environmental Defense. The 25x’25 vision has been endorsed by the “Big 3” U.S. automobile manufacturers, Deere & Company, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, and the National Wildlife Federation. Others include the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the Renewable Fuels Association, the National Biodiesel Board and the Biotechnology Industry Organization.

Below is some of the testimony provided to the Sentate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition & Forestry on January 10, 2007.

Total Energy Feedstock Quantities Produced

Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition & Forestry
Hearing on Agriculture and Rural America's Role in Enhancing National Energy Security


We represent a diverse collection of endorsing partners,
Our vision is a food, feed, fiber and fuel vision. With emerging technologies and appropriate policies, agriculture can produce multiple commodities. In 2005, we tested this vision with leaders representing all aspects of production agriculture and forestry. Their response was overwhelmingly positive. By the end of the year, we had secured endorsements from nearly 80 national and regional entities.

Forest residues, mill wastes and small-diameter trees from thinning forests to reduce the risk of forest fires comprise the woody biomass feedstocks evaluated in the study. The nation has over 400 million acres of privately owned forest land, with over 40 million of these acres in plantation forests. This forest resource could provide additional woody feedstocks. A follow-up study focusing on these specific feedstocks is planned.

We recognize that our partners in animal agriculture are experiencing significant price increases in many of their primary feedstocks. Even as demand for ethanol increases, the corn yield curve is increasing at an accelerated rate, due to advances in biotechnology and improved cropping practices. There are strong indications that as corn demand continues to increase, because of ethanol production, some acreage may be shifted in the short term to corn and away from other crops. Accelerated research and development is needed to help address the concerns of the livestock sector, particularly relative to the use of distiller grains and other challenges.

In the coming weeks, as you once again take up Farm Bill legislation, we urge you to ensure that the Energy Title is structured and funded commensurate with the challenge and opportunity facing the nation and our farmers, ranchers and forest land managers. In February we will be releasing the 25x’25 Implementation Plan, and we look forward to sharing these recommendations with you and the Members of this Committee.

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January 13, 2007

Low heat gasification converts woody biostock to energy

The thermal process of gasification is one way to break down the bonds of cellulosic feedstock into syngas (primarily CO and H2). Some processes, like plasma arc, uses extremely high heat to "vaporize" the biostock.

Here is an announcement from Germany about a company that has been getting very promising results from gasifying at a lower heat level. They claim, based on experiments with woody biomass, that the lower heat level enables the process to be applicable to a greater range of biostock, including wet forestry waste.

While commercial-scalability is always an issue, such advancements bring the vision of decentralized, blended feedstock, continuous flow bioconversion ever closer.

Here is a brief of the original article I found at Biopact. Thank goodness someone there can interpret German!

German consortium tests new biomass gasification technology, obtains record hydrogen yield

The 'Zentrum für Sonnenenergie- und Wasserstoff-Forschung' (ZSW) in Baden-Württemberg, Germany, announces that it has developed a new gasification technology for the production of an energy rich gas from biomass that can be used for the generation of electricy and heat, but also for the production of biohydrogen, biomethane and a series of next-generation synthetic liquid biofuels.

The innovation at the ZSW concentrates on the water vapour gasification of biomass in the presence of a CO2 absorbent. The technology is based on an innovative step in a process called 'Absorption Enhanced Reforming' (AER), which was developed in cooperation with the University of Stuttgart and other European partners. During the gasification process, solid biomass is converted into a hydrogen-rich and carbon-oxide-poor fuel gas with a low tar content by means of integrated gas conditioning. Compared to other gasification processes, the AER technique yields gas with a much higher hydrogen content; pilot tests showed yields of up to 70% hydrogen, an unprecedented level.

The integrated gasification-cogeneration plant uses woody biomass as a feedstock. But, compared to conventional gasification methods, the AER technique considerably reduces the temperatures required for the gasification of biomass. This not only reduces the amount of energy needed to drive the process, it also allows for a much broader range of feedstocks to be used, including wet biomass. Large waste-streams from the agroforestry industry now become available: from grass and straw residues with low ash melting points, which weren't useable until now, to wet wood (leaves, shoots).

January 12, 2007

CHINA: Choosing wood over corn for biofuels production

China is the elephant in just about every room but especially in the house of bioenergy. Its rapid rate of industrialization, its immense population, its consumer potential, its greenhouse gas and particulate matter emissions, etc., are all contributing to a skyrocketing demand for biofuels. How will they balance this demand with their other needs - raw materials, food, pollution control, national security, political control? The answer to this will have a major impact the our future.

Wisely, they are making great efforts to diversify their feedstock, invest in new technologies, and decentralize their power generating and fuel refining activities. Here is an abridged version of an article I found on Resource Investor's website that originated at Interfax China Commodities Dail.

PetroChina to Use Forest Bioenergy as Ethanol Feedstock Alternative
by David Harman at Interfax China Commodities Daily

Xiao Hui, an analyst at United Securities, said ethanol produced from corn can't satisfy China's demand, especially with the country's recent restrictions, and will require new methods to produce alternative energy.

"Bio-energy has vast prospects in China, as we're looking for new alternative energy when traditional energy like oil is not sufficient," Xiao added.

In a statement, PetroChina said forestry bio-energy, a key part of China alternative energy development strategy, will achieve a win-win for industry and ecology, and ease energy supply shortages.

PetroChina plans to build more than 2 million metric tonnes of forest bio-energy ethanol production capacity per year, and account for more than 40 percent of the national capacity by 2010. The company also aims to construct 200,000 metric tonnes of bio-diesel capacity per year by then.

China has more than 6 million hectares of oleaginous forest with fruit output of more than 4 million metric tonnes. China can produce up to 500,000 metric tonnes of bio-diesel if they use one third of the plants, said Wang Tao, from China Academy of Engineering in Beijing in Nov 2006.

On Wednesday, China oil major China National Offshore Oil Co. [NYSE:CEO] announced it would join palm oil producer PT SMART Tbk and a Hong Kong energy firm to invest $5.5 billion in producing biofuel in Indonesia.

SMART, state-owned CNOOC and Hong Kong Energy Ltd. will spend $5.5 billion in three phases over eight years to develop crude palm oil-based biodiesel and sugarcane- or cassava-based bioethanol.

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January 9, 2007

Japanese wood-to-ethanol facility uses Arkenol process

Among the many technologies under development for the conversion of biomass into cellulosic ethanol is concentrated acidic hydrolysis. Simply put, the process separates the biomass into two main constituents: cellulose and hemicellulose (the main building blocks of plant life) and lignin (the "glue" that holds the building blocks together), converts the cellulose and hemicellulose to sugars, ferments them and purifies the fermentation liquids into products.

Arkenol Biomass feedstocks include:
• agricultural residues (straws, corn stalks and cobs, bagasse, cotton gin trash, palm oil wastes, etc.),
• crops grown specifically for their biomass (grasses, sweet sorghum, fast growing trees, etc.),
• paper (recycled newspaper, paper mill sludge's, sorted municipal solid waste, etc.),
• wood wastes (prunings, wood chips, sawdust, etc.), and
• green wastes (leaves, grass clippings, vegetable and fruit wastes, etc.).

Izumi Arkenol Ethanol Facility
Since 2002 NEDO (New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Center) /JGC of Japan has been using Arkenol concentrated acid-hydrolysis technology to perfect a continuous stream biomass-to-ethanol conversion process (initially using wood chips). Based in Izumi, Japan the facility touts the following:

Milestones Completed
• Full integration (vs batch processing) of the Arkenol concentrated acid-hydrolysis system using waste wood chips as feedstock, operational since 2002
• Cellulose conversion efficiencies stable at 70%, with optimization to 80%
• Sulfuric acid recovery at over 97% with reconcentration to 75% in continual use since 2002 resulting in minimum make-up acid requirement
• Lignin combustion testing completed successfully verifying use of lignin as solid fuel
• JGC-developed flash fermentation offers significant operating cost savings
• Uses NREL developed rec. Z. mobilis (under Arkenol license) in fixed bed and S. cereviscae to produce ethanol at 95% and above
• Capacity of continuous ethanol production raised from 100 liters/day to a total of 300 liters/day in March 2004
• Uses first commercial membrane distillation and purification system supplied by Mitsui with significant operating cost savings over conventional (molecular sieve) technology
• Ethanol produced used by Japanese Government program for engine drivability tests and materials coupon tests

BlueFire Ethanol Identifies Southern California Landfill as Initial Location in the U.S. for Commercialization of Cellulose Ethanol Technology

BlueFire Ethanol, Inc. was established to deploy the commercially ready, patented, and proven Arkenol Technology Process of concentrated acid hydrolysis for the profitable conversion of cellulosic ("Green Waste") waste materials to ethanol.

(Bluefire plans to) build and operate an integrated biorefinery using cellulosic feedstock for the production of ethanol. The BlueFire biorefinery is proposed to be located at an existing landfill site in Southern California.

BlueFire's Southern California Biorefinery will process 700 tons of green waste and other cellulosic waste material per day into 24 million gallons of fuel grade ethanol per year with projected revenues of about $55 million and operating income of approximately $25 million per year. The proposed landfill location has been in existence since 1986 accepting approximately 10,000 tons per day of waste from Southern California Counties.

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January 4, 2007

Utilizing Pine Beetle Wood Waste as BIOstock

Forestry Dean Jack Saddler forecasts a seismic charge in agricultural and forest industries - photo by Darin Dueck

The size of the Mountain pine beetle (MPB) blight in Canada is in direct proportion to the number of trees found there. It is believed by many scientists that there is a connection between global warming and the spread of the infestation.

In an article published today by the University of British Columbia (UBC) the magnitude of the problem is pegged at about 1 Billion cubic meters of lodgepole in British Columbia by 2013. "An outbreak of this size is unprecedented in recorded history." That piece of information begs the following question - what is the total for all forests in North America?

In this article, UBC professor Jack Saddler projects that "if only 25 per cent of the MPB-killed wood was converted to ethanol, it could supply between five and ten years worth of BC’s gasoline requirements." Of even greater value of such an enterprise is the mitigation of the risk of having so much standing deadwood in our forests. How much particulate matter and CO2 will be released from fires consuming just some these trees? What impact would such fires have on industry, tourism, and population centers throughout the world?

Here are some excerpts from Professor Saddler's article...

Back to the Future: Substituting Wood for Oil with the “Forest Biorefinery”
By Jack Saddler, Professor of Forest Products Biotechnology and Dean
and Warren Mabee, Research Associate, Dept. of Wood Science, Faculty of Forestry

Over the past few years, the University of British Columbia (UBC) has been fortunate in obtaining federal and provincial support to establish a world class Clean Energy Research Centre based in the Faculty of Applied Science, while the Faculty of Forestry has received about $2.5 million to establish a Process Development Unit (PDU) to assess the potential of wood-based biofuels and chemicals. Our group also acts as the Task Leaders for the International Energy Agency's (IEA) network, coordinating the technical and policy issues influencing the global commercialization of liquid biofuels from biomass.

The ongoing Mountain pine beetle (MPB) outbreak (is) projected to cumulatively impact almost 1 billion cubic metres of lodgepole pine in the province of British Columbia by 2013. An outbreak of this size is unprecedented in recorded history. There is an accumulating surplus of standing deadwood in our forests, which increases the danger of catastrophic fires and reduces the merchantable volume of the working forest. While we will try to recover as much of the beetle-killed wood as possible in the short term for structural applications, we know that wood impacted by MPB loses its value as timber over time, and so wood that has been standing dead for extended periods cannot be processed into lumber, pulp or other advanced wood products. In the longer term, development of bioenergy applications may provide us with a cost-effective product that justifies harvesting and replanting activities. For example, if only 25 per cent of the MPB-killed wood was converted to ethanol, it could supply between five and ten years worth of BC’s gasoline requirements.

For the global forest industry, moving away from fossil fuels is an economic necessity, as volatility associated with fossil fuels has resulted in high energy costs for the industry in recent years. There is a need to extract additional values from our forest resource, and a need to accept ecosystem realities in forest industry practices. Biofuels and bioenergy, which are inherently carbon-neutral and work within the carbon cycle, represent a new model of business which all types of industry could follow.

A number of technological platforms for biofuel production exist and each should be explored to compare their effectiveness and their ability to produce value-added co-products. In all cases, the use of wood for biofuel production should be linked to bioenergy and bioproduct generation, creating a 'biorefinery' with multiple outputs. The biorefinery concept provides maximum economic and environmental returns by efficiently utilizing all components of the wood.

The size of the biofuel and bioenergy opportunity in Canada is huge and biorefinery technologies can and will bring about major changes to the sustainable energy future for our nation. These technologies have the potential to add long-term, sustainable jobs in rural, urban, and aboriginal communities. What is needed now is continued collaboration to create technical platforms for effective and sustainable use of bioenergy, and a strong political will for putting these platforms to work.

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