backtop


Print 50 comment(s) - last by ZmaxDP.. on Jul 13 at 1:18 PM


Amyris's biofuel plant in Brazil is one of the largest test deployments of sugar-based microbial biodiesel to date. It should be an important test of the new technology's commercial potential.  (Source: Wired.com)
Will company offer the best biofuel yet, or just another pricey alternative?

A new kind of fuel production has launched in Brazil.  Unlike ethanol plants in the country which turn sugarcane to ethanol or traditional oil refining, the new plant produces the equivalent of diesel fuel formed from the waste byproducts of microbes that "eat" and reprocess the sugar.  Built by Emeryville, CA-based Amryis Technologies, the plant aims to produce 10,000 gallons a year (approximately 238 barrels).

While biodiesel and biofuels are not exactly a new concept, this is one of the largest test deployments to date of sugar based biodiesel, particularly of a microbial scheme (most biodiesel is formed from plant oils, such as palm oil).  The plant aims to produce, with government regulation and carbon taxes, fuel at $60/barrel (approximately $1.43 per gallon).  This indicates that their technology may be nearing cost competitiveness with cellulosic ethanol manufacturers -- the best of which, Coskata, claims to be on the verge of $1.00 per gallon ethanol.

Advantages of the cellulosic ethanol include being able to come from waste materials unlike the biodiesel that’s formed from sugar crops.  However, the biodiesel packs more energy per gallon and the microbes could eventually be genetically engineered to process cellulose as well.  It’s hard to tell which solution costs less, given that the target costs for the biodiesel are post-subsidy, while Coskata's targets are pre-subsidy.

The plant will go online in 2011 and should looks to sell its high-grade fuel products primarily overseas as Brazil doesn't use much diesel fuel.

One key advantage of the biodiesel is like ethanol it lacks the harmful impurities found in standard oil.  The fuel features less sulfur, less carbon monoxide, and fewer nitrogen oxides, particulates, and other emissions, compared with petroleum diesel.  States Neil Renninger, founder and chief technical officer of Amyris, "The greenness of the fuel might drive a few people to it, but we need to be cost competitive."

The plant will use existing sugarcane delivery infrastructure.  However, it faces tough competition.  Sugarcane ethanol production is much more energy efficient than that of its American brethren, corn ethanol.  Sugarcane waste is burned and the production consumes less electricity, leading to a net electricity surplus.  Corn ethanol, meanwhile consumes more electricity to produce than it generates.  Lester Lave, a professor of economics and co-director of the Electricity Industry Center at Carnegie Mellon University, in Pittsburgh, praises sugarcane ethanol, stating, "The net energy invested in sugarcane ethanol is not very high and leads to huge gains relative to the gain from corn."

However, sugarcane is unfortunately limited by geography, as it grows best in tropical regions which are warmer and receive more sunlight.  A few states -- Hawaii, Louisiana, and Florida do have conditions conducive to moderate sugarcane yields.  A corn-sugarcane hybrid called corncane might be viable across a broader range of states, though, while retaining much of sugarcane's benefits.



Comments     Threshold


This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

They should stick to Rum
By pequin06 on 7/10/2009 9:20:00 AM , Rating: -1
quote:
Foolish or impractical; senseless


Using food supplies as fuel meets the definition of crazy.
I can't wait for this green fad to go away.




RE: They should stick to Rum
By MrPoletski on 7/10/2009 9:43:32 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
Using food supplies as fuel meets the definition of crazy.


where do you suggest we get fuel from instead then? and I mean get it in a reasonable timeframe at a reasonable cost.


RE: They should stick to Rum
By Motoman on 7/10/09, Rating: -1
RE: They should stick to Rum
By Danger D on 7/10/2009 11:06:45 AM , Rating: 2
Corn right now is about 6 cents per pound. A pound of corn flakes is around $4. Do the math. Biofuels is not what's driving up your food prices. Greedy food companies and an exploding (population-wise, I mean) middle class in China and India are the main reasons.

Biofuels have a lot of potential, especially if America bucks up and shares seed, fertilizer and better ag practices with third-world farmers so they can grow their own food and biofuels instead of relying on aid from us.


RE: They should stick to Rum
By Danger D on 7/10/2009 11:09:11 AM , Rating: 1
Not that I blame the third-world countries for taking aid. The reason they're in this mess is because for decades America depressed crop prices through crop supports and subsidies to the point where prices were below the cost of production.

We priced poor farmers in other countries right out of the market and made them dependent on the developed world.


RE: They should stick to Rum
By Spuke on 7/10/2009 1:00:47 PM , Rating: 2
I'm still trying to figure out why we import food.


RE: They should stick to Rum
By menace on 7/10/2009 2:06:59 PM , Rating: 1
quote:
Corn right now is about 6 cents per pound. A pound of corn flakes is around $4. Do the math.

Yeah but corn (the type grown for human consumption) is like 95% water and has a big inedible cob in the middle. After you remove the inedible parts and cook it, I wouldn't be surpised if it takes 20 lbs of corn to make 1 lb of flakes. Also I'm guessing the "6 cents a pound" variety is common feed corn which is cheaper to produce. To "do the math" you first have to understand all your variables and coefficients.


RE: They should stick to Rum
By Danger D on 7/10/2009 2:33:09 PM , Rating: 2
A bushel is just corn, no cobs. One bushel = 56 pounds of feed corn. A bushel is about $3.50 right now.

Feed corn (not the kind we get in a can or at BBQs, but the kind cows eat) is what is used to make ethanol. The starch goes to ethanol, the protein goes into dried distillers grains, which are used as feed.


RE: They should stick to Rum
By Motoman on 7/10/09, Rating: -1
RE: They should stick to Rum
By pequin06 on 7/10/09, Rating: -1
RE: They should stick to Rum
By pequin06 on 7/10/09, Rating: -1
RE: They should stick to Rum
By FITCamaro on 7/10/2009 11:55:19 AM , Rating: 2
Algae? Just a thought.


RE: They should stick to Rum
By saiga6360 on 7/10/2009 12:04:06 PM , Rating: 2
You'd rather have diabetes then?


RE: They should stick to Rum
By pequin06 on 7/10/2009 12:17:23 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
You'd rather have diabetes then?


You'd rather have dirty water?


RE: They should stick to Rum
By Spuke on 7/10/2009 1:01:40 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
You'd rather have dirty water?
I'll take the dirty water thanks.


RE: They should stick to Rum
By Iaiken on 7/10/2009 1:31:53 PM , Rating: 1
Water is going to be the oil of the 21st century... :P


RE: They should stick to Rum
By FITCamaro on 7/10/2009 9:40:05 PM , Rating: 2
Water is the most abundant resource on the planet. And it isn't THAT hard to make it drinkable.


RE: They should stick to Rum
By werfu on 7/10/2009 1:40:00 PM , Rating: 1
You didn't understood the article didn't you? It's made from sugercane waste. Sugarcane a partially harvested, only the top being cut and the bottom of the cane stay there. Usually cane farmers burn their field once the cane as been harvested. Ashes act as a fertilizer. The edible sugarcane part itself IS used for food production.

Cellulosic ethnol production can use waste from various industrial or farming activities. Here in Canada we're investigating cellulosic ethanol to use logging waste. Cellulosic ethanol could also be produced from any other plant waste, as it use cellulose which is the basic plant structure (like our cell). Now, sugercane is more efficient because it contains more sugar, but nothing is stopping us from using other byproduct. It could even use our own veggy wastes.


RE: They should stick to Rum
By menace on 7/10/2009 2:19:17 PM , Rating: 2
I don't believe you understood the article yourself. Maybe you misread the following:

quote:
Advantages of the cellulosic ethanol include being able to come from waste materials unlike the biodiesel that’s formed from sugar crops. However, the biodiesel packs more energy per gallon and the microbes could eventually be genetically engineered to process cellulose as well.


Here they are talking about cellulosic alcohol production using waste materials not biodiesel derived from microbial processing. Nowhere does it say they are using any throwaway byproduct of sugarcane farming in this process.


RE: They should stick to Rum
By pequin06 on 7/10/2009 3:33:18 PM , Rating: 1
quote:
You didn't understood the article didn't you? It's made from sugercane waste.


Yep, just like Rum.

Cellulosic ethanol is basically anything that doesn't use corn.
Big whoop!

BTW, I was a big backer of ethanol myself before it was fashionable but when someone takes an honest look at ethanol they wouldn't back it anymore.
It's all about the money.


"So if you want to save the planet, feel free to drive your Hummer. Just avoid the drive thru line at McDonalds." -- Michael Asher














botimage
Copyright 2014 DailyTech LLC. - RSS Feed | Advertise | About Us | Ethics | FAQ | Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information | Kristopher Kubicki