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

RE: Can that be right?
By mmcdonalataocdotgov on 7/10/2009 11:30:00 AM , Rating: 0
I read the article. How can 238 barrels test anything? The idea is to make a useful alternative to oil, but if you can't ramp up production beyond 10K barrels per year, how can you test the viability and scalability of the production methods? Brazil currently produces 6.5 BILLION gallons of ethanol in a year. How does 10K gallons of biodiesel do anything?


RE: Can that be right?
By knutjb on 7/10/2009 2:31:10 PM , Rating: 2
IT'S A TEST PLANT! They are starting with cane based materials and are working on cellulose as well, though down the road. R&D, then if proven viable, industrial applications.

They're in the R&D stage hence low volume production, read the article.

Releasing info like this is how you get on the funding map.


RE: Can that be right?
By TGIM824 on 7/11/2009 2:12:33 PM , Rating: 2
They are testing their developed process. The point is they plan to use waste product, and convert that to biodiesel. These little microbes eat at the left over sugar cane stalks, which helps it ferment quicker.

This way, they can grow sugar cane, and use as a food crop, and then use the waste product as a fuel source.


"Mac OS X is like living in a farmhouse in the country with no locks, and Windows is living in a house with bars on the windows in the bad part of town." -- Charlie Miller














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