12 February 2008

Second Generation Biofuels: We Love CO2!

Many environmental websites are revealing their ignorance of the state of the art in biofuels R&D. If they want to be taken seriously on the topic of biofuels, they need to start up the learning curve of second generation biofuels.
Vijayanand S Moholkar of the Guwahati-based Indian Institute of Technology said, “Pre-liminary experiments show tremendous potential for micro-algae derived oil feedstock for economic synthesis of bio-diesel. Proper cultivation of micro-algae can produce 10 times more oil than Jatropha in the same piece of land. Jatropha and Karanja yield not more than 1 to 1.5 tonne of oil per hectare of cultivation —a major limitation, which adversely affects the bio-diesel Economy.”

Moholkar was in Delhi last week to participate in the 5th International Bio-fuels Conference organised by Winrock International-India. He said largescale production of micro-algae can be done in raceway ponds (closed loop recirculation channels) and photobioreactors. The prices of micro-algal oil and crude fossil oil must differ by two orders of magnitude, so as to make microalgal bio-diesel a cost-effective alternative, he said.

K Subramaniam from the biotechnology department of Sathyamangalam-based Bannari Amman Institute of Technology favoured biochemical conversion of rice straw and other biomass into bio-ethanol. He said that the bio-ethanol production from cheaply available rice straw by separate enzymatic hydrolysis and fermentation can be economically viable.

According to Mritunjay Kumar Shukla of the Dehradun-based Indian Institute of Petroleum bio-ethers, particularly Dimethyl ether (DME), Diethyl ether (DEE) and methylal seem to be promising among all the bio-fuels due to their oxygenated molecular structure, better combustion characteristics, superior well-to-wheel efficiency, low GHG emissions and higher production efficiency.

The director-general of International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), William D Dar said that his institute has found out the way for production bio-ethanol without comprising food security. The stalks of the varieties of sweet sorghum developed by the institute can produce bio-ethanol and increase livelihood options for farmers in dryland areas.____Financial Express

Many species of algae and seagrass thrive on artificially raised levels of CO2. Land plants such as trees and grasses show the same accelerated growth in atmospheres artificially boosted in CO2 levels.
The researchers report that the elevated CO2 "led to significantly higher reproductive output, below-ground biomass and vegetative proliferation of new shoots in light-replete treatments," i.e., those receiving light at 33% of the surface irradiance level. More specifically, they write that "shoots growing at 36 µM CO2(aq) were 25% larger than those in the unenriched treatment [16 µM CO2(aq)]," while "at 85 µM CO2(aq) shoots were 50% larger than those in the unenriched treatment and at 1123 µM CO2(aq) shoots were almost twice as large as those in the unenriched treatment." In addition, they found that at 1123 µM CO2(aq) "22% of the shoots differentiated into flowers, more than twice the flowering output of the other treatments at this light level."___Source

By coupling the growth of biofuel biomass with the CO2 of power plant effluent gas, you accomplish accelerated growth of biomass while transferring the CO2 and pollutants from power plant effluent to the growing biofuel feedstock.

Algae, seagrass, and other organisms living in the sea, thrive on higher CO2 levels. But if it is politically advantageous to remove CO2 from the air--thus depriving sea life of its food--humans may have to use the "power plant effluent to algal bio-diesel and bio-petroleum" route.

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Blogger Snake Oil Baron said...

It is not just the environmental sites displaying ignorance. How often does one see lengthy criticisms of biofuels based on the ability of the agriculture industry to produce enough corn. CORN!

I suspect that if any corn gets made into fuel after the next decade or so it will be after it has passed through someone's G.I. tract.

Tuesday, 12 February, 2008  
Blogger al fin said...

Yes, you're right, Baron.

The naysayers represent a broad spectrum of politics. Leftists want peak oil and the great dieoff so badly that anything the promises to blunt their Malthusian vengeance against capitalism receives their full blast of enmity.

Some misguided libertarians take their resentment at government mandates for corn ethanol and tariffs against imported ethanol, and decide that all biofuels are bad.

Some rather twisted conservatives are angry at anything that sounds too "green" for their taste.

Run of the mill leftists just want to paint the whole world black as long as non-leftists are in power. Once a leftist is in power, they will see through rose coloured glasses once more.

Nuclear activists may see biofuels as competition for energy planning. Likewise for EV advocates and solar/windpower advocates. Very closed-minded, for anyone to think that way.

The problem is the government and its tendency to try to control, tax, and regulate everything.

We are going to need nuclear fission, biofuels, EVs, solar/wind, as well as petro-fuels--at least until widespread geothermal, and/or nuclear fusion is in place.

Tuesday, 12 February, 2008  
Blogger Snake Oil Baron said...

"Once a leftist is in power, they will see through rose coloured glasses once more."

Sort of how like global warming was just getting into full force until Clinton came in and suddenly things got strangely quiet on that front. GWB becomes president and suddenly the heat is back on.

I find that people of many political persuasions also dismiss technological discoveries that they do not see as meeting the need they were promoted for. If a new means of purifying ethanol in a less expensive manner hits the news it is not made irrelevant if ethanol cars do not become the norm. Industries use ethanol too. If every word written on the energy prospects of bio-fuel for energy was false it would still be a means of creating biomass - possibly for animal feed or compost - in otherwise unproductive desert land not to mention technology spin-offs for bio-engineered algae producing useful chemicals.

Many people love to point out similar projects to today's innovations to show that the idea cannot be made economical. The cost of materials, efficiency of processes and general knowledge of technology is assumed to have not improved at all in the last century or so.

It is almost amusing. But then I should not be too smug. While I still don't like the centralized nature, and bureaucratic baggage that is associated with nuclear power, I have become less concerned about it in recent years, even with some high profile acts of incompetence at a couple of sites. So I guess people's attitudes can change.

And the instinct to oppose subsidies and other intervention is a good one, even if it gets misplaced. All energy markets are meddled with by governments and that which is aimed at research and proof of concept stages is far less intrusive to market forces. From what I understand, certain alternative energies are having subsidies reduced without loosing significant momentum.

Tuesday, 12 February, 2008  

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“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act” _George Orwell

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