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U.S. DOE and GM to Test Grow Jatropha in India

Oily weed holds promise as a sustainable biodiesel feedstock.

by on Mar.30, 2010

The goal of the project is to demonstrate that jatropha can produce significant quantities of oil for conversion to biodiesel.

The goal of the project is to demonstrate that the weed can produce significant enough amounts of oil for conversion to biodiesel fuel.

General Motors Company announced today a five-year partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to help develop the jatropha plant for what could evolve into a sustainable biofuel energy crop.

Jatropha plants produce an oil that can be refined into biodiesel fuel.

The drought-resistant, non-edible plant can be grown commercially with modest care on marginal land.

To explore whether new varieties of the plant can produce high enough yields to make it viable while thriving in temperate climates in the U.S. is the point of the experiment.

“Discovering new sources for biodiesel production is an important part of DOE research and development efforts,” said Secretary of Energy Steven Chu. “The expertise of this team can help speed the pace for the development of jatropha as a biofuel crop.”

Two jatropha farms will be established in India: a 16-hectare (39.5 acre) plot in Bhavnagar and a 38-hectare (93.9 acre) plot in Kalol, near GM’s India Car Manufacturing plant. An existing 30-hectare (74.1 acre) jatropha farm in Bhavnagar also will be managed under this project.

Lab-optimized strains of jatropha will be cultivated at these farms.

The joint DOE-GM funding, an unspecified amount, will also enable the Central Salt & Marine Chemicals Research Institute (CSMCRI)—an Indian Government research facility, to  manage all of the 84 hectares (840,000 m2).   (more…)

Government Waste Paper Fueled Car Debuts

Novozymes claims improved technology for advanced biofuels.

by on Jan.26, 2010

The elusive pursuit of a viable

The elusive pursuit of a commercially viable cellulose-derived fuel continues.

In a publicity stunt that attempts to prove a point about biofuels made from waste, a Chevy fueled with the byproducts of government office paper and cardboard will appear on the streets of Washington D.C. today.

A small company called Novozymes has collaborated with Maryland-based Fiberight to provide the demonstration fuel.

Taxpayers, who also underwrite the production of government paper, funded the research. Novozymes received two contracts from the Department of Energy for its research efforts to bring down the cost of enzymes and improve their efficiency in converting cellulose to biofuels. The first contract for $2.2 million was given in 2002, and the second for $12.3 million was given in 2008.

Automakers are given fuel economy credits for producing ethanol-compatible vehicles even though few of them are ever operated on ethanol, which is not cost competitive with gasoline with current production methods.

It is thought that using biomass – inexpensive farm waste – could radically alter the economics of ethanol. For example, making ethanol from the cellulose of plants is less costly than using corn grain. Switch grass, a crop that grows readily in the U.S. east of the Rocky Mountains, and corn leaves and stalks or other crop wastes are cheap to acquire and potentially solve the starvation issue, which arises from using corn for fuel instead of feed.

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The lower cost could also end the huge taxpayer subsidies, although the farm lobby holds powerful sway in the “pay to play” Washington scene and  has successful defended against reformers its taxpayer supplied pork for decades.    (more…)

Biomass Ethanol Moves a Semi-Step Forward

Coskata starts up a flexible ethanol plant in Pennsylvania.

by on Oct.15, 2009

It is thought that using biomass – inexpensive farm waste – could radically alter the economics of ethanol.

Using biomass – inexpensive farm waste – could radically alter the economics of ethanol.

Coskata Inc., a developer of biofuels, today announced the successful start-up of its semi-commercial flex-ethanol plant in Madison, Pennsylvania.

The operation potentially represents a successful scale-up of company’s experimental technology. It could evolve into the world’s first commercially-viable ethanol process that would use bio-mass rather than foodstocks, such as corn, which are currently used for the mass production of ethanol.

U.S. energy policy, which grants ethanol a 52-cent per gallon taxpayer subsidy to politically connected farmers, is controversial since production of the fuel over its life cycle consumes as much or more energy as it produces. Furthermore, numerous studies have shown that if ethanol were to replace oil, people would starve from the resulting lack of grain in the world’s markets. U.S. tariff policy also effectively blocks the importation of sugar-cane-derived ethanol from Brazil, currently a much more efficient process.

Feedstock for the Mind!

Feedstock for the Mind!

It is thought that using biomass – inexpensive farm waste – could radically alter the economics of ethanol. For example, making ethanol from the cellulose of plants is less costly than using corn grain. Switch grass, a crop that grows readily in the U.S. east of the Rocky Mountains, and corn leaves and stalks or other crop wastes are cheap to acquire and potentially solve the starvation issue. The lower cost could also end the huge taxpayer subsidies, although the farm lobby holds powerful sway in the pay to play Washington scene.

(more…)