New ePack helps convert waste heat into electricity

by Isaiah Boone

In a recent article posted by Biomass Magazine, Orcan Energy AG highlights the effectiveness of its ePack product at a biogas plant in the United Kingdom. The ePack is a device that converts waste heat into electricity, and Shropshire Energy, the owner of the biogas plant, purchased 5 units to use at the facility located in Littleport, Cambridgeshire. The ePacks have helped to significantly reduce the carbon footprint of the plant while also providing it with a reliable source of additional energy. The ePacks have been particularly useful as Shropshire works closely with a neighboring mushroom farm which has reaped the benefits of the ePacks as well. Continue reading

U.S. Navy Deploys First Biofuel-Powered Fleet

by Dion Boyd

An intriguing article posted on The Guardian by the Associated Press on January 21, 2016 examines the U.S. Navy’s first attempt at constructing it’s highly anticipated “green fleet” by launching their first ecofriendly carrier strike group. The group is powered partly by a 10% to 90% ratio of biofuel to petroleum. The “Great Green Fleet” is the title of this project and aims to launch a force of naval ships, planes, and submarines that are powered entirely by biofuels. The navy began testing its first green fleet in 2012 and plans to have it ready for launch sometime in the year 2016. [http://www.theguardian.com/world/2010/apr/20/us-navy-green] Continue reading

US Navy Launches First Biofuel-powered Aircraft Carriers

by Max Breitbarth

Military technology is leading to more environmentally efficient navy for the world’s mightiest superpower. A January 20th article by the Guardian describes the launch of the U.S. Navy’s “first carrier strike group powered partly by biofuel.” This group of four ships is the first step in the Navy’s four-year plan to cut fossil fuel reliance in half to power its fleet. The ships are using a blend of 90% traditional petroleum-based fuel, and 10% biofuel.

The source of the renewable fuel? Beef fat.

Like many efforts to curb carbon dependence, the Navy compromised its 50-50 goal for this particular fleet because of cost. The original price tag of 50-50 biofuel that was usable by the ships resulted in a staggering $26-per gallon price tag. Lawmakers deemed the cost prohibitive, and the current blend, at $2.05 a gallon, is much more palatable. While the ratio might be less ambitious than the original goal, it should help to alleviate the Department of Defense’s huge demand on energy that normally relies on fossil fuels to meet its needs—over 90% of the federal government’s energy consumption annually (Watson). Continue reading

Oslo Airport Achieves a Key First with Biofuel Delivery

by Max Breitbarth

Major developments in biofuel development and utilization are occurring in Norway. Samantha Cartaino’s January 25th article in AIN Magazine reports that the Oslo airport, partnering with SkyNRG, AirBP, and Avinor, has begun to deliver jet biofuel to airline operators at their airport. Following the COP21 agreement in Paris, this marks an important move by fuel providers in Europe to commit to renewable forms of energy and make a fuel-intensive industry less damaging for the environment. As someone who studied in Strasbourg this past fall and encountered many skeptics that organizations and governments would voluntarily act to reduce their environmental impact, I am encouraged by this action just a month after the agreement signed by countries around the world. Continue reading

Biofuel Foresty: Good Idea?

by Jackson Cooney

In an effort to reduce the use of gasoline and diesel many governments have pushed to increase the use of bioenergy, but today, biofuel makes up only 2.5 percent of the worlds transportation fuels. The European Union estimates that their dependence on biofuel will increase to 10 percent by 2020, and, the US also is expecting a large increase. The International Energy Agency foresees biofuel as accounting for 27 percent of the world’s transportation fuel by midcentury. Other renewable energy options seem more limited because, with the current technologies, it would be impossible to supply the entire world’s energy needs with wind and solar sources. The Environmental Protection Agency also supports the biofuel initiative by labeling the harvest of forests a “carbon-fee source”. Continue reading

Biofuel a Viable Future?

by Ali Siddiqui

An article by Justin Gillis for The New York Times discusses a new report published by World Resources Institute, a global research organization based in Washington, that suggests that biofuels are not the direction policy makers should be heading when considering alternative energy. Biofuels are fuels created by plant matter. Timothy D. Searchinger, a research scholar at Princeton and primary author of this report, was quoted in this article to have said that they were an “inefficient way to convert sunlight to fuel”. Continue reading

Jatropha curcas the sustainable biofuel?

by Ali Siddiqui

Biofuels are a controversial energy source; however, there has been strong interest in these biofuels by both developing and industrialized countries. Some countries have even financially incentivized the production of these crops. A promising crop called Jatropha curcas has recently been viewed as a sustainable option for biodiesel production. This inedible plant has typically been used for soap production, medicinal purposes, and even as way to demarcate property boundaries as a living fence. Its high resistance to droughts and pests, inability to be eaten by cattle, short gestation period, and versatility of products are qualities that have been cited by many researchers as advantages for small farming communities, who might be able to use Jatropha to increase their employment, increase revenue, and increase energy self-reliance. Continue reading

Cleaner and More Efficient Fuel from Yeast

by Devyn Parks

Scientists have been genetically engineering yeast cells for years by removing, inserting, or tweaking genes; but the company Amyris has taken this technology to a whole new level. Dozens of genes in the yeast cells are replaced to create microbial chemical factories that can churn out hydrocarbons. Initially, the technology was used to create a synthetic version of artemisinin, a drug found naturally in wormwood that’s used in the treatment of malaria. There was not enough naturally occurring artemisinin to meet the global demand, but after Amyris licensed the synthetic version to a company called Sanofi they were able to produce 35 tons of the drug, enough for 70 million people. Since artemisinin is comprised of hydrocarbons, the leap from medicine to biofuel was not that farfetched. By tweaking the genetic engineering they were able to manipulate the yeast into producing a hydrocarbon called farnesene which can be converted into diesel, jet fuels, and many other chemicals. Amyris has opened up a factory in Brazil (they chose Brazil because the yeast feed on sugar and Brazil is known for their sugar production) and their fuel is now being used in approximately 400 public transit buses in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, and their jet fuel is already being used by GOL Airlines and has been demonstrated in airshows around the world (Harris 2013). The diesel fuel that they produce generates 80% less greenhouse gasses than petroleum-based fuels and generates less particulate matter and oxides of nitrogen (Amyris). Continue reading

Solazyme Seeks Solutions

by Alexander Flores

Solazyme, an up and coming company from south San Francisco is pursuing a vision to improve our planet and human life by producing sustainable, high-performance oils and ingredients derived from the microalgae that accumulates in countless places. Solazyme is attacking some of today’s biggest issues such as sustainability, resource scarcity, and resource traceability by identifying oil profiles that can improve both performance and longevity of products. These oil profiles are then produced with microalgae, providing alternatives to petroleum, vegetable oils, and animal fats. Solazyme’s products may be useful in personal care, industrial usage, food, and fuel industries. Their main oil-producing microalgae strain was originally discovered over a century ago on the sap of a chestnut tree in Germany and was carefully selected after approximately over ten thousand screenings of other strains. Continue reading

Solazyme Agal Biofuel Production in the United States

by Mariah Valerie Barber

In early February 2014, in Galva, Iowa at the American Natural Products (ANP) facility and in Clinton, Iowa, at the Archer Daniels Midland Company (ADM), Solazyme, Inc., began its commercial production of algal biofuel and oil. Solazyme, a San Francisco based firm utilizes microalgae, which it refers to as “the world’s original oil producer,” in order to produce biofuel (Solazyme.com). Solazyme creates oil from microalgae by a process of industrial fermentation, during which the microalgae is not fed with solar energy, but with sugar, which results in the production oil. Using industrial fermentation speeds up the natural chemical processes, which algae undergo. Once the microalgae produce the oil, the oil is extracted and made ready for commercial use. Even before the facilities in Iowa opened, Solazyme has had facilities in both Peoria and Orindiúva, Brazil. Peoria has the capacity to manufacture 2,000 metric tons of oil per year whereas the new facilities now are each able to produce 100,000 metric tons of oil per year (Clean Technica.com). Solayzme, which claims to be the first oil producer, has potential to drastically transform the oil industry and its reliance on fossil fuels. Continue reading