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By Robert Rapier on Sep 5, 2010 with 56 responses

Crude Oil From Biomass: Evaluating KiOR

Cracking Biomass

Back when I worked in a refinery, I used to spend a lot of time thinking about how biomass would behave in certain refining processes. A fluidized catalytic cracker (FCC), for instance, takes oil and subjects it to heat and a catalyst to fracture larger hydrocarbons into smaller ones that can serve as gasoline blending feedstock (among other things). Another refining unit is a delayed coker. Very heavy oil is subjected to even higher temperatures than in the cracker, and once again the hydrocarbon chains are cracked into smaller molecules useful for further processing into gasoline and diesel. Petroleum coke, similar in appearance to coal, is also produced.

Given the extreme conditions of these units, either of them should be able to break biomass down into much smaller fragments. I wondered about this for several years, but then in 2007 I saw an interesting announcement that a Vinod Khosla-backed company called KiOR was actually working on this sort of approach:

Khosla Ventures and BIOeCON form KiOR to commercialize cellulosic ethanol

I had forgotten about the misleading title of that particular story. While I used to wonder about what would be formed if biomass was fed to a catalytic cracker, I knew one thing that wouldn’t be formed: Cellulosic ethanol. This was a bit more of the marketing craze that caused all sorts of biomass conversion processes to be called “cellulosic ethanol.” Regardless of the misleading title, the story was intriguing. I blogged about it at the time:

Vinod Khosla Scoops Me

After that, I continued to think a lot about the process itself, but didn’t hear much more until this past week, when suddenly a number of people e-mailed to ask about this:

Kior lands state loan to make ‘biocrude’ from wood

“Biofuel company Kior said on Monday it has secured a $75 million loan to build five plants in Mississippi that will convert wood chips into a petroleum replacement.

The Pasadena, Texas-based company expects to build three of five planned facilities over the next five years. The package from the state also includes state assistance on infrastructure and worker training.

Kior stands out from many biofuels companies in that it is making a petroleum replacement, rather than ethanol. That means its product, which it is now making at a demonstration plant in Texas, can be shipped in pipelines and treated in existing refineries to make gasoline or diesel equivalents.”

So, they have decided they won’t be making ethanol after all. Now, in fact, they are highlighting that point.

So what will they make, and what are the potential stumbling blocks? Let’s dive into that.

Fast Pyrolysis

When biomass is heated up rapidly to 500 degrees C, fast pyrolysis occurs. The cellulose, lignin, and hemicellulose break down in seconds into a pyrolysis oil and char. The char can be burned to provide the heat for the process, which means the process could be run with little to no fossil fuel inputs.

The pyrolysis oil that is produced is distinct from hydrocarbons, such as those that make up crude oil. Whereas hydrocarbons are composed of just hydrogen and carbon (methane, the simplest hydrocarbon, is CH4; one carbon atom with four hydrogen atoms attached to it), the compounds of pyrolysis oil contain a lot of oxygen. These compounds include aldehydes, carboxylic acids (like acetic acid), ketones, alcohols, sugars, and pyrolytic lignin, and their volumetric energy content tends to be far lower than that of petroleum.

Pyrolysis oil has some characteristics that make it challenging to use as a fuel. Pyrolysis oil is quite acidic, with a pH ranging from 1.5 to 4. The oil also polymerizes over time unless it is stabilized. However, some companies have managed to overcome these challenges, and pyrolysis oil has some promise for electricity production. One company in Canada, Dynamotive, incorporated a 2.5 megawatt turbine to produce electricity from pyrolysis oil at a plant in Ontario, but it isn’t clear whether that approach has been successful (Source).

Pyrolysis oil may also be upgraded into transportation fuel. The company UOP, which among other things licenses technology to refineries for upgrading crude oil, entered into a joint venture in 2008 with Ontario-based Ensyn Corp. (one of the leading pyrolysis companies) to upgrade pyrolysis oil to transportation fuel. The joint venture is called Envergent Technologies, and was selected as a recipient of a $25 million DOE grant to demonstrate pyrolysis oil upgrading technology at a Tesoro refinery outside of Honolulu. (See this press release).

Pyrolysis oil components tend to be relatively short, and when the oil is processed in a cracker the chains get even shorter. So about half of the oil is lost to carbon dioxide and water, another 15% to light gases, only about 30% is converted to gasoline, and another 8% to diesel (these are published results from UOP). Given that the biomass yield to pyrolysis oil is about 75%, that puts the biomass to gasoline yield at 22.5% (by mass) — and that is with the addition of 5 weight percent hydrogen. Still, that is around 70 gallons per ton of biomass, which is comparable to several other biomass conversion technologies.

KiOR’s process reportedly impregnates catalyst within the biomass, and when it is fed to the FCC it cracks the biomass and then partially upgrades the oxygenated components to hydrocarbons. So what they reportedly produce is not a conventional pyrolysis oil, but instead a pyrolysis oil that has at least been partially upgraded.

Questions for KiOR

In order to evaluate KiOR’s technology, there are some specific questions to ask. First, what is the composition of the oil coming out of cracker? How does this compare to conventional pyrolysis oil? (KiOR’s U.S. Patent Application number 20100105970 says that most, but not all, of the oxygen has been removed). What is the biomass cost assumption built into the model that says the oil is competitive with $70 crude oil?

How small do the particles need to be before feeding into the cracker? (The energy required to grind biomass to fine particles can be substantial; KiOR’s U.S. Patent Application number 20100209965 mentions the use of circulating sand to reduce the size of the biomass). How is the catalyst impregnated into the biomass (feeding crude oil into an FCC is one thing; having to impregnate biomass and then feed it in will be more costly and time-consuming)?

One potential issue is the need to transport the oil from the FCC to a refinery. In a conventional oil refinery, the product that comes out of the cracker goes right into the other process units. I think that’s the model that KiOR would like to adopt, because if they have to ship the oil off-site for processing, that will seriously hurt the economics of the process.

Misinformation

I have also seen a great deal of misinformation in various press releases about KiOR’s process. For instance, I came across this:

“KiOR wants to take biomass – in this case wood chips from local timber – and use a catalyst to chemically turn it into a near-perfect match to crude oil in a matter of seconds. The product then can go through existing crude refineries and be used to make standard gasoline or diesel fuel.

“They’re going to do what it takes millions of years for Mother Nature to do in a matter of seconds,” Gov. Haley Barbour said.

KiOR officials say one barrel of the new oil can make more gasoline and diesel than standard crude, and it will burn cleaner, releasing just 25 percent of the amount of emissions into the air.”

Something may have been lost in the media translation, but there are several things wrong with this short excerpt. First off, it isn’t a “near-perfect match to crude oil.” It is partially upgraded pyrolysis oil, which will be quite different from crude oil. Second, one barrel of this oil can’t possibly make more gasoline and diesel than standard crude. This isn’t just something I doubt, it isn’t physically possible.

Biomass contains far too much oxygen, and that ends up as a lot of carbon dioxide and water during the upgrading process. This is why UOP’s yields to transportation fuel are in the 20% range instead of the 80% range. Conventional crude oil is almost pure hydrocarbon, so almost all of the barrel (90% or more) is turned into finished products (gasoline, diesel, jet fuel). The gasoline yield from crude oil will certainly be much higher than the gasoline yield of the KiOR process. (That’s not a knock against the process; just a misconception that should be corrected).

Finally, gasoline from biomass doesn’t release just 25% of the emissions relative to gasoline from oil. Whether gasoline is produced from biomass or fossil fuels, the release of emissions into the air when they are burned will be about the same. The difference is that the biomass incorporated recently atmospheric carbon dioxide during the growing cycle (whereas oil incorporated ancient carbon dioxide), so the net impact can be lower emissions — depending on how much energy it took to process the biomass. But it seems to be a common misconception that the emissions themselves from gasoline derived from biomass would be lower.

Conclusions

Does the process have potential? Yes, I would have to say that it has potential and this is one of the more promising approaches that Vinod Khosla has helped to develop. Is there a lot of hype and misinformation in the press releases? Yes, there is. What I have attempted to do in this essay is explain some of what is going on, and also to point toward the questions to ask when evaluating the process. Ultimately, the factors that will determine their success are the logistics of getting biomass into the plant and getting their oil processed into transportation fuel, the quality of the oil they produce, and the capital cost of the plant. (FCC units aren’t cheap, and this process adds steps to the conventional FCC process).

Can they compete with well-established companies like Ensyn or BTG-BTL companies that already have operating units? Ensyn has a big advantage in this space, having run pyrolysis units for over 20 years (one of which I have visited in Ontario). With Ensyn’s partnership with UOP to upgrade their pyrolysis oil — and over 20 years of pyrolysis oil experience under their belts — they are several steps ahead of KiOR in the path to commercialization.

On the other hand, KiOR’s use of catalytic cracking is a different spin on conventional pyrolysis, and success versus an Ensyn will ultimately be determined by any economic advantages of the oil KiOR produces. Both Ensyn and KiOR require further upgrading of their oil to transportation fuel, so the cost of upgrading KiOR’s oil will have to be substantially less to warrant the extra capital outlay for the catalytic cracker.

  1. By doggydogworld on September 5, 2010 at 5:05 pm

    Hype is an issue with all startups, but the bio-fuel arena seems to attract more than its fair share of liars. Why is this? Or am I just more sensitized to bio-fuel liars than normal ones? Anyway, thanks for once again helping to separate wheat from chaff.

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  2. By hermanvm on September 5, 2010 at 6:02 pm

    Last week in the Netherlands – in newspapers & TV: The University of Twenty can make real crude from biomass. Biomass –> pyrolysis –> hydrogene –> crude oil. But it will be costly.

    http://www.nu.nl/wetenschap/23…..esten.html

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  3. By ronald-steenblik on September 5, 2010 at 6:47 pm

    RR wrote:

    [G]asoline from biomass doesn’t release just 25% of the emissions relative to gasoline from oil. Whether gasoline is produced from biomass or fossil fuels, the release of emissions into the air when they are burned will be about the same. The difference is that the biomass incorporated recently atmospheric carbon dioxide during the growing cycle (whereas oil incorporated ancient carbon dioxide), so the net impact can be lower emissions — depending on how much energy it took to process the biomass.

    Robert, in fact it is more than even a question of how much (fossil) energy it took to process the biomass. As Tim Searchinger argues in his recent paper, “Biofuels and the need for additional carbon” (2010 Environ. Res. Lett. 5 024007 doi: 10.1088/1748-9326/5/2/024007),

    “Use of biofuels does not reduce emissions from energy combustion but may offset emissions by increasing plant growth or by reducing plant residue or other non-energy emissions. To do so, biofuel production must generate and use ‘additional carbon’, which means carbon that plants would not otherwise absorb or that would be emitted to the atmosphere anyway. When biofuels cause no direct land use change, they use crops that would grow regardless of biofuels so they do not directly absorb additional carbon. All potential greenhouse gas reductions from such biofuels, as well as many potential emission increases, result from indirect effects, including reduced crop consumption, price-induced yield gains and land conversion.” [My emphasis.]

    In other words, if you chop down a forest and start growing dedicated biomass for fuel, you are not adding to the CO2 being absorbed by plants, so you should not get credit for that part of the cycle. It is only new plant growth (e.g., trees planted on a previously barren plain) that gives the credit to offset the CO2 released from burning the biomass.

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  4. By Kit P on September 5, 2010 at 8:07 pm

    “In other words, if you chop down a
    forest and start growing dedicated biomass for fuel, you are not
    adding to the CO2 being absorbed by plants,”

     

    The primary goal is to reduce imported
    oil by providing a more environment friendly way of disposing of wood
    waste.

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  5. By Jim Takchess on September 5, 2010 at 8:41 pm

    RR
    You mentioned generating electricity from the KIOR oil as being a possible use. What’s the benefit of doing this vs outright burning of wood mass to generate electricity? Is there more ability to use different biomass that does act well as direct burning,faster from field to process?

    also, is your current role with your investor evaluating new energy projects and evaluating the technology ?
    Does any of your role involve improving existing processes that you currently have investments in ?
    (more classical engineering) Just curious .
    Thanks,
    Jim

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  6. By Al Fin on September 5, 2010 at 9:25 pm

    Nice treatment of a fascinating topic.

    As you say, we are not going to get anywhere near the energy density from biomass as we get from coal and oil. But with biomass, every field and every forest (and every lagoon) can be a renewable coal mine or oil well, so to speak.

    Biomass thermochemical refining has a lot of surprises to divulge — such as the recent pyrolytic creation of ethylene and propylene glycol high value chemicals from biomass at Iowa State. How are the yields? Too early to say. As chemists get better at tweaking the process and testing the products there will be a lot of surprises — some of them even pleasant.

    KiOR is in a race to get its pyrolysis products to market, so naturally it will stay as quiet as possible regarding the nature of its advantages in catalytic approach.

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  7. By Don Hennick on September 5, 2010 at 9:43 pm

    I find it interesting that no one has mentioned biochar, soil amendments or seen these biofuels as carbon negative. When comparing prices lets keep in mind that dumping fossil fuel emissions will carry with it a hefty tipping fee sooner than later.

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  8. By rrapier on September 6, 2010 at 12:14 am

    Hype is an issue with all startups, but the bio-fuel arena seems to attract more than its fair share of liars. Why is this?

    It seems that way to me as well. I think it’s because they are chasing tax dollars moreso than say, a typical Silicon Valley start-up in the computer business.

    RR

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  9. By rrapier on September 6, 2010 at 12:22 am

    You mentioned generating electricity from the KIOR oil as being a
    possible use. What’s the benefit of doing this vs outright burning of
    wood mass to generate electricity?

    Lower efficiency, but some logistical advantages are possible versus simply burning wood. In general, though, most of the time you would go with simple wood combustion. There is the potential, however, of taking pyrolysis to the forest, in which case you can ship a more energy dense liquid instead of a moisture laden wood chips.

    Is there more ability to use
    different biomass that does act well as direct burning,faster from field
    to process?

    There is the possibility of burning higher ash feedstocks, as the ash will have been removed in the char and so when the oil is burned ash isn’t a problem.

    also, is your current role with your investor evaluating new energy projects and evaluating the technology ?

    Yes.

    Does any of your role involve improving existing processes that you currently have investments in ?

    (more classical engineering) Just curious .

    Yes.

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  10. By ronald-steenblik on September 6, 2010 at 2:43 am

    Kit P wrote:

    The primary goal is to reduce imported oil …

    Perhaps. But I was addressing the claims of greenhouse-gas reductions.

    … by providing a more environment friendly way of disposing of wood waste.

    More environmentally friendly way? I guess that depends on whether the waste would normally lay on the ground and help protect the soil, and provide habitat for forest critters; be burned (or catch fire); or be collected and used to generate steam turbines. But if all the work going into ways to produce cellulosic ethanol is only about using up wood waste, then I would think the number of plants that could be located where they could count on a perpetual supply of such waste wood, or at least enough to supply the plant for 20 years, would be rather limited.

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  11. By paul-n on September 6, 2010 at 4:19 am

    Another pyrolysis oil “gonna be”.  KiOR is new and I wish them well (and not too many more tax dollars), but none of the other pyrolysis oil players have come up with anything that has/is being adopted by anyone else.

    Dynamotive is based here in Vancouver, where there is half a billion tons of wood waste within 600 miles.  And what are the only commercially successful methods of doing anything with this wood? Direct burning for electricity at dedicated power plants or pulp mill cogen, and production of wood pellets, the majority of which is exported to Europe(!) 

    No one here is really interested in pyrolysis oil unless you can use it as vehicle fuel, which you can only do if you have a steam (or gas turbine) powered vehicle.

     

    There is the potential, however, of taking pyrolysis to the forest, in which case you can ship a more energy dense liquid instead of a moisture laden wood chips.

    This is true, but equally you could dry/torrefy the chips on site to achieve a coal-interchangeable fuel, or a very stable gasification fuel, and you only lose 10% of the heat value for collecting the same amount of trees.  In any case for forest wood waste, some processing/concentrating at the point of collection is the way to go.

     

    But if all the work going into ways to produce cellulosic ethanol is only about using up wood waste, then I would think the number of plants that could be located where they could count on a perpetual supply of such waste wood, or at least enough to supply the plant for 20 years, would be rather limited.

    Obviously this is not why all the work on cellulosic is happening, others are looking at grass based stuff (i.e.POET, etc) but wood was clearly the focus for this company, and a few others, and that is a good thing.  The amount of wood waste (mostly construction/demolition related) that accumulates at urban landfills is surprisingly large, and the collection has already been done for you.  No one wants it incinerated near them, and it’s a waste of landfill space.  There are also large volumes annually of wooden pallets, railroad ties and utility poles that all currently present disposal problems if there is no means to burn them somehow

    Also, as an energy crop for a farmer, wood for biomass (not for lumber) is easier and cheaper to grow than almost anything else, it (presently) just isn’t worth much, if anything, to sell.  There is lots of abandoned/unproductive land that can grow trees if it is worth someone’s while to collect them, and for biomass, the optimal age for many trees (e.g. poplar, eucalyptus) is just 7 years, and some other tree types, like willow, can be cut each year.  

    There will never be enough wood to replace oil, at anything like current levels, but there is enough to have a sustainable biomass energy industry.  It’s just that the sexy goal of making liquid fuels is, and will likely remain, uneconomic.  Using wood as fuel for electricity can be quite profitable, but is boring, and does not attract nearly as much easy government money as “cellulosic” fuels.

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  12. By hermanvm on September 6, 2010 at 5:13 am

    Instituut IMPACT van de Universiteit Twente & other universities:
    another link with pictures: http://energieraad.nl/newsitem…..geid=25494

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  13. By DHARMESH MAHAJAN on September 6, 2010 at 8:51 am

    Gentlemen,

    Here are couple more points….

    Robert, as usual a great post, thanks for bringing Pyoil into the discussions.

    Anyone who is really interested to understand the subject of Pyrolysis more Must go through Pacific National Lab’s beautifully detailed work on the subject at Production of Gasoline and Diesel from Biomass via Fast Pyrolysis, Hydrotreating and Hydrocracking: A Design Case.

    Basic requirement of a biomass to make it through the process as per desired outcome is to have a size in the range of 2-6 mm & a moisture content of less than 10%. so that you dont end up with too much water into Pyoil. Now that is an expensive deal to match because you need huge amount of energy. Moreover it is difficult as well, anyone dealing with Biomass knows why.

    But still, possible benefits are too many if it is done properly :-)

    Jim Takchess: You mentioned generating electricity from the KIOR oil as being a possible use. What’s the benefit of doing this vs outright burning of wood mass to generate electricity?

    Refer to a dedicated document uploaded by Envergent as a case study to answer the queries raised. Gives a fairly clear idea about what makes it worth to convert Biomass to Pyoil instead of burning it straight into the burner to produce steam & consequently power.

    Al Fin:Biomass thermochemical refining has a lot of surprises to divulge — such as the recent pyrolytic creation of ethylene and propylene glycol high value chemicals from biomass at Iowa State. How are the yields? Too early to say. As chemists get better at tweaking the process and testing the products there will be a lot of surprises — some of them even pleasant.

     

    Well, Envergent was born out of Ensyn Corp & they still have a nice website. Al Fin, I suggest to explore

    This weblink provides great details about the kind of things that Ensyn has been doing all these years. As Robert mentioned about his visit to Ensyn’s plants & there existence in the domain for last 20 years or so, key activity they were involved revolved around producing High value Bio-chemicals, be it food flavors for Red Arrow or MNRP as adhesives. Enjoy the readings :-)

    Cheers,

    Dharmesh

    Note: Edited by RR to fix some of the links.

     

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  14. By Jerry Unruh on September 6, 2010 at 10:37 am

    Robert:

    5% by weight of added hydrogen sounds like a lot (~35mole %?). This would require a lot of methane (~25 cu ft/gal =~ 15 mole %?). How does that compare to tar sands or liquefaction of coal? Does that become a problem?

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  15. By Kit P on September 6, 2010 at 12:13 pm

    “would be rather limited.”

     

    The number of environmental problems
    associated with waste biomass is huge. It is beyond the ability of
    the human mind to comprehend. Maybe Paul would like to expand on
    forest health issues in the semi-arid North American. What happens
    to the water shed when sever fires destroy the forest and back the
    ground into a hard pan?

     

    Ron provides an example of those that
    worry about a relatively minor environmental issue like AGW.

     

    There is enough biomass waste to feed a
    50 MWe power plant in a radius of 25 miles of the plant via trucks.
    What happens to waste biomass when there is no outlet for it is not
    pretty.

     

    Direct burning for electricity in
    fluidized bed boilers is the standard practice.

     

    “There will never be enough wood to
    replace oil,…”

     

    There will never be enough engineers to
    design 50 MWe power plants or the equivalent sized biorefinery. Too
    many problems but not enough smart people to do the work for a  low rate of return
    work.

     

    “There is the potential, however, of
    taking pyrolysis to the forest, in which case you can ship a more
    energy dense liquid instead of a moisture laden wood chips.”

     

    That would be nice! If you can make
    money solving environmental problems, everyone will want to do it. I
    want the job of walking down the forest near fire endangered
    communities to come up with a low impact excess biomass removal plan.

     

    Unfortunately, the equipment is not
    ready yet.

     

     

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  16. By rrapier on September 6, 2010 at 1:53 pm

    Paul N said:

    This is true, but equally you could dry/torrefy the chips on site to achieve a coal-interchangeable fuel, or a very stable gasification fuel, and you only lose 10% of the heat value for collecting the same amount of trees.  In any case for forest wood waste, some processing/concentrating at the point of collection is the way to go.


     

    I have been after a mobile torrefaction unit for years. One of the reasons I don’t write more about this or about pyrolysis is that it starts to overlap into areas we are working on. I feel like both have a lot of potential, but both also have a lot of pretenders in the space.

    RR

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  17. By rrapier on September 6, 2010 at 1:00 pm

    DHARMESH MAHAJAN said:

    Refer to a dedicated document uploaded by Envergent as a case study to answer the queries raised. Gives a fairly clear idea about what makes it worth to convert Biomass to Pyoil instead of burning it straight into the burner to produce steam & consequently power.


     

    Dharmesh,

    Thanks for that good reference. They appear to be talking about putting their pyrolysis oil through a combustion turbine without upgrading it to diesel. Some of the literature I have come across on this has indicated poor performance of pyrolysis oil in this situation, but perhaps Envergent’s oil works OK here. I do know that they talked about not having any particulate matter in the oil, which is detrimental to a turbine. That was what some of the literature I have read indicated; that the turbine blades were eroded fairly quickly.

    Cheers, RR

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  18. By rrapier on September 6, 2010 at 1:09 pm

    Jerry Unruh said:

    Robert:

    5% by weight of added hydrogen sounds like a lot (~35mole %?). This would require a lot of methane (~25 cu ft/gal =~ 15 mole %?). How does that compare to tar sands or liquefaction of coal? Does that become a problem?


     

    Jerry,

    I wondered if anyone would notice that. Yes, 5 weight % hydrogen is a lot. While KiOR doesn’t make it clear that they will be using hydrogen, UOP’s upgrading process definitely requires hydrogen. I have spoken to people who think that KiOR will be using it as well to properly upgrade the oil. Some of the upgrading reactions require hydrogen; some don’t. It may be that KiOR won’t use hydrogen and then rely on someone else to use hydrogen in a hydrocracker to finish processing the oil.

    Not sure how that compares to tar sands or liquefaction. Not close enough to those to know the specific chemistry.

    RR

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  19. By rrapier on September 6, 2010 at 1:17 pm

    Dharmesh’s PNNL link got messed up above. The link (PDF) is Production of Gasoline and Diesel from Biomass via Fast Pyrolysis, Hydrotreating and Hydrocracking: A Design Case. That is a very good reference; covers pyrolysis oil chemistry and the upgrading process in some detail.

    I have visited with PNNL about pyrolysis; the scientists I spoke with were pretty optimistic.

    RR

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  20. By moiety on September 6, 2010 at 2:27 pm

    Robert Rapier said:

    I do know that they talked about not having any particulate matter in the oil, which is detrimental to a turbine. That was what some of the literature I have read indicated; that the turbine blades were eroded fairly quickly.

    Cheers, RR


     

    Even for air turbines particulate size is an important issue. It is not uncommon to see a series of filters on the turbine intake maybe as low as 5 um. A problem here is for said turbine the system is usually reverse pulsed meaning that the incoming stream must be cooled somewhat to avoid excessive outlet temperatures. For air turbines water vapour is also a major problem. If the water vapour gets into the filters then the filters clog and if excessive amounts gets into the turbine you can get hydrogen em-brittlement on the turbine blades.

    It would be interesting to see how this may or may not have implications for pyrolysis turbine.

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  21. By Kit P on September 6, 2010 at 2:51 pm

    “the scientists I spoke with were
    pretty optimistic.”

     

    About commercializing a process or
    getting more government funding?

     

    I am not real impressed with PNNL when
    it comes to renewable energy. They are very good at wasting limited
    resources. I suppose it is not PNNL fault that DOE is better at
    doling out money for politically correct causes than being
    accountable to tax payers .

     

    I think making oil from wood is a
    worthy nut to crack but the squirrels ran off with the nut cracker a
    long time ago at PNNL.

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  22. By paul-n on September 6, 2010 at 3:42 pm

    One anser to Jerry’s question about hydrogen comes from the PNNL report, in section five;

    It is estimated that if the natural gas used to 

    generate hydrogen was replaced by biomass or bio-oil, approximately one third of the biomass feedstock 

    would be needed for hydrogen generation. 

    The process yield, of gasoline per dry ton of feedstock, is 100gal/ton if hydrogen comes from outside sources, and 65gal/ton if it comes from the feedstock itself.

    For an energy yield, that is 65*115,000btu/gal, for 7.5mmbtu, and the original feedstock had 8500btu/lb, so a (metric) ton has 18.7mmbtu.  So the overall energy yield is 40% if self supplied hydrogen and 60% with outside supplied.

    The economics, of course, all depend on the price of oil, and when this is viable, so are likely to be CTL, GTL and possibly oil shale (who knows about lignocellulosic ethanol?)

    The economics of “co locating with a refinery” are good, but there are no many refineries in forest country, and even if you make the py oil in the forest, you are trucking it a long way to the refinery.

    For comparison, a highly optimised wood to electricity plant could get 40% conversion, and turn the ton of feedstock into 2000kWh, with no outside inputs.  If the sell price is 10c/kWh (current available price in British Columbia), then that 65 gal of gasoline needs to sell for $3/gal to break even, but the capital and operating costs are likely to be much higher.

    A major advantage of electricity is that you only have to get to the nearest suitably sized power line to set up your plant, and the smaller your scale, the closer those lines are.  With onsite py oil, you have a lot of trucks/trains  doing long round trips to the nearest refinery.

    One other possibility for py oil that was not considered in that report, would be processing at a pulp mill.   They are not set up for oil processing, but have most of the other pre-requisites – have a biomass supply chain already, handling facilities, natural gas supply, transmission power connection, high temp boilers etc etc.  Many of them have water access, and shipping py oil from there to a refinery might work. 

     

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  23. By paul-n on September 6, 2010 at 7:17 pm

    While Honeywell/UOP have a foot on one side of the fence, with Envergent and pyrolysis oil, they are also doing stuff on Fischer-Tropsch gasification.   

    This press release from 1 Sep, claims they are partnered with Rentech Inc to build a biomass to fuel plant.

     

    http://www.uop.com/pr/releases…..0FINAL.pdf

     

    The proposed plant will produce 640 barrels/day of fuel and 35MW of electricity.

    The are doing engineering now, and plan to start construction next year, and be operational in 2012.

    There are a lot of “will” and “plan to” in that release, and a very tight time frame, though Rentech has had a pilot plant operating in Colorado.

     

    Neither company gives details on the feedstock required (tons/day) to operate this plant, but I can make an educated guess;

     

    640 barrels/day (9.8mgpy) of liquid fuel is an energy flow of 42MW.  Assuming the electrical generation gets about 30% efficiency, there is 116MW of energy going to the electrical plant.  That means the final product yield is about 26% energy conversion from biomass to liquid fuel, assuming no external energy inputs.

    That would be about 36 gallons of fuel, and 1160kWh per ton of biomass

    Assuming $2/gal selling price, and 10c/kWh for the electricity, then a ton of wood will create $72 for fuel, and $116 for electricity, total of $188 per dry ton of wood.

    If the electrical generation is only 20% efficient, then they get about $136/ton.

    If they just did electricity only at 30%, they would have $156/ton, ($208 at 40%) a lot of extra effort for the oil, at current prices.

     

    As with any of these things, the cost of getting the biomass is key.  If it is given to you for free, then great.  Otherwise, if you are paying to collect and transport it, the most profitable operation for this plant might well be to just buy PRB coal by the trainload and go from there.

    If you can turn wood into oil, you can do the same for coal, and probably cheaper, and no one is doing coal at the moment.

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  24. By rrapier on September 6, 2010 at 7:31 pm

    While Honeywell/UOP have a foot on one side of the fence, with Envergent and pyrolysis oil, they are also doing stuff on Fischer-Tropsch gasification.

    This press release from 1 Sep, claims they are partnered with Rentech Inc to build a biomass to fuel plant.

    They will be upgrading the wax by hydrocracking it. That is a strong area of expertise for them.

    RR

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  25. By DHARMESH MAHAJAN on September 7, 2010 at 2:28 am
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  26. By moiety on September 7, 2010 at 5:00 am

    Re the turbine

     

    I was not fully clear. Hydrogen or acid embrittment of turbine blades in air compressors is cause by the interaction of air and carbon dioxide. So You can bet the anybody suggesting putting an acid stream through a turbine is going to give me pause. I will try and read the documents at the weekend and see if I can be more comprehensive.

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  27. By Benny BND Cole on September 7, 2010 at 4:32 pm

    Well, this entire conversation is taking place over my head. Usually that doesn’t stop me from having a point of view, but in his case I can’t figure out what I supposed to be against.
    I will issue my fallback statement: Biomass to electricity probably makes more sense than biomass to liquid, if we have PHEVs.

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  28. By russ-finley on September 7, 2010 at 6:32 pm

    Benny BND Cole said:

    Well, this entire conversation is taking place over my head. Usually that doesn’t stop me from having a point of view, but in his case I can’t figure out what I supposed to be against.

    I will issue my fallback statement: Biomass to electricity probably makes more sense than biomass to liquid, if we have PHEVs.


     

    You took the words right out of my mouth.

    Although, according to a recent article in Science, the sun is the only renewable source that can scale to the magnitude needed to replace fossil fuels. Wind and biomass can barely make a dent.

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  29. By mac on September 7, 2010 at 6:35 pm

    Ben

    As you well know, the compelling idea behind the PHEV is that most people actually drive less each day than the battery range of the vehicle. It is therefore theoretically possible to drive an entire week without using a single drop of gas. (except for programed software start-ups of the ICE)

    I don’t imagine the oil companies are too excited about that.

    The Chevy Volt (phev) was originally advertised as an E-85 flex-fuel vehicle running on ethanol. I don’t imagine the entrenched oil lobby likes that idea much either.

    Imagine — a vehicle that almost never uses any gas but when the internal combustion engine does finally turn on it uses E-85 ethanol instead instead of gasoline . I’m sure the Oil Companies are thrilled at the prospect of a plug-in hybrid with a gen set running on ethanol.

    .

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  30. By Rufus on September 7, 2010 at 6:59 pm

    Look for trenche two of the Volt to have the flexfuel engine.

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  31. By Benny BND Cole on September 7, 2010 at 8:26 pm

    Mac-Russ-

    This is why I get nettled when people say things like “Oh, we have to import oil,” (imagine a feeble, high-pitched voice), or “Energy Independence is just not possible.” (imagine a whining sniveler).

    Crickey-almighty, we are practically there now.

    Volts or Ford Fusions running on e-85? Shazam! CNG cars? In-town housing?

    Give me 10 years, and just mild autocracy, and I could just about eliminate oil imports while radically improving city air and raising US living standards.

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  32. By paul-n on September 7, 2010 at 11:29 pm

    I could just about eliminate oil imports while radically improving city air and raising US living standards.

    Careful Benny – thats crazy talk!  You would be undoing what various corporations have worked so hard to do for the last 60 yrs (LA being a prime example)!

     

    I do agree wholeheartedly with your summary re woody biomass.  As someone who has been actively researching biomass to energy for several years, I always end up at the conclusion that electricity production is the easier, and more profitable  path.  Now, if oil prices were to double, then the trouble of BTL would be worth it, IF you knew prices were going to stay up long enough to pay off the investment.  

    While I think the Volt concept is good I am dissappointed in the product they are rolling out.  They have tried to fit their system into an ordinary car, and i think they should have broken the mould to make an extraordinary car.  Something has to change, pricewise, for this to become a widespread solution.

    The first hybrids came out 10yrs ago, and they are now barely 3% of the market, we need a real game changer, and the Volt, in it’s current form is not it.

    One nit-pick here, the correct spelling is “crikey”  - if you are going to use Australian slang, please spell it propurly – we Aussies are very sensitive about the propur spelling of the Queen’s English!

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  33. By russ-finley on September 8, 2010 at 11:23 am

    mac said:

    The Chevy Volt (phev) was originally advertised as an E-85 flex-fuel vehicle running on ethanol. I don’t imagine the entrenched oil lobby likes that idea much either.

    Imagine — a vehicle that almost never uses any gas but when the internal combustion engine does finally turn on it uses E-85 ethanol instead instead of gasoline . I’m sure the Oil Companies are thrilled at the prospect of a plug-in hybrid with a gen set running on ethanol.

    Oil companies are quietly acquiring many ethanol operations, here and in South America. They could decide to buy them all out tomorrow, and will inevitably do so should they prove profitable and stable. There is no difference between an oil company and an ethanol company other than the product sold.

    With the blending subsidy, you would think that oil companies would promote the use of ethanol.

    E-85 flex fuel vehicles are good for oil companies. They promote sales of cars that use internal combustion engines that throw away 80 percent of the energy in their liquid fuel. Electric cars are what cause them heartburn.

     

    Benny BND Cole said:

    Volts or Ford Fusions running on e-85? Shazam! …Give me 10 years, and just mild autocracy, and I could just about
    eliminate oil imports while radically improving city air and raising US
    living standards.

    Love your enthusiasm but I know of three studies that show ethanol would increase health costs related to air pollution thanks to its propensity to exacerbate the formation of smog.

     

    Paul N said:

    …we need a real game changer, and the Volt, in it’s current form is not it.

    True that. As every engineer I know has been predicting, the Volt’s mileage after the grid charge is gone is pretty sad, probably around 27 mpg.

    Source: http://www.thetruthaboutcars.c…..reporting/

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  34. By Benny BND Cole on September 8, 2010 at 1:06 pm

    Paul N-
    Sorry to have manged Australianese.
    I agree on the Volt, and through first-gen PHEV should have been a luxury car–you pay for the priviledge of not wasting time at smelly gasoline statiosn like the hoi-polloi. Give some elen top the vehicle. The battery at $10k is hardly more-expensive than al-leather seating or a fancy paint job.
    The styling should have suggest something new, not a bubble car. I contend that PHEV mileage is so high, that we can give up some mpgs and make them look like the hottest car on the planet.
    Later, when unit costs come down, PHEVs should be introed into econocar market.
    GM and othert automakers confuse high mpg with econocar. They should flip the equation.

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  35. By mac on September 8, 2010 at 7:21 pm

    Wendell said:

    E-85 flex fuel vehicles are good for oil companies. They promote sales of cars that use internal combustion engines that throw away 80 percent of the energy in their liquid fuel. Electric cars are what cause them heartburn.

    Plug-ins have been promoted as a way to greatly reduce our dependence on foreign oil and enhance our national security. They could theoretically reduce liquid fuel consumption greatly, since most people drive less each day than the battery range of their plug-in vehicle, Consequently, the gen-set seldom kicks in and a PHEV driven only within the battery range of the vehicle could theoretically never use a single drop of liquid fuel whatsoever, whether ethanol or gasoline. It doesn’t matter if the oil companies buy out the ethanol plants.or not, because PHEVs aren’t scheduled to use much liquid fuel of any kind.

    Vehicles that rely mostly or entirely on domestically produced electricity pretty much take foreign oil imports out of the equation. Plug-ins may give oil companies heartburn but pure battery electric vehicles give oil companies nightmares,

    Once again, plug-in hybrids are supposed to use only the electric motor the vast majority of the time. In light of that, one of the main talking points for the PHEV is that widespread adoption would drastically reduce gasoline consumption and thereby greatly reduce the infrastructure, geopolitical and military risks concerning oil that were outlined in the German military white paper.

    The Volt and other plug-in hybrids are designed to be at their best when used for short commutes, perhaps trips to the grocery store, taking the kids to school, soccer practice.— stuff like that. They were designed with that in mind because most people (according to numerous studies) only drive a few miles every day —- well within the battery range of a plug-in vehicle. Plug-ins may be “niche” vehicles, but it’s a big niche.

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  36. By Kit P on September 8, 2010 at 9:48 pm

    “while radically improving city air
    and raising US living standards.”

     

    Benny you are a hoot. The way city
    dwellers improve their living standards is to get into their cars and
    drive out of the city. BEVs are not going to work because they do
    not have the range.  Just for fun Benny, go to the nearest freeway and count cars in sunny LA.  How many are:

    • big 4wd with only the driver and not being used for business

     

    “most people (according to numerous
    studies) only drive a few miles every day”

     

    So why would they spend $10k on
    batteries that last 10 years (big maybe) if their driving habits mean
    they do not buy much gas? 

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  37. By russ-finley on September 8, 2010 at 10:52 pm

    Kit P said:

    So why would they spend $10k on batteries that last 10 years (big maybe) if their driving habits mean they do not buy much gas? 


     

    Same reason they spend $30 K to drive a truck or SUV they don’t use for sport or utility.

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  38. By Perry on September 9, 2010 at 3:31 am

    “Vehicles that rely mostly or entirely on domestically produced electricity pretty much take foreign oil imports out of the equation.”

    Bingo Mac. In a couple of years, all the automakers will have a PHEV or EV on showroom floors. Maybe then, Congress can make some serious adjustments to CAFE standards. Bump it up to 40MPG and maybe even the Hummer would go electric. We can do this if we really want it.

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  39. By Kit P on September 9, 2010 at 8:30 am

    “Same reason they spend $30 K to
    drive a truck or SUV they don’t use for sport or utility.”

     

    You really thinks so? If you have ever
    shoe horned the family into a Tercel to go on visiting family and
    then made the same trip in a 9 passenger UV, you would understand the
    difference.

     

    Men love big SUVs because it makes them
    feel manly. Women love SUVs because it makes them feel safe. If you
    are hauling around $10k in batteries in a crappy motorized shopping
    cart for environmental or economic reasons you should feel silly.

     

    Magic wands and pixie dust does not
    make the environment better. Understanding why people do what they
    do and then engineering good environmental choices is how you protect
    the environment.

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  40. By Perry on September 9, 2010 at 11:01 am

    Apples and oranges Kit. The first concern around here is surviving peak oil somewhat intact. We’re going electric because we have no other viable choice. Scaling up biofuels quickly enough is virtually impossible. That leaves walking, biking, horses and mules, or electric cars. Most of us would prefer the latter.

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  41. By russ-finley on September 9, 2010 at 11:20 am

    Kit P said:

    You really thinks so? If you have ever shoe horned the family into a Tercel to go on visiting family and then made the same trip in a 9 passenger UV, you would understand the difference. 


     

    Wouldn’t that depend on the size of your family? If you have ever shoe horned the family into a 9 passenger SUV to go visiting family and then made the same trip in a 30 passenger touring bus with surround sound and bathrooms, you would understand the difference. My family of four goes car camping for a week every summer in a Prius. No problem. That’s what cargo carriers are for.

    Men love big SUVs because it makes them feel manly.

     

    You got that right. Clever marketing made SUV ownership into a status symbol. People fancied themselves off-roading or driving up to the ski lodge when they were not using it for utility by hauling supplies to and fro. In reality, about 99% of SUVs sold never get off a road and are never used for utility, unless that means hauling kids to soccer practice. But status symbols, like all fads, change over time, and vary by peer group.

    As ususally happens with status symbols, an arms race ensued. The Jeep Cherokee was the original SUV. The Hummer looks like a bloated cartoon when parked next to one.

    My parents drove us around in cars called station wagons (station? wagons?). They usually had big eight cylinder engines, large doors in the back that swing open, and could carry a lot of stuff, kids in particular. Sound familiar?

    One of the greatest marketing coups in history was the rebranding of station wagons into  “Sport Utility vehicles” by adding bigger tires and four wheel drive.

    Women love SUVs because it makes them feel safe.

    There is some of that but they also drive them mostly because they have been successfully marketed as higher status cars.

     

    If you are hauling around $10k in batteries in a crappy motorized shopping cart for environmental or economic reasons you should feel silly.

     

    I would tend to agree with that statement. Shopping carts belong in grocery stores, although they are popular with street people and every old folks home has a few to move groceries from the car to the apartment. Very utilitarian. Have not seen anyone carrying $10 K worth of batteries around in one yet.

     

    Magic wands and pixie dust does not make the environment better.

     

    Snap! Back to the drawing board.

     

    Understanding why people do what they do and then engineering good environmental choices is how you protect the environment.

     

    Took the words right out of my mouth. Most Americans spend most of their waking hours seeking higher status. They purchase the highest status house and car that they can afford, er, I mean get loans for.

    The Prius is a marvel of engineering. The Leaf may be the electric car equivalent. I may very well buy one once the early adopters have flushed out the bugs. A two car family that has a Prius and a Leaf will use a fraction of the oil of a typical two car family. When I need to off-road or haul tools, I’ll just rent a truck for $29.

     

     

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  42. By Kit P on September 9, 2010 at 12:24 pm

    “Apples and oranges Kit.”

     

    I was talking about apples and not comparing them to anything.  But Perry if you want to talk about apples we can.

     

    “The first concern around here is surviving peak oil somewhat intact.”

     

    I am doing just fine thank you.  Perry is talking about a hypothetical future problem and how we might respond.  

     

    “no other viable choice”

     

    I can list all the choices that are more viable than BEV again if that will help you understand that very few will buy BEV.  

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  43. By Wendell Mercantile on September 9, 2010 at 1:18 pm

    Apples and oranges

    People always say that, but actually, one can compare apples and oranges:

    1. Apples are usually red, although there are also green and yellow varieties. Oranges are almost always orange.

    2. Apples have a smooth skin. Oranges have a textured skin.

    3. Both fruits make fine juice. The juice of the apple is often fermented and made into hard cider or apple jack. The juice of the orange is seldom fermented, although prisoners have been reported to ferment and drink orange juice.

    4. Both fruits are similar in size, weight, and are comparably sweet, although bitter or tart varieties of both fruits do exist.

    5. Apples are commonly eaten out of hand without removing the skin. Most people prefer to peel oranges before eating them.

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  44. By Kit P on September 9, 2010 at 4:04 pm

    ‘The Jeep Cherokee was the original SUV’

     

    Shame on you Russ, where did you say you went to college? The IH Scout II was the first modern looking SUV.

     

    “No problem.”

     

    I agree but we are trying to figure out what a significant number of people choose to buy and why?

     

    “My parents drove us around in cars called station wagons… Sound familiar?”

     

    Careful punk, I will have to beat you down with my bamboo slide rule.  The first car I bought was a rusted out ’60 Ford Falcon station wagon.  It would hold my entire high school tennis team.  My next station wagon was a 66’ Chevy Impala.  The beast brought two children home from the hospital with it while going to college.  No nanny state laws about seat belts back then.  Several moms threw all the neighbor kids in the back and headed for the park.  Made a good picture for the front page of the paper.    

     

    When I graduated from college with two young kids a really big dog, a station wagon was the only practical choice with multiple duty stations in the next few years.  After test driving a Volvo, I bought a ‘74 IH Travelall which was full-size truck-based station wagon which was later replaced by a ’74 ¾ ton GMC Suburban. 

     

    UVs were very practical although a little more Spartan than station wagons.  They generally did not have 4wd.  They also got about the same mileage as full size station wagons of the era.

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  45. By Perry on September 9, 2010 at 4:40 pm

    Let me put it another way Wendell. We’re tilting at windmills. Whenever EV’s are discussed, the environment invariably takes center stage. Advocates tout the green benefits and naysayers point to the coal burned for electricity. Yet, it’s not the environment that’s driving the move towards electric transportation. Auto execs know there won’t be enough liquid fuel to go around in the near future. They know people won’t buy cars just to sit in line at the local gas station. I won’t buy another new vehicle with internal combustion. It would just be a useless piece of junk in 10 years. Maybe less.

    It’s time to be honest with ourselves. We’ll go electric, even if it’s an environmental catastrophe.

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  46. By OD on September 9, 2010 at 5:23 pm

    Hyundai has unveiled their new electric car, the BlueOn. It has a max speed of 81 mph and can go 87 miles on a single charge. These are not your great great grandaddy’s EVs.

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  47. By Perry on September 9, 2010 at 5:32 pm

    The Hummer PHEV.

    http://www.rasertech.com/media…..test-drive

     

    Congressional hearings on GM plans to electrify trucks and SUV’s.

     

    http://appropriations.senate.g…..e7777ce65b

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  48. By mac on September 9, 2010 at 6:24 pm

    Ferrari bites the dust………..??

    “According to Autoweek, Ferrari Chairman Luca Cordero di Montezemolo has confirmed that the successor to the Enzo throne will come equipped with a hybrid drivetrain.”

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  49. By David on September 11, 2010 at 6:42 pm

    I check Robert’s page every two weeks, to see what the hot new energy tech is. I am not an investor, but I love the idea of storing vast sums of energy. However, I notice most of the forums usually devolve into a long drawn out argument about cars. One thing I have noticed is that almost no one in these forums knows why truck buyers (like me), buy large vehicles to drive around by myself.

    I can’t speak for all truck buyers, but I can speak for myself. I recently traded a Jeep Liberty for a Nissan Titan 4×4 SE Crew Cab. The Liberty was quite efficient, burned a miniscule amount of fuel for commuting type operations, and was quite capable in beach sand. It even had decent transportation capacity, even if it had a rough ride (hey, it was a Jeep). But hang a 3000 lb enclosed trailer behind it, and it became a gas sucking vampire, whose tach was wedged up at 3100RPMs for interstate travel. I knew I had to have more towing capacity, so I bought the truck. It wasn’t a ego game with the neighbors (my Jeep could have pulled most of nieghbor’s cars around backwards on turf or cement, if you want to know about machismo), it wasn’t to have the biggest land vehicle on my street. A lot of us pull toys on the weekends (or in my case, utility trailers), and the “little” SUVs simply can’t cope day in and day out (or even weekends for that matter). And usually we like to take our friends with us, hence 4 door extended cabs, etc.

    Even worse, people like me who have the disposable income, will continue to buy these land roving beasts, because there is no other option. If you transplanted the volt power train in a pickup, you’d be lucky if you could get 5 miles at 55mph out of them, towing a trailer or a boat. Also, people like us don’t have gobs of cash (gobs of cash is not the same as disposable income, mind you) to buy a yard full of vehicles to suit every purpose. So unfortunately, we have to make a choice: get something capable the first time, or live without capability. And renting is a waste of time and money. First you have to burn the gas to get to a rental shop (25 mile commute), plus the time (45m is typical to get into the closest rental agency that has pickups), plus the general hassle of having to plan around driving a vehicle not your own, and then having to return it and drive back. Simply put, renting a truck on the weekend is 100% impractical, unless UHAUL or Hertz is your next door neighbor. Good luck finding such a situation in a rural area.

    What could help us truck buyers conserve fuel, is if the greenpeace types and their ilk would back off on the diesel soot issue, so that the manufacturers could put high powered, yet high efficiency compression ignition motors into our pickups. Diesel has higher power density, and compression ignition means you aren’t wasting gobs of energy when idling or cruising at highway speeds, pumping against your throttle plate.

    Ford is going to experiment with a turbo V6 fullsize in the market place next year, but it will be gasoline. There are a lot of doubts surrounding how well such a motor is going to hold up under towing conditions. Generally, gasoline turbocharged engines usually only experience high temperature operation during acceleration, but not on a continuous basis like dragging a big trailer down the road behind you. While the motor is direct injection, that is not a be-all end-all solution to detonation, and definitely does not solve the thermal issues surrounding operating pistons continuously at such high temperatures in vehicles intended to drive 120Kmiles or more before any serious problem arises. If the motor is build too stout, then the efficiency gains of a smaller motor will go away since you still will have a motor that is just as heavy as a V8.

    Finally, I don’t buy that oil is peaking yet. It *may* be peaking with current technology, but we will always have better technology right around the corner. Better pumps, better locating equipment. And the oil industry, unlike the battery/electricity storage industry, the oil industry is delivering new technology on a constant schedule. So far they have in fact kept up with the demand. The same cannot be said for battery/capacitor manufacturers (EEStor, here is looking at you, kid, and not in any kind of positive light either).

    What has been promised to us that has NOT occurred is a better way to store energy than gasoline. Lithium Ion batteries are great for a laptop, still unproven in the market place for electric cars, and don’t store even close to practical amounts of energy for truck use. And even last week, I got yet another recall for yet another Lio powered egadget, because it could burst into flames or explode under certain conditions. It’s ridden in my luggage for years on a plane, sometime in the cabin with me! And I want to sit on a large array of them in a object that has the capacity to collide with other objects at high speed? Hmmmm.

    Nah, electrics aren’t ready for prime time yet. And if fuel prices do go back up to dramatically high levels (or higher, like $10/gallon)? I have a M on my license that says I can drive a motorcycle, and there are a bunch of very efficient fuel injected 250cc bikes on the market right now or coming to market. I could drive all week on that, and pop into my gas guzzler for stuff on the weekends.

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  50. By moiety on September 12, 2010 at 5:34 am

    David said:

    The Liberty was quite efficient, burned a miniscule amount of fuel for commuting type operations, and was quite capable in beach sand.


     

    This is one misconception that has to be corrected. Regardless of what you use a vehicle for, vehicular transport of people is not efficient. That is what many people has issues against; the use of very large vehicles to transport one person to and from work or other location. That is why people invariably end up talking about cars on this forum.

    Whether it is right or not is a personal choice. For me it is rather simple; drying is not a necessity as most of my business is in northern Europe and for personal activities the public transport and cycling is more than sufficient.

     

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  51. By paul-n on September 12, 2010 at 8:23 am

    What could help us truck buyers conserve fuel, is if the greenpeace types and their ilk would back off on the diesel soot issue, so that the manufacturers could put high powered, yet high efficiency compression ignition motors into our pickups.

    David, I’m not sure that Greenpeace is solely at fault there.  The US PU truck makers have only been interested in diesel for the HD units for decades, even though they make and sell small diesel trucks and cars in the rest of the world.  I think part of it has been the attitude of American drivers, who didn’t seem to want diesels.  Even Mercedes Benz USA refused to sell the diesel Smart, until they put in a gasoline engine.  i do agree though, that the over zealous emission standards are big factor in the lack of diesel light vehicles on the road – that would be the fault of the governments who imposed such regulations.  

    Personally, I think diesels are they way to go for PU’s and any vehicle that does lots of driving, and they can be co fuelled with ethanol, methanol and CNG, all at diesel like efficiencies, or better (with methanol).  I don;t think anyone is seriously suggesting Volt type solutions, but diesel would solve most of your problems. I drive a Ford Ranger and am very frustrated that there are no diesel options for mid size PU’s, having grown up with one in Australia.   For a while there was actually a Liberty turbo diesel available, I’m sure it would have towed much more than the gasoline version.

    The problem ends up being that people who want to do stuff like towing boats etc end up with that vehicle being used as their commuter.  You can afford the boat/Rv, but not enough to have a dedicated towing vehicle, and a dedicated commuting vehicle, so you spend less money but use a lot more oil – but is that good for the country? That is why, indeed, the motorcycle is a good solution.  if we were paying Euro prices for fuel, a lot more people would be doing that.

     

    It’s not just part of the problem is that there isn’t a better way to store energy than oil (for non nuclear sized applications), that’s the whole problem.  Any alternative storage (batteries, etc) is not as good, and turning lesser fuels (e.g. biomass) into oil is inefficient.  

    Whether world peak oil  is at hand or not is indeed debatable, but what is not debatable is that US peak oil has been around for some time, (since the early 70′s)and is only getting worse.  The economy is increasingly dependent on something it produces less of, but any real change will be either inconvenient or expensive, or both, and seen as a step back – which no one wants to take and no politician wants to have to impose.

    The US does not have an “energy crisis”, it has plenty of energy sources for electricity, it just has a “liquid fuels crisis”.  And given that it uses twice the oil per capita of similar economies, like Australia, you have to ask whether the crisis is not enough supply, or too much demand?  And that is why we so often end up on transport, and cars in particular – they account for half the US oil consumption and one in eight of every barrel produced in the world.  Any initiatives that can meaningfully reduce oil usage are well worth talking about.  What no one really wants to have to do is a “lifestyle change”, but if nothing else changes, that may have to happen.  Although, given peoples lifestyles in Aust. and Europe, that does not necessarily mean stepping backwards.  

     

     

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  52. By Kit P on September 12, 2010 at 11:38 am

    That is why, indeed, the motorcycle is
    a good solution.

     

    If you have a death wish. People the
    many dangerous things to save on energy. If you want to see
    something really scary look for a jacked up 4wd SUV is California or
    Virgina plates.

     

    My ’89 Ford Ranger gets 30 mpg in town.
    My ’80 Izuzu diesel 4wd PU got 30 mpg on the highway. My ’84 ¾
    ton GMC Suburban 17 mpg on the highway and 14 when pulling a 27′
    trailer because it has a small block V-8 and a 4spd overdrive
    transmission. The well know ‘secret’ getting good mileage and
    staying our of the ditch in the snow with a UV is driving slow.
    Therefore a big engine and 4wd is not going to help an idiot who does
    not know how to drive his rig.

     

    I had a rule about driving faster than
    55 mph when towing. Pulling my small sailboat with the Izuzu diesel
    PU faster than 55 mph was not an option. When I was pulling it with
    the Suburban I put a yellow sticky over the speedometer that said
    trailer in back.

     

    UV’s are not sports cars no matter what
    the marketing image. Heavy, over powered, jacked up 4wd are
    unstable at high speeds but provide a false sense of security. Some
    western states have a 75 mph limit but I have been passed numerous
    times people doing at least 80 pulling trailers.

     

     

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  53. By paul-n on September 12, 2010 at 4:18 pm

    I saw a jacked up 4wd in Alaska that I could almost walk under, though, in it’s defence, it looked like it got used for real work in real mud etc, not cruising freeways.

    In Australia the equivalent of the AAA took a look at crash statistics of vehicles with trailers some time ago and found that the accident rate was 10x per vehicle kilometer driven.  They identified three main causes;

    1. drivers inexperienced at towing.

    2. Poorly maintained or overweight trailers

    3. Excessive speed.  

     

    2 and 3 are really related to 1, because experienced towers don’t let 2 or 3 happen.  I have seen highway signs in one of the western states where it was 55mph for vehicles with trailers, but clearly those drivers did not see those signs.

     

    This just out from head of Ford Canada, who says we are buying “too many” trucks; ;

    http://www.calgaryherald.com/t…..story.html

     

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  54. By Sophia Hamilton on September 24, 2010 at 2:06 am

    There are a lot of possible yields .
    The report lists six direction of research and offers recommendations for each.
    1)First up is pyrolysis or “fast pyrolysis” that offers two current problems.
    2)Second is the issue of current petroleum refineries using biomass products.
    3)Third is liquid-phase catalytic processing.
    4)Fourth is catalytic conversion of syngas.
    5)The fifth matter is process engineering and design.
    6)The last segment is “Crosscutting Scientific Issues.

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  55. By anonymous on September 29, 2010 at 8:18 am

    Major University Admits Hard Science
    Problems Relating to Algae Have Been Solved

    Arizona State University Senior Vice President Rick Shangraw recenty said “…algae will “deliver soon” because…most of the hard science problems science problems regarding algae have been solved…Now…it’s largely an engineering problem.”

    Does the DOE really want to get off of foreign oil or do they want to keep algae researchers employed at universities?

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  56. By DHARMESH MAHAJAN on June 2, 2011 at 3:08 pm

    As usual, I again had great difficulty to post the weblinks properly in the earlier post loaded just now. Here again I provide them directly instead of using link option….

    1.)Pacific National Lab Link –

    http://www.pnl.gov/main/public…..-18284.pdf

    2.) Envergent -Biomass to Electricity via PyOil route Case study –

    http://www.envergenttech.com/f…..p_10v1.pdf

    3.) Ensyn’s weblink for Biochemical via Pyrolysis route –

    http://www.ensyn.com/biochem.htm

    Sorry for inconvenience…..

    Cheers
    Dharmesh

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