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Posts tagged “biofuels”

By Robert Rapier on Jan 16, 2012 with 22 responses

Venture Socialism?

With the recently announced foreclosure of Vinod Khosla venture Range Fuels, followed by the fire sale of Range Fuels’ assets to Vinod Khosla venture LanzaTech, I have been getting a lot of calls from reporters wanting to discuss exactly what happened here. After all, well over $300 million was invested into Range Fuels — including tens of millions of taxpayer dollars — and what resulted were assets that were ultimately bought by LanzaTech for about $5 million. Two articles were published over the weekend by journalists I spoke with last week: Georgia failure not the only ethanol misadventure Range Fuels fiasco: Finding renewal energy in Georgia forests didn’t work out This quote caught my eye from one of the articles:… Continue»

By Robert Rapier on Dec 19, 2011 with 50 responses

Range Fuels Goes Bust, Harms Biofuels Industry in the Process

Recently it was announced that Range Fuels has gone into foreclosure, thus marking the official end of their story. For all practical purposes, the company has been finished since early 2011, but the foreclosure puts an end to the notion that they will yet rise triumphant from the ashes. Last week, Heather Duncan — a reporter for The Telegraph in Macon, Georgia — called me to discuss the Range story. She has just published an excellent summary of what went wrong at Range Fuels, and what lessons might be learned from their failure: Range Fuels failure raises the question: How much risk should the government take with taxpayer dollars? Here I want to excerpt some of the highlights from her… Continue»

By Samuel R. Avro on Nov 3, 2011 with 18 responses

This Week in Energy: Range Fuels To Declare Bankruptcy?

This Week in Energy is a weekly round-up of news making headlines in the world of energy. Many of these stories are posted throughout the week to our Energy Ticker page. The purpose is to stimulate discussion on energy issues. Community members should feel free to turn these into open thread energy discussions. Suggestions and news tips are welcome. I (Sam) can be reached at editor [at] consumerenergyreport [dot] com. Note: Robert Rapier is currently in Washington, D.C. and will be presenting at the ASPO-USA conference over the next few days. If you’re attending the conference or in the area be sure to hit him up. Range Fuels Saga Coming to a Close? Regular readers of this blog are familiar… Continue»

By Robert Rapier on Oct 17, 2011 with 18 responses

Why I Didn’t Short KiOR

In a recent column on the metric of “success” in Cleantech, I wrote that the measure of success that will matter to most people is whether the company sells energy at an affordable price: I simply don’t think that the fact that one can talk up a company and then IPO it at a profit is the proper metric for success. Some of those companies that have been IPO’d are grossly overvalued. Many of them won’t be around for long. (In fact, I wrestled hard this week with a decision to short one of them; I ultimately decided not to — but not because I don’t think the company is grossly overvalued). So is a company that is IPO’d, makes… Continue»

By Samuel R. Avro on Oct 6, 2011 with 113 responses

This Week in Energy: Study Says Biofuels Costly, Impacts Questionable

This Week in Energy is a weekly round-up of news making headlines in the world of energy. Most of these stories are posted throughout the week to our Energy Ticker page. The purpose is to stimulate discussion on energy issues, and community members should feel free to turn these into open thread energy discussions. Suggestions and news tips are welcome. I (Sam) can be reached at editor [at] consumerenergyreport [dot] com . NRC Report to Congress: Cellulosic Biofuel Mandates Unlikely to Be Met A congressionally requested study by the National Research Council — an arm of the National Academy of Sciences — concluded that next-generation biofuels are costly, and their impacts questionable. “Absent major technological innovation or policy changes, the… Continue»

By Robert Rapier on Jul 8, 2011 with 105 responses

What Happened at Choren?

If you have not heard by now, Choren Industries has begun bankruptcy proceedings. For those who don’t know, since 2009 I have worked as the technology advisor for the major investor and primary funding source for Choren’s day-to-day operations. I have just returned from a visit to their plant in Freiberg, Germany. Due to the nature of my relationships with my employer and with Choren, I have to be guarded about what I say. To be clear, I do not work for Choren, and thus am not writing this as a Choren spokesman of any sort. But I do want to shed a bit more light on the situation. First of all, to give a bit of background on Choren,… Continue»

By Robert Rapier on Jun 14, 2011 with 53 responses

Q&A With Virent CTO Randy Cortright

In the previous essay, I discussed the National Advanced Biofuels Consortium (NABC) and the recently announced success of Virent Energy Systems (Virent), a member of the consortium. In this essay I try to dig into the process details a bit more with a series of technical exchanges with Virent Founder and CTO Randy Cortright. My questions are denoted as RR and his responses are in blue as RC. I began by asking Dr. Cortright to confirm my understanding of Virent’s process. RR: Let me make sure I am clear on the process. You take cellulosic biomass and hydrolyze that to sugars. You hydrogenate those sugars and put them through your aqueous reformer. The reformer output consists of ketones, acids, aldehydes,… Continue»

By Robert Rapier on Jun 10, 2011 with 50 responses

Virent Pulling Ahead of the Pack?

The National Advanced Biofuels Consortium In January 2010, Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced the investment of nearly $80 million under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for advanced biofuels research and fueling infrastructure. About $35 million of the funding went toward the National Advanced Biofuels Consortium (NABC). The consortium consists of 17 partners from industry, national laboratories, and universities with the goal of producing economical biofuels that are compatible with existing infrastructure (drop-in fuels). The consortium is investigating “six process strategies with the greatest potential to meet the project objectives. Each process involves converting biomass feedstock, such as corn stover or wood chips, into a form that can be used in a petroleum refinery. These new and innovative approaches can… Continue»

By Robert Rapier on May 26, 2011 with 69 responses

Air Force Says Biomass-Based Jet Fuel is 10 Times the Cost of JP-8

Just over a year ago, I wrote an article called Is Camelina the Next Jatropha? If you recall, a few years ago jatropha was all the rage. It could grow in marginal soil, didn’t need much water, and could provide fuel that didn’t compete with food. Farmers in developing countries were encouraged to forgo cash crops like cotton to grow jatropha, which wouldn’t be ready for harvest for at least three years after planting. Then reality began to set in. People learned that while jatropha is drought tolerant, it needs ample rainfall to flourish. There were many firsthand reports from farmers that growing and harvesting jatropha was very labor intensive, and the oil yields were much lower than advertised. India… Continue»

By Robert Rapier on Feb 21, 2011 with 24 responses

Due Diligence: How to Evaluate a Renewable Energy Technology

Doing Due Diligence To people who follow the energy industry closely, it’s a common occurrence to come across announcements from companies proclaiming to have developed the key to the ‘next big thing’ — for solving the world’s energy crisis. Maybe they say they can take any sort of waste biomass and turn it into fuel — ethanol, diesel, pyrolysis oil, mixed alcohols — at very low cost. Or they say they can produce renewable electricity at a price competitive with coal. The layperson reads the news release and is curious: “Is this real?” When I am asked to comment on a press release, I try to be cautious with my opinions until I have peeled the onion a bit. There… Continue»