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Posts tagged “biomass gasification”

By Robert Rapier on Dec 21, 2009 with 1 response

Let the Data Do the Talking

Although not always successful, my goal is to let data drive my conclusions. Still, we all sometimes find ourselves in debates that are based more on passion and conviction than on data. But if the data are ignored because the conviction is strong, it may be dogma driving the conclusions. Passionate debates are fine, but passionate debates that ignore data have no business in a scientific discussion. Further, such arguments frequently degenerate because one or both sides is not listening to the other. During such emotional debates, I have been accused of being a shill for oil and gas, or of being a shill for biomass. In fact, in the debate I will discuss here, I was called both in… Continue»

By Robert Rapier on Dec 15, 2009 with no responses

Biomass Is Not Crazy Logic

I saw a story about a week ago that I flagged to comment on when I got caught up. I suppose I am caught up enough now to do so. The story is: Burn a Tree to Save the Planet? The Crazy Logic Behind Biomass The author is listed as Joshua Frank, described as an environmental journalist and the author of Left Out!: How Liberals Helped Reelect George W. Bush. Frank has previously written an article critical of Oregon’s usage of electricity derived from coal, and in the current essay he turns his attention to biomass. The article is confusing from the start: It might seem crazy that anyone would even consider the incineration of wood and its byproducts to… Continue»

By Robert Rapier on Sep 3, 2009 with no responses

Biofuel Contenders

Introduction I got quite a few interesting e-mails and comments following my previous essay: Biofuel Pretenders. I probably should have mentioned – but I thought it went without saying – that pretenders usually don’t think they are pretenders and will therefore protest mightily at the characterization. A number of people who e-mailed assured me that they have really cracked the code to affordable biofuels, and that we would be hearing more about them soon. Another person who wrote to me about algae said that he has been following algae since 1973, and he wrote “In spite of all the hype and non-stop press releases, no one to my knowledge is producing algae on a commercial basis for biofuel production.” Ultimately,… Continue»

By Robert Rapier on Aug 21, 2009 with no responses

My Point Exactly

I missed this story when it came out last week:Hydrocarbon biofuels’ promise tops that of ethanol, gasoline John Regalbuto, a chemical engineer at the University of Illinois, Chicago, and director of the NSF catalysis and biocatalysis program, wrote in Science that biomass-derived fuels are not far from being part of the energy mix as a replacement for gasoline, diesel and jet fuel. Hydrocarbon fuels can be directly produced from the sugars of woody biomass — forest waste, cornstalks or switchgrass — through microbial fermentation or liquid-phase catalysis, he wrote. They can be produced by pyrolysis or gasification directly from the woody biomass. And they can be produced by converting the lipids of nonfood crops and algae. “The drawback to using… Continue»

By Robert Rapier on Aug 18, 2009 with no responses

Rentech Making Waves

The following story posed a bit of a dilemma for me. In my new role, there will be potential conflicts of interest in some of the stories I may post, and until I elaborate on what I am doing, I am trying to avoid posting anything that might fall into that category. When I first saw this story earlier today – and in fact received the press release from Rentech (RTK) – my first thought was that this sort of fell into that category. Why? Two reasons. First, Rentech’s Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer Harold Wright is my former manager and a friend. Second, in my new role I have interests that are of the same nature as… Continue»

By Robert Rapier on Jun 25, 2009 with no responses

Wood Gasification Plant Opens

Been really tied up, but saw this story yesterday and wanted to bring attention to it. I think it is significant, and a sign of things to come. Not much time to comment, but some excerpts from the article: Plant making gas from wood opens in Austria GUESSING, Austria (AFP) – A new plant that produces gas from wood was opened in Austria on Wednesday, paving the way towards new possibilities in renewable energy. According to its backers, the gas produced at the plant can be used in urban heating systems, for gas-powered cars or by power stations that work on gas. “The gas produced has the same quality as natural gas,” said Richard Zweiler, from the European Centre for… Continue»

By Robert Rapier on May 23, 2009 with no responses

Chemistry: The Future of Cellulose

I am not a big believer in a commercial future for the biochemical conversion of cellulose into fuels. There are many big hurdles in place that are going to have to be overcome before cellulose is commercially converted to ethanol. In a nutshell, one is the logistical problem, which I have covered before. Beyond the logistical problem is the issue that biochemistry often starts to malfunction as the conditions in a reactor change, and with cellulosic ethanol that means that if you get a 4% solution of ethanol in water, you are doing well. But from an energy return point of view, a 4% solution is about like the trillions barrels of oil shale reserves we have. If it takes… Continue»

By Robert Rapier on May 12, 2009 with no responses

Rentech Announces BTL Plant

Still on vacation, but an interesting announcement yesterday by Rentech: Rialto Project Our proposed Rialto Renewable Energy Center (Rialto Project) will be located in Rialto, California. The facility is designed to produce approximately 600 barrels per day of pure renewable synthetic fuels and export approximately 35 megawatts of renewable electric power. The renewable power is expected to qualify under California’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) program, which requires utilities to increase the amount of electric power they sell from qualified renewable-energy resources. The plant will be capable of providing enough electricity for approximately 30,000 homes. Rentech has entered into a licensing agreement with SilvaGas Corporation for the biomass gasification technology for the Rialto facility. Rentech’s proprietary technology for the conditioning and… Continue»

By Robert Rapier on Apr 20, 2009 with no responses

Beyond Fossil Fuels

Through at least this week, my posting will continue to be sporadic. I have been traveling a lot the past couple of weeks, and this week (Thursday April 23rd) I head to Kansas City to give a talk that will be partially about biofuels and partially about acetylated wood: Economic Forum – Biofuels, Biobuildings, and Beyond After that, I think things will settle down for a little while. I am back in Europe next week, and I usually have more time for writing then (since my family isn’t there, I write in the evenings). For now, there is an interesting series of articles that will be published this week at Scientific American: Beyond Fossil Fuels: Energy Leaders Weigh In Here… Continue»

By Robert Rapier on Jan 17, 2009 with no responses

Renewable Diesel Primer

Given the recent news that biodiesel has caused buses in Minnesota to malfunction in cold weather, I thought this would be a good time to review the differences between diesel, biodiesel, and green diesel. In order to explain the key issues, I am going to excerpt from the chapter on renewable diesel that I wrote for Biofuels, Solar and Wind as Renewable Energy Systems: Benefits and Risks. First, what happened in Minnesota? Biodiesel fuel woes close Bloomington schools All schools in the Bloomington School District will be closed today after state-required biodiesel fuel clogged in school buses Thursday morning and left dozens of students stranded in frigid weather, the district said late Thursday. Rick Kaufman, the district’s spokesman, said elements… Continue»