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Posts tagged “cellulose”

By Robert Rapier on Mar 7, 2008 with 2 responses

Cellulosic Ethanol is Dead

Cellulosic Ethanol is Dead! Long Live Biomass Gasification! My thunder has been stolen. I have been kicking around a post in my head for the past couple of weeks. I just haven’t had time to get around to it, with the move and all. But this has been nagging away at me for a long time. My thinking goes something like this. Cellulosic ethanol, and by that I mean cellulosic ethanol in the traditional mold of what Iogen has been working on for years – will never be commercially viable. How can I be so sure? For one, I have covered the logistical challenges here and here. These are not going away, and are serious barriers to commercialization. In brief,… Continue»

By Robert Rapier on Dec 8, 2007 with no responses

Holiday Travel Plans and a Letter from a Reader

I will be traveling from December 16th until January 13th with intermittent Internet access. During this time, I hope to put up some posts covering the year in energy, my $1,000 bet on oil prices (which I think I will win by the skin of my teeth), finalize my ethanol FAQ, and take a look back at my resolutions for 2007. I probably won’t cover This Week in Petroleum during this time, as I am unlikely to be around a computer when the report comes out. I may also pull up some interesting mail from readers that I have gotten from time to time and post the exchange from a few of those. In fact, I will go ahead and… Continue»

By Robert Rapier on Nov 25, 2007 with 1 response

Termite Power

When I was in graduate school at Texas A&M in the early 90′s, I selected chemical engineering Professor Mark Holtzapple as my research advisor. His work was exactly in my area of interest: Biofuels from cellulose. Even then, I was very concerned about the non-sustainable lifestyle we were living, and I was hoping to save the world. For a very good overview on what we were doing, see this PowerPoint presentation or this article. In brief, what we were doing was searching for naturally occurring biological systems that convert cellulose to organic chemicals. The primary system we studied was the bovine digestive system. Cattle are very efficient digesters of cellulose. They eat grass, and break it down via microorganisms that… Continue»

By Robert Rapier on Nov 10, 2007 with no responses

Vinod Khosla Scoops Me

Some people think I am anti-ethanol. That is an oversimplification, and a misrepresentation of my position. I have nothing against ethanol as a fuel. It isn’t as good a fuel as butanol, but then again we can’t make butanol as efficiently as we make ethanol. My objection is with specific ethanol policies in the U.S., which I think are setting up some potentially risky scenarios and making a lot of unrealistic promises. Imagine that we have a drought in the Midwest that causes corn crops to fail, sending food and ethanol prices soaring at the same time. Such an event would surely have us reevaluating U.S. ethanol policies. I also dislike the incredible hype associated with cellulosic ethanol. Promising too… Continue»

By Robert Rapier on Nov 6, 2007 with no responses

Range Fuels Breaks Ground on the Nation’s 1st Cellulosic Ethanol Plant

I have gotten several of these press releases from Public Relations firm OutCast Communications publicizing Range Fuels’ pending groundbreaking: Good morning Robert – Wanted to share with you that Range Fuels will break ground today on the nation’s first cellulosic ethanol plant, located in Soperton GA (near Atlanta, GA). This facility will help the country reduce greenhouse gas emissions and move toward energy independence; the plant will produce over 100M gallons of ethanol per year, by using available wood waste from Georgia’s pine forests. Please let me know if you are interested in further information. Photographs will be made available after the 2:00 ET event, via the AP wire. Best,Heather Since today is the day, here is the latest press… Continue»

By Robert Rapier on Sep 25, 2007 with no responses

Excellent Cellulosic Ethanol Overview

Wired just published a nice overview of cellulosic ethanol. It takes you through the history, the challenges, some of the major players, etc. It is one of the most comprehensive and balanced articles on the subject that you will ever run across. So, if you always wanted to understand both sides of cellulosic ethanol, check it out: One Molecule Could Cure Our Addiction to Oil Just a couple of excerpts of interest: On a blackboard, it looks so simple: Take a plant and extract the cellulose. Add some enzymes and convert the cellulose molecules into sugars. Ferment the sugar into alcohol. Then distill the alcohol into fuel. One, two, three, four — and we’re powering our cars with lawn cuttings,… Continue»

By Robert Rapier on Nov 19, 2006 with no responses

Cellulosic Ethanol Reality Check

I firmly believe we should be aggressively researching the potential of cellulosic ethanol. This was after all the topic of my graduate school work at Texas A&M. But I think the hype has gotten way out of touch with reality at this point in time. There is a reason that nobody today is making money with cellulosic ethanol. It is quite possible that they never will, and in this essay I will discuss the reasons for that. I did an interview with a major publication last week on the topic of cellulosic ethanol. I won’t divulge any details, because I don’t want to leak out anything before it is published. But during the course of the interview, I made the… Continue»