Monday, August 3, 2009

Cellulosic Ethanol Progress

This report appears promising inasmuch as progress is been proclaimed. Numbers and actual comparables are not mentioned and bragged about which makes me a little shy. The important thing to observe is that the feedstocks are clearly spelled out and a n8umber of organizations are working diligently including this one.

There is one brass ring and a lot of folks are jumping to get it now. We have posted on several cellulosic protocols and also on at least one lignin protocol. It both can be made to perform efficiently at a modest temperature then we are really in business.

I have also expressed my share of skepticism over a viable solution been achieved anytime soon. This stems from the simple observation that mother nature engineered a product able to stand up to normal and also abnormal biological attack and we must not think she is about to give us a break.

The result of this is that we are certainly seeing incremental progress, but never quite enough and plenty of optimistic press releases to help keep the money flowing. Perhaps that has to be good enough. It is the type of science that responds well to slow mastery. For the impatient types recall that most chemical and biologically based processes take literally decades to be implemented without the luxury of rapid finance.

That seems inefficient, but it is not. Any process that sort of works in the lab, will hand you a fist full of surprises upon your efforts to transition to plant scale equipment. Changing World Technologies is obviously learning that after running a solid pilot plat operation. They are using high temperature high pressure vessels to reform feedstock into hydrocarbons.

A perfectly good plan so far as it goes, but I can think of few systems that would be more inclined to be as troublesome. It may in fact be a fine piece of application engineering, but the vagarities of this form of research makes me very hesitant to bet any money.

I would like to see the strands of research drawn together to see if a plausible system is available yet. Some are claiming this, but a colloquium would be highly appropriate now.

Qteros: Cellulosic Ethanol Production Breakthrough

July 27th, 2009

Posted by
Joanna Schroeder

formerly Sun Ethanol, recently announced that it has broken the barrier of ethanol production from cellulosic biomass feedstocks such as corn stover, sugarcane and woody biomass. As most biofuels companies report the production of 50 grams of ethanol per liter, Qteros says it is now producing 70 grams of ethanol per liter or approximately 100 gallons per ton.

The company’s proprietary microbe, the Q Microbe is reported to achieve this breakthrough production number. It is achieved through one step on industrially pretreated cellulosic biomass feedstocks, such as woody biomass. This technology makes cellulosic ethanol production the most economical to date and it uses less water than current ethanol production.

During a presentation at the
World Congress on Industrial Biotechnolgy and Bioprocesssing last week in Montreal, Canada, Susan Leschine a microbiologist at the University of Massachusetts said of the discovery, “We knew from the beginning that the Q Microbe was an extraordinary microorganism. These results confirm what we predicted: Qteros and the Q Microbe can make cellulosic ethanol a commercial reality.”

Jef Sharp, Executive VP was quoted in a
USA Today article about the breakthrough, “According to a DOE report, there are over a billion tons of plant biomass available every year for this purpose. Qteros will not need fossil fuel inputs for fertilizer or distillation of the ethanol because the lignin portion of the plant material (about 1/3 of most plants) will be burned to generate the heat necessary to refine the ethanol. There will also be leftover green electricity created.”

Although this announcement is monumental by past comparisons,
Qteros has only just begun. The company expects to make additional improvements to the process of taking advantage of ongoing efforts in molecular genetics and strain development. That’s a whole lost of science to say that the company is still in search of producing an even better biofuel.

– July 27th, 2009

It’s harvest time somewhere and it’s in Texas. Today, the first cob collection of 2009 is complete and
POET is continuing to work with agricultural equipment manufacturers and growers to discover the most efficient and affordable means for harvesting cellulosic feedstock.

July 6-22, equipment for harvesting corn cobs was tested near Harlingen, Texas. The trials were in anticipation for larger harvesting efforts that will be underway this fall in the Midwest. In all, POET expects to harvest as many as 25,000 acres in Texas, South Dakota and Iowa.

POET has been using corn cobs in its pilot cellulosic ethanol plant in Scotland, S.D. and will they will also be used at its first commercial cellulosic ethanol plant in Emmetsburg, Iowa in 2011. The project is known as
Project LIBERTY and will produce 25 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol per year.

“Agriculture equipment manufacturers are putting the final touches on a variety of harvesters that will be on the market soon,” said Scott Weishaar, Vice President of Commercial Development. “Farmers will have a lot of ways to take advantage of corn cobs as a new revenue stream.”

POET will continue work with 15-20 farmers in the Emmetsburg area in further tests this fall and will purchase cobs for use in
Project LIBERTY.

“Farmers will play a big role in our nation’s energy future,” Weishaar said. “Their support has been instrumental in the success of grain-based ethanol and will continue to be crucial in commercializing cellulosic ethanol.”

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