Weekly Article on Green Fuels : 9th-to-16th-Apr-2015


Some of the most exciting news in the world of green energy production has come from the progress being made in biomass fuel production. Fuels derived from biomass are generating interest and attention because of their similarity to petroleum-based fuels chemically, they can be transported through the existing pipeline system, and can be used to power existing engines. This makes adapting biomass fuels for everyday use a lot simpler and cheaper than many other forms of alternative energy. A few months ago representatives from the agriculture, automotive, oil, and chemical industries, several leading laboratories, venture capitalists, small businesses, and 24 American universities met for a two-day event coordinated by the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation. The event focused on removing the engineering and chemical barriers to creating viable biofuels. The workshops participants discussed the progress being made in science, engineering, and chemistry necessary to transform lignocellulosic biomass into clean, green diesel, gasoline, and jet fuel. They applauded the significant investments made in the technology to produce biodiesel from canola or soybean oil, ethanol from corn, and transform nonfood biomass feedstocks into biodiesel and ethanol. They also discussed the need for more investments into converting biomass into hydrocarbon fuels. One of the biggest developments was the announcement by researchers at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst about crucial advancements they've made in green gasoline production. Attendees received a document edited by University of Massachusetts, Amherst chemical engineer George Huber showing the technologies being used to produce biomass fuel worldwide. Huber even showed a vial of Bio Oil produced in a Fitchburg, Massachusetts-based manufacturing plant. The document signaled biorefineries to produce Bio Oil in large enough quantities to meet the needs of government, industry, and private citizens are imminent. Engineers and scientists at Washington State's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory working in conjunction with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and UOP LLC, a company that develops and licenses catalysts and process technologies, are in the process of expanding their green gasoline production. That process should be complete in 12 to 24 months. Green gasoline is an alternative to ethanol and the technology to create it already exists. Iowa State University has a system where chemical engineer Brent Shanks and his team are converting biomass into chemicals and fuels. Researchers are already planning a second generation of biofuels that will be faster, easier, and less expensive to produce. The question is no longer if biofuel is viable, but which type of biofuel is the right one to use. At the two day workshop in Washington several recommendations were made to help with the development in the U.S. of a mature biofuels industry which focuses on the production of green hydrocarbon fuels. ConocoPhillips announced it will invest $22.5 million over 8 years at Iowa State University on research to create advanced biofuel production technologies focused on the fast pyrolysis process. The pyrolysis community is making progress turning biocrude into fuel products. Researchers are also near the completion of the creation of a sugar based liquid that's indistinguishable from gasoline. The workshop participants were excited and enthusiastic about the infrastructure investment to create multiple fuels using multiple approaches that are infrastructure compatible. The goal now is refining the process for creating fuel from nonfood biomass so it costs as little as petroleum-based fuels.