Reports from the Biofuels Frontier

By Anna Simet | January 11, 2013

The International Biomass Conference & Expo agenda was released today and has shaped up nicely, and I thought I’d share a bit about a panel that I think will garner a lot of interest.

Track four’s advanced biofuels and biobased chemicals panel “Reports from the Frontier: Commercialization Updates from Tomorrow's Advanced Biofuel and Bio-based Chemical Producers,” has been finalized, and as the title suggests, will host industry members that plan to share with you progress and technological advances that their respective companies have made.

When I first started at Biomass Magazine in mid-2008, one of the first companies I became familiar with was Enerkem Inc.  I believe at the time they were nearing completion of their demonstration-scale syngas-to-methanol and cellulosic ethanol facility in Westbury, Quebec, (they began making methanol in 2011 and cellulosic ethanol in 2012) and since then, it’s been pretty amazing to see how they have progressed, now having plants under construction in Edmonton, Alberta; Varennes, Quebec; and Pontotoc, Miss. 

During the panel, Enerkem Senior Vice President of Business Development Manager Tim Cesarek is going to share with you their experiences, and I’m sure he’ll provide an update on where they are at with each project.

Also to provide an update on his company’s commercialization progress will be Andrew Held, director of process engineering for Virent Energy Systems Inc. Virent has successfully produced bio-based gasoline and jet fuel from woody biomass, as well as bio-based paraxylene , which can be used to produce bioplastics. Last April, the company’s Wisconsin demonstration-scale facility was toured by U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

An interesting tidbit about Virent—they have a partnership with Coca Cola to make 100 percent plant-based bottles.

Also on board the panel is Brian Davis, North American Coordinator of BioPetrol Ltd., which has a technology platform of turning sewage sludge to a crude synthetic oil via an improved version of Fischer-Tropsh technology.  The company scored a $300,000 grant from Israel’s Office of the Chief Scientist and a $400,000 grant from the Israel Water Authority to conduct advanced R&D., and is on the verge of constructing a demonstration pilot plant.

Jeff Manternach, CFO of IR1 Group LLC, is the final speaker on the panel. IR1 Group is a complete project development, engineering, construction and operations services company, and has an impressive project profile, which includes construction and operation of eight dry-mill corn based plants and is the lead developer of a next-gen energy beet based project in California, as well as a biomass gas-to-liquids project in Colorado.

 Lisa Dyson, CEO of Kiverdi Inc., will moderate the panel.

I think some of the most interesting panels to attend at conferences are the “real- life experience” panels, such as this one. After all, the reason our industry is where it is today is because we’ve built upon the work of those who came before us.

Hope to see you all in Minneapolis in April—check out the International Biomass Conference & Expo agenda here.



1 Responses

  1. Doshan



    Oh the "anonymous" crowd strikes again. "Ah the joys of 'plausible deiiabnlity".Myth: Ethanol requires trucking it aroundFact: Ethanol can be sent via pipeline.Yes, you can ship ethanol and E85 via pipeline. You can't ship it down the same pipe as you do oil because well, it cleans the pipe of the oil. Also, does "anonymous" think that all these gas stations have pipelines to them? They don't. They use *gasp* trucks. Just what do you think is in those tanker trucks?As far as "efficiency", ethanol is not less efficient than gasoline, it is more efficient when used properly. Efficiency is not measure by how much energy a substance contains, but by how much net energy is obtained during the consumption of the fuel as compared to it's original estimate of energy content."Anonymous" is ignorant and needs to learn basic terminology.Also, the relationship between energy content of fuel and distance traveled is not a one to one mapping.My E85 powered vehicle gets 80% (more in some conditions) of the fuel economy that it does on G100. Therefore, it goes further on $2 of E85 than it does on $3 of G100 or E10. Fact.The cost to bring to market ethanol is the same regardless of the source. The only thing the feedstock changes is the cost to produce. That "anonymous" needs to go to an economics and business class.In fact, the ability to produce it from such a variety of feedstocks means the cost to deliver may be lower in many cases. For example, diverting household trash at the local landfill to an on-site ethanol plant does not increase the cost of transportation to the plant because that infrastructure is already running every day. Take the daily inflow, produce ethanol and ship locally. To compare this, most cities do in fact get their gasoline trucked in. If you reduce that supply line usage by 85% (or 40 or 50) you reduce the net energy, pollution, and cost of the fuel going into your tank.The major benefit of alcohols as fuel is that they are cheaper, safer, and can be produced from many feedstocks in nearly any populated area. What is more efficient and less polluting: shipping oil from Saudi Arabia to the US, pipelining it to refineries, converting it to gasoline and pollution, then trucking across the country to gas stations; or using "waste" material already being collected, diverting it to an onsite conversion facility, and trucking the resulting alcohol to local gas stations?When we did not have a local Ethanol plant our E85 was more expensive. Using locally produced E85 our E85 per0gallon price is more than 40% lower than gasoline. That means we spend less money to travel the same distance even if you used the artificial 2/3rds claim instead of real world results.If the cost of the local ethanol reduced by another 30-50 cents, the difference will be tremendous. Apply this to any major city and you've got a helluva shift.Further, while many talk of ethanol in terms of transportation, it is also of use in producing electricity. If the energy in this new process is low enough, it would make sense to also and/or alternatively use this to make all-in-one sites that take in "waste" using existing infrastructure, produce ethanol, and output electricity.

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