November 2008

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Business Briefs

Range Fuels, Ceres collaborate on biomass research




The RUF briquetter takes in sawdust and produces compressed burnable bricks.

Betting on Biobricks

By Suzanne H. Schmidt

Tom Engel traveled halfway across the world in search of a way to make clean, dependable, renewable energy and brought back BioBricks. With these compact, environmentally friendly, biomass-based briquettes he aims to ease the pain that people experience when paying their heating bills.

Whether red, green or blue, tractors are as indispensable to a farmer as seed or land. Someday, parts of those tractors may be made from last year's harvest as researchers from North Dakota State University seek ways to make reinforced composite plastics from the oils, proteins and fibers grown in American fields.

Researchers believe that the economics are right for using plasma gasification technology to convert municipal solid waste into energy. It's just a matter of getting that first commercial plant built in the United States for it to catch on.

A bench-scale reactive distillation column is used by researchers at Michigan State University in partnership with National Corn Growers Association, to make ethyl lactate from a side stream of ethanol and lactic acid.

Acid Trip

By Ron Kotrba

Biorefineries built on the biochemical conversion platform can take advantage of their fermentative capacity to produce various organic acids, which can then be reacted with ethanol to make a number of different higher-valued ester compounds.

In the past, cheap oil spurred the development of petroleum-based consumer products such as plastics. Today high oil prices are driving research and development away from fossil fuel-based processes to those using renewable feedstocks. The markets for these new bioproducts are growing and companies such as Massachusetts-based Metabolix Inc. are cashing in by engineering bioenergy crops that also serve as factories for bioplastics.


Oilseed Comes of Age

By Susanne Retka Schill

Camelina has yet to make the scene as a biodiesel feedstock, thanks partly to high commodity prices that dampened farmers' interest in trying the new crop. Enough has been raised to test its biodiesel performance and promoters still praise its potential.

Is jatropha a wonder crop that can transform the biodiesel industry and provide a quick and easy income for farmers? Although many of these claims are true, numerous challenges must be overcome before large-scale production of the biodiesel feedstock can begin. Jatropha holds a great deal of potential, but only if it's properly developed, which may take years.

No one is currently producing economical amounts of biodiesel from algae oil but California-based Solazyme has been making small amounts and using it for demonstrations in this diesel-powered Mercedes.

Algae Interests Align

By Jerry W. Kram

After decades of study and millions of dollars in investments, using algae as a feedstock for alternative fuels seems tantalizingly close. However, several hurdles remain, prompting the cooperation of those interested in the economical development of algae oil as a biodiesel feedstock.

Rothsay Biodiesel is a 9 MMgy biodiesel facility using animal fats, but if the new U.S. blenders tax credit extension is modified to extend full credit to recycled vegetable oils, then the plant is likely to use more waste vegetable oil in its operat

The Skinny on Fats

By Ron Kotrba

The North American rendering industry takes anything that isn't used for food from the animal carcass-all 60 billion pounds-and recycles it into everything from animal feed to biodiesel feedstock. Here's an overview of North American rendering and biodiesel from animal fats.

Philadelphia Fry-o-Diesel uses brown grease, otherwise known as trap grease, to produce biodiesel. Brown grease has a higher free fatty acid content than yellow grease, and is often much more contaminated with water and sediments.

A Greasy Alternative

By Kris Bevill

One of the most popular feedstocks being used by biodiesel producers today is yellow grease. Biodiesel Magazine examines the logistics of using waste cooking oil.

Continued Strength in Oil Prices

By Ryan C. Christiansen

Around the world, the forecast for biodiesel feedstock prices is more of the same as consumption threatens to outpace production.

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