The Energy Revolution has begun and will change your lifestyle
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The Energy Blog is where all topics relating to The Energy Revolution are presented. Increasingly, expensive oil, coal and global warming are causing an energy revolution by requiring fossil fuels to be supplemented by alternative energy sources and by requiring changes in lifestyle. Please contact me with your comments and questions. Further Information about me can be found HERE.
Science Nowreports the development of a new type of metal-organic frameworks (MOFs), called PCN-14, that has a high surface area of over 2000 m2/g. Laboratory studies show that the compound, composed of clusters of nano-sized cages, has a methane storage capacity 28 percent higher than the DOE target, enough to allow vehicles to travel 483 kilometers (300 miles) between fill-ups, a record high for methane-storage materials, the researchers say.
Biopact reports that Environmental Power Corporation (Nasdaq: EPG), announced that its Huckabay Ridge facility in Stephenville, Texas, has achieved full-capacity production levels of pipeline-quality renewable natural gas (RNG(R)) and has now moved into full-scale commercial operation. The facility generates methane-rich biogas from manure and other agricultural waste, conditions the biogas to natural gas standards and distributes RNG(R) via a commercial pipeline. Huckabay Ridge is expected to produce approximately 635,000 MMBtus of RNG(R) per year -- the equivalent of over 4.6 million gallons of heating oil. . . .
In Europe, upgraded biogas is already being fed into the natural gas grid routinely and on a growing scale, but for the U.S. this is a first. more
Biopact reported that biogas can replace all EU Natural Gas imports:
Last year, the German Greens (Grüne) commissioned a report on the potential of biogas in Europe. The Öko-Instituts and the Institut für Energetik in Leipzig carried out the study and came to some startling conclusions: Germany alone can produce more biogas by 2020 than all of the EU's current natural gas imports from Russia.
The growing interest in the gaseous biofuel can be easily explained: it can be produced in a decentralised manner, it is highly efficient - yielding more than twice as much energy per hectare of energy crops than ethanol from similar crops - and it can be obtained in a straightforward way from a large variety of biomass resources (organic waste, manure, dedicated energy crops). What is more, the fuel has two highly efficient uses: as a gas for CNG-capable vehicles (taking you twice around the world on a hectare's worth of biogas) as well as a fuel that can be used for the cogeneration of power and heat.
UNH is the first university in the nation to undertake a project of this magnitude; it will not only stabilize the university’s fluctuating energy costs but significantly reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, which have doubled in the last five years and grown at an annual rate of 18.9 percent.
The renewable, carbon-neutral landfill gas, from Waste Management’s Turnkey Recycling and Environmental Enterprise (TREE) facility in Rochester, N.H., will replace commercial natural gas as the primary fuel in UNH’s cogeneration plant, enabling UNH to receive 80-85 percent of its energy from a renewable source.
“By reducing the university’s dependence on fossil fuels and reducing our greenhouse gas emissions, EcoLine is an environmentally and fiscally responsible initiative,” said Huddleston. “UNH is proud to lead the nation and our peer institutions in this landmark step toward sustainability.”
Construction is set to begin immediately on a landfill gas processing plant in Rochester which will purify the gas, and the 12.7 mile underground pipeline which will transport the gas from the plant to the university’s Durham campus. UNH is expected to fuel its cogeneration plant with landfill gas by the fall of 2008. Estimated cost of the project, including the construction of a second generator at UNH, is $45 million.
You may have seen this on the news, but Biopact has a good article on the story.
The biogas sector has ... been scaled up to become an industry that produces quantities large enough to be fed into the main natural gas grid. More and more, dedicated biogas crops (such as specially bred biogas maize, exotic grass species such as Sudan grass and sorghum, or new hybrid grass types) are being utilized as single substrate feedstocks for large digester complexes, and biogas upgrading to natural gas standards is becoming more common. ...
Some studies in fact estimate that by 2020 the EU could replace all gas imports from Russia and produce some 500 billion cubic meters (17.6 trillion cubic feet) of gas equivalent biogas per year.
HydroMax is an advanced gasification system that offers significant benefits compared to conventional techniques.The process offers several critical advantages to industrial-scale customers, including a compact size for simple integration, biomass feedstock flexibility, synthetic gas (syngas) output variability, limited emissions output, and attractive economics. By leveraging proven processes from the metals and mining industries, the HydroMax technique intends to break the status-quo paradigm by delivering gasification systems at up to 50% the cost of traditional systems, with 80+% efficiency, and demonstrating high availability.
Biopact reports on the construction of a €10 million (US$13 million) biogas complex in Germany that includes a dedicated field of corn watered by wastewater, a pipeline and a combined heat-and-power plant.
Corn will be raised on a dedicated plot of 10 square kilometers (2471 acres). The entire plant's biomass (grain, cobs, stems, leaves) will be fed to a fermentation process which produces biogas. The unpurified biogas will be pumped to the city of Braunschweig, via a 20 km (12 mile) pipeline, to a combined heat-and-power plant which converts the energy contained in it with an efficiency of almost 90%. The heat and power will satisfy the total energy demand of some 7000 households. The biogas maize will be irrigated with waste water from Braunschweig.
Biopact, Dec 7 - Biogas from wood chips, more efficient than cellulosic ethanol. Sweden, Europe's leader when it comes using renewables, the country generates 28% of all its energy from green sources, is now taking the development of biogas as a transport fuel a step further.
By gasification of low-grade biomass such as forestry residues, Göteborg Energi AB plans on producing biogas in large quantities. Their aim is to build a biomass gasification plant with a capacity to produce enough biogas for 75,000 cars. They will convert wood chips into methane with 70% efficiency.
According to an EU well-to-wheel study of more than 70 different (fossil and renewable) fuels and energy paths, including hydrogen from wind, solar or nuclear, biogas is the cleanest and most climate-neutral transport fuel of them all.
They plan to have the plant in operation by 2011 at a cost of roughly €150 million. Since the technology employed is untested on this scale, they are depending on government or EU funding.
The large-scale use of the green gas has one major disadvantage, in that one needs dedicated cars, similar to CNG-vehicles, to use the fuel.
BASF Venture Capital America Inc., Fremont, CA, is investing $3 million in LUCA Technologies LLC, Golden, Colorado. LUCA develops biotechnology that uses microorganisms to reactivate or intensify the production of methane (natural gas) from finite fuels such as coal or oil.
This methane production is the result of indigenous populations of microorganisms that, in the absence of oxygen, metabolize the large hydrocarbon molecules present in coal and oil into smaller hydrocarbons, principally methane. The company describes these naturally occurring methane factories as "Geobioreactors(TM)".
To leverage this discovery, LUCA has undertaken a program to understand and manipulate these microorganisms in order to ultimately maximize methane production in existing Geobioreactors, and hopefully stimulate its production in currently non-reactive hydrocarbon deposits. Methane is the least polluting and most energy efficient of all the available hydrocarbon fuels. LUCA believes that, if developed and managed properly, methane-producing Geobioreactors have the potential to meet U.S. energy needs for the foreseeable future.
A subsidiary of PPL Corporation (NYSE: PPL), PPL Energy Services, today marked the completion and commercial operation of a renewable energy park comprising three green energy projects in Camden County, N.J. The 3,800 kilowatt (kW) Energy Park located in Camden County, New Jersey is composed of three power generating plants and was built by PPL Energy Services, a subsidiary of PPL Corporation, which owns, operates and maintains them. Kyocera supplied over 5,000 solar modules for the park.
Two projects - a 2800-kilowatt landfill gas-to- energy power plant at the Pennsauken Sanitary Landfill and a 500-kilowatt photovoltaic (solar) power plant at Aluminum Shapes in Pennsauken, N.J. - produce power for Aluminum Shapes. The company uses the output to run a variety of applications, from presses that extrude aluminum to machines that fabricate and coat metal surfaces.
The Sunday, July 2, edition of the Washington Post had a column titled "The False Hope of Biofuels" which had the basic premise that biofuels could only supply half of our transportation fuel needs by 2025 and that food supplies would be compromised if it did so. I don't think that any responsible person has argued that we could supply more than 30% of our current transportation fuel requirements, rather a diversity of fuels and conservation methods, featuring plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, will be required to provide relief from our increasingly expensive oil supplies.
In the most authoritative report on this subject "Biomass as Feedstock for a Bioenergy and Bioproducts Industry: The Technical Feasibility of a Billion-Ton Annual Supply", an ORNL study determined that enough fuel could be produced from biomass to meet more than one-third of our current demand for transportation fuels in the U.S. by 2030. As far as the arguments about land usage, the land necessary for producing the biofuels includes currently unused marginal land on which switchgrass or similar crops could be grown, land that is currently idle, and cellulose products produced from forestry wastes and the like, that do not require any additional land usage, as well as a fraction of the land currently devoted to the production of food, which is currently used to produce food for export or to produce food that is bought by the government to subsidise farmers. This study did not include the very significant amount of fuel that could be made from municiple solid waste, or methane from landfills and animal wastes (manure).
The answer to our increasingly expensive fuels is a diversified utilization of several technologies, not just biofuels. The combination of biofuels; vehicles that use less fuels, such as energy efficient hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs): those made by Toyota, the Honda Insight and Civic and the Ford Escape Escalade; more importantly plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs); all electric vehicles (EVs); fuels made by coal liquefaction; vehicles running on CNG; our remaining domestic supplies of oil; and gains in efficiency made possible by more widespread use of mass transportation are more than sufficient to supply our transportation needs for the foreseeable future, even after allowing for population growth and land needed for growing food crops.
SHEC LABS - Solar Hydrogen Energy Corporation, with its partners will deploy the world’s first Solar Hydrogen production station, “SHEC Station #1”, using methane collected from the City of Regina's (Canada) landfill.
The unit produces hydrogen with solar energy as the primary energy input. A solar concentrator, pictured, similar to that used in thermal solar dish electrical generators is used. The Stirling engine in the electrical generators is replaced by a reaction chamber that receives the solar energy through an iris that can be controlled to regulate the amount of heat being fed to the reactor. SHEC has developed a solar concentrator that is simple to make using relatively common materials. They developed a process to get the curvatures required to a high degree of accuracy with a manufacturing process that is very inexpensive.
STM Power Inc., produces Stirling cycle generators that produce electricity from almost any form of heat or fuel: waste gases from landfills or sewage treatment plants, biomass, solar energy and paint fumes. STM Power was originally organized as a research and development company that did experiments and demonstrations showcasing a variety of energy-related technologies, including engines based on the Stirling Cycle, a technology invented in 1816. The Stirling is an external combustion engine, somewhat like a steam engine, that burns fuel to heat a liquid or gas in a sealed system -- hydrogen in the case of STM's Power Units. That heated hydrogen is then used to drive pistons that are in turn connected to an electrical generator.
The STM engine is a four-cylinder, double-acting Stirling engine with a swash plate drive. At the heart of the engine are four independent gas enclosures each comprised of the volume under a piston (compression volume), the volume above the adjacent piston (expansion volume), a series of three heat exchangers connecting these two volumes, a cooler adjacent to the compression volume, a heater adjacent to the expansion volume and a regenerator between the heater and the cooler.
The four pistons are arranged symmetrically around a swash plate that forces the reciprocating motion of any two neighboring pistons to be 90º out of phase. The gas enclosures are charged with high-pressure hydrogen that serves as a working fluid. The reciprocating motion of the pistons causes the volume of hydrogen to increase and decrease alternately. The expansion spaces are maintained at a high temperature by continuous combustion of fuel or some other source of heat (waste heat) outside the tubes of the heaters. The compression spaces are maintained at a low temperature by liquid cooling of the coolers. Therefore, the temperature and the pressure of the hydrogen during expansion is higher than during compression. The hydrogen absorbs heat from the combustion process, converts a portion of it to mechanical power, which it delivers to the pistons, and rejects the balance to the liquid coolant. The mechanical power delivered by the hydrogen to the pistons is aggregated and converted to rotating shaft power by means of the swash plate drive. The regenerator, which is the third heat exchanger, does not exchange heat with the outside. It alternately absorbs heat from and releases heat back to the hydrogen in order to improve the engine efficiency. The engine’s output shaft is connected to a generator to make three-phase electrical power.
Science News Online has a great article reviewing the emerging technologies in the biofuels area which inspired me to write a similar post adding some of the technologies from The Energy Blog. Many of them have been subjects of previous posts in The Energy Blog, but putting them all together puts a fresh perspective on the future of biofuels. Despite the excesses that make up much of the Energy Act of 2005, advocates of biofuels should be fairly happy with provisions of the act that directly promote their agenda. With the rising prices of oil products biofuels are about the only answer to augmenting our liquid fuels supplies, not to diminish the importance of the conservation benefits of more fuel efficient vehicles, plug in hybrids, electric vehicles and mass transportation. Neither conservation efforts or biofuels alone can totally mitigate increasing prices, but without extreme efforts on both fronts supply and demand can do nothing but increase the price of fossil fuels.
The Energy Act of 2005:
Requires gasoline to contain 7.5 billion gallons/yr of renewable fuel by 2012, this is almost double the 4 billion gallons produced in 2004.
Provides incentives for the production of renewable fuels from non-traditional sources; plants, grasses, agricultural residues and waste products with greater credits for ethanol produced from cellulosic biomass or waste.
Establishes loan guarantees and grants for the construction of facilities to convert municipal solid waste and cellulosic biomass to fuel ethanol and other commercial byproducts.
Allows tax credits for alternative fuel vehicles
A grant program is established for rural and remote communities to use biomass, landfill gas, and livestock methane,
Provides for grants to those owning/operating a facility using forest biomass as raw material to produce electric energy, transportation fuels, or other petroleum-based substitutes.
Calls for projects which address the production of hydrogen from biomass and biofuels.
ORNL published a report early this year that projected that we could get 30% of our liquid fuels from biomass without displacing any land used for crop production or grazing. Government funding as provided in the Energy Act will be of great assistance in assuring that some of the technologies outlined below get developed and brought to the commercial market to allow attaining this goal.
Construction has begun on the world's largest multi-digestor biogas production and gas conditioning facility near Stephenville, TX. The facility will produce the equivalent of 12,700 gallons per day of heating oil. The gas is to be treated and compressed to produce and deliver about 2.7 million cubic ft/day of pipeline-grade methane, with a heating value of 650 BTU/cubic ft, that will be sold as a commodity to a nearby natural gas pipeline. The facility will have eight 916,000-gallon degestors, sufficient to process the manure from up to 10,000 cows.
Microgy holds an exclusive license in North America for the development and deployment of a proprietary anaerobic digestion technology, which transforms manure and food industry waste into methane-rich biogas that can be used to generate electricity or thermal energy, or refined to pipeline-grade methane for sale as a commodity.
Nearly one megawatt of electricity can be generated from the methane produced in an operational pilot plant at a feedlot in Vegreville, Alberta, Ca. The Integrated Manure Utilization System (IMUS), combines anaerobic digestion, biogas utilization, liquids/solids separation, nutrient recovery and enrichment processes. Methane gas produced by the process is used to generate the electricity and heat, nutrients are recovered to produce fertilizers, and water is recovered for irrigation. The electricity is used to power the feedlot and about 700 households in two adjoining farming communities. Future development of the plant will expand the electricity output to three megawatts of power. In their press release, Mike Kotelko, of Highland Feeders was quoted as saying "Manure, second to beef in value, is the most important output of our operation in terms of social, economic and environmental sustainability."
The University of Alberta Engineering Magazine adds the following information about the process: "The biogas collected from the top of the pilot plant’s digesters consists of between 57 and 59 percent methane gas. The remainder, carbon dioxide and trace gases, are consumed later in the closed loop manufacturing process to balance pH in the liquid stream. The methane is burned in combination with natural gas to power a GE Jenbacher, 999 kW generator, which can operate at between 50 and 100 percent load. It can accept a variable gas blend, so Highmark Renewables has the flexibility to adjust its ratio of biogas to natural gas depending on power prices. There are probably 80 other feedlots in Alberta alone that have the size to support a project like this"
Close coupled systems that primarily produce fuel that can be used to produce power or heat from either syngas or pyrolysis oil.
Thermochemical refineries that are more analogous to petroleum refineries which can produce an array of products in addition to fuel and power.
The sugar platform refineries refineries are in common use, producing 3.41 billion gallons of ethanol, in the U.S., in 2004. These have been developed significantly since they were first used. In the 1980's they were rather simple facilities that fermented corn to produce ethanol. The process has developed rapidly and today they are highly integrated facilities that are much larger, use much less energy, less manpower and produce byproducts as well as ethanol; thus reducing the production costs significantly. However the cost of the feedstock, the largest single cost, has not gone down significantly and the quantity available will be limited by land availability at some time in the future if only corn is used as the feedstock. New pretreatment techniques are now starting to be used that permit recovering the sugar from the cellulose in the corn residues that were formally wasted, thus increasing the supply of feedstock greatly. In the next few years it is anticipated that the industry will be able to process any cellulosic material, such as grasses, willows, municipal solid waste and forest residues; increasing the availability of feedstock by orders of magnitude.
Close coupled pyrolysis systems are available commercially and are used to produce fuel for engines or gas turbines or to supply heat for boilers for either heating or generating electricity. These systems are relatively small, but fill a need for generating energy in relatively remote locations. These systems are more widely used in Europe where energy prices are higher than in the U.S. It is expected that they will be more widely used in the U.S. as more conventional energy prices escalate.
Thermochemical refineries, also known as Bio-Gas Fischer-Tropsch refineries (BG-FT), are still in the early developmental stage with only a few small commercial units in operation. They offer the advantage that almost any fuel or petroleum like product can be produced using this method. This is the only way that diesel fuel can be produced in large quantities using biomass as the feedstock supply. The supply of biodiesel will eventually be limited by available land unless a more efficient feedstock, such as algae, is able to be used. Their are some technical problems to be solved in the BG-FT process, but suppliers are finding some niche markets where these problems have been overcome.