Thursday, April 30, 2009

California introduces low carbon fuel standards

BLUEFUELENERGY.COM: California has made a significant move to help reduce the state's greenhouse gas emissions. The Air Resources Board (ARB) has adopted a regulation that will implement the Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS). The goal of the new regulation is to reduce GHG emissions from transportation by 10% by 2020 and to stimulate the use of alternative fuels.

The following excerpt illustrates the breadth of this regulation: "The LCFS applies to all fuels (with the exception of alternative fuels—other than biofuels—provided by an exempted regulated party for transportation use at an aggregated volume of less than 420 million MJ (3.6 million gasoline gallon equivalent) per year):
  • California reformulated gasoline (CARFG)
  • California ultra low sulfur diesel fuel (ULSD)
  • Compressed natural gas (CNG) or liquefied natural gas (LNG)
  • Liquefied petroleum gas (LPG)
  • Electricity
  • Compressed or liquefied hydrogen
  • A fuel blend containing ethanol
  • A fuel blend containing biomass-based diesel
  • Pure denatured ethanol (E100)
  • Pure biomass-based diesel (B100)
  • Any other liquid or non-liquid fuel."

It appears that, except in small volumes, Blue Fuel would fit into the final category.

According to the ARB's press release: "The regulation requires providers, refiners, importers and blenders to ensure that the fuels they provide for the California market meet an average declining standard of 'carbon intensity'. This is established by determining the sum of greenhouse gas emissions associated with the production, transportation and consumption of a fuel, also referred to as the fuel pathway."

Opposition to the new regulation has been ongoing but has intensified with its passage. From tar sands producers to biofuel developers, not only is there concern about the carbon intensity of their fuels, there is also worry that the science behind measuring the fuel pathway is still unproven and could result in certain fuels being unfairly penalized. Nonetheless, California is a large and influential market and the producers of all types of fuels—including producers of DME using conventional methods—cannot afford to ignore this further indication of the approach of the low carbon future.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Blue Fuel Energy seeks government mandating of Blue Fuel/propane blending

BLUE FUEL ENERGY.COM: Blue Fuel Energy has submitted a brief to Natural Resources Canada requesting that the Government of Canada mandate the blending of Blue Fuel and propane for the purpose of establishing a market in Canada for Blue Fuel. The brief is below:

Active Sequestration of Carbon Dioxide

Canada has the potential to become the world leader in the carbon-neutral production of DME (dimethyl ether). DME is an ultra-clean burning, environmentally benign alternative fuel that is a substitute for diesel and natural gas and a substitute and blendstock for propane. Easy to handle and transport, DME can be used for transportation, power generation, and heating and cooking.

Most jurisdictions in the world that produce DME use fossil fuel reactants such as natural gas and coal as feedstocks. Carbon-neutral DME can be produced from biomass, as it is in Sweden in the BioDME project, or from renewable energy (hydro, wind, geothermal, etc.), water, and waste carbon dioxide (captured from flue gas emissions of fossil fuel processing plants, such as natural gas processing plants, fossil fuel-based electricity generators, and potentially from tar sands upgrading processes, etc.).

Western Canada has an abundance of feedstocks for producing carbon-neutral DME, including near-pure streams of carbon dioxide that are presently being emitted into the atmosphere. This contributes to global warming and wastes the carbon dioxide, a valuable resource. The Passive Sequestration of carbon dioxide into geological formations or oil fields perpetuates the wasting of this resource. It is also expensive, both in terms of energy and dollars—and experimental. Further, if these Passive Sequestration experiments fail, the consequences could be most unfortunate.

Active Sequestration—the recycling of carbon dioxide for the production of commercial products—represents an immediate solution to the carbon dioxide emissions problem that looms over key sectors of the Canadian economy. The natural gas industry, for example, is fully apprised of the limits of Passive Sequestration in western Canada and knows that if alternative solutions do not emerge, efforts to increase production will be compromised. The production of DME with renewables and waste carbon dioxide would be highly beneficial to the natural gas industry. Further, because DME is a superb energy carrier, its adoption would buttress the renewables sector by making it possible to efficiently transmit large amounts of energy from remote wind farms or hydroelectric power generation facilities, for example, to load centres—without large-scale expansion of the grid and other infrastructure. The economic benefits of the Active Sequestration of carbon dioxide in western Canada would have profound environmental and economic benefits for the whole country.

Creation of a domestic market for DME is essential if its potential is to be realized in Canada. The Government of Canada must accelerate the development of this market by mandating that propane used in the country be blended with DME. Such a policy would be comparable to the very successful programs in Canada and the United States mandating the blending of gasoline with ethanol.

Mandating the blending of propane with DME is the most expeditious route to establishing a Canadian market for DME because no modifications to equipment for home cooking and heating or to distribution networks are required for blends containing up to 20% DME. Extensive and decades-long research into all aspects of DME’s use, handling and delivery when blended with propane have demonstrated such blends to be a safe and reliable way to utilize it. Further, blending results in an insignificant price increase for consumers.

China is by far the largest producer of DME in the world today, with over 20 large-scale producers. Production in China has grown exponentially in recent years, with capacity in 2010 estimated at 6 million tons, and in 2020 at 20 million tons. More than 90% of the DME produced in China is blended with propane and used for heating and cooking. Government support in China for the blending of propane with DME has resulted in a broad production base and put China in a position to start using DME as a transportation fuel, its ultimate application that greatly increases energy security, enhances air quality, and reduces GHG emissions.

In 2007 Canada produced about 11.4 million cubic metres of propane, about 4.9 million cubic metres of which was consumed in the country. Blend ratios of propane to DME could range from 80-20% down to 95-5%. Blending 4.9 million cubic metres of propane with DME at a 90-10% ratio would require 0.5 million cubic meters of DME per year, the production of one world-scale DME plant.

1. International Dimethyl Ether Association
2. BioDME Project
3. Statistics Canada, Energy Statistics Handbook, Second quarter 2008

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Federal advisory agency urges Canadian government to adopt cap-and-trade system

BLUEFUELENERGY.COM:The National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy (NRTEE) has just published a report, Achieving 2050: A Carbon Pricing Policy for Canada, recommending that the federal government implement a unified carbon pricing policy across the country as a means of achieving Canada's medium- and long-term greenhouse gas emission reduction goals. Canada has pledged to reduce emissions to 20% below 2006 levels by 2020 and to 65% below 2006 levels by 2050.

“The Round Table’s report concludes that a unified national carbon price through an economy-wide cap-and-trade system across all jurisdictions, emissions, and sectors is necessary to allow Canada to reach its emission reductions targets at the least economic cost,” said NRTEE Chair Bob Page. The report acknowledges the challenges Canada faces in transforming its economy for a low-carbon future, yet provides a realistic framework within which the economy can evolve. Part of this framework entails dove-tailing Canada's cap-and-trade system with those of other countries, particularly the United States, which is planning to implement a cap-and-trade system by 2012.

DME is an emerging fuel and the current emphasis in the industry is on developing international standards, conducting long-term durability tests with DME vehicles, fine-tuning distribution infrastructure, raising awareness, and establishing markets. What the NRTEE report underscores, however, is that for the full potential of DME to be realized in a low-carbon world, the industry must also focus on reducing its carbon footprint. It could do this by exploring opportunities to:
1) Incorporate renewables such as wind, hydro, and geothermal into fossil fuel-based production processes (as explained by Professor Weidou Ni of TsingJua University in Beijing in his presentation How to Make the Production of DME More "Green";
2) Use biomass to produce DME, as the BioDME projects promotes
3) Use renewables, water, and waste carbon dioxide to produce DME, as Blue Fuel Energy promotes

Failure of DME producers to minimize DME's carbon footprint compromises the potential of this multi-purpose fuel to be adopted in jurisdictions with stringent GHG emissions—and the ability of producers to take advantage of the green credits that will accrue to producers of carbon-neutral energy. Sooner rather than later there is going to be an international price on carbon emissions and it behooves DME producers to develop strategies to put themselves in a position where they have a competitive advantage over other fuels in the drive to mitigate climate change.

Monday, April 20, 2009

The implications of transporting carbon dioxide by ship

BLUEFUELENERGY.COM: The Danish shipping giant, Maersk Tankers, has announced that it is prepared to enter the CO2 transportation market in a move that has implications not only for carbon capture and storage (CCS) but also the DME industry.

As reported in the March 13th issue of the Carbon Capture Journal, Maersk says it has examined the business case for entering into the CO2 transportation market and is optimistic about its prospects.

Another Maersk company, Maersk Oil, is also involved in the plan. Michael Engell-Jensen, senior vice president and head of Maersk Oil’s Carbon and Climate Department, said that: “Given our experience from the Danish underground in the North Sea and the high-level of knowledge we have gained from that, Maersk Oil is investigating CO2 mitigation technologies for the geological storage of CO2 to meet the expected demand.”

That a major global transportation and energy player like Maersk has a solid rationale for entering the CO2 transport and mitigation sectors not only helps validate the growing importance of the worldwide CCS industry, but also has significant implications for companies which plan to produce carbon-neutral DME.

Since, as Maersk says, "transporting CO2 by sea is cost-competitive and more flexible than pipelines on longer distances or in smaller quantities," companies interested in carbon-neutral fuel generation or CCS should now have wider access to CO2, which should mean greater flexibility in terms of both prices and geographical sourcing. Without such transportation options, carbon-neutral DME producers or enterprises involved in CCS would be forced to locate production or storage facilities closer to their CO2 sources and therefore have their production or storage limited by geography and not market or environmental demand.

Maerk's CO2 transportation initiative also allows CCS and Blue Fuel-producing companies to save on infrastructure investment (e.g., pipelines) and to implement their programs more rapidly.

Maersk has also correctly highlighted the importance of being able to purchase CO2 in smaller quantities and from multiple sources. With increased CO2 supply options, Blue Fuel producers or CCS companies can match supply with demand and tailor their capacities based on pricing, availability, timing, and quantity instead of just location.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Japan's DME Promotion Center organizes Tokyo BioDME Study Session

BLUEFUELENERGY.COM: Japan's DME Promotion Center, located in Tokyo, has organized a BioDME Study Session for Friday, April 24th, 2009.

The session, which takes places at the Sapia Tower Building in Chiyoda, Tokyo, is perhaps best described as a mini-conference and is intended as an information session and forum for exchanging ideas about DME, in general, and BioDME, in particular. Attendance is by application only (see below for application procedures).

Three presentations highlight the session and both presenters have connections with the BioDME project - a collaborative venture between Swedish and EU interests. Speaking first will be Henrik Landälv, head of environmental projects of BioDME project member, Volvo Powertrain, who will outline the BioDME Project. In a later session, Mr. Landälv will also describe and discuss road tests performed by large-scale Volvo trucks powered by BioDME.

The second speaker is Mr. Ingvar Landälv, Vice President of Technology at Chemrec AB, who will describe the production of BioDME from the gasification of black liquor from pulp mills.

Besides speaking at and participating in this study session, the European visitors will also tour a Japanese DME plant, completed last year, which has an annual production capacity of 80,000 tons of DME.

The deadline for applications to attend the Study Session is April 21, 2009 and can be done by contacting the Japan DME Promotion Center by e-mail ( or by fax (+81-3-3834-2312).

The URL for the Japan DME Promotion Center is but please note the site is in Japanese only.

Friday, April 10, 2009

New approach to liberating hydrogen from water

BLUEFUELENERGY.COM: Starting in the 15th century and continuing into the 17th, Europeans spread their wings and sailed the seven seas in search of knowledge and trading partners, a period that came to be known as the Age of Discovery. Using new sailing technologies and new maps, they made the world a smaller place. Today, as a result of further advances in mobility technology, the world has become smaller still. Much smaller. And we now know the shockingly limited dimensions of the troposphere, the layer of atmosphere enveloping our planet that contains 75% of the atmosphere's mass and 99% of its water vapor is: a mere 8km at the poles and up to 16km over the equator.

This thin, vulnerable lens sustains life on Earth, but by pumping ever-growing amounts of greenhouse gases into it, we compromise its capacity to do so. Governments the world over understand the consequences of greenhouse gas emissions and have expressed their determination to solve the problem. Let's hope this leads us to a new Age of Discovery, one in which we look not outward, but inward as we search for answers that will help us save civilization and ecosystems as we know them.

Time is of the essence, which means that, while perfecting end-game solutions such as hydrogen and nuclear fusion, we must concurrently implement strategies based on existing technologies that mitigate climate change. The production of carbon-neutral DME—Blue Fuel—is Blue Fuel Energy's strategy for mitigating climate change. And its one that we fervently hope other companies will adopt because all the technology to implement it are off-the-shelf. At the heart of our production process is the electrolysis of water to separate the H2 from the O in H2O. Electrolysis is a proven process, but it does require large amounts of electricity. Here in British Columbia, we will tap into our vast renewable energy resource base by generating electricity for electrolysis with hydro and wind.

Blue Fuel Energy is preparing to conduct electrolysis with electricity generated by hydro and wind because we know that this approach works and we can order all the electrolyzers we need to set up large-scale electrolysis plants. And as we unroll our project, research on other approaches to electrolysis will continue apace. One such approach is that being developed by a team of scientists led by Professor David Milstein at the Weizmann Institute in Israel. As the institute states in a recent press release:

"The new approach that the Weizmann team has recently devised is divided into a sequence of reactions, which leads to the liberation of hydrogen and oxygen in consecutive thermal- and light-driven steps, mediated by a unique ingredient – a special metal complex that Milstein’s team designed in previous studies. Moreover, the one that they designed – a metal complex of the element ruthenium – is a ‘smart’ complex in which the metal center and the organic part attached to it cooperate in the cleavage of the water molecule."

The team is only at a very preliminary stage of investigation that could lead to commercialization of their process, but what they have achieved so far is very promising. The press release goes on to say:

"Discovery of an efficient artificial catalyst for the sunlight-driven splitting of water into oxygen and hydrogen is a major goal of renewable clean energy research. So far, Milstein’s team has demonstrated a mechanism for the formation of hydrogen and oxygen from water, without the need for sacrificial chemical agents, through individual steps, using light. For their next study, they plan to combine these stages to create an efficient catalytic system, bringing those in the field of alternative energy an important step closer to realizing this goal."

The full report of their findings can be found in the April 3, 2009 issue of Science. We look forward to hearing more about this new approach to producing hydrogen as their research progresses. It just may be an important piece in the climate change puzzle that's at the heart of the new Age of Discovery.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Chemrec appoints American CEO

BLUEFUELENERGY.COM: As reported recently on MSNBC, The Swedish BioDME project member, Chemrec AB, has shown its commitment to the American market for DME by appointing as its CEO, Richard J. LeBlanc.

Chemrec recently made the news by forming an American subsidiary and, at first glance, it seemed that Mr. LeBlanc's appointment was as head of this newly formed American branch. Instead, although Mr. LeBlanc will be based primarily in Deerfield, Illinois, north of Chicago, he will be responsible for Chemrec's worldwide operations with a focus on building the company's North American and Asia-Pacific markets.

Mr. LeBlanc is 57 and was most recently a senior executive with Siemens AG, USA. According to Marketwire and Chemrec's own press release, "Mr. LeBlanc brings to Chemrec USA extensive general management experience growing high-tech companies, commercialization of innovative technologies and building world-class management teams. During his career with Siemens, he directed product development, manufacturing and distribution for the company's broad range of building control products for the North American, Asian-Pacific and Latin American markets. He holds an MBA from Northwestern University and a bachelor's degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Toronto. He is a Professional Engineer in both Canada and the U.S. and holds LEED AP certification from the U.S. Green Building Council."

Chemrec also announced that Jonas Rudberg, long-standing leader of Chemrec, has been appointed chief operating officer. In the new organization Mr. Rudberg will focus his attention on overseeing the execution of feasibility studies, pre-project and implementation projects. He will also continue developing relations with European customers and other stakeholders.