Friday, May 29, 2009

Researchers investigate co-electrolysis of water and CO2 to develop carbon-neutral energy cycle

BLUEFUELENERGY.COM: Blue Fuel Energy has been working to develop methods to produce Blue Fuel/DME in a carbon-neutral manner through the electrolysis of H2O and the use of captured CO2.

Researchers at Northwestern University are thinking along similar lines. They are experimenting with the co-electrolysis of H2O and CO2 to develop a carbon-neutral energy cycle as described recently in the online journal Energy & Fuels.

They propose to use renewable electricity to power a solid oxide electrolysis cell to produce syngas. The syngas will then undergo catalytic conversion to a liquid fuel such as methanol which will be used in a direct fuel cell. The byproducts of the fuel cell, H2O and CO2, would then be recycled back into the co-electrolysis process.

As reported by the Green Car Congress:

“Most of the major steps of the proposed liquid fuel cycle—catalytic fuel production from syngas; storage and transport of the fuel; and operation of fuel cells on methanol or liquid hydrocarbons are either already in widespread use or have been demonstrated. The only step not yet extensively investigated is the electrolytic production of syngas, the primary topic of the paper.”

Blue Fuel Energy is also working with the challenge of producing syngas through electrolysis so we will be following the work of these researchers with interest as we all seek ways to bring a carbon-neutral energy cycle to fruition.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Blue Fuel Energy engages NORAM Engineering

BLUEFUELENERGY.COM: Having completed preliminary scoping studies, Blue Fuel Energy has engaged NORAM Engineering of Vancouver to conduct the feasibility engineering phase of its project to produce Blue Fuel from renewables, water, and waste carbon dioxide in northeastern British Columbia. Recognized worldwide as a leader in electrochemistry, NORAM is expected to complete its study in August. The study will enable Blue Fuel Energy to advance project development activities as it will include preliminary design and construction cost estimates. These would then continue to be refined throughout the subsequent detailed engineering phases of the project.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Synthetic fuel from biomass coming to California

BLUEFUELENERGY.COM: Rentech, Inc. recently announced plans to build in Rialto, California a plant that uses biomass to produce synthetic fuel. The plant will also produce 35 megawatts of renewable electricity to be sold into the grid, enough to power 30,000 homes. Upon completion the plant will have almost no carbon footprint as the fuel and electricity will be produced from renewable feedstocks.

The Rialto Renewable Energy Center (Rialto Project) is designed to produce about 600 barrels a day of synthetic RenDiesel, which has significantly lower emissions of particulates and other regulated pollutants than ultra-low sulfur diesel and meets targets set by the Lower Carbon Fuel Standard (see earlier post). The primary feedstock for this second-generation biofuel will be urban, woody green waste such as yard clippings, a low-value waste stream relative to first-generation biofuel feedstocks that use food grade crops as feedstocks. The plant will also be able to use biosolids for a portion of the feedstocks, through a supply agreement with EnerTech Environmental. Rentech has reached a licensing agreement with SilvaGas Corporation to use their biomass gasification technology to produce syngas, which is then subjected to the Rentech Process for conversion to RenDiesel.

The Rialto Project production process is similar to that of the BioDME project in Sweden. With California now entering into synthetic fuel production, perhaps production in the state of another synthetic fuel—Blue Fuel/DME—will not be far behind.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Japan DME Vehicle Promotion Committee to hold June Tokyo seminar

BLUEFUELENERGY.COM: On Tuesday, June 16th, 2009, the Japan DME Vehicle Promotion Committee is holding a DME seminar with the theme of "Towards Practical Applications of DME."

This free-of-charge seminar will take place in the Plaza Heisei at the Tokyo International Exchange Center in Tokyo's Koto Ward.

Presentations will include reports on the state of DME in Japan and China as well as more specific talks on waste streams and the progress being made towards the use of DME in vehicles.

The DME Vehicle Promotion Committee was formed in 2006 and is subsidized by a number of Japanese government organizations, including the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism as well as JOGMEC, a sub-group of the Ministry of of Economy, Trade and Industry (MITI). Originally composed of 17 private companies but now consisting of 13, the current committee includes such major firms as Idemitsu Kosan, Isuzu Advanced Engineering, Iwatani Corporation, Japan DME Ltd., JFE Holdings, Toyota Tsusho, and others.

Representatives of Blue Fuel Energy Corporation of Sidney, BC, will also be attending the conference.

Friday, May 15, 2009

DME as forklift fuel?

BLUEFUELENERGY.COM: Although forklifts may not figure prominently in most discussions about alternative fuels, two recent news items suggest they are not being ignored either.

The first story is related to the recent announcement by the US Department of Energy that funding for fuel cell R&D was being reduced. As reported in Hybrid Cars and other blogs and print publications, Energy Secretary Stephen Chu has proposed slashing the Energy Department’s hydrogen program funding by almost 60%, or more than $100 million, with most of the cuts occurring in the transportation sector.

At the same times as these mainstream transportation cuts are to occur, however, Secretary Chu has pledged almost $42 million as part of President Obama’s American and Reinvestment Act to fund 13 projects which will deploy nearly 1,000 fuel cell systems, mainly for forklifts, because: "these key early markets [are ones] in which fuel cells can compete with conventional power technologies.”

The second story comes from the Modern Materials Handling website where Tom Andel reports that: "we shouldn’t be surprised to see a propane/DME blend starting to be used in forklifts.” With propane already being used extensively as a forklift power source, the blend transition seems a natural one and could help reduce the carbon footprint in a wide range of industries since forklifts are such common vehicles in warehouses and loading docks all over the world. Blue Fuel could naturally improve this footprint even more.

Besides that fact that Blue Fuel could quickly enhance environmental performance in factories where propane-powered forklifts are used, the other idea to take away from the stories above is that Blue Fuel has a wide range of applications with some of them – forklifts, for example – not immediately obvious, but nonetheless important.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Växjö: Europe's greenest city

BLUEFUELENERGY.COM: Located in southern Sweden and with a population of about 80,000, Växjö bills itself as The Greenest City in Europe. Inspired by the Agenda 21 document signed at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, Växjö adopted its first environmental policy in 1993, which was superseded in 1999 by The Environmental Programme for the City of Växjö. The Environmental Programme has three profile areas, each with its own guiding vision:

LIVING LIFE: “In Växjö, we have the vision that we will live and act so as to contribute to sustainable development where our consumption and production are resource-effective and pollution free.”

OUR NATURE: “ We have the vision that clean water, fresh air and a diverse natural and cultural environment, with a rich biological diversity will characterize the town, and the urban and rural areas of the municipality.”

FOSSIL FUEL FREE VAXJO: “We have the vision of a fossil fuel free Växjö, where our energy consumption does not lead to any climate change.”

The profile area most germane to Blue Fuel/DME, of course, is “Fossil Fuel Free Växjö”. The city first adopted this concept in 1996 and has kept it as a key component of its current Environmental Programme. The goal is to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide 50% by 2010 and 70% by 2025 over 1993 levels. As of 2007, the city had been successful in reducing emissions by 32%. The majority of those reductions were due to the use of biomass for heating, with almost 90% of the heating fuel coming from renewable energy sources.

The transportation sector is the source of most of the remaining emissions. One strategy for reducing transportation emissions is to develop a large-scale bio-DME production plant to provide a carbon-neutral vehicle fuel. In 2003 Växjö University established a center for biomass gasification and the city is currently participating in the Bio-DME Project, which for 2009 includes construction of a DME filling station to perfect DME infrastructure and ongoing testing of a small fleet of DME vehicles.

In 2007 Växjö received the Sustainable Energy Europe Award in recognition of its environmental efforts. This small Swedish city is a great role model that deserves to be emulated throughout the world. For more information about this innovative city, please check out its website.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Korea's "Green Growth Strategy" includes DME in long-term plans

BLUEFUELENERGY.COM: As outlined in a series of articles in the Korea Herald, South Korea's leading English-language newspaper, the South Korean government has a "Green Growth Strategy" which includes what it calls, "second-generation technologies," that will take waste and transform it into value-added energy carriers such as hydrogen, natural gas, diesel, methanol, ethanol, and DME.

These second generation technologies would be used in various areas other than power plant and boiler fuel applications, which would be targeted for first-generation waste-to-energy technologies such as the direct use of solid, liquid, or gaseous fuels to generate electricity.

Although it is good news that the Korean government is including DME in its energy plans, the timetable as outlined in this article by Kim Seong-soo, principal researcher of the Wastes Energy Research Center at the Korea Institute of Energy Research, is less promising. According to Kim, second-generation technologies will not enter the energy market in Korea until sometime after 2020.

Kim suggests that one major reason for this slow pace is "the lack of corporate participation in R&D." As a solution to this problem, Kim suggests that Korean R&D should "aim to build demonstration or commercialization plants rather than develop basic technologies..." and "the Korean central and local governments should participate in R&D from the beginning...."

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Scientific innovation is key to powering the future

BLUEFUELENERGY.COM: With the planet facing the double threat of global climate change brought on by greenhouse gas emissions and the depletion of the world's petroleum reserves, humankind has some choices to make. We can carry on as present and face both an energy crisis and a climatic crisis in the near future, we can drastically slow our consumption of energy thereby staving off these twin calamities but hobbling what we call modern civilization, or we can innovate to develop technologies that will both solve the threats we face and advance civilization.

Most people would agree that the choice to innovate and advance civilization is the most desirable, and it is always fascinating to see how innovation manifests itself. While the general population might consider the development of Blue Fuel/DME as an alternative fuel innovative in its own right, two recent announcements regarding innovations in the production of alternative fuels go a step further.

The first idea comes from the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (IBN) in Singapore where scientists have demonstrated a method of converting CO2 into methanol via a non-toxic room-temperature process. In a media release they explain that "IBN scientists have made carbon dioxide react by using N-heterocyclic carbenes (NHCs), a novel organocatalyst. ...Hydrosaline, a combination of silica and hydrogen, is added to the NHC-activated carbon dioxide, and the product of this reaction is transformed into methanol by adding water through hydrolysis." Research is continuing to make the process even more cost-effective.

The second idea comes from scientists at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. Their article, "Concentrating-Solar Biomass Gasification Process for a 3rd Generation Biofuel," was published in the online journal Environmental Science and Technology. The abstract states: "A new concept of producing synfuel from biomass using concentrated solar energy as its main energy source is proposed in this paper. The aim of the concept is to obtain an easy-to-handle fuel with near-zero CO2 emissions and reduced land-use requirements compared to first- and second-generation biofuels. The concept's key feature is the use of high-temperature heat from a solar concentrating tower to drive the chemical process of converting biomass to a biofuel, obtaining a near-complete utilization of carbon atoms in the biomass." An excellent synopsis of the paper can be found on the Green Car Congress website.

These are only two ideas, but they are representative of the widespread effort being put forth to develop innovative technologies to tackle some of the challenges facing the world today.