Advance in cellulose conversion to biofuel

semipro Posted By semipro, Apr 6, 2011 at 3:00 PM

  1. semipro

    semipro
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    Researchers at the Department's BioEnergy Science Center who have achieved yet another advance in the drive toward next generation biofuels: using bacteria to convert plant matter directly into isobutanol, which can be burned in regular car engines with a heat value higher than ethanol and similar to gasoline.
    http://apps1.eere.energy.gov/news/progress_alerts.cfm/pa_id=497

    We're not talking corn to ethanol here. The goal is that any type of cellulose (plant) source could be used. Switchgrass, which has little nutritional potential, is a likely candidate although just about any cellulose source could be used (sawdust, waste paper, etc.).

    To put things into perspective, almost two thirds (by weight) of what we’re now putting in landfills is cellulose-based material that might be converted to motor fuels:
    • 28% paper
    • 28% yard and food waste
    • 7% wood

    If you Combine biofuels with renewable energy from the grid in a hybrid car like the Chevy Volt you’re headed in the right direction, IMHO.

    Of course, firewood is fair game for conversion to fuel also.
     
  2. pyper

    pyper
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    I was at a conference in Georgia, and a representative of the USDA was talking about how they'd be able to use the leavings of logging operations. Right now, they clear cut the wood lots (pine) and haul off the trees. Then they use something like a front end loader to tear out all the stumps and roots, which get pushed into big piles, along with any other branches or whatever gets left behind, and burnt.

    He was saying there was tremendous potential in the technology. He compared the amount of energy that could be obtained from these leavings to something. Sorry I can't remember what (i.e., there's more energy left over in these leavings than we get from...). But it was an impressive quantity. He said something at the end of his talk like, "If there's one thing we can do in Georgia, it's grow pine trees" which got a chuckle from the audience.

    The reason he was talking about it is because someone had gotten a grant to do something with the technology in the state.

    edit: you know, if they came up with something like this, it would potentially put money back into recycling paper. Finally a good use for junk mail!
     
  3. Delta-T

    Delta-T
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    I was at an energy conference a couple years ago where this was one of the topics of discussion....kinda frightening how little it was discussed considering the potential...bio-gas power plants were also a big topic...and there are still very few of those in the USA.
     
  4. woodchip

    woodchip
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    This sounded good until you mentioned that bit..........
     
  5. btuser

    btuser
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    How much? I want specifics, and want to know if I should stop burning wood and start building a tank.
     
  6. semipro

    semipro
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    You should build the tank regardless.
     
  7. btuser

    btuser
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    It would be great to get away from ethanol via corn. I wonder what the yield could be, and how much energy would be needed to distill to an engine-ready brew. I could see myself dumping grass clippings and leaves into a solar kiln to at least run my chainsaw + lawnmower. I might not get away running my car but I'm sure even a single gallon a week x 100 million homes would put a big dent in what we pull out of the ground, not to mention all the garbage we put into the ground.

    I've got a mental image of the Mr Fusion on the back of the Delorean.
     
  8. peakbagger

    peakbagger
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    There is all sorts of technologies out there to do the conversion of cellulose to fuel. Unfortunately to date its very expensive. One of the biggest wastes of government grants in the US is in Georgia http://www.rangefuels.com/news-highlights.html The fuel doesnt costs much but hauling it does. The only way it might break even is if the waste is already being hauled for other reasons. The concept I wonder about is "mining" a landfill. I did a project several years ago for a possible trash to electricity plant in CA, after the nornal recycling of high value stuff, the remainder was mostly plastics and some rubber. It had a high btu content and would already be in one place in a landfill. Of course the Europeans have been burning trash successfully for years but due to some early failures of US trash to energy plants we would rather bury the trash than turn it into usefull energy.
     
  9. billb3

    billb3
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    What's Semass been doing since 1988 ?
    http://www.energyanswers.com/development/Proven_Experience_-_SEMASS/


    Not much cellulose goes into the landfill here.
    Trees are ground ( can't get firewood or mulch from the DPW) , mixed with "fertilizer" from the waste treatment plant and sold to become name brand potting soil.
    Cardboard and paper gets baled. Sold. Used to go in the landfill when prices for recycled paper were down, now it just sits in huge piles waiting until the prices go back up. Piles don't get big any more like they used to.
     
  10. semipro

    semipro
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    I know there's a big waste-to-energy plant in VA near I-95. In general, the Europeans have been much more progressive than the US in this area (like many areas).
     
  11. begreen

    begreen
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    I am slowly trying to convince our community to do this. It's a long road...
     

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