Category: Transport

Two members of the U.S. House of Representatives — Scott Peters (D-CA) and Matt Salmon (R-AZ) — announced the relaunching of the Congressional Algae Caucus last week. This caucus aims to provide a forum to foster Congressional awareness of the enormous potential now being uncovered in tiny algae plant cells.

Representative Salmon commented: “In my own state we are already seeing the economic development that is possible from a thriving algae sector, from jobs to research and development. High tech jobs will help grow our economy and through this caucus, I hope to draw attention to the great economic and environmental benefits of algae production.”

Representative Peters stated, “My hope is that the Algae Caucus is a place for bipartisan discussion on how to diversify our energy policy, while also informing members of Congress about the jobs and partnerships the algae industry is creating, including at the University of California San Diego with the new California Center for Algae Biotechnology.”

Additional members of the bipartisan Congressional Algae Caucus include: Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), Tom Latham (R-IA), Trey Radel (R-FL), Louise Slaughter (D-NY), Tim Walz (D-MN) , Jackie Speier (D-CA), Susan Davis (D-CA), Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM), Alcee Hastings (D-FL), David Cicilline (D-RI), Ed Perlmutter (D-CO), Jared Polis (D-CO) and Duncan Hunter (R-CA). Hats off to them!

The algae biofuels market is expected to reach $1.6 billion by 2015. Algae also offers additional applications in the food, green chemicals and plastics industries. Algae grows faster and requires fewer resources than other biologically based feedstocks.

My favorite application for algae is its use to clean up wastewater and then used the converted and harvested biomass as an energy source. But there are some really great new developments in algae biofuels that deserve special mention.

For example, the Green Crude Farm in New Mexico is now operational, refining algae into crude oil for transportation. Sapphire Energy raised about $300 million in public and private backing for the project.  Its Series C round was reported to be one of the largest venture capital deals in 2012.

The commercial success of its algae-based crude has enabled Sapphire to pay off the entire $54.5 million in federal loan guarantees the comapny obtained in 2009 from the Biorefinery Assistance Program, administered by the USDA Rural Development-Cooperative Service. “The investments being made in low-carbon biofuel production are paying off and moving technologies forward, which will produce savings at the pump for consumers, and spur sustainable, new-wealth creation here in the United States, and make our land more productive,” says Doug O’Brien, Acting Under Secretary for Rural Development.

Commercial airlines are also now testing and running on fuels that include Solazyme’s algae-based fuel. Solazyme is reportedly the first publicly-traded algae company (Nasdaq: SZYM). The company has signed a $120 million loan agreement with joint venture partner Bunge for a loan from the Brazilian National Development Bank. That loan will be used It will  be used to develop the first commercial-scale renewable oil production facility in Brazil.

The high yield per acre (up to 5,000 gallons of renewable oil per year on a single acre) and minimal environmental impact of algae biofuels make them one of the most viable and attractive biofuels on the market today.

More information:

Algae power from muni waste!

Wanted to tell you all about a great company called Algae Systems.

Here’s a little summary from their website:

Algae Systems takes sewage from cities and feeds it to living algae, creating fuels, fertilizers and clean water, while removing CO2 from the atmosphere in the process. In just three years, our fuels will be cost competitive with oil. At scale, our fuels could replace fossil fuels within a generation.


This company;s containment systems for treated municipal wastewater are stationed out at sea, so they don’t take up valuable land. The algae consumes the biomass using CO2 from the air or from point sources.   Not only do these systems consume greenhouse gasses, they produce aviation and cargo fuels, as well as biochar (a charcoal product used for soil improvement), and leave clean water behind.

That’s a win-win-win! Check it out!

Statistics from the American Biogas Council

  • Over 150 anaerobic digesters are operating on farms in the U.S. (, primarily at dairies and some hog farms. Farm digesters reduce odors associated with manure, as well as pathogens. In addition to generating electricity, heat from gas engines is captured and utilized in farm operations. Many farms also are accepting food waste streams from area generators, which provides a revenue stream and boosts biogas production.
  • More than 1,500 municipal wastewater treatment plants have anaerobic digesters to process the solids stream. Increasingly, these treatment plants are capturing the biogas to offset electricity and natural gas use, savings that go directly to the cities’ bottom line. A handful of facilities are being designed in the U.S. to process organics such as food waste and yard trimmings from the municipal solid waste stream. In September, construction of the first facility got underway in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.


Biofuels from Trash!

The remains of plants processed for human purposes molder in landfills across the world. Whether waste paper or raked leaves, the plant remnants still contain cellulose, a sugar in greenery that bonds with the chemical compound lignin to furnish a plant’s structure. Microbes living in the landfills break down this cellulose into methane, which slowly seeps to the surface and into the atmosphere, where it is a potent greenhouse gas. BlueFire Ethanol, Inc., in Irvine, Calif., would rather harvest that energy for use as cellulosic ethanol fuel.

“We produce 70 gallons of ethanol per ton of waste,” says engineer Arnold Klann, BlueFire’s president and CEO. “The trick is unlocking the sugar molecule from the lignin, which is the glue that holds it together.”

BlueFire estimates 40 billion gallons of cellulosic ethanol could be produced from plant waste destined for the landfill, providing as much as one third of all U.S. transportation fuel needs. And, if other forms of waste, such as the stalks of corn plants (corn stover) or the remnants of timber harvest are included, Klann says, “we have enough feedstock in the U.S. to offset 70 percent of the oil import.”


Algae for aviation fuel

NASA is working on developing aviation fuel from algae and halophytes (plants that tolerate or like salt)!

Leeds Biomethane Fuel Station

Leeds council is set to become one of the first local authorities to have its own permanent biomethane fuel station.

The £150,000 station will serve the city’s two biomethane gas-powered rubbish trucks, providing fuel storage and easier refilling at the pumps.

Biomethane is a natural gas produced by breaking down organic materials like food waste and manure.

According to the council, its use offers significant cost savings as well as environmental benefits.


Energy Vision: Waste to Wheels!

Automotive Digest Weekly reports that every year, U.S. homes and institutions throw away enough garbage, yard trimmings, farm residues, and other organic waste to make renewable natural gas (referred to as “RNG” or “biomethane”), a clean, petroleum-free fuel that could power millions of the nation’s trucks and buses. Energy Vision, a national non-profit organization, with support from the U.S. Dept. of Energy’s Brookhaven and Argonne national laboratories, has been educating communities and business leaders on the benefits of using this renewable resource. RNG is produced in Europe and used by municipal fleets in a dozen of its cities and it is just emerging in the U.S. According to Energy Vision’s report, Waste to Wheels: Building for Success, communities that are now converting their bus and truck fleets to conventional natural gas for its clean air, fuel security, and fuel cost saving benefits are a step ahead in moving toward use of RNG, since the vehicles and refueling infrastructure are the same for both. To read or download Waste to Wheels, go to Energy Vision’s website.


Just came across a report from last year’s Waste to Wheels Conference, which coined the perfect term I was looking for: Renewable Natural Gas! Soon I hope we will begin to see vehicles with those little diamond stickers that say “RNG”  instead of “CNG.” Actually, RNG is the “real deal”  CNG, but the term was already co-opted. So here’s to RNG!

Read on (right on!)…

New Report on Turning Trash into Vehicle Fuel

Energy Vision, a national non-profit organization in the USA educating communities and business leaders on the benefits of using renewable natural gas (RNG) — biomethane — is drawing attention to a new report, Waste to Wheels: Building for Success, which summarizes the proceedings of a one day workshop held in Columbus, Ohio in December 2010. The workshop was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Clean Cities initiative, Argonne National Laboratory and Clean Fuels Ohio. Energy Vision’s VP for Programs Gail Richardson, a member of the planning group for this workshop, wrote up the proceedings.

Waste to Wheels discusses the characteristics of biomethane. Much cleaner than petroleum fuels, it is chemically similar to conventional natural gas and can be blended with it or used to replace it. A significant difference is that it is made, not by drilling, but by processing the waste gases created wherever organic materials are breaking down: in landfills, at sewage treatment plants, and on farm or dairy operations.

Energy Vision, whose activities are supported by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Brookhaven and Argonne national laboratories, points out that every year U.S. homes and institutions throw away enough garbage, yard trimmings, farm residues, and other organic waste to make this renewable resource capable of powering millions of the nation’s trucks and buses. Clearly, this is a renewable fuel.

“Given the rising concerns nationally and globally about climate changing greenhouse gases, RNG deserves “center ring” attention as it is the lowest of low-carbon fuels in the world,” notes author Richardson, “and technologies for producing biomethane are commercially available. Biomethane is produced in Europe and used by municipal fleets in a dozen of its cities. It is just emerging in the U.S.”

According to the report, communities that are now converting their bus and truck fleets to conventional natural gas for its clean air, fuel security, and fuel cost saving benefits are a step ahead in moving toward use of biomethane, since the vehicles and refueling infrastructure are the same for both.

Waste to Wheels culls major points and graphics from workshop presentations, and includes information about how to spot biomethane fuel production opportunities at the nation’s 1754 landfills, 16,000+ wastewater treatment plants, and 7,000 livestock farms. Speakers emphasized the benefits of biomethane projects – freedom from oil, clean air, lower greenhouse gas emissions, and green jobs.

“Clean Cities coalitions and other local partnerships can be game-changers in making renewable natural gas from wastes because local agencies play a decisive role in how the nation’s wastes are managed,” says Joanna Underwood, Energy Vision’s President. “We are committed to using Energy Vision’s expertise to assist DOE Clean Cities’ affiliates with local and statewide RNG initiatives.”

The Waste to Wheels workshop brought together 120 industry and government leaders from 29 states, who heard presentations by national experts on technologies for waste-based fuel production, projects, and financial incentives.

Landfills: sources of energy

Found a good PowerPoint presentation from the Waste-to-Wheels Conference held Nov-Dec 2010 in Ohio. It focuses on harvesting biomethane from the 50-65% of landfill materials that are organic, and converting it to fuel for transport.

Check it out!

Next time you buy something, think about what will become of it when you have to throw it away!

Several companies in Thailand have entered a 15-year contract to convert pig farming waste and wastewater into biomethane, to supply natural gas for vehicles (NGV) at two gas stations, beginning in 2012.

Kitti Jivacate, president and CEO of UAC, said the company would purify biogas from dung and wastewater from Mongkol and Sons pig farm in Chiang Mai. The biomethane gas from the droppings will be turned into NGV.

Presently, NGV accounts for 9 per cent of total gasoline and diesel consumption in Thailand.

The capacity of six tons per day could fill 500 compact cars or 40 transportation trucks. This could replace diesel imports of 2.2 million litres per year or liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) imports of 1,600 tons.

Similar projects are also being considered for other regions in the country.


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