Category: Flora

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:

Kalispell Biomass Bonanza

News was published yesterday on a new state-of-the-art facility utilizing forest-product waste to generate steam for operations and electricity for the power grid. As reported by Ryan Murray in The Daily Inter Lake,  Stoltze Land and Lumber Company near Kalispell, Montana has invested about $22 million and 14 months on the five-story co-generation facility.

The plant itself generates steam to run Stoltze’s lumber-drying kilns, sawmill buildings and electricity-generating turbine.  Sawdust and forest fallings are blended into a mulch-like biomass fed into the boiler system.

Extensive permitting went into getting the plant up and running. The Montana Department of Environmental Quality and Department of Renewable Energy were extremely helpful in the process, according to Stoltze Vice President Chuck Roady.

Flathead Electric and Bonneville Power Administration have signed seven interconnection agreements with Stoltze to put the power on the grid. The company will receive its first check from the energy cooperative in early November. The lumber company is also receiving renewable energy credits as part of the deal.

The plant has the ability to generate 2.5 megawatts of electricity every year, enough to power 2500 homes.

“[Stoltze] has always been leading in green or renewable technology,” Roady said. “So I wouldn’t say this is a new direction for us, but it’s certainly a new step. We’re hoping to pay it off in a little over 10 years.”

More information:

Packaging Materials From Ag Waste

Mushrooms and agricultural waste are being used to create styrofoam and other expanded plastics in a new process developed by a company called Ecovative. The company was founded by Eben Bayer and Gavin McIntyre with encouragement from their faculty mentor Burt Swensey at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York. In a class called Inventor’s Studio, they formulated a new process for binding together insulating materials using mycelium from mushrooms as a resin. A mycologist named Sue Van Hook from Skidmore College provided expertise to grow the fungi needed for the process.

The company won small grants from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) and the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance (NCIIA) which funded the initial samples. Proof of their concept enabled the company to win bigger grants from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to further develop its products. Ecovative is now working with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to produce materials for buoys. It currently supplies packaging materials to a number of Fortune 500 companies. This summer, Ecovative is cllaborating with the company Sealed Air to build a manufacturing plant in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

The primary process was described by Eben Bayer in a New Scientist interview published on June 17, 2013: “The strength of our products comes from the mycelium, which consists of millions of tiny fibres. The fibres bond with chitin – a natural plastic produced by mushrooms, similar to what crab shells are made of. Together, these act like a glue fusing agricultural waste such as seed husks into solid forms. Our materials basically self-assemble; the organism is doing most of the work.”

These products are biodegradable and the processing being used and developed eliminate the consumption of petrochemicals from oil and natural gas in plastics production.

For more information, please visit the following sites.

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.


Panda power!

Turns out that the Panda Bear’s intestinal tract harbors bacteria which allow them to digest bamboo and other tough grasses. Scientists are working on cultivating the bacteria to help break down plant materials that are resistant to anaerobic digestion, for use in producing biofuels.

For more information:

Save the Panda Bears and help save the planet!

California Biomethane Grants

12 July 2011

The Green Car Congress reports that the California Energy Commission has awarded four grants for projects for biomethane production from several organic waste sources. The biomethane produced from dairy and food processing, municipal and landfill operations will fuel various transportation systems.

The awards have been funded through the Commission’s Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program (AB 118).

Biostar Systems ($3,372,314 – Match Share $3,372,314) . BioStar Systems is partnering with Sonoma County Water Agency and Sonoma County Transit to produce 148,000 cubic feet per day of pipeline quality biomethane from dairy waste and food processor waste to support the Sonoma County Transit natural gas fleet. This facility will reduce waste transportation costs for Sonoma County’s food industry by an estimated $120,000 per year and cut greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 35,200 tons per year.

CR&R, Inc. ($4,520,501 – Match Share $18,166,460) CR&R estimates that this project planned for the City of Perris in Riverside County will produce 120,000 million BTUs of pipeline quality biomethane from nonrecyclable municipal waste using a two-stage anaerobic digestion process. This project would displace the equivalent of 865,000 gallons of diesel, enough to power 60 to 80 heavy duty trash recycling trucks, and reduce an estimated 57,740 tons of carbon dioxide between 2013 and 2020.

Pixley Biogas ($4,672,798 – Match Share $4,910,925). Pixley Biogas intends to build an anaerobic digestion facility in the community of Pixley (Tulare County) that will process more than 36 million gallons of manure from three nearby dairies and produce biogas to be used at the adjacent Calgren Renewable Fuels ethanol biorefinery. The carbon dioxide reductions combined with the avoided manure emissions are estimated to be more than 31,000 metric tons per year.

High Mountain Fuels ($11,020,419 – Match share $11,020,419). High Mountain Fuels intends to convert renewable landfill biomethane to liquefied natural gas for use as transportation fuel at the Simi Valley landfill facility in Ventura County. The project would demonstrate improved gas separation technology that uses new combinations of materials to provide better power efficiency and improved methane recovery than at other facilities. The project anticipates producing almost 6 million gallons of LNG each year to fuel the company’s waste hauling trucks, displacing 3.4 million gallons of diesel fuel.

The last three projects will be completed in two phases: administration/design (Phase 1) and construction/operation (Phase 2). The second phase will not begin unless the Commission approves the second phase after completing a thorough environmental analysis of the project.


The EU commission’s state support enquiry has been completed with a positive outcome and the Swedish Energy Agency can now grant 222 million SEK to the GoBiGas-project. The GoBiGas-project is a large investment in production of renewable methane by thermic gasification of biofuels and low-quality forestry material.

Anders Lewald, head of the Transport Unit at the Swedish Energy Agency, welcomes the news from the EU Commission: “Commercialisation of the gasification technology, particularly regarding production of biomethane will now get the chance to take the next step in the development”.

The gasification plant will be built in two phases; the first phase will be put in operation at the end of 2012. The second will be implemented after an evaluation of the first phase. The project is a collaboration between Göteborgs Energi and E.ON.

“We have to be able to handle the climate threat as well as continue to use different means of transportation. This is why it is important that Sweden invests in development of second generation biofuels, contributing to lower the climate impact of the transport sector” says Maud Olofsson, Minister of Enterprise and Energy, in a press release issued from the Swedish government.

GoBiGas is the second project receiving a grant within the call for proposals regarding second generation biofuels and other energy technologies issued from the Swedish Energy Agency at the end of 2008 and beginning of 2009. The first project granted was Volvo Cars development of an electric vehicle, C30 BEV.


The Climate Change and Emissions Management Corp. (CCEMC)  has announced $15 million in new funding for biomethane and biofuel projects in Alberta, Canada. The CCEMC is funded by Alberta’s Climate Change and Emissions Management Fund which was created by the Climate Change and Emissions Management Act. Companies that exceed their emission reduction targets pay into the fund which is used to establish alternative=energy and energy-efficiency programs.

One new program CCEMC is funding is the Slave Lake Pulp Bio-Methanation Project. This will integrate an energy-efficient anaerobic digestion system into the mill’s existing effluent treatment system. This new digestion system will both treat mill effluent and generate biomethane. It will significantly reduce energy, chemical consumption and sludge generation. The biomethane produced will be used to generate electricity and heat for use in the pulping process.

How cool is that!

The Natural and Bio-Gas Vehicle Association reports that the UK has become the eighth EU country to inject biomethane into the national grid. Other countries in Europe also adding biomethane to their national grids are Austria, France, Germany, Netherlands,  Norway, Sweden and Switzerland,

The Thames Water Didcot sewage works site is using anaerobic digesters as part of its sewage treatment process.  Technology from Chesterfield Biogas is then applied to remove moisture, CO2 and H2S to produce a clean, dry gas composed of around 97% biomethane.British Gas is buying the  resulting product.

Another new project at the Adnams brewery delivers biomethane from brewery and food waste to the national gas grid. Te project will generate energy to heat up to 235 homes for a year or power a family sized car for 4 million miles. The brewery’s future plans are to generate enough biogas to  power the brewery and its fleet of trucks, then inject the remaining 60% into the national grid.

The UK has also introduced a “Green Gas Certificate” program which will allow the biomethane energy that enters the grid to be tracked and allocated properly to any consumers. This exchange program will allow, for example, supermarkets to have their food waste made into biomethane and injected into national grid, then credited to extract an equivalent amount of natural gas from the grid at a distribution depot and fuel their fleets of dual-fuel CNG/Diesel trucks

For more information:

King of Green Gold

Excerpts from The methods of Jean Pain: Or another kind of garden, by Ida and Jean Pain, in English, self-published 1980, 88 pages, photos, out of print.

Until recently, Jean Pain was an unknown. Today, he’s hailed as “the king gold,” and energy experts from all over the globe have come to Domaine des Tenipliers to study the miracle Pain has wrought: an amazingly simple, and incredibly inexpensive system that extracts both energy and fertilizer (gold) from plant life (green). These scientists are hopeful that Pain’s new process will go a long way in helping overcome the worldwide shortage of fuel. …

I knock on the door and am greeted warmly by Jean Pain and his wife, Ida. Jean, I notice, has a wrestler’s build and a hermit’s calm. He accompanies me to about 50 metres from the front door and shows me the object of the world’s attention — a home-made power plant that supplies 100 per cent of the Pains’ energy needs. What I see is a mound, three metres high and six across, made of tiny pieces of brushwood.

This vegetable cocktail, Pain explains, made of tree limbs and pulverized underbrush, is a compost, much like the pile of decaying organic matter that people build in their gardens, using food scraps and leaves. Buried inside the 50-ton compost, he says, is a steel tank with a capacity of four cubic metres. It is three-fourths full of the same compost, which has first been steeped in water for two months. The tank is hermetically sealed, but is connected by tubing to 24-truck-tyre inner tubes, banked nearby in piles. The tubes serve as a reservoir for the methane gas produced as the compost ferments.

“Once the gas is distilled, washed through small stones in water — and compressed,” Pain explains, “we use it to cook our food, produce our electricity and fuel our truck.” He says that it takes about 90 days to produce 500 cubic metres of gas — enough to keep Ida’s two ovens and a three-burner stove going for a year. Leading to a room behind the house, he shows me the methane-fuelled internal combustion engine that turns a generator, producing 100 watts every hour. This charges an accumulator battery, which stores the current, providing all the Pains need to light their five-room house.

As Ida drives off in their truck, I see on the roof two gas bottles shaped like long cannon shells. These have a capacity of five cubic metres of compressed gas, allowing her to drive 100 kilometres. Jean says that ten kilos of brush-wood supply the gas equivalent of a litre of high-test petrol. All that is needed to use it as motor fuel is a slight carburettor adjustment.

We walk back to the compost. Jean points to a- 40-millimetre-thick plastic tube that runs from a well, through the heap and on to a tap inside the house. He explains that compost heats as it ferments, raising the temperature so that cold water, arriving from the well after passing through 200 metres of tubing wound round the tank, emerges at 60 degrees C. I personally confirm that the water arrives cold at the “cake” and comes out scalding. Once inside the house, the hot water circulates through radiators and heats the house. The compost heap continues fermenting for nearly 18 months, supplying hot water at a rate of four litres a minute, enough to satisfy the central heating, bathroom and kitchen requirements. Then the installation is dismantled and a new compost system is set up at once to assure a continuous supply of hot water.

Excerpts republished in Reader’s Digest, November 1981; available online at:

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