February 28, 2007

February 2007 Digest

The IPCC finally released their long-awaited summary of findings on global warming. Al Gore's movie won the Oscar for Best Documentary. Does that mean that people are finally convinced of the truth about global warming? Does it matter?

There are plenty of reasons to be concerned about the state of the atmosphere without having to declare one way or the other on the issue of global warming. Living in Los Angeles, raising a daughter with lifelong battles with allergies, bronchial congestion, and asthmatic inhalers, I am more concerned with particulate matter and reactive organic gases than I am about gradual global temperature increases due to greenhouse gas. No one has to convince me that we need to act now to clean up the air we breathe.

As ACORE attests, a welcome consequence of a switch to renewable fuels is that we will move closer to a carbon-neutral balance for our atmosphere. If we can simultaneously reduce our mountains of decaying trash and fire-prone wood waste to produce biofuels through bioconversion, so much the better for our environment.

BIOstock Blog--------------
SunOpta goes global with steam explosion biomass pre-treatment
Wood beats corn stover in U.S. cellulosic ethanol race
"Green Tags" reward Renewable Energy development
Trees-for-Fuel Biomass Plants Mitigate Fires

BIOconversion Blog--------------
BP invests in UC Berkeley/UIUC Biosciences Institute
Banking big on Renewable Energy
Corn Sugar Fermentation - Educational Videos
Wood beats corn stover in U.S. cellulosic ethanol race
Online game is a Climate Challenge
U.S. DOE backs funding of six cellulosic ethanol biorefinery projects

BIOoutput Blog--------------
The IPCC Report solution? Renewable Energy.
Green Options is the place to be
California's Transportation Action Plan targets 2020
INDY 500: Drivers, start your ethanol-fueled engine
Clean and Efficient Biogas Fuel Cells

BIOwaste Blog--------------
PyroGenesis' BIOwaste Conversion Systems
Small Town with a BIG green vision
Green Options for Recycled Paper

Each month we provide a similar breakdown of article titles from our favorite "companion" site - Biopact Blog. This list is kept current and is accessible in the right hand column of each of the three blogs.

Please forward a link to this digest to anyone you know who would be interested in keeping track of change that will affect us all. They can add their name to the mailing list on the BioConversion Blog.

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February 18, 2007

Green Options for Recycled Paper

Megan Prusynski of Green Options has written a good review of the state of the industry in recycled papers. Citing EPA statistics that paper makes up 35% of our waste stream but less than half of that (48%) is recovered for recycling, the graphic designer implores her readers to think more about the alternatives to using virgin paper (paper made from trees). Her research is very helpful because graphic designers would use more recycled paper if they had a ready reference on where to get it.
Conservatree's choosing paper guide begins with a very good recommendation: "The first step in choosing paper is to evaluate how to reduce paper use so that you're only using what's truly needed. Reducing paper use is probably the most important step we can take to save trees and resources and prevent waste."

Megan recommends several online sites to search for alternatives:
• "One of my favorites is renourish. This site is a complete guide for designers who want to become more sustainable and includes information on which types of paper are most environmentally-friendly and what to look for when choosing a sustainable paper. "
• "Celery Design Collaborative has a very comprehensive list of sustainable papers available from a variety of companies."
• "Neenah Paper offers several sustainable options, including Neenah Green Papers and the Environment line of papers. They even have an Environmental Savings Calculator so you can see how many resources you would save by choosing a greener paper."
• "Mohawk Fine Papers also offers recycled choices and many papers produced using wind power.
• "SMART Papers is another large paper company with high environmental standards.
• "Yupo and Polyart provide synthetic tree-free papers.

She then adds a few more specialty paper companies:
While the big paper companies often dedicate only part of their entire product line to sustainable papers, there are smaller companies who produce only sustainable paper. EcoPaper produces papers and stationery that utilize not only recycled paper fibers, but natural tree-free fibers from bananas, coffee, lemons, and even cigars! Green Field Paper Company produces paper that is made with a mix of recycled fibers and renewables like hemp, which is stronger and can be recycled more times than regular paper. They also make paper out of recycled junk mail and coffee, along with some beautiful cards called Grow-A-Note that have seeds embedded in the paper fibers so that the cards can simply be planted after use. Vision Paper produces paper from kenaf, a quick growing plant with a high fiber yield.

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February 8, 2007

Small Town with a BIG green vision

Although located near the site of two famous Bull Run battles of the Civil War, the rural community of Warrenton, Virginia is not the kind of place you would normally expect to find revolutionary figures. Yet the town's mayor, George Fitch, envisions a future of green choice and self-reliance for his community by converting local waste and crops into bioenergy - ethanol for cars and green electricity for the grid. He may be one point of light that ignites the imagination and energy of thousands with a similar vision throughout the nation - and the world.

Apparently, someone on the U.S. Senate Energy Committee decided it was a perspective that needed closer inspection. At its Transportation Biofuels Conference on February 1, this small town mayor was a featured speaker along with representatives from Ford, Chevron, MIT, and the American Corn Growers Association.

An advocate of decentralized waste diversion into energy production Fitch's message is that local communities can be a major contributor to the goal of 20 billion gallons of renewable fuel. He said he has embarked on a plan for an integrated biorefinery at a landfill site which would produce 10 million gallons of ethanol and 8MW of electricity from a wide variety of wastes and residues.

“Most of the feedstocks would come from municipal solid wastes including construction debris which now are being buried at the landfill emitting greenhouse gases. This amounts to more than 100,000 tons annually of useable waste that can be converted into energy. The reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from a biorefinery using wastes would be over 50%,” Mayor Fitch commented.

“We’ve estimated there are about 10,000 tons of forest residues, 5,000 to 20,000 tons of collectible agriculture residue and another 5,000 to 7,000 tons of sewer sludge and animal manures which could be used as feedstock for the plant. “I’ve been told there are more carbons in a 10 cent bushel of manure than a $4 bushel of corn.” the Mayor said.

“We don’t expect to get much of the agriculture residue at the beginning because it will take awhile to solve the infrastructure problem of efficiently harvesting, gathering, storing and transporting the corn stover Right now, it’s trial and error. We hope to involve John Deere which has developed a machine that allows just a single pass to pick up the grain and the residue at the same time. This would reduce the cost of corn stover to the biorefinery by at least $10 per ton.

He pointed out that the technology seems to have evolved so you can use a wide variety of biomass material to co produce ethanol and electricity at an integrated biorefinery. He added, “we are looking at three different gasification technologies from three different companies for our project.”

Mayor Fitch told the committee and audience, “there are a lot of communities like Warrenton across the country, certainly hundreds if not thousands, which could be self sufficient in renewable energy. Like Warrenton, they have a variety of biomass material right in their backyard. Collectively, that represents billions of gallons of ethanol or renewable diesel – and all of it made from waste and residues.”

“That is a major contribution, which I think has been overlooked, to the goal of 20 billion gallons of renewable fuel by the 2020. The focus seems to be on creating large scale biorefineries producing 50 to 100 million gallons a year by the ADM’s and Cargill’s of the world. Communities like mine are just as valuable. Perhaps more so because we can engage the people in our community to get behind our renewable energy initiative and be a stakeholder.”

Mayor Fitch added, the economics of small scale biorefineries now work. It used to be that you needed at least 3,000 to 5,000 tons of feedstock per day to be economical. Not any more. Our model shows that 300 to 500 tons per day will be profitable; provided it produces both ethanol and electricity.”

Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina told the audience, “Mr. Mayor, you have stimulated our thinking. We need to think about small scale biorefineries across the country using different types of wastes. He added, “decentralization of renewable energy would give our country more energy security.”

For more information, you can contact Mayor Fitch directly at: (540) 347-1101. He would appreciate supportive letters to the editor to a local newspaper article written about his plan. Address the letters to the author Cheryl Chumley.

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February 6, 2007

PyroGenesis' BIOwaste Conversion Systems

When it comes to conversion systems some markets call for large scale solutions and other want to know how small you can go. Here are two systems that pack many features into a small footprint - small enough to fit on a ship.

PyroGenesis' Plasma Resource Recovery System (PRRS) uses a graphite arc plasma furnace to effect gasification of waste into syngas, a glass-like slag, and metal. The syngas can be used to fire boilers to generate electricity or as a fuel for combustion engines.

PyroGenesis also markets a cruise ship scaled Plasma Arc Waste Destruction System (PAWDS). With the US Navy requirements in mind, the PAWDS was designed to meet the following stringent criteria:
• Small system size and weight
• Ability to eliminate all combustible waste with minimal pre-treatment or segregation
• Quick start-up and shutdown (i.e. less than 10 minutes)
• Minimal labor requirements and high reliability
• Safe operation even under extreme weather conditions
• Compliance with existing and anticipated environmental regulations
• No visible plume

Plasma Resource Recovery System

Based on the expertise and experience gained in waste gasification and vitrification, PyroGenesis has developed the efficient 2 stage Plasma Resource Recovery System (PRRS) designed to uniquely treat a broad range of wastes, including industrial, hazardous and clinical wastes. Depending on the size and the composition of the waste stream, PRRS has the potential to be a net energy producer generating enough energy to not only operate the system but producing an excess which could be sold back to the grid. PRRS is scalable, fully automated and is targeted at processing between 0.5 to 100 TPD of waste (equivalent to approximately 150 to 30,000 tonnes per year). PRRS is significantly smaller when compared to similar capacity incinerators, produces no ash or dioxins and is a cost competitive alternative to conventional alternatives.

PRRS consists of four main processes: waste pre-treatment and feeding, plasma thermal treatment, synthesis gas cleaning and energy recovery.

Waste does not need to be pre-sorted and can be introduced into the PRRS graphite arc furnace in virtually any form (shredded material, sealed containers, liquids, sludges).

PRRS uses a graphite arc plasma furnace followed by a plasma-fired eductor to convert the organic fraction of waste into a soot-free synthesis gas (containing mostly carbon monoxide and hydrogen) and the inorganic fraction into a stable, inert slag which is a glass-like material that can be used as a construction material as well as a metal which can be recovered as an ingot.

The synthesis gas cleaning system is designed to remove any acid gases and capture any trace amounts of particulates or volatile heavy metals. The cleaned synthesis gas can then be used as a fuel in a boiler, an internal combustion gas engine or a gas turbine for the production of electricity, steam, and/or hot water.

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