I keep wondering what the tipping point will be for non-crop biofuels. It is encouraging that DuPont is getting involved in a major way. They must see the way to making a profit with this technology. I still thina k was are a ways away, but this type of development gets use closer to viable industry.
It will be interesting to see if this plant can ever make money, other than by subsidies and refiners forced to buy it. At least half a dozen 'cellulosic ethanol' providers have gone bust.....taking hundreds of millions down the 'greenie drain'. Usually, it's the fact it takes likely as much energy to harvest all the low value, low energy 'stalks' and stuff....and transport it up to 30 miles to the plant......burning tens of thousands of gallons of diesel each month. Plus the fact you only get the stuff during a two month period a year. What do you do for the other 10 months a year? Sit on your butt and wait fo the next harvest? Or have massive massive piles, miles long and thousands of feet wide.....self destructing by itself as time goes on...to feed the plant month after month after month? It's not like storing ears of corn in silos. Giant warehouses for tens of millions of pounds of 'stuff'.Plus, of course, now you deprive the ground of material to improve the soils. more need for fertilizer. That 'stover' is now plowed back into the ground, or used as animal feed. When plowed back in as 'organic material', it decomposes and provides needed nutrients to the soils. As well as fibrous material which helps retain moisture. now that is gone. More chemicals and fertilizers to grow the next season's crops. I predict this will be another massive failure on an EROI basis, kept alive only through giant mandates that require a percentage of cellulosic ethanol be produced and mixed into the fuel supply. t
For those who plan to make cellulosic ethanol by fermentation after breaking down the cellulose with enzymes, the cost of the enzymes has been a major factor. We see that two plants are now under construction--in both cases taking in enzyme producers as partners.One would suspect that fine tuning enzymes and increasing production efficiency are critical to future profitability. But if they pull it off successfully, this technology will get a major boost.In the alternative technology, the cellulose is cracked to synthesis gas and then recombined under high pressure to make crude fuel grade ethanol. This technology is more versatile and can be adapted to a variety of fuels readily. But high pressure makes it costly and inefficient. Using cheap natural gas in the same process looks more attractive. Similarly synthetic oil/gasoline may be more attractive than ethanol in this scenario.
Telegraph, I think the question of collection of corn stover has pretty well been worked out. They have been experimenting with that aspect while working on the enzymes problem.At present, the combine chops up the corn stover and spreads it on the field behind the combine. Adding a wagon to collect it should not be difficult. There is also talk of baling corn stover into large round bales. Those can be stacked in the field for easy storage until needed at the plant.Costs should be compared to that of baled straw. Plus shipping costs. Farmers see it as an additional source of income. It is a crop now discarded. It probably degrades on the field mostly to carbon dioxide. Potash and phosphate stay on the field, not sure about nitrogen.Yes, cost of collection, shipping and replacement fertilizer need to be considered. But this an additional crop from the same land that does not reduce corn production. Those aspects have to be quite an improvement compared to corn based ethanol. But slower processing and higher plant investment work against that standard.The risks are there. We will have to see how this all comes out. If anyone has the resources to do it right, Dupont is the likely winner.
"The risks are there. We will have to see how this all comes out. If anyone has the resources to do it right, Dupont is the likely winner. "Even if Dupont makes the process work, and makes it work for mass conversions...you've still got the issue of what does it cost to haul the biomass up to 30 miles.remember, the majority of the biomass will be hauled for more than 20 miles!.....(figure out the area)......and that assumes a straight line possibility...and roads don't go out radially from the plant...so most of the 'biomass' will have to be hauled more than 25 miles likely to the plant. Likely, that plant is going through massive amounts of NG or coal to provide the heat.....and water? How much water is needed for 30 million gallons ? even if the 'process works' it might not ever make a profit....t.
you've still got the issue of what does it cost to haul the biomass up to 30 miles.As I mentioned before, Telegraph, this is not an unknown. Dupont knows and every farmer in the area knows what they expect to get paid for a bale of straw, a waste crop usually from wheat. That can be converted to pounds, giving Dupont a good quality number to work with.I cannot imagine Dupont investing $200MM without having done this calculation.I agree profit is the issue. Dupont's investment demonstrates their confidence that they can make the plant profitable.
the US gov't threw 200 million at this cellulosic ethanol plant in GA.http://www.bizjournals.com/atlanta/news/2011/02/08/ga-cellul...It went bust. Cost too much to haul the wood to make ethanol......I'm not sure that the economics will work out. t.
I wonder what could be done to improve things by working out more distributed methods?For example, with thinning forests, instead of people with axes and saws, perhaps a four or five foot wide "centipede" with a cutter and chipper head, a conveyor body, and a trailer loader tail. It should be designed so it can ease in between the larger trees which are to be left, while chipping the smaller ones - then back out on its own trail and go in again a little bit further over. A one operator design.Could a movable gasifier or enzyme plant be made? One that would harvest perhaps a ten mile radius, then move to the next area? And forests have traditionally been logged in the winter, as well as other seasons. Maybe even stover stacks could be digested by the centipede in their season?
I wonder what could be done to improve things by working out more distributed methods?The mining truck companies are working on robotic trucks so there is no need for an operator, that seems like it may be workable for your chipper. Go out, chip some stuff, return when full. The robotic trucks will probably drive the next level of efficiency improvements for strip mining, oil sands, etc.
Even with robots..it still takes 'energy' to run those trucks and haul that 'bio waste'. That's why the plant in GA went bust.....No return on energy invested......Plus, of course, what works in the lab never seems to scale up to production volumes. Too many things 'just go wrong' or 'are almost there' but never get there. t.
Range Fuels. Let's not forget this is one of those syngas plants. And there was a problem with their technology. They did not work out a successful conversion process.Their technology is similar to converting coal to gasoline. Yes, it can be done, but the economics are a problem.Use of wood waste has the problem that huge quantities are needed. And large quantities usually competes with other uses like lumber or paper. Hence, the fuel is not inexpensive.That is the advantage of switchgrass or weeds raised on otherwise marginal lands. Or of true waste byproducts like corn stover or wheat straw. Collection methods are already in place. They merely need to be adapted to the needs of the ethanol industry.
paul:"Range Fuels. Let's not forget this is one of those syngas plants. And there was a problem with their technology. They did not work out a successful conversion process."heh heh....same for all the battery plants that 'failed'. They had 'problems with their technology'. A123 battery is the biggest fiasco. Started with MIT developed nano-technology for the electrodes. Worked fine as long as you didn't want the battery to deliver surge currents, like when you stepped on the accelerator ....heh heh.....known problem but they never could 'fix it'....--------Paul:"Use of wood waste has the problem that huge quantities are needed. And large quantities usually competes with other uses like lumber or paper. Hence, the fuel is not inexpensive."Actually, in GA, they had tons and tons of scrap wood....it just costs 'too much' to HAUL it, and of course, they 'had problems with their technology'...LOL....-------Paul:"That is the advantage of switchgrass or weeds raised on otherwise marginal lands. "No..that is an even worse problem since the density of biomass per square mile is so much lower. Your harvesting and transportation costs skyrocket as the 'marginal lands' don't produce much. Which is exactly they are marginal now. ----Paul:"Or of true waste byproducts like corn stover or wheat straw. "YOu deprive the soil of 'bio material' by not plowing it back it. You have to plow some of it back in, otherwise your land turns to dust in a few years Farmers know that. Folks always seem to forget that. Worse, if you don't return some of the nitrogen to the soil, that is more fossil fuel fertilizer you have to use to get the land to produce. Paul:"Collection methods are already in place. They merely need to be adapted to the needs of the ethanol industry. "and for the economics (!) and the technology to 'work out' (!). It seems that nearly all of these fail because of 'technology problems' that limits throughput, reliability, and economics.....t.
On the forestry side of things, there is already a machine called a "Feller-Buncher" - see pictures of one here:http://www.deere.com/wps/dcom/en_US/products/equipment/felle...Very few trees are cut with hand saws anymore. Feller bunchers are commonly paired with forwarders in Cut to length logging http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cut-to-length_loggingThe key is how to bundle the smaller stuff currently left on the forest floor... It still doesn't help the transport side. You can build mobile gasifiers, but they either have to go into a pipeline or GTL at the site. Gasifiers work best where you can do waste heat recovery and keep it operating for long periods of time, so going mobile isn't a great fit, unless you've got a whole lot of biomass and can operate in place for a long time. I give the algae side of things more chance of working than the biomass.
What is the need for bunching the small stuff? Have a "head" on a "neck" with some sort of device to pull the small stuff into a "mouth" that converts them into chips. A conveyor along the "neck" takes the chips back to the "body". A "tail" conveyor loads the chips into transport.It is worth remembering that when God designed the brontosaur family of dinosaurs they were designed with a long swinging neck and large mouth to feed those giant bodies. Engineers copy His designs often already, why not copy the basics of this one?
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