Center for Advanced BioEnergy Research, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

In search of a cleaner ethanol

Ag researcher hopes to test corn and rye locally for possible use in cellulosic ethanol

By Jeff McDonald / The Bulletin
Published: February 18. 2008 4:00AM PST

Forest and agricultural waste in Central Oregon could prove to be a new source of ethanol, and a Central Oregon ag researcher wants to know if local farmers and wood product companies could capitalize.

Brian Duggan, a Madras-based crop physiologist for Oregon State University Extension, is applying for a roughly $20,000 grant that would allow him to test whether two types of crops — winter rye and forage corn — can be grown in Central Oregon and how much ethanol they would produce.

Winter rye is considered a viable crop because it grows vigorously in the early spring and can withstand the region’s cold winters. Similarly, forage corn, which is the leaves and stalks of the plant without the ear of corn, produces significant plant material, or biomass, that can be grown quickly in summer, Duggan said.

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Energy Crops to Cover Missouri Landscape

ST. JOSEPH, Missouri, February 19, 2008 (ENS) - Farmers plan to sow thousands of acres of switchgrass, high-biomass sorghum and other energy crops over the next three years near St. Joseph, Missouri to support a next-generation biorefinery that will be developed here.

The demonstration-scale biorefinery being engineered by ICM, Inc., based in Colwich Kansas, will produce cellulosic ethanol from biomass crops rather than corn.

On January 29, Department of Energy officials announced up to $30 million in supplemental funding for the planned facility. The project includes participation from academic institutions, government and other technology providers.

The Energy Department will invest up to $114 million over four years in the biorefinery projects with the goal of making cellulosic ethanol cost-competitive in five years. Other funding recipients include Lignol Innovations, Inc.; Pacific Ethanol, Inc.; and Stora Enso, North America.

Announcing the funding, Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman said, "Advanced biofuels offer tremendous promise for helping our nation to bring about a new, cleaner, more secure and affordable energy future."

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'Growing fuel' would be lucrative for farmers

By Eddie Cunningham
Independent, ie.-- Dublin
Tuesday February 19 2008

THE drive to 'grow our own fuel' -- with new and potentially lucrative spin-offs for farmers -- is accelerating. A claim by a leading expert recently, that we'd need to grow 70,000 hectares of certain plants here to meet targets set for 2015, has prompted one car maker to carry out trials on fuel from 'sub-standard' wheat.

It is estimated that 20pc of Europe's energy could be produced by renewable fuels such as crops. Professor Jens Bo Nielsen of the Aalborg University in Denmark told the recent National Bioenergy conference in Tullamore, Co Offaly, that the amount of fuel derived from crops could be massively increased -- without competing with food and animal feed production.

It is the competition between table and fuel tank that is bedevilling much of the effort to get away from our reliance on fossil fuels.

But bioenergy is now seen as providing the best opportunity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and secure energy supply.

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Monday, February 18, 2008

First switchgrass growers for biofuels initiative OK'd

By Darren Dunlap

The first round of acceptance letters went out Friday to farmers who applied for incentives to grow switchgrass for the Tennessee Biofuels Initiative.

There are still a couple of steps before the contracts are signed, but it appears Tennessee farmers will be planting the perennial warm-season grass in spring for harvest later this fall, said Kelly Tiller, director of external relations for the biofuels initiative and an assistant professor of Agriculture Economics at the University of Tennessee.

Tiller will brief lawmakers Tuesday in the state Senate Finance Committee about the progress of the biofuels initiative.

The Tennessee Biofuels Initiative is a five-year commitment of $70 million by the state over the next five years for bioenergy research and a demonstration program that includes construction of a pilot biofuels refinery that will be built in Vonore, Tenn.

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Palo Alto's utility considers cow power

By Kristina Peterson
Bay Area News Group
First Palo Alto's utilities went green. Now the city may go . . . black and white?

Palo Alto may become the first municipal utility in the state to use methane gas from cow manure as a source of alternative energy.

"Up to now we've been focused on green electricity and now we have an opportunity to look at green gas," said Utilities Advisory Commissioner John Melton.

The city council on Monday gave its nod for further exploration of the technology, which not only provides an alternative to fossil fuels, but also diverts harmful methane gas from seeping into the atmosphere.

PG&E will be the first utility in California to use "cow power" when a project with BioEnergy Solutions launches this spring, said PG&E spokeswoman Jennifer Zerwer.

The project, the first of two being planned, will produce 3 billion cubic feet of gas, or enough to meet the annual electricity needs of 50,000 customers, Zerwer said.

In harnessing gas from the state's 1.8 million cows, California trails only Texas and Wisconsin, "which makes sense, of course," Zerwer said.

At the dairy farm and cheese factory where PG&E plans to capture its gas, the cow manure will go through an anaerobic digester which will separate it into solids and liquid, Zerwer said. The liquid will then be diverted into a large lagoon and covered with a tarp to collect the methane gas. The gas will then be further refined to pipeline quality to render it "chemically the same as other types of methane," she said.

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Friday, February 15, 2008

Syntec Biofuel Achieves Yield of 105 Gallons of Alcohol Per Ton of Biomass

Syntec Biofuel Inc. (OTCBB: SYBF), a company developing biomass to fuel conversion technologies, is pleased to announce that it has achieved a yield of 105 gallons of alcohol (ethanol, methanol, n-butanol and n-propanol) per ton of biomass. This marks a major milestone for Syntec as this yield is equivalent to revenues in excess of $27 million per year for a 300 ton per day biomass processing facility.

"We are consistently seeing monthly improvements in our Biomass to Alcohols (B2A) Process," says Michael Jackson, President of Syntec Biofuel Inc. "This level of achievement makes the B2A process profitable in relatively small scale facilities using a wide variety of waste biomass feedstocks in any combination."

The Syntec B2A technology, initially developed at the University of British Columbia, is focused on second-generation cellulosic ethanol production. The Syntec process parallels the low-pressure catalytic synthesis process used by methanol producers. Syntec's innovative technology uses any renewable waste biomass such as hard or soft wood, sawdust or bark, organic waste, agricultural waste (including sugar cane bagasse and corn stover), and switch-grass to produce syngas. This syngas, comprised of carbon monoxide and hydrogen, is then scrubbed and passed through a fixed bed reactor containing the Syntec catalysts to produce ethanol, methanol and higher order alcohols. The Syntec technology can also produce alcohols from biogas (sourced from anaerobic digestion of manure and effluent), landfill gas or stranded methane.

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FAO unveils important bioenergy assessment tool to ensure food security, shows global biofuels potential

UN - An international team of scientists under the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has unveiled a much needed planning tool that allows countries to tap their bioenergy production potential while ensuring food security. The decision-support tool is based on mathematical models often referred to by Biopact. Peru, Thailand and Tanzania will try it out first, before it is released to the international community. The tool makes the discussion about the biofuels potential and the food versus fuel debate far more rigorous.

Scientists know that the technical potential for the sustainable production of bioenergy and biofuels is very large. Under the QUICKSCAN model, developed by the University of Utrecht's Copernicus Institute, used by the International Energy Agency and now also by the FAO, this potential is estimated to be maximum 1545 Exajoules per year by 2050, the bulk of it found in Africa and Latin America. 1545 EJ is more than 6 times the current amount of petroleum used by the entire world (total global energy demand today is 420EJ/yr, of which around 220EJ comes in the form of oil products).

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Bioenergy conference takes place in Ireland

A conference exploring the latest developments in the bioenergy industry has taken place in County Offaly.

Jointly organised by the Irish Agriculture and Food Development Authority (Teagasc) and the Irish Bioenergy Association (IrBEA), the event focused on how the bioenergy supply chain could be made to work better in the country.

National and international speakers discussed how best to improve success in the biomass energy sectors. Delegates were also told about applicable regulations and the support schemes now available.

President of IrBEA, Vicky Heslop, commented: "Now is a really exciting time in the industry with new and promising opportunities continuously emerging."

At the opening of the event, Mary Wallace, Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, added that bioenergy could become a "sustainable reality".

She concluded: "Bioenergy has an important role to play in meeting the challenges that lie ahead. It is a clean, renewable source of energy and with our abundant resources in Ireland we have great potential to produce bioenergy.

"Ultimately, the industry can only develop in Ireland if it is profitable for the raw material supplier, processors and investors alike."

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Thursday, February 14, 2008

Biomass Energy Outlook

By Jenner, Mark

JAM-PACKED YEAR OF BIOENERGY INDUSTRY GROWTH THIS LAST YEAR was a mighty big year of economic growth in generating energy from biomass. First-generation commercial-scale projects began generating bio-BTUs like: E3 Biofuels' ethanol/feedlot, Fibrominn's 55 MW manure-fueled power plant and Microgy's manure to natural gas facility. Then, in December, E3 Biofuels filed for bankruptcy.

Last year began with seemingly every Midwest rural community announcing a corn-based ethanol plant. By fall, the bottom fell out of the ethanol and biodiesel expansion. It went from one extreme to the other.

Communities both loved and feared these projects, creating tax incentives, filing lawsuits against projects, or both. Public opposition transitioned from thermodynamic inefficiency to insufficient water supplies and then settled on the food vs. fuel debate. Grain farmers cheered the $4/bushel price of corn. The livestock industry became antibiofuels.

The year ended with apprehension about the future of biofuels, but this is not the end of the story. Economic growth is measured in decades - not in weeks or months. We are just getting started.

Project activity in 2007 was impressive. Even after adjusting for cancelled ethanol projects, there was still over 10 billion gallons of ethanol project activity - 500 million gallons of that was focused on cellulosic ethanol. Biodiesel had 2.5 billion gallons of capacity on the drawing board, or under construction. Over 2 million tons of fuel pellet milling capacity are planned or on the way. I also recorded 700 MW of electrical production from solid biomass or from methane gas in landfills or manure digesters.

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BioEnergy Solutions at the World Ag Expo

TULARE, Calif. - BioEnergy Solutions announced that California's first biogas pipeline project using cow manure to create natural gas will begin final testing this week, with production of commercial grade renewable natural gas expected to begin in March.

The Bakersfield waste-to-energy company will capture methane at Vintage Dairy in western Fresno County and supply clean-burning natural gas to Pacific Gas and Electric Co. under a long-term contract approved by the California Public Utilities Commission.

"Ours is truly a landmark project, the first to receive state approval and the first to produce renewable natural gas," said David Albers, president of BioEnergy Solutions. "We've built a state-of-the-art biogas system that exceeds current regulatory standards and will serve as a model for similar projects throughout California."

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BioEnergy closes $210M funding for ethanol plant

Alternative fuels company BioEnergy International LLC, a developer of biorefineries and biocatalysts, says it has completed the $210 million financing for its corn ethanol biorefinery in Clearfield, Pa.

The financing for the project was provided through a combination of debt funding from TD Banknorth and Germany-based WestLB, tax-exempt bonds from Sterns Brothers, and equity financing from Norwell's BioEnergy and its investors, including Plainfield Asset Management and Camulos Capital of Connecticut, Itera Ethanol LLC of Florida, Context Capital Management of California and NGP Capital Resources of Texas.

The plant is expected to be a 108 million gallon facility, located in the heart of Pennsylvania. The project kicked off in 2006, when BioEnergy received $17.4 million in funding from the state of Pennsylvania and signed a five-year purchase agreement with New York-based Lukoil Americas, which will purchase the plant's output and market the resulting gasoline-ethanol blend in its network, spanning 13 states in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic regions.

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

As Biofuels Show Promise, Farmers Show Human Nature

Farmers in the United States sometimes plant switchgrass as a border crop. But could this tall grass lower the nation's dependence on foreign oil?

The Department of Energy plans to invest hundreds of millions of dollars to help produce fuels from materials that are not part of the food supply. Growing corn, or maize, for fuel has raised concerns about the supply and cost of corn available for food and animal feed.

Fuel made from switchgrass or forestry waste like sawdust is known as cellulosic ethanol. Department officials say it contains more energy and produces fewer greenhouse gases than ethanol made from corn. Switchgrass is also easier to grow.

Last month, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published a study of switchgrass grown on low-quality land. Government scientist Ken Vogel was the lead author. The study says the switchgrass produced five times more energy than was needed to grow it. Also, it says switchgrass, over its lifetime from crop to fuel, produces much less carbon compared to gasoline.

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International Effort Takes Critical Steps To Accelerate Growth Of Global Biofuels Market

The governments of the United States, Brazil and the European Union (EU)-the world's major producers of biofuels released an analysis of current biofuel specifications with the goal of facilitating expanded trade of these renewable energy sources. Spurred by increased market demands, this report was solicited by the U.S. and Brazilian governments and the European Commission (EC) on behalf of the EU, with the work conducted by an international group of fuel standards experts.

Biofuels-derived from biological materials such as plants, plant oils, animal fat and microbial byproducts-are gaining popularity worldwide as both energy producers and users seek ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, move away from dependence on fossil fuels and invigorate economies through increased use of agricultural products. As a result, biofuels are becoming an increasingly important commodity in the global marketplace.

One potential obstacle to achieving greater efficiency in the global biofuels market is confusion over differing-and sometimes conflicting-standards for characterizing the make-up and properties of biofuels. To clarify the current situation and identify potential roadblocks to improved compatibility, the U.S. and Brazilian governments and the EC convened a task force of experts from standards developing organizations (SDOs) to compare critical specifications in existing standards used globally (factors such as content, physical characteristics and contaminant levels that govern a fuel's quality) for pure bioethanol and biodiesel, two key biofuels. The White Paper published today identifies where key specifications in the standards are:

- similar (and can be considered compatible);
- different, but could be reconciled in a short period; or
- irreconcilably different as they stand.

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Energy issues take center stage

By Matt Wagner
Springfield Business Journal Staff

Organizers of the Ozarks New Energy Conference have assembled an all-star roster of experts that includes a biodiesel pioneer, a wind energy farm developer and a cellulosic ethanol researcher who has advised President Bush.

City Councilman Dan Chiles began floating the idea for the conference – set for Feb. 22–23 at the Gillioz Theatre and surrounding center city venues – shortly after taking office last year. Chiles, who is vice president of marketing for Watts Radiant, said a constant barrage of media reports about the country’s voracious appetite for fossil fuels propelled the event.

“The world’s changing, and we are now hostages to an uncertain energy future,” he said.

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Monday, February 11, 2008

Power Plays

The latest on alternative-energy deals from Dow Jones Clean Technology Investor

February 11, 2008; Page R15

Solar power has been one of the hottest areas of alternative-energy investment in recent weeks, thanks to requirements passed by more states that utilities increase their use of renewable sources of energy.

Sharp Solar Energy Group, for one, is developing a new business with utility customers in mind: power-generation equipment that uses solar-concentration technology, in which lenses focus sunlight more intensely on the photovoltaic cells used to capture the sun's energy ...............

The Power of Waste

In states with limited wind or solar resources, utilities are increasingly turning to biomass, or organic material.

Atlanta-based Biomass Gas & Electric LLC, a developer of biomass-driven power plants, recently signed a 20-year agreement to supply power to Progress Energy Florida, a subsidiary of Raleigh, N.C.-based Progress Energy Inc. The deal comprises a waste-wood-to-energy plant not yet built that is expected to produce 75 megawatts.

"We joke here in the office that [the Southeast] is the OPEC or Saudi Arabia of biomass," says Biomass Chief Executive Officer Glenn Farris.

In some developing nations, garbage can be a strong energy alternative. Masada Resource Group LLC, a privately held Birmingham, Ala., developer of waste-to-energy plants, says it's planning to raise $60 million to help develop and operate commercial-scale plants in Central and South America.

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Mascoma continues with plans for Vonore biofuel plant

By: Melissa Kinton -- The Advocate and Democrat

SWEETWATER, TN -- County Mayor Allan Watson said on Friday the county has completed some grading work and reproportioning of the property as requested by the biofuel refinery.

The University of Tennessee Office of Bioenergy Programs has already begun contracting with local farmers to grow switchgrass this summer. Dr. Kelly Tiller, Director of External Operations, UT Office of Bioenergy Programs, said on Friday that the university and biorefinery are taking their time with planning and negotiations to "get everything right."

"We only have one shot at this," she said. Tiller said she did not expect the plant to be open by the end of 2008. Some controversy has surrounded the building of the plant. At a public meeting in August, residents questioned plant emissions and the effects the plant would have on the environment.

Mascoma executives said at the meeting that there would be no foul smell emitted from the facility. The company expects to go through a lot of water though, and has worked with Tellico Area Services System to prepare for an increase in water both coming in and going out of the plant.

Since there will not be enough switchgrass to keep the plant running during its first year of operation, the plant will use wood chips made from local trees. Some residents questioned the effects this would have on scenic views, forests and streams. The University of Tennessee created a publication called, "Biomass harvesting and forest stewardship: a healthy balance," in which it addresses concerns about clear cutting forests.

Friday, February 8, 2008

EERC to host Biomass '08

Biomass no longer is a futuristic dream for U.S. needs. According to the Energy and Environmental Research Center at UND, it is a significant player.

The fuel source has many near-term uses now, as seen in the ethanol and biodiesel industry, according to EERC officials at UND in Grand Forks.

EERC is set to play host to “Biomass '08: Power, Fuels and Chemicals,” a conference workshop set for July 15-16 in the Alerus Center.

Conference attendees will be able to:

-- Hear presentations on new technology developments.

-- Discover opportunities for economic production of power and transportation.

-- Network with researchers and potential partners.

-- Learn how to become part of the multibillion dollar biomass industry.

Workshop topics include biomass feedstocks and agriculture; ethanol from lignocellulosics, a biomass composed primarily of cellulose and lignin; financing biomass-related projects; new innovations for biodiesel production; and biomass for heat and electricity.

A limited exhibit show will be offered as part of the workshop. Space will be sold on a first-come, first-served basis. For information on exhibiting, call Derek Walters at (701) 777-5113, or e-mail at">

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Researchers decode genetics of rare photosynthetic bacterium

A bacterium that harvests far-red light by making a rare form of chlorophyll (chlorophyll d) has revealed its genetic secrets, according to a team of researchers who recently sequenced the bacteria’s genome.

The researchers, from Arizona State University and Washington University, St. Louis, report in the current online edition (Feb. 4) of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, that they have sequenced the genome of the cyanobacterium, Acaryochloris marina, which through its production of chlorophyll d can absorb “red edge,” near infrared long wavelength light -- light that is invisible to the naked eye. Acaryochloris marina has a massive genome (8.3 million base pairs) and is among the largest of 55 cyanobacterial strains in the world. It is the first chlorophyll-d containing organism to be sequenced. ...............

There is a bioenergy link to this work, said Touchman, who is a member of ASU’s Center for Bioenergy and Photosynthesis. It could be used for crops that are turned into fuels or to generate biomass.

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U.S. BUDGET 2009: Near-Term Energy Research Prospers

Eli Kintisch

Business is booming at the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, Colorado, DOE's flagship facility for greening the nation's energy supply. Its budget has skyrocketed by 80% in the past 2 years, to $378 million. In addition to hiring more than 100 scientists, the lab has launched programs to integrate windmills into the nation's electrical grid, broadened work to facilitate solar panel manufacturing, and beefed up its biofuels research. "Everybody's busy; we're expanding," says Robert Thresher, who manages the lab's wind energy science program.

Although the president's 2009 request would keep research dollars at NREL steady, its recent rapid growth reflects the strong support in Congress for research aimed at tackling global warming by making near-term adjustments to the country's existing energy sources. NREL gets most of its money from DOE's $1.5 billion office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), which has received boosts of 27% and 18% in the past 2 years. At the same time, legislators have rejected increases of similar magnitude requested for the past 2 years by the president for DOE's $4 billion Office of Science, which typically funds research that is less likely to provide immediate answers to the nation's energy problems. Undeterred, President George W. Bush has asked for 17.5% more for the Office of Science in his 2009 budget.

Filling the hopper. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory is expanding work on biofuels.

"I'm happy that EERE got a big boost [in 2008], but there are mid- and longer term research priorities that need to be attended to," says Nobelist Steven Chu, director of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California. Other energy researchers also lament the zeroing out in 2008 of a $150 million contribution to the $6 billion International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor being built in Cadarache, France. The project, to design and build a prototype fusion reactor, represents a field whose goal of a cheap, sustainable source of energy has remained stubbornly out of reach for decades.

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Thursday, February 7, 2008

San Juan Bioenergy plant earns $100,000 grant from state

ebruary 7, 2008
By Joe Hanel | Herald Denver Bureau

DENVER - The new biodiesel plant in Dove Creek has won a $100,000 grant from the Governor's Energy Office.

San Juan Bioenergy's grant was tied for the largest of eight statewide. The grants announced this week are the first awarded by the Governor's Energy Office.

"It's a wonderful thing," said Derek Van Atta of Durango, a board member of San Juan Bioenergy. "We're certainly very pleased with the governor's enthusiasm for all the renewable energy projects, including ours."

San Juan broke ground in December on a biodiesel plant in Dove Creek, but heavy snowstorms have slowed construction, Van Atta said. When it's finished, the plant will press sunflowers into oil both for food and for motor fuel.

The plant is contracting with local farmers to grow sunflowers. It is scheduled to open in August for oil pressing, and the biodiesel operation should be running soon thereafter, Van Atta said.

Seven other groups won New Energy Economic Development grants, ranging from $10,844 to $100,000 each. They are PrimeStar Solar in Golden, Mobile Energy Solutions in Golden, the Boulder Innovation Center, the Office for Resource Efficiency in Crested Butte, Cool Energy in Boulder, Costilla County Biodiesel and Zolo Technologies in Boulder.

The grant comes from a $7 million Clean Energy Fund that the Legislature created last year. Taxes on casinos on the Front Range supply the money.

The fund is expected to grow to $24 million next year, according to the Legislature's budget experts.

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Expected soon at UMC: A course in bioenergy

Interest in alternative energy sources is growing at the University of Minnesota-Crookston

UMC, at the north edge of Crookston, about 25 miles east of Grand Forks, has long specialized in agricultural and environmental research. The school soon will add to that legacy when it adds a specialty course to its existing Agriculture System Management Program.

“Our plans are to add an emphasis called biofuels and renewable energy technology,” said Paul Aakre, assistant professor of agriculture at UMC. “It is going to include solar, wind, geothermal and biofuel technology.”

Aakre said the program still needs approval from the University of Minnesota Board of Regents, but it is expected to be part of the school's offerings next fall.

“I have had some students say they will change into that emphasis when it's available,” Aakre said. “We haven't had to work very hard to get the word out. It's spread by word of mouth.”

Aakre said it was a no-brainer to add the program, given the lead role that's been taken by the state of Minnesota in the area of alternative fuels and the school's initiative to become a more environmentally friendly “green campus.”

“It's in the news every day,” Aakre said about alternative energy research. “Obviously, when you have $3-per-gallon gasoline, alternative fuels are going to become a very big factor.”

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US BioEnergy, VeraSun will move HQ to Sioux Falls

US BioEnergy Corp. and ethanol maker VeraSun Energy said Wednesday that the companies' combined headquarters will move to Sioux Falls, S.D., this year.

Brookings, S.D.-based VeraSun announced in December that it would buy US BioEnergy in an all-stock deal worth an estimated $686.2 million. At that time, VeraSun (NYSE: VSE) and US BioEnergy had not determined where the new company's headquarters would be located.

Ethanol maker US BioEnergy (Nasdaq: USBE) has about 65 employees at its headquarters in Inver Grove Heights, said Don Endres, VeraSun CEO and chairman. A portion of those employees will relocate to Sioux Falls, though a specific number hasn't been determined, he said. Integration of the two businesses should be complete by summer.

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Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Biomass may have potential

The Hutchinson News

HEALY (KS) -- As the debate about coal energy takes center stage during this year's state legislative session, a new Lane County company is touting a greener alternative to coal.

Officials with Sunflower Electric Cooperative and the Healy-based Prairie Fire BioEnergy Cooperative announced this weekend they've signed an agreement to study the potential for burning biomass at Sunflower's Holcomb coal-fired plant.

Sunflower will begin tests to determine the feasibility of using Prairie Fire's product in their coal burners, said Kyle Nelson, vice president of power production and engineering for Hays-based Sunflower.

The first tests will determine the flame characteristics of the product. Once those tests are complete, a small sample will be fed into a scaled-down test boiler to determine compatibility with the company's existing coal-fired plants.

Nelson said the biomass product is a potential local fuel source that also alleviates environmental concerns associated with coal.

"If you're burning a biomass, even though it's a carbon-based fuel, the biomass is essentially treated as a zero-carbon fuel," Nelson said. "In theory, burning a biomass should not cause an overall increase in the CO2 level because burning wood chips or crop residue is burning carbon that's already in the carbon cycle."

The biomass from Prairie Fire essentially is crop stubble or prairie grasses ground up into a fine consistency.

"Our goal is to use agri-fibers that do not compete with grain acreage or cattle feed," said Prairie Fire president Brad Applegarth. The product would come from what Applegarth described as agriculture waste streams -- crop stubble, grasses, road ditch hay or even dedicated feedstock.

"There's plenty of waste streams in western Kansas," Applegarth said.

The final product is a finely ground white powder, similar to coal in its heat properties. It would be burned in essentially the same manner as coal, although, Nelson said it probably couldn't be mixed directly with coal because of the different characteristics of the materials.

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What Does the Bush Budget Mean for Renewable Energy?

The first shot has been fired in the Federal Budget War of FY'09 and it ain't pretty.

This Monday, President Bush released his proposed $3.1 trillion budget (that's trillion with a "T"), a 6% increase over the projected $2.9 trillion in spending for FY'08. With such a large number, everyone wins, right? Of course not! This is Washington we're talking about.

As the experts gather to dissect the budget, the headlines have mostly touted the increased spending for Homeland Security and the Defense Department and the cuts proposed in education & health care. But we're looking at commodities. Beyond generalized help for the economy (i.e., Bush's stimulus package), the most important places for us to look are at the energy budgets … and particularly, exploration and renewable energy.

Energy Department Budget

The blurb from the White House states the following about the proposed Energy Department budget:

Increases energy security by focusing on renewables, accelerating technological breakthroughs, and expanding traditional sources to reduce our reliance on foreign oil.

In plain English, Bush is throwing more money at cleaning up coal and at increasing the use of nuclear power in America. This is continued good news for companies that are working on the clean coal technology, and the nuclear power companies who have been trying to run new plants for years.

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Fueling Colorado's Renewables Industry

The Colorado Governor's Energy Office has awarded $350,000 in grants to eight companies or organizations as part of the New Energy Economic Development (NEED) program for expanding the state's energy-efficiency and renewable energy industries.

Among the groups chosen for funds were the Office for Resource Efficiency in Crested Butte, which was awarded a $10,844 grant for a solar thermal and job-training grant; Cool Energy Inc. in Boulder, which received $25,000 to continue the development of a solar thermal Stirling engine system for combined heating and electric power production for distributed energy applications; PrimeStar Solar Inc. in Golden, which received $25,000 for designing and developing a solar photovoltaic commercial production facility; and San Juan BioEnergy LLC in Dove Creek, which will use its $100,000 grant to assist in the development of biodiesel fuel produced from locally grown feedstocks, such as sunflower oil.

"These grants are giving organizations a 'hand up' in advancing emerging energy technologies into the marketplace that help us reduce our energy usage and carbon footprint," says Tom Plant, director of the energy office.

The story can be found here