Friday, June 30, 2006

Biodiesel Jobs

Area entrepreneurs getting into the biodiesel business

Forget the Middle East, Nigeria or the Alaskan Wildlife Refuge. The fast-food kitchen is the chic place where environmentalists and entrepreneurs are tapping another source of oil.

Leftover restaurant grease is being used to make an increasingly popular alternative fuel — a blend of vegetable oils, animal fats and diesel popping up at more metro Atlanta stations.

Rob del Bueno, a leader in Atlanta’s “underground” biodiesel community the past few years, is launching his first mom-and-pop-style, pay-at-the-pump location.
His Atlanta biodiesel station at the corner of DeKalb Avenue and Oxford Road should be up and running by mid-July.

He isn’t alone. Citgo Food Mart in Alpharetta started selling biodiesel in the past two weeks.
In all, 10 stations selling the fuel — which burns cleaner than diesel — are scattered across Georgia from Rome to Waycross, according to the National Biodiesel Board. Many are selling it for $2.88, or about the same price as standard diesel.

So why will drivers turn to biodiesel if it’s not cheaper?
“The environmental benefits,” said del Bueno, whose endeavor gets funding from a foundation that wants his business model to spread across the Southeast.

Strike the iron while it’s hot
The concept may have its best chance yet. With oil prices hovering near $70 a barrel and the price of gas at the pump hanging around $2.80, consumers are more willing to listen to talk about alternative fuels. “We’re a nonprofit, so we’re really not looking to make money,” del Bueno said. “We want people to learn from this period and consider biodiesel as an option. Some may want to stick with it.”

Biodiesel is nothing new. But its burgeoning popularity is.
The volume produced and sold in the United States tripled from 25 million gallons in 2004 to 75 million last year, according to the National Biodiesel Board. Some 850 U.S. retail locations offer biodiesel at the pump in grades from B-5, or 5 percent biodiesel, to B-20.
Soybeans are the most common source of the fuel — which can run in any diesel engine.

Not just for the environmentally conscious
A few years ago, del Bueno made only enough biodiesel for use in his old Mercedes and the cars of a few friends. He helped spearhead an Atlanta grass-roots effort to embrace biodiesel, launching a Web site, creating an online forum and holding seminars.
“Education has always been an important aspect of this,” del Bueno said.
Now, he shares the world of biodiesel with businessmen who want to make a buck and help the environment.
Gwinnett resident Dan Maher is building a biodiesel production plant in Loganville that can make at least 1,000 gallons a day. By winter, he wants to offer biodiesel-at-the-pump at his chain of Dirty Dan’s car
Maher, owner of Georgia Biofuels Corp., said he could have 15 franchises set up by the end of next year.
One of his aims is to offer energy security — an increasingly important issue for Americans as the oil supply has been put at risk in recent months by hostile countries and historic hurricanes.
“You want to be able to see a business owner take pride in his investment,” Maher said. “This is American made — that’s the biggest thing. Plus, it’s a better fuel that burns cleaner. People want it.”

Tiny Microreactor For Biodiesel Production

CORVALLIS, Ore. - Chemical engineering researchers at Oregon State University have developed a tiny chemical reactor for manufacturing biodiesel that is so efficient, fast and portable it could enable farmers to produce a cleaner-burning diesel substitute on their farms using seed crops they grow on their own land.

"This could be as important an invention as the mouse for your PC," said Goran Jovanovic, the OSU professor who developed the biodiesel microreactor. "If we're successful with this, nobody will ever make biodiesel any other way."

Current biodiesel production methods involve dissolving a catalyst, such as sodium hydroxide, in alcohol, then agitating the alcohol mixture with vegetable oil in large vats for two hours. The liquid then sits for 12 to 24 hours while a slow chemical reaction occurs, creating biodiesel and glycerin, a byproduct that is separated. This glycerin can be used to make soaps, but first the catalyst in it must be neutralized and removed using hydrochloric acid, a tedious and costly process.

The microreactor developed at OSU eliminates the mixing, the standing time for separation and potentially the need for a dissolved catalyst.

But more importantly, Jovanovic says, the microreactor, which is about half the size of a thick credit card, could help farmers reduce their dependence on mass-produced petroleum as well as reduce the need to distribute fuel via truck, tanker or pipeline.

"This is all about producing energy in such a way that it liberates people," Jovanovic said. "Most people think large-scale, central production of energy is cheaper, because we've been raised with that paradigm. But distributed energy production means you can use local resources - farmers can produce all the energy they need from what they grow on their own farms."

The microreactor, being developed in association with the Oregon Nanoscience and Microtechnologies Institute (ONAMI), consists of a series of parallel channels, each smaller than a human hair, through which vegetable oil and alcohol are pumped simultaneously. At such a small scale the chemical reaction that converts the oil into biodiesel is almost instant.

Although the amount of biodiesel produced from a single microreactor is a trickle, the reactors can be connected and stacked in banks to dramatically increase production. "By stacking many of these microreactors in parallel, a device the size of a small suitcase could produce enough biodiesel to power several farms, or produce hundreds of thousands of gallons per year," Jovanovic said.

Using microreactors, biodiesel could be produced between 10 and 100 times faster than traditional methods, said Jovanovic, who is also developing a method for coating the microchannels with a non-toxic metallic catalyst. This would eliminate the need for the chemical catalyst, making the production process even more simple, a key to widespread use.

Jovanovic is looking to partner with a new or existing company in order to commercialize the technology through the Microproducts Breakthrough Institute at ONAMI, Oregon's signature research center focused on growing research and commercialization to accelerate innovation-based economic development in Oregon and the Pacific Northwest.

But he admitted it will take a visionary business partner.

"The challenge is that we're trying to change a paradigm, moving from centrally-produced energy to distributed energy production, and that's not easy," he said. "But wind and solar energy technologies faced difficulties in their early days. And we're coming to a place in history where we cannot tolerate the growing uncertainty of petroleum-based energy supplies."

ONAMI is a collaboration involving Oregon's three public research universities - Oregon State University, Portland State University and University of Oregon - as well as the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Wash., the state of Oregon and the regional business community.

President Bush, in his 2006 State-of-the-Union address, pledged support for cutting-edge research in methods to produce biofuels. Jovanovic hopes his research will get a benefit from this pledge.

The federal government has granted $8 million over four years to OSU as one of the country's five Sun Grant centers of excellence - regional hubs charged with research and development of new technologies for using agricultural wastes, residues and new crops for the production of bio-energy.

Finding a better way to make biodiesel

AMES, Iowa -- They're only 250 billionths of a meter in diameter. But fill them with the right chemistry and Iowa State scientists say the tiny nanospheres they've developed could revolutionize how biodiesel is produced.

The researchers are after a new, high-tech catalyst that takes some of the energy, labor and toxic chemicals out of biodiesel production. They've come up with a technology that works in the laboratory. And now they're working with the West Central Cooperative in Ralston to test their discoveries on a larger scale. They're also working to establish a company that would move the new technology into biorefineries.

The Iowa State research team is led by Victor Lin, an associate professor of chemistry. The team also includes George Kraus and John Verkade, both University Professors of chemistry at Iowa State. The researchers are part of Iowa State's Center for Catalysis.

Their project is being supported by a $1.8 million, three-year grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a $120,000, two-year grant from the U.S. Department of Energy and a $140,000 grant from the Grow Iowa Values Fund.

"This is a project that's definitely relevant to the state's economy," Lin said. "I thought as a scientist I could contribute something to the state."

Current biodiesel production technology reacts soy oil with methanol using toxic, corrosive and flammable sodium methoxide as a catalyst. Getting biodiesel out of the chemical mixture requires acid neutralization, water washes and separation steps. It's a tedious process that dissolves the catalysts so they can't be used again, Lin said.

So Lin and his research team started looking for technologies that would create an easier, more efficient and more economical process. They were also hoping to find technologies that would effectively make biodiesel out of raw materials such as used restaurant oils and animal fats -- materials that are much cheaper than soy oil, but also contain free fatty acids that can't be converted to biodiesel by current production methods.

Lin has developed a nanotechnology that accurately controls the production of tiny, uniformly shaped silica particles. Running all the way through the particles are honeycombs of relatively large channels that can be filled with a catalyst that reacts with soybean oil to create biodiesel. The particles can also be loaded with chemical gatekeepers that encourage the soybean oil to enter the channels where chemical reactions take place. The results include faster conversion to biodiesel, a catalyst that can be recycled and elimination of the wash step in the production process.

Lin's particles can also be used as a catalyst to efficiently convert animal fats into biodiesel by creating a mixed oxide catalyst that has both acidic and basic catalytic sites. Acidic catalysts on the particle can convert the free fatty acids to biodiesel while basic catalysts can convert the oils into fuel.

And the particles themselves are environmentally safe because they are made of calcium and sand.

"We're excited about this and so is West Central," Lin said. "This serves as an example of how nanotechnology can be useful for advancing an industry that's not that high-tech. And this allows our students from the Midwest -- some of them from farms -- to learn a new kind of technology that doesn't take them away from home."

Larry Breeding, the general manager of biodiesel operations for the West Central Cooperative, said the technology shows promise for improving the efficiency of biodiesel production. But he said it still needs to be tested at larger and larger scales to see if the economic benefits are there. Tests also need to prove if the technology works in continuous-flow production rather than batch-by-batch production.

"This research is a real boon to us," Breeding said. "We don't have a research campus. So we have to rely on academia and we've leaned on the people at Iowa State very heavily for a lot of this work."


Victor Lin, Chemistry, (515) 294-3135

Larry Breeding, West Central Cooperative, (712) 667-3511

Mike Krapfl, News Service, (515) 294-4917

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

PetroSun Announces Formation of Algae BioFuels

Subsidiary to Develop Algae-Based Biodiesel
Alternative Energy Resource to Supplement Petroleum-Based Fuels

PHOENIX--(BUSINESS WIRE)--June 22, 2006--PetroSun Drilling Inc. (Pink Sheets: PSUD - News), an emerging provider of oilfield services to major and independent producers of oil and natural gas, announced today that the company has formed Algae BioFuels Inc. as a wholly owned subsidiary. Algae BioFuels will be engaged in the research and development of algae cultivation as an energy source in the production of biodiesel, an economically feasible and eco-friendly alternative to petroleum-based transportation fuels. The R&D and production facilities for Algae BioFuels will be based in Arizona and Australia.

"PetroSun's formation of Algae BioFuels is a forward-looking strategy," said L. Rayfield Wright, president of PetroSun. "The opportunity to produce a renewable energy product that will assist in providing a healthier planet for future generations cannot be ignored."

Biofuel is any fuel that is derived from biomass -- which contains recently living organisms or their metabolic byproducts. Biofuel is a renewable energy source, unlike other natural resources such as petroleum, coal and nuclear fuels. Agricultural products specifically grown for use as biofuels include corn and soybeans.

Extensive research is currently being conducted to determine the utilization of microalgae as an energy source, with applications being developed for biodiesel, ethanol, methanol, methane and even hydrogen. Independent studies have demonstrated that algae is capable of producing 30 times more oil per acre than the current crops now utilized for the production of biofuels. Algae biofuel contains no sulfur, is non-toxic and highly biodegradable.

The Office of Fuels Development, a division of the Department of Energy, funded a program from 1978 through 1996 under the National Renewable Energy Laboratory known as the "Aquatic Species Program." The focus of this program was to investigate high-oil algae that could be grown specifically for the purpose of wide-scale biodiesel production. Some species of algae are ideally suited to biodiesel production due to their high oil content, in excess of 50%, and extremely rapid growth rates.

One of the biggest advantages of biodiesel, compared to many other alternative transportation fuels, is that it can be used in existing diesel engines, which relieves automotive manufacturers of having to make costly engine modifications. Biodiesel can also be mixed, at any ratio, with conventional petroleum diesel. As a result, the alternative fuel can be used in the current distribution infrastructure, replacing petroleum diesel either wholly, or as a diesel fuel blend with minimal integration costs.

About PetroSun

PetroSun's current operations are concentrated in the Ark-La-Tex region with plans to expand into New Mexico, Arizona, Utah and Australia in 2006. PetroSun provides a comprehensive array of products and services to the oil industry. The company's cutting-edge technologies, combined with a proven ability to apply them effectively and safely within a disciplined ROI framework, creates long-term value for PetroSun shareholders and partners. PetroSun is headquartered in Phoenix. For more information about PetroSun visit the company's Web site at