Friday, September 28, 2007

On Biorenewables

Dear humans living on this earth:

I have recently heard many conversations concerning the use of ethanol. The cost that it is having on farmers, the lack of profitability from it, the inefficiencies.
Fair enough - I will acknowledge that.
However, just as we have to crawl before we can walk, just as we fail over and over before succeeding - I would like to give my props to ethanol for being the part of a process, for getting itself out there and making people aware that there ARE biorenewable options.
With this, I would like you to be made aware of what IS being worked on. So many times we say "oh, well this isn't working, we better go right back to petrolium, there is no hope" But as I said, ethanol is merely a step in a journey that will, I believe, prove to make a huge, positive, impact on our environment.

Down the road from many of us
and just across the corn field (yeah, that doesn't help much....hahaha)
is a facility called BECON.
It is Iowa's Biomass Energy CONversion Facility.
within its walls.......

Anaerobic Digestion of Corn Stover and Swine Manure

Researchers on this small-scale project are investigating the use of regional anaerobic digestion units to produce chemicals and methane. The resulting methane can then be combusted into heat or used to fuel engines that generate electricity.

The first stage of anaerobic digestion converts cellulosic biomass to sugars and acids. Valuable chemicals such as glycerol, acetic acid, other organic acids and ethanol are produced in various proportions. After separating out the chemicals produced in the first stage, the remaining material would be used as a feedstock for the second stage of anaerobic digestion to produce methane for electricity generation. Most of the original nutrients are retained in the end product.

Supercritical fluid reactions hold a great deal of promise in the biomass conversion to fuels and chemicals arena. This project uses fluids such as water, carbon dioxide, ethanol or propane at high pressure and temperature to quickly convert biomass into sugars, organic acids, hydrogen, methane, nonracemic chiral compounds and a host of other chemicals. The supercritical process is fast (reducing cellulose feedstocks to a liquid in 15 minutes compared to the anaerobic digestion process which can take days), versatile, and uses relatively compact equipment. Researchers are investigating it as a low cost biomass conversion option.

Biomass Gasification and Reburning

Principal Investigator: Robert C. Brown
Organization: Iowa State University

This project has evolved over the years from an investigation of Iowa’s biomass potential to investigating specific biomass conversion technologies. Currently, this project explores the conversion of biomass into heat and power by the process of gasification. In gasification, a fluidized bed reactor converts solid biomass into a gaseous mixture of hydrogen, carbon monoxide, methane, carbon dioxide and nitrogen. The resulting gas can be used in a boiler, in an internal combustion engine, in a fuel cell or as the starting point for chemical production.

Because of its flexibility, gasification has been proposed as the basis for biorefineries that would provide a variety of energy and chemical products, including electricity and transportation fuels from biomass.

Biodiesel Pilot Plant and Research Facility

Principal Investigator: Dr. Jon Van Gerpen
Organization: Iowa State University

Biodiesel is a renewable, nontoxic and biodegradable alternative to diesel fuel. It is produced by chemically reacting a vegetable oil or animal fat with alcohol. The biodiesel pilot plant at BECON can produce this alternative fuel using a variety of feedstocks such as yellow grease from restaurant waste, plant oils other than soy, or brown grease from rendering plant waste.

The core research on the project to date has led to a major grant to Van Gerpen from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory to develop biodiesel education tools. As commercialization of biodiesel comes closer to fruition, the demand for new fuel suppliers will increase, as will the need for high quality, accessible educational materials to train fuel producers. The biodiesel pilot plant at the BECON facility will be used for the laboratory and hands on training portion of the education project.

So Next time...when you're at some political debate
or you're chatting with your fiends and some enginerd
is trying to tell you that "oil is simply the most efficient fuel
we're silly to use ethanol, its stupid"
I encourage you to acknowledge that no, ethanol isn't the best
but it IS paving a path....
They're using the same processes that were used to create ethanol
to now break down cornstover (the cornstalks and crap that's leftover
after the corn has all been attacked by the combine....)
and different greases (yellow grease is
leftover resaurant grease!!!! Cool!! ...errr gross...) as a form of fuel...
both are items that are otherwise considered waste - which means
that unlike the use of ethanol, we're not impacting the economy
just...recycling and reusing.


p.s. these are the estimated average September Wind speeds...

but watch'll be picking up again. :)

Oh and if you're wondering about the size of wind turbines....
just fyi




i love my job.

1 comment:

Such-Great-Heights said...

I love your job too.

What if IEC started asking people what they wanted to do to be renewable??? If they did, I might say:

My first renewable goal: When we buy our first house to install rainwater downspout collectors:

My ultimate renewable goal:

Where's my 1984 Bronco? My scout?