There was a time not so long ago when BP tried to brand itself as being "Beyond Petroleum." That tagline is, of course, laughable now that BP has turned the Gulf into a giant petroleum bathtub. But the tainted company is still trying to save itself with alternative investments. Case in point: BP's $98 million play this week to purchase biofuel startup Verenium's cellulosic ethanol business.
BP has invested in Verenium before. The pair previously worked together on two 50-50 joint ventures, dubbed Vercipia Biofuels and Galaxy biofuels. But the Galaxy deal expired, a DOE loan guarantee for Verenium's first commercial cellulosic ethanol plant fell through, and Verenium was left unable to attempt widespread production of its biomass-based ethanol, according to Earth2Tech.
Fortunately for anyone who has watched BP singlehandedly take down an entire coastal region with its carelessness, Verenium will keep the rights to its commercial enzyme business, which includes a biofuel technology platform and a lignocellulosic enzyme program.
It's a smart move for BP, which has spent $3 billion on alternative fuel technology since 2005. For some perspective, the Gulf oil disaster has cost the company $3.5 billion thus far. So if BP wants to save itself (and a modicum of its public image), it will have to seriously rev up its alternative fuel program.
Photo from: http://www.hedon.info/BP56:SmallScaleBiodieselProductionInAmazonia
To look at the beat up 1981 Volkswagon truck, you wouldn't think it was anything special.
But to a group of students who just graduated from Penn Manor High School, the truck is an example of how to fix the fuel crisis. "We built an apparatus that takes cooking oil and transforms it into biodiesel fuel that can be burned in a diesel motor,: explains Brendan Stoeckle. The group's project was entered into a national championship. It started several months ago when their Tech Ed teacher Sean McKnight got them thinking. He bought the 1981 truck and set them free. One student concentrated on fixing up the truck. The group then built their model for the refinery, and so far the cooking oil has come out as usable diesel. The oil they use comes from the cafeteria at the high school and also from businesses in Millersville. McKnight expects to be able to use the fuel in the truck this summer. He also has hopes that the project could keep growing to the point where other students could learn how to create the biofuel to power their cars. "I'd like students to be able to buy an old beat up diesel vehicle, get it working and come in on Monday and by Wednesday be able to fill it and have fuel for the weekend."
Photo from: http://www.rankia.com/blog/jmmaza/357524-otro-oracle-t-boone-pickens
T. Boone Pickens is making a new pitch for natural gas to be the fuel of the future, especially in America’s big rigs. However, while declaring natural gas as the only replacement for petroleum diesel, the billionaire oilman seems to forget that biodiesel is already a great source to replace petroleum-based products… without having to convert any engines.
In the latest video from Pickens, he goes “back to the whiteboard” to make the case that out of the 21 million gallons of petroleum used each day in the U.S., 13 million gallons come from imports, and 5 million comes from the “bad guys” at OPEC. He says that 5 million is the real problem, as we are funding both sides of the war on terror with those purchases. Pickens proposes that if the 8 million 18-wheelers in this country were to run on natural gas, that would take care of 2.5 million gallons of OPEC oil each day, effectively cutting the oil cartel in half. He goes on to say that conversion could be done in just seven years.
But while Pickens makes a good case, pointing out how much cheaper natural gas would be than petroleum diesel (about one-fourth the cost) and how much cleaner burning it is, I think he steps in it a bit when saying that “natural gas is the only resource we have that’s going to replace diesel.” Biodiesel will run in any diesel engine, especially the big rigs, without having to change anything on the engines.
He does say that various biofuels, including biodiesel and ethanol, are also good for American cars. But I hope that not everyone takes his “only resource to replace diesel” comment too much to heart. Biodiesel is ready now.
Industrial enzymes producer Novozymes and Piedmont Biofuels of North Carolina will be unveiling new technology at the first enzymatic biodiesel pilot plant in the U.S. tomorrow.
The technology will turn low quality waste grease into high quality biodiesel:
The enzymatic biodiesel pilot plant was developed in partnership with the Biofuels Center of North Carolina, and the Chatham County Economic Development Corporation. The pilot plant, located at Piedmont’s site in Pittsboro, NC, is expected to initially produce 12,600 gallons of biodiesel annually.
“This new process of using enzymes to produce biodiesel will increase yields, decrease waste, and allows the producer to use lower cost feedstocks,” said Greg Austic of Piedmont Biofuels. “This groundbreaking technology will create more valuable co-products, and will allow existing producers to increase their biodiesel output.”
“We are glad to be partnering with our North Carolina neighbor Piedmont Biofuels to develop this promising enzymatic route to biodiesel. With continued research, we believe this technology could contribute to North Carolina and U.S. biofuels targets within a couple years,” said Hans Christian Holm, global marketing manager for Novozymes.
As we can see in this story, there are still advances being made in the science of biodiesel, and in this case, once again, biodiesel is all about recycling wastes. Best of good fortune to these pioneers.