News and Trends

Low-carbon fuel specialist LanzaTech has produced jet fuel from waste gases for Virgin Atlantic. The company calls their jet fuel ‘Lanzanol'. LanzaTech has been working with Virgin to produce the world's first jet fuel derived from industrial waste gases from steel mills via a fermentation process.

The Lanzanol was produced in China at the Shougang demonstration facility. The alcohol-to-jet fuel process was developed in collaboration with Pacific Northwest National Lab (PNNL) with support from the US Department of Energy (DOE) and funding from HSBC.

The LanzaTech jet fuel could be used in a "proving flight" in 2017. The two companies will then continue to work with Boeing and other industry colleagues to complete the testing required before approving the fuel for commercial aircraft use. Following a successful ‘proving flight', the data collected will enable the partnership to seek approval to use the fuel on routine commercial flights.

A US Navy Boeing EA-18G electronic attack aircraft recently completed a 100% biofuel flight from Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland. The "Green Growler" aircraft flew using a bio JP-5 fuel instead of the petroleum based JP-5.

Lt. Cmdr. Bradley Fairfax, project officer and test pilot with Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 23, said that he couldn't tell the difference between the two fuels in terms of the flight conditions and the aircraft flew the same as the petroleum based JP-5 for the duration of the flight. Flight test engineer Mary Picard monitored the ground and test flights and agreed with the test pilot's observations.

This fuel program supports the secretary of the navy's (SECNAV) energy goal of increasing the use of alternative fuels in the navy by year 2020.

Oil refiner and renewable solutions developer Neste plans to launch their diesel produced from renewable raw materials at selected stations in Finland by the start of 2017. The launch is Neste's way to participate in Finland's centennial independence in 2017, known as 'Finland 100 years'.

Majority of the feedstock Neste uses to refine the renewable diesel consists of wastes and residues. The company's NExBTL technology enables them to produce renewable diesel and other products out of waste, residue materials and vegetable oils.

Neste's 100% renewable diesel is already distributed in California, specifically in San Francisco, Oakland, Walnut Creek, Carlsbad, and Sacramento.

Research and Development

Anaerobic digestion (AD) is an effective and widely used technology to treat feedstocks for bioenergy production. However, the AD is limited by two by-products of the nutrient-rich liquid digestate and the fiber-rich solid digestate. To overcome these, Zhiguo Liu and a team from Michigan State University, demonstrate a biorefinery concept to utilize animal waste and create a new value-added product from them.

The studied biorefinery includes an AD, electrocoagulation (EC) treatment of the liquid digestate, and fungal conversion of the solid fiber into the fine chemical, chitin. The process starts with the animal wastes undergoing AD to produce methane gas for energy generation for the biorefinery. The resulting liquid digestate from AD will then undergo EC to reclaim water.

The cellulose-rich solid digestate will then undergo enzymatic hydrolysis and fungal fermentation to produce chitin. Water from EC will be used for the fungal fermentation. Results reveal that the studied biorefinery converts 1 kg dry animal wastes into 17 g fungal biomass containing 12% chitin and generates 1.7 MJ renewable energy and 8.5 kg irrigation water.

This study describes a biorefinery for simultaneous treatment animal wastes and production of chitin. The concept provides a plausible solution for agricultural waste management.

Biofuel manufacturers rely on acid treatments to break down plant material to extract sugars for biofuel production. However, the process generates sugar solutions contaminated with 5-hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF) and other furanics, which are toxic to the fermenting microbes and limit their efficiency. They are also tough to separate from sugar solutions.

The research team of led by Alexander Katz of the University of California, Berkeley, may have developed a way to separate furanics from the sugars. The group found that NU-1000, a metal-organic framework compound with pyrene linkers, traps furanics but leaves sugars alone.

The team tested the sorbent in a solution in which the glucose concentration was 300 times as great as that of HMF, NU-1000 trapped 80% of the HMF without any traces of glucose.

Energy Crops and Feedstocks for Biofuels Production

A new report from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) in the UK suggests that seaweed farms could be a vital source for biofuel production.

In the report, seaweed was deemed important since its cultivation does not compete for land and freshwater with crops. Seaweeds possess important qualities for biofuels feedstock such as high productivity, fast growth and high polysaccharide content. Macroalgae could also offer a sink for CO2, and cultivation and the harvesting of seaweeds could play an important role in reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

Although seaweeds have been harvested for food, feed and fertilizers in the UK for centuries, seaweed farming does not have a long history. However, in recent years, there has been increasing interest in seaweed culture, driven by research into algal biofuel technologies.

Mushroom-grower Champignonkwekerij Gemert (CKG) has opened a plant, Upcycling Gemert, which converts organic waste from growing mushrooms into compost, fuel and renewable heat.

CKG produces five million kilos of  mushrooms annually, and creates a lot of organic waste. The culture remains of these mushrooms are wet biomass, known as mushroom compost. The waste is dried and composted, which creates heat. The heat is then captured and used to supply CKG with heat for growing mushrooms as well as to nearby vegetable-growers. This replaces the use of one million cubic meter gas per year.

The compost, called ‘Champost', produced from the process can be used as a soil improver and fertilizer. The process is not only used for the waste of mushrooms. Other biomass sources, such as sewage sludge and animal manure can be used for the plant.

The Dutch government has showed support and has financed the project.

The aquatic fern Azolla is a fast-growing, nitrogen-fixing plant that can be a potential source of biomass for biofuel production. The team of Paul Brouwer from Utrecht University in the Netherlands analyzed the lipid fraction from Azolla filiculoides to test its suitability for biodiesel production.

The harvested biomass contained 7.92 % crude lipids (dw). Drying conditions did not affect lipid yield or composition, indicating that conditions can be freely chosen to optimize energy use. The crude lipid fraction consisted of 41% fatty acids that were converted into fatty acid methyl esters (FAME), a biofuel intermediate, upon saponification in methanol.

From the lipid composition, it is predicted that high-quality biodiesel can be produced from the Azolla lipid fraction but requires an additional fractionation step to decrease unwanted compounds. The unwanted compounds separated in the fractionation step may then also provide a valuable secondary product.