I would appreciate the reactions of anyone who might care to comment on the
e-mail and the article contained with in, below. I would be particularly
interested in the thoughts of Dr. Lonnie Ingram if someone could forward
this to him. Biofuels are a subject of much discussion on this and other
Sierra Club lists.
Rob Brinkman, Chair SSJ Sierra Club
----- Original Message -----
From: "Roger Blanchard" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Sunday, December 24, 2006 9:59 AM
Subject: Re: [GWTF] Grist conclusion on biofuels
Is everyone sure that cellulosic ethanol is right around the corner?
The message below from a researcher in the field doesn't suggest that
is the case.
Sault Ste. Marie, MI
Published on 16 Aug 2006 by The Oil Drum. Archived on 16 Aug 2006.
Whither cellulosic ethanol?
by John Benemann and Don Augenstein
[editor's note, by Prof. Goose: This is a guest post from TLS's friend
Don Augenstein (Pomona96 on TOD)]
This post presents a perspective on ethanol from lignocellulose by my
friend and co-worker, John Benemann. We have worked on, and been
immersed in, biofuels and analyses of fuels from biomass processes for
over 3 decades. We are to substantial degrees biotechnologists, as well
as chemical engineers and have successful processes going today
(methane from wastes. You can google Don Augenstein). We have worked
long and hard on biofuels for entities including Exxon (long ago), the
Electric Power Research Institute, and others. Our carefully considered
view, for which we will be happy to provide abundant evidence is that
severe barriers remain to ethanol from lignocellulose. The barriers
look as daunting as they did 30 years ago. Ethanol from lignocellulose
may indeed come to pass. But the odds against are so dismal that a
hydrocarbon fueled 200 mile per gallon passenger automobile would be
more likely to be developed.
The following abstract is to be presented August 29th at the Conference
on Biofuels and Bioenergy: Challenges and Opportunities, Univ. British
Columbia, Vancouver, Canada (see www.task39.org).
ETHANOL FROM LIGNOCELLULOSIC BIOMASS - A TECHNO-ECONOMIC ASSESSMENT
John R. Benemann1*,Don C. Augenstein1, Don J. Wilhelm2 and Dale R.
1Institute for Environmental Management, Inc. 4277 Pomona Ave., Palo
Alto, CA 94306 *Presenter and contact, jbenemann@...
2SFA Pacific, Inc, 444 Castro St., Suite 720, Mountain View, CA 94041
Proposed lignocellulosic-to-ethanol processes envision a pre-treatment
step, to liberate cellulose and hemicelluloses from lignin, followed by
a hydrolysis step, to convert the carbohydrates to simpler sugars, and
then a yeast or bacterial fermentation step, to yield ethanol, followed
by ethanol recovery (distillation, drying). Some steps might be
combined, such as in acid hydrolysis (combining pre-treatment and
saccharification) or in a simultaneous saccharification-fermentation
process. After five decades of intensive R&D, currently only a single
pilot plant (Iogen Corp. in Canada) is operating, reportedly producing
about one million liters of ethanol per year, though well below its
planned capacity (This would correspond to ~12 barrels/day of crude
An independent analysis identified many problems with the currently
proposed processes, including the relatively high costs of biomass
delivered to commercial-scale plants (which would need to be 200
million liters per year output, or greater, for economics of scale),
the problems with pretreatment, the low rates and yields of sugars from
enzymatic cellulose hydrolysis, the resulting low sugar and ethanol
concentrations, and the overall high energy consumption of the overall
process. In addition to not tolerating high ethanol concentrations,
genetically engineered organisms developed for combined hexose-pentose
fermentations are subject to contamination, which will require
prohibitively expensive containment systems.
Even ignoring, as most studies do, such major problems, and using
available corn stover and enzymatic hydrolysis, the currently favored
biomass resource and process, our techno-economic analysis estimated a
cost of ethanol twice as high as that of ethanol from corn. Forest
residues and wastes, biomass crops, and municipal wastes are even less
promising. The conclusions of this assessment are that none of the
existing processes are ready for commercial applications in any
foreseeable time frame and that continuing fundamental and applied R&D
is required. Some opportunities may exist for near-term applications of
cellulose conversion technologies to some specific, modest-scale,
Fred Heutte wrote:
>>If you decided to grow switchgrass for ethanol
>>on your slopes or in the riparian zones (marginal land)
>>on your farm, how many cuttings of it in a season would
>>you have to do to make it economically feasible?
>>Would that outweigh the benefits of leaving those areas
>>alone to protect soil structure and water quality
>>and getting paid by CRP to do it?
>As I said, I have no real expertise on these issues. I just think
>that sweeping generalizations tend not to turn out right. In
>this case, I suspect there are plenty of places where "marginal"
>land can be used to produce cellulosic ethanol in an economically
>feasible and environmentally sustainable fashion. There is
>plenty of research going on and I am optimistic that it will
>provide useful guidance.
>One of the big questions is going to be the structure of the
>cellulosic ethanol sector. Will it be dominated by agribusiness
>or will it contribute to a resurgence of family farming? In
>Oregon we are seeing more corporate farming, but we are also
>seeing an actual increase in family farms due to increasing
>consumer preference for local produce.
>As it happens, this area is one of the few in the country where
>switchgrass is not native, but there are plenty of possibilities
>for biofuels and even an introduced species like switchgrass,
>if properly managed, can be a positive contributor.
>We have a chance to do this right. Establishing best practices
>for soil management, rotation, decreasing chemical and fossil
>fuel inputs, and emphasizing local supply lines for biofuels are
>all within reach. Portland, Oregon commissioner Randy Leonard,
>a "city kid" and firefighter by trade, has reached out to the ag
>community here in Oregon and is actively promoting local biofuel
>Randy is a little too keen on corn-ethanol right now but I think
>he'll get over that. The rest of his biofuel initiative is really
>cool -- aggressive but doable, and on a very fast track. This is
>one opportunity to rebuild the bridge between urban and rural
>interests that has become a serious rift in our state over the
>last generation. I would rather encourage this kind of positive
>agenda while insisting on high standards than hand-wringing over
>why it can't possibly be perfect.
>Canola contract could fuel Portland's pumps
>November 15, 2006
>Canola contract could fuel Portland's pumps
>By Dean Brickey of the East Oregonian
>PENDLETON - A farmer and a businessman are headed to Portland
>Monday to help forge a new deal for area canola growers. Echo's
>Kent Madison and Pendleton's Al Gosiak are working with the city
>of Portland to produce canola for an Oregon-branded biodiesel to
>be sold next year in Portland. Portland City Commissioner Randy
>Leonard came to Umatilla County last month to meet with farmers
>and local officials to banter about biofuels. They discussed how
>Portland can partner with Eastern Oregon farmers to help spur
>economic development opportunities and reduce dependence on
>Among those involved in the Pendleton meeting were Pendleton
>Mayor Phil Houk and Councilwoman Marjorie Iburg; Kim Puzey, Port
>of Umatilla general manager; Bill Hansell, Umatilla County
>commissioner; Hulette Johnson, the county's economic development
>director; Don Wysocki, an Oregon State University soil scientist,
>and Don Horneck, an OSU agronomist. After meeting with the group
>and touring Pendleton Grain Growers' canola crushing operation
>and Madison's biodiesel plant, Leonard said he left pumped about
>what could be pumped in Portland.
>"It was one of the most productive, best meetings I've had in
>public life," he said this week. He particularly remembered the
>precarious ride on the "man lift" at PGG's McKennon Station, a
>single-person elevator that took him up a few stories to the co-
>op's canola crusher.
>"The crushers there and the ones that Kent have are just the
>beginning of where we're heading with this," Leonard said. "We're
>working on a deal." Leonard has two goals: providing enough
>Oregon-produced biodiesel to fuel the city's of Portland's truck
>fleet, and providing additional biodiesel for Portland consumers
>who want it. Portland's fleet consumes 400,000-500,000 gallons of
>biodiesel annually, he said. Water Bureau vehicles burn B99, a
>mixture of 99 percent biodiesel and the rest petroleum diesel.
>The remainder of the city's truck fleet uses B20.
>Leonard said Monday's meeting would involve work on a contract to
>assure farmers a price floor so they could dedicate fields to
>canola each year. The price under discussion is 14 cents per
>pound, or two cents more than PGG and Madison offered this past
>year. "I am hoping that we can get Portland to agree to pay us
>the fair market price for our biodiesel and return at least 14
>cents to the farmer for his canola," Madison said. "I should know
>more by Tuesday
." Horneck said getting a 14-cent contract would
>"We're trying to give it a stable price and what's an economic
>price for everybody," he said. Gosiak, PGG's president and chief
>executive officer, said the contract is the key to the deal. "If
>we can lock in the farmer price, we can lock in the biodiesel
>price," he said. "This is all about contracting for a season at a
>time, so the farmer knows what's going to happen for a full
>year." The Portland City Council has adopted an ordinance
>requiring all diesel sold in Portland must be B5, or five percent
>biodiesel, effective July 1. Leonard said the city will require
>about five million gallons of biodiesel per year to meet that
>need. But he's hoping to amend that ordinance by mid-December to
>require that all biodiesel fuel sold in Portland must be derived
>from canola. "Canola is the best crop that you can get to produce
>biodiesel from," Leonard said. "We want canola first, and we want
>it to be Oregon-grown canola."
>Gosiak is excited about that. "They're giving us an opening," he
>Leonard said he's trying to change America's dependence on all
>foreign oil, not just petroleum. "Farmers in Eastern Oregon grow
>a crop that produces the best biodiesel derived from any crop,"
>he said. It's superior to a soy base or palm base." Leonard also
>said Portlanders want to use biodiesel in their diesel vehicles.
>"They are enthused to think that they can actually use a product
>in their vehicles that was produced by Oregon farmers," he said.
>Horneck, who works at the Hermiston Agricultural Research and
>Extension Center, said he suggested branding the Eastern Oregon
>biodiesel and calling it Oregon Fair Trade. Madison drafted logo,
>which will be one of the things discussed Monday in Portland. His
>idea is an Oregon-shaped photograph of an bright-yellow blooming
>canola field beneath a blue sky with Oregon Fair Trade BioDiesel
>emblazoned on it.
>Horneck said canola is not just a dryland crop. It can be used as
>a rotation crop with wheat on dry or irrigated ground. "It fits
>in the wheat niche," he said, "so if you're growing winter wheat,
>you could grow winter canola." He estimated there's 1,000 acres
>of canola being grown in the region, about half on dry land and
>half irrigated. Wysocki, who works at the Columbia Basin
>Agricultural Research Center near Adams, said a good canola crop
>yields 80 percent of a farmer's wheat crop in bushels. That means
>a 50-bushel-per-acre wheat field would produce 40 bushels of
>canola per acre. Canola is sold by the pound, however, so some
>conversion is needed. Canola seed is lighter than wheat, Wysocki
>said. At 50 pounds per bushel, a 40-bushel-per-acre canola crop
>would yield a ton per acre, he said, "If you get it planted in a
>timely manner in the fall, which is before Sept. 15 essentially."
>Gosiak said a ton of canola per acre at 14 cents per pound
>compares favorably with 70-bushel-per-acre wheat at $4 per bushel
>less transportation costs. He realizes biodiesel consumers want a
>fair price, too.
>"You have to really love it to buy it if its significantly more
>expensive," he said. Gosiak predicted consumers of B5 won't see
>any change in price. "Once it's blended at that level, it's
>invisible," he said.
>He thinks B100 will be selling for about $3 per gallon next
>summer in Portland. "That's a fair price because that's what
>they're paying now," he said, adding that the futures market
>indicates diesel prices are climbing. While variables, such as
>production and transportation costs, exist between the farm and
>the pump, he believes those can be held down with a stable canola
>price. "The market on both ends today can make it work," he said.
>CITY OF PORTLAND ANNOUNCES
>FINANCIAL INCENTIVES FOR BIOFUELS
>Two grant programs are intended to increase
>the availability of biodiesel and ethanol in Portland
>December 6, 2006
>FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
>Amy Stork, Office of Sustainable Development, 503-823-0229
>Brendan Finn, Commissioner Saltzmans Office, 503-823-3110
>Ty Kovatch, Commissioner Leonards Office, 503-823-3003
>Portland, OR City of Portland Commissioners Dan Saltzman and
>Randy Leonard announced today that financial incentives from the
>City of Portland are now available to help make high blends of
>biofuels more readily available in Portland . The grants will
>develop the Portland transportation fuels and home heating oil
>markets, create quality local biofuels jobs and support Oregon
>Through the Office of Sustainable Development, the City of
>Portland is offering two separate grant programs, the Biofuels
>Investment Fund and the Retail & Fleet Biofuels Infrastructure
>These financial incentives will make biofuels more available
>throughout Portland by reducing the upfront costs to install or
>convert fueling equipment, tanks and pumps to handle high blends
>of biofuels, said Commissioner Saltzman. Early adopters such
>as Jays Garage, the GoBiodiesel Cooperative, StarOilco, Carson
>Oil and SeQuential Biofuels have spearheaded the efforts to bring
>biofuels to Portland . I encourage others to build on their
>Biofuels create jobs, reduce our dependence on foreign oil and
>provide Oregon farmers with much needed new market
>opportunities, Commissioner Leonard said. Biofuels, especially
>biodiesel, simply make sense. I firmly believe they are key to
>Oregon s long-term energy security.
>Biofuels Investment Fund
>The Biofuels Investment Fund will support the development of
>infrastructure to enhance the production, storage, blending and
>distribution infrastructure for biodiesel blends of 20 percent
>(known as B20) or higher, and ethanol blends of 85 percent (known
>as E85). The Fund will also support non-infrastructure related
>projects that strongly support Portland s biofuels priorities,
>including proposals that further the development of Oregon-grown
>feedstock supply chains.
>A total of $450,000 is available in the Biofuels Investment Fund
>with a maximum grant amount for any project of $225,000. A pre-
>application informational meeting is scheduled for December 18,
>2006, and proposals are due by February 7, 2007.
>Retail & Fleet Biofuels Infrastructure Grant
>The Retail & Fleet Biofuels Infrastructure Grant provides
>incentives of up to $10,000 to install or convert fueling
>equipment at retail gas stations and fleet fueling sites to
>biodiesel blends of B20 or higher, and ethanol blends of E85.
>Incentives are available on a first-come, first-served basis to
>projects that meet the grants eligibility guidelines. The City
>anticipates awarding a total of approximately $120,000 to 12 to
>The City of Portlands commitment to biofuels
>The City of Portland has used B20 biodiesel in nearly all City-
>owned diesel vehicles and equipment since 2004, and recently the
>Water Bureau began using B99 (a 99% biodiesel blend) in many of
>their vehicles. Each year the City of Portland uses more than
>120,000 gallons of biodiesel in approximately 370 trucks, 160
>pieces of construction equipment (backhoes, graders, excavators,
>etc.) and 60 towed units (compressors, generators, etc.).
>In August 2006, Portland City Council established a citywide
>renewable fuels standard that requires that all diesel sold
>within the city limits contain at least five percent biodiesel as
>of August 15, 2007, and that all gasoline contain 10 percent
>ethanol effective November 1, 2007. As of March 2007, the City
>will require all residential garbage and recycling haulers to use
>a minimum of B20 biodiesel in their trucks.
>Through these efforts, the City of Portland is helping create
>demand for millions of gallons of biofuels and working to spur
>market development for Oregon-based biofuel production facilities
>to meet that demand. This growing renewable fuels market will
>generate a need for oilseed crops like canola that can be grown
>as rotational crops by Oregon farmers.
>Details and application materials for the City of Portlands
>Biofuels Investment Fund and the Retail & Fleet Biofuels
>Infrastructure Grant are available here or by contacting the
>Office of Sustainable Development at 503-823-7222.
>The City of Portland Office of Sustainable Development (OSD)
>brings together community partners to promote a healthy and
>prosperous future for Portland. The OSD advances policies and
>programs to support energy efficiency, renewable energy,
>biofuels, waste reduction and recycling, green building,
>sustainable economic development and sustainable food systems.
>For more information on OSD programs, visit
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