View Full Version : One of my clients in the news...

12-05-2008, 10:08 AM
I work at Merrick, and one of our primary clients in my business unit is Range Fuels, mentioned in this article:

BIOFUELS: Celluosic ethanol producers, braced for a race, enter the starting gate (12/05/2008)
Jessica Leber, ClimateWire reporter
Beam by beam, a plant that will churn out millions of gallons of cellulosic ethanol a year is now rising in Georgia. Its owner, Range Fuels, is vying to be the first business in the industry to claim a commercial plant.
Close on its tail, a handful of other companies -- from corn ethanol veterans to startups backed by big-name investors -- are pushing ahead with plans to manufacture non-food-based biofuel using everything from corncobs and wheat straw to waste wood and landfill trash.
The transition of cellulosic ethanol technologies from a lab-bench promise to a mass-production process has been moving quickly. These businesses are in the vanguard of an industry that is now driving the next generation of biofuels to the market.
Whether they can do this and make money is what everyone wants to know. The next three years will bring answers, based on the number of large-scale plants in the works.
Planned Commercial-scale
Cellulosic Ethanol Plants

Over the next three years, producers of cellulosic ethanol will open commercial-sized plants. Aided by a federal mandate and declining costs of enzymes, they will make the gasoline additive from a variety of non-food feedstocks, including corncobs, municipal garbage and wastes from sugar-growing. Click the map to see the details of each plant.
"We are moving as prudently and with as much urgency as possible," said David Aldous, the recently named CEO of Range Fuels and a former executive vice president of Royal Dutch Shell PLC. Aldous said that the plant, which will use heat, pressure and a chemical catalyst to convert wood into fuel, should be ready by late next year.
These pacesetters are assisted by a federal mandate that guarantees an initial baseline market -- 36 billion gallons of biofuels by 2022, only 15 of which can come from corn-based ethanol, a number which that industry is a few years away from hitting.
Helped by cheaper enzymes. Hurt, perhaps, by cheaper oil
Add to this the dropping cost of enzymes -- which now are too pricey by half for technologies that need them to digest the plant material -- and substantial new federal grant and loan guarantee programs, and the nascent industry's prospects have never looked better.
At the same time, though, there are some threatening signs as oil prices plummet, underscoring the volatility of a market that is now wounding corn ethanol. The ethanol industry, remembering the 1980s bust, has seen it all before. But even before emerging cellulosic fuel makers can think about competing with oil, they will first aim to match the price of their corn-based cousins.
And the financial sector's implosion means that financing new and unproven cellulosic "biorefineries" -- which cost two to three times more to build than corn ethanol plants -- will get harder.
"These are not times for the faint of heart," said Aldous.
Of the six commercial projects that won Department of Energy funding last year, two have already been canceled. Range's first commercial plant, backed by biofuel venture capitalist Vinod Khosla and one of the DOE grants, is already well-funded, said Aldous.
"This whole development of this technology is in a sprint. But it is a marathon," said Matt Hartwig, a spokesman for the Renewable Fuels Association.
This may be why today's dire times aren't deterring a number of companies that, like Range, predict that they will begin, and complete, their first commercial projects by 2012 or earlier.
Corncobs, municipal garbage and sugar wastes
"We plan on building 20 plants in the next seven years," said Arnold Klann, CEO of Irvine, Calif.-based BlueFire Ethanol Inc. The company has two plants in the works in California: It is close to breaking ground on a smaller plant in Lancaster, and is negotiating permits and financing for a 20-million-gallon refinery in Mecca. The biggest delay it has faced has been in getting the permits.
BlueFire's facilities will use sorted organic waste from nearby municipal landfills as their fuel feedstock. That decision, said Klann, will make financing BlueFire's plants easier because its suppliers -- city governments -- are far more creditworthy than newer players, such as farmers who will harvest agricultural leftovers for other companies.

Construction is under way at Range Fuels' cellulosic ethanol plant in Soperton, Ga., where the company plans to use wood chips as a main feedstock.
In general, cheaper waste residues, whether from a landfill or a farm field, are supplying the first generation of commercial plants. The costs and uncertainties of collecting, storing and transporting these and more advanced dedicated energy crops, such as miscanthus or sweet sorghum, are among the new industry's biggest unknowns.
"When you're shifting agriculture production, that's not something you do quickly," said Douglas Faulkner, undersecretary for rural development at the Department of Agriculture.
Coskata Inc., meanwhile, emerged this year as a small company with big plans. Backed by an undisclosed equity stake from General Motors Corp., it is negotiating with U.S. Sugar Corp. to build the largest plant announced so far. Wes Bolson, the company's chief marketing and business development officer, said the plant would produce ethanol made from unusable sugarcane parts for $1 a gallon -- the lowest initial cost claim.
"This is ready for commercialization today," said Bolson. The main issue, he said, is getting enough biomass to the plant's gates. To produce the planned 100 million gallons a year, the company will have to harvest about a million tons of biomass from a 50-mile radius surrounding the plant. That capacity is near the maximum many say these refineries can economically and sustainably handle.
Together, Range, BlueFire and Coskata are all taking one route that may initially help their bottom lines. Though their processes vary, none rely on costly enzymes that others use. Non-enzymatic production is currently cheaper, according to DOE, although these processes often lend themselves better to the largest-sized plants. The agency, however, predicts that by 2012 both classes of technologies will be comparable at about $1.30 per gallon, more than a dollar's decrease from today's average production costs.
The companies that are relying on enzymes aren't waiting around, however. POET LLC, the world's largest ethanol producer, is preparing to build its first commercial plant in Iowa next year. Its advantages are its size, experience and existing farmer network, said Mark Stowers, POET's vice president of research and development.
The plant will produce both corn and cellulosic ethanol using grain and cobs (ClimateWire, June 16). This so-called "bolt-on" facility will have a lower threshold for profit, he said.
Abengoa Bioenergy Corp., Europe's largest ethanol producer, is pursuing a similar strategy in Kansas.
'Big Oil' is in the running
But for all the talk circulating, the two companies that already have demonstration plants running may be the closest on the stepladder toward commercialization. Both rely on enzymatic technologies and have heavyweight support.
Iogen Corp., backed by Royal Dutch Shell PLC, opened the world's first demonstration plant in Canada and is now scaling up with plans for another plant, though it recently backed out of plans to build in the United States.
Verenium Corp., partnered with BP PLC, is testing a variety of feedstocks, including sugar wastes, at its 1.4-million-gallon Louisiana plant and is looking to locate its first commercial plant in the southern United States, said Kelly Lindenboom, Verenium's communications vice president. The company wants to build a series of 35-million-gallon plants, a capacity it believes will be most manageable because of its compact collection radius of 10 to 15 miles around the plant. Initially, the company hopes to produce ethanol at $2 a gallon, said Lindenboom.
"It's going to take a lot of people to win," said Coskata's Bolson.
Christopher Somerville, director of the BP-backed Energy Biosciences Institute, said he foresees about 1 billion gallons of cellulosic ethanol capacity in place eight years from now. That's about 10 Coskata-sized plants or 30 Verenium-sized ones.
The current players say they are not competing to be first, given that the empty mandate-fueled market has enough room for them all -- at least for now.
Winners of this race may not necessarily produce first
"Over time, the market will shake out the technology winners and losers," said Aldous.
The first plants might even become early casualties of their speed, said Reid Detchon, director of the Energy Future Coalition. The first-mover advantage, he said, may only matter for a "home run" biofuel that requires little adaptation of existing engines.
"You may be first over the finish line, but everyone else is going to learn from your mistakes," agreed Brent Erickson, a vice president of the Biotechnology Industry Organization.
Lindenboom said being among the first does allow Verenium to take advantage of incentives and acquire ideal sites for plants in the South, where the company has focused its efforts because the growing season is long. "It's becoming a real land grab," she said.
While Verenium is vying for dominance in gulf states, what's unique about cellulosic biofuel is its regional focus.
Unlike with crude oil, moving bulky and dispersed biomass long distances to a refinery is not economical. The plants will be driven by the feedstock available in the area.
All the major initial players are focusing on different regions and using feedstocks that play to each area's strengths: wood in Georgia, corn in Iowa, sugar parts in Florida and trash in California.
"The duck hunters go where the ducks are," said Faulkner.

01-30-2015, 03:47 PM
Bumping an ancient thread. This is a project I've been working on the past couple of years. All of the equipment on the skid is equipment I spec'd out for this job and bought, so needless to say I haven't slept well the last few months waiting for this thing to start up and hoping it will all work. We are currently in the process of commissioning this system.


PNNL recognized for moving biofuel, chemical analysis innovations to market

Lab wins 2 Federal Laboratory Consortium awards for technology transfer

January 30, 2015

Eric Francavilla, PNNL, (509) 372-4066

RICHLAND, Wash. – Developing renewable fuel from wet algae and enabling analysis of complex liquids are two of the latest innovations Pacific Northwest National Laboratory has successfully driven to the market with the help of commercial partners.

As a result, the Federal Laboratory Consortium has honored the Department of Energy national laboratory with two 2015 Excellence in Technology Transfer awards. The consortium is a nationwide network that encourages federal laboratories to transfer laboratory-developed technologies to commercial markets.

The consortium selected PNNL's two technologies from 57 nominations nationwide to be among 16 winners. PNNL has earned a total of 81 such awards since the program began in 1984. The 2015 awards will be presented April 29 at the consortium's annual meeting in Denver, Colorado.

Renewable fuel from algae
Process efficiently turns algae into biocrude oil

Scientists and engineers at PNNL have created a process that produces biocrude oil minutes after they pour in a slurry of green algae.

The continuous process uses heat and pressure to chemically and physically change the algae to biocrude, mimicking the way Earth made crude oil millions of years ago. The biocrude can then be turned into aviation fuel, gasoline and diesel using conventional refining technology.

PNNL teamed with Utah-based Genifuel Corporation to ready this technology for industry-their collaborative research led to two joint patents. With the new designs, Genifuel built a pilot plant for Reliance Industries Ltd. in Colorado, where the company plans to test the technology before producing renewable biofuel on a larger scale.

Unlike traditional extractions methods, which separate lipids out of algae to make biodiesel, PNNL's process converts whole algae into biocrude, fuel gas and usable byproducts. This doubles the yield of biofuel from algae and cuts the cost of production by 86 percent.

The process can be applied to other forms of wet materials as well, such as sludge from wastewater, dairy farms or food processing, increasing the potential impact of this technology. More companies have approached Genifuel about using PNNL's process.

The team recognized for transferring this process includes: PNNL's Doug Elliott, Dan Anderson, Todd Hart, Andy Schmidt and Eric C. Lund; and James Oyler, president of Genifuel Corporation. The Department of Energy's Bioenergy Technology Office provided funding to develop the algae-to-biocrude process.

Also here:

Merrick & Co. was engaged by Genifuel Corp. to provide the design and commissioning of a hydrothermal processing pilot system for Reliance Industries Ltd. Merrick was responsible for the design of the facility, from front end engineering through detailed design and testing. The system uses heat, pressure, and catalysts to chemically and physically convert wet feedstocks into natural gas or oil that can then be further refined into aviation fuel, gasoline, and diesel. The system is skid mounted with electrical, instrumentation, and controls components that are compatible with the standards of India, where it will be expanded to a larger scale after testing is finalized on the current system. Springs Fabrication Inc. fabricated the skids, installed all the equipment on them, and provided space and utilities for commissioning.

The technology originated at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Washington. The Federal Laboratory Consortium just awarded PNNL the 2015 Excellence in Technology Transfer for its work on the project. The current system will process algae, and as stated in this press release, “Unlike traditional extraction methods, which separate lipids out of algae to make biodiesel, PNNL's process converts whole algae into biocrude, fuel gas, and usable byproducts (http://www.pnnl.gov/news/release.aspx?id=1029). This doubles the yield of biofuel from algae and cuts the cost of production by 86 percent.”

According to Jim Oyler, president of Genifuel, “This award demonstrates how effectively the Federal Laboratory System can work with private industry to convert taxpayer-funded R&D into economic growth for the country. Typically successful R&D contributes many times over when it leads to a practical product, and this award recognizes the kind of collaboration that makes this possible.”

01-30-2015, 04:52 PM
Awesome Matt! Very cool!

01-30-2015, 05:08 PM
Thanks for sharing, I like industrial porn.

01-30-2015, 05:19 PM
Are the tubes on the ends of the skids for moving them?

01-30-2015, 07:12 PM
Are the tubes on the ends of the skids for moving them?

Yes. Theoretically those skids are designed to be picked up and moved if needed. Provided the equipment on the skid isn't too sensitive to be moved around. Used to deal with those sort of things all the time in the oil fields in Texas. They always seemed to be right in the way… :rolleyes:

01-30-2015, 09:46 PM
Are the tubes on the ends of the skids for moving them?

Yes, these are going to be shipped overseas in 40' shipping containers so they can use chain, straps, cable or whatever on the tubes to lift, push, or drag them in and out and set them in place.

01-31-2015, 08:18 AM
That's awesome!

Algae based fuels sound like the way to go if you ask me!


01-31-2015, 09:07 AM
That's a very interesting project Matt. Nice work! So that's what's been happening to your hair! :hill:

I liked the section in the 2008 article sighting falling oil prices as a danger to the cost effectiveness of the project. :D

I also saw an online article earlier today sighting that the price of oil will never return to $100/barrel and predicting that we've reached the end of the fossil fuel era. :lmao: That would be nice in a lot of respects, but I seriously doubt that we're there just yet.