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Engineering Materials

Slideshow: Drop-in Jet Biofuels Becoming a Reality

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Ann R. Thryft
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Stimulating or competing?
Ann R. Thryft   3/25/2014 12:07:11 PM
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The potential effect of the aviation industry on existing supplies of renewable diesel (aka green diesel) could be significant. The most hopeful scenario would see that demand increasing the overall supply more than is needed for aviation, so it also boosts what's available for ground transportation. I thought it was interesting that the Boeing R&D announcement mentions that there's already enough in existence globally to satisfy 1% of aviation fuel needs. Sound small? It is--but 1% is also more than there's been previously.

Greg M. Jung
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Re: Stimulating or competing?
Greg M. Jung   3/25/2014 9:50:04 PM
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Thanks Ann for thoughtfully including the raw material each biofuel is made from.  I agree with you that a higher demand for green fuel could have some significant, unintended effects.  Depending upon which raw material is used for these types of fuel, prices may or may not be impacted.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Stimulating or competing?
Ann R. Thryft   3/26/2014 11:56:39 AM
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Greg, I always try to give raw materials when known. There's still a big gap between the leaders--sugar/starch-based, which means food crop-based, first-generation--and the cellulosic biomass-based second-generation fuels. Unfortunately, the first-generation fuels still have the biggest share of the market. We'll be reporting on that soon.

ervin0072002
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Economy of this...
ervin0072002   3/26/2014 12:51:52 PM
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I believe that the main benefit to this is economy of emerging markets. This will raise the overall cost of food as some of this supply is used for fuel. It will reduce the waste from the food industry of overproducing (possibly). But most of all it will give a chance to smaller weaker economies to start growing due to the demand of the products needed for this fuel. And the beauty of this is that any country capable of having a strong agriculture could benefit from this. No natural resources required...... Isn't this wonderful?

William K.
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The ideal feedstocks for a fuel-making process
William K.   3/26/2014 2:25:01 PM
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The very best feedstock, at least for the US, would be cornstalks, after the erars of corn are removed, and post-processing sugarcane. Wood scarp would be good, but the logistics for using wood scrap make it less viable.

But cornstalks are presently not very useful, once the corn ears are removed, and the main value of sugar cane stalks is in the sugar that gets recovered. So there are two materials that contain lots of cellulose, just waiting for a process to convert them into fuel. And if they would be cost competitive without any government subsidy then that would be th ultimate benefit. The huge flaw of government subsidies is that when they end the entire business plan is no longer quite valid, and a product may suddenly have no demand because of not being competitive any longer. This is one of those unintended secondary results that so manyof our government people choose to ignore.

William K.
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Re: Stimulating or competing? Drop In?
William K.   3/26/2014 2:27:53 PM
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The expression "drop in" had me wondering for a while, then I found that it was used to mean "directly subtitutable replacement", and it made sense. 

jeffbiss
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Protect wildlife habitat
jeffbiss   3/26/2014 4:04:25 PM
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If this effort helps protect wildife and its habitat, then it will be a big step forward. Currently, there is a big problem in the perception of "sustainable" when used with regards to fuels such as palm oil as the source of "susainable" diesel (see Orangutans – victims of "sustainable" palm oil and Orangutans - Victims of 'sustainable' palm oil in Indonesia). The RSB does account for wildlife, in Principle 7 Conservation,so there is hope. I just hope that there are enforcement teeth to ensure that wildlife is not negatively affected.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Protect wildlife habitat
Ann R. Thryft   3/26/2014 4:40:16 PM
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jeffbiss, thanks for your comments. I agree about palm oil production--there's nothing sustainable about about it: harvesting practices tend to wreck local economies as well as endanger wildlife, and it's even unhealthy to consume it. Sustainable or green diesel is, very specifically, only made according to principles put out by the two organizations mentioned in the article, regarding considerations such as derived from non-food crops and not competing with food crops for soil or water, for example.



Ann R. Thryft
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Re: The ideal feedstocks for a fuel-making process
Ann R. Thryft   3/26/2014 4:50:34 PM
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William, you're talking about corn stover, which is the leftover rough waste after corn ears have been harvested. It's a very promising second-generation feedstock for biofuels, as we've discussed in other DN blogs (just search the site on "corn stover"). As with other second-generation feedstocks, though, there are several infrastructure issues yet to be solved, such as collection and distribution, establishing a market and pricing, etc.
As we've mentioned elsewhere in similar discussions, government subsidies help an industry get started and once it's established, they can be reduced or removed. This has worked quite well in Europe and Japan for alternative energy, which is one of the reasons both those regions are well ahead of the US in that field.

ciaccio39
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Iron
Drop-In?
ciaccio39   3/26/2014 5:04:44 PM
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Are any of the biofuels that you discuss really drop-in fuels by themselves, or do they have to be blended with petroleum?

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