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[GSBN-Greenbuilder] GSBN:something people think of when they don't think of using straw as building material



Hi, a friend from Shell who worked on our house in Plozevet send this to me.
Just for curiosity notice, a bit of recycling. Best wishes, Martin Oehlmann
www.ecovancancesbretagne.com


Biorefinery Breakthrough

No one has ever brewed biofuel from straw on a commercial scale. With
Shell's backing, Iogen is likely to be the first.
(FORTUNE Magazine) - A guy driving a forklift spears a bale of straw the
size of a stack of mattresses. Then he stuffs it into a whirring shredder
that reduces the 1,000-pound rectangle of dry oat stems to a fluffy, fibrous
state. These steps (Nos. 1 and 2 in the illustration at right) are the first
in making ethanol motor fuel at Iogen's experimental plant in Ottawa. Built
next to a former Air Canada hangar at the edge of the municipal airport, the
factory is really a big science project aimed at learning how to make
alcohol on a commercial scale from nonfood biomass like straw. If Iogen
succeeds--and it is getting close--it will have the technology the world
needs to kick its gasoline habit.
Each big bale will emerge after about a week as 35 to 40 gallons of ethanol.
After shredding, the stuff goes through a "steam explosion" process (3) that
breaks up its structure, like popcorn in a popper. The following step,
enzymatic hydrolysis (4), involves combining the biomass with water, heat,
and enzymes in sealed, dumpster-sized, stainless-steel cylinders. The
resulting mushroom-soup-looking slurry sits for a few days while the enzymes
convert the cellulose portion of the straw fiber--which is about 75% of
it--into sugars. (The leftover woody matter, lignin, is dried and pressed
into burnable cakes; future ethanol factories may use them to fuel their
processes.) Once you've got sugar, you can make ethanol--or booze, as it is
known to most of us.
What happens next is like the process of making ordinary corn ethanol. A
mash of sugars, water, and strains of yeast is pumped into towering
five-story-tall stainless-steel vessels called fermenters (5). There's a
climb of 80 steps leading to the steel catwalk across the tops of the
fermenters in Iogen's plant, and there's a cheerfully beery smell in the
air. After brewing for a few days, the fluid in the fermenters reaches an
alcohol content of about 4.5% (roughly what you'd get in, say, a bottle of
Corona Light) as the hungry yeast organisms exude ethanol as a byproduct of
their all-sugar diet. Next the stuff is pumped through distilling vessels
and a desiccant process that removes all the water, leaving behind pure
200-proof ethanol (6). As the very last step of its straw-to-fuel process,
Iogen blends 1% gasoline into its ethanol to "denature" it (7), so that
nobody confuses the alcohol with that bracing, no-tax variety of booze upon
which governments frown: moonshine. This brew (8) is meant strictly for
imbibers equipped with pistons and tires.
Many eyes are watching the progress at this privately held
$15-million-a-year Canadian biotech. Four years ago, Shell Global Solutions,
the oil giant's technology arm, made a $45 million investment in Iogen to
hasten development of a cost-effective way to make cellulosic ethanol.
Iogen's plant has been cranking out test quantities for almost two years
now. "We have made it work with straw from barley, wheat, oats, and rice;
with cornstalks; with bagasse left over from sugar-cane processing; and with
chips of hardwoods such as poplar and aspen," says president Brian Foody,
whose father founded the company. "There's also research going on with
energy crops like switchgrass."
Iogen's gold is those enzymes that convert cellulose into sugar. Produced by
genetically modified microorganisms, they are a major focus of R&D. The best
enzyme so far comes from a hopped-up version of Trichoderma reesei, the
humble fungus that causes jungle rot, which devours canvas tents and other
natural-fiber items in the tropics. (Rival enzyme developers like Genencor
and BCI use Trichoderma and other organisms.)
For now, the plant consumes only about 30 tons of wheat, oat, and barley
straw a week--just 10% of its capacity. Even running full tilt at one
million gallons a year, the demonstration plant is small compared with a
high-volume corn-ethanol plant, not to mention an oil refinery. Iogen
calculates that an economically viable cellulosic-ethanol plant would
consume 1,500 tons of biomass a day and produce about 45 million gallons of
ethanol per year. The first such factory could end up being built in
Germany: At the recent Detroit auto show, Volkswagen, Shell, and Iogen
announced they are studying the possibility. Says Rob Routs, the senior
officer at Royal Dutch Shell who oversees the company's ethanol bets: "We're
going to get this thing to work on a larger scale." Zillions of yeast
organisms in Ottawa will drink to that


Vikki M. Dunn
Global Manager, Strategic Marketing and Brand
Shell Global Solutions International  BV
P.O. Box 541, 2501 CM The Hague, The Netherlands
Tel: +31 70 377 2691
Mobile: +31 65 209 6418
Email: V.Dunn@...
Internet: www.shellglobalsolutions.com






 
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