Introduction to Bioenergy & Biofuels

Video Lectures

Displaying all 25 video lectures.
Lecture 1
Early Bioenergy History
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Early Bioenergy History
Biomass was around before humans, so naturally human utilization of biomass for energy is almost as old as humans themselves. I like to start with this picture of a gas pump hostage situation because I think it captures our current addiction to carbon and the dual role bioenergy might play depending on what paths we choose. To appreciate where biomass utilization can improve things we must learn to see our carbon resources objectively, they all have strengths and weaknesses. So how did carbon become so important …. Bioenergy has been around for as long as humans have had fire. Biomass was the simplest source of combustible carbon we could get our hands on and once we learned how to ignite it the rest was history. Humans love burning carbon because we live in a world made of carbon surrounded by an atmosphere full of oxygen. The combination of carbon and oxygen is just too good to pass up – plentiful reactants, easy reaction to start, great heat production. Combustion was and still is the king of bioenergy conversions in efficiency, ease, and global utilization.

If you are interested in receiving the written slide notes for each lecture, please contact the USDA supported Advanced Hardwood Biofuels Northwest project at; [email protected]

An associated online E-campus course is also offered at Oregon State University; http://ecampus.oregonstate.edu/soc/ecatalog/ecoursedetail.ht...

Advanced Hardwood Biofuels Northwest is supported by Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) Competitive Grant no. 2011-68005-30407 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).
Lecture 2
Recent Bioenergy History
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Recent Bioenergy History
Here we discuss more recent developments and some historical patterns in energy/fuels. History often goes in circles for reasons that baffle historians. Many of the bioenergy technologies being developed today were researched in the 1970’s during the energy crisis. Ironically, many of the technologies researched in the 1970’s were based on ideas that been practiced more than 100 years earlier to produce energy and fuels for a world going crazy for engines and struggling to find a fuel of choice.

So, here we are again. The price of oil has been high and for 10 years or so there has been considerable enthusiasm for bioenergy. However, now we are potentially looking at producing more oil than we consume and interest in bioenergy is waning again. The graphs above show what oil prices did in the 1970s and what the balance of oil production/imports has looked like for the last 100 years. Its interesting to note that with the exception of the last 10 years in general the US has always produced more than oil than it has imported.

If you are interested in receiving the written slide notes for each lecture, please contact the USDA supported Advanced Hardwood Biofuels Northwest project at; [email protected]

An associated online E-campus course is also offered at Oregon State University; http://ecampus.oregonstate.edu/soc/ecatalog/ecoursedetail.ht...

Advanced Hardwood Biofuels Northwest is supported by Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) Competitive Grant no. 2011-68005-30407 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).
Lecture 3
Feedstocks Fossil Fuels
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Feedstocks Fossil Fuels
Whether you like how we use them or not, fossil fuels are important and they have allowed humanity to technologically advance at a rapid rate. Anything important is worth understanding. if you are interested in fossil fuels you should google anything you don’t know. If you are really really interested, you should read Daniel Yergin's book "The Prize".

There are many different types of petroleum but most can be categorized as one of the three mentioned above. Likewise, there are 4 major types of coal and peat from which many coals form. Natural gas really only comes in two types (wet and dry), but knowing the difference between LNG and an NGL’s is extremely helpful given all the gas news in the media these days.

If you are interested in receiving the written slide notes for each lecture, please contact the USDA supported Advanced Hardwood Biofuels Northwest project at; [email protected]

An associated online E-campus course is also offered at Oregon State University; http://ecampus.oregonstate.edu/soc/ecatalog/ecoursedetail.ht...

Advanced Hardwood Biofuels Northwest is supported by Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) Competitive Grant no. 2011-68005-30407 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).
Lecture 4
Feedstocks Forest & Field Biomass Sources
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Feedstocks Forest & Field Biomass Sources
A lot of things are considered biomass, humans included. Bioenergy is predominately focused on conversions associated with plants and not animals, but there are important animal sources of biomass. The important thing about plant biomass is that all plants have similar chemistry, so a chemistry that works with one type of plant biomass can at least be considered for another type of plant biomass, etc. It also means that when you look out the window, everything green you see has similar chemistry and this includes wood items we all see/use daily.

If you are interested in receiving the written slide notes for each lecture, please contact the USDA supported Advanced Hardwood Biofuels Northwest project at; [email protected]

An associated online E-campus course is also offered at Oregon State University; http://ecampus.oregonstate.edu/soc/ecatalog/ecoursedetail.ht...

Advanced Hardwood Biofuels Northwest is supported by Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) Competitive Grant no. 2011-68005-30407 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).
Lecture 5
Feedstocks Aquatic Biomass & Urban Wastes
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Feedstocks Aquatic Biomass & Urban Wastes
This discussion focuses on three main types of aquatic biomass; macroalgae, microalge, and floating plants. The difference between macroalgae and microalgae is that macroalge are big organisms like seaweed and kelp, but microalgae are single celled organisms like spirulina and chlorella. Floating plants are an interesting biomass to consider insomuch as they are invasive, they grow fast, and they are fairly easy to harvest.

From a bioenergy perspective landfills are an excellent source of biomass and carbon, if you can engineer a way to deal with its unpredictable composition and level of contaminants. The only solution for trash for decades has been to landfill it or incinerate it, but this is changing. The size of the carbon reserve, the fact they are so consolidated, and their frequent presence near urban areas is making landfills the target for a variety of bioenergy companies.

If you are interested in receiving the written slide notes for each lecture, please contact the USDA supported Advanced Hardwood Biofuels Northwest project at; [email protected]

An associated online E-campus course is also offered at Oregon State University; http://ecampus.oregonstate.edu/soc/ecatalog/ecoursedetail.ht...

Advanced Hardwood Biofuels Northwest is supported by Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) Competitive Grant no. 2011-68005-30407 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).
Lecture 6
Carbon Feedstock Comparisons
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Carbon Feedstock Comparisons
There have always been non-food crops grown and they have always competed with food crops for resources because both are produced using the same intensive agriculture methods. Energy crops are no different. They too will require the same resources as other intensive agriculture crops and they will all share North America's resources and work under the same market economics that drive every commodity crop. The food vs fuel argument is heavily distorted and primarily driven by politics not logic.

We are getting very impressive in our biomass yields. Our current yields of corn and sorghum biomass in North America are pretty much as high as what the rainforest in Brazil achieves. That is quite a biomass yield and something we should be proud of, however it does call into question how much higher it can go. If billions of years of evolution have suggested a pseudo-upper limit for land based biomass productivity in the rainforest, how much higher can we go? Clearly it is not an actual limit because sugar cane and miscanthus have been grown at a higher yield, but at what cost? And what is a reasonable upper limit? Its safe to say we aren’t sure yet, but we are certainly entering new territory in terms of biomass yields/acre and good or bad its very impressive.

If you are interested in receiving the written slide notes for each lecture, please contact the USDA supported Advanced Hardwood Biofuels Northwest project at; [email protected]d.wsu.edu.

An associated online E-campus course is also offered at Oregon State University; http://ecampus.oregonstate.edu/soc/ecatalog/ecoursedetail.ht...

Advanced Hardwood Biofuels Northwest is supported by Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) Competitive Grant no. 2011-68005-30407 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA)
Lecture 7
Biomass Chemistry
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Biomass Chemistry
Once you know what biomass is chemically composed of you can see clear differences with oil. Its is also important that you know that the O’s stand for oxygen and the C’s stand for carbon.

The biggest difference between them is that oil chemicals are large straight lines while the biomass chemicals are small, circular and full of O’s. They look very different and this means that to turn one into the other we have to do a lot of work and spend a lot of money. We have actually been turning oil chemicals into biomass chemicals for a very long time at considerable cost, so it is ironic that we are now trying to turn biomass chemicals into oil chemicals at considerable cost.

If you are interested in receiving the written slide notes for each lecture, please contact the USDA supported Advanced Hardwood Biofuels Northwest project at; [email protected]

An associated online E-campus course is also offered at Oregon State University; http://ecampus.oregonstate.edu/soc/ecatalog/ecoursedetail.ht...

Advanced Hardwood Biofuels Northwest is supported by Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) Competitive Grant no. 2011-68005-30407 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA)
Lecture 8
Fuel Chemistry
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Fuel Chemistry
As you learn about bioenergy you will almost certainly find yourself confused by the various naming conventions. Like most names they have been largely based on marketing and not on facts. For example, bio-oils generally mean pyrolysis oils which have no chemical similarity to petroleum or vegetable oils. Biogas actually means biologically produced methane or natural gas and has nothing to do with gasoline. Biodiesel is an interesting one because it almost exclusively composed of something called fatty acid methyl esters which makes it a very pure fuel, compared to renewable diesel which is a mixture of hydrocarbon components more like regular diesel. Finally the word blendstock is thrown around a lot because most biofuels are in fact blendstocks and this means it has to be mixed with regular gasoline or diesel at some level to be a fuel that works well in the engines commonly available today.

It is very important to remember that diesel and gasoline engines have been designed for different kinds of fuel. This means that each engine has a preferred type of fuel for its design and this type of fuel has its own engine specific fuel performance characteristics (octane value or cetane value). Octane and Cetane value describe how well a fuel will perform in an engine, not the energy content of the fuel. A good fuel can be an exotic cocktail of organic chemistries meant to provide good overall vehicle performance and meet regulations. A good fuel serves the needs of the entire vehicle and not just the engine.

If you are interested in receiving the written slide notes for each lecture, please contact the USDA supported Advanced Hardwood Biofuels Northwest project at; [email protected]

An associated online E-campus course is also offered at Oregon State University; http://ecampus.oregonstate.edu/soc/ecatalog/ecoursedetail.ht...

Advanced Hardwood Biofuels Northwest is supported by Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) Competitive Grant no. 2011-68005-30407 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA)
Lecture 9
Bioenergy Industry Overview
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Bioenergy Industry Overview
Most bioenergy ideas and businesses use combinations of different conversion processes and then come up with a cool name for it that get attention (marketable). When someone tells you about a bioenergy conversion process you need to be able to identify the basic parts. There are generally only 4 basic possibilities; Thermal Conversions, Chemical Conversions, Biological Conversions, and Mechanical Conversions. Almost every known bioenergy process will fall into one or more of these categories. In studying bioenergy it is important to develop a basic understanding that allows you evaluate bioenergy news and developments.

If you are interested in receiving the written slide notes for each lecture, please contact the USDA supported Advanced Hardwood Biofuels Northwest project at; [email protected]

An associated online E-campus course is also offered at Oregon State University; http://ecampus.oregonstate.edu/soc/ecatalog/ecoursedetail.ht...

Advanced Hardwood Biofuels Northwest is supported by Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) Competitive Grant no. 2011-68005-30407 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA)
Lecture 10
Mechanical Conversions Oil Extraction & Size Reduction
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Mechanical Conversions Oil Extraction & Size Reduction
Mechanical conversions include crushing oily biomass, densification, chipping & grinding, and drying. This is an especially important conversion because biomass is a solid and that means it almost always has to be turned into a different kind of solid, liquid, or gas to be used. This is much much harder from a conversion perspective than the challenges you face when your feedstock is a liquid or a gas.

Consider the changes a tree has to go through to become a piece of paper. Sure chemical reactions are used to make the pulp, but otherwise 90% of the entire process from tree to paper is mechanical and it is very complicated and expensive. Unfortunately many new bioenergy companies overlook the importance and challenges of mechanical conversion and it leads to their downfall. A good understanding of mechanical conversions is an important part of understanding how to utilize biomass for bioenergy.

Turning low density unpredictable biomass into high density predictable biomass makes a better fuel and allows us to make better wood stoves and engineer more advanced wood heating systems. Densification has become an extremely important part of the bioenergy community – we now ship hundreds of millions of dollars in wood pellets to Europe every year.Turning big biomass into small biomass is absolutely required. Trees have to reduced in size to be transported and logs have to be reduced in size to be used for building. In the bioenergy world this dramatically increases the price of the biomass, but it is a cost that must be paid to use biomass.

If you are interested in receiving the written slide notes for each lecture, please contact the USDA supported Advanced Hardwood Biofuels Northwest project at; [email protected]

An associated online E-campus course is also offered at Oregon State University; http://ecampus.oregonstate.edu/soc/ecatalog/ecoursedetail.ht...

Advanced Hardwood Biofuels Northwest is supported by Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) Competitive Grant no. 2011-68005-30407 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA)
Lecture 11
Mechanical Conversions Drying & Densification
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Mechanical Conversions Drying & Densification
Biomass is almost always wet and often at least some of this water has to be removed before it can be used/processed. Drying is a very expensive and often overlooked step in using biomass. Biomass drying requires a considerable source of energy because removing water from biomass is harder than getting it to boil out of a pot and wood dryers are not all that efficient because it’s hard to heat awkward solids like biomass.

In a lot of ways pellets are looking like the future of small scale biomass combustion. They are much easier to handle than firewood and they are an engineered fuel, so they can be used in a precisely engineered manner, which increased efficiency and uptime. Pellet plants are operating all over the nation and in many states have taken over plants that were previously used to produce particle board and fiber board. New designs for better utilization of pellets are happening all the time and this area of bioenergy promises to be interesting area of development for years to come.

Pellets are an excellent way to take loose biomass and make it uniform and high density. You can make pellets from any solid you can get to flow. It’s amazing to look at pellets and think about how different all those sources are, but yet the pellets look similar and would probably work in similar systems. This would be like being able to put gasoline or diesel into an engine and have it work just fine, so being able to make pellets from anything is a big deal.

If you are interested in receiving the written slide notes for each lecture, please contact the USDA supported Advanced Hardwood Biofuels Northwest project at; [email protected]

An associated online E-campus course is also offered at Oregon State University; http://ecampus.oregonstate.edu/soc/ecatalog/ecoursedetail.ht...

Advanced Hardwood Biofuels Northwest is supported by Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) Competitive Grant no. 2011-68005-30407 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA)
Lecture 12
Combustion & Gasification
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Combustion & Gasification
There are many different type of thermal conversion products. Thermal conversions can be used to produce solid, liquid, and gaseous products and a wide variety of each type depending on reaction conditions. Unfortunately it can also be a very confusing field because a lot of the same products have different names that would lead you to believe they are not even related. As you learn more about thermal conversions you will better understand what they are.

When we think about thermal conversions it is important to think about heat and oxygen. This is because heat and oxygen almost completely control what kind of thermal conversion will occur. As you add more oxygen and more heat to the process you get different types of thermal conversion. Addition of heat & oxygen will cause the biomass to leave pyrolysis and go to gasification and then with more heat & oxygen, move onto combustion. However, each thermal process also releases heat as well, so in pyrolysis a small amount of heat is generated, then in gasification more heat is generated, and then in combustion the most heat is generated.

The type of thermal conversion is defined by the desired product. If you want heat, you want to use combustion. If you want gas you probably want gasification. If you want liquids and solids, pyrolysis is most ideal. None of the conversions is really good at making things other than its primary product, so it makes the most sense to figure out what the desirable product is and then find the appropriate process. It is also almost impossible to separate biomass pyrolysis, gasification, and combustion entirely. All thermal conversions are optimized for a type of thermal conversion based on a desired product, but that only means that of the various products, the primary product is produced the most – it never means it is the only product.

If you are interested in receiving the written slide notes for each lecture, please contact the USDA supported Advanced Hardwood Biofuels Northwest project at; [email protected]

An associated online E-campus course is also offered at Oregon State University; http://ecampus.oregonstate.edu/soc/ecatalog/ecoursedetail.ht...

Advanced Hardwood Biofuels Northwest is supported by Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) Competitive Grant no. 2011-68005-30407 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA)
Lecture 13
Pyrolysis & Liquefaction
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Pyrolysis & Liquefaction
Thermal conversion does not make things, it really just breaks them down. This means if you want to make large sized chemicals or chemicals that don’t look like small pieces of lignin and cellulose, thermal conversion cannot be the only conversion utilized or shouldn’t be the conversion of choice. This is especially relevant with pyrolysis as the products look very much like small pieces of cellulose and lignin.

Pyrolysis Oil is often called bio-oil. This is a silly naming convention because pyrolysis oils look nothing like oils. They have an entirely different set of organic chemistries almost entirely the opposite of what oils like petroleum and vegetable oil have. The name bio-oil was coined because it was a thick, dark product that looked like oil, not because it actually was oil. Based on that kind of logic molasses and liquid chocolate should also be call oils. At this point we are stuck with the misleading name bio-oil, but it is important to remember it is only called oil because of how it looks sometimes, not because it has anything in common with real oils.

If you are interested in receiving the written slide notes for each lecture, please contact the USDA supported Advanced Hardwood Biofuels Northwest project at; [email protected]

An associated online E-campus course is also offered at Oregon State University; http://ecampus.oregonstate.edu/soc/ecatalog/ecoursedetail.ht...

Advanced Hardwood Biofuels Northwest is supported by Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) Competitive Grant no. 2011-68005-30407 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA)
Lecture 14
Biomass to Parts
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Biomass to Parts
There are a lot of biomass chemical conversion products. They range from cell wall polymers like cellulose and lignin to much smaller things like sugars and chemicals like furfural. It is important to appreciate the wide range of commodity, specialty, and fine chemicals that can be produced from biomass using chemical conversion processes. From a conversion perspective, chemical conversions are more sensitive to the type of biomass, but they are also more accurate and precise and as a result they can produce a very high quality, predictable product.

We can expose biomass to many different kinds of chemicals and conditions and to get it to turn into a variety of things. In general biomass is broken into its parts using acids, bases, solvents, or enzymes. It is interesting to consider that we have been chemically breaking biomass into its parts for well over 100 years, so a lot of these ideas are not new, but back then they didn’t have the technology we have today, so we can do a lot more with those ideas.

Chemical processes get complex because unlike thermal processes they have a lot of steps. To help with this complexity it is important to remember what biomass looks like cellularly and chemically. Most of the time we practice biomass chemical conversions we are trying to isolate and collect the fibers used to make paper and they are composed of cellulose. So, most of the processes discussed in this biomass to parts lecture are related to removing all the cellular stuff around the fibers so that we can have piles of just the pure fiber to work with.

If you are interested in receiving the written slide notes for each lecture, please contact the USDA supported Advanced Hardwood Biofuels Northwest project at; [email protected]

An associated online E-campus course is also offered at Oregon State University; http://ecampus.oregonstate.edu/soc/ecatalog/ecoursedetail.ht...

Advanced Hardwood Biofuels Northwest is supported by Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) Competitive Grant no. 2011-68005-30407 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA)
Lecture 15
Biomass Parts to Products
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Biomass Parts to Products
We are all using biomass chemical conversions right now and we have recently done a biomass mechanical conversion. Every time you cut your food to eat it and every time you chew it before swallowing you are doing a mechanical conversion. You reduced to size to get it into the reactor (your mouth). Then you chewed it so that it could be broken down easier in your stomach, so technically you had to perform 2 mechanical conversions. Likewise, two chemical conversions also occurred – as soon you began chewing the biomass you began adding enzymes (a fancy protein chemical) to the biomass to begin the breakdown process. Then after you swallowed the biomass it was conveyed down your throat and into a special reactor where it began the second chemical conversion by being broken down in a 98 degF, hydrochloric acid bath also known as your stomach. The biomass is broken down enough by these mechanical and chemical conversions that it can be used as a source of nutrition for living organisms like us – thank goodness its designed so well.

It turns out that many of the chemical processes you can use to break biomass into its pieces can also be used to break those pieces into sugars and chemicals. Acid breakdown is a good example One of the reasons acid hydrolysis with hydrochloric and sulfuric acid is compelling is that the same chemical can be used to both break the biomass into its parts and also to break the cellulose fiber into sugars. The conditions of both reactions are different and it is necessary to separate the solid fibers, but the fact that both processes can use the same reactive chemical is ideal because it means less overall steps which often improves economics. You take the cellulose fibers that were produced from one acid bath and you soak them in a second acid bath until they turn into sugar. Then you recycle all the acid and the process continues to produce sugar and lignin from biomass.

If you are interested in receiving the written slide notes for each lecture, please contact the USDA supported Advanced Hardwood Biofuels Northwest project at; [email protected]

An associated online E-campus course is also offered at Oregon State University; http://ecampus.oregonstate.edu/soc/ecatalog/ecoursedetail.ht...

Advanced Hardwood Biofuels Northwest is supported by Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) Competitive Grant no. 2011-68005-30407 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA)
Lecture 16
Oil Conversions & Syngas Conversions
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Oil Conversions & Syngas Conversions
Breaking biomass into its parts and breaking those parts into chemicals and fuels is very focused on the biomass cell wall. However, biomass isn’t all cell wall and it can be squeezed to produce oils in some cases. These oils get turned into fuels using their own class of chemical conversions.

Biodiesel is produced by chemical reaction called trans-esterification that actually adds more oxygen to the oil to make it a better fuel. Renewable diesel is produced by any chemical process that removes the oxygen from the natural fat/oil and makes long straight chemical. This is like high tech, super charged vegetable oil hydrogenation. Hydrogenated vegetable oil is a chemical we have been making for over 50 years for food and in some cases it makes a great fuel. A lot of the exact same reactions are being re-cast and re-thought so that they can be used to hydrogenate oils for fuel instead of food. Soap is generated from a reaction called saponification that stabilizes the oil by making it a salt. It is ironic to think that we wash oil away using a product made from oil, but like dissolves like so it does make sense.

Syngas conversions are the most common gas conversion in bioenergy. Syngas can be used to produce a wide range of chemicals with good efficiency. While syngas can be used to produce a lot of different things, logical consideration of thermodynamics makes it pretty clear that the best syngas conversions will happen with reactions that generate chemicals similar to syngas.

If you are interested in receiving the written slide notes for each lecture, please contact the USDA supported Advanced Hardwood Biofuels Northwest project at; [email protected]

An associated online E-campus course is also offered at Oregon State University; http://ecampus.oregonstate.edu/soc/ecatalog/ecoursedetail.ht...

Advanced Hardwood Biofuels Northwest is supported by Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) Competitive Grant no. 2011-68005-30407 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA)
Lecture 17
Fermentations
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Fermentations
Biomass biological conversions are like having an aquarium. It is technically an ecosystem, so you have to consider all the angles and how things will get along. You have to keep everything alive by feeding it and making sure the conditions are correct, and most importantly you have to keep it wet. Living things don’t do dry well, so biological conversions range from wet to completely submerged, like your aquarium, water is a must.

Of the biological conversions available to us, arguably fermentation is used the most for chemicals production. Fermentation is generally the act of feeding microbes in a low O2 environment so that they will start producing things we want. A lot of microbes can live in O2 rich or O2 lean environments, but they produce very different things depending on what they are living in and when its a low O2 environment, they start using fermentation pathways. Fermentations can produce a very wide range of products from an even wider range of microbes.

It is important that you think about fermentation as a continuum because you may find that a lot of things seem to be fermentations and this can make it clearer. An easy way to think about it is apple juice. When you ferment apple juice microbes eat the easy sugar and make alcohols, acids, and tough sugars. If the microbe you used was yeast and you stop here, you have a nice hard cider. If you let it go a little longer, the microbe ecology changes and you become bacterial and acetogenic. Acetogenic bacteria are very very effective at eating everything marginally edible and will consume all the alcohols, acids, and tough sugars from the alcohol step. They combine these with CO2 and they generate acetates and acids, largely acetic and propionic. So, the gist of it is if you let the hard cider ferment a little longer, you end up with apple cider vinegar. Now, while we generally stop here from a food perspective, we don't have to and the final step is methanogenesis. Methanogens hate O2 and love acetic acid, it is their preferred food. So if I spike my apple cider vinegar with some aged compost and wait a few days I will make an anaerobic digestor and it will start to produce methane. So think of fermentations as a continuum; easy sugar turns to hard cider, hard cider turns to vinegar, and vinegar turns to methane.

It is imperative that we remember when we use biological conversions that living things do not exist to produce things for us. They can produce things for us if we feed them and provide a healthy environment, but they exist to replicate not to make chemicals. We find chemicals in and around certain living things, but they are by no means an engineered process like chemical and thermal conversions.

If you are interested in receiving the written slide notes for each lecture, please contact the USDA supported Advanced Hardwood Biofuels Northwest project at; [email protected]

An associated online E-campus course is also offered at Oregon State University; http://ecampus.oregonstate.edu/soc/ecatalog/ecoursedetail.ht...

Advanced Hardwood Biofuels Northwest is supported by Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) Competitive Grant no. 2011-68005-30407 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA)
Lecture 18
Photosynthetic Organisms and Animals
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Photosynthetic Organisms and Animals
Photosynthetic organisms like algae and plants do not need to be fed sugar or kept in a low O2 environment like fermentation microbes. They produce their own sugars using photosynthesis and they do not really need O2 as much as they need CO2. Photosynthetic organisms can be high tech like algae used for fuels/oil or low tech like canola and peanut plants that are used to produce vegetable oils.

Likewise, animals are their own class of biomass because they require O2 and can be fed more complicated forms of biomass that haven’t yet been turned into sugar. Mammals tend to produce oils in the form of fats which are often converted into oils after harvesting. Insects have long been used to produce chemicals and are quickly gaining interest as a source of oils as well. The noble tunicate a funky looking slimy filter feeder found in cold oceans may also become a fascinating new source of cellulose sugars. Like grains, animals are often overlooked in all the bioenergy media and this is unfortunate because they currently play a role and will likely continue to play an increasing role in the biological conversion of biomass into useful chemicals and fuels.

Another misconception is that when we think about algae we always think about green ponds outside. This is ironic because some of the most valuable commercial algae products are generated by growing algae inside in the dark. Algae only need the sun to produce sugars that they then consume to grow. So, if you provide algae sugar they don’t technically need the sun and then you can work on getting that algae to focus on making what you need. Free Solar power is cheaper than sugar so this isn’t always economic, but for some things it really is.

If you are interested in receiving the written slide notes for each lecture, please contact the USDA supported Advanced Hardwood Biofuels Northwest project at; [email protected]

An associated online E-campus course is also offered at Oregon State University; http://ecampus.oregonstate.edu/soc/ecatalog/ecoursedetail.ht...

Advanced Hardwood Biofuels Northwest is supported by Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) Competitive Grant no. 2011-68005-30407 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA)
Lecture 19
Integrated Biorefineries
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Integrated Biorefineries
Most bioenergy ideas and businesses use combinations of different conversion processes and then come up with a cool name for it that get attention (marketable). When someone tells you about a bioenergy conversion process you need to be able to identify the basic parts. There are generally only 4 basic possibilities; Thermal Conversions, Chemical Conversions, Biological Conversions, and Mechanical Conversions. Almost every known bioenergy process will fall into one or more of these categories. In studying bioenergy it is important to develop a basic understanding that allows you evaluate bioenergy news and developments.

An integrated biorefinery is just what is says it is an integrated biorefinery. Integration typically means the use of more than one conversion or step and a primary goal of integration is the reduction of waste and/or the utilization of all waste. The forest products industry and the petroleum industry are excellent examples of “integration”. Biorefinery typically defines a facility that converts biomass into various chemical products. Consider “bio” to be biomass and “refining” to mean breaking it down into something and capturing products of interest. Wood pulping, biodiesel production, and anaerobic digesters can all be considered “biorefining” industries

If you are interested in receiving the written slide notes for each lecture, please contact the USDA supported Advanced Hardwood Biofuels Northwest project at; [email protected]

An associated online E-campus course is also offered at Oregon State University; http://ecampus.oregonstate.edu/soc/ecatalog/ecoursedetail.ht...

Advanced Hardwood Biofuels Northwest is supported by Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) Competitive Grant no. 2011-68005-30407 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA)
Lecture 20
Biorefining in North America
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Biorefining in North America
Fossil fuels as a carbon source are consolidated compared to biomass which is distributed. This needs to be considered in more detail because it directly relates to petroleum refining. Oil is concentrated in select places in huge underground reservoirs and its pump-able. As a result, the United States and North America are covered in biomass, not oil. The vast majority of the oil is only found in a few special areas. Because oil is concentrated in select places in huge underground reservoirs and its pump-able, oil refineries tend to be massive and centralized. There are only ~ 150 refineries spread across the US after 100 years of major oil production – these refineries fit the scale and form of their resource.

Compared to oil, there are over 200 corn ethanol plants after about 40 years of major production and the number keeps growing. Oil refining on the other hand is fairly mature and refineries are closing and consolidating instead of being built. The "newest" simple oil refinery in the United States began operating in 2008 in Wyoming. The “newest” complex refinery with significant downstream unit capacity began operating in 1977 in Louisiana. The newest ethanol plant was built this year.

Another great example of how to use biomass effectively is wood products. There are thousands of wood processors distributed across the US because of the unique aspects of processing biomass. Wood processing has been happening for longer than oil refining and where oil refining has settled on 150 facilities, wood processing has utilized thousands. This comparison makes an important statement about processing biomass for money and what is likely to be the most reasonable scale for biorefining. It does not make sense to try and build massive biorefineries analogous to petroleum refineries because that scale doesn’t fit the resource. If it did, wood processing and corn ethanol would not be as small and distributed as they are after decades and centuries of business development. To succeed, biorefiners must fit the size and location of their resource.

Biomass is a distributed resources and therefore it cannot be compared to oil & gas which are consolidated. This fact permeates every aspect of biorefinery planning and development and it is very likely that the industry will eventually contain 9,000 small biorefineries rather than 500 massive ones. This means successfully biorefineries will need to be economic at fairly small scales … like the town or suburban scale. This also means that the choice of biomass products and markets must reflect the size of the facility. Many commodity chemicals are only commodity chemicals because they are produced at massive scales that take advantage of economy of scale. Most biorefineries will probably not have economy of scale on their side without some form of concentrating or hub-spoke model. This is not to say that biomass couldn’t be used economically for commodity chemicals, just that it couldn’t be done the same way that petrochem does it.

If you are interested in receiving the written slide notes for each lecture, please contact the USDA supported Advanced Hardwood Biofuels Northwest project at; [email protected]

An associated online E-campus course is also offered at Oregon State University; http://ecampus.oregonstate.edu/soc/ecatalog/ecoursedetail.ht...

Advanced Hardwood Biofuels Northwest is supported by Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) Competitive Grant no. 2011-68005-30407 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA)
Lecture 21
USA Fuel Paradigm
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USA Fuel Paradigm
Most of us already know the US pretty much stands alone in terms of how cheap our gasoline is and how much we use. This is an unusual relationship because usually when demand is high, price gets higher and we definitely have the demand, but not the price to match. It doesn’t completely abide by the normal fuel supply and demand economics of the rest of the world because the US has done some unique things in regard to taxes, subsidies, and the supply side of the equation.

The domestic taxation of petroleum products is an important source of revenue in most countries. However, there is a wide variation of tax rates on petroleum products across countries, which cannot be explained by economic theory alone. There are always questions about the extremely low domestic petroleum price policies in many oil exporting countries, as well as the extremely high petroleum tax rates in some oil importing countries. When this is looked at closer, it appears that In addition to providing a significant amount of revenue, both economic efficiency and the welfare of the population can be improved if oil exporting countries levy a tax on domestic use of petroleum products to close the wedge between low long-run marginal costs of production and the world market price. Simply put, as much as we don’t want to hear it or pay it, taxing fuel makes a lot sense from an economic and societal stability perspective.

An important take-away from studying US fuel policy is that gasoline and fuels in general may not be a great home for biomass products because the markets are too artificial and simpler biomass products like acetic acid and butanol will probably always have better margins. Once those niche markets are saturated, other markets like them should be targeted using the same platforms. It makes very little sense for biomass to try and fight into the gasoline market. The US has some of the lowest gas taxes in the world and this has the effect of giving the US some of the lowest gas prices, thus encouraging gasoline usage. US oil & gas subsidies also create a massive market for fuels in addition to what the government uses for strategic reserves and other domestic-social needs. This US subsidy driven market is somewhat independent and insulated from global market effects, stabilizing the oil refining industry in the US and increasing the number of profitable oil refiners. The combination of this supply and the demand created by the system of minimal taxation and subsidies has worked so well, that in combination with the buying power of the dollar, US citizens consume more gasoline daily than all other countries combined.

The existing system of subsidies, taxation, and transportation in the US has created a gasoline addiction that may not be sustainable in the long term, particularly if alcohols can be produced at rock bottom prices from natural gas, coal and waste. Who knows how it will play out, but it seems that the landscape is changing and that by the time biofuels companies are done picking the low hanging fruit with high margins, they might not bother with fuels. Oil companies and refiners have a lot of cushion to adjust and stay profitable and competitive in the fuels market, so from a biorefining perspective focusing on products that are hard to make from oil makes more sense.

Even if you have a vehicle that can be powered by an alternative fuel, having a place to fill up can be a major challenge. Based on this right now, ethanol, propane, and electric are the most convenient alternative fuels. Based on in-place infrastructure the two most practical are actually just electricity and natural gas. Electricity and natural gas are available in most urban locations in the United States, just like traditional gas stations. This makes them the easiest alternative sources of energy without question as long as suitable and economic vehicles can be produced and made available.

If you are interested in receiving the written slide notes for each lecture, please contact the USDA supported Advanced Hardwood Biofuels Northwest project at; [email protected]

An associated online E-campus course is also offered at Oregon State University; http://ecampus.oregonstate.edu/soc/ecatalog/ecoursedetail.ht...

Advanced Hardwood Biofuels Northwest is supported by Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) Competitive Grant no. 2011-68005-30407 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA)
Lecture 22
Renewable Energy and Fuel Policy
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Renewable Energy and Fuel Policy
Despite the challenges, blending of ethanol in gasoline continues to be practiced in the U.S. and will likely continue to become a larger part of our fuels infrastructure. There is a lot of rationale behind this approach, which is why it is a part of our biofuel policy and our strategic development in the domestic energy industry. The government has mandates on bioenergy production and use, tax breaks to encourage the use of biofuels, and monetary support in biofuel R&D through tax breaks and direct spending. Governmental investment in biofuels also encourages more private investment in this area.

Carbon credits are probably in the future. The bottom line is it doesn’t matter what you burn, you are releasing CO2. Whether you burn coal, gas, or biomass, you are still burning stuff and as a result the fairest way to regulate emissions resulting largely from burning is a carbon tax. People that grow biomass should be able to sell carbon credits and people that burn carbon should have to buy carbon credits. This avoids a mess of complicated and subjective methods of deciding whose carbon is worth what to who. As climate change begins to get more interesting and the logic of carbon credits sets in, this is probably something we will see in the future and burning biofuels will require purchasing carbon credits just like burning coal.

Bioenergy gets a disproportionate level of attention in the media and in politics. Some believe this is because it is finally starting to achieve some legitimacy and some believe this is because it is a mistake. The available data would suggest that bioenergy gets more attention than it deserves. Bioenergy is growing and it is accepting government help to grow, but fossil fuels needed that as well back in the early 1900s and have continued to enjoy it for the better part of 100 years. Oil pipeline and oil refining technology would not be as advanced as it is today if not for considerable government investment in the research and infrastructure that was necessary. Considering the US fuel paradigm, it is surprising that increasing the supply of domestic fuel comes under such attack at times.

If you are interested in receiving the written slide notes for each lecture, please contact the USDA supported Advanced Hardwood Biofuels Northwest project at; [email protected]

An associated online E-campus course is also offered at Oregon State University; http://ecampus.oregonstate.edu/soc/ecatalog/ecoursedetail.ht...

Advanced Hardwood Biofuels Northwest is supported by Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) Competitive Grant no. 2011-68005-30407 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA)
Lecture 23
Basic Energy Economics
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Basic Energy Economics
Futures trading is very common. The speculative commodities trading community flocked to the energy market after 2000. Crude oil futures and gasoline futures are traded at New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX) and Tokyo Commodity Exchange (TOCOM). Ethanol futures are traded at Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT). Speculation did some interesting things to the price of oil around the time of the recession in 2008. During that period speculation led to a massive increase in the value of oil, pushing the price of a barrel up to around $140. This stood in stark contrast to the internal value of oil in most large oil companies which is more on the order of $30-40/barrel. If an oil company can’t make money on an oilfield at $30-40/barrel they probably won’t develop the resource. So, you can imagine how thrilled they were and how great the profits became when fuel traders and speculation drove the price of oil to $140/barrel.

Fuel smuggling is an aspect of fuel economics not often discussed. Large price differences between neighboring countries support gasoline smuggling at the cost of the country with the higher prices. Not all fuel economics is handled in the board room or the trading floor or the government – in some cases the economics are based on smuggling and stealing. In places were fuel is highly valued but not easily available, fuel can be acquired by more than just legal means. Even though we are globalized, national laws are relative to the country and this absolutely effects supply and demand economics.


If you are interested in receiving the written slide notes for each lecture, please contact the USDA supported Advanced Hardwood Biofuels Northwest project at; [email protected]

An associated online E-campus course is also offered at Oregon State University; http://ecampus.oregonstate.edu/soc/ecatalog/ecoursedetail.ht...

Advanced Hardwood Biofuels Northwest is supported by Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) Competitive Grant no. 2011-68005-30407 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA)
Lecture 24
Process Analysis with LCA and TEA
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Process Analysis with LCA and TEA
The Triple bottom line incorporates the notion of sustainability into business decisions. It is an accounting framework with three dimensions: social, environmental and financial. The dimensions are also commonly called the three Ps: people, planet and profit and are referred to as the "three pillars of sustainability". Interest in triple bottom line accounting has been growing in both for-profit, nonprofit and government sectors. Many organizations have adopted this framework to evaluate their performance in a broader context.

Life cycle assessment is somewhat about mass & energy. The technique works to map the sources and destinations of all the mass and energy used to make a given product or as part of a process. By mass we mean the carbon, nitrogen, phosphorous, metals, etc that the thing might be made of. By energy we mean the fuels and electricity that were necessary for the thing to go through its process. One we know all of this technically we can use it as a metric to determine how intensive or sustainable the process is.

A “cradle-to-grave” approach for assessing industrial systems evaluates all stages of a product’s life from the perspective that they are interdependent, meaning that one operation leads to the next. It also Provides a comprehensive view of the environmental aspects of the product or process and a more accurate picture of the true environmental trade-offs in product and process selection


If you are interested in receiving the written slide notes for each lecture, please contact the USDA supported Advanced Hardwood Biofuels Northwest project at; [email protected]

An associated online E-campus course is also offered at Oregon State University; http://ecampus.oregonstate.edu/soc/ecatalog/ecoursedetail.ht...

Advanced Hardwood Biofuels Northwest is supported by Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) Competitive Grant no. 2011-68005-30407 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA)
Lecture 25
Emissions and Sustainability Considerations
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Emissions and Sustainability Considerations
The word sustainability is derived from the word Sustain which can mean to “maintain", "support", or "endure”. For quite some time now sustainability has been used more in the sense of human sustainability on planet Earth with a very commonly quoted definition being “sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” When we talk about sustainability we are not talking about reinventing the wheel, we are talking about improving and advancing our technology and developments so that our collective effects on earth are less, allowing humanity to continue to survive along with the other living things on earth. Being sustainable is about limiting your impact by using less energy, using every resource you need smarter and more efficiently, and preferably using and recycling resources that are in close proximity. Bioenergy has the potential to be a very helpful sustainable technology.

Given how short human lives are, it’s hard to comprehend what life might be like in 200 years, but that is what sustainability demands. The city of Las Vegas has one of the most advanced water systems in the world. ~94 percent of the water that hits a drain anywhere in the Las Vegas metro area is recycled, cleaned to just-below drinking water standards, and returned to Lake Mead, the reservoir from which Las Vegas draws virtually all its drinking water. 94% was world class when this statistic came out and apparently it is even higher these days. At the country scale, Israel is the leading example and as of 2010, Israel leads the world in the proportion of water it recycles. As a country Israel recycles 80% of its wastewater, and 100% of the wastewater from the Tel Aviv metropolitan area is treated and reused as irrigation water for agriculture and public works. The cost of reclaimed water exceeds that of potable water in many regions of the world, where a fresh water supply is plentiful. As fresh water supplies become limited from distribution costs, increased population demands, or climate change reducing sources, it is expected that demand for this kind of water will continue to rise. Another interesting development is solar energy in Germany, a country without much gas, uranium deposits, and ironically sunny days. Germany is well known for cloudy days and long winters and yet in 2014 a record 50% of its power generation was solar and 90% of this solar power is from rooftop panels. They do not have a perfect system, but that level of solar power makes them far less reliant on power coming from other countries that is subject to geopolitical and weather related issues. The overall point here is that sustainable technologies are a lot more than just a way to reduce greenhouse gases, in many cases they are just a smarter way of doing business as more and more people continue to fight over fewer and fewer resources that due to climate change are getting harder and harder to access and predict. Sustainability and sustainable technologies are about doing more with less and using what is available in close proximity, they will absolutely play and increasing role in our lives in the coming decades, so it’s a topic worth thinking about.

We know the earth isn’t flat anymore, but as early as 600 years ago that was a conventional belief. As a closing thought think about how we can use bioenergy to be more sustainable. It would be impossible for any of us as individuals to single-handedly stop climate change, but developments like bioenergy still have the potential to be far more sustainable than fossil fuels and that will have value regardless of the current climate conditions. Take a moment to think about how we could use biomass smarter and more efficiently to meet our needs while improving conditions on earth so that future generations will have a functioning planet.


If you are interested in receiving the written slide notes for each lecture, please contact the USDA supported Advanced Hardwood Biofuels Northwest project at; [email protected]

An associated online E-campus course is also offered at Oregon State University; http://ecampus.oregonstate.edu/soc/ecatalog/ecoursedetail.ht...

Advanced Hardwood Biofuels Northwest is supported by Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) Competitive Grant no. 2011-68005-30407 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA)