Business Briefs

By Staff | January 12, 2011

A new analyzer for biodiesel distillation testing is now available. The Grabner Minidis ADXpert distillation analyzer works for both B100 and unknown samples and requires no prior distillation knowledge before testing. The unit uses fast thermocouple temperature regulation and small sample sizes to avoid erroneous recovery readings caused by mining solvents, condensates or raffinates, according to Ametek Petrolab, the Oklahoma-based company that produces the new analyzer. The unit also features an automatic cleaning system that removes residuals and eliminates flask cleaning. Along with biodiesel, the analyzer can also test various gasoline, jet fuel, biofuels, diesel products, solvents, aromatics, organic liquids and chemical blended samples. The unit can be remotely controlled and, according to Ametek, it can also be easily integrated into most existing laboratory information management systems.

Regina, Saskatchewan-based Clean Power Concepts Inc. has obtained rights to exclusive patent technology capable of extracting protein to make aquaculture and other value-added feed products out of lipid sources from biodiesel plants. Originally developed as a result of scientific research conducted by the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans, CPC President and CEO Michael Shenher says the patented technology is ideal for extracting proteins from canola meal where it then can be converted into livestock, chicken and fish feed products. The newly-acquired patent technology would be ideal for financially distressed biodiesel manufacturing refiners or existing producers running on reduced capacity. Shenher says the company intends to deploy the newly-acquired patented technology within its existing biodiesel production plant in Regina, a 20 MMly canola-based refinery operated by CPC’s subsidiary General Bio Energy Inc. Although the plant has been idle for nearly a year, Shenher said the patents should revitalize its own canola operations significantly. Plans are in the works to build a large-scale canola crush plant in a decentralized location away from its production plant in Western Saskatchewan to supply canola oil feedstock to biodiesel producers.

A research team at Texas AgriLife Research, a division of the Texas A&M University System, is developing an optical-electronic sensor to aid in commercial-scale algae production. The system is designed to monitor algae growth in real-time, allowing for increased efficiency. According to Alex Thomasson, the AgriLife Research engineer leading the project, the sensor system essentially emits a beam of energy that interacts with an algae culture. The response is measured at multiple wavelengths to determine the optical density of the algae. While handheld sensor devises do exist on the market to complete similar evaluations, Thomasson says his team has identified commercial need for an automated, real-time, highly repeatable measurement solution. Thomasson says his team designed the sensor system to utilize multiple wavelengths of light, increasing reliability. While the actual wavelengths measured by the system have not been released, information released by Texas AgriLife Research states that Thomasson and his team experimented with wavelengths ranging from 250 to 2,500 nanometers.

Barrington, Ill.-based EcoloCap Solutions Inc. has selected Triad Constructors Inc. out of Fenton, Mo., as the installation and commissioning partner for its new biodiesel technology. According to EcoloCap, Triad Constructors will be utilized for the sales, distribution, installation and commissioning of new Nano Processing Waste biodiesel processing units sold in North America. The company’s website states that the units can convert a broad range of feedstock into biodiesel without preprocessing. “Through our nanotechnology and use of additive we reduce chemical consumption and production costs significantly,” EcoloCap states on its website. “We also offer a glycerin refining process that will refine glycerin to medical grade 99-plus percent.” The system is guaranteed to produce ASTM-quality biodiesel and is designed to be run in a hybrid batch/flow process. The system also includes an automated quality monitoring system and features increased alcohol recovery capabilities. The company further states that the system features a remote system control that can be accessed via the internet, can produce 900 to 18,000 gallons of biodiesel a day, and can be outfitted with an optional glycerin refining processor.

Researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory have discovered that treating biodiesel with a high-intensity dose of ultrasonic energy can remove and prevent the formation of precipitates. The project, led by Michael Kass, a researcher in ORNL’s Energy and Transportation Science Division, could help overcome one of the primary problems associated with the use of biodiesel in cold climates. The project was funded internally by ORNL through $20,000 in seed money. Although the work included small-scale preliminary study, Kass says the results have been intriguing. Precipitates form in biodiesel when the temperature of the fuel drops to near the cloud point. Although they are not visible, Kass said that those precipitates remain in the fuel even when its temperature increased. Robert McCormick, a principal engineer with Golden, Colo.-based National Renewable Energy Lab, provided Kass and his team with a paper that summarized the latest work on precipitates. The resulting experimentation revolved around ultrasonically treating soy-based biodiesel samples to determine the effect on precipitates. Although the research did not address the potential impact of ultrasonic treatment on cloud point, Kass said that, in theory, it should.

With support from Invest Toronto, Energy Innovation Corp. has proposed to repurpose an 8,600 square-foot building into a biodiesel production facility with an initial annual output volume of 5 MMly (about 1.3 MMgy). Located in Toronto's downtown core in the port lands area, the future facility will be located on a site with existing ship, truck and rail transportation infrastructure that could be leveraged for feedstock sourcing and biodiesel marketing. According to Patrick Dwyer, EIC vice president of communications, the company is shooting for full operation by spring 2011. Locally grown flax seed initially would be the feedstock of choice for the planned facility. Utilizing a hybrid continuous flow/batch system, the company plans to extrude the flax seed into oil for biodiesel production and take the remaining meal for use as animal feed, or have it further milled into flour to be sold in the Ontario food market, Dwyer says.

The joint venture between National Clean Fuels Inc., a Houston-based energy and clean technology company developer, and DC Biofuels LLC, an urban-based biodiesel company in the city of Washington, is one step closer to completion. In June, NACF completed a definitive agreement with DC Biofuels to work in conjunction with them to develop a 10 MMgy biodiesel production facility. Now, the two organizations have signed a letter of intent to solidify the partnership. NACF will continue to provide funding for the facility and help develop a fleet demonstration of DC Biofuels biodiesel. Using waste vegetable oil from local restaurants and institutions, the two companies hope to showcase the biodiesel through use in a municipal fleet based in the Mid-Atlantic region.

The Port of San Francisco may be the new home to a 10 MMgy biodiesel production facility. After nearly two years of multiple reviews and environmental analysis assessments, the Port Commission of San Francisco approved a proposal by Darling International to convert part of a tallow rendering plant into a biodiesel facility. In 2006 there was interest in biodiesel, according to Richard Berman, regulatory specialist for the real estate division of the Port of San Francisco. At the time, Darling International was sending tallow products off to cosmetics and soaps manufacturers, and then the company proposed to divert some of that to biodiesel, Berman says. “We agreed upon a set of terms for them to modify their lease, which would allow them to make biodiesel.” The Port initially approved the project, but due to objections by members of the community, the process was stalled.

A researcher at the University of Arkansas has created the first methane-producing microorganism that can metabolize complex carbon structures. The project could lead to the development of a microbial process to recycle waste products, such as glycerin from biodiesel plants, into a renewable form of natural gas. According to David Lessner, an assistant professor of biological sciences who is leading the research, the project focused on methanogens, which are methane-producing anaerobic microorganisms. “These are microorganisms that grow only in anaerobic—or oxygen free—environments, but they are found in very diverse environments,” he says. “They grow by producing methane gas as an end product.” One of the primary limitations of methanogens in methane production is that they are only able to digest a very limited range of substrates, Lessner says. To produce methane in nature, these mircoorganims must work in a consortium with other microorganisms that break down complex carbon sources into compounds they can consume. The basic premise of the study was to provide a methanogen microorganism with the genetic ability to break down more complex compounds and produce methane. The research focused on a strain of methanogen known as Methanosarcina acetivorans, which Lessner says can naturally consume more substrates or chemicals than most other methanogens. “But, it’s still limited,” he says. The project involved isolating a gene from a strain of bacteria that is able to consume a wide range of substrates, but cannot produce methane. The gene was transferred from the bacteria to the methanogen.

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