Archive for December 24th, 2009

Greenbuild 2009 Report Part 2

Greenbuild 2009 Report Part 2
Part 2 of 2. Denis Du Bois reports from North America’s largest green-building conference and trade show.


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Teachers’ publication features Jenny Heinzen

An article on RENEW’s president Jenny Heinzen from the Wisconsin Education Association:

Jenny Heinzen’s job isn’t a breeze – though it does rely on it. As a Wind Energy Technology instructor at Lakeshore Technical College in Cleveland, Wis., Heinzen not only teaches about harnessing an alternative form of energy, she’s been part of the push for new wind farms in Wisconsin.

In September, Governor Jim Doyle signed into law a bill calling for uniform standards for wind farms. The bill will create a set of rules overruling any local ordinances on wind farms, potentially setting up a boon for wind projects in the state. Heinzen is part of a group called Wind for Wisconsin, which spurred the legislation. Heinzen said she wants to create wind farms to move Wisconsin forward and keep wind energy technology students in the state.

“The bill, and consequently the new law, was absolutely necessary in order to move forward,” Heinzen said. “The last thing I want is to ship all of my graduates to other states. I want them to have jobs available here at home. And I want Wisconsin to start using more renewable energy, as we have no coal, gas, oil or uranium. But we’ve got wind, sun, water and agricultural wastes that can be used to produce electricity. . . .”

Heinzen is also the president of nonprofit clean energy organization RENEW Wisconsin, and said a state set of standards for wind farms is crucial for their development.

“This has been one of our main topics for the past two years,” she said. “The bill was created in response to a plethora of local ordinances that ultimately restricted, and sometimes killed, wind power projects in this state.”

Heinzen said the best part of her job is watching her students learn and climb, as well as setting them up for success later in life.

“Even better is when they get their job as a technician after, and sometimes before, graduation,” she added.


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Mission Viejo Tests New BigBelly Solar Powered Trash Compactors

The city of Mission Viejo, California is pilot-testing BigBelly Solar Trash Compactors in partnership with its waste hauler, Waste ManagementMission Viejo, California has become the latest in a string of cities to try out a new sustainable street-scale solar powered trash compactor called the BigBelly Solar Compactor.  In partnership with its waste hauler Waste Management, the city hopes to cut trash pickups from street containers by up to 80%, which in turn would help cut greenhouse gas emissions, reduce fuel use, and shave some costs off the city’s waste hauling budget.

The city is starting with two BigBelly solar compactors at its Civic Center, and it anticipates a successful trial.  Solar technology and battery storage technology are rapidly approaching the point where solar equipment can operate without the need for direct sunlight every day, so look for more urban street fixtures to go solar in the near future.

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My Top 10 Energy Related Stories of 2009
Here are my choices for the Top 10 energy related stories of 2009. Previously I listed how I voted in Platt’s Top 10 poll, but my list is a bit different from theirs. I have a couple of stories here that they didn’t list, and I combined some topics. And don’t get too hung up on the relative rankings. You can make arguments that some stories should be higher than others, but I gave less consideration of whether 6 should be ahead of 7 (for example) than just making sure the important stories were listed.

1. Volatility in the oil markets

My top choice for this year is the same as my top choice from last year. While not as dramatic as last year’s action when oil prices ran from $100 to $147 and then collapsed back to $30, oil prices still more than doubled from where they began 2009. That happened without the benefit of an economic recovery, so I continue to wonder how long it will take to come out of recession when oil prices are at recession-inducing levels. Further, coming out of recession will spur demand, which will keep upward pressure on oil prices. That’s why I say we may be in The Long Recession.

2. The year of natural gas

This could have easily been my top story, because there were so many natural gas-related stories this year. There were stories of shale gas in such abundance that it would make peak oil irrelevant, stories of shale gas skeptics, and stories of big companies making major investments into converting their fleets to natural gas.

Whether the abundance ultimately pans out, the appearance of abundance is certainly helping to keep a lid on natural gas prices. By failing to keep up with rising oil prices, an unprecedented oil price/natural gas price ratio developed. If you look at prices on the NYMEX in the years ahead, the markets are anticipating that this ratio will continue to be high. And as I write this, you can pick up a natural gas contract in 2019 for under $5/MMBtu.

3. U.S. demand for oil continues to decline

As crude oil prices skyrocketed in 2008, demand for crude oil and petroleum products fell from 20.7 million barrels per day in 2007 to 19.5 million bpd in 2008 (Source: EIA). Through September 2009, year-to-date demand is averaging 18.6 million bpd – the lowest level since 1997. Globally, demand was on a downward trend as well, but at a less dramatic pace partially due to demand growth in both China and India.

4. Shifting fortunes for refiners

The Jamnagar Refinery Complex became the biggest in the world, China brought several new refineries online, and several U.S. refiners shut down facilities. This is a trend that I expect to continue as refining moves closer to the source of the crude oil and to cheap labor. This does not bode well for a U.S. refining industry with a capacity to refine 17.7 million barrels per day when total North American production is only 10.5 million bpd (crude plus condensate).

5. China

China was everywhere in 2009. They were making deals to develop oil fields in Iraq, signing contracts with Hugo Chavez, and they got into a bidding war with ExxonMobil in Ghana. My own opinion is that China will be the single-biggest driver of oil prices over at least the next 5-10 years.

6. U.S. oil companies losing access to reserves

As China increases their global presence in the oil markets, one casualty has been U.S. access to reserves. Shut out of Iraq during the recent oil field auctions there, U.S. oil companies continue to lose ground against the major national oil companies. But no worries. Many of my friends e-mailed to tell me that the Bakken has enough crude to fuel the U.S. for the next 41 years

7. EU slaps tariffs on U.S. biodiesel

With the aid of generous government subsidies, U.S. biodiesel producers had been able to put their product into the EU for cheaper than local producers could make it. The EU put the brakes on this practice by imposing five-year tariffs on U.S. biodiesel – a big blow to U.S. biodiesel producers.

8. Big Oil buys Big Ethanol

I find it amusing when people suggest that the ethanol industry is a threat to the oil industry. I don’t think those people appreciate the difference in the scale of the two industries.

As I have argued many times before, the oil industry could easily buy up all of the assets of ethanol producers if they thought the business outlook for ethanol was good. It would make sense that the first to take an interest would be the pure refiners, because they are the ones with the most to lose from ethanol mandates. They already have to buy their feedstock (oil), so if they make ethanol they just buy a different feedstock, corn, and for a mandated product.

In February, Valero became the first major refiner to buy up assets of an ethanol company; bankrupt ethanol producer Verasun. Following the Valero purchase, Sunoco picked up the assets of another bankrupt ethanol company. If ExxonMobil ever decides to get involved, they could buy out the entire industry.

9. The climate wars heat up

There were several big climate-related stories in the news this year, so I decided to lump them all into a single category. First was the EPA decision to declare CO2 a pollutant that endangers public health, opening the door for regulation of CO2 for the first time in the U.S.

Then came Climategate, which gave the skeptics even more reason to be skeptical. A number of people have suggested to me that this story will just fade away, but I don’t think so. This is one that the skeptics can rally around for years to come. The number of Americans who believe that humans are causing climate change was already on the decline, and the injection of Climategate into the issue will make it that much harder to get any meaningful legislation passed.

Closing out the year was the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen. All I can say is that I expected a circus, and we got a circus. It just goes to show the difficulty of getting countries to agree on issues when the stakes are high and the issues complex. Just wait until they try to get together to figure out a plan for peak oil mitigation.

10. Exxon buys XTO for $41 billion

In a move that signaled ExxonMobil’s expectation that the future for shale gas is promising, XOM shelled out $41 billion for shale gas specialist XTO. The deal means XOM is picking up XTO’s proved reserves for around $3 per thousand cubic feet, which is less than half of what ConocoPhillips paid for the reserves of Burlington Resources in 2005.

Honorable Mention

There were a number of stories that I considered putting in my Top 10, and some of these stories will likely end up on other Top 10 lists. A few of the stories that almost made the final cut:

The IEA puts a date on peak oil production

The statement they made was that barring any major new discoveries “the output of conventional oil will peak in 2020 if oil demand grows on a business-as-usual basis.”

AltaRock Energy Shuts Down

Turns out that deep geothermal, which the Obama administration had hoped “could be quickly tapped as a clean and almost limitless energy source” – triggers earthquakes. Who knew? I thought these were interesting comments from the story: “Some of these startup companies got out in front and convinced some venture capitalists that they were very close to commercial deployment” and “What we’ve discovered is that it’s harder to make those improvements than some people believed.” I am still waiting to see a bonafide success story from some of these VCs.

The biggest energy bill in history was passed

In total, $80 billion in the stimulus bill earmarked for energy was a big story, but I don’t know how much of that money was actually utilized.

The Pickens Plan derails

The website is still there, but the hype of 2008 turned into a big disappointment in 2009 after oil prices failed to remain high enough to make the project economical. Pickens lost about 2/3rds of his net worth as oil prices unwound, he took a beating in the press, and he announced in July that we would probably abandon the plan.

So what did I miss? And what are early predictions for 2010′s top stories? I think China’s moves are going to continue to make waves, there will be more delays (and excuses) from those attempting to produce fuel from algae and cellulose, and there will be little relief from oil prices.



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World Bank to Invest in North African Solar
World Bank to Invest in North African Solar

The World Bank will invest $5.5 billion for North African solar power projects. They have announced that initially World Bank will put in $750 million dollars from the Clean Technology Fund with the remaining amount will be arranged from other sources. World Bank is expecting to complete these projects by 2015. They are willing [...]
Posted in: Industry, Politics, Solar Power



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World Bank to Invest in North African Solar
World Bank to Invest in North African Solar

The World Bank will invest $5.5 billion for North African solar power projects. They have announced that initially World Bank will put in $750 million dollars from the Clean Technology Fund with the remaining amount will be arranged from other sources. World Bank is expecting to complete these projects by 2015. They are willing [...]
Posted in: Industry, Politics, Solar Power



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3rd Annual AEE Solar Dealer Conference this February in Arizona
AEE Solar will hold its 3rd Annual AEE Solar Dealer Conference in Mesa, Ariz., February 17-21, 2010. AEE Solar, one of the renewable energy industry’s oldest, largest and most respected wholesale distributors, saw the conference double in size in its second year, drawing more than 400 dealers to Mesa’s beautiful Hilton Phoenix East in February 2008.
Visit the original post at: Renewable Energy News – RenewableEnergyWorld.com

Zoo Sells Jewelry Made From Reindeer Droppings
magic reindeer gem photo

There’s no more enchanting sight during the snowy weeks leading up to Christmas than that of the majestic reindeer–delighting the fancy of children who long for a just a peek at one of the creatures that make up Santa’s fabled team. Perhaps you’ve heard the tapping of their hooves on the shingled roof, or the faint ringing of their collar-bells as they shook off the cold on Christmas eves of yore. For those who still dream of reindeer, like the ones that so eluded them in childhood, Miller Park Zoo created “Magical Reindeer Gem” necklaces and ornaments. What is a “Magi… Read the full story on TreeHugger
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Mojave Desert National Monuments in the Works
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) says she plans to introduce legislation today to establish two national monuments on roughly 1 million acres of Mojave Desert outback that is home to bighorn sheep and desert tortoises, extinct volcanoes, sand dunes and ancient petroglyphs.

Its centerpiece, Mojave Trails National Monument, would prohibit development on 941,000 acres of federal land and former railroad company property along a 105-mile stretch of old Route 66, between Ludlow and Needles.
Visit the original post at: ENN: Lifestyle

Mojave Desert National Monuments in the Works
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) says she plans to introduce legislation today to establish two national monuments on roughly 1 million acres of Mojave Desert outback that is home to bighorn sheep and desert tortoises, extinct volcanoes, sand dunes and ancient petroglyphs.

Its centerpiece, Mojave Trails National Monument, would prohibit development on 941,000 acres of federal land and former railroad company property along a 105-mile stretch of old Route 66, between Ludlow and Needles.
Visit the original post at: ENN: Lifestyle

Mojave Desert National Monuments in the Works
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) says she plans to introduce legislation today to establish two national monuments on roughly 1 million acres of Mojave Desert outback that is home to bighorn sheep and desert tortoises, extinct volcanoes, sand dunes and ancient petroglyphs.

Its centerpiece, Mojave Trails National Monument, would prohibit development on 941,000 acres of federal land and former railroad company property along a 105-mile stretch of old Route 66, between Ludlow and Needles.
Visit the original post at: ENN: Lifestyle

Materia Launches Chemistry Blog on Olefin Metathesis

Materia, founded in 1998 to commercialize olefin metathesis catalyst technology, has launched a new chemistry blog called All Things Metathesis. The site was developed by the company to establish a knowledge resource on olefin metathesis as well as to create a setting for metathesis users to discuss the evolving catalyst technology.

Olefin metathesis is a process in which two carbon-carbon double bonds (olefins) come together in a chemical reaction, forming new olefinic products in the process. Catalysts provide a pathway for the chemical reaction to take place.

The Nobel Prize-winning catalytic technology is used to synthesize chemical compounds with fewer manufacturing steps, while simultaneously reducing byproducts, solvents, and waste material generation. It is in broad use in the chemical, polymer, and pharmaceutical industries—and it is being explored for use in the production of biofuels (earlier post).

All Things Metathesis is an outgrowth of Materia’s commitment to educate the academic and industrial communities about the benefits and applications of olefin metathesis. We’ve developed considerable expertise in this field by exclusively focusing on the chemistry over the past eleven years. Therefore, we can provide relevant and timely technical information, particularly in regards to metathesis’ efficient application.

— Mike Giardello, Materia CEO

The site provides general information on olefin metathesis and specific information on ruthenium-based metathesis catalysts.


Visit the original post at: Transportation News

Materia Launches Chemistry Blog on Olefin Metathesis

Materia, founded in 1998 to commercialize olefin metathesis catalyst technology, has launched a new chemistry blog called All Things Metathesis. The site was developed by the company to establish a knowledge resource on olefin metathesis as well as to create a setting for metathesis users to discuss the evolving catalyst technology.

Olefin metathesis is a process in which two carbon-carbon double bonds (olefins) come together in a chemical reaction, forming new olefinic products in the process. Catalysts provide a pathway for the chemical reaction to take place.

The Nobel Prize-winning catalytic technology is used to synthesize chemical compounds with fewer manufacturing steps, while simultaneously reducing byproducts, solvents, and waste material generation. It is in broad use in the chemical, polymer, and pharmaceutical industries—and it is being explored for use in the production of biofuels (earlier post).

All Things Metathesis is an outgrowth of Materia’s commitment to educate the academic and industrial communities about the benefits and applications of olefin metathesis. We’ve developed considerable expertise in this field by exclusively focusing on the chemistry over the past eleven years. Therefore, we can provide relevant and timely technical information, particularly in regards to metathesis’ efficient application.

— Mike Giardello, Materia CEO

The site provides general information on olefin metathesis and specific information on ruthenium-based metathesis catalysts.


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Elevance Renewable Sciences Planning Biorefinery Based on Olefin Metathesis Process; Range of Products Includes Renewable Jet and Diesel, and Biodiesel

Elevancebr
Schematic of the Elevance biorefinery. Source: Elevance. Click to enlarge.

Elevance Renewable Sciences, Inc. (ERS) received a $2.5 million grant from the US Department of Energy (DOE) to fund preliminary engineering design for a demonstration-scale integrated biorefinery based on its core olefin metathesis technology for the production of high value specialty chemicals and biofuels—including advanced biohydrocarbon renewable jet and diesel fuel as well as conventional biodiesel (fatty acid methyl ester)—from renewable oils. (Earlier post.)

Elevance’s manufacturing platform integrates its proprietary technology in novel combinations with established industrial processes (metathesis, transesterification, hydrogenation). The ERS Biorefinery is projected to be a profitable asset at $45/barrel crude oil and delivers improved profitability of $300-900 per metric ton compared to traditional biodiesel plants.

Newton, Iowa is the preferred site for the project, but final site selection details have not been completed. According to an AP report, about one-fourth of first-year production would use poultry fat for feedstock.

The technology underlying ERS’ processes is based on the work of Nobel Laureate Dr. Robert H. Grubbs, who pioneered the olefin metathesis process at Cal Tech.

(The Nobel Prize in Chemistry for 2005, awarded for the development of olefin metathesis in organic synthesis, is shared by three scientists: Frenchman Yves Chauvin and Americans Robert H. Grubbs and Richard R. Schrock.)

Olefin metathesis, a catalyst technology which swaps molecular fragments on either side of a carbon-carbon double bond, has become an efficient and widely-used chemical process in petroleum refining and other industries. It enables new chemical compounds and manufacturing processes once thought to be impossible. The technology is efficient, stable and predictable, and enables relatively simple processing using widely available industrial equipment. (Earlier post.)

ERS’ biorefinery can handle multiple different feedstock oils and prefers those with high degrees of unsaturation, particularly mono-unsaturation. This is because metathesis operates on carbon-carbon double bonds found at points of unsaturation.

As in a traditional petroleum refinery, manipulating the ERS biorefinery’s operating conditions and feedstock oil compositions will result in different relative proportions of the end products. This allows the biorefinery to vary, within some limits, the product distribution to maximize the economics of the total product suite. Furthermore, additional processing can be applied to the platform products to make them into additional downstream finished products.

The demonstration scale biorefinery will help Elevance to understand the impact of feedstocks and recycle streams, as well as produce platform chemicals and fuels for market development and performance testing. It will also enable Elevance to develop a process model, which can be applied in the design of a commercial scale unit.

Elevance continues the collaborative work of Cargill Inc. and Materia Inc., a technology organization leveraging patents from the California Institute of Technology, to commercialize the production of renewable chemicals. A round of more than $40 million of private equity funding was led by TPG Growth and TPG Biotechnology Partners to scale the technology.

Resources


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