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October, 2013:

Solena’s waste-to-energy solution for Hong Kong

Solena Fuels is currently developing facilities in the UK, US, Australia and Germany that will convert waste into aviation fuel, and they are expected to be fully operational by 2014/15. The cost of the fuel produced would be relatively low (estimated at US$50 per barrel) compared to the current market price for aviation fuel produced from fossil fuels (US$128 in 2012 per barrel). With clear economic and environmental benefits, the US Federal Aviation Administration has recently announced funding for a new research center for jet biofuel research based in Washington State University, bringing together a research team comprised of academics and industry experts.

Solena is building aviation biofuels facilities for British Airways, Qantas and Lufthansa

Solena Fuels conducted a feasibility study in 2011 about setting up similar facilities in Hong Kong, a fuel-hungry and garbage-churning hypermetabolic beast of a city. The potential for deriving low-cost aviation (and possibly marine) fuels from the city’s high waste production, coupled with reduced pollution, should have been very attractive to a city whose transport industries suffer from fierce competition from China. But it seems that it remains to be seen whether the proposals will come to fruition.

Below is the full article of the US FAA announcement on funding biofuel research, from David Holt of fuelfix:

This month U.S. consumers landed some exciting news as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) unveiled plans to create a national center for excellence on jet biofuel research.  The recently announced effort will help to revolutionize the air transportation industry by tackling one of its largest challenges – rising fuel costs.

The center will be based at Washington State University and will bring together researchers from 16 academic institutions including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Pennsylvania State University and the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill, among others.  The research team will also benefit from the expertise of 26 federal government and airline industry partners including companies like Boeing, Delta Airlines and General Electric to name just a few.

By aiming to significantly advance the use of cost-competitive “drop in” aviation biofuel, the effort will support the FAA’s target of deploying one billion gallons of alternative jet fuel by 2018.

Perhaps, the most promising element of the center’s work is that it will approach its research from a regional perspective; taking into account biological materials, and the needs of different hubs, in varying regions across the country.  This strategic approach is important given that the top 40 U.S. airports use approximately 90 percent of America’s jet fuel.

In addition to decreasing carbon emissions, the center’s work is critical to the airline industry’s future growth as fuel costs – which account for approximately 35 percent of an airline’s operating costs – have risen 267 percent over the last 11 years.  This has caused airlines to increase prices for tickets and other services, which increases costs for the entire economy.

In fact, commercial aviation is a cornerstone of the economy, as it intersects almost every sector of the economy and drives more than 5 percent of U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP). In 2010, for example airlines enplaned 720 million passengers and 18 million tons of cargo on more than 10 million flights.

It stands to reason then, that if successful the center could provide significant savings and market-based solution to help our national economy considering that jet fuel cost, on average, $128 per barrel in 2012.  For comparison, some experts predict the cost of biofuel could be as low as $50 per barrel once it is produced in large commercial quantities.

For its part, the U.S. airline industry has already begun embracing the use of biofuels to reduce costs and lower its carbon footprint. Just a few years ago, eight airlines in the Air Transport Association signed a letter of intent to negotiate the purchase of large quantities of fuel derived from biomass.  As part of that effort, Solena Fuels will utilize post-recycled urban and agricultural wastes to produce up to 16 million gallons of jet fuel per year by 2015 to support operations at Oakland, San Francisco and San Jose.  Meanwhile, in June United Airlines agreed to buy 15 million gallons of lower-carbon, renewable jet fuel from AltAir Fuels over the next three years.

Of course, it goes without saying that the increased use of biofuels in our nation’s airline industry will pay large dividends in decreasing our nation’s carbon emissions.  With the implementation of this center and major U.S. airlines already embracing biofuels the future looks bright for increased renewable fuel use in our aviation sector.

In sum, the Center of Excellence in Alternative Jet Fuels and Environment epitomizes how the federal government and private industry can partner to create new paradigms that benefit industry and the consumer alike. After all, the increasing use of biofuels in aviation will provide significant environmental benefits while stimulating our national economy from the nation’s farms to its terminals, and everywhere in between.

23 Sep 2013

WMW: Gasification Technology Moves Lockheed Martin into Waste to Energy

From Ben Messenger of Waste Management World:

U.S. defense contractor, Lockheed Martin, is moving into the waste to fuel gasification technology business following a deal with LA based waste to fuels specialist, Concord Blue.

According to Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT) it will provide its engineering, program management, procurement, manufacturing and integration experience to apply Concord Blue’s patented technology globally in the expanding waste to energy arena.

Gasification Technology Moves Lockheed Martin into Waste to Energy

The defense giant said that advanced waste conversion is an emerging technology that uses gasification processes to convert waste products to electricity, heat and synthetic fuels.

Concord Blue has developed a closed-loop process that Lockheed Martin said is already commercially-proven to recycle waste into energy at virtually any scale.

For Lockheed’s part, it said that it brings high-level capabilities in complex systems integration, project management, information technology and advanced manufacturing techniques partnership.

“This agreement enables Lockheed Martin to combine our proven ability to meet complex project requirements and access to a broader, global market with Concord Blue’s demonstrated technology, experience and global facilities,” explained Paul Klammer, director of bio energy programs at Lockheed Martin’s Mission Systems and Training business.

According to Klammer, Concord Blue’s feedstock flexible technology combined with its ability to scale for smaller applications will enable the partners to waste disposal solutions for a range of situations, including those of industrial customers.

1 October 2013

SCMP: Sky Rabbit/Typhoon Usagi’s sends clear warning for ill-conceived wind farm proposals in Hong Kong

From SCMP’s Howard Winn (1 Oct 2013):

One of the effects of Typhoon Usagi, which received little attention, was its impact on the Honghaiwan wind farm in Shanwei, eastern Guangdong, about 130 kilometres northeast of Hong Kong. The onshore wind farm comprises 25 imported Vestas V47 600KW turbines. The website Windpower Intelligence reports that eight of the turbines were blown down by the typhoon, while the blades of another eight turbines were blown off, and the blades of the remaining turbines are being examined to see if they can operate normally.

Typhoon Usagi's damage to turbines in Shanwei's wind farm (CCTV, SCMP)

CCTV2 reported that 70 per cent of the wind farm had been knocked out. Windpower Intelligence reports that one of the managers says the typhoon has led to 100 million yuan in losses for the wind farm. This is the second time the wind farm has suffered typhoon damage. The farm was hit in 2003 with damage to 13 out of 25 turbines, causing losses of 10 million yuan.

The recent damage may have caused some unease within the government and possibly within Hongkong Electric and CLP, the two companies planning wind farms in Hong Kong waters. CLP, Hong Kong’s largest power company, plans to build what will be one of the biggest offshore wind farms in the world off Sai Kung – generating 200 megawatts a year – at a cost of almost HK$7 billion. Hongkong Electric is to build a HK$3 billion wind farm between Lamma Island and Cheung Chau that would generate 100MW of power – enough for 50,000 households.

Since Shanwei is fairly close to Hong Kong, it is frequently used as a reference for winds in Hong Kong. “This is another indication of how ill-advised these Hong Kong wind projects are,” Ng Young, the chairman of Hong Kong’s Association for Geoconservation, told Lai See.

The companies are still involved in testing work, and construction has yet to begin. At best the two wind farms might produce about 1.5 per cent of Hong Kong’s total electricity production, and reduce its output of carbon dioxide by about 2 per cent. This miniscule contribution comes at a cost of HK$10 billion. Regardless of how useless these wind farms are, the government can point to them as its contribution to reducing Hong Kong’s carbon footprint and take its place in the world’s effort to limit the production of carbon dioxide, and thereby global warming, or so they would have us believe. As for the power companies, the farms are a wonderful opportunity for them to increase their net assets at a time when returns from the scheme of control, which governs them, have been reduced from 13.5 per cent to 15 per cent under the previous scheme, which ended in 2009, to 9.99 per cent under the current scheme. But they will get 11 per cent on their wind farm assets since they are a form of renewable energy. Meanwhile, the public picks up the bill in the form of higher electricity prices. Higher fuel costs are inevitable, but better to spend this on efficient clean energy like gas.

Ng says the wind farms are unsightly and kill birds, and are an unreliable source of energy. He makes the point that the Shanwei wind farm operates at an average of 17 per cent to 18 per cent efficiency: “The government is silly to support this project – building this white elephant just for the sake of appearing to do something green, when in fact it is damaging the environment, and costing the community a lot of money in terms of higher fuel bills and higher costs to business. The only beneficiaries are the power companies.”

Fracking produces annual toxic waste water enough to flood Washington DC

From Suzanne Goldenberg of the Guardian (4 Oct 2013):

There are growing concerns over radiation risks as a report find widespread environmental damage on an unimaginable scale in the US.

Fracking in America generated 280bn US gallons of toxic waste water last year – enough to flood all of Washington DC beneath a 22ft deep toxic lagoon, a new report out on Thursday found.

The report from campaign group Environment America said America’s transformation into an energy superpower was exacting growing costs on the environment.

“Our analysis shows that damage from fracking is widespread and occurs on a scale unimagined just a few years ago,” the report, Fracking by the Numbers, said.

The full extent of the damage posed by fracking to air and water quality had yet to emerge, the report said.

But it concluded: “Even the limited data that are currently available, however, paint an increasingly clear picture of the damage that fracking has done to our environment and health.”

A number of recent studies have highlighted the negative consequences of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, which have unlocked vast reservoirs of oil and natural gas from rock formations.

There have been instances of contaminated wells and streams, as well as evidence of methane releases along the production chain.

The Environment America report highlights another growing area of concern – the safe disposal of the billions of gallons of waste water that are returned to the surface along with oil and gas when walls are fracked.

The authors said they relied on data from industry and state environmental regulators to compile their report.

More than 80,000 wells have been drilled or permitted in 17 states since 2005.

It can take 2m to 9m gallons of water mixed with sand and chemicals to frack a single well. The report said the drilling industry had used 250bn gallons of fresh water since 2005. Much of that returns to the surface, however, along with naturally occurring radium and bromides, and concerns are growing about those effects on the environment.

A study published this week by researchers at Duke University found new evidence of radiation risks from drilling waste water. The researchers said sediment samples collected downstream from a treatment plant in western Pennsylvania showed radium concentrations 200 times above normal.

The Environment America study said waste water pits have been known to fail, such as in New Mexico where there were more than 420 instances of contamination, and that treatment plants were not entirely effective.

“Fracking waste-water discharged at treatment plants can cause a different problem for drinking water: when bromide in the wastewater mixes with chlorine (often used at drinking water treatment plants), it produces trihalomethanes, chemicals that cause cancer and increase the risk of reproductive or developmental health problems,” the report said.

About 260bn US gallons of the 280bn US gallons of toxic waste water were from Texas, a state that has undergone three years of severe drought and where there is fierce competition for water between the oil industry and farmers and ranchers.

Environment America said that water was now taken out of the supply and that storing, transporting and even recycling the toxic waste carried environmental risks. “”They say a lot of it is recycled. It is still 280bn gallons of toxic waste generated that is running through our communities,” said John Rumpler, author of the report.

Spokespersons for Energy in Depth, the industry lobby group, disputed the findings as “alarmist:” and “meaningless”.

“Number is meaningless unless they’re alleging something is happening with it, ie ending up in tap water,” Steve Everley, the lead spokesman for the lobby group said on Twitter.

Other consequences of fracking highlighted in the report included: 450,000 tons of air pollution a year and 100m metric tons of global warming pollution since 2005.