onsdag 24. februar 2010

Enerkem takes $51 million for advanced biofuel projects

Enerkem, the Canadian bio fuels company, believes it can sell carbon-neutral fuels for cheap and do so while removing trash from landfills. The company has taken $51 million in funding including investment from Waste Management of Houston. Garbage and bio fuels go together like peas and carrots, with a waste-to-fuels facility in Michigan set to help Enerkem spend its new money.
On the other hand, Advanced biofuels have been getting a bad name from ActionAid . ActionAid claims that bio fuels contribute to global starvation and that they don’t help climate change, either.
The Pontotoc, Michigan facility will be Enerkem’s first ethanol production facility in the U.S. The company’s first facility has been operating in Quebec since January 2009. The project is expected to cost $250 million. Approximately 60 percent of the solid waste taken at a nearby landfill will be converted to ethanol, or approximately 189,000 tons of waste. Despite all that critics would say about ethanol, getting rid of garbage and receiving fuel in its place sounds will sound like a good deal to many.
Enerkem’s advantage over the standard corn grown ethanol production is the keystone of its technology. Thermo-chemical processes can produce ethanol from almost any biomass. Demolition wood, treated lumber, food scraps and agricultural waste can all be converted to ethanol, synthetic diesel or synthetic gasoline at varied prices. Traditional bio-chemical processes are more like distilling liquor on a large scale and require specific material inputs to get the desired chemical output.
Another advantage that Enerkem holds over most competitors is that it doesn’t require as much pre-sorting of input materials. This lowers production costs and, proportionately, the cost of the end product. The biofuel industry is largely a race to the bottom. Since ethanol contains much less energy per gallon than gasoline, it must also be much cheaper. Currently this isn’t the case, or not to the degree needed to make ethanol a viable option at the pump. Fuel economy suffers by around 30 percent in most cars when burning ethanol or E85.
The company claims that from one ton of feed stock it can produce 90 gallons of ethanol, 25 gallons of potable water and over 300 lbs of aggregates that could be mixed with tar or concrete as a construction material. This is enough to drive a car 1550 miles. The company also claims zero landfill materials as a result of its production.
Fifty-one million dollars in funding to help build a second plant represents growing confidence in bio fuels in general and Enerkem in particular. If the company brings down the price of biofuels, battery vehicles may have substantial competition in the Cars 2.0 market place.

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