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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

DEVELOPMENTS IN BIOFUEL ASSISTED AVIATION

I left Houston this past Monday morning for my flight to Las Vegas.  Interestingly enough, United Airlines 1403 for Chicago with 189 passengers,  a Boeing 737-800 Eco-Skies, was resting close by with a 40/60 blend of conventional jetfuel and a biofuel produced by Solazyme.  I can only laud United for taking this step.

However, my sense of the economics is that this special sustainable fuel probably cost ten times that of conventional jetfuel.  Maybe the factor was only five, but, the fact that airlines around the world are testing these next generation mixtures is encouraging, especially as the reality is that these sustainable options remain distant from a competitive viewpoint.

The significance of this flight is that this particular biofuel came from algae, a source that could someday totally replace petroleum as the feedstock.  THE KEY CHALLENGE, HOWEVER, WILL BE PRODUCTION COST, AS ALL MY INQUIRIES HINT AT SOMETHING CLOSE TO $4/GALLON, AT BEST, WHICH IS EQUIVALENT TO $168/BARREL.  And this would come only with a full court press over a decade to build the science base to support these budding commercial ventures.

A few more mostly public relations efforts have also been conducted, as for example the Gulfstream G450 corporate jet from New Jersey to Paris in June of this year, which used a 50-50 blend, with the biofuel being camelina, said to be a non-food commodity.  Click on that link, though, and read the comments, which dispute the credibility of this posting.

There was also the SkyNRG Thomson Airways flight from the UK to Arrecife only last month, which replaced half the jet fuel with used cooking oil.  This biofuel is, indeed, cheap, but there is no hope for sustaining aviation with used cooking oil.  Plus, Friends of the Earth actually protested this flight.

In any case, the future of Hawaii rests with next generation aviation fuels and aircraft (from Germany, a hydrogen powered development below).

But the above will use fuel cells and will never carry much.  Another German concept below (Munich to Sydney in an hour and a half), could, someday...maybe:

Rinaldo, how's it going with the Hawaiian Hydrogen Clipper?  For symbolic reasons, the following photo is the USS Macon (1933), as a next generation aircraft using hydrogen could well be a very fast (350 MPH)  blimp:

Under any conditions, I fear that any future sustainable fuel or new aircraft will take at least a generation to commercialize, and Peak Oil is looming.  The aviation signs, though, for the first time since the National Aerospace Plane (one version below), are beginning to look promising.

Well, I'm off from Las Vegas for flights #17 and #18 today, using conventional aircraft, of my present global adventure:

I might add that Peter Hoffman, Editor/Publisher of the The Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Letter, responded with a number of exciting hydrogen developments, ranging from something I've long dreamt about, liquid organic hydrogen carriers to the EADS/Airbus Mach 4 hydrogen aircraft (below), capable of carrying 100 people from London to Tokyo in 2 hours.

No costs were mentioned for the former and the latter could take 40 years.  But things are happening!

Finally, the U.S. Department of Energy awarded Virent a $13.4 million contract (in partnership with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory) to convert cellulosic (non food) farm crops into jet fuel.  The process of pre-treatment, enzymantic hydrolysis, and, I think, some fermentation, then catalysis, however, could turn out to be very expensive, I'm afraid. That is Lisa Kamke of Virent at their catalytic conversion facility.  The process will be energy intensive and slow.  Slow means more equipment and extra cost.  Plus, the appropriate catalysts have not yet been developed.  Yet, this is one of the most promising pathways I've seen for utilizing the waste portion of farm commodities.

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FOR SOME REASON, THE FOLLOWING TEXT DID NOT REGISTER IN MY BLOG OF YESTERDAY (FOLLOWING).  PLEASE ADD THIS AT THE END AFTER THE PHOTO OF THE SAW PALMETTO PLANT


You would think that medical science would have by now found a cure for enlarged prostates, as not only does this ailment make travel difficult, it makes "pissing" inaccurate, no doubt must contribute to cancer and makes REM (rapid eye movement) sleep difficult, therefore, affecting virtually every other facet of life.  Sure, there is an abundance of natural cures, as for example, saw palmetto, and some might actually work for some, but they won't work for everyone.  There is also a plethora of pills, but you worry about the effect on your liver, etc.

Finally, with sleep can come dreams.  There are, of course, various blog sites.  My HuffPo on Suicide Dreams was weird, and I've been trying to analyze what it meant.  Your subconscious is supposedly attempting to communicate with you through your dreams, but how can you remember those messages?  And what do they mean?  But that's another subject for someday later.




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