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Caribbean Island Ditching Diesel In Favor Of Algae-Based Renewable Energy

Bonaire (pop. 14,500), a small island off the coast of Venezuela, is famous for its beautiful marine reefs, which are visited by 70,000 tourists every year. What many of the tourists don’t realize is that the majority of the electricity powering their needs comes from renewable energy. Yet for the residents of Bonaire, the switch from fossil-fueled to renewable energy systems has made a world of difference.

Like many Caribbean islands, Bonaire originally relied on diesel fuel to generate electricity for residents, with a peak demand of 11 MW. This fuel had to be shipped in from other nations, resulting in high electricity prices for Bonaire residents, along with uncertainty about when and how much prices might increase with changing fuel costs.

In 2004, everything changed when a fire destroyed the existing diesel power plant. Although tragic, the situation provided an opportunity for Bonaire to consider what kind of new electricity system to build. Temporary diesel generators were rented to provide power for the short term. Meanwhile, the government and local utility began working together to create a plan that would allow Bonaire to reach a goal of generating 100 percent of its electricity from renewable sources.

Bonaire’s Electricity System Transformation

The result is a transformed electricity system on Bonaire. The island is now home to 12 wind turbines with a total of 11 MW of wind power capacity, which contribute up to 90 percent of the island’s electricity at times of peak wind, and 40–45 percent of its annual electricity on average. Battery storage (6 MWh) is included in order to take advantage of available power in times of excess wind, and provide that stored electricity in times of low wind. The battery also boosts the reliability of the overall system—it is capable of providing 3 MW for over two minutes, allowing time for additional generation to be started when there is a sudden drop in wind.

The Bonaire system also includes 14 MW of diesel generation, five total generators, which provide the necessary power to meet the load when there is not enough wind power available. The generators are equipped to run on both traditional diesel as well as biodiesel. The next steps in the island’s energy transformation involve using local algae resources, grown in the large salt flats on the island, to create biofuel, which can then be used in the existing generators. This will allow Bonaire to operate a 100 percent renewable electricity system—with on average 40–45 percent from wind and 55–60 percent from biodiesel.

The new electricity system led to more reliable electricity, more employment opportunities, reduced dependence on oil (and its fluctuating prices), and a reduction in electricity bills. Bonaire residents currently pay $0.22/kWh for electricity, much lower than prices on other nearby Caribbean islands, which are often $0.36/kWh or above. When oil prices spiked in 2008, while Bonaire was still using temporary diesel generators before making its transition to renewables, electricity prices on the island reached $0.50/kWh. The new electricity system also created jobs for the construction and ongoing operation of the wind farm, and for research and development of algae production capabilities and conversion to biofuel. Additional employment opportunities will be created for continuing algae production and operation of the biodiesel plant.

The success of the updated electricity system on Bonaire provides an important example to other nearby islands of the opportunity to achieve high levels of renewable energy penetration.

Why Did Bonaire Make the Switch to Renewables?

Two aspects unique to Bonaire’s situation may have contributed to the decision to switch to a 100 percent renewable electricity system. One driver may have been Bonaire’s status as a special municipality within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. This provides a connection with the Netherlands and Europe in general, where many countries have incorporated large amounts of wind and other renewable sources of electricity. Nearby Aruba, also a Dutch Caribbean island, has a wind farm as well, which provides up to 20 percent of the island’s electricity. There may be a common theme of islands with ties to European countries moving to renewables more quickly than others. In the case of Bonaire, the consortium that is developing the project, Ecopower Bonaire BV, is made up of Dutch and German companies.

Secondly, Bonaire’s government and local electricity provider were presented with an opportunity to build a new renewable electricity system since they needed to replace the plant that was damaged. Many other Caribbean islands still have existing diesel resources that are not at the end of their lifetime. These existing generators may remain a part of the electricity system, especially as renewables are incrementally added to the system, and may even remain as backup power for a transformed system that operates mostly with renewables. However, if some or all of the existing diesel resources on an island are completely shut down before the end of their available lifetime, that island will need to consider the sunk costs involved and incorporate that into their overall energy transformation plan.

Bonaire as Inspiration for the Caribbean

RMI and Carbon War Room’s ongoing Ten Island Challenge works with Caribbean islands to utilize their local renewable resource potential to transform electricity systems and provide a renewable, reliable, secure, and affordable energy supply for their citizens. One of the participating islands is Aruba, which neighbors Bonaire and forms part of the ABC islands in the Netherlands Antilles, along with Curacao. Although the shift to renewables on Bonaire is not part of the Ten Island Challenge, RMI and CWR’s ongoing work in the area will strive to spread the success that Bonaire has achieved to the rest of the region, so that more Caribbean islands can take advantage of efficient and renewable electricity systems.

Source: Algae World News

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Shale gas boom creates impulse for bio based chemicals

Bio based chemicals are the unexpected beneficiaries of the North American shale gas boom, says a special report from IHS Inc., a leading global source of critical information and insight.

Sugars, glycerin and other plant-derived feedstocks are emerging as economically competitive starting materials for a range of commodity chemicals, in part, the report says, because of tight supplies of conventional feedstocks such as propylene, isobutylene, butadiene and isoprene.

The shortfall is due to the shale gas boom: North American ethylene producers have switched from petroleum-derived naphtha to lighter, natural gas-based feedstocks, reducing the output of valuable C3, C4, C5 and pygas co-products. These co-products, in turn, are the starting materials for a variety of chemical intermediates and polymers. Examples include synthetic rubber, an essential material for tire production, as well as nylon 6.6, used for fiber production and automotive parts, according to the IHS Chemical Special Report: Chemical Building Blocks from Renewables.

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Evonik invests in biobased lubricants

Evonik has closed on an equity investment in Biosynthetic Technologies, LLC (BT), a specialist in biobased lubricants headquartered in Irvine (California, USA). BT has developed and manufactures a new class of bio-based synthetic oils called estolides that are used primarily in the passenger car motor oil and industrial lubricant sectors. Field trials have shown that the technical characteristics of the biobased synthetic oils made by BT are exceptionally good, and include the ability to combat soot buildup in engines, which helps keep fuel consumption low. In addition to Evonik, BP Ventures also participated as a second strategic investor in this current funding round that focuses on growth. BP Ventures as well as Monsanto Company have already invested in previous financing rounds.

“Biosynthetic Technologies leads the way to high-quality sustainable lubricants,” says Dr. Bernhard Mohr, head of Evonik Venture Capital. “In view of the large automotive market and the strong trend towards fuel-economy and sustainability, this is a growing market with a strong fit to Evonik´s oil additives business.”

“We are excited to have Evonik join us as a strategic investor,” says Allen Barbieri, CEO of Biosynthetic Technologies. “In addition to its capital investment, Evonik brings world class manufacturing, R&D and sales & marketing expertise that will expedite our commercialization process.”

Evonik is a leader in the development of technologies for the production of lubricant additives. Its high-performance additives increase both productivity and fuel efficiency. Regional technology centers, modern global manufacturing centers, and a secure and reliable supply chain worldwide enable Evonik’s continuous development of customized solutions for customers anywhere in the world.

Biosynthetic Technologies’ new class of bio-based synthetic oils are made from organic fatty acids found in plant oils and have numerous uses in the lubricant, chemical, and cosmetics industries. They are biodegradable, nontoxic and they do not bio-accumulate in marine life. BT holds a broad patent portfolio to protect these novel biosynthetic oils that are marketed under the trade name LubriGreen® Biosynthetic Oils.

BT’s lubricants are now being tested and certified by many of the world’s largest lubricant manufacturers who want to use these as components in their existing or new motor oil and industrial lubricant product lines.

Within its venture capital activities Evonik plans to invest a total of €100 million in highly promising start-ups with break-through technologies and leading specialist venture capital funds. These investments will focus on Europe, the U.S. and Asia. Partnering with innovative start-up companies supplements Evonik’s approach of open innovation and creates excellent opportunities for accelerating the development of new businesses and opening up future growth fields.

Source: Evonik

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EU and Bio-Based Industry Partners Launch €3.7 Billion Investments

EU and industry leaders have today launched a new European Joint Undertaking on Bio-based Industries (BBI). The aim is to trigger investments and create a competitive market for bio-based products and materials sourced locally and “Made in Europe”, tackling some of Europe’s biggest societal challenges.

€3.7 billion will be injected into the European economy between 2014 and 2024 – €975 million from the European Commission and €2.7 billion from the Bio-based Industries Consortium (BIC) – to develop an emerging bioeconomy sector. Through financing of research and innovation projects, the BBI will create new and novel partnerships across sectors, such as agriculture, agro-food, technology providers, forestry/pulp and paper, chemicals and energy.

The aim of the BBI is to use Europe’s untapped biomass and wastes as feedstock to make fossil-free and greener everyday products. At the heart of it are advanced biorefineries and innovative technologies that will convert renewable resources into sustainable bio-based chemicals, materials and fuels.

Organised in five value chains – that range from primary production to consumer markets – the BBI will help fill the innovation gap between technology development and commercialisation, sustainably realising the potential of bio-based industries in Europe.

Bio-Based Industry increases sustainable economic growth

Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science, said: “The bioeconomy has huge potential that is attracting investments all around the world. With this new partnership, we want to harness innovative technologies to convert Europe’s untapped renewable resources and waste into greener everyday products such as food, feed, chemicals, materials and fuels, all sourced and made in Europe.”

Peder Holk Nielsen, CEO of Novozymes, added on behalf of industry partner, the Bio-based Industries Consortium: “The BBI is an unprecedented public-private commitment because of its focus on bringing bio-based solutions to the market. It is an opportunity to deliver sustainable growth in European regions and to reverse the investment trend currently going to other regions of the world.”

The BBI is a shift from a fossil- and imports-based society to increase Europe’s share of sustainable economic growth, and is expected to create tens of thousands of jobs (80% in rural areas), revitalise industries, diversify farmers’ incomes, and reduce GHG emissions by at least 50% in comparison to fossil-based applications.

The BBI will manage the investments in the form of research and innovation projects that are defined in annual Calls for Proposals and implemented across European regions. In line with Horizon 2020 rules, all stakeholders are invited to submit innovative proposals and demonstrate progress beyond state-of-the-art.

Source: Bio-Based Industries

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