Sensor Systems and Software: First International ICST Conference, S-CUBE 2009, Pisa, Italy, September 7-9, 2009, Revised Selected Papers


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Ever Cat Bio Diesel Goes Commercial

18 months ago Ever Cat was the subject of a post that examined the technology and the people behind what seemed to be a breakthrough method to get to diesel from bio oils and fats. The breakthrough seemed to deliver the possibility of making biodiesel in mere seconds from start to finish, reducing costs by half the price of other biodiesel, producing no waste, using no chemical reactants, and using any animal fat or vegetable oil as a feedstock.

McGyan Process Flow Chart. Click image for the largest view.

McGyan Process Flow Chart. Click image for the largest view.

The analysts who have been invited to look over the process are impressed by how well the design works in utilizing the chemical reaction innovation. The graphic shows the stream of alcohol and oil entering the reactor and exiting as biodiesel fuel and recyclable alcohol. The next stages of separation and cleaning yield a ready to use fuel product.

The process relies on feedstocks that can be as varied as alcohols from single carbon methanol, ethanol and up to three carbon propanol. The oil side can source from the full range of plant and animal based oils as well as waste products. While not exceedingly cheap, these products are in a growth phase and can be improved to the higher energy density of middle distillates like diesel, jet and home heating oils. Alcohols while good and achievable chemicals from current plant growth need the boost to higher energy density both to enter the fuel supply system and to keep value in consumer’s investments in fuel using machines.

At last year’s posting Ever Cat fuels had only succeeded at making a small-scale pilot operation of 50,000 gallons per year. But, as late September 2009, the process has been completely commercialized.  Ever Cat opened the doors to its new biodiesel facility in rural Isanti, Minnesota on September 28, 2009. The plant employs 20 people now, and is capable of delivering 3 million gallons of biodiesel a year (MGY). Ever Cat has set its eyes firmly on increasing that capacity to 33 MGY within the next 3 years.

Ever Cat Fuels Plant. Click image for the largest view.

Ever Cat Fuels Plant. Click image for the largest view.

The plant should be at full capacity this a week, producing 10,000 gallons per day –  almost two semi truckloads.  (Add another, a licensed one, in Forest City Iowa announced Wednesday.)

Basically, the process works like this:
·    Raw fats and oils of any type are combined with an alcohol
·    This mixture is fed through a sulfated zirconia column heated to 300 degrees Celsius
·    Their Easy Fatty Acid Removal (EFAR) system recycles any unreacted raw material back through the reactor
·    Excess alcohol is recycled back through the reactor
·    Pure biodiesel comes out the end.

The advantages of the system are:
·    No waste produced; No washing or neutralizing of the biodiesel is necessary
·    100% conversion of raw materials to biodiesel
·    Any raw fat or oil can be used to make biodiesel
·    Very efficient due to heat recapture from the column
·    Sulfated zirconia catalyst never needs replacing
·    Very small footprint of the reactor system, uses an extremely small amount of area for the amount of biodiesel produced
·    Essentially no emissions and no waste stream from the process; Easy permitting from the government.

The past year has seen the bio diesel business in the economic doldrums.  Called the McGyan process, the technology might be the breakthrough that can keep a lot of vegetable and animal oils and fats out of landfills, treatment systems and take a lot of excess glycerin out of the market.

From all the plant oils already in abundance such as soy, cottonseed, other conventional sources as well as the dedicated crops like jatropha, McGyan has a lock for the short term on the hottest technology until algae hits commercial scale.  Or maybe the McGyan process has a role in algae as well.

But the big news is the satisfaction of a small town American technological success that can migrate out worldwide and makes a huge difference.  There isn’t enough bio oil out there to displace all of the middle distillates, but now serious inroads are possible as well as new income for subsistence farming outside the U.S.

All this started as a required undergraduate chemistry project for student Brian Krohn at Augsburg College in Minneapolis, MN. Krohn and his major professor, Arlin Gyberg, were looking at ways to catalyze the raw materials into biodiesel using a process called esterification.  The basic idea was to run the raw fats and oils over a sulfated zirconia catalyst to change them into biodiesel. This idea isn’t new, but the duo thought they could improve on it. In the end, the pair enlisted the help of another scientist Ben Yan and Augsburg alum Clayton McNeff.

Congratulations to the Ever Cat team.  Maybe they’ll come up with a lighter output in the gasoline range someday.


Author: New Energy and Fuel

Do-it-yourselfer’s beware, don’t try this at home.

When a Nampa Idaho man made do it yourself modifications to his natural gas piping under his home the results were truly explosive.

September 21, 2009 Boise, Idaho – A man in Nampa Idaho made do it yourself modifications to his natural gas piping under his home and his home is now completely destroyed and he is recovering in the hospital with third degree burns.

The local gas utility company and fire department officials in Idaho reported that the homeowner apparently made repairs or modified his natural gas piping under his home in the crawl space. It was reported that his natural gas usage increased five fold in the days leading up to the home explosion.

While natural gas does not have any odor the gas utilities add odor before it is delivered to their customers and why this homeowner did not smell the gas in his home prior to the explosion is not clear. Only a small portion of this home remains standing and most of the home and it’s contents are in the neighbor’s yards and streets now. Truly amazing that he survived this explosion inside his home.

There is no code or law against any homeowners working on their own gas piping in their home in Idaho as in many states but there are specific codes and rules to follow. Ameri-Serv, Inc. Heating and Cooling recommends that homeowners get professional help when repairing or modifying their gas piping. If the homeowner does it themselves it is strongly recommended that the gas piping be pressure tested with air prior to allowing it to be placed back into service.

However, you can damage your home appliances if you do not perform the pressure test correctly. Terek Worley with Ameri-Serv, Inc. indicates that “If you are not sure how to pressure test your gas piping without damaging your appliances then you should call a professional to make sure you are not at risk.”

With today’s economic situation it is understandable that homeowners are doing more repairs to their homes. Ameri-Serv, Inc. Heating and Cooling wants the do it yourselfers to be extra careful when repairing or modifying their gas piping and not take unnecessary chances with their family and their home. Call a professional, gas piping repairs and modifications are not that expensive and having the assurance of the job done right is well worth the investment.

Count on Ameri-Serv for all your Gas Piping Repairs as well as your Heating and Air Conditioning systems repairs

Dramatic Drop in Oil Consumption – What’s the Implication?

America’s appetite for oil declined sharply as the economy weakened over 2008. According to the latest reported information from the Energy Information Administration (EIA), Monthly Oil Consumption oil consumption declined 13% y/y from September 2007 through September 2008.

Historically, the US has seen this type of demand erosion before. From 1979 to 1983, oil demand in the US declined 28% with annualized rate of a 10% decline per year. Over this same period, oil prices actual rose despite the fall in demand. Oil prices by barrel (42 US gallons) rose from $3.60 in 1972 to $25.10 in 1979. In 1983, oil prices increased to $29.08 a barrel, representing an increase of nearly 16% from 1979.

Economics would normally dictate that as demand declines so should prices. However, the geopolitical events and oil supply disruption maintained higher oil prices despite the subsequent decline in oil demand. It was not until structural changes in energy conservation and driving patterns were felt before leading to a fall in oil prices during the 1980’s.

Figure 1 Monthly Oil Consumption Oil Demand

As illustrated in Figure 1, the precipitous fall in oil demand over the last half of 2008 is quite dramatic in comparison to historical price data. The large fluctuations in monthly oil consumption during the 70’s and 80’s, were primarily due to supply disruptions. The higher oil prices resulting from supply disruptions over this period led to structural changes in the energy market that later resulted in falling oil prices.

Figure 2 Oil Prices Oil Prices

While falling demand and rising oil prices during the 70’s and 80’s is an anomaly, we see from Figure 2, that currently there is significant correlation between falling oil demand and a subsequent decline in the price of oil. Excluding the peak oil price in July 2008, oil declined 33% from the average price per barrel of $64 in 2007.

Perhaps the precipitous fall in oil prices can explain why demand for oil on a global basis has not declined as dramatically as in the US. As we can see from Figure 3, the drop in US oil consumption is matched with a slight increase in demand in Europe and only a moderate decline in Japan.

Figure 3 Global Oil Demand Global Oil Demand

The bottom line is the financial shock that hit global markets is dramatically impacting consumption. As a recovery inevitably ensues, demand for oil will increase and so will oil prices. Let’s not be complacent with hydrocarbon fuels. Falling energy prices act as a disincentive for investment into alternative energies.

Author: Green Econometrics