Mississippi State University Biofuels Conference

August 27, 2007 MSU Hunter Henry Center & Bost Conference Center

Hosted by MSU’s Chemical Engineering, Industrial Outreach Service, and Sustainable Energy Research Center

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Biodiesel is a renewable fuel produced from vegetable oils and animal fats. The relatively high diesel prices, national security concerns caused by reliance on foreign oil, and biodiesel environmental benefits have contributed to the exponential growth of the industry over the last 7 years. In 2005, biodiesel production was approximately 80,000,000 gallons compared to 500,000 gallons in 1999. Production is expected to triple by the end 2007. To maintain the growth of biodiesel at current levels, the industry will have to overcome several challenges. One of these challenges is the availability of quality oil for producing biodiesel. The Department of Energy estimates that approximately 500 million gallons of surplus soybean oil are available for biodiesel production. Current producers will have to install more robust oil conversion processes capable of transforming high and low quality oil into ASTM biodiesel. Another challenge is the handling of glycerine. New glycerine processing alternatives are necessary to enhance the profitability of biodiesel production. During the MSU Biofuels Conference experts will cover aspects of biodiesel production including oil refining technologies, biodiesel quality, glycerine handling, and biodiesel plant design. Additionally, successful biodiesel companies will share experiences in plant construction, operation, troubleshooting, and product distribution. Dr. Gerhard Knothe, co-author of the highly regarded “The Biodiesel Handbook,” will give a presentation on the Past, Present, and Future of Biodiesel.

Representatives of petroleum refineries also will cover the technical and business aspects of producing biofuels (Green Diesel) via catalytic cracking of lipids similar to petroleum refining for producing gasoline and diesel. More robust conversion technologies are necessary to expand the feedstock inventory for producing biofuels and minimize the generation of low value, side products. Mrs. Cindy Tucker, Conocco Phillips’ Director of Business Development and Emerging Technologies, will present a seminar on “The Renewable Fuels of the Future”. Additionally, State of Mississippi Commissioner of Agriculture and Commerce, Dr. Lester Spell, and Congressman Chip Pickering of Mississippi's Third District will describe the state and federal government's strategy on biofuels.

Ethanol is a renewable replacement to gasoline that can be utilized in some of the vehicles being produced today with little to no modifications to the engine.  It is a fermentation byproduct of microorganisms when grown anaerobically on a variety of substrates such as glucose, fructose, sucrose, maltose, maltotriose, etc.  When these sugars are in the form of a monomer or starch, ethanol production is an easy and well-defined process that yields 2 moles of ethanol and 2 moles of carbon dioxide for every mole of sugar.  However starch-based ethanol is limited by the supply of starch which limits ethanol production in the US to ~8 billion gallons of ethanol production per year.  Another source of sugars from which ethanol could be produced is lignocellulose.  The world production of lignocellulose is estimated to contain ~1,233 quadrillion BTUs which is 5 times the total amount consumed (~500 quadrillion BTUs).  Lignocellulose must be pretreated to release the sugars prior to ethanol production by fermentation.  It also could be converted to syngas prior to ethanol production by catalytic processes.  The conference will include presentations on ethanol production by syngas conversion as well as fermentation of sugars from starch and lignocellulose.  Dr. Tim Eggman will give a presentation on the Past, Present, and Future of ethanol.  He is an expert on the production of ethanol and holds several patents on novel ethanol production processes.  He began his career at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, CO where he conducted extensive research on many different ethanol production pathways.  He is the co-founder of ZeaChem, INC a biotech startup company for ethanol production and provides numerous companies with his expertise in bioprocessing.

Bio-oil or pyrolysis oil is a liquid which is formed through the condensation of pyrolysis vapors. Feedstock materials range from coal to wood but our focus will be on the pyrolysis of renewable biomass.  Pyrolysis occurs when the biomass is heated in the absence of oxygen usually to a temperature of less than 500 oC.  The liquid that is produced during condensation has a pungent odor and a relative low pH (<3.0).  The most notable product currently marketed is a food additive called Liquid Smoke™.  Currently few products are produced from bio-oil but it has a relatively high heating value and as been used as a liquid boiler feed. 

Bio-oil is a complex mixture of over 400 chemicals and thus shows great potential as a stock liquid for chemical conversion.  Due to the ease of converting biomass to bio-oil the potential for generating large quantities of bio-oil is high.  While much research is needed to address the current technological shortfalls for bio-oil conversion there is a high potential for this material to serve as a transportation fuel supplement or replacement.  Research in this area is currently being conducted.  Stephen Czernik of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory is considered one of the world leaders on biooil and will be providing the opening presentation on this subject.  

We look forward to seeing you there! Please see above links for the latest agenda, information, and registration materials. Why wait? Register Today! CLICK HERE for Registration Information.