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Breakthrough promises major advance in biofuel production

University of Maryland research that started with bacteria from the Chesapeake Bay has led to a process that may be able to convert large volumes of all kinds of plant products, from leftover brewer’s mash to paper trash, into ethanol and other biofuel alternatives to gasoline.
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The Zymetis process can make ethanol and other biofuels from many different types of plants and plant waste called cellulosic sources. Cellulosic biofuels can be made from non- grain plant sources such as waste paper, brewing byproducts, leftover agriculture products, including straw, corncobs and husks, and energy crops such as switchgrass.

When fully operational, the Zymetis process could potentially lead to the production of 75 billion gallons a year of carbon-neutral ethanol.

The secret to the Zymetis process is a Chesapeake Bay marsh grass bacterium, S. degradans. Hutcheson found that the bacterium has an enzyme that could quickly break down plant materials into sugar, which can then be converted to biofuel.

The Zymetis researchers were unable to isolate the Bay bacterium again in nature, but they discovered how to produce the enzyme in their own laboratories. The result was Ethazyme, which degrades the tough cell walls of cellulosic materials and breaks down the entire plant material into bio-fuel ready sugars in one step, at a significantly lower cost and with fewer caustic chemicals than current methods.
 

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Very encouraging.

75 Billion gallons should make some difference, shouldn't it?

This could de-centralize the whole energy picture. Production facilities all over the nation dedicated to producing fuel from locally collected sources FOR the local population. (Talk about spreading the wealth.)
 

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Hopefully they will be able to scale it up to an industrial scale.

The Zymetis process can make ethanol and other biofuels from many different types of plants and plant waste called cellulosic sources. Cellulosic biofuels can be made from non- grain plant sources such as waste paper, brewing byproducts, leftover agriculture products, including straw, corncobs and husks, and energy crops such as switchgrass.
Wonder if it will work with coal or crude.
 

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Without needing to use a manufacturing process to convert the cellulose to sugar will reduce the carbon footprint of ethanol production some folks have complained about. This is all good. And 75B gallons a year is 75B gallons the US won't have to import from the Middle East.
 

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How is this process different that Coskata's if at all?
Different species of bacterium.

Without needing to use a manufacturing process to convert the cellulose to sugar will reduce the carbon footprint of ethanol production some folks have complained about. This is all good. And 75B gallons a year is 75B gallons the US won't have to import from the Middle East.
75 billion gallons of ethanol would replace far more than the oil we import from the Middle East.
 

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What is their cost/gallon (including subsidies). Additionally, how are they planning on obtaining enough material, in a cost-effective and energy-positive manner to be able to reach their projected cost/gallon?

I'm encouraged to read, that the bacteria can digest various materials, but they need some type of plan in place for reliably collecting the materials. They need a plan that won't spend large amounts of money on transportation costs. If it takes 20 miles to transport the material from Point A to Point B, it's going to turn into a cost ineffective and energy-negative process.
 

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What is their cost/gallon (including subsidies). Additionally, how are they planning on obtaining enough material, in a cost-effective and energy-positive manner to be able to reach their projected cost/gallon?

I'm encouraged to read, that the bacteria can digest various materials, but they need some type of plan in place for reliably collecting the materials. They need a plan that won't spend large amounts of money on transportation costs. If it takes 20 miles to transport the material from Point A to Point B, it's going to turn into a cost ineffective and energy-negative process.
If I had to guess, you could set up production facilities next to the local landfills to intercept the acceptable base materials. This would limit the amount of fuel needed to transport the raw materials.
 

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Without needing to use a manufacturing process to convert the cellulose to sugar will reduce the carbon footprint of ethanol production some folks have complained about. This is all good. And 75B gallons a year is 75B gallons the US won't have to import from the Middle East.
75B is roughly half the demand for gasoline in the U.S. If theories uphold, this could make a significant amount of countries energy-independent. It could eventually turn Dubai into a virtual ghost town.
 

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The next 5 years is going to be exciting. Self-reliance is not a dream and won't requirer huge changes to how we do business.

Question for ya Ron: Aren't plastics oil based what are there makeup of the imports?
 

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remember that 1 gallon of ethanol isn't 1 gallon of gas equivalent, it's more like .75 gallon equivalent. And the major problem with ethanol, more so than using food for fuel etc, is the amount of water it uses. They are reporting that the amount of water required is being reduced, i hope they can find a way to use roughly filtered waste water to make ethanol instead of potable water, because drinking water is becoming increasingly scarce in this country.
 

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Excuse me if I don't get excited just yet. As much as I'd love some "miracle" break through and allow V8 vehicles to not go the way of the dinosaur, there always are costs and drawbacks that more than offset the positives. I'm hopeful I may be wrong in the near future, but the Engineer in me doesn't see any form of ethanol being more than a so-so band aid at best.
 

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remember that 1 gallon of ethanol isn't 1 gallon of gas equivalent, it's more like .75 gallon equivalent. And the major problem with ethanol, more so than using food for fuel etc, is the amount of water it uses. They are reporting that the amount of water required is being reduced, i hope they can find a way to use roughly filtered waste water to make ethanol instead of potable water, because drinking water is becoming increasingly scarce in this country.
I believe the Coskata process recycles much of the water used during processing. Ethanol refining is definitely an evolving science. But the relatively wasteful traditional corn-ethanol process looks like it's on its way out, thank goodness. No offense to you good ol' boys in Indiana and Iowa. :)
 

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I believe the Coskata process recycles much of the water used during processing. Ethanol refining is definitely an evolving science. But the relatively wasteful traditional corn-ethanol process looks like it's on its way out, thank goodness. No offense to you good ol' boys in Indiana and Iowa. :)

The Coskata process has reduced water usage from 4-5 gallons of water per gallon of ethanol produced to 1 gallon of water per gallon of ethanol produced.
 
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