Biomass

Developing Florida’s Biomass Resources

Research Projects:

Algae

Title:Establishment of the Center for Marine Bioenergy Research: Systems Approach to BioEnergy Research

PI: Joel E. Kostka (has left FSU)

Co-PIs:William Cooper, Ivonne Audirac, Amy Chan-Hilton, Ellen Granger

Description: IESES- Systems Approach to Bio-Energy Research (SABER) is particularly focused on coupling algal cultivation to wastewater nutrient remediation. SABER has partnered with the City of Tallahassee’s T. P. Smith Waste Water Treatment Plant in order to study the growth of local fresh water algae in waste water for use as biofuel. The two main objectives of this project are to: 1) perform both laboratory and field experiments to test for species-specific growth potentials, as well as for the effects of different environmental parameters, including light, carbon dioxide, and nutrient availability on microalgal growth rates and lipid production, and 2) determine the extent to which microbes (i.e. bacteria), which are exceptionally abundant in waste water, act as either competitors (for nutrients, carbon) or symbiotically with algae. To do this we are examining the bacterial community present in the waste water and detecting community shifts that occur during algae cultivation. We are also examining the nutrient uptake dynamics between bacteria and algae by monitoring the usage and production of nitrogen, phosphorous, and carbon-containing compounds. Finally, a number of advanced analytical chemistry techniques are being used to characterize wastewater before and after algae cultivation. With a better understanding of the microbial and biogeochemical processes occurring in waste water during algae cultivation, engineering approaches may be proposed in order to further optimize algal growth in waste water.

Budget:$494,135

Universities: FSU

External Collaborators: City of Tallahassee

This project has been completed

November 2011 Annual Report

May 2010 Progress Report

November 2010 Annual Report

May 2011 Progress Report

Title: Constructual Optimization of Solar Photo-Bioreactors for Algae Growth

PI: Juan Ordonez Research Interests and Contact Information

Description: This planning grant has allowed us to enhance our laboratory capabilities and personnel qualifications to support competitive proposals in the area of bio-fuels. By the end of this one-year effort, we have a complete design of a small-scale photo-bioreactor for algae growth and obtained additional funds that will allow us to build a large-scale photo-bioreactor and conduct the necessary research for its optimal design and operation.

Budget: $15,000

Universities: FSU

External Collaborators: Federal University of Parana, Brazil

This project has been completed

November 2011 Annual Report

May 2010 Progress Report

November 2010 Annual Report

May 2011 Progress Report

Title: Optimization of Algae Species for Biofuels Production Using Genetic Alteration

PI: Edward Phlips Research Interests and Contact Information

Description: The central challenges to viable algal biofuel production are the solar energy conversion efficiency for algae growth, sustainable yields of usable products and operational constraints on production systems. While theoretical solar conversion efficiencies for algae and plants are between 5 and 6% of total insolation, most algal systems operate at average annual efficiencies well below this range. Therefore large areas are needed to produce significant amounts of biofuels from algae, and production systems must be able to sustainably produce biomass convertible to biofuels within reasonable logistical and economic constraints. Logistical constraints include minimal use of valuable freshwater and arable land resources. Economic constraints may demand the use of low tech open pond systems, rather than more costly and maintenance intensive closed bioreactor designs. Sustainability of production will depend on the ability to maintain relatively pure mass cultures of algae capable of producing high levels of desirable products (e.g. hydrocarbons or convertible lipids). These considerations point toward the need to focus on the development of systems which use ocean water and algal species adaptable to extreme conditions that minimize competition from “weed” species, such as high salinity, temperature, pH, low nitrogen availability or UV light exposure.

The focus of this study is genetic alteration of selected species of algae to optimize their performance in biomass production systems aimed at biofuels. Two approaches to genetic alteration will be explored, mutagenesis and transformation. The research program began with the use of chemical mutagens to generate altered strains of algae currently available in the culture collection of the PI (E. J. Phlips). Mutated algae are going through a selection process to identify strains with favorable characteristics. The selection criteria include growth rate, tolerance to environmental extremes (e.g. salinity, temperature, pH, UV exposure), and lipid content. The initial target species for mutagenesis research will include: 1) Botyrococcus braunii, a green alga (Chlorophyta) known for its high levels of hydrocarbons, but low growth rates and low adaptability to high salinities and temperatures, 2) Synechococcus sp. a fast growing cyanobacteria high biomass production potential, and adaptability extreme environmental conditions, such as high salinity and temperature.

Budget: $15,000

Universities: UF

External Collaborators: Drs. Mathius Kirst (UF Genetic Institute) and Charles Guy (UF Department of Environmental Horticulture)

November 2011 Annual Report

High Energy Crops

Title: Energy Intensive Crop Development

PIs: Gary Peter Research Interests and Contact Information, Matias Kirst Research Interests and Contact Information, Don Rockwood

Co-PIs: John Erickson, Joao Vendramini, Robert Gilbert

Description: To build a commercially viable, industrial scale system to produce transportation fuels and electricity from biomass requires both efficient conversion technologies and environmentally sustainable, cost effective supplies of biomass.  In the US, Florida ranks first in its annual growth of plant biomass, because of its large cultivable land area and its subtropical climate, even though substantial land areas that can be planted are not currently in agricultural or forest production.  The development of high yielding production systems for dedicated energy crops is considered essential for a sustainable, biomass to energy industry to be established, because the long-term availability of sufficient amounts of reasonably priced biomass is one of the most important factors in the site selection for new biofuel and bioenergy facilities.  Dedicated energy crops are ones that 1) have high yields with minimum energy inputs in terms of agronomic practices, water and nutrient applications, 2) can be harvested, transported and processed efficiently into fuel or power, and 3) can be grown sustainably for generations without adverse environmental affects, or significantly impacting the food supply.  We will evaluate likely energy crop species, Eucalyptus and southern pine to provide important yield and best management practices for growing these species for bioenergy conversion.  We will also provide important chemical composition information that will impact the conversion efficiency of this biomass to ethanol, and identify and characterize important genes that regulate wood chemical composition.

Budget: $240,000

Universities: University of Florida

External Collaborators: Speedling, Inc.; Nutri-Turf, Inc.

November 2011 Annual Report

May 2010 Progress Report

November 2010 Annual Report

May 2011 Progress Report

Title: Water-Use Efficiency and Feedstock Composition of Candidate Bioenergy Grasses in Florida

PI: Lynn Sollenberger Research Interests and Contact Information

Description: Florida ranks first in the USA in annual growth of plant biomass because of a large cultivatable land area, high rainfall, and long growing seasons. The development of high yielding production systems for energy crops that can be grown in Florida is considered essential for establishment of a sustainable biomass to energy industry. This is the case because long-term availability of sufficient amounts of reasonably priced biomass will be an important determinant of if and wherenew biofuel and bioenergy facilities will be built. Because of its size and large number of climatic zones, there will be large regional differences in what energy crops can be used at various locations in Florida and how they will perform. In this project, we propose to conduct applied research at locations throughout Florida with sweet sorghum, sugarcane, energycane, giant reed, miscanthus, and elephantgrass to provide important agronomic practice, yield, water use, and chemical composition information for Florida growers, bioenergy producers, and policy makers. This information will support decision making regarding which crops are adapted to specific environments, which are best suited to particular management practices (e.g., irrigation or none), and which have the desired chemical composition for the intended bioenergy use.

Budget: $191,981

Universities: UF

External Collaborators: NA

November 2011 Annual Report

May 2010 Progress Report

November 2010 Annual Report

May 2011 Progress Report

Biochemical Conversion

Title:Thermophilic Biocatalysts for the Conversion of Cellulosic Substrates to Fuels and Chemicals

PI: K.T. Shanmugam Research Interests and Contact Information

Description: The primary objective of this study is to engineer a thermophilic bacterium Bacillus coagulans that grows optimally at 50-55°C and pH 5.0, the optimum conditions for the activity of commercial fungal cellulases, for cost-effective depolymerization of cellulose to glucose for simultaneous fermentation to ethanol or other commodity chemicals as the sole fermentation product.

Budget: $192,000

Universities: UF

This project has been completed

November 2011 Annual Report

May 2010 Progress Report

November 2010 Annual Report

May 2011 Progress Report

Title:Engineering Biocatalysts for Hemicelluloses Hydrolysis and Fermentation

PI:James F. Preston Research Interests and Contact Information

Description: Our goal is to develop biocatalysts for the cost-effective production of fuel alcohols and chemical feedstocks from underutilized sources of renewable biomass and evolving energy crops. To reach this goal protocols for efficient saccharification of hemicellulose fractions from these resources will be developed.

Budget: $192,000

Universities: UF

External Collaborators: Collaborations are in various units within the University of Florida:L.O. Ingram and K.T. Shanmugam, Microbiology and Cell Science; F. Altpeter, Agronomy; G. Peter, Forest Resources and Conservation

November 2011 Annual Report

May 2010 Progress Report

November 2010 Annual Report

May 2011 Progress Report

Title:Development of Biofuel Production Processes from Synthetic and Biomass Wastes

PI: Pratap Pullammanappallil Research Interests and Contact Information

Description:With the ever-increasing price of petroleum and its finite supply, it is of high priority todevelop domestic sources of transportation fuel, as well as other chemicals. Ethanol is an attractive alternate fuel that is being produced from corn starch.  It is necessary to target other feedstocks for biofuel production and develop  processes that have a minimal environmental impact. There is considerable ongoing research on developing processes and catalysts for conversion of biomass to biofuels like ethanol (called cellulosic ethanol process).  But this project addresses other feedstocks with the following objectives: 1) development of biocatalysts for the conversion of waste biodegradable poly lactic acid based plastics to ethanol and 2) development of processes that processes for the production of additional fuels like biogas, bio-oil and biochar from the waste and byproducts of a cellulosic ethanol plant for the clean up and reuse of these waste streams

 

Budget: $192,000

Universities: UF

November 2011 Annual Report

May 2010 Progress Report

November 2010 Annual Report

May 2011 Progress Report

Bio gasification

Title: Combined Cooling, Heat, Power, and Biofuel from Biomass and Solid Waste

PI: Bill Lear Research Interests and Contact Information

Co-PI:  Jacob Chung

Description: The goal of this project is to provide the underlying research and demonstration of a novel technology which would enable the economic utilization of dispersed biomass and solid waste resources to produce electric power, cooling, heat, and transportation fuels. This integrated gasification and power generation system combines University of Florida advances in high-temperature gasification, hydrogen generation and separation, and advanced gas turbine systems. Their integration is expected to result in significant improvements in the cost, emissions, feedstock flexibility, and water requirements, all in a relatively compact, modular plant system. This in turn will enable much greater utilization of renewable energy supplies, helping the development of a sustainable energy supply infrastructure.

 
Budget:
$576,000

Universities: UF

External Collaborators: Siemens Power Generation, Florida Turbine Technologies, Energy Concepts Co., Nu-Power Technologies LLC, PlanetGreenSolutions Inc., LPP Combustion, LLC.

November 2011 Annual Report

May 2010 Progress Report

November 2010 Annual Report

May 2011 Progress Report

Thermo-Chemical Conversion

Title:Production of Liquid Fuels Biomass via Thermo-Chemical Conversion Processes

PI: Babu Joseph Research Interests and Contact Information

Co-PIs: Yogi Goswami, Venkat Bhethanabotla, John Wolan, Vinay Gupta

Description: The objective of this project is to develop technology for the economical thermo-chemical conversion of lingocellulosic biomass (non-food grade biomass such as agricultural waste, bagasse from sugar mills, citrus peels, switch grass, municipal green waste, etc.) to clean burning liquid fuels. Five of the major advantages of this process over a biochemical route to production of ethanol are: (i) it does not utilize food-grade feed stocks and therefore complements and does not compete with the agricultural food production in the state, (ii) the fuel produced is similar to those derived from petroleum unlike ethanol derived fuels which have at least a 25% lower energy content, (iii) the conversion is accomplished in using fast chemical reactions unlike the slow biological reactions for fermenting alcohol, (iv) the process does not require large amounts of water and associated energy costs of separating the water from the fuel as in bioethanol processes, (v) it can utilize a wide variety of biomass sources unlike the biochemical route which cannot work with high lignin containing biomass.

Budget: $554,447

Universities: USF

External Collaborators: Prado & Associates, Inc.

November 2011 Annual Report

May 2010 Progress Report

November 2010 Annual Report

May 2011 Progress Report

Title:Feasibility, Sustainability and Economic Analysis of Solar Assisted Biomass Conversion

PI: Babu Joseph Research Interests and Contact Information

Co-PIs: Q. Zhang

Description: The main deterrent for commercialization of biomass conversion processes is the cost of conversion; particularly the need to sacrifice as much as 30% of the energy content in the biomass for the thermo chemical conversion step. We want to research and develop the concept to use solar thermal energy from concentrating units to provide energy for the biomass gasification step. We also propose to evaluate the sustainability of such a process.

Budget:$45,238

Universities: USF

 

November 2011 Annual Report

Title: Integrated Florida Bio-Energy Industry

PI: A. T-Raissi Research Interests and Contact Information

Co-PIs: N. Muradov, D. Block

Description:The aim of this project is to produce liquid hydrocarbon fuels derived from Florida grown biomass utilizing a two-step process. In the first step, pre-treated biomass is gasified with oxygen (instead of air) to a synthetic gas (syngas) comprised of mostly hydrogen, carbon monoxide and a carbon rich residue (char). Furthermore, in the first step, a solar (PV) powered water electrolysis system is used to provide oxygen for the biomass gasifier and hydrogen needed to elevate H2 concentration in the syngas. Use of oxygen for gasification of biomass significantly improves the overall energy conversion efficiency of the process eliminating the need for an air separation unit. In the second step of the process, hydrogen enriched synthetic gas from step 1 is feed into a Fischer Tropsch (FT) synthesis unit to generate a liquid hydrocarbon fuel, e.g., diesel. The process is applicable to any lingocellulosic material such as crop residues, grasses, yard clippings, landfill gas, municipal solid waste (MSW), etc.  FSEC has developed a robust FT synthesis catalyst capable of converting syngas to liquid hydrocarbon fuels. The technology also provides a means for not only converting biomass feedstocks to valuable liquid hydrocarbon fuels but also sequester carbon in the form of a high-value soil enhancing bio-char (terra preta).

Budget: $386,409

Universities: UCF/FSEC

November 2011 Annual Report

May 2010 Progress Report

November 2010 Annual Report

May 2011 Progress Report

Title:Biofuels Through Thermochemical Processes: Approach to Produce Bio-jet Fuel

PI: Anjaneyulu Krothapalli Research Interests and Contact Information

Description: To develop technologies to produce biojet and biodiesel fuels from sustainable sources such as bio-oils and hydrogen produced from biomass generated synthetic gas.  Novel processing concepts, reactor design and catalyst systems are employed in this integrated approach to convert any cellulosic biomass and any nonedible bio-oils into bio-jet fuel (Figure 1).  Feedstock flexibility offers significant cost and logistic advantages to this approach.  Unlike other processes which use only the oil derived from a plant, the entire plant can be used as feedstock source and the proposed approach can also convert the more challenging lignocellulosic component.

Budget: $229,572

Universities: FSU

November 2011 Annual Report

May 2010 Progress Report

November 2010 Annual Report

May 2011 Progress Report