Hemp for Fuel
Hemp for Fuel
Pub date: 3/19/2009
Biodegradable composites may obsolete wood and plastic
March 19, 2009
Stanford University researchers have developed a synthetic wood substitute that may one day save trees, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and shrink landfills.
The faux lumber is made from a new biodegradable plastic that could be used in a variety of building materials and perhaps replace the petrochemical plastics now used in billions of disposable water bottles.
“This is a great opportunity to make products that serve a societal need and respect and protect the natural environment,” said lead researcher Sarah Billington, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering.
In 2004, Billington and her colleagues received a two-year Environmental Venture Projects (EVP) grant from Stanford’s Woods Institute for the Environment to develop artificial wood that is both durable and recyclable. The research team focused on a new class of construction material called biodegradable composites, or “biocomposites”-glue-like resins reinforced with natural fibers that are made from plants and recyclable polymers.
Billington’s group began by testing a number of promising materials. The best turned out to be natural hemp fibers fused with a biodegradable plastic resin called polyhydroxy-butyrate (PHB). “It’s quite attractive looking and very strong,” said EVP collaborator Craig Criddle, a professor of civil and environmental engineering. “You can mold it, nail it, hammer it, drill it, a lot like wood. But bioplastic PHB can be produced faster than wood, and hemp can be grown faster than trees.”
The hemp-PHB biocomposites are stable enough to use in furniture, floors and a variety of other building materials, he added. To degrade, it must be kept away from air-e.g., buried in a landfill-because its decomposition depends on microorganisms that live in anaerobic environments.
“The ideal is to have nice, stable material when it’s being used,” Criddle explained. “But when it’s out of use, it goes to a landfill, degrades quickly, and is reprocessed into new material that stays in a nice, stable form.”
Unlike wood scraps that can sit in landfills for months or years, hemp-PHB biocomposites decompose a few weeks after burial. As they degrade, they release methane gas that can be captured and burned for energy recovery or re-used to make more biocomposites.
“It dawned on us that there are microbes that can make PHB from methane,” Criddle said. “So now we’re combining two natural processes: We’re using microbes that break down PHB plastics and release methane gas, and different organisms that consume methane and produce PHB as a byproduct.”
It’s the ultimate in recycling, he said: “In our lab, we create conditions where only those organisms that accumulate the most plastic can reproduce. We call the process ‘survival of the fattest,’ and we have a patent application for it.”
Capturing methane has the added benefit of combating climate change, Criddle said, noting that methane gas from landfills and other sources is a powerful global warming agent, 22 times more potent than carbon dioxide gas.
One reason that biodegradable plastics aren’t widely used is cost. “We’re competing with polypropylene and polyethylene, two really cheap petrochemical products,” Criddle said. “Most bioplastics are made using sugar from corn and other relatively expensive materials. But our process uses methane in the biogas from landfills and wastewater treatment plants, which is essentially free.”
The potential of producing low-cost, recyclable biocomposites has caught the attention of the private sector. In the next few months, the researchers expect to form a new startup company with venture capital funding.
Interest in the hemp-PHB biocomposites has moved beyond artificial wood products. In 2008, the research team was awarded a three-year, $1.5 million grant from the California Environmental Protection Agency to develop biodegradable plastics to replace the petrochemical plastics that are used to make disposable water and soda bottles. According to Cal/EPA, plastic bottles accumulate in landfills, the open ocean and coastal areas, causing major problems for birds, mammals and other marine life. “The goal of the state is to protect the environment and promote the development of a new industry that can produce low-cost bioplastics,” Criddle said. “We have quite a team of students working on it. We’re also collaborating with Curtis Frank, a professor of chemical engineering and a polymer plastics expert.”
In 2008, Billington and Frank were awarded a grant from Stanford’s Precourt Energy Efficiency Center to develop biodegradable foam for structural insulated panels. They also received new funding from the Woods Institute to explore the feasibility of using Criddle’s polymers to manufacture “green glues” that make air quality in buildings less toxic. Lynn Hildemann, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering, is collaborating on that project.
“We started with biocomposites, and now we’re doing bioplastics and thinking about things that affect global warming,” Criddle said.
“It’s really exciting to watch how the research has branched out into so many areas, from biocomposites to new bioplastics, green glues and foam,” Billington added. “The opportunity to collaborate with people of different expertise has been wonderful and very invigorating.”
SOURCE: Stanford University
Advantage Business Media
Rockaway, NJ, 07866
[Submitted by Whitefeather]
By Jeremy Briggs – Radio Free Exile Blog
Biodiesel fuel from Hemp Seed Oil
Hemp seed oil can be used as is in bio-diesel engines. Methyl esters, or bio-diesel, can be made from any oil or fat including hemp seed oil. The reaction requires the oil, an alcohol (usually methanol), and a catalyst, which produces bio-diesel and small amount of glycerol or glycerin. When co-fired with 15% methanol, bio-diesel fuel produces energy less than 1/3 as pollution as petroleum diesel.
Energy and Fuel from Hemp Stalks through Pyrolysis
Pyrolysis is the technique of applying high heat to biomass, or organic plants and tree matter, with little or no air. Reduced emissions from coal-fired power plants and automobiles can be accomplished by converting biomass to fuel utilizing pyrolysis technology. The process can produce, from lingo-cellulosic material (like the stalks of hemp), charcoal, gasoline, ethanol, non-condensable gasses, acetic acid, acetone, methane, and methanol. Process adjustments can be done to favor charcoal, pyrolytic oil, gas, or methanol, with 95.5% fuel-to-feed ratios. Around 68% of the energy of the raw biomass will be contained in the charcoal and fuel oils — renewable energy generated here at home, instead of overpaying for foreign petroleum.
Pyrolysis facilities can run 3 shifts a day, and since pyrolysis facilities need to be within 50 miles of the energy crop to be cost effective, many new local and rural jobs will be created, not to mention the employment opportunities in trucking and transportation.
Hemp vs. Fossil Fuels
Pyrolysis facilities can use the same technology used now to process fossil fuel oil and coal. Petroleum coal and oil conversion is more efficient in terms of fuel-to-feed ratio, but there are many advantages to conversion by pyrolysis.
1) Biomass has a heating value of 5000-8000 BTU/lb, with virtually no ash or sulfur emissions.
2) Ethanol, methanol, methane gas, and gasoline can be derived from biomass at a fraction of the cost of the current cost of oil, coal, or nuclear energy, especially when environmental costs are factored in. Each acre of hemp could yield about 1000 gallons of methanol.
3) When an energy crop is growing, it takes carbon dioxide (CO2) from the air, and releases an equal amount when it is burned, creating a balanced system, unlike petroleum fuels, which only release CO2. When an energy crop like hemp is grown on a massive scale, it will initially lower the CO2 in the air, and then stabilize it at a level lower than before the planting of the energy crop.
4) Use of biomass would end acid rain, end sulfer-based smog, and reverse the greenhouse effect.
Unlike petroleum reserves, America has enough coal to last 100-300 years, but burning it for electricity puts sulfur (toxic to every membrane in which it comes in contact, especially the simplest life forms – into the air, which leads to acid rain, which lills 50,000 Americans, and 5,000 – 10,000 Canadians, annually, and destroys the forests, river, and animals.
Charcoal can be created from biomass through pyrolysis (charcoaling), which has nearly the same heating value in BTU as coal, virtually without sulfur. Biomass can also be co-fired with coal to reduce emissions.
Ethanol and Methanol
Ethanol is a water-free, high-octane alcohol which can be used as fuel to drive cars. Under current conditions, use of ethanol-blended fuels such as E85 (85% ethanol and 15% gasoline) can reduce net emissions of greenhouse gases by as much as 37.1%. Ethanol-powered vehicles do suffer in performance (barely), but ethanol is effective as a fuel additive because it helps engines burn cleaner.
Once pyrolysis facilities are up and running, converting biomass into charcoal for electrical power plants, it will be more feasible to build the complex gasifying systems to produce ethanol and/or methanol from the cubed biomass, or to make high-octane lead-free gasoline from the methanol using a catalytic process developed by Georgia Tech University in conjunction with Mobil Oil Corporation.
Ethanol is currently being used as a fuel additive, replacing toxic methyl tertiary ether (MTBE). Ethanol producers are currently providing only 1% of America’s liquid fuel. Soon though, as new development processes are researched, and with the use of hemp, the plant worlds number one producer of biomass, the cost of this alternative fuel will give petroleum vigorous competition.
Hydrolysis: A process whereby cellulose is converted to fermentable glucose, which holds the greatest promise for production and feedstock, because it could produce 100 gallons/ton. Tim Castleman and the Fuel and Fiber Company are researching this technology. Their method extracts the high-value bast fiber as first step. Then the remaining core material (mostly hurd) is converted to alcohol (methanol, ethanol), and then to glucose. Hydrolysis could produce 300,000 to 600,000 tons of biomass per year per facility, if each facility could process input from 60,000 to 170,000 acres.
Gasification: A form of pyrolysis which converts biomass into synthetic gas, such as ethanol, and low grade fuel oil with an energy content of about 40% that of petroleum diesel. This process is good for community power-corporation and people seeking self-sufficient energy needs. A small modular bio-powered system is in place in the village of Alaminos in the Philippines, using gasification techniques for energy.
Anaerobic Digestion: A process of capturing methane from green waste material (biomass). This process is toxic, but well suited for distributed power generation when co-located with electrical generation equipment.
Boiler: Biomass can also be burned in a boiler, but this energy has a value of $30-50 ton, which makes it impractical due to the higher value of hemp fiber, unless used on a local small scale, and in remote rural applications.
Hemp Produces the Most Biomass of Any Plant on Earth.
Hemp is at least four times richer in biomass/cellulose potential than its nearest rivals: cornstalks, sugarcane, kenaf, trees, etc.
Hemp produces the most biomass of any crop, which is why it is the natural choice for an energy crop. Hemp converts the sun’s energy into cellulose faster than any other plant, through photosynthesis. Hemp can produce 10 tons of biomass per acre every four months. Enough energy could be produced on 6% of the land in the U.S. to provide enough energy for our entire country (cars, heat homes, electricity, industry) — and we use 25% of the world’s energy.
To put which in perspective, right now we pay farmers not to grow on 6% (around 90 million acres) of the farming land, while another 500 million acres of marginal farmland lies fallow. This land could be used to grow hemp as an energy crop.
The most important aspect of industrial hemp farming, the most compelling thing hemp offers us, is fuel. Right now we are depleting our reserves of petroleum and buying it up from our Arab enemies. It would be nice if we could have a fuel source which was reusable and which we could grow right here, making us completely energy independent.
Petroleum fuel increases carbon monoxide in the atmosphere and contributes heavily to global warming and the greenhouse effect, which, the EPA has warned, will lead to global catastrophe in the next 50 years if these trends continue. Do you want to find out if they are right, or do you want to grow the most cost effective and environmentally safe fuel source on the planet?
Using hemp as an energy and rotation crop would be a great step in the right direction.
Hemp Seed Oil
Hemp seed oil has historically been used as lamp oil. It is said to shine the brightest of all lamp oils. Hemp seed oil lit the lamps of Abraham Lincoln, Abraham the prophet, and was used in the legendary lamps of Aladdin.
Anything which can be made from fossil fuels can be made from an organic substance like hemp. Toxic petrochemicals can be replaced with hemp oil.
Hemp oil can be made into anything with an oil base, including paint, varnish, detergent, solvent, and lubricating oil. The advantage of these product is that they are earth friendly and biodegradable, and do not destroy ecosystems around them like petrochemicals do.
Until the 1930s most paint and varnishes were made with non-toxic hemp oil. Hemp paint provides superior coating because hemp oil soaks into and preserves wood, due to its high resistance to water.
Hemp oil is a good base for non-toxic printing inks. Soy is currently made into inks, but soy ink requires more processing and takes longer to dry than hemp oil based inks.
Original Article on Radio Free Exile
[Submitted by dlenef]
In a white cloud of pollen, 43 acres of hemp was harvested from Hartacre Farms last Tuesday. Herb Hart grew the crop in partnership with Performance Plants Inc. of Kingston, as part of a biofuels project for Lafarge Bath Cement plant, which is working on methods of reducing their reliance on fossil fuels.
According to Kevin Gellatly, director of biofuels business development and media relations for Performance Plants, this particular test plot faced some challenges.
“There were some tough conditions on the lower ground, it got rained out.” There were delays in planting, and then rain and more rain which soaked out some of the seeds.
Gellatly said they were hoping for four to five tonnes per acre, but final yield won’t be determined for a while.
Because it’s a test plot, the seed was provided to Hart, but he said the input costs for the entire season were much lower compared to corn, but similar to other crops. Based on soil tests at the beginning of the season, he added 100 pounds of potash, 25 pounds of 11-52-0 and 20 gallons of UAN. The test plot Hart used is a randomly-tiled field and he said “you can see the patterns of the tiles in the height of the plants.”
“I added no chemicals after planting and that’s one of the biggest savings right there,” he added.
One other positive impact of hemp is that it breaks the disease cycle of other crops, as it is added into a crop rotation, according to Gellatly.
Industrial hemp has been used for centuries for fine fibres, sail cloth, and rope. Some of the hemp Hart was harvesting was up to eight feet tall. Because of the length and strength of the fibres harvesting hemp is a special challenge, and Larry Palmateer of Tweed was brought in by Hart.
This hemp is destined for a furnace, so the strands were not preserved. Instead a special double ‘conditioning’ system on a disc-bine, notches the stalks at one inch intervals to aid in the drying.
“It’s the best machine we’ve found for hay and it helps condition it,” said Palmateer.
The mower is specialized to hemp because a normal mower would get gummed up by the long tough fibres. This is another of the cost factors that Palmateer, growers, and end users have to deal with. The same equipment used for corn and other grains can’t be used with the hemp.
In all, 20 hemp fields are being tested as well as a sterile corn variety. After its baled into square bales, it will be ground up to be fired at the same time as coal in the kiln furnace at Lafarge. There is a special grinder/chopper being installed on site at the plant.
According to Gellatly, there will be a test burn at Lafarge in October with all kinds of things being measured in the emissions, in the temperature of the burn, even the quality of the cement product using the alternative fuel source.
“Just making sure it’s a viable alternative to coal.”
Gellatly says all indications are that using biofuels will improve air quality.
“There’ll be no negatives, it will be very seamless,” he said.
To improve the hemp variety, which is called Anka, PPI uses an accelerated breeding program.
“We’re looking for any ways we can to increase the tonnes per acre,” said Gellatly.
“If you can increase the tonnage that’s going to decrease the price for Lafarge and still provide the farmers a good return.”
As well as all the tests at Lafarge, PPI will be conducting a three-year, detailed assessment of the impact of hemp cultivation on soil quality – a seed-to-flame life cycle assessment.
While Ontario is experiencing a wet summer, hemp crops grown in Western Canada will be good candidates for drought tolerance testing.
“When you’re trying to produce biomass, you just want it to keep growing and growing,” Gellatly said, noting that if suddenly Lafarge decides hemp is the way to go, tens of thousands of acres will be needed to supply the demand.
Gellatly said, “there is lot of pressure to reduce carbon emissions so they’re experimenting with replacing a percentage of coal with biomass.”
PPI is trying to improve the genetics of the hemp with increased yield, increased stress tolerance, and decreased cost per tonne.
“The whole objective for the biomass industry is to get to the price of coal,” he said. Currently biomass is about the double the price. It also has other challenges such as storage. Coal can be heaped, can get wet, and can be stored in varied conditions. The hemp is sensitive to light and moisture.
[Submitted by infinitypoint]