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Teru Talk Newsletter

Volume VI, Issue 8, February 22, 2016
Teru Talk by Michael Theroux (pronounced "TerĂº")  

Teru's Trash Talk

For those under 30, the term 'refinery' just brings to mind smoking stacks and the reek of sour petroleum. For prior generations however, having local refineries also meant solid industrial jobs.

The younger generation has thankfully not been so steeped in oily fumes and NOx smog, so the concept of sprawling refineries is a bit vague. There is now the need to translate the Older Refinery Knowledge into a new context and new jobs. The current term 'bio-refinery' has become part of the lexicon, but the reality has not yet been fully integrated into Society's fabric.

The imperatives of the Industrial Revolution 'refined' our capacity to convert petroleum into the myriad things that an expanding Society demanded. Now, many look to the conversion of various forms of Biomass to somehow displace Petroleum as the feedstock of progress. But this overlooks the problem of the mountains of Waste we generate, only part of which is 'biomass'. Fortunately, we are finding that our Refinery knowledge base and the technologies work just as handily for all the diverse stuff in Waste as for fossil or fresh biomass. The requisite tools remain the same whether we are taking apart fossilized plant sourced oily goo pumped from deep in the earth, refining newly made oily goo made from fresher biomass, or disassembling plastics and polymers for their constituents. Complex molecular mixtures of carbon and hydrogen require the same basic tools and know-how for deconstruction and remanufacturing whether we're calling the input / output 'hydro-carbons' or 'carbo-hydrates'.

So let's dispense with the 'my Bio-Refinery is better than your Petro-Refinery' name-calling, and concentrate on the job at hand. All of our wastes are costly liabilities we can turn into valuable assets. We have been avidly using new things and disdainfully tossing old things for so long, it is easy to forget that what we are actually doing is managing, or mis -managing, resources.

A Refinery is just an industrial complex that takes apart low-value feedstock and turns it into higher value heat, power, and foundation chemicals. There are synergies gained when we integrate processes. Collection and aggregation, piping and conveyance, control rooms, and product distribution routing are just as necessary for an agricultural waste conversion plant as when commissioning a natural gas to urea facility.

An 'input-process-output' model describes the flow of feedstock into a refinery, the steps needed to convert whatever those inputs might be in that location, and the management of the products for distribution. The model works regardless of the diversity of the feedstock, the intricate network of integrated processing elements, or the wealth of products generated. A Refinery needs to be redefined as any industrial complex where liability-input can be cleanly converted to asset-product: to close the gap in the circular economy, we need to Refine our global Waste.

Hey Rube!

It is easy to get lost in the weeds, focusing on the minutia of the input-process-output model examples and lose the broader resource recovery picture. There is Business in each step, and refining is best seen as an integration of expert steps. It is just as important to turn wood-sourced sugar into levulinic acid as it is to use microwave-driven pyrolysis and distillation for separating plastics into useful parts. Waste conversion today requires a close examination of these intricacies, yet we also must remember to step back and recognize these tools as the needed elements of tomorrow's highly integrated Waste Refinery.

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This Week's Extra Reading

Fungi from Farm Animal Manure Successfully Converts Biomass to Sugars

Researchers have found that anaerobic gut fungi from goats, horses, and sheep perform as well as the best fungi engineered by industry in their ability to convert plant material into sugars that are easily transformed into fuel and other products. 02/19/2016

This Week's Top Story

Flint Hills Resources Licenses Edeniq’s Pathway Technology

California company Edeniq, Inc has announced that it has signed an agreement with Kansas based Flint Hills Resources to license Edeniq’s Pathway Technology for all of its ethanol plants. 02/15/2016

The Week's News

CEC Schedules Empower California (AB865) Workshops and Meetings

The California Energy Commission (CEC) has scheduled a general informational meeting and  three workshops on February 26, 2016, to begin implementation of Assembly Bill (AB) 865. 02/19/2016

GFBiochemicals Enters US Market for Levulinic Acid by Acquiring Segetis

Italy based GFBiochemicals has acquired the assets and intellectual property of Minnesota company Segetis, the main levulinic acid derivatives producer in the US market. 02/19/2016

VTT Separates Proteins from Agro-Waste, Especially Brewers Spent Grain

According to research by VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, extraction with deep eutectic solvents (DESs) offer an efficient, sustainable, and easy method for dissolving proteins from agro-biomass by-products. 02/18/2016

All MillerCoors Major Breweries Reach Landfill-Free Milestone

MillerCoors has announced that all of its major breweries are now landfill-free, with the Fort Worth Brewery as the latest site to reach this impressive milestone. 02/18/2016

Bioethanol Made from Ag Waste Used For First Time In Cleaning Agents

Switzerland based Clariant in cooperation with German company Werner & Mertz has launched a project which expands the possible applications of bioethanol made from agricultural residues such as straw to detergents, cleansers, and cleaning agents. 02/18/2016

Eco-Cycle Releases Report - Community Zero Waste Roadmap

The Colorado-based non-profit Eco-Cycle Solutions has released a no-charge report, Community Zero Waste Roadmap. 02/17/2016

Comet Biorefining to Build Biomass-to-Sugar Plant in Ontario, Canada

Canadian company Comet Biorefining, Inc has announced that its commercial-scale biomass-derived sugar facility in the TransAlta Energy Park in Sarnia, Ontario will come online in 2018 producing dextrose sugar from locally-sourced corn stover and wheat straw.  02/17/2016  

Versalis and Genomatica Produce Bio-Rubber with Bio-Butadiene

Italy based Versalis (Eni) and California company Genomatica have announced that they have successfully advanced to pilot-scale production of bio-butadiene (bio-BDE) from fully renewable feedstock. 02/16/2016

US DOE Requests Information on Biofuels / Bioproducts Process Facilities

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is seeking input from industry, academia, national laboratories, and other biofuels and bioproducts stakeholders to identify existing pilot- or process development-scale facilities with the capability to perform process verifications for biomass conversion pathways to biofuels, bioproducts, or intermediates. 02/15/2016

The Week's Action Items

Due 04/07/2016: Proposals for Critical Raw Material Closed Loop Recovery

The European Critical Raw Materials Closed Loop Recovery project intends to invest in trials to demonstrate innovative new methods for the collection and reprocessing of waste electronic and electrical equipment (WEEE) leading to increased recovery of target critical raw materials. 02/17/2016    

Due 05/10/2016: Abstracts for 2016 GSTC Conference Presentations

The Gasification and Syngas Technologies Council (GSTC) is issuing a call for presentations for the 2016 Gasification and Syngas Technologies Conference (October 16-19, 2016 in Vancouver, Canada). 02/16/2016


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Recommended Reading:

 CHAGALL: The Recycling Dragon
CHAGALL: The Recycling Dragon
by Marty Strauss

Out of the Wasteland: Stories from the Environmental Frontier by Paul Relis  
Out of the Wasteland: Stories from the Environmental Frontier by Paul Relis


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Teru Talk is an online publication of JDMT, Inc with the goal of opening the dialogue and providing current news and commentary on issues and successes associated with waste conversion to renewable energy, biofuels and other bio-based products for resource recovery.

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