Bringing Alternative Fuel Technology into Large Scale Production – Triple Pundit to Attend First-Ever Biofuel Summit

Beyond the challenges of researching viable alternative second generation biofuels is that of bringing those technologies from the test tube to full-scale commercial production. Determining best practices and reducing risks are essential elements for bringing biofuel technology into mainstream use and meeting the increasing demand for energy.

In their just-released World Energy Outlook report, the International Energy Agency predicts a worldwide shortage of more than 28 million barrels of oil a day by 2030, making crystal clear (if it wasn’t already) the importance of alternative and sustainable sources of fuel to fill the gap.

This is the focus of a first-of-its-kind BioEnergy Summit this coming Thursday, December 11th in Madison, Wisconsin.

Emerson Process Management will host the event, bringing together researchers, industry leaders, entrepreneurs, and policy wonks to converse, learn, and exchange ideas on how best to bring about what is essentially a revolution in alternative (some call it imperative) fuel development

TriplePundit’s own Sarah Lozanova will be attending the Summit. She’ll have access to key personalities, providing firsthand insight into the future of biofuel and bioenergy development and production.

In the meantime, to whet your appetite for Sarah’s reporting later this week, I had an opportunity to speak with Alan Novak, Emerson’s Director of Alternative Fuel Alan Novak, about the upcoming summit and the future of biofuel development in general.

Automation reduces risk

Novak explained the work of Emerson Process Management in providing analysis, measurement, and control automation to a broad range of industrial production process applications for the oil & gas, chemical, and pulp & paper industries. Emerson’s experience in automating production plant operation for these heavy industries makes the company well positioned to help bring commercial-scale biofuel production to fruition. Developing process automation will significantly reduce risks as startup biofuel projects “migrate vision to production” – and, says Novak, for a relatively small capital outlay (perhaps an example of the 80/20 principal in action).

Topics addressed at the summit will look at all aspects of emerging second generation biofuel production, from sustainable feedstock, legislative and policy initiatives, to commercial processes and best practices:

  • Government perspective on the importance of bioenergy
  • Feedstock availability/ sustainability
  • Process and feedstock research methodologies
  • Pilot plant to production scale up
  • Governmental and legislative support for alternative fuels development
  • Best practices in project implementation
  • Role of automation technologies in risk mitigation and schedule optimization

Novak expressed optimism for the rapid development of large-scale bioenergy, citing a continued healthy flow of venture capital into the industry despite the recession. Steady progress in various biofuel and bioenergy technologies continue apace, with the Department of Energy providing substantial grant money to firms like Colorado-based Range Fuels, who has received $70 million in grants from the Department of Energy and expects to fire-up a commercial-scale pilot bio-gassification plant in 2009.

Another positive note Novak talked of was the work of the Advanced Biofuels Coalition, an advocacy organization tasked with “lobbying and educating legislatures” on behalf of the emerging second generation biofuel industry.

The Summit in Madison will be the first of an ongoing series of Biofuel Summits sponsored by Emerson, one that will hopefully help kick-start commercial production of second generation biofuels and bring forth the potential of this alternative – make that imperative – fuel source.

Stay tuned for a real scoop on the event and more in-depth reporting from Sarah later this week.

Tom is the founder, editor, and publisher of and the TDS Environmental Media Network. He has been a contributor for Triple Pundit since 2007. Tom has also written for Slate, Earth911, the Pepsico Foundation, Cleantechnia, Planetsave, and many other sustainability-focused publications. He is a member of the Society of Environmental Journalists

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