How to get Classic Auto Insurance in New Jersey

If you’ve got a classic car and you want to buy insurance for it, you shouldn’t settle for traditional insurance coverage. Your rare vehicle has slightly different needs and functions that many other cars available today and regular auto insurance might not be able to answer for those needs. Buying classic auto insurance in New Jersey can be pretty easy, especially if you’re a first timer. But with these need-to-know pointers, you’ll be calling the shots all the way.

Qualifying for Classic Auto Insurance in New Jersey

First things first – is your car actually a collectible or is it just a nice old car? An insurance agency such as won’t grant you classic auto insurance in New Jersey if the model of your vehicle doesn’t fit the bill. A good rule of thumb to follow when qualifying a car as a classic car is that it should have been built in 1979 or sooner. The insurance provider you choose however, might have a different set of standards when it comes to identifying classic cars. Others might say that a vehicle that’s no less than 15 years old is a rare collectible, while others might stretch that number all the way to 25.

Did you know that your car isn’t the only thing that needs to qualify? As a car owner, there are also some aspects that an insurance provider might require you to have before they can grant classic auto insurance in New Jersey. Some of the qualifications include age (at least 25 years of age), driving experience (at least 10 years), and a good driving record.


Calculating Your Premium

The rarer your car, the more likely you are to pay a more expensive premium. Now, why is that? A rare car is bound to have parts that are harder to find in the market today. That means you will have to exercise greater efforts just to find them if in case your car needs repairs. Think of it like this – it would only take a few hundred dollars to repair a common car that’s sold on the market in modern days as compared to repairing and finding the parts for a car that was released 25 years ago. That extra effort would cost a whole lot more, and that’s why premiums generally have to be more expensive than usual. Discuss this with your insurance provider and find out what it would take to get the best deal for your classic car. As a general rule – the older and rarer your vehicle, the higher the premium.

Qantas on brink of £200m biojet fuel joint venture

Tim Webb
January 2011

The Australian airline Qantas will this month announce a deal to build the world’s second commercial-scale plant to produce green biojet fuel made from waste for its fleet of aircraft. Its proposed partner, the US-based fuel producer Solena, is also in negotiations with easyJet, Ryanair and Aer Lingus about building a plant in Dublin, although this project is less advanced.

Airlines are trying to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels ahead of their entry into the EU’s carbon emissions trading scheme in January 2012 and the introduction of other new environmental legislation. Under the scheme, any airline flying in or out of the EU must cut emissions or pay a penalty.

Solena’s joint venture with Qantas – which could be announced within the next fortnight – follows a tie-up with British Airways, signed in February last year, to build the world’s first commercial-scale biojet fuel plant in London, creating up to 1,200 jobs.

Once operational in 2014, the London plant, costing £200m to build, will convert up to 500,000 tonnes of waste a year into 16m gallons of green jet fuel, which BA said would be enough to power 2% of its aircraft at its main base at Heathrow. The waste will come from food scraps and other household material such as grass and tree cuttings, agricultural and industrial waste. It is thought the Qantas plant, to be built in Australia, will be similar.

Solena uses technology based on the Fischer-Tropsch process, which manufactures synthetic liquid fuel using oil substitutes. Germany relied on this technology during the second world war to make fuel for its tanks and planes because it did not have access to oil supplies. Airlines have been using synthetic fuel made in this way from coal for years, but this results in high carbon emissions.

The use of biomass – which does not produce any extra emissions – as an oil substitute has more recently been pioneered by Solena. The privately owned company says that planes can run on this green synthetic fuel, without it having to be mixed with kerosene-based jet fuel. In the UK and US, regulators allow only a maximum 50% blend, and the fuel was only recently certified for use by the UK authorities. BA is understood to be exploring the possibility of using 100% biojet fuel, once it is approved as expected.

Airlines including Virgin Atlantic have also been testing biofuels – made mostly from crops, which are converted into fuel – by blending them with kerosene-based jet fuel. But experts say these blends have to have a low level of biofuels to ensure that engine safety and performance are maintained. In February 2008, Virgin became the first airline in the world to operate a commercial aircraft on a biofuel blend, but this was only 20% and through just one of the plane’s four engines.

The use of conventional, crop-based biofuels is controversial. Some environmentalists are concerned that an increase in the farming of crops and trees for biofuels could take up too much agricultural land and hit food production. But Solena plans to make its biojet fuel using waste, not crops. Industry experts say that, in the future, biojet fuel will work out cheaper than kerosene-based fuel as oil prices rise. Producers such as Solena could also earn subsidies by using waste materials that may otherwise have to be sent to landfill. The Germany airline Lufthansa is also understood to be interested in a joint venture with Solena. But with each plant costing £200m to build, it will take time to roll out the technology.

One challenge faced by Solena is securing a supply of biomass waste for its new plants. Ideally, facilities will be located in or near cities, where most of the waste will be sourced, and near airlines’ bases. The bioenergy producer will face competition from other companies planning to build incinerators, which also need to use waste to generate subsidised electricity.

Which Way to Go With Alternative Energy Stocks

Anthony Rochel
January 2011


Earth, or plant life, already has a significant impact on alternative energy. The role that plants play is significant in terms of cleantech and renewable energy. The biofuels subsector of cleantech is certainly the largest use of plants in alternative energy. As fossil fuel prices continue to rise and governmental regulations tighten, biofuels will become even more prevalent. The type of biofuel that most are familiar with is ethanol; together, Brazil and the U.S. produce 86% of the worlds ethanol by fermenting sugarcane and corn respectively. This process is generally referred to as first generation biofuel technology and is typically used as a replacement or admixture for gasoline and gasoline powered vehicles, most commonly used for personal transportation. Although many are familiar with the first generation of biofuels which primarily use food crops to create ethanol, not many are familiar with the next generation of biofuels which primarily use non-food crops and bio-waste to create biofuels.

Examples of the sources are waste biomass and leftover stalks of corn, grain, and grass. These biofuels can be refined into jet fuel and diesel, powering aircraft, heavy trucks, ships, and trains; thus, the future of biofuels lies in commercial transport. There are already a few deals in the works for large scale plants producing biofuels for aircraft. One such deal is the joint venture between Australia-based Qantas (QUBSF.PK) and U.S.-based Solena for a $300M facility that will convert agricultural and industrial waste into jet fuel. Similarly, the U.S. military has indicated a need for biofuels to lessen its dependence on foreign oil and considers the change a matter of national security. Another piece of the second generation biofuel equation is the opportunity for chemical agents that transform sugars into alkanes which can then be refined into diesel fuel.

The leader in this technology is a publically traded firm called Codexis (CDXS); Shell (RDS.A) and Brazilian ethanol producer Cosan (CZZ) have a roughly 15% stake in Codexis already all three are strong additions to your energy portfolio. Many of the algal or third generation biofuel technologies have been proven in a lab and are now in the phase where they are proven on a large scale operation. As noted earlier, third generation biofuels are a fossil fuel alternative that requires no modification in the existing infrastructure, some call it green crude. There are a few well-financed operations heading this route including Algenol biofuels, Sapphire Energy, Seambiotic, Solazyme, and Solix Biofuels. All claim to have a working process and plans to go large scale, thus all make good investment candidates as they are the leaders in the 3G biofuel technology. As personal transportation moves towards hybrids and EVs, the future of biofuels is in commercial transport; look for opportunities in biofuels serving commercial transportation.


Wave energy is a dependable and abundant source of energy that is currently being explored. The idea is fairly basic, wave or tidal motion moves an object that turns power generators, which create electricity. The technology is attractive because waves and tidal activity are nearly constant and can be predicted. Thus, utility companies can accurately forecast and rely on the cyclical electricity generated by waves and tides. The issues lie in the ROI and governmental approvals. The fact that nearly 2.4 billion people live near coastal areas solidifies the demand portion of the equation, the problem is now to make the technology efficient.

Many well known companies including Lockheed (LMT), DuPont (DD) and Scottish wave generation company Pelamis are active in this area. Pelamis is the world leader in the technology, having installed the first generator that connected to the grid; it is currently working on half a dozen projects, the largest of which is a proposed 50MW project in Scotland. Pelamis has the technology, investors and experience to make this technology move forward. Iberdrola SA (IBDRY.PK), the Spanish renewable power giant recently announced that it will invest $97M through its subsidiary ScottishPower Renewables Ltd in wave and tidal power, purchasing wave generation units from Pelamis. If you have an opportunity to get in on the action from Pelamis, take advantage of it, if not, look at Iberdrola, they are active in over 40 countries and focus on renewable energy and are vertically integrated.

Another firm focusing on wave technology is Oceanlinx, rather than using buoys that move with the waves, they utilize a column of water that moves with the waves and a fixed cylinder to create air pressure which turns a turbine. Oceanlinx is currently negotiating a 15MW facility off of the coast of Oregon; again, Oceanlinx is privately held, but would be worth looking investing in if the opportunity arose. The bottom line is that there will be significant growth in wave power generation; the current play is to invest in companies with indirect exposure to capitalize on the growth. Some of these companies are DuPont, Lockheed, and Iberdrola.


In terms of wind power, most of the new farms going forward will be outside of the United States; wind power in the U.S. has been highly dependant on subsidies and state regulations forcing power generation from renewable sources. The 30% tax credit for constructing wind farms expires at the end of 2011 and many feel that without the tax credit or federal energy law reform, wind farm construction will die down. Wind power installations in the U.S. were down significantly in 2010 in anticipation of the tax credit ending, a trend likely to continue with subsidies ending and natural gas prices expected to stay low for years to come.

On the other hand, wind farm investment is increasing around the world; China has committed to doubling its wind power capacity by 2015. In all, many contractors and investors in the wind farm subsector feel there is a significant amount of uncertainty surrounding future investment in wind energy. If you are interested in investing, global leaders in this subsector are Enercon, Gamesa (GCTAF.PK), GE (GE), Siemens (SI), Suzlon and Vestas (VWDRY.PK). However, even though wind power will continue to grow, it is unclear how strong its growth will be in the US. For investing and growth opportunities I would look to other subsectors in the cleantech industry.


Solar power has always been a popular subsector of alternative energy. Solar power generation can generally be split into two major categories: photovoltaic (PV) and solar thermal. PV converts light into electricity where solar thermal power collects and concentrates light into heat for heating or to turn a steam generator. PV technology has been around since the late 19th century but has only recently seen advances to the point at which efficiencies are high enough and technology is cheap enough that it can be used in far reaching applications. When those advances combined with government feed-in laws to offset the installation cost, a radical increase in PV panels occurred. An example is Germany and Spain, in only a few years time they have installed over 7GW of PV panels.

When ranked by PV panels installed, China is ranked 8 in the world, yet it is the largest manufacturer and it has created strong competition for manufacturers around the world in the U.S. Some U.S. manufacturers are moving manufacturing to China, including third largest panel manufacturer Evergreen Solar, some slowing expansion, and some are closing down plants all of this amid a booming worldwide market for solar panels. Some think that China is violating free trade rules by providing subsidies to solar and other cleantech manufacturers prompting an investigation by the WTO. Regardless, China will provide stiff competition for any U.S.-based manufacturer; I would be cautious of investing in any U.S.-based manufacturing company that has direct competition from a Chinese firm.

A better bet is investing in installers and innovators; California based SolarCity Inc has over 10,000 installations and recently acquired east cost based Clean Currents Solar. The largest US based PV manufacturer, First Solar (FSLR) is also an installer. With the famed 2GW project in China it seemingly landed last year, First Solar was looking very attractive. However, as they put the deal together, it became apparent that First Solars role in the project would be significantly diminished, and it would not be the installer. It looks like China may simply be using First Solar to glean information as it will require them to share technology with their Chinese partner; keep in mind that First Solar uses a unique technology in their manufacture of solar panels – cadmium telluride, not the industry standard c-Si wafers. Alternatively, look for innovation in PV technology as an investment opportunity, most PV innovations revolve around reducing waste and increasing efficiency.

There are hundreds of groups researching this technology, but my favorite is Sharp (SHCAY.PK). They are hardly a startup, but they are committed to driving innovation; they also have vendor relationships, a strong brand name and exposure to markets that will see future growth. Sharp has invested over $500M in the past two years in its solar segment. They will increase their production more than 40% over the next two years. Unlike PV, the major growth in solar thermal is predicted to be in utility scale operations. California has issued licenses for over 4.1GW of solar thermal energy in the past few years; but at least one of the licensees sold its project, the buyer K Road Power, announced it would be changing from solar thermal to PV.

This may be a sign of things to come for solar thermal manufacturers and installers; PV prices have come down over 50% in the past three years and prices are projected to continue falling. Solar thermal technologies may win out when taking into account lifetime maintenance and replacement costs, but I recommend waiting for hard evidence before investing. There will always be room for solar thermal technology, but PV will be most widely used form of solar

Agreement between Alitalia and Solena Group

Rome, Italy – To start a study on the reconversion of metropolitan solid waste in bio-fuel for aircraft.
February 2011

(WAPA) – Alitalia’s CEO Rocco Sabelli, CEO of Solena Group Robert Do and the one of Solena Italia Stefano Bugliosi, signed a letter of intent with which Alitalia and Solena Group commit themselves to start a feasibility study about the building of a plant capable of converting urban solid waste (promiscuous bio-masses) in a relevant share of the jet-fuel required for aircraft of Alitalia, ensuring the reduction of greenhouse gases and the stability of supplies. The signing of the agreement was attended by the Honorable Willer Bordon, president of Enalg SpA, company partner of Solena Group SpA and holding of Solena Italia SpA.

The study is finalised to assess the feasibility of a plant capable of converting hundreds of thousands of tonnes of urban solid waste (promiscuous bio-mass) in bio fuel for aircraft, in order to meet part of the fuel needs of Alitalia, reducing the consumption of conventional jet fuel with the consequent reduction (up to 96%) of CO2 emissions into the atmosphere.

The use of Solena Group’s technology will allow to produce alternative fuel for aircraft, through an high temperature gasification process of the waste that will be transformed into a so-called “Syngas”. This gas then will be converted into liquid thanks to an industrial chemical process called Fischer-Tropsch.

Alitalia and Solena Group think that this innovative technological process for the reconversion can contribute to drastically reduce the greenhouse gas emissions (CO2) generated by aircraft.

Solena Group wants to involve in the realization of the plant also institutions at local and international level. The technology offered by Solena Group can also be considered as a solution to the problem of the dispersion of urban solid waste in dumps, avoiding gaseous emissions harmful to health and environment.

The agreement between Alitalia and Solena Group is part of the innovative program called Green Sky which already saw Solena Group reaching an agreement with British Airways Group for the conversion of significant shares of urban solid waste of London’s metropolitan area in jet fuel for the aircraft operating at the airport of Heathrow.

Qantas Investigates Sugar Cane as Fuel for Domestic Fleet

The Australian – February 2011

Qantas is joining forces with another US biofuel company to investigate the possibility of using Queensland sugar cane to help power its domestic fleet. Solazyme, which counts Richard Branson and Unilever among its investors, is the second alternative fuel company that Qantas has engaged to undertake a feasibility study on setting up shop in Australia. The other study with US-based Solena is looking at using urban rubbish to produce fuel using technology also about to be installed in London to supply British Airways.

Qantas hopes both technologies will prove viable for Australia and allow it to replace 2-3 per cent of its domestic fuel burn with biofuels by 2015. The airline believes it will take three years for the companies to complete the feasibility study, site location, planning and construction. Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce said the two partnerships represented the best technology in the field. “And we’re hopeful that after we go through the evaluations we’ll commit to both and have both of them producing a reasonable amount of our fuel,” he said.

Qantas is luring the companies with a promise of long-term contracts, but Mr Joyce said the airline was also looking at equity stakes in the Australian ventures. He is also keen to get federal and state governments involved. “These things are good employers, they’re green jobs and they’re where the economy should be going,” he said. “So a lot of our states are actually very interested in getting into this.”

Fuel produced by Solena’s process, based on the German Fischer-Tropsch (F-T) technology, has already been certified for use as a drop-in product that can be used in existing jet engines or mixed with conventional fuel. The Solazyme process, which produces oil using single cell algae as a biocatalyst in a large-scale industrial fermentation process, is expected to get the green light later this year. Solazyme’s oils can be tailored for different uses but the company is heavily focused on products that can be refined to make sustainable, low-carbon diesel and aviation fuel.

It already has a contract with the US Navy to supply both types of fuels and sees a deal with Qantas as a chance to use Australia as a platform to commercialise the process. “What we do is take microbes that we’ve optimised to produce oil and we put those microbes in big stainless steel tanks and we feed those microbes different types of plant sugars,” Solazyme chief executive Jonathan Wolfson said. “And what the microbes do is they eat the plant sugars and they make oils. We then extract the oils from those microbes and we refine the oils into fuels.”

Solazyme is talking to Queensland sugar producers and has had a visit from Premier Anna Bligh. It sees Australia as an attractive place to commercialise its technology because of its educated workforce, the demand for sustainable alternatives and the forward thinking of governments and companies such as Qantas. The process is not limited to sugar cane — it can use a wide variety of cellulosic material, such as grasses and forest residue — but there are difficulties economically harvesting many of these. The advantage of sugar cane is the logistics are already in place and a plant could be set up near a sugar mill to process mulch.

How many plants can be built, and where, will depend on the business relations that can be forged with mills, refiners and Qantas, Mr Wolfson said. “So we’re still developing the exact case of what size the plant would be and what the exact location would be,” he said. “But we certainly know what the contours of the relationship look like — who the parties are, what the feedstock is, the relative proximity to a sugar cane mill, what the fuels are and who’s going to use them.” As to price, Solazyme is looking at the crude oil equivalent to $80 a barrel for the input oil before it is refined to jet fuel.

The Solena joint venture would use high temperature gasification and the F-T system already in use to produce aviation fuel in other parts of the world from sources such as coal and natural gas. Unlike synthetic fuels, however, biofuels produced by the F-T process from waste have a lower carbon footprint over their production lifecycle than traditional jet fuel.

A similar plant being built with British Airways in London, due to come on line in 2014, will convert up to 500,000 tonnes of waste a year into 73 million litres of green jet fuel — enough to power 2 per cent of BA’s Heathrow fleet. The plant will use scraps and other household material, such as grass and tree cuttings, and agricultural and industrial waste as a feedstock for the fuel. Solena estimates the process offers lifecycle greenhouse gas savings of up to 95 per cent compared with fossil-fuel derived kerosene.

It says the annual CO2 savings from the fuel it produces will be the equivalent of taking 48,000 cars off the road. Solena chief executive Robert Do told The Australian this week the company was still evaluating locations in Australia but Sydney made the most sense from a hub standpoint. Dr Do said the site would be determined by factors such as planning requirements and the availability of feedstock. He said the London project had originally begun with 60 sites, which had been narrowed down to 12 and then six before it worked with BA and the City of London to determine the final location.

He said a plant would employ up to 2000 people in the two-year construction phase and about 200 permanent employees to run operations. In addition to its discussions with Qantas, Solena would be talking to companies about feedstock. Rather than collect the rubbish itself, it would work with waste companies to divert rubbish that would normally go to landfill. “We are actually an added value to the waste management side because we are avoiding the landfill,” Dr Do said. The company’s high temperature gasification system allows it to be flexible in terms of feedstock and Dr Do said it could essentially handle any kind of organic material, including agricultural and forestry byproducts, but its main focus in Sydney would be household waste.

“We really don’t have much of a restriction on what we can handle but on the other hand we do need it to have some calorific content because we’re converting it into fuel,” he said. Dr Do also said the company expected to be able to sell the fuel for a price that was competitive with current aviation fuel prices and that it would offer a stability to airlines that was not available from volatile traditional sources.

“The key for us is we have a fixed cost of production, a fixed cost of capital and, we believe, a fixed cost of feedstock,” he said. “So that price that we’ll be selling to market competitiveness will be something we will fix over a long period of time and won’t be subject to the normal volatility of the oil market.” There was also the possibility of building additional plants to supply a greater percentage of Qantas’s fuel needs. “Each plant would generate 50,000 tonnes (of fuel) so if there’s availability and a capacity to build a second one, perhaps in another hub, then we’ll be able to add to that percentage,” Dr Do said.

Off Into The Wild Green Yonder

The Economist – February 2011

Spooked by the spike in oil prices in 2008 and warily eyeing the latest spurt in fuel charges, airlines have noted that the costs of not going green are growing. In particular, they fret about the painful levies on carbon-spouting planes to be imposed under the European Union’s Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS). From 2012 all airlines operating in the EU will be expected to cut emissions to 3% below the average annual figure for the period between 2004 and 2006, and by a further 2 percentage points in 2013. Although most emissions allowances up to the cap will be allocated to airlines for free, 15% will have to be acquired in auctions. Any further emissions will require trading in additional permits.

Little wonder, then, that the queue of carriers hopping on the biofuel bandwagon is growing. Lufthansa, Ryanair and Easyjet are only the latest reported to be seeking a deal with Solena, an American producer of aviation biofuels. At the start of January it emerged that Qantas, the Australian flag carrier, will work with the same company to build a commercial-scale aviation biofuel plant on the outskirts of Sydney. Solena is already building a similar plant in London, which is scheduled to produce around 70m litres (16m gallons) of biofuel a year from 2014. Burning this instead of the equivalent amount of kerosene would reduce BA’s carbon emissions by about 2% a year, as much as is produced annually by all flights going in and out of London’s (admittedly small) City Airport.

The reason for Solena’s sudden popularity is that by making biofuels from waste, the company has dodged some of the problems that have bedevilled production of crop-based varieties. These include inadequate supplies of biomass to meet even today’s demand, and the related worries about how the push for more such crops may encourage land-clearance and lead to rising food prices. To illustrate the point, Greenpeace, an environmental lobby group, calculated that a test flight by Virgin Atlantic in 2008 that powered one engine of a Boeing 747-400 with a 20% biofuel mix of babassu oil and coconut oil used the equivalent of 150,000 coconuts.

If all four engines were powered by biofuels alone, 3m coconuts would have been required, leading the group to dismiss the exercise as a “high altitude greenwash”.Then there is the long list of exacting technical and commercial specifications aviation biofuels will need to meet. They must pack a lot of energy into a small volume, remain liquid at -50°C, come in chemically identical form all over the world, mix well with existing fuels, and improve, or at least match, those fuels’ efficiency. All that without requiring any serious tweaks to existing aircraft.

One-off tests of “drop-in” biofuels, ie, ones that can be mixed with standard kerosene, have been conducted successfully by airlines, including Qatar Airways, Continental, United, Air New Zealand and Japan Airlines. Lufthansa has gone further. In November 2010 it announced plans to carry out a six-month trial of the longer-term effects of biofuels on aircraft engines. Beginning in April, one engine on an Airbus A321 plying the route between Hamburg and Frankfurt route will run on a 50-50 mix of biofuel and kerosene.

Until more such tests have been carried out successfully, the 50-50 mix is all that certifying agencies will permit, so a wholly plant-derived aviation fuel remains a distant prospect. However, now that the ETS and other considerations have registered on the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA’s) radar, that industrial lobby group reckons biofuels could account for 6% of all aircraft fuel by 2020, reducing carbon emissions by over 4%, or more than 20m tonnes, from current levels.

The technology does not come cheap. IATA predicts that an investment of $10 billion-15 billion will be needed to reach the 2020 target. The plants in London and Sydney are expected to cost $300m apiece. However, for an industry that is coming to see biofuels as a hedge against tighter environmental regulation, rising fuel costs and damage to reputation, it may be a price worth paying.

Aviation May Be Biofuels’ Killer App

The aerospace industry may eventually deliver a huge market

Mark Ingebretsen, Oil & Energy Writer
March 2011

Lost amid Japan’s tragic events and continuing unrest in the Middle East was news of a significant breakthrough in aviation technology. As Military & Aerospace Electronics reported, a U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor aircraft, “powered by a 50/50 fuel blend of conventional petroleum-based JP-8 and biofuel derived from camelina,” broke the sound barrier, achieving a speed of Mach 1.5 and proving the utility of biofuels for military aviation.

The camelina-based fuel came from Sustainable Oils, a private firm. But other organizations, including public or soon-to-be public companies are also involved in the aviation biofuel market, and ongoing experiments are using everything from algae to wood chips as a source of fuel for aircraft – all for good reason.

While the military may see biofuels as a way of guaranteeing supply in times of crises, commercial aviation likely sees them as a way to control costs. As National Defense Business and Technology, noted recently, “Fuel is the aviation industry’s second largest expense, after labor.” With that as an incentive, aviation fuel could become the killer app which helps fledgling biofuel makers achieve the economies of scale they need to reward investors.

Unlike the ethanol industry, which brings a market share that can rely on lobbying state and federal governments for tax incentives and mandates to make the fuel available at filling stations, aviation biofuel makers are able to sell directly to individual customers, be they airlines or aircraft manufacturers. In fact, customers can be intimately involved with creating the product. Qantas, for example, is reportedly in talks with two biofuels suppliers, Solazyme, which recently filed for an IPO and Solena Group. Likewise, Airbus has teamed up with the Romanian firm Tarum to create an aviation biofuels plant in that country, part of the Airbus’s reported plan to establish renewable fuel-making facilities on every continent. Boeing (NYSE:BA), also hopes a biofuels market will emerge by 2015.

The push by these major aircraft manufacturers suggests that in the future they may sell planes packaged with fuel at a guaranteed price. And given the manufacturers’ access to capital and to their aircraft-owning customers, the aviation biofuel space could break out in a few short years.

Where does that leave investors who like the biofuels space? Unfortunately, with fairly slim pickings, at least for now. A few technically public companies are involved with algae production, but these are of the over-the-counter stock variety.

On the other end of the market-cap scale, Honeywell (NYSE:HON) Exxon Mobil (NYSE:XOM) and Archer Daniels Midland (NYSE:ADM) are all involved in growing the industry. Two years ago, Shell (NYSE:RDSA) acquired the aviation biofuel unit of Brazilian biofuel giant Cosan (NYSE:CZZ), while British Petroleum (NYSE:BP) joined Airbus and other companies to complete an 80,000 ton-per-year biofuel plant their by 2013.

As Biofuels Digest noted: “The news reminds us that, while most of the coverage of Brazil has focused on ethanol production and distribution into its well-established, subsidy-free alternative fuels market, there is substantial momentum building up in Brazil on the diesel and jet fuel side.” Indeed, traveling to that nation last week, President Obama touted U.S.-Brazilian cooperation on aviation biofuels.

Bottom line: Keep an eye on this sector, and read the Air Transport Action Group report “Powering the future of flight: The six easy steps to growing a viable aviation biofuels industry.”

Where there’s muck there’s brass: a sustainable approach to waste management

Andrew Czyzewski, The Engineer – Sustainability Supplement
May 2011

Technology that generates energy from waste could help the UK shed its ’dustbin of Europe’ tag.

There’s a scene at the end of the film Back to the Future where the now-modified Delorean returns from 2015 and Doc Brown hurriedly rakes through a garbage can to refuel the flux capacitor with household waste (having previously required plutonium to function to a tune of 1.21GW).

Setting aside recent debate on the merits of nuclear energy, the scene taps into an innate desire to make good use of our waste. The media play on this too, relaying a constant stream of eye-catching initiatives ’Crematorium could help heat council swimming pool’ and ’Pee power could fuel hydrogen cars’, to name but a couple. It is certainly comforting to know that our engineers are constantly devising new and clever ways to clean up after us, but to what extent have advanced waste technologies really pervaded our society at large?

While things are slowly changing, the UK has traditionally been the ’dustbin of Europe’ at its peak having the dubious honour of topping household waste league tables for 2004-05 by sending 23 million tonnes of the stuff to landfill. Left to sit, this belches out huge quantities of methane, which is around 23 times more potent than carbon dioxide in terms of its global-warming effect. Indeed, landfill gas accounts for three per cent of all UK greenhouse gases combined.

Historically, the attraction of landfill has been its low cost, the abundance of non-porous sub strata and the need to fill holes left by mineral extraction. It has been patently obvious for decades that this is simply not environmentally sustainable, but, as with many things, the most powerful recent driver of change has been a financial one.

The EU Landfill Tax is rising at a rate of £8 per tonne annually, now standing at £56 per tonne, while the EU Landfill Directive has set stringent targets for the reduction of waste sent to landfill, which must drop to 50 per cent of its current level by 2013 and 65 per cent by 2020. One key goal for waste management is not only to divert waste from landfill, but to generate useable energy from it through export to the electricity or gas grids. Waste initiatives don’t attract the same fanfare surrounding big wind or solar power schemes.

Nevertheless, a report by Cranfield University last year suggested that energy from waste (EfW) could account for half of all renewable power by 2020 (thus 7.5 per cent of the 15 per cent renewable contribution to total energy called for by the EU). The array of technologies that come under the bracket of EfW is something of a minefield, however, ranging from incineration with energy recovery to plasma gasification with syngas production. They all differ in their original feedstock, process and output and, of course, they are claimed to offer advantages over each other.

Renewable claims, in particular, have come under scrutiny of late. Dr Geraint Evans of the National Centre for Biorenewable Energy, Fuels and Materials (NNFCC) advises the government on the Renewable Obligation Certificate (ROC) scheme to which companies must adhere. ’If you make your diesel or electricity from car tyres that are more or less 95 per cent fossil based, then it’s not renewable even though people might tell you it’s renewable, they’ve got their facts wrong,’ he said. ’The paper of the baked-beans can is renewable, whereas the plastic that wrapped your steak is not. It’s still a good use of resources, but there’s an important distinction.’

One largely renewable technology currently being pushed by the government is anaerobic digestion (AD). Here, organic and food waste is fed into sealed bioreactors where special micro-organisms digest it to produce methane, which is burned to generate electricity or ’cleaned up’ and exported to the gas grid. There are currently around 37 AD facilities in operation, mostly dealing with farm waste, with an additional 60 in various stages of planning.

In its latest recommendations, the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) suggests AD installations up to 250kW be eligible for feed-in tariffs of 14p/kWh and plants between 250kW and 500kW for 13p/kWh. In addition, biomethane injection into the gas grid will be eligible under the renewable heat incentive for 6.5p/kWh of heat generated.

These incentives proved attractive to Poole-based Aerothermal, an engineering company with 30 years’ experience in the autoclave processing of carbon composites for the motorsport and aerospace industries. Noting the long life of carbon composites and a lack of repeat orders, it decided to diversify and applied its experience to waste. By autoclaving prior to AD, it claims it can take a broader feedstock encompassing municipal solid waste and achieve greater gas yields than similar technologies.

The company is gearing up for a facility near Plymouth that is currently under review by the council and will be able to process 75,000 tonnes of waste per year. Commercial director Tristan Lloyd-Baker hopes it could provide a blueprint for other local authorities. ’The largest facility [would be] about 120,000 [tonnes] maximum. What we’re trying to do is limit the amount of miles waste has to travel, and of course you’ve got issues with byproducts and clean-up, so I don’t think it makes sense to have massive facilities that are shipping waste from miles and miles,’ he said.

Lloyd-Baker added that AD, with certain modification such as his own company’s autoclaving, is the most robust and reliable option in the medium term. ’With any technology, no one’s going to come and buy it until you’ve proved that it does what you’ve told them it will, and there’s no other industry that needs that confirmation more than the waste industry,’ he said. ’There’s a number of plants and technologies that have gone by the wayside that people have invested significant monies in that just haven’t happened.’

But some believe that AD is destined to stay a farm-based application and that there are competing technologies waiting in the wings promising higher yields and efficiency for a lower overall footprint. Swindon-based Advanced Plasma Power (APP) uses two of the competing technologies combining gasification and plasma treatment to break down municipal and tougher commercial waste to produce synthetic gas, or syngas, for heat or power generation.

Interestingly, like Aerothermal it has considerable experience with its core technology through sister company Tetronics, which has been using plasma to treat hazardous waste for around 50 years. ’There isn’t a new technology here; what there is a new process connecting existing technologies,’ said Simon Merriweather, APP chief executive. ’What we ended up doing was using a gasifier as the workhorse it does the hard work of converting the feed into a gas, which then goes into the plasma converter, which effectively cleans it up.’

And it seems some big names agree. British Airways recently teamed up with US-based Solena Group to build a gasification plant that will turn waste into biogas, which will be converted into synthetic kerosene using the Fischer Tropsch chemical process. The plant will take 500,000 tonnes of waste a year from London, including a mix of domestic, agricultural, forestry and industrial feedstocks, and when production begins in 2014 it claims it will produce enough biofuel for all flights from London City Airport.

Evans thinks that if big projects such as this are shown to be successful, it will instil greater confidence in the markets. ’When we start talking about technology risks, bankers just aren’t happy to take it they want somebody else to take it,’ he said. ’With a lot of the projects I see, it’s the financial aspect that holds it up. It will take somebody who is brave and strong willed to drive the uptake, but it can be done.’

Growing a green fuel industry in Australia

Joely Taylor, ECOS
May 2011

Can Australia grow an economically and environmentally-sustainable biofuels industry on waste biomass?

With the potential to cushion Australia from the shock of fluctuations in oil prices and fossil fuel availability, a home-grown, waste-fed biofuels market is seen as an environmental opportunity, as well as an economic and fuel security issue. New, ‘second-generation’ biofuel production technologies developed around the world are being assessed for their technical and economic feasibility.

These second-generation technologies (see second box below) convert lignocellulosic1 biomass to a range of biofuels in many different ways. Three main conversion technologies are gasification, pyrolysis and hydrolysis (see second box below). The feedstock for this conversion includes agricultural residues such as wheat chaff and sugarcane bagasse, forestry residues and urban wastes diverted from landfill. One advantage of second-generation technologies is that non-food feedstock can be converted to biofuel, potentially reducing the competition for agricultural land.

Many of these second-generation conversion technologies are now reaching the commercial demonstration stage. This provides a chance to iron out any remaining technical issues and prove the processes in industrial mode. The main impediment to the successful commercial implementation of these technologies is the economy of scale. In other words, the challenge is to find the balance between the cost of the production process and the availability and cost of the required volume of biomass. Biofuels must be cost competitive with fossil fuels, because most consumer decisions are price-driven.

Does Australia have a competitive advantage in biofuel production?

For the past few years, scientists from CSIRO’s Energy Transformed flagship have been researching biomass production suited to second-generation conversion technologies, and current sustainability issues and economic scenarios. Their recent research findings give support to the view that it may be economically feasible to produce and use biofuels from available residue and waste streams in Australia.

CSIRO ecological economist, Dr Luis C Rodriguez, led a case study of the scenario of an ethanol plant situated in the Green Triangle – an area of approximately six million hectares in south-west Victoria and south-east South Australia. The study found that, given current oil prices and zero excise for ethanol, such a plant could be viable if the forest and crop residues cost at the plant gate were less than $74 per tonne.

‘The Green Triangle is one of the most promising Australian regions for biomass production,’ says Dr Rodriguez. The study region was selected for analysis due to its well-developed forest industry and level of grain production, as well as the availability of roads and infrastructure.

‘A focus of the study was to estimate the costs associated with each of the different residue streams, their competing uses and demand, and to link those feedstocks with geo-referenced information about their location and the transport distances and costs,’ explains Dr Rodriguez. ‘The study indicated that, under current economic conditions and policy, only about 20 per cent of the potential biomass produced in the region could be used for energy production in an economically viable way.’

The break-even point between feedstock price and the size of the biofuel plant can change depending on the assumptions around cost of excise and the cost of a barrel of oil. The cost of producing ethanol from biomass feedstock in the Green Triangle would be $0.64 per litre, with a pump price of $1.24 per litre after adjusting for energy content.

‘The different break-even prices and abundance of biomass for ethanol production in the Green Triangle region suggests that an ethanol industry could be viable under different combinations of fuel tax rates and oil prices,’ says Dr Rodriguez.

The implications of imported ethanol, which may have come from subsidised agriculture or processing plants, have not yet been studied.

Commercial biofuel use in Australia

Many studies and overseas commercial developments demonstrate that a larger biofuel industry could be economically viable in Australia. But according to the Biofuels Association of Australia, investment lags here for a number of reasons.

‘Industry feels that there has been very limited indication from successive governments as to a willingness to support the burgeoning industry,’ says Ms Heather Brodie, CEO of the association.

‘For many years, investment has stalled due to a lack of certainty around the federal government excise regime, and a lack of interest at a state level in mandating the use of the fuels or using other mechanisms to increase their uptake. Indeed, the fuel tax credit regime actually limits the use of biodiesel,’ she says.

However, change is in the air. ‘We have a number of oil majors participating and investing in the alternative fuels space,’ says Ms Brodie. ‘Even over the last 18 months we have seen a substantial shift in attitude with retailers, and I would expect that to increase at a rapid rate.’

Mr Andrew Lang, convenor of The Wood Energy Group and Chairman of the SMARTimbers cooperative, says that while there has been concern about using food-grade feedstock for first-generation biofuel production, countries have increasingly developed cost-competitive technologies for producing second-generation biofuels from wastes and residues.

‘Enerkem in Canada has developed a process to produce methanol and ethanol from gasified biomass wastes, beginning with old, treated power poles,’ says Mr Lang. ‘Their first plant has the capacity to produce five million litres of fuel per year. SunPine in Sweden has commenced production of biodiesel from crude tall oil, a by-product of the pulp and paper industry. Inbicon in Denmark is producing 5.5 million litres of ethanol from fermenting acid-treated straw per year.’

First vs second-generation technology

First-generation technologies are generally already used commercially around the world. These include production of:

  • ethanol from sugar and starch crops by fermentation and distillation
  • biogas, such as methane, from anaerobic digestion of wet wastes
  • biodiesel from waste oils and fats using transesterification.

Second-generation technologies are still under development and not yet used widely for commercial biofuel production. They include the use of lignocellulosic plants as feedstock to manufacture ethanol, syngas, synthetic diesel, dimethyl ether and furans, as well as the production of algal lipids to convert to diesel.

Second-generation technologies have been suggested as the answer to the pressure posed by first-generation technology feedstocks on agricultural land. First-generation feedstocks are generally food crops, such as wheat and corn, which are converted to a liquid fuel. In contrast, second-generation feedstocks include residues from agricultural and forestry production as well as urban organic wastes.

Worldwide, the assumption that land-use changes associated with second-generation feedstocks will be neutral is being critically assessed. Biofuel users increasingly require assurance that no environmentally detrimental land-use change was associated with the growth or harvest of the biofuel feedstock, such as replacing agricultural land with plantation timber. National and international sustainability criteria are under development, and will include land-use change as an important part of biofuel sustainability assessment.

Some biofuels are produced in Australia from the conversion of waste oil and tallow (abattoir waste animal fat) to biodiesel. Manildra, the country’s largest ethanol producer, produces biofuel using agricultural by-products. The company uses industrial-grade wheat flour to manufacture protein, using the leftover starch to manufacture ethanol. Ethanol is also made from the fermentation of C-molasses, a low value by-product of the sugar industry in Queensland and northern New South Wales.

Smorgon Fuels recently announced a venture with Biomax Fuels to produce biodiesel from non?food-grade mustard seed. Smorgon Fuels operates a 100 million-litre biodiesel plant in Victoria that primarily uses oils and animal fats.

In late 2010, Flex Ethanol Australia was founded by a consortium headed by GM Holden and Caltex to generate ethanol from household rubbish. So far, it has announced a feasibility study trialling Australian-style waste in the ethanol-making process at a Pennsylvanian facility owned by ethanol production specialist, Coskata.

Qantas has recently announced its support for a feasibility study on building a Fisher–Tropsch plant in Sydney with Solena, a United States fuel technology company. Qantas is a member of the Sustainable Aviation Fuel Users Group, an international collaboration of aviation fuel users, engine manufacturers and fuel manufacturers.


In gasification, biomass is converted to gas using very high temperatures in a low-oxygen atmosphere. The resulting gas (syngas) can be converted to alcohols such as ethanol for ethanol?based fuels, or alkanes (synfuels or syndiesel) chemically similar to current petroleum-based transport fuels. The Fischer–Tropsch method is used for the latter: a series of chemical reactions to produce a diesel substitute.

Where the feedstock is woody biomass, gasification has an advantage over hydrolysis because gasification converts all the carbon compounds to syngas, including lignin, which is a serious impediment in the hydrolysis process. Depending on the pathway, the Fischer–Tropsch process does not convert all the gas to liquid and the uncoverted non-liquid portion can be used for cogeneration of electricity to power the gasification plant and export renewable electricity to the grid. Existing commercial biomass gasification projects are producing heat and electricity rather than transport fuels.

Existing fuel-producing plants use natural gas or coal as feedstock, rather than biomass: it is much easier to move natural gas and feed it on a continuous basis to a gasifier than to handle biomass as feedstock, particularly woody (lignocellulosic) biomass.


Pyrolysis is the heating of lignocellulose to 450–500°C in the absence of oxygen. The feedstock cannot burn without oxygen and instead is broken down to produce a pyrolysis oil, a char (the solid material that remains after light gases have been driven out or released from the feedstock during the pyrolysis), and a combustible gas mixture. The gas can be used for cogeneration, helping to generate heat for the pyrolysis process or electricity. The char can be used as a ‘biochar’ fertiliser, for renewable energy or to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the metallurgical industries.

Several overseas companies produce a stable pyrolysis oil, suitable for use in boilers or even for the production of electricity in a gas turbine. One such company is Canada’s Dynamotive Energy Systems, which also produces biochar. More recently, an upgraded pyrolysis oil has been developed that could act as a ‘drop in’ fuel for blending with, or replacing, diesel, petrol and jet fuel.

Pyrolysis oil can also be gasified in a similar manner to the raw biomass to produce a syngas for further processing. However, this adds a production step, thereby increasing the cost.

Hydrolysis (bioconversion)

Hydrolysis is the breaking up of the cellulose and hemicellulose components of lignocellulosic biomass into individual sugars. The sugars are converted into ethanol by microorganisms in the process of fermentation. Bioconversion encompasses both hydrolysis of the cellulosic components of lignocellulose to sugars and the fermentation of the sugars to ethanol or butanol.

The hydrolysis of cellulose and hemicellulose to sugars can be achieved by chemical means, using dilute or concentrated acid, or by biological means, using a mixture of enzymes known collectively as cellulases. A by-product of the process is lignin, which can be used for cogeneration, via combustion, to produce power to help run the process.

‘Cellulases are naturally occurring enzymes that have evolved in organisms such as wood rot fungi and the protozoa found in the guts of termites,’ says Dr Victoria Haritos from the CSIRO’s Energy Transformed Flagship. ‘We have unearthed several new cellulase enzymes from novel Australian organisms that show some promise for increased efficiency of conversion.’

How much biofuel could Australia produce?

Another recent study conducted by CSIRO’s Energy Transformed flagship aims to find out how much biofuel Australia could produce. Project leader, Dr Deborah O’Connell, says that a biofuel’s sustainability may vary depending on its type and how much feedstock is used, the technology for conversion of the feedstock and its region of origin.

The project team first uses data and models to assess the biomass produced in Australia. Then, they apply a series of constraints to the data to make assumptions about the fraction of biomass that would be available for a second-generation biofuel industry. The constraints assess the technical, environmental and economic feasibility of each biomass type. By removing variability from the results, the available amount of biomass is also reduced in each scenario. This gives greater confidence in the results, reducing risk to biofuel industry investors.

‘We have identified that we have significant biomass for current production in Australia, and that we could produce more in a way sympathetic to current land use,’ says Dr O’Connell. ‘Analysis done by CSIRO shows that through both modified use of current sources of biomass and use of new sources of biomass over the next 20 years, the biofuels industry in Australia could be scaled up.’

The Future Farm Industries Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) is researching the potential for new sources of biomass grown in harmony with existing farming. The CRC is leading work on the growth and harvesting of mallee eucalypt trees, which are grown by more than 1000 Western Australian farmers on part of their farms for environmental benefits. The trees coppice (resprout) and could be harvested regularly to provide a sustainable source of biomass to biofuel plants. In a few years, farmers across Australia may be in a win–win situation, planting trees for both environmental and commercial benefits alongside their cereal and livestock operations.

Dr Joely Taylor works in the Sustainable Biomass Production Project in CSIRO’s Ecosystem Sciences Division. Colin Stucley, who helped write and research this story, is Managing Director of Renewable Oil Corporation and a member of the management committee for Bioenergy Australia, the country’s peak national body for bioenergy research, development and implementation.

Seven ATA Member Airlines Sign Letters of Intent to Negotiate Purchase of Biomass-Derived Jet Fuel from Solena Fuels

ATA – June 2011

The Air Transport Association of America, Inc. (ATA), the industry trade organization for the leading U.S. airlines, announced today that a core group of airlines has signed letters of intent with Solena Fuels, LLC (“Solena”) for a future supply of jet fuel derived exclusively from biomass to be produced in northern California.

Solena’s “GreenSky California” biomass-to-liquids (BTL) facility in Northern California (Santa Clara County) will utilize post-recycled urban and agricultural wastes to produce up to 16 million gallons of neat jet fuel (as well as 14 million gallon equivalents of other energy products) per year by 2015 to support airline operations at Oakland (OAK), San Francisco (SFO) and/or San Jose (SJC). The project will divert approximately 550,000 metric tons of waste that otherwise would go to a landfill while producing jet fuel with lower emissions of greenhouse gases and local pollutants than petroleum-based fuels.

“Today’s announcement reinforces the ongoing steps that ATA member airlines are taking to stimulate competition in jet fuel production, contribute to the creation of green jobs, and promote energy security through economically viable alternatives that also demonstrate global and local environmental benefits,” said ATA President and CEO Nicholas E. Calio. “It is through the leadership and commitment of ATA member airlines and the Commercial Aviation Alternative Fuels Initiative® (CAAFI) that we are able to bring this groundbreaking alternative aviation fuels project in California to fruition.”

American Airlines and United Continental Holdings led the development of the agreement with Solena and were joined by five additional ATA member airlines – Alaska Airlines, FedEx, JetBlue Airways, Southwest Airlines and US Airways – and ATA associate member Air Canada in signing the letters of intent, as well as Frontier Airlines and Lufthansa German Airlines. ATA is a co- founding and co-leading member of CAAFI, which is dedicated to the development and deployment of commercially viable, environmentally friendly alternative aviation fuels.

Solena Fuels is a platform company developing facilities worldwide to produce sustainable aviation and marine fuels from biomass. “We applaud the airlines’ pledge to use our lower- emissions fuel to support their northern California operations, and we look forward to partnering with them to develop a facility that allows them to more sustainably operate their business,” said Dr. Robert Do, Chairman and Chief Executive of Solena Fuels.


Annually, commercial aviation helps drive more than $1 trillion in U.S. economic activity and nearly 11 million U.S. jobs. ATA airline members and their affiliates transport more than 90 percent of all U.S. airline passenger and cargo traffic. For more information about the airline industry, visit