Desert Biofuels Initiative

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Desert Biofuels Projects

Algae Demonstration Plant Project

A particularly exciting project for us is our effort to develop a demonstration pilot plant for algae biofuels. This is an applied research (or “translational research”) project focused on applying basic algae research to create biofuel to run a municipal vehicle.  The goal is to go "from test tube to fuel tank," solving practical implementation problems and disseminating knowledge among project participants, to similarly-situated municipalities/gov entities, to AZ biofuels producers and to community-based efforts and developing countries. The project is planned as a public-private partnership between government, academic and commercial actors. We're currently deep in the planning and proposal-development stage.  Some photos of the proposed site can be seen here.  A few additional details in the attached slides. 
Download this file (DBI-overview-Sep08.pdf)DBI-overview-Sep08.pdf[ ]377 Kb

Algae Biofuels Wiki

Closely related to our Alage Demonstration Plant Project is our effort to develop a comprehensive algae biofuels wiki (freely-available online database) that will contain technical and market data about algae biofuels. Our goal is to create a resource that will particularly benefit community-based algae biofuels projects, in developed and developing countries. We have an intern starting with us in January 2009 who will begin populating the wiki with content from Mark Edward's book Green Algae Strategy and from public domain patents (significant algae research was performed in the 1970s, and the related patents have now expired).

Biodiesel Co-Op Benefits for Municipalities

We've engaged with several local municipalities to discuss the benefits of municipalities partnering with a biodiesel co-op in order to achieve environmental (reduce vehicle emissions, etc.), safety (provide an educational resource for production of biodiesel and a safe working environment) and Sanitary Sewer Overflow (reduce sanitary sewer overflows sourced to improper oil and grease disposal) benefits. See attched .ppt slides for some details. 
Download this file (co-op_benefits.ppt)co-op_benefits.ppt[ ]319 Kb

WVO Incentive Program (on hold)

A project that is currently on hold due to resource contraints is described below.  This is a rough draft project plan from April 25, 2008:


At DBI, in partnership with Tucson Clean Cities, we have been thinking about a program to incentivize restaurants to provide all of their waste vegetable oil and other yellow grease (collectively, "WVO") to local biodiesel producers to convert to fuel for use in the region.  The idea is very much in an early, formative stage.  This page sketches out some rough ideas about such a program, in order to facilitate further discussion and brainstorming.


Program goal.  Every drop of WVO in the region (see regional scope discussion below) would be converted into biofuel for use in the region.


Program impact.  Even just focusing on Maricopa County, the impact would be immense.  Per this analysis, we believe that the program, if successful, would remove 100,000 tons of CO2 from Maricopa County air annually. 


Regional scope.  We propose that the scope be the "Sonoran Desert Region," which for practical purposes we'd define as the state of Arizona and a defined border region of Mexico.  We would further divide the region into zones, e.g., the "Valley" zone, the "Tucson/border zone", etc.  The idea would be that WVO created in any particular zone would be converted for use as fuel in that zone, provided that the capacity to do so exists; absent such capacity the WVO could be used in other zones within the region.


Program structure.


We would develop a program with a catchy, green-oriented name and fun logo.  For now we'll just call it "the Program".  Different entities could become members of the Program: (a)  restaurants and other food establishments, (b) commercial WVO collectors, such as Baker Commodities, (c) commercial fuel producers like Amereco and AZ Biodiesel, (d)  co-ops such as Dynamite, and (e) individual producers (entities, such as farms, or individuals).


In order to join the Program, each entity would have to make certain key contractual commitments:

* Restaurants: WVO must be provided to a Program member

* Commercial WVO collectors: WVO collected from a Program member must be distributed to a Program member

* Commercial fuel producers: fuel created from WVO collected locally must be sold locally

* Co-ops and individual producers:  fuel created from local WVO must be used locally; must meet defined "best practices" related to WVO collection and defined safety and environmental standards related to fuel production and handling.


The Program would have to have reasonable "outs" to ensure that entities wouldn't be in breach of their commitments when those commitments were impossible to meet or otherwise unreasonable -- e.g., a collector would be excused from selling to a Program member if no Program member could accomodate the amount of WVO they collected.


Program maintainers would have the ability to spot audit to ensure that Program members were honoring their commitments.  Program members woudl be required to keep resonable records for such a purpose. 


The economic terms in any particular transaction would be decided by the participants in that transaction (e.g., any arrangement between a restaurant and a WVO collector, or a WVO collector and a biodiesel producer, would be decided among themselves).  Some sort of fee would be required to join the Program, and those fees would be used to advertise and maintain the Program.   We also hope to obtain some grant funding to help launch and market the Program.


Program members would be permitted to use a Program logo and advertise their Program membership. 


Advantages of generic, regional program over similar individual-company-focused programs. 


* Establish one powerful brand, rather than multiple weaker brands.  Reduce confusion among restaurants and consumers.  Restaurants will be more likely to participate if the Program is well-advertised and strong; more participation = more WVO available.


* Inspire grassroots support; get support from government policymakers.  We can all rally around the idea of local biofuels as a regional goal.  Support for programs that benefit only one commercial company will be inherently limited.


* More bang for your buck, for commercial producers.  The collective resources that would support a generic program will go farther than individual resources spent on an individual program, resulting in more available WVO.


* Improve safety and environmental practices among co-ops and individual producers.


A Non-Profit Social Venture Promoting "Local Biofuels" in the Valley of the Sun.