Improve Your World: Ethanol from Wood

the suny college of environmental science and forestry founded in 1911 is now the only institution of higher learning in the united states dedicated solely to the study of natural resources and the environment improve your world comes to you today from wolpers hall on the ESF campus in syracuse this is the home of the faculty of paper science and engineering here we’re in the middle of where classroom theory is turned into practical application hello and welcome to improve your world with SUNY ESS I’m your host on torrentz today we’ll be talking with dr. Gary Scott dr. Scott is the associate chair of the faculty of paper science and engineering here at ESF we’ll talk about teaching Bio Products engineering here at the school in other words how students are learning to create fuel from wood but first our first guest today is dr. Tom amadon dr ramadan very pleased to have you with us here today dr. Ramadan is the chair of the Faculty of paper science and engineering and you’re also the director of the Empire State paper Institute I understand if done thank you very much for coming well we it’s a pleasure to have you here and this is a very exciting operation we’ve got to discuss today because nothing is more of a headline kind of opportunity and discussing alternative energy especially here based in New York State and at ESF and research that you’re all doing here you’ve been developing a process developing a process to remove energy-rich sugars from wood and you tell us a little bit about the status of that because I know it’s been under development for quite some time you’re waiting to get it to commercial application where are we in that process we’re at what we call pilot sale engineering scale well that’s where we’re doing it on the many cubic foot basis creating 55-gallon drums of material that we then do some more work on so that’s a significant scale well off the bench you need some equipment like that around here to do it but that’s not full-scale commercial yet that’s where we intend to go within about two years in two years you think we feel a need for speed right now is speaking of speed that we’re getting a lot of motivation and impetus and perhaps money to from the federal government from private industry there’s something uh there’s been a lot of talk about this billion ton biomass for energy and other products how does what you’re doing here integrate with those efforts the billion ton puts together the risk the agricultural residue available for processing and wood materials available for processing we focus on wood that’s what we’re good at what our process does we’ll work on agricultural residues we believe and we will get into it but what is our leading player it’s that half of that picture that we can help to fill in now what you’re doing to may turn the paper and pulp industry around I understand because it will help them towards new streams of revenue new profitability sustainability perhaps even new jobs for people in this region we see increased jobs when we look at the incremental revenue from this idea applied to the paper industry and it’s early on member these are estimates but it takes them from below the cost of capital to above the cost of capital sorry for the little bit technical words but if you’re below the cost of capital you can’t keep your physical plant up and if you’re above it you can keep going indefinitely so that’s an important incremental revenue addition for the industry that motivates a lot of people out in industry as well as us so describe to us how this would work them what the benefits would be for instance to a pulp and paper manufacturer who you were to help them along developing other uses of some of the byproducts of their processes the the main real interest point potent paper company is currently these energy rich sugars that you mentioned are not used well in the process two-thirds and we’re lost at best they’re turned into energy but not good energy they’re not good at that take them out turn them into ethanol which is very good energies portable fuel energy energy that’s hard to come by and their process actually gets more efficient in other words they’re looking at their current way of manufacturing getting better and an incremental product that society wants badly and will pay them wealth to do that’s win both ways right we’ve heard an awful lot about ethanol lately most of what I think the American public hears about is food crop based ethanol extraction from the corn or sugar crops like that why would what what are the advantages of wood and what perhaps are the disadvantages well the biggest one advantage is lower costs especially less energy invested wood trees don’t require much fertile they don’t require much tending so the amount of energy you had to invest to get them to catch the sunlight was very

small so when you recover a fuel from them if you divide the energy you got by the energy you spent you get a very good a very positive number I’m pleased with what we do with corn to ethanol we get a positive number but nowhere near as good as wood so of course not surprisingly i like wood better right now you’re talking about wood is a crop really where I wouldn’t want to leave people with a misconception perhaps that we’re tearing down the remaining forests that we have in the United States in order to meet our energy gluttony as some people have put it describe where your wood biomass is coming on this ship commercial forests only happen on land that has held meant to grow commercial crops and to grow them again and again doesn’t get into land that is too steep or being held because of unique diversity that land doesn’t get touched I don’t see this having any effect on that but the main thing we haven’t mentioned is this will start a new crop for farmers and it’s already happening in New York’s called biomass willow shrub willows where they’re catching energy put it into wood small pieces of wood but those small pieces they work just fine in this process and i started has funded the work to let us be able to show that hey they work really well and private companies have begun to put out contracts to farmers in new york to grow willow now that is really i think getting smart about this energy situation and we have talked about willow in the past on the program here but you’re concentrating too on hardwoods what is the difference what advantages to hardwoods have over a rapidly growing smaller plant like a shrub willow well now shrub willow is a hardwood so they work just like rapidly growing small plants like loblolly pine in the southeast or corn or soybeans then it comes to the chemistry of hardwoods is we built this process to be good at them they are advantaged we get more valuable products from hardwoods remember well as a harder okay then we get from any other species because the chemistry is right for this process okay so this is in conjunction with what others are doing with shrub willow your what kinds of trees are you in to getting our the tree we look at most a sugar maple most common tree in New York State we started at it’s our model species it also grows very well without humans having to put a lot of effort into it it’s out there in the woods reproducing just like it always has since before we were here so it’s the model species we have worked with mixed northern cards birch beach the two different maples three different maples actually in New York State and then oaks and hickories but really hurts beats maple that’s what New York State is best at and do these trees have to grow large in order for that equation of energy put in to grow versus energy output at the other end no and that comes to it I didn’t give you as full and answers I should have to an earlier question when you harvest hardwoods and take them to make lumber and make strand board and flake board and fiber board and then what’s what you think is what’s left you take for paper you look at the stand out there are fifty percent of the mass of what was taken away is still out there it’s stuff that was too crooked or too small to be used by any of those this process wants that knows it was already harvested it was going back to co 2 because it was going to decay instead of having a decayed and getting no value from it will bring it in and get energy for us to use and then we’ll go back to co2 and then the trees have catch it again higher levels of efficiency of use yes okay less waste left in the wood we’re going to see a little bit of a excuse me the specifics of the process but we’re going to take a little break first and come back coming up next improve your world Dave White explores one of the key parts to making ethanol from would he talks with ESF student Christopher wood about how to separate sugar from work you’re watching improve your world with sunni es you can improve your world by what you plan to your yard it is commonly believed that invasive species arrived in the u.s. accidentally not so according to a study by the Brooklyn Botanic Garden they found that half of the worst invasive plant species were brought here intentionally for horticultural use gardening with native species is an effective way to deal with this problem ESS improved your world website has helped to find the right trees and plants high fuel costs diminishing oil supplies global warming the time is now for safe alternative solutions suny college environmental science and forestry is working on renewable energy solutions for example suny ESF is part of a team working to develop the commercial use of willow crops and other woody biomass in the Northeast for safe clean bioenergy and bio products we really can’t improve your world you can be part of the solution go to es F dot edu to find out more you can improve your world by learning more about it from black bears and the Adirondacks to the restoration of Atlantic salmon and Lake Ontario and its tributaries and the growing number of coyotes all across the state SUNY ESF

offers details in its environmental information series do we need to encourage growth or curtail it get the facts then you decide there’s also advice for developing environmentally sensitive landscapes how to test your soil pH and what it means welcome back to improve your world we’ve been talking with dr. Tom amadon about extracting ethanol from wood now we’re going to take a look at an ESF student who’s been working with dr. Ramadan on one of the essential components of that process dave white went out and filed this report for us seems almost prophetic that the student Christopher wood would end up working with this process making ethanol the North starts with big chunks of wood being turned into chips chips just the right size the chips are poured into a digester water is added and the chips of pressure cook to produce this brown liquid next step find a way to extract the good stuff from the brown liquid that’s where ESF jr Christopher wood came into the picture and what he helped develop was this nano filtration system this is a memory has actually been taken apart how this works is you actually have a membrane surface this one’s seen quite a bit of use which is this material and you force water aesthetic acid methanol and further all through that memory here’s the small pilot system the membrane is inside the long cylinder the brown liquid is pumped up through the cylinder and the concentrated liquid is returned to the tank where it can run through again and again until it reaches the needed concentration but it allows you a very clean separation you have to add anything you don’t take a chance of changing anything by adding heat you don’t have to put in the energy of heating up all that water here’s what the liquid looks like at the start of the process after nano filtration this is the concentrated sugar solution this is about three times more concentrated than what’s in the bucket next step test the nano filtration system at higher pressure going from 100 to 150 psi pounds per square inch to 500 psi and like going from director set to real life the extract from the digester goes through a first screening and into this 500-gallon storage tank then through another screen and into a second 500-gallon tank then the larger scale nano filtration system begins utilizing four cylinders as opposed to one just like in a small pilot system when the larger amount of extract reaches the right concentration it goes into this 400 liter fermenter where the ethanol is produced so clearly dr. Ramadan there are other products that come out of this process that can he turned into commodities for profit it’s not only the ethanol ethanol wasn’t even the reason we got into it we got into it for a biodegradable plastic which you can also ferment the sugars into and there’s a faculty member this college was researching it once we got into it we found acetic acid was going to be a very valuable co-product also these sugars and the acetic acid or what nature gives us from the trees turns out acetic acid or were three or four times as much as the sugars but you don’t get near as much of them know if you’re at skating with it I want to walk us through the process everyone have is process and then will interrupt it a few times too short show some specifics it really starts 20 miles south here in thali New York at the hybrid forest where we harvest the trees as the college owns that most of the time we work with maple these particular logs happen to be red oak which are also common in the southern tier of New York State we start with the trees we peel the bark off them actually our graduate students do that income or in commerce they have a different way which which is a lot less expensive but our students appreciate the extra money and then we chip them and that’s this large circular item you see in the back here heavy metal and it will reduce these logs to things that these are just wood chips it’ll take about two and a half seconds for one of those long what goes our claws those two this now it can begin to be treated as if it is a chemical raw material it’s uniform enough from these we go into water a few secrets the Research Foundation has some intellectual property here ok we won’t argue yet proprietary information right but we do it now at a scale of about over 50 cubic foot in diameter in the volume meaning we’ll get four or five barrels okay of the water with sugar and see the cassat in it looks like this brown color done if you’re willing to smell it I thought you’re going to ask me if I was only take a side I don’t encourage that although we haven’t touched melz quite it smells a little like a vanilla cooking is a little bit of acetic acid you know just a little bit of sour and that’s what it is but this isn’t ready yet in fact if you tried to ferment it wouldn’t for the same reason that pickles and sauerkraut

stopped fermenting there’s enough acetic acid in here that it’s pickled sugars right then we go into a separation process Christopher would show death right in the work that you looked at they’re using membranes we squeeze water and acetic acid through the sugar doesn’t go through sugar gets more concentrated we want it to be more concentrated ghost you’re going to make ethanol you want it to be fairly high concentration and sugars could give you a pretty high concentration of ethanol then the acetic acid is ready to sell we get some other products flu methanol and some lignin and stuff that is going to pay for itself but the big moneymakers yet they go into Commerce there are people who already want them want to buy them they want to take the methanol and use that to make biodiesel whole different process but you need methanol or ethanol to do it so well get get something you know it’s kind of like the everything but the link when you pick goes into the products okay we’re going to get something from everything we’re going to net produce water it’s not a water consumer water comes in with the wood we clean it up and we’re going to use that other places in the process and we’re going to make the ethanol which is what society I think is most familiar with some of the other products I mentioned the biodegradable plastic before it’s done I think society is going to be more excited about that one because it isn’t made from oil if it gets loose in the world it will be great it won’t you know hang around the next to the birds and things like yes we don’t have time today to go to all of that so we start with chunks of trees turn them into small things extract them that big digester over there I think you’ve also got some footage on that you’ve got footage of us shipping and screening you’ll see it’s a pretty straightforward process that looks a lot like the current pulp and paper industry just different products so how close for instance would to a commercial application is the extraction of acetic acid into the biodegradable plastics over years away from that also or three years ago I would have said we’re going to make those plastics before we made ethanol and you know what maybe we will because they’re worth about a dollar twenty pound whereas ethanol depending who you talk to his twenty thirty cents a pound right so maybe we will bake that’s in that two year three year from now which is pretty fast in us within my standards in industrial development right but these are on parallel tracks one isn’t diverting resources our ability at from the other they bring more resources because some people are interested in one and not the other and each one when we may in advance helps us on the other one right sciences like that you know you learn things you apply them absolutely well it’s wonderful the way all of these are integrating coming together and you involve students at all levels of study in the research here and hopefully in the application to dr. Tom Abbott on thank you very much for joining us we really appreciate it today thank you for coming down okay coming up next we’ll be talking with dr. Gary Scott about how to get youth more interested and to get them educated about the kinds of processes we’ve just been discussing improve your world with SUNY ESF we’ll be right back you can improve your world by what you plan to your yard it is commonly believed that invasive species arrived in the u.s. accidentally not so according to a study by the Brooklyn Botanic Garden they found that half of the worst invasive plant species were brought here intentionally for horticultural use gardening with native species is an effective way to deal with this problem ESS improved your world website has helped to find the right trees and plants high fuel costs diminishing oil supplies global warming the time is now for safe alternative solutions suny college environmental science and forestry is working on renewable energy solutions for example SUNY ESF is part of a team working to develop the commercial use of willow crops and other woody biomass in the Northeast for safe clean bioenergy and bio products we really can’t improve your world you can be part of the solution go to es F dot edu to find out more you can improve your world by learning more about it from black bears and the Adirondacks to the restoration of Atlantic salmon and Lake Ontario and its tributaries and the growing number of coyotes all across the state SUNY ESF offers details in its environmental information series do we need to encourage growth or curtail it get the facts then you decide there’s also advice for developing environmentally sensitive landscapes how to test your soil pH and it means and welcome back to improve your world my guest now is dr. Gary Scott dr. Scott is the associate chair of the Department of paper sciences and engineering dr. Scott welcome make a pick it out in here with us going to talk a lot about this exciting new venture that the schools involved and also the opportunities that can open up for students who come to the program here first of all tell us a little bit about your new program here in bioprocess engineering what the term means and what the field is well we’re starting this process this program in bioprocess engineering at both the bachelor’s master’s and PhD level and it’s growing out of the research that’s

been going on here for the last couple of years and the way I like to describe it describe bioprocess engineering at least the way we’re using the term is that its chemical engineering but without the petroleum if you think about it most chemical engineering programs are historically developed in terms of petroleum engineering taking what we can do with oil natural gas and petroleum products and perusing other products in it what we’re looking at this program to do at all levels as to what what products can we get out of our natural resources in our in our renewable and sustainable resources so things like the the wood ethanol biodiesel are some of the examples of the technologies that would be involved in a program like this now is this safe to describe these as a growth industry this is definitely a growth industry we’re we’re definitely need to do something to get ourselves away from petroleum and we see this as a way of developing the engineers and scientists that are needed to help us develop this technology and get it into the basically the mainstream so that we can pull ourselves away of it from the from our dependence on oil and this is an undergraduate as well as a graduate program right it’s both an undergraduate and graduate the undergraduate program is it is it is an engineering program that has a biology and resource focus and it will involve quite a bit of chemistry it will involve biology it will involve math but it will train the engineers to think about what products we can get from our natural resources this includes even to the extent of pharmaceutical products I would assume then that the job market for students would graduate from this program would be quite strong we think so being that it’s a there’s a four-year leg and producing graduates from a program we have to actually be thinking about four years ahead we think we think the market for years from now will be there we’ve had some of our companies cooperator companies that come in and do work with us saying that they’re ready for some graduates now and we just expect the the demand to grow now if you could describe in some specific detail with the bio products industry is all about I assume that it covers quite a wide range of things it can cover quite a right range and quite a wide range and there are a number of there a number of programs that focus on different aspects of it a lot of bio engineering programs focus on the medical aspects of it bioengineering biomechanical engineering for prosthetics and other medical uses we’re looking more at the more of the commodity the more the resource aspect of what can we do to displace products away from oil so some of the examples are the wood to ethanol getting fuel from a sustainable resource such as wood another one would be the biodiesel again using a sustainable resource that can be in terms of soybeans and other products and getting that into a more of a sustainable resource type product now there’s been a lot of government support I understand as well as private industry support for these kinds of research endeavors does that have an impact on what student support there would be for those who want to get into a program like this well we are we’re working on getting students support we have an advantage in the Faculty of paper science and engineering as we’ve had a long-standing cooperation with our industrial partners through to through a research organization called the Empire State paper Research Institute and also the Syracuse pulp and paper foundation and the circus Paul paper foundation has been supporting students with scholarships to study paper science and paper engineering which are other programs which we’ve been delivering since about nineteen twenty but they are interested in also developing scholarships for bioprocess engineering students so they are they are going out and looking for money and we’re trying to build an endowment to offer student scholarships to help them study to help them get into this field and within I think was just last month we had announced our first ten thousand dollar donation to a scholarship fund to support bioprocess engineering so we were able to offer student this year or five hundred dollar scholarship typically what kinds of courses will a student study at the undergraduate level and then we’ll talk a little bit about the graduate level and is there a research component for undergrads at the undergraduate level the the three main components of the curriculum our math in chemistry is the basics and that’s basically engineering and of course there’s a strong by Allah biological component so the students will be taking a fair amount of chemistry but they’re also taking this and focusing in on the bots biological aspects and then plus we’re offering about eight new courses to cover the undergraduate program and things such as bio separation systems engineering and biological systems and one of the important parts of our program is an internship program we will be requiring all students to do at least a one summer internship and

again this is stemming out from our experience with the paper engineering program where we have been requiring internships for for many years and have a very successful program in internships now between the undergraduate experience and the masters or PhD or experience you have a certificate program we can describe that right our certificate program is a is an opportunity for retraining of Engineers in this area it’s a 15 credit 45 course graduate certificate so there are take they take over the course of year or five graduate courses oh it is a year-long it is a year-long program it starts in June and runs I say it starts in August and runs through June and so and it’s and they take the courses in lockstep so one follows the other directly and it’s it’s 15 credits it’s it can be a stepping stone to a masters or PhD but they are off they are awarded a certificate through the sunni ESF so it is an official certificate and this allows engineers and scientists that have already have a BS degree to get a more concentrated training in this area and this developed through a need seen by bristol-myers squibb to train some of their personnel in this area and so far is on a very successful program the first year we’ve had it there were 15 students in the program and this year there are 19 students in the program and each year we’ve had to turn students away because of capacity limits so it’s for young mid-career professionals yes and obviously they need the support of their employers to come for an entire year or do they study oftentimes at night are online or are you making innovations like the this program has been designed to help the the professional that’s working so they are offered all as evening classes once or twice a week and it’s Bex essentially been designed around the schedule of a working professional and bristol-myers squibb has been our mary source of people coming and they do support them by support me and paying their tuition for the program now in the graduate level master students tell us a little bit about their course of study and what opportunities await them when they graduate the masters and PhD program those are both research heavy programs so most of our students or all the students are working on a research project with this area with the coursework to give them the background to do the research for example at one of the one of the projects is getting the Hemi cellulose is out of the wood chips for the fermentation and this one is designing and modeling that process so that we can optimize it and getting up getting the Hemi cellulose is the sugars out in the most efficient process so innovation is a big part of whatever research work they’re doing yes yes the innovation and the development of these new technologies and we are now working and some of the students are working on this is taking this process and working on the scale up so we can we take from the laboratory scale to the larger scales terrific where do you recruit for your students who are you’re looking for in terms of undergrads coming out of programs what we’re looking for for the graduate program is students that have a background in engineering particularly possibly chemical engineering or a background in paper science and engineering we see this as not a strong divergence from the paper engineering program we see this as a compliment or as and as a way for the paper industry to expand its base of products expand its profitability and help that industry who has the expertise to handle these large amounts of materials and of course for our region New York State in particular the paper and pulp industry is a very important component of our economy correct yes it is i believe the pulp paper industry probably one of the largest landowners in the united states in new york state plus there are quite a number of mills in in new york state that produce home paper and there are they are an employer major employer in the state dr. Scott thank you very much thank you don’t appreciate it that’s dr Gary Scott we thank him for being our guest today and also dr. Thomas amadon and that’s our show for today improve your world will be back soon hope you’ll join us I’m your host on torrentz we’ll see you again soon