Ethanol Implementation at James Madison University




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Bioenergy at JMU

Southeastern Universities Research Association


Christopher Bachmann* and John Noftsinger


February 20, 2007





*Assistant Professor of Integrated Science and Technology

Center for Energy and Environmental Sustainability

MSC 4102

James Madison University

Harrisonburg, VA 22807

Phone: 540-568-2735

Email: bachmacg@jmu.edu

Ethanol Implementation at James Madison University


As of January 26, 2007 JMU began using a 10% ethanol blend in all 280 of it's gasoline powered vehicles, so that ALL vehicles owned and operated by JMU are currently powered by biofuels.


Biodiesel Implementation at James Madison University


James Madison University and the City of Harrisonburg have been implementing biodiesel in their vehicle fleets since the fall of 2003. In order to asses performance and economic costs associated with implementation of biodiesel blends (B-5) a matched set of buses (8 biodiesel and 12 petroleum diesel) operating on their respective fuels were observed for a period of one year. Data for this experiment is provided on the following page.


All graphs reflect the numbers supplied to James Madison University by the City of Harrisonburg. Actual fuel prices (per gallon) and specifics regarding the percent biodiesel used during the analysis time period were not provided. Results regarding fuel cost per mile and total operating cost per mile are dependent upon accurate recording of price fluctuations.


Cellulosic Ethanol Research and Education


Cellulosic ethanol is based upon the ability to break apart cellulose into it's constitutive simple sugar subunits. Fungi are capable of decomposing wood and cellulosic biomass by secreting digestive enzymes known as cellulases. There are many different cellulases produced by a broad range of different fungi, with different species of fungi exhibiting varying degrees of cellulase production activity, and their corresponding enzymes exhibiting varying degrees of chemical effectiveness. JMU is currently culturing several species of fungi for the production of cellulases essential for the production of cellulosic ethanol.


JMU recently received the Federal permits to engage in ethanol fuel production and is currently awaiting State approval.


The Center for Energy and Environmental Sustainability (CEES)

at James Madison University


The five cornerstones of the Center for Energy and Environmental Sustainability (CEES) include the air quality, alternative fuel, renewable energy, water quality, and sustainable communities.


Air Quality: SHENAIR (http://www.isat.jmu.edu/shenair/)- The SHENandoah Valley AIR Quality Initiative (SHENAIR) is a group of citizens, elected officials, educators and regulators whose goal is to integrate economic and comprehensive planning with ecological considerations into a set of decision support tools for public and private planning related to air quality.


Alternative Fuels: Our mission is to educate the public about the depleting global oil reserves and facilitate the transition to clean, renewable, alternative energy sources. Research interests include improved biofuel processing strategies, algal biodiesel utilizing exhaust gas CO2, and production of cellulosic ethanol from agricultural and municipal solid waste.


Water Quality: The Shenandoah Valley Pure Water Forum (Forum) promotes clean water and addresses water quality issues through networking, education, and action in the Shenandoah River watershed. The Forum strives to build a community among citizen conservation groups, business and industry, agriculture, educational institutions, local governments, and state natural resource agencies.


Wind Power / Renewables: We seek to educate the public and inform decision-makers about wind energy development in Virginia, in support of the Commonwealth’s need for reliable and affordable energy, environmental quality, and economic development.





Figure 1. Results of comparative study investigating biodiesel implementation in City of Harrisonburg's Public Transportation Fleet for a period of one year. A. Biodiesel buses showed greater fuel economy (higher MPG) B. Biodiesel buses showed lower fuel costs per mile C. Biodiesel buses showed lower repair costs per mile D. Biodiesel buses showed an overall lower operating cost per mile. Results given as mean +/- standard deviation



Because of the small sample size and the degree of variation in the data, many of the comparisons did not show statistical significance. However, several trends indicating differences between the use of biodiesel blends vs. standard petroleum diesel fuel were visible.


1. Buses operating on biodiesel blends achieved a 2.5% INCREASE in fuel economy (miles per gallon)

2. Buses operating on biodiesel showed a 6.5% REDUCTION in fuel costs per mile

3. Buses operating on biodisel showed a 46.5% REDUCTION in repair costs per mile

4. Buses operating on biodiesel showed a 20.2% REDUCTION in overall operating expenses per mile

On-going and Future Work


Energy security, environmental quality, and climate change are two of the most prominent problems facing the global population. It is clear that alternative energy sources must be identified, and that the environmental impact of our agricultural and industrial practices must be reduced.


The Shenandoah Valley produces in excess of 400,000 tons of poultry litter annually, but nutrient management plans recommend that no more than 135,000 tons of the litter be applied to local-area farmlands. Over fertilization has been implicated in elevating levels of phosphorous and nitrogen throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed and contributing to the formation of harmful algae blooms that have negatively impacted the Nation's largest estuary eco-system, and subsequently impacted Virginia's tourism and fishing industries. Finding a solution to the poultry litter disposal issue will directly help local area farmers. It will also benefit the Commonwealth of Virginia by addressing the widespread environmental impact incurred by the Valley's agricultural practices and enhancing the Commonwealth's compliance with the Chesapeake Bay Agreement. The potential for this waste-to-energy conversion strategy to produce 3.2 trillion Btu's annually by burning the litter, in addition to addressing waste disposal issues, substantially enhances the energy security of the Shenandoah Valley's electric utility sector.


Poultry Litter Assesment: (Led by Dr. Maria Papadakis)


The social, environmental, and economic problems associated with poultry litter production and disposal are being assessed for the State of Virginia. Short and along with long term threats (food security, environment, economic) created by disposal issues. The constraints on litter disposal (markets, costs, logistics, biohazards, phosphorus in soil, etc.) will be evaluated, and opportunities and limits to options currently available (e.g., fertilizer and horticultural uses) will be assessed. The feasibility of options currently under technical evaluation (e.g., digesters, incinerators) is being evaluated based on the specific needs of the Commonwealth.


Resource Recovery Facility: (Led by Dr. Jonathan Miles)


Resource recovery refers to recovering the energy contained in municipal and agricultural solid waste and converting it into a useful form. At the Harrisonburg Resource Recover Facility (RRF) this is done by combustion of solid waste to produce electricity, steam heat, and air-conditioning for the JMU campus. Originally built in 1982, the facility was upgraded in 2004 to a capacity of accepting 200 tons of trash per day and generating 57,000 lbs of steam per hour.i It is also capable of generating 2.5 MW of electrical power.


Poultry litter has an energy content of approximately 12.8 MBtu/ton.ii Conversion of the 265,000 tons of poultry litter produced in the Shenandoah Valley has the potential to generate upwards of 3.2 trillion Btu's of energy annually. Mass burn combustion is considered one of the most successful methods of converting the energy contained within litter to a useful energy form, but issues such as slagging and increased exhaust emissions can damage the incineration system or cause the facility to fall out of compliance with State and Federal air quality regulations.


Current studies into the feasibility of utilizing the Barlow AIREAL Combustion System (ACS) at the Resource Recovery Facility to incinerate poultry litter are being investigated. A collaboration between JMU, the City of Harrisonburg, and the Harrisonburg Electric Commission is being developed. Engineering design considerations needed to modify one of the trash burners to accept poultry litter are being investigated along with the potential to produce algae while supporting the requisite monitoring for emissions. A complete energy analysis is being performed.


Cultivation of Aquatic Species (Led by Dr. Chris Bachmann and Dr. Tom Benzing)


From 1978 to 1996, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Fuels Development funded a program to develop renewable transportation fuels from algaeiii. The main focus of the program was the production of Biodiesel from high lipid-content algae grown in ponds, utilizing waste CO2 from coal fired power plants. It was concluded that algal biodiesel is one of the only avenues available for high-volume re-use of CO2 generated in power plants, marrying the potential need for carbon disposal in the electric utility industry with the need for clean-burning alternatives to petroleum in the transportation sector.


Combustion of poultry litter has the potential to generate significant amounts of energy, but also generates harmful exhaust gases in the process. Of vital importance are increased CO2 and NOx emissions


We are currently investigating the potential for using poultry litter, the ash resulting from the combustion of poultry litter, and commercially available fertilizers to cultivate freshwater and marine microalgae in a photobioreactor system that would simultaneously reduce industrial exhaust gas emission and produce high-value biomass feedstock for the production of biofuels. The focus of this research is to investigate nutrient requirements for the cultivation of microalgae in closed-loop photobioreactor and open pond configurations, along with the potential reduction in CO2 and NOx emissions, and experimental and theoretical bio-oil and biomass yields. The development of novel algae cultivation and processing systems is also be examined.



i Wooford, J. and Moorman, B. Combined Heat and Power for a College Campus: the Harrisonburg, Virginia Waste-to-Energy Facility. Barlow Projects, Inc. 2005.

ii Kelleher, B.P., Leahy, J.J., Henihan, A.M., O'Dwyer, T.F., Sutton, D., and Leahy, M.J. Advances in Poultry Litter Disposal Technology. Bioresource Technology, 2002. Volume 83, Issue 1, pages 27-36.

iii Sheehan, J., Dunahay, T., Benemann, J., and Roessler, P. A Look Back at the U.S. Department of Energy's Aquatic Species Program - Biodiesel from Algae. USDOE Office of Fuels Development and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory Document NREL/TP-580-24190, 1998.

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