Pipeline explosion in Mexico kills 91 and counting

January 23, 2019 by  
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Last week, a gasoline pipeline exploded in central Mexico , killing 91 people, with numbers expected to surpass 100. Mexico’s state-owned oil company, Pemex, did not respond properly to the initial leak, which resulted in backlash from citizens towards the newly appointed President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. The leak is believed to have been caused by thieves attempting to steal fuel after President Lopez Obrador mandated all pipelines close in an effort to crackdown on criminal activity in late December. According to Reuters, Pemex held a press conference on Monday where an engineer stated the leak began as a “small puddle” in the Tlahuelilpan district of Hidalgo, and later resulted in a “fountain” of fuel. The engineer added that the company was able to “take actions.” What those actions were exactly isn’t clear, and the company didn’t say when they shut off the flow of fuel . Hundreds of local residents rushed to the punctured pipeline to collect fuel and were caught in the explosion. Related: Virgin Atlantic plane takes flight with fuel from recycled waste Pemex Chief Executive Octavio Romero defended the company’s actions and said that they followed protocol, but would not admit to any negligence or corruption. “Everything will be looked at,” said Romero. However, Mexican Attorney General Alejandro Gertz Manero said there is a current  investigation underway into possible negligence and will call in all of the officials involved to answer questions this week. Additionally, a nearby pipeline a few miles southwest of Tlahuelilpan was also breached on Monday by suspected thieves, according to Hidalgo Governor Omar Fayad. Via Reuters Image via Shutterstock

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Pipeline explosion in Mexico kills 91 and counting

Green-roofed home is built of waste bricks and wood in Poland

January 23, 2019 by  
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Environmentally friendly with a beautifully textured facade, this brick house built of recycled materials in Poland has been nominated for the European Union Prize for Contemporary Architecture – Mies van der Rohe Award 2019. Polish architecture firm Biuro Toprojekt designed the dwelling — fittingly named the Red House — that pays homage to the Cistercian landscape and history of Rudy Wielkie, a region in the Upper Silesia known for its brick architecture, with its walls built from hand-sorted waste bricks sourced from nearby brickworks. Environmentally friendly principles guided the design of the Red House, which was built mainly from locally accessible timber and bricks. The spacious, 364-square-meter building was constructed on a clearing at the edge of the forest. Views of the forest are embraced through full-height glazing that pull the outdoors in. A green roof was also installed and will blend the building into the landscape as the roof grows increasingly lush and the brick walls develop a patina. Unlike traditional brick construction, Red House adopts a more textural approach to its brick walls inspired by chiaroscuro, an art term describing the contrast between light and dark. The architects explained how they achieved this effect: “A variation of cross-linking was used, in which two bricks next to each other with heads on top of each other are pushed out on one side and pressed on the other side in relation to the face of the wall. This simple treatment significantly enriched the work of chiaroscuro on the façade. By completely removing the same pair of bricks , an openwork wall was created, concealing the window openings that could break the clean structure of the façade.” Related: Lego-like kindergarten sparks creativity with a playful brick facade Roughly square in plan, the Red House is accessed through an outdoor brick courtyard that takes up approximately a quarter of the home’s footprint. The entry foyer opens up to a stairway leading up to a small upper floor as well as the L-shaped, open-plan living room, dining area and kitchen. The master bedroom is located to the south of the living areas. A large outdoor patio on the west side of the house connects seamlessly to the living spaces and the master bedroom through sliding glass doors. + Biuro Toprojekt Photography by Juliusz Soko?owski via Biuro Toprojekt

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Green-roofed home is built of waste bricks and wood in Poland

California teen finds golf balls are a major source of plastic waste in our oceans

January 23, 2019 by  
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The plastic waste in our oceans is a major environmental problem thanks to humans tossing out single-use items like take-out containers, plastic straws, water bottles and plastic bags. But there is also an unexpected source of plastic waste that a teenage diver recently discovered — golf balls. When 16-year-old Alex Weber was swimming in a small cove near Carmel, California two years ago, she looked down and discovered there were so many white golf balls in the water that she couldn’t see the sand. Weber immediately decided to pick up as many as she could. Over the next few months, she and her father hauled hundreds of pounds of golf balls out of the water and stored them in the garage. But with five coastal golf courses nearby, golfers continued to hit the balls into the ocean. Eventually, Weber discovered Matt Savoca, a Stanford University scientist who studies plastic waste in the oceans . The teen emailed Savoca and invited him to look at her stash, which featured thousands of golf balls. Weber’s haul impressed Savoca, and he told her that she should write a scientific paper, but Weber didn’t know how to do that. So the two ended up working together, and he started diving with her. They also brought kayaks so they could take the golf balls back to land. Related: Study finds microplastics in sea turtles around the world After grabbing the golf balls, Savoca said they would put them on the kayak, and Weber explained that the kayaks were “so filled with plastic ” that they had to tow them by swimming them to shore. The biggest threat to the pair while they were recovering the golf balls wasn’t the sharks in the water. Instead, it was golf balls flying from the nearby courses right into the spot where they were collecting. Golf balls are coated with a thin polyurethane shell, and overtime as the shells degrade, they emit  toxic chemicals . The balls also degrade into microplastic pieces that marine animals eat. Since the first discovery, Weber continues to collect golf balls and manages The Plastic Pick-Up to encourage eliminating ocean pollution. Weber said, “If a person could see what we see underwater, it would not be acceptable.” + The Plastic Pick-Up Via NPR Images via Alex Weber

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California teen finds golf balls are a major source of plastic waste in our oceans

Greenhouse gas emissions rose during 2018 after three year decline

January 15, 2019 by  
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After a solid decline for the past three years, carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in the United States rose in 2018. According to data from the Energy Information Administration (EIA), power generation, natural gas and oil consumption resulted in an emissions increase of 3.4 percent, marking the second largest annual gain since 1996. The only year that emissions increased at a more significant rate was 2010, when emissions went up 3.6 percent after a huge recession-driven decline the year before. Even though a record number of coal-fired power plants closed last year, natural gas replaced the majority of the lost generation rather than instead renewables — and also fed the demand for electricity growth. The result of using natural gas over renewables meant a 1.9 percent increase in power sector emissions. However, the biggest source of emissions for the third year in a row was the transportation sector due to the growing demand for diesel and jet fuel that offset a noticeable decline in gasoline consumption. Related: University of Waterloo has created a CO2 powder which could help fight climate change Because of unusual cold weather in the beginning of 2018, the building and industrial sectors also showed significant emissions gains. But, there has also been very little progress in these sectors when it comes to decarbonization strategies. In the United States, CO2 emissions from fossil fuels peaked back in 2007 at approximately 6 billion tons, but thanks to the great recession and the switch in power generation from coal to natural gas, wind and solar, emissions fell by 12.1 percent (an average of 1.6 percent per year) between 2007 and 2015. Yet in the last couple of years the pace of emissions decline has slowed down. Not to mention, the lack of a proper climate change policy will leave the U.S. at risk of putting the Paris Agreement reduction goals (26-28 percent cut below 2005 levels by 2025) out of reach. + Rhodium Group Image via cwizner

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Greenhouse gas emissions rose during 2018 after three year decline

Virgin Atlantic plane takes flight with fuel from recycled waste

October 11, 2018 by  
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A Virgin Atlantic plane flying from Orlando to London  has become the first commercial flight to use jet fuel partly made from recycled industrial waste. The Boeing 747 — which landed at London’s Gatwick Airport last week — used a blend of normal jet fuel plus ethanol made from waste gases. “This fuel takes waste , carbon-rich gases from industrial factories, and gives them a second life so that new fossil fuels don’t have to be taken out of the ground,” Virgin Atlantic founder Richard Branson told The Guardian . He added that this flight was a big step toward making the new fuel blend part of the mainstream. Boeing is proud of our partnership with @VirginAtlantic and @LanzaTech on this historic 747 flight to use biofuel made from waste carbon gas from a steel mill. #Boeing ‘s partnership dates to aviation’s first biofuel test flight, which Virgin flew 10 years ago. pic.twitter.com/DnJGo8lCOh — Boeing Airplanes (@BoeingAirplanes) October 3, 2018 The flight had a fuel blend that included 5 percent of recycled waste fuel. However, Virgin Atlantic said that the sustainable element could form up to 50 percent of the blend in the future. It added that this could contribute to significantly reducing the carbon footprint of airlines. U.S. company LanzaTech produced the fuel, and it claimed that the new blend could eventually supply up to 20 percent of the fuel in the aviation industry. If that does happen, that could lead to a 65 percent cut in greenhouse gas emissions compared to conventional fuel. Branson said that working with LanzaTech will help his company reduce its carbon emissions while also supporting industry in the United Kingdom. Virgin Atlantic is trying to get the U.K. government support to build three plants in the country by 2025. It is also asking for financial backing for LanzaTech, so the company can produce up to 125 million gallons of the jet fuel blend each year. Jennifer Holmgren, LanzaTech’s chief executive, said that her company has shown that recycling waste carbon emissions into jet fuel is possible. She added that we should look at waste carbon as an opportunity, because it can be  reused again and again. Via The Guardian Image via Joao Carlos Medau

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Virgin Atlantic plane takes flight with fuel from recycled waste

Pipeline leaks 8,000 gallons of jet fuel into Indiana river

September 10, 2018 by  
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An oil company based out of Texas has confessed to a faulty pipeline leaking 8,000 gallons of jet fuel into an Indiana river. Buckeye Pipe Line, based out of Houston, admitted that it detected a pressure loss in its fuel line last week. A break in the line poured thousands of gallons of fuel into a river near Decatur, Indiana, a town with slightly less than 10,000 people. Buckeye Pipe Line closed its line as soon as it detected the leak. Unfortunately, the leak still dumped thousands of gallons of jet fuel into St. Marys River, which runs about 100 miles northeast of Indianapolis. Officials in Decatur installed booms in the river to help stop the spread of the fuel while workers skimmed it from the surface of the water with vacuums. Related: TransCanada natural gas pipeline explodes in West Virginia The mayor of Decatur, Kenneth L. Meyer, believes removing the fuel will take weeks. The Environmental Protection Agency ( EPA ) is monitoring the situation and checking fuel levels in businesses and homes close to the spill site. The EPA is also checking the quality of water at different spots further downstream to determine how far the spill has traveled. Residents of Decatur first learned about the spill late Friday night after the local police issued a warning. The Decatur Police Department told citizens to stay away from the river until the cleanup was over. Buckeye Pipe Line is not planning on re-opening the line until the pressure issue is dealt with and everything is safe to run. Although 8,000 gallons of jet fuel ended up in the river, the EPA does not believe the town’s water supply will be affected by the spill. Residents might, however, notice a change in air quality . Meanwhile, this spill offers environmentalists further evidence of the dangers of new oil and gas pipelines. Via Associated Press and EcoWatch Image via  Ray Bodden

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Pipeline leaks 8,000 gallons of jet fuel into Indiana river

New study suggests that plastic waste may be transformed into usable energy

June 12, 2018 by  
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A new study from the Earth Engineering Center (EEC|CCNY) at the Grove School of Engineering of the City College of New York suggests that plastic waste can effectively be converted into usable fuel and energy rather than being dumped in a landfill or polluting the ocean. Researchers found that the addition of non-recycled plastics (NRPs) to a chemical recycling process known as gasification results in the production of crude oil -based fuel. It also reduces pollution, both plastic and emissions, in contrast to traditional methods of disposing of plastic waste, such as incineration or dumping. Plastic is a product derived from crude oil and, as such, contains significant latent energy that can be harnessed using the right technology and technique. “This study demonstrates that because carbon- and hydrogen -rich plastics have high energy content, there is tremendous potential to use technologies like gasification to convert these materials into fuels, chemicals and other products,” study co-author Marco J. Castaldi told Phys.org . As concerns rise over plastic pollution, scientists are looking to reframe plastic as a resource rather than waste . “Plastics have an end-of-life use that will be turning waste into energy, which is something we all need and use,” study co-author Demetra Tsiamis told Phys.org. Related: UN releases first “state of plastics” report on World Environment Day Gasification uses air or steam to heat plastic waste. This results in the creation of industrial gas mixtures called synthesis gas, or syngas. This syngas can either be converted into diesel and petrol or burned directly to generate electricity . This process is preferable to incineration of plastic waste because it allows for the storage of potentially usable energy that otherwise would be wasted through incineration. Gasification is also better for air quality, producing much lower levels of sulfur and nitrogen oxide emissions. + Earth Engineering Center Via Phys.org Images via Depositphotos (1, 2)

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New study suggests that plastic waste may be transformed into usable energy

The Dung Beetle Project farts flames as it transforms plastic into fuel

May 28, 2018 by  
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We tend to view plastic waste as worthless garbage, but a group of innovators and creators in Africa view it as an unexploited asset. In fact, they’ve used it to create the Dung Beetle Project , an art project that includes a pyrolysis gasifier to turn plastic into usable fuel. Through the effort, which recently debuted at AfrikaBurn and was spotted by the Land Art Generator Initiative , the Dung Beetle Project hopes to convert plastic from a problem to a solution. Inhabitat spoke with the project’s Finance and Marketing Director, David Terblanche, to find out more. Ideally, the Dung Beetle Project will roll around emulating the insect from which it draws its name — cleaning up waste and transforming it into something useful. The trailer-mounted movable art piece was sculpted with recycled metal in Johannesburg, South Africa, and it contains  gasification technology that recycles plastic into low-emission diesel and liquefied petroleum gas, or LPG. It’s not just the shape of the Dung Beetle that catches attention — it actually shoots flames into the sky by firing recycled gas, and it features an art stage as a platform for musicians, artists or jugglers to create “a spectacle of light and sound…to ignite people’s imaginations and spark excitement about solutions to environmental problems,” according to the group’s statement. Related: Shimmering Solar Arch to generate power for a post-industrial Connecticut town “We want to change people’s perceptions around what plastic is,” Terblanche told Inhabitat. “Right now it’s viewed as a waste, as litter, as a blot on the landscape,” but the Dung Beetle Project could help communities realize “this is a commodity that we can harvest, that it’s got some value, that we can turn it into something.” The Dung Beetle Project got its start when inventor Pierre “Pops” Pretorius, who lives on a rural farm, was tinkering with a gasification system using macadamia nut shells that would otherwise largely be discarded, according to Terblanche, a longtime friend of Pretorius and Jeffrey Barbee, project director and director of Alliance Earth , the organization backing the Dung Beetle Project. Pretorius wondered what else he might be able to gasify and thought of plastic. The friends all attend AfrikaBurn, a regional offshoot of Burning Man , and thought maybe they’d show off the gasification technology there. They had a scale working prototype and decided to transform it into a playa-ready art project. Both AfrikaBurn and Burning Man offered funding that the Dung Beetle team used to create a more sophisticated prototype; artist Nathan Honey designed the metal beetle shell. Here’s how the Dung Beetle Project works: plastic is shredded into pieces and burned in an oxygen-free environment in a reactor; gases then rise up while physical particles are recirculated to be burned again. The gases run through cooling ribs and condense into liquid, “similar to how a whisky still might work,” Terblanche says. Fuel drips out, and it can be used to power a vehicle or generator. According to the group’s statement, “Anything not burnt will fall out the bottom as pure carbon that can be placed directly into the soil to enrich it, or made into something more exciting like nano-tubes or graphene sheets.” There’s no waste, and while some emissions are produced when the resulting fuel is burned — it isn’t a clean fuel — the process used to create that fuel has no emissions,  and the fuel itself burns cleaner than oil. Any plastic could be gasified, but there are some types the team avoids using, like PET, as it’s easily recycled, or white PVC piping, which has chemicals like chlorine that don’t work well with the gasification process. “The big benefit is that [the Dung Beetle Project] can process things that can’t be recycled, like the cellophane wrapping your pre-packed salad comes in, and this process allows you to process items that would have just ended up in a landfill ,” Terblanche said. The vision for the Dung Beetle goes beyond AfrikaBurn. The group aims to take it on a roadshow to educate people and work with communities to create lower-tech versions inspired by Pretorius’ original gasifier built with recycled parts. “The really nice thing about the low-tech version is it can kind of be built in any little backyard garage. So imagine a mechanic who has a welding machine and a workshop. That’s all you probably need to make one of these,” Terblanche said. “So we want to spread the message, and if we can get hundreds of these out there, then we’re going to have hundreds of communities which are cleaning up their own plastic. And then at a community level you starting changing people’s behavior so the plastic doesn’t reach the ocean .” The project could even offer incentives to preserve forests: in places with shortages of fuel or employment, people chop down ancient hardwoods to make charcoal to sell. The Dung Beetle technology could provide fuel security as people use plastic instead of wood for fuel, and people could even sell the plastic for money or some of the fuel a gasification system would generate. In the future, the members of the Dung Beetle Project even see themselves taking to the seas on a boat powered with their tech, bringing the message to island communities facing plastic washing up on their shores. Terblanche said they’d love to “go out into some of these ocean gyres and basically fish for plastic and turn it into fuel on the boat, which we can then store in oil bunkers at the bottom of the boat. At worst, you’ll power the boat and get it across the ocean with its own plastic fuel; at best, you’re creating a commodity which you can actually sell.” The group has been invited to come work with a Mozambique nonprofit; there’s also been interest in the Dung Beetle Project from a Cape Town sustainability institute and even Serengeti National Park. Regardless of what happens, we’re curious to see where the Dung Beetle rolls in the future. + Dung Beetle Project Via Land Art Generator Initiative Images courtesy of Jeffrey Barbee

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The Dung Beetle Project farts flames as it transforms plastic into fuel

EPA to consider burning wood a ‘carbon neutral’ energy source

April 25, 2018 by  
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Earlier this week, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a new policy which will classify the burning of wood as a ‘carbon neutral’ fuel source. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt unveiled this policy shift to an audience of timber industry leaders in Georgia, who have a vested interest in whether they can market wood-based fuel products as ‘green energy.’ Pruitt supported his decision by claiming that forest regrowth will lead to greater absorption of carbon dioxide and somehow counteract the cumulative greenhouse gas emissions resulting from deforestation and burning wood. Scientists, none of whom were consulted in this policy change, disagree. “Today’s announcement grants America’s foresters much-needed certainty and clarity with respect to the carbon neutrality of forest biomass,” Pruitt said in a  press release . A study published by British think-tank Chatham House concluded that when all emissions and carbon absorption is accounted for, harvesting energy from burning wood produces carbon pollution equivalent to that of coal . Further, using this method of energy to create steam may be 50 percent more carbon intensive than coal. Scientist William Moomaw, who focuses on forests and their role in climate change, told Mashable that the policy was announced with “zero consultation” of agency scientists or the EPA’s Science Advisory Board. “It’s a bad idea because anything that has carbon in it produces carbon dioxide when you burn it,” Moomaw said. “This is horrific.” Related: Iceland is replanting its forests 1,000 years after vikings razed them The EPA’s decision to inaccurately classify burning wood as carbon neutral may have global consequences. “Between this and the Europeans [who constitute the largest market for bioenergy], it means no chance of staying within the 2-degree limit,” Moomaw explained. Even if the forests do grow back to their original state, the damage will already be done. “The carbon dioxide in the air will have warmed the planet. … When the tree regrows, the glacier doesn’t regrow,” Moomaw said. “The climate change effects are irreversible. Carbon neutrality is not climate neutrality.” Via Mashable Images via Depositphotos (1)

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EPA to consider burning wood a ‘carbon neutral’ energy source

Scientists reveal new technique to make biofuel from mushroom waste

April 10, 2018 by  
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Researchers at the National University of Singapore have discovered a revolutionary way to transform mushroom waste into biofuel. Despite claims to the contrary, biofuel — typically derived from food crops — is often more environmentally-destructive than it is helpful. This new technique could change that by harvesting energy from waste produced in the process of mushroom cultivation. In a study published in Science Advances , researchers explain how Thermoanaerobacterium thermosaccharolyticum (TG57), a common bacterial byproduct of mushroom cultivation, can be isolated and used to convert plant-based cellulose into biobutanol. Biobutanol is a biofuel that can be used by vehicles designed to run on gasoline. First identified in 2015, the TG57 bacterium strain has been cultivated in various forms to analyze its ability to produce biofuel in a more sustainable manner. “The production of biofuels using non-food feedstocks can improve sustainability and reduce costs greatly,” researcher He Jianzhong told Silicon Republic . “In our study, we demonstrated a novel method of directly converting cellulose to biobutanol using the novel TG57 strain. This is a major breakthrough in metabolic engineering and exhibits a foundational milestone in sustainable and cost-effective production of renewable biofuels and chemicals.” Related: Paris has a new underground – a massive farm for mushrooms and veggies Creating biofuel from waste products is a potential boon for the industry and the environment. Biobutanol holds the most promise because of its energy density, and it can be used directly, without modification, in vehicles designed to run on gasoline. Prior to the study, the high environmental and financial costs of producing biobutanol blocked it from mainstream use. However, the researchers have revealed a widely applicable, straightforward technique that does not require any significant genetic alterations of the bacterium. Someday soon, you may munch on mushrooms with the satisfaction of contributing to greener transportation and a healthier planet. Via Silicon Republic Images via Depositphotos (1)

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