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[Due to the increasing size of the archives, each topic page now contains only the prior 365 days of content. Access to older stories is now solely through the Monthly Archive pages or the site search function.]

Butamax and Gevo cross-license & settle litigation on bio-isobutanol; Butamax to lead w/ gasoline blending, Gevo w/ alcohol-to-jet

August 24, 2015

Gevo, Inc. and Butamax Advanced Biofuels, LLC, a joint venture between BP and DuPont, have entered into worldwide patent cross-license and settlement agreements, ending a patent dispute that stretches back to 2011 related to technologies for the production of bio-based isobutanol. (Earlier post.)

This settlement ends all of the lawsuits and creates a new relationship between the companies, aimed at leveraging each other’s strengths and accelerating development of competitive supply for bio-based isobutanol.

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Synbio company Intrexon and Dominion partner to commercialize bioconversion of natural gas to isobutanol in Marcellus and Utica Basins

August 20, 2015

Intrexon Energy Partners (IEP), a joint venture of synthetic biology company Intrexon Corporation and external investors (earlier post), and Dominion Energy, a subsidiary of Dominion Resources, have entered into an agreement to explore the potential for commercial-scale biological conversion of natural gas to isobutanol in the Marcellus and Utica Shale Basins.

Intrexon’s proprietary methanotroph bioconversion platform uses optimized microbial cell lines to convert natural gas into higher carbon compounds such as isobutanol and farnesene under ambient temperatures and pressures. This novel approach avoids costly, resource-intensive thermochemical gas-to-liquids (GTL) conversion methods, and offers a biofuel that does not utilize sugar or other plant-based feedstock.

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DOE BESC engineered microbe improves biobutanol yield from cellulose by a factor of 10

August 14, 2015

Researchers at the US Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) BioEnergy Science Center (BESC) have engineered a microbe that improves isobutanol yields from cellulose by a factor of 10. The work, published in the journal Metabolic Engineering, builds on results from 2011 in which researchers reported on the first genetically engineered microbe to produce isobutanol directly from cellulose. (Earlier post.)

Isobutanol is attractive because its energy density and octane values are closer to those of gasoline; it is useful not only as a direct replacement for gasoline but also as a chemical feedstock for a variety of products. For example, isobutanol can be chemically upgraded into a hydrocarbon equivalent for jet fuel.

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National Marine Manufacturers Association endorses use of isobutanol in marine fuel market

June 18, 2015

The National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) has identified biobutanol as a suitable and safe alternative biofuel to ethanol. The research and subsequent resolution to move forward formally with butanol as an industry-wide biofuel alternative comes as the industry focuses on addressing the congressionally-mandated Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) requiring 36 billion gallons of renewable fuel to be blended into the gasoline supply by 2022.

Methods to increase renewable fuels in the gasoline supply have primarily focused on ethanol—specifically fuel with a higher blend of ethanol such as E15 (fuel with 15% ethanol). Multiple reports show that ethanol blends greater than 10% can cause significant damage to marine engines. As a result, the marine industry has explored biobutanol fuel blends with promising results.

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DOE BETO awards $10M to 7 advanced biofuels projects

February 21, 2015

The US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) has selected seven projects to receive up to $10 million to support innovative technologies and solutions to help advance the development of advanced biofuels, including bugaboo and drop-in hydrocarbons.

The Bioenergy Technologies Office is working to produce cost-competitive ($3/gallon of gasoline equivalent) advanced biofuels from non-food biomass resources that reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50% or more versus petroleum-based alternatives. These newly selected projects are intended to support this effort.

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Gevo produced more than 50K gallons of renewable isobutanol in December

January 08, 2015

Gevo, Inc., the only commercial producer of renewable isobutanol, reported that in December 2014, it produced more than 50,000 gallons (~190,000 liters) of isobutanol through the Side-by-Side operational mode (SBS) of its plant in Luverne, MN, meeting the lower end of the company’s target.

In June 2014, Gevo commenced the co-production of isobutanol and ethanol at Luverne, with one fermenter dedicated to isobutanol production and three fermenters dedicated to ethanol production. Gevo had articulated a goal of reaching isobutanol production levels of 50-100 thousand gallons per month by the end of 2014.

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UC Riverside researchers find mixed emissions impact from use of higher ethanol and butanol fuels in FFVs

November 24, 2014

A study by University of California, Riverside researchers found that the use of higher ethanol blends and a 55% butanol blend in port-fueled and direct injection flexible fuel vehicles (FFVs) could lead to emission changes of GHGs, CO, aldehydes, BTEX (monoaromatic hydrocarbons of benzene, ethylbenzene, toluene, m/p-xylene, and o-xylene), and particulates.

In a paper in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology, they reported that the higher alcohol fuels would decrease PM mass and number emissions, although current technology direct injection fueling produces higher particle number and soot mass emissions than the PFI fueling as a result of liquid fuel wetting effects and insufficient air fuel mixing. Particulate emissions were clearly influenced by certain fuel parameters including oxygen content, hydrogen content, and aromatics content.

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UCLA researchers develop synthetic biocatalytic pathway for more efficient conversion of methanol to longer-chain fuels

November 18, 2014

Researchers at the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science led by Dr. James Liao have developed a more efficient way to turn methanol into useful chemicals, such as liquid fuels, and that would also reduce carbon dioxide emissions. The UCLA team constructed a synthetic biocatalytic pathway that efficiently converts methanol under room temperature and ambient atmospheric pressures to higher-chain alcohols or other higher carbon compounds without carbon loss or ATP expenditure.

Building off their previous work in creating a new synthetic metabolic pathway for breaking down glucose that could lead to a 50% increase in the production of biofuels (earlier post), the researchers modified the non-oxidative glycolysis pathway to utilize methanol instead of sugar. An open-access paper on the research was published in the 11 Nov. edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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California Energy Commission to award up to $3M for advanced biofuel projects

October 28, 2014

The California Energy Commission’s Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program (ARFVTP) announced (PON-14-602) the availability of up to $3 million in grant funds for biofuels projects that are in the early/pre-commercial technology development stage. This solicitation is emphasizing transformative technology solutions to significant biofuels industry problems that increase yields, productivity, or cost effectiveness of biofuel production; and/or that target a significant unmet need in California’s biofuels industry.

The ARFVTP has an annual budget of approximately $100 million and provides financial support for projects that increase the use of alternative and renewable fuels and advanced vehicle technologies.

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