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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.]

DLR-led NEMESIS 2+ project develops compact direct steam reformer for diesel/biodiesel to H2

September 02, 2015

The European NEMESIS 2+ consortium has and successfully tested a pre-commercial on-site system for the production of hydrogen from diesel and biodiesel. The prototype system—the size of a shipping container—can be integrated into existing infrastructure with relative ease.

The prototype, built by the Dutch project partner HyGear, produces 4.4 kilograms of hydrogen from 20 liters of biodiesel per hour—this roughly corresponds to the fuel tank of a B-Class F-cell vehicle. The efficiency of the process, from start to finish, is approximately 70%. (Original project goals were 50 Nm3/h, or 4.5 kg/h with an efficiency >80%.) The EU NEMESIS 2+ project, which ran until June 2015, was coordinated by the German Aerospace Center (DLR).

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Lux: Despite softness in utilization, global biofuels capacity to grow to 61.4 BGY in 2018; driven by novel fuels and feedstocks

August 31, 2015

The global biofuels industry averaged 68% in utilization rate from 2005 to 2014, reached a high of 80.9% in 2007, dropped to a low of 56.9% in 2012, and climbed slightly back to 60.4% in 2014. Despite the still apparent softness in capacity utilization, and the on-going softness in fossil fuel prices, global biofuels capacity will continue to grow from 55.1 billion gallons per year (BGY) to 61.4 BGY in 2018, according to a forecast by Lux Research. However, Lux predicts, growth between now and 2018 will not be a continuation of current course.

While ethanol and biodiesel will continue to dominate in absolute terms, these will grow at only a 1.5% CAGR through 2018. Novel fuels and feedstocks will drive the biofuels industry forward at a much more rapid 17% and 22% CAGRs through 2018, respectively.

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BIO: RFS’ biofuel requirements saved 589.3M tons of carbon emissions over past decade

August 24, 2015

Over its 10-year lifespan, the Renewable Fuel Standard’s (RFS’) requirement to substitute biofuels for fossil fuels has displaced nearly 1.9 billion barrels of foreign oil and reduced US transportation-related carbon emissions by 589.33 million metric tons, according to a new analysis released by the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO).

To develop its estimates, BIO utilized the GREET1.2013 model to compare carbon emissions from the mixture of US transportation fuels (both petroleum and biofuel) under two scenarios. The first scenario applied the annual required RFS Renewable Volume Obligation (RVO) percentages, as established by EPA rulemakings, to the volumes of fossil-based, non-renewable gasoline and diesel used in the United States. To establish a second scenario, BIO assumed that corn ethanol and soy biodiesel would have continued to meet just over 3% of the total reported transportation fuel use over the decade and that petroleum gasoline and diesel would have been used instead.

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PNNL study of metabolic processes paves way to optimize lipids production in yeast Y. lipolytica

August 20, 2015

Lipid-derived biofuels have been proposed as a promising substitute for fossil fuels. The oleaginous ascomycete (sac fungus) yeast Yarrowia lipolytica accumulates large amounts of lipids and has potential as a biofuel producing organism; however, little is known about the key biological processes involved. To address this gap in knowledge, a recent study by a team from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) identified and characterized major pathways involved in lipid accumulation from glucose in Y. lipolytica.

This study builds a platform for efforts to engineer the yeast to optimize lipid accumulation and maximize the yield of carbon-based products. Because lipids from Y. lipolytica have chemical properties similar to those of diesel fuel, they can be readily used as biodiesel using current vehicles and existing infrastructure at gas stations. Thus, harnessing lipids from Y. lipolytica could represent a practical approach for transitioning more quickly to a biofuel-based energy system.

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DENSO building large test facility for production of biofuel from P. ellipsoidea microalgae

August 19, 2015

Japan-based global automotive supplier DENSO Corporation will build a large 20,000 square meter test facility for the culture of Pseudochoricystis ellipsoidea, an oil-producing microalga patented by DENSO. The new facility located in Amakusa, Kumamoto, Japan will be used to perform verification tests needed to establish large-scale microalga cultivation technologies required to improve biofuel production efficiency. The facility will start operations in April, 2016.

DENSO has been working in collaboration with Keio University’s Institute for Advanced Biosciences since April 2008 to produce biofuel extracted from P. ellipsoidea—a fast-growing, vigorous, and easy-to-cultivate microalga, on which DENSO holds patents. Hydrocarbons and triglycerides can be produced photoautotrophically to up to 30% of the dried biomass (Satoh et al.). The hydrocarbon fraction is more than 10 times higher in nitrogen depleted cells.

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Researchers modify camelina to produce highest levels yet in transgenic plant oil of novel lipid acetyl-TAG; biofuel and industrial use

August 18, 2015

Researchers at Kansas State University led by Professor Timothy Durrett and their colleagues at Michigan State University and the University of Nebraska, Lincoln have engineered Camelina sativa—a non-food oilseed crop—to produce high levels (up to 85 mol%) of acetyl-triacylglycerols (acetyl-TAGs, or ac-TAGs)—a novel plant oil lipid with possible biofuel or industrial uses.

As reported in a paper in Plant Biotechnology Journal, this successful metabolic engineering and subsequent field production of the modified camelina crop marked the highest accumulation of the unusual oil achieved so far in transgenic plants. (Earlier work by Durrett and colleagues at the DOE Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center had resulted in approximately a 60 mol% accumulation of ac-TAGs.)

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EPA proposes volume requirements for Renewable Fuel Standard for 2014-2016

May 29, 2015

Adhering to a schedule in a proposed consent decree (earlier post), the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced its long-awaited proposed volume requirements (renewable volume obligations, RVO) (earlier post) under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program for the years 2014, 2015 and 2016, and also proposed volume requirements for biomass-based diesel for 2017. The period for public input and comment on the proposal will be open until 27 July. EPA says it will finalize the volume standards in this rule by 30 November.

EPA is proposing to establish the 2014 standards at levels that reflect the actual amount of domestic biofuel used in that year; the standards for 2015 and 2016 (and 2017 for biodiesel) increase steadily over time, with the most aggressive growth projected for the problematic area of cellulosic biofuels: from 33 million gallons in 2014 to 206 million gallons in 2016.

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Lund researchers develop optimized two-phase enzymatic process for production of biodiesel

April 06, 2015

Researchers at Lund University (Sweden) have developed an optimized two-phase enzymatic (lipase) system for the conversion of plant oils to biodiesel. Applied to the solvent-free ethanolysis of rapeseed oil, the system delivered a yield of 96% under mild conditions. Under the mild conditions used, chemical catalysts were inefficient. An open access paper on their work is published in the journal Biotechnology for Biofuels.

The current predominant method for the transesterification of triglycerides (plant and animal oils and fats) to biodiesel (a mixture of esters) uses chemical catalysts (sodium or potassium hydroxides or alkoxides). Despite its predominance, there are several drawbacks with this approach, including the need to remove inorganic salt in the downstream process; the high temperature required; and undesirable side reactions. Further, these systems are inefficient when a high free fatty acid (FFA) content is present in the starting material, thus restricting the use of conventional chemical pathways to a highly pure feedstock. An alternative approach is the use of immobilized lipase-catalyzed transesterification in the presence of an organic solvent.

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California ARB issues feedstock-only pathway for camelina-based fuels under LCFS; zero ILUC emissions results in very low CI fuels

February 05, 2015

The California Air Resources Board has issued Sustainable Oils Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Global Clean Energy Holdings, a feedstock-only pathway for the production of camelina-based fuels under the Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS). The feedstock-only CI (carbon intensity) is 7.58 gCO2e/MJ.

A feedstock-only pathway allows a fuel producer interested in producing either biodiesel or renewable diesel from a camelina feedstock using Sustainable Oils’ proprietary seed varieties to combine the CI of this pathway for the production of a camelina oil feedstock with the carbon intensity components of the fuel producer’s specific fuel production and transportation processes. The feedstock-only pathway includes only the CI components for farming, agricultural chemicals, camelina transportation, and oil extraction.

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Novozymes launches commercial enzyme technology to convert waste oils into biodiesel

December 02, 2014

Novozymes has launched Eversa Transform, the first commercially available enzymatic solution (a liquid lipase) to convert both glycerides and free fatty acids (FFA) into biodiesel. Biodiesel producers can thereby use cooking oil or other lower grade oils as biodiesel feedstock, reducing their raw material costs. The resulting enzymatic biodiesel is sold to the same trade specification as biodiesel created through traditional chemical processing.

Growing demand for vegetable oil in the food industry has resulted in increased prices, causing biodiesel producers to search for alternative—and more sustainable—feedstocks. Most of the oils currently used in biodiesel production are sourced from soybeans, palm or rapeseed, and typically contain less than 0.5% free fatty acids (FFA). Existing biodiesel process designs have difficulty handling oils containing more than 0.5% FFA—i.e., waste oils with high FFAs have not been a viable feedstock option.

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EPA delays issuing 2014 RVO standards for RFS until sometime in 2015

November 21, 2014

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will not finalize the 2014 applicable percentage standards (the 2014 Renewable Volume Obligations, RVOs) under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program until sometime next year. In a notice to be published in the Federal Register, the agency said that it intends to take action on the 2014 standards rule in 2015 prior to or in conjunction with action on the 2015 standards rule.

Because of the delay in issuing the 2014 RFS standards, EPA is moving the compliance demonstration deadline for the 2013 RFS standards to 2015. EPA will make modifications to the Moderated Transaction System (EMTS) to ensure that Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs) generated in 2012 are valid for demonstrating compliance with the 2013 applicable standards.

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Ecofys report concludes current European regulations underestimating GHG reductions

November 13, 2014

Substituting biofuels for marginal fossil-based liquid fuels results in the avoidance of significant GHG emissions that are not currently accounted for in the European Renewable Energy Directive (2009/28/EC), according to a new analysis by the consultancy Ecofys. The study was commissioned by the European Oilseed Alliance (EOA), the European Biodiesel Board (EBB) and the European Vegetable Oil and Proteinmeal Industry (FEDIOL).

The European RED and the Fuel Quality Directive (2009/30/EC) both assess the GHG benefits of biofuels by comparing the lifecycle emissions of biofuels to a “fossil comparator”. However, the Ecofys authors note, the current comparator does not reflect the increasing emissions of fossil fuels that are becoming more difficult to extract. In addition, they argue, biofuels should not just be compared to the average performance of gasoline or diesel but with the fossil fuels they most likely replace—i.e. those that are marginally “not produced”.

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Study shows biodiesel blends in buses reduce PM, other harmful exhaust elements, EC and CO

October 29, 2014

A new study on the combustion properties of biodiesel for use in urban transit buses found that using biodiesel can effectively reduce the mass of particulate matter released in both hot and cold idle modes. The study, published by the Mineta National Transit Research Consortium (MNTRC), observed a reduction in amount of particulate matter, number of elements, and elemental carbon; the reduction is considered beneficial to promoting the clean air and human health.

The researchers found that biodiesel has many advantages over regular diesel even in a very low blend percentage, including low emissions of particulate matter, combustion elements (mainly sulfur), elemental carbon, and carbon monoxide. In sum, they recommended that governments consider using blends of biodiesel in urban and commercial vehicles to enhance air quality.

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