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Biodiesel

[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.]

LowCVP reports indicate pathways for meeting renewable energy targets in transportation, decarbonizing fuel to 2030 and beyond

June 18, 2014

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Illustrative impact of the fuel roadmap. Source: LowCVP, Element Energy. Click to enlarge.

The UK’s LowCVP has published twin reports which set out how the UK could meet its 2020 targets defined in the EU’s Renewable Energy Directive, and proceed on a pathway to decarbonize road transport fuel in the period to 2030 and beyond.

The LowCVP—the stakeholder body which brings government, industry and other stakeholders together to focus on the challenges of decarbonizing road transport—commissioned energy consultancy Element Energy to analyze the UK’s options for meeting the Renewable Energy Directive’s (RED) 2020 transport target which states that at least 10% of the final energy consumption in transport must come from renewable sources. This and the parallel Fuels Roadmap report benefitted from wide industry consultation and explicitly set out to align with existing powertrain roadmaps (including those published by the Automotive Council and the LowCVP).

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MSU microbial electrolysis cell produces ethanol from glycerol, reduces wastewater in biodiesel production

May 22, 2014

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The MEC uses syntrophic cooperation within a bacterial consortium (red and green) in the anode chamber to ferment ethanol from glycerol and to remove inhibiting H2. Credit: ACS, Speers et al. Click to enlarge.

Researchers at Michigan State University have developed a microbial electrolysis cell (MEC) which will allow biodiesel plants to eliminate the creation of hazardous wastes while reducing their dependence on fossil fuel.

The platform, which uses microbes to produce ethanol from glycerol, has the added benefit of cleaning up the wastewater, will allow producers to reincorporate the ethanol and the water into the fuel-making process, said Gemma Reguera, MSU microbiologist and one of the co-authors. The ethanol replaces petrochemical methanol in the biodiesel production. A paper on their work is published in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology.

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EIA: US biomass-based diesel imports increased to record levels in 2013; from net exporter to net importer

May 02, 2014

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Monthly US biodiesel and renewable diesel imports. Source: EIA. Click to enlarge.

Total US imports of biomass-based diesel fuel—biodiesel and renewable diesel—reached 525 million gallons in 2013, compared to 61 million gallons in 2012, according to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA). As a result, the United States switched from being a net exporter of biomass-based diesel in 2012 to a net importer in 2013 by a wide margin.

Two principal factors drove the increase in US biodiesel imports, EIA said: growth in domestic biodiesel demand to satisfy renewable fuels targets, and increased access to biodiesel from other countries.

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ARB posts 5 new LCFS pathways; two renewable diesel

April 15, 2014

California Air Resources Board (ARB) staff has posted five new and one revised Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) fuel pathway applications to the LCFS public comment website. The new pathways include two renewable diesel pathways; two biodiesel pathways, and one corn ethanol pathway. The revised package is for corn oil biodiesel.

The renewable diesel proposals both come from Diamond Green Diesel (DGD) in Louisiana, using used cooking oil (UCO) as a feedstock; the proposals differ in the mode of shipment to California: one by rail, one by ship.

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Worldwatch Institute: global biofuel production fell in 2012 for first time since 2000

April 10, 2014

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World ethanol and biodiesel production. Source: Worldwatch. Click to enlarge.

In 2012, the combined global production of ethanol and biodiesel fell for the first time since 2000, down 0.4% from the figure in 2011, according to the Worldwatch Institute’s latest Vital Signs Online report. Global ethanol production declined slightly for the second year in a row, to 83.1 billion liters (22 billion gallons US), while biodiesel output rose fractionally, from 22.4 billion liters in 2011 to 22.5 billion liters (5.9 billion gallons US) in 2012. Biodiesel now accounts for more than 20% of global biofuel production, according to the report.

Biofuels for transport—essentially ethanol and biodiesel—account for about 0.8% of global energy use, 8% of global primary energy derived from biomass, 3.4% of global road transport fuels, and 2.5% of all transport fuels.

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Scania introduces new 100% biodiesel version of 16-liter V8; Euro 6 with EGR and SCR

April 02, 2014

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Scania 16-liter V8 580 hp Euro 6 engine with EGR and SCR is available in a 100% biodiesel version. Click to enlarge.

Scania is adding another alternative to its engine lineup with a 100% biodiesel (EN 14214) configuration of a 16-liter, 580 hp (433 kW) V8 engine in the R-series. Today, Scania notes, biodiesel is probably the most uncomplicated solution from a user perspective for reducing the effects on the environment from heavy trucks.

Scania now has five different engines for biodiesel operation in its range, with a power span of 320-580 hp (238 kW to 433 kW). In October 2013, Scania introduced its five-cylinder, 9-liter biodiesel engine in 320 hp (238 kW) and 360 hp (268 kW) versions. These were followed by the 13-liter, inline six engine in 450 hp (336 kW) and 490 hp (365 kW) versions with SCR and EGR aftertreatment systems.

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Researchers use CaO catalyst to produce biodiesel/monoglyceride blend; avoiding waste glycerol

February 26, 2014

A team led by researchers at the University of Cordoba (Spain) have used a CaO alkaline heterogeneous catalyst to produce what they call a “second-generation biodiesel” blend composed of 2:1 molar mixture of conventional fatty acid methyl esters (FAME, or regular biodiesel) and monoglyceride (MG). The process integrates glycerol—the conventional by-product of the transesterification process used to produce FAME—as MG.

The resulting blend exhibits properties similar to conventional biodiesel, while reducing waste and improving conversion. As reported in their paper in the journal Fuel, the FAME/MG blend they produced using the CaO alkaline heterogeneous catalyst was similar to such blends produced by more expensive lipases.

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Navigant Research forecasts 58% growth in global biofuels consumption by 2022; biodiesel and drop-in fuels gain market share

February 05, 2014

In a new report, “Biofuels for Transportation Markets”, Navigant Research forecasts that global demand for biofuels in the road transportation sector will grow from representing almost 6% of the liquid fuels market in 2013 to roughly 8% by 2022. Of that 8%, 8% will consist of advanced drop-in fuels, according to the research firm. Navigant forecasts that global biofuels consumption in the road transportation sector will grow from more than 32.4 billion gallons per year (BGPY) in 2013 to more than 51.1 BGPY in 2022—an increase of 58%.

Overall, Navigant forecasts that global retail sales of all liquid fuels for the road transportation sector will grow from more than $2.6 trillion in 2013 to more than $4.5 trillion in 2022 (73% growth).

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Renewable Energy Group acquires drop-in renewable fuels company LS9 for up to $61.5 million

January 24, 2014

Biodiesel producer Renewable Energy Group, Inc. (REG) has acquired LS9, Inc., a synthetic biology company developing fermentation-derived drop-in renewable fuels and chemicals (earlier post), for a purchase price of up to $61.5 million, consisting of up front and earnout payments, in stock and cash. Most of the LS9 team, including the entire R&D leadership group, will join the newly named REG Life Sciences, LLC, which will operate out of LS9’s headquarters in South San Francisco, CA.

Under the terms of the agreement, REG paid $15.3 million in cash and issued 2.2 million shares of REG common stock (valued at approximately $24.7 million based on a trading average for REG stock) at closing. In addition, REG may pay up to $21.5 million in cash and/or shares of REG common stock consideration for achievement of certain milestones over the next five years related to the development and commercialization of products from LS9’s technology.

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Scania adds 13-liter biodiesel engines to its Euro 6 range

January 23, 2014

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Torque and power curves for the 490 hp biodiesel engine. Click to enlarge.

Scania is introducing two Euro 6-certified, 13-liter truck engines that can run on any diesel blend, right up to 100% biodiesel (EN 14214). The versions certified for biodiesel operation are the modular, six-cylinder, 13-liter 450 and 490 hp engines with SCR and EGR aftertreatment systems. In October 2013, Scania had introduced its robust five-cylinder, 9-liter biodiesel engine in two different output versions, 320 hp and 360 hp.

The basic model of the 450 hp (336 kW) engine offers 2,350 N·m (1,733 lb-ft) of torque from 1,000 r/min, while the 490 (365 kW) produces 2,550 N·m (1,881 lb-ft) from 1,000 r/min up to 1,300 r/min. Output declines a maximum of 8% when the engines are run on 100% biodiesel fuel (due to the lower energy content in biodiesel).

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Japan automakers going slow with biodiesel; JAMA maintains stance on B5 as maximum for now

January 22, 2014

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JAMA cites the poor oxidation stability of high-level biodiesel blends, highlighted in the JATOP findings, in sticking with B5 levels. PME= palm oil methyl ester, RME = rapeseed methyl ester, SME = soy methyl ester, WME = waste cooking oil methyl ester, FTD = Fischer-Tropsch diesel, HBD = hydrogenated biodiesel. Source: JATOP.Click to enlarge.

The Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association (JAMA) is maintaining its stance on B5 (5% biodiesel, i.e., fatty acid methyl ester, blends) as the maximum until further findings and market observations on the use of B7 are reported.

JAMA bases its postion on the results of study from the Japan Auto-Oil Program subsidized by Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI). JATOP was organized by the Japan Petroleum Energy Center to develop automotive and fuel technologies best suited to simultaneously settle three issues—“Reducing CO2 emissions”; “Fuel diversification” and “Reducing motor vehicle emissions”—and to develop high accuracy air quality simulation models and facilitating their exploitation.

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U Texas at Austin researchers rewire yeast for high lipid generation; 60x improvement over parent strains

January 21, 2014

Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin’s Cockrell School of Engineering have rewired the native metabolism of the yeast Yarrowia lipolytica for superior production of lipids (lipogenesis). Tri-level metabolic control resulted in saturated cells containing upwards of 90% lipid content and titres exceeding 25 g l−1 lipids—a 60-fold improvement over parental strain and conditions.

In the study, reported in the journal Nature Communications, the researchers genetically modified Y. lipolytica by both removing and overexpressing specific genes that influence lipid production. In addition, the team identified optimum culturing conditions that differ from standard conditions.

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ARB posts six new LCFS pathway applications for comment; new PFAD biodiesel approach

December 18, 2013

The California Air Resources Board (ARB) staff has posted six new Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) pathway applications to the LCFS public comment web site: corn ethanol; molasses ethanol (from Brazil); palm fatty acid distillates (PFAD) to biodiesel; and landfill gas to LNG, L-CNG, and CNG.

The LCFS requires oil producers, importers and other fuel providers gradually to reduce, on a full-fuel lifecycle basis, the carbon intensity (CI) of their transportation fuel mix (measured in gCO2e/MJ) by from 0.25% in 2011 to 10% by 2020. (Earlier post.) The current batch of new applications covers quite a range of carbon intensity in the fuels: from 88.69 gCO2e/MJ for the corn ethanol, down to 10.64 gCO2e/MJ for biodiesel produced from PFAD—the first such pathway considered for the LCFS program. The baseline carbon intensity for gasoline in the LCFS lookup table is 99.18 gCO2e/MJ and 98.03 gCO2e/MJ for diesel.

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Converting glycerol from biodiesel production into bio-gasoline

December 16, 2013

A team at the University of Idaho has demonstrated that glycerol, a byproduct from biodiesel production, could be used as a substrate for producing drop-in gasoline-range biofuel. In a paper published in the ACS journal Energy & Fuels, Guanqun Luo and Armando G. McDonald describe their study of converting methanol (MTG) and a mixture of methanol and glycerol (MGTG) into gasoline-range hydrocarbons using a bench-top, fixed-bed microreactor.

The MTG- and MGTG-generated liquids showed a similar composition, mainly methylbenzenes, to regular gasoline, and composition changed as the reaction proceeded to favor heavier aromatics.

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Study finds biodiesel use in HD trucks in Canada will result in very minimal changes in air quality and health benefits

November 07, 2013

Results of a study by a team from Health Canada and Environment Canada suggest that the use of B5 and B20 biodiesel fuel blends (5% and 20% biodiesel, respectively) compared to ULSD in on-road heavy-duty diesels in Canada will result in very minimal changes in air quality and health benefits/costs across Canada, and that these were likely to diminish over time.

Health Canada is the Canadian Federal department responsible for helping Canadians maintain and improve their health; Environment Canada is the Federal agency tasked with, among other things, protecting the environment. An open-access paper on the study has been accepted for publication in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology.

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Univ. of Illinois team argues that renewable fuel standard needs to be modified, not repealed

October 16, 2013

A policy analysis by two University of Illinois researchers argues that Congress should minimally modify, not repeal, the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). In the study, law professor Jay P. Kesan and Timothy A. Slating, a regulatory associate with the Energy Biosciences Institute, argue that RFS mandates ought to be adjusted to reflect current and predicted biofuel commercialization realities; that its biofuel categories be expanded to encompass all emerging biofuel technologies; and that its biomass sourcing constraints be relaxed.

In the paper, to be published in the NYU Environmental Law Journal, Kesan and Slating contend that the RFS can serve as a “model policy instrument” for the federal support of all types of socially beneficial renewable energy technologies.

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Study finds biodiesel blend reduces total particle mass in emissions but may have greater adverse health effect per mass than diesel

October 10, 2013

Findings from a study by researchers from the Department of Medicine and the School of Engineering at the University of Vermont suggest that the addition of biodiesel to diesel fuels will reduce the total particle mass of PM emissions—but that the biodiesel blend particles may contribute to greater biological effects per mass than B0, leading to potentially greater health risks.

As reported in a paper published in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology, the team first characterized exhaust particles produced by combustion of pure petrodiesel (B0) and B20 (20% soy biodiesel/ 80% B0) fuels using the same engine and running conditions, and then conducted experiments in two human cell lines representing bronchial epithelial cells and macrophages as well as in female mice. (Studies in cells alone do not necessarily reflect the integrated response of a whole animal, they noted.)

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Study finds HTL algal biofuels offer 50-70% lifecycle CO2 reduction compared to petroleum fuels; EROI and GHG comparable to or better than other biofuels

September 20, 2013

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The EROI ratio and GHG emissions/MJ of (a) algae-derived diesel and (b) algae-derived gasoline produced using HTL. The results are benchmarked against commercialized biodiesel or bioethanol as well as petroleum-derived versions of the drop-in fuels. Credit: Liu et al. Click to enlarge.

A new life cycle analysis by a team led by researchers at the University of Virginia has concluded that biofuel produced from algae via hydrothermal liquefaction (HTL) can reduce life cycle CO2 emissions by 50 to 70% compared to petroleum fuels, and also has energy burdens and GHG (greenhouse gas) emission profiles that are comparable to or better than conventional biofuels, cellulosic ethanol and soybean biodiesel.

HTL algae-derived gasoline has a considerably lower GHG footprint and a better EROI relative to conventional ethanol made from corn on a per MJ basis, the team found. The data suggest that a shift to algae-derived gasoline could have immediate climate benefits even using existing technologies, the authors noted. In addition, given expected technological improvements, the benefits of algae-derived gasoline will likely improve.

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European Parliament backs 6% cap on land-based biofuels, switchover to advanced biofuels; no mandate

September 11, 2013

In a vote on draft legislation, the European Parliament has backed a cap on the use of biofuels produced from starch-rich crops, sugars, oil and other crops grown on land and a speedy switchover to new biofuels from alternative sources such as seaweed and waste. The measures aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that result from the turnover of agricultural land to biofuel production.

According to current legislation, member states must ensure that renewable energy accounts for at least 10% of energy consumption in transport by 2020. In the adopted text, MEPs (Members of the European Parliament) say land-based biofuels should not exceed 6% of the final energy consumption in transport by 2020. (The proposal by the European Commission on which the draft legislation was based had suggested an even lower 5% cap.)

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U Wisc. study explores effects of biodiesel-gasoline blend in diesel engine

August 01, 2013

One high-efficiency combustion concept under investigation is gasoline compression ignition (GCI)—the use of gasoline-like fuels to deliver very low NOx and PM emissions as well as high efficiency in a diesel compression ignition engine. (Earlier post.) A challenge to be overcome with this approach is the higher resistance to autoignition of gasoline fuels.

A team from the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Engine Research Center now reports in a paper in the journal Fuel on the effects of biodiesel-gasoline blends compared to neat gasoline using a partially premixed, split-injection GCI combustion strategy.

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Study investigates impact of operating conditions and load on soot particle number distribution for diesel and biodiesel

July 27, 2013

A team led by researchers from Brunel University (UK) has investigated the exhaust soot particle number size distributions obtained from the combustion of diesel and biodiesel (rapeseed methyl ester, RME) in a high speed direct injection (HSDI) diesel engine under different engine operating conditions: fuel injection pressure, injection timing, exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) and engine load.

Among the findings they reported in their paper in the journal Fuel was that under most of the engine operating conditions examined, RME emitted lower soot particle concentration than diesel under both nucleation and accumulation modes. The presence of oxygen in the fuel has the potential to lower the exhaust particle number concentration in diesel engines, they concluded.

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Full genome map of oil palm indicates a way to raise yields and protect rainforest; single gene controls oil palm yield

July 25, 2013

A multinational team of scientists has identified a single gene, called Shell, that regulates yield of the oil palm tree. The Shell gene is responsible for the oil palm’s three known shell forms: dura (thick); pisifera (shell-less); and tenera (thin), a hybrid of dura and pisifera palms. Tenera palms contain one mutant and one normal version, or allele, of Shell, an optimum combination that results in 30% more oil per land area than dura palms.

The fruit and seeds of the oil palm are the source of nearly one-half of the supply of edible vegetable oil worldwide, and are one of the more promising sources of biofuel. The discovery, the product of a multiyear effort to provide a high-quality full genome map of the oil palm plant and to scour the sequence for genes of importance to both science and industry, has major implications for agriculture and the environment. The international team’s work is detailed in two papers published in the journal Nature.

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