[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.]
Altex & Unitel partner to demonstrate a new technology for making synthetic gasoline from biomass
April 05, 2016
Altex Technologies has selected Unitel to provide engineering services to design and build a pilot system that will produce 1 BPD of synthetic gasoline from biomass (Biomass Conversion to Synthetic Gasoline System, BCSGS). This project is funded by a ~$1-million grant from the California Energy Commission under the auspices of its Alternative and Renewable Fuels and Vehicle Testing Program.
The Altex process does not require the intermediate conversion of the feedstock into synthesis gas or pyrolysis liquids, plus it does not require hydrogen. Some of the feedstocks that Altex plans to use include alfalfa, corn stover, switchgrass, and processed woodchips.
NREL updates Survey of Advanced Biofuel Producers in the United States
March 17, 2016
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) updated its annual survey of US non-starch ethanol and renewable hydrocarbon biofuels producers. The 2015 Survey of Non-Starch Ethanol and Renewable Hydrocarbon Biofuels Producers provides an inventory of the domestic advanced biofuels production industry as of the end of calendar year 2015, documenting important changes (e.g., biorefinery development, production capacity, feedstock use, and technology pathways) that have occurred since the publication of the original 2013 survey.
During 2015, NREL surveyed 114 companies that were reported to be pursuing commercial-scale biofuel production capacity. Companies were classified as either non-starch (cellulosic or algae-derived) ethanol producers or renewable hydrocarbon producers. The questionnaire included topics such as facility stage of development, facility scale, feedstock, and biofuel products. The NREL team supplemented missing survey data elements (when possible) with publicly available data obtained directly from company websites, press releases, and public filings.
USPTO awards patent to UMD team for process to make gasoline through fermentation; electrofuels
December 22, 2015
The US Patent and Trademark Office issued patent Nº 9,217,161 for a process using naturally occurring microorganisms to ferment biomass or gases directly to hydrocarbons such as hexane and octane. The fuels separate and rise to the surface of the fermentation broth, and are exactly the same as current components of gasoline.
The inventors are Professor Richard Kohn and Faculty Research Associate Dr. Seon-Woo Kim from the University of Maryland (UMD). The team was awarded a separate patent earlier this year (9,193,979) for ethanol-tolerant microorganisms that convert cellulosic biomass to ethanol. (Earlier post.) Both processes were developed based on their theory, described in in a paper published in the Journal of Theoretical Biology, that fermentation systems drive toward thermodynamic equilibrium.
Ensyn granted EPA Part 79 approval for renewable gasoline
November 25, 2015
Ensyn (earlier post) has been granted a key regulatory approval from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for its renewable gasoline product, RFGasoline. This approval, pursuant to Title 40 CFR Part 79 promulgated under the Clean Air Act, is required for the sale of RFGasoline into US commerce.
This approval follows the recently announced Part 79 approval of Ensyn’s renewable diesel product, RFDiesel. (Earlier post.)
Neste files patent on gasoline fuels with high bioenergy content
August 22, 2015
Neste, currently largest producer of renewable drop-in fuels (primarily diesel) with its NEXBTL platform (earlier post), has filed a patent (US20150144087) on a gasoline composition (and the method for making it) comprising up to 20 vol% (preferably from about 10-15 vol.%), of paraffinic bio-hydrocarbons originating from the NEXBTL process.
In addition, the fuel can incorporate oxygenates such as ethanol (5 to 15 vol%); iso-butanol (5 to 20 vol%, preferably about 10 to 17 vol%); or ETBE (7 to 25 vol%, preferably about 15 to 22 vol%). The resulting fuels with high bioenergy content can be used in conventional gasoline-fueled automotive engines. In a related paper published in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology, a team (Aakko-Saksa et al.) from VTT Technical Research Centre in Finland and Neste showed that a combination of ethanol or isobutanol with bio-hydrocarbon components offers an option to reach high gasoline bioenergy content for E10-compatible cars.
New one-pot process to produce gasoline-grade biofuel from the bacterial biopolymer PHB
August 09, 2015
A team from the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute, University of Hawaii at Manoa is developing a new one-pot process to produce gasoline-grade (C6–C18) hydrocarbon oil from polyhydroxybutyrate (PHB)—an energy storage material formed from renewable feedstock in many bacterial species. In contrast to conventional biofuels derived from plant biomass, the resultant PHB oil has a high content of alkenes or aromatics, depending on the catalyst.
PHB has already been identified as having great potential as an intermediate in the production of hydrocarbon fuels. One approach, described by a team from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (Wang et al.), is thermally to depolymerize and decarboxylate PHB at 400 ˚C to propene, for subsequent upgrading to hydrocarbon fuels via commercial oligomerization technologies.
New catalytic method for converting algal oil to gasoline- or jet-fuel-range hydrocarbons
June 16, 2015
A new catalytic method for converting algal oil to gasoline- or jet-fuel-range hydrocarbons has been developed by the research group of Prof. Keiichi Tomishige and Dr. Yoshinao Nakagawa from Tohoku University’s Department of Applied Chemistry, and Dr. Hideo Watanabe from the University of Tsukuba.
The new method uses a highly dispersed ruthenium catalyst supported on cerium oxide. Squalane (C30H62)—easily obtained by the hydrogenation of squalene (C30H50) rapidly produced by the heterotrophic alga Aurantiochytrium from organics in wastewater—reacts with hydrogen over this catalyst, producing smaller branched alkanes with simple distribution and without aromatics. These molecules have high stability and low freezing points. A paper describing the system is published in the journal ChemSusChem.
“Energiewende” in a tank; Audi e-fuels targeting carbon-neutral driving with synthetic fuels from renewables, H2O and CO2; Swiss policy test case
June 12, 2015
Like other major automakers, Audi (and its parent Volkswagen Group) is working on meeting its medium-term regulatory requirements (e.g., in the 2020 timeframe) by reducing the average fuel consumption of its new vehicles using a combination of three primary measures: optimizing its combustion engines for greater efficiency; developing alternative drive concepts, such as hybrid, plug-in hybrid and gas-powered vehicles; and reducing total vehicle weight through lightweight construction with an intelligent multimaterial mix.
Unlike the others, however, Audi over the past few years has embarked on a comprehensive approach to developing a range of new CO₂-neutral fuels as part of its overall strategy for sustainable, carbon-neutral mobility: Audi e-fuels. Audi’s basic goal is to combine renewable energy (e.g. solar and wind), water and CO2 to produce liquid or gaseous fuels with a very low carbon intensity. Audi e-fuels are intended to use no fossil or biomass sources; do not compete with food production; and are 100% compatible with existing infrastructure.
Delivery of renewable isooctane to Audi tips interesting potential non-biomass pathway for biogasoline; “e-benzin” as solar fuel
May 26, 2015
Last week, Audi and its partner Global Bioenergies announced that the first batch of renewable isooctane—which Audi calls “e-benzin”—using Global Bioenergies’ fermentative isobutene pathway (sugar→isobutene→isooctane) had been produced and presented to Audi by Global Bioenergies. (Earlier post.)
Global Bioenergies, founded in 2008, has developed a synthetic isobutene pathway that, when implanted in a micro-organism, enables the organism to convert sugars (e.g., from starch and biomass) via fermentation into gaseous isobutene via a several-stage enzymatic process. However, following the delivery of the first renewable isooctane, Reiner Mangold, Audi’s head of sustainable product development, said that Audi was “now looking forward to working together with Global Bioenergies on a technology allowing the production of renewable isooctane not derived from biomass sources”—i.e., using just water, H2, CO2 and sunlight.
Global Bioenergies delivering first renewable gasoline sample to Audi
May 18, 2015
Global Bioenergies and its partner Audi (earlier post) announced that the first batch of renewable gasoline using Global Bioenergies’ fermentative isobutene pathway has been produced. (Earlier post.) The batch will be presented to Audi by Global Bioenergies during a press conference to be held in Pomacle on 21 May.
The first isobutene batch produced from renewable resources (here: corn-derived glucose) at Global Bioenergies’ industrial pilot in Pomacle-Bazancourt, near Reims in France, had been delivered to the chemical company Arkema early May 2015. Subsequent isobutene batches have been converted into isooctane by the Fraunhofer Institute at the Leuna refinery near Leipzig where Global Bioenergies is now building its demo plant.
Cooper Tire completes work on $1.5M DOE project to develop fuel efficient tires, exceeding targets
May 04, 2015
Cooper Tire & Rubber Company completed work under a $1.5-million government grant to develop advanced tire technology aimed at increasing vehicle fuel efficiency. The grant, awarded by the US Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, called for Cooper to develop technology for light vehicle tires that delivered a minimum 3% improvement in vehicle fuel efficiency while lowering average tire weight by at least 20%, all without sacrificing performance.
Cooper was successful in developing technologies that exceeded the project’s goals, delivering an average fuel efficiency improvement of 5.5% and weight reduction ranging from 23% to 37% in concept tires.
First integrated assessment of quality and yield of hydrocarbon blendstocks via biomass fast pyrolysis and hydrotreating
April 27, 2015
Researchers from three US national labs—Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), Idaho National Laboratory (INL) and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)—have performed the first, fully integrated assessment of the quality and yield of common feedstocks from the field to hydrocarbon blendstock production using the fast pyrolysis-hydrotreating pathway. A paper describing the results is published in the ACS journal Energy & Fuels.
Among their findings was that the compositional parameters of the biomass feedstock affects both the bio-oil generated by fast pyrolysis as well as the final quantity and quality of the upgraded fuel blendstock. While some feedstocks—such as tulip poplar—generate a high yield of bio-oil, the bio-oil does not necessarily exhibit a high yield in the hydrotreater. Thus, the product yields and qualities of both fast pyrolysis and hydrotreating must be considered in comparing the conversion performance of different biofuel feedstock materials.