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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.]

Scripps research ship fueled by 100% NEXBTL renewable diesel for 1 year; emissions analysis

June 14, 2016

In 2014, Scripps Institution of Oceanography received a grant from the US Department of Transportation to test the use of biofuel on the research vessel Robert Gordon Sproul for more than a year. Spearheaded by Scripps Associate Director Bruce Appelgate and co-led by Scripps atmospheric scientist Lynn Russell, the biofuel project investigated the viability of using hydrotreated renewable diesel fuel (HRD) on a long-term basis.

The Scripps researchers originally wanted to test renewable biodiesel produced from algae, but no manufacturers made algal biodiesel in the volume needed. Appelgate was able to take advantage of a newly-established reliable supply chain for another type of biodiesel, a hydrogenation-derived renewable diesel (HDRD) —purchased from Neste Oil Corporation: NEXBTL Renewable Diesel.

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New catalyst system for converting castor-oil-derived ricinoleic acid methyl ester into jet fuel; up to 90% carbon selectivity

June 13, 2016

Researchers at Beijing University of Chemical Technology have developed a catalytic process for the selective conversion of ricinoleic acid methyl ester—derived from castor oil—into jet fuel. A paper on their work is published in the RSC journal Green Chemistry.

A common challenge in bio-jet fuel production is the high cost due to the feedstock and processing technology. Although hydro-processing of lipid and fatty acid is well-known, the yield of jet fuel from typical lipid based oil with mainly C18 fatty acid is quite low (about 35–40%). The major reason for the low overall yield is the necessity of a hydrocracking step for converting the C18 or C16 alkane into jet fuel range paraffin (C9–C15), the researchers explained. A key improving lipid-to-jet production technology is thus to avoid the un-selective cracking.

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New 3-step process for conversion of kraft lignin from black liquor into green diesel

June 01, 2016

Researchers in Sweden and Spain have devised a three-step process for the conversion of precipitated kraft lignin from black liquor into green diesel. Their paper appears in the journal ChemSusChem.

The kraft process converts wood into wood pulp for paper production. The process produces a toxic byproduct referred to as black liquor—a primarily liquid mixture of pulping residues (such as lignin and hemicellulose) and inorganic chemicals from the Kraft process (sodium hydroxide and sodium sulfide, for example). For every ton of pulp produced, the kraft pulping process produces about 10 tons of weak black liquor or about 1.5 tons of black liquor dry solids.

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Clariant to scale-up catalysts for Gevo’s Ethanol-to-Olefins (ETO) technology; renewable diesel and hydrogen

May 19, 2016

Gevo, Inc. has entered into an agreement with Clariant Corp., one of the world’s leading specialty chemical companies, to develop catalysts to enable Gevo’s Ethanol-to-Olefins (ETO) technology.

Gevo’s ETO technology, which uses ethanol as a feedstock, produces tailored mixes of propylene, isobutylene and hydrogen, which are valuable as standalone molecules, or as feedstocks to produce other products such as diesel fuel and commodity plastics, that would be drop-in replacements for their fossil-based equivalents. ETO is a chemical process, not a biological process as is Gevo’s conversion of biomass to isobutanol.

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China team directly synthesizes gasoline- and diesel-range alkanes from acetone from biomass

May 17, 2016

Researchers in China have directly synthesized gasoline- and diesel-range C6-C15 branched alkanes in high carbon yield (~80%) via the self-condensation of acetone and the subsequent hydrodeoxygenation over a dual-bed catalyst system. A paper on their work appears in the RSC journal Green Chemistry.

Acetone is a by-product in the production of bio-butanol via the acetone-butanol-ethanol (ABE) fermentation of lignocellulose. In a typical ABE fermentation, butanol, acetone and ethanol are produced at a weight ratio of 6:3:1.4 Acetone can also be produced by ketonization of acetic acid—a low-cost lignocellulosic platform compound which is obtained as a by-product in furfural production or from the fermentation of lignocellulose.

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DOE awards up to $10M to 6 projects for non-food biomass and algal biofuels and biochemicals

May 16, 2016

The US Department of Energy is awarding up to $10 million in funding for six projects that will support the Bioenergy Technologies Office’s (BETO) work to develop renewable and cost-competitive biofuels and biochemicals from non-food biomass feedstocks by reducing the technical risk associated with potentially breakthrough approaches and technologies for investors.

The projects selected include the following:

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DOE to award up to $90M for integrated biorefinery projects

May 07, 2016

The US Department of Energy (DOE) will award up to $90 million in project funding focused on designing, constructing and operating integrated biorefinery facilities. (DE-FOA-0001232)

“Project Development for Pilot and Demonstration Scale Manufacturing of Biofuels, Bioproducts, and Biopower” is a funding opportunity that will support efforts to improve and demonstrate processes that break down complex biomass feedstocks and convert them to gasoline, diesel and jet fuel, as well as plastics and chemicals.

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U Mich study explores performance of renewable diesel, FT diesel and ULSD in PCCI combustion

May 03, 2016

A team at the University of Michigan has investigated the performance of three different fuels—ultralow sulfur diesel (ULSD), diesel fuel produced via a low temperature Fischer–Tropsch process (LTFT), and a renewable diesel (RD), which is a hydrotreated camelina oil under partially premixed compression ignition (PCCI) combustion. Their paper is published in the ACS journal Energy & Fuels.

Partially premixed compression ignition (PCCI) combustion is an advanced, low-temperature combustion mode that creates a partially premixed charge inside the cylinder before ignition occurs. PCCI prolongs the time period for mixing of the fuel–air mixture by separating the end of injection and start of combustion. As a result, NOx and particulate matter (PM) emissions can be reduced simultaneously relative to those of conventional diesel combustion.

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Roland Berger study outlines integrated vehicle and fuels roadmap for further abating transport GHG emissions 2030+ at lowest societal cost

April 30, 2016

A new study by consultancy Roland Berger defines an integrated roadmap for European road transport decarbonization to 2030 and beyond; the current regulatory framework for vehicle emissions, carbon intensity of fuels and use of renewable fuels covers only up to 2020/2021.

The study was commissioned by a coalition of fuel suppliers and automotive companies with a view to identifying a roadmap to 2030+ to identify GHG abatement options at the lowest cost to society. The coalition comprises BMW, Daimler, Honda, NEOT/St1, Neste, OMV, Shell, Toyota and Volkswagen. Among the key findings of the study were:

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New $30M ARPA-E program to produce renewable liquid fuels from renewable energy, air and water

April 26, 2016

The US Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) announced up to $30 million in funding for a new program for technologies that use renewable energy to convert air and water into cost-competitive liquid fuels. (DE-FOA-0001562)

ARPA-E’s Renewable Energy to Fuels through Utilization of Energy-dense Liquids (REFUEL) program seeks to develop technologies that use renewable energy to convert air and water into Carbon Neutral Liquid Fuels (CNLF). The program is focused in two areas: (1) the synthesis of CNLFs using intermittent renewable energy sources and water and air (N2 and CO2) as the only chemical input streams; and (2) the conversion of CNLFs delivered to the end point to another form of energy (e.g. hydrogen or electricity).

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DOE to issue funding opportunity to develop plans for drop-in bio-hydrocarbon biorefinery

April 16, 2016

The US Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) intends (DE-FOA-0001581) to issue, on behalf of the Bioenergy Technologies Office, a Funding Opportunity Announcement (DE-FOA-0001232) entitled “Project Definition for Pilot and Demonstration Scale Manufacturing of Biofuels, Bioproducts, and Biopower (PD2B3)”. The FOA will be issued on or about 2 May.

This FOA supports technology development plans for the manufacture of drop-in hydrocarbon biofuels, bioproducts, or biopower in a pilot- or demonstration-scale integrated biorefinery. Plans for facilities that use cellulosic biomass, algal biomass, or biosolids feedstocks will be considered under this funding opportunity.

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JBEI team engineers E. coli for one-pot production of bio-jet fuel precursor from ionic-liquid-pretreated biomass

April 13, 2016

A team led by researchers at the DOE’s Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) in Emeryville, CA, has engineered E. coli bacteria for the one-pot production of the monoterpene bio-jet fuel precursor D-limonene from ionic-liquid-pretreated cellulose and switchgrass. A paper on their work is published in the RSC journal Green Chemistry.

The ionic liquid 1-ethyl-3-methylimidazolium acetate is highly effective in deconstructing lignocellulose, but leaves behind residual reagents that are toxic to standard saccharification enzymes and the microbial production host. The JBEI researchers discovered a strain of E. coli that is tolerant to that ionic liquid due to a specific mutation. They engineered this strain to express a D-limonene production pathway.

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Texas A&M-led team identifies synthetic hydrocarbon pathway in green alga B. braunii

April 07, 2016

The green microalga Botryococcus braunii is considered a promising biofuel feedstock producer due to its prodigious accumulation of hydrocarbon oils that can be converted into fuels. Now, a team led by researchers from Texas A&M AgriLife Research has identified the first committed step in the biosynthesis of hydrocarbon oil in B. braunii and has described a new enzyme which carries out this reaction.

The study, published as an open-access paper in the current issue of the journal Nature Communications, could enable scientists to use the enzyme in a plant to make large amounts of fuel-grade oil, according to Dr. Tim Devarenne, AgriLife Research biochemist in College Station and lead scientist on the team.

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New energy-efficient process for direct conversion of biomass without pretreatment to liquid hydrocarbon fuels

April 01, 2016

A team from The University of Manchester and East China University has developed a process for the direct hydrodeoxygenation of raw woods into liquid alkanes with mass yields up to 28.1 wt% over a multifunctional Pt/NbOPO4 catalyst in cyclohexane.

The superior performance of the catalyst allows simultaneous conversion of cellulose, hemicellulose and, more significantly, lignin fractions in wood sawdust into hexane, pentane and alkylcyclohexanes, respectively. An open-access paper on their work is published in the journal Nature Communications.

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New renewable hydrocarbon fuel pathway uses platform molecule acetoin produced by biomass fermentation

March 30, 2016

Researchers at Nanjing Tech University in China have developed a new pathway for the production of liquid hydrocarbon fuels from lignocellulose. The new Nanjing Tech process uses acetoin—a novel C4 platform molecule derived from new ABE (acetoin–butanol–ethanol)-type fermentation via metabolic engineering—as a bio-based building block for the production of the liquid hydrocarbon fuels.

In a paper published in the RSC journal Green Chemistry, the Nanjing Tech team reported producing a series of diesel or jet fuel range C9–C14 straight, branched, or cyclic alkanes in excellent yields by means of C–C coupling followed by hydrodeoxygenation reactions.

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ASTM ballot greenlights approval of ATJ-SPK biojet from alcohol; Gevo 1st commercial test flight with Alaska Airlines

March 29, 2016

Renewable isobutanol company Gevo announced that the ASTM International Committee D02 on Petroleum Products, Liquid Fuels, and Lubricants and Subcommittee D02.J on Aviation Fuel passed a concurrent ballot this week approving the revision of ASTM D7566 (Standard Specification for Aviation Turbine Fuel Containing Synthesized Hydrocarbons) to include alcohol-to-jet synthetic paraffinic kerosene (ATJ-SPK) (the “D02.J Ballot”). (Earlier post.)

This approval prepares the way for the use of Gevo ATJ—as well as ATJ-SPK fuels produced by other manufacturers—in commercial operations. As previously announced, Alaska Airlines is now poised to fly the first commercial test flight using Gevo’s renewable ATJ-SPJ fuel. (Earlier post.) Gevo is preparing the shipment of ATJ to Alaska Airlines for this first flight. Alaska Airlines will work with the Federal Aviation Administration to schedule the flight using Gevo’s ATJ.

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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.

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United Airlines begins commercial-scale use of renewable jet fuel; 15M gallons over 3-year period

March 12, 2016

United Airlines has become the first US airline to begin use of commercial-scale volumes of sustainable aviation biofuel for regularly scheduled flights, beginning with the departure of United Flight 708 from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). The launch marks a milestone in the commercial aviation industry by moving beyond demonstration flights and test programs to the use of advanced biofuels for United’s ongoing revenue operations.

United has agreed to purchase up to 15 million gallons of sustainable biofuel from AltAir Paramount over a three-year period. The biofuel will be mixed with traditional jet fuel at a 30/70 blend ratio: 30% biofuel, 70% traditional fuel. The airline has begun using the biofuel in its daily operations at LAX, storing and delivering it in the same way as traditional fuel.

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Government of Alberta awarding $10M to SBI Bioenergy for production of drop-in hydrocarbon fuels; funds from carbon levy

March 10, 2016

Using revenue from the price Alberta’s large emitters pay for releasing greenhouse gases, the Climate Change and Emissions Management Corporation (CCEMC) has earmarked a $10-million contribution for Alberta-based SBI BioEnergy to support a $20-million facility for the demonstration-scale production of drop-in, renewable diesel, jet and gasoline fuels from plant oils and waste fats.

With this investment, SBI will be able to produce 10 million liters (2.6 million gallons US) of renewable diesel fuel annually. This support works in concert with Alberta’s Renewable Fuels Standard which requires commercial fuel producers to blend renewable products into their fuels. SBI’s facility strengthens Alberta’s expanding industrial bio-product sector and gives Alberta farmers a new market for off-grade canola.

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New highly selective catalytic process for conversion of vegetable oils to diesel-range alkanes under mild conditions

March 08, 2016

A team led by researchers from the University of Oxford has developed a simple but highly selective catalytic process for the direct hydrodeoxygenation of vegetable oils (triglycerides) into diesel-range alkanes under mild conditions over a Pd/NbOPO4 catalyst. As reported in their paper in the RSC journal Chemical Communications The mass yields of diesel-range alkanes from palm oil and soybean oil can approach to quantitative values.

A number of approaches are being developed and commercialized to convert vegetable oils into diesel fuels. The current primary commercial pathway is the production of first-generation biodiesel—the transesterification of triglycerides with methanol to form fatty acid methyl ester (FAME), with glycerol as the by-product.

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New route to renewable diesel and jet from biomass-derived platform compounds

February 29, 2016

Researchers in China have developed a new route to the production of renewable diesel and jet fuel-range branched alkanes by combining the hydroxyalkylation/alkylation (HAA) of 2-methylfuran (MF)—a biomass-derived platform compound—with angelica lactone—another biomass-derived compound—and subsequent hydrodeoxygenation.

Under solvent-free conditions, the researchers obtained 81.3% yield of HAA products; after the HDO of the hydrogenated HAA products over 5 wt% Pd/C catalyst, they achieved 81.0% carbon yield of diesel or jet fuel-range alkanes. Compared to a 2-MF–levulinic acid (or ester) route proposed in their earlier work, the new 2-MF–angelica lactone route offers higher HAA reactivity.

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Mercedes-Benz Trucks approves HVO renewable diesel for its medium- and heavy-duty engines; neat or blended

February 22, 2016

With immediate effect, Mercedes-Benz Trucks is granting approval for the use of Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil (HVO) renewable diesel for the in-line six-cylinder engine variants of the Mercedes-Benz OM 470, OM 471 (first generation) and OM 936 as well as the in-line four-cylinder variants of the OM 934 meeting the Euro VI emissions standard. The engines are designed as standard to make use of the new HVO fuel. The approval applies to all engine variants whatever their output category.

HVO is a renewable diesel produced from waste materials such as waste fat, used cooking oil and also oil from crop plants. The HVO raw material is sourced from controlled and certified cultivation facilities and as such does not compete with foodstuff production. A leading example is Neste’s NEXBTL.

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Process for production of jet-range hydrocarbons from crude Jatropha oil using hydrogen produced in-situ from formic acid

February 16, 2016

A team at the Korea Institute of Energy Research has developed a catalytic process for the production of jet-range oxygen-free hydrocarbons from crude Jatropha oil, using hydrogen produced in-situ from formic acid.

In a fixed bed reaction using a mixture of crude Jatropha oil and formic acid, normal hydrocarbon in the range of C10–C18 (mostly C15 and C17) was the main product—about 97% in the liquid product—and the degree of deoxygenation was about 99.5%. A paper on their work is published in the journal Fuel.

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DOE to award up to $11.3M for biomass-to-hydrocarbon biofuels pathways; MEGA-BIO

February 09, 2016

The US Department of Energy (DOE) will provide up to $11.3 million in funding to develop flexible biomass-to-hydrocarbon biofuels conversion pathways that can be modified to produce advanced fuels and/or products based on external factors, such as market demand. (DE-FOA-0001433: MEGA-BIO: Bioproducts To Enable Biofuels.)

These pathways can consist of a route to a platform chemical that could be converted to products or renewable hydrocarbon fuels or a route that co-produces chemicals and renewable hydrocarbon fuels.

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UCR team advances direct production of chemical and fuel precursors in yeast

January 28, 2016

A team led by a researcher at the University of California, Riverside has adapted the CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing system for use in a yeast strain that can produce useful lipids and polymers. The development will lead to new precursors for biofuels, specialty polymers, adhesives and fragrances.

Published recently in an open-access paper in the journal ACS Synthetic Biology, the research involves the oleaginous (oil-producing) yeast Yarrowia lipolytica, which is known for converting sugars to lipids and hydrocarbons that are difficult to make synthetically. Until now, Y. lipolytica has been hard to manipulate at the genetic level, but the application of CRISPR-Cas9 will change that, allowing scientists to tap into its bio-manufacturing potential.

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Oslo Airport first to supply Air BP renewable biojet via main fuel hydrant system; initial batch from Neste

January 23, 2016

In a first for commercial aviation, Air BP, together with Norwegian airport operator Avinor, and sustainable biofuel specialist SkyNRG, announced that all airlines landing at Oslo Airport can have jet biofuel delivered from the airport’s main fuel farm, via the existing hydrant mechanism.

Lufthansa Group was the first airline to confirm that it will uplift the Air BP aviation biofuel at Oslo, and began by refueling an Airbus A320 aircraft. Further airlines including Scandinavian national carrier SAS and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines confirmed they will also purchase jet biofuel at Oslo.

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Tesoro to support development of renewable biocrude for its refineries; Fulcrum, Virent, Ensyn partners

January 22, 2016

Tesoro Corporation plans to foster the development of biocrude, made from renewable biomass, which can be co-processed in its existing refineries along with conventional fossil crude oil to produce lower-carbon drop-in fuels.

Tesoro expects that converting renewable biomass into biocrude will enable existing refining assets to produce fuels with lower carbon intensities (CIs) at a significantly lower capital and operating cost than competing technologies. This could lower Tesoro’s compliance costs with the federal renewable fuel standard (RFS) and California’s low carbon fuel standard (LCFS) by generating credits, while producing fuels fully compatible with the nation’s existing fuel infrastructure as well as current vehicle fleet warranties.

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New one-pot high-yield “high-gravity” process for cellulosic ethanol; potential for drop-in fuels

January 14, 2016

Researchers with the US Department of Energy (DOE)’s Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) have developed a “high-gravity” one-pot process for producing ethanol from cellulosic biomass that gives unprecedented yields while minimizing water use and waste disposal. “High gravity” means high biomass loading—the higher the biomass loading, the lower the costs for converting it to fuels.

The process utilizes a combination of ionic liquid pretreatment, enzymatic saccharification, and yeast fermentation for the production of concentrated fermentable sugars that result in high-titer cellulosic ethanol. Details on this one-pot process for producing ethanol from cellulosic biomass have been reported in the RSC journal Energy and Environmental Science.

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Global Bioenergies and Lanzatech strengthen cooperation to broaden feedstock flexibility of renewable isobutene process

January 11, 2016

Global Bioenergies and LanzaTech have signed a new collaboration agreement to broaden the feedstock flexibility of Global Bioenergies’ renewable isobutene process and the product-portfolio of LanzaTech’s carbon capture technology. (Earlier post.)

Global Bioenergies has developed a process in which a microorganism can produce isobutene from renewable feedstock via the fermentation of sugars. Whereas the company’s primary focus has historically been to use industrial-grade or waste-derived sugars as feedstocks, the technological maturity of the process now allows consideration of a broader range of feedstocks, including non-biomass-derived sources of carbon.

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Testing shows Virent SAK bio-jet provides more than 50% reduction in PM emissions while maintaining engine performance

January 07, 2016

Bio-jet emissions testing by Rolls-Royce, supported by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) under the Continuous Lower Energy, Emissions, and Noise (CLEEN) program, has confirmed that jet fuels containing Virent’s BioForm Synthesized Aromatic Kerosene (SAK) fuel blend produced a greater than 50% reduction in particulate matter emissions compared to conventional jet fuel.

The testing thus verified the potential for the SAK fuel to reduce the adverse environmental impact and health effects resulting from jet fuel combustion. The emissions data and other successfully completed test results have been summarized in a report released by Rolls-Royce, British Airways, and the FAA.

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Global Bioenergies widens cooperation with Audi; new agreement to broaden feedstocks for bio-isobutene to isooctane process

January 04, 2016

Global Bioenergies and Audi have signed a new collaboration agreement (earlier post) to further broaden the feedstock flexibility of Global Bioenergies’ bio-isobutene process, which uses fermentation of sugars.

The two companies last year announced the delivery by Global Bioenergies to Audi of a first batch of bio-isobutene-derived iso-octane, a premium drop-in fuel for gasoline engines. (Earlier post.) Global Bioenergies had produced isobutene using its pilot plant located on the agri-business site of Pomacle, France. The isobutene was then shipped to Germany and converted into isooctane.

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Fulcrum BioEnergy files LCFS application for municipal solid waste to FT diesel pathway with low CI of 37.47 g/MJ

January 03, 2016

Fulcrum BioEnergy, the parent company of Fulcrum Sierra BioFuels, has applied for a new fuel pathway under the California Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCSF) for its process of converting municipal solid waste (MSW) into Fischer-Tropsch (“FT”) diesel fuel.

The California LCFS mandates a 10% reduction by 2020 in the carbon intensity (CI) of transportation fuels. The program requires that transportation fuels used in California meet a baseline target for carbon intensity which is reduced each year. For 2016, the target for diesel and diesel substitutes is 99.97 gCO2e/MJ (Earlier post.) Fulcrum is requesting a CI of 37.47 g/MJ for its MSW-to-FT diesel.

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Large-scale reaction screening study of advanced cellulosic biofuel pathways finds ethyllevulinate and 2-MTHF promising alternatives to ethanol

December 30, 2015

A team at RWTH Aachen University has identified ethyllevulinate and 2-methyltetrahydrofuran as promising alternatives to cellulosic bioethanol with respect to cost and environmental impact based on a large-scale reaction screening study.

In addition, the study of 97 reactions for 23 advanced biofuel candidates found that lignin-based biofuels can be excluded from further consideration and that methane, while attractive economically, shows significant environmental impact. The paper on their work is published in the ACS journal Energy & Fuels.

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Study shows branched ketone biofuels derived from alcohols have potential for use in aviation fuel blends

December 25, 2015

Researchers at the University of Bath (UK) have demonstrated that branched ketone biofuels produced from the alkylation of isoamyl alcohol and isobutanol with acetone have the potential to be used as blending agents with Jet A-1 fuel. A paper on their work is published in the ACS journal Energy & Fuels.

Although the technology to produce cellulosic ethanol is becoming established, ethanol’s low energy density and high affinity for water have led to the development of higher energy density alochol alternatives such as n-butanol, isoamyl alcohol, and isobutanol. However, the water affinity, low flash point, and low boiling point still make these compounds unsuitable for aviation use without further upgrading.

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DOE to issue MEGA-BIO funding opportunity for drop-in renewable hydrocarbon fuels from biomass with a focus on byproducts

December 23, 2015

The US Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) intends to issue, on behalf of the Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO), a Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) entitled “MEGA-BIO: Bioproducts to Enable Biofuels” (DE-FOA-0001434). This FOA supports BETO’s goal of meeting its 2022 cost target of $3/gallon gasoline equivalent (gge) for the production of hydrocarbon fuels from lignocellulosic biomass.

Previously, BETO has focused on conversion pathways that produce biofuels, with little or no emphasis on coproducing bioproducts. As BETO increasingly focuses on hydrocarbon fuels, it is examining strategies that capitalize on revenue from bioproducts as part of cost-competitive biofuel production.

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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.

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$3M UK project to develop low-carbon aviation fuels from captured CO2 and waste biomass

Heriot-Watt University in the UK will lead a £2-million (US$3-million) project (EP/N009924/1) to develop low-carbon aviation fuels from captured CO2 and waste biomass. The multi-disciplinary project, funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) will be led by Heriot-Watt engineers and scientists in conjunction with teams from Aston and Oxford Universities and the University of Edinburgh.

The project aims to produce low-carbon synthetic aviation jet fuel using renewable energy from waste agricultural and forestry biomass and captured CO2. The project team will use integrated chemistry (a bottom-up method to develop novel catalysts and electrodes) and engineering (a top-down method to tailor heat and mass transport parameters influencing reaction conditions) with a focus on high selective and efficient jet fuel production.

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Port of Seattle partners with Alaska Airlines and Boeing to supply sustainable aviation biofuel at Sea-Tac Airport

December 18, 2015

The Port of Seattle, Alaska Airlines and Boeing are partnering to move toward powering all flights by all airlines at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport with sustainable aviation biofuel. Sea-Tac is the first US airport to lay out a long-term roadmap to incorporate aviation biofuel into its infrastructure in a cost-effective, efficient manner.

At the Sea-Tac fuel farm earlier this week, executives for the port, Alaska Airlines, and Boeing signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to launch a $250,000 Biofuel Infrastructure Feasibility Study that will assess costs and infrastructure necessary to deliver a blend of aviation biofuel and conventional jet fuel to aircraft at Sea-Tac.

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Hydrogen from biomethane; gasoline & diesel from tree residue; cellulosic ethanol among new proposed California LCFS fuel pathways

California Air Resources Board (ARB) staff posted 32 new Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) fuel pathway applications for comments at the LCFS website. Among the multiple applications for different processing pathways of corn or sorghum ethanol are four pathways from LytEn for hydrogen produced from biomethane; four pathways for renewable gasoline and diesel produced from tree residue from Ensyn; and one application for cellulosic ethanol using corn stover feedstock from POET.

The LCFS is a regulation to reduce the carbon intensity (CI) of fuels sold in California by 10% by 2020. The LCFS applies to liquid and non-liquid fuels. If a product is above the annual carbon intensity target, the fuel incurs deficits. If a product is below that target, the fuel generates credits which may be used later for compliance, or sold to other producers who have deficits. So far, fuel producers are over-complying with the regulation. (Earlier post.)

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HeidelbergCement and Joule partnering to explore carbon-neutral fuel application in cement manufacturing

December 14, 2015

Joule, a pioneer in the production of liquid fuels from recycled CO2, and HeidelbergCement, a German multinational building material company, are partnering to explore application of Joule’s technology to mitigate carbon emissions in cement manufacturing. Cement manufacturing is highly energy and emissions intensive, currently contributing about 6% of global CO2 (Zhang et al. 2014).

As part of the agreement, emissions (or offtake gas) from various HeidelbergCement factories could provide Joule with the waste CO2 required to feed its advanced Helioculture platform that effectively recycles CO2 back into fuel.

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IH2 biomass to drop-in fuels technology demonstration plant to be built in India

December 13, 2015

Shell India Markets Pvt Ltd (SIMPL) will proceed with the installation of a 5 tonne/day IH2 technology demonstration plant on the site of SIMPL’s new Technology Centre in Bangalore, India. SIMPL will build, operate and own the demonstration scale IH2 plant. IH2 technology is a continuous catalytic thermo-chemical process which converts a broad range of forestry/agricultural residues and municipal wastes directly into renewable hydrocarbon transportation fuels and/or blend stocks. (Earlier post.)

The IH2 technology was developed by US-based Gas Technology Institute in 2009 and is being further developed in collaboration with CRI Catalyst Company (CRI), Shell’s Catalyst business. CRI will supply the proprietary catalysts for the unit. The Basic Engineering Package for the plant will be provided by Zeton, Inc. of Ontario, Canada.

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New catalytic process to convert lignin into jet-range hydrocarbons

December 11, 2015

Researchers at Washington State University (WSU) Tri-Cities have developed a catalytic process to convert corn stover lignin into hydrocarbons (C7–C18)—primarily C12–C18 cyclic structure hydrocarbons in the jet fuel range. The work is featured on the cover of the December issue of the RSC journal Green Chemistry.

The developer of the process, Bin Yang, an associate professor of biological systems engineering at WSU and his team are working with Boeing Co. to develop and test the hydrocarbons targeted to be jet fuel. Yang has filed for a patent on the process, with WSU as the assignee.

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UMass Amherst computationl chemist to optimize zeolite biofuel production catalysts; more gasoline, less coke

December 09, 2015

University of Massachusetts Amherst computational chemist Scott Auerbach has been awarded a three-year, $330,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to improve basic understanding and optimize the catalytic process of producing fuels such as gasoline from plant biomass instead of from petroleum.

The study involves theoretical calculations aimed at understanding the complex catalysis involved in converting biomass-derived organic compounds to liquid fuel precursors in the confined spaces of zeolites while avoiding deactivation due to coke formation. Auerbach will employ a novel theoretical approach and benchmark it against experimental data.

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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.)

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ARPA-E awards $2.1M to Marine BioEnergy for open ocean farming of kelp for hydrocarbon biofuels

Marine BioEnergy, Inc. was awarded $2.1 million in funding from the US Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E) under the agency’s OPEN 2015 solicitation (earlier post). The funding will be used to research and develop open ocean farming of kelp as a biomass feedstock. The kelp will be processed into biocrude and further to hydrocarbons ready for commercial refineries.

Our collaborators in this effort include a team led by Professor James J. Leichter at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California at San Diego, and a team led by Douglas C. Elliott at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Richland, Washington.

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Propel Fuels reports strong consumer adoption of renewable diesel in SoCal; retail sales up 300% over biodiesel

November 18, 2015

Propel launched Diesel HPR across Southern California in August 2015, and consumer adoption of the fuel has risen 300% compared to its former biodiesel product (B20). (Earlier post.) Utilizing Neste’s NEXBTL renewable diesel, Propel’s Diesel HPR is a low-carbon, drop-in renewable fuel that meets the ASTM D-976 petroleum diesel specifications for use in diesel engines, while offering drivers better performance and lower emissions.

Performance features include a 75 cetane rating, 40 percent higher than regular diesel. Diesel HPR provides cleaner and more efficient combustion for more power and a smoother ride at a cost similar to or lower than petroleum diesel.

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Joule and Red Rock Biofuels intend to merge; solar fuels plus biomass F-T

November 12, 2015

Joule, a pioneer in producing liquid fuels from recycled CO2, and Red Rock Biofuels, a leading developer of renewable jet and diesel fuel bio-refineries using the Fischer-Tropsch process, announced that they intend to merge. Red Rock adds a proven technology pathway to Joule’s own Helioculture technology and strengthens Joule’s platform for global supply of carbon neutral fuels, the two said. The transaction is expected to close during the coming 30 days.

In association with this merger, Joule also announced that President and CEO Serge Tchuruk, will return to his previous board role. Dr. Brian Baynes, a current board member of both Joule and Red Rock and partner at Flagship Ventures, will succeed Tchuruk and will lead Joule as it enters a commercial deployment phase.

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Bio-isobutanol company Gevo enters major licensing and development agreement with Praj

November 10, 2015

Gevo, Inc. has entered into a license agreement and a joint development agreement with Praj Industries Limited to enable the licensing of Gevo’s isobutanol technology to processors of non-corn based sugars, including the majority of Praj’s global customer base of ethanol plant owners. The two companies had signed a memorandum of understanding on licensing earlier this year. (Earlier post.)

As part of these agreements, Praj will invest substantial resources in the development and optimization of Gevo’s isobutanol technology for use with non-corn feedstocks including sugar cane, sugar beets, cassava, rice, sorghum, wheat and certain cellulosic sugars. This development work is anticipated to lead to process design packages (PDP) that would be expected to accelerate the licensing of Gevo technology to processors of these, particularly in Praj’s extensive customer base. The development work is expected to build upon the PDP that Gevo already has developed for corn, translating it to other feedstocks and plant configurations.

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EIA: More than 1 billion gallons of renewable drop-in diesel/jet produced worldwide in 2014

November 09, 2015

More than one billion gallons of hydroprocessed esters and fatty acids (HEFA) fuels—renewable, drop-in diesel and jet fuels such as Neste’s NEXBTL—were produced worldwide in 2014, according to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA).

HEFA fuels are hydrocarbons rather than alcohols or esters and are the most common drop-in biofuels; they can be used in diesel engines without the need for blending with petroleum diesel fuel. Currently, HEFA fuels are also approved by ASTM International for use in jet engines at up to a 50% blend rate with petroleum jet fuel.

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Neste and Boeing to partner on commercialization of renewable aviation fuels

November 05, 2015

Neste, the leading producer of renewable diesel and Boeing, the world’s largest aircraft manufacturer, will work together to promote and accelerate the commercialization of renewable aviation fuel.

The companies will work toward ASTM International fuel standard approval allowing the commercial use of high freezing point (hfp) renewable aviation fuel by airlines. The goal is also to gain widespread market acceptance for renewable aviation fuels, and to progress sustainability accreditation efforts.

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ORNL team discovers mechanism behind direct ethanol-to-hydrocarbon conversion; implications for energy efficiency and cost of upgrading

November 04, 2015

Researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) have discovered that the reactions underlying the transformation of ethanol into higher-grade hydrocarbons unfolds in a different manner than previously thought.

The research, supported by DOE’s BioEnergy Technologies Office (BETO), has implications for the energy efficiency and cost of catalytic upgrading technologies proposed for use in bio-refineries. Uncovering the mechanism behind the reaction helps support the potential economic viability of ORNL’s own direct biofuel-to-hydrocarbon conversion approach. An open-access paper on their findings is published in Nature Scientific Reports.

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SG Preston and IHI E&C partner on portfolio of renewable diesel and jet plants; 5 initial sites, 600M gallons total capacity

October 22, 2015

SG Preston, a Philadelphia-based bioenergy company, is partnering with IHI E&C, a Houston-based engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) subsidiary of Japan’s IHI Corporation, to develop and to construct a series of commercial-scale renewable diesel and jet fuel manufacturing plants, initially in the US Midwest and Canada.

The plants will use licensed, proven, commercial-scale technologies for the production of renewable diesel and jet fuel targeting US and global industries seeking a volume-based, competitively priced solution to their environmental sustainability mandates. SG Preston will deploy its biofuels strategy initially at five plants (South Point and Van Wert, Ohio; Logansport, Indiana; and two additional, to-be-announced sites, one in Michigan, and one in Ontario, Canada), each with an initial capacity to produce 120 million gallons of renewable diesel and jet fuel annually.

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EPA: jatropha-based biofuels could qualify as biomass-based diesel or advanced biodiesel under RFS

October 19, 2015

Based on its analysis of the production and transport components of the lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions of biofuel made from jatropha oil, the US EPA anticipates that biofuels produced from jatropha oil could qualify as biomass-based diesel or advanced biofuel under the Renewable Fuel Standard program if typical fuel production process technologies or process technologies with the same or lower GHG emissions are used. EPA has published its analysis in the Federal Register and is inviting comment.

Background. The RFS regulations lists three critical components of an approved fuel pathway: (1) Fuel type; (2) feedstock; and (3) production process. EPA uses lifecycle analysis to assess the overall greenhouse gas (GHG) impacts of a fuel throughout each stage of its production and use.

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DLR wrapping up ECLIF in-flight study of emissions from alternative aviation fuels; potential for improved fuel design

October 09, 2015

In a three-week series of flight tests lasting until 9 October 2015, the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) has been investigating how to reduce the impact of air transport on the climate by using alternative fuels. The testing is part of DLR’s Emission and Climate Impact of Alternative Fuels (ECLIF) project.

ECLIF is analyzing the emissions produced by alternative fuels using the full range of methods available at DLR—from combustion analysis in the laboratories of the DLR Institute of Combustion Technology and tests in the combustion chamber test facilities at the DLR Institute of Propulsion Technology, through to the exhaust gas measurements conducted by the DLR Institute of Atmospheric Physics now taking place during the flight trials.

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Study: marine cyanobacteria produce 100s of millions of tonnes of hydrocarbons annually

October 06, 2015

An international team of researchers, led by the University of Cambridge, has estimated that photosynthetic marine cyanobacteria annually produce hundreds of millions of tonnes of hydrocarbons in the oceans. These organisms in turn support another population of bacteria that feed on these compounds.

In the study, conducted in collaboration with researchers from the University of Warwick and MIT, and published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), the scientists measured the amount of hydrocarbons in a range of laboratory-grown cyanobacteria and used the data to estimate the amount produced in the oceans.

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Gevo begins selling renewable isooctene to BCD Chemie; fuel applications

September 29, 2015

Gevo has begun selling renewable isooctene to BCD Chemie, a subsidiary of Brenntag. Initial orders in 2015 are expected to result in revenues to Gevo of more than $1 million. The isooctene will be produced at Gevo’s biorefinery in Silsbee, Texas, derived from isobutanol produced at Gevo’s plant in Luverne, Minn. Gevo’s biorefinery is operated in conjunction with South Hampton Resources.

BCD Chemie is targeting applications in Europe with Gevo’s isooctene. This commences a relationship with BCD Chemie that may include the marketing of other hydrocarbon products, including isooctane and jet fuel, and builds on Gevo’s existing partnership with Brenntag in Canada, which is currently selling Gevo’s isobutanol as a solvent in Canada.

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Testing shows UPM BioVerno renewable diesel reduces harmful tailpipe emissions

September 24, 2015

Testing, which is still ongoing, is showing that Finnish wood-based UPM BioVerno diesel (earlier post) significantly reduces harmful tailpipe emissions. A number of engine and vehicle tests have been carried out across a number of research institutes such as VTT Technical Research Center of Finland Lt;, University of Vaasa in Finland; and at FEV.

UPM BioVerno renewable diesel has already been shown to function just like conventional diesel in all diesel engines, while generating up to 80% fewer greenhouse gas emissions during its lifecycle compared to conventional fossil diesel fuels. The latest test results show that UPM BioVerno also reduces harmful tailpipe emissions.

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Ensyn receives EPA regulatory approval for its cellulosic renewable diesel RFDiesel

September 11, 2015

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently granted Ensyn Corporation (earlier post) Part 79 registration for its renewable diesel product, RFDiesel. This registration, pursuant to Title 40 CFR Part 79 of the Clean Air Act, is required for the sale of RFDiesel in the US.

RFDiesel, a drop-in diesel transportation fuel, is created by processing Ensyn’s renewable crude (RFO), a liquid cellulosic feedstock, with customary petroleum feedstocks in conventional petroleum refineries (RFO Coprocessing). There, Ensyn’s RFO is used as a feedstock in Fluid Catalytic Crackers (FCCs). FCC units are found in most refineries worldwide and are used to produce gasoline and diesel from vacuum gas oil (VGO). When RFO is processed alongside VGO in FCC units at VGO displacement rates up to approximately 5%, RFO performs comparably to VGO on a volumetric basis producing spec gasoline and diesel.

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FAA awards $100M to 8 companies for CLEEN II development; lower fuel consumption, emissions and noise

September 09, 2015

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has awarded $100 million in contracts to eight companies to develop and to demonstrate aviation technologies that reduce fuel consumption, emissions, and noise under the second phase of its Continuous Lower Energy, Emissions, and Noise (CLEEN II) program. (The CLEEN II solicitation was posted in October 2014.)

The five-year CLEEN II program will build on the success of the original CLEEN program, a public-private partnership that began in 2010 and is a key part of the FAA’s NextGen efforts to make aviation more environmentally friendly. (Earlier post.) The CLEEN team focused on nine projects in the area of energy efficient aircraft technologies and sustainable alternative jet fuels. The first of these technologies will enter service in 2016.

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Global Bioenergies joins aireg to push jet fuel application of its isobutene process; isododecane

September 08, 2015

France-based Global Bioenergies, a company developing a processes to convert renewable resources into hydrocarbons through fermentation, has joined aireg (Aviation Initiative for Renewable Energy in Germany e.V.) aireg, an organization promoting the development and use of renewable liquid fuels in aviation, aims to replace 10% of German jet fuel demand with sustainable, alternative aviation fuels by 2025.

Global Bioenergies, which is currently developing its demonstration plant in Leuna, Germany, will soon be able to produce alternative jet fuel from sugars. Earlier this year, the company reported the successful conversion of renewable resources first into gaseous isobutene via fermentation, which was then subsequently catalytically oligomerized into a mix of fuel-range liquid hydrocarbons. (Earlier post.) The resulting product slate contained isooctane; isododecane (C12H26, a highly branched alkane well-suited for the aviation market); isocetane; as well as longer strings.

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UCL, BP team study on combustion and emissions characteristics of a range of fuel molecules from lignocellulosic biomass

September 01, 2015

A team from University College London and BP’s Fuels and Lubricants Research group has investigated the combustion and emissions characteristics of a range of fuel molecules which can be produced from lignocellulosic biomass through a variety of processing routes.

The researchers suggested that their results can be used to aid in selecting at what stage lignocellulose should be chemically modified so as to produce a viable biofuel molecule with optimal combustion characteristics and exhaust gas emissions. Their paper is published in the ACS journal Energy & Fuels.

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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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DOE to award up to $10M for Bioenergy Technologies Incubator 2; provides $4M to two additional biofuel projects

August 28, 2015

The US Department of Energy (DOE) released a Funding Opportunity Announcement (DE-FOA-0001320)for up to $10 million to advance the production of advanced biofuels, substitutes for petroleum-based feedstocks and bioproducts made from renewable, non-food-based biomass, such as algae, agricultural residues, and woody biomass. This work supports the Energy Department’s efforts to make drop-in biofuels more accessible and affordable, as well as to meet the cost target equivalent of $3 per gallon of gasoline by 2022.

The new funding will support projects in two topic areas: Topic Area 1 awards (anticipated at 2–4 selections) will range from $1–$2 million and focus on the development of novel, non-incremental technologies that facilitate the goals of the Algae Program, but are not represented in a significant way in the current Algae Project Portfolio.

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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.

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Propel Fuels expands retail sales of drop-in renewable diesel across Southern California; $2.59/gallon

August 13, 2015

Propel Fuels has expanded its sales of Diesel HPR (High Performance Renewable) to locations across Southern California. Utilizing Neste’s NEXBTL renewable diesel, Propel’s Diesel HPR is a low-carbon, drop-in renewable fuel that meets petroleum diesel specifications and can be used in any diesel engine.

Diesel HPR made its North American debut in March 2015 at 18 Propel stations across Northern California. (Earlier post.) In HPR’s first three months of sales, Propel has seen a 300% increase in gallons sold compared to its former biodiesel product (B20). Propel customers have also provided overwhelmingly positive feedback on the fuel, validating HPR’s performance and value to drivers, according to the company.

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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.

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UPS announces renewable diesel agreements with Neste, REG and Solazyme; up to 46M gallons over next 3 years

July 29, 2015

UPS announced agreements for up to 46 million gallons of renewable diesel over the next three years, constituting a 15-fold increase over prior contracts and making UPS one of the largest users of renewable diesel in the world.

Neste, Renewable Energy Group (REG) and Solazyme will supply renewable diesel to UPS to help facilitate the company’s shift to move more than 12% of its purchased ground fuel from conventional diesel and gasoline fuel to alternative fuels by the end of 2017. UPS has previously announced a goal of driving one billion miles with our alternative fuel and advanced technology vehicles by the end of 2017.

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EPA honors winners of the 20th Annual Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge; advanced biofuels

July 14, 2015

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) honored the six 2015 Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award winners at a ceremony in Washington, DC. EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention sponsors the Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Awards in partnership with the American Chemical Society Green Chemistry Institute and other members of the chemical community including industry, trade associations, academic institutions, and other government agencies.

For 2015, EPA announced a new award category for a green chemistry technology that has a “Specific Environmental Benefit: Climate Change.” The 2015 winners are Algenol; Lanzatech; Renmatix; Professor Eugene Y.-X. Chen of Colorado State University; Soltex; and Hybrid Coating Technologies.

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DOE awards $18M to six projects for algae-based biofuels; targeting <$5/gge

July 10, 2015

The US Department of Energy (DOE) will award up to $18 million in funding to six projects to reduce the modeled price of algae-based biofuels to less than $5 per gasoline gallon equivalent (gge) by 2019.

Algal biomass can be converted to advanced biofuels that offer promising alternatives to petroleum-based diesel and jet fuels. Additionally, algae can be used to make a range of other valuable bioproducts, such as industrial chemicals, bio-based polymers, and proteins. However, barriers related to algae cultivation, harvesting, and conversion to fuels and products need to be overcome to achieve the Department’s target of $3/gge for advanced algal biofuels by 2030. To accomplish this goal, the Department is investing in applied research and development technologies that can achieve higher yields of targeted bioproducts and biofuels from algae—increasing the overall value for algae biomass.

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Boeing, Japanese aviation industry unveil biofuel roadmap to 2020 Olympics

July 09, 2015

The Initiatives for Next Generation Aviation Fuels (INAF)—a consortium of 46 organizations including Boeing, ANA (All Nippon Airways), Japan Airlines, Nippon Cargo Airlines, Japan’s government, the University of Tokyo and other Japanese aviation industry stakeholders—has developed a five-year roadmap to develop sustainable aviation biofuel for flights during the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo.

The roadmap offers a rough sketch of a path leading to the introduction of next-generation aviation fuels, and brings together the entire supply chain from the procurement of raw materials; production of next-generation aviation fuels; their mixture with conventional aviation fuels to produce alternative aviation fuels; and refueling of aircraft after the fuel has been transported to the airport. For business development, the report authors noted, “more substantive discussions are needed” which are based on the plan.

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Study: even with high LDV electrification, low-carbon biofuels will be necessary to meet 80% GHG reduction target; “daunting” policy implications

July 03, 2015

A study by researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a Michigan State University colleague has concluded that even with a relatively high rate of electrification of the US light-duty fleet (40% of vehicle miles traveled and 26% by fuel), an 80% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2050 relative to 1990 can only be achieved with significant quantities of low-carbon liquid fuel. The paper is published in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology.

For the study, the researchers benchmarked 27 scenarios against a 50% petroleum-reduction target and an 80% GHG-reduction target. They found that with high rates of electrification (40% of miles traveled) the petroleum-reduction benchmark could be satisfied, even with high travel demand growth. The same highly electrified scenarios, however, could not satisfy 80% GHG-reduction targets, even assuming 80% decarbonized electricity and no growth in travel demand.

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United Airlines invests $30M in Fulcrum BioEnergy; renewable jet fuel offtake agreement, potential joint development of production

June 30, 2015

United Airlines made a $30-million equity investment in US-based Fulcrum BioEnergy, Inc., the developer of a process for converting municipal solid waste into low-cost sustainable aviation biofuel. (Earlier post.) The investment is so far the largest single investment by a US airline in alternative fuels.

In addition to the equity investment, United and Fulcrum have entered into an agreement that contemplates the joint development of up to five projects located near United’s hubs expected to have the potential to produce up to 180 million gallons of fuel per year.

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Volkswagen announces successful completion of 2-year drop-in renewable diesel evaluation with Solazyme and Amyris

June 29, 2015

Volkswagen of America announced the successful completion of its Renewable Diesel Evaluation Program in collaboration with Solazyme and Amyris. (Earlier post.) Beginning in 2012, Volkswagen measured the environmental impacts from the use of pre-commercial renewable diesel formulas with TDI Clean Diesel technology found in the 2012 Passat TDI (which uses a NOx storage system) and 2012 Jetta TDI (SCR system). Initial analysis found that advanced renewable fuels in the test offered comparable performance to standard crude-based diesel fuel blends while producing less CO2 emissions on average.

During the two-year evaluation, Solazyme’s now commercial Soladiesel RD (100% algae-derived renewable diesel fuel) and the Amyris plant-sugar-derived renewable diesel formula was used for the program with each company testing a 2012 Passat and Jetta TDI. Both fuel producers added additives, which are commonly used today, to meet ASTM D 975 specifications.

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Volkswagen AG coordinating new €6M EU research project on drop-in biocatalytic solar fuels

June 26, 2015

Volkswagen AG is coordinating a new €6-million (US$6.7-million) research project, selected for funding under the Horizon 2020 Programme, to advance the biocatalytic production of drop-in liquid hydrocarbon transportation fuels, requiring only sunlight, CO2 and water.

The basic approach of the new 4-year Photofuel project is to develop and to advance microbes (the biocatalysts) that will directly excrete hydrocarbon and long-chain alcohol fuel compounds to the growth medium, from which the fuels are separated, without the need to harvest biomass. This basic concept is in line with the fundamental approach (CO2 + water + renewable energy → drop-in fuels) being taken by Audi (a member of the Volkswagen Group) in its e-fuels initiatives. (Earlier post.)

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IH2 technology licensed for demonstration plant to convert woody biomass into drop-in hydrocarbon transportation fuels

June 23, 2015

SynSel Energi AS has entered into an IH2 (Integrated Hydropyrolysis and Hydroconversion) process demonstration license agreement with CRI/Criterion Catalyst Company Ltd, a member of the CRI Catalyst group (CRI), a global group of catalyst technology companies. IH2 technology is a continuous catalytic thermochemical process which converts a broad range of forestry/agricultural residues and municipal wastes directly into renewable hydrocarbon transportation fuels and/or blend stocks. (Earlier post.)

The Basic Engineering Package for the 5 metric ton/day demonstration plant located in Grenland, Norway is to be completed over a period of several months by Zeton Inc. Zeton is the preferred engineering services provider for IH2 facilities at demonstration scale. The IH2 demonstration plant will be integrated into an existing third-party petrochemical manufacturing site, allowing for optimized capital and operating expense.

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Volvo Trucks approves 100% renewable diesel for all Euro 5 engines, prepping certification for Euro 6

June 22, 2015

After extensive field testing of renewable diesel HVO (Hydrotreated Vegetable Oils), Volvo Trucks has approved the fuel for all Euro 5 engines and is preparing certifications for Euro 6 engines. HVO (such as Neste’s NEXBTL) is produced from renewable raw materials such as vegetable and animal fats and acts as regular diesel. HVO can reduce CO2 emissions between 30-90%, depending upon the raw material.

In 2013, Volvo Trucks started a field test together with Renova, DHL Freight and OKQ8 to see how the use of 100% HVO affected engine performance and components. The six field test trucks were equipped with Euro 5 engines and covered approximately one million kilometers (621,000 miles) in commercial service over a two-year period.

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Boeing ecoDemonstrator 757 expands testing; green diesel blend, energy harvesting windows, 3D-printed flight deck component

June 20, 2015

Boeing announced the next phase in ecoDemonstrator 757 testing today, including its first flight with US-made “green diesel” (earlier post) and two new environment-related technologies. These developments advance the ecoDemonstrator program's mission to accelerate the testing and use of technologies to improve aviation's environmental performance.

In cooperation with NASA, the 757 flew on 17 June 17 from Seattle to NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., using a blend of 95% petroleum jet fuel and 5% sustainable green diesel, a renewable drop-in bio-hydrocarbon fuel meeting ASTM International’s standard for Diesel Fuel Oils (D-975). Boeing is working with the aviation industry to approve green diesel for commercial aviation by amending the HEFA (Hydroprocessed Esters And Fatty Acids) biojet specification approved in 2011.

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Etihad Airways and partners launch roadmap for sustainable aviation biofuels in UAE

June 18, 2015

Etihad Airways, together with Boeing, Total, Takreer and the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, launched a joint industry roadmap for the sustainable production of aviation biofuels in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The BIOjet Abu Dhabi: Flight Path to Sustainability report outlines a set of recommended industry actions to create a commercially viable domestic aviation biofuel industry—a first for the Middle East. (Earlier post, earlier post.)

The BIOjet Abu Dhabi roadmap is the culmination of a year-long dialogue between Etihad Airways, its four BIOjet Abu Dhabi partners, and UAE and global stakeholders. It explains Abu Dhabi’s potential to produce aviation biofuel locally, in a sustainable way, taking account of all elements of the supply chain from feedstock supplies to biorefining and distribution.

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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.

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Joule issued patent on production of medium chain-length alkanes from sunlight and CO2; diesel, jet fuel and gasoline

Joule, the developer of engineered photosynthetic bacteria as catalysts for the direct production of targeted fuel molecules in a continuous, single-step conversion process, announced the issuance of an additional patent, extending its ability to target the highest-value molecules of the petroleum distillation process and generate them on demand from sunlight and CO2.

US Patent Nº 9,034,629, issued on 19 May, covers both the cyanobacterium and the process for directly converting CO2 into medium chain-length alkanes (C7-11), which are in the diesel, jet fuel and gasoline ranges.

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EBI ketone condensation process for drop-in jet fuel or lubricant base oil from biomass; up to 80% lifecycle GHG savings

Researchers at the Energy Biosciences Institute (EBI), a partnership led by the University of California (UC) Berkeley that includes Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and BP, have developed a new method for producing drop-in aviation fuel as well as automotive lubricant base oils from sugarcane biomass. The strategy behind the process could also be applied to biomass from other non-food plants and agricultural waste that are fermented by genetically engineered microbes, the researchers said.

The catalytic process, described in an open-access paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), selectively upgrades alkyl methyl ketones derived from sugarcane biomass into trimer condensates with better than 95% yields. These condensates are then hydro-deoxygenated into a new class of cycloalkane compounds that contain a cyclohexane ring and a quaternary carbon atom. These cycloalkane compounds can be tailored for the production of either jet fuel, or automotive lubricant base oils, resulting in products with superior cold-flow properties, density and viscosity that could achieve net life-cycle greenhouse gas savings of up to 80%, depending upon the optimization conditions.

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