[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.]
Australian techno-economic analysis of renewable aviation fuels identifies research priorities to lower the high costs
May 22, 2013
A techno-economic analysis of renewable aviation fuels by Australian researchers has found that, based on currently available long-term reputable technological data, biorefineries producing biofuels from microalgae, oil seeds of the Pongamia tree, and sugarcane feedstocks would be competitive with crude oil prices at $1,343, $374, and $301/bbl, respectively.
Sensitivity analyses of the major economic drivers suggest technological and market developments that would bring the corresponding figures down to $385, $255, and $168/bbl, the researchers said in their paper, published in the journal Biofuels, Bioproducts and Biorefining. The results of the study, which was conducted as part of the Queensland Sustainable Aviation Fuel Initiative, were presented at the Boeing-hosted Aero Environment Summit in Sydney.
EPA proposes adding renewable diesel and naphtha from landfill biogas and butanol pathways to RFS
May 21, 2013
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued a proposed rulemaking for modifications to the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS2) program. The proposal also includes various changes to the E15 misfueling mitigation regulations (E15 MMR), ultra low sulfur diesel survey requirements as well as other technical amendments.
The proposed rules include various changes related to biogas, including changes related to the revised compressed natural gas (CNG)/liquefied natural gas (LNG) pathway and amendments to various associated registration, recordkeeping, and reporting provisions. It also adds new pathways for renewable diesel, renewable naphtha, and renewable electricity (used in electric vehicles) produced from landfill biogas.
China team engineers cyanobacterium for significant increase in alka(e)ne production
May 06, 2013
Strains of the cyanobacterium Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803 engineered by researchers from the Qingdao Institute of Bioenergy and Bioprocess Technology (China) increased their production of alka(e)nes by some 8 times compared with wildtype strains. Alkanes are the major constituents of gasoline, diesel and jet fuels. An open access paper on their work is published in the journal Biotechnology for Biofuels.
Some of the same researchers had earlier reported the application of a consolidated bioprocessing strategy to integrate photosynthetic biomass production and microbial conversion producing ethanol together into Synechocystis sp. PCC6803, with the resulting engineered organism directly converting carbon dioxide to ethanol in one single biological system. (Earlier post.)
Former president of Shell Oil calls for aggressive action on alternative fuels to break oil monopoly on transportation
April 30, 2013
John Hofmeister, former President of Shell Oil Company and founder and CEO of Citizens for Affordable Energy (CFAE), is joining the Fuel Freedom Foundation (FFF) Advisory Board. Fuel Freedom is a non-partisan, non-profit organization dedicated to opening the fuel market to allow alternative fuels such as ethanol, methanol, natural gas and electricity fairly to compete with gasoline at the pump. CFAE’s mission is to educate citizens and government officials about pragmatic, non-partisan affordable energy solutions.
“The purpose and the focus [of FFF] is exactly in line with what I promoted as president of Shell and subsequently as the founder of CFAE,” Hofmeister said to Green Car Congress. “From [these organizations’ standpoints], the reason we have to get away from doing nothing is that the public doesn’t fully appreciate or understand the situation it faces with respect to fuels’ futures.”
UPM and VTT begin fleet tests of BioVerno wood-based renewable diesel in Golf 1.6 TDIs
April 29, 2013
Finland-based forestry-industry company UPM, VTT and VV-Auto Group will start fleet tests of renewable diesel produced mainly from crude tall oil, which is a residue of chemical pulp production, UPM BioVerno. (Earlier post.) The biofuel will be produced by UPM, fleet tests will be coordinated by VTT, and cars will be supplied by VV-Auto Group, an importer and marketer of Volkswagen Group cars in Finland. Fleet tests with UPM BioVerno will start in May, lasting several months.
UPM BioVerno diesel has previously been studied in engine and vehicle tests conducted by VTT and others. The fleet tests will focus on investigating UPM renewable diesel in terms of fuel functionality in engine, emissions and fuel consumption.
Univ. of Exeter team engineers unique biological pathway for the production of diesel range hydrocarbons by E. coli
April 23, 2013
A team from the University of Exeter (UK), with support from Shell Technology Centre Thorton, has modified strains of E. coli bacteria to produce “petroleum-replica” hydrocarbons in the diesel range. While the technology still faces many significant commercialization challenges, the resulting drop-in fuel is almost identical to conventional diesel fuel and so does not need to be blended with petroleum products as is often required by biodiesels derived from plant oils.
In an open access paper on their work published in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Science, the researchers note that their work—rather than reconstituting existing metabolic routes to alkane production found in nature—demonstrated the ability to design and to implement artificial molecular pathways for the production of renewable, industrially relevant fuel molecules.
US DOE to award nearly $18M to 4 biorefinery projects for mil-spec renewable hydrocarbon fuels
April 22, 2013
The US Department of Energy (DOE) will award nearly $18 million to four innovative pilot-scale biorefineries in California, Iowa and Washington that will produce and test drop-in renewable biofuels that meet military specifications for jet fuel and shipboard diesel.
The pilot-scale biorefinery projects selected today will use a variety of non-food biomass feedstocks, waste-based materials, and algae in innovative conversion processes. The projects will demonstrate technologies to cost-effectively convert biomass into advanced drop-in biofuels and assist these organizations to scale up the processes to commercial levels. Recipients are required to contribute a minimum of 50% matching funds for these projects.
Joule expands solar CO2 conversion platform to produce renewable gasoline and jet hydrocarbons
April 15, 2013
Joule, the developer of a direct, single-step, continuous process for the production of solar hydrocarbon fuels (earlier post), has extended its solar CO2 conversion platform to produce renewable gasoline- and jet fuel-range hydrocarbons.
Joule has engineered photosynthetic biocatalysts that convert waste CO2 into hydrocarbons through a patented, continuous process. Joule has been successfully scaling its process for making ethanol (Sunflow-E) while also developing long-chain hydrocarbons for diesel (Sunflow-D). With this latest development, Joule can now also directly produce medium-chain hydrocarbons which are substantial components of gasoline (Sunflow-G) and jet fuel (Sunflow-J).
Task 39 report finds significant advances in advanced biofuels technologies; hydrotreating accounting for about 2.4% of global biofuels production
April 06, 2013
|Capacities of the demonstration and commercial facilities sorted by technology. Source: “Status of Advanced Biofuels Demonstration Facilities in 2012”. Click to enlarge.|
Advanced biofuels technologies have developed significantly over the past several years, according to a status report on demonstration facilities prepared for IEA Bioenergy Task 39—a group of international experts working on commercializing sustainable biofuels used for transportation that is part of the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) implementation agreement for bioenergy, IEA Bioenergy.
Hydrotreatment—as exemplified by Neste Oil’s NExBTL—has been commercialized and currently accounts for approximately 2.4% of biofuels production worldwide (2,190,000 t/y), according to the report. Fermentation of lignocellulosic raw material to ethanol has also seen a strong development and several large scale facilities are just coming online in Europe and North America. The production capacity for biofuels from lignocellulosic feedstock has tripled since 2010 and currently accounts for some 140,000 tons per year.
Converting the acetone-butanol-ethanol mixture to drop-in hydrocarbons
April 01, 2013
Researchers at Auburn University report on the catalytic dehydration of the acetone-butanol-ethanol (ABE) mixture produced by fermentation by genetically modified Clostridium acetobutylicum. Their paper appears in the ACS journal Energy & Fuels.
C. acetobutylicum produces a mixture of acetone, butanol and ethanol via fermentation. While the catalytic dehydration of the individual components—n-butanol, acetone, and ethanol—has been studied, not much work has been reported on the dehydration or deoxygenation of the mixture as produced from the ABE fermentation process, Shaima Nahreen and Ram Gupta note in their paper.
Navigant forecasts global 6% CAGR for biofuels to 2023
March 29, 2013
|Total Biofuels production by fuel type, world markets: 2013-2023. Source: Navigant. Click to enlarge.|
Navigant Research forecasts global biofuels production will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6% between 2013 and 2023, despite slower than expected development of advanced biofuels pathways (such as cellulosic biofuels); an expected expansion in unconventional oil production in key markets such as the United States; and a decline in global investment for biofuels in recent years.
In contrast, Navigant expects the CAGR for fossil-based gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel to be 3.1% over the forecast period. The research firm projects that total biofuels production will reach 62 billion gallons by 2023 or 5.9% of global transportation fuel production from fossil sources.
California ARB considering regulations for alternative diesel fuels; focus on biodiesel
March 23, 2013
The staff of the California Air Resources Board (ARB) is holding a public meeting on 23 April in Sacramento to discuss regulatory concepts for establishing fuel requirements for alternative diesel fuels (ADF), including biodiesel, renewable diesel and other emerging diesel fuel substitutes.
ARB’s goal is to conduct public meetings leading to the development of a regulatory proposal for consideration by the Board this fall. Staff anticipates the regulatory concepts would involve new alternative diesel fuel provisions, as well as amendments to the existing diesel fuel regulation to accommodate the new ADF requirements and to update outdated provisions. This effort is not directed at other existing transportation fuel programs, such as those for compressed natural gas, liquefied natural gas, liquefied petroleum gas, hydrogen, or electricity.
California ARB considering four new low-carbon fuel pathways; Neste renewable diesel and sugarcane molasses ethanol
March 20, 2013
California Air Resources Board (ARB) staff has posted four new Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) pathways to the LCFS web site. (Earlier post.) Among the new pathways to be considered is the production of renewable diesel from Australian tallow at Neste Oil’s Singapore plant. Others are sugarcane molasses ethanol from Guatemala; mixed feedstock to biodiesel from Texas; and a new ARB-staff-developed pathway for North American landfill gas.
The Low Carbon Fuel Standard, approved in April 2009, requires that suppliers of transportation fuels meet an average declining standard of carbon intensity (CI) —expressed in grams of CO2 equivalent per megajoule of fuel energy (g CO2e/MJ)—that will provide a 10% reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions for all fuels used in California by 2020. The CI of a fuel is determined by the sum of all greenhouse gas emissions associated with the production, transportation, processing and consumption of a fuel (its pathway).
NASA begins ACCESS flight research to study effects of biojet fuels on engine performance, emissions and contrails
March 01, 2013
NASA researchers have begun a series of flights using the agency’s DC-8 flying laboratory to study the effects of alternate biofuel on engine performance, emissions and aircraft-generated contrails at altitude. The Alternative Fuel Effects on Contrails and Cruise EmiSSions (ACCESS) research involves flying the DC-8 as high as 40,000 feet while an instrumented NASA Falcon HU-25 aircraft trails behind at distances ranging from 300 feet to more than 10 miles.
During the flights, the DC-8’s four CFM56 engines will be powered by conventional JP-8 jet fuel, or a 50-50 blend of JP-8 and an alternative fuel of hydroprocessed esters and fatty acids that comes from camelina plants.
Engineered E. coli from Rice University part of USDA-funded project to develop drop-in fuels from biomass
A process developed by researchers at Rice University is part of a USDA-funded $6.6-million project to convert lignocellulosic biomass to infrastructure-compatible renewable diesel, bio-lubricants, animal feed and biopower. (Earlier post.)
Patent-pending fermentation processes created by Rice bioengineer Ka-Yiu San and his colleagues use genetically modified E. coli bacteria to produce fatty acids from hydrolysates. Dr. San said his lab already gets an 80-to-90% yield of fatty acids from model sugars and hopes to improve that over the next few years. (San and his team also recently published a paper on their work on engineering E. coli to produce succinate (an ester of succinic acid) from soybean mash in the journal Bioresource Technology. (Earlier post.)
Engineered bi-functional enzyme increases output of bio-alkanes; “protection via inhibitor metabolism”
February 08, 2013
Researchers at Brookhaven National Laboratory studying an enzymatic pathway that naturally produces alkanes—long carbon-chain molecules that could be a direct replacement for the hydrocarbons in gasoline—have discovered why the natural reaction typically stops after three to five cycles, and have devised a strategy to keep the reaction going. The findings, published in a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academies (PNAS), could bolster work in using bacteria, algae, or plants to produce biofuels that need no further processing.
The cyanobacterial pathway, consisting of acyl–Acyl Carrier Protein reductase and an aldehyde-deformylating oxygenase (ADO), converts acyl–Acyl Carrier Proteins into corresponding n-1 alkanes via aldehyde intermediates in an oxygen-dependent manner. In vitro, ADO turns over only three times; however, the addition of more ADO to exhausted assays results in additional product formation. ADO’s resemblance to a group of enzymes with which the Brookhaven scientists were familiar drew them into working to discover why the enzyme stopped working.
SG Biofuels signs deals in Brazil to develop Jatropha as an alternative energy crop
January 29, 2013
SGB, Inc. (SG Biofuels) has signed agreements in Brazil with Embrapa (Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation), the country’s leading agricultural research institution, and with Fiagril, one of the country’s leading biodiesel refiners, to advance the development of Jatropha as a next-generation energy crop.
SGB’s strategic research partnership with Embrapa will combine the company’s breeding and genomics platform, including the world’s largest and most diverse library of Jatropha genetic material, with Embrapa’s leadership in the advancement of new technologies that have increased agricultural productivity in Brazil. Embrapa has identified Jatropha as one of the most promising new energy crops in Brazil.
UDRI and Air Force researchers ramping up production of new renewable fuel formula for aviation
January 23, 2013
University of Dayton Research Institute (UDRI) and Air Force researchers at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base have ramped up production of a new research fuel formula and a fuel derived from seed oils, and now have enough fuel to move from lab testing to testing in engines and auxiliary power systems.
The ACS journal Industrial and Engineering Chemistry Research published an article about the work on the fuel formula—a research jet fuel composition comprising methyl-branched tetradecane isomers—led by Heinz Robota, Ohio Research Scholar in alternative fuels and the Research Institute’s alternative fuels synthesis group leader.
USDA to award $25M for R&D for next-generation biofuels
January 11, 2013
The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) will award some $25 million to four projects to research and development of next-generation renewable energy and high-value biobased products—such as biofuels—from a variety of biomass sources.
The projects are funded by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) through the Biomass Research and Development Initiative, established in the 2008 Farm Bill. The Department of Energy will make additional awards through this program. Each award was made through a competitive selection process.
Flight and static engine tests of ReadiJet 100% renewable biojet show significant reduction in emissions, slight improvement in fuel consumption
January 08, 2013
|T33 tailing the Falcon 20 in a test flight to measure emissions. Click to enlarge.|
Results from the world’s first civil flight powered by 100% biofuel that met petroleum fuel specifications without blending released by the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) show that the biofuel used in the flight last October is cleaner than and as efficient as conventional aviation fuel. (Earlier post.)
Data collected in-flight revealed a 50% reduction in aerosol emissions when using biofuel compared to conventional fuel. Furthermore, additional tests performed on a static engine showed a significant reduction in particles (up to 25%) and in black carbon emissions (up to 49%) compared to conventional fuel. These tests also show a comparable engine performance, but an improvement of 1.5% in fuel consumption during the steady state operations.
DOE awards $10 million to 5 projects for advanced biofuels and bio-based products
January 03, 2013
The US Department of Energy announced more than $10 million in funding to five new projects that will develop new synthetic biological and chemical techniques to convert biomass into advanced biofuels and bioproducts such as plastics and chemical intermediates.
Two of these projects will develop cost-effective ways to produce intermediates from the deconstruction of lignocellulosic biomass, while three projects will propose new conversion techniques to transform biomass intermediates into advanced biofuels and bioproducts.
Researchers develop four-step catalytic process to produce petroleum refinery feedstocks from biomass sugars
|Molar carbon selectivities for different renewable petroleum refinery feedstocks obtained by hydrocycloaddition and hydrodeoxygenation of condensed furfural–acetone mixtures. Source: Olcay et al. Click to enlarge.|
A team of researchers led by James Dumesic and George Huber, both now at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, have demonstrated how C5 sugars derived from hemicellulose can be converted into a high-quality petroleum refinery feedstock via a four-step catalytic process. An open-access paper on their work is published in the RSC journal Energy & Environmental Science.
The renewable petroleum feedstock comprises normal, branched and cyclic alkanes up to 31 carbons in length and is similar in composition to the feedstocks produced in a petroleum refinery from crude oil. The new process can be tuned to adjust the size of the liquid alkanes.
JBEI-led team identifies galactan-boosting enzyme; important new tool for engineering fuel crops
December 21, 2012
An international collaboration led by scientists at the US Department of Energy (DOE)’s Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) has identified the first enzyme capable of substantially boosting the amount of galactan in plant cell walls. The GALS genes governing the enzyme may become important tools for developing bioenergy crops, the researchers suggest.
Among the key challenges to making advanced biofuels—i.e., drop-in bio-hydrocarbon fuels—cost-competitive is finding ways to maximize the amount of plant cell wall sugars that can be fermented into fuels. Galactan, which is a polymer of galactose, a six-carbon sugar that can be readily fermented by yeast into ethanol, is a target of interest for researchers in advanced biofuels produced from cellulosic biomass.
Neste Oil to produce 4,000 tons of NExBTL renewable aviation fuel as part of the EU-funded ITAKA project
December 19, 2012
Neste Oil has joined the ITAKA (Initiative Towards Sustainable Kerosene for Aviation) project, which is being funded by the EU to support the commercialization and use of renewable aviation fuel comprising hydroprocessed esters and fatty acids in Europe. Neste Oil’s role in the consortium will be to produce the renewable fuel used in the project.
The 36-month ITAKA project has been granted approximately €10 million (US$13.3 million) of funding under the EU’s Seventh Framework Programme for Research and Development (2007-2013). In addition to Neste Oil, the consortium members include companies and research centers in: feedstock production (BIOTEHGEN and Camelina Company España); renewable fuel production (RE-CORD); fuel logistics (CLH and SkyNRG); air transport (Airbus, EADS IW UK, Embraer and SENASA); and sustainability assessment (EADS IW France, EPFL and MMU).
Repost: DOE will award up to $12M to research projects to drive down the cost of drop-in biofuels via thermochemical, direct liquefaction pathways
December 15, 2012
[Ed. Note: This is a repost due to the Typepad publishing system eating the original version posted on Friday. Apologies to those commenters whose comments have been lost.]
|Thermochemical pathways for producing bioproducts from biomass. Source: DOE. Click to enlarge. Click to enlarge.|
The US Department of Energy (DOE) announced up to $12 million in new funding (DE-FOA-0000812) for projects to drive down the cost of producing drop-in gasoline, diesel, and jet fuels from biomass via thermochemical, direct liquefaction pathways (i.e. fast pyrolysis, ex situ and in situ catalytic fast pyrolysis, hydropyrolysis, hydrothermal liquefaction, and solvent liquefaction). The funding will support up to five research and development projects that will boost biofuel yields from non-food-based lignocellulosic feedstocks such as agricultural residue, fast-growing poplar trees, and switch grass.
The FOA is addressing research and development (R&D) challenges that were identified at a stakeholder workshop held in December 2011 called “Conversion Technologies for Advanced Biofuels” (CTAB) and from a Request for Information (RFI) conducted in November 2012. (Earlier post.)
NREL and Johnson Matthey in 5-Year collaboration on catalytic fast pyrolysis for drop-in biofuels
December 14, 2012
The US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) will partner with Johnson Matthey, a global specialty chemicals company, in a five-year, $7-million effort to produce economically drop-in gasoline, diesel and jet fuel from non-food biomass feedstocks.
The goal is to improve vapor-phase upgrading during the biomass pyrolysis process in order to lower costs and speed production of lignocellulose-based fuels; as part of the work, Johnson Matthey will supply and develop innovative new catalytic materials for such upgrading.
DOE seeks input on barriers to thermochemical liquefaction conversion of biomass to drop-in transportation fuels
November 22, 2012
The US Department of Energy (DOE) has issued a Request for Information (RFI) (DE-FOA-0000796) to garner input from researchers in industry, academia, and other interested biofuels stakeholders to identify key technical barriers in converting biomass via thermochemical direct liquefaction pathways to transportation fuels in the gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel ranges.
Thermochemical direct liquefaction pathways are unique in their ability to accept readily widely varied non-food, high-impact biomass and to produce bio-oil feedstocks that may be further processed into a range of hydrocarbons that are similar to those found in crude oil derived products, DOE notes. This enables the production of gasoline, diesel, and jet range fuels and other co-products such as heating oil and chemicals. These technologies also have the potential to supplement petroleum-derived streams within a refinery.
NREL/Chevron team characterizes chemical composition and properties of renewable diesels derived from FT, hydrotreating, and fermentation of sugar
November 21, 2012
A team from the US National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and Chevron Corporation has examined the chemical composition and properties of several diesel fuels and blendstocks derived from Fischer−Tropsch (FT) synthesis, hydroisomerization of lipids, and fermentation of sugar via the terpenoid metabolic pathway.
In a paper published in the ACS journal Energy & Fuels, they report that the fuels consisted almost entirely of normal and iso-paraffins, with very low levels of residual oxygen impurities (below 0.1 mass %). All of the renewable and synthetic diesel fuels have significantly lower density than typical for a petroleum-derived diesel fuel. As a result, they have slightly higher net heat of combustion on a mass basis (2%−3% higher), but lower heat of combustion on a volume basis (3%−7% lower). Two critical diesel performance properties—cetane number and cloud point—were correlated with iso-paraffin content and chain length.
UW Madison team develops streamlined process for biomass conversion to GVL for fuels and chemicals
November 12, 2012
Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison led by Dr. James Dumesic have developed a streamlined process for converting lignocellulosic biomass into chemicals or liquid transportation fuel. Using gamma-valerolactone (GVL) as a solvent, they converted the cellulosic fraction of lignocellulosic biomass into levulinic acid (LA), while at the same conditions converting the hemicellulose fraction into furfural. This is followed by conversion to GVL; essentially, the team is leveraging GVL to produce GVL, which has potential as an inexpensive, yet energy-dense, “drop-in” biofuel. (Earlier post.)
This process allows for the conversion of hemicellulose and cellulose simultaneously in a single reactor, thus eliminating costly pre-treatment steps to fractionate biomass and simplifying product separation. Pretreatment and extraction or separation steps can account for up to 30% of the total capital cost of a biofuels production plant.
Berkeley researchers integrate ABE fermentation and chemical catalysis to produce bio-hydrocarbon blend stocks from sugars at high yields
November 07, 2012
|A general approach to the catalyzed production of biofuels from the ABE fermentation mixture. Source: Anbarasan et al. Click to enlarge.|
Researchers at UC Berkeley have devised a new process that integrates chemical catalysis with extractive fermentation selectively to produce gasoline, jet and diesel blend stocks from lignocellulosic and cane sugars at yields near their theoretical maxima.
The process efficiently converts acetone–n-butanol–ethanol (ABE) fermentation products produced by Clostridium acetobutylicum into ketones via a palladium-catalyzed alkylation. These ketones can be deoxygenated to paraffins; these paraffins—from pentane to undecane—are components of gasoline, diesel and jet fuel. Tuning of the reaction conditions permits the production of either gasoline or jet and diesel precursors.
MIT team develops new synthetic pathway and modular engineering toolkit for direct biosynthesis of odd-chain molecules for fuels and chemicals
November 03, 2012
Researchers at MIT have adapted the butanol pathway for the synthesis of odd-chain molecules and have also developed a complementary modular toolkit to facilitate pathway construction, characterization, and optimization in engineered Escherichia coli bacteria.
The modular nature of the pathway enables multi-entry and multi-exit biosynthesis of various odd-chain compounds at high efficiency. By varying combinations of the pathway and toolkit enzymes, they demonstrated controlled production of propionate, trans-2-pentenoate, valerate, and pentanol—compounds with applications that include biofuels, antibiotics, biopolymers, and aroma chemicals.
DOE issues request for information on conversion technologies for advanced hydrocarbon biofuels, feedback on draft CTAB roadmap
November 01, 2012
The US Department of Energy (DOE) has issued a request for information (RFI) (DE-FOA-0000775) to obtain input from stakeholders and the research community regarding technologies for the deconstruction of lignocellulosic biomass to intermediates and for the upgrading of biomass derived intermediates to hydrocarbon transportation fuels and blendstocks.
DOE is interested in stakeholder input specifically regarding: (1) the production of hydrocarbon biofuels or biofuel precursors from organisms that use lignocellulosic sugar as a carbon source (not including ethanol and butanol); the production of biofuels and biofuel oxygenates from lignocellulosic sugar or carbohydrate derivatives using catalytic means; the production of biofuels from bio-oil produced via direct liquefaction pathways (such as, but not limited to, processes like fast pyrolysis and hydrothermal liquefaction); and the production of lignocellulosic sugars from biomass using non-enzymatic processes.
Neste Oil launches sales of NExBTL renewable naphtha; plastics feedstock and biocomponent for gasoline
October 29, 2012
Neste Oil—the world’s largest producer of renewable diesel—has launched the commercial production and sales of renewable naphtha for corporate customers; the company is one of the first to supply bio-naphtha on a commercial scale. NExBTL naphtha is produced as part of the NExBTL renewable diesel refining process at Neste Oil’s sites in Finland, the Netherlands, and Singapore. The bio-naphtha can be used as a feedstock for producing bioplastics, for example, and as a biocomponent for gasoline.
Naphtha is generic term applied to the liquid fraction produced in petroleum refining with an approximate boiling range between 122–400 °F, and comprises C5 to C10 hydrocarbons. In a 2012 report on the hydroconversion of triglycerides (e.g., vegetable oils) to green fuels (the core of the NExBTL process), Sotelo-Boyás et al. note that:
Cool Planet projects production of carbon-negative high-octane biogasoline for $1.50 per gallon
October 28, 2012
|Cool Planet’s process relies on three core elements: novel biomass fractionation, advanced catalysis, and a char-to-soil enhancer. Source: Cool Planet. Click to enlarge.|
Cool Planet Energy Systems projects that using its patented mechanical process and novel scaling approach (earlier post), it will be able to produce high-octane carbon-negative (with the use of its bio-char byproduct) renewable gasoline at a cost of $1.50 per gallon, without the need for government subsidies.
Cool Planet uses a proprietary thermal/mechanical processor which directly inputs raw biomass such as woodchips, crop residue, algae, etc. and produces multiple distinct gas streams for catalytic upgrading to conventional fuel components. The company is also developing a range of simple one-step catalytic conversion processes which mate with the fractionator’s output gas streams to produce useful products such as eBTX (high octane gasoline), synthetic jet fuel and maximized fuel production from ultra-high yield energy crops.
Calysta Energy engineering organisms to convert methane to low-cost liquid hydrocarbons; BioGTL process
October 22, 2012
|Calysta is using its proprietary BioGTL biological gas-to-liquids platform to convert natural gas to liquid hydrocarbons. Click to enlarge.|
Start-up Calysta Energy plans to use methane as a feedstock for engineered organisms to produce liquid hydrocarbon fuels and high value chemicals that are cost-effective, scalable and reduce environmental impact.
Current technology approaches to creating new fuels and chemicals have failed to achieve necessary market economics, creating a significant worldwide market opportunity, according to the biotech company. Calysta says that in contrast to current algae- and sugar-based methods, a methane-based biofuel platform is expected to produce fuel at less than half the cost of other biological methods, allowing direct competition with petroleum-based fuels.
Aemetis expands license agreement with Chevron Lummus Global for renewable jet and diesel fuel technology
October 19, 2012
Aemetis, Inc., an advanced fuels and renewable chemical company, signed an expanded, global license agreement with Chevron Lummus Global (CLG) for the production of renewable jet and diesel fuel by the conversion of existing biofuels and petroleum refineries. (Earlier post.)
The expanded license agreement grants Aemetis Advanced Fuels, Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of Aemetis, the use of the Biofuels ISOCONVERSION process to produce fuels that meet the necessary ASTM requirements for 100% replacement, renewable jet fuel and diesel in Aemetis biorefineries and joint ventures throughout the world. (Earlier post.)
Joule and Audi partner on sustainable liquid transportation fuels
September 17, 2012
Joule and Audi AG have entered a strategic partnership to accelerate the commercialization of Joule’s sustainable transportation fuels, Sunflow-E and Sunflow-D, for the global ethanol and diesel markets respectively.
Audi selected Joule as its exclusive partner in the development of biologically-derived diesel and ethanol—the result of extensive evaluations of Joule’s proprietary technology and commercial plans. The relationship will help spur production of Joule Sunflow-E and Sunflow-D, including fuel testing and validation, lifecycle analysis and support for Joule’s SunSprings demonstration facility located in Hobbs, New Mexico, which began operations this month. (Earlier post.)
Chevron Lummus and ARA partner with Agrisoma, US AFRL and Canada’s NRC to evaluate and to flight test ReadiJet 100% renewable biojet fuel
September 13, 2012
|Overview of the ReadiJet process. Click to enlarge.|
Applied Research Associates (ARA) and Chevron Lummus Global (CLG) are partnering with the National Research Council of Canada (NRC), the US Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), and Agrisoma Biosciences Inc. to evaluate CLG and ARA’s 100% drop-in ReadiJet Fuel derived from Agrisoma Resonance feedstock.
The ReadiJet effort combines ARA’s CH PROCESS technology— a catalytic hydrothermolysis (CH) process to convert triglycerides (e.g., crop oils and animal fats) to non-ester biofuels or intermediates—with Chevron Lummus Global’s ISOCONVERSION process technology to create drop-in biofuels that will be ready to use at 100% levels in jet and diesel engines, eliminating the need for blending with petroleum-derived fuels. (Earlier post.)
Solar fuels company Joule commissions first plant to demo commercial readiness, launches Joule Fuels subsidiary to advance direct solar-to-fuels platform
September 11, 2012
Joule has commissioned its first SunSprings demonstration plant in Hobbs, New Mexico (earlier post), where the company will prove its scalable platform for solar fuel production using a fraction of the land and capital investment required for algae-derived or agricultural biofuels.
Joule has developed a highly modular system using highly engineered photosynthetic organisms to catalyze the conversion of sunlight and CO2 directly to liquid hydrocarbons and ethanol (earlier post). Unlike sugar-based biofuel producers, Joule directly and continuously converts solar energy into liquid fuels, without costly raw materials, pretreatment or downstream processing. The initial output of the SunSprings plant will be ethanol.
Berkeley Lab seeking licensees or research partners for microbial-electrocatalytic system for hydrocarbon fuels production
September 10, 2012
|The MEC uses electricity to split water into oxygen and hydrogen. The bacterium uses the hydrogen as an energy source to take in carbon dioxide and convert it to a biofuel, which it then emits. Source: Berkeley Lab. Click to enlarge.|
A Berkeley Lab team led by Steven Singer and funded by ARPA-E is developing a method to blend hydrogen-producing electrocatalytic materials with genetically modified Ralstonia eutropha, a common soil bacterium, to produce hydrocarbons in a reactor—requiring only CO2 and electricity.
In April 2010, the team was awarded more than $3 million by DOE’s ARPA-E to support a three-year project to develop the technology (earlier post), with a targeted outcome of 100 mg/L of hydrocarbon biofuel. Berkeley Lab has now made the technology, for which patents are pending, available for licensing or collaborative research.
Study finds clear trend of increasing NOx with higher biodiesel blends with CARB diesel; NOx neutrality achieved by blending in renewable or GTL diesel
August 30, 2012
|NOx emissions results of biodiesel, renewable, and GTL diesel fuel blends, and CARB diesel fuel for 2006 Cummins ISM. Credit: ACS, Hajbabaei et al. Click to enlarge.|
A study by researchers at the University of California, Riverside’s College of Engineering – Center for Environmental Research and Technology (CE-CERT) and colleagues at the California Air Resources Board (ARB) found a relatively clear trend of increasing NOx emissions with increasing biodiesel blend level at levels of B20 and above for CARB-like/high cetane diesel fuels. The study is published in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology.
They also found that increasing renewable diesel (Neste Oil’s NExBTL) and gas-to-liquids (GTL) diesel blends showed NOx reductions with rising blend level. Blending GTL or renewable diesel fuels with various levels of biodiesel or by using di-tert-butyl peroxide (DTBP) can achieve NOx emissions neutrality with the CARB diesel, according to their results. The study is part of a larger program conducted by ARB in conjunction with UC Riverside, UC Davis and others to develop diesel formulations with higher levels of renewable biofuels.
Neste Oil complete first phase of its microbial oil pilot plant; feedstock for NExBTL renewable diesel
August 29, 2012
|Neste Oil plans to use yeast and fungi to convert waste into oil for NExBTL feedstock. Click to enlarge.|
Neste Oil has completed the first phase of its project to build a pilot plant for producing microbial oil for use as a feedstock for NExBTL renewable diesel. Construction of the plant is on-schedule and on-budget. (Earlier post.) The first phase will enable the growth of oil-producing micro-organisms, and the following phases will concentrate on raw material pretreatment and oil recovery.
The technology is designed to produce feedstock for NExBTL renewable diesel by using yeast and fungi to convert sugars from waste and residues into oil highly efficiently. It utilizes bioreactors similar to those used in the biotech and brewing industries. Commercial-scale production is expected by 2015 at the earliest.
Airbus and Tsinghua University partner on aviation biofuels
August 27, 2012
Airbus and Tsinghua University have formed a partnership to complete a sustainability analysis of Chinese feedstocks, and to evaluate how best to support the development of a value chain to speed up the commercialization of aviation bio-fuels. The value chain aims to produce and to promote the use of aviation bio-fuel in China, the world’s fastest growing aviation market.
In phase one, the partnership is assessing suitable feedstocks that comply with ecological, economic and social sustainability criteria. The sustainability analysis is managed by Airbus and involves close collaboration with Tsinghua and leading European institutions. Phase two will narrow down the most promising alternative fuel solutions.
Consolidated bioprocessing company Aemetis licenses plant oil hydroprocessing technology from Chevron Lummus Global for renewable jet and diesel
August 22, 2012
|Outline of the Biofuels ISOCONVERSION process. Source: ARA. Click to enlarge.|
Aemetis, Inc., originally known as AE Biofuels, an industrial biotechnology company producing renewable chemicals and advanced fuels using patented microbes and processes, has signed a license agreement with Chevron Lummus Global (CLG) for the use of the Biofuels ISOCONVERSION process for the production of 100% drop-in renewable jet fuel and diesel from plant oils.
The Biofuels ISOCONVERSION Process utilizes patented Catalytic Hydrothermolysis (CH) reactor technology, developed by Applied Research Associates (ARA). CH utilizes water to reduce hydrogen and catalyst consumption and quickly and inexpensively converts plant oils into stable intermediate oil products which are very similar to petroleum crude oil. The intermediate oils are then hydrotreated and deoxygenated using CLG’s ISOCONVERSION catalysts to produce drop-in jet fuel and diesel.
Progress toward commercializing the GTI IH2 thermochemical process for drop-in hydrocarbon fuels
August 21, 2012
|Automated, continuous IH2 pilot plant, 50 kg/day biomass feed. Source: GTI. Click to enlarge.|
At the 244th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS), Gas Technology Institute (GTI) scientist Dr. Martin Linck provided an update on the progress toward commercializing the GTI Integrated Hydropyrolysis and Hydroconversion (IH2) process, with a presentation of new data on IH2 developed from a continuous 50 kg/day pilot plant. (Earlier post.)
IH2 is a new thermochemical process that employs a catalyzed fluidized bed hydropyrolysis step followed by an integrated hydroconversion step to directly convert biomass into high-quality, fungible hydrocarbon fuels. IH2 derived fuels contain less than 1% oxygen and are completely compatible with petroleum-derived fuels.
COMAC of China, Boeing open Energy Conservation Center; first focus on aviation biofuel from waste cooking oil
August 16, 2012
Commercial Aircraft Corp. of China (COMAC) and Boeing opened the Boeing-COMAC Aviation Energy Conservation and Emissions Reductions Technology Center, a collaborative effort to support commercial aviation industry growth. The Boeing-COMAC Technology Center’s first research project will explore opportunities to refine waste cooking oil, often described in China as “gutter oil,” into sustainable aviation biofuel.
Funded by both companies, the Boeing-COMAC Technology Center is working with China-based universities and research institutions to expand knowledge in areas such as sustainable aviation biofuels and air traffic management that improve commercial aviation’s efficiency and reduce carbon emissions. It is located in COMAC’s new Beijing Aeronautical Science and Technology Research Institute (BASTRI).
Amyris enhances strategic partnership with Total for renewable diesel and jet fuels; to form JV
July 31, 2012
Amyris, Inc. signed an amendment to its existing technology collaboration agreement with Total. (Earlier post.) Under the enhanced collaboration, Total reaffirms its commitment to Amyris’ technology and dedicates its $82-million funding budget over the next three years exclusively for the deployment of Biofene, Amyris’ renewable farnesene, for production of renewable diesel and jet fuel.
Farnesene is a 15-carbon isoprenoid hydrocarbon molecule that forms the basis for a wide range of products varying from specialty chemical applications to transportation fuels. Upon completion of the research and development program, Total and Amyris intend to form a joint venture company that would have exclusive rights to produce and market renewable diesel and/or jet fuel, as well as non-exclusive rights to other specialty products.
UOP looking to biomass catalytic pyrolysis to expand volumes of renewable hydrocarbon fuels
July 21, 2012
Honeywell’s UOP—a major international supplier and licensor of technology for petroleum refining, gas processing, petrochemical production and major manufacturing industries—has also been an early leader in developing technologies for the production of renewable drop-in hydrocarbon fuels.
The company currently has three major initiatives in that area: the commercialization of the hydrotreating UOP/Eni Ecofining process to convert fats, greases and non-edible, second-generation natural oils to Honeywell Green Diesel (earlier post); Green Jet Fuel (earlier post); and its joint venture with Ensyn Corporation, Envergent Technologies, for the pyrolytic conversion of forest and agricultural waste residues to a liquid renewable oil and subsequent upgrading (earlier post). It’s the last initiative that UOP currently believes has a good opportunity for delivering high volumes of renewable liquid hydrocarbon fuels, according to Jim Rekoske, vice president and general manager of Honeywell’s UOP Renewable Energy and Chemicals business unit.
First Alcohol-to-Jet (ATJ) test flight; Gevo provided isobutanol-derived renewable kerosene
July 03, 2012
|Three pathways to renewable jet fuel: FT (left); hydrogenated oil (center); ATJ (right). Source: Gevo. Click to enlarge.|
The US Air Force (USAF) last week flew the first test flight using “alcohol-to-jet” (ATJ) fuel. (Earlier post.) Gevo, Inc., the provider of the fuel, worked with the Air Force Research Laboratories (AFRL), the Air Force Alternative Fuels Certification Division (AFCD) and the 40 Flight-Test Squadron, provided the isobutanol-derived renewable kerosene fuel for the successful flight.
Gevo produced the ATJ fuel from isobutanol at its hydrocarbon processing demonstration plant near Houston, Texas, in partnership with South Hampton Resources.
US Navy and USDA make $30M available for commercial-scale advanced drop-in biofuels, with potential for $180M follow-on; $32M from DOE for earlier stage research
July 02, 2012
The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Navy will provide $30 million in federal funding (FOA-12-15-PKM) for Phase 1 projects to match private investments in commercial-scale advanced drop-in biofuels. The program envisions a subsequent investment of up to $180M in follow-on Phase 2 projects.
The US Department of Energy (DOE) is also announcing a total of $32 million in new investments through two earlier-issued solicitations (DE-FOA-0000739 (earlier post) and DE-FOA-0000719) (earlier post) for earlier stage biofuels research that will continue to drive technological breakthroughs and additional cost reductions in the industry and that complement the commercial-scale efforts announced by the Navy and USDA.
Sundrop Fuels finalizes ExxonMobil MTG technology license for “green gasoline” production facility
June 28, 2012
|The ExxonMobil MTG process flow diagram. Source: EMRE. Click to enlarge.|
Sundrop Fuels, Inc., a gasification-based drop-in advanced biofuels company, finalized a licensing agreement to use ExxonMobil Research and Engineering Company’s methanol-to-gasoline (MTG) technology to be incorporated into a “green gasoline” production facility. Located near Alexandria, Louisiana, Sundrop Fuels plans to break ground late this year on its inaugural commercial plant, which will produce up to 50 million gallons of renewable gasoline annually. (Earlier post.)
The Sundrop Fuels installation represents the first commercial production of biofuels using the MTG process. The MTG technology was originally developed in the 1970s and was successfully commercialized for a large-scale natural gas to gasoline plant during the 1980s in New Zealand.
Agriculture Secretary Vilsack highlights USDA, GE efforts to commercialize renewable jet fuel for Ohio aviation industry
US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack highlighted USDA’s collaboration with General Electric (GE) Aviation, the Ohio Aerospace Institute, air carriers and producer groups to develop a Midwest-regional strategy to provide renewable-jet fuel at GE Aviation’s Cincinnati-area facilities.
The effort is bringing together agricultural producers, processing and transportation entities, refiners and finishers, academics and researchers, and analysts and financial entities. GE Aviation anticipates purchasing up to 5 million gallons of renewable-jet fuel beginning in 2015.
RAND reports suggest US DoD use less petroleum fuel to deal with high prices, not count on alternatives
June 20, 2012
According to three new reports on “Promoting International Energy Security” issued by the RAND Corporation, because the energy purchases made by the US Department of Defense are not large enough to influence world oil prices—despite DoD requiring considerable amounts of fuel to function—cutting fuel use is the only effective choice to reduce what the Pentagon spends on petroleum fuels.
From a cost perspective, the potential of alternative fuels is of limited, if any value, according to the lead report written by James Bartis, a RAND senior policy researcher. However, the US military can play an important role in promoting stability in major oil producing regions and by helping protect the flow of energy through major transit corridors and on the high seas, the reports suggest.
NREL researchers report on two approaches to upgrading biomass pyrolysis oil for hydrocarbon fuels
June 19, 2012
At last month’s World Renewable Energy Forum 2012 in Denver, Colorado, researchers from the US National Renewable Energy Laboratory presented papers on two different approaches to upgrade pyrolysis oils to hydrocarbon fuels or fuel intermediates.
Fast pyrolysis—the rapid heating of biomass to intermediate temperatures (400-600 °C) in the absence of oxygen and the rapid cooling of the resulting vapors to bio-oil—is an efficient method to convert all fractions of biomass, including lignin, into a liquid product: pyrolysis oil. Fast pyrolysis can convert about 70% of the mass and energy into the liquid product. However, bio-oil, or pyrolysis oil, comprises many oxygenated organic chemicals with water-miscible and oil-miscible fractions.
DOE to award up to $40M for biorefineries to produce milspec drop-in hydrocarbon biofuels
June 17, 2012
The US Department of Energy (DOE) has issued a funding opportunity announcement (DE-FOA-0000739) to identify, evaluate, and select innovative pilot- or demonstration-scale integrated biorefineries that can produce hydrocarbon fuels that meet military specifications for JP-5 (jet fuel primarily for the Navy), JP-8 (jet fuel primarily for the Air Force), or F-76 (diesel). The pilot- or demonstration-scale biorefinery must be integrated from biomass input to fuel output such that the finished product can be used directly as a fuel. Ethanol from sugarcane, starch, algae, or lignocellulosic feedstocks is specifically excluded.
DOE expects approximately $20,000,000 to be available for new awards under this FOA in FY2012 with up to an additional $20,000,000 in FY2013, subject to Congressional appropriations for this program.
Amyris awarded $8M DARPA Living Foundries contract
June 12, 2012
Renewable fuels and chemicals company Amyris, Inc. has been awarded a contract from the US Department of Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) under its Living Foundries program solicitation (earlier post) to develop tools that can expand the scope of Amyris's industrial synthetic biology technology platform across various biological platforms and cell types.
The contract is worth approximately $8 million in funds to Amyris, conditioned on meeting certain technical milestones in connection with the DARPA’s Living Foundries research program, announced in 2011. The Living Foundries program aims to create a rapid, reliable manufacturing capability in which multiple cellular functions can be fabricated, mixed and matched on demand and the whole system controlled by integrated circuitry, opening up the full space of biologically produced materials and systems.
Purdue analysis finds H2Bioil biofuel could be cost-competitive when crude is between $99–$116/barrel
June 05, 2012
The Purdue University-developed fast-hydropyrolysis-hydrodeoxygenation process for creating biofuels—H2Bioil (earlier post)—could be cost-competitive when crude oil prices range from $99 to $116 per barrel, depending upon the source of hydrogen, the cost of biomass and the presence or absence of a federal carbon tax, according to a new study by the Purdue team. Their analysis is published in the journal Biomass Conversion and Biorefinery.
H2Bioil is created when biomass, such as switchgrass or corn stover, is heated rapidly to about 500 °C in the presence of pressurized hydrogen. Resulting gases are passed over catalysts, causing reactions that separate oxygen from carbon molecules, making the carbon molecules high in energy content, similar to gasoline molecules.
Researchers produce high density renewable fuels from terpenes; potential use as significant components of jet, diesel and tactical fuels
June 04, 2012
|Isomerization/dimerization of β-pinene. Source: Meylemans et al. Click to enlarge.|
Researchers at the Naval Air Warfare Center, Weapons Division (NAWCWD) at China Lake have developed a process for the synthesis of high energy density renewable fuels through the selective dimerization of α-pinene, camphene, limonene and crude turpentine using the heterogeneous catalysts Nafion, Nafion SAC-13, and Montmorillonite K-10. The terpene dimers are producing in up to 90% yield, depending upon the feedstock.
Fuel produced from this process have net heats of combustion ranging from 137 kBtu to 142 kBtu/gal (38.1 to 39.5 MJ/L)—comparable to the tactical missile fuel JP-10 (142 kBtu/gal). In a paper published in the journal Fuel, the China Lake team suggests that the ultra-performance renewable fuels have potential applications as significant components of jet, diesel and tactical fuels.
Neste Oil sues Dynamic Fuels, LLC, Syntroleum Corporation, and Tyson Foods for infringement on NExBTL-related patent
May 30, 2012
Neste Oil Corporation has filed a patent infringement action against Dynamic Fuels, LLC, Syntroleum Corporation, and Tyson Foods, Inc in the US District Court for the District of Delaware. Neste Oil asserts that one of its patents is being infringed by Dynamic Fuels, Syntroleum and Tyson Foods in the production of renewable diesel at Dynamic Fuels’ plant in Geismar, Louisiana. (Earlier post.)
The action asserts infringement of Neste Oil’s US Patent—Nº 8,187,344, covering the composition of a diesel fuel—which protects aspects of Neste Oil’s renewable diesel technology, and was issued on 29 May 2012 and expires in 2025.
Sundrop Fuels partners with ThyssenKrupp Uhde for inaugural drop-in biogasoline plant
May 23, 2012
Sundrop Fuels, Inc., a gasification-based drop-in advanced biofuels company (earlier post), is partnering with ThyssenKrupp Uhde for its inaugural biogasoline production facility near Alexandria, Louisiana (earlier post).
Sundrop Fuels will convert sustainable forest residues and thinnings as feedstock combined with natural gas into bio-based “green gasoline” by using a commercially-proven production path that integrates gasification, gas purification, methanol synthesis and a methanol-to-gasoline (MTG) process. As a key element to this first facility, Sundrop Fuels will deploy ThyssenKrupp Uhde’s High Temperature Winkler (HTW) gasification process, coupled with other well-established technologies for gas cleanup, methanol synthesis, and the ExxonMobil methanol-to-gasoline (MTG) conversion.
Neste Oil to launch the first diesel complying with Category 4 WWFC diesel specification; reduces fuel consumption by 5% and emissions
May 22, 2012
Neste Oil will launch a completely new grade of diesel fuel in Finland this fall: Neste Pro Diesel. The new fuel is the first to comply with the most stringent diesel specification (Category 4) drawn up as part of the Worldwide Fuel Charter (WWFC) by automotive manufacturers in Europe, the US, and Asia.
WWFC specifications for gasoline and diesel are based on extensive R&D work and experience gathered from fuels used worldwide, and comprise four categories for each fuel type, with increasing stringency. The highest WWFC specification diesel category is designed for markets with very advanced requirements for emission control to enable sophisticated NOx and PM after-treatment technologies.