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Bio-hydrocarbons

[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.]

PNNL study uncovers role of water in forming impurity in bio-oil upgrading; insight into fundamentals of biofuel catalysis

August 21, 2014

In working to elucidate the chemistry of hydrodeoxygenation (HDO) for the catalytic upgrading of pyrolytic bio-oil to fuel-grade products, researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) have discovered that water in the conversion process helps form an impurity which, in turn, slows down key chemical reactions. Results of the study, which was reported in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, can help improve processes that produce biofuels from plants.

The study examines the conversion of bio-oil, produced from biomass such as wood chips or grasses, into transportation fuels. Researchers used density functional theory (DFT)-based ab initio molecular dynamics calculations to provide a detailed atomic-level understanding of how the hydrogenation reactions are influenced by the presence of water and also by the nature of the hydrogenating metal. The results of the study apply not only to water but to related liquids in bio-oil such as alcohols and certain acids.

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New palladium oxalate hydrodeoxygenation catalyst for production of drop-in paraffinic biofuels

August 17, 2014

Researchers in Malaysia and Oman have developed a novel palladium oxalate catalyst supported on zeolite A (PdOx/ Zeol) with increased acidity for the hydrodeoxygenation and isomerization of bio-feedstocks into paraffinic (drop-in) biofuels. In a paper in the ACS journal Energy & Fuel, they report the hydrodeoxygenation (HDO) of stearic acid (SA) (one of the most common saturated fatty acids found in nature following palmitic acid) into paraffinic biofuel.

Their best observed conditions for the process were 360 °C, 20 bar, 100 mL/min, and 25 mg to achieve 92% biofuel production from 35 g SA. The biofuel product distribution showed 71% n-C18H38, 18% iso-C18H38, and 3% C17H36.

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Emissions study suggests E10 + renewable hydrocarbons a high bioenergy alternative for conventional cars

August 14, 2014

Researchers from VTT Technical Research Center of Finland and Neste Oil analyzed the exhaust emissions from three different spark ignition engine technologies—multipoint fuel injection (MPFI); direct-injection spark-ignition (DISI); and flex-fuel (FFV)—using different biofuels—low- and high-concentration ethanol blends; isobutanol; and biohydrocarbons. They report their findings in a paper in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology.

Among their conclusions was that the combination of ethanol or isobutanol with renewable hydrocarbon components (i.e., drop-in biohydrocarbons) could offer an option to achieve a high-bioenergy-content gasoline that is compatible with conventional gasoline-fueled cars (i.e., those limited to a 10% ethanol blend) without a significant change in emissions.

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Virent receives EPA fuel registration for BioForm biogasoline blends up to 45%

August 13, 2014

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Gas chromatographs (samples stacked for clarity) of Virent’s BioFormate biogasoline reformate vs. conventional petroleum reformate. Source: Virent. Click to enlarge.

Virent has received fuel registration from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for its BioForm drop-in biogasoline in blends of up to 45%. (Earlier post.) As a registered fuel, Virent’s biogasoline can now be used in on-highway motor vehicles.

Virent BioForm Gasoline blended with conventional gasoline underwent testing at Southwest Research Institute (SWRI) with the results demonstrating that the emissions from the blended fuel were well below the maximum permitted by current regulations. The fuel was manufactured by Virent at its demonstration plant in Madison, Wisconsin, which is capable of producing up to 10,000 gallons of biofuels and biochemicals per year. The EPA testing work was funded by Virent partner Royal Dutch Shell.

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Boeing partners with South African Airways to convert Solaris energy tobacco into jet fuel

August 07, 2014

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Solaris energy tobacco is optimized for seed production for energy applications, not leaf production. Click to enlarge.

Boeing, South African Airways (SAA) and SkyNRG are collaborating to make sustainable aviation biofuel from Solaris, a new hybrid tobacco plant optimized for seed production for energy applications. This initiative broadens cooperation between Boeing and SAA to develop renewable jet fuel in ways that support South Africa’s goals for public health as well as economic and rural development.

Solaris is a new, non-GMO, high-seed tobacco variety protected by patents, the rights to which are held by Sunchem Holdings in Italy, which is partnering with US-based Tyton BioEnergy Systems on its testing and deployment. Solaris maximizes the production of flowers and seeds to the detriment of the leaves production, and biomass for biogas production. The plant is extremely robust, and is able to grow in various climates and soils. One hectare of Solaris can deliver an average seed yield of 4 to 10 tonnes with multiple harvests per year (depending on climate conditions). The seed contains around 40% oil.

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UC Riverside team develops new high efficiency method for conversion of biomass to biofuels

August 04, 2014

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Overview of the process. Cai et al. (2014) Click to enlarge.

A team of researchers, led by Professor Charles E. Wyman, the Ford Motor Company Chair in Environmental Engineering at the University of California, Riverside’s Bourns College of Engineering, has developed a versatile, relatively non-toxic, and efficient way to convert lignocellulosic biomass into biofuels and chemicals.

The method couples the use of a metal halide selective catalyst with a highly tunable co-solvent—renewable tetrahydrofuran (THF)—to enhance co-production of the fuel precursors furfural and 5-HMF from biomass in a single-phase reaction strategy capable of integrating biomass deconstruction with catalytic dehydration of sugars. Those fuel precursors can then be converted into ethanol, chemicals or drop-in fuels.

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Ethanol producer to integrate renewable diesel production from corn distiller oil

July 25, 2014

Ethanol producer East Kansas Agri-Energy LLC (EKAE) intends to integrate renewable diesel production at its ethanol plant in Garnett, Kansas. Renewable diesel will be made from the corn distillers oil (CDO) already produced at the plant along with other feedstocks purchased on the market. WB Services is the technology provider for the catalytic renewable diesel process.

Construction on the new facility will begin soon and will be complete in about 12 to 14 months. The plant will be able to produce three million gallons of hydrocarbon fuel per year, with the ability to double that capacity in the future. The plant currently produces some 40 million gallons of ethanol; 200,000 tons of the livestock feed distillers grains; and 5 million pounds of corn oil each year from more than 16 million bushels of locally-sourced corn.

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California Energy Commission selects 11 advanced biofuels projects for $43.6M in awards

The California Energy Commission (CEC) has selected 11 biofuel projects projects—including gasoline substitutes, diesel substitutes and biomethane projects—for $43,633,421 in awards under a grant solicitation released in January for the development of new, or the modification of, existing California-based biofuel production facilities that can sustainably produce low carbon transportation fuels.

The grant solicitation had announced a total of $24 million available for projects funded by the solicitation; however, the Energy Commission, at its sole discretion, reserves the right to increase or reduce the amount of funds available.

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Researchers synthesize diesel- and jet-range cycloalkanes from lignocellulosic platform compounds

July 18, 2014

Researchers at the Dalian Institute of Chemical Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, have synthesized, for the first time, a mixture of C9−C15 branched alkanes and cycloalkanes with relatively higher density from 2-Methylfuran (2-MF) and cyclopentanone (CPO)—selective hydrogenation products of furfural, which can be produced in industrial scale with lignocellulose.

Most work done so far with lignocellulose-based platform compounds has concentrated on the production of diesel (C9−C21) or jet fuel (C8−C16) range straight-chain alkanes and/or branched-chain alkanes, the team notes in their paper in the ACS journal Energy & Fuels. Although those alkanes have good thermal stability and excellent combustion efficiency, their lower densities require blending with conventional jet fuel (a mixture of straight-chain alkanes, branched-chain alkanes, and cyclic hydrocarbons) to meet the specifications of aviation fuel.

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New one-pot process for conversion of cellulose to n-hexane, a gasoline component

June 26, 2014

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One-pot process for conversion of cellulose to hexane, a gasoline component. Credit: ACS, Liu et al. Click to enlarge.

Researchers at Tohoku University in Japan have developed a one-pot process to convert cellulose to n-hexane in the presence of hydrogen gas. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), unleaded gasoline contains about 11.6% n-hexane.

In a paper in the journal ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering, the Tohuku team reports achieving a yield of n-hexane of 83% from ball-milled cellulose and 78% from microcrystalline cellulose. Even using a high weight ratio of cellulose to water (1:1), a 71% yield of n-hexane could be obtained from ball-milled cellulose.

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

June 18, 2014

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

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

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

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Total and Amyris preparing to market jet fuel with 10% farnesane; direct sugar to hydrocarbons product

June 16, 2014

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The D7566 committee is running a number of task forces on alternative fuels; the use of farnesane is one of those (red outline). Source: CAAFI. Click to enlarge.

With the release of the newly revised ASTM D7566-14 standard for jet fuel, Amyris and Total have begun to prepare to market a drop-in jet fuel that contains up to 10% blends of renewable farnesane. (Earlier post.)

The revised standard, developed by ASTM Committee on Petroleum Products, Liquid Fuels, and Lubricants, now includes the use of renewable farnesane as a blending component in jet fuels for commercial aviation. This latest version of ASTM D7566, Standard Specification for Aviation Turbine Fuel Containing Synthesized Hydrocarbons, will allow a biomass-based renewable jet fuel, as developed by Amyris and Total, to support the commercial airliners’ goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

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International team sequences Eucalyptus genome; potential for improving biofuel and biomaterial production

June 14, 2014

An international team of researchers has sequenced the genome of the eucalyptus tree (Eucalyptus grandis) and published the analysis in an open access paper in the journal Nature. With its prodigious growth habit, the eucalyptus tree, one of the world’s most widely planted hardwood trees, has the potential to enhance sustainable biofuels and biomaterials production, and to provide a stable year-round source of biomass that doesn’t compete with food crops.

The researchers reported the sequencing and assembly of more than 94% of the 640-megabase genome of Eucalyptus grandis. Of 36,376 predicted protein-coding genes, 34% occur in tandem duplications, the largest proportion thus far in plant genomes. Eucalyptus also shows the highest diversity of genes for specialized metabolites such as terpenes, which can be substituted catalytically for jet fuel.

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Navy fuel solicitation targeting minimum 10% drop-in biofuels component in F-76 and JP-5; at least 39M gallons biofuels

June 11, 2014

The US Navy has posted a Farm-to-Fleet Inland/East/Gulf Coast Solicitation (SP060014R0061) seeking a minimum of about 39 million gallons of drop-in drop-in JP-5 and F-76 biofuels from currently approved pathways—i.e., Hydroprocessed Esters and Fatty Acid (HEFA) or Fischer Tropsch (FT)—for April 2015-March 2016 fuel deliveries.

Under this solicitation, the Navy has a goal that 10% of its total military specification JP-5 aviation turbine fuel and F-76 naval distillate fuel requirements consist of biofuels.

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Ames Lab creates multifunctional nanoparticles for cheaper, cleaner renewable diesel

May 13, 2014

Researchers at the US Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory have developed bi-functional nanoparticles that perform two processing functions at once for the production of renewable diesel via the hydrogenation of oils from renewable feedstocks such as algae.

Iron nanoparticles supported on mesoporous silica nanoparticles (Fe-MSN) catalyze the hydrotreatment of fatty acids with high selectivity for hydrodeoxygenation over decarbonylation and hydrocracking. The selectivity is also affected by the pretreatment of Fe-MSN; the more reduced the catalyst the higher the yield of hydrodeoxygenation product. Fe-MSN catalyzes the conversion of crude microalgal oil into diesel-range hydrocarbons.

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Study finds that optimized integrated catalytic processing of biomass could produce renewable jet fuel with selling price as low as $2.88/gallon

May 09, 2014

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Integrated processing of hardwood to renewable jet and chemicals. Click to enlarge.

A team from seven US universities and the Korea Institue of Science and Technology, led by George Huber, Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, has developed an integrated catalytic process for the conversion of whole biomass into drop-in aviation fuels with maximal carbon yields.

The researchers expect that in its current state, the proposed technology could deliver jet fuel-range liquid hydrocarbons for a minimum selling price of $4.75 per gallon—assuming nth commercial plant that produces 38 million gallons liquid fuels per year with a net present value of the 20 year biorefinery set to zero. Future improvements in this technology, including replacing precious metal catalysts by base metal catalysts and improving the recyclability of water streams, could reduce this cost to $2.88 per gallon.

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DOE seeking stakeholder input on 8 strategic biofuels pathways

May 04, 2014

The US Department of Energy (DOE) has issued a request for information (DE-FOA-0001124) seeking stakeholder input regarding the 8 representative biofuel technology pathways that the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s (EERE) Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) has selected to guide its Research and Development (R&D) strategy in the near-term.

DOE is also seeking input on other pre-commercial pathways that it should consider in the near- to long-term.

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

May 02, 2014

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

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

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

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Byogy and Avianca launch initiative to accelerate approval of Alcohol-to-Jet (ATJ) fuel

April 25, 2014

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Byogy’s four-step process for the conversion of ethanol to renewable jet fuel. Click to enlarge.

Byogy Renewables and airline partner Avianca Brasil (earlier post) have launched an initiative to support advanced testing to accelerate the approval by ASTM of Byogy’s alcohol-to-jet (ATJ) fuel. (Earlier post.) The Avianca/Byogy Team will perform advanced Flight Testing using the CFM-56 powered A319 to acquire test data and support an Environmental Impact Study to drive ASTM adoption of Byogy’s ATJ fuel.

Byogy’s proprietary ATJ process converts ethanol to a full replacement renewable jet fuel that does not require blending, and also demonstrates performance characteristics better than jet fuel produced from oil. Byogy’s jet fuel is not an additive, but instead, a full replacement standalone fuel, and hence can be used at any blend ratio up to 100%, the company says.

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Navy researchers produce high-performance renewable fuels by combining heterogeneous catalysis with biosynthesis

April 18, 2014

A team from the Naval Air Warfare Center, Weapons Division (NAWCWD) at China Lake, with colleagues from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), have demonstrated that renewable high density fuels with net heats of combustion ranging from ~133,000 to 141,000 Btu gal-1—up to 13% higher than commercial jet fuel (~125,000 Btu)—can be generated by combining heterogeneous catalysis with multicyclic sesquiterpenes produced by engineered organisms. A paper on their work is published in the RSC journal Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics.

This advance has the potential to produce a range of higher-density biofuels to improve the range of aircraft, ships, and ground vehicles without altering engine configurations, they suggested.

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BA and Solena Fuels to build GreenSky landfill-waste-to-jet-fuel plant in Thurrock; completion in 2017

April 16, 2014

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Solena’s IBGTL solution consists of five integrated processing “islands”: (i) Solena’s proprietary high-temperature gasification; (ii) BioSynGas conditioning; (iii) Fischer-Tropsch processing; (iv) FT wax upgrading; and (v) Power production. Click to enlarge.

British Airways and its partner Solena Fuels announced that the UK GreenSky facility to convert landfill waste into jet fuel (earlier post) will be built in Thames Enterprise Park, part of the site of the former Coryton oil refinery in Thurrock, Essex. The site has excellent transport links and existing fuel storage facilities. One thousand construction workers will be hired to build the facility which is due to be completed in 2017, creating up to 150 permanent jobs.

The plant will convert approximately 575,000 tonnes of post-recycled waste, normally destined for landfill or incineration into 120,000 tonnes of clean burning liquid fuels using Solena’s Integrated Biomass-Gas to Liquid (IBGTL) technology. British Airways has committed to purchasing, at market competitive prices, the jet fuel produced by the plant for the next 11 years which equates to about $550 million at today’s prices. It is also providing construction capital and becoming a minority share holder in GreenSky.

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DOE issues draft loan solicitation for up to $4B for renewable energy and energy efficiency projects; drop-in biofuels a key area

The US Department of Energy (DOE) issued a draft loan guarantee solicitation for renewable energy and energy efficiency projects located in the US that avoid, reduce, or sequester greenhouse gases. The Renewable Energy and Efficient Energy Projects Loan Guarantee solicitation is intended to support technologies that will have a catalytic effect on commercial deployment of future projects, are replicable, and are market ready.

When finalized, the solicitation is expected to make as much as $4 billion in loan guarantees available to help commercialize technologies that may be unable to obtain full commercial financing.

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DOE announces $10M for upgrading technologies for production of renewable drop-in fuels

The US Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) announced up to $10 million in funding to advance the development, improvement and demonstration of integrated biological or chemical upgrading technology for the production of substitutes for petroleum‐based feedstocks, products and fuels. (DE-FOA-0001085).

The DOE’s Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) has funded research on biochemical conversion processes since 2007, with particular focus on the development of improved cellulases and fermentative organisms for ethanol production from cellulosic feedstocks. EERE is seeking to diversify the BETO portfolio to include a variety of chemical and biological upgrading technologies for the production of a suite of hydrocarbon fuels, fuel intermediates and chemicals (beyond ethanol) to be produced in an integrated fashion from biologically or chemically derived intermediate feed streams, such as but not limited to cellulosic sugars, lignocellulose derivatives, lignin, cellulosic alcohols, bio‐solids and biogases.

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ARB posts 5 new LCFS pathways; two renewable diesel

April 15, 2014

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

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

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Navy researchers test direct sugar-to-hydrocarbon fuel (farnesene) in multiple engines

April 09, 2014

A team from the US Naval Academy and the US Navy have tested a Direct Sugar to Hydrocarbon (DSH) biosynthetic fuel in multiple diesel engines. Their results, reported in a paper presented at the SAE World Congress in Detroit, show that DSH meets all three of their proposed combustion acceptance metrics.

Further, they determined that a 50/50 blend of DSH and F76 (the Navy standard distillate primary fuel for propulsion and power generation) is fit for use in compression ignition engines and an acceptable candidate blend to continue with full-scale diesel engine qualification testing.

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US Navy demos recovery of CO2 and production of H2 from seawater, with conversion to liquid fuel; “Fuel from Seawater”

April 08, 2014

Researchers at the US Naval Research Laboratory (NRL), Materials Science and Technology Division have demonstrated novel NRL technologies developed for the recovery of CO2 and hydrogen from seawater and their subsequent conversion to liquid fuels. Flying a radio-controlled replica of the historic WWII P-51 Mustang red-tail aircraft (of the legendary Tuskegee Airmen), NRL researchers Dr. Jeffrey Baldwin, Dr. Dennis Hardy, Dr. Heather Willauer, and Dr. David Drab used a novel liquid hydrocarbon fuel to power the aircraft’s unmodified two-stroke internal combustion engine.

The test provides a proof-of-concept for an NRL-developed process to extract CO2 and produce hydrogen gas from seawater, subsequently catalytically converting the CO2 and H2 into fuel by a gas-to-liquids process. The potential longer term payoff for the Navy is the ability to produce fuel at or near the point of use when it is needed, thereby reducing the logistics tail on fuel delivery, enhancing combat capabilities, and providing greater energy security by fixing fuel cost and its availability.

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Lawrence Livermore, JBEI researchers engineer bacteria with tolerance to ionic liquids for enhanced production of advanced biofuels

March 26, 2014

Researchers from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in conjunction with the Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) have engineered tolerance to ionic liquids (ILs)—used for biomass pretreatment, but generally toxic to bacteria—into biofuel-producing bacteria.

The results, reported in an open access paper in Nature Communications are likely to eliminate a bottleneck in JBEI’s biofuels production strategy, which relies on ionic liquid pretreatment of cellulosic biomass. The research also demonstrates how the adverse effects of ionic liquids can be turned into an advantage, by inhibiting the growth of other bacteria.

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Engine testing shows environmental and performance benefits of hydrotreated vegetable oil as renewable diesel fuel

March 25, 2014

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Comparison of power loss and fuel consumption among BD, HVO and iso-HVO. Source: Kim et al. Click to enlarge.

Researchers in South Korea from SK Innovation and Chungbuk National University compared the engine and emissions performance of 16 different blends of petro-diesel, biodiesel (BD), hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO, i.e., drop-in renewable diesel); and iso-HVO (isomerized-hydrotreated vegetable oil) on an engine dynamometer and chassis dynamometer with a 1.5-liter diesel engine and passenger car.

The results, reported in a paper in the journal Fuel, show that iso-HVO has much better engine performance than BD and slightly better than HVO, but slightly worse than petro-diesel. On the emissions side, iso-HVO and HVO blended diesel emit less THC and CO than BD, even though iso-HVO blended diesel emits similar level of NOx and PM to blended BD. All three kinds biofuels at 50% blend ratios showed a decrease of particle concentrations at all size ranges compared to petro-diesel.

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Cellulosic fuels company KiOR reveals “substantial doubts” about its viability; funding needed by 1 April

March 19, 2014

In its Form 10-K (annual report) filed with the SEC on 17 March, cellulosic renewable fuels company KiOR said it has “substantial doubts about [its] ability to continue as a going concern”. Ongoing viability will require additional capital to provide additional liquidity. (Earlier post.)

On 16 March, the company received a $25-million investment commitment from Vinod Khosla (one of the company’s investors), conditioned on the achievement of certain performance milestones to be mutually agreed upon. Other than that commitment, however, Kior said it has no other near-term sources of financing. Kior said that if it is unsuccessful in finalizing definitive documentation with Khosla on or before 1 April 2014—i.e., in two weeks—it will not have adequate liquidity to fund operations and meet obligations (including debt payment obligations), and would not expect other sources of financing to be available.

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Vertimass licenses ORNL ethanol-to-hydrocarbon conversion technology; overcoming the blend wall with drop-in fuels

March 07, 2014

Vertimass LLC, a California-based start-up company, has licensed an Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) technology that directly converts ethanol under moderate conditions at one atmosphere without the use of hydrogen into a hydrocarbon blend-stock for use in transportation fuels.

The technology developed by ORNL’s Chaitanya Narula, Brian Davison and Associate Laboratory Director Martin Keller uses an inexpensive zeolite catalyst to transform ethanol into a blend-stock consisting of a mixture of C3 – C16 hydrocarbons containing paraffin, iso-parrafins, olefins, and aromatic compounds with a calculated motor octane number of 95. Fractional collection of the fuel product allows for the different fractions to be used as blend-stock for gasoline, diesel, or jet fuel.

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Fleet testing shows UPM renewable diesel from wood biomass performs as well as petroleum diesel

March 03, 2014

The first fleet tests of UPM’s BioVerno renewable diesel have shown that the fuel works in cars just as well as any conventional petroleum diesel. The fleet tests, conducted by the VTT Technical Research Center of Finland, were started in May last year and ran until early 2014. (Earlier post.)

The UPM BioVerno diesel fleet tests focused on investigating UPM’s renewable diesel in terms of fuel functionality in engine and fuel consumption. The tests were conducted with a fuel blend including 20% UPM BioVerno and 80% fossil diesel. With this blend fuel consumption matched the consumption of fossil diesel.

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Neste Oil and DONG Energy partner on renewable diesel and jet fuels from ag residues via microbial oil

February 28, 2014

Neste Oil, the world’s largest producer of premium-quality renewable fuels, is working with DONG Energy, one of the leading energy groups in Northern Europe, to develop an integrated process to produce renewable diesel and aviation fuel derived from agricultural residues.

DONG Energy’s Inbicon technology will be used in the first part of the process to pre-treat biomass and produce cellulosic sugars that can then be converted into microbial oil with Neste Oil’s technology (earlier post). Microbial oil can be used as a feedstock for Neste’s NExBTL process for premium-quality renewable fuels such as renewable diesel and renewable aviation fuel.

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DOE to issue funding opportunity for bioenergy technologies; outliers to current multi-year program plan

February 13, 2014

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 (DE-FOA-0000974) entitled “Bioenergy Technologies Incubator”.

BETO’s mission is to engage in R&D and demonstration at increasing scale activities to transform renewable biomass resources into commercially viable, high-performance biofuels, and bioproducts and biopower that enable biofuel production. To accomplish this mission, BETO develops a multi-year program plan (MYPP) to identify the technical challenges and barriers that need to be overcome. These technical challenges and barriers form the basis for BETO to issue funding opportunities announcements (FOAs) for financial assistance awards in these specific areas.

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

February 05, 2014

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

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

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UC Davis process produces gasoline-range hydrocarbons from biomass-derived levulinic acid; field-to-tank yield of >60% claimed

February 04, 2014

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GC-MS chromatogram of the liquid products obtained after hydrodeoxygenation of angelica lactone dimer. Source: Mascal et al. SI. Click to enlarge.

Researchers at the University of California, Davis have developed a process for the production of branched C7–C10 hydrocarbons in the gasoline volatility range from biomass-derived levulinic acid with good yield, operating under relatively mild conditions, with short reaction times.

Considering that levulinic acid is available with more than 80% conversion from raw biomass, a field-to-tank yield of drop-in, cellulosic gasoline of more than 60% is possible, the researchers claimed. A paper on their work is published in the journal Angewandte Chemie International Edition; UC Davis has filed provisional patents on the process, and is making it available for licensing.

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Audi testing finds e-ethanol and e-diesel produced by Joule often perform better than conventional counterparts

February 03, 2014

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Audi investigating its e-fuels in an optical research engine using laser-induced fluorescence. Click to enlarge.

Audi testing of synthetic ethanol (Audi e-ethanol = Joule Sunflow-E) and synthetic diesel (Audi e-diesel = Joule Sunflow-D), produced in partnership with Joule (earlier post) in a pressure chamber and optical research engine has shown that the Audi e-fuels often perform better than their conventional counterparts.

Joule’s Helioculture platform uses engineered microorganisms directly and continuously to convert sunlight and waste CO2 into infrastructure-ready fuels, including ethanol and hydrocarbons (n-alkanes) that serve as the essential chemical building blocks for diesel.

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

January 24, 2014

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

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

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Boeing, UAE partners make progress with oilseed halophytes as feedstock for renewable jet fuel; desert plants fed by seawater

January 23, 2014

Boeing and research partners in the United Arab Emirates have made breakthroughs in sustainable aviation biofuel development, finding that desert plants fed by seawater (the oilseed-producing halophyte Salicornia bigelovii) can produce biofuel more efficiently than other well-known feedstocks. (Earlier post.) The Sustainable Bioenergy Research Consortium (SBRC), affiliated with the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology in Abu Dhabi, will test these findings in a project that could support biofuel crop production in arid countries, such as the UAE.

S. bigelovii is a leafless, C3, succulent annual salt marsh plant that produces an oilseed on seawater irrigation in coastal desert environments; the oil from the seeds is suitable for biofuel production. Yields on seawater are similar to conventional oilseeds under ideal conditions. SBRC research also found that the entire shrublike plant (i.e., its lignocellulosic biomass as well as the the oil) can be turned into biofuel effectively.

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Global Bioenergies to collaborate with Audi on development of drop-in bio-isooctane

January 21, 2014

Global Bioenergies (GBE), a leading developer of one-step fermentation processes for the direct and cost-efficient transformation of renewable resources into light olefins (earlier post), has signed a collaboration agreement with Audi on the development of bio-isooctane—a high-performance drop-in biofuel for gasoline engines—derived from bio-isobutene. In 2011, GBE had announced an agreement “with a major German car manufacturer” regarding an undisclosed application of GEB’s technology. (Earlier post.)

Under the agreement, GBE will supply Audi with isooctane derived from isobutene produced at its new pre-commercial pilot system at the Fraunhofer CBP in Leuna. (Earlier post.) During the two-year collaboration, this agreement also foresees the possibility for Audi to acquire shares of Global Bioenergies corresponding to less than 2% of its capital.

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California Energy Commission to award up to $24M for new biofuel projects

January 17, 2014

The California Energy Commission announced the availability of up to $24 million in grant funds for the development of new, or the modification of existing, California-based biofuel production facilities that can sustainably produce low-carbon transportation fuels. (PON-13-609) Eligible biofuels are diesel substitutes, gasoline substitutes, and biomethane as defined in the solicitation.

The allocation of funds by fuel category is: Diesel Substitutes – $9.0 million; Gasoline Substitutes – $9.0 million; and Biomethane – $6.0 million. The Energy Commission will conduct two rounds of scoring. The first round of scoring will fund at least $4.027 million in passing projects; remaining funds will be applied to the second round of scoring.

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Boeing proposing direct blending of renewable diesel in jet fuel; seeking approval this year

January 16, 2014

Boeing is working with the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and other stakeholders to gain approval for the direct blending of renewable “green” diesel into aviation fuel, thereby further reducing the aviation industry's carbon emissions.

Renewable diesel made using oils and fats is chemically similar to today’s aviation biofuels, according to Boeing analysis. If approved, the fuel would be blended directly with traditional jet fuel. A blend percentage would be established through the testing and review/approvals process, according to Jessica Kowal in Boeing’s Environmental Communications. The company’s internal goal is to see this approved this year.

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KiOR halts cellulosic fuels production at Columbus in Q1 to optimize production; need for R&D to boost yield and cut costs

January 13, 2014

In a conference call on Friday, KiOR President and CEO Fred Cannon said that the company will halt production of cellulosic gasoline, diesel and fuel oil at its plant in Columbus, Mississippi in order to implement a number of optimization projects it identified as necessary—based on its experience in 2013—to optimize production to enhance yield, throughput and operability and to minimize cost.

In December 2013, Cannon had said that KiOR would operate the Columbus plant “on a limited campaign basis only” to verify the impact of improvements. (Earlier post.) In the Friday call, he said that the company would only operate the Columbus facility during Q1 “only to the extent we want to test and prove optimization projects.” The current execution plan for 2014 is to focus exclusively on bringing the plant to its nameplate basis, and further to develop yield and process efficiency through R&D.

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Sandia study finds meeting RFS2 requirements unlikely without stronger enforcement mechanism; the importance of drop-in biofuels

January 06, 2014

Even if well-known technology, infrastructure, economic and political challenges in meeting the biofuel requirements of the RFS2 mandate are overcome, it is “highly unlikely” that the light-duty vehicle parc will be capable of consuming the RFS2 (Renewable Fuel Standard) mandated volumes of biofuels, according to a new analysis by a team from Sandia National Laboratory.

The Sandia researchers showed that the key to meeting the RFS2 targets is the fuel price differential between E85 fuel and conventional gasoline (low ethanol blends), so that E85 owners refuel with E85 whenever possible. In other words, RFS2 will be satisfied if gasoline becomes significantly more expensive than E85 on a per energy basis. This is, however, the opposite of historic pricing trends, and suggests that policy intervention of a stronger enforcement mechanism will be required to meet RFS2 targets by creating market conditions necessary for greater biofuel consumption.

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KiOR expects to produce 920K gallons of cellulosic biofuels by year end; short-term focus on economics

December 24, 2013

Cellulosic gasoline and diesel company KiOR, Inc. expects that, given current and anticipated operations through the remainder of the year, its Columbus, Mississippi facility will produce approximately 410,000 gallons of renewable fuel during the fourth quarter of 2013, bringing full year production total from the facility to approximately 920,000 gallons. (Earlier post.) The ratio between gasoline, diesel and fuel oil expected to be produced during the year is approximately 35% gasoline, 40% diesel, and 25% fuel oil.

In August, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized the 2013 percentage standards for four fuel categories that are part of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program. With the final 2013 overall volumes and standards requiring 16.55 billion gallons of renewable fuels to be blended into the US fuel supply (a 9.74% blend), EPA projected 6 million gallons (0.004%) of cellulosic biofuels. Of that, EPA projected the bulk to come from the KiOR Columbus plant (5-6 million gallons of renewable gasoline and diesel).

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US Army flies Black Hawk with 50:50 isobutanol-derived alcohol-to-jet fuel blend

December 23, 2013

Bio-isobutanol company Gevo, Inc. announced that the US Army has successfully flown the Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter on a 50:50 blend of Gevo’s ATJ-8 (Alcohol-to-Jet)—a renewable, drop-in alternative fuel for JP8 derived from isobutanol. (Earlier post.)

This flight marks the first Army Aircraft to fly on the isobutanol ATJ blend. (The US Air Force flew its first test flight using ATJ fuel in 2012. Earlier post.) The Army flight testing is being conducted at Aviation Flight Test Directorate (AFTD) on Redstone Arsenal, AL and is anticipated to be complete by March 2014.

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ICCT suggests minor changes to Fed tax policy to cut higher investment risk of 2nd-gen biofuels and advance the industry

December 22, 2013

Minor changes to an existing Federal tax incentive for second-generation biofuels (i.e., biofuel made from cellulose, algae, duckweed, or cyanobacteria) could mitigate the current elevated risk of investing in the industry that is retarding its advance, according to a new paper by a team from the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) and Johns Hopkins University. Some of the ICCT recommendations are mirrored in the recently released Baucus draft proposal for tax reform (earlier post), notes Dr. Chris Malins of the ICCT, one of the study’s co-authors.

Previous studies have attempted to explain the slow commercialization of cellulosic and algal biofuels qualitatively, however few have presented financial analysis across the sector, the authors observe. Using publicly available financial data, they applied investment analysis tools (the capital assets pricing model, CAPM) that are generally not applied to this space in order to develop a more rigorous understanding of the investment risk in the industry.

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PNNL team develops continuous flow process for rapid production of green crude from algae; licensed for commercialization

December 18, 2013

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Process flow for liquid fuels from algae by hydrothermal processing. Elliott et al. Click to enlarge.

Researchers at the US Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Pacific Northwest National Laboratory have created a continuous-flow process that produces useful crude oil less than one hour after receiving harvested algae. The research was reported recently in the journal Algal Research. A biofuels company, Utah-based Genifuel Corp., has licensed the technology and is working with an industrial partner to build a pilot plant using the technology. (Earlier post.)

The system runs at around 350 °C (662 °F) at a pressure of around 3,000 psi (20.7 MPa), and combines hydrothermal liquefaction (HTL) and catalytic hydrothermal gasification. HTL converts wet algae slurries into an upgradeable biocrude. Catalytic hydrothermal gasification is applied for HTL byproduct water cleanup and fuel gas production from water soluble organics, allowing the water to be considered for recycle of nutrients to the algae growth ponds. The combined process yields high conversion of algae to liquid hydrocarbon and gas products, along with low levels of organic contamination in the byproduct water.

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Amyris and Total form joint venture to produce and market renewable diesel and jet fuel

December 05, 2013

Amyris, Inc. and Total have formed Total Amyris BioSolutions B.V., a 50-50 joint venture that now holds exclusive rights and a license under Amyris’s intellectual property to produce and market renewable diesel and jet fuel from Amyris’s renewable farnesene. (Earlier post.) Total is Amyris’ largest investor, holding approximately 18% of its outstanding common stock, and is committed to the development of next-generation renewable fuels from biomass.

Amyris’ synthetic biology platform enables the modification of the genetic pathways of microorganisms, primarily yeast, to turn them into living factories to produce target molecules via fermentation. The primary biological pathway within the microbe Amyris currently uses to produce target molecules is the isoprenoid pathway.

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USDA awards nearly $10M for research on using beetle-killed trees as feedstock for on-site thermochemical conversion technologies

November 06, 2013

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) awarded nearly $10 million to a consortium of academic, industry and government organizations led by Colorado State University (CSU) and their partners to research using insect-killed trees in the Rockies as a sustainable feedstock for bioenergy. Specifically, the team will explore recent advances in scalable thermochemical conversion technologies, which enable the production of advanced liquid biofuel and co-products on-site.

There are many benefits to using beetle-killed wood for renewable fuel production. It requires no cultivation, circumvents food-versus-fuel concerns and likely has a highly favorable carbon balance. However, there are some challenges that have been a barrier to its widespread use. The wood is typically located far from urban industrial centers, often in relatively inaccessible areas with challenging topography, which increases harvest and transportation costs. In addition to technical barriers, environmental impacts, social issues and local policy constraints to using beetle-killed wood and other forest residues remain largely unexplored.

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DOE BETO issues request for information on advanced biofuel, bioproducts and biopower validation and deployment

October 31, 2013

The Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) is soliciting feedback from industry, academia, research laboratories, government agencies, and other stakeholders on issues related to advanced biofuel, bioproducts, and biopower technology validation and potential deployment strategies. (DE-FOA-0001013)

BETO’s mission is to develop and transform biomass resources into commercially viable, high performance biofuels, bioproducts, and biopower through targeted research, development, demonstration, and deployment supported through public and private partnerships. Specific goals are: 1) through R&D, make cellulosic biofuels competitive with petroleum-based fuels at a modeled cost for mature technology of $3 per gallon of gasoline equivalent (GGE) ($2011) based on EIA projected wholesale prices in 2017; and 2) help create an environment conducive to maximizing the production and use of biofuels by 2022.

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Amyris to enter partnership to supply renewable jet fuel from sugar to GOL Airlines

October 23, 2013

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An overview of the direct sugar to hydrocarbon (DSHC) process for the production of renewable jet fuel. Source: Amyris. Click to enlarge.

Renewable fuels and chemicals company Amyris, Inc. and GOL Linhas Aéreas Inteligentes S.A., the largest low-cost and low-fare airline in Latin America, signed a memorandum of understanding that could pave the way for GOL commercial flights to use Amyris renewable jet fuel in 2014. The anticipated partnership was announced during the first commercial flight with a renewable jet fuel in Brazil by the airline earlier today.

Under the memorandum of understanding, GOL and Amyris will work together to establish a framework for bringing Amyris renewable jet fuel produced from Brazilian sugarcane (direct sugar to hydrocarbon pathway, DSHC) to GOL’s commercial flights following regulatory approvals and validation by standard-setting bodies, including ASTM International and Brazil’s Oil, Gas and Biofuels Agency (ANP).

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U Alberta spin-off Forge Hydrocarbons commercializing pyrolytic lipids-to-hydrocarbons process

October 14, 2013

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Simplified process flow of LTH. Click to enlarge.

A University of Alberta spinoff company, Forge Hydrocarbons, is commercializing a patented lipids-to-hydrocarbons (LTH) process developed by David Bressler, a researcher in the Faculty of Agricultural, Life and Environmental Sciences. The process takes agricultural feedstocks such as animal fat, crop seed oil and restaurant grease, and converts them into drop-in liquid hydrocarbon fuels. The process also converts the same agricultural feedstocks into solvents and diluents.

Bressler’s process first hydrolyzes the feedstock with water in a reactor to produce a mixture of free fatty acids and glycerol. The fatty acids are separated from the glycerol and water, and then pyrolized to produce deoxygenated hydrocarbon liquids. Further processing converts the hydrocarbon liquid into the desired fuel such as gasoline, natural gas, jet fuel, diesel, lubricating oil, solvents or diluents.

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KIT’s fast biomass pyrolysis to liquids bioliq plant produces first gasoline

September 30, 2013

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The multi-stage bioliq process produces high-quality synthetic fuels from straw and other biogenous residues. Graphic: N. Dahmen, KIT/IKFT. Click to enlarge.

The synthesis stage of Karlsruhe Institute of Technology’s (KIT’s) multi-stage bioliq pilot plant has begun operation and has produced biogasoline. All stages of the bioliq process—flash pyrolysis, high-pressure entrained-flow gasification, and now synthesis—have now been realized and the project will now be completed by testing the entire process chain and optimizing it for the large industrial scale.

As soon as all stages of the bioliq process will have been linked, the pilot plant will supply high-quality fuel from straw, probably in mid-2014. The complete bioliq process (Biomass to Liquid Karlsruhe) comprises four stages (earlier post):

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KiOR seeks to double cellulosic fuels production at Columbus plant; $50M in from Khosla for Columbus II

September 26, 2013

Cellulosic gasoline and diesel company KiOR, Inc. is pursuing plans to double production capacity at its Columbus, Mississippi, facility through construction of a second facility incorporating KiOR’s commercially proven technology. KiOR estimates that the Columbus II project will cost approximately $225 million; will break ground within 90 days of it raising sufficient equity and debt capital to commence the project; and will take approximately 18 months to construct and start up.

Once completed with its latest technology improvements, KiOR expects that the Columbus II project will allow each Columbus facility to achieve greater yields, production capacity and feedstock flexibility than the original design basis for the existing Columbus facility, enabling KiOR to more quickly make progress towards its long-term goal of 92 gallons per bone dry ton of biomass.

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

September 20, 2013

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

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

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

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FAA launches new Center of Excellence for alternative jet fuels; $40M in funding over 10 years

September 13, 2013

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has selected a team of universities to lead a new Air Transportation Center of Excellence (COE) for alternative jet fuels and the environment. Led by Washington State University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the COE will explore ways to meet the environmental and energy goals that are part of the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen).

Core team partners include Boston University; Oregon State University; Purdue University; the University of Dayton; the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; the University of Pennsylvania; the University of Washington; Missouri University of Science and Technology; Georgia Institute of Technology; Pennsylvania State University; Stanford University; the University of Hawaii; the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; and the University of Tennessee.

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DARPA awards WUSTL researcher $860,000 to engineer E. coli to produce gasoline-range molecules

The Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) of the US Department of Defense has awarded Dr. Fuzhong Zhang, assistant professor of energy, environmental & chemical engineering at Washington University in St. Louis (WUSTL) a Young Faculty Award worth $860,000 to engineer the bacterium Escherichia coli to produce gasoline-range molecules.

Zhang’s award funds up to three years of research on his plan to engineer bacteria to produce non-natural fatty acids, which can be converted to advanced biofuels and chemicals. Zhang will engineer the fatty acid pathway to make a molecule with a chemical structure similar to isooctane—a major component in gasoline.

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Neste Oil and Raisioagro to research the potential of straw as a renewable diesel feedstock via microbial oil

September 02, 2013

Neste Oil, developer of the NExBTL process for renewable diesel, and agritrader Raisioagro have launched a research project to investigate the potential of straw as a raw material for producing NExBTL renewable diesel via Neste’s microbial oil technology. (Earlier post.)

Large quantities of waste straw are produced as agricultural residue in Finland and elsewhere, and only a small proportion of this is currently used. The project will study whether a logistically effective and efficient, large-scale straw harvesting chain could be created in Finland. The researchers will also look at the storability of straw for use as an industrial input year-round. The project will be carried out by TTS, a research, development, and training organization.

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Gevo opens renewable paraxylene plant next to renewable jet fuel plant; bio-isobutanol biorefinery

August 27, 2013

Bio-isobutanol producer Gevo, Inc. held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for its demonstration-scale paraxylene (p-xylene) plant in Silsbee, Texas. The paraxylene facility is located adjacent to Gevo’s existing jet fuel plant in Silsbee, and establishes the site as a biorefinery that will serve the renewable chemicals and drop-in biofuels markets.

Gevo has been working with The Coca-Cola Company since 2011 (earlier post) to deliver a new production technology for renewable paraxylene, a key building block for producing fully renewable PET for beverage bottles. Research and Development support for this plant was provided by The Coca-Cola Company under a Joint Development Agreement.

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