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[Due to the increasing size of the archives, each topic page now contains only the prior 365 days of content. Access to older stories is now solely through the Monthly Archive pages or the site search function.]

Argonne researchers make vanadium into a useful low-cost catalyst for hydrogenation

May 28, 2017

Researchers at the US Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory have developed an unusually active form of vanadium for hydrogenation reactions. Vanadium is an inexpensive common metal that could replace some of the precious metals currently found in catalysts used in these reactions, frequently used in processing of fuels (petro- and drop-in bio-) and petrochemicals.

The vanadium catalyst exhibits unprecedented reactivity in liquid- and gas- phase alkene/alkyne hydrogenation. Catalyst poisoning experiments revealed that 100% of the V sites are active for hydrogenation. A paper on their work is published in the RSC journal Chemical Communications.

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FEV study finds optimizing engine for renewable diesel use reduces fuel consumption and emissions

May 17, 2017

A recent study conducted by engineering company FEV, commissioned by Neste Corporation, a leading global producer of renewable diesel, shows that modifying and optimizing engine control parameters to work optimally with pure HVO-type (Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil) renewable diesel—such as Neste MY Renewable Diesel—offers as-yet untapped potential to reduce fuel consumption, CO2 and other regulated emissions.

Neste Renewable Diesel has already been shown to be able to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 90% on a full lifecycle basis compared to conventional fossil diesel. The FEV study showed that depending on the test cycle, optimizing engine control parameters for pure Neste MY Renewable Diesel can result in:

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Gevo signs definitive supply agreement with HCS Holding for commercial supply of renewable isooctane

May 04, 2017

Gevo, Inc. has entered into a definitive supply agreement with HCS Holding GmbH (HCS) to supply renewable isooctane (earlier post) under a five-year offtake agreement. HCS is a leading global supplier of high-quality hydrocarbon specialty products. Haltermann Carless, a subsidiary of HCS and one of the oldest companies in the world of chemistry, is expected to be the direct customer with Gevo under the agreement.

he agreement is consistent with the Letter of Intent with HCS that Gevo announced earlier this year. The Supply Agreement has two phases:

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Singapore Airlines & CAAS partner on “Green Package” flights; biofuels, optimized operations and fuel-efficient A350-950

Singapore Airlines (SIA), in partnership with the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS), has started operating a series of 12 “green package” flights over a three-month period on its non-stop San Francisco-Singapore route. The green package flights are the first to combine the use of biofuels, fuel-efficient aircraft—SIA’s Airbus A350-900—and optimized flight operations. CAAS is facilitating the use of optimized flight operations and Air Traffic Management (ATM) best practices which reduce fuel burn and carbon emissions for the flights.

The first of the 12 flights, SQ31, departed San Francisco at 1121hrs (San Francisco Time) on 1 May 2017 and arrived in Singapore at 1910 hrs (Singapore Time) on 2 May with 206 passengers on board. Over the three-month period, flight SQ31 will be powered by a combination of HEFA (Hydro-processed Esters and Fatty Acids), a sustainable biofuel produced from used cooking oils, and conventional jet fuel. The biofuel, produced by AltAir Fuels, will be supplied and delivered to San Francisco by SkyNRG in collaboration with North American Fuel Corporation (NAFCO), a wholly owned subsidiary of China Aviation Oil (Singapore), and EPIC Fuels.

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Air Canada to operate biofuel flights in support of environmental research on contrails and emissions

April 24, 2017

Air Canada is participating in the Civil Aviation Alternate Fuel Contrail and Emissions Research project (CAAFCER), a research project led by the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) to test the environmental benefits of biofuel use on contrails.

This project will use advanced sensing equipment mounted on a research aircraft operated by the NRC to measure the impact of biofuel blends on contrail formation by aircraft on five biofuel flights operated by Air Canada between Montreal and Toronto in the coming days, weather permitting. During these flights the National Research Council of Canada will trail the Air Canada aircraft with a modified T-33 research jet to sample and test the contrail biofuel emissions. The sustainable biofuel is produced by AltAir Fuels from used cooking oil and supplied by SkyNRG.

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Bio- and jet-fuel carinata feedstock company Agrisoma closes $15.4M Series B financing

April 16, 2017

Agrisoma Biosciences, an agricultural company that has commercialized carinata, a non-food oilseed crop designed for sustainable production of biofuels, has closed a $15.4-million Series B financing round, co-led by new investor Groupe Lune Rouge and current investors Cycle Capital Management, and BDC Venture Capital. This Series B round is used to support the global expansion of Agrisoma’s business.

Like other oilseed crops, such as canola, soybean and corn, carinata oil is extracted when the harvested seed is crushed. Unlike those crops, carinata is not meant for human food consumption; the oil it produces is intended for industrial use, mainly in the production of bio- and jet-fuels.

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OSU team developing Gas and Biomass to Liquids (GBTL) technology for production of liquid hydrocarbons

April 12, 2017

Researchers at Oklahoma State University are developing a novel natural Gas and Biomass to Liquids (GBTL) technology that will synergistically use biomass (e.g. switchgrass and eastern red cedar) and methane to produce liquid hydrocarbons that are compatible with existing infrastructure.

The work is led by Dr. Ajay Kumar in collaboration with Dr. Allen Apblett. The team uses a synergistic reaction system consisting of activation of methane and deoxygenation of pyrolysis-derived volatiles with metal-loaded HZSM-5 catalysts.

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ICCT: alternative jet fuels unlikely to deliver the bulk of GHG emission reductions needed by aviation

April 10, 2017

A new study by a team at the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) has concluded that the large-scale deployment of alternative jet fuels (AJFs) and the ability of the aviation sector to mitigate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions through their use will be capped by a number of factors: the sustainability and availability of feedstock; the production cost; and the extent to which those fuels will be commercialized.

Based on the study, the ICCT team suggests that while the use of AJFs can deliver some GHG savings, it is unlikely that AJF alone can meet the bulk of the GHG reductions projected to be needed. The authors recommended that ICAO stipulate a GHG reduction threshold in order for a given AJF to qualify under CORSIA (Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation), and to include indirect emissions in its life-cycle accounting.

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Saab Gripen fighter completes first test flights with 100% biofuel; CHCJ-5

April 06, 2017

A Saab Gripen fighter has for the first time undergone a series of test flights with 100% biofuel. This demonstrates that the aircraft can be flown entirely with an alternative fuel and gives valuable knowledge for future possible use of alternative fuel.

The tested fuel—Catalytic Hydrothermal Conversion Jet fuel (CHCJ-5)—was made from rapeseed oil. CHC fuels—which are also being evaluated by the US Navy for inclusion in the JP-5 spec (earlier post)—use a catalytic hydrothermolysis process that chemically converts renewable feedstocks such as triglycerides, plant oils, and fatty acids into a mixture of paraffins, cycloparaffins, aromatics, olefins, and organic acids. The resulting mixture is then hydroprocessed and fractionated to produce a kerosene (or diesel) product having a distillation profile comparable to traditional petroleum derived fuels.

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Ghent researchers develop new process to convert grass to drop-in hydrocarbon decane

April 04, 2017

Researchers at Ghent University have developed a process that turns grass into the hydrocarbon decane via a lactic acid intermediate. The process was the basis for the doctoral dissertation of Way Cern Khor.

To improve the biodegradability of grass, pretreatments such as extrusion and calcium hydroxide pretreatment were performed; efficiencies were tested through biogas production. Next, a fermentation process using mixed microbial populations was carried out to produce higher value products such as lactic acid.

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DOE BETO report provides overview of current state of alternative aviation fuels; overcoming technical and commercial barriers

March 29, 2017

The US Department of Energy’s Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) has published a report titled Alternative Aviation Fuels: Overview of Challenges, Opportunities, and Next Steps. The report provides an overview of the current state of alternative aviation fuels, as reported in findings by recent working groups, and also presents findings from the Alternative Aviation Fuel Workshop hosted by BETO in September 2016.

Unlike other liquid fuels (e.g., diesel or gasoline) with developed alternatives (such as electrical power), alternatives to current aviation jet fuels are at the early stages of development. In the near term, the most promising option is bio-derived aviation fuel. Bio-based jet fuels also present a tremendous opportunity to transition away from fossil fuels towards domestically produced aviation biofuel that would further reduce US reliance on foreign oil and create jobs, BETO notes.

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Diamond Green Diesel to boost renewable diesel capacity 80% to 18,000 bpd; Honeywell UOP Ecofining technology

March 17, 2017

Honeywell announced that the Diamond Green Diesel facility in Norco, La., will expand its annual production capacity of renewable diesel from up to 10,000 barrels per day (about 130 million gallons per year) to 18,000 bpd, using Honeywell UOP’s Ecofining process technology (earlier post). Diamond Green Diesel, which is owned by Valero Energy Corp. and Darling Ingredients Inc., is the largest commercial advanced biofuel facility in the United States. The company plans to complete the expansion in the second quarter of 2018.

The Diamond Green Diesel facility converts inedible oils and other waste feedstocks to produce Honeywell Green Diesel, a high-quality renewable fuel. Renewable diesel produced using the Ecofining process is chemically identical to petroleum-based diesel; it can be blended in any proportion with EN590 or ASTM 975 diesel. It also features up to an 80% lifecycle reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared with diesel from petroleum.

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California ARB staff considering including alternative jet fuel in Low Carbon Fuel Standard

The staff of the California Air Resources Board (ARB) staff is considering including alternative jet fuel (AJF) in the Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS). ARB staff is hosting a public working meeting today to consider the matter.

In 2009, the ARB approved the LCFS regulation to reduce the carbon intensity (CI) of transportation fuel used in California by at least 10% by 2020 from a 2010 baseline. In 2015, the Board re-adopted the LCFS to address procedural issues, which began implementation on 1 January 2016. The LCFS sets annual carbon intensity standards—which reduce over time—for gasoline, diesel, and the fuels that replace them.

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BIOX working with Forge Hydrocarbons to co-locate renewable diesel facility at Sombra site

BIOX Corporation, a renewable energy company that owns and operates biodiesel production facilities, is working with Forge Hydrocarbons (earlier post) to explore the co-location of a renewable diesel production facility using Forge technology on the existing BIOX site in Sombra, Ontario.

BIOX acquired a 50-million-liter (13.2-million-gallon) nameplate capacity biodiesel production facility at the Sombra site, together with 25 acres of land, in June 2016. The biodiesel facility is currently undergoing upgrades and BIOX expects to commission the facility in time to capture a portion of the Ontario biodiesel blending season during the third quarter of calendar 2017.

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NASA-led study finds 50 vol% biofuel blend reduces soot particle emissions during aircraft cruising; reduced climatic impact of contrails

March 16, 2017

A 50:50 by volume blend of conventional Jet A aviation fuel and an aviation biofuel made from Camelina reduces soot particle number and mass emissions from the aircraft by 50 to 70% compared to conventional fuel, YYYY according to a new study published in the scientific journal Nature. The findings are based on an international flight experiment between NASA, the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) and the National Research Council (NRC) of Canada.

The results provide important information on how the use of biofuels in aviation can contribute to making air transport more environmentally friendly—not only by reducing emissions in the vicinity of airports, but also at cruise conditions.

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California ARB releases four new LCFS pathways for renewable diesel; 20.28 - 53.86 gCO2e/MJ

March 13, 2017

The California Air Resources Board (ARB) Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) staff has released for public comment four new Tier 2 renewable diesel (RD) pathways using soy oil, used cooking oil, tallow, and corn oil at the Diamond Green facility in St. Charles, Louisiana.

Diamond Green Diesel (DGD) uses the UOP Ecofining Process to produce RD from Used Cooking Oil (UCO), tallow, corn oil, and soybean oil. The Ecofining Process hydrogenates triglycerides and free fatty acid feedstocks which are then isomerized to create a high-quality hydrocarbon fuel. DGD has integrated operations with an adjacent oil refinery (Valero) to reduce the energy consumption and maximize the use of co-products and surplus energy.

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Chalmers team engineers synthetic enzymes for bio-production of fuel alternatives

March 09, 2017

Researchers at Chalmers University and their colleagues have engineered synthetic fatty acid synthases (FASs) that enable yeast to produce short/medium-chain fatty acids and methyl ketones for use in fuels and chemicals. A paper on their work is published in the journal Nature Chemical Biology.

FASs normally synthesize long chain fatty acids, but the Chalmers team developed a new method to modify FAS by inserting heterologous enzymes into the FAS reaction compartments to synthesize the medium-chain fatty acids and methyl ketones—components in currently used transportation fuels, said Zhiwei Zhu, post-doc and first author of the study. “In other words: We are now able to produce petrol and jet fuel alternatives in yeast cell factories,” he said.

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Sumitomo using Amyris/Kuraray liquid farnesene rubber in Dunlop tires

March 06, 2017

Amyris, Inc. announced that Sumitomo Rubber Industries, Ltd. has adopted Amyris’ liquid farnesene rubber (LFR) as a performance-enhancing additive for use in the production of its latest Dunlop-branded Winter Maxx 02 tires. LFR is a liquid rubber developed by Kuraray Co. using Amyris’s biologically derived Biofene-branded β-farnesene. (Earlier post.)

The Winter Maxx 02 represents the brand’s best tire to date for on-ice and snow-braking performance and for durability. LFR’s performance enhancement will be available across Dunlop’s entire Winter Maxx 02 portfolio of 91 sizes.

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Navy researchers produce high-density, high-cetane bio-hydrocarbon fuels from sesquiterpenes; jet and diesel

February 23, 2017

Researchers at the Naval Air Warfare Center, Weapons Division, China Lake have produced three new high-density, high-cetane biofuels from sesquiterpene feedstocks. In an open-access paper published in the RSC journal Sustainable Energy & Fuels, they describe the preparation of the three fuels from sesquiterpene components of cedarwood oil.

The three biofuels described in the work could outperform conventional fuels. The researchers, Kale Harrison and Benjamin Harvey, note that with recent advances in metabolic engineering, the generation of multicyclic sesquiterpenes from biomass sugars could allow for the production of these new fuels on a commercial scale.

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Lux Research forecasts global biofuels output to rise to 67B GPY in 2022; advanced biofuels will nearly double to 9.6B GPY

February 14, 2017

New biofuel technology is finally starting to push aside traditional biofuels such as first-generation biodiesel, according to a new report by Lux Research. New facilities based on non-food feedstocks and producing novel fuels account for over half of new capacity deployment for the first time in the biofuel industry’s history, according to Lux. However, overall output will grow at a slower pace to 67 billion gallons a year (BGY) in 2022, from 59 BGY in 2016.

The report, titled “Biofuels Outlook 2022: The Dawn of a New Era in Global Biofuel Capacity Expansion,” is part of the Lux Research Alternative Fuels Intelligence service. Lux Research analysts quantified the commercial deployment of new technologies in the global biofuels industry using a database of nearly 2,000 facilities from 1,461 companies in 90 countries with nameplate capacity data through 2022. Among their findings:

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US DOD to award $55M for advanced drop-in biofuels production; 10M gallons/year

January 25, 2017

The US Air Force Research Laboratory, Materials and Manufacturing Directorate (AFRL/RX) has issued a funding opportunity (FOA-RQKM-2017-0006) for up to $55 million to design, retrofit, construct, operate, validate and qualify domestic, commercial-scale, an integrated biorefinery(s) capable of producing bio-equivalent fuels suitable for military use with a rated capacity of at least 10 million gallons of neat biofuel per year. Cost competitiveness of the neat biofuel fraction with conventional petroleum-derived fuels is a primary goal.

The biorefinery—which may be either a brownfield expansion/modification of existing facilities, or new greenfield construction—is required to use domestic feedstock, and create an Integrated Biofuels Production Enterprise (IBPE). Expansions must add an additional 10 million gpy of capacity; new construction must support the 10 million gpy capacity.

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TU Bergakademie Freiberg launches OTTO-R project with VW Group, Shell, OMV as partners; P2X for green gasoline

January 24, 2017

Researchers at the Technische Universität Bergakademie Freiberg, with partners from the automotive industry (Audi, VW) and the petroleum industry (Shell, OMV) have launched the €1.46-million OTTO-R project for the production of gasoline from “green” methanol produced from CO2, water and renewable electricity.

The new OTTO-R synthesis process is based on the Syngas-To-Fuel-Process (STF) developed by Chemieanlagenbau Chemnitz GmbH (CAC) at the Institute for Energy Process Engineering and Chemical Engineering (IEC). STF first converts natural gas-based synthesis gas to methanol in an isothermal reactor; the methanol is then transformed into high-octane gasoline via the intermediate methanol. Residual methanol and light hydrocarbons are separated downstream and recycled into the process.

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MIT team engineers yeast to boost lipid production for biofuels

January 20, 2017

MIT engineers have genetically engineered strains of the oleaginous yeast Yarrowia lipolytica to boost the production of lipids by about 25% compared to previously engineered yeast strains. Their approach could enable commercialization of microbial carbohydrate-based lipid production, supporting the renewable production of high-energy fuels such as diesel.

A paper on their work is published in the journal Nature Biotechnology; the MIT team, led by Gregory Stephanopoulos, the Willard Henry Dow Professor of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology at MIT, is now working on additional improvements to the lipids yield.

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Port of Seattle, Boeing and Alaska Airlines release aviation biofuel infrastructure findings

January 17, 2017

​The Port of Seattle, Boeing and Alaska Airlines released a first-of-its-kind study that identifies the best infrastructure options for delivering aviation biofuel to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. In pursuit of its goal to power every flight at Sea-Tac with sustainable aviation biofuel, Sea-Tac is among the first airports in North America to work with aviation, energy and research partners to systematically evaluate all aspects to developing a commercial-scale program from scratch.

The objective of the study was to identify the best approach to deliver up to 50 million gallons (and to double to 100 million after 2025) of aviation biofuel per year into the fuel hydrant delivery system at Sea-Tac International Airport. A total of 29 sites across the state were identified and screened. The sites were located in King, Pierce, Whatcom, Skagit, Grays Harbor and Franklin Counties, Washington.

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DOE Co-Optima initiative publishes report reviewing first 12 months; progress on fuels and engines

January 16, 2017

The US Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Co-Optima initiative—a broad, joint effort to co-optimize the development of efficient engines and low greenhouse-gas fuels for on-road vehicles with the goal of reducing petroleum consumption by 30% by 2030 beyond what is already targeted (earlier post)—has published a year-in-review report for FY 2016—the initiative’s first 12 months.

Co-Optima’s premise is that current fuels constrain engine design—and thus engine efficiency. The researchers suggest that there are engine architectures that can provide higher thermodynamic efficiencies than available from modern internal combustion engines; however, new fuels are required to maximize efficiency and operability across a wide speed/load range. The report details the technical progress in a selection of projects across the initiative’s two main thrusts: spark ignition (SI) and advanced compression ignition (ACI).

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Neste launches Neste MY Renewable Diesel made 100% from waste and residues in Finland; initial customers

Neste recently launched a renewable diesel made entirely from waste and residues under the brand name Neste MY Renewable Diesel at select service stations in the Helsinki region today, 9 January 2017. The product enables up to 90% lower greenhouse gas emissions throughout the life cycle of the fuel compared to conventional fossil diesel.

Production of Neste MY Renewable Diesel is based on Neste’s proprietary NEXBTL technology which can be used for producing premium-quality renewable diesel and other renewable products from almost any waste fat or vegetable oil. The feedstock selection available for Neste’s renewable diesel has been successfully expanded to more than 10 raw materials. The company is engaged in continuous development work to further expand the raw material base.

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DOE BETO releases new strategic plan; biofuels to constitute 25% of US transportation fuels by 2040

December 31, 2016

The US Department of Energy’s Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) released its new strategic plan, titled Strategic Plan for a Thriving and Sustainable Bioeconomy. The strategic plan—with a vision for 2040—lays out BETO’s mission to accomplish its vision in a dynamic setting that realizes changes in the energy landscape, advances in technology, growing environmental awareness, and public expectations.

The strategic plan sets the foundation for the development of BETO’s multi-year program plans, annual operating plans, and technology program areas. It also takes a crosscutting approach to identify opportunities to adapt and align BETO activities and project portfolios with those in both the public and private sectors. The plan centers around four key opportunities: enhancing the bioenergy value proposition; mobilizing US biomass resources; cultivating end-use markets and customers; and expanding stakeholder engagement and collaboration.

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DOE awards LanzaTech $4M for low-carbon jet & diesel demo plant; 3M gpy; Audi evaluating fuel properties

December 30, 2016

LanzaTech has been selected by the Department of Energy’s Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) to receive a $4-million award to design and plan a demonstration-scale facility using industrial off gases to produce 3 million gallons/year of low-carbon jet and diesel fuels. The LanzaTech award was one of six totaling $12.9 million. (Earlier post.)

The LanzaTech facility will recycle industrial waste gases from steel manufacturing to produce a low cost ethanol intermediate: “Lanzanol.” Both Lanzanol and cellulosic ethanol will then be converted to jet fuel via the Alcohol-to-Jet" (ATJ) process developed by LanzaTech and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL). (Earlier post.)

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DOE awarding $12.9M to 6 pilot- and demonstration-scale projects for manufacturing biofuels, bioproducts, and biopower

December 29, 2016

The US Department of Energy (DOE) has selected six projects—entitled, “Project Definition for Pilot- and Demonstration-Scale Manufacturing of Biofuels, Bioproducts, and Biopower”—-for up to $12.9 million in federal funding. These projects, required to share the cost at a minimum of 50%, will develop and execute plans for the manufacturing of advanced or cellulosic biofuels, bioproducts, refinery-compatible intermediates, and/or biopower in a domestic pilot- or demonstration-scale integrated biorefinery.

The projects will be evaluated in two phases. Award recipients will design and plan their facilities in Phase 1. In order to continue to Phase 2, projects will be evaluated on Phase 1 progress, as well as the ability to secure the required 50% cost share funding for Phase 2. DOE anticipates Phase 2 awards to be made in fiscal year 2018 to construct and operate the pilot- or demonstration-scale facility. Projects could receive additional federal funds of up to $15 million for pilot-scale facilities or $45 million for demonstration-scale facilities.

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Global Bioenergies plans to acquire Dutch start-up Syngip; gaseous carbon feedstocks for renewable isobutene process

December 21, 2016

Global Bioenergies, the developer of a process to convert renewable resources into light olefin hydrocarbons via fermentation (with an initial focus on isobutene) (earlier post), signed a contribution agreement with the shareholders of Syngip B.V. to transfer all Syngip shares to Global Bioenergies S.A. Syngip is a third-generation industrial biotech start-up created in 2014 in the Netherlands that has developed a process to convert gaseous carbon sources such as CO2, CO, and industrial emissions such as syngas, into various valuable chemical compounds.

Syngip has identified a specific micro-organism capable of growing using these gaseous carbon sources as its sole feedstock, and has developed genetic tools to allow the implementation of artificial metabolic pathways into it. Its recent work has been directed to the implementation of metabolic pathways leading to light olefins: major petrochemical molecules, which include isobutene.

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Global Bioenergies reports first production of green isobutene at demo plant

December 15, 2016

Global Bioenergies is now entering the final phase of demonstrating its technology for converting renewable carbon into hydrocarbons. The first trials on the demo plant in Leuna were successfully completed, within schedule, in the fall of 2016 and Global Bioenergies announced first production of green isobutene via fermentation. (Earlier post.)

With a nameplate capacity of 100 tons/year, the demo plant will allow the conversion of various resources (industrial-grade sugar from beets and cane, glucose syrup from cereals, second-generation sugars extracted from wheat straw, bagasse, wood chips…), into high-purity isobutene.

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LANL team develops simple catalyst system to upgrade acetone to range of chemicals and fuels

December 12, 2016

Researchers at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) have developed a simple inexpensive catalyst system (Amberlyst 15 and Ni/SiO2–Al2O3) to upgrade bio-derived acetone to provide C6, C9, and C12 aliphatic ketones, along with C9, C12, and C15 aromatic compounds. Stepwise hydrodeoxygenation of the produced ketones can yield branched alcohols, alkenes, and alkanes. A paper on their work is published in the journal ChemSusChem.

Predicted and measured fuel properties of a selection of these produced molecules showed that certain compounds are candidates as drop-in fuel replacements for spark- and compression-ignition engines.

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WSU Tri-Cities researchers receive $50K NSF grant to test market potential for lignin pathway for biojet

December 03, 2016

Researchers at Washington State University Tri-Cities have been awarded a $50,000 National Science Foundation I-Corps grant to explore the commercialization potential of their new pathway for biojet from biomass waste. The WSU process, described in a 2015 paper in the RSC journal Green Chemistry, uses hydrodeoxygenation (HDO) of dilute alkali extracted corn stover lignin catalyzed by a noble metal catalyst (Ru/Al2O3) and acidic zeolite (H+-Y) to produce lignin-substructure-based hydrocarbons (C7-C18), primarily C12-C18 cyclic structure hydrocarbons in the jet fuel range. (Earlier post.)

Current biorefineries undervalue lignin’s potential, largely because selective conversion of lignin has proven to be challenging. Processes that have been successful at breaking the lignin bonds have typically resulted in shorter chain monomers as opposed to the longer chain hydrocarbons needed for fuel. In contrast, the output of the WSU processis a mix of hydrocarbons that are long-chain and can be made into nearly the right mix for jet fuel.

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GAO study concludes Renewable Fuel Standard will miss advanced biofuel program targets; EPA generally concurs

November 29, 2016

A new study from the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) concludes that the Renewable Fuel Standard program will miss its advanced biofuel targets due to the the high costs of creating advanced biofuel; the relatively low price of fossil fuel; the timing and cost to bring new tech to commercial-scale production; regulatory uncertainty; and other issues as challenges to increased production.

GAO was asked by Congress to review issues related to advanced biofuels R&D. The report describes (1) how the federal government has supported advanced biofuels R&D in recent years and where its efforts have been targeted; and (2) expert views on the extent to which advanced biofuels are technologically understood and the factors that will affect the speed and volume of production. GAO interviewed DOD, DOE, EPA, NSF, and USDA officials and worked with the National Academy of Sciences to convene a meeting of experts from industry, academia, and research organizations. EPA generally agreed with the conclusions of the report, the GAO said.

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EPA finalizes increase in renewable fuel volumes for 2017; 6% total increase to 19.28B gallons

November 23, 2016

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized increases in renewable fuel volume requirements across all categories of biofuels under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program. In a required annual rulemaking, the action finalizes the volume requirements and associated percentage standards for cellulosic biofuel, advanced biofuel, and total renewable fuel for 2017, and for biomass-based diesel for 2018.

The final volumes represent continued growth over historic levels. The final standards meet or exceed the volume targets specified by Congress for total renewable fuel, biomass-based diesel, and advanced biofuel. Total renewable fuel volumes grow 6% (1.2 billion gallons) from 2016 to 2017 to 19.28 billion gallons.

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Argonne LCA finds renewable diesel from algae fractionation has 63-68% lower GHG than petroleum diesel

October 22, 2016

A new analysis from Argonne National Laboratory, funded by the US Department of Energy’s Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO), shows the potential of an algae fractionation process to produce renewable diesel fuel with 63%–68% lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions than conventional diesel. The study is published in the journal Algal Research.

In some algal biofuel production methods, lipids are extracted from algae and converted to renewable diesel, while the non-lipid components of the algae are converted to biogas. The biogas is used for renewable heat and electricity to power the conversion process of the lipids to renewable diesel.

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New three-step process for conversion of vegetable oils into cycloparaffinic and aromatic biofuels in jet fuel range

October 17, 2016

A team from the University of Science & Technology of China in Hefei has developed a three-step process for the conversion of vegetable oils (triglycerides) into cycloparaffinic and aromatic biofuels in jet fuel range.

This process cracks vegetable oils into light aromatics over the zeolite catalyst (HZSM-5(80)), followed by the aromatic alkylation of the resulting light aromatics using the ionic liquid [bmim]Cl-2AlCl3, followed by the hydrogenation of the aromatics over a Pd/AC catalyst. As reported in a paper in the journal Fuel, the process produced 86.2 wt% of C8–C15 aromatics after alkylation, yielding 84.3 wt% monocyclic cycloparaffins after hydrogenation.

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NREL and partners build pilot plant to co-process biomass streams with petroleum

October 14, 2016

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), together with leading petroleum refining technologies supplier W.R. Grace, and leading pilot plant designer Zeton Inc., built a unique pilot-scale facility that can produce biomass-derived fuel intermediates with existing petroleum refinery infrastructure. This pilot plant, constructed in part with funding from the Bioenergy Technologies Office, combines biomass pyrolysis together with fluid catalytic cracking—one of the most important conversion processes used in petroleum refineries—to demonstrate the potential to co-process biomass-derived streams with petroleum, at an industrially-relevant pilot scale.

There are 110 domestic fluid catalytic cracking units currently operating in the United States. Using them to co-produce biofuel could enable production of more than 8 billion gallons of bio-derived fuels, without construction of separate biorefineries. This would significantly contribute to the Renewable Fuel Standard mandate set by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 to produce 21 billion gallons of advanced renewable transportation fuels by 2022.

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Gevo produces first cellulosic renewable jet fuel specified for use on commercial airline flights

October 12, 2016

Gevo, Inc. has completed production of the world’s first cellulosic renewable jet fuel that is specified for commercial flights. Gevo successfully adapted its patented technologies to convert cellulosic sugars derived from wood waste into renewable isobutanol, which was then further converted into Gevo’s Alcohol-to-Jet fuel (ATJ) fuel. (Earlier post.)

This ATJ meets the ASTM D7566 specification allowing it to be used for commercial flights. The revisions to the ASTM D7566 specification, which occurred earlier this year, includes ATJ derived from renewable isobutanol, regardless of the carbohydrate feedstock (i.e. cellulosics, corn, sugar cane, molasses, etc.). (Earlier post.)

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China researchers devise process to convert biomass to gasoline via one-step DME synthesis: DTG

October 10, 2016

Researchers from the Qingdao Institute of Bioenergy and Bioprocess Technology have proposed a new process for the conversion of biomass to gasoline via a one-step DME synthesis (DTG: Dimethyl ether to gasoline). In a paper in the journal Fuel, they report a per-pass conversion of CO and the production capacity of gasoline of up to 45% and 4.4 kg/h, respectively.

Their homemade catalysts exhibited favorable activity, selectivity and stability during all the operations. The gasoline obtained from the pilot plant had a high octane number (RON>93). Although further studies are needed on mass and energy balances to ensure the most economical and optimal heat integration strategy, the practical experience of this work is sufficiently promising to merit further investigations, the team suggested.

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NREL lowers biofuel costs through catalyst regeneration and vapor-phase upgrading; R-Cubed

October 06, 2016

This past June, researchers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), in partnership with Particulate Solids Research, Inc. and Springs Fabrication, installed a recirculating regenerating riser reactor (R-Cubed) in the pilot-scale Thermochemical Process Development Unit (TCPDU). Funded by the DOE Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO), this unique unit represents the next generation of thermochemical biomass conversion technology and adds additional capabilities to NREL’s state-of-the-art Thermochemical Users Facility.

The R-Cubed system will now allow for catalytic upgrading of biomass pyrolysis vapors—a process that can significantly improve the efficiency and reduce the costs associated with upgrading bio-oil to a finished fuel product—at an industrially-relevant pilot scale.

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EPA proposing updates to Renewable Fuel Standard

October 05, 2016

EPA is proposing updates to the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) regulations and related fuels regulations to better align the standards with the current state of the renewable fuels market and to promote the use of ethanol and non-ethanol biofuels.

Several of the proposed changes to the Renewable Fuel Standard program would align regulations with recent developments in the marketplace resulting in increased production of cellulosic, advanced and other biofuels, EPA said.

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Global Bioenergies joins Preem, Sekab and forestry in bio-isooctane project in Sweden

September 28, 2016

In April this year, Preem, Sekab and Sveaskog entered into a collaboration to develop a gasoline fuel based entirely on forest resources with support from the Swedish Energy Agency. The consortium has now selected the bio-isobutene process developed by the French industrial biotech Global Bioenergies for the conversion of wood-derived sugars into a high-performance gasoline.

The consortium will study various plant scenarios t convert forestry products and residues profitably into bio-isooctane, a 100-octane rating, high-performance bio-based gasoline derived from bio-isobutene. The value chain will rely on Sveaskog’s forestry activities, Sekab’s CelluAPP biomass to sugar conversion process, Global Bioenergies wood-sugars to isobutene process and Preem’s gasoline production processes, blending and retailing activities.

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Cummins Euro 6 engines compatibile with HVO renewable diesel & other paraffinic fuels; fuels at “point of commercial maturity”

September 22, 2016

Cummins Inc. announced Euro 6 (VI) engine compatibility for use with Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil (HVO) renewable diesel and other EN 15940 paraffinic fuels, representing a significant step forward to reduce the carbon footprint of Cummins-powered bus, truck and coach fleets operating in Europe.

Compared with conventional fossil-based diesel, HVO offers the potential to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 40 to 90 percent over the total life cycle of the fuel, dependent on the level of sustainable feedstock used in the production process.

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Navy tests 100-percent CHCJ advanced biofuel in EA-18G

September 20, 2016

The US Navy has completed flight testing of a 100% advanced biofuel in the EA-18G “Green Growler” at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland. The US Navy is a leader in incorporating alternative fuel into operational supplies, in order to increase mission capability and flexibility.

The catalytic hydrothermal conversion-to-jet (CHCJ) process 100% alternative fuel performed as expected during a ground test 30 August at NAWCAD’s Aircraft Test and Evaluation Facility (ATEF), followed by the first test flight 1 September, said Rick Kamin, energy and fuels lead for Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR). Kamin also leads the alternative fuel test and qualification program for the Navy.

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JetBlue enters 10-year renewable HEFA SPK jet fuel purchase agreement with SG Preston; 33M gallons of 30% blend per year

September 19, 2016

JetBlue announced a ten-year renewable jet fuel purchase agreement with SG Preston, a bioenergy company. The airline will purchase renewable jet fuel made from rapidly renewable, bio-based feedstocks that do not compete with food production. This marks one of the largest renewable jet fuel purchase agreements yet, and the largest, long-term, binding commitment by any airline globally for HEFA (hydro-processed esters and fatty acids) SPK (synthetic paraffinic kerosene) -based renewable jet fuel.

To launch the strategic relationship with SG Preston, JetBlue plans to purchase more than 33 million gallons of blended jet fuel per year for at least 10 years. The fuel will consist of 30% renewable jet fuel blended with 70% traditional Jet-A fuel.

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Strategic consortium to commercialize Virent’s BioForming Technology for low carbon fuels and bio-paraxylene

September 15, 2016

Renewable fuels and chemicals company Virent has established a strategic consortium with Tesoro, Toray, Johnson Matthey and The Coca-Cola Company focused on completing the development and scale up of Virent’s BioForming technology to produce low carbon bio-based fuels and bio-paraxylene (a key raw material for the production of 100% bio-polyester).

The consortium members will work together to finalize technical developments and commercial arrangements, with the objective of delivering a commercial facility to produce cost effective, bio-based fuels and bio-paraxylene. Earlier this month, Virent and petroleum refiner and marketer Tesoro reached an agreement for Tesoro to become Virent’s new strategic owner. (Earlier post.)

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LanzaTech produces 1,500 gallons of alcohol-to-jet fuel from waste gases for Virgin Atlantic

September 14, 2016

In a milestone for the low-carbon fuel project, LanzaTech has produced 1,500 gallons of jet fuel from waste industrial gases from steel mills via a fermentation process for Virgin Atlantic. Virgin Atlantic and LanzaTech have been working together on the project since 2011. HSBC joined the partnership in 2014.

The “Lanzanol” was produced in China at the RSB (Roundtable of Sustainable Biomaterials) certified Shougang demonstration facility. The innovative alcohol-to-jet (ATJ) process was developed in collaboration with Pacific Northwest National Lab (PNNL) with support from the US Department of Energy (DOE) and with the help of funding from HSBC.

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Tesoro to acquire renewable fuels company Virent

September 07, 2016

Renewable fuels and chemicals company Virent and petroleum refiner and marketer Tesoro have reached an agreement for Tesoro to become Virent’s new strategic owner. The acquisition will support the scale-up and commercialization of Virent’s BioForming technology for the production of low carbon bio-based fuels and chemicals. (Earlier post.)

The companies initiated a strategic relationship in January 2016 (earlier post), and have worked together to establish a forward plan to scale-up the technology and reduce deployment risks to meet the increasing demands for high quality, renewable fuels and chemicals.

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Researchers generate methane from CO2 in one light-driven step using engineered bacteria

August 25, 2016

Using an engineered strain of the phototropic bacterium Rhodopseudomonas palustris as a biocatalyst, a team from the University of Washington, Utah State University and Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University have reduced carbon dioxide to methane in one enzymatic step.

The work demonstrates the feasibility of using microbes to generate hydrocarbons (i.e., CH4 in this case) from CO2 in one enzymatic step using light energy. A paper on their work is published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

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China team develops pathway for producing renewable aviation-range hydrocarbons and aromatics from oleic acid without added H2

Researchers from Zhejiang University; SINOPEC’s Fushun Research Institute of Petroleum and Petrochemicals; Nanjing Tech University; and Xinjiang Technical Institute of Physics and Chemistry have developed an “atom-economic” approach to produce renewable drop-in aviation-range hydrocarbons and aromatics from oleic acid (C18H34O2, a fatty acid that occurs naturally in various animal and vegetable fats and oils) without an added hydrogen donor. A paper on their work is published in the ACS journal Energy & Fuels.

The conversion of oleic acid in the process was 100%, and the yield of heptadecane (C17H36, the main product) can reach 71% after 80 min at 350 °C. The process also produced an aromatics yield of 19%; aromatics are a critical component of aviation fuels due to their ability to maintain the swelling of fuel system elastomers. The results, said the researchers, indicate that their process is a complicated reaction system including in situ hydrogen transfer, aromatization, decarboxylation, and cracking.

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PNNL-Lanzatech team hits milestone on waste-gas-to-ethanol-to-jet project

August 23, 2016

With funding from Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO), Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) has been working with industry-partner LanzaTech to convert alcohols derived from captured carbon monoxide, a byproduct in the production of steel, into synthetic paraffinic kerosene, a non-fossil-based jet fuel. The technology not only provides a viable source of sustainable jet fuel but also reduces the amount of greenhouse gasses emitted into the atmosphere.

The team recently reached a significant milestone on the project, producing over five gallons of synthetic paraffinic kerosene in a lab environment. Five gallons is the quantity needed for “fit-for-purpose” testing.

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Study shows renewable diesel from crude tall oil is a high quality drop-in fuel for off-road engines

August 20, 2016

A team from the University of Vaasa (Finland) and UPM-Kymmene Corporation has examined how the blends of fossil and renewable diesel produced from crude tall oil (CTO) affect the performance and exhaust emissions of the modern common-rail off-road diesel engine.

The study, published in the journal Fuel, used four different fuel blends of low-sulfur fossil diesel fuel oil and CTO renewable fuel, UPM BioVerno (HB): HB10, HB20, HB50, and HB100. UPM BioVerno renewable diesel is produced from wood-based tall oil. (Earlier post.)

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China researchers develop new pathway for jet-range bio-cycloalkanes from acetone and hydrogen

August 12, 2016

Researchers from the Dalian Institute of Chemical Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, have developed a new route for the synthesis of jet-fuel range C10 and C12 cycloalkanes using diacetone alcohol (the self-aldol condensation product of acetone under mild conditions)—which can be derived from lignocellulosic biomass—and hydrogen. A paper on their work is published in the RSC journal Green Chemistry.

The branched cycloalkanes are synthesized with high carbon yield (~76%), have high density (0.83 g mL-1) and a low freezing point (216.5 K). As a potential application, they can be used as additives to conventional bio-jet fuel comprising C8-C16 chain alkanes.

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US Navy completes sea trial with ARA’s 100% drop-in renewable diesel fuel

August 09, 2016

A Navy ship has, for the first time, operated on a 100% drop-in renewable diesel fuel. Naval Surface Warfare Center, Port Hueneme Division’s (NSWC PHD) Self Defense Test Ship (SDTS) completed final-phase testing of a 100% drop-in renewable diesel fuel as part of the Navy’s MILSPEC qualification program. ReadiDiesel was developed by Applied Research Associates (ARA) and Chevron Lummus Global, as a drop-in replacement for petroleum F-76 marine diesel. ReadiDiesel is a 100% renewable biofuel. (Earlier post.)

The SDTS took on approximately 18,000 gallons of ReadiDiesel in San Diego, California. The objective of this particular test was twofold: first, to demonstrate that ReadiDiesel is a drop-in replacement for petroleum-sourced F-76 marine diesel, meaning that it requires no blending with petroleum-derived fuels, equipment modifications or operational modifications by the crew; and second, to ensure that this renewable fuel performs equally to, or better than, existing petroleum-derived fuels.

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DOE awarding up to $11.3M to 3 projects under MEGA-BIO for biomass-to-hydrocarbon fuels, products

August 03, 2016

The US Department of Energy (DOE) will award up to $11.3 million to three projects under MEGA-BIO: Bioproducts to Enable Biofuels (earlier post) that support the development of biomass-to-hydrocarbon biofuels conversion pathways that can produce variable amounts of fuels and/or products based on external factors, such as market demand.

Producing high-value bioproducts alongside cost-competitive biofuels has the potential to support a positive return on investment for a biorefinery. This funding is intended to develop new strategies for biorefineries to diversify revenue streams, including chemicals and products manufacturing, resulting in long-term economic benefits to the United States. Projects selected for funding are:

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US releases Federal alternative jet fuels R&D strategy

July 29, 2016

The Obama Administration has released the Federal Alternative Jet Fuels Research and Development (R&D) Strategy (FAJFS), which maps out a unified federal plan to advance R&D as well as science and technology solutions to support deployment of alternative jet fuels (AJFs) in both civil and military aviation.

The strategy provides a prioritized list of R&D goals and objectives addressing specific scientific, technical, analytical, and logistics challenges that hinder the development, production, and wide-scale economic deployment of AJFs. In releasing the FAJFS, the federal government hopes to accelerate the development of the AJF industry by minimizing technical uncertainty to encourage further private sector interest, facilitate the development and approval of new AJF pathways, and reduce the cost of AJF production in the United States.

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American Refining Group taking 1/3 stake in Amyris/Cosan Novvi JV; accelerating commercialization of renewable base oil and lubricants

July 19, 2016

American Refining Group (ARG) is taking a 33.3% stake in Novvi LLC, a joint venture of Amyris and Brazil-based Cosan S.A. formed in 2011 to produce renewable base oils and lubricants from Amyris’ Biofene—Amyris’s brand of a renewable, long-chain, branched hydrocarbon molecule called farnesene (trans-ß-farnesene). (Earlier post.) Both Amyris and Cosan will continue to hold share ownership stakes in Novvi, together with ARG.

Biofene is the basis for a wide range of products varying from specialty products such as cosmetics, perfumes, detergents and industrial lubricants, to transportation fuels such as diesel and jet fuel.

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Lux: biojet fuel to account for 56% of targeted 2050 CO2 emissions reductions in aviation

Biojet fuels will be key to achieving the aviation industry’s pledge to cut CO2 emissions to 0.2 billion tons (GT) in 2050—half the 2005 figure—as opposed to the staggering 2.1 GT projected by current growth rates, according to a new report from Lux Research, “Biojet Fuel Technology Roadmap.”

Lux forecasts that biojet fuel innovations, led globally by Honeywell UOP and Boeing, will account for 56% of the targeted CO2 emissions reductions, while a third of the requisite cuts will come from new aircraft technology, and optimization of operations and infrastructure.

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Los Alamos team develops robust route to convert starch and sugar to C10 and C11 hydrocarbons; “potato-to-pump”

July 18, 2016

Researchers at Los Alamos National Laboratory have developed a route to convert oligosaccharides, such as starch, cellulose, and hemicelluloses to C10 and C11 hydrocarbons by using depolymerization followed by chain extension.

In a paper published in the journal ChemSusChem, they report on the robustness of the approach by performing a simple starch extraction from a Russet potato and subjecting it to their process. (They noted that the use of the potato was simply illustrative, and that the use of food crops for fuel production should be avoided.)

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Boeing, South African Airways and Mango celebrate Africa’s 1st commercial flights with sustainable aviation biofuel from tobacco

July 15, 2016

Boeing, South African Airways (SAA) and low-cost carrier Mango celebrated Africa’s first passenger flights with sustainable aviation biofuel. The flights coincided with Boeing’s 100th anniversary and centennial celebrations worldwide.

The SAA and Mango flights carried 300 passengers from Johannesburg to Cape Town on Boeing 737-800s using a blend of 30% aviation biofuel produced from Sunchem’s nicotine-free tobacco plant Solaris, refined by AltAir Fuels and supplied by SkyNRG. (Earlier post.)

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Global Bioenergies, IBN-One and Lantmännen Aspen partner on renewable isooctane for specialty fuel applications

July 11, 2016

Global Bioenergies, IBN-One and Lantmännen Aspen, world market leader in alkylate gasoline for two- and four-stroke small engines, have entered into a partnership on renewable isooctane (earlier post) for specialty fuel applications.

Aspen is part of the Swedish Lantmännen group, an agricultural cooperative and Northern Europe’s leader in agriculture, machinery, bioenergy and food products with annual revenues of €3.4 billion (US$3.8 billion). In particular, Lantmännen Aspen’s commercial activities include specialty fuels for usage in two- and four-stroke small engines—e.g. chainsaws and lawn mowers—where the operator, machine and environment benefit from a cleaner fuel quality regarding harmful substances compared to regular gasoline.

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

June 14, 2016

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

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

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

June 13, 2016

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

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

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

June 01, 2016

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

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

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