[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.]
Study: even with high LDV electrification, low-carbon biofuels will be necessary to meet 80% GHG reduction target; “daunting” policy implications
July 03, 2015
A study by researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a Michigan State University colleague has concluded that even with a relatively high rate of electrification of the US light-duty fleet (40% of vehicle miles traveled and 26% by fuel), an 80% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2050 relative to 1990 can only be achieved with significant quantities of low-carbon liquid fuel. The paper is published in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology.
For the study, the researchers benchmarked 27 scenarios against a 50% petroleum-reduction target and an 80% GHG-reduction target. They found that with high rates of electrification (40% of miles traveled) the petroleum-reduction benchmark could be satisfied, even with high travel demand growth. The same highly electrified scenarios, however, could not satisfy 80% GHG-reduction targets, even assuming 80% decarbonized electricity and no growth in travel demand.
United Airlines invests $30M in Fulcrum BioEnergy; renewable jet fuel offtake agreement, potential joint development of production
June 30, 2015
United Airlines made a $30-million equity investment in US-based Fulcrum BioEnergy, Inc., the developer of a process for converting municipal solid waste into low-cost sustainable aviation biofuel. (Earlier post.) The investment is so far the largest single investment by a US airline in alternative fuels.
In addition to the equity investment, United and Fulcrum have entered into an agreement that contemplates the joint development of up to five projects located near United’s hubs expected to have the potential to produce up to 180 million gallons of fuel per year.
Volkswagen announces successful completion of 2-year drop-in renewable diesel evaluation with Solazyme and Amyris
June 29, 2015
Volkswagen of America announced the successful completion of its Renewable Diesel Evaluation Program in collaboration with Solazyme and Amyris. (Earlier post.) Beginning in 2012, Volkswagen measured the environmental impacts from the use of pre-commercial renewable diesel formulas with TDI Clean Diesel technology found in the 2012 Passat TDI (which uses a NOx storage system) and 2012 Jetta TDI (SCR system). Initial analysis found that advanced renewable fuels in the test offered comparable performance to standard crude-based diesel fuel blends while producing less CO2 emissions on average.
During the two-year evaluation, Solazyme’s now commercial Soladiesel RD (100% algae-derived renewable diesel fuel) and the Amyris plant-sugar-derived renewable diesel formula was used for the program with each company testing a 2012 Passat and Jetta TDI. Both fuel producers added additives, which are commonly used today, to meet ASTM D 975 specifications.
Volkswagen AG coordinating new €6M EU research project on drop-in biocatalytic solar fuels
June 26, 2015
Volkswagen AG is coordinating a new €6-million (US$6.7-million) research project, selected for funding under the Horizon 2020 Programme, to advance the biocatalytic production of drop-in liquid hydrocarbon transportation fuels, requiring only sunlight, CO2 and water.
The basic approach of the new 4-year Photofuel project is to develop and to advance microbes (the biocatalysts) that will directly excrete hydrocarbon and long-chain alcohol fuel compounds to the growth medium, from which the fuels are separated, without the need to harvest biomass. This basic concept is in line with the fundamental approach (CO2 + water + renewable energy → drop-in fuels) being taken by Audi (a member of the Volkswagen Group) in its e-fuels initiatives. (Earlier post.)
IH2 technology licensed for demonstration plant to convert woody biomass into drop-in hydrocarbon transportation fuels
June 23, 2015
SynSel Energi AS has entered into an IH2 (Integrated Hydropyrolysis and Hydroconversion) process demonstration license agreement with CRI/Criterion Catalyst Company Ltd, a member of the CRI Catalyst group (CRI), a global group of catalyst technology companies. IH2 technology is a continuous catalytic thermochemical process which converts a broad range of forestry/agricultural residues and municipal wastes directly into renewable hydrocarbon transportation fuels and/or blend stocks. (Earlier post.)
The Basic Engineering Package for the 5 metric ton/day demonstration plant located in Grenland, Norway is to be completed over a period of several months by Zeton Inc. Zeton is the preferred engineering services provider for IH2 facilities at demonstration scale. The IH2 demonstration plant will be integrated into an existing third-party petrochemical manufacturing site, allowing for optimized capital and operating expense.
Volvo Trucks approves 100% renewable diesel for all Euro 5 engines, prepping certification for Euro 6
June 22, 2015
After extensive field testing of renewable diesel HVO (Hydrotreated Vegetable Oils), Volvo Trucks has approved the fuel for all Euro 5 engines and is preparing certifications for Euro 6 engines. HVO (such as Neste’s NEXBTL) is produced from renewable raw materials such as vegetable and animal fats and acts as regular diesel. HVO can reduce CO2 emissions between 30-90%, depending upon the raw material.
In 2013, Volvo Trucks started a field test together with Renova, DHL Freight and OKQ8 to see how the use of 100% HVO affected engine performance and components. The six field test trucks were equipped with Euro 5 engines and covered approximately one million kilometers (621,000 miles) in commercial service over a two-year period.
Boeing ecoDemonstrator 757 expands testing; green diesel blend, energy harvesting windows, 3D-printed flight deck component
June 20, 2015
Boeing announced the next phase in ecoDemonstrator 757 testing today, including its first flight with US-made “green diesel” (earlier post) and two new environment-related technologies. These developments advance the ecoDemonstrator program's mission to accelerate the testing and use of technologies to improve aviation's environmental performance.
In cooperation with NASA, the 757 flew on 17 June 17 from Seattle to NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., using a blend of 95% petroleum jet fuel and 5% sustainable green diesel, a renewable drop-in bio-hydrocarbon fuel meeting ASTM International’s standard for Diesel Fuel Oils (D-975). Boeing is working with the aviation industry to approve green diesel for commercial aviation by amending the HEFA (Hydroprocessed Esters And Fatty Acids) biojet specification approved in 2011.
Etihad Airways and partners launch roadmap for sustainable aviation biofuels in UAE
June 18, 2015
Etihad Airways, together with Boeing, Total, Takreer and the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, launched a joint industry roadmap for the sustainable production of aviation biofuels in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The BIOjet Abu Dhabi: Flight Path to Sustainability report outlines a set of recommended industry actions to create a commercially viable domestic aviation biofuel industry—a first for the Middle East. (Earlier post, earlier post.)
The BIOjet Abu Dhabi roadmap is the culmination of a year-long dialogue between Etihad Airways, its four BIOjet Abu Dhabi partners, and UAE and global stakeholders. It explains Abu Dhabi’s potential to produce aviation biofuel locally, in a sustainable way, taking account of all elements of the supply chain from feedstock supplies to biorefining and distribution.
New catalytic method for converting algal oil to gasoline- or jet-fuel-range hydrocarbons
June 16, 2015
A new catalytic method for converting algal oil to gasoline- or jet-fuel-range hydrocarbons has been developed by the research group of Prof. Keiichi Tomishige and Dr. Yoshinao Nakagawa from Tohoku University’s Department of Applied Chemistry, and Dr. Hideo Watanabe from the University of Tsukuba.
The new method uses a highly dispersed ruthenium catalyst supported on cerium oxide. Squalane (C30H62)—easily obtained by the hydrogenation of squalene (C30H50) rapidly produced by the heterotrophic alga Aurantiochytrium from organics in wastewater—reacts with hydrogen over this catalyst, producing smaller branched alkanes with simple distribution and without aromatics. These molecules have high stability and low freezing points. A paper describing the system is published in the journal ChemSusChem.
Joule issued patent on production of medium chain-length alkanes from sunlight and CO2; diesel, jet fuel and gasoline
Joule, the developer of engineered photosynthetic bacteria as catalysts for the direct production of targeted fuel molecules in a continuous, single-step conversion process, announced the issuance of an additional patent, extending its ability to target the highest-value molecules of the petroleum distillation process and generate them on demand from sunlight and CO2.
US Patent Nº 9,034,629, issued on 19 May, covers both the cyanobacterium and the process for directly converting CO2 into medium chain-length alkanes (C7-11), which are in the diesel, jet fuel and gasoline ranges.
EBI ketone condensation process for drop-in jet fuel or lubricant base oil from biomass; up to 80% lifecycle GHG savings
Researchers at the Energy Biosciences Institute (EBI), a partnership led by the University of California (UC) Berkeley that includes Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and BP, have developed a new method for producing drop-in aviation fuel as well as automotive lubricant base oils from sugarcane biomass. The strategy behind the process could also be applied to biomass from other non-food plants and agricultural waste that are fermented by genetically engineered microbes, the researchers said.
The catalytic process, described in an open-access paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), selectively upgrades alkyl methyl ketones derived from sugarcane biomass into trimer condensates with better than 95% yields. These condensates are then hydro-deoxygenated into a new class of cycloalkane compounds that contain a cyclohexane ring and a quaternary carbon atom. These cycloalkane compounds can be tailored for the production of either jet fuel, or automotive lubricant base oils, resulting in products with superior cold-flow properties, density and viscosity that could achieve net life-cycle greenhouse gas savings of up to 80%, depending upon the optimization conditions.
“Energiewende” in a tank; Audi e-fuels targeting carbon-neutral driving with synthetic fuels from renewables, H2O and CO2; Swiss policy test case
June 12, 2015
Like other major automakers, Audi (and its parent Volkswagen Group) is working on meeting its medium-term regulatory requirements (e.g., in the 2020 timeframe) by reducing the average fuel consumption of its new vehicles using a combination of three primary measures: optimizing its combustion engines for greater efficiency; developing alternative drive concepts, such as hybrid, plug-in hybrid and gas-powered vehicles; and reducing total vehicle weight through lightweight construction with an intelligent multimaterial mix.
Unlike the others, however, Audi over the past few years has embarked on a comprehensive approach to developing a range of new CO₂-neutral fuels as part of its overall strategy for sustainable, carbon-neutral mobility: Audi e-fuels. Audi’s basic goal is to combine renewable energy (e.g. solar and wind), water and CO2 to produce liquid or gaseous fuels with a very low carbon intensity. Audi e-fuels are intended to use no fossil or biomass sources; do not compete with food production; and are 100% compatible with existing infrastructure.
Gevo’s cellulosic alcohol-to-jet (ATJ) fuel to be used in NARA test flight; “wood-to-wing”
June 04, 2015
Gevo, Inc. announced a development in its fermentation technology that will allow it to produce isobutanol from cellulosic feedstocks such as wood waste; the isobutanol can then be converted into Gevo’s alcohol-to-jet fuel. In 2011, the company was awarded $5 million from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) for the development of biojet fuel from woody biomass and forest product residues. (Earlier post.)
Gevo is a member of the Northwest Advanced Renewables Alliance (NARA) and is providing the organization with technology to enable the commercial scale processing of cellulosic sugars from wood waste into valuable products. The cellulosic jet fuel made using Gevo’s technologies will be used in a 1,000-gallon renewable fuel demonstration test flight by Alaska Airlines that NARA announced yesterday. Gevo’s isobutanol and ATJ-SPK technologies are both planned to be licensed by NARA as part of this project.
Amyris/Cosan JV Novvi introduces 100% renewable Group III and IV base oils
May 27, 2015
Novvi LLC, a joint venture of Amyris, Inc. and Cosan S.A. Industria e Comercio, unveiled two new 100% renewable base oil—the main component of motor oils—products: a renewable polyalphaolefin (PAO) Group IV and a renewable version of its NovaSpec Group III+ base oil. The new base oil products add to Novvi’s growing portfolio of renewable oils.
The Novvi JV was created to develop, produce, market, and distribute high-performance oils and lubricants from renewable sources. Novvi applies Amyris’ synthetic biology platform to produce targeted hydrocarbon molecules from plant sugar and Cosan’s feedstock capabilities and supply and distribution infrastructure.
Global Bioenergies and Cristal Union form JV to produce renewable isobutene
May 21, 2015
Global Bioenergies, a developer of one-step fermentation processes for the direct and cost-efficient transformation of renewable resources into light olefins, and Cristal Union, the 4th largest European beet producer, have formed IBN-One, a joint venture to build and operate the first plant in France converting renewable resources into isobutene.
Global Bioenergies has engineered an initial series of bacterial strains that can produce light olefins via the fermentation of sugars. The process is designed to be used downstream from multiple sugar production pathways: sugar, starch and cellulose. The process can thus be used with cellulosic biomass, following pretreatment and hydrolysis. The company has targeted renewable isobutene as its first product. (Earlier post.)
Global Bioenergies delivering first renewable gasoline sample to Audi
May 18, 2015
Global Bioenergies and its partner Audi (earlier post) announced that the first batch of renewable gasoline using Global Bioenergies’ fermentative isobutene pathway has been produced. (Earlier post.) The batch will be presented to Audi by Global Bioenergies during a press conference to be held in Pomacle on 21 May.
The first isobutene batch produced from renewable resources (here: corn-derived glucose) at Global Bioenergies’ industrial pilot in Pomacle-Bazancourt, near Reims in France, had been delivered to the chemical company Arkema early May 2015. Subsequent isobutene batches have been converted into isooctane by the Fraunhofer Institute at the Leuna refinery near Leipzig where Global Bioenergies is now building its demo plant.
WSU team engineers fungus to produce jet-range hydrocarbons from biomass
May 06, 2015
|Aspergillus carbonarius. Source: JGI MycoCosm. Click to enlarge.|
Researchers at Washington State University have engineered the filamentous fungus Aspergillus carbonarius ITEM 5010 to produce jet-range hydrocarbons directly from biomass. The researchers hope the work, reported in the journal Fungal Biology, leads to economically viable production of aviation biofuels in the next five years.
The team led by Birgitte Ahring, director and Battelle distinguished professor of the Bioproducts, Sciences and Engineering Laboratory at WSU Tri-cities, found that the production of hydrocarbons was dependent on the type of media used. Therefore, they tested ten different carbon sources (oatmeal, wheat bran, glucose, carboxymethyl cellulose, avicel, xylan, corn stover, switch grass, pretreated corn stover, and pretreated switch grass) to identify the maximum number and quantity of hydrocarbons produced.
DOE to re-fund Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis with $75M for solar fuels R&D
April 29, 2015
The US Department of Energy announced $75 million in funding to renew the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis (JCAP), a DOE Energy Innovation Hub originally established in 2010 with the goal of harnessing solar energy for the production of fuel. (Earlier post.)
Under the renewal plan, the five-year-old center would receive funding for an additional five years of research, subject to Congressional appropriations. JCAP researchers are focused on achieving the major scientific breakthroughs needed to produce liquid transportation fuels from a combination of sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide, using artificial photosynthesis.
Battelle passes 1,000-hour milestone with continuous hydrotreatment process for bio-oil to fuels
April 27, 2015
Researchers at Battelle led by principal investigator Dr. Zia Abdullah have demonstrated the durability of a continuous hydrotreatment process that converts bio-oil from biomass pyrolysis into transportation and aviation fuels, meeting the longevity goals of a challenge from the United States Department of Energy’s (DOE) to make commercially viable transportation fuels from biomass pyrolysis.
Battelle, with its proprietary process (earlier post) and catalyst from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) successfully registered more than 1,200 hours of operation of the system. The end hydrocarbon products are 30% blendable with ASTM petroleum fuels. The Battelle team has set its sights on achieving the near-commercial standard of 4,000 hours in the near future; 4,000 hours represents about half a year of continuous operation, Abdullah noted.
First integrated assessment of quality and yield of hydrocarbon blendstocks via biomass fast pyrolysis and hydrotreating
Researchers from three US national labs—Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), Idaho National Laboratory (INL) and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)—have performed the first, fully integrated assessment of the quality and yield of common feedstocks from the field to hydrocarbon blendstock production using the fast pyrolysis-hydrotreating pathway. A paper describing the results is published in the ACS journal Energy & Fuels.
Among their findings was that the compositional parameters of the biomass feedstock affects both the bio-oil generated by fast pyrolysis as well as the final quantity and quality of the upgraded fuel blendstock. While some feedstocks—such as tulip poplar—generate a high yield of bio-oil, the bio-oil does not necessarily exhibit a high yield in the hydrotreater. Thus, the product yields and qualities of both fast pyrolysis and hydrotreating must be considered in comparing the conversion performance of different biofuel feedstock materials.
DOE Bioenergy Technologies Office updates Multi-Year Program Plan; focus on wet wastes
April 05, 2015
The US Department of Energy (DOE) Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) released its newly updated and detailed Multi-Year Program Plan (MYPP). The MYPP sets forth the goals and structure of the Office, and identifies the research, development, demonstration, market transformation, and crosscutting activities on which the Office is planning to focus over the next five years.
The latest version of the MYPP presents a merged conversion R&D section; the renaming of the demonstration and market transformation area; and emerging work in wet waste-to-energy feedstocks. BETO says that wet wastes represent an underused feedstock and an emerging pathway to advanced biofuels that has the potential to greatly contribute to BETO’s near-term and long-term advanced biofuel and bioproduct goals.
NASA-led analysis characterizes the impact of jet fuel composition on emitted aerosols
April 03, 2015
Using data gathered during four different, comprehensive ground tests conducted over the past decade, researchers from NASA and their colleagues have statistically analyzed the impact of jet fuel properties on aerosols emitted by the NASA Douglas DC-8 CFM56-2-C1 engines burning 15 different aviation fuels. The analysis, reported in a paper in the ACS journal Energy & Fuels, linked changes in aerosol emissions to fuel compositional changes.
Among the results was the finding that reducing both fuel sulfur content and naphthalenes to near-zero levels would result in roughly a 10-fold decrease in aerosol number emitted per kilogram of fuel burned. The study can inform future efforts to model aircraft emissions changes as the aviation fleet gradually begins to transition toward low-aromatic, low-sulfur alternative jet fuels from bio-based or Fischer–Tropsch production pathways.
New UK Energy & Fuels 2050 transportation roadmap highlights important role of drop-in fuels and power-to-gas
March 23, 2015
Professor Neville Jackson, Ricardo’s chief technology and innovation officer, presented the results of a research project carried out by the Automotive Council UK to establish a long-term (to 2050) transition from current gasoline and diesel fuels to a majority renewable energy portfolio. Inputs to the new Energy & Fuels Roadmap included recent UK & EU studies on automotive technologies, as well as roadmaps for passenger cars, commercial vehicles and internal combustion engines previously published by the Automotive Cuncil.
The research, presented at last week’s Open Forum organized by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) in London, aimed to create a high level consensus view for the future of transport energy in the UK. Chaired by Professor Jackson of Ricardo, the research team that produced the report was made up of representatives drawn from a wide range of industry stakeholder organizations including BP, Shell, Jaguar LandRover, Caterpillar, the Energy Technologies Institute, the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership, E4tech, Element Energy and Associated British Foods.
Navy researchers produce 100% bio-derived high-density renewable diesel and jet by blending sesquiterpanes with synthetic paraffinic kerosene
March 06, 2015
A team at the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division (NAWCWD) at China Lake has produced 100% bio-derived high-density renewable diesel and jet fuels by blending multicyclic sesquiterpanes with a synthetic paraffinic kerosene (5-methylundecane). The resulting renewable fuels have densities and net heats of combustion higher than petroleum-based fuels while maintaining cetane numbers high enough (between 45 and 57) for use in conventional diesel engines.
The team said that its results show that full-performance and even ultra-performance fuels can be generated by combining bio-derived sesquiterpanes and paraffins. All components can be generated from biomass sugars by a combination of fermentation and chemical catalysis which may allow for their production at industrially relevant scale, they noted. An open access paper on the work has been accepted for publication in the ACS journal Energy & Fuels.
Neste Oil now the world’s largest producer of renewable fuels from waste and residues
March 05, 2015
Over the last few years, Neste Oil has become the world’s largest producer of renewable fuels from waste and residues. In 2014, the company produced nearly 1.3 million tonnes (1.6 billion liters, 423 million gallons US) of renewable fuel from waste and residues. In practical terms, this is enough to power for two years all the 650,000 diesel-powered passenger cars in Finland with NEXBTL renewable diesel manufactured from waste and residues.
Examples of Neste Oil’s waste and residue-based raw materials include animal and fish fats; used cooking oil; and various residues generated during vegetable oil refining such as palm fatty acid distillate (PFAD) and technical corn oil. These raw materials accounted for 62% of Neste Oil’s renewable inputs in 2014 (52% in 2013, 35% in 2012).
DOE BETO awards $10M to 7 advanced biofuels projects
February 21, 2015
The US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) has selected seven projects to receive up to $10 million to support innovative technologies and solutions to help advance the development of advanced biofuels, including bugaboo and drop-in hydrocarbons.
The Bioenergy Technologies Office is working to produce cost-competitive ($3/gallon of gasoline equivalent) advanced biofuels from non-food biomass resources that reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50% or more versus petroleum-based alternatives. These newly selected projects are intended to support this effort.
California ARB issues feedstock-only pathway for camelina-based fuels under LCFS; zero ILUC emissions results in very low CI fuels
February 05, 2015
The California Air Resources Board has issued Sustainable Oils Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Global Clean Energy Holdings, a feedstock-only pathway for the production of camelina-based fuels under the Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS). The feedstock-only CI (carbon intensity) is 7.58 gCO2e/MJ.
A feedstock-only pathway allows a fuel producer interested in producing either biodiesel or renewable diesel from a camelina feedstock using Sustainable Oils’ proprietary seed varieties to combine the CI of this pathway for the production of a camelina oil feedstock with the carbon intensity components of the fuel producer’s specific fuel production and transportation processes. The feedstock-only pathway includes only the CI components for farming, agricultural chemicals, camelina transportation, and oil extraction.
Researchers devise method to produce jet-range hydrocarbons as co-product of production of algal biodiesel; role of alkenones
January 22, 2015
|Isochrysis extraction and fractionation scheme with yields given in parentheses for the different products obtained from each step. Credit: ACS, O’Neil et al. Click to enlarge.|
Researchers from Western Washington University and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution have developed a method to produce jet-fuel range hydrocarbons as a co-product of the production of algal biodiesel from the biomass of the industrially grown marine microalgae Isochrysis. A paper on their work is published in the ACS journal Energy & Fuels.
Certain species of algae—including Isochrysis—synthesize a unique class of lipids: long-chain (35-40 carbons) alkenones. The structure of alkenones is characterized by a very long liner carbon chain with trans double bonds and a methyl or ethyl ketone. The researchers developed a method for the isolation of pure alkenones from Isochrysis biomass in parallel with biodiesel production.
Thai researchers find waste chicken fat a good low-cost feedstock for renewable diesel
January 19, 2015
In a study investigating the effect of the water and free fatty acid (FFA) content in waste chicken fat from poultry processing plants on the production of renewable diesel (not biodiesel), researchers in Thailand have found that both higher FFA and water content improved the biohydrogenated diesel (BHD) yield.
In their paper, published in the ACS journal Energy & Fuels, they reported that the presence of water accelerated the breakdown of the triglyceride molecules into FFAs, while the presence of more FFAs also increased yield. Therefore, they concluded, waste chicken fat from food industries containing a high degree of FFAs and water content can be used as a low-cost feedstock for renewable diesel production without requiring a pretreatment process.
Purdue process converts lignin in intact biomass to hydrocarbons for chemicals and fuels
December 18, 2014
A team of researchers from Purdue University’s Center for Direct Catalytic Conversion of Biomass to Biofuels, or C3Bio, has developed a process that uses a bimetallic Zn/Pd/C catalyst to convert lignin in intact lignocellulosic biomass directly into two methoxyphenol products (phenols are a class of aromatic hydrocarbon compounds used in perfumes and flavorings) leaving behind the carbohydrates as a solid residue.
Lignin-derived methoxyphenols can be further deoxygenated to propylcyclohexane—a cycloalkane. Cycloalkanes are important components of not only traditional vehicle fuels such as gasoline and diesel, but also jet fuels, such as Jet-A/Jet-A1/JP-8.
Vertimass selected for negotiation for up to $2M from DOE for conversion of ethanol into gasoline, diesel and jet blendstocks; expanding the ethanol market (updated)
December 05, 2014
|Ethanol conversion to hydrocarbons as a function of temp. at a LHSV of 2.93 h−1. Source: US 20140100404 A1. Click to enlarge.|
Vertimass LLC has been selected for negotiation of an award to receive up to $2 million from the Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) within the US Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (earlier post) to support the commercialization of catalyst technology that converts ethanol into gasoline, diesel and jet fuel blend stocks, while retaining compatibility with the current transportation fuel infrastructure. (Earlier post.)
The technology—developed by Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s (ORNL) Chaitanya Narula, Brian Davison and Associate Laboratory Director Martin Keller and licensed exclusively by Vertimass—is expected to allow expansion of the ethanol market beyond current constraints. Existing US ethanol production plants currently have a capacity of approximately 14 billion gallons per year, a level that saturates current use as 10% blends with gasoline. However, the new Vertimass catalyst breaks that barrier by producing a hydrocarbon blend stock compatible in higher-level blends.
Boeing conducts world’s first flight with 15% blend of NExBTL renewable diesel as aviation biofuel
December 04, 2014
Boeing has completed the world’s first flight using “green diesel,” a renewable, drop-in hydrocarbon biofuel that is widely available and used in ground transportation. The company powered its ecoDemonstrator 787 flight test airplane with a blend of 15% NExBTL renewable diesel from Neste Oil and 85% petroleum jet fuel in the left engine. (Neste Oil can also produce a NExBTL synthetic paraffinic kerosene as a discrete, and already approved, commercial aviation fuel.)
Boeing previously found that renewable diesel is chemically similar to HEFA (hydro-processed esters and fatty acids) aviation biofuel approved in 2011. With a renewable diesel production capacity of 800 million gallons (3 billion liters) in the US, Europe and Asia, the on-road fuel could rapidly supply as much as 1% of global jet fuel demand. With a wholesale cost of about $3 per gallon, inclusive of US government incentives, green diesel approaches price parity with petroleum jet fuel.
DOE JBEI team boosts methyl ketone production from E. coli 160-fold; advanced biofuel or blendstock
December 02, 2014
In 2012, researchers at the US Department of Energy’s Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) engineered Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria to overproduce from glucose saturated and monounsaturated aliphatic methyl ketones in the C11 to C15 (diesel) range from glucose. In subsequent tests, these methyl ketones yielded high cetane numbers, making them promising candidates for the production of advanced biofuels or blendstocks. (Earlier post.)
Now, after further genetic modifications of the bacteria, they have managed to boost the E.coli’s methyl ketone production 160-fold. A paper describing this work is published in the journal Metabolic Engineering.
Lifecycle analysis of Amyris renewable jet from sugar cane finds “substantial potential” to mitigate GHG emissions, but a wide range of potential outcomes
November 25, 2014
|Monte Carlo results for the net life cycle emissions of the renewable jet fuel from sugar cane. Credit: ACS, Moreira et al.. Click to enlarge.|
Brazilian researchers evaluating the lifecycle GHG emissions of a renewable jet fuel produced from sugar cane in Brazil using Amyris’ proprietary technology platform (earlier post) found that the farnesane-based renewable fuel presents “a substantial potential” to mitigate the GHG emissions of the aviation sector. Their paper is published in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology.
In their base case, the researchers calculated a “rather optimistic” GHG footprint of 8.5g CO2eq/MJ; lifecycle emissions of fossil jet fuel usually lie within the 80−95g CO2eq/MJ range. However, they noted, the estimation is highly uncertain, with a number of factors—especially related to electricity exports, sugar cane farming itself, and agrochemicals production and use—significantly affect the outcome. The results of the Monte Carlo analysis indicate life cycle emissions of 21 ± 11 g CO2eq/MJ (mean ± SD), with substantial influence from the LUC factor.
DOE Bioenergy Technologies Office updates 5-year program plan; commercially viable hydrocarbon biofuel technologies by 2017; <$3/GGE
November 23, 2014
|BETO high-level schedule. Click to enlarge.|
The US Department of Energy (DOE) Bioenergy Technologies Office (BTO) has updated its Multi-Year Program Plan (MYPP), which delineates the goals and structure of the office. BTO is one of the 10 technology development offices within the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) at DOE.
The MYPP identifies the research, development, demonstration, and deployment (RDD&D) activities the Office will focus on over the next five years and explains why these activities are important. The MYPP is intended for use as an operational guide to help BETO manage and coordinate its activities, as well as a resource to help communicate its mission and goals to stakeholders and the public.
EPA delays issuing 2014 RVO standards for RFS until sometime in 2015
November 21, 2014
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will not finalize the 2014 applicable percentage standards (the 2014 Renewable Volume Obligations, RVOs) under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program until sometime next year. In a notice to be published in the Federal Register, the agency said that it intends to take action on the 2014 standards rule in 2015 prior to or in conjunction with action on the 2015 standards rule.
Because of the delay in issuing the 2014 RFS standards, EPA is moving the compliance demonstration deadline for the 2013 RFS standards to 2015. EPA will make modifications to the Moderated Transaction System (EMTS) to ensure that Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs) generated in 2012 are valid for demonstrating compliance with the 2013 applicable standards.
Purdue team demonstrates proof-of-concept of H2Bioil process; liquid fuel range hydrocarbons from biomass
November 17, 2014
|H2Bioil concept. Venkatakrishnan et al. Click to enlarge.|
Researchers at Purdue University report a proof-of-concept of a their novel consecutive two-step process (H2Bioil) for the production of liquid fuel range hydrocarbons (C4+) with undetectable oxygen content from cellulose and an intact biomass (poplar). (Earlier post.)
Purdue University filed a patent application on the H2Bioil concept, which is based on fast-hydropyrolysis and downstream vapor-phase catalytic hydrodeoxygenation (HDO), in 2008. The process adds hydrogen into the biomass-processing reactor and is made possible by development of a new catalyst and the innovative reactor design. Findings are described in a research paper published online in the RSC journal Green Chemistry.
Researchers in China produce highest octane gasoline fuel reported from biomass
November 11, 2014
Researchers in China have generated gasoline fuel with a research octane number of 95.4 from biomass-derived γ-valerolactone (GVL)—the highest octane number reported for biomass-derived gasoline fuel—using an ionic liquid catalyst. A paper on their work is published in the RSC journal Green Chemistry.
In the study, they converted biomass-derived γ-valerolactone into gasoline by the decarboxylation of valerolactone to produce butenes and the subsequent alkylation of the produced butenes with butane using [CF3CH2OH2][CF3CH2OBF3] as an efficient catalyst. The obtained gasoline was rich in trimethylpentane (isooctane), with the RON of 95.4.
California Energy Commission to award up to $3M for advanced biofuel projects
October 28, 2014
The California Energy Commission’s Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program (ARFVTP) announced (PON-14-602) the availability of up to $3 million in grant funds for biofuels projects that are in the early/pre-commercial technology development stage. This solicitation is emphasizing transformative technology solutions to significant biofuels industry problems that increase yields, productivity, or cost effectiveness of biofuel production; and/or that target a significant unmet need in California’s biofuels industry.
The ARFVTP has an annual budget of approximately $100 million and provides financial support for projects that increase the use of alternative and renewable fuels and advanced vehicle technologies.
Neste Oil seeking California LCFS approval for gutter oil to renewable diesel pathway
October 26, 2014
Among four new California Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) fuel pathway applications is a used cooking oil (gutter oil) to renewable diesel (NExBTL) pathway from Neste Oil at its Singapore plant. (Boeing and COMAC are opening a demonstration facility in China to convert gutter oil to renewable aviation fuel. Earlier post.)
Neste Oil Singapore Pte Ltd. produces approximately 250 million gallons annually of drop-in renewable diesel (RD)—i.e., not biodiesel—using a hydrogenation process and multiple oil and fat feedstocks. Neste has also filed applications for renewable diesel pathways for California (all from its Singapore plant) using Southeast Asian rendered fish oil (earlier post); New Zealand tallow (earlier post); North American tallow (earlier post), and Australian tallow (earlier post). Of the five RD pathways proposed so far, the gutter oil pathway has the lowest carbon intensity.
New WSU palladium-iron catalyst could improve drop-in biofuels production from pyrolysis oils
October 17, 2014
|The addition of palladium (Pd) prevents deactivation (addition of oxygen, red spheres) of an iron catalyst in the reaction that removes oxygen from biofuel feedstock. Credit: ACS, Hensley et al.. Click to enlarge.|
Washington State University researchers have developed a new palladium-iron hydrodeoxygenation catalyst (Pd/Fe2O3) that could lead to making drop-in biofuels cheaply and more efficiently. Their work is described in two papers in the October issue of the journal ACS Catalysis and is featured on the cover.
The first WSU paper (Hong et.al) describes the synthesis of a series of Pd/Fe2O3 catalysts and their performance for the hydrodeoxygenation of m-cresol—a phenolic compounds used as a model compound in the HDO research, as it can be derived from pyrolysis of lignin. The second (Hensley et al.) reports on a combined experimental and theoretical approach to understand the potential function of the surface Pd in the reduction of Pd/Fe2O3.
Solazyme and Amyris receive Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge awards
October 16, 2014
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced the 5 winners of the 2014 Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Awards, including biotechnology companies Amyris and Solazyme, Inc. Solazyme received the award for Greener Synthetic Pathways for its tailored oils produced from microalgal fermentation. Amyris received the Small Business award for its renewable hydrocarbon farnesane for use as diesel and jet fuel.
Amyris has engineered yeast to make the hydrocarbon farnesene via fermentation instead of ethanol. Farnesene is a building block hydrocarbon that can be converted into a renewable, drop-in replacement for petroleum diesel without certain drawbacks of first-generation biofuels. A recent lifecycle analysis estimated an 82% reduction in GHG emissions for farnesane, compared with the EPA baseline fossil diesel—including indirect effects.
Neste Oil de-emphasizing microbial oil R&D for renewable diesel; seeking other uses for cellulosic biomass
October 07, 2014
Neste Oil, the producer of NExBTL renewable diesel, is realigning its long-term R&D and switching from an emphasis on research into the production of microbial oil as a feedstock for NExBTL renewable diesel and renewable jet fuel (earlier post) to other areas of technology for using cellulosic forestry and agricultural waste, due in part to feedstock cost issues.
Despite the decision to de-emphasize microbial oil, Neste Oil emphasized that cellulosic waste will continue to play an important role in its research strategy, adding that it remains committed to its goal of further extending its feedstock base and making greater use of waste and residues in this area in particular.
USDA provides $91M loan guarantee to Cool Planet for biogasoline blendstock plant; biomass pyrolysis and catalytic conversion
October 05, 2014
|Gas chromatography comparison of Conoco fuel and a Conoco-CoolPlanet blend. Cool Planet’s biogasoline blendstock is 100% compatible with pump gasoline. Source: Cool Planet. Click to enlarge.|
USDA has reached an agreement with Silicon Valley Bank to provide a $91-million Biorefinery Assistance Program loan guarantee to Cool Planet to help the company finish construction on an advanced biofuel plant at the Port of Alexandria in Louisiana. (Earlier post.)
Cool Planet has devised a biomass-to-liquids thermochemical conversion process that simultaneously produces liquid fuels and sequesterable biochar useful as a soil amendment. The Cool Planet plant will produce approximately 8 million to 10 million gallons of high-octane, renewable gasoline blendstocks (reformate), as well the biochar, all made from sustainable wood residues.
Southwest Airlines signs purchase agreement with Red Rock Biofuels for renewable jet fuel from forest residues; ~3M gallons per year
September 24, 2014
Southwest Airlines has signed an agreement with Red Rock Biofuels LLC (RRB) to purchase low carbon renewable jet fuel, made using forest residues that will help reduce the risk of destructive wildfires in the Western United States. The airline’s agreement with RRB covers the purchase of approximately three million gallons per year. The blended product will be used at Southwest’s Bay Area operations with first delivery expected in 2016.
RRB’s first plant will convert approximately 140,000 dry tons of woody biomass feedstock into at least 12 million gallons per year of renewable jet, diesel, and naphtha fuels. The company recently received a $70-million grant under phase 2 of the US Defense Production Act Title III Advanced Drop-in Biofuels project for construction of the facility, which will also produce mil-spec fuels. (Earlier post.)
Departments of the Navy, Energy and Agriculture award $210M in contracts for 3 drop-in fuel biorefineries; more than 100M gallons/year
September 20, 2014
The US Departments of Navy, Energy, and Agriculture have awarded contracts worth a combined $210 million to three companies—Emerald Biofuels, Fulcrum BioEnergy and Red Rock Biofuels—to construct and commission biorefineries capable of producing drop-in biofuels. In total, these projects are intended to produce more than 100 million gallons of military-grade fuel beginning in 2016 and 2017 at a price competitive with their petroleum counterparts.
The awards were made through the Department of Defense’s (DOD) Defense Production Act (DPA) of 1950, which was passed at the beginning of the Korean War to empower the President, among other things, with an array of authorities to shape national defense preparedness programs and to take appropriate steps to maintain and enhance the domestic industrial base. DPA has been re-authorized multiple times since then.
California Energy Commission awards $5M grant to AltAir Fuels to expand renewable diesel production; $3M to GFP Ethanol for sorghum feedstock
September 11, 2014
The California Energy Commission approved $8 million in grants to two biofuel companies stemming from a solicitation issued earlier this year (PON-13-609: Pilot-Scale and Commercial-Scale Advanced Biofuels Production Facilities).
AltAir Fuels LLC (earlier post) will receive $5 million to expand production of renewable diesel fuels at its Paramount facility in Los Angeles County from 30 million gallons per year to 40 million gallons per year, and allow for processing of additional feedstocks. This facility will also co-produce renewable jet at commercial scale and a byproduct chemical and gasoline component. GFP Ethanol is receiving $3 million to support the development of sorghum as a feedstock for lower carbon intensity ethanol.
Solar fuels company Joule looks to partner with Scatec Solar to bring photovoltaic power to Joule production plants
September 05, 2014
Joule, the developer of a direct, single-step, continuous process for the production of solar hydrocarbon fuels (earlier post), has entered into a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Scatec Solar ASA, a leading, independent solar power producer. In the MoU the parties have agreed to initiate a process to reach specific terms for a partnership, to support the roll-out of Joule production plants featuring photovoltaic power.
The terms of the MoU anticipate that Scatec Solar ASA will become preferred supplier and operator of photovoltaic power installations for Joule plants, with an initial deployment goal of up to 25,000 acres (~10,000 hectares) and a power requirement of 2 gigawatts. A deployment of this scale would generate up to 625 million gallons (~15 million barrels) of ethanol or 375 million gallons (~9 million barrels) of diesel per year, while consuming about 4 million tonnes of industrial waste CO2 annually in the process.
USDA closes on $105M loan guarantee to Fulcrum for biorefinery converting municipal waste to renewable jet fuel; first USDA loan for biojet
September 04, 2014
The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has closed on a $105-million Biorefinery Assistance Program loan guarantee through Bank of America, N.A. to Fulcrum Sierra Biofuels, LLC to build a biorefinery to produce jet fuel from municipal solid waste (MSW) via a proprietary two-stage thermochemical process. (Earlier post.)
USDA Rural Development’s loan guarantee represents less than half of the $266 million project cost. The plant is expected to produce 11 million gallons of fuel annually. This is the first loan guarantee USDA has made for the production of bio jet fuel.
Researchers successfully engineer E. coli to produce renewable propane; proof-of-concept
September 03, 2014
Researchers from the University of Turku in Finland, Imperial College London and University College London have devised a synthetic metabolic pathway for producing renewable propane from engineered E. coli bacteria. Propane, which has an existing global market for applications including engine fuels and heating, is currently produced as a by-product during natural gas processing and petroleum refining. A paper on their work is published in Nature Communications.
The new pathway is based on a thioesterase specific for butyryl-acyl carrier protein (ACP), which allows native fatty acid biosynthesis of the Escherichia coli host to be redirected towards a synthetic alkane pathway. Although the initial yields were low, the team was able to identify and to add essential biochemical components in order to boost the biosynthesis reaction, enabling a the E. coli strain to increase propane yield, although the amounts are still far too low for commercialization.
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.
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.
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.
Virent receives EPA fuel registration for BioForm biogasoline blends up to 45%
August 13, 2014
|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.
Boeing partners with South African Airways to convert Solaris energy tobacco into jet fuel
August 07, 2014
|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.
UC Riverside team develops new high efficiency method for conversion of biomass to biofuels
August 04, 2014
|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.
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.
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.
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.