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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.]

Ensyn granted EPA Part 79 approval for renewable gasoline

November 25, 2015

Ensyn (earlier post) has been granted a key regulatory approval from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for its renewable gasoline product, RFGasoline. This approval, pursuant to Title 40 CFR Part 79 promulgated under the Clean Air Act, is required for the sale of RFGasoline into US commerce.

This approval follows the recently announced Part 79 approval of Ensyn’s renewable diesel product, RFDiesel. (Earlier post.)

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

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

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

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

November 12, 2015

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

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

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US Departments of Agriculture, Energy partner to award $4.9M for bioenergy research

October 25, 2015

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the US Department of Energy (DOE) are partnering to award nearly $5 million in grants to scientists to study the use of plants to further bioenergy development.

The $4.9 million in research grants is awarded under a joint DOE-USDA program that began in 2006; DOE is providing $2.9 million in funding over 3 years, while USDA will award $2 million over 3 years. The awards focus on fundamental investigations of biomass genomics, with the aim of harnessing non-food plant biomass for the production of fuels, such as ethanol or renewable chemical feedstocks.

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UT Austin researcher awarded $15M for switchgrass traits studies

October 22, 2015

A researcher at The University of Texas at Austin will receive two grants totaling $15 million to study switchgrass (Panicum virgatum), with a focus on how it can become a sustainable source of bioenergy.

Tom Juenger, a professor of integrative biology, will lead scientists from multiple institutions—including federal agencies, universities and the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology—on two projects researching switchgrass. A five-year grant from the Department of Energy’s Office of Biological and Environmental Research will provide $11 million for the university and $4 million for partner institutions. Additionally, the National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded a four-year grant of $4 million to Juenger and his team. Both grants begin this fall.

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ORNL researchers use neutron crystallography to gain better understanding of biomass hydrolysis enzyme xylanase

October 09, 2015

Researchers led by a team from the US Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) are using neutron crystallography to understand the functioning of enzymes at the molecular level and to learn how to bioengineer those enzymes for large-scale improvements in the efficiency of biomass processing.

Using the MaNDi (Macromolecular Neutron Diffractometer) instrument at ORNL’s Spallation Neutron Source (a DOE Office of Science User Facility) (earlier post), the LANSCE (Los Alamos Neutron Science Center) Protein Crystallography Station in Los Alamos, N.M., and the FRMII BioDiff (Diffractometer for large unit cells) instrument in Munich, Germany, they determined the structure of xylanase, an enzyme used to digest hemicellulose during biofuel production, at unprecedented detail.

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Aemetis harvests demo crop of optimized biomass sorghum in California for advanced biofuels; ~90 days from planting to harvest

October 05, 2015

Aemetis, Inc., an advanced renewable fuels and biochemicals company, has harvested 12- to 15-foot tall biomass sorghum grown in Central California that was produced using proprietary seed genetics from Nexsteppe, a provider of optimized sorghum feedstock solutions. Biomass Sorghum is a feedstock for low-carbon advanced biofuels.

The 20-acre demonstration crop of biomass sorghum was planted, grown, and harvested by Aemetis in approximately 90 days, validating the potential use of biomass crops for the production of lower-carbon, advanced biofuels or as a rotational crop in California.

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University of Nebraska-Lincoln leading $13.5M effort to improve sorghum for biofuel

September 30, 2015

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln will lead a $13.5-million, multi-institutional research effort to improve sorghum as a sustainable source for biofuel production.

Funded by the US Department of Energy, this five-year grant takes a comprehensive approach to better understand how plants and microbes interact, and to learn which sorghum germplasm grows better with less water and nitrogen. This research requires a range of expertise, and UNL is teaming with scientists at Danforth Plant Science Center, Washington State University, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Boyce Thompson Institute, Clemson University, Iowa State University, Colorado State University and the DOE-Joint Genome Institute.

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DEINOVE and Tyton partner to combine bacterial fermentation solutions with energy tobacco feedstock for biofuels and bio-based chemicals

September 08, 2015

DEINOVE, a biotech company developing innovative processes for producing biofuels and bio-based chemicals using Deinococcus bacteria as host strains (earlier post), and Tyton BioEnergy Systems, an agricultural biotech company with novel tobacco technology used to produce green chemicals and agricultural products, have entered into a technology and commercialization partnership.

The main goal of the partnership is to combine Tyton’s energy tobacco feedstock, process and production infrastructure with DEINOVE’s Deinococcus-based fermentation solutions in order to produce green chemical compounds of high commercial value.

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

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

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

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

September 01, 2015

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

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

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Lux: Despite softness in utilization, global biofuels capacity to grow to 61.4 BGY in 2018; driven by novel fuels and feedstocks

August 31, 2015

The global biofuels industry averaged 68% in utilization rate from 2005 to 2014, reached a high of 80.9% in 2007, dropped to a low of 56.9% in 2012, and climbed slightly back to 60.4% in 2014. Despite the still apparent softness in capacity utilization, and the on-going softness in fossil fuel prices, global biofuels capacity will continue to grow from 55.1 billion gallons per year (BGY) to 61.4 BGY in 2018, according to a forecast by Lux Research. However, Lux predicts, growth between now and 2018 will not be a continuation of current course.

While ethanol and biodiesel will continue to dominate in absolute terms, these will grow at only a 1.5% CAGR through 2018. Novel fuels and feedstocks will drive the biofuels industry forward at a much more rapid 17% and 22% CAGRs through 2018, respectively.

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

August 28, 2015

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

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

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Researchers propose 2nd law of thermodynamics-based process to select and develop microorganisms for optimal biofuel production

August 17, 2015

Researchers at the University of Maryland are proposing a new process to isolate and to direct the evolution of microorganisms that convert cellulosic biomass or gaseous CO2 and H2 to biofuels such as ethanol, 1-butanol, butane, or hexane (among others).

The approach is based on the theory that fermentation systems drive toward thermodynamic equilibrium. Physical chemists, observe Richard Kohn and Seon-Woo Kim, both of the Department of Animal and Avian Sciences, in their paper published in the Journal of Theoretical Biology, have understood that all chemical reactions are controlled by either thermodynamic or kinetic mechanisms. With thermodynamic control, the feasibility of reactions and the availability of pathway branches depend on the second law of thermodynamics. This law governs whether or not a reaction can proceed spontaneously in the forward direction based on the concentrations of reactants and products.

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U Georgia team discovers tungsten in novel bacterial enzyme; potential for cellulosic biofuels

August 16, 2015

A team at the University of Georgia, Athens led by Distinguished Research Professor Michael Adams has discovered tungsten in what appears to be a novel enzyme in the biomass-degrading thermophilic bacterium Caldicellulosiruptor bescii. Tungsten is exceptionally rare in biological systems.

The researchers hypothesized that this new tungstoenzyme plays a key role in C. bescii’s primary metabolism, and its ability to convert plant biomass to simple fermentable sugars. This discovery could ultimately lead to commercially viable conversion of cellulosic biomass to fuels and chemical feedstocks. The research is published in Applied and Environmental Microbiology, a journal of the American Society for Microbiology.

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DOE BESC engineered microbe improves biobutanol yield from cellulose by a factor of 10

August 14, 2015

Researchers at the US Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) BioEnergy Science Center (BESC) have engineered a microbe that improves isobutanol yields from cellulose by a factor of 10. The work, published in the journal Metabolic Engineering, builds on results from 2011 in which researchers reported on the first genetically engineered microbe to produce isobutanol directly from cellulose. (Earlier post.)

Isobutanol is attractive because its energy density and octane values are closer to those of gasoline; it is useful not only as a direct replacement for gasoline but also as a chemical feedstock for a variety of products. For example, isobutanol can be chemically upgraded into a hydrocarbon equivalent for jet fuel.

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JRC: Increased use of renewables results in growing GHG emission savings in the EU; transport contribution only 5%

August 07, 2015

Greenhouse gasses (GHG) emission savings due to final renewable energy consumption in electricity; cooling/heating; and transport sectors rose at a compound annual growth rate of 8.8% from 2009 to 2012, confirming renewables’ potential in climate change mitigation, according to a new report by the Joint Research Centre (JRC), the European Commission’s in-house science service. Nearly two thirds of the total savings came from renewable energy development in Germany, Sweden, France, Italy and Spain.

The report assesses data on the use of renewable energy, submitted by EU Member States every two years, as required by EU legislation on renewable energy. The report estimates that in 2012, when total GHG emissions reached the equivalent of 4546 Mt CO₂, the deployment of all renewables in the EU avoided the equivalent of 716 Mt CO₂ emissions. According to the report, the highest contribution by renewables in climate change mitigation in the EU in 2012 came from renewable electricity, which covered 64% of the savings, due to high penetration of wind and solar power, followed by renewable heating and cooling (31%) and renewable transport (5%).

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Researchers engineer first low-methane-emission, high-starch rice; benefits for GHG control, food and bioenergy

July 30, 2015

Rice—the staple food for more than half of the world’s population—is one of the largest manmade sources of atmospheric methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Now, however, with the addition of a single gene from barley (SUSIBA2), a team of researchers in China, Sweden and the US has engineered a strain of rice—now named SUSIBA2—that can be cultivated to emit virtually no methane from its paddies during growth.

The new strain also delivers much more of the plant’s desired properties, such as starch for a richer food source and biomass for energy production. SUSIBA2 rice is the first high-starch, low-methane rice that could offer a significant and sustainable solution. A paper on the work is published in the journal Nature.

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NSF to award $13M for fundamental engineering research on production of electricity and fuels

July 27, 2015

The US National Science Foundation (NSF) Division of Chemical, Bioengineering, Environmental, and Transport Systems (CBET) has issued a funding opportunity announcement (PD 15-7644) for the award of an estimated $13,093,000 to support fundamental engineering research that will enable innovative processes for the sustainable production (and storage) of electricity and fuels.

Processes for sustainable energy production must be environmentally benign, reduce greenhouse gas production, and utilize renewable resources. Current topics of interest include:

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RedRock Biofuels to supply 3M gallons/year of renewable jet fuel to FedEx through 2024

July 21, 2015

Red Rock Biofuels LLC will produce approximately three million gallons of low-carbon, renewable jet fuel per year for FedEx Express, a subsidiary of FedEx Corporation. The agreement runs through 2024, with first delivery expected in 2017. FedEx joins Southwest Airlines, which signed a purchase agreement with RedRock in November 2014 for about 3 million gallons per year, in purchasing Red Rock’s total planned available volume of jet fuel. (Earlier post.)

Red Rock’s first refinery, funded in part by a $70-million Title III DPA grant from the U.S. Departments of Agriculture, Energy and Navy, is scheduled to break ground this fall in Lakeview, Ore. and will convert approximately 140,000 dry tons of woody biomass into 15 million gallons per year of renewable jet, diesel and naphtha fuels.

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

July 14, 2015

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

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

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Argonne researchers developing multifunctional farm landscapes balancing economy, bioenergy and environment

July 08, 2015

In collaboration with the farming community of the Indian Creek Watershed in central Illinois, researchers from Argonne National Laboratory (ANL) are finding ways to meet three agrarian land management objectives simultaneously: maximizing a farmer’s production; growing feedstock for bioenergy; and protecting the environment.

Through careful data collection and modeling at a cornfield in Fairbury, the Argonne team found that achieving these goals—which might under some conditions be mutually exclusive—requires a multifunctional landscape. Such a landscape is one where resources are allocated efficiently and crops are situated in their ideal soil and landscape position. As an example, planting bioenergy crops such as willows or switchgrass in rows where commodity crops are having difficulty growing could both provide biomass feedstock and also limit the runoff of nitrogen fertilizer into waterways—all without hurting a farmer’s profits.

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BioMim project seeks to mimic chemistry of brown rot fungus to improve biorefining

July 07, 2015

BioMim, a newly-launched $4 million, four-year project funded by the Research Council of Norway with industrial partners Borregaard and Kebony, is seeking to mimic the chemistry of the brown rot fungus to improve biorefining processes. Specifically, the international team of researchers will seek to utilize the brown-rot fungi’s unique mechanisms to remove biomass components in cell walls, creating much improved access for an optimized enzyme system.

The BioMim project is combining two processes. The first is a technology developed by Virginia Tech Professor Barry Goodell that borrows from the processes used by brown rot fungi that are commonly found breaking down woody debris on the forest floor. The resulting catalytic process for freeing cellulose from lignin has now been demonstrated at pilot scale. The BioMim team will expand on this technology and explore how it can be used efficiently in large-scale biorefineries.

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Study finds perennial biofuel crops’ water consumption similar to corn

A study by a team from the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center (GLBRC) has found that perennial biofuel crops’ evapotranspiration does not differ greatly from corn. Evapotranspiration (ET) refers to the sum total of water lost while the plant is growing, either from evaporation through the plant stem itself (a process called “transpiration”), or from water evaporated off of the plant’s leaves or the ground.

The study, led by GLBRC scientist and Michigan State University professor of ecosystem ecology Stephen Hamilton, is the first multi-year effort to compare the water use of conventional corn crops to the perennial cropping systems of switchgrass, miscanthus, native grasses, restored prairies, and hybrid poplar trees. An open access paper on the work is published in the journal Environmental Research Letters.

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

July 03, 2015

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

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

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

June 23, 2015

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

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

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DOE to issue incubator funding opportunity to help advance bioenergy development; algal biofuels a main focus

June 19, 2015

The US Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (DOE EERE) intends (DE-FOA-0001343) to issue, on behalf of the Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO), a funding opportunity announcement (DE-FOA-0001320) targeting innovative technologies and solutions to help advance bioenergy development. DOE anticipates posting the FOA in or around July 2015.

The incubator opportunity is intended to fund projects that will pursue research and development (R&D) not significantly represented in BETO’s current portfolio, as a way to support and explore innovative new approaches for integration into the Office’s future program plans. The FOA will seek to support projects that facilitate BETO’s goals in Algal Biofuels R&D; Feedstocks Supply and Logistics R&D; and Conversion Technologies R&D.

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ARPA-E awards $55M to 18 projects in two new programs: TERRA for transportation energy and GENSETS for distributed generation

The Energy Department’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) announced $55 million in funding for 18 innovative projects as part of ARPA-E’s two newest programs: Transportation Energy Resources from Renewable Agriculture (TERRA) and GENerators for Small Electrical and Thermal Systems (GENSETS).

The six TERRA projects will receive a total of $30 million to accelerate energy crop development for the production of renewable transportation fuels from biomass and the 12 GENSETS projects are aimed at developing generator technologies that will improve efficiencies in residential Combined Heat and Power (CHP) generation.

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

June 18, 2015

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

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

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

June 16, 2015

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

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

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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.

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EPA proposes volume requirements for Renewable Fuel Standard for 2014-2016

May 29, 2015

Adhering to a schedule in a proposed consent decree (earlier post), the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced its long-awaited proposed volume requirements (renewable volume obligations, RVO) (earlier post) under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program for the years 2014, 2015 and 2016, and also proposed volume requirements for biomass-based diesel for 2017. The period for public input and comment on the proposal will be open until 27 July. EPA says it will finalize the volume standards in this rule by 30 November.

EPA is proposing to establish the 2014 standards at levels that reflect the actual amount of domestic biofuel used in that year; the standards for 2015 and 2016 (and 2017 for biodiesel) increase steadily over time, with the most aggressive growth projected for the problematic area of cellulosic biofuels: from 33 million gallons in 2014 to 206 million gallons in 2016.

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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.)

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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.

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Kyoto team develops two-stage process for direct liquefaction of low-rank coal and biomass under mild conditions

May 11, 2015

Researchers at Kyoto University in Japan have proposed a novel two-stage process to convert low-rank coals or biomass wastes under mild conditions to high-quality liquid fuel. A paper describing the process, which combines a degradative solvent extraction method they had developed earlier with the liquefaction of the resulting soluble, appears in the ACS journal Energy & Fuels.

One of the issues hampering the development of direct liquefaction of low-grade carbonaceous resources—such as low-rank coals and biomass wastes—to produce liquid fuel is their oxygen content. In low rank coals, cross-linking reactions among oxygen functional groups form large-molecular-weight compounds at temperatures lower than the liquefaction temperature; the oxygen-functional-group-derived cross-links may change to stronger carbon−carbon covalent linkages, suppressing the formation of light hydrocarbons.

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Report for the EC evaluates prospects for sugar-based platforms for biofuels and biochemicals

May 08, 2015

A comprehensive review of 94 potential pathways to biofuels and biochemicals via the sugar platform, prepared for the European Commission (DG ENER) by a team from E4tech, RE-CORD and Wageningen UR, finds that the global market value of the sugar platform is today of the order of $65 billion, with bioethanol (from sugar and starch crops) by far the dominant product in the market.

While several newer biofuel and biochemical routes show significant growth potential, only a few are currently crossing the valley of death between research and commercialization. Of ten case studies (the technologies being at least at TRL5) considered in detail, most can deliver significant greenhouse gas (GHG) savings and identical (or improved) physical properties, but at an added cost to fossil alternatives.

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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.

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BIO: RFS policy instability has chilled advanced and cellulosic biofuel investments; $13.7B shortfall

May 04, 2015

EPA’s delays in rulemaking for the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) over the past two years have chilled necessary investment in advanced and cellulosic biofuels just as they reached commercial deployment. The industry has experienced an estimated $13.7-billion shortfall in investment as a result, according to a new analysis released by the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO).

To reach the 2015 RFS goal of producing 5.5 billion gallons of advanced biofuels (including 3 billion gallons of cellulosic and 2.5 billion gallons of advanced biofuel or biodiesel), Bio Economic Research Associates (bio-era) estimated the need for 110 operating plants requiring $20.34 billion dollars in cumulative investment. The research and advisory firm also estimated that more than $95 billion in cumulative capital investments would be needed by 2022 for construction of nearly 400 advanced biofuel biorefineries with the capacity to produce 23 billion gallons of advanced biofuel.

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European Parliament votes to cap crop-derived biofuels at 7% of transport energy consumption by 2020

May 01, 2015

The European Parliament approved a draft law to to cap crop-derived biofuel consumption and accelerate the shift to alternative sources. Member states must enact the legislation by 2017.

Current legislation requires EU member states to ensure that renewable energy accounts for at least 10% of energy consumption in transport by 2020. The new law says that first-generation biofuels (from crops grown on agricultural land) should account for no more than 7% of energy consumption in transport by 2020. The intent of the new law is to cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions caused by the growing use of farm land for biofuel crops.

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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.

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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.

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Indian researchers propose fuel-chemicals-electricity cellulosic biomass biorefinery scheme

April 19, 2015

Researchers from the CSIR-Indian Institute of Petroleum are proposing a biorefinery scheme using lignocellulosic biomass feedstock (sugarcane bagasse) for the production of fuel (ethanol), chemicals (furfural), and energy (electricity). The proposed scheme could be integrated with existing sugar or paper mills, where the availability of biomass feedstock is in abundance as a means to address some of the cost and logistics issues, they suggest in their paper published in the ACS journal Energy & Fuels.

In their approach, they extract fermentable sugar components (xylose and glucose) from sugarcane bagasse employing acid hydrolysis and enzymatic saccharification; recovery and reuse of the enzyme is a process advantage. The pentose fraction is used for yeast biomass generation and furfural production. High-temperature fermentation of the hexose stream by the thermophilic yeast Kluyveromyces sp. IIPE453 with cell recycle produces ethanol with an overall yield of 88% ± 0.05% and a productivity of 0.76 ± 0.02 g/L h−1. A complete material balance on two consecutive process cycles, each starting with 1 kg of feedstock, resulted in an overall yield of 366 mL of ethanol, 149 g of furfural, and 0.30 kW of electricity.

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Virginia Tech team engineers optimized synthetic enzymatic pathway for high-yield production of H2 directly from biomass

April 07, 2015

A team of Virginia Tech researchers and colleagues has demonstrated the complete conversion of glucose and xylose from pretreated plant biomass to H2 and CO2 based on an in vitro synthetic enzymatic pathway crafted from more than 10 purified enzymes. Glucose and xylose were simultaneously converted to H2 with a yield of two H2 per carbon, the maximum possible yield.

The researchers used a nonlinear kinetic model fitted with experimental data to identify the enzymes that had the greatest impact on reaction rate and yield. After optimizing enzyme loadings using this model, volumetric H2 productivity was increased 3-fold to 32 mmol H2⋅L−1⋅h−1. The productivity was further enhanced to 54 mmol H2⋅L−1⋅h−1 by increasing reaction temperature, substrate, and enzyme concentrations—an increase of 67-fold compared with the initial studies using this method.

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Global investment in renewable power reached $270.2B in 2014, ~17% up from 2013; biofuel investment fell 8% to 10-year low

April 06, 2015

Global investment in renewable power and fuels (excluding large hydro-electric projects) was $270.2 billion in 2014, nearly 17% higher than the previous year, according to the latest edition of an annual report commissioned by the United Nations Environment Program’s (UNEP) Division of Technology, Industry and Economic (DTIE) in cooperation with Frankfurt School-UNEP Collaborating Centre for Climate & Sustainable Energy Finance and produced in collaboration with Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

This marked the first annual increase in dollar commitments to renewables—excluding large hydro—for three years, and brought the total up to just 3% below the all-time record of $278.8 billion set in 2011. The increase reflected several influences, according to the report, including a boom in solar installations in China and Japan—totalling $74.9 billion between those two countries—and a record $18.6 billion of final investment decisions on offshore wind projects in Europe.

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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.

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A*STAR team combines fungal culture and acid hydrolyses for cost-effective production of fermentable sugars from palm oil waste

March 16, 2015

Researchers from A*STAR in Singapore have developed a fungal culture for use in a cheap and efficient method to transform waste oil palm material into biofuels and environmentally friendly plastics.

After the harvest of the fruit from oil palm trees, large amounts of leftover biomass known as empty fruit bunch remain. The industry wants to use these leftover fruit bunches to produce bioethanol and biodegradable plastic, but has stumbled in their efforts to convert the leftovers in a cost-efficient way. The new fungal culture could make it possible to produce fermentable sugars from this huge amount of waste in a cost-effective way, thereby increasing its commercial value, said one of the lead researchers, Jin Chuan Wu, from the A*STAR Institute of Chemical and Engineering Sciences.

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UW-Madison team develops novel hydrogen-producing photoelectrochemical cell using solar-driven biomass conversion as anode reaction

March 11, 2015

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have developed an innovative hydrogen-producing photoelectrochemical cell (PEC), using solar-driven biomass conversion as the anode reaction. In a paper in the journal Nature Chemistry, the duo reports obtaining a near-quantitative yield and 100% Faradaic efficiency at ambient conditions without the use of precious-metal catalysts for this reaction, which is also thermodynamically and kinetically more favorable than conventional water oxidation at the anode. They thus demonstrated the utility of solar energy for biomass conversion (rather than catalysts) as well as the feasibility of using an oxidative biomass conversion reaction as an anode reaction in a hydrogen-forming PEC.

Chemistry Professor Kyoung-Shin Choi and postdoc Hyun Gil Cha said that their results suggest that solar-driven biomass conversion can be a viable anode reaction that has the potential to increase both the efficiency and the utility of PECs constructed for solar-fuel production.

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New engineered metabolic pathways in yeast enable efficient fermentation of xylose from biomass

March 05, 2015

Researchers with the Energy Biosciences Institute (EBI), a partnership that includes Berkeley Lab and the University of California (UC) Berkeley, have introduced new metabolic pathways from the fungus Neurospora crassa into the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae to increase the fermentative production of fuels and other chemicals from biomass. An open access paper on the work is publised in the journal eLife.

While S. cerevisiae is the industry mainstay for fermenting sugar from cornstarch and sugarcane into ethanol, it requires substantial engineering to ferment sugars derived from plant cell walls such as cellobiose and xylose. The new metabolic pathways enable the yeast to ferment sugars from both cellulose (glucose) and hemicellulose (xylose)—the two major families of sugar found in the plant cell wall—efficiently, without the need of environmentally harsh pre-treatments or expensive enzyme cocktails.

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$8.7M in FY 2015 funding available from USDA and DOE for bioenergy feedstocks, biofuels and bio-based products

March 03, 2015

The US Department Agriculture in collaboration with the Energy Department announced that up to $8.7 million in funding in fiscal year 2015 will be made available through the Biomass Research and Development Initiative (BRDI) to support feedstock development, biofuels and biobased products development, or biofuels development analysis. (USDA-NIFA-9008-004957)

The projects funded through BRDI—a joint program through the Department of Agriculture and the Energy Department—will help develop economically and environmentally sustainable sources of renewable biomass and increase the availability of renewable fuels and biobased products that can help reduce the need for gasoline and diesel fuels.

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UC Riverside CELF biomass pretreatment technology could cut cellulosic biofuel production cost by about 30%

February 25, 2015

Yields of glucose, xylose, and arabinose from CELF- and dilute acid-pretreated corn stover solid. “D” equals day. Source: UCR. Click to enlarge.

Researchers at the University of California, Riverside led by Professor Charles Wyman, the Ford Motor Company Chair in Environmental Engineering, have developed a novel biomass pretreatment called co-solvent-enhanced lignocellulosic fractionation (CELF) to reduce enzyme costs significantly for high sugar yields from hemicellulose and cellulose—an essential development for the low-cost conversion of biomass to fuels.

As partners in the BioEnergy Science Center (BESC), the team from the Bourns College of Engineering Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering and Center for Environmental Research and Technology (CE-CERT) have shown that CELF could eliminate about 90% of the enzymes needed for biological conversion of lignocellulosic biomass to fuels compared to prior practice. This development could mean reducing enzyme costs from about $1 per gallon of ethanol to about 10 cents or less, with an overall reduction in the cost of the production of cellulosic biofuels of 30% or more.

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Engineered yeast produces ethanol from three important cellulosic biomass components simultaneously; higher yields, lower cost

February 11, 2015

A team led by researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana−Champaign has, for the first time, integrated the fermentation pathways of both hexose and pentose sugars from biomass as well as an acetic acid reduction pathway into one strain of the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae using synthetic biology and metabolic engineering approaches.

The engineered strain co-utilized cellobiose, xylose, and acetic acid to produce ethanol with a substantially higher yield and productivity than the control strains. The results showed the unique synergistic effects of pathway coexpression, the team reported in a paper in the journal ACS Synthetic Biology.

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IU researchers find Z. mobilis can use N2 gas in cellulosic ethanol production; potential major cost savings

February 03, 2015

Researchers at Indiana University have shown—for the first time to their knowledge—that the ethanol-producing bacterium, Zymomonas mobilis, can use nitrogen (N2) gas in lieu of traditional nitrogen supplements. The finding, reported in a paper in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), could make cellulosic ethanol more competitive with corn ethanol and gasoline.

The raw materials for cellulosic ethanol are low in nitrogen, a nutrient required for ethanol-producing microbes to grow, so cellulosic ethanol producers are estimated to spend millions of dollars annually on nitrogen fertilizers such as corn steep liquor and diammonium phosphate. The IU team led by biologist James B. McKinlay showed that Z. mobilis can use N2 as a nitrogen source, something that the more traditional ethanol-producer, baker’s yeast, cannot do.

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Algenol and Reliance launch algae fuels demonstration project in India

January 21, 2015

Algenol and Reliance Industries Ltd., have successfully deployed India’s first Algenol algae production platform. The demonstration module is located near the Reliance Jamnagar Refinery, the world’s largest. The demonstration has completed several production cycles of Algenol’s wildtype host algae, but ultimately could demonstrate the fuels production capabilities of Algenol’s advanced fuel producing algae and systems. Th

The Algenol fuel production process is designed to convert 1 tonne of CO2 into 144 gallons of fuel while recycling CO2 from industrial processes and converting 85% of the CO2 used into ethanol, gasoline, diesel and jet fuels. The advanced fuel producing algae technology is successfully operating at Algenol’s Fort Myers, Florida headquarters.

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Anellotech, IFPEN and Axens partner on bio-aromatics production from non-food biomass; targeting 2019 for industrial implementation

January 20, 2015

Anellotech Inc., IFP Energies nouvelles (IFPEN) and its subsidiary Axens have formed a strategic alliance to develop and to commercialize a new technology for the low cost production of bio-based benzene, toluene and paraxylene using Anellotech’s process of Catalytic Fast Pyrolysis (CFP) of non-food biomass. (Earlier post.)

The technology will address large-scale units and produce purified aromatics streams suitable for modern derivative production processes at a very competitive price with respect to their petroleum-based counterparts.

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New version of Argonne lifecycle model for water footprint of biofuels now includes cellulosic feedstocks

January 16, 2015

Argonne National Laboratory released the newest version (3.0) of the online tool Water Assessment for Transportation Energy Resources (WATER) this week. This latest version of WATER allows, for the first time, biofuels manufacturers to analyze water consumption associated with use of cellulosic feedstocks such as residue left from lumber production and other wood-based resources. The new tool also provides analysis down to the county level in the US for the first time.

WATER adopts a water footprint methodology, and contains extensive climate, land use, water resource, and process water data. Version 3.0 of WATER thus can help biofuels developers gain a detailed understanding of water consumption of various types of feedstocks, aiding development of sustainable fuels that will reduce impact on limited water resources.

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Researchers suggest hybrid graphene oxide/cellulose microfibers could supersede carbon fibers

Researchers from Nanjing Forestry University and the University of Maryland have designed high-performance microfibers by hybridizing two-dimensional (2D) graphene oxide (GO) nanosheets and one-dimensional (1D) nanofibrillated cellulose (NFC) fibers. The resulting well-aligned, strong microfibers have the potential to supersede carbon fibers due to their low cost, the team suggests in an open access paper published in the journal NPG Asia Materials.

The hybrid microfibers are much stronger than microfibers composed of 1D NFC or 2D GO alone. In their paper, they reported that experimental results and molecular dynamics simulations reveal the synergistic effect between GO and NFC: the bonding between neighboring GO nanosheets is enhanced by NFC because the introduction of NFC provides the extra bonding options available between the nanosheets.

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NREL enzyme enables conversion of biomass to sugar up to 14x faster than current alternatives; changing the economics of conversion

January 13, 2015

Scientists at the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) have developed an enzyme that can enable the conversion of biomass to sugars up to 14 times faster and more cheaply than competing catalysts in enzyme cocktails today. The enzyme called CelA, a cellulase from the bacterium Caldicellulosiruptor bescii, could thus could change the economics of biofuel conversion.

In one scenario, the best commercially used enzyme converted sugars at a 30% extent in seven days. CelA converted to double that extent. And while it took the alternative enzyme seven days to achieve that conversion, CelA, with a small boost from an extra beta glucosidase, achieved double in just about two days. Among CelA’s many attributes:

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ARPA-E issues $125M open solicitation for energy R&D; transportation and stationary applications

January 07, 2015

The US Department of Energy (DOE) Advanced Research Projects Agency - Energy (ARPA-E) has issued a $125-million open Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA). OPEN 2015 (DOE-FOA-0001261) will support the development of potentially disruptive new technologies in all areas of energy research and development, for both transportation and stationary applications.

OPEN 2015 is the third open funding solicitation issued by the agency. Open solicitations ensure that ARPA-E does not miss opportunities to support potentially transformational projects outside the scope of existing ARPA-E programs. The projects selected under OPEN 2015 will pursue novel approaches to energy innovation and support the development of potentially disruptive new technologies across the full spectrum of energy applications.

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Advanced furoate esters biofuel company xF Technologies appoints Tom Stephens to board

xF Technologies Inc., developer of a family of low cost, renewable furoate esters (xF) for use as oxygenating blend components (5%-20%) in both gasoline and diesel fuels, as well as heating oil and other specialty applications, has appointed former GM Vice Chairman and Chief Technology Officer Tom Stephens as an independent director of the Company, effective immediately. (xF calls its family of molecules “408”—a phonetic play on furoate.)

xF’s continuous production technology uses common materials (steel and plastic) at moderate operating conditions to convert a biomass feedstock into a chemical intermediate that is subsequently combined with an alcohol to form the furoate ester product. The technology allows the production of numerous products depending on the type of or mixture of alcohols. These products exhibit fuel properties similar to each other and are named for the primary alcohol used in their production. For the four smallest chain alcohols, the resultant products are called Methyl 408, Ethyl 408, Isopropyl 408 and Butyl 408.

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Vitruivan crowd-sourcing funding for novel biofuel from sewage treatment bio-solids

December 25, 2014

Vitruvian Energy is trying to crowd-fund its novel biofuel EEB (ethyl 3-ethoxybutyrate). EEB is produced from organic waste, including (and initially) sewage treatment bio-solids—the leftover, dirt-like organic material that remains after a community’s wastewater is treated. With 20 days left in the campaign, the company has raised $3,500 of a targeted $200,000.

EEB has higher energy content than ethanol: 26-29 MJ/L compared to 23. It can be used as a fuel additive to displace and clean up existing fossil fuels, and to lower their carbon footprint. Vitruvian has performed five years of research and development on EEB including combustion tests at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Testing showed that blending EEB with diesel significantly reduces soot emissions, similar to how ethanol reduces emissions when blended with gasoline. EEB can also be blended with gasoline or burned to produce electricity.

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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.

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