New method from EPFL more than doubles sugar production from plants

Researchers at École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) have developed a method that can significantly increase the yield of sugars from plants, improving the production of renewable fuels, chemicals, and materials. Producing fuels and chemicals from biomass (wood, grasses, etc.) involves breaking down (deconstructing), plants to produce single carbohydrates, mostly... Read more →


Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, have identified two main challenges for renewable biofuel production from cheap sources: lowering the cost of developing microbial cell factories; and establishing more efficient methods for hydrolysis of biomass to sugars for fermentation. In a paper published in the journal Nature Energy, the... Read more →


Waste-to-biofuels company Enerkem produces bio-DME

Waste-to-biofuels and chemicals producer Enerkem has successfully produced a clean, renewable bio-dimethyl ether (Bio-DME), a by-product of biomethanol, that could replace the use of diesel fuel in the transportation sector. Using the company’s proprietary thermochemical technology, its innovation group has tested and validated the production of fuel-grade bio-DME made from... Read more →


DOE selects 36 bioenergy R&D projects for $80M in funding

The US Department of Energy (DOE) has selected 36 projects for a total of $80 million in funding to support early-stage bioenergy research and development (R&D). This R&D will enable cost-competitive, drop-in renewable hydrocarbon fuels, bio-based products, and power from non-food biomass and waste feedstocks. The selections stem from four... Read more →


KAUST team investigates methanol-DME blends for compression ignition

Highly fuel-efficient new engine designs could significantly reduce the environmental impact of combustion-engined vehicles, especially if the engines run on renewable non-petroleum-based fuels. Ensuring these unconventional fuels are compatible with next-generation engines was the aim of a new computational study on fuel ignition behavior at KAUST. A paper on their... Read more →


Researchers in Norway report that the carbon efficiency of a conventional Biomass-to-Liquid (BtL) process can be increased from 38 to more than 90% by adding hydrogen from renewable energy sources. The increased carbon efficiency is possible because the water gas shift reaction is avoided and instead a reversed water gas... Read more →


Researchers engineer yeast to tolerate ionic liquid used in biomass pretreatment for biofuel production

Ionic liquids—neutral salts that attain a liquid state at temperatures mostly below 100 ˚C—are very effective in the pretreatment of biomass to make its cellulose highly accessible to cellulase enzymes that hydrolyze it into glucose for fermentation by microbes. However, ionic liquids are toxic to biofuel-producing microbes such as the... Read more →


Velocys receives FONSI from USDA for planned Mississippi biorefinery; wood waste to drop-in fuels

Velocys plc announced that the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has issued a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) on the environmental assessment report for Velocys’ planned Bayou Fuels biorefinery in Natchez, Mississippi. With the FONSI process completed, Velocys will now focus on the next steps in the project’s development,including... Read more →


EU FASTCARD project developed liquefaction & gasification routes to biomass-based fuels; rational nanocatalytic processes

Biomass is far more complex than conventional feedstock and the development of the necessary catalysts is traditionally a lengthy and complicated process. For Europe to meet its long-term target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80-95 % by 2050, cost-effective biomass conversion to fuels is essential. The EU-funded FASTCARD (FAST... Read more →


KIT, automakers, partners launch project “reFuels” in Germany for production of synthetic fuels from non-fossil carbon sources

The Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), with partners from the automotive, automotive supply and petroleum industries and with the support of the German state government of Baden-Württemberg, are launching a broad-based program to explore the opportunities synthetic fuels derived from non-fossil carbon sources offer society, the economy and the environment.... Read more →


UC Davis team optimizes levulinic ester self-condensation process for production of cellulosic gasoline

A team at UC Davis has optimized the levulinic ester self-condensation reaction and the efficient conversion of its products—which are highly branched cyclopentadienes—into a mixture of substituted cyclopentanes with high octane ratings and excellent density and flow properties. In a paper in the RSC journal Green Chemistry, they reported that... Read more →


Researchers discover new enzyme paradigm for critical reaction in converting lignin to useful products

Cytochrome P450s are some of the most versatile enzymes on the planet. These proteins are found in the human body and are involved in many metabolic pathways, including metabolizing potentially toxic compounds. Cytochrome P450s have been studied for decades and have been classed into Families A through M. Now, an... Read more →


Global Bioenergies successfully moves its C3 process to demo scale; isopropanol and acetone from renewable resources

Global Bioenergies has reached a new milestone in scaling up its C3 process converting renewable resources into isopropanol and acetone. (Earlier post.) These two biobased compounds target large markets in the cosmetics and solvent segments. They can also be converted into polypropylene, a key component in the plastics industry, with... Read more →


Gevo and Avfuel enter into renewable jet fuel supply agreement; first long-term commercial supply agreement for Gevo ATJ

Gevo has entered into a long-term agreement to supply its renewable alcohol-to-jet fuel (ATJ) to Avfuel Corporation, effective 1 July 2018. Avfuel is a leading global supplier of aviation fuel and services to all industry consumer groups, servicing more than 3,000 locations worldwide. The agreement with Avfuel is Gevo’s first... Read more →


Velocys partners with PQ for FT catalyst manufacturing; secures funding for UK waste-to-jet project

Velocys plc has partnered with PQ Corporation (PQ) for the supply of commercial quantities of Velocys’ proprietary microchannel Fischer-Tropsch catalyst to be used in multiple biorefineries incorporating its technology. PQ is a leading global provider of specialty catalysts, services, materials and chemicals for the refinery, emissions control and petrochemical industries.... Read more →


New genetic engineering technique improves enzyme’s ability to breakdown biomass

Researchers at the US Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and the University of Georgia have developed a new genetic engineering technique significantly to improve an enzyme’s ability to break down biomass. A paper on the work is published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences... Read more →


DOE awarding $40M to 31 projects to advance use of microbes in production of biofuels and bioproducts

The US Department of Energy will award $40 million in funding for 31 projects to advance research in the development of microbes as practical platforms for the production of biofuels and other bioproducts from renewable resources. Over the past decade, DOE-supported scientists have identified and modified a wide range of... Read more →


US researchers demo separation-free, IL-based process for conversion of biomass to advanced biofuel

Researchers from three US national labs (Berkeley, Pacific Northwest and Sandia) has demonstrated a separation-free, ionic-liquid (IL)-based process to convert biomass to an advanced biofuel (the sesquiterpene bisabolene). The process, described in an open access paper in the RSC journal Green Chemistry, is also the first to demonstrate full consumption... Read more →


Drax, C-Capture to pilot Europe’s first bioenergy carbon capture storage project

UK-based renewable power generator Drax will pilot the first bioenergy carbon capture storage (BECCS) project of its kind in Europe, which, if successful, could make the renewable electricity produced at its North Yorkshire power station carbon negative. The demonstration project will see Drax partner with C-Capture and invest £400,000 (US$539,000)... Read more →


Global Bioenergies to take part in three more H2020 projects; second-, third-generation feedstocks for isobutene production

Global Bioenergies has been selected in more Horizon 2020 projects funded by the European Union, and will receive for this purpose about €2 million in grants over 4 years. These projects reinforce Global Bioenergies’ strategy of feedstock diversification in order to continue improving the economics and the environmental impact of... Read more →


Global Bioenergies to lead $24M REWOFUEL project to demonstrate the production of isobutene-derived gasoline and jetfuel from wood residuals

Global Bioenergies will lead a consortium including Sekab, Graanul Invest, Neste Engineering Solutions, Repsol, Peab Asfalt, SkyNRG, Ajinomoto Eurolysine, IPSB, TechnipFMC and Linz University in a 3-year project (called REWOFUEL) to demonstrate the production of isobutene-derived gasoline and jetfuel from wood residuals. Global Bioenergies will combine its isobutene process with... Read more →


DOE selects two projects for $3M in funding to advance biofuels, bioenergy, and biobased products

The US Department of Energy (DOE) will award up to $3 million in funding for advanced biofuels, bioenergy, and biobased products available through the Biomass Research and Development Initiative (BRDI). DOE has selected two projects from the University of Tennessee and Northwestern University that will receive between $1 million to... Read more →


Velocys plc, a developer of microchannel Fischer-Tropsch (FT) biorefineries, has received a “notice to proceed” action to commence manufacturing the FT reactors and catalyst for the Red Rock Biofuels LLC (RRB) biorefinery that will be located in Lakeview, Oregon. RRB has begun construction of the biorefinery, which will incorporate Velocys’... Read more →


DOE issues 4 funding opportunities totaling $78M for advanced biofuels, bioenergy and bioproducts

The US Department of Energy (DOE) issued four funding opportunities (FOAs) totaling up to $78 million to support early-stage bioenergy research and development under the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO). These include: BioEnergy Engineering for Products Synthesis (BEEPS) (up to $28 million) (DE-FOA-0001916) This... Read more →


US imports of biomass-based diesel, which include biodiesel and renewable diesel, totaled 14.1 million barrels in 2017, a 36% decrease from 2016, according to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA). Although increasing Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) targets have driven increased biomass-based diesel demand in recent years, imports fell in 2017... Read more →


Researchers in the US, China and Taiwan have developed a new systems biology model that mimics the process of wood formation, allowing scientists to predict the effects of switching on and off the 21 (at least) pathway genes involved in producing lignin, a primary component of wood. The model, built... Read more →


New regulations to double the use of sustainable renewable fuels in UK by 2020; 12.4% minimum blend by 2032

New biofuel targets that came into force in the UK over the weekend (15 April 2018) will double the use of renewable fuels in the UK transport sector within 15 years, cutting the sector’s reliance on imported diesel. Changes to the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO) will compel owners of... Read more →


Brookhaven researchers improve understanding of how plants regulate oil synthesis; potential for more abundant bio-fuels and -products

Researchers at the US Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory have discovered new details about biomolecules that retard oil production in plants. The findings suggest that disabling these biomolecular brakes could accelerate oil production and lead to a possible pathway toward generating abundant biofuels and plant-derived bioproducts. The open-access study... Read more →


Penn State insights into how cellulose is built could indicate how to break it apart for biofuels

Cellulose—the primary building block of the walls of most plant cells—is synthesized at the plasma membrane by cellulose synthase complexes (CSCs). The ability to deliver CSCs to discrete sites at the cell surface is critical for cellulose synthesis. Now,researchers at Penn State have identified the major steps in the process... Read more →


NREL team discovers enzyme domains that significantly improve breakdown of cellulose

By studying and comparing the workhorse cellulose-degrading enzymes (cellobiohydrolases) of two fungi, researchers from the Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) have pinpointed regions on these enzymes that can be targeted via genetic engineering to help break down cellulose faster. A newly published open-access paper in Nature Communications describes... Read more →


As Faurecia’s NAFILean (natural fiber for injection) lightweight hemp-based biomaterials are increasingly adopted by OEMs, the company has developed new figures showing the significant energy and environmental benefits of the biomaterials. NAFILean integrates a natural, hemp-based fiber with polypropylene and allows for complex shapes and architectures along with weight reduction.... Read more →


Researchers at the University of York (UK), with colleagues from the University of Leeds, University of Cambridge and Université Aix-Marseille in France, have identified more than 20 members of an uncharacterized family of lytic polysaccharide monooxygenases (LPMOs) (earlier post) by investigating the digestive proteome of Thermobia domestica—the firebrat, a small... Read more →


International team discovers family of fungal enzymes that degrades xylans in wood biomass

An international team of researchers has discovered a new family of enzymes found in fungi (fungal lytic polysaccharide monooxygenases, LPMOs) that are capable of breaking down xylans—a recalcitrant polysaccharide abundant in wood biomass. The enzymes could now potentially be used to sustainably convert wood biomass into valuable chemical commodities such... Read more →


The US Department of Energy launched three Bioenergy Research Centers just over ten years ago (earlier post). Of them, the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center (GLBRC), led by the University of Wisconsin–Madison, had a goal of turning more of the corn plant—the stalk and leaves that makes up the stover—into... Read more →


The US Department of Energy (DOE) has released two studies from the Co-Optimization of Engines & Fuels initiative (Co-Optima) (earlier post). The first study, Fuel Blendstocks with the Potential to Optimize Future Gasoline Engine Performance, identifies eight representative high-octane blendstocks across five chemical groups that could be blended into gasoline... Read more →


Canada-based Enerkem Inc., a leading waste-to-biofuels and chemicals producer, has completed a C$280-million (US$223 million) investment round—its largest to date. In addition to new investors BlackRock and Sinobioway, existing investors also participated in this financing. In January, Enerkem signed an agreement with Sinobioway Group worth more than C$125 million (US$100... Read more →


UMD IBBR awarded DOE grant to investigate how to protect biofuel crop poplar trees from disease

The University of Maryland (UMD) Institute for Bioscience and Biotechnology Research (IBBR) has been awarded a $1.1million US Department of Energy (DOE) grant to elucidate the mechanism of rust pathogenesis in poplar in an effort to engineer durable resistance for this important, second-generation biofuel crop. The aim of the three-year... Read more →


In 2016, the US Department of Energy (DOE) and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) released a study concluding that within 25 years, the US could produce enough biomass to support a bioeconomy, including renewable aquatic and terrestrial biomass resources that could be used for energy and to develop products for... Read more →


European Parliament endorses proposal for 12% share of energy from renewable energy in transport by 2030; 10% advanced biofuels

The European Parliament last week endorsed a series of proposals setting targets for cleaner, more efficient energy use. Among those was a proposal for a binding EU-level target of a 12% share of energy from renewable sources in transport, by 2030. Members of Parliament also endorsed setting a 35% improvement... Read more →


Evea study estimates 69% reduction in GHG emissions for Global Bioenergies’ fully renewable ETBE compared to fossil gasoline

Life-cycle analysis specialist EVEA has estimated that fully renewable ETBE produced by the Global Bioenergies’ IBN-One plant would enable 69% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared to fossil gasoline. This figure was calculated for the current design planned for the IBN-One plant using a greenhouse gases emissions calculator based on... Read more →


OSU team developing chemical looping technology to convert fossil fuels and biomass to syngas while consuming CO2

Engineers at The Ohio State University are developing technologies that have the potential to convert fossil fuels and biomass economically into syngas for conversion into useful products including methanol, gasoline and electricity without emitting carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. In the first of two papers published in the journal Energy... Read more →


WUSTL team receives $3.9M to engineer bacteria to produce drop-in fuels from lignin

Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis have received a $3.9-million grant from the Department of Energy (DOE) to develop bacteria that manufacture renewable biofuels. Building on prior funding from the DOE Office of Biological and Environmental Research (BER) for systems biology work on Rhodococcus opacus, this project will apply... Read more →


Berkeley Lab team develops predictive model to optimize biomass blends for commercial-scale biorefinery processing

The type of biomass available for fuels and chemical production varies with the time of year and geography; the ability to integrate multiple feedstocks into the process of a bio-refinery can substantially de-risk the logistics of supply. However, pioneering bio-refineries have been optimized to process a single feedstock such as... Read more →


EU Council of Ministers adopts position on Renewable Energies Directive; bumps renewables in transport to 14% in 2030

The EU Council has adopted its position on a directive promoting the use of renewable energy across the EU. This agreement paves the way for the Council to start negotiations with the European Parliament as soon as it agrees on its negotiating mandate. The EU is committed to reach a... Read more →


China Lake team devises new class of bio-based high-cetane renewable diesel fuels: dioxolanes

Researchers at the Naval Air Warfare Center, China Lake have synthesized a new class of renewable diesel fuels from a methyl ketone and diols including 2,3-butanediol, 1,2-propanediol, and ethylene glycol. These fuels exhibit comparable net heats of combustion (NHOCs) to conventional biodiesel, while maintaining derived cetane numbers between 82-91. These... Read more →


Global Bioenergies starts scale-up of its second process: renewable acetone and isopropanol

Global Bioenergies has started the scale-up phase of a process converting renewable resources into acetone and isopropanol. The markets for both these 3-carbon compounds are well established and worth billions of dollars. In a further process, these two compounds can be converted to propylene, a key petrochemical building block with... Read more →


NREL-led research could lead to improved enzyme performance to break down biomass for renewable fuels

A team led by researchers from the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) have gained new insights into how glycosylation—the natural attachment of sugars to proteins—affects a key cellulase enzyme. This work could be used to improve enzyme performance to better break down biomass and convert... Read more →


Two-stage catalytic fast hydropyrolysis of biomass produces biofuel with heating value, aromaticity close to gasoline

A team at the University of Connecticut Storrs reports on a two-stage catalytic fast hydropyrolysis process (CFHP) that produces a drop-oin biofuel with heating value and aromaticity close to that of gasoline. Their paper is published in the journal Fuel. The two-stage CFHP followed by hydroprocessing produced nearly 18 mol% carbon... Read more →


Researchers from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and their colleagues have devised a novel catalytic method to produce renewable acrylonitrile (ACN) using 3-hydroxypropionic acid (3-HP), which can be biologically produced from sugars. This hybrid biological-catalytic process offers an alternative to the conventional petrochemical production method and achieves unprecedented acrylonitrile... Read more →


IH2 technology licensed to Biozin Holding AS for production of liquid transportation fuels from woody biomass

CRI/Criterion Catalyst Company LTD (CRIUK), a global catalyst technology company wholly owned by Royal Dutch Shell, has awarded an FEL-2 license agreement for the IH2 technology which converts biomass to liquid transportation fuels (earlier post), to Norway-based Biozin Holding AS (BZH). Norwegian saw mill company Bergene Holm AS and the... Read more →