[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.]
Amyris and Total form joint venture to produce and market renewable diesel and jet fuel
December 05, 2013
Amyris, Inc. and Total have formed Total Amyris BioSolutions B.V., a 50-50 joint venture that now holds exclusive rights and a license under Amyris’s intellectual property to produce and market renewable diesel and jet fuel from Amyris’s renewable farnesene. (Earlier post.) Total is Amyris’ largest investor, holding approximately 18% of its outstanding common stock, and is committed to the development of next-generation renewable fuels from biomass.
Amyris’ synthetic biology platform enables the modification of the genetic pathways of microorganisms, primarily yeast, to turn them into living factories to produce target molecules via fermentation. The primary biological pathway within the microbe Amyris currently uses to produce target molecules is the isoprenoid pathway.
EPA proposes reduction in cellulosic biofuel and total renewable fuel standards for 2014
November 15, 2013
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing a reduction in the cellulosic biofuel and total renewable fuel standards (RFS) for 2014. Once the proposal is published in the Federal Register, it will be open to a 60-day public comment period.
Specifically, EPA is proposing a total renewable fuel target of 15.21 billion gallons; the final 2013 overall volumes and standards require 16.55 billion gallons; the original target as specified in the Clean Air Act is 18.15 billion gallons. (Earlier post.) EPA is setting the troublesome cellulosic biofuel target at 17 million gallons—significantly lower than the Clean Air Act (CAA) target of 1.75 billion gallons—but an increase from the 6.0 million gallons specified for 2013. This reflects EPA’s current estimate of the amount of cellulosic biofuel that will actually be produced in 2014, but EPA will consider public comments before setting the final cellulosic standard.
Axens, IFPEN and Michelin launch research partnership on synthetic rubber production channel using biomass; €52M over 8 years
November 11, 2013
|Overview of BioButterfly process steps. Click to enlarge.|
Axens, IFP Energies nouvelles (IFPEN) and Michelin have launched a plant chemistry research partnership that aims to develop and bring to market a process for producing bio-sourced butadiene, or bio-butadiene. Butadiene is a chemical intermediate derived from fossil resources that is used in the production of synthetic rubber. Some 60% of global output is for the tire industry.
In response to the need to find sustainable alternative sourcing channels for elastomers, the BioButterfly process will make it possible to produce innovative, more environmentally-friendly synthetic rubber. The bio-butadiene produced will support continued innovation in procuring high performance rubber for tires.
Battelle evaluating pilot-scale mobile catalytic pyrolysis unit to convert biomass to bio-oil
November 08, 2013
Battelle researchers have developed a mobile catalytic pyrolysis unit that converts biomass materials such as wood chips or agricultural waste into bio-oil. As currently configured, the Battelle-funded unit converts one ton of pine chips, shavings and sawdust into as much as 130 gallons of wet bio-oil per day.
The bio-oil then can be upgraded by hydrotreatment into a gas/diesel blend or jet fuel. Conversion of the bio-oil to an advanced biofuel is a key element of Battelle’s (earlier post)—and many others’—research. Testing of the bio-based gasoline alternative produced by Battelle suggests that it can be blended with existing gasoline and can help fuel producers meet their renewable fuel requirements.
GE Aviation signs 10-year supply agreement for biomass FT jet fuel for engine testing; baseline of 500,000 gallons per year
November 07, 2013
|Schematic of the DG Energy facility that will produce the cellulosic synthetic jet fuel. Click to enlarge.|
GE Aviation, which consumes more than 10 million gallons of jet fuel annually at its engine testing centers, has signed an agreement to purchase cellulosic synthetic biofuel from The D’Arcinoff Group (DG), based in Washington, DC, to be used for production and development testing of GE jet engines, starting in 2016.
The 10-year agreement calls for GE’s baseline commitment of 500,000 gallons annually of the low-emissions jet fuel to be used at the company’s main jet engine testing facility in Peebles, Ohio. Options are in place to order up to 10 million gallons annually of the synthetic biofuel, which be be produced via the gasification of biomass to produce syngas, followed by Fischer-Tropsch conversion.
USDA awards nearly $10M for research on using beetle-killed trees as feedstock for on-site thermochemical conversion technologies
November 06, 2013
The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) awarded nearly $10 million to a consortium of academic, industry and government organizations led by Colorado State University (CSU) and their partners to research using insect-killed trees in the Rockies as a sustainable feedstock for bioenergy. Specifically, the team will explore recent advances in scalable thermochemical conversion technologies, which enable the production of advanced liquid biofuel and co-products on-site.
There are many benefits to using beetle-killed wood for renewable fuel production. It requires no cultivation, circumvents food-versus-fuel concerns and likely has a highly favorable carbon balance. However, there are some challenges that have been a barrier to its widespread use. The wood is typically located far from urban industrial centers, often in relatively inaccessible areas with challenging topography, which increases harvest and transportation costs. In addition to technical barriers, environmental impacts, social issues and local policy constraints to using beetle-killed wood and other forest residues remain largely unexplored.
PNNL team devises probe enabling rapid design of enzyme cocktails for maximum biomass deconstruction for biofuels
November 04, 2013
A team at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) has devised an activity-based probe that can rapidly identify optimal conditions for the maximum enzymatic deconstruction of lignocellulose. The probe approach promises to facilitate the rapid production of enzyme cocktails for high-efficiency lignocellulose deconstruction to support high-yield biofuel production, the researchers report in a paper in the RSC journal Molecular BioSystems.
The findings open the possibility that laboratory research that now takes months could be reduced to days, and that scientists will be able to assess more options for biofuel development than is possible today.
DOE BETO issues request for information on advanced biofuel, bioproducts and biopower validation and deployment
October 31, 2013
The Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) is soliciting feedback from industry, academia, research laboratories, government agencies, and other stakeholders on issues related to advanced biofuel, bioproducts, and biopower technology validation and potential deployment strategies. (DE-FOA-0001013)
BETO’s mission is to develop and transform biomass resources into commercially viable, high performance biofuels, bioproducts, and biopower through targeted research, development, demonstration, and deployment supported through public and private partnerships. Specific goals are: 1) through R&D, make cellulosic biofuels competitive with petroleum-based fuels at a modeled cost for mature technology of $3 per gallon of gasoline equivalent (GGE) ($2011) based on EIA projected wholesale prices in 2017; and 2) help create an environment conducive to maximizing the production and use of biofuels by 2022.
Brookhaven researchers identify key genes for significantly increasing oil content in plant leaves
October 21, 2013
Scientists at the US Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory have identified two key genes required for oil production and accumulation in plant leaves and other vegetative plant tissues.
In separate papers published in the journals The Plant Journal and The Plant Cell, they report that overexpression of these genes resulted in significantly increased oil content in leaves, the most abundant sources of plant biomass. In one test plant, they achieved almost twice the oil yield by weight that can be obtained from canola seeds. The finding that could have important implications for increasing the energy content of plant-based foods and renewable biofuel feedstocks.
USDA announces availability of $181M to support development of advanced biofuels projects
US Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the availability of $181 million via its Biorefinery Assistance Program to develop commercial-scale biorefineries or retrofit existing facilities with appropriate technology to develop advanced biofuels.
The Biorefinery Assistance Program was created through the 2008 Farm Bill and is administered by USDA Rural Development. It provides loan guarantees to viable commercial-scale facilities to develop new and emerging technologies for advanced biofuels. Eligible entities include Indian tribes, State or local governments, corporations, farmer co-ops, agricultural producer associations, higher education institutions, rural electric co-ops, public power entities or consortiums of any of the above.
Univ. of Illinois team argues that renewable fuel standard needs to be modified, not repealed
October 16, 2013
A policy analysis by two University of Illinois researchers argues that Congress should minimally modify, not repeal, the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). In the study, law professor Jay P. Kesan and Timothy A. Slating, a regulatory associate with the Energy Biosciences Institute, argue that RFS mandates ought to be adjusted to reflect current and predicted biofuel commercialization realities; that its biofuel categories be expanded to encompass all emerging biofuel technologies; and that its biomass sourcing constraints be relaxed.
In the paper, to be published in the NYU Environmental Law Journal, Kesan and Slating contend that the RFS can serve as a “model policy instrument” for the federal support of all types of socially beneficial renewable energy technologies.
UCLA engineers develop new metabolic pathway for more efficient conversion of glucose into biofuels; possible 50% increase in biorefinery yield
October 01, 2013
Researchers at UCLA led by Dr. James Liao have created a new synthetic metabolic pathway for breaking down glucose that could lead to a 50% increase in the production of biofuels. The new pathway is intended to replace the natural metabolic pathway known as glycolysis, a series of chemical reactions that nearly all organisms use to convert sugars into the molecular precursors that cells need. The research is published in the journal Nature.
Native glycolytic pathways—a number of which have been discovered—oxidize the six-carbon sugar glucose into pyruvate and thence into two-carbon molecules known acetyl-CoA for either further oxidation or biosynthesis of cell constituents and products, including fatty acids, amino acids, isoprenoids and alcohols. However, the two remaining glucose carbons are lost as carbon dioxide.
KIT’s fast biomass pyrolysis to liquids bioliq plant produces first gasoline
September 30, 2013
|The multi-stage bioliq process produces high-quality synthetic fuels from straw and other biogenous residues. Graphic: N. Dahmen, KIT/IKFT. Click to enlarge.|
The synthesis stage of Karlsruhe Institute of Technology’s (KIT’s) multi-stage bioliq pilot plant has begun operation and has produced biogasoline. All stages of the bioliq process—flash pyrolysis, high-pressure entrained-flow gasification, and now synthesis—have now been realized and the project will now be completed by testing the entire process chain and optimizing it for the large industrial scale.
As soon as all stages of the bioliq process will have been linked, the pilot plant will supply high-quality fuel from straw, probably in mid-2014. The complete bioliq process (Biomass to Liquid Karlsruhe) comprises four stages (earlier post):
KAIST team engineers novel pathway for direct production of biogasoline by E. coli bacteria
A team at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) has developed a a novel strategy for microbial gasoline production through the metabolic engineering of Escherichia coli. The team engineered engineered platform E. coli strains that are capable of producing short-chain alkanes (SCAs; i.e., gasoline); free fatty acids (FFAs); fatty esters; and fatty alcohols via the fatty acyl (acyl carrier protein (ACP)) to fatty acid to fatty acyl-CoA pathway.
As reported in their paper in Nature, the final engineered strain produced up to 580.8 mg per liter of SCAs consisting of nonane (327.8 mg l−1), dodecane (136.5 mg l−1), tridecane (64.8 mg l−1), 2-methyl-dodecane (42.8 mg l−1) and tetradecane (8.9 mg l−1), together with small amounts of other hydrocarbons.
KiOR seeks to double cellulosic fuels production at Columbus plant; $50M in from Khosla for Columbus II
September 26, 2013
Cellulosic gasoline and diesel company KiOR, Inc. is pursuing plans to double production capacity at its Columbus, Mississippi, facility through construction of a second facility incorporating KiOR’s commercially proven technology. KiOR estimates that the Columbus II project will cost approximately $225 million; will break ground within 90 days of it raising sufficient equity and debt capital to commence the project; and will take approximately 18 months to construct and start up.
Once completed with its latest technology improvements, KiOR expects that the Columbus II project will allow each Columbus facility to achieve greater yields, production capacity and feedstock flexibility than the original design basis for the existing Columbus facility, enabling KiOR to more quickly make progress towards its long-term goal of 92 gallons per bone dry ton of biomass.
U-Mich researcher’s first-principles analysis challenges conventional carbon accounting for biofuels; implications for climate policy
September 24, 2013
In a paper that could have a significant impact on climate policies for transportation fuels, Dr. John M. DeCicco of the Energy Institute at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor presents a rigorous first-principles analysis that undermines the common “biofuels recycle carbon” argument.
Published in the journal Climactic Change, the open access paper shows that while the carbon mitigation challenge for liquid fuels has been seen—incorrectly—as a fuel synthesis and substitution problem, it is in reality a net carbon uptake problem. Accordingly, DeCicco concludes, strategies should move away from a downstream focus on replacing fuel products to an upstream focus on achieving additional CO2 uptake through the most cost-effective and least damaging means possible. “All parties with an interest in the issue are advised to rethink their priorities accordingly,” he finishes.
Novozymes and Raízen to collaborate on cellulosic ethanol in Brazil
September 18, 2013
Novozymes has entered into a collaboration agreement with Brazil’s largest sugarcane crusher, Raízen Energia S/A (the $12-billion joint venture between Shell and Cosan founded in 2011). (Earlier post.) As part of the agreement, Novozymes will supply enzyme technology to Raízen’s first commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol plant in Brazil, scheduled to be operational by end 2014.
The plant will be a bolt-on facility to Raízen’s Costa Pinto sugarcane mill in the state of São Paulo and will have the capacity to produce 40 million liters (10.5 million gallons US) of cellulosic ethanol a year from sugarcane bagasse and straw. The agreement also provides for Novozymes to supply enzyme technology to Raízen’s second cellulosic ethanol plant, should such a plant be constructed.
New route for upgrading bio-oil to biogasoline via molecular distillation and catalytic cracking
|Bio-oil-graded upgrading route based on molecular distillation and catalytic cracking. Credit: ACS, Wang et al. Click to enlarge.|
A team at Zhejiang University, China, has developed a novel cracking technology for the upgrading of bio-oil, produced by the fast pyrolysis of biomass, to biogasoline. In a paper published in the ACS journal Energy & Fuels, they report that the co-cracking of the distilled fraction (DF) from bio-oil molecular distillation and ethanol produced a well-defined gasoline phase, and that both increasing the reaction temperature and adopting pressurized cracking benefited the yield and quality of this gasoline phase.
Under optimum reaction temperature and pressure, co-cracking of the DF and ethanol, with different weight ratios, all generated high-quality gasoline phases. Under 400 °C and 2 MPa, co-cracking of DF and ethanol with a weight ratio of 2:3 produced a high gasoline phase yield of 25.9 wt %; the hydrocarbon content in this gasoline phase was 98.3%. CO2, CO, and C3H8 (propane) were the main gaseous products, and a low coke yield of 3.2 wt % was achieved.
European Parliament backs 6% cap on land-based biofuels, switchover to advanced biofuels; no mandate
September 11, 2013
In a vote on draft legislation, the European Parliament has backed a cap on the use of biofuels produced from starch-rich crops, sugars, oil and other crops grown on land and a speedy switchover to new biofuels from alternative sources such as seaweed and waste. The measures aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that result from the turnover of agricultural land to biofuel production.
According to current legislation, member states must ensure that renewable energy accounts for at least 10% of energy consumption in transport by 2020. In the adopted text, MEPs (Members of the European Parliament) say land-based biofuels should not exceed 6% of the final energy consumption in transport by 2020. (The proposal by the European Commission on which the draft legislation was based had suggested an even lower 5% cap.)
Neste Oil and Raisioagro to research the potential of straw as a renewable diesel feedstock via microbial oil
September 02, 2013
Neste Oil, developer of the NExBTL process for renewable diesel, and agritrader Raisioagro have launched a research project to investigate the potential of straw as a raw material for producing NExBTL renewable diesel via Neste’s microbial oil technology. (Earlier post.)
Large quantities of waste straw are produced as agricultural residue in Finland and elsewhere, and only a small proportion of this is currently used. The project will study whether a logistically effective and efficient, large-scale straw harvesting chain could be created in Finland. The researchers will also look at the storability of straw for use as an industrial input year-round. The project will be carried out by TTS, a research, development, and training organization.
New synthetic fungal-bacterial consortia for direct production of isobutanol from biomass
August 20, 2013
A team from the University of Michigan, Michigan State, and UCLA has designed synthetic fungal-bacterial consortia for the direct production of isobutanol from biomass. The required biological functions are divided between two specialists: the fungus Trichoderma reesei, which secretes cellulase enzymes to hydrolyze lignocellulosic biomass into soluble saccharides, and the bacterium Escherichia coli, which metabolizes soluble saccharides into the desired products.
In experiments reported in an open access paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academies (PNAS), they achieved isobutanol titers up to 1.88 g/L and yields up to 62% of theoretical maximum from the direct conversion of microcrystalline cellulose and pretreated corn stover to isobutanol.
NextFuels introduces hydrothermal process to produce biofuels from wet, unprocessed waste; solution for palm plantation residue
August 19, 2013
|Overview of the NextFuels’ GreenCrude process. Click to enlarge.|
Biofuels company NextFuels introduced its hydrothermal process for economically producing transportation and industrial fuels from wet, unprocessed agricultural waste. The underlying technology—developed by Shell Oil over several years—will allow NextFuels and its partners to produce bio-based crude at commercial scale for $75 to $85 a barrel out of wet biomass that has not been mechanically or thermally dried.
The California-based company said that its process will provide palm plantation owners and others a way to transform the tons of residual plant matter generated by agricultural operations into a new, profitable second crop.
JBEI team develops one-pot, wash-free process for pretreatment and saccharification of switchgrass; avenues for driving down biofuel cost
August 14, 2013
|Conventional separate pretreatment and saccharification of biofuel feedstock (a) entails water and waste disposal that the new one-pot system (b) eliminates. (Image courtesy of Joint BioEnergy Institute). Click to enlarge.|
Researchers with the US Department of Energy (DOE)’s Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) report the first demonstration of a one-pot, wash-free process that combines ionic liquid (IL) pretreatment and enzymatic saccharification into a single vessel using a thermostable IL-tolerant bacterial consortium comprising several species of thermophiles (microbes that thrive at extremely high temperatures and alkaline conditions).
Using this one-pot system, they liberated 81.2% glucose and 87.4% xylose (monomers and oligomers) at 72 h processing at 70 °C with an enzyme loading of 5.75 mg g−1 of biomass at 10% [C2mim][OAc]. Glucose and xylose were selectively separated by liquid–liquid extraction with over 90% efficiency, thus eliminating extensive water washing as a unit operation.
EPA sets 2013 percentages for Renewable Fuel Standard; anticipating adjustments to 2014 volume requirements
August 06, 2013
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized the 2013 percentage standards for four fuel categories that are part of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program. The final 2013 overall volumes and standards require 16.55 billion gallons of renewable fuels to be blended into the US fuel supply (a 9.74% blend).
The 2013 standard specifically requires: biomass-based diesel (1.28 billion gallons; 1.13%); advanced biofuels (2.75 billion gallons; 1.62%); and cellulosic biofuels (6.00 million gallons; 0.004%). These standards reflect EPA’s updated production projections. All volumes are ethanol-equivalent, except for biomass-based diesel which is actual volume.
DOE awarding $22 million for algal fuel and biomass feedstock supply chain projects
August 01, 2013
US Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz announced more than $22 million in new investments to help develop cost-competitive algae fuels and streamline the biomass feedstock supply chain for advanced biofuels. Moniz was speaking at the US Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Biomass 2013 conference.
Nearly $16.5 million goes to four projects intended to boost the productivity of sustainable algae, while cutting capital and operating costs of commercial-scale production. The projects include:
Study identifies functional roles of individuals within microbial consortium for breaking down switchgrass for biofuel production
July 28, 2013
Working with a compost-derived consortium of thermophillic bacterium adapted to grow on switchgrass, and using a combination of metagenomic and metaproteomic technologies, a collaboration led by researchers with the US Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) has identified individual microbial species whose enzymes were the most active in deconstructing the switchgrass biomass.
The study marks the first time that the functional roles of individual microbial populations within a consortium have been linked with specific enzyme activities—in this case cellulase and hemicellulase—said Steven Singer, director of JBEI’s microbial communities program. “Since these activities are broadly relevant to biofuel production, this is one of the first real-world applications being met by combining metagenomics and metaproteomics,” Singer said.
EIA: world energy consumption to grow 56% 2010-2040, CO2 up 46%; use of liquid fuels in transportation up 38%
July 25, 2013
|World energy consumption by fuel type, 2010-2040. Source: IEO2013. Click to enlarge.|
The US Energy Information Administration’s (EIA’s) International Energy Outlook 2013 (IEO2013) projects that world energy consumption will grow by 56% between 2010 and 2040, from 524 quadrillion British thermal units (Btu) to 820 quadrillion Btu. Most of this growth will come from non-OECD (non-Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) countries, where demand is driven by strong population and economic growth; energy intensity improvements moderate this trend
Renewable energy and nuclear power are the world’s fastest-growing energy sources, each increasing 2.5% per year, according to the biennial report. However, fossil fuels continue to supply nearly 80% of world energy use through 2040. Natural gas is the fastest-growing fossil fuel, as global supplies of tight gas, shale gas, and coalbed methane increase. Given current policies and regulations limiting fossil fuel use, worldwide energy-related CO2 emissions rise from about 31 billion metric tons in 2010 to 36 billion metric tons in 2020 and then to 45 billion metric tons in 2040, a 46% increase over the 30-year span.
VTT study concludes gasification-based pathways can deliver low-carbon fuels from biomass for about 1.90-2.65 US$/gallon
July 04, 2013
A study by researchers at Finland’s VTT has concluded that it is possible to produce sustainable low-carbon fuels from lignocellulosic biomass for as estimated gasoline-equivalent production cost of 0.5–0.7 €/liter (app. 1.90-2.65 US$/gallon US), with first-law process efficiency in the range of 49.6–66.7%—depending on the end-product and process conditions. Should the thermal energy produced as a by-product be exploited for district heat or industrial steam, the overall efficiency from biomass to salable energy products could reach 74–80%.
In their study, Ilkka Hannula & Esa Kurkela evaluated 20 individual biomass-to-liquids BTL plant designs based on their technical and economic performance. The investigation was focused on gasification-based processes that enable the conversion of biomass to methanol, dimethyl ether, Fischer-Tropsch liquids or synthetic gasoline at a large (300 MWth of biomass) scale.
DOE to award up to $13M to four advanced biofuels projects
July 01, 2013
The US Department of Energy (DOE) has selected four research and development projects designed to bring next-generation biofuels on line faster and to drive down the cost of producing gasoline, diesel, and jet fuels from biomass. The projects represent up to a combined $13-million Energy Department investment.
In the United States, the transportation sector accounts for two-thirds of total US oil consumption and about one-third of total anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. Hydrocarbon-based biofuels made from non-food feedstocks, waste materials, and algae can directly replace gasoline and other fuels. DOE is continuing to pursue the development of these renewable biofuels, with the goal of producing cost-competitive drop-in biofuels at $3 per gallon by 2017.
MIT team develops lower cost method to synthesize gamma-valerolactone for biofuels and chemicals
June 17, 2013
MIT chemical engineers have devised a cheaper way to synthesize gamma-valerolactone (GVL)—a potential feedstock of interest in the production of both fuels and fine chemicals—from biomass. (Earlier post.) GVL has more energy than ethanol and could be used on its own or as an additive or precursor to other fuels. GVL could also be useful as a “green” solvent or a building block for creating renewable polymers from sustainable materials.
The traditional process for converting plant material to GVL requires catalysts made from precious metals and must be done at very high pressures of hydrogen gas, which makes the process cost-prohibitive. The new MIT production method, described in the June 11 issue of the journal Angewandte Chemie, eliminates both of those obstacles.
Technip awarded €5M FEED contract for Ajos BtL biomass-to-liquids plant in Finland
June 14, 2013
|Forest BTL process. Click to enlarge.|
Forest BtL Oy, owned by Vapo, A Finnish bioenergy, peat and sawmill company, awarded Technip a contract, worth approximately €5 million, for the front-end engineering and design (FEED) of a new biomass-to-liquid (BTL) plant to be built on Ajos island, Finland.
This plant will produce approximately 140,000 tons of biodiesel and naphtha from wood and by-products from the wood-processing industry. This feedstock has many advantages as it is not used for human food, it does not jeopardize the existing local biomass usage and has a low CO2 footprint.
USDA announces up to $98.6M to support production of advanced biofuels
June 12, 2013
The US Department of Agriculture USDA announced the availability of up to $98.6 million to support the production of advanced biofuels, and an opportunity for eligible producers to submit applications. Of the $98.6 million, $68.6 million will be available for Fiscal Year 2013 production and the remainder of approximately $30 million is for payments for production in prior fiscal years.
The payments are provided through USDA Rural Development’s Bioenergy Program for Advanced Biofuels, commonly referred to as the Advanced Biofuel Payment Program. It was established in the 2008 Farm Bill to support the expansion of advanced biofuel production. Payments are made to eligible producers based on the amount of biofuel produced from renewable biomass, other than corn kernel starch.
CCST report: an integral role for next-gen biofuels in meeting California GHG targets requires advanced biofuels and demand reduction
June 11, 2013
Next-generation biofuels can reduce greenhouse gas emissions of transportation to meet California’s target greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction goal, but deep replacement of fossil fuels through implementation of low-carbon lignocellulosic ethanol and advanced biomass derived hydrocarbons (drop-in biofuels) and reduction in demand is required, according to a new report from the California Council on Science and Technology (CCST).
The study, “California Energy Future: the Potential for Biofuels,” co-authored by Energy Biosciences Institute (EBI) scientists Heather Youngs and Chris Somerville, is the seventh and final report in its California’s Energy Future (CEF) project. The CEF project seeks ways the State could meet the mandated reductions of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to 80% below 1990 levels by 2050, exploring possible energy strategies for California through in-depth examinations of different technology scenarios.
US Senate passes Farm Bill with more than $800M in mandatory funding for bioenergy programs
The United States Senate passed a five-year farm bill—the Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act of 2013 (S.954)—containing more than $800 million in mandatory funding for energy programs. The bill also contains funding to grow the renewable chemicals industry.
The Congressional Budget Office CBO estimates that direct spending stemming from the program authorization under the 12 titles in S. 954 would total $955 billion over the 2014-2023 period. That 10-year total reflects the bill’s authorization of expiring programs through 2018 and an extension of those authorizations through 2023. The energy title (Title IX) of the bill contains:
NREL, Navy and Cobalt Technologies to make jet fuel from switchgrass via butanol intermediate; cellulosic alcohol-to-jet
June 07, 2013
|Overview of the Cobalt/Navy pathway for converting butanol to renewable jet fuel (alcohol-to-jet, ATJ). Source: Dr. Michael Wright, NAVAIR. Click to enlarge.|
The US Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is partnering with Cobalt Technologies, US Navy, and Show Me Energy Cooperative to demonstrate that jet fuel can be made economically and in large quantities from a renewable biomass feedstock such as switchgrass using an alcohol-to-jet pathway.
The project, which will convert biomass into sugars for fermentation into butanol with subsequent conversion of that intermediate into JP5 jet fuel, is one of four biorefinery projects funded recently by the DOE. (Earlier post.) The process is expected to result in up to a 95% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared to the current production of jet fuel.
UK-US team characterizes key enzyme from wood-eating gribble; potential for high-solids biomass conversion
June 04, 2013
|Limnoria—the wood-eating gribble. Credit: Laura Michie, Portsmouth University, with assistance from Alex Ball from the Natural History Museum. Click to enlarge.|
Using advanced biochemical analysis and X-ray imaging techniques, researchers from the University of York, University of Portsmouth and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in the USA have determined the structure and function of a key enzyme used by the gribble (earlier post) to break down wood.
The gribble (Limnoria quadripunctata), a marine wood-borer with efficient gut enzymes for breaking down woody material, is the focus of one of the research hubs in the UK’s Bioenergy Center, established in 2009. The findings, published in Proceedings of the National Academies (PNAS), will help the researchers to reproduce the enzymes effects on an industrial scale in a bid to create sustainable liquid biofuels.
Converting wastepaper to biocrude and hydrogen
May 12, 2013
|Biocrude compounds, product gas and reaction pathways from APR of wastepaper at 250 °C in presence of 5 wt % Ni(NO3)2 catalyst. Credit: ACS, Tungal and Shende. Click to enlarge.|
A pair of researchers at the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology have demonstrated homogeneously catalyzed subcritical aqueous phase reforming (APR) of wastepaper to produce biocrude and hydrogen. A paper on their work is published in the ACS journal Energy & Fuels.
Wastepaper can be a combination of newspaper—a lignocellulosic biomass containing cellulose (62%), hemicellulose (16%), and lignin (16%)—and used office printing papers which consist of mainly cellulose (85−99%) and negligible (0.4%) lignin. Using a homogeneous Ni(NO3)2 catalyst, they produced about 44 wt % biocrude from wastepaper slurry at 250 °C after 120 minutes of reaction time. The biocrude contained ∼1 wt % HMF/furfural, 7.5 wt % sugars, 49.1 wt % acids, and 42.4 wt % oxygenated hydrocarbons.
New ionic liquid biomass pretreatment method eliminates need for enzymes, reduces water use
May 09, 2013
|The new ionic liquid pretreatment of cellulosic biomass yields a biphasic solution, a lower phase rich in sugar and an upper phases rich in ionic liquid. (Courtesy of Simmons/JBEI) Click to enlarge.|
Researchers at the US Department of Energy (DOE)’s Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) have developed a new technique for pre-treating cellulosic biomass with ionic liquids that could reduce the cost of producing advanced biofuels from plant sugars.
This new technique requires none of the expensive enzymes used in previous ionic liquid pretreatments, and yields a biphasic solution—a lower phase rich in sugar and an upper phases rich in ionic liquid—making it easier to recover fuel sugars and recycle the ionic liquid. An open access paper describing this research has been published in the journal Biotechnology for Biofuels.
Study finds large-scale ramp-up in biofuel crops could result in warming in some tropical regions, cooling in temperate and polar regions
May 08, 2013
Global land-use changes caused by a major ramp-up in biofuel crops—enough to meet about 10% of the world’s energy needs—could make some regions warmer, according to a new integrated modeling study by researchers from MIT and the Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole.
Using an integrated assessment model that links an economic model with climate, terrestrial biogeochemistry, and biogeophysics models, the team examined the biogeochemical and biogeophysical effects of possible land use changes from an expanded global second-generation bioenergy program on surface temperatures over the first half of the 21st century.
U. Minn. team proposes strategy for automated selection of optimal biomass-derived fuel blends and synthesis paths
May 07, 2013
|Proposed strategy for connecting automated network generation and optimization. Credit: ACS, Marvin et al. Click to enlarge.|
Researchers at the University of Minnesota are proposing a novel strategy that simultaneously identifies (a) the most desirable biomass-derived chemical products for an application of interest, such as fuels, and (b) the corresponding synthesis routes.
In a paper published in the ACS journal Energy & Fuels, they describe the strategy, and then apply it to identify potential renewable oxygenates and hydrocarbons obtained from heterogeneous catalysis of biomass that can be blended with gasoline to satisfy ASTM specifications.
UPM and VTT begin fleet tests of BioVerno wood-based renewable diesel in Golf 1.6 TDIs
April 29, 2013
Finland-based forestry-industry company UPM, VTT and VV-Auto Group will start fleet tests of renewable diesel produced mainly from crude tall oil, which is a residue of chemical pulp production, UPM BioVerno. (Earlier post.) The biofuel will be produced by UPM, fleet tests will be coordinated by VTT, and cars will be supplied by VV-Auto Group, an importer and marketer of Volkswagen Group cars in Finland. Fleet tests with UPM BioVerno will start in May, lasting several months.
UPM BioVerno diesel has previously been studied in engine and vehicle tests conducted by VTT and others. The fleet tests will focus on investigating UPM renewable diesel in terms of fuel functionality in engine, emissions and fuel consumption.
DOE seeks input on environmental impact of engineered high energy crops for fuels
April 14, 2013
The US Department of Energy (DOE) has issued a Request for Information (DE-FOA-0000908, RFI-0000003) regarding the potential environmental impacts of engineered high energy crops, such as those being investigated under the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy’s (ARPA-E) Plants Engineered to Replace Oil (PETRO) program (earlier post), and potential future DOE programs to support the development and demonstration of such crops through field trials.
Such crops could be the source of significant fuel resources from biological production DOE said, noting that therefore it is extremely important to understand their potential impact on the environment. DOE will consider responses to the RFI in the development of an Advance Notice of Intent (NOI) to prepare a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS), which would analyze the potential environmental impacts of such DOE programs.
President’s FY2014 Budget boosts DOE vehicle technology spending 75% to $575M; $282M for advanced biofuels
April 10, 2013
President Obama’s FY 2014 budget proposal submitted to Congress provides $28.4 billion in discretionary funds for the Department of Energy, an 8% increase above the 2012 enacted level. Among the direct transportation-related highlights of the department’s budget proposal are $575 million for advanced vehicle technologies research, an increase of 75% over the enacted 2012 level; $282 million for the next-generation of advanced biofuels research; and the $2 billion Energy Security Trust to transition cars and trucks off of oil. (Earlier post.)
Other highlights include more than $5 billion (+5.7% over the 2012 enacted level) for the Office of Science for basic research and research infrastructure; $615 million to increase the use and decrease the costs of clean power from solar, wind, geothermal, and water energy; $365 million in advanced manufacturing research and development; and $147 million in research and development of smart grid investments, cybersecurity for energy control systems, and permitting, sitting, and analysis activities.
EBEI researchers shed light on how multiple cellulase enzymes attack cellulose; potential avenue to boosting sugar yields for biofuels
April 08, 2013
|PALM enables researchers to quantify how and where enzymes are binding to the surface of cellulose in heterogeneous surfaces, such as those in plant cell walls. Source: Berkeley Lab. Click to enlarge.|
Researchers with the Energy Biosciences Institute, University of California, Berkeley have provided insight into how multiple cellulase enzymes attack cellulose, potentially yielding a way to improve the collective catalytic activity of enzyme cocktails that can boost the yields of sugars for making fuels.
Increasing the sugar yields from cellulosic biomass to help bring down biofuel production costs is essential for the widespread commercial adoption of these fuels. A paper on their work is published in Nature Chemical Biology.
NSF to award up to $13M for fundamental work on sustainable production of electricity and transportation fuels
April 07, 2013
The US National Science Foundation (NSF) has issued a grants opportunity notice (PD-14-7644) for up to about $13 million in awards to fundamental research and education that will enable innovative processes for the sustainable production of electricity and transportation fuels. Processes for sustainable energy production must be environmentally benign, reduce greenhouse gas production, and utilize renewable resources.
The duration of unsolicited awards is typically three years. The average annual award size for the program is $100,000. Proposals requesting a substantially higher amount than this, without prior consultation with the Program Director, may be returned without review. Current interest areas in sustainable energy technologies are as follows:
Task 39 report finds significant advances in advanced biofuels technologies; hydrotreating accounting for about 2.4% of global biofuels production
April 06, 2013
|Capacities of the demonstration and commercial facilities sorted by technology. Source: “Status of Advanced Biofuels Demonstration Facilities in 2012”. Click to enlarge.|
Advanced biofuels technologies have developed significantly over the past several years, according to a status report on demonstration facilities prepared for IEA Bioenergy Task 39—a group of international experts working on commercializing sustainable biofuels used for transportation that is part of the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) implementation agreement for bioenergy, IEA Bioenergy.
Hydrotreatment—as exemplified by Neste Oil’s NExBTL—has been commercialized and currently accounts for approximately 2.4% of biofuels production worldwide (2,190,000 t/y), according to the report. Fermentation of lignocellulosic raw material to ethanol has also seen a strong development and several large scale facilities are just coming online in Europe and North America. The production capacity for biofuels from lignocellulosic feedstock has tripled since 2010 and currently accounts for some 140,000 tons per year.
Virginia Tech team develops process for high-yield production of hydrogen from xylose under mild conditions
April 03, 2013
|Flow of the new process; enzymes are in red. Credit: Martín del Campo et al. Click to enlarge.|
A team of Virginia Tech researchers, led by Dr. Y.H. Percival Zhang, has developed a process to convert xylose—the second-most abundant sugar in plants—into hydrogen with approaching 100% of the theoretical yield. The findings of their study, published in the journal Angewandte Chemie, International Edition, suggest that cell-free biosystems could produce hydrogen from biomass xylose at low cost.
In the process, hydrogen is produced from xylose and water in one reactor containing 13 enzymes, including a novel polyphosphate xylulokinase (XK). The method can be performed using any source of biomass.
Joint BioEnergy Institute researchers engineer plant cell walls to boost sugar yields and reduce cell wall recalcitrance for biofuels
April 01, 2013
|Genetically engineered Arabidopsis plants (#89) yielded as much biomass as wild types (WT) but with enhanced polysaccharide deposition in the fibers of their cell walls. (Image courtesy of JBEI.) Click to enlarge.|
Researchers at the US Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) have developed a new approach to decrease lignin content in biomass while preventing vessel collapse and have devised a new strategy to boost transcription factor expression in native tissues. A paper describing their work recently was published in Plant Biotechnology Journal.
Abundant lignocellulosic biomass could potentially supply the sugars needed to produce advanced biofuels that can supplement or replace fossil fuels, providing several key technical challenges are met. One of these challenges is finding ways to more cost-effectively extract those sugars.
Converting the acetone-butanol-ethanol mixture to drop-in hydrocarbons
Researchers at Auburn University report on the catalytic dehydration of the acetone-butanol-ethanol (ABE) mixture produced by fermentation by genetically modified Clostridium acetobutylicum. Their paper appears in the ACS journal Energy & Fuels.
C. acetobutylicum produces a mixture of acetone, butanol and ethanol via fermentation. While the catalytic dehydration of the individual components—n-butanol, acetone, and ethanol—has been studied, not much work has been reported on the dehydration or deoxygenation of the mixture as produced from the ABE fermentation process, Shaima Nahreen and Ram Gupta note in their paper.
Navigant forecasts global 6% CAGR for biofuels to 2023
March 29, 2013
|Total Biofuels production by fuel type, world markets: 2013-2023. Source: Navigant. Click to enlarge.|
Navigant Research forecasts global biofuels production will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6% between 2013 and 2023, despite slower than expected development of advanced biofuels pathways (such as cellulosic biofuels); an expected expansion in unconventional oil production in key markets such as the United States; and a decline in global investment for biofuels in recent years.
In contrast, Navigant expects the CAGR for fossil-based gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel to be 3.1% over the forecast period. The research firm projects that total biofuels production will reach 62 billion gallons by 2023 or 5.9% of global transportation fuel production from fossil sources.
Primus Green Energy to support gas-to-liquids research at Princeton University; comparing STG+ to other GTL platforms
March 28, 2013
|Schematic diagram of the Primus STG+ process. Click to enlarge.|
Primus Green Energy Inc., developer of a proprietary process to produce gasoline and other fuels from biomass and/or natural gas (earlier post), will provide financial support to engineers at Princeton University for general research on synthetic fuels, which will include assessments of various gas-to-liquids (GTL) technologies—including Primus’ own STG+—for sustainability and economic viability.
STG+ technology converts syngas into drop-in high-octane gasoline and jet fuel with a conversion efficiency of ~35% by mass of syngas into liquid transportation fuels (the highest documented conversion efficiency in the industry) or greater than 70% by mass of natural gas. The fuels produced from the Primus STG+ technology are very low in sulfur and benzene compared to fuels produced from petroleum, and they can be used directly in vehicle engines as a component of standard fuel formulas and transported via the existing fuel delivery infrastructure.
JBEI team develops new one-pot process to extract biomass sugars from ionic liquid solutions
March 21, 2013
|Process of biomass pretreatment, acid hydrolysis and sugar extraction using alkaline solutions. Sun et al. Click to enlarge.|
A team from the Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI), Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has developed a novel one-pot process to extract sugars liberated from biomass in aqueous ionic liquid (IL) solutions. The new approach, described in an open access paper in the journal Biotechnology for Biofuels, potentially could significantly reduce costs of sugar production from lignocellulose by eliminating the need for costly enzymes and decreasing the water consumption requirements.
Many recent research and development efforts for cellulosic biofuels have explored a two-step bioconversion process involving: 1) liberation of fermentable sugars from lignocellulose; and 2) conversion of sugars into fuels and/or chemicals by fermentation. However, easily liberating the sugars and other monomers from cellulosic biomass for conversion is one of the major challenges to the cost-effectiveness of cellulosic pathways.
Mærsk Group exploring use of lignin-based marine biofuels; CyclOx and B21st
March 20, 2013
With an annual fuel bill of US$7 billion for vessel operations, the Mærsk Group continually considers ways to reduce its bunker fuel consumption. Greater efficiency is the primary way of achieving this; alternative fuels are another. Mærsk Group is currently involved in two projects focused on realizing the marine fuel potential of one of the world’s most abundant and sustainable biomass resources: lignin.
Lignin already has a variety of industrial uses because of its chemical characteristics, energy content and its abundance; yet its potential as a marine diesel fuel is a relatively uncharted area, says Peter Normark Sørensen, with Mærsk Oil Trading, the Mærsk Group’s oil buying arm.
DOE TEF project finds US can eliminate petroleum and reduce GHG by more than 80% in transportation by 2050; less use, more biofuels, expansion of electricity and hydrogen
March 15, 2013
|TEF project points to deep cuts in petroleum and emissions in the transportation sector by focusing on modes, fuels, and demand. Source: DOE. Click to enlarge.|
The US Department of Energy (DOE) released findings from a new project—Transportation Energy Futures (TEF)—that concludes the United States has the potential to eliminate petroleum use and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by more than 80% in the transportation sector by 2050. The project identifies possible paths to a low-carbon, low-petroleum future in the US transportation sector, and also looks beyond technology to examine the marketplace, consumer behavior, industry capabilities, and infrastructure.
TEF is organized into four research areas: light-duty vehicles; non-light-duty vehicles; fuels; and transportation demand. Findings are being detailed in a series of nine reports, six of which are now available.
SRI wins $925,000 DOE award to liquefy biomass for production of transportation fuels
March 13, 2013
Southern Research Institute (SRI) entered into a cooperative agreement with the US Department of Energy (DOE) to develop a mild liquefaction process that will economically convert biomass to petroleum refinery-ready bio-oils. The process will convert biomass to stabilized bio-oils that can be directly blended with hydrotreater and cracker input streams in a petroleum refinery for production of gasoline and diesel range hydrocarbons.
Dr. Santosh Gangwal, Southern Research principal investigator, said co-processing of bio-oil with petroleum refinery streams can help refineries comply with new renewable fuels standards (RFS-2.) The process will be evaluated and optimized using a continuous flow lab-scale biomass liquefaction system simulating the commercial embodiment of Southern Research’s liquefaction process. Also a lab-scale reactor will be constructed and tested for hydrotreating and cracking the bio-oils to produce gasoline and diesel range hydrocarbons.
ZeaChem begins production of cellulosic chemicals and ethanol, advances toward commercialization
March 12, 2013
|Zeachem’s C2 platform uses an acetogenic organism to ferment sugars to acetic acid, which is converted to ethanol. Source: Zeachem. Click to enlarge.|
ZeaChem Inc. has produced commercial-grade cellulosic chemicals and ethanol at its 250,000 gallons per year (GPY) demonstration biorefinery in Boardman, Ore. The demonstration facility is intended to showcase the scalability of ZeaChem’s biorefining process and serve as a stepping-stone toward large-scale commercial production.
Similar to a petrochemical refinery that makes multiple fuels and chemicals, ZeaChem’s demonstration facility is employing its C2 (two-carbon) platform to produce cellulose-based ethanol and intermediate chemicals such as acetic acid and ethyl acetate. (Earlier post.) The commercial market potential for all C2 products is $485 billion.
Codexis introduces next-generation Codexyme cellulase enzymes with improved performance for reduced costs
|Codexis has delivered significant improvements in enzyme performance (left) and enzyme manufacturing cost (right). Source: Codexis. Click to enlarge.|
Codexis, Inc., a developer of engineered enzymes for pharmaceutical, biofuel and chemical production, launched CodeXyme 4 and CodeXyme 4X cellulase enzyme packages for use in producing cellulosic sugar for production of biofuels and bio-based chemicals.
Codexis’ latest generation of advanced cellulase enzymes, CodeXyme 4 for dilute acid pretreatments and CodeXyme 4X for hydrothermal pretreatments, converts up to 85% of available fermentable sugars at high biomass and low enzyme loads. Combined with high strain productivity using the CodeXporter enzyme production system, this allows for a cost-in-use that the company believes will be among the lowest available once in full-scale commercial production.
Petrobras joining DIBANET biofuels consortium; diesel miscible biofuels from biomass
|DIBANET aimes to advance the art in several key areas in diesel miscible diesel production. Source: DIBANET. Click to enlarge.|
Petrobras is joining the DIBANET (Development of Integrated Biomass Approaches Network) consortium—a 45-month, €3.73-million (US$4.9-million) research project that is funded by the EU’s Seventh Framework Program. (Earlier post.) DIBANET is coordinated by the Carbolea Research Group at the University of Limerick in Ireland.
DIBANET focuses on the conversion, by non-biological means, of the lignocellulosic biomass residues and wastes of Europe and Latin America to platform chemicals, such as levulinic acid and furfural, and biofuels. More specifically, DIBANET is advancing the art in the production of ethyl-levulinate from organic wastes and residues. Ethyl levulinate (EL) is a novel diesel miscible biofuel (DMB) produced by esterifying ethanol with levulinic acid.
China-US team concludes duckweed biorefineries can be cost-competitive with petroleum-based processes
March 07, 2013
Researchers from the US and China have determined that a duckweed biorefinery producing a range of gasoline, diesel and kerosene products can be economically competitive with petroleum-based processes, even in some cases without environmental legislation that penalizes greenhouse gas emissions. A paper describing their analysis of four different scenarios for duckweed biorefineries is published in the ACS journal Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research.
Duckweed, an aquatic plant that floats on or near the surface of still or slow-moving freshwater, is attractive as a raw material for biofuel production. It grows fast, thrives in wastewater that has no other use, does not impact the food supply and can be harvested more easily than algae and other aquatic plants. However, few studies have been done on the use of duckweed as a raw material for biofuel production.
EIA: cellulosic biofuels will likely remain well below EISA targets
February 26, 2013
|Planned cellulosic biofuel production by 2015. Source: EIA. Click to enlarge.|
US Commercial-scale production of cellulosic biofuels reached about 20,000 gallons in late 2012, according to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA). EIA estimates this output could grow to more than 5 million gallons this year, as operations ramp up at several plants. Additionally, several more plants with proposed aggregate nameplate capacity of around 250 million gallons could begin production by 2015, EIA said.
However, although cellulosic biofuels volumes are expected to grow significantly relative to current levels, they will likely remain well below the targets envisioned in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA). EISA set a target level of 500 million gallons of cellulosic biofuels for 2012 and 1 billion gallons for 2013, growing to 16 billion gallons by 2022.
Ionic liquids effective for pre-treating mixed blends of biofuel feedstocks
January 30, 2013
A collaborative study by researchers with the US Department of Energy (DOE)’s Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI), a bioenergy research center led by Berkeley Lab, and the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) has shown that an ionic liquid proven to be effective for pre-treating individual biofuel feedstocks is also effective at pre-treating multiple different feedstocks that have been mixed and densified into a blend.
The JBEI/INL study used four biomass feedstocks—switchgrass, lodgepole pine, corn stover and eucalyptus—representing the general classes of plants well-suited to serving as fuel crops, and mixed and milled them into either flour or pellets then pre-treated with 1-ethyl-3-methylimidazolium acetate ([C2mim][OAc]), the ionic liquid used at JBEI as a benchmark for biomass processing.
DOE to award up to $6M for projects to develop advanced biomass supply chain technologies
January 29, 2013
The US Department of Energy (DOE) has issued a new Funding Opportunity Announcement (DE-FOA-0000836) for up to $6 million for projects that will develop and demonstrate supply chain technologies to deliver commercial-scale lignocellulosic biomass feedstocks affordably to biorefineries across the country.
DOE’s updated Billion Ton Study (earlier post) finds that sustainable biofuels could displace approximately one-third of America’s current transportation petroleum use. However, the lack of logistics systems capable of handling and delivering sufficiently high tonnage year-round volumes of high quality feedstocks to support the rapid escalation of cellulosic biofuels production has been identified as a significant barrier to the expansion of a sustainable domestic biofuels industry. In particular, biomass physical and chemical quality parameters have repeatedly been identified as significant challenges to the smooth operation and economic viability of biorefineries.
DC Circuit court vacates 2012 cellulosic RFS standard, affirms 2012 advanced biofuel standard
January 27, 2013
The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled this week in a case (#12-1139) brought by the American Petroleum Institute (API) against the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (earlier post), and vacated the 2012 cellulosic biofuel RFS standard while affirming the 2012 advanced biofuel standard.
API had filed the lawsuit with the DC Circuit Court challenging the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for what API called “unachievable” requirements for use of cellulosic biofuels in the 2012 Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). EPA’s 2012 rule requires that refiners and importers of gasoline and diesel must use 8.65 million gallons of cellulosic biofuels despite a lack of commercial supply of the fuel—a requirement that the API at the time called “divorced from reality.”
New metabolic engineering tool for microbial cell factories for chemicals, fuels and materials
January 22, 2013
A South Korean research team led by Sang Yup Lee at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) has developed a new metabolic engineering tool to construct efficiently microbial cell factories producing desired chemicals, fuels and materials. The new tool allows fine control of gene expression level by employing synthetic small regulatory RNAs; a paper on the work is published in the journal Nature Biotechnology.
Biotechnologists have been working to develop sustainable processes for the production of chemicals, fuels and materials from renewable non-food biomass. One promising technology is the use of microbial cell factories for the efficient production of desired chemicals and materials.
USDA to award $25M for R&D for next-generation biofuels
January 11, 2013
The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) will award some $25 million to four projects to research and development of next-generation renewable energy and high-value biobased products—such as biofuels—from a variety of biomass sources.
The projects are funded by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) through the Biomass Research and Development Initiative, established in the 2008 Farm Bill. The Department of Energy will make additional awards through this program. Each award was made through a competitive selection process.
Southern Research Institute wins $1.5M DOE award to test new coal-biomass-to-liquids method; seeking to reduce cost and environmental impact
January 08, 2013
Southern Research Institute has entered into a $1.5-million cooperative agreement with the US Department of Energy to test an innovative method for producing liquid transportation fuels from coal and biomass, thereby improving the economics and lifecycle impacts of coal-to-liquid (CTL) and coal-biomass-to-liquid (CBTL) processes.
The novel approach eliminates the conventional Fischer-Tropsch (FT) product upgrading and refining steps and enhances the ability of CTL and CBTL processes to compete with petroleum-based processes.
Sweetwater Energy and Ace Ethanol to begin commercial production of cellulosic ethanol; potential contract value of $100M
January 06, 2013
|Flow chart of a portion of Sweetwater’s distributed hydrolysis process to produce C5 and C6 sugar streams from biomass. Source: Sweetwater patent application. Click to enlarge.|
Sweetwater Energy, Inc., a Rochester NY-based cellulosic sugar producer (earlier post), announced a long-term commercial agreement with Ace Ethanol, a Stanley, WI-based corn ethanol production facility, to generate cellulosic ethanol at Ace’s plant for up to 16 years.
Sweetwater’s patented, decentralized hydrolysis process will convert locally available cellulosic, non-food biomass, such as crop residues, energy crops, and woody biomass into highly fermentable sugar, which Ace will ferment into ethanol. The entire contract has a total potential value in excess of $100 million, and requires a minimal capital outlay by Ace Ethanol while stabilizing Ace’s feedstock cost over the life of the agreement.
California Energy Commission to award up to $2.45M for renewable natural gas for transportation fuels
January 05, 2013
The California Energy Commission’s Public Interest Energy Research (PIER) has released a Program Opportunity Notice (PON-12-506) for the award of up to $2.45 million to accelerate research, development and demonstration (RD&D) of advanced technologies to produce renewable natural gas (RNG) transportation fuels.
Examples of acceptable feedstocks include but are not limited to: waste-based biomass (both pre- and post-landfilled); agricultural residues; purpose-grown fuel crops; woody biomass and forest residues; animal manures; food waste; municipal solid waste (MSW); and sewage. Pathways by which renewable natural gas is to be derived for proposed projects can include fermentation; thermochemical processes, or any other means of producing RNG.
DOE awards $10 million to 5 projects for advanced biofuels and bio-based products
January 03, 2013
The US Department of Energy announced more than $10 million in funding to five new projects that will develop new synthetic biological and chemical techniques to convert biomass into advanced biofuels and bioproducts such as plastics and chemical intermediates.
Two of these projects will develop cost-effective ways to produce intermediates from the deconstruction of lignocellulosic biomass, while three projects will propose new conversion techniques to transform biomass intermediates into advanced biofuels and bioproducts.
Researchers develop four-step catalytic process to produce petroleum refinery feedstocks from biomass sugars
|Molar carbon selectivities for different renewable petroleum refinery feedstocks obtained by hydrocycloaddition and hydrodeoxygenation of condensed furfural–acetone mixtures. Source: Olcay et al. Click to enlarge.|
A team of researchers led by James Dumesic and George Huber, both now at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, have demonstrated how C5 sugars derived from hemicellulose can be converted into a high-quality petroleum refinery feedstock via a four-step catalytic process. An open-access paper on their work is published in the RSC journal Energy & Environmental Science.
The renewable petroleum feedstock comprises normal, branched and cyclic alkanes up to 31 carbons in length and is similar in composition to the feedstocks produced in a petroleum refinery from crude oil. The new process can be tuned to adjust the size of the liquid alkanes.
JBEI-led team identifies galactan-boosting enzyme; important new tool for engineering fuel crops
December 21, 2012
An international collaboration led by scientists at the US Department of Energy (DOE)’s Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) has identified the first enzyme capable of substantially boosting the amount of galactan in plant cell walls. The GALS genes governing the enzyme may become important tools for developing bioenergy crops, the researchers suggest.
Among the key challenges to making advanced biofuels—i.e., drop-in bio-hydrocarbon fuels—cost-competitive is finding ways to maximize the amount of plant cell wall sugars that can be fermented into fuels. Galactan, which is a polymer of galactose, a six-carbon sugar that can be readily fermented by yeast into ethanol, is a target of interest for researchers in advanced biofuels produced from cellulosic biomass.
EC awards €1.2B from NER300 “Robin Hood” mechanism for 23 renewable energy projects; 5 advanced biofuel projects targeted for €516.8M
December 20, 2012
The European Commission awarded more than €1.2 billion (US$1.6 billion) funding to 23 highly renewable energy demonstration projects—including five advanced biofuels projects with maximum combined funding of €516.8 million (US$687 million), or 43% of the total—under the first call for proposals for the NER300 program.
Funding for the program comes from the sale of 300 million emission allowances from the New Entrants Reserve (NER) (hence the name) set up for the third phase of the EU Emissions Trading System (ETS). The funds from the sales are to be distributed to projects selected through two rounds of calls for proposals, covering 200 and 100 million allowances respectively.
ISU study finds large potential for biobased materials in auto industry, but with challenges
December 16, 2012
A study by researchers at Iowa State University has determined that the automotive industry has a very large potential to utilize biobased materials. Their report, “Biobased Automobile Parts Investigation”, was developed for the USDA Office of Energy Policy and New Uses. Because SUVs and trucks have a large number of parts, the authors suggested, they are good candidates to be the vehicle types with the largest amount of biobased material on a part number basis.
To create the largest impact, the researchers concluded, emphasis should be placed on the largest producers of vehicles; the five largest producers of automotive vehicles in the United States are General Motors, Ford, Toyota, Chrysler, and Honda. However, they noted, there are also many challenges associated with the use of biobased parts in the auto industry.
Repost: DOE will award up to $12M to research projects to drive down the cost of drop-in biofuels via thermochemical, direct liquefaction pathways
December 15, 2012
[Ed. Note: This is a repost due to the Typepad publishing system eating the original version posted on Friday. Apologies to those commenters whose comments have been lost.]
|Thermochemical pathways for producing bioproducts from biomass. Source: DOE. Click to enlarge. Click to enlarge.|
The US Department of Energy (DOE) announced up to $12 million in new funding (DE-FOA-0000812) for projects to drive down the cost of producing drop-in gasoline, diesel, and jet fuels from biomass via thermochemical, direct liquefaction pathways (i.e. fast pyrolysis, ex situ and in situ catalytic fast pyrolysis, hydropyrolysis, hydrothermal liquefaction, and solvent liquefaction). The funding will support up to five research and development projects that will boost biofuel yields from non-food-based lignocellulosic feedstocks such as agricultural residue, fast-growing poplar trees, and switch grass.
The FOA is addressing research and development (R&D) challenges that were identified at a stakeholder workshop held in December 2011 called “Conversion Technologies for Advanced Biofuels” (CTAB) and from a Request for Information (RFI) conducted in November 2012. (Earlier post.)
USDA awards $10M in grants to spur production of biofuels, bioenergy and biobased products
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced $10 million in research grants to spur production of biofuels, bioenergy and biobased products that will lead to the development of sustainable regional systems and help create jobs. Vilsack highlighted the announcement with a visit to Michigan State University, a grant awardee.
The long-term goal for the research projects, which were selected through a competitive process, is to implement sustainable regional systems that materially deliver liquid transportation biofuels to help meet the Energy Independence and Security Act goal of 36 billion gallons per year of biofuels by 2022.
NREL and Johnson Matthey in 5-Year collaboration on catalytic fast pyrolysis for drop-in biofuels
December 14, 2012
The US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) will partner with Johnson Matthey, a global specialty chemicals company, in a five-year, $7-million effort to produce economically drop-in gasoline, diesel and jet fuel from non-food biomass feedstocks.
The goal is to improve vapor-phase upgrading during the biomass pyrolysis process in order to lower costs and speed production of lignocellulose-based fuels; as part of the work, Johnson Matthey will supply and develop innovative new catalytic materials for such upgrading.