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

Lygos partners with Agile BioFoundry and DOE to accelerate bioproduct R&D and commercialization; two-year, $5M pilot collaboration

October 17, 2017

Lygos announced that the US Department of Energy is providing multi-year funding for Lygos’ collaboration with the Agile BioFoundry (ABF) to automate research technology. Lygos’ pilot collaboration is part of a multi-company two-year, $5-million effort coordinated by the ABF.

Lygos produces high-value specialty chemical traditionally produced in oil-based petrochemical processes in a process that uses commercially proven, acid-tolerant yeast and domestic sugars instead of petroleum, and has pioneered the world’s first bio-based production of malonic acid (a C3-dicarboxylic acid). (Earlier post.)

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WSU, PNNL researchers convert algal biofuel waste from hydrothermal liquefaction into commodity using anaerobes; sewage sludge next

October 08, 2017

Researchers at Washington State University and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory have devised a method of converting a waste product generated by the conversion of algae into bio-crude into a usable and valuable commodity. The results of the team’s research are published in the journal Bioresource Technology.

Converting algae to biofuels can utilize a two-step process. The first, developed by PNNL, applies high pressure and high temperature to algae to create bio-oil. The second converts that bio-oil into biofuel, which can replace gasoline, diesel and jet fuel. The first step—hydrothermal liquefaction (HTL)—produces waste; approximately 25 to 40 percent of carbon and 80 percent of nutrients from the algae are left behind in wastewater streams.

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DOE selects eight integrated biorefinery projects for up to $15M total in funding

September 21, 2017

The Department of Energy (DOE) has selected eight projects to negotiate for up to $15 million in total DOE funding to optimize integrated biorefineries. These projects will work to solve research and developmental challenges encountered for the successful scale-up and reliable operations of integrated biorefineries (IBRs); decrease capital and operating expenses; and focus on the manufacture of advanced or cellulosic biofuels and higher-value bioproducts.

This Integrated Biorefinery Optimization funding opportunity is coordinated and supported jointly between DOE’s Bioenergy Technologies Office and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).

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Enviral licenses Clariant’s sunliquid cellulosic ethanol technology

September 18, 2017

Clariant, a world leader in specialty chemicals, and Enviral, the largest producer of bioethanol in Slovakia, have signed a license agreement on sunliquid cellulosic ethanol technology. Enviral has acquired a license to use Clariant’s sunliquid technology as part of its goal to realize a full scale commercial cellulosic ethanol plant for the commercial production of cellulosic ethanol from agricultural residues.

This new plant will be owned and operated by Enviral and is planned to be integrated into the existing facilities at Enviral’s Leopoldov site in Slovakia with an annual production capacity of 50,000 tons. It will use Clariant’s sunliquid technology as well as starter cultures from its proprietary enzyme and yeast platforms to process Enviral feedstock into cellulosic ethanol.

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Enerkem begins commercial production of cellulosic ethanol from garbage at its Edmonton biofuels facility

September 16, 2017

Enerkem Inc. has started the commercial production of cellulosic ethanol. Enerkem’s facility in Edmonton, AB, Canada, is the first commercial-scale plant in the world to produce cellulosic ethanol made from non-recyclable, non-compostable mixed municipal solid waste.

The company has been producing and selling biomethanol since 2016, prior to expanding production to include cellulosic ethanol with the installation of its methanol-to-ethanol conversion unit earlier this year.

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DOE awarding $40M in FY 2018 to 4 DOE Bioenergy Research Centers; plans for 5 years of funding

July 18, 2017

US Secretary of Energy Rick Perry announced $40 million in Department of Energy awards for the establishment of four DOE Bioenergy Research Centers (BRCs), which will provide the scientific breakthroughs for a new generation of sustainable, cost-effective bioproducts and bioenergy.

The centers—each led by a DOE National Laboratory or a top university—are designed to lay the scientific groundwork for a new bio-based economy that promises to yield a range of important new products and fuels derived directly from nonfood biomass. Initial funding for the four centers will total $40 million for FY 2018, with plans for a total of five years of funding. The following centers were selected based on an open competition using outside peer review:

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ExxonMobil and UW Madison extend research collaboration on conversion of biomass to transportation fuels

July 17, 2017

The University of Wisconsin-Madison and ExxonMobil announced a two-year renewal of an agreement to research the fundamental chemistry of converting biomass into transportation fuels. The research is part of a broad effort to identify scalable and commercially viable solutions to help meet increasing global energy demand with a renewable resource.

UW-Madison has long been known for its expertise in biomass conversion. The project leverages the university’s expertise with ExxonMobil’s resources and strong technological capabilities. George Huber, the Harvey D. Spangler professor of chemical and biological engineering at UW-Madison, is working closely with ExxonMobil’s scientists to build a stronger understanding of the basic chemical transformations that occur during biomass conversion into diesel and jet fuels.

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U Minn seeking to license new process to produce isoprene from biomass at high yield; green tires

July 02, 2017

Researchers from the University of Minnesota, with colleagues at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, have developed a new high-yield process—a hybrid of fermentation followed by thermochemical catalysis—to produce renewable isoprene from biomass.

In the process, fermentation of sugars produces itaconic acid, which undergoes catalytic hydrogenation to produce 3-methyltetrahydrofuran (MTHF). The MTHF then undergoes catalytic dehydra-decyclization to isoprene. This catalytic process dehydrates MTHF to isoprene via several combinations of temperatures, pressures, and space velocities (reactant volumetric flow rate per volume of catalyst) and achieves selectivity of MTHF to isoprene.

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GLBRC research review concludes cellulosic biofuels can benefit the environment if managed correctly

June 30, 2017

Cellulosic biofuels could provide an environmentally sustainable way of meeting energy needs—but with a few important caveats, according to a new review of research by a team from the US Department of Energy-funded Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center (GLBRC). Their paper is published in the journal Science.

Although not yet a market force, cellulosic biofuels are routinely factored into future climate mitigation scenarios because of their potential to both displace petroleum use and mitigate greenhouse gas emissions. Those benefits, however, are complicated by the need for vast amounts of land to produce cellulosic biofuels on a large scale.

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USDA, DOE to award $9M for bioenergy feedstocks, biofuels and bio-based products

June 06, 2017

The US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), announced that up to $9 million in funding will be made available through the Biomass Research and Development Initiative (BRDI) to support the development of bioenergy feedstocks, biofuels, and bio-based products (DE-FOA-0001637).

The projects funded through BRDI—a joint NIFA and DOE program—will help develop economically and environmentally sustainable sources of renewable biomass, increase the availability of renewable fuels and biobased products, and diversify the US energy portfolio. Both DOE and NIFA have been given statutory authorities to support the development of a biomass-based industry in the United States, under the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 (FCEA) and the Energy Policy Act of 2005.

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U of Illinois researchers develop new capabilities for genome-wide engineering of yeast

May 06, 2017

In a new open-access paper in Nature Communications, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign researchers describe how their successful integration of several cutting-edge technologies—creation of standardized genetic components, implementation of customizable genome editing tools, and large-scale automation of molecular biology laboratory tasks—will enhance the ability to work with yeast. The results of their new method demonstrate its potential to produce valuable novel strains of yeast for industrial use, as well as to reveal a more sophisticated understanding of the yeast genome.

The team focused on yeast in part because of its important modern-day applications; yeasts are used to convert the sugars of biomass feedstocks into biofuels such as ethanol and industrial chemicals such as lactic acid, or to break down organic pollutants. Because yeast and other fungi, like humans, are eukaryotes, organisms with a compartmentalized cellular structure and complex mechanisms for control of their gene activity, study of yeast genome function is also a key component of biomedical research.

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Sugar-derived levulinic esters and cyclic ether show superior anti-knock quality to Euro95 reference gasoline

April 24, 2017

A team from The Netherlands and the US reports that the sugar-derived levulinic esters methyl levulinate (ML) and ethyl levulinate (EL) and the sugar-derived cyclic ether (furfuryl ethyl ether (FEE) demonstrate superior anti-knock quality (in 10% blends) to a reference Euro95 gasoline.

The sugar-derived ethyl tetrahydrofurfuryl ether (ETE), another cyclic ether, conversely, performed markedly worse than the reference fuel on both setups. ETE this may be a more appropriate fuel additive for compression ignition engines, the authors suggest in an open-access paper published in the journal Fuel.

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CSIRO licenses technology to Amfora for production of oil in leaves and stems of plants; participates in Series A

April 17, 2017

US-based biotech startup Amfora and CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, the federal government agency for scientific research in Australia) signed an agreement to advance development and commercialization of technology to produce oil in the leaves and stems of plants as well as the seeds.

Innovation Leader with CSIRO Agriculture and Food, Allan Green, said that this was the first of many applications of the technology, which can be used to produce energy-rich feed for livestock as well as for human food, biofuels and industrial uses.

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

April 16, 2017

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

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

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Renewable plastic precursor could reduce cost of cellulosic ethanol by >$2/gallon

April 10, 2017

A team of chemical and biological engineers at the University of Wisconsin–Madison has developed a new chemical pathway a way to produce from biomass a valuable compound—1,5-pentanediol, a plastic precursor primarily used to make polyurethanes and polyester plastics—that they estimate could lower the cost of cellulosic ethanol by more than two dollars per gallon.

The highly efficient approach devised by Professor George Huber and collaborators is much cheaper than a previously reported method—direct hydrogenolysis of tetrahydrofurfuryl alcohol (THFA)—and represents the first economically viable way of producing 1,5-pentanediol from biomass. A paper on their work is published in the journal ChemSusChem.

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BP, DuPont JV Butamax acquires ethanol plant to add bio-isobutanol production capability as demo plant

April 03, 2017

Butamax Advanced Biofuels LLC, a 50/50 joint venture between BP and DuPont, acquired Nesika Energy, LLC and its ethanol facility in Scandia, Kansas. Butamax will now start the detailed engineering work to add bio-isobutanol capacity to the facility, while continuing to produce ethanol before and after adding this capacity.

Butamax plans to license its proprietary bio-isobutanol technology beyond this first facility on a global scale. When the newly acquired facility in Kansas has bio-isobutanol production capability, it will be used as a demonstration facility for potential licensees to see the technology in operation and serve as a proving ground for future developments.

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

February 14, 2017

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

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

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Velocys establishes strategic alliance with TRI for gasification systems for BTL plants

January 27, 2017

Velocys plc, the developer of smaller scale gas-to-liquids (GTL), signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with ThermoChem Recovery International, Inc. (TRI), establishing a strategic alliance. TRI—a leading provider of steam reforming gasification systems suitable for woody biomass and other waste feedstocks—will be Velocys’ preferred supplier of gasification systems for its biomass-to-liquids (BTL) plants.

The agreement will see the alliance partners rapidly deploy an integrated biorefinery offering that combines Velocys’ Fischer-Tropsch (FT) technology with TRI’s proven gasification technology.

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

January 16, 2017

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

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

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DOE and USDA issue notice of intent for Biomass Research and Development Initiative

January 15, 2017

The US Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s (EERE’s) Bioenergy Technologies Office, in coordination with the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA's) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), announced its intent to issue a Request for Applications (RFA) through the Biomass Research and Development Initiative. (DE-FOA-0001711)

Projects funded through this RFA, titled “Fiscal Year 17 Biomass Research and Development Initiative (BRDI),” will help develop economically and environmentally sustainable sources of renewable biomass, and increase the availability of renewable fuels and biobased products. The BRDI program requires that funded projects address at least one of the following three legislatively mandated technical areas:

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DOE and USDA partner to award up to $22.7M for integrated biorefineries

January 07, 2017

The US Department of Energy (DOE) and the US Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA-NIFA) jointly announced $22.7 million to support the optimization of integrated biorefineries (IBR). DOE is providing majority funding with up to $19.8 million and USDA-NIFA is providing up to $2.9 million in funding.

Federal support for first-of-a-kind IBRs could significantly reduce the technical and financial risks associated with the operation of commercial scale biorefineries. The DOE’s Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) has identified, via stakeholder engagements through a request for information (RFI) and a Biorefinery Optimization Workshop, areas in which DOE and USDA-NIFA can effectively support technology development and engineering solutions to economically and sustainably overcome technology barriers.

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

December 31, 2016

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

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

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

December 29, 2016

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

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

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Synthetic biology startup Lygos closes $13M Series A to target oil-based specialty chemical industry

December 13, 2016

Lygos, Inc., a bio-based specialty chemicals company, closed $13 million in Series A financing led by IA Ventures and OS Fund. Other investors include First Round Capital, the Y Combinator Continuity Fund, 50 Years and Vast Ventures, along with notable angel investors. Lygos produces high-value specialty chemical traditionally produced in oil-based petrochemical processes in a process that commercially proven, acid-tolerant yeast and domestic sugars instead of petroleum, and has pioneered the world’s first bio-based production of malonic acid (a C3-dicarboxylic acid). (Earlier post.)

The current process used to produce malonic acid requires sodium cyanide and chloroacetic acid; Lygos’ engineered yeast produces malonic acid from sugar and CO2. Many Lygos target products are organic acids—compounds that are expensive to synthesize using petrochemistry but can be produced at high theoretical yield microbially.

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DOE to issue funding opportunity for integrated biorefinery optimization

December 06, 2016

DOE to issue funding opportunity for integrated biorefinery optimization

The US Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) intends to issue, on behalf of the Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) and the US Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, a funding opportunity announcement (DE-FOA-0001689) entitled, “Integrated Biorefinery Optimization.”

This FOA will support research and development to increase the performance efficiencies of biorefineries resulting in continuous operation and production of biofuels, bioproducts, and biopower at prices competitive with fossil-derived equivalents.

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BP takes $30M stake in Fulcrum Bioenergy; 500M gallon renewable jet offtake agreement

November 08, 2016

Fulcrum BioEnergy and BP signed a major strategic partnership that includes a $30-million equity investment in Fulcrum by BP. With Fulcrum’s first plant under construction, this partnership accelerates the construction schedule for Fulcrum’s next renewable jet fuel plants.

Fulcrum and Air BP, the aviation division of BP, have also agreed to terms on a 500-million gallon jet fuel offtake agreement that will provide Air BP with 50 million gallons per year of low-carbon, drop-in jet fuel. Air BP will also have the opportunity to provide fuel supply chain services for the blending, certification and delivery of Fulcrum’s jet fuel to commercial and military aviation customers.

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