[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.]
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.
UGA/NCSU team engineers hyperthermophilic bacterium to produce industrial chemical building blocks from CO2 and H2; ARPA-E project
March 26, 2013
Researchers at the University of Georgia and North Carolina State University have used a unique temperature-dependent approach in engineering a hyperthermophilic archaeon, Pyrococcus furiosus to be able to use CO2 and hydrogen to produce 3-hydroxypropionic acid, one of the top 12 industrial chemical building blocks.
The research, reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of the Sciences (PNAS), was supported by the Department of Energy as part of the Electrofuels Program of the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) under Grant DE-AR0000081. (Earlier post.)
ARPA-E to award up to $20M to projects for bioconversion of methane to liquid fuels; seeking <$2/gge and ability to meet US demand for transportation fuels
March 17, 2013
The US Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Advanced Research Projects Agency - Energy (ARPA-E) has issued a Funding Opportunity Announcement (DE-FOA-0000881) for up to $20 million to fund the development of bioconversion technologies to convert methane into liquid fuels. (Earlier post.) This program envisions the development of transformative bioconversion technologies that are capable of producing liquid fuels economically from natural gas at less than $2 per gallon of gasoline equivalent and at levels sufficient to meet US demand for transportation fuels.
Of interest for the Reducing Emissions Using Methanotrophic Organisms For Transportation Energy (REMOTE) program are biological routes to improve the rates and energy efficiencies of methane activation and subsequent fuel synthesis, as well as approaches to engineer high-productivity methane conversion processes. REMOTE considers three technical categories:
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.
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.
California Energy Commission awards more than $17M to support alternative fuel and infrastructure projects
February 14, 2013
The California Energy Commission (CEC) approved $17,223,593 for eight projects including alternative fuel production, plug-in truck demonstrations, EV charging station deployment, and infrastructure planning. The awards were made through the Commission’s Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program, created by Assembly Bill 118. This program is slated to invest approximately $90 million during this fiscal year to develop new transportation technologies, as well as alternative and renewable fuels. It is paid for through surcharges on vehicle and boating registrations, and smog check and license plate fees.
These awards also assist in fulfilling Governor Brown’s executive order directing state government to support the rapid commercialization of zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) in California, with a 2025 target of having 1.5 million ZEVs on the state’s roads. The order also requires the installation of sufficient infrastructure to support 1 million ZEVs in California by 2020. (Earlier post.)
Researchers demonstrate sustainable integrated process for wastewater algae to biocrude via hydrothermal liquefaction
February 11, 2013
|Flow diagram of the solvent extraction and product recovery method used. Credit: ACS, Roberts et al. Click to enlarge.|
A team at the University of Kansas has demonstrated the feasibility of an integrated wastewater algae-to-biocrude process using hydrothermal liquefaction (HTL) that can sustainably cultivate algal biomass for biofuel production. A paper on their work is published in the ACS journal Energy & Fuels.
This study is the first of hydrothermal liquefaction of wastewater-derived microalgae, the team said. The municipal wastewater matrix and resultant mixed-culture biomass significantly influenced liquefaction product distribution, yielding a higher proportion of biochar, which may be a valuable co-product, they found.
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.
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.
Univ. of Washington and partners working to engineer microbes for conversion of methane to lipids for processing into liquid intermediates for diesel or jet fuels
January 03, 2013
In a $4.8-million project funded by ARPA-E (earlier post), the University of Washington, the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), Johnson-Matthey, and Lanza Tech are working to develop optimized microbes to convert methane found in natural gas into lipids for further processing into an intermediate liquid for diesel or jet fuel.
The University of Washington is taking the lead and focusing on genetically modifying the microbes. NREL will be in charge of fermentation to demonstrate the productivity of the microbes, both the natural organism and the genetically-altered varieties. NREL will also extract the lipids from the organisms and analyze the economic potential of the plan.
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.
Proterro secures $3.5M in new funding to advance its noncellulosic sucrose for biofuels and biobased chemicals; progress on patent on sucrose-producing cyanobacteria
December 18, 2012
|Proterro engineered cyanobacteria for continuous high-yield production of sucrose, which can then be used in the production of biofuels and biochemicals. Source: Proterro. Click to enlarge.|
Proterro, Inc.—the only company making sugar instead of extracting it from crops—has closed on a $3.5-million financing round led by current investor Braemar Energy Ventures. Proterro has engineered cyanobacteria (from the group consisting of Synechococcus and Synechocystis) that naturally produce only sucrose to secrete the sucrose in a continuous, high-yield process. The sucrose can then be used in the production of biofuels and biochemicals. (Earlier post.)
In addition, the company announced it has received a notice of allowance from the United States Patent and Trademark Office on a cornerstone composition of matter patent (US Patent Application No. 12/348,887) protecting the company’s sucrose-producing cyanobacteria and their new genetic code.
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.
New fast hydrothermal process converts 65% of wet algae feedstock sample to biocrude in one minute
November 08, 2012
|Biocrude from Nannochloropsis. Credit: Savage Lab. Click to enlarge.|
A team led by Prof. Phillip Savage at the University of Michigan has found that with appropriate parameters, hydrothermal liquefaction (HTL) can convert 65% of wet algae (a Nannochloropsis species) into biocrude in one minute. The team, which has been investigating HTL processing of algae to biocrude—along with techniques for dexoygenating the product for subsequent refining—for several years, presented its latest results at the 2012 American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) Annual Meeting in Pittsburgh.
An hydrothermal process is one that involves water at elevated temperatures and pressures; hydrothermal liquefaction (HTL) is one of a number of methods for converting biomass conversion to biofuels or biofuel precursors. HTL avoids energy-intensive drying steps, and is thus more energy efficient for biomass with very high moisture content—such as microalgae—the researchers note.
DOE issues request for information on conversion technologies for advanced hydrocarbon biofuels, feedback on draft CTAB roadmap
November 01, 2012
The US Department of Energy (DOE) has issued a request for information (RFI) (DE-FOA-0000775) to obtain input from stakeholders and the research community regarding technologies for the deconstruction of lignocellulosic biomass to intermediates and for the upgrading of biomass derived intermediates to hydrocarbon transportation fuels and blendstocks.
DOE is interested in stakeholder input specifically regarding: (1) the production of hydrocarbon biofuels or biofuel precursors from organisms that use lignocellulosic sugar as a carbon source (not including ethanol and butanol); the production of biofuels and biofuel oxygenates from lignocellulosic sugar or carbohydrate derivatives using catalytic means; the production of biofuels from bio-oil produced via direct liquefaction pathways (such as, but not limited to, processes like fast pyrolysis and hydrothermal liquefaction); and the production of lignocellulosic sugars from biomass using non-enzymatic processes.
IACT team using ALD to build nanobowls for tailored catalysts for biofuel production
October 27, 2012
A team of scientists from the Institute for Atom Efficient Chemical Transformations (IACT)—an Energy Frontier Research Center (earlier post) led by Argonne National Laboratory (ANL), and including Northwestern University, the University of Wisconsin and Purdue University—is using atomic layer deposition (ALD) to build nanoscale “bowls” that protect metal catalysts from the harsh conditions of biofuel refining.
In recent years, nanoparticles of metals such as platinum, iridium and palladium supported on metal oxide surfaces have been considered as catalysts to convert biomass into alternative fuels as efficiently as possible. Unfortunately, under typical biorefining conditions where liquid water may reach temperatures of 200 °C and pressures of 4,100 kilopascals (597 psi), the tiny metal nanoparticles can agglomerate into much larger particles which are not catalytically active. Additionally, these extreme conditions can dissolve the support.
California Energy Commission selects 7 biofuel companies for almost $27M in funding
October 18, 2012
The California Energy Commission (CEC) has selected seven companies as proposed recipients for $26,896,373 in Round 2 of awards from a solicitation released under the Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program (ARFVTP) to provide funding for the development of new, California-based biofuel production facilities that can sustainably produce low-carbon transportation fuels.
Maximum funding available for this grant solicitation, which was issued in January, was $37.69 million; the Energy Commission reserved the right to increase total funding under this solicitation by up to an additional $30 million. The Commission released Round 1 of the proposed awards in March. Of the seven Round 2 proposed award recipients, two produce diesel substitutes ($8,641,723); two produce gasoline substitutes ($9,664,657); and three produce biomethane ($8,589,993).
Ensyn and Fibria establish strategic alliance for cellulosic fuels and chemicals in Brazil; Fibria to invest $20M in Ensyn
October 04, 2012
Ensyn Corporation and Brazilian wood pulp company Fibria Celulose S.A. have formed a strategic alliance that includes the establishment of an equally-owned joint venture for the production of cellulosic liquid fuels and chemicals in Brazil, as well as a US$20-million equity investment in Ensyn Corporation by Fibria.
The goal of the Ensyn-Fibria joint venture is to combine the strengths of each to create a major producer of renewable liquid fuels from cellulosic feedstocks. Ensyn and its affiliates have developed Rapid Thermal Processing (RTP) technology which converts wood and other non-food biomass into renewable liquid fuels and chemicals. (Earlier post.) Fibria has industry-leading expertise in fiber production as well as a significant Brazilian fiber resource and a substantial corporate presence in Brazil.
Researchers use PEM fuel cell reactor to convert biomass-derived acetone into isopropanol; new biomass to fuels pathway
October 03, 2012
A team from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, University of Massachusetts-Amherst and Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology of South Korea has demonstrated the feasibility of using proton-exchange-membrane (PEM) reactors electrocatalytically to reduce biomass-derived oxygenates into renewable fuels and chemicals.
George Huber, UW-Madison professor of chemical and biological engineering, and his collaborators used a PEM fuel cell reactor to reduce the model biomass compound acetone into isopropanol— a chemical compound with a wide variety of pharmaceutical and industrial applications, including as a gasoline additive—on an unsupported platinum cathode. The advance paves the way for researchers to convert biomass molecules such as glucose into hexanes, which are significant components of gasoline currently derived by refining crude oil.
Pike Research forecasts surge in investment and growth in advanced biorefineries through 2022
September 22, 2012
|Cumulative capital investment in biorefinery infrastructure by generation, world markets, 2012–2022. Source: Pike Research. Click to enlarge.|
Pike Research forecasts that biorefineries globally will attract $170 billion in new capital investment between 2012 and 2022, reaching 81 billion gallons per year (BGY) of installed capacity. In its tally and projections, Pike includes conventional ethanol and biodiesel facilities targeting commodity-based feedstocks, such as corn starch, sugarcane, soy, palm oil, and rapeseed.
The new research report, Industrial Biorefineries, puts the installed capacity of the current fleet of approximately 1,415 biorefineries—scattered predominately across the United States, Brazil, and Europe—at 34.6 BGY of installed capacity worldwide in 2012. These conventional biorefineries are now giving way to a growing number of advanced biorefineries, Pike says.
Novozymes to market Terranol C5 yeast for cellulosic ethanol
August 28, 2012
Enzyme leader Novozymes and Terranol, a Denmark-based biotechnology company specialized in yeast, announced an agreement that will ensure the final optimization of the Terranol C5 yeast strain and give Novozymes the rights to register and market Terranol’s C5 yeast technology. Terranol A/S is a research and development company dedicated to developing and commercializing C6/C5 fermenting yeasts for cellulosic ethanol production.
“A yeast that ferments C5 sugars is essential to cost-efficient production of cellulosic ethanol. Our C5 yeast is among the furthest developed in the industry and by leveraging Novozymes’ global marketing muscle we can speed up its commercialization,” said Birgitte Rønnow, CEO of Terranol.
Waste Management and Renmatix to explore conversion of urban waste to low-cost cellulosic sugar via supercritical hydrolysis
August 23, 2012
Waste Management, Inc. and Renmatix, a manufacturer of biobased sugar intermediates for global chemical and fuel markets, have entered into a joint development agreement (JDA) to explore the feasibility of converting post-consumer waste into affordable, sufficient-quality sugars for manufacturing biobased materials using Renmatix’ supercritical hydrolysis technology. (Earlier post.)
The strategic investment and alliance aims to expand the feedstock flexibility of Renmatix’s proprietary Plantrose process beyond rural biomass to include materials derived from cost-effective and readily available urban waste material such as that managed by Waste Management. The JDA aims to determine how these materials can be reduced to sugar and leveraged for production of renewable chemicals and fuels.
Consolidated bioprocessing company Aemetis licenses plant oil hydroprocessing technology from Chevron Lummus Global for renewable jet and diesel
August 22, 2012
|Outline of the Biofuels ISOCONVERSION process. Source: ARA. Click to enlarge.|
Aemetis, Inc., originally known as AE Biofuels, an industrial biotechnology company producing renewable chemicals and advanced fuels using patented microbes and processes, has signed a license agreement with Chevron Lummus Global (CLG) for the use of the Biofuels ISOCONVERSION process for the production of 100% drop-in renewable jet fuel and diesel from plant oils.
The Biofuels ISOCONVERSION Process utilizes patented Catalytic Hydrothermolysis (CH) reactor technology, developed by Applied Research Associates (ARA). CH utilizes water to reduce hydrogen and catalyst consumption and quickly and inexpensively converts plant oils into stable intermediate oil products which are very similar to petroleum crude oil. The intermediate oils are then hydrotreated and deoxygenated using CLG’s ISOCONVERSION catalysts to produce drop-in jet fuel and diesel.
Eni’s Versalis to partner with Genomatica and Novamont for bio-based butadiene; rubber for tires
July 24, 2012
Versalis, Eni’s chemicals subsidiary leader in the production of elastomers, together with Genomatica, a leading developer of process technology for renewable chemicals, and Novamont, a leader in biodegradable plastics and pioneer in third-generation integrated biorefineries, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to establish a strategic partnership to enable production of butadiene from renewable feedstocks.
Butadiene is a major chemical building block for the petrochemical industry and is presently produced primarily as a by-product of ethylene cracking. About 10 million tonnes are produced each year, of which two-thirds are used to manufacture synthetic rubber, with the last third is used for nylon, latices, ABS plastics and other polymers.
MSU team develops consolidated bioprocessing platform for efficient production of ethanol and hydrogen from biomass with a microbial electrolysis cell
July 10, 2012
Researchers at Michigan State University have developed a method for the consolidated bioprocessing (CBP) of corn stover pretreated by ammonia fiber expansion (AFEX-CS) to produce ethanol and hydrogen with a microbial electrolysis cell (MEC) using the ethanol-producing bacterium Cellulomonas uda in partnership with the exoelectrogenic bacterium Geobacter sulfurreducens.
The synergistic activities of the ethanol-producing and electricity-producing bacteria resulted in substantial energy recoveries from ethanol production alone (ca. 56%). (G. sulfurreducens removes waste fermentation byproducts that can inhibit ethanol production.) The cogeneration of H2 in the MEC further increased the energy recoveries to ca. 73%.
BESC researchers identify key proteins in species of extremely thermophilic bacteria for breakdown of biomass into fermentable sugars
July 03, 2012
|The extremely thermophilic, cellulose-degrading Caldicellulosiruptor bescii. Source: ORNL. Click to enlarge.|
A team of researchers at the Department of Energy’s BioEnergy Science Center from North Carolina State University, Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the University of Georgia have analyzed the genomes of eight species of extremely thermophilic bacteria from the genus Caldicellulosiruptor and identified key proteins for the deconstruction of plant biomass into fermentable sugars. Team members had published the complete genome of five Caldicellulosiruptor species early in January; three had been reported previously.
The genus Caldicellulosiruptor, found in globally diverse sites from New Zealand to Iceland to Russia, contains the most thermophilic (optimal growth temperatures range from 70–78 °C, or 158–172 °F), plant biomass-degrading bacteria isolated to date. The analysis could aid in the production of next-generation biofuels.
US Navy and USDA make $30M available for commercial-scale advanced drop-in biofuels, with potential for $180M follow-on; $32M from DOE for earlier stage research
July 02, 2012
The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Navy will provide $30 million in federal funding (FOA-12-15-PKM) for Phase 1 projects to match private investments in commercial-scale advanced drop-in biofuels. The program envisions a subsequent investment of up to $180M in follow-on Phase 2 projects.
The US Department of Energy (DOE) is also announcing a total of $32 million in new investments through two earlier-issued solicitations (DE-FOA-0000739 (earlier post) and DE-FOA-0000719) (earlier post) for earlier stage biofuels research that will continue to drive technological breakthroughs and additional cost reductions in the industry and that complement the commercial-scale efforts announced by the Navy and USDA.
DOE to award up to $40M for biorefineries to produce milspec drop-in hydrocarbon biofuels
June 17, 2012
The US Department of Energy (DOE) has issued a funding opportunity announcement (DE-FOA-0000739) to identify, evaluate, and select innovative pilot- or demonstration-scale integrated biorefineries that can produce hydrocarbon fuels that meet military specifications for JP-5 (jet fuel primarily for the Navy), JP-8 (jet fuel primarily for the Air Force), or F-76 (diesel). The pilot- or demonstration-scale biorefinery must be integrated from biomass input to fuel output such that the finished product can be used directly as a fuel. Ethanol from sugarcane, starch, algae, or lignocellulosic feedstocks is specifically excluded.
DOE expects approximately $20,000,000 to be available for new awards under this FOA in FY2012 with up to an additional $20,000,000 in FY2013, subject to Congressional appropriations for this program.
USDA providing $9.6M to create 9,000 acres of BCAP project areas for non-food energy crop production
June 13, 2012
The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) is providing $9.6 million for the creation of two new Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) project areas in New York and North Carolina, and the expansion of an already established BCAP project area in Arkansas. The announcement provides the opportunity to expand the use of non-food, energy crops for liquid biofuels and to help meet state mandated Renewal Portfolio Standards (RPS).
USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) administers BCAP. BCAP, created in the 2008 Farm Bill, helps farmers and forest land owners with start-up costs of planting new energy crops that can take several years to reach maturity until harvest, a timeline designed to parallel the construction schedule of commercial-scale energy facilities that will use these crops.
JBEI team develops ionic-liquid-tolerant bacterial cocktail for cost-effective biomass pretreatment for cellulosic biofuels
June 04, 2012
Researchers from the US Department of Energy (DOE) Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) have developed an ionic liquid (IL)-tolerant bacterial cocktail for the pretreatment of cellulosic biomass at higher temperatures and in the presence of much higher IL concentrations than commercial fungal cocktails.
In an open-access paper published in the journal PLoS ONE, they suggest that this cocktail will enable the development of novel biomass to biofuel bioprocessing configurations that could overcome some of the barriers to production of inexpensive cellulosic biofuels.
US Senate Armed Services Committee produces markup limiting DoD purchase of biofuels and prohibiting construction of biorefineries
May 25, 2012
The US Senate Committee on Armed Services completed its markup of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year (FY) 2013. The bill emerging from the Senate committee authorizes $631.4 billion for national defense programs. The bill authorizes $498.0 million more than the President’s request for the base budget of DOD and $301.0 million less than was requested for OCO ( overseas contingency operations, which funds the war in Afghanistan). The bill authorizes $431.0 million less than the requested level of funding for national security programs of the DOE.
Among the many provisions of the markup are (a) a provision that would prohibit the use of funds authorized to be appropriated to the Department of Defense (DoD) in FY 2013 from being obligated or spent for the production or sole purchase of an alternative fuel if the cost exceeds the cost of traditional fossil fuels used for the same purpose, except for continued testing purposes; and (b) a provision prohibiting the construction of a biofuels refinery or any other facility or infrastructure used to refine biofuels unless the requirement is specifically authorized by law.
Amyris processes Ceres sweet sorghum into renewable diesel using soluble and cellulosic sugars
May 03, 2012
|Liquid fuel and chemical production from sweet sorghum. Source: Amyris. Click to enlarge.|
Amyris, Inc. has successfully processed sweet sorghum hybrids from energy crop company Ceres, Inc. into renewable diesel in a US Department of Energy (DOE) funded biorefinery project. Amyris is presenting a summary of the results at the 34th Symposium on Biotechnology for Fuels and Chemicals in New Orleans, Louisiana.
The pilot-scale project use both free (soluble) sugars and biomass (cellulosic) sugars from Ceres’ sweet sorghum hybrids grown in Alabama, Florida, Hawaii, Louisiana and Tennessee. To process the soluble sugars that accumulate in the plants, the sorghum juice was first extracted from the stems and concentrated into sugar syrup by Ceres. The syrup was then processed by Amyris at its California pilot facility using its proprietary yeast fermentation system that converts plant sugars into its trademarked product, Biofene, a renewable hydrocarbon commonly known as farnesene. (Earlier post.)
Obama Administration releases National Bioeconomy Blueprint; health, food, energy and environment
April 26, 2012
The White House today released a national Bioeconomy Blueprint, a comprehensive approach to harnessing innovations in biological research to address national challenges in health, food, energy, and the environment. In coordination with the Blueprint’s release, Federal officials also announced a number of new commitments to help achieve the Blueprint’s goals.
The National Bioeconomy Blueprint describes five strategic objectives for a bioeconomy with the potential to generate economic growth and address societal needs. Although progress is being made in all of these areas, according to the Blueprint, much work remains if the United States is to remain competitive. The objectives are:
Researchers contend that large-scale forest bioenergy is neither sustainable nor greenhouse-gas neutral (updated with link to full study)
April 21, 2012
|Land management trade-off: maximizing productivity vs. carbon stocks. NPP= net primary production. Schulze et al. Click to enlarge.|
Large-scale bioenergy production from forest biomass is unsustainable and will increase greenhouse gas emissions, according to a group of international researchers in an invited analysis in the journal Global Change Biology/Bioenergy.
Some 60-70% of the global increment of woody biomass would be needed to produce 20% of current global primary energy supply, they note, and argue that such an increase in biomass harvest would result in shorter rotations, younger forests, lower biomass pools, depleted soil nutrient stocks and a loss of other ecosystem functions.