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Cellulosic ethanol

[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.]

Researchers engineer enzyme surfaces to bind less to lignin; potential cost reduction for cellulosic ethanol production

July 06, 2017

Researchers at Rutgers University-New Brunswick and Michigan State University have devised a way to reduce the amount of enzymes needed to convert biomass into biofuels by designing and genetically engineering enzyme surfaces so they bind less to the lignin in biomass. This potentially could reduce enzyme costs in biofuels production. A paper on their work is published in the journal ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering.

Cellulases (enzymes) deconstruct lignocellulosic biomass for conversion to biofuels such as cellulosic ethanol and biochemicals. However, lignin, an organic polymer in biomass that binds to and strengthens plant fibers, inactivates the cellulase enzymes via non-productive binding interactions. This leads to high enzyme loading requirements—and therefore high deconstruction costs.

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EPA proposes slight ease in 2018 renewable fuel volumes compared to 2017; gearing up for future reset

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a proposed rule setting the minimum amount of renewable fuels that must be supplied to the market in calendar year 2018 under the Renewable Fuel Standards (RFS) program. EPA will issue the final rule in the fall.

Relative to the levels finalized in 2017, the proposed 2018 volume requirements for advanced biofuel and total renewable fuel are lower by 40 million gallons. For the first time, EPA is proposing to reduce the advanced biofuel and total renewable fuel volumes for 2018 by the same amount as it would reduce the required volume of cellulosic biofuel. In the proposal, EPA said that these reductions effectively preserve the implied statutory volumes for conventional renewable fuel and non-cellulosic advanced biofuels, rather than requiring additional volumes of non-cellulosic advanced biofuels to backfill for some of the shortfall in cellulosic biofuel, as EPA has done in previous years.

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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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Edeniq secures $5M in growth equity; 27 plants in cellulosic ethanol pipeline

June 20, 2017

Edeniq, Inc., a cellulosic technology company, has secured commitments for $5 million in additional equity to support existing customer workload, rapidly grow the pipeline, and roll out technology enhancements. Edeniq has raised more than $12 million over the past 12 months.

Edeniq’s Pathway Technology is a proprietary, integrated platform to produce qualified cellulosic ethanol in existing corn ethanol plants. The platform combines Edeniq’s Cellunator with an enzyme cocktail to break down corn kernel fiber in the slurry, releasing cellulosic sugars into the fermentation process. Corn kernels contain about 10% cellulosic fiber that currently remains unconverted in a typical ethanol plant. Converting the corn fiber at these facilities is the first step and the fastest path to migrate toward cellulosic ethanol production in the US, Edeniq says.

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Pilot test result of D3MAX cellulosic ethanol technology better than expected

April 13, 2017

D3MAX announced the completion and shipment of its pilot plant employing its patented D3MAX cellulosic ethanol technology, installed at ACE Ethanol, LLC, in Stanley, Wisconsin. Testing of the patented D3MAX corn fiber-to-ethanol process and technology is underway with testing to be complete by June of 2017. After analyzing pilot test data, D3MAX has concluded that its process has demonstrated better than expected results.

Based on the latest information, the pilot test results indicate that the yield of xylose sugar from the xylan in corn fiber routinely exceeds 90% of the theoretical maximum yield, and overall sugar production in the pilot plant is better than the target yields.

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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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Clariant, Mercedes-Benz, Haltermann Carless report successful fleet test of E20 cellulosic ethanol blend

February 06, 2017

Clariant, a leading global specialty chemicals company, together with Mercedes-Benz and Haltermann Carless, a well-established HCS Group brand, tested the use of sustainable cellulosic ethanol from agricultural residues in a fleet test with Mercedes-Benz series vehicles over a period of 12 months for the first time in Germany. sunliquid 20 was used for the test—a fuel produced by Haltermann Carless with a cellulosic ethanol content of 20 vol% (E20) from Clariant’s sunliquid plant in Straubing.

The cellulosic ethanol allows greenhouse gas emission savings of up to 95% across the entire value chain without competing with food production or tying up agricultural land.

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EPA approves Little Sioux Corn Processors for cellulosic ethanol using Edeniq’s Pathway technology

January 27, 2017

Edeniq, Inc., a leading cellulosic and biorefining technology company, and Archer Daniels Midland Company (ADM) announced that the US Environmental Protection Agency has approved Little Sioux Corn Processors’ registration of its 150 million gallon per year Marcus, Iowa, ethanol plant for cellulosic ethanol production.

Under the terms of its license agreements with ADM and Little Sioux, Edeniq uses its Pathway Technology to measure the amount of cellulosic ethanol produced, and provides the required information to register for D3 cellulosic RINs with the EPA.

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GAO study concludes Renewable Fuel Standard will miss advanced biofuel program targets; EPA generally concurs

November 29, 2016

A new study from the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) concludes that the Renewable Fuel Standard program will miss its advanced biofuel targets due to the the high costs of creating advanced biofuel; the relatively low price of fossil fuel; the timing and cost to bring new tech to commercial-scale production; regulatory uncertainty; and other issues as challenges to increased production.

GAO was asked by Congress to review issues related to advanced biofuels R&D. The report describes (1) how the federal government has supported advanced biofuels R&D in recent years and where its efforts have been targeted; and (2) expert views on the extent to which advanced biofuels are technologically understood and the factors that will affect the speed and volume of production. GAO interviewed DOD, DOE, EPA, NSF, and USDA officials and worked with the National Academy of Sciences to convene a meeting of experts from industry, academia, and research organizations. EPA generally agreed with the conclusions of the report, the GAO said.

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EPA finalizes increase in renewable fuel volumes for 2017; 6% total increase to 19.28B gallons

November 23, 2016

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized increases in renewable fuel volume requirements across all categories of biofuels under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program. In a required annual rulemaking, the action finalizes the volume requirements and associated percentage standards for cellulosic biofuel, advanced biofuel, and total renewable fuel for 2017, and for biomass-based diesel for 2018.

The final volumes represent continued growth over historic levels. The final standards meet or exceed the volume targets specified by Congress for total renewable fuel, biomass-based diesel, and advanced biofuel. Total renewable fuel volumes grow 6% (1.2 billion gallons) from 2016 to 2017 to 19.28 billion gallons.

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EPA proposing updates to Renewable Fuel Standard

October 05, 2016

EPA is proposing updates to the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) regulations and related fuels regulations to better align the standards with the current state of the renewable fuels market and to promote the use of ethanol and non-ethanol biofuels.

Several of the proposed changes to the Renewable Fuel Standard program would align regulations with recent developments in the marketplace resulting in increased production of cellulosic, advanced and other biofuels, EPA said.

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Argonne team finds significant albedo warming effect for switchgrass ethanol

August 11, 2016

One of the key points of contention over the climate benefit of biofuels is the impact of land use change (LUC) associated with biofuel feedstock production. LUC results in biogeochemical (e.g., soil organic carbon) and biogeophysical (e.g., surface albedo, evapotranspiration, and surface roughness) changes. Of the biogeophysical factors, surface albedo has been considered a dominant effect at the global scale.

A team at Argonne National Laboratory has now quantified land use change (LUC)-induced albedo effects for three major biofuels in the US, using satellite data products for albedo and vegetation observations. Published in the RSC journal Energy & Environmental Science, the analysis indicates that the land use change (LUC)-induced albedo effect is small for corn and miscanthus ethanol, but is significant for switchgrass ethanol, which is driven by the types, locations, and intensities of various land conversions to these biofuel feedstocks.

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Researchers say fuel market rebound effect can result in increased GHG emissions under RFS2; suggest taxes over mandates

August 08, 2016

The US Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS2) is intended to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transportation. However, argues a team from the University of Minnesota in an open-access paper published in the journal Energy Policy, once the “fuel market rebound effect” is factored in, RFS2 actually increases GHG emissions when all fuel GHG intensity targets specified under the act are met.

Increasing the supply of low-carbon alternative fuels is a basic strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. However, the Minnesota team notes, increasing the supply of fuels tends to lower energy prices, which encourages in turn encourages additional fuel consumption. This “fuel market rebound effect” can undermine climate change mitigation strategies, even to the point where efforts to reduce GHG emissions by increasing the supply of low-carbon fuels may actually result in increased GHG emissions.

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JBEI scientists use CO2 to control toxicity of ionic liquids in biomass pretreatment; lowering production costs

July 22, 2016

Researchers at the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratories working at the Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) have demonstrated that adding CO2 during the deconstruction phase of biofuel production successfully neutralizes the toxicity of ionic liquids, the room-temperature molten salt solvent used at JBEI to break down cellulosic plant material.

The process is easily reversible, allowing the liquid to be recycled for use as a solvent again. Their study, published RSC journal Energy & Environmental Science, addresses a significant obstacle to expanding the market for biofuels: lowering the cost of production.

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