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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.]

UC Riverside team develops streamlined process for enhanced cellulosic ethanol production

November 13, 2017

UC Riverside researchers have developed a streamlined process that could finally make the ethanol production cost from abundant “second generation” plant wastes competitive with “first generation” ethanol made from sugars.

A major historical barrier to low-cost production of ethanol from biomass is the low ethanol yields and titers that result from fermentation of biomass solids at high solids when compared with simple sugar fermentations. The UCR team showed that combining its cosolvent-enhanced lignocellulosic fractionation (CELF) pretreatment process with subsequent simultaneous saccharification and fermentation (SSF) can achieve similar high ethanol yields and titers that match that of separate pure glucose fermentations. The research is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

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POET-DSM claims cellulosic biofuel breakthrough with new pretreatment system for increased production

November 06, 2017

POET-DSM Advanced Biofuels says it has achieved a major breakthrough in cellulosic biofuels production at its Project LIBERTY plant in Emmetsburg, Iowa. (Earlier post.) The company has solved the critical challenge in pretreatment, overcoming what has been the primary hurdle to commercialization for producers around the world. Project LIBERTY is now running pretreatment at 80% uptime.

Pretreatment is the first stage in cellulosic biofuels production, in which the feedstock (corn cobs, leaves, husk) is processed so that enzymes and yeast can access the cellulosic sugars and ferment them into biofuel. POET-DSM and other producers have identified this stage in the past as the major chokepoint in commercial production.

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Aemetis signs 20-year feedstock supply agreement to produce cellulosic ethanol

November 04, 2017

Aemetis, Inc. announced that its Aemetis Advanced Products Keyes subsidiary signed a 20-year feedstock supply agreement to produce cellulosic ethanol at a former US Army munitions facility located in Riverbank, California, which is near the existing Aemetis biofuels plant in Keyes, California. The cellulosic ethanol biorefinery will use patented and proprietary process technologies developed by Aemetis, Lanzatech, and InEnTec to convert waste orchard wood and nutshells into low carbon cellulosic ethanol.

The feedstock to be supplied comes from the more than 1.6 million tons of waste orchard wood and nutshells that are generated each year from approximately 1 million acres of almond, walnut, and pistachio orchards in the Central Valley. Aemetis’ price of the feedstock is approximately $20 per ton delivered for the first ten years.

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VTT-led project to develop enzymes found in India’s wildfire-prone areas for biorefineries; IndZyme

November 02, 2017

Micro-organisms found in the wildfire-prone rainforests of India are an potential resources for biochemical production, as they are accustomed to the challenging conditions following a forest fire. The enzymes they produce are likely to also have a higher-than-normal resistance to the substances released from biomass in high-temperature industrial processes.

An EU- and nationally-funded project led by VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, called IndZyme, is investigating if these enzymes are capable of breaking down agricultural waste better than current commercial enzymes.

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DOE awarding $4.8M to 5 BIRD Energy projects with Israel; H2 storage, biofuel, sustainable transportation

The Department of Energy (DOE), in partnership with Israel’s Ministry of Energy (MOE) and the Israel Innovation Authority, announced $4.8 million for five newly selected energy projects as part of the Binational Industrial Research and Development (BIRD) Energy program.

The approved projects will leverage cost-share for a total project value of $10.5 million in the areas of hydrogen storage, advanced biofuels, sustainable transportation, and energy efficiency. The latest awards represent the ninth annual selection of BIRD Energy projects, which promote energy innovation, economic security, and bilateral cooperation.

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Clariant to build flagship sunliquid cellulosic ethanol plant in Romania

November 01, 2017

Specialty chemicals company Clariant announced the approval by its Board of Directors to invest in a new full-scale commercial plant for the production of cellulosic ethanol from agricultural residues using its sunliquid technology.

The new plant, with an annual production capacity of 50,000 tons, will be built in the southwestern part of Romania. The facility will be a flagship site, confirming competitiveness and sustainability of the sunliquid technology at commercial scale, in support of Clariant’s sunliquid licensing business strategy.

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EPA issues NODA concerning potential further reductions in RFS volume requirements

September 27, 2017

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued a Notice of Data Availability (NODA) to provide public notice and an opportunity to comment on potential reductions in the 2018 biomass-based diesel (BBD), advanced biofuel, and total renewable fuel volumes, and/or the 2019 biomass-based diesel volume under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program.

EPA is suggesting that it could reduce the biodiesel volume for 2018 by as much as 315 million gallons and effectively carry through those volumes to further reduce the proposed volumes of advanced and total renewable biofuels by 473 million gallons. This would reduce the 2018 advanced biofuel volume requirement from a proposed level of 4.24 billion gallons to 3.77 billion gallons, and the 2018 total renewable fuel volume requirement from 19.24 billion gallons to 18.77 billion gallons. The agency is seeking comments on this possible use of the waiver authority granted it for that purpose under the Clean Air Act.

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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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Aemetis to license InEnTec gasification technology to produce cellulosic ethanol; coupled with LanzaTech syngas-to-ethanol tech

August 04, 2017

Aemetis has signed a Master Agreement with key exclusive rights for the use of an advanced gasification technology from InEnTec to produce cellulosic ethanol. The InEnTec gasification technology agreement is a key part of Aemetis’ strategy to produce high-value, low-carbon cellulosic ethanol from locally sourced biomass by integrating InEnTec’s patented advanced gasification technology with Lanzatech’s patented microbial fermentation technology.

Under the Master Agreement, Aemetis has predominant exclusive rights to use the InEnTec Plasma Enhanced Melter (PEM) gasification equipment and technology for cellulosic ethanol production until 2024. The gasification technology complements Aemetis’ current license with LanzaTech for syngas-to-ethanol conversion, providing Aemetis with a complete technology solution to produce locally-sourced, low-carbon cellulosic ethanol.

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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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