[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.]
Anglo-Brazilian JV to launch first commercial bagasse cellulosic ethanol production plant in Brazil
April 14, 2013
UK-based TMO Renewables (TMO) and Usina Santa Maria Ltda have entered into an agreement to form a joint venture to build the first commercial production plant in Brazil to convert sugar cane waste (bagasse) to cellulosic bioethanol.
TMO signed a binding Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Usina Santa Maria Ltda to build Brazil’s first cellulosic bioethanol production facility in São Paulo state. Under the MOU, TMO in joint venture with Usina Santa Maria Ltda will first build, own and operate a 10-million liter (2.6-million gallon US) second-generation ethanol pilot plant to convert bagasse to cellulosic bioethanol.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
EPA proposes 2013 standards for RFS; cellulosic biofuel at 14 million gallons
January 31, 2013
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed the 2013 percentage standards for four fuel categories that are part of the agency’s Renewable Fuel Standard program (RFS2). The proposal comes shortly after the DC Circuit Court vacated the EPA’s 2012 cellulosic biofuels standard for the RFS. (Earlier post.)
The cellulosic biofuel standard for 2012—vacated by the court for being too high given the reality in the market—was 8.65 million gallons. (Earlier post.) Congress, via EISA, had originally thought to have 500 million gallons of cellulosic biofuels by 2012. The standard proposed by the EPA for 2013 is 14 million gallons.
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 Argonne lifecycle analysis of bioethanol pathways finds corn ethanol can reduce GHG emissions relative to gasoline by 19-48%; long-term, cellulosic offers the most benefits
January 22, 2013
|Well-to-wheels results for greenhouse gas emissions in CO2e for six pathways. Source: Wang et al. Click to enlarge.|
A new lifecycle analysis of five bioethanol production pathways by a team from Argonne National Laboratory led by Dr. Michael Wang found that, relative to petroleum gasoline, ethanol from corn; sugarcane; corn stover; switchgrass; and miscanthus can reduce lifecycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions [P10-P90 (P50)] by 19–48% (34%); 40–62% (51%); 90–103% (96%); 77–97% (88%); and 101–115% (108%), respectively when including land use change emissions. They researchers reported similar trends with regard to fossil energy benefits for the five bioethanol pathways. An open access paper on the study in published in the journal Environmental Research Letters.
While the results for cellulosic ethanol (stover, switchgrass and miscanthus) are in line with recent studies, and the findings for sugarcane ethanol are only slightly lower than other similar studies, the results for corn ethanol are in sharp contrast to other studies predicting that corn ethanol would have a greater life-cycle GHG impact than gasoline, the authors noted.
Sweetwater Energy signs 2nd cellulosic ethanol deal; 15-year, $100M agreement with Front Range
January 16, 2013
Sweetwater Energy, Inc., a cellulosic sugar producer, announced a 15-year commercial agreement with Windsor, Colorado-based Front Range Energy, to generate cellulosic ethanol at Front Range’s current corn-ethanol facility. The agreement, Sweetwater’s second such (earlier post), has a total potential value in excess of $100 million, and requires a minimal capital outlay by Front Range while stabilizing the company’s feedstock costs.
Sweetwater will use its patented, decentralized process to convert locally available cellulosic, non-food biomass, such as crop residues, energy crops, and woody biomass into highly fermentable sugar, which Front Range will ferment into ethanol.
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.
Spatially explicit life cycle assessment of 5 sun-to-wheels pathways finds photovoltaic electricity and BEVs offer land-efficient and low-carbon transportation
January 04, 2013
A new spatially-explicit life cycle assessment of five different “sun-to-wheels” conversion pathways—ethanol from corn or switchgrass for internal combustion vehicles (ICVs); electricity from corn or switchgrass for battery-electric vehicles (BEVs); and photovoltaic electricity for BEVs—found a strong case for PV BEVs.
According to the findings by the team from the University of California, Santa Barbara and the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, published in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology, even the most land-use efficient biomass-based pathway (i.e., switchgrass bioelectricity in US counties with hypothetical crop yields of more than 24 tonnes/ha) requires 29 times more land than the PV-based alternative in the same locations.
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.
DuPont breaks ground on commercial-scale cellulosic biorefinery in Iowa
November 30, 2012
|Goals of the DuPont cellulosic biorefinery. Click to enlarge.|
DuPont broke ground on its cellulosic ethanol facility in Nevada, Iowa—among the first and largest commercial-scale cellulosic biorefineries in the world. DuPont contracted with Fagen, Inc. for the construction. (Earlier post.)
Once fully operational, the more than $200-million facility, expected to be completed in mid-2014, facility will produce 30 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol per year from corn stover residues; its fully integrated end-to-end production system will be available to license globally. This capacity is more than called for by original estimates as data derived from the piloting facility in Tennessee has allowed DuPont to further optimize its process and technology.
Beta Renewables and Novozymes to form strategic partnership in the cellulosic biofuel market; Novozymes takes 10% stake
October 29, 2012
Novozymes, the world’s largest producer of industrial enzymes, and Beta Renewables have agreed to market, to demonstrate and to guarantee jointly cellulosic biofuel solutions. Beta Renewables is a $350-million (€250-million) joint venture formed from the Chemtex division of Gruppo Mossi & Ghisolfi and TPG focused on the development and broad licensing of the PROESA enzymatic hydrolysis technology. (Earlier post.)
As part of the agreement, Novozymes will acquire a 10% share in Beta Renewables, paying approximately $115 million cash for the equity, marketing fees, other intellectual property rights and milestone payments.
Shell grants Codexis rights to commercialize cellulase enzymes for biofuels as research agreement ends
September 04, 2012
Codexis, Inc., a developer of processes for the production of biofuels, bio-based chemicals and pharmaceuticals, has signed an agreement with Shell to expand Codexis’ ability to commercialize its CodeXyme cellulase enzymes. In the context of the ending of the company’s research agreement with Shell (earlier post), the Board of Directors also approved a short-term shareholder rights plan, and the company announced a workforce reduction.
Under the new agreement, which is effective 31 August 2012, Shell granted Codexis a royalty-bearing, non-exclusive license to develop, manufacture, use and sell cellulase enzymes developed under the companies’ Amended and Restated Collaborative Research Agreement, effective 1 November 2006. The scope of the new agreement is worldwide, except Brazil, for enzymes used in the biofuels field. Codexis already has exclusive rights to commercialize its cellulase enzymes in other fields.
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.
UGA team develops method for genetic engineering of Caldicellulosiruptor thermophilic bacteria; another pathway for efficient conversion of biomass to fuels and chemicals
August 24, 2012
|The UGA team reports a method for modifying the extremely thermophilic, cellulose-degrading C.bescii. Source: ORNL. Click to enlarge.|
Researchers at the University of Georgia, who are also members of Department of Energy’s BioEnergy Science Center (BESC), have developed a method for the genetic manipulation of members of bacterial genus Caldicellulosiruptor, a group of anaerobic thermophiles with optimum growth temperatures between 65 °C and 78 °C (149–172 °F). (Earlier post.)
In a paper in the open-access journal PLoS ONE, the team reports the first example of DNA transformation of a member of this genus, C. bescii. Their efficient and reproducible method for DNA transformation and the combined frequencies of transformation and recombination provide the basis for rapid and efficient methods of genetic manipulation.
USDA approves $99M, 80% loan guarantee to Chemtex to support development of cellulosic ethanol from energy grasses
August 22, 2012
|The PROESA process delivers cost-effective sugars from non-food biomass for use in bioproducts. Source: Beta Renewables. Click to enlarge.|
The US Department of Agriculture (USDA), through its Rural Development Biorefinery Assistance Program (Section 9003 of the 2008 Farm Bill), approved a $99-million, 80% loan guarantee to Chemtex International, Inc. to construct a 20 million gallon per year cellulosic ethanol refinery in Sampson County in eastern North Carolina. The plant, with an expected startup in 2014, is a first-of-its-kind commercial facility in the mid-Atlantic region.
Once operational, the facility is expected to convert 600,000 tons of energy grasses per year into an estimated 20 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol using the Beta Renewable’s PROESA enzymatic hydrolysis process. The plant will produce biofuel for eastern transportation markets using non-food biomass feedstocks. Beta Renewables is a $350-million (€250M) joint venture formed from the Chemtex division of Gruppo Mossi & Ghisolfi and TPG.
BP Biofuels, Texas AgriLife Research partner to advance cellulosic biofuel feedstock development
August 15, 2012
BP Biofuels and Texas AgriLife Research, part of The Texas A&M University System, have signed a three-year agreement to develop and commercialize cellulosic feedstocks for the production of advanced biofuels. The collaboration will utilize AgriLife Research’s diverse high biomass energy crop breeding program and BP Biofuels’ position as one of the few global energy companies growing commercial-scale biomass crops for liquid fuels.
The research and development project has two integrated components: plant breeding and production agronomics:
Novozymes and Shengquan finalize cellulosic ethanol enzyme supply deal; Shengquan production begins next month
June 15, 2012
China-based Shengquan Group and Novozymes finalized an enzyme supply deal for the production of cellulosic ethanol. Shengquan starts production of cellulosic ethanol from its commercial-scale facility month; the production will be cost-competitive with conventional ethanol, as the cellulosic ethanol feedstock is a waste product from Shengquan’s current production, the companies said. Shengquan has invested $100 million in the facility.
Shengquan is a leading producer of furfural for resin production in the foundry industry. Furfural is produced from corncob xylose, with the cellulose from the corncob left behind as a waste product. Using Novozymes’ enzymes, Shengquan will now be able to convert the cellulose into higher-value sugars that can be fermented to ethanol. Shengquan will market the ethanol as an industrial solvent.
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.
GraalBio to build $145M cellulosic ethanol plant in Brazil; first in the Southern Hemisphere
May 23, 2012
|GraalBio will use the Chemtex PROESA cellulosic ethanol process. Source: Chemtex. Click to enlarge.|
GraalBio, a biotechnology company of the Graal Group, is planning to build a commercial plant for the production of cellulosic ethanol in Brazil. The company will also install an agricultural station to develop new cane varieties with high fiber content; build a pilot plant to develop new biochemical pathways; and establish a research center to develop genetically modified organisms, which will be used in the production of biochemicals and biofuels.
With a total investment of R$300 million (US$145 million), the plant will have a nominal production capacity of 82 million liters (~22 million gallons US) of ethanol. This first Brazilian cellulosic ethanol plant will be constructed in Alagoas and will initially run using sugarcane bagasse and straw as feedstock, which will be eventually replaced by energy cane.
US DOE announces 3 consortia for $125M US-India Joint Clean Energy Research and Development Center; solar, second-generation biofuels and buildings
April 14, 2012
The US Department of Energy announced the selections for three consortia that will make up the $125-million US-India Joint Clean Energy Research and Development Center (JCERDC). These consortia—led in theUS by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), the University of Florida, and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL)—will bring together experts from national laboratories, universities, and industry in both the US and India.
Consortia researchers will leverage their expertise and resources in solar technology, advanced biofuels, and building efficiency. The three lead US institutions have partnered with three lead Indian institutions: the Indian Institute of Science-Bangalore, the Indian Institute of Chemical Technology-Hyderabad, and CEPT University-Ahmedabad.