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

Mitsubishi Chemical and Engineering partner to produce and sell zeolite membranes for ethanol dehydration; new process

July 18, 2016

Mitsubishi Chemical Corporation (MCC) and Mitsui Zosen Machinery & Service (MZM), a subsidiary of Mitsui Engineering & Shipbuilding are partnering to produce and sell zeolite membranes, with a focus on ethanol dehydration.

MCC will purchase MZM’s entire output of zeolite membranes and hold the sole sales rights in the US and other global markets. The agreement also provides proposals for new, more efficient dehydration processes that will draw upon both companies’ technologies—including the two different types of zeolites currently produced by each.

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Nissan developing electric vehicles powered by ethanol-fueled solid oxide fuel cells; commercialization in 2020

June 14, 2016

Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. announced that it is currently researching and developing a Solid Oxide Fuel-Cell (SOFC)-powered system using bio-ethanol as the on-board hydrogen source. The new e-Bio Fuel Cell system—a world-first for automotive use—features an an SOFC stack and an on-board reformer to convert 100% ethanol or ethanol-blended water (55% water, 45% ethanol) to hydrogen. SOFCs can utilize the reaction of multiple fuels, including ethanol and natural gas, with oxygen to produce electricity with high efficiency.

The e-Bio Fuel Cell system is suited for larger vehicles and longer ranges (~600 km, 373 miles) than battery-electric vehicles, Nissan said in a media briefing. The e-Bio Fuel Cell system can be run 24x7; features a quiet drive and short refueling time; is versatile, with ample power supply to support refrigerated delivery services; and will have running costs equivalent to that of EVs when using ethanol-water blends. Nissan said it planned commercialization for the technology in 2020.

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Clariant to scale-up catalysts for Gevo’s Ethanol-to-Olefins (ETO) technology; renewable diesel and hydrogen

May 19, 2016

Gevo, Inc. has entered into an agreement with Clariant Corp., one of the world’s leading specialty chemical companies, to develop catalysts to enable Gevo’s Ethanol-to-Olefins (ETO) technology.

Gevo’s ETO technology, which uses ethanol as a feedstock, produces tailored mixes of propylene, isobutylene and hydrogen, which are valuable as standalone molecules, or as feedstocks to produce other products such as diesel fuel and commodity plastics, that would be drop-in replacements for their fossil-based equivalents. ETO is a chemical process, not a biological process as is Gevo’s conversion of biomass to isobutanol.

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California ARB staff releases first batch of recertified CI pathways for fuels under readopted LCFS using CA-GREET 2.0

May 10, 2016

The staff of the California Air Resources Board (ARB) released the first full set of carbon intensity (CI) pathways certified under the readopted LCFS regulation using the CA-GREET 2.0 model. (Earlier post.) These pathways include both new applications and requests to have “legacy” pathways (adopted under the prior LCFS rule) recertified.

The initial batch of released CIs contains only ethanol pathway; similar batches will be released for other fuel types in the future.

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China team identifies new thermophilic bacterium for direct production of ethanol from brown algae

April 04, 2016

Researchers from the Shandong Provincial Key Laboratory of Synthetic Biology, Qingdao Institute of Bioenergy and Bioprocess Technology, Chinese Academy of Sciences have identified and characterized the first thermophilic bacterium capable (Defluviitalea phaphyphila) of direct conversion of brown algae to ethanol.

D. phaphyphila Alg1 can simultaneously utilize mannitol, glucose, and alginate to produce ethanol. In an open access paper on their work published in the journal Biotechnology for Biofuels, they report high ethanol yields of 0.47 g/g-mannitol, 0.44 g/g-glucose, and 0.3 g/g-alginate.

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NREL process boosts production of ethanol from algae

February 10, 2016

A new biorefinery process developed by scientists at the Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has proven to be significantly more effective at producing ethanol from algae than previous research.

The process, dubbed Combined Algal Processing (CAP), is detailed in an open-access paper in the journal Algal Research. The research follows work previously done at NREL and published in 2014 in The Royal Society of Chemistry’s journal Green Chemistry. In that work, scientists examined two promising algal strains, Chlorella and Scenedesmus, to determine their applicability as biofuel and bioproduct producers. They concluded Scenedesmus performed better in this process with impressive demonstrated total fuel yields of 97 gallons gasoline equivalents (GGE) per ton of biomass.

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New method for creating interspecies yeast hybrids could boost biofuels production

December 05, 2015

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have developed a simple, robust, and efficient method for generating interspecies yeast hybrids. As reported in the journal Fungal Genetics and Biology, this method provides an efficient means for producing novel synthetic hybrids for beverage and biofuel production, as well as for constructing tetraploids to be used for basic research in evolutionary genetics and genome stability.

Some 500 years ago, the accidental natural hybridization of Saccharomyces cerevisiae—the yeast responsible for things like ale, wine and bread—and a distant yeast cousin gave rise to lager beer. Today, cold-brewed lager is the world’s most consumed alcoholic beverage, fueling an industry with annual sales of more than $250 billion.

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Researchers improve efficiency of ethanol-to-butanol conversion with new bifunctional catalyst

December 04, 2015

Researchers at the University of Rochester and the University of Ottawa (Canada) have developed a highly selective (>99%) tandem catalytic system—a bifunctional iridium catalyst coupled with bulky nickel or copper hydroxides—for the conversion of ethanol (up to 37%) to n-butanol, through the Guerbet process.

The team was able to increase the amount of ethanol converted to butanol by almost 25% over currently used methods without producing unwanted byproducts. A paper describing the new system is published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

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Bio-isobutanol company Gevo enters major licensing and development agreement with Praj

November 10, 2015

Gevo, Inc. has entered into a license agreement and a joint development agreement with Praj Industries Limited to enable the licensing of Gevo’s isobutanol technology to processors of non-corn based sugars, including the majority of Praj’s global customer base of ethanol plant owners. The two companies had signed a memorandum of understanding on licensing earlier this year. (Earlier post.)

As part of these agreements, Praj will invest substantial resources in the development and optimization of Gevo’s isobutanol technology for use with non-corn feedstocks including sugar cane, sugar beets, cassava, rice, sorghum, wheat and certain cellulosic sugars. This development work is anticipated to lead to process design packages (PDP) that would be expected to accelerate the licensing of Gevo technology to processors of these, particularly in Praj’s extensive customer base. The development work is expected to build upon the PDP that Gevo already has developed for corn, translating it to other feedstocks and plant configurations.

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JCAP researchers propose artificial photosynthetic system for high-yield production of ethanol

November 09, 2015

A team at the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis (JCAP) at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and UC Berkeley is proposing an artificial photosynthesis scheme for direct synthesis and separation to almost pure ethanol with minimum product crossover using saturated salt electrolytes.

In a paper in the RSC journal Energy & Environmental Science, Professor Alexis Bell and postdoc Meenesh Singh describe the novel design of an integrated artificial photosynthetic system that continuously produces >90 wt% pure ethanol using a polycrystalline copper cathode and an IrO2 anode at a current density of 0.85 mA cm-2. The annual production rate of > 90 wt% ethanol using such a photosynthesis system operating at 10 mA cm-2 (12% solar-to-fuel (STF) efficiency) can be 15.27 million gallons per year per square kilometer, corresponding to 7% of the industrial ethanol production capacity of California, they suggest.

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ORNL team discovers mechanism behind direct ethanol-to-hydrocarbon conversion; implications for energy efficiency and cost of upgrading

November 04, 2015

Researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) have discovered that the reactions underlying the transformation of ethanol into higher-grade hydrocarbons unfolds in a different manner than previously thought.

The research, supported by DOE’s BioEnergy Technologies Office (BETO), has implications for the energy efficiency and cost of catalytic upgrading technologies proposed for use in bio-refineries. Uncovering the mechanism behind the reaction helps support the potential economic viability of ORNL’s own direct biofuel-to-hydrocarbon conversion approach. An open-access paper on their findings is published in Nature Scientific Reports.

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Lux: Despite softness in utilization, global biofuels capacity to grow to 61.4 BGY in 2018; driven by novel fuels and feedstocks

August 31, 2015

The global biofuels industry averaged 68% in utilization rate from 2005 to 2014, reached a high of 80.9% in 2007, dropped to a low of 56.9% in 2012, and climbed slightly back to 60.4% in 2014. Despite the still apparent softness in capacity utilization, and the on-going softness in fossil fuel prices, global biofuels capacity will continue to grow from 55.1 billion gallons per year (BGY) to 61.4 BGY in 2018, according to a forecast by Lux Research. However, Lux predicts, growth between now and 2018 will not be a continuation of current course.

While ethanol and biodiesel will continue to dominate in absolute terms, these will grow at only a 1.5% CAGR through 2018. Novel fuels and feedstocks will drive the biofuels industry forward at a much more rapid 17% and 22% CAGRs through 2018, respectively.

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BIO: RFS’ biofuel requirements saved 589.3M tons of carbon emissions over past decade

August 24, 2015

Over its 10-year lifespan, the Renewable Fuel Standard’s (RFS’) requirement to substitute biofuels for fossil fuels has displaced nearly 1.9 billion barrels of foreign oil and reduced US transportation-related carbon emissions by 589.33 million metric tons, according to a new analysis released by the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO).

To develop its estimates, BIO utilized the GREET1.2013 model to compare carbon emissions from the mixture of US transportation fuels (both petroleum and biofuel) under two scenarios. The first scenario applied the annual required RFS Renewable Volume Obligation (RVO) percentages, as established by EPA rulemakings, to the volumes of fossil-based, non-renewable gasoline and diesel used in the United States. To establish a second scenario, BIO assumed that corn ethanol and soy biodiesel would have continued to meet just over 3% of the total reported transportation fuel use over the decade and that petroleum gasoline and diesel would have been used instead.

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UC Riverside team characterizes impact on PM of fuels with varying aromatics and octane rating; benefit of increased ethanol fraction

August 18, 2015

Researchers at the University of California-Riverside have characterized the effect of decreased aromatic content fuels combusted in advanced vehicle technologies on emissions of particulate matter (PM). In a paper in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology, they present the changes in PM emissions for different fuels, engine technologies, and operating conditions. Among their findings is that an increased ethanol fraction in gasoline could help reduce PM mass and black carbon (BC) from gasoline direct injection engines (GDI).

Typical commercial gasoline comprises varying concentrations of aromatic hydrocarbons and octane ratings; the impacts on PM such as black carbon (BC) and water-soluble and insoluble particle compositions of these differences are not well-defined. The UC Riverside study tested seven 2012 model year vehicles, including one port fuel injection (PFI) configured hybrid vehicle; one PFI vehicle; and six GDI vehicles.

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Tsinghua studies on alcohol-gasoline dual fuel engines show fuel efficiency and particle number benefits

August 10, 2015

Researchers at Tsinghua University in China are studying the effects of Dual-Fuel Spark Ignition (DFSI) combustion fueled with different alcohols and gasoline. In one paper, published in the journal Fuel, they investigated the use of alcohols–gasoline DFSI Combustion for knock suppression and high fuel efficiency using a gasoline engine with high compression ratio.

In a second paper, also published in Fuel, they systematically compared the stoichiometric alcohol–gasoline and gasoline–alcohol DFSI combustion for engine particle number (PN) reduction (and fuel economy improvement), also using a high compression ratio gasoline engine.

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Brazil’s UNICA opposes EPA’s proposed RFS changes; says sugarcane ethanol can meet volume requirements

July 30, 2015

UNICA, the Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association, this week submitted formal comments to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) opposing the agency’s proposed reductions (relative to the volumes originally specified) to the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) volume targets for 2014, 2015 and 2016—and especially the volume target for advanced biofuels. (Earlier post.)

Four separate percentage standards are required under the RFS program: cellulosic biofuel; biomass-based diesel; advanced biofuel; and total renewable fuels. Cellulosic biofuel and biomass-based diesel categories are nested within advanced biofuel, which is itself nested within the total renewable fuel category. The advanced biofuels category contains renewable fuel other than ethanol derived from corn starch; that is derived from renewable biomass; and that achieves a 50% GHG emissions reduction requirement. This is the category in which sugarcane ethanol finds itself.

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NREL examines potential of blending ethanol with condensate for flex-fuels and high-octane mid-level blends

July 21, 2015

A team at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), with a colleague at EcoEngineering, has explored the potential of blending ethanol with natural gasoline (condensate) to produce flex-fuels (ASTM D5798-13a) and high-octane, mid-level ethanol blends (MLEBs). A paper on their work is published in the ACS journal Energy & Fuels.

The study addresses two current market conditions: first, more ethanol is produced domestically than can legally be blended in E10 (the ethanol blend wall). Second, as a result of recent increases in crude oil and natural gas production in the US, condensate—a component of natural gas liquids (NGLs) found in rich gas—is produced in abundance and could potentially serve as a lower-cost blendstock. Current US production of condensate is estimated at 1.5 × 108 m3 annually compared to 9.7 × 107 m3 annually 10 years ago.

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