[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.]
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
EPA honors winners of the 20th Annual Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge; advanced biofuels
July 14, 2015
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) honored the six 2015 Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award winners at a ceremony in Washington, DC. EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention sponsors the Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Awards in partnership with the American Chemical Society Green Chemistry Institute and other members of the chemical community including industry, trade associations, academic institutions, and other government agencies.
For 2015, EPA announced a new award category for a green chemistry technology that has a “Specific Environmental Benefit: Climate Change.” The 2015 winners are Algenol; Lanzatech; Renmatix; Professor Eugene Y.-X. Chen of Colorado State University; Soltex; and Hybrid Coating Technologies.
ArcelorMittal, LanzaTech and Primetals to build €87M commercial-scale waste-gas-to-ethanol plant
July 13, 2015
ArcelorMittal, the world’s leading steel and mining company; LanzaTech; and Primetals Technologies, a leading technology and service provider to the iron and steel industry have entered into a letter of intent to construct Europe’s first commercial-scale production facility to create bioethanol from waste gases produced during the steelmaking process. (Earlier post.)
The €87-million (US$96 million) plant will produce 47,000 tons (about 15.7 million gallons US, 60 million liters) per year of ethanol. The resulting bioethanol can cut greenhouse gas emissions by more than 80% compared with conventional fossil fuels. It will predominantly be used in gasoline blending, but it can also be further processed into other products such as drop in jet fuel.
LanzaTech gas fermentation technology at core of €14.6M EU Steelanol project; 25K t/year demo plant
June 26, 2015
LanzaTech’s gas fermentation technology (earlier post) is at the core of the new Horizon2020 Steelanol project (2015-2018), which seeks to produce bioethanol via an innovative gas fermentation process using exhaust gases emitted by the steel industry. The €14.6-million (US$16.3-million) project is coordinated by steelmaker Arcelormittal Belgium NV.
Steelanol’s main objective is to demonstrate the cost-effective production of sustainable bioethanol, with the purpose of assessing the valorization of this ethanol biofuel as a fuel derivative for the transport sector. The project will build a demonstration plant of approximately 25,000 tons/ethanol per year—the first of its kind in Europe, and the largest facility globally built to date utilizing this technology.
“Energiewende” in a tank; Audi e-fuels targeting carbon-neutral driving with synthetic fuels from renewables, H2O and CO2; Swiss policy test case
June 12, 2015
Like other major automakers, Audi (and its parent Volkswagen Group) is working on meeting its medium-term regulatory requirements (e.g., in the 2020 timeframe) by reducing the average fuel consumption of its new vehicles using a combination of three primary measures: optimizing its combustion engines for greater efficiency; developing alternative drive concepts, such as hybrid, plug-in hybrid and gas-powered vehicles; and reducing total vehicle weight through lightweight construction with an intelligent multimaterial mix.
Unlike the others, however, Audi over the past few years has embarked on a comprehensive approach to developing a range of new CO₂-neutral fuels as part of its overall strategy for sustainable, carbon-neutral mobility: Audi e-fuels. Audi’s basic goal is to combine renewable energy (e.g. solar and wind), water and CO2 to produce liquid or gaseous fuels with a very low carbon intensity. Audi e-fuels are intended to use no fossil or biomass sources; do not compete with food production; and are 100% compatible with existing infrastructure.
St1 Etanolix food-waste-to-ethanol plant integrated into oil refinery in Gothenburg
June 08, 2015
The first Etanolix plant delivered to the international market by Finland-based St1 Biofuels Oy was inaugurated in Gothenburg, Sweden last week. The plant, built for North European Bio Tech Oy (NEB), recycles feedstocks such as food industry biowaste and process residue from local bakeries and bread from shops that is past its sell-by date into ethanol for transport fuel.
The ethanol plant is fully integrated into the functions and logistics of St1 oil refinery in Gothenburg and has an annual production capacity of 5 million liters (1.3 million gallons US) of advanced bioethanol. The integration yields significant synergy benefits in the use of residual heat and cooling and in product distribution. The refinery staff will operate the Etanolix plant.
USDA to invest up to $100M to boost infrastructure for renewable fuel use; seeks to double number of higher blend ethanol fuel pumps
May 29, 2015
US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) will invest up to $100 million in a Biofuels Infrastructure Partnership to support the infrastructure needed to make more renewable fuel options available to American consumers. USDA will post a Notice of Solicitation of Applications in June.
Specifically, USDA will administer competitive grants to match funding for state-led efforts to test and evaluate innovative and comprehensive approaches to market higher blends of renewable fuel, such as E15 and E85. States that are able to provide greater than a one-to-one ratio in funding will receive higher consideration.
EPA proposes volume requirements for Renewable Fuel Standard for 2014-2016
Adhering to a schedule in a proposed consent decree (earlier post), the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced its long-awaited proposed volume requirements (renewable volume obligations, RVO) (earlier post) under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program for the years 2014, 2015 and 2016, and also proposed volume requirements for biomass-based diesel for 2017. The period for public input and comment on the proposal will be open until 27 July. EPA says it will finalize the volume standards in this rule by 30 November.
EPA is proposing to establish the 2014 standards at levels that reflect the actual amount of domestic biofuel used in that year; the standards for 2015 and 2016 (and 2017 for biodiesel) increase steadily over time, with the most aggressive growth projected for the problematic area of cellulosic biofuels: from 33 million gallons in 2014 to 206 million gallons in 2016.
Audi partner Joule announces its “CO2-recycled” ethanol meets US and Euro specs; $40M financing
May 11, 2015
Joule, the developer of a direct, single-step, continuous process for the production of solar hydrocarbon fuels using engineered cyanobacteria (earlier post), announced the successful results from third-party testing of its ethanol fuel (Sunflow-E), setting the stage to obtain certification for commercial use.
Initiated by Audi, Joule’s strategic partner in the automotive space (earlier post), the test results confirm that Joule’s ethanol meets: American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) D4806 – Denatured fuel ethanol for blending with gasolines for use as automotive spark-ignition engine fuel; and German Institute for Standardization (DIN) EN 15376 – Ethanol as a blending component for petrol.
U. Mich, Ford team studies effect of ethanol in reducing PM from DISI engines; insights into fueling strategies to reduce soot
April 26, 2015
A team from the University of Michigan and Ford’s Research and Advanced Engineering group in Dearborn has studied the effects of ethanol on reducing particulate emissions from a direct injection spark ignition (DISI) engine by comparing neat anhydrous ethanol with a baseline fuel of reference grade gasoline (indolene).
In a paper published in the ACS journal Energy & Fuels, they reported that ethanol produced over an order of magnitude less soot under all operating conditions compared to indolene; however, ethanol produced measurable soot at cold coolant and early fuel injection timing conditions.
China Steel Corporation making $46M investment in LanzaTech commercial waste-gas-to-ethanol project
April 22, 2015
Taiwan’s largest integrated steel maker, China Steel Corporation (CSC), has announced formal Board approval of a 1400-million TWD (US$46 million) capital investment in a LanzaTech commercial ethanol facility. This follows the successful demonstration of the carbon recycling platform at the White Biotech (WBT) Demonstration Plant in Kaohsiung using steel mill off gases for ethanol production.
LanzaTech’s gas fermentation process uses proprietary microbes to capture and reuse carbon rich waste gases, reducing emissions and pollutants from industrial processes such as steel manufacturing, while making fuels and chemicals that displace those made from fossil resources. (Earlier post.)
Lux: alternative fuels in China could replace up to 483B GGE in 2020; coal-to-ethanol conversion offers near-term potential
April 14, 2015
China’s shift toward alternative fuels in order to cut its reliance on imported oil is creating large opportunities, notably in natural gas vehicles (NGVs) and in the conversion of coal to ethanol, according to a new report from Lux Research. China is seeking to reduce its imports of oil from the current 50% of domestic demand. Further, its plans to limit coal-fired power plants due to pollution problems, means that oversupplied coal is available for conversion to alternative fuels.
Lux Research analysts evaluated China’s alternative fuels landscape to assess opportunities and identified potential domestic partners across diverse feedstocks, technologies and fuels. Among their findings:
Ceres and Raízen sign multi-year collaboration to scale-up sweet sorghum for ethanol in Brazil
March 16, 2015
Ceres, Inc, an agricultural biotechnology company, and Brazilian energy company Raízen S.A., signed a multi-year collaboration agreement to develop and produce sweet sorghum on an industrial scale. Raízen has conducted field and industrial evaluations of Ceres’ sweet sorghum hybrids since 2011.
Sweet sorghum can extend the ethanol production season by up to 60 days in Brazil. It can be grown on fallow sugarcane land and processed using the same equipment. Since it grows in as few as 90 to 120 days, it requires less water and other inputs than sugarcane. Raízen, a joint venture of Royal Dutch Shell and Cosan, has taken an interest in developing and scaling up sweet sorghum as a means to grow margins and increase supply for its sugar and ethanol facilities.
Rice, Minnesota scientists use predictive modeling to identify optimized zeolites to aid ethanol, petroleum production
January 23, 2015
Scientists at Rice University and the University of Minnesota have identified, through a large-scale, multi-step computational screening process, promising zeolite structures for two energy-related applications: the purification of ethanol from fermentation broths and the hydroisomerization of alkanes with 18–30 carbon atoms encountered in petroleum refining.
The results, presented in a paper published in Nature Communications, demonstrate that predictive modeling of synthetic zeolites—a technique pioneered by Rice bioengineer Michael Deem—and data-driven science can be applied to solve some of the most challenging problems facing industries that require efficient ways to separate or catalyze materials.
EPA approves Algenol ethanol as RFS advanced biofuel with D5 code; 69% reduction in GHG compared to gasoline
January 13, 2015
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has approved ethanol made from Algenol’s process as an advanced biofuel, meeting the Greenhouse Gas (GHG) reduction requirements under the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS). Algenol’s ethanol, produced by photosynthetic cyanobacteria, is now eligible for a Renewable Identification Number (RIN) under the D5 classification. (Earlier post.)
As part of this approval, the EPA determined that ethanol produced from the Algenol Direct to Ethanol (DTE) process resulted in an approximate 69% reduction in greenhouse gases when compared to gasoline.
New anode for direct ethanol fuel cells enables peak power and current densities approaching H2 PEM fuel cells
December 12, 2014
A team of researchers in Italy has developed a new palladium-doped anode for direct alcohol fuel cells that produces peak power and current densities (using ethanol at 80 °C) approaching the output of hydrogen-fed proton exchange membrane fuel cells (PEMFCs). A paper on their work is published in the RSC journal ChemSusChem.
Direct alcohol fuel cells (DAFCs), which belong to the family of alkaline fuel cells, are electrochemical devices that continuously convert the chemical energy of an alcohol fuel to electricity. Ethanol is becoming a desirable target fuel for use in DAFCs (i.e., a DEFC) because it offers higher energy density compared to methanol; less crossover rate (from the anode to cathode); and can be produced from agriculture and biomass products. In a 2006 paper (Mann et al.), researchers at Princeton observed that:
Vertimass selected for negotiation for up to $2M from DOE for conversion of ethanol into gasoline, diesel and jet blendstocks; expanding the ethanol market (updated)
December 05, 2014
|Ethanol conversion to hydrocarbons as a function of temp. at a LHSV of 2.93 h−1. Source: US 20140100404 A1. Click to enlarge.|
Vertimass LLC has been selected for negotiation of an award to receive up to $2 million from the Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) within the US Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (earlier post) to support the commercialization of catalyst technology that converts ethanol into gasoline, diesel and jet fuel blend stocks, while retaining compatibility with the current transportation fuel infrastructure. (Earlier post.)
The technology—developed by Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s (ORNL) Chaitanya Narula, Brian Davison and Associate Laboratory Director Martin Keller and licensed exclusively by Vertimass—is expected to allow expansion of the ethanol market beyond current constraints. Existing US ethanol production plants currently have a capacity of approximately 14 billion gallons per year, a level that saturates current use as 10% blends with gasoline. However, the new Vertimass catalyst breaks that barrier by producing a hydrocarbon blend stock compatible in higher-level blends.
UC Riverside researchers find mixed emissions impact from use of higher ethanol and butanol fuels in FFVs
November 24, 2014
A study by University of California, Riverside researchers found that the use of higher ethanol blends and a 55% butanol blend in port-fueled and direct injection flexible fuel vehicles (FFVs) could lead to emission changes of GHGs, CO, aldehydes, BTEX (monoaromatic hydrocarbons of benzene, ethylbenzene, toluene, m/p-xylene, and o-xylene), and particulates.
In a paper in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology, they reported that the higher alcohol fuels would decrease PM mass and number emissions, although current technology direct injection fueling produces higher particle number and soot mass emissions than the PFI fueling as a result of liquid fuel wetting effects and insufficient air fuel mixing. Particulate emissions were clearly influenced by certain fuel parameters including oxygen content, hydrogen content, and aromatics content.
EPA delays issuing 2014 RVO standards for RFS until sometime in 2015
November 21, 2014
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will not finalize the 2014 applicable percentage standards (the 2014 Renewable Volume Obligations, RVOs) under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program until sometime next year. In a notice to be published in the Federal Register, the agency said that it intends to take action on the 2014 standards rule in 2015 prior to or in conjunction with action on the 2015 standards rule.
Because of the delay in issuing the 2014 RFS standards, EPA is moving the compliance demonstration deadline for the 2013 RFS standards to 2015. EPA will make modifications to the Moderated Transaction System (EMTS) to ensure that Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs) generated in 2012 are valid for demonstrating compliance with the 2013 applicable standards.
UCLA researchers develop synthetic biocatalytic pathway for more efficient conversion of methanol to longer-chain fuels
November 18, 2014
Researchers at the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science led by Dr. James Liao have developed a more efficient way to turn methanol into useful chemicals, such as liquid fuels, and that would also reduce carbon dioxide emissions. The UCLA team constructed a synthetic biocatalytic pathway that efficiently converts methanol under room temperature and ambient atmospheric pressures to higher-chain alcohols or other higher carbon compounds without carbon loss or ATP expenditure.
Building off their previous work in creating a new synthetic metabolic pathway for breaking down glucose that could lead to a 50% increase in the production of biofuels (earlier post), the researchers modified the non-oxidative glycolysis pathway to utilize methanol instead of sugar. An open-access paper on the research was published in the 11 Nov. edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Ecofys report concludes current European regulations underestimating GHG reductions
November 13, 2014
Substituting biofuels for marginal fossil-based liquid fuels results in the avoidance of significant GHG emissions that are not currently accounted for in the European Renewable Energy Directive (2009/28/EC), according to a new analysis by the consultancy Ecofys. The study was commissioned by the European Oilseed Alliance (EOA), the European Biodiesel Board (EBB) and the European Vegetable Oil and Proteinmeal Industry (FEDIOL).
The European RED and the Fuel Quality Directive (2009/30/EC) both assess the GHG benefits of biofuels by comparing the lifecycle emissions of biofuels to a “fossil comparator”. However, the Ecofys authors note, the current comparator does not reflect the increasing emissions of fossil fuels that are becoming more difficult to extract. In addition, they argue, biofuels should not just be compared to the average performance of gasoline or diesel but with the fossil fuels they most likely replace—i.e. those that are marginally “not produced”.
Ford, GM and AVL researchers argue match-blending a flawed approach to evaluate ethanol-gasoline blends (corrected)
November 06, 2014
(Earlier version attributed the final quote to the research team. Our apologies for the error.)
In a newly published SAE paper, a team from Ford, General Motors and AVL argues that the exclusive use of a match blending approach to prepare ethanol-gasoline blends for regulatory emissions testing “has fundamental flaws”.
This echoes the recent criticism by the Urban Air Initiative (UAI) and the Energy Future Coalition (EFC) that the latest version of the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) MOtor Vehicle Emission Simulator (MOVES) modeling system for estimating emissions from mobile sources is “seriously flawed” with respect to its reliance on match blending. (Earlier post.)
Researchers enhance yeast thermotolerance and ethanol tolerance; potential for significant impact on industrial biofuel production
October 03, 2014
The yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae plays a central role in global biofuel production; currently, about 100 billion liters of ethanol are produced annually worldwide by fermentation of mainly sugarcane saccharose and corn starch by the yeast. There are also efforts underway to use the yeast with cellulosic biomass.
Boosting the yield and lowering the cost of fermentative production of biofuel would not only result in a significant immediate financial impact to commercial ethanol operations, but also support cost reductions that would be helpful to advance other advanced biofuels using the same or a similar pathway. However, boosting production has been gated by two key conditions: the ability of the yeast to tolerate higher temperatures, and the ability of the yeast to survive high concentrations of ethanol. Now, two new separate studies report progress on each of those fronts; the findings could have a significant impact on industrial biofuel production. Both papers are published in the current issue of the journal Science.