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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.]

LanzaTech and Sekisui advance conversion of municipal solid waste to ethanol

December 07, 2017

Sekisui, a multibillion dollar Japanese diversified chemicals company and LanzaTech report making significant progress on a waste-to-chemicals platform converting municipal solid waste (MSW) to ethanol or other new products.

Today, many MSW streams are incinerated or super-heated to produce a synthesis gas made up of carbon monoxide and hydrogen, which is then combusted for power and emitted as carbon dioxide. Sekisui and LanzaTech took an existing gasification system at a landfill site and added LanzaTech’s fermentation capability to a slipstream of the gas. They have shown that it is possible to recycle the carbon from unsorted MSW destined for landfill or the incinerator and ferment it to make new products, that would otherwise come from fossil resources or sugars.

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BP and Copersucar to form a new ethanol joint venture in Brazil

December 03, 2017

BP Biofuels and Copersucar have agreed to form a joint venture to own and operate a major ethanol storage terminal in Brazil, better and flexibly connecting ethanol production with the country’s main fuels markets. Copersucar is the world’s leading sugar and ethanol trader, with the largest sugar and ethanol storage capacity in Brazil. BP Biofuels, part of BP’s Alternative Energy business, is a significant producer of ethanol from sugarcane in Brazil.

The 50/50 joint venture will own and operate the Terminal Copersucar de Etanol in Paulínia in the state of São Paulo, which is currently solely owned by Copersucar. Joint ownership of the terminal will support the strategies of both companies—connecting important ethanol production with flexible storage capacity close to the main ethanol consumer markets in Brazil.

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Eni, FCA partner on R&D to cut road vehicle CO2 emissions; methanol/ethanol blends, renewable diesel, ANG, on-board CO2 capture

November 22, 2017

The chief executive of Eni, Claudio Descalzi, and the chief executive of FCA, Sergio Marchionne, signed a Memorandum of Understanding for the joint development of research projects and technological applications aimed at reducing CO2 emissions from road transport vehicles. The two companies, renewing their strategic commitment to a low-carbon future and in line with Italy’s National Energy Strategy, will combine their respective expertise, experiences and know-how to reduce the sector’s level of CO2 emissions.

Eni and FCA have identified the following areas of cooperation:

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Study: expanding Brazilian sugarcane for ethanol could reduce global CO2 emissions by up to 5.6%

October 24, 2017

Vastly expanding sugarcane production in Brazil for conversion to ethanol could reduce current global CO2 emissions by as much as 5.6%, according to a new study by an international team led by researchers from the University of Illinois.

This would be a massive undertaking, involving the conversion of hundreds of thousands of square miles—at its most ambitious, more than the combined land area of Texas and California—to sugarcane fields. However, it could be accomplished without impinging on environmentally sensitive areas in Brazil and while allowing for the expansion of other agricultural crops and human needs, the researchers report in a paper in the journal Nature Climate Change. The carbon-related costs of converting the land to sugarcane fields were included in the analysis.

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NAS: concerns remain about rail transport for energy liquids, gases; pipeline, maritime have more comprehensive safety system in place

October 12, 2017

With the sharp and largely unexpected increase in the long-distance movement of domestically produced crude oil, ethanol, and natural gas since 2005, a number of concerns have arisen about the safe transport of these hazardous materials, particularly in relation to railroad track defects, rural communities’ emergency response preparedness, and the older tank car designs that will continue to be used in multi-car unit trains, according to a new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

Pipelines and barges have accommodated major portions of the growth in domestic energy liquids and gases, and they have done so without major new safety problems and within the basic framework of their longstanding regulatory and safety assurance systems. The committee that carried out the study and wrote the report stressed that to the credit of transportation service providers from all of the modes as well as their safety regulators, the vast majority of these energy supplies have been transported without incident, enabling the country to capitalize on its new energy resources and manage the safety risks associated with its transportation.

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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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Berkeley Lab solar-to-fuel system for CO2 to ethanol and ethylene; light-powered production of fuel via artificial photosynthesis

September 19, 2017

Scientists at the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have harnessed the power of photosynthesis to convert carbon dioxide into fuels and alcohols at efficiencies far greater than plants. The achievement marks a significant milestone in the effort to move toward sustainable sources of fuel.

Many systems have successfully reduced carbon dioxide to chemical and fuel precursors, such as carbon monoxide or a mix of carbon monoxide and hydrogen known as syngas. This new work, described in a study published in the journal Energy and Environmental Science, is the first to successfully demonstrate the approach of going from carbon dioxide directly to target products—ethanol and ethylene—at energy conversion efficiencies rivaling natural counterparts.

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LanzaTech collaborating with Swayana to convert waste gases from ferroalloy production to ethanol

July 31, 2017

South African engineering company Swayana has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with LanzaTech to collaborate on developing projects for the production of ethanol and higher value products from waste gases in the ferroalloy and titania smelting sectors.

LanzaTech’s first commercial facility will be online at the end of 2017 in China, producing fuel-grade ethanol from captured steelmaking off-gas. The successful application of LanzaTech’s innovative platform in steel making has led to commercial engagement with companies in the ferroalloy sector.

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São Paulo study finds concentration of ultrafine particulates rose by 1/3 in switch from ethanol to gasoline

July 17, 2017

The concentration of ultrafine particles less than 50 nanometers in diameter rose by one-third in the air of São Paulo, Brazil, when higher ethanol prices induced drivers to switch from ethanol to gasoline, according to a new study by a Northwestern University chemist, a National University of Singapore economist and two University of São Paulo physicists.

The research team also found when São Paulo drivers—some two million of them—switched back to ethanol because prices had gone down, the concentration of ultrafine particles also went down. This lockstep movement illustrates a very tight correlation between fuel choice and nanoparticles in the air. The study is published in the journal Nature Communications.

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IndianOil and LanzaTech to construct first refinery Offgas-to-Bioethanol production facility

July 11, 2017

Indian Oil Corporation Limited (IndianOil), India’s flagship national oil company and LanzaTech signed a Statement of Intent to construct the world’s first refinery offgas-to-bioethanol production facility in India.

The basic engineering for the 40-million liter per year (10.6 million gallons US/year) demonstration facility will begin later this year for installation at IndianOil’s Panipat Refinery in Hayrana, India, at an estimated cost of 350 crore rupees (US$55 million). It will be integrated into the existing site infrastructure and will be LanzaTech’s first project capturing refinery off-gases. LanzaTech’s first commercial facility converting waste emissions from steel production to ethanol will come online in China in late 2017.

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

July 06, 2017

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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Stanford team develops copper catalyst for increased selectivity of production of ethanol via electroreduction of CO2

June 21, 2017

Researchers at Standford University have designed large-format, thin-film copper catalysts for the electroreduction of CO2 to ethanol. The results are published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“One of our long-range goals is to produce renewable ethanol in a way that doesn’t impact the global food supply. Copper is one of the few catalysts that can produce ethanol at room temperature,” he said. “You just feed it electricity, water and carbon dioxide, and it makes ethanol. The problem is that it also makes 15 other compounds simultaneously, including lower-value products like methane and carbon monoxide. Separating those products would be an expensive process and require a lot of energy,” said study principal investigator Thomas Jaramillo, an associate professor of chemical engineering at Stanford and of photon science at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory.

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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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Scientists engineer sugarcane to produce lipids for biodiesel, more sugar for ethanol; ARPA-E project PETROSS

April 06, 2017

A multi-institutional team led by the University of Illinois has genetically engineered sugarcane to produce lipids in its leaves and stems for biodiesel production (lipid-cane). Surprisingly, the modified sugarcane plants also produced more sugar, which could be used for ethanol production.

The dual-purpose bioenergy crops are predicted to be more than five times more profitable per acre than soybeans and two times more profitable than corn. More importantly, sugarcane can be grown on marginal land in the Gulf Coast region that does not support good corn or soybean yields. A paper describing the work is published in the journal Biocatalysis and Agricultural Biotechnology.

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BP, DuPont JV Butamax acquires ethanol plant to add bio-isobutanol production capability as demo plant

April 03, 2017

Butamax Advanced Biofuels LLC, a 50/50 joint venture between BP and DuPont, acquired Nesika Energy, LLC and its ethanol facility in Scandia, Kansas. Butamax will now start the detailed engineering work to add bio-isobutanol capacity to the facility, while continuing to produce ethanol before and after adding this capacity.

Butamax plans to license its proprietary bio-isobutanol technology beyond this first facility on a global scale. When the newly acquired facility in Kansas has bio-isobutanol production capability, it will be used as a demonstration facility for potential licensees to see the technology in operation and serve as a proving ground for future developments.

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Senate bill would enable sales of E15 and higher ethanol blends year round; RVP waiver

March 03, 2017

US Senators Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) have introduced the Consumer and Fuel Retailer Choice Act. The bill would amend the Clean Air Act to extend the Reid vapor pressure (RVP) waiver to ethanol blends above 10%. This would increase market access opportunities for higher blends of ethanol by allowing retailers across the country to sell E15 and other higher-ethanol/gasoline fuel blends year-round, the Senators said.

RVP is a common measure of and generic term for gasoline volatility. Each year, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates RVP for gasoline and gasoline-ethanol blended during the summer ozone season from 1 June until 15 September. The purpose of the regulation is to reduce evaporative emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOC) that contribute to ground-level ozone.

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DLR, AEB developing new injection heads enabling use of ethanol as rocket fuel

February 16, 2017

The German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) and the Brazilian aerospace agency Agência Espacial Brasileira (AEB) have successfully completed the first burn tests for two newly designed injection heads enabling the development of a new rocket that is fueled with oxygen and alcohol.

The final injection head will eventually be the core of the new L75 liquid propellant rocket engine (LPRE), intended to propel a Brazilian small launch vehicle in the future. The engine delivers 75 kN thrust, fueled with liquid oxygen and ethanol, with a burn time of up to 400 seconds. (For comparison, Space X’s Falcon 9’s second stage—used to place large payloads into orbit—is powered by a single Merlin engine with 934 kN thrust. Falcon 9’s first stage delivers 7,607 kN at sea level.) The burn test series for the upper stage engine was completed within the framework of a German-Brazilian partnership established in 2011.

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Global Bioenergies reports first production of ETBE entirely from renewable resources

February 07, 2017

Global Bioenergies announced the production of ETBE—Ethyl tert-butyl ether, an oxygenate additive for gasoline—purely from renewable resources. ETBE features very different and advantageous physical and chemical characteristics, compared to ethanol, when blended into gasoline. These include significantly lower blending volatility; no significant distortion of the distillation curve; better tolerance of wet distribution systems; double the octane increase per “barrel” at equivalent ethanol content and narrower octane sensitivity; and better material compatibility. (ETBE RON = 119, MON = 103, AKI = 111)

ETBE also provides a series of environmental benefits compared to ethanol used alone, such as lower VOCs emission, lower permeation losses in the vehicle, and additional CO2 emissions reduction due to less severe refinery operations.

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Study: splash blended ethanol fuels with higher ethanol percentage enable higher thermal efficiency in SI engine

February 03, 2017

A team from the University of Birmingham (UK) and Shell Global Solutions has investigated the effect of RON, octane sensitivity and charge cooling in splash-blended ethanol fuels with different volume percentages of ethanol on a single-cylinder direct-injection spark ignition (DISI) research engine.

In a paper published in the journal Fuel, the researchers report that at the knock-limited engine loads, splash-blended ethanol fuels with a higher ethanol percentage enabled higher engine thermal efficiency through allowing more advanced combustion phasing and less fuel enrichment for limiting the exhaust gas temperature under the upper limit of 850 °C, which was due to the synergic effects of higher RON and octane sensitivity, as well as better charge cooling.

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Urban Air Initiative and partners petition EPA to correct ethanol emissions models

February 01, 2017

The Urban Air Initiative (UAI), the Energy Future Coalition and the states of Kansas and Nebraska have petitioned the US Environmental Protection Agency to correct what they call the agency’s flawed models that limit the use of higher blends of ethanol.

According to UAI, the EPA has published inaccurate data for years claiming that ethanol increases emissions, even though ethanol’s pollution reducing qualities have been demonstrated repeatedly. UAI says that the false information originated with EPA’s fuel effects study—“EPAct study”—and its vehicular emissions computer model called MOVES2014. This information is critically important because it sets the tone for EPA’s institutional bias against ethanol, and it impacts federal and state fuel policies that limit ethanol’s growth in the market—impairing US air quality, according to UAI.

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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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USDA: US corn-based ethanol reduces GHG emissions by 43% compared to gasoline, with additional benefits projected through 2022

January 13, 2017

A new lifecycle analysis of corn ethanol released by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) finds that GHG emissions associated with corn-based ethanol in the United States are about 43% lower than gasoline when measured on an energy-equivalent basis. Unlike other studies of GHG benefits, which relied on forecasts of future ethanol production systems and expected impacts on the farm sector, this study reviewed how the industry and farm sectors performed over the past decade to assess the current GHG profile of corn-based ethanol.

The new report, A Life-Cycle Analysis of the Greenhouse Gas Emissions of Corn-Based Ethanol, found greater lifecycle GHG benefits from corn ethanol than a number of earlier studies, driven by a variety of improvements in ethanol production, from the corn field to the ethanol refinery. Farmers are producing corn more efficiently and using conservation practices that reduce GHG emissions, including reduced tillage, cover crops and improved nitrogen management. Corn yields are also improving—between 2005 and 2015, US corn yields increased by more than 10%.

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