[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.]
PNNL study uncovers role of water in forming impurity in bio-oil upgrading; insight into fundamentals of biofuel catalysis
August 21, 2014
In working to elucidate the chemistry of hydrodeoxygenation (HDO) for the catalytic upgrading of pyrolytic bio-oil to fuel-grade products, researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) have discovered that water in the conversion process helps form an impurity which, in turn, slows down key chemical reactions. Results of the study, which was reported in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, can help improve processes that produce biofuels from plants.
The study examines the conversion of bio-oil, produced from biomass such as wood chips or grasses, into transportation fuels. Researchers used density functional theory (DFT)-based ab initio molecular dynamics calculations to provide a detailed atomic-level understanding of how the hydrogenation reactions are influenced by the presence of water and also by the nature of the hydrogenating metal. The results of the study apply not only to water but to related liquids in bio-oil such as alcohols and certain acids.
DOE to issue funding solicitation for algal biofuels and bioproducts; targeting <$5 gge by 2019
August 20, 2014
The US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) intends to issue, on behalf of the DOE Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO), a Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) (DE-FOA-0001162) entitled “Targeted Algal Biofuels and Bioproducts (TABB)”. The TABB FOA seeks to reduce the cost of algal biofuels.
BETO’s 2019 projected state of technology (SOT) for the cost of algal biofuels is modeled at about $8 per gallon gasoline gallon equivalent (gge) based on a lipid extraction pathway without valuable co-products. The TABB FOA will support work at bench and process development scales to develop valuable co-products, crop protection, and CO2 utilization strategies. BETO expects the TABB FOA to result in modeled mature algal biofuel costs of less than $5 gge by 2019.
OCM company Siluria pulls in $30M in D round led by Saudi Aramco; methane to fuels and chemicals
Siluria Technologies, a pioneer in the commercialization of an oxidative coupling of methane (OCM) technology to produce ethylene from natural gas (earlier post), announced the initial close of its Series D financing round. The round was led by Saudi Aramco Energy Ventures (SAEV), the venture investment subsidiary of Saudi Aramco and included additional investments by all of the major existing investors in Siluria. The total raise for this initial close of the Series D financing was $30 million.
With this initial Series D financing, Siluria has raised just under $100 million since its inception. Siluria is currently in discussions with additional strategic and financial investors to complete a total Series D financing of approximately $50 million.
JBEI researchers develop “bionic” liquids: ionic liquids derived from lignin and hemicelullose; towards closed-loop biorefineries
August 19, 2014
|Hypothetical process flow for a closed-loop biorefinery using ionic liquids derived from lignocellulosic biomass (“bionic liquids”) for biomass deconstruction. Socha et al. Click to enlarge.|
Researchers at the US Department of Energy’s Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) have developed “bionic liquids”—ionic liquids derived from lignin and hemicellulose, two by-products of biofuel production from biorefineries. JBEI is a multi-institutional partnership led by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) that was established by the DOE Office of Science to accelerate the development of advanced, next-generation biofuels.
Ionic liquids show great promise for liberating fermentable sugars from lignocellulose and improving the economics of advanced biofuels. The concept of bionic liquids opens the door to realizing a closed-loop process for future lignocellulosic biorefineries, and has far-reaching economic impacts for other ionic liquid-based process technologies that currently use ionic liquids synthesized from petroleum sources, said Blake Simmons, a chemical engineer who is JBEI’s Chief Science and Technology Officer and heads JBEI’s Deconstruction Division.
Cathay Pacific Airways makes strategic equity investment in Fulcrum BioEnergy; MSW to biojet; 375M gallon supply agreement
August 08, 2014
Cathay Pacific Airways has made a strategic equity investment in Fulcrum BioEnergy—a pioneer in the development and commercialization of converting municipal solid waste (MSW) into sustainable aviation fuel (earlier post)—as part of the airline’s biofuel strategy and to help it achieve a target of carbon-neutral growth from 2020. Cathay Pacific, which also has an option for further investment, is the first airline investor in the sustainable biofuel developer.
Cathay Pacific has also negotiated a long-term supply agreement with Fulcrum for an initial 375 million gallons US of sustainable aviation fuel over 10 years (representing on an annual basis approximately 2% of the airline’s current fuel consumption) that meets all the airline’s technical requirements and specifications.
UC Riverside team develops new high efficiency method for conversion of biomass to biofuels
August 04, 2014
|Overview of the process. Cai et al. (2014) Click to enlarge.|
A team of researchers, led by Professor Charles E. Wyman, the Ford Motor Company Chair in Environmental Engineering at the University of California, Riverside’s Bourns College of Engineering, has developed a versatile, relatively non-toxic, and efficient way to convert lignocellulosic biomass into biofuels and chemicals.
The method couples the use of a metal halide selective catalyst with a highly tunable co-solvent—renewable tetrahydrofuran (THF)—to enhance co-production of the fuel precursors furfural and 5-HMF from biomass in a single-phase reaction strategy capable of integrating biomass deconstruction with catalytic dehydration of sugars. Those fuel precursors can then be converted into ethanol, chemicals or drop-in fuels.
New catalytic system for conversion of CO2 to methanol shows much higher activity than others now in use
August 01, 2014
Scientists at the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory, with colleagues from the University of Seville (Spain) and Universidad Central de Venezuela, have discovered a new, highly active catalytic system for converting carbon dioxide to methanol.
The pure metals and bimetallic systems used for the chemical activation of CO2 usually have low catalytic activity; the new system exhibits significantly higher activity than other catalysts now in use. The new catalyst system converts CO2 to methanol more than a thousand times faster than plain copper particles, and almost 90 times faster than a common copper/zinc-oxide catalyst currently in industrial use.
New catalyst improves conversion of CO2 to syngas
July 30, 2014
Researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) have identified molybdenum disulfide as a promising cost-effective substitute for noble metal catalysts for the electrochemical reduction of carbon dioxide. A paper on their work is published in the journal Nature Communications.
While noble metals such as gold and silver are able to reduce carbon dioxide at moderate rates and low overpotentials, their cost is a challenge to the development of inexpensive systems with an efficient CO2 reduction capability. Amin Salehi-Khojin, UIC professor of mechanical and industrial engineering, and his colleagues developed a novel two-step catalytic process for CO2reduction that uses molybdenum disulfide and an ionic liquid. The new catalyst improves efficiency and lowers cost.
NIST study suggests severe corrosion in underground gasoline storage tanks may require component replacement sooner than expected; 500K USTs in US
|Optical micrographs of severe corrosion on steel alloy samples exposed to ethanol and acetic acid vapors—conditions typical of underground gasoline storage tanks—after 355 hours, 643 hours, and 932 hours. Source: NIST. Click to enlarge.|
In recent years, field inspectors in nine states have reported many rapidly corroding underground gasoline storage tank (UST) components such as sump pumps. These incidents are generally associated with use of gasoline-ethanol blends and the presence of bacteria, Acetobacter aceti, which convert ethanol to acetic acid, a component of vinegar. Corrosion can result in failures, leaks and contamination of groundwater, a source of drinking water.
Following up on the inspectors’ findings, a National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) laboratory study has demonstrated severe corrosion—rapidly eating through 1 millimeter of wall thickness per year—on steel alloy samples exposed to ethanol and acetic acid vapors. Based on this finding, NIST researchers suggest gasoline stations may need to replace submersible pump casings, typically made of steel or cast iron, sooner than expected.
Navigant forecasts global road transportation energy consumption to increase 25% by 2035; 84% from conventional fuels
July 28, 2014
In a new report (Transportation Forecast: Global Fuel Consumption), Navigant Research forecasts total road transportation energy consumption will grow from 81.1 quadrillion Btu in 2014 to 101.7 quadrillion Btu in 2035—an increase of 25.4%. Approximately 84% of that will be provided by conventional fuels. The United States is currently the largest consumer of energy in the road transportation sector, with nearly 23.1 quadrillion Btu projected to be consumed in 2014.
Navigant also projects that investments in alternative fuel and fuel efficiency improvements will reduce annual energy consumption in the United States year-over-year. Most developed countries in Western Europe and parts of Asia Pacific will also exhibit similar decreases in energy consumption. In contrast, energy consumption will grow in developing regions, particularly in Eastern Europe, Asia Pacific, Latin America, and the Middle East & Africa. Brazil, Russia, India, and China (the BRIC nations) will represent the largest increases, as the percentage of global road transportation energy consumed by these nations is forecast to grow from 20% in 2014 to 36% in 2035.
U Mich professor finds fuel cycle analysis for evaluating CO2 impacts of liquid fuels is fatally flawed; calls for focus on CO2 removal
Fuel cycle analysis (FCA)—or “well-to-wheels analysis”—is a type of lifecycle analysis (LCA) that examines fuel products and their supply chains, and that has greatly influenced climate-related research priorities and public policies for transportation fuels.
However, in a major review of methods for evaluating the net CO2 impacts of liquid transportation fuels, Professor John DeCicco at the University of Michigan Energy Institute (UMEI) compared FCA to other methods of analysis, and found “flaws fatal enough to raise serious concerns about the role of FCA in shaping fuel-related CO2 mitigation strategies. Instead, DeCicco proposes “setting the lifecycle paradigm aside” and focusing on the problem of carbon dioxide removal.
Ethanol producer to integrate renewable diesel production from corn distiller oil
July 25, 2014
Ethanol producer East Kansas Agri-Energy LLC (EKAE) intends to integrate renewable diesel production at its ethanol plant in Garnett, Kansas. Renewable diesel will be made from the corn distillers oil (CDO) already produced at the plant along with other feedstocks purchased on the market. WB Services is the technology provider for the catalytic renewable diesel process.
Construction on the new facility will begin soon and will be complete in about 12 to 14 months. The plant will be able to produce three million gallons of hydrocarbon fuel per year, with the ability to double that capacity in the future. The plant currently produces some 40 million gallons of ethanol; 200,000 tons of the livestock feed distillers grains; and 5 million pounds of corn oil each year from more than 16 million bushels of locally-sourced corn.
California Energy Commission selects 11 advanced biofuels projects for $43.6M in awards
The California Energy Commission (CEC) has selected 11 biofuel projects projects—including gasoline substitutes, diesel substitutes and biomethane projects—for $43,633,421 in awards under a grant solicitation released in January for the development of new, or the modification of, existing California-based biofuel production facilities that can sustainably produce low carbon transportation fuels.
The grant solicitation had announced a total of $24 million available for projects funded by the solicitation; however, the Energy Commission, at its sole discretion, reserves the right to increase or reduce the amount of funds available.
DOE, USDA awarding $12.6M to 10 biomass genomics research projects for improved biofuels
July 17, 2014
The US Department of Energy (DOE) and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) have selected 10 projects that will receive funding aimed at accelerating genetic breeding programs to improve plant feedstocks for the production of biofuels, biopower, and bio-based products.
The $12.6 million in research grants are awarded under a joint DOE-USDA program that began in 2006 focused on fundamental investigations of biomass genomics, with the aim of harnessing nonfood plant biomass for the production of fuels such as ethanol or renewable chemical feedstocks. Dedicated feedstock crops tend to require less intensive production practices and can grow on poorer quality land than food crops, making this a critical element in a strategy of sustainable biofuels production that avoids competition with crops grown for food.
UK study finds low carbon policy has bolstered UK automotive sector, but trucks neglected and biofuels stalled
|Value of low carbon investments by year and cumulative. Click to enlarge.|
A major new report published at the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership’s Annual Conference shows the UK automotive sector has been revitalized by consistently applied policy centered on cutting carbon.
Carried out for LowCVP by E4tech and the Centre for Automotive Industry Research at Cardiff Business School, the study was conducted between March and June 2014. The broad industry survey, supplemented by in-depth interviews with senior executives showed that a consistent and sustained policy approach can produce both green results and growth. The link between consistently applied policy and a win-win in terms of investment and emissions performance was validated by the survey involving more than 120 senior industry and stakeholder respondents.
Edeniq and Global Bio-chem to develop and commercialize technology to convert corn stover to industrial sugars for fuels
July 16, 2014
Edeniq, Inc., a cellulosic sugar producer (earlier post), has signed a letter of intent with China-based Global Bio-chem Technology Group Company Limited to develop and to commercialize processes to convert corn stover to industrial sugars for use in the production of chemicals, fuels, and other bio-based products.
Pursuant to the letter of intent, Edeniq and Global Bio-chem intend to integrate their technologies in a commercial demonstration plant to produce 50,000 metric tons per year of industrial sugars from corn stover, and subsequently to form a joint venture to further develop and commercialize their technology platform. Global Bio-chem is currently working on modification of corn stover—leaves, stalks and cobs of corn—at its facility in the Jilin Province of China.
Calysta reports 8-fold improvement in gas fermentation in ARPA-E program; BioGTL
July 10, 2014
Calysta, Inc. reported that it has achieved 8-fold improved performance over traditional fermentation technologies in a high mass transfer bioreactor. The bioreactor technology is under development for efficient methane-to-liquids fermentation processes, enabling rapid, cost-effective methane conversion into protein, industrial chemicals and fuels. (Earlier post.)
The improved performance was achieved in the research phase of a program funded in part by the Department of Energy’s ARPA-E program under the REMOTE program (Reducing Emissions using Methanotrophic Organisms for Transportation Energy), awarded in September 2013. (Earlier post.) Calysta develops sustainable industrial products using novel natural gas conversion technology using methane.
EPA qualifies new biogas and electricity pathways for cellulosic biofuel requirement under RFS; defers decision on other proposed pathways
July 03, 2014
In a newly released rule, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has clarified the number of cellulosic biofuel renewable identification numbers (RINs, earlier post) that may be generated for fuel made with feedstocks of varying cellulosic content; qualified additional fuel pathways to meet the lifecycle greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction requirements for cellulosic biofuel under the National Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program; and clarified or amended a number of RFS program regulations that define terms or address registration, record-keeping, and reporting requirements. The final rule also clarifies that EPA considers corn kernel fiber to be a crop residue.
However, the final rule differs in several ways from the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking EPA had issued in June 2013 (earlier post):
Berkeley Lab/U. Hawaii team provides direct experimental evidence for mechanism for PAH formation in combustion; cleaner fuels could result
July 01, 2014
Researchers at the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Lab (Berkeley Lab) and the University of Hawaii have provided direct experimental evidence for the validity of a proposed mechanism for the first step in the process that transforms gas-phase molecules into solid particles such as soot and other carbon-based compounds.
The finding could help combustion chemists make more-efficient, less-polluting fuels and help materials scientists fine-tune their carbon nanotubes and graphene sheets for faster, smaller electronics. In addition, the results could have implications for the burgeoning field of astrochemistry, potentially establishing the chemical process for how gaseous outflows from stars turn into carbon-based matter in space.
New one-pot process for conversion of cellulose to n-hexane, a gasoline component
June 26, 2014
|One-pot process for conversion of cellulose to hexane, a gasoline component. Credit: ACS, Liu et al. Click to enlarge.|
Researchers at Tohoku University in Japan have developed a one-pot process to convert cellulose to n-hexane in the presence of hydrogen gas. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), unleaded gasoline contains about 11.6% n-hexane.
In a paper in the journal ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering, the Tohuku team reports achieving a yield of n-hexane of 83% from ball-milled cellulose and 78% from microcrystalline cellulose. Even using a high weight ratio of cellulose to water (1:1), a 71% yield of n-hexane could be obtained from ball-milled cellulose.
Researchers propose CO2 recycling to improve Fischer-Tropsch GTL efficiency and reduce total CO2 emissions
June 21, 2014
|Overview of the CUGP processes. Credit: ACS, Zhang et al. Click to enlarge.|
Researchers in South Korea are suggesting two new carbon-dioxide-utilized Gas-to-Liquids processes (CUGP) to increase the overall efficiency of conventional Fischer-Tropsch GTL. In a paper in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology, they report that the two CUGP options increase carbon efficiency by 21.1−41.3% and thermal efficiency by 15.7−40.7%, with total CO2 emissions reduced by 82.0−88.4%, compared to different conventional F-T processes.
This results in a decrease in total CO2 emissions to less than 5g CO2/MJ F-T product, compared to a range of 27.0 to 36.2g CO2/MJ F-T product for the conventional processes.
Study suggests GTL blending could increase overall US refinery efficiency by improving diesel efficiency
June 20, 2014
|Impact of GTL diesel blending (5% penetration relative to refinery crude input) on US average overall refinery efficiency. Credit: ACS, Forman et al. Click to enlarge.|
A team from Sasol Synfuels, Jacobs Consultancy and Argonne National Laboratory has used results from a US industry-wide linear programming (LP) modeling study of individual US refineries to examine the impacts of a number of significant and looming changes—such as shifts in refinery crude slates; regional and seasonal variation; gasoline/diesel (G/D) production ratio; and GTL diesel blending—on US refinery, unit, and product efficiencies. (LP is the the primary tool for analysis and optimization in the refining industry.)
Results of their study, which appear in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology, suggest that refinery and product-specific efficiency values are sensitive to crude quality; seasonal and regional factors; and refinery configuration and complexity—which in turn are determined by final fuel specification requirements and regulations. Additional processing of domestically sourced tight light oil could marginally increase refinery efficiency, but these benefits could be offset by crude rebalancing, they found.
ARPA-E awards $33M to 13 intermediate-temp fuel cell projects; converting gaseous hydrocarbons to liquid fuels
June 19, 2014
The US Advanced Research Projects Agency - Energy (ARPA-E) is awarding $33 million to 13 new projects aimed at developing transformational fuel cell technologies for low-cost distributed power generation. The projects, which are funded through ARPA-E’s new Reliable Electricity Based on ELectrochemical Systems (REBELS) program, are focused on improving grid stability, balancing intermittent renewable technologies, and reducing CO2 emissions using electrochemical distributed power generation systems.
Current advanced fuel cell research generally focuses on technologies that either operate at high temperatures for grid-scale applications or at low temperatures for vehicle technologies. ARPA-E’s new REBELS projects focus on low-cost Intermediate-Temperature Fuel Cells (ITFCs) emphasizing three technical approaches: the production of efficient, reliable ITFCs; the integration of ITFCs and electricity storage at the device level; and the use of ITFCs to convert methane or other gaseous hydrocarbons into liquid fuels using excess energy.
LowCVP reports indicate pathways for meeting renewable energy targets in transportation, decarbonizing fuel to 2030 and beyond
June 18, 2014
|Illustrative impact of the fuel roadmap. Source: LowCVP, Element Energy. Click to enlarge.|
The UK’s LowCVP has published twin reports which set out how the UK could meet its 2020 targets defined in the EU’s Renewable Energy Directive, and proceed on a pathway to decarbonize road transport fuel in the period to 2030 and beyond.
The LowCVP—the stakeholder body which brings government, industry and other stakeholders together to focus on the challenges of decarbonizing road transport—commissioned energy consultancy Element Energy to analyze the UK’s options for meeting the Renewable Energy Directive’s (RED) 2020 transport target which states that at least 10% of the final energy consumption in transport must come from renewable sources. This and the parallel Fuels Roadmap report benefitted from wide industry consultation and explicitly set out to align with existing powertrain roadmaps (including those published by the Automotive Council and the LowCVP).
Total and Amyris preparing to market jet fuel with 10% farnesane; direct sugar to hydrocarbons product
June 16, 2014
|The D7566 committee is running a number of task forces on alternative fuels; the use of farnesane is one of those (red outline). Source: CAAFI. Click to enlarge.|
With the release of the newly revised ASTM D7566-14 standard for jet fuel, Amyris and Total have begun to prepare to market a drop-in jet fuel that contains up to 10% blends of renewable farnesane. (Earlier post.)
The revised standard, developed by ASTM Committee on Petroleum Products, Liquid Fuels, and Lubricants, now includes the use of renewable farnesane as a blending component in jet fuels for commercial aviation. This latest version of ASTM D7566, Standard Specification for Aviation Turbine Fuel Containing Synthesized Hydrocarbons, will allow a biomass-based renewable jet fuel, as developed by Amyris and Total, to support the commercial airliners’ goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
International team sequences Eucalyptus genome; potential for improving biofuel and biomaterial production
June 14, 2014
An international team of researchers has sequenced the genome of the eucalyptus tree (Eucalyptus grandis) and published the analysis in an open access paper in the journal Nature. With its prodigious growth habit, the eucalyptus tree, one of the world’s most widely planted hardwood trees, has the potential to enhance sustainable biofuels and biomaterials production, and to provide a stable year-round source of biomass that doesn’t compete with food crops.
The researchers reported the sequencing and assembly of more than 94% of the 640-megabase genome of Eucalyptus grandis. Of 36,376 predicted protein-coding genes, 34% occur in tandem duplications, the largest proportion thus far in plant genomes. Eucalyptus also shows the highest diversity of genes for specialized metabolites such as terpenes, which can be substituted catalytically for jet fuel.
Lux Research: cost of electrofuels remains far from viable
June 09, 2014
|Production costs per barrel of oil equivalent. Source: Lux Research. Click to enlarge.|
The cost of electrofuels—fuels produced by catalyst-based systems for light capture, water electrolysis, and catalytic conversion of carbon dioxide and hydrogen to liquid fuels—remains far away from viable, according to a new analysis by Lux Research.
Building a cost model for the electrolysis process—considering electricity from various routes, such as natural gas and coal as well as renewable electricity from biomass, solar, and wind, as well as generously assuming commercial scale production—Lux found that electrofuels produced from microbes cost $230 per barrel, while a catalytic conversion to make electrofuels produces fuels for $208 per barrel.
Study suggests energy and GHG impacts of synthetic hydrocarbon fuels from CO2 are greater than impacts of existing hydrocarbon fuels
June 06, 2014
|Synthetic fuel production from fuel-combustion-based energy and CO2 (top) and from atmospheric CO2 using solar electricity (bottom). Credit: ACS, van der Giesen et al. Click to enlarge.|
Researchers at the Institute of Environmental Sciences at Leiden University, The Netherlands) have concluded that the energy demand and climate impacts of using CO2 to produce synthetic hydrocarbon fuels by using existing technologies can be greater than the impacts of existing hydrocarbon fuels. Their quantitative lifecycle assessment of the environmental merits of liquid hydrocarbon fuels produced from CO2, water and energy compared to alternative fuel production routes is published in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology.
In their study, the researchers evaluated five hypothetical production routes using different sources of CO2 and energy. The team undertook the work specifically to investigate four general arguments that have been proposed in support of such fuels:
UGA-led team engineers bacterium for the direct conversion of unpretreated biomass to ethanol
June 03, 2014
A team led by Dr. Janet Westpheling at the University of Georgia has engineered the thermophilic, anaerobic, cellulolytic bacterium Caldicellulosiruptor bescii, which in the wild efficiently uses un-pretreated biomass—to produce ethanol from biomass without pre-treatment of the feedstock. A paper on the work is published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
In January, Dr. Westpheling and her colleagues reported in the journal Science their discovery that an enzyme (the cellulase CelA) from C. besciia can digest cellulose almost twice as fast as Cel7A, the current leading component cellulase enzyme on the market. (Earlier post.)
MIT study finds significant economic and environmental benefits from designing US LDVs to use higher octane gasoline (98 RON)
May 29, 2014
In a companion study to an SAE paper presented in April (earlier post), researchers at MIT have quantified the net economic and CO2 emissions benefit that could be obtained by utilizing 98 RON gasoline in light-duty vehicles, based on reasonable assumptions for possible refinery changes and the evolution of the LDV fleet. The paper, they note, is the first modern, peer-reviewed publication to address the costs and benefits of introducing higher octane gasoline.
According to the analysis, published in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology, greater use of 98 RON gasoline in appropriately tuned vehicles could further reduce annual gasoline consumption in the US by 3.0–4.4%. Even accounting for the increase in refinery emissions from production of additional high-RON gasoline, net CO2 emissions are reduced by 19–35 Mt/y in 2040 (2.5–4.7% of total direct LDV CO2 emissions). The MIT team estimated the annual direct economic benefit to be $0.4–6.4 billion in 2040, and the annual net societal benefit—including the social cost of carbon—to be $1.7–8.8 billion in 2040.
ARB: carbon intensity of biomethane from wastewater sludge could be as low as -65.27 g CO2e/MJ
May 22, 2014
The staff of the California Air Resources Board (ARB) staff has posted three new Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) fuel pathway applications to the LCFS public comments website: one for corn ethanol (from Heartland Corn Products in Minnesota) and one ARB staff-developed pathway (with two scenarios) for the production of biomethane from the mesophilic anaerobic digestion of wastewater sludge at a wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) located at a publicly-owned treatment works (POTW).
Under the LCFS, the baseline CI value for gasoline was 95.86 g CO2e/MJ; for diesel fuel, 94.71 g CO2e/MJ. Staff estimated the carbon intensities (CIs) for biomethane produced under two alternative scenarios; under the first scenario, the CI of biomethane is 10.86 g CO2e/MJ; under the second, the CI is -65.27 g CO2e/MJ—i.e., it generates a credit.
Roadmap shows how to improve lignocellulosic biofuel biorefining with high-value products from isolated lignin
May 19, 2014
A new review article in the journal Science highlights emerging opportunities to increase the transformation of lignin to value-added products—i.e., lignin valorization. The resulting roadmap uses the integration of genetic engineering with analytical chemistry tools to tailor the structure of lignin and its isolation so it can be used for materials, chemicals and fuels, said lead author Arthur Ragauskas, a professor in the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the Georgia Institute of Technology.
Potential high-value products from isolated lignin include low-cost carbon fiber, engineering plastics and thermoplastic elastomers, polymeric foams and membranes, and a variety of fuels and chemicals—all currently sourced from petroleum. Each product stream, however, has its own distinct challenges.
California Energy Commission publishes investment plan for alt and renewable fuel and vehicle technology, 2014-2015
May 14, 2014
The California Energy Commission has published the “2014‐2015 Investment Plan Update for the Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program”. The 2014‐2015 Investment Plan Update covers the sixth year of the program and reflects laws, executive orders, and policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, petroleum dependence, and criteria emissions. It details how the California Energy Commission, with input from stakeholders and the program Advisory Committee, determines the program’s goal‐driven priorities, coupled with project opportunities for funding.
The Energy Commission held public Advisory Committee workshops to collect feedback on the initial and then revised staff drafts; a lead commissioner report version was released on 8 April 2014, and the Energy Commission adopted this commission report at its Business Meeting on 22 April 2014.
Ames Lab creates multifunctional nanoparticles for cheaper, cleaner renewable diesel
May 13, 2014
Researchers at the US Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory have developed bi-functional nanoparticles that perform two processing functions at once for the production of renewable diesel via the hydrogenation of oils from renewable feedstocks such as algae.
Iron nanoparticles supported on mesoporous silica nanoparticles (Fe-MSN) catalyze the hydrotreatment of fatty acids with high selectivity for hydrodeoxygenation over decarbonylation and hydrocracking. The selectivity is also affected by the pretreatment of Fe-MSN; the more reduced the catalyst the higher the yield of hydrodeoxygenation product. Fe-MSN catalyzes the conversion of crude microalgal oil into diesel-range hydrocarbons.
Study finds alcohol mix from biomass-derived syngas could be suitable replacement for ethanol in fuel blending
May 12, 2014
|AlcoMix displays antiknock blending characteristics similar to those of ethanol when blended at various concentrations with non-oxygenated gasoline (RON = 82). Credit: ACS, Rapp et al. Click to enlarge.|
Results of a study by a team from the US and Austria suggest that the primary alcohol mixture (“AlcoMix,” comprising 75% ethanol, 11% 1-propanol, 8% 1-butanol, and 6% 1-pentanol) produced from biomass-based syngas could be used as a substitute for ethanol as a primary fuel or as an antiknock blending component.
The purpose of the study, reported in the ACS journal Energy & Fuels, was to determine whether AlcoMix,the probable outcome of the thermochemical conversion of biomass using Fischer–Tropsch chemistry with synthesis gas, might be a suitable replacement for ethanol in fuel blending as an antiknock blending component for spark-ignited engines.
DOE seeking stakeholder input on 8 strategic biofuels pathways
May 04, 2014
The US Department of Energy (DOE) has issued a request for information (DE-FOA-0001124) seeking stakeholder input regarding the 8 representative biofuel technology pathways that the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s (EERE) Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) has selected to guide its Research and Development (R&D) strategy in the near-term.
DOE is also seeking input on other pre-commercial pathways that it should consider in the near- to long-term.
EIA: US biomass-based diesel imports increased to record levels in 2013; from net exporter to net importer
May 02, 2014
|Monthly US biodiesel and renewable diesel imports. Source: EIA. Click to enlarge.|
Total US imports of biomass-based diesel fuel—biodiesel and renewable diesel—reached 525 million gallons in 2013, compared to 61 million gallons in 2012, according to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA). As a result, the United States switched from being a net exporter of biomass-based diesel in 2012 to a net importer in 2013 by a wide margin.
Two principal factors drove the increase in US biodiesel imports, EIA said: growth in domestic biodiesel demand to satisfy renewable fuels targets, and increased access to biodiesel from other countries.
Study finds São Paulo switch from ethanol to gasoline dropped local ozone levels by 20%, increased CO and nitric oxide concentrations
April 29, 2014
A study by a pair of researchers at Northwestern University found that when fuel prices drove residents of São Paulo, Brazil, to switch from ethanol to gasoline in their flexible-fuel vehicles, local ozone levels dropped 20%. At the same time, nitric oxide and carbon monoxide concentrations tended to go up.
The four-year study by chemist Franz M. Geiger and Alberto Salvo, formerly with Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management and now an associate professor of economics at the National University of Singapore, is the first real-world trial looking at the effects of human behavior at the pump on urban air pollution. Their paper appears in the journal Nature Geoscience.
SOLAR-JET project demonstrates solar-driven thermochemical conversion of CO2 and water to jet fuel
April 28, 2014
|SOLAR-JET concentrated thermochemical reactor. Red arrow indicates ceria reduction (oxygen evolution); blue arrow indicates oxidation (fuel production). Click to enlarge.|
The EU-funded SOLAR-JET project has demonstrated the production of aviation kerosene from concentrated sunlight, CO2 captured from air, and water. The process has also the potential to produce any other type of fuel for transport applications, such as diesel, gasoline or pure hydrogen in a more sustainable way.
SOLAR-JET (Solar chemical reactor demonstration and Optimization for Long-term Availability of Renewable JET fuel) uses sunlight in a concentrated solar reactor to convert CO2 and water to syngas (a mixture of hydrogen and CO), which is then processed in a Fischer-Tropsch reactor to aviation kerosene.
Byogy and Avianca launch initiative to accelerate approval of Alcohol-to-Jet (ATJ) fuel
April 25, 2014
|Byogy’s four-step process for the conversion of ethanol to renewable jet fuel. Click to enlarge.|
Byogy Renewables and airline partner Avianca Brasil (earlier post) have launched an initiative to support advanced testing to accelerate the approval by ASTM of Byogy’s alcohol-to-jet (ATJ) fuel. (Earlier post.) The Avianca/Byogy Team will perform advanced Flight Testing using the CFM-56 powered A319 to acquire test data and support an Environmental Impact Study to drive ASTM adoption of Byogy’s ATJ fuel.
Byogy’s proprietary ATJ process converts ethanol to a full replacement renewable jet fuel that does not require blending, and also demonstrates performance characteristics better than jet fuel produced from oil. Byogy’s jet fuel is not an additive, but instead, a full replacement standalone fuel, and hence can be used at any blend ratio up to 100%, the company says.
MIT study: higher octane standard fuel in US could lower fleet fuel consumption & GHG an extra 4.5-6% by 2040
April 24, 2014
Offering a higher-octane gasoline to the consumer market in the US as the standard grade could deliver an incremental 4.5% to 6% reduction in fleet fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions by 2040, on top of a projected 26.8% reduction by then in the baseline case (i.e., without higher octane fuel, but with other projected vehicle and powertrain technology improvements), according to a new analysis by a team at MIT. For their paper, the team proposed a 98 RON gasoline—currently the US premium grade—as the new standard fuel. In other words, they proposed making the current premium fuel the new standard grade.
The analysis by Eric Chow, John Heywood and Raymond Speth, presented as a paper at the recent SAE 2014 World Congress, seeks to quantify the reductions in consumption and GHG if new vehicles designed to use the higher-octane fuel were deployed. Raising octane reduces engine knock constraints, enabling the design of new spark-ignition engines with higher compression ratios and boost levels. This leads to improved engine efficiencies and the sought reductions. (Earlier post.)
Toyota Central R&D developing free-piston engine linear generator; envisioning multi-FPEG units for electric drive vehicles
April 22, 2014
|Toyota’s FPEG features a hollow step-shaped piston, combustion chamber and gas spring chamber. Click to enlarge.|
A team at Toyota Central R&D Labs Inc. is developing a prototype 10 kW Free Piston Engine Linear Generator (FPEG) featuring a thin and compact build, high efficiency and high fuel flexibility. Toyota envisions that a pair of such units (20 kW) would enable B/C-segment electric drive vehicles to cruise at 120 km/h (75 mph). The team presented two papers on the state of their work at the recent SAE 2014 World Congress in Detroit.
The FPEG consists of a two-stroke combustion chamber, a linear generator and a gas spring chamber. The piston is moved by the combustion gas, while magnets attached to the piston move within a linear coil, thereby converting kinetic energy to electrical energy. The main structural feature of the Toyota FPEG is a hollow circular step-shaped piston, which Toyota calls “W-shape”. The smaller-diameter side of the piston constitutes a combustion chamber, and the larger-diameter side constitutes a gas spring chamber.
Study finds removing corn residue for biofuel production can decrease soil organic carbon and increase CO2 emissions; may miss mandated 60% GHG reduction
April 21, 2014
|Contribution of modeled CO2 emissions from SOC to the life cycle of biofuel from corn residue. Error bars are ± one standard deviation. Liska et al. Click to enlarge.|
Using corn crop residue to make ethanol and other biofuels reduces soil carbon and under some conditions can generate more greenhouse gases than gasoline, according to a major, multi-year study by a University of Nebraska-Lincoln team of researchers published in the journal Nature Climate Change. The findings cast doubt on whether biofuels produced from corn residue can be used to meet federal mandates for cellulosic biofuels to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 60% compared to gasoline.
The study, led by assistant professor Adam Liska, was funded through a three-year, $500,000-grant from the US Department of Energy, and used carbon dioxide measurements taken from 2001 to 2010 to validate a soil carbon model that was built using data from 36 field studies across North America, Europe, Africa and Asia. Using USDA soil maps and crop yields, they extrapolated potential carbon dioxide emissions across 580 million 30-meter by 30-meter geospatial cells in Corn Belt states.
Navy researchers produce high-performance renewable fuels by combining heterogeneous catalysis with biosynthesis
April 18, 2014
A team from the Naval Air Warfare Center, Weapons Division (NAWCWD) at China Lake, with colleagues from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), have demonstrated that renewable high density fuels with net heats of combustion ranging from ~133,000 to 141,000 Btu gal-1—up to 13% higher than commercial jet fuel (~125,000 Btu)—can be generated by combining heterogeneous catalysis with multicyclic sesquiterpenes produced by engineered organisms. A paper on their work is published in the RSC journal Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics.
This advance has the potential to produce a range of higher-density biofuels to improve the range of aircraft, ships, and ground vehicles without altering engine configurations, they suggested.
BA and Solena Fuels to build GreenSky landfill-waste-to-jet-fuel plant in Thurrock; completion in 2017
April 16, 2014
British Airways and its partner Solena Fuels announced that the UK GreenSky facility to convert landfill waste into jet fuel (earlier post) will be built in Thames Enterprise Park, part of the site of the former Coryton oil refinery in Thurrock, Essex. The site has excellent transport links and existing fuel storage facilities. One thousand construction workers will be hired to build the facility which is due to be completed in 2017, creating up to 150 permanent jobs.
The plant will convert approximately 575,000 tonnes of post-recycled waste, normally destined for landfill or incineration into 120,000 tonnes of clean burning liquid fuels using Solena’s Integrated Biomass-Gas to Liquid (IBGTL) technology. British Airways has committed to purchasing, at market competitive prices, the jet fuel produced by the plant for the next 11 years which equates to about $550 million at today’s prices. It is also providing construction capital and becoming a minority share holder in GreenSky.
DOE announces $10M for upgrading technologies for production of renewable drop-in fuels
The US Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) announced up to $10 million in funding to advance the development, improvement and demonstration of integrated biological or chemical upgrading technology for the production of substitutes for petroleum‐based feedstocks, products and fuels. (DE-FOA-0001085).
The DOE’s Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) has funded research on biochemical conversion processes since 2007, with particular focus on the development of improved cellulases and fermentative organisms for ethanol production from cellulosic feedstocks. EERE is seeking to diversify the BETO portfolio to include a variety of chemical and biological upgrading technologies for the production of a suite of hydrocarbon fuels, fuel intermediates and chemicals (beyond ethanol) to be produced in an integrated fashion from biologically or chemically derived intermediate feed streams, such as but not limited to cellulosic sugars, lignocellulose derivatives, lignin, cellulosic alcohols, bio‐solids and biogases.
ARB posts 5 new LCFS pathways; two renewable diesel
April 15, 2014
California Air Resources Board (ARB) staff has posted five new and one revised Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) fuel pathway applications to the LCFS public comment website. The new pathways include two renewable diesel pathways; two biodiesel pathways, and one corn ethanol pathway. The revised package is for corn oil biodiesel.
The renewable diesel proposals both come from Diamond Green Diesel (DGD) in Louisiana, using used cooking oil (UCO) as a feedstock; the proposals differ in the mode of shipment to California: one by rail, one by ship.
World Bank/ICCT report provides guidance to reducing black carbon emissions from diesels in developing countries
April 14, 2014
|Historical Trends in Black Carbon Emissions from Surface Transportation (teragrams of black carbon per year). Source: Minjares et al. Click to enlarge.|
The World Bank has published a report, undertaken by a team from the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT), intended to inform efforts to control black carbon emissions from diesel-based transportation in developing countries. The report proposes approaches for integrating black carbon emission reduction considerations in cost-benefit assessment and applies an analytic framework to four simulated projects to illustrate the associated opportunities and challenges at a project level.
The transportation sector accounted for approximately 19% of global black carbon emissions in the year 2000, according to the report. Road transportation accounted for 9% of global black carbon, with diesel engines responsible for nearly 99% of those emissions. In the near term, black carbon emissions from mobile engines are projected to decline as a consequence of policies implemented in the US, Canada, Europe, and Japan. However, black carbon emissions are projected to increase in the next decade as vehicle activity increases, particularly in East and South Asia.
Navy researchers test direct sugar-to-hydrocarbon fuel (farnesene) in multiple engines
April 09, 2014
A team from the US Naval Academy and the US Navy have tested a Direct Sugar to Hydrocarbon (DSH) biosynthetic fuel in multiple diesel engines. Their results, reported in a paper presented at the SAE World Congress in Detroit, show that DSH meets all three of their proposed combustion acceptance metrics.
Further, they determined that a 50/50 blend of DSH and F76 (the Navy standard distillate primary fuel for propulsion and power generation) is fit for use in compression ignition engines and an acceptable candidate blend to continue with full-scale diesel engine qualification testing.
US Navy demos recovery of CO2 and production of H2 from seawater, with conversion to liquid fuel; “Fuel from Seawater”
April 08, 2014
Researchers at the US Naval Research Laboratory (NRL), Materials Science and Technology Division have demonstrated novel NRL technologies developed for the recovery of CO2 and hydrogen from seawater and their subsequent conversion to liquid fuels. Flying a radio-controlled replica of the historic WWII P-51 Mustang red-tail aircraft (of the legendary Tuskegee Airmen), NRL researchers Dr. Jeffrey Baldwin, Dr. Dennis Hardy, Dr. Heather Willauer, and Dr. David Drab used a novel liquid hydrocarbon fuel to power the aircraft’s unmodified two-stroke internal combustion engine.
The test provides a proof-of-concept for an NRL-developed process to extract CO2 and produce hydrogen gas from seawater, subsequently catalytically converting the CO2 and H2 into fuel by a gas-to-liquids process. The potential longer term payoff for the Navy is the ability to produce fuel at or near the point of use when it is needed, thereby reducing the logistics tail on fuel delivery, enhancing combat capabilities, and providing greater energy security by fixing fuel cost and its availability.
DOE releases five-year strategic plan, 2014-2018; supporting “all of the above” energy strategy
The US Department of Energy (DOE) released its five-year 2014-2018 Strategic Plan. The plan is organized into 12 strategic objectives aimed at three distinct goals: Science and Energy; Nuclear Security; and Management and Performance. These objectives represent broad cross-cutting and collaborative efforts across DOE headquarters, site offices, and national laboratories.
The overarching goal for Science and Energy is: “Advance foundational science, innovate energy technologies, and inform data driven policies that enhance US economic growth and job creation, energy security, and environmental quality, with emphasis on implementation of the President’s Climate Action Plan to mitigate the risks of and enhance resilience against climate change.” Under that, the plan sketches out 3 strategic goals:
ERTRAC publishes roadmap on energy carriers and powertrains; role for power-to-gas
April 07, 2014
|Main technology trends and the vision share of engines in Europe. [ERTRAC / EUCAR] Click to enlarge.|
The European Road Transport Research Advisory Council (ERTRAC) has published a new roadmap assessing energy carriers and powertrains in the context of the European target to achieve a 60% reduction in CO2 emissions from transport by 2050. ERTRAC is the European Technology Platform (ETP) for Road Transport recognized and supported by the European Commission. ERTRAC has more than 50 members, representing all the actors of the Road Transport System: transport industry, European associations, EU Member States, local authorities, European Commission services, etc.
The analysis concludes that while the goal is challenging, it is also realizable; however the overall high-level goals need to be segmented into precise targets for the different industries and stakeholders. For the topic of future road mobility these are the development of alternative and decarbonized fuels and energy carriers; and higher powertrain efficiency leading to cleaner mobility and reduction in resource demand.
Researchers engineer poplar trees for easier degradation of lignin to ease production of biofuels
April 04, 2014
|Poplar vascular tissue showing feruloyl-coenzyme A (CoA) monolignol transferase (FMT) expression. Source: GLBRC. Click to enlarge.|
Researchers from Michigan State University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison and their colleagues report successfully engineering poplar trees to produce lignin that degrades more easily, thereby lowering the effort and cost to convert wood to biofuel. A paper on their work appears in the journal Science.
Poplar trees are a fast-growing wood crop widely planted throughout the United States and Canada, and are particularly valuable to the bioenergy, bio-products, and fiber industries. Lignin provides strength to wood but also impedes efficient degradation when wood is used as feedstock for biofuel. The researchers identified an enzyme (coniferyl ferulate feruloyl-CoA monolignol transferase) in other plants that contain more digestible lignin monomers, then expressed it in poplar. The resulting trees showed no difference in growth habit under greenhouse conditions, but their lignin showed improved digestibility.
MIT Energy Initiative announces 2014 seed grant awards
March 30, 2014
The MIT Energy Initiative (MITEI) announced its latest round of seed grants to support early-stage innovative energy projects. A total of more than $1.6 million was awarded to 11 projects, each lasting up to two years. With this latest round, the MITEI Seed Fund Program has supported 129 early-stage research proposals, with total funding of about $15.8 million.
This year’s winners address a wide range of topics including new methods of designing and using catalysts; assessment of natural gas technologies; novel design concepts for batteries, energy harvesters, and capacitors; integrated photovoltaic–electrochemical devices to reduce CO2 for fuel production; and investigations into public opinion on various state energy policies.
Scientists synthesize first functional designer chromosome in yeast
March 28, 2014
An international team of scientists led by Dr. Jef Boeke, director of NYU Langone Medical Center’s Institute for Systems Genetics, has synthesized the first functional chromosome in yeast, an important step in the emerging field of synthetic biology—designing microorganisms to produce novel medicines, raw materials for food, and biofuels. A paper on the accomplishment is published in the journal Science.
Over the last five years, scientists have built bacterial chromosomes and viral DNA, but this is the first report of an entire eukaryotic chromosome built from scratch. Researchers say their team’s global effort also marks one of the most significant advances in yeast genetics since 1996, when scientists initially mapped out yeast’s entire DNA code, or genetic blueprint.
JEC updates well-to-wheels study on automotive fuels and powertrains; electro-mobility, natural gas and biofuels
March 27, 2014
|WTW energy expended and GHG emissions for conventional fuels ICE and hybrid vehicles shows the potential for improvement of conventional fuels and ICE based vehicles. Source: EUR 26236 EN - 2014 Click to enlarge.|
Europe’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) and its partners in the JEC Consortium—JRC, EUCAR (the European Council for Automotive R&D) and CONCAWE (the oil companies European association for environment, health and safety in refining and distribution)—have published a new version of the Well-to-Wheels Analysis of Future Automotive Fuels and Powertrains in the European Context. (Earlier post.)
The updated version includes a longer-term outlook by expanding the time horizon from 2010 and beyond to 2020 and beyond. It adds an assessment of electrically chargeable vehicle configurations, such as plug-in hybrid, range extended, battery and fuel-cell electric vehicles. It also introduces an update of natural gas pathways, taking into account the addition of a European shale gas pathway. Furthermore, biofuel pathways, including an entirely new approach to NOx emissions from farming, were thoroughly revised.
Lawrence Livermore, JBEI researchers engineer bacteria with tolerance to ionic liquids for enhanced production of advanced biofuels
March 26, 2014
Researchers from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in conjunction with the Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) have engineered tolerance to ionic liquids (ILs)—used for biomass pretreatment, but generally toxic to bacteria—into biofuel-producing bacteria.
The results, reported in an open access paper in Nature Communications are likely to eliminate a bottleneck in JBEI’s biofuels production strategy, which relies on ionic liquid pretreatment of cellulosic biomass. The research also demonstrates how the adverse effects of ionic liquids can be turned into an advantage, by inhibiting the growth of other bacteria.
Engine testing shows environmental and performance benefits of hydrotreated vegetable oil as renewable diesel fuel
March 25, 2014
|Comparison of power loss and fuel consumption among BD, HVO and iso-HVO. Source: Kim et al. Click to enlarge.|
Researchers in South Korea from SK Innovation and Chungbuk National University compared the engine and emissions performance of 16 different blends of petro-diesel, biodiesel (BD), hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO, i.e., drop-in renewable diesel); and iso-HVO (isomerized-hydrotreated vegetable oil) on an engine dynamometer and chassis dynamometer with a 1.5-liter diesel engine and passenger car.
The results, reported in a paper in the journal Fuel, show that iso-HVO has much better engine performance than BD and slightly better than HVO, but slightly worse than petro-diesel. On the emissions side, iso-HVO and HVO blended diesel emit less THC and CO than BD, even though iso-HVO blended diesel emits similar level of NOx and PM to blended BD. All three kinds biofuels at 50% blend ratios showed a decrease of particle concentrations at all size ranges compared to petro-diesel.
Siluria Technologies unveils new development unit for liquid fuels from natural gas based on OCM and ETL technologies
March 21, 2014
Siluria Technologies, the developer of novel bio-templated catalysts for the economic direct conversion of methane (CH4) to ethylene (C2H4) (earlier post), unveiled a development unit for producing liquid fuels from natural gas based on Siluria’s proprietary oxidative coupling of methane (OCM) and ethylene-to-liquid (ETL) technologies.
Together, Siluria’s OCM and ETL technologies form a unique and efficient process for transforming methane into gasoline, diesel, jet fuel and other liquid fuels. Unlike the high-temperature, high-pressure cracking processes employed today to produce fuels and chemicals, Siluria’s process employs catalytic processes to create longer-chain, higher-value materials, thereby significantly reducing operating costs and capital.
Study finds lubricating oil the dominant source of primary organic aerosol from both diesel and gasoline vehicles
March 20, 2014
|Comparison plot showing mass fractions (Fm) of chemically characterized components of lubricating oils and POA. Credit: ACS, Worton et al. Click to enlarge.|
Findings from a study by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley and Berkeley National Laboratory suggest that lubricating oil is the dominant source of primary organic aerosol (POA) from both gasoline- and diesel-powered vehicles. Unburned diesel fuel makes an additional smaller contribution, with an additional smaller contribution from unburned gasoline. A paper on the work is published in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology.
Motor vehicles are major sources of organic carbon emissions, with implications for human health and air quality, especially in urban areas. The emitted organic carbon is in the form of both primary particulate matter (PM) and gas phase organic compounds of a wide range of volatilities that can be oxidized in the atmosphere to form secondary organic aerosol (SOA). (Earlier post.) The majority of fine PM from vehicles is carbonaceous in the form of either black (BC) or organic carbon, the latter of which is directly emitted as primary organic aerosol (POA).
Cellulosic fuels company KiOR reveals “substantial doubts” about its viability; funding needed by 1 April
March 19, 2014
In its Form 10-K (annual report) filed with the SEC on 17 March, cellulosic renewable fuels company KiOR said it has “substantial doubts about [its] ability to continue as a going concern”. Ongoing viability will require additional capital to provide additional liquidity. (Earlier post.)
On 16 March, the company received a $25-million investment commitment from Vinod Khosla (one of the company’s investors), conditioned on the achievement of certain performance milestones to be mutually agreed upon. Other than that commitment, however, Kior said it has no other near-term sources of financing. Kior said that if it is unsuccessful in finalizing definitive documentation with Khosla on or before 1 April 2014—i.e., in two weeks—it will not have adequate liquidity to fund operations and meet obligations (including debt payment obligations), and would not expect other sources of financing to be available.
Researchers progress with engineering E. coli to produce pinene for biosynthetic alternative to rocket fuel
March 16, 2014
Recent progress in engineering microbes has resulted in the production of biosynthetic alternatives to gasoline, diesel, and diesel precursors. However, the development of microbial platforms for the production of high-energy density fuels—i.e., tactical fuels for use in aircraft and aircraft-launched missiles—has lagged behind. Existing biosynthetic jet fuels lack the volumetric energy content required to replace high-energy density fuels such as the tactical fuels JP-10, tetrahydrodicy-clopentadiene, and RJ-5.
A team from Georgia Tech, University of California, Berkeley, and the Joint BioEnergy Institute at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has now engineered Escherichia coli bacteria to produce pinene, the immediate precursor to pinene dimers, a biosynthetic alternative to JP-10. Although their work produced a significant increase in yield from earlier attempts, the yield will need to be some 26-times larger for commercial viability, they calculated.
Researchers develop new lower-temperature process for conversion of natural gas alkanes to alcohols
March 14, 2014
Researchers from The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) and Brigham Young University have devised a new and more efficient method to convert natural gas into liquid products at much lower temperatures than conventional methods.
Their work, reported in the journal Science, uses main-group metals such as thallium and lead to oxidize methane and the other alkanes contained in natural gas (ethane and propane) to liquid alcohols at about 180 °C instead of the more than 500 °C used in current processes, said SRI Professor Roy Periana, who led the research. This creates the potential to produce fuels and chemicals at much lower cost.
UPM, Fortum and Valmet partnering to develop new catalytic pyrolysis technology for advanced lignocellulosic fuels
March 12, 2014
Fortum, UPM and Valmet have joined forces to develop a new catalytic pyrolysis technology to produce advanced high value lignocellulosic fuels, such as transportation fuels or higher value bio-liquids.
The five-year project is called LignoCat (lignocellulosic fuels by catalytic pyrolysis). The project is a natural continuation of the consortium’s earlier bio-oil project together with the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, commercializing integrated pyrolysis technology for production of sustainable bio-oil for replacement of heating oil in industrial use.
California ARB staff posts concept paper on re-adoption and modification of LCFS; possible more stringent post-2020 targets
March 10, 2014
The California Air Resources Board (ARB) staff has posted a Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) Re-Adoption Concept Paper, which will be discussed during the LCFS workshop on 11 March 2014. The LCFS regulation mandates a 10% reduction in the carbon intensity (CI) of transportation fuels used in California by 2020.
In response to a suit brought against ARB and the LCFS, the State of California Court of Appeal, Fifth Appellate District (Court) held in 2013 that the LCFS would remain in effect and that ARB can continue to implement and enforce the 2013 regulatory standards while it takes steps to cure California Environmental Quality Act and Administrative Procedure Act issues associated with the original adoption of the regulation. ARB staff is proposing that the Board re-adopt the LCFS regulation in 2014. Additionally, ARB staff is proposing a suite of amendments to provide a stronger signal for investments in and production of the cleanest fuels, offer additional flexibility, update critical technical information, and provide for improved efficiency and enforcement of the regulation.
Study finds diesel derived by pyrolysis of plastic grocery bags suitable for blending with petroleum diesel
February 14, 2014
High-density polyethylene (HDPE) grocery bags can be successfully pyrolyzed to alternative diesel fuel, according to a new study by a team from the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Research Service ARS.
Pyrolysis of the waste plastic grocery bags followed by distillation resulted in a liquid hydrocarbon mixture with an average structure consisting mostly of saturated aliphatic paraffinic hydrogens (96.8%), followed by aliphatic olefinic hydrogens (2.6%) and aromatic hydrogens (0.6%) that corresponded to the boiling range of conventional petroleum diesel fuel (#1 diesel 190–290 °C and #2 diesel 290–340 °C). Nearly all fuel properties—with the exception of density—were within ASTM D975 and EN 590 diesel specifications, according to the study published in the journal Fuel Processing Technology.
DOE to issue funding opportunity for bioenergy technologies; outliers to current multi-year program plan
February 13, 2014
The US Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) intends to issue, on behalf of the Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO), a Funding Opportunity Announcement (DE-FOA-0000974) entitled “Bioenergy Technologies Incubator”.
BETO’s mission is to engage in R&D and demonstration at increasing scale activities to transform renewable biomass resources into commercially viable, high-performance biofuels, and bioproducts and biopower that enable biofuel production. To accomplish this mission, BETO develops a multi-year program plan (MYPP) to identify the technical challenges and barriers that need to be overcome. These technical challenges and barriers form the basis for BETO to issue funding opportunities announcements (FOAs) for financial assistance awards in these specific areas.
Calif. ARB releases GHG scoping plan update; more ZEVs, “LEV IV”, MD and HD regulations; ZEV for trucks; more LCFS
February 11, 2014
The California Air Resources Board released the draft proposed first update to the AB 32 Scoping Plan, which guides development and implementation of California’s greenhouse gas emission reduction programs. The Air Resources Board is required to update the Scoping Plan every five years.
Among the actions proposed or considered in the transportation sector include aggressive implementation of the light-duty Zero Emission Vehicle standard; LEV IV emissions regulations for the light-duty fleet post-2025 (GHG reductions of about 5% per year); Phase 2 GHG regulations for medium and heavy-duty (MD and HD) vehicles; a possible ZEV regulation for trucks; more stringent carbon reduction targets for the Low Carbon Fuel Standard; and others.
Primus Green Energy’s STG+ patent for liquid fuel synthesis from syngas approved
February 05, 2014
Primus Green Energy Inc., an alternative fuel company that converts natural gas and other feedstocks directly into drop-in transportation fuels and solvents (earlier post), announced that its patent application covering its STG+ liquid fuel synthesis technology has been allowed by the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). STG+ produces high-quality, cost-effective, drop-in liquid transportation fuels directly from syngas derived from natural gas and other carbon-rich feedstocks in a single-loop process.
STG+ essentially improves upon commercial methanol synthesis processes and ExxonMobil’s methanol-to-gasoline (MTG) process, combining them into an integrated, optimized system that efficiently converts syngas directly to fuels. In addition to the gasoline product, the STG+ process can also produce jet fuel, diesel and high-value chemicals by changing the catalysts and operating conditions. The company, which is currently producing synthetic gasoline at its demonstration plant (earlier post), plans to build several more reactors in parallel to the current production train for other fuel products.
ICCT study concludes no technical barriers to use of higher blends of ethanol
A team at the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) has released a paper assessing technical barriers to the use of higher blends of ethanol. Broadly, the study by Stephanie Searle, Francisco Posada Sanchez, Chris Malins, and John German concludes that (a) technical barriers do not prevent the use of higher blends of ethanol, and (b) slow uptake of blends such as E15 and E85 is due to other factors, including high cost, legal and warranty issues, and consumer awareness and acceptance.
The paper was commissioned by the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) as part of a yearlong effort aimed at fostering “constructive dialogue and action” on reforming the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS2). BPC is convening a diverse RFS advisory group to discuss opportunities for reform, hosting public workshops to solicit broad input, and ultimately publishing viable policy options based, in part, on the advisory group’s deliberations. The ICCT paper is one of five background papers to be released on different aspects of the problem. The others are:
Audi testing finds e-ethanol and e-diesel produced by Joule often perform better than conventional counterparts
February 03, 2014
|Audi investigating its e-fuels in an optical research engine using laser-induced fluorescence. Click to enlarge.|
Audi testing of synthetic ethanol (Audi e-ethanol = Joule Sunflow-E) and synthetic diesel (Audi e-diesel = Joule Sunflow-D), produced in partnership with Joule (earlier post) in a pressure chamber and optical research engine has shown that the Audi e-fuels often perform better than their conventional counterparts.
Joule’s Helioculture platform uses engineered microorganisms directly and continuously to convert sunlight and waste CO2 into infrastructure-ready fuels, including ethanol and hydrocarbons (n-alkanes) that serve as the essential chemical building blocks for diesel.
AVA Biochem begins commercial-scale production of 5-HMF from biomass using HTC
AVA Biochem in Muttenz (Switzerland) has begun commercial-scale production of 5-(hydroxymethyl)furfural (5-MHF) from biomass at its Biochem-1 facility using a modified version of a hydrothermal carbonization (HTC) process developed by the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT). 5-HMF is a platform chemical that can serve as a precursor for various fuels and plastics. (Earlier post.)
In the first phase, AVA Biochem will produce up to 20 tonnes of biomass-derived 5-HMF per year. Various levels of purity—up to 99.9%—are now available for delivery.
LCA study finds carbon intensity of corn ethanol decreasing, gasoline rising; ethanol estimated 43-60% lower than oil by 2022
January 30, 2014
|Top: Weighted CI (g CO2 e/MJ) of petroleum fuels and corn ethanol consumed in the US over time. Bottom: Weighted CI of petroleum fuels consumed in the US and California over time. Click to enlarge.|
The carbon intensity (CI) of corn ethanol—i.e., the greenhouse gas emissions produced via the production of a volume of the fuel—is declining, while the average CI of gasoline produced from petroleum sources is gradually increasing, according to a recent report prepared by Life Cycle Associates, LLC for the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA). Life Cycle Associates has completed numerous life cycle analysis studies, including those to establish fuel pathway carbon intensities (CI) for the California Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS).
According to the study, the average corn ethanol reduced GHG emissions by 32% compared to average petroleum gasoline in 2012—including prospective emissions from indirect land use change (ILUC) for corn ethanol. When compared to fuel produced from unconventional petroleum sources such tight oil from fracking and oil sands, average corn ethanol reduces GHG emissions by 37% compared to the former and 40% to the latter.
DNV GL paper suggests near-term success for LNG in shipping; alternative fuel mix to diversify over time
January 29, 2014
|Well-to-Propeller GHG emissions results for marine alternative fuels. Source: DNV GL. Click to enlarge.|
DNV GL has released a position paper on the future alternative fuel mix for global shipping. While LNG is expected to be an early success, the picture becomes more diversified over time, as more than 20% of shipping could adopt hybrid propulsion solutions featuring batteries or other energy storage technologies, according to the paper.
DNV and GL merged in September 2013 to form DNV GL—the world’s largest ship and offshore classification society, the leading technical advisor to the global oil and gas industry, and a leading expert for the energy value chain including renewables and energy efficiency. According to DNV GL, the main drivers for the use of alternative fuels in shipping in the future can be classified in two broad categories: (a) Regulatory requirements and environmental concerns, and (b) availability of fossil fuels, cost and energy security.
Mercedes AMG PETRONAS F1 team unveils 2014 challenger and PU106A Hybrid Power Unit; new fuel and lubricants
January 28, 2014
|The PU106A Hybrid Power Unit. Click to enlarge.|
The Mercedes AMG PETRONAS (Petroliam Nasional Berhad) Formula One Team unveiled the F1 W05, its 2014 challenger, at the Circuito de Jerez in southern Spain. Designed from the ground up as an integrated project between the Mercedes-Benz teams based at Brackley and Brixworth, this new car—the first all-new Silver Arrow to hit the track since 1954—comes in a year when Mercedes-Benz celebrates 120 years of motorsport and the 80th anniversary of the Silver Arrows.
The F1 W05 will deliver more than one-third more performance from every unit of fuel consumed. At the core of the racer is the new PU106A Hybrid Power Unit designed to meet the new philosophy and resulting requirements of Formula One. A maximum race fuel allowance of 100 kg per race, coupled with a maximum fuel flow rate of 100 kg/hour, focused development efforts on delivering performance with a set of new technologies that achieve the efficiency gain of more than 30%.
Israeli company reports successful stage 1 testing of solar CO2-to-fuels technology
January 26, 2014
Israel-based NewCO2Fuels (NCF), a subsidiary of GreenEarth Energy Limited in Australia, reported completion of stage 1 testing of its proof-of-concept system for the conversion of CO2 into fuels using solar energy. NewCO2Fuels was founded in 2011 to commercialize a technology developed by Prof. Jacob Karni’s laboratory at the Weizmann Institute of Science.
In passing the Stage 1 testing, NCF demonstrated technology that successfully dissociates CO2 into CO and oxygen in a heating environment, simulating the industrial waste heat sources that will be used as one of two energy sources in the commercial product. Importantly, the company said, the dissociation rate of the system was increased by a factor of 200 and the cost was reduced by a factor of 34, relative to the original dissociation apparatus demonstrated in 2010 at the laboratories of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel.
Iogen proposes new method to increase renewable content of transportation fuels; renewable hydrogen from biogas for refinery hydrogenation units
January 23, 2014
Cellulosic biofuel and biochemical company Iogen Corporation has developed and filed for patents on a new method to increase the renewable energy content of liquid transportation fuels. The production method involves processing biogas to deliver renewable hydrogen and then incorporating the renewable hydrogen into conventional liquid fuels via selected refinery hydrogenation units.
The company estimates there is refining capacity in place to incorporate 5-6 billion gallons per year of renewable hydrogen content into gasoline and diesel fuel. Iogen says it will initially commercialize the approach using landfill biogas, and then expand production using biogas made in the cellulosic ethanol facilities it is currently developing.
Boeing, UAE partners make progress with oilseed halophytes as feedstock for renewable jet fuel; desert plants fed by seawater
Boeing and research partners in the United Arab Emirates have made breakthroughs in sustainable aviation biofuel development, finding that desert plants fed by seawater (the oilseed-producing halophyte Salicornia bigelovii) can produce biofuel more efficiently than other well-known feedstocks. (Earlier post.) The Sustainable Bioenergy Research Consortium (SBRC), affiliated with the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology in Abu Dhabi, will test these findings in a project that could support biofuel crop production in arid countries, such as the UAE.
S. bigelovii is a leafless, C3, succulent annual salt marsh plant that produces an oilseed on seawater irrigation in coastal desert environments; the oil from the seeds is suitable for biofuel production. Yields on seawater are similar to conventional oilseeds under ideal conditions. SBRC research also found that the entire shrublike plant (i.e., its lignocellulosic biomass as well as the the oil) can be turned into biofuel effectively.
DOE to award $49.4M for advanced vehicle technologies research; meeting Tier 3 emissions
January 22, 2014
The US Department of Energy (DOE) will award $49.4 million to projects to to accelerate research and development of new vehicle technologies. The new program-wide funding opportunity (DE-FOA-0000991) (earlier post), was announced by Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz at the Washington Auto Show.
The funding opportunity will contains a total of 13 areas of interest in the general areas of advanced light-weighting; advanced battery development; power electronics; advanced heating, ventilation, air conditioning systems; advanced powertrains (including the ability to meet proposed EPA Tier 3 tailpipe emissions standards); and fuels and lubricants. These areas of interest apply to light, medium and heavy duty on-road vehicles.
Japan automakers going slow with biodiesel; JAMA maintains stance on B5 as maximum for now
The Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association (JAMA) is maintaining its stance on B5 (5% biodiesel, i.e., fatty acid methyl ester, blends) as the maximum until further findings and market observations on the use of B7 are reported.
JAMA bases its postion on the results of study from the Japan Auto-Oil Program subsidized by Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI). JATOP was organized by the Japan Petroleum Energy Center to develop automotive and fuel technologies best suited to simultaneously settle three issues—“Reducing CO2 emissions”; “Fuel diversification” and “Reducing motor vehicle emissions”—and to develop high accuracy air quality simulation models and facilitating their exploitation.
Global Bioenergies to collaborate with Audi on development of drop-in bio-isooctane
January 21, 2014
Global Bioenergies (GBE), a leading developer of one-step fermentation processes for the direct and cost-efficient transformation of renewable resources into light olefins (earlier post), has signed a collaboration agreement with Audi on the development of bio-isooctane—a high-performance drop-in biofuel for gasoline engines—derived from bio-isobutene. In 2011, GBE had announced an agreement “with a major German car manufacturer” regarding an undisclosed application of GEB’s technology. (Earlier post.)
Under the agreement, GBE will supply Audi with isooctane derived from isobutene produced at its new pre-commercial pilot system at the Fraunhofer CBP in Leuna. (Earlier post.) During the two-year collaboration, this agreement also foresees the possibility for Audi to acquire shares of Global Bioenergies corresponding to less than 2% of its capital.
DOE issues $10M incubator FOA for batteries, power electronics, engines, materials, fuels and lubricants
January 18, 2014
The US Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s (EERE’s) Vehicle Technologies Office (VTO) issued an Incubator Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOAs) for a total of approximately $10 million. (DE-FOA-0000988)
EERE is focused on achieving well‐defined mid‐to‐long term clean energy goals for the US, and in that context has established multi‐year plans and roadmaps, with a concomitant focus of the majority of its resources on a limited number of “highest probability of success” pathways/approaches to ensure that the program initiatives are supported at a critical mass (both in terms of dollars and time) for maximum impact. While this roadmap‐based approach can be a strength, it can also create challenges in recognizing and exploring unanticipated, game changing pathways/approaches which may ultimately be superior to the pathways/approaches on the existing roadmaps.
Oak Ridge Lab study finds E30 blend and EGR can deliver significant efficiency improvements in optimized SI engines
January 17, 2014
Researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s National Transportation Research Center (NTRC) report that an E30 (30% ethanol) mid-level ethanol blend shows promise as a means for significant improvement in vehicle efficiency in optimized spark-ignited (SI) engines. Results of the study by Derek Splitter and Jim Szybist suggest that it could be possible to implement a 40% downsize + downspeed configuration (1.2 L engine) into a representative midsize sedan using this combination of optimized engine and mid-level alcohol blend.
As an example, for a midsize sedan at a 65 mph (105 km/h) cruise, estimated fuel efficiency of 43.9 mpg (5.4 l/100 km) with engine-out CO2 of 102 g/km could be achieved with similar reserve power to a 2.0 L engine fueled with regular gasoline (38.6 mpg/6.1 l/100km, engine out CO2 of 135 g/km). The data suggest that, with midlevel alcohol–gasoline blends, engine and vehicle optimization can offset the reduced fuel energy content of alcohol–gasoline blends and likely reduce vehicle fuel consumption and tailpipe CO2 emissions.
California Energy Commission to award up to $24M for new biofuel projects
The California Energy Commission announced the availability of up to $24 million in grant funds for the development of new, or the modification of existing, California-based biofuel production facilities that can sustainably produce low-carbon transportation fuels. (PON-13-609) Eligible biofuels are diesel substitutes, gasoline substitutes, and biomethane as defined in the solicitation.
The allocation of funds by fuel category is: Diesel Substitutes – $9.0 million; Gasoline Substitutes – $9.0 million; and Biomethane – $6.0 million. The Energy Commission will conduct two rounds of scoring. The first round of scoring will fund at least $4.027 million in passing projects; remaining funds will be applied to the second round of scoring.
UW-Madison team develops high-yield non-enzymatic process for production of sugars from biomass using GVL
Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, led by Dr. James Dumesic, have developed a process for for the non-enzymatic production of sugars from biomass using γ-valerolactone (GVL) itself derived from biomass. A paper on their work, which was funded by the National Science Foundation and the US Department of Energy’s Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center (GLBRC), is published in the journal Science.
Using a solvent mixture of biomass-derived GVL, water, and dilute acid (0.05 weight percent H2SO4), they produced soluble carbohydrates from corn stover, hardwood, and softwood at high yields (70 to 90%) at laboratory scale. The sugars can then be chemically or biologically upgraded into biofuels. With support from the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF), the team will begin scaling up the process later this year.
DEINOVE produces ethanol at 9% titer with its optimized Deinococcus bacteria
January 16, 2014
DEINOVE, a technology company that designs, develops and markets a new generation of industrial processes based on optimized Deinococci bacteria, has produced ethanol at a titer of 9% via its fermentation of biomass sugars in 20L pre-industrial fermentors. In September 2012, the company had reported that its optimized strain of Deinococcus generated ethanol from wheat-based biomass with a titer of 3%. (Earlier post.)
The 9% content v/v (volume/volume)—equal to 7.2% wt/v (weight/volume)—exceeds the 5% alcohol content wt/v considered to be the threshold for industrial exploitation of a process for 2nd generation biofuels, the company said. The obtained performance is gradually approaching the maximum theoretical yield, the company added. The use of Deinoccoccus offers several benefits:
Berkeley Lab-led team re-engineering new enzyme and metabolic cycle for direct production of liquid transportation fuels from methane
A Berkeley Lab-led team is working to re-engineer an enzyme for the efficient conversion of methane to liquid hydrocarbon transportation fuels. The project was awarded $3.5 million by the Advanced Research Projects Agency - Energy (ARPA-E) as part of its REMOTE (Reducing Emissions using Methanotrophic Organisms for Transportation Energy) program. (Earlier post.)
Methane can be converted to liquid hydrocarbons by thermochemical processes; however, these processes are both energy intensive and often non-selective. There are bacteria in nature—methanotrophs—that consume methane and convert it to chemicals that can be fashioned into fuel. Unfortunately, the enabling enzyme doesn’t produce chemicals with the efficiency needed to make transportation fuels. While some scientists are working to make this enzyme more efficient, Dr. Christer Jansson’s team is taking a new approach by starting with a different enzyme that ordinarily takes in carbon dioxide.
Study cautions on sole focus on energy crop biomass yield; perennial grasslands deliver greater ecosystems services than corn
January 14, 2014
A study by a team from the DOE’s Great Lakes Bioenergy Center has concluded that focusing on the yield of an energy crop alone can come at the expense of many other environmental benefits. The study, published as an open access paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), found that switchgrass and prairie plantings harbored significantly greater plant, methanotrophic bacteria, arthropod, and bird diversity than corn.
Although the corn biomass yield was higher, all other ecosystem services, including methane consumption, pest suppression, pollination, and conservation of grassland birds, were higher in perennial grasslands.
KiOR halts cellulosic fuels production at Columbus in Q1 to optimize production; need for R&D to boost yield and cut costs
January 13, 2014
In a conference call on Friday, KiOR President and CEO Fred Cannon said that the company will halt production of cellulosic gasoline, diesel and fuel oil at its plant in Columbus, Mississippi in order to implement a number of optimization projects it identified as necessary—based on its experience in 2013—to optimize production to enhance yield, throughput and operability and to minimize cost.
In December 2013, Cannon had said that KiOR would operate the Columbus plant “on a limited campaign basis only” to verify the impact of improvements. (Earlier post.) In the Friday call, he said that the company would only operate the Columbus facility during Q1 “only to the extent we want to test and prove optimization projects.” The current execution plan for 2014 is to focus exclusively on bringing the plant to its nameplate basis, and further to develop yield and process efficiency through R&D.
ARPA-E piloting crowdsourced energy challenge in biofuels
January 02, 2014
The US Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Advanced Research Projects Agency - Energy (ARPA-E) is piloting a crowdsourced energy challenge, focused on ARPA-E’s PETRO (Plants Engineered To Replace Oil) program, which aims to increase the viability of biofuels by investing in research to double the energy-capture-per-unit area from that of corn ethanol. (Earlier post.)
The challenge asks “solvers” to present a detailed description and scientific rationale for a simple, rapid, and minimally invasive method to determine the energy content of plant material. Winners could receive up to $30,000.
MSU-Ford team evaluates 12 biofuel compounds for effects on cold flow properties of diesel and jet blends
|Cloud point temperatures of a high aromatic diesel (HAD) in mixtures with various biofuel compounds. Lown et al. Click to enlarge.|
Researchers from Michigan State University and Ford Motor Company's Research and Advanced Engineering Group recently tested 12 potential biofuel compounds containing oxygen in different functional groups in mixtures with three diesel fuels and one jet fuel to determine the effects of the functional groups on low-temperature fuel properties.
Groups evaluated included diesters, esters, ketones and ethers; alkanes were used for comparison. Fuels included a standard #2 US diesel (USD); a European standard diesel (ESD); and a high aromatic diesel (HAD), as well as JP-8 donated by the US Air Force.
KiOR expects to produce 920K gallons of cellulosic biofuels by year end; short-term focus on economics
December 24, 2013
Cellulosic gasoline and diesel company KiOR, Inc. expects that, given current and anticipated operations through the remainder of the year, its Columbus, Mississippi facility will produce approximately 410,000 gallons of renewable fuel during the fourth quarter of 2013, bringing full year production total from the facility to approximately 920,000 gallons. (Earlier post.) The ratio between gasoline, diesel and fuel oil expected to be produced during the year is approximately 35% gasoline, 40% diesel, and 25% fuel oil.
In August, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized the 2013 percentage standards for four fuel categories that are part of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program. With the final 2013 overall volumes and standards requiring 16.55 billion gallons of renewable fuels to be blended into the US fuel supply (a 9.74% blend), EPA projected 6 million gallons (0.004%) of cellulosic biofuels. Of that, EPA projected the bulk to come from the KiOR Columbus plant (5-6 million gallons of renewable gasoline and diesel).
Ford researchers report detailed study of the effect of different ethanol blend levels on emissions from FFVs
December 23, 2013
A team at Ford Motor Company’s Research and Innovation Center in Dearborn conducted a detailed study of the effect of ethanol blend level in emissions, using a 2006 model Mercury Grand Marquis flexible fuel vehicle (FFV) operating on E0, E10, E20, E30, E40, E55, and E80 on a chassis dynamometer. The study thus included the current predominant market fuel (E10); a range of possible future midlevel ethanol blends (E20−E40); and the new range for high-level ethanol blends (E55, E80).
The number of blends they studied is about twice that of previous studies, and delivers a more detailed picture of the effect of ethanol blend level on emissions. Further, they reported data for engine-out emissions and tailpipe emissions; operating temperatures (engine-out and catalyst); and ethanol concentrations used in the engine control strategy. Comparing these data allows for differentiation between fuel chemistry and engine calibration effects—the two general mechanisms by which increased ethanol content in fuel affects the emissions.
ICCT suggests minor changes to Fed tax policy to cut higher investment risk of 2nd-gen biofuels and advance the industry
December 22, 2013
Minor changes to an existing Federal tax incentive for second-generation biofuels (i.e., biofuel made from cellulose, algae, duckweed, or cyanobacteria) could mitigate the current elevated risk of investing in the industry that is retarding its advance, according to a new paper by a team from the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) and Johns Hopkins University. Some of the ICCT recommendations are mirrored in the recently released Baucus draft proposal for tax reform (earlier post), notes Dr. Chris Malins of the ICCT, one of the study’s co-authors.
Previous studies have attempted to explain the slow commercialization of cellulosic and algal biofuels qualitatively, however few have presented financial analysis across the sector, the authors observe. Using publicly available financial data, they applied investment analysis tools (the capital assets pricing model, CAPM) that are generally not applied to this space in order to develop a more rigorous understanding of the investment risk in the industry.
DOE to issue FY14 Vehicle Technologies program-wide funding opportunity announcement
December 20, 2013
The Department Of Energy (DOE), Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) intends to issue, on behalf of its Vehicle Technology Office (VTO), a program-wide Funding Opportunity Announcement (DE-FOA-0000991) for fiscal year 2014 on or about January 2014. The advance notice (DE-FOA-0001053) is to alert interested parties of the coming FOA.
The areas of interest outlined in the notice of intent (NOI) fall into two broad categories: technologies to advance plug-in electric vehicles; and technologies to improve fuel efficiency, including dual-fuel, fuel properties (e.g., high octane fuels), and advanced powertrain work.
Sen. Baucus draft for energy tax reform focuses on clean production of electricity and fuels; repeals plug-in vehicle credits
December 19, 2013
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) introduced the latest in a series of discussion drafts to overhaul the US tax code. This new staff discussion draft focuses energy tax policy on stimulating domestic, clean production of electricity and transportation fuels, which account for 68% of energy consumed in the US. It also would repeal a number of current tax incentives, including those for plug-in electric vehicles and fuel cell vehicles.
Under current law, there are 42 different energy tax incentives, including more than 12 preferences for fossil fuels; 10 different incentives for renewable fuels and alternative vehicles; and 6 different credits for clean electricity. Of the 42 different energy incentives, 25 are temporary and expire every year or two, and the credits for clean electricity alone have been adjusted 14 times since 1978. If Congress continues to extend current incentives, they will cost nearly $150 billion over 10 years.
BASF to partner with Renmatix for the production of industrial sugars from biomass; bio-based precursors for chemicals and fuels
December 18, 2013
BASF and US-based supercritical hydrolysis company Renmatix Inc. signed a non-exclusive joint development agreement to scale up the Renmatix Plantrose process for the production of industrial sugars based on lignocellulosic biomass. The parties have also agreed to key financial terms for future commercial licenses, which BASF can exercise at its discretion. The collaboration follows BASF’s $30 million investment in Renmatix in January 2012. (Earlier post.)
The Plantrose technology developed by Renmatix enables industrial sugar to be produced, at competitive costs, from a variety of non-edible biomass (lignocellulose) sources. The proprietary process breaks down lignocellulosic sources (e.g. wood, agricultural-residues or straw) into industrial sugars using supercritical water (water at high temperature and pressure).
EIA: light duty vehicle energy consumption to drop 25% by 2040; increased oil production, vehicle efficiency reduce US oil and liquid imports
December 16, 2013
Reflecting slow growth in travel and accelerated vehicle efficiency improvements, US light-duty vehicle (LDV, cars and light trucks) energy use will decline sharply between 2012 and 2040, according to the US Energy Information Administration’s (EIA’s) Annual Energy Outlook 2014 (AEO2014) Reference case released today.
AEO2014 includes a new, detailed demographic profile of driving behavior by age and gender as well as new lower population growth rates based on updated Census projections. As a result, annual increases in vehicle miles traveled (VMT) in LDVs average 0.9% from 2012 to 2040, compared to 1.2% per year over the same period in AEO2013. The rising fuel economy of LDVs more than offsets the modest growth in VMT, resulting in a 25% decline in LDV energy consumption decline between 2012 and 2040 in the AEO2014 Reference case.
ExxonMobil Outlook: 35% growth in energy demand by 2040; hybrids to account for ~50% of new vehicle sales
December 15, 2013
|By 2040, hybrids are expected to account for about 35% of the global light-duty vehicle fleet, up from less than 1% in 2010. Hybrids are expected to account for about half of global new-car sales by 2040. Source: ExxonMobil. Click to enlarge.|
Driven by increasing population, urbanization and rising living standards, the world will require some 35% more energy in 2040, according to ExxonMobil’s annual forecast report: Outlook for Energy: A View to 2040. Anticipated population growth will reach nearly 9 billion in 2040 from about 7 billion today, and the global economy is projected to double—at an annual growth rate of nearly 3%—largely in the developing world.
Demand for energy in non-OECD nations will grow by about two-thirds, accounting for essentially all of the increase in global energy use. ExxonMobil projects that meeting future energy demand will be supported by more efficient energy-saving practices and technologies; increased use of less-carbon-intensive fuels such as natural gas, nuclear and renewables; as well as the continued development of technology advances to develop new energy sources. Without the projected gains in efficiency, global energy demand could have risen by more than 100%.
USDA and DOE award $8.1M to 7 biomass genomics research projects for biofuel and bioenergy
December 12, 2013
The Department of Energy’s Office of Science, Office of Biological and Environmental Research (DOE-BER), and the US Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (USDA-NIFA) are jointly awarding $8.1 million in research grants to 7 projects using genomics to develop non-food feedstocks that can be used for bioenergy. The awards continue a commitment by the two agencies begun in 2006 to conduct fundamental research in biomass genomics that will establish a scientific foundation to facilitate and accelerate the use of woody plant tissue for bioenergy and biofuel. (Earlier post.)
In 2013, DOE will provide $6.1 million in funding over 3 years, while USDA will award $2 million over 3 years. Overall, the USDA and DOE projects are designed to improve biomass—including selected trees and grasses—to be grown for biofuels by increasing their yield, quality and ability to adapt to extreme environments. Researchers will rely on the most advanced techniques of modern genomics to develop breeding and other strategies to improve the crops. The research will be conducted on switchgrass, poplar and pine, among other plants.