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

Phase 1 of DOE-funded ABBA Integrated Biorefinery project begins; renewable jet, gasoline, diesel and nanocellulose

October 24, 2017

Phase 1 of the ABBA Integrated Biorefinery project, to be built at the AVAPCO Thomaston Georgia site, has begun. The project, which will co-produce full replacement renewable jet fuel, gasoline, diesel and Bioplus nanocellulose from woody biomass in an integrated biorefinery at AVAPCO’s site in Thomaston, Georgia, has received a $3.7-million award from the Department of Energy. (Earlier post.)

The project aims to demonstrate that co-production of high volume commodity fuels and low volume, high value co-products enables profitable biorefineries at commercial scale. ABBA integrates the biorefinery value chain by converting wood to cellulose and cellulosic sugars, which are then converted to cellulosic biojet and nanocellulose. Patented technologies and intellectual property will be provided by AVAPCO, Byogy and Petron. Technology collaborators also include the Renewable Bioproducts Institute at Georgia Tech and the University of Tennessee,Knoxville.

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Lygos partners with Agile BioFoundry and DOE to accelerate bioproduct R&D and commercialization; two-year, $5M pilot collaboration

October 17, 2017

Lygos announced that the US Department of Energy is providing multi-year funding for Lygos’ collaboration with the Agile BioFoundry (ABF) to automate research technology. Lygos’ pilot collaboration is part of a multi-company two-year, $5-million effort coordinated by the ABF.

Lygos produces high-value specialty chemical traditionally produced in oil-based petrochemical processes in a process that uses commercially proven, acid-tolerant yeast and domestic sugars instead of petroleum, and has pioneered the world’s first bio-based production of malonic acid (a C3-dicarboxylic acid). (Earlier post.)

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Argonne updates GREET and AFLEET tools for transportation technologies analysis

October 11, 2017

Researchers at Argonne National Laboratory have released updates to two key tools for the analysis of advanced transportation technologies: GREET, used to assess greenhouse gases, regulated emissions and energy use in transportation; and AFLEET, used to calculate and compare the costs and environmental benefits of a broad range of alternative fuel technologies.

GREET. The first version of GREET was released in 1996. Since then, Argonne has continued to update and expand the model. The most recent GREET versions are the GREET1 2017 version for fuel-cycle analysis and GREET2 2017 version for vehicle-cycle analysis. The 2017 release of the suite of GREET (Greenhouse gases, Regulated Emissions, and Energy use in Transportation) models and associated documentation includes the following expansions and updates:

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DOE awards Donald Danforth Plant Science Center $16M to enhance energy sorghum

October 10, 2017

The US Department of Energy (DOE) has awarded a 5-year, $16-million grant to the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, one of the world’s largest independent plant science institutes. Building on earlier research using the model grass, green foxtail (Setaria viridis), this project will identify new genes and pathways that contribute to photosynthesis and enhanced water use efficiency. The team will then deploy these genes using tools of the emerging field of synthetic biology to accelerate development of elite energy sorghum varieties for production under marginal environments.

This project aims to deliver stress-tolerant sorghum lines, addressing DOE’s mission in the generation of renewable energy resources. The development of a low input, environmentally safe and highly productive sorghum germplasm could help establish a lignocellulosic energy economy that can provide jobs to rural communities, ensure energy security and benefit the environment.

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New plasma synthesis process for one-step conversion of CO2 and methane into higher value fuel and chemicals

October 09, 2017

Researchers from the University of Liverpool (UK), with colleagues from Dalian University of Technology (China) and the University of Hull (UK), have developed a new process for the direct, one-step activation of carbon dioxide and methane (dry reforming of methane) into higher value liquid fuels and chemicals (e.g., acetic acid, methanol, ethanol, and formaldehyde) with high selectivity at ambient conditions.

In a study published in chemistry journal Angewandte Chemie, they reported the total selectivity to oxygenates was approximately 50–60%, with acetic acid being the major component at 40.2% selectivity—the highest value reported for acetic acid thus far. The direct plasma synthesis of acetic acid from CH4 and CO2 is an ideal reaction with 100% atom economy, but is almost impossible by thermal catalysis owing to the significant thermodynamic barrier. The combination of plasma and catalyst in this process shows great potential for manipulating the distribution of liquid chemical products in a given process, they concluded.

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WSU, PNNL researchers convert algal biofuel waste from hydrothermal liquefaction into commodity using anaerobes; sewage sludge next

October 08, 2017

Researchers at Washington State University and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory have devised a method of converting a waste product generated by the conversion of algae into bio-crude into a usable and valuable commodity. The results of the team’s research are published in the journal Bioresource Technology.

Converting algae to biofuels can utilize a two-step process. The first, developed by PNNL, applies high pressure and high temperature to algae to create bio-oil. The second converts that bio-oil into biofuel, which can replace gasoline, diesel and jet fuel. The first step—hydrothermal liquefaction (HTL)—produces waste; approximately 25 to 40 percent of carbon and 80 percent of nutrients from the algae are left behind in wastewater streams.

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Wärtsilä to acquire biogas upgrader Puregas Solutions

October 06, 2017

The technology group Wärtsilä has reached an agreement to acquire Puregas Solutions, a Sweden-based provider of turnkey biogas upgrading solutions. Puregas is a leading player in its field with subsidiary companies in Germany, Denmark, the UK, and the US. The company utilizes a unique CApure process to convert raw biogas to biomethane and renewable natural gas.

The CApure process recovers more than 99.9% of the biomethane present in the raw biogas. The process separates the CO2 from the biogas by a process of chemical adsorption. The selective organic solvents used in this process are so efficient that the end product can contain more than 99% methane and is suitable for vehicle fuel or to be injected into the natural gas grid.

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Gevo to supply alcohol-to-jet fuel to Virgin Australia

October 04, 2017

Gevo, Inc. expects to supply its renewable alcohol-to-jet fuel (ATJ) (earlier post) to the Virgin Australia Group. The Virgin Australia Group will be responsible for coordinating the purchase, supply and blending of the ATJ into the fuel supply system at Brisbane Airport in Queensland, Australia.

Gevo’s ATJ is expected to be blended with traditional jet fuel and supplied on flights departing Brisbane Airport, including Virgin Australia flights. It is currently contemplated that Gevo will ship the first gallons of ATJ to the Virgin Australia Group in October 2017.

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Agrisoma expanding partnership with Univ. of Florida on biojet fuel in US; Carinata seed

October 03, 2017

Agrisoma Biosciences Inc. is expanding its partnership with the University of Florida (UF) to advance the supply of biojet fuel in the United States. The Québec-based company and its subsidiary, Agrisoma USA, is working with a network of 40 academic researchers from seven universities associated with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Science. Agrisoma’s goal is to maximize production of carinata seed grown in the southeastern US.

Brassica carinata (carinata) is a non-edible oilseed crop used to produce industrial oil with highly desirable fuel chemistry for ‘drop in’ aviation fuels. The research project will operate under the oversight of the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture, in conjunction with the Florida-based Southeast Partnership for Advanced Renewables from Carinata (SPARC).

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High-density renewable jet fuel from eucalyptus

October 02, 2017

Researchers at Washington State University and the University of Nevada developed a novel process for synthesizing dense jet fuel from mint, pine, gumweed, eucalyptus or other plants.

The process, known as biphasic tandem catalytic process (biTCP), synthesizes cyclic hydrocarbon compounds for jet fuel from terpenoids, the natural organic chemical compounds found in many plants. Cyclic hydrocarbons are molecular compounds with structures that can store high levels of energy. The researchers were able to create a high yield of the cyclic hydrocarbon p-menthane from eucalyptus oil. A paper on the work is published in the journal Green Chemistry.

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Masdar Institute’s SEAS harvest marks critical milestone in development of sustainable aviation biofuel

Masdar Institute of Science and Technology’s Sustainable Bioenergy Research Consortium (SBRC)—a non-profit entity supported by Etihad Airways, Boeing, Takreer, Safran and General Electric— announced that its flagship project, the Seawater Energy and Agriculture System (SEAS) (earlier post), has reached a critical milestone in its development of sustainable aviation biofuels through the first harvest of the biofuel feedstock. Masdar Institute is a part of the Khalifa University of Science and Technology.

Dr. Alejandro Rios G., Director of the SBRC, led a team of Masdar Institute researchers in harvesting the first crop of the biofuel feedstock Salicornia, which is a local salt-tolerant and oil-rich plant. The harvesting took place at a two-hectare SEAS pilot facility in Masdar City, where seafood and sustainable biomass are being cultivated using saltwater and desert land to contribute to the UAE’s sustainable food and fuel security.

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Argonne team identifies optimized engine designs for a given fuel

September 29, 2017

Researchers at the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory have pinpointed optimized engine designs for a given fuel. Simulations performed by Argonne found two optimized fuel-engine concepts that could improve fuel efficiency substantially, said Yuanjiang Pei, a lab scientist who specializes in computational fluid dynamics at the Aramco Research Center — Detroit.

Using the Mira supercomputer at the heart of the Argonne Leadership Computing Facility (ALCF), a DOE Office of Science User Facility, Argonne’s Virtual Engine Research Institute and Fuels Initiative (VERIFI) team simulated more than 2,000 engine design combinations and “reduced design time from months to weeks,” according to Sibendu Som, group leader and principal computational scientist at Argonne.

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EPA issues NODA concerning potential further reductions in RFS volume requirements

September 27, 2017

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued a Notice of Data Availability (NODA) to provide public notice and an opportunity to comment on potential reductions in the 2018 biomass-based diesel (BBD), advanced biofuel, and total renewable fuel volumes, and/or the 2019 biomass-based diesel volume under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program.

EPA is suggesting that it could reduce the biodiesel volume for 2018 by as much as 315 million gallons and effectively carry through those volumes to further reduce the proposed volumes of advanced and total renewable biofuels by 473 million gallons. This would reduce the 2018 advanced biofuel volume requirement from a proposed level of 4.24 billion gallons to 3.77 billion gallons, and the 2018 total renewable fuel volume requirement from 19.24 billion gallons to 18.77 billion gallons. The agency is seeking comments on this possible use of the waiver authority granted it for that purpose under the Clean Air Act.

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British Airways partners with Velocys on renewable jet fuel from household waste

September 19, 2017

British Airways has entered a partnership with Velocys to design a series of waste plants that convert household waste into renewable jet fuel to power its fleet.

The first plant will take hundreds of thousands of tonnes of household waste per-year, destined for landfill or incineration, including diapers, plastic food containers and chocolate bar wrappers, and convert it into clean-burning, sustainable fuels. This will contribute to the airline’s commitment to reduce net emissions by 50% by 2050.

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Berkeley Lab copper catalyst yields high-efficiency CO2-to-fuels conversion

Scientists at the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have developed a new electrocatalyst that can directly convert carbon dioxide into multicarbon fuels and alcohols using record-low inputs of energy. The work is the latest in a round of studies coming out of Berkeley Lab tackling the challenge of creating a clean chemical manufacturing system that can put carbon dioxide to good use.

In the new study, being published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a team led by Berkeley Lab scientist Peidong Yang discovered that an electrocatalyst made up of copper nanoparticles provided the conditions necessary to break down carbon dioxide to form ethylene, ethanol, and propanol.

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EU COMSYN project for compact gasification and synthesis for biomass-based fuels

September 18, 2017

The EU-funded COMSYN project aims to develop a production concept for competitive bio-based fuels by means of a compact gasification and synthesis process. The target reduction of the biofuel production cost is up to 35% compared to alternative routes, which translates to less than €0.80/l ($3.62/gallon US) production cost for diesel.

The production concept is based on the distributed primary conversion of various kind of biomass residues to intermediate liquid products at small-to-medium scale (10-50 kt/a Fischer-Tropsch products, 30–150 MW biomass) units located close to biomass resources. The Fischer-Tropsch products will be upgraded to fuels in existing central oil refineries, also bringing the benefits of economy of scale for the overall process.

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NSF launches $20M engineering research center aimed at converting natural gas into transportation fuels: CISTAR

September 16, 2017

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is investing nearly $80 million in four new Engineering Research Centers (ERCs) to create novel technology platforms in the fields of living cell-based therapies, personalized heart tissue, point-of-care health systems and fuel derived from shale gas.

The NSF Engineering Research Center for Innovative and Strategic Transformation of Alkane Resources (CISTAR) will develop technologies for responsible conversion of alkanes—light hydrocarbons including methane, ethane and propane—into more valuable liquid fuels, including gasoline and diesel fuels. To better leverage the natural gas sector’s surplus in lighter hydrocarbon gases, CISTAR plans to build small, modular and mobile processing units for small well sites in rural areas.

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IHS Markit: 2020 low-sulfur requirements for marine bunker fuels causing scramble for refiners and shippers

August 28, 2017

On 27 October 2016, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) announced that beginning on 1 January 2020, the maximum sulfur content allowed in marine bunker fuel will be reduced from 3.50% mass by mass (m/m) to 0.50% m/m (35,000 ppm to 5,000 ppm)—five years earlier than many expected. (Earlier post.) The IMO fuel sulfur content regulation will have a significant global impact on both the refining and the shipping industries.

Owing to uncertainty around the implementation date and the ultimate level of compliance, neither the global refining nor shipping industries have as yet made the necessary investments to comply fully with the IMO rules. As a result, both industries will experience rapid change and significant cost and operational impacts, according to new analysis from IHS Markit.

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HelioBioSys, Sandia Labs, Berkeley Lab partnering on sugar-producing cyanobacteria for biofuel production

HelioBioSys has patented a group of three marine cyanobacteria that, when grown together, can produce high quantities of sugar just right for making biofuels. Sandia National Laboratories is helping HelioBioSys Inc. learn whether farming them on a large scale would be successful.

Until the early 1900s, cyanobacteria were mistaken for algae. Like algae, colonies of cyanobacteria grow in water and have incorrectly been referred to as “blue-green algae.” But unlike algae, these marine cyanobacteria excrete sugars directly into the water where they grow.

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Researchers develop cheaper, greener biofuels processing catalyst using waste metals and bacteria

August 25, 2017

A team from the Prairie Research Institute at the University of Illinois, with colleagues from the University of Birmingham and Aarhus University, have developed a nanosized bio-Pd/C catalyst for upgrading algal bio-oil.

Published in an open-access paper in the journal Fuel, their findings point to a cheaper, more environmentally friendly and renewable catalyst for processing that uses common bacteria and the metal palladium, which can be recovered from waste sources such as discarded electronics, catalytic converters, street sweeper dust and processed sewage.

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Digging into the differences in carbon accounting for biofuels

August 24, 2017

The benefit to the climate of using biofuels as a substitute for fossil fuels has been sharply contested for years; much of the disagreement is based on the assumptions underlying the carbon accounting in the lifecycle analysis. The argument essentially boils down to whether or not biofuels are inherently carbon neutral because the CO2 released when they are burned is derived from CO2 uptake during feedstock growth.

A paper and subsequent formal comments and responses in the journal Climatic Change highlights the conceptual differences and the impact on policy. Professor John DeCicco at the University of Michigan Energy Institute has grown increasingly critical of the lifecycle analysis methods used to justify and administer biofuel policies. In a 2016 open-access paper in Climatic Change, he and his colleagues argued that once estimates for process emissions and displacement effects including land-use change are considered, US biofuel use to date is associated with a net increase rather than a net decrease in CO2 emissions. (earlier post)

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Bosch study highlights potential of e-fuels to reduce CO2 emissions

August 22, 2017

According to a new study by Bosch, the use of e-fuels—synthetic fuels based on renewable energy—in Europe by 2050 as a scheduled supplement to electrification could save up to 2.8 gigatons of CO2: three times Germany’s carbon-dioxide emissions in 2016.

The calculation is based on an assumed e-fuels blend of 1% in 2025, 10% in 2030, 40% in 2040 and completely replacing the fossil fuel share by 2050.

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Continental introduces electric Active Purge Pump (APP) to meet stricter hydrocarbon evaporation legislation around the globe

Continental has developed an electrified solution to further reduce hydrocarbon evaporative emissions: the Active Purge Pump (APP). The APP actively pulls HC-laden air from the canister used to control evaporative HC emissions. The pump used for this action is a very compact and light-weight radial pump, driven by a highly efficient brushless DC motor.

The APP can be use on-demand, activated any time when necessary. The APP thus makes canister purging available independent from the engine operation point and vacuum availability. Further, APP’s main function can be extended by integrating algorithms to provide additional functions that either require stand-alone products today or are not even currently available. Start of production is planned for end of 2019.

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Audi A4 and A5 now available to order as g-tron in Europe; Audi e-gas for 3 years as standard

August 18, 2017

Audi’s two latest natural-gas alternatives in the midsize category—the new A4 Avant g-tron (earlier post) and the new A5 Sportback g-tron—are now available for order in Europe. Both models are powered by a bivalent 2.0 TFSI engine developing 170 hp. Like the A3 Sportback g-tron that is already on the market (earlier post), they can run on a choice of the climate-friendly fuel Audi e-gas, conventional CNG (compressed natural gas) or gasoline.

A 2.0 TFSI engine powers both the A4 Avant g-tron and the A5 Sportback g-tron. It develops 125 kW (170 hp) and achieves torque of 270 N·m (199.1 lb-ft). The newly developed engine is based on the new gasoline-powered 2.0 TFSI with innovative combustion principle based on the Miller cycle (earlier post).

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U Delaware team develops efficient catalyst for production of renewable jet-fuel-range alkanes from biomass under mild conditions

August 16, 2017

A team at the University of Delaware has synthesized renewable jet-fuel-range alkanes by hydrodeoxygenation of lignocellulose-derived high-carbon furylmethanes over ReOx-modified Ir/SiO2 catalysts under mild reaction conditions (170 ˚C, 5 MPa). Their paper is featured on the cover of the journal ChemSusChem.

In their work, they found that Ir−ReOx/SiO2 with a Re/Ir molar ratio of 2:1 exhibits the best performance, achieving a combined alkanes yield of 82–99% from C12–C15 furylmethanes. The catalyst can be regenerated in three consecutive cycles with only about 12% loss in the combined alkanes yield.

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Michigan State team identifies new enzyme to boost seed oil production for biofuels

August 13, 2017

Michigan State University researchers are experimenting with harvesting seed oil to make biofuels. In a recent study published in the journal The Plant Cell, the researchers show that the chloroplast, where plant photosynthesis occurs, also participates in new ways to provide seed oil precursors.

Seed oil is made out of lipids—small molecules found in fats, oils, waxes and membranes that make up the boundaries of all living cell components. They also store a lot of energy. The scientists identified a new enzyme, named PLIP1, or Plastid Lipade 1, that interacts with lipids inside the chloroplast.

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Saudi Aramco team finds dual-fuel Octane-on-Demand concept can outperform E30 gasoline

August 10, 2017

The concept of using a second, high octane fuel on demand to augment the performance of a standard gasoline fuel reaches back to the 1940s, with a recent resurgence in interest generated by the need to increase engine efficiency.

In a paper in the journal Fuel, researchers at the Fuel Technology R&D Division, Saudi Aramco Research & Development Center, have presented a comprehensive set of engine data for a regular grade E10 gasoline and a high octane E30 gasoline, and compared these fuels with the Octane-on-Demand dual fuel concept using methanol and ethanol as the high octane fuels in a high compression ratio engine with moderate levels of boosting. The results demonstrate that the Octane-on-Demand concept provides comparable or lower specific CO2 emissions to the E30 gasoline, with up to an almost 10% improvement in specific fuel consumption, given the appropriate calibration.

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SOLETAIR project produces first 200 liters of synthetic fuel from solar power and atmospheric CO2

August 08, 2017

The SOLETAIR project (earlier post) has produced its first 200 liters of synthetic fuel from solar energy and the air’s carbon dioxide via Fischer-Tropsch synthesis. Project partners include INERATEC, a spinoff of Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), VTT Technical Research Center of Finland and Lappeenranta University of Technology (LUT).

The mobile chemical pilot plant produces gasoline, diesel, and kerosene from regenerative hydrogen and carbon dioxide. The compact plant is designed for decentralized production, fits into a shipping container, and can be extended modularly.

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German team develops novel technique to determine fuel quality in plug-in hybrids

August 07, 2017

Series-production plug-in hybrid electric vehicles equipped with diesel engines are already available in the market or planned for the future (e.g., Volvo V60, Audi Q7 e-tron quattro, Peugeot 508 RXH Hybrid4, Range Rover SDV6 Hybrid Diesel). However, fossil diesel fuel/biodiesel blends show a tendency to form precipitates—which can be considered as oligomers with aging. This tendency of fuel blends to form precipitates during long term storage could impact the operation of diesel plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEV).

Making the problem more complex is the existence of different quotas of biodiesel blend ratios in different countries. Further, HVO (hydrotreated vegetable oil) and GTL (gas-to-liquid)—a mixture of mainly branched and unbranched alkanes—are becoming more popular as neat diesel substitutes or blend stocks. Now, researchers in Germany hav devised a novel sensor for the onboard determination of fuel quality in diesel PHEVs to address these issues. (A variation of the approach could be used for gasoline PHEVs.) A paper on their work appears in the journal Fuel.

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Aemetis to license InEnTec gasification technology to produce cellulosic ethanol; coupled with LanzaTech syngas-to-ethanol tech

August 04, 2017

Aemetis has signed a Master Agreement with key exclusive rights for the use of an advanced gasification technology from InEnTec to produce cellulosic ethanol. The InEnTec gasification technology agreement is a key part of Aemetis’ strategy to produce high-value, low-carbon cellulosic ethanol from locally sourced biomass by integrating InEnTec’s patented advanced gasification technology with Lanzatech’s patented microbial fermentation technology.

Under the Master Agreement, Aemetis has predominant exclusive rights to use the InEnTec Plasma Enhanced Melter (PEM) gasification equipment and technology for cellulosic ethanol production until 2024. The gasification technology complements Aemetis’ current license with LanzaTech for syngas-to-ethanol conversion, providing Aemetis with a complete technology solution to produce locally-sourced, low-carbon cellulosic ethanol.

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Continental reports successful testing of diesel blends with 15% OME synthetic fuel

August 01, 2017

Continental has successfully conducted tests on the synthetic diesel fuel oxymethylene ether (OME) in test vehicles, including its Super Clean Electrified Diesel vehicle presented this year. Overall, the Continental tests confirmed that diesel fuel containing 15% OME blend for current diesel engines is a technically safe and viable possibility for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. A 15% OME blend reduces CO2 emissions by approximately 8g/km.

Oxymethylene ethers are synthetic compounds of carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen (CH3O(CH2O)nCH3). Due to their high oxygen concentration, they suppress pollutant formation in combustion. As diesel fuels, they reduce the emission of carbon black and NOx. Germany launched a 3-year study of oxymethylene ethers (OME) as clean diesel fuels in 2016 (earlier post) and Ford is leading a €3.5-million (US$3.9-million) research project, co-funded with the German government, to test cars running on monooxymethylene ether (OME1) and DME. (Earlier post.)

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Pathway for CO2 catalytic processing of oleic acid into C8-C15 alkanes; jet-range hydrocarbons

Researchers in China are proposing new pathways for the CO2 catalytic conversion of oleic acid into C8-C15 alkanes. The yield of C8–C15 products reaches 73.10 mol% in a CO2 atmosphere—much higher than the 49.67 mol% yield obtained in an H2 atmosphere.

In the the absence of an external H2 source, the researchers report generating aviation fuel-like products through the aromatization of C3H6, oxidative dehydrogenation involving CO2 and C3H8, and hydrogen transfer reactions account for hydrogen liberation in oleic acid and achieve its re-arrangement in the final alkane products. A paper on their work appears in the RSC journal Green Chemistry.

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

July 31, 2017

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

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

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Photo-activated catalyst converts CO2 to CO for clean fuel technology; no unwanted byproducts

An international research team led by scientists at the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore have developed a light-activated material that can chemically convert carbon dioxide into carbon monoxide without generating unwanted byproducts.

When exposed to visible light, the material, a “spongy” nickel organic crystalline structure, converted the CO2 in a reaction chamber exclusively into carbon monoxide (CO) gas, which can be further turned into liquid fuels, solvents, and other useful products. An open-access paper on the work is published in the journal Science Advances.

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QUB team converts aluminum foil waste to highly active alumina; biofuel catalyst, other applications

July 27, 2017

Researchers at Queen’s University Belfast have developed a novel green route to convert aluminium foil waste into highly active nano-mesoporous alumina (γ-Al2O3) (designated as ACFL550). The material shows higher surface area, larger pore volume, and stronger acidity compared to γ-Al2O3 that is produced from the commercial AlCl3 precursor, AC550. An open access paper on the work appears in Nature’s Scientific Reports.

Aluminum oxide, alumina (Al2O3), is one of the most attractive ceramic materials for its various applications due to its thermal, chemical and mechanical stability. Alumina has direct application as a catalyst and catalyst support in the automotive and petroleum industries. The oxide offers a favorable combination of textural properties—such as surface area, pore volume, and pore-size distribution—and its acid/base characteristics, which are mainly related to surface chemical composition, local microstructure, and phase composition (Trueba and Trasatti, 2005).

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Praj, Gevo to enter commercialization phase of Gevo isobutanol technology for sugarcane and molasses feedstocks

July 26, 2017

Praj Industries and Gevo announced that Gevo’s proprietary isobutanol technology will now be available for licensing to processors of sugarcane juice and molasses. This follows on the back of Praj’s development work, adapting Gevo’s technology to sugarcane and molasses feedstocks. (Earlier post.)

The two companies entered into a Development Agreement and a Development License Agreement in November 2015. The goal of these agreements was for Praj to adapt Gevo’s isobutanol technology to using non-corn based sugars and lignocellulose feedstocks. The process technology development was performed at Matrix, Praj’s R&D center located in Pune, India.

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DOE awarding $40M in FY 2018 to 4 DOE Bioenergy Research Centers; plans for 5 years of funding

July 18, 2017

US Secretary of Energy Rick Perry announced $40 million in Department of Energy awards for the establishment of four DOE Bioenergy Research Centers (BRCs), which will provide the scientific breakthroughs for a new generation of sustainable, cost-effective bioproducts and bioenergy.

The centers—each led by a DOE National Laboratory or a top university—are designed to lay the scientific groundwork for a new bio-based economy that promises to yield a range of important new products and fuels derived directly from nonfood biomass. Initial funding for the four centers will total $40 million for FY 2018, with plans for a total of five years of funding. The following centers were selected based on an open competition using outside peer review:

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

July 17, 2017

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

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

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ExxonMobil and UW Madison extend research collaboration on conversion of biomass to transportation fuels

The University of Wisconsin-Madison and ExxonMobil announced a two-year renewal of an agreement to research the fundamental chemistry of converting biomass into transportation fuels. The research is part of a broad effort to identify scalable and commercially viable solutions to help meet increasing global energy demand with a renewable resource.

UW-Madison has long been known for its expertise in biomass conversion. The project leverages the university’s expertise with ExxonMobil’s resources and strong technological capabilities. George Huber, the Harvey D. Spangler professor of chemical and biological engineering at UW-Madison, is working closely with ExxonMobil’s scientists to build a stronger understanding of the basic chemical transformations that occur during biomass conversion into diesel and jet fuels.

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Jülich evaluation of power-to-fuels recommends DME, OME3-5 and n-alkanes as diesel substitutes

July 13, 2017

An evaluation of the implementation possibilities of power-to-fuel (PTF) technologies by a team from Forschungszentrum Jülich GmbH in Germany recommends the PTF products DME, OME3-5 and n-alkanes as suitable diesel alternatives for the transportation sector. PTF processes essentially use renewable energy, CO2 and water to produce fuel, as in Audi’s targeted e-fuels projects. (Earlier post.) A paper on the Jülich study is published in the journal Fuel.

The simplest implementation strategy for such electrofuels would be a gradual market penetration by means of blending with conventional diesel, the authors suggested. Potential blending combinations highlighted in the paper include: fossil diesel + n-alkane cut; fossil diesel + OME3–5; Fossil diesel + n-alkane cut + 3-5; and n-alkane cut + OME3–5. The last blend—a suitable n-alkane cut mixed with OME3-5—has the greatest potential for increasing engine efficiency and reducing pollutant emissions. In addition, fossil diesel would no longer be required.

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DOE to award up to $8M to three algae-based biofuels projects

July 11, 2017

The US Department of Energy (DOE) has selected three projects to receive up to $8 million, aimed at reducing the costs of producing algal biofuels and bioproducts. These projects are to deliver high-impact tools and techniques for increasing the productivity of algae organisms and cultures.

They will also deliver biology-focused breakthroughs while enabling accelerated future innovations through data sharing within the research and development community. The selected projects are:

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

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

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

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Lux Research: question is when--not if--a diesel ban will happen

July 03, 2017

Based on its analysis of government responses to the Volkswagen diesel scandal as well as to the ongoing publication of research highlighting the adverse effects of NOx and particulate matter on public health, Lux Research has concluded that the question is when—not if—a diesel ban will happen.

Lux Research compiled a non-exhaustive list of major global cities that have either called for a ban or are introducing restrictions to limit the number of diesel vehicles—a step we believes will eventually move towards a ban. The market research organization ranked each city on the likelihood of an eventual ban on diesel vehicles:

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GLBRC research review concludes cellulosic biofuels can benefit the environment if managed correctly

June 30, 2017

Cellulosic biofuels could provide an environmentally sustainable way of meeting energy needs—but with a few important caveats, according to a new review of research by a team from the US Department of Energy-funded Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center (GLBRC). Their paper is published in the journal Science.

Although not yet a market force, cellulosic biofuels are routinely factored into future climate mitigation scenarios because of their potential to both displace petroleum use and mitigate greenhouse gas emissions. Those benefits, however, are complicated by the need for vast amounts of land to produce cellulosic biofuels on a large scale.

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Study finds Neste renewable diesel significantly reduces PM emissions in off-road mobile machinery; lower number and mass

June 29, 2017

A study led by researchers at Tampere University of Technology in Finland found that the use of neat Neste MY Renewable Diesel in working machines—a Wille 355B compact utility machine and Wille 855C multi-purpose wheel-loader—efficiently reduces particulate matter emissions compared to EN590 diesel with 7% biodiesel. With renewable diesel, both the number of particles as well as particulate mass were reduced in nearly all of the operating cycles of the working machines.

Both machines were certified to European Stage IIIA standards for non-road mobile machinery (NRMM). The 2009 Wille 355B uses a 36 kW naturally aspirated engine; the 2014 Wille 855C uses a 97 kW common rail turbo with intercooler.

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Shell acquires exclusive development and licensing rights for SBI Bioenergy drop-in biofuels technology

June 28, 2017

Royal Dutch Shell plc, through its subsidiary Shell International Exploration and Production B.V, and SBI Bioenergy Inc. have reached an agreement granting Shell exclusive development and licensing rights for SBI’s biofuel technology. Canada-based SBI has a patented process that can convert a wide range of waste oils, greases and sustainable vegetable oils into lower carbon drop-ins for diesel, jet fuel and gasoline.

Under the agreement, Shell and SBI will work together to demonstrate the potential of the technology and, if successful, scale up for commercial application.

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UPS commits to aggressive goals for more alternative vehicles, fuel and renewable power by 2025

June 27, 2017

UPS announced new sustainability goals to add more alternative fuel and advanced technology vehicles to its fleet while increasing its reliance on renewable energy sources. The goals, available in the company’s 2016 Corporate Sustainability Report, support UPS’ commitment to reduce its absolute greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from global ground operations 12% by 2025, a goal developed using a methodology approved by the Science Based Targets initiative.

UPS has a goal that 25% of the electricity it consumes will come from renewable energy sources by 2025—a significant increase from the 0.2% in 2016. In addition, by 2020 UPS plans that one in four new vehicles purchased annually will be an alternative fuel or advanced technology vehicle, up from 16% in 2016. The company also set a new goal that by 2025, 40% of all ground fuel will be from sources other than conventional gasoline and diesel, an increase from 19.6% in 2016.

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German researchers develop method to produce diesel-like fuel from biodiesel

June 19, 2017

Researchers from the universities of Kaiserslautern, Bochum, and Rostock have developed a method for producing a petroleum diesel-like fuel from conventional biodiesel (rapeseed oil methyl ester, RME).

Catalyzed by a Pd/Ru system, RME undergoes isomerizing metathesis in a stream of ethylene gas, leading to a defined olefin, monoester, and diester blend. This innovative refining concept requires negligible energy input (60 °C) and no solvents and does not produce waste. The new biofuel fulfills the current EU and US requirements, and can be used undiluted in modern diesel engines or mixed in any ratio with petroleum diesel. The researchers present their work in an open access paper in Science Advances.

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Cummins to begin electrified powertrain delivery in 2019; alternative fuels and power, digitalization

June 15, 2017

During a teleconference yesterday, Cummins Inc. executives outlined plans to provide a range of power technologies spanning diesel and natural gas engines to fully electric and hybrid powertrains. Cummins will begin electrified powertrain delivery in 2019, including full battery-electric and plug-in hybrid systems. Cummins said those are just the first steps as it signals its intention to be the leading provider of electrified powertrains in its commercial and industrial markets.

Longer term, Cummins’ Research and Technology Department continues to investigate the viability of alternatives such as biofuels, synthetic fuels and hydrogen. Cummins has also invested in exploratory projects focused on Proton Exchange Membrane and Solid Oxide Fuel Cell technologiesboth with increasing potential to offer superior power density over the traditional internal combustion engine.

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New efficient biphasic catalytic process for conversion of biomass to dense jet-range fuels

June 13, 2017

Most current bio-jet fuels consist primarily of linear or branched chain alkanes; they suffer from low densities (~0.76 g/mL) and low volumetric heating values compared with those of petro-jet fuels. As a result, most alternative fuels have to blend with petro-jet fuels to meet the energy density requirements.

Cyclic hydrocarbons (i.e. cycloalkanes) can be used to make dense jet fuels with high thermal stability. However, industrial synthesis is costly, and the precursor from hydrocracking of petroleum has low selectivity. Now, researchers from the University of Nevada and Washington State University have developed a novel efficient biphasic tandem catalytic process (biTCP) for synthesizing cycloalkanes from renewable terpenoid biomass (such as 1,8-cineole). A paper on their work is published in the RSC journal Green Chemistry.

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Climeworks launches world’s first commercial plant to capture CO2 from air; potential for CO2-neutral fuels

June 09, 2017

Switzerland-based Climeworks, a spin-off from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH), recently launched the world’s first commercial plant that captures atmospheric CO2 for supply and sale to a customer. The Swiss direct air capture company—which has also partnered with Audi in that company’s e-fuels initiative (earlier post)—launched the commercial-scale Direct Air Capture (DAC) plant, featuring its patented technology that filters carbon dioxide from ambient air.

The plant is now supplying 900 tonnes of CO2 annually to a nearby greenhouse to help grow vegetables. The plant is a historic step for negative emissions technology—earmarked by the Paris climate agreement as being vital in the quest to limit a global temperature rise of 2 °C. Climeworks aims to capture 1% of global CO2 emissions by 2025.

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Soletair demo plant produces renewable hydrocarbon fuel from CO2 captured from the air

VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland and Lappeenranta University of Technology (LUT) are beginning testing of the Soletair demo plant, which uses air-captured carbon dioxide to produce renewable fuels and chemicals. The pilot plant is coupled to LUT’s solar power plant in Lappeenranta.

The aim of the project is to demonstrate the technical performance of the overall process and produce 200 liters of fuels and other hydrocarbons for research purposes. The demo plant incorporates the entire process chain, and comprises four separate units: a solar power plant; equipment for separating carbon dioxide and water from the air; a section that uses electrolysis to produce hydrogen; and synthesis equipment for producing a crude-oil substitute from carbon dioxide and hydrogen.

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DLR and Lufthansa Technik investigate aviation biofuels in large-scale test

June 08, 2017

In a large-scale test, researchers at the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR), together with Lufthansa Technik and the Bundeswehr Research Institute for Materials, Fuels and Lubricants, investigated the chemical and physical properties of particularly promising aviation biofuels. The tests were carried out in a special test rig at Lufthansa Technik.

The European Union-funded “High Biofuel Blends in Aviation” (HBBA) study focused on blends—i.e. mixtures of conventional kerosene with biofuels. The study analyzed particularly promising biofuels, according to source, production process and approval status.

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EPFL team develops low-cost catalyst for splitting CO2

June 07, 2017

EPFL scientists have developed an Earth-abundant and low-cost catalytic system for splitting CO2 into CO and oxygen—an important step towards achieving the conversion of renewable energy into hydrocarbon fuels. A solar-driven system set up using this catalyst was able to split CO2 with an efficiency of 13.4%. A paper on the work appears in the journal Nature Energy.

The research was carried out by the lab of Michael Grätzel at EPFL. Grätzel is known worldwide for the invention of dye-sensitized solar cells (“Grätzel cells”). The new catalyst, developed by PhD student Marcel Schreier, postdoc Jingshan Luo, and several co-workers, is made by the atomic layer deposition (ALD) of tin oxide (SnO2) on copper oxide (CuO) nanowires. Tin oxide suppresses the generation of side-products, which are commonly observed from copper oxide catalysts, leading to the sole production of CO in the electroreduction of CO2.

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USDA, DOE to award $9M for bioenergy feedstocks, biofuels and bio-based products

June 06, 2017

The US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), announced that up to $9 million in funding will be made available through the Biomass Research and Development Initiative (BRDI) to support the development of bioenergy feedstocks, biofuels, and bio-based products (DE-FOA-0001637).

The projects funded through BRDI—a joint NIFA and DOE program—will help develop economically and environmentally sustainable sources of renewable biomass, increase the availability of renewable fuels and biobased products, and diversify the US energy portfolio. Both DOE and NIFA have been given statutory authorities to support the development of a biomass-based industry in the United States, under the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 (FCEA) and the Energy Policy Act of 2005.

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BNL, VT team creates Ru,Rh supramolecular photocatalysts for enhanced hydrogen production via artificial photosynthesis

June 04, 2017

Scientists have been trying to artificially replicate photosynthesis to convert solar energy to stored chemical energy, with the objective of producing environmentally friendly and sustainable fuels, such as hydrogen and methanol. However, mimicking key functions of the photosynthetic center, where specialized biomolecules carry out photosynthesis, has proven challenging. Artificial photosynthesis requires a molecular system that can absorb light; transport and separate electrical charge; and catalyze fuel-producing reactions. These complicated processes must operate synchronously to achieve high energy-conversion efficiency.

Now, chemists from the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL) and Virginia Tech have designed two supramolecular photocatalysts that incorporate individual components specialized for light absorption, charge separation, or catalysis. In both molecular systems, multiple light-harvesting centers made of ruthenium (Ru) metal ions are connected to a single catalytic center made of rhodium (Rh) metal ions through a bridging molecule that promotes electron transfer from the Ru centers to the Rh catalyst, where hydrogen is produced. A paper on the work is published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

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DOE releasing $20M in funding to ARPA-E awardees; NEXTCAR and REFUEL projects

June 01, 2017

The US Department of Energy (DOE) is honoring additional commitments to 10 previously selected Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) awardees for a total of $20 million. This completes the approval process for projects selected in ARPA-E’s Next-Generation Energy Technologies for Connected and Autonomous On-Road Vehicles (NEXTCAR) (earlier post) and Renewable Energy to Fuels Through Utilization of Energy-Dense Liquids (REFUEL) (earlier post)programs.

Four REFUEL projects are also part of DOE’s Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer (SBIR/STTR) programs, which support groundbreaking technological innovation specifically in the small business community.

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Cummins announces compatibility with select 100% paraffinic diesel fuels for B4.5, B6.7, L9 engines

Cummins Inc. announced that the B4.5, B6.7 and L9 engine platforms are compatible with 100% renewable diesel fuels meeting the EN 15940 specification (paraffinic diesel fuel from synthesis or hydrotreatment). Both On-Highway and Off-Highway versions of the B6.7 and L9 platforms and all vintages are approved to use paraffinic diesel fuels in North America.

EN 15940 establishes requirements and test methods for marketed and delivered paraffinic diesel fuel containing a level of up to 7% fatty acid methyl ester (FAME) for use in diesel engines. EN 15940 was approved by CEN, the European Committee for Standardization, in April 2016.

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Study finds POMDME-diesel blends cut soot up to 34% with no NOx increase

May 31, 2017

A study by a team from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Aerothermochemistry and Combustion Systems Laboratory and the University of Kaiserslautern (Germany) has found that blends comprising poly (oxymethylene) dimethyl ethers (POMDME) and diesel show a significant reduction in soot emissions of up to to 34% with no significant increase in NOx.

The team examined blends of 5% and 10% POMDME in diesel in a single-cylinder heavy-duty diesel engine to gain an overview of the blend’s impact on engine performance and exhaust emissions. A paper on their work appears in the journal Fuel.

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First liquid nitrogen hybrid bus completes trials; HORIBA MIRA and Dearman

May 30, 2017

A hybrid bus that runs on both diesel and liquid nitrogen has completed a series of trials to bring it one step closer to the road. The hybrid bus—CE Power—is the first to be powered by liquid nitrogen and has been built by engineers at HORIBA MIRA as part of an Innovate UK consortium.

The bus utilizes alternative propulsion to address urban air pollution challenges and features a high-efficiency, zero-emission Dearman Engine (earlier post), powered by liquid nitrogen, alongside a conventional diesel engine. The hybrid system enables the bus to reduce noxious tail-pipe emissions, improving local air quality.

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Argonne researchers make vanadium into a useful low-cost catalyst for hydrogenation

May 28, 2017

Researchers at the US Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory have developed an unusually active form of vanadium for hydrogenation reactions. Vanadium is an inexpensive common metal that could replace some of the precious metals currently found in catalysts used in these reactions, frequently used in processing of fuels (petro- and drop-in bio-) and petrochemicals.

The vanadium catalyst exhibits unprecedented reactivity in liquid- and gas- phase alkene/alkyne hydrogenation. Catalyst poisoning experiments revealed that 100% of the V sites are active for hydrogenation. A paper on their work is published in the RSC journal Chemical Communications.

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DOE awarding $72M in 73 Phase II SBIR/STTR grants

May 25, 2017

The US Department of Energy will award 73 grants totaling $72 million to 68 small businesses in 24 states. Funded through DOE’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs, the latest selections are for Phase II research and development.

Small businesses that demonstrated technical feasibility for innovations during their Phase I grants competed for funding for prototype or processes development during Phase II. In addition, prior Phase II awardees competed for sequential Phase II awards to continue prototype and process development. The median Phase II award is $1 million for a period of two years. The 73 awards are funded by Office of Science programs in Advanced Scientific Computing Research, Basic Energy Sciences, and Nuclear Physics.

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EIA projects light-duty vehicle energy use to drop 12% by 2025

May 23, 2017

The US Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) Annual Energy Outlook 2017 (AEO2017) Reference case projects a decline in light-duty vehicle energy use between 2018 and 2040 as improvements in fuel economy more than offset increases in light-duty vehicle (LDV) miles.

EIA projects that light-duty vehicle energy consumption will decrease 12%—from 16.1 quadrillion Btu in 2017 to 14.2 quadrillion Btu in 2025—in the AEO2017 Reference case, despite projected growth in vehicle-miles traveled of 5% over the same period. Nearly all of this energy consumption is gasoline, with gasoline consumption by light-duty vehicles projected to fall from 8.7 million barrels per day in 2017 to 7.5 million barrels per day in 2025 (-13.8%).

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Argonne, NREL, Gevo to develop predictive octane blending model for isobutanol and gasoline

May 12, 2017

Gevo has been selected to collaborate with Argonne National Laboratory and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) received funding to develop a predictive octane blending model for isobutanol and gasoline blendstocks for oxygenated blending (BOBs).

While it is known that isobutanol increases octane when blended into BOBs, the effect is non-linear, and dependent on a BOB’s properties. This project is intended to measure the actual octane effect on finished fuels when blending Gevo’s isobutanol with existing BOBs, obviating the need for blenders to perform these expensive and time-consuming tests themselves.

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155 businesses and industry groups send letter of support for California LCFS in current and possibly more stringent future forms

As California policymakers consider options to extend the state’s landmark climate change laws to 2030 and beyond, 155 businesses and industry groups sent a letter to California Governor Jerry Brown, Senate President pro Tempore Kevin de León, and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon in support of the California Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS)—in its current form and also in its potentially more stringent future state.

Approved in 2009 and first implemented in 2011, the LCFS requires California fuel providers to reduce the carbon intensity of transportation fuels at least 10% by 2020, by phasing in less carbon-intensive fuel technologies. In five years—2011 to 2016—the LCFS helped encourage a 57% uptick in the use of clean fuels in California.

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DOE awards $3.9M to 13 projects using high performance computing in manufacturing; Ford, LanzaTech

May 09, 2017

The US Department of Energy is awarding nearly $3.9 million for 13 projects designed to stimulate the use of high performance supercomputing in US manufacturing. The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) Advanced Manufacturing Office’s High Performance Computing for Manufacturing (HPC4Mfg) program enables innovation in US manufacturing through the adoption of high performance computing (HPC) to advance applied science and technology relevant to manufacturing. (Earlier post.)

The 13 new project partnerships include application of world-class computing resources and expertise of the national laboratories including Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory (LBNL), National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), and Argonne National Laboratory (ANL). Among the awardees were Ford Motor Company and LanzaTech.

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ICCT study examines current & projected use of heavy fuel oil in Arctic shipping; growth in BC emissions points to need for policies

May 08, 2017

A new study by the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) estimates heavy fuel oil (HFO) use, HFO carriage, the use and carriage of other fuels, black carbon (BC) emissions, and emissions of other air and climate pollutants for the year 2015, with projections to 2020 and 2025.

According to the report, potentially large increases in BC emissions may occur in the Arctic, further exacerbating warming, if ships are diverted from the Panama and Suez canals to take advantage of shorter routes to and from Asia, Europe, and North America. If even a small percentage (1%–2%) of large cargo vessels are diverted from the Panama and Suez Canals through the Arctic over the next decade, BC emissions could rise significantly—jumping up to 46% from 2015 to 2025.

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U of Illinois researchers develop new capabilities for genome-wide engineering of yeast

May 06, 2017

In a new open-access paper in Nature Communications, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign researchers describe how their successful integration of several cutting-edge technologies—creation of standardized genetic components, implementation of customizable genome editing tools, and large-scale automation of molecular biology laboratory tasks—will enhance the ability to work with yeast. The results of their new method demonstrate its potential to produce valuable novel strains of yeast for industrial use, as well as to reveal a more sophisticated understanding of the yeast genome.

The team focused on yeast in part because of its important modern-day applications; yeasts are used to convert the sugars of biomass feedstocks into biofuels such as ethanol and industrial chemicals such as lactic acid, or to break down organic pollutants. Because yeast and other fungi, like humans, are eukaryotes, organisms with a compartmentalized cellular structure and complex mechanisms for control of their gene activity, study of yeast genome function is also a key component of biomedical research.

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Gevo signs definitive supply agreement with HCS Holding for commercial supply of renewable isooctane

May 04, 2017

Gevo, Inc. has entered into a definitive supply agreement with HCS Holding GmbH (HCS) to supply renewable isooctane (earlier post) under a five-year offtake agreement. HCS is a leading global supplier of high-quality hydrocarbon specialty products. Haltermann Carless, a subsidiary of HCS and one of the oldest companies in the world of chemistry, is expected to be the direct customer with Gevo under the agreement.

he agreement is consistent with the Letter of Intent with HCS that Gevo announced earlier this year. The Supply Agreement has two phases:

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China team develops efficient multifunctional catalyst for conversion of CO2 to gasoline-range hydrocarbons

May 02, 2017

A research team led by Dr. Jian Sun and Prof. Qingjie Ge at the Dalian Institute of Chemical Physics in China has developed an efficient, stable, and multifunctional Na-Fe3O4/HZSM-5 catalyst for the direct production of gasoline-range hydrocarbons from CO2 hydrogenation. This catalyst exhibited 78% selectivity to C5-C11 as well as low (4%) CH4 at a CO2 conversion of 22% under industrial relevant conditions.

The gasoline fractions are mainly isoparaffins and aromatics, thus favoring the octane number. Moreover, the multifunctional catalyst exhibited a remarkable stability for 1,000 h on stream, showing potential to be a promising industrial catalyst for CO2 conversion to liquid fuels. An open-access paper on their work is published in the journal Nature Communications.

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ASTM releases new high-octane fuel standard D8067-17 to support development of more efficient engines

April 26, 2017

ASTM International recently announced the release of a new high-octane fuel standard that is expected to impact the development of gasoline products compatible with vehicles that feature high-performance fuel-efficient engines. Formation and approval of the standard was led by Dr. Robert L. McCormick, an the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) transportation research engineer.

The new standard—“Specification for 100 Research Octane Number Test Fuel for Automotive Spark-Ignition Engines” (D8067-17)—covers the requirements of a high octane number fuel suitable for spark-ignition engines to be utilized in ground vehicles that will require 100 research octane number (RON) minimum rated fuel.

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Sugar-derived levulinic esters and cyclic ether show superior anti-knock quality to Euro95 reference gasoline

April 24, 2017

A team from The Netherlands and the US reports that the sugar-derived levulinic esters methyl levulinate (ML) and ethyl levulinate (EL) and the sugar-derived cyclic ether (furfuryl ethyl ether (FEE) demonstrate superior anti-knock quality (in 10% blends) to a reference Euro95 gasoline.

The sugar-derived ethyl tetrahydrofurfuryl ether (ETE), another cyclic ether, conversely, performed markedly worse than the reference fuel on both setups. ETE this may be a more appropriate fuel additive for compression ignition engines, the authors suggest in an open-access paper published in the journal Fuel.

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CSIRO licenses technology to Amfora for production of oil in leaves and stems of plants; participates in Series A

April 17, 2017

US-based biotech startup Amfora and CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, the federal government agency for scientific research in Australia) signed an agreement to advance development and commercialization of technology to produce oil in the leaves and stems of plants as well as the seeds.

Innovation Leader with CSIRO Agriculture and Food, Allan Green, said that this was the first of many applications of the technology, which can be used to produce energy-rich feed for livestock as well as for human food, biofuels and industrial uses.

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Bio- and jet-fuel carinata feedstock company Agrisoma closes $15.4M Series B financing

April 16, 2017

Agrisoma Biosciences, an agricultural company that has commercialized carinata, a non-food oilseed crop designed for sustainable production of biofuels, has closed a $15.4-million Series B financing round, co-led by new investor Groupe Lune Rouge and current investors Cycle Capital Management, and BDC Venture Capital. This Series B round is used to support the global expansion of Agrisoma’s business.

Like other oilseed crops, such as canola, soybean and corn, carinata oil is extracted when the harvested seed is crushed. Unlike those crops, carinata is not meant for human food consumption; the oil it produces is intended for industrial use, mainly in the production of bio- and jet-fuels.

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OSU team developing Gas and Biomass to Liquids (GBTL) technology for production of liquid hydrocarbons

April 12, 2017

Researchers at Oklahoma State University are developing a novel natural Gas and Biomass to Liquids (GBTL) technology that will synergistically use biomass (e.g. switchgrass and eastern red cedar) and methane to produce liquid hydrocarbons that are compatible with existing infrastructure.

The work is led by Dr. Ajay Kumar in collaboration with Dr. Allen Apblett. The team uses a synergistic reaction system consisting of activation of methane and deoxygenation of pyrolysis-derived volatiles with metal-loaded HZSM-5 catalysts.

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EIA STEO projects higher US crude production, increases in travel and gasoline demand

April 11, 2017

In its latest Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO), the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) projects that US crude oil production, which averaged an estimated 8.9 million barrels per day (b/d) in 2016, will average 9.2 million b/d in 2017 and 9.9 million b/d in 2018. That level is higher than originally forecast, exceeding the previous record level of 9.6 million barrels per day reached in 1970, said EIA Acting Administrator Howard Gruenspecht.

For summer 2017, EIA forecasts motor gasoline consumption to average 9.5 million barrels per day (b/d), up about 20,000 b/d (0.3%) compared with last summer, which was a record high. Highway travel is forecast to be 1.4% higher than the level last summer. The effect of the increase in highway travel is expected to be partially offset by a 1.2% increase in fleet-wide vehicle fuel efficiency.

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Elemental boron effective photothermocatalyst for the conversion of CO2 for fuels and chemicals

Researchers in Japan and China developed an efficient method for CO2 reduction over elemental boron catalysts in the presence of only water and light irradiation through a photothermocatalytic process. This could form the basis of a new, more efficient process for converting the greenhouse gas CO2 into a useful carbon source for the production of fuels and chemical products.

The “self-heating” boron catalyst makes particularly efficient use of sunlight to reduce CO2, serving as a light harvester, photothermal converter, hydrogen generator, and catalyst in one. A paper on their work is published in the journal Angewandte Chemie.

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Renewable plastic precursor could reduce cost of cellulosic ethanol by >$2/gallon

April 10, 2017

A team of chemical and biological engineers at the University of Wisconsin–Madison has developed a new chemical pathway a way to produce from biomass a valuable compound—1,5-pentanediol, a plastic precursor primarily used to make polyurethanes and polyester plastics—that they estimate could lower the cost of cellulosic ethanol by more than two dollars per gallon.

The highly efficient approach devised by Professor George Huber and collaborators is much cheaper than a previously reported method—direct hydrogenolysis of tetrahydrofurfuryl alcohol (THFA)—and represents the first economically viable way of producing 1,5-pentanediol from biomass. A paper on their work is published in the journal ChemSusChem.

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ICCT: alternative jet fuels unlikely to deliver the bulk of GHG emission reductions needed by aviation

A new study by a team at the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) has concluded that the large-scale deployment of alternative jet fuels (AJFs) and the ability of the aviation sector to mitigate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions through their use will be capped by a number of factors: the sustainability and availability of feedstock; the production cost; and the extent to which those fuels will be commercialized.

Based on the study, the ICCT team suggests that while the use of AJFs can deliver some GHG savings, it is unlikely that AJF alone can meet the bulk of the GHG reductions projected to be needed. The authors recommended that ICAO stipulate a GHG reduction threshold in order for a given AJF to qualify under CORSIA (Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation), and to include indirect emissions in its life-cycle accounting.

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Saab Gripen fighter completes first test flights with 100% biofuel; CHCJ-5

April 06, 2017

A Saab Gripen fighter has for the first time undergone a series of test flights with 100% biofuel. This demonstrates that the aircraft can be flown entirely with an alternative fuel and gives valuable knowledge for future possible use of alternative fuel.

The tested fuel—Catalytic Hydrothermal Conversion Jet fuel (CHCJ-5)—was made from rapeseed oil. CHC fuels—which are also being evaluated by the US Navy for inclusion in the JP-5 spec (earlier post)—use a catalytic hydrothermolysis process that chemically converts renewable feedstocks such as triglycerides, plant oils, and fatty acids into a mixture of paraffins, cycloparaffins, aromatics, olefins, and organic acids. The resulting mixture is then hydroprocessed and fractionated to produce a kerosene (or diesel) product having a distillation profile comparable to traditional petroleum derived fuels.

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Ghent researchers develop new process to convert grass to drop-in hydrocarbon decane

April 04, 2017

Researchers at Ghent University have developed a process that turns grass into the hydrocarbon decane via a lactic acid intermediate. The process was the basis for the doctoral dissertation of Way Cern Khor.

To improve the biodegradability of grass, pretreatments such as extrusion and calcium hydroxide pretreatment were performed; efficiencies were tested through biogas production. Next, a fermentation process using mixed microbial populations was carried out to produce higher value products such as lactic acid.

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GM, Ford R&D execs stress importance of improved, advanced fuels for future engine efficiency gains, GHG goals

April 03, 2017

In separate presentations at the 2017 SAE High Efficiency IC Engine Symposium in Detroit, R&D executives from GM and Ford each stressed the importance of improved, advanced fuels—among other technology developments—for their future engine efficiency gains and for long-term CO2 emissions goals.

David Brooks, Director for General Motors Global Propulsion Systems R&D located in Pontiac, gave a more medium-term perspective, emphasizing a pragmatic approach toward reducing CO2 with an eye to 2025. Meeting regulatory targets while keeping vehicles affordable will require the synergistic integration of fuels and engine technologies, he noted.

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DOE BETO report provides overview of current state of alternative aviation fuels; overcoming technical and commercial barriers

March 29, 2017

The US Department of Energy’s Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) has published a report titled Alternative Aviation Fuels: Overview of Challenges, Opportunities, and Next Steps. The report provides an overview of the current state of alternative aviation fuels, as reported in findings by recent working groups, and also presents findings from the Alternative Aviation Fuel Workshop hosted by BETO in September 2016.

Unlike other liquid fuels (e.g., diesel or gasoline) with developed alternatives (such as electrical power), alternatives to current aviation jet fuels are at the early stages of development. In the near term, the most promising option is bio-derived aviation fuel. Bio-based jet fuels also present a tremendous opportunity to transition away from fossil fuels towards domestically produced aviation biofuel that would further reduce US reliance on foreign oil and create jobs, BETO notes.

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Aachen team develops framework for model-based formulation of biofuel blends with tailored properties

March 28, 2017

A team at RWTH Aachen University has developed a framework for the model-based formulation of biofuel blends with tailored properties by considering the fuel’s molecular composition as the fundamental design degree of freedom. A paper on their work is published in the ACS journal Energy & Fuels.

The researchers envision that the model-based approach can (i) guide fundamental experimental investigations of the combustion behavior of blended biofuels toward the most favorable mixtures and (ii) identify promising conversion pathways for further elaboration by means of reaction engineering and conceptual process design. The latter is ultimately needed to bridge the gap from a mass- and energy-based molecular level analysis to a process level analysis addressing the economics of the involved conversion and separation steps.

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California ARB moves forward with climate and air quality actions

March 24, 2017

On the first day of a two-day board meeting—the second day of which (Friday 24 March) will consider the Advanced Clean Cars Midterm Review—the California Air Resources Board (ARB) took a number of climate and air quality actions. CARB approved the State Strategy for the State Implementation Plan (State SIP Strategy), which describes CARB’s commitment for further reducing vehicle emissions needed to meet federal air quality standards over the next 15 years. The Board also approved the South Coast Air Quality Management District’s comprehensive air quality plan.

CARB also adopted a new plan to curb destructive “super pollutants” including black carbon, fluorinated gases and methane. The plan, California’s Short-lived Climate Pollutant Reduction Strategy, maps out the route to more rapid greenhouse gas reductions by clamping down on these super pollutants.

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Diamond Green Diesel to boost renewable diesel capacity 80% to 18,000 bpd; Honeywell UOP Ecofining technology

March 17, 2017

Honeywell announced that the Diamond Green Diesel facility in Norco, La., will expand its annual production capacity of renewable diesel from up to 10,000 barrels per day (about 130 million gallons per year) to 18,000 bpd, using Honeywell UOP’s Ecofining process technology (earlier post). Diamond Green Diesel, which is owned by Valero Energy Corp. and Darling Ingredients Inc., is the largest commercial advanced biofuel facility in the United States. The company plans to complete the expansion in the second quarter of 2018.

The Diamond Green Diesel facility converts inedible oils and other waste feedstocks to produce Honeywell Green Diesel, a high-quality renewable fuel. Renewable diesel produced using the Ecofining process is chemically identical to petroleum-based diesel; it can be blended in any proportion with EN590 or ASTM 975 diesel. It also features up to an 80% lifecycle reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared with diesel from petroleum.

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California ARB staff considering including alternative jet fuel in Low Carbon Fuel Standard

The staff of the California Air Resources Board (ARB) staff is considering including alternative jet fuel (AJF) in the Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS). ARB staff is hosting a public working meeting today to consider the matter.

In 2009, the ARB approved the LCFS regulation to reduce the carbon intensity (CI) of transportation fuel used in California by at least 10% by 2020 from a 2010 baseline. In 2015, the Board re-adopted the LCFS to address procedural issues, which began implementation on 1 January 2016. The LCFS sets annual carbon intensity standards—which reduce over time—for gasoline, diesel, and the fuels that replace them.

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Greyrock, Tsinhua U, DRI to assess potential of synthetic diesel to improve air quality in China

Greyrock Energy, a developer of a gas-to-liquids (GTL) process that produces synthetic diesel, will participate with Tsinghua University of Beijing, China and the Desert Research Institute (DRI) of Reno, Nevada to quantify the positive impact on air quality from the use of synthetic diesel fuels as compared with petroleum derived diesel fuels. Beijing was chosen as the initial focus of this study given the concerns abount air quality.

Greyrock’s GTL process produces synthetic diesel fuels that meet or exceed diesel fuel specifications established by ASTM D975. The improved characteristics of the Greyrock synthetic diesel over petroleum based alternatives include higher cetane, virtually no sulfur or aromatics, and excellent lubricity.

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NASA-led study finds 50 vol% biofuel blend reduces soot particle emissions during aircraft cruising; reduced climatic impact of contrails

March 16, 2017

A 50:50 by volume blend of conventional Jet A aviation fuel and an aviation biofuel made from Camelina reduces soot particle number and mass emissions from the aircraft by 50 to 70% compared to conventional fuel, YYYY according to a new study published in the scientific journal Nature. The findings are based on an international flight experiment between NASA, the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) and the National Research Council (NRC) of Canada.

The results provide important information on how the use of biofuels in aviation can contribute to making air transport more environmentally friendly—not only by reducing emissions in the vicinity of airports, but also at cruise conditions.

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California ARB releases four new LCFS pathways for renewable diesel; 20.28 - 53.86 gCO2e/MJ

March 13, 2017

The California Air Resources Board (ARB) Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) staff has released for public comment four new Tier 2 renewable diesel (RD) pathways using soy oil, used cooking oil, tallow, and corn oil at the Diamond Green facility in St. Charles, Louisiana.

Diamond Green Diesel (DGD) uses the UOP Ecofining Process to produce RD from Used Cooking Oil (UCO), tallow, corn oil, and soybean oil. The Ecofining Process hydrogenates triglycerides and free fatty acid feedstocks which are then isomerized to create a high-quality hydrocarbon fuel. DGD has integrated operations with an adjacent oil refinery (Valero) to reduce the energy consumption and maximize the use of co-products and surplus energy.

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Chalmers team engineers synthetic enzymes for bio-production of fuel alternatives

March 09, 2017

Researchers at Chalmers University and their colleagues have engineered synthetic fatty acid synthases (FASs) that enable yeast to produce short/medium-chain fatty acids and methyl ketones for use in fuels and chemicals. A paper on their work is published in the journal Nature Chemical Biology.

FASs normally synthesize long chain fatty acids, but the Chalmers team developed a new method to modify FAS by inserting heterologous enzymes into the FAS reaction compartments to synthesize the medium-chain fatty acids and methyl ketones—components in currently used transportation fuels, said Zhiwei Zhu, post-doc and first author of the study. “In other words: We are now able to produce petrol and jet fuel alternatives in yeast cell factories,” he said.

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CalTech, Berkeley Lab team uses new high-throughput method to identify promising photoanodes for solar fuels

March 07, 2017

Using high-throughput ab initio theory in conjunction with experiments in an integrated workflow, researchers at Caltech and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have identified eight low-band-gap ternary vanadate oxide photoanodes which have potential for generating chemical fuels from sunlight, water and CO2. A report on their methodology and the new materials is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Researchers globally are exploring a range of target solar fuels fuels, from hydrogen gas to liquid hydrocarbons; producing any of these fuels involves splitting water. Each water molecule consists of an oxygen atom and two hydrogen atoms. The hydrogen atoms are extracted, and then can be reunited to create highly flammable hydrogen gas or combined with CO2 to create hydrocarbon fuels, creating a plentiful and renewable energy source.

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Texas A&M team developing photocatalyst to turn CO2 into renewable hydrocarbon fuels

March 06, 2017

Researchers with the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Texas A&M University, led by Dr. Ying Li, associate professor of mechanical engineering, are developing a photocatalyst to convert CO2 into renewable hydrocarbon fuels. The photocatalyst material acts as a semiconductor, absorbing the sunlight which excites the electrons in the semiconductor and gives them the electric potential to reduce water and CO2 into carbon monoxide and hydrogen, which together can be converted to liquid hydrocarbon fuels, said Li.

The first step of the process involves capturing CO2 from emissions sources. The material, which is a hybrid of titanium oxide and magnesium oxide, uses the magnesium oxide to absorb the CO2 and the titanium oxide to act as the photocatalyst.

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Yale, Penn State team receives $1.2M Co-Optima award to investigate sooting behavior of biofuels

March 04, 2017

Penn State Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering Yuan Xuan and researchers at Yale University will work together to identify clean-burning biofuels for next-generation internal combustion engines under to a $1.2 million award from the Energy Department’s Co-Optimization of Fuels and Engines Initiative (Co-Optima). (Earlier post.)

Co-Optima has two goals: to bring new engines and fuels to market within a decade and to demonstrate new combustion technologies by 2030 with the potential for a 30% reduction in petroleum consumption beyond what is already targeted and a 14% reduction in greenhouse gas emission nationwide.

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Study finds black carbon pollution directly affects bacteria; altering effectiveness of antibiotics, increasing the potential for infection

March 03, 2017

Researchers from the University of Leicester (UK) have shown for the first time that black carbon, a major component of air pollution, directly affects bacteria that cause respiratory infections—Streptococcus pneumoniae and Staphylococcus aureus—thereby increasing the potential for infection and changing the effectiveness of antibiotic treatment. S. pneumoniae is the leading bacterial cause of pneumonia, and S. aureus is a significant cause of respiratory and skin and tissue disease.

The interdisciplinary study, published in the journal Environmental Microbiology, has important implications for the treatment of infectious diseases, which are known to be increased in areas with high levels of air pollution. The study looked into how air pollution—specifically black carbon—affects the bacteria living in the respiratory tract—the nose, throat and lungs. Black carbon, a major component of particulate matter, is produced through the burning of fossil fuels such as diesel, biofuels, and biomass.

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

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

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

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Eaton introduces eVaptive electronic fuel tank venting system; reduced cost, complexity

March 02, 2017

Power management company Eaton introduced its new eVaptive electronically controlled fuel tank vapor venting system that can be optimized for any vehicle platform, eliminating the need for automakers to design unique venting systems for different vehicles.

The eVaptive system uses software to control the transmission of fuel vapors to a charcoal canister while keeping liquid fuel confined to the fuel tank. For any given fuel tank application, the system can be optimized for all driving situations as well as stationary and refueling modes. The hardware is a “one-size-fits-all” unit that can be programmed to fit any vehicle platform.

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BP acquiring upstream portion of Clean Energy’s renewable gas business for $155M

March 01, 2017

BP will acquire the upstream portion of Clean Energy’s renewable natural gas business and sign a long-term supply contract with Clean Energy to support the firm’s continuing downstream renewable natural gas business. The deal enables both companies to accelerate the growth in renewable natural gas supply and meet the growing demand of the natural gas vehicle fuel market.

Renewable natural gas (RNG) fuel—biomethane—is produced entirely from organic waste. As a fuel for natural gas vehicle fleets, including heavy-duty trucks, it is estimated to result in 70% lower greenhouse gas emissions than from equivalent gasoline- or diesel-fueled vehicles.

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New KOSi method for ultra-deep desulfurization of fuels to ~ 2ppm S

February 28, 2017

Scientists led by a team at Caltech and BP, and in collaboration with researchers at UCLA, ETH Zürich, and China’s Nanjing University, have developed a new method for potentially removing nearly all sulfur compounds (down to ~2 ppm) from gas and diesel fuel. The method uses Earth-abundant materials (potassium (K), oxygen (O), and silicon (Si)—hence its name, “KOSi”) and operates under mild conditions.

Sulfur compounds in fuels such as gasoline and diesel create air pollution when the fuel is burned. To address that challenge, large-scale hydrodesulfurization (HDS) at refineries remove the majority of sulfur from fuel down to a government-mandated level. The new technique, however, has the potential to reduce sulfur down to a fraction of that amount, which would further reduce air pollution and extend the lifetime of vehicles’ catalytic converters, which control tailpipe emissions. A paper on their work is published in the journal Nature Energy.

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Light over heat: UV-driven rhodium nanoparticles catalyze conversion of CO2 to methane

February 27, 2017

Duke University researchers have engineered rhodium nanoparticles that can harness the energy in ultraviolet light and use it to catalyze the conversion of carbon dioxide to methane, a key building block for many types of fuels. An open-access paper on the work is published in Nature Communications.

Industrial-scale catalysis for fuels and materials generally relies upon heated catalysts for heterogeneous catalytic reactions with large activation energies. Such catalytic processes demand high energy inputs, shorten catalyst lifetimes through sintering deterioration and require product selectivity to mitigate unfavorable side reactions. Researchers have recently discovered that plasmonic metal nanoparticles are photocatalytically active, and that product selectivity may be achieved by tuning photon and LSPR (localized surface plasmon resonances) energies.

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