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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.]

Lifecycle analysis of Amyris renewable jet from sugar cane finds “substantial potential” to mitigate GHG emissions, but a wide range of potential outcomes

November 25, 2014

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Monte Carlo results for the net life cycle emissions of the renewable jet fuel from sugar cane. Credit: ACS, Moreira et al.. Click to enlarge.

Brazilian researchers evaluating the lifecycle GHG emissions of a renewable jet fuel produced from sugar cane in Brazil using Amyris’ proprietary technology platform (earlier post) found that the farnesane-based renewable fuel presents “a substantial potential” to mitigate the GHG emissions of the aviation sector. Their paper is published in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology.

In their base case, the researchers calculated a “rather optimistic” GHG footprint of 8.5g CO2eq/MJ; lifecycle emissions of fossil jet fuel usually lie within the 80−95g CO2eq/MJ range. However, they noted, the estimation is highly uncertain, with a number of factors—especially related to electricity exports, sugar cane farming itself, and agrochemicals production and use—significantly affect the outcome. The results of the Monte Carlo analysis indicate life cycle emissions of 21 ± 11 g CO2eq/MJ (mean ± SD), with substantial influence from the LUC factor.

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DOE Bioenergy Technologies Office updates 5-year program plan; commercially viable hydrocarbon biofuel technologies by 2017; <$3/GGE

November 23, 2014

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BETO high-level schedule. Click to enlarge.

The US Department of Energy (DOE) Bioenergy Technologies Office (BTO) has updated its Multi-Year Program Plan (MYPP), which delineates the goals and structure of the office. BTO is one of the 10 technology development offices within the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) at DOE.

The MYPP identifies the research, development, demonstration, and deployment (RDD&D) activities the Office will focus on over the next five years and explains why these activities are important. The MYPP is intended for use as an operational guide to help BETO manage and coordinate its activities, as well as a resource to help communicate its mission and goals to stakeholders and the public.

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EPA delays issuing 2014 RVO standards for RFS until sometime in 2015

November 21, 2014

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will not finalize the 2014 applicable percentage standards (the 2014 Renewable Volume Obligations, RVOs) under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program until sometime next year. In a notice to be published in the Federal Register, the agency said that it intends to take action on the 2014 standards rule in 2015 prior to or in conjunction with action on the 2015 standards rule.

Because of the delay in issuing the 2014 RFS standards, EPA is moving the compliance demonstration deadline for the 2013 RFS standards to 2015. EPA will make modifications to the Moderated Transaction System (EMTS) to ensure that Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs) generated in 2012 are valid for demonstrating compliance with the 2013 applicable standards.

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DOE to fund development of processes to aggregate purchases of alt-fuel and advanced vehicles; goal is cost reduction and accelerated adoption

DOE plans (DE-FOA-0001236) to issue in the February 2015 timeframe a funding opportunity (DE-FOA-0001237) to develop and to implement effective purchasing/procurement processes designed to coordinate and consolidate bulk alternative fuel vehicle and advanced vehicle orders and thus reduce the per-unit prices of commercially-available vehicles.

DOE expects that such an aggregated purchasing/procurement process will enable original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and suppliers to increase production volumes; achieve economies of scale; and reduce incremental vehicle costs specific to electric drive, natural gas, propane, hybrid, and other alternative fuel vehicle and advanced vehicle technologies.

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Purdue team demonstrates proof-of-concept of H2Bioil process; liquid fuel range hydrocarbons from biomass

November 17, 2014

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H2Bioil concept. Venkatakrishnan et al. Click to enlarge.

Researchers at Purdue University report a proof-of-concept of a their novel consecutive two-step process (H2Bioil) for the production of liquid fuel range hydrocarbons (C4+) with undetectable oxygen content from cellulose and an intact biomass (poplar). (Earlier post.)

Purdue University filed a patent application on the H2Bioil concept, which is based on fast-hydropyrolysis and downstream vapor-phase catalytic hydrodeoxygenation (HDO), in 2008. The process adds hydrogen into the biomass-processing reactor and is made possible by development of a new catalyst and the innovative reactor design. Findings are described in a research paper published online in the RSC journal Green Chemistry.

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Audi in new e-fuels project: synthetic diesel from water, air-captured CO2 and green electricity; “Blue Crude”

November 14, 2014

Audi is active in the development of CO2-neutral, synthetic fuels; the company already has projects underway with Joule in the US for the development and testing of synthetic ethanol and synthetic diesel (earlier post); has an e-gas project underway in Werlte, Germany (earlier post); and has a new partnership with Global Bioenergies on bio-isooctane (bio-gasoline) (earlier post).

Audi’s latest e-fuels project is participation in a a pilot plant project in Dresden that produces diesel fuel from water, CO2 and green electricity. Audi and project partners including Climeworks and sunfire (earlier post) opened the plant today. The project combines two innovative technologies in this project, which is funded in part by the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research and was preceded by a two-year research and preparation phase: direct capture of CO2 from ambient air and a power‑to‑liquid process for the production of synthetic fuel. Audi is the exclusive partner in the automotive industry.

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Ecofys report concludes current European regulations underestimating GHG reductions

November 13, 2014

Substituting biofuels for marginal fossil-based liquid fuels results in the avoidance of significant GHG emissions that are not currently accounted for in the European Renewable Energy Directive (2009/28/EC), according to a new analysis by the consultancy Ecofys. The study was commissioned by the European Oilseed Alliance (EOA), the European Biodiesel Board (EBB) and the European Vegetable Oil and Proteinmeal Industry (FEDIOL).

The European RED and the Fuel Quality Directive (2009/30/EC) both assess the GHG benefits of biofuels by comparing the lifecycle emissions of biofuels to a “fossil comparator”. However, the Ecofys authors note, the current comparator does not reflect the increasing emissions of fossil fuels that are becoming more difficult to extract. In addition, they argue, biofuels should not just be compared to the average performance of gasoline or diesel but with the fossil fuels they most likely replace—i.e. those that are marginally “not produced”.

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Researchers in China produce highest octane gasoline fuel reported from biomass

November 11, 2014

Researchers in China have generated gasoline fuel with a research octane number of 95.4 from biomass-derived γ-valerolactone (GVL)—the highest octane number reported for biomass-derived gasoline fuel—using an ionic liquid catalyst. A paper on their work is published in the RSC journal Green Chemistry.

In the study, they converted biomass-derived γ-valerolactone into gasoline by the decarboxylation of valerolactone to produce butenes and the subsequent alkylation of the produced butenes with butane using [CF3CH2OH2][CF3CH2OBF3] as an efficient catalyst. The obtained gasoline was rich in trimethylpentane (isooctane), with the RON of 95.4.

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Ensyn begins generation & sale of cellulosic biofuel RINs under RFS2

November 09, 2014

Ensyn has initiated the generation and sale of its first RINs (Renewable Identification Numbers) under the US Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS2) (earlier post); Ensyn’s D7 cellulosic RINs have received QAP certification. Ensyn is the first company to generate cellulosic RINs under the US Environmental Protection Agency’s expanded definition of Heating Oil under RFS2, which became effective in December 2013. Ensyn believes it is now the leading producer of cellulosic D7 RINs in 2014.

D7 RINs are generated by Ensyn by displacing petroleum heating fuels (including #6, #4 or #2 diesel fuel oil) in customers’ boilers with Ensyn’s RFO (Renewable Fuel Oil) produced via Ensyn’s RTP (Rapid Thermal Processing) fast pyrolysis technology. (Earlier post.) RFO is a cellulosic biofuel produced from non-food solid biomass including forest residues. RFO is used to displace petroleum fuels in heating operations and is also a renewable feedstock for conventional petroleum refineries for the production of gasoline and diesel.

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Researchers develop JP-8 enzymatic biofuel cell; electricity from alkanes under mild conditions

November 05, 2014

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Representative schematic of hardware employed for testing of a complete biofuel cell. Credit: ACS, Ulyanova et al. Click to enlarge.

A team from the University of Utah and CFD Research Corporation (CFDRC) reports the first bioelectrocatalysis of alkanes to produce electricity. In an paper published in the journal ACS Catalysis, they describe the use of a two-enzyme cascade in an enzymatic biofuel cell to oxidize hexane, octane and then JP-8, a jet fuel (C6-C16) comprising a mixture of alkanes.

An enzymatic biofuel cell contains many of the same components as a hydrogen/oxygen fuel cell—i.e., anode, cathode, and separator. However, instead of metallic electrocatalysts at the anode and the cathode, the enzymatic biofuel cell uses enzymes as the catalysts. The enzyme cascade reported in this new work is efficient, sulfur-tolerant, and produces power densities up to 3 mW/cm2 in a JP-8 enzymatic biofuel cell at room temperature without preprocessing of the fuel—as opposed to traditional metal catalysts which require fuel pre-processing. This output is comparable to high power density sugar and alcohol biofuel cells, the researchers said.

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Neste Oil seeking California LCFS approval for gutter oil to renewable diesel pathway

October 26, 2014

Among four new California Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) fuel pathway applications is a used cooking oil (gutter oil) to renewable diesel (NExBTL) pathway from Neste Oil at its Singapore plant. (Boeing and COMAC are opening a demonstration facility in China to convert gutter oil to renewable aviation fuel. Earlier post.)

Neste Oil Singapore Pte Ltd. produces approximately 250 million gallons annually of drop-in renewable diesel (RD)—i.e., not biodiesel—using a hydrogenation process and multiple oil and fat feedstocks. Neste has also filed applications for renewable diesel pathways for California (all from its Singapore plant) using Southeast Asian rendered fish oil (earlier post); New Zealand tallow (earlier post); North American tallow (earlier post), and Australian tallow (earlier post). Of the five RD pathways proposed so far, the gutter oil pathway has the lowest carbon intensity.

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EPA researchers find widespread use of nano cerium diesel fuel additives could have measurable impact on air quality

October 21, 2014

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Predicted surface-level concentrations of cerium due to use of nCe diesel fuel additives. Credit: ACS, Erdakos et al. Click to enlarge.

Results of a modeling study by researchers from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) suggest that widespread use of nanoparticulate cerium (nCe) diesel fuel additives across the US would have a measurable effect on regional air quality.

The model calculations suggest modest decreases of average PM2.5 concentrations and relatively larger decreases in particulate elemental carbon (EC). On average, across the 14-day winter and summer periods modeled, the percent change in EC exceeds that of PM2.5 by a factor of 5 in urban areas. As EC is a short-lived climate forcer, the reduction in EC concentrations has potential policy implications.

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New WSU palladium-iron catalyst could improve drop-in biofuels production from pyrolysis oils

October 17, 2014

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The addition of palladium (Pd) prevents deactivation (addition of oxygen, red spheres) of an iron catalyst in the reaction that removes oxygen from biofuel feedstock. Credit: ACS, Hensley et al.. Click to enlarge.

Washington State University researchers have developed a new palladium-iron hydrodeoxygenation catalyst (Pd/Fe2O3) that could lead to making drop-in biofuels cheaply and more efficiently. Their work is described in two papers in the October issue of the journal ACS Catalysis and is featured on the cover.

The first WSU paper (Hong et.al) describes the synthesis of a series of Pd/Fe2O3 catalysts and their performance for the hydrodeoxygenation of m-cresol—a phenolic compounds used as a model compound in the HDO research, as it can be derived from pyrolysis of lignin. The second (Hensley et al.) reports on a combined experimental and theoretical approach to understand the potential function of the surface Pd in the reduction of Pd/Fe2O3.

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Solazyme and Amyris receive Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge awards

October 16, 2014

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced the 5 winners of the 2014 Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Awards, including biotechnology companies Amyris and Solazyme, Inc. Solazyme received the award for Greener Synthetic Pathways for its tailored oils produced from microalgal fermentation. Amyris received the Small Business award for its renewable hydrocarbon farnesane for use as diesel and jet fuel.

Amyris has engineered yeast to make the hydrocarbon farnesene via fermentation instead of ethanol. Farnesene is a building block hydrocarbon that can be converted into a renewable, drop-in replacement for petroleum diesel without certain drawbacks of first-generation biofuels. A recent lifecycle analysis estimated an 82% reduction in GHG emissions for farnesane, compared with the EPA baseline fossil diesel—including indirect effects.

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New one-pot catalytic process efficiently converts biomass to liquid alkanes under mild conditions

October 13, 2014

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Conversion of microcrystalline cellulose to liquid alkanes with the biphasic system in function of time and temperature. Yield insoluble products (%) = cellulose conversion (%) - total yield dissolved products (%). de Beeck et al. Click to enlarge.

A team from KU Leuven, Belgium, together with colleagues at the Leibniz Institute for Solid State and Materials Research in Germany, have designed a novel one-pot biphasic catalytic system that is able directly to transform cellulose into straight-chain alkanes (mainly n-hexane) with high yields.

The carbon-based yields are high (up to 82%) and the process completes in less than 6 hours at a comparatively mild 220 ˚C. The resulting bio-derived light naphtha fraction is a green feedstock suited for existing processes that produce aromatics, gasoline or olefins. With low-cost cellulosic residue and the absence of required pretreatment for this process, the researchers said, this approach seems highly promising en route to more sustainable chemicals and fuels. A paper on the work is published in the RSC journal Energy & Environmental Science.

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DOE awarding up to $13.4M for 5 projects for advanced biofuels and bioproducts

October 09, 2014

The US Department of Energy (DOE) will award up to $13.4 million for five projects to develop advanced biofuels and bioproducts that will help drive down the cost of producing gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel from biomass. These products not only will help reduce carbon emissions, but also advance the department’s work to enable the production of drop-in biofuel at $3 per gallon by 2022.

The research and development projects will focus on developing integrated processes for the production of advanced biofuels and chemicals. Two of these selections will address research efforts on the efficient conversion of biogas (a mixture of gases generated from the biological breakdown of organic material) to valuable products other than power.

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Stanford’s GCEP awards $10.5M for research on renewable energy; solar cells, batteries, renewable fuels and bioenergy

The Global Climate and Energy Project (GCEP) at Stanford University has awarded $10.5 million for seven research projects designed to advance a broad range of renewable energy technologies, including solar cells, batteries, renewable fuels and bioenergy. The seven awards bring the total number of GCEP-supported research programs to 117 since the project’s launch in 2002.

The new funding will be shared by six Stanford research teams and an international group from the United States and Europe. The following Stanford faculty members received funding for advanced research on photovoltaics, battery technologies and new catalysts for sustainable fuels:

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BNL team devises new method to boost oil accumulation in plant leaves; implications for biofuel production

October 08, 2014

Researchers at DOE’s Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL) have developed a new method to increase significantly the amount of oil accumulated in plant leaves, which could then serve as a source for biofuel production. Rather than adding genes, as some other research teams have done in their efforts to boost oil accumulation, the BNL method is based on is based on disabling or inactivating genes through simple mutations.

A series of detailed genetic studies revealed previously unknown biochemical details about plant metabolic pathways, including new ways to increase the accumulation of oil in leaves. Using these methods, the scientists grew experimental Arabidopsis plants (widely used as model organisms in plant biology), the leaves of which accumulated 9 wt % oil. This represented an approximately 150-fold increase in oil content compared to wild type leaves. A paper on their work is published in the journal The Plant Cell.

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Neste Oil de-emphasizing microbial oil R&D for renewable diesel; seeking other uses for cellulosic biomass

October 07, 2014

Neste Oil, the producer of NExBTL renewable diesel, is realigning its long-term R&D and switching from an emphasis on research into the production of microbial oil as a feedstock for NExBTL renewable diesel and renewable jet fuel (earlier post) to other areas of technology for using cellulosic forestry and agricultural waste, due in part to feedstock cost issues.

Despite the decision to de-emphasize microbial oil, Neste Oil emphasized that cellulosic waste will continue to play an important role in its research strategy, adding that it remains committed to its goal of further extending its feedstock base and making greater use of waste and residues in this area in particular.

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EPA finalizes GHG permit for $1B gas-to-gasoline plant in Texas; 8M barrels per year

October 03, 2014

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued a final greenhouse gas (GHG) Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) construction permit to Natgasoline LLC to construct a new motor-grade gasoline production facility in Texas that uses natural gas as feedstock (gas-to-gasoline, or GtG).

Natgasoline is a new wholly owned greenfield methanol production complex being developed by OCI N.V. The proposed new GtG facility will comprise two main process operations: a methanol plant with a capacity of almost 1.75 million metric tons of methanol per year, and the methanol-to-gasoline plant (MTG), which will produce more than 8 million barrels of gasoline per year. The methanol plant will use natural gas delivered by pipeline as feedstock; the MTG plant will primarily use methanol from the methanol unit, but can also process methanol from other manufacturers.

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Topsøe researchers analyze hydrotreating catalyst at single-atom level; potential for more efficient catalysts for cleaner fuels

September 30, 2014

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Cover courtesy of S. Nygaard, Haldor Topsøe A/S. Click to enlarge.

Researchers from Haldor Topsøe A/S have analyzed an industrial-style MoS2-based hydrotreating catalyst at the single-atom level using electron microscopy. With this method, the sites of single cobalt atoms, which are responsible for promoting sulfur removal from oil distillates, are resolved. The study is published in the journal Angewandte Chemie.

Co-Mo-S is the active part in Haldor Topsøe’s series of TK catalysts; the cobalt serves as a promoter of the functional properties of the transition metal dichalcogenide (TMD) MoS2. The researchers obtained images—achieved following decades of attempts—disclosing detailed knowledge about the structure of the catalyst. The research could mean more efficient catalysts for oil refineries in the near future, promoting a cleaner environment and helping industry to deal with increasingly tight and more stringent environmental legislation.

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Groundbreaking in Turkmenistan for major synthetic gasoline plant; first full-scale Haldor Topsøe TIGAS facility

September 27, 2014

In August, a groundbreaking ceremony was held in Ovadan-Depe near the capital of Ashgabad in Turkmenistan to launch the construction of a major plant focused on the conversion of natural gas into synthetic gasoline. The plant will be based on Haldor Topsøe’s TIGAS (Topsøe Improved Gasoline Synthesis) technology (earlier post) and will become the first full-scale large commercial facility using this technology.

The plant has been awarded by the national gas company Turkmengas, and Topsøe will be working alongside the Japanese contractor Kawasaki Heavy Industry Ltd. and the Turkish contractor Rönesans Turkmen to engineer and construct the facility. The plant will be become operational in approximately four years from now with a daily production capacity of 15,500 bbl of synthetic gasoline.

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BIO says EPA inaction on RFS rule causing an increase in GHG emissions

September 23, 2014

Increased greenhouse gas emissions equal to 4.4 million additional cars on US roads are likely as a result of EPA inaction on finalizing the 2014 Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) rules, according to a new white paper issued by The Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO). The white paper updates earlier BIO’s March 2014 study, “Estimating Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Proposed Changes to the Renewable Fuel Standard Through 2022.”

That study demonstrated that if EPA reduced biofuel use under the RFS, as the agency proposed in November 2013, the United States would experience an increase in greenhouse gas emissions and forego an achievable decrease in emissions.

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Departments of the Navy, Energy and Agriculture award $210M in contracts for 3 drop-in fuel biorefineries; more than 100M gallons/year

September 20, 2014

The US Departments of Navy, Energy, and Agriculture have awarded contracts worth a combined $210 million to three companies—Emerald Biofuels, Fulcrum BioEnergy and Red Rock Biofuels—to construct and commission biorefineries capable of producing drop-in biofuels. In total, these projects are intended to produce more than 100 million gallons of military-grade fuel beginning in 2016 and 2017 at a price competitive with their petroleum counterparts.

The awards were made through the Department of Defense’s (DOD) Defense Production Act (DPA) of 1950, which was passed at the beginning of the Korean War to empower the President, among other things, with an array of authorities to shape national defense preparedness programs and to take appropriate steps to maintain and enhance the domestic industrial base. DPA has been re-authorized multiple times since then.

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Study finds US refining sector could produce higher octane E20 and E30 at modest additional cost; enabling more efficient engines

September 18, 2014

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A new study concludes that using ethanol can be a cost-effective approach to increasing the octane rating of the US gasoline pool. Source: ACS, Hirshfeld et al. Click to enlarge.

A number of studies recently have pointed out that increasing the octane rating of the US gasoline pool (currently ∼93 Research Octane Number (RON)) would enable higher engine efficiency for light-duty vehicles through reducing engine knock constraints, thereby enabling the design of new spark-ignition engines with higher compression ratios and boost levels. (Earlier post.) Such a move would also have significant implications for refineries in the US refining sector, whether the higher octane was achieved via more severe refining operations, increased use of ethanol, or both.

A linear programming analysis of US refining sector by a team from MathPro Inc., Ford, GM and Chrysler has found that, by increasing the volume of ethanol, the refining sector could produce hydrocarbon blendstocks for oxygenate blending (BOBs) yielding finished E20 and E30 gasolines with higher octane ratings at modest additional refining cost (ARC): e.g., ∼1¢/gal for 95-RON E20 or 97-RON E30; 3–5¢/gal for 95-RON E10, 98-RON E20, or 100-RON E30; and 96-RON E10, 99-RON E20, or 101-RON E30 gasoline pools at approximately 10¢/gal.

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Facelifted Mercedes-Benz B-Class with diesel, gasoline, natural gas and electric drives debuting at Paris show

September 12, 2014

Mercedes-Benz has given its B-Class range—more than 350,000 of which have been sold worldwide since market launch in late 2011—a major facelift including exterior and interior enhancements along with redefined design and equipment lines. Sales of the new B-Class commenced on 12 September, with the world première taking place during the Paris Motor Show (4 to 19 October). The revamped models will be making their way to dealerships from 29 November 2014.

Buyers have a wide choice of powertrains: five diesel models with fuel ranging from 3.6 to 5.0 l/100 km (65.3 to 47 mpg US); four gasoline engines at between 5.4 and 6.6 l/100 km (43.6 and 35.6 mpg US); alternative drive systems (B 200 Natural Gas Drive and B-Class Electric Drive); as well as optional 4MATIC all-wheel drive. The sports tourer also features a Cd value of less than 0.25. Prices in Europe will start from €27,102.25 (around US$35,000) for the B 180.

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California Energy Commission awards $5M grant to AltAir Fuels to expand renewable diesel production; $3M to GFP Ethanol for sorghum feedstock

September 11, 2014

The California Energy Commission approved $8 million in grants to two biofuel companies stemming from a solicitation issued earlier this year (PON-13-609: Pilot-Scale and Commercial-Scale Advanced Biofuels Production Facilities).

AltAir Fuels LLC (earlier post) will receive $5 million to expand production of renewable diesel fuels at its Paramount facility in Los Angeles County from 30 million gallons per year to 40 million gallons per year, and allow for processing of additional feedstocks. This facility will also co-produce renewable jet at commercial scale and a byproduct chemical and gasoline component. GFP Ethanol is receiving $3 million to support the development of sorghum as a feedstock for lower carbon intensity ethanol.

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UK EPSRC awards almost $10M to two low-carbon vehicle technology projects; energy storage, engines and fuels

Two new low-carbon vehicle technology research projects will receive £6 million (US$9.7 million) funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), as part of the Research Councils UK (RCUK) Energy Programme. The two discrete projects—ELEVATE (ELEctrochemical Vehicle Advanced Technology) and Ultra Efficient Engines and Fuels—will involve academics from eight UK universities.

The announcement was made by UK Minister for Universities, Science and Cities, Greg Clark to coincide with the annual Low Carbon Vehicle Event - LCV Cenex 2014 at the Millbrook Proving Ground near Bedford.

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EIA projects world liquid fuels use to rise 38% by 2040, driven by growth in Asia and Middle East; transportation 92% of demand

September 10, 2014

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Liquid fuels production (OPEC crude and lease condensate, non-OPEC crude and lease condensate, and other) and consumption (by OECD and non-OECD regions) under three price cases in 2040. Dashed red line shows 2010 consumption of 87 MMbbl/d. Source: EIA. Click to enlarge.

World petroleum and other liquid fuels consumption will increase 38% by 2040, spurred by increased demand in the developing Asia and Middle East, according to the Reference Case projections in International Energy Outlook 2014 (IEO2014), released by the US Energy Information Administration (EIA). Those two regions combined will account for 85% of the total increase in liquid fuels used worldwide over that period, said EIA Administrator Adam Sieminski.

IEO2014 projections of future liquids balances include two broad categories: crude and lease condensate and other liquid fuels. Crude and lease condensate includes tight oil, shale oil, extra-heavy crude oil, field condensate, and bitumen (i.e., oil sands, either diluted or upgraded). Other liquids refer to natural gas plant liquids (NGPL), biofuels (including biomass-to-liquids [BTL]), gas-to-liquids (GTL), coal-to-liquids (CTL), kerogen (i.e., oil shale), and refinery gain.

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New clean one-pot process for high-yield production of biofuel GVL from biomass-derived levulinic acid

September 08, 2014

A team from Brown University and Lakehead University (Ontario, Canada) has devised a one-pot process for the clean and highly selective production of γ-valerolactone (GVL) from biomass-derived levulinic acid (LA) at up to 96.3% yield using a series of robust, stable and reusable Pd nanoparticles in water solvent. A paper on the work is published in the Journal of Cleaner Production.

GVL (C5H8O2) is a feedstock of interest in the production of both fuels and fine chemicals from biomass. With more energy than ethanol, GVL can be used on its own, used as an additive, or used as a precursor to other fuels. (Earlier post.) GVL could also be useful as a “green” solvent or a building block for creating renewable polymers from sustainable materials.

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Solar fuels company Joule looks to partner with Scatec Solar to bring photovoltaic power to Joule production plants

September 05, 2014

Joule, the developer of a direct, single-step, continuous process for the production of solar hydrocarbon fuels (earlier post), has entered into a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Scatec Solar ASA, a leading, independent solar power producer. In the MoU the parties have agreed to initiate a process to reach specific terms for a partnership, to support the roll-out of Joule production plants featuring photovoltaic power.

The terms of the MoU anticipate that Scatec Solar ASA will become preferred supplier and operator of photovoltaic power installations for Joule plants, with an initial deployment goal of up to 25,000 acres (~10,000 hectares) and a power requirement of 2 gigawatts. A deployment of this scale would generate up to 625 million gallons (~15 million barrels) of ethanol or 375 million gallons (~9 million barrels) of diesel per year, while consuming about 4 million tonnes of industrial waste CO2 annually in the process.

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USDA closes on $105M loan guarantee to Fulcrum for biorefinery converting municipal waste to renewable jet fuel; first USDA loan for biojet

September 04, 2014

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has closed on a $105-million Biorefinery Assistance Program loan guarantee through Bank of America, N.A. to Fulcrum Sierra Biofuels, LLC to build a biorefinery to produce jet fuel from municipal solid waste (MSW) via a proprietary two-stage thermochemical process. (Earlier post.)

USDA Rural Development’s loan guarantee represents less than half of the $266 million project cost. The plant is expected to produce 11 million gallons of fuel annually. This is the first loan guarantee USDA has made for the production of bio jet fuel.

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Researchers successfully engineer E. coli to produce renewable propane; proof-of-concept

September 03, 2014

Researchers from the University of Turku in Finland, Imperial College London and University College London have devised a synthetic metabolic pathway for producing renewable propane from engineered E. coli bacteria. Propane, which has an existing global market for applications including engine fuels and heating, is currently produced as a by-product during natural gas processing and petroleum refining. A paper on their work is published in Nature Communications.

The new pathway is based on a thioesterase specific for butyryl-acyl carrier protein (ACP), which allows native fatty acid biosynthesis of the Escherichia coli host to be redirected towards a synthetic alkane pathway. ​Although the initial yields were low, the team was able to identify and to add essential biochemical components in order to boost the biosynthesis reaction, enabling a the E. coli strain to increase propane yield, although the amounts are still far too low for commercialization.

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PNNL study uncovers role of water in forming impurity in bio-oil upgrading; insight into fundamentals of biofuel catalysis

August 21, 2014

In working to elucidate the chemistry of hydrodeoxygenation (HDO) for the catalytic upgrading of pyrolytic bio-oil to fuel-grade products, researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) have discovered that water in the conversion process helps form an impurity which, in turn, slows down key chemical reactions. Results of the study, which was reported in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, can help improve processes that produce biofuels from plants.

The study examines the conversion of bio-oil, produced from biomass such as wood chips or grasses, into transportation fuels. Researchers used density functional theory (DFT)-based ab initio molecular dynamics calculations to provide a detailed atomic-level understanding of how the hydrogenation reactions are influenced by the presence of water and also by the nature of the hydrogenating metal. The results of the study apply not only to water but to related liquids in bio-oil such as alcohols and certain acids.

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DOE to issue funding solicitation for algal biofuels and bioproducts; targeting <$5 gge by 2019

August 20, 2014

The US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) intends to issue, on behalf of the DOE Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO), a Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) (DE-FOA-0001162) entitled “Targeted Algal Biofuels and Bioproducts (TABB)”. The TABB FOA seeks to reduce the cost of algal biofuels.

BETO’s 2019 projected state of technology (SOT) for the cost of algal biofuels is modeled at about $8 per gallon gasoline gallon equivalent (gge) based on a lipid extraction pathway without valuable co-products. The TABB FOA will support work at bench and process development scales to develop valuable co-products, crop protection, and CO2 utilization strategies. BETO expects the TABB FOA to result in modeled mature algal biofuel costs of less than $5 gge by 2019.

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OCM company Siluria pulls in $30M in D round led by Saudi Aramco; methane to fuels and chemicals

Siluria Technologies, a pioneer in the commercialization of an oxidative coupling of methane (OCM) technology to produce ethylene from natural gas (earlier post), announced the initial close of its Series D financing round. The round was led by Saudi Aramco Energy Ventures (SAEV), the venture investment subsidiary of Saudi Aramco and included additional investments by all of the major existing investors in Siluria. The total raise for this initial close of the Series D financing was $30 million.

With this initial Series D financing, Siluria has raised just under $100 million since its inception. Siluria is currently in discussions with additional strategic and financial investors to complete a total Series D financing of approximately $50 million.

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JBEI researchers develop “bionic” liquids: ionic liquids derived from lignin and hemicelullose; towards closed-loop biorefineries

August 19, 2014

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Hypothetical process flow for a closed-loop biorefinery using ionic liquids derived from lignocellulosic biomass (“bionic liquids”) for biomass deconstruction. Socha et al. Click to enlarge.

Researchers at the US Department of Energy’s Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) have developed “bionic liquids”—ionic liquids derived from lignin and hemicellulose, two by-products of biofuel production from biorefineries. JBEI is a multi-institutional partnership led by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) that was established by the DOE Office of Science to accelerate the development of advanced, next-generation biofuels.

Ionic liquids show great promise for liberating fermentable sugars from lignocellulose and improving the economics of advanced biofuels. The concept of bionic liquids opens the door to realizing a closed-loop process for future lignocellulosic biorefineries, and has far-reaching economic impacts for other ionic liquid-based process technologies that currently use ionic liquids synthesized from petroleum sources, said Blake Simmons, a chemical engineer who is JBEI’s Chief Science and Technology Officer and heads JBEI’s Deconstruction Division.

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Cathay Pacific Airways makes strategic equity investment in Fulcrum BioEnergy; MSW to biojet; 375M gallon supply agreement

August 08, 2014

Cathay Pacific Airways has made a strategic equity investment in Fulcrum BioEnergy—a pioneer in the development and commercialization of converting municipal solid waste (MSW) into sustainable aviation fuel (earlier post)—as part of the airline’s biofuel strategy and to help it achieve a target of carbon-neutral growth from 2020. Cathay Pacific, which also has an option for further investment, is the first airline investor in the sustainable biofuel developer.

Cathay Pacific has also negotiated a long-term supply agreement with Fulcrum for an initial 375 million gallons US of sustainable aviation fuel over 10 years (representing on an annual basis approximately 2% of the airline’s current fuel consumption) that meets all the airline’s technical requirements and specifications.

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UC Riverside team develops new high efficiency method for conversion of biomass to biofuels

August 04, 2014

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Overview of the process. Cai et al. (2014) Click to enlarge.

A team of researchers, led by Professor Charles E. Wyman, the Ford Motor Company Chair in Environmental Engineering at the University of California, Riverside’s Bourns College of Engineering, has developed a versatile, relatively non-toxic, and efficient way to convert lignocellulosic biomass into biofuels and chemicals.

The method couples the use of a metal halide selective catalyst with a highly tunable co-solvent—renewable tetrahydrofuran (THF)—to enhance co-production of the fuel precursors furfural and 5-HMF from biomass in a single-phase reaction strategy capable of integrating biomass deconstruction with catalytic dehydration of sugars. Those fuel precursors can then be converted into ethanol, chemicals or drop-in fuels.

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New catalytic system for conversion of CO2 to methanol shows much higher activity than others now in use

August 01, 2014

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Scanning tunneling microscope image of a cerium-oxide and copper catalyst (CeOx-Cu) used in the transformation of CO2 and H2 to methanol (CH3OH) and water. In the presence of hydrogen, the Ce4+ and Cu1+ are reduced to Ce3+ and Cu0 with a change in the structure of the catalyst surface. Source: BNL. Click to enlarge.

Scientists at the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory, with colleagues from the University of Seville (Spain) and Universidad Central de Venezuela, have discovered a new, highly active catalytic system for converting carbon dioxide to methanol.

The pure metals and bimetallic systems used for the chemical activation of CO2 usually have low catalytic activity; the new system exhibits significantly higher activity than other catalysts now in use. The new catalyst system converts CO2 to methanol more than a thousand times faster than plain copper particles, and almost 90 times faster than a common copper/zinc-oxide catalyst currently in industrial use.

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New catalyst improves conversion of CO2 to syngas

July 30, 2014

Researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) have identified molybdenum disulfide as a promising cost-effective substitute for noble metal catalysts for the electrochemical reduction of carbon dioxide. A paper on their work is published in the journal Nature Communications.

While noble metals such as gold and silver are able to reduce carbon dioxide at moderate rates and low overpotentials, their cost is a challenge to the development of inexpensive systems with an efficient CO2 reduction capability. Amin Salehi-Khojin, UIC professor of mechanical and industrial engineering, and his colleagues developed a novel two-step catalytic process for CO2reduction that uses molybdenum disulfide and an ionic liquid. The new catalyst improves efficiency and lowers cost.

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NIST study suggests severe corrosion in underground gasoline storage tanks may require component replacement sooner than expected; 500K USTs in US

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Optical micrographs of severe corrosion on steel alloy samples exposed to ethanol and acetic acid vapors—conditions typical of underground gasoline storage tanks—after 355 hours, 643 hours, and 932 hours. Source: NIST. Click to enlarge.

In recent years, field inspectors in nine states have reported many rapidly corroding underground gasoline storage tank (UST) components such as sump pumps. These incidents are generally associated with use of gasoline-ethanol blends and the presence of bacteria, Acetobacter aceti, which convert ethanol to acetic acid, a component of vinegar. Corrosion can result in failures, leaks and contamination of groundwater, a source of drinking water.

Following up on the inspectors’ findings, a National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) laboratory study has demonstrated severe corrosion—rapidly eating through 1 millimeter of wall thickness per year—on steel alloy samples exposed to ethanol and acetic acid vapors. Based on this finding, NIST researchers suggest gasoline stations may need to replace submersible pump casings, typically made of steel or cast iron, sooner than expected.

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Navigant forecasts global road transportation energy consumption to increase 25% by 2035; 84% from conventional fuels

July 28, 2014

In a new report (Transportation Forecast: Global Fuel Consumption), Navigant Research forecasts total road transportation energy consumption will grow from 81.1 quadrillion Btu in 2014 to 101.7 quadrillion Btu in 2035—an increase of 25.4%. Approximately 84% of that will be provided by conventional fuels. The United States is currently the largest consumer of energy in the road transportation sector, with nearly 23.1 quadrillion Btu projected to be consumed in 2014.

Navigant also projects that investments in alternative fuel and fuel efficiency improvements will reduce annual energy consumption in the United States year-over-year. Most developed countries in Western Europe and parts of Asia Pacific will also exhibit similar decreases in energy consumption. In contrast, energy consumption will grow in developing regions, particularly in Eastern Europe, Asia Pacific, Latin America, and the Middle East & Africa. Brazil, Russia, India, and China (the BRIC nations) will represent the largest increases, as the percentage of global road transportation energy consumed by these nations is forecast to grow from 20% in 2014 to 36% in 2035.

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U Mich professor finds fuel cycle analysis for evaluating CO2 impacts of liquid fuels is fatally flawed; calls for focus on CO2 removal

Fuel cycle analysis (FCA)—or “well-to-wheels analysis”—is a type of lifecycle analysis (LCA) that examines fuel products and their supply chains, and that has greatly influenced climate-related research priorities and public policies for transportation fuels.

However, in a major review of methods for evaluating the net CO2 impacts of liquid transportation fuels, Professor John DeCicco at the University of Michigan Energy Institute (UMEI) compared FCA to other methods of analysis, and found “flaws fatal enough to raise serious concerns about the role of FCA in shaping fuel-related CO2 mitigation strategies. Instead, DeCicco proposes “setting the lifecycle paradigm aside” and focusing on the problem of carbon dioxide removal.

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Ethanol producer to integrate renewable diesel production from corn distiller oil

July 25, 2014

Ethanol producer East Kansas Agri-Energy LLC (EKAE) intends to integrate renewable diesel production at its ethanol plant in Garnett, Kansas. Renewable diesel will be made from the corn distillers oil (CDO) already produced at the plant along with other feedstocks purchased on the market. WB Services is the technology provider for the catalytic renewable diesel process.

Construction on the new facility will begin soon and will be complete in about 12 to 14 months. The plant will be able to produce three million gallons of hydrocarbon fuel per year, with the ability to double that capacity in the future. The plant currently produces some 40 million gallons of ethanol; 200,000 tons of the livestock feed distillers grains; and 5 million pounds of corn oil each year from more than 16 million bushels of locally-sourced corn.

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California Energy Commission selects 11 advanced biofuels projects for $43.6M in awards

The California Energy Commission (CEC) has selected 11 biofuel projects projects—including gasoline substitutes, diesel substitutes and biomethane projects—for $43,633,421 in awards under a grant solicitation released in January for the development of new, or the modification of, existing California-based biofuel production facilities that can sustainably produce low carbon transportation fuels.

The grant solicitation had announced a total of $24 million available for projects funded by the solicitation; however, the Energy Commission, at its sole discretion, reserves the right to increase or reduce the amount of funds available.

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DOE, USDA awarding $12.6M to 10 biomass genomics research projects for improved biofuels

July 17, 2014

The US Department of Energy (DOE) and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) have selected 10 projects that will receive funding aimed at accelerating genetic breeding programs to improve plant feedstocks for the production of biofuels, biopower, and bio-based products.

The $12.6 million in research grants are awarded under a joint DOE-USDA program that began in 2006 focused on fundamental investigations of biomass genomics, with the aim of harnessing nonfood plant biomass for the production of fuels such as ethanol or renewable chemical feedstocks. Dedicated feedstock crops tend to require less intensive production practices and can grow on poorer quality land than food crops, making this a critical element in a strategy of sustainable biofuels production that avoids competition with crops grown for food.

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UK study finds low carbon policy has bolstered UK automotive sector, but trucks neglected and biofuels stalled

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Value of low carbon investments by year and cumulative. Click to enlarge.

A major new report published at the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership’s Annual Conference shows the UK automotive sector has been revitalized by consistently applied policy centered on cutting carbon.

Carried out for LowCVP by E4tech and the Centre for Automotive Industry Research at Cardiff Business School, the study was conducted between March and June 2014. The broad industry survey, supplemented by in-depth interviews with senior executives showed that a consistent and sustained policy approach can produce both green results and growth. The link between consistently applied policy and a win-win in terms of investment and emissions performance was validated by the survey involving more than 120 senior industry and stakeholder respondents.

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Edeniq and Global Bio-chem to develop and commercialize technology to convert corn stover to industrial sugars for fuels

July 16, 2014

Edeniq, Inc., a cellulosic sugar producer (earlier post), has signed a letter of intent with China-based Global Bio-chem Technology Group Company Limited to develop and to commercialize processes to convert corn stover to industrial sugars for use in the production of chemicals, fuels, and other bio-based products.

Pursuant to the letter of intent, Edeniq and Global Bio-chem intend to integrate their technologies in a commercial demonstration plant to produce 50,000 metric tons per year of industrial sugars from corn stover, and subsequently to form a joint venture to further develop and commercialize their technology platform. Global Bio-chem is currently working on modification of corn stover—leaves, stalks and cobs of corn—at its facility in the Jilin Province of China.

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Calysta reports 8-fold improvement in gas fermentation in ARPA-E program; BioGTL

July 10, 2014

Calysta, Inc. reported that it has achieved 8-fold improved performance over traditional fermentation technologies in a high mass transfer bioreactor. The bioreactor technology is under development for efficient methane-to-liquids fermentation processes, enabling rapid, cost-effective methane conversion into protein, industrial chemicals and fuels. (Earlier post.)

The improved performance was achieved in the research phase of a program funded in part by the Department of Energy’s ARPA-E program under the REMOTE program (Reducing Emissions using Methanotrophic Organisms for Transportation Energy), awarded in September 2013. (Earlier post.) Calysta develops sustainable industrial products using novel natural gas conversion technology using methane.

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EPA qualifies new biogas and electricity pathways for cellulosic biofuel requirement under RFS; defers decision on other proposed pathways

July 03, 2014

In a newly released rule, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has clarified the number of cellulosic biofuel renewable identification numbers (RINs, earlier post) that may be generated for fuel made with feedstocks of varying cellulosic content; qualified additional fuel pathways to meet the lifecycle greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction requirements for cellulosic biofuel under the National Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program; and clarified or amended a number of RFS program regulations that define terms or address registration, record-keeping, and reporting requirements. The final rule also clarifies that EPA considers corn kernel fiber to be a crop residue.

However, the final rule differs in several ways from the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking EPA had issued in June 2013 (earlier post):

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Berkeley Lab/U. Hawaii team provides direct experimental evidence for mechanism for PAH formation in combustion; cleaner fuels could result

July 01, 2014

Researchers at the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Lab (Berkeley Lab) and the University of Hawaii have provided direct experimental evidence for the validity of a proposed mechanism for the first step in the process that transforms gas-phase molecules into solid particles such as soot and other carbon-based compounds.

The finding could help combustion chemists make more-efficient, less-polluting fuels and help materials scientists fine-tune their carbon nanotubes and graphene sheets for faster, smaller electronics. In addition, the results could have implications for the burgeoning field of astrochemistry, potentially establishing the chemical process for how gaseous outflows from stars turn into carbon-based matter in space.

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New one-pot process for conversion of cellulose to n-hexane, a gasoline component

June 26, 2014

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One-pot process for conversion of cellulose to hexane, a gasoline component. Credit: ACS, Liu et al. Click to enlarge.

Researchers at Tohoku University in Japan have developed a one-pot process to convert cellulose to n-hexane in the presence of hydrogen gas. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), unleaded gasoline contains about 11.6% n-hexane.

In a paper in the journal ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering, the Tohuku team reports achieving a yield of n-hexane of 83% from ball-milled cellulose and 78% from microcrystalline cellulose. Even using a high weight ratio of cellulose to water (1:1), a 71% yield of n-hexane could be obtained from ball-milled cellulose.

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Researchers propose CO2 recycling to improve Fischer-Tropsch GTL efficiency and reduce total CO2 emissions

June 21, 2014

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Overview of the CUGP processes. Credit: ACS, Zhang et al. Click to enlarge.

Researchers in South Korea are suggesting two new carbon-dioxide-utilized Gas-to-Liquids processes (CUGP) to increase the overall efficiency of conventional Fischer-Tropsch GTL. In a paper in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology, they report that the two CUGP options increase carbon efficiency by 21.1−41.3% and thermal efficiency by 15.7−40.7%, with total CO2 emissions reduced by 82.0−88.4%, compared to different conventional F-T processes.

This results in a decrease in total CO2 emissions to less than 5g CO2/MJ F-T product, compared to a range of 27.0 to 36.2g CO2/MJ F-T product for the conventional processes.

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Study suggests GTL blending could increase overall US refinery efficiency by improving diesel efficiency

June 20, 2014

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Impact of GTL diesel blending (5% penetration relative to refinery crude input) on US average overall refinery efficiency. Credit: ACS, Forman et al. Click to enlarge.

A team from Sasol Synfuels, Jacobs Consultancy and Argonne National Laboratory has used results from a US industry-wide linear programming (LP) modeling study of individual US refineries to examine the impacts of a number of significant and looming changes—such as shifts in refinery crude slates; regional and seasonal variation; gasoline/diesel (G/D) production ratio; and GTL diesel blending—on US refinery, unit, and product efficiencies. (LP is the the primary tool for analysis and optimization in the refining industry.)

Results of their study, which appear in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology, suggest that refinery and product-specific efficiency values are sensitive to crude quality; seasonal and regional factors; and refinery configuration and complexity—which in turn are determined by final fuel specification requirements and regulations. Additional processing of domestically sourced tight light oil could marginally increase refinery efficiency, but these benefits could be offset by crude rebalancing, they found.

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ARPA-E awards $33M to 13 intermediate-temp fuel cell projects; converting gaseous hydrocarbons to liquid fuels

June 19, 2014

The US Advanced Research Projects Agency - Energy (ARPA-E) is awarding $33 million to 13 new projects aimed at developing transformational fuel cell technologies for low-cost distributed power generation. The projects, which are funded through ARPA-E’s new Reliable Electricity Based on ELectrochemical Systems (REBELS) program, are focused on improving grid stability, balancing intermittent renewable technologies, and reducing CO2 emissions using electrochemical distributed power generation systems.

Current advanced fuel cell research generally focuses on technologies that either operate at high temperatures for grid-scale applications or at low temperatures for vehicle technologies. ARPA-E’s new REBELS projects focus on low-cost Intermediate-Temperature Fuel Cells (ITFCs) emphasizing three technical approaches: the production of efficient, reliable ITFCs; the integration of ITFCs and electricity storage at the device level; and the use of ITFCs to convert methane or other gaseous hydrocarbons into liquid fuels using excess energy.

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LowCVP reports indicate pathways for meeting renewable energy targets in transportation, decarbonizing fuel to 2030 and beyond

June 18, 2014

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Illustrative impact of the fuel roadmap. Source: LowCVP, Element Energy. Click to enlarge.

The UK’s LowCVP has published twin reports which set out how the UK could meet its 2020 targets defined in the EU’s Renewable Energy Directive, and proceed on a pathway to decarbonize road transport fuel in the period to 2030 and beyond.

The LowCVP—the stakeholder body which brings government, industry and other stakeholders together to focus on the challenges of decarbonizing road transport—commissioned energy consultancy Element Energy to analyze the UK’s options for meeting the Renewable Energy Directive’s (RED) 2020 transport target which states that at least 10% of the final energy consumption in transport must come from renewable sources. This and the parallel Fuels Roadmap report benefitted from wide industry consultation and explicitly set out to align with existing powertrain roadmaps (including those published by the Automotive Council and the LowCVP).

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Total and Amyris preparing to market jet fuel with 10% farnesane; direct sugar to hydrocarbons product

June 16, 2014

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The D7566 committee is running a number of task forces on alternative fuels; the use of farnesane is one of those (red outline). Source: CAAFI. Click to enlarge.

With the release of the newly revised ASTM D7566-14 standard for jet fuel, Amyris and Total have begun to prepare to market a drop-in jet fuel that contains up to 10% blends of renewable farnesane. (Earlier post.)

The revised standard, developed by ASTM Committee on Petroleum Products, Liquid Fuels, and Lubricants, now includes the use of renewable farnesane as a blending component in jet fuels for commercial aviation. This latest version of ASTM D7566, Standard Specification for Aviation Turbine Fuel Containing Synthesized Hydrocarbons, will allow a biomass-based renewable jet fuel, as developed by Amyris and Total, to support the commercial airliners’ goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

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International team sequences Eucalyptus genome; potential for improving biofuel and biomaterial production

June 14, 2014

An international team of researchers has sequenced the genome of the eucalyptus tree (Eucalyptus grandis) and published the analysis in an open access paper in the journal Nature. With its prodigious growth habit, the eucalyptus tree, one of the world’s most widely planted hardwood trees, has the potential to enhance sustainable biofuels and biomaterials production, and to provide a stable year-round source of biomass that doesn’t compete with food crops.

The researchers reported the sequencing and assembly of more than 94% of the 640-megabase genome of Eucalyptus grandis. Of 36,376 predicted protein-coding genes, 34% occur in tandem duplications, the largest proportion thus far in plant genomes. Eucalyptus also shows the highest diversity of genes for specialized metabolites such as terpenes, which can be substituted catalytically for jet fuel.

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Lux Research: cost of electrofuels remains far from viable

June 09, 2014

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Production costs per barrel of oil equivalent. Source: Lux Research. Click to enlarge.

The cost of electrofuels—fuels produced by catalyst-based systems for light capture, water electrolysis, and catalytic conversion of carbon dioxide and hydrogen to liquid fuels—remains far away from viable, according to a new analysis by Lux Research.

Building a cost model for the electrolysis process—considering electricity from various routes, such as natural gas and coal as well as renewable electricity from biomass, solar, and wind, as well as generously assuming commercial scale production—Lux found that electrofuels produced from microbes cost $230 per barrel, while a catalytic conversion to make electrofuels produces fuels for $208 per barrel.

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Study suggests energy and GHG impacts of synthetic hydrocarbon fuels from CO2 are greater than impacts of existing hydrocarbon fuels

June 06, 2014

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Synthetic fuel production from fuel-combustion-based energy and CO2 (top) and from atmospheric CO2 using solar electricity (bottom). Credit: ACS, van der Giesen et al. Click to enlarge.

Researchers at the Institute of Environmental Sciences at Leiden University, The Netherlands) have concluded that the energy demand and climate impacts of using CO2 to produce synthetic hydrocarbon fuels by using existing technologies can be greater than the impacts of existing hydrocarbon fuels. Their quantitative lifecycle assessment of the environmental merits of liquid hydrocarbon fuels produced from CO2, water and energy compared to alternative fuel production routes is published in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology.

In their study, the researchers evaluated five hypothetical production routes using different sources of CO2 and energy. The team undertook the work specifically to investigate four general arguments that have been proposed in support of such fuels:

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UGA-led team engineers bacterium for the direct conversion of unpretreated biomass to ethanol

June 03, 2014

A team led by Dr. Janet Westpheling at the University of Georgia has engineered the thermophilic, anaerobic, cellulolytic bacterium Caldicellulosiruptor bescii, which in the wild efficiently uses un-pretreated biomass—to produce ethanol from biomass without pre-treatment of the feedstock. A paper on the work is published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

In January, Dr. Westpheling and her colleagues reported in the journal Science their discovery that an enzyme (the cellulase CelA) from C. besciia can digest cellulose almost twice as fast as Cel7A, the current leading component cellulase enzyme on the market. (Earlier post.)

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MIT study finds significant economic and environmental benefits from designing US LDVs to use higher octane gasoline (98 RON)

May 29, 2014

In a companion study to an SAE paper presented in April (earlier post), researchers at MIT have quantified the net economic and CO2 emissions benefit that could be obtained by utilizing 98 RON gasoline in light-duty vehicles, based on reasonable assumptions for possible refinery changes and the evolution of the LDV fleet. The paper, they note, is the first modern, peer-reviewed publication to address the costs and benefits of introducing higher octane gasoline.

According to the analysis, published in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology, greater use of 98 RON gasoline in appropriately tuned vehicles could further reduce annual gasoline consumption in the US by 3.0–4.4%. Even accounting for the increase in refinery emissions from production of additional high-RON gasoline, net CO2 emissions are reduced by 19–35 Mt/y in 2040 (2.5–4.7% of total direct LDV CO2 emissions). The MIT team estimated the annual direct economic benefit to be $0.4–6.4 billion in 2040, and the annual net societal benefit—including the social cost of carbon—to be $1.7–8.8 billion in 2040.

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ARB: carbon intensity of biomethane from wastewater sludge could be as low as -65.27 g CO2e/MJ

May 22, 2014

The staff of the California Air Resources Board (ARB) staff has posted three new Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) fuel pathway applications to the LCFS public comments website: one for corn ethanol (from Heartland Corn Products in Minnesota) and one ARB staff-developed pathway (with two scenarios) for the production of biomethane from the mesophilic anaerobic digestion of wastewater sludge at a wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) located at a publicly-owned treatment works (POTW).

Under the LCFS, the baseline CI value for gasoline was 95.86 g CO2e/MJ; for diesel fuel, 94.71 g CO2e/MJ. Staff estimated the carbon intensities (CIs) for biomethane produced under two alternative scenarios; under the first scenario, the CI of biomethane is 10.86 g CO2e/MJ; under the second, the CI is -65.27 g CO2e/MJ—i.e., it generates a credit.

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Roadmap shows how to improve lignocellulosic biofuel biorefining with high-value products from isolated lignin

May 19, 2014

A new review article in the journal Science highlights emerging opportunities to increase the transformation of lignin to value-added products—i.e., lignin valorization. The resulting roadmap uses the integration of genetic engineering with analytical chemistry tools to tailor the structure of lignin and its isolation so it can be used for materials, chemicals and fuels, said lead author Arthur Ragauskas, a professor in the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Potential high-value products from isolated lignin include low-cost carbon fiber, engineering plastics and thermoplastic elastomers, polymeric foams and membranes, and a variety of fuels and chemicals—all currently sourced from petroleum. Each product stream, however, has its own distinct challenges.

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California Energy Commission publishes investment plan for alt and renewable fuel and vehicle technology, 2014-2015

May 14, 2014

The California Energy Commission has published the “2014‐2015 Investment Plan Update for the Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program”. The 2014‐2015 Investment Plan Update covers the sixth year of the program and reflects laws, executive orders, and policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, petroleum dependence, and criteria emissions. It details how the California Energy Commission, with input from stakeholders and the program Advisory Committee, determines the program’s goal‐driven priorities, coupled with project opportunities for funding.

The Energy Commission held public Advisory Committee workshops to collect feedback on the initial and then revised staff drafts; a lead commissioner report version was released on 8 April 2014, and the Energy Commission adopted this commission report at its Business Meeting on 22 April 2014.

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Ames Lab creates multifunctional nanoparticles for cheaper, cleaner renewable diesel

May 13, 2014

Researchers at the US Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory have developed bi-functional nanoparticles that perform two processing functions at once for the production of renewable diesel via the hydrogenation of oils from renewable feedstocks such as algae.

Iron nanoparticles supported on mesoporous silica nanoparticles (Fe-MSN) catalyze the hydrotreatment of fatty acids with high selectivity for hydrodeoxygenation over decarbonylation and hydrocracking. The selectivity is also affected by the pretreatment of Fe-MSN; the more reduced the catalyst the higher the yield of hydrodeoxygenation product. Fe-MSN catalyzes the conversion of crude microalgal oil into diesel-range hydrocarbons.

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Study finds alcohol mix from biomass-derived syngas could be suitable replacement for ethanol in fuel blending

May 12, 2014

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AlcoMix displays antiknock blending characteristics similar to those of ethanol when blended at various concentrations with non-oxygenated gasoline (RON = 82). Credit: ACS, Rapp et al. Click to enlarge.

Results of a study by a team from the US and Austria suggest that the primary alcohol mixture (“AlcoMix,” comprising 75% ethanol, 11% 1-propanol, 8% 1-butanol, and 6% 1-pentanol) produced from biomass-based syngas could be used as a substitute for ethanol as a primary fuel or as an antiknock blending component.

The purpose of the study, reported in the ACS journal Energy & Fuels, was to determine whether AlcoMix,the probable outcome of the thermochemical conversion of biomass using Fischer–Tropsch chemistry with synthesis gas, might be a suitable replacement for ethanol in fuel blending as an antiknock blending component for spark-ignited engines.

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DOE seeking stakeholder input on 8 strategic biofuels pathways

May 04, 2014

The US Department of Energy (DOE) has issued a request for information (DE-FOA-0001124) seeking stakeholder input regarding the 8 representative biofuel technology pathways that the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s (EERE) Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) has selected to guide its Research and Development (R&D) strategy in the near-term.

DOE is also seeking input on other pre-commercial pathways that it should consider in the near- to long-term.

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EIA: US biomass-based diesel imports increased to record levels in 2013; from net exporter to net importer

May 02, 2014

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Monthly US biodiesel and renewable diesel imports. Source: EIA. Click to enlarge.

Total US imports of biomass-based diesel fuel—biodiesel and renewable diesel—reached 525 million gallons in 2013, compared to 61 million gallons in 2012, according to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA). As a result, the United States switched from being a net exporter of biomass-based diesel in 2012 to a net importer in 2013 by a wide margin.

Two principal factors drove the increase in US biodiesel imports, EIA said: growth in domestic biodiesel demand to satisfy renewable fuels targets, and increased access to biodiesel from other countries.

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Study finds São Paulo switch from ethanol to gasoline dropped local ozone levels by 20%, increased CO and nitric oxide concentrations

April 29, 2014

A study by a pair of researchers at Northwestern University found that when fuel prices drove residents of São Paulo, Brazil, to switch from ethanol to gasoline in their flexible-fuel vehicles, local ozone levels dropped 20%. At the same time, nitric oxide and carbon monoxide concentrations tended to go up.

The four-year study by chemist Franz M. Geiger and Alberto Salvo, formerly with Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management and now an associate professor of economics at the National University of Singapore, is the first real-world trial looking at the effects of human behavior at the pump on urban air pollution. Their paper appears in the journal Nature Geoscience.

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SOLAR-JET project demonstrates solar-driven thermochemical conversion of CO2 and water to jet fuel

April 28, 2014

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SOLAR-JET concentrated thermochemical reactor. Red arrow indicates ceria reduction (oxygen evolution); blue arrow indicates oxidation (fuel production). Click to enlarge.

The EU-funded SOLAR-JET project has demonstrated the production of aviation kerosene from concentrated sunlight, CO2 captured from air, and water. The process has also the potential to produce any other type of fuel for transport applications, such as diesel, gasoline or pure hydrogen in a more sustainable way.

SOLAR-JET (Solar chemical reactor demonstration and Optimization for Long-term Availability of Renewable JET fuel) uses sunlight in a concentrated solar reactor to convert CO2 and water to syngas (a mixture of hydrogen and CO), which is then processed in a Fischer-Tropsch reactor to aviation kerosene.

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Byogy and Avianca launch initiative to accelerate approval of Alcohol-to-Jet (ATJ) fuel

April 25, 2014

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Byogy’s four-step process for the conversion of ethanol to renewable jet fuel. Click to enlarge.

Byogy Renewables and airline partner Avianca Brasil (earlier post) have launched an initiative to support advanced testing to accelerate the approval by ASTM of Byogy’s alcohol-to-jet (ATJ) fuel. (Earlier post.) The Avianca/Byogy Team will perform advanced Flight Testing using the CFM-56 powered A319 to acquire test data and support an Environmental Impact Study to drive ASTM adoption of Byogy’s ATJ fuel.

Byogy’s proprietary ATJ process converts ethanol to a full replacement renewable jet fuel that does not require blending, and also demonstrates performance characteristics better than jet fuel produced from oil. Byogy’s jet fuel is not an additive, but instead, a full replacement standalone fuel, and hence can be used at any blend ratio up to 100%, the company says.

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MIT study: higher octane standard fuel in US could lower fleet fuel consumption & GHG an extra 4.5-6% by 2040

April 24, 2014

Offering a higher-octane gasoline to the consumer market in the US as the standard grade could deliver an incremental 4.5% to 6% reduction in fleet fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions by 2040, on top of a projected 26.8% reduction by then in the baseline case (i.e., without higher octane fuel, but with other projected vehicle and powertrain technology improvements), according to a new analysis by a team at MIT. For their paper, the team proposed a 98 RON gasoline—currently the US premium grade—as the new standard fuel. In other words, they proposed making the current premium fuel the new standard grade.

The analysis by Eric Chow, John Heywood and Raymond Speth, presented as a paper at the recent SAE 2014 World Congress, seeks to quantify the reductions in consumption and GHG if new vehicles designed to use the higher-octane fuel were deployed. Raising octane reduces engine knock constraints, enabling the design of new spark-ignition engines with higher compression ratios and boost levels. This leads to improved engine efficiencies and the sought reductions. (Earlier post.)

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Toyota Central R&D developing free-piston engine linear generator; envisioning multi-FPEG units for electric drive vehicles

April 22, 2014

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Toyota’s FPEG features a hollow step-shaped piston, combustion chamber and gas spring chamber. Click to enlarge.

A team at Toyota Central R&D Labs Inc. is developing a prototype 10 kW Free Piston Engine Linear Generator (FPEG) featuring a thin and compact build, high efficiency and high fuel flexibility. Toyota envisions that a pair of such units (20 kW) would enable B/C-segment electric drive vehicles to cruise at 120 km/h (75 mph). The team presented two papers on the state of their work at the recent SAE 2014 World Congress in Detroit.

The FPEG consists of a two-stroke combustion chamber, a linear generator and a gas spring chamber. The piston is moved by the combustion gas, while magnets attached to the piston move within a linear coil, thereby converting kinetic energy to electrical energy. The main structural feature of the Toyota FPEG is a hollow circular step-shaped piston, which Toyota calls “W-shape”. The smaller-diameter side of the piston constitutes a combustion chamber, and the larger-diameter side constitutes a gas spring chamber.

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Study finds removing corn residue for biofuel production can decrease soil organic carbon and increase CO2 emissions; may miss mandated 60% GHG reduction

April 21, 2014

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Contribution of modeled CO2 emissions from SOC to the life cycle of biofuel from corn residue. Error bars are ± one standard deviation. Liska et al. Click to enlarge.

Using corn crop residue to make ethanol and other biofuels reduces soil carbon and under some conditions can generate more greenhouse gases than gasoline, according to a major, multi-year study by a University of Nebraska-Lincoln team of researchers published in the journal Nature Climate Change. The findings cast doubt on whether biofuels produced from corn residue can be used to meet federal mandates for cellulosic biofuels to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 60% compared to gasoline.

The study, led by assistant professor Adam Liska, was funded through a three-year, $500,000-grant from the US Department of Energy, and used carbon dioxide measurements taken from 2001 to 2010 to validate a soil carbon model that was built using data from 36 field studies across North America, Europe, Africa and Asia. Using USDA soil maps and crop yields, they extrapolated potential carbon dioxide emissions across 580 million 30-meter by 30-meter geospatial cells in Corn Belt states.

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Navy researchers produce high-performance renewable fuels by combining heterogeneous catalysis with biosynthesis

April 18, 2014

A team from the Naval Air Warfare Center, Weapons Division (NAWCWD) at China Lake, with colleagues from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), have demonstrated that renewable high density fuels with net heats of combustion ranging from ~133,000 to 141,000 Btu gal-1—up to 13% higher than commercial jet fuel (~125,000 Btu)—can be generated by combining heterogeneous catalysis with multicyclic sesquiterpenes produced by engineered organisms. A paper on their work is published in the RSC journal Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics.

This advance has the potential to produce a range of higher-density biofuels to improve the range of aircraft, ships, and ground vehicles without altering engine configurations, they suggested.

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BA and Solena Fuels to build GreenSky landfill-waste-to-jet-fuel plant in Thurrock; completion in 2017

April 16, 2014

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Solena’s IBGTL solution consists of five integrated processing “islands”: (i) Solena’s proprietary high-temperature gasification; (ii) BioSynGas conditioning; (iii) Fischer-Tropsch processing; (iv) FT wax upgrading; and (v) Power production. Click to enlarge.

British Airways and its partner Solena Fuels announced that the UK GreenSky facility to convert landfill waste into jet fuel (earlier post) will be built in Thames Enterprise Park, part of the site of the former Coryton oil refinery in Thurrock, Essex. The site has excellent transport links and existing fuel storage facilities. One thousand construction workers will be hired to build the facility which is due to be completed in 2017, creating up to 150 permanent jobs.

The plant will convert approximately 575,000 tonnes of post-recycled waste, normally destined for landfill or incineration into 120,000 tonnes of clean burning liquid fuels using Solena’s Integrated Biomass-Gas to Liquid (IBGTL) technology. British Airways has committed to purchasing, at market competitive prices, the jet fuel produced by the plant for the next 11 years which equates to about $550 million at today’s prices. It is also providing construction capital and becoming a minority share holder in GreenSky.

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DOE announces $10M for upgrading technologies for production of renewable drop-in fuels

The US Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) announced up to $10 million in funding to advance the development, improvement and demonstration of integrated biological or chemical upgrading technology for the production of substitutes for petroleum‐based feedstocks, products and fuels. (DE-FOA-0001085).

The DOE’s Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) has funded research on biochemical conversion processes since 2007, with particular focus on the development of improved cellulases and fermentative organisms for ethanol production from cellulosic feedstocks. EERE is seeking to diversify the BETO portfolio to include a variety of chemical and biological upgrading technologies for the production of a suite of hydrocarbon fuels, fuel intermediates and chemicals (beyond ethanol) to be produced in an integrated fashion from biologically or chemically derived intermediate feed streams, such as but not limited to cellulosic sugars, lignocellulose derivatives, lignin, cellulosic alcohols, bio‐solids and biogases.

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ARB posts 5 new LCFS pathways; two renewable diesel

April 15, 2014

California Air Resources Board (ARB) staff has posted five new and one revised Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) fuel pathway applications to the LCFS public comment website. The new pathways include two renewable diesel pathways; two biodiesel pathways, and one corn ethanol pathway. The revised package is for corn oil biodiesel.

The renewable diesel proposals both come from Diamond Green Diesel (DGD) in Louisiana, using used cooking oil (UCO) as a feedstock; the proposals differ in the mode of shipment to California: one by rail, one by ship.

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World Bank/ICCT report provides guidance to reducing black carbon emissions from diesels in developing countries

April 14, 2014

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Historical Trends in Black Carbon Emissions from Surface Transportation (teragrams of black carbon per year). Source: Minjares et al. Click to enlarge.

The World Bank has published a report, undertaken by a team from the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT), intended to inform efforts to control black carbon emissions from diesel-based transportation in developing countries. The report proposes approaches for integrating black carbon emission reduction considerations in cost-benefit assessment and applies an analytic framework to four simulated projects to illustrate the associated opportunities and challenges at a project level.

The transportation sector accounted for approximately 19% of global black carbon emissions in the year 2000, according to the report. Road transportation accounted for 9% of global black carbon, with diesel engines responsible for nearly 99% of those emissions. In the near term, black carbon emissions from mobile engines are projected to decline as a consequence of policies implemented in the US, Canada, Europe, and Japan. However, black carbon emissions are projected to increase in the next decade as vehicle activity increases, particularly in East and South Asia.

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Navy researchers test direct sugar-to-hydrocarbon fuel (farnesene) in multiple engines

April 09, 2014

A team from the US Naval Academy and the US Navy have tested a Direct Sugar to Hydrocarbon (DSH) biosynthetic fuel in multiple diesel engines. Their results, reported in a paper presented at the SAE World Congress in Detroit, show that DSH meets all three of their proposed combustion acceptance metrics.

Further, they determined that a 50/50 blend of DSH and F76 (the Navy standard distillate primary fuel for propulsion and power generation) is fit for use in compression ignition engines and an acceptable candidate blend to continue with full-scale diesel engine qualification testing.

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US Navy demos recovery of CO2 and production of H2 from seawater, with conversion to liquid fuel; “Fuel from Seawater”

April 08, 2014

Researchers at the US Naval Research Laboratory (NRL), Materials Science and Technology Division have demonstrated novel NRL technologies developed for the recovery of CO2 and hydrogen from seawater and their subsequent conversion to liquid fuels. Flying a radio-controlled replica of the historic WWII P-51 Mustang red-tail aircraft (of the legendary Tuskegee Airmen), NRL researchers Dr. Jeffrey Baldwin, Dr. Dennis Hardy, Dr. Heather Willauer, and Dr. David Drab used a novel liquid hydrocarbon fuel to power the aircraft’s unmodified two-stroke internal combustion engine.

The test provides a proof-of-concept for an NRL-developed process to extract CO2 and produce hydrogen gas from seawater, subsequently catalytically converting the CO2 and H2 into fuel by a gas-to-liquids process. The potential longer term payoff for the Navy is the ability to produce fuel at or near the point of use when it is needed, thereby reducing the logistics tail on fuel delivery, enhancing combat capabilities, and providing greater energy security by fixing fuel cost and its availability.

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DOE releases five-year strategic plan, 2014-2018; supporting “all of the above” energy strategy

The US Department of Energy (DOE) released its five-year 2014-2018 Strategic Plan. The plan is organized into 12 strategic objectives aimed at three distinct goals: Science and Energy; Nuclear Security; and Management and Performance. These objectives represent broad cross-cutting and collaborative efforts across DOE headquarters, site offices, and national laboratories.

The overarching goal for Science and Energy is: “Advance foundational science, innovate energy technologies, and inform data driven policies that enhance US economic growth and job creation, energy security, and environmental quality, with emphasis on implementation of the President’s Climate Action Plan to mitigate the risks of and enhance resilience against climate change.” Under that, the plan sketches out 3 strategic goals:

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ERTRAC publishes roadmap on energy carriers and powertrains; role for power-to-gas

April 07, 2014

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Main technology trends and the vision share of engines in Europe. [ERTRAC / EUCAR] Click to enlarge.

The European Road Transport Research Advisory Council (ERTRAC) has published a new roadmap assessing energy carriers and powertrains in the context of the European target to achieve a 60% reduction in CO2 emissions from transport by 2050. ERTRAC is the European Technology Platform (ETP) for Road Transport recognized and supported by the European Commission. ERTRAC has more than 50 members, representing all the actors of the Road Transport System: transport industry, European associations, EU Member States, local authorities, European Commission services, etc.

The analysis concludes that while the goal is challenging, it is also realizable; however the overall high-level goals need to be segmented into precise targets for the different industries and stakeholders. For the topic of future road mobility these are the development of alternative and decarbonized fuels and energy carriers; and higher powertrain efficiency leading to cleaner mobility and reduction in resource demand.

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Researchers engineer poplar trees for easier degradation of lignin to ease production of biofuels

April 04, 2014

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Poplar vascular tissue showing feruloyl-coenzyme A (CoA) monolignol transferase (FMT) expression. Source: GLBRC. Click to enlarge.

Researchers from Michigan State University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison and their colleagues report successfully engineering poplar trees to produce lignin that degrades more easily, thereby lowering the effort and cost to convert wood to biofuel. A paper on their work appears in the journal Science.

Poplar trees are a fast-growing wood crop widely planted throughout the United States and Canada, and are particularly valuable to the bioenergy, bio-products, and fiber industries. Lignin provides strength to wood but also impedes efficient degradation when wood is used as feedstock for biofuel. The researchers identified an enzyme (coniferyl ferulate feruloyl-CoA monolignol transferase) in other plants that contain more digestible lignin monomers, then expressed it in poplar. The resulting trees showed no difference in growth habit under greenhouse conditions, but their lignin showed improved digestibility.

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MIT Energy Initiative announces 2014 seed grant awards

March 30, 2014

The MIT Energy Initiative (MITEI) announced its latest round of seed grants to support early-stage innovative energy projects. A total of more than $1.6 million was awarded to 11 projects, each lasting up to two years. With this latest round, the MITEI Seed Fund Program has supported 129 early-stage research proposals, with total funding of about $15.8 million.

This year’s winners address a wide range of topics including new methods of designing and using catalysts; assessment of natural gas technologies; novel design concepts for batteries, energy harvesters, and capacitors; integrated photovoltaic–electrochemical devices to reduce CO2 for fuel production; and investigations into public opinion on various state energy policies.

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Scientists synthesize first functional designer chromosome in yeast

March 28, 2014

An international team of scientists led by Dr. Jef Boeke, director of NYU Langone Medical Center’s Institute for Systems Genetics, has synthesized the first functional chromosome in yeast, an important step in the emerging field of synthetic biology—designing microorganisms to produce novel medicines, raw materials for food, and biofuels. A paper on the accomplishment is published in the journal Science.

Over the last five years, scientists have built bacterial chromosomes and viral DNA, but this is the first report of an entire eukaryotic chromosome built from scratch. Researchers say their team’s global effort also marks one of the most significant advances in yeast genetics since 1996, when scientists initially mapped out yeast’s entire DNA code, or genetic blueprint.

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JEC updates well-to-wheels study on automotive fuels and powertrains; electro-mobility, natural gas and biofuels

March 27, 2014

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WTW energy expended and GHG emissions for conventional fuels ICE and hybrid vehicles shows the potential for improvement of conventional fuels and ICE based vehicles. Source: EUR 26236 EN - 2014 Click to enlarge.

Europe’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) and its partners in the JEC Consortium—JRC, EUCAR (the European Council for Automotive R&D) and CONCAWE (the oil companies European association for environment, health and safety in refining and distribution)—have published a new version of the Well-to-Wheels Analysis of Future Automotive Fuels and Powertrains in the European Context. (Earlier post.)

The updated version includes a longer-term outlook by expanding the time horizon from 2010 and beyond to 2020 and beyond. It adds an assessment of electrically chargeable vehicle configurations, such as plug-in hybrid, range extended, battery and fuel-cell electric vehicles. It also introduces an update of natural gas pathways, taking into account the addition of a European shale gas pathway. Furthermore, biofuel pathways, including an entirely new approach to NOx emissions from farming, were thoroughly revised.

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Lawrence Livermore, JBEI researchers engineer bacteria with tolerance to ionic liquids for enhanced production of advanced biofuels

March 26, 2014

Researchers from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in conjunction with the Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) have engineered tolerance to ionic liquids (ILs)—used for biomass pretreatment, but generally toxic to bacteria—into biofuel-producing bacteria.

The results, reported in an open access paper in Nature Communications are likely to eliminate a bottleneck in JBEI’s biofuels production strategy, which relies on ionic liquid pretreatment of cellulosic biomass. The research also demonstrates how the adverse effects of ionic liquids can be turned into an advantage, by inhibiting the growth of other bacteria.

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Engine testing shows environmental and performance benefits of hydrotreated vegetable oil as renewable diesel fuel

March 25, 2014

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Comparison of power loss and fuel consumption among BD, HVO and iso-HVO. Source: Kim et al. Click to enlarge.

Researchers in South Korea from SK Innovation and Chungbuk National University compared the engine and emissions performance of 16 different blends of petro-diesel, biodiesel (BD), hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO, i.e., drop-in renewable diesel); and iso-HVO (isomerized-hydrotreated vegetable oil) on an engine dynamometer and chassis dynamometer with a 1.5-liter diesel engine and passenger car.

The results, reported in a paper in the journal Fuel, show that iso-HVO has much better engine performance than BD and slightly better than HVO, but slightly worse than petro-diesel. On the emissions side, iso-HVO and HVO blended diesel emit less THC and CO than BD, even though iso-HVO blended diesel emits similar level of NOx and PM to blended BD. All three kinds biofuels at 50% blend ratios showed a decrease of particle concentrations at all size ranges compared to petro-diesel.

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Siluria Technologies unveils new development unit for liquid fuels from natural gas based on OCM and ETL technologies

March 21, 2014

Siluria Technologies, the developer of novel bio-templated catalysts for the economic direct conversion of methane (CH4) to ethylene (C2H4) (earlier post), unveiled a development unit for producing liquid fuels from natural gas based on Siluria’s proprietary oxidative coupling of methane (OCM) and ethylene-to-liquid (ETL) technologies.

Together, Siluria’s OCM and ETL technologies form a unique and efficient process for transforming methane into gasoline, diesel, jet fuel and other liquid fuels. Unlike the high-temperature, high-pressure cracking processes employed today to produce fuels and chemicals, Siluria’s process employs catalytic processes to create longer-chain, higher-value materials, thereby significantly reducing operating costs and capital.

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Study finds lubricating oil the dominant source of primary organic aerosol from both diesel and gasoline vehicles

March 20, 2014

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Comparison plot showing mass fractions (Fm) of chemically characterized components of lubricating oils and POA. Credit: ACS, Worton et al. Click to enlarge.

Findings from a study by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley and Berkeley National Laboratory suggest that lubricating oil is the dominant source of primary organic aerosol (POA) from both gasoline- and diesel-powered vehicles. Unburned diesel fuel makes an additional smaller contribution, with an additional smaller contribution from unburned gasoline. A paper on the work is published in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology.

Motor vehicles are major sources of organic carbon emissions, with implications for human health and air quality, especially in urban areas. The emitted organic carbon is in the form of both primary particulate matter (PM) and gas phase organic compounds of a wide range of volatilities that can be oxidized in the atmosphere to form secondary organic aerosol (SOA). (Earlier post.) The majority of fine PM from vehicles is carbonaceous in the form of either black (BC) or organic carbon, the latter of which is directly emitted as primary organic aerosol (POA).

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Cellulosic fuels company KiOR reveals “substantial doubts” about its viability; funding needed by 1 April

March 19, 2014

In its Form 10-K (annual report) filed with the SEC on 17 March, cellulosic renewable fuels company KiOR said it has “substantial doubts about [its] ability to continue as a going concern”. Ongoing viability will require additional capital to provide additional liquidity. (Earlier post.)

On 16 March, the company received a $25-million investment commitment from Vinod Khosla (one of the company’s investors), conditioned on the achievement of certain performance milestones to be mutually agreed upon. Other than that commitment, however, Kior said it has no other near-term sources of financing. Kior said that if it is unsuccessful in finalizing definitive documentation with Khosla on or before 1 April 2014—i.e., in two weeks—it will not have adequate liquidity to fund operations and meet obligations (including debt payment obligations), and would not expect other sources of financing to be available.

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Researchers progress with engineering E. coli to produce pinene for biosynthetic alternative to rocket fuel

March 16, 2014

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Energy density of petroleum-based fuels and advanced biofuels. Shown is the heating value of petroleum-based fuels (black) and advanced biofuels (green) as a function of density. Pinene dimers (red) have density and heating value similar to that of JP-10. Credit: ACS, Sarria et al. Click to enlarge.

Recent progress in engineering microbes has resulted in the production of biosynthetic alternatives to gasoline, diesel, and diesel precursors. However, the development of microbial platforms for the production of high-energy density fuels—i.e., tactical fuels for use in aircraft and aircraft-launched missiles—has lagged behind. Existing biosynthetic jet fuels lack the volumetric energy content required to replace high-energy density fuels such as the tactical fuels JP-10, tetrahydrodicy-clopentadiene, and RJ-5.

A team from Georgia Tech, University of California, Berkeley, and the Joint BioEnergy Institute at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has now engineered Escherichia coli bacteria to produce pinene, the immediate precursor to pinene dimers, a biosynthetic alternative to JP-10. Although their work produced a significant increase in yield from earlier attempts, the yield will need to be some 26-times larger for commercial viability, they calculated.

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Researchers develop new lower-temperature process for conversion of natural gas alkanes to alcohols

March 14, 2014

Researchers from The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) and Brigham Young University have devised a new and more efficient method to convert natural gas into liquid products at much lower temperatures than conventional methods.

Their work, reported in the journal Science, uses main-group metals such as thallium and lead to oxidize methane and the other alkanes contained in natural gas (ethane and propane) to liquid alcohols at about 180 °C instead of the more than 500 °C used in current processes, said SRI Professor Roy Periana, who led the research. This creates the potential to produce fuels and chemicals at much lower cost.

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UPM, Fortum and Valmet partnering to develop new catalytic pyrolysis technology for advanced lignocellulosic fuels

March 12, 2014

Fortum, UPM and Valmet have joined forces to develop a new catalytic pyrolysis technology to produce advanced high value lignocellulosic fuels, such as transportation fuels or higher value bio-liquids.

The five-year project is called LignoCat (lignocellulosic fuels by catalytic pyrolysis). The project is a natural continuation of the consortium’s earlier bio-oil project together with the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, commercializing integrated pyrolysis technology for production of sustainable bio-oil for replacement of heating oil in industrial use.

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California ARB staff posts concept paper on re-adoption and modification of LCFS; possible more stringent post-2020 targets

March 10, 2014

The California Air Resources Board (ARB) staff has posted a Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) Re-Adoption Concept Paper, which will be discussed during the LCFS workshop on 11 March 2014. The LCFS regulation mandates a 10% reduction in the carbon intensity (CI) of transportation fuels used in California by 2020.

In response to a suit brought against ARB and the LCFS, the State of California Court of Appeal, Fifth Appellate District (Court) held in 2013 that the LCFS would remain in effect and that ARB can continue to implement and enforce the 2013 regulatory standards while it takes steps to cure California Environmental Quality Act and Administrative Procedure Act issues associated with the original adoption of the regulation. ARB staff is proposing that the Board re-adopt the LCFS regulation in 2014. Additionally, ARB staff is proposing a suite of amendments to provide a stronger signal for investments in and production of the cleanest fuels, offer additional flexibility, update critical technical information, and provide for improved efficiency and enforcement of the regulation.

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Study finds diesel derived by pyrolysis of plastic grocery bags suitable for blending with petroleum diesel

February 14, 2014

High-density polyethylene (HDPE) grocery bags can be successfully pyrolyzed to alternative diesel fuel, according to a new study by a team from the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Research Service ARS.

Pyrolysis of the waste plastic grocery bags followed by distillation resulted in a liquid hydrocarbon mixture with an average structure consisting mostly of saturated aliphatic paraffinic hydrogens (96.8%), followed by aliphatic olefinic hydrogens (2.6%) and aromatic hydrogens (0.6%) that corresponded to the boiling range of conventional petroleum diesel fuel (#1 diesel 190–290 °C and #2 diesel 290–340 °C). Nearly all fuel properties—with the exception of density—were within ASTM D975 and EN 590 diesel specifications, according to the study published in the journal Fuel Processing Technology.

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DOE to issue funding opportunity for bioenergy technologies; outliers to current multi-year program plan

February 13, 2014

The US Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) intends to issue, on behalf of the Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO), a Funding Opportunity Announcement (DE-FOA-0000974) entitled “Bioenergy Technologies Incubator”.

BETO’s mission is to engage in R&D and demonstration at increasing scale activities to transform renewable biomass resources into commercially viable, high-performance biofuels, and bioproducts and biopower that enable biofuel production. To accomplish this mission, BETO develops a multi-year program plan (MYPP) to identify the technical challenges and barriers that need to be overcome. These technical challenges and barriers form the basis for BETO to issue funding opportunities announcements (FOAs) for financial assistance awards in these specific areas.

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