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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.]

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

April 26, 2017

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

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

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

April 24, 2017

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

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

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

April 17, 2017

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

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

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

April 16, 2017

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

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

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

April 12, 2017

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

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

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

April 11, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

April 10, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

April 06, 2017

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

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

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

April 04, 2017

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

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

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

April 03, 2017

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

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

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

March 29, 2017

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

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

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

March 28, 2017

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

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

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California ARB moves forward with climate and air quality actions

March 24, 2017

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

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

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

March 17, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 16, 2017

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

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

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

March 13, 2017

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

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

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

March 09, 2017

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

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

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

March 07, 2017

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

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

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

March 06, 2017

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

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

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

March 04, 2017

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

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

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

March 03, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 02, 2017

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

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

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

March 01, 2017

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

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

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

February 28, 2017

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

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

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

February 27, 2017

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

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

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NSF to award $13M to projects focused on electrochemical and organic photovoltaic systems

February 24, 2017

The US National Science Foundation (NSF) will award more than $13 million to projects in the Energy for Sustainability program. The goal of the Energy for Sustainability program is to support fundamental engineering research that will enable innovative processes for the sustainable production of electricity and fuels, and for energy storage. Processes for sustainable energy production must be environmentally benign, reduce greenhouse gas production, and utilize renewable resources.

The focus of this funding opportunity (PD-17-7644) is on electrochemical energy systems and organic photovoltaics.

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Navy researchers produce high-density, high-cetane bio-hydrocarbon fuels from sesquiterpenes; jet and diesel

February 23, 2017

Researchers at the Naval Air Warfare Center, Weapons Division, China Lake have produced three new high-density, high-cetane biofuels from sesquiterpene feedstocks. In an open-access paper published in the RSC journal Sustainable Energy & Fuels, they describe the preparation of the three fuels from sesquiterpene components of cedarwood oil.

The three biofuels described in the work could outperform conventional fuels. The researchers, Kale Harrison and Benjamin Harvey, note that with recent advances in metabolic engineering, the generation of multicyclic sesquiterpenes from biomass sugars could allow for the production of these new fuels on a commercial scale.

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EIA: China’s use of methanol in liquid fuels has grown rapidly since 2000; >500K bpd in 2016

China is the global leader in methanol use and has recently expanded its methanol production capacity. Now, a study commissioned by the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) from Argus Media (a global provider of analysis on energy and commodities), finds that since the early 2000s, China’s consumption of methanol in fuel products has risen sharply. The report estimates consumption to have been more than 500,000 barrels per day (b/d) in 2016.

EIA commissioned the study to better understand China’s consumption of methanol and its derivatives. The estimates developed in the study have now been incorporated into EIA’s historical data and forecasts of petroleum and other liquids consumption in China.

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

February 16, 2017

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

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

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Lux Research forecasts global biofuels output to rise to 67B GPY in 2022; advanced biofuels will nearly double to 9.6B GPY

February 14, 2017

New biofuel technology is finally starting to push aside traditional biofuels such as first-generation biodiesel, according to a new report by Lux Research. New facilities based on non-food feedstocks and producing novel fuels account for over half of new capacity deployment for the first time in the biofuel industry’s history, according to Lux. However, overall output will grow at a slower pace to 67 billion gallons a year (BGY) in 2022, from 59 BGY in 2016.

The report, titled “Biofuels Outlook 2022: The Dawn of a New Era in Global Biofuel Capacity Expansion,” is part of the Lux Research Alternative Fuels Intelligence service. Lux Research analysts quantified the commercial deployment of new technologies in the global biofuels industry using a database of nearly 2,000 facilities from 1,461 companies in 90 countries with nameplate capacity data through 2022. Among their findings:

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DOE to award up to $1.2M to project converting wastewater solids to biogas and liquid fuels; hydrothermal processing

February 11, 2017

Southern California Gas Co. (SoCalGas) announced a pilot hydrothermal wastewater processing project has been selected by the US Department of Energy (DOE) to receive up to $1.2 million in federal funding. SoCalGas is part of a consortium conducting the pilot, which will be required to share the cost at a minimum of 50% in order to receive federal funds. The consortium is being led by the Water Environment & Reuse Foundation (WERF).

The project will use Genifuel hydrothermal processing technology (HTP) to convert wastewater solids into renewable natural gas as well as liquid fuels. DOE funding is expected to pay for about half of the design and planning of a pilot plant to produce these renewable fuels at a municipal wastewater treatment facility near Oakland, California. SoCalGas will help oversee the project’s design and assist in obtaining state and federal regulatory approvals and incentives.

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Global Bioenergies reports first production of ETBE entirely from renewable resources

February 07, 2017

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

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

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Clariant, Mercedes-Benz, Haltermann Carless report successful fleet test of E20 cellulosic ethanol blend

February 06, 2017

Clariant, a leading global specialty chemicals company, together with Mercedes-Benz and Haltermann Carless, a well-established HCS Group brand, tested the use of sustainable cellulosic ethanol from agricultural residues in a fleet test with Mercedes-Benz series vehicles over a period of 12 months for the first time in Germany. sunliquid 20 was used for the test—a fuel produced by Haltermann Carless with a cellulosic ethanol content of 20 vol% (E20) from Clariant’s sunliquid plant in Straubing.

The cellulosic ethanol allows greenhouse gas emission savings of up to 95% across the entire value chain without competing with food production or tying up agricultural land.

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Study suggests GTL-naphtha-gasoline-ethanol blends can function as well as gasoline with lower emissions

February 05, 2017

Results of a study by a team from the University of Birmingham (UK) and Shell Global Solutions suggest that blends of gasoline with gas-to-liquids (GTL) naphtha can perform comparable combustion and full power output to conventional gasoline, with less than 2% difference in normalized ISFC (indicated specific fuel consumption) and gaseous emissions similar to, if not lower than that of conventional gasoline. A paper on their study is published in the journal Fuel.

The GTL Fischer-Tropsch process produces GTL diesel (the cleaner combustion and emissions qualities of which have been well studied), GTL naphtha, GTL kerosene, GTL normal Paraffin and GTL base oils. GTL naphtha mainly contains C4 to C11 hydrocarbons with a high proportions of straight chain paraffins. Although it has a consistent quality and near-zero sulfur and heavy metals, GTL naphtha has a low octane rating, making it unsuitable for blending in gasoline. (GTL naphtha currently is used as an alternative high-quality feedstock for plastics.) However, that low octane rating can be addressed by using ethanol as an octane booster.

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

February 03, 2017

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

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

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Researchers find shade from stand density can cost farmers about 10% of potential crop yield

January 30, 2017

A team from the University of Illinois has found that compared to top leaves, the shaded lower level leaves of C4 crops planted in dense stands such as corn and Miscanthus underperform, costing farmers about 10% of potential yield.

These findings, published in an open-access paper in the Journal of Experimental Botany, could help scientists further boost the yields of corn and Miscanthus, as well as other C4 crops that have evolved to photosynthesize more efficiently than C3 plants such as wheat and rice.

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Saudi Aramco R&D proposes SuperButol as new low-cost high-octane blend component

January 27, 2017

A team from Saudi Aramco Research and Development Center has developed a novel low-cost, high-octane gasoline blend component it calls SuperButol. SuperButol is made from low-value mixed butenes using a new process the team has named Butenes to Butanol (BTB); it has slightly lower blending RON compared to MTBE but has lower blending vapor pressure and higher energy content compared to ethanol.

It also has an insignificant effect on key gasoline specifications, including potential and actual gum; oxidation stability; intake valve deposits; port fuel injector fouling; haze formation; and water extractability performance. The team suggests that SuperButol is thus a viable and affordable gasoline component, which can help to meet future demands for high-octane gasoline. In addition, the process helps to optimize refinery operations by valorizing low-value products. The team describes SuperButol in a paper in the journal Fuel.

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Velocys establishes strategic alliance with TRI for gasification systems for BTL plants

Velocys plc, the developer of smaller scale gas-to-liquids (GTL), signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with ThermoChem Recovery International, Inc. (TRI), establishing a strategic alliance. TRI—a leading provider of steam reforming gasification systems suitable for woody biomass and other waste feedstocks—will be Velocys’ preferred supplier of gasification systems for its biomass-to-liquids (BTL) plants.

The agreement will see the alliance partners rapidly deploy an integrated biorefinery offering that combines Velocys’ Fischer-Tropsch (FT) technology with TRI’s proven gasification technology.

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BP Energy Outlook: 30% growth in global demand to 2035; fuel demand continues to rise, even with EVs & fuel efficiency

January 25, 2017

The 2017 edition of the BP Energy Outlook, published today, forecasts that global demand for energy will increase by around 30% between 2015 and 2035, an average growth of 1.3% per year. However, this growth in energy demand is significantly lower than the 3.4% per year rise expected in global GDP, reflecting improved energy efficiency driven by technology improvements and environmental concerns. The Outlook looks at long-term energy trends and develops projections for world energy markets over the next two decades.

While non-fossil fuels are expected to account for half of the growth in energy supplies over the next 20 years, the Outlook projects that oil and gas, together with coal, will remain the main source of energy powering the world economy, accounting for more than 75% of total energy supply in 2035, compared with 86% in 2015.

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US DOD to award $55M for advanced drop-in biofuels production; 10M gallons/year

The US Air Force Research Laboratory, Materials and Manufacturing Directorate (AFRL/RX) has issued a funding opportunity (FOA-RQKM-2017-0006) for up to $55 million to design, retrofit, construct, operate, validate and qualify domestic, commercial-scale, an integrated biorefinery(s) capable of producing bio-equivalent fuels suitable for military use with a rated capacity of at least 10 million gallons of neat biofuel per year. Cost competitiveness of the neat biofuel fraction with conventional petroleum-derived fuels is a primary goal.

The biorefinery—which may be either a brownfield expansion/modification of existing facilities, or new greenfield construction—is required to use domestic feedstock, and create an Integrated Biofuels Production Enterprise (IBPE). Expansions must add an additional 10 million gpy of capacity; new construction must support the 10 million gpy capacity.

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TU Bergakademie Freiberg launches OTTO-R project with VW Group, Shell, OMV as partners; P2X for green gasoline

January 24, 2017

Researchers at the Technische Universität Bergakademie Freiberg, with partners from the automotive industry (Audi, VW) and the petroleum industry (Shell, OMV) have launched the €1.46-million OTTO-R project for the production of gasoline from “green” methanol produced from CO2, water and renewable electricity.

The new OTTO-R synthesis process is based on the Syngas-To-Fuel-Process (STF) developed by Chemieanlagenbau Chemnitz GmbH (CAC) at the Institute for Energy Process Engineering and Chemical Engineering (IEC). STF first converts natural gas-based synthesis gas to methanol in an isothermal reactor; the methanol is then transformed into high-octane gasoline via the intermediate methanol. Residual methanol and light hydrocarbons are separated downstream and recycled into the process.

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MIT team engineers yeast to boost lipid production for biofuels

January 20, 2017

MIT engineers have genetically engineered strains of the oleaginous yeast Yarrowia lipolytica to boost the production of lipids by about 25% compared to previously engineered yeast strains. Their approach could enable commercialization of microbial carbohydrate-based lipid production, supporting the renewable production of high-energy fuels such as diesel.

A paper on their work is published in the journal Nature Biotechnology; the MIT team, led by Gregory Stephanopoulos, the Willard Henry Dow Professor of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology at MIT, is now working on additional improvements to the lipids yield.

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DOE Co-Optima initiative publishes report reviewing first 12 months; progress on fuels and engines

January 16, 2017

The US Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Co-Optima initiative—a broad, joint effort to co-optimize the development of efficient engines and low greenhouse-gas fuels for on-road vehicles with the goal of reducing petroleum consumption by 30% by 2030 beyond what is already targeted (earlier post)—has published a year-in-review report for FY 2016—the initiative’s first 12 months.

Co-Optima’s premise is that current fuels constrain engine design—and thus engine efficiency. The researchers suggest that there are engine architectures that can provide higher thermodynamic efficiencies than available from modern internal combustion engines; however, new fuels are required to maximize efficiency and operability across a wide speed/load range. The report details the technical progress in a selection of projects across the initiative’s two main thrusts: spark ignition (SI) and advanced compression ignition (ACI).

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DOE and USDA issue notice of intent for Biomass Research and Development Initiative

January 15, 2017

The US Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s (EERE’s) Bioenergy Technologies Office, in coordination with the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA's) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), announced its intent to issue a Request for Applications (RFA) through the Biomass Research and Development Initiative. (DE-FOA-0001711)

Projects funded through this RFA, titled “Fiscal Year 17 Biomass Research and Development Initiative (BRDI),” will help develop economically and environmentally sustainable sources of renewable biomass, and increase the availability of renewable fuels and biobased products. The BRDI program requires that funded projects address at least one of the following three legislatively mandated technical areas:

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BETO report identifies biofuel/bioproducts opportunities from wet and gaseous waste: ~22.2B GGE/year

January 11, 2017

The US Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Bioenergy Technologies Office has published a report, titled Biofuels and Bioproducts from Wet and Gaseous Waste Streams: Challenges and Opportunities. The report is the first comprehensive assessment of the resource potential and technology opportunities provided by wet and gaseous feedstocks, including wastewater treatment-derived sludge and biosolids, animal manure, food waste, inedible fats and greases, biogas, and carbon dioxide streams.

These feedstocks can be converted into renewable natural gas, diesel, and aviation fuels, or into valuable bioproducts.

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DOE BETO releases new strategic plan; biofuels to constitute 25% of US transportation fuels by 2040

December 31, 2016

The US Department of Energy’s Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) released its new strategic plan, titled Strategic Plan for a Thriving and Sustainable Bioeconomy. The strategic plan—with a vision for 2040—lays out BETO’s mission to accomplish its vision in a dynamic setting that realizes changes in the energy landscape, advances in technology, growing environmental awareness, and public expectations.

The strategic plan sets the foundation for the development of BETO’s multi-year program plans, annual operating plans, and technology program areas. It also takes a crosscutting approach to identify opportunities to adapt and align BETO activities and project portfolios with those in both the public and private sectors. The plan centers around four key opportunities: enhancing the bioenergy value proposition; mobilizing US biomass resources; cultivating end-use markets and customers; and expanding stakeholder engagement and collaboration.

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DOE awards LanzaTech $4M for low-carbon jet & diesel demo plant; 3M gpy; Audi evaluating fuel properties

December 30, 2016

LanzaTech has been selected by the Department of Energy’s Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) to receive a $4-million award to design and plan a demonstration-scale facility using industrial off gases to produce 3 million gallons/year of low-carbon jet and diesel fuels. The LanzaTech award was one of six totaling $12.9 million. (Earlier post.)

The LanzaTech facility will recycle industrial waste gases from steel manufacturing to produce a low cost ethanol intermediate: “Lanzanol.” Both Lanzanol and cellulosic ethanol will then be converted to jet fuel via the Alcohol-to-Jet" (ATJ) process developed by LanzaTech and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL). (Earlier post.)

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DOE awarding up to $7M to 8 universities for co-optimization of fuels and engines: Co-Optima

December 29, 2016

The US Department of Energy (DOE) will award up to $7 million to projects at eight universities to accelerate the introduction of affordable, scalable, and sustainable high-performance fuels for use in high-efficiency, low-emission engines.

Under the Co-Optimization of Fuels and Engines (Co-Optima) initiative (earlier post), DOE’s Bioenergy Technologies Office and Vehicle Technologies Office are collaborating to maximize energy savings and on-road vehicle performance, while significantly reducing transportation-related petroleum consumption and harmful emissions. The goal is to reduce petroleum consumption by 30% by 2030 beyond what is already targeted.

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Researchers in China develop new process for direct synthesis of drop-in jet-fuel-range blendstock from lignocellulose

Researchers in China have developed an integrated two-bed continuous flow reactor process for the direct synthesis with high carbon yields (~70%) of dodecanol (C12H26O) or 2,4,8- trimethylnonane (C12H26O2)—a jet-fuel-range C12 branched alkane—from methyl isobutyl ketone (MIBK), which can be derived from lignocellulose.

The dodecanol as obtained can be used as the feedstocks in the production of sodium dodecylsulphate (SDS) and sodium dodecyl benzene sulfonate (SDBS)—widely used as surfactants or detergents. The 2,4,8-trimethylnonane as obtained can be blended into conventional jet fuel without hydroisomerization. A paper on their work is published in the journal ChemSusChem.

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UC Irvine team discovers nitrogenase Fe protein can reduce CO2 to CO; implications for biofuel production

December 28, 2016

A team at the University of California, Irvine has discovered that the iron protein (the reductase component) of the natural enzyme nitrogenase can, independent of its natural catalytic partner, convert CO2 to carbon monoxide (CO)—a syngas used to produce useful biofuels and other chemical products.

The team, led by Professor Yilin Hu (Molecular Biology and Biochemistry), also found that they could express the reductase component alone in the soil bacterium Azotobacter vinelandii to convert CO2 in a manner more applicable to large-scale production of CO. This whole-cell system could be explored further for new ways of recycling atmospheric CO2 into biofuels and other commercial chemical products. A paper on their work is published in the journal Nature Chemical Biology.

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On the road to solar fuels and chemicals

December 27, 2016

In a new paper in the journal Nature Materials (in an edition focused on materials for sustainable energy), a team from Stanford University and SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory has reviewed milestones in the progress of solid-state photoelectrocatalytic technologies toward delivering solar fuels and chemistry.

Noting the “important advances” in solar fuels research, the review team also noted that the largest scientific and technical milestones are still ahead. Following their review, they listed some of the scientific challenges they see as the most important for the coming years.

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Global Bioenergies plans to acquire Dutch start-up Syngip; gaseous carbon feedstocks for renewable isobutene process

December 21, 2016

Global Bioenergies, the developer of a process to convert renewable resources into light olefin hydrocarbons via fermentation (with an initial focus on isobutene) (earlier post), signed a contribution agreement with the shareholders of Syngip B.V. to transfer all Syngip shares to Global Bioenergies S.A. Syngip is a third-generation industrial biotech start-up created in 2014 in the Netherlands that has developed a process to convert gaseous carbon sources such as CO2, CO, and industrial emissions such as syngas, into various valuable chemical compounds.

Syngip has identified a specific micro-organism capable of growing using these gaseous carbon sources as its sole feedstock, and has developed genetic tools to allow the implementation of artificial metabolic pathways into it. Its recent work has been directed to the implementation of metabolic pathways leading to light olefins: major petrochemical molecules, which include isobutene.

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ARPA-E awards $35M to 16 REFUEL projects for energy-dense carbon-neutral liquid fuels; leveraging ammonia

December 17, 2016

The Energy Department’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) has selected 16 projects for a combined $35 million in funding under the new program “Renewable Energy to Fuels Through Utilization of Energy-Dense Liquids (REFUEL)”. (Earlier post.) The 16 REFUEL projects seek to develop scalable technologies for converting water and molecules from the air into energy-dense, carbon-neutral liquid fuels (CNLFs) using electrical energy from renewable sources. REFUEL projects will convert low-cost renewable energy into a transportable chemical fuel and use these fuels for transportation applications, while reducing production costs and environmental impact.

Most of the selected REFUEL projects target the production of ammonia or its conversion to hydrogen or electricity, due ammonia’s attractiveness as a hydrogen and energy carrier. State-of-the-art industrial ammonia production using the Haber-Bosch process requires a hydrogen source (usually natural gas), remains highly capital and energy intensive, and is only economical at a large scale. Many projects seek to overcome these limitations to enable economically competitive, distributed production of this prototypical CNLF.

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Global Bioenergies reports first production of green isobutene at demo plant

December 15, 2016

Global Bioenergies is now entering the final phase of demonstrating its technology for converting renewable carbon into hydrocarbons. The first trials on the demo plant in Leuna were successfully completed, within schedule, in the fall of 2016 and Global Bioenergies announced first production of green isobutene via fermentation. (Earlier post.)

With a nameplate capacity of 100 tons/year, the demo plant will allow the conversion of various resources (industrial-grade sugar from beets and cane, glucose syrup from cereals, second-generation sugars extracted from wheat straw, bagasse, wood chips…), into high-purity isobutene.

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ITM Power to launch 100 MW electrolyzer plant designs at Hannover Messe 2017

December 13, 2016

ITM Power will showcase a series of large scale electrolyzer configurations up to 100MW in size at Hannover Messe 2017 (24 - 28 April). This is in response to utility and oil and gas industry demand for larger scale industrial installations.

ITM Power has sold a number of MW-scale plants over the last year and is now responding to enquires for much larger plant for bus and heavy goods vehicle refueling stations in the to 10MW range and, increasingly, industrial applications ranging from power-to-gas, refineries and steel-making in the 10MW to 100MW range.

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LANL team develops simple catalyst system to upgrade acetone to range of chemicals and fuels

December 12, 2016

Researchers at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) have developed a simple inexpensive catalyst system (Amberlyst 15 and Ni/SiO2–Al2O3) to upgrade bio-derived acetone to provide C6, C9, and C12 aliphatic ketones, along with C9, C12, and C15 aromatic compounds. Stepwise hydrodeoxygenation of the produced ketones can yield branched alcohols, alkenes, and alkanes. A paper on their work is published in the journal ChemSusChem.

Predicted and measured fuel properties of a selection of these produced molecules showed that certain compounds are candidates as drop-in fuel replacements for spark- and compression-ignition engines.

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JISEA: nuclear-renewable hybrid energy systems can reduce GHG from industry, produce fuels and support the power system

December 09, 2016

Nuclear-renewable hybrid energy systems (N-R HESs) can enable low-carbon, on-demand electricity while providing reduced-emission thermal energy for industrial processes. N-R HES systems are managed by a single entity that link a nuclear reactor that generates heat, a thermal power cycle for heat-to-electricity conversion, at least one renewable energy source, and an industrial process that uses thermal and/or electrical energy.

However, the economic feasibility of these systems may depend on future natural gas prices, electricity market structures, and clean energy incentives. A series of new reports from the Joint Institute for Strategic Energy Analysis (JISEA) and Idaho National Laboratory (INL) examines various hybrid system configurations to provide a basis to identify opportunities for clean energy use and examine the most economically viable configurations.

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DOE to issue funding opportunity for integrated biorefinery optimization

December 06, 2016

DOE to issue funding opportunity for integrated biorefinery optimization

The US Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) intends to issue, on behalf of the Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) and the US Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, a funding opportunity announcement (DE-FOA-0001689) entitled, “Integrated Biorefinery Optimization.”

This FOA will support research and development to increase the performance efficiencies of biorefineries resulting in continuous operation and production of biofuels, bioproducts, and biopower at prices competitive with fossil-derived equivalents.

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WSU Tri-Cities researchers receive $50K NSF grant to test market potential for lignin pathway for biojet

December 03, 2016

Researchers at Washington State University Tri-Cities have been awarded a $50,000 National Science Foundation I-Corps grant to explore the commercialization potential of their new pathway for biojet from biomass waste. The WSU process, described in a 2015 paper in the RSC journal Green Chemistry, uses hydrodeoxygenation (HDO) of dilute alkali extracted corn stover lignin catalyzed by a noble metal catalyst (Ru/Al2O3) and acidic zeolite (H+-Y) to produce lignin-substructure-based hydrocarbons (C7-C18), primarily C12-C18 cyclic structure hydrocarbons in the jet fuel range. (Earlier post.)

Current biorefineries undervalue lignin’s potential, largely because selective conversion of lignin has proven to be challenging. Processes that have been successful at breaking the lignin bonds have typically resulted in shorter chain monomers as opposed to the longer chain hydrocarbons needed for fuel. In contrast, the output of the WSU processis a mix of hydrocarbons that are long-chain and can be made into nearly the right mix for jet fuel.

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New ORNL hardware-in-the-loop capability to integrate advanced combustion, new fuels, and electrification pathways

December 02, 2016

A multi-disciplinary team of researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) has developed a new testing capability which integrates a driver model, full vehicle model, and hardware to explore the synergies of advanced combustion, new fuels, and emerging hybrid vehicle architectures over real-world drive cycles. This new facility is focused on low temperature combustion engines but builds upon the powertrain-in-the-loop expertise established with the Vehicle Systems Integration Laboratory (VSI) at ORNL.

The transient advanced combustion laboratory is initially supporting research on the potential of low temperature combustion modes with new fuel and vehicle technologies. The hardware-in-the-loop setup includes a transient dynamometer cell (AVL 300 kW AC) with a low-temperature combustion (LTC) multi-cylinder engine instrumented for combustion and emissions analysis. The light-duty diesel engine used in these experiments (earlier post) was modified for dual-fuel use for port fuel injection of low-reactivity fuel (i.e. gasoline, ethanol etc.) and a high-reactivity fuel (i.e. diesel, biodiesel etc.).

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DOE BETO to issue $8M funding opportunity for algae-based biofuels

The US Department of Energy’s Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) plans (DE-FOA-0001708) to issue a funding opportunity announcement (DE-FOA-0001628) for up to $8 million, subject to appropriations, for the development of algae-based biofuels.

The FOA, entitled Productivity Enhanced Algae and Tool-Kits (PEAK), will support innovative technologies and approaches to help advance bioenergy and bioproducts from algae. These projects will support the development of cost-competitive biofuels from algal biomass by focusing on breakthroughs in advanced biology, as well as biology-based tools to improve algae cultivation productivity. Selected projects will also accelerate future innovations through data sharing within the research and development community.

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GAO study concludes Renewable Fuel Standard will miss advanced biofuel program targets; EPA generally concurs

November 29, 2016

A new study from the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) concludes that the Renewable Fuel Standard program will miss its advanced biofuel targets due to the the high costs of creating advanced biofuel; the relatively low price of fossil fuel; the timing and cost to bring new tech to commercial-scale production; regulatory uncertainty; and other issues as challenges to increased production.

GAO was asked by Congress to review issues related to advanced biofuels R&D. The report describes (1) how the federal government has supported advanced biofuels R&D in recent years and where its efforts have been targeted; and (2) expert views on the extent to which advanced biofuels are technologically understood and the factors that will affect the speed and volume of production. GAO interviewed DOD, DOE, EPA, NSF, and USDA officials and worked with the National Academy of Sciences to convene a meeting of experts from industry, academia, and research organizations. EPA generally agreed with the conclusions of the report, the GAO said.

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Update on DOE Co-Optima project to co-optimize fuels & engines; goal of 30% per vehicle reduction in petroleum

November 28, 2016

In October 2015, the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) launched a broad, joint effort to co-optimize the development of efficient engines and low greenhouse-gas fuels for on-road vehicles with the goal of reducing petroleum consumption by 30% by 2030 beyond what is already targeted. (Earlier post.) The intended application is light-, medium-, and heavy-duty markets including hybrid architectures.

The Co-Optima project team, which is leveraging the technical contributions of nine of DOE’s 17 national laboratories, has grown to more than 130 researchers, according to Robert Wagner, Director of the Fuels, Engines, and Emissions Research Center at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), and a member of the Co-Optima leadership team, in a briefing at the lab earlier this month. In August 2016, DOE announced funding of up to $7 million further to support the initiative.

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Government of Canada to work with provinces, territories, and stakeholders to develop a clean fuel standard

November 26, 2016

The Government of Canada will consult with provinces and territories, Indigenous peoples, industries, and non-governmental organizations to develop a clean fuel standard. The standard would require reductions in the carbon footprint of the fuels supplied in Canada, based on lifecycle analysis. The overall objective of a clean fuel standard would be to achieve annual reductions of 30 megatonnes (Mt) of GHG emissions by 2030.

The approach would not differentiate between crude-oil types produced in or imported into Canada. These consultations would inform the development of a regulatory approach under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA).

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EPA finalizes increase in renewable fuel volumes for 2017; 6% total increase to 19.28B gallons

November 23, 2016

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized increases in renewable fuel volume requirements across all categories of biofuels under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program. In a required annual rulemaking, the action finalizes the volume requirements and associated percentage standards for cellulosic biofuel, advanced biofuel, and total renewable fuel for 2017, and for biomass-based diesel for 2018.

The final volumes represent continued growth over historic levels. The final standards meet or exceed the volume targets specified by Congress for total renewable fuel, biomass-based diesel, and advanced biofuel. Total renewable fuel volumes grow 6% (1.2 billion gallons) from 2016 to 2017 to 19.28 billion gallons.

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Chevrolet and GMC expand alternative fuel fleet offerings; expanded CNG/LPG lineup

November 22, 2016

Chevrolet and GMC are partnering with Power Solutions International, Inc. (PSI) to introduce heavy-duty pickups and full-size vans powered by 6.0-liter V-8 compressed natural gas (CNG) and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG)-capable engines starting in the first quarter of 2017. Chevrolet also will offer CNG and LPG versions of its new Low Cab Forward commercial truck.

The announcement follows the selection of PSI, based in Wood Dale, Illinois, as General Motors Fleet’s preferred upfitter for CNG and LPG trucks. PSI is one of North America’s largest and most experienced providers of integrated turn-key, alternative-fuel powertrain solutions.

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New pathway for producing jet fuel range alkanes from plastics

November 21, 2016

Researchers at Washington State University have developed a novel route for the production of jet fuel range alkanes at high carbon yields from plastics. The process combines catalytic microwave-assisted degradation of low-density polyethylene (a model compound of plastics waste) followed by hydrogenation.

In a paper published in the journal Fuel, the team reported that, depending on the catalyst, the overall carbon yields of organics from raw plastics were approximately 54 or 63%. The raw organics (with the higher yield) could be hydrogenated to fit JP-5 navy fuel at 200 °C, while the raw organics (with the lower yield) could be hydrogenated to match high energy-density jet fuels (e.g. RJ-5 and JP-10) under very low-severity conditions.

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S. Korean researchers develop new catalytic pathway for direct conversion of CO2 to liquid hydrocarbon fuels

A team led by Professor Jae Sung Lee at Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST), with colleagues at Pohang University of Science and Technology (POSTECH), have developed a new pathway for the direct conversion of CO2 to liquid transportation fuels by reaction with renewable hydrogen produced by solar water splitting.

The new carbon capture and utilization (CCU) system is enabled by their discovery of a new catalyst that produces liquid hydrocarbon (C5+) selectivity of ∼65% and greatly suppresses CH4 formation to 2–3%. This selectivity is unprecedented for direct catalytic CO2 hydrogenation and is very similar to that of conventional CO-based Fischer-Tropsch (FT) synthesis, the team reports in a paper published in Applied Catalysis B: Environmental.

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Gevo enters on-road automobile gasoline market in Houston with 12.5% isobutanol blend

November 12, 2016

Gevo, Inc. announced that a 12.5% blend of its bio-isobutanol with gasoline marketed for use in automobiles has begun to be sold in the Houston area. This marks the first time that Gevo’s isobutanol has been specifically targeted towards on-road vehicles. Previously, Gevo and its partners have focused on specialty markets such as marinas and off-road engines. (Earlier post.)

Musket Corporation is Gevo’s distribution partner serving the Houston market and is blending the specially formulated gasoline containing Gevo’s isobutanol to distribute into the on-road automobile market. Buc-ee’s, a 37-store regional chain of rest stops in Texas, is the first company to sell the blend, marketed as a high-performance ethanol-free gasoline.

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Compact pilot plant for solar to liquid fuels production

November 09, 2016

Partners from Germany and Finland in the SOLETAIR project are building a compact pilot plant for the production of gasoline, diesel and kerosene from solar energy, regenerative hydrogen and carbon dioxide. The plant will be compact enough to fit into a shipping container.

The plant consists of three components. A direct air capture unit developed by the Technical Research Center of Finland (VTT) extracts carbon dioxide from air. An electrolysis unit developed by Lappeenranta University of Technology (LUT) produces the required hydrogen by means of solar power. A microstructured, chemical reactor—the key component of the plant—converts the hydrogen produced from solar power together with carbon dioxide into liquid fuels. This reactor was developed by KIT. The compact plant was developed to maturity and is now being commercialized by KIT spin-off INERATEC.

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BP takes $30M stake in Fulcrum Bioenergy; 500M gallon renewable jet offtake agreement

November 08, 2016

Fulcrum BioEnergy and BP signed a major strategic partnership that includes a $30-million equity investment in Fulcrum by BP. With Fulcrum’s first plant under construction, this partnership accelerates the construction schedule for Fulcrum’s next renewable jet fuel plants.

Fulcrum and Air BP, the aviation division of BP, have also agreed to terms on a 500-million gallon jet fuel offtake agreement that will provide Air BP with 50 million gallons per year of low-carbon, drop-in jet fuel. Air BP will also have the opportunity to provide fuel supply chain services for the blending, certification and delivery of Fulcrum’s jet fuel to commercial and military aviation customers.

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SAE REX: PHEVs and REEVs could open door for advanced combustion regime engines

November 07, 2016

Increased market penetration of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) and range-extended electric vehicles (REEVs) across vehicle segments could present an opportunity for emerging advanced combustion regime engines, such as those using various low-temperature combustion modes, according to a number of presentations at the SAE 2016 Range Extenders for Electric Vehicles Symposium held last week in Knoxville.

The REEV or PHEV also may present opportunities for more novel power sources such as turbines (Wrightspeed), fuel cell stacks (Nissan) or aluminum-air batteries (Phinergy and Arconic), speakers suggested. The REX symposium was sponsored by Mahle; the organizers were from Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Mahle.

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FCA presents Fiat 500 M15 (methanol); to be sold in Israel

November 03, 2016

At the Fuel Choices Summit in Israel this week, FCA presented the Fiat 500 M15—a retail-ready version of the Fiat 500 that runs on a blend of 85% gasoline and 15% methanol; is compliant with the Euro 6 New European Driving Cycle (NEDC); delivers a 2% CO2 reduction compared with the same Euro 6 version of the vehicle running on gasoline; and maintains the same vehicle performance.

The Fiat 500M15 is bi-fuel and can run on both M15 and gasoline, as well as any mixture of the two fuels. The product will be marketed in Israel by MCA—the official Israeli importer of FCA Group.

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JILA team identifies missing piece in how fossil fuel combustion contributes to air pollution

October 31, 2016

JILA physicists and colleagues have identified a long-missing piece in the puzzle of exactly how fossil fuel combustion contributes to air pollution and a warming climate. Performing chemistry experiments in a new way, they observed a key molecule that appears briefly during a common chemical reaction in the atmosphere. JILA a partnership of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the University of Colorado Boulder. Their paper appears in Science.

The reaction combines the hydroxyl molecule (OH, produced by reaction of oxygen and water) and carbon monoxide (CO, a byproduct of incomplete fossil fuel combustion) to form hydrogen (H) and carbon dioxide (CO2).

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IMO sets 2020 date for ships to comply with low sulfur fuel oil requirement; 5000 ppm

October 29, 2016

The International Maritime Organization (IMO), the regulatory authority for international shipping, decided to implement a global sulfur cap of 0.50% m/m (mass/mass) (5,000 ppm) on fuel oil starting 1 January 2020 during its Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC), meeting for its 70th session in London.

The cap represents a significant cut from the 3.5% m/m (35,000 ppm) global limit currently in place and demonstrates a clear commitment by IMO to ensuring shipping meets its environmental obligations.

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Study finds ethanol blending appears to reduce significantly genotoxic emissions from gasoline direct injection vehicles

October 24, 2016

A research team from Empa (Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology) and the University of Applied Sciences Bern, Laboratory for Exhaust Emission Control, reports that ethanol blending appeared to reduce genotoxic emissions from a flex-fuel Euro-5 gasoline direct injection (GDI) vehicle (a Volvo V60 with a 1.6 L engine) under transient and steady driving conditions.

In a paper published in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology, the researchers reported that particle number emissions when operating the vehicle in the hWLTC (hot started worldwide harmonized light-duty vehicle test cycle) with E10 and E85 were lowered by 97% and 96% respectively compared with that of E0. CO emissions dropped by 81% and 87%, while CO2 emissions were reduced by 13 and 17%. Emissions of selected polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) were lowered by 67–96% with E10 and by 82–96% with E85, and the genotoxic potentials dropped by 72% and 83%, respectively.

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US total petroleum demand up in September year-on-year; highest September gasoline deliveries on record

October 22, 2016

Total petroleum deliveries in September increased 1.0% from September 2015, but were down 2.6% from August to average 19.6 million barrels per day, according to figures from the American Petroleum Institute (API). These September deliveries were the highest deliveries for the month in nine years, since 2007.

For the third quarter of 2016, total petroleum deliveries, a measure of US petroleum demand, decreased by 0.1% from the same period last year. For year to date, total domestic petroleum deliveries remained flat compared to the same period last year.

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27 teams advancing in $20M NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE; converting CO2 to products

October 18, 2016

XPRIZE announced the 27 teams representing six countries advancing in the $20-million NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE, a global competition to develop technologies that convert the most carbon dioxide emissions from natural gas and power plant facilities into products with the highest net value. The semi-finalist teams propose converting CO2 into products as varied as enhanced concrete, fuels, toothpaste, nanotubes, fish food and fertilizer.

Launched in September 2015, the 4.5-year competition includes the demonstrations by finalist technologies at either a coal or a natural gas power plant. Six of the teams are competing in both the coal and natural gas competition tracks. About half of the 27 teams are producing fuels of one sort or another, with several more producing liquid chemicals that could serve as intermediates to fuel production. Those teams producing fuels or potential intermediates include:

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New three-step process for conversion of vegetable oils into cycloparaffinic and aromatic biofuels in jet fuel range

October 17, 2016

A team from the University of Science & Technology of China in Hefei has developed a three-step process for the conversion of vegetable oils (triglycerides) into cycloparaffinic and aromatic biofuels in jet fuel range.

This process cracks vegetable oils into light aromatics over the zeolite catalyst (HZSM-5(80)), followed by the aromatic alkylation of the resulting light aromatics using the ionic liquid [bmim]Cl-2AlCl3, followed by the hydrogenation of the aromatics over a Pd/AC catalyst. As reported in a paper in the journal Fuel, the process produced 86.2 wt% of C8–C15 aromatics after alkylation, yielding 84.3 wt% monocyclic cycloparaffins after hydrogenation.

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Rotterdam proposed location for Enerkem waste-to-chemicals plant

October 07, 2016

A partnership comprising AkzoNobel, Van Gansewinkel, Air Liquide, AVR and Enerkem is proposing to build a waste-to-chemicals plant in Rotterdam in collaboration with the Port of Rotterdam, the City of Rotterdam, the province of South Holland and InnovationQuarter.

The new chemical plant will use Enerkem’s innovative technology to convert residual waste into methanol, a raw material used in the chemical industry. The methanol will then be converted into chemicals such as acetic acid (e.g., for fibers and adhesives), thickening agents and dimethyl ether (clean propellant gases).

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NREL lowers biofuel costs through catalyst regeneration and vapor-phase upgrading; R-Cubed

October 06, 2016

This past June, researchers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), in partnership with Particulate Solids Research, Inc. and Springs Fabrication, installed a recirculating regenerating riser reactor (R-Cubed) in the pilot-scale Thermochemical Process Development Unit (TCPDU). Funded by the DOE Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO), this unique unit represents the next generation of thermochemical biomass conversion technology and adds additional capabilities to NREL’s state-of-the-art Thermochemical Users Facility.

The R-Cubed system will now allow for catalytic upgrading of biomass pyrolysis vapors—a process that can significantly improve the efficiency and reduce the costs associated with upgrading bio-oil to a finished fuel product—at an industrially-relevant pilot scale.

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EPA proposing updates to Renewable Fuel Standard

October 05, 2016

EPA is proposing updates to the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) regulations and related fuels regulations to better align the standards with the current state of the renewable fuels market and to promote the use of ethanol and non-ethanol biofuels.

Several of the proposed changes to the Renewable Fuel Standard program would align regulations with recent developments in the marketplace resulting in increased production of cellulosic, advanced and other biofuels, EPA said.

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Researchers show mixotrophic fermentation process improves carbon conversion, boosting yields and reducing CO2

October 03, 2016

A team from White Dog Labs, a startup commercializing a mixotrophy-based fermentation process, and the University of Delaware have shown that anaerobic, non-photosynthetic mixotrophy—the concurrent utilization of organic (for example, sugars) and inorganic (CO2) substrates in a single organism—can overcome the loss of carbon to CO2 during fermentation to increase product yields and reduce overall CO2 emissions.

In an open-access paper published in Nature Communications, the researchers report on their engineering of the bacterium Clostridium ljungdahlii to produce acetone with a mass yield 138% of the previous theoretical maximum using a high cell density continuous fermentation process. In addition, when enough reductant (i.e., H2) was provided, the fermentation emitted no CO2. They further showed that mixotrophy is a general trait among acetogens.

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Global Bioenergies reports first production of isobutene from wheat straw at the industrial pilot scale

September 29, 2016

Global Bioenergies and Clariant announced the first isobutene production from a wheat straw hydrolysate, in the industrial pilot of Pomacle Bazancourt. This success is the result of a collaboration initiated more than 18 months ago, and has been made possible by combining Clariant’s proprietary process, allowing for the conversion of agricultural residues into sugar-rich hydrolysates, with Global Bioenergies’ proprietary process for the production of isobutene from various industrial-grade sugars.

Clariant has produced the wheat straw hydrolysate, rich in non food/non feed second generation sugar, in its Straubing facility in Germany. This hydrolysate was converted into renewable isobutene in Global Bioenergies’ industrial pilot operated by ARD in its Pomacle-Bazancourt facility. This result demonstrates the maturity, the complementarity, and the versatility of the two proprietary processes.

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Study shows gasoline pre-blending in ethanol production could cut energy requirements of separation by 17-40%

September 26, 2016

Researchers at the University of Witwatersrand and the University of South Africa are proposing replacing the final purification steps of conventional bio-ethanol production with a simple gasoline-blending step.

In a paper published in the ACS journal Energy & Fuels, they show that gasoline pre-blending results in a spontaneous liquid phase split which produces a viable fuel with desirable ethanol content and high recovery of ethanol; reduces the energy requirements of separation by between 17 and 40%; reduces operating costs of the process; and also eliminates capital expenses.

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Toyota develops new DNA analysis technology to accelerate plant improvement; boosting biofuel crop yield

September 23, 2016

Toyota Motor Corporation (TMC) has developed a DNA analysis technology it calls Genotyping by Random Amplicon Sequencing (GRAS). This technology is capable of significantly improving the efficiency of identifying and selecting useful genetic information for agricultural plant improvement.

This newly developed technology could thus lead to substantial time and cost savings in the agricultural plant improvement process. Toyota says that the promising technology has the potential to boost sugar-cane production, and to increase biofuel crop yields per unit area of land. The company worked with analytical materials provided by the Kyushu Okinawa Agricultural Research Center (KARC) of the National Agriculture and Food Research Organization (NARO)

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Navy tests 100-percent CHCJ advanced biofuel in EA-18G

September 20, 2016

The US Navy has completed flight testing of a 100% advanced biofuel in the EA-18G “Green Growler” at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland. The US Navy is a leader in incorporating alternative fuel into operational supplies, in order to increase mission capability and flexibility.

The catalytic hydrothermal conversion-to-jet (CHCJ) process 100% alternative fuel performed as expected during a ground test 30 August at NAWCAD’s Aircraft Test and Evaluation Facility (ATEF), followed by the first test flight 1 September, said Rick Kamin, energy and fuels lead for Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR). Kamin also leads the alternative fuel test and qualification program for the Navy.

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KAUST team proposes pine-tree derived terpineol as octane booster for gasoline

September 17, 2016

A team at the Clean Combustion Research Center (CCRC), King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), Saudi Arabia, is proposing the use of terpineol as an octane booster for gasoline in a spark ignited (SI) engine. Terpineol is a bio-derived oxygenated fuel obtained from pine tree resin, and has the advantage of higher calorific value than ethanol, enabling improved fuel economy.

Terpineol is produced by the addition of phosphoric acid with pinene, which is extracted from the resins of pine tree. It is an unsaturated cyclic alcohol; previous work on the combustion chemistry of alcohols suggested that terpineol will have a high antiknock potential.

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DOE seeking input on H2@scale: hydrogen as centerpiece of future energy system; 50% reduction in energy GHGs by 2050

September 11, 2016

Earlier this year, The US Department of Energy (DOE) national laboratories identified the potential of hydrogen to decarbonize deeply a multitude of sectors in a proposal termed “H2@Scale”. Preliminary analysis performed by the national laboratories on the H2@Scale concept indicated that nearly a 50% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions is possible by 2050 via such large-scale hydrogen production and use.

The concept sees hydrogen—a flexible, clean energy-carrying intermediate—having the potential to be a centerpiece of a future energy system where aggressive market penetration of renewables (wind and solar) are coupled with renewable hydrogen production to meet society’s energy demands across industrial, transportation, and power generation sectors using clean, renewable resources and processes.

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Gen 2 Audi A5 Sportback available as bivalent g-tron; Audi e-gas, natural gas or gasoline

September 07, 2016

Following on the heels of the introduction of the second-generation A5 in June (earlier post), Audi has now introduced the new A5 and S5 Sportback coupé models.

The second generation comes with a completely reengineered suspension, high-performance drives and innovative driver assistance systems. The S5 takes to the road with a new six-cylinder turbo engine developing 354 hp (264 kW) and 500 N·m (369 lb-ft). In a new departure, the A5 Sportback is also available as a bivalent g-tron, which customers can run on either Audi e-gas (earlier post), natural gas or gasoline.

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Tesoro to acquire renewable fuels company Virent

Renewable fuels and chemicals company Virent and petroleum refiner and marketer Tesoro have reached an agreement for Tesoro to become Virent’s new strategic owner. The acquisition will support the scale-up and commercialization of Virent’s BioForming technology for the production of low carbon bio-based fuels and chemicals. (Earlier post.)

The companies initiated a strategic relationship in January 2016 (earlier post), and have worked together to establish a forward plan to scale-up the technology and reduce deployment risks to meet the increasing demands for high quality, renewable fuels and chemicals.

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European consortium begins demonstration project for conversion of woody biomass to chemicals: BIOFOREVER

BIOFOREVER (BIO-based products from FORestry via Economically Viable European Routes)—a consortium of 14 European companies—has started a demonstration project for the conversion of woody biomass to value-adding chemical building blocks such as butanol, ethanol, and 2,5–furandicarboxylic acid (FDCA) on an industrial scale.

The demonstration project will run for 3 years. The overall budget is €16.2 million (US$18 million) with a €9.9-million (US$11-million) contribution from BBI JU. Woody biomass, including waste wood, will be converted to lignin, (nano-) cellulose and (hemi-) cellulosic sugars, and further converted to lignin derivatives and chemicals. Feedstocks will be benchmarked with crop residues and energy crops.

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Study finds isopropanol-n-butanol-ethanol and gasoline blend viable as alternative fuel

September 05, 2016

Researchers from the University of Illinois and colleagues in China investigating the performance, combustion and emission characteristics of a port fuel-injection SI engine fueled with isopropanol-n-butanol-ethanol (IBE)-gasoline blends have concluded that an IBE30 blend could be a good alternative to gasoline.

Bio-n-butanol itself is a promising alternative fuel, produced conventionally from the fermentation of carbohydrates by Clostridium bacteria in a well-established process referred to as ABE fermentation, after its major chemical products: acetone, butanol and ethanol. However, ABE fermentation production suffers from relatively low production efficiency as well as the high cost of component recovery; the product mixture typically has an A:B:E ratio of 3:6:1.

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SLAC, Utrecht Univ. team visualize poisoning of FCC catalysts used in gasoline production; seeing changes in pore network materials

August 31, 2016

Merging two powerful 3-D X-ray techniques, a team of researchers from the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Utrecht University in the Netherlands revealed new details of the metal poisoning process that clogs the pores of fluid catalytic cracking (FCC) catalyst particles used in gasoline production, causing them to lose effectiveness.

The team combined their data to produce a video that shows the chemistry of this aging process and takes the viewer on a virtual flight through the pores of a catalyst particle. More broadly, the approach is generally applicable and provides an unprecedented view of dynamic changes in a material’s pore space—an essential factor in the rational design of functional porous materials including those use for batteries and fuel cells. The results were published in an open access paper in Nature Communications.

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Researchers generate methane from CO2 in one light-driven step using engineered bacteria

August 25, 2016

Using an engineered strain of the phototropic bacterium Rhodopseudomonas palustris as a biocatalyst, a team from the University of Washington, Utah State University and Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University have reduced carbon dioxide to methane in one enzymatic step.

The work demonstrates the feasibility of using microbes to generate hydrocarbons (i.e., CH4 in this case) from CO2 in one enzymatic step using light energy. A paper on their work is published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

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