[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.]
Propel Fuels reports strong consumer adoption of renewable diesel in SoCal; retail sales up 300% over biodiesel
November 18, 2015
Propel launched Diesel HPR across Southern California in August 2015, and consumer adoption of the fuel has risen 300% compared to its former biodiesel product (B20). (Earlier post.) Utilizing Neste’s NEXBTL renewable diesel, Propel’s Diesel HPR is a low-carbon, drop-in renewable fuel that meets the ASTM D-976 petroleum diesel specifications for use in diesel engines, while offering drivers better performance and lower emissions.
Performance features include a 75 cetane rating, 40 percent higher than regular diesel. Diesel HPR provides cleaner and more efficient combustion for more power and a smoother ride at a cost similar to or lower than petroleum diesel.
DOE releases SBIR/STTR FY16 Phase 1 Release 2 topics; hydrogen, electric vehicles, more efficient combustion engines; biogas-to-fuels
November 16, 2015
The US Department of Energy has announced the 2016 Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer (SBIR/STTR) Phase I Release 2 Topics, covering eight DOE research program organizations.
Among the many topics listed are magnetocaloric materials development for hydrogen delivery; two hydrogen technology transfer opportunities (TTO); EV traction batteries and power electronics; new combustion engine technologies; and the co-utilization of CO2 and methane in biogas to produce higher hydrocarbon fuels. DOE plans to issue the full Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) on 30 November 2015.
Aramco opens R&D center in Detroit area; fuels research with focus on novel fuels/engines systems for reduced CO2
November 14, 2015
The Aramco Research Center-Detroit was inaugurated as one of three US-based research and development (R&D) centers aimed at expanding the global research capabilities of Saudi Aramco, the leading global integrated energy and chemicals company. The new facility, located in Novi, Mich., and owned and operated by US subsidiary Aramco Services Company, further strengthens the company’s global fuels research program.
Aramco’s fuels technology program is focused on reducing the overall environmental impact, cost and complexity of both current and future fuel-engine systems. With a global refining presence, Aramco brings a perspective into how fuels can be designed and matched to engines for higher performance and lower emissions. A planned outcome of Aramco’s research is to generate vehicle and fleet demonstrations to showcase the benefits of novel fuel/engine systems.
US Departments of Agriculture, Energy partner to award $4.9M for bioenergy research
October 25, 2015
The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the US Department of Energy (DOE) are partnering to award nearly $5 million in grants to scientists to study the use of plants to further bioenergy development.
The $4.9 million in research grants is awarded under a joint DOE-USDA program that began in 2006; DOE is providing $2.9 million in funding over 3 years, while USDA will award $2 million over 3 years. The awards focus on fundamental investigations of biomass genomics, with the aim of harnessing non-food plant biomass for the production of fuels, such as ethanol or renewable chemical feedstocks.
SG Preston and IHI E&C partner on portfolio of renewable diesel and jet plants; 5 initial sites, 600M gallons total capacity
October 22, 2015
SG Preston, a Philadelphia-based bioenergy company, is partnering with IHI E&C, a Houston-based engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) subsidiary of Japan’s IHI Corporation, to develop and to construct a series of commercial-scale renewable diesel and jet fuel manufacturing plants, initially in the US Midwest and Canada.
The plants will use licensed, proven, commercial-scale technologies for the production of renewable diesel and jet fuel targeting US and global industries seeking a volume-based, competitively priced solution to their environmental sustainability mandates. SG Preston will deploy its biofuels strategy initially at five plants (South Point and Van Wert, Ohio; Logansport, Indiana; and two additional, to-be-announced sites, one in Michigan, and one in Ontario, Canada), each with an initial capacity to produce 120 million gallons of renewable diesel and jet fuel annually.
UT Austin researcher awarded $15M for switchgrass traits studies
A researcher at The University of Texas at Austin will receive two grants totaling $15 million to study switchgrass (Panicum virgatum), with a focus on how it can become a sustainable source of bioenergy.
Tom Juenger, a professor of integrative biology, will lead scientists from multiple institutions—including federal agencies, universities and the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology—on two projects researching switchgrass. A five-year grant from the Department of Energy’s Office of Biological and Environmental Research will provide $11 million for the university and $4 million for partner institutions. Additionally, the National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded a four-year grant of $4 million to Juenger and his team. Both grants begin this fall.
Sandia CRF team provides experimental confirmation of oxidation scheme of lower emissions diesel alternative DME; new intermediates
October 17, 2015
An international team of researchers led by a group from the Combustion Research Facility (CRF) at Sandia National Laboratories recently provided experimental confirmation of the generally accepted low-temperature oxidation scheme of dimethyl ether (DME)—a lower soot and emissions alternative to diesel—at low temperatures (~540 K, 267˚C). Their paper was published in the ACS Journal of Physical Chemistry A.
Especially significant, they said, was detecting and identifying keto-hydroperoxide (hydroperoxymethylformate, HPMF, HOOCH2OCHO)—a previously undiscovered partially oxidized intermediate—thereby providing critical information needed to improve models.
Linde pilot testing dry reforming process to generate syngas from CO2 and methane for production of fuels and chemicals
October 16, 2015
As part of its R&D strategy, Linde has built a pilot reformer facility at Pullach near Munich—Linde’s largest location worldwide—to test dry-reforming technology. The dry reforming process catalytically combines CH4, the principal component of natural gas, and CO2 to produce syngas (CO and H2). Syngas is then used to produce valuable downstream products such as base chemicals or fuels.
The dry reforming process differs from steam reforming, which combines CH4 and water (H2O) in the form of steam to produce the syngas. Producing the steam is energy-intensive; dry reforming requires far less water, and hence avoids the energy burden of steam production. In addition to reducing energy consumption, the dry reforming process also consumes recycled carbon dioxide.
Toyota announces aggressive environmental targets through 2050; cutting new vehicle CO2 by 90% compared to 2010
October 14, 2015
Addressing key global environmental issues such as climate change, water shortages, resource depletion, and degradation of biodiversity, the Toyota Environmental Challenge 2050 aims to reduce the negative impact of manufacturing and driving vehicles as much as possible. The challenge comprises six individual challenges across three areas: Ever-better cars, quantified as reducing global average new-vehicle CO2 emissions by 90% by 2050 compared to Toyota’s 2010 global average; ever-better manufacturing (zero CO2 emissions at all plants by 2050); and enriching the lives of communities.
As a key step toward achieving these long-term targets, Toyota is announcing its Sixth Toyota Environmental Action Plan, which will be enacted between April 2016 and the end of March 2021.
DLR wrapping up ECLIF in-flight study of emissions from alternative aviation fuels; potential for improved fuel design
October 09, 2015
In a three-week series of flight tests lasting until 9 October 2015, the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) has been investigating how to reduce the impact of air transport on the climate by using alternative fuels. The testing is part of DLR’s Emission and Climate Impact of Alternative Fuels (ECLIF) project.
ECLIF is analyzing the emissions produced by alternative fuels using the full range of methods available at DLR—from combustion analysis in the laboratories of the DLR Institute of Combustion Technology and tests in the combustion chamber test facilities at the DLR Institute of Propulsion Technology, through to the exhaust gas measurements conducted by the DLR Institute of Atmospheric Physics now taking place during the flight trials.
ORNL researchers use neutron crystallography to gain better understanding of biomass hydrolysis enzyme xylanase
Researchers led by a team from the US Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) are using neutron crystallography to understand the functioning of enzymes at the molecular level and to learn how to bioengineer those enzymes for large-scale improvements in the efficiency of biomass processing.
Using the MaNDi (Macromolecular Neutron Diffractometer) instrument at ORNL’s Spallation Neutron Source (a DOE Office of Science User Facility) (earlier post), the LANSCE (Los Alamos Neutron Science Center) Protein Crystallography Station in Los Alamos, N.M., and the FRMII BioDiff (Diffractometer for large unit cells) instrument in Munich, Germany, they determined the structure of xylanase, an enzyme used to digest hemicellulose during biofuel production, at unprecedented detail.
Study: marine cyanobacteria produce 100s of millions of tonnes of hydrocarbons annually
October 06, 2015
An international team of researchers, led by the University of Cambridge, has estimated that photosynthetic marine cyanobacteria annually produce hundreds of millions of tonnes of hydrocarbons in the oceans. These organisms in turn support another population of bacteria that feed on these compounds.
In the study, conducted in collaboration with researchers from the University of Warwick and MIT, and published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), the scientists measured the amount of hydrocarbons in a range of laboratory-grown cyanobacteria and used the data to estimate the amount produced in the oceans.
Aemetis harvests demo crop of optimized biomass sorghum in California for advanced biofuels; ~90 days from planting to harvest
October 05, 2015
Aemetis, Inc., an advanced renewable fuels and biochemicals company, has harvested 12- to 15-foot tall biomass sorghum grown in Central California that was produced using proprietary seed genetics from Nexsteppe, a provider of optimized sorghum feedstock solutions. Biomass Sorghum is a feedstock for low-carbon advanced biofuels.
The 20-acre demonstration crop of biomass sorghum was planted, grown, and harvested by Aemetis in approximately 90 days, validating the potential use of biomass crops for the production of lower-carbon, advanced biofuels or as a rotational crop in California.
ARB posts discussion draft of new proposed mobile-source emissions reduction strategy through 2030; Advanced Clean Cars 2 regulation
October 02, 2015
The California Air Resources Board (ARB) staff has published a discussion draft of a proposed strategy for further regulation and reduction of mobile source—cars, trucks, and off-road equipment—emissions. The approach described is designed to meet simultaneously federal air quality standards; achieve greenhouse gas emission reduction targets; reduce petroleum consumption; and decrease health risk from transportation sources through 2030.
ARB staff developed this strategy using a multi-pollutant scenario planning tool (Vision 2.0) that quantifies changes in ozone and PM2.5 precursor emissions; GHG emissions; petroleum usage; and diesel toxics emissions as various technologies become widespread in vehicle and equipment fleets.
Caltech, JPL designed megasupramolecule fuel additive reduces intensity of post-impact fuel explosions
Researchers at Caltech and JPL used statistical mechanics to design a polymeric fuel additive that can self-assemble into “megasupramolecules” (≥5000 kg/mol) at low concentration (≤0.3 weight percent) and thus can reduce the intensity of post-impact fuel explosions that occur during accidents and terrorist acts.
Furthermore, preliminary results show that the additive can provide this benefit without adversely affecting fuel performance. The work is published in the journal Science.
University of Nebraska-Lincoln leading $13.5M effort to improve sorghum for biofuel
September 30, 2015
The University of Nebraska-Lincoln will lead a $13.5-million, multi-institutional research effort to improve sorghum as a sustainable source for biofuel production.
Funded by the US Department of Energy, this five-year grant takes a comprehensive approach to better understand how plants and microbes interact, and to learn which sorghum germplasm grows better with less water and nitrogen. This research requires a range of expertise, and UNL is teaming with scientists at Danforth Plant Science Center, Washington State University, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Boyce Thompson Institute, Clemson University, Iowa State University, Colorado State University and the DOE-Joint Genome Institute.
Gevo begins selling renewable isooctene to BCD Chemie; fuel applications
September 29, 2015
Gevo has begun selling renewable isooctene to BCD Chemie, a subsidiary of Brenntag. Initial orders in 2015 are expected to result in revenues to Gevo of more than $1 million. The isooctene will be produced at Gevo’s biorefinery in Silsbee, Texas, derived from isobutanol produced at Gevo’s plant in Luverne, Minn. Gevo’s biorefinery is operated in conjunction with South Hampton Resources.
BCD Chemie is targeting applications in Europe with Gevo’s isooctene. This commences a relationship with BCD Chemie that may include the marketing of other hydrocarbon products, including isooctane and jet fuel, and builds on Gevo’s existing partnership with Brenntag in Canada, which is currently selling Gevo’s isobutanol as a solvent in Canada.
California Air Resources Board readopts Low Carbon Fuel Standard, adopts regulation on alternative diesel fuels
September 25, 2015
The Air Resources Board re-adopted a Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS), which requires a 10% reduction by 2020 in the carbon intensity of transportation fuels. The program requires that transportation fuels used in California meet a baseline target for carbon intensity which is reduced each year.
The Board also adopted a regulation governing alternative diesel fuels (ADF). The regulation puts in place a three-step process beginning in 2016 to create a path to bring cleaner diesel substitutes into the market.
Amyris in multi-year technology investment agreement with DARPA worth up to $35M
September 24, 2015
Amyris, Inc. announced a multi-year Technology Investment Agreement (TIA) worth up to $35 million with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA) Biological Technologies Office to create new research and development tools and technologies that will significantly reduce the time and cost of bringing new molecules to market. Amyris has chosen five specialized subcontractors to assist in achieving these innovations.
According to DARPA, its focus in working with industrial biotechnology companies is to solicit competitively “innovative proposals to develop new tools, technologies and methodologies” to create new capabilities in biotech. The tools and infrastructure developed through DARPA-funded efforts are expected to enable the rapid and scalable development of transformative defense-relevant products and systems that are currently too complex to access.
MSU researchers fabricate synthetic protein that streamlines carbon fixing machinery of cyanobacteria; potential boost for biofuels
September 22, 2015
Researchers at the MSU-DOE Plant Research Laboratory, Michigan State University, have fabricated a synthetic protein that not only improves the assembly of the carbon-fixing factory of cyanobacteria (also known as blue-green algae), but also provides a proof of concept for a device that could potentially improve plant photosynthesis or be used to install new metabolic pathways in bacteria.
The multi-function protein, which the researchers compare to a Swiss Army Knife, streamlines the molecular machinery of cyanobacteria, making biofuels and other green chemical production from these organisms more viable. The researchers describe their work in a paper in the journal The Plant Cell.
Ford Europe leading project investigating DME and OME1 as low carbon, near zero particulate fuels; power-to-liquids pathways using CO2
September 12, 2015
Ford Motor Company is leading a €3.5-million (US$3.9-million) research project to investigate the use of alternative fuels that could offer customers the power and performance of modern internal combustion engines with environmental benefits comparable to an electric vehicle.
The German government is co-funding the three-year project that will test the first cars to run on dimethyl ether (DME) (earlier post), commonly used as a non-toxic propellant in aerosol spray gas, and monooxymethylene ether (OME1). (OME1 is made from methanol on a commercial scale and has a cetane number of 38; it can be mixed with additives to produce OME1a diesel fuel (CN 48).)
Ensyn receives EPA regulatory approval for its cellulosic renewable diesel RFDiesel
September 11, 2015
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently granted Ensyn Corporation (earlier post) Part 79 registration for its renewable diesel product, RFDiesel. This registration, pursuant to Title 40 CFR Part 79 of the Clean Air Act, is required for the sale of RFDiesel in the US.
RFDiesel, a drop-in diesel transportation fuel, is created by processing Ensyn’s renewable crude (RFO), a liquid cellulosic feedstock, with customary petroleum feedstocks in conventional petroleum refineries (RFO Coprocessing). There, Ensyn’s RFO is used as a feedstock in Fluid Catalytic Crackers (FCCs). FCC units are found in most refineries worldwide and are used to produce gasoline and diesel from vacuum gas oil (VGO). When RFO is processed alongside VGO in FCC units at VGO displacement rates up to approximately 5%, RFO performs comparably to VGO on a volumetric basis producing spec gasoline and diesel.
DOE to award up to $11M for medium- and heavy-duty vehicle powertrain electrification and dual fuel fleet demonstration
September 10, 2015
The US Department of Energy (DOE) has issued a funding opportunity (DE-FOA-0001349 ) announcement for up to $11 million to support projects covering two areas of technical interest. The first is medium- and heavy-duty powertrain electrification; the second is a dual fuel fleet demonstration. DOE anticipates making approximately 2 to 4 awards under this FOA, with the majority of funding going to electrification projects.
Area of Interest (AOI) 1: Medium and Heavy Duty Vehicle Powertrain Electrification. The objective of this area of interest is to research, develop, and demonstrate electric-drive powertrain technologies for medium- and heavy-duty Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEV) and Electric Vehicles (EV) that reduce fuel consumption by at least 50% when compared to an equivalent vehicle with a conventional internal combustion engine powertrain driven on a comparable duty cycle.
FAA awards $100M to 8 companies for CLEEN II development; lower fuel consumption, emissions and noise
September 09, 2015
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has awarded $100 million in contracts to eight companies to develop and to demonstrate aviation technologies that reduce fuel consumption, emissions, and noise under the second phase of its Continuous Lower Energy, Emissions, and Noise (CLEEN II) program. (The CLEEN II solicitation was posted in October 2014.)
The five-year CLEEN II program will build on the success of the original CLEEN program, a public-private partnership that began in 2010 and is a key part of the FAA’s NextGen efforts to make aviation more environmentally friendly. (Earlier post.) The CLEEN team focused on nine projects in the area of energy efficient aircraft technologies and sustainable alternative jet fuels. The first of these technologies will enter service in 2016.
DEINOVE and Tyton partner to combine bacterial fermentation solutions with energy tobacco feedstock for biofuels and bio-based chemicals
September 08, 2015
DEINOVE, a biotech company developing innovative processes for producing biofuels and bio-based chemicals using Deinococcus bacteria as host strains (earlier post), and Tyton BioEnergy Systems, an agricultural biotech company with novel tobacco technology used to produce green chemicals and agricultural products, have entered into a technology and commercialization partnership.
The main goal of the partnership is to combine Tyton’s energy tobacco feedstock, process and production infrastructure with DEINOVE’s Deinococcus-based fermentation solutions in order to produce green chemical compounds of high commercial value.
Global Bioenergies joins aireg to push jet fuel application of its isobutene process; isododecane
France-based Global Bioenergies, a company developing a processes to convert renewable resources into hydrocarbons through fermentation, has joined aireg (Aviation Initiative for Renewable Energy in Germany e.V.) aireg, an organization promoting the development and use of renewable liquid fuels in aviation, aims to replace 10% of German jet fuel demand with sustainable, alternative aviation fuels by 2025.
Global Bioenergies, which is currently developing its demonstration plant in Leuna, Germany, will soon be able to produce alternative jet fuel from sugars. Earlier this year, the company reported the successful conversion of renewable resources first into gaseous isobutene via fermentation, which was then subsequently catalytically oligomerized into a mix of fuel-range liquid hydrocarbons. (Earlier post.) The resulting product slate contained isooctane; isododecane (C12H26, a highly branched alkane well-suited for the aviation market); isocetane; as well as longer strings.
UCL, BP team study on combustion and emissions characteristics of a range of fuel molecules from lignocellulosic biomass
September 01, 2015
A team from University College London and BP’s Fuels and Lubricants Research group has investigated the combustion and emissions characteristics of a range of fuel molecules which can be produced from lignocellulosic biomass through a variety of processing routes.
The researchers suggested that their results can be used to aid in selecting at what stage lignocellulose should be chemically modified so as to produce a viable biofuel molecule with optimal combustion characteristics and exhaust gas emissions. Their paper is published in the ACS journal Energy & Fuels.
Lux: Despite softness in utilization, global biofuels capacity to grow to 61.4 BGY in 2018; driven by novel fuels and feedstocks
August 31, 2015
The global biofuels industry averaged 68% in utilization rate from 2005 to 2014, reached a high of 80.9% in 2007, dropped to a low of 56.9% in 2012, and climbed slightly back to 60.4% in 2014. Despite the still apparent softness in capacity utilization, and the on-going softness in fossil fuel prices, global biofuels capacity will continue to grow from 55.1 billion gallons per year (BGY) to 61.4 BGY in 2018, according to a forecast by Lux Research. However, Lux predicts, growth between now and 2018 will not be a continuation of current course.
While ethanol and biodiesel will continue to dominate in absolute terms, these will grow at only a 1.5% CAGR through 2018. Novel fuels and feedstocks will drive the biofuels industry forward at a much more rapid 17% and 22% CAGRs through 2018, respectively.
JCAP team reports first complete “artificial leaf”; >10% solar-to-hydrogen conversion efficiency
August 28, 2015
Researchers at the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis (JCAP) report the development of the first complete, efficient, safe, integrated solar-driven system—an “artificial leaf”—for splitting water to produce hydrogen. JCAP is a US Department of Energy (DOE) Energy Innovation Hub established at Caltech and its partnering institutions in 2010.
The new system has three main components: two electrodes—one photoanode and one photocathode—and a membrane. The photoanode uses sunlight to oxidize water molecules, generating protons and electrons as well as oxygen gas. The photocathode recombines the protons and electrons to form hydrogen gas. A key part of the JCAP design is the plastic membrane, which keeps the oxygen and hydrogen gases separate. If the two gases are allowed to mix and are accidentally ignited, an explosion can occur; the membrane lets the hydrogen fuel be separately collected under pressure and safely pushed into a pipeline.
DOE to award up to $10M for Bioenergy Technologies Incubator 2; provides $4M to two additional biofuel projects
The US Department of Energy (DOE) released a Funding Opportunity Announcement (DE-FOA-0001320)for up to $10 million to advance the production of advanced biofuels, substitutes for petroleum-based feedstocks and bioproducts made from renewable, non-food-based biomass, such as algae, agricultural residues, and woody biomass. This work supports the Energy Department’s efforts to make drop-in biofuels more accessible and affordable, as well as to meet the cost target equivalent of $3 per gallon of gasoline by 2022.
The new funding will support projects in two topic areas: Topic Area 1 awards (anticipated at 2–4 selections) will range from $1–$2 million and focus on the development of novel, non-incremental technologies that facilitate the goals of the Algae Program, but are not represented in a significant way in the current Algae Project Portfolio.
Team from GM, Ford, FCA reviews how to calculate engine efficiency benefits of high octane fuels
August 25, 2015
A team of engineers from GM Powertrain, Ford and FCA have published a detailed review of how to estimate the engine efficiency benefits of higher octane fuel—e.g., fuel with higher ethanol content—for part- and full-load operation for different engine types and fuel assumptions. Their paper is published in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology.
Engine compression ratio plays a fundamental role in engine efficiency; a higher compression ratio improves efficiency, but also causes higher temperatures and pressures of the unburned air-fuel mixture which can lead to knock at high loads. Compression ratio is thus limited to avoid knock. The compression ratio selected for a particular engine depends, the authors note, on the expected duty cycle and fuel octane. A higher compression ratio can be used if an engine will operate primarily at light loads, such that degraded efficiency at high loads is more than offset by improved efficiency at light loads.
Berkeley Lab researchers advance hybrid bioinorganic approach to solar-to~chemicals conversion; 50% electrical-to-chemical, 10% solar-to-chemical efficiencies
A team of researchers at the US Department of Energy (DOE)’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have hit a new milestone in their development of a hybrid bioinorganic system for solar-to-chemical energy conversion. (Earlier post.) The system first generates renewable hydrogen from water splitting using sustainable electrical and/or solar input and biocompatible inorganic catalysts. The hydrogen is then used by living cells as a source of reducing equivalents for conversion of CO2 to the value-added chemical product methane.
The system can achieve an electrical-to-chemical efficiency of better than 50% and a solar-to-chemical energy conversion efficiency of 10% if the system is coupled with state-of-art solar panel and electrolyzer, said Peidong Yang, a chemist with Berkeley Lab’s Materials Sciences Division and one of the leaders of this study. A paper on their work is published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
BIO: RFS’ biofuel requirements saved 589.3M tons of carbon emissions over past decade
August 24, 2015
Over its 10-year lifespan, the Renewable Fuel Standard’s (RFS’) requirement to substitute biofuels for fossil fuels has displaced nearly 1.9 billion barrels of foreign oil and reduced US transportation-related carbon emissions by 589.33 million metric tons, according to a new analysis released by the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO).
To develop its estimates, BIO utilized the GREET1.2013 model to compare carbon emissions from the mixture of US transportation fuels (both petroleum and biofuel) under two scenarios. The first scenario applied the annual required RFS Renewable Volume Obligation (RVO) percentages, as established by EPA rulemakings, to the volumes of fossil-based, non-renewable gasoline and diesel used in the United States. To establish a second scenario, BIO assumed that corn ethanol and soy biodiesel would have continued to meet just over 3% of the total reported transportation fuel use over the decade and that petroleum gasoline and diesel would have been used instead.
Butamax and Gevo cross-license & settle litigation on bio-isobutanol; Butamax to lead w/ gasoline blending, Gevo w/ alcohol-to-jet
Gevo, Inc. and Butamax Advanced Biofuels, LLC, a joint venture between BP and DuPont, have entered into worldwide patent cross-license and settlement agreements, ending a patent dispute that stretches back to 2011 related to technologies for the production of bio-based isobutanol. (Earlier post.)
This settlement ends all of the lawsuits and creates a new relationship between the companies, aimed at leveraging each other’s strengths and accelerating development of competitive supply for bio-based isobutanol.
Opinion: Alternatives to the RFS
by Doug Williams
Recently, the Energy Resources Center made headlines by saying the EPA’s shift on the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) would equal adding 1 million more passenger vehicles on the road. (Earlier post.) The RFS has been controversial from its beginnings in the early 2000’s. It’s also a political lightning rod given the stagnation of fuel consumption matched with accelerating ethanol blending.
The oil industry would seem to be understandably upset about it. The expansion of the RFS in 2007 goes far beyond just replacing MTBE with ethanol as the required fuel oxygenate (and avoiding lawsuits). Given the stagnant US fuel market, every gallon of biofuel blended into the mix cannibalizes fossil fuel demand. It seems as though when the RFS was conceived, no one could have thought that fuel consumption would have flat-lined. But is there a better way? There are options for continuing our commitment towards renewable fuels to secure US energy requirements. Let’s look a few here.
Neste files patent on gasoline fuels with high bioenergy content
August 22, 2015
Neste, currently largest producer of renewable drop-in fuels (primarily diesel) with its NEXBTL platform (earlier post), has filed a patent (US20150144087) on a gasoline composition (and the method for making it) comprising up to 20 vol% (preferably from about 10-15 vol.%), of paraffinic bio-hydrocarbons originating from the NEXBTL process.
In addition, the fuel can incorporate oxygenates such as ethanol (5 to 15 vol%); iso-butanol (5 to 20 vol%, preferably about 10 to 17 vol%); or ETBE (7 to 25 vol%, preferably about 15 to 22 vol%). The resulting fuels with high bioenergy content can be used in conventional gasoline-fueled automotive engines. In a related paper published in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology, a team (Aakko-Saksa et al.) from VTT Technical Research Centre in Finland and Neste showed that a combination of ethanol or isobutanol with bio-hydrocarbon components offers an option to reach high gasoline bioenergy content for E10-compatible cars.
Synbio company Intrexon and Dominion partner to commercialize bioconversion of natural gas to isobutanol in Marcellus and Utica Basins
August 20, 2015
Intrexon Energy Partners (IEP), a joint venture of synthetic biology company Intrexon Corporation and external investors (earlier post), and Dominion Energy, a subsidiary of Dominion Resources, have entered into an agreement to explore the potential for commercial-scale biological conversion of natural gas to isobutanol in the Marcellus and Utica Shale Basins.
Intrexon’s proprietary methanotroph bioconversion platform uses optimized microbial cell lines to convert natural gas into higher carbon compounds such as isobutanol and farnesene under ambient temperatures and pressures. This novel approach avoids costly, resource-intensive thermochemical gas-to-liquids (GTL) conversion methods, and offers a biofuel that does not utilize sugar or other plant-based feedstock.
PNNL study of metabolic processes paves way to optimize lipids production in yeast Y. lipolytica
Lipid-derived biofuels have been proposed as a promising substitute for fossil fuels. The oleaginous ascomycete (sac fungus) yeast Yarrowia lipolytica accumulates large amounts of lipids and has potential as a biofuel producing organism; however, little is known about the key biological processes involved. To address this gap in knowledge, a recent study by a team from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) identified and characterized major pathways involved in lipid accumulation from glucose in Y. lipolytica.
This study builds a platform for efforts to engineer the yeast to optimize lipid accumulation and maximize the yield of carbon-based products. Because lipids from Y. lipolytica have chemical properties similar to those of diesel fuel, they can be readily used as biodiesel using current vehicles and existing infrastructure at gas stations. Thus, harnessing lipids from Y. lipolytica could represent a practical approach for transitioning more quickly to a biofuel-based energy system.
UC Riverside team characterizes impact on PM of fuels with varying aromatics and octane rating; benefit of increased ethanol fraction
August 18, 2015
Researchers at the University of California-Riverside have characterized the effect of decreased aromatic content fuels combusted in advanced vehicle technologies on emissions of particulate matter (PM). In a paper in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology, they present the changes in PM emissions for different fuels, engine technologies, and operating conditions. Among their findings is that an increased ethanol fraction in gasoline could help reduce PM mass and black carbon (BC) from gasoline direct injection engines (GDI).
Typical commercial gasoline comprises varying concentrations of aromatic hydrocarbons and octane ratings; the impacts on PM such as black carbon (BC) and water-soluble and insoluble particle compositions of these differences are not well-defined. The UC Riverside study tested seven 2012 model year vehicles, including one port fuel injection (PFI) configured hybrid vehicle; one PFI vehicle; and six GDI vehicles.
Researchers modify camelina to produce highest levels yet in transgenic plant oil of novel lipid acetyl-TAG; biofuel and industrial use
Researchers at Kansas State University led by Professor Timothy Durrett and their colleagues at Michigan State University and the University of Nebraska, Lincoln have engineered Camelina sativa—a non-food oilseed crop—to produce high levels (up to 85 mol%) of acetyl-triacylglycerols (acetyl-TAGs, or ac-TAGs)—a novel plant oil lipid with possible biofuel or industrial uses.
As reported in a paper in Plant Biotechnology Journal, this successful metabolic engineering and subsequent field production of the modified camelina crop marked the highest accumulation of the unusual oil achieved so far in transgenic plants. (Earlier work by Durrett and colleagues at the DOE Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center had resulted in approximately a 60 mol% accumulation of ac-TAGs.)
Researchers propose 2nd law of thermodynamics-based process to select and develop microorganisms for optimal biofuel production
August 17, 2015
Researchers at the University of Maryland are proposing a new process to isolate and to direct the evolution of microorganisms that convert cellulosic biomass or gaseous CO2 and H2 to biofuels such as ethanol, 1-butanol, butane, or hexane (among others).
The approach is based on the theory that fermentation systems drive toward thermodynamic equilibrium. Physical chemists, observe Richard Kohn and Seon-Woo Kim, both of the Department of Animal and Avian Sciences, in their paper published in the Journal of Theoretical Biology, have understood that all chemical reactions are controlled by either thermodynamic or kinetic mechanisms. With thermodynamic control, the feasibility of reactions and the availability of pathway branches depend on the second law of thermodynamics. This law governs whether or not a reaction can proceed spontaneously in the forward direction based on the concentrations of reactants and products.
U Georgia team discovers tungsten in novel bacterial enzyme; potential for cellulosic biofuels
August 16, 2015
A team at the University of Georgia, Athens led by Distinguished Research Professor Michael Adams has discovered tungsten in what appears to be a novel enzyme in the biomass-degrading thermophilic bacterium Caldicellulosiruptor bescii. Tungsten is exceptionally rare in biological systems.
The researchers hypothesized that this new tungstoenzyme plays a key role in C. bescii’s primary metabolism, and its ability to convert plant biomass to simple fermentable sugars. This discovery could ultimately lead to commercially viable conversion of cellulosic biomass to fuels and chemical feedstocks. The research is published in Applied and Environmental Microbiology, a journal of the American Society for Microbiology.
Propel Fuels expands retail sales of drop-in renewable diesel across Southern California; $2.59/gallon
August 13, 2015
Propel Fuels has expanded its sales of Diesel HPR (High Performance Renewable) to locations across Southern California. Utilizing Neste’s NEXBTL renewable diesel, Propel’s Diesel HPR is a low-carbon, drop-in renewable fuel that meets petroleum diesel specifications and can be used in any diesel engine.
Diesel HPR made its North American debut in March 2015 at 18 Propel stations across Northern California. (Earlier post.) In HPR’s first three months of sales, Propel has seen a 300% increase in gallons sold compared to its former biodiesel product (B20). Propel customers have also provided overwhelmingly positive feedback on the fuel, validating HPR’s performance and value to drivers, according to the company.
Tsinghua studies on alcohol-gasoline dual fuel engines show fuel efficiency and particle number benefits
August 10, 2015
Researchers at Tsinghua University in China are studying the effects of Dual-Fuel Spark Ignition (DFSI) combustion fueled with different alcohols and gasoline. In one paper, published in the journal Fuel, they investigated the use of alcohols–gasoline DFSI Combustion for knock suppression and high fuel efficiency using a gasoline engine with high compression ratio.
In a second paper, also published in Fuel, they systematically compared the stoichiometric alcohol–gasoline and gasoline–alcohol DFSI combustion for engine particle number (PN) reduction (and fuel economy improvement), also using a high compression ratio gasoline engine.
New one-pot process to produce gasoline-grade biofuel from the bacterial biopolymer PHB
August 09, 2015
A team from the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute, University of Hawaii at Manoa is developing a new one-pot process to produce gasoline-grade (C6–C18) hydrocarbon oil from polyhydroxybutyrate (PHB)—an energy storage material formed from renewable feedstock in many bacterial species. In contrast to conventional biofuels derived from plant biomass, the resultant PHB oil has a high content of alkenes or aromatics, depending on the catalyst.
PHB has already been identified as having great potential as an intermediate in the production of hydrocarbon fuels. One approach, described by a team from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (Wang et al.), is thermally to depolymerize and decarboxylate PHB at 400 ˚C to propene, for subsequent upgrading to hydrocarbon fuels via commercial oligomerization technologies.
JRC: Increased use of renewables results in growing GHG emission savings in the EU; transport contribution only 5%
August 07, 2015
Greenhouse gasses (GHG) emission savings due to final renewable energy consumption in electricity; cooling/heating; and transport sectors rose at a compound annual growth rate of 8.8% from 2009 to 2012, confirming renewables’ potential in climate change mitigation, according to a new report by the Joint Research Centre (JRC), the European Commission’s in-house science service. Nearly two thirds of the total savings came from renewable energy development in Germany, Sweden, France, Italy and Spain.
The report assesses data on the use of renewable energy, submitted by EU Member States every two years, as required by EU legislation on renewable energy. The report estimates that in 2012, when total GHG emissions reached the equivalent of 4546 Mt CO₂, the deployment of all renewables in the EU avoided the equivalent of 716 Mt CO₂ emissions. According to the report, the highest contribution by renewables in climate change mitigation in the EU in 2012 came from renewable electricity, which covered 64% of the savings, due to high penetration of wind and solar power, followed by renewable heating and cooling (31%) and renewable transport (5%).
DOE JGI team identify regulators of lipid production in algae; potential boost for algal fuels development
August 04, 2015
Algae naturally produce oils that can be converted into transportation fuels, making this a potentially attractive pathway for large-scale biofuel production. However, high-yield lipid production in algae is a stress response—induced, for example, through conditions such as nutrient deprivation. One of the challenges of optimizing this oil production pathway has been stressing the algae just enough to produce lipids in high yields, but not stressing them enough to kill them.
Now, a team led by scientists from the US Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute (DOE JGI) has analyzed the genes that are being activated during algal lipid production, and in particular the molecular machinery that orchestrates these gene activities inside the cell when it produces lipids. The work, published in a paper in the journal Nature Plants, may help algal bioenergy researchers develop more targeted approaches for producing lipids for fuels.
UPS announces renewable diesel agreements with Neste, REG and Solazyme; up to 46M gallons over next 3 years
July 29, 2015
UPS announced agreements for up to 46 million gallons of renewable diesel over the next three years, constituting a 15-fold increase over prior contracts and making UPS one of the largest users of renewable diesel in the world.
Neste, Renewable Energy Group (REG) and Solazyme will supply renewable diesel to UPS to help facilitate the company’s shift to move more than 12% of its purchased ground fuel from conventional diesel and gasoline fuel to alternative fuels by the end of 2017. UPS has previously announced a goal of driving one billion miles with our alternative fuel and advanced technology vehicles by the end of 2017.
Saudis Expand Price War Downstream
July 28, 2015
by Gaurav Agnihotri for Oilprice.com
The undisputed king of oil and gas is making some moves that could change the face of the global refining sector. In June 2015, Saudi Arabia pumped a record 10.564 million barrels a day, a record level. As if being the world’s biggest exporter of oil was not enough, the desert kingdom is now looking to conquer the refining sector as it has quickly become the fourth largest refiner in the world.
“Saudis have moved into the product business in a big way,” said Fereidun Fesharaki of FGE Energy. With Saudi Arabia's refined fuel contributing to the global supply glut, what will be its impact on the refining markets especially those in Asia?
NSF to award $13M for fundamental engineering research on production of electricity and fuels
July 27, 2015
The US National Science Foundation (NSF) Division of Chemical, Bioengineering, Environmental, and Transport Systems (CBET) has issued a funding opportunity announcement (PD 15-7644) for the award of an estimated $13,093,000 to support fundamental engineering research that will enable innovative processes for the sustainable production (and storage) of electricity and fuels.
Processes for sustainable energy production must be environmentally benign, reduce greenhouse gas production, and utilize renewable resources. Current topics of interest include:
RedRock Biofuels to supply 3M gallons/year of renewable jet fuel to FedEx through 2024
July 21, 2015
Red Rock Biofuels LLC will produce approximately three million gallons of low-carbon, renewable jet fuel per year for FedEx Express, a subsidiary of FedEx Corporation. The agreement runs through 2024, with first delivery expected in 2017. FedEx joins Southwest Airlines, which signed a purchase agreement with RedRock in November 2014 for about 3 million gallons per year, in purchasing Red Rock’s total planned available volume of jet fuel. (Earlier post.)
Red Rock’s first refinery, funded in part by a $70-million Title III DPA grant from the U.S. Departments of Agriculture, Energy and Navy, is scheduled to break ground this fall in Lakeview, Ore. and will convert approximately 140,000 dry tons of woody biomass into 15 million gallons per year of renewable jet, diesel and naphtha fuels.
NREL examines potential of blending ethanol with condensate for flex-fuels and high-octane mid-level blends
A team at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), with a colleague at EcoEngineering, has explored the potential of blending ethanol with natural gasoline (condensate) to produce flex-fuels (ASTM D5798-13a) and high-octane, mid-level ethanol blends (MLEBs). A paper on their work is published in the ACS journal Energy & Fuels.
The study addresses two current market conditions: first, more ethanol is produced domestically than can legally be blended in E10 (the ethanol blend wall). Second, as a result of recent increases in crude oil and natural gas production in the US, condensate—a component of natural gas liquids (NGLs) found in rich gas—is produced in abundance and could potentially serve as a lower-cost blendstock. Current US production of condensate is estimated at 1.5 × 108 m3 annually compared to 9.7 × 107 m3 annually 10 years ago.
DLR techno-economic valuation of power-to-liquids finds reducing electrolyzer and electricity costs key to cost-competitive liquid hydrocarbons
July 20, 2015
In 2012, the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centers launched a three-year project on the production of synthetic liquid hydrocarbons from electricity (i.e. Power-to-Liquids, PtL) using a multistage process (SynKWS), in cooperation with the German Aerospace Center (DLR) – Institute of Combustion Technology Stuttgart; the University of Stuttgart IFK; and the University of Bayreuth – Chair of Chemical Engineering.
As part of the SynKWS work, DLR researchers have now published a techno-economic study of a modeled PtL process in the journal Fuel. The multi-stage process uses renewable power to produce hydrogen using a proton exchange membrane (PEM) electrolyzer. The hydrogen from electrolysis and CO2, delivered by a pipeline, are fed to a plant where the gases are converted in a reverse water–gas shift (RWGS) reactor to syngas (H2 and CO). The syngas is then further converted to hydrocarbons using Fischer-Tropsch (FT) synthesis. The hydrocarbon syncrude is upgraded and separated from unreacted feed and gaseous hydrocarbons to make the final product.
MIT researchers advancing development of supercritical water upgrading of heavy crude; lower cost, energy use and CO2
July 18, 2015
Findings by MIT researchers could help advance the commercialization of supercritical water technology for the desulfurization and upgrading of high-sulfur crude oil into high-value, cleaner fuels such as gasoline without using hydrogen—a major change in refining technology that would reduce costs, energy use, and CO2 emissions.
Supercritical water upgrading (SCWU) of heavy oils has been of interest for years in industry and academia; SCWU reduces sulfur content and decreases average molecular weight or crude without rejecting carbon as coke products. However, despite the interest, many fundamental questions remain in the field: intrinsic reaction rates and mechanisms; the role of water; the need for catalysts; the importance of phase behavior and mixing. In 2009, MIT initiated a SCWU research program aimed at improving the understanding of the relevant physical, chemical, and catalytic phenomena.
EPA honors winners of the 20th Annual Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge; advanced biofuels
July 14, 2015
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) honored the six 2015 Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award winners at a ceremony in Washington, DC. EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention sponsors the Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Awards in partnership with the American Chemical Society Green Chemistry Institute and other members of the chemical community including industry, trade associations, academic institutions, and other government agencies.
For 2015, EPA announced a new award category for a green chemistry technology that has a “Specific Environmental Benefit: Climate Change.” The 2015 winners are Algenol; Lanzatech; Renmatix; Professor Eugene Y.-X. Chen of Colorado State University; Soltex; and Hybrid Coating Technologies.
ArcelorMittal, LanzaTech and Primetals to build €87M commercial-scale waste-gas-to-ethanol plant
July 13, 2015
ArcelorMittal, the world’s leading steel and mining company; LanzaTech; and Primetals Technologies, a leading technology and service provider to the iron and steel industry have entered into a letter of intent to construct Europe’s first commercial-scale production facility to create bioethanol from waste gases produced during the steelmaking process. (Earlier post.)
The €87-million (US$96 million) plant will produce 47,000 tons (about 15.7 million gallons US, 60 million liters) per year of ethanol. The resulting bioethanol can cut greenhouse gas emissions by more than 80% compared with conventional fossil fuels. It will predominantly be used in gasoline blending, but it can also be further processed into other products such as drop in jet fuel.
Boeing, Japanese aviation industry unveil biofuel roadmap to 2020 Olympics
July 09, 2015
The Initiatives for Next Generation Aviation Fuels (INAF)—a consortium of 46 organizations including Boeing, ANA (All Nippon Airways), Japan Airlines, Nippon Cargo Airlines, Japan’s government, the University of Tokyo and other Japanese aviation industry stakeholders—has developed a five-year roadmap to develop sustainable aviation biofuel for flights during the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo.
The roadmap offers a rough sketch of a path leading to the introduction of next-generation aviation fuels, and brings together the entire supply chain from the procurement of raw materials; production of next-generation aviation fuels; their mixture with conventional aviation fuels to produce alternative aviation fuels; and refueling of aircraft after the fuel has been transported to the airport. For business development, the report authors noted, “more substantive discussions are needed” which are based on the plan.
Geely invests in Carbon Recycling Intl.; vehicles fueled by methanol from CO2, water and renewable energy
July 08, 2015
Zhejiang Geely Holding Group (Geely Group) will invest a total of US$45.5 million in Carbon Recycling International (CRI). The investment consists of an initial investment and additional purchases of CRI equity over a 3-year period. Geely Group will become a major shareholder of CRI and will gain representation on the company’s Board of Directors.
CRI, founded in 2006 in Reykjavik, Iceland, is developing technology to produce renewable methanol from clean energy and recycled CO2 emissions. Geely Group and CRI intend to collaborate on the deployment of renewable methanol fuel production technology in China and explore the development and deployment of 100% methanol-fueled vehicles in China, Iceland and other countries. The companies say they a vision for a larger role for methanol as a clean and sustainable fuel worldwide.
BioMim project seeks to mimic chemistry of brown rot fungus to improve biorefining
July 07, 2015
BioMim, a newly-launched $4 million, four-year project funded by the Research Council of Norway with industrial partners Borregaard and Kebony, is seeking to mimic the chemistry of the brown rot fungus to improve biorefining processes. Specifically, the international team of researchers will seek to utilize the brown-rot fungi’s unique mechanisms to remove biomass components in cell walls, creating much improved access for an optimized enzyme system.
The BioMim project is combining two processes. The first is a technology developed by Virginia Tech Professor Barry Goodell that borrows from the processes used by brown rot fungi that are commonly found breaking down woody debris on the forest floor. The resulting catalytic process for freeing cellulose from lignin has now been demonstrated at pilot scale. The BioMim team will expand on this technology and explore how it can be used efficiently in large-scale biorefineries.
Study finds perennial biofuel crops’ water consumption similar to corn
A study by a team from the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center (GLBRC) has found that perennial biofuel crops’ evapotranspiration does not differ greatly from corn. Evapotranspiration (ET) refers to the sum total of water lost while the plant is growing, either from evaporation through the plant stem itself (a process called “transpiration”), or from water evaporated off of the plant’s leaves or the ground.
The study, led by GLBRC scientist and Michigan State University professor of ecosystem ecology Stephen Hamilton, is the first multi-year effort to compare the water use of conventional corn crops to the perennial cropping systems of switchgrass, miscanthus, native grasses, restored prairies, and hybrid poplar trees. An open access paper on the work is published in the journal Environmental Research Letters.
Study: even with high LDV electrification, low-carbon biofuels will be necessary to meet 80% GHG reduction target; “daunting” policy implications
July 03, 2015
A study by researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a Michigan State University colleague has concluded that even with a relatively high rate of electrification of the US light-duty fleet (40% of vehicle miles traveled and 26% by fuel), an 80% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2050 relative to 1990 can only be achieved with significant quantities of low-carbon liquid fuel. The paper is published in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology.
For the study, the researchers benchmarked 27 scenarios against a 50% petroleum-reduction target and an 80% GHG-reduction target. They found that with high rates of electrification (40% of miles traveled) the petroleum-reduction benchmark could be satisfied, even with high travel demand growth. The same highly electrified scenarios, however, could not satisfy 80% GHG-reduction targets, even assuming 80% decarbonized electricity and no growth in travel demand.
Fraunhofer developing process to ferment steel exhaust gases to fuels and chemicals
July 02, 2015
Fraunhofer researchers in Germany have developed a process for the conversion of CO-rich exhaust gases from steel plants into fuels and specialty chemicals. With the aid of genetically modified strains of Clostridium, the research team ferments the gas into alcohols and acetone, converts both substances catalytically into a kind of intermediary diesel product, and from produce kerosene and special chemicals.
Participants include the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology IME in Aachen, as well as the Institute for Environment, Safety, and Energy Technology UMSICHT in Oberhausen and the Institute for Chemical Technology ICT in Pfinztal. The technology came about during one of Fraunhofer’s internal preliminary research projects and through individual projects with industrial partners. The patented process currently operates on the laboratory scale.
United Airlines invests $30M in Fulcrum BioEnergy; renewable jet fuel offtake agreement, potential joint development of production
June 30, 2015
United Airlines made a $30-million equity investment in US-based Fulcrum BioEnergy, Inc., the developer of a process for converting municipal solid waste into low-cost sustainable aviation biofuel. (Earlier post.) The investment is so far the largest single investment by a US airline in alternative fuels.
In addition to the equity investment, United and Fulcrum have entered into an agreement that contemplates the joint development of up to five projects located near United’s hubs expected to have the potential to produce up to 180 million gallons of fuel per year.
Volkswagen announces successful completion of 2-year drop-in renewable diesel evaluation with Solazyme and Amyris
June 29, 2015
Volkswagen of America announced the successful completion of its Renewable Diesel Evaluation Program in collaboration with Solazyme and Amyris. (Earlier post.) Beginning in 2012, Volkswagen measured the environmental impacts from the use of pre-commercial renewable diesel formulas with TDI Clean Diesel technology found in the 2012 Passat TDI (which uses a NOx storage system) and 2012 Jetta TDI (SCR system). Initial analysis found that advanced renewable fuels in the test offered comparable performance to standard crude-based diesel fuel blends while producing less CO2 emissions on average.
During the two-year evaluation, Solazyme’s now commercial Soladiesel RD (100% algae-derived renewable diesel fuel) and the Amyris plant-sugar-derived renewable diesel formula was used for the program with each company testing a 2012 Passat and Jetta TDI. Both fuel producers added additives, which are commonly used today, to meet ASTM D 975 specifications.
Volkswagen AG coordinating new €6M EU research project on drop-in biocatalytic solar fuels
June 26, 2015
Volkswagen AG is coordinating a new €6-million (US$6.7-million) research project, selected for funding under the Horizon 2020 Programme, to advance the biocatalytic production of drop-in liquid hydrocarbon transportation fuels, requiring only sunlight, CO2 and water.
The basic approach of the new 4-year Photofuel project is to develop and to advance microbes (the biocatalysts) that will directly excrete hydrocarbon and long-chain alcohol fuel compounds to the growth medium, from which the fuels are separated, without the need to harvest biomass. This basic concept is in line with the fundamental approach (CO2 + water + renewable energy → drop-in fuels) being taken by Audi (a member of the Volkswagen Group) in its e-fuels initiatives. (Earlier post.)
New lifecycle analysis of WTW GHG emissions of diesel and gasoline refined in US from Canadian oil sands crude
In a new, comprehensive study, a team from Argonne National Laboratory, Stanford University and UC Davis ITS has estimated the well-to-wheels (WTW) GHG emissions of US production of gasoline and diesel sourced from Canadian oil sands. The analysis uses an expanded system boundary including land disturbance-induced GHG emissions and also incorporates operating data that represent the average practices and technological advances of the oil sands industry since 2008. The study is published in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology.
The researchers examined 27 oil sands projects, representing four major oil sands production pathways, including bitumen and synthetic crude oil (SCO) from both surface mining and in situ projects. Overall, they found that pathway-average GHG emissions from oil sands extraction, separation, and upgrading ranged from ∼6.1 to ∼27.3 g CO2 equivalents per megajoule (in lower heating value, CO2e/MJ). This range can be compared to ∼4.4 g CO2e/MJ for US conventional crude oil recovery.
IH2 technology licensed for demonstration plant to convert woody biomass into drop-in hydrocarbon transportation fuels
June 23, 2015
SynSel Energi AS has entered into an IH2 (Integrated Hydropyrolysis and Hydroconversion) process demonstration license agreement with CRI/Criterion Catalyst Company Ltd, a member of the CRI Catalyst group (CRI), a global group of catalyst technology companies. IH2 technology is a continuous catalytic thermochemical process which converts a broad range of forestry/agricultural residues and municipal wastes directly into renewable hydrocarbon transportation fuels and/or blend stocks. (Earlier post.)
The Basic Engineering Package for the 5 metric ton/day demonstration plant located in Grenland, Norway is to be completed over a period of several months by Zeton Inc. Zeton is the preferred engineering services provider for IH2 facilities at demonstration scale. The IH2 demonstration plant will be integrated into an existing third-party petrochemical manufacturing site, allowing for optimized capital and operating expense.
Volvo Trucks approves 100% renewable diesel for all Euro 5 engines, prepping certification for Euro 6
June 22, 2015
After extensive field testing of renewable diesel HVO (Hydrotreated Vegetable Oils), Volvo Trucks has approved the fuel for all Euro 5 engines and is preparing certifications for Euro 6 engines. HVO (such as Neste’s NEXBTL) is produced from renewable raw materials such as vegetable and animal fats and acts as regular diesel. HVO can reduce CO2 emissions between 30-90%, depending upon the raw material.
In 2013, Volvo Trucks started a field test together with Renova, DHL Freight and OKQ8 to see how the use of 100% HVO affected engine performance and components. The six field test trucks were equipped with Euro 5 engines and covered approximately one million kilometers (621,000 miles) in commercial service over a two-year period.
Boeing ecoDemonstrator 757 expands testing; green diesel blend, energy harvesting windows, 3D-printed flight deck component
June 20, 2015
Boeing announced the next phase in ecoDemonstrator 757 testing today, including its first flight with US-made “green diesel” (earlier post) and two new environment-related technologies. These developments advance the ecoDemonstrator program's mission to accelerate the testing and use of technologies to improve aviation's environmental performance.
In cooperation with NASA, the 757 flew on 17 June 17 from Seattle to NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., using a blend of 95% petroleum jet fuel and 5% sustainable green diesel, a renewable drop-in bio-hydrocarbon fuel meeting ASTM International’s standard for Diesel Fuel Oils (D-975). Boeing is working with the aviation industry to approve green diesel for commercial aviation by amending the HEFA (Hydroprocessed Esters And Fatty Acids) biojet specification approved in 2011.
DOE to issue incubator funding opportunity to help advance bioenergy development; algal biofuels a main focus
June 19, 2015
The US Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (DOE EERE) intends (DE-FOA-0001343) to issue, on behalf of the Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO), a funding opportunity announcement (DE-FOA-0001320) targeting innovative technologies and solutions to help advance bioenergy development. DOE anticipates posting the FOA in or around July 2015.
The incubator opportunity is intended to fund projects that will pursue research and development (R&D) not significantly represented in BETO’s current portfolio, as a way to support and explore innovative new approaches for integration into the Office’s future program plans. The FOA will seek to support projects that facilitate BETO’s goals in Algal Biofuels R&D; Feedstocks Supply and Logistics R&D; and Conversion Technologies R&D.
ARPA-E awards $55M to 18 projects in two new programs: TERRA for transportation energy and GENSETS for distributed generation
The Energy Department’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) announced $55 million in funding for 18 innovative projects as part of ARPA-E’s two newest programs: Transportation Energy Resources from Renewable Agriculture (TERRA) and GENerators for Small Electrical and Thermal Systems (GENSETS).
The six TERRA projects will receive a total of $30 million to accelerate energy crop development for the production of renewable transportation fuels from biomass and the 12 GENSETS projects are aimed at developing generator technologies that will improve efficiencies in residential Combined Heat and Power (CHP) generation.
Etihad Airways and partners launch roadmap for sustainable aviation biofuels in UAE
June 18, 2015
Etihad Airways, together with Boeing, Total, Takreer and the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, launched a joint industry roadmap for the sustainable production of aviation biofuels in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The BIOjet Abu Dhabi: Flight Path to Sustainability report outlines a set of recommended industry actions to create a commercially viable domestic aviation biofuel industry—a first for the Middle East. (Earlier post, earlier post.)
The BIOjet Abu Dhabi roadmap is the culmination of a year-long dialogue between Etihad Airways, its four BIOjet Abu Dhabi partners, and UAE and global stakeholders. It explains Abu Dhabi’s potential to produce aviation biofuel locally, in a sustainable way, taking account of all elements of the supply chain from feedstock supplies to biorefining and distribution.
New catalytic method for converting algal oil to gasoline- or jet-fuel-range hydrocarbons
June 16, 2015
A new catalytic method for converting algal oil to gasoline- or jet-fuel-range hydrocarbons has been developed by the research group of Prof. Keiichi Tomishige and Dr. Yoshinao Nakagawa from Tohoku University’s Department of Applied Chemistry, and Dr. Hideo Watanabe from the University of Tsukuba.
The new method uses a highly dispersed ruthenium catalyst supported on cerium oxide. Squalane (C30H62)—easily obtained by the hydrogenation of squalene (C30H50) rapidly produced by the heterotrophic alga Aurantiochytrium from organics in wastewater—reacts with hydrogen over this catalyst, producing smaller branched alkanes with simple distribution and without aromatics. These molecules have high stability and low freezing points. A paper describing the system is published in the journal ChemSusChem.
“Energiewende” in a tank; Audi e-fuels targeting carbon-neutral driving with synthetic fuels from renewables, H2O and CO2; Swiss policy test case
June 12, 2015
Like other major automakers, Audi (and its parent Volkswagen Group) is working on meeting its medium-term regulatory requirements (e.g., in the 2020 timeframe) by reducing the average fuel consumption of its new vehicles using a combination of three primary measures: optimizing its combustion engines for greater efficiency; developing alternative drive concepts, such as hybrid, plug-in hybrid and gas-powered vehicles; and reducing total vehicle weight through lightweight construction with an intelligent multimaterial mix.
Unlike the others, however, Audi over the past few years has embarked on a comprehensive approach to developing a range of new CO₂-neutral fuels as part of its overall strategy for sustainable, carbon-neutral mobility: Audi e-fuels. Audi’s basic goal is to combine renewable energy (e.g. solar and wind), water and CO2 to produce liquid or gaseous fuels with a very low carbon intensity. Audi e-fuels are intended to use no fossil or biomass sources; do not compete with food production; and are 100% compatible with existing infrastructure.
Northwestern-led team develops hydrogenation catalyst selective for carcinogen benzene; cleaner gasoline
June 09, 2015
A team from Northwestern University, with colleagues from UOP LLC, a Honeywell Company; Universita’ degli Studi di Roma “La Sapienza”; Argonne National Laboratory; and Ames Laboratory has developed a new hydrogenation catalyst that is highly selective for benzene, an aromatic—and known carcinogen—that is part of conventional gasoline.
The new catalyst could cost-effectively remove benzene from the other aromatic compounds in gasoline, making it cleaner but without eliminating other aromatics; aromatics in gasoline are used to improve gas octane numbers and fuel efficiency. An open access paper on their work is published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.
EPA proposes volume requirements for Renewable Fuel Standard for 2014-2016
May 29, 2015
Adhering to a schedule in a proposed consent decree (earlier post), the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced its long-awaited proposed volume requirements (renewable volume obligations, RVO) (earlier post) under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program for the years 2014, 2015 and 2016, and also proposed volume requirements for biomass-based diesel for 2017. The period for public input and comment on the proposal will be open until 27 July. EPA says it will finalize the volume standards in this rule by 30 November.
EPA is proposing to establish the 2014 standards at levels that reflect the actual amount of domestic biofuel used in that year; the standards for 2015 and 2016 (and 2017 for biodiesel) increase steadily over time, with the most aggressive growth projected for the problematic area of cellulosic biofuels: from 33 million gallons in 2014 to 206 million gallons in 2016.
Sandia RAPTOR turbulent combustion code selected for next-gen Summit supercomputer readiness project
May 28, 2015
RAPTOR, a turbulent combustion code developed by Sandia National Laboratories mechanical engineer Dr. Joseph Oefelein, was selected as one of 13 partnership projects for the Center for Accelerated Application Readiness (CAAR). CAAR is a US Department of Energy program located at the Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility and is focused on optimizing computer codes for the next generation of supercomputers.
Developed at Sandia’s Combustion Research Facility, RAPTOR, a general solver optimized for Large Eddy Simulation (LES, a mathematical model for turbulence), is targeted at transportation power and propulsion systems. Optimizing RAPTOR for Summit’s hybrid architecture will enable a new generation of high-fidelity simulations that identically match engine operating conditions and geometries. Such a scale will allow direct comparisons to companion experiments, providing insight into transient combustion processes such as thermal stratification, heat transfer, and turbulent mixing.
Delivery of renewable isooctane to Audi tips interesting potential non-biomass pathway for biogasoline; “e-benzin” as solar fuel
May 26, 2015
Last week, Audi and its partner Global Bioenergies announced that the first batch of renewable isooctane—which Audi calls “e-benzin”—using Global Bioenergies’ fermentative isobutene pathway (sugar→isobutene→isooctane) had been produced and presented to Audi by Global Bioenergies. (Earlier post.)
Global Bioenergies, founded in 2008, has developed a synthetic isobutene pathway that, when implanted in a micro-organism, enables the organism to convert sugars (e.g., from starch and biomass) via fermentation into gaseous isobutene via a several-stage enzymatic process. However, following the delivery of the first renewable isooctane, Reiner Mangold, Audi’s head of sustainable product development, said that Audi was “now looking forward to working together with Global Bioenergies on a technology allowing the production of renewable isooctane not derived from biomass sources”—i.e., using just water, H2, CO2 and sunlight.
Global Bioenergies and Cristal Union form JV to produce renewable isobutene
May 21, 2015
Global Bioenergies, a developer of one-step fermentation processes for the direct and cost-efficient transformation of renewable resources into light olefins, and Cristal Union, the 4th largest European beet producer, have formed IBN-One, a joint venture to build and operate the first plant in France converting renewable resources into isobutene.
Global Bioenergies has engineered an initial series of bacterial strains that can produce light olefins via the fermentation of sugars. The process is designed to be used downstream from multiple sugar production pathways: sugar, starch and cellulose. The process can thus be used with cellulosic biomass, following pretreatment and hydrolysis. The company has targeted renewable isobutene as its first product. (Earlier post.)
Researchers use X-ray nanotomography to identify key mechanisms of FCC catalyst aging; could lead to more efficient gasoline production
May 19, 2015
Scientists at Utrecht University and the US Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory have used X-ray nanotomography to identify key mechanisms of the aging process of catalyst particles that are used to refine crude oil into gasoline. This advance could lead to more efficient production of gasoline. (Tomography reconstructs a sliceable, virtual 3D copy of an object under study from 2D images.)
Their recent experiments studied fluid catalytic cracking (FCC) particles that are used to break heavy long-chain hydrocarbon fractions in crude oil into lighter, more valuable hydrocarbons such as gasoline and propylene. During FCC, the heavy hydrocarbons are vaporized and cracked into short-chain fractions by billions of tiny, fairly spherical catalyst particles with diameters ranging from 50–150 µm. FCC particles account for 40-45% of worldwide gasoline production.
Global Bioenergies delivering first renewable gasoline sample to Audi
May 18, 2015
Global Bioenergies and its partner Audi (earlier post) announced that the first batch of renewable gasoline using Global Bioenergies’ fermentative isobutene pathway has been produced. (Earlier post.) The batch will be presented to Audi by Global Bioenergies during a press conference to be held in Pomacle on 21 May.
The first isobutene batch produced from renewable resources (here: corn-derived glucose) at Global Bioenergies’ industrial pilot in Pomacle-Bazancourt, near Reims in France, had been delivered to the chemical company Arkema early May 2015. Subsequent isobutene batches have been converted into isooctane by the Fraunhofer Institute at the Leuna refinery near Leipzig where Global Bioenergies is now building its demo plant.
Audi partner Joule announces its “CO2-recycled” ethanol meets US and Euro specs; $40M financing
May 11, 2015
Joule, the developer of a direct, single-step, continuous process for the production of solar hydrocarbon fuels using engineered cyanobacteria (earlier post), announced the successful results from third-party testing of its ethanol fuel (Sunflow-E), setting the stage to obtain certification for commercial use.
Initiated by Audi, Joule’s strategic partner in the automotive space (earlier post), the test results confirm that Joule’s ethanol meets: American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) D4806 – Denatured fuel ethanol for blending with gasolines for use as automotive spark-ignition engine fuel; and German Institute for Standardization (DIN) EN 15376 – Ethanol as a blending component for petrol.
Kyoto team develops two-stage process for direct liquefaction of low-rank coal and biomass under mild conditions
Researchers at Kyoto University in Japan have proposed a novel two-stage process to convert low-rank coals or biomass wastes under mild conditions to high-quality liquid fuel. A paper describing the process, which combines a degradative solvent extraction method they had developed earlier with the liquefaction of the resulting soluble, appears in the ACS journal Energy & Fuels.
One of the issues hampering the development of direct liquefaction of low-grade carbonaceous resources—such as low-rank coals and biomass wastes—to produce liquid fuel is their oxygen content. In low rank coals, cross-linking reactions among oxygen functional groups form large-molecular-weight compounds at temperatures lower than the liquefaction temperature; the oxygen-functional-group-derived cross-links may change to stronger carbon−carbon covalent linkages, suppressing the formation of light hydrocarbons.
California ARB posts discussion document for developing Advanced Clean Transit (ACT) regulation
May 09, 2015
The California Air Resources Board (ARB) has posted a discussion document for upcoming workshops on the development of the Advanced Clean Transit (ACT) regulation.
The proposed Advanced Clean Transit regulation will consider strategies to achieve additional criteria pollutant emissions reductions from transit fleets and to accelerate purchases of zero emission buses as part of an overall strategy to transform all heavy duty vehicles to zero emission or near zero emission vehicles to meet air quality and efficiency improvement goals. ARB staff Staff is evaluating four potential broad elements to the Advanced Clean Transit regulation:
Report for the EC evaluates prospects for sugar-based platforms for biofuels and biochemicals
May 08, 2015
A comprehensive review of 94 potential pathways to biofuels and biochemicals via the sugar platform, prepared for the European Commission (DG ENER) by a team from E4tech, RE-CORD and Wageningen UR, finds that the global market value of the sugar platform is today of the order of $65 billion, with bioethanol (from sugar and starch crops) by far the dominant product in the market.
While several newer biofuel and biochemical routes show significant growth potential, only a few are currently crossing the valley of death between research and commercialization. Of ten case studies (the technologies being at least at TRL5) considered in detail, most can deliver significant greenhouse gas (GHG) savings and identical (or improved) physical properties, but at an added cost to fossil alternatives.
Fulcrum Bioenergy awards $200M EPC contract to Abengoa for MSW-to-jet plant
May 07, 2015
Fulcrum BioEnergy has awarded a $200-million fixed-price engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contract to Abengoa for the construction of Fulcrum’s first municipal solid waste (MSW) to transportation fuels facility, the Sierra BioFuels Plant. The Sierra BioFuels Plant will utilize Fulcrum’s process for converting MSW into renewable syncrude that will then be upgraded to jet fuel. (Earlier post.)
The Fulcrum process begins with the gasification of the organic material in the MSW feedstock to a synthesis gas (syngas) which consists primarily of carbon monoxide, hydrogen and carbon dioxide. This syngas is purified and processed through the Fischer-Tropsch (FT) process to produce a syncrude product which is then upgraded to jet fuel or diesel.
WSU team engineers fungus to produce jet-range hydrocarbons from biomass
May 06, 2015
|Aspergillus carbonarius. Source: JGI MycoCosm. Click to enlarge.|
Researchers at Washington State University have engineered the filamentous fungus Aspergillus carbonarius ITEM 5010 to produce jet-range hydrocarbons directly from biomass. The researchers hope the work, reported in the journal Fungal Biology, leads to economically viable production of aviation biofuels in the next five years.
The team led by Birgitte Ahring, director and Battelle distinguished professor of the Bioproducts, Sciences and Engineering Laboratory at WSU Tri-cities, found that the production of hydrocarbons was dependent on the type of media used. Therefore, they tested ten different carbon sources (oatmeal, wheat bran, glucose, carboxymethyl cellulose, avicel, xylan, corn stover, switch grass, pretreated corn stover, and pretreated switch grass) to identify the maximum number and quantity of hydrocarbons produced.
BIO: RFS policy instability has chilled advanced and cellulosic biofuel investments; $13.7B shortfall
May 04, 2015
EPA’s delays in rulemaking for the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) over the past two years have chilled necessary investment in advanced and cellulosic biofuels just as they reached commercial deployment. The industry has experienced an estimated $13.7-billion shortfall in investment as a result, according to a new analysis released by the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO).
To reach the 2015 RFS goal of producing 5.5 billion gallons of advanced biofuels (including 3 billion gallons of cellulosic and 2.5 billion gallons of advanced biofuel or biodiesel), Bio Economic Research Associates (bio-era) estimated the need for 110 operating plants requiring $20.34 billion dollars in cumulative investment. The research and advisory firm also estimated that more than $95 billion in cumulative capital investments would be needed by 2022 for construction of nearly 400 advanced biofuel biorefineries with the capacity to produce 23 billion gallons of advanced biofuel.
European Parliament votes to cap crop-derived biofuels at 7% of transport energy consumption by 2020
May 01, 2015
The European Parliament approved a draft law to to cap crop-derived biofuel consumption and accelerate the shift to alternative sources. Member states must enact the legislation by 2017.
Current legislation requires EU member states to ensure that renewable energy accounts for at least 10% of energy consumption in transport by 2020. The new law says that first-generation biofuels (from crops grown on agricultural land) should account for no more than 7% of energy consumption in transport by 2020. The intent of the new law is to cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions caused by the growing use of farm land for biofuel crops.
Argonne supercomputer helped Rice/Minnesota team identify materials to improve fuel production
April 29, 2015
Scientists at Rice University and the University of Minnesota recently identified, through a large-scale, multi-step computational screening process, promising zeolite structures for two fuel applications: purification of ethanol from fermentation broths and the hydroisomerization of alkanes with 18–30 carbon atoms encountered in petroleum refining. (Earlier post.)
To date, more than 200 types of zeolites have been synthesized and more than 330,000 potential zeolite structures have been predicted based on previous computer simulations. With such a large pool of candidate materials, using traditional laboratory methods to identify the optimal zeolite for a particular job presents a time- and labor-intensive process that could take decades. The researchers used Mira, the Argonne Leadership Computing Facility’s (ALCF) 10-petaflops IBM Blue Gene/Q supercomputer, to run their large-scale, multi-step computational screening process.
DOE to re-fund Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis with $75M for solar fuels R&D
The US Department of Energy announced $75 million in funding to renew the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis (JCAP), a DOE Energy Innovation Hub originally established in 2010 with the goal of harnessing solar energy for the production of fuel. (Earlier post.)
Under the renewal plan, the five-year-old center would receive funding for an additional five years of research, subject to Congressional appropriations. JCAP researchers are focused on achieving the major scientific breakthroughs needed to produce liquid transportation fuels from a combination of sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide, using artificial photosynthesis.
SOLARJET demonstrates full process for thermochemical production of renewable jet fuel from H2O & CO2
April 28, 2015
The European consortium SOLARJET (Solar chemical reactor demonstration and Optimization for Long-term Availability of Renewable JET fuel) (earlier post) has experimentally demonstrated the entire process chain for the first production of renewable jet fuel via a thermochemical H2O/CO2-splitting cycle using simulated concentrated solar radiation.
The solar-to-fuel energy conversion efficiency was 1.72%, without sensible heat recovery. A total of 291 stable redox cycles were performed, yielding 700 standard liters of syngas of composition 33.7% H2, 19.2% CO, 30.5% CO2, 0.06% O2, 0.09% CH4, and 16.5% Ar, which was compressed to 150 bar and further processed via Fischer–Tropsch synthesis to a mixture of naphtha, gasoil, and kerosene. Their paper is published in the ACS journal Energy & Fuels.
Battelle passes 1,000-hour milestone with continuous hydrotreatment process for bio-oil to fuels
April 27, 2015
Researchers at Battelle led by principal investigator Dr. Zia Abdullah have demonstrated the durability of a continuous hydrotreatment process that converts bio-oil from biomass pyrolysis into transportation and aviation fuels, meeting the longevity goals of a challenge from the United States Department of Energy’s (DOE) to make commercially viable transportation fuels from biomass pyrolysis.
Battelle, with its proprietary process (earlier post) and catalyst from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) successfully registered more than 1,200 hours of operation of the system. The end hydrocarbon products are 30% blendable with ASTM petroleum fuels. The Battelle team has set its sights on achieving the near-commercial standard of 4,000 hours in the near future; 4,000 hours represents about half a year of continuous operation, Abdullah noted.
DOE developing Optima initiative: co-optimization of fuels and engines for extreme boost in system fuel efficiency above current policy targets
April 21, 2015
|Optima is targeting a vehicle-fuels system approach to far exceed the improvements in vehicle energy consumption and the greenhouse gas intensity of the energy source. Source: DOE. Click to enlarge.|
Researchers at several DOE national laboratories are organizing a new initiative—New Fuels and Vehicle Systems Optima (Optima)—targeting the development and market introduction of co-optimized new fuels and light-, medium- and heavy-duty engines which together could achieve very significant performance improvements. Specifically, Optima is targeting a reduction in per-vehicle petroleum consumption by 30% vs. the 2030 base case, which is constrained to using today’s fuels.
This goal reflects contributions from both improved engines (7–14% reduction in fuel consumption) and improved fuels (with substitution of up to 30% low-GHG biofuel blend stocks). Another goal is accelerating the deployment of advanced biofuels to meet the Renewable Fuel Standard Program 2030 goal of 15 billion gallons/year of advanced biofuel—a sharp contrast to the low volumes currently predicted by the International Energy Agency for the US in 2030. At a fleet level, Optima is intended to produce an additional 9–14% fleet GHG reduction by 2040.
Researchers engineer new pathway in E. coli to produce renewable propane
April 15, 2015
Researchers at The University of Manchester, Imperial College London and University of Turku have made an advance toward the renewable biosynthesis of propane with the creation of a new synthetic pathway in E. coli, based on a fermentative butanol pathway. An open access paper on the work is published in the journal Biotechnology for Biofuels.
In 2014, members of the team from Imperial College and the University of Turku had devised a synthetic metabolic pathway for producing renewable propane from engineered E. coli bacteria, using pathways based on fatty acid synthesis. (Earlier post.) Although the initial yields were far too low for commercialization, the team was able to identify and to add essential biochemical components in order to boost the biosynthesis reaction, enabling the E. coli strain to increase propane yield. Yields, however, were still too low.
EIA AEO2015 projects elimination of net US energy imports in 2020-2030 timeframe; transportation energy consumption drops
April 14, 2015
The Annual Energy Outlook 2015 (AEO2015) released today by the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) projects that US energy imports and exports will come into balance—a first since the 1950s—because of continued oil and natural gas production growth and slow growth in energy demand.
AEO2015 presents updated projections for US energy markets through 2040 based on six cases (Reference, Low and High Economic Growth, Low and High Oil Price, and High Oil and Gas Resource) that reflect updated scenarios for future crude oil prices. US net energy imports decline and ultimately end in most AEO2015 cases, driven by growth in US energy production—led by crude oil and natural gas—increased use of renewables, and only modest growth in demand.
UC Berkeley hybrid semiconductor nanowire-bacteria system for direct solar-powered production of chemicals from CO2 and water
April 10, 2015
Researchers at UC Berkeley have developed an artificial photosynthetic scheme for the direct solar-powered production of value-added chemicals from CO2 and water using a two-step process involving a biocompatible light-capturing nanowire array with a direct interface with microbial systems.
As a proof of principle, they demonstrated that, using only solar energy input, such a hybrid semiconductor nanowire–bacteria system can reduce CO2 at neutral pH to a wide array of chemical targets, such as fuels, polymers, and complex pharmaceutical precursors A paper on their work is published in the ACS journal Nano Letters.
Global investment in renewable power reached $270.2B in 2014, ~17% up from 2013; biofuel investment fell 8% to 10-year low
April 06, 2015
Global investment in renewable power and fuels (excluding large hydro-electric projects) was $270.2 billion in 2014, nearly 17% higher than the previous year, according to the latest edition of an annual report commissioned by the United Nations Environment Program’s (UNEP) Division of Technology, Industry and Economic (DTIE) in cooperation with Frankfurt School-UNEP Collaborating Centre for Climate & Sustainable Energy Finance and produced in collaboration with Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
This marked the first annual increase in dollar commitments to renewables—excluding large hydro—for three years, and brought the total up to just 3% below the all-time record of $278.8 billion set in 2011. The increase reflected several influences, according to the report, including a boom in solar installations in China and Japan—totalling $74.9 billion between those two countries—and a record $18.6 billion of final investment decisions on offshore wind projects in Europe.
DOE Bioenergy Technologies Office updates Multi-Year Program Plan; focus on wet wastes
April 05, 2015
The US Department of Energy (DOE) Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) released its newly updated and detailed Multi-Year Program Plan (MYPP). The MYPP sets forth the goals and structure of the Office, and identifies the research, development, demonstration, market transformation, and crosscutting activities on which the Office is planning to focus over the next five years.
The latest version of the MYPP presents a merged conversion R&D section; the renaming of the demonstration and market transformation area; and emerging work in wet waste-to-energy feedstocks. BETO says that wet wastes represent an underused feedstock and an emerging pathway to advanced biofuels that has the potential to greatly contribute to BETO’s near-term and long-term advanced biofuel and bioproduct goals.
NASA-led analysis characterizes the impact of jet fuel composition on emitted aerosols
April 03, 2015
Using data gathered during four different, comprehensive ground tests conducted over the past decade, researchers from NASA and their colleagues have statistically analyzed the impact of jet fuel properties on aerosols emitted by the NASA Douglas DC-8 CFM56-2-C1 engines burning 15 different aviation fuels. The analysis, reported in a paper in the ACS journal Energy & Fuels, linked changes in aerosol emissions to fuel compositional changes.
Among the results was the finding that reducing both fuel sulfur content and naphthalenes to near-zero levels would result in roughly a 10-fold decrease in aerosol number emitted per kilogram of fuel burned. The study can inform future efforts to model aircraft emissions changes as the aviation fleet gradually begins to transition toward low-aromatic, low-sulfur alternative jet fuels from bio-based or Fischer–Tropsch production pathways.