[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.]
Shell develops lead-free aviation gasoline
December 04, 2013
Shell has developed a lead-free replacement for aviation gasoline (Avgas 100 and 100LL); the replacement fuel will now begin a strict regulatory approvals process. Shell is the first major oil company to do so. The new lead-free formulation comes after 10 years of R&D, as well as successful initial testing, carried out in the last two months by two original equipment manufacturers (OEMs).
Avgas is one of the last common transportation fuels—and the only fuel in the US—to contain the additive tetraethyl lead (TEL); avgas is used by light aircraft and helicopters. (Leaded gasoline for automobiles was phased out of use in the US by 1995 due to its environmental and health impact.) Avgas includes lead in its formulation to meet fuel specifications, to boost combustion performance, and to prevent knock.
Euro Parliament Transport Committee backs draft directive mandating expansion of alternative fuel stations; grandfathering CHAdeMO
November 26, 2013
|Minimum number of publicly-accessible recharging points for electric vehicles in each member state. Click to enlarge.|
EU member states would have to ensure that specified numbers of publicly-available electric vehicle recharging points and hydrogen and natural gas stations are built by 2020, under a draft directive endorsed by the Transport and Tourism Committee of the European Parliament on Tuesday. The draft rules aim to reduce dependence on oil and boost take-up of alternative fuels, so as to help achieve a 60% cut in greenhouse gas emissions from transport by 2050.
Private sector players should play a leading role in developing this infrastructure, but member states should provide tax and public procurement incentives for them to do so, say the members of Parliament (MEPs). The directive specifies that:
ARPA-E to award up to $30M for intermediate-temperature fuel cell systems for distributed generation; exploring storage and power-to-fuels
November 25, 2013
The US Department of Energy (DOE) Advanced Research Projects Agency - Energy (ARPA-E) will award up to $30 million to fund a new program focused on the development of transformational electrochemical technologies to enable low-cost distributed power generation. ARPA-E anticipates making approximately 12-18 awards under this FOA, with individual awards varying between $250,000 and $10 million. (DE-FOA-0001026)
ARPA-E’s Reliable Electricity Based on ELectrochemical Systems (REBELS) program will develop fuel cell devices that operate in an intermediate temperature range (ITFCs) (200-500 °C) in an attempt to 1) create new pathways to achieve an installed cost to the end-user of less than $1,500/kW at moderate production volumes; and 2) create new fuel cell functionality to increase grid stability and integration of renewable energy technologies such as wind and solar.
Sandia partnering with MOgene on ARPA-E project for sunlight-assisted microbial conversion of methane to butanol
November 18, 2013
Researchers at Sandia National Laboratories will use their expertise in protein expression, enzyme engineering and high-throughput assays as part of a two-year, $1.5-million award led by MOgene Green Chemicals (MGC, a wholly owned subsidiary of genomics services provider MOgene) targeting the sunlight-assisted conversion of methane to butanol.
The project is one of 15 selected for a total of $34 million in funding by the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) as part of its Reducing Emissions using Methanotrophic Organisms for Transportation Energy (REMOTE) program. (Earlier post.) MGC’s primary corporate objective is to engineer biocatalysts with novel functionality for production of molecules from non-food feedstocks that can be used for production of transportation fuel as well as commodity and specialty products.
EPA proposes reduction in cellulosic biofuel and total renewable fuel standards for 2014
November 15, 2013
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing a reduction in the cellulosic biofuel and total renewable fuel standards (RFS) for 2014. Once the proposal is published in the Federal Register, it will be open to a 60-day public comment period.
Specifically, EPA is proposing a total renewable fuel target of 15.21 billion gallons; the final 2013 overall volumes and standards require 16.55 billion gallons; the original target as specified in the Clean Air Act is 18.15 billion gallons. (Earlier post.) EPA is setting the troublesome cellulosic biofuel target at 17 million gallons—significantly lower than the Clean Air Act (CAA) target of 1.75 billion gallons—but an increase from the 6.0 million gallons specified for 2013. This reflects EPA’s current estimate of the amount of cellulosic biofuel that will actually be produced in 2014, but EPA will consider public comments before setting the final cellulosic standard.
Battelle evaluating pilot-scale mobile catalytic pyrolysis unit to convert biomass to bio-oil
November 08, 2013
Battelle researchers have developed a mobile catalytic pyrolysis unit that converts biomass materials such as wood chips or agricultural waste into bio-oil. As currently configured, the Battelle-funded unit converts one ton of pine chips, shavings and sawdust into as much as 130 gallons of wet bio-oil per day.
The bio-oil then can be upgraded by hydrotreatment into a gas/diesel blend or jet fuel. Conversion of the bio-oil to an advanced biofuel is a key element of Battelle’s (earlier post)—and many others’—research. Testing of the bio-based gasoline alternative produced by Battelle suggests that it can be blended with existing gasoline and can help fuel producers meet their renewable fuel requirements.
GE Aviation signs 10-year supply agreement for biomass FT jet fuel for engine testing; baseline of 500,000 gallons per year
November 07, 2013
|Schematic of the DG Energy facility that will produce the cellulosic synthetic jet fuel. Click to enlarge.|
GE Aviation, which consumes more than 10 million gallons of jet fuel annually at its engine testing centers, has signed an agreement to purchase cellulosic synthetic biofuel from The D’Arcinoff Group (DG), based in Washington, DC, to be used for production and development testing of GE jet engines, starting in 2016.
The 10-year agreement calls for GE’s baseline commitment of 500,000 gallons annually of the low-emissions jet fuel to be used at the company’s main jet engine testing facility in Peebles, Ohio. Options are in place to order up to 10 million gallons annually of the synthetic biofuel, which be be produced via the gasification of biomass to produce syngas, followed by Fischer-Tropsch conversion.
USDA awards nearly $10M for research on using beetle-killed trees as feedstock for on-site thermochemical conversion technologies
November 06, 2013
The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) awarded nearly $10 million to a consortium of academic, industry and government organizations led by Colorado State University (CSU) and their partners to research using insect-killed trees in the Rockies as a sustainable feedstock for bioenergy. Specifically, the team will explore recent advances in scalable thermochemical conversion technologies, which enable the production of advanced liquid biofuel and co-products on-site.
There are many benefits to using beetle-killed wood for renewable fuel production. It requires no cultivation, circumvents food-versus-fuel concerns and likely has a highly favorable carbon balance. However, there are some challenges that have been a barrier to its widespread use. The wood is typically located far from urban industrial centers, often in relatively inaccessible areas with challenging topography, which increases harvest and transportation costs. In addition to technical barriers, environmental impacts, social issues and local policy constraints to using beetle-killed wood and other forest residues remain largely unexplored.
LanzaTech-Shougang joint venture in China earns RSB certification for waste steel mill gas to biofuel process
November 05, 2013
Beijing Shougang LanzaTech New Energy Science & Technology Co., Ltd. has earned the Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials Services Foundation’s (RSB’s) sustainability certification for the joint venture’s facility that converts waste steel mill gases to sustainable biofuels. LanzTech and the Shougang Group signed the joint venture agreement in September 2011.
The facility, which utilizes LanzaTech’s waste gas fermentation technology (earlier post), is the first RSB-certified biofuel plant in China, and the first of its kind anywhere to receive this key certification for industrial carbon capture and utilization. The RSB is a global sustainability standard and certification system for biofuels and biomaterials production.
PNNL team devises probe enabling rapid design of enzyme cocktails for maximum biomass deconstruction for biofuels
November 04, 2013
A team at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) has devised an activity-based probe that can rapidly identify optimal conditions for the maximum enzymatic deconstruction of lignocellulose. The probe approach promises to facilitate the rapid production of enzyme cocktails for high-efficiency lignocellulose deconstruction to support high-yield biofuel production, the researchers report in a paper in the RSC journal Molecular BioSystems.
The findings open the possibility that laboratory research that now takes months could be reduced to days, and that scientists will be able to assess more options for biofuel development than is possible today.
JCAP researchers propose protocol for standardized evaluation of OER catalysts for solar-fuel systems
November 03, 2013
|Protocol for measuring the electrochemically active surface area, catalytic activity, stability, and Faradaic efficiency of heterogeneous electrocatalysts for OER. Credit: ACS, McCrory et al. Click to enlarge.|
Electro-catalytic water splitting to produce hydrogen and oxygen is a key element of solar-fuels devices; identifying efficient catalysts for the oxygen evolution reaction (OER) is critical to their realization. (The OER is efficiency-limiting for direct solar and electrolytic water splitting, rechargeable metal-air batteries, and regenerative fuel cells. Earlier post.) However, notes a team of researchers from the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis at Caltech, current methods employed to evaluate oxygen-evolving catalysts are not standardized, making it difficult to compare the activity and stability of these materials.
To address this issue, the researchers are proposing a protocol to evaluate the activity, stability, and Faradaic efficiency of electro-deposited oxygen-evolving electrocatalysts. In particular, they focus on methods for determining electrochemically active surface area and measuring electrocatalytic activity and stability under conditions relevant to an integrated solar water-splitting device. A paper on their work is published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.
DOE BETO issues request for information on advanced biofuel, bioproducts and biopower validation and deployment
October 31, 2013
The Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) is soliciting feedback from industry, academia, research laboratories, government agencies, and other stakeholders on issues related to advanced biofuel, bioproducts, and biopower technology validation and potential deployment strategies. (DE-FOA-0001013)
BETO’s mission is to develop and transform biomass resources into commercially viable, high performance biofuels, bioproducts, and biopower through targeted research, development, demonstration, and deployment supported through public and private partnerships. Specific goals are: 1) through R&D, make cellulosic biofuels competitive with petroleum-based fuels at a modeled cost for mature technology of $3 per gallon of gasoline equivalent (GGE) ($2011) based on EIA projected wholesale prices in 2017; and 2) help create an environment conducive to maximizing the production and use of biofuels by 2022.
Amyris to enter partnership to supply renewable jet fuel from sugar to GOL Airlines
October 23, 2013
|An overview of the direct sugar to hydrocarbon (DSHC) process for the production of renewable jet fuel. Source: Amyris. Click to enlarge.|
Renewable fuels and chemicals company Amyris, Inc. and GOL Linhas Aéreas Inteligentes S.A., the largest low-cost and low-fare airline in Latin America, signed a memorandum of understanding that could pave the way for GOL commercial flights to use Amyris renewable jet fuel in 2014. The anticipated partnership was announced during the first commercial flight with a renewable jet fuel in Brazil by the airline earlier today.
Under the memorandum of understanding, GOL and Amyris will work together to establish a framework for bringing Amyris renewable jet fuel produced from Brazilian sugarcane (direct sugar to hydrocarbon pathway, DSHC) to GOL’s commercial flights following regulatory approvals and validation by standard-setting bodies, including ASTM International and Brazil’s Oil, Gas and Biofuels Agency (ANP).
Clariant supplying SNG catalyst for methanation unit in Audi’s new “Power-to-Gas” plant
October 21, 2013
Clariant, a global provider of specialty chemicals, has supplied a proprietary CO2-SNG (synthetic natural gas) catalyst for the methanation unit of Audi’s new power-to-gas facility in Werlte, Germany. (Earlier post.)
The “e-gas plant” was started up in June this year and is part of Audi’s sustainability initiative. The plant, which can convert six megawatts of input power, will utilize renewable electricity for electrolysis, producing oxygen and hydrogen, the latter which could one day power fuel-cell vehicles. Because there is not yet a widespread hydrogen infrastructure, however, the hydrogen is reacted with CO2 in a methanation unit to generate renewable synthetic methane, or Audi e-gas.
USDA announces availability of $181M to support development of advanced biofuels projects
US Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the availability of $181 million via its Biorefinery Assistance Program to develop commercial-scale biorefineries or retrofit existing facilities with appropriate technology to develop advanced biofuels.
The Biorefinery Assistance Program was created through the 2008 Farm Bill and is administered by USDA Rural Development. It provides loan guarantees to viable commercial-scale facilities to develop new and emerging technologies for advanced biofuels. Eligible entities include Indian tribes, State or local governments, corporations, farmer co-ops, agricultural producer associations, higher education institutions, rural electric co-ops, public power entities or consortiums of any of the above.
U Alberta spin-off Forge Hydrocarbons commercializing pyrolytic lipids-to-hydrocarbons process
October 14, 2013
|Simplified process flow of LTH. Click to enlarge.|
A University of Alberta spinoff company, Forge Hydrocarbons, is commercializing a patented lipids-to-hydrocarbons (LTH) process developed by David Bressler, a researcher in the Faculty of Agricultural, Life and Environmental Sciences. The process takes agricultural feedstocks such as animal fat, crop seed oil and restaurant grease, and converts them into drop-in liquid hydrocarbon fuels. The process also converts the same agricultural feedstocks into solvents and diluents.
Bressler’s process first hydrolyzes the feedstock with water in a reactor to produce a mixture of free fatty acids and glycerol. The fatty acids are separated from the glycerol and water, and then pyrolized to produce deoxygenated hydrocarbon liquids. Further processing converts the hydrocarbon liquid into the desired fuel such as gasoline, natural gas, jet fuel, diesel, lubricating oil, solvents or diluents.
Study finds biodiesel blend reduces total particle mass in emissions but may have greater adverse health effect per mass than diesel
October 10, 2013
Findings from a study by researchers from the Department of Medicine and the School of Engineering at the University of Vermont suggest that the addition of biodiesel to diesel fuels will reduce the total particle mass of PM emissions—but that the biodiesel blend particles may contribute to greater biological effects per mass than B0, leading to potentially greater health risks.
As reported in a paper published in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology, the team first characterized exhaust particles produced by combustion of pure petrodiesel (B0) and B20 (20% soy biodiesel/ 80% B0) fuels using the same engine and running conditions, and then conducted experiments in two human cell lines representing bronchial epithelial cells and macrophages as well as in female mice. (Studies in cells alone do not necessarily reflect the integrated response of a whole animal, they noted.)
Australia CSIRO and India CSIR launch A$6M partnership on dimethyl ether
Australia’s CSIRO and its equivalent in India, the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), have launched a three-year, A$6-million (US$5.6-million) collaboration focused on improving processes involved in the production of dimethyl ether (DME), a clean-burning synthetic liquid fuel.
DME is non-toxic and non-carcinogenic and can be produced from natural gas (NG), coal, biomass, or even directly from carbon dioxide. It offers diesel-quality performance with a high cetane number and low auto-ignition temperature, but burns cleanly without producing any soot. The carbon intensity of the DME will vary with the feedstock.
Exploring gasoline-range naphtha as a low-soot, low-NOx alternative compression ignition fuel
October 08, 2013
Dr. Gautam Kalghatgi and his colleagues at Saudi Aramco and other organization such as FEV, RWTH Aachen University, and Shell Global Solutions, have been investigating the potential use of naphtha as an alternative compression-ignition (CI) fuel that offers a number of benefits, including efficient combustion; low soot and NOx emissions resulting in a less complicated aftertreatment system to meet modern emissions standards; and a fuel that is simpler to make than current gasoline or diesel fuels.
A number of papers from Kalghatgi and his colleagues—and now other groups, including Tsinghua University in China and the Eindhoven University of Technology—have been published recently, exploring different aspects of this approach. At the SAE/KSAE 2013 International Powertrains, Fuels & Lubricants Meeting in Korea later this month, Kalghatgi and his colleagues will present two more, one exploring the fuel economy potential of partially premixed compression ignition (PPCI) combustion using naphtha, the other exploring the use of larger size nozzle holes and higher compression ratio in a diesel engine for combustion of such a “gasoline-type” fuel.
CARB draft of updated AB 32 Scoping Plan for climate change actions post-2020; pushing for greater transportation reductions
October 02, 2013
The California Air Resources Board (ARB) has released the public discussion draft of the required update to the AB 32 Scoping Plan. (Earlier post.) The Scoping Plan describes the comprehensive range of efforts California must take to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 and meet the state’s long-term goals to combat climate change.
AB 32 requires the Scoping Plan to be updated every five years. The original Plan, first released in 2008, was developed on the principle that a balanced mix of strategies is the best way to cut emissions and grow California’s economy in a clean and sustainable direction. This draft update continues with that approach and focuses on three questions:
UCLA engineers develop new metabolic pathway for more efficient conversion of glucose into biofuels; possible 50% increase in biorefinery yield
October 01, 2013
Researchers at UCLA led by Dr. James Liao have created a new synthetic metabolic pathway for breaking down glucose that could lead to a 50% increase in the production of biofuels. The new pathway is intended to replace the natural metabolic pathway known as glycolysis, a series of chemical reactions that nearly all organisms use to convert sugars into the molecular precursors that cells need. The research is published in the journal Nature.
Native glycolytic pathways—a number of which have been discovered—oxidize the six-carbon sugar glucose into pyruvate and thence into two-carbon molecules known acetyl-CoA for either further oxidation or biosynthesis of cell constituents and products, including fatty acids, amino acids, isoprenoids and alcohols. However, the two remaining glucose carbons are lost as carbon dioxide.
DOE proposing $100M in FY2014 for 2nd round of funding for Energy Frontier Research Centers
US Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz announced a proposed $100 million in FY2014 funding for Energy Frontier Research Centers; research supported by this initiative will enable fundamental advances in energy production and use.
The Department of Energy (DOE) currently funds 46 Energy Frontier Research Centers (EFRCs), which were selected for five-year funding in 2009. (Earlier post.) With support for those centers set to expire in July 2014, DOE has announced a “re-competition” for a second round of funding (DE-FOA-0001010).
KAIST team engineers novel pathway for direct production of biogasoline by E. coli bacteria
September 30, 2013
A team at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) has developed a a novel strategy for microbial gasoline production through the metabolic engineering of Escherichia coli. The team engineered engineered platform E. coli strains that are capable of producing short-chain alkanes (SCAs; i.e., gasoline); free fatty acids (FFAs); fatty esters; and fatty alcohols via the fatty acyl (acyl carrier protein (ACP)) to fatty acid to fatty acyl-CoA pathway.
As reported in their paper in Nature, the final engineered strain produced up to 580.8 mg per liter of SCAs consisting of nonane (327.8 mg l−1), dodecane (136.5 mg l−1), tridecane (64.8 mg l−1), 2-methyl-dodecane (42.8 mg l−1) and tetradecane (8.9 mg l−1), together with small amounts of other hydrocarbons.
KiOR seeks to double cellulosic fuels production at Columbus plant; $50M in from Khosla for Columbus II
September 26, 2013
Cellulosic gasoline and diesel company KiOR, Inc. is pursuing plans to double production capacity at its Columbus, Mississippi, facility through construction of a second facility incorporating KiOR’s commercially proven technology. KiOR estimates that the Columbus II project will cost approximately $225 million; will break ground within 90 days of it raising sufficient equity and debt capital to commence the project; and will take approximately 18 months to construct and start up.
Once completed with its latest technology improvements, KiOR expects that the Columbus II project will allow each Columbus facility to achieve greater yields, production capacity and feedstock flexibility than the original design basis for the existing Columbus facility, enabling KiOR to more quickly make progress towards its long-term goal of 92 gallons per bone dry ton of biomass.
U-Mich researcher’s first-principles analysis challenges conventional carbon accounting for biofuels; implications for climate policy
September 24, 2013
In a paper that could have a significant impact on climate policies for transportation fuels, Dr. John M. DeCicco of the Energy Institute at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor presents a rigorous first-principles analysis that undermines the common “biofuels recycle carbon” argument.
Published in the journal Climactic Change, the open access paper shows that while the carbon mitigation challenge for liquid fuels has been seen—incorrectly—as a fuel synthesis and substitution problem, it is in reality a net carbon uptake problem. Accordingly, DeCicco concludes, strategies should move away from a downstream focus on replacing fuel products to an upstream focus on achieving additional CO2 uptake through the most cost-effective and least damaging means possible. “All parties with an interest in the issue are advised to rethink their priorities accordingly,” he finishes.
Pinto Energy to build 2,800 bpd small-scale GTL plant in Ashtabula; Velocys microchannel technology
September 23, 2013
Pinto Energy LLC (Pinto), a developer of smaller scale Gas-to-Liquids (GTL) facilities, will build a 2,800 barrel per day (bpd) GTL plant at Pinto’s 80-acre industrial site to the east of Ashtabula, Ohio. The plant will convert abundant low-cost natural gas from the Utica and Marcellus shale region into high-value specialty products (solvents, lubricants and waxes), as well as transportation fuels.
Pinto has chosen to utilize Velocys Plc (Velocys) Fischer-Tropsch microchannel reactor technology. (Velocys is part of the Oxford Catalysts Group plc; Oxford Catalysts is changing its name to Velocys plc on 25 September 2013.) Velocys advanced catalysts and proprietary microchannel reactors offer unparalleled efficiencies for GTL projects today, Pinto said. The company has agreed to commercial license terms with Velocys and made a down payment towards the FT reactors.
$4M ARPA-E award to Lanzatech to improve design of bioreactors for waste-gas-to-fuels fermentation technology
LanzaTech, a producer of low-carbon fuels and chemicals from waste gases, was awarded a $4-million grant by the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) as one of the 15 REMOTE projects (earlier post) receiving a combined $34 million to find advanced biocatalyst technologies that can convert natural gas to liquid fuel for transportation.
LanzaTech and its partners, The City College of New York (CUNY), Louisiana State University (LSU) and Michigan Technological University (Michigan Tech) will collaborate to extend LanzaTech’s core fermentation technology to unlock the potential of waste methane gases through novel and smaller-scale bioreactor design. The project will combine LanzaTech’s expertise in gas fermentation and reactor design with experimental reactor design expertise at the CUNY Energy Institute, and reactor modeling capabilities at LSU. LanzaTech and Michigan Tech will validate the economic and life cycle analysis impacts of this innovative technology as compared to the current state of the art.
ARPA-E awarding $3.5M to Berkeley Lab project to develop novel enzymatic gas-to-liquids pathway
September 22, 2013
On 19 September, the Advanced Research Project Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) awarded $34 million to 15 projects to find advanced biocatalyst technologies that can convert natural gas to liquid fuel for transportation. (Earlier post.) The largest award in the technical area of High-Efficiency Biological Methane Activation in the new program, (Reducing Emissions using Methanotrophic Organisms for Transportation Energy—REMOTE, earlier post), provides $3.5 million to a team led by Dr. Christer Jansson at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) to work on a novel methylation process to convert natural gas to liquid transportation fuels.
The project, called “Enzyme Engineering for Direct Methane Conversion,” involves designing a novel enzyme—a PEP methyltransferase (PEPMase)—by engineering an existing enzyme to accept methane instead of carbon dioxide. This methylation process, which does not exist in nature, will be used as the basis for the gas-to-liquids pathway.
FAA launches new Center of Excellence for alternative jet fuels; $40M in funding over 10 years
September 13, 2013
The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has selected a team of universities to lead a new Air Transportation Center of Excellence (COE) for alternative jet fuels and the environment. Led by Washington State University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the COE will explore ways to meet the environmental and energy goals that are part of the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen).
Core team partners include Boston University; Oregon State University; Purdue University; the University of Dayton; the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; the University of Pennsylvania; the University of Washington; Missouri University of Science and Technology; Georgia Institute of Technology; Pennsylvania State University; Stanford University; the University of Hawaii; the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; and the University of Tennessee.
European Parliament backs 6% cap on land-based biofuels, switchover to advanced biofuels; no mandate
September 11, 2013
In a vote on draft legislation, the European Parliament has backed a cap on the use of biofuels produced from starch-rich crops, sugars, oil and other crops grown on land and a speedy switchover to new biofuels from alternative sources such as seaweed and waste. The measures aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that result from the turnover of agricultural land to biofuel production.
According to current legislation, member states must ensure that renewable energy accounts for at least 10% of energy consumption in transport by 2020. In the adopted text, MEPs (Members of the European Parliament) say land-based biofuels should not exceed 6% of the final energy consumption in transport by 2020. (The proposal by the European Commission on which the draft legislation was based had suggested an even lower 5% cap.)
NRL researchers optimizing two-step process for synthesis of jet-fuel-range hydrocarbons from CO2
September 09, 2013
Researchers at the US Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) are investigating an optimized two-step process for the synthesis of liquid hydrocarbons in the jet fuel range from CO2 and hydrogen. The process, reported in the ACS journal Energy & Fuels, could leverage a recently reported process, also developed by NRL, to recover CO2 from sea water.
CO2 is 140 times more concentrated in seawater than in air on a weight per volume basis (g/mL), the authors note. With scaling and optimization of this CO2 recovery technology already underway, NRL researchers and others are working on new and improved catalysts for the conversion of CO2to useful hydrocarbons.
246th ACS National Meeting symposium on CO2 conversion to fuels
Converting CO2 to usable fuels was the topic of a symposium—CO2 Conversion: Thermo-, Photo- and Electro-Catalytic—on Sunday at the 246th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society in Indianapolis, Indiana. (ACS is the world’s largest scientific society.)
Converting CO2 into a renewable energy sources would involve capturing the gas from the smokestacks of coal-fired electric power generating stations, for instance, and processing it with catalysts or other technology into fuels and raw materials for plastics and other products.
Researchers identify new pathways in low-temp oxidation of hydrocarbons; important to fuel combustion, atmospheric chemistry and biochemistry
September 05, 2013
|The diagram illustrates the newly-described reaction that transforms molecules of ketohydroperoxide into acids and carbonyl molecules, after going through intermediate stages. Credit: ACS, Jalan et al. Click to enlarge.|
Researchers at MIT, with colleagues at the University of Minnesota, have provided evidence and theoretical rate coefficients for new pathways in the low-temperature oxidation of hydrocarbons. Their paper is published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.
The newly explained reaction—the basic outlines of which had been first hypothesized by Korcek and co-workers more than 30 years ago but the workings of which had never been understood in detail—is an important part of atmospheric reactions that lead to the formation of climate-affecting aerosols; biochemical reactions that may be important for human physiology; and combustion reactions in engines. The new study provides theoretical confirmation of Korcek’s hypothesis that ketohydroperoxide molecules (KHPs) are precursors to carboxylic acid formation.
DOE and Air Force issue RFI on Mil-Spec jet fuel production using coal-to-liquid technologies
The US Department of Energy (DOE) in partnership with the US Air Force has issued a request for information (RFI)—DE-FOA-0000981—on research & development aimed at greenhouse gas emissions reductions and cost competitiveness of Mil-Spec jet fuel production using coal-to-liquid (CTL) fuel technologies.
The DOE’s National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL), on behalf of the US Air Force, intends to issue a funding opportunity announcement (FOA) in 2013 that would solicit for the most promising research and development projects on advanced concepts for and/or unit operations within a CTL fuels plant; the areas of interest may be developed based in part on the responses to the RFI. The DOE and US Air Force anticipate the need for projects of no less than $3 million and that would have duration of not more than 3 years.
Ricardo advancing with two novel heavy-duty vehicle technologies: cryogenic split-cycle engine and microwave fuel reforming
September 04, 2013
|The concept of the Ricardo Split-Cycle engine. The recuperated engine uses isothermal compression via cryogenic injection to enable significant exhaust to compressed gas heat transfer. Source: Neville Jackson. Click to enlarge.|
Ricardo is advancing its work with two novel technologies to improve the efficiency of heavy-duty goods vehicles: a cryogenic split-cycle engine “CryoPower” (earlier post), and a low-carbon waste-heat powered microwave fuel reformer “HeatWave II”.
Heavy duty vehicles, such as long haul trucks, represent a significant challenge in terms of the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions. An essential element of the transportation mix of modern industrialized society, they are inherently less amenable to the type of electrification and hybridization strategies that are already contributing to reduced carbon emissions and potential long-term sustainability for the light vehicle sector.
Neste Oil and Raisioagro to research the potential of straw as a renewable diesel feedstock via microbial oil
September 02, 2013
Neste Oil, developer of the NExBTL process for renewable diesel, and agritrader Raisioagro have launched a research project to investigate the potential of straw as a raw material for producing NExBTL renewable diesel via Neste’s microbial oil technology. (Earlier post.)
Large quantities of waste straw are produced as agricultural residue in Finland and elsewhere, and only a small proportion of this is currently used. The project will study whether a logistically effective and efficient, large-scale straw harvesting chain could be created in Finland. The researchers will also look at the storability of straw for use as an industrial input year-round. The project will be carried out by TTS, a research, development, and training organization.
Berkeley Lab researchers at JCAP develop unique semiconductor/catalyst construct for production of H2 from sunlight
August 30, 2013
Researchers with the US Department of Energy (DOE)’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) working at the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis (JCAP) have developed a method by which molecular cobalt-containing hydrogen production catalysts can be interfaced with a semiconductor that absorbs visible light.
Coupling the absorption of visible light with the production of hydrogen in one material enables the generation of a fuel simply by illuminating the photocathode, says Gary Moore, a chemist with Berkeley Lab’s Physical Biosciences Division and principal investigator for JCAP. “No external electrochemical forward biasing is required.” Moore is the corresponding author of a paper describing this research in the Journal of the American Chemical Society (JACS).
Big Science tools for clean transportation: neutron scattering at ORNL
August 21, 2013
|Images of Li-air cathode produced by neutron-computed tomography. Source: ORNL. Click to enlarge.|
This begins an occasional series on “big science” tools hosted at US national laboratories that are being applied to support the development of technology innovations for clean transportation. First up is a quick look at the two advanced neutron-scattering facilities at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) in Tennessee, which Green Car Congress recently had the opportunity to tour: the newer (2006) $1.4-billion Spallation Neutron Source (SNS) and the older (1965) High Flux Isotope Reactor (HFIR).
Neutron scattering can provide information about the positions, motions, and magnetic properties of solids. With the appropriate instrumentation and computer support, it can enable neutron radiography, which can provide images of the distributions of chemical compounds in functioning devices, and neutron tomography—3D images created by reconstructing a series of radiographs.
Viable exhaust-driven on-board ethanol reforming for improvements in fuel economy and emissions
August 20, 2013
|Schematic diagram of the successful “shoebox” reformer design and a picture of the core, after insertion of the catalyst. Credit: ACS, Sall et al. Click to enlarge.|
A team at Monsanto and colleagues at AVL Powertrain have successfully designed and demonstrated an onboard low-temperature ethanol reformer that can be driven by exhaust heat. A paper on their work is published in the ACS journal Energy & Fuels.
The low-temperature ethanol-reforming pathway, catalyzed by copper-nickel powder catalysts, transforms ethanol into a mixture of H2, CO, and CH4 at temperatures between 300 and 350 °C. Blending 25-50% of this low-temperature ethanol reformate with ethanol or E85 fuels enables dilute engine operation, resulting in substantial improvements in fuel economy and emissions.
New synthetic fungal-bacterial consortia for direct production of isobutanol from biomass
A team from the University of Michigan, Michigan State, and UCLA has designed synthetic fungal-bacterial consortia for the direct production of isobutanol from biomass. The required biological functions are divided between two specialists: the fungus Trichoderma reesei, which secretes cellulase enzymes to hydrolyze lignocellulosic biomass into soluble saccharides, and the bacterium Escherichia coli, which metabolizes soluble saccharides into the desired products.
In experiments reported in an open access paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academies (PNAS), they achieved isobutanol titers up to 1.88 g/L and yields up to 62% of theoretical maximum from the direct conversion of microcrystalline cellulose and pretreated corn stover to isobutanol.
NextFuels introduces hydrothermal process to produce biofuels from wet, unprocessed waste; solution for palm plantation residue
August 19, 2013
|Overview of the NextFuels’ GreenCrude process. Click to enlarge.|
Biofuels company NextFuels introduced its hydrothermal process for economically producing transportation and industrial fuels from wet, unprocessed agricultural waste. The underlying technology—developed by Shell Oil over several years—will allow NextFuels and its partners to produce bio-based crude at commercial scale for $75 to $85 a barrel out of wet biomass that has not been mechanically or thermally dried.
The California-based company said that its process will provide palm plantation owners and others a way to transform the tons of residual plant matter generated by agricultural operations into a new, profitable second crop.
JBEI team develops one-pot, wash-free process for pretreatment and saccharification of switchgrass; avenues for driving down biofuel cost
August 14, 2013
|Conventional separate pretreatment and saccharification of biofuel feedstock (a) entails water and waste disposal that the new one-pot system (b) eliminates. (Image courtesy of Joint BioEnergy Institute). Click to enlarge.|
Researchers with the US Department of Energy (DOE)’s Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) report the first demonstration of a one-pot, wash-free process that combines ionic liquid (IL) pretreatment and enzymatic saccharification into a single vessel using a thermostable IL-tolerant bacterial consortium comprising several species of thermophiles (microbes that thrive at extremely high temperatures and alkaline conditions).
Using this one-pot system, they liberated 81.2% glucose and 87.4% xylose (monomers and oligomers) at 72 h processing at 70 °C with an enzyme loading of 5.75 mg g−1 of biomass at 10% [C2mim][OAc]. Glucose and xylose were selectively separated by liquid–liquid extraction with over 90% efficiency, thus eliminating extensive water washing as a unit operation.
EPA sets 2013 percentages for Renewable Fuel Standard; anticipating adjustments to 2014 volume requirements
August 06, 2013
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized the 2013 percentage standards for four fuel categories that are part of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program. The final 2013 overall volumes and standards require 16.55 billion gallons of renewable fuels to be blended into the US fuel supply (a 9.74% blend).
The 2013 standard specifically requires: biomass-based diesel (1.28 billion gallons; 1.13%); advanced biofuels (2.75 billion gallons; 1.62%); and cellulosic biofuels (6.00 million gallons; 0.004%). These standards reflect EPA’s updated production projections. All volumes are ethanol-equivalent, except for biomass-based diesel which is actual volume.
CAAFI R&D team releases critical challenges position paper and white papers for alternative jet fuel industry
The Commercial Aviation Alternative Fuels Initiative (CAAFI) R&D team released its current position paper on critical R&D challenges facing the alternative jet fuel industry, highlighting near-, mid-, and long-term priorities. The Position Paper is supported by a series of white papers describing the path forward on these key topics.
The position paper is the result a meeting last fall at which more than 80 members of the CAAFI R&D team—comprising a range of stakeholders from the aviation and alternative fuels industries, academia, and government—identified and discussed key immediate and longer-term needs for targeted funding to maximize the efficacy of the incipient alternative jet fuels industry. Critical enablers requiring immediate development are:
DOE awarding $22 million for algal fuel and biomass feedstock supply chain projects
August 01, 2013
US Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz announced more than $22 million in new investments to help develop cost-competitive algae fuels and streamline the biomass feedstock supply chain for advanced biofuels. Moniz was speaking at the US Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Biomass 2013 conference.
Nearly $16.5 million goes to four projects intended to boost the productivity of sustainable algae, while cutting capital and operating costs of commercial-scale production. The projects include:
U Wisc. study explores effects of biodiesel-gasoline blend in diesel engine
One high-efficiency combustion concept under investigation is gasoline compression ignition (GCI)—the use of gasoline-like fuels to deliver very low NOx and PM emissions as well as high efficiency in a diesel compression ignition engine. (Earlier post.) A challenge to be overcome with this approach is the higher resistance to autoignition of gasoline fuels.
A team from the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Engine Research Center now reports in a paper in the journal Fuel on the effects of biodiesel-gasoline blends compared to neat gasoline using a partially premixed, split-injection GCI combustion strategy.
Study identifies functional roles of individuals within microbial consortium for breaking down switchgrass for biofuel production
July 28, 2013
Working with a compost-derived consortium of thermophillic bacterium adapted to grow on switchgrass, and using a combination of metagenomic and metaproteomic technologies, a collaboration led by researchers with the US Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) has identified individual microbial species whose enzymes were the most active in deconstructing the switchgrass biomass.
The study marks the first time that the functional roles of individual microbial populations within a consortium have been linked with specific enzyme activities—in this case cellulase and hemicellulase—said Steven Singer, director of JBEI’s microbial communities program. “Since these activities are broadly relevant to biofuel production, this is one of the first real-world applications being met by combining metagenomics and metaproteomics,” Singer said.
UPS sets 2017 goal of 1 billion alternative fuel miles
July 27, 2013
UPS released its annual Sustainability Report announcing that while the total number of packages shipped in 2012 increased, the company reduced its total Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions. Environmental achievements included ground and air fuel savings, increased investments in alternative fuel vehicles, and retooled routes that shaved 12.1 million miles from ground deliveries.
UPS also set a new alternative fuel goal of one billion cumulative miles (from a baseline of the year 2000) driven by alternative fuel/advanced technology vehicles by 2017, said David Abney, UPS Chief Operating Officer—more than double the previous goal of 400 million miles. Through the end of 2012, UPS has logged 295 million cumulative alternative fuel miles.
Royal Academy of Engineering study examines future lower-carbon ship powering options
July 26, 2013
International shipping contributes an estimated 3% of global emissions of CO2. Although the industry has reduced its consumption of fossil fuels by a number of measures such as using increasingly thermally efficient diesel engines in recent decades, the current total fuel oil consumption is in excess of 350 million tonnes per year (about 98.5 billion gallons US).
A new study by an expert working group at the UK’s Royal Academy of Engineering examines a wide range of possibilities for future, lower-emitting and cost-effective ship powering options. The report reviews a range of short-, medium- and long-term technologies and examines the advantages and limitations of systems from solar and wind power, through fuel cells to nuclear propulsion. One of the key takeaways is that an integrated systems engineering approach is required to achieve effective improvements in efficiency and reductions in emissions for ships. This integrated approach must embrace all of the elements of naval architecture, marine and control engineering alongside operation practices.
JBEI researchers engineer bacterium to produce diesel-range biofuel using CO2 as sole carbon source
A team of researchers with the US Department of Energy (DOE)’s Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) has engineered the bacterium Ralstonia eutropha—a microbe now used to produce biodegradable plastic—for the production of fatty acid-derived, diesel-range methyl ketones. A paper on their work is published in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology.
R. eutropha is a chemolithoautotroph (an organism that obtains its nutrition through the oxidation of non-organic compounds or other chemical processes) that can grow with organic substrates or H2 and CO2 under aerobic conditions. Under conditions of nutrient imbalance, R. eutropha produces “copious” amounts of polyhydroxybutyrate (PHB). Its ability to utilize CO2 as a sole carbon source renders it an interesting new candidate host for the production of renewable liquid transportation fuels, the team noted in their paper.
EIA: world energy consumption to grow 56% 2010-2040, CO2 up 46%; use of liquid fuels in transportation up 38%
July 25, 2013
|World energy consumption by fuel type, 2010-2040. Source: IEO2013. Click to enlarge.|
The US Energy Information Administration’s (EIA’s) International Energy Outlook 2013 (IEO2013) projects that world energy consumption will grow by 56% between 2010 and 2040, from 524 quadrillion British thermal units (Btu) to 820 quadrillion Btu. Most of this growth will come from non-OECD (non-Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) countries, where demand is driven by strong population and economic growth; energy intensity improvements moderate this trend
Renewable energy and nuclear power are the world’s fastest-growing energy sources, each increasing 2.5% per year, according to the biennial report. However, fossil fuels continue to supply nearly 80% of world energy use through 2040. Natural gas is the fastest-growing fossil fuel, as global supplies of tight gas, shale gas, and coalbed methane increase. Given current policies and regulations limiting fossil fuel use, worldwide energy-related CO2 emissions rise from about 31 billion metric tons in 2010 to 36 billion metric tons in 2020 and then to 45 billion metric tons in 2040, a 46% increase over the 30-year span.
Full genome map of oil palm indicates a way to raise yields and protect rainforest; single gene controls oil palm yield
A multinational team of scientists has identified a single gene, called Shell, that regulates yield of the oil palm tree. The Shell gene is responsible for the oil palm’s three known shell forms: dura (thick); pisifera (shell-less); and tenera (thin), a hybrid of dura and pisifera palms. Tenera palms contain one mutant and one normal version, or allele, of Shell, an optimum combination that results in 30% more oil per land area than dura palms.
The fruit and seeds of the oil palm are the source of nearly one-half of the supply of edible vegetable oil worldwide, and are one of the more promising sources of biofuel. The discovery, the product of a multiyear effort to provide a high-quality full genome map of the oil palm plant and to scour the sequence for genes of importance to both science and industry, has major implications for agriculture and the environment. The international team’s work is detailed in two papers published in the journal Nature.
Dutch/Russian effort to commercialize new process to convert flared gas to gasoline via a DME pathway
July 16, 2013
The independent Dutch research organization TNO is working with the Russian A.V. Topchiev Institute for Petrochemical Synthesis (TIPS) on marketing a new technology developed by TIPS to convert flared gases into hydrocarbon fuels such as gasoline. The new method offers a range of benefits compared with the common, but nearly hundred-year old, Fischer-Tropsch process, the partners said.
The conventional way to make gasoline from gas is to convert the gas to a synthesis gas, then into methanol, followed by conversion to straight-chain hydrocarbons and finally via reforming into a high-octane hydrocarbon blend. The method developed by TIPS skips the conversion into methanol; the synthesis gas is converted into dimethylether (DME) as the step preceding the direct synthesis of branched hydrocarbons with a high octane number.
MAN Diesel & Turbo announces new ME-LGI dual-fuel engine for methanol and LPG; Waterfront Shipping signs LOI for four units
July 12, 2013
|New fuel booster valve for ME-LGI engine showing the main constituent parts. Click to enlarge.|
On 1 July MAN Diesel & Turbo announced the development of a new ME-LGI dual fuel engine. The new engine expands the company’s dual-fuel portfolio, enabling the use of more sustainable fuels such as methanol and Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG).
MAN has now signed a Letter of Intent with Vancouver-based Waterfront Shipping for the use of four MAN ME-LGI engines on its ships. The engines will run on a blend of 95% methanol and 5% diesel fuel.
UK government and industry to invest >$1.5B in Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC) for low carbon vehicles; technology roadmaps for 5 priority areas
The UK government and automotive industry are investing £500 million (US$755 million) each over the next 10 years in an Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC) to research, to develop and to commercialize the technologies for the low carbon vehicles of the future. Backed by 27 companies in the sector, including supply chain companies, the commitment is expected to secure at least 30,000 jobs currently linked to producing engines and create many more in the supply chain.
The investment forms part of the report “Driving success – an industrial strategy for growth and sustainability in the UK automotive sector”, published jointly by the government and industry. It follows the recent plans for construction, aerospace and other key sectors to secure sustainable future growth in the economy.
Navigant forecasts US military spending on non-tactical alt drive vehicles to more than double to $926M by 2020 from 2013; 11.4% CAGR
July 05, 2013
|Non-tactical vehicle spending by alternative drive type, US Department of Defense: 2013-2020. Source: Navigant Research. Click to enlarge.|
In a new report, Navigant Research forecasts that US military spending on alternative drive vehicles (ADVs—including hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs), plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs), and ethanol-powered vehicles—for the non-tactical fleet will increase from more than $435 million in 2013 to $926 million by 2020, a CAGR of 11.4%. A majority of the growth will be made through spending on HEVs and PEVs, Navigant projects.
Navigant forecasts that annual fuel consumption in the non-tactical fleet will decrease by a 2.5% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) almost from more than 81 million gasoline gallon equivalents (GGEs) in 2013 to just fewer than 70 million GGEs in 2020 due in part to increased use of alternative fuel vehicles.
VTT study concludes gasification-based pathways can deliver low-carbon fuels from biomass for about 1.90-2.65 US$/gallon
July 04, 2013
A study by researchers at Finland’s VTT has concluded that it is possible to produce sustainable low-carbon fuels from lignocellulosic biomass for as estimated gasoline-equivalent production cost of 0.5–0.7 €/liter (app. 1.90-2.65 US$/gallon US), with first-law process efficiency in the range of 49.6–66.7%—depending on the end-product and process conditions. Should the thermal energy produced as a by-product be exploited for district heat or industrial steam, the overall efficiency from biomass to salable energy products could reach 74–80%.
In their study, Ilkka Hannula & Esa Kurkela evaluated 20 individual biomass-to-liquids BTL plant designs based on their technical and economic performance. The investigation was focused on gasification-based processes that enable the conversion of biomass to methanol, dimethyl ether, Fischer-Tropsch liquids or synthetic gasoline at a large (300 MWth of biomass) scale.
LowCVP study identifies cost-effective options for cutting bus emissions
July 03, 2013
|Meeting long-term CO2 targets for buses will require the development of advanced technologies, in parallel with improvements to engines. Source: Ricardo. Click to enlarge.|
A wide range of technologies can cut carbon emissions from buses and provide a short-term payback at current fuel prices and subsidy levels, according to a new report prepared for the UK’s Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership (LowCVP) by Ricardo. Overall, the study indicates that significant improvements in bus CO2 can be achieved in the medium to long term through development, incentivization (or regulation) and implementation of new vehicle technologies and fuels.
The aim of the LowCVP study was to identify a range of low carbon fuels and technologies which can cost-effectively reduce well-to-wheel (WTW) CO2 emissions for urban buses in the UK. The report developed technology roadmaps to illustrate when these technologies are likely to be ready for deployment into the bus market, focusing on the timescales 2012-2020 and 2020-2050. The study also examined the wider role of the selected fuels and technologies for decarbonizing heavy goods vehicles.
Stanford, UC Santa Cruz study explores ramifications of demand-driven peak to conventional oil
July 02, 2013
In contrast to arguments that peak conventional oil production is imminent due to physical resource scarcity, a team from Stanford University and UC Santa Cruz has examined the alternative possibility of reduced oil use due to improved efficiency and oil substitution.
In their a paper published in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology, Dr. Adam Brandt and his colleagues used historical relationships to project future demand for (a) transport services; (b) all liquid fuels; and (c) substitution with alternative energy carriers, including electricity. Their results showed great increases in passenger and freight transport activity, but less reliance on oil.
Advanced Biofuels USA introduces “E30 Capable” high-octane fuels concept in EPA Tier 3 comments
Biofuel advocacy group Advanced Biofuels introduced the concept of “E30 Capable” vehicles as part of its comments to the the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) recently proposed Tier 3 motor vehicle fuel and emission rulemaking. (Earlier post.)
As part of the Tier 3 requirements, EPA proposes allowing vehicle manufacturers to request approval for an alternative certification fuel—such as a high-octane 30% ethanol by volume (E30) blend—for vehicles they might design or optimize for use on such a fuel. (Earlier post.) Advanced Biofuels suggests that “E30 Capable” vehicles can serve a practical key to transitioning to higher percentage blends of affordable renewable transportation fuels. Elements of the proposal include:
DOE to award up to $13M to four advanced biofuels projects
July 01, 2013
The US Department of Energy (DOE) has selected four research and development projects designed to bring next-generation biofuels on line faster and to drive down the cost of producing gasoline, diesel, and jet fuels from biomass. The projects represent up to a combined $13-million Energy Department investment.
In the United States, the transportation sector accounts for two-thirds of total US oil consumption and about one-third of total anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. Hydrocarbon-based biofuels made from non-food feedstocks, waste materials, and algae can directly replace gasoline and other fuels. DOE is continuing to pursue the development of these renewable biofuels, with the goal of producing cost-competitive drop-in biofuels at $3 per gallon by 2017.
Researchers discover method enabling use of iron nanoparticle catalyst for hydrogenation, replacing heavy metals
June 28, 2013
Researchers from McGill University, RIKEN (The Institute of Physical and Chemical Research, Wako, Japan) and the Institute for Molecular Science (Okazaki, Japan) have discovered a technique enabling the use of iron nanoparticles as a catalyst for the industrially important hydrogenation process, making it more environmentally friendly and less expensive.
Hydrogenation—which is used in a wide range of industrial applications, from food products, such as margarine, to petrochemicals, pharmaceuticals and biofuels—typically involves the use of heavy metals, such as palladium or platinum, to catalyze the chemical reaction. While these metals are very efficient catalysts, they are also non-renewable, costly, and subject to sharp price fluctuations on international markets.
Honda researchers validate PM Index for direct-injection gasoline engines; gasoline quality matters
June 26, 2013
In a new paper in the International Journal of Engine Research, Koichiro Aikawa of Honda R&D and Jeff Jetter of Honda R&D Americas report that their “PM Index”—reported in a paper in 2010—applies well to direct-injection (DI) gasoline engines as well as to the port-fuel-injection (PFI) engines of their original study.
In the original study, Aikawa and Jetter, along with Takayuki Sakurai, also from Honda R&D, investigated the relationship between gasoline properties and vehicle particulate matter emissions in order to construct a predictive model. They individually blended various chemical species with an indolene base fuel, and then measured the solid particulate number (PN) emissions from each blend over the New European Driving Cycle (NEDC).
Engineered E. coli can mass-produce precursor to gasoline-like biofuel
By rerouting the metabolic pathway that makes fatty acids in E. coli bacteria, researchers at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University and the Department of Systems Biology at Harvard Medical School have devised a new way to make targeted precursors of high-octane biofuels. A paper on their work is published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Lines of bacteria engineered using the same strategy can also produce precursors of pharmaceuticals, bioplastics, herbicides, detergents, and more.
Obama climate plan calls for new fuel economy standards for heavy-duty vehicles post-2018; cleaner fuels and investment in advanced fossil energy
June 25, 2013
Among the transportation-related elements of US President Barack Obama’s new climate action plan, which he is outlining today in a speech at Georgetown University, is the development of new fuel economy standards for heavy-duty vehicles post-2018. In 2011, the Obama Administration finalized the first fuel economy standards for Model Year 2014-2018 for medium- and heavy-duty trucks, buses, and vans. (Earlier post.)
The plan as outlined also calls for further work on advanced biofuels, advanced batteries and fuel cell technologies in every transportation mode. In coming months, the plan notes, the Department of Transportation will work with other agencies to further explore strategies for integrating alternative fuel vessels into the US flag fleet.
New inexpensive catalyst for conversion of CO2 to CO could help with storage of renewable energy
June 23, 2013
Researchers at the University of Delaware have developed an inexpensive bismuth−carbon monoxide evolving catalyst (Bi-CMEC) that can be used in conjunction with ionic liquids to convert CO2 to carbon monoxide (CO) using electricity. CO can then be reacted with H2O via the water−gas shift to generate H2, and this CO/H2 mixture (syngas) can be used to generate synthetic petroleum and liquid fuels using Fischer−Tropsch methods.
The combination, suggests the team in paper published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, could integrate into energy storage and distribution networks to provide a means for renewable energy storage.
Study finds moderate biofuel blends increase benefits of RCCI in light-duty engines
June 19, 2013
Preliminary results from a new study by a team from Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and the University of Wisconsin suggest that the fuel properties of moderate biofuel blends such as E20 and B20 increase the benefits of the use of Reactivity Controlled Compression Ignition (RCCI). RCCI is a Low Temperature Combustion (LTC) strategy that uses in-cylinder blending of two different fuels to produce low NOxand PM while maintaining high thermal efficiency. (Earlier post.)
Previous studies on RCCI have used single-cylinder heavy-duty engines; in this study, Reed Hanson, Scott Curran and Robert Wagner (ORNL) and Rolf Reitz (U. of Wisconsin) investigated RCCI in a light-duty multi-cylinder engine over a wide number of operating points. Fuels in earlier studies were generally petroleum-based fuels such as diesel and gasoline, with some work done with high percentages of biofuels, such as E85.
MIT team develops lower cost method to synthesize gamma-valerolactone for biofuels and chemicals
June 17, 2013
MIT chemical engineers have devised a cheaper way to synthesize gamma-valerolactone (GVL)—a potential feedstock of interest in the production of both fuels and fine chemicals—from biomass. (Earlier post.) GVL has more energy than ethanol and could be used on its own or as an additive or precursor to other fuels. GVL could also be useful as a “green” solvent or a building block for creating renewable polymers from sustainable materials.
The traditional process for converting plant material to GVL requires catalysts made from precious metals and must be done at very high pressures of hydrogen gas, which makes the process cost-prohibitive. The new MIT production method, described in the June 11 issue of the journal Angewandte Chemie, eliminates both of those obstacles.
ICF report finds California Low Carbon Fuel Standard can be achieved with modest changes in diversity of fuels
June 13, 2013
The requirements of the California Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) can be achieved through modest changes in the diversity of transportation fuels supplied to California, according to a report of the first phase of a two-phase, year-long project assessing the economic and environmental impacts of compliance with California’s LCFS out to 2020. This first phase focused on the development of compliance scenarios based on market research, consultation with stakeholders, and market forecasts based on best estimates of fuel availability.
The LCFS requires a 10% reduction in the carbon intensity (in gCO2e/MJ) of transportation fuels by 2020, as measured on a lifecycle basis. The report, “California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard: Compliance Outlook for 2020” was prepared by consultancy ICF International for CalETC (California Electric Transportation Coalition), in partnership with the California Natural Gas Vehicle Coalition, the National Biodiesel Board (NBB), the Advanced Biofuels Association (ABFA), Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2), and Ceres.
Calif. Energy Commission to award more than $44M for hydrogen refueling and alternative fuel vehicle projects
In two packages of awards, the California Energy Commission approved more than $44 million to expand the hydrogen fueling infrastructure and increase the number of alter alternative fuel vehicles on the road in the state.
These awards were made through the Commission’s Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program, created by Assembly Bill 118. For the current fiscal year, the program is slated to invest approximately $90 million to encourage the development and use of new technologies, and alternative and renewable fuels, to help the state meet its climate-change goals. It is paid for through surcharges on vehicle and boat registrations, and smog check and license plate fees.
USDA announces up to $98.6M to support production of advanced biofuels
June 12, 2013
The US Department of Agriculture USDA announced the availability of up to $98.6 million to support the production of advanced biofuels, and an opportunity for eligible producers to submit applications. Of the $98.6 million, $68.6 million will be available for Fiscal Year 2013 production and the remainder of approximately $30 million is for payments for production in prior fiscal years.
The payments are provided through USDA Rural Development’s Bioenergy Program for Advanced Biofuels, commonly referred to as the Advanced Biofuel Payment Program. It was established in the 2008 Farm Bill to support the expansion of advanced biofuel production. Payments are made to eligible producers based on the amount of biofuel produced from renewable biomass, other than corn kernel starch.
US Senate passes Farm Bill with more than $800M in mandatory funding for bioenergy programs
June 11, 2013
The United States Senate passed a five-year farm bill—the Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act of 2013 (S.954)—containing more than $800 million in mandatory funding for energy programs. The bill also contains funding to grow the renewable chemicals industry.
The Congressional Budget Office CBO estimates that direct spending stemming from the program authorization under the 12 titles in S. 954 would total $955 billion over the 2014-2023 period. That 10-year total reflects the bill’s authorization of expiring programs through 2018 and an extension of those authorizations through 2023. The energy title (Title IX) of the bill contains:
New study on DME auto-ignition at engine-relevant conditions
June 08, 2013
Dimethyl ether (DME) is of interest as an alternative fuel for compression ignition (CI) engines due to its ease of production and advantageous properties as a diesel alternative. As an example of that interest, Volvo Trucks has just announced its intent to begin production of DME-fueled heavy-duty trucks in North America in 2015. (Earlier post.)
DME offers a high cetane number of 55 and low auto-ignition temperature (making it desirable for diesel engine operation), and has been shown to reduce significantly diesel engine particulate emissions as well as NOx, SOx, and CO emissions. However, the characteristics of DME autoignition at CI engine-relevant conditions have not been widely explored at this point. Partly addressing that lack is a new study by researchers at Shanghai Jiao Tong University and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; their paper is published in the ACS journal Energy & Fuels.
NREL, Navy and Cobalt Technologies to make jet fuel from switchgrass via butanol intermediate; cellulosic alcohol-to-jet
June 07, 2013
|Overview of the Cobalt/Navy pathway for converting butanol to renewable jet fuel (alcohol-to-jet, ATJ). Source: Dr. Michael Wright, NAVAIR. Click to enlarge.|
The US Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is partnering with Cobalt Technologies, US Navy, and Show Me Energy Cooperative to demonstrate that jet fuel can be made economically and in large quantities from a renewable biomass feedstock such as switchgrass using an alcohol-to-jet pathway.
The project, which will convert biomass into sugars for fermentation into butanol with subsequent conversion of that intermediate into JP5 jet fuel, is one of four biorefinery projects funded recently by the DOE. (Earlier post.) The process is expected to result in up to a 95% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared to the current production of jet fuel.
United purchasing 15M gallons of renewable jet fuel from AltAir Fuel; Honeywell’s UOP Green Jet
June 04, 2013
United Airlines executed a definitive purchase agreement with AltAir Fuels (earlier post) for cost-competitive, sustainable, bio-synthetic paraffinic kerosene at commercial scale. With United’s strategic partnership, AltAir Fuels will retrofit part of an existing petroleum refinery to become a 30-million gallon, advanced biofuel refinery near Los Angeles, Calif.
AltAir will produce low-carbon, renewable jet fuel and other renewable products. United has collaborated with AltAir Fuels since 2009 and has agreed to buy 15 million gallons of lower-carbon, renewable jet fuel over a three-year period, with the option to purchase more. The airline is purchasing the advanced biofuel at a price competitive with traditional, petroleum-based jet fuel, and AltAir expects to begin delivering five million gallons of renewable jet fuel per year to United starting in 2014.
UK-US team characterizes key enzyme from wood-eating gribble; potential for high-solids biomass conversion
|Limnoria—the wood-eating gribble. Credit: Laura Michie, Portsmouth University, with assistance from Alex Ball from the Natural History Museum. Click to enlarge.|
Using advanced biochemical analysis and X-ray imaging techniques, researchers from the University of York, University of Portsmouth and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in the USA have determined the structure and function of a key enzyme used by the gribble (earlier post) to break down wood.
The gribble (Limnoria quadripunctata), a marine wood-borer with efficient gut enzymes for breaking down woody material, is the focus of one of the research hubs in the UK’s Bioenergy Center, established in 2009. The findings, published in Proceedings of the National Academies (PNAS), will help the researchers to reproduce the enzymes effects on an industrial scale in a bid to create sustainable liquid biofuels.
Fulcrum BioEnergy demonstrates integrated process to convert MSW to jet and diesel; $4.7M DoD grant to begin plant engineering
May 28, 2013
Fulcrum BioEnergy, Inc. has successfully demonstrated the conversion of municipal solid waste (MSW)—household garbage—into jet and diesel fuels. Fulcrum says its ability to produce drop-in fuels from MSW opens up an 80 billion gallon per year fuel market and expands its customer base for its national development program.
This demonstrated process adds fuel diversity to Fulcrum’s products and complements its previously demonstrated MSW-to-ethanol process. For that process, Fulcrum uses a two-stage thermochemical process involving gasification of municipal solid waste (MSW) followed by the catalytic conversion of the syngas to ethanol. (Earlier post.)
New MOF could enable more efficient and cost-effective production of high octane gasoline
May 24, 2013
An international team of researchers has developed a new metal-organic framework (MOF) that might provide a significantly improved method for separating hexane isomers in gasoline according to their degree of branching. A paper on the work is published in the journal Science.
Created in the laboratory of Jeffrey Long, professor of chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley, the MOF features triangular channels that selectively trap only the lower-octane hexane isomers based on their shape, separating them easily from the higher-octane molecules in a way that could prove far less expensive than the industry’s current method for producing high-octane fuel. The Long laboratory and UC Berkeley have applied for a patent on the MOF Fe2(bdp)3. (BDP2– = 1,4-benzenedipyrazolate)
Univ. of Oklahoma study suggests that biocorrosion associated with ULSD not related to level of sulfur in the fuel
May 22, 2013
Findings from a study by a team at the University of Oklahoma suggest that the stability of diesel fuel—i.e., either the biodegradation of diesel hydrocarbons or, by inference, the degree of biocorrosion—is independent of the concentration of organosulfur species in the fuel. In other words, accelerated biocorrosion associated with the use of ultra-low sulfur diesel (ULSD) likely does not result from the lower level of sulfur in the fuel.
The study is published in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology.
EPA proposes adding renewable diesel and naphtha from landfill biogas and butanol pathways to RFS
May 21, 2013
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued a proposed rulemaking for modifications to the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS2) program. The proposal also includes various changes to the E15 misfueling mitigation regulations (E15 MMR), ultra low sulfur diesel survey requirements as well as other technical amendments.
The proposed rules include various changes related to biogas, including changes related to the revised compressed natural gas (CNG)/liquefied natural gas (LNG) pathway and amendments to various associated registration, recordkeeping, and reporting provisions. It also adds new pathways for renewable diesel, renewable naphtha, and renewable electricity (used in electric vehicles) produced from landfill biogas.
EIA: US fuel ethanol production capacity little changed in past year
May 20, 2013
|US fuel ethanol production capacity, 1 January 2013. Source: EIA. Click to enlarge.|
US fuel ethanol production capacity was 13.852 billion gallons per year (903,000 barrels per day), as of 1 January 2013, according to the latest annual report released by the US Energy Information Administration (EIA). The report shows a 0.9% increase in the total capacity of operating ethanol plants compared to 1 January 2012 (13.728 billion gallons/year). A total of 193 ethanol plants were operating as of 1 January 2013, compared to 194 plants operating a year earlier.
Most of the existing fuel ethanol capacity (about 91%) is located in the Midwest (PAD District 2). Total nameplate capacity in PADD 2 is 12.6 billion gallons per year (822,000 barrels per day). The number of plants in this report includes plants that were idled or temporarily shut down during 2012.
Converting wastepaper to biocrude and hydrogen
May 12, 2013
|Biocrude compounds, product gas and reaction pathways from APR of wastepaper at 250 °C in presence of 5 wt % Ni(NO3)2 catalyst. Credit: ACS, Tungal and Shende. Click to enlarge.|
A pair of researchers at the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology have demonstrated homogeneously catalyzed subcritical aqueous phase reforming (APR) of wastepaper to produce biocrude and hydrogen. A paper on their work is published in the ACS journal Energy & Fuels.
Wastepaper can be a combination of newspaper—a lignocellulosic biomass containing cellulose (62%), hemicellulose (16%), and lignin (16%)—and used office printing papers which consist of mainly cellulose (85−99%) and negligible (0.4%) lignin. Using a homogeneous Ni(NO3)2 catalyst, they produced about 44 wt % biocrude from wastepaper slurry at 250 °C after 120 minutes of reaction time. The biocrude contained ∼1 wt % HMF/furfural, 7.5 wt % sugars, 49.1 wt % acids, and 42.4 wt % oxygenated hydrocarbons.
New ionic liquid biomass pretreatment method eliminates need for enzymes, reduces water use
May 09, 2013
|The new ionic liquid pretreatment of cellulosic biomass yields a biphasic solution, a lower phase rich in sugar and an upper phases rich in ionic liquid. (Courtesy of Simmons/JBEI) Click to enlarge.|
Researchers at the US Department of Energy (DOE)’s Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) have developed a new technique for pre-treating cellulosic biomass with ionic liquids that could reduce the cost of producing advanced biofuels from plant sugars.
This new technique requires none of the expensive enzymes used in previous ionic liquid pretreatments, and yields a biphasic solution—a lower phase rich in sugar and an upper phases rich in ionic liquid—making it easier to recover fuel sugars and recycle the ionic liquid. An open access paper describing this research has been published in the journal Biotechnology for Biofuels.
California Energy Commission adopts $100M investment plan for 2013-2014 for green vehicles and fuels
The California Energy Commission unanimously adopted the 2013-2014 Investment Plan Update to support the development and use of green vehicles and alternative fuels. The update sets funding priorities for the approximately $100 million in annual state funds under the Commission’s Alternative and Renewable Fuels and Vehicle Technology (ARFVT) Program, created by Assembly Bill 118.
Funding priorities through the ARFVT Program support fuel and vehicle development to help attain the state’s climate change policies. In addition, the program funds projects that assist in fulfilling Governor Brown’s Zero Emission Vehicles (ZEV) Action Plan, with a target of installing enough infrastructure to support 1 million ZEVs by 2020, and a 2025 target of having 1.5 million ZEVs on the state’s roads.
Study finds large-scale ramp-up in biofuel crops could result in warming in some tropical regions, cooling in temperate and polar regions
May 08, 2013
Global land-use changes caused by a major ramp-up in biofuel crops—enough to meet about 10% of the world’s energy needs—could make some regions warmer, according to a new integrated modeling study by researchers from MIT and the Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole.
Using an integrated assessment model that links an economic model with climate, terrestrial biogeochemistry, and biogeophysics models, the team examined the biogeochemical and biogeophysical effects of possible land use changes from an expanded global second-generation bioenergy program on surface temperatures over the first half of the 21st century.
U. Minn. team proposes strategy for automated selection of optimal biomass-derived fuel blends and synthesis paths
May 07, 2013
|Proposed strategy for connecting automated network generation and optimization. Credit: ACS, Marvin et al. Click to enlarge.|
Researchers at the University of Minnesota are proposing a novel strategy that simultaneously identifies (a) the most desirable biomass-derived chemical products for an application of interest, such as fuels, and (b) the corresponding synthesis routes.
In a paper published in the ACS journal Energy & Fuels, they describe the strategy, and then apply it to identify potential renewable oxygenates and hydrocarbons obtained from heterogeneous catalysis of biomass that can be blended with gasoline to satisfy ASTM specifications.
China team engineers cyanobacterium for significant increase in alka(e)ne production
May 06, 2013
Strains of the cyanobacterium Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803 engineered by researchers from the Qingdao Institute of Bioenergy and Bioprocess Technology (China) increased their production of alka(e)nes by some 8 times compared with wildtype strains. Alkanes are the major constituents of gasoline, diesel and jet fuels. An open access paper on their work is published in the journal Biotechnology for Biofuels.
Some of the same researchers had earlier reported the application of a consolidated bioprocessing strategy to integrate photosynthetic biomass production and microbial conversion producing ethanol together into Synechocystis sp. PCC6803, with the resulting engineered organism directly converting carbon dioxide to ethanol in one single biological system. (Earlier post.)
Latest status report finds California fuel providers continue pacing ahead of requirements of Low Carbon Fuel Standard; sufficient credits to meet full 2013 obligation
May 01, 2013
According to the latest status report on the progress of California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard (CA-LCFS) (earlier post), regulated parties in the LCFS—oil producers, importers and other fuel providers—continued to exceed the required reductions in carbon intensity specified by the standard. (Earlier post.)
Companies achieve LCFS compliance when credits equal deficits. According to the new report, from 2011 through Q4 2012, cumulative credits generated under the LCFS total 2,835,662 metric tons of CO2e, while cumulative deficits total 1,550,698 metric tons CO2e, for a net excess of 1.285 million credits (metric tons of CO2e). If all are available for use, the bank of excess credits represents about half of what is needed to cover the 2013 obligation.
Former president of Shell Oil calls for aggressive action on alternative fuels to break oil monopoly on transportation
April 30, 2013
John Hofmeister, former President of Shell Oil Company and founder and CEO of Citizens for Affordable Energy (CFAE), is joining the Fuel Freedom Foundation (FFF) Advisory Board. Fuel Freedom is a non-partisan, non-profit organization dedicated to opening the fuel market to allow alternative fuels such as ethanol, methanol, natural gas and electricity fairly to compete with gasoline at the pump. CFAE’s mission is to educate citizens and government officials about pragmatic, non-partisan affordable energy solutions.
“The purpose and the focus [of FFF] is exactly in line with what I promoted as president of Shell and subsequently as the founder of CFAE,” Hofmeister said to Green Car Congress. “From [these organizations’ standpoints], the reason we have to get away from doing nothing is that the public doesn’t fully appreciate or understand the situation it faces with respect to fuels’ futures.”
Ford / AVL study concludes mid-level ethanol blend attractive as a long-term future fuel for use in optimized engines in US
April 19, 2013
A study by a team from Ford Motor Company and AVL has concluded that a mid-level ethanol blend—greater than E20 but less than E40—appears to be attractive as a long-term future fuel for the US for use in engines optimized for the higher octane blend. The team presented a paper on their work at the 2013 SAE World Congress in Detroit. Ford engineers also presented two other papers evaluating the effects of low to mid-level ethanol blends in spark-ignited engines at the conference.
In the face of increased regulatory stringency (e.g., US CAFE, California LEV 3 and pending US Tier 3), the combustion engine community is gearing up for an intensified push to deliver higher efficiency engines with lower fuel consumption and emissions. One of the many emerging possible technology pathways to achieve those goals is the use of a future high-octane fuel in optimized, higher-compression-ratio engines. (Earlier post.) The study by the Ford / AVL team provides an overview of the effects of such a future ethanol-gasoline blend in such an engine.
Joule expands solar CO2 conversion platform to produce renewable gasoline and jet hydrocarbons
April 15, 2013
Joule, the developer of a direct, single-step, continuous process for the production of solar hydrocarbon fuels (earlier post), has extended its solar CO2 conversion platform to produce renewable gasoline- and jet fuel-range hydrocarbons.
Joule has engineered photosynthetic biocatalysts that convert waste CO2 into hydrocarbons through a patented, continuous process. Joule has been successfully scaling its process for making ethanol (Sunflow-E) while also developing long-chain hydrocarbons for diesel (Sunflow-D). With this latest development, Joule can now also directly produce medium-chain hydrocarbons which are substantial components of gasoline (Sunflow-G) and jet fuel (Sunflow-J).
DOE seeks input on environmental impact of engineered high energy crops for fuels
April 14, 2013
The US Department of Energy (DOE) has issued a Request for Information (DE-FOA-0000908, RFI-0000003) regarding the potential environmental impacts of engineered high energy crops, such as those being investigated under the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy’s (ARPA-E) Plants Engineered to Replace Oil (PETRO) program (earlier post), and potential future DOE programs to support the development and demonstration of such crops through field trials.
Such crops could be the source of significant fuel resources from biological production DOE said, noting that therefore it is extremely important to understand their potential impact on the environment. DOE will consider responses to the RFI in the development of an Advance Notice of Intent (NOI) to prepare a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS), which would analyze the potential environmental impacts of such DOE programs.
PNNL solar thermochemical reaction system can reduce fuel consumption in natural gas power plants by about 20%; future potential for transportation fuels
April 11, 2013
|PNNL’s thermochemical conversion device is installed in front of a concentrating solar power dish. Photo: PNNL. Click to enlarge.|
A new concentrating solar power system developed by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) can reduce the fuel consumption of a modified natural-gas combined-cycle (NGCC) power plant by about 20%. The system converts natural gas into syngas—with higher energy content than natural gas—using a thermochemical conversion device installed in front of a concentrating solar power dish. The power plant then combusts the more energy dense syngas to produce electricity.
PNNL’s system uses a mirrored parabolic dish to direct sunbeams to a central point, where the thermochemical device uses the solar heat to produce syngas form natural gas. About four feet long and two feet wide, the device contains a chemical reactor and several heat exchangers. Concentrated sunlight heats up the natural gas flowing through the reactor’s channels, which hold a catalyst that helps turn natural gas into syngas.
President’s FY2014 Budget boosts DOE vehicle technology spending 75% to $575M; $282M for advanced biofuels
April 10, 2013
President Obama’s FY 2014 budget proposal submitted to Congress provides $28.4 billion in discretionary funds for the Department of Energy, an 8% increase above the 2012 enacted level. Among the direct transportation-related highlights of the department’s budget proposal are $575 million for advanced vehicle technologies research, an increase of 75% over the enacted 2012 level; $282 million for the next-generation of advanced biofuels research; and the $2 billion Energy Security Trust to transition cars and trucks off of oil. (Earlier post.)
Other highlights include more than $5 billion (+5.7% over the 2012 enacted level) for the Office of Science for basic research and research infrastructure; $615 million to increase the use and decrease the costs of clean power from solar, wind, geothermal, and water energy; $365 million in advanced manufacturing research and development; and $147 million in research and development of smart grid investments, cybersecurity for energy control systems, and permitting, sitting, and analysis activities.
EIA: US consumption of alt fuels up 13% in 2011; E85 second behind natural gas; medium-duty vans had greater impact than LDVs
April 09, 2013
|Consumption of alternative fuels by vehicle type, 2011. Replacement fuels—i.e., E10 and biodiesel—are categorized separately. Source: EIA. Click to enlarge.|
Overall consumption of alternative transportation fuels in the US increased almost 13% in 2011 to a total of 515,920 thousand gasoline-equivalent gallons, compared to 457,755 thousand gasoline-equivalent gallons in 2010, according to the latest Alternative Fuel Vehicle Data from the US Energy Information Administration (EIA).
In alternative-fueled vehicles, consumption of ethanol (E85) increased 52% from the prior year’s consumption, an increase from 90,323 thousand gasoline-equivalent gallons in 2010 to 137,165 thousand gasoline-equivalent gallons in 2011. EIA attributed this to the increase in overall inventory of E85-capable vehicles. In 2011, E85 became the second-most consumed alternative fuel, behind natural gas (220,247 thousand-gasoline-equivalent gallons), and outpacing LPG (124,457 thousand-gasoline-equivalent gallons).
EBEI researchers shed light on how multiple cellulase enzymes attack cellulose; potential avenue to boosting sugar yields for biofuels
April 08, 2013
|PALM enables researchers to quantify how and where enzymes are binding to the surface of cellulose in heterogeneous surfaces, such as those in plant cell walls. Source: Berkeley Lab. Click to enlarge.|
Researchers with the Energy Biosciences Institute, University of California, Berkeley have provided insight into how multiple cellulase enzymes attack cellulose, potentially yielding a way to improve the collective catalytic activity of enzyme cocktails that can boost the yields of sugars for making fuels.
Increasing the sugar yields from cellulosic biomass to help bring down biofuel production costs is essential for the widespread commercial adoption of these fuels. A paper on their work is published in Nature Chemical Biology.
NSF to award up to $13M for fundamental work on sustainable production of electricity and transportation fuels
April 07, 2013
The US National Science Foundation (NSF) has issued a grants opportunity notice (PD-14-7644) for up to about $13 million in awards to fundamental research and education that will enable innovative processes for the sustainable production of electricity and transportation fuels. Processes for sustainable energy production must be environmentally benign, reduce greenhouse gas production, and utilize renewable resources.
The duration of unsolicited awards is typically three years. The average annual award size for the program is $100,000. Proposals requesting a substantially higher amount than this, without prior consultation with the Program Director, may be returned without review. Current interest areas in sustainable energy technologies are as follows:
Task 39 report finds significant advances in advanced biofuels technologies; hydrotreating accounting for about 2.4% of global biofuels production
April 06, 2013
|Capacities of the demonstration and commercial facilities sorted by technology. Source: “Status of Advanced Biofuels Demonstration Facilities in 2012”. Click to enlarge.|
Advanced biofuels technologies have developed significantly over the past several years, according to a status report on demonstration facilities prepared for IEA Bioenergy Task 39—a group of international experts working on commercializing sustainable biofuels used for transportation that is part of the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) implementation agreement for bioenergy, IEA Bioenergy.
Hydrotreatment—as exemplified by Neste Oil’s NExBTL—has been commercialized and currently accounts for approximately 2.4% of biofuels production worldwide (2,190,000 t/y), according to the report. Fermentation of lignocellulosic raw material to ethanol has also seen a strong development and several large scale facilities are just coming online in Europe and North America. The production capacity for biofuels from lignocellulosic feedstock has tripled since 2010 and currently accounts for some 140,000 tons per year.
US EPA proposing allowing high-octane, higher ethanol content fuels as part of Tier 3 regs; E30 as example
April 03, 2013
As part of the proposed Tier 3 rulemaking on vehicle emissions and gasoline sulfur content released last week (earlier post), the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing to allow vehicle manufacturers to request approval for an alternative certification fuel—such as a high-octane 30% ethanol by volume (E30) blend—for vehicles they might design or optimize for use on such a fuel.
Higher octane fuels can lead to higher compression ratios which in turn can lead to more efficient gasoline engines and reduced fuel consumption. With turbocharged gasoline engines, there is a double benefit: higher compression ratios and increased boost. (Earlier post.) Having approval for such a high octane certification fuel would, the EPA proposed in the Tier 3 Notice of Proposed Rulemaking:
Joint BioEnergy Institute researchers engineer plant cell walls to boost sugar yields and reduce cell wall recalcitrance for biofuels
April 01, 2013
|Genetically engineered Arabidopsis plants (#89) yielded as much biomass as wild types (WT) but with enhanced polysaccharide deposition in the fibers of their cell walls. (Image courtesy of JBEI.) Click to enlarge.|
Researchers at the US Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) have developed a new approach to decrease lignin content in biomass while preventing vessel collapse and have devised a new strategy to boost transcription factor expression in native tissues. A paper describing their work recently was published in Plant Biotechnology Journal.
Abundant lignocellulosic biomass could potentially supply the sugars needed to produce advanced biofuels that can supplement or replace fossil fuels, providing several key technical challenges are met. One of these challenges is finding ways to more cost-effectively extract those sugars.