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

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

October 22, 2016

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

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

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

October 18, 2016

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

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

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

October 17, 2016

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

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

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Rotterdam proposed location for Enerkem waste-to-chemicals plant

October 07, 2016

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

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

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

October 06, 2016

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

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

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EPA proposing updates to Renewable Fuel Standard

October 05, 2016

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

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

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

October 03, 2016

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

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

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

September 29, 2016

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

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

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

September 26, 2016

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

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

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

September 23, 2016

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

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

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

September 20, 2016

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

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

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

September 17, 2016

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

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

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

September 11, 2016

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

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

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

September 07, 2016

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

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

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Tesoro to acquire renewable fuels company Virent

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

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

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

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

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

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

September 05, 2016

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

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

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

August 31, 2016

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

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

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

August 25, 2016

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

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

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China team develops pathway for producing renewable aviation-range hydrocarbons and aromatics from oleic acid without added H2

Researchers from Zhejiang University; SINOPEC’s Fushun Research Institute of Petroleum and Petrochemicals; Nanjing Tech University; and Xinjiang Technical Institute of Physics and Chemistry have developed an “atom-economic” approach to produce renewable drop-in aviation-range hydrocarbons and aromatics from oleic acid (C18H34O2, a fatty acid that occurs naturally in various animal and vegetable fats and oils) without an added hydrogen donor. A paper on their work is published in the ACS journal Energy & Fuels.

The conversion of oleic acid in the process was 100%, and the yield of heptadecane (C17H36, the main product) can reach 71% after 80 min at 350 °C. The process also produced an aromatics yield of 19%; aromatics are a critical component of aviation fuels due to their ability to maintain the swelling of fuel system elastomers. The results, said the researchers, indicate that their process is a complicated reaction system including in situ hydrogen transfer, aromatization, decarboxylation, and cracking.

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MIT team calculates lead emissions from avgas fuel in US contribute to ~$1B in annual damages due to IQ losses

August 24, 2016

Researchers at MIT have produced the first assessment of the annual costs of IQ losses from aircraft lead emissions in the US. Their study, published in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology, found that that atmospheric lead pollution attributable to leaded aviation gas (avgas) contributes to US$1.06 billion (the mean from a range of $0.01–$11.6 billion) in annual damages from lifetime earnings reductions, and that dynamic economy-wide methods result in damage estimates that are 54% larger.

Because the marginal costs of atmospheric lead pollution are dependent on background concentration, the researchers also expect the costs of piston-driven aircraft lead emissions to increase over time as regulations on other emissions sources are tightened.

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PNNL-Lanzatech team hits milestone on waste-gas-to-ethanol-to-jet project

August 23, 2016

With funding from Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO), Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) has been working with industry-partner LanzaTech to convert alcohols derived from captured carbon monoxide, a byproduct in the production of steel, into synthetic paraffinic kerosene, a non-fossil-based jet fuel. The technology not only provides a viable source of sustainable jet fuel but also reduces the amount of greenhouse gasses emitted into the atmosphere.

The team recently reached a significant milestone on the project, producing over five gallons of synthetic paraffinic kerosene in a lab environment. Five gallons is the quantity needed for “fit-for-purpose” testing.

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Researchers clarify role of cetane number and aromaticity in soot-NOx tradeoff

August 22, 2016

A study by researchers at Eindhoven University of Technology has found that the “persistent diesel dogma” of “the higher the cetane number (CN) the better” relative to the soot-NOx trade-off is valid in neither conventional or low temperature combustion operation. The open-access study, published in the journal Fuel also reported that a second piece of conventional wisdom—“the lower the aromaticity the better”— is valid in both combustion modes.

The researchers also devised a new, dimensionless parameter—Π—that holds distinct values for the various combustion modes. This can predict either a positive, neutral or negative impact of high CN and low aromaticity on the soot-NOx trade-off based on a given set of engine operating conditions.

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Study suggests focusing on cold starts in gasoline cars as target for emissions reduction

A new study suggests that focusing on a gasoline-fueled vehicle’s cold start is the best target for future design changes to reduce emissions of criteria pollutants. The researchers are presenting their work today at the 252nd National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS) in Philadelphia.

Although the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has reported that air is cleaner today than it was in the 1970s, more than 130 million people in the US still live in places where smog or particle pollution rises to unhealthful levels. Smog can cause coughing and shortness of breath, and can aggravate asthma or trigger asthma attacks. Much of this haze is formed from volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, and fine particulate matter from tailpipe emissions.

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EPA Office of Inspector General: EPA has not met certain statutory requirements to identify environmental impacts of RFS

August 19, 2016

The US Environmental Protection Agency Office of Inspector General (OIG) has found that the EPA has not met certain statutory requirements to identify environmental impacts of Renewable Fuel Standard.

In a newly released report, the OIG said that EPA’s Office of Research and Development has not complied with the requirement to provide a report every 3 years to Congress on the impacts of biofuels. The EPA provided a report to Congress in 2011, but has not provided subsequent reports as required.

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New genome sequences target next generation of yeasts with improved biotech uses

August 16, 2016

Metabolically, genetically and biochemically, yeasts (unicellular fungi) are highly diverse; more than 1,500 yeast species have been identified. Characteristics such as thick cell walls and tolerance of pressure changes that could rupture other cells mean yeasts are easily scaled up for industrial processes. In addition, they are easy to grow and modify and, with notable exceptions such as Candida albicans, most are not associated with human illness. While these capabilities can be used for a wide range of biotechnological applications, including biofuel production, so far industry has only harnessed a fraction of the diversity available among yeast species.

To help boost the use of a wider range of yeasts and to explore the use of genes and pathways encoded in their genomes, a team led by researchers at the US Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute (DOE JGI), a DOE Office of Science User Facility at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, conducted a comparative genomic analysis of 29 yeasts, including 16 whose genomes were newly sequenced and annotated. In a study being published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), the team mapped various metabolic pathways to yeast growth profiles.

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EIA: US ethanol plant capacity increases to nearly 15B gallons/year; 3rd consecutive annual increase

August 10, 2016

Fuel ethanol production capacity in the United States was 14.903 billion gallons per year, or 973,000 barrels per day (b/d), at the beginning of 2016, according to the US Energy Information Administration’s (EIA’s) most recent US Fuel Ethanol Plant Production Capacity report. Total capacity of operable ethanol plants increased by more than 500 million gallons per year in January 2016 compared with the January 2015 total of 14.369 billion gallons.

Actual US production of fuel ethanol reached a total of 14.8 billion gallons (966,000 b/d) in 2015. In EIA’s August Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO), US production of fuel ethanol was forecast to reach 15.1 billion gallons (982,000 b/d) in 2016, equivalent to slightly more than 100% utilization of reported nameplate capacity as of 1 January 2016.

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Researchers say fuel market rebound effect can result in increased GHG emissions under RFS2; suggest taxes over mandates

August 08, 2016

The US Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS2) is intended to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transportation. However, argues a team from the University of Minnesota in an open-access paper published in the journal Energy Policy, once the “fuel market rebound effect” is factored in, RFS2 actually increases GHG emissions when all fuel GHG intensity targets specified under the act are met.

Increasing the supply of low-carbon alternative fuels is a basic strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. However, the Minnesota team notes, increasing the supply of fuels tends to lower energy prices, which encourages in turn encourages additional fuel consumption. This “fuel market rebound effect” can undermine climate change mitigation strategies, even to the point where efforts to reduce GHG emissions by increasing the supply of low-carbon fuels may actually result in increased GHG emissions.

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MIT, Novogy team engineers microbes for competitive advantage in industrial fermentation; the ROBUST strategy

August 06, 2016

Researchers at MIT and startup Novogy have engineered bacteria and yeast (Escherichia coli, Saccharomyces cerevisiae and Yarrowia lipolytica) used as producer microbes in biofuel production to use rare compounds as sources of nutrients. The technique, described in a paper in the journal Science, provides the producer microbes with competitive advantage over other, contaminating microbes with minimal external risks, given that engineered biocatalysts only have improved fitness within the customized fermentation environment.

Ethanol is toxic to most microorganisms other than the yeast used to produce it, naturally preventing contamination of the fermentation process. However, this is not the case for the more advanced biofuels and biochemicals under development. Thus, one problem facing the production of advanced biofuels via large-scale fermentation of complex low-cost feedstocks (e.g., sugarcane or dry-milled corn) is the contamination of fermentation vessels with other, unwanted microbes that can outcompete the designated producer microbes for nutrients, reducing yield and productivity.

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New ceramic membrane enables first direct conversion of methane to liquids without CO2 emissions

August 05, 2016

A team from CoorsTek Membrane Sciences, the University of Oslo (Norway), and the Instituto de Tecnología Química (ITQ) (Spain) has developed a new process for the direct, non-oxidative conversion of methane to liquids—reducing cost, eliminating multiple process steps, and avoiding CO2 emissions.

The process uses a novel ceramic membrane that simultaneously extracts hydrogen and injects oxide ions. The resulting aromatic precursors are source chemicals for insulation materials, plastics, textiles, and jet fuel, among other valuable products. A paper describing the process is published in the journal Science.

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Nissan: more electric car charging stations than fuel stations in UK by 2020

August 03, 2016

There will be more public locations to charge electric cars in the UK than there are gasoline stations by the summer of 2020, according to new analysis by Nissan. At the end of 2015, there were just 8,472 fuel stations in the UK, down from 37,539 in 1970—a 77% drop. Assuming a steady rate of decline, Nissan predicts that by August 2020 this will fall to below 7,870.

The supply of fuel within the Capital is also becoming scarcer. Central London has nearly half as many gasoline stations per car as the Scottish Highlands; only four remain within the congestion-charge zone. A notable closure in 2008 was one of the country’s oldest forecourts, the Bloomsbury Service Station, which had been operational since 1926.

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DOE awarding up to $11.3M to 3 projects under MEGA-BIO for biomass-to-hydrocarbon fuels, products

The US Department of Energy (DOE) will award up to $11.3 million to three projects under MEGA-BIO: Bioproducts to Enable Biofuels (earlier post) that support the development of biomass-to-hydrocarbon biofuels conversion pathways that can produce variable amounts of fuels and/or products based on external factors, such as market demand.

Producing high-value bioproducts alongside cost-competitive biofuels has the potential to support a positive return on investment for a biorefinery. This funding is intended to develop new strategies for biorefineries to diversify revenue streams, including chemicals and products manufacturing, resulting in long-term economic benefits to the United States. Projects selected for funding are:

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DOE to award $7M to accelerate fuel and engine co-optimization technologies; Co-Optima initiative

August 01, 2016

The US Department of Energy (DOE) will award up to $7 million in project funding to accelerate the introduction of affordable, scalable, and sustainable high-performance fuels for use in high-efficiency, low-emission engines as part of the Co-Optimization of Fuels and Engines (Co-Optima) initiative. (Earlier post.)

Co-optimized fuels and engines offer the opportunity to build on decades of advancements in both fuels and engines. Groundbreaking research in the last 10 years has identified combustion engine strategies that—especially if optimized to run on new fuels—would offer significantly higher efficiency and produce fewer engine-out pollutants than current engines. The new funding opportunity (DE-FOA-0001461) will advance the long-term objective of the Co-Optima initiative to accelerate widespread deployment of significantly improved fuels and vehicles (from passenger to light truck to heavy-duty commercial vehicles) by 2030.

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Orbital ATK and ECAPS partner on high performance green propulsion system; bringing LMP-103S to market

July 26, 2016

Orbital ATK signed an agreement with leading European green propulsion technology firm ECAPS to develop, demonstrate and market a high performance green propulsion (HPGP) system. The HPGP system, which offers significant cost advantages and reduces the environmental risks associated with traditional monopropellants, is aimed at both attitude control and main propulsion.

Orbital ATK’s team will leverage exclusive use of ECAPS’ LMP-103S, a very-low toxicity monopropellant technology designed as a direct replacement for hydrazine-based systems. LMP-103S—a blend of ammonium dinitramide (ADN), water, methanol and ammonia—offers a specific impulse 6% higher and a propellant density 24% higher than hydrazine-based systems—resulting in a 30% increase in density-specific impulse.

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EPA finds moderate or severe corrosion in majority of diesel fuel underground storage tank systems studied

In a report released recently on corrosion inside diesel fuel underground storage tanks (USTs), the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found moderate or severe corrosion that could affect metal components inside both steel and fiberglass underground tank systems. Corrosion inside USTs can cause equipment failure by preventing proper operation of release detection and prevention equipment. If left unchecked, corrosion could cause UST system failures and releases, which could lead to groundwater contamination.

Beginning around 2007, UST owners reported to servicing companies new incidents of severe and rapid corrosion of internal metal components of tanks storing diesel fuel. These reports usually described severe corrosion of equipment in upper portions of UST systems in the regions generally not submerged in fuel. Prior to 2007, a corrosion risk in diesel fuel tanks was considered minor and, if it occurred, appeared in the wetted, or lower, portion of the tank.

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Rice team develops “antenna-reactor” plasmonic catalysts for increased energy savings and efficiency in catalytic processes

July 24, 2016

Researchers at Rice University’s Laboratory for Nanophotonics (LANP), with colleagues at Princeton University, have developed a new method for uniting light-capturing photonic nanomaterials and high-efficiency metal catalysts, creating an “antenna-reactor” plasmonic catalyst.

By placing a catalytic reactor particle adjacent to a plasmonic antenna, the highly efficient and tunable light-harvesting capacities of plasmonic nanoparticles can be exploited to increase absorption and hot-carrier generation significantly in the reactor nanoparticles. The modularity of this approach provides for independent control of chemical and light-harvesting properties and paves the way for the rational, predictive design of efficient plasmonic photocatalysts, the researchers suggest in their open-access paper, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

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JBEI scientists use CO2 to control toxicity of ionic liquids in biomass pretreatment; lowering production costs

July 22, 2016

Researchers at the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratories working at the Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) have demonstrated that adding CO2 during the deconstruction phase of biofuel production successfully neutralizes the toxicity of ionic liquids, the room-temperature molten salt solvent used at JBEI to break down cellulosic plant material.

The process is easily reversible, allowing the liquid to be recycled for use as a solvent again. Their study, published RSC journal Energy & Environmental Science, addresses a significant obstacle to expanding the market for biofuels: lowering the cost of production.

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New study finds that ship emissions from HFO and diesel adversely affect pulmonary macrophages

July 20, 2016

A study by European researchers has found that ship emissions from the combustion of heavy fuel oil (HFO) and diesel fuel (DF) have adverse effects on pulmonary macrophages, from increased cell death to altered metabolic profile, depending upon the aerosol component. Their open access paper is published in the journal PLOS ONE.

Macrophages are white blood cells and are part of the immune system. Often referred to as scavenger cells, they absorb and engulf microorganisms. In addition, the cells destroy tumor cells, remove cell debris, present antigens and promote wound healing. There are four types of pulmonary macrophages: alveolar; interstitial; intravascular; and the dendritic. The alveolar macrophages are the only macrophages in the body which are exposed to air. Located at the interphase between air and lung tissue, they represent the first line of defense against inhaled airborne elements.

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Lux: biojet fuel to account for 56% of targeted 2050 CO2 emissions reductions in aviation

July 19, 2016

Biojet fuels will be key to achieving the aviation industry’s pledge to cut CO2 emissions to 0.2 billion tons (GT) in 2050—half the 2005 figure—as opposed to the staggering 2.1 GT projected by current growth rates, according to a new report from Lux Research, “Biojet Fuel Technology Roadmap.”

Lux forecasts that biojet fuel innovations, led globally by Honeywell UOP and Boeing, will account for 56% of the targeted CO2 emissions reductions, while a third of the requisite cuts will come from new aircraft technology, and optimization of operations and infrastructure.

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Six refineries in $425M settlement with EPA and DOJ over emissions violations

The Department of Justice and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a $425-million settlement with subsidiaries of Tesoro Corp., and Par Hawaii Refining that resolves alleged Clean Air Act violations and protects public health by reducing air pollution at six refineries. Under the settlement, the two companies will spend about $403 million to install and operate pollution control equipment, and Tesoro will spend about $12 million to fund environmental projects in local communities previously impacted by pollution. Tesoro will also pay a $10.45 million civil penalty.

The settlement, a consent decree lodged in US District Court for the Western District of Texas, includes provisions that resolves ongoing Clean Air Act violations at refineries in Kenai, Alaska; Martinez, California; Kapolei, Hawaii; Mandan, North Dakota; Salt Lake City, Utah; and Anacortes, Washington. Of the $10.45-million civil penalty that Tesoro will pay, the United States will receive $8,050,000, and co-plaintiffs including the states of Alaska and Hawaii, and the Northwest Clean Air Agency will share $2.4 million. Under the settlement, all six refineries must implement specific provisions to reduce flaring and enhance leak detection and repair:

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DOE to issue funding opportunity to support Co-Optimization of Fuels and Engines initiative

July 16, 2016

The US DOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) intends (DE-FOA-0001623) to issue, on behalf of the Bioenergy Technology Office (BETO) and Vehicle Technologies Office (VTO), a funding opportunity announcement (FOA) entitled “Co-Optimization of Fuels and Engines.” The FOA (DE-FOA-0001461) will be restricted to US institutions of higher education and non-profit research institutions.

This FOA will support the Co-Optimization of Fuels and Engines (Co-Optima) initiative (earlier post), a collaborative initiative being pursued by BETO and VTO to accelerate the introduction of affordable, scalable, and sustainable high-performance fuels for use in high-efficiency, low-emission engines.

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Boeing, South African Airways and Mango celebrate Africa’s 1st commercial flights with sustainable aviation biofuel from tobacco

July 15, 2016

Boeing, South African Airways (SAA) and low-cost carrier Mango celebrated Africa’s first passenger flights with sustainable aviation biofuel. The flights coincided with Boeing’s 100th anniversary and centennial celebrations worldwide.

The SAA and Mango flights carried 300 passengers from Johannesburg to Cape Town on Boeing 737-800s using a blend of 30% aviation biofuel produced from Sunchem’s nicotine-free tobacco plant Solaris, refined by AltAir Fuels and supplied by SkyNRG. (Earlier post.)

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DOE awarding $15M to 3 algae-based biofuel and bioproducts projects

July 14, 2016

The US Department of Energy (DOE) is awarding up to $15 million for three projects aimed at reducing the production costs of algae-based biofuels and bioproducts through improvements in algal biomass yields.

These projects will develop highly productive algal cultivation systems and couple those systems with effective, energy-efficient, and low-cost harvest and processing technologies. This funding will advance the research and development of advanced biofuel technologies to speed the commercialization of renewable, domestically produced, and affordable fossil-fuel replacements.

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Governments of Canada & Québec award $76.5M to AE Côte-Nord Canada Bioenergy for renewable fuel oil from forest residues w/ Ensyn RTP

The Governments of Canada and Québec will provide $76.5 million in funding to AE Côte-Nord Canada Bioenergy Inc. for the production of renewable fuel oil (RFO) from forest residues. The plant, which will use Ensyn’s RTP (rapid thermal processing) (earlier post), will be the first commercial RTP facility designed and optimized for the production of biocrude used for heating, cooling and refinery applications, according to Dr. Robert Graham, Chairman, Ensyn Corporation.

The Port-Cartier plant will also be the first commercial-scale facility of this kind in Québec. The goal of the project is to convert forest residues into 40 million liters (10.6 million gallons US) of renewable fuel oil per year. When upgraded into transportation fuels, this will remove up to 70,000 tonnes of CO2-equivalent emissions per year. Production of renewable fuel oil is set to begin in 2017.

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New hybrid sweetgum trees could boost paper, bioenergy production

Researchers at the University of Georgia (UGA) have crossed American sweetgums with their Chinese cousins, creating hybrid sweetgum trees that have a better growth rate and denser wood than natives, and can produce fiber year-round. The hybrid sweetgum trees have enormous potential for the production of bioenergy and paper, said Scott Merkle, a professor in UGA’s Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources.

Sweetgum trees thrive under diverse conditions, grow as fast as pine trees and provide the type of fiber needed for specialty papers-and they’ve long been desired by paper and bioenergy producers. However, harvesting mature sweetgums can often be too costly or even ill-advised because they typically grow the best on the edges of swamps and in river bottoms, which are often inaccessible during the wet winter months.

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2016 Billion Ton Report shows US could sustainably produce at least 1B tons biomass by 2040 for bioeconomy

July 13, 2016

Within 25 years, the United States could produce enough biomass to support a bioeconomy, including renewable aquatic and terrestrial biomass resources that could be used for energy and to develop products for economic, environmental, social, and national security benefits, according to the new 2016 Billion-Ton Report, jointly released by the US Department of Energy and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL).

The 2016 Billion-Ton Report, volume 1, updates and expands upon analysis in the 2011 US Billion-Ton Update (earlier post), which was preceded by the 2005 US Billion Ton Study (earlier post). The report uses scientific modeling systems to project biomass resource availability under specified economic and sustainability constraints.

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Global Bioenergies, IBN-One and Lantmännen Aspen partner on renewable isooctane for specialty fuel applications

July 11, 2016

Global Bioenergies, IBN-One and Lantmännen Aspen, world market leader in alkylate gasoline for two- and four-stroke small engines, have entered into a partnership on renewable isooctane (earlier post) for specialty fuel applications.

Aspen is part of the Swedish Lantmännen group, an agricultural cooperative and Northern Europe’s leader in agriculture, machinery, bioenergy and food products with annual revenues of €3.4 billion (US$3.8 billion). In particular, Lantmännen Aspen’s commercial activities include specialty fuels for usage in two- and four-stroke small engines—e.g. chainsaws and lawn mowers—where the operator, machine and environment benefit from a cleaner fuel quality regarding harmful substances compared to regular gasoline.

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Toyota Tsusho strategic equity investor in bio-BTX company Anellotech

Catalytic pyrolysis company Anellotech, which focuses on producing cost-competitive BTX (benzene, toluene and xylene) from non-food biomass, revealed Toyota Tsusho Corporation as a multinational strategic equity investor and corporate partner in the renewable aromatic chemicals supply chain. The renewable aromatic chemical can be used use in making plastics such as polyester, nylon, polycarbonate, polystyrene, or for renewable transportation fuels.

Toyota Tsusho is a member of the Toyota Group and is one of the major value chain partners (along with Suntory) in the Anellotech alliance, further validating the global market opportunity for Anellotech’s Bio-TCat technology.

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Ricardo and Recycling Technologies to characterize Plaxx plastic-waste-derived-fuel for marine applications

July 05, 2016

UK-based Recycling Technologies is industrializing a process—originally developed at the University of Warwick (UK)—to convert residual plastic waste into a low-sulfur hydrocarbon compound called Plaxx. Plaxx is created from residual mixed plastic waste that is not amenable to direct recycling and would otherwise go to landfill.

The company, a 2013 spin-out from the University, is now working with Ricardo to characterize the use of this recycled, low-sulfur fuel as a substitute for fossil based heavy fuel oil (HFO) and diesel in applications such as power generation and marine propulsion.

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Global Bioenergies obtains a €400K grant from BMBF to produce renewable gasoline additives; Audi to use for engine testing

July 04, 2016

France-based Global Bioenergies announced that its German subsidiary, Global Bioenergies GmbH, secured a €400,000 (US$446,000) grant from the BMBF (the German federal ministry for research and education) to finance a 14-month-project aimed at producing renewable gasoline additives.

Global Bioenergies has developed a process to convert renewable resources into gaseous isobutene via fermentation. Under the new grant, Global Bioenergies will first produce 100% renewable ETBE, a molecule obtained by the condensation of ethanol and isobutene, and presently used as a gasoline additive in large volumes (worldwide market: 3.4 million tons per year).

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U of I study: synthetic fuels via CO2 conversion and FT not currently economically & environmentally competitive

July 03, 2016

A study by a team at University of Illinois at Urbana−Champaign has found that, with currently achievable performance levels, synthetic fuels produced via the electrochemical reduction of CO2 and the Fischer-Tropsch (FT) process system are not economically and environmentally competitive with using petroleum-based fuel. A paper detailing the study is published in the ACS journal Energy & Fuels.

In their paper, the team investigated an integrated system that converts CO2 released from fossil fuel-burning power plants to synthetic diesel fuel via a combination of the electrochemical reduction of CO2 to CO and the FT process, which uses CO and H2 from electrolysis) as feedstocks.

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First investigation of HCCI combustion of polyoxymethylene dimethyl ether; alternative diesel fuel

June 25, 2016

Researchers at Tsinghua University, along with Professor Rolf Reitz at the Engine Research Center, University of Wisconsin-Madison, have investigated for the first time the the characteristics of homogenous charge compression ignition (HCCI) of polyoxymethylene dimethyl ether (PODE).

PODE is a promising alternative fuel for diesel engines, and offers high volatility, high ignitability and high oxygen content. PODE is thus also suited for for blend and dual-fuel combustion—such as reactivity controlled compression ignition (RCCI)—due to the low-temperature chemistry. A paper on their work appears in the journal Fuel.

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ICM advances pathway to cellulosic ethanol with Gen 1.5 technology; collaboration with DSM and Novozymes

June 20, 2016

ICM, a leading provider of products and services to the biofuel industry, is close to the marketintroduction of its patent-pending Generation 1.5 Grain Fiber to Cellulosic Ethanol Technology (Gen 1.5), which integrates a process for converting corn fiber to cellulosic ethanol with existing ethanol plants.

This pathway to cellulosic ethanol combines mechanical, chemical, and biological processes with ICM’s experience in integrating advanced technologies into existing corn ethanol plants. Critical elements of the Gen 1.5 process were developed through collaborations with two world-leading biotechnology companies, DSM and Novozymes.

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Navy study highlights potential of alkyl dioxolanes as fuel additives, importance of 2,3-BD as biomass-derived platform molecule

June 17, 2016

Researchers at the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division (NAWCWD), China Lake have developed a solvent-free process for the conversion of 2,3-Butanediol (2,3-BD)—a renewable alcohol that can be prepared in high yield from biomass sugars—to a complex mixture of 2-ethyl-2,4,5-trimethyl-1,3-dioxolane (TMED) and 4,5-dimethyl-2-isopropyl dioxolane (DMID). They found that dioxolane mixture has potential applications as a sustainable gasoline blending component, diesel oxygenate, and industrial solvent (Earlier post.)

The promising results of the study, published in the journal ChemSusChem, suggest that TMED and other alkyl dioxolanes warrant further study as fuel additives, the researchers said. A wide variety of dioxolane molecules can be accessed by the reaction of renewable diols with ketones and aldehydes, allowing for custom tailoring of fuel and solvent properties. The study also suggests that—given its to be efficiently generated from a variety of biomass sources through fermentation—2,3-BD is an important platform molecule that should be exploited as a versatile intermediate to sustainable fuels and chemicals.

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New report suggests bioenergy crops are not a risk to food production

June 15, 2016

In a new report, researchers have challenged the belief that growing crops for bioenergy will cut food production, a concern they say is stalling new schemes. The report also identifies five ways that countries as diverse as the United States and Brazil can achieve their targets to increase energy security, foster rural economic development and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Experts contributed from ten institutions across Africa, Europe and America, including the US Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), the World Bank and Imperial College London in the UK.

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EPA announces 2016 Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award winners

June 14, 2016

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced the Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award winners. The annual awards recognize landmark green chemistry technologies developed by industrial pioneers and leading scientists that turn climate risk and other environmental problems into business opportunities, spurring innovation and economic development.

The Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award winners were honored at a ceremony in Portland, Ore. on 13 June. The winners and their innovative technologies are:

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New catalyst system for converting castor-oil-derived ricinoleic acid methyl ester into jet fuel; up to 90% carbon selectivity

June 13, 2016

Researchers at Beijing University of Chemical Technology have developed a catalytic process for the selective conversion of ricinoleic acid methyl ester—derived from castor oil—into jet fuel. A paper on their work is published in the RSC journal Green Chemistry.

A common challenge in bio-jet fuel production is the high cost due to the feedstock and processing technology. Although hydro-processing of lipid and fatty acid is well-known, the yield of jet fuel from typical lipid based oil with mainly C18 fatty acid is quite low (about 35–40%). The major reason for the low overall yield is the necessity of a hydrocracking step for converting the C18 or C16 alkane into jet fuel range paraffin (C9–C15), the researchers explained. A key improving lipid-to-jet production technology is thus to avoid the un-selective cracking.

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US DRIVE releases comprehensive cradle-to-grave analysis of light-duty vehicle GHGs, cost of driving and cost of avoided GHGs

June 09, 2016

The US DRIVE Cradle-to-Grave Working Group has published the “Cradle-to-Grave Lifecycle Analysis of US Light-Duty Vehicle-Fuel Pathways: A Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Economic Assessment of Current (2015) and Future (2025–2030) Technologies” Argonne National Lab Report.

The study provides a comprehensive lifecycle analysis (LCA), or cradle-to-grave (C2G) analysis, of the cost and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of a variety of vehicle-fuel pathways, as well as the levelized cost of driving (LCD) and cost of avoided GHG emissions. The study also estimates the technology readiness levels (TRLs) of key fuel and vehicle technologies along the pathways. The study only addresses possible vehicle-fuel combination pathways—i.e., no scenario analysis.

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DOE issues RFI on biomass supply systems to support billion-ton bioeconomy vision

The US Department of Energy (DOE) has issed a Request for Information (RFI) (DE-FOA-0001603) seeking feedback from industry, academia, research laboratories, government agencies, and other stakeholders to support a “billion-ton bioeconomy.” This request for information (RFI) asks for input about specific aspects in the development of large-scale supply systems and technologies to eventually supply up to a billion dry tons of biomass feedstocks annually for a variety of end uses.

In 2005, a joint study by the US Departments of Agriculture and Energy (USDA and DOE) concluded that the land resources of the US could produce a sustainable supply of biomass sufficient to displace 30% or more of the country’s then-present petroleum consumption. The study found that just forest land and agricultural land alone have a potential for 1.3 billion dry tons of biomass feedstock per year—leading to the shorthand “billion-ton bioeconomy.” (Earlier post.)

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Siluria Technologies and Air Liquide partner to develop and deliver novel catalytic process technologies to global energy markets

June 07, 2016

Siluria Technologies has entered into a strategic partnership with Air Liquide Global E&C Solutions, the engineering and construction business of the Air Liquide Group, to collaborate on the development of novel catalytic processes utilizing both companies’ expertise in gas conversion technologies.

The novel process offering will be developed using the proven innovation platform that has given rise to Siluria’s revolutionary Oxidative Coupling of Methane (OCM) technology (earlier post), but will be focused on entirely new fields beyond the companies’ current product offerings. Siluria and Air Liquide Global E&C Solutions have agreed to work as partners in the commercialization—including marketing and licensing—of the jointly developed process technologies resulting from the collaboration.

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Global companies form below50 to scale up low-carbon sustainable fuels; Audi in from automotive sector

June 06, 2016

Global companies are partnering with the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), Roundtable for Sustainable Biomaterials (RSB) and Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL) in a new global initiative called below50, to promote the best-of-breed of sustainable fuels that can achieve significant carbon reductions, and to scale-up their development and use.

A key outcome of the Low Carbon Technology Partnerships initiative (LCTPi), below50 is intended to grow a global corporate market for sustainable low-carbon transport fuels (LCTFs). Any company which produces, uses and/or invests in fuels that are at least 50% less carbon intensive than conventional fossil fuels can join below50.

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New correlation between fuel octane index and HCCI combustion provides basis for more robust control strategies

A team of researchers in the US and Australia has developed a new correlation between the octane index (OI) of a range of refinery stream fuels and Homogeneous Charge Compression Ignition (HCCI) combustion phasing.

The behavior of the new model is much improved compared to the original OI model—particularly in the low intake temperature range and for fuels with high aromatic and high ethanol content. The new octane index correlation can be used for designing robust HCCI control strategies, capable of handling the wide spectrum of fuel chemical compositions found in pump gasoline, the researchers said in their paper published in the International Journal of Engine Research.

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Harvard “bionic leaf 2.0” exceeds efficiency of photosynthesis in nature; hydrogen and liquid fuels

June 03, 2016

Researchers at Harvard have created a hybrid water splitting–biosynthetic system based on a biocompatible Earth-abundant inorganic catalyst system to split water into molecular hydrogen and oxygen (H2 and O2) at low driving voltages.

Grown in contact with these catalysts, the bacterium Ralstonia eutropha then consumes the produced H2 to synthesize biomass and fuels or chemical products from low CO2 concentration in the presence of O2. The scalable system has a CO2 reduction energy efficiency of ~50% when producing bacterial biomass and liquid fuel alcohols, scrubbing 180 grams of CO2 per kWh of electricity. Coupling this hybrid device to existing photovoltaic systems would yield a CO2 reduction energy efficiency of ~10%, exceeding that of natural photosynthetic systems, the researchers said in their paper published in the journal Science.

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RIT and Synergy Biogas partner on algae for wastewater cleanup and biofuel production

Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) and Synergy Biogas are exploring the environmental benefits of microalgae to clean agricultural wastewater and make biofuels. Jeff Lodge, associate professor in RIT’s Thomas Gosnell School of Life Sciences, is running a three-month pilot program at Synergy Biogas, a high-tech anaerobic digester located on Synergy Farms in Covington, N.Y, to grow microalgae on digested biomass. Microalgae will consume contaminants in wastewater and produce an algal biomass that Lodge will use as a feedstock for renewable energy.

Lodge will grow the microalgae in a 1,000-gallon tank at Synergy in a process that can be scaled up to treat 52,000 gallons, or 200,000 liters, of wastewater a day. The trial project will demonstrate the organisms’ ability to consume ammonia, phosphorous and nitrogen from digested biomass and reduce contaminants below state-mandated levels. Lodge’s laboratory experiments with microalgae have reduced phosphorous in wastewater by greater than 90% to levels of 0.1 parts per million, exceeding the required 1 parts per million in New York.

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Licella and Canfor to form JV for advanced biomass-based biofuels; catalytic hydrothermal technology

May 30, 2016

Australia-based Licella Fibre Fuels Pty Ltd. and Canada-based Canfor Pulp Products Inc. (CPPI), through its subsidiary Canfor Pulp Ltd., signed an agreement to form a joint-venture: Licella Pulp Joint Venture.

Licella Pulp Joint Venture will investigate opportunities to integrate Licella’s Catalytic Hydrothermal Reactor (Cat-HTR) upgrading platform into Canfor Pulp's kraft and mechanical pulp mills to convert biomass—including wood residues from Canfor Pulp’s kraft pulping processes—economically into biocrude oil to produce next generation biofuels and biochemicals. This additional residue stream refining would allow Canfor Pulp to further optimize their pulp production capacity.

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PSI team demonstrates direct hydrocarbon fuel production from water and CO2 by solar-driven thermochemical cycles

May 26, 2016

Solar-driven thermochemical cycles offer a direct means of storing solar energy in the chemical bonds of energy-rich molecules. By utilizing a redox material such as ceria (CeO2) as a reactive medium, STCs can produce hydrogen and carbon monoxide—i.e., syngas—from water and CO2. The syngas can subsequently be upgraded to hydrocarbon fuels by the Fischer-Tropsch process.

Now, a team from the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI) in Switzerland has demonstrated the direct production of hydrocarbon fuel—specifically methane—from water and CO2 by incorporating a catalytic process into STCs. A paper on their work is published in the RSC journal Energy & Environmental Science.

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ULEMCo delivers first hydrogen-diesel dual-fuel refuse trucks to Fife Council in Scotland

May 23, 2016

ULEMCo, the developer of a hydrogen-diesel dual fuel conversion system for commercial vehicles, has delivered its first hydrogen dual-fuel refuse vehicles to Fife Council in Scotland. The trucks, which deliver reduced CO2 emissions as well as improving air quality for the local community, are planned for use in densely populated urban areas, where improving air quality is a major concern.

The dual-fuel engines are equipped with hydrogen injection and a separate ECU control system. A diesel pilot injection initiates combustion of the hydrogen, which is stored onboard at 350 bar. CO2 emissions under dual fuel mode are approximately 70% less than a comparable diesel vehicle, according to the company.

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JBEI, UCSD scientists develop systems biology-based workflow to improve biofuels productivity

May 21, 2016

Researchers at the US Department of Energy (DOE)’s Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI), in collaboration with researchers at the University of California, San Diego, have developed a workflow that integrates various “omics” data and genome-scale models to study the effects of biofuel production in a microbial host.

The development of omics technologies, such as metabolomics and proteomics, and systems biology have significantly enhanced the ability to understand biological phenomena. Nevertheless, the interpretation of large omics data into meaningful “knowledge” as well as the understanding of complex metabolic interactions in engineered microbes remains challenging. This new open-source workflow—which integrates various omics data and genome-scale models—drives the transition from vision to conception of a designed working phenotype.

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Clariant to scale-up catalysts for Gevo’s Ethanol-to-Olefins (ETO) technology; renewable diesel and hydrogen

May 19, 2016

Gevo, Inc. has entered into an agreement with Clariant Corp., one of the world’s leading specialty chemical companies, to develop catalysts to enable Gevo’s Ethanol-to-Olefins (ETO) technology.

Gevo’s ETO technology, which uses ethanol as a feedstock, produces tailored mixes of propylene, isobutylene and hydrogen, which are valuable as standalone molecules, or as feedstocks to produce other products such as diesel fuel and commodity plastics, that would be drop-in replacements for their fossil-based equivalents. ETO is a chemical process, not a biological process as is Gevo’s conversion of biomass to isobutanol.

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EPA proposes increase in renewable fuel levels for CY 2017

May 18, 2016

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed increases in renewable fuel volume requirements across all types of biofuels under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program.

The proposed volume requirements and associated percentage standards for are for calendar year 2017 for cellulosic biofuel, biomass-based diesel, advanced biofuel, and total renewable fuel. Total renewable fuel volumes would grow by some 690 million gallons between 2016 and 2017. EPA also proposed the volume requirement for biomass-based diesel for 2018.

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California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard compliance rate is 98%

The California Air Resources Board’s report on the state of the Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) program for the compliance year 2015 indicates a compliance rate of 98%, with a total of 5.49 million credits generated in the year. These credits are roughly the same as removing 1 million cars from the roads for a year in terms of preventing greenhouse gases from entering the atmosphere.

The 2015 annual reports demonstrate exceedingly high levels of overall compliance. Of the 52 entities who sell high carbon fuels, and have an obligation under the program, only a single company—Astra Oil Company LLC—ended the compliance period with a small shortfall of 337 credits and will be required to purchase the necessary credits from the LCFS Credit Clearance Market (CCM) between 1 June and 31 July 2016.

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DOE awards up to $10M to 6 projects for non-food biomass and algal biofuels and biochemicals

May 16, 2016

The US Department of Energy is awarding up to $10 million in funding for six projects that will support the Bioenergy Technologies Office’s (BETO) work to develop renewable and cost-competitive biofuels and biochemicals from non-food biomass feedstocks by reducing the technical risk associated with potentially breakthrough approaches and technologies for investors.

The projects selected include the following:

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California ARB staff releases first batch of recertified CI pathways for fuels under readopted LCFS using CA-GREET 2.0

May 10, 2016

The staff of the California Air Resources Board (ARB) released the first full set of carbon intensity (CI) pathways certified under the readopted LCFS regulation using the CA-GREET 2.0 model. (Earlier post.) These pathways include both new applications and requests to have “legacy” pathways (adopted under the prior LCFS rule) recertified.

The initial batch of released CIs contains only ethanol pathway; similar batches will be released for other fuel types in the future.

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Argonne rolls out updated version of AFLEET alternative fuels and advanced vehicles analysis tool

The US Department of Energy (DOE’s) Argonne National Laboratory is releasing an updated version of its AFLEET tool to reflect the latest advances in alternative fuels and advanced vehicle technologies and updated emissions data. Sponsored by the DOE Clean Cities program, AFLEET (Alternative Fuel Life-Cycle Environmental and Economic Transportation Tool) is a free, publicly-available tool that provides users with a roadmap for assessing which types of vehicles and fuels are right for them. The 2016 AFLEET Tool and user guide are available online. Although anyone can download and use the tool, AFLEET was designed for managers that purchase and maintain a fleet of vehicles.

The latest version includes, for the first time: gaseous hydrogen fuel cell vehicles; state-based (rather than national-based) fuel pricing, private station fuel pricing and fueling infrastructure costs. Updates to existing inputs include new light-duty vehicle costs; vehicle air pollutant emission factors derived from the Environmental Protection Agency’s emissions modeling system, MOVES 2014a; and petroleum use and greenhouse gas and relative air pollutant emissions from the 2015 GREET model, Argonne’s leading fuel life-cycle analysis model that is now in its twentieth year.

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DOE and USDA award $10M to advance biofuels, bioenergy, and biobased products

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and the Department of Energy (DOE) announced the joint investment of $10 million in seven projects towards research that will drive more efficient biofuels production and agricultural feedstock improvements. These awards were made through the Biomass Research and Development Initiative (BRDI), authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill

With up to $3 million in available funding, DOE has selected two projects: one from Ohio State University and one from Massachusetts Institute of Technology that will receive between $1 million to $2 million. The USDA is funding five projects for a total of $7.3 million, and selections include the University of California-Riverside; the University of Montana; Missoula; the North Carolina Biotechnology Center; the State University of New York; and Pennsylvania State University.

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DOE to award up to $90M for integrated biorefinery projects

May 07, 2016

The US Department of Energy (DOE) will award up to $90 million in project funding focused on designing, constructing and operating integrated biorefinery facilities. (DE-FOA-0001232)

“Project Development for Pilot and Demonstration Scale Manufacturing of Biofuels, Bioproducts, and Biopower” is a funding opportunity that will support efforts to improve and demonstrate processes that break down complex biomass feedstocks and convert them to gasoline, diesel and jet fuel, as well as plastics and chemicals.

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ANGP commercializes 1st ANSI NGV2-certified on-board low pressure ANG technology storage system for LDVs

May 04, 2016

Adsorbed Natural Gas Products, Inc. (ANGP) has successfully installed the industry’s first ANSI NGV2-certified adsorbed natural gas (ANG) active storage system. The system, which ANGP calls its first-generation (GEN 1) ANG System, comprises six activated carbon monolith-filled seamless aluminum cylinders, fully ANSI NGV2-certified for an operating pressure of 900 psig, and ANGP’s low-pressure fuel management system.

The first system was successfully installed on ANGP’s 2014 Ford F-150 pick-up truck equipped with Ford’s CNG/LPG-ready 3.7 liter V6 bi-fuel engine for gasoline or natural gas operation. The ANGP GEN 1 ANG system includes several industry firsts:

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U Mich study explores performance of renewable diesel, FT diesel and ULSD in PCCI combustion

May 03, 2016

A team at the University of Michigan has investigated the performance of three different fuels—ultralow sulfur diesel (ULSD), diesel fuel produced via a low temperature Fischer–Tropsch process (LTFT), and a renewable diesel (RD), which is a hydrotreated camelina oil under partially premixed compression ignition (PCCI) combustion. Their paper is published in the ACS journal Energy & Fuels.

Partially premixed compression ignition (PCCI) combustion is an advanced, low-temperature combustion mode that creates a partially premixed charge inside the cylinder before ignition occurs. PCCI prolongs the time period for mixing of the fuel–air mixture by separating the end of injection and start of combustion. As a result, NOx and particulate matter (PM) emissions can be reduced simultaneously relative to those of conventional diesel combustion.

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Roland Berger study outlines integrated vehicle and fuels roadmap for further abating transport GHG emissions 2030+ at lowest societal cost

April 30, 2016

A new study by consultancy Roland Berger defines an integrated roadmap for European road transport decarbonization to 2030 and beyond; the current regulatory framework for vehicle emissions, carbon intensity of fuels and use of renewable fuels covers only up to 2020/2021.

The study was commissioned by a coalition of fuel suppliers and automotive companies with a view to identifying a roadmap to 2030+ to identify GHG abatement options at the lowest cost to society. The coalition comprises BMW, Daimler, Honda, NEOT/St1, Neste, OMV, Shell, Toyota and Volkswagen. Among the key findings of the study were:

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DOE and DOT collaborate to support smart transportation systems and alternative fuel technologies

The US Departments of Energy (DOE) and Transportation (DOT) announced a collaboration to accelerate research, development, demonstration, and deployment of innovative smart transportation systems and alternative fuel technologies.

The agencies formalized this collaborative relationship through a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that was unveiled at a symposium this week called Achieving Zero-Emission Mobility: The Role of Innovative Electric Vehicle Companies, hosted by the University of California Center on Economic Competitiveness in Transportation in Berkeley, California.

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JBEI team engineers E. coli for one-pot production of bio-jet fuel precursor from ionic-liquid-pretreated biomass

April 13, 2016

A team led by researchers at the DOE’s Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) in Emeryville, CA, has engineered E. coli bacteria for the one-pot production of the monoterpene bio-jet fuel precursor D-limonene from ionic-liquid-pretreated cellulose and switchgrass. A paper on their work is published in the RSC journal Green Chemistry.

The ionic liquid 1-ethyl-3-methylimidazolium acetate is highly effective in deconstructing lignocellulose, but leaves behind residual reagents that are toxic to standard saccharification enzymes and the microbial production host. The JBEI researchers discovered a strain of E. coli that is tolerant to that ionic liquid due to a specific mutation. They engineered this strain to express a D-limonene production pathway.

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Texas A&M-led team identifies synthetic hydrocarbon pathway in green alga B. braunii

April 07, 2016

The green microalga Botryococcus braunii is considered a promising biofuel feedstock producer due to its prodigious accumulation of hydrocarbon oils that can be converted into fuels. Now, a team led by researchers from Texas A&M AgriLife Research has identified the first committed step in the biosynthesis of hydrocarbon oil in B. braunii and has described a new enzyme which carries out this reaction.

The study, published as an open-access paper in the current issue of the journal Nature Communications, could enable scientists to use the enzyme in a plant to make large amounts of fuel-grade oil, according to Dr. Tim Devarenne, AgriLife Research biochemist in College Station and lead scientist on the team.

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EIA: trends in downsized engine design leading to increased demand for higher-octane gasoline

April 06, 2016

Since 2013, the share of premium gasoline in total motor gasoline sales in the US has steadily increased to 11.3% in August and September 2015—the highest share in more than a decade, according to data from the US Energy Information Administration (EIA).

This trend of increasing demand for higher octane gasoline is likely driven by changes in fuel requirements for light-duty vehicles (LDV) in response to increasing fuel economy standards, which will have widespread implications for future gasoline markets, according to EIA analysts.

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U Copenhagen team discovers “reverse photosynthesis” process for the breakdown of biomass for fuels or chemicals production

April 04, 2016

Researchers at the University of Copenhagen have discovered a natural process for the breakdown of biomass they describe as “reverse photosynthesis”—as opposed to the building of biomass as is the case with photosynthesis. Combined with a specific enzyme, the energy of sunlight can break down plant biomass.

Oxidative processes are essential for the breakdown of plant biomass. Lytic polysaccharide monooxygenases (LPMOs)—a class of powerful and widely distributed oxidative enzymes—oxidize the most recalcitrant polysaccharides. These enzymes require extracellular electron donors. In their work, described in an open access paper in the journal Nature Communications, the University of Copenhagen team researchers investigated the effect of using excited photosynthetic pigments as electron donors.

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ASTM ballot greenlights approval of ATJ-SPK biojet from alcohol; Gevo 1st commercial test flight with Alaska Airlines

March 29, 2016

Renewable isobutanol company Gevo announced that the ASTM International Committee D02 on Petroleum Products, Liquid Fuels, and Lubricants and Subcommittee D02.J on Aviation Fuel passed a concurrent ballot this week approving the revision of ASTM D7566 (Standard Specification for Aviation Turbine Fuel Containing Synthesized Hydrocarbons) to include alcohol-to-jet synthetic paraffinic kerosene (ATJ-SPK) (the “D02.J Ballot”). (Earlier post.)

This approval prepares the way for the use of Gevo ATJ—as well as ATJ-SPK fuels produced by other manufacturers—in commercial operations. As previously announced, Alaska Airlines is now poised to fly the first commercial test flight using Gevo’s renewable ATJ-SPJ fuel. (Earlier post.) Gevo is preparing the shipment of ATJ to Alaska Airlines for this first flight. Alaska Airlines will work with the Federal Aviation Administration to schedule the flight using Gevo’s ATJ.

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IIT team explores combustion, performance and emissions characteristics of HCNG blends in spark ignition engine

March 28, 2016

A new study by a team from the Engine Research Laboratory at the Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur explores the combustion, performance and emission characteristics of a prototype spark ignition engine operating with different blend ratios of HCNG (hydrogen and compressed natural gas blends). Their paper is published in the journal Fuel.

Use of lower carbon natural gas and carbon-free hydrogen have potential to reduce harmful emissions of criteria pollutants and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and and could displace a portion of conventional liquid fossil fuels, the IIT noted. However, both fuels pose different challenges for use in internal combustion (IC) engines.

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Double catalyst for the direct conversion of syngas to lower olefins

March 21, 2016

The light olefins ethylene, propylene, and butylene—usually made from petroleum—are key building blocks for chemical industry, and are starting materials for making plastics, synthetic fibers, and coatings. In the journal Angewandte Chemie, Chinese scientists report on a new bifunctional catalyst that converts syngas to lower olefins (C2-C4) with high selectivity. This could make it more attractive to make olefins from alternative sources of carbon, such as biomass, natural gas, or coal.

The design of bifunctional catalysts could result in further breakthroughs in developing one-step processes for selective production of fuels and chemicals such as gasoline, diesel, and aromatics from synthesis gas.

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NREL updates Survey of Advanced Biofuel Producers in the United States

March 17, 2016

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) updated its annual survey of US non-starch ethanol and renewable hydrocarbon biofuels producers. The 2015 Survey of Non-Starch Ethanol and Renewable Hydrocarbon Biofuels Producers provides an inventory of the domestic advanced biofuels production industry as of the end of calendar year 2015, documenting important changes (e.g., biorefinery development, production capacity, feedstock use, and technology pathways) that have occurred since the publication of the original 2013 survey.

During 2015, NREL surveyed 114 companies that were reported to be pursuing commercial-scale biofuel production capacity. Companies were classified as either non-starch (cellulosic or algae-derived) ethanol producers or renewable hydrocarbon producers. The questionnaire included topics such as facility stage of development, facility scale, feedstock, and biofuel products. The NREL team supplemented missing survey data elements (when possible) with publicly available data obtained directly from company websites, press releases, and public filings.

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MIT Energy Initiative report on transforming the US transportation system by 2050 to address climate challenges

March 16, 2016

A new MIT Energy Initiative report spearheaded by John Heywood, Sun Jae Professor of Mechanical Engineering Emeritus at MIT, identifies three important paths forward reducing light-duty vehicle energy use and greenhouse gas emissions: improve the existing system and technologies for shorter-term benefits; conserve fuel by changing driver habits for nearer- to longer-term benefits; and transform the transportation system into one that is radically less carbon-intensive for longer-term benefits.

According to the report, “On the Road Toward 2050: Potential for Substantial Reductions in Light-Duty Vehicle Energy Use and Greenhouse Gas Emissions,” each element is separately important, but must collectively be pursued aggressively to achieve necessary emissions reductions. More research, development, and demonstration studies are needed to lay the foundation for such a long-term transformation.

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DOE seeking input on operation of integrated biorefineries

March 14, 2016

The US Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s (EERE’s) Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) is seeking (DE-FOA-0001481) input from industry, academia, research laboratories, government agencies, and other stakeholders that will help it better understand capabilities—as well as barriers and opportunities—for the operation of integrated biorefineries (IBRs) to produce biofuels, biochemicals, and bioproducts.

BETO is seeking information on all IBR processes and technologies, including any and all systems processes, technologies, methods and equipment employed to convert woody biomass, agricultural residues, dedicated energy crops, algae, municipal solid waste (MSW), sludge from wastewater treatment plants, and wet solids, into biofuels, biochemicals, and bioproducts.

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United Airlines begins commercial-scale use of renewable jet fuel; 15M gallons over 3-year period

March 12, 2016

United Airlines has become the first US airline to begin use of commercial-scale volumes of sustainable aviation biofuel for regularly scheduled flights, beginning with the departure of United Flight 708 from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). The launch marks a milestone in the commercial aviation industry by moving beyond demonstration flights and test programs to the use of advanced biofuels for United’s ongoing revenue operations.

United has agreed to purchase up to 15 million gallons of sustainable biofuel from AltAir Paramount over a three-year period. The biofuel will be mixed with traditional jet fuel at a 30/70 blend ratio: 30% biofuel, 70% traditional fuel. The airline has begun using the biofuel in its daily operations at LAX, storing and delivering it in the same way as traditional fuel.

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DOE selects 33 clean energy businesses for nearly $6.7M in support under Small Business Vouchers pilot

March 11, 2016

The US Department of Energy (DOE) selected 33 small businesses to work directly with DOE national labs to accelerate the commercialization of new clean energy technologies.

The department’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy is investing nearly $6.7 million under Round 1 of the new Small Business Vouchers (SBV) pilot. For Round 1, the small businesses and laboratories will collaborate on advancing a number of clean energy technologies, including water, wind, bioenergy, solar, buildings, vehicles, fuel cells, geothermal technologies, and advanced manufacturing. The selected small businesses will work with scientists at nine department laboratories: Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL); National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL); Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL); Sandia National Laboratories (SNL); Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL); Idaho National Laboratory (INL); Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL); Argonne National Laboratory (ANL); and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL).

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Government of Alberta awarding $10M to SBI Bioenergy for production of drop-in hydrocarbon fuels; funds from carbon levy

March 10, 2016

Using revenue from the price Alberta’s large emitters pay for releasing greenhouse gases, the Climate Change and Emissions Management Corporation (CCEMC) has earmarked a $10-million contribution for Alberta-based SBI BioEnergy to support a $20-million facility for the demonstration-scale production of drop-in, renewable diesel, jet and gasoline fuels from plant oils and waste fats.

With this investment, SBI will be able to produce 10 million liters (2.6 million gallons US) of renewable diesel fuel annually. This support works in concert with Alberta’s Renewable Fuels Standard which requires commercial fuel producers to blend renewable products into their fuels. SBI’s facility strengthens Alberta’s expanding industrial bio-product sector and gives Alberta farmers a new market for off-grade canola.

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Argonne and Marathon partner in DOE Optima initiative to co-optimize fuels and engines

The US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory is partnering with Marathon Petroleum Corporation (MPC) to support an ongoing effort by DOE to explore fuels and engines holistically in search of greater efficiency.

The collaboration between Argonne and MPC is designed to support the “Co-Optimization of Fuels and Engines” initiative, which was recently launched jointly by the DOE’s Vehicle Technologies Office and Bioenergy Technologies Office. (Earlier post.) The new collaboration leverages MPC’s and Argonne’s complementary capabilities in fuel design, analysis and production, as well as advanced engine combustion and emissions formation.

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Stanford team devises new bio-inspired strategy for using CO2 to produce multi-carbon compounds such as plastics and fuels

Researchers at Stanford University have devised a new strategy for using CO2 in the synthesis of multi-carbon compounds. They first have applied their technology to the production of a plastic—a promising alternative to polyethylene terephthalate (PET) called polyethylene furandicarboxylate (PEF)—but are now working to apply the new chemistry to the production of renewable fuels and other compounds from hydrogen and CO2.

Matthew Kanan, an assistant professor of chemistry at Stanford, and his Stanford colleagues described the process and their results in synthesizing PEF in a paper in the journal Nature.

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Argonne LCA study finds many alternative fuels consume more water than petroleum and natural gas fuels

March 09, 2016

Researchers at Argonne National Laboratory have analyzed the water consumption for transportation fuels in the United States using an extended lifecycle system boundary that includes the water embedded in intermediate processing steps.

In a paper published in the RSC journal Energy & Environmental Science, they compared the water consumed per unit energy and per km traveled in light-duty vehicles. They found that many alternative fuels consume larger quantities of water on a per km basis than traditional petroleum and natural gas pathways. The authors concluded that it will be important to consider the implications of transportation and energy policy changes on water resources in the future.

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Rice study finds using natural gas for electricity and heating, not transportation, more effective in reducing GHGs

Rice University researchers have determined a more effective way to use natural gas to reduce climate-warming emissions would be in the replacement of existing coal-fired power plants and fuel-oil furnaces rather than burning it in cars and buses.

The Rice study by environmental engineer Daniel Cohan and alumnus Shayak Sengupta compared the net greenhouse gas-emission savings that could be realized by replacing other fuels in vehicles, furnaces and power plants. They found that gas-fired power plants achieved the greatest reduction—more than 50%—in net emissions when replacing old coal-fired power plants. The use of compressed natural gas in vehicles yielded the least benefit, essentially matching the emissions of modern gasoline or diesel engines.

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New highly selective catalytic process for conversion of vegetable oils to diesel-range alkanes under mild conditions

March 08, 2016

A team led by researchers from the University of Oxford has developed a simple but highly selective catalytic process for the direct hydrodeoxygenation of vegetable oils (triglycerides) into diesel-range alkanes under mild conditions over a Pd/NbOPO4 catalyst. As reported in their paper in the RSC journal Chemical Communications The mass yields of diesel-range alkanes from palm oil and soybean oil can approach to quantitative values.

A number of approaches are being developed and commercialized to convert vegetable oils into diesel fuels. The current primary commercial pathway is the production of first-generation biodiesel—the transesterification of triglycerides with methanol to form fatty acid methyl ester (FAME), with glycerol as the by-product.

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Tohoku researchers develop efficient hydrodynamic reactor for pretreatment of biomass

March 07, 2016

Researchers at Tohoku University in Japan have developed a new system combining hydrodynamic cavitation with sodium percarbonate (SP) (an environmentally benign oxidation reagent) for the efficient pre-treatment of biomass. Compared to a pretreatment system using ultrasonication and SP (US-SP), the new HD-SP system was more efficient for glucose and xylose production; both systems resulted in a similar degree of lignin removal, and neither generated the inhibitor furfural, while it was detected in dilute acid (DA)-pretreated biomass.

In a paper published in the ACS journal Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research, the Tohoku team sugested that the HD-SP system could be easily scaled up for a high-throughput system. Because compared to an US cavitation reactor it requires much lower energy input, it is promising for the industrial-scale pretreatment of lignocellulosic biomass, they said.

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Audi expanding e-gas capacity through partnership with Viessmann; power-to-gas with biological methanation of CO2 and H2

February 29, 2016

Audi is expanding capacities for the production of sustainably produced e-gas. (Earlier post.) The Viessmann Group is Audi’s first partner company to produce additional quantities of the synthetic fuel using a new biological methanation process. The pilot plant in Allendorf, Germany officially opened today.

Audi e-gas is currently produced using two process steps: electrolysis and methanation. In the first step, renewably generated electricity is used to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. In the second step, the hydrogen is reacted with CO2 to yield synthetic methane. In the Audi e-gas plant in Werlte in the German state of Lower Saxony, this is done using a chemical-catalytic process under high pressure and high temperature.

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