[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.]
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Berkeley Lab researchers devise new technique to reduce lignin and increase sugar yields; lowering biomass pretreatment costs
February 25, 2016
Scientists from the US Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and Joint BioEnergy Institute have devised a new strategy for reducing lignin in plants by modifying a key metabolic entrypoint for the synthesis of the most important lignin monomers.
The new technique, reported in an open-access paper in the journal Plant & Cell Physiology, could help lower the cost of converting biomass into lower carbon biofuels and bio-products.
New ammonia biomass pretreatment process improves yield with lower enzyme loading; improving cellulosic biofuel economics
February 23, 2016
A team from the US, China and India, led by researchers from Michigan State University, has developed a new liquid ammonia biomass pretreatment methodology called Extractive Ammonia (EA). EA-pretreated corn stover delivers a higher fermentable sugar yield compared to the older Ammonia Fiber Expansion (AFEX) process while using 60% lower enzyme loading.
As described in a paper in the RSC journal Energy & Environmental Science, the single-stage EA process achieves high biofuel yields (18.2 kg ethanol per 100 kg untreated corn stover, dry weight basis), comparable to those achieved using ionic liquid pretreatments. The EA process achieves these ethanol yields at industrially-relevant conditions using low enzyme loading (7.5 mg protein per g glucan) and high solids loading (8% glucan, w/v).
UTA researchers demonstrate one-step solar process to convert CO2 and H2O directly into renewable liquid hydrocarbon fuels
Researchers at the University of Texas at Arlington have demonstrated a new solar process for the one-step, gas-phase conversion of CO2 and H2O to C5+ liquid hydrocarbons and O2 by operating the photocatalytic reaction at elevated temperatures and pressures.
The photothermocatalytic process for the synthesis of hydrocarbons—including liquid alkanes, aromatics, and oxygenates, with carbon numbers (Cn) up to C13—ran in a flow photoreactor operating at elevated temperatures (180–200 °C) and pressures (1–6 bar) using a 5% cobalt on TiO2 catalyst and under UV irradiation. A paper describing the process is published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
Mercedes-Benz Trucks approves HVO renewable diesel for its medium- and heavy-duty engines; neat or blended
February 22, 2016
With immediate effect, Mercedes-Benz Trucks is granting approval for the use of Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil (HVO) renewable diesel for the in-line six-cylinder engine variants of the Mercedes-Benz OM 470, OM 471 (first generation) and OM 936 as well as the in-line four-cylinder variants of the OM 934 meeting the Euro VI emissions standard. The engines are designed as standard to make use of the new HVO fuel. The approval applies to all engine variants whatever their output category.
HVO is a renewable diesel produced from waste materials such as waste fat, used cooking oil and also oil from crop plants. The HVO raw material is sourced from controlled and certified cultivation facilities and as such does not compete with foodstuff production. A leading example is Neste’s NEXBTL.
Diesel/2-methylfuran blends show higher brake thermal efficiency, higher NOx than diesel
Researchers at Wuhan University report on the first comprehensive study of the combustion and emissions performance of blends of diesel and the renewable fuel 2-methylfuran (MF) in compression-ignition engines. Their paper is published in the journal Fuel.
Among their findings were that diesel–MF blends show higher brake thermal efficiency (BTE) than pure diesel. However, diesel–MF blends also lead to higher NOx emissions than pure diesel and the NOx emissions are increased with the increase of MF fraction.
Newly identified enzymes from herbivore gut fungi may lead to cheaper cellulosic biofuels
February 19, 2016
A team of researchers led by Dr. Michelle O’Malley at UC Santa Barbara has identified several promising new enzyme candidates for breaking down lignocellulsoic biomass for biofuel production from relatively unexplored gut fungi in herbivores. To do so, they developed a systems-level approach that integrates transcriptomic sequencing (RNA-Seq); proteomics; phenotype; and biochemical studies.
The biomass-degrading enzymes from the anaerobic gut fungi are competitive with optimized commercial enzyme preparations from Aspergillus and Trichoderma. Further, compared to the model platforms, the gut fungal enzymes are unbiased in substrate preference due to a wealth of xylan-degrading enzymes. The findings suggest that industry could modify the gut fungi so that they produce improved enzymes that will outperform the best available ones, potentially leading to cheaper biofuels and bio-based products. A paper on their work is published in the journal Science.
UI, ExxonMobil study finds where bioenergy crops would grow best while minimizing detrimental effects on aquatic ecosystems
February 18, 2016
A team from the University of Illinois, Urbana and ExxonMobil Research and Engineering Company (EMRE) has identified regions in the United States where bioenergy crops would grow best while minimizing effects on water quantity and quality. Their paper is published in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology.
The researchers applied a land surface model to evaluate the interplay between potential bioenergy grass (Miscanthus, Cave-in-Rock, and Alamo) production, water quantity, and nitrogen leaching (NL) in the Central and Eastern USA. The detailed models explored the impacts on water quantity and quality in soils that would occur if existing vegetation was replaced by various bioenergy crops used for ethanol production.
Oak Ridge researchers tap Titan supercomputer for two lignin-related projects; improving knowledge and processes for cellulosic biofuels
February 17, 2016
In nature, the resilient lignin polymer helps provide the scaffolding for plants, reinforcing slender cellulosic fibers—the primary raw ingredient of cellulosic ethanol—and serving as a protective barrier against disease and predators. Lignin’s protective characteristics persist during biofuel processing, where it becomes a major hindrance, surviving expensive pretreatments designed to remove it and blocking enzymes from breaking down cellulose into simple sugars for fermentation into bioethanol.
Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) researchers have recently tapped into the power of the Titan supercomputer there (earlier post) in two separate lignin-related investigations, both intended to benefit the production of cellulosic biofuels. One was an investigation into the basic mechanisms of lignin inhibition; the other an investigation into an experimental pretreatment.
Germany launches new study of oxymethylene ethers for optimizing clean diesel combustion
February 15, 2016
The German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) via FNR (Fachagentur Nachwachsende Rohstoffe e.V.), BMEL’s central project-coordinating agency in the area of renewable resources, is funding a 3-year study of oxymethylene ethers (OME) as clean diesel fuels with €800,000 (US$894,000).
Oxymethylene ethers (OME) are synthetic compounds of carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen (CH3O(CH2O)nCH3). Due to their high oxygen concentration, they suppress pollutant formation in combustion. As diesel fuels, they reduce the emission of carbon black and NOx. Ford is currently leading a €3.5-million (US$3.9-million) research project, co-funded with the German government, to test cars running on monooxymethylene ether (OME1) and DME. (Earlier post.)
Wisconsin, GLBRC researchers use chemical genomics to engineer IL-resistant yeast to improve biofuel production
February 14, 2016
Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center (GLBRC) and colleagues have engineered a new strain of the yeast S. cerevisiae that is more resistant to the toxic effects of ionic liquids (ILs) used to generate sugars from lignocellulose.
As a result, their xylose-converting strain consumed glucose and xylose faster and produced more ethanol than the wild type strain. The development could improve the efficiency of making fuel from cellulosic biomass such as switchgrass. The work is reported in an open-access paper in the journal Microbial Cell Factories.
DOE to award up to $11.3M for biomass-to-hydrocarbon biofuels pathways; MEGA-BIO
February 09, 2016
The US Department of Energy (DOE) will provide up to $11.3 million in funding to develop flexible biomass-to-hydrocarbon biofuels conversion pathways that can be modified to produce advanced fuels and/or products based on external factors, such as market demand. (DE-FOA-0001433: MEGA-BIO: Bioproducts To Enable Biofuels.)
These pathways can consist of a route to a platform chemical that could be converted to products or renewable hydrocarbon fuels or a route that co-produces chemicals and renewable hydrocarbon fuels.
NREL and BESC discovery explains higher biomass degrading activity of C. thermocellum; potential boon for cellulosic biofuels
February 06, 2016
Researchers at the Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and the BioEnergy Science Center (BESC) have discovered a new cell-free cellulosomal system in Clostridium thermocellum—the most efficient single biomass degrader characterized to date —that is not tethered to the bacterial cell wall and is independent of the primary (tethered) cellulosomes.
Their discovery was made during an investigation into the performance of C. thermocellum. The scientists found the microorganism utilizes the common cellulase degradation mechanisms known today (free enzymes and scaffolded enzymes—i.e., a structured architecture of enzymes—attached to the cell), and a new category of scaffolded enzymes not attached to the cell. Reported in an open-access paper in Science Advances, the finding could lead to cheaper production of cellulosic ethanol and other advanced biofuels.
Bio-isobutanol company Gevo signs licensing and joint development agreements with Porta in Argentina; corn feedstock
February 03, 2016
Gevo, Inc. has entered into a license agreement and a joint development agreement with Porta Hnos S.A. to construct multiple isobutanol plants in Argentina using corn as a feedstock.
The first plant is to be wholly owned by Porta and is anticipated to begin producing isobutanol in 2017. The plant is expected to have a production capacity of up to five million gallons of isobutanol per year. Based on projected isobutanol pricing, Gevo estimates that it could generate approximately $1 million in annual revenues once the plant is operational, through royalties, sales and marketing fees, and other revenue streams such as yeast sales.
IMP develops new material to remove nitrogen compounds from crude oil for more efficient desulfurization
The Mexican Oil Institute (IMP) has developed a catalyst adsorbent material that removes 80% of organic compounds from crude oil prior to hydrodesulfurization. It allows Pemex, the Mexican oil company, to generate ultra-low sulfur diesel (ULSD) more quickly and cheaply. Dr. Rodolfo Mora, head of the project, said that the research was initiated by Pemex’ need to convert its diesel from 500 parts per million (ppm) of sulfur to 15 ppm ULSD.
Its use in a preliminary process will increase the life of the catalyst for up to 30 months over current standards by avoiding high temperatures and pressures during operation in the reactor.
Primus Green Energy produces 100-octane gasoline at commercial demonstration gas-to-liquids plant; improvement to STG+ technology
February 02, 2016
Primus Green Energy Inc., a gas-to-liquids (GTL) technology and solutions company that transforms methane and other hydrocarbon gases into gasoline and methanol (earlier post), has successfully produced 100-octane gasoline at its commercial demonstration plant in Hillsborough, New Jersey.
Primus achieved this milestone as a result of an improvement to its proprietary STG+ technology—itself essentially an improvement upon commercial methanol synthesis processes and ExxonMobil’s methanol-to-gasoline (MTG) process—which allows its plant to produce high-octane gasoline in addition to RBOB (“Reformulated Gasoline Blendstock for Oxygenate Blending”) gasoline and methanol.
UCR team advances direct production of chemical and fuel precursors in yeast
January 28, 2016
A team led by a researcher at the University of California, Riverside has adapted the CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing system for use in a yeast strain that can produce useful lipids and polymers. The development will lead to new precursors for biofuels, specialty polymers, adhesives and fragrances.
Published recently in an open-access paper in the journal ACS Synthetic Biology, the research involves the oleaginous (oil-producing) yeast Yarrowia lipolytica, which is known for converting sugars to lipids and hydrocarbons that are difficult to make synthetically. Until now, Y. lipolytica has been hard to manipulate at the genetic level, but the application of CRISPR-Cas9 will change that, allowing scientists to tap into its bio-manufacturing potential.
ExxonMobil projects 25% energy demand increase between 2014-2040, 50% decline in carbon intensity; hybrids to be 40% of new car sales
January 25, 2016
Global energy demand will increase 25% between 2014 and 2040, driven by population growth and economic expansion, ExxonMobil forecasts in the 2016 edition of its annual The Outlook for Energy. At the same time, energy efficiency gains and increased use of renewable energy sources and lower carbon fuels, such as natural gas, are expected to help reduce by half the carbon intensity of the global economy.
During the period, the world’s population will increase by about 2 billion people and emerging economies will continue to expand significantly, according to the forecast. Most growth in energy demand will occur in developing nations that are not part of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Per capita income in those countries is likely to increase by 135%.
Researchers find some solid-state hydrogen storage materials could serve as less toxic solid propellants for rockets
Researchers in China have found that amine metal borohydride—a novel hydrogen-enriched boron–nitrogen–hydrogen (BNH) hydrogen storage system—has potential as a solid propellant or additive for solid and hybrid rockets.
In a paper in the ACS journal Energy & Fuels, they investigated the combustion properties of two newly developed ethylene diamine aluminum borohydrides (Al(BH4)3·nEDA, n = 3, 2). They found the materials have high combustion heat of 32.20 and 36.90 MJ/kg for Al(BH4)3·3EDA and Al(BH4)3·2EDA, respectively, with ignition delay times of ∼2.0 ms.
Oslo Airport first to supply Air BP renewable biojet via main fuel hydrant system; initial batch from Neste
January 23, 2016
In a first for commercial aviation, Air BP, together with Norwegian airport operator Avinor, and sustainable biofuel specialist SkyNRG, announced that all airlines landing at Oslo Airport can have jet biofuel delivered from the airport’s main fuel farm, via the existing hydrant mechanism.
Lufthansa Group was the first airline to confirm that it will uplift the Air BP aviation biofuel at Oslo, and began by refueling an Airbus A320 aircraft. Further airlines including Scandinavian national carrier SAS and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines confirmed they will also purchase jet biofuel at Oslo.
Tesoro to support development of renewable biocrude for its refineries; Fulcrum, Virent, Ensyn partners
January 22, 2016
Tesoro Corporation plans to foster the development of biocrude, made from renewable biomass, which can be co-processed in its existing refineries along with conventional fossil crude oil to produce lower-carbon drop-in fuels.
Tesoro expects that converting renewable biomass into biocrude will enable existing refining assets to produce fuels with lower carbon intensities (CIs) at a significantly lower capital and operating cost than competing technologies. This could lower Tesoro’s compliance costs with the federal renewable fuel standard (RFS) and California’s low carbon fuel standard (LCFS) by generating credits, while producing fuels fully compatible with the nation’s existing fuel infrastructure as well as current vehicle fleet warranties.
DOE announces $58M in funding for advanced vehicle technologies
January 21, 2016
US Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz used the Washington DC Auto show as the venue to announce $58 million in funding for vehicle technology advancements. (Earlier post.) (DE-FOA-0001384: Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 Vehicle Technologies Program Wide Funding Opportunity Announcement) DOE also released a report highlighting the successes of itsAdvanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing (ATVM) loan program.
Pre-announced in December, a $55-million funding opportunity will solicit projects across vehicle technologies such as energy storage, electric drive systems, materials, fuels and lubricants and advanced combustion. Secretary Moniz also announced that two innovative projects at CALSTART and the National Association of Regional Councils will receive $3 million to develop systems that help companies combine their purchasing of advanced vehicles, components, and infrastructure to reduce incremental cost and achieve economies of scale.
BESC study finds unconventional bacteria could boost efficiency of cellulosic biofuel production
January 14, 2016
A new comparative study by researchers at the Department of Energy’s BioEnergy Science Center (BESC), based at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, finds the natural abilities of unconventional bacteria could help boost the efficiency of cellulosic biofuel production.
A team of researchers from five institutions analyzed the ability of six microorganisms to solubilize potential bioenergy feedstocks such as switchgrass that have evolved strong defenses against biological and chemical attack. Solubilization prepares the plant feedstocks for subsequent fermentation and, ultimately, use as fuel.
New one-pot high-yield “high-gravity” process for cellulosic ethanol; potential for drop-in fuels
Researchers with the US Department of Energy (DOE)’s Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) have developed a “high-gravity” one-pot process for producing ethanol from cellulosic biomass that gives unprecedented yields while minimizing water use and waste disposal. “High gravity” means high biomass loading—the higher the biomass loading, the lower the costs for converting it to fuels.
The process utilizes a combination of ionic liquid pretreatment, enzymatic saccharification, and yeast fermentation for the production of concentrated fermentable sugars that result in high-titer cellulosic ethanol. Details on this one-pot process for producing ethanol from cellulosic biomass have been reported in the RSC journal Energy and Environmental Science.
Global Bioenergies and Lanzatech strengthen cooperation to broaden feedstock flexibility of renewable isobutene process
January 11, 2016
Global Bioenergies and LanzaTech have signed a new collaboration agreement to broaden the feedstock flexibility of Global Bioenergies’ renewable isobutene process and the product-portfolio of LanzaTech’s carbon capture technology. (Earlier post.)
Global Bioenergies has developed a process in which a microorganism can produce isobutene from renewable feedstock via the fermentation of sugars. Whereas the company’s primary focus has historically been to use industrial-grade or waste-derived sugars as feedstocks, the technological maturity of the process now allows consideration of a broader range of feedstocks, including non-biomass-derived sources of carbon.
ECS and Toyota request proposals for 2016-2017 ECS Toyota Young Investigator Fellowship for projects in green energy technology
January 07, 2016
The Electrochemical Society (ECS), in partnership with the Toyota Research Institute of North American (TRINA), a division of Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America, Inc. (TEMA), is requesting proposals from young professors and scholars pursuing innovative electrochemical research in green energy technology.
The purpose of the annual ECS Toyota Young Investigator Fellowship, established in 2014, is to encourage young professors and scholars to pursue research in green energy technology that may promote the development of next-generation vehicles capable of utilizing alternative fuels.
Testing shows Virent SAK bio-jet provides more than 50% reduction in PM emissions while maintaining engine performance
Bio-jet emissions testing by Rolls-Royce, supported by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) under the Continuous Lower Energy, Emissions, and Noise (CLEEN) program, has confirmed that jet fuels containing Virent’s BioForm Synthesized Aromatic Kerosene (SAK) fuel blend produced a greater than 50% reduction in particulate matter emissions compared to conventional jet fuel.
The testing thus verified the potential for the SAK fuel to reduce the adverse environmental impact and health effects resulting from jet fuel combustion. The emissions data and other successfully completed test results have been summarized in a report released by Rolls-Royce, British Airways, and the FAA.
Global Bioenergies widens cooperation with Audi; new agreement to broaden feedstocks for bio-isobutene to isooctane process
January 04, 2016
Global Bioenergies and Audi have signed a new collaboration agreement (earlier post) to further broaden the feedstock flexibility of Global Bioenergies’ bio-isobutene process, which uses fermentation of sugars.
The two companies last year announced the delivery by Global Bioenergies to Audi of a first batch of bio-isobutene-derived iso-octane, a premium drop-in fuel for gasoline engines. (Earlier post.) Global Bioenergies had produced isobutene using its pilot plant located on the agri-business site of Pomacle, France. The isobutene was then shipped to Germany and converted into isooctane.
Fulcrum BioEnergy files LCFS application for municipal solid waste to FT diesel pathway with low CI of 37.47 g/MJ
January 03, 2016
Fulcrum BioEnergy, the parent company of Fulcrum Sierra BioFuels, has applied for a new fuel pathway under the California Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCSF) for its process of converting municipal solid waste (MSW) into Fischer-Tropsch (“FT”) diesel fuel.
The California LCFS mandates a 10% reduction by 2020 in the carbon intensity (CI) of transportation fuels. The program requires that transportation fuels used in California meet a baseline target for carbon intensity which is reduced each year. For 2016, the target for diesel and diesel substitutes is 99.97 gCO2e/MJ (Earlier post.) Fulcrum is requesting a CI of 37.47 g/MJ for its MSW-to-FT diesel.
Large-scale reaction screening study of advanced cellulosic biofuel pathways finds ethyllevulinate and 2-MTHF promising alternatives to ethanol
December 30, 2015
A team at RWTH Aachen University has identified ethyllevulinate and 2-methyltetrahydrofuran as promising alternatives to cellulosic bioethanol with respect to cost and environmental impact based on a large-scale reaction screening study.
In addition, the study of 97 reactions for 23 advanced biofuel candidates found that lignin-based biofuels can be excluded from further consideration and that methane, while attractive economically, shows significant environmental impact. The paper on their work is published in the ACS journal Energy & Fuels.
New HPAC lignocellulose pretreatment method could accelerate cellulosic biofuel production
December 28, 2015
A team from Chonnam National University in Korea has developed a new pretreatment method for lignocellulosic biomass that is more efficient and effective for the downstream biocatalytic hydrolysis of various lignocellulosic materials. This, they suggest, will accelerate bioethanol commercialization.
The new hydrogen peroxide (H2O2)-acetic acid (CH3COOH) (HPAC) pretreatment removes lignin without the use of high temperatures or strong acids. It can be applied to multiple lignocellulosic materials; reduces enzyme loading and downstream enzymatic hydrolysis time; and lowers generation of fermentation inhibitors during the process. An open-access paper on the process is published in the journal Biotechnology for Biofuels.
Study shows branched ketone biofuels derived from alcohols have potential for use in aviation fuel blends
December 25, 2015
Researchers at the University of Bath (UK) have demonstrated that branched ketone biofuels produced from the alkylation of isoamyl alcohol and isobutanol with acetone have the potential to be used as blending agents with Jet A-1 fuel. A paper on their work is published in the ACS journal Energy & Fuels.
Although the technology to produce cellulosic ethanol is becoming established, ethanol’s low energy density and high affinity for water have led to the development of higher energy density alochol alternatives such as n-butanol, isoamyl alcohol, and isobutanol. However, the water affinity, low flash point, and low boiling point still make these compounds unsuitable for aviation use without further upgrading.
Bauhaus Luftfahrt analysis finds solar thermochemical jet fuel production viable only if CO2 captured from renewable sources and not flue gases
December 23, 2015
A team from Bauhaus Luftfahrt in Germany has analyzed the climate impact and economic performance of solar thermochemical jet fuel production. According to their analysis, published in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology, favorable assumptions for all involved process steps (30% thermochemical energy conversion efficiency; 3000 kWh/(m2 a) solar irradiation, low CO2 and heliostat costs) result in jet fuel production costs of €1.28/L (US$5.30/gallon) at lifecycle (LC) GHG emissions close to zero (0.10 kgCO2‐equiv/L.
The non-profit Bauhaus Luftfahrt is an internationally-oriented think tank created in November 2005 by the three aerospace companies EADS (today Airbus Group); Liebherr-Aerospace; and MTU Aero Engines as well as the Bavarian Ministry for Economic Affairs. In January 2012, IABG-Industrieanlagen-Betriebsgesellschaft became the latest member of the institution.
$3M UK project to develop low-carbon aviation fuels from captured CO2 and waste biomass
December 22, 2015
Heriot-Watt University in the UK will lead a £2-million (US$3-million) project (EP/N009924/1) to develop low-carbon aviation fuels from captured CO2 and waste biomass. The multi-disciplinary project, funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) will be led by Heriot-Watt engineers and scientists in conjunction with teams from Aston and Oxford Universities and the University of Edinburgh.
The project aims to produce low-carbon synthetic aviation jet fuel using renewable energy from waste agricultural and forestry biomass and captured CO2. The project team will use integrated chemistry (a bottom-up method to develop novel catalysts and electrodes) and engineering (a top-down method to tailor heat and mass transport parameters influencing reaction conditions) with a focus on high selective and efficient jet fuel production.
ExxonMobil, UW-Madison partner on biomass-to-transportation fuel research
December 19, 2015
The University of Wisconsin-Madison and ExxonMobil announced a two-year agreement to research the fundamental chemistry of converting biomass into transportation fuels.
UW-Madison long has been known for its expertise in biomass conversion, and the project leverages the university’s expertise alongside the resources and technology development of ExxonMobil. George Huber, the Harvey D. Spangler professor of chemical and biological engineering at UW-Madison, is working closely with ExxonMobil scientists to build a stronger understanding of the basic chemical transformations that occur during biomass conversion into diesel and jet fuels.
Port of Seattle partners with Alaska Airlines and Boeing to supply sustainable aviation biofuel at Sea-Tac Airport
December 18, 2015
The Port of Seattle, Alaska Airlines and Boeing are partnering to move toward powering all flights by all airlines at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport with sustainable aviation biofuel. Sea-Tac is the first US airport to lay out a long-term roadmap to incorporate aviation biofuel into its infrastructure in a cost-effective, efficient manner.
At the Sea-Tac fuel farm earlier this week, executives for the port, Alaska Airlines, and Boeing signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to launch a $250,000 Biofuel Infrastructure Feasibility Study that will assess costs and infrastructure necessary to deliver a blend of aviation biofuel and conventional jet fuel to aircraft at Sea-Tac.
Hydrogen from biomethane; gasoline & diesel from tree residue; cellulosic ethanol among new proposed California LCFS fuel pathways
California Air Resources Board (ARB) staff posted 32 new Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) fuel pathway applications for comments at the LCFS website. Among the multiple applications for different processing pathways of corn or sorghum ethanol are four pathways from LytEn for hydrogen produced from biomethane; four pathways for renewable gasoline and diesel produced from tree residue from Ensyn; and one application for cellulosic ethanol using corn stover feedstock from POET.
The LCFS is a regulation to reduce the carbon intensity (CI) of fuels sold in California by 10% by 2020. The LCFS applies to liquid and non-liquid fuels. If a product is above the annual carbon intensity target, the fuel incurs deficits. If a product is below that target, the fuel generates credits which may be used later for compliance, or sold to other producers who have deficits. So far, fuel producers are over-complying with the regulation. (Earlier post.)
DOE BETO seeking input on Optima initiative for co-optimization of fuels and engines
December 17, 2015
The US Department of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s (EERE) Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) and Vehicle Technologies Office (VTO) have released a request for information (RFI) (DE-FOA-0001460) titled “Co-Optimization of Fuels and Engines” (Optima).
The Optima program is a key collaborative initiative being pursued by EERE, VTO, and BETO. The Optima initiative is focused on the development of new fuels and engine architectures that are co-optimized—i.e., designed in tandem to maximize performance and carbon efficiency. (Earlier post.) The initiative intends to accelerate the widespread deployment of significantly improved fuels and vehicles (passenger to light truck to heavy duty commercial vehicles) by 2030. Specifically, Optima is targeting a reduction in per-vehicle petroleum consumption by 30% versus the 2030 business as usual.
HeidelbergCement and Joule partnering to explore carbon-neutral fuel application in cement manufacturing
December 14, 2015
Joule, a pioneer in the production of liquid fuels from recycled CO2, and HeidelbergCement, a German multinational building material company, are partnering to explore application of Joule’s technology to mitigate carbon emissions in cement manufacturing. Cement manufacturing is highly energy and emissions intensive, currently contributing about 6% of global CO2 (Zhang et al. 2014).
As part of the agreement, emissions (or offtake gas) from various HeidelbergCement factories could provide Joule with the waste CO2 required to feed its advanced Helioculture platform that effectively recycles CO2 back into fuel.
IH2 biomass to drop-in fuels technology demonstration plant to be built in India
December 13, 2015
Shell India Markets Pvt Ltd (SIMPL) will proceed with the installation of a 5 tonne/day IH2 technology demonstration plant on the site of SIMPL’s new Technology Centre in Bangalore, India. SIMPL will build, operate and own the demonstration scale IH2 plant. IH2 technology is a continuous catalytic thermo-chemical process which converts a broad range of forestry/agricultural residues and municipal wastes directly into renewable hydrocarbon transportation fuels and/or blend stocks. (Earlier post.)
The IH2 technology was developed by US-based Gas Technology Institute in 2009 and is being further developed in collaboration with CRI Catalyst Company (CRI), Shell’s Catalyst business. CRI will supply the proprietary catalysts for the unit. The Basic Engineering Package for the plant will be provided by Zeton, Inc. of Ontario, Canada.
USDA announces conditional commitment for $70M loan guarantee for Ensyn cellulosic biofuel refinery
December 11, 2015
The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced a conditional commitment for a $70-million loan guarantee to help build a cellulosic biorefinery in central Georgia. USDA is providing the loan guarantee conditional commitment through its Biorefinery Assistance Program.
Ensyn Georgia Biorefinery I, LLC (Ensyn) will construct and operate a cellulosic biofuel refinery in Dooly County, Georgia. The company will produce 20 million gallons of renewable fuel per year employing its Rapid Thermal Processing (RTP) technology. RTP uses a fast thermal process to convert non-food-based feedstocks into biobased fuels.
New catalytic process to convert lignin into jet-range hydrocarbons
Researchers at Washington State University (WSU) Tri-Cities have developed a catalytic process to convert corn stover lignin into hydrocarbons (C7–C18)—primarily C12–C18 cyclic structure hydrocarbons in the jet fuel range. The work is featured on the cover of the December issue of the RSC journal Green Chemistry.
The developer of the process, Bin Yang, an associate professor of biological systems engineering at WSU and his team are working with Boeing Co. to develop and test the hydrocarbons targeted to be jet fuel. Yang has filed for a patent on the process, with WSU as the assignee.
UMass Amherst computationl chemist to optimize zeolite biofuel production catalysts; more gasoline, less coke
December 09, 2015
University of Massachusetts Amherst computational chemist Scott Auerbach has been awarded a three-year, $330,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to improve basic understanding and optimize the catalytic process of producing fuels such as gasoline from plant biomass instead of from petroleum.
The study involves theoretical calculations aimed at understanding the complex catalysis involved in converting biomass-derived organic compounds to liquid fuel precursors in the confined spaces of zeolites while avoiding deactivation due to coke formation. Auerbach will employ a novel theoretical approach and benchmark it against experimental data.
UCLA–UC Berkeley paper outlines how CA can boost biofuel production to cut pollution and help the economy
December 07, 2015
California has not taken full advantage of opportunities to increase its in-state production of biofuel, despite state policies that encourage biofuel consumption, according to a policy paper by the Climate Change and Business Research Initiative at the UCLA and UC Berkeley law schools. The paper is the sixteenth in a series of reports on how climate change will create opportunities for specific sectors of the business community and how policy-makers can facilitate those opportunities.
The report—titled Planting Fuels: How California Can Boost Local, Low-Carbon Biofuel Production—underscores the importance of local production of low-carbon biofuel, suggesting that the state could reduce emissions by not shipping feedstocks from out-of-state or overseas; spurring development of carbon-reducing byproducts such as biochar compost; and reducing the risk of wildfire.
New method for creating interspecies yeast hybrids could boost biofuels production
December 05, 2015
Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have developed a simple, robust, and efficient method for generating interspecies yeast hybrids. As reported in the journal Fungal Genetics and Biology, this method provides an efficient means for producing novel synthetic hybrids for beverage and biofuel production, as well as for constructing tetraploids to be used for basic research in evolutionary genetics and genome stability.
Some 500 years ago, the accidental natural hybridization of Saccharomyces cerevisiae—the yeast responsible for things like ale, wine and bread—and a distant yeast cousin gave rise to lager beer. Today, cold-brewed lager is the world’s most consumed alcoholic beverage, fueling an industry with annual sales of more than $250 billion.
Boeing, Canadian aviation industry launch sustainable aviation biofuel project using forestry waste
December 03, 2015
Boeing, the University of British Columbia (UBC) and SkyNRG, with support from Canada’s aviation industry and other stakeholders, are collaborating to turn leftover branches, sawdust and other forest-industry waste into sustainable aviation biofuel.
Canada, which has extensive sustainably certified forests, has long used mill and forest residues to make wood pellets that are used to generate electricity. A consortium that includes Boeing, Air Canada, WestJet, Bombardier, research institutions and industry partners will assess whether forest waste could also be harnessed to produce sustainable aviation biofuel using thermochemical processing.
EPA nudges up volume of renewable fuel in final requirements for 2014-2016 under RFS
November 30, 2015
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the final volume requirements under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program today for the years 2014, 2015 and 2016, and final volume requirements for biomass-based diesel for 2014 to 2017.
This rule finalizes higher volumes of renewable fuel than the levels EPA proposed in June (earlier post), but still represents a reduction compared to the original statutory requirements.
TMFB researchers investigate engine performance of two possible future tailor-made biofuels
Researchers at RWTH Aachen University in Germany report on their evaluation of two possible future biofuels—tailor-made from biomass—in a paper in the journal Fuel. The team investigated the use of 2-butanone (also referred to as methyl ethyl ketone, MEK) and 2-methylfuran, both of which had been identified within the Cluster of Excellence “Tailor-Made Fuels from Biomass” (TMFB) (earlier post).
Investigations of the fuels’ autoignition tendency were carried out on a rapid compression machine (RCM); thermodynamic investigations were conducted on a direct injection spark ignition single cylinder research engine.
Stanford team increases power of corrosion-resistant solar cells; advance for solar fuels
Researchers at Stanford, with colleagues at University College Cork in Ireland, have shown how to increase the power of corrosion-resistant solar cells, setting a record for solar energy output under water. Instead of pumping electricity into the grid, the power these cells produce would be used in the production of solar fuels.
This new work, published in Nature Materials, was led by Stanford materials scientist Paul McIntyre, whose lab has been a pioneer in the field of artificial photosynthesis. Artificial photosynthesis proposes using the energy from specialized solar cells to combine water with captured carbon dioxide to produce industrial fuels.
Propel Fuels reports strong consumer adoption of renewable diesel in SoCal; retail sales up 300% over biodiesel
November 18, 2015
Propel launched Diesel HPR across Southern California in August 2015, and consumer adoption of the fuel has risen 300% compared to its former biodiesel product (B20). (Earlier post.) Utilizing Neste’s NEXBTL renewable diesel, Propel’s Diesel HPR is a low-carbon, drop-in renewable fuel that meets the ASTM D-976 petroleum diesel specifications for use in diesel engines, while offering drivers better performance and lower emissions.
Performance features include a 75 cetane rating, 40 percent higher than regular diesel. Diesel HPR provides cleaner and more efficient combustion for more power and a smoother ride at a cost similar to or lower than petroleum diesel.
DOE releases SBIR/STTR FY16 Phase 1 Release 2 topics; hydrogen, electric vehicles, more efficient combustion engines; biogas-to-fuels
November 16, 2015
The US Department of Energy has announced the 2016 Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer (SBIR/STTR) Phase I Release 2 Topics, covering eight DOE research program organizations.
Among the many topics listed are magnetocaloric materials development for hydrogen delivery; two hydrogen technology transfer opportunities (TTO); EV traction batteries and power electronics; new combustion engine technologies; and the co-utilization of CO2 and methane in biogas to produce higher hydrocarbon fuels. DOE plans to issue the full Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) on 30 November 2015.
Aramco opens R&D center in Detroit area; fuels research with focus on novel fuels/engines systems for reduced CO2
November 14, 2015
The Aramco Research Center-Detroit was inaugurated as one of three US-based research and development (R&D) centers aimed at expanding the global research capabilities of Saudi Aramco, the leading global integrated energy and chemicals company. The new facility, located in Novi, Mich., and owned and operated by US subsidiary Aramco Services Company, further strengthens the company’s global fuels research program.
Aramco’s fuels technology program is focused on reducing the overall environmental impact, cost and complexity of both current and future fuel-engine systems. With a global refining presence, Aramco brings a perspective into how fuels can be designed and matched to engines for higher performance and lower emissions. A planned outcome of Aramco’s research is to generate vehicle and fleet demonstrations to showcase the benefits of novel fuel/engine systems.
US Departments of Agriculture, Energy partner to award $4.9M for bioenergy research
October 25, 2015
The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the US Department of Energy (DOE) are partnering to award nearly $5 million in grants to scientists to study the use of plants to further bioenergy development.
The $4.9 million in research grants is awarded under a joint DOE-USDA program that began in 2006; DOE is providing $2.9 million in funding over 3 years, while USDA will award $2 million over 3 years. The awards focus on fundamental investigations of biomass genomics, with the aim of harnessing non-food plant biomass for the production of fuels, such as ethanol or renewable chemical feedstocks.
SG Preston and IHI E&C partner on portfolio of renewable diesel and jet plants; 5 initial sites, 600M gallons total capacity
October 22, 2015
SG Preston, a Philadelphia-based bioenergy company, is partnering with IHI E&C, a Houston-based engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) subsidiary of Japan’s IHI Corporation, to develop and to construct a series of commercial-scale renewable diesel and jet fuel manufacturing plants, initially in the US Midwest and Canada.
The plants will use licensed, proven, commercial-scale technologies for the production of renewable diesel and jet fuel targeting US and global industries seeking a volume-based, competitively priced solution to their environmental sustainability mandates. SG Preston will deploy its biofuels strategy initially at five plants (South Point and Van Wert, Ohio; Logansport, Indiana; and two additional, to-be-announced sites, one in Michigan, and one in Ontario, Canada), each with an initial capacity to produce 120 million gallons of renewable diesel and jet fuel annually.
UT Austin researcher awarded $15M for switchgrass traits studies
A researcher at The University of Texas at Austin will receive two grants totaling $15 million to study switchgrass (Panicum virgatum), with a focus on how it can become a sustainable source of bioenergy.
Tom Juenger, a professor of integrative biology, will lead scientists from multiple institutions—including federal agencies, universities and the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology—on two projects researching switchgrass. A five-year grant from the Department of Energy’s Office of Biological and Environmental Research will provide $11 million for the university and $4 million for partner institutions. Additionally, the National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded a four-year grant of $4 million to Juenger and his team. Both grants begin this fall.
Sandia CRF team provides experimental confirmation of oxidation scheme of lower emissions diesel alternative DME; new intermediates
October 17, 2015
An international team of researchers led by a group from the Combustion Research Facility (CRF) at Sandia National Laboratories recently provided experimental confirmation of the generally accepted low-temperature oxidation scheme of dimethyl ether (DME)—a lower soot and emissions alternative to diesel—at low temperatures (~540 K, 267˚C). Their paper was published in the ACS Journal of Physical Chemistry A.
Especially significant, they said, was detecting and identifying keto-hydroperoxide (hydroperoxymethylformate, HPMF, HOOCH2OCHO)—a previously undiscovered partially oxidized intermediate—thereby providing critical information needed to improve models.
Linde pilot testing dry reforming process to generate syngas from CO2 and methane for production of fuels and chemicals
October 16, 2015
As part of its R&D strategy, Linde has built a pilot reformer facility at Pullach near Munich—Linde’s largest location worldwide—to test dry-reforming technology. The dry reforming process catalytically combines CH4, the principal component of natural gas, and CO2 to produce syngas (CO and H2). Syngas is then used to produce valuable downstream products such as base chemicals or fuels.
The dry reforming process differs from steam reforming, which combines CH4 and water (H2O) in the form of steam to produce the syngas. Producing the steam is energy-intensive; dry reforming requires far less water, and hence avoids the energy burden of steam production. In addition to reducing energy consumption, the dry reforming process also consumes recycled carbon dioxide.
Toyota announces aggressive environmental targets through 2050; cutting new vehicle CO2 by 90% compared to 2010
October 14, 2015
Addressing key global environmental issues such as climate change, water shortages, resource depletion, and degradation of biodiversity, the Toyota Environmental Challenge 2050 aims to reduce the negative impact of manufacturing and driving vehicles as much as possible. The challenge comprises six individual challenges across three areas: Ever-better cars, quantified as reducing global average new-vehicle CO2 emissions by 90% by 2050 compared to Toyota’s 2010 global average; ever-better manufacturing (zero CO2 emissions at all plants by 2050); and enriching the lives of communities.
As a key step toward achieving these long-term targets, Toyota is announcing its Sixth Toyota Environmental Action Plan, which will be enacted between April 2016 and the end of March 2021.
DLR wrapping up ECLIF in-flight study of emissions from alternative aviation fuels; potential for improved fuel design
October 09, 2015
In a three-week series of flight tests lasting until 9 October 2015, the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) has been investigating how to reduce the impact of air transport on the climate by using alternative fuels. The testing is part of DLR’s Emission and Climate Impact of Alternative Fuels (ECLIF) project.
ECLIF is analyzing the emissions produced by alternative fuels using the full range of methods available at DLR—from combustion analysis in the laboratories of the DLR Institute of Combustion Technology and tests in the combustion chamber test facilities at the DLR Institute of Propulsion Technology, through to the exhaust gas measurements conducted by the DLR Institute of Atmospheric Physics now taking place during the flight trials.
ORNL researchers use neutron crystallography to gain better understanding of biomass hydrolysis enzyme xylanase
Researchers led by a team from the US Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) are using neutron crystallography to understand the functioning of enzymes at the molecular level and to learn how to bioengineer those enzymes for large-scale improvements in the efficiency of biomass processing.
Using the MaNDi (Macromolecular Neutron Diffractometer) instrument at ORNL’s Spallation Neutron Source (a DOE Office of Science User Facility) (earlier post), the LANSCE (Los Alamos Neutron Science Center) Protein Crystallography Station in Los Alamos, N.M., and the FRMII BioDiff (Diffractometer for large unit cells) instrument in Munich, Germany, they determined the structure of xylanase, an enzyme used to digest hemicellulose during biofuel production, at unprecedented detail.
Study: marine cyanobacteria produce 100s of millions of tonnes of hydrocarbons annually
October 06, 2015
An international team of researchers, led by the University of Cambridge, has estimated that photosynthetic marine cyanobacteria annually produce hundreds of millions of tonnes of hydrocarbons in the oceans. These organisms in turn support another population of bacteria that feed on these compounds.
In the study, conducted in collaboration with researchers from the University of Warwick and MIT, and published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), the scientists measured the amount of hydrocarbons in a range of laboratory-grown cyanobacteria and used the data to estimate the amount produced in the oceans.
Aemetis harvests demo crop of optimized biomass sorghum in California for advanced biofuels; ~90 days from planting to harvest
October 05, 2015
Aemetis, Inc., an advanced renewable fuels and biochemicals company, has harvested 12- to 15-foot tall biomass sorghum grown in Central California that was produced using proprietary seed genetics from Nexsteppe, a provider of optimized sorghum feedstock solutions. Biomass Sorghum is a feedstock for low-carbon advanced biofuels.
The 20-acre demonstration crop of biomass sorghum was planted, grown, and harvested by Aemetis in approximately 90 days, validating the potential use of biomass crops for the production of lower-carbon, advanced biofuels or as a rotational crop in California.
ARB posts discussion draft of new proposed mobile-source emissions reduction strategy through 2030; Advanced Clean Cars 2 regulation
October 02, 2015
The California Air Resources Board (ARB) staff has published a discussion draft of a proposed strategy for further regulation and reduction of mobile source—cars, trucks, and off-road equipment—emissions. The approach described is designed to meet simultaneously federal air quality standards; achieve greenhouse gas emission reduction targets; reduce petroleum consumption; and decrease health risk from transportation sources through 2030.
ARB staff developed this strategy using a multi-pollutant scenario planning tool (Vision 2.0) that quantifies changes in ozone and PM2.5 precursor emissions; GHG emissions; petroleum usage; and diesel toxics emissions as various technologies become widespread in vehicle and equipment fleets.
Caltech, JPL designed megasupramolecule fuel additive reduces intensity of post-impact fuel explosions
Researchers at Caltech and JPL used statistical mechanics to design a polymeric fuel additive that can self-assemble into “megasupramolecules” (≥5000 kg/mol) at low concentration (≤0.3 weight percent) and thus can reduce the intensity of post-impact fuel explosions that occur during accidents and terrorist acts.
Furthermore, preliminary results show that the additive can provide this benefit without adversely affecting fuel performance. The work is published in the journal Science.
University of Nebraska-Lincoln leading $13.5M effort to improve sorghum for biofuel
September 30, 2015
The University of Nebraska-Lincoln will lead a $13.5-million, multi-institutional research effort to improve sorghum as a sustainable source for biofuel production.
Funded by the US Department of Energy, this five-year grant takes a comprehensive approach to better understand how plants and microbes interact, and to learn which sorghum germplasm grows better with less water and nitrogen. This research requires a range of expertise, and UNL is teaming with scientists at Danforth Plant Science Center, Washington State University, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Boyce Thompson Institute, Clemson University, Iowa State University, Colorado State University and the DOE-Joint Genome Institute.
Gevo begins selling renewable isooctene to BCD Chemie; fuel applications
September 29, 2015
Gevo has begun selling renewable isooctene to BCD Chemie, a subsidiary of Brenntag. Initial orders in 2015 are expected to result in revenues to Gevo of more than $1 million. The isooctene will be produced at Gevo’s biorefinery in Silsbee, Texas, derived from isobutanol produced at Gevo’s plant in Luverne, Minn. Gevo’s biorefinery is operated in conjunction with South Hampton Resources.
BCD Chemie is targeting applications in Europe with Gevo’s isooctene. This commences a relationship with BCD Chemie that may include the marketing of other hydrocarbon products, including isooctane and jet fuel, and builds on Gevo’s existing partnership with Brenntag in Canada, which is currently selling Gevo’s isobutanol as a solvent in Canada.
California Air Resources Board readopts Low Carbon Fuel Standard, adopts regulation on alternative diesel fuels
September 25, 2015
The Air Resources Board re-adopted a Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS), which requires a 10% reduction by 2020 in the carbon intensity of transportation fuels. The program requires that transportation fuels used in California meet a baseline target for carbon intensity which is reduced each year.
The Board also adopted a regulation governing alternative diesel fuels (ADF). The regulation puts in place a three-step process beginning in 2016 to create a path to bring cleaner diesel substitutes into the market.
Amyris in multi-year technology investment agreement with DARPA worth up to $35M
September 24, 2015
Amyris, Inc. announced a multi-year Technology Investment Agreement (TIA) worth up to $35 million with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA) Biological Technologies Office to create new research and development tools and technologies that will significantly reduce the time and cost of bringing new molecules to market. Amyris has chosen five specialized subcontractors to assist in achieving these innovations.
According to DARPA, its focus in working with industrial biotechnology companies is to solicit competitively “innovative proposals to develop new tools, technologies and methodologies” to create new capabilities in biotech. The tools and infrastructure developed through DARPA-funded efforts are expected to enable the rapid and scalable development of transformative defense-relevant products and systems that are currently too complex to access.
MSU researchers fabricate synthetic protein that streamlines carbon fixing machinery of cyanobacteria; potential boost for biofuels
September 22, 2015
Researchers at the MSU-DOE Plant Research Laboratory, Michigan State University, have fabricated a synthetic protein that not only improves the assembly of the carbon-fixing factory of cyanobacteria (also known as blue-green algae), but also provides a proof of concept for a device that could potentially improve plant photosynthesis or be used to install new metabolic pathways in bacteria.
The multi-function protein, which the researchers compare to a Swiss Army Knife, streamlines the molecular machinery of cyanobacteria, making biofuels and other green chemical production from these organisms more viable. The researchers describe their work in a paper in the journal The Plant Cell.
Ford Europe leading project investigating DME and OME1 as low carbon, near zero particulate fuels; power-to-liquids pathways using CO2
September 12, 2015
Ford Motor Company is leading a €3.5-million (US$3.9-million) research project to investigate the use of alternative fuels that could offer customers the power and performance of modern internal combustion engines with environmental benefits comparable to an electric vehicle.
The German government is co-funding the three-year project that will test the first cars to run on dimethyl ether (DME) (earlier post), commonly used as a non-toxic propellant in aerosol spray gas, and monooxymethylene ether (OME1). (OME1 is made from methanol on a commercial scale and has a cetane number of 38; it can be mixed with additives to produce OME1a diesel fuel (CN 48).)
Ensyn receives EPA regulatory approval for its cellulosic renewable diesel RFDiesel
September 11, 2015
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently granted Ensyn Corporation (earlier post) Part 79 registration for its renewable diesel product, RFDiesel. This registration, pursuant to Title 40 CFR Part 79 of the Clean Air Act, is required for the sale of RFDiesel in the US.
RFDiesel, a drop-in diesel transportation fuel, is created by processing Ensyn’s renewable crude (RFO), a liquid cellulosic feedstock, with customary petroleum feedstocks in conventional petroleum refineries (RFO Coprocessing). There, Ensyn’s RFO is used as a feedstock in Fluid Catalytic Crackers (FCCs). FCC units are found in most refineries worldwide and are used to produce gasoline and diesel from vacuum gas oil (VGO). When RFO is processed alongside VGO in FCC units at VGO displacement rates up to approximately 5%, RFO performs comparably to VGO on a volumetric basis producing spec gasoline and diesel.
DOE to award up to $11M for medium- and heavy-duty vehicle powertrain electrification and dual fuel fleet demonstration
September 10, 2015
The US Department of Energy (DOE) has issued a funding opportunity (DE-FOA-0001349 ) announcement for up to $11 million to support projects covering two areas of technical interest. The first is medium- and heavy-duty powertrain electrification; the second is a dual fuel fleet demonstration. DOE anticipates making approximately 2 to 4 awards under this FOA, with the majority of funding going to electrification projects.
Area of Interest (AOI) 1: Medium and Heavy Duty Vehicle Powertrain Electrification. The objective of this area of interest is to research, develop, and demonstrate electric-drive powertrain technologies for medium- and heavy-duty Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEV) and Electric Vehicles (EV) that reduce fuel consumption by at least 50% when compared to an equivalent vehicle with a conventional internal combustion engine powertrain driven on a comparable duty cycle.
FAA awards $100M to 8 companies for CLEEN II development; lower fuel consumption, emissions and noise
September 09, 2015
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has awarded $100 million in contracts to eight companies to develop and to demonstrate aviation technologies that reduce fuel consumption, emissions, and noise under the second phase of its Continuous Lower Energy, Emissions, and Noise (CLEEN II) program. (The CLEEN II solicitation was posted in October 2014.)
The five-year CLEEN II program will build on the success of the original CLEEN program, a public-private partnership that began in 2010 and is a key part of the FAA’s NextGen efforts to make aviation more environmentally friendly. (Earlier post.) The CLEEN team focused on nine projects in the area of energy efficient aircraft technologies and sustainable alternative jet fuels. The first of these technologies will enter service in 2016.
DEINOVE and Tyton partner to combine bacterial fermentation solutions with energy tobacco feedstock for biofuels and bio-based chemicals
September 08, 2015
DEINOVE, a biotech company developing innovative processes for producing biofuels and bio-based chemicals using Deinococcus bacteria as host strains (earlier post), and Tyton BioEnergy Systems, an agricultural biotech company with novel tobacco technology used to produce green chemicals and agricultural products, have entered into a technology and commercialization partnership.
The main goal of the partnership is to combine Tyton’s energy tobacco feedstock, process and production infrastructure with DEINOVE’s Deinococcus-based fermentation solutions in order to produce green chemical compounds of high commercial value.
Global Bioenergies joins aireg to push jet fuel application of its isobutene process; isododecane
France-based Global Bioenergies, a company developing a processes to convert renewable resources into hydrocarbons through fermentation, has joined aireg (Aviation Initiative for Renewable Energy in Germany e.V.) aireg, an organization promoting the development and use of renewable liquid fuels in aviation, aims to replace 10% of German jet fuel demand with sustainable, alternative aviation fuels by 2025.
Global Bioenergies, which is currently developing its demonstration plant in Leuna, Germany, will soon be able to produce alternative jet fuel from sugars. Earlier this year, the company reported the successful conversion of renewable resources first into gaseous isobutene via fermentation, which was then subsequently catalytically oligomerized into a mix of fuel-range liquid hydrocarbons. (Earlier post.) The resulting product slate contained isooctane; isododecane (C12H26, a highly branched alkane well-suited for the aviation market); isocetane; as well as longer strings.
UCL, BP team study on combustion and emissions characteristics of a range of fuel molecules from lignocellulosic biomass
September 01, 2015
A team from University College London and BP’s Fuels and Lubricants Research group has investigated the combustion and emissions characteristics of a range of fuel molecules which can be produced from lignocellulosic biomass through a variety of processing routes.
The researchers suggested that their results can be used to aid in selecting at what stage lignocellulose should be chemically modified so as to produce a viable biofuel molecule with optimal combustion characteristics and exhaust gas emissions. Their paper is published in the ACS journal Energy & Fuels.
Lux: Despite softness in utilization, global biofuels capacity to grow to 61.4 BGY in 2018; driven by novel fuels and feedstocks
August 31, 2015
The global biofuels industry averaged 68% in utilization rate from 2005 to 2014, reached a high of 80.9% in 2007, dropped to a low of 56.9% in 2012, and climbed slightly back to 60.4% in 2014. Despite the still apparent softness in capacity utilization, and the on-going softness in fossil fuel prices, global biofuels capacity will continue to grow from 55.1 billion gallons per year (BGY) to 61.4 BGY in 2018, according to a forecast by Lux Research. However, Lux predicts, growth between now and 2018 will not be a continuation of current course.
While ethanol and biodiesel will continue to dominate in absolute terms, these will grow at only a 1.5% CAGR through 2018. Novel fuels and feedstocks will drive the biofuels industry forward at a much more rapid 17% and 22% CAGRs through 2018, respectively.
JCAP team reports first complete “artificial leaf”; >10% solar-to-hydrogen conversion efficiency
August 28, 2015
Researchers at the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis (JCAP) report the development of the first complete, efficient, safe, integrated solar-driven system—an “artificial leaf”—for splitting water to produce hydrogen. JCAP is a US Department of Energy (DOE) Energy Innovation Hub established at Caltech and its partnering institutions in 2010.
The new system has three main components: two electrodes—one photoanode and one photocathode—and a membrane. The photoanode uses sunlight to oxidize water molecules, generating protons and electrons as well as oxygen gas. The photocathode recombines the protons and electrons to form hydrogen gas. A key part of the JCAP design is the plastic membrane, which keeps the oxygen and hydrogen gases separate. If the two gases are allowed to mix and are accidentally ignited, an explosion can occur; the membrane lets the hydrogen fuel be separately collected under pressure and safely pushed into a pipeline.
DOE to award up to $10M for Bioenergy Technologies Incubator 2; provides $4M to two additional biofuel projects
The US Department of Energy (DOE) released a Funding Opportunity Announcement (DE-FOA-0001320)for up to $10 million to advance the production of advanced biofuels, substitutes for petroleum-based feedstocks and bioproducts made from renewable, non-food-based biomass, such as algae, agricultural residues, and woody biomass. This work supports the Energy Department’s efforts to make drop-in biofuels more accessible and affordable, as well as to meet the cost target equivalent of $3 per gallon of gasoline by 2022.
The new funding will support projects in two topic areas: Topic Area 1 awards (anticipated at 2–4 selections) will range from $1–$2 million and focus on the development of novel, non-incremental technologies that facilitate the goals of the Algae Program, but are not represented in a significant way in the current Algae Project Portfolio.