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Partnering for Growth returns to Iowa with big line-up of biotech biggies and early-stagers

Biofuels Digest - Tue, 02/20/2018 - 9:02pm

In Iowa, the very best of the state-level biotech events, the Partnering For Growth Biotech Innovation Showcase and Forum, is returning March 20th-21st at the FFA Enrichment Center on the campus of Des Moines Area Community College in Ankeny, Iowa.

Presenting companies include 3Bar Biologics, Aker Technologies, Hurd Health Group, N-Sense, Nebullam, Ohana Vaccines, Plastomics, PowerPollen, SciBac, Stover Ventures, SynderBio, and TeselaGen Biotechnology.

Keynote presenters for the event are:

• Dr. Fabian Kausche, Senior Vice President Global Research and Development, Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica, of Duluth, Georgia

• Jeff Broin, Chairman of POET out of Sioux Falls, South Dakota

• Bayan Takazawa Co-Founder and Chief Business Officer of CONTINUUS Pharmaceuticals out of Woburn, Massachusetts

• Dr. John Swart, Founder and President, Exemplar Genetics out of Sioux Center, Iowa

All about the event — look here.

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Stora Enso launches Lineo to provide biobased alternatives for fossil-based materials

Biofuels Digest - Tue, 02/20/2018 - 7:28pm

In Finland, the launch of Lineo by Stora Enso is an important step in the way towards replacing fossil-based materials with renewable solutions. Lineo is available to companies seeking more sustainable, biobased alternatives.

Lignin is a renewable replacement for oil-based phenolic materials which are used in resins for plywood, oriented strand board (OSB), laminated veneer lumber (LVL), paper lamination and insulation material. Stora Enso has been producing lignin at industrial scale since 2015 at its Sunila Mill in Finland. The mill’s capacity is 50,000 metric tons per year, making Stora Enso the largest Kraft lignin producer in the world. Stora Enso is already selling Lineo to replace phenol, and the company is also looking at many other applications for this very versatile material.

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Kenyan cotton ginner reboots futures thanks to biodiesel

Biofuels Digest - Tue, 02/20/2018 - 7:27pm

In Kenya, a third-generation cotton ginner has managed to use biodiesel produced from cottonseed to not only ensure the viability of his business but also to support his local community. He began experimenting with biodiesel in 2008 and then later scaled up to 5,000 liters of production per day. When cotton yields plummeted to a quarter of their previous levels due to climate change-induced weather pattern changes that significantly reduced rainfall, he worked with local farmers and Powering Africa to set up water pumps for irrigation fueled by the cottonseed biodiesel. He has even gone on to supply the fuel to other local industries from salons to welding shops.

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Uttar Pradesh cabinet approves biofuels policy

Biofuels Digest - Tue, 02/20/2018 - 7:25pm

In India, the Uttar Pradesh state cabinet approved the state’s new biofuel policy last week, paving the way for an investment package worth $1.23 billion that will focus on agricultural residue such as bagasse and crop waste as feedstock. The details of the planned investments will be announced at the UP Investors Summit being held this week. Those interested in investing in biofuels projects will benefit from the same conditions established by the state’s industrial policy.

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Petrobras sells remaining shareholding in Sao Martinho for $137 million

Biofuels Digest - Tue, 02/20/2018 - 7:24pm

In Brazil, Petrobras sold its remaining 24 million shares in Sao Martinho, worth 6.59% of the company, at an auction held at the Sao Paulo B3 exchange for $137 million. The companies had previously collaborated on ethanol plants but Petrobras backed out in 2016 as it began reorganizing its assets that later became a fire sale to pay down more than $1 billion in debt. The oil giant has since all but left the biofuel industry, eliminating all of its ethanol assets and many of its biodiesel assets.

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EU re-opens investigation into alleged US ethanol dumping

Biofuels Digest - Tue, 02/20/2018 - 7:23pm

In Belgium, an investigation was announced in the Official Journal of the European Union on February 20 relating to imports of ethanol originating in the US. ePure requested in November that the investigation is re-opened, and as the current 9.5% duty on US-origin ethanol that has been in place since 2013 was set to expire on Friday, the duty has now been extended another 15 months. Platts reports that ePure is concerned the European ethanol market is at risk of further dumping after China, Brazil, and Peru put up barriers to stop US ethanol imports but the US continues to export significant volumes.

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Delek Logistics Partners teams with Green Plains Partners on terminal JV

Biofuels Digest - Tue, 02/20/2018 - 7:22pm

In Tennessee, Delek Logistics Partners and Green Plains Partners LP announced the companies have formed DKGP Energy Terminals LLC, a 50/50 joint venture engaging in the light products terminalling business. DKGP signed a membership interest purchase agreement to acquire two light products terminals from an affiliate of American Midstream Partners, L.P. These light products terminals are located in Caddo Mills, Texas and North Little Rock, Arkansas. The total purchase price for these assets is $138.5 million in cash. Subject to customary closing conditions and regulatory approvals, this transaction is expected to close in the first half of 2018.

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Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center looks to designing advanced biofuels as way forward

Biofuels Digest - Tue, 02/20/2018 - 7:20pm

In Wisconsin, building on the success of 10 years of investigation into the production of renewable fuels from plants, the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center (GLBRC), led by the University of Wisconsin–Madison, recently embarked on a new mission: to develop sustainable alternatives to transportation fuels and products currently derived from petroleum.

On Feb. 18 at the Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Austin, Texas, Tim Donohue, GLBRC director and UW–Madison professor of bacteriology, highlighted a decade of developing economically viable bioenergy technologies, while looking forward to the next five years of establishing a production pipeline of advanced fuels and bioproducts.

Now, GLBRC is taking its mission one step further. Instead of producing ethanol, GLBRC’s goal is centered on designing advanced biofuels, such as isobutanol. These “drop-in” fuels could be used to replace gasoline without engine modification. By engineering bioenergy crops to enhance their environmental and economic value, and conducting research to generate multiple products from plant biomass, these advancements could optimize the bioenergy field-to-product pipeline.

GLBRC scientists and engineers are also improving the yield and processing traits of dedicated bioenergy crops for cultivation on marginal, or non-agricultural, land. With smart management, these crops have the potential to benefit the ecosystem, help mitigate climate change, and provide farmers with an additional source of revenue.

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UK launches investigation into alleged dumping of Argentine biodiesel

Biofuels Digest - Tue, 02/20/2018 - 7:19pm

In the UK, an investigation was announced in the Official Journal reference C34 on January 31, 2018, relating to imports of biodiesel originating in Argentina. The investigation must be concluded within 13 months, although it can be terminated earlier.

A decision to impose provisional duties can be taken after a minimum of 60 days from the start of the formal investigation but it’s usually imposed for the last 4 months of the investigation. If this happens, a security to the value of countervailing duty is taken on imports entering into free circulation and held until the results of the investigation are published.

At the end of the investigation, the provisional countervailing duty may be made definitive, may lapse or be canceled. If following the investigation, it’s decided that the duty should be made definitive, the security will be brought to account. Definitive measures will normally remain in place for 5 years.

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Carbon-negative fuels in the spotlight as Ohio State, Argonne National Labs, Energy Vision make material progress

Biofuels Digest - Tue, 02/20/2018 - 3:58pm

OK, you know the climate change drill. Burning liquid fuels releases CO2 and that leads to global warming. It’s one of the reasons that eco-warriors drive electric cars.

But is that paradigm shifting?

The biggest news along that front represents early-stage technology, but we read here that engineers at Ohio State announced that they’ve devised a process that under certain circumstances can convert coal, shale gas and biomass into electricity or syngas, while consuming carbon dioxide at the same time. In some cases, the technology not only consumes the full amount of carbon dioxide it produces, but also additional carbon dioxide from outside sources –  and that’s the carbon negative moment.

Even more interestingly, the techno-economics (at a very early stage) indicated to the Ohio State team that they could lower the capital costs in producing syngas by about 50 percent compared to the technology traditionally used for this process.

The process

It’s called ”Chemical Looping”: using tiny metal oxide particles to transport oxygen into high-pressure reactors. As these particles cycle through the system, they burn fossil fuels and biomass without the presence of oxygen in the air, causing a chemical reaction that doesn’t emit carbon dioxide.

In 2013, the team demonstrated the potential of this technology, but the final challenge was to keep the particles from wearing out. Since then, increased the lifespan of the metal oxide has jumped from 100 cycles to more than 3,000 cycles, extending plant operation from eight days to eight months and ensuring the technology is significantly more economical for commercialization.

The team and where to find more

Dr. Liang-Shih Fan, Distinguished University Professor in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Ohio State, has been working on this research for more than 40 years and recently published his findings in two papers for the Energy and Environmental Science journal ( the first is here, the second is here). They look at a cleaner, more efficient and sustainable process for burning fossil fuels, with the ability to reduce coal consumption by 25 percent. The university has already began collaborating with companies including the The Linde Group, a world leading supplier of industrial, process and specialty gases; and Babcock & Wilcox, which produces clean energy technologies for power markets.

The impact

Well, syngas is used not only for electricity, but for renewable liquid fuels and chemicals — and technologies that use syngas have been obtaining it from more traditional and proven gasification systems that aren’t going away tomorrow. But the owners of those gasifier systems might be looking into chemical looping as a next-gen technology for their customer base.

Over to renewable natural gas

This week, we heard the “carbon-negative” magic words via Argonne National Labs, According to this source, Argonne National Labs GREET model is showing that under certain circumstances R-CNG produced from anaerobic digestion of food waste is net-carbon negative over its lifecycle, including production, use and avoided emissions. That means making and using it actually results in lower atmospheric GHG than if the fuel were never made or used.

Now, that conclusion is coming from a sustainable NGO, Energy Vision, which co-sponsored the two case studies with Argonne on anaerobic digesters to capture the biogases from decomposing organic waste.

One study looks at Fair Oaks Farms, a large dairy cooperative in Indiana with roughly 36,000 cows. It converts manure to R-CNG using a large anaerobic digester, and uses the fuel to power its milk tanker trucks. The other study assesses the Sacramento BioDigester, the first food-waste digester in California to turn commercial organic waste into R-CNG vehicle fuel using anaerobic digestion.

Argonne is being a tad more conservative on  the findings. Marianne Mintz of Argonne National Laboratory’s Energy System Division, who co-authored the case studies, opined that “R-CNG can achieve the greatest GHG reductions of any transportation fuel today — 70% or more as compared to gasoline or diesel,” said

Nationwide, renewable natural gas has grown over 70% annually in recent years -production for transportation totaled 151 million gasoline gallon equivalents in 2017, up from 125M GGEs in 2016 and 90M GGEs in 2015. Also, there’s good news on associated pollutants. compared to diesel, it reduces carbon monoxide up to 70%, nitrous oxide up to 87%, and particulate matter up to 90%, as well as reducing noise up to 90%.

And, it reduces the carbon footprint of dairy operations.

Fair Oaks Farm’s digester generates enough R-CNG to displace some 1.5 million gallons of diesel, and to cut annual GHG emissions by 19,500 tons CO2e. That’s a 43% reduction in carbon emissions per gallon of milk, a selling point that helped the company negotiate an exclusive supply agreement with the national grocery chain Kroger.

The Sacramento BioDigester was built by a public-private partnership in 2013. Atlas Disposal and other haulers collect the organic wastes from area businesses and deliver it to the digester, which produces enough R-CNG to displace 500,000 gallons of diesel a year and divert up to 40,000 tons of organic waste from landfills.

The Bottom Line

Small projects  in the case of r-CNG — and early-stage in the case of the Ohio State technology — but carbon-mighty in each case.

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High Performance Fuels: The Digest’s 2018 Multi-Slide Guide to DOE’s Co-Optima Project and HP fuels

Biofuels Digest - Tue, 02/20/2018 - 3:41pm

The US Department of Energy has a key project called Co-Optima, which aims to determine key fuel properties that enable improved engine efficiency, provide key science to enable high efficiency combustion modes, and capitalize on unique properties available from bio-blendstocks.

Within that project is an emphasis on high-performance fuels, that has a goal to develop fuel chemistry-fuel property-engine performance relationships, and determine new fuel options afforded by bio-derived fuels, including conversion pathways, for more efficient engines with lower harmful emissions, and generate market pull for biofuels through co-optimization.

Dan Gaspar of PNNL prepared this illuminative overview of High Performance Fuels research and the project’s promise and progress for the DOE Project Peer Review meetings.

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Argo ethanol highest in four months thanks to slowing production

Biofuels Digest - Mon, 02/19/2018 - 6:25pm

In Illinois, Platts reports that ethanol production has finally begun to slow down while export demand remains steady for the moment, lending a bullish tone to the market that has led the Argo ethanol price to a four-month high of $1.4780/gal, the highest since October 2. December saw the highest volume of exports on record at 173.3 million gallons, 77% higher than December 2016 and nearly 62% higher than November 2017. Export demand is expected well into February before the Brazilian sugarcane crush kicks off sometime in March.

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Two die in explosion at French biodiesel facility

Biofuels Digest - Mon, 02/19/2018 - 6:23pm

In France, Reuters reports that an explosion at the country’s largest biodiesel producer’s Dieppe facility led to the death of two workers. Another worker was injured while seven were in a state of shock. The Saipol facility produces biodiesel and other products from rapeseed and remains offline for the time being. The company said it was still too early to know the cause of the explosion that led to the fire. Another of its factories was shut down last June after a fire damaged its electrical system.

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January RIN production down as non-corn ethanol production slips

Biofuels Digest - Mon, 02/19/2018 - 6:22pm

In Washington, Platts reports that Environmental Protection Agency data showed a slight increase in ethanol RIN production in January to 1.283 billion, 5.57 million more than in December, but RIN production was down more than 9% overall to 1.52 billion RINs. D4 RINs generated through biomass-based diesel production fell by more than 36% to 132.13 million while advanced biofuel fell by nearly 35% to 4.48 million RINs. Cellulosic D3 RIN production crumbled to just 956,000 RINs.

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Royal Vopak expands its Jakarta terminal to boost biofuels storage and blending

Biofuels Digest - Mon, 02/19/2018 - 6:21pm

In the Netherlands, Royal Vopak announces the expansion with 100.000 cbm for the storage of gasoline and biofuels of the PT Jakarta Tank Terminal (JTT), a joint venture company in Indonesia between Royal Vopak and PT AKR Corporindo Tbk (AKR). The expansion will take the total tank capacity of JTT to more than 350,000 cbm. This expansion will add to the terminal: 8 tanks with a total capacity of 100.000 cbm, for gasoline, ethanol and biodiesel, a vapour recovery unit and additional (in-line) blending infrastructure which will facilitate the customers to comply with Indonesia’s Biofuel Blending Mandate regulations.

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Shanghai to boost biodiesel fueling stations 10-fold by year’s end

Biofuels Digest - Mon, 02/19/2018 - 6:20pm

In China, Shanghai is pushing forward its biodiesel program by expanding the availability of the fuel to drivers via 200 fueling stations by year’s end. Currently, 21 biodiesel fueling stations operating in the city. The program seeks to eliminate the 30,000 metric tons of dirty, overly-used cooking oil known as a gutter oil which it believes would be achieved by scaling up the program 10-fold. At the moment, more than 2,000 trucks fuel up on B5 at the stations.

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Shree Renuka negotiating with Castlelake LP to sell Revati mill

Biofuels Digest - Mon, 02/19/2018 - 6:19pm

In Brazil, Reuters reports that Shree Renuka is getting closer to offloading its Revati sugarcane mill, potentially to US-based private equity firm Castlelake LP with whom it’s currently in negotiations. The firm is already in discussions with potential cane suppliers to ensure sufficient feedstock should it move forward with a formal offer to purchase the mill. That offer could come as soon as March if negotiations with cane suppliers are successful but the company wants Renuka to close its Madhu mills to reduce competition for cane and Renuka doesn’t seem keen on the idea.

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Researchers discover enzyme found in fungi that break down wood

Biofuels Digest - Mon, 02/19/2018 - 6:18pm

In the UK, an international team of researchers, including scientists from the University of York, has discovered a set of enzymes found in fungi that are capable of breaking down one of the main components of wood. The enzymes could now potentially be used to sustainably convert wood biomass into valuable chemical commodities such as biofuels.

The research, reported in Nature Chemical Biology, has shown that the family of enzymes, called lytic polysaccharide monooxygenases (LPMOs), are capable of breaking down xylans – carbohydrate molecules commonly found in wood biomass that are particularly resistant to degradation.

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Texas Senator to propose new type of RINs to weigh down current RIN prices

Biofuels Digest - Mon, 02/19/2018 - 6:16pm

In Washington, Texas Senator John Cornyn is set to soon release details of his proposed legislation that he’s been working on for the past two years in an attempt to unify the oil and biofuels industries on a path forward for the Renewable Fuels Standard. The new policy centers around the creation of the D8 RIN that would be generated for every gallon of E10 and higher ethanol blends, on one hand potentially creating a premium market that would lead to increased investment in infrastructure for higher blends while helping to reduce demand for standard ethanol RINs, bringing down those prices and the alleged burden on oil companies.

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Second Front in the Yeast Wars: The Digest’s 2018 Multi-Slide Guide to engineering cellulosic tolerance in yeast

Biofuels Digest - Mon, 02/19/2018 - 3:07pm

We’ve been covering some important movements in the design and performance of yeast in recent weeks, including the arrival of Novozymes’ Innova drive strains. Most of the activity has been focused on 1G ethanol fermentation.

But it’s been known for a long time that engineering a high tolerance to combined feedstock + product toxicity removes a primary obstacle to high production and cost-competitive cellulosic-based products. Tolerance-enhanced yeast processes (strains + specific fermentation modifications) could leverage the established fermentation infrastructure for cellulosic economy.

Accordingly, the US Department of Energy has been supporting a project led out of MIT by principal investigator Gregory Stephanopoulos to engineer tolerance to lignocellulosic hydrolysates inyeast S. cerevisiae, the industry-dominant biocatalyst. The potential outcome? Genetically-enhanced strains and fermentation parameters capable of:ethanol (EtOH) titers of ~100 g/L from unclarified, pretreated biomass; utilizing C6 (glucose) and C5 (xylose) sugars; and producing antifreeze molecule monoethylene glycol (MEG) and other non-EtOH products from lignocellulose.

The MIT team prepared this illuminating overview of the project’s promise and progress, presented at the DOE Project Peer Review meetings.

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