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Tasty Energy Treats You Can Make From Brownies

Biofuels Digest - Tue, 06/27/2017 - 7:59pm

Terpenes may be the most unloved class of energy molecule of all time, if you compare R&D spending to potential. Even ARPA-E, the home of high-risk, high-reward government research into energy, hasn’t delved into terpenes since 2012’s OPEN invite, where Allylix picked up a single $467,6905 award to develop a “Renewable Platform for Production of Sesquiterpene Aviation Fuels & Fuel Additives from Renewable Feedstocks”. Then, Allylix was acquired by Evolva, which has focused its portfolio on stevia, resveratrol and nootkatone and put terpene fuel capabilities on the back burner.

Allylix was making super-dense fuels that could serve as high-energy additives, or ultimately serve the JP-10 market — think $25 per gallon missile fuel. One problem? The feedstock was sugar, which started the process with a cost albatross around its neck.

But what about isoprene? At the end of the day, two isoprene molecules make up a terpene and three make up a sesquiterpene. And there’s much to love about isoprene.

4 Reasons to love bio-isoprene

1. Love drop-in fuels? Isoprene is a hydrocarbon, C5H8.

2. Dislike the loss in vehicle range with ethanol and EVs? Isoprene checks in at 107,000 BTUs/gallon, roughly 40% ahead of ethanol, and about 6 percent short of gasoline.

3. A fan of high octane? Isoprene is a chart-buster, checking in with a RON of 132, compared to 109-120 for ethanol and 84-85 for standard gasoline at the refinery.

4. One more thing to prize in isoprenes is that they also serve a higher-value chemicals market — bio-isoprene is a perfectly good material for tires — so, a project to make isoprenes has a natural high-value, small-volume market but translates well to bigger markets that large production volumes can unlock.

The basic idea

If you follow the basic chemical math, you won’t make isoprene the way that organisms do, but it’s easier to get the idea:

5CO2 + 4H2O —> C5H8 + 4 O2

Plants give off free oxygen, that’s the O2 there — and C5H8, that’s our friend isoprene. To make it, they use three inputs which they obtain for nothing, and even in an industrial setting, CO2 is cheap, water is even cheaper, and sunlight is free.

Lots and lots of source micro-organisms

The word champ in terms of R&D interest has been Botryococcus braunii, a species of green micro-algae that lives in and uses seawater. Here’s some work on that.

We call him Brownie, for short. As Wikipedia notes:

In folklore, a brownie resembles the hob, similar to a hobgoblin. Brownies are said to inhabit houses and aid in tasks around the house. However, they do not like to be seen and will only work at night, traditionally in exchange for small gifts of food. 

As JGI points out:

Approximately 40 percent of the B. braunii cells is made up of hydrocarbons, and the oil produced can be easily converted and used for vehicle and jet fuels with more than 90 percent efficiency. B. braunii has been studied for several decades not just for its potential as a source of biofuel but for its ability to sequester carbon.

But there are other candidate microorganisms —  this research project looked at isoprene made by diatom strains (Thalassiosira weissflogii and Thalassiosira pseudonana), prymnesiophyte strains (Pleurochrysis carterae), dinoflagellate strains (Karenia brevis and Prorocentrum minimum), and cryptophyte strains (Rhodomonas salina).

Prefer macroalgae? Try this research project.

Do Brownies make isoprene? Here’s what the researchers at Alchetron have to say:

Up to 86% of the dry weight of Botryococcus brauniican be long-chain hydrocarbons. The vast majority of these hydrocarbons are botryocuccus oils: botryococcenes, alkadienes and alkatrienes…Botryococcenes are unbranched isoprenoid triterpenes having the formula CnH2n-10. The A race produces alkadienes and alkatrienes wherein n is an odd number 23 through 31. The B race produces botryococcenes wherein n is in the range 30 through 37…Botryococcenes are preferred over alkadienes and alkatrienes for hydrocracking as botryococcenes will likely be transformed into a fuel with a higher octane rating.

Brownie gets sequenced

So, here’s some of the best news that has come down the fuel pathway for some time:

The genome of the fuel-producing green microalga Botryococcus braunii has been sequenced by a team of Texas A&M AgriLife researchers. In addition to sequencing the genome, other genetic facts emerged that ultimately could help his team and others studying this green microalga further research toward producing algae and plants as a renewable fuel source.

The report, in Genome Announcements, came after almost seven years of research, according to Dr. Tim Devarenne, AgriLife Research biochemist and principal investigator in College Station. In addition to sequencing the genome, other genetic facts emerged that ultimately could help his team and others studying this green microalga further research toward producing algae and plants as a renewable fuel source.

So, that’s the claim and it’s almost true.

It’s actually what they call a “draft genome.”. Devarenne said that because only portions of the B. braunii genome in this report are “spelled out”.

“It’s not perfect, but it’s still very usable and valuable to the other researchers who are studying this alga,” he said. He added that sequencing B. braunii genome has been very challenging to assemble because of lots of repetitive sequences in it.

“Assembling the genome is not a trivial process at all,” Devarenne explained. “We send DNA to be sequenced by the Joint Genome Institute, which is part of the U.S. Department of Energy, and they sequence it in lots of very small fragments. These fragments of DNA may be anywhere from 150 to 300 base pairs long. So imagine if we have 166 million bases in our genome, and it is sent back to us in little fragments that have to be assembled back together to arrive at 166 million bases. We used the Texas A&M Supercomputer Center to help.”

As more gaps are filled in, he said, a more complete genome will emerge, and that will help researchers dive deeper into the biochemical processes in this alga.That information will then help them understand how and why the organism makes hydrocarbons in very high quantities, how that process is regulated and what the particular biosynthetic pathways are used to make the hydrocarbons.

Brownies: petroleum’s missing link?

How exactly was petroleum created in the first place? Our genome team here points out that “hydrocarbons from B. braunii have long been associated with petroleum deposits, indicating that over geologic time the alga has coincided with and contributed to the formation of petroleum deposits.”

“Essentially,” said Devarenne, “if we were to use the hydrocarbon oils from this alga to be a renewable fuel source, there would be no need to change any kind of infrastructure for making the fuel. It could be put right into the existing petroleum processing system and get the same fuels out of it.”

The silence

You’d think that the world would be all over a microbe that makes petroleum out of thin air and water. It ought to be the state animal of Texas, replacing the armadillo and the Texas Longhorn, which are animals of great repute but they don’t synthesize oil, do they?

The problem is, as always, an organism that makes the right concentrations of target material, but never fast enough. Back in the age of the dinosaurs, no one was on the clock, take a million years, no worries. But here we are in the 21 century and the operative word in this bioeconomy is speed. Hard to get three year payback.

So, someone has to get Brownie into the gym and work hard on productivity. And make all those lovely isoprenes.

A project to watch

Meanwhile, here’s one project in South America.

HHT was selected for the conceptual design of a pilot plant to demonstrate the photosynthesis of isoprene from algae in closed bioreactor systems. The conceptual design included the processing facility, laboratory, gas storage, utilities, offices and maintenance.

The Bottom Line

By Brownie or any other source, why aren’t we spending more time on isoprenes? Just sayin’.

Categories: Today's News

“Not worth reducing indirect land use emissions” using California’s approach: new study

Biofuels Digest - Tue, 06/27/2017 - 7:26pm

In Illinois, a team of researchers writing in Nature Communications concluded California’s indirect land use change factors in the Low Carbon Fuel Standard, applied nationally, would imply that the cost of reducing a ton of carbon is 20 percent higher than the avoided damages from those emissions.

Lead researcher Madhu Khanna found that “It penalizes all biofuels and increases their carbon emissions per gallon. It imposes a hidden tax on all fuels that is borne by fuel consumers and blenders.”

“We find that it is just not worth reducing these indirect land use emissions using California’s approach. It imposes a cost that is passed on to the consumer in the form of a higher cost for fuel,” Khanna says. “These costs for fuel consumers could range from $15 billion to $131 billion nationally over a decade, depending on the indirect land use change factors applied.”

“The inclusion of this indirect land use change factor leads to a relatively small reduction in emissions and this reduction comes at a very large cost to fuel consumers and fuel blenders,” Khanna says. “The economic cost of reducing these carbon emissions is much higher than the value of the damages caused by those emissions, as measured by the social cost of carbon. What our findings suggest is that it’s not optimal to regulate indirect land use change in the manner that it is currently done in California and of extending that to other parts of the country.”

“A lot of effort has been made and continues to be made to calculate the indirect land use change factor so they can be included in implementing low-carbon fuel policies,” Khanna says. “The presence of indirect land use change due to biofuels has in fact dominated the whole debate about the climate benefits of biofuels. We may be more productive if we focus more on the direct carbon saving with biofuels and incorporating those in trying to encourage the move toward lower carbon biofuels rather than regulating the indirect effects. Estimates of the indirect effects of biofuels have also become much smaller over time and it’s time to re-evaluate the benefits of continuing the policy of regulating indirect emissions,” Khanna says.

Evan DeLucia, a U of I professor of plant biology and a co-author on the study, explains that biofuels differ in the carbon emissions they generate per gallon and their effect on use of land. Cellulosic biofuels, particularly from crop residues, or energy crops, like miscanthus and switchgrass, produced on low-quality marginal land lead to lower indirect land use change than corn ethanol.

Categories: Today's News

Brazil sugar production soaring, up 104% in June

Biofuels Digest - Tue, 06/27/2017 - 7:21pm

In Brazil, a S&P Global Platts survey of analysts concludes that “sugar production in Brazil’s key Center-South region in the first half of June is expected to be nearly 2.45 million metric tons “, up 104% on the year and up 40% from the second half of May.

The survey, which noted the drier weather more conducive to harvesting, projected a cane crush f 41.18 million metric tons with a total recoverable sugar of 127.13 kilograms per metric ton, and with sugar production of 2,455 thousand metric tons (or 48.7%) and ethanol production at1,573 million liters (51.3%). In ethanol, hydrous ethanol production is expected to reach 881 million liters, with anhydrous ethanol production of 691.7 million liters. The ethanol production is up 46% from last year. Overall, cane crushing is trailing last year due to a sluggish start to 2017 – volume is exptecte to taril 2016 YTD by 9% as of the end of June.

“Sugar production [will] set a new fortnightly record for this season due to a high sugar mix level and good crushing volumes,” said Platts Kingsman analyst Claudiu Covrig.

Sugar production is expected to be 2.68 million mt, while ATR is expected to have reached 128 kg/mt of cane, according to Covrig. UNICA has yet to release its officla productino figures.

Categories: Today's News

Quebec’s escalates renewable fuel blending targets, unveils $1.5B clean energy action plan

Biofuels Digest - Tue, 06/27/2017 - 7:17pm

In Canada, Quebec’s provincial government unveiled its said it will spend $1.5B between now and 2019 to spir clean energy and reduce oil dependency.

As a part of the 2017-2020 Action Plan, Quebec Minister of Energy and Natural Resources Pierre Arcand has announced the jurisdiction’s first ever volumetric requirements on renewable fuels (such as ethanol and biodiesel). The blending requirement for renewable fuels will start at 5% for gasoline and 2% for diesel, and the province has indicated its intention to escalate these levels after 2020. The Action Plan is the first of three such documents, which seek to implement the 2030 Energy Policy aimed at reducing Quebec’s dependence on fossil fuels by 40% between now and 2030.

RICanada Chair Jim Grey issued the following statement in support Minister Arcand’s leadership on fighting climate change:

“Renewable Industries Canada applauds the Government of Quebec’s approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions outlined in the 2017-2020 Action Plan.

Required volumes on renewable fuels will help Quebec achieve its greenhouse gas reduction targets. Since the implementation of required volumes provides market certainty, the government’s action will also stimulate investment in the industry. This announcement on renewable transportation fuels further entrenches Quebec’s position as a leader in the production of renewable energy and in the broader battle against climate change.

Current biofuels use in Canada reduces carbon emissions by 4.2 megatons every year – the equivalent of removing 1 million cars from our roads. Ethanol reduces GHG emissions by as much as 62%; biodiesel does so by up to 99%; and cellulosic biofuels by up to 87%.

Categories: Today's News

Downstate New York to introduce biodiesel obligation for heating oil

Biofuels Digest - Tue, 06/27/2017 - 7:15pm

In New York, downstate New York counties are set to join New York City as national leaders in providing cleaner air through increased use of biodiesel in home heating oil, a product called Bioheat fuel.  

Legislation passed yesterday by Assemblyman Steve Englebright (A.6954-A) and Senator Phil Boyle (S.B5422-A) would expand the state’s commitment to renewable energy by requiring heating oil sold in Nassau, Suffolk, and Westchester counties to contain at least five percent biodiesel (B5) by July 1, 2018. The bill now awaits action by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.

New York City, the largest municipal consumer of heating oil in the country, has already taken advantage of biodiesel’s benefits by instituting a citywide 2 percent biodiesel requirement in October of 2012 that increases to 5 percent later this year.  This legislation would ensure the entire New York City Metropolitan Area, representing approximately 70 percent of the state’s heating oil market, would have a 5 percent biodiesel blending requirement.

Made from an increasingly diverse mix of resources such as recycled cooking oil, soybean oil and animal fats, biodiesel is a renewable, clean-burning diesel replacement that can be used in existing diesel engines without modification.  To be called biodiesel, the fuel must meet the strict quality specifications of ASTM D6751.  It is the nation’s first domestically produced, commercially available Advanced Biofuel. NBB is the U.S. trade association representing the entire biodiesel value chain, including producers, feedstock suppliers, and fuel distributors, as well as the U.S. renewable diesel industry.  Biodiesel is produced in nearly every state in the nation and supports more than 64,000 jobs nationwide.

Categories: Today's News

Florida’s new high-speed intercity rail chooses biodiesel

Biofuels Digest - Tue, 06/27/2017 - 7:14pm

In Florida, the new South Florida high-speed inter-city rail service Brightline will be utilizing biodiesel sourced from Florida Power & Light.  Brightline is expectedl reduce emissions by removing three million cars from Florida’s roadways annually. The train will tarvel at speeds of up to 125 miles per hour.

Under a new agreement, FPL will supply 2 million gallons per year of EarthEra biodiesel to Brightline. FPL’s EarthEra is ost-competitive with traditional ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel, is safe for all diesel engines with no infrastructure changes or vehicle conversion, has improved lubricity, and reduces greenhouse gases by as much as 20 percent compared with petroleum diesel, according to the ultility.

“For the past 18 years, FPL has used cleaner, high-quality biodiesel fuel in its vehicles, and it is now the primary fuel source for more than 1,750 vehicles in its fleet,” the utility company said in a statement issued last week. “Now, Brightline’s all-American trains will be running on this same fuel.”

The fuel efficiency could be substanial. A 365-passenger Brightline train is expected to consume 134 gallons in a 67-mile transit between Miami and West Palm Beach. That’s less than one quarter the 642 gallons that drivers would typically consume using the highways to make the same trip.

Categories: Today's News

Penn State research on aviation biofuels focuses on regional supply chains

Biofuels Digest - Tue, 06/27/2017 - 7:12pm

In Pennsylvania, researchers at Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences are evaluating regional supply chains that could be used for alternative jet fuel production, including feedstock production, transportation and fuel conversion. Researchers are examining fuel-production pathways, feedstock and infrastructure requirements, and commercial fuel demand to create scenarios for future production.

“As oil prices plummet, it becomes more and more difficult to introduce any kind of biofuel into the marketplace,” said Paul Smith, professor of bioproducts. “But modest volumes of biojet currently are scaling with many long-term fuel-purchasing contracts to provide biojet fuel to the airline industry.”

Smith’s lab, in the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering, is part of the group that In addition, the scientists are identifying potential intermediate materials and co-products for each pathway to understand potential ways to aid in making biorefineries more economical. Researchers are approaching sustainable jet fuel production holistically, considering technological, environmental, economic and social elements.

Penn State is part of a cooperative aviation research consortium known as the Center of Excellence for Alternative Jet Fuels and Environment, funded by the Federal Aviation Administration, NASA, the Department of Defense, the Environmental Protection Agency and Transport Canada. Led by Washington State University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the group is a coalition of 16 leading U.S. research universities and more than 60 private-sector stakeholders committed to reducing the environmental impact of aviation.

Categories: Today's News

India’s GST tax plan may slow biodiesel, ethanol adoption

Biofuels Digest - Tue, 06/27/2017 - 7:11pm

In India, the Times of India is reporting that a 18% GST tax that has been proposed for ethanol and biodiesel is expected to slow efforts to increae blending, according to experts and producers polled by the news outlet.

G Chandrashekhar, commodity expert and Biodiesel Association of India honorary member told The Timnes, “Tax on ethanol and biodiesel will be a disincentive and is like a punitive tax. Taxes on these should be as low as possible.”

Ironically, as India turns towards increased blending targets for ethanol and biodiesel, the central government has propsoed to exempt fossil gasoline and diesel from GST tax, but tax renewables instead. Biodiesel has reached as high as 2% effective blending rates in the eastern part of the country, but numerous states are lagging behind that volume, and part of the reason is the differing tax treatments of renewables and fossil fuels from state to state. Ethanol blending topped out at 4% in 2016, but has dropped this year despite higher blending targets due to shortages of sugarcane.

Categories: Today's News

Genetics roadmap to develop more resilient farmed fish

Biofuels Digest - Tue, 06/27/2017 - 7:09pm

In Scotland, researchers at WorldFish will embark on new research to create more resilient fish with characteristics such as disease resistance and more effective feed utilization, using advanced techniques such as genomic selection to introduce these characteristics into its improved tilapia strains.

Use of genomic selection tools, which enable the selection of animals based on genetic markers, will allow WorldFish to expand its Genetically Improved Farmed Tilapia research beyond a growth-only focus and introduce selection for characteristics that are otherwise difficult to measure, such as resilience and feed efficiency. Genomic selection has enabled a step change in the rate of genetic improvement of terrestrial livestock, and has the potential to do the same in fish.

Since 1988, WorldFish has used selective breeding to develop and manage the fast-growing GIFT strain. The strain has been disseminated to at least 16 countries, mostly in the developing world, and is grown by millions of small-scale fish farmers for food, income and nutrition across the globe. Expansion of GIFT research is a key part of the CGIAR Research Program on fish (FISH) and supports WorldFish efforts under its sustainable aquaculture program to increase the productivity of small-scale aquaculture to meet growing global demand for fish

Ross Houston, Group Leader, The Roslin Institute: “Aquaculture production needs to increase by 40 percent by 2030 to meet global demands for fish. Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus) is arguably the world’s most important food fish, and plays a key role in tackling rural poverty in developing countries. The innovations in genetic improvement mapped out in this workshop are an important step toward achieving these ambitious goals.”

Categories: Today's News

N-butanol and beyond: The Digest’s 2017 Multi-Slide Guide to Green Biologics

Biofuels Digest - Tue, 06/27/2017 - 2:38pm

Green Biologics is focused on the production of renewable n-butanol and other C4 chemicals from various renewable feedstocks, including sugar (cane, molasses, beets), starch (corn) and cellulosic biomass (corn residues, sugar cane bagasse, forest materials and grasses).

GBL works with feedstock partners to deliver capital efficient production models, and works with downstream partners to deliver high quality, competitively priced products for the global renewable chemicals and biofuels markets.

Green Biologics CEO Sean Sutcliffe gave this illuminating overview of the company’s progress and promise at ABLC 2017 in Washington DC.

Categories: Today's News

Tasty Energy Treats You Can Make From Brownies

Biofuels Digest - Tue, 06/27/2017 - 2:25pm

Terpenes may be the most unloved class of energy molecule of all time, if you compare R&D spending to potential. Even ARPA-E, the home of high-risk, high-reward government research into energy, hasn’t delved into terpenes since 2012’s OPEN invite, where Allylix picked up a single $467,6905 award to develop a “Renewable Platform for Production of Sesquiterpene Aviation Fuels & Fuel Additives from Renewable Feedstocks”. Then, Allylix was acquired by Evolva, which has focused its portfolio on stevia, resveratrol and nootkatone and put terpene fuel capabilities on the back burner.

Allylix was making super-dense fuels that could serve as high-energy additives, or ultimately serve the JP-10 market — think $25 per gallon missile fuel. One problem? The feedstock was sugar, which started the process with a cost albatross around its neck.

But what about isoprene? At the end of the day, two isoprene molecules make up a terpene and three make up a sesquiterpene. And there’s much to love about isoprene.

4 Reasons to love bio-isoprene

1. Love drop-in fuels? Isoprene is a hydrocarbon, C5H8.

2. Dislike the loss in vehicle range with ethanol and EVs? Isoprene checks in at 107,000 BTUs/gallon, roughly 40% ahead of ethanol, and about 6 percent short of gasoline.

3. A fan of high octane? Isoprene is a chart-buster, checking in with a RON of 132, compared to 109-120 for ethanol and 84-85 for standard gasoline at the refinery.

4. One more thing to prize in isoprenes is that they also serve a higher-value chemicals market — bio-isoprene is a perfectly good material for tires — so, a project to make isoprenes has a natural high-value, small-volume market but translates well to bigger markets that large production volumes can unlock.

The basic idea

If you follow the basic chemical math, you won’t make isoprene the way that organisms do, but it’s easier to get the idea:

5CO2 + 4H2O —> C5H8 + 4 O2

Plants give off free oxygen, that’s the O2 there — and C5H8, that’s our friend isoprene. To make it, they use three inputs which they obtain for nothing, and even in an industrial setting, CO2 is cheap, water is even cheaper, and sunlight is free.

Lots and lots of source micro-organisms

The word champ in terms of R&D interest has been Botryococcus braunii, a species of green micro-algae that lives in and uses seawater. Here’s some work on that.

We call him Brownie, for short. As Wikipedia notes:

In folklore, a brownie resembles the hob, similar to a hobgoblin. Brownies are said to inhabit houses and aid in tasks around the house. However, they do not like to be seen and will only work at night, traditionally in exchange for small gifts of food. 

As JGI points out:

Approximately 40 percent of the B. braunii cells is made up of hydrocarbons, and the oil produced can be easily converted and used for vehicle and jet fuels with more than 90 percent efficiency. B. braunii has been studied for several decades not just for its potential as a source of biofuel but for its ability to sequester carbon.

But there are other candidate microorganisms —  this research project looked at isoprene made by diatom strains (Thalassiosira weissflogii and Thalassiosira pseudonana), prymnesiophyte strains (Pleurochrysis carterae), dinoflagellate strains (Karenia brevis and Prorocentrum minimum), and cryptophyte strains (Rhodomonas salina).

Prefer macroalgae? Try this research project.

Do Brownies make isoprene? Here’s what the researchers at Alchetron have to say:

Up to 86% of the dry weight of Botryococcus brauniican be long-chain hydrocarbons. The vast majority of these hydrocarbons are botryocuccus oils: botryococcenes, alkadienes and alkatrienes…Botryococcenes are unbranched isoprenoid triterpenes having the formula CnH2n-10. The A race produces alkadienes and alkatrienes wherein n is an odd number 23 through 31. The B race produces botryococcenes wherein n is in the range 30 through 37…Botryococcenes are preferred over alkadienes and alkatrienes for hydrocracking as botryococcenes will likely be transformed into a fuel with a higher octane rating.

Brownie gets sequenced

So, here’s some of the best news that has come down the fuel pathway for some time:

The genome of the fuel-producing green microalga Botryococcus braunii has been sequenced by a team of Texas A&M AgriLife researchers. In addition to sequencing the genome, other genetic facts emerged that ultimately could help his team and others studying this green microalga further research toward producing algae and plants as a renewable fuel source.

The report, in Genome Announcements, came after almost seven years of research, according to Dr. Tim Devarenne, AgriLife Research biochemist and principal investigator in College Station. In addition to sequencing the genome, other genetic facts emerged that ultimately could help his team and others studying this green microalga further research toward producing algae and plants as a renewable fuel source.

So, that’s the claim and it’s almost true.

It’s actually what they call a “draft genome.”. Devarenne said that because only portions of the B. braunii genome in this report are “spelled out”.

“It’s not perfect, but it’s still very usable and valuable to the other researchers who are studying this alga,” he said. He added that sequencing B. braunii genome has been very challenging to assemble because of lots of repetitive sequences in it.

“Assembling the genome is not a trivial process at all,” Devarenne explained. “We send DNA to be sequenced by the Joint Genome Institute, which is part of the U.S. Department of Energy, and they sequence it in lots of very small fragments. These fragments of DNA may be anywhere from 150 to 300 base pairs long. So imagine if we have 166 million bases in our genome, and it is sent back to us in little fragments that have to be assembled back together to arrive at 166 million bases. We used the Texas A&M Supercomputer Center to help.”

As more gaps are filled in, he said, a more complete genome will emerge, and that will help researchers dive deeper into the biochemical processes in this alga.That information will then help them understand how and why the organism makes hydrocarbons in very high quantities, how that process is regulated and what the particular biosynthetic pathways are used to make the hydrocarbons.

Brownies: petroleum’s missing link?

How exactly was petroleum created in the first place? Our genome team here points out that “hydrocarbons from B. braunii have long been associated with petroleum deposits, indicating that over geologic time the alga has coincided with and contributed to the formation of petroleum deposits.”

“Essentially,” said Devarenne, “if we were to use the hydrocarbon oils from this alga to be a renewable fuel source, there would be no need to change any kind of infrastructure for making the fuel. It could be put right into the existing petroleum processing system and get the same fuels out of it.”

The silence

You’d think that the world would be all over a microbe that makes petroleum out of thin air and water. It ought to be the state animal of Texas, replacing the armadillo and the Texas Longhorn, which are animals of great repute but they don’t synthesize oil, do they?

The problem is, as always, an organism that makes the right concentrations of target material, but never fast enough. Back in the age of the dinosaurs, no one was on the clock, take a million years, no worries. But here we are in the 21 century and the operative word in this bioeconomy is speed. Hard to get three year payback.

So, someone has to get Brownie into the gym and work hard on productivity. And make all those lovely isoprenes.

A project to watch

Meanwhile, here’s one project in South America.

HHT was selected for the conceptual design of a pilot plant to demonstrate the photosynthesis of isoprene from algae in closed bioreactor systems. The conceptual design included the processing facility, laboratory, gas storage, utilities, offices and maintenance.

The Bottom Line

By Brownie or any other source, why aren’t we spending more time on isoprenes? Just sayin’.

Categories: Today's News

Velocys pivots from “FT tech co” to “renewable fuels company”, eyes California

Biofuels Digest - Mon, 06/26/2017 - 6:13pm

In the UK, Velocys CEO David Pummell said that “Our new strategy is for Velocys to be at the heart of building plants that convert woody biomass to high specification renewable diesel and jet fuel for the US market, our primary focus market. We have a world class, proven technology and highly skilled operations and engineering teams that, with our partners, will successfully design, build, commission and start up these commercial plants. Our route to the production of renewable fuels from woody biomass uses cost effective, abundant and entirely sustainable feedstock, allowing our solution to be highly scalable to meet the increased demand for renewable fuels. All of this contributes to our differentiated value proposition to the market”.

His remarks came as the company confirmed that Fischer-Tropsch product is being produced at its ENVIA project and that operational data from the FT units meet the set performance requirements at commercial scale. Production of first saleable product is expected shortly and ENVIA will continue to ramp up production to full capacity over the coming months.

 

“The US renewable fuels market is a high value market with substantial potential for volume growth, now, and for many years to come. The estimated consumption of renewable diesel in California in 2016 was around 300 million gallons. By 2030 around 1 billion gallons of the total diesel supply would need to come from renewable diesel to meet State obligations. Increasing pressure from public opinion and legislation to curb greenhouse gas emissions and reduce pollution drives this market. This has led to long term structural incentives for renewable fuels in the form of fuel credits at both federal and state level, greatly enhancing the revenues from a Velocys plant. Successful delivery of the Velocys strategy will result in the construction of multiple plants, to meet this fundamental need to replace fossil fuels.

Velocys pointed to strong momentum, including engaging IHI E&C to carry out the pre-FEED engineering study for our first biomass-to-liquids (plant and selecting TRI as our strategic partner for gasification technology  Meanhile, thecompany is pursuing a Phase 2 of a USDA  loan guarantee programme for up to $200 million of debt for its first BTL plant. Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation will be the lender of record and lead the syndication of the debt funding portion in 2018. All these carefully planned initiatives have the aim of securing project equity funding and reaching final investment decision during the course of 2018.

Pummel said, “The Company is transforming – moving away from being ‘a FT technology company’ to being Velocys, ‘the renewable fuels company’. The time is now right for Velocys to take forward a bold growth strategy and I am confident that we are the right company, with the right technology, at the right time to enter this attractive market and deliver sustainable growth.”

Categories: Today's News

Algae biodiesel reduces emissions up to 80%: report

Biofuels Digest - Mon, 06/26/2017 - 6:10pm

In Chile, FLS is reporting that researhers at Department of Chemical Engineering and Bioprocesses of the Catholic University have found that that algae-based biodiesel can reduce emissions and particulates by up to 80 percent in high-power diesel engines, compored to fiossil diesl. The research effort is a partnership with Automotive Mechanics of the Duoc UC,and Laboratory of Renewable Energies and Residues of the UC Engineering School. “Some species of microalgae can accumulate a large amount of oils, whose origin is the fixation of carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere. These can be used to produce biodiesel in a similar way to the biofuel that is produced with oils used in frying,” César Sáez, a CU Engineering School professor leading the project, told FLS.  The research also investigated the emissions-reducing potential of waste-based fryer oils, and looked at engines typical of those used by Trans-Santiago buses and trucks.r, he said, some models incorporate a catalytic system to transform and eliminate such a pollutant.

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COFCO on the sidelines, saddled with debt, but Bunge-Glencor merger talks continue: report

Biofuels Digest - Mon, 06/26/2017 - 6:09pm

In China, Reuters is reporting that COFCO is now expected to sit out the current wave of global M&A amongst major agricultural firms, citing that “he state-run conglomerate is struggling to integrate businesses it bought three years ago, deals which made it a significant global agricultural trader but are now hindering its ability to swoop on rivals.” In all, the state-controlled COFCO controls interests in sectors varied from hotels to the bioeconomy, and the Reuters report referes to a company struggling with debt load. In a biofuels sideline, the report also noted “a $150 million financial hole in its Latin American operations and $200 million in unauthorised trading losses on its biofuels desk in the region.” Overall, COFCO trades over 78 million tonnes of grain, a numebr that spiked in recent years with the acquisition of the Swiss-owned Nidera and the Noble Groups’s agribusiness, which the company paid more than $3 billion to acquire.

The report also confirms that Glencore and Bunge ar ein talks about a potential combiantion, after the Bayer-Monsanto, Dow-DuPont and Syngenta-ChemChina combiantinos that are all pursuing regulatory approval around the globe.

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Evogene advances against Western corn rootworm

Biofuels Digest - Mon, 06/26/2017 - 6:08pm

In Israel, Evogene has advanced a gene displaying insecticidal activity against Western corn rootworm into Phase-I  focusing on validation in target crops, following positive laboratory assay results. Additionally, the company announced for the first time the identification of a set of genes displaying initial toxic activity against southern green stinkbug, a major pest in soybean and other crops.

Evogene’s insect control seed trait program was initiated in 2014 and addresses numerous insect orders which pose serious threats to crop productivity, including Coleoptera, Lepedoptera and Hemiptera. The program is based on the utilization of Evogene’s unique predictive computational discovery platform and proprietary metagenomics data, at its research facilities in Israel. The predicted genes were then validated at Evogene’s R&D site in St. Louis. This approach has already resulted in genes displaying initial insecticidal activity against major crop pests, with several genes at the later stages of discovery, and includes today’s advancement of EVO30495 into Phase-I.

Additionally, for the first time Evogene has identified a set of genes displaying initial toxic activity against another major pest, the southern green stinkbug. The discovery of toxin gene traits against stinkbug is particularly significant, as there are currently no commercially available insect control seed trait solutions for this major pest in soybean and other crops.

Evogene is advancing into Phase-I a gene, EVO30495, displaying high potency against Western corn rootworm, which is a major pest in corn. EVO30495 has met all of the phase advancement criteria, including efficacy and initial estimation of lower risk of toxicity to other organisms such as bees, animals and humans. Phase-I will include introduction of the gene into corn, followed by greenhouse experiments and further validation activities; initial results are anticipated within 1-2 years.

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Nanomaterials Global Market Is Expected To Reach $19.83B by 2022: study

Biofuels Digest - Mon, 06/26/2017 - 6:06pm

In New York, Stratistics MRC has released a report projecting that the Global Nanomaterials Market accounted for $4.79 billion in 2015 and is expected to reach $19.83 billion by 2022 growing at a CAGR of 22.5% from 2015 to 2022. The nanomaterials market is favoured by the governmental funding to support the prospective growth. The increasing applications of nanotechnology across various verticals and advent of novel methods for nanostructures fabrication are offering lucrative opportunities for vendors in the market. Partnerships & strategic alliances by existing players, growing number of players operating in the market and newer material developments are further fueling the market. However, rising environmental concerns and toxicity of nanomaterials have a negative impact on the market.

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Corn for food socially profitable, not biofuels, says new study

Biofuels Digest - Mon, 06/26/2017 - 6:04pm

In Illinois, a study from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign published in Earth’s Future found a net “social and economic worth of food corn production” in the U.S. of $1,492 per hectare, compared with “a remarkable $10 per hectare loss for biofuel corn production”.  Lead researcher Professor Kumar wrote that “The critical zone is the permeable layer of the landscape near the surface that stretches from the top of the vegetation down to the groundwater…the human energy and resource input involved in agriculture production alters the composition of the critical zone, which we are able to convert into a social cost.”

The analysis developed a model to calculte what they saw as the economic and environmental impact of using the resources required for both food and fuel applications of corn.

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President Trump re-affirms Administration support for biofuels in two Iowa speeches

Biofuels Digest - Mon, 06/26/2017 - 5:52pm

In Iowa, in remarks to Iowa ag leaders at Kirkwood Community College and again at his Cedar Rapids rally, President Donald Trump reiterated his support for American renewable fuels.  His remarks come as several issues vital to the future of renewable fuels are pending within his administration.

At Kirkwood the President said:

“We’re here today to talk about how we’re going to empower America’s farmers and protect our nation’s proud farming legacy, including ethanol, which I’ve done. Family farmers are the backbone of America, and my administration will always support the farmer. We want to eliminate the intrusive rules that undermine your ability to earn a living, and we will protect the corn-based ethanol and biofuels that power our country. And you remember, during the campaign, I made that promise.”

At Cedar Rapids the President said:

“We’re saving your ethanol industry in the state of Iowa just like I promised I would do in my campaign. And believe me, they are under siege. I said that I was going to protect your ethanol for good reason, only for good reason, and it was very important to me. I said that I was going to do things for the people of Iowa. And I want to let you know, I’ve done it for the people of Iowa, but I’ve really done it for the people of our country. Our country is getting stronger. It’s getting better. We’re going to be setting records in so many different ways.”

Iowa Renewable Fuels Association Executive Director Monte Shaw commented,

“Now it is time for action. President Trump’s EPA needs to release the proposed Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) volumes for 2018. That proposal needs to maintain ethanol levels at the statutory 15 billion gallons and should include a major boost in the biodiesel number to reflect reality in the marketplace. The Trump EPA needs to knock down the summertime barrier standing between consumers and lower-cost, higher-octane E15.  The Trump trade team needs to continue standing by the biodiesel industry in fighting against unfair and illegally subsidized imports that shut down US biodiesel plants. And President Trump and his new Ambassador to China, Iowa’s own Terry Branstad, must knock down the illegal barriers China has thrown up to keep out American ethanol and distillers grains.

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Ethanol from thin air advances with catalyst breakthrough

Biofuels Digest - Mon, 06/26/2017 - 5:50pm

In California, Stanford University scientists reported on a promising technology to make renewable ethanol from water, carbon dioxide and electricity delivered through a copper catalyst. The results are published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). For the PNAS study, the Stanford team chose three samples of crystalline copper, known as copper (100), copper (111) and copper (751). Scientists use these numbers to describe the surface geometries of single crystals. The study was also written by co-lead author Toru Hatsukade, Drew Higgins and Stephanie Nitopi at Stanford; Youn-Geun Kim at SLAC; and Jack Baricuatro and Manuel Soriaga at the California Institute of Technology.

Scientists would like to design copper catalysts that selectively convert carbon dioxide into higher-value chemicals and fuels, like ethanol and propanol, with few or no byproducts. But first they need a clear understanding of how these catalysts actually work. That’s where the recent findings come in.

“Copper (100), (111) and (751) look virtually identical but have major differences in the way their atoms are arranged on the surface,” said Christopher Hahn, an associate staff scientist at SLAC and co-lead lead author of the study. “The essence of our work is to understand how these different facets of copper affect electrocatalytic performance.”

Ultimately, the Stanford team would like to develop a technology capable of selectively producing carbon-neutral fuels and chemicals at an industrial scale.

“The eye on the prize is to create better catalysts that have game-changing potential by taking carbon dioxide as a feedstock and converting it into much more valuable products using renewable electricity or sunlight directly,” Jaramillo said. “We plan to use this method on nickel and other metals to further understand the chemistry at the surface. We think this study is an important piece of the puzzle and will open up whole new avenues of research for the community.”

Jaramillo also serves at deputy director of the SUNCAT Center for Interface Science and Catalysis, a partnership of the Stanford School of Engineering and SLAC.

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In search of lowest cost hydrocarbons: The Digest’s 2017 Multi-Slide Guide to Global Bioenergies

Biofuels Digest - Mon, 06/26/2017 - 1:30pm

Global Bioenergies is a pioneer in the development of one-step fermentation processes for the direct and cost-efficient transformation of renewable resources into light olefin hydrocarbons, the key building blocks of the petrochemical industry. Since inception, the company focused its efforts on the production of isobutene, one of the most important petrochemical building blocks that can be converted into fuels, plastics, organic glass and elastomers.

CEO Marc Delcourt gave this illuminating overview of the company’s progress and promise at ABLC 2017 in Washington DC.

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