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EPA and RFS to be tested by potential refinery bankruptcy

Biofuels Digest - Sun, 01/21/2018 - 2:53pm

In Pennsylvania, the potential bankruptcy of Philadelphia Energy Solutions refinery could test the RFS by seeing if the U.S. government can collect biofuels related debt from a company in pain. As the oldest and largest refiner on the East Coast, Philadelphia Energy Solutions likely is carrying a shortfall of RFS credits worth over $100 million, has a short-term loan worth $550 million due soon in March, and its management is considering filing for bankruptcy, according to Reuters.

An EPA official did not say if the agency would pursue the credits, and told Reuters that “EPA cannot comment on potential future bankruptcy proceedings.”

Robin Phelan, a veteran bankruptcy attorney and head of Dallas-based Phelan Law told Reuters that the EPA “would be legally permitted to pursue the claim in court but which has in the past shown flexibility in collecting from distressed companies.”

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Dry Idea: The Digest’s 2018 Multi-Slide Guide to the Bioeconomy in Arid Regions

Biofuels Digest - Sun, 01/21/2018 - 1:25pm

The Sustainable Bioeconomy for Arid Regions (SBAR) is a multi-level research project that will cultivate two desert-dwelling crops, guayule and guar, for a sustainable bioeconomy. Scale up to profitable production, however, requires feedstock improvements, expansion of cultivation, agronomic knowledge and practices, and economic crop residue utilization.

Researchers from The University of Arizona (UA), Bridgestone Americas, Inc., Colorado School of Mines (CSM), Colorado State University (CSU), New Mexico State University (NMSU), and the USDA-ARS will collaborate on research, development, and deployment. Partners such as Iowa State University, Pacific Northwest Laboratories, and Mercurius Biofuels will be engaged midway through the project to assess and scale-up bagasse conversion and upgrading to jet, biodiesel, and gasoline.

The SBAR team recently produced this illuminating overview of the consortium and its goals.

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Amyris wins two grants for about $25 million

Biofuels Digest - Thu, 01/18/2018 - 5:57pm

In California, Amyris announced two grants that have been awarded, valued in aggregate at approximately $25 million, to accelerate innovation and enable the company to further extend its leadership position in the industrial biotechnology sector. The first grant is in Europe and focused on furthering the company’s current artificial intelligence (AI) and Informatics platform at Amyris and the second grant is from National Institutes of Health (NIH) for the development of a novel isoprenoid pharmaceutical application.

These grants are expected to start funding within this quarter and continue for five years. Amyris will provide a detailed update for each of these grants once the final contracts are complete, which is expected to occur over the next 45 days.

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Malaysia vows to win over EU member states to stay palm oil biodiesel ban

Biofuels Digest - Thu, 01/18/2018 - 5:56pm

In Malaysia, in the wake of the European Parliament’s vote to ban palm oil for biodiesel from 2021, “referred to as a “black day” for free trade by the Malaysian government, it vowed to work hard in convincing the European Commission and European member states of palm oil’s role in the European market before the tripartite decision is reached on the Renewable Energy Directive II. Engagement is expected to take place through Malaysian embassies in Europe as well as European representations in Malaysia.

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German Aerospace Center teams with NASA to test alternative fuel emissions and contrails

Biofuels Digest - Thu, 01/18/2018 - 5:55pm

In Germany, the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt, DLR) and the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration are set to conduct joint research flights in Germany for the first time. The focus will be on alternative fuel emissions and the characterization of ice crystals in condensation trails (contrails), using biofuel as an example. The first joint DLR/NASA flights, which were conducted from Palmdale, California in 2014, showed that adding 50 percent alternative fuel for cruising flight reduces the soot particle emissions of an aircraft engine by 50 to 70 percent, compared to the combustion of pure kerosene. The planned research flights are intended to determine particle emissions and how they affect cloud formation through contrails, thus investigating their impact on the climate. From Jan. 14 NASA’s DC-8 research aircraft will visit Germany for three weeks and fly together with the DLR A320 Advanced Technology Research Aircraft. “We are delighted that NASA has chosen us as their partner for such an extensive joint mission in Germany,” says Rolf Henke, DLR executive board member responsible for aeronautics research. The research flights will start from Ramstein Air Base.

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Malawi ethanol producers to invest $100 million to crush cane for feedstock

Biofuels Digest - Thu, 01/18/2018 - 5:54pm

In Malawi, Presscane and Ethco plan to invest $100 million in two sugarcane crushing facilities to produce syrup for ethanol production at their existing facilities. The companies currently rely on an unsteady supply of molasses from Illovo Sugar that keeps their distilleries running far below 100% production capacity even though there is sufficient demand in the market, pushing up costs of production and jeopardizing economic viability. Surplus syrup will be exported through an agreement with India’s Uttam Energy.

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India’s Eco Green Fuels trials FOG from Bangalore city sewage as biodiesel feedstock

Biofuels Digest - Thu, 01/18/2018 - 5:53pm

In India, Eco Green Fuels has teamed with the Bangalore Water Supply & Sewerage Board to remove fats, oils and greases from the city’s sewage system that goes into nearby lakes and then use it as feedstock for biodiesel. As much as 10 metric tons of FOG is disposed through the sewer system on a daily basis. The company currently uses UCO as feedstock. Early tests show the viability of the concept, one that Karnataka State Biofuel Development Board is watching closely.

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EU member states won’t appeal against biodiesel anti-dumping duty cuts

Biofuels Digest - Thu, 01/18/2018 - 5:51pm

In Belgium, European member states have backed down from appealing at the European Court of Justice the decision cutting anti-dumping duties on Argentine and Indonesian biodiesel imports. A total of six appeals were planned, four against Indonesia and two against Argentina, following the General Court of the European Union’s 2016 ruling that later saw those countries return to exporting biodiesel to the EU. Both countries took the EU’s anti-dumping duties to the World Trade Organization where Argentina won most of its points while a decision on Indonesia’s case is still pending.

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Chinese researchers demonstrate efficient jatropha biofuel production using nanotube catalyst

Biofuels Digest - Thu, 01/18/2018 - 5:50pm

In China, recent research published in a report in Nano showed biofuels were obtained from jatropha oil using carbon nanotube (CNT) catalyst, which showed efficient cracking activity. The performance was activated by the high stability, metal sites, acid sites, electroconductivity, and coking tolerance of CNT. Two cracking circulations were found in the hydroprocessing. The sulphur-free process was also eco-friendly.

The catalyst is very significant for the performance of the process. As an electric charge carrier, the researchers found that the velocity of electron reaches the speed of light 1/ 300 in graphene, far more than the normal conductor. Carbon nanotubes (CNT) are constructed of rolled up graphene sheets with one dimensional extended π conjugated structures.

A team of researchers from the Beihang University in China, Beijing has demonstrated that CNT catalysts showed efficient cracking activity. The electroconductivity of the CNT support was especially beneficial for the improvement of catalyst activity. The nickel (Ni) and phosphotungstic acid (HPW) supported on CNT were prepared by the team as catalyst for hydroprocessing of Jatropha oil. Their report appears in the December issue of the journal NANO.

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Iowa’s senators say no way to RIN cap

Biofuels Digest - Thu, 01/18/2018 - 5:48pm

In Washington, Iowa’s senators are playing the same kind of hardball with Senator Ted Cruz as he’s playing with them, refusing to hold a second meeting on the Renewable Fuel Standard until the pending appointment for a USDA undersecretary is confirmed, something Cruz has been holding up in order to get leverage on the RFS debate. The senators say Cruz’s proposal to cap RIN prices at 10 cents is a no go as they believe it would be detrimental to farmers.

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Top 20 advanced bioeconomy projects underway in North America

Biofuels Digest - Thu, 01/18/2018 - 12:20pm

To date, North America is the most advanced of all regions in terms of deploying advanced technology — whether it is cellulosic ethanol, isobutanol for fuels and chemicals, or renewable chemical plants, you see the first and the most, here. There are three drivers for that:

1. Continued and robust technology development, from Silicon Valley to the US National Lab system — and robust public support of R&D.
2. Massive biomass resource — whether it is grains, wood, or even municipal solid wastes and other residues, North America is packed to the brim with biomass.
3. Far-sighted public policy attempts to create and incentivize markets for small-sscale, first-of-kind plants to compete as the technologies deploy and mature.

Here are the top 20 current projects as we have seen them from The Digest’s conning tower.

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The Digest’s 2018 Multi-Slide Guide to the SPARC regional biojet fuel consortium

Biofuels Digest - Thu, 01/18/2018 - 12:01pm

Sometimes, what an engine needs to roar to life is a spark. Or a SPARC, as in this case.

As in the Southeastern Partnership for Advanced Renewables from Carinata (SPARC), a consortium consisting of the University of Florida (lead), the University of South Florida, the University of Georgia, Auburn University, and other institutions, government agencies, the civil aviation industry, and Agrisoma Biosciences and Applied Research Associates (ARA) from the private sector.

This group has embarked on a $15M project to develop the inedible oilseed carinata as a winter crop — that is, a regionally adapted Brassica carinata, as the source of a new biofuels and bioproducts industry that will be deployed in the southeastern region of the United States. The Commercial Aviation Alternative Fuels Initiative is leading the supply chain development effort, which also includes ARA (conversion and co- products) and Agrisoma (feedstock and animal feed co -product).

The SPARC team recently produced this illuminating overview of the consortium and its goals.

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European Parliament votes to freeze crop-based biofuels at 2017 levels

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 01/17/2018 - 6:51pm

In Belgium, the European Parliament voted to cap crop-based biofuels at 2017 levels brought in by a last minute amendment submitted by three key party groups on the day of the vote. For those member states who don’t yet use 2% crop-based biofuels, they will be allowed to reach that level, but for all other member states they are capped at the levels consumed in 2017 with a maximum of 7% through 2030. Palm oil-based biofuels would be banned as of 2021, according to the Parliament’s bill.

“It is positive though that a target for renewables in transport of minimum 12% by 2030 is reintroduced. This should ensure action in a sector which still relies today for 95% on fossil fuels. This target, however, must be met in full without using artificial multiple counting mechanisms,” said Novozymes’ VP Thomas Schrøder, Biorefining Commercial.

“It is also positive that the Parliament maintained the Commission proposal to have a specific blending obligation for advanced biofuels (3.6% by 2030). This is critical for their progressive deployment alongside sustainable conventional biofuels.”

Now the three legislative arms of the European Union—European Commission, European Parliament and European Council—will have to find an agreement during forthcoming tripartite negotiations.

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Indian biodiesel industry seeking 5% GST to bring back demand

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 01/17/2018 - 6:50pm

In India, the biodiesel producers association wants the Goods and Services tax on the fuel dropped to 5% from the current 18%, a level it says has significantly limited demand. The GST committee is set to meet Thursday when it will tackle issues such as biodiesel vehicles. Previous to the GST regime, biodiesel was sold free of VAT and was levied a 6% excise tax but with GST in place it is now more expensive than fossil diesel.

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Nigerian entrepreneur devises equipment to produce small-scale ethanol from cassava

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 01/17/2018 - 6:49pm

In Nigeria, a local entrepreneur in Cross River State who is an instructor at a local technical school has developed a range of agricultural machinery the local community can use to improve agricultural processing, including equipment to produce ethanol from cassava. The equipment is produced from iron and steel. Cassava is grown across the country but as it doesn’t store well long-term, it needs processing to keep its value. Typically this is done as starch or flour but interest is growing in producing ethanol, especially for cooking energy.

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Forge Hydrocarbon’s demo plant set for Q3 instead of H1

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 01/17/2018 - 6:48pm

In Canada, plans for Forge Hydrocarbon’s demonstration plant have been delayed to Q3 from H1 this year and scaled down to 19 million liters per year from the previously announced 25 million liters per year. The technology is scaling up a process developed at and spun off from the University of Alberta that uses high temperatures and high pressures to basically squeeze off the acid chain at the end of waste fats to convert them directly into hydrocarbons without the need for hydrogen.

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Alliance BioEnergy pays off short-term debt to avoid selling stock

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 01/17/2018 - 6:47pm

In Florida, Alliance BioEnergy Plus, Inc. announced it has completed the payoff of the final two short term notes, held by Power Up Lending Group, Ltd. in full, in the amount of $206,267.47 and Crown Bridge Partners, LLC, in the full amount of $80,890.16, that were due in January 2018, ahead of both notes’ maturity and conversion. By successfully paying off these loans before their conversion dates, within the first 180 days of issuance, the Company avoids the issuance and subsequent market sale of more than 14,000,000 shares of its common stock.

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Contanda to expand Grays Harbor storage facility for cleaner fuels

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 01/17/2018 - 6:46pm

In Washington state, in anticipation of increased demand for low-carbon, cleaner fuels, Contanda plans to expand its facility at Grays Harbor to store a portfolio of cleaner fuels including biodiesel, renewable diesel and ultra-low sulfur diesel. The revised application for eight new storage tanks capable of storing 1.1 million barrels of liquid is in response to customer demand and the strong future across the West Coast for biofuels and commodities such as ultra-low-sulfur diesel as low carbon fuel standards and carbon regulations continue to move forward.

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Study provides agronomic data for five cellulosic feedstocks

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 01/17/2018 - 6:44pm

In Illinois, until now, producers have had to rely on incomplete information and unrealistic, small-scale studies in guiding their decisions about which feedstocks to grow, and where. A new multi-institution report provides practical agronomic data for five cellulosic feedstocks, which could improve adoption and increase production across the country.

The project, backed by the U.S. Department of Energy and the Sun Grant Initiative, began in 2008 and includes researchers from 26 institutions. Together, they evaluated the bioenergy potential of switchgrass, Miscanthus, sorghum, energycane, and prairie mixtures in long-term trials spanning a wide geographical area. Due to shortages in plant materials, Miscanthus and energycane were grown on smaller plots than the other crops, but researchers say the new results are still valuable for producers.

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Brazil may drop ethanol import tariff in exchange for beef exports to the US

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 01/17/2018 - 6:43pm

In Brazil, just months after implementing the controversial move, the government is already exploring whether it should drop its 20% import tariff on ethanol imports above 600 million liters per year. The decision, however, is tied to whether or not the US drops its ban on beef imports from Brazil following a safety inspection scandal last year. With all of the required paperwork in order, the beef ban could be dropped as soon as April with the ethanol import tariff potentially following shortly thereafter. Ethanol producers, however, are against the move.

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