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Today's News

Bolivia ready to introduce E12 following $41 million in ethanol storage and blending infrastructure

Biofuels Digest - Mon, 04/22/2019 - 7:00pm

In Bolivia, Prensa Latina reports that the national oil company has completed its $41 million investment in ethanol storage tanks and blending infrastructure that will allow the country to begin filling up on E12 this year. The mandate requires about 150 million liters of ethanol annually for the blend that will be sourced from Aguai, Unagro, Guabira and La Belgica sugar mills in the Santa Cruz region. The plan is to boost blending to 13% this year and to 20% by 2025.

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Quantum Fuel Systems teams with Quantitative BioSciences on pipeline for dairy biogas project

Biofuels Digest - Mon, 04/22/2019 - 6:59pm

In California, Quantum Fuel Systems (Quantum) announced that Quantitative BioSciences, Inc. (QBI) is partnering with and purchasing the company’s newest 10’ Virtual Pipeline trailers to be used in a dairy biogas project.

QBI, with funding from the California Energy Commission, has partnered with the family owned and operated Fiscalini Cheese Company in Modesto, California, to develop a biofuels production facility that will purify and compress the biomethane from anaerobic digesters into vehicle fuel. Adding to the environmental benefits of the project, simple raceway algae ponds will be used to clean the farm’s wastewater, consume the carbon dioxide from the biogas, and grow renewable algae biomass to supplement the feed for the farm’s cows. The goal of the project is to make 450 Diesel Gallon Equivalent (DGE) of Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) per day and to demonstrate that algae can help a farm extract the maximum value from its waste by converting it to both fuel and feed.

“We are going to be producing enough fuel for 10-20 trucks per day, and we were looking for a way to get this fuel to a local CNG fleet via a virtual pipeline. Quantum’s trailers provided the perfect solution,” commented Natalie Cookson, CEO of QBI. “As California faces increasing strains on both our finite energy resources and limited water supplies, we are hoping to demonstrate ways in which a farm can maximize its resources and become increasingly self-sufficient. Our forward-thinking partners at Fiscalini Cheese Company are very excited to serve as the demonstration site for this “farm of the future” concept.”

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Missouri man sentenced to a year and a day in prison for falsifying biodiesel tax claims

Biofuels Digest - Mon, 04/22/2019 - 6:58pm

In Missouri, Terry L. Zintel, 62, of Sunset Hills, MO, was sentenced to 1 year and 1 day in prison for three counts of falsifying claims. He appeared in federal court yesterday before U.S. District Court Judge Henry Autrey and ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $531,947.75.

According to court documents, between 2012 and 2014, Terry L. Zintel was a 50% owner and operator of the biofuel plant, Midwest Biodiesel Products, located in Roxanna, Illinois. As co-owner and operator, Zintel presented to the Internal Revenue Service at least three claims for refund for excise taxes in 2013. As a result of these fraudulent claims and others, the IRS incurred a total tax loss of $531,947.75.

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Waste Resource Technologies to deploy SynTech Bioenergy’s BioMax® power generation solution

Biofuels Digest - Mon, 04/22/2019 - 6:57pm

In Colorado, SynTech Bioenergy signed an agreement with Waste Resource Technologies, Inc. (WRT) to immediately begin deploying SynTech’s proprietary BioMax® power generation solution to convert green waste collected by WRT, as well as fruit processing waste from certain agricultural operations on Oahu, HI, to renewable energy.

“We have extensive, exciting plans in place for our partnership with WRT – look for additional announcements as we progress further into 2019,” said Wayne McFarland, Chairman and CEO, SynTech Bioenergy. “First up is the Oahu project, in which our BioMax® solution will provide a high value, non-landfill outlet for both plant processing and green waste, demonstrating what our technology can do to solve a substantial issue in the agricultural industry.”

This initial project will keep an estimated 1300 tons of waste per year out of landfills or otherwise kept from normal decay, the methane from which would have been 21 times more harmful to the pristine Hawaiian environment than CO2.  This translates to the elimination of up to 8000 tons of carbon, which will be removed from the local environments through the elimination of waste transportation, elimination of methane release and displacement of fossil fired power and heat by BioMax®.

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Brazilian H1 April ethanol production seen down 17% on year due to smaller cane crush

Biofuels Digest - Mon, 04/22/2019 - 6:56pm

In Brazil, Platts reports that analysts believe ethanol production will fall more than 17% on the year during the first half of April to 823 million liters, compared to Platts’ estimate of 793 million liters. The biggest fall in production is seen in hydrous ethanol which analysis surveyed by Platts also see as falling 17% while anhydrous is seen only falling 3%. That said, roughly 74% of total cane crushed during the period is expected to be directed towards ethanol rather than sugar production. Analysts estimate cane production to fall more than 26% on the year to 16.5 million metric tons.

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Duke University researchers develop robotic system that sniffs ethanol leaks

Biofuels Digest - Mon, 04/22/2019 - 6:55pm

In North Carolina, engineers at Duke University are developing a smart robotic system for sniffing out pollution hotspots and sources of toxic leaks. Their approach enables a robot to incorporate complex calculations of airflows in confined spaces made on the fly, rather than simply guide the robot to ‘follow its nose’.

Their approach combines physics-based models of the source identification problem with path planning algorithms for robotics in a feedback loop. The robots take measurements of contaminant concentrations in the environment and then use these measurements to incrementally calculate where the chemicals are actually coming from.

The robot takes a concentration measurement, fuses it with previous measurements, and solves a challenging optimization problem to estimate where the source is. It then figures out the most useful location to take its next measurement and repeats the process until the source is found.

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National Farmers Union worried proposed EPA rule will make it harder to sell higher ethanol blends

Biofuels Digest - Mon, 04/22/2019 - 6:34pm

In Washington, as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) works towards allowing year-round use of E15 gasoline, National Farmers Union (NFU) is concerned EPA’s proposed rule will make it harder for retailers to sell higher level blends of ethanol.

In a letter to EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, NFU President Roger Johnson urged EPA to rewrite a provision contained within the rule that could amount to a cap on ethanol. It is viewed within the farm community as yet another barrier to family farmers and ranchers being able to sell farm products for biofuel production.

“Farmers Union is eager for EPA to follow through on its promises to get an E15 waiver out of the door by June 1,” said NFU President Roger Johnson. “But we are concerned that certain provisions within EPA’s rulemaking unnecessarily work against expanded use of higher level blends of ethanol.”

NFU’s concerns stem from EPA’s interpretation of the “substantially similar” clause of the Clean Air Act, which prohibits the sale of any fuel or fuel additive that is “not substantially similar” to fuels or fuel additives used in the certification of new vehicles. In 2017, E10 gasoline—gasoline blended with 10 percent ethanol—became the nation’s certification fuel, making higher level blends of ethanol, like E15 and E30, substantially similar. Yet in its proposal, EPA has limited its  “substantially similar” interpretation to only an E15 blend, making the prospects of using higher level blends of ethanol harder to achieve.

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Renewable Diesel is a Game Changer for Sustainable Aviation and Low Carbon Fuel Markets in the U.S., Canada, Europe and Southeast Asia

Biofuels Digest - Mon, 04/22/2019 - 6:11pm

By Will Thurmond, President & CEO, Emerging Markets Online

Special to The Digest

According to a new study by market research firm Emerging Markets Online, renewable diesel is becoming a game changer for several key areas of the low carbon fuels industry, including:

(1) the global aviation industry, representing a 90 billion gallon/yr market and opportunity,

(2) U.S. west coast markets for LCFS programs in California, Oregon, Washington and British Columbia, representing approximately 5 billion gallons/year in low-carbon diesel demand,

(3) the utilization of sustainable, waste-based feedstocks from fats, oils, greases, agricultural residues, municipal solid waste, and dedicated energy crops for low-carbon transport fuels,

(4) conversions of petroleum refineries into low-carbon biorefineries to produce multiple products, including: renewable diesel, renewable naphta, bio-jet fuels, bio-based marine diesel fuels, and bio-based plastics.

By the year 2030, Emerging Markets Online’s study Renewable Diesel 2030: Low Carbon Fuels for Air, Land and Sea, estimates global renewable diesel production will increase four-fold from a current capacity of 4.8 Million tons per year in 2019 to 19.7 Million tons. This rapid expansion of renewable diesel fuels is being driven by strong demand incentives for low carbon fuels from California, the Pacific Northwest states of the U.S., Canada, Europe, and by imminent demands from forthcoming biojet regulations in the 2020s currently underway.

Low-carbon diesel demand in California has grown from zero in 2011 to over 500 million gallons per year (MGY) in 2018, achieving a 15% blend of the state’s 4 billion gallon diesel fuel pool, according to LCFS data calculations. One demand scenario from California’s ARB finds renewable diesel consumption to grow to 1.35 billion GPY in 2030, or 36 percent of the diesel pool. A more recent proclamation in 2019 by incoming California Governor Gavin Newsom sets an ambitious target for 100% decarbonization of California’s diesel pool, currently estimated at 4 billion GPY, by the year 2030.

To handle these large-scale 2030 LCFS transitions, low-carbon diesel producers in California, Oregon, Washington, Canada and Europe are building larger biorefineries. The Renewable Diesel 2030 study notes the average size of a current renewable diesel biorefinery in 2019 is currently 116 million gallons/year. New plants under construction are being built at more than twice the current size, at 263 million gallons/year on average by 2023. More than a handful of plants, if built, will surpass 500 million gallons per year in production capacity. The largest renewable diesel biorefineries planned to be deployed by 2023 include: REG/Phillips 66 in Washington State, NEXT Renewable Fuels in Oregon, and by Philips 66/Ryze Renewables with two 462 million gallon/yr plants each in Reno and Las Vegas, Nevada.

Some of these plants, such as the BS Bios Green Omega project to produce green diesel and jet fuel in Paraguay, are reaching sizes well over 600 million gallons/year. Most of these new renewable diesel biorefineries are being constructed to initially supply the states in the U.S. Pacific northwest and Canada and their new LCFS (Low Carbon Fuel Standard) plans. California, Oregon and Washington state together represent more than 5 billion gallons of renewable diesel demand by 2030.

In addition, this demand is prompting veteran renewable diesel producers Neste in Singapore (675 MGY), and Diamond Green Diesel in Louisiana (675 MGY) each to re-invest approximately $1 billion U.S. in their respective refineries to scale up their capacities and serve these key emerging markets for renewable diesel fuels and sustainable jet fuel demands.

As these low-carbon markets for road transport, aviation, and marine diesel progress, Renewable Diesel 2030: Low Carbon Fuels for Air, Land and Sea finds a growing number of strategic investment partnerships arriving to build new biorefineries, and greater interest in upgrading refineries to co-process low-carbon biocrude-oils and syncrude oils in Northern Europe, Canada, Oregon, Singapore, Australia, South America, and California.

Will Thurmond is the President and CEO of market research firm Emerging Markets Online, the author of Renewable Diesel 2030: Low Carbon Fuels for Air, Land and Sea; is a contributing thought leader to the Biofuels Digest; and is a regular speaker and session moderator at industry conferences. For more information, contact Emerging Markets Online in Houston, TX, or visit

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Power of Biology for Algae Biofuels: The Digest’s 2019 Multi-Slide Guide to Synthetic Genomics

Biofuels Digest - Mon, 04/22/2019 - 6:04pm

Synthetic Genomics is a San Diego biotechnology company harnessing the power of living cells — nature’s most efficient machines — to create transformative medicines and bio-based products. Their teams of data and biological engineers have developed the leading set of synthetic biology capabilities, tools, and intellectual property to design and build biological systems.

Michele Rubino, Business Development at Synthetic Genomics, gave this illuminating overview of SGI’s partnership with ExxonMobil to deliver sustainable algae biofuels, their R&D program, doubling and fine-tuning lipid production, and more, at ABLC Global 2018 in San Francisco

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NTU scientists discover sustainable way to increase seed oil yield in crops

Biofuels Digest - Sun, 04/21/2019 - 6:10pm

In Singapore, Nanyang Technological University scientists developed a sustainable way to demonstrate a new genetic modification that can increase the yield of natural oil in seeds by up to 15 per cent in laboratory conditions. The new method can be applied to crops such as canola, soybean and sunflower, which are in a multi-billion dollar industry that continues to see increasing global demand.

The research team led by Assistant Professor Wei Ma from NTU’s School of Biological Sciences genetically modified a key protein in plants which regulates the amount of oil they produce. This results in larger oil reserves in the seed that primarily serves as an energy source for germination.

The team’s patent-pending method involves modifying the key protein known as “Wrinkled1” or “WRI1”, which regulates plants’ oil production. After modification, the seeds have a wrinkled appearance, which is the basis for its scientific codename.

The ability to increase oil yield in a sustainable manner is expected to result in higher economic gain. Past research has shown that a small 1.5 per cent increase in oil yield (by dry weight) in soybean seeds equates to a jump of US$ 1.26 billion in the United States market.

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EPA Reopens REGS Rule to Address SREs

Biofuels Digest - Sun, 04/21/2019 - 6:08pm

In Washington, D.C., the Renewable Fuels Association reports that on April 11, EPA initiated the process for reviving one provision within the Nov. 2016 Renewables Enhancement and Growth Support (REGS) rule in an effort to provide more transparency regarding small refinery exemptions (SREs) from the RFS program. EPA had proposed to codify a determination that would reveal basic information about SRE petitioners (e.g., company name, refinery location) that currently can be claimed as confidential business information (CBI). A 15-day comment period will open once the official version of EPA’s Request for Further Comment is published in the Federal Register.

The timing of this action is fitting as EPA continues to rack up more SREs, as indicated by the agency’s April update of its Small Refinery Exemption dashboard. This latest revision reflects another pending 2018 RFS waiver, which raises the number to 40. RFA recently assessed ethanol consumption and blend rate consequences of the SREs—view the white paper here. We applaud EPA’s long-overdue focus on greater SRE transparency, and continue to urge the agency to adopt a more judicious and restrained decision-making process.



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SoCalGas awarded $3M for hydrothermal processing technology

Biofuels Digest - Sun, 04/21/2019 - 6:04pm

In California, the California Energy Commission (CEC) awarded Southern California Gas Co. (SoCalGas) a $3 million grant to fund the next phase of development of a new technology that doubles the amount of renewable energy created from the decomposition of organic material at wastewater treatment plants. The new process, known as Hydrothermal Processing (HTP), reduces greenhouse gas emissions by three times that of traditional anaerobic digestion and costs about half.

According to their press release, HTP is highly efficient, using heat and pressure to capture 86 percent of the energy in the waste and using only 14 percent to process it. A pilot project, to be located at the Central Contra Costa Sanitary District Wastewater Treatment Plant in Martinez, California. The work is being funded in part by the California Energy Commission, SoCalGas and other private participants.

“Technological advances, like hydrothermal processing, are an important part of SoCalGas’ vision to be the cleanest natural gas utility in North America and will help us meet our commitment of to deliver renewable natural gas to homes and businesses,” said Ron Kent, Technology Development Manager at SoCalGas.  “This new technology holds the potential to convert not only wastewater, but landfill, forestry and food waste into carbon-neutral renewable energy that displaces fossil fuels and helps California meet its climate goals.”


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Nouryon announces 2019 Imagine Chemistry finalists

Biofuels Digest - Sun, 04/21/2019 - 6:02pm

In the Netherlands, Nouryon (formerly AkzoNobel Specialty Chemicals) announced the 13 finalists for the 2019 edition of its Imagine Chemistry collaborative innovation challenge. The winners for sustainable bio-based surfactants (in partnership with Unilever) are CarbExplore Research, Fraunhofer IGB, Sironix Renewables, and The University of Sheffield + Entomics.

The finalists will participate in an intensive three-day event in May at the company’s RD&I center at Deventer, the Netherlands, where they will work with Nouryon experts and business leaders to further develop their ideas into a joint value case.

Imagine Chemistry was launched to tackle chemistry-related challenges and uncover new ways to create value for customers. The 2019 edition generated more than 160 innovative ideas from startups, scale-ups, university spin-outs, and other potential partners.

Winners are granted awards ranging from joint development and research agreements to dedicated support from Imagine Chemistry partners. Unilever, for example, a key customer of Nouryon and a partner in the “Sustainable bio-based surfactants” challenge, offers the opportunity for winners to collaborate with its R&D teams and test facilities to move their ideas to the next phase of development.

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Amyris Completes Sale of Vitamin E Royalty to DSM

Biofuels Digest - Sun, 04/21/2019 - 5:59pm

In California, Amyris, Inc. sold its Vitamin E royalty agreement to Koninklijke DSM N.V. (Royal DSM). This agreement assigns Amyris’s rights to Vitamin E royalties to DSM in exchange for total consideration of approximately $57 million. In addition, DSM and Amyris have agreed to a further manufacturing cooperation for Amyris products at DSM’s Brotas facility that provides additional capacity and lower cost of goods sold with an expected approximate aggregate benefit of $30–$40 million over the next three years. The expected economic benefit of both agreements to Amyris is approximately $90 million.

As a result of this agreement, Amyris has now fully exited the Vitamin E business and is focused on driving commercial growth in the major markets it is already successfully disrupting: flavor and fragrance ingredients, skincare, sweetener, and most recently, entry into the cannabinoids market. These are markets where Amyris is demonstrating market leadership with its products, brands and resulting underlying growth and margin.

“We are pleased to have executed this agreement in the timeframe expected and to have secured lower-cost manufacturing while we seek to bring our own production facility online in 2020,” said John Melo, President and CEO of Amyris. “As we said, the economics of this agreement are superior to those offered under the deal we elected to forego, and ensure our ability to deliver continuous supply to our customers at a competitive cost.”

Terms of the agreement with DSM will be more fully disclosed in a Form 8-K to be filed later this week with the Securities and Exchange Commission, available free of charge at

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Cielo achieves milestone with first sale of renewable diesel

Biofuels Digest - Sun, 04/21/2019 - 5:58pm

In Canada, Cielo Waste Solutions Corp. announced that, prior to adding the desulphurization unit, on which Cielo is currently working, the Company has achieved an important milestone by selling the first 5,000 liters of high grade renewable diesel to its first customer at $1.00 per litre. This sale confirms that, even before desulphurization occurs, there is a potential market for Cielo’s renewable fuels, which are being produced by converting wood waste into a saleable renewable diesel product using Cielo’s proprietary process.

Once the desulphurization equipment is installed, Cielo anticipates being able to sell the Company’s high-grade renewable fuel for much higher prices per liter into the mandated renewable fuel market in Canada. Cielo’s first client is a servicing company that will be utilizing the renewable diesel as “off highway diesel” (i.e. for use in generators, gravel crushers, etc.) Cielo has been advised by the customer that the initial purchase is for a small batch to test on the customer’s equipment, after which it intends to purchase significantly higher volumes in the future if the diesel performs as expected.


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MTI awards $1.5M for biomass and forest projects

Biofuels Digest - Sun, 04/21/2019 - 5:55pm

In Maine, the Board of Directors of the Maine Technology Institute (MTI) approved two awards from the Emerging Technology Challenge for Maine’s Forest Resources, each for $750,000.

The two companies receiving the awards represent different natural resource-based technologies that make use of Maine’s abundant forest resources and supply chain.

The first $750,000 award was made to GO Lab, Inc. GO Lab, a building products manufacturer

in Belfast, Maine, will transform the insulation market in the next 10 years. Its insulation, made from wood fiber, is renewable, recyclable, nontoxic, and performs as well, or better than, other available insulations.

The second $750,000 award was made to Biofine Developments Northeast (BDNE). The funding will allow BDNE to carry out the commercial development of the first large scale bio-refinery deploying Biofine’s technology in Bucksport, Maine. This plant will enable the conversion of woody biomass to the chemical intermediate, levulinic acid allowing economic production of a completely renewable heating oil substitute.

The Challenge was part of MTI’s collaboration with the Forest Opportunities Roadmap (FOR/Maine) in supporting the development and/or attraction of emerging technology companies in the forest resource sector, using Biobased Maine as an external contractor to vet and evaluate the proposals.


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Oklahoma next to allow commercial production of industrial hemp

Biofuels Digest - Sun, 04/21/2019 - 5:54pm

In North Carolina, Hemp, Inc., announced that after unanimous approval by the house, Senate Bill 868 has proceeded to the desk of Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt, which would allow for the commercial production of industrial hemp. According to the bill legislature, SB 868 “authorizes the state Department of Agriculture to take develop and administer a production program under the 2018 federal farm bill.”

State Sen. Lonnie Paxton, one of the authors of the bill, said [SB 868] accomplishes a critical step Oklahoma needs to take as it moves from its current pilot program authorized a year ago into a new era. Bruce Perlowin, CEO of Hemp, Inc. (OTC: HEMP) commented, “The bill, according to many news sources, was written to mimic the United States Department of Agriculture’s rules with the help of Republican State Senator Lonnie Paxton. The reasoning for Oklahoma mimicking the USDA rules is because they want to ensure the farmers who are interested in growing industrial hemp can hit the ground running and start making money off of this lucrative crop.”

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Earth Day 2019 – A look at carbon negative and carbon capture technologies, advancements, and possibilities

Biofuels Digest - Sun, 04/21/2019 - 5:40pm

Some of us were born already, some of us just a twinkle in someone’s eye, but 49 years ago history was made with the very first Earth Day. What was a nationwide celebration and peaceful demonstrations for environmental reform in the U.S. by some estimated 20 million Americans, Earth Day events have now expanded to over 193 countries and more than a billion people every year.

The background

There is good reason for a day to bring attention to earthly issues like climate change and the rise of carbon dioxide. Just look at this chart from NASA:


According to NASA:

“Levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere are higher than they have been at any time in the past 400,000 years. In 2013, CO2levels surpassed 400 ppm for the first time in recorded history. This recent relentless rise in CO2 shows a remarkably constant relationship with fossil-fuel burning, and can be well accounted for based on the simple premise that about 60 percent of fossil-fuel emissions stay in the air.”

“If fossil-fuel burning continues at a business-as-usual rate, such that humanity exhausts the reserves over the next few centuries, CO2 will continue to rise to levels of order of 1500 ppm. The atmosphere would then not return to pre-industrial levels even tens of thousands of years into the future. This graph not only conveys the scientific measurements, but it also underscores the fact that humans have a great capacity to change the climate and planet.”

Scared yet?

The top 5 CO2 producing countries in the world are China, the U.S., India, Russia, and Japan, and according to Scripps Institution of Oceanography scientists, levels of CO2 reached a startling record in February of this year…earlier in the year than expected making it even rarer and unexpected.

“In most years, the previous maximum is surpassed in March or April. The February record breaking is a measure of just how fast CO2 has been rising in the past months,” said Scripps CO2 Group Director Ralph Keeling, in a statement. The suddenness of this year’s record is the result of “the combination of weak El Nino conditions and unprecedented emissions from fossil-fuel burning,” according to Keeling. This year’s carbon dioxide level is expected to peak around 415 parts per million in May.

While deforestation, agriculture and fossil fuel use are the primary sources of CO2, some say don’t bother playing the blame game since we can’t change the past, we can only change the future.

So let’s talk about that. What are we doing? What else can we do?

Carbon negative crops

Some people celebrate Earth Day by planting a tree, but how about planting hemp or miscanthus instead? Both are considered carbon negative crops and very promising for biofuels, bioplastics, biochemicals, and many other biobased products for today’s world.

Hemp, which can be used for ethanol, biodiesel, and more, “remediates the soil it grows in, which basically means that it cleans the soil by extracting numerous pollutants and heavy metals from contaminated soil,” according to Green Camp. “It was even used in Chernobyl to reduce radioactivity.”

Green Camp makes a big claim too, saying “It is the most efficient carbon-negative crop, which means it absorbs larger quantities of carbon dioxide (CO2) per acre, compared to all other commercial crops or forests.” Some other benefits of hemp for our earth from Green Camp include:

“Compared to corn, hemp has almost double-yields, which means that using hemp produces twice as much ethanol. It also uses ⅓ of water compared to corn, and requires no pesticides and herbicides (a naturally disease-free crop), unlike corn which has high pesticide/herbicide requirements.”

“Hemp is a far better solution for the production of paper compared to trees, because it has a fantastic photosynthesis rate, which means it grows more rapidly, and also that it uses more carbon dioxide in the process. Hemp requires only 3 to 4 months to fully develop, unlike trees which of course need years to fully mature.”

Maybe that is why Pacific Biodiesel is planning on expanding to hemp, or why Levi’s is now making “cottonized hemp” for some of their denim products, or why hemp is being called one of the most versatile crops ever, or why hempcrete, a carbon-negative material, is being looked at as a building material and replacement for concrete.

As for miscanthus, it sounds almost as good as hemp in terms of CO2 benefits. It only “needs cultivation, planting and weed control – once in at least 15 years – perhaps 25 years – plus harvesting and loading on a truck every year from year 2 onwards,” according to Miscanthus NZ. “There is also no waste to be disposed of with Miscanthus. There is no need to cultivate the soil again, no need for ongoing weed control, no need to replant, no need for fertiliser in most cases. The soil benefits too because it is not disturbed again for years. Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from growing Miscanthus of therefore a lot lower than alternatives.”

“As long as the crop continues to be grown and harvested, the amount of carbon stored in the underground rhizome system together with the amount of carbon stored in the continually increasing soil organic matter is quite significant – perhaps in the order of 2 tonnes of carbon per hectare per year.”

Not as far ahead in terms of market as hemp, miscanthus shows promise. A recent $2.5 million private investment boosts Terravesta and their miscanthus plantings, and some research at University of Illinois is looking at how to better grow it in colder climates.

Carbon negative and carbon capture technologies

If you don’t have some hemp or miscanthus handy to plant this year for Earth Day, let’s talk about some carbon negative technologies.

There’s the usual carbon capturing folks we usually think of like LanzaTech, who say “no carbon left behind,” but there are other newcomers and carbon go-getters out there giving us hope too.

There’s Oberon Fuels which makes DME and methanol from various methane and carbon dioxide sources, using its proprietary small-scale process. They are facilitating the growth of the DME transportation industry by converting biogas and other hydrocarbon rich waste streams to higher valued commodities such as DME.

Opus 12 developed a device that recycles CO₂ into cost-competitive chemicals and fuels. Their technology bolts onto any source of CO₂ emissions, and with only water and electricity as inputs, transforms that CO₂ into some of the world’s most critical chemical products. Opus 12 was one of six clean energy startups selected from around the country to be incubated in the first cohort of the prestigious Cyclotron Road program at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab.

As reported in the Digest in 2017, ExxonMobil is putting some R&D time and money investment into carbon capture technologies as well. And Shell has said they are going carbon negative with their commercial-scale deal with SBI that gives them access to a fuel that emits minus 14 grams of CO2 per megajoule of energy, instead of the usual 94 grams of CO2 that petroleum fuel emits.

BASF has ambitious goals like achieving CO2-neutral growth until 2030, a dedicated Carbon Management program, and new innovations when it comes to CO2 as well. As reported in The Digest in January, they launched four groundbreaking projects for CO2-reduced future production processes – new catalysts, hydrogen, olefins, sodium acrylate and more.

BASF is also presenting a new approach for using CO2 as a chemical feedstock: the production of sodium acrylate from ethylene and CO2. Sodium acrylate is an important starting material for superabsorbents, which are widely used in diapers and other hygiene products. A few years ago, researchers at the BASF-supported Catalysis Research Laboratory (CaRLa) at the University of Heidelberg were able for the first time to successfully close the catalyst cycle for this reaction.

Proton Power developed carbon-negative, low-cost hydrogen power. As Proton Power CEO Sam Weaver explains: “This process is carbon-negative, producing hydrogen gas or liquid fuels, plus a high temp biochar that is very stable in the ground. It’s a high PH (10-11) biochar with a surface area like an activated carbon.” Here’s the big takeaway: “Fundamentally, if we can get feedstock lower than $40/ton we can be lower than gas as the lowest cost producer of electricity.”

In July 2018, the Digest reported on a new €7 million EU Horizon 2020-funded research project, that was kicked-off with intentions of supporting EU leadership in CO2 re-use technologies. BIOCON-CO2 aims to re-use excess CO2 produced from the iron, steel, cement and electric power industries to create value-added chemicals and plastics. This will be achieved by developing a versatile range of conversion techniques using low-energy biological systems such as anaerobic microorganisms, aerobic microorganisms and enzymes to produce key chemical products including industrial acids and alcohols.

Speaking of government goals, Sweden has a goal of going carbon-neutral by 2045, followed by negative emissions thereafter. Maersk, Danish shipping leader, also pledged to go carbon-neutral by 2050.

In Finland, the Digest reported in 2017 that Helsinki airport was going achieve carbon neutrality earlier than its expected 2020 date thanks to using biofuel in all ground vehicles and a new 500kWp solar array.

R&D abounds

It seems carbon is getting lots of attention in the research areas too, as a promise of a better future for all of us and our planet. Just last week, University of Queensland researchers said they created a carbon negative way of generating power from biofuels that does not produce GHG gases at all. Using gasification, they say their method becomes carbon negative when combined with carbon capture and storage (CCS) methods.

“We suggested using a chemical method for carbon capture because it is the most cost-effective,” said University of Queensland PhD candidate Liang Cao. “The chemicals are used to recycle the carbon dioxide and store it and the chemicals can be reused.”

Chris P. Nielsen, Executive Director of the Harvard-China Project and co-author of the study said, “First, small amounts of biofuel could be used to reduce the net positive carbon emissions. Then, the system could grow toward carbon neutrality and eventually to a carbon-negative system.”

In February 2018, the Digest reported that Ohio State 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.

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.

In April 2018, the Digest reported on the $20 million Carbon XPRIZE finalists, which were quite an interesting bunch. The goal of the XPRIZE is to challenge teams to transform the way the world addresses CO2 emissions through breakthrough circular carbon technologies that convert carbon dioxide emissions from power plants into valuable products such as enhanced concrete, liquid fuels, plastics and carbon fiber. And that’s just what many of those companies are doing.

Bottom Line

This is but a sampling of carbon negative and carbon capturing technologies out there already in market and being developed. There are many pioneers out there working on solving this crucial problem. The downside – it’s a global problem that doesn’t care about country borders or boundaries or races or gender, but the good news is as a human species, we have the ability to “think globally, act locally” and develop new methods, new technologies, new ideas for addressing CO2 that could in fact save our planet and save ourselves.

We think Dr. Marcius Extavour, XPRIZE senior director of Energy and Resources got it on point when he told The Digest last April, “We think carbon capture itself is a huge topic. These teams are showing us amazing examples of carbon conversion and literally reimagining carbon. The diversity of technologies on display is an inspiring vision of a new carbon economy.” We agree, and that gives us hope on this 49th Earth Day.

Categories: Today's News

REACHing for the stars: The Digest’s 2019 Multi-Slide Guide to Mercurius Biorefining

Biofuels Digest - Sun, 04/21/2019 - 4:37pm

Mercurius Biorefining is developing its novel REACH process, which converts cellulosic biomass to hydrocarbons in the renewable diesel, aviation, and marine fuel ranges. Valuable by-products include bio-char and a bio-plastic monomer, FDCA. REACH (Renewable Acid-hydrolysis Condensation Hydrotreating) is a novel application of proven technologies which is both feedstock- and product-flexible. Sources of potential feedstock include waste from municipalities (e.g. biogenic portion of MSW), forestry and agriculture.

Knud Balslev, Director of Strategic Partnerships at Mercurius, gave this illuminating overview of their REACH technology, cost structure, the results of their completed R&D, pilot project and partners, and more, at ABLC Global 2018 in San Francisco

Categories: Today's News

Former DuPont employee gets 42 months in prison for stealing trade secrets

Biofuels Digest - Thu, 04/18/2019 - 4:54pm

In Iowa, Josh Harry Isler, age 55, from St. Ansgar, Iowa, was sentenced Wednesday in United States District Court in Cedar Rapids to serve 42 months’ imprisonment as a result of his July 11, 2018, pleas of guilty to one count of trade secret theft and one count of making a false statement to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

“We appreciate the excellent work done by the U.S. Attorney’s Office and Federal Bureau of Investigation on this matter and are pleased to see it come to a close with today’s sentencing. We will continue to focus on serving our customers, providing innovative solutions, and upholding the highest standards of ethical conduct, to protect our proprietary technology and help safeguard a competitive environment within the industry,” said Jennifer Johnson, Associate General Counsel for the Specialty Products Division of DowDuPont.

As part of his guilty plea, Isler admitted that, during August 2013, while employed with DuPont, and after having accepted an offer of employment with a smaller competitor, he stole and misappropriated, without authorization, trade secrets of DuPont. According to admissions contained in a plea agreement and evidence presented at a prior hearing in the case, Isler was recruited by a competitor of DuPont in the ethanol fuel business to take a job with the competitor. The competitor offered Isler a new car and a significantly higher salary than Isler had been paid during his short tenure at DuPont, despite the fact that Isler had been underperforming and struggling to understand basic concepts while employed by DuPont.

On the same day Isler accepted a position with the competitor, the competitor’s Chief Operating Officer (COO) informed Isler that Isler would be servicing two particular ethanol plant customers, who had also been customers of DuPont, and asked Isler if he had seen “any baseline data” for those plants. Isler responded by stating, “let me see what I can before I can’t.” In a later message that day, the COO told Isler, “I think you made the right choice.”

Isler submitted his resignation letter to DuPont the following day. However, Isler did not leave DuPont until two weeks later. During the intervening two weeks, Isler downloaded and sent to the competitor numerous electronic files that contained proprietary and trade secret information of DuPont. This included test, yield, and pricing information for products and customers of DuPont.

A few days before leaving DuPont, Isler notified the competitor’s COO that he would be turning in his company phone to DuPont. The COO instructed Isler to “erase all texts with me before giving the phone back.”

During an exit interview with DuPont, Isler acknowledged that he understood a confidentiality agreement he signed before he started work with DuPont required that Isler keep DuPont’s intellectual property private even after he left the company.

A few months after Isler left DuPont, the FBI executed a federal search warrant at his residence and seized computers and other electronic storage devices that contained proprietary and trade secret information of DuPont. At that time, Isler falsely denied to the FBI that he had downloaded, to his DuPont or personal electronic storage devices, files containing proprietary information of DuPont.

At the sentencing hearing Wednesday, United States District Court Judge Linda R. Reade emphasized that, although Isler had signed a confidentiality agreement and had been trained and counseled by DuPont concerning his obligation to protect trade secrets, he nonetheless committed several criminal violations of these obligations within about six months of being hired by DuPont. The court also expressed concern about the ethics of the competitor in receiving the stolen information.

Isler was sentenced to serve 42 months’ imprisonment and ordered to pay a $200 special assessment and a $5000 fine. The court also ordered Isler to serve a 3-year term of supervised release following completion of the term of imprisonment.

Categories: Today's News


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