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Today's News

$2.5M private investment boosts Terravesta and booming miscanthus

Biofuels Digest - Sun, 11/25/2018 - 2:37pm

In the United Kingdom, former IG Group chief executive and current Scotgold chairman Nat le Roux bought a personal stake in renewable biomass business Terravesta. Le Roux invested £2 million, or about $2.5 million, in the business, reflecting the growing importance of clean energy, and the positive prospects for the rapidly-developing miscanthus bio-economy.

The investment will see the business grow its operations, allowing for more miscanthus planting to meet increasing demand and fund further research and development into producing new seed-based varieties and building robust markets for the crop.

“The investment will bolster Miscanthus markets and pave the way for innovations which are being successfully field- trialled. Over the next few years a proportion of farmers will be able to plant Miscanthus from seed as well as rhizome and currently numerous future markets for Miscanthus are opening up, which include biodegradable plastics, packaging, furniture, high value chemicals, pharmaceuticals and hundreds of other uses, through the process of bio-refining,” says Alex Robinson, operations manager for Terravesta.

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Eni and Hera partner on UCO to biofuel conversion for waste collection vehicles

Biofuels Digest - Sun, 11/25/2018 - 2:36pm

In Italy, Eni and Hera signed a partnership agreement with the aim of converting used vegetable oil into biofuel for Hera’s waste collection vehicles. The partnership will allow the oil collected by Hera (800 tons in 2017) to be converted into Eni Green Diesel at Eni’s Venice bio-refinery.

The agreement revolves around household waste vegetable oil, such as that used for frying, collected by Hera in around 400 roadside containers and about 120 collection centres. It will be sent to the Eni bio-refinery in Porto Marghera, Venice. This is the first oil refinery in the world to be converted into a bio-refinery for the production of Green Diesel, a completely renewable product that accounts for 15% of Enidiesel+. This biofuel will power Hera’s urban waste collection vehicles.

“The refinery in Venice is the first in the world to be converted into a bio-refinery and will be joined in a few months by the Gela refinery, which is also being calibrated for the bio-cycle,” commented Giuseppe Ricci, Eni Chief Refining & Marketing Officer. “The agreement with Hera adds a significant component to our concrete commitment to the circular economy and reinforces the use of waste, specifically cooking oil, as an important raw material for producing the innovative fuel Enidiesel+ and as a replacement for the edible raw materials that are currently used.”

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Perstorp announces sale of its BioProducts business

Biofuels Digest - Sun, 11/25/2018 - 2:35pm

In Sweden, Perstorp, a global leader in specialty chemicals, sold Perstorp BioProducts, a leading producer of biodiesel and glycerine in Scandinavia, to a Swedish investor together with a member of the subsidiary’s management team. The terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

The sale includes the production site in Fredrikstad, Norway, while the production site in Stenungsund, Sweden, will remain under Perstorp’s ownership. Perstorp will also, for a limited time, be a minority owner of the new company i.e. Adesso BioProducts AB.

A tolling agreement forms a part of the sale, whereby Perstorp will continue to produce biodiesel at Stenungsund production site for Adesso BioProducts. In the long term, Adesso might relocate production and Perstorp may look to repurpose this site for other specialty chemical products.

Jan Secher, President and CEO of Perstorp, commented: “Adesso BioProducts is one of the leading suppliers of biofuels in Scandinavia and we see great potential for the business under its new ownership. For Perstorp, the sale is in line with our strategy to focus on high growth areas in the specialty chemicals market and build on our position as a global leader in the field. We look forward to continuing our good cooperation with the new owners.”

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Danish company to help Uganda turn trash to treasure

Biofuels Digest - Sun, 11/25/2018 - 2:34pm

In Uganda, Iganga municipal leaders invited Danish bio-engineering firm Transform, working through its subsidiary firm, Biofertiliser Africa, to help convert their overflowing trash into biofertilizers. The bustling town has about 54,000 people with quite a bit of waste generation that needs to be dealt with.

Iganga deputy mayor Enock Ngazula told The Observer that they generate between nine and 12 tons of solid waste daily and the waste is projected to hit between 45 and 60 tons per day once the council borders are expanded. About 80% of the waste is biodegradable and dumped into a temporary dumping site, but a lack of funding and only one functioning trash truck is taking its toll on residents who are unhappy with inadequate trash collection.

“The good thing about this project, it does not need a landfill as is the case with other garbage disposal facilities. The garbage is expected to be consumed as soon as it is delivered at the factory,” Transform country director, Abdul Dedya told The Observer.


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Covestro produces first sports flooring using CO2

Biofuels Digest - Sun, 11/25/2018 - 2:32pm

In Germany, the world’s first synthetic sports subfloor was produced with carbon dioxide by Covestro using their groundbreaking process for CO2 utilization to market maturity. The CO2 for the subfloor is contained in a binder – or more precisely, in one of its components, a polyol. So far, the new CO2-based material called cardyon has been used to produce soft polyurethane foam for mattresses and upholstered furniture, which is already being marketed. The further development for use in sports is now the next step in the expansion of the range of applications.

“The use of carbon dioxide as a new raw material is a promising approach for making production in the chemical and plastics industries more sustainable,” explains Dr. Markus Steilemann, CEO of Covestro. “This way, we use CO2 in a closed-loop process and save oil. On this basis, we want to offer a comprehensive product portfolio for as many areas of application as possible – in line with our vision of making the world a brighter place.”

The first customer for the new binder produced with CO2 is the globally active sports flooring producer Polytan. The company from Burgheim, Bavaria, which belongs to the Sport Group, uses the material to produce elastic underfloors together with rubber granulate.

The first CO2-based floor is now in use at the “Crefelder Hockey and Tennis Club”. The traditional club maintains one of the leading field hockey facilities in Germany.


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Significantly less GM-free rapeseed meal without biodiesel production

Biofuels Digest - Sun, 11/25/2018 - 2:31pm

In Germany, UFOP reports that the feed market is one of the main beneficiaries of biodiesel production, because rapeseed meal is generated as a by-product of rapeseed oil production. Throughout Europe, rapeseed meal is the primary domestic GM-free source of protein for livestock feeding, concludes the UFOP.

German rapeseed processing in 2017 amounted to 9.2 million tonnes, yielding just less than 4 million tonnes of rapeseed oil and 5.2 million tonnes of rapeseed meal. Since rapeseed is produced in Europe and many other countries throughout the world without using genetic manipulation (GM), its by-product, rapeseed meal, is also classified as GMO-free. This classification promotes the use of rapeseed meal mainly in dairy feeding, where it can fully replace soybean meal. The key factor is that demand for dairy products that bear the attribute of “without GM” are in strong demand.

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Malaysia moves B7 to B10 mandate up to Dec. 1

Biofuels Digest - Sun, 11/25/2018 - 2:29pm

In Malaysia, the government moved up the start date for the new biodiesel fuel mandate to December 1st instead of the expected February start date because the cabinet has approved the use of B10, allowing the date to be moved up earlier than expected. With lowered demand from Europe for palm oil, the move is expected to increase the use of palm oil as feedstock for the biodiesel and is expected to double the use of palm oil locally.

According to Reuters, “Primary Industries Minister Teresa Kok said in a radio interview with national news agency Bernama on Wednesday that the government had given the approval to implement the so-called B10 biodiesel mandate.”

CIMB Research analyst Ivy Ng told Reuters that “This could help reduce current high palm oil stock levels over time.”


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Proton pathway reproduced to understand how algae enzymes produce hydrogen

Biofuels Digest - Sun, 11/25/2018 - 2:28pm

In Germany, scientists from Ruhr-Universität Bochum succeeded for the first time in understanding how certain algae enzymes produce hydrogen by reproducing the pathway of the protons to the active center of these [FeFe] hydrogenases. This could allow such efficient but vulnerable biocatalysts to be chemically more stable.

The hydrogenases produce two protons and two electrons of hydrogen in their catalytic center. The necessary protons take them from the surrounding water and transport them via various intermediate stations into their interior. How exactly the pathway of the protons by the hydrogenase looks, was not yet known. Dr. Martin Winkler, one of the authors of the study from the Photobiotechnology Group of the RUB, said that depending on where the scientists had changed the hydrogenase, hydrogen production only worked less efficiently or not at all and “We found out why some variants are severely disturbed in their enzyme activity and others are unlikely to be impaired.”

Their findings might enable scientists to create stable chemical reproductions of such efficient, yet fragile biocatalysts.

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Algae ‘blooms’ in automotive industry

Biofuels Digest - Sun, 11/25/2018 - 2:23pm

Mazda is investing in it. Honda is using it for R&D and potential byproducts. Algenol, AlgaEnergy and others grow and develop it. Euglena began producing it for biojet fuel at its new biofuel refinery plant in Japan. The U.S. government has a whole R&D department that is looking at this stuff. The list goes on. So why is algae living it up lately? It’s all about research and getting further down the path step by step with each discovery.

The vroom-vroom

Let’s start with the cars. Back in 2009, we saw the unveiling of the world’s first algae fuel-powered vehicle – the Algaeus – which was a plug-in Prius hybrid car, that ran on algae-based fuel from Sapphire Energy. Some say that was the beginning…

Mazda recently talked about algae being an important part of its “Sustainable Zoom-Zoom 2030” initiative, as reported in NUU in October Their goal is simple – to promote the wide-spread adoption of biofuels from microalgae growth and reducing its average ‘Well-to-Wheel’ CO2 emissions to 50% of 2010 levels by 2030, and to 90% by 2050.

Improving productivity and reducing costs are fundamental to the widespread future availability of algae biofuels. To that end, Mazda is lending research-accelerating technical support to both research into genome editing by Hiroshima University and the study of plant physiology by the Tokyo Institute of Technology, which is intended to lead to a breakthrough in these areas.

Today, Honda R&D Americas, Inc. is running an algal farm onside at their Ohio Center. In a ‘let’s go full circle’ way, the building’s CO2 is used to grow algae that can then be converted into new energy and other valuable products. The leaders of the algae project at Honda, Joel Agner, Daniel Sellars, and Dan Wells, got the idea for the on-site algae farm after discovering a passion for alternative energy and making their own biodiesel from used vegetable oil.

“In the Honda spirit of ‘sangen shugi,’ or ‘going to the spot,’ we decided to look at a major source of CO2 – exhaust from our engine and transmission test cells,” Wells said, referring to the “dynos,” or dynamometers, used for vehicle testing.

Their carbon-neutral diesel generator, placed at ground-level, draws CO2 from the roof’s dyno exhaust flue into its combustion chamber. A nearby compressor—also powered by the generator—then captures and stores the generator’s exhaust and injects it into the algal system, also on the ground. Interestingly, the generator gets its power not from diesel fuel, but from the waste vegetable oil from Honda’s cafeteria.

“Using discarded vegetable oil was another opportunity for us to show true waste-to-energy and electricity generation from plant-based fuel,” Agner said. “Because we capture the exhaust and feed it to the algae, there is no carbon penalty associated with the generator’s combustion.”

In addition to storing up CO2, the generator also charges a Honda Fit electric vehicle, which provides a full day’s worth of power for running the algal system.

They hope to create a modular algal system for other Honda sites to employ and make it more automated so that it can work on its own. In May, global Honda leadership saw the algal farm after the seeding inoculation took place. Already, the amount grown is doubling per day, and the extracted algae is now being studied at Ohio University.

“Through this we’ve found all kinds of other technology and ideas that could be implemented, including ones that would feed directly into our algal system,” Sellars said. “This is just the tip of the iceberg with this technology.”

Even oil and gas giant, Exxon, said it could make 10,000 barrels a day of biofuel from algae within a few years. They are working with Synthetic Genomics to see if they could produce it on a massive scale. Oliver Fetzer, chief executive officer at Synthetic Genomics told Fast Company, “The goal here is to get to a sustainable, renewable biofuel that can be cost-competitive with pumping oil out of the ground, but can scale to levels that go far beyond demonstration levels. We see this step as a very important step along the way to scalability.”

Their 2017 discovery that by tweaking a particular gene in a certain species of algae, they were able to make the algae produce twice as much fat as it would in the wild, but still grow as quickly as usual, changed the whole outlook on algae as biofuel feedstock for them.

“Ten thousand barrels a day would be world-scale for current biofuels,” Vijay Swarup, vice president for research and development at ExxonMobil Research and Engineering Company told Fast Company. “And this is one small step. It’s an important step because we’re going to learn about the engineering fundamentals tied with the biology fundamentals. But we see this as scalable. The goal here is to get to the hundreds of thousands of barrels a day…if we didn’t think this was going to be scalable, reliable, affordable, and sustainable, then we wouldn’t be working on it because we go in for scalable solutions. We’re not interested in niche applications or additive applications. The pathway here is to get to that large scale.”

The R&D

So it’s happening! Mazda, Honda and Exxon are on it with determination, and what’s even more exciting is that we can barely keep up with the latest algae developments, especially in research circles where it seems each day we are hearing about improvements and getting a step closer to massive scale.

In Michigan, with $2 million from the U.S. Department of Energy, University of Michigan researchers aim to make the long-touted promise of algae as a biofuel source for diesel engines into a reality, as reported in The Digest in October. They will work with colleagues at Penn State University on a three-year project to perform an end-to-end evaluation of how best to grow algae, transform it into a diesel fuel and maximize its performance during the combustion process.

As reported in NUU in September, Michigan State University scientists found a solution using two species of marine algae and soil fungi to enhance oil production and harvest using what many consider sea sludge. The new proof of concept is a biofuel production platform that lowers cultivation and harvesting costs and increases productivity.

As reported in NUU in October, PHYCO2 LLC’s three-year pilot program with Michigan State University hit a major milestone with the operation of its new, scalable algae production technology reactor. The PHYCO2 algae reactor has operated continuously for over 7 months and is still running. A new 1,000-liter reactor with a new design that builds upon the earlier research was also built and put in service. It is expected to have lower operating costs, scalable design and higher productivity rates.

Also in October, the Digest reported that researchers at Colorado State University are leading a $2.1 million project that aims to increase algae yield by improving carbon dioxide utilization. The three-year project is part of an effort led by the Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy to improve the cost-competitiveness and environmental sustainability of microalgae-based fuels and products. Project goals include 1) improving delivery of CO2 to algae and 2) enhancing algae’s consumption of the CO2.

In New Jersey, Rutgers University researchers found clues to how nature can modify genomes in a single-celled species of green algae that suggest ways in which scientists may someday engineer more robust algae to serve as biofuels and provide other benefits, as reported by NUU in October.

Bottom Line

If all the news lately about algae is spinning your head, we understand why. It’s a time of -excitement, of new discoveries and ever-improving ways to utlize algae for biofuels as well as the host of other uses like cosmetics, food, chemicals, and more.

The fact that Mazda, Honda, Exxon and other giant players in the vehicle and fuel markets are paying attention to algae is more than hopeful. It’s a sign that they see a real future with algae-based fuels, and that is huge.

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Tapping the genetic power of Algae: The Digest’s 2018 Multi-Slide Guide to Algenol

Biofuels Digest - Sun, 11/25/2018 - 9:39am

Algenol is a global, industrial biotechnology company that is commercializing its patented algae technology platform for production of ethanol and other biofuels, chemicals and biobased materials.

Formed in 2006, and headquartered in Fort Myers, Florida with an R&D facility in Berlin, the company operates in multiple sectors: AgTech, natural food colorants, biofertilizer biostimulants, human and animal food protein, plus Contract research, development and manufacturing, Algal product research and development, Synthetic biology, Photobioreactor-based algae production tolling and biofuels.

Algenol CBO Jacques Beaudry-Losique gave this illuminating overview of the company’s progress and promise at ABLC Global 2018.

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Commercializing 2nd-gen biofuels: The Digest’s 2018 Multi-Slide ABLC Guide to Axens

Biofuels Digest - Sun, 11/25/2018 - 9:35am

Following the acquisition of Heurtey Petrochem and the integration of 50% of Eurecat, Axens Group now provides a complete range of solutions including: technologies, equipment, furnaces, modular units, catalysts, adsorbents and services for the conversion of oil and biomass to cleaner fuels as well as production and purification of major petrochemical intermediates. The offer also covers all of natural gas’ treatment and conversion options.

Axens Group cover the entire value chain, from feasibility study to unit start-up and follow-up throughout the unit entire life cycle. “This unique range of solutions ensures the highest level of performance with a reduced environmental footprint,” the company notes.

Axens’ David Schwalje gave this illuminating overview of second-gen biofuels conversion opportunities at ABLC Global 2018 in San Francisco.

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The Digest’s 2018 Multi-Slide ABLC Guide to ARPA-E’s agro-energy programs

Biofuels Digest - Sun, 11/25/2018 - 9:28am

The Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) advances high-potential, high-impact energy technologies that are too early for private-sector investment. ARPA-E awardees are unique because they are developing entirely new ways to generate, store, and use energy.

ARPA-E projects have the potential to radically improve U.S. economic prosperity, national security, and environmental well being. We focus on transformational energy projects that can be meaningfully advanced with a small amount of funding over a defined period of time. Our streamlined awards process enables us to act quickly and catalyze cutting-edge areas of energy research.

Recently, the U.S. Department of Energy announced $98 million in funding for 40 new projects as part of OPEN 2018, the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy’s (ARPA‑E) latest open funding opportunity. These funds will support some of America’s top energy innovators’ R&D projects as they seek to develop technologies to transform the nation’s energy system.

ARPA-E’s Krishna Doraiswamy gave this illuminating overview to ARPA-E and its promise and progress at ABLC Global 2018 in San Francisco.

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Ecosystem service: The Digest’s 2018 Multi-Slide ABLC Guide to bioeconomy total value landscaping

Biofuels Digest - Sun, 11/25/2018 - 9:19am

Watershed design, Landscape design vs. usual, meeting societal goals and the circular bioeconomy – these are topics of this illuminating overview of bioeconomy economic value landscaping from Argonne National Lab’s Cristina Negri at ABLC Global 2018 in San Francisco.

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Innovative Conversion Technologies: The Digest’s 2018 Multi-Slide ABLC Guide to using Canadian Bbiomass

Biofuels Digest - Sun, 11/25/2018 - 9:10am

Bioindustrial Innovation Canada (BIC) is a nationally focused not-for-profit organization based in Sarnia, Ontario, in the county of Lambton. BIC’s mission is to provide critical strategic investment, advice and services to business developers of clean, green and sustainable technologies. “Our expertise in commercialization builds a stronger Canada,’ the group says of its goals.

Murray McLaughlin gave this illuminating overview of the BIC perspective on unlocking Canadian biomass value opportunities through innovative conversion technology at ABLC Global 2018 in San Francisco.

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Bombay High Court allows biodiesel to be marketed freely

Biofuels Digest - Thu, 11/22/2018 - 5:40pm

In India, the Bombay High Court has ruled allowing for direct sales of biodiesel as long as the fuel meets quality standards, a move which should support growth in the domestic biodiesel industry significantly. Biodiesel sales for transportation had been restricted by a 2005 law that required significant investment in infrastructure, oil exploration or refining or terminals in order to get marketing permission. The case was originally brought to the court by My Own Eco Energy who is producing biodiesel and sought permission to distribute it by getting rid of the prohibitive law.

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Malaysian biodiesel demand from B10 won’t do much to reduce palm oil surplus

Biofuels Digest - Thu, 11/22/2018 - 5:39pm

In Malaysia, despite ongoing promises of a B10 mandate, Platts reports that a local analyst doesn’t expect there to be an impact on palm oil prices once the mandate comes into effect in February—if it isn’t postponed yet again—because the country is so small the increased demand will only account for around 250,000 metric tons per year. The current B7 mandate only required about 500,000 tons of palm oil annually. Indonesia’s population is much larger, so jumps in mandates there have a far larger impact on demand.

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US ethanol shipment into Europe puts market on edge

Biofuels Digest - Thu, 11/22/2018 - 5:38pm

In the Netherlands, Platts reports that a cargo of 25,000 cu m of ethanol has been booked to the ARA hub from the US to be loaded during the second half of December which immediately pushed January T2 ethanol prices lower by EUR8/cu m to EUR508/cu m despite it not being clear if the entire shipment is T2 ethanol or T1 as well. European ethanol margins are very tight due to high feedstock prices, so any sign of US ethanol coming into the market sends players into a panic.

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Uttar Pradesh looks to boost ethanol production at 24 coop mills

Biofuels Digest - Thu, 11/22/2018 - 5:37pm

In India, the Business Standard reports that Uttar Pradesh’s Chief Minister said 24 cooperative mills would soon get ethanol distilleries and cogeneration capacity in an effort to boost efficiencies, create jobs and supply more ethanol to other states. UP already blends 10% ethanol. In addition, he said mills would be adding additional ethanol production capacity straight from sugarcane juice over the next year, although he didn’t say how many mills or how much production would be installed.

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European rapeseed plantings hit hard by drought and dry autumn

Biofuels Digest - Thu, 11/22/2018 - 5:36pm

In Germany, with hot, summer weather and droughts already negatively impacting yields of many crops across Europe, Reuters reports that rapeseed planting is seen down drastically in Germany, France and the UK due to dry weather that stretched into autumn, while planting in Poland is on par with last year’s. As a result, imports in 2019 will be expected. France’s planted area is seen down by about a third while Germany planted 18% less. UK planted area could be down by as much as 10%.

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Scania sues Nagpur in latest move in on-going Indian green bus saga

Biofuels Digest - Thu, 11/22/2018 - 5:35pm

In India, the Times of India reports that hopes for the resuscitation of Scania’s green bus project in Nagpur were dashed following a lawsuit by the bus manufacturer against the city’s authorities to ensure the latter from forfeiting a bank guarantee of more than $1 million. Negotiations with the company are underway for another local operator to take over the green bus operations from Scania but there are a number of financial disputes that need to be resolved first.

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