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Renmatix, Gevo ink deal to develop cellulosic hydrocarbons for jet fuel, gasoline markets 

Biofuels Digest - Thu, 12/06/2018 - 9:03am

We have word bubbling up simultaneously from Pennsylvania and Colorado that Gevo and Renmatix inked a joint development agreement to evaluate the commercial feasibility of creating renewable jet fuel by integrating Renmatix’s Plantrose Process with Gevo’s GIFT technology and alcohol to jet process. 

The key word here is cellulosic, but not limited to “trees to fuels” though Renmatix has been most visible along those lines. 

The market and the problem

The companies jointly pointed to some very rosy projections: “he automotive biofuels market is undergoing rapid growth, expected to reach more than $195 billion by 2023, up from nearly $119 billion in 2017, according to Research and Markets. Demand for sustainable aviation fuels is also increasing; according to the International Air Transportation Association (IATA), incremental demand is expected to grow by 3 billion gallons per year.” Those figures on sustainable jet are probably derived by calculating demand at 50 percent of all aviation fuel demand, and getting that demand from a source like this. https://www.energymanagertoday.com/demand-for-jet-fuel-skyrockets-efficiency-gains-to-follow-0179432/

It’s true, anyone could sell 10 billion gallons of sustainable aviation fuel in about a day and a half of phone calls, you could, I could, your cousin Bob could. But try finding fuels that fit three categories: Affordable, available, sustainable — and you’ll see the problem right away. You can have two of the three.

Fuels are available and affordable if they are not sustainable. If they are sustainable and available, they have been hitherto affordable. And affordable, sustainable fuels have generally been unavailable.

For now, the market could use even a couple of hundred million gallons of sustainable, available, affordable jet fuel — and gasoline too, though in aviation you can’t believe how motivated the buyers are. Almost as motivated as they are unwilling to crush their balance sheets with fuel price increases to meet sustainability goals.

So what happens when the irresistible driver meets the unmoveable economics? That’s when we wave the cellulosic flag. It’s a deep pool of biomass, not elegantly aggregated to date (excepting woody biomass) for the very reasons that make it affordable – no one has worked out the large-scale applications, like fuel. Wood is a special case because the economics and logistics were generally worked out owing to traditional markets for pulp and paper, and then the newsprint market collapsed, leaving everyone in the wood supply chain needing a big, giant, shiny new application. 

The cellulosic backstory

As the partners explain:

“Cellulosic sugars are one of the most abundant feedstocks in the world, and in many geographies with dense vegetation, using woody biomass feedstocks to generate useful sugars is the most cost-effective solution. The Joint Development Agreement between Renmatix and Gevo to evaluate the commercial feasibility to convert cellulosic feedstocks into renewable, low-carbon products addresses a major global need for automotive biofuels worldwide, as well. 

“Renmatix’s Plantrose Process converts cellulosic feedstocks such as wood, agricultural residues, or other cellulosic raw materials to cellulosic-based sugars, the basic building blocks of sustainable fuels. Together, Renmatix and Gevo will explore project opportunities for renewable and low-emission fuel, isobutanol, jet fuel and isooctane in markets where there is a convergence of low-cost biomass and low-carbon fuel incentives.”

This Agreement to evaluate the commercial feasibility of developing renewable, low-carbon fuels from cellulosic material also comes at a time when global refiners and airline carriers are working toward reducing their own greenhouse gas emissions by looking to enter into affordable and large-scale agreements for the supply of renewable jet fuel and gasoline. 

The Gevo cellulosic backstory

In October 2016, we reported that Gevo completed production of the world’s first cellulosic renewable jet fuel that is specified for commercial flights.  Gevo successfully adapted its patented technologies to convert cellulosic sugars derived from wood waste into renewable isobutanol, which was then further converted into Gevo’s Alcohol-to-Jet (ATJ) fuel. This ATJ meets the ASTM D7566 specification allowing it to be used for commercial flights. The revisions to the ASTM D7566 specification, which occurred earlier this year, includes ATJ derived from renewable isobutanol, regardless of the carbohydrate feedstock (i.e. cellulosics, corn, sugar cane, molasses, etc.).

In July 2017, we reported that Praj Industries Ltd and Gevo unveiled a new commercial opportunity in renewable bioproducts, jointly announcing that Gevo’s proprietary isobutanol technology will now be available for licensing to processors of sugar cane juice and molasses. This follows on the back of Praj’s development work, adapting Gevo’s technology to sugar cane and molasses feedstocks. A Joint Development Agreement and a Development License Agreement were entered into between Praj and Gevo in November 2015. The goal of these agreements was for Praj to adapt Gevo’s isobutanol technology to using non-corn based sugars and lignocellulose feedstocks. The process technology development was performed at Matrix, Praj’s R&D center located in Pune, India.

And in October 20176 we reported that Gevo in Colorado and New Mexico’s Los Alamos National Lab will collaborate to improve the energy density of Gevo hydrocarbon products to meet product specifications for tactical fuels for specialized military applications such as RJ-4, RJ-6 and JP-10, which are currently purchased by the US Department of Defense (DoD).

High energy-density fuels are currently used in air and sea-launched cruise missiles used by the US military forces. If this project is successful in scaling the fuels cost-effectively, there may be an even broader application in the general aviation sector, enabling higher energy density jet fuel that would provide superior mileage to traditional aviation fuels.

The Renmatix technology

You can see the technology’s promise and progress in two Multi-Slide Guides:

Cellulosics & the Whole Bio-Barrel: The Digest’s Multi-Slide Guide to Renmatix

Affordable Cellulosics: The Digest’s Multi-Slide ABLC Guide to Renmatix

As Renmatix explains:

“Renmatix’s supercritical hydrolysis technology deconstructs non-food biomass an order of magnitude faster than other processes and enhances its cost advantage by using no significant consumables. The Plantrose process converts plant materials into fractions of cellulose sugar, crystalline cellulose and OMNO polymers. As part of biorefinery efforts, Renmatix is a technology licensor for the conversion of biomass into cellulosic sugar, a feedstock for petroleum alternatives used in the global biochemical and biofuels markets. The company’s Plantrose process challenges conventional sugar economics by cheaply converting cellulosic biomass – from wood waste to agricultural residue – into, cost-effective sugars. 

The Renmatix backstory

In October 2016 we reported that Bill Gates led an investment round into the pioneering cellulosic sugars producer Renmatix as energy giant Total joined in with second investment and a 1 million ton per year license. Gates is the chairman of the Breakthrough Energy Coalition— along with Zuckerberg, Branson, Bezos, Steyer, Khosla, Doerr, and 20 others who said at the COP 21 meetings last year in Paris that:

“In the current business environment, the risk-reward balance for early-stage investing in potentially transformative energy systems is unlikely to meet the market tests of traditional angel or VC investors. This collective failure can be addressed, in part, by a dramatically scaled-up public research pipeline, linked to a different kind of private investor with a long term commitment to new technologies who is willing to put truly patient flexible risk capital to work. These investors will certainly be motivated partly by the possibility of making big returns over the long-term, but also by the criticality of an energy transition.”

Reaction from the stakeholders

Gevo CEO Pat Gruber: “At Gevo, we are replacing fossil-based jet fuel and gasoline with better-performing, renewable low-carbon jet fuel and isooctane to lower greenhouse gas emissions. In addition to our approach that produces protein for food chain use while generating fermentable sugars used in the production of low-carbon fuels, we believe Renmatix’s Plantrose Process could enable us to achieve a cost-effective and sustainable means of producing low-carbon jet fuel and gasoline from fermentable sugars using cellulosic feedstocks. We look forward to working with Renmatix to create a fully integrated system that is capable of converting cellulosic materials to low-carbon renewable fuels at scale,” said  

Renmatix CEO Mike Hamilton: “Renmatix has been committed to cellulosic feedstocks as the means to enabling the bio-based economy, from recent efforts to liberate valuable fractions into food and cosmetic ingredients, to our cellulosic sugar technology for jet fuel developments. Given Gevo’s first cellulosic-based jet fuel and recent advancements, to today, with demand for renewable jet fuel increasing, we believe it’s an ideal time to explore our combined ability,” said “Despite continued innovation in biofuels, it is impossible to make enough renewable fuels at the scale that the world will ultimately need without unlocking the massive resource of cellulosic sugars. Our Plantrose technology produces high-quality, cost-effective sugars from a broad range of feedstocks, which is why we’re working with Gevo to solve this critical hurdle.”

More on the story

The Gevo website is here and the Renmatix website is here.

Categories: Today's News

Stora Enso and Sulapac introduce demo of biocomposite straw

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 12/05/2018 - 5:41pm

In Finland, Stora Enso and Sulapac continue to combat the global problem of plastic waste by introducing a demo of a sustainable straw at Slush 2018, a global leading startup event gathering of 20,000 tech enthusiasts. The demo, targeting industrial scale production, is designed to replace traditional plastic straws with renewable ones. The straws are based on Sulapac’s biocomposite material – made of wood and natural binders – designed to be recycled via industrial composting and biodegrade in marine environment.

Stora Enso signed a joint development agreement with Sulapac in May 2018 to license its materials and technology. The development of the demo straw is a joint collaboration between Stora Enso and Sulapac – a cooperation which complements Stora Enso’s extensive biocomposite portfolio. Sulapac’s material works in existing extrusion lines and the target is to have the straws commercially available in Q2 2019.

Categories: Today's News

Celtic Renewables signs MOU to clean up Ganges River with biobutanol technology

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 12/05/2018 - 5:40pm

In India, Celtic Renewables has signed an MOU with Dross Energy to produce biobutanol from brewery and distillery waste in an effort to clean up the Ganges River. Those industrial waste streams are currently discharged into the holy river that is a source of drinking water for 400 million people. The details of the project weren’t announced, the MOU was claimed as a victory by the Indian transportation minister as well as Scottish Development International who facilitated the introduction. Celtic Renewables’ biobutanol from Scottish whiskey waste was used to power a vehicle during the Indian Water Summit where the agreement was signed.

Categories: Today's News

Argentina takes Peru to the WTO over anti-dumping duties on biodiesel exports

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 12/05/2018 - 5:39pm

In Switzerland, Reuters reports that Argentina has filed an official complaint against Peru at the World Trade Organization over what is claims is unfair treatment of its biodiesel exports to the neighboring country. In October 2016, Peru implemented anti-dumping and anti-subsidy duties on Argentine biodiesel imports, similar to moves made by the US and the European Union, after complaining for five years about unfair trade. On the back of the imposed duties, Peru’s biodiesel industry began producing again in 2017. The country has a 5% blending mandate.

Categories: Today's News

Marquis Energy to install FQPT SGT System at Hennepin facility

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 12/05/2018 - 5:38pm

In Illinois, Marquis Energy, one of the premier ethanol producers in the U.S., is installing the Fluid Quip Process Technologies Selective Grind Technology at the Hennepin, Illinois, facility.  The Hennepin FQPT SGT System will be the largest installation to date at an ethanol facility worldwide.

FQPT has installed 15 SGT systems producing over 1.2 billion gallons of ethanol annually worldwide and has shown an average increase of 3-plus percent in ethanol yields and 25-plus percent increase in oil yields.  The SGT systems have proven to improve yields nearly 2 times that of any other grind technology on the market to date.

Categories: Today's News

European T2 ethanol rises to 21-month highs as mothballed facilities bite into supplies

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 12/05/2018 - 5:37pm

In the Netherlands, Platts reports that T2 ethanol prices have risen to Eur622.25/cu m FOB Rotterdam as tight supplies in the Amsterdam-Rotterdam-Antwerp region pushed levels to 21-month highs. Key suppliers to the region, Vivergo and Ensus from the UK, have been mothballed and in turn left the region without sufficient volume. US and Latin American imports are expected to relieve some of the pressure in the coming months as low levels on the Rhine River continue to wreak havoc on production transportation throughout Europe, though with winter rains the situation appears to be easing.

Categories: Today's News

India to provide additional $1 billion for soft loans to another 168 ethanol plants

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 12/05/2018 - 5:36pm

In India, Cogencis news agency reports that another $1 billion in soft loans for ethanol plants at sugar mills may be on the cards after a first tranche of $863 million attracted 114 projects that have already been approved. The new funding would allow an additional 168 ethanol projects to go forward. The subsidy translates to either a 6% interest rate or half of commercial loan rates, whichever is lower, for up to five years.

Categories: Today's News

UK launches $76.4 million challenge to create sustainable packaging and plastic

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 12/05/2018 - 5:34pm

In the UK, household food scraps could be transformed into environmentally-friendly plastic bags and cups, thanks to up to GBP60 million ($76.4 million) of new government funding.

Innovators are being challenged to make the UK a world-leader in creating sustainable packaging and reduce the impact of harmful plastics on the environment, as the UK seizes the economic opportunity of the global shift to greener, cleaner economies – a key part of the government’s modern Industrial Strategy.

The funding, to be bolstered by industry support, and delivered by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund could help develop: new forms of packaging and plastic – made from farming, food and industrial waste, like sugar beet, wood chippings and food waste – moving away from oil-based plastics

smart packaging labels – which, alongside a smart bin, could tell consumers the right bin to put recycling into and revolutionize the way recycling is sorted in waste plants ‘live’ sell-by-date patch – a living sell-by-date which deteriorates at the same rate as produce to show consumers when their food is going off – cutting down on food waste reduce single use plastics – increase use of recycled plastic in new products

Categories: Today's News

DDGS may be among those to benefit from easing of China and US trade war

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 12/05/2018 - 5:33pm

In Washington, Reuters reports that the trade war between China and the US may be easing following an agreement by China to import a substantial amount of US commodities. Expectations are that in order to facilitate the trade deal, import tariffs would have to drop. DDGS are among the commodities that are expected to benefit from the deal made over the weekend between the presidents of the two countries on the sidelines of the G20 meeting in Argentina. Soybeans, sorghum and pork are among those expected to benefit most.

Categories: Today's News

Strategic Due Diligence of Emerging Technologies for the Advanced Bioeconomy

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 12/05/2018 - 3:04pm

Doug Rivers

Bob Kodrzycki

By Bob Kodrzycki, Ph.D., Principal Encompass Biotech LLC and Doug Rivers, Ph.D., Member, Lee Enterprises Consulting Inc.

Special to The Digest

Investing in Emerging Biotechnology

The advanced bioeconomy is a hot topic these days for technology developers and investors alike. The bioecomony itself is not new; humans have been using biogenic resources and processes since the beginning of time.

It’s the use of the most recent improvements that put the “advanced” in the advanced bioeconomy. So, by definition, the advanced bioeconomy relies on emerging technology. While some may see the wealth and excitement of opportunity in emerging technology, others may be put off by the unproven nature and the high risk.

Obviously, all technologies we use today were emerging at some time so the idea of developing and investing in emerging, high risk technologies can be accomplished. It’s just a matter of how to approach the process.

What’s So Scary About Emerging Technology?

In part, the following can be concerns for establishing a successful commercial venture in the advanced bioeconomy:

  • All or part of the process may be novel and thus there may be little basis for comparison to proven technology to establish likelihood of success.
  • The product may be novel and not have an established market presence.
  • The founders are often the inventors of the technology. Engineers or scientists who may have had little practical experience in business development and/or commercialization.

Many investors use checklists to evaluate the “readiness level” of a technology or investment opportunity. See Dave Humbird’s article earlier in this series: Expanded Technology Readiness Level (TRL) Definitions for the Bioeconomy for an overview of TRLs. These Technology Readiness Levels (TRLs) or Investment Readiness Levels (IRLs) are specific to each opportunity but can be summarized, in part, by answering the following questions.

  • Is the product idea appropriate for the current market?
  • What is the competitive landscape for the product?
  • Is the scientific basis understood for the product?
  • Is the product effective under commercial conditions?
  • Can the product be produced at scale?
  • Can the team can pull it off?

Often the modern bioeconomy involves processes that are more science than engineering based, and it is the reliance on production using a biological organism that increases the risk factors. Biology usually means high variability whereas engineering implies high reliability and tight tolerances. The emerging discipline of synthetic biology is, in part, an attempt to make the use of biological organisms more reliable and predictable in ever more complex processes by creating organisms with high reliability and tight tolerances.

So, our task is to make biology more like engineering…or at least to gain an understanding of what is needed to overcome the inherent variability in biological systems, so they can be treated like engineering projects.

Biorefineries are Central to the Bioeconomy – Feedstock is Critical to Biorefineries

As outlined in Figure 1, biorefineries convert feedstock into products. The “bio” in biorefinery can either be the biological feedstock or the biological process used to make the product, or both.

Consider an ethanol biorefinery: Corn is grown, corn starch is sent to the biorefinery where microbial fermentation is used to make ethanol.

If corn cannot be produced, then there will be no ethanol.

An important part of the bioeconomy is the sustainable production of feedstocks and products. Corn and other feedstocks can be more sustainably grown by increasing yield per acre while using less water, fertilizer and agricultural chemicals.

Growing More and Better Feedstock the Advanced Bioeconomy Way

Let’s consider an emerging technology in feedstock production: the use of biostimulants.

Biostimulants are substances derived from microbes that are naturally associated with plants, either on the surface, inside the plant bodies or in the soil. Biostimulants are entering the market at a rapid pace and are expected to establish a dominant position over traditional agricultural chemicals over the coming decades because of their non-toxic, environmentally friendly traits. Biostimulants can also increase yields by double-digits while improving crop quality and increasing disease resistance.

But there are a few things to consider before investing.

While a number of well-characterized biostimulants are commercially available, there are still many products on the market without compelling performance data. Such products suffer from low confidence among growers (and investors) and can be difficult, if not impossible, to patent and protect in the competitive market.

Fermentation is the de facto standard for production of biostimulants but the ability to commercially produce a novel biostimulant cannot be assumed. High-efficiency fermentation is a complex process requiring experimental development. Active ingredients may require purification, stabilization to ensure shelf life, and must be compatible with standard farm equipment for field delivery.

A Closer Look at Risk Mitigation

We see from the above example; several situations signal high risk for investors and thus require a high degree of attention from the technologist developing the technology.

Let’s address some of these high-risk areas individually.

Market pull, not technology push.

A clear benefit to the market that fills an established demand is a much easier path forward than convincing customers that they have a problem…and that only your product can solve it. Also consider that adoption of the new technology should solve problems, not create new ones.

  • Product fills a demonstrated need in the market and adds value.
  • Implementation is compatible with current standards and practices.
  • Market sector is quantified, and the addressable market is reasonable.
Science, not snake oil.

For many new technologies, biostimulants included, there may be a history of products that over-promised and under-delivered. The proactive solution in this case is data, data and more data: Proof not promises. Anything “bio” requires repeated testing at multiple locations for several growing seasons to establish market trust.

Mode-of-action needs to be defined for biostimulants for several reasons: customer acceptance, derivative products and patenting strategy. Growers need to know the mode-of-action to insure compatibility with other agents they might apply to a crop. Knowing the particular metabolic pathway being affected adds to confidence in the product and may lead to development of additional, related products.

Patenting is also dependent on mode-of-action. Knowing where the biostimulant acts opens the door to an effective strategy for patent protection and drafting accurate claims not easily outmaneuvered by competing products. Don’t overlook the importance of freedom-to-operate. (See upcoming article in this series, Intellectual Property for Bioeconomy Project Development, by Dr. Terry Mazanec and Justin Krieger, Esq). It is best to know where and how your biostimulant acts to ensure that it isnÕt already under intellectual property protection by a competitor.

  • Is the technology consistent with prevailing science?
  • Are the benefits consistent and quantifiable?
  • Is the field-testing data available and verifiable by a third party?
  • Is freedom-to-operate established?
  • Is the patent position clear and verified by an intellectual property professional?
Will biostimulant production scale to commercial levels?

The road to successful commercialization is littered with failures to scale. After identifying an effective product in the “test tube” stage, it seems simple to just grow more. But remember that biology entails variation and large-scale growth of microbes in fermentation is a biological process that not only relies on science and engineering expertise, but art as well.

A preliminary techno-economic assessment (TEA) should be performed on the potential commercial process and product under development. It gives a reality check and helps identify targets for regular stage gate reviews.

Primary considerations during the scale-up phase include:

  • Is the product based on a whole cell, cell extract, or extracellular material?
  • Do increased scale fermentations maintain optimum production conditions?
  • Does the quantity/quality of active molecules meet production/market specifications?
Connect R&D to commercial production

Because of the importance of fermentation scale-up to success, early phases of R&D need to keep commercial production methods in mind. Candidate microbes that are not compatible with downstream methods or economic targets should be abandoned early.

  • Are there cost-limiting medium components?
  • Are there quantity/quality-limiting considerations?
  • Do any medium components have a negative impact on downstream processing?
Fermentation scale-up.

Once commercially available medium sources are identified that satisfy the nutritional requirements of the organism, the separation needs of the final product, the allowable cost of operations, the process of scaling the fermentation from shake flasks (up to about 2 liters) to bench fermenters (tens of liters) to commercial scale (hundred to thousands of liters) begins. Figure 2 shows the concept of fermentation scale-up volume. During this phase, technical and financial targets must be considered.

A minimum target for commercial production is a 1,000-gallon fermenter. Why? Once capital equipment is in place, the cost of labor, not materials and equipment, is the single largest cost of commercial development. If capital equipment and facilities are not already in place, consider a comprehensive contract fermentation facility with proven experience both upstream and downstream from fermentation. The right contract organization can save you time, money, and possibly provide insights into process improvements.

  • What key process parameters must be continuously monitored?
  • Is the organism sensitive to shear forces?
  • Is an alternative type of reactor is needed?
  • Is the product quantity and quality acceptable?
  • What type fermentation process,batch, fed-batch, or continuous, is most suitable?
From production to product.

Fermentation processes produce a very dilute product in an aqueous environment, thus downstream processing (DSP) can be both a technical and financial challenge. Factors such as product purity, variability and shelf life are important to ensure that an effective product will be delivered to the consumer.

Some common considerations are:

  • What are the product purity requirements?
  • What is the most cost-effective separation method?
  • Does the product need to be dried?
  • Does the product require a stabilizer?
  • How is the product packaged?
  • Are standard operating procedures (SOPs) effective or will DSP methods need to be developed?
  • What level of staff formal education, training, and relevant experience are required?
Winning requires a great team.

Science-based product development is fraught with risk and uncertainty for both investors and the technologists. Science is about discovery and invention, which in the business world requires bravery and ingenuity. Variation is high at times and requires that test procedures be designed with variability in mind.

Given these realities, great leadership is a critical factor. It takes a team that understands the details of both the science the business of the product/process under development.

  • Are the critical C-suite Directors and Managers on board?
  • Does the existing management team work and communicate well together?
  • Does the team have the proper background and experience to be successful?
  • What are the gaps and how will they be filled?

The intended target customer, farmers in this case, welcome new technologies but also require a high degree of confidence before commitment. Most want to be the second or third adopter after seeing proof the technology works in a commercial setting; therefore, first adopters are critical to product success. In addition to first adopters, there must be an effective distribution and marketing plan to compete in the marketplace.

  • Are first adopters, farmers in this case, part of the team?
  • Are these first adopters influential among their peers and have a history of successfully evaluating new technologies?
  • Is the distribution and marketing path clear with critical relationships in place or identified?
The Path Forward

Development and commercialization of emerging technologies will always be a challenge. To improve the chance for success, it is important that technology developers not only understand their own technical areas of expertise, but also understand what investors need to know about the science and engineering of the technology and how they work together to achieve success. Developers also need to be aware of how investors evaluate technologies as new commercial opportunities. Good science and engineering alone are rarely good enough to meet the demands of the commercial marketplace. A deep understanding of the specific target market and distribution channels are critical to success.

Commercializing emerging technology, by its very nature, is risky business. De-risking the technology development and the investment should be approached by adopting a policy of working from a position of knowledge. Third party experts can go a long way in bridging knowledge gaps at all stages of your emerging technology projects.

About the Authors

Bob Kodrzycki, Ph.D. is the Principal and Owner of Encompass Biotech LLC, a consultancy serving BioEconomy investors and companies in AgBiotech, Synthetic Biology, Genomic Technologies and Renewable Products.

Doug Rivers, Ph.D. is a member of Lee Enterprises Consulting Inc., the world’s premier bioeconomy consulting group, with more than 100 consultants and experts worldwide who collaborate on interdisciplinary projects, including the types discussed in this article.

The opinions expressed herein are those of the authors, and do not necessarily express the views of Lee Enterprises Consulting.

 

Categories: Today's News

Evonik expands sodium methylate facility in Mobile, Ala. to boost supplies for biodiesel industry

Biofuels Digest - Tue, 12/04/2018 - 6:41pm

In Alabama, Evonik Corporation will undertake a significant capacity expansion of its sodium methylate facility located in Mobile, Ala. Upon completion, the Mobile plant will be capable of producing up to 90,000 metric tons per year.

The decision to expand capacity follows Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) recent announcement of renewable volume obligations (RVO) for 2020, which help set compliance for refiners with the Renewable Fuels Standard. Since sodium methylate is the catalyst of choice for large-scale biodiesel production in the U.S., these new EPA figures play an important role in gauging future demand for sodium methylate.

Categories: Today's News

New Bioenergy Australia State of the Nation report shows A$5 billion opportunity

Biofuels Digest - Tue, 12/04/2018 - 6:40pm

In Australia, Bioenergy Australia has released the Bioenergy State of the Nation Report (produced in collaboration with KPMG). The first state-of-the-nation assessment of the sector identifies Australia’s significant bioenergy opportunity and provides a criteria for kick-starting Australia’s bioenergy economy. The opportunity for Australia is significant and multi-faceted, offering a A$3.5 billion-A$5 billion investment opportunity, mostly in regional economies, which the Australian government is being urged to address.

Shadow Minister for Climate and Energy, the Hon Mark Butler MP gave a speech at the report launch noting that lack of vision, policy and commitment has stifled the sector. Butler said, “There are huge opportunities for Australia to embrace bioenergy. I welcome this important report from KPMG and look forward to working with Bioenergy Australia in this exciting transition.”

The majority of the 179 commissioned bioenergy projects are in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria (77%) and the main technologies comprise combustion1 (56%) and anaerobic digestion (29%). All states are lacking diversification across feedstock and technology, and most projects produce electricity as an output, which a national vision could transform.

Categories: Today's News

European Commission thinking to reinstate anti-dumping duties on Argentine biodiesel

Biofuels Digest - Tue, 12/04/2018 - 6:38pm

In Belgium, Reuters reports that the European Commission is thinking of again imposing anti-dumping duties on Argentine biodiesel imports following complaints by the European biodiesel industry saying they are still at risk of anti-competitive behavior from Argentina. The proposed definitive anti-dumping duties would be between 25% and 33.4% but the proposal needs to be approved by EU member states. The European biodiesel industry applauded the move even though it has not yet been approved for implementation.

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Lockheed Martin Invests in FORGE Hydrocarbons’ Lipid

Biofuels Digest - Tue, 12/04/2018 - 6:37pm

In Canada, Forge Hydrocarbons Corporation (FORGE) announced that it has received a $4 million USD investment from Lockheed Martin under the Industrial and Technological Benefits (ITB) Policy. This investment enables Forge, a Canadian, Small and Medium-Sized Enterprise (SME) company to further development of its Lipid-to-Hydrocarbon (LTH) technology and to construct a first-of-kind, commercial plant with a production capacity of approximately 19 million liters per year (ML/y).

FORGE’s LTH proprietary production technology produces drop-in, renewable fuels that are indistinguishable from petroleum-based fuels and that are directly compatible with the current petroleum-based fuel infrastructure. Renewable fuels are an extremely important element in any country’s strategy to reduce its carbon footprint and to adhere with the Clean Fuel Standard to reduce Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions by 30 megatons by the year 2030.  FORGE’s LTH technology reduces greenhouse gas emissions by over 70% compared to petroleum-based fuels.

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Argentine cooperative to invest $53 million in corn-based ethanol expansion project

Biofuels Digest - Tue, 12/04/2018 - 6:35pm

In Argentina, the ethanol arm of the Asociación de Cooperativas Argentinas is set to invest $53 million to expand its production capacity to 700 million liters annually using corn starch as feedstock. The original facility inaugurated seven years ago following a $150 million investment had an installed production capacity of 153 million liters annually of anhydrous ethanol. The first stage of the expansion will be complete next year but the total expansion will put the facility beyond its capacity to supply its own energy and will require 20% of its energy demand from outside sources.

Categories: Today's News

US ethanol industry applauds Ontario’s move to E15

Biofuels Digest - Tue, 12/04/2018 - 6:34pm

In Washington, the U.S. ethanol industry applauds the release of the Province of Ontario’s Environment Plan, which includes a fuel requirement for conventional gasoline to be blended with 15 percent ethanol that could go in effect as early as 2025. Following this announcement, Growth Energy, U.S. Grains Council, and Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) issued the following statement:

“As one of the largest markets for ethanol, this is a huge milestone for Canada and the people of Ontario. Ontario recognizes the important environmental, economic, and health benefits that ethanol provides and we look forward to seeing this plan become a reality by 2025.”

Last year, Growth Energy and the U.S. Grains Council submitted comments to the Canada’s Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change, urging them to look beyond E10 at higher blends like E15, and welcomed the commitment from the Ontario Province to move from a 5 percent blend to a 10 percent ethanol fuel blend by 2020.

Categories: Today's News

Japanese researchers discover “switch” in algae impacting starch levels

Biofuels Digest - Tue, 12/04/2018 - 6:33pm

In Japan, results from a collaborative study by Tokyo Tech and Tohoku University, Japan, raise prospects for large-scale production of algae-derived starch, a valuable bioresource for biofuels and other renewable materials. Such bio-based products have the potential to replace fossil fuels and contribute to the development of sustainable systems and societies.

A “switch” controlling the level of starch content in algae has been discovered by a research team led by Sousuke Imamura at the Laboratory for Chemistry and Life Science, Institute of Innovative Research, Tokyo Tech.

Reported in The Plant Journal, the study focused on the unicellular red alga Cyanidioschyzon merolae. The researchers demonstrated that starch content could be dramatically increased in C. merolae through inactivation of TOR (target of rapamycin), a protein kinase1 known to play an important role in cell growth.

They observed a notable increase in the level of starch 12 hours after inactivation of TOR through exposure to rapamycin, and this led to a remarkable ten-fold increase after 48 hours.

Importantly, the study details a mechanism underlying this profound increase in starch content. Using a method called liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS), the researchers examined subtle changes in the structure of more than 50 proteins that might be involved in “switching on” the process of starch accumulation. As a result, they pinpointed GLG1 as a key protein of interest. GLG1 acts in a similar way to glycogenin, an enzyme found in yeast and animal cells, which is known to be involved in the initiation of starch (or glycogen) synthesis.

The mechanism will be of immense interest to a wide range of industries seeking to scale up biofuel and value-added biochemicals production.

Categories: Today's News

National Biodiesel Board Fair Trade Coalition tells Commerce how to look at Argentine biodiesel imports

Biofuels Digest - Tue, 12/04/2018 - 6:32pm

In Washington, the National Biodiesel Board Fair Trade Coalition submitted comments for the record on how the U.S. Department of Commerce should conduct recently initiated changed circumstances reviews (CCRs) of U.S. duties on Argentine biodiesel imports. Commerce imposed countervailing duty (CVD) and antidumping (AD) duty orders in January and April 2018, following investigations that found massively subsidized and dumped biodiesel imports from Argentina had significantly injured U.S. biodiesel producers.

The Coalition’s comments state, “Commerce must conduct a rigorous, comprehensive review of all relevant facts since its CVD and AD investigations, and not limit its consideration to the limited facts and narrow time period showcased by the Government of Argentina (‘GOA’) in its requests for reviews.”

In the letter, the Coalition further urges Commerce to undertake reviews that are no less rigorous than its annual administrative review process, with appropriate periods of review, extensive fact-finding, and adherence to strict administrative procedures. The Coalition asks Commerce to review all of Argentina’s actions since January 2017 relating to the provision of below-market priced soybeans to the biodiesel industry through high export taxes. Commerce invited the comments following a November 19 meeting with National Biodiesel Board (NBB) representatives.

Categories: Today's News

The laws of Biofuels Deployment, and TACs that Whack: Heard on the Floor at the CAAFI annual meeting

Biofuels Digest - Tue, 12/04/2018 - 5:15pm

A most remarkable document appeared almost without fanfare at one of the most obscure corners of the Internet, known to some as “biomassboard.gov” and to most people as “Eh?”

It’s the home planet for a little known working group called the Technical Advisory Committee of the Biomass R&D Board. As the committee notes:

The Biomass Research and Development Act of 2000, as amended, established a federal Biomass Research and Development Board, and an outside Technical Advisory Committee (TAC), in furtherance of a national initiative to produce sustainable advanced biofuels and industrial products from non-food feedstocks. 

The Board meets quarterly in Washington DC and in general its purpose has been, since perhaps the days of the Bush Administration, to offer narrowly drawn advice on R&D priorities for the United States in the realm of biomass. So narrow that nanotechnology is almost certainly involved, or electron microscopes.

TAC is, arguably, the singular form of TAX and is about as popular a term around the happy halls of establishment Washington. It also rhymes with WHACK, and FLACK. As in, FLACKS WHACK TAC, which they usually do when real leaders engage in real dialogue on the real issues.

A little more of this, a little less of that. That’s what TACs stick to.  Like a young couple on the dance floor near midnight who have absolutely no idea of partner dancing, and sort of hug each other while rotating aimlessly around a tight circle.

This year, the TAC did something about as audacious and rare as shouting loud praise of open markets and democratic values on the streets of Pyongyang. The TAC actually decided to write a document about the barriers that stand between biomass-based fuels and their success at scale.

In short, they decided to write three pages about policy barriers. Or rather, about pointing out to absurdities that have made it virtually impossible to bring anything biofuelsy to scale that utilizes almost any of the amazing technologies fostered out of the Bioenergy Technologies Office lo these many years.  You can read it all, right here.

You may not know this, but around 80 percent of the biofuels produced in the United States are made using a technical process that made its first appearance in the Book of Genesis. Really.

Yes, the process has been improved. But other, great projects lie on the shelf to which they were consigned by barriers to their adoption that have almost nothing to do with technology. And usually begin with someone saying that the solution costs more than the incumbent. Someone who may well oppose condoms on the same basis.

The situation begins to remind some observers of the stories of families who would purchase and send high-quality body armor to their loved ones deployed in the Middle East because the United States wasn’t buying much of it, citing the high cost. 

It’s been very hard to find a technology today profitably deployed at scale  and at nameplate capacity in the United States whose funding came in the last decade from the Department of Energy, and not for the lack of great BETO technology success stories, but almost entirely because of the Laws of Biofuels Deployment, which are:

1. If you build it, they will come, and you will withhold it from them until they goeth mad.

2. Never make perfect the enemy of good, unless the good in question has a renewable component.

3. Two wrongs don’t make a right, but they make a perfectly good pair of calls to inaction.

4. If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. If it stopes moving, subsidize it. If it could change the world, leave it out of the Renewable Fuels Standard.

The TAC, as it happens, had one of those Emperor has no Clothes moments, observing with maximum inconvenience to just about every party advantaged by the status quo:

Today, annual production of ethanol from corn starch exceeds 16 billion gallons and bio-diesel from oilseeds and conventional sources has grown to more than 2.7 billion gallons. While advanced and cellulosic biofuels production is growing, it remains less than 500 million gallons annually, in stark contrast to legislative intent. Several factors have contributed to the slower-than-expected growth of advanced biofuels, including legislative and regulatory barriers. 

At this point, in Washington DC someone cues the firing squad and members of various citizen committees are shuttled back to their home towns with the thanks of a grateful nation and a congratulatory roll of toilet paper composed of their recommendations.

Yet, for some reason, someone posted this set of recommendations on the Internet — either an act of deliverance or definace, we cant say which. But certainly on a page owned, owing to its .gov address, by the people of the United States. Which is to say, in a happy corner of Digestville. And, as is our wont, we are content to publish and be damned.

The committee writes:

Confirming the potential economic, social, and environmental gains from expanding production and use of advanced biofuels, the TAC has focused on some of the regulatory barriers that are preventing or slowing expected growth. The TAC has particularly focused on barriers that can potentially be overcome within existing legislation, authorizations, and regulations, fully recognizing that this is a subset of a broader scope (which would include new or alternative policies or regulations). Priority was also given to addressable barriers with potential to result in sizable or scalable growth in sustainable, lower-carbon advanced biofuels that can help increase energy security and create jobs. 

Near-Term Opportunities to Address Regulatory Barriers 

There are opportunities for meaningful growth and acceleration of advanced biofuels that fit within existing statutes, regulations, rules, definitions, and programs. Many of these opportunities are tied to implementation of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program, including (i) clarifying interpretations, (ii) publishing rules that have completed the regulatory review process, (iii) applying uniformity across rules, and (iv) timeliness in conducting reviews and taking actions. The Committee highlighted several specific issues and opportunities,1 particularly issues constraining availability and use of woody biomass. 

Co-processing & Bio-intermediates

Local supplies of cost-advantaged biomass could be aggregated and upgraded to an energy-dense intermediate (e.g., biocrude) then transported to existing/future refineries for co-processing, enabling near term large-scale advanced biofuels production. Regulatory constraints disincentivize this approach because current RIN2 qualification requires processing at a single location and strict segregation of the final advanced fuel product. 

• EPA has already proposed a Renewables Enhancement and Growth Support (REGS) Rule, awaiting final publication for 2 years now. EPA could include the already-vetted rules related to co-processing of advanced biofuels using bio-intermediates produced at another site in the upcoming RFS “Reset” proposal. 

• Even in advance of finalizing rules on co-processing and bio-intermediates, EPA should consider individual applications for co-processing (part-80, facility registration), evaluating using the same criteria proposed in the REGS Rule. 

Co-mingling of Biomass 

– There are currently two issues impacting feedstock availability: co-mingling of qualified biomass feedstocks, and co-mingling of qualified and non-qualified feedstocks. 

• Establish a more equitable method for ascribing RIN values to processes that co-mingle two or more qualifying feedstock sources. A similar approach is already applied for commodity crops. 

• Allow co-mingling of qualified and non-qualified biomass, using apportioning and control methodology (e.g. mass balance paired with traceability of biomass) to determine the eligible volume of advanced biofuel or bio-intermediate. 

• Determination on Wastes – There are co-products of certain industrial processes and/or waste streams to be utilized as a feedstock that could be used to produce advanced biofuels, but opportunities are currently limited due to difficulty determining eligibility of wastes under the RFS. 

• Make a final determination on waste feedstocks to allow substances that are co-products of certain industrial processes to be utilized as feedstocks in the production of advanced biofuels. 

• Clarify rules to ensure that the biogenic portion of waste streams qualifies for RINs. 

Intermediate-Term Opportunities 

There are opportunities to address regulatory barriers that fall under existing authority, but likely require regulatory action to implement, which is more complex or takes longer. The upcoming “reset” of the RFS targets (as required by statute and triggered in 2018) is an opportunity to address. 

Pathway Approvals 

Several pathway applications submitted to EPA are awaiting review and approval, where reviews are averaging nearly 3 years. There are projects that are fully developed but cannot move forward until pathways are approved. 

• Accelerate the pathway approval process under the RFS program. Work through the backlog of pending pathway applications to allow qualified investment-ready projects to proceed. An example is completion of the existing tree pathways proposed in the REGS Rule. 

• Consider alternative approaches to pathway approvals: Create certainty in the pathway timeline and determination; consider using qualified, independent third-party resources to expedite the process. 

De-risking Feedstock Production

There are other barriers outside of the RFS program limiting the expansion of energy crops. One example is the lack of crop insurance or other risk management tools that allow producers to make enterprise management decisions on equal footing (biomass vs. commodity crops). 

• Enable biomass crops to participate in risk management and conservation programs alongside conventional crops and management activities. 

Biomass to Electricity

The EPA has issued an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) that allows for the conversion of qualified renewable biomass into electricity that is used in transportation to generate a RIN under the RFS program, but the rulemaking process has not been completed. 

• Encourage EPA to evaluate and move to complete rulemaking. 

Long-Range Opportunities 

The Committee purposely focused less on opportunities that would require statutory action or change, viewed as long-range opportunities. For perspective, a few examples are highlighted. 

• Revisit equal treatment of both sustainable plantation and naturally-regenerated managed forests for qualification as allowable feedstocks under RFS. Focus more on meeting performance standards than prescription standards. This has potential to make available large quantities of sustainable biomass feedstock that are existing, available and accessible today but ineligible to qualify under existing feedstock designations. 

• Establish a value for the renewable (non-petroleum) carbon in a final product, regardless of the product type (e.g., fuel vs. material vs. chemical). 

Research Needs

In its review of opportunities to address regulatory barriers limiting advanced biofuels growth, the Committee identified research priorities that may be useful in addressing regulatory barriers. 

• Identify and quantify the unintended consequences of the rules, definitions and regulations as they have been implemented over the last decade, a sort of third-party independent report card on RFS to date. We need to understand the causes-effects-impacts of the past to make improvements going forward. 

Categories: Today's News

Coffee sunglasses, cotton biofuel cells, evolving yeasts, biobased boat stickers, microalgae chemicals, potato plastic, bioplastic shoes: The Digest’s Top 10 Innovations for the week of December 5th

Biofuels Digest - Tue, 12/04/2018 - 11:52am

The pace of bioeconomy invention and change continues at a frenetic pace. Here are the top innovations for the week of December 5th.

#1 Do you smell coffee? That’s my sunglasses!

In Ukraine, the world’s first coffee-based sunglasses are now available thanks to eyeglass designer brand Ochi. They use a biopolymer based on coffee, flax and natural oils for their new sunglasses, which actually have a coffee scent.
The frame completely degrades in soil or water, turning into the natural fertilizer for new plants. The glass lenses won’t biodegrade but can be recycled. It takes at least 7 days to make one pair of glasses, including natural drying and coffee tamping. The whole production cycle includes 39 handwork operations.
The glasses are light weight and have a velvety matte texture and come with arms that have a flex system to follow the size of your face. They also developed adjustable earpieces which you may band inside or inside out, up or down depending on the peculiar features of your head.
More on the story, here.

Categories: Today's News

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