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Today's News

Lebanese researchers team with UNDP on pilot biodiesel plant

Biofuels Digest - Thu, 08/09/2018 - 8:05pm

In Lebanon, Holy Spirit University of Kaslik (USEK) and IPT Energy Center (IPTEC), with the support of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in Lebanon, signed an MOU to install a pilot plant for the production of biodiesel from Waste Cooking Oil.

The main objective of this project is to encourage and promote sustainable biodiesel production from WCO by collecting household WCO in storage tanks available at key IPT gas stations and at the USEK university campus, and processing it into biodiesel in a pilot plant installed at the USEK campus.

The quantity of biodiesel produced will be equally shared between USEK and IPTEC. USEK’s share will be mixed with the green diesel currently used in the university generators, while IPTEC’s share will be sold at selective IPT gas stations for commercial use.

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Bermuda looks forward to 2035 with shift towards biofuels and natural gas

Biofuels Digest - Thu, 08/09/2018 - 8:03pm

In Bermuda, the government has released the National Fuels Plan that sets out 57% biofuel and natural gas consumption by 2035 in an attempt to shore up fuel security as well as reduce costly imports of fossil fuels and reduce negative impacts on the environment. The country also aims to reduce energy consumption by 20% while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 20%. The policy refers to not just transportation fuel but also electricity and stationary use.

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Edible cutlery, organic burial, spider silk for football helmets & hearing aids, bellybutton bacteria, Elon Musk biobased surfboards: The Digest’s Top 10 Innovations for the week of August 8th

Biofuels Digest - Thu, 08/09/2018 - 4:43pm

The pace of invention and change is just too strong, we’ve realized, to highlight annual or even quarterly or monthly rankings and summaries of significant product and service advances. For now, we’re going to be tracking these on a weekly basis to keep pace with the changes. Here are the top innovations for the week of August 8th.

In today’s Digest, spider silk applications including football helmets and hearing aids, biobased products from bellybutton bacteria, Elon Musk biobased surfboards, all the taste with half the sugar, cellulose in paints, edible cutlery, organic burial, 3D printing and more ready for you now at The Digest online.

#1 Spider silk applications include hearing aids, football helmets

In Oregon, Digital Trends has outlined the latest applications for spider silk, a material gaining interest because of its tensile properties and new, cheaper production processes.
According to the publication, researchers from New York’s Binghamton University are using spider silk to improve hearing aid microphones. Because of its thinness, spider silk can pick up the velocity of air instead of just its pressure. “Today’s miniature directional microphones sound bad because their response varies strongly with frequency,” Ronald Miles, a professor in Binghampton’s department of mechanical engineering, told Digital Trends. “They tend to lose low-frequency sounds and respond mostly to very high-frequency sounds. Our technology will enable the creation of directional microphones that have audiophile quality.”
At University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom, researchers are using artificial spider silk to create strong, lightweight shields. Tests have shown the material can dissipate 70% of energy impacts. Applications include helmets for cyclists, football players, and skateboarders as well as armored vests for use by police or soldiers.
In Italy, researchers at the University of Trento fed spiders graphene. The result was spider silk three times stronger and ten times tougher than wild silk spiders.
More on the story. 

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Strategic Intent: The Digest’s 2018 Multi-Slide Guide to Renewable Energy Group

Biofuels Digest - Thu, 08/09/2018 - 4:39pm

Renewable Energy Group, Inc. (Nasdaq: REGI) is a leading provider of cleaner, lower carbon intensity products and services. The company is a major  international producer of biomass-based diesel, a developer of renewable chemicals and North America’s largest producer of advanced biofuel. REG utilizes an integrated procurement, distribution, and logistics network to convert natural fats, oils, greases and sugars into lower carbon intensity products. The company comprises 14 active biorefineries, a feedstock processing facility, research and development capabilities and a diverse and growing intellectual property portfolio.

REG gave this illuminating overview of the company’s promise and progress in reporting the company’s results for Q2 2018.

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Oil’s relentless price climb brings advanced biofuels back in vogue

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 08/08/2018 - 11:42pm

For several years now we have seen a significant number of players pivoting from biofuels towards smaller but higher-value markets in chemicals, nutrition,  nutraceuticals, pharma, materials, flavorings, fragrances, cosmetics and more. We’ve reported on the proliferation of applications both in the Digest and in What’s Nuu? and indeed there’s been so much that’s Nuu, it’s been dizzying at times with all the spinning and twirling.

Capital costs and policy uncertainty have played their part, but the foot on the pedal for many has been oil prices. The scale of operations to compete with oil prices in the 2014-2017 period was too tough for many business models, and too daunting for many investors. The rush for the “other markets” exits felt like a theater on fire.

Now, oil prices have been on a rise for more than two years and now are significantly higher than they were back in 2005 when oil prices, climate change and energy security fears spooked nations around the world to enact biofuels programs.

Today, West Texas Intermediate is priced at $68.14 per barrel, Brent Crude is now at $74.05. And for Europeans it is even worse, for the US dollar has significantly appreciated against the Euro since 2005. 

In August 2005, the spot price for Brent was $63.98, or €51.60. Today, the spot price for Brent equates to €63.83. That’s a price rise of 23.7 percent, which means that prices are roughly keeping pace with inflation (around 25 percent) and that, relatively speaking, we’re back in the same energy cost and demand scenario we were back in 2005.

We might add, no expert is predicting a fall in energy prices in the next few years. Predictions range from the 80s and a number of experts have tipped prices over $100 by 2020-21. And the renowned Phil Verleger pointed to as much as $200 by 2021. More on his reasoning here.

$200 oil in 2020? The impending energy crisis and biofuels’ role in relieving the refining capacity crunch

The RFS turns 13 today

Thirteen years ago this week, the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) was signed into law, sparking a new era of U.S. biofuel leadership that continues to support rural jobs, increase energy security, and deliver clean, affordable options at the fuel pump.

What have governments accomplished? Excepting a number of rollbacks in alternative fuels policies, not much. There are no federal standards put in place anywhere in the US or EU more ambitious than those established in the 2000. Vehicle efficiency standards are being rolled back in the US. The RFS is under an active and continuous siege. The EU has rolled back alternative fuels targets and enforced those that remain with a double-counting gobbledygook that helps no one. Enough economic starvation and despair has been imposed on the pioneers in the bioeconomy that it invokes memories of the siege of Leningrad in 1941-44, or if you consider all the mergers and acquisition activity, the Donner Party of the 1840s forced to eat their own to survive.

“For 13 years, the RFS has been a driving force for economic opportunity across the heartland,” said Kevin Skunes, president of National Corn Growers Association and a North Dakota farmer. “Today, biofuels are more important than ever. Farm income has fallen to a 12-year low, and the EPA’s refinery waivers have left more and more families facing an uncertain future. The EPA can address this uncertainty and take action now by approving year-round sales of ethanol blends greater than 10 percent, accounting for exemptions granted to refineries and reallocating exempted volumes to keep the RFS whole.”

Fuels on the comeback trail

It’s been instructive to hear the word “fuels” appearing on more and more lips these days when looking at applications of industrial biotechnology. It’s been a wonder to behold all the innovation in application development, but fuels remain the largest and by far most important market for industrial biotechnology and for biomass growers. Size dictates that. But the political dimensions of a world where some have access to abundant and affordable energy while others have restricted and pricey access — that’s a recipe for political instability across the globe, and is a major blendstock in the brew of global trade woes right now. 

Velocys advances in Mississippi

So, it is exciting news that Velocys has announced announced a significant environmental milestone for its Bayou Fuels biorefinery project in Mississippi.

Significant environmental milestone for Mississippi project

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has issued a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) on the environmental assessment report for Velocys’ planned Bayou Fuels biorefinery in Natchez, Mississippi. The 160-page environmental assessment report details the impact of the proposed facility across 15 potential aspects, including: land use, water resources, air quality, wildlife, visual impact, noise, transport and public and occupational health.

“This is a significant step in the permitting of the Bayou Fuels biorefinery as well as an important milestone for the overall development of the project,” said David Pummell, Chief Executive Officer of Velocys. “The environmental assessment provides independent confirmation that the project will not give rise to any significant environmental impacts and reflects our commitment to responsible and safe project development.”

The FONSI was issued as part of Velocys’ ongoing development of a 100-acre site in Natchez that the company secured in October 2017. The site will be home to a pioneering biorefinery that will use Velocys’ innovative technology to produce low-carbon transportation fuels from the wood wastes of lumber operations and tree plantations. The plant is expected to convert locally-sourced woody biomass waste into enough renewable fuel to meet the demands of running around 40,000 diesel and gasoline trucks.

More about Velocys and its projects here.

But let’s not make the attractiveness of fuels an excuse to overlook the importance of all those applications developed in 2014-2017. When oil prices dip again, as they always do when significant market share goes to a petroleum competitor, investors will be glad that alternatives continue to abound. Even if they have smaller markets, even if they lack the kind of mandates and government push that advances and protects alternative fuels in their infancy.

SECOS bioresin plant goes live in Malaysia

So, it’s delightful to see that bioplastics developer SECOS Group has advised markets that its Malaysian resin plant has successfully gone live, as of last week.  

The Company has delivered initial production of SECOS resin to local customers and trials of the resin have been fully approved for commercial supply. SECOS plans to ramp up production at the new facility over the coming months to meet growing demand for the Company’s proprietary resins while maintaining the highest levels of quality control.

We’ll also be watching carefully for sings of ramp up at LanzaTech, which also is commissioning and optimizing at its first commercial in China — a most interesting venture, especially to those who saw this weeks The Early Stage presentation by Anellotech CEO David Sudolsky, who noted that Anellotech technology produces a CO stream aside its prized bio-based BTX molecules. CO is a feedstock of choice for LanzaTech, and its interesting to see that woody biomass can be a solid companion to steel off-gases and orchard waste that are the primary feedstocks employed at LT’s first raft of projects in India, California, China and Belgium.

The Bottom Line

Expect more and more techno-economic analyses to give a green light to alternative fuels as oil prices head toward $100 a barrel. The tipping point may well be when Brent hits the $80 mark — at that point, we’ll have a €69 oil price in the EU, up 35% since 2005, and Europeans at that stage may be wondering exactly where are all the alternative fuels — and if they have not been made in great quantities in the EU using awesome European technologies and abundant, affordable, sustainable local feedstocks, the remedy lies in European hands.

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On the rise: The Digest’s 2018 Multi-Slide Guide to Biogas, its markets and production and treatment technologies

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 08/08/2018 - 9:36pm

What’s up with biogas?

The U.S. market has lagged in the development of biogas facilities because of the low cost of electricity, natural gas and vehicle fuels derived from petroleum. The passing of the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 as well as the need for an MTBE replacement in gasoline has promoted a great deal of development of fuel ethanol. Incentives that resulted from the RFS in the form of payments for renewable fuels certified to the EPA and registered by number to be sold as a reward for reduction of the greenhouse gases emitted by vehicles using the renewable fuels produced and sold have provided additional economic incentive to develop alternate and renewable fuels.

Scott Warfield is a partner in CERES and part of the Lee Enterprises Consulting galaxy of stars. CERES has 3 partners and 3 consulting members focused exclusively in renewable and bio-economy, each with experience in all projects phases from concept development to operations. We understand the need for completing projects safely, on time, in budget, maintaining quality for long term sustainability and maintainability. Scott gave these slides on biogas markets and technologies at ABLC 2018 in Washington DC.

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Colorado business owner pleads guilty to renewable fuel tax credit fraud

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 08/08/2018 - 8:10pm

In Colorado, a local business owner pleaded guilty to conspiracy to impair and impede the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for his role in a $7.2 million renewable fuel tax credit scheme, announced Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Richard E. Zuckerman of the Justice Department’s Tax Division.

According to court documents, Calvin Glover of Parker, Colorado, owned Colorado-based renewable fuel company, Shintan, Inc.  Glover conspired with others to file more than $7 million in false claims for refundable fuel tax credits with the IRS.  Glover signed at least 23 false tax returns that claimed over $7.2 million in bogus refundable biodiesel mixture tax credits. Based on these false claims, the IRS issued over $7 million in refunds to Shintan Inc. After receiving the refunds checks, Glover deposited the checks into a bank account that he controlled and then transferred the proceeds to his co-conspirators.

In response to two grand jury subpoenas issued during the investigation, Glover provided false documents and information to investigators and met with co-conspirators to concoct a false story, all intended to obstruct the IRS’ ongoing criminal investigation.

Glover faces a maximum sentence of 5 years in prison, as well as a period of supervised release, restitution and monetary penalties.

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Pacific Ethanol becomes first commercial ethanol plant to install solar power

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 08/08/2018 - 8:08pm

In California, Pacific Ethanol, Inc. announced the completion of a 5-megawatt solar power system at its 40 million gallon capacity per year ethanol plant in Madera, California. The system is online and generating power. Initial operations are at 3.5 megawatts and will increase to 5 megawatts upon completion of PG&E upgrades to the adjacent substation, which are expected in the fourth quarter of 2018.

Neil Koehler, Pacific Ethanol’s president and CEO, stated: “We are very excited to be online generating electricity with solar power at our Madera, California facility. This is the first ever large-scale solar power system installed at an ethanol production plant in the United States. This system will lower our carbon score and is expected to reduce our utility costs by approximately $1 million annually when operating at full capacity.”

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DOE launches RFI regarding the scale-up of catalysts

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 08/08/2018 - 8:07pm

In Washington, U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) invites public comment on its Request for Information (RFI) to understand research, capabilities and yet-to-be addressed challenges pertinent to production scale-up of catalysts for the conversion of biomass and waste streams. Additionally, through this RFI, the Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) seeks to understand enhancement capabilities of process development units at the National Laboratories in order to increase their impact. Responses to the RFI must be received no later than September 14, 2018.

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Brazilian hydrous ethanol slides to eight-year low against gasoline

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 08/08/2018 - 8:06pm

In Brazil, Platts reports that with hydrous ethanol at eight-year lows and drivers scrambling to drive on the cheaper fuel, gasoline surplus is being re-exported in tankers typically used for ethanol. One tanker was seen headed to the Gulf Coast of the US and potentially to West Africa afterwards. When ethanol is 70% of the price of gasoline or lower, drivers switch to ethanol because it’s more economically viable. As of the week ending August 4, ethanol was 58.4% the price of gasoline.

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First English biogas facility awarded with standards certification

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 08/08/2018 - 8:05pm

In the UK, the first biogas digester in England to be certified under the Anaerobic Digestion Certification Scheme has been brought online at Bore Hill Farm where wasted food will be used as feedstock. The facility operated by Malaby Biogas will provide enough electricity to power 2,500 houses. The ADCS scheme was developed by the Anaerobic Digestion & Bioresources Association to raise standards and promote good practice. The Granville EcoPark in Northern Ireland was the first facility to be certified in the country earlier this year.

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Gevo boosts sales in Q2 by nearly 29% on year

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 08/08/2018 - 8:04pm

In Colorado, Gevo reported that sales of its products increased by 28.9% for the three months ended June 30, 2018 compared to the same period in 2017, primarily due to increased production of ethanol and distiller grains. Gevo continued to benefit from the results of its ongoing efforts to reduce its overall cash burn, as total operating expenses for the three months ended June 30, 2018 declined approximately $0.9 million.

Revenues for the second quarter of 2018 were $9.4 million compared with $7.5 million in the same period in 2017. During the second quarter of 2018, revenues derived at the Luverne Facility related to ethanol sales and related products were $8.8 million, an increase of approximately $2.0 million from the same period in 2017. This was primarily a result of increased ethanol production and distiller grain prices in the second quarter of 2018 versus the same period in 2017.

During the second quarter of 2018, hydrocarbon revenues were $0.6 million, $0.05 million lower than the same period in 2017 primarily as a result of timing differences in shipping. Gevo’s hydrocarbon revenues are comprised of sales of ATJ, isooctane and isooctene.

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Brazilian researchers find key to sugarcane yield in ScGAI gene

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 08/08/2018 - 8:03pm

In Brazil, despite international breeding efforts, advanced agronomy and effective management of pests and diseases, sugarcane yields have been static for decades owing to constraints on culm development. The culm’s sugar storage capacity is physically limited, restricting the volume of sucrose and biomass that can be obtained from the crop for sugar and second-generation (2G) ethanol production, according to experts in the area.

Researchers from the University of Campinas’s Biology Institute (IB-UNICAMP), Brazil’s National Bioethanol Science & Technology Laboratory (CTBE), Sugar Research Australia and Germany’s Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU), found that the key to surmounting this constraint on sugarcane yield could lie in a gene called ScGAI.

In a study performed during a project linked to BIOEN, the Bioenergy Research Program from FAPESP—São Paulo Research Foundation, Menossi and collaborators discovered that ScGAI is an important regulator of culm development in sugarcane.

By manipulating the activity of this gene in transgenic sugarcane lines developed in Australia, the researchers succeeded in substantially increasing culm volume and changing the allocation of carbon to structural and storage molecules. They have now reported their findings in an article published in Journal of Experimental Botany.

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Malaysian truck associations team up to oppose proposed B10 mandate

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 08/08/2018 - 8:01pm

In Malaysia, the Pan-Malaysia Lorry Owners’ Association 1987 as well as the Association of Malaysian Hauliers oppose plans to boost the biodiesel mandate to 10% next year from the current 7%. Both claim that the higher biodiesel blend would damage their trucks, requiring servicing more often and requiring upgrades to engines to allow them to use 10% biodiesel. The hauliers association said that if B10 is rolled out then B7 should still be made available for those who want the fuel.

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Vietnamese drivers prefer premium fuels to E5

Biofuels Digest - Tue, 08/07/2018 - 7:43pm

In Vietnam, Platts reports that similar to the reaction of Australian drivers with the introduction of E10, drivers in Vietnam are preferring to fill up with 95 octane gasoline rather than 92 octane that has 5% ethanol despite the lower price. The preference for E0 fuels has prompted additional imports of gasoline rather than reducing imports by using domestically-produced ethanol from cassava. Imports of lower 90 octane fuel used to blend with ethanol have soared but 400,000 barrels per month but 95 octane nearly doubled 2017 imports during the first half of the year alone to 1.25 million barrels per month.

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USDA issues FONSI for proposed Velocys Mississippi biorefinery

Biofuels Digest - Tue, 08/07/2018 - 7:42pm

In Mississippi, Velocys plc announced Aug. 7 that the USDA has issued a Finding of No Significant Impact on the environmental assessment report for Velocys’ planned Bayou Fuels biorefinery in Natchez, Mississippi. With the FONSI process completed, Velocys will now focus on the next steps in the project’s development, including securing the state-level permits that will be required to construct and operate the biorefinery.

The 160-page environmental assessment report details the impact of the proposed facility across 15 potential aspects, including land use, water resources, air quality, wildlife, visual impact, noise, transport and public and occupational health. In each case, the report concludes the plant would have “none”, “none to minor,” or “minor” impacts during construction and operation.

The FONSI was issued as part of Velocys’ ongoing development of a 100-acre site in Natchez that the company secured in October. The site will be home to a pioneering biorefinery that will use Velocys’ innovative technology to produce low-carbon transportation fuels from the wood wastes of lumber operations and tree plantations. The plant is expected to convert locally sourced woody biomass waste into enough renewable fuel to meet the demands of running around 40,000 diesel and gasoline trucks.

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Inventure Renewables teams with Wilmar and Desmet Ballestra on Chinese facility

Biofuels Digest - Tue, 08/07/2018 - 7:41pm

In Alabama, Inventure Renewables has announced an agreement with Wilmar International and Desmet Ballestra Group to begin construction on a new facility in Jiangsu province, China. The plant, which will bolt on to an existing Wilmar facility, will utilize Inventure’s recently developed Soap Carbonate Technology to convert low-value processing residues into valuable, uncontaminated Free Fatty Acids.

“The announcement of the new plant is a validation of our soap carbonate technology, and of our ability to walk a project from research to reality,” said John Brown, Inventure’s Chief Operating Officer.  “Inventure’s Mixed Super Critical Fluid technology is already being used by Wilmar to produce FAME for oleochemicals and biodiesel from a wide range of vegetable oil feedstocks, and we’re very excited to break ground with them on this new project.”

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Green Plains blames EPA’s hardship waivers for falling ethanol blend

Biofuels Digest - Tue, 08/07/2018 - 7:39pm

In Nebraska, Platts reports that on Green Plains’ Q2 reporting call, the CEO said the fall in biofuel blending—falling to 9.64% in the week ended July 27—can be attributed to the missing gallons associated with the hardship waivers granted by the Environmental Protection Agency. A forthcoming appeals court case in the 10th Circuit of Appeals will hear the ethanol industry’s arguments against the issuance of waivers by the EPA’s former administrator and the intended issuance by the acting head of the agency.

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UK and US researchers discover family of enzymes converting biomass into high value bioproducts

Biofuels Digest - Tue, 08/07/2018 - 7:38pm

In the UK, new family of enzymes has been discovered which paves the way to convert plant waste into sustainable and high-value products such as nylon, plastics, chemicals, and fuels. The discovery was led by members of the same UK-US enzyme engineering team which, in April, improved a plastic-digesting enzyme, a potential breakthrough for the recycling of plastic waste.

The new family of enzymes are active on the building blocks of lignin – one of the main components of plants, which scientists have been trying for decades to find a way of breaking down efficiently.

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EU project FASTCARD moves forward advanced biofuels research via two pathways

Biofuels Digest - Tue, 08/07/2018 - 7:37pm

In Norway, EU-funded FASTCARD project used two different routes to meet European commitments to the production of advanced biofuels. The first involved the ‘liquefaction’ of biomass and is the closest to competing economically with fossil fuels, while the second employed gasification of biomass, which can be economically challenging over the short-term.

Research enabled the short- and long-term implementation of advanced biofuel production based on the rapid and risk reducing industrialization of nano-catalytic processes via liquid-based and gas-based value chains. The consortium combined it with micro-kinetic and process design level modelling to better understand the mechanisms and economics underlying these processes.

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