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Butanol from forest waste: The Digest’s 2018 Multi-Slide Guide to advanced fermentation of AVAP sugars

Biofuels Digest - Sat, 02/24/2018 - 11:49am

The objective? To create an economically viable process for the production of butanol from the underutilized natural resources domestically available economically sustainable biofuel at or below DOE target selling price. And, suitable for roll-out in multiple regions containing agricultural residues and underutilized forest residuals. Not to mention, able to compete in the butanol market without subsidy.

The Department of Energy is supporting an ambitious project led by American Process to slash costs for butanol made from biomass, and American Process CEO Theodora Retsina gave this illuminating overview of the project’s promise and progress at the DOE Peer Review Meetings.

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Western Australia looks to support hemp for biofuel and bioeconomy

Biofuels Digest - Thu, 02/22/2018 - 6:25pm

In Australia, the McGowan Government is set to boost Western Australia’s fledgling hemp industry, loosening a legislative barrier that was limiting hemp production in the State.

The State Government will amend the Industrial Hemp Act 2004 to allow hemp to be grown with a tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content of up to one percent. Currently, the Industrial Hemp Act only permits hemp with a THC content below 0.35 percent.

Changes to the Food Standards and Australia and New Zealand Code in November 2017 permit the sale of food products derived from hemp seed with a THC content of up to one percent.

Amending legislation on maximum THC concentration in line with national standards is expected to increase the number of varieties available for industrial hemp production in WA, particularly in food production through hemp seeds.

While there are currently 42 commercial hemp licensees in WA, largely focused on small-scale production, it is expected that increasing the maximum THC concentration could help to drive new growth and job opportunities in the fledgling industry.

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Agron Bioenergy reopens in California under new ownership

Biofuels Digest - Thu, 02/22/2018 - 6:24pm

In California, shuttered Monterey Bay-area plant has opened its doors again, manufacturing a cleaner-burning biofuel that will help meet California’s low carbon fuel demands. An open house and ribbon-cutting today drew supporters from the Midwest to the California coast to celebrate the reopening of Agron Bioenergy, a biodiesel production facility in Watsonville, California.

Western Iowa Energy, LLC, recently purchased the plant, idled in 2016. The company is based in Wall Lake, Iowa. This marks the first time WIE has expanded its operations outside of the state of Iowa.

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JBS Biodiesel to invest $1.69 million to use waste animal fats for biodiesel

Biofuels Digest - Thu, 02/22/2018 - 6:23pm

In Brazil, JBS Biodiesel is set to invest $1.69 million in order to facilitate the use of chicken and pork fat as feedstock for biodiesel production. JBS is one of the world’s largest meat processors and has ready access to millions of kilos of potential waste fats for feedstock. Thanks to the B10 blending mandate currently in place, the company expects to produce 500 million liters of biodiesel in 2018/19. Production in 2018 should jump 20% from the year prior to 250 million liters.

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Proposed changes to California’s LCFS send compliance credits on rollercoaster

Biofuels Digest - Thu, 02/22/2018 - 6:22pm

In California, Platts reports that LCFS compliance credits took a rollercoaster ride following the announcement the California Air Resources Board proposed a change reducing carbon emissions in transport fuels to 7.5% by 2020 rather than 10% but would boost it to 20% by 2030. With less urgency due to reduced short-term goals, prices fell to $105/mt Wednesday from $149/mt Tuesday but bounced back to $127.5/mt. The CARB released the proposals for 2020 and 2030 on Tuesday.

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lore Refineries and Petrochemicals to invest $148.7 million in 2G ethanol plant

Biofuels Digest - Thu, 02/22/2018 - 6:21pm

In India, the Hindu newspaper reports that Mangalore Refineries and Petrochemicals Ltd. will invest $148.7 million in a 600,000 liter per day second-generation ethanol facility in Karnataka. A local MP announced that the proposed facility will be sited on 50 acres of industrial land near Harihar in Davangere and will eventually create 80 full-time jobs. Agricultural waste from nearby farms will be used as feedstock but specific types of waste were not reported by The Hindu.

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Former White House energy advisor says RFS reform must come from Congress

Biofuels Digest - Thu, 02/22/2018 - 6:19pm

In Washington, a former White House energy advisor told Platts Congress will have to reform the Renewable Fuels Standard and not the White House as the negotiations will be too sensitive and tricky to come from the administration directly. He said that most of the ethanol currently blended, above 90%, still would be even without a mandate so the fight between the ethanol and oil industries is really about a small percentage of the market.

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Stockholm Environment Institute research looks at ecosystem services provided by biofuels

Biofuels Digest - Thu, 02/22/2018 - 6:18pm

In Kenya, new research from the Stockholm Environment Institute looks at mechanisms and indicators for assessing the impact of biofuel feedstock production on ecosystem services.

Biofuel feedstock production can be a significant driver of landscape modification, ecosystem change, and biodiversity loss. There is a growing body of literature that shows how biofuel landscapes provide various ecosystem services (e.g., feedstock for fuel, carbon sequestration) and compromise other ecosystem services (e.g., food, freshwater services).

These effects are context-specific and depend largely on prior land use conditions and feedstock production practices. Changes in the flow of ecosystem services due to the conversion of natural and agricultural areas can have ripple effects on human well-being.

Despite some recent attempts to apply to biofuel settings concepts and methods rooted in the ecosystem services literature, this is the exception rather than the rule within both the biofuel and the ecosystem services research communities.

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US extends and boosts antidumping duties on Argentine and Indonesian biodiesel imports

Biofuels Digest - Thu, 02/22/2018 - 6:16pm

In Washington, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross announced the affirmative final determinations in the antidumping duty (AD) investigations of imports of biodiesel from Argentina and Indonesia.

‘Today’s decision allows U.S. producers of biodiesel to receive relief from the market-distorting effects of foreign producers dumping into the domestic market,’ said Secretary Ross. ‘While the United States values its relationship with Argentina and Indonesia, even our closest friends must play by the rules.’

The Commerce Department determined that exporters from Argentina and Indonesia have sold biodiesel in the United States at 60.44-86.41 percent and 92.52-276.65 percent less than fair value, respectively.

As a result of the decisions, Commerce will instruct U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to collect cash deposits from importers of biodiesel from Argentina and Indonesia based on these final rates.

In 2016, imports of biodiesel from Argentina and Indonesia were valued at an estimated $1.2 billion and $268 million, respectively. The petitioner is the National Biodiesel Fair Trade Coalition, an ad hoc association composed of the National Biodiesel Board and 15 domestic producers of biodiesel.

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Could we cut crop-to-market time in half? The secret may lie in chloroplasts, says TechAccel as it invests in Plastomics

Biofuels Digest - Thu, 02/22/2018 - 3:41pm

Chloroplasts are in the news this week because St. Louis-based TechAccel made a science advancement investment with Plastomics, a biotechnology startup making better crops through chloroplast engineering.

Here’s the key

Chloroplast engineering is a fast, efficient, and more predictable way to introduce multiple traits into important crops that can also reduce time to market. New crops with multiple trait solutions can be delivered faster to farmers using Plastomics’ technology.

As TechAccel CTO Brad Fabbri explained to The Digest,  “a major seed company may have 20-30 or more varieties of corn that have the same transgenic tech package, and it turns out that if you get more and more of these elements in the nucleus you have to carry along, it becomes very challenging to move as a unit into all the SKUs. It becomes expensive and time-consuming even with all the tools we have today. if you could put things in the chloroplast and stack the traits there, it makes the moving of the stack more trivial. It’s one step trait integration – and it can dramatically reduce cost of goods to produce seeds and the time to go to market.

How much advantage is here? With a single transgene in the crop, probably not much. But in a varietal with a stack of ten traits, say five on the one side and five on the other to make the hybrid, Fabbri estimates that the time savings would be measured in years — perhaps as much as 2-4 years.

It’s not idle science. According to TechAccel, Monsanto and Dow already have smart stacks with up to 10 transgenic traits, and Fabbri says that this will continue to be a trend, and it is going to become a major issue to take all those traits and put them into all the plant varietals they want to sell.

Think of it like a traffic bottleneck, if you will — a chokepoint that limits innovation. Companies want to pursue more and more traits and more and more customized, targeted varietals. This technology could eliminate the material time-drag in getting all those traits into all those varietals. Bringing the future, faster. Allowing farmers to intensify agriculture and profitability — to the benefit of their food, fuel and feed customers.

But there’s an added benefit as well.

“In chloroplast vs nuclear engineering,” Fabbri added, “there’s a material difference when it comes to inheritance. Usually, you have to have typical sexual reproduction via pollination that produces a seed. But with chloroplasts and mitochondria all the DNA comes from the female and none from the pollen, the male. So, if you are worried about pollen drift, and if traits are expressed in a chloroplast, you don’t have that risk.”

Perhaps the best-loved company out there doing advanced gene stacking is Chromatin, and this slide illustrates some of the benefits, although Chromatin is focusing on the nucleus rather than the chloroplast.

The Plastomics backstory

Founded in 2016, Plastomics recently announced the closing of an early round of seed funding with investments from BioGenerator and The Yield Lab, both St. Louis-based investors.

The target of this particular investment

TechAccel’s investment will fund a science advancement initiative designed to accelerate the development of Plastomics’ technology and a new chloroplast-expressed insect control trait collaboration currently in development.

“We are excited to work with TechAccel in expanding our trait development pipeline,” said Jeffrey Staub, Ph.D., Founder and Chief Science Officer of Plastomics. “This new insect control trait will greatly benefit from the high dosage and increased efficacy that our chloroplast engineering platform provides.”

The Chloroplast backstory

If man’s best friend is the dog, the cell’s best friend is an organelle called a chloroplast. It’s a separate being in many ways, with its own DNA — thought to have evolved from a single bacterium that was captured and encased by some ancient single-celled ancestor of ours hundreds of millions of years ago. Every cell has departments, encased by membranes, and the most independent of all the silos are the chloroplasts. The term comes from the Greek and it means, “making it green” — sort of anthem for our time.

Today, there are as many up to 100 different chloroplasts living inside plant and algae cells, and they take care of photosynthesis, fatty acid synthesis, some amino acid synthesis and take charge of a plant’s immune response. Important stuff for the plant, and responsible for the very oxygen that you breathe as you read this.

So, plant cells depend on our chloroplasts and they depend on plant cells; its one of the most important symbiotic relationships in all of biology.

The TechAccel backstory

TechAccel is a technology and venture development organization focused in agriculture and animal health. Founded in 2014, it sources, invests in and acquires early-stage innovations. Through collaborations with universities and research institutions, TechAccel conducts advancement and de-risking research and development to ready technologies for commercialization.

The Bottom Line

Interesting that companies like TechAccel are popping up with very specific science targets to provide directed investment into emerging companies. Something that perhaps strategics might have pursued through Joint Development Agreements in an earlier day. But strategics are distracted and cutting costs at the moment with all the mega-mergers — Dow and DuPont, Syngenta and ChemChina, Bayer and Monsanto, and more to come.

You might see a day when the majors are more specialized in very late-stage development challenges, such as regulatory or marketing — focusing more and more on externalizing early-stage innovation, which opens up a gap in highly targeted investment that venture capitalists (investing in the entire company) may not be able to perfectly fill, since they invest in entire companies rather than in specific developments.

At the same time, there’a a monumental efficiency in replacing the JDA — which might confer an exclusive science advance or time or regional advantage to a single company partner that may not be able to foresee if it can ultimately take full advantage of that advance — because of changes in strategic direction or in the economics or independence of the larger partner.

In the new model, we may see these highly targeted investments being funded by parties that have the resources and knowledge base comparable to a strategic, but more flexibility and freedom to commercialize for the innovator on the back end — unglued from the exclusivities that a JDA traditionally requires.

Now, that’s symbiotic in its own way as well — TechAccel benefits from the liberation it provides, liberty to innovate on the front end and commercialize more rapidly on the back end. It’s not entirely different, if you think about it, from adding traits to the chloroplast instead of the nucleus. In both cases, you have quite a bit of innovation on the front end, and a faster and more explosive market-entry on the back.

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Somethin’ from just about nothin’: The Digest 2018 Multi-Slide Guide to upgrading biorefinery waste lignin into bioplastics

Biofuels Digest - Thu, 02/22/2018 - 3:25pm

You know what they say, “you can make anything you want from lignin except money.”

It’s the most challenging issues in biofuel production: upgrading the lignin-containing biorefineryresidues to fungible bioproducts, in an affordable, effective, scalable way. The US Department of Energy is supporting a project to develop a viable bioprocess to convert biorefinerywaste to bioplastics at less than $5 dollar/Kg. If successful, the technology would overcome a key challenges for biorefinery cost-effectiveness and sustainability and drive down cellulosic biofuels cost toward $3/GGE.

Principal investigator Joshua S. Yuan of Texas A&M and team prepared this illuminating overview of the project’s promise and progress, presented at the DOE Project Peer Review meetings.

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