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Today's News

Vegetable oil use in agriculture and tractors analyzed by OWI

Biofuels Digest - Sat, 10/14/2017 - 9:41pm

In Germany, OWI reports that in agriculture, widening the use of vegetable oil as fuel in tractors could contribute to greater sustainability and climate protection within the framework of a resource-conserving bioeconomy. However, the compatibility of fuel-carrying components with vegetable oil fuel must be tested in order to ensure the operational safety and life of tractors and other agricultural machinery. In order to make use of vegetable oil from rape as part of a multi-fuel deployment strategy, a research project now examines in particular the interactions between fuels and diesel injectors.

Particularly on modern injectors with high injection pressures and small gaps, internal and external deposits can form due to the use of biofuels, which in certain circumstances can lead to functional disturbances and downtimes of agricultural machines. Critical operating points (driving cycles) are to be specifically identified for both types of deposits, which can lead to increased formation of deposits. Part of the fuels to be investigated will in particular also be mixtures between vegetable oil and conventional diesel fuels, as also occur in real operation with different refueling. In addition, the behavior of different injectors used in agricultural machines is also investigated.

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Ethanol production hits lowest volume in almost a year

Biofuels Digest - Sat, 10/14/2017 - 9:38pm

In Washington, D.C., the Renewable Fuels Association reports that according to EIA data, average ethanol production contracted by 4.3% to 967,000 barrels per day (b/d)—or 40.61 million gallons daily. That is down 43,000 b/d from the week before, representing the smallest volume in 51 weeks. The four-week average for ethanol production decreased to a 21-week low of 1.001 million b/d, yielding an annualized rate of 15.35 billion gallons. Stocks of ethanol remained at 21.5 million barrels for the second straight week. Imports of ethanol remained flat at zero b/d for the fourth week in a row.

Average weekly gasoline demand increased 2.6% to 398.2 million gallons (9.480 million barrels) daily. This is equivalent to 145.3 billion gallons annualized. Refiner/blender input of ethanol increased 0.8% to 937,000 b/d, equivalent to 14.36 billion gallons annualized. Expressed as a percentage of daily gasoline demand, daily ethanol production decreased to 10.20%.

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Biodiesel wholesale prices increase yet remain one of lowest cost options

Biofuels Digest - Sat, 10/14/2017 - 9:34pm

In Germany, UFOP reports that wholesale prices for agricultural diesel and biodiesel have risen significantly since August. By contrast, rapeseed oil has been on a weaker trend. Agricultural diesel continued to be the lowest-priced option despite the price rise. Since the beginning of the year, wholesale prices for agricultural diesel, biodiesel and rapeseed oil have decreased considerably. Around midyear, agricultural diesel was traded at around one third below the January 2017 level.

In the wake of producers’ rising feedstock costs, asking prices for agricultural diesel and biodiesel firmed, since WTI crude oil prices have surged around 19 per cent since the end of June. The selling price for standard biodiesel with an around 60 per cent potential for reducing greenhouse gas emission compared to fossil fuels rose to 79 euro cents per litre. According to Agrarmarkt Informations-Gesellschaft mbH (AMI), this translates to an almost 3 per cent increase from the same time a year earlier. Consequently, the price gap against agricultural diesel increased to more than 13 euro cents per litre. By contrast, rapeseed oil prices plunged to an annual low in August. However, asking prices rebounded slightly as the biodiesel industry’s demand picked up in autumn. Rapeseed oil for nearby delivery most recently cost around 68 euro cents per litre, up just less than 4 per cent from this year’s low.

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Indian government signs MOU with Sweden for biogas technology

Biofuels Digest - Sat, 10/14/2017 - 9:32pm

In Sweden, India’s Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis met with Swedish government officials to work out plans on using Swedish biogas technology to make urban transportation in Mumbai compliant with emission standards. If it works in Mumbai, it will be expanded to public transportation in Nagpur. The sewage treatment plants in Mumbai will be able to produce 97% methane which will then be used to run their municipal transportation.

For many years, the Brihanmumbai Electric Supply & Transport Undertaking has been losing money and the government has been trying to find ways to make it succeed. According to the Hindu, a memorandum of understanding will be signed with Sweden-based Scania Group, which is already working in Nagpur. A senior official accompanying the Chief Minister told The Hindu, “The Scania Group also expressed an interest in setting up maintenance facilities and training centres for technical resources in Mumbai and other areas.”

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ExxonMobil breaks ground on algae biofuel and carbon capture research facility

Biofuels Digest - Sat, 10/14/2017 - 9:30pm

In New Jersey, ExxonMobil broke ground on the expansion of its research facility which will focus on research and development for algae biofuel and carbon capture technologies. It is expected to be completed in 2019 and will include a new engine testing center, a lubricant research and development blend plant, and enhancements to existing facilities to accommodate employees relocating from Paulsboro.

Bruce March, president of ExxonMobil Research and Engineering Company said in the press release, “The expansion of our New Jersey research and engineering center will improve collaboration across our organization and enhance our ability to accelerate breakthroughs in new and emerging technologies. By co-locating our research and development and products technology organizations in Clinton, we expect to bring potential new technologies online faster and at the scale necessary to meet the world’s growing needs for energy.”

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Productionizing synthetic biology: The Digest’s 2017 Multi-Slide Guide to the Agile BioFoundry

Biofuels Digest - Sat, 10/14/2017 - 4:11pm

The Agile BioFoundry, designed to productionize synthetic biology, is a public infrastructure investment aimed at increasing U.S. industrial competitiveness and enables new opportunities for private sector growth and jobs. Specifically, the foundry aims to enable a biorefineryto achieve a positive return on investment through a 50% reduction in time-to-scale up compared to the average of ~10 years.

A 10X improvement in Design-Build-Test-Learn cycle efficiency, new host organisms, new IP and manufacturing technologies effectively translated to U.S. industry ensuring market transformation — that’s in the cards with this project.

Nathan J. Hillson of Lawrence Berkeley National Lab gave this illuminating presentation on the Agile BioFoundry’s promise and progress at the DOE Project Peer Review meetings.

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St1 moves forward with advanced biofuel investments

Biofuels Digest - Thu, 10/12/2017 - 7:54pm

In Finland, St1 continues its series of investments targeting to begin the production of renewable diesel in 2020 at its refinery in Gothenburg, Sweden. The company has now signed an engineering design package and license agreement with Haldor Topsoe for a renewable diesel production unit, which would be integrated with the St1 Refinery. The construction of the plant will be subject to final investment decision after completion of the design in spring 2018 and after obtaining required environmental permit. The company announced a 40 million euro investment in a hydrogen unit at the refinery in July. The hydrogen unit represents the first step in the renewable diesel production investment program targeting an annual capacity of 200,000 metric tons in renewable diesel production.

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REG’s $28 million Ralston expansion seen ready for December

Biofuels Digest - Thu, 10/12/2017 - 7:53pm

In Iowa, Renewable Energy Group’s $28 million expansion at its Ralston soy oil-based biodiesel plant, more than doubling the plant’s production to 30 million gallons per year, is progressing at pace with commissioning expected as soon as December. The facility is co-located at a soy processing plant owned by Landus who recently expanded their crushing capacity, so the biodiesel plant is boosting its production capacity as well inline with increased feedstock availability. The REG plant receives the soy oil via pipeline.

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Senator Al Franken working on energy piece for Farm Bill 2018

Biofuels Digest - Thu, 10/12/2017 - 7:52pm

In Minnesota, Senator Al Franken is developing an energy proposal as part of the upcoming 2018 Farm Bill seeking to ensure rural America transitions to biofuels and other renewable fuels by tweaking funding programs and linking them with things like biorefineries and fire prevention through use of forest waste. Despite, or because, the Trump administration is souring towards biofuels, the senator is working to find ways that will support rural development through the production and consumption of bioproducts while ensuring clean energy is produced simultaneously.

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MTBE and ethanol industries take market share fight to Mexico

Biofuels Digest - Thu, 10/12/2017 - 7:51pm

In Texas, the country’s MTBE industry is worried about the impact of Mexico potentially blending 10% ethanol from a previous cap of 5.8%. The $1 billion industry exports more than half of its production to Mexico but if the recently announced—and recently court-suspended—policy goes through, demand for oxygenates like MTBE will reduce significantly. That leaves US MTBE and ethanol lobbyists fighting neck and neck in Mexico City trying to secure the market for them since there is little additional room for them on their home turf.

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Qantas Airlines to run LA-Australia flights on 50/50 aviation biofuel by 2020

Biofuels Digest - Thu, 10/12/2017 - 7:50pm

In Australia, Qantas Airlines will buy 8 million gallons of aviation biofuel annually from SG Preston beginning in 2020 to use in all of its flights from Los Angeles to Australia, flying on a 50/50 basis. The decision was made because the aviation biofuel industry is more advanced in the US than in Australia but the company is working with partners to support the development of a domestic industry as well. The airline ran aviation biofuel trial flights between Sydney and Adelaide in 2012.

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Graduate start-up provides biodiesel hybrid off-grid power to tribal prayer camp protesting pipeline

Biofuels Digest - Thu, 10/12/2017 - 7:48pm

In New Jersey, Princeton University graduates launched the PowerBox start-up providing distributed off-grid power through a biodiesel generator, solar array and wind power along with batteries for storage, all set in a 20-foot shipping container for fast delivery. Though originally designed for emergency relief situations such as following the earthquake in Haiti in 2012, one of these PowerBoxes is now installed at the Split Rock Sweetwater Prayer Camp in Mahwah where the Ramapough Lenape Tribe is protesting against the planned Pilgrim Pipeline that would run between Albany, New York and Linden, New Jersey, and within half a mile from ancestral sacred lands.

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Saudi researchers determine giant fish gut bacteria help to digest algae

Biofuels Digest - Thu, 10/12/2017 - 7:47pm

In Saudi Arabia, Red Sea surgeonfish use metabolically diverse giant bacteria to digest different types of algae, according to new research. Not only do these findings explain the basis of surgeonfish diversity, but they may also provide a valuable genetic resource for biofuel research.

An international team led by King Abdullah University of Science & Technology researchers used high-throughput sequencing techniques to study symbiotic microbe communities in the intestines of marine-algae-feeding Red Sea surgeonfish. By analyzing the genomes, they discovered that the communities are dominated by a single group of giant bacteria known as Epulopiscium, and that they lack the diversity found in the microbiomes of terrestrial herbivores.

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Slovenia aims to boost biodiesel blending and B100 for heavy-duty trucks

Biofuels Digest - Thu, 10/12/2017 - 7:45pm

In Slovenia, the government has adopted a policy that seeks to boost the biodiesel blending mandate to an undisclosed level while requiring 10% of all heavy-duty trucks to run entirely on biodiesel in the run up to its policy banning the sale of new gasoline and diesel passenger vehicles from 2030. By then, one-third of buses and 12% of trucks will be required to run on natural gas while 12% of vans and small trucks will have to be electric.

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SPARC in the Engine: Florida aims to be an alternative jet fuels hub as new public/private project debuts

Biofuels Digest - Thu, 10/12/2017 - 11:56am

Sometimes, what an engine needs to roar to life is a spark. Or a SPARC, as in this case.

As in the Southeastern Partnership for Advanced Renewables from Carinata (SPARC), a consortium consisting of the University of Florida (lead), the University of South Florida, the University of Georgia, Auburn University, and other institutions, government agencies, the civil aviation industry, and Agrisoma Biosciences and Applied Research Associates (ARA) from the private sector.

This group has embarked on a $15M project to develop the inedible oilseed carinata as a winter crop — that is, a regionally adapted Brassica carinata, as the source of a new biofuels and bioproducts industry that will be deployed in the southeastern region of the United States.

The Commercial Aviation Alternative Fuels Initiative is leading the supply chain development effort, which also includes ARA (conversion and co- products) and Agrisoma (feedstock and animal feed co -product) — and was key to the proposal’s success — having demonstrated its close ties with industry and customers (U.S. Navy) and their full engagement in the proposal, which requested a plan for aviation supply chain development.

For now, think jet fuel.

“Our goal is to commercialize Carinata to produce jet fuel and feed for livestock while mitigating risks along the entire supply chain,” says David Wright, project lead and an agronomy professor at the University of Florida.

Oil derived from the seeds of carinata will be converted to renewable aviation biofuel to replace fossil jet fuel, whereas the seed material will be the source of high value renewable chemicals and animal feed. This public-private partnership will lead to commercial development of a sustainable supply chain for carinata and its products and preparation of a green workforce for the new bioeconomy.

Carinata and jet fuel

If here at the Digest we could snap our fingers and hand a market expansion to growers, we’d point them at carinata and jet fuel.

Here’s our math. Carinata starch can produce up to 140 gallons of jet fuel per acre and though there’s not much income in the meal just yet, there are some mitigating factors.  First, it’s considered a non-food source, so no headaches with airline sustainability officers, and it is RSB-certified. Second, no need to do a second-step conversion from alcohol to jet fuel.

(Note to readers: there is nothing but good things to say about the costs and blessings of jet fuels sourced from MSW — but we’re thinking about very large-scale deployments in a hurry, here, and energy crops are quite scalable).

Carinata is reaching as high as 200 gallons per acre in trials, typical yields have been in the 1500-2000 lbs per acre range (according to this source). We’re using 140 gallons per acre as the model yield here — although we note the higher yields and the lower yields from various trials.

We think there’s a market price in there of $1.70 for the airline flying in and out of the California market, once jet fuel can be included under the California Low Carbon Fuel Standard.

That’s because carinata fuels could be eligible for support via the LCFS and the US Renewable Fuel Standard — up to $0.80 due to the LCFS and another $1.50 in advanced biofuels RINs.  (Yes, advanced biofuel RINs are priced around $1.00 — but consider that jet fuels have 1.5 times the energy density of ethanol, so they get added RINs).

That provides $4.00 to the value chain – growers, oil crushers and hydrotreater.

Here’s what they say at MIT

According to this analysis from MIT in 2011, a 6500 barrel per day project, using a hydrotreating process and veggie oils,  could provide sustainable investor returns, producing $3.50 per gallon distillate fuels with a vegetable oil price of $2.78 per gallon. That’s right around 35 cents per pound, and that’s in the real-world market price range for vegetable oils — though they generally also have markets for the meal, and that will present problems for carinata except on acreage considered low-performing for conventional oilseeds, unless valuable markets are found for the non-oil fraction. It translates to around $389 per acre for the grower; that’s not great for Iowa corn farmers, but it’s not terrible in marginal production country where land costs are low.

The SPARC backstory

At one stage it was the ARC Team, sounding like the guys who built Tony Stark’s ARC reactor technology. But far more real-world.

Established in 2011, the UF carinata research and development program for advanced renewables is the premier carinata research program in the US. What started as small plot varietal evaluations has evolved into to a dedicated integrated carinata research program focused on crop improvement and agronomic factors affecting commercial success of this new oilseed biofuel feedstock in the Southeast US.

Research has been supported through grant funding from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer services ($1.1 million grant from 2013 to 2016). In addition, funding from Agrisoma Biosciences Inc., and Mustard 21 contributed significantly to the introduction, testing and evaluation of carinata in Florida through multi-location yield performance testing. Among other tasks, the team managed Agrisoma’s winter nursery in Quincy, FL and assisted in selection of new and improved varieties of carinata targeted for the southeast that have the following key traits:

• Frost tolerance
• Early maturation
• Disease resistance/tolerance
• Standability
• High oil content
• Low glucosinolate content
• High seed yield

Under the direction of Associate Professor George Philippidis, a University of South Florida subaward of $1.2M over the next five years will focus primarily on SPARC’s extraction technologies for value-added chemicals from carinata and on green workforce development and integration. The project will engage several USF graduate students from various colleges and will utilize the Biofuels & Bioproducts Lab at the Patel College of Global Sustainability.

The Agrisoma backstory

In April, we reported that Agrisoma Biosciences closed its $15.4 MM Series B financing round, co-led by new investor Groupe Lune Rouge and current investors Cycle Capital Management, and BDC Venture Capital. This Series B round is used to support the global expansion of Agrisoma’s business.

The company raised $8 million in its Series A investment round in 2014. That round was led by Cycle Capital Management and included participation of BDC Venture Capital. In April 2015, we reported a group led by its management team made an equity investment in the company that gave it a 22 percent stake in the company. The group includes key members of Agrisoma’s senior management, board members and advisors.

The Carinata backstory

Resonance Carinata is certified sustainable by the Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials — one of only four crops in the world to achieve that status. Resonance Carinata meal has recently received regulatory approval as an animal feed, further underscoring the value of this crop to meet the increasing demand for renewable fuel and providing meal for the production of livestock. Additionally, Resonance Carinata is grown on semi-arid farmland, creating new economic and production opportunities for growers.

“Our research shows that Carinata grows well in the winter when fields are unseeded, giving farmers the opportunity to make a profit on their farms during winter months,” says Steven Fabijanski, PhD., President and CEO of Agrisoma Biosciences Inc.

For several years, a team of researchers at the UF/IFAS North Florida Research and Education Center in Quincy, Florida have engages in studies to increase production of Carinata.  These studies, supported by Agrisoma, have initiated large-scale commercial production of the crop in Florida, Georgia and Alabama.

An advantage of the fuel produced from Carinata is that it requires no blending with petroleum-based fuel, says Ian Small, an assistant professor in the UF/IFAS plant pathology department and SPARC deputy project director.

Sequential cropping backstory

In July, we reported that UPM Biofuels was developing a new feedstock concept by growing Brassica Carinata as a sequential crop in South America. The Carinata crop produces non-edible oil suitable for biofuels’ feedstock and protein for animal feed.

The sequential cropping concept enables contract farmers to take agricultural land into use outside the main cultivation period, in winter time, without compromising existing food production. This does not cause any land use change, prevents erosion and improves soil quality. Carinata will provide additional income to local farmers, who do not normally have their fields in productive use during winter. In South America UPM grows and tests Carinata with third-party farmers in Uruguay and Brazil. Clearly, also an option for tropical Florida’s winter months.

UPM tests Carinata sequential cropping concept for biofuels

The Florida jet fuel backstory

In February 2016, we reported that Florida-based Applied Research Associates completed the delivery of over 150,000 gallons of 100% drop-in jet and diesel fuel to fulfill its DLA/US Navy certification fuel contract, two months ahead of schedule. For the first time ever, renewable jet and diesel fuels that meet petroleum fuel specifications without blending will be certified for use as 100% drop-in fuels. The renewable jet and diesel fuels were produced with ARA’s and Chevron Lummus Global’s Biofuels ISOCONVERSION process which takes any kind of fat, oil, and grease, from yellow and brown grease to tallow to distiller corn oil to plant oil, and converts it into 100% drop in fuels.

The Biofuels ISOCONVERSION (BIC) process converts any renewable oil feed stock into high yields of 100% drop-in, pure hydrocarbon fuels and renewable chemicals.

ARA and Chevron Lummus Global (CLG) have developed the Biofuels ISOCONVERSION (BIC) process based on ARA’s patented, novel Catalytic Hydrothermolysis (CH) process and CLG’s market-leading hydroprocessing technology. With a CAPEX of $1 per annual production gallon and OPEX similar to petroleum refining costs, the BIC process efficiently converts renewable fats, oils, and greases from animals, plants, or algae into Renewable, Aromatic, Drop-in(Readi) fuels known as ReadiJet  (JP-5, JP-8 and Jet A) and ReadiDiesel (ASTM D 975 and F-76 Naval Distillate) and renewable chemicals. ReadiJet and ReadiDiesel fuels are ready to use, without blending with petroleum, in turbine and diesel engines designed to operate on petroleum-based fuels.

More on the Story: The Multi-Slide Guides

Readi for 100% drop-in fuel: The Digest’s 2017 Multi-Slide Guide to ARA’s ReadiJet, ReadiDiesel

Readi for 100% drop-in fuel: The Digest’s 2017 Multi-Slide Guide to ARA’s ReadiJet, ReadiDiesel

The Digest’s 2017 Multi-Slide Guide to Agrisoma

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All your Biobase are Belong to Us: The Digest’s 2017 Multi-Slide Guide to BioBase Europe pilot plant

Biofuels Digest - Thu, 10/12/2017 - 11:48am

Bio Base Europe Pilot Plant is an independent, state-of-the-art facility that operates from a laboratory level to a multi-ton scale. Bio Base Europe Pilot Plant is a service provider for process development, scale-up and custom manufacturing of biobased products and processes. A wide and flexible spectrum of modular unit operations enables us to translate your biobased lab protocol into a viable industrial process.

Bio Base Europe Pilot Plant enables the conversion of biomass (a.o. agricultural crops and by-products, industrial side streams) into biochemicals, biomaterials, biofuels and other bioproducts.

Here’s an illuminating summary of the pilot plant’s objectives, supporters, rational and accomplishments to date.

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Senator Chuck Grassley stands up for RFS at biodiesel event

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 10/11/2017 - 9:25pm

In Iowa, two weeks after calling EPA’s notice announcing potential cuts to biodiesel volumes under the Renewable Fuel Standard a ‘bait-and-switch’ tactic, Senator Chuck Grassley spoke directly Tuesday with those the proposal would harm.  At Renewable Energy Group’s Newton, Iowa biorefinery, the message from Grassley and the industry was clear—the President should keep his promise and not just protect, but grow biodiesel volumes.

Grassley was joined by biodiesel producers, soybean and corn farmers and other industries supported by biodiesel to discuss the notice from EPA seeking comments on reducing minimum volumes for biomass-based diesel for 2018 that were finalized almost a year ago, as well as further reductions to the proposed 2019 volumes.  The reductions are being sought by petroleum refiners despite growing global demand for diesel and the proven ability by U.S. biodiesel producers to meet growing RFS targets.

“This proposal would drastically undermine biodiesel production,” Grassley said.  “It’s contrary to the statements made by then-candidate Trump and President Trump. It’s not consistent with what EPA Administrator Pruitt told me in January when I spoke to him in my office prior to his confirmation.”

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Canada looking for consultants to develop aviation biofuel roadmap

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 10/11/2017 - 9:24pm

In Canada, the federal government has recently posted a notice of public procurement to secure consultants that will develop an aviation biofuel roadmap. The country aims to comply with policy goals established to reduce carbon emissions in aviation but also sees the opportunity to reduce its aviation fuel imports, which stand at around 40% of demand. Although Air Canada has only conducted test flights with aviation biofuel, developing a domestic industry could be an opportunity to supply domestically and even export with a focus on using forestry waste.

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Ringneck Energy to continue construction throughout the winter to make up for lost time

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 10/11/2017 - 9:23pm

In South Dakota, Ringneck Energy plans to continue construction through the winter on its $150 million ethanol plant outside of Onida. With cement being poured for foundations and financing signed off with the bank a few weeks ago, the company’s CEO says its all hands on deck for construction. Though the schedule is about a year behind for the 80 million gallon plant due to delays in fundraising, it is expected to be online for November 2018.

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Transportation Research Board report issues warning over ethanol rail transport safety

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 10/11/2017 - 9:22pm

In Washington, the Transportation Research Board’s Special Report 325: Safely Transporting Hazardous Liquids and Gases in a Changing U.S. Energy Landscape reviews how the pipeline, rail, and barge industries have fared in safely transporting the increased volumes of domestically produced energy liquids and gases. The report, sponsored by TRB, reviews the safety record of the three transportation modes in moving these hazardous shipments and discusses key aspects of each mode’s safety assurance system.

The report urges the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration to further the development of increasingly robust safety assurance systems that will ensure more timely and effective responses to future safety challenges. The recommendations include advice on traffic and safety data reporting, industry and local community consultation, and the creation of risk metrics. The Federal Railroad Administration is urged to enable and incentivize more frequent and comprehensive inspections of rail routes that are used regularly by trains transporting large volumes of flammable liquids.

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