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Indian UCO biodiesel industry impeded by lack of supply chain

Biofuels Digest - Tue, 01/09/2018 - 7:43pm

In India, the lack of an established supply chain for used cooking oil has impeded the growth of UCO biodiesel, something that must be addressed if more producers are to pop up around the country or if producers want to increase their production. The main competitor for non-edible UCO are soap makers who pay a slightly higher price than biodiesel producers do, but the lack of awareness among the hospitality industry that biodiesel is an option, for example, limits the availability of supply further. Although Karnataka and others have invested in biodiesel demonstration plants, the information isn’t getting out to the market sufficienctly to boost those supplies.

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India and Iran open call for cellulosic biofuel and microbial research projects

Biofuels Digest - Tue, 01/09/2018 - 7:42pm

In India, the Department of Science and Technology of the Ministry of Science and Technology has teamed with the Center for International Scientific Cooperation of the Ministry of Science, Research and Technology of Iran in a joint call for research proposals on a wide range of topics including microbial biotechnology with an emphasis on cellulosic biofuel and microbial diversity and bioprospecting projects. Researchers from the two countries are welcome to submit proposals through February 15.

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Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand looking to WTO if EU doesn’t shift on palm oil

Biofuels Digest - Tue, 01/09/2018 - 7:40pm

In Malaysia, the New Straits Times reports that Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister confirmed Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand will retaliate against the European Union’s discrimination towards palm oil for biofuels if the trade bloc doesn’t back down from its attacks. He said the discrimination results in “crop apartheid” and could jeopardize the EU-Malaysia free trade agreement. The World Trade Organization is likely the body where the countries would go to seek resolution if the EU continues to push back against palm oil.

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Last Train to Emeryville: The DigiBio value engine is leavin’ the station, are you on it?

Biofuels Digest - Tue, 01/09/2018 - 2:44pm
Tie-ins for Zymergen, Radiant Genomics, DMC, Capricorn Venture Partners, Syngenta and CHS demonstrate the firepower and scope of digital biology.

Today, products made via traditional biological tools tap into easy-to-grow-in-a-lab organisms, and mostly nothin’ else. Sort of like making all the wines in the world from Merlot grapes, because the underlying manufacturing is just too easy with Merlot and too hard with anything else. Consider this the Sideways problem.

And some winsome Zymergenites mentioned to me that that less than one percent of natural diversity has been easily accessible to scientists, and yet even this small percentage has provided billions of dollars of value. Or as DMC CEO Matt Lipscomb puts it, “everyone acknowledges that biology is inherently complex, and up until now, that complexity has meant long and costly development cycles.”

What’s coming — or rather, what’s leaving the station? Unprecedented speed and cost reductions in bringing biological change to market, that’s what.

The Last Train to Emeryville

A revolution that is taking place in Boston, San Diego, Minneapolis, Ames, Seattle, and Denver and elsewhere — but whose heart is in Emeryville. the spiritual home of the overpriced 1-bedroom apartment and sandals worn out of season. And, where you can open almost any door in town and watch a dozen start-ups tumble into the street in digital biology’s answer to the stateroom scene in Night at the Opera. 

What’s up? Call it, digital biology. That’s our catch-all term for the convergence of artisanal biology with the modern tools provide by the digital revolution — accelerating and altering the pace and scope of advanced biotechnology.  Think of of it this way: turning biology into a branch of information science.

Zymergen grabs Radiant Genomics

One of the signs that the earliest stage of a revolution is ending is when the resultant companies start to acquire one another. We’ve seen a bunch of that — Ginkgo BioWorks and Gen9 come to mind. Moreso, now that digbio behemoth Zymergen, which integrates machine learning and manufacturing technologies to engineer biology, acquired Radiant Genomics and its more than two terabases of physical and digital DNA data, one of the largest fully-assembled and instantly-accessible catalogues of genetic diversity in the world.

What RG has

Besides the terabases of data? RG developed a robust industrial platform via which scientists could rapidly identify, produce, and test products encoded in the genomes of millions of organisms not easily grown in the lab, circumventing cultivation barriers. That’s candy for Zymergen’s rapid appetite for the frothy sugars of convergence.

Then and now. From artisanal alchemy to DigiBio. Right: Zymergen. Left: we think it dates to and represents the state of the art circa 2002, and the auteur could be George Church.

As Zymergen CEO Josh Hoffman put it, “Radiant Genomics was launched with the same vision that drove us to start Zymergen – that the next great wave of innovation will come from biology. The molecules biology produces on its own could provide solutions to some of the toughest challenges across industries. Radiant has built an unparalleled platform and set of libraries to search genetic diversity that will allow us to search for these molecules of interest, extending our ability to produce useful molecules for materials that can transform the world around us.”

Radiant Genomics’ entire team including founders Jeffrey Kim and Oliver Liu, will join Zymergen. More on the story at Planet Zymergen, here.

Over to Denver and DMC’s first cap raise

Though Emeryville is Ground Zero, you don’t have to smoke weed to feel that change has come to Colorado, too — and in the Denver area, DMC has raised a first equity financing led by Capricorn Venture Partners. It seemed about 7 minutes ago that we heard Capricorn moved into the investment phase, and now they’ve deployed capital into DMC.

This funding builds on the company’s successful non-dilutive awards to date which exceed $1.2M from the National Science Foundation, the US Department of Energy, and the US Department of Agriculture.

Why the excitement? DMC makes bio-based products using enhanced microbial fermentation. Modification of the programming language for microbes to enhance productivity has historically been complicated, slow, and costly. DMC has developed technology to reduce biological complexity and enhance the speed of development, creating a low cost, fermentation-based manufacturing platform that has the capability to produce a broad diversity of products. (If you feel there’s a connection to the old OPX Bio and its Efficiency Directed Genome Engineering technology, you’re not all that far off base, though OPX Bio’s tech has disappeared down into the deep caverns of Cargill).

With this funding, DMC plans to recruit top talent in metabolic engineering and fermentation and advance its first products to pilot scale. The company also announced the addition to its Board of Directors of Rob van der Meij, Investment Manager of the Capricorn Sustainable Chemistry Fund. More about DMC here.

Even in Frostbite Falls, Syngenta is advancing the revolution

For a number of years in Minnesota, rumors of extraordinary advances in genetics have been appearing; for example, consistent reports of squirrels being pulled out of hats instead of rabbits.

One practical application of the digital biology revolution took a step forward this week in frigid Minnesota with news that CHS agreed on terms with Syngenta to deploy Enogen corn enzyme technology at its 130-million-gallon ethanol plant in Rochelle, Illinois. CHS is a premier ethanol producer, marketer and trader and one of the nation’s largest suppliers of ethanol-enhanced gasoline.

Enogen corn enzyme technology is an in-seed innovation available exclusively from Syngenta and features the first biotech corn output trait designed specifically to enhance ethanol production. Using digital biology to deliver best-in-class alpha amylase enzyme directly in the grain, Enogen corn eliminates the need to add liquid alpha amylase and can help an ethanol plant significantly reduce the viscosity of its corn mash, improving plant performance. And, numerous trials have shown that Enogen hybrids perform equal to or better than other high-performing corn hybrids.

Several million dollars in premiums are expected to be paid annually to growers raising Enogen corn, locally, for the CHS plant in Rochelle. The Rochelle plant is an 81-acre, dry mill corn-based operation and was acquired by CHS in June 2014. More on that one, here.

The Bottom Line

In Emeryville, if you’re not practicing digital biology, you’re thinking about it, explaining it investing in it, or making gobs of money selling lattes or services to someone in the field.

Digital biology is the only known fundamental force in the universe that keeps all mathematical knowledge from tumbling into the black holes of Apple, Google and their ilk. And we might add, this cadre of scientists — some of them screamingly young — are using their science chops for something more ambitious than getting you a faster, cheaper taxi. They are changing the materials, therapies and organisms of the future.

So, get yourself to Emeryville and check it out. In fact, take the last train to Emeryville, the next wave of value creation is about to leave the station.

Categories: Today's News

Jet fuel from (any) bio-alcohol: The Digest’s 2018 Multi-Slide Guide to Byogy Renewables

Biofuels Digest - Tue, 01/09/2018 - 7:29am

Byogy has developed a catalytic platform that converts any source of ethanol, butanol, mixed alcohols, or related olefins, into full replacement, and cost competitive biofuels including gasoline, diesel and jet fuel. Byogy’s jet fuel is not an additive, but instead, a full replacement standalone fuel, and hence can be used at any blend ratio up to 100%.

CEO Kevin Weiss gave this illuminating presentation on the company and its prospects at ABLC Next in San Francisco.


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Ethanol stocks continue to rise even as production levels fall

Biofuels Digest - Mon, 01/08/2018 - 7:11pm

In Washington, Platts reports that Energy Information Administration data showed a nearly 60,000 b/d drop in ethanol production during the last week of December, but even so production stayed well above 1 million b/d, leading to further build up of stocks rising 588,000 barrels to 22.619 million barrels. Ethanol production that week was the lowest since October, indicating a potential slow down in production as producers begin to fell the pinch from slipping demand at home and aborad.

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USDA says export demand only remaining driver for increased ethanol investment

Biofuels Digest - Mon, 01/08/2018 - 7:10pm

In Washington, although the USDA says the country’s ethanol plants 94 ethanol plants were running at near full capacity in 2016, there is little or no demand for additional plants due to increased vehicle efficiency that has led to lower gasoline consumption and therefore lower ethanol consumption as a result of the 10% “blend wall.” Instead, it says increased ethanol demand that would justify additional investment in ethanol plants is limited by international demand which is in turn hindered by low gasoline prices since 2014.

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Brazil becomes net ethanol importer as 2017 imports double on year

Biofuels Digest - Mon, 01/08/2018 - 7:09pm

In Brazil, Platts reports that December saw ethanol imports jump 68% on the month at 84.6 million liters, 59.5 million liters of which entered through the port of Sao Luis in the Northeast, most of which came from the US. The country became a net importer of ethanol following the year’s imports totaled 1.82 billion liters, double that of last year. With US ethanol prices at their lowest since 2005 and Brazilian mills closing down for the inter-crop season, the jump in imports was expected.

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National Biodiesel Board Fair Trade Coalition awaiting next steps on anti-dumping cases

Biofuels Digest - Mon, 01/08/2018 - 7:08pm

In Missouri, the National Biodiesel Board Fair Trade Coalition case regarding subsidized biodiesel imports from Argentina and Indonesia continues to move forward to help level the playing field for the domestic biodiesel industry. The coalition filed both antidumping and countervailing duty petitions with the commerce department. Antidumping petitions address whether imports coming into the U.S. are priced below fair value. Countervailing duty petitions address subsidies provided by foreign governments benefiting imported product.

The commerce department is scheduled to issue final antidumping determinations in early January, which would be followed by another ITC injury vote as it relates to dumped imports.

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Alabama farmers look to carinata as alternative to winter wheat

Biofuels Digest - Mon, 01/08/2018 - 7:07pm

In Alabama, farmers are giving carinata a go as a winter rotation crop to see if could add value to their operations while also providing Agrisoma supplies during the off-season after its Midwest farmers have already harvested. In the Midwest, carinata is a summer crop but its cold weather tolerance means it could potentially be a successful winter crop in southern states. Working with agricultural extension programs born out of collaboration with the University of Florida as well as nearby Auburn University, carinata was planted after corn, cotton, soybeans and peanuts on as many as 4,000 acres this fall but that number is expected to increase next year due to poor wheat prices that have farmers looking to other options.

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Drivers in Oaxaca singing the praises of E50

Biofuels Digest - Mon, 01/08/2018 - 7:06pm

In Mexico, rising gas prices in Oaxaca have seen drivers turn towards higher ethanol blends as a way to save money. Three stations opened up offering up to 50% ethanol blends in 2016 and have seen customers grow by 50% since then as a result. One taxi driver said by using E50 he was saving more than $5 per day. Lack of legislative framework for these higher blends keep these stations in limbo, however, as regulators can’t certify them nor regulate them until something is in place.

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International research team isolates gene that stiffens cell walls

Biofuels Digest - Mon, 01/08/2018 - 7:05pm

In the UK, a multinational team of researchers, from the UK, Brazil and the US, has pinpointed a gene involved in the stiffening of cell walls whose suppression increased the release of sugars by up to 60%. Their findings are reported Monday in New Phytologist. In the team’s genetically modified plants, a transgene suppresses the endogenous gene responsible for feruloylation to around 20% of its normal activity. In this way, the biomass produced is less feruloylated than it would otherwise be in an unmodified plant.

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Carbio wants government to take US to WTO over biodiesel AD duties

Biofuels Digest - Mon, 01/08/2018 - 7:04pm

In Argentina, Carbio wants the government to take the US to the World Trade Organization and demand a reversal of the anti-dumping duties of up to 72.28% lobbed on their biodiesel that has all but closed off that market to them in no time flat. On the back of winning a similar case against the European Union’s anti-dumping duties, the industry is confident the WTO is the only to combat what it says are protectionist measures from the US.

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Fiberight: A deep-dive into the trash to find the cash

Biofuels Digest - Mon, 01/08/2018 - 8:14am

This week we reported that Fiberight has secured $70 million for a municipal solid waste center that should be in operation by this May. The high-tech facility will convert 180,000 tons of trash each year from more than 100 Maine towns into biofuel at a 144,000-square-foot steel frame facility that began construction last July.

We visually profile the technology and company in our Multi-Slide Guide here.

The underlying facility is what’s known as a Dirty MRF, or materials recovery facility. That’s where the receiving happens and the sortation begins — and the process of recovering value back from the waste stream begins.

The bottom line data point for this project — indeed, any project utilizing municipal solid waste as a feedstock for advanced fuels, chemicals or materials — is that the old model of sorting waste into metals, plastics and organics and then combusting organics into electricity is broken. Technically it works, but it can’t make money, and communities face choices between more landfills, long-term subsidies to support waste-to-electrons financial losses, or utilizing advanced technology to extract more value.

The key opportunity in MSW is that 50 percent of MSW is the organic fraction — and Fiberight has found a financial model that works in upgrading this waste stream into biogas, which can be utilized in the higher-value CNG market among other places. As a renewable transport fuel based on cellulosic material, it also qualifies for valuable cellulosic RIN credits.

MSW arrives at the Materials Recovery Facility.

The technology combination appeared in 2013 after Fiberight worked for almost six years on waste-to-ethanol projects, but found ultimately that the value-to-risk ratio was better for prospective investors in CNG as opposed to ethanol. E10- ethanol market saturation and the resultant price competition amongst producers has been the important ‘risk appetite differentiator” for investors between ethanol and CNG.

Over in Edmonton, Alberta, Enerkem is operating an MSW-to-ethanol facility, and we expect to see many more projects from that company, but Enerkem has been very much the exception in getting projects financed using MSW to create high-value fuels and materials. Fulcrum BioEnergy switched from ethanol to highly-prized jet and diesel some time ago and, with the steadfast support of pioneering airlines such as United and Cathay Pacific, put its financing together not long ago.

But other companies like TMO Renewables and Terrabon (now Earth Energy Renewables) have now been able to make the leap to commercial-scale.

The Facility and its streams

In 2016, the Hampden Muncipal Review Committee wrote:

The proposed processing facility will consist of a 144,000 square foot building that will provide for the receiving, storage and handling of MSW for processing and/or converting into recyclables, renewable fuels and residues for potential recycling and/or disposal off- site. The proposed processing building will contain a tipping floor designed to accommodate up to 2 days of inside storage capacity for raw MSW and 2 days of inside storage capacity for first cut material from which unsuitable waste such as textiles and large bulky items have been removed. A second sort system will separate curbside-type recyclables from food waste and other soluble organics in the waste stream. The MRC and Fiberight state that the food wastes and other soluble organics will be converted to sugars and initially converted to bio-methane, via an anaerobic digester, which is proposed to be piped into an existing natural gas pipeline owned by Bangor Natural Gas located adjacent to the project site. In the future, the sugars may be sold directly as industrial sugars subject to prevailing market conditions.

Fiberight anticipates between 70 percent and 80% by weight of all incoming MSW will be converted to renewable fuels or recycled, and the remaining 20% to 30% by weight will be process residues to be disposed off-site. In addition to residues and other unsuitable materials that will require off-site disposal, the MRC and Fiberight have planned for the disposal of MSW bypass waste expected to be generated during scheduled and unscheduled facility downtimes or for other unforeseen circumstances when the facility cannot accept and process MSW.

Separation and conversion begins.


Project costs

In 2016, the Hampden Muncipal Review Committee wrote:

Current cost estimates for portions of the development project for which Fiberight will be responsible for include site development, foundations, concrete and building construction; machinery and equipment; steel, mechanical and electrical installation; and engineering, permits and project management. Total estimated capital costs for which Fiberight is responsible for is $66,976,786. Fiberight will also be responsible for the following estimated expenditures: annual operational costs; annual maintenance costs; and facility closure costs for a total cost of $12,700,000.

Fiberight has provided a letter of “Intent to Fund”, dated December 18, 2015, from Covanta Energy, LLC (“Covanta”) stating that Covanta is engaged with Fiberight to support the development, financing, construction and operation of the proposed processing facility. Covanta conducted a review of financial projections related to the project and executed a term sheet for a long-term strategic partnership with Fiberight. Covanta has reviewed the estimated budget for the proposed project, totaling approximately $67 million, and confirmed their interest in supporting Fiberight with project finance in the form of an equity investment in the proposed processing facility.

Debt financing

In part, both Fulcrum and Fiberight discovered that their projects could be compared to infrastructure projects financed by tax-exempt municipal bonds — and both have found their key debt component via that route.

Fiberight CEO Craig Stuart-Paul told Bangor Daily News, that $45 million of the financing came through a tax-exempt bond with the Finance Authority of Maine and the remainder in private equity funds. “A lot of people questioned whether or not we would be able to get the financing,” he told Bangor Daily News. “In our mind, we always knew we could. This was the final hurdle.”

Equity financing

In 2016, the Hampden Muncipal Review Committee wrote:

Among the equity investors? Covanta for sure. We reported in December 2015 that Fiberight had teamed with Covanta Energy Corp. on a major 15-year deal where the company will invest a major equity stake in the planned $69 million trash-to-ethanol facility in Hamden as well as build and operate it. The company owns 40 other waste-to-energy facilities.

Fiberight has provided a letter of “Intent to Fund”, dated December 18, 2015, from Covanta Energy, LLC (“Covanta”) stating that Covanta is engaged with Fiberight to support the development, financing, construction and operation of the proposed processing facility. Covanta conducted a review of financial projections related to the project and executed a term sheet for a long-term strategic partnership with Fiberight. Covanta has reviewed the estimated budget for the proposed project, totaling approximately $67 million, and confirmed their interest in supporting Fiberight with project finance in the form of an equity investment in the proposed processing facility.

Covanta’s letter is not intended to be a binding commitment to provide financing. A binding financial commitment is subject to successful completion of due diligence activities; including, but not limited to, the proposed project receiving relevant Federal, State and local permits, and Fiberight entering into acceptable waste supply agreements with the MRC and its charter communities. Covanta’s role in the proposed processing facility will be as an investor and operator. Covanta has supplied adequate evidence of its ability to fund the construction and operation of the proposed processing facility; however, the ultimate level of investment is still under consideration by Covanta. The intent is for Fiberight and Covanta to be joint investors in the proposed project.

Letters of “Intent to Fund” were also provided by DTE Energy (dated June 11, 2015) and Argonaut Private Equity (dated June 17, 2015). In the event that either DTE Energy or Argonaut Private Equity is utilized for funding, their involvement with the proposed project will be in the form of project financing only, acting as a financial institution.

Fiberight gets $70M in needed funding to open Maine facility

Fiberight at a glance

Fiberight is a privately held company founded in 2007 with current operations in Virginia, Maryland and Iowa. The company focuses on transforming post-recycled municipal solid wastes and other organic feedstocks into next generation renewable biofuels, with cellulosic ethanol and renewable compressed natural gas as core products. Pilot plant facilities began in 2008-2009.

Plastic and metal residues are recovered.

In September 2009, Fiberight purchased a shuttered former 5.6 Mgy dry-mill corn ethanol plant in Blairstown, IA from Global Energy Holdings with the intent to cost efficiently retrofit this plant for commercial level operations. Initial stage investment for the company’s $30 million Iowa plant will enable the company to commence the production of cellulosic ethanol and/or biogas using industrial and municipal solid wastes with proprietary sorting, pulping, enzymatic hydrolysis and recycling technology.

Within the relationship first announced in September 2010 TMO Renewables is providing the back end design for the plant. Robert Parker, Acting CEO of TMO said: “We are delighted to see this announcement, which will hasten the process that will lead to the construction of this plant, our first with Fiberight.”

Fiberight cellulosic ethanol project lands $25M USDA loan guarantee

In September 2010 we reported that TMO Renewables had signed a deal with Fiberight in the US for a 20-year, $500 million deal to supply the American company with its proprietary GM bacteria used to break down MSW into biofuels. Fiberight claims that TMO’s technology is three to five years ahead of the US, while TMO claims it could supply up to 50% of the US’s second generation biofuel requirement under the RFS2. Fiberight said at the time it expected to build 15 plants in the US using TMO’s technology in the next five years.

Fiberight licenses TMO cellulosic ethanol technology; aims for 15 US projects

The Pivot to biogas

In 2015, after seven years of research and development, including 3,500 hours of continuous operation at a fully-integrated plant in Virginia, Fiberight said it would switch gears and rather than build a garbage-to-ethanol facility at a mothballed ethanol plant in Blairsville, the company aimed instead to produce biogas for CNG from the garbage.

Fiberight puts MSW-to-ethanol on hold in Iowa and opts for bio-CNG instead

But the pivot dates in many ways back to August 2013, when Marion, IA approved a $20M solid waste to compressed biogas facility operated by Fiberight. The company, which was backed by a $25M loan guarantee from the USDA, a $2.9M grant from the Iowa Power Fund, and $20M in private investment, is scaling up from its currently operating demonstration facility in Virginia. The plant will sort up to 400 tons of garbage each day, and leftover waste will be sent to a shuttered ethanol plant in Blairstown, which Fiberight has recently purchased and is in the process of upgrading. The Iowa plant must be open and running by January 1, 2015, or else Marion may void the agreement.

In December 2013, Iowa City said it was looking for permission to start negotiations with Fiberight to set up MSW-to-ethanol production, much in the way Marion has already done. The City held an RFP earlier this year and Fiberight was the only company to respond. The company said it could reduce the amount of waste going into the landfill by 80%.

The pivot to Maine

In October 2014 we reported that the University of Maine had been hired by a consortium of 187 towns and their MSW streams to evaluate whether Fiberight’s technology could be a good option for the state’s waste. Fiberight was producing its Trashanol at a facility in Lawrenceville, Virginia. Currently the consortium’s waste is processed by a waste-to-energy plant in Orrington it partially owns but will not likely be profitable after 2018 when its current power offtake agreement expires.

Maine exploring Fiberight’s technology for 187 towns’ MSW

In December 2014, plans to develop a $40 million to $80 million Fiberight waste-to-energy plant in Hamden took its first official baby steps when developers from the Municipal Review Community that represents the solid waste for 190 towns in the state put forward the project for review by the Hampden Town Council. City planners as well as state authorities need to sign off on the plan in order to implement it.

In July 2016 we reported that Fiberight received the final permits from the Department of Environmental Protection for its proposed MSW-to-fuel plant in Hampden where it plans to process the waste from 100 communities in the state. Those opposed to the project called for a public hearing on the project but the calls came nearly a year after the deadline and the reasons for the hearing provided weren’t deemed strong enough in any case to provoke a hearing. Fiberight and the Municipal Review Committee promoting the project must submit funding details for the project within 30 days for the permits to be finalized.

Fiberight receives final permits for Maine MSW-to-fuel plant

The Competitive Edge

High Waste Feedstock Availability at Low Cost – Fiberight takes advantage of low cost and abundant high-energy sources of municipal solid waste (MSW) feedstock from existing supply infrastructure, by locating proximate to waste hauler and collection sites.

Energy / Environmental Impact Gains – Fiberight also sequesters plastic/hydrocarbon fractions for production of cogeneration plant energy using a low emissions process, resulting in its biorefinery plants having the added benefit of being a net energy producer.

Efficient Organic Conversion – Fiberight’s targeted organic processes, pretreatment methods and novel enzyme recycling systems have been perfected, using proprietary technology and IP in a low temperature and a closed-loop water system, to manage costs.

Low CAPEX – Fiberight utilizes an efficient “mini-mill” plant facility, with 50,000 square foot operations, that can be constructed at much lower initial capital investment due to the smaller scale, closed-loop system and streamlined permitting process.

The Project partners

The Hampden MRC manages the affairs and concerns of their current 187 municipal members. The member-led MRC has successfully managed the current 30-year contract with the Penobscot Energy Recovery Corporation waste-to- energy facility, located in Orrington, Maine, since 1991. The MRC, on behalf of the Equity Charter Municipalities, purchased and manages a 23% ownership interest in the PERC facility. As part of this function, the MRC conducts the following: monitors the PERC facility’s performance; reviews and votes on the facility’s annual operating budget and decisions to invest in capital and major maintenance projects; and oversees actions taken and investments made to the PERC facility to ensure that potential environmental impacts are avoided and mitigated appropriately.

CES, Inc. is an environmental consulting firm, with its headquarters located in Brewer, Maine, with experience in preparing applications for submittal to the Department. CES provided personnel to assist with permit application preparation, site investigation and site design for the proposed project. CES has also been retained by the MRC and Fiberight to provide on-going environmental compliance assistance when needed.

S.W. Cole Engineering, an engineering firm with offices in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont that provides construction materials testing and geotechnical services. SW Cole conducted sub-surface explorations to address soil suitability of the proposed project site and provided geotechnical engineering services pertaining to the construction of the foundation for the proposed processing facility building and associated structures.

Amec Foster Wheeler is a British multinational consulting, engineering and product management company with its global headquarters in London, England and branch offices worldwide and in the United States, including Portland, Maine. AMECFW has been retained to provide construction management services including contract scoping and preparation of contract packages, construction scheduling, project cost control, risk identification and management, quality assurance, contractor and construction site monitoring and on-site safety monitoring.

CommonWealth Resource Management Corporation is a management and environmental consulting firm focusing on issues and opportunities related to resource conservation, recovery and utilization. CRMC has been retained for general assistance related to the design, construction, operation and maintenance of the proposed processing facility.

The University of Maine is a public research university with a focus on undergraduate and graduate research throughout Maine and around the world. UMaine Chemical Engineering professors have been retained to perform a peer review of the technological processes associated with the proposed processing facility.

Covanta has their corporate headquarters in Morristown, New Jersey and places of business in West Enfield and Jonesboro, Maine. Covanta has more than 30 years of experience converting MSW into clean renewable energy, recycling metals and other commodities, and helping communities meet their goals for environmental stewardship and sustainability. Covanta will support the development, financing, construction, operation, and maintenance of the proposed processing facility. Covanta’s role in the proposed processing facility will be investor and operator.

The process in detail

Materials Recovery Facility (MRF): The first stage in the process (primary MRF) is to remove large bulky items prior to the MSW being loaded into a low torque shredder which opens and empties the bags of trash. Unwanted large bulky items will be loaded on a trailer and transferred for disposal at a licensed landfill facility. The MSW is then conveyed through a series of screens to create different sized fractions. Materials 2 inches or less in size continue through to the fines processing area for further processing. Materials larger than 14 inches continue on to be hand sorted for recycling or disposal. The remaining sorted material, along with recovered material from the fines processing area, is conveyed into a drum pulper that breaks the organic material down to form a biomass and allows for removal of any fine contamination, the recovery of soluble organics and resulting cellulosic pulp.

Pulped material passes across a screen to recover recyclables, such as metals and plastics. The remaining biomass is conveyed to a washing system to remove fine contaminants (mostly plastics) and soluble organic material. The homogeneous organic fiber is conveyed into a two-stage continuous washing process that further screens contaminants and separates the organic fraction. The first-stage wash removes soluble organic material and pumps the high chemical oxygen demand wastewater to a pre-acidification tank prior to entering the high-rate anaerobic digester for biogas production. The second-stage wash dilutes the remaining material where filters are used to separate out the fine cellulose from the remaining contaminants. The washed cellulose is then pumped into a stock tank. From the stock tank, the cellulose pulp is pumped as slurry into a screw press where it is de-watered to approximately a 50% solids press cake. Washed fibers exit the system and are pumped to be pre-treated for hydrolysis.

Renewable Fuel Production: The enzymatic hydrolysis stage starts when the dewatered pulp is conveyed to the pretreatment reactor whereby water and acid is added into a pretreatment mixer so the appropriate solids concentration and pH is obtained. Slurry from the pretreatment mixer is then pumped to the pretreatment reactor. Fiber exiting the pretreatment reactor is pumped to a medium consistency refiner and then to a screw press to be dewatered, filtrate is returned to the mix tank. The pretreated fiber press cake is conveyed to an enzymatic hydrolysis digester. The pretreatment reactor, pumps, filtrate tank and screw press are connected to a Clean-in-Place system for regular cleaning and sterilization. The hydrolysis process is carried out within a high viscosity digester paired with a set of mixing tanks. The pretreated fibers enter the mixing tanks along with water and enzymes. The wetted fibers circulate through the hydrolysis tank where cellulose within the fiber is converted to sugars on a batch basis.

Temperature and pH are controlled to achieve an optimum mixture which is left in the digester where the low-temperature biological process is complete. Each digester, pump, heat exchanger and mixing vessel is connected to a CIP system for regular cleaning and sterilization. A filter press is utilized to separate the undigested solids from the liquid sugar solution. The undigested solids are slurried and passed to the water treatment plant. The sugar solution is pumped to an evaporator where it is concentrated for storage to be shipped and sold as industrial sugar or will be fed to the anaerobic digester for conversion into biogas. The condensate recovered from the evaporator is stored and used as make-up water for the digestion process.

Renewable Energy Production: The renewable energy production stage begins when the high organically loaded liquid is cooled and sent to an anaerobic digestion system. This system uses microorganisms to digest suspended and dissolved solids contained in the water to reduce the chemical oxygen demand of the water. Clean water and a methane-rich biogas are the byproducts of the stage. The clean water is reused in the washing process. The biogas will be used as supplementary fuel for internal energy production via a boiler and injected into a natural gas pipeline. Bangor Natural Gas has provided a February 10, 2016 letter stating that a section of pipe between Bangor and Hampden needs to be upgraded and that upgrades including testing will be completed prior to facility start-up.

Process water recovered from the water treatment system is used to dilute solids in the pulp and wash systems to maintain desired moisture content. A portion of the recovered water is sent to the CIP storage tank. The solids from the water treatment plant, which is spent fiber with a high lignin content, are processed in a specially designed combustion unit. The heat (steam) from the combustion process is recovered and sent to a steam turbine. The exhaust heat from the turbine is then used to provide process heat. The amount of electrical and heat energy generated by the biomass combustion is sufficient to provide the energy demand for the proposed processing facility. The proposal to produce fuel grade ethanol is no longer part of the proposed processing facility project.

Plant water management is conducted via a recycling and reuse system. Purge water from the washing system, diluted solids from the sugar recovery and stillage from distillation are blended together. The solids are removed using a belt press and any residual fine suspended material is removed using a dissolved air flotation system. The highly organic liquid created is sent to the anaerobic digester. The solids, in the form of cake, are sent to the biomass boiler.

Industrial Co-products: The resultant products generated at the proposed processing facility will include recyclables which will be sold on the open commodities market; post hydrolysis solids which will be used to fuel the on-site biomass boilers; bio-methane which will be piped to the adjacent Bangor Natural Gas Loring Pipeline; and biomass fuel (industrial sugar) which may be sold on the open commodities market depending on contractual, market, and operational conditions. The resultant residue waste products generated at the processing facility will include materials typically 2 inches or less in size (glass and grit), large bulky items, dissolved air filtration system residues and combined boiler ash.

Cautionary notes

In December 2014, Darrell Waite; Formerly Process Manager, Biorefinery and Director of Technology, Old Town Fuel and Fiber, Old Town, ME evaluated the Fibeight technology and pilot data as it stood at that time, and cautioned that “It is my opinion this technology is 3 – 5 years from beginning commercial deployment.”

He wrote:

The Fiberight data and feedback does suggest that their technology can convert the organic portion of the MSW into two sugar rich streams. The first is a C5 rich stream, which is liquid and goes to an AD where it is converted into Biogas. The second stream is a cellulose rich stream that is deconstructed to a C6 rich sugar stream. This C6 rich stream is the stream we focus on here.

Based on feedback from Fiberight, effective yield is very low probably due to low enzymatic conversion of cellulose/hemicellulose to sugars. This is an area that will need significant improvement, as enzyme cost will be the major cost component in conversion to sugar.

Fiberight data on conversion of MSW derived sugar conversion to ethanol was much lower than both woody biomass derived sugars and corn dextrose. This suggests that a high level of inhibitors may be present in the MSW sugar that may diminish ethanol conversion efficiency.

Scale up concerns could be caused by these inhibitors (possible contamination) in the MSW sugar fermentation. Fermentation stability could be jeopardized. One thought to minimize this risk should be to complete systematic pilot scale testing utilizing MSW derived sugars to produce ethanol, possibly have smaller fermenters, aggressive CIP systems and aggressive SOP’s to counter the potential contamination.

A Greenfield site for this type of process will be a major challenge. The need for MSW receiving, sorting, organic cooking, organic solid/liquid separation, liquid C5 rich conversion to biogas via AD and conversion of the solid organic stream to C6 rich sugar to ethanol is a complicated process requiring an energy platform, water intake, water treatment and all supporting equipment and systems. To simplify the process, one option to consider is eliminating the sugar conversion to ethanol portion of the overall process and forward all liquid sugar to the AD. This would reduce a major portion of capital outlay and may be more efficient overall.

The complete review and a host of supporting documentation, site visit reports and more is available here.

The Bottom Line

Let’s not overlook the cautionary notes. But nor should we overlook that the pivot to a new fuel and a new financing structure built around traditional tax-exempt municipal bonds long used for local infrastructure projects — those are two elements that Fulcrum BioEnergy and Fiberight have in common — and now, they’re both financed with their first commercials.

The industry can move from wondering “will it happen?” to “will it work as well as planned, at scale” and, increasingly, to questions of “where next?”

Categories: Today's News

Cash out of trash: The Digest’s 2018 Multi-Slide Guide to Fiberight

Biofuels Digest - Mon, 01/08/2018 - 7:54am

Fiberight is a privately held company founded in 2007 with current operations in Virginia, Maryland and Iowa. The company focuses on transforming post-recycled municipal solid wastes and other organic feedstocks into next generation renewable biofuels, with cellulosic ethanol and renewable compressed natural gas as core products. Pilot plant facilities began in 2008-2009.

This week we reported that Fiberight has secured $70 million for a municipal solid waste center that should be in operation by this May. The high-tech facility will convert 180,000 tons of trash each year from more than 100 Maine towns into biofuel at a 144,000-square-foot steel frame facility that began construction last July.

These two presentations (offered here in combination) have some vintage to them but offer the most illuminating visuals we’ve seen on the technology, the promise and progress.

Categories: Today's News

Cell-free bio-discovery: The Digest’s 2018 Multi-Slide Guide to SynVitroBio

Biofuels Digest - Sun, 01/07/2018 - 12:55pm

Synvitrobio accelerates bio-discovery through cell-free systems. Synvitrobio’s Next Generation Expression platform allows for high-throughput data collection that is real and experimentally validated at speeds of simulation based approaches.

A cell-free system is a mixture that contains only the functional machinery of a cell. Cell-free systems allow us to do complex biochemistry without any of the limitations of a cell.

CEO Zachary Sun have this illuminating overview of the company’s progress and promise at ABLC Next in San Francisco.

Categories: Today's News

Finland looks to “Finnish” first in biofuels

Biofuels Digest - Sun, 01/07/2018 - 10:43am

As temperatures across much of the Eastern United States have been unbearably and dangerously low thanks to a bomb cyclone and scary sounding meteorological talk, we look to Finland – where temperatures are surprisingly warmer than much of the Eastern U.S. and biofuels are being adopted by cities left and right. So grab a blanket and some hot cocoa as we delve into some of Finland’s most notable recent biofuel developments – just try not to get too jealous of their warmer weather and biofuel loving government support.

Finland cities are taking action on their carbon neutral goals and taking them oh so seriously. The Public Works Department at the City of Espoo, the second largest city in Finland, announced their decision to use Neste MY Renewable Diesel in all of its diesel powered machines. In case you aren’t aware of Neste MY Renewable Diesel, it is produced entirely from waste and residues. The transition to renewable diesel is part of the City of Espoo’s target to make Espoo completely carbon neutral by 2030. The aim is for the City of Espoo to switch all of its diesel engines to renewable diesel in stages.

Neste MY Renewable Diesel has also been adopted by the City of Porvoo, and by Finnish companies such as Lassila & Tikanoja and DB Schenker. Other users of Neste MY Renewable Diesel are the Finnish airport operator Finavia, in its airport buses at Helsinki Airport, and the non-governmental aid organization UFF in its logistics chain.

“One of the cornerstones of the City of Espoo’s strategy is to make Espoo carbon neutral over the next twelve years,” said Harri Tanska, Director of Public Works Department at the City of Espoo. “One important step in this direction is the adoption of Neste MY Renewable Diesel, which will be taken into use for our diesel-powered machines and other mobile equipment. This product enables us to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by up to 90%. This is the same amount of emissions that would be reduced every year by taking around 400 cars off the road. This figure is clearly higher than the number of cars used by the Public Works Department of the City of Espoo. We’re pleased to be able to start the new year with renewable diesel, allowing us to make a much smaller carbon footprint.”

“We’re delighted to be able to help the City of Espoo to meet its ambitious emissions targets,” said Sam Holmberg, Vice President responsible for Neste’s Marketing and Services business area in Finland. “It’s great to be able to make the air cleaner in the urban parts of Espoo, both for users of machinery and commercial vehicles and indeed for everyone in the city. As shown by research carried out at the Tampere University of Technology, local emissions can drop practically overnight by a large fraction after switching to Neste MY Renewable Diesel.”

“At the turn of the year, we expanded the availability of Neste MY Renewable Diesel in Espoo to take in the Muurala service station. This means that this top-quality product is now available for light vehicles at nine service stations, and for heavy vehicles at twelve Neste Truck stations,” Holmberg said.

For the love of biofuels

Some think Finland’s love for biofuels isn’t such a great thing, like a leading researcher who said that blind love is keeping the country from switching towards electric vehicles along with other countries in Europe, as reported in August 2017 in The Digest.

But that isn’t stopping the national government from being 100% behind biofuels. As reported by the Digest in November 2016, the national government approved its climate and energy strategy for 2030 setting an objective that biofuels are the basis for 40% of all transport fuels volume by 2030. In addition, the government said that the renewable energy share of market should be raised by 50% or more by 2030. Ultimately, the government aims to create a 100% carbon-neutral energy base for Finland — emphasizing the country’s wood resources as a source for energy and fuel. How’s that for a biofuel-lovin’ government?

Critics were quick to point out the danger of over relying on biofuels and power alone. Former Finnish Labor minister of labor and SDP politician Lauri Ihalainen warned, “The strategy would also raise the timber harvest limits to such a high level that you would have to calculate on there also being room for developing innovative wood products with higher added value.”

Bottom Line

With big biofuel companies based in Finland like Neste, UPM Biofuels, and others, and with established targets for biofuels and a carbon neutral economy, and their abundant forests and powerful biomass industry, we see Finland continuing their focus on biofuels. In fact, we see Finland crossing that finish line to being carbon neutral sooner rather than later. Expect to see more fantastic feats from Finland in 2018.

Categories: Today's News

Fiberight gets $70M in needed funding to open Maine facility

Biofuels Digest - Sun, 01/07/2018 - 10:36am

In Maine, Fiberight secured $70 million for a municipal solid waste center that should be in operation by this May. The high-tech facility will convert 180,000 tons of trash each year from more than 100 Maine towns into biofuel at a 144,000-square-foot steel frame facility that began construction last July.

Craig Stuart-Paul, CEO of Maryland-based Fiberight, told Bangor Daily News, that $45 million of the financing came through a tax-exempt bond with the Finance Authority of Maine and the remainder in private equity funds. “A lot of people questioned whether or not we would be able to get the financing,” he told Bangor Daily News. “In our mind, we always knew we could. This was the final hurdle.”


Categories: Today's News

Global biofuels market to exceed $218.7B by 2022

Biofuels Digest - Sun, 01/07/2018 - 10:32am

In Florida, a report by Zion Market Research predicts the global biofuel market will grow at a CAGR of 4.5% between 2017 and 2022, reaching $218.7 billion by 2022. Asia Pacific biofuels market dominated the overall demand in 2016 and accounted for a significant share in the market. Production in the region increased significantly in recent years driven by the increase in the cumulative land area of biofuels plantation, rising biofuels yield, and high investment in R&D related activities.

Malaysia and Indonesia biofuels industry currently dominate the global production scenario. They are also the major global exporters, covering a large portion of the global trade. Latin America and Middle East & Africa are expected to witness significant growth in areas such as food applications and other industrial uses.

The report lists key players in the biofuels market including Copersucar S.A DSM, Green Plains Inc., Aemetis Inc, Western Dubuque Biodiesel Llc, Solazyme Inc, Renewable Energy Group, Raizen Energia Participacoes S.A, BlueFire Renewables, Aventine Renewable Energy Holdings, Inc. (AVRW), and Australian Renewable Fuels Ltd. among others.

Categories: Today's News

Fighting food waste in Africa with biofuel-run Sparky Dryer

Biofuels Digest - Sun, 01/07/2018 - 10:28am

In Uganda, engineering graduate Lawrence Okettayot is addressing food waste with his new Sparky Dryer, which is a food dehydrator that runs on biofuel from a farmer’s garden and burns with zero-carbon emissions. The dehydrator helps farmers avoid food loss and food waste due to spoilage, which is an issue in Uganda for many farmers. The dryers start at about $80 and can dehydrate 10kg of mango in two hours running on 2kg of biofuel.

“Because in Uganda 80% of the population don’t have access to electricity, they can put anything from their garden, like leaves, sticks, anything that is not of use at the minute, and the catalytic converter converts the toxins into good gases so the gasification process has zero carbon-dioxide emissions,” Okettayot told The Guardian.

Categories: Today's News


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