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Dollar’s depreciation may dent China’s ethanol dreams

Biofuels Digest - Mon, 10/09/2017 - 7:45pm

In China, despite an increase on import duty for ethanol to 30% and the 10% ethanol-blending mandate set for 2020, some analysts are concerned that the depreciating dollar will have a negative impact on corn prices that in turn could increase feedstock costs for ethanol producers as a result of long-term demand for that corn. While some are looking for China to boost production quickly, others warn that ramping up too fast could have negative consequences financially.

Categories: Today's News

Platts sees higher Brazilian ethanol production during H2 September

Biofuels Digest - Mon, 10/09/2017 - 7:44pm

In Brazil, Platts expects hydrous ethanol production during the second half of September to reach 1.25 billion liters, more than 12% higher on the year, while anhydrous ethanol production should increase nearly 4% to 838 million liters from 41.55 million tons of cane. The expected volume of cane crushed is more than 2% lower than last year and 8% lower than during the first half of September as a result of maintenance stoppages. The proportion of cane directed towards ethanol is seen to have risen to 52.88% during H2 September.

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Ames Lab researchers working to deconstruct lignin commercially

Biofuels Digest - Mon, 10/09/2017 - 7:43pm

In Iowa, researchers at Ames Laboratory are working to reach the goal of deconstructing lignin commercially, experimenting with chemical reactions that decompose lignin models at low temperatures and pressures. There are already known ways of salvaging useful byproducts out of lignin through the addition of a stabilization process. But they took both the decomposition and stabilization processes further, by combining the two into one multi-functional catalyst, using phosphate-modified ceria.

In another experiment, the team was able to process a related material, phenol, into useful industrial precursors for nylon production. This work used a catalyst made of ceria and palladium doped with sodium, which increased the reactivity of the process significantly. They also eliminated the use of hydrogen, which is produced from steam-treatment of natural gas, and used an energy-conserving alcohol-based hydrogenation process instead.

Categories: Today's News

Thirty-eight Senators write EPA administrator demanding stronger support for advanced biofuels under RFS

Biofuels Digest - Mon, 10/09/2017 - 7:42pm

In Washington, 38 Senators have written a letter to the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency to ensure that the 2018 blending mandate for advanced biofuels under the Renewable Fuel Standard is sufficiently high to drive growth in the biofuels industry. The preliminary volumes proposed would keep conventional ethanol levels at the intended 15 billion gallons but significantly cuts back on advanced biofuels volumes that will hurt investment and set the industry’s advancement backwards. Other proposals seek to allow imports to continue to generate RINs while reducing the blending mandate by the quantity of biodiesel no longer expected from Argentina. What’s more, the EPA plans to allow ethanol exports to also generate RINs.

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Engage the hyper-drive: Synbio’s fastest are going faster, bigger as Kytopen, Ginkgo, Twist Biosciences, Arzeda, TeselaGen feel the need for speed

Biofuels Digest - Mon, 10/09/2017 - 2:43pm
ENGAGE THE HYPER-DRIVE. Is everyone’s organism for making fuels, chemicals, materials, foods, flavors, fragrances and therapeutics — beautifully and slowly — heading for rapid obsolescence?

“Everyone wants to make it faster,” notes Kytopen co-founder Cullen Buie. “Over the past 18 months, we discovered there’s a huge market for speed.”

That’s one of the reasons why, if you open an unmarked door in Emeryville, California, about 900 synbio company co-founders fall out like a scene out of A Night at the Opera. There are more speed freaks in synthetic biology these days than you’ll find in the pages of Hot Rod.

Say goodbye to artisanal design in synbio, for sure — the days of mysterious alchemists and alchemy. Now it’s about huge throughput, fast, cheap. Foundries for casting new metabolic pathways into a organism’s chassis at Warp 10. Speed, speed, speed.

The reason is not hard to figure out. There are 2.3 million times more biochemical reactions to engineer in a microbe than there have been seconds in the life of the universe. 

“The number of potential combinations is something on the order of a septillion. That’s a one with 24 zeroes after it,” said Matt Lipscomb, CEO and co-founder of DMC. “Even with the recent significant advances in lab automation, computing power and machine learning algorithms, it’s impossible to experimentally explore the entire design space.”

Think advanced design. Banks of high-throughput servers enslaved to the process of exploring new metabolic pathways. Optimizing existing pathways, or investing novel ones.

The stakes are high because fast is getting faster, that’s the takeaway from news pouring out of the advanced materials and the bioeconomy sectors this week via Ginkgo BioWorks, Twist Bioscience, Arzeda, TeselaGen, Kytopen, and Volkervessels.

Ginkgo supersizes its Twist order: A billion base pairs of DNA, fast

From Silicon Valley and Boston, we heard that Ginkgo Bioworks and Twist Bioscience Corporation expanded their already gargantuan synthetic DNA supply deal — now, it’s  one billion base pairs, including genes up to five kilobases in length.

Ginkgo’s technology platform is bringing biotechnology into consumer goods markets, enabling fragrance, cosmetic, nutrition, food companies, and more to make better products.

Ginkgo intends to use the one billion base pairs of synthetic DNA for work in its newest automated foundry for organism design, Bioworks3, opening in November 2017. The third foundry will be used in part by the new company that Ginkgo and Bayer recently launched with $100M in Series A funding focused on nitrogen fixation for sustainable agriculture. This supply of synthetic DNA will also fuel Ginkgo’s continued expansion into new industries for a wider breadth of companies to leverage the power of biology in their lines of business.

Twist Bioscience has been supplying synthetic DNA to Ginkgo Bioworks since November of 2015, when the companies announced an agreement for Twist Bioscience to deliver a minimum of 100 million base pairs of synthetic DNA over the course of 2016 — a quantity equal to approximately 10 percent of the total DNA synthesis market in 2015. Ginkgo is the largest consumer of synthetic DNA globally, and with this supply expansion, it is expected to order approximately one third of the global supply of synthetic DNA.

“An increasingly diverse scope of companies are looking to tap the power of biology to rethink traditional manufacturing, and demand for synthetic biology is at an all time high,” said Jason Kelly, CEO and co-founder of Ginkgo Bioworks.

Twist CEO Emily Leproust commented, “Pairing Ginkgo’s tremendous organism design capabilities and Twist Bioscience’s core DNA synthesis scalability, showcases the growth of the bioeconomy.”

Arzeda, TeselaGen expand to accelerate the design-build-test cycle

Meanwhile, from San Francisco and Seattle we note that Arzeda will license TeselaGen’s proprietary cloud-based informatics solution and collaborate to extend TeselaGen’s state-of-the-art biological design automation platform.

TeselaGen builds enterprise quality software platforms for designing, building and precision editing DNA, enabling the development of vaccines, biologic medicines, and sustainably sourced chemicals. TeselaGen uses its Synthetic Evolution technology for efficient rapid prototyping and editing of recombinant molecules.

Arzeda creates innovative cell factories that can transform or supplement current chemical production methods. One, design novel metabolic pathways employing the necessary enzymatic building blocks to process feedstock to final product the same way that wheat ultimately turns into beer.  Two, integrate these novel pathways in a cellular chassis and optimize them to reach the desired level of yield, concentration and purity.

“TeselaGen has created a unique solution for DNA assembly design,” said George McArthur, Ph.D., Research Scientist at Arzeda. “As an Alpha Access Program member, we have already significantly improved the efficiency of our genetic design-build workflow using TeselaGen’s genetic engineering CAD software. With this collaboration, we are looking forward to scaling our workflow even further.”

“TeselaGen’s industry-leading software tools complement our own technology stack. With the deployment of TeselaGen’s software tools at Arzeda, we will improve our protein design pipeline throughput. ” stated Arzeda CEO Alexandre Zanghellini. “These tools will accelerate our design-build-test cycle, which will enable us to get products to market faster,” he continued.

TeselaGen CEO Michael Fero said, “Our hypothesis is that biotechnology is essentially an information technology. Improving the flow, handling and interpretation of information is a tremendous accelerant for biotech product development.”

Kytopen: Delivering DNA to bacterial cells 10,000 times faster

We haven’t written about Kytopen before — one of the newer entrants.

As co-founder Cullen Buie observes:

“One of the main bottlenecks during genetic engineering is the actual delivery of the DNA into the cell. As it stands, a highly trained person inserts DNA into cells one sample at a time, which is a manual and labor intensive process. Kytopen has invented a continuous flow process for delivery using electricity in microfluidic devices to zap bacterial cells as they’re flowing inside microscale channels. This is the new wave of genetic engineering, delivering DNA to bacterial cells up to 10,000 times faster than current state-of-the-art methods.

“Initially we believed that the industry would be interested in engineering new types of microorganisms, but they are far more interested in speeding up the whole process,

The plethora of applications enabled by low-cost DNA synthesis and sequencing, engineering, and analysis have allowed scientists to make jet fuel, cure chronic diseases, and develop synthetic leather. Imagine what’s next. “The bacteria are amazing, marvelous little creatures,” Cullen says affectionately. “What’s fascinating to me is how much potential there is. To the extent that we can unlock that diversity with our creative engineering, this is a tremendous opportunity.” When Cullen describes their entire journey as market-driven, Paulo agrees. “We’re operating in an industry that has huge potential and you see it everywhere,” says Paulo.

Kytopen

1 septillion reasons Dad’s CRISPR-Cas9 may already be Toast

In the rapid-fire tech and political world of 2017, a day feels like a month, a year is like a generation, and sometimes it feels like 90% of the population hasn’t heard of a technology wave before it is swamped by the next tsunami, and that may well be the case with the first wave of CRISPR-Cas technology — and we looked at it in 1 Septillion Reasons your Dad’s CRISPR-CAS9 may already be toast.

It was voted “Breakthrough of the Year” in 2015 by AAAS and big companies are just now taking big licenses. It’s a hyper-specific, gene level version of what any gardener does with a pair of pruning shears, yet takes the system of improving genomes, using the set of DNA that Nature gives us to work with, to another level. But it’s been slooooow.

One more thing: Volkerwessels’ 100% recycled plastic road is gaining viral visibility

The idea has been around for some time — what is racing in this case is social media, which is to say the visibility of this idea.

It’s lightweight design, a fraction of the construction time, virtually maintenance free, and three times the expected lifespan. PlasticRoad, which consists of 100% recycled material, is the ideal sustainable alternative to conventional road structures.

PlasticRoad features numerous advantages compared to conventional roads, both in terms of construction and maintenance. Plastic is much more sustainable and opens the door for a number of new innovations such as power generation, quiet road surfaces, heated roads and modular construction. Additionally, the PlasticRoad design features a ‘hollow’ space that can be used for cables, pipes and rainwater.

You can see an animation of the idea, here.

 

 

Categories: Today's News

Agriculturally advantaged traits: The Digest’s 2017 Multi-Slide Guide to Calyxt

Biofuels Digest - Mon, 10/09/2017 - 6:29am

Calyxt is pioneering a paradigm shift to deliver both healthier specialty food ingredients, such as healthier oils and high fiber wheat for consumers as well as agriculturally advantageous traits, such as herbicide tolerance to farmers.

The technology enables Calyxt to precisely and specifically edit a plant genome to elicit the desired traits and characteristics, resulting in a final product that has no foreign DNA. The company recently went public and the stock has been rising meteorically ever since.

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Financing Bioeconomy Ventures Pt. 11: Series Summary

Biofuels Digest - Mon, 10/09/2017 - 6:05am

By Martin Wahl and Gerald Kutney, Lee Enterprises Consulting
Special to The Digest

The preceding articles in this series cover the major steps that investors and entrepreneurs should take to advance bioeconomy project product and process development. In retrospect, the most striking aspect of the articles is the diversity of talent, experience and approaches exhibited by the authors as they addressed the variety of requirements in the project development and funding processes.

What We Learned

The articles in the series taught us:

Each article is also available via Lee Enterprises Consulting’s website, here.

Commentary

Lee Enterprises Consulting has extensive experience dealing with entrepreneurs and other project developers looking for financing. The majority are ill prepared and are largely naïve of the daunting process of venture capitalists, angel investors and other professional financing mechanisms. When informed of such deficiencies, entrepreneurs can become angry of our lack of understanding of the “great commercial potential” of their technology/process. However, even with a biofuel or biochemical with “great commercial potential,” professional preparatory work is necessary to have any chance to attract the funding to achieve their goals. While project developers routinely use engineers and other experts on technology development and plant design, they are often reluctant to provide the necessary resources to attract the equally important financing. The above articles provide a guideline of the due diligence process that is common in the financial community.

The skills, experience and aptitude required for treating the various steps for obtaining project financing differ greatly, ranging from macro-level economic and strategic analysis to hands-on process and materials planning and management. These distinct professions must be coordinated and integrated to ensure success of unique projects, and hence their funding. We are fortunate at Lee Enterprises Consulting to have the breadth of talent in our network and the flexible management structure to tailor teams to meet those needs; to apply the talent where and when needed.

About the Authors

Martin Wahl, MBA, is the Marketing Director of Lee Enterprises Consulting and has more than 25 years’ experience in data product development, marketing and management, including biofuels industry surveillance database development and management. Martin manages market research and communications for Lee Enterprises Consulting employing his unique blend of alternative energy, market research, product development and business planning experience. His hands-on experience with a WVO biodiesel start-up during the wild-west days in the Bay Area brings a practical perspective to his work.

Gerald Kutney is the Executive Vice President of Emerging Technologies, Biomass Power, Biogas/AD, and Investor Services for Lee Enterprises Consulting, and Managing Director of Sixth Element Sustainable Management in Ottawa. He has a Ph.D. in chemistry and over two decades of executive experience with global corporations and entrepreneurial enterprises in the forest bioeconomy.

 

Categories: Today's News

Biofuels vs EVs: The Union of Concerned Scientists responds

Biofuels Digest - Sun, 10/08/2017 - 3:33pm

by Jeremy Martin,
Senior Scientist and Fuels Lead, Clean Vehicles Program
Union of Concerned Scientists
Special to The Digest

Cutting oil use and transportation emissions is a big job, that will require both electric vehicles and biofuels

A few days ago, Biofuels Digest ran a piece claiming that biofuels beat electric vehicles on cost and emissions. The piece specifically took issue with a report my colleagues wrote, Cleaner Cars from Cradle to Grave, which found that battery electric vehicles (EVs) are less polluting than gasoline powered cars, even when the additional emissions associated with producing the cars, particularly the batteries, are considered.

I’m not interested in stoking an argument between supporters of electric vehicles and biofuels. Cutting oil use and global warming pollution from transportation is a big job, and we need rapid progress on both electric vehicles and biofuels, as I described at length in a recent report on Fueling a Clean Transportation Future. But my colleagues and I at the Union of Concerned Scientists believe that solving big problems depends on careful analysis, so I feel compelled to set the record straight on a few key points.

The Biofuels Digest piece has significant errors in its calculations on emissions:

  • Biofuels Digest suggests it makes sense to consider only the first owner’s emissions in calculating emissions benefits. We disagree. Cars pollute over their whole lives, regardless of how many times they change hands, so it makes sense to calculate emissions benefits over the car’s lifetime. Choosing an arbitrarily low lifetime (less than 7 years) biases the calculation in favor of conventional vehicles.
  • Our calculations for EV emissions were based on the average grid where the cars are being charged. The Biofuels Digest comparison is a very optimistic scenario of a car running on advanced biofuel with a 50% GHG reduction.       Very few cars run on 100% biofuel, the closest they come is Flex-Fuel vehicles (FFVs) that run on E85 (which is a mix of 51-85% ethanol and gasoline).   Very few FFVs run on E85 most of the time, and the ethanol in E85 is mostly corn ethanol, not an advanced biofuel that meets a 50% GHG reduction as Biofuels Digest assumes. So, despite claiming that the 50% GHG reduction is conservative, the 50% GHG savings is very much an optimistic case. To fairly compare optimistic scenarios, we should consider that many EV drivers have also installed solar panels, and an EV charged on solar power virtually eliminates operating emissions.

 

The emissions associated with driving an EV are coming steadily down, and depend upon where you get your power. Here is our latest update.

 

The Biofuels Digest piece also has errors in calculations of the relative cost of driving and owning an EV versus an FFV running on E85:

 

  • The savings of driving a Chevy Cruze using E85 at current prices does not take into consideration the reduced MPGe while driving on E85. The E85 prices cited are about 23% lower than E10, which is about the same as the reduction of MPGe compared to E10. This means it costs about the same to drive a mile on E85 as E10, not 10% less as Biofuels Digest claims.
  • The price listed for the Nissan Leaf is an MSRP which bears little relationship to the actual purchase price, once State and Federal tax credits and other incentives are applied.

 

The cost of fueling an EV is much lower than a gasoline powered car or an FFV, and the price has been remarkably stable compared to volatile oil and ethanol prices. My colleague David Reichmuth will have much more to say on this topic in the next month. We are aware that the MSRP of EVs is higher than gasoline cars or FFVs, which is why tax credits and rebates for EVs are so important. Lest biofuels advocates claim it’s unfair to include these tax credits in the comparison, recall that the scaleup of ethanol and biodiesel was supported with substantial tax credits, and substantial policy support for biofuels remains in the form of the Renewable Fuel Standard (at least for now).

But while I stand by our analysis of the benefits of EVs, I have no interest in belittling advanced biofuels. In fact, I spend most of my time defending advanced biofuels, including defending the Renewable Fuels Standard, which is under attack, as I explained in my recent blog, EPA Administrator Pruitt is undermining cellulosic biofuels, the RFS and transparency in government.

It is counterproductive for biofuels advocates to belittle the benefits and growing importance of electric vehicles. It’s also not a good idea to focus hopes for the future of biofuels on FFVs burning E85. The large number of FFVs on the road today are mostly the result of a misguided loophole in fuel economy regulations that gave car manufacturers credit for selling FFVs on an assumption that these cars would use E85 frequently. This strategy did not work. FFVs are rarely fueled with E85, and the loophole ultimately did much more to increase gasoline use by making cars less efficient than it did to expand ethanol use.

Instead of FFVs, biofuel advocates should focus on a future that includes using ethanol to maximize efficiency as part of a high octane gasoline blend and in sectors like aviation where electrification is more challenging. The bioeconomy also has a key role to play in biomaterials, and as part of carbon removal strategies, as I described in a recent article on the bioeconomy in a world without carbon pollution. Biofuels and the broader bioeconomy have enormous opportunities in a low carbon future, but with GM, European countries, China and California looking beyond internal combustion engines for light duty transport, doubling down on FFVs and E85 is a road to nowhere.

Cutting oil use and transportation emissions is a big job and a major opportunity for both renewable fuels, renewable electricity and electric vehicles. The hostility of EPA Administrator Pruitt and his friends in the oil industry make this job harder and more important than ever before, and advocates of renewable fuels and electric vehicles need to work together to keep us on track to a clean transportation future.

Categories: Today's News

No boredom for sorghum – Sorghum reaches stardom status with huge $16 million grant

Biofuels Digest - Sun, 10/08/2017 - 2:55pm

Sweet sorghum stardom! In possibly one of the largest government grants given to anyone for research on a single feedstock, the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center is receiving a 5-year $16 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) for research on the model grass green foxtail (Setaria viridis), to speed up the development of energy sorghum varieties for production under not so great environments.

But that’s not the only exciting news – NexSteppe shared their vision and plans for sorghum stardom with the Digest over the weekend.

Sorghum stardom scoop

So why is sorghum so hip and happening right now? The Danforth Center helps us count the ways:

  1. Sorghum is a member of the grass family and is grown worldwide.
  2. Sorghum is very resilient to drought and heat stress.
  3. Natural genetic diversity in sorghum makes it a promising system for identifying stress-resistance mechanisms in grasses that may have been lost during the domestication of related cereal crops.
  4. It is among the most efficient crops in conversion of solar energy and use of water, making it an ideal crop to target for improvement.

This explains why earlier this summer, the Danforth Center told Sorghum Growers that their lab is moving its focus almost entirely to sorghum and turning the attention of approximately 23 other research scientists to the crop, as well as a full-time sorghum breeder.

“There is no master plan,” one of the lead scientists, Todd Mockler, Ph.D. told Sorghum Grower, “but I am steering the Titanic in the direction to do all sorghum, all the time, piece-by-piece.” Unlike the Titanic, they don’t plan to sink the ship but instead undertake a new massive effort to make sorghum the bioenergy crop of the future.

The Danforth Project

The future of sinewy sorghum is looking pretty sweet right now with this huge research grant that could change the future of sorghum as a bioenergy crop. And as one of the world’s largest independent plant science non-profit institutes, Danforth is pushing that needle ever more forward for sorghum.

Building on Danforth’s earlier research using the model grass, green foxtail (Setaria viridis), this project will identify new genes and pathways that contribute to photosynthesis and enhanced water use efficiency. The team will then deploy these genes using tools of the emerging field of synthetic biology to accelerate development of elite energy sorghum varieties for production under marginal environments.

“Understanding the network of genes involved in photosynthesis and drought tolerance will provide targets for plant breeders and genetic engineers to re-design sorghum specifically as a high value bioenergy feedstock to be grown on marginal soils and thus not compete with food crops,” said lead principal investigator, Thomas Brutnell, Ph.D., director of the Enterprise Rent-A-Car Institute for Renewable Fuels at the Danforth Center in their press release.

This project aims to deliver stress-tolerant sorghum lines, addressing DOE’s mission in the generation of renewable energy resources. Danforth’s press release states that the development of a low input, environmentally safe and highly productive sorghum germplasm will help establish a lignocellulosic energy economy that can provide jobs to rural communities, ensure energy security and benefit the environment.

The project includes a multi-disciplinary team with expertise ranging from plant physiology, genetics, molecular biology, informatics, computational biology and genetic engineering from scientists at Washington State University, Carnegie Institution for Science, University of Rhode Island, University of Illinois, University of Minnesota and the United States Department of Agriculture.

“Sorghum is an attractive bioenergy feedstock supported by well-developed breeding and seed industry,” said co-principal Investigator on the grant, Todd Mockler, Ph.D., Geraldine and Robert Virgil Distinguished Investigator at the Danforth Center. “This project will leverage recent investments by DOE to further accelerate sorghum feedstock enhancements, develop new gene editing and transformation technologies and conduct a whole genome association study to identify genes to improve sorghum productivity.”

NexSteppe offers next steps too for sorghum’s future

NexSteppe’s President and CEO, Anna Rath, told the Digest over the weekend that they have big plans for sorghum as well.

“Sorghum has many of the same compelling attributes that have made corn such a successful agricultural crop – relatively straightforward genetics, a relatively short breeding and product development cycle, and hybrid genetics that allow for protection of intellectual property. In the world of bioeconomy applications, though, where we are also concerned with water use, input requirements, and the ability to grow in harsher environments or on more marginal land, sorghum is clearly superior. As a result, we believe sorghum has a major role to play in the increasing needs of the bioeconomy for scalable, reliable, sustainable, consistent and cost-effective feedstocks.”

Sounds like a great vision, but what are they actually doing to move sorghum to the spotlight?

Rath told the Digest that they had their “first large scale commercial plantings of Palo Alto in China this year aimed at the combination of land remediation and production of a feedstock for biomass power. Those fields will be harvested in the coming weeks and the biomass will be burned for production of biomass power.” She also told the Digest that sales are going well of their Metano Alto in Germany and Italy this year for bioga as well as sales of Palo Alto for biomass power in Italy.

As if that’s not enough excitement, Rath also told the Digest that “In South America, in addition to continuing sales of Palo Alto for biomass power in Brazil, we expect to see sales of Malibu for production of ethanol and Metano Alto for biogas and expect to see our first sales in Paraguay and Argentina.”

Check out the Digest’s Multi-Slide Guide to NexSteppe.

Sweet sorghum success

There are too many other recent sorghum success stories to name, but here are a few more noteworthy ones. As reported in the Digest in April, Chromatin and Zaad Holdings entered into an alliance to produce and distribute planting seed for grain and forage sorghum throughout the African continent. In Africa, sorghum is used in the food and beverage industry and as animal feed. The crop conserves water resources, providing food security in areas where fresh water is limiting. Historically, however, sorghum yields were not so great from saved seeds but higher yielding hybrid versions can produce up to five times as much yield. This can help the increasing demand for African sorghum and new markets like the dairy industry which relies on sorghum to improve milk production yields.

Non-sorghum companies are also watching and wondering if they should get in on the sorghum scoop. In August, the Digest reported that in Hawaii, as part of Alexander & Baldwin’s diversification into biofuels from its sugarcane past, the company began growing corn and sorghum a few months ago for feedstock that will produce biogas and in turn power the Kahului wastewater treatment facility. If the trial proves successful, the crops could be grown on as much as 500 acres. The crops will be rotated with legumes for nitrogen fixing and cover crops as well. Pongamia isn’t envisioned as a feedstock for the biogas facility despite starting a 250 acre trial that could expand to 2,000 acres over time because the company hasn’t yet decided on how the seeds will be processed.

Bottom Line

With a giant $16 million grant to Danforth to study nothing but sorghum, we can’t help but think great things will be coming from the research. And with companies actually producing, selling, and using sorghum, like NexSteppe and Chromatin, we think sorghum is worthy of stardom status for bioenergy crops. By utilizing research, technology, breeding, and a vision for the future, we see organizations and companies moving the needle on sorghum very quickly and very soon.

Categories: Today's News

Woods Hole gets $5.7M for seaweed mass production for biofuels and biochemicals

Biofuels Digest - Sun, 10/08/2017 - 1:19pm

In Massachusetts, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution was awarded $5.7 million for two projects that develop tools and technology to advance the mass production of seaweed for biofuels and bio-based chemicals. The funding came from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E)’s Macroalgae Research Inspiring Novel Energy Resources (MARINER) Program.

With $3.7 million, a team of seaweed biologists, geneticists and entrepreneurs will develop a breeding program for sugar kelp–Saccharina latissima, one of the most commercially important species–using the latest gene sequencing and genomic resources for faster, more accurate and efficient selective breeding. The breeding program will build a library of genetic resources associated with plant traits that produce a 20 to to 30 percent improvement over wild plants.

The remaining $2 million in funding will be used by a team from the Applied Ocean Physics and Engineering department to develop an autonomous underwater observation system for monitoring large-scale seaweed farms for extended periods of time without human intervention.

Categories: Today's News

Petrobras gets exemptions and adjustments from ANP for Libra pilot project

Biofuels Digest - Sun, 10/08/2017 - 1:14pm

In Brazil, Petrobras was informed that it was exempt from complying with local content requirements for all parts of the hull and some parts of the plant for their Libra Pilot project. Petrobras is the operator of the Libra consortium and was notified by the National Petroleum, Natural Gas and Biofuels Agency (ANP) of its decision on their request to be exempt. ANP also notified Petrobras that it is adjusting the minimum commitments for other items of plant construction, installation and integration of modules.

According to World Oil, Petrobras considers the exemption a good sign for oil and gas industry competitiveness in Brazil. Petrobras also plans on working with its consortium partners to figure out the impact of the adjustments.

Categories: Today's News

$6 million goes towards universities working on biofuels and carbon capture technologies

Biofuels Digest - Sun, 10/08/2017 - 1:10pm

In Wyoming, University of Wyoming agricultural economists will generate models of what economies in the Upper Missouri River Basin might look like if raising biofuels and carbon capture technologies were implemented. UW is part of the four-year, $6 million National Science Foundation project working with Montana State University and the University of South Dakota to determine if changes in commodity production and capturing carbon are sustainable, or even feasible, in the basin. Each university is getting $2 million for the projects.

MSU will study agriculture and biofertilizers, food security, clean energy, and water supply and quality. USD will focus on land use, biodiversity and ecosystem services assessment. The goal is to decrease atmospheric carbon — perhaps even remove more than is going in — through alternative agricultural and energy approaches, such as biofuels, and above- and below-ground carbon sequestration.

Categories: Today's News

Soy oil prices declining thanks to drops in U.S. government biodiesel mandates

Biofuels Digest - Sun, 10/08/2017 - 1:08pm

In Washington, D.C., soy oil prices are declining after the U.S. government proposed drops in biodiesel mandates for 2018 and 2019. Downward pressure on soy oil prices is expected and possible canola as well due to the lower biodiesel mandate.

“It’s certainly getting the trade’s attention here, especially after the market had been feeling that we’d be doing nothing but increasing (mandate) amounts in the coming years,” Rich Nelson, chief strategist with Allendale Inc. told Producer. Nelson is positive about the longer-term outlook for soy prices because of biodiesel expansion in other countries like India.

Jeff Coglianese, senior broker with Daniels Trading, told Producer “I don’t know if it’s going to have a huge impact on soybean prices. All you need is a little bit of demand from China and you kind of eat that up pretty quick,” he said. “It could have some effect, but I don’t think it will be a major impact.”

Categories: Today's News

After 14 week low, ethanol production inching upwards

Biofuels Digest - Sun, 10/08/2017 - 1:04pm

In Washington, D.C., the Renewable Fuels Association reports that according to EIA data, ethanol production averaged 1.010 million barrels per day (b/d)—or 42.42 million gallons daily. That is up 13,000 b/d from the week before. The four-week average for ethanol production decreased to 1.021 million b/d for an annualized rate of 15.65 billion gallons)—the lowest average in 7 weeks. Stocks of ethanol were 21.5 million barrels. That is a 3.9% increase from last week and a six-week high. Imports of ethanol remained flat at zero b/d for the third week in a row.

Average weekly gasoline demand decreased 3.0% to 388.1 million gallons (9.241 million barrels) daily. This is equivalent to 141.7 gallons annualized. Refiner/blender input of ethanol increased 1.4% to 930,000 b/d, equivalent to 14.26 billion gallons annualized. This means gasoline contained an average of 10.06% ethanol for the week. Year-to-date, gasoline has contained an average of 9.83% ethanol. Expressed as a percentage of daily gasoline demand, daily ethanol production increased to 10.93%.

Categories: Today's News

Germany’s rapeseed imports rose in 2016/17

Biofuels Digest - Sun, 10/08/2017 - 1:02pm

In Germany, UFOP reports that German exports of rapeseed oil hit a record high in the 2016/17 marketing year. Both EU member states and third countries purchased considerably more rapeseed oil than a year earlier. Germany’s exports of rapeseed oil saw a significant rise for the third consecutive year in 2016/17, the Federal Statistical Office reported. At around 1.2 million tonnes, sales to foreign counties were up almost 13 per cent from 2015/16. Just about 92 per cent of these exports went to other EU countries, which was up 14 per cent year-on-year. Purchases by the hub of international trade and number one purchaser of German rapeseed oil, the Netherlands, amounted to 592,600 tonnes. This was around 22 per cent more than the previous year’s level. Polish imports climbed just less than 28 per cent to 208,000 tonnes. Belgium occupied third place among the main recipients, with an import volume of 91,300 tonnes and a 5 per cent increase in rapeseed oil imports. According to information published by Agrarmarkt Informations-Gesellschaft mbH, the EFTA states (Iceland, Norway, Switzerland) purchased slightly less rapeseed oil than a year ago (78,200 tonnes). By contrast, Slovenia’s imports sextupled to 10,600 tonnes.

Categories: Today's News

Proposed RED II reduction of biofuels sparks more criticism

Biofuels Digest - Sun, 10/08/2017 - 12:58pm

In Europe, the EU’s Renewable Energy Directive for 2021-2030 (RED II) proposed biofuels reduction on first-generation biofuels made from food crops from 7% in 2020 to 3.8% in 2030 is being debated in the European Parliament’s committees in preparation for a January 2018 vote. While some say the move will reduce pressure on food prices, farmers and biofuel producers are saying that’s not true. Farmers say they need that additional income they receive for biofuel crops. Farmer and agricultural cooperatives said that support for first generation biofuel has helped them rely less on imported animal feed.

“First generation biofuels produced from arable crops grown in the EU replace four to five million hectares of soya that would otherwise be imported from third countries, mainly in South America,” Copa-Cogeca stated in a recent report according to Euractiv.

Categories: Today's News

Algae wastewater gets new life as valuable commodity thanks to microbes

Biofuels Digest - Sun, 10/08/2017 - 12:56pm

In Washington, researchers at Washington State University and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory discovered a method of converting algae biofuel waste product into a usable and valuable commodity. Waste is produced during the first step of converting algae to biofuels via hydrothermal liquefaction. The wastewater is usually hard to process because it has so many different chemicals in tiny amounts, but researchers found that anaerobic microbes can break down the residue and converts it into a degradable bionatural gas. The remaining solid material can be used as a fertilizer.

“After removing the solids, about 10 percent of the output is bio oil, with the remaining 90 percent being a waste byproduct,” Andrew Schmidt of PNNL’s chemical and biological processes development group said in the WSU press release. “The fact that we’ve developed an alternative method to recycle or treat the leftover material means it’s more economical to produce the bio oil, making the potential for commercial use of the process more likely.”

 

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Financing Bioeconomy Ventures, Pt. 10 – Regulatory and Community Concerns in Plant Site Selection

Biofuels Digest - Sat, 10/07/2017 - 9:53am

By Daniel Lane and Mindy Collier, Lee Enterprises Consulting
Special to The Digest

When it comes to plant site selection, there is a lot of talk about raw materials sourcing, Alfred Weber’s location triangle, and lowest-cost shipping and logistics. However, while business matters are important when determining a location to build and operate a production facility, it’s important to pay close attention to regulatory and community concerns. While it’s certainly possible to site, build, and operate a facility with minimal outreach to regulatory agencies and local communities, opening relationships early can lead to an easy transition to a new location. In order to plan for these concerns, it helps to have a good grasp as to the type of issues one faces when looking to site a new production facility.

Job One: Find the Regulations

First, let’s start our discussion with one of the most commonly asked questions: How do you know or find out what regulations you have to deal with? Unfortunately, the answer to this question is not straightforward, as it depends on the location and type of work to be done at the site. For example, if one is looking at a greenfield plant construction, there are far more regulations to abide by, and more permits for which to apply. If the plan is to take over an existing facility and modify production, that’s clearly a lot easier – but not necessarily a slam dunk. Either way, site selection is often taking place early in the Front End Loading process, and process specifics have not always been established, making it difficult to determine all of the regulations that will need to be dealt with. A good way to consider the question is to consider it broadly early in the site selection process, and in more detail as the list of alternatives is winnowed down to the final options.

Preliminary Site Identification

Early in the site selection process, operations and location criteria are typically broad and tend to rule in more locations than rule them out. As the process continues, though, high-level screening helps to reduce the number of alternative locations to be considered. For regulatory and community concerns, this screening should start with things like, what is the business climate in the location? How about in the region? The state? In addition to business climate, the state and local regulatory climate should be assessed. Some states are known for having more stringent environmental regulations, which increases costs of plant design, construction, and permitting and compliance operations. However, often in these states, the population believes that these regulations are worth the added costs and even reward businesses that strive to exceed environmental regulation requirements. For businesses focused on renewables and bio-produced specialties, this could be a boon that offsets higher up-front costs.

Site and Community Screening

Later in the site selection process, regulatory and community concerns need to be considered in more detail. Aside from property characteristics, what utilities are available? Not only is this key to the facility design, but it also identifies agencies that will need to be dealt with. For example, is steam available? If not, you will likely need to talk to the local air district for boiler emissions permitting, as well as the local gas utility about installing a meter and high pressure service. The latter might even require demolition and construction permits, depending on whether the site includes a retrofit.

What about manmade or natural hazards, or nearby waterways or watersheds? Most facilities in the renewables industry are going to have chemicals stored on site in quantities that will require an EPA ID number, a spill prevention control & countermeasures plan, hazard mitigation or accidental release plan, storm water pollution prevention plan, et cetera. In addition to release/response plans, a site will be required to maintain and demonstrate permit compliance with periodic inspections and testing that needs to be budgeted for in start-up and continued operations.

From the community standpoint, what does the local economy look like? Almost all communities, both rural and urban, have tax incentive programs that are established to promote economic development. The SBA’s HUBZone, HUD’s Promise Zones, and state-designated Enterprise Zones are just a few such programs. SBA’s HUBZone encourages economic development in historically underutilized “business zones.” HUD Promise Zones are areas in select urban, rural and tribal communities. The goal of bringing economic opportunities to distressed areas is to leverage private investment to improve the quality of life in these vulnerable areas. Enterprise Zones vary by state and may also vary in communities within the state. The benefits of choosing a site in one of these zones include tax incentives, preference in governmental contracts for goods, and other financial incentives, i.e. incumbent worker training, property improvement tax abatement. When considering a site in these locations it is important to weigh the benefits against the cost of regulatory compliance.

Community infrastructure and sustainability is also important. How are the local water and wastewater utilities? Is the local water going to have to be treated prior to introduction to the process? Is the project going to have to include wastewater treatment and the associated permitting and compliance issues? These concerns should be identified no later than this second stage, along with support for future operations should the plant be sited in the location.

NIMBY

“Not in my backyard,” or NIMBY, is a frequent complaint when plants announce proposed sites. In 2016, the South Dakota Supreme Court denied an appeal brought on by citizens of the City of Onida South Dakota who opposed the location of a $150 million ethanol plant. NIMBY, however, can be addressed through education. Newspaper ads, focus groups for residents and one-on-one meetings with elected officials can provide opportunities to discuss safety precautions to dispel concerns about environmental or health hazards, identify benefits to the community through employment and community philanthropy and achieve the community buy-in needed for a successful community relationship. Chances are there will always be some residents and businesses the say “not in my back yard”, however, you can build a support base that will speak on your behalf in the community.

Due Diligence and Site Selection

Once location finalists have been identified, proper project planning requires due diligence prior to making a decision. Commitments on utility supply, raw materials, logistics, etc. should be obtained, as well as on permitting requirements such as environmental impact studies, site surveys, or geotechnical analyses. In addition to identifying the potential costs associated with these requirements, the reasoning behind the requirement will often identify potential future regulatory compliance needs. If a locale has implemented a “shovel ready” site program, some or all of these studies will have already been completed and will be available for review.

Discussions with local economic development agencies should by now be well underway, but with location finalist selection, leverage can often be applied to negotiate incentives or favorable terms for risk management. In addition to economic incentives, local development agencies can often provide assistance with workforce hiring and training.

Inclusive Overall Approach

By including consideration of regulatory requirements and local communities in an organized approach to site selection, projects can go a long way to assuring success. Federal, state, and local agencies are always willing to help businesses identify permitting and regulatory compliance issues, but proper due diligence and up-front planning can make a huge difference. Ask for clarification on local regulations and get to know the agencies that will be regulating your plant. Getting involved in discussion early can open doors within a local community, and community acceptance goes a long way in getting the cooperation a company needs when moving into a new area. Local government officials, fire marshals, and the neighboring businesses can either be your best or your worst friends when choosing a site. Being a good community steward can make the perfect site a gold mine for everyone involved.

About the Authors

Daniel Lane, Ph.D., is a member of Lee Enterprises Consulting with extensive experience in renewable chemicals process and technology development. Dr. Lane has held executive and senior leadership roles with multiple start-up companies in the renewables industry focusing on biomass conversion and scale-up of technology and processes. He has been instrumental to the design and construction of seven pilot- and demonstration-scale facilities around the world, producing first- (corn) and second-generation (cellulosic) ethanol, cellulosic sugars, and bio-based animal feeds from a variety of lignocellulosic feedstocks. Dr. Lane spent the first half of his career in process engineering and project management, commercializing technology with such companies as Procter & Gamble and Degussa, performing process and equipment troubleshooting, benchmarking, feasibility studies, and installing and commissioning myriad process packages. With his proficiency in process simulation and technoeconomic modeling, Dr. Lane is a recognized expert in technical assessment for both private and government funding sources and has helped companies secure over $170MM in financing.

Mindy Collier, a member of Lee Enterprises Consulting, has a B.A. from Indiana State University and an M.A. in Planning & Management from Indiana University. She is the founder and President of Collier & Associates and has over 25 years of consulting experience, including “hands on” experience in renewable fuel plants. Mindy is also an experienced grant writer and has successfully written grants for solar, biodiesel and other alternative fuels projects. She works with clients in identifying and writing all types of alternative and renewable grants.

 

Categories: Today's News

Conventional and cutting edge biofuels: The Digest’s 2017 Multi-Slide Guide to Aemetis

Biofuels Digest - Sat, 10/07/2017 - 9:48am

Aemetis owns and operates 110 million gallons per year of ethanol and biodiesel facilities in the US and India, and is upgrading the plants using patented technology to produce lower carbon, higher value advanced biofuels and chemicals using lower cost, non-food energy sources and feedstocks. Here’s a recent look at their expansion into advanced technologies, and their existing operations in the US and India.

This latest presentation deck gives an illuminating overview of the company’s progress and promise.

 

Categories: Today's News

Aemetis’ Indian subsidiary processes first million pounds of enzymatic biodiesel

Biofuels Digest - Thu, 10/05/2017 - 6:18pm

In California, Aemetis, Inc announced that its Universal Biofuels subsidiary in India has achieved a major milestone in the commercial production of advanced enzymatic biodiesel by processing one million pounds of low-cost waste feedstock unsuitable for use in traditional biodiesel production facilities and achieving high biodiesel yields by utilizing its advanced enzymatic biodiesel process. The production process utilized the first shipment of low-cost waste feedstock delivered to the Universal Biofuels plant by BP Singapore (BPS) pursuant to the three-year supply agreement signed by Aemetis and BPS in May 2017.

The 50 million gallon capacity Universal Biofuels plant, located on the East Coast of India, in Kakinada, Andhra Pradesh, developed the patent-pending advanced enzymatic biodiesel process technology, designed and built the advanced enzymatic biodiesel process reactors, and is now converting low-cost waste feedstock into high-quality distilled biodiesel. Production costs are lowered as the pretreatment conversion process uses less energy and fewer chemicals, such as methanol, than traditional biodiesel production processes. In addition to improved operating costs, the low capital cost of the Aemetis advanced enzymatic biodiesel process allows for widespread and low-cost adoption throughout the biodiesel industry by converting existing biodiesel plants.

Aemetis: The Digest’s 2015 5 Minute Guide

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