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US asks Brazil to drop ethanol import tariffs

Biofuels Digest - Thu, 02/07/2019 - 6:26pm

In Brazil, Reuters reports that the US government is hopeful of a positive response to its request that 20% tariffs and quarterly volume limits on imports of US-origin ethanol be lifted. A senior USDA official said that it was hoped the warm relationship between the two countries’ leaders could help move the discussion forward. Trump also managed to get a review on anti-dumping tariffs on Argentine biodiesel imports into the US due to his close relationship with the Argentine president.

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Ethanol providing more profit than sugar to Indian mills

Biofuels Digest - Thu, 02/07/2019 - 11:49am

In India, Bloomberg reports that the push to boost ethanol production and consumption domestically has helped to increase revenues for sugar mills, accounting for up to 56% of the profit generated by the country’s three biggest sugar companies during the first nine months of the year. Typically, ethanol counts for a third or less of PBIT. The percentage is a bit misleading, however, because ethanol revenues have held steady or risen somewhat but sugar revenues have fallen sometimes significantly

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Euglena first seaweed to operation to receive sustainability certification

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 02/06/2019 - 5:27pm

In Japan, Euglena Co. became the first seaweed operation in the world to gain certification for its seaweed production in January. Euglena is a type of microscopic algae. It is grown in a high-tech laboratory in Okinawa, Japan, where scientists keep a constant watch on vats filled with the bright green biomaterial. The alga is currently used in nutritional supplements, but owner Mitsuru Izumo has big plans for the future. He wants to use Euglena to make sustainable jet fuel. While this project is still in its research and development stage, we may yet see certified seaweed in our skies.

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India to invest $838 million in ethanol production expansion

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 02/06/2019 - 5:26pm

In India, the Business Standard reports that sugar mills and other industries are investing $838 million to expand ethanol production as the country looks to reduce fossil fuel imports and the sugar industry looks to stabilize itself. About 40% of the new production capacity will be in Maharashtra with another 30% in Uttar Pradesh. Nearly 200 sugar mills have applied for soft loans from the government with 114 projects already approved. State governments are kicking in funds as well as the central government to encourage mills to invest.

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Kincannon & Reed announces unexpected death of its chairman

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 02/06/2019 - 5:25pm

In Virginia, Kincannon & Reed announced the passing of its chairman Gregory J. Duerksen. Greg died unexpectedly in Richmond, VA on Thursday, Jan. 31. Greg joined Kincannon & Reed in 2001 and became chairman and CEO in 2007.

Part of Greg’s long-term vision for the firm was evolving the leadership structure to expand the partner group and bring in a food executive as president and CEO for day-to-day management, allowing Greg to move into the Chairman role and focus on what he loved:  building relationships with clients and industry leaders.  These transitions have positioned the firm well, enabling the organization to continue with the strategies and vision that Greg fostered.

Greg believed that those working in food and agriculture serve a noble purpose, and he had a deep understanding of the prominent role effective executives play in the success of every organization in the food value chain. His ever-present passion for recruiting leaders for organizations that feed the world and keep it healthy will live on in the firm.

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Amyris seals $255 million development and commercialization deal for cannabinoids

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 02/06/2019 - 5:24pm

In California, Amyris announced that it has signed a binding term sheet for a planned cannabinoid development, licensing and commercialization partnership valued at up to $255 million (not including significant royalties once the products are commercialized) with a confidential partner. The $255 million in payments include an upfront payment and the remainder are linked to milestones that are expected over the next 12-36 months following the signing of a definitive final agreement. Amyris has a successful track record of leveraging its unique technology platform to scale No Compromise sustainable products and successfully bring them to commercialization. In addition to lab-based milestone payments, this agreement also provides for significant milestone payments for commercially scaling each product.

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NTSB warns against the dangers of transporting ethanol by pipeline

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 02/06/2019 - 5:23pm

In Washington, earlier this week the National Transportation Safety Board announced its 2019–2020 Most Wanted List of transportation safety improvements. The Most Wanted List (MWL) was developed from safety recommendations that we’ve issued but that haven’t been acted on acceptably. The NTSB’s investigations have shown that moving ethanol by rail and crude oil by pipeline can be unnecessarily hazardous. It says these essential commodities must be conveyed in a manner that ensures the safety of those who are transporting it as well as those in the communities it passes through.

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India allows restricted biofuel exports from export zones

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 02/06/2019 - 5:22pm

In India, the government has lifted its restrictions on the export of biofuels for non-fuel purposes when they are produced in special economic zones and export-oriented units—under certain conditions—following outcry from producers when biofuel export was prohibited in August. The easing of restrictions was due to the realization that biofuels produced in those zones used imported feedstocks. Biodiesel exports rose to $5.36 million last year compared to $2.73 million the year prior. Biofuel imports in addition to exports are also restricted.

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New study shows RFS2 reduced GHG emissions by 600 million metric tons since 2007

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 02/06/2019 - 5:10pm

In Washington, new study released Wednesday finds that the expanded Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS2) has been a tremendous success in reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, with nearly 600 million metric tons of GHG reduction since 2007. Actual GHG reductions under the RFS2 have far surpassed the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) original expectations of 422 million metric tons, according to the study. The analysis was conducted by Life Cycle Associates, a California-based scientific consulting firm, and commissioned by the Renewable Fuels Foundation (RFF).

The findings, which come as two House committees hold climate change hearings this morning, highlight the important role that ethanol and other biofuels can play in efforts to fight climate change and reduce GHG emissions.

As outlined in the report, the larger-than-expected GHG reductions are due to:

The adoption of technology improvements in the production of corn-based ethanol, resulting in far greater GHG reductions than originally estimated by EPA;

The GHG emissions of petroleum are higher than the baseline estimates originally projected by EPA; and

Advanced biofuels like biodiesel, renewable diesel, and renewable natural gas have contributed additional GHG reductions, even though actual cellulosic biofuel production has been lower than initially projected.

Using the latest available data and modeling tools, the study found that the conventional ethanol consumed in 2018 reduced GHG emissions by 43 percent compared to petroleum, even when hypothetical “land use change” are included. That compares to EPA’s initial projections that conventional ethanol would achieve only a 20 percent GHG reduction versus petroleum.

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Trade association coalition urges congress to extend biodiesel tax credits

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 02/06/2019 - 5:09pm

In Washington, a coalition of 10 trade associations representing producers and marketers of renewable fuels urged Congress to pass a multiyear extension to the biodiesel tax credit in a joint letter.

Signatories to the letter were Advanced Biofuels Association, the American Farm Bureau Federation, the American Trucking Association (ATA), the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS), the National Biodiesel Board (NBB), the National Renderers Association (NRA), NATSO – Representing America’s Travel Centers and Truckstops, the New England Fuels Institute (NEFI), the Petroleum Marketers Association of America (PMAA), and the Society of Independent Gasoline Marketers of America (SIGMA).

The existing $1.00 per gallon tax incentives for both biodiesel and renewable diesel expired at the end of 2017. The letter urges Congress to enact a multiyear extension that retroactively covers 2018 and extends the credit into the future to encourage producers and blenders to make forward-looking infrastructure investments.

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Biobased smart bombs for pests: two new strategic investments in biopesticides from TechAccel

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 02/06/2019 - 5:06pm

If you’ve seen many World War Two thrillers about strategic bombing, you’ll know that precision, precision, precision is the goal, and smart bombs as a military technology have been in the public imagination since their first successes in Afghanistan and later in the first Gulf War, and ever since.

Think on an incredibly small nanoscale and down to the pests that threaten crops instead of the bad guys that threaten civilization, and the same transition from carpet-bombing to precision bombing is underway, and TechAccel – one of those accelerators worth paying attention to – is all over it.

Just like bombing in the military world, you need the weapon, a delivery mechanism and a high-throughput manufacturing capability. Same with pests.

What makes the effort to transform pest control particularly interesting at this moment in history is that one small-ish but highly-regarded technology accelerator, has taken on the entire supply chain — weapons, delivery and heavy manufacturing — in a signature series of investments and company formation.

And, for those who are special fans of the fast-developing world of genetics, in the area of weapons development, TechAccel has formed a company to exploit the relatively new and certainly far-out world of RNA interference, known in the community as RNAi and easily pronounceable only by Norwegians.

There are a thousand interesting things about RNA, but here’s the one you need for this story. Your DNA creates RNA in order to express your genetic code — so, if you have, say, green eyes, those genes are written in DNA but get translated into RNA before any tissue is actually produced and that green color shows up in your iris. Interfering with RNA makes it possible to suppress genes without actually changing the genetic code. It’s like removing the switch instead of re-writing the circuit.

JA Lindbo wrote a few years back. “RNA interference, or RNAi, is arguably one of the most significant discoveries in biology in the last several decades. First recognized in plants (where it was called post-transcriptional gene silencing, PTGS) RNAi is a gene down-regulation mechanism since demonstrated to exist in all eukaryotes.”

As TechAccel CSO Brad Fabbri explained to The Digest, “We like RNA. It’s very specific. It’s safe — we eat it every day. We can design it to hit one insect, unlike traditional approaches such as organophosphates, which are like carpet bombing, you’re killing a lot, including insects just wandering in there.”

“No one wants to kills butterflies and bees, and any time you kill a bunch of insects, you leave this blank area, you’ve disrupted the biome and you may find that things are way out of balance, other things can move in that weren’t there, and not the ones you wanted,” explains Fabbri. “So, RNAi can be much more specific; there’s potentially less management, and its a much more intelligent and prescriptive approach, and we just hit the things we wanted to hit.”

It’s starting to sound a little like modern cancer therapies, isn’t it? In the old days, with traditional chemo and radiation, the aim was to try and kill any rapidly dividing cells, which absolutely kills more cancer than regular cells, but you can get those really bad side effects. Something more mundane might be the use of antibiotics, which also takes a sort of carpet bombing approach — along with the bad bacteria the treatment is aiming at, there can be other, useful microbes caught in the crossfire, and that’s why, for example, people can get gastro issues when they take antibiotics.

If we could hit the bad bacteria and not the good ones, then we wouldn’t get out of balance.

As it is with you and your microbiome, so it goes, more or less, with pests in the plant biome. Smart bombs allow us the opportunity to hone in on the target.

About RNAissance Ag

Accordingly, it’s big news that TechAccel launched a new company out of their acceleration chambers — this one is RNAissance Ag LLC, which holds the exclusive license to RNA-interference technology in partnership with the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis, MO. The new company will use the proprietary technology in the development of sprayable insect control measures.

RNAissance Ag, which is pronounced “Renaissance,” was formed following successful research at the Danforth Center funded with TechAccel’s first grant in the “Path to Commercialization” Program. The Danforth Center is one of the world’s leading independent plant science research institutes.

The RNAi technology was jointly developed by Bala Venkata, Ph.D., senior research scientist and Nigel Taylor, Ph.D., associate member, and Dorothy J. King Distinguished Investigator at the Danforth Center.

As Wikipedia observes: “Cells in the midgut of some insects take up the dsRNA molecules in the process referred to as environmental RNAi. In some insects the effect is systemic as the signal spreads throughout the insect’s body (referred to as systemic RNAi). RNAi technology is shown to be safe for consumption by mammals, including humans.”

The near-term targets: chewers, beware.

For a second, let’s rewind to our World War Two analogy, that you need high-throughput manufacturing and a delivery mechanism as well as the actual weapon.

For now, think spraying. As TechAccel’s Fabbri explains it, “particularly for [near-term] RNA insecticides it could be a spray, so that R&D doesn’t have to focus on making it systemic. The first ones on the list could be insects that chew leaves, not sucking or piercing insects (then there are more challenges). Fortunately, there are a lot of insects in that group.”

The manufacturing capability: Looking at GreenLight

TechAccel also announced it participated in GreenLight Biosciences Inc.’s latest funding round, with an interest in collaborative research leveraging GreenLight’s technology in advancing biopesticides.

This is incredibly important to the story — the manufacturing capability. As Fabbri explained, “when we looked at RNA, you can do all this design and stuff, but the price of the active ingredient has to be in line with what farmers are normally paying. And it’s been really hard to imagine getting there, with RNA in some purified forms going for $1,000 a gram or even $10,000 a gram. Pharma can look at those prices, but not agriculture.”

“Companies have been coming forward only recently with a capability to make cheap RNA,” said Fabbri. “Biologix is one. RAAgri another. To us, GreenLight is the most interesting, and they have publicly announced that they could get to a cost at scale that’s below a dollar a gram. And this has put it in the range of commercially viable and a cost of goods a farmer would buy.”

“And once you have the active ingredient, and you’ve proven that you can spray and it doesn’t degrade, once you have design and cheap manufacturing, now you’ve made that sprayable effective,” said Fabbri. “That’s why we’re investing across delivery and manufacturing, we have a lot of the pieces and we think we can advance that efficiency.”

GreenLight Biosciences, based in Medford, Mass., is a biotechnology company developing bioprocessed RNA products for healthcare and agriculture applications, including biopesticides. The company announced its $50 million Series round last month.

About precision farming

There’s been an awful lot of chat about precision over the years, and the FAO tells us we’re going to have 10 billion people by mid-century and precision ag is part of how we are going to produce the food, feed and fuel. A lot of that has been in electronics, and Case and John Deere have been active there, with GPA technology, for one, allowing precision planting and application. Monsanto bought Climate Corp and there have been other big and small deals, enough to see that companies like Indigo, the Novozymes/Monsanto BioAg Alliance are a wave of the future.

But, more than planting density and precision application of nutrients — there’s an entire effort we might see based around more intelligence — being able to see the plant biome as a whole system rather than simply a plant stuck in the soil. This is not just about organic farming and pricey but chemical-free lettuce at the store where rich people go. It’s about a broader renaissance based in gathering data and assessing strategies to assist the biome to produce more of a target product without compromising the biome’s long-term viability or creating side effects because of carpet bombing approaches that burn the good villages along with knockin’ out the bad guys.

RNAi might well be a big part of that story — for sure, we need more yield. As Danforth Center president Jim Carrington observed, “Over $40 billion per year is spent on pest control, yet over 20 percent of all crops are still lost due to insect damage. This new company is evidence of an exciting new technology advancing toward market with the potential to make a major impact.”

The TechAccel effort

The two actions are part of TechAccel’s broad strategy to develop safe, effective and sustainable biopesticides to address global crop losses from pests. TechAccel disclosed select additional biopesticide research and development occurring along several fronts:

  • • Leveraging a stable nanoparticle technology licensed as a form of biopesticide delivery;
  • • Piloting the injection of RNAi compounds as a delivery mechanism in fruit and nut trees; and,
  • • Continuing development of a separate, novel RNAi biopesticide approach based on research underway in Europe.

TechAccel also recently announced collaborative research with AgroSpheres Inc. to explore nanotechnology in biopesticide delivery.

TechAccel, LLC, was founded in 2014 as a first-of-its-kind venture and technology development company in the agriculture, animal health and food tech sectors. TechAccel sources, invests in and acquires early-stage innovations. Through collaborations with universities and research institutions, TechAccel conducts advancement and de-risking research and development to ready technologies for commercialization.

More on the story: visit www.techaccel.net or follow @Tech_Accel.

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Better Policy for Better Fuels: The Digest’s 2019 Multi-Slide Guide to SE4All and below50

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 02/06/2019 - 5:03pm

Sustainable Energy for All (SE4All) was created to drive the energy transition, particularly in developing countries and below50 is committed to growing the demand for sustainable alternative fuels that reduce emissions by more than 50% relative to fossil.

Gerard J. Ostheimer, Ph.D., Global Lead of Bioenergy Accelerator for SE4ALL and Co-Founder and Senior Advisor of below50, gave this illuminating overview of the organizations’ work on promoting bioenergy, and the need for better policy and finance to reach faster de-carbonization at ABLC Global 2018 in San Francisco

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Shell agrees long-term offtake agreement with NEXT

Biofuels Digest - Tue, 02/05/2019 - 5:41pm

In Texas, NEXT Renewable Fuels, Inc and Shell Trading (US) Company have entered a long-term Purchase and Sale Agreement for the purchase of renewable diesel from NEXT’s planned Port Westward, Oregon facility.

Representing an investment of more than $1 billion, NEXT continues to develop its Oregon renewable diesel facility with an expected annual processing capacity of 13.3 million barrels (600 million gallons). Scheduled to open in 2021, NEXT will supply Shell and other partners with its alternative liquid fuels, satisfying end-user demand while also meeting both federal and state environmental compliance and fuel security requirements.

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Growth Energy goes after EPA in court over hardship waivers

Biofuels Digest - Tue, 02/05/2019 - 5:40pm

In Washington, Feedstuffs reports that Growth Energy filed a petition in appeals court in DC regarding the Environmental Protection Agency’s failure to boost the 2019 blending mandate following issuance of small refinery hardship exemptions that eroded ethanol demand by cutting the number of RINs required for compliance with the Renewable Fuels Standards. Growth Energy says the agency’s failure to replace the waived RIN compliance goes against the law. It estimates 2.25 billion gallons of ethanol demand have been lost due to the waivers.

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Balrampur Chini commissioning additional ethanol production by year’s end

Biofuels Digest - Tue, 02/05/2019 - 5:39pm

In India, CNBC TV18 reports the Balrampur Chini will commission an additional 57 million liters of ethanol production by the end of the year which will boost its capacity to supply ethanol to oil marketing companies to 180 million liters from around 115 million liters now. The company’s MD said he expects overall sugar production to fall last next year but the market will still likely be in surplus due to this year’s and last year’s excessive production. The government is promoting the additional production of ethanol in an effort to reduce sugar supplies.

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Alliance Bioenergy Plus restructures debt

Biofuels Digest - Tue, 02/05/2019 - 5:38pm

In Florida, Alliance Bioenergy Plus announced that a number of former insiders have agreed to subordinate over $2 million in debt so that repayments are only due out of future profits.  Alliance has successfully renegotiated down other smaller debts and continues its efforts to renegotiate additional obligations.

Two disputes remain outstanding, one with the Company’s former Controller and the other with a lender, Lucas Hoppel.  Alliance has filed counterclaims, which management believes have merit, against both of these parties.  Detailed information related to these disputes as well as our current debt status are available at the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Florida, Case number 18-23071.

Alliance continues to believe that it can reach a global agreement with its legitimate creditors, with minimal dilution to existing shareholders, under a chapter 11 plan which will allow it to exit bankruptcy with an appropriate reserve for any disputed claims that may remain.

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Paul McCartney and Ed Sheeran Argetine concerts be powered by biodiesel

Biofuels Digest - Tue, 02/05/2019 - 5:37pm

In Argentina, local press reports that Paul McCartney and Ed Sheeran have demanded their upcoming concerts be powered by biodiesel. The biodiesel will be produced from UCO and the government of Santa Fe has even set up a contest to encourage people to donate their used cooking oil in exchange for tickets to the concerts to be held later in February and March. The program is marketed using the #BioenergizáTuMúsica (#BioenergizeYourMusic) hashtag. Roger Waters was the first concert to be powered by biodiesel in the country.

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BioD Energy collecting most of India;s UCO

Biofuels Digest - Tue, 02/05/2019 - 5:36pm

In India, BioD Energy is collecting used cooking oil from 700 of the 800 kitchens participating in the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India’s UCO collection program under the “Eat Right India” initiative aimed at enhancing food safety by getting poor quality oil out of the food chain. UCO collection is being managed through an app that helps to facilitate sourcing of the oil that is then converted into biodiesel. Biodiesel production remains only a fraction of ethanol production but government and private sector initiatives are striving to narrow the gap.

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Brazilian researchers see beef and sugarcane ethanol reducing pressure on forests

Biofuels Digest - Tue, 02/05/2019 - 5:35pm

In Brazil, SciDev reports that researchers have determined that coproduction of sugarcane and beef cattle on the same land can allow expansion of ethanol production without the risk of deforestation. Byproducts from the ethanol production such as molasses, yeast and bagasse could be converted into animal feed, reducing the need for pasture for some of the country 200 million head of cattle. The computer model used to determine the feasibility used the US ethanol and beef industries as a baseline.

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Proposed EU low ILUC risk criteria not strong enough for some Commissioners

Biofuels Digest - Tue, 02/05/2019 - 5:33pm

In Belgium, Euractiv reports that the sustainability criteria under the second Renewable Energy Directive has been held up because some European Commissions felt the proposed low ILUC risk criteria for certification weren’t strong enough. Directorate Generals were only given two days to review an ILUC proposal that was being fast-tracked through a non-legislative process that upset the DGs. European farmers and NGOs alike are concerned that too-loose criteria won’t stop the influx of palm oil.

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