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South Korean researchers develop new microorganism to improve brown macroalgae use in biorefineries

Biofuels Digest - Thu, 06/27/2019 - 4:13pm

In South Korea, the joint research team of POSTECH and Seoul National University developed a new microorganism, which they named as Vibrio sp. dhg that they have successfully demonstrated can be a promising microbial platform for the biorefinery of brown macroalgae which can replace starch-crop biomass.

Continuing efforts on studying utilization of non-edible biomass have been made and brown macroalgae have been suggested as an alternative feedstock. Brown macroalgae grow two to three times faster than the starch crops and only require light and seawater to grow. Although they are only consumed in a few countries such as Korea, they are not eaten in most of the countries. Because of these advantages, they seem to be a reasonable alternative choice. However, there was no industrial microorganism that can easily metabolize polysaccharides like alginic acid in algae and it was difficult to develop the process for utilizing algae as biomass.

Especially, the new artificial microorganism they found has many advantages and brings great expectations of its future usage. For example, Vibrio sp. dhg can not only use brown macroalgae as biomass but also other various biomass more efficiently than the conventional industrial microorganisms (E. coli, yeast). Also, their growth rate is two times faster and they convert biomass more rapidly. Therefore, it is expected to be used for improving the efficiency of microbial fermentation process using not only algae but also conventional glucose-based biomass.

Categories: Today's News

Republican Senators write EPA seeking support for smaller refineries to counter Dem push

Biofuels Digest - Thu, 06/27/2019 - 4:12pm

In Washington, U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), Pat Toomey (R-Penn.), John Kennedy (R-La.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.) urged Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler to “stand with the hardworking men and women of small refineries across the country”, and block Senate Democrats’ attempts to roll back President Trump’s energy independence accomplishments.

Recently 12 Senate Democrats, five of whom cosponsored the radical, socialist Green New Deal, penned a letter to Administrator Wheeler urging the agency to cease issuing Small Refinery Exemptions (SREs).

“I urge Administrator Wheeler and the administration to stand with hardworking refinery workers across this country and continue enacting policies that promote greater energy independence,” Sen. Cruz said. “Under President Trump’s leadership, America is now the number one energy producer in the world. Not only do these Democrats want to roll that back, four of them want to end oil production in this country all together. It is important to refinery workers across the country that these 12 Democrats do not undermine America’s energy renaissance, and set the administration’s policy on Small Refinery Exemptions. During his confirmation process, Administrator Wheeler expressed his commitment to following the law and continuing the legally required granting of SREs to those small refineries that qualify. It is my hope that Administrator Wheeler will uphold the rule of law and President Trump’s promise to the thousands of blue collar workers whose jobs depend on reducing federal compliance costs for our nation’s independent refiners.”

Categories: Today's News

The Competitive Edge: Carbiolice

Biofuels Digest - Thu, 06/27/2019 - 4:05pm

Q: What was the reason for founding your organization – what was the open niche you saw that could be addressed with a new product or service? What was the problem, or gap, or opportunity?

Carbiolice is a joint-venture established in 2016 that is based on the shared and complementary ambitions of Carbios, a green chemical company developing enzymatic technologies; of the SPI investment fund operated by Bpifrance; and Limagrain Céréales Ingrédients, a subsidiary of the world-renowned cooperative Limagrain.

Carbiolice is a French company with expertise in the development and manufacture of 100% compostable and 100% biodegradable bioplastics.

Its aim is to design, manufacture and distribute biodegradable solutions which can be used to redesign the life cycle of single-use plastics and packaging articles to achieve zero waste and provide an answer to sustainable development issues.

Q: Tell us about your organization. What do you do?

Carbiolice has developed a disruptive solution based on an innovative technology using enzymes to speed up compostability and biodegradability of PLA plastics.

Developed as an additive, Evanestoa can be used on conventional plastic transforming processes without adaptation.

This innovative additive is best suited for applications such as single-use plastics, in which compostability and biodegradability are a meaningful end-of-life. It can be used to make products 100% compostable and 100% biodegradable. Evanestoa performance has been successfully demonstrated on thin films and sheets, by tests performed by OWS under domestic composting conditions according to NF T51-800.

Ready to reach the market in early 2020, Evanestoa is intended for various uses such as bags, packaging disposable tableware.

Q: What stage of development are you?

Demonstration stage – proven at small, integrated scale, but not yet commercially available

Q: What do your technologies, products or services do and accomplish – how does it (they) work, who is it (they) aimed for?

Relying on Carbios exclusive license on enzyme self-degrading enzyme PLA plastic materials, Carbiolice has designed an unique formulation protecting the enzymatic activity when the additive is added to conventional plastic transforming processes.

Just like a regular additive, this technological concentrate is added to compound having a high PLA content during the transforming process whether it is blown film extrusion, thermoforming or injection molding.

Our additive enables to fasten the biodegradation process and makes PLA plastics, 100% biodegradable and 100% compostable in domestic conditions. A combination of conditions (pH, temperature, humidity, and presence of microorganisms) activates the enzyme which then acts as a catalyst, making PLA compliant with current home composting standards both in terms of duration and quality of the compost created.

Q: Competitively, what gives your technology, product or service set an edge in cost

or performance, sustainability, or any other aspect, that makes it stand out from the crowd, In short, what makes it transformative?

In order to solve the general concern of plastic pollution, all existing solutions should be combined and are complementary. Carbiolice is convinced that composting plastics in home conditions is one of the solutions to improve the transition to a circular plastic economy. Starting from the principle that what has come from nature returns to nature, Carbiolice gives the opportunity to single-use plastics such as tableware, coffee caps, packaging to be organically recycled together with food waste.

Because 30% of our global waste are biowaste, developing home composting will significantly reduce volumes of consumer waste to be treated.

By making single-use plastics made with PLA compostable in domestic conditions, Evanestoa offers a new area for plastics end-of life.

Q: What are the 3 top milestones you have accomplished in the past 3 years?


  1. Development of a formulation, directly usable by plastic converters, using the exclusive license from Carbios on enzymes self-degrading PLA plastic materials.


  1. Demonstration of performance on both flexible and rigid applications.


  1. Signature of an exclusive supply agreement with Novozymes, world-leading producer of enzymes, for the production and supply of enzymes for the manufacture of self-degrading PLA plastics.

Q: What are the 3 top milestones you will accomplish in the next 3 years?


  1. Sell Evanestoa, our enzymatic additive, at the beginning of 2020.


  1. Obtain food contact approval in order to expand applications and product coverage.


  1. Develop the next generation of additive to further improve performance on high-demanding processes.


  1. Where can I learn more about Carbiolice?


Click here to visit Carbiolice’s website.

Categories: Today's News

Who’s down with TCP: The Digest’s 2019 Multi-Slide Guide to Synpet Technologies

Biofuels Digest - Thu, 06/27/2019 - 4:02pm

Synpet Technologies uses Thermal Conversion Process (TCP), a patented non-combustion technology which breaks down all organic materials by using heat, pressure and water to produce renewable diesel oil and other valuable co-products from waste. So let’s get down with TCP, yeah, you know me.

Brian Appel, Co-founder of Synpet gave this enlightening presentation on the technology behind TCP, the various products TCP produces, like renewable diesel, renewable natural gas, liquid organic fertilizer, solid biochar fertilizer and super sanitized water, MSW and MSS benefits of TCP, their demo plant in Turkey, and more.

Categories: Today's News

Enerkem co-founder Vincent Chornet dies at 45

Biofuels Digest - Thu, 06/27/2019 - 10:20am

In Canada, Enerkem announced the death of co-founder and long-time CEO Vincent Chornet following a prolonged illness. He was 45.

The company noted, “faithful to himself, he fought this terrible disease with the passion and determination that we know him for. He has been active even in the last moments, exchanging emails last week with different members of his team. In recent months, he has continued to chair Enerkem’s Board of Directors, with the best interests of the company at heart.” Though the company had appointed CFO Sebastien Boies as acting CEO, even as late as last week an Enerkem colleague spoke with hope that Chornet could make positive progress in his illness.

Vincent Chornet, long-time Enerkem CEO and its co-founder

Prior to founding Enerkem, Mr. Chornet helped design and finance several industrial projects and start-up companies in the energy production and fine chemicals sectors, including Bioxalis Medica, Fractal Systems and Kemestrie. He has also worked at the Laurentian Bank of Canada.

Mr. Chornet was a member of the Clean Technology Advisory Committee of the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada from 2012 to 2014 and served on the board of the Advanced Biofuels Business Council in the United States. He held a Bachelor of Business Administration with a concentration in Finance from the École des Hautes Études Commerciales de Montréal.

It takes steel in one’s fibers to lead a company from start-up through to significant size, and Vincent was not short in it. Nor was he short on determination, and optimism. No problem could not be solved, no setback was permanent, no disappointment could distract, no triumph could beguile him from the knowledge that growth if hard, scale-up is hard, and people have to find the metal inside themselves if they are to succeed, and the pedal, and push the pedal to the metal when necessary. But he was unfailingly gracious in person, never too busy to take a call or take a moment to look into the industry’s future. He was all those things that an industrialist should aim to be — one little part dreamer, a pair of big shoulders, a clear mind, transparent when the occasion called for it, guarded when the wolves came to the door.  Immediately, his warmth emerged whenever you asked about the family, or about the struggles of the early days.

I knew Vincent for a decade, years in which Enerkem rose from obscurity to world-recognition — many honors came the company’s way, for which Vincent always deflected the credit to the technical and commercial teams. I can think of a hundred times when, as CEO, he touted some exciting thing about the company’s development, but not a single time he ever praised himself or took credit for Enerkem’s success. That’s hard to find.

Enerkem’s project portfolio is long these days; the monumental success was the project at Edmonton, converting municipal waste to methanol and then to ethanol. There just isn’t anything as valueless as landfill, and to see the potential and build a company to extract that value — that’s a mighty Everest scaled that few have dared to attempt, and fewer still have done it. Like finding the face of Presidents in stone outcropping at Mt. Rushmore, there’s a lot more than vision involved, there’s an awful lot of sweat and an awful lot of money — getting it done ranks as one of the singular achievements of the advanced bioeconomy, and it happened on his watch, with his crew, under the technical inspiration of his own father. 

Enerkem noted:

Thanks to his vision and leadership, Vincent has guided our company from the founding to the commercialization of our patented technology. His entrepreneurial spirit has made Enerkem a leader in biofuels and renewable chemicals, with a team of more than 200 employees today. The company is now taking advantage of a significant intellectual property asset that it has acquired throughout years of unprecedented state-of-the-art technology development to implement Enerkem biorefineries around the world. Today, we are setting a new standard for smart waste management and the production of biofuels and renewable chemicals, in large part thanks to him. His legacy is immense, and we now have the responsibility to continue his work and to realize his most ambitious dreams for the company.

They concluded:

The whole Enerkem family now shares a deep sense of loss. Vincent has always been a source of inspiration for all those who have crossed his path. His memory will always be part of Enerkem’s DNA.

And part of the industry’s DNA there is a long strand of Chornet, too. 

Categories: Today's News

Australia’s Toowoomba tires-to-fuels plant in jeopardy after Govt no-no’s $5M grant

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 06/26/2019 - 4:57pm

In Australia, Green Distillation Technologies is advising that a decision by the Queensland Government to not support a Resource Recovery Grant for the proposed Toowoomba tyre recycling plant has placed the project in jeopardy. “The tyre recycling plant was planned to be built at the Wellcamp Business Park based on our world-first Australian technology that turns end of life tyres into oil, carbon and steel,” said company CEO Trevor Bayley. “The oil obtained from recycling end of life tyres will go to the newly built Northern Oil refinery at Gladstone, North Queensland where the Queensland Government plans to create a renewable fuels hub.

“We had applied for a $5 million grant to pay 50 per cent of the estimated construction cost and the decision not to contribute has meant that we have to either find the money from private investment, or re-evaluate the project and focus our attention elsewhere “It may be that the people of Toowoomba will step up to the plate and support the facility as we were putting up $5 million of the capital required.

“That plant would have employed 14 to 18 people full time, as well as local contractors during the construction phase and create further jobs in the transport maintenance and collection of end of life tyres from retailers and other outlets,” Bayley said, “this depends on the investment support we receive in Australia to try and get those processing plants up and running, providing local employment and solving a major environmental problem.

Categories: Today's News

Chevron, CalBio, California dairy farmers partner for renewable compressed natural gas

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 06/26/2019 - 4:54pm

In California, Chevron, California BioEnergy (CalBio) and California dairy farmers will deploy digesters on dairy farms to create renewable compressed natural gas (R-CNG), a clean vehicle fuel. Under the partnership, Chevron funding will bolster R-CNG infrastructure investments while helping bring the fuel to market in California.

The project aims to unlock new income streams for farmers by marketing R-CNG for use as a vehicle fuel in California – a key element of the Chevron announcement. It also aims to help farmers meet California state regulations calling for a 40% reduction in manure-related methane emissions from 2013 levels by 2030. In fact, the project has seen support directly from the State of California. In December 2018, a state grant totaling more than $90 million was awarded to CalBio to help expand interconnection pipeline needed for the project.

The news builds on a year of collaboration between Land O’Lakes and CalBio under a new effort announced in June 2018 to help farmers overcome barriers to adoption of digesters. CalBio has worked with Land O’Lakes members in California to provide expertise to help install and manage the technology, and Land O’Lakes has supported its members with strategies for deployment – including opportunities to finance projects using cooperative equity through the SUSTAIN Innovation Financing program.

Categories: Today's News

Aromyx raises $3M in seed round, has the company cracked the code for sensing taste, smells?

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 06/26/2019 - 4:53pm

In California, Aromyx has closed a $3M Series Seed equity financing round. The round was led by Ulu Ventures with participation from Rationalwave Capital Partners, Merus Capital, CE Venture Capital, Stanford University and Radicle Growth. The investment will be used to grow the scientific team, as well as to continue to execute on a number of technology development projects. The company also announced the appointment of Calysta founder Dr. Joshua Silverman as CEO

“The scientific community has long struggled with the ability to digitally replicate taste and smell,” said Clint Korver, managing director of Ulu Ventures. “Aromyx has cracked the code on this issue by measuring the same signals our sensing organs send to the brain. Ulu is delighted to partner with a company on the forefront of such a technological breakthrough that has countless commercial applications and the ability to disrupt a wide range of markets. Aromyx will revolutionize product development and manufacturing for any industry that cares about how their product tastes or smells, and we are thrilled to be working alongside them on this incredible journey.”

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Global Bioenergies raises €17m for Isobutene advances

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 06/26/2019 - 4:50pm

In France, Global Bioenergies successfully closed its capital increase, launched on 20 June 2019 and conducted through a public offer without preferential subscription rights and without priority subscription period for shareholders (the “Offer”), for a total amount (issue premium included) of approximately €17m.

With the addition capital, the company will complete the development of the Isobutene process at laboratory scale, pilot scale and demo scale (for around 58% of the proceeds of the issuance). Also, GB will continue the R&D efforts to adapt the process to the use of second-generation and third-generation resources (for around 20% of the proceeds of the issuance). Finally, the company will help finance the front-end engineering design (FEED) phase of the first plant, to be conducted by IBN-One, and support IBN-One in its fund-raising efforts to start the construction of the plant (for around 10% of the proceeds of the issuance). The remainder goes to working capital.

Proceeds of the fundraising are not intended to finance the construction of the IBN-One plant, for which the research of necessary funds is ongoing (for a total need of 140 M€).

Categories: Today's News

US Senators urge EPA to update ethanol science

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 06/26/2019 - 4:49pm

In South Dakota, a group of bipartisan Senators sent a letter urging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to publicly announce its intent to review and incorporate the latest “Greenhouse gas and Regulated Emissions and Energy Use in Transportation (GREET) modeling into an updated life cycle assessment for corn ethanol.

U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA), both members of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, led the effort in advising EPA to update its outdated environmental analysis on ethanol. ACE CEO Brian Jennings issued the following statement applauding the Senators for urging EPA to formally adopt these changes without further delay:

“ACE extends our gratitude to Senators Durbin and Grassley for leading this bipartisan effort to hold EPA accountable on this important issue,” said American Coalition for Ethanol chief Brian Jennings. “Unlike the Argonne GREET model, EPA has not reviewed or updated their original 2010 corn ethanol greenhouse gas (GHG) assessments. Current data from the GREET model indicate that corn ethanol’s carbon intensity is almost 50 percent less than petroleum gasoline providing significantly more GHG reduction benefits than when the RFS was enacted a decade ago.

As background, an American Coalition for Ethanol White Paper titled “The Case for Properly Valuing the Low Carbon Benefits of Corn Ethanol” is available here.

Categories: Today's News

Del Taco adds Beyond Burritos after Beyond Taco sales hit 2MM mark

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 06/26/2019 - 4:48pm

In California, Del Taco said that it will introduce Beyond Burritos after huge sales for the new Beyond Taco product utilizing Beyond Meat’s alternative meat products.

“The enthusiasm shown by our fans during the first weeks of our Beyond Meat offerings was undeniable,” said John Cappasola, President and Chief Executive Officer of Del Taco. “To that end, we wanted to reward the passion being shown across social media and in our restaurants by utilizing our uniquely seasoned Beyond Meat recipe in two new protein-packed burritos.”

Just like Beyond Tacos, Beyond Burritos will be packed with delicious Beyond Beef Crumbles that are blended with a proprietary blend of spices that maintain Del Taco’s signature flavor.

The new products are:

1. Beyond 8-Layer Burrito (Loaded with 27 grams of protein): Del Taco’s seasoned Beyond Meat plant-based crumbles layered with slow-cooked beans, tangy guacamole, fresh diced tomatoes, crisp lettuce, hand-grated cheddar cheese, zesty red sauce and cool sour cream, in a warm flour tortilla.

2. Epic Beyond Cali Burrito: Del Taco’s seasoned Beyond Meat plant-based crumbles combined with its world-famous Crinkle-Cut Fries, cool sour cream, tangy guacamole and handmade pico de gallo salsa in a warm flour tortilla.

Categories: Today's News

Biochips ready for Next-Gen Sequencing: researchers

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 06/26/2019 - 4:46pm

In Washington, a group of researchers from Seoul National University have explored the role of biochips in driving next-generation sequencing. Biochips are essentially tiny laboratories designed to function inside living organisms, and they are driving next-generation DNA sequencing technologies. This powerful combination is capable of solving unique and important biological problems, such as single-cell, rare-cell or rare-molecule analysis, which next-generation sequencing can’t do on its own.

In APL Bioengineering, the team note that the next trend in biochips will involve being capable of providing applications across a wide spectrum — from identifying rare bacterium to population-based clinical studies. One example of real-world use is biochips that isolate single cells from a heterogeneous mix of a complex biological mass — they are enabling preprocessing for massively parallel $1 single-cell analysis.

“When these biochips meet next-generation sequencing, the net value of both technologies will increase exponentially,” said Amos Chungwon Lee, lead author and a graduate student in Sunghoon Kwon’s Biophotonics and Nano Engineering Laboratory. “If biochips that allow single-cell analysis prevailed for the last decade, there are many more biochips with different functions that will now innovate the bio field — including drug-screening biochips.”

“Like smartphones, biochips will be used by people on a daily basis to check their health or nutritional status,” said Lee. “In the same way that smartphones have shifted the paradigm for information flow, smart biochips will play a key role in revolutionizing the system for the acquisition and interpretation of Mother Nature’s information flow.”

Categories: Today's News

NBB to EPA’s Wheeler: Refinery exemptions destroying demand for biodiesel, renewable diesel

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 06/26/2019 - 4:41pm

In Washington, The National Biodiesel Board advised EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler in a letter of economic damage to the biodiesel and renewable diesel industry from the agency’s retroactive small refinery exemptions under the Renewable Fuel Standard. The letter takes issue with the Administrator’s recent comment that the approval of year-round E15 sales will make up for the damage from the exemptions.

“The E15 waiver will not provide market growth for biodiesel and renewable diesel, but small refinery exemptions have had a detrimental impact on demand for those fuels,” the letter states. “EPA is required to repair the demand destruction for biodiesel and renewable diesel resulting from the agency’s flood of unwarranted, retroactive small refinery exemptions.”

Kurt Kovarik, NBB’s Vice President of Federal Affairs, added, “When you consider how large some of the exempted refineries are compared to biodiesel producers, you can understand the threat to the agricultural economy. According to University of Illinois Professor Scott Irwin, the demand destruction for biodiesel and renewable diesel could reach 2.45 billion gallons over the next few years causing a $7.7 billion economic loss for our industry.”

Categories: Today's News

Letter from Route 12 and the Pacific Northwest: from waste streams, a bioeconomy rising

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 06/26/2019 - 4:40pm

In Washington state, there’s a new mill near the city of Dayton that is the first to use waste straw to make pulp for paper products, and biopolymers; and, a new project near Granger turning dairy waste into pipeline-quality renewable natural gas; also, a proposed project for Cosmopolis using sulfite pulp waste liquor to make a high-value packaging composite. It’s a tale of three cities, and hope reborn along US Route 12.

A broad up-rising

A trip along the length of Route 12 is like a trip through the American bioeconomy. Starting from the car-centric streets of Detroit, the highway heads west across the corn-laden prairie, into the dairy and lake-lands of Wisconsin and Minnesota, and the cattle country of the Dakotas borderline. Then, the mineral-rich Montana Rockies, across the wheat country of the Inland Empire, and the timber counties of south western Washington state, until you dead-end at the Pacific at Grays Harbor with its vast refining and terminal facilities, where the Renewable Energy Group rules its western roost and where fishing, seafood processing and the timber milling industry have been the Mighty Long Time Mightys. Dayton, Granger and Cosmopolis are stops along this horn of plenty.

The landscapes change along Route 12, and the politics. In the working-class, union strongholds around Grays Harbor they’ve been staunch Democrats since Roosevelt, though the county went for Trump in 2016; a hundred miles east in the farming communities of Granger and Dayton, they probably haven’t gone Democratic since William Jennings Bryan walked the earth.

But the story is remarkably the same. From the western ports to the eastern farming communities, hope is rising, and jobs are being re-born.

Rising in Columbia County

Columbia Pulp is North America’s first tree-free market pulp mill, using wheat farmers’ waste straw to create pulp for paper products as well as bio-polymers for a variety of industrial uses. After the conclusion of a successful pilot in the town of Pomeroy, a 400 ton per day plant is now complete and in commissioning just north of the town of Dayton.

Eastern Washington is famous for its heavy wheat yields, and the amount of waste straw that is generated creates problems for pest and soil management if left on the ground. Not to mention that global wheat prices have been depressed, and the move towards reduced gluten in the diet isn’t helping. The farmers could use an income lift.

So, here’s Columbia Pulp, to produce traditional pulp-based products such as newsprint printing papers, specialty papers, tissue, toweling and paperboard. But also a quartet of bio-polymers. CBP-Duration, a de-Icing Performance Enhancer; CBP-Harvest, a pesticide and Liquid Fertilizer Performance Enhancer; CBP-SurTac: for dust Control and Soil Stabilization; and CBP-Thrive, as an animal feed additive. The Spokesman_review exulted, “Like gold from straw: Columbia Pulp plants promise to turn wheat straw into marketable product, revitalize small towns.”

More about this remarkable project here.

Rising in Yakima County

The water off the Columbia River, the Okanogan, Snake, Yakima and the Wenatchee — from this water supply comes the fruit orchards and the vineyards here, and the grass for the dairy cows. With the strong dairy industry comes a whole big sloppy mess of dairy waste, and therein lies our tale.

As with wheat farmers, dairy owners are motivated — prices are depressed, right now around a ruinous 13 cents per hundredweight, and they’re under pressure to manage their waste streams better, too. And the California natural gas market is booming and the prices are strong and they all want renewable natural gas, the demand is strongest for RNG.

Along comes Promus Energy. They bring anaerobic digester technology, and waste stream capture, and a conditioning technology to convert low-value biogas to high quality renewable methane, and a connector to the pipeline system. There’s revenue back to the grower, all the profit now is in the gas, and they receive a solid residue fertilizer as a by-product. The general model is also being successfully applied at the Fair Oaks Dairy in Indiana, using RNG-fueled milk trucks in a three-state area.

As Promus explains:

The Promus Outlook Granger (POG) Project will convert organic waste from roughly 10,500 dairy cows into approximately 8,300 diesel gallon equivalents per day of pipeline quality renewable natural gas (RNG), bio-fertilizers, and fiber products. It also will create marketable environmental attributes (in particular, currently, carbon offset credits and RINs).

The RNG off-take model will differ from conventional digester projects in the U.S. in that rather than combusting the RNG to produce electricity for sale to an electric utility, the Project will (a) market the RNG directly to nearby transportation fleets and (b) inject the RNG into the interstate pipeline grid via a nearby major transmission pipeline for a potentially broad array of off-takers on the grid, including utilities and distant direct vehicle fleets. 

The viability of this off-take model has been established by the Project team’s execution of contracts from RNG purchasers.

Promus provides immediate expertise and resources for companies in the planning and implementation phases of commercial expansion and project development. The partners developed green field projects for companies such as Toyota, Weyerhaeuser, Sempra Energy, CMS Energy, ThyssenKrupp Budd, Igasamex, Metrogas, El Paso Energy, Enron, Northern Star Natural Gas, Cutuco Energy, Texas Utilities and others. The promise? In depth-knowledge of project finance and credit structures, and how the complete project development plan supports these structures.

It’s been a long road for Promus. There was a flurry of coverage of the companies’ projects in the Midwest and in Washington state back in the early to mid-2010s. The collapse of natural gas prices hurt. But the rise of the California Low Carbon Fuel Standard and renewable portfolio standards on the electron side, has revived their prospects. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down, says good old Psalm 37.

More on the technology here.

Aiming to rise in Grays Harbor County

Here’s one not yet quite on the radar for Cosmo Specialty Fibers, a privately-held company producing dissolving pulp at the former Weyerhaeuser Specialty Cellulose Mill in Cosmopolis, Washington. This is a sulfite process that produces red liquor, as opposed to the conventional pulping process that produces black liquor.

With the goal to build on the Weyerhaeuser legacy of producing a high-quality dissolving wood pulp, CSF resumed market-grade pulp production on May 1, 2011 and is completing acetate qualification. Since opening, CSF has reduced operating costs over 40% and executed a global sales strategy to ensure financial sustainability. The refinery team sees the potential of the biorefinery model. As they wrote in the mid-2010s:

Cosmo is well positioned to extract and sell cellulosic sugars and other bio-chemicals processed from the mill’s red liquor stream into an established commodity market. The C5/C6 sugars could be further processed into bio-chemicals in the fastest growing segment – the $1b. bio-plastics market with current CAGR of 19-22%. 

Processing cellulosic bio-chemicals would not be invasive to pulp mill operations or strategic grade direction. Ancillary benefits to the mill would be a net reduction in thermal energy demand, significantly less effluent to be treated along with potential maintenance and chemical cost savings.

The Cosmo website still notes: “Cosmo has completed lab bench testing, market analysis and initial processing costs. We are now proceeding to commercial-level pilot testing and are aiming at commercial sales in early 2015.”

So, that was then, this is now. In 2019, a team of student researchers at the University of Washington’s School of Forest Resources & Environment has identified a potential biocomposite production process they say could generate an additional $270 million in revenues for Cosmo. It’s nanocellulose reinforced HDPE from spent sulfite liquor. Here’s a poster the team presented recently at the annual Washington Pulp & Paper Foundation meeting in Seattle.

The Up Rising

The land along Route 12 is as familiar to me as my own front door; it’s my mother’s country, and my maternal grandparents are entered into rest here, I learned to sing the Easter Hymn in a Methodist Church here, and how to celebrate a wedding, as friends of the bride and groom, with a noisy and exultant demonstration that was called a chivaree.

Here, it was “worsh” instead of wash, “winda” instead of window, and you wear a “caysh-mere” sweater not a “cash-mere” one. Dinner at mid-day not the evening. You went to the “fillin’” station to fuel the truck; and you drove truck, you never drove a truck. The highways are routes that rhyme with clout, not with boot.  A sofa was a davenport, and what you might call a dresser we heard described as a “byeu-rah”, that’s how the old-timers said “bureau”. When you put the definite article in there and say “The Byeu-Rah”, that’s the Bureau of Reclamation.

In the cities, they talk about the Resistance, and fighting for justice, of a Climate War. How sad, how martial. Here along Route 12, let me tell you about the Up Rising, a re-birth, rising like salmon out of the river in spring, returned from the sea. Of the politics of the bioeconomy which are the politics of Up.

With all these bioeconomy projects, the people around here have become climate warriors, but don’t tell them. They don’t like that term. It sounds like city people lecturing country people — who’ve practiced conservation for 10,000 years — about how to manage resources. It sounds angry, and militaristic, it sounds like a way to divide the people instead of bring them together, how to solve a problem with an invasion.

They’ve watched for years as the environmentalists came down from the city, in cars that were made out of petroleum, wearing clothes made of petroleum, toting backpacks made from petroleum, wearing sunglasses made from petroleum, lubed up with skin protectants made from petroleum, navigating with devices made from petroleum, living in houses made from petroleum, cleansed and beautified by products made from petroleum, to tell folks in the country that they need to get off petroleum and why don’t they try some wind energy or an organic farm.

Around here, family farms had windmills generating power and electricity three generations ago. That’s how the people listened to the radio back in the days before rural electrification. Solar? My Aunt Mary credited her father with building the world’s first solar heated shower, from his own design and with his own hands, back in 1921. (It surely wasn’t the first, but still.)

So, climate warriors? No.

A Shift to Thrift

You could describe them as the kind of land owner “who throws three coins in the air and four come down”, and they’ll smile and they’ll like that. They’ll probably say in reply to you a proverb like “waste not, want not”— and mean it.  What you call “the circular economy” they call thrift, and they’ve been practicing it all their lives.

Extra income made from utilizing waste, that’s as sensible to them and as ancient as saving string. Now, these activities represent doing something positive and affordable with respect to climate change. But let’s consider that of secondary importance in how we talk about these opportunities. There’s the top-down, government mandate, no-matter-the-cost, right-thing-to-do approach to climate, and it’s pretty easy to explain to people who stand to benefit at someone else’s cost, or who might get paid to administrate the program.

But it is righteous misery to explain the virtues of the top-down approach to a hard-pressed taxpayer beset by healthcare costs gone mad, skyrocketing tuition, the onrush of an underfunded retirement and the cost of decent housing these days.

There’s the other road. It’s step-at-a-time, bottom-up, affordable, reliable, the one-project-then-another approach, which starts with a bunch of waste straw or manure and ends up with a useful product. It’s pretty easy to explain these actions to our neighbors and friends, even in Granger and Cosmopolis and Dayton.

Along the Great Divide

I try to understand the divide in our country when it comes to speaking about climate change. Some talk of Top Down, and some talk of Bottoms Up, and that seems to be why so many politely change the subject when it comes up.

One part of the country seems to want to block the highways, seize government, and rule by fiat in a desperate bid to get some climate action. The other part gets pretty steamed when the subject doesn’t go away. The former seek socialism as a path to solving our problems, the latter see a drift towards a new communism and a quick death for liberty and a slow death for economic liberalism.

We all know. In our hearts, that nature is changing and not for the better, seasons don’t arrive when they used to, storms are different now, the rain is shifting, it’s harder to find the fish, the snowpack’s thinning, the fires are terrible. We all see it and we all know it.

It frustrates us when the system doesn’t work like it’s supposed to. Here’s a car, the auto companies say, buy it. Here’s some affordable gasoline, the oil companies say, use it. Here’s some tasty food, says the fast food restaurant, eat it. Here’s some plastic packaging, wrap it. Here’s a home mortgage, the banker says, sign for it. Here’s a way to cure your ills, the health companies say, take it. Here’s a thrilling entertainment, the content companies say, watch it. Here’s a way to educate your kids, the colleges say, spend on it. Keep America Beautiful, don’t litter, they all add, but it’s OK if most of everything ends up at the landfill.

But we know. In their hearts, they know that things are not quite right, that the American Dream isn’t working quite to plan. Something’s missing. Some people want the top-down, just send me the bill, let-the-government-come-and-fix-it. Some do not.

Who’s going to fix it?

If you ever read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, then you carry a little of Route 12 in your heart as you travel. The protagonists of that book travel quite a ways along that highway. Robert Pirsig wrote:

For John’s cycle, a BMW R60, I’ll bet there’s not a mechanic between here and Salt Lake City. If his points or plugs burn out, he’s done for. I know he doesn’t have a set of spare points with him. He doesn’t know what points are. If it quits on him in western South Dakota or Montana I don’t know what he’s going to do. Sell it to the Indians maybe. Right now I know what he’s doing. He’s carefully avoiding giving any thought whatsoever to the subject. The BMW is famous for not giving mechanical problems on the road and that’s what he’s counting on.

What’s that all about?

Robert Hood may have put it best:

Zen had a profound effect on me. Before reading it, I used to get impatient with the unfamiliar processes of fixing things around the house. Replacing a damaged window screen or fixing a leaky faucet used to make me crazy. This would happen because I viewed every repair in terms of what I didn’t know rather than what I could learn. That usually set up self-fulfilling prophecies in which mistakes multiplied to the point where I just didn’t want to attempt to fix things around the house. “I’ll screw it up even worse. Just call a repairman,” became my response to problems.

But then I read Zen and my outlook completely changed. Pirsig taught me that no repairman will ever care as much about a repair as I will; therefore I should be the one to do the repair. He also taught me that experience builds upon itself. For example, fixing that window screen last year means that I know how to replace the door screen today. Most importantly, Pirsig taught me about the deep comfort you achieve when you know something is done with quality. The book helped me realize that I own the creation and maintenance of quality in my life.

What’s this all to do with the bioeconomy?

When the solution is in our hands, and we build something ourselves to lift ourselves out of our troubles — for example, a job at a factory that takes a waste stream and turns it into a valued product — that’s when we feel good, deep inside. Even better than building something sustainable, we build something we want to sustain.

So, why do we see all this anger, all around us? Why The Great Divide, the impatience, why the love of shortcuts when there are no shortcuts to the top, why all the desire to rip apart a system by which we’ve lived — which is kind of what the Green New Deal is all about, a tear-down disguised as a hand-out.

Pirsig wrote: “To tear down a factory or to revolt against a government or to avoid repair of a motorcycle because it is a system is to attack effects rather than causes; and as long as the attack is upon effects only, no change is possible. The true system, the real system, is our present construction of systematic thought itself, rationality itself, and if a factory is torn down but the rationality which produced it is left standing, then that rationality will simply produce another factory. If a revolution destroys a systematic government, but the systematic patterns of thought that produced that government are left intact, then those patterns will repeat themselves in the succeeding government. There’s so much talk about the system. And so little understanding.”

Maybe the problem is that we are doing an awful lot of communicating at each other, and broadcasting to each other, and less listening in depth, more selfies. Less engagement, less change within. Too many rallies, too much shouting, aimed at making the change from without, instead of within, and seeing perhaps that the means of change has always been there. Pirsig advises: “We’re in such a hurry most of the time we never get much chance to talk. The result is a kind of endless day-to-day shallowness, a monotony that leaves a person wondering years later where all the time went and sorry that it’s all gone.”

Alleluias in the Waste stream

Pirsig said, “You see things vacationing on a motorcycle in a way that is completely different from any other. In a car you’re always in a compartment, and because you’re used to it you don’t realize that through that car window everything you see is just more TV. You’re a passive observer and it is all moving by you boringly in a frame.”

I don’t know if a motorcycle trip is the cure for what ails us, but being outside the frame, being engaged, feeling the air, that makes sense. Making something for ourselves, from your own hands, from the ground up, it changes us. The direct contact, the direct experience, the neighbor-to-neighbor, it is the engine for everything that moves our society, from Christian witnessing and gay pride to the dinner party and the bake sale.

The message, I heard it along Route 12 for many years, in a Charles Wesley song that formed the Easter processional — yes, there are many cultures in the United States and the old settler culture of the Pacific Northwest is just one of them, and I claim no special place for Wesleyan Methodism. But when spring time arrived we knew that more than the fragrance of flowers was in the air, it was a time of re-birth, and we sang the cadences of the alleluias because of something special around us and within us. We were rising then, and the people of that land are rising now. As Wesley put it, “Like Him we rise, Alleluia!”

Categories: Today's News

Magnificent Methanogens: The Digest’s 2019 Multi-Slide Guide to Trelys

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 06/26/2019 - 4:35pm

Trelys’ technology is based on the bioconversion of hydrogen and carbon dioxide using methanogenic archaea. While Trelys is currently focusing on feed amino acids, this technology provides an avenue to a wide variety of products and we got a sneak peek into some of those.

David Anton, CEO from Trelys offered this revealing presentation on why methanogens make sense, how Trelys can utilize any hydrogen resource, details on the unique composition of methanogenic archaea that makes it ideal for anaerobic metabolism of gases, their search for partners to commercialize the platform technology, and more at ABLC 2019 in Washington, D.C.

Categories: Today's News

Epitome Energy’s biodiesel plan set back a year after city’s loan deal falls through

Biofuels Digest - Tue, 06/25/2019 - 7:09pm

In Minnesota, Epitome Energy’s hopes for a speedy build to its proposed soybean crushing and biodiesel production facility in Crookston has seen a setback following legal scrutiny on a $1.25 million interest-free loan agreed to by the city council. The loan would breech statutory limits on business subsidies for the community that has just $3 million in cash in the bank and would have provided the loan from its own accounts. The company expected the loan to allow it to break dirt on the project by 2020 but now that looks like 2021.

Categories: Today's News

Analysts see Brazilian mills boosting use of cane towards even more ethanol in H1 June

Biofuels Digest - Tue, 06/25/2019 - 7:08pm

In Brazil, a Platts survey reports that a survey of analysts estimates mills shifted their cane crush even more towards ethanol during the first half of June, an increase of 1.4 percentage points to 64.1% of the total 42.9 million metric tons of cane they expect were crushed during the period. A total of 2.11 billion liters were estimated during the period by the analysts surveyed, which is down 1.4% on the year, of which 1.42 billion is expected to by hydrous ethanol.

Categories: Today's News

Irish agriculture minister cautious about biogas plans due to seasonality of feedstock

Biofuels Digest - Tue, 06/25/2019 - 7:07pm

In Ireland, Agriland reports that the country’s agriculture minister is taking a wait-and-see attitude towards the development of a biogas industry to fuel public transport in major cities like Dublin, saying that the level of subsidy required to get production off the ground and to commercial scale might not be the best use of funds. Ireland’s dairy industry is based on pasture during part of the year, meaning that year-round supply of manure isn’t available, which requires additional infrastructure to ensure sufficient feedstock even when cows are not stabled.

Categories: Today's News

Brazilian mega-giant Odebrecht granted bankruptcy protection

Biofuels Digest - Tue, 06/25/2019 - 6:51pm

In Brazil, Reuters reports that corporate giant Odebrecht filed for bankruptcy protection last week which was approved the next day by a judge so it could start restructuring $13 billion in debt, one of the largest in-court bankruptcies in all of Latin America. The company won’t be letting go of its stakes in ethanol producer Atvos nor in Braskem that produces bioplastic from sugarcane ethanol, among other products, as they have been held as collateral for the legal proceedings.

Categories: Today's News

Indian car manufacturers look at E10, E20 and M3 but later than government wants it

Biofuels Digest - Tue, 06/25/2019 - 6:36pm

In India, the Press Trust of India reports that the country’s automobile manufacturers association is calling for E10 and 3% methanol blending (M3) by 2025 not only for passenger vehicles but also for two-wheeled vehicles. In a white paper it released recently, the Society for Indian Automobile Manufacturers said that it could work to develop E20 compatible vehicles by 2030. The government has been calling for 22.5% ethanol blending by 2022 with a heavy reliance on cellulosic-based technologies.

Categories: Today's News


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