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Today's News

New study says corn production leads to 4,300 premature deaths from environmental damage

Biofuels Digest - Mon, 04/01/2019 - 3:46pm

In Minnesota, a new study establishes that environmental damage caused by corn production results in 4,300 premature deaths annually in the United States, representing a monetized cost of $39 billion.

The paper, published in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Sustainability, presents how researchers have estimated for the first time the health damages caused by corn production using detailed information on pollution emissions, pollution transport by wind, and human exposure to increased air pollution levels. Corn is a key agricultural crop used for animal feed, ethanol biofuel, and human consumption.

The study also shows how the damage to human health of producing a bushel of corn differs from region to region and how, in some areas, the health damages of corn production are greater than its market price.

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Estonia implements E10 and B7 as of April 1 and pump prices rise in tandem

Biofuels Digest - Mon, 04/01/2019 - 3:44pm

In Estonia, the ERE national news agency reports that E10 and B7 mandates came into place on April 1 in compliance with the European Union’s Renewable Energy Directive but pumps have already seen an increase in price. Ethanol with 10% blending as of April 1 compared to 5% since May 2018 saw a nine cent per liter increase from one day to the next in the capital of Tallinn. Diesel prices were also reported as increasing but no figures were provided.

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New research says RFS is “fueling an environmental disaster”

Biofuels Digest - Sun, 03/31/2019 - 11:41am

In Washington, D.C., new research prepared by the University of California-Davis, Kansas State University, and University of Wisconsin provides the most detailed and comprehensive assessment to date of the direct connection between U.S. biofuels policy and specific economic and field-level environmental changes following passage of the Renewable Fuel Standard 10 years ago, according to the National Wildlife Federation.

The research shows the RFS and its implementation are “fueling an environmental disaster that is destroying monarch butterfly habitat and forage, draining western aquifers, accelerating climate change and numerous other effects,” according to the National Wildlife Federation. “Through rigorous economic analysis, they found that new demand for corn and soybeans to use for fuel has raised the prices farmers receive for those crops – as well as other crops like wheat and cotton that compete for the same farmland – by as much as a third.”

“Once the RFS policy helped make crops more profitable, that in turn made crop land more valuable and, therefore, more desirable. The research draws the clear link between crop demand driven by the biofuel mandate and the resulting cropland expansion and production intensification. Over 40 percent of this expansion, as well as the drastic and widespread environmental consequences that followed can now be traced directly to this federal policy.”

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Debate continues at latest EPA public hearing over proposed ethanol changes

Biofuels Digest - Sun, 03/31/2019 - 11:39am

In Michigan, the debate between the oil industry and rural farming continued on Friday during the Environmental Protection Agency public hearing to discuss proposed ethanol policy changes including year-round E15, small refinery exemptions, and RIN reform. RFA, Growth Energy, Fueling Jobs Coalition, American Petroleum Institute and several others had lots to say about the proposed changes.

RFA President and CEO Geoff Cooper urged the agency to finalize the Modifications to Fuel Regulations to Provide Flexibility for E15 proposal ahead of the summer driving season. Cooper said, “We strongly support EPA’s proposal allowing E15 to take advantage of the 1-psi Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP) waiver that currently applies to E10 during the summer months.”

According to Bloomberg, Frank Maisano from Fueling Jobs Coalition, a group of union workers and independent oil refiners, said that the “EPA’s proposed rule raises significant concerns about the legality of year-round sales of E15” and that the proposal to reform trading of Renewable Identification Numbers, or RINs, “is incomplete, but is nevertheless a step in the right direction in correcting these serious market flaws.”

Frank Macchiarola, vice president downstream and industry operations at the American Petroleum Institute said, the EPA’s proposal on E15 “is an anti-consumer policy that goes beyond EPA’s statutory authority and should be withdrawn,” according to Bloomberg.

Small refinery exemptions or waivers are “moving the Renewable Fuel Standard backwards instead of forwards, which is not at all what the president campaigned about when he was seeking office,” Emily Skor, Growth Energy’s CEO, told Bloomberg in an interview following testimony.

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EU oilseed area in slight decline

Biofuels Digest - Sun, 03/31/2019 - 11:36am

In Germany, UFOP reports that in the EU-28, fewer oilseeds are grown for the 2019 harvest than were planted for the previous year’s harvest. The EU Commission forecasts a total hectarage of 11.5 million for the 2019 harvest. According to the current estimate, this is down 6 per cent from the previous year and the smallest oilseed area in seven years. The key factor is the drop-in rapeseed area, whereas sunflowers are expected to rise.

The main reason for the decline is the 10 per cent decrease in rapeseed area to 6.2 million hectares. Excessively dry conditions at the time of sowing prevented the sowing of rapeseed in many parts of Europe. Whereas the soybean area remains unchanged at approximately 1 million hectares, the EU Commission forecasts a slight expansion of sunflowers. However, at 0.7 per cent this is virtually insignificant.

By contrast, according to Agrarmarkt Informations-Gesellschaft (mbH), the Commission’s estimate for the oilseed harvests is somewhat brighter. In other words, increases in rapeseed yield are expected to offset the decline in area. The anticipated rapeseed harvest of 19.9 million tonnes would be at the same level as the 2018 harvest. Sunflower production is provisionally projected slightly smaller at 10.1 million tonnes, but would still exceed the long-term mean by 7 per cent. The EU Commission’s crop estimate for soybeans is at the previous year’s level of 2.9 million tonnes.

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Marine biofuel refueling in Rotterdam a success

Biofuels Digest - Sun, 03/31/2019 - 11:34am

In the Netherlands, IKEA Transport & Logistics Services, CMA CGM, the GoodShipping Program and the Port of Rotterdam announced the successful refuelling of the CMA CGM White Shark with sustainable marine bio-fuel oil.

The test, which represents a major step for the decarbonisation of ocean freight, saw the companies work together in a first-of-its-kind partnership for the shipping industry. The CMA CGM White Shark, a 5,095 TEU (Twenty-foot Equivalent Units) container vessel, was refuelled with the bio-fuel oil on Saturday while calling at Rotterdam.

Results from the trial will give the maritime sector a vital demonstration into the scalability, sustainability and technical compliance of sustainable marine bio-fuel oil. This will benefit all industry stakeholders in their environmental strategies, in line with the impending International Maritime Organisation (IMO) decarbonisation pathway.

The sustainable marine bio-fuel oil was developed by GoodFuels, the leading provider of sustainable marine biofuels to the global commercial shipping fleet, after undergoing three years of intensive testing with marine engine manufacturers. The second-generation bio-fuel oil is completely derived from forest residues and waste cooking oil products, is expected to deliver 80-90% well-to-propeller CO2 reduction versus fossil equivalents, and virtually eliminates sulphur oxide (SOx) emissions – all without any requirement for engine modifications.

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New leader for biogas to liquid fuel company, Renovare Fuels

Biofuels Digest - Sun, 03/31/2019 - 11:33am

In the United Kingdom, Renovare Fuels Limited, a company that has developed a way of producing a carbon-neutral liquid fuel from biogas, has appointed Dean Hislop as its managing director. Hislop was previously the CEO of Tamar Energy Limited, where he turned around the performance of the anaerobic digestion (AD) and organic waste recycling operator to a sustainable and profitable business, before leading the sale of the company to Ancala Partners LLP in 2018.

The appointment of Hislop marks the next phase of development for Renovare Fuels, which recently led the first public showcase of its technology at a demo facility in Alliance Dairies in Florida, USA. During the event, the company demonstrated how its unique process can turn biodegradable organic waste, such as that produced on a dairy farm, into a liquid fuel that is chemically similar to traditional petroleum-based diesels and commercial jet fuel.

“Renovare Fuels’ technology is unlike anything else currently in use and signals the beginning of a very exciting time for the green energy sector and industries that are producing biodegradable organic waste,” Hislop said. “

Renovare Fuels’ technology uses a chemical reaction to convert biogas derived from an organic waste recycling process, such as AD, to produce financially viable biodiesel. The technology can be integrated into existing infrastructure at any waste processing site, from landfills and wastewater treatment facilities to farms, making adoption highly cost-effective.

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Algaia attracts more algae investment

Biofuels Digest - Sun, 03/31/2019 - 11:31am

In France, AgTech firm Sapec is acquiring a 31% stake in Algaia, S.A.’s algae-based business and “strengthening its shareholding structure.” Algaia owns a novel and proprietary technology allowing the Biorefinery of brown algae not only into Alginates but also in other valuable compounds such as Biostimulants for the crop nutrition industry.

Algaia is a global player in the field of specialty seaweed extracts benefiting from unique R&D and production capabilities. Last year, most of its revenues were generated in Food, Personal Care and Nutraceutical applications.

Algaia’s facility is strategically located in Britany (France) next to abundant renewable fresh brown seaweed biomass, enabling the company to get sustainable and reliable supply. Algaia is today the world largest buyer of French seaweed, with about 40,000 tons being transformed every year in its Lannilis facility.

“The vast experience of Sapec group and Antoine Velge, his CEO and shareholder, will be extremely valuable to Algaia’s development and Board of Directors” commented Eyal Shalmon, Algaia’s Chairman of the Board. “Algaia is today uniquely positioned in the marine extract industry. The company benefits from outstanding, focused, R&D and production capabilities, able to co-extract multiple compounds out of the same natural marine raw material.

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Dow and BioLogiQ collaborate on plant-based polymers and resins

Biofuels Digest - Sun, 03/31/2019 - 11:31am

In Michigan, Dow and BioLogiQ are collaborating to evaluate potential synergies between BioLogiQ’s novel NuPlastiQ BioPolymer, a thermoplastic plant-based resin, and Dow’s industry-leading polyethylene resin portfolio, in an effort to explore enhanced sustainable plastic options.

Dow and BioLogiQ will work together to test and consider potential applications that incorporate bio-based resins with polyethylene, in the hopes of enabling more plant-based plastic products. BioLogiQ, a seven-year-old startup based in Idaho Falls, Idaho that’s committed to creating plastics from renewable resources, will utilize Dow’s industry-leading research and development, as well as the company’s extensive plastic resin sales and distribution network, to determine if they can successfully leverage plant-based plastics.

The evaluation will help determine if NuPlastiQ is a potential fit with Dow’s business from performance, bio-based and commercial viability perspectives. During the next year, Dow and BioLogiQ will perform evaluations at Dow’s Pack Studios Development Center in Freeport, Texas and engage brands, research institutes and associations to evaluate the range of benefits from a combined offering.


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Large passenger vessels to be converted to run on LBG for first time

Biofuels Digest - Sun, 03/31/2019 - 11:28am

In Norway, global marine solutions and system integration expert, Høglund, was awarded a contract to deliver biogas-ready fuel gas supply systems for six Hurtigruten passenger ship retrofits. The project will mark the first time a large passenger vessel has been converted to run on Liquified Biogas (LBG) – a fossil-free, renewable gas produced from organic waste, such as food waste – including, notably – rotting fish.

The difficulty of converting an existing passenger vessel and meeting the necessary safety requirements for tank placement demands highly specialised design and engineering.

Høglund will work together with HB Hunte Engineering to design and engineer fully customised tank and FGSS solutions for each of the six vessels, optimised to run on both liquified natural gas (LNG) and liquified biogas (LBG).

Hurtigruten, a leader in the Arctic and Antarctic expedition cruise segment, will use Høglund and HB Hunte’s bespoke FGSS solutions in tandem with large battery packs onboard its vessels, replacing its older engines which run on marine gas oil.

Peter Morsbach, Project Director, Høglund Gas Solutions, said, “We are tremendously excited to be involved in such a forward-looking project, which will undoubtedly set a new benchmark for low-carbon emissions in the rapidly evolving cruise sector.

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Covestro and Genomatica launch partnership for high-performance plant-based materials

Biofuels Digest - Sun, 03/31/2019 - 11:17am

Genomatica, the bioengineering pioneer that helps major brands like H&M and Lavazza produce sustainable mainstream products, announced a significant new partnership recently with Covestro, a mainstream chemical and materials leader, to work together on high-performance materials from plants.

Materials manufacturer Covestro and biotechnology company Genomatica joined forces to research and develop high-performance materials based on renewable feedstocks. With their collaboration, both partners are aiming to reduce the use of fossil-based resources such as crude oil. “These are today still the most common carbon and raw material sources of the chemical and plastics industries,” according to their press release. “Using carbon from plants instead would help reduce CO2 emissions and close the carbon loop in another move towards a circular economy.”

“This long-term partnership involves teams from both companies working together to drive commercially-focused innovations. Genomatica will deploy its strengths in developing industrial-scale bioprocesses to produce widely-used chemicals. Covestro complements the collaboration with strong know-how in chemical process technology and application development. This initiative is another example of Covestro’s approach to drive innovation by sustainability.”

Reducing dependence on fossil raw materials

“The market is showing increasing interest in products based on renewable raw materials,” said Dr. Klaus Schäfer, Chief Technology Officer of Covestro. “Being able to increasingly derive key materials from biomass is essential for making our industry less dependent on fossil raw materials and market fluctuations. With this, we are pursuing our vision of making the world a brighter place.”

Christophe Schilling, CEO of US-based Genomatica, said, “We look forward to supporting Covestro in its efforts and providing our expertise in harnessing the power of biotechnology to bring much-needed change to many segments of the chemical industry.”

Bringing bio to the bulk

Genomatica has earned widespread acclaim for its technology; has commercialized processes to make the chemical butanediol (for biodegradable plastics and apparel) and for butylene glycol (cosmetics and personal care); and is working on bio-nylon. To date, Genomatica has helped reshape how plastic, nylon, and cosmetics are made using sustainable feedstocks (corn, sugar cane, etc) instead of petroleum-based materials.

We recently covered the big news about Genomatica’s butylene glycol, and the 21 trucks that rolled out from a (Novamont) contracted manufacturing site with 600 tons of the stuff back in February. You can read more about BG, the shipments, the value and opportunities, and more, as reported in The Digest here.

As reported in The Digest in October 2018, we talked about the magic, bioengineering, Genomatica’s biobased process technologies, and their latest $90 million equity offering. the The company raised an additional $90 million to accelerate commercialization of product lines and deepen its partnership with Ginkgo Bioworks. Genomatica’s latest magical maneuver with the $90M was expected to help strengthen its balance sheet to fully execute on its business plan and fuel new growth opportunities.

CEO Christophe Schilling gave this illuminating overview of the company’s promise and progress at ABLC 2018 in Washington DC. Check out The Digest’s Multi-Slide-Guide here.

Why Covestro?

It’s pretty easy to see why Genomatica would want to partner with Covestro. With sales of EUR 14.6 billion in 2018, Covestro is among the world’s largest polymer companies (which makes sense given that prior to 2015 they were the Bayer MaterialsScience group, part of Bayer Group’s chemicals and plastics unit). They have 30 production sites worldwide and employs approximately 16,800 people as of the end of 2018.

You know the saying, size doesn’t matter, so just because they are huge, doesn’t mean they’d make a good partner.

But their wide-ranging applications in many areas of daily life sure makes a difference. Their business activities are focused on the manufacture of high-tech polymer materials and the development of innovative solutions for products used in many areas but mainly in automotive, construction, wood processing and furniture, and electrical and electronics industries. Other sectors include sports and leisure, cosmetics, health and the chemical industry itself. Covestro has it covered as far as consumer, real-world applications. And that makes it a very attractive and appealing partner.

As reported in The Digest in October 2018, Covestro announced a huge expansion to strengthen its position in MDI globally by building a new world-scale MDI plant in Baytown, Texas. The EUR 1.5 billion (about $1.7 billion) investment in the new MDI plant is the largest single investment in the history of the company.

Covestro has continued with a flurry of announcements over the last few months from building a new manufacturing line for polycarbonate films in Thailand to increase their global capacity for film and biofilm production, to presenting its new Baycusan eco series of biobased polyurethane film formers for the cosmetics industry, including a hair gel based on their new biobased film former (INCI designation: Polyurethane-93).

Bottom Line

The partnership between Genomatica and Covestro is a major step forward for a lot of things. It’s a move forward to reduce dependency on petroleum-based materials, a move towards the production of more sustainable everyday products, and a move towards more collaboration to get things done in the bioeconomy.

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High Velocity Excitement: The Digest’s 2019 Multi-Slide Guide to Velocys

Biofuels Digest - Sun, 03/31/2019 - 8:28am

Velocys has developed proprietary and commercially-proven Fischer-Tropsch technology that can cost effectively produce low-carbon fuels from a variety of waste materials, including woody biomass and municipal solid waste, at a scale that matches feedstock collection logistics.

Philipp Stratmann, Vice President of Biofuels at Velocys, gave this illuminating overview of their technology, team, feedstock position, and demand that explains why they have such high excitement for their future, their roadmap for getting there and advancing a series of biorefinery projects, and more, at ABLC Global 2018 in San Francisco

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Creating Chemistry: The Digest’s 2019 Multi-Slide Guide to BASF

Biofuels Digest - Sun, 03/31/2019 - 8:19am

BASF, as of January 1, 2019, has twelve divisions grouped into six segments. They create chemistry for a sustainable future. BASF’s new segment structure will allow a more differentiated steering of their businesses according to their market-specific competitive environment. It will increase transparency regarding the results of their segments and divisions and highlight the importance of the Verbund and value chains to our business success.

BASF’s recent investor presentation offers an overview of their financials, updates on M&A activities including Solenis, LetterOne, Solvay, and others, announcements on investments in Asia, outlooks for 2019 by segment, and more

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South America rejects shift to electric vehicles choosing instead ethanol and other fuels

Biofuels Digest - Thu, 03/28/2019 - 6:59pm

In Brazil, Reuters reports that South America continues to look at ethanol as the major fuel of preference, rejecting the development of the electric vehicle market in favor of cane-based fuel. Automobile manufacturers met in Brazil this week to discuss future fuels, opting to still with traditional fuels instead including natural gas as found in Argentina as well as diesel. The Brazilian government recently approved Rota 2030 that encourages car manufacturers to invest in ethanol-based R&D.

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Aerion plans to develop supersonic planes flying on 100% bio-SPK

Biofuels Digest - Thu, 03/28/2019 - 6:58pm

In the UK, Reuters reports that Aerion plans to develop a supersonic plane that is flown completely on bio-based synthetic paraffinic kerosene with a $120 million price tag each. With the first jets set to hit the skies in 2023, they would fly 70% faster than normal subsonic planes now while using biofuels would reduce CO2 emissions by 40%. The company recently received an undisclosed amount of investment from Boeing. Supersonic planes have higher fuel burns than subsonic which is why CO2 emissions are a concern.

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Euglena believes new partnership will allow it to jumpstart biodiesel commercialization

Biofuels Digest - Thu, 03/28/2019 - 6:57pm

In Japan, Euglena has teamed with auto parts manufacturer Denso Tech who the company believes holds the key to its commercialization plans, allowing it to increase production by 1,000—yes, 1,000—percent. Euglena started building its first commercial-scale algae biodiesel production facility last year. Denso has already been researching algae production for the past 10 years. Currently, Euglena’s fuel is being trialed in buses in Kanagawa Prefecture.

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EPA approves another 2017 hardship waiver while 2018 applications seen for April

Biofuels Digest - Thu, 03/28/2019 - 6:56pm

In Washington, Reuters reports that the Environmental Protection Agency has gone ahead and approved a 35th hardship waiver for 2017 while it is now expected to complete review of 2018 hardship waiver applications during April even though refiners had expected the decisions to be made during March in line with regulations. There is still one 2017 application pending while there are 39 petitions pending for 2018. The agency has come under scrutiny for the lack of transparency in determining who gets waivers or not.

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Nebraska’s ethanol industry suffering from damage to transportation infrastructure

Biofuels Digest - Thu, 03/28/2019 - 6:55pm

In Nebraska, with 15 of the state’s bridges knocked out by recent floods, five of its 25 ethanol plants face major disruptions while another four are running reduced production runs, so they are quickly running out of storage, meaning they may have to start shutting down production. Another four plants are either in maintenance, preparing for maintenance or looking to start maintenance early. The governor has approved emergency permission for trucking of the fuel in order to get it out to the market.

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H1 March domestic Philippines ethanol prices follows molasses prices higher

Biofuels Digest - Thu, 03/28/2019 - 6:54pm

In the Philippines, Platts reports that ethanol prices have risen again during the first half of March to $1,197/ cu m, nearly 2% higher despite molasses prices rising more than 6% during the second half of February. Landed CIF Philippines prices were $466/63/cu m during H1 March. Molasses prices are seen easing coming July when the sugarcane crush ramps up but until then ethanol prices are likely to continue to rise in line with more expensive feedstock.

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Swedish researcher transfer electrical current between bacteria and electrode

Biofuels Digest - Thu, 03/28/2019 - 6:49pm

In Sweden, in recent years, researchers have tried to capture the electrical current that bacteria generate through metabolism. So far, however, the transfer of current from the bacteria to a receiving electrode has been highly inefficient. Now, researchers from institutions including Lund University have achieved a slightly more efficient transfer of electrical current.
The results of the study are valuable not only for their potential with regard to future bacterial electrical energy; they also increase the understanding of how bacteria communicate with their surroundings. The bacteria themselves probably use extracellular electron transfer to communicate, both with other bacteria and with molecules.

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