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Today's News

POET settles with former employee who took its technology to another company

Biofuels Digest - Tue, 06/25/2019 - 6:35pm

In South Dakota, the Argus Leader newspaper reports that POET settled its two-year lawsuit with a former employee who joined an engineering firm and then allegedly helped that company develop Hydrolysis Utilization technology it claims is very similar to the Delayed Dilution Technology he had developed for Poet. In the end, the suit was dropped along with all claims in exchange for the engineering company licensing the Delayed Dilution Technology from POET, along with other undisclosed parts of the settlement.

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DOE looking for nominations for Biomass Research and Development Technical Advisory Committee

Biofuels Digest - Tue, 06/25/2019 - 6:33pm

In Washington, the Department of Energy has called for nominations to its Biomass Research and Development Technical Advisory Committee, applications for which are due on June 30.

Nominations this year are needed for the following categories in order to address the Committee’s needs: (D) 2 prominent engineers or scientists from government (non-federal) or academia that have expertise in biofuels and biobased products; (L) an individual with expertise in agronomy, crop science, or soil science; and (M) an individual with expertise in carbon dioxide capture, utilization, and sequestration. Nominations for other categories will also be accepted. Nomination categories C, D, H, I, J, K, L, N, and M are considered Special Government Employees and require submittal of an annual financial disclosure form. In addition to the required categories, other areas of expertise of interest to the Committee are individuals with expertise in process engineering related to biorefineries, or biobased coproducts that enable fuel production.

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Senators call on EPA to update outdated environmental analysis on ethanol

Biofuels Digest - Tue, 06/25/2019 - 6:32pm

In Washington, U.S. Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Dick Durbin (D-IL), both members of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, led a bipartisan group of senators urging the EPA to update an outdated environmental analysis on ethanol in order to improve foreign sales opportunities.

‘During the past five years, ethanol has been the fastest growing agricultural export: as more nations adopt policies for lower-emission vehicle fuels, domestically produced ethanol can provide an immediate solution for their goals,’ the senators wrote. ‘We assert that there is little justification for EPA to maintain such an outdated calculation that otherwise could be easily corrected with existing, available analysis-and straightforwardly address an unnecessary obstacle to international trade.’

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Importance of Sterile Design in Aseptic Fermentation – How to keep from getting burned

Biofuels Digest - Tue, 06/25/2019 - 6:31pm

By Mark Warner, PE, Founder, Warner Advisors LLC

Special to The Digest

If you’ve spent any time in commercial fermentation facilities, then you already know it’s a hot bed of contaminants and has steam coming out all over the place. This is because heat (in the form of steam) is just one of the keys to keeping fermentation sterile. As companies look to scale industrial biotechnology based on aseptic fermentation, many look for ways to cut capital costs and the robustness of sterile design is often a target. Be aware though, removing items such as steam sterilization can cause you to get burned in a different manner (financially). It often comes down to spend now or pay for it later, let’s explore.

Easiest way to determine the potential impact of aggressive decisions on sterile design is to take the current version of the technoeconomic model and change the “failed batch” rate from a typical 1 – 5% failed batch rate for a mature operation to 30% and see how the economics of the process change. All the labor and raw materials will be expended, but 30% or more of the production will not be usable. Even worse, the facility will likely have to pay increased treatment or disposal costs to get rid of the bad batch, while slowing down overall plant production. This is the downside of a poor sterile design and the cold hard reality of being overly aggressive.

For aseptic fermentation, where there is an expectation of only one desired target organism at the end of a batch, sterile design is best summarized by creating a boundary that keeps all non-target (foreign) organisms out. This is done by ensuring the fermenter is clean and sterile, with everything coming in or going out being sterilized by one of the two primary methods, heat and filtration. Heat above 130°C is used to kill all organisms. This can be done by sparging steam into the fermenter, or in the case of streams like sugar, heating them up for a short period of time to target temperature. For items that are heat sensitive, they are sent through a 0.2 micron filter (commonly known as “sterile filter” in the fermentation industry), that ensures no organism can make it into the system. The following graphic summarizes how a sterile boundary is maintained.

This sounds very straight forward, so what is the problem? Money, properly designed systems are expensive. Aseptic aerobic fermentation systems are capital intensive and much more on a per unit of fermenter volume basis than other systems such as corn ethanol, which can be about 1/10th of the equivalent capital cost. For a fermenter to be steam sterilizable, it needs to be pressure rated to at least 25 psi and vacuum rated. Interior surfaces need to be polished to keep organisms from grabbing on and the sterile filters can be expensive. This makes using lower standard designs attractive from a capital perspective, but can end very badly if the fermentation system cannot operate in a sterile manner. Some additional perspectives follow.

Do all processes need highly sterile design? – No, systems like ethanol and syngas operate at much lower design standards with their fermentation systems having only a fraction of the capital cost of aseptic fermentation. No pressure vessels or metal surfaces you can see your reflection on are required. There are critical differences though: ethanol is anaerobic and has ethanol that limits many organism’s ability to grow. Another factor is presence of other organisms: while this is not typically acceptable for foods or most aseptic fermentations, many industrial fermentations can have a high presence of non-target organisms and still meet quality targets.

Differences that matter – There are many factors that make different microbial fermentations more or less prone to contamination, but at a high level, it comes down to how strong the target organism is compared to competitors and how favorable/unfavorable the general fermentation conditions are to microbial growth. Processes operating an aerobic fermentation on sugar at normal metabolic temperatures (25-40oC) and near neutral pH (above ~5-6) are more prone to contamination than other processes. Many anaerobic processes that generate acidic broths are much less prone to contamination as the environment is less inviting to most organisms. Having inherently unfavorable fermentation conditions as a primary sterile design basis is not very common and I would recommend thinking twice about alternate sterile designs unless it has been proven in a pilot or demonstration scale system.

A fork in the road – The hardest part of sterile design is that is must be decided up front. A fermenter that is purchased without the ability to be steam sterilized cannot practically be retrofitted. If the system does not run sterile, there are limited options to correct it. The one-time savings from decreased design standards are real, but so are the repeat and long-term dire consequences of being overly aggressive.

Capital cost savings from a decreased sterile design are real and I do not mean to downplay the value they could provide to an early stage company, but simply offer a framework that should be considered before heading down what can be a risky path.

Mark Warner is a registered professional engineer with 30 years of experience in process commercialization, focusing for the last 10 years on taking first-of-a-kind-technologies from bench-top to commercial operation. He has worked for four companies who have held the #1 spot in biofuels digest’s top company list, in a range of advanced biotechnologies including biodiesel, cellulosic ethanol, phototrophic algae, heterotrophic algae and innovative food products. He is the founder of Warner Advisors, providing consulting services and acting in interim engineering leadership roles for advanced bioeconomy clients. He can be reached at mark@warneradvisorsllc.com or visit www.warneradvisorsllc.com.

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Fighting Forest Fires with Biofuels: The Digest’s 2019 Multi-Slide Guide to Red Rock Biofuels

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

Red Rock Biofuels produces drop-in, renewable, low-carbon jet and diesel fuels. RRB makes the long-commercialized Fischer-Tropsch process economic at the biomass scale. By using forest and sawmill residues, Red Rock reduces the risk of catastrophic wildfires by removing waste biomass from overgrown forests.

Terry Kulesa, CEO of Red Rock Biofuels revealed details on their process technology, a project overview on their advanced biofuels production facility in Lakeview, Oregon that converts woody biomass into renewable drop-in jet, diesel and gasoline blendstock fuels, and more at ABLC 2019 in Washington, D.C.

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Vietnamese ethanol producing testing out US corn as feedstock

Biofuels Digest - Mon, 06/24/2019 - 7:04pm

In Vietnam, the country’s sole ethanol producer is preparing to test U.S. corn as a feedstock with a hammer mill purchased during a mission to the United States in June. The mission is one part of the U.S. Grains Council’s (USGC’s) efforts to support Vietnamese government and industry members as they work to increase ethanol use under a national E5 blend mandate.

Tung Lam Company is the only company producing ethanol in Vietnam, using cassava as a primary feedstock. Prices of domestically-produced cassava have increased since early 2018 due to a demand surge from China and other Southeast Asian countries, leaving limited supply available. As a result, Tung Lam has considered converting cassava-based ethanol production to corn-based and began trial production earlier this year.

USGC organized a technical study mission to Indiana for a group of senior leaders from Tung Lam Company to learn more about the equipment and technology needed to increase corn-based ethanol production efficiency, learn from U.S. ethanol producers and study U.S. corn crop production. The team also attended the International Fuel Ethanol Workshop & Expo in Indianapolis to gain exposure to and learn from U.S. ethanol experts.

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KnipBio reaches major development milestone in fermentation research

Biofuels Digest - Mon, 06/24/2019 - 7:02pm

In Massachusetts, KnipBio, Inc. announced a major development in its fermentation research that enables the company to produce its single cell protein aquafeed ingredient, KnipBio Meal (KBM), from condensed distillers’ solubles (CDS). This promises a dramatic reduction in cost and further demonstrates the versatility of KnipBio’s biotech platform and fermentation technology.

KnipBio began the development of its patented, single cell fermentationprocess usingmethanol in 2013. To reduce input costs and increase feedstock flexibility, the company initiated a research program in 2018 to produce protein using low-cost feedstocks including CDS and other biofuel waste stream products. Feedstock flexibility ensures supply security and price stability. It also makes KBM more sustainable and allows a KBM fermentation plant to be co-located wherever industrial agriculture and food processing is done.

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Avinor agrees to buy nearly $1 million in BtL aviation fuel to get Quantafuel commercial

Biofuels Digest - Mon, 06/24/2019 - 6:55pm

In Norway, Avinor has entered into an agreement with Quantafuel to buy sustainable aviation fuel based on Norwegian biomass. The fuel will be produced in a pilot plant partly funded by ENOVA while in order to fund the development, Avinor has committed purchase fuel for just under $1 million. Quantafuel AS has developed technology for the production of liquid fuel from biomass; BtL (Biomass-to-Liquid). The raw material used in production is solid wood in the shape of chips, sawdust and other wood qualities. The pilot plant that now will be designed and built, will be centrally located in eastern Norway. This is in keeping with Quantafuel’s strategy of taking a position with proprietary technology, strong partners such as Avinor, and in markets where the company can make a positive contribution to the environment.

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Federal grand jury charges band of 21 in UCO theft, money laundering and immigration fraud

Biofuels Digest - Mon, 06/24/2019 - 6:44pm

In North Carolina, the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina announced that a federal grand jury in Raleigh has returned a Superseding Indictment charging 21 individuals from North Carolina, New York, Turkey, Mexico and El Salvador on charges of conspiracy to commit interstate transportation of stolen used cooking oil, money laundering, harboring aliens, and immigration-related entrepreneurship fraud.

According to court records, the objective of the conspiracy was to profit from the illicit trade in large quantities of used cooking oil stolen in North Carolina, Virginia, and Tennessee, and transported to New Jersey for sale and distribution.

In particular, the Superseding Indictment alleges that members of the conspiracy repeatedly traveled to restaurants in North Carolina, Virginia, and Tennessee, in box trucks equipped with containers designed to store and transport liquids, pumps, hoses, and burglary tools, for the purpose of stealing large quantities of used cooking oil.

Additionally, members of the conspiracy transported the stolen used cooking oil in the box trucks to a warehouse in Durham, North Carolina, for consolidation and storage. Thereafter, a tanker trailer was used to transport the consolidated stolen used cooking oil to Virginia and elsewhere.

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USP Group agrees extension with buyer of Biofuels Research to July 5

Biofuels Digest - Mon, 06/24/2019 - 6:30pm

In Singapore, the Straits Times newspaper reports that USP Group and AJ Jetting Pte Ltd have amended the term sheet for the sale of more than 93% of USP’s Biofuels Research for $5.59 million to extend the deadline for the final purchase agreement to July 5 from June 15. USP has received a good faith payment of S$1.4 million from AJ Jetting upon agreement to the term sheet amendment. Biofuels Research develops waste oil-to-biofuel technology.

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Euglena teams with Itochu to demo production with thermal power plant waste heat and CO2

Biofuels Digest - Mon, 06/24/2019 - 6:28pm

In Japan, NNA reports that Euglena has teamed with Itochu on a demonstration project in Indonesia that will produce euglena microalgae from carbon dioxide and waste heat from a nearby thermal power plant beginning next month, but the location of the plant nor the project were released. Euglena still plans to begin commercial microalgae production from 2025 but the future site hasn’t yet been chosen. Itochu has been collaborating with Euglena since 2013 when it began putting the algae in yogurts.

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Fanshawe receives nearly C$2 million to establish bioeconomy center

Biofuels Digest - Mon, 06/24/2019 - 6:26pm

In Canada, Fanshawe has received nearly C$2 million over five years from the Government of Canada to establish a research hub focused on the agri-food industry.

With this funding, Fanshawe will establish the Centre for Bioeconomy within the recently opened Centre for Advanced Research and Innovation in Biotechnology (CARIB). While federal and provincial policy looks to grow the agri-food production sector, producers face barriers to innovation that hamper growth, such as delayed technology adoption and insufficient support for product development and commercialization.

Fanshawe’s Centre for Bioeconomy will help to address these barriers. The Centre will focus on plant and soil health, food innovation and turning agri-food waste into bioproducts. Fanshawe’s facilities, equipment and expertise will help expedite product development and commercialization, improve knowledge diffusion and technology adoption through its emphasis on collaborative and networked approaches to research and innovation.

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NBB tells EPA that small refinery exemptions hearting biodiesel too

Biofuels Digest - Mon, 06/24/2019 - 6:25pm

In Washington, the National Biodiesel Board sent a letter to EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, highlighting the 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.”

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Letter from Europe: The Bioeconomy’s Journey to Yes through the Valley of No

Biofuels Digest - Mon, 06/24/2019 - 6:23pm

In Europe this past week we’ve had European Commission’s own and massive EU Sustainability Week, the ART Fuels Forum, and the Paris Air Show, and if you were trying to get anywhere quickly along the Paris-Brussels corridor, it was a tough 7 days.

It’s easy to describe the atmosphere as “electric” since much of the buzz is over electrification. Electric cars, electric planes, electric-based autonomy, electron-based society.

As Captain Renault put it in Casablanca, we are shocked, shocked to find that auto industry surrogates are talking up 100% EU conversion to electric vehicles for light duty transport by 2040. Of course the idea that almost everyone in the EU would have to buy a new, expensive car I am sure has nothing to do with automaker enthusiasm.  And enthusiasm from utilities for wind and solar has nothing to do with guaranteed cost recovery and high margin opportunities in the power sector.

Perhaps one day, we will no longer cloak self-interest in the toga of virtue, and we will listen to the ghost of Marley:

Cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. ‘Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!’

But we’ll have to take enlightened self-interest for now. And hope that in the hard data we’ll find that broad-based benefit rather than self-dealing is really, probably, hopefully, prayerfully at the bottom of the enthusiasm.

Kumbaya, my Lord, nyuk, nyuk, nyuk.

Batteries vs Liquids

There’s quite a bit of buzz in the EU over Power-to-X, or PtX, or P2X — the use of excess power to generate storable energy (such as liquid fuels) or other useful products or application — for example, using power to split waster and combine hydrogen with CO2 to make materials or foods.

One of the more alluring aspects of this discussion is the use of excess renewable power at peak times (e.g. when the sun shines) to create a liquid fuel that stores easily and cheaply until wintertime (when the sun shines less, if at all). And, consider the potential to make hydrogen for fuel cells — or, in Nissan’s ethanol fuel cell, using a liquid storable to power an electric motor. No heavy battery, no slow recharge, no battery end of life, no kidding.

In the end, that’s what the entire discussion about vehicles using petroleum, biofuels, electricity, hybrids, CNG, LNG, hydrogen, fuel-cell, and possibly the enlightening power of song is all about: what’s the optimal energy storage system?

There’s little to no dissension about the appeal of electric motors, or the efficiency of using electricity to power mobility. The consternation has more to do with the supply of that energy — in mobile applications, that means energy storage. If you’ve felt occasionally frustrated about the challenges of keeping an iPhone charged when on the road, consider the problem of keeping a piece of equipment charged up that weighs 9,137 times more.

That’s of course the ratio for a mid-size car. For a Boeing 787-8, this is an object weighing 1.3 million times more, and you also have to throw it 35,000 feet into the air and keep it there for up to 13 hours at a time. It’s not a job for the Energizer bunny, it’s not trivial science.

And when the price is cheap we bicker about the sustainability, and when the sustainability is right we bicker about the price. It is our nature to be dissatisfied, and to blame government for all our problems.

A setback at Green Biologics

Buzzing around the Eurohalls this week has been news that Green Biologics just shut down US operations and terminated the entire US organization with two days’ notice and no severance. The plant is now under new ownership, we’re not entirely sure who. Might be TCP.

What happened. A friend theorized, “I’d say it was entirely about cash cost of production vs market pricing and the willingness of market players to pay an extremely high premium for a green product. It’s a 32,000-ton plant and running a process plant efficiently requires utilization rates exceeding 70% and generally higher. It’s just math.”

Another lesson learned: investing aggressively in product and application development prior to plant start up, so as to not have to play catch up. And, for small plants that are likely to remain small plants, high value applications are likely the way to go. The green premium is undeniably there at retail, but intermediates have a hard time getting one and finding partners well down the value chain is a pretty good idea.

Of BioGas and Gasification

The news on gas is, for now, less gloomy — biogas continues to have its broadest worldwide applications in the EU, but feed-in tariffs for power gen are reducing and operators are looking to liquids for higher values. Not dissimilar to just about everyone these days, migrating up the price chart. Whether it is the afore-mentioned Green Biologics, the digital bio plays like Amyris moving to high-value beauty & fragrance apps and cannabis, or renewable diesel heading for California’s sunny prices, or ethanol players trying to boost RIN values by attacking small refinery waivers — it’s all about migrating up the price curve.

Then, there’s gasification, the Russia of biofuels, a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma, and we’re not thinking about catalyst formulas here, but data as straightforward as product mix and uptime.

There’s much to watch, the sector is hot. In the EU, there’s much buzz about BTG’s Empyro pyrolysis oil project, which was handed over to Twence in January.

Yet, at the ART Fuels Forum, there were far more questions than answers going round the rooms – How much jet fuel has Fulcrum produced, or will it produce, as opposed to waxes? For how long can Enerkem run its reactor in Alberta continuously at commercial-scale yields? How long can Velocys run its core reactor before coking fouls the catalyst or slows the process run time below commercially viable rates?

It’s the Russia factor, the mystery, the absence of hard data, that starts the questions a-flying, and in part, it is the long time that passes between project announcement and project completion that stimulates curiosity that is not always easy to satiate. Velocys, for one, has been reasonably up-front about the emissions leak at ENVIA that caused that project to mothball — yet, the rumors aren’t easy to squelch that more reactor-fundamental problems might have been involved.

The three-slide pitch

The apprehension in part, is the Fear That I Will Not Get Funding if Someone Else Fails. Bad projects drive down enthusiasm for good projects, goes the thinking. I’ve never agreed, myself.

Every project must always separate itself from the competition. Yes, conspicuous failure across the street can inspire a rush for the exits, like a bank panic or the running of the bulls at Pamplona, but a conspicuous success across the street prompts a rush for someone else’s front door, too. People fall all over themselves to get on the band wagon, every technology everywhere gets left behind by Brand X’s failure or Brand A’s success, unless the differentiation is clear. Differentiation is the market force which selects winning companies, not winning ideas.

Few remember which companies of soldiers fought for and won the exit pathways from Omaha Beach, excepting the descendants of the living and the dead whose lives were changed forever by the efforts of this Easy Company or that Bravo Company. For the rest of us, the story is not the who but the what, what happened rather than the heroes who made it happen, the epic achievement of the Battle of Normandy which imposes on every American and European a debt of gratitude that can never be repaid.

In the same way, the bioeconomy battle will be won by individual firms but most of us will not remember them; we will remember what they achieved through the differentiated, improved life that future generations will experience when this company or that company has completed its transformative work. Many will be left upon the beach, and lives will be altered by those losses.

Abraham Lincoln told us, the living, that it was our duty to the loved and the lost to carry on, so that those who gave the last, full measure of devotion shall have not died in vain, that we must seek a new birth of freedom.

But freedom from what? Franklin Roosevelt named four: freedom of expression, of worship, from want, from fear. The freedom to create value without harm to others, that could have been a fifth.

That’s the bioeconomy’s opportunity and its curse, to improve our circumstances and set ourselves a higher standard to live by, or die on the beach trying.

In our sector, born of technological innovation, the weapon of choice, our Springfield .303, is a three-slide deck. No less, and no more.

One, frame the problem in the form of a feedstock of low value and possibly odious in character. The problem of carbon monoxide we cannot vent or flare, the problem of manure we cannot slosh aside, the problem of fats in our sewers, forests that need thinning, farmers who need a second market, marginal soil that needs a crop, CO2 that needs to be sequestered into a product, or landfills that are overflowing.

Two, show me a technology that captures and transforms that feedstock into a higher-value product. How much higher is the value, how long has the process yet run at that scale and yield? How much will it cost to get it to that scale and yield? That’s all people really need to know, except the analysts and due diligence wolves who must audit the hard data.

Three, show me the equitable benefit to everyone in the stakeholder community. There are economic returns, social returns, environmental returns. How are they fairly apportioned so that the project will run happily forever. Consumers, marketing partners, feedstock owners, the community, and investors — all must do well. For while investor unhappy will shut projects down quickly, social unrest will shut it down even more permanently, and although we have tolerated environmental distress in the name of low prices for a long, long time, the Era of Venting is ending.

One, two, three. That’s all you really need. Maybe a slide to show that your project has the 4 Ts — the tools, team, training and time — to pull the project off. But even that might best be left for the due diligence wolves.

I have said several times on stage that I wish every place was more like Iowa, where people just put the boots on and get down to solving problems in a bipartisan spirit, and where biomass is treasured and conservation of the old type — the farmer interested in protecting the health of the soil for the long term and where the equity and not only the moral high ground of disputes is carefully weighed by thoughtful people.

The perfect opener

I wish that every CEO had some qualities I have long seen in Pat Gruber. His company is Gevo, which has been around so long I have forgotten the date of its founding. I believe the Roman emperor Claudius may have issued coinage in Gevo’s support, and I may have learned to conjugate the Latin verb gevo (verb: to wait patiently for returns) in grammar school.

Gevo, gevas, gevat, gevamus, gevatis, gevant.

But I probably have that wrong, the only Latin word anyone uses any more is cannabis, a word I believe means “to find new investors by pivoting to a trendy molecule”. It has been a long time since Latin class.

The great CEOs have a capacity to endure, right out of Shackleton by way of Amundsen. Yep, Pat has that. So do Jennifer Holmgren, Eric McAfee and John Melo, and Jim Macias, just to name a handful. You walk the lonely road alone, as Green Day observed in Boulevard of Broken Dreams. There are several dozen of them, sharing a remarkable quality of the type well summed up in Bridge of Spies:

Rudolf Abel: Standing there like that you reminded me of the man that used to come to our house when I was young. My father used to say: “watch this man”, so I did, every time he came. And never once he do anything remarkable.

James Donovan: And I remind you of him?

Rudolf Abel: This one time, I was at the age of your son, our house is overrun by partisan border guards. Dozens of them. My father was beaten, my mother was beaten, and this man, my father’s friend, he was beaten. And I watched this man. Every time they hit him, he stood back up again. Soldier hit him harder, still he got back up to his feet. I think because of this they stopped the beating and let him live. “Stoikiy muzhik”. Which sort of means like a “standing man”. Standing man.

Stoikiy muzhik. They have that quality, each of them.

However, it is the way that Pat Gruber begins my favorite presentation of his that is really remarkable to me. He has the perfect opening line, one that will never, could never be bettered. Pericles never found a better opener, and neither did Kennedy.

We’ve got a problem, he begins.

This is not the lconic “Houston, we’ve got a problem” you heard from Jack Swigert during the Apollo 13 crisis. Swigert delivered it like an afterthought, by the way, dudes, we’ve had this explosion in the spacecraft. FYI, ICYMI, just saying.

You haven’t really lived until you hear the same line, delivered by Pat Gruber. It’s a plosive, rhotic assault on a microphone, a cross between Gilbert Gottfried’s AFLAC duck and the trumpets that felled Jericho. It compels attention faster than a siren.

WE’VE GAWT A PRAWB-LEM!!!

Every bioeconomy presentation ought to begin that way.

You see, bioeconomy begins with a problem, a question of feedstock. We’re venting something we oughtn’t, flaring when we shouldn’t, landfilling what we can’t anymore.  We’re losing money and wrecking the planet, or you might express that in the opposite order, your call.

We vent, landfill, sequester, flare what there is no value in keeping. Waste is for the toilet, the bin, the sky, the river, the soil, the sewer. We get it away from us until we don’t see it, smell it, or suffer from it anymore, and until this age that’s generally been all that that we have done.

The problem is not pollution. Pollution is only the odious mask the devil wears. The problem is the lack of value. No one landfills diamonds and no one dumps gold in the sewer.

So, what is bioeconomy? Bioeconomy is the art of bringing value to the valueless. It is an arbitrage born of technology.  It is a solution through value creation. Not enough jobs in rural areas? Not enough energy security? Too many greenhouse gas emissions? Stock price too low?

Find value in waste until it isn’t waste any more, that’s a story any six-year old can follow. Or, a distracted Wall Street investor with 10x more opportunities, a quarter the staff, and 50x the pressure of a generation ago.

Or the distracted community member overwhelmed with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, email, robocalls and all the personal and professional calls on his or her attention, with more profit to make, less team to make it with, rising costs, parents to care for, children to raise, medical prices out of whack and unspeakable costs for education.

Or the distracted policymaker wondering how the heck to pierce the noise blanketing the electorate, and how to parse through a multi-trillion budget with the same size brain and 24-hour clock that we had in the days when we lived in African trees.

The Story

The answers that technology provide are contained in the hard data but the data is best shared in saga form. It’s Robin Hood, Star Wars, the Knights of the Round Table: a problem, a solution, and bounties equitably shared.

You could call them first base, second base, third base. And what is home plate? That’s the permission to operate you’ll receive from those to whom you present — a permit, a funding, an offtake contract, a loan, a “yes, I’ll work for you”, a raw material, a willing customer.

The world is filled with all too many roads leading to No. But we only need one river to Yes, if we can find it.

WE’VE GAWT A PRAWB-LEM!! That’s how you start your story.

After all, sagas are powerful and enduring. The wrathful strategic investor: Yahweh in the Noah’s Ark saga? Land use change: Cain and Abel? Sustainable feedstocks: Eve tempted by an apple. Labor trouble run amok: the escape of the Hebrews from Egypt? Destructive management rivalry: Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat? The Bible has captivated us because it reveals its wisdom in stories rather than graphs.

From dust we came and to dust we shall return, yet in our own swift, short days of life in the sunshine, we have stories to tell, good stories, stories of technology, of living better and wiser through the power of science: these are our bioeconomy stories.

Tell them well and you’ll be asked to tell them often. And, after a long and difficult odyssey, your project will bloom, and your stakeholders will say yes it might as well be you as another, yes they’ll say yes they will Yes.

Categories: Today's News

Renewable Polymer Plant: The Digest’s 2019 Multi-Slide Guide to Avantium

Biofuels Digest - Mon, 06/24/2019 - 6:21pm

Avantium, a renewable chemicals company, develops and commercializes biobased plastics, chemicals, and fuels. The company offers polyethylene furanoate (PEF), a biobased and recyclable polymer that is used in various applications, such as packaging of soft drinks, water, alcoholic beverages, fruit juices, and food and non-food products.

Marcel Lubben, Managing Director of Avantium, shared the latest about their plant-based PEF and their way towards the flagship plant and licensing business, the must-haves for next phase of commercialization, the timeline path to commercialization, and more at ABLC 2019 in Washington, D.C.

Categories: Today's News

Hawaii’s Feeling Hot, Hot, Hot!: The Digest’s 2019 Multi-Slide Guide to Tropical Feedstocks

Biofuels Digest - Sun, 06/23/2019 - 5:05pm

The University of Hawai’i is on top of the latest research on Hawaii’s tropical agriculture, its hot zone and tropical feedstocks for the bioeconomy.

Peter Matlock, Strategic Advisor for Aviation Fuels and Special Projects for Joint BioEnergy Institute and who is developing the Institute for Tropical BioEconomy at the University of Hawaii, Hilo, gave this illuminating overview of why the tropics matter for the bioeconomy, why Hawaii’s benchmark soils are important, thoughts on various tropical feedstocks and what they can be used for including dual-use crops like sorghum, cassava, tropical grasses, and more at ABLC 2019 in Washington, D.C.

                                 

Categories: Today's News

SAF taking off in Brazil with Boeing, RSB, WWF collaboration

Biofuels Digest - Sat, 06/22/2019 - 11:22am

Boeing announced a big bucks $1 million investment into the Brazilian bioeconomy, working with WWF and RSB. But these three amigos aren’t big cowboy movie stars from the silent era, but like the comedic Steve Martin, Chevy Chase, and Martin Short, these three powerhouses realize that working together gets a heck of a lot more done than working alone.

This investment and collaboration will focus on identifying suitable feedstocks and supporting small-scale farmers across the country achieve RSB certification for the production of biomass for alternative fuels. The project will also support a diversification of production that will fuel the broader regional bioeconomy.

Project specifics

The three organizations will start the project by identifying small communities of farmers in Brazil with the most promising potential to provide biomass for SAF production. The producers will then be certified using sustainability indicators that drive social benefits such as income generation, solid labor practices and food security. Groups of small farmers that produce sugarcane and macaúba oil in southeast Brazil have already been certified by RSB in recent years, with Boeing’s financial support.

This $1 million investment provides an additional layer to the Fuelling the Sustainable Bioeconomy project – a partnership between RSB and WWF and powered by Boeing’s Global Engagement portfolio. The project aims to help the aviation industry play a leading role in tackling the threat of climate change, creating jobs, stimulating economic growth, developing rural livelihoods and protecting the environment.

RSB’s take

“Boeing aims to develop a truly sustainable aviation industry that will maximize the environmental, social and economic benefits of the bioeconomy – and RSB’s approach to sustainability will be key in guiding this investment,” according to RSB. “RSB’s approach to sustainability has been developed by a multi-stakeholder group of industry, business, NGOs and civil society and is widely acknowledged as a uniquely credible and practical solution for growing a sustainable bioeconomy.”

Travelling on an RSB-certified fuel also guarantees a minimum of 50% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions while ensuring that key issues like deforestation, food security, water quality, land and human rights have been taken care of.

What’s WWF role?

WWF is integrated in the aviation and biofuel space with their involvement with SkyNRG – Jenny Walther-Thoss from WWF serves as a member of SkyNRG’s independent Sustainability Board. WWF was pretty excited about the KLM, SkyNRG and SHV Energy work towards the world’s largest stand-alone sustainable aviation fuels project, as reported in The Digest in May.

In this case, however, WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature) will be working with RSB to ensure sustainability in feedstock options and farming practices in order to increase the capacity for sustainable production for the aviation sector.

There’s some long history coming into play here. Boeing has played a key role as an RSB member in developing this approach and has collaborated with RSB and WWF on various projects over the last 6 years to advance the growth of a truly sustainable aviation industry in Brazil and globally.

“By ensuring that their investment in the bioeconomy in Brazil is anchored in the best-in-class sustainability of the RSB standard, Boeing is helping to grow an aviation industry that creates jobs and boosts the Brazilian economy without negatively impacting food security, biodiversity, land access or water rights and security,” according to RSB.

Boeing’s take

This latest investment builds on Boeing’s long-standing commitment to supporting and developing Brazil’s aviation and aerospace ecosystem through education and training programs, research and development initiatives and industry partnerships, as reported in The Digest last week.

This ain’t no small potatoes. Building the next generation of aviation and aerospace talent is a key focus for Boeing’s community investment around the world. As the world’s largest aerospace company and leading provider of commercial airplanes, defense, space and security systems, and global services, the company supports commercial and government customers in more than 150 countries and employs more than 150,000 people worldwide.

A bit of background on Boeing’s work in Africa before Brazil – From 2016–2018, Boeing Global Engagement provided three years of grants to South Africa’s micro-, small- and medium-sized businesses to help them participate in the emerging green economy and build a local, sustainable aviation fuel market.

These grants were also awarded to the World Wildlife Fund in South Africa and the Roundtable for Sustainable Biomaterials in Geneva, Switzerland, to help them evaluate the impacts of sustainable fuel feedstocks and engage with small farmers to build capacity and integrate sustainability into their operations.

The funding led to a better understanding of the most promising African locations for additional biomass to support the production of sustainable aviation fuel. It also laid the foundation for scaling up sustainable aviation fuel production.

You can read more on Boeing’s 2019 Environment Report here.

Reactions from the stakeholders

Brazil is a biofuel powerhouse and we believe this leadership can also translate into benefits for small farmers and communities who are at the forefront of the multi-feedstock supply chain that can support biojet fuel production in the country,” said Marc Allen, senior vice president of Boeing and president of Embraer Partnership & Group Operations.

“Over the past 10 years, Boeing has invested more than USD 2 million in community projects in Brazil,” said Allen. “Brazil is a leader in the global aerospace industry and Boeing is committed to working with our local partners to ensure it remains at the forefront of innovation for generations to come.”

“Boeing’s commitment to ensuring real and credible sustainability in the growing bioeconomy has seen them play a hands-on role in Brazil and beyond for many years,” said RSB’s Executive Director, Rolf Hogan. “This new piece in the puzzle reaffirms that commitment and we are looking forward to working with farmers, business, industry, government and other stakeholders in shaping this latest investment in growing a strong and sustainable bioeconomy which will create opportunities for all as we win the fight against climate change and environmental degradation.”

Bottom Line

A beautiful trifecta of cooperation – Boeing, RSB and WWF.

RSB’s hard work for many years to move aviation fuels forward in terms of sustainable goals is coming to fruition.

WWF’s vision of making one of the transportation industry’s largest carbon emitters per passenger a bit more planet friendly is being realized.

And of course, Boeing in all its large global gloriousness is making it all come true with implementation in the real-world.

It’s nice to see organizations walk the walk and not just talk the talk. It’s like the Three Amigos movie where fantasy becomes reality, and working together helps make things happen that can’t be done alone.

And we expect more…Boeing gave a heads up that the company expects to make an announcement about further investment in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education in Brazil in the coming weeks, so stay tuned.

Categories: Today's News

NREL’s new nitrides could prove useful for many applications

Biofuels Digest - Sat, 06/22/2019 - 11:18am

In Washington, D.C., scientists at NREL; Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL); University of Colorado, Boulder (CU); and other partner institutions around the country created a large stability map of the ternary nitrides, highlighting nitride compositions where experimental discovery is promising, and other compositions where nitride formation would be unlikely. For chemists attempting to create new nitrides in the laboratory, this map will be a significantly valuable tool, according to NREL.

Formed when metallic elements combine with nitrogen, nitrides can possess unique properties with potential applications spanning from semiconductors to industrial coatings. One nitride semiconductor served as the cornerstone of a Nobel Prize-winning technology for light-emitting diodes (LEDs). But before nitrides can be put to use, they first must be discovered—and now, researchers have a map to guide them, according to NREL.

“Certainly, these materials have many possible new functional applications,” Wenhao Sun, lead author of the paper and staff scientist at LBNL, said. “Some of them are semiconductors and others might be superconductors. Many of them might have applications we haven’t even dreamed of yet. There are a lot of directions for this to go.”

Categories: Today's News

Trump asks EPA to review expansion of biofuel waivers

Biofuels Digest - Sat, 06/22/2019 - 11:17am

In Washington, D.C., back from his Midwest tour hearing from frustrated corn farmers and biofuel industry representatives, President Trump requested that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency review the expanded use of waivers that exempt small refineries from the Renewable Fuel Standard.

According to Reuters, sources said that as soon as Trump returned from the Midwest trip, he “asked the heads of the EPA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to find solutions to address the farmers’ concerns. They said the EPA is now considering limiting use of the waivers or forcing larger refiners to make up for the exempted gallons – or a combination of both.”

Not everyone is happy though – especially the oil industry. “The president has made promises to refiners, too,” Derrick Morgan, senior vice president of the refining trade group American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers told Reuters. “He promised to keep refineries competitive and he made promises to keep regulatory costs down, and we hope he keeps those promises.”

The EPA has more than quadrupled the number of waivers it has granted with 35 waivers granted in 2017 (including waivers for profitable big companies like Exxon Mobile and Chevron) and 39 waivers pending in 2018.

Categories: Today's News

1.4% decrease in ethanol production this week

Biofuels Digest - Sat, 06/22/2019 - 11:14am

In Washington, D.C. ethanol production scaled back 15,000 barrels per day (b/d), a 1.4% decrease, at an average of 1.081 million barrels per day (b/d)— 45.40 million gallons daily, according to EIA data analyzed by the Renewable Fuels Association. However, the four-week average ethanol production rate moved 0.3% higher to 1.070 million b/d, equivalent to an annualized rate of 16.40 billion gallons (bg).

Ethanol stocks tightened by 0.9% to 21.6 million barrels, a 55-week low. Reserves were 0.2% lower compared to year ago volumes and 3.0% below two years ago this week. Stocks built in the Rocky Mountain (PADD 4) and West Coast (PADD 5) regions but declined across the other PADDs. There were zero imports recorded after 44,000 b/d hit the books last week. (Weekly export data for ethanol is not reported simultaneously; the latest export data is as of April 2019.)

The volume of gasoline supplied rose 0.5% to a record 9.928 million b/d (417.0 million gallons per day, or 152.20 bg annualized). Refiner/blender net inputs of ethanol decreased 1.2% to 942,000 b/d, equivalent to 14.44 bg annualized, but remained 0.7% above the year-ago level. Expressed as a percentage of daily gasoline demand, daily ethanol production decreased to 10.89%.

Categories: Today's News

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