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Today's News

Ethanol production picks back up but stocks continue to fall

Biofuels Digest - Thu, 05/31/2018 - 5:07pm

In Washington, Platts reports that Energy Information Administration data showed a 13,000 bpd jump on ethanol production over the previous week to 1.041 million bpd. Yet despite the return to higher production volumes, stocks still fell in four out of five regions to 21.263 million barrels, down 866,000 barrels from the week prior. The Rocky Mountain region was the only one to add stocks but it was meager at just 1,000 barrels while the Gulf Coast was the largest loser at 544,000 barrels.

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Berkeley Lab researchers use machine learning to speed up microbe design for biofuel production

Biofuels Digest - Thu, 05/31/2018 - 5:06pm

In California, Scientists from the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have developed a way to use machine learning to dramatically accelerate the design of microbes that produce biofuel.

Their computer algorithm starts with abundant data about the proteins and metabolites in a biofuel-producing microbial pathway, but no information about how the pathway actually works. It then uses data from previous experiments to learn how the pathway will behave. The scientists used the technique to automatically predict the amount of biofuel produced by pathways that have been added to E. coli bacterial cells.

The new approach is much faster than the current way to predict the behavior of pathways, and promises to speed up the development of biomolecules for many applications in addition to commercially viable biofuels, such as drugs that fight antibiotic-resistant infections and crops that withstand drought.

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EPA grants free RINs to oil refiners denied hardship waivers in 2014 and 2015

Biofuels Digest - Thu, 05/31/2018 - 5:06pm

In Washington, Reuters reports that the Environmental Protection Agency has awarded HollyFrontier nearly $34 million worth of RINs to make up for a hardship waiver application denied in 2015 and an undisclosed amount of RINs for Sinclair to compensate for waivers denied in 2014 and 2015 for two of its refineries. All three refineries are located in Wyoming. The award of RINs is the first time the EPA has made such a move, one that will no doubt draw further ire from critics.

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The Always & Forever Department: Immortality bioscience aims at dogs now, humans later

Biofuels Digest - Thu, 05/31/2018 - 3:45pm

It may surprise some, who have been planning on funding their retirements for a couple of decades, to learn that there is a science of immortality at all. It will shock most to discover that work is progressing on specific age-defying technologies from mice to dogs, and that human trials may be on the radar in a few years. For now, life-extending rather than immortality-conferring. 

It will not shock readers to discover that this area of technology has drawn the eye of some, ahem, aging yet powerful investors and that the entire field is steeped in a series of back-and-forths over claims of hype, the real potential and likelihood of such technologies and even the ethics of using them.

Let’s take a look. 

Rejuvenate Bio

The source of the most recent news in the field is not surprisingly out of George Church’s lab at Harvard — where we heard just a few years ago that there was an effort on to revive the woolly mammoth, and from which lab hath spewed an entire catalogue of sometimes exciting, sometimes improbable bursts of technology.

In the year 8585, if George Church is still alive…he might look even younger than today.

Out of the lab has come a spin-out called Rejuvenate Bio, and here’s a recent flyer which, as you can see, offers a potential to make selected pets “healthier, happier, and younger.”  Daniel Oliver, a co-founder of the 3D printing technology Voxel8 and an entrepreneur in residence of late at Harvard’s Wyss Institute of Biologically Inspired Engineering, has signed on a CEO.

The science lead is a postdoc out of the Church lab and the Wyss Institute’s Synthetic Biology group, biological engineer Noah Davidsohn, who aims “to develop an age reversal therapeutic using CRSPR technology”.

The company picked up an SBIR grant from the US military last year, which award noted:

“Rejuvenate Bio has developed three gene therapies that can increase the stress-resistance, health and lifespan of mice as well as mitigate three different age-related diseases (heart failure, diabetes and obesity). We believe that these therapies will also enhance performance due to their modulations of stress responses and metabolic energy pathways. As a first step toward developing therapies in canines, we propose to measure the effect of these gene therapies on endurance, speed of recovery, and heat tolerance using treadmill experiments in mice.”

The Phase II research focus? “Completion of this Phase I study will enable us to begin Phase II testing of these therapies ability to enhance canine performance. By overcoming the inherent delays and scaling issues of traditional breeding programs, gene therapies will enable the rapid distribution of performance enhancements to current and future MPCs.”

The technology in question: gene therapy

Here’s what happens in gene therapy. Turns out, you can’t just stuff new DNA into an old cell. But you can modify certain viruses to make them harmless to humans (or your test animal of choice), then “new and improved” DNA is inserted into the virus, which is injected or given via IV, where the virus introduce the DNA into the nucleus of the cell. 

The US National Library of Medicine illustrates it this way.

What can it do?

For now, the target according to the Churchians is to give a person the means to live to 130 with the body of a 22-year-old. 

Now, there is research that has doubled the lifespan of selected worms and flies. And there’s been some interesting progress with mice.  Rejuvenate noted that its technology has been tested on at least four beagles, and the company is attempting to generate funding and test subjects around the elimination of a well-known heart defect that impacts King Charles Spaniels.

Why dogs? According to MIT Technology Review, George Church explained to some eventgoers recently, “It’s not just a big organism close to humans. It’s something people will pay for, and the FDA process is much faster. We’ll do dog trials, and that’ll be a product, and that’ll pay for scaling up in human trials. You don’t want to go to the FDA and say we extend life by 20 years. They’d say, ‘Great, come back in 20 years with the data.’” 

What’s the scientific basis of all this?

Yes, there’s something meaningful behind all of this. Via gene therapy, it is possible (so far, in mice) to return cells to a state of youthfulness last seen in the embryo. Getting multiple cells to reset themselves to a youthful state? Tougher nugget. Whole organs or body functions? Harder still? And to reverse aging across the entire human portfolio of millions of cells? As yet, a daunting target. With the potential for unintended consequences, and trade-offs along the way.

But who doesn’t want their pet dog to wag their tail with puppy vigor for years, or even decades, longer? And who will be able to resist the temptation to dabble in age-reversal for humans. Dying isn’t popular, and since you can;’t take it with you, the potential investor pool for immortality science is broad and deep.

Will we live forever? Who knows? 

Then again, engineers have found digital means of ensuring that re-runs of “My Mother The Car” will be available for thousands of years. In which Gladys Crabtree returns from the dead to haunt her adult son David (played by Jerry Van Dyke) by speaking to him through the radio of a 1928 Porter Touring Car. The series probably wouldn’t ever have been made, except for the singular appeal of an unexplained technology that allowed a form of immortality to the mother.

Mom Forever. Starting with a King Charles Spaniel for a lot longer. It’s a powerful idea, and here’s Rejuvenate Bio to tantalize us with some plausible science and, er, bold vision. We’ll stand by as immortality science aims to take a giant leap forward.

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The west’s pure-play ethanol kings: The Digest’s 2018 Multi-Slide Guide to Pacific Ethanol

Biofuels Digest - Thu, 05/31/2018 - 12:08pm

Pacific Ethanol was founded in 2003 as the first pure-play ethanol company and today is a leading producer and marketer of low-carbon renewable fuels with 9 strategically located bio-refineries in the U.S., production capacity of 605M gallons/yr., a current run rate of 1B gallons/yr. of marketing volume, and co-product production capacity of over 1.5M tons/yr. (on a dry matter basis). The company is positioned to access 48 states and export markets with fuel ethanol and industrial-grade alcohol production and marketing.

Here’s an edited version of the company’s most recent slides for investors and the public.

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RFA launches $1 million “Fuel Your Knowledge” educational campaign

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 05/30/2018 - 5:20pm

In Washington, the Renewable Fuels Association is gearing up for summer by launching a new $1 million consumer-focused educational campaign called “Fuel Your Knowledge.” The campaign will educate and inform consumers about the proper use of ethanol-blended fuels in boats, motorcycles, lawn and garden equipment and other off-road engines.  This effort is intended to correct the record on the use of ethanol blends in small and off-road engines, educate the owners of these engines on what fuels they can legally and safely use, and highlight the benefits of choosing ethanol blends.

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Bulgaria’s B6 set for implementation September 1

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 05/30/2018 - 5:19pm

In Bulgaria, the new 6% biodiesel blending mandate will come into effect on September 1 with 1% of the mandate to be supplied from non-food crop-based biodiesel including waste and residues, algae, pomace, sludge waste, crops, manure and others. Part of the new regulations supporting the mandate includes feedstock traceability to ensure feedstocks can’t be manipulated in order to comply with the advanced biofuel set-aside requirement. The country is working towards compliance with the EU’s Renewable Energy Directive that will require 10% blending by 2020.

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Longping look to growing Brazilian corn ethanol industry to help double market share

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 05/30/2018 - 5:18pm

In Brazil, Reuters reports that the new Chinese owners of DowDuPont’s Brazilian seed business Longping are looking to double their market share in the country’s corn seed market to 30% from the current 15% partly on the back of growth in the corn ethanol sector in the center-west region. The company is also looking to get into soybean seed as it sees the two crops as interlinked in Brazil, so for its corn business to grow it must also supply soybean seed.

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Rottneros, Preem and RenFuel to build first lignin plant for biofuels

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 05/30/2018 - 5:17pm

In Sweden, Preem and RenFuel are assessing, in collaboration with Rottneros, the construction of the world’s first lignin plant for biofuels, at the pulp mill in Vallvik, Söderhamn. The plant is expected to produce an annual volume of 25,000-30,000 tons of lignin, and will be completed in 2021.  

The collaboration between the companies means that Preem will be the first fuel manufacturer in Sweden to use lignin in its production. Via the company Lignolproduktion AB, which is jointly owned by Preem and RenFuel, the aim is to reach a total annual production capacity of 300,000-500,000 tons of lignin, based on the assumption that more plants similar to that in Vallvik are established in the future.  

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Northeast Asian ethanol market getting concerned over Brazilian truckers strike

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 05/30/2018 - 5:16pm

In Singapore, ICIS reports that the Brazilian truckers strike has seen hydrous ethanol trade in Northeast Asia grind to a halt, although prices are holding steady at around $605-620/ton CFR, roughly three year highs, until they are heard differently. In the meantime, no one is talking within the trade. ICIS said Asian buyers were checking with their Brazilian suppliers to find out if shipments would be delayed but there was no clarity on the issue.

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China sourcing ethanol from Central America after US arb window closed

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 05/30/2018 - 5:15pm

In China, Platts reports that with the ethanol arbitrage window tightly shut against the US after imposition of an additional 15% import tariff, importers are instead looking towards origins in Central and South America to source needed supplies. Shipments heard include a likely one-off duty-free shipment of up to 17,000 metric tons from Costa Rica to a Chinese oil refiner for prompt loading. Other Central American origins who would traditionally ship to Europe but have hit a weak market there are courting China instead.

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Swedish researcher says EU biofuel regulations don’t guarantee sustainability

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 05/30/2018 - 5:14pm

In Sweden, EU biofuel regulation does not guarantee a reduced climate impact – nor does it address the core issue of substantially reducing transport emissions, according to a new doctoral thesis from Lund University in Sweden.

“On a smaller scale, biofuels can be a good alternative for public transport, but we cannot solve the climate issue by simply replacing fossil fuels with biofuels. Instead, we must reduce our energy consumption, as the total energy consumption within road transports is not decreasing”, explains David Harnesk, researcher at the Lund University Centre for Sustainability Studies.

In his thesis, David Harnesk studied the effects of the EU’s biofuel regulation, specifically the Renewable Energy Directive from 2009, investigating how well the directive meets its goals of reducing the climate impact from the transport sector and promoting rural development. The directive introduces a regulatory framework to ensure that, by 2020, the share of energy from renewable sources will correspond to 10% of the transport sector’s energy consumption.

The study argues that EU biofuel regulation is neither environmentally sustainable nor socially beneficial in the long term. Essentially, it benefits the EU market, without taking into account the directive’s impacts outside the region. He suggests that, in part, the directive and its predecessors were drafted in an effort to support the energy and agriculture sector in Europe, which was experiencing an economic crisis at the time.

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Ethanol industry teams with farmers to sue EPA over issuing of hardship waivers

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 05/30/2018 - 5:13pm

In Washington, the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), National Corn Growers Association (NCGA), American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) and National Farmers Union (NFU), with support of Farmers Union Enterprises, filed suit in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit to challenge several waivers from the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) granted in secret to profitable refining companies.

The petitioners are challenging three EPA decisions, made under unusually clandestine proceedings, to exempt refineries in Wynnewood, Oklahoma; Cheyenne, Wyoming; and Woods Cross, Utah from the RFS requirements of the Clean Air Act. The Wynnewood refinery is owned by Wynnewood Refining Company, a subsidiary of CVR Energy, and the Cheyenne and Woods Cross refineries are owned by Holly Frontier Corporation. The companies have since estimated in financial disclosures that the exemptions have saved them a collective $170 million in compliance costs.

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Canada ❤ bioneers: BioIndustrial Innovation Canada & Ontario bust another move in the bioeconomy with Comet Biorefining invest

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 05/30/2018 - 3:32pm

In Canada, Ontario is investing up to $8 million in Comet Biorefining’s $79.8 million bio-based ingredient project through its Jobs and Prosperity Fund – Food and Beverage Growth Fund. The investment will help to establish the world’s first commercial-scale bio-based ingredient refinery in Ontario.

The news is just part of the picture for BioIndustrial Innovation Canada, which has been on an investment tear in recent months in part owing to picking up $12 million from FedDev Ontario for investment in regional diversification.

The basic idea — turn abundant, lower-value Canadian materials like cellulose into higher-value intermediates for the chemical, energy and nutrition industries. BIC’s acceleration activities have been putting Canada at the forefront of blobal bioeconomy development — and in particular, Southern Ontario, home to the Sarnia-Lambton industrial cluster.

It’s one of the most interesting project locations in the world, owing not only to the presence of a wide range of industrial partners and infrastructure in Sarnia via the cluster — but the adjecency to a whole lotta biobased feedstocks including souther Ontario’s substantial corn-growing region and Ontario’s massive forestry assets.

Feedstock, infrastructure, industrial partners and a willing government? It’s a potent combination that has been the catalyst for regional moves by GreenMantra, Benefuel and Origin Materials among others.

BIC invests in GreenMantra Technologies, Benefuel, Origin Materials

In recent weeks, Bioindustrial Innovation Canada made an investment in GreenMantra Technologies, a Brantford-based company that has made significant progress in up-cycling waste plastics, building a substantial ‘clean-tech’ enterprise by producing high value applications for their regional customers.

GMT has systematically increased its portfolio over time by continually adjusting their patented thermo-catalytic depolymerization process, allowing the company to effectively tailor applications for their customers using waste polyethylene, polypropylene and polystyrene.  GMT’s process has already been proven on a commercial scale, as the company has healthy sales volumes and positive customer reviews attesting to the superior quality of the various products, which GMT’s wax additives are utilized in.


In April, we reported that Bioindustrial Innovation Canada approved an investment as part of Benefuel’s current financing round. This investment will allow Benefuel to complete the engineering needed as a final step before the construction of its first, commercial demonstration plant in Sarnia. Bioindustrial Innovation Canada (BIC) has been working with Benefuel for a number of years, providing advice and services in anticipation of Benefuel’s decision to build its first, commercial-scale ENSEL plant in Sarnia, Ont.

The ENSEL process combines the two main reactions for biodiesel production, esterification and trans-esterification, into a single step. This allows Benefuel to use a broad range of low cost, low carbon feedstocks resulting, in a negative carbon intensity fuel.

And last June we reported that BIC made a COMM SCI investment in Origin Materials, Sacramento, California, through BIC’s Sustainable Chemistry Alliance investment fund, as part of an investment round that will see Origin construct its first commercial scale demonstration facility in Sarnia by late 2018.

Origin has developed unique and proprietary technology which allows it to transform multiple bio-based feedstocks into a broad range of chemical intermediates with large existing market demand. The company has successfully demonstrated the technology in its Sacramento pilot plant but chose Sarnia for its first commercial scale demonstration due to the unique nature of the biocluster which has been growing in the Sarnia region in recent years.

This cluster allows Origin to not only locally source feedstocks but have a ready market in the biochemical value chain. Origin is supported by partnerships with several global consumer products companies that will benefit from bio-based packaging created from the Company’s bio-intermediates.

The BioIndustrial Innovation Canada backstory

Bioindustrial Innovation Canada (BIC) is a not-for-profit organization that began in 2008 as a business accelerator for sustainable chemistry. One of the early initiatives at BIC was to evaluate technologies to convert biomass (corn stover and wheat straw) into sugars for producing energy and value-added chemicals for commercial and biofuel industries. 

Back in 2016, BCI made a major move in establishing COMM SCI  — the Centre for Commercialization of Sustainable Chemistry — to act as a hub for the commercialization of sustainable chemistry and bio-based innovation. BIC has a partnership with Cycle Capital Management and ArcTern Ventures to cooperate in seeking sustainable investment candidates.


The Ontario backstory

Since January 2013, Ontario has committed over $950 million in projects administered under JPF, leveraging over $12 billion in total investment. This is helping to create and retain approximately 55,000 jobs. 

The Comet backstory

Comet Biorefining produces sustainable, high-quality ingredients for the food and beverage, animal nutrition and biomaterials markets. The company’s proprietary ingredient technology allows for the conversion of agricultural residues, such as wheat straw, corn stover and wood products, into high purity ingredients. The new production plant in Sarnia for high- quality, sustainable ingredients that will help to directly create 82 new jobs and 158 new indirect jobs, including those in harvesting, construction, farming and manufacturing.

Reaction from the Stakeholders on the Comet investment

“Our government’s investment in Comet Biorefining will help position the company to compete globally. This will in turn help create and retain jobs, boost Sarnia’s local economy and support the competitiveness and further growth of Ontario’s agri-food sector. Through the Jobs and Prosperity Fund, our government is helping foster growth in Ontario’s food and beverage processing and bioeconomy sector.”- Jeff Leal, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs 

“With support from the Jobs and Prosperity Fund, Comet Biorefining boosts its competitiveness, further strengthens Ontario’s innovative bio-economy cluster and creates jobs. The project demonstrates how strategic partnerships are building opportunity while positioning the province for long-term growth.”- Steven Del Duca, Minister of Economic Development and Growth 

“This investment will provide us with important financial support needed to move forward with the construction of our commercial-scale facility in Sarnia. Once completed, this facility will produce sustainable ingredients for customers across North American and provide a win for local farmers, a win for the environment, and a win for the Canadian bioeconomy as a whole. We thank the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs for their support of this project and leadership in making Canada a global front-runner for the manufacturing of bio- based products.” – Rich Troyer, CEO of Comet Biorefining 

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The Digest’s 2018 Multi-Slide Guide to Renewable Energy Group

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 05/30/2018 - 8:34am

Renewable Energy Group, Inc. (Nasdaq: REGI) is a leading provider of cleaner, lower carbon intensity products and services. The company is a major  international producer of biomass-based diesel, a developer of renewable chemicals and North America’s largest producer of advanced biofuel. REG utilizes an integrated procurement, distribution, and logistics network to convert natural fats, oils, greases and sugars into lower carbon intensity products. The company comprises 14 active biorefineries, a feedstock processing facility, research and development capabilities and a diverse and growing intellectual property portfolio.

REG gave this illuminating overview of the company’s promise and progress.

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Edmonton airport teams with NextStep to develop an aviation biofuel supply chain

Biofuels Digest - Tue, 05/29/2018 - 7:15pm

In Canada, Edmonton International Airport (EIA) and NextStep Renewable Energy Inc. announced the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding to bring forward low-carbon, renewable fuels into the aviation and airport sectors, which will generate jobs, economic diversification and economic growth. Together, EIA and NSRE will utilize existing, proven, market ready technology for deployment in Alberta to address the void of supply for low-carbon fuels in Canada. This work will focus on building domestic and global relationships that will be a foundation for business growth in Alberta connected to the low-carbon economy.

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Strukton Rail becomes the first in the Netherlands to use sustainable biofuels

Biofuels Digest - Tue, 05/29/2018 - 7:14pm

In the Netherlands, Strukton Rail, together with GoodFuels (supplier of sustainable biofuels) and Hans de Baat Olieprodukten BV (distributor), signed a multi-year cooperation agreement to reduce the CO 2 emissions of the rollers (cranes on lorries) by switching from fossil fuels to sustainable biofuels. This makes Strukton Rail’s crane company the first party in the railway sector to take this step towards sustainability, a step that will immediately have a positive effect on the CO 2 footprint of Strukton Rail and the working environment of the employees.

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Brazil lowers biofuel blending mandates in face of truckers strike

Biofuels Digest - Tue, 05/29/2018 - 7:13pm

In Brazil, ICIS reports that the country lowered its blending mandates for both ethanol and biodiesel last week in response to the truckers’ strike that kept fuel from reaching depots and consumers such as sugar mills. Biodiesel is allowed for blends as high as possible but not mandated at 10% as usual while ethanol blending has been cut to 18% from 27%. Although the government offered a deal last week to lower fuel prices temporarily, some truckers remained on strike and logistics across the country remain compromised.

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University of Birmingham invests in Tyseley Energy Park

Biofuels Digest - Tue, 05/29/2018 - 7:10pm

In the UK, University of Birmingham announced that it has invested GBP2.5 million in the Tyseley Energy Park (TEP) to work towards overcoming challenges such as energy poverty and poor air quality in the West Midlands.

The West Midlands region faces severe energy business and social challenges; energy poverty is the worst in the UK; there is a high concentration of intensive manufacturing; poor quality air and areas of electricity grid constraint.

Tyseley Energy Park, developed by Webster and Horsfall’s 300-year-old manufacturing business, is set to become the energy and waste nexus for the city of Birmingham, showing how novel energy technologies can form an innovative industrial ecology. It will help shape the way the City of Birmingham develops infrastructure for renewable heat and power, energy storage, clean transport fuels in combination with advanced waste processing.

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Indian sugar miller to invest $11.8 million in ethanol production

Biofuels Digest - Tue, 05/29/2018 - 7:09pm

In India, BK Birla has decided to invest $11.8 million in an ethanol distillery to help boost supplies for regional blending after failing to sell of the sugarcane mill in Bihar altogether. Two years ago, the group decided to spin off the sugar unit from its tea business to facilitate the sale but has made no progress in the divestment. With construction set to begin later this year, it ethanol production should be ready to start in time for the 2019/2020 sugarcane crush.

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