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Today's News

Iowa RFIP spurs $138M in private investment as blender pump program runs dry 

Biofuels Digest - Thu, 03/29/2018 - 8:07pm

In Iowa,  the Iowa Renewable Fuels Infrastructure Program (RFIP) yesterday awarded all of its remaining FY18 funds during its third quarter meeting due to rising retailer interest in offering higher blends of biofuels,

The RFIP board awarded funds to 15 projects for retailers around the state to install the necessary equipment to offer higher blends of ethanol and biodiesel. Due to lack of funds, some retailers were turned away and no funds remain for any fourth quarter applications. This is the second straight year that demand has exceeded funding for the program.

The RFIP provides cost-share dollars to retailers to help increase consumer access to renewable fuels. For every dollar of state funding invested in the program since its inception, 4 dollars of private investment has resulted, totaling over $138 million in private economic activity.

RFIP cost-share grants are offered to Iowa retailers wishing to upgrade fueling infrastructure to offer E15, E85 and/or biodiesel blends. Reimbursement can be up to 70 percent of the installation costs, up to a maximum of $50,000 per project, with a five-year commitment.

“RFIP is the definition of a successful program,” said Iowa Renewable Fuels Association Policy Director Grant Menke. “We’ve seen the number of retail stations offering higher biofuel blends increase dramatically, and interest in the program is still at an all-time high. It is critically important the state continue to make this investment and sustain this momentum toward higher blends.”

More on the story.

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Iowa blender pump founds run out again thanks to high demand

Biofuels Digest - Thu, 03/29/2018 - 5:08pm

In Iowa, due to rising retailer interest in offering higher blends of biofuels, the Iowa Renewable Fuels Infrastructure Program Wednesday awarded all of its remaining FY18 funds during its third quarter meeting.

During the third of its four scheduled meetings, the RFIP board awarded funds to 15 projects for retailers around the state to install the necessary equipment to offer higher blends of ethanol and biodiesel. Due to lack of funds, some retailers were turned away and no funds remain for any fourth quarter applications. This is the second straight year that demand has exceeded funding for the program.

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Argentina raises ethanol prices for both corn and sugarcane yet again

Biofuels Digest - Thu, 03/29/2018 - 5:07pm

In Argentina, the government has raised yet again the price oil companies must pay for corn-based ethanol by 10.5% for March with another 7.96% expected for early April, reaching more than 64 cents per liter. Sugar-based ethanol prices will rise as well, though not as much, by 7.5% in March and another 3.54% in April, bringing the price to 80 cents. The government sets the prices for ethanol required to achieve the 12% blending mandate.

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UK February biodiesel consumption grew faster than fossil diesel

Biofuels Digest - Thu, 03/29/2018 - 5:06pm

In the UK, Platts reports that biodiesel consumption growth outpaced fossil diesel consumption in February with a 27.5% increase of biodiesel demand over January compared to just a 15% increase for its fossil counterpart, which in and of itself was nearly 4% lower on the year. The demand shift pushed the blending by volume to 3.35% compared to just 1.86% in February 2017. It was also up from the 3.03% blending volume reached the month prior.

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ASTM approves use of ethanol for aviation biofuel

Biofuels Digest - Thu, 03/29/2018 - 5:03pm

In Pennsylvania, last week ASTM emerging fuels division voted in favor of a new global specification that can now open the floodgates to significant volumes of renewable aviation fuel. This historic jet fuel specification is a direct nexus between the global ethanol industry and the aviation sector, connecting two mature industries that could never be linked in the past. Now ethanol can be used as a feedstock to make renewable jet fuel. The global network of ethanol production and distribution is well established, as is the downstream petroleum infrastructure delivering jet fuel. This new ASTM specification allows these two global supply chains to connect so as to produce renewable jet fuel in significant volumes, and in places where it could not be produced before.

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Trump advisors urge him to leave RFS to Congress

Biofuels Digest - Thu, 03/29/2018 - 5:02pm

In Washington, Reuters reports that President Trump’s advisors have urged him to allow Congress to resolve the impasse between oil and corn states and when between integrated oil refiners and merchant refiners when it comes to reforming the Renewable Fuel Standard, only falling back on executive action if a resolution can’t be found. Texas Republican Senator John Cornyn is seen as a leading voice in the reform who has been working with oil and corn state colleagues to draft legislation that would agree the path forward.

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Hawaiian entrepreneur wants to grow 31 square miles of hibiscus for biofuels

Biofuels Digest - Thu, 03/29/2018 - 5:01pm

In Hawaii, Lamplighter Energy is looking at buying the famous 85-square-mile Molokai Ranch in order to, in part, grow 31 square miles of hibiscus for biofuel production. The move is controversial because the local community wants the ranch to be used by small farmers to produce food as has been done for generations. The company’s plan would include 8 square miles of land available for farming. A leading local activist has asked the company to give the community six months to come up with options that would allow it to support the biofuel proposal.

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DTU researcher combine pyrolysis with hydrogen-catalyst reaction to produce biofuels

Biofuels Digest - Thu, 03/29/2018 - 5:00pm

In Denmark, researchers at DTU have combined the pyrolysis method and the catalyst reaction with hydrogen in a step called catalytic hydropyrolysis.

It works by feeding a reactor with solid biomass, while the catalyst is in constant motion. Hydrogen is fed in to the base of the reactor, partially lifting the biomass so it can move around. This allows the most reactive molecules in the bio-oil to react with hydrogen as soon as they form.

This prevents the molecules from reaching a state in which they could form coke, and so avoids deactivating the catalyst and removes around 95 per cent of the oxygen in the bio-oil.

This leaves the less reactive molecules (about five per cent), which can be removed by sending the oil through a traditional reactor, containing a catalyst, which is kept fixed.

The traditional reactor resembles those used to remove sulphur from petroleum in a process usually used in oil refineries to avoid sulphur in gasoline and diesel, thereby reducing sulphurous car emissions.

The reaction between hydrogen and biomass produces heat, so there is no need for additional energy during the process.

The product of catalytic hydro-pyrolysis are oil and water, which as we all know, do not like to mix and therefore separate automatically. This is important as it saves on energy-heavy distillation, which is normally used to separate alcohol from water.

This process creates light gases and less coke waste. The lighter gases include methane, ethane, and propane, and significant amounts of carbon monoxide and CO2. The latter two can be further reacted with hydrogen to create methane, which together with other light hydrocarbons can be used as biogas, meaning even less waste from the original biomass.

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Australian E10 policy seen boosting domestic economy

Biofuels Digest - Thu, 03/29/2018 - 4:58pm

In Australia, massive economic, social and environmental benefits that can be delivered to Australians through the creation of a strong bioenergy industry could be lost without clear government strategies.

Increased use of 10 per cent ethanol-blended petrol (E10) in Australia could create more than 8600 direct & indirect jobs, attract A$1.56 billion in investment and generate more than A$1.1 billion in additional revenue each year in regional areas

While the rest of the world embraces the positives biofuels bring, Australia has experienced limited growth.

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TopCat update: Anellotech hits new operating mark, biobased BTX takes a key step forward

Biofuels Digest - Thu, 03/29/2018 - 2:11pm

The unit is called TCat-8 but it really should be TopCat, befitting its position astride the world of bio-based catalytic pyrolyis. In the latest update, Anellotech completed two weeks of continuous operation of the seven-story tall TCat-8 pilot plant, just two months after completing commissioning. With the completion of the milestone, the company received an additional $6M investment from Suntory, part of a previously announced $15 million package. Suntory’s total investment in Anellotech’s program is now more than $30 million.

The key element

For many it will be the Suntory investment, for others the technical milestones. For us, we look at the speed. The company reached 24 hour operation last spring, and completed commissioning at the end of the year.

The technical milestones in more depth

Anellotech’s pilot unit

“We have demonstrated continuous, stable operation of the TCat-8 pilot unit over a two week period as the first key step in demonstrating Bio-TCat’s commercial viability,” said Dr. Charles Sorensen, Chief Technology Officer of Anellotech.

“In a relatively short time period, our pilot plant has generated a large amount of high-quality data which gives us confidence that we will be able to achieve our longer-term operational goals. Continuous catalyst circulation, the injection of solid biomass feedstock into the reactor, and several internal recycle loops create numerous complexities that Anellotech engineers and scientists, together with our R&D partners IFPEN and Johnson Matthey, have successfully addressed.”

Let focus in on three elements there. Continuous catalyst circulation, the injection of solid biomass feedstock into the reactor, and several internal recycle loops. Informed observers have been and will continue to look carefully at process performance. Anellotech ranks very high on the “say when you’ve done it, and not before” scale, and when Charles Sorenson and David Sudolsky put their names on a statement that “Anellotech engineers and scientists, together with our R&D partners IFPEN and Johnson Matthey, “have successfully addressed” these “numerous complexities,” that’s meaningful.

The benzene opportunity

Suntory’s strong interest is in paraxylene. Worth noting that Anellotech’s technology provides a complementary opportunity for companies interested in using bio-benzene or toluene to reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with ABS, nylons, polycarbonates, polyurethanes, detergents, and other aromatic-containing products currently made from petroleum.

Clothing, legos, nylon. There’s a cornucopia of brand owners using BTX molecules and yakking about their commitment to sustainability, and we don’t see too many of them investing into the supply chain to get it. Hmm. You get what you tolerate.

After all, as CEO David Sudolsky noted to The Digest, “100 million tons of BTX is produced every year and grows 4%. A lot of brand owners have sustainability goals, but there just haven’t been options for engineered benzene derived polymers. For those customers, we have something which is not just talk, but a 25 meter tall unit that you can see, with loblolly pine going in, and BTX molecules coming out.”

It would be a striking step forward for customers and their chemical partners to commit, as the airlines did, to not increasing their benzene carbon footprint from, say, 2025 forward. Implemented, say, in North America first, then Europe. That would, right there, create a viable and substantial market for low-carbon BTX of millions of tons per year.

The Anellotech product set

Anellotech is producing aromatics (primarily benzene, toluene, and xylenes) from loblolly pine feedstock, as “drop in” replacements for their identical petroleum-derived counterparts, and can be used in manufacturing plastics such as polyester, nylon, polycarbonate, polystyrene, or for renewable transportation fuels. The low carbon footprint of Bio-TCat products can help chemical producers and consumer brand owners meet challenging corporate environmental sustainability goals.

Or, you can simply use the ingredients as sustainable gasoline blendstock.

Next steps

An LCA analysis to substantiate the greenhouse gas emission reductions is going to be high on the list for most partners — after all, these are drop-in replacement molecules, and the attriibute of interest is sustainability and quantifying the benefit is going to rapidly become a must-have.

The R&D program will generate bio-based BTX samples for use in making prototype samples of PET polymer for bio-based bottles and benzene-based polymers such as ABS, polycarbonate and polyurethane for strategic investors.

Anellotech has begun an extensive development program to optimize process variables, validate process economics, confirm catalyst long-term performance, and obtain the critical data for commercial plant design. As these studies continue, TCat-8 is producing evaluation quantities of renewable aromatic chemicals for conversion into bio-based polymer prototypes and for bio-fuel certification programs. Not to mention confirming the process economics.

More on Anellotech’s backstory

Make Haste Slowly: The story of Anellotech’s journey towards a bio-BTX breakthrough

The bio route to BTX: The Digest’s 2017 Multi-Slide Guide to Anellotech

The partnership backstory

The alliance with Suntory, one of Anellotech’s principal strategic investment partners, began in 2012 with the goal of enabling the development and commercialization of cost-competitive 100 percent bio-based plastics for use in beverage bottles. Suntory currently uses 30 percent plant-derived materials for its Mineral Water Suntory Tennensui brands and is pursuing the development of a 100 percent bio-based PET bottle through this alliance, as part of its commitment to sustainable business practices.

IFPEN is the process development and scale-up partner, Johnson Matthey is the catalyst development partner, and Axens is the partner for industrialization, commercialization, global licensing and technical support. Strategic partners in the BTX supply chain, including Suntory and Toyota Tsusho, as well as other confidential strategic investors, also have provided funding to Anellotech.

The feedstock backstory

Anellotech is currently evaluating loblolly pine and eventually other sustainable bio-feedstocks at TCat-8, operated within the South Hampton Resources chemical plant in Silsbee, Texas.

By using renewable and readily available non-food feedstock materials the Bio-TCat process is less expensive compared to bio-based processes relying on sugar as a feedstock, and avoids competition with the food chain. And, for those of you less familiar with it, loblolly is one of the ubiquitous southern yellow pines you find from Texas to the Carolinas. Loblolly is the most fragrant of them. When you smell rosemary, that’s loblolly.

The Bottom Line

The process runs continuously. Fantastic. But at what rate, yield? Did they make plenty of BTX, or a spoonful? Difficult to get Anellotech to say.

But CEO David Sudolsky did explain to The Digest, “The learning from the 14 day run is part of our due diligence package for use in discussions with new potential partners. So if we only made a pound of BTX we might have only very curtailed meetings!”

That’s much better. Let’s not underestimate the challenges ahead, but there were some very interesting milestones buried within the mutli-week operation headline. It’s easier to get a four-star general to divulge the nuclear launch codes than to get Anellotech to make predictinos about the future — but these are encouraging signs that renewable BTX at scale may only be 3-4 years away. The company limits itself to “one year plus” as a time frame for the studies at this stage of development — after that, time to build a commercial plant, which could be completed within say 18-24 months.

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Bioemergent Materials: The Digest’s 2018 Multi-Slide Guide to alternative natural rubber development

Biofuels Digest - Thu, 03/29/2018 - 1:34pm

“What would industrial progress be without natural rubber?” asks Rubber Journal Asia. “It’s hardly imaginable.” Listed as one of our four most important natural resources (the others being air, water, and petroleum and rubber), it is used as raw material for the manufacture of about 50,000 products, including tires and >400 medical devices –some are high value niches, some are commodity. Yet, the world’s supply is under severe constraint, and petroleum-based alternatives are lacking in sustainability also.

Katrina Cornish of Ohio State University and CEO of EnergyEne gave this illuminating overview of the prospects, promise and progress in creating natural rubbers from alternative bioeconomy feedstocks – and delivered it at ABLC 2018 in Washington DC.

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Out of the Blue and into the Black: The Pursuit of Innovation and a visit to the DSM Biotechnology Center

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 03/28/2018 - 6:04pm

I want to find, perhaps define
I’ve been a miner for a strain untold
For gene expressions, collaborative
three-fold better than the one of old, and I’m getting bold
three-fold better than the one of old, and I’m getting bold

(Not Neil Young, Not “Heart of Gold”)

Just a few years ago, one might spend $300 million, 10 years, and the work of 100 or more scientists to redesign a metabolic pathway, engineer that into a molecule and industrialize it, and measure that progress in dozens of scientific papers and patents written in a curious mishmash of jargon and hieroglyphics that only a handful could understand in the entirety.

Industrial biotechnology was powerful, but it was slow, and expensive. Almost no one could do it. The plausible targets were few in number, and they were huge. Renewable energy, for one. Classic foods, for another. A couple of renewable chemicals such as propanediol. Breakthroughs arrived like men on the moon, stunning to see, and then everyone went back to the day job.

But then, a Moore’s Law environment in genetics arrived. And, rampant advances in robotics, mobility, bandwidth, computational speed, and data storage. More and more targets have become available to more players. When you talk to individual scientists, it’s as if they think they might re-invent the entire physical world.

Meat without the cow, milk without the cow, leather without the cow, yoga pants without the petroleum, tractors without drivers, plats that serve as housting tiles, drones aoove our fields, fuels made from algae, and every vitamin under the sun.

It may be cool news on Facebook when Impossible Foods reaches 2,000 outlets with the Impossible Burger (“Made from Plants!”), but consider the stress that advanced nutrition is wreaking upon old-line food companies. It’s not Boom Times for the Old Ideas. Amazon bought Whole Foods recently and the executives at Safeway Stores aren’t exactly sitting around polishing their golf clubs. They’re worried, they’re responding. Cars, planes, clothing, zippers, building materials, foods, containers, fuels, therapeutics. The industrial landscape is erupting.

Now, change is leaking beyond the science of biotechnology and into the science of science. Innovation is being subjected to innovation.

It’s the breadth of targets and the range of skills required. Few have the end-to-end capability and even those few don’t have the bandwidth. Today, we know that something else is required, and sometimes we call it Open Innovation and we are supposed to like it. Possibly someone way up high in your organization is telling you:

You’d Better Like it. You’re Going to See a Lot More of It.

Only a handful of companies are pioneering along this route, and they are marching as gingerly as Everest-bound mountaineers navigating the Khumbu Icefalls, praying to avoid the death-plunge that comes from taking the wrong step into the wrong crevasse.

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Mobilizing US Biomass Resources: The Digest’s 2018 Multi-Slide Guide to Bioeconomy Feedstock Supply & Logistics

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 03/28/2018 - 5:19pm

“Toward A Thriving Bioeconomy by Mobilizing Our Nation’s Biomass Resources and Addressing Biomass Quality Challenges,” that the ambitious title of this illuminating presentation from the DOE Bioenergy Technologies Office’s Feedstock Supply & Logistics team. The focus, to fully integrate feedstocks into supply chain (multiple interfaces). reform raw biomass into high-quality feedstocks. use innovative technologies to ensure sustainable supply and reduce costs. and reduce risks to enable industry expansion. The DOE has been in the lead on this topic for some time — who knows where we’d be without the driving support?

The acting director for Feedstock Supply & Logistics, Mark Elless, summed up the state of play in a must-view presentation he gave at ABLC 2018 in Washington, DC.

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World Energy partners with CFFI Ventures on $345 million investment deal

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 03/28/2018 - 5:08pm

In Massachusetts, Boston-based advanced biofuel producer, World Energy, LLC announced it has partnered to accelerate growth with an investment group led by Halifax, Nova Scotia based CFFI Ventures (CFFI). The deal, with an aggregate value of $345 million, infuses into World Energy substantial fresh capital and merges into it all the shares of Hamilton, ON based biodiesel producer Biox Corporation (Biox).

World Energy first teamed up with Biox in 2016 to acquire and operate a 90 million gallon per year biodiesel plant in Houston, TX. Biox also operates a 16 million gal per year biodiesel plant in Hamilton, ON and is developing a 12 million gallon per year combination renewable diesel / biodiesel plant in Sombra, ON. In September 2017 CFFI took Biox private in a deal valued at $65 million.

Earlier this month, World Energy announced that it had acquired the 45 million gallon a year southern California renewable diesel producer AltAir Paramount, LLC and all of its associated assets including a 63-acre refinery complex with 1.7 million barrels of product storage, a truck rack with 28,000 barrels per day of throughput capacity, rail storage for up to 70 rail cars, and pipelines stretching over 71 miles connecting the facility to major southern California distribution hubs including Long Beach.

World Energy’s moves into California and Ontario are part of a broader effort to build out a large-scale coast to coast presence for blended advanced biofuel supply targeting high growth submarkets focused on reducing carbon intensity in motor fuels.

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Indian researchers look to bagasse-based methanol for tractor fuel

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 03/28/2018 - 5:06pm

In India, researchers are looking to sugarcane bagasse to produce methanol, rather than ethanol, that could be used to power tractors. Uptake of the technology developed by the National Centre for Combustion Research and Development could reduce tractor fossil fuel imports by 15% and won’t create competition with the alcohol industry as ethanol does. Currently researchers are looking at how to convert the existing tractor fleet so they can run on methanol while the institute’s parent Indian Institute of Technology, Madras is in talks with sugar producers regarding demos and adoption.

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US won’t talk steel tariffs with Brazil until ethanol import tariffs is on the table

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 03/28/2018 - 5:05pm

In Brazil, Reuters reports that the US won’t start talking about the recently announced import tariffs on steel until Brazil starts talking about rethinking its stance on ethanol import tariffs. Negotiations between the two countries that includes other issues such as Open Skies and supporting Brazil’s request to join the OECD are also on the table, talks that should be concluded next week. Although the tariff has been a sticking point on trade talks, US ethanol prices are so low at the moment that exports have soared despite the 20% import tariff.

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Ukraine corn prices soaring on Chinese demand for ethanol

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 03/28/2018 - 5:04pm

In the Ukraine, Platts reports that corn prices are soaring on the back of China’s ethanol drive and increased demand from Egypt, pushing prices up beyond $200 per metric ton during much of March, hitting a 20-month high on March 12 of $209/ton. Late April and May typically brings higher prices for corn as stocks tighten and the market waits for the harvest to bring prices back down, but increasing demand along with stronger prices in Argentina and the US could see prices continue to rise earlier and higher.

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7-11 in Japan look to UCO biodiesel to reduce CO2 emissions

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 03/28/2018 - 5:03pm

In Japan, the Nikkei reports 7-11 is looking to cut its CO2 emissions in Ehime Prefecture by 5% thanks to transitioning its refrigerator truck fleet to biodiesel produced from used cooking oil, and may extend the practice to its freezer and non-refrigerated trucks as well, or even to other prefectures. The prefecture has more than 400 UCO drop off centers that are managed by local authorities and then process it into biodiesel, then 7-11 does the 5% blending.

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Marquis Energy sees China importing 400,000 metric tons of US ethanol in 2018

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 03/28/2018 - 5:02pm

In China, Reuters reports that Marquis Energy believes US ethanol exports to China could reach 400,000 metric tons this year as long as an additional 15% tariff isn’t added to the current 30% tariff in retaliation for US steel import tariffs. Some estimates had been as high as 800,000 tons but the threat of higher tariffs has damned expectations. The country will need 12 million tons per year by 2020 to comply with its E10 mandate that will go into effect that year, and domestic production could reach as much as 3 million tons in 2018.

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JBEI and Berkley Lab discover enzyme to produce bio-toluene

Biofuels Digest - Wed, 03/28/2018 - 5:00pm

In California, researchers at the Department of Energy’s Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have discovered a new enzyme that will enable microbial production of a renewable alternative to petroleum-based toluene, a widely used octane booster in gasoline that has a global market of twenty nine million tons per year. A major goal of JBEI is to provide a scientific basis for the development of industrially and commercially relevant fuels and chemicals from renewable resources, such as lignocellulosic biomass, rather than from petroleum. The enzyme discovered in this study will enable the first-time microbial production of bio-based toluene, and in fact, the first microbial production of any aromatic hydrocarbon biofuel.

The toluene-synthesizing enzyme discovered in this study, phenylacetate decarboxylase, is of interest from a fundamental biochemical perspective as well as for its potential application to biofuels. The novel enzyme belongs to a family of enzymes known as glycyl radical enzymes (GREs), which catalyze chemically challenging reactions under anoxic conditions. Scientists only began to recognize GREs in the 1980s, and phenylacetate decarboxylase is just the eighth known GRE reaction type to have been discovered and characterized since then.

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