Williamsburg Students Win BioenergizeME Challenge

BioenergizeME Infographic Challenge winning team from Williamsburg High School for Architecture and Design. From left to right: Nicholas Shannon, Najee Neil, Xavier Abreu Negron, Alfredo Sanchez III and Victor Perry. Photo credit: Joanna Schroeder

BioenergizeME Infographic Challenge winning team from Williamsburg High School for Architecture and Design. From left to right: Nicholas Shannon, Najee Neil, Xavier Abreu Negron, Alfredo Sanchez III and Victor Perry. Photo credit: Joanna Schroeder

The future looks bright for the bioenergy industry as the next generation is already showing great enthusiasm and talent for sustainable fuels and products. This past spring, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) kicked off a pilot program for high school aged teams (grades 9-12) to use technology and their creative mojo to design bioenergy-based infographics. The BioenergizeME Infographic Challenge theme was “Exploring the Future of American Energy Landscape,” and the winner was announced during the BioEnergy 2015 Conference to great applause.

The wBioEnergizeME infographic challenge winnerinning team was a group of 14 year old freshman students from Williamsburg High School for Architecture and Design located Brooklyn, New York: Nicholas Shannon, Najee Neil, Xavier Abreu Negron, Alfredo Sanchez III and Victor Perry. There were 76 teams that submitted entries and 50 teams shared their infographics through social media channels including Facebook and Twitter garnering more than 12,000 page views. Infographics from all competitors can be viewed on the BioenergizeME Infographic Challenge Map.

Teams were given four topic areas to choose from: Bioenergy History, Workforce and Education, Science and Technology and Environmental Impacts. Once a team selected their topic area, they conducted research and then developed an infographic that visually explained a specific area within a topic such as cellulosic energy or how algae is used to produce biofuels. With the success of the program, the BioenergizeME Infographic Challenge will be rolled out nationwide next spring.

View the 2015 BioEnergy 2015 photo album. 

United Airlines Invests in Fulcrum BioEnergy

United Airlines has made a $30 million equity investment in U.S.-based waste-to-energy company Fulcrum BioEnergy, Inc., According to United Airlines, this is the single largest investment by a U.S. airline in alternative fuels and sets them apart in Infographic_Fulcrumthe aviation industry in the advancement of aviation biofuels and carbon emissions reductions. In addition to the equity investment, United and Fulcrum have entered into an agreement that will study the feasibility of developing up to five projects located near United’s hubs. If the projects come to fruition, the facilities would produce up to 180 million gallons of aviation biofuels per year.

“We know alternative fuels is an emerging industry that is vital to the future of aviation and this is just one of our initiatives to help make these fuels saleable and scalable,” said United’s Executive Vice President and General Counsel Brett Hart. “Investing in alternative fuels is not only good for the environment, it’s a smart move for our company as biofuels have the potential to hedge against future oil price volatility and carbon regulations.”

As part of the partnership, United has negotiated a long-term supply agreement with Fulcrum and, subject to availability, will have the opportunity to purchase at least 90 million gallons of sustainable aviation fuel a year for a minimum of 10 years at a EcoSkies+plane_1 (1)cost that is competitive with conventional jet fuel. Fulcrum anticipates its first alternative fuels plant will begin commercial operation in 2017.

According to Fulcrum, their technology converts household trash, or municipal solid waste (MSW), into renewable jet fuel. Fulcrum’s renewable jet fuel is expected to provide a greater than 80 percent reduction in lifecycle carbon emissions when compared to conventional jet fuel.

“United Airlines just demonstrated why they are one of the leaders in commercial aviation,” added E. James Macias, Fulcrum’s president and CEO. “United’s investment and participation in our projects is a tremendous boost to our program. Their support, commitment and backing accelerate our schedule to bring large volumes of competitively-priced, sustainable fuels to United and the rest of the aviation industry.”

Sen Klobuchar: Time to Govern by Opportunity

Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) keynoted the opening session of the BioEnergy 2015: Opportunities in a Changing Energy Landscape conference in Washington, D.C. During her remarks, she noted it isn’t an easy time to be in Washington in terms of Sen Amy Klobuchar BioEnergy 2015energy policy and the country has “lost opportunities” in energy policy since 9-11.

Sen Klobuchar explained that in the summer of 2008, right before the downturn, energy legislation was pushed through but legislators were unable to push through a federal Renewable Electricity Standard (RES). Instead, President Obama, during the worst downturn since the Great Depression, opted to move forward with failed Cap and Trade legislation.

“We’ve been governing by crisis,” said Klobuchar who stressed that now is the moment to govern by opportunity. She quoted Pope Francis who recently released his Encyclical on climate change who asked, “What kind of world do we want to leave to those who come after us?” A better world, said Klobuchar.

Klobuchar ended her remarks focusing on ways the country can build on the progress of the past few years, including the success of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

Listen to Senator Amy Klobuchar’s remarks: Senator Amy Klobuchar Remarks

View the 2015 BioEnergy 2015 photo album.

(Note: two days after her presentation the EPA held a public comment hearing in Kansas City where hundreds of people from across the country came together to support the RFS. Coverage can be found here.)

Neste Races Across America on One Tank

History was made over the past two weeks as X-Games and Rallycross champion Tanner Foust crossed the finish line in Santa Monica, California after traveling 2,507 miles at an average speed of 68 miles per gallon using only 37.6 gallons, or one tank, of NEXBTL renewable diesel fuel. The event was sponsored by Neste, the producer of the NEXBTL renewable fuel along with CLP Motorsports. Foust drove across the U.s. in a CLP Motorsports’ Superlite Coupe.

Tanner Foust and Pat O'Keefe bring the CLP Motorsports' SLC race car across the finish line next to the beach in Santa Monica, CA, after completing a 2,507-mile cross-country drive on one tank of Neste NEXBTL renewable diesel. (PRNewsFoto/Neste)

Tanner Foust and Pat O’Keefe bring the CLP Motorsports’ SLC race car across the finish line next to the beach in Santa Monica, CA, after completing a 2,507-mile cross-country drive on one tank of Neste NEXBTL renewable diesel. (PRNewsFoto/Neste)

This first of a kind event was conceived by Pat O’Keefe, CEO and president of CLP Motor sports, vice president at Golden Gate Petroleum and a keen racing car driver and enthusiast. Golden Gate started selling NEXBTL renewable diesel to its fleet customers the San Francisco area in 2013.

“What a great opportunity to be able to partner with Neste on this project so that we can help bring awareness to the public about this amazing fuel – NEXBTL renewable diesel,” said O’Keefe. “We will continue to promote this great fuel through our fleet-servicing and retail stations and of course through our racing.”

Foust was also impressed with the fuel. “When it comes to low emissions in racing or driving on the street, good quality fuel is the key. With renewable diesel you will get more power, cleaner burning and it’s renewable. Those things typically don’t mix. That’s why I think Neste’s NEXBTL renewable diesel is a very special product.” Continue reading

DOE Invests in Sorghum

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has committed to investing up to $30 million in sorghum research through the Transportation Energy Resources from Renewable Agriculture (TERRA) program. The TERRA program seeks to develop technologies that can increase the precision, accuracy and throughput of energy crops breeding. Doing so, said DOE, will enable more detailed measurements of phenotyping, plant physiology and more sophisticated bioinformatics for gene discovery and trait association.

Photo Credit: Mississippi Crop Situation

Photo Credit: Mississippi Crop Situation

“This investment is critical for the sorghum industry’s future,” said J.B. Stewart, National Sorghum Producers board chairman. “Producer investments alone cannot move the industry forward. We must have government and private industry investment. We applaud DOE for making such a vital commitment to our rapidly growing industry.”

This is one of the largest investments the sorghum industry has seen to date and will have a significant impact on the future of sorghum. A total of six projects were funded through the DOE at universities and research institutions across the nation. The project locations are Clemson University, Purdue University, Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension, University of Illinois, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center.

“This underscore’s something we strongly believe in,” added Clayton Short, renewables committee chair for the United Sorghum Checkoff Program. “Sorghum is a genetically diverse crop ripe for improvement. The DOE realizes this and we are excited to see what additional opportunities this leads too.”

NSP and the Sorghum Checkoff continue to invest in relationships with DOE, private industry and researching universities and will keep members updated as research progresses and results are published.

Approps Bill Shortchanges Rural America

According to the Agriculture Energy Coalition (AgEC), the current version of the House Appropriations Committee’s Fiscal Year 2016 Agriculture Appropriations Bill would shortchange rural America. As it currently stands, the bill would reduce mandatory spending levels for Energy Title programs including the Renewable Energy for America Program (REAP), Biomass Crop Assistance Program and the Biorefinery, Renewable Chemical and Biobased Product Manufacturing Assistance Program. In light of this, AgEC has vowed to fight the changes in mandatory spending.

Lloyd Ritter, co-director of the AgEC, said, “The renewable energy and energy efficiency programs in the Farm Bill help rural America create new manufacturing opportunities and AgEC logostable, well-paying jobs. A new report to Congress, released just yesterday, demonstrates the broad economic impact of innovative biobased technology. The biobased products industry contributes $369 billion annually to the U.S. economy and employs more than four million Americans. The more than 40,000 biobased products already on the market displace about 300 million gallons of petroleum per year, which is equivalent to taking 200,000 cars off the road. Countless wind, solar, biomass and other projects are making a major impact as well.”

Ritter continued, “Nevertheless, the House Appropriations Committee is seeking to roll back the mandatory funding levels Congress agreed to last year when passing the bi-partisan Farm Bill. For Fiscal Year 2016, the House bill proposes cutting millions from the Section 9003 program, the Biomass Crop Assistance Program, and the Renewable Energy for America Program.”

“Such reductions in the mandatory funding levels that Congress previously set will undermine the ongoing effectiveness of these programs. The Agriculture Energy Coalition, comprising renewable energy, energy efficiency and agricultural groups, will continue to fight to ensure that these programs are implemented successfully,” concluded Ritter.

Gevo’s Biojet Fuel Catches Air

Gevo’s technology to convert wood waste to biojet fuel has achieved a breakthrough in its fermentation technology and will soon “catch air” as its soars in the sky in test flights. The wood waste is first converted to isobuanol and then converted into alcohol-to-jet fuel.

Gevo has an operational plant in Luverne, Minnesota that has flexible feedstock technology allowing the plant to produce isobutanol from multiple feedstocks. In the past the primary feedstock has been corn and the resulting fuel has been tested by airlines and the U.S. military in their planes. This new process uses forest residues. Removing waste helps to prevent forest fires.

tree copy

Photo Credit: Joanna Schroeder

According to the company, they have adapted their patented Gevo Integrated Fermentation Technology(R) (GIFT(R)) to convert the cellulosic sugars from wood into renewable isobutanol. They then use their patented hydrocarbon technology to convert the cellulosic isobutanol into alcohol-to-jet-synthetic paraffinic kerosene (ATJ-SPK) fuel.

“There are significant economic and environmental benefits of renewable jet fuel, which makes it a great market for Gevo. This announcement demonstrates the flexibility of our technology and reinforces our technology leadership,” said Dr. Pat Gruber, Chief Executive Officer of Gevo, Inc. “The next two milestones for renewable jet fuel are the approval by ASTM and the scheduled commercial test flights. Our team is actively engaged in both of these activities.”

Gevo’s cellulosic isobutanol production will be conducted at a demonstration facility in St. Joseph, MO, that the company jointly operates with ICM Inc. The ATJ-SPK will be produced in Silsbee, Texas, at the demonstration facility the company operates with South Hampton Resources.

The company is a member of the Northwest Advanced Renewables Alliance (NARA) and is providing the organization with technology to enable the commercial scale processing of cellulosic sugars from wood waste into valuable products. The cellulosic jet fuel made using Gevo’s technologies will be used in a 1,000-gallon renewable fuel demonstration test flight that NARA announced yesterday in conjunction with Alaska Airlines. Gevo’s isobutanol and ATJ-SPK technologies are both planned to be licensed by NARA as part of this project.

Ralph Cavalieri, director of NARA, added, “We’re encouraged by Gevo’s work with the NARA team in converting Pacific Northwest forest residual biomass into jet fuel, and look forward to working with them on this test flight and in the next phases of the commercialization of this technology.”

Alaska Airlines Commits to Renewable Fuel

Alaska Airlines has teamed up with Washington State University’s Northwest Advanced Renewable Alliance (NARA) to advance development on renewable jet fuel made from forest residues. As a result of the collaboration, Alaska Airlines plans on taking the aviation biofuels to the sky during a demonstration flight next year.

NARA is focusing on developing alternative jet fuel derived from post-harvest forest residuals, which are often burned after the timber harvest. By using these waste materials as the feedstock of a biojet fuel supply chain, NARA and its aviation industry partners, are looking to reduce fossil fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions as well as bolster sustainable economic-development potential in timber-based rural communities located throughout the Pacific Northwest.

Photo Credit: Northwest Advanced Renewables Alliance

Photo Credit: Northwest Advanced Renewables Alliance

“Alaska Airlines is thrilled to partner with NARA to help further promote sustainable aviation biofuels,” said Joe Sprague, Alaska Airlines senior vice president of external relations. “Sustainable biofuels are a key to aviation’s future and critical in helping the industry and Alaska Airlines reduce its carbon footprint and dependency on fossil fuels.”

NARA is a five-year project supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Institute of Food and Agriculture, and is comprised of 22 member organizations from industry, academia and government laboratories.

“Developing alternative jet fuel made from forest residuals represents a significant economic challenge with considerable sustainability benefits,” added Michael Wolcott, NARA co-director. “While the price of oil fluctuates, the carbon footprint of fossil fuels remains constant. NARA efforts to engage stakeholders from forest managers to potential fuel users like Alaska Airlines to lay the foundations for a bio-based, renewable fuel economy is exciting work that we believe will benefit society in the years ahead.”

Novozymes on #FEW15 Advanced Biofuels Track

few15-novo-aaronNovozymes was first up on the Cellulosic and Advanced Ethanol Track at the 2015 Fuel Ethanol Workshop with ways to help first generation biofuels producers take the next leap forward with enzyme technology.

“We’ve been looking at how we can take all of our significant efforts in research and development in cellulases and find applications for them,” said Novozymes scientist Aaron Hawkins.

One of those is Spirizyme® Achieve, the industry’s first fiber-degrading glucoamylase, which can increase ethanol yields by an average of two percent by getting more starch out of the corn fiber and ultimately be used to produce cellulosic ethanol.

“Corn fiber represents very low hanging fruit for the production of cellulosic ethanol,” said Hawkins. “If there were 100% adoption of a cellulosic ethanol process based on corn fiber, that could give us over a billion gallons of cellulosic ethanol capacity in the U.S. alone so there’s a very significant opportunity here for corn ethanol producers.” FEW 2015 presentation by Aaron Hawkins, Novozymes

Hawkins also talked about a brand new product they just launched for biodiesel producers called Eversa®, an enzymatic solution to make biodiesel from waste oils. “One of the major advantages of it is that it can utilize any feedstock with any free fatty acid composition,” including distillers corn oil, which Hawkins says “opens up new opportunities for corn ethanol producers to utilize distillers corn oil and upgrade it on site to biodiesel.”

These kinds of innovations, Hawkins says, are helping the industry move closer to a complete biorefinery concept. Interview with Aaron Hawkins, Novozymes

2015 Fuel Ethanol Workshop Photo Album

Coverage of the Fuel Ethanol Conference is sponsored by
Coverage of the Fuel Ethanol Conference is sponsored by Novozymes

#FEW15 Ethanol Producer Panel Focuses on RVOs

few15-panelA diverse group of ethanol producer company representatives took the stage Tuesday at the 2015 Fuel Ethanol Workshop and much of the conversation centered around reaction to the EPA’s new proposed volume obligations for biofuels under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). Panelists also discussed the industry’s continuing efforts to expand the marketplace for ethanol with higher blends, progress with cellulosic ethanol production facilities, and more.

BBI International president Tom Bryan moderated the panel, which featured:

Paul Koehler, Vice President, Pacific Ethanol
Mike Jerke, CEO, Guardian Energy Management
Jan Koninckx, Global Business Director for Advanced Biofuels, DuPont Industrial Biosciences
Chris Standlee, Executive Vice President, Abengoa Bioenergy
Dan Cummings, President, POET-DSM Advanced Biofuels
Ray Defenbaugh, President, CEO & Chairman, Big River Resources

This is a conversation worth listening to as each of these industry pioneers had insightful comments and a positive attitude about the ethanol business in the United States going forward.

FEW 2015 Producer Panel

2015 Fuel Ethanol Workshop Photo Album

Coverage of the Fuel Ethanol Conference is sponsored by
Coverage of the Fuel Ethanol Conference is sponsored by Novozymes