Alliance BioEnergy Converts Coastal Hay to Sugar

Ek Laboratories, located in Longwood, Florida, has achieved a 63 percent conversion of Coastal Hay, at commercial scale, into fermentable sugars in less than 30 minutes. The Alliance BioEnergy Plus subsidiary used it licensed and patented mechanical/chemical CTS (Cellulose to Sugar) process.

Coastal HayAccording to Ek Laboratories, unlike most cellulose to sugar technologies, their CTS process does not use liquid acids, applied heat or pressure, enzymes, super critical waters, expensive precious metal lined with equipment or any hazardous materials. The company also says that also unlike other CTS processes, their technology can covert virtually any cellulose material into fermentable sugars in one step in just minutes.

As such, says Ek Laboratories, for the first time, biofuel producers will be able profitably produce cellulosic ethanol, diesel and other biofuels without subsidies.

“We have completely redesigned and custom manufactured the mill and went from 1g in the lab to a mill capable of processing 2,500kg (2.5mt) a day, in a single leap, while seeing the efficiency and conversion rates increase and energy consumption decrease,” explains Dr. Peter Cohen, Director of Analytics at Ek Labs. Unlike traditional chemical processes or industrial scaling, this is a mechanical process where the chemistry happens thousands of times at a micro scale by a kinetic process therefore aided by size and increased impact pressure.

Cohen noted that they should see 70 to 80 percent conversion rates by the time they are finished with the first commercial plant for sub-license RRDA in early 2016. The plant is in construction in Georgia and will convert 1,000mt a day of yellow pine waste and Vidalia onion waste. He added that existing plants can easily be converted to the CTS process.

Aemetis Harvests Record Sorghum Crop in Cali

Aemetis has announced the harvest of sorghum grown in Central California that grew between 12-15 feet tall. The 20 acre demonstration crop was grown using proprietary Nexsteppe seed genetics and harvested in 90 days by Aemetis. The water supply for the sorghum was lower quality pump water containing salts that typically damage crops in western San Joaquin Valley, an area with little water allocation for ag crops. The sorghum will be used to produce advance biofuels.

Aemetis California biomass plant“Nexsteppe’s sorghum is uniquely capable of growing a large amount of biomass in a short period of time using land that lacks quality water and where other plants may not grow,” said Eric McAfee, Chairman and CEO of Aemetis. “Biomass sorghum can be converted to cellulosic ethanol or a variety of other renewable fuels through various available technologies. Aemetis has already processed about 80 million pounds of grain sorghum at its Keyes biorefinery, producing lower-carbon fuel ethanol.”

The company is also a participant of the California In-State Sorghum program (CISS) through a $3 million grant awarded by the California Energy Commission. The CISS program combines research and market development to support the in-state growth of grain sorghum as a reliable low-carbon feedstock for California’s ethanol producers. The CISS program has just completed the first harvest of grain sorghum at the CSU Fresno International Center for Water Technology.

Aemetis’ 60 million gallon per year ethanol plant in California converts sugars to biofuels. The company has a multi-year strategy to transition its biofuel production from traditional starch-based feedstocks to renewable biomass feedstocks that can produce low-carbon, advanced biofuels. The transition is expected to evolve from corn to grain sorghum and ultimately to biomass sorghum and agricultural wastes available in California.

Anna Rath, CEO of NexSteppe, added, “Growing high-yield biomass sorghum in California is a milestone in the production of low-carbon feedstocks for biofuels. NexSteppe is focused on designing industrial sorghum feedstock solutions to support the growing biobased economy.”

Joule Receives EPA Cert for CO2 Ethanol

Screen Shot 2015-10-01 at 8.39.11 AMJoule’s fuel grade Sunflow-E ethanol has been registered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for commercial use in E10 and E15 gasoline blends. The fuel is derived from recycled CO2.

“We are approaching commercialization with a technology that is first of its kind, able to convert CO2 directly into multiple drop-in fuels. It is critical to prove its readiness by meeting government and industry requirements. Having secured EPA registration, our fuel grade Sunflow-E ethanol is now cleared for use,” said Serge Tchuruk, president and CEO of Joule.

Earlier this year Joule announced the results of its third-party testing of Sunflow-E ethanol. Key results included:

  • American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) D4806 – Denatured fuel ethanol for blending with gasolines for use as automotive spark-ignition engine fuel
    German Institute for Standardization (DIN) EN 15376 – Ethanol as a blending component for petrol
  • Joule Sunflow-E ethanol is chemically identical to its traditional counterparts, but differs in the way it is produced. Joule converts CO2 to ethanol directly in a continuous process, using engineered bacteria as living catalysts rather than biomass feedstocks. At full-scale commercialization, Joule ultimately targets productivity of up to 25,000 gallons of Sunflow-E ethanol per acre annually.

Tchuruk added, “Following a full year of production at our demonstration plant, we have achieved a several-fold advance in outdoor productivity. Additionally, we have reached unprecedented levels in our lab reactors, and we know the steps required to replicate these results outdoors. This will further strengthen our position to initiate global deployment.”

UPM BioVerno Diesel Reduces Tailpipe Emissions

Studies have found that wood-based UPM BioVerno significantly reduces harmful tailpipe emissions. Several engine and vehicle tests were conducted by a number of research institutes including VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, University of Vaasa in Finland and at FEV, an internationally recognized vehicle engineering company based in Germany.

UPM BiofuelsThe Finnish company’s renewable diesel functions just like conventional diesel in all diesel engines yet it generates up to 80 percent less greenhouse gas emissions during its lifecycle compared to conventional fossil diesel fuels, as found by the research.

According to the study, the renewable diesel also reduces harmful tailpipe emissions including particle mass, hydrocarbon, carbon dioxide, nitrogeous oxide and carbon monoxide emissions, but the percentage of reduction varied based on vehicle technology and blend. However, all tests demonstrated similar or improved efficiency of the engine, without compromising the engine power, when UPM BioVerno was introduced to the fuel blend. In addition, it was found that by using 100 percent UPM BioVerno diesel fuel consumption decreased.

FEV Germany carried out a series of tests on UPM BioVerno’s effect on engine functionality and emissions with both a diesel blend containing 30 percent UPM BioVerno and 100 percent UPM BioVerno diesel. In addition to measuring engine output and fuel consumption, the tests focused on tailpipe emissions and the performance of UPM BioVerno compared with conventional diesel.

“UPM BioVerno renewable diesel was investigated in a screening campaign at FEV Germany. The results showed that even as a 30% blending component, the accumulated HC emissions were reduced by more than 50% and the CO emissions by more than 40% compared to reference fossil diesel. Our tests also showed good results in NOx emissions and efficiency,” said Dr. Ing Thorsten Schnorbus, manager passenger car diesel, FEV.

UPM BioVerno was also tested in University of Vaasa, Finland using a heavy duty engine. These experiments were performed in the Technobothnia Education and Research Centre in Vaasa.

Algenol to Aid China in CO2 Reductions

Algenol is partnering with South China’s Fujian Zhongyuan New Energy Company (ZYNE) to solve three major problems: lack of clean air, clean water and the needs for sustainable, low carbon fuels. The two companies will work together on an exploration project where Algenol will take ZYNE’s captured CO2 and covert it to ethanol. Algenol’s technology, Direct to Ethanol, uses the CO2 as the feedstock for algae to produce ethanol, gas, diesel and biojet fuel.


Algenol’s CEO and Founder Paul Woods and Wang Suwei, ZYNE’s Chairman of the Board in Seattle, WA

“We all share one atmosphere. Clean air has no borders,” said Algenol CEO Paul Woods during a ceremony to solidify the partnership. “We are eager to bring our technology to China because we know that our process can remove health-damaging pollution straight from its source and turn it into renewable fuel and clean water.”

According to an Algenol press statement, this partnership unites the economic and environmental benefits of their technologies with ZYNE’s existing expertise in delivering renewable fuels in China. The companies will identify and evaluate the utilization of CO2 emissions from industrial sources such as power plants, steel mills, cement and chemical factories in the Fujian province, and other parts of Southern China. Once the CO2 sources are identified, the process will begin to incorporate Algenol’s technology solution of carbon capture and utilization and renewable fuel production. An added benefit of Algenol’s technology is the primary by-product of clean water, which is valuable to many communities in Southern China.

U of W Research Converts Poplar Trees to Biofuels

New research from the University of Washington is laying the foundation to use woody biomass from poplar trees into sustainably produced biofuels and biochemicals. A five-year $40 million dollar study funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is in its last year and results will seed a wood-based cellulosic ethanol production facility.

Poplar materials, including bark, leaves and wood, are used to make cellulosic ethanol.Dennis Wise/University of Washington

Poplar materials, including bark, leaves and wood, are used to make cellulosic ethanol.Dennis Wise/University of Washington

ZeaChem, one of the industry partners in the study, is moving ahead with plans to build a commercial production facility in Boardman, Oregon, in 2016 that will produce cellulosic ethanol and biochemicals from poplar trees grown specially for those industries.

“We’ve established that poplar is a viable and sustainable feedstock for the production of fuels and bio-based chemicals,” said Rick Gustafson, a UW professor of bioresource science and engineering, who leads the project. “We’ve provided fundamental information that our industry partners can use to convince investors that production of fuels and chemicals from poplar feedstock is a great investment.”

The research team is known as the Advanced Hardwood Biofuels Northwest and they have set up five demonstration tree farms with different varieties of poplar. None of the trees is genetically engineered, but instead researchers bred them to thrive in different environments and to grow fast. The trees can gain up to 20 feet a year, allowing for a harvest every two or three years.

When a poplar tree is cut, its stump naturally sprouts new shoots and the next generation of trees grow out of the parent stumps. Each tree can go through about six cycles of this regrowth before new poplars must be planted, explained Gustafson. Continue reading

Biofuels Capacity to Grow to 61B Gallons by 2018

According to new research, global biofuels capacity will grow to 61 billion gallons per year (BGY0 by 2018. Ethanol and biodiesel will continue to dominate with 96 percent of the capacity in 2018, but novel fuels and novel feedstocks will be major drivers of capacity growth, according to Lux Research.

The study finds that novel fuels and novel feedstocks will grow at a rate of 27 percent and 16 percent compound annual growth rate (CAGR), respectively, through 2018. Ethanol and biodiesel will grow at a slower 2 percent rate but will reach capacities of 40 BGY and 19 BGY, respectively.

Biofuels growth from Lux research“While ethanol and biodiesel dominate global biofuel capacity today, limits on their growth mean that novel fuels like renewable diesel, biojet fuel and biocrude are crucial to the future of the industry,” said Victor Oh, Lux Research Associate and lead author of the report titled, “Biofuels Outlook 2018: Highlighting Emerging Producers and Next-generation Biofuels.”

“Producers also need to tap into novel feedstocks like waste oils, non-edible biomass, and municipal solid waste to push the industry beyond food-vs.-fuels competition,” he added.

Lux Research analysts studied growth of biofuels utilizing an alternative fuels database of over 1,800 production facilities globally. Among their findings:

  • Waste oils will dominate next-generation biofuels. With a 52% share, biodiesel made from novel feedstock, specifically waste oils, will lead novel fuels capacity in 2018. Cellulosic ethanol and renewable diesel follow with 19% and 18%, respectively.
  • Americas continue dominance. With a 64% share of global biofuels capacity, the Americas are a dominant force. The region, led by the U.S. and Brazil, also leads in utilization of global production capacity with 86%, much higher than the global average of 68% in 2014.
  • Eight countries are biggest emerging producers. China, Indonesia and Thailand in Asia; Colombia and Argentina in the Americas; and Portugal, Poland and France in Europe are the biggest emerging production centers for biofuels after the U.S. and Brazil.

Molecular Swiss Army Knife Improves Algae-Fuel

A molecular Swiss Army knife may hold the key to making blue-green algae biofuel and biochemical production more viable. A research team from Michigan State University (MSU) fabricated a synthetic protein that both improves the assembly of the carbon-fixing factory of cyanobacteria while providing proof of concept for a device that could potentially improve plant photosynthesis or be used to install new metabolic pathways in bacteria. Study results were published this month in The Plant Cell journal.

MSU scientists have built a molecular Swiss Army knife that makes biofuels and other green chemical production from algae more viable. Photo by G.L. Kohuth

MSU scientists have built a molecular Swiss Army knife that makes biofuels and other green chemical production from algae more viable. Photo by G.L. Kohuth

“The multifunctional protein we’ve built can be compared to a Swiss Army knife,” explained Raul Gonzalez-Esquer, MSU doctoral researcher and the paper’s lead author. “From known, existing parts, we’ve built a new protein that does several essential functions.”

For this research, Gonzalez-Esquer worked with Cheryl Kerfeld, the Hannah Distinguished Professor of Structural Bioengineering in MSU’s-DOE Plant Research Lab, and Tyler Shubitowski, MSU undergraduate student. Kerfield’s lab studies bacterial microcompartments, or BMCs. These are self-assembling cellular organs that perform myriad metabolic functions. In other words, they can be though of as molecular factories with many different pieces of machinery.

The research team modernized the factory by creating, in essence, a hybrid protein in cyanobacteria, organisms that have many potential uses for making green chemicals or biofuels. Basically the protein speeds up the process of taking CO2 out of the athmosphere and converting it to sugars.

“It’s comparable to making coffee. Rather than getting an oven to roast the coffee beans, a grinder to process them and a brewing machine, we’ve built a single coffeemaker where it all happens in one place,” Gonzalez-Esquer said. “The new tool takes raw material and produces the finished product with a smaller investment.”

However, this altered cyanobacterial species won’t be taking over any ponds near you just yet. While the improved organisms excel at photosynthesis in a lab setting, the researchers said they are still ill prepared to compete with other bacteria. Hopefully, this will change as the team continues to develop and refine the photosynthesis process in algae.

Executives Criticize RFS Delays on Cellulosic Growth

Executives from the advanced biofuels industry are criticizing the Obama Administration for not adhering to its promise to support the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). They say the lack of adhering to mandates has undercut investment in advanced biofuels and sent innovative companies, technologies and jobs oversees. In a letter they write that “broken promise…flies in the face of the President’s statements in support of clean energy and climate change policy.”

Corn stover is used by several bioenergy companies to produce cellulosic ethanol. Photo: Joanna Schroeder

Corn stover is used by several bioenergy companies to produce cellulosic ethanol. Photo: Joanna Schroeder

A call held yesterday in conjunction with the letter submission happens to follow remarks by USDA Secretary Vilsack and EPA Administrator McCarthy about the climate impact of biofuels and the RFS – with Administrator McCarthy asserting that the RFS is a crucial part of America’s efforts to combat climate change.

The proposal, argues the advanced biofuels industry, has been devastating for the development of advanced and cellulosic biofuels. Already, $13.7 billion in investments have been frozen, threatening to send American innovation and investment overseas to countries like China and Brazil. It is anticipated that President Obama will be taken to task for U.S.’s lack of leadership and commitment on climate change.

During the call, Adam Monroe, North America President of Novozymes said, “The Obama Administration’s proposal eviscerates the RFS by allowing EPA to slash renewable fuel volumes when the oil industry refuses to distribute renewable fuel. Oil companies are not going to compete with renewable fuel if they can avoid the requirement altogether by simply blocking distribution and market access.”

Vincent Chornet, President, CEO and Co-Founder of Enerkem emphasized how the Obama Administration’s decision impacts international interest in U.S. projects, stating, “This proposal forces investment out of America. Advanced biofuels are on the brink of significant growth – but the Administration’s proposal strands investment and threatens a decade of innovation and progress.”

Prez Candidate Bernie Sanders Gives RFS Support

During a recent Roske on Politics show with host Brent Roske, U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders from Vermont (Dem) gave his support of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). Last month he was in Des Moines, IA for the Iowa State Fair and spoke on the Soapbox but did not mention biofuels or the RFS. However, this visit he was asked directly about the issues facing the RFS in Washington. Now that he has a pro-RFS stand on the record, America’s Renewable Future (ARF) thanked Sen. Sanders for his support who leading the polls in Iowa – one point ahead of Hillary Clinton.

Roske and SandersRoske asked, “We’re in Iowa right now. Back in 2007 you voted for the Renewable Fuel Standard in the Senate. What are your thoughts about it now?”

Sen. Sanders answered: “I think as somebody who believes climate change is the greatest global crisis that we face, I think it’s absolutely imperative that we move away from fossil fuel, from oil, from coal, move to energy efficiency and move to sustainable energies. And Iowa, by the way, in general is doing a very good job, as is my home state of Vermont,” said Sanders, “Iowa is one of the leaders in the country in wind and biofuels. So, I support the Renewable Fuel Standard, I think we got to put more emphasis on cellulosic ethanol, which a more efficient form of biofuel than we currently have.”

“Advanced biofuels like cellulosic ethanol have been a runaway success in Iowa, thanks to a strong RFS that created a partnership between first and second generation renewable fuel,” said former Lt. Gov. and ARF Co-Chair, Patty Judge. “We thank Sen. Sanders for his appreciation of the crucial part biofuels play in the creation of a sustainable energy future. We hope he’ll take us up on our invitation to tour a plant, and learn about how ethanol and other low carbon, first generation fuels are paving the way for advanced biofuels like cellulosic ethanol.”

“Biofuels support over 73,000 jobs in Iowa, reduce pollution and emissions, give consumers a choice at the pump, and reduce our dependence on foreign oil,” added Judge. “The RFS is a critical policy for Iowans and certainly an issue that will help them decide who to support in the caucus.”