Gevo and Clariant Ink ETO Tech Deal

Gevo logoGevo will be developing catalysts for Clariant to enable its ETO technology, which uses ethanol as a feedstock to produce tailor mixes of propylene, isobutylene and hydrogen. These chemicals are valuable as stand-alone molecules and also as feedtstocks to produce other products such as diesel fuel and bioplastics that would replace their petroleum counterparts.

Clariant will be scaling up the catalysts produced by Gevo via its ETO technology that uses mixed metal oxide cayalysts to produce polymer grade propylene or high purity isobutylene as well as high yields of hydrogen from ethanol in a single step. While Clairiant scale-ups the catalyst, Gevo will continue to focus on optimizing its isobutanol technology. According to Gevo, once the ETO technology has been successfully developed and scaled-up, Clariant will be in a position to produce quantities of the catalyst needed to meet commercial production requirements. As with its isobutanol technology, Gevo anticipates growing its ETO business through licensing.

Screen Shot 2016-05-23 at 12.46.23 PM“We see the opportunity for Clariant catalysts to convert ethanol, produced from cellulosic or other carbohydrate sources, into more value-added products to create greater growth potential for the ethanol industry,” said Stefan Brejc, Head of Specialty Catalysts Business Segment at Clariant.

Gevo has filed a series of patent applications related to this technology, and says its ETO technology has the potential to provide the estimated 25 billion gallon global ethanol industry a much broader set of end-product market and margin opportunities, beyond the use of ethanol as a gasoline blendstock.

“We are pleased to be working with Clariant. They have tremendous capability and know-how to scale-up developmental, customized catalysts to enable commercialization of new, large-scale processes. We see the potential with this technology to address several major opportunities cutting across chemicals, plastics, fuels and hydrogen,” said Dr. Patrick Gruber, Chief Executive Officer of Gevo.

#USDA to Award $21M for Bioeconomy R&D

USDAThe U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has made $21 million available to support the development of regional systems in sustainable bioenergy and biobased products. The funds will also be awarded to train the next generation of bio-scientists. The monies are offered through the AFRI Sustainable Bioenergy and Bioproducts challenge area designed to provide renewable energy, chemical, and product options, among other goals.

“This announcement marks the Obama Administration’s latest investment in the biobased economy, which pumps $369 billion into the U.S. economy each year and supports 4 million jobs in rural and small towns across the United States,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “Over the course of this Administration, America has more than doubled our renewable energy production, and today we import less than half our oil. We are saving money at the pump, bolstering national security by relying less on foreign oil, and combating climate change with investments in technologies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and provide for cleaner air.”

In fiscal year 2016, the Sustainable Bioenergy and Bioproducts challenge area is soliciting applications that focus on the following priorities:

  • Regional Bioenergy Coordinated Agricultural Projects (CAPs), which support the production and delivery of regionally-appropriate sustainable biomass feedstocks for bioenergy and bioproducts. While the focus of CAPs will be on feedstocks, competitive proposals must present the feedstock development and production in the context of comprehensive regional sustainable bioenergy and bioproducts supply chain systems.
  • Investing in America’s scientific corps: Preparing a new generation of students, faculty, and a workforce for emerging opportunities in bioenergy, bioproducts, and the bioeconomy.

Application deadlines vary by program area. See the request for applications for more information.

UCR Awarded $1.3 for Waste-to-Energy Research

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has awarded two University of California Riverside (UCR) researchers with $1.3 million for waste-to-energy research focused on creating biofuels and biochemicals from waste plant materials. Charles Wyman, Distinguished Professor in Chemical and Environmental Engineering and holder of the Ford Motor Company Chair in Environmental Engineering at the Center for Environmental Research and Technology (CE-CERT), and Charles Cai, Research Engineer at CE-CERT and Adjunct Assistant Professor, both with Riverside’s Bourns College of Engineering, lead the team that is looking to convert poplar wood into ethanol and polyurethanes based on novel platforms for pretreatment and lignin polymer synthesis.

Charles Wyman, the Ford Motor Company Chair in Environmental Engineering at UC Riverside.

Charles Wyman, the Ford Motor Company Chair in Environmental Engineering at UC Riverside.

The Wyman/Cai team has patented the method, Co-solvent Enhanced Lignocellulosic Fractionation (CELF), and is using this platform to convert raw ag and forest residues into biofuels and other biochemicals. The goal is to create a pathway in which biofuels and biochemicals can be produced from biomass at high enough yields and low enough costs to become a market competitor to traditional fuels and chemicals. The research team believes CELF will enable production facilities to increase revenue by offsetting pretreatment costs, thus improving overall production economics.

“This project takes advantage of the unique ability of our novel CELF technology to effectively fractionate lignin from low-cost non-food sources of cellulosic biomass such as agricultural and forestry residues for conversion into polyurethanes that increase revenues for biorefineries while also enhancing ethanol yields,” explained Wyman. Wyman leads a team of researchers at UCR’s CE-CERT as well as their additional research partners University of Tennessee Knoxville and MG Fuels LLC.

The funding is one of seven institutions to receive a share of $10 million from the Biomass Research and Development Initiative (BRDI), a joint initiative between USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture and the Department of Energy (DOE).

Proposed Tax Credit Amendment for CO2 Capture

A new amendment has been proposed by U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) that would provide a tax credit for technologies that are able to convert CO2 into products such as advanced biofuels, animal feed and biochemicals. The proposed language would create a new utilization tax incentive to complement section 45Q of the tax code, which already provides credits for the adoption of carbon capture and sequestration technologies.

ABO logo“We thank Senator Whitehouse for his leadership and recognition that a number of innovative technologies are coming of age that can help the United States achieve substantial, permanent reductions in CO2 while producing valuable commodities,” said Matt Carr, executive director of the Algae Biomass Organization in response to the amendment. “Carbon utilization technologies are attracting broad congressional support, and common-sense policy like this can play a key role in accelerating how quickly algae and other utilization technologies will improve our energy and economic security.”

Algae cultivation is one viable way to transform CO2 into products such as advanced biofuels or biochemicals and products used in industries such as the health and beauty industries. In addition, the Algae Biomass Organization says algae companies across the U.S. are working to commercialize new technology advances that also convert CO2 to fertilizer, plastics and feed ingredients.

REG Begins Ames Lab Expansion

Renewable Energy Group has begun its expansion of its laboratory at its Ames, Iowa headquarters. The upgraded lab will enable the company to further enhance renewable chemical related biotechnology research, development and commercialization including the installation of fermentation equipment and significant analytical capabilities. Once complete, full-time positions will be added to focus on commercialization and integration of products to be developed by REG in South San Francisco into production and delivery platforms.

REG“This expansion is simply one of many examples of REG’s commitment to innovation and economic development in Iowa and in particular Ames which is a cornerstone of Iowa’s Cultivation Corridor,” said REG President and CEO Daniel Oh. “These upgrades will allow us to increase our midwestern focus on product development for renewable chemicals.”

Oh said renewable chemicals legislation is expected to be signed soon by Governor Terry Branstad, a bill that will provide tax credits for the renewable chemical industry. Oh believes these credits will provide extra momentum for REG’s investments. “The state’s efforts to promote and grow renewable chemicals are a natural extension of the state’s support of agriculture and renewable fuels. This bill shows commitment and purpose and demonstrates that the investment is desired here in Iowa, and we are thankful for the support of our elected officials in getting it done. ”

NexSteppe CEO Anna Rath Wins BIO Award

Anna Rath Next SteppeThis year’s 2016 BIO Rosalind Franklin Award is being given to Anna Rath, CEO of NexSteppe. The award is given to an outstanding woman in the field of industrial biotechnology. According to the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO), who presents the honor, Rath’s work led to a biotech breakthrough. Her research is focused on developing scalable and sustainable bioenergy feedstocks. The award will be officialy presented during the 2016 World Congress taking place April 17-20, 2016 in San Diego, California.

“Much like Rosalind Franklin, Anna Rath’s passion for science and strong work ethic has led to one of the greatest breakthroughs in industrial biotechnology. Optimizing crops for renewable energy has spurred the growth of the biofuels, biopower, and biobased product industries,” said Brent Erickson, executive vice president for BIO’s Industrial & Environmental Section. “BIO is pleased to present Anna this year with the Rosalind Franklin Award and we are looking forward to her delivering what are anticipated to be inspiring remarks.”

“I’m extremely honored to be chosen for this award and flattered by the extraordinary company of former award winners,” said Rath. “NexSteppe is committed to enabling the bioeconomy by providing high-quality, cost-effective, scalable and reliable feedstocks for the entire range of biopower, biogas, advanced and cellulosic biofuels and biobased products. As the commercial scale of these industries grows, so too does the need for and focus on the availability of these sustainable and dependable raw materials. We are excited to be doing our part to help drive the continued growth and development of the bioeconomy.”

Karla Shepard Rubinger, executive director of the Rosalind Franklin Society added, “We know that this Award honors all women in science, and provides a role model for those who will no doubt follow in her footsteps, Next Steps!”

Renewable Chemicals Tax Credit Passes in Iowa

The Iowa Senate has approved a new five-year production tax credit for renewable chemicals. The goal of the incentive is to drive innovation in the sector within the state. Renewable chemicals will be defined in Iowa’s tax code as having at least 50 percent biobased content and not being used as food, feed or fuel. The value of the tax credit is limited to $105 million over five years. Identical legislation was approved yesterday by Iowa’s House Ways and Means Committee.

Joe Hrdlicka, executive director of the Iowa Biotechnology Association (IowaBio), said of the news, “Iowa is securing a leadership position in building a biobased economy, creating new economic opportunities for farmers and manufacturers, and generating well-paying jobs. We thank Gov. Terry Branstad and Director of the Iowa Economic Development Authority Debi Durham for championing this policy.”

Brent ENew-Bio-Logorickson, Executive Vice President of BIO’s Industrial & Environmental Section, added, “Renewable chemicals help protect the environment and create new jobs. Iowa’s new tax credit will encourage biotechnology and renewable chemical companies to make investments and deploy innovative homegrown technology in Iowa. BIO will continue to work with the Iowa legislature, other states and the federal government to level the playing field in economic development incentives for renewable chemical and biobased manufacturing technologies.”

Comet Biorefining Awarded CA $10.9M

Comet Biorefining has been awarded CA $10.9 million dollars from the Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDIC) to assist with the construction of its biobased chemicals plant located in Sarnia, Ontario. The biorefinery will convert corn stover into high-purity dextrose sugar. SDTC supports the development of technologies which address the challenges of clean air, soil, water and climate change.

Comet Biorefining logoAndrew Richard, founder of Comet, said, “This funding will support the commercialization of our feedstock-flexible technology and produce a much-needed raw material for the growing bioeconomy. By supporting Comet Biorefining, SDTC is investing in Canada’s environmental goals and economic future.”

Comet’s technology enables sugars to be produced cost- competitively with corn or sugarcane-derived dextrose, the conventional raw materials for today’s biochemical production. Comet’s facilities may be built on a small scale that enables flexibility to locate production close to biomass supplies, reducing transportation costs.

“Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC) is incredibly proud to support Comet Biorefining,” added Leah Lawrence, president and CEO. “Our mission is to help Canadian cleantech entrepreneurs move their ground-breaking technologies to commercialization by bridging the funding gap between research and market entry. This dextrose sugar plant is the kind of technology that has the potential to generate jobs, growth and export opportunities, and to bring lasting economic, environmental and health benefits to Canadians and the world.”

Federal Activities Report on Bioeconomy Released

USDA has released a new report, “Federal Activities Report on the Bioeconomy.” According to Dr. Catherine Woteki, the report was developed to create awareness of federal agency activities that are helping to develop and support the bioeconomy. The “bioeconomy” is an emerging part of the U.S. economy, says Woteki, that utilizes renewable biological resources to produce fuels, power and biobased products.

Screen Shot 2016-02-29 at 11.16.10 AMAccording to the Department of Energy (DOE), the U.S. has the potential to sustainably produce one billion tons of biomass. This could displace 25 percent of U.S. transportation fuels, 50 billion pounds of bio-based products, and generate 85 billion kWh of electricity. To reach this would mean tripling the size of current U.S. biomass usage. USDA, DOE, and other federal agencies have activities in place that provide a foundation for the existing bioeconomy.

The Federal Activities Report on the Bioeconomy introduces the Billion Ton Bioeconomy Vision—the government’s new, collaborative vision of what America could achieve by expanding efforts to develop the bioeconomy. Moving forward, the Biomass R&D Board will be hosting a series of workshops and webinars to gather input for the vision from stakeholders and the public, which will be released later this year.

Goat’s Guts Lead to Better Biofuels

New research finds that some day your gas tanks could be filled up by horses, sheep and goat’s guts. Researchers looked at how the anaerobic gut fungi, as compared to engineered fungi, were able to convert plant material into sugars that could be converted into advanced biofuels and other biobased materials.

Fungi found in the guts of goats, horses and sheep help them digest stubborn plant material. A team of researchers report in the journal Science that these fungi could potentially lead to cheaper biofuel and bio-based products. Professor of chemical engineering at the University of California, Santa Barbara Michelle O’Malley, was the lead author of the paper. She explained, “Nature has engineered these fungi to have what seems to be the world’s largest repertoire of enzymes that break down biomass.”

Fungi found in the guts of goats, horses and sheep help them digest stubborn plant material. A team of researchers report in the journal Science that these fungi could potentially lead to cheaper biofuel and bio-based products. Image courtesy of Daniele Faieta/Flickr

Fungi found in the guts of goats, horses and sheep help them digest stubborn plant material. A team of researchers report in the journal Science that these fungi could potentially lead to cheaper biofuel and bio-based products. Image courtesy of Daniele Faieta/Flickr

These enzymes — tools made of protein — work together to break down stubborn plant material. The researchers found that the fungi adapt their enzymes to wood, grass, agricultural waste, or whatever they were fed. The findings suggest that gut fungi could be modified so the produce better enzymes that will outperform even the best ones on the market today. With a more effective way to break down biomass, it should led to the development of less expensive biofuels and bioproducts.

O’Malley and her colleagues knew the fungi’s hyphae excrete proteins, or enzymes, break down plant material. The researchers understood that like tools in a toolbox, the more diverse the enzymes, the better the fungi can take apart plants and turn them into food. So the goal was to help develop this fungi toolbox for the bioindustry to use to better break down biomass.

“Despite their fascinating biology, anaerobic gut fungi can be difficult to isolate and study,” said Scott Baker, EMSL’s science theme lead for Biosystem Dynamics and Design, one of the agencies that collaboratively participated in the research. “By utilizing the cutting-edge scientific capabilities at EMSL and JGI, O’Malley showed how the huge catalog of anaerobic gut fungi enzymes could advance biofuel production.”