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.”

Comet Biorefining to Build Biomass to Sugar Plant

TransAlta Energy Park located in Sarnia, Ontario will be the new home of a commercial scale biomass to sugar facility operated by Comet Biorefining. The facility is expected to be operational by 2018 and will produce 60 million pounds per year of dextrose sugar from locally sourced corn stover and wheat straw.

Comet Biorefining logoComet, using its proprietary patented process, coverts the biomass into sugar and then the sugar will be converted into biobased products including organic acids, amino acids and bioplastics. The company notes that the biobased products will replace petroleum-based materials, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help Canada reach its climate reduction goals. Comet also says its dextrose is cost and performance competitive with commercial dextrose sugars.

Andrew Richard, CEO of Comet said, “Construction of this first-of-a-kind plant represents a key step towards the large-scale commercialization of our cellulosic sugar business. It highlights the important role our technology plays in the value chain, helping to drive the bioeconomy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

The company says it chose to locate in Sarnia by working together with Bioindustrial Innovation Canada (BIC), the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) and an Ontario farmers’ cooperative on a project to attract sustainable technology providers to the region and to meet increasing demand from chemical suppliers and consumers for low-carbon products.

“Establishing new uses for agricultural residues in the bio-based chemical supply chain leads to sustainable farms and new markets. Both outcomes are primary goals of the OFA, and this project does just that,” added Don McCabe, OFA’s president.

New BIO-Yeast Could Improve Biofuels Production

Quinn Dickinson, research specialist at the University of Madison’s Wisconsin Energy Institute who also works with the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center (GLBRC), has helped to design a new strain of yeast that he believes holds great promise in improving the efficiency of making biofuel from biomass such as switchgrass.

Dickinson’s goal is to solve a problem in the biomass to biofuels conversion process, namely that in some cases, solvents are so good at breaking down biomass that they often hinder the next critical step of the process, fermentation.

GLBRC assistant research specialist Quinn Dickinson picks a colony of a new yeast strain that could reduce the cost of biofuels produced with ionic liquids.

GLBRC assistant research specialist Quinn Dickinson picks a colony of a new yeast strain that could reduce the cost of biofuels produced with ionic liquids.

The precursor to this finding was research Dickinson was conducting with fellow GLBRC colleague, Jeff Piotrowski, who is now a principal scientist at Yumanity Therapeutics in Massachusetts. The two were working on ionic liquids, solvents that can deconstruct different kinds of biomass into relatively pure streams of the plant’s sugar but which are also toxic to the kind of microorganisms that ferment those sugars into fuel.

“Ionic liquids are a particularly promising technology for deconstructing biomass, but their toxicity to fermentative microbes has posed a challenge,” said Piotrowski. “To really harness the power of this solvent — and to enable a bio-based economy — we need microbes specifically tailored to tolerate the specific toxicity of ionic liquids.” Continue reading

Dupont, ADM Make Long Sought-After Biochemical

dupont_admDuPont Industrial Biosciences and ADM have teamed up to develop a process to make a long sought-after molecule important for renewable biochemicals. This news release from DuPont says the technology has applications in packaging, textiles, engineering plastics and many other industries.

The companies have developed a method for producing furan dicarboxylic methyl ester (FDME) from fructose. FDME is a high-purity derivative of furandicarboxylic acid (FDCA), one of the 12 building blocks identified by the U.S. Department of Energy that can be converted into a number of high-value, bio-based chemicals or materials that can deliver high performance in a number of applications. It has long been sought-after and researched, but has not yet been available at commercial scale and at reasonable cost. The new FDME technology is a more efficient and simple process than traditional conversion approaches and results in higher yields, lower energy usage and lower capital expenditures.

This partnership brings together ADM’s world-leading expertise in fructose production, and carbohydrate chemistry with DuPont’s biotechnology, chemistry, materials and applications expertise, all backed by a strong joint intellectual-property portfolio.

“This molecule is a game-changing platform technology. It will enable cost-efficient production of a variety of 100 percent renewable, high-performance chemicals and polymers with applications across a broad range of industries,” said Simon Herriot, global business director for biomaterials at DuPont. “ADM is an agribusiness powerhouse with strong technology development capabilities. They are the ideal partner with which to develop this new, renewable supply chain for FDME.”

One of the first polymers under development utilizing FDME is polytrimethylene furandicarboxylate (PTF), a novel polyester also made from DuPont’s proprietary Bio-PDO™ (1,3-propanediol). PTF is a 100-percent renewable and recyclable polymer that, when used to make bottles and other beverage packages, substantially improves gas-barrier properties compared to other polyesters. This makes PTF a great choice for customers in the beverage packaging industry looking to improve the shelf life of their products.

“We are excited about the potential FDME has to help our customers reach new markets and develop better-performing products, all made from sustainable, bio-based starting materials,” said Kevin Moore, president, renewable chemicals at ADM. “With their strong leadership in the biomaterials industry, DuPont is a great partner that can help us bring this product to market for our customers.”

The two companies plan to build an integrated 60 ton-per-year demonstration plant in Decatur, Illinois, which will provide potential customers with sufficient product quantities for testing and research.