Air Canada Joins Biojet Initiative

Air Canada is joining in Canada’s Biojet Supply Chain Initiative (CBSCI), a three year project with multiple partners to assimilate 400,000 litres of sustainable aviation into the shared fuel system. This is not the first entree of Air Canada in terms of biojet fuel. The airline has flown several biojet flights but the aviation fuel was segregated and loaded separately into an aircraft via tanker truck. However the CBSCI initiative will build a framework that will allow the biojet fuel to be blended into aviation fuel used at the airport.

AirCanada plane“We are pleased to support this important initiative by facilitating the logistics involved in the introduction of biojet to an airport’s shared fuel system,” said Teresa Ehman, Director – Environmental Affairs at Air Canada. “In doing our part towards responsible growth and environmental sustainability, Air Canada has invested billions of dollars in fleet renewal to reduce our fuel consumption and meet our current emission reduction goals.”

Ehman added, “Biojet holds the potential to be an important part of our strategy for achieving our longer-term industry goals of carbon neutral growth from 2020 and a 50 per cent reduction in emissions by 2050, relative to 2005 levels. The CBSCI project will contribute significantly to advancing a biojet supply chain in this country.”

The CBSCI project, the first of its kind in Canada, is aimed at creating a sustainable Canadian supply chain of biojet using renewable feedstocks. Canada has abundant agricultural and forestry biomass resources, with globally recognized sustainable production and harvesting practices. The biojet fuel used in this project will be sourced from commercially available, certifiably sustainable Canadian oleochemical feedstocks using the Hydroprocessed Esters and a Fatty Acids (HEFA) conversion process. The biojet fuel will be blended with petroleum jet fuel to meet all technical quality specifications before being introduced into a shared fuel tank at a Canadian airport, yet to be determined. The CBSCI project will also identify and help solve supply logistic barriers that arise when aviation biofuels are introduced at major Canadian airports.

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!”

2016 FEW Agenda Announced

The agenda for the 2016 International Fuel Ethanol Workshop & Expo (FEW) has been announced. The event, taking place June 20-23, 2016 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, will feature more than 140 speakers speaking on topics in four tracks. FEW is the longest and largest running global ethanol event and more than 2,000 attendees are expected this year including ethanol producers, industry suppliers, service providers and researchers.

Tracks include:

Track 1: Production and Operations
Track 2: Leadership and Financial Management
Track 3: Coproducts and Product Diversification
Track 4: Infrastructure and Market Development

Screen Shot 2016-03-28 at 9.01.47 AMThis year’s agenda covers the latest innovations and efficiencies currently being developed for ethanol production,” said Tom Bryan, president of BBI International. “The agenda committee did an outstanding job of rating presentation abstracts and bringing the brightest biofuels minds together under one roof for this event.”

This year, the National Advanced Biofuels Conference & Expo will be co-located with the FEW, making this one of the largest gatherings of biofuels producers, professionals and presenters in the past decade according to BBI. The advanced biofuels event will feature the world of advanced biofuels and biobased chemicals—technology scale-up, project finance, policy, national markets and more—with a core focus on the industrial, petroleum and agribusiness alliances defining the national advanced biofuels industry.

Penn State Harvests First Shrub Willow Crop

Researchers at Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences have completed the harvest of its first experimental crop of shrub willow. The intention of the biomass crop is for use to produce renewable energy and bio-based products. The 34 acres of the shrub willow is part of a five-year program called NEWBio one of seven regional projects of which the goal is to investigate and research sustainable production of woody biomass. Planted in 2012 on land formerly owned by the State Correctional Institution at Rockview, the biomass crop will regrow and will be harvested every three years.

Biomass energy from crops such as shrub willow could provide the social, economic and ecological drivers for a sustainable rural renaissance in the Northeast, researchers say. Photo Credit Penn State.

Biomass energy from crops such as shrub willow could provide the social, economic and ecological drivers for a sustainable rural renaissance in the Northeast, researchers say. Photo Credit Penn State.

“The shrub willow stand at Rockview can continue producing biomass for more than 20 years, and we hope to use it both as a source of renewable energy and as a platform for sustainability research,” explained Armen Kemanian, associate professor of production systems and modeling in the Department of Plant Science, one of the lead researchers in the project. “This is an excellent site to investigate impacts on soil and water quality, biodiversity, avoided carbon dioxide emissions, and the potential for growing a regional bio-based economy. Students from our college visit the site and have a firsthand and close-up view of this new crop for the region.”

Kemanian said shrub willow was selected because the perennial likes to be cut. The team is taking advantage of the shrub willow’s vigorous regrowth allowing for multiple harvest cycles. In addition, Kemanian notes the plants also establish a root system that stabilizes the soil and stores substantial amounts of carbon that otherwise would be lost to the atmosphere.

Other advantages of the plant include its ability to store an recycle nutrients leading to little need for fertilizer and an ability to help improve water quality.  Increasing perennial vegetation is a critical component of Pennsylvania’s water quality strategy, and these biomass crops allow vulnerable parts of the landscape to remain economically productive while protecting water quality says Kemanian who notes that shrub willow can produce the same amount of biomass as a corn crop with only a third of the nitrogen fertilizer. When the plants grow, they take carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. After harvest, when the biomass is combusted either as wood chips or as a liquid biofuel, the carbon dioxide returns to the atmosphere to complete the cycle.

Researchers believe the NEWBio project could hold an important key to future economic development for the region but first an understanding of how to economically handle the harvesting, transportation and storage of massive volumes, which constitutes 40 to 60 percent of the cost of biomass is needed. The continuation of the research will address these concerns as well.

Alliance BioEnergy Touts CoProMax

Alliance BioEnergy Plus is touting the benefits of Harvesting Technology CoProMax for an ethanol plant. When combined with the ALLM CTS process, the company reports a 55 million gallon per year (mmgy) biorefinery can add more than $17 million to the bottom line to a corn ethanol plant without bringing in outside feedstock.

alliance-bioAccording to Alliance BioEnergy, the CoProMax system eliminates the production of thin stillage and utilizes a unique method to extract nearly three times the high value Distillers Corn Oil (DCO) other than what is typical with average production practices. In addition the process provides both a high protein, high fiber distillers grain (with protein levels in excess of 45 percent and containing three quarters of the available corn kernel fiber). The DDGs with high levels of corn kernel fiber can be converted through the CTS unit, extracting even more DCO and adding millions of gallons of cellulosic ethanol output says the company.

The company also says this technology eliminates the need to transport 1,000s of tons of feedstock per day saving costs. In addition, without the feedstock there is no need to add expensive material handling or pretreatment processes.

Alliance BioEnergy says the combined CTS/CoProMax system allows an existing corn ethanol plant the ability to produce cellulosic ethanol by offering both low capital and operating expenses while retaining the ability to expand and add outside feedstocks for additional cellulosic ethanol output.

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.”

UT & Genera Harvest Poplar Trees for Biofuels

Harvester works the field web

A self-propelled forage harvester with a specialized woody harvesting head harvests a 10-acre stand of hybrid poplars being studied to advance lignocellulosic biomass as part of a USDA-funded project coordinated by the University of Tennessee Center for Renewable Carbon. Photo courtesy Genera Energy Inc

University of Tennessee AgResearch Center is harvesting its first batch of popular trees to be used as biomass to create biofuels. The 10-acre plot of hybrid poplars was planted about four years ago and now the 30-foot trees are expected to produce between 60-100 tons of woody biomass. The harvest is part of a five-year $15 million multi-disciplinary research and development effort (IBSS) funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to reduce barriers to the development of the Southeastern bioeconomy.

Tim Rials, director of the UT’s Center for Renewable Carbon said, “The goal of the IBSS partnership is to demonstrate the production of advanced biofuels from sustainable sources of lignocellulosic biomass, that is, biomass made from designed herbaceous and woody crops.” IBSS has focused on perennial switchgrass and short-rotation woody crops like eucalyptus, pine and hybrid poplar, trees that can be grown in the Southeast.

“It’s important for the industry and producers to have a portfolio of crops that can supply the cellulosic biomass for the biorefineries,” Rials continued. “Very little information is available on the performance of hybrid poplar in the Southeast. This project is designed to identify the effect of both genetic differences and management practices on the growth and yield of this potentially important energy crop. The data should provide the basis for future productivity improvements.”

The harvest included plots of several hybrid poplar varieties, called clones. Although genetic differences clearly impacted the overall yield, research has shown little difference in the chemical composition of the different hybrid poplar clones. “This information provides valuable guidance for continued enhancement of this new energy crop,” Rials said. Similar field trials, some with the same varieties, are also underway in Alabama, Mississippi and North Carolina to evaluate environmental impacts on biomass yield. Continue reading

Sumitomo Invests in Cosan Biomassa

Sumitomo Corporation has signed a contract to acquire up to 20 percent of Cosan Biomassa, a producer of sugarcane pellets for power generation. With an eye on Asia’s need to reduce fossil fuel use and meet goals as set forth in the Climate Treaty last December, the partnership between Sumitomo and Cosan will focus on increasing exports to Japan and Europe as well as increase domestic sales.

bagasse-pelletsAccording to a press statement, the state of Sao Paulo has the collective production potential of 45 million tons/year of sugarcane pellets. The venture has set forth a goal to produce 2 million tons by 2025 and as much as 8 million tons/year in the future. Cosan Biomassa has developed a fuel pellet made from sugarcane residues such as bagasse from the sugar mill and straw left over in the sugarcane field, and built a large-scale production plant with an annual capacity 175,000 tons that went into commercial production in December 2015.

“Brazil is already among the largest producers and exporters of agricultural commodities in the world. Pelletized biomass is a new commodity being created to serve the low carbon economy,” said Mark Lyra, Cosan Biomassa CEO. “By making use of sugarcane residues and benefiting from the economic and environmental advantages that the shift to rail logistics brings to the game, Brazil is positioned to become the Saudi Arabia of renewable energy.”

Sumitomo Corporation has targeted biomass energy as a promising source of renewable energy, and began importing biomass fuel for power generation to Japan in 2008.

“By the year 2030, we foresee that Japan will consume as much as 10 million+ tons of pelletized biomass, the majority of which would come from overseas. Renewable energy including biomass will play a prominent role in our power generation sector by that time,” said Yoshinobu Kusano, general manager, Biomass Business, Sumitomo Corporation. “We believe a relevant portion of this demand will be met by agricultural waste, particularly sugarcane biomass pellets produced in Brazil. Sugarcane’s productivity and abundant availability tied to the fact that we are using its residual byproduct as a raw material gives us a unique sustainability condition when compared to other biomass sources in the world.”

University of Illinois Identifies Ideal Bioenergy Crops

New research from the University of Illinois has identified what bioenergy crops are best for certain regions while minimizing effects on water quantity and quality. The study was based on replacing current vegetation with crops for ethanol production and looked at how each crop would impact water quantity and quality in soils.

“We expect the outcome of this study to support scientifically sound national policy decisions on bioenergy crops development especially with regards to cellulosic grasses,” wrote Atul Jain, professor of atmospheric sciences at University of Illinois, regarding a paper published by the journal Environmental Science & Technology.

This figure shows how much water is used to produced one unit of ethanol (defined as water use intensity) for each energy crop. (Image courtesy of Atul Jain.)

This figure shows how much water is used to produced one unit of ethanol (defined as water use intensity) for each energy crop. (Image courtesy of Atul Jain.)

Today, corn is the primary feedstock for ethanol production in the U.S. Prior research has found that several bioenergy grasses such as Miscanthus and switchgrasses such as Alamo and Cave-in-Rock causes less nitrogen loss as compared to corn. Nitrogen is an important nutrient for crops and a key ingredient in fertilizer, but nitrogen often washes away into rivers and other bodies of water where it is detrimental to aquatic ecosystems.

Researchers argue that another advantage bioenergy grasses and switchgrasses have over corn is their deep root system that allows them to draw water and nutrients from deeper soil levels and enables them to be more resilient in poor growing seasons.

“Growing bioenergy grasses, in general, can mitigate nitrogen leaching across the United States,” said Yang Song, a graduate student and the study’s lead author. “However, the greatest reduction in nitrogen leaching occurs when bioenergy crops displace other cropland or grassland, because energy crops consume more water and less nitrogen fertilizer than the crops and grasses that they replace, resulting in less water runoff and nitrogen loss.” Continue reading

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.