Flint Hills Licenses Edeniq’s Cellulose Technology

Flint Hills Resources has signed an agreement to license Edeniq‘s Pathway Technology for all of its ethanol plants. The ethanol group has been an investor in the company since April of 2012 and a customer since June 2012.

Edeniq-Logo“This comprehensive Pathway agreement is the seventh license agreement between our companies, including the installation of Edeniq’s Cellunators at three of FHR’s plants,” said Brian Thome, President and CEO of Edeniq. “Our work with Flint Hills demonstrates the value of our technology to increase profitability in the ethanol industry.”

Edeniq’s Pathway Technology integrates its Cellunator technology that includes cellulase enzymes to convert corn kernel fiber into cellulosic ethanol. The technology utilizes existing fermentation and distillation equipment to produce up to 2.5 percent cellulosic ethanol and a percent increase in overall ethanol yield. Edeniq’s technology also includes a technical validation process that allows ethanol plants to quantify the amount of cellulosic ethanol produced within their plants (the resulting ethanol is considered a D3 RIN under the Renewable Fuel Standard #RFS) and comply with federal registration record keeping and reporting.

ExxonMobil, REG to Study Biodiesel from Cellulose

REGBig oil is partnering up with a giant in biodiesel production to explore the potential of biodiesel made from cellulosic sugars. This news release from Renewable Energy Group (REG) says the green fuel company is partnering with ExxonMobil to make the biodiesel by fermenting renewable cellulosic sugars from sources such as agricultural waste.

REG has developed a patented technology that uses microbes to convert sugars to biodiesel in a one-step fermentation process similar to ethanol manufacturing. The ExxonMobil and REG Life Sciences research will focus on using sugars from non-food sources.

“This research is just one way ExxonMobil is working to identify potential breakthrough technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, increase energy supplies and realize other environmental benefits,” said Vijay Swarup, vice president of research and development at ExxonMobil Research and Engineering Company. “The science is extremely complex, but we hope to identify new affordable and reliable supplies of energy for the world that do not have a major impact on food supplies.”

”REG has a long history of innovation in the production of advanced biofuels from lower carbon, waste feedstocks,” said Eric Bowen, REG Vice President and head of REG Life Sciences. “We look forward to this collaboration with ExxonMobil to advance our proprietary cellulosic sugar fermentation technology and capitalize on the combined power of cellulosic sugars and microbial fermentation to revolutionize the production of ultra-low carbon, cleaner burning advanced biofuels.”

Through the research, the two companies will be addressing the challenge of how to ferment real-world renewable cellulosic sugars, which contain multiple types of sugars, including glucose and xylose, but also impurities that can inhibit fermentation.

“As we research renewable energy supplies, we are exploring future energy options with a reduced environmental impact,” Swarup said. “Our first challenge is to determine technical feasibility and potential environmental benefits during the initial research. If the results are positive, we can then take the next step and explore the potential to expand our efforts and explore scalability.”

Terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

Grasses Hold Promise for Biofuels in Midwest

A recent study shows that perennial grasses are economical biofuel crops to meet U.S. fuel goals and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. However, the West will have to contribute to the biofuels market in ways other than grasses. Tara Hudiburg, an ecologist in the College of Natural Resources at University of Idaho along with researchers from the University of Illinois, Colorado State University and the University of Georgia published their research in the first-ever issue of Nature Energy.

CNR - Tara HudiburgHudiburg said the study is the most comprehensive to date focused on perennial grasses and one of the first to bring together economists and ecologists from around the country for a thorough assessment of whether grasses such as switchgrass and Miscanthus can reduce emissions and meet the biofuel demands of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Renewable Fuel Standard. The grasses can be used to make cellulosic biofuels.

Perennial grasses can supply the fuel needed to meet the RFS but only through smart land-use planning, said Hudiburg, and should not be planted in the West where other feedstocks are more sustainable and economical.

“These perennial grasses are not feasible environmentally for the West,” Hudiburg said. “Replacing greenhouse-gas-intensive crops — like corn grain for ethanol — is a much easier greenhouse gas problem to solve than replacing land out here.”

Hudiburg explained that much of the land in the West, such as forest land, is already positively contributing to emission reduction by storing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases rather than releasing them. The Midwest, on the other hand, is a net source of greenhouse gases, largely due to agriculture. Continue reading

Pacific Ethanol Begins Cellulosic Production

Pacific Ethanol biorefinery located in Stockton, California is now producing cellulosic ethanol using Edeniq, Inc.’s Pathway Technology. The Stockton plant, a facility with a production capacity of 60 million gallons per year, is expected to produce up to 750,000 gallons per year of cellulosic ethanol with the Pathway process.

corn

Photo Credit: Joanna Schroeder

Neil Koehler, president and CEO of Pacific Ethanol, said of the milestone, “We are now commercially producing cellulosic ethanol using Edeniq’s Pathway enzyme at our Stockton facility. This is an important step in our strategy to increase production yields at our plants and our mission to be the leading producer and marketer of low-carbon renewable fuels. We are working with Edeniq and the Environmental Protection Agency to qualify these gallons for generating D3 cellulosic RINs, which carry a premium over conventional ethanol, and we expect to receive EPA approval in the first quarter of 2016.”

Edeniq’s Pathway Technology integrates Edeniq’s Cellunator high shear equipment with cellulase enzymes to convert corn kernel fiber to fermentable sugars. According to the company, the pathway includes a proprietary technical validation process that enables customers to quantify the amount of cellulosic ethanol produced within their plants and comply with the registration, recordkeeping, and reporting required by the EPA to generate cellulosic D3 Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs) as defined by the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

“Our Pathway Technology enables ethanol plants to produce cellulosic ethanol directly in existing fermentation vessels at a very low cost,” aded Brian Thome, President and CEO of Edeniq. “Pacific Ethanol’s production of cellulosic ethanol is an important landmark for both of our companies, and for the ethanol industry.”

USDA Gives $70 Mil Loan Guarantee for Biofuel Plant

usda-logoA cellulosic biofuel plant in Georgia will get built, thanks in part to a $70 million U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) loan guarantee. This news release from USDA says the money is being made available through the agency’s Biorefinery Assistance Program.

“There is a clear consumer demand for clean, American-made, renewable fuels, which our rural communities stand ready to meet,” said [Ag Secretary Tom] Vilsack. “USDA is proud to support environmentally and technologically sound projects like this one, which will increase biofuel availability nationwide and create jobs in rural Georgia. This loan commitment is the most recent example of our support for President Obama’s ‘all-of-the-above’ energy strategy, which includes alternative and renewable fuel sources.”

Ensyn Georgia Biorefinery I, LLC (Ensyn) will construct and operate a cellulosic biofuel refinery in Dooly County, Georgia. The company will produce 20 million gallons of renewable fuel per year employing its Rapid Thermal Processing (RTP) technology. RTP uses a fast thermal process to convert non-food-based feedstocks into biobased fuels.

Ensyn will convert 440 dry tons of woody biomass into a renewable fuel oil (RFO) product. There is an abundant supply of woody biomass near the plant due to excess forest materials in the region. However, Ensyn can use a variety of other non-food cellulosic feedstocks as well.

The renewable fuel oil will be used as a heating oil replacement and as a renewable feedstock for diesel and gasoline production at refineries.

Advanced Biofuels Industry Weighs in on #RFS

The advance biofuels industry is fairly positive about increased volumes in the final Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) rules that were released yesterday but leaders are stressing that this isn’t enough to keep the advanced biofuels industry growing and get investor confidence back on track. In the past year, four commercial scale cellulosic ethanol biorefineries went online and when they are in full production will produce more than 100 million gallons of advanced biofuels each year.

Leaders continue to express frustration with the EPA and legislators- especially when they point out that the #RFS is the most effective energy policy ever implemented. So what exactly is the industry saying? Read some of their responses below:

Brooke Coleman, Advanced Biofuels Business Council Executive Director:
abbc“What we’re seeing in the RFS final rule, volumetrically at least, is continued growth in renewable fuel blending. That counts for something, predominantly in markets already inclined to offer consumers more renewable fuels. But it is frustrating that the Administration missed this opportunity to fix two waiver issues that are undercutting U.S. investment in low carbon, advanced biofuels. Waivers are absolutely critical to U.S. investment, because they define for investors when the field of play can be altered. It is confounding that the Obama Administration would side with the oil industry against Democratic members of Congress and the advanced biofuels industry in reinterpreting its waiver authority to allow for “distribution waivers,” which would permit EPA to waive the RFS if the oil industry refuses to make arrangements to distribute renewable fuel and comply with the law.” Click to read entire ABBC statement.

Brent Erickson, Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO):
bio-logo“Today’s rule is a severe blow to American consumers and the biofuels industry. To date, BIO member companies have invested billions of dollars to develop first-of-a-kind advanced and cellulosic biofuel production facilities. EPA’s two-year delay in finalizing the rule created untenable uncertainty and shook investor confidence in the RFS program. BIO estimates that investment in the advanced biofuel sector has experienced a $13.7 billion shortfall due to EPA’s delays and proposed changes. Unfortunately, this final rule exacerbates the problem.”

Michael McAdams, President, Advanced Biofuels Association:
Advanced Biofuels Association logoThe Advanced Biofuels Association applauds EPA’s support of next-generation biofuels…While we appreciate EPA’s efforts, we continue to believe that legislative reform is required to address ongoing hurdles facing next-generation biofuels. Congress needs to strengthen the RFS to help focus and expedite the production of advanced biofuels. Outdated definitions, cellulosic waivers, as well as overall program uncertainty have created significant barriers to entry for the advanced and cellulosic industry. That’s why ABFA will continue to work with Congress and the Administration to reform and strengthen the RFS so it can deliver on the promise of next-generation renewable fuels.”

Fuels America Launches RFS Climate Ad Campaign

Leading up to COP21 in Paris in a couple of weeks Fuels America has launched a climate campaign targeted at President Obama. The campaign encourages him to tout the success of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) during the climate talks. Fuels America is calling on the administration to get the RFS back on track. During the call biofuel industry representatives discussed how the decision on the RFS will be critical in determining if the U.S. will lead by example on climate action. The campaign includes full page ad in the New York Times and digital ads in the Beltway.

Screen Shot 2015-11-20 at 9.57.22 AM“If the President doesn’t reverse course on the disastrous proposal, he will effectively be letting the oil industry and climate deniers in Congress dictate our climate policy,” said Roger Johnson, president of the National Farmers Union, during the press call. “It will upend America’s most successful policy cutting greenhouse gas emissions and combatting climate change, and stifle investment in advanced biofuels in America.”

Speakers noted the threat to the advanced biofuels industry is significant with $13.7 billion in investment in advanced biofuels currently frozen according to a report from BIO. Chris Standlee, executive vice president of global affairs at Abengoa Bioenergy, noted during the call that Abengoa is looking to deploy its cellulosic ethanol technology overseas due to the uncertainty caused by the current state of the RFS. The company’s first cellulosic ethanol plant went online last October in Hugoton, Kansas.

“This Administration’s proposal inserts a loophole into the RFS—our country’s most aggressive climate policy in force today—and allows oil companies to continue ignoring their obligations under the law,” explained Standlee. “Our industry has fought and won this battle before—this waiver was sought for years by the oil industry and would allow them to control the RFS and restrict the deployment of the lowest carbon fuels in the world.”

Listen to the presser here: Fuels America Launches Biofuel Climate Ad Campaign Presser Continue reading

Where or Where Will Cellulosic Ethanol Go?

The world’s largest cellulosic ethanol biorefinery went online Friday, October 30, 2015 in Nevada, Iowa marked by a commissioning celebration featuring several Iowa dignitaries. The day was kicked off with a welcome reception where DuPont Industrial Biosciences President William Feehery spoke about how the company is committed to reforming how energy is produced. Yet despite the jovial mood, there was talk about the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and the EPA’s lack of commitment to advanced biofuels and the concern of where the increasing cellulosic biofuels will go? (More than likely, California).

In Iowa, support for renewable energy is a bipartisan issue. Governor Terry Branstad took the stage calling on the EPA to “support the Iowa way”, which is “together in a bipartisan way, recognizing the benefits of renewable fuels and not being afraid to continue to move forward with these advancements”. He thanked DuPont for having the “courage and tenacity” to build the biorefinery in Iowa, noting cellulosic ethanol was a long-time coming, “but we’re proud the day is finally here and that it’s happening”.

Branstad, among other legislators, took the momentous occasion to call out the EPA for its lack of commitment to supporting the RFS. The agency is expected to publish the 2014, 2015 and 2016 final rules by November 30, 2015 and the agency transmitted the rules to the Office of Management and Budget this week.

Steve Kings signs first bale

IA Representative Steve Kings signs the biomass bale that will be the first bale used to produce cellulosic ethanol. Photo Credit: Joanna Schroeder

When Congressman Steve King took the stage, he focused his remarks on the future of biofuels. “We’re in the beginnings of this, not the end.” He applauded not only the hundreds of millions of dollars invested in the project but also the intellectual investment it took to create the technology. Yet he too took the opportunity to champion the success of the RFS.

“And I wanted to point out also, that yes, we do have a battle in Congress and maybe it starts before this day is over,” said Rep. King. “It ticks me off when they go after the RFS. They [fellow Representatives] came to me on the floor the other day and said what happens if we bring a bill to repeal the RFS to the floor of the House of Representatives. And I looked at them with the dirtiest look I could give and I said that would be a holy war because the RFS is the Holy Grail. It’s market access and without market access they shut us out and we can’t sell this product.”

Another long-standing and vocal supporter of homegrown renewable fuels, Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley, called DuPont’s achievement revolutionary when he took the platform. “From conception to commercialization, this biorefinery is a byproduct of Iowa ingenuity, innovation and investment,” he said stressing that what has been achieved here is what Congress hoped. Yet once again, he seized the moment to share his frustration over the battle of the RFS and let the audience know that he will continue to fight to ensure the legislation gets back on track and there remains a legislative commitment behind the advanced biofuels industry.

“Defending and maintaining the program is critical, especially for advanced and cellulosic biofuel producers. We can not pull the rug out and we won’t pull the rug out from under you,” said Sen. Grassley who called on the Congress and EPA to reject efforts to undermine the a successful program and encourage them to do whatever they can to encourage the investment in the development of the advanced biofuels industry.

“Yes, is it a day of celebration, but tomorrow is a day for us to continue to fight,” added Grassley. “The fight to show people that everything about ethanol is good. Nothing bad, from this standpoint!”

Cellulosic Biofuels Celebrated at DuPont Plant Opening

DuPont cellulosic grand openingNevada, Iowa is officially home to the world’s largest cellulosic ethanol biorefinery with the official plant commissioning. When the DuPont facility is at full production, in about a year, it will produce 30 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol from agricultural residues such as corn stover.

The celebration was kicked off with the National Anthem sung by music legend Simon Estes followed by nearly a dozen speakers. The first to take the stage was William Freehery, president, DuPont Industrial Sciences who discussed the theme of DuPont’s advanced biofuels production: “RE. FORM. ENERGY”. Freehery focused his remarks on how the company is changing the way the world thinks about biofuels. He explained how their technology is “reforming” how energy is produced and in the future and how they will “reform” ways to create new materials, “reform” new ways to use them and “reform” new ways to produce them.

“What is significant about today is that we’ve reinvented manufacturing itself,” said Feehery. “Feeding renewable biomass into a commercial scale industrial facility. We’ve also reinvented how we think of and supply energy, and our next act will be reinventing how we turn those same agricultural feedstocks into to new types of materials that people use everyday.”

Also speaking was an individual who came to Nevada to turn the dream of cellulosic ethanol production into reality: Terraun Jones, operations manager. He was lured to Iowa on the platform of his fascination of turning agricultural waste, something Iowa has too much of, into biofuel and bioproducts. When he arrived, his first task was to create the foundation for the plant -the pouring of concrete and adding steel. “It was not just the foundation of our facility, but it was the foundation of an entirely new industry and renewable energy,” said Jones.

Photo: Joanna Schroeder

Photo: Joanna Schroeder

Event speakers included: Host: Jan Koninckx, Global Business Director, DuPont Biofuels; Simon Estes; William Feehery, President, DuPont Industrial Biosciences; Honorable Terry Branstad, Governor, State of Iowa; Honorable Kim Reynolds, Lieutenant Governor, State of Iowa; Honorable Chuck Grassley, U.S. Senator, State of Iowa; Honorable Steve King, U.S. Representative, State of Iowa; Honorable Bill Northey, Secretary of Agriculture, State of Iowa; Terraun Jones, DuPont Employee Representative; Honorable Lynn Lathrop, Mayor, City of Nevada; Dr. Johnathan Male, U.S. Department of Energy;  and Brian Sampson, Grower Harvest Program.

Listen to the full program here: DuPont Cellulosic Biorefinery Welcome Program

EPA Submits Final RFS Rules to OMB for Review

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has transmitted its Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) rules to the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for review as one of the final steps before publishing the final 2014, 2015 and 2016 final RFS rules for renewable volume obligations (RVOs). While the details are not public, the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) is calling on the EPA to correct its course and stop undermining the goals and requirements of the statute. The uncertainty, the organization said, is undercutting much needed investments in advanced and cellulosic biofuels as well as raising greenhouse gas emissions in the transportation fuel sector.

bio-logoMany cellulosic and advanced biofuel companies are members of the organization including several companies who have brought commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol biorefineries online in the past year including Abengoa Bioenergies in Hugoton, Kansas; DuPont in Nevada, Iowa; and POET-DSM in Emmetsburg, Iowa. In addition, several leading advanced biofuels companies focused on waste feedstocks have also seen commercial scale success including INEOS Bio in Vero Beach, Florida; Enerkem in Alberta, Canada; GranBio in Alagoas, Brazil; and ZeaChem in Boardman, Oregon. All of these companies, along with those companies still in development stages, have a significant vested interest in achieving increased mandated volumes for second generation biofuels.

According to BIO, its members are improving conventional biofuel processes, commercializing advanced and cellulosic biofuel production technologies and speeding the development of new bioenergy dedicated crops.

Brent Erickson, executive vice president of BIO’s Industrial & Environmental Section, said after hearing the news that the final rules were sent to OMB for review, “The RFS has been a critical piece of our nation’s energy and climate policy. It has driven the investment of billions of dollars in the development and commercial deployment of ultra-low-carbon biofuels. It has spurred innovation beyond biofuels to the development of greener technologies and manufacturing processes while curbing our dependence on foreign oil.”

“Unfortunately, Erickson continued, “as we explained in our official comments on the proposed rule, EPA’s new interpretation of its statutory authority to waive the requirements of the RFS statute has already chilled investment for advanced biofuels and has increased U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. If EPA issues a final rule that adopts the approach set forth in the proposed rule, the result will be continued market uncertainty and market constraints that will further undermine sustained investment in advanced biofuels.”

The deadline for the release of the final RFS rules in November 30, 2015. Should the RVO’s not be returned to at minimum, mandated levels, the biofuels industry has voiced intent to sue the EPA.