Santorum Visits Quad County Cellulosic Ethanol Plant

qccp-santorumRepublican presidential candidate and former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum visited the site of the first commercial cellulosic ethanol production in the state of Iowa at Quad County Corn Processors (QCCP) Friday.

“One of the things that’s helped rural small towns and farmers, particularly in Iowa, is the Renewable Fuel Standard,” said Santorum, who met with met with plant representatives, including QCCP CEO Delayne Johnson, who share how they recently passed the two-million gallon milestone for cellulosic ethanol production using Syngenta’s Cellerate™ process technology.

“We are excited to have achieved our goal of producing 2 million gallons per year of cellulosic ethanol, and are on target to continue, or increase, this production level going forward,” Johnson said. “We’re now focusing on growing alliances and relationships within the industry.”

During 2014, QCCP achieved EPA certification to generate D3 Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs) for cellulosic ethanol. According to Johnson, the generation of D3 RINs helps fulfill advanced and cellulosic requirements set forth by the RFS. QCCP is among the first companies to issue D3 RINs, which has also enabled the company to expand sales into racing and advanced biofuels markets.

Santorum met with Johnson and others at the plant to discuss renewable fuels policy and see first-hand the innovative process technology that has enabled QCCP to become a leader in cellulosic ethanol production. Sen. Santorum also called for investment in flex fuel infrastructure to increase access to biofuels – which he believes would provide consumers with increased access to the fuel marketplace and allow greater market competition.

DuPont Celebrates Opening of Cellulosic Ethanol Plant

dupont-plantDuPont celebrated the opening of its cellulosic biofuel facility in Nevada, Iowa on Friday with a ceremony including industry representatives and many dignitaries. The biorefinery is now officially the world’s largest commercial cellulosic ethanol plant, with the capacity to produce 30 million gallons per year from corn stover – the stalks, leaves and cobs left in a field after harvest.

“Iowa has a rich history of innovation in agriculture,” said Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad. “Today we celebrate the next chapter in that story, using agricultural residue as a feedstock for fuel, which brings both tremendous environmental benefits to society and economic benefits to the state. The opening of DuPont’s biorefinery represents a great example of the innovation that is possible when rural communities, their government and private industry work together toward a common goal.”

“Today, we fulfill our promise to the global biofuels industry with the dedication of our Iowa facility,” said William F. Feehery, president of DuPont Industrial Biosciences. “And perhaps more significantly, we fulfill our promise to society to bring scientific innovation to the market that positively impacts people’s lives. Cellulosic biofuel is joining ranks with wind and solar as true alternatives to fossil fuels, reducing damaging environmental impacts and increasing our energy security.”

The majority of the fuel produced at the Nevada, Iowa, facility will be bound for California to fulfill the state’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard where the state has adopted a policy to reduce carbon intensity in transportation fuels. The plant also will serve as a commercial-scale demonstration of the cellulosic technology where investors from all over the world can see firsthand how to replicate this model in their home regions.

Novozymes Ranked Best Science Employer

Science Magazine has ranked Novozymes at the top of its Top Employers list. The publication polled employees in the biotechnology, pharmaceutical, and related industries to determine the 20 best employers globally. The key characteristics the magazine was looking for in the ranking were ‘Innovative leader in the industry,’ ‘Treats employees with respect’ and ‘Is socially responsible’.

Screen Shot 2015-10-30 at 7.57.47 AM“We are very proud to be recognized as the best employer by this leading scientific journal,” said Per Falholt, chief science officer at Novozymes. “We develop biological answers to some of the greatest challenges of our time. Our growing world needs more food, better farming, renewable energy, and clean air and water. Our products really make a difference, and I believe that is a great motivation for everyone at Novozymes.”

Novozymes has been a major player in the field since the 1940s. One in five of its 6,500 employees work in research and development (R&D), with the company’s main research centers located in Denmark, China, U.S. and India. Novozymes invests 13-14% of its total revenue into R&D each year. The company is the largest maker of industrial enzymes and microorganisms, and their biotechnology is used by companies around the world to save energy, water and raw materials in the production of a wide range of products from laundry detergents, textiles and beer, to biofuels, animal feed and crops. Earlier this week, Novozymes launched their next gen enzyme product Avantec Amp.

New Poll Shows Iowans Support RFS

“We wanted a poll to tell us the truth about where caucus voters stand. This isn’t a Republican thing or a Democrat thing. This is an American thing. This represents the future,” said Eric Branstad the Iowa State Director of America’s Renewable Future (ARF) during a press call to release the results of a new poll.

Dupont_ARF_Infographic_FinalThe results find that a majority of caucus-goers from both political parties would be more likely to vote for a presidential candidate who supports the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and biofuels, specifically ethanol. The poll also found that 61 percent of Republicans and 76 percent of Democrats would be more likely to support a candidate who supports progress in these areas. The poll was commissioned by ARF and DuPont and conducted by Selzer & Company who is best known for their Iowa Poll on behalf of the Des Moines Register.

“The idea behind this poll was to get clean reads on what people are thinking in this space very generally and then unpack the rationale behind some of the feelings they have,” said Anne Selzer, president of Selzer & Company when discussing the poll methodology.

In addition to Selzer and Branstad, comments were also made from Brooke Coleman, founder and executive director of the Advanced Biofuels Business Council and Jan Koninckx, global business director, biofuels for DuPont.

Listen to the press conference here: Iowa Caucus Voters RFS Poll Press Conference

After being asked their views on the RFS without introducing any information about the policy, the poll delved in a bit more as a means to understand how caucus goers viewed renewable fuels and the RFS specifically. Results show several reasons why voters believe the RFS should continue: Continue reading

DuPont & Quad County Sign Enzyme Contract

DuPont Industrial Biosciences will continue to supply the enzymes that enable Quad County Corn Processors’ (QCCP) Cellerate process in the production of cellulosic biofuel from corn kernel fiber.  The ethanol plant developed the process and was the first in the country to produce cellulosic ethanol gallons from the corn kernel fiber. QCCP uses DuPont Screen Shot 2015-10-19 at 8.24.19 AMOPTIMASH suite of enzymes from the DuPont Accellerase portfolio of cellulosic enzymes. The OPTIMASH enzymes are specifically formulated for use in the corn fiber cellulosic application.

The process was developed using DuPont’s enzymes. Over the last year of production, QCCP Chief Engineer Travis Brotherson has seen a marked difference in value between DuPont’s enzymes and its competitors’ offering. “DuPont’s enzymes have consistently outperformed other products in driving cellulosic ethanol and corn oil yield in our Cellerate process,” said Brotherson.

Screen Shot 2015-10-19 at 8.24.24 AMQCCP currently produces 2 million gallons of biofuel per year from cellulose conversion, but anticipates production of an additional 2 million gallons of biofuel per year once a C5 yeast is approved. The benefits of adding second-generation biofuel production to an existing dry grind ethanol facility are substantial – from additional ethanol, Cellulosic RINs1 to additional distiller’s corn oil. QCCP further estimates that their technology has the potential to enable grain ethanol plants in the United States to produce over 1 billion gallons of cellulosic ethanol annually based on total corn kernel fiber conversion in the dry grind industry.

“DuPont’s goal is to enable the bioeconomy through science,” said Jan Koninckx, global business director for advanced biofuel at DuPont. “To reach that goal, we offer multiple solutions, from our full advanced biofuels technology licensing to delivering customized solutions in both enzyme technology and co-product production for ethanol producers. We’re proud to be a partner with QCCP, enabling the growth and success of advanced biofuels here in the United States.”

DuPont is commissioning its cellulosic biofuel facility in Nevada on October 30, 2015. The plant is fueled by corn stover and will produce 30 millions gallons of cellulosic ethanol per year.

Illinois Teen’s Cellulosic Ethanol Wins Science Prize

TavisReedAn Illinois teen is being recognized for his efforts to make cellulosic ethanol. This article from the Chicago-area Daily Herald says 17-year-old Tavis Reed, a senior at the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy in Aurora, won the 2015 gold medal in the chemistry/biochemistry division of the National Afro-Academic, Cultural, Technological and Scientific Olympics competition, besting more than 700 students from 150 ACT-SO chapters across the nation.

He did so by developing a process — for which he has a provisional patent — for the production of cellulosic ethanol, a “next-generation biofuel” made from cellulose, the structural part of plants.

The process uses bacteria to make ethanol as a potential fuel source in a cheaper and more environmentally conscious manner. He’s now working to find a way to scale up his research and make sure its results can be repeated in large quantities.

“That’s really important to me,” he said. “I feel like for my generation, the environmental impact that humans have on the world is a lot more evident than it has been in earlier decades.”

Tavis is unfailingly enthusiastic about science, said Sarah Soltau, his mentor through Argonne National Laboratory’s ACT-SO high school research program.

“He’s got many more ideas than I’d expect as a high school student,” she said. “He’s gone above and beyond anyone else I’ve seen at the high school level — and some even in college.”

Tavis’ teacher admits she had to learn a lot, just to keep up with the teenager.

The ACT-SO award was announced in July at the 106th Convention of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, held in Philadelphia, which Tavis actually had to leave early to tutor some incoming students.

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.”

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