Brazil’s GranBio Begins Producing Cellulosic Ethanol

GranBio has begun producing cellulosic ethanol at its first commercial-scale plant for second-generation (2G) ethanol in Brazil. The Bioflex 1 unit located in São Miguel dos Campos, Alagoas, has an initial production capacity of 82 million liters of ethanol per year.

According to GranBio, its 2G ethanol is the cleanest fuel produced on a commercial scale in the world in carbon intensity – 7.55 gCO2/MJ, as confirmed by theGranBio 2G cellulosic ethanol plant in Brazil California Air Resources Board (CARB). The calculation takes into account factors starting with the harvest of the raw material, through inputs and energy consumption, transportation and distribution through a port in California.

“When we announced the construction of the plant in Alagoas, in mid-2012, we took the risk of an innovator and pioneer in a project with transformative potential for the biofuels and biochemicals industries,” said GranBio’s president, Bernardo Gradin. “Beyond the inauguration of a plant, this project is proof that Brazil can lead the global biotech industry based on its agricultural potential.”

GranBio cites its 2G ethanol makes it possible to increase Brazilian production capacity per acre by 50 percent using agricultural waste – straw and bagasse, without need of expanding the cane fields. The company developed a system to harvest, store and process 400,000 metric tons of straw per year for Bioflex 1, which places it among the world’s largest and most competitive. GranBio’s facility uses the PROESA pre-treatment technology from the Italian company BetaRenewables enzymes from Novozymes in Denmark and yeast from DSM in Holland.

In addition, GranBio and Caeté created a partnership for the integrated production of steam and electricity. Installed next to Bioflex 1, the cogeneration system is fed by sugarcane bagasse and lignin – a byproduct of producing second-generation ethanol. The boiler of the cogeneration system will remain in operation for eleven months of the year, or eight thousand hours, in the harvest and inter-harvest period at the Caeté plant. As such, beyond meeting the needs of the two plants, the boiler will generate excess electricity on order of 135,000 MWh/year – enough to power a city of 300,000 inhabitants – which will be sold and become a source of revenue for the companies.

Sunliquid 20 Fuel (E20) Sees Success in Auto Tests

Since January of this year, Clariant, Haltermann and Mercedes-Benz have been testing E20 known as sunliquid 20 fuel that contains 20 percent of cellulosic ethanol coming from wheat straw. The cellulosic ethanol comes from Clariant’s sunliquid demonstration plant in Straubing.

According to tests, Sunliquid® 20 improves engine efficiency so that its 4 percent lesser energy content, as compared to E10, is more than compensated. Another notable finding was the 50 percent improvement in particle count emissions of sunliquid® 20 in contrast to the EU reference fuel EU5. In addition, the fuel blend the cellulosic ethanol 20 demonstrates greenhouse gas emission savings of up to 95 percent across the entire value chain (well-to-wheel) without competing with food production or agricultural acreage.

Wheat Straw Bale Abstract @AkulamatiauWith the success of the the automotive fuel tests, consumers could now fill their tanks with sunliquid 20 fuel without making any adjustments to the gas station infrastructure in Europe and without compromising fuel range and driving comfort.

“Cellulosic ethanol from agricultural residues can play a key role in creating more sustainable mobility in Germany, Europe and worldwide. Here we have the latest generation of truly advanced biofuel, the high performance of which was confirmed in the fleet test on series vehicles,” said Professor Andre Koltermann, head of Group Biotechnology at Clariant. “Second generation biofuels coming from agricultural residues are now technologically ready and available for production and application.”

Koltermann continued, “A change in energies used for transport must also be successful now; for this to happen, we urgently need stable framework conditions such as the mandatory blending rate for advanced biofuels being discussed at EU level. Our main task is to shape solutions to create sustainable mobility for the future. Gasoline with 20% ethanol can already be used easily in our latest Mercedes-Benz BlueDIRECT gasoline engines.

sunliquid® 20 is an E20 fuel with 20 percent cellulosic ethanol. Using wheat straw or other non-edible agricultural residues the feedstocks are converted into cellulosic ethanol using Clariant’s sunliquid process. The production of cellulosic ethanol is virtually CO2-neutral, saving almost 100 percent of CO2 emissions compared to gasoline according to Clariant.

Haltermann then mixes the cellulosic ethanol with conventional fuel components to form the new fuel sunliquid 20. The 20 percent cellulosic ethanol gives the fuel a high octane number (RON) of over 100, guaranteeing optimal efficiency.

DuPont Sees Cellulosic Ethanol as Good for Brazil

World Bio Markets Brasil Conference is taking place in Sao Paulo this week and Jan Koninckx, director of DuPont Industrial Biosciences biofuels business, told attendees about the company’s offering and vision for the growth of the cellulosic ethanol market in Brazil. World Bio Markets BrasilThe company is in the final stages of building a cellulosic ethanol refinery in Nevada, Iowa co-located next to Lincolnway Energy with plans to be in full commercial-scale production by the end of the year.

“As global ethanol markets continue to grow, Brazil will need innovative solutions to meet the fuel demands of its growing population and of markets abroad from existing hectares of sugar cane,” said Koninckx. “DuPont Industrial Biosciences’ cellulosic ethanol technology makes good business sense in Brazil: abundant sugar cane provides a large quantity of convertible biomass at very competitive costs. Because our cellulosic ethanol technology can utilize the leftovers from sugar cane processing, DuPont can improve the productivity of first-generation ethanol mills and increase ethanol yield without growing more sugar cane. We are engaging with industry leaders to explore options to support the growth of renewable fuels in Brazil, including, as required, increase of our regional enzyme capacity.”

Koninckx continued, “DuPont developed our advanced biofuels technology through a network of scientists and assets in laboratories around the globe in Brazil, the United DuPont LogoStates, the European Union and Asia. We are currently finalizing what will be the world’s largest cellulosic ethanol biorefinery in Nevada, Iowa to demonstrate the company’s cellulosic ethanol technology package at industrial scale. While the feedstock at that plant will be corn stover, DuPont validated the same technology with bagasse– the fibrous matter leftover once the juice has been extracted from sugarcane – with our process yielding more than 310 liters per metric ton in our demonstration plant in Vonore, Tennessee.”

The company has a long history working in Brazil and on behalf of the DuPont, Koninckx said the company is excited for the future. The company has been in the country for nearly 80 years and currently has 2,500 employees, 12 manufacturing sites and 11 Research and Development locations. With this on-the-ground experience and their world-leading science, Koninckx said DuPont is uniquely positioned to help expand the Brazilian cellulosic ethanol industry and to develop the country and region’s growing bio-based economy.

Researchers Discover Cellulose Making Enzyme Structure

Researchers from Purdue University have discovered the structure of the enzyme that makes cellulose. They believe this finding could lead to easier ways of breaking down plant materials to make biofuels and other products and materials. In addition the researchers say the findings provide a more detailed glimpse of the complicated process by which cellulose is produced. Cellulose is the foundation of the plant cell wall and can be converted to bioproducts such as biofuels and biochemicals. The research findings were published in The Plant Cell.

“Despite the abundance of cellulose, the nitty-gritty of how it is made is still a mystery,” said Nicholas Carpita, professor of plant biology. “Now we’re getting down to the molecular structure of the individual enzyme proteins that synthesize cellulose.”

carpita-n14Carpita explains that cellulose is composed of several dozen strands of glucose sugars linked together in a cablelike structure and condensed into a crystal. The rigidity of cellulose allows plants to stand upright and lends wood its strength. “Pound for pound, cellulose is stronger than steel,” said Carpita.

A large protein complex synthesizes cellulose at the surface of the plant cell. The basic unit of this complex is an enzyme known as cellulose synthase. The protein complex contains up to 36 of these enzymes, each of which has a region known as the catalytic domain, the site where single sugars are added to an ever-lengthening strand of glucose that will be fixed in the plant cell wall as one of the strands in the cellulose “cable.”

Carpita and a team of researchers used X-ray scattering to show that cellulose synthase is an elongated molecule with two regions – the catalytic domain and a smaller region that couples with another cellulose synthase enzyme to form a dimer, two molecules that are stuck together. These dimers are the fundamental building blocks of the much larger protein complex that produces cellulose.

“Determining the shape of cellulose synthase and how it fits together into the protein complex represents a significant advance in understanding how these plant enzymes work,” Carpita said. Continue reading

Cellulosic Making Progress Despite Uncertainty

Advanced and cellulosic biofuels producers continue to press the administration for certainty in the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) to continue making investments for future expansion.

“Today we’re at the start, like oil was 160 years ago, or corn ethanol was four years ago, said Steve Hartig with POET-DSM Advanced Biofuels during a teleconference organized by the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) highlighting progress in the industry. His company just celebrated the grand opening of a cellulosic ethanol plant in Iowa. “We have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in this and are convinced cellulosic ethanol will be a key part of our future energy mix.”

Abengoa Bioenergy plant in Hugoton, KS

Abengoa Bioenergy plant in Hugoton, KS

Chris Standlee with Abengoa Bioenergy said his company is also invested substantially in commercializing cellulosic ethanol technology. “Abengoa’s been working on perfecting this technology for over 10 years,” said Standlee, adding that their plant will be holding a grand opening in Hugoton, Kansas next month.

Also participating in the teleconference was Vonnie Estes with GranBio, a plant being built in Brazil using sugarcane straw and bagasse as feedstocks. She noted that the uncertainty of the RFS is impacting their plans because they intend to export at least half of their plant’s production to the U.S. “The company has spent over $200 million in capital on this plant,” she said. “The plant (will be) really good for the U.S. in that it’s a source of low carbon fuels into the market.”

All three company representatives noted that they are postponing decisions to increase production of cellulosic biofuels due to the uncertainty created by EPA.

BIO teleconference on cellulosic ethanol advancements

DuPont Chooses Murex to Market Cellulosic Ethanol

DuPont LogoDuPont Industrial Biosciences (DuPont) has selected Murex LLC to market the cellulosic ethanol produced from its 30-million-gallon-per-year plant in Nevada, Iowa. Upon completion, the facility will be the largest cellulosic ethanol plant in the world.

murex“Murex is a leading marketer in today’s ethanol market. Its team understands domestic and international ethanol dynamics and can hit the ground running to drive growth in the emerging cellulosic ethanol industry,” said DuPont Cellulosic Ethanol Commercial Leader Steven Ogle. “With this collaboration, DuPont is well-positioned to lead the deployment of cellulosic ethanol at a commercial scale.”

Murex has a strong presence in the domestic ethanol market and has been the largest exporter of domestically produced ethanol since 2010. Murex was one of the first marketers of advanced Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs) and developed an in-house due diligence program prior to the Quality Assurance Program that allows smaller producers of advanced RINs to deliver their products and RINs to market.

Senate Committee Considers Energy Tax Reform

The Senate Finance Committee held a hearing today on Reforming America’s Outdated Energy Tax Code, led by chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR).

“It’s past time to replace today’s crazy quilt of more than 40 energy tax incentives with a
modern, technology-neutral approach,” said Wyden at the start of the hearing, adding that the disparity in how the tax code treats energy sources needs to end. “Traditional sources benefit from tax incentives that are permanently baked into law. But clean energy sources are stuck with stop-and-go incentives that have to be renewed every few years.”

The main goal of the hearing is to focus on extending the dozen or so tax incentives for alternative energy sources such as advanced biofuels, wind, and solar.

aeclogo“The title of the hearing is right,” said Advanced Ethanol Council Executive Director Brooke Coleman. “Investors are highly sensitive to protections offered by tax law, and today’s energy tax regime drives investment away from viable petroleum alternatives like cellulosic biofuels because oil tax breaks are richer and permanent. The short term fix is extending recently expired and existing tax incentives for clean energy this year, to buttress against those offered to fossil fuels permanently. But any broader discussion about America emerging as the leading energy innovator in the world starts and ends with the federal tax code. It simply won’t happen without serious energy tax reform.”

Among those testifying at the hearing today was former Sen. Don Nickles (R-OK), now a lobbyist who has represented several energy companies, who spoke against continuing wind energy tax incentives.

Dueling RFS Ads Have Same Tune

President Obama needs to overrule this misguided proposal from the EPA before it is too late and these new technologies move overseas. The fate of America’s advanced biofuel industry, along with the President’s clean energy legacy, are resting on his decision. Fuels America USA Today print ad

“Tell President Obama, stop playing politics – fix the RFS.”
American Petroleum Institute TV ad

fuels-americaBoth the American Petroleum Institute and Fuels America unveiled new media campaigns this week targeted at telling the White House what to do when it comes to volume obligations under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). Both organizations held conference calls with reporters to announce the new campaigns.

The single, full page, USA Today ad that will run during Climate Week September 19-21 is a sharp contrast to the oil industry’s multi-million dollar television, radio, and online advertising campaign. “This has been a David and Goliath struggle all along,” said Brent Erickson with the Biotechnology Industry Organization on behalf of Fuels America. “The biofuels industry has been struggling against this Goliath oil industry that has spent millions and millions of dollars on ads.”

The biofuels industry ad stresses the opening of the first large, commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol plants this year and warns that “the companies and investors looking to deploy the next wave of cellulosic ethanol facilities have put U.S. investment on hold” until a decision on the future of the RFS is made. The API ad calls the RFS “Washington red tape” and blames ethanol for raising food prices and contributing to hunger, even though corn prices are lower than breakeven for farmers this year, according to National Corn Growers Association Vice President of Public Policy Jon Doggett. “We are selling corn today at about 35% of what we did just a couple of years ago, certainly below the cost of production for many of our growers,” he said.

API’s Bob Greco says they launched their campaign in part because of recent statements from EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy that the agency will raise ethanol requirements based on the latest gasoline demand figures for 2014. “Unfortunately, the administration seems to be playing politics with the RFS rule instead of doing what’s best for consumers,” Greco said. “You don’t have to be a political insider to see how the Iowa Senate race—and the White House fear of losing control of the Senate—plays into this decision.”

“Politics are being played on this issue by both sides,” said Doggett. “I don’t think anyone should be surprised.”

Fuels America is a “coalition of organizations committed to protecting America’s Renewable Fuel Standard and promoting the benefits of all types of renewable fuel already growing in America.” API is the “only national trade association that represents all aspects of America’s oil and natural gas industry.”

Listen to the Fuels America call, which also includes comments from POET-DSM’s Steve Hartig: Fuels America RFS Campaign call

Introducing Cellulosic Technology Cellerate

During the cellulosic ethanol celebration event at Quad County Corn Processors ethanol plant in Galva, Iowa yesterday, Syngenta unveiled the new brand for the cellulosic ethanol technology: Cellerate™. Enhanced by Enogen® corn enzyme technology, Cellerate is a collaboration between Syngenta and Cellulosic Ethanol Technologies, LLC.

Cellerate is unique in that it is designed to increase an ethanol plant’s production by Cellerate cellulosic ethanol technologyallowing the corn kernel fiber to be converted into cellulosic ethanol. Ethanol plants can easily integrate Cellerate process technology into their existing production process. Cellerate, in conjunction with Enogen corn, will deliver notable benefits to ethanol plants beyond what can be achieved through either technology alone.

“The combination of Cellerate and Enogen represents the next leap forward in ethanol production,” said Jack Bernens, head of marketing and stakeholder relations for Enogen corn enzyme technology at Syngenta. “Ethanol is helping America reduce its dependence on foreign oil, lower prices at the pump, improve the environment with lower emissions, and grow the economy with jobs that can’t be outsourced. Together, these technologies will make ethanol more sustainable.”

In July 2014, collaboration between Syngenta and Cellulosic Ethanol Technologies, LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Quad County Corn Processors (QCCP), produced the first commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol in Iowa.

“The synergy of Cellerate and Enogen will decrease natural gas usage and increase ethanol throughput, while reducing a plant’s carbon footprint,” said Delayne Johnson, chief executive officer of QCCP. “These advantages, combined with higher protein DDGs and increased corn oil production, make the technology package appealing for ethanol plants looking to improve their bottom line.”

Quad County Processors Host Grand Opening

The first refinery to produce cellulosic ethanol with a bolt-on process officially opened its doors today.

quad-open-group“This is a historic day not just for the ethanol plant, but for the entire region,” said Delayne Johnson, CEO of Quad County Corn Processors in Galva, Iowa. “This is a perfect example of cutting edge technology, right here in our backyard and we are thrilled to have our plant using this ingenuity.” The Adding Cellulosic Ethanol (ACE) project, newly re-named “Cellerate,” allows QCCP to produce 2 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol each year from corn kernel fiber at their plant in Galva, Iowa.

“Today’s grand opening is a direct result of the ingenuity and hard work of the employees and shareholders of QCCP, but it’s also a direct result of the kind of innovation that occurs when a policy like the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) is in place,” said American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) Executive Vice President Brian Jennings. “More than any other policy enacted by Congress, the RFS has been a catalyst for innovation, including the kind of technology advancement developed at QCCP to make cellulosic ethanol from corn kernel fiber.”

quad-open-bob-brianRenewable Fuels Association president and CEO Bob Dinneen participated in the grand opening ceremony and praised QCCP, noting, “To the management, staff and investors of Quad County Corn Processors I say a hearty congratulations on your vision and your commitment to seeing it through. To EPA I say get out of Washington and see what is happening in places like Galva, Iowa.”

Dinneen tweeted from the event, “Quad Co cellulosic plant can tell Big Oil “we told you so” and make them eat their words!”