Big 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.
Researchers from Georgia Tech have figured out how to release hydrogen from even the toughest sources of biomass. This article from Chemistry World says Yulin Deng and his team at the university developed a low-temperature electrolytic technology that can crack even molecules like lignin and cellulose, eliminating the need to use fossil fuels to release clean-burning hydrogen.
The process takes place in an electrolysis cell containing a membrane that protons can pass through, sandwiched between an anode and a cathode. Water containing both powdered biomass and polyoxometalate (POM), a metal oxide catalyst, is added to the anode side of the cell. By heating the solution or exposing it to sunlight, POM molecules can grab hydrogen atoms from the biomass, becoming H-POM. Applying a voltage across the electrodes causes the H-POM molecules to dump an electron onto the positively charged anode, and a proton into the electrolyte solution. The electrons flow around a circuit to the cathode side of the cell, while the free floating protons diffuse though the membrane and combine with these electrons at the cathode, forming hydrogen atoms. The atoms then react to form stable hydrogen gas, which can be collected.
Experts in deriving hydrogen from biomass have praised the new approach. ‘This process provides an open door to using smaller quantities of biomass and different biomass varieties for renewable hydrogen production,’ comments Chris Zygarlicke, at the University of North Dakota, US. And David King from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, US, says, ‘this is really interesting work … the claimed Faradaic efficiency for the process is extremely high.’
Deng and his team are currently working to make the method even more efficient. ‘Our goal is to collect 100% of the hydrogen atoms from biomass. We’re also looking for an industrial collaborator to scale up the technique.’
At the opening General Session of the 2016 National Biodiesel Conference & Expo in Tampa Tuesday, there was a theme of the underdog winning the game – and a promise that biodiesel is in the game to win.
“Last year the biodiesel industry demonstrated more than ever that no matter how beat up we are, no matter how outgunned we are, we don’t back down,” said National Biodiesel Board CEO Joe Jobe. “We came together like never before. We stayed true to our principles in the face of deceitful attacks and we achieved the success necessary to put us back on track.”
Though optimistic, Jobe also noted significant challenges still remain. “While our fight is not over, we have a different future. 2016 is going to be our strongest year yet,” he said. “The strategy of disinformation is now being deployed to attack renewable energy and climate change science. Our opponents will continue to use outrageous and desperate tactics as they continue to undermine and work to repeal the only carbon reduction policy currently available in the transportation sector.”
Jobe had a baseball theme to his speech and used many quotes from Yogi Berra, also known as “Yogisms” – and noted that the 5’7″ Yankee was often underestimated. “I bring up Yogi not just because I admire him as a player, a person, a humorist, and a fellow Missouri boy, but because I wanted to illustrate how the biodiesel industry has been underestimated, overshadowed, and underrated,” said Jobe. “And 2016 is the year that we change that.”
Listen to Jobe’s speech here: NBB CEO Joe Jobe Speech
Jobe also offered an illustration of just how amazing biodiesel really is – watch below:
2016 National Biodiesel Conference Photo Album
The myth that biofuels is a choice between food versus fuel is still perpetuated regardless of scientific data showing otherwise. The true fact about biofuels, including biodiesel, is that they produce food AND fuel. #Biodiesel’s role in both providing food and fuel, as well as in reducing carbon, were the topics of a presentation by Don Scott with the National Biodiesel Board (NBB) during the 2016 National Biodiesel Conference in Tampa, Florida.
Scott began his presentation by stating three things:
- Biodiesel complements the fuel supply.
- Solar energy is abundant and efficient.
- Mitigating climate change does not cost. It pays.
Biodiesel, said Scott, produces protein as a byproduct, an essential source of nutrition for humans. However, protein is expensive. But because biodiesel production only uses the oils (fat), protein is produced at a lower cost than average protein sources on the market.
Based on this fact, Scott had a motto, per se, during his presentation: “When we grow protein to feed the world, we naturally get more carbs, fat, and other fiber byproducts than we can eat.” Therefore, he said, it makes sense to use this excess fat to displace petroleum, and biodiesel is the best example of nature’s design for food and fuel. And an added bonus, while today biodiesel represents about 20 percent of the renewable fuel market, it provides 40 percent of the carbon reductions as a result of using these renewable fuels.
Learn more about biodiesel’s benefits by Listening to my interview with Don Scott: Don Scott Talks Food, Fuel and Carbon
2016 National Biodiesel Conference Photo Album
After years of uncertainty, the final volumes for the amount of corn ethanol were announced late last year, and corn ethanol is essentially at its limit under the RFS, according to Doug Durante, Clean Fuels Development Coalition (CFDC) executive director.
Durante gave a recap of the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) and what it means for the ethanol industry during a Nebraska Ethanol Board meeting Jan. 21 in Lincoln. He discussed the regulatory roadblocks that, if eliminated, would open the market for higher ethanol blends.
“The RFS helped kick start the significant volumes of ethanol production we see today, but we cannot rely on the RFS to ensure a continued market,” Durante said. “The industry needs to grow beyond the RFS and create new, consumer-driven demand that capitalizes on the health benefits of ethanol’s clean octane and the ability to meet low-carbon fuel standards.”
Durante suggested that ethanol advocates find additional pathways to create market demand that allows the industry to move beyond the RFS volume obligations. He noted that eliminating the following burdens on ethanol would help create more opportunities for ethanol:
- Removing unnecessary seasonal Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP) restrictions
- Raising the minimum octane for fuel
- Enforcing limitations on levels of toxic aromatics in gasoline
- Correcting the flawed EPA MOVES model and lifecycle analysis
- Reinstating meaningful flex fuel vehicle (FFV) credits for vehicle manufacturers
- Streamlining the certification of higher ethanol blends up to E30
“Given the restrictions and possible expiration of the RFS, the transition to more open and free ethanol markets must begin now,” explained Durante. “Ethanol production and utilization has only scratched the surface of its potential.”
Researchers in Australia have found a way to feed cleaner carbon dioxide to algae, which would help in the production of biodiesel. This news release from the Melbourne School of Engineering says the new method purifies the carbon dioxide that is in power station flue gases by absorbing it into a liquid.
This liquid is then pumped through hollow fibre membranes. These hollow fibre membranes are like very long drinking straws, which can be immersed into the microalgae beds.
Professor Sandra Kentish, Head of the Chemical Engineering Department at the University of Melbourne and leader of the research team said that supplying purified carbon dioxide by extracting it from flue gases can work, but it is expensive and takes a lot of energy.
“In this work, we have found a way to purify the carbon dioxide and to supply it to the microalgae for a much more moderate cost and using a lot less energy,” Professor Kentish said.
“The CO2 moves directly from the liquid into the microalgae culture by permeating through the fibre walls. Aside from being a cheaper approach, our research has shown that the microalgae grow faster than in other work done to date,” said another team member, Dr Greg Martin.
The process can be used to produce other products such as chemicals, proteins and nutraceuticals.
As folks on the east coast have battled an historic blizzard this past weekend, some of the removal of the more than two feet of snow on the roadways has been done by plows running on biodiesel. This article from Bay Weekly from Annapolis, Maryland, says the green fuel went a long way in exposing the black roadway underneath that blanket of white.
When snow falls, George Sharps goes to battle.
As you read weather reports, he is revving his plow to be ready to fight his nemesis.
Sharps is one of 350 Maryland State Highway Administration operators who brave conditions that should keep the rest of us home. His mission: to clear 17,000 miles of state roads. He has one request of the citizens of Maryland as we send him into battle: “Stay home and let us do our jobs.”
Reducing Collateral Damage
Like any battle, snow-fighting operations have collateral damage. Roads are mauled and the environment — from your lawn to the atmosphere to Chesapeake Bay — assaulted.
Heavy diesel equipment consumes fossil fuels and belches out air pollution. The thousands of tons of salt and chemicals spread to melt snow and ice raise the sodium and chlorine levels of both groundwater and surrounding streams that feed the Bay.
New technologies and techniques are reducing the number of trucks on the road, hence the amount of fuel burned…
“Over the past few years, we’ve developed innovative ways to fight snow more efficiently with less environmental impact,” spokesman Charlie Gischlar told me the day I got behind the wheel of the crew’s main battle plow.
To control emissions and lessen the fossil fuel impact, this winter’s fuel is five percent biodiesel, derived from renewable resources like soybeans.
The article goes on to say that using biodiesel is just part of a bigger plan of Maryland going green when it comes to the black ribbon of highways.
News that biodiesel set new volume records in 2015 set the stage Monday for the 2016 National Biodiesel Conference and Expo in Tampa, Florida.
According to new EPA data, consumers used a record of nearly 2.1 billion gallons of biodiesel last year, demonstrating biodiesel’s rising popularity and its success as the first EPA-designated advanced biofuel to reach commercial-scale production nationwide.
“We just came through a two and a half year period of very difficult struggle because of the EPA’s delay in issuing the rule-making on the Renewable Fuel Standard,” said National Biodiesel Board CEO Joe Jobe. “We’re positioned to break a record again in 2016.”
The theme of the biodiesel industry’s 13th annual conference this year is Coast to Coast, which Jobe says reflects the diversity of the fuel. “That diversity gives us a certain amount of strength in terms of our policy and how we utilize very diversified regionally abundant feedstocks,” said Jobe.
The conference really gets underway Tuesday morning when the Expo hall opens and Jobe will lead the opening general session with his state of the industry address. Keep track of all the conference activities on the Biodiesel Conference Blog – and you can also look back on the past 10 years of biodiesel conferences archived there as well.
Listen to my interview with Joe here: 2016 Biodiesel Conference preview with NBB CEO Joe Jobe
2016 National Biodiesel Conference Photo Album
The Governors’ Wind Energy Coalition has added solar energy to its lineup of renewable energy promotion and has changed its name to reflect the new addition: Governors’ Wind and Solar Energy Coalition (GWSC). The Coalition’s goal is to support renewable energy technologies that among other benefits, help to put Americans to work in all 50 states.
“We are proud of Iowa’s leadership in wind energy and we are also encouraged by the recent growth in solar energy,” said Iowa Governor Terry Branstad who just last week highlighted Iowa as one of the country’s leading wind power producers. “The addition of solar to the Coalition’s portfolio represents a commitment to future economic and renewable energy growth, and further diversification of our nation’s energy portfolio.”
Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo said of the announcement, “I support the foresight of my colleagues to broaden the Coalition’s focus and include solar energy development as a policy priority. Wind and solar provide complementary benefits to the U.S. electric grid and will help diversify the country’s energy mix. The need for states to take a broader view of renewable power is clear.”
According to SNL Energy, wind and solar energy added 61 percent of all new generation capacity in 2015 through November. As states make plans to comply with the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Power Plan, wind and solar power are expected to continue supplying large amounts new electricity in the years ahead.
“I am proud to work with governors from across the country, and both parties, to advance renewable energy. The exciting growth of both wind and solar energy provide our states with tremendous economic opportunities, as well as the ability to reduce emissions, protect public health, and build a more prosperous and sustainable American clean energy future,” said Washington Governor Jay Inslee.
According to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), wind power has surpassed the 70 gigawatt (GW) milestone of installed wind capacity. Per AWEA, if the pace continues, wind power can become one of the largest sources of electricity in the U.S. by supplying 35 percent by 2050. Tom Kiernan, AWEA CEO noted the group has been very effective in getting policy results that help grow the wind energy industry, and said the decision to combine forces with solar energy reflects the economic and environmental value of diversifying the country’s electric grid.