Biofuels

‘Microbe sniffer’ could point the way to advanced biorefining

Read the full story in Ethanol Producer Magazine.

A new biosensor invented at the University of British Columbia could help optimize biorefining processes that produce fuels, fine chemicals and advanced materials by sniffing out naturally occurring bacterial networks that are genetically wired to break down wood polymer…

The findings validating the screening were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The work was funded by Genome Canada, Genome BC and the Tula Foundation.

USDA and DOE Fund Ten New Projects in 2014 for Biomass Genomics Research

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) today announced the selection of 10 projects that are being awarded funding aimed at accelerating genetic breeding programs to improve plant feedstocks for the production of biofuels, biopower, and biobased products. The investment is part of the Obama Administration’s broader effort to diversify the nation’s energy portfolio and accelerate development of new clean energy technologies designed to decrease dependence on foreign oil, providing a more secure future for America’s energy needs and enhancing rural economies.

“Innovative research is a critical link to stimulating rural economies and creating jobs across America,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “These awards are part of the Obama Administration’s ‘all of the above’ energy policy. These projects will not only support our efforts to provide a sustainable and domestic energy source for the nation, but also improve the lives of rural residents.”

“Biofuels and bio-based products offer the potential of homegrown American resources that can reduce our dependence on imported oil and also cut carbon emissions,” said Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz. “This advanced research is helping us to lay the groundwork for biomass as an important part of the low-carbon future.”

The $12.6 million in research grants are awarded under a joint DOE-USDA program that began in 2006 focused on fundamental investigations of biomass genomics, with the aim of harnessing nonfood plant biomass for the production of fuels such as ethanol or renewable chemical feedstocks. Dedicated feedstock crops tend to require less intensive production practices and can grow on poorer quality land than food crops, making this a critical element in a strategy of sustainable biofuels production that avoids competition with crops grown for food.

The projects are located in California, Colorado, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New York, Texas, and Virginia. DOE’s Office of Science will provide $10.6 million in funding for eight projects, while USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) will award $2 million to fund two projects. Initial funding will support research projects for up to three years. The full list of awardees and project descriptions can be found online at: http://genomicscience.energy.gov/research/DOEUSDA/index.shtml.

New projects to be funded this year will build upon gains in genetic and genomic resources for bioenergy and biofuels. The projects will accelerate the breeding of optimized dedicated bioenergy feedstocks through a better understanding of complex interactions between bioenergy feedstock plants and their environment, allowing the development of new regionally-adapted bioenergy feedstock cultivars with maximal biomass or seed oil yield and traits leading to more sustainable production systems, such as minimal water usage and nutrient input requirements.

DOE loan guarantee program targets biofuels, waste-to-energy

Read the full story in Ethanol Producer Magazine.

The U.S. Department of Energy has officially opened a loan guarantee solicitation, making up to $4 million available for innovative renewable energy and energy efficiency projects located in the U.S. that avoid, reduce or sequester greenhouse gases. The DOE announced its intention to open the Section 1703 loan guarantee solicitation in April…

The program solicitation provides a detailed description of the application process. The DOE has announced five application schedule rounds, and noted additional rounds may be announced at a later date. The application process contains two primary parts. The Part I deadline for the first round is Oct. 1, with the Part I deadline for the fifth round on Dec. 2, 2015. The first round Part II deadline is Jan. 14, 2015, with the round five Part II deadline set for March 2, 2016.

Additional information on the solicitation and application process is available on the DOE website.

Vilsack Announces Farm Bill Funding for Bioenergy Research, Converting to Biomass Fuel Systems

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced up to $14.5 million in funding for two USDA bioenergy programs made available through the 2014 Farm Bill. USDA’s Rural Development (RD) announced it is accepting applications from companies seeking to offset the costs associated with converting fossil fuel systems to renewable biomass fuel systems, while USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) announced the availability of $2.5 million in grants to enhance national energy security through the development of bio-based transportation fuels, biopower, and new bio-based products.

USDA today also announced a valuable aid to those in, or interested in, starting a bio-energy business, the Bioeconomy Tool Shed. The Tool Shed is a portal offering users access to a complement of web-based tools and information, statistical data and other resources related to the sustainable production and conversion of biomass into products and fuel, a process often referred to as the bioeconomy.

“These USDA investments are part of the Obama Administration’s ‘all-of-the-above’ energy strategy, and they benefit our economy as well as the environment,” Vilsack said. “USDA’s support for bio-based technologies is good for the climate, and enhances rural economic development while it decreases our dependence on foreign sources of oil.” He concluded, “These and other USDA efforts will create new products out of homegrown agriculture from this and future generations of American farmers and foresters.”

USDA plans to make up to $12 million in payments for eligible biorefineries through RD’s Repowering Assistance Program, which was reauthorized by the 2014 Farm Bill. Biorefineries in existence on or before June 18, 2008 are eligible for payments to replace fossil fuels used to produce heat or power with renewable biomass. Since President Obama took office, USDA has provided $6.9 million to help biorefineries transition from fossil fuels to renewable biomass systems. The deadline for applications is September 15, 2014. For details on how to apply, see page 34280 of the June 16 Federal Register.

USDA is also seeking applications for NIFA’s Sun Grants program that encourages bioenergy and biomass research collaboration between government agencies, land-grant colleges and universities, and the private sector. Congress authorized the Sun Grant program in the 2008 Farm Bill and reauthorized the program in 2014. The program provides grants to five grant centers and one subcenter, which then will make competitive grants to projects that contribute to research, education and outreach for the regional production and sustainability of possible biobased feedstocks. The project period will not exceed five years.

The newest addition to the USDA Energy Web, the Tool Shed can help those interested in bio-energy business ventures by providing access to the data and information necessary to evaluate potential opportunities across the entire supply chain: from feedstock production, to bioenergy production, bioenergy use, and linkages between feedstock production, bioenergy production and use. The tool is designed to assist in evaluating the feasibility and opportunities for locating a new biorefinery. It provides the stakeholder access to information on demographics, land use, biomass, feedstock, economics, and financial management.

Today’s announcements were made possible through the 2014 Farm Bill, which builds on historic economic gains in rural America over the past five years while achieving meaningful reform and billions of dollars in savings for the taxpayer. Since enactment, USDA has made significant progress to implement each provision of this critical legislation, including providing disaster relief to farmers and ranchers; strengthening risk management tools; expanding access to rural credit; funding critical research; establishing innovative public-private conservation partnerships; developing new markets for rural-made products; and investing in infrastructure, housing and community facilities to help improve quality of life in rural America. For more information, visit www.usda.gov/farmbill.

Coffee biodiesel properties differ little despite varieties used

Read the full story in Biodiesel Magazine.

Researchers from the University of Bath’s Centre for Sustainable Chemical Technologies conducted a study recently looking at fuel properties of biodiesel produced from different types of waste coffee grounds.

Twenty different geographically sourced coffees, including regular and decaf and Robusta and Arabica types, were used to make various biodiesel samples that were then tested and fuel properties compared. The end result was little variation in properties despite the spectrum of coffee feedstock used to make the fuels.

A True Masterpiece: Feedstock Diversity and Biodiesel’s Carbon Story

Read the full story in Biodiesel Magazine.

The mosaic of biodiesel feedstocks could be considered one of the more colorful pieces of artwork, if not a masterpiece, within the biofuels arena. This diversity has been a strength as biodiesel producers utilize an extensive pallet of feedstocks.

Sustainable Feedstock Contracts

Read the full story on Biodiesel Magazine.

If you are a biodiesel producer, you already believe in sustainability. You already have your RFS pathway and are making the best biodiesel and highest profits possible. Sustainability is part of your DNA, but is it part of your feedstock contracts?

New, Fossil-Fuel-Free Process Makes Biodiesel Sustainable

Read the full story at FutureStructure.

A new fuel-cell concept, developed by an Michigan State University researcher, will allow biodiesel plants to eliminate the creation of hazardous wastes while removing their dependence on fossil fuel from their production process.

The platform, which uses microbes to glean ethanol from glycerol and has the added benefit of cleaning up the wastewater, will allow producers to reincorporate the ethanol and the water into the fuel-making process, said Gemma Reguera, MSU microbiologist and one of the co-authors…

The results, which appear in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, show that the key to Reguera’s platform is her patented adaptive-engineered bacteria – Geobacter sulfurreducens.

Roadmap shows how to improve lignocellulosic biofuel biorefining

Read the full story in R&D Magazine.

When making cellulosic ethanol from plants, one problem is what to do with a woody agricultural waste product called lignin. The old adage in the pulp industry has been that one can make anything from lignin except money.

A new review article in Science points the way toward a future where lignin is transformed from a waste product into valuable materials such as low-cost carbon fiber for cars or bio-based plastics. Using lignin in this way would create new markets for the forest products industry and make ethanol-to-fuel conversion more cost-effective.

Ames Lab creates multifunctional nanoparticles for cheaper, cleaner biofuel

Read the full story in R&D Magazine.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory has created a faster, cleaner biofuel refining technology that not only combines processes, it uses widely available materials to reduce costs.

Ames Laboratory scientists have developed a nanoparticle that is able to perform two processing functions at once for the production of green diesel, an alternative fuel created from the hydrogenation of oils from renewable feedstocks like algae.

The method is a departure from the established process of producing biodiesel, which is accomplished by reacting fats and oils with alcohols…

The paper has been published in Catalysis: Supported iron nanoparticles for the hydrodeoxygenation of microalgal oil to green diesel