Center for Advanced BioEnergy Research, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Monday, July 18, 2011

Bioenergy Blog on Hiatus

CABER's bioenergy blog will be on hiatus until mid-August.

Thank you for reading the blog and we look forward to catching up with bioenergy news soon!

Friday, July 15, 2011

French researchers develop enzymatic reactor process

Biodiesel Magazine
By Luke Geiver July 08, 2011

A new biocatalyst developed in a chromatography tube at the Centre de Recherches Paul Pascal (CRPP), could greatly improve continuous biodiesel production processes. According to Renal Backov, professor at CRPP, there are two main features of the enzymatic catalyst that will help improve the process. For one, Backov told Biodiesel Magazine, the enzymes are used without being purified, which Backov said, “enhanced their stability while minimizing the whole catalyst price.” The second feature of the catalyst relates to the size. “We are dealing with macroporous (pore diameters of micrometers) hosts and not mesoporous (pore diameters of nanometers).” This feature, he said, optimizes the enzyme’s accessibility and minimizes the loss of pressure between the entry and the end of the column.”

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Biofuel maker claims new technology can create PET bottles from waste
By Guy Montague-Jones, 13-Jul-2011

Making PET bottles from agricultural waste may be harder than using conventional cane sugars but it is possible, claims biofuel manufacturer Virent.

The US-based company recently announced that it had created a PET feedstock - paraxylene (PX) - entirely from plant-based sugars using its own catalytic process.

The process results in the creation of a PET product, which has been trademarked BioFormPX, identical to PET made from petroleum.

Moreover, Virent claims it is possible to use a wide variety of feedstocks.

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Trojan Corn, or 20 billion reasons to Think Outside the Tank

Biofuels Digest
Jim Lane July 14, 2011

A game-changing technology from Syngenta may drop billions to the biofuels industry’s bottom line

Earlier this year, Syngenta received the OK from the USDA to commercialize its alpha-amylase corn. The news generated a smattering of interest amongst the broader biofuels community, which has been more engaged in thinking about tax credits, the future of the Renewable Fuel Standard, and IPO heaven.

Another step-change in enzymes? Yawn. The industry has been so inundated with dramatic improvements in enzyme performance, that they generally rate as a highly reliable page-view killer for biofuels websites.

But Syngenta’s technology is worth a deeper look – for 20 billion reasons. That’s a back-of-the-envelope calculation of the addressable, equity creation impact of Syngenta’s newest and latest.

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Unless new sources are developed, Europe faces an acute shortage

PR Newswire

BRUSSELS, July 11, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Renewable energy policy in Europe will generate an increase in lignocellulosic biomass demand of 44% between 2010 and 2020. The increased use of biomass will be driven principally from the energy sector, but also from the industrial and residential sectors. These are the findings in European Biomass Review, a new study from RISI, the leading information provider for the global forest products industry.

What is the potential to increase regional supply for biomass from forest and other sources and what actions are being taken to release the potential? The key to the future development of European biomass markets resides in the region's supply potential and how well it can mobilize new sources of supply, such as forest residues, agricultural residues and energy crops. Three scenarios for the mobilization of new supply sources by 2020, are included for each region in European Biomass Review. A cost-curve analysis for each region and each scenario illustrates the implications for biomass pricing and imports.

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Caterpillar adds perennial grasses to its property for bioenergy demonstration plots (Decatur, IL)
By CHRIS LUSVARDI - H&R Staff Writer
Posted: Thursday, July 14, 2011 12:01 am

DECATUR - Caterpillar Inc. has added growing perennial grasses as part of its efforts to be environmentally friendly.

The company officially unveiled its plans Wednesday to use 60 acres it owns near its Decatur plant as prairie for bioenergy demonstration plots.

The plots are bounded by Pershing Road to the south, 22nd Street on the west and 27th Street on the east. Hubbard Avenue divides the property on the north edge into two sections.

"This is a very visible example of our sustainable efforts," said Ron Ingram, Caterpillar supply chain manager at the Decatur plant. "We hope it sets a good example for other organizations and entities to get involved. We're excited to see what develops out of this."

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Melding Talents with a Career in Bioprocessing

Science Magazine
By Emma Hitt
July 15, 2011

Bioprocessing is an expanding field encompassing any process that uses living cells or their components (e.g., bacteria, enzymes, or chloroplasts) to obtain desired products, such as biofuels and therapeutics. As with other fields considered under the broader scope of biotechnology, bioprocessing draws upon multiple areas of knowledge, but especially molecular biology, chemical engineering, and manufacturing. With advances in biotechnology and an ongoing need for pharmaceuticals and sustainable forms of fuel as well as cheaper, more effective ways to make them, the opportunities in bioprocessing, at both the undergraduate and graduate level, are looking promising.

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Biologists discover an 'evening' protein complex that regulates plant growth

July 13, 2011
University of California - San Diego

Farmers and other astute observers of nature have long known that crops like corn and sorghum grow taller at night. But the biochemical mechanisms that control this nightly stem elongation, common to most plants, have been something of a mystery to biologists—until now.

In this week's early online publication of the journal Nature, biologists at the University of California, San Diego report their discovery of a protein complex they call the "evening complex" that regulates the rhythmic growth of plants during the night. More importantly, the biologists show how this protein complex is intricately coordinated through the biological clock with the genes that promote stem elongation in a way that could enable plant breeders to engineer new varieties of crops that grow faster, produce greater yields of food or generate more biomass per acre of land for conversion into biofuels.

"This discovery gives us a molecular understanding of how the biological clock is regulating cyclic growth in plants," said Steve Kay, dean of UC San Diego's Division of Biological Sciences, who headed the research effort. "And it instantly gives us a handle on how we might manipulate and control plant yield or biomass deposition."

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Ethanol – the champagne of fuels?

Biofuels Digest
Jim Lane July 12, 2011

Drop-in fuels all the rage? Not smart, says Coskata CSO Rathin Datta, ethanol is the champion for biomass-based fuels.

In Washington DC later this month, at the DOE’s Biomass 2011 annual conclave, Rick Wilson, the CEO of Cobalt Technologies, and Wes Bolsen, CMO of Coskata, will engage in a formal debate over the motion: “Federal funding for biofuels should focus primarily on the development of infrastructure-compatible, hydrocarbon fuels.”

There has been quite a lot of press in recent years around the development of “drop-in fuels” – from articles like 2009′s “Drop In, Tune Out, Turn On” to the coverage of recent DOE funding of consortia like the NABC that are pursuing infrastructure-compatible fuels.

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Arbor Fuel engineers yeast to produce ethanol from lignocellulose without added enzymes

Biofuels Digest
Jim Lane July 4, 2011

In Connecticut, a team from Arbor Fuel, reported in Bioresource Technology, the first example of ethanol fermentation from lignocellulosic biomass via simultaneous saccharification and fermentation (SSF) without addition of exogenously produced cellulases. In the research, the team used an engineered derivative of s. cerevisiae yeast to convert corn stover to ethanol.

The team writes that, previously: “Saccharomyces cerevisiae, the most effective ethanol-producing microorganism, cannot depolymerize cellulose or ferment ethanol directly from cellulose. A consortium of enzymes (endoglucanase, exoglucanase and b-glucosidase) is needed to break down cellulose into fermentable glucose monomers (Lynd et al., 2002)…their high cost is a major limitation to economical utility due to the large amounts of cellulases required – more than 2.8 kg of protein is needed to ferment ethanol from 100 kg of pre- treated bagasse.”

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Modified silica-based cellular matrices lead to exceptional yields

Biofuels Digest
Jim Lane July 5, 2011

In France, researchers at the Centre de Recherches Paul Pascal have developed modified silica-based cellular matrices that make it possible to confine lipases (triglyceride hydrolases used as catalysts) in order to obtain exceptional yields for hydrolysis, esterification and transesterification reactions in biodiesel production. Their work had also shown that unpurified enzymes could be used in the matrices, a first step to significantly reducing the cost of biocatalysts.

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Thursday, July 14, 2011

UWO researchers magnetize algae to optimize growth, lipid yield

Biodiesel Magazine
By Bryan Sims July 12, 2011

While scientists all over the world are hard at work employing different methods to efficiently increase growth rates and higher lipid yields in microalgae for the biofuel and pharmaceutical markets, Wankei Wan, a professor of biochemical engineering at the University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario, discovered that exposing microalgae to static magnetic fields could be another viable route for optimizing growth rate and lipid production in microalgae.

According to Wan, his research team designed and built a lab-scale raceway pond featuring a paddle wheel that gently agitated the fluid and they began growing a common species of single-celled algae called Chlorella kessleri. They then took a small side stream off the main reactor and passed it through a static magnetic field all the while measuring the growth rate and oil production of the algae. What Wan observed, which will soon be published in a forthcoming paper to be submitted in the journal Bioelectromagnetics, wasn’t short of being “an interesting phenomenon”, he said.

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Switch from corn to grass would raise ethanol output, cut emissions


CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Growing perennial grasses on the least productive farmland now used for corn ethanol production in the U.S. would result in higher overall corn yields, more ethanol output per acre and better groundwater quality, researchers report in a new study. The switch would also slash emissions of two potent greenhouse gases: carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide.

The study used a computer model of plant growth and soil chemistry to compare the ecological effects of growing corn (Zea mays L.); miscanthus (Miscanthus x giganteus), a sterile hybrid grass used in bioenergy production in Western Europe; and switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.), which is native to the U.S.

The analysis found that switching 30 percent of the least productive corn acres to miscanthus offered the most ecological advantages.

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Pennsylvania funds biomass, biogas projects

Biomass Power & Thermal
By Anna Austin July 12, 2011

The Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development has awarded $4.2 million in grants and loans to 10 alternative energy projects in six counties, four of which are biomass and biogas projects.

The funding initiative is an expansion of the state’s goal to help businesses meet water quality requirements and also reduce costs, recycle waste and help Pennsylvania meet the Chesapeake Bay nutrient requirement.

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Obama challenges biofuels industry to think outside the kernel

Biofuels Digest
Jim Lane July 12, 2011

In Washington, the Renewable Fuels Association has sent a letter to President Obama detailing the dynamic state of America’s ethanol industry. The letter was prompted by remarks President Obama made during his Twitter town hall event earlier this week, in which the President seemed to question the commitment of ethanol producers and advocates to innovation.

“While much of our industry’s research and development focus is on the next generation of feedstocks and biofuels, the existing grain-based industry has quietly made tremendous strides in its economic and environmental efficiency in recent years,” wrote RFA President and CEO Bob Dinneen. “Given its rapid rate of innovation and evolution, it was concerning to hear you suggest during your Twitter town hall that American ethanol was behind the innovation curve. More troubling was your assessment that Brazilian ethanol is a superior, more efficient product than the one produced here at home.”

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Ethanol Summit Videos Now Available on Dedicated YouTube Channel


SAO PAULO, July 12, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- One of the world's premier events dedicated to renewable energies, the Ethanol Summit, now has its own channel on YouTube, the number-one video sharing site on the internet. The channel includes all panels, plenary sessions and ceremonies from the most recent edition of the event, held this year at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Sao Paulo on June 6 and 7, plus all of the content from the 2009 edition, held in June of 2009 in Sao Paulo, which featured a keynote address from former US President Bill Clinton.

The Ethanol Summit channel can be accessed directly at, or, specific sessions from the 2011 Summit can be accessed from the 'webcasts' page on the event website, "The content can be reached by going to the YouTube Summit channel and conducting a search, or by selecting the desired session on the 'webcasts' page on the Summit website," explains Paulo Zappa, web coordinator at the Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association (UNICA), which organizes the Summit every two years.

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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Powering Innovation

Chemical and Engineering News
July 11, 2011 Volume 89, Number 28pp. 27 - 30
by Rajendrani Mukhopadhyay

Energy Department’s latest programs target critical energy challenges
The Department of Energy is gunning to accelerate innovative energy R&D in the U.S. In the past two years, the agency has funded three new initiatives: Energy Frontier Research Centers (EFRCs), Energy Innovation Hubs, and the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E). The programs’ scales and operations are different, but the idea is the same: Give teams of scientists and engineers the resources to solve the U.S.’s most pressing energy challenges—quickly.

The EFRCs, hubs, and ARPA-E joined DOE’s portfolio of programs starting in 2009. Since then, DOE has funded 46 EFRCs, three hubs, and 121 projects across ARPA-E’s seven programs. T. Brent Gunnoe, a chemist at the University of Virginia and a director of an EFRC, says the new programs complement the individual principal investigator’s (PI) efforts traditionally funded by DOE and enhance the national energy research portfolio by aggressively focusing on alternatives to petroleum-based fuels and other long-standing energy issues.

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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Columbia Falls Green Power House a 'closed-loop biorefinery' (Montana)
11:00 PM, Jul. 9, 2011

COLUMBIA FALLS — It may look like Battlestar Gallactica, but the 5,000-square-foot greenhouse being erected in Columbia Falls is totally down to earth. Nothing is earthier than algae and nutrient-rich soil.

But don't mistake it for a regular greenhouse. Although it will teem with healthy, organic produce when completed, its primary output will be high-grade organic fertilizer and soil amendments.

And, as its name — the Green Power House — implies, it will also produce biofuels-based energy.
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Southern Brazilians Want to Make Ethanol From Rice
Sunday, July 10, 2011 12:46 PM

According to ANBA: Rice growers from the state of Rio Grande do Sul, in Southern Brazil, are organizing themselves to enable the manufacturing of ethanol from rice. A document on the subject will be elaborated by the farmers, with the aid of the Secretariat for Production and Agroenergy of the Brazilian Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Supply, and forwarded to the president Dilma Rousseff. Farmers from the state are already willing to build six plants. It all started at Vinema Multioleos Vegetais, a company based in the municipality of Camaqu? that makes oil from castor and sunflower seed. "We began doing research on the possibility of making ethanol from rice," says Vilson Neumann Machado, the project and development director at Vinema. The idea is to take advantage from the fact that rice is a successful culture in the state, considering that sugarcane does not find a proper environment in the state.

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BP president provides update on oil giant's biofuels business

Ethanol Producer Magazine
By Kris Bevill July 06, 2011

Sue Ellerbusch, president of BP Biofuels North America, traveled to the heart of U.S. oil production recently to provide an update on the company’s biofuels operations to attendees of the Louisiana Energy Conference. She assured the group that the commercialization of cellulosic biofuels is “just around the corner” and said BP is committed to carrying out its plans to produce biofuels from energy grasses in the Southeast U.S., yielding up to five times more fuel per acre than corn ethanol.

BP currently operates a 1.4 MMgy demonstration-scale facility near Jennings, La. The plant began operations in 2008, testing the viability of sugarcane and energy cane bagasse, and was once a joint venture with enzyme developer Verenium Corp. BP purchased Verenium’s share of the operations last year and is now the sole owner of the plant and technology. Ellerbusch said the facility is used to produce data and samples that influence the company’s scale-up strategy for future plants. “Our Jennings facility is doing exactly what it was designed to do: demonstrate the feasibility and sustainability of producing cellulosic biofuels in the southern United States,” she said.

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Monday, July 11, 2011

US Science committee examines “the Science on E15 ethanol” in E15 hearings

Biofuels Digest
Jim Lane July 8, 2011

In Washington, the Energy & Environment Subcommittee of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology held hearings yesterday entitled “Hitting the Ethanol Blend Wall: Examining the Science on E15,” to hear feedback on draft legislative language on mid-level ethanol blends of up to 15% ethanol in gasoline. This year, the EPA provided waivers allowing E15 for motor vehicles built after 2001 under certain conditions.

Steven Burke, the President and CEO of the Biofuels Center of North Carolina, was asked to speak on North Carolina’s comprehensive approach to creating a new biofuels industry sector in the state. Burke testified that North Carolina is in favor of the EPA’s decision on E15 as a necessary intermediate step towards larger and longer-term national goals. He said, “More time is clearly needed for advanced biofuels technologies to develop. In the interim, increased use of ethanol serves as the first stage foundation required for new biofuels technology, affirms biofuels within consumer and national life, and prepares for large amounts of next generation feedstocks, technology, and facilities.”

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EPA finalizes Tailoring Rule biomass deferment

Biomass Power & Thermal
By Anna Austin July 07, 2011

The U.S. EPA has ruled that it will maintain its proposal to defer biomass from the Greenhouse Gas Tailoring Rule for three years while the agency further studies the science and policy of regulating biomass energy.

The final version of the Tailoring Rule regulated biomass, or biogenic emissions, in the same manner as fossil fuels. It went into effect Jan. 2, but in response to multiple studies, statements and letters warning of the detrimental effects of the rule, a few weeks later the EPA announced the three-year deferment for biomass, with a final rulemaking to be made in July.

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Team helps businesses see benefits of using woody biomass system

Biomass Power & Thermal
By U.S. Forest Service July 06, 2011

The U.S. Forest Service Wood Education and Resource Center is leading the way in rediscovering that woody biomass is an efficient, cost-effective energy source.

WERC established a Woody Biomass Technical Assistance Team to help facility owners and managers who are considering using woody biomass to reduce their heating costs.

“Referrals come to us through partners that identify facilities that might benefit from having a woody biomass system,” said Lew McCreery, WERC woody biomass coordinator. “The first step is to conduct a preliminary feasibility study of the site. We then prepare a detailed analysis of the system that will best fit the needs of those facilities that pass the preliminary study.”

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Salt Loving Microbe May Aid Biofuel Production
Posted by Joanna Schroeder – July 7th, 2011

Researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Joint Genome Institute (JGI) and the Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) at DOE’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory are trying to discover salt-loving organisms that may be more efficient in treating biomass and improve sugar yield for biofuel production. The class of solvents known as ionic liquids, are liquid forms of salt that will inactivate enzymes by interfering with the folding of polypeptides—the building-blocks of proteins. These solvents are useful for breaking down biomass; however, they can also hinder the ability of cellulases used to produce sugars after pretreatment.

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Friday, July 8, 2011

Distillers grains' hidden reserves

Biodiesel Magazine
By Ron Kotrba June 29, 2011

From corn to ethanol, biodiesel, cellulosic biofuel, zein, high-protein feed and who knows, the kitchen sink? Maybe one day we'll find our own universe locked in a kernel of corn.
Yesterday at the Fuel Ethanol Workshop in Indy I sat in on an interesting set of presentations by two University of Minnesota researchers, Pavel Krasutsky and Doug Tifanny, both of whom are working on a project in collaboration with Crown Iron Works and Glycos Biotechnologies to take distillers dried grains with solubles (DDGS)—basically corn minus the starch left over from ethanol production—and employ ethanol, as Tiffany says, as a solvent, reagent and preservative.

The idea is to use ethanol in a solvent extraction process to separate out the fiber, protein, oil, FFAs and zein to make a high-protein feed, cellulosic ethanol, biodiesel (and glycerin, which, in turn, with the help of GlycosBio, is converted over to ethanol).

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Termite guts could provide a way to produce biofuel from woody biomass
By Darren Quick
21:23 July 6, 2011

Ethanol is the most commonly used biofuel worldwide and is made by fermenting the sugar components of plant materials, usually sugar and starch crops such as sugar cane, corn and wheat. The difficulty in accessing the sugars contained in woody biomass, coupled with criticism that the use of food crops for biofuel production has a detrimental effect on the food supply has prompted research into biofuels that can be made from cellulosic biomass, such as trees and grasses. By looking at the digestive system of termites, researchers have now discovered a cocktail of enzymes that unlocks access to the sugars stored within the cells of woody biomass that could help make it a more viable source of biofuels, such as ethanol.

Until now, a rigid compound that makes up plant cell walls known as lignin has been one of the most significant barriers blocking the access to sugars contained in biomass and inhibiting their use in fuel production. Looking for a way to break down this barrier, Mike Scharf, the O. Wayne Rollins/Orkin Chair in Molecular Physiology and Urban Entomology at Purdue University, and his research partners turned to that scourge of the homeowner, the termite. Their study was the first to measure the sugar output from enzymes created by the termites themselves and the output from small protozoa called symbionts, which live in the termite guts and aid in digestion of woody material.

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U.S. offers help to finance first advanced ethanol plant

WASHINGTON Thu Jul 7, 2011 12:09pm EDT

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Energy Department on Thursday provided a $105 million conditional loan guarantee to help finance the first commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol plant in the country.

The Iowa-based plant, which would be operated by privately-held POET LLC, would use corncobs, leaves, husks and some stalks provided by local farmers to produce up to 25 million gallons of advanced ethanol a year.

"This project will help decrease our dependence on oil, create jobs and aid our transition to clean, renewable energy that is produced here at home," said U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu.

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Senate deal would axe $6 billion ethanol tax credit

By Timothy Gardner
WASHINGTON Thu Jul 7, 2011 1:46pm EDT

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Three senators reached a deal on Thursday to repeal the $6 billion per year ethanol tax credit by the end of July, an agreement that must still be passed by Congress.

The loss of the subsidy could add extra costs for ethanol blenders such as Valero Energy Corp and Marathon Oil Corp, but it is unlikely to reduce demand for corn.

"This agreement is the best chance to repeal the ethanol subsidy, and it's the best chance to achieve real deficit reduction," said Senator Dianne Feinstein from California, who made the deal with senators John Thune from South Dakota, and Amy Klobuchar from Minnesota.

Government mandates require increasing amounts of the corn-based fuel until 2015. The ethanol industry uses some 40 percent of the U.S. corn crop to make the alternative motor fuel.

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Nevada hot springs pool produces extreme-heat-tolerant enzyme

Biorefining Magazine
By Luke Geiver July 07, 2011

A microbe found in a Nevada hot springs pool can not only eat cellulose at temperatures above the boiling point of water, but the team of researchers who found the super-bug believe it might be well-suited for extreme industrial biofuels production processes. The team, made up of researchers from the University of California Berkeley and the University of Maryland School of Medicine, found the hyperthermophilic microbe in a 95-degree Celsius pool. The microbe, according to UCB, is only the second member of a group of ancient microbes known as Archaea that are known to grow by eating cellulose above 80 degrees C.

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Thursday, July 7, 2011

EPA Grants Biomass a Final Reprieve From CO2 Rules

The New York Times
By GABRIEL NELSON of Greenwire
Published: July 5, 2011

As proposed earlier this year, biomass-burning facilities will be spared from new federal curbs on gases that help cause climate change.

The final plan (pdf) released Friday by U.S. EPA will give biomass a three-year pass while the agency studies the effect of plant emissions on climate change. During that time, industrial plants that burn woody biomass and landfills that release the greenhouse gases from decomposing biomass won't need permits before starting construction and won't need Title V operating permits.

The exemption was proposed in January based on fears that the rules could chill development of what Administrator Lisa Jackson described as "renewable, homegrown power sources" (Greenwire, Jan. 12).

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Editorial: No need for ‘compromise’ in trimming ethanol subsidies

The Washington Post
By Editorial, Published: July 5

LAST MONTH, the Senate voted 73 to 27 for an amendment that would have immediately cut two indefensible federal ethanol subsidies. But the bill lawmakers attached it to failed. Now supporters of the policy are trying to pass it some other way, affixed to another bill or as part of the deal the White House and Republicans will eventually strike (we trust) on raising the federal debt limit.

Either way, the supports must go. Congress has protected ethanol three ways: with a $6 billion-a-year tax subsidy to those who blend it into gasoline, a tariff on competing imports and a mandate that billions of gallons enter Americans’ fuel tanks every year, which come on top of three decades of federal patronage of the industry. The Senate voted to get rid of the first two, which would still leave a federal mandate guaranteeing ethanol a market — a comfort that other businesses would be giddy to have.

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Salt-loving microbe provides new enzymes for the production of next-gen biofuels
Public release date: 30-Jun-2011

In order to realize the full potential of advanced biofuels that are derived from non-food sources of lignocellulosic biomass—e.g., agricultural, forestry, and municipal waste, and crops such as poplar, switchgrass and miscanthus—new technologies that can efficiently and cost-effectively break down this biomass into simple sugars are required. Existing biomass pretreatment technologies are typically derived from the pulp and paper industry and rely on dilute acids and bases to break down the biomass. The treated biomass product is then exposed to biological catalysts, or enzymes, to liberate the sugars.

A new class of solvents, referred to as ionic liquids, have been reported to be much more efficient in treating the biomass and enhancing the yield of sugars liberated from it. While ionic liquids are useful for breaking down biomass, they can also hinder the ability of the cellulases (usually derived from fungi) used to produce sugars after pretreatment. Ionic liquids are a liquid form of salt that will inactivate enzymes by interfering with the folding of polypeptides—the building-blocks of proteins. To help identify new enzymes that are tolerant of ionic liquids, researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Joint Genome Institute (JGI) and the Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) at DOE's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory are turning to those found in the complete genome sequences of halophilic (salt-tolerant) organisms.

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New National Biodiesel Television Ad Features School Bus

School Transportation News
Written by Ryan Gray
Friday, 01 July 2011 08:59

The National Biodiesel Board announced that it is launching the industry's largest-ever public outreach that will include national television advertising, in which a school bus is prominently featured.

The multi-millon dollar campaign is designed to raise awareness of the economic, environmental and national security benefits of "the nation's first and only EPA-designated advanced biofuel to reach nationwide production." The campaign includes radio advertising and a new Web site.

The centerpiece of the education effort is a 30-second TV spot that is airing across the nation on Sunday-morning network talk shows. The ads feature the tag line, "Biodiesel. America’s Advanced Biofuel" and focus on biodiesel’s viability here and now. The television spot highlights biodiesel use in the Dallas area to demonstrate the fuel’s practical, common-sense appeal in communities across the country. A school bus is featured in the ad along side a transit bus, fire truck and refuse hauler as examples of vehicles powered by biodiese.

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SDSU Helping to Improve Ethanol Plant Efficiency
Posted by Cindy Zimmerman – July 5th, 2011

South Dakota State University (SDSU) is helping to improve the efficiency of ethanol plants.

The SDSU Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering Department recently invested in small scale, corn milling and ethanol processing equipment to let ethanol plant mangers test process adjustments in order to optimize efficiency.

“This small equipment allows them to test small adjustments and see how they work without the expense or risk associated with testing adjustments in a large ethanol plant,” said Van Kelley, Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering department head. “If adjustments aren’t made correctly at a plant processing 100,000 bushels of corn per day – it ends up being an extremely expensive mistake.”

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Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Cellulosic industry not surprised by reduced RFS target

Ethanol Producer Magazine
By Kris Bevill July 01, 2011

As the cellulosic ethanol industry prepares to emerge from small-scale development projects to full-scale commercialization, producers are eager to make their voices heard in Washington D.C. and on Wall Street. This was the motivation behind the formation earlier this year of the Advanced Ethanol Council. The group, formed in conjunction with the Renewable Fuels Association, is comprised of some of the most well-known cellulosic ethanol project developers, several of whom spoke during a special panel at the International Fuel Ethanol Workshop & Expo on June 29 in Indianapolis.

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Buy FREEDOM Learn Truth About Ethanol
Posted by Chuck – July 2nd, 2011

During the 2011 International Fuel Ethanol Workshop attendees got a chance to see the new documentary from Josh & Rebecca Tickell. I first met Josh during a National Biodiesel Conference before he produced his award winning film, “Fuel.” Together with Rebecca they have now produced a film that should open a lot of people’s eyes about the myths surrounding ethanol. It is called “FREEDOM.”

FREEDOM is a one-hour documentary that takes a hard look at America’s perilous and unsustainable addiction to foreign oil. It explores the role that Ethanol plays as a homegrown alternative that will boost the domestic economy, create jobs and reduce our need to rely on dangerous and unstable parts of the world for our fuel. Filmmakers Josh Tickell and his wife Rebecca set out on a journey to take a fresh look at Ethanol and try to separate the myth from the hyperbole.

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GLOBAL: Plant biomass largest renewable resource

University World News
03 July 2011
Issue: 178

An international multidisciplinary team of researchers from Argentina, Australia, the US, Denmark and Brazil have uncovered the key steps for controlling plant growth. The team has shown how the assembly of components of the plant cell wall regulates growth of root hairs.

Root hairs are important structures that allow plants to absorb essential nutrients and water from the soil. The research will assist in contributing to the sustainability of plant-based industries such as agriculture, horticulture and forestry.

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Green Fields: Value of ethanol credit put at 18 cents a bushel

Des Moines Register
3:17 PM, Jul. 2, 2011
Written by: DAN PILLER

A University of Missouri analysis of the impact of the 45-cent-per-gallon tax credit for ethanol, now the subject of intense discussion in Congress, is that it raises corn prices by about 18 cents per bushel.

Such conclusions are in line with an Iowa State University study last year showing that if the 45-cent tax credit were dropped, corn prices would fall by about 10 percent.

Corn prices have doubled to more than $7 per bushel since last June in part because of heavy demand from ethanol producers. But much of the demand stems not from the tax credit but from the federal Renewable Fuels Standard, which this year will require use of almost 14 billion gallons of renewable fuels. That mandate will rise to as much as 36 million gallons by 2025.

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Johnson Controls partners with UW, UWM in global research

JSOnline (Milwaukee, Wisconsin Journal Sentinel)
By Thomas Content of the Journal Sentinel
June 30, 2011

Glendale - A new partnership involving the state's two biggest public universities and its biggest corporation should put southern Wisconsin on the map as a global research center for the high-tech batteries that will power the cars of the future, organizers said Thursday.

At a news conference with Gov. Scott Walker, the University of Wisconsin System and Johnson Controls Inc. announced plans for three energy-storage research laboratories in Milwaukee and Madison, part of a multimillion-dollar bid to attract top-notch engineers to study and work here to develop next-generation batteries.

Scientists at Johnson Controls' Power Solutions business already have started working side by side with graduate students in the first of the three labs, located at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

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Summer seaweed, a new feedstock?

Biofuels Digest
Jim Lane July 5, 2011

In the UK, researchers at Aberystwyth University claim seaweed may become a viable biofuel feedstock, especially if harvested in summer. Carbohydrate levels in kelp are at their highest in July, when harvesting would ensure optimal sugar release for biofuel production.Researchers collected monthly samples and used chemical analysis to assess the seasonal variability of kelp off the Welsh coast. Results indicated the best month for biofuel harvest was in July when the kelp contained the highest proportions of carbohydrate and the lowest metal content. Kelp can be converted to biofuels in different ways including fermentation or anaerobic digestion producing ethanol and methane or pyrolysis, which produces biodiesel.

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Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Industry warns gas prices would rise 89 cents without ethanol

St. Petersburg Times:

Ethanol reduced gas prices by 89 cents per gallon in 2010, and if ethanol disappeared, gas prices could rise by as much as 92 percent.
Renewable Fuels Association on Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011 in an advertisement in Washington, D.C., Metro stations

We recently noticed an advertisement in the Washington, D.C. Metro system that made a striking claim about ethanol -- an alcohol made from fermented corn that is added to gasoline, usually comprising 10 percent of a gallon.

First, some background to help explain the context of the ad. Supporters and critics of ethanol have battled for years over the wisdom of continuing longstanding ethanol subsidies. Currently, the Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit, or VEETC, offers a credit $0.45 for every gallon of ethanol blended with gasoline. The credit had been scheduled to expire at the end of 2010, but Congress extended it for another year.

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FEW: large crowd attends cellulosic integration discussion

Biorefining Magazine
By Kris Bevill June 28, 2011

More than 200 attendees of the 27th annual International Fuel Ethanol Workshop & Expo (FEW) packed into the first cellulosic ethanol session of the event on June 28 to listen as industry experts discussed their views toward integrating cellulosic production at existing corn ethanol facilities. Seats filled quickly in advance of the presentations and as latecomers squeezed in along the walls, panel moderator Mark Penshorn, project manager for Science Applications International Corp.’s renewable energy group, began the session by pointing out that it will become impossible to plant enough corn to meet the U.S. federal government’s steadily increasing renewable fuel standard. “The obvious next step is cellulosic biofuel,” he said.

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Xylitol breakthrough discussed at FEW conference

Biorefining Magazine
By Ron Kotrba June 28, 2011

Food science polyols are a $1.5 billion market, according to David Demirjian, president and CEO of zuChem Inc. Demirjian spoke at the Fuel Ethanol Workshop & Expo in Indianapolis about his company’s work to break into that mega market.

He said the market is dominated by sorbitol ($750 million), marinol ($80 million), erythritol and others ($370 million), and xylitol ($125 million), adding that the xylitol share is expected to grow by three-fold—but holding it back is its limited feedstock supply, which is primarily birch wood, and the price fluctuations that go along with it.

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Friday, July 1, 2011

BTEC webinar delves into biomass project financing

Biomass Power and Thermal
By Anna Austin June 29, 2011

The development or timeline cycle for a biomass project is typically three or more years, according to Greg Montgomery, managing partner at Abundant Power, a financial services company.

Financing for each project stage is different, comes at different times, and includes development capital, construction capital, permit capital and operations capital. “Biomass project financing is a technique that is used to finance capital-intensive projects that are either difficult to support on a developer’s corporate balance sheet, or are more attractive when financed separately,” Montgomery said.

Montgomery was one of three presenters during a free Biomass Thermal Energy Council webinar held June 29 and titled Biomass Thermal Finance: Options, Steps and Resources for Biomass Project Development.

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“Most people don’t understand biomass...”
30 June 2011
Sarah Robertson

Bioenergy has the potential to provide renewable heat, electricity and transport fuel the world over, but controversy has dogged the technology’s development, especially in recent times. So what is the industry doing to redress this? Sarah Robertson talks to international bioenergy expert Ralph Sims.

Despite challenges, many renewable energy proponents believe the case for bioenergy is compelling. On one level, the use of biomass for heat, electricity and fuel production is mature, with an extensive supply and demand chain that offers advanced and developing nations the opportunity to capitalize on waste residues for local and national use. In addition, the development of pellets as a market in its own right offers global export potential in an energy hungry market.

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Clemson, Australian Universities to look at advanced biofuels

Biorefining Magazine
By Luke Geiver June 30, 2011

In South Carolina and Queensland, Australia, researchers are hoping to push the boundaries of biofuels research. Through a memorandum of understanding, South Carolina-based Clemson University has partnered with the University of Queensland to further develop biofuels research, technology transfer, training and the eventual commercialization process for the research. The partnership happened in part, because of Peter D. Beattie, a special advisor for economic policy and development for Clemson. Beattie was formerly the premier of the state of Queensland. In a statement on the partnership, Beattie said that “this partnership…puts both universities at the forefront of future energy research.”

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Dinneen to ethanol industry: ‘We need to show some outrage’

Ethanol Producer Magazine
By Kris Bevill June 29, 2011

Renewable Fuels Association President and CEO Bob Dinneen abandoned the podium and chose to speak off the cuff during his keynote presentation delivered to attendees of the International Fuel Ethanol Workshop & Expo on June 29 in Indianapolis. “I’m not sure that [a speech] is what we need right now,” he said. He briefly addressed the U.S. EPA’s recently finalized E15 label and complicated, ongoing ethanol policy negotiations in Washington D.C., and then focused his efforts on rallying the industry to move it forward during a difficult period.

Approximately 500 of the 2,000 or so registered attendees at this year’s annual conference are ethanol producers and one of the first questions posed to Dinneen was how the industry can continue its education efforts and battle the rampant misinformation campaigns being spread by anti-ethanol groups. Dinneen suggested that ethanol industry employees should ramp up their individual efforts to correct erroneous information and educate the general public. "We all need to correct the notion that it takes more energy to produce a gallon of ethanol than you get out of it. We need to dispel the notion that somehow we're driving the price of food while people ignore the skyrocketing prices of oil and ignore the role of speculators in commodity markets. We need to be the responsible ones and do that sort of thing,” he said. “It will be a challenge for all of us. But we need to do that. We need to show some outrage about the one-sided debate that's going on in Washington today.”

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Clean-energy advocates on alert after Senate vote to kill ethanol subsidies

The Hill
By Bernie Becker and Kevin Bogardus - 06/30/11 05:45 AM ET

Lobbyists for renewable energy are on heightened alert following a recent Senate vote to end subsidies for ethanol, concerned that breaks for their industry might be next.

Groups supporting wind, solar and other energy sources are ready to spring into action if their preferred tax breaks are threatened in a deal to raise the federal debt ceiling.

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USDA ERS-Brazil’s Ethanol Industry: Looking Forward

USDA ERS issues report: Brazil’s Ethanol Industry: Looking Forward

Brazil is a major supplier of ethanol to the world market, the result of its natural advantage in producing sugarcane, productivity increases, and policies stimulating the supply
of feedstock and of sugar-based ethanol. Global demand for ethanol and other biobased
fuels is expected to grow in response to mandates for increased use of renewable fuels
around the world. Brazil will be well positioned to fill the growing world demand for
ethanol. However, Brazil’s ability to supply the export market depends on its domestic
ethanol use mandate, world sugar and oil prices, the currency exchange rate, and the
infrastructure to move ethanol to ports. Brazil is challenged with sustaining production
growth in the ethanol sector so as to meet increasing domestic demand and, at the same
time, maintain its position as a major supplier of ethanol to world markets that are
growing rapidly in response to their own ambitious targets for renewable energy use.

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FAO's new leader lays out his plans
by Mark Tran, Monday 27 June 2011 12.41 BST

After narrow win in leadership contest, José Graziano da Silva pledges to reform the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation, strive for consensus and tackle food price volatility

The director-general elect of the Food and Agriculture Organisation, the UN agency that deals with world hunger, on Monday pledged to work for a minimum consensus to avoid paralysis of the organisation.

On Sunday, José Graziano da Silva, of Brazil, narrowly won a contest to take over the UN's largest agency, with an annual budget of $1bn and 3,600 employees. He took 92 votes out of 180, beating the former Spanish foreign minister, Miguel Ángel Moratinos Cuyaubé, who received 88 votes. The election showed a split between donor countries and developing countries, and at his press conference in Rome, where the FAO is based, Graziano was at pains to stress his efforts to bridge the divide.

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