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

Friday, September 30, 2011

Indiana Corn Growers Offer Ethanol Blender Pump Grants
Posted by Cindy Zimmerman – September 29th, 2011

Hoosier consumers will soon be seeing new flex fuel pumps at fuel retailers across the state thanks to a new program launched by the Indiana Corn Marketing Council (ICMC).

The Flex Fuel Pump Program, unveiled during the Indiana Ethanol Forum in Indianapolis earlier this summer, awarded cost-share dollars to Indiana fuel retailers looking to install flex fuel pumps.

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Thursday, September 29, 2011

USDA awards $136M for advanced biofuels

Biofuels Digest
Jim Lane September 28, 2011 35

Five university-led consortia receive $15M-$40M grants for diesel, gasoline and renewable jet fuels.

In Washington State, US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced five major agricultural research projects today aimed at developing regional, renewable energy markets, generating rural jobs, and decreasing America’s dependence on foreign oil. Altogether, the five-year program will deliver more than $136 million in research and development grants to public and private sector partners in 22 states. University partners from the states of Washington, Louisiana, Tennessee, and Iowa will lead the projects, which focus in part on developing aviation biofuels from tall grasses, crop residues and forest resources. Vilsack made the announcement with partners from private industry, research institutions, and the biofuels industry at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport

“We have an incredible opportunity to create thousands of new jobs and drive economic development in rural communities across America by continuing to build the framework for a competitively-priced, American-made biofuels industry,” said Vilsack. “Over the past two years, USDA has worked to help our nation develop a national biofuels economy that continues to help us out-innovate and out-compete the rest of the world while moving our nation toward a clean energy economy.”

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Monday, September 26, 2011

Babcock to head ISU bioenergy group

Des Moines Register
4:45 PM, Sep 22, 2011 by Dan Piller

Bruce Babcock has been named to Iowa State University’s Cargill Endowed Chair in Energy Economics and director of the university’s Biobased Industry Center.

Babcock, who has been director of the university’s Center for Agricultural and Rural Development, assumes his new position Oct. 1. He succeeds James Bushnell, who is now an associate professor of economics at the University of California Davis.

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Bright Future of Cellulosic Ethanol in China


Guangzhou, Guangdong -- (SBWIRE) -- 09/22/2011 -- CCM’s September Issue of Industrial Biotechnology China News has come out recently, revealing there is huge potential in China’s cellulosic ethanol market.

Cellulosic ethanol, representing a high-end clean energy, can replace the traditional grain ethanol. In fact, Japanese nuclear accident makes people concern more about the development of clean power. People are attracted by cellulosic ethanol because of its advantage of the widespread raw materials without pollution.

The Chinese government has repeatedly stressed the importance of cellulosic ethanol industry. Now the Chinese government will increase the investment of R & D in cellulosic ethanol's production technology, in order to speed up the cellulosic ethanol industrialization during 2011-2015, revealed by an expert who participates in the edition of "Biomass Development in the Twelfth Five -Year Plan".

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Hump hypothesis loses ground in biomass research

Western Farm Press
Iowa State University
Sep. 22, 2011 3:29pm

For decades, scientists have believed that a relationship exists between how much biomass plant species produce and how many species can coexist.

This idea comes from a 1970s study that showed as plant biomass produced - called plant productivity - in a system increased, so did the number of plant species - referred to as plant richness - to a point. After that point, the number of plant species is thought to decline.

When plotted on a graph, the resulting line forms a hump shape, with maximum species richness occurring at the point of intermediate productivity.

Now it's time to get over the hump, according to new research in the current issue of the journal Science.

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Researchers unlocking biomass energy

Delta Farm Press
Layne Cameron, Michigan State University
Jul. 27, 2011 2:27pm

Pretreating non-edible biomass — corn leaves, stalks or switch grass — holds the keys for unlocking its energy potential and making it economically viable, according to a team of researchers led by Michigan State University.

Shishir Chundawat, a post-doctoral researcher, and Bruce Dale, professor of chemical engineering and materials science, of MSU led a team of researchers in identifying a potential pre-treatment method that can make plant cellulose five times more digestible by enzymes that convert it into ethanol, a useful biofuel.

The research was supported by the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center, a partnership between the University of Wisconsin and MSU and published in the current issue of Journal of the American Chemical Society.

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SDSU Studies Production of Biochar, Bio-Oil from Biomass
Posted by Joanna Schroeder – July 27th, 2011

South Dakota State University (SDSU) is researching the future, one is which rural landscapes would no longer be dotted with grain elevators but rather with pyrolysis plants that would convert energy crops to fuel or “bio-oil”. This bio-oil would be passed along to other refiniries to produce products such as drop-in fuels or biochemicals while the plants would recycle the syngas produced during the process into an emerging product – biochar. Biochar can be integrated into the soil to help rebuild soil nutrition and sequester carbon.

The USDA has given SDSU a $1 million grant, $200,000 for the next five years, to help scientists design a feedstock production system for optimum energy production of bio-oil while also exploring the possible benefits of biochar.

“We’re looking at this from a whole system approach, and we’re looking at various components in this whole system,” said SDSU professor Tom Schumacher, the project director “Historically, the distributive nature of crop production gave rise to a network of grain elevators to separate and coordinate the flow of grain to the processing industry. A network of rail lines added new infrastructure to improve efficiency. For lignocellulosic feedstocks, a corollary to the grain elevator would be a collection point that would be within 10 to 30 miles of production fields.”

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U.S. ethanol growth slows

StarTribune (Minneapolis, MN)
Updated: September 22, 2011 - 4:50 PM

U.S. ethanol producers are creeping toward 1 million gallons per day in output, but the industry's growth slowed in early 2011 because of sluggish demand for gasoline and barriers to blending at greater than 10 percent.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration, which monitors motor fuels, said in a new report that during the first five months of 2011, daily ethanol production increased 6.9 percent, to 903,000 gallons, compared with the same period in 2010. Last year, full-year production rose 22 percent over 2009.

The report said nearly all fuel ethanol currently used in the United States is consumed as a 10 percent blend with gasoline. Although blends up to 15 percent have been approved for vehicles manufactured after 2000, various issues, including potential mis-fueling and associated liabilities, have limited adoption of higher blends, it said. Gasoline consumption also is down overall, reducing the need for blended ethanol, the report said.

As a result, more ethanol is hitting the export market, the report said.

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Friday, September 23, 2011

Gene discovery could be biofuel’s “missing link”

Renewable Energy Magazine
Tuesday, 20 September 2011
Toby Price

A team of researchers at the US Department of Energy’s BioEnergy Science Center (BESC) have pinpointed the exact, single gene that controls ethanol production capacity in a microorganism. “This discovery could be the missing link in developing biomass crops that produce higher concentrations of ethanol at lower costs,” explained the centre in a recent press statement.

The discovery of the gene controlling ethanol production in a microorganism known as “Clostridium thermocellum” will mean that scientists can now experiment with genetically altering biomass plants to produce more ethanol.

Current methods to make ethanol from a type of biomass found in switchgrass and agricultural waste require the addition of expensive enzymes to break down the plant’s barriers that guard energy-rich sugars. Scientists, including those at BESC, have been working to develop a more streamlined approach in which tailor-made microorganisms produce their own enzymes that unlock the plant’s sugars and ferment them into ethanol in a single step. Identifying this gene is a key step towards making the first tailor-made microorganism that produces more ethanol.

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Constellation Energy and Chromatin Announce Partnership to Test Sorghum Biomass as Fuel to Generate Power

The Wall Street Journal: Market Watch
Sept. 21, 2011, 8:00 a.m. EDT

California Power Plants to Test Closed-Loop Biomass as Fuel

EL CENTRO, Calif., Sep 21, 2011 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- Constellation Energy, through two of its subsidiaries, and Chromatin Inc., a supplier of biomass feedstock for energy producers, today announced that they had signed a memorandum of understanding that could supplement current fuels at two California power plants with a sustainable supply of renewable biomass grown specifically for use as fuel in the plants.

In anticipation of this, Chromatin is growing three fields of biomass sorghum, a non-food crop that has a high energy content, is adapted to marginal lands, and requires less than half the water and chemicals of field crops such as corn or sugar cane.

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Thursday, September 22, 2011

CSX, Kinder Morgan team up for ethanol hub at Port of Tampa

Tampa Bay Business Journal
Date: Friday, September 16, 2011, 4:51pm EDT

Kinder Morgan Energy Partners, CSX Corp. and the Tampa Port Authority finalized an agreement to bring ethanol into the Tampa market via the nation’s first ethanol unit train-to-pipeline distribution system.

TPA will build rail track and support infrastructure to handle 100-car unit train deliveries and a multi-product unit train offloading yard at Hooker’s Point.

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Lugar Cautions U.S. Must Look Beyond Ethanol for Energy Independence

WIBC - Indianapolis, IN
By Eric Berman (

Senator notes corn-derived fuel has replaced just 6% of oil needs

Indiana Senator Richard Lugar warns the U-S needs to move beyond ethanol to more far-reaching steps toward energy independence.

Lugar told about 80 Indiana college students at his annual "energy summit" that Washington tends to lose interest in energy unless there's a crisis. Even Indiana's 13 ethanol plants, he says, came into being for rural economic development as much as for energy.

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Algae Scale-Up Equipment Speeds Time-to-Commercialization for Researchers and Biomass Producers

The Sacramento Bee
By BioVantage Resources
Published: Tuesday, Sep. 20, 2011 - 5:08 am

Biomass Production Made Easy, From Milligrams to Kilograms to Commercial Scale

GOLDEN, Colo., Sept. 20, 2011 -- /PRNewswire-iReach/ -- BioVantage Resources, Inc. ( has announced the availability of algae scale-up bioreactors to reduce time-to-commercialization, facilitating small-to-large volume production of phototrophic cultures.

Products come in three form-factors: 8-30 liter bubble columns, 400-6000 liter tank-based bioreactors (or inoculation systems), and larger, made-to-order raceway ponds with integrated mixing. A variety of units can be combined to meet production requirements and to support culture maintenance. These commercial units have been designed with integrated intelligence to enable repeatable, reliable production of high quality algae, even at commercial scales.

"Our laboratory needed to transition from the analytical scales that we were using to grow algae to obtain much larger quantities of biomass," said Matthew Posewitz, assistant professor at Colorado School of Mines. "The five, 30 liter bioreactors we purchased from BioVantage Resources were perfect. Our mutant phenotypes all carried over to the scaled-up growth conditions and we can now easily obtain kilograms of dry weight for our protein research and to assess a variety of biofuel molecules at larger scale. The bioreactors are easy-to-use, clean and harvest cells."

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New Fields May Propel Americas to Top of Oil Companies’ Lists

The New York Times
Published: September 19, 2011

RIO DE JANEIRO — Brazil has begun building its first nuclear submarine to protect its vast, new offshore oil discoveries. Colombia’s oil production is climbing so fast that it is closing in on Algeria’s and could hit Libya’s prewar levels in a few years. ExxonMobil is striking new deals in Argentina, which recently heralded its biggest oil discovery since the 1980s.

Up and down the Americas, it is a similar story: a Chinese-built rig is preparing to drill in Cuban waters; a Canadian official has suggested that unemployed Americans could move north to help fill tens of thousands of new jobs in Canada’s expanding oil sands; and one of the hemisphere’s hottest new oil pursuits is actually in the United States, at a shale formation in North Dakota’s prairie that is producing 400,000 barrels of oil a day and is part of a broader shift that could ease American dependence on Middle Eastern oil.

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Biomass-Powered Data Centers

Biomass Power & Thermal
By Matt Soberg September 20, 2011

U.S. companies plan to develop biopowered computer data centers to reap the benefits of local supply and competitive power pricing.

U.S. companies are researching and developing biopowered computer data centers due to the availability of local feedstocks and the resulting competitive power pricing for consumers. Vineyards LLC has developed a shovel-ready data center campus in Colorado Springs, Colo., and intends to use local municipal waste and mountain pine beetle-killed timber as fuel. HP Labs, an advanced research group for Hewlett Packard, has released research on data center facilities powered by dairy farm waste.

The Vineyards Data Center Park will utilize a 50-megawatt plant that will be built on a 100-acre development south of downtown Colorado Springs. Developers are in the process of selecting a capital partner, and expect data center units will be available for occupancy by the spring of 2012.

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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Orange peels could be made into biodegradable plastic

MotherNature Network
By Bryan NelsonSat, Sep 17 2011 at 10:35 PM EST

Scientists discover a novel way of using microwaves to turn orange peels and other plant-based waste into plastic.

Plastic waste is one of the worst forms of trash because it takes so long to degrade, thus overflowing our landfills and polluting our oceans and waterways. But what if we could make plastic from a recycled, natural, biodegradable source?

That's the idea behind a new technology developed by British scientists that uses microwaves to turn plant-based waste, such as orange peels, into eco-friendly plastic, according to the Independent.

Researchers have created a partnership with the juice-making industry in Brazil and have launched the Orange Peel Exploitation Company to demonstrate the technology on a large scale.

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The State Journal-Register (Springfield, IL)
Posted Sep 17, 2011 @ 11:00 PM

E15, the gasoline pump label, is approved. But E15, the fuel, probably will not be widely sold for several months at the earliest in Illinois.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently OK’d labeling requirements for the newest blend of 15 percent ethanol and up to 85 percent gasoline. The black-and-orange labels have been shared with state regulators.

Just when E15 fuel would go on sale at the local convenience store remains difficult to tell at this point, said Jonelle Brent, bureau chief for weights and measures with the Illinois Department of Agriculture.

“A lot of it is still to be decided at the federal level,” said Brent. “The fuel still has to be certified and registered.”

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Biomass limits (Part 1)
Posted by Dave Elliott on September 17, 2011 6:01 PM

An 18-month inquiry by the independent Nuffield Council on Bioethics (NCB) has found that rapid expansion of biofuels production in the developing world has led to problems such as deforestation and displacement of indigenous people. The need to meet rising biofuel targets has also led to exploitation of workers, loss of wildlife and higher food prices. Biofuels also contribute to poor harvests, commodity speculation and high oil prices which raise the cost of fertilisers and transport. However, it says, there is a clear need to replace liquid fossil fuels to limit climate change and if new biofuel technology can meet ethical conditions, there is a duty to develop it.

NCB say an international certification scheme, like the Fairtrade scheme for food, was needed- to guarantee that the production of biofuels met the five ethical conditions identified by the NCB: observing human rights, environmentally sustainable, reduced carbon emissions, fairly traded and equitably distributed cost and benefits.

In a new report, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) similarly claimed that bioenergy could be part of the solution to climate-smart agricultural development, but only if their production was properly managed. Large-scale liquid biofuel development, in particular, may, they say, hinder the food security of smallholders and poor rural communities, and enhance climate change through greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions caused by direct and indirect land use change. It’s therefore crucial they say to develop bioenergy operations in ways that mitigate risks and harness benefits. Safely integrating both food and energy production addresses these issues by simultaneously reducing the risk of food insecurity and GHG emissions, and Integrated Food-Energy Systems (IFES) can, they claim, achieve these goals on both small- and large-scales.

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Mascoma plans IPO worth $100M
Associated Press, 09.19.11, 12:36 PM EDT

NEW YORK -- Mascoma Corp. said Monday it plans to raise up to $100 million in an initial public offering of stock.

The Lebanon, N.H., company said it has developed a technology that employs genetically modified yeast and other microorganisms to cut costs and improve production of renewable fuels and chemicals. It plans to begin selling this technology for the first time next year, focusing on corn ethanol producers.

Mascoma said that its technology can cut corn ethanol costs by 1 to 2 cents per gallon. Interest in its product should generate "near-term revenue and gross margin for our company," the company said in a regulatory filing.

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Monday, September 19, 2011

Construction activities have begun at an Illinois ethanol plant

7th Space Interactive

Construction activities have begun at an Illinois ethanol plant that will demonstrate carbon capture and storage.

The project, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Fossil Energy, is the first large-scale integrated carbon capture and storage (CCS) demonstration project funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) to move into the construction phase. Led by the Archer Daniels Midland Company (ADM), a member of DOE’s Midwest Geological Sequestration Consortium, the Illinois-ICCS project is designed to sequester approximately 2,500 metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per day in the saline Mount Simon Sandstone formation at depths of approximately 7,000 feet. Researchers estimate that the sandstone formation can potentially store billions of tons of CO2 and has the overall potential to sequester all of the more than 250 million tons of CO2 produced each year by industry in the Illinois Basin region.

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China is interested in biofuels — Why not the West?
Published: Sep 16, 2011 20:53 Updated: Sep 16, 2011 21:18

China, arguably the world’s most influential and dynamic economy, is beginning to eye renewable as a partial solution to its voracious and growing energy needs. If Beijing determines that biofuels represent the future, expect to see the current modest Western investment field to change dramatically.

As yet, China’s involvement is modest.

According to a PetroChina company official, the firm aims to increase its production of biofuels by 2015 to 1.1 million tons and import and additional 470,000 tons.

PetroChina, a traditional hydrocarbon company, is clearly thinking outside the box to increase its alternative energy portfolio.

According to PetroChina’s Petrochemical Research Institute deputy chief engineer Fu Xingguo, China is looking at generating 933,000 tons annually of fuel ethanol and 165,000 tons of biodiesel.

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BP gobbles up Brazilian ethanol
Published: Sept. 15, 2011 at 8:48 AM

LONDON, Sept. 15 (UPI) -- The $71 million acquisition of a Brazilian biofuel company is a milestone for BP's efforts to expand its footprint in the industry, an official said.

The British company said it aims to double operations at Tropical BioEnergia to around 118 million gallons of ethanol equivalent per year for Brazilian and international markets.

"This is another significant milestone in BP's global biofuel strategy as we expand our operations base and demonstrate our genuine commitment to Brazil's ethanol industry, which can deliver sustainable and competitive biofuels into the global market," BP Biofuels Vice President Philip New said in a statement.

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New export pellet testing lab first of its kind in U.S.

Biomass Power & Thermal
By Lisa Gibson September 13, 2011

Biomass Energy Laboratory in Conyers, Ga., is expected to begin operation by Nov. 1, making it the first U.S.-based pellet testing facility that will be fully compliant and accredited under Europe's fuel quality specifications.

Up until now, pellet manufacturers exporting their products to Europe have sent their samples to a lab in Holland for analysis and verification of compliance with their end users’ specifications under ISO 17025, the accreditation process for conducting European testing on biomass. “It’s not that efficient to do that testing overseas and for the most part, all the U.S. producers want some kind of state-side laboratory that can run the analysis compared to having to ship the samples overseas,” said Chris Wiberg, Biomass Energy Lab’s new manager. “So that is why this lab is being set up.”

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UK firm produces high-energy 'Hycadiesel'

Biorefining Magazine
By Luke Geiver September 13, 2011

Hycagen Ltd., a U.K.-based advanced biofuel startup, uses the same feedstocks traditionally used by the biodiesel industry, but Hycagen doesn’t make biodiesel. Formed in 2008 by three men who were also instrumental in the development of a successful biotechnology and pharmaceutical company called Chiroscience Plc, Hycagen produces a fuel they call Hycadiesel. The fuel is made using an enzymatic catalyst technology platform. According to Alan Roth, CEO and co-founder of the company, the process uses a hyperstabilized reusable lipase enzyme catalyst that assimilates the combined feedstocks into the Hycadiesel at mild temperatures, which, he adds, generates only the desired fuel with zero waste. “The only processing step required after the reaction is filtration of the catalyst for reutilization, and the fuel is ready for use as is,” Roth said.

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Friday, September 16, 2011

European Commission Disputes Opinion on Biofuels Emissions

The New York Times
September 14, 2011, 11:24 am

The European Commission acknowledged on Wednesday that reductions in greenhouse gas emissions linked to the use of some forms of bioenergy — burning wood for electricity, for example — could be overestimated because of a “serious accounting error.”

But the commission rejected the conclusions of a draft opinion by the European Environment Agency Scientific Committee that said that similar problems afflict the calculation of emissions from biofuels for transportation.

The draft opinion, described here in an earlier post, could have wide repercussions. It suggests that a far narrower variety of crops for biofuels and bioenergy should be grown and that organizations like the International Energy Agency and the United Nations probably need to lower their emissions forecasts related to the use of biofuels and bioenergy.

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Ethanol Elicits Mixed Emotions

Biofuels Journal

According to a new study by University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers, people have mixed emotions about ethanol.

Wisconsinites support the use of ethanol blends if it keeps dollars and jobs in the US, and if it reduces air pollution.

But two-thirds of those surveyed stop supporting ethanol if they were told the fuel could harm their engine or reduce gas mileage.

"Understandably, this poll indicates mixed attitudes toward the pros and cons of ethanol," says Bret Shaw, assistant professor of life sciences communication at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and environmental communication specialist for UW-Extension.

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Fly the (hic!) friendly skies: renewable jet fuel from alcohol

Biofuels Digest
Jim Lane September 14, 2011

Making renewable jet fuel from booze…uh, alcohol…is the latest drop-in biofuels craze. Who is doing what, with whom, and when? And how do they do it?

When most of us think of highly customized aviation alcohols, we probably think of the little bottles of Johnnie Walker. But a handful of companies such as Cobalt, Gevo, Terrabon, LanzaTech and ZeaChem, are shaking up the emerging aviation biofuels markets by developing renewable aviation fuels from ethanol and/or biobutanol.

It’s been an improbable mission, but a handful are getting close enough that we had better explain the background before they achieve massive scale.

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Thursday, September 15, 2011

DOE webinar to report results of Billion-Ton Update

Biomass Power & Thermal
By Matt Soberg September 13, 2011

The 2005 U.S. Billion-Ton Study was intended to estimate the biomass potential within the country based upon assumptions regarding then current production capacity, availability and technology. Expanding on the original, the “2011 U.S. Billion-Ton Update: Biomass Supply for a Bioenergy and Bioproducts Industry,” known as the 2011 Billion-Ton Update, included more direct inventory analysis regarding primary feedstocks, focused price and supply quantities, and “rigorous treatment and modeling of resource sustainability,” according to the U.S. DOE.

The authors will address details of the report in a DOE webinar, “The U.S. Billion-Ton Update,” to be held on Thursday, Sept. 22 at 2-4 p.m. EDT.

Read more and registration details

Bioenergy targets based on flawed science: report

By Charlie Dunmore

BRUSSELS Wed Sep 14, 2011 12:30am EDT

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Existing targets for biofuels and other forms of bioenergy are based on flawed carbon accounting and should be revised downwards, a draft report by a panel of 19 top European scientists showed.

"It is widely assumed that bioenergy is inherently carbon-neutral. However, this assumption is flawed," said the Scientific Committee of the European Environment Agency, the European Union's environment watchdog.

"The potential consequences of this bioenergy accounting error are immense," said the draft opinion seen by Reuters.

The report is intended to guide EU policymaking on bioenergy, but its findings apply to policies implemented by other governments around the world, the scientists said.

If the findings are confirmed and heeded by policymakers, it would undermine the case in favor of using biofuels and could lead to a wholesale U-turn in existing bioenergy policy.

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Weather impacts biomass production
University of Illinois Extension Updated: September 13, 2011

URBANA - The weather in Illinois affects everything, including current research in the development of biomass as an energy source. Miscanthus is one of the promising agricultural crops being evaluated as a potential biomass feedstock alternative. Recent agronomy and crop science studies suggest that winter is the optimal time to harvest Miscanthus, so researchers at the University of Illinois have studied the impact weather can have on feedstock production and harvest, as well as subsequent storage and supply activities.

“Winter in Illinois can be very difficult,” said Yogendra Shastri, a visiting research assistant professor in the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering (ABE) and member of the Energy Biosciences Institute in the Institute for Genomic Biology, “and you cannot ignore its impact on the feedstock harvest system.

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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Gevo Awarded Two Key Patents for Efficient Production of Isobutanol

The Wall Street Journal: MarketWatch
Sept. 13, 2011, 8:00 a.m. EDT

~ Sues Butamax and DuPont for Infringement ~

ENGLEWOOD, Colo., Sep 13, 2011 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- Gevo, Inc. /quotes/zigman/3670856/quotes/nls/gevo GEVO +0.58% , a renewable chemicals and advanced biofuels company, today received two patents from the United States Patent and Trademark Office ("USPTO") on important technologies that enable the low-cost, high-yield production of biobased isobutanol. The Company also filed a lawsuit against Butamax(TM) and its affiliate DuPont. The lawsuit charges that Butamax and Dupont infringe Gevo's two newly-issued patents.

Gevo was awarded U.S. Patent No. 8,017,375, "Yeast Organism Producing Isobutanol at a High Yield" ("PDC Patent"), and U.S. Patent No. 8,017,376, "Methods of Increasing Dihydroxy Acid Dehydratase Activity to Improve Production of Fuels, Chemicals, and Amino Acids" ("AFT Patent").

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AT&T Becomes Latest Company to Use Plastic Made from Sugarcane
By Tilde Herrera
Published September 13, 2011

Just in the last few years, we've seen a surge in companies experimenting with plastics derived from sugarcane. Procter & Gamble, for example, began using sugarcane-based plastics for some Pantene Prov-V, Covergirl and Max Factor products. Heinz also said a few months ago that it would license The Coca-Cola Company's PlantBottle technology for use in its ketchup packaging.

Sensing a market opportunity, Dow Chemical has launched a joint venture in Brazil to make bioplastic using ethanol made from sugarcane, we reported last month. The company claims it can do this at a competitive price-point.

Now we can add AT&T to the list. The telecommunications giants said yesterday it will begin using sugarcane-based plastic in packaging for its branded wireless accessories, such as cell phone cases and power cords that hit the shelves beginning Oct. 2. As much as 30 percent of the packaging will come from ethanol made from sugarcane.

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DOE webinar explores conversion of raw biomass into feedstock

Biomass Power & Thermal
By Lisa Gibson August 30, 2011

Biomass leaching paired with torrefaction yields a densified biomass fuel ideally suited in many ways for biopower production, according to Luis Cerezo of the Electric Power Research Institute.

Cerezo was one of several speakers participating in a lengthy U.S. DOE webinar Aug. 30 that left nothing out in its exploration of converting raw biomass materials into efficient feedstocks for liquid biofuels and biopower. The webinar was composed of technical presentations that were given at “Transforming Biomass into Feedstock,” a biomass preconversion and densification workshop event hosted by DOE’s Biomass Program, the Office of Science and the Advanced Research Projects Agency. The workshop was held Aug. 23-24 at the Idaho National Laboratory in Idaho Falls, Idaho.

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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Water use overlooked in energy crop impact work
30 August 2011, source edie newsroom

Water use has been ignored when the environmental impacts of bioenergy crops have been researched, according to new research.

The work, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Early Edition this week, claims efficient large-scale biofuel production by using large grasses like miscanthus or switchgrass rather than corn is 'exciting'.

But, the impact on water resources has been largely 'overlooked' by previous studies, according to researchers from the University of Illinois in the US.

According to the research miscanthus and switchgrass offer better yields for biomass per acre when compared to corn.

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USDA Scientists Use Commercial Enzyme to Improve Grain Ethanol Production

By Ann Perry
September 12, 2011

WASHINGTON—A commercial enzyme could reduce overall costs linked with producing ethanol from grain, and also reduce associated emissions of greenhouse gases, according to a study by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists and colleagues.

The researchers found that the enzyme helps extract water from an ethanol byproduct used to make dried distillers grains with solubles (DDGS), which can be used as feed supplements for cattle, swine and poultry. This could significantly reduce the amount of electricity, natural gas, energy and water needed for production of grain ethanol and its marketable byproducts. Results from this study were published in the scientific journal Industrial Biotechnology.

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Ethanol Carbon Sequestration Plant Holds Lessons for Coal

The New York Times
Published: September 12, 2011

A leading agriculture company is about to put the United States on the map with the world's biggest carbon sequestration projects.

In coming months, Archer Daniels Midland will ramp up construction on an initiative to grab carbon dioxide emitted from an ethanol facility and inject the gas underground. The Department of Energy announced the project's groundbreaking at the company's facility in Decatur, Ill., in late August.

When combined with a separate, related sequestration project starting this fall on the same corn processing plant, the initiative will pump more industrially captured carbon dioxide underneath the earth for permanent storage in deep saline rock reservoirs than ever has been attempted in the United States. While the project is focused on ethanol, the company says it is optimistic that its efforts will pave the way to try similar emission controls for fossil fuels like coal.

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Researchers convert red seaweed to ethanol in half the time

Ethanol Producer Magazine
By Bryan Sims September 08, 2011

Hydrolyzing starch to get glucose for fermentation into alcohols such as ethanol may be a straight-forward, mature technique used in many industries, but University of Illinois researchers, in collaboration with colleagues at the University of California-Berkeley, have engineered a unique yeast strain that is capable of converting nonterrestrial biomass, red seaweed, into cellulosic ethanol in half the time.

According to Yong-Su Jin, assistant professor of microbial genomics at the University of Illinois and a faculty member in its Institute of Genomic Biology, red seaweed, when hydrolyzed, yields glucose and galactose—but there’s one problem. Jin said yeast has an appetite for glucose and won’t consume galactose until glucose is gone. To counter this, Jin and his team engineered a Saccharomyces cerevisiae strain that expressed genes coding for a new sugar transporter, cellodextrin, and an enzyme, beta-glucosidase, that’s capable of breaking down cellobiose, a dimeric form of glucose, at the intracellular level. The result is a yeast strain that can conferment cellobiose and galactose simultaneously, which decreases the production time of ethanol in half.

“We’ve been able to cut the fermentation in half from 100 hours to 50 hours,” Jin said.

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Monday, September 12, 2011

Ethanol exports hit new record

Renewable Fuels Association Updated: September 11, 2011

While oil and environmental interests seek to block the growth of the ethanol market in the United States, other nations around the world are increasing their use of American-made ethanol.

According to data released today by the federal government, U.S. ethanol exports in July set a new monthly record. Exports of denatured and undenatured (non-beverage) ethanol totaled 127.4 million gallons in July, edging out the April 2011 total of 120.1 million gallons to set a new record. July exports were nearly double the amount exported in June.

Ethanol exports through July of this year total 588.5 million gallons. That is more ethanol than was exported in 2009 and 2010 combined. The U.S. is on pace to export up to 900 million gallons of ethanol in 2011.

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Iowa gets $20 million energy grant
3:03 PM, Sep 8, 2011 by Dan Piller Comments

Iowa has received a $20 million grant from the National Science Foundation to study and promote bioenergy, wind energy, energy efficiency and energy policy.

The project will be led by Dr. Robert Brown at Iowa State University, who already heads ISU’s renewable energy studies. The new grant, awarded to smaller states that historically receive lesser shares of NSF grants, is a five-year award and will pull in talent from the University of Iowa, University of Northern Iowa, Iowa’s community and private colleges and even K-12 schools.

Co-leaders are P. Barry Butler, executive vice president and provost at the University of Iowa; Kevin Nordmeyer, the director of the Iowa Energy Center in Ames; and Chitra Rajan, associate vice president for research at Iowa State.

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Private equity companies weigh in on pellet business

Biomass Power & Thermal
By Lisa Gibson September 09, 2011

Wrapping up the first day of an educational North American Biomass Pellet Export Conference in New Orleans, two representatives from private equity companies shared their point of view on the pellet business. They both agreed that it’s challenging.

If tasked to describe the wood pellet business in one word, Carl Williams, principal of River Stone Holdings, said he would use challenging. The industry is fraught with challenges, he said. It’s nascent and fragmented. Economies of scale and scope are crucial, and it’s difficult to realize “cash on cash” returns. “I will tell you that it is possible to do that in this business, but it is extremely difficult,” he said. If you can show a bank pages of cash on cash returns, however, they’ll finance the project, according to Williams.

But without that, the key criteria for “culling the herd” of pellet manufacturers are: health and safety, sustainability, product quality, and reliability of delivery. “When you say a shipment of pellets will show up, it sure as hell better show up,” Williams said.

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U.S. Biofuel Industry Prepares for Life Without Subsidies
By Tildy Bayar, Associate Editor, Renewable Energy World
September 9, 2011

Government backing fades for corn ethanol but next-generation biofuels gets a $510 million boost.
LONDON -- A recent feature story in UK newspaper The Guardian reported that the financial crisis in the U.S. and the country's pressing need to cut its federal budget by $1.3 trillion had combined to spur lawmakers to reevaluate three decades of corn ethanol subsidies.

A significant factor in this equation was the global food crisis, which has illuminated the consequences of biofuel production – rising food prices as farmland is converted to produce biofuels – and created a public backlash against it.

The Senate had already voted overwhelmingly in June to end the tax credits and trade protection that benefit the ethanol industry. In its story, The Guardian reported that Congress was also expected to end $6 billion in subsidies to the ethanol industry as part of its recent debt ceiling negotiations.

Federal pro-ethanol policies, including subsidies, helped to grow U.S. ethanol production to 13.3 billion U.S. gallons in 2010, up from 1.6 billion gallons 10 years before. These subsidies had flowed to oil companies whose products are partly constituted from ethanol. The industry had planned to redirect parts of the funds toward petrol station refits, enabling the stations to use more ethanol under a Senate deal made last July. But the drastic budget cuts required by the debt deal resulted in a Senate vote blocking federal money from paying for special ethanol-blending pumps.

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Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Biochar And The Biomass Recycling Industry

BioCycle August 2011, Vol. 52, No. 8, p. 50
Jim Grob, Art Donnelly, Gloria Flora and Thomas Miles

To realize its full potential as a tool for carbon cycle management and to sustainably increase soil productivity, biochar should be tested in combination with other organic waste streams.

BIOCHAR, the high carbon content remains of organic biomass heated in the absence of oxygen, has been a topic of intense interest and growing experimentation in the past five years. The rediscovery of terra preta (or black earth) soils in the Amazon has sparked the imagination and curiosity of researchers around the world. These “human-built” soils are dark, productive deposits — a composite of charcoal (biochar), pottery shards and organic matter such as plant material, animal feces and fish and animal bones. Significantly, these soils are several thousand years old, yet continue to maintain high plant productivity and high soil carbon content despite existing in a region well known for low soil productivity and rapid organic matter decomposition. Charcoal presence is not unique to the tropics. U.S. farmland soils can vary in charcoal content from 10 to 35 percent of the total organic carbon (TOC), with charcoal-enriched areas in regions with a wildfire-dependent ecology (Skemstad et al., 2002).

Much of the published terra preta research to date has focused solely on the biochar component. A full picture of “biochar-only” effects is yet to be fully understood. Most of the best-documented studies have used a single addition of biochar, which is intensively measured over a number of years, but data to date suggest a wide range of outcomes. Biochar additions have been seen to be positive, neutral and even negative. This wide range in outcomes may be due to differences in the specific biochar used, time since addition, the crop species tested and the particular starting soil properties/deficiencies.

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Grinding Out Power

Keloland Television
By Ben Dunsmoor
Published: September 4, 2011, 9:40 PM

SIOUX FALLS, SD - The landfill may be a place to take trash, but the Sioux Falls landfill is slowly becoming a place that is pumping out power.

For the past two years the landfill has sent gas from decomposing trash to power the POET ethanol plant in Chancellor. And, now a large grinder at the Sioux Falls landfill is also grinding out power.

"This is just another one of those alternative energy sources, alternative funding sources, that we're able to use at the landfill," Sioux Falls Landfill Superintendent Dave McElroy said.

The massive grinder is being used nearly every day to grind up bales of corn stover, which is the name for the corn cobs, leaves and everything else that's leftover after the harvest.

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Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Brazil to reduce ethanol content in motor fuels

The Wall Street Journal: Market Watch
Sept. 3, 2011, 11:15 a.m. EDT
By Paul Kiernan

SAO PAULO -(MarketWatch)- By reducing the amount of ethanol blended with gasoline, Brazil's Agriculture Ministry said Friday it hopes sugarcane mills will increase output of pure alcohol fuel, prices of which have soared this year and contributed to high inflation.

Gasoline at Brazilian fueling stations currently contains 25% anhydrous ethanol, but that percentage will be cut to 20% starting Oct. 1. Almost half of the cars on Brazil's roads have flex-fuel engines, allowing them to run on gasoline or hydrous ethanol alone.

"The decision made by the government has the objective of reducing consumption of anhydrous ethanol in Brazil," the ministry said in a press release, adding that the move will slash demand for the fuel by about 160 million liters a month. "With that, plants can increase their production of hydrous ethanol, the limited supply of which has left prices above the levels at which it can compete with gasoline in almost the entire country."

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Can Municipal Waste Power Our Cars?

The Washington Post Business
By, Published: September 3, 2011

One future source of green energy may be as close as the nearest dumpster thanks to companies vying to make fuel from trash. Enerkem, based in Montreal, and Fiberight, in Maryland, hope to turn municipal waste into energy in new biorefineries.

Enerkem has been around since 2000 and owns several facilities in Canada. Its pilot plant, in Sherbrooke, Quebec, turns used electricity poles into methanol, acetates, ethanol and syngas. Future plants will use municipal waste as a feedstock.

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Pretreatment Boosts Switchgrass’s Ethanol Potential

Hay & Forage Grower
Sep 2, 2011 12:33 PM

Adding a pretreatment step would allow cellulosic ethanol producers to get more of it from switchgrass harvested in the fall, according to a Purdue University study.

Michael Ladisch, an agricultural and biological engineer, and research scientist Youngmi Kim compared switchgrass based on growing location, harvest time and whether it was given a pretreatment step. They found that location wasn't important, but the other two factors could significantly increase the amount of ethanol obtained from the feedstock.

"Switchgrass harvested in the spring had more cellulose, but also more lignin," says Kim. "You do not get the advantage of the increased cellulose content because it's more difficult to extract those sugars because of the lignin."

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Panda Poop One Nasty Biofuel Breakthrough
by Lauren Craig, September 2nd, 2011

Scientists may have found a clue to producing next-generation biofuels in one of the most unlikeliest of places: panda poop (yuck). Although they have long known that the guts of giant panda contained bacteria with enzymes adept at breaking down the 20-40 lbs. of bamboo an adult eats daily, researcher Ashli Brown, Ph.D. from Mississippi State University found that this bacteria may also break down grass, wood chips and crop wastes in the way necessary to best tap these biomass resources as a major new source of biofuels.

Brown and her colleagues spent a year collecting and analyzing the fresh feces of a pair of male and female pandas at the Memphis Zoo. The team found that bacteria from the giant panda can break down the super-tough plant material known as lignocellulose in switch grass, corn stalks and wood chips. Brown estimated that under certain conditions, the panda gut bacteria can convert about 95 % of plant biomass into simple sugars, without the need for high heat, harsh acids and high pressures currently used in biofuel production processes. This advance could speed the development of biofuels that don’t rely on food crops such as corn, soybeans and sugar.

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