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

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Blake Simmons On Creating Fuel From Plants

Fast Company
BY Rachel Z. Arndt

In this extended version of the talk from our new issue, we speak with Blake Simmons, the VP for deconstruction at the Department of Energy's Joint Bioenergy Institute. "We're not looking for a silver bullet," Simmons says. "We're looking for a silver shotgun."

"We're developing biochemical technologies to convert nonfood biomass into drop-in replacements for gasoline, diesel, and aviation fuel. We're not looking for a silver bullet--we're looking for a silver shotgun. We're competing with the oil and gas folks, who have had 155 years to perfect their business models and technologies. To succeed, we have to create plants designed for conversion into energy, convert those plants into fermentable and cheap sugars, and convert those sugars into high yields of fuels. We have to process sugar polymers, which are what you target for fermentable sugars, and also lignin, which is the antibiofuel. First we pretreat the biomass to loosen everything up and de-lignify it. Then we add enzymes to the sugar polymers to liberate the fermentable sugars. Those get fed to organisms that have been engineered to pro- duce advanced fuels. Using synthetic biology, we can engineer these organisms to generate fuels you can take straight out of the fermenter and put into your tank."

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More Brazilian sugar going to ethanol

Des Moines Register
10:18 AM, Nov 29, 2011 by Dan Piller

Brazil’s sugar cane production is down about 8 percent this year, but the country is increasing production of ethanol for which sugar cane is the main feedstock.

Brazil’s sugarcane association said this week that “ethanol, production from the beginning of the harvest to October was up 12.75 percent over the same period a year ago, despite a decline of 8.8 percent in overall (sugarcane) crushing.”

The association said between 49 percent and 51 percent of Brazil’s sugarcane production goes to ethanol. In the U.S., about 40 percent of the anticipated 12.4 billion bushel corn crop is expected to be ground for ethanol in the coming year.

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Booming biomass demands harmonised sustainability standards – Eurelectric

Environmental Finance
24 November 2011

The EU may need to double its primary biomass supply by 2020 if member states are to meet their renewable energy targets, according to Eurelectric, the trade association for Europe’s electricity industry. This will require substantial imports and harmonised criteria on what constitutes sustainable biomass, the association says.

Current EU production of solid biomass for heat and power generation is around 82 million tonnes of oil equivalent (Mtoe) but this will increase to between 146 Mtoe and 158 Mtoe in 2020, depending on conversion efficiency rates, if member states achieve their National Renewable Energy Action Plans.

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Innovative fuel plant goes public at Naperville launch

Naperville Sun
By Susan Frick Carlman
November 26, 2011 10:58PM

It’s scalable and skiddable. It’s just not quite functional yet.

The Green Fuels Depot, a collaborative effort seen as a bright light on the horizon of clean energy innovation, had its soft debut this past week. About 60 area business people, elected officials, activists and scientists gathered on the grounds of the Springbrook Water Reclamation Center in southeast Naperville for the unveiling.

Planned as a demonstration of what the device eventually will accomplish, the event wound up being more of an informational ribbon-cutting.

“I’m told there are still some regulatory approvals that we need before we can fire this up and produce energy,” said City Councilman Bob Fieseler, who has been a proponent of the energy plant for the three years since the project began.

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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Europe Launches U.S. Bio-Ethanol Anti-Dumping Probe
By . Agence France-Presse
Nov. 25, 2011

If the complaint is upheld, the European Union could decide to impose import duties on U.S. bio-ethanol, as it has done with U.S. and Canadian biodiesel.

The European Union on Friday said it has launched an anti-dumping investigation into the United States over federal and state tax credits and other subsidy support for producers of ethanol fuel.

The European Commission has 15 months in which to address the complaint of "material injury" to E.U. producers, after an association of renewable ethanol producers -- ePURE -- claimed a 500% rise in E.U. imports of the fuel from the United States between 2008 and 2010.

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Dutch ports get ready for biomass boom

Industrial Fuels and Power
November 25th, 2011 by IFandP Newsroom

The increased focus on renewable energy and new Dutch government proposals that will see the use of some biomass mandatory in the country’s coal-fired power stations by 2022 is expected to lead to a boom in biomass traffic in Dutch ports such as Amsterdam.

Currently, Dutch ports handle around 1.5Mt of biomass annually, but due to the forecast growing demand for the alternative energy source in North European countries, the figure is expected to increase to about 13.5Mt by 2020.

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Livestock farmers say ethanol takes corn away from animals
10:02 PM, Nov. 24, 2011
Associated Press

DES MOINES, IOWA — Livestock farmers are demanding a change in the nation’s ethanol policy, claiming current rules could lead to spikes in meat prices and even shortages if corn growers have a bad year.

The amount of corn consumed by the ethanol industry combined with continued demand from overseas has cattle and hog farmers worried that if corn production drops due to drought or another natural disaster, the cost of feed could skyrocket, leaving them little choice but to reduce the size of their herds. A smaller supply could, in turn, mean higher meat prices and less selection at the grocery store.

The ethanol industry argues such scenarios are unlikely, but farmers have the backing of food manufacturers, who also fear that a federal mandate to increase production of ethanol will protect that industry from any kind of rationing amid a corn shortage.

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Enzyme study shows DDGS dewatering applications

Ethanol Producer Magazine
By Holly Jessen November 22, 2011

A one-month plant trial showed a commercial enzyme could help extract water from distillers grains, saving natural gas, electricity and water used in the ethanol process. More work needs to be done, said David Johnston, a sustainable biofuels and co-products food technologist for the USDA Agricultural Research Service, adding that now that the idea is out there, ethanol plants can start testing the idea internally. “I think that there would be some other process benefits that we couldn’t tell in a one-month trial,” he said. “The enzyme does something that should actually help in some of the unit operations, as far as maintenance and that sort of thing, but it’s something that you would really need to do in the long run to show and prove.”

The study was conducted at Center Ethanol Co. LLC, a 54 MMgy ethanol plant in Sauget, Ill. For the study, one pound of an enzyme supplied by Genencor was added for each 1,000 pounds of corn. Similar products from other ethanol enzyme makers could also be used, Johnston said. The enzyme, which typically is used as a cellulose preparation, was added as an additional enzyme during fermentation with no added equipment necessary.

As a result, scientists found that the natural gas usage for the dryer was reduced by 14 percent because the enzyme boosted water extraction in the centrifuge. “The enzyme is believed to disrupt that physical structure that the water is binding to, basically it makes it so it doesn’t hold on to the water as tightly,” he said. Using an existing economic model of ethanol production, researchers found that using the enzyme to dewater the stillage resulted in a reduction of natural gas usage by 12 percent and a reduction of electricity consumption by 2.4 percent. Water recycling opportunities can also be increase because more suspended solids are removed during the decanter centrifuge operation, Johnston added. In all, researchers calculated a 10 percent water reduction with the use of the enzyme for dewatering.

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Brazil to Become Net Importer of U.S. Ethanol, Czarnikow Says

Bloomberg Businessweek
November 22, 2011, 1:16 PM EST
By Isis Almeida and Tony C. Dreibus

Nov. 22 (Bloomberg) -- Brazil will become a net importer of U.S. corn-based ethanol as high sugar costs create a shortage of the biofuel in the South American country, boosting the price link between the crops, C. Czarnikow Sugar Futures Ltd. said.

Brazil has imported 500 million liters (132 million gallons) of ethanol from the U.S. since 2010, equal to 800,000 metric tons of sugar or 1.2 million tons of corn, Czarnikow said in a report today. Millers in Brazil are using more sugar cane to produce sweeteners instead of ethanol, the broker said.

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Monday, November 28, 2011

Novozymes B : Novozymes inaugurates R&D laboratories in Brazil
11/22/2011 04:20 am

Today, Novozymes, a world leader in bioinnovation, opens new R&D laboratories and Customer Solutions facilities that will expand existing R&D efforts at Novozymes' site in Araucária, a city nearby Curitiba, Paraná, Brazil.

Brazil is a global leader in biofuels, and plans to double its production of fuel ethanol by 2020.

The new Novozymes center will strengthen research in a wide range of industries, including household care, agriculture and baking applications. The initial focus will be on bioenergy.

"Our new facilities and expanded research capacity will promote the growth of advanced biofuels in Brazil, an industry that creates jobs, fosters development of new technology, provides new export opportunities for Brazil and Latin America, and creates sustainable solutions essential to the world," says Pedro Luiz Fernandes, Regional President for Novozymes in Latin America.

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FAO Says Agriculture Key to Addressing Future Water and Energy Needs

Biofuels Journal
Date Posted: November 18, 2011

Rome/Bonn—As pressure on the world's water resources reaches unsustainable levels in an increasing number of regions, a "business-as-usual" approach to economic development and natural resource management will no longer be possible, FAO said Nov. 17.

Agriculture will be key to the implementation of sustainable water management, the Organization told attendees at an international meeting on water, energy and food security being held in Bonn.

Speaking on the sidelines at the Bonn 2011 Nexus Conference, FAO Assistant Director-General for Natural Resources, Alexander Mueller, said: "Tackling the challenges of food security, economic development and energy security in a context of ongoing population growth will require a renewed and re-imagined focus on agricultural development.

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NBB Members Elect Governing Board and Officers

Biofuels Journal
Date Posted: November 21, 2011

Washington, DC—National Biodiesel Board members selected their trade association leadership this week as part of the organization's membership meeting in Washington D.C. Members elected seven returning governing board members and one new member to serve on the leadership committee.

"Led by a robust and diverse trade association the biodiesel industry is well prepared to meet the opportunities of the future," said National Biodiesel Board Chairman Gary Haer.

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Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

The staff at the Center for Advanced BioEnergy Research extends warm Thanksgiving wishes! The blog will return on November 28.


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

ExxonMobil CEO says energy demand set to rise by 30% to 2040
Riyadh (Platts)--21Nov2011/740 am EST/1240 GMT

Global economic output is set to double as the global population grows to 8.7 billion people by 2040, when global energy demand will be 30% higher than it was in 2010, ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson said Monday.

Speaking in Saudi Arabia at the launch of the King Abdullah Petroleum and Research Center, Tillerson said meeting that all sources of energy would need to be harnessed "wherever they are economically competitive" to satisfy this demand.

However, developing new sources of energy alone will not be enough without effective policies to improve energy efficiency.

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Chopping the Cellulosic Ethanol Down Payment: Is <$100M for full-scale possible?

Biofuels Digest
Jim Lane November 22, 2011

Finding it hard to spare that $350 million for your cellulosic ethanol project? Here’s a system, available for licensing in 2012, that can bring down the upfront cost by a factor of three.
So, the obituary desk has been hard at work the last few months, writing notices on the death of cellulosic biofuels and the RFS.

Then, along comes POET’s and Abengoa’s loan guarantee, Chemtex’s demonstration, commencement of construction for INEOS Bio, ZeaChem’s demon is coming along.

And now, along comes Sud-Chemie with a system that is designed to ultimately cost less than $100 million for a 20 million gallon (60 million tonne) plant. Targeted to deliver operating costs that are the same as for first generation ethanol. Expected to be available for licensing as soon as next year.

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Genetic Tweak Brings Big Boost In Algae Biomass
By Chuck Squatriglia
November 22, 2011 8:00 am

Researchers at Iowa State University have discovered how to make algae produce 50 to 80 percent more biomass, a finding that could foster the production of algal biofuel. The trick involves expressing, or activating, two genes that promote photosynthesis.

In nature, algal growth is governed by the amount of carbon dioxide available. In relatively low carbon environments, two genes — LCIA and LCIB — are expressed to capture more CO2 and direct it into the cells, promoting growth. However, when algae live in an environment with enough CO2 to promote growth, the two genes shut down. The researchers found that expressing them, even in carbon-rich environments, significantly increases growth.

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EIA issues 2012 cellulosic biofuel predictions

Ethanol Producer Magazine
By Kris Bevill November 16, 2011

The U.S. DOE’s Energy Information Administration predicts that only six cellulosic biofuel producers will make fuel available for sale in 2012, producing a total of just 6.9 million gallons of fuel over the course of the coming year. The agency’s annual fuel production estimates were submitted recently to the U.S. EPA as required by the Clean Air Act and will be used as the basis for the EPA’s 2012 renewable fuel standard (RFS) volumes, due to be finalized by Nov. 30.

In June, the EPA proposed a 2012 cellulosic biofuel volume range of 3.45 to 12.9 million gallons, drastically lower than the original 500 million gallon target set by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. The proposed reduction was somewhat anticipated by the biofuels industry, which has failed to scale-up its cellulosic production capabilities at the pace intended initially due a variety of reasons. Producers argued at a public hearing this summer that the EPA should finalize a volume on the high side of the proposal in order to continue to encourage investment in the industry, but the EIA’s predictions, which are based on publicly available information and on discussions with potential producers, indicate that actual production will likely be closer to the low end of the EPA’s proposed spectrum. The EIA has also determined that several companies named by the EPA in its proposed rule will not be mechanically able to produce fuel for sale next year.

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New enzyme plant readies to supply biofuel plants

Victoria Advocate
JOSH FUNK/AP Business Writer
Published November 20, 2011 at 12:39 p.m.

BLAIR, Neb. (AP) - The leading maker of the enzymes used to produce biofuels says the declining political support for ethanol hasn't diminished the long-term prospects for the industry making fuel from plants.

Novozymes plans to open a major new enzyme plant in eastern Nebraska next year to better serve the ethanol industry. The plant near Blair cost nearly $200 million to build and will employ about 100 people.

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Hot commodity: Thieves acquire taste for used cooking oil

CTV news (Canada)
RICHARD BLACKWELL - The Globe and Mail

In the dark of night, thieves sneak into the alley behind a restaurant in one of Canada’s biggest cities. They back up a pickup truck and in a few minutes have made off with a tank full of a hot commodity – used cooking oil.

The theft of used oil and grease has become a big problem in Canada, mirroring a trend south of the border.

The price of “yellow grease” – what kitchen oil is called after it has been cleaned and refined – has tripled in the past few years, partly because of growth in the biofuels industry. Yellow grease is now a key feedstock in the production of biodiesel, which federal rules say must make up 2 per cent of all diesel sold in Canada from now on.

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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Qteros changes leadership, continues technology development

Ethanol Producer Magazine
By Kris Bevill November 18, 2011

Massachusetts-based cellulosic ethanol technology developer Qteros Inc. has laid off a number of employees, including CEO John McCarthy, but is still operating and continuing to focus on developing its technology platform, according to new CEO Mick Sawka.

Sawka joined Qteros as vice president of commercial development in February 2010 and served most recently as the company’s senior vice president of commercial development and engineering before accepting his new role of CEO on Nov. 15. Sawka was unable to comment on the reasons for the layoffs or the exact number of employees laid off, but said, “All companies follow their own unique paths. Qteros is no exception.”

The basis for Qteros’ consolidated bioprocessing technology platform is the Q microbe, a microorganism that is not only capable of digesting a variety of biomass feedstocks but that also naturally produces ethanol. In January, India-based engineering firm Praj Industries Ltd. signed a strategic partnership with Qteros to commercialize cellulosic ethanol facilities using Qteros technology within the next two years. Sawka said the partnership with Praj is unchanged and the company is still devoted to developing its technology for commercial application. “As far as options, like any company, we’re always looking at how best to maximize return for our shareholders,” he said. Addressing rumors that a sale of the company is eminent, Sawka said a strategic sale is “always an option,” but the company believes that the best way to maximize its shareholders’ return on investment currently is to continue developing its platform.

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Corn gene may improve biofuel production
November 21, 2011

Berkeley, California – Researchers in California, including those from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Joint BioEnergy Institute, have produced a genetically-engineered plant that could improve biofuel production.

The researchers introduced a corn gene into switchgrass, a non-food plant highly touted as a potential feedstock for advanced biofuels. The gene more than doubles the amount of starch in the plant’s cell walls and makes it much easier to extract polysaccharides and convert them into fermentable sugars that can be synthesized into fuel. The gene keeps the switchgrass in its juvenile phase of development, preventing it from advancing to the adult phase, when it becomes more difficult to extract the polysaccharides.

The modified plant has lower levels of lignin, a tough woody material that locks in the polysaccharides as the plant ages, and higher levels of glucose and other sugars when compared to wild switchgrass.

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Second-generation ethanol processing cost prohibitive

Science Codex
Posted On: November 21, 2011 - 4:31pm

Costs for second-generation ethanol processing, which will ease the stress on corn and sugarcane, are unlikely to be competitive until 2020, according to a unique Queen's University study.

"This study really lays out in black and white where we are and where we are going," says Warren Mabee, an assistant professor in the School of Policy Studies and Department of Geography. "It should prompt companies to reassess (their processes going forward)."

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Local ethanol plant thriving despite high input costs
By: Carrie Muehling

GIBSON CITY – The ethanol industry has changed dramatically since the One Earth Energy plant near Gibson City began manufacturing ethanol just a few years ago.

Young professionals within the grain industry in Illinois toured the plant Friday as a part of a development and leadership day coordinated by the Grain and Feed Association of Illinois.

The group learned about the process of making ethanol in a dry grind plant, where the feedstock is corn, and on any given day corn is ground into flour, which is then converted with enzymes into ethanol and dried distiller’s grains, or DDG. One Earth Energy runs 365 days a year and 24 hours a day, according to Steve Kelly, general manager of the facility.

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Monday, November 21, 2011

Lower ethanol prices? Researchers say gene discovery increases fermentation.

Biofuels Digest
Thomas Saidak November 18, 2011

In California, Energy Biosciences Institute, researchers have found a gene they named AXY4, in a model plant that exhibits a 20-45% reduction in xyloglucan O-acetylation. This chemical can inhibits a microbe’s ability to ferment sugars. The researchers found that blocking the expression of AXY4 in their model plant eliminated xyloglucan O-acetylation. For every 20% drop in the chemical, techno-economic models predict a 10% drop in ethanol prices.

Markus Pauly, a plant biologist with EBI states, “These genes can be used as genetic markers to facilitate breeding programs that aim to generate biofuel feedstocks with reduced lignocellulosic acetate content.”

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Stover experiments critical to Iowa's future in biofuels

Des Moines Register
11:53 PM, Nov. 17, 2011

GILBERT, IA. — If Iowa hopes to remain a leader in the next generation of biofuels beyond corn-based ethanol, it must figure out cost-effective ways to pick up the cornstalks and leaves left behind at harvest.

That is what several machines have been doing on fields in northern Story County this fall to practice gathering for a noncorn or cellulosic biomass ethanol plant that DuPont will open by 2013 near Nevada.

The same exercise has happened the last three years in a 35-mile radius around Emmetsburg, where Poet of Sioux Falls, S.D., has begun work on a cellulosic plant scheduled to open in 2013.

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USDA Announces Funding to Convert Biomass to Energy

USDA Press Release

North Carolina Hydro Project to Create Electricity

HALIFAX, Va., Nov. 17, 2011 –Deputy Agriculture Undersecretary for Rural Development Doug O'Brien today announced that USDA is funding a series of projects to convert biomass to energy through USDA's Rural Energy for America program. (REAP). The announcement was made during an event in Halifax, Va., to mark USDA Rural Development's participation in construction of a biomass plant to be operated by the Northern Virginia Electric Cooperative (NOVEC).

"The Obama Administration is assisting cooperatives, small businesses, farmers and ranchers, as they work to reduce their energy costs," said O'Brien. "When energy costs are reduced, American rural businesses become more competitive, allowing them to expand and create jobs."

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UGA Researchers Develop Super Yeast That Turns Pine Into Ethanol
11/17/2011 9:07:00 AM

ATHENS, GA – Researchers at the University of Georgia have developed a “super strain” of yeast that can efficiently ferment ethanol from pretreated pine—one of the most common species of trees in Georgia and the U.S. Their research could help biofuels replace gasoline as a transportation fuel.

“Companies are interested in producing ethanol from woody biomass such as pine, but it is a notoriously difficult material for fermentations,” said Joy Doran-Peterson, associate professor of microbiology in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences.

“The big plus for softwoods, including pine, is that they have a lot of sugar that yeast can use,” she said. “Yeast are currently used in ethanol production from corn or sugarcane, which are much easier materials for fermentation; our process increases the amount of ethanol that can be obtained from pine.”

Before the pinewood is fermented with yeast, however, it is pre-treated with heat and chemicals, which help open the wood for enzymes to break the cellulose down into sugars. Once sugars are released, the yeast will convert them to ethanol, but compounds produced during pretreatment tend to kill even the hardiest industrial strains of yeast, making ethanol production difficult.

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Exciting time for ethanol

Iowa Farmer Today
Posted: Thursday, November 17, 2011 7:50 am Updated: 9:44 am, Thu Nov 17, 2011.
By Gene Lucht, Iowa Farmer Today Iowa Farmer Today

AMES --- Forgive Robert Brown if he sounds a bit more upbeat about ethanol and other biofuels and bio-renewable products than most of the politicians and business leaders who offer their opinions on the subject.

It’s not that he’s a Pollyanna. It’s more that he’s a researcher and he sees plenty in the laboratory to make him smile.

“It’s a very exciting time,” says Brown, director of the Bioeconomy Institute at Iowa State University and director of the Center for Sustainable Environmental Technologies (CSET).

One of the keys to several potential new products or technologies is a method called fast pyrolysis. Instead of using enzymes and microorganisms to make biofuels, researchers are simply using heat. Fast pyrolysis quickly heats biomass such as corn stalks or wood chips and in the absence oxygen to produce liquid, solid and gas products. These end products, are known as biochar, bio-oil and syngas.

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India and UK Governments to Collaborate on Research for Sustainable Bioenergy

AZO clean tech
Published on November 17, 2011 at 2:39 AM
By Cameron Chai

The Government of India and the UK will jointly launch a research programme worth £10 million in the area of sustainable bioenergy. This was announced by the Minister of State for Universities and Science, David Willets.

For the purpose of research, both the governments will contribute their expertise to provide solutions to problems arising in the production and processing of algae and plant for the purpose of bioenergy. This in turn will help both the countries to identify other sources of fossil fuels.

The research programme will be particularly supported by the Department of Biotechnology of India and the UK Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council. While India’s biotechnology department will be responsible for the Indian side of the programme, the biotechnology department of UK will be responsible for the UK side. Both the governments recently held a workshop in India’s capital New Delhi, in which experts and the research community in general participated and came to a conclusion on the specific areas where collaboration could be achieved.

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Friday, November 18, 2011

Biomass feedstock harvesting equipment modified

Southeast Farm Press
By Leanne Lucas, University of Illinois
Nov. 16, 2011 2:28pm

Researchers at the University of Illinois are making progress in the continual effort to develop sustainable and cost-effective processes for harvesting and collecting biomass feedstock.

Alan Hansen, a professor in agricultural and biological engineering (ABE) at the University of Illinois, is part of a team working with the Energy Biosciences Institute (EBI) to determine the main obstacles in current processes and equipment that could limit their application in biomass feedstock harvesting.

“Part of our work is to assess how well existing equipment functions and what modifications we need to make to this equipment to ensure that it can handle miscanthus harvesting adequately,” said Hansen.

“These machines are generally set up to harvest crops like hay and forage. There is some degree of uncertainty related to these machines working in miscanthus, which is a much denser, taller crop, or even switchgrass, a shorter grass.”

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Landmark NNFCC study says advanced biofuels key to meeting European Directive

Renewable Energy Magazine
United Kingdom
Thursday, 17 November 2011
by Toby Price

A new landmark government study, written by the UK’s National Centre for Biorenewable Energy, Fuels and Materials (NNFCC) suggests that the UK will miss its renewable transport targets without significant investment in a new generation of biofuels.

New technologies – like gasification and pyrolysis – allow biofuels to be made from a wide range of sustainable materials, such as household rubbish. Until recently these technologies were confined to laboratories but we are now beginning to unlock their huge potential.

By 2020, 10 per cent of the energy used in UK road and rail transport must come from renewable sources – this is the equivalent of replacing 4.3 million tonnes of fossil oil each year.

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Cuts to farm bill clean energy programs will hurt rural economies

pork network
The Environmental Law & Policy Center Updated: November 16, 2011

The Congressional Conference Committee proposed to cut clean energy programs for agriculture by more than 60% in the agriculture budget for fiscal year 2012. Because the US government is operating under a short-term agreement that expires on Nov. 18 this new measure is expected to pass this week, without amendment.

Members from the House and Senate proposed deep cuts to funding for popular clean energy programs that create rural economic development and energy independence. “This is the wrong time to slash funding for programs that create jobs and rural economic development,” said Allen Grosboll, Legislative Director for the Environmental Law & Policy Center. “These cuts are a step back from solving America’s jobs and energy challenges.”

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Thursday, November 17, 2011

DDCE re-named Dupont Cellulosic Ethanol; taps Mirshak as new chief

Biofuels Digest
Jim Lane November 16, 2011

In Iowa, DuPont Industrial Biosciences announced today management changes to its cellulosic ethanol business, formerly known as DuPont Danisco Cellulosic Ethanol (DDCE).

Steven J. Mirshak has been named business director, DuPont Cellulosic Ethanol. He was most recently the president of DuPont Tate and Lyle Bio Products, a joint venture between DuPont and Tate and Lyle in Loudon, Tenn. In his new role, Mirshak remains in Tennessee and will leverage his experience in commercializing biobased products to spur the development and production of cellulosic ethanol.

Joe Skurla, former CEO of DDCE, will be retiring at the end of the year.

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RiceNet: Better grain, new biofuel crops

Science & Technology - Posted by Pat Bailey-UC Davis on Tuesday, November 15, 2011 12:16

UC DAVIS (US) — The first genome-scale model for predicting gene function in rice is expected to speed up development of new crops for biofuels—and improve the quality of one of the world’s most important food staples.

With RiceNet, instead of working on one gene at a time based on data from a single experimental set, we can predict the function of entire networks of genes, as well as entire genetic pathways that regulate a particular biological process,” says Pamela Ronald, professor of plant pathology at University of California, Davis and director of the grass genetics program within the U.S. Department of Energy’s Joint BioEnergy Institute.

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Large differences in the climate impact of biofuels

Public release date: 15-Nov-2011

When biomass is combusted the carbon that once was bound in the growing tree is released into the atmosphere. For this reason, bioenergy is often considered carbon dioxide neutral. Research at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, however, shows that this is a simplification. The use of bioenergy may affect ecosystem carbon stocks, and it can take anything from 2 to 100 years for different biofuels to achieve carbon dioxide neutrality.

"Using a tree as biofuel creates a carbon dioxide debt that must be "paid back" before the fuel can be considered to be carbon dioxide neutral. Energy forest is fully neutralised after 3-5 years, while other trees grow so slowly that it can take up to 100 years before they achieve carbon dioxide neutrality" says Lars Zetterberg of the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Gothenburg.

The use of bioenergy affects ecosystem carbon stocks over time in either a positive or negative way. Biofuels where the combustion related emissions are compensated rapidly have a lower climate impact than fuels for which it takes a long time for the emissions to be compensated. Despite this, the difference in climate impacts between slow and rapid biofuels is rarely highlighted in political contexts. Emissions from bioenergy are, for example, not included in countries' commitments under the Kyoto Protocol.

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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

E-commerce streamlines ethanol transportation

Ethanol Producer Magazine
By Matt Soberg November 14, 2011

Norfolk Southern Corp. reports that a new transload system decreased the time of operations from an average of 90 minutes to just 30 minutes in its first year of use at its Alexandria, Va., facility.

Norfolk Southern streamlined its ethanol supply chain in the East with a virtual inventory database system that includes information accessible in real-time for customers, who include 22 ethanol plants producing 2.16 billion gallons of ethanol annually.

First implemented in Oct. 2010, the system comingles ethanol shipments from numerous customers, thereby expediting transloading operations by enabling trucks to access ethanol from any rail car. “The management and delivery system can cut in the half the time it takes to transload shipments at Thoroughbred Bulk Transfer facilities,” according to Norfolk Southern.

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BTEC Kicks Off Discussion Rounds with Biomass Equipment Manufacturers and Gov't Officials

Biomass Thermal Energy Council
November 15, 2011

Clean Green Heating and Cooling for Offices, Stores, and Hospitals Utilizing Wood Fuel? Leaders and Officials Discuss Steps
Meeting identifies barriers to wood heat equipment integration in commercial buildings, develops solutions

Washington, DC - November 15, 2011 - The Biomass Thermal Energy Council (BTEC) today announced a successful inaugural meeting of five U.S. biomass heating equipment manufacturers to discuss industry development with officials from the U.S. Departments of Energy and Agriculture, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and representatives of Resource Conservation and Development Councils from the Midwest.

Brian Holuj, a Commercial Buildings Specialist with the U.S. Department of Energy, told attendees that in coming years more than 10 billion sq. feet of commercial class building floor space will require modernization and renovation. Those buildings, according to Mr. Holuj, will be updated with a combination of conservation, efficiency and renewable energy measures to reduce reliance on fossil energy sources and, to the benefit of owners and tenants, lower the cost of heat and cooling. He continued to explain steps manufacturers can take to qualify for consideration by engineering experts who design energy systems for leading retail, office and institutional property developers and managers.

Presented in Dubuque, Iowa with assistance from the Midwest Biomass Conference organizing committee, this meeting was the first in a series funded by a grant from the U.S. Forest Service's Wood Education and Resource Center. These work sessions seek to build understanding and improve acceptance by heating engineers of advanced wood heat and cooling in commercial and institutional buildings.

Chris Gaul, a National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) engineer who manages the advanced wood thermal system that supplies heat for NREL's Golden, Colorado facility, explained why it is important to the United States for American companies who already are making wood energy equipment to grow into this emerging growth opportunity.

"In our discussion with manufacturers, several initial conclusions were drawn," stated Emanuel Wagner, BTEC Program Coordinator, "In short, we need to work on educating the public about biomass heating, develop codes and standards to build trust, and build relationships between manufacturers, architects, and building engineers."

"This was an important meeting," said John Karakash of Resource Professionals Group, who organized the session in collaboration with BTEC. "This series of meetings can help US manufacturers move into an important, mainstream energy market that creates sustainable rural jobs from renewable domestic resources."

The next meeting is tentatively scheduled to take place during the Northeast Biomass Heating Expo 2012, March 21-23, 2012 in Saratoga Springs, NY. Requests for participation or sponsorship of the meeting can be sent to

About the Biomass Thermal Energy Council The Biomass Thermal Energy Council (BTEC) is an association of biomass fuel producers, appliance manufacturers and distributors, supply chain companies and non-profit organizations that view biomass thermal energy as a renewable, responsible, clean and energy-efficient pathway to meeting America's energy needs. BTEC engages in research, education, and public advocacy for the fast growing biomass thermal energy industry. For more information, visit

Stanford University Researchers Find E. coli Could Convert Sugars to Biodiesel at Extraordinary Rate

Biofuels Journal
Date Posted: November 11, 2011
by Louis Bergeron

When it comes to making biodiesel cheaply and efficiently enough to be commercially feasible, E. coli may prove to be "the little bacterial engine that could," say Stanford researchers.

Biodiesel can be made from plant oil or animal fat – usually the former.

Used cooking oil from restaurants is common, but for biodiesel to contribute significantly to reducing fossil fuel use, there needs to be a way to mass produce it from plant-derived raw materials.

The problem is that synthesizing biodiesel is complicated. That is where E. coli comes in.

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Wisconsin Sustainable Planting and Harvest Guidelines for Nonforest Biomass final version released

Wisconsin Grasslands Bioenergy Network
Posted: 14 Nov 2011 01:14 PM PST

The Wisconsin Sustainable Planting and Harvest Guidelines for Nonforest Biomass is a collaborative effort of the WDNR, DATCP and UW-Madison to encourage decision-making and land use practices that benefit farmers financially while protecting the state’s natural resources.

The final version of the guidelines has been released and can be found here.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

New micro-video shows benefit of alternative fuels

Ethanol Producer Magazine
By Holly Jessen November 09, 2011

“Alternative fuel isn’t just the future of energy—it’s the future of energy independence.” That’s the message of a new minute-long video released Nov. 9 by Pearson Fuels.

Made possible with the support from the Renewable Fuels Association and the American Coalition for Ethanol, the animated video is intended to educate and attract attention to the importance of alternative fuels. “With the election season ramping up and daily conversations occurring in the media around budget cuts and tax policy, it is important that the public be educated on a few facts about alternative fuels,” said Pearson Fuels co-founder Mike Lewis.

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World oil demand could peak in 2020, study says

Ethanol Producer Magazine
By Kris Bevill November 11, 2011

A multi-client funded study recently conducted by Ricardo Strategic Consulting has found that global energy security policies and fuel efficiency technologies are likely to contribute to a peak in world oil demand at about 4 percent above current levels in 2020. By 2035, world oil demand is expected to decline to a level significantly below 2010’s demand of about 87 million barrels per day.

“The drivers working against oil demand growth are increasing in number and intensity, with the world’s consuming nations increasingly focused on their need to reduce their dependency on oil, supported by an ever stronger legislative framework,” Peter Hughes, managing director of Ricardo’s energy practice, stated. “Over the past few years a near ‘perfect storm’ for oil demand has been forming and gathering strength, created by a preoccupation in many quarters about the availability of future supplies.”

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ISU engineers create panel to advance a carbon negative economy

Biomass Power & Thermal
By Iowa State University November 11, 2011

A national panel led by Iowa State University engineers is launching an effort to research and develop technologies that capture, use and sequester carbon while enhancing food production, ecosystems, economic development and national security.

The 33-member National Panel for a Carbon Negative Economy recently met for the first time in Chicago. Participants represented universities, companies, federal agencies and nongovernmental agencies, including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, ConocoPhillips, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the International Biochar Initiative.

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Gen2 Biofuels: Despite Growing Pains, Billion-Gallon Milestone Within Reach

Biofuels Digest
Jim Lane November 14, 2011

Cellulosic biofuels are behind schedule. Can they catch up? What are the barriers, the roles to be played by Washington, developers alike? What are the opportunities for the retail investor?

A downloadable report from Pavel Molchanov and Raymond James assesses the space.

In California, Raymond James renewable energy analyst Pavel Molchanov released a foundational report on Gen2 advanced biofuels this past week, on the eve of the Advanced Biofuels Markets conference which concluded last Thursday.

“Amid volatile commodity and equity markets, and despite some growing pains along the way, the industry continues to develop,” Molchanov writes. “We expect 2012 to be a critical period as a wide variety of Gen2 biofuels approach commercialization, and companies increasingly “graduate” from the pre-revenue stage to full commercial operations.”

Read more and link to the report

Bad corn crop means higher food prices

Daily Herald
Article posted: 11/13/2011 5:56 AM
By Bloomberg News

U.S. farmers are reaping their smallest corn harvest in three years after drought damaged what was a record crop, driving annual prices to an all-time high and curbing an expansion in global food supplies.

The government forecast production of 314.7 million metric tons, 27.4 million tons less than four months ago, the average estimate of 30 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg showed. The cut is equal to output in Argentina, the second- biggest exporter.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture already expected a third annual drop in global corn stockpiles and the first in soybean inventories in three years, offset by an expansion in wheat reserves to the largest in a decade.

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Butanol producers target biofuels market

11:50 PM, Nov. 12, 2011

Company to convert Redfield plant from ethanol, produce 38M gallons

Written by Philip Brasher

Butanol vs. ethanol
A comparison of butanol and ethanol, two alcohols made from the same feedstock that both can be gasoline additives:

Ethanol advantages
Cost: Cheaper to produce than butanol
Octane: Higher octane than butanol
Regulations: The Clean Air Act allows some exemptions to emissions limits for ethanol

Butanol advantages
Mileage: Ethanol has two-thirds the energy content of gasoline; butanol has 82 percent
Flexibility: Can be converted to diesel or jet fuel or used as a building block to make synthetic rubber or solvents
Less corrosive: Won’t damage pipelines, boat engines or power equipment.

WASHINGTON — A new biofuel under development lacks many of the drawbacks of corn ethanol. The fuel, known as butanol, can be used in existing pipelines and fuel pumps and cars get better mileage on the product than they do on ethanol.

A top official with the Environmental Protection Agency, which regulates motor fuels, told lawmakers recently butanol is one of the nation’s “most promising biofuels.” However, the product faces potential government barriers that provide an advantage to ethanol, according to companies that plan to make the product.

The hurdles include a special exemption in air pollution laws that smoothed the way for ethanol to be used as an additive in gasoline.

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Monday, November 14, 2011

DDGS provides same cow growth performance as traditional feeds

Ethanol Producer Magazine
By Matt Soberg November 10, 2011

Young dairy cows achieve the same growth performance from a diet of distillers grains with solubles (DDGS) as traditional grains, according to Purdue University studies. The ethanol coproduct is an option for dairy producers as young heifers attain similar weight gain, skeletal growth and feed efficiency, according to Tamilee Nennich, assistant professor of animal science.

“We’ve seen similar growth performance whether producers are feeding distillers grains or more traditional feeds, such as corn and soybeans. We also found that it doesn’t matter if an animal is being fed in a feedlot and has a diet based on harvested forages or if that animal is grazing,” Nennich added.

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Experts discuss biomass's place in the U.S. power industry

Biomass Power and Thermal
By Anna Austin November 10, 2011

The U.S. electricity industry includes approximately 300 gigawatts of coal-fired power, generated from large-scale power plants with electric capacities of anywhere from 200 to 4,000 megawatts (MW). Most of these plants can easily use biomass to some degree depending on the age of the boiler, the combustion process and other factors, but nearly all of them could burn 2 percent biomass with no modifications, according to Chris Blazek of Enviro-Burn Inc. That would result in an additional 6,000 MW of renewable electricity.

During a Nov. 10 webinar hosted by POWER Magazine, Blazek discussed the potential, drivers, and limitations of cofiring biomass at U.S. coal plants. He pointed out that according to U.S. Energy Information Administration projections of renewable energy growth, biomass represents the greatest potential, compared to other renewables, during the next decade.

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Switchgrass ethanol research looks to yield big benefits

High Plains/Midwest Ag Journal
By Larry Dreiling

Construction has begun in Hugoton, Kan., on the nation's first commercial scale biomass fuel refinery.

Abengoa Bioenergy's new, 23 million-gallon annual throughput refinery will take biomass, mainly switchgrass, and turn it into ethanol.

One problem in seeing more of these kinds of facilities sprout up across the U.S. is finding enough quality raw materiel to make what's been called the fuel of the future, cellulosic ethanol.

"All the switchgrass varieties you see right now in the field are basically for forage. We're now working on varieties specifically for ethanol production," said Ken Vogel, supervisory research geneticist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service Grain, Forage and Bioenergy Research Unit in Lincoln, Neb.

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Boeing and Hawai'i BioEnergy to work together on biofuels

Biofuels International
11 November 2011

Boeing has signed an agreement to collaborate with Hawai'i BioEnergy to produce renewable fuels, identify biofuel sources and build new technology.

The companies plan to examine crops including sorghum and eucalyptus for possible biofuel feedstocks – which can be grown locally in Hawaii in order to be produced into jet biofuel.

Boeing vice president of environment and aviation policy, Billy Glover, says: ‘This collaborative effort will allow us to examine potential local options, while protecting the beauty and culture these islands have to offer.’

Because the island has a strong US military presence and at the moment is dependent on importing energy resources, the companies hope that their work can boost the local economy.

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EPA, DOE to study contaminated lands for bioenergy potential

Biomass Power & Thermal
By Lisa Gibson November 08, 2011

As part of the RE-Powering America Initiative, the U.S. EPA is investing about $1 million to determine the capability of 26 different contaminated sites to host renewable energy projects. The studies will be carried out through project partner U.S. DOE National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

Delaware City’s Standard Chlorine site in Delaware is among the superfund, brownfield and former landfill or mining sites being studied for potential to support biomass, solar, geothermal or wind projects. The other sites are in Vermont, New York, New Jersey, Georgia, Mississippi, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, New Mexico, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado, Montana, California, Arizona, Oregon and Washington, according to the EPA.

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Solazyme ranked #1 in “50 Hottest Companies in Bioenergy” for 2011-12

Biofuels Digest
Jim Lane November 9, 2011

Solazyme edges Amyris, Gevo in Hot 50 for 2011-12, as hot IPOs dominate, gasification advances.

In Florida, Biofuels Digest announced that Renewable oils developer Solazyme took the #1 spot in the 2011-12 “50 Hottest Companies in Bioenergy” rankings.

Amyris (#2), Gevo (#3), POET (#4), LS9 (#5), Novozymes (#6), Enerkem (#7), LanzaTech (#8), Honeywell’s UOP (#9), and ZeaChem (#10) round out the top 10.

Ranked #11 through #20 are Codexis, Abengoa Bioenergy, KiOR, Virent, Sapphire Energy, Ceres, Coskata, Dupont Danisco Cellulosic Ethanol, Terrabon and Mascoma.

The rankings, which recognize innovation and achievement in bioenergy development, are based 60 percent on votes from a 100-member College of international selectors, and 40 percent on votes from subscribers of Biofuels Digest and Renewable Chemicals Digest. Overall, more than 1,000 companies were eligible in the rankings and 304 companies received votes in the poll, and more than 130,000 individual company ratings were completed by voters.

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Friday, November 11, 2011

Emmetsburg farmers complete 61,000 ton biomass harvest for cellulosic ethanol
By POET November 10, 2011

Nearly 100 farmers await BCAP funds before delivering to POET

EMMETSBURG, IOWA As part of the 2011 harvest, farmers around Emmetsburg, Iowa have baled approximately 61,000 bone-dry tons of corn crop residue. The bales of corn cobs and light stover will be delivered to a biomass storage site in Emmetsburg, where POET's commercial cellulosic ethanol biorefinery will be completed in 2013.

The harvest number represents 15 new contracts and an additional 5,000 tons above last year’s total as POET moves toward a target of 285,000 tons of biomass per year for Project LIBERTY. Project LIBERTY is POET’s 25 million-gallon-per-year cellulosic ethanol plant scheduled to come online in 2013. Early site work – including grading and construction of a second weigh station – is underway with heavy construction scheduled for 2012.

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Report provides new analysis of carbon accounting, biomass use, and climate benefits

USDA Forest Service - Pacific Northwest Research Station

PORTLAND, Ore. -- A recent report provides new ideas regarding carbon and energy benefits forests and forest products provide. The report, Managing Forests Because Carbon Matters: Integrating Energy, Products, and Land Management Policy, summarizes and analyzes the most recent science regarding forests and carbon accounting, biomass use, and forest carbon offsets.

A team of researchers from the U.S. Forest Service, several universities, and natural resource and environmental organizations coauthored the report, which appears as a supplement to the October/November 2011 issue of the Society of American Forester's Journal of Forestry.

"This work should help policymakers reconsider the critical impact forests have on our daily lives and the potential they have to solve problems that confront our Nation," says Bob Malmsheimer, lead author of the report and a professor at State University of New York (Syracuse) College of Environmental Science and Forestry. "We believe our science-based findings should lead toward positive reforms that encourage investment in this vital renewable resource."

Read more

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Rentech's Integrated Bio-Refinery Project Mechanically Complete

The Wall Street Journal's MarketWatch
press release
Nov. 8, 2011, 9:00 a.m. EST

Cellulosic Fuels Production Expected by End of 2011

LOS ANGELES, Nov 08, 2011 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- Rentech, Inc. /quotes/zigman/185313/quotes/nls/rtk RTK -4.38% announced today that all systems required to start up the Company's integrated bio-refinery (IBR) in Commerce City, Colorado are mechanically complete. Commissioning, validation and start-up of the renewable energy demonstration facility are underway. The project has reached this milestone within the original budget and schedule.

The IBR project was co-funded by a $23 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, to manufacture and install at the Rentech Energy Technology Center a 20 ton-per-day Rentech-ClearFuels biomass gasifier. The gasifier is designed to produce bio-synthesis gas from various high impact wood waste and sugar cane bagasse feedstocks. The gasifier has been integrated with Rentech's existing Product Demonstration Unit (PDU) at the site, which uses the Rentech Process and UOP's upgrading technologies to produce renewable drop-in synthetic jet and diesel fuels at demonstration scale. Rentech expects the integrated facility, which will have the flexibility to produce renewable syngas, hydrogen, and steam as well as biofuels, will be used to evaluate additional technology integration opportunities. Rentech funded the balance of the project's total cost of approximately $36 million, which includes the cost of building the gasifier, feedstock handling equipment, integration with Rentech's synthetic fuels plant, and operation of the facility for a period of 6 months to collect 2,000 hours of operating data. The project team responsible for meeting this important milestone for mechanical completion included URS Corporation, Linde Group/Hydro-Chem, Piper Electric Corporation and Ames Construction, Inc.

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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Eastman acquires TetraVitae Bioscience

Biofuels Digest
Jim Lane November 4, 2011

In Tennessee, Eastman Renewable Materials, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Eastman Chemical Company, announced that it has acquired the assets of TetraVitae Bioscience, Inc., located in Chicago, Ill. TetraVitae is a leading developer of renewable chemicals, including bio-based butanol and acetone. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

“This announcement is a demonstration of Eastman’s continued investment in innovation and our commitment to delivering sustainable solutions to our customers,” said Dr. Greg W. Nelson, senior vice president and chief technology officer. “I am confident that TetraVitae’s patented bio-catalysis technology will provide Eastman an excellent platform for the development of a range of bio-based processes that will strengthen our sustainable product offerings.”

Read article

7 Decision Points in the Race for Scale in advanced biofuels

Biofuels Journal
Jim Lane November 8, 2011

ABM 2011 opens for business in San Francisco.
On the dais – 30 industry CEOs, policy and trade association leaders.

On the docket, 7 issues that will define the Race for Scale.

In California, Advanced Biofuels Markets 2011 opens its three-day run this morning, with an update from the USDA, DOE and the US Navy, followed by presentations from Mike McAdams Brooke Coleman and Mary Rosenthal, heads of the Advanced Biofuels Association, Advanced Ethanol Council and the Algal Biomass Organization, respectively.

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Generating ethanol from lignocellulose possible, but large cost reductions still needed
November 8, 2011

The production of ethanol from lignocellulose-rich materials such as wood residues, waste paper, used cardboard and straw cannot yet be achieved at the same efficiency and cost as from corn starch. A cost comparison has concluded that using lignocellulose materials is unlikely to be competitive with starch until 2020 at the earliest. The study, published in the international journal Biofuels, Bioproducts & Biorefining, did identify many opportunities for reducing costs and improving income within the lignocellulose-to-ethanol process, and provides insight into the priority areas that must be addressed in coming years.

Ethanol can be blended with gasoline to reduce our dependency on fossil fuels. The last 15 years has seen a massive growth of so-called first-generation processes that use enzymes and bacteria to turn the starch and sugars in corn and sugarcane into ethanol. But corn and sugarcane are also important components of the human food web, so using them for ethanol production has the potential to affect the price and availability of these basic commodities.

Read more

Corn-to-Ethanol Research Center receives $3.5 million gift
Posted: Tuesday, November 8, 2011 9:00 am Updated: 3:17 pm, Tue Nov 8, 2011.

SIUE’s Corn-to-Ethanol Research Center added a corn fractionation system to its distinctive facility Friday at a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

The system, donated by Cereal Process Technologies, is designed to make more use of a single kernel of corn.

Larry Hasheider, Illinois Corn Marketing Board director for district 14, said about five billion bushels of corn are used for ethanol production and about one-third of that is returned to livestock. With the new fractionation system, Hasheider said an additional 2 billion gallons of ethanol can be produced by removing the outside edge of corn kernels.

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Biofuels industry said Pompeo incentive-repeal bill will slow down alternative fuels

Biofuels Digest
Jim Lane November 4, 2011

In Washington, Novozymes said a bill introduced by Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) would make harder to bring renewable fuels to market, impacting consumers and sacrificing jobs unnecessarily. Pompeo’s bill, H.R. 3308, would repeal the ethanol, cellulosic biofuel and alcohol fuels tax credit; the tax incentive for biodiesel and renewable diesel; and the investment tax credit for alternative fuel vehicle refueling property.

“Biofuels represent the type of innovation and scientific discovery that are reenergizing our economy. Alternative energy is already replacing fossil fuel, saving consumers money, creating jobs and protecting the environment,” Adam Monroe, President of Novozymes North America, said. “Repealing the policy support for second-generation biofuels will make it harder to bring renewable energy to market – and give consumers the choices they deserve at the pump. We need consistent policy support.” Monroe recently discussed the energy titles in the REFRESH Act.

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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

House hearing witnesses bash RFS, call for repeal of E15

Ethanol Producer Magazine
By Kris Bevill November 03, 2011

It was déjà vu all over again on Nov. 2 as representatives of the ethanol industry were forced to watch a House of Representatives Energy and Environment Subcommittee hearing on motor fuel standards from the sidelines. Earlier this year, the subcommittee held a hearing to discuss the scientific testing of E15, but failed to invite anyone from the ethanol industry to testify. On Nov. 2, the subcommittee again convened a panel to address the “Conflicts and Unintended Consequences of Motor Fuel Standards,” but declined to include any ethanol industry representatives. The petroleum industry was well-represented, however, as were several other witnesses who delivered remarks opposing the implementation of E15 and the RFS.

Committee Chairman Andy Harris, R-Md., opened the hearing by making clear his disapproval of the U.S. EPA and government policies to support biofuels and renewable energy. “Whether through government hand-outs, as in the case of Solyndra, or heavy-handed mandates as in the case of the RFS [renewable fuel standard], the picking of energy winners and losers by government fiat is an exercise in futility destined to fail miserably,” he said. He asserted that the EPA “continuously fails to do its homework” and said its approval of E15 based on one U.S. DOE study is an example of that failure.

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University of Leicester (UK) Study Finds EU Biodiesel as Carbon Intensive As Petroleum Diesel

Biofuels Journal
Date Posted: November 4, 2011

A new study on greenhouse gas emissions from oil palm plantations has calculated a more than 50% increase in levels of CO2 emissions than previously thought – and warned that the demand for 'green' biofuels could be costing the earth.

The study from the University of Leicester was conducted for the International Council on Clean Transportation, an international think tank that wished to assess the greenhouse gas emissions associated with biodiesel production.

Biodiesel mandates can increase palm oil demand directly (the European Biodiesel Board recently reported big increases in biodiesel imported from Indonesia) and also indirectly, because palm oil is the world's most important source of vegetable oil and will replace oil from rapeseed or soy in food if they are instead used to make biodiesel.

The University of Leicester researchers carried out the first comprehensive literature review of the scale of greenhouse gas emissions from oil palm plantations on tropical peatland in Southeast Asia.

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Opinion: Land wisdom needed

Ethanol Producer Magazine
By Susanne Retka Schill November 07, 2011

The U.S. trade system has its faults, but it does serve to balance supply and demand. Short term hiccups are quickly pulled back into line as all the market players do their thing.

The monthly supply/demand report is due this week, and at least one pendant says the trade is bracing itself for another surprise. It’s been one of those years, with the USDA narrowing in its projections as the weather kept prognosticators on their toes. Just how badly did the late spring and hot summer impact the crop? Certainly, some areas were badly affected, but will that impact be localized or more broad spread? If the heart of the Corn Belt still has a decent crop, that blunts the problems in other regions.

I did read an interesting story that suggested farmers were seeing the poorest yields from corn-on-corn plantings. With the extra inputs required for corn-on-corn, that’s not good, and will no doubt prompt farmers to keep corn in rotation with beans, and thus, keep the balance in crop acres. That balance appears to be holding steady, although all crop prices have risen to keep in alignment with corn.

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Attorney outlines ways to attract biomass project investors

Biomass Power & Thermal
By Erin Voegele November 04, 2011

Attracting investment is a key component of getting any biomass-related project off the ground. During the 2011 Southeast Biomass Conference & Trade Show in Atlanta this week, Kate Bechen, an attorney with Michael Best & Friedrich LLP’s Energy & Sustainability Industry Group, outlined what investors and creditors look for when considering investment in biomass projects.

According to Bechen, investors are looking for five main components when reviewing investment opportunities in biomass. They want to see a strong, polished business plan, she said. They also want accurate and credible revenue projections. A reliable source of feedstock is also imperative, as is an effective technology and good project site.

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Monday, November 7, 2011

Europe Charges US With Unfair Ethanol Imports
Posted by Cindy Zimmerman – November 3rd, 2011

The association which represents European ethanol producers is requesting that the European Commission take action “against unfair imports of fuel ethanol from the United States.”

ePure claims that U.S. ethanol policy has encouraged production to the point that it can be sold at much lower prices on the world market. “Massive and sudden imports of US ethanol, combined with unfairly low prices over the last few years, have seriously damaged the economic situation of European producers” said ePure Secretary-General Rob Vierhout. “The unfair competition of US imports is simply depriving the EU industry from the benefit of this positive evolution on its own domestic market.”

According to the Renewable Fuels Association, ePure is specifically alleging that international ethanol traders were exporting E90 (90 percent ethanol blends) to Europe to take advantage of the European Union’s (EU) lower tariff on such blends as well as the $0.45 per gallon tax credit (VEETC) for ethanol blending in the U.S.

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Friday, November 4, 2011

Show Me Energy gets grant for bioenergy plant study

Biomass Power & Thermal
By Anna Austin November 02, 2011

Centerview, Mo.-based Show Me Energy Cooperative has received a $125,000 grant from the Missouri Agricultural and Small Business Authority to help pay for a biomass energy plant feasibility study.

The study is already underway and results are expected to be available in January, according to Steve Flick, Show Me Energy board president. The plant would be built at the site of the co-op, Flick said, and would convert native grasses into liquid fuel and the remaining residue into power. The grasses would come from Show Me Energy’s 38-county Biomass Crop Assistance Program project area in Missouri and Kansas.

Flick couldn’t go into extensive detail about potential plans for the plant, such as what technologies were being evaluated, but he said the co-op has done its homework on evaluating potential for the facility and has a very good understanding of what the project would require in order to be successful. “I think we’re going to hit a home run with this one,” he said.

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Corn genome model speeds biofuel, food staple development
Rita Tatum, South Bend Science Examiner
November 2, 2011

Hoosier corn feeds millions worldwide and offers significant potential as an automotive biofuel, produced in South Bend’s New Energy Corp. corn ethanol plant. Relying on genome modeling, corn crops may be genetically fine-tuned to produce both improved food corn and stronger nonfood fibers for advanced biofuel production rapidly.

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory announced today that the first genome-scale model for predicting functions of genes and gene networks has been developed by an international team of researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI), a multi-institutional partnership led by the Berkeley Lab. Called RiceNet, the model may speed development of improved strains of corn and rice to act as advanced biofuels. Scientists are hopeful the new model also will help boost crop production and improve the quality of two important food staples.

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UT biomass field day demonstrates industry's expertise

Southeast Farm Press
By Patricia McDaniels, University of Tennessee
Nov. 3, 2011 6:

•UT biomass field day demonstrates industry's expertise
•Good return on investment
• The event was designed to provide state-of-the-art, research-based information to participants regarding biomass production and related systems.

October’s Biomass: From Grow to Go Field Day, sponsored by the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Energy along with several co-sponsors, demonstrated the industry’s growing expertise in biomass production, processing, and conversion research to farmers, industry representatives and students alike.

More than 1,000 attended over the course of the two-day event, including some 625 local middle- and high-school students.

Other co-sponsors of the event included Genera Energy, LLC; DuPont Danisco Cellulosic Ethanol; and Ceres, Inc. The event was designed to provide state-of-the-art, research-based information to participants regarding biomass production and related systems.

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SIUE ethanol research center gets more than $4M for new equipment
Thursday, Nov. 03, 2011
BY ELIZABETH DONALD Belleville News-Democrat

EDWARDSVILLE -- The ethanol research plant unveiled $4.3 million in new equipment and announced a new partnership agreement Thursday.

The National Corn-to-Ethanol Research Center launched a new corn fractionation system in a ceremony Thursday. Funding sources include a $3.5 million capital grant from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity and a nearly $1 million donation from private firm Cereal Process Technologies.

Corn fractionation is the process in which a corn kernel is separated from its fibrous husk, the starchy portion and the oil, according to John Caupert, director of the research center. The goal is to make the process more effective and cost-efficient, so there is less useless material left over, or at least to make the leftover material more useful in other ways.

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...U.S. Ag secretary in Springfield, talks ethanol tax breaks.
The State Journal-Register, Springfield, IL
Posted Nov 02, 2011 @ 11:00 PM
Last update Nov 03, 2011 @ 06:37 AM

A federal tax break for ethanol blenders estimated to be worth $5.7 billion this year likely will be allowed to expire at the end of 2011, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said Wednesday.

During a stop near the Scheels sporting-goods store in Springfield to promote President Obama’s job creation program, Vilsack said he does not expect a “blenders credit” for ethanol to be renewed at the end of the year.

The tax break for refiners who blend ethanol with gasoline was included in a federal job-creation bill in 2004.

Vilsack said, while he expects the blender credit expire, biofuels from farm products will continue to play a vital role in alternative fuels.

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Thursday, November 3, 2011

Putting Biomass Thermal on the Front Burner in DC

Biomass Power & Thermal
By Stephen Gunther and Ellen Abramowitz November 01, 2011

In recent months, renewable energy and energy investment have reemerged in the policy debate in Washington, D.C. Both Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., voiced their intentions in early October to address how the government should invest in energy. While Bingaman plans to hold a hearing on U.S. investments in clean energy in the coming weeks, Alexander intends to scrutinize permanent energy subsidies and focus investments in research for solar technologies, batteries, green buildings, carbon capture and storage, fusion, nuclear energy and biofuels. Once again, the importance of renewable thermal energy, specifically biomass, appears overlooked in the energy debate.

To raise awareness on Capitol Hill of the importance of biomass thermal energy, the Biomass Thermal Energy Council and numerous renewable energy and environmental groups such as the Biomass Coordinating Council and the Pellet Fuels Institute are hosting a Biomass Thermal DC Summit on Nov. 16. This unprecedented event will unite the nation’s biomass thermal businesses and educate policy makers about the considerable potential of biomass thermal energy in meeting America’s growing demand for clean, reliable and domestic energy sources.

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“Are you any less worried about energy security today than you were 4 years ago?” asks BP

Biofuels Digest
Jim Lane November 1, 2011

Should the Renewable Fuel Standard be scrapped, or revised? BP North America chief Susan Ellerbusch makes the case for “No”.

In Chicago, BP Biofuels North America president Susan Ellerbusch, in addressing congressional attempts to re-write the US Renewable Fuel Standard, asked “Are you any less worried about energy security today than you were 4 years ago?”

Speaking at the Platts Next Generation Biofuels conference, which opened in Chicago yesterday, Ellerbusch said “It is generally expected that there will be a 45-50% increase in demand for transportation fuels in the next 20 years.”

“Nothing has changed”, she said, referring to the growing potential of a shortfall between global oil supply and demand, or the specter of rapidly escalating oil prices or proved reserve depletion rates. She commented that BP sees biofuels as one of the critical sources to fill this demand.

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Wednesday, November 2, 2011

KU biorefining initiative has economic potential for rural Kansans

LAWRENCE – A biorefining initiative under way at the University of Kansas holds tremendous economic promise for rural Kansas, university and industry leaders told the Kansas Bioscience Authority today.

Bala Subramaniam, director of KU’s Center for Environmentally Beneficial Catalysis, outlined how Kansas could become a leader in what promises to be a multibillion dollar biobased chemical industry.

Chemicals from grasses and after-harvest throwaways would be significantly more valuable than biofuels such as ethanol. Since biorefineries need to be located near sources of raw materials, this would create jobs near farms and in small towns across Kansas.

“Non-food biomass could eventually replace petroleum entirely as a chemical feedstock for making everything from paints to packaging, dish soap to diapers,” said Subramaniam. “Such products are more profitable than fuels, so developing biorefineries that produce chemicals could help establish Kansas as a global leader in the use of renewable biomass to stimulate rural economic development.”

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USDA awards $11.5 million to 14 ethanol producers

Ethanol Producer Magazine
By Holly Jessen October 31, 2011

Fourteen ethanol producers from Arizona, Indiana, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and Texas will receive payments through the USDA's Bioenergy Program for Advanced Biofuels program, the agency announced Oct. 31. Payments are calculated based on biofuels produced from renewable biomass, other than corn starch.

"This funding will help local producers increase the production and availability of renewable energy and thus help our nation begin to reduce its reliance on foreign oil," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "Just as importantly, USDA's support will help to further develop the nation's growing biofuels industry and generate green jobs and economic growth."

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Could Biomass Technology Help Commercialize Biochar?
By Robert Crowe, Contributor
October 31, 2011

A nascent biochar industry is emerging in connection with biomass power technologies that coproduce electricity and char via gasification and pyrolysis.

A single source of biomass could ostensibly create multiple revenue streams, with systems calibrated to produce more electricity, biochar or bio-oil when one is more profitable than the other.

Research shows biochar improves soil fertility, decreases water pollution and even mitigates heavy metals. The charcoal-like substance has enthusiastic support from researchers and the sustainability movement, but it has been slow to commercialize.

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Pellet producers, AD projects receive millions from USDA

Biomass Power & Thermal
By Anna Austin October 31, 2011

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack has announced $44.6 million in funding to 156 producers of biomass-to-energy products, including pellets, power from anaerobic digestion, biodiesel and ethanol.

The funding is being provided through USDA's Bioenergy Program for Advanced Biofuels program, under which payments are made to eligible producers to support and ensure an expanding production of advanced biofuels. Payments are based on the amount of biofuels a recipient produces from biomass, other than corn kernel starch. Eligible examples include biofuels derived from cellulose, crop residue, animal, food and yard waste material; biogas (landfill and sewage waste treatment gas); vegetable oil, and animal fat.

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Tuesday, November 1, 2011

New Biofuel Passes Another Test
Posted on October 28, 2011 at 8:28 AM

We've been covering the company Gevo, a Colorado-based firm that bought an ethanol plant in Luverne, Minn., and is converting it to a different type of biofuel - isobutanol. The biofuel has a higher energy rating than ethanol, can be pipelined and also has added value in the chemical market.

This week, the company announced small engine test results where it was tested against a blend of ethanol and gasoline.

Working with the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute and Briggs & Stratton, Gevo test blends of the biofuel and gasoline. Small engines are a tough test platform because they can be more finicky than complex motor vehicle engines (Briggs, please do not write, I know how much engineering goes into those engines). Ethanol blends have long performed well in small engine applications, but you can make isobutanol with corn and it has other properties that may make it more desirable when it's possible to produce at commercial levels.

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EPA to Clarify U.S. Rules on Recycled Materials for Boilers

By Mark Drajem - Oct 18, 2011 12:42 PM CT .

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will rule that wood debris, cellulosic biofuels and other biomass products are exempt from rules on use of recycled materials as fuel in boilers, Administrator Lisa Jackson said.

Groups led by the American Forest & Paper Association said an EPA proposal issued in March would force companies to burn oil, coal or gas instead of natural materials in their boilers or incinerators.

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ANALYSIS-Promising biodiesel crop needs time to prove itself

Reuters Africa
Thu Oct 27, 2011 2:23pm GMT

* Attractive due to higher oil yield than palm, jatropha
* Doubts linger as not proven yet on commercial scale
* Some say may be best suited to small farmers

By Nina Chestney

LONDON, Oct 27 (Reuters) - Several new companies are betting on the little-known pongamia pinnata tree as a biodiesel feedstock that does not hurt food production, but a decade or more of research and development is still needed to determine its value as a commercial crop.

Pongamia pinnata, also known as millettia pinnata, is native to Australia, India and parts of southeast Asia. Its oil has so far been used in medicines, lubricants and oil lamps.

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