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

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Ceres releases Q3 results, provides project updates

Ethanol Producer Magazine
By Erin Voegele
July 19, 2012

California-based Ceres Inc. recently announced financial results for the third quarter 2012, which ended on May 31. As part of the release, the company also provided an update on its operations, including its business in Brazil.

According to Ceres, ethanol mills in Brazil have now completed their second season of commercial-scale evaluations of its sweet sorghum hybrids. Ceres states that the crops were successfully grown, harvested and processed into ethanol despite severe drought conditions during the growing season.

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Petition to waive ethanol mandate may come next week

Chicago Tribune
Timothy Gardner, Reuters
5:01 p.m. CDT, July 27, 2012

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - At least one of four states hoping to ease requirements on adding grain-based ethanol to gasoline is expected to petition the federal government as soon as Monday as the worst drought in 50 years spikes corn prices and lowers profits for livestock producers.

Governors from states that may petition the Environmental Protection Agency to waive the mandate known as the Renewable Fuel Standard, or RFS, include Republicans Nikki Haley of South Carolina, Dave Heineman of Nebraska, Rick Perry of Texas and Democrat Mike Beebe of Arkansas, an ethanol industry source said.

The RFS was signed into law by former President George W. Bush to help cut dependency on foreign oil by requiring that increasing amounts of ethanol be blended into gasoline each year. President Barack Obama has also embraced ethanol as part of his "all of the above" energy strategy.

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Midwest drought propels biofuel research

The Daily Illini
Posted: July 29, 2012 - 11:39 PM

by Nora Ibrahim
Fires, drought and more than 4,000 broken temperature records have made the summer of 2012 particularly noteworthy. But the unshakeable heat has provided the impetus to push research in alternative fuel sources and bioenergy in a different direction.

 The Department of Energy awarded a $12.1 million grant toward research into drought-tolerant grasses as a sustainable bioenergy source. The five-year project will be headed by the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis in collaboration with the University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, the University of Minnesota and Washington State University.

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U.S.DOE's Idaho National Laboratory orders two OriginOil systems

Biomass Magazine
By OriginOil Inc.
July 26, 2012

OriginOil Inc., the developer of an energy industry cleantech process for harvesting algae and cleaning up oil and gas water, announced July 25 that it has received purchase orders for two test-scale units from the U.S. DOE’s Idaho National Labs under its research agreement. One unit is designed to dewater algae continuously and with very low energy, while the other can recover 98 percent of contaminants from frack water in a single pass, as shown in third party testing.

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Forest Service funds wood-to-energy initiatives

Biomass Magazine
By Luke Geiver
July 26, 2012

The U.S. Forest Service has awarded a total of $4 million to 12 different wood-to-energy projects throughout the country. During a conference call to announce the funding, both Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell and the USDA’s Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack voiced their excitement for the wood-to-energy initiatives, calling the funding “significant,” based on the future economic and wildfire prevention benefits the woody biomass utilization efforts will bring. According to Tidwell, the majority of the projects will focus on using woody biomass for either power or thermal applications.

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Monday, July 30, 2012

US funds $41 million in biofuels research and deployment

Washington (Platts)--25Jul2012/406 pm EDT/2006 GMT
The US government will pump another $41 million into 13 biofuel research and deployment projects under several programs aimed at boosting supplies of biomass feedstock and more efficiently processing that into usable fuels, the Obama administration announced Wednesday.
The departments of Agriculture and Energy will together provide $31 million under the joint Biomass Research and Development Initiative to five projects to improve processing of biofeedstocks, such as camelina seeds, the secretions of a hardwood shrub and dairy cow manure.

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Biological switch could improve biofuel production by algae
Deanna Conners Jul 22, 2012

Scientists have discovered a biological switch in blue-green algae that reacts to light and changes how electrons are transported within the cells.

Scientists have discovered a biological switch in blue-green algae that reacts to light and changes how electrons are transported within the cells. The new findings could help in engineering algae for improved biofuel production. The results of the research were published on July 10, 2012 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Blue-green algae, also known as cyanobacteria, are well known for their explosive growth when given the right combination of light, nutrients and warm water. Due in part to their high growth rate, their ability to use wastewater as a source for nutrients and their ability to grow without competing with arable land used to grow food, cyanobacteria and other types of algae have become a prime target for biofuel production.

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USDA expects 4% rise in food prices due to drought, Wall Street Journal reports

Biofuels Digest
Isabel Lane
July 26, 2012

In New York, the Wall Street Journal published a story on the USDA’s expectations regarding the impact of this year’s drought. The USDA has estimated that food prices, including poultry, milk, and beef, will rise between 3 and 4 percent next year, followed by a 4 to 5% jump in 2013. The article also discussed the hold-up over the Farm Bill in the House, which could bring relief to drought-stricken farmers; House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) indicated that a separate and more immediate drought relief may be in development.

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iDiverse drives up ethanol yield by 34% with enhanced yeast

Biofuels Digest
Thomas Saidak
July 27, 2012

In California, iDiverse reports discovering a yeast gene that when inserted into yeast and properly modulated can increase ethanol production yield by up to 34%.

“The gene functions by protecting the yeast against some of the lethal stresses encountered in the bioproduction process,” said John Serbin, Chief Business Officer at iDiverse. “Also, our technology is ready to be used in applications beyond fuel ethanol. Those include the bioproduction of industrial enzymes, research reagents, and pharmaceuticals. Our technology will provide benefits to biomanufacturing cell types beyond yeast, such as CHO, insect, fungal, and algal cells.”

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Michigan Tech, MSU get $2.3M for biomass genetics

Detroit Free Press
8:13 AM, July 26, 2012

HOUGHTON, Mich. — The federal government says it’s giving $2.3 million to Michigan Technological and Michigan State universities for genetic research on improving the efficiency of biofuel production.

The government said Wednesday that the funds come from the U.S. Agriculture and Energy departments for projects that seek to apply biomass genomics to improve “promising biofuel feedstocks.”

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BP to showcase biofuel, offer biomass carbon offsets at Olympics

Biomass Magazine
By Erin Voegele
July 25, 2012

The 2012 Olympics kick off on July 27, and BP is providing attendees with its vision for “Fueling the Future.” As the official oil and gas partner of London 2012, BP is providing advanced fuels and lubricants for the official fleet of more than 5,000 vehicles at the games.

As part of the sponsorship, three of the company's advanced biofuels will be demonstrated in approximately 100 fleet vehicles at the 2012 Olympics. “These breakthrough technologies will redefine biofuels,” said Phillip New, CEO of BP Biofuels. “By incorporating them in the fuels for London 2012 we have taken the next generation of biofuels from the laboratory to the road.”

The three fuels include:
- Cellulosic ethanol produced from purpose-grown energy grasses
- Renewable diesel manufactured from sugar feedstocks
- Biobutanol produced using sugar feedstock at the Butamax joint venture demonstration plant constructed by BP and DuPont in the U.K.

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Friday, July 27, 2012

NCERC converts corn bran to fuel for first time in history
Posted: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 9:00 am
by David Pruitt

On July 16 and 17, John Caupert, director of SIUE’s National Corn-to-Ethanol Research Center, met with USDA officials about a new process the NCERC has discovered to use corn more efficiently in the production of ethanol.

“I had the opportunity to meet with a cabinet-level official, Dr. Cathie Wotecki, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s undersecretary,” Caupert said. “The purpose of the meeting was to talk about a technological breakthrough in cellulosic ethanol that was made in this building in May of this year.”

The breakthrough is a mechanical process that separates each corn kernel into three pieces and utilizes the non-edible portion of the kernel. This portion is the kernel’s bran, which consists of cellulose rather than starch. Until this point, the bran has been a waste product of the process.

“This is not a food. There is no trade-off here. It’s not that food versus fuel debate,” Caupert said. “It is the first time in history that corn bran has been converted into fuel.”

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Brazilian ethanol producer aims for co-location with algae unit

Ethanol Producer Magazine
By Holly Jessen
July 26, 2012

By fall, Vienna, Austria-based See Algae Technology GmbH expects to begin construction on a one hectare dual-use algae production plant co-located with a sugarcane ethanol plant in Recife, Brazil. Pending regulatory approval, the ethanol production company can use it to produce biofuels, including ethanol, as well as other products. “We expect to start to start actual construction work once we have received all the local approvals, probably September, end of September,” Joachim Grill, CEO of See Algae, told EPM. “The latest time schedule I got from the construction people says that the operational start up should be September 2013.”

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Big Oil sues over cellulosic ethanol mandate

A Better Iowa
Des Moines Register
1:16 PM, July 25, 2012

Oil companies have never liked the federal Renewable Fuels Standard, but they have a special ire for the requirement for the use of non-corn, cellulosic ethanol that is virtually nonexistent.

The American Petroleum Institute, which represents the largest oil companies, filed a lawsuit with the D.C. Circuit Court late Tuesday challenging the Environmental Protection Agency’s mandated use of cellulosic biofuels in the 2011 Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

Cellulosic biofuels, made from crop residue or grasses, have been slower to develop than originally hoped and for the last two years the EPA has acknowledged that federal targets for the noncorn ethanol have not been met.

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Low natural gas costs cause dip in biomass prices

Biomass Magazine
By Anna Simet
July 23, 2012

Biomass prices dropped in the U.S. South, Northeast and West during the second quarter of 2012, according to a new report by Wood Resources International.

The main reason for declining prices is the continued fall of natural gas prices to levels not seen in 10 years. Prices for woody biomass in the country—including sawmill byproducts, forest residues or urban wood waste—have been on the decline for most of the last three years, but were higher in late 2011 in most regions than they were five years ago, the report cites.

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NAABB executive director named leader of LANL bioscience division

Biodiesel Magazine
By The National Alliance for Advanced Biofuels and Bioproducts
July 24, 2012

The National Alliance for Advanced Biofuels and Bioproducts, a consortium of leading scientists and engineers from universities, private industry and national laboratories led by the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, announced Executive Director José Olivares has been selected to serve as division leader for the bioscience division, a central hub for biotechnology development at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Olivares, who has considerable experience in algal biofuels research, will lead a team of 180 researchers and staff within disciplinary groups that include genome science, biosecurity and public health, bioenergy and environmental science and advanced measurement science, who execute a portfolio of more than $70 million per year.

“This is an inspiring time to be researching algal biofuels and I pledge to continue to lead NAABB as its executive director until the end of the currently funded consortium term, which is April 2013,” said Olivares. “The LANL efforts within NAABB are executed primarily out of the bioscience division, therefore NAABB and its future will remain a major focus of mine for the time to come.”

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Green Machines

The Daily Scan - Genome Web
July 26, 2012

Nearly 400 retired US military officials signed a letter to Congress asking lawmakers to reconsider plans to prevent the US Navy from conducting research on biofuels or buying alternative fuels that cost more than traditional fuels, reports The Guardian. The proposal was put forth by Congressional Republicans who say that biofuels are too expensive and research into them takes focus away from security needs.

The Navy has shown that it can power jet fighters with a mixture of half conventional fuel and half algae or cooking oil. However, the alternative fuel costs $15 a gallon while the conventional fuel costs $3.60 a gallon.

The retired military officials say that reducing the Department of Defense's, as well as civilians', reliance on fossil fuels is vital to national security. "The Department of Defense should be looking at the widest possible diversity of fuel sources," says John Warner, a former navy secretary and former chair of the Senate armed services committee (R-Va.), to The Guardian. "We should continue to allow the department to move ahead with its innovation."

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Thursday, July 26, 2012

EDITORIAL: Biofuel mandate worsens drought’s effect

The Washington Times
Monday, July 23, 2012

Kernel conundrum pits fuel against food

Washington’s ethanol mandate is hitting Americans in the breadbasket. The worst drought in a half-century is withering cornfields across the heartland while Uncle Sam stubbornly insists American corn be turned into billions of gallons of this unnecessary fuel additive. The result is higher food prices in an already struggling economy. Unless the government can make it rain, Congress should uproot the ethanol mandate.

Hot and dry conditions across the Midwest have placed 70 percent of the corn belt in extreme drought and 61 percent of the nation in at least moderate drought, according to the Drought Monitor, a report compiled by federal climatologists. Only about 31 percent of the nation’s corn crop is in good or excellent condition, and 38 percent of it is in poor or very poor condition. As a result, the U.S. Department of Agriculture last week lowered its forecast of the nation’s corn yield by 12 percent, pushing up the wholesale price of corn to a record $8.16 per bushel.

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Citing drought, livestock groups push bill to limit production of ethanol

The Hill
By Zack Colman - 07/23/12 05:03 PM ET

Livestock producers are backing legislation that would let the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) limit the amount of corn used for biofuels.

The groups and their allies in Congress say the restrictions are necessary to lower costs during times of low supply, but they are running into opposition from ethanol supporters.

The bipartisan bill (H.R. 3097), sponsored by Reps. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Jim Costa (D-Calif.), would let the EPA drop corn ethanol production quotas by as much as 50 percent depending on a ratio of available corn relative to use.

Costa said he is trying to get the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Power to pick up the bill. With the National Weather Service predicting drought conditions could last until October, he said House GOP leaders might be forced to act.

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Researchers: National LCFS would address RFS weaknesses

Ethanol Producer Magazine
By Susanne Retka Schill
July 19, 2012

A national low carbon fuel standard (LCFS) could provide a new framework to incentivize alternative transportation fuels and lower the nation’s carbon intensity, according to the National LCFS Project which released its findings July 18. Representatives of the six research institutions that conducted studies over the past two years presented the report to Congress July 18 and 19.

Two reports were issued on the National LCFS Study, one that digs into the technical analysis and the other describing policy recommendations. They are available at the project website.

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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Study: a fungus may turn agricultural waste into bioenergy

WCF Courier
By YUE WANG, Courier Medill News Service
Posted: Sunday, July 15, 2012 10:00 pm

WASHINGTON --- With the increasing popularity of ethanol, the biofuels industry is looking for more materials to increase production. A new study says a lowly fungus called white rot may offer a solution.

Currently, the bioethanol industry in the United States relies primarily on corn. However, only the grain part is used because the rest is too difficult to process. The white rot fungus, according to the study by a group of scientists from around the world, can produce unique enzymes to break down a wide range of materials, thus rendering almost the entire corn plant and other feed stocks into potential energy sources.

The white rot fungus is the only known microorganism that can break down lignin, the substance that gives plant stalks and wood their strength and rigidity. Lignin is partly the reason why many plants can't be used to harness energy.

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Computerized Genome

The Daily Scan

July 23, 2012

In a new study in Cell, researchers at Stanford University and the J. Craig Venter Institute describe their computer model of the world's smallest bacterium, Mycoplasma genitalium, reports Popular Science's Colin Lecher. The model, which the researchers say is the first complete computer model of any living organism, is based on more than 900 studies of M. genitalium. M. genitalium has a small genome with 525 genes. "Researchers tallied the number of experimentally determined parameters in the model at more than 1,900; those were split up into 28 algorithms, which stepped in for biological processes," Lercher says. "The process might one day mean biologists could test hypotheses that wouldn't normally be possible in the real world, and it could expand into models of larger creatures." However, he notes, there's a few thousand genes of space between M. genitalium and humans.

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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Demand Destruction: Ethanol

The Progressive Farmer: Market Matters Blog

Katie Micik DTN Markets Editor
Monday 07/16/12

The ethanol industry is in a position to do a considerable amount of rationing given the recent surge in corn prices, Purdue agriculture economist Chris Hurt said. Corn prices are high enough that many ethanol plants can't produce the fuel profitably and some are shutting down.

Economists call this demand destruction. But Hurt thinks it won't all happen in one fell swoop.

"I think one of the keys is, as long as ethanol price per gallon is below gasoline prices, then gasoline companies have continued incentive to blend ethanol and what that means is they'll do it on a volume basis," Hurt told DTN.

As the price of corn escalates, some plants shut down, making supply less available. That bids the price of ethanol up and enables plants to pay more for their corn.

"So I think there's some stop and go on some of these ethanol plants, depending on how all these price relationships interact," Hurt said.

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EIA: US ethanol still likely to lead world export market

Ethanol Producer Magazine
By Susanne Retka Schill
July 20, 2012

The U.S. ethanol industry is on track to be a net exporter of ethanol in 2012, although at lower levels that last year’s record. The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) highlighted ethanol in its July 18 report, “This Week in Petroleum.”

The EIA pointed to a number of factors that will influence the U.S. ethanol trade balance. “Sluggish gasoline demand, combined with ethanol blending limits, is currently restraining domestic consumption levels,” the report says. “At the same time, increased renewable fuel standard (RFS) mandates call for higher volumes in the fuel supply. In addition, sugarcane ethanol exported from Brazil looks to rebound from a low year in 2011 and compete with U.S. corn ethanol in the world market.” Though there will be uncertainty, EIA is projecting U.S. export volumes will remain significant and lead world trade in 2012.

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Drought drives up price of ethanol

Journal-Sentinel Online, Milwaukee, WI
By Rick Barrett of the Journal Sentinel
July 21, 2012

10% of a gallon of gasoline is additive made from corn

The severe drought that has scorched much of the U.S. corn crop could be felt by consumers at the gasoline pump as well as the grocery store.

That's because 10% of nearly every gallon of gasoline is ethanol, a fuel additive distilled from corn.

As corn fields wither in the heat, the price of ethanol on the Chicago Board of Trade has risen nearly 25% this year to more than $2.70 per gallon - well above its average of about $2 a gallon over the last seven years.

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Lingering drought impacts ethanol production

R&D Magazine
By SETH SLABAUGH - The Star Press - Associated Press
Saturday, July 21, 2012

Skyrocketing corn prices related to this summer's drought have helped to idle an Indiana ethanol plant in Montgomery County, while Cardinal Ethanol at Union City and POET Biorefining in Portland and Alexandria remain at full production.

Valero Energy Corp. idled its plant in Linden, between Lafayette and Crawfordsville, late last month but is keeping its 60 employees on the payroll and intends to re-start production before harvest.

"High corn prices driven by the drought have caused some ethanol plants to temporarily idle or reduce production," Matt Hartwig of the Renewable Fuels Association, an ethanol trade group in Washington, D.C., told The Star Press. "Ethanol prices have not kept pace given the overhang (ethanol surplus) in the market. It's made for some tough margins in the industry of late. The drought conditions will make it tough on all end users of corn and the market will ration supply accordingly."

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Monday, July 23, 2012

Red Tractor Crops and Sugar Beet Scheme finally approved by European Commission.

Biofuels Digest
Meghan Sapp
July 17, 2012

In Brussels, the Red Tractor Scheme has finally been approved by the European Commission. This official status will ensure crops with the badge of Red Tractor Assurance can access all European markets without the need for additional audits or paperwork and will prevent the need for multiple schemes for different markets. The Red Tractor Crops and Sugar Beet Scheme standards incorporate small changes to existing environmental impact standards in order to fulfill the European Union’s Renewable Energy Directive requirements, which aim to protect high-carbon and highly-biodiverse land areas. Relevant information and proof of land use is checked and recorded as part of the annual farm inspection.

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Khosla-Backed Coskata Shelves IPO, Shifting Focus to Gas

By Andrew Herndon - Jul 20, 2012 11:24 AM CT
Coskata Inc. (COSK), a biofuel company backed by venture capitalist Vinod Khosla, shelved its $100 million initial public offering and is seeking investors for a plant that will convert natural gas into ethanol.

Unfavorable market conditions were the main reason for putting the IPO on hold, Chief Executive Officer Bill Roe said. The closely held company, which also counts Total SA (FP) and Blackstone Group LP among its investors, registered Dec. 16 to sell shares.

Coskata is the second biofuel company this year to reconsider an initial share sale, after Canada’s Enerkem Inc. withdrew its offering in April. Other biofuel developers that have completed deals in the last two years have lost value, and “that hasn’t helped,” Roe said in an interview yesterday. “It has soured a lot of the investors.”

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Biofuels Patent Issued for Lignin-Solvent Process
Jul 17, 2012 7:30 PM EDT

(3BL Media) July 17, 2012 - A patent that opens the door for the creation of biofuels from abundantly available plant fiber has been issued to researchers at the Wisconsin Institute for Sustainable Technology (WIST) at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.

WIST’s first patent is for a process that makes biofuels and other products from cellulosic plant material, including agricultural residues such as corn stover or plants grown specifically for fuel production, such as hardwood and softwood trees. The process is also a key step in making other high-value bioproducts.

“This gives us an economically viable way to use grass, trees or wood waste to make renewable fuels and chemicals,” said Eric Singsaas, associate professor of biology at UW-Stevens Point and co-inventor of the process, along with Don Guay, associate professor of paper science and engineering. “It also gives us a method to commercialize some of the work we’ve done at the university.”

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TerViva and Mason & Morse Farmland partner for pongamia tree projects.

BioBased Digest
Tom Saidak
July 19, 2012

In California and Florida, TerViva and Mason & Morse Farmland are partnering to develop pongamia tree projects. The pongamia tree is native to Australia and India, and yields a nut crop harvestable with conventional shakers. The seed produced by the tree has a 40% oil content that can be easily refined into a very high-grade biodiesel, bio-jet fuel, or even other high-demand bio-chemicals like oleic acid. The remaining seedcake can then be used as a high-protein animal feed or a high-nitrogen fertilizer. TerViva is eyeing Florida’s thousands of acres of abandoned Florida citrus land as potential areas for their turnkey program in which they supply the trees and secure the off-take at harvest, with two citrus growers in Florida who are available to act as to project operators for planting, maintenance, and harvesting. Mason & Morse Farmland Group will source the Florida land for investors interested in a diversification like this.

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High School Students Get Jump Start on Science Careers with Special Summer Program

Lab Manager Magazine
By: Other Author - Published: July 19 2012

The iCLEM Program Gives Students Hands-On Science Experience and a Salary

When we think of high school summer jobs what typically comes to mind are images of lawn-mowing, camp-counseling, life-guarding at a swimming pool, and baby-sitting. But for eight high school students from the East Bay Area, a job this summer means a lab coat and safety glasses, working in a state-of-the art microbiology research facility on the next-step in bioenergy.

The program known as “iCLEM,” which stands for Introductory College Level Experience in Microbiology, is a unique paid summer internship for high school students who trend outside the typical curve of academic enrichment. Sponsored by the Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) and the Synthetic Biology Engineering Research Center (SynBERC), with funding from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the National Science Foundation (NSF), iCLEM pays the students a total of $2,000 upon completion of an eight-week program in which they do real science in collaboration with high school teachers and researchers from JBEI and SynBERC.

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A Bright Future -- With Algae: Diatoms as Templates for Tomorrow's Solar Cells


ScienceDaily (July 17, 2012) — Long before humankind invented silicon-based solar cells, nature had already found a way to use silica to harness the power of the sun -- in the form of algae. Researchers at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology are using diatoms and other single-celled algae as templates for developing tomorrow's solar cells.

Algae shells are perfectly constructed to exploit sunlight -- a characteristic that has not been unnoticed by researchers from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU). These researchers now think that the answer to our need for clean, cheap energy is quite possibly bobbing around in the ocean -- because algae may prove to be both suitable models and raw materials for future solar cells.

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Friday, July 20, 2012

Analysis: Why the U.S. ethanol mandate is drought-resistant

By Timothy Gardner
Thu Jul 19, 2012 2:06pm EDT

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - At first glance, it would seem like a golden moment for critics of the U.S. law that requires more and more corn to be made into ethanol every year.

The worst U.S. drought in half a century has fueled a 50 percent surge in corn prices to a record of more than $8 a bushel, heightening fears of a food crisis. Even as the crop wilts, the farm economy has rarely looked healthier thanks to high property prices, widespread accessibility to insurance and a four-year commodity boom.

And a renaissance in domestic oil output in North Dakota and Texas is eating into dependence on foreign crude. Supporters of motor fuel made from U.S. grain have long used the foreign oil addiction as an argument for the Bush-era mandate, known as the Renewable Fuels Standard, or RFS.

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KU researcher fuels new use of wastewater
Posted on July 16, 2012 at 6:28 am by Associated Press in biofuels

TOPEKA, Kan. — A University of Kansas researcher wants wastewater to be less so by using it to manufacture biofuel.

The Topeka Capital-Journal reported that assistant professor Belinda Sturm grows algae in nitrogen- and phosphorus-laden Lawrence wastewater that ordinarily is discharged into the Kansas River after it’s treated.

The resulting algae and water mixture is refined to a slurry, and then processed to capture lipids — an oily compound like soybean oil — for the manufacturing of biofuel.

For her work, Sturm won this year’s Excellence in Environmental Engineering Award from the Academy of Environmental Engineers, which recognizes university research with a holistic perspective, proven performance, contribution to quality of life and economic efficiency.

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The 2012 Corn Crop and the Outlook for Ethanol

Renewable Fuels Association
by Geoff Cooper
Posted on: July 16, 2012 in Agriculture, Food, Exports, Renewable Fuels Standard, USDA

Extreme hot and dry weather across much of the Midwest this summer has caused government and private analysts to significantly reduce their projections of the size of the 2012 corn crop. USDA’s latest estimate for this year’s corn crop is 12.97 billion bushels, down 12% from the agency’s earlier estimate of 14.79 billion bushels. Due to worsening drought conditions, many believe the size of the crop will be further reduced. The likelihood of a short corn crop has caused some to question how the ethanol industry and Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) will be affected. This white paper briefly examines the potential impacts on the RFS and outlook for the ethanol industry.

What is the outlook for 2012 ethanol production?

Based on weekly ethanol production data through July 6, year-to-date ethanol production has averaged 900,900 barrels per day (bpd).[1] This implies annualized production of 13.81 billion gallons (bg). This is fairly consistent with USDA’s most recent estimates of corn usage for ethanol, which indicate corn use of 5.0 billion bushels for the 2012 calendar year (this equates to 13.75 bg using USDA’s assumption for denatured ethanol yield per bushel).[2] However, if high corn prices continue to pressure ethanol production, annual output will be somewhat lower. If ethanol production hovers around the most recent 4-week average (865,000 bpd) for the remainder of the year, total annual production would be 13.55 bg. If the most recent 2-week average (839,000 bpd) is used for the remainder of the year, total production would be 13.42 bg.

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Ag Energy Coalition urges House Ag Committee to support bio-based jobs through Farm Bill Energy programs.

Biobased Digest
Tom Saidak
July 17, 2012

In Washington, the Agriculture Energy Coalition has urged Members of the House Committee on Agriculture to ensure that energy title programs receive sufficient, mandatory funding as they mark up the next Farm Bill. Lloyd Ritter, co-director AgEC stated:

“Farm Bill energy programs have helped the renewable energy industry create thousands of jobs across the country in rural communities where they are very much needed. They have also helped farmers put more than 160,000 acres of underutilized farmland across 12 states back into production. And they have helped hundreds of new American businesses generate 100,000 jobs producing home-grown biobased products. These effective programs are a vital part of the overall Farm Bill. The Coalition thanks Rep. Leonard Boswell (D-Iowa) for offering an amendment to the committee’s mark that would ensure strong, mandatory funding”.

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Researcher aims to create biofuel from pulp waste

CBC News Posted: Jul 17, 2012 11:47 AM ET Last Updated: Jul 17, 2012 1:19 PM ET

Lakehead University professor receives grant from Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council

Research on creating biofuels out of mill waste products may create some new jobs in the pulp and paper industry.

Lakehead University professor Pedram Fatehi said he wants to generate environmentally friendly biofuels out of liquid waste produced by pulp mills — waste that's usually burnt off or diverted to treatment plants.
"We are not utilizing them,” Fatehi said. “We are wasting them."

The researcher recently received $120,000 from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council to work on the technology he is developing, which he said is the first of its kind in Canada.

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The Navy’s Green Strike Group sails on biofuels blend: will it sail again?

Biofuels Digest
Jim Lane
July 19, 2012

As the Pacific-based forces of Can-Do battle the Washington-based forces of Shouldn’t-Try, we look at the 6 Big Myths of Military Biofuels

In Hawaii, the US Navy demonstrated its Green Strike Group as part of the 2012 Rim of the Pacific Exercise (RIMPAC), the world’s largest international maritime warfare exercise that includes 40 surface ships, six submarines, more than 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel from 22 different nations.

On July 17th, military Sealift Command fleet replenishment oiler USNS Henry J. Kaiser (T-AO 187) delivered 700,000 gallons of hydro-treated renewable diesel fuel, or HRD76, to three ships of the strike group. Kaiser also delivered 200,000 gallons of hydro-treated renewable aviation fuel, or HRJ5, to Nimitz. The fuels were provided by Solazyme and Dynamic Fuels.

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BP Targets Availability of Two New Biofuels by 2014

Bloomberg News
By Kari Lundgren on July 18, 2012

BP Plc (BP/) is testing two advanced biofuels that could be commercially available by 2014, said Philip New, chief executive officer of the U.K. petroleum company’s biofuels unit.

The company is planting energy grasses to feed a 36 million gallon-a-year cellulosic ethanol plant planned in Florida, he said in an interview in London today. A demonstration biobutanol plant in Hull, England, is operating, New said. A bioethanol plant in the same location should be producing by the end of this year, he said.

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Biofuels executives project 3.3% job growth, 7.8% revenue growth in 2012-13: Biofuels Digest/BIO poll

Biofuels Digest
Jim Lane
July 16, 2012

Industry mood darkens on government programs, IPO window; optimism on biobutanol rising.

In Florida, Biofuels Digest reports that 68 percent of bioenergy executives are more optimistic both about their organization’s prospects for growth and industry growth, than 12 months ago, and that 61 percent are more optimistic about the industry’s prospects than at this time in 2011.

Industry job growth was projected at 3.3 percent for the next 12 months, and industry revenue growth at 7.8 percent.

The findings were among the highlights of the Q2 2012 Bioenergy Business Outlook Survey conducted by the Biofuels Digest and co-sponsored by the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO). The quarterly survey drew responses from 590 industry executives, up slightly from the Q1 response.

Read more

Thursday, July 19, 2012

US Navy's Great Green Fleet demonstration is underway

Biodiesel Magazine
By The US Navy
July 17, 2012

The U.S. Navy's Great Green Fleet demonstration is underway as part of the 2012 Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise, the world's largest international maritime exercise.

Beginning July 17, alternative fuels, including nuclear power, will be used in an operational setting, fueling helicopters and jets from the deck of an aircraft carrier, and refueling a cruiser and two destroyers during an underway replenishment. The demonstration will also incorporate prototype energy-efficient technologies designed to enhance the combat capability of Navy warships.

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US ethanol output at 2-year low as drought bites

Wed Jul 18, 2012 11:17pm IST

* Ethanol output falls 19,000 bpd to 802,000 bpd
* Daily output lowest since records began in June 2010
* High heat causing plants to run less efficiently
* Stocks rise 24,000 to 19.56 mln bbls

By Karl Plume

July 18 (Reuters) - The worst U.S. drought in over 50 years has shriveled
crops, forced the culling of livestock herds, and slowed ethanol production,
putting more pressure on a biofuel industry already reeling from high corn
prices and poor margins.

Ethanol production last week fell to the lowest level since the U.S.
government began tracking the data in June 2010 because the oppressive heat
prompted plants to run at reduced rates.

Excessively high temperatures make it more difficult and time consuming to
cool the water used in ethanol production.

"Ethanol plants don't like heat and some of them aren't equipped to handle
excessive heat. It reduces efficiency and some of them were even reporting
electrical issues," said Jerrod Kitt, analyst with the Linn Group in Chicago.

Read more

Danforth Center wins DOE funding to study drought, biomass crops

Ethanol Producer Magazine
By Donald Danforth Plant Science Center
July 17, 2012

The U.S. DOE awarded a five-year, $12.1 million grant to researchers at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center and their collaborators at the Carnegie Institution for Science, the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, the University of Minnesota and Washington State University to develop a new model plant system, Setaria viridis, to advance bioenergy grasses as a sustainable source of renewable fuels.

Drought is the number one stress crops endure which limits yield and is of growing concern due to the globe’s diminishing water supply and climate change. This year, extreme heat and lack of rainfall combined with the mild winter has resulted in an all-time low in soil moisture and is producing new challenges for our nation’s farmers. Reduced yields will likely spark a rebound in global food prices. Drought conditions also have a major impact on crops that serve as sources of bioenergy.

Read more

Major investment to persuade bacteria to help cereals self-fertilise

John Innes Centre News
July 15, 2012

The John Innes Centre will lead a $9.8m research project to investigate whether it is possible to initiate a symbiosis between cereal crops and bacteria. The symbiosis could help cereals access nitrogen from the air to improve yields.

The five-year research project, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, could have most immediate benefit for subsistence farmers.

“During the Green Revolution, nitrogen fertilisers helped triple cereal yields in some areas,” said Professor Giles Oldroyd from JIC. “But these chemicals are unaffordable for small-scale farmers in the developing world.”

As a result, yields are 15 to 20 per cent of their potential. Nitrogen fertilisers also come with an environmental cost. Making and applying them contributes half the carbon footprint of agriculture and causes environmental pollution.

Read more

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Researchers make hydrogen as cellulosic ethanol coproduct

Ethanol Producer Magazine

By Susanne Retka Schill
July 16, 2012

Rather than focusing on a single microbe capable of converting cellulose to ethanol in a fermenter, researchers at Michigan State University are mimicking nature, culturing two bacteria that grow synergistically. The process creates two fuels, ethanol and hydrogen, the latter being produced from electricity generated by one of the bacteria.

Microbiologist Gemma Reguera explained her team of microbiologists at MSU are known for their work with the bacterium, Geobacter sulfurreducens, used for developing bioeletrochemical systems known as microbial electrolysis cells. The work done by MSU chemical engineer Bruce Dale treating corn stover and other waste biomass with the ammonia fiber expansion (AFEX) process was intriguing to them because it mimics what fungi do in in nature to remove lignin and facilitate the hydrolysis of cellulose for symbiotic microorganisms. They then looked for natural organisms that would degrade AFEX pretreated cellulose into ethanol. “They always produce ethanol and something else,” she explained, “and that something is usually acids that bring the pH in the fermentation broth down and back-inhibit the bacterial activity. This really slows growth or kills the fermentation organism.” Mimicking nature again, they looked for a bacterium that would produce ethanol and compounds that would support the electron-producing Geobacter, thus removing ethanol-production inhibitors from the fermentation broth.

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Ongoing research supports biomass harvesting for Project Liberty

Ethanol Producer Magazine
 By Poet LLC
July 11, 2012

EMMETSBURG, IOWA – The most recent soil data from Emmetsburg, Iowa, continues to demonstrate that harvesting crop residue can be a responsible part of good farm management.

The Project Liberty cellulosic ethanol plant in Emmetsburg – scheduled for completion in 2013 – will use corn cobs, leaves, husk and some stalk from area fields to produce renewable fuel. Poet-DSM Advanced Biofuels, LLC, is a 50/50 joint venture between Royal DSM and Poet LLC. For the last four years, Project Liberty has commissioned soil sustainability work from researchers with Iowa State University and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. They have studied six different harvest methods in an effort to provide area farmers with data to help them make decisions about biomass harvesting.

Read more

Ethanol outlook changing with drought, soaring prices

Posted: Thursday, July 12, 2012 8:00 am

Drought and soaring corn prices are changing the ethanol dynamics for the upcoming marketing year, according to last week’s CME Group report. September corn prices have soared by 36 percent in the space of just three weeks, rallying to a 10-month high of $7.14. Ethanol prices have largely kept pace with that rally but the September ethanol-corn margin is still negative at -11.5 cents per gallon. Ethanol producers had been hoping for a bumper crop this summer that would provide plenty of corn and better ethanol-corn profit margins. However, the corn supply outlook has now tightened up due to a month of severe heat and dry conditions.

The USDA in June forecasted that corn ending stocks would more than double to 1.881 billion bushels in 2012/13 from only 851 million bushels in the current 2011/12 marketing year.

Read more

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

National Biodiesel Ad Campaign Takes Off

Biofuels Journal
Date Posted: July 3, 2012

It's loud, fast, and thrilling, and it's more than a concept. Biodiesel is America's only advanced biofuel available nationwide.

It's the fast track to American jobs - the road to energy independence.
As the U.S. biodiesel industry shows in its just-launched ad campaign, biodiesel is here, now.

The ad campaign is the second time the industry has taken to the airwaves, television screens, web, and print outlets to tell its story.

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Codexis says pilot shows enzyme-based carbon capture can work

Biofuels Digest
Jim Lane
July 10, 2012

In California, Codexis announced that a pilot-scale demonstration of the company’s carbon capture technology conducted at the National Carbon Capture Center (NCCC) in Wilsonville, Alabama, on flue gas emitted from a Southern Company power plant, shows that enzymes have promise to facilitate CO2 capture at coal-fired power plants. This is the largest scale that enzyme-based carbon capture technology has been demonstrated to date, with the equivalent daily capture rate of 1,800 average sized trees per day.

In May 2010, Codexis received $4.7 million from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E) to develop an active enzyme called carbonic anhydrase (CA), which catalyzes the transfer of carbon dioxide in nature and is designed to remove dangerous emissions from coal-fired power plants.

Read more

Growing Better Biofuel Crops

The Scientist
By Heather Youngs and Chris Somerville
July 1, 2012

Research is underway to reduce the use of food crops for biofuels by shifting to dedicated energy crops and agricultural residues.

Our current dependence on fossil fuels is on a collision course with the need of future generations for a habitable environment. Supplying more than 80 percent of human energy consumption globally, fossil fuel combustion contributes to the rise of atmospheric greenhouse gases such as CO2, nitrous oxide, and methane, which are widely believed to cause detrimental climate change. We can mitigate these effects by using the many available no- or low-carbon methods to harvest energy, including wind, geothermal, hydroelectric, and solar approaches, such as the harvesting of plant biomass that can be burned as solid or liquid fuels.

Conversion of biomass is currently the most cost-effective route to produce renewable liquid fuels, and contributes 78 percent of the total renewable energy worldwide.1 At present, liquid biofuels are derived primarily from plants that are also used for food and feed, such as corn and sugarcane, raising concerns that the industry may not be sustainable in the face of expanding demand for food, feed, and fiber. However, efforts to grow biofuel crops on land unsuitable for food and feed crops, to increase biomass yield, and to facilitate the conversion of biomass to liquid fuels may change that mind-set. With continued improvements, we believe that biofuels can be produced on a large enough scale to meet roughly 30 percent of the demand for all liquid transportation fuels in the United States within 25 years—more than four times the current contribution of roughly 7 percent.

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Renewable fuel standard hits political divide at energy hearing

The Hill
By Zack Colman - 07/10/12 12:32 PM ET

The renewable fuel standard (RFS) for transportation fuel is becoming another proxy battleground between Republicans and Democrats in the renewable energy debate, as the parties demonstrated Tuesday during a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on Energy and Power hearing.

Enacted by the Energy Policy Act of 2005, the Environmental Protection Agency-administered RFS requires 36 billion gallons of renewable fuel to be blended into transportation fuel by 2022.

Republicans charge that that type of policy places the government in a position to pick winners and losers in the economy.

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Petrobras Seeks to Stem Fuel Losses by Adding Ethanol


By Mario Sergio Lima - Jul 6, 2012 9:42 AM CT
Petroleo Brasileiro SA (PETR4) plans to stem losses from fuel imports using cheaper Brazilian-made biofuels as analysts forecast profit will decline to an eight-year low.

Petrobras, as the company is known, is asking the government to let it mix more sugarcane-based ethanol into its gasoline, two officials with knowledge of the discussions, who asked not to be identified because the matter isn’t public, said June 29. The move would help halt losses estimated at $375 million as refinery shortages force the company to import fuel.

Chief Executive Officer Maria das Gracas Foster obtained permission from the government, which controls Petrobras’s board, for a fuel price increase on June 15 to reduce the discount to international prices. She started meeting last month with analysts and investors in Rio de Janeiro, New York and London to explain how the company will fund $236.5 billion of investments over five years and more than double oil production by 2020.

Read more

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Vilsack: Biofuels can continue to lower consumer gas prices

Ethanol Producer Magazine
By Tom Vilsack
July 09, 2012

As Americans joined family and friends to celebrate America’s independence, tens of millions took to our highways and Interstates – and I know that gas prices were on the minds of many.

President Obama understands the impact gas prices can have for families, and he is committed to an “all of the above” energy approach to solving our nation’s energy challenges – including reducing pain at the pump.

That includes developing the homegrown biofuels that save Americans money at the gas station and reduce our dependence on foreign oil.

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Blue Sugars claims first cellulosic RIN, extends Petrobras deal

Ethanol Producer Magazine
By Susanne Retka Schill
July 03, 2012

Blue Sugars Corp., formerly KL Energy Corp., can lay claim to a first in the world of cellulosic ethanol technology developers. “It was surprising to us when EPA confirmed [we got] the first RIN [renewable identification number] credit for cellulosic ethanol in the U.S.,” CEO Peter Gross said. The ethanol was produced at the company’s subsidiary demo plant, Western Biomass Energy LLC, in 2011 as part of Blue Sugars’ development agreement with Petrobras SA. The cellulosic ethanol was shipped to Brazil for testing and used during the Rio+20 Conference. Petrobras used the second-generation ethanol to fuel a dedicated minivan fleet servicing the United Nations-sponsored international meeting on sustainable development in June.

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Bacterial research at ORNL could aid biofuel production

Oak Ridge Today
Posted at 11:19 am July 5, 2012 by John Huotari

The identification of key proteins in a group of heat-loving bacteria by researchers at the Department of Energy’s BioEnergy Science Center could help light a fire under next-generation biofuel production.

Scientists have long been on the hunt for cost-effective ways to break down complex plant material such as switchgrass in order to access sugars that are fermented to make biofuels. Conventional processes involve the addition of commercially produced enzymes to break down the cellulose.

BESC scientists are exploring alternative options, including the use of certain bacteria that are naturally capable of deconstructing plant biomass in their environment.

To better understand the mechanisms behind this microbial ability, a team of researchers from North Carolina State University, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and the University of Georgia analyzed the genomes of eight species of bacteria from the genus Caldicellulosiruptor. These bacterial species, found in globally diverse sites from New Zealand to Iceland to Russia, can degrade plant biomass at extremely high temperatures.

“Earlier, we had found that not all members of this group were able to equally degrade cellulose as others were,” said NCSU’s Sara Blumer-Schuette. “The main aim of this project was to figure what the true determinants were for strongly celluloytic bacteria from this genus—what made them celluloytic versus the others.”

Read more

Biopulping’s Role in Bioenergy

Biomass Magazine
By Luke Geiver
July 03, 2012

Lignin degradation research is hip, and it could cut costs on biomass processing

Something special is happening with a research project focused on two white rot fungi genomes. Led by the U.S. DOE’s Joint Genome Institute, a team of international researchers is collaborating on a project to sequence and analyze the fungi strains to understand how enzymes present in the fungi break down plant biomass. It’s not the research that is special, however, it’s the number of people working on the project, revealing that the continual quest for super enzymes used to break down biomass is not only a strong trend in the field of bioenergy research, it’s a popular area of research to be in.

“The fact that we have such a large group of people involved in this project is a clear demonstration that there’s certainly interest in enzyme discovery,” says Dan Cullen, senior author of the research study and a member of the USDA’s Agricultural Forest Service’s Forest Products Laboratory.

In the study, “Comparative genomics of Ceriporiopsis subvermispora and Phanerochaete chrysosporium provide insight into selective ligninolysis,” Cullen and his huge team analyzed C. subvermispora and P. chrysosporium, finding large differences in the way each breaks down lignin. According to Cullen, few fungi have the capability to degrade lignin in the first place, and even fewer have the ability to selectively remove lignin at such an efficient rate. “C. subvermispora is one exception in its ability to do just that,” he said.

Read more

Monday, July 9, 2012

Researchers explore bioenergy utilization in China
July 3, 2012

With China the largest growing economy in the world, scientists and policymakers alike are keenly interested in the country's increasing use of biomass – instead of polluting and climate-harming fossil fuels – for energy generation. Although bioenergy consumption has more than doubled from 2005 to 2010, few studies have evaluated exactly where, in the vast country, this shift is taking place and through what means.
In a new paper, Shiyan Chang, an assistant professor of energy system analysis at Beijing's Tsinghua University, and graduate student Lili Zhao examine changes in the geographical distribution of bioenergy utilization in China, like biogas and biomass power generation, and biomass resources, like livestock and poultry excrement, agricultural residues, and municipal waste. The paper appears in a special issue of the American Institute of Physics' Journal of Renewable and Sustainable Energy (JRSE) that focuses on emerging energy trends in China.

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Rural energy programs cut under House panel's version of farm bill

The Hill
By Zack Colman - 07/05/12 05:38 PM ET

Five rural energy programs will end while others will be slimmed down if a draft version of the 2012 farm bill released Thursday becomes law.

The cuts, made by leaders of the House Agriculture Committee, will total about $500 million, according to the draft legislation, which "streamlines current programs, enhances program integrity, and repeals five programs that have outlived their usefulness."

The five energy programs on the chopping block are the Repowering Assistance Program, Biofuels Infrastructure Study, Renewable Fertilizer Study, Rural Energy Self-Sufficiency Initiative and the Forest Biomass for Energy Program.

There's no guarantee these programs will cease to exist. The legislation must be passed by the House. And the Senate has its own version of the farm bill, which would have to be reconciled with the lower chamber's.

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DuPont lets engineering contract for Iowa cellulosic ethanol project

HOUSTON, July 6, 2012
by OGJ editors

DuPont Danisco Cellulosic Ethanol LLC (DDCE) let a contract to KBR for engineering and procurement services for DuPont’s first cellulosic ethanol plant, which is to be built in Nevada, Iowa.

DDCE, a DuPont subsidiary under the DuPont Industrial Biosciences Group, already produces cellulosic ethanol at a precommercial plant in Vonore, Tenn.

The Iowa plant will be designed to process 1,300 tons/day of corn cobs, leaves, and stalks to produce 27.5 million gal/year of ethanol, which would be blended into gasoline to help US fuel manufacturers fulfill federal requirements, KBR said

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Ethanol Rises to Seven-Month High on Lower Output and Corn Costs


By Mario Parker - Jul 5, 2012 2:19 PM CT
Ethanol futures rose to the highest price in seven months as producers tempered output in the face of more expensive corn.

Prices increased as corn, the primary ingredient used to make the fuel, jumped to a nine-month high as the corn-rich Midwest bakes under a heat wave. An Energy Department report today showed ethanol production last week sank to the lowest level since Sept. 23.

“It’s up pretty good,” said Jim Damask, a manager at Biofuelsconnect, a Jupiter, Florida-based alternative energy broker. “You’ve got bad weather for corn, so ethanol’s up on that. We’ve seen producers trimming production because of margins.”

Read more

Petrobras Seeks to Stem Fuel Losses by Adding Ethanol

Bloomberg BusinessWeek
Bloomberg News

By Mario Sergio Lima on July 06, 2012 Tweet

Petroleo Brasileiro SA (PETR4) plans to stem losses from fuel imports using cheaper Brazilian-made biofuels as analysts forecast profit will decline to an eight-year low.

Petrobras, as the company is known, is asking the government to let it mix more sugarcane-based ethanol into its gasoline, two officials with knowledge of the discussions, who asked not to be identified because the matter isn’t public, said June 29. The move would help halt losses estimated at $375 million as refinery shortages force the company to import fuel.

Chief Executive Officer Maria das Gracas Foster obtained permission from the government, which controls Petrobras’s board, for a fuel price increase on June 15 to reduce the discount to international prices. She started meeting last month with analysts and investors in Rio de Janeiro, New York and London to explain how the company will fund $236.5 billion of investments over five years and more than double oil production by 2020.

Read more

Friday, July 6, 2012

Student finds new way of turning plastic into biofuel
Rasha Dewedar
29 June 2012

[CAIRO] A method for generating biofuel by breaking down plastics using a low-cost catalyst will be developed further in the United Kingdom next month (16 July).
The process was developed by a sixteen-year-old Egyptian student, Azza Abdel Hamid Faiad, from the Zahran Language School in Alexandria, Egypt.

Faiad won the European Fusion Development Agreement award at the 23rd European Union Contest for Young Scientists — involving 130 competitors from 37 countries — held in Finland last year (23–28 September).

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Designing microbes that make energy-dense biofuels without sugar

University of Wisconsin - Madison
June 27, 2012
by Renee Meiller

With metabolically engineered microorganisms hungry for levulinic acid rather than sugar, a UW-Madison chemical and biological engineer aims to create more sustainable, cost-effective processes for converting biomass into high-energy-density hydrocarbon fuels.

Currently, commercial biofuels — for example, ethanol and biodiesel — are produced from such crops as sugarcane or corn, or derived from plant oils. However, existing production processes for these “first-generation” biofuels are energy-intensive and ill suited to meet future demand for alternative transportation fuels.

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The "Dark Side" of Sugar-Cane Ethanol Production

CO2 Science
Reviewed 4 July 2012

Tsao, C.-C., Campbell, J.E., Mena-Carrasco. M., Spak, S.N., Carmichael, G.R. and Chen, Y. 2011. Increased estimates of air-pollution emissions from Brazilian sugar-cane ethanol. Nature Climate Change 2: 53-57.

The authors write that "accelerating biofuel production has been promoted as an opportunity to enhance energy security, offset greenhouse-gas emissions and support rural economies." However, they indicate that "air-pollutant emissions from biofuel production and combustion may have significant impacts on climate and air quality," and that "the change in vehicle emissions that would result from a large-scale conversion from gasoline to E85 (a blend of up to 85% ethanol with gasoline or another hydrocarbon) in the United States could have significant health consequences, by increasing tropospheric ozone concentrations," citing Jacobsen (2007). And they add that Hill et al. (2009) have also demonstrated that "the use of corn ethanol has higher health costs than gasoline."

What was done
Noting that that sugar-cane ethanol is one of the most widely used biofuels, and that Brazil is its largest producer, Tsao et al. developed a set of spatially and temporally explicit estimates of air-pollutant emissions - including volatile organic compounds, nitrogen oxides, particulate matter less than 10 and 2.5 µm in diameter, sulfur oxides and carbon monoxide - over the entire life cycle of sugar-cane ethanol as produced in Brazil.

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Thursday, July 5, 2012

YFY says biopulping straw residue can doubling global pulp supply

Biofuels Digest
Jim Lane
July 3, 2012

In China, after more than 10 years of research and development, YFY announced that it has moved NPulp from green chemistry concept to reality. Through biopulping – a proprietary enzymatic process that eliminates the use of harsh chemicals when converting straw to straw pulp – YFY Corp. plans to take advantage of the more than 600 million tons of agricultural straw biomass available in China.

That represents a potential supply of 345 million tons of biopulps, equal to the amount of wood pulp produced globally every year. In China, under current practices, after farmers harvest their crops, they are left with large amounts of residual straw, of which more than 90% is burned off to clear the fields for more planting. The burning straw contributes to air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.

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The Obama plan for cost-competitive, military biofuels: The 10-Minute Guide

Biofuels Digest
Jim Lane
July 3, 2012

Domestic, diversified military fuels or affordable fuels? “False choice!” says Obama.

Want to know all about the Administration’s ambitious, multi-agency program for cost-competitive military biofuels, but haven’t the time to plow through the mountain of documents?

The Digest’s 10-Minute Guide gives you the news you can use.

It’s finally here. The Obama Administration has laid out an integrated strategy for commercializing advanced biofuels, with a focus in this phase on military advanced biofuels at cost-competitive prices with conventional fuels.

The vehicle is a joint program between the DOE, USDA and the Department of Defense (principally, starring the US Navy, though, as we’ll see, critically including other elements).

In his Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future released in March 2011, President Obama set a goal of reducing oil imports by one-third by 2025 and laid out an all-of-the-above energy plan to achieve that goal by developing domestic oil and gas energy resources, increasing energy efficiency, and speeding development of biofuels and other alternatives.

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Falling gas demand, rising corn prices prompt ethanol production cuts
Published Tuesday, July 3, 2012 at 1:00 am / Updated at 5:25 pm

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Ethanol makers are cutting production, and some are temporarily idling plants in the Midwest, as corn prices skyrocket and demand for gasoline falls because people are driving less.

More than 95 percent of the nation's ethanol plants use corn starch as their basis for the biofuel. That makes these facilities especially vulnerable to high corn prices in a commodity market nervous about triple-digit temperatures and drought in major corn-growing regions. Most of the more than 200 ethanol plants in the United States are in the Midwest, where most corn is grown.

A glut of the biofuel is squeezing ethanol makers further. The poor economy and high gas prices have people driving less, and ethanol is primarily used in gasoline blends.

Read more

Study on Fungi Evolution Answers Questions About Ancient Coal Formation and May Help Advance Future Biofuels Production

National Science Foundation
June 28, 2012

Study reveals the potentially large influences of fungi, one of the most biologically diverse classes of organisms, on our energy supplies
A new study--which includes the first large-scale comparison of fungi that cause rot decay--suggests that the evolution of a type of fungi known as white rot may have brought an end to a 60-million-year-long period of coal deposition known as the Carboniferous period. Coal deposits that accumulated during the Carboniferous, which ended about 300 million years ago, have historically fueled about 50 percent of U.S. electric power generation.

In addition, the study provides insights about diverse fungal enzymes that might be used in the future to help generate biofuels, which are currently among the most promising and attractive alternatives to fossil fuels for powering vehicles.

The study, which was conducted by a team of 71 researchers from 12 countries, appears in the June 29, 2012 issue of Science and was partially funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Read more

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy 4th of July! Enjoy the holiday!

There will be no blog posts today.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Analysis shows H2Bioil technology is cost competitive with oil

Biomass Magazine
By Erin Voegele
June 25, 2012

An economic analysis of Purdue University’s thermo-chemical H2Bioil biofuel technology demonstrates that the process could be price competitive when crude oil is priced at approximately $100 per barrel, depending upon the method used to generate hydrogen used in the process. In the event a federal carbon tax is implemented, the analysis found the process would be even more economical.

The H2Bioil technology involves the rapid heating of biomass to approximately 500 degrees Celsius in the presence of pressurized hydrogen. The resulting gases are passed over catalysts to create molecules similar to those in gasoline. According to information released by Purdue, the technology was created in the lab of Rakesh Agrawal, the university’s Winthrop E. Stone distinguished professor of chemical engineering. The economic analysis was completed by a team led by Wally Tyner, Purdue’s James and Lois Ackerman professor of agricultural economics.

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Brazil May Cut Taxes to Stimulate Ethanol Output, O Globo Says

Bloomberg News
By Maria Luiza Rabello on July 01, 2012 Tweet

The Brazilian government may announce tax breaks and interest rate cuts by September to boost ethanol production, O Globo newspaper reported, citing a government official who wasn’t identified.

The goal is to increase ethanol supplies and lower its price, the Rio de Janeiro-based newspaper said.

Read more

Gridlock in D.C. may give edge to renewables

Des Moines Register
12:38 AM, Jul 2, 2012
Gannett Washington Bureau

While oil and natural gas spend far more on lobbying, several factors are hindering a big shift in energy policy.

WASHINGTON — Big oil and natural gas companies vastly outspend and outman the renewable fuels industry on Capitol Hill, but the general gridlock in Washington gives advocates of wind, ethanol and other new-age sources an edge in the growing battle to overhaul U.S. energy policy.

“This Congress seems unable to make a national energy policy,” said Bruce Babcock, an Iowa State University economist. “The renewable fuels have an advantage in that they are part of current law, and it’s always easier to maintain current law than it is to change it.”

Among the factors that would make a major shift of U.S. energy policy difficult are the upcoming elections, the inability of lawmakers to reach a consensus on how to change the policy, and the high costs necessary to expand consumer access to fuels such as natural gas at U.S. filling stations.

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Brazil Said to Consider Increased Ethanol Mix in Fuel

By Mario Sergio Lima and Carla Simoes - Jun 28, 2012 10:01 PM CT
Brazil is considering a request by Petroleo Brasileiro SA (PETR4), the country’s state-owned oil company, to increase the amount of ethanol added to gasoline, said two government officials with knowledge of the discussions.

Authorities are reviewing ethanol supplies in the South American country to determine if there is enough to proceed with the measure, which would help reduce imports and boost Petrobras’s earnings, said the officials, who asked not to be identified as the matter is not public.

Brazil lowered ethanol levels in gasoline in August because low stocks were pushing up fuel prices, which is no longer the case, said Adriano Pires, head of the Brazilian Center for Infrastructure.

Read more

Monday, July 2, 2012

Oil lobby biggest threat to U.S. ethanol: RFA leader

By Christine Stebbins
Wed Jun 20, 2012 4:57pm EDT

CHICAGO (Reuters) - The biggest threat to U.S. ethanol makers, now struggling with negative profit margins, is not high corn prices but possible changes to the renewable fuel policy by Washington legislators, the top ethanol industry executive said on Wednesday.

"This year is tough. Our biggest challenge though is more about Capitol Hill and threats to policy than the markets and threats to profitability," Bob Dinneen, chief executive of the Renewable Fuels Association, told Reuters on-line grain forum.

The 2007 U.S. energy policy's renewable fuels standard (RFS), mandates annual production of 15 billion gallons of ethanol by 2015 for energy independence. By 2022, RFS calls for 36 billion gallons of renewable fuels, including cellulosic biofuels.

U.S. ethanol production in 2011 was 13.9 billion gallons of which more than a billion gallons was exported.

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Edeniq Launches Corn to Cellulose Migration Demonstration Facility in Visalia, CA

Date Posted: June 26, 2012

Visalia, CA—Edeniq, a biomaterials and sustainable fuels company, hosted June 26 an event to officially launch their Corn to Cellulosic Migration (CCM) pilot biorefinery.

The biorefinery utilizes Edeniq's patented technologies including the Cellunator(TM), a mechanical pretreatment milling device that grinds plant materials into uniform particles, an advanced enzyme system that converts cellulose and hemicellulose to sugars, and proprietary yeasts to ferment the sugars to ethanol.

The CCM biorefinery is located at Edeniq's headquarters in Visalia, California.

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Bad weather, crop failures, regulatory confusion, economy fears put the price squeeze on biofuels

Biofuels Digest
Joelle Brink
June 29, 2012

Any way you look at it, this hasn’t been a good year for biofuel feedstocks. In the US rising crop costs have squeezed both farmers’ and producers’ margins, while in Brazil high sugar prices have made ethanol uncompetitive with subsidized gasoline, Europe is awash in biodiesel amid shrinking production and low demand, and in the US demand for all road fuel is rapidly declining with spot ethanol mainly negative, forcing Valero and some other ethanol producers to idle production.

Is this the end of the biofuels world? Not just yet according to energy columnist Gerard Wynn, but in the short run we may be in for 1996-style output and price stagnation.

Read more

US Annual Energy Outlook 2012 published by EIA

Biofuels Digest
Jim Lane
June 29, 2012

In Washington, the US Energy Information Administration released its Annual Energy Outlook for 2012. Among changes in this year’s Outlook, an updated Reference case was included as part of this complete report, to incorporate modeling changes and reflect new legislation or regulation that was not available when the Early Release Overview version of the Reference case was published. The California Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) was removed from the final Reference case, given the Federal court ruling in December 2011 that found some aspects of it to be unconstitutional.

According to the Outlook, much of the projected decline in the net import share of energy supply is accounted for by liquids. Although U.S. consumption of liquid fuels continues to grow through 2035 in the Reference case, reliance on petroleum imports as a share of total liquids consumption decreases. Total U.S. consumption of liquid fuels, including both fossil fuels and biofuels, rises from about 18.8 million barrels per day in 2009 to 21.9 million barrels per day in 2035 in the Reference case. The import share, which reached 60 percent in 2005 and 2006 before falling to 51 percent in 2009, falls to 42 percent in 2035

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