The Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group (BRAG) helps members develop and bring to market their innovative biobased and renewable chemical products through insightful policy and regulatory advocacy. BRAG is managed by B&C® Consortia Management, L.L.C., an affiliate of Bergeson & Campbell, P.C.
On September 11, 2018, Bloomberg Environment Insights published a three-part article series, written by Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. (B&C®), on the impact of the new Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Section 5 and its implementation. Despite the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) overall timely and balanced efforts in the implementation of TSCA, EPA’s approach to TSCA Section 5 implementation has proved itself less successful. With emphasis on how EPA’s approach to Section 5 has impeded the commercialization of sustainable chemical technologies, this three-part series delves into the various challenges presented by TSCA on the biobased and biotechnology markets. The obstacles discussed in the articles, ironically, often extend the market presence of less sustainable chemicals rather than allowing for the expansion of more sustainable technologies. The three articles can be accessed here: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.
On September 14, 2018, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Office of Procurement and Property Management announced a proposal to amend the Guidelines for Designating Biobased Products for Federal Procurement. Under this amendment, 30 sections will be added to determine categories within which biobased products “would be afforded procurement preference by Federal agencies and their contractors.” These categories include products that are made from intermediate ingredients that were formerly proposed for designation for federal procurement preference. In its proposed amendment, USDA is suggesting a minimum biobased content for each of these product categories. The aim is to amend the existing designated categories of firearm lubricants, water clarifying agents, general purpose de-icers, and laundry products to align them to the data gathered since these categories were originally designated. Comments must be submitted on or before November 13, 2018.
On September 17, 2018, scientists at Columbia University published findings of a study on carbon dioxide (CO2) electrocatalysis as the first step in converting CO2 into renewable fuels. The results of the study are key in developing conversion points for CO2 to be used as a feedstock and renewable electricity in the synthesis of different types of fuel. For further details on the groundbreaking progress discovered by Columbia University’s scientists, the published article can be found in its entirety here.
On September 7, 2018, U.S. Congressman David Young (R-IA) introduced, in a bipartisan effort with U.S. Congressman Collin Peterson (D-MN), the Restoring Our Commitment to Renewable Fuels Act. Under this bill, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would be required “[t]o provide for reallocation of the renewable fuel obligation of exempted small refineries under section 211(o) of the Clean Air Act (42 U.S.C. 7545(o)) to other refineries, blenders, distributors, and importers, and for other purposes.” As a response to EPA’s 2019 Renewable Volume Obligations (RVO) proposal, the bill aims to address issues related to the former EPA Administrator, Scott Pruitt, and his decision to undercut the Renewable Fuel Standards (RFS) through “hardship” waivers received by refineries. Calling for greater transparency within EPA’s decisions on issuing these waivers, this Act holds EPA accountable to meet and maintain the RVOs set annually. The bill also calls for the reallocation of each gallon of renewable fuel covered by these exemptions.
On September 11, 2018, the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) announced it would be presenting a Chemical Catalysis for Bioenergy Consortium (ChemCatBio) webinar entitled “CatCost: An Estimation Tool to Aid Commercialization and R&D Decisions for Catalytic Materials” on Wednesday, September 26, 2018, from 2:00 p.m. to 2:45 p.m. (EDT). CatCost is a catalyst cost estimation tool developed by DOE to more accurately estimate costs early in the catalyst development process prior to commercialization. DOE states that the webinar will “detail the methods used by CatCost, discuss how the tool was validated using commercially available materials, … provide pre-commercial estimate examples[,]” and “include a tutorial on how to use CatCost.” Registration is available online.
The 5th Biotechnology World Congress has been scheduled to take place in Bangkok, Thailand, from February 13-15, 2019. The Welcome Letter states that the conference will “feature a variety of lectures in a number of key sessions in biotechnology, including a commercial exhibition and poster sessions” and the sessions given will include “strategic alliances in biotechnology, pharmaceutical biotechnology, medical biotechnology, plant and environmental biotechnology, bioprocess engineering, and industrial biotechnology.” A list of the speakers and presentations that have already been scheduled is posted. The event has put out a call for speakers and posters. The deadline of abstract submissions for lecture and poster presentation is December 31, 2018; more information on how to apply is available online.
On September 4, 2018, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced its support for projects in Bioenergy Research and Development. The projects total about $80 million and address early-stage research and development in the hopes of achieving DOE’s goal of reducing biobased costs in fuels by 2022. Funding for these projects comes from four different programs: BioEnergy Engineering for Products Synthesis, Efficient Carbon Utilization in Algal Systems, Process Development for Advanced Biofuels and Biopower, and Affordable and Sustainable Energy Crops. U.S. Secretary of Energy, Rick Perry, stated that “[t]he selections announced…highlight some of the most innovative and advanced bioenergy technologies that have the potential to produce new sources of reliable and affordable energy for American families and businesses.” A full list of the projects being funded can be found here.
Methylene blue consists of a blue dye used in the textile industry. A new study, published in mid-August 2018, reveals that the dye can be repurposed for use in redox flow batteries. After establishing that the chemical compound has electrochemical properties, chemists at the University of Buffalo divulged that, as an active ingredient, it can be used to store energy. In the textile industry, only about five percent of methylene blue is absorbed by fabrics and the rest produces large amounts of waste water that can be toxic to the environment. According to the University of Buffalo chemists Anjula M. Kosswattaarachchi and Timothy R. Cook, this waste water can be used by reducing the dye’s molecules to produce leuco-methylene blue through electricity generated by a power source. This process is reversible, which makes it a good fit in redox flow battery configurations as a green energy storage technology.
On August 30, 2018, researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology (Fraunhofer IGB) published an article announcing the latest advances in using 3-carene as a building block to produce biobased plastics. The aforementioned substance, 3-carene, “is a component of turpentine oil, a waste stream of the production of cellulose from wood.” This substance can be found in pine, larch, or spruce and is usually a byproduct that ends up being incinerated. The research project’s name -- “TerPa – Terpenes as building blocks for biobased polyamides” -- reflects the general premise of the technique used in transforming 3-carene into polyamides, which are used as alternatives to glass/metal and resistant to various chemicals and solvents. Researchers at Fraunhofer IGB confirm that they have optimized the synthesis of lactam -- a key component in building polyamides -- in large scale through a single reactor that requires less energy input. The resulting biobased polyamides are amorphous and resistant to high temperatures, which are ideal in the production of plastics.
On August 24, 2018, researchers from the University of Kent, UK, published a study on a new technique developed to use bacteria as cell factories to produce biofuels. Working in partnership with scientists from University College London, the University of Bristol, and Queen Mary University of London, Matthew J. Lee et al., uncovered a biotechnical approach to redesign bacterial structures called organelles. The latter, also known as bacterial microcompartments (BMC), carries out metabolic pathways through chemical reactions in the cell. Although these reactions are difficult to control, the University of Kent researchers discovered how to target new metabolic pathways to the BMCs. This technique opens the possibility of using BMCs in a wide variety of applications, which include the generation of biofuels and vaccines through synthetic biology.
On August 23, 2018, U.S. Senators Patty Murray (D-WA), Roy Blunt (R-MO), and 37 others submitted a bipartisan letter, asking the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to increase the renewable volume obligations under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) as proposed by EPA in June 2018. Under the aforementioned proposed RFS, EPA would raise the advanced biofuel volume for 2019 to 4.88 billion gallons and the biomass-based diesel volume for 2020 to 2.43 billion gallons. The bipartisan group argues that although these increases may be promising, the potential of biodiesel is still taken too lightly. Not only does the biodiesel industry have prodigious growth potential, its expansion would significantly generate jobs in the U.S. In particular, the Senators emphasized the need to also recognize small refiners’ economic hardship exemptions during the 2019 compliance year.
In a research study conducted at the University of Nottingham School of Biosciences, a team of scientists has uncovered how to refine seawater to produce bioethanol. When fermented, marine yeast of the Saccharomyces cerevisiae AZ65 strain and yeast extract peptone dextrose (YPD) aid in the production of biofuels. Not only is this discovery key in the development of renewable energy sources, but it also reduces the water footprint of ethanol. Through the use of seawater, the traditional biorefinery methods that rely on agriculture and freshwater become obsolete and limit further depletion of the existing freshwater supplies. Additionally, this new method for biofuel production creates greater opportunities for individual countries to become more sustainable as they switch into biofuel production.