On May 16, 2016, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced that up to $10 million in funding is being given to six projects that are creating innovative solutions to advance bioenergy development. The work will support the Bioenergy Technologies Office's (BETO) goal of developing non-food biomass competitive biofuels with reduced technical investment risks. The selected projects are:
- Arizona State University, a project engineering cyanobacteria to produce ethyl laurate;
- Arizona State University, a project developing heat-tolerant mixtrophic algae that can consume both carbon dioxide (CO2) and cellulosic sugars;
- Duke University, a project to reduce construction costs for commercial scale biorefineries by making smaller reactors more productive;
- Lygos Inc., a project to develop microbial catalysts to produce renewable aspartic acid from cellulosic sugars;
- White Dogs Labs, a project to develop metabolic pathways to increase the yield of acetone from microorganisms; and
- LanzaTech Inc., a project to manufacture acetone from biobased syngas.
On May 16, 2016, the DOE's BETO invited applications for abstracts for the poster session of the ninth annual conference Bioenergy 2016: Mobilizing the Bioeconomy through Innovation. Poster abstracts are due by June 3, 2016, and must fit the following guidelines:
- Not exceed the maximum of 300 words;
- Explain validity and technical merit of the approach;
- Discuss how the poster will be used to engage Bioenergy 2016 attendees;
- Highlight applicability to BETO activities/Bioenergy 2016 theme; and
- Provide clarity of motivation, methods, results, and conclusions.
In May of 2016, the DOE's Advanced Research Projects Agency - Energy (ARPA-E) awarded the University of Illinois and the University of Florida $300,000 to continue researching ultra-productive biofuel crops. The research project is called Plants Engineered To Replace Oil in Sugarcane and Sweet Sorghum (PETROSS), and this is the third round of funding that it will receive from ARPA-E. PETROSS is engineering sugarcane and sorghum to produce 20 percent oil, compared to the 0.05 percent oil that is naturally provided. So far 13 percent oil production has been achieved, with PETROSS continuing work to reach 20 percent yield though improved photosynthesis. The ARPA-E funding will also support a techno-economic analysis of converting the PETROSS oil into jet fuel, and phenotyping the PETROSS sugarcane and DNA.
On May 18, 2016, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a proposed increase of the renewable fuel volume requirements under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program for all biofuels in 2017 and biomass-based diesel in 2018. While both the renewable fuel volume requirements and the proposed percentage standards are increases from previous years, the volume requirements for cellulosic biofuel, advance biofuel, and renewable fuel still fall short of the volumes proposed for 2017 under Section 211 of the Clean Air Act. The proposed volume requirements are:
- Cellulosic biofuel, from 230 million gallons in 2016 to 312 million gallons in 2017;
- Advanced biofuel, from 3.61 billion gallons in 2016 to 4 billion gallons in 2017;
- Renewable fuel, from 18.11 billion gallons in 2016 to 18.8 billion gallons in 2017; and
- Biomass-based diesel, from 2 billion gallons in 2017 to 2.1 billion gallons in 2018.
These volumes would change the percentage standards to 0.173 percent for cellulosic biofuel, 2.22 percent for advanced biofuel, 10.44 percent for renewable fuel, and 1.67 percent for biomass-based diesel. A timely passage of the RFS volumes is of great importance to the biofuel industry, as any delays can create uncertainty for investors and harm industry progress. The rule is open for comment through July 11, 2016, and EPA intends to issue the final rule by November 30, 2016. Comments may be submitted at www.regulations.gov via Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OAR-2016-0004.
On May 11, 2016, the University of California, Riverside (UCR) provided more information about the project that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is funding with $1.3 million as part of the Biomass Research and Development Initiative (BRDI). UCR received $1.3 million in funding to create biofuels and chemicals from waste plant materials. Ford Motor Company Chair in Environmental Engineering at the Center for Environmental Research and Technology (CE-CERT) and Chemical and Environmental Engineering Professor Charles Wyman, and CE-CERT Research Engineer and Adjunct Assistant Professor Charles Cai are running the project to convert poplar wood into ethanol and polyurethanes using novel pretreatment and lignin polymer synthesis platforms. The team patented the method, called Co-solvent Enhanced Lignocellulosic Fractionation (CELF), as a versatile method to convert raw agricultural waste into renewable fuels and chemicals. "This project takes advantage of the unique ability of our novel CELF technology to effectively fractionate lignin from low-cost non-food sources of cellulosic biomass such as agricultural and forestry residues for conversion into polyurethanes that increase revenues for biorefineries while also enhancing ethanol yields," Wyman said. Eventually, this UCR project aims to increase revenue for bio-refineries while offsetting pretreatment costs to make biomass based fuels and chemicals more economically viable.
Northwest Green Chemistry and the Washington State Department of Ecology are presenting a four-part webinar series introducing and providing training on the Quick Chemical Assessment Tool (QCAT). QCAT allows users to evaluate chemical ingredients and provides alternative chemical recommendations. During the webinar, users will be given instructions on how to use QCAT as well as time to practice using the tool. The webinar will occur over four consecutive Thursdays on June 9, 16, 23, and 30, 2016, from 1:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m. (PT). Registration is online, and those who register early may suggest a chemical of interest to incorporate into the training program!
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine is hosting a second public meeting examining future biotechnology products on June 1-2, 2016. This two-day meeting will run from 9:00 a.m. - 5:30 p.m. both days, with a public comment period open to in-person attendees at the end of each day. The meeting will be held at the National Academy of Sciences Building in Washington D.C., and members of the public will have the opportunity to observe in person by pre-registering or via live webcast. Registration is available online. Topics covered during the meeting include trends in biotechnology funding, investment, development, and risk analysis.
As we are poised to witness the reauthorization of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) -- the first revision of our domestic chemical management law in 40 years -- stakeholders will need immediately to understand what the "new TSCA" means for their industrial operations and strategically adjust their global operations to the new law.
In late 2015, Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group (BRAG®) affiliate Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. (B&C®) convened a summit to examine generally the anticipated changes to TSCA, the process and implementation issues that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will face once a revised law is passed, and the equally interesting prospect of what the industrial chemical community will face if this once-in-a-generation chance at TSCA reform is lost. Panelists included former EPA Assistant Administrators Lynn R. Goldman, M.D., M.S., M.P.H., Dean of The George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health, and James V. Aidala, B&C Senior Government Affairs Consultant, along with Arnold & Porter LLP Partner Lawrence E. Culleen, whose former EPA roles include Chief of the New Chemicals Branch, managing the premanufacture notice program under TSCA, and B&C Managing Partner Lynn L. Bergeson, an internationally-recognized expert on TSCA and its application to industrial, specialty, nanotech, and biobased chemicals.
BRAG is relentlessly tracking developments regarding the ongoing TSCA reform efforts and analyzing how these developments will impact our members' operations, influence their selection of chemicals as raw material feedstocks, and affect their ability to continue to produce and/or use certain "high priority" chemicals most affected by TSCA reform. Stay tuned for complete coverage of what these changes mean to your business, and how you can use them to maximum competitive advantage.
On May 9, 2016, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) announced the recipients of up to $10 million in funding through the Biomass Research and Development Initiative (BRDI). BRDI is a joint program through DOE and USDA that helps develop sustainable sources of biomass and increase the availability of biobased fuels and products. DOE selected two of the grant winners to receive between $1 million and $2 million: the Ohio State University (OSU) project is "Biomass Gasification for Chemicals Production Using Chemical Looping Techniques," and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) project is "Improving Tolerance of Yeast to Lignocellulose-derived Feedstocks and Products."
USDA then selected five grant winners to receive a total of $7.3 million in funding:
- University of California-Riverside, to convert poplar to ethanol and polyurethane via pretreatment and lignin polymer synthesis;
- University of Montana, to quantify ecological and economic opportunities of various forest types and to quantify benefits of replacing fossil fuel with forest-based bioenergy;
- North Carolina Biotechnology Center, to optimize production of educational resources on biomass sorghum production in the Mid-Atlantic region;
- Dartmouth College, to overcome the lignocellulosic recalcitrance barrier; and
- State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry, to provide life cycle understanding for the production of willow and forest biomass to mitigate investment risk.
On May 6, 2016, DOE announced the $90 million Project Development for Pilot and Demonstration Scale Manufacturing of Biofuels, Bioproducts, and Biopower. As previously reported by BRAG, this funding opportunity is intended to support the construction of bioenergy infrastructure that utilizes advanced pretreatment, process, and convergence technologies. "The domestic bio-industry could play an important part in the growing clean energy economy and in reducing American dependence on imported oil," said Lynn Orr, DOE's Under Secretary for Science and Energy. Further, "[t]his funding opportunity will support companies that are working to advance current technologies and help them overcome existing challenges in bioenergy so the industry can meet its full potential."
There are three topic areas of the Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA), covering: pilot scale production of biofuels from high impact cellulose, algal, or biogas feedstocks; demonstration scale production of biofuels from high impact cellulose, algal, or biogas feedstocks; and production of either biopower or biofuels from biosolids and other allowable wet waste feedstock streams. Funding will be distributed on a cost sharing basis with at least 50 percent of the total allowable cost for demonstration projects coming from non-Federal sources. Applicants should present the entire process of their project, as well as the value proposition, target markets, competitors, distribution channels, barriers to market penetration, and mitigation strategies for the proposed technology. Up to ten percent of the total Phase 1 project budget may be proposed for preparatory research and development. Applicants must submit a concept paper by June 6, 2016, at 5:00 p.m. (EDT), with the full application due by July 22, 2016, at 5:00 p.m. (EDT).
On May 9, 2016, USDA announced a public meeting of the Advisory Committee on Biotechnology and 21st Century Agriculture (AC21). AC21 was created to provide the USDA Secretary with information on agriculture biotechnology issues, including the long-term impacts of biotechnology on the U.S. food and agriculture system, and to provide guidance on immediate issues. The AC21 meeting will consider the analysis of the new AC21 charge created by the three ad hoc subgroups; discuss a draft outline for the next committee report, including draft guidance documents for producers and for facilitating local conversations around coexistence; and continue overall discussions on the committee charge and work completion plans. The meeting will be held at the U.S. Access Board Conference Room in Washington, D.C, on June 13 and 14, 2016, from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (EDT) each day. To make oral statements or public comments, the notice states to write to Dr. Schechtman at:
Designated Federal Official
Office of the Deputy Secretary,
202B Jamie L. Whitten Federal Building
12th and Independence Avenue, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20250
On April 28, 2016, the European Commission (EC) encouraged Portugal to become fully compliant with the Renewable Energy Directive (Directive) through the release of an April infringements fact sheet. The Directive has set the goal of 20 percent of the European Union's (EU) 2020 energy consumption coming from renewable energy, with each Member State consuming at least ten percent renewable energy. Biofuels used in reaching this goal must meet a set of harmonized sustainability requirements, and must be treated equally by Member States regardless of the country of origin. Portugal has been sent a reasoned opinion urging it to stop favoring biofuels produced in Portugal over those produced in other countries, and to reduce sustainability requirements that are not warranted by the Directive. Portugal has two months to address these concerns, or else it could be sent to the Court of Justice of the EU.
On April 27, 2016, the Iowa Senate voted 49-0 to extend the Renewable Fuels Infrastructure Program (RFIP) through June 30, 2017. The legislation, House File 2464, was passed by the Iowa House 94-0 and provides funding for cost-share grants to upgrade fueling infrastructure. RFIP covers up to 70 percent of the installation cost of E15, E85, or biodiesel blend fuel pumps for Iowa retailers, up to $50,000 per project. "While we were hopeful for a long-term funding solution for the state's renewable fuels infrastructure program, we're very pleased today that the Iowa legislature was able to keep this vital initiative going for another year," stated Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) Policy Director Grant Menke. "The [U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA)] Biofuels Infrastructure Partnership re-energized many Iowa retailers, leading to record participation in the blender pump program over the past year. This one-year funding extension allows us to build upon this momentum and ensure Iowans have greater access to cleaner-burning, lower-cost renewable fuels." The current source of RFIP funding is ending after this extension, so there is still need for a long-term solution to helping retailers supply more renewable fuels and higher ethanol blends to consumers.