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.
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On February 21, 2017, the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) announced the launch of its Chemical Catalysis for Bioenergy Consortium (ChemCatBio), a research and development consortium focused on overcoming catalysis challenges for biomass conversion processes.  The consortium, which consists of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, and five other DOE national laboratories, aims to accelerate the development of catalysts and related technologies to bring new catalytic materials to commercial bioenergy applications at least two times faster and at half the cost.  The unique properties of biomass, such as high oxygen content, high moisture content, and high acidity, make developing catalysts for bioenergy applications a challenge.  Through computational modeling, and materials synthesis and characterization capabilities, researchers involved with the consortium have already designed new multi-functional catalysts that enable carbon-efficient conversion and reduce costs by more than $0.5/gallon.

 
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On February 22, 2017, the DOE’s Office of Fossil Energy announced seven recipients of $5.9 million in funding to develop novel ways to use carbon dioxide (CO2) captured from coal-fired power plants.  The projects will focus on converting captured CO2 to useable products.  Recipients of the funding include:
 

■  The University of Kentucky Research Foundation will receive nearly $1 million to convert CO2 to bioplastics using microalgae.  In addition to developing a strategy to maximize value from the algae biomass, researchers will aim to decrease the cost of algae cultivation;
 
■  Researchers at the University of Delaware will receive $800,000 to develop a two-stage electrolyzer process for the conversion of CO2 to alcohols, such as ethanol and propanol;
 
■  The Gas Technology Institute will receive nearly $799,997 to develop a Direct E-Beam Synthesis process to produce chemicals, such as acetic acid, methanol, and CO, from CO2, and an additional $799,807 to develop a novel catalytic reactor process to convert CO2 into methane for syngas production;
 
■  TDA Research, Inc. will receive nearly $799,985 to develop a sorbent-based, thermo-catalytic process to convert CO2 into syngas; and
 
■  Southern Research will receive $799,442 to develop a process to produce light olefins, such as ethylene and propylene, from coal-fired flue gas using novel nano-engineered catalysts.

 
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On February 22, 2017, the American Petroleum Institute (API) announced plans to submit comments to EPA in support of its proposal to deny petitions requesting EPA initiate a rulemaking process to change the point of obligation for compliance under the RFS program.  During the press call, Frank Macchiarola, the Group Director of Downstream and Industry Operations at API, stated that changing the point of obligation would create significant uncertainty and complications in the RFS program and the Renewable Identification Number (RIN) market, and add time and an administrative burden for EPA and regulated entities.  Macchiarola suggested policymakers focus on fixing the blend wall problem and setting fuel policies consistent with vehicle compatibility.  API supports Congressional efforts to repeal or reform the RFS program and encourages lower volume requirements in 2018 to address the short-term challenges facing the refining industry.  Macchiarola stated that EPA should consider the adoption of cellulosic technologies, E15 and E85 use, and the demand for E0 when establishing 2018 RFS standards.
Tags: API, EPA, RFS

 
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■  Washington University in St. Louis, “WashU Engineer to Design Catalyst for Wasted Plant Material” 
 
■  U.S. Air Force, “Langley 1 of 4 Bases to Test Bio-Based Grease” 
 
■  Times of India, “Fuel from Water Hyacinth? IIT-Kharagpur Shows the Way” 
 
■  Economic Times, “US Biofuels Lobbying Group Courts Its Rival Oil Companies to Combat Electric Car Threat

 
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On February 13, 2017, seven democratic Senators sent a letter to White House Counsel Don McGahn requesting details on Carl Icahn’s role in the Trump Administration and the extent of his influence over the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program.  On December 21, 2016, it was announced that Mr. Icahn would serve the Trump Administration as a special advisor for overhauling federal regulations.  The Senators’ letter highlights concerns over Icahn’s public statements regarding RFS obligations and his role as chairman of the board and majority shareholder of Icahn Enterprises.  The Senators noted that, as of September 30, 2016, Icahn Enterprises owned an 82 percent stake in CVR Energy, which is an oil refiner required to meet the RFS obligations.  The letter requests that McGahn provide answers to a number of questions regarding Icahn, including whether:
 

■  He is a federal employee;
 
■   He has access to confidential information;
 
■  He provided financial disclosures to the Administration;
 
■  He is barred from providing advice on any regulations;
 
■  He provided advice to President Trump on any Senate-confirmed or schedule C appointees;
 
■  The Administration believes he is subject to any laws or regulations governing conflicts of interest;
 
■  He has recused himself from any decisions or discussions that may present a conflict of interest; and
 
■  He is required to divest from any of his holdings.

 
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On February 17, 2017, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced it is accepting applications for the Biorefinery, Renewable Chemical, and Biobased Product Manufacturing Assistance Program.  The Program provides guaranteed loans for projects developing, constructing, or retrofitting commercial scale biorefineries and biobased product manufacturing facilities.  The developments must use eligible technology, including new commercial scale processing and manufacturing equipment.  Applicants must submit a Letter of Intent by March 6, 2017, that identifies the Borrower, Lender, and Project sponsors, and describes the project, project location, proposed feedstock, primary technologies of the facility, primary products, loan amount, and total project cost estimate.  Applications are due on April 3, 2017, at 4:30 pm (EDT)


 
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On February 21, 2017, USDA announced in the Federal Register that the comment period for the Designation of Product Categories for Federal Procurement proposed rule had been extended.  The proposed rule aims to amend the Guidelines for Designating Biobased Products for Federal Procurement to add 12 product categories composed of intermediate ingredient and feedstock materials and to propose a minimum biobased content for each category.  In addition to the product categories and biobased content, USDA is seeking comments on appropriate performance standards for each product category, the positive environmental and human health attributes of biobased products within the proposed categories, and how small businesses may be affected by the proposed rule.  Comments are now due by April 13, 2017.


 
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On February 14, 2017, the Government of Alberta announced the recipients of C$40 million in grant funding under the Bioenergy Producer Program (BPP).  Four biofuel companies, including Permolex Ltd., Archer Daniels Midland Agri-Industries, Invigor Bioenergy, and Enerkem Alberta Biofuels, were among the successful BPP applicants to receive a grant for the first program period.  Each grant was awarded based on the amount of bioenergy the company committed to produce between April 1, 2016, and March 31, 2017.  The second program period will grant up to C$20 million to bioenergy producers based on production between April 1, 2017, and September 30, 2017.  The goal of BPP is to support bioenergy production capacity in Alberta to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and provide value-added opportunities with economic benefits.


 
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On February 16, 2017, a coalition of Iowa farmers, renewable fuel producers, and retailers urged Scott Pruitt, just prior to his being confirmed as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator, to protect the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) by rejecting the petition to change the program’s point of obligation.  The coalition, which includes the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA), the Iowa Corn Growers Association (ICGA), Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Stores of Iowa (PMCI), and the Iowa Biodiesel Board (IBB), stated that it is committed to opposing a change in the point of obligation since such a change would be devastating to wholesalers and retailers, who have invested in supporting the RFS program, and to consumers, who would experience a change in pricing dynamics at fuel terminals.  Agreeing with EPA’s decision under the Obama Administration, the coalition stated that changing the point of obligation 11 years into the program would create unnecessary chaos and delay.  A final decision will be made once EPA has reviewed the public comments on the issue.

Tags: Iowa, Biofuel, EPA, RFS

 
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On February 9, 2017, Avantium announced a partnership with AkzoNobel (a member of the Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group (BRAG®)), Chemport Europe, RWE Generation, and Staatsbosbeheer to develop a reference plant at the Chemie Park Delfzijl in the Netherlands.  The plant will use a new technology, referred to as the Zambezi process, for the cost-effective production of high-purity glucose from non-food biomass, including forestry residue, pulp, and agricultural byproducts.  Once the woody biomass is converted into sugars and lignin, it can be used to produce a wide range of biobased chemicals and materials.  The design of the plant includes an expansion-ready footprint to enable a rapid increase in capacity following the demonstration phase.
 
Each partner will contribute a unique strength to the overall project.  The infrastructure, utilities, and expertise of the reference plant will be based on the AkzoNobel site in Delfzijl.  The forestry residue feedstock will be sourced by Staatsbosbeheer.  RWE Generation will generate renewable energy from the bio-lignin residue of the Zambezi process, and Chemport Europe will provide strategic support to the project through a range of initiatives.


 
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■  Biotechnology Innovation Organization, “BIO Submits Comments on EPA Renewables Enhancement and Growth Support Rule
 
■  EPA, “Draft Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks: 1990-2015
 
■  International Energy Agency, “New Bioenergy Roadmap Guide Released Jointly by IEA and FAO

 
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On February 4, 2017, the Canadian Department of the Environment and the Department of Health published in the Canada Gazette the draft screening assessment of the commercially relevant fungus, Trichoderma reesei, stating that the organism is nontoxic and does not require regulatory action under Section 77 of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA). Following a screening assessment, Trichoderma reesei , which is used to convert biomass to biofuels and sugars and to produce food and health products, was found to not meet the criteria set out in CEPA Section 64 since the amount entering the environment does not pose a risk to human health.  Options are being considered, however, for follow-up activities to track changes in the commercial use of and exposure to Trichoderma reesei . Comments on the draft assessment and the related scientific considerations are due by April 5, 2017.


 
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On February 9, 2017, Illinois State Senators Andy Manar and Chapin Rose introduced legislation aimed at growing Illinois’ biobased economy by providing incentives under the Renewable Chemical Production Tax Credit Program Act.  The program would provide credit against taxes for eligible Illinois businesses that produce renewable chemicals within the state using biomass feedstock and other renewable sources.  The legislation defines a renewable chemical as a building block with a biobased content of at least 50 percent.  According to the legislation, eligible businesses will be required to submit to the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity an application for the tax credit that includes the amount of renewable chemical produced during the calendar year and any other information needed to verify eligibility as identified by the Department.  The proposed tax credit will not exceed $1 million for businesses that have been in operation in Illinois for five years or less, and $500,000 for businesses that have been in operation longer than five years.


 
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On February 7, 2017, the Renewable Fuels Association, Growth Energy, and the U.S. Grains Council sent a joint letter to President Donald Trump to request the Administration’s assistance in addressing China’s recent implementation of protectionist trade barriers, which are shutting out U.S. exports of ethanol and distillers dried grains.  The letter states that China’s actions have significantly injured U.S. ethanol producers and farmers, and undermined the substantial investments made to develop a cooperative and mutually beneficial trade relationship with the country.  In 2015, China imported 6.5 million metric tons of U.S. distillers dried grains, and began importing U.S. ethanol as part of an effort to increase the use of cleaner-burning renewable fuels and reduce smog formation.  By the end of 2016, China had become the U.S. ethanol industry’s third-largest export market.  In September 2016, after a nine month investigation regarding alleged dumping and injury to domestic industries, China imposed a preliminary antidumping duty of 33.8 percent against U.S. distillers dried grains, as well as a countervailing duty of ten to 10.7 percent -- despite the fact that the investigation did not find any evidence of dumping or injury to domestic industries.  The letter states the details of this investigation and the U.S. industries’ cooperation throughout the investigation, and requests that the incoming U.S. Trade Representative place the Chinese trade barriers near the top of the China trade agenda.


 
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The Advanced Bioeconomy Leadership Conference 2017 (ABLC 2017) will be held March 1 - 3, 2017, at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C.  ABLC is the gathering point for top leaders in the Advanced Bioeconomy -- bringing together the entire spectrum of advanced fuels, chemicals, and materials chief executive officers (CEO) and senior executives, business developers, research and development (R&D) leaders, strategic partners, financiers, equity analysts, policymakers, and industry suppliers.   Richard E. Engler, Ph.D., Senior Chemist for Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. (B&C ® ), and Kathleen M. Roberts, Executive Director of BRAG, are featured speakers.  Register online.

 

ABLC 2017 is a connected series of five conferences on pressing issues in the Bioeconomy.  These conferences are:  

  1. The 8th Annual Advanced Fuels Summit -- focused this year on Advanced Biomass Diesel and BioCrude, and Advanced Alcohols and Alternatives to gasoline;

     

  2. The 7th Annual Renewable Chemicals Summit -- focused this year on Organic Acids and 1-Step to Higher Value Chemicals;

     

  3. The 8th Annual Aviation Biofuels Summit;

     

  4. The 3rd Annual ABLC Feedstocks Summit; and

     

  5. The 1st ABLC Gas Conversion & Markets Summit.
     


 
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