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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By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

On October 4, 2017, EPA issued a NODA in the Federal Register to provide supplemental information and an opportunity for further public comment on potential reductions in the 2018 biomass-based diesel, advanced biofuel, and total renewable fuel volumes, and/or the 2019 biomass-based diesel volume under the RFS program.  The NODA follows the Agency’s July 21, 2017, proposed rulemaking on the volume requirements and provides additional information on production, imports, and cost of renewable fuel, and several options for how EPA may consider such data in establishing the final volume requirements. 
 
In the notice, EPA acknowledges its authority under the Clean Air Act to waive a portion of the biomass-based diesel standard if there is a significant renewable feedstock disruption or other market circumstance that would make the price of biomass-based diesel fuel increase significantly, and to make related reductions in the advanced biofuel and total renewable fuel volume requirements.  EPA is seeking comments on whether it is appropriate to use this waiver authority in the final rule.  Additionally, EPA invites comments on whether it is appropriate to consider possible impacts of the volumes of domestic production and imports on U.S. energy independence and security in setting the applicable standards under the RFS program, and on appropriate ways to determine the applicable volume requirements for 2018, and the biomass-based diesel volume requirement for 2019.
 
Comments are due October 19, 2017.

Tags: EPA, NODA, RFS, CAA

 
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By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

On September 26, 2017, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced the selection of an additional project for the Bioenergy Technologies Office’s (BETO) Advanced Algal Systems Program funding opportunity announcement (FOA).  DOE is awarding up to $3.5 million to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to more than double the productivity of biofuel precursors from algae.  Researchers aim to improve productivity by increasing algal cultivation productivity, optimizing biomass composition, and extracting and separating different types of algal lipids to reduce the cost for lipid upgrading to renewable diesel.  The project team includes researchers from NREL, as well as Colorado State University, Colorado School of Mines, Arizona State University, Sandia National Laboratories, POS Bio-Sciences, Sapphire Energy, and Utah State University.
 
In addition to the $3.5 million being provided, DOE provided $15 million in Fiscal Year 2016 for three projects under the Algal Biomass Yield, Phase 2 (ABY2) FOA.  BETO expects that projects selected under this FOA will help demonstrate a reasonable and realistic plan to produce 3,700 gallons/acre/year by 2020.


 

 
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By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

On September 19, 2017, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced 18 projects from the Macroalgae Research Inspiring Novel Energy Resources (MARINER) program will receive $22 million in funding through the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E).  The MARINER projects aim to develop tools to address the technological challenges to growing and harvesting macroalgae efficiently and cost-effectively for use as a feedstock for biofuels and other bioproducts.  Such tools would support the goal of the United States becoming a leader in the production of macroalgae to improve U.S. energy security and economic competitiveness.  According to Eric Rohlfing, the ARPA-E Acting Director, “the United States has offshore resources capable of producing enough seaweed to handle as much as 10 percent of our demand for transportation fuel.” 

The cross-disciplinary MARINER projects focus on transformative, systems-level improvements and engineering, including advanced research in farm design and autonomous operation, which draw on fields such as cultivation and harvesting systems, advanced components, computer modeling, aquatic monitoring, and advanced breeding and genetics tools. 
 
The full list of the MARINER projects is available on the ARPA-E website.


 
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By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

On September 20, 2017, U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry announced that DOE selected eight projects related to the optimization of integrated biorefineries (IBR) to negotiate for up to $15 million in DOE funding.  The projects aim to solve critical research and developmental challenges encountered for the successful scale-up and reliable operations of IBRs, to decrease capital and operating expenses, and to focus on the manufacture of advanced or cellulosic biofuels and higher-value bioproducts. 
           
The eight projects focus on one or more of the following topic areas:

  • Robust, continuous handling of solid materials (dry and wet feedstocks, biosolids, and/or residual solids remaining in the process) and feeding systems to reactors under various operating conditions;
  • High-value products from waste and/or other undervalued streams in an integrated biorefinery;
  • Industrial separations within an integrated biorefinery (no projects have been selected from this topic area); and
  • Analytical modeling of solid materials (dry and wet feedstocks and/or residual solids remaining in the process) and reactor feeding systems.

The project winners include: 

  • Thermochemical Recovery International Inc., which will study and improve feedstock and residual solids handling systems targeted to commercial pyrolysis and gasification reactors;
  • Texas A&M Agrilife Research, which will work on achieving a multi-stream integrated biorefinery (MIBR), where lignin-containing IBR waste will be fractionated to produce lipid for biodiesel, asphalt binder modifier, and quality carbon fiber;
  • White Dog Labs, which will use the residual cellulosic sugars in cellulosic stillage syrup to produce single-cell protein (SCP) for aquaculture feed;
  • South Dakota School of Mines, which will demonstrate the cost-effective production of biocarbon, carbon nanofibers, polylactic acid, and phenol from the waste streams generated from the biochemical platform technology;
  • National Renewable Energy Laboratory, which will leverage and extend state-of-the-art modeling and simulation tools to develop integrated simulations for feed handling and reactor feeding systems;
  • Clemson University, which will develop analytical tools to identify an optimal IBR process design for the reliable, cost-effective, sustainable, and continuous feeding of biomass feedstocks into a reactor;
  • Purdue University, which aims to develop strong, innovative computational and empirical models that rigorously detail the multiphase flow of biomass materials; and
  • Forest Concepts, which proposes to develop robust feedstock handling modeling and simulation tools based on systematic analysis.

According to Secretary Perry, “[t]hese projects have the potential to increase the efficiency of producing biofuels and bioproducts, enabling the United States to better utilize its abundant biomass resources, boost economic development, and advance U.S. competitiveness in the global energy market.”  The funding opportunity is supported jointly by DOE’s Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).


 
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By Kathleen M. Roberts

On September 20, 2017, the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) published in the Federal Register a notice of the scheduling of the final phase of antidumping (AD) and countervailing duty (CVD) investigations of biodiesel imports from Argentina and Indonesia.  ITC will hold a hearing in connection with the final phase of the investigations at 9:30 a.m. (EST) on November 9, 2017, in Washington, D.C.  Requests to appear at the hearing are due by November 2, 2017.  Stakeholders interested in participating as parties in the final phase of the investigations must file an entry of appearance with the Secretary to the Commission no later than 21 days prior to the hearing date.  The pre-hearing staff report will be filed in the nonpublic record on October 27, 2017, and a public record will be issued thereafter.


 
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By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

On September 21, 2017, AkzoNobel, a member of the Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group (BRAG®), announced that its Specialty Chemicals business is studying plans to build a world-class plant for its Bermocoll® business, which supplies non-ionic cellulose ethers for the paint and buildings and construction industries.  AkzoNobel uses a unique solvent-free process to manufacture the water soluble and virtually odorless Bermocoll cellulose ethers.  The new facility will increase the production capacity for such cellulosic ethers to help meet growing global demand.  According to Geert Hofman, General Manager at AkzoNobel’s Bermocoll business, “[d]emand for Bermocoll is growing strongly due to the rising consumption of water-based paint and continued growth in the building and construction industry.”  AkzoNobel is considering a number of options for the location of the facility, including the expansion of operations at existing production sites in China, Italy, the Netherlands, and Sweden.


 

 
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By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

On September 11, 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt sent a letter to Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) in response to the request by Senator Whitehouse and four other Democratic Senators to explain Carl Icahn’s role in shaping the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program.  According to Pruitt, Icahn did not exercise excessive influence on the U.S. biofuels policy while acting as an advisor of President Trump.  The letter states that Icahn was one of many advisors that Trump met with during his confirmation and no assurances were made regarding any substantive issue, including the point of obligation.  Following an investigation into the e-mails of 39 of EPA’s senior leadership, EPA’s Office of Environmental Information (OEI) found no correspondence to or from Icahn or his company, CVR Energy, between February and August.  A spokesman for Senator Whitehouse stated that the letter was being reviewed “for accuracy and to determine whether additional steps are warranted.”

Tags: EPA, RFS, Ichan

 
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By Kathleen M. Roberts

Researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) have linked changes in rainfall and other environmental stressors during crop growth to potential deleterious effects on biofuel production.  The study demonstrates that the effect of weather conditions on crop yields can significantly impact the downstream processing of those crops for biofuel production.  Researchers compared the production of biofuel from switchgrass harvested after a major drought to switchgrass harvested after normal precipitation.  The switchgrass crop that experienced major drought conditions contained significantly higher levels of soluble sugar.  During the pre-treatment process, however, the sugar was chemically altered to form imidazoles and pyrazines, which inhibited fermentation of the sugar into biofuel.  The researchers proposed potential solutions to overcoming the issue, such as removing the soluble sugars before pretreatment or using microbial strains resistant to the toxic effects of imidazoles and pyrazines for fermentation.  Overall the research highlights the need to develop sustainable biofuel production systems capable of mitigating the deleterious effect of stress, such as fluctuations in precipitation.


 
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By Kathleen M. Roberts

The National Biodiesel Board (NBB) announced that on September 13, 2017, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed legislation that introduces bioheating fuel tax credits and bioheating fuel tax requirements to three New York counties.  The bill (S5422A) requires all home heating oil sold for use in Nassau, Suffolk, and Westchester counties on or after July 1, 2018, to contain at least five percent biodiesel (B5).  Assemblyman Steve Englebright and Senator Phil Boyle sponsored the bill, which received broad support from a range of industry and environmental advocates.  New York City, the largest municipal consumer of heating oil in the country, instituted a citywide two percent biodiesel requirement in 2012, which increases to five percent on October 1, 2017.  With the new legislation, the entire New York City Metropolitan Area, representing approximately 70 percent of the state’s heating oil market, will have a five percent biodiesel blending requirement.  NBB commended Governor Cuomo for signing the bill, stating that it will provide cleaner air for more New Yorkers and support local jobs in the clean energy sector.


 
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By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

On September 13, 2017, Neste, a member of the Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group (BRAG®), announced it is collaborating with Genève Aéroport to make flying more sustainable.  Neste will be providing renewable jet fuel for aircraft operations from Genève Aéroport.  The goal is for one percent of the jet fuel consumed annually at Genève Aéroport to be composed of renewable jet fuel by late 2018.  The collaboration supports Neste’s growth strategy for renewables in applications outside road traffic fuels and Genève Aéroport’s ambitious goals to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. 


 

 
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By Kathleen M. Roberts

On September 8, 2017, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) selected an additional four Productivity Enhanced Algae and Toolkits (PEAK) projects to receive up to $8.8 million.  The projects aim to develop high-impact tools and techniques that will increase the productivity of algae organisms to reduce the costs of producing algal biofuels and bioproducts.  In total, DOE has awarded over $16 million in funding to the initiative. 
 
The project winners include:

  • Colorado School of Mines, in partnership with Global Algae Innovations, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, and Colorado State University, which will use advanced directed evolution approaches in combination with high-performance, custom-built, solar simulation bioreactors to improve the productivity of robust wild algal strains;
  • University of California, San Diego, which will work with Triton Health and Nutrition, Algenesis Materials, and Global Algae Innovations on the development of genetic tools, high-throughput screening methods, and breeding strategies for green algae and cyanobacteria, targeting robust production strains;
  • University of Toledo, in partnership with Montana State University and the University of North Carolina, which will cultivate microalgae in high-salinity and high-alkalinity media to achieve productivities without needing to add concentrated carbon dioxide, and deliver molecular toolkits, including metabolic modeling combined with targeted genome editing; and
  • Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, which will ecologically engineer algae to encourage growth of bacteria that efficiently remineralize dissolved organic matter to improve carbon dioxide uptake and simultaneously remove excess oxygen.

 
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By Kathleen M. Roberts

On August 29, 2017, the government of the province of Ontario, Canada announced $25.8 million has been allocated to the Low Carbon Innovation Fund (LCIF) as a part of the province’s Climate Change Action Plan.  The funding will be used to support emerging, innovative technologies in areas such as alternative energy generation and conservation, new biofuels or bioproducts, next-generation transportation or novel carbon capture and usage technologies. 
 
Funding is available either from:

  • The Technology Demonstration stream, which aims to support the development and commercialization of innovative low carbon technologies through testing in real-world settings; or
  • The Technology Validation stream, which aims to fund proof-of-concept or prototype projects from eligible Ontario companies or academic organizations to help them get to market faster.
To be eligible for LCIF, projects must be conducted in Ontario and must show significant potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Ontario.  Ontario’s Climate Change Action Plan is key to its achievement of its goal of cutting greenhouse gas pollution to 15 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, 37 percent below by 2030, and 80 percent below by 2050.

 
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