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 Lynn L. Bergeson

On July 24, 2018, Andrew Wheeler, newly appointed Acting Administrator at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), held a briefing that outlined his plans for the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).  He plans on following Scott Pruitt’s work overhauling the policy, including counting ethanol exports toward annual biofuels quotas and bringing corn and oil groups together to overhaul the RFS system.  Wheeler also signed a final notice approving a variety of pathways for renewable fuel derived from sorghum, including biofuel and biodiesel.  The newly approved pathways meet greenhouse gas emission (GHG) reduction requirements to generate credits or Renewable Identification Numbers (RIN) for biomass-based diesel and advanced biofuels under the RFS program.

Tags: Wheeler, EPA, RFS

 
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By Lynn L. Bergeson

On July 20, 2018, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit (Fourth Circuit) ruled that EPA must reconsider its denial of Ergon-West Virginia, Inc.’s (Ergon) application for a small refinery waiver under the RFS.  The Fourth Circuit stated that EPA relied on an “error-riddled” analysis when it denied the exemption.  Ergon is a small refinery based in West Virginia (with a daily production of 23,500 barrels) that produces primarily diesel which is not easily blended and sold in the local market.  The number of small refinery hardship waivers has jumped in recent years, with 48 waivers granted in 2016 and 2017, prompting outcry from the biofuel industry that the increased waivers undercut the RFS program.


 
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By Lynn L. Bergeson

On July 20, 2018, the United Kingdom’s (UK) Department of Transportation launched a consultation to explore the impact of introducing E10 fuel to the UK market.  Earlier this year, changes were made to the Renewable Transport Fuels Obligation (RTFO) that requires transport fuel supplies to increase the amount of renewable fuel supplied in the UK beyond the current five percent ethanol blend, up to a limit of ten percent by 2032.  This plan is a component of the Road to Zero Strategy, announced on July 9, 2018, a commitment by the UK government to dramatically reduce transport emissions and move towards a zero emissions future.  The consultation is seeking views on: 

  • Whether and how to introduce E10 petrol in the UK;
  • The reintroduction of an E5 protection grade to ensure standard petrol remains available at an affordable price; and
  • The introduction of new fuel labeling at petrol pumps and on new cars.

Responses are being accepted through September 16, 2018.

Tags: UK, Biofuel, E10

 
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By Lynn L. Bergeson

On July 18, 2018, Neste, a member of the Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group (BRAG®) announced that it is exploring the use of waste plastic as a raw material in fossil refining, with a plan to start an industrial scale trial during 2019.  If successful, Neste could process one million tons of plastic waste annually by 2030.  The chemical recycling process uses “waste plastics as raw material for the refining and petrochemical industries to convert into end products such as fuels, chemicals, and new plastics.”  This method compliments traditional mechanical recycling by significantly increasing the possible uses of waste plastics and creating greater demand for chemical recycling in general.  To accelerate development, Neste is looking for partners across the value chain, including in waste management and upgrading technologies.


 

 
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By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton

The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) signaled on June 29, 2018, its intent to prepare a “programmatic environmental impact statement (EIS) in connection with potential changes to the regulations regarding the importation, interstate movement, and environmental release of certain genetically engineered [(GE)] organisms.”  The EIS will have a significant impact on how APHIS chooses to amend its regulation of GE organisms.  APHIS requested comment on issues to be considered in preparing the EIS, as well as how to define the scope of the alternatives and environmental impacts.  Comments are due July 30, 2018.
 
Our full memorandum provides some background, context, and a commentary regarding APHIS’ announcement.  

Tags: USDA, APHIS, GE

 
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By Lynn L. Bergeson

On July 18, 2018, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) held a Public Hearing for Proposed Renewable Fuel Standards (RFS) for 2019 and Biomass-Based Diesel Volume for 2020.  The National Biodiesel Board (NBB) testified at this meeting that EPA should set the 2020 Biomass-based Diesel volume at 2.8 billion gallons, stating that it aligns with the goals that Congress set for the RFS program, the volume is achievable in 2020, and that it will better fulfill the promise of the RFS program.  These statements come on the heels of a July 12, 2018, request by the Trump administration that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit throw out a lawsuit over previous small refiner hardship exemption waivers that EPA had granted.  Government lawyers argued that the lawsuit did not challenge a “final” agency action, so individual exemptions must be challenged in local courts.  EPA’s small refinery hardship exemptions have doubled in 2016 and 2017 when compared with previous years, with NBB estimating a decreased demand of 300 million gallons for biodiesel.  NBB argued that increasing the RFS for 2019 and 2020 is needed to reduce the uncertainty that has been caused by issuing the small refinery hardship exemptions.

Tags: Biofuel, RFS

 
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By Lynn L. Bergeson

On July 16, 2018, Anellotech and Suntory announced that a new milestone had been reached in developing a 100 percent biobased plastic bottle. Anellotech is using a thermal catalytic process called Bio-TCatTM to confirm non-food based feedstocks into BTX aromatics, renewable chemicals that are structurally identical to traditional plastic components.  The BTX is now undergoing purification studies to make bio-paraxylene, a key chemical for the renewable bottles. David Sudolsky, President & CEO of Anellotech, stated “[f]ollowing our announcements earlier this year on process development and continuous operation, we are glad that significant progress continues at our TCat-8® pilot plant. We continue to move the technology towards commercialization, and shipping the pilot plant’s product for downstream evaluation is another major milestone.  Having collaborated with Suntory since 2012 to advance development of cost-competitive bio-aromatics, we hope bio-based plastics made from our Bio-TCatTM process and a 100% bio-based bottle soon become a reality.”


 
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By Lynn L. Bergeson

On July 16, 2018, the National Science Foundation (NSF) announced a $12 million investment in the Semiconductor Synthetic Biology for Information Processing and Storage Technologies (SemiSynBio) program, a partnership between NSF and Semiconductor Research Corporation (SRC).  Researches expect that integrating biological structures with semiconductor technology could increase current data storage capabilities by 1,000 times, while using less energy than current technology.  "While today's data storage devices are smaller and more powerful than ever before, we have the potential to catalyze a new wave of innovation that will push the boundaries for the future," stated Erwin Gianchandani, acting NSF assistant director for Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE).  Further, "[t]his research will pave the way for devices with much greater storage capacity and much lower power usage. Imagine, for example, having the entire contents of the Library of Congress on a device the size of your fingernail."   The funded projects include:

  • DNA-based electrically readable memories:  Joshua Hihath, University of California-Davis; Manjeri Anantram, University of Washington; Yonggang Ke, Emory University.
  • An on-chip nanoscale storage system using chimeric DNA:  Olgica Milenkovic, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
  • Highly scalable random access DNA data storage with nanopore-based reading:  Hanlee Ji, Stanford University. 
  • Nucleic Acid Memory: William Hughes, Boise State University.
  • Very large-scale genetic circuit design automation:  Christopher Voigt, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Kate Adamala, University of Minnesota-Twin Cities; Eduardo Sontag, Northeastern University.
  • Redox-enabled Bio-Electronics for Molecular Communication and Memory (RE-BIONICS):  William Bentley, University of Maryland College Park.
  • YeastOns:  Neural Networks Implemented in Communicating Yeast Cells: Rebecca Schulman, Johns Hopkins University; Eric Klavins, University of Washington; Andrew Ellington, University of Texas at Austin.
  • Cardiac Muscle-Cell-Based Coupled Oscillator Networks for Collective Computing:  Pinar Zorlutuna, University of Notre Dame.

 
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By Lynn L. Bergeson

On July 3, 2018, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it was holding a public hearing for the proposed rule “Renewable Fuel Standard Program:  Standards for 2019 and Biomass-Based Diesel Volume for 2020” on July 18, 2018, at 9:00 a.m. in Ypsilanti, Michigan.  83 Fed. Reg. 31098.  The proposed rule was published in the Federal Register on July 10, 2018.  83 Fed. Reg. 32024.   The notice states that the public hearing will provide interested parties the “opportunity to present data, views, or arguments concerning the [proposed rule],” and “EPA may ask clarifying questions during the oral presentations but will not respond to the presentations.”  Parties wishing to testify at the hearing should notify Julia MacAllister at (734) 214-4131 or via e-mail at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) by July 13, 2018.  EPA will be posting a complete set of documents related to the proposal for public inspection on http://www.regulations.gov, Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OAR-2018-0167.  Comments on the Proposed Rule are due by August 17, 2018.  More information on the proposed rule is available in our blog item “EPA Releases Proposed Rule Setting 2019 RFS Requirements.”


 
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By Lynn L. Bergeson

On July 10, 2018, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Office of Procurement and Property Management announced it was amending the Guidelines for Designating Biobased Products for Federal Procurement to add 12 sections that designate product categories within which biobased products will be afforded federal procurement preference by federal agencies and their contractors via a final rule.  83 Fed. Reg. 31841.  The Federal Register publication states that this final rule “designates the proposed product categories within which biobased products will be afforded Federal procurement preference” and that “USDA has determined that each of the product categories being designated under this rulemaking meets the necessary statutory requirements; that they are being produced with biobased products; and that their procurement will carry out the following objectives of section 9002:  to improve demand for biobased products; to spur development of the industrial base through value-added agricultural processing and manufacturing in rural communities; and to enhance the Nation’s energy security by substituting biobased products for products derived from imported oil and natural gas.”
 
The final rule revises the definition of the following categories in an effort to clarify or add examples of intermediates that can be included in each of these categories:

  • Intermediates -- plastic resins (revised to include the term “polymers”);
  • Intermediates -- chemicals (revised to list additional materials such as viscosity reducers, rheology modifiers, adhesion agents, polyols, and polymers);
  • Intermediates -- paint and coating components (revised to add additional examples of paint and coating components, such as humectants, open time additives, and polymers); and
  • Intermediates -- binders (revised to expand on the types of chemicals that typically make up binders, to include examples of materials that binders can be used to formulate, and to include the phrase “binders are generally polymers or polymer precursors (such as epoxies) and include the polymeric materials used to formulate coatings, adhesives, sealants and elastomers”).
This final rule will become effective on August 9, 2018.

 
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By Lynn L. Bergeson

On July 2, 2018, Midwest AgEnergy announced that the North Dakota Industrial Commission, a division of North Dakota’s State Department of Mineral Resources, Oil and Gas, had awarded it a $83,810 grant to research using North Dakota barley to produce ethanol with a protein concentrate byproduct for use in aquaculture.  This would be the first ethanol produced North Dakota from a feedstock other than corn, and would include an expansion of the Dakota Spirit AgEnergy (DSA) ethanol plant.  "We're looking to move ahead with a more formal study on a barley protein concentrate project," stated Jeff Zueger, CEO of Midwest AgEnergy, the parent company of DSA.  "If built, it would be a co-located process at DSA that would dehull and mill barley to produce high protein feed and a feedstock for the ethanol process."


 
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By Lynn L. Bergeson

On July 5, 2018, VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd announced that it had developed a 100 percent biobased, thermally formable, biodegradable material, that is suitable for furniture applications.  This product is an attractive alternative to wood and other biocomposite materials that are already available in the market, with the added benefit of formality and coloring properties.  "All the goals we set were achieved: the material is 100% bio-based, cellulose fibres account for a significant proportion, it looks good and it has excellent performance characteristics," states Lisa Wikström, Research Team Leader from VTT.  At the end of the product life-cycle, it can be re-used, composted (degrading into carbon dioxide and water), or burned for energy.


 
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