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.

Researchers from the Centre for Novel Agricultural Products at the University of York worked with colleagues in France to discover variant straw plants whose cell walls are more easily broken down to make biofuels. Straw is an ideal plant to be used as biomass as it does not have food uses and contains a high number of polysaccharides that can be fermented into ethanol. Previously, straw has not been commercially viable as a biofuel feedstock as the cost of breaking down the straw to produce sugars is too high. This research identified 12 straw variants that are easier to digest without negatively affecting the strength of the plant. These findings could lead the way to viable uses for straw in biofuel production in the future. More information is available online.


 

Last week, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack spoke at a biofuel industry conference and addressed concerns raised over the likelihood that the final 2014 Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) rule would include renewable volume obligations (RVO) for total renewable fuel at levels below those included for 2014 under the statute. Generally, total renewable RVOs are comprised of corn-starch ethanol.


Secretary Vilsack projected a positive spin on this likelihood, reportedly telling the audience that the Obama Administration remains committed to working with the biofuels industry to get to 15 billion gallons of ethanol. The RFS would require the use of 15 billion gallons of total renewable fuel by 2022. It is generally predicted that the final 2014 RFS rule will raise the RVO levels for total renewable fuels over those contained in the proposed rule issued last year. RFS supporters in the biofuels industry, however, particularly those representing the corn ethanol industry, remain concerned that the reasoning behind final total renewable fuel RVOs will still be based partly on blend wall concerns argued by obligated parties and opponents to the law.
 

Tags: RFS, RVOs

 

On September 19, 2014, Secretary Vilsack was joined by Deputy Secretary of Energy, Dan Poneman, and Secretary of the Navy, Ray Mabus, to announce contract awards to three separate companies to produce over one million gallons per year of advanced drop-in jet biofuels to be used by the U.S. Department of Defense and the private transportation sector. The three companies receiving the $210 million in contract awards are Emerald Biofuels, Fulcrum Bioenergy, and Red Rock Biofuels. The announcement was shown via live webcast via the White House website. More information is available here and here.


This announcement comes as part of an ongoing joint, combined $510 million effort among the Departments of Energy, Agriculture, and the Navy to help facilitate the production and use of U.S. advanced drop-in biofuels for military and commercial use.
 


 

Inside EPA reports that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will take at least 12 more months before a proposed ruling for the 2015 Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) can be released. This pushes "issuance of a final version toward the end of the 2015 compliance year," while also violating the statutory mandate that EPA has to "issue the annual RFS targets before the compliance year begins." EPA did not meet that schedule in 2014 either, as the RFS is yet to be released and many groups are still trying to convince the Agency and others in Washington, D.C. to reverse the reduction of conventional biofuel blending volumes and advanced biofuel requirements that are in the proposed version of the 2014 RFS.

Tags: RFS

 

DOE recently released a notice of intent to issue a funding opportunity announcement (FOA), "Targeted Algal Biofuels and Bioproducts." The FOA will seek to reduce algal biofuels' projected cost by up to 50% through the creation of valuable bioproducts alongside fuels, thus achieving increased biomass productivity. See online.


 

On September 3, 2014, POET-DSM's Project LIBERTY in Emmetsburg, Iowa, celebrated its grand opening. This will be the first commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol plant to use corn waste as a feedstock, using biochemical conversion technologies (yeast and enzymes) to convert cellulosic biomass into transportation fuels. Project LIBERTY is the second of two DOE-funded cellulosic ethanol biorefineries to come on line within the past year. More information is available on the DOE Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) website. A documentary on the production of cellulosic ethanol at POET-DSM can be viewed online.


 

Energy Trends Insider posted a column analyzing the current status of global biofuels. Information for the analysis was derived from the Renewables 2014 Global Status Report, which was issued in June 2014. According to the column author, "the GSR is the most comprehensive report available when it comes to the global renewable energy picture." To view the analysis, go online.


Global Biofuels Demand Slows Down


According to an article posted at Biofuels International, biofuels growth in the 2013-18 period will be modest compared to the 2008-13 period. See online.
 


 

On August 19, 2014, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that the Agency is investing $25 million to support 247 businesses throughout the country under the Value-Added Producer Grant program (the program). The program was reauthorized under the 2014 Farm Bill. It is designed to "[help] agricultural producers grow their businesses by turning raw commodities into value-added products, expanding marketing opportunities and developing new uses for existing products." According to USDA's press release on the announcement, the program may be used for various purposes, including helping to grow the bioeconomy.


In fact, two of the grants will directly support further development of bioproducts. In South Carolina, ATP-SC, LLC will receive $200,000 to be used to "process various bio-crops, using Torre faction and related processes, turning them into a feedstock from which various bio-products can be made." And in Tennessee, Stony Creek Colors, Inc. will receive $199,987 to "be used as working capital for the recipient's bio-based textile colorants from farm-grown natural dye crops business."


A copy of USDA's press release, which includes a link to the full list of program recipients, is available online.
 


 

On August 12, 2014, Virent announced that it has received fuel registration from EPA for its BioForm® gasoline in blends up to 45 percent. According to the company's press release, this registration means that the BioForm® gasoline may now be used in on-highway motor vehicles. The EPA testing work for the registration was funded by Virent's partner Royal Dutch Shell.


Virent's CEO Lee Edwards remarked in the company's press release on the announcement that "[s]ecuring EPA registration of our BioForm® Gasoline is further confirmation of Virent's high quality drop-in fuel and is another step towards commercializing our technology to produce renewable fuels and chemicals from biobased feedstocks."


A copy of Virent's press release is available online.
 


 

In an August 11, 2014, filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, cellulosic biofuel company KiOR, Inc. (KiOR) reported that without any new financial commitments, the Company only has enough funding to operate through September 2014. This announcement is significant for the biofuels industry, as EPA had relied on KiOR's projected volumes of available cellulosic biofuels to make up a significant part of the 2013 cellulosic renewable volume obligations (RVO) under the federal RFS. In addition, biofuels and RFS supporters have cited KiOR as a success story for continued support for the advanced and cellulosic RVOs under the RFS.


 
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