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.
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.
On July 31, 2014, EPA again extended the 2013 Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) annual compliance reporting and attest engagement reporting deadlines for obligated parties under the law. The Agency issued a direct final rule extending the deadlines to 30 and 90 days, respectively, after the final 2014 RFS rule is published in the Federal Register. EPA simultaneously issued a rule proposing the new deadlines on which the public may comment. The new deadlines will become effective September 29, 2014, barring any adverse comment. Copies of the pre-published versions of the direct final rule and the proposed rule are available online and online.
EPA's action is significant in light of the current battle over the fate of the federal RFS. By law, EPA is required to issue the following year's annual renewable volume obligations (RVO) for obligated parties by November 30. This means that EPA was expected to issue the final 2014 RFS rule by November 30, 2013. Instead, EPA did not propose the 2014 RFS RVOs until November 2013, and it is still working to issue in final those revised volume obligations. RFS opponents, including many obligated parties, have used this delay in their arguments against the law. While RFS supporters, including many in the biofuels industry, remain supportive of EPA, they too have publicly called for EPA to issue the 2014 RFS final rule as soon as possible. This latest extension by EPA suggests to all sides that the issuance of the final 2014 RFS rule may be further delayed.
BRAG has been reporting on ongoing 2014 RFS developments. A recent report focused on ongoing 2014 RFS advocacy efforts. A copy of that report is available online.
This week, DOE hosted its seventh annual biomass conference. This year's conference focused on "Growing the Future Bioeconomy." Over 500 attendees from throughout the country and around the world gathered in Washington, D.C. to discuss challenges and opportunities facing the industry. Keynote speakers included U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), David Danielson, Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy from DOE, and Kate Brandt from the Federal Environmental Executive, Council on Environmental Quality. Policy and technology innovations were discussed in breakout sessions with a focus on how to best position the bioeconomy for future growth. While biofuels were a focus of this conference, there was also interest in other bioproducts that can further grow the bioeconomy. This was explored in a breakout session titled "Integration of Supply Chains II: Bioproducts -- Enabling Biofuels and Growing the Bioeconomy," where industry professionals and researchers discussed how increasing production and commercialization of bioproducts can bring in more revenue while also spurring the production of biofuels. Photos, quotes, and insights shared by a variety of sources can be found on Twitter by searching #biomass2014. A copy of the conference agenda is available online. Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. (B&C®) and the Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group (BRAG®) were proud sponsors of Biomass 2014.
DOE will reportedly join the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) "Farm to Fly" initiative to help promote the development and use of sustainable aviation biofuels. Under the initiative, USDA, Boeing, and the Air Transport Association of America are working together to accelerate the availability of commercially viable and sustainable aviation biofuels in the United States to increase domestic energy security, establish regional supply chains, and support rural development. The initiative was renewed in 2013 for another five years. More information on the "Farm to Fly" program is available online.