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.

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Ligia Duarte Botelho, M.A.

On January 13, 2020, U.S. Representative Cindy Axne announced that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has responded to a bipartisan letter submitted by members of the House Biofuels Caucus (HBC) requesting an investigation into misuse of small refinery exemptions (SREs) by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Submitted in August 2019, the bipartisan letter requested that GAO examine EPA’s review and approval of SRE waivers under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). HBC’s letter also included a request for inspection of the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) viability scores for SREs reviewed in 2018. HBC’s concerns were mostly related to the economic consequences to rural communities due to the exemption of approximately four billion gallons of fuel from the RFS in 2018. In addition to the aforementioned requests, HBC members asked that GAO also consider the following questions:

  • Has DOE changed the criteria, the interpretation of the criteria, the methodology, or any other significant aspect of how it makes its recommendations to EPA for SREs?
     
  • Other than the viability score provided by DOE, what other factors are being considered by EPA in awarding SRE waivers? How has this changed since the previous Administration?
     
  • Since the development of DOE’s 2011 methodology, what percentage of applications that received a disqualifying viability score from the DOE were granted?
     
  • How many times has DOE recommended a partial waiver for a refinery?
     
  • Has EPA granted a partial waiver?
     
  • Does EPA or DOE consider the economic viability of the parent refiner company when considering an application from an individual refinery?
     
  • Does DOE take Renewable Identification Numbers (RIN) into account when assessing relief petitions?

On January 10, 2020, GAO responded to the bipartisan request, agreeing to review matters related to the approval of SRE waivers and stating that it will begin its work shortly. Mark E. Gaffigan, Managing Director of GAO’s Natural Resources and Environment, and his staff will be in charge of the investigation.

In August 2019, Axne had also submitted a letter to EPA’s Acting Inspector General (IG), Charles Sheehan, requesting an investigation of this matter. In its response letter to HBC, GAO stated that it will be in contact with the cognizant IG’s office to ensure that efforts are not duplicated.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On January 10, 2020, DOE announced that it will provide up to $75 million for research and development (R&D) of sustainable bioenergy crops within a period of five years. The bioenergy crops to be developed should be tolerant of environmental stress and resilient to changing environment conditions. Funded projects will focus on better comprehending the genetic and physiological mechanisms influencing plant productivity, resource use, and resilience, among other factors. DOE is encouraging researchers to draw on resources of its Office of Science user facilities and to take advantage of “omics” tools and techniques, including genomics, proteomics, and metabolomics. Funding applications will be open for industry, non-profit research institutions, and universities with possible collaborators at DOE national laboratories and other federal agencies. Beginning this fiscal year, funding will be awarded in the form of five-year grants ranging from $1 to $3 million per year. DOE’s funding opportunity announcement (FOA) and a companion laboratory call can be accessed here.

Tags: DOE, Biofuel

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On January 8, 2020, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced the launch of its Energy Storage Grand Challenge (the Grand Challenge). A comprehensive program to accelerate the development, commercialization, and utilization of next-generation energy storage technologies, the Grand Challenge builds on the $158 million Advanced Energy Storage Initiative announced in President Trump’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 budget request. U.S. Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette states that the Grand Challenge will address the creation and sustainability of U.S. global leadership in energy storage utilization and exports, with a secure and independent manufacturing supply chain. Through a series of research and development (R&D) funding opportunities, prizes, partnerships, and other programs, the Grand Challenge aims to achieve the following goals by 2030:

  • Technology Development -- through the establishment of a comprehensive R&D portfolio;
     
  • Technology Transfer -- through the acceleration of the technology pipeline from research to private-sector adoption;
     
  • Policy and Valuation -- through the development of best models, data, and analysis to inform effective value propositions and use cases for storage technologies;
     
  • Manufacturing and Supply Chain -- through design of new technologies that will strengthen U.S. manufacturing, recyclability, and independence from foreign sources; and
     
  • Workforce -- through training the next generation of American workers to meet 21st century electric grid and energy storage value chain needs.

As its first step in the Grand Challenge, DOE plans on releasing requests for information (RFI) on the key questions and issues the challenge seeks to address in the near future. Also in the coming weeks, DOE intends to host a series of workshops with key stakeholders to share information about various storage technologies, barriers to their deployment, and overcoming these barriers to bring technologies to market.

Tags: DOE, Challenge

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On December 10, 2019, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) published a notice of intent to issue a joint Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) with the Advanced Manufacturing Office (AMO), titled “BOTTLE: Bio-Optimized Technologies to Keep Thermoplastics out of Landfills and the Environment.” This FOA supports the Department’s Plastics Innovation Challenge, a comprehensive program to accelerate innovations in energy-efficient plastics recycling technologies by supporting high-impact research and development for plastics. The primary goal of the FOA is to develop new bio-based plastics that are capable of efficient recyclability and developing improved recycling strategies that can break down existing plastics into chemical building blocks that can be used to make higher value products.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On December 6, 2019, DOE announced that the applications currently being accepted for free assistance preparing Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) FY 2020 Phase I Release 2 applications. There are a variety of eligibility criteria, and because space is limited, DOE Phase 0 applicants are admitted on a first-come, first-served basis. Each small business, however, is evaluated for selection to receive administrative and technical assistance based on the following selection criteria:

  • The small business offers technology innovations relevant to the current and open DOE SBIR/STTR research topics and subtopics (topics can be accessed at science.osti.gov/sbir);
     
  • The small business is or will be prior to award an eligible small business per 13 CFR Section 121.702;
     
  • The small business has not previously applied for an SBIR or STTR award from the DOE; and
     
  • Small business and/or owner has not received any Phase 0 technical assistance from DOE.

Qualified small businesses can submit an application at www.dawnbreaker.com/doephase0/apply.php.

Tags: DOE, SBIR, STTR

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Ligia Duarte Botelho, M.A.

First published last week, on November 25, 2019, the article titled “Consolidated Production of Coniferol and Other High-Value Aromatic Alcohols Directly from Lignocellulosic Biomass” has gained media attention across the globe. Given the finite geological oil reserves, the competition to identify alternative biobased and biorefinery processes continues to grow. According to the article, the aim in identifying such products is not only to find alternatives, but most importantly to “overcome significant costs and productivity barriers.” In the aforementioned article, published in the Green Chemistry Journal, scientists write about a novel technique using the biocatalytic production of coniferol (a versatile chemical block) directly from lignocellulosic biomass. The process to do so involves a biocatalytic treatment of lignocellulose, which releases and converts ferulic acid with feruloyl esterase (XynZ), carboxylic acid reductase (CAR), and aldo-keto reductase (AKR). This catalytic reaction achieves the equivalent release of ferulic acid from lignocellulose compared to alkaline hydrolysis, also displaying efficient conversion of ferulic acid to coniferol. Consolidating a biodegradation-biotransformation strategy for the production of high value fine chemicals from waste plant biomass, this novel process offers a potential to minimize environmental waste and add value to agro-industrial residues. A number of grants, including from the São Paulo Research Foundation and David Phillips Fellowship, supported the study outlined in the journal article. Grants of these types continue to arise as the need to address resource efficiency and, therefore, biobased chemical production has become the focus of various government agencies in many countries. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) for example, often provides scientist from all backgrounds similar opportunities.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

From December 11 through 12, 2019, DOE’s Office of Bioenergy Technologies Office will host a workshop titled “Plastics for a Circular Economy” in Denver, Colorado. The workshop will include discussions on technology solutions to address plastic waste and focus on the development of new recycling and degradation strategies. The objective of the workshop will be to identify early-stage applied research problems in the aforementioned area that need to be addressed both in the long- and near-term. Representatives from waste management facilities, circular economy experts, commercial plastic producers, and biobased plastic innovators will be some of the participants.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On November 8, 2019, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced that $12 million will be available in funds for new projects to support research and development (R&D) and education and workforce development to increase plastics recovery, recycling, reuse, and remanufacturing. Designed for U.S. manufacturers, 12 to 18 exploratory and full R&D projects and four to eight education and workforce development projects will be funded by DOE’s Reducing Embodied Energy and Decreasing Emissions (REMADE) Manufacturing Institute. REMADE was founded in 2017 in partnership with DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s (EERE) Advanced Manufacturing Office. The REMADE Manufacturing Institute aims to enable early-stage applied R&D of technologies that could dramatically reduce embodied energy and carbon dioxide emissions resulting from industrial-scale materials production and processing. This particular opportunity will focus on projects that align with REMADE’s research focus areas:

  • Development of novel manufacturing and recycling technologies to increase secondary feedstock use by 20 percent without loss of properties or performance;
     
  • Design of alternatives to increase recovery, recycling, reuse, and remanufacturing of products at the end of their life cycles;
     
  • Development of technologies to separate and recover specific polymers and metal in e-waste materials;
     
  • Technological advancements to remove pigments from polymers; and
     
  • Provision of cutting-edge training in recycling for the American workforce and in support of the development of a new REMADE professional certificate program.
     

REMADE is currently accepting letters of intent, which are due today. Full proposals are due on December 18, 2019. Further submission information is available on REMADE’s website.

Tags: DOE, Plastics

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On November 12, 2019, DOE published a Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) for topics for its Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)/Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Phase I Release 2 funding. Participating in this FOA are the following DOE program offices:

  • Office of Cyber Security, Energy Security, and Emergency Response (CESER);
     
  • Office of Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation (NNSA);
     
  • Office of Electricity (OE);
     
  • EERE;
     
  • Office of Environmental Management (EM);
     
  • Office of Fossil Energy (FE);
     
  • Office of Fusion Energy Sciences (FES);
     
  • Office of High Energy Physics (HEP); and
     
  • Office of Nuclear Energy (NE).
     

Interested applicants may register for one or more of DOE’s FY 2020 Phase I Release 2 SBIR/STTR Topics webinars. Presented by DOE Topic Managers, a series of three 90-minute webinars will be available:

For those unable to participate in the live webinars, they will be recorded and made available online.

In addition to the aforementioned webinars, a fourth one will be held to discuss the FOA and application process. This webinar will be held on December 19, 2019.

Tags: DOE, Funding, SBIR

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On October 30, 2019, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) announced open meetings of the Biomass Research and Development (R&D) Technical Advisory Committee. The first meeting is scheduled for November 19, 2019, from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (EST), and the second meeting will take place on November 20, 2019, from 8:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. (EST) in Washington, D.C. The purpose of the committee is to advise the Secretaries of Energy and Agriculture with respect to the Biomass Initiative. The committee also evaluates and makes recommendations in writing to the Biomass R&D Board. The meetings will address the advice and guidance the committee will promote for R&D leading to the production of biobased fuels and biobased products. The meetings’ tentative agenda includes updates on the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Biomass R&D activities, presentations from government and industry that provide insights on the intersection of forest health and bioenergy growth, and updates on DOE Biomass R&D activities. Written and oral statements will be accepted. The meeting summary will be available for public review here.

Tags: DOE, EERE, Biomass

 
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