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 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.

 

 

By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

On August 25, 2017, the Bioplastics Division of the Plastics Industry Association (PLASTICS) awarded DuPont Industrial Biosciences and Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) the 2017 Innovation in Bioplastics Award.  DuPont and ADM were recognized for their development of a method to produce furan dicarboxylic methyl ester (FDME) from fructose derived from corn starch.  Compared to traditional conversion methods used to produce the biobased monomer, the new method is more sustainable and results in higher yields, lower energy, and capital expenditures.  Patrick Krieger, PLASTICS Assistant Director of Regulatory and Technical Affairs, stated that “the breakthrough process […] will make bioplastics a competitive option in more applications across various industries.”  The new FDME process is currently being used to develop polytrimethylene furandicarboxylate (PTF), a 100 percent renewable and recyclable polymer with improved gas barrier properties, which can extend shelf life and lighten the weight of products in the beverage packaging industry.
 
On August 31, 2017, DuPont successfully merged with the Dow Chemical Company and began operating as a holding company under the name “DowDuPont™” with three divisions, specifically Agriculture, Materials Science, and Specialty Products.  DuPont’s Industrial Biosciences business is organized under the Specialty Products division.


 

By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

Sandia National Laboratories announced that it is helping HelioBioSys Inc. learn whether farming cyanobacteria on a large scale would be successful in producing sugar for biofuels.  HelioBioSys Inc. patented a group of three non-genetically modified marine cyanobacteria for the production of sugars, which can then be converted into a variety of fuels and chemicals.  Similar to algae, cyanobacteria grow in water and avoid competition with food crops for land, water, and other resources, making them a desirable renewable resource.  Cyanobacteria colonies, however, grow more efficiently than algae and excrete sugars directly into the water where they grow.  Whereas a typical algae farm may produce one gram of biomass per liter, small-scale testing of the cyanobacteria demonstrate that they can produce four to seven grams of sugar per liter of biomass, a 700 percent increase in efficiency.  Additionally, filtering sugar from water is simpler and more cost effective than extracting lipids from algae.
 
Now that HelioBioSys has proven the efficacy of the cyanobacteria in a closed, controlled, sterile laboratory, the company is working with Sandia researchers to understand where predation may cause issues by growing the organisms in large open air raceway systems, and to further study how the three types of cyanobacteria work together.


 

 

 

By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

In a paper forthcoming in the American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Iowa State researchers demonstrate that their tractable multi-market equilibrium model designed to evaluate alternative biofuel policies confirms that the current RFS program benefits the agriculture sector, and leads to overall welfare gains for the U.S.  The model considers biodiesel and ethanol markets and is simulated to analyze alternative scenarios, including the repeal of all RFS mandates, the 2015 level of mandates, and the projected 2022 RFS mandates.  The analysis shows that the U.S. benefited from lower gasoline, crude oil, and crude oil import prices.  Researchers estimated a welfare gain of $2.6 billion to the U.S. from the RFS program, primarily due to the impact of the policies on trade.  
 
Additionally, the analysis predicts that full implementation of the 2022 statutory mandates will be costly and produce limited welfare gains, stating that the agricultural terms of trade are a significant contribution to the RFS generating a positive impact.  To compensate for this, researchers recommend the mandate for corn-based ethanol production expand beyond the 15 billion gallon cap envisioned by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA).  The report also recommends a reduction of biodiesel production from current levels, and no cellulosic biofuel production.


 

By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) awarded researchers from Clemson University a $147,744, two-year grant to evaluate the effectiveness of producing biofuels to mitigate climate change.  The project will analyze how switchgrass fields and loblolly pine forests affect local temperatures through the exchange of water, energy, radiation, and carbon with the atmosphere; and quantify below- and above-ground carbon fluxes in both loblolly pine and switchgrass plantations and assess the greenhouse gas emissions of the full biofuel production chain for each crop.  The goal is to develop a comparative picture of the potential of these feedstocks to reduce carbon emissions when generating electricity by co-firing in a coal power plant, and ultimately to aid the development of effective land-use policies. 


 

 

By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

Sandia National Laboratories (Sandia) is investigating whether algae can be used to transform the Salton Sea, one of California’s largest and most polluted lakes, into a productive and profitable resource.  The Salton Sea Biomass Remediation project (SABRE), which is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO), aims to use algae to rid the lake of pollutants while creating a renewable, domestic source of fuel and other chemicals.   Algae are known to thrive in environments like the Salton Sea, which contains elevated levels of nitrogen and phosphorus due to agricultural runoff. 
 
In the first phase of the project, Sandia partnered with Texas A&M AgriLife Research to investigate the efficacy of a new algal farming method, known as the “Algal Turf Scrubber” floway system.  The algae consume the nitrogen and phosphorus from the polluted water that is pumped into the system using solar-powered pumps.  Clean water is then deposited back into the lake.  
 
The second phase began in May and the initial results indicate that the system can produce a quantity of algae comparable to raceways, the traditional algal farming method.  The algae being grown are native to the area which makes it more resistant to attacks from local pathogens and predators.  By helping to clean polluted water, Sandia researchers have overcome a major criticism of algae as a biofuel source, specifically that farming algae requires too much water.  Additionally, the removal of pollutants, such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and other fertilizer components, is expected to provide a model of remediation for algae blooms.


 
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