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.


 

The National Research Council (NRC) of the National Academies hosted the first public meeting for the Committee on Genetically Engineered Crops: Past Experience and Future Prospects on September 15-17, 2014. This public meeting was the first of a series of events that are part of NRC's ongoing study to determine the benefits and risks of genetically engineered crops. A webinar related to this study has been scheduled for October 1, 2014, and more information is available online. A transcript of the public meeting held September 15-17, 2014, is available online.

Tags: GMO, research

 

A custom designed circulating fluidized bed (CFB) has been created so that engineers at Southwest Research Institute can convert crude oil and biofeedstocks into refined fuel samples for clients more efficiently than previously possible. The CFB is able to produce half a liter per hour of samples, and is able to test both fast pyrolysis processes as well as fluidized catalytic cracking refinery unit operations. This is in part due to the 15 foot tall, 150 square foot CFB being much larger than conventional testing equipment which produces much smaller quantities of material.


More information on Southwest Research Institute's CFB is available online.
 


 

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has developed a computational platform known as Systems Biology Knowledgebase, or KBase, designed to help the biological community analyze, store, and share data. The project is led by scientists at DOE's Lawrence Berkeley, Argonne, Brookhaven, and Oak Ridge national laboratories. KBase compiles information on plants and microbes, and the interactions among them with the objective of improving the environment and energy production. KBase can be accessed at http://kbase.us/. More information on KBase and its objectives can be found online.


 

The International Energy Agency (IEA) released the third annual Medium-Term Renewable Energy Market Report. The report provides forecasts for global biofuel and renewable energy growth. Within the report, the authors predict that the expansion of renewable energy will slow over the next five years unless policy certainty is diminished. For more information, see online.


 

The Catalysis Center for Energy Innovation (CCEI) at the University of Delaware announced a research project with the Plant PET Technology Collaborative (PTC) that will address the production of plastics with properties useful in fabric, food, and beverage packaging and car parts. Researchers hope to further the 2012 CCEI advances that led to a high yield (>90 percent) p-xylene process from renewable biomass. See online.


 

Chemistry World reports that ionic liquids could potentially be made more cheaply by recycling by-products from biofuel production processes. These ionic liquids derived from biofuel waste could then actually be turned to extracting sugars from biomass to be made into fuels. See online.


 

On August 20, 2014, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced that it intends to issue a Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) sometime in September to help reduce the cost of algae biofuels and bioproducts. DOE explains in the announcement that the Agency's Bioenergy Technologies Office's (BETO) "2019 projected state of technology for the cost of algal biofuels is modeled at about $7 per gallon gasoline gallon equivalent, without valuable co-products such as animal feed or commodity chemicals. This FOA seeks to improve the value proposition for algal biofuels by employing multi-disciplinary consortia to produce algae bioproduct precursors (alongside fuel components), as well as single-investigator or small-team technology development projects focused on crop protection and CO2 utilization technologies for improving biomass productivity. BETO hopes these strategies will enable a 30-50% cost reduction for algal biofuels." The FOA will be available online. Currently, the formal notice of intent to issue this FOA is available via this link.


A copy of DOE's announcement is available online.
 


 

On August 20, 2014, DOE's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) announced a new NREL study demonstrating a potentially more economical way to use lignin to make renewable fuels and products. NREL states in the study that "[o]verall, this work demonstrates that the use of aromatic catabolic pathways enables an approach to valorize lignin by overcoming its inherent heterogeneity to produce fuels, chemicals, and materials."


A copy of the announcement is available online. A copy of the full study is available online.
 


 

The Energy Biosciences Institute at the University of Illinois recently helped fund two research projects that provide recommendations to prevent invasive species from being planted as new crops and used for bioenergy production. The two studies are: (1) "Resolving Regulatory Uncertainty: Legislative Language for Potentially Invasive Bioenergy Feedstocks"; and (2) "Bioenergy Feedstocks at Low Risk for Invasion in the U.S.: A 'White List' Approach."


The first study recognizes that considerations related to potential invasiveness are not now required as part of EPA's approval process for new fuel pathways under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). Accordingly, the study defines "invasive" and suggests regulations that could become a part of the RFS.


The second study establishes a "white list" of 49 plants for bioenergy production that would be considered low-risk for potential invasiveness.


The College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences at the University of Illinois recently published an article on the two research projects. That article is available online.
 


 
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