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 Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

On March 28, 2017, the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) announced the publication of the report on the current state of alternative aviation fuels that was developed using findings from peer-reviewed studies, scientific working groups, and BETO stakeholder input from the Alternative Aviation Fuel Workshop in September 2016.  The four key topic areas include:

 
■  Economic and technical competitiveness;
 
■   Fuel conversion and scale-up;
 
■  Environmental sustainability and life-cycle benefits; and
 
■  Feedstock and product supply chains.

Information gathered during the workshop, such as best practices to finance production facilities, effectively scale biorefining technologies, optimize production economics, and streamline certification processes, will be used to advance the understanding of technical barriers limiting the competitiveness of aviation biofuels.  Many public- and private-sector organizations have committed to adopting biobased aviation fuels because, unlike passenger vehicles, airplanes cannot be fueled with electricity yet.  More information on the Alternative Aviation Fuel Workshop is available in the Biobased and Renewable Product Advocacy Group (BRAG®) blog post “DOE Hosts Alternative Aviation Fuels Workshop, New LUC Emissions Research Discussed.”

 

On September 14-15, 2016, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) hosted a two-day workshop with lead experts on aviation biofuels exploring opportunities to increase competitiveness of alternative jet fuels. The Alternative Aviation Fuel Workshop was organized in four parallel breakout sessions covering the economic and technical competitiveness, fuel conversion and scale-up, environmental sustainability and life-cycle benefits, and feedstock and product supply chains of lignocellulosic biomass based aviation biofuels. During the workshop, Wally Tyner, a professor of Agricultural Economics from Purdue University, presented preliminary results from his team's research into greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the production of soybean based biodiesel. The study focuses on biofuels-induced land use change (LUC) emissions, critically finding that emissions could be as much as 70 percent lower than previously thought (based on induced land use change emissions recently adopted by the California Air Resources Board). Tyner's team used the most recent version of the Global Trade Analysis Project model that reflects changes in agriculture and biofuel that occurred between 2004 and 2011. This model includes expanded biofuel policies as well as improvements in agriculture efficiency such as double cropping. The combination of advancing LUC emissions science and improved agricultural practices are continually increasing confidence in the real environmental benefits of biobased fuels.


 

 

On October 22, 2014, Boeing and the Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC) opened the China-U.S. Aviation Biofuel Pilot Project, a demonstration facility that will turn used cooking oil into aviation biofuel at a rate of 170 gallons per day. This project will assess the feasibility of producing higher volumes of biofuel, as China has enough used cooking oil to make as much as 500 million gallons of biofuel annually. Working together since 2012, Boeing and COMAC support China's commercial aviation, and collaborate with Chinese universities and research institutions to further knowledge on aviation oil and other efficiency improvements. More information can be found in Boeing's press release about the Aviation Biofuel Pilot Project.


 

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.


 

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has announced that it will provide $40 million for a Center of Excellence (COE) on sustainable aviation fuel and the environment. The funds will be distributed in $4 million increments each year for the next ten years. Washington State University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology will be leading the effort, and several other universities will be involved. For a full list of participants and more information on the initiative, please see a copy of FAA's press release, which is available online.


This announcement illustrates the federal government's important role in and commitment to facilitating the ongoing development and commercialization of U.S. biofuels. This year, the FAA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) renewed their joint agreement to promote the development of aviation biofuels. They are aiming for one billion gallons of commercial aviation capacity by 2018.
 


 

This week, the National Advanced Biofuels Conference and Expo was held in Omaha, Nebraska. During the three-day conference, industry leaders presented on and discussed major issues facing the industry, from legal considerations to advancing the aviation biofuels industry, supply, and feedstock successes and challenges. During the conference, Michael McAdams, President of the Advanced Biofuels Association, and Joe Jobe, CEO of the National Biodiesel Board, discussed some of their current federal policy priorities and work. Both spoke about the importance of the federal RFS to the industry and stressed the need for industry to unite at this time when it is increasingly under attack.


McAdams addressed the work this year of the House Energy and Commerce Committee to examine and reform the RFS. He mentioned that Committee's two-day hearing this summer on the subject during which he testified on the importance of the policy. He stated his expectation that legislation to reform the RFS could be drafted and considered by the House of Representatives by mid-October. He urged everyone to contact their Members of Congress on behalf of the RFS, if their trade associations asked them to do so.


Jobe made similarly supportive statements of the RFS and the need for the industry to unite. In addition, he stated the importance to the biodiesel industry of not only the RFS, but of maintaining the biodiesel tax credit. He attributed both policies to the industry's recent substantial growth, and cited them as important to achieving the industry's new goal of making up 10 billion gallons of the fuel supply by 2022.


Also during the conference, on behalf of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Rural Development Acting Under Secretary Doug O'Brien announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is making payments to support the production of advanced biofuel. USDA is making nearly $15.5 million in payments to 188 producers through the Advanced Biofuel Payment Program. USDA remains focused on carrying out its mission, despite a time of significant budget uncertainty. This announcement is one part of the Department's efforts to strengthen the rural economy. The funding is being provided through USDA's Advanced Biofuel Payment Program, which was established in the 2008 Farm Bill. Under this program, payments are made to eligible producers based on the amount of advanced biofuels produced from renewable biomass, other than corn kernel starch. Examples of eligible feedstocks include but are not limited to: crop residue; animal, food, and yard waste; vegetable oil; and animal fat. Through the Advanced Biofuel Payment Program and other USDA programs, USDA is working to support the research, investment, and infrastructure necessary to build a strong biofuels industry that creates jobs and broadens the range of feedstocks used to produce renewable fuel. More than 290 producers in 47 states and territories have received $211 million in payments since the program's inception. It has supported the production of more than three billion gallons of advanced biofuel and the equivalent of more than 36 billion kilowatt hours of electric energy.