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

Researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) have linked changes in rainfall and other environmental stressors during crop growth to potential deleterious effects on biofuel production.  The study demonstrates that the effect of weather conditions on crop yields can significantly impact the downstream processing of those crops for biofuel production.  Researchers compared the production of biofuel from switchgrass harvested after a major drought to switchgrass harvested after normal precipitation.  The switchgrass crop that experienced major drought conditions contained significantly higher levels of soluble sugar.  During the pre-treatment process, however, the sugar was chemically altered to form imidazoles and pyrazines, which inhibited fermentation of the sugar into biofuel.  The researchers proposed potential solutions to overcoming the issue, such as removing the soluble sugars before pretreatment or using microbial strains resistant to the toxic effects of imidazoles and pyrazines for fermentation.  Overall the research highlights the need to develop sustainable biofuel production systems capable of mitigating the deleterious effect of stress, such as fluctuations in precipitation.


 

By Kathleen M. Roberts

The National Biodiesel Board (NBB) announced that on September 13, 2017, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed legislation that introduces bioheating fuel tax credits and bioheating fuel tax requirements to three New York counties.  The bill (S5422A) requires all home heating oil sold for use in Nassau, Suffolk, and Westchester counties on or after July 1, 2018, to contain at least five percent biodiesel (B5).  Assemblyman Steve Englebright and Senator Phil Boyle sponsored the bill, which received broad support from a range of industry and environmental advocates.  New York City, the largest municipal consumer of heating oil in the country, instituted a citywide two percent biodiesel requirement in 2012, which increases to five percent on October 1, 2017.  With the new legislation, the entire New York City Metropolitan Area, representing approximately 70 percent of the state’s heating oil market, will have a five percent biodiesel blending requirement.  NBB commended Governor Cuomo for signing the bill, stating that it will provide cleaner air for more New Yorkers and support local jobs in the clean energy sector.


 

By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

On September 13, 2017, Neste, a member of the Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group (BRAG®), announced it is collaborating with Genève Aéroport to make flying more sustainable.  Neste will be providing renewable jet fuel for aircraft operations from Genève Aéroport.  The goal is for one percent of the jet fuel consumed annually at Genève Aéroport to be composed of renewable jet fuel by late 2018.  The collaboration supports Neste’s growth strategy for renewables in applications outside road traffic fuels and Genève Aéroport’s ambitious goals to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. 


 

 

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 September 5, 2017, AkzoNobel, a member of the Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group (BRAG®), announced that its Specialty Chemicals business signed an application agreement with Itaconix to develop innovative biobased chelates for consumer and industrial detergents and cleaners.  According to Peter Kuijpers, AkzoNobel General Manager of Chelates and Micronutrients, biobased chelates are replacements for the phosphate compounds that are being phased out of consumer and commercial cleaning products due to environmental concerns.  This is the second partnership to emerge since the companies signed a joint development agreement in January to explore opportunities for biobased polymer production.  The first application agreement focused on the development of Itaconix’s proprietary polymers for use in the coatings and construction industries, as reported by the BRAG blog post, AkzoNobel Announces First Biobased Polymer Application Agreement With Itaconix.  All products stemming from the collaboration will be marketed under AkzoNobel’s Dissolvine® brand.


 

By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

On August 21, 2017, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NAS) released their interim report titled A Proposed Framework for Identifying Potential Biodefense Vulnerabilities Posed by Synthetic Biology.  The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) asked NAS to develop the framework to:

  • Guide an assessment of the security concerns related to advances in synthetic biology;
  • Assess the level of concern warranted for various advances and identify areas of vulnerability; and
  • Prioritize options to address these vulnerabilities.
The report provides an overview of the categories of synthetic biology and a set of initial questions aimed at guiding the assessment of concern related to the technologies and applications of the field.  The framework outlines factors for assessing the levels of concern that each technology and application presents in terms of malicious use, as well as factors for assessing the capability for mitigation.  The final report will use the framework to provide DOD with an assessment of concerns and mitigation options by developing informed answers to the questions posed in the interim report.

 

 

By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

On August 31, 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that requirements for reformulated gasoline and low volatility gasoline would be waived through September 15, 2017, for Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Texas, Louisiana, and the District of Columbia.  EPA exercised its emergency fuel waiver authority to help ensure an adequate supply of fuel throughout the South, Southeast, and the Mid-Atlantic in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.  As required by law, EPA and the Department of Energy (DOE) evaluated the impacts of Hurricane Harvey on refineries in the Gulf Coast based on strict criteria provided in the Clean Air Act (CAA) and determined that granting a short-term waiver was consistent with the public interest.  The CAA requires that waivers be limited as much as possible in terms of their geographic scope and duration.  EPA and DOE continue to monitor the fuel supply situation and will act if it is determined that extreme and unusual supply circumstances exist in other areas.


 

By Kathleen M. Roberts

On August 25, 2017, the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) announced that the European Commission confirmed the extension of the Red Tractor voluntary scheme for biofuels for an initial three months.  Red Tractor is a certification body used to prove that crops meet European Union (EU) sustainability requirements.  To receive public support or count towards mandatory national renewable energy targets, biofuels used in the EU must comply with the EU's sustainability criteria.  One way for a company to demonstrate compliance is to participate in voluntary schemes recognized by the European Commission.
 
As with the other voluntary schemes, Red Tractor was approved for a period of five years, which expired on August 1, 2017.  On August 24, 2017, NFU called on the Commission to urgently address concerns that Red Tractor-approved crops will no longer be able to enter the European biofuels market.  The Commission responded by confirming that the Red Tractor scheme continues to be considered compliant with the EU Renewable Energy Directive (RED) sustainability criteria until November 5, 2017, pending another five-year approval.


 
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