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 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 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.


 

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.

On August 14, 2017, Flint Hills Resources, a member of the Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group (BRAG®), announced that construction is underway to install a new, bolt-on technology, known as Maximized Stillage Co-Products™ (MSC), at its ethanol plant in Fairmont, Nebraska.  The MSC technology will be used to convert a portion of the distiller grains, a coproduct of ethanol manufacturing, to a high protein animal and fish feed ingredient, known as NexPro™.  NexPro will be a combination of corn gluten (protein) and spent yeast with close to 50 percent protein and an improved amino acid profile, compared to traditional corn gluten meal.
 
The $50 million project, which involves the addition of a new building and two protein dryers, is expected to last 12 months.  The patented MSC technology was developed by Fluid Quip Process Technologies (FQPT) exclusively for dry mill ethanol plants to separate protein from the solids leftover after ethanol distillation.  Once isolated, the protein is dried into a high-quality meal.


 
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