The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced up to $25 million in funding to reduce the cost of algal biofuels to less than $5 per gasoline gallon equivalent (gge) by 2019. On behalf of the Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO), the DOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy posted a notice of a funding opportunity, entitled "Targeted Algal Biofuels and Bioproducts" (TABB). The TABB Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) looks for pathways to overcome the key barriers to commercializing algal biofuels: the high cost of producing algal biomass and the low yield of target biofuel and bioproduct feedstocks produced from algae. Specifically, the TABB FOA will support: (1) the development of algae cultures that produce valuable bioproducts alongside fuels to increase the overall value of the biomass; and (2) the development of crop protection and carbon dioxide utilization technologies to boost culture productivity and yield to reduce the cost of the biomass. There will be an information webinar on October 8, 2014. Information on the webinar is available online.
More information on the TABB FOA and applications is available online.
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.
On September 19, 2014, Secretary Vilsack was joined by Deputy Secretary of Energy, Dan Poneman, and Secretary of the Navy, Ray Mabus, to announce contract awards to three separate companies to produce over one million gallons per year of advanced drop-in jet biofuels to be used by the U.S. Department of Defense and the private transportation sector. The three companies receiving the $210 million in contract awards are Emerald Biofuels, Fulcrum Bioenergy, and Red Rock Biofuels. The announcement was shown via live webcast via the White House website. More information is available here and here.
This announcement comes as part of an ongoing joint, combined $510 million effort among the Departments of Energy, Agriculture, and the Navy to help facilitate the production and use of U.S. advanced drop-in biofuels for military and commercial use.
On September 18, 2014, Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Dave Loebsack (D-IA), along with 16 other Members of Congress, introduced H.R. 5559, the Bridge to a Clean Energy Future Act of 2014. A copy of Representative Blumenauer's statement on the bill is available online.
H.R. 5559 is the House counterpart to S. 2260, the Expiring Provisions Improvement Reform and Efficiency (EXPIRE) Act. The package of tax extenders was approved by the Senate Finance Committee in April and stalled on the Senate Floor since May. A copy of H.R. 5559 is not yet publicly available. Reportedly it is very similar to the EXPIRE Act, which would extend key biofuels incentives, including: the Alternative Fuel Refueling Property Credit; the Second Generation Biofuel Producer Tax Credit; the Special Depreciation Allowance for Second Generation Biofuel Plant Property; the Biodiesel and Renewable Diesel Fuels Credit; and the Alternative Fuel and Alternative Fuel Mixture Excise Tax Credit.
A copy of the most recent report by the Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group (BRAG®) on the EXPIRE Act is available online.
On September 19, 2014, Minnoco announced an expansion program which will allow Minnoco retailers to offer biofuels that perform better at lower costs. This includes the ability to offer E15, E30, E85, diesel fuel, and gasoline typically available for purchase. More information about the announcement can be found online.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has guaranteed a $105 million loan through Bank of America, N.A. to help Fulcrum Sierra Biofuels build a plant in McCarran, Nevada that would convert municipal waste into renewable jet fuel. The total project cost is expected to be $266 million and the plant is predicted to produce 11 million gallons of fuel per year. This loan was guaranteed as part of the Biorefinery Assistance Program that is included in the Farm Bill. The biorefineries are expected to reduce dependence on foreign oil, improve the environment by reducing greenhouse gas, and strengthen local economies. More information on this loan guarantee is available online.
DOE recently released a notice of intent to issue a funding opportunity announcement (FOA), "Targeted Algal Biofuels and Bioproducts." The FOA will seek to reduce algal biofuels' projected cost by up to 50% through the creation of valuable bioproducts alongside fuels, thus achieving increased biomass productivity. See online.
Energy Trends Insider posted a column analyzing the current status of global biofuels. Information for the analysis was derived from the Renewables 2014 Global Status Report, which was issued in June 2014. According to the column author, "the GSR is the most comprehensive report available when it comes to the global renewable energy picture." To view the analysis, go online.
Global Biofuels Demand Slows Down
According to an article posted at Biofuels International, biofuels growth in the 2013-18 period will be modest compared to the 2008-13 period. 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 22, 2014, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sent the final 2014 Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) rule to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for its review and formal publication in the Federal Register. This much anticipated review is the last step before public release. Nearly nine months behind schedule currently, it is unclear whether OMB will move quickly to release and publish the rule. Typically, OMB can take anywhere between 30 to 90 days to review a proposal, or significantly longer as has been the case with more controversial rules sent from EPA. As EPA received 340,000 comments on its proposed rulemaking, a speedy review seems unlikely. Current speculation suggests modest increases, at best, are expected from OMB review and that the rule will be issued in final shortly after, or possibly before, the mid-term elections in November.
More information is available online. The current status of the 2014 RFS rulemaking at the OMB is available online.
The Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group (BRAG®) recently published a report describing EPA's actions delaying the final 2014 RFS rule, and the impact of the continuing delays on the RFS debate. A copy of that report is available online.