On April 24, 2015, EPA released a Federal Register notice inviting comment on analysis of the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions produced during the production and transport of Brassica carinata (carinata) oil feedstock for use in the production of biofuels. The plant is not used for food in the U.S., and has high concentrations of erucic acid, making it attractive for use in biolubricants and biopolymers, as well as biofuels. EPA anticipates that biofuels produced using carinata oil will qualify as advanced biofuels, and the analysis will be used to determine if the biofuels will meet necessary GHG reductions required for qualification as renewable fuel under the RFS program. The notice is open for comment until May 26, 2015.
The Oil Price Information Network (OPIS) spoke with BRAG's Richard E. Engler, Ph.D., Senior Policy Advisor with B&C, regarding the application of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) to oils made from algae feedstocks and other non-traditional bio-materials. The resulting article, "TSCA Nomenclature May Be Barrier for Advanced Biofuels," from the OPIS Ethanol & Biodiesel Newsletter is excerpted below, and reprinted in full at the link with permission from OPIS.
Any number of complications could trip up the commercial use of an advanced biofuel, but one that should attract attention is the requirement that all fuels be listed on Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Inventory of Chemical Substances.
This requirement has the potential to raise reporting requirements that could be a barrier to sales of oils made from algae feedstocks, as well as other non- traditional biomaterials, said Richard Engler, Ph.D., with Bergeson & Campbell, PC.
"TSCA is based on identification of what you are making. So if you have a single, defined molecule, like ethanol, it's simple," he told OPIS in a follow- up to his presentation at last month's Advanced Bioeconomy Leadership Conference.
Ethanol is a Class 1 chemical on the TSCA list. Its identity does not depend on how it is made. And since one ethanol is chemically the same as another, Engler explained that a new producer of ethanol can use the existing TSCA Inventory registration.
But most hydrocarbon-based and bio-based fuels are Class 2 chemicals, which are identified differently, Engler said. Class 2 compounds are defined as having unknown or variable composition, complex reaction products, and biological materials.
The article goes on to explain how Class 2 compounds are named, where there is flexibility in naming plant, animal, and marine sourced oils and where there is not, and solutions for which the advanced biofuels industry should petition EPA.
On April 21, 2015, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) released the initial installment of its Quadrennial Energy Review (QER). This first installment focuses on ways to modernize the U.S. energy infrastructure to increase the country's energy competitiveness and security. In its QER, DOE points out that while U.S. biofuel production has increased significantly over the past decade -- due largely to the federal Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) --"[c]ontinued growth in ethanol use will depend in part on investment in additional distribution capacity; growth in the use of other biofuels, such as 'drop-in' fuels, will depend on continued investment in research, development, demonstration, and deployment." In its fact sheet accompanying the QER, the DOE states that it, along with the U.S. Department of Defense, should continue efforts to help facilitate the production and use of advanced, drop-in biofuels for use in aviation and large vehicles. Moreover, DOE should provide technical support to help investment in infrastructure to dispense higher-level ethanol blends.
The QER, and its recommendations with respect to infrastructure to support the distribution of ethanol, comes at a time when RFS stakeholders are eagerly awaiting the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) release of its final 2014 RFS renewable volume obligations (RVO), or volume requirements. Several biofuels groups expressed opposition to EPA's proposed 2014 RVOs because the proposed reduced RVOs for corn ethanol were based partly on EPA's determination of currently insufficient distribution infrastructure. The biofuels groups opposed to this analysis argued that infrastructure considerations should not go into EPA's calculation of its annual RFS requirements.
On April 14, 2015, Members of the European Parliament and certain ministers agreed to limit how biofuels derived from agricultural crops would be accounted for in the European Union's (EU) goal to increase the use of renewable energy. The new law caps the use of first generation biofuels to seven percent of the total energy use being counted towards the EU's renewable energy goal of ten percent. Member States will have the opportunity to reduce the cap of crop-based biofuels at their discretion. The law came about in part from fears about food security and negative indirect land use change (ILUC) occurring due to widespread crop-based biofuels. The EU has used ILUC to calculate the net greenhouse gas (GHG) production of biofuels, despite concerns that it is scientifically flawed. The agreement reached will eliminate the ILUC factor as a way to judge the benefits of fuels in the EU, but will still need to be reported by fuel suppliers. The agreement will be voted on during the April 27-30, 2015, plenary session. Member States will have until 2017 to enact the legislation.
On April 9, 2015, the Pentagon released the Rocky Mountain/West Coast/Offshore Bulk Fuels Annual Buy (RMW) solicitation for biofuels on the FedBizOpps website. This purchase program supports the goal set by the Secretary of the Navy to have half of the Department of the Navy's energy come from alternative sources by 2020. Funding to defray additional biofuel costs for the RMW program is provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture through the Commodity Credit Corporation. Vendors can submit bids with at least 10 percent of alternative fuel up to the maximum allowed by JP-5 and F-76 specifications. The solicitation is for fuel deliveries from October 1, 2015, to September 30, 2016, and proposals must be submitted by May 8, 2015, at 3:00 p.m. (EDT).
On April 1, 2015, the Governor of Ohio, John Kasich (R), signed the 2016-2017 Transportation Budget Bill (Sub. H.B. 53). The state transportation budget does not include a requirement on alternative fuel use in the state vehicle fleet, a requirement that had been in place since 2006. Ohio Department of Transportation's Matt Bruning stated that the requirement mandated the state increase the amount of alternative fuels each year with no cap in place, resulting in higher costs for the state, especially with the recent decrease in prices for traditional petroleum-based fuels. "It's not that we don't like alternative fuels -- it's just a cost thing, really," stated Bruning to WOSU Public Media. The loss of the biofuels mandate in Ohio will only impact fuels used by state vehicle fleets.
EPA is accepting public comments through May 26, 2015, on two
proposed information collection requests (ICR) published in the Federal
Register on Tuesday, March 24, 2015. The proposed ICRs concern projected
cellulosic biofuels volumes and gasoline containing greater than 10 volume
percent ethanol up to 15 volume percent ethanol (E15). Comments received will
assist EPA as the agency prepares to submit the final ICRs to the Office of
Management and Budget (OMB) for its official approval and dissemination.
In the first proposed ICR on "Cellulosic
Production Volume Projections and Efficient Producer Reporting,"
EPA is seeking to collect information from potential cellulosic biofuel
producers to aid in determining the annual volume standards. In the second
proposed ICR on "Recordkeeping
and Reporting Related to E15 (Renewal)," EPA is seeking
comment on recordkeeping and reporting items related to the legal use of E15 in
On March 12, 2015, Christopher Grundler, Director of EPA's Office
of Transportation and Air Quality, signed the Notice
Of Opportunity to Comment on an Analysis of the Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Attributable to Production and Transport of Pennycress (Thlaspi Avense) Oil for
Use in Biofuel Production. This notice states that biofuels
produced from pennycress oil could qualify as biomass-based diesel or advanced
biofuel when they are produced using typical fuel production process
technologies. The notice is the result of an analysis of the greenhouse gas
(GHG) emissions that come from the production and transport of pennycress oil.
According to the analysis, pennycress oil has less than or equal GHG emissions
per ton of oil than soybean oil when accounting for crop inputs, crushing,
extraction, and direct and indirect land use change. Soybean oil and pennycress
oil are expected to also have the same fuel yield per pound of oil. This means
that pennycress oil-based biofuels could produce less GHG than soybean
oil-based biofuels. The notice has not yet been published in the Federal
Register, but once posted will be found at the soon to be opened Docket No.
EPA-HQ-OAR-2015-0091. Comments will be open for 30 days after publication.
Coalition of Minnesota is advocating strongly for two bills in the
state that if passed would result in a two-year, $5 million production
incentive for producers, and a capital loan equipment program. The bills, HF
536 and SF
517, would benefit companies that develop biochemicals, advanced biofuels,
and anaerobic digestion projects. There is concern, however, that the
legislation would increase the production of corn rather than encourage the
production of crops that do not require the same heavy use of fertilizer as
corn. Citing concerns about fertilizer runoffs in the river, combined with corn
being an easy source to convert to biofuel, the Minnesota Environmental Partnership
and Friends of the Mississippi River
have suggested amending the bills to: (1) require biofuel refineries receiving
the production incentive to have at least 50 percent of their feedstock come
from perennials; and (2) pay incentives to farmers who switch from corn to
perennials. HF 536 has already been changed to include a 20 percent bonus for
the use of perennials over corn. It is likely that both bills will continue to
change to reflect continued concerns about water quality in Minnesota.
FOR ABLC 2015
Bioeconomy Leadership Conference 2015 (ABLC 2015), to be held March 11-13, 2015, at
the Capital Hilton in Washington, D.C., is the gathering point for top leaders
in the Advanced Bioeconomy -- bringing together the entire spectrum of advanced
fuels, chemicals, and materials CEOs and senior executives, business
development, R&D leaders, strategic partners, financiers, equity analysts,
policymakers, and industry suppliers.
M. Roberts, Executive Director of BRAG, will share her insights
regarding the current regulatory landscape for biobased products during the
opening panel of the conference, "ABLC Policy Outlook," alongside
directors of the Advanced Biofuels Association, BIO, Algal Biomass
Organization, the Advanced Ethanol Council, the National Biodiesel Board, and
the American Council on Renewable Energy.
E. Engler, Ph.D., Senior Policy Advisor for Bergeson &
Campbell, P.C. (B&C®), will speak during the "Government
Agency Outlook and Updates" session. Dr. Engler recently joined B&C
after 17 years as senior staff scientist and leader of the Green Chemistry
Program in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Office of Pollution
Prevention and Toxics (OPPT). Dr. Engler's co-panelists include speakers from
DOE, USDA, and the U.S. Energy Information Administration.