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 May 1, 2017, the University of Maine (UMaine) began a continuous 100-hour demonstration of a biomass to bioproducts pilot plant at its Technology Research Center (TRC).  The plant, which is the result of a partnership between UMaine and Biofine Technology, is capable of processing up to one ton of woody biomass per day into chemicals for the manufacturing of biofuels, biochemical, and advanced materials.  UMaine will use the plant to scale up the Forest Bioproducts Research Institute’s (FBRI) patented conversion technology to produce jet fuel from woody biomass.  Data from the 100-hour demonstration will assist in the commercialization of the operation.  FBRI researchers aim to add another pilot plant that would manufacture larger quantities of biofuel from the platform chemicals as a prototype for commercialization.


 
On February 21, 2017, the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) announced the launch of its Chemical Catalysis for Bioenergy Consortium (ChemCatBio), a research and development consortium focused on overcoming catalysis challenges for biomass conversion processes.  The consortium, which consists of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, and five other DOE national laboratories, aims to accelerate the development of catalysts and related technologies to bring new catalytic materials to commercial bioenergy applications at least two times faster and at half the cost.  The unique properties of biomass, such as high oxygen content, high moisture content, and high acidity, make developing catalysts for bioenergy applications a challenge.  Through computational modeling, and materials synthesis and characterization capabilities, researchers involved with the consortium have already designed new multi-functional catalysts that enable carbon-efficient conversion and reduce costs by more than $0.5/gallon.

 
■  Washington University in St. Louis, “WashU Engineer to Design Catalyst for Wasted Plant Material” 
 
■  U.S. Air Force, “Langley 1 of 4 Bases to Test Bio-Based Grease” 
 
■  Times of India, “Fuel from Water Hyacinth? IIT-Kharagpur Shows the Way” 
 
■  Economic Times, “US Biofuels Lobbying Group Courts Its Rival Oil Companies to Combat Electric Car Threat

 

On February 9, 2017, Avantium announced a partnership with AkzoNobel (a member of the Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group (BRAG®)), Chemport Europe, RWE Generation, and Staatsbosbeheer to develop a reference plant at the Chemie Park Delfzijl in the Netherlands.  The plant will use a new technology, referred to as the Zambezi process, for the cost-effective production of high-purity glucose from non-food biomass, including forestry residue, pulp, and agricultural byproducts.  Once the woody biomass is converted into sugars and lignin, it can be used to produce a wide range of biobased chemicals and materials.  The design of the plant includes an expansion-ready footprint to enable a rapid increase in capacity following the demonstration phase.
 
Each partner will contribute a unique strength to the overall project.  The infrastructure, utilities, and expertise of the reference plant will be based on the AkzoNobel site in Delfzijl.  The forestry residue feedstock will be sourced by Staatsbosbeheer.  RWE Generation will generate renewable energy from the bio-lignin residue of the Zambezi process, and Chemport Europe will provide strategic support to the project through a range of initiatives.


 

 

On January 13, 2017, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) released the 2017 U.S. Energy and Employment Report (USEER), which aims to aid in providing a more complete definition and quantification of energy employment across the economy.  The report presents direct employment data for jobs associated with traditional energy companies, with the production of renewable energy, and with energy efficiency, and an analysis of a supplemental survey sent to 30,000 energy sector employers.  According to the report, bioenergy electric generation and biofuel sub-technologies employ a total of 112,642 workers, with only 7,980 individuals working exclusively with bioenergy or biomass electric generation technologies.  Nearly 64 percent of the bioenergy and biomass generation workers are employed within the construction industry. 

Corn ethanol fuels employment accounts for 28,613 jobs, primarily within the agriculture and wholesale trade industry.  Ethanol and non-woody biomass fuels employ approximately two percent of the fuels workforce (23,088 jobs).  Since non-woody biomass represents a small portion of the overall fuel source, employment is mainly focused on professional and business services such as research and development.  Woody biomass and cellulosic biofuels support 30,458 jobs, with nearly 56 percent of the jobs in the agriculture industry.  A wide range of other biofuel activity, including early-stage research and development on algal biofuel, syngas, bioheat blends, landfill gas, and advanced biofuels, is captured under the “other biofuels” category.  Together, these technologies employ 22,504 workers, primarily within the professional and business services sector.


 

On January 13, 2017, the DOE Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO), together with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), announced the intent to issue a request for applications (RFA) titled “Fiscal Year 17 Biomass Research and Development Initiative (BRDI).”  Projects funded through BRDI must address one of the foll owing topic areas:
 



 
Feedstocks development :  Research, development, and demonstration (RD&D) focused on feedstocks and feedstock logistics as it relates to the production of raw materials for conversion to biofuels and biobased products;
 



 
Biofuels and biobased products development :  RD&D focused on the development of cost-effective, innovative technologies for the use of cellulosic biomass in the production of biofuels, bioenergy, and biobased products, and product diversification to increase the feasibility of fuel production in a biorefinery; and
 

 
Biofuels development analysis :  Optimization of performance and quantification of the project’s impact on sustainability using systems evaluation methods.
 
The full RFA is expected to be posted on the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s (EERE) Exchange in February 2017, with the full notice of intent currently available.

 

 

On November 3, 2016, the European Commission announced that 144 new green and low-carbon projects from 23 Member States will be funded by a €222.7 million investment from the European Union (EU) budget, which will be combined with €175.9 from additional investments.  The funding comes from the LIFE programme, the EU’s funding body for the environment and climate action, with the goal of progressing Europe towards a more sustainable future.
 
The selected projects align with the EU’s objective to reduce GHG emissions and transition to a more circular economy.  Examples of 2015 projects include:  

 

Implementation of Biodolomer®, a fossil-free biomaterial, in place of plastic packaging for four commercial reference products;

 

Production of biopolymers for the tanning industry using recycled biomass from the tanning process; and

 

Incorporation of cultivated banana organic waste fibers as an additive to create bioplastic covers to protect banana treats from UV radiation.

 

 
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