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 Lynn L. Bergeson

On March 11, 2019, scientists at the University of California Berkeley (UC Berkeley) published a study on nature microbiology on the gut anatomical properties of the passalid beetle that helps it transform decaying wood into energy-rich materials.  Passalid beetles’ digestive tracts contain microbes that provide a roadmap for the production of affordable, nature-derived bioproducts and biofuels.  The structure of these beetles’ guts allows for different microbial communities to coexist and perform unique biochemical metabolic processes in energy extraction.  The published article can be accessed here.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On February 28, 2019, DOE announced that scientists at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) have been working on molecular tools that reside naturally within microbial cells.  Microbes typically use these tools to carry out their metabolism and other life-sustaining processes; LANL researchers, however, have been using the tools to produce fuel precursors and bioproduct building blocks.  With the addition of a biosensor in the microbes, light allows the scientists to learn how efficiently the product is being made and thus enabling more efficient quality control to increase overall yield.  This technology is called LANL’s Smart Microbial Cell Technology and consists of a high throughput screening for enzyme discovery, design, and evolution.  It allows LANL to engineer custom biosensors that detect intracellular concentrations of a specific precursor.  This biosensor technology can, thus, be adapted to a single enzyme, pathway, or even global optimization of an industrial strain.  The work is being led by Taraka Dale, Remash Jha, and, Niju Narayanan at LANL, under the Agile BioFoundry multinational laboratory effort to expedite biomanufacturing processes.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On February 4, 2019, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) announced a revised agenda for the 2019 Project Peer Review that will take place in Denver, Colorado, on March 4-8, 2019.  An annual event hosted by BETO, this is an opportunity for BETO to present early-stage development projects across its technology areas and have the projects reviewed by experts from industry, academia, and other federal agencies.  The updated agenda includes sessions on Catalytic Upgrading, Performance-Advantaged Bioproducts and Separations, Advanced Algal Systems, Feedstock Supply and Logistics, and Lignin Utilization, among others.  The event is open to the public, and includes presentations from over 300 researchers.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On December 14, 2018, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) announced a request for information (RFI) on algae, biomass, and waste feedstocks that can be used in the production of biofuels, bioproducts, and biopower. DOE BETO’s request seeks information from industry, academia, national laboratories, government agencies, and other stakeholders. Specifically, information is requested on outdoor algae research, biomass characteristics and feedstock performance, and renewable energy from urban and suburban waste. Responses to this RFI should be submitted electronically to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) by 5:00 p.m. (EST) on January 4, 2019.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On August 3, 2018, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Business-Cooperative Service publicized two application cycles for applications for funds available under the Biorefinery, Renewable Chemical, and Biobased Product Manufacturing Assistance Program (BAP). The loans under the aforementioned program are designed to encourage the proliferation of biobased practices that use “technologically new commercial scale processing and manufacturing equipment to convert renewable chemicals and other biobased outputs of biorefineries into end-user products, on a commercial scale.” Applications must be submitted by 4:30 p.m. (EDT) on October 1, 2018, or during the second application cycle, by 4:30 p.m. (EDT) on April 1, 2019.


 

By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

On October 9, 2017, American Process Inc. and Byogy Renewables, Inc. announced the launch of Phase 1 of its “Advanced Biofuels and Bioproducts with AVAP (ABBA)” project following the completion of negotiations with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).  American Process received $3.7 million in funding for ABBA from DOE under the “Project Definition for Pilot- and Demonstration-Scale Manufacturing of Biofuels, Bioproducts, and Biopower” program.  The ABBA project aims to co-produce full replacement renewable jet fuel, gasoline, diesel and Bioplus® nanocellulose from woody biomass to demonstrate that co-production of high volume commodity fuels and low volume, high value co-products enables profitable biorefineries at commercial scale.  Phase 1 of ABBA involves defining engineering, permitting, and financing activities. Following successful completion of Phase 1, ABBA is eligible for a Phase 2 award of up to $45 million from DOE for construction and operation of the project. Production will take place in an integrated biorefineray at AVAPCO, an American Process biomass research, development and demonstration facility.  The patented technologies and intellectual property provided by AVAPCO, Byogy, and Petron will allow for the conversion of wood to cellulose and cellulosic sugars, which are then converted to cellulosic biojet and nanocellulose.


 

By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

On September 22, 2017, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) awarded six grants totaling nearly $21.1 million to support the development of new jet fuel, biobased products, and biomaterials from renewable sources.  The funding is provided through NIFA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) Sustainable Bioenergy and Bioproducts (SBEBP) Challenge Area.  Grant recipients include:

  • University of Arizona, which received $7,026,000 for the cultivation of two desert-dwelling feedstocks, specifically guayule and guar, that can provide biomass year round for biofuel production;
  • University of Florida, which received $7,026,000 for the development of a resilient Brassica carinata-based biofuel and bioproduct supply chain in the Southeast;
  • University of Missouri, Rolla, which received $32,000 to help develop a viable market for guayule resin through laboratory and field research, and expand the research and educational capacity of the asphalt laboratory at the Missouri University of Science and Technology;
  • North Carolina State University, which received $2,750,000 to prepare a diverse group of college students and high school teachers with the knowledge and interdisciplinary tools necessary to advance the future of America's bioenergy, bioproducts, and the bioeconomy;
  • The Ohio State University, which received $2,750,000 to create a national network of universities, industry, and government agencies that derive sufficient benefits to be sustainable long-term; and
  • Oklahoma State University, which received $1,500,000 to educate the next generation of engineers and scientists in renewable resource utilization.

 

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 2, 2017, the Department of Energy (DOE) announced that a fourth project under the MEGA-BIO: Bioproducts to Enable Biofuels Funding Opportunity would be awarded up to $1.8 million.  Michigan State University was selected to manage the fourth project, which will work in partnership with the University of Wisconsin–Madison and MBI International to optimize a two-stage process for deconstruction of biomass into two clean intermediate streams, specifically sugars for the production of hydrocarbon fuels and lignins for the production of multiple value-added chemicals. 
 
In August 2016, DOE’s Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) selected three projects for an initial round of funding; the total funding for the four awards is $13.1 million.  All four projects support the development of biomass-to-hydrocarbon biofuels conversion pathways that can produce variable amounts of fuels and/or products based on external factors allowing for the conversion of biomass where it is most impactful and a positive return on investment. 


 

By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

On July 20, 2017, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) awarded 34 grants totaling $15.1 million for research on renewable energy, biobased products, and agroecosystems.  The grants, which are funded through the agency’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), are expected to help develop the next generation of renewable energy, bioproducts, and biomaterials; protect the ecosystems that support agriculture; and improve the agricultural systems and processes that help feed the nation. 
 
The following institutions were awarded grants for projects focused on cover crop systems for biofuel production:

  • USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) received $494,000 for the development of lupin, cereal rye, and carinata winter cover crops for biomass in the southern coastal plain;
  • Purdue University received $498,000 for the development of cover cropping for the development of sustainable co-production of bioenergy, food, feed (BFF) and ecosystem services (ES);
  • Iowa State University of Science and Technology received $498,378 for the development of perennial cover crop systems for maize grain and biomass production;
  • Louisiana State University Agricultural Center received $387,000 to study the feedstock production potential of energy cane-sweet sorghum rotation with a winter cover crop system; and
  • University of Nebraska received $500,000 to assess innovative strategies to maximize cover crop yields for biofuel across a precipitation gradient.​​
The following institutions were awarded grants for projects focused on the socioeconomic implications and public policy challenges of bioenergy and bioproducts market development and expansion:
  • Auburn University received $499,886 to identify the economic barriers to biomass production, to evaluate the effectiveness of the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) in stimulating biomass market expansion, and to explore the economic and ecosystem service implications of biomass production;
  • Colorado State University received $499,000 to produce a unified atlas of marginal lands in the U.S., and provide insight on the costs, potential environmental benefits, and overall practical likelihood of using those lands for biomass feedstock production;
  • Purdue University received $492,099 to develop a dynamic theoretical model on rejuvenating coal-power plants with biomass;
  • Iowa State University of Science and Technology received $499,622 to provide an integrated model-based assessment of the socioeconomic, policy, and market implications of sustainable bioenergy derived from cellulosic biomass; and
  • University of Missouri received $498,441 to evaluate impacts on forest resources surrounding power plants using woody biomass, assess economic impacts of wood biopower systems, and quantify tradeoffs between cost, carbon reductions, and renewable energy generation obtained by the increased use of wood biopower.  
More information on the grants is available at the NIFA website.

 
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