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 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.
On February 21, 2017, USDA announced in the Federal Register that the comment period for the Designation of Product Categories for Federal Procurement proposed rule had been extended. The proposed rule aims to amend the Guidelines for Designating Biobased Products for Federal Procurement to add 12 product categories composed of intermediate ingredient and feedstock materials and to propose a minimum biobased content for each category. In addition to the product categories and biobased content, USDA is seeking comments on appropriate performance standards for each product category, the positive environmental and human health attributes of biobased products within the proposed categories, and how small businesses may be affected by the proposed rule. Comments are now due by April 13, 2017.
On December 28, 2016, the Department of Energy (DOE) announced that six projects had been selected for a funding opportunity of up to $12.9 million titled “Project Definition for Pilot- and Demonstration-Scale Manufacturing of Biofuels, Bioproducts, and Biopower.” The projects, which revolve around technology development plans for the manufacture of advanced or cellulosic biofuels, bioproducts, refinery-compatible intermediates, and biopower in a pilot- or demonstration-scale integrated biorefinery, will be evaluated in two phases.
DOE will evaluate Phase I projects at the end of two years. Phase I project evaluations will be based on the design and plan of the facilities, as well as the recipient’s ability to fund the required 50 percent cost share for Phase II. In 2018, DOE is expected to announce the recipients of up to $15 million and $45 million in Phase II funding for the construction and operation of a pilot- or demonstration-scale facility, respectively.
Projects focused on demonstration-scale integrated biorefineries include:
|The development of an integrated process for the production of jet fuel from woody biomass by combining AVAPCO’s biomass-to-ethanol process with Byogy’s alcohol-to-jet process; and
|The design and operation of an integrated demonstration-scale biorefinery for the production of low-carbon jet and diesel fuels from industrial waste gases.
Projects focused on pilot-scale integrated biorefineries include:
|The design of a pilot-scale algae biofuel facility that utilizes novel technologies to improve productivity of open pond cultivation and generate more energy-efficient algae harvest; and
|The design of a smaller, more cost-effective integrated biorefinery for the production of transportation fuels from woody waste and agricultural feedstocks.
Projects focused on pilot-scale waste-to-energy include:
|The design of an advanced pyrolysis integrated biorefinery capable of converting 300 tons per day of biomass from food waste and biosolids into fertilizer and carbon-negative, renewable biopower; and
|The design of a pilot-scale integrated biorefinery that converts waste treatment and biosolids into biocrude oil, biogas, and fertilizer.
By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
On January 4, 2017, the White House announced the release of the 2017 Update to the Coordinated Framework for the Regulation of Biotechnology (2017 Update). The Update to the Coordinated Framework provides a comprehensive summary of the roles and responsibilities of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) with respect to regulating biotechnology products. Together with the National Strategy for Modernizing the Regulatory System for Biotechnology Products, published in September 2016, the Update to the Coordinated Framework offers a “complete picture of a robust and flexible regulatory structure that provides appropriate oversight for all products of modern biotechnology.” Within that regulatory structure, the federal agencies “maintain high standards that, based on the best available science, protect health and the environment, while also establishing transparent, coordinated, predictable and efficient regulatory practices.” To help product developers and the public understand what the regulatory pathway for products might look like, the 2017 Update presents information about agency roles and responsibilities in several forms, including:
- Graphics that illustrate agency-specific overviews of regulatory roles;
- Case studies that demonstrate how a product developer might navigate the regulatory framework; and
- A comprehensive table that summarizes the current responsibilities and the relevant coordination across EPA, FDA, and USDA for the regulatory oversight of an array of biotechnology product areas.
In its blog item, “Increasing the Transparency, Coordination, and Predictability of the Biotechnology Regulatory System,” the Obama Administration acknowledges that while the 2017 Update represents “remarkable progress by the EPA, FDA, and USDA to modernize the regulatory system for biotechnology products, much work remains.” EPA, FDA, and USDA will consider the comments submitted in response to the proposed 2017 Update and information gathered during the three public engagement sessions hosted by EPA, FDA, and USDA to inform ongoing and future agency activities. In addition, the agencies commissioned an independent study by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) on future biotechnology products. When completed, the agencies will consider the study’s findings, as well as the comments. More information on the Update to the Coordinated Framework will be available in our forthcoming memorandum, which will be available on our website under the key phrase biobased products, biotechnology.
On December 15, 2016, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) issued a funding opportunity announcement (FOA) of up to $8 million dollars, subject to appropriations, for innovative technologies that assist in the advancement of algae bioenergy and bioproducts. The FOA consists of two topic areas, including strain improvement for the development of enhanced algal strains, and algae cultivation biology improvement for the development of increased areal productivity and biofuel yield. The objective of the FOA titled “Productivity Enhanced Algae and Tool-Kits” is to double the current state of seasonal algal biomass productivities by overcoming species-specific, ecological, and practical challenges and to improve algal productivity and biomass composition using breakthroughs in advanced biology and biology-based tools. Selected projects will include techno-economic and life-cycle analyses of their proposed approaches to aid commercialization, and data sharing with the research and development community to accelerate future innovations. Concept papers are due by January 13, 2017, at 5:00 p.m. (EST) and full applications are due by February 22, 2017, at 5:00 p.m. (EST).
On June 22, 2016, DOE released the detailed agenda for the Biotechnology for Clean Vehicles: Harnessing Synthetic Biology To Enable Next-Generation Biomaterials And Biofuels session at the Sustainable Transportation Summit. The session is hosted by DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) and will focus on how novel biomaterials and renewable fuels can be used to improve vehicle efficiency and sustainability. The session will also discus the role of synthetic biology in enabling renewable fuels and materials. The Biotechnology for Clean Vehicles session will be held from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. (ET) on July 12, 2016, during the Sustainable Transportation Summit in Washington D.C.
On May 18, 2016, USDA announced $21 million in funding to support the development of regional systems for bioenergy and biobased products. The funding is provided through AFRI's Sustainable Bioenergy and Bioproducts (SBEBP) Challenge Area, an initiative of the USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), and is available to applicants in the following priority areas.
- Regional Bioenergy Coordinated Agricultural Projects (CAPs) that focus on the production and delivery of regionally-appropriate sustainable biomass feedstocks for bioenergy and bioproducts. While the focus of CAPs will be on feedstocks, competitive proposals must present the feedstock development and production in the context of a comprehensive regional sustainable bioenergy and bioproducts supply chain systems.
- Investing in America's Scientific Corps: Preparing a New Generation of Students, Faculty, and Workforce for Emerging Challenges in Bioenergy, Bioproducts, and the Bioeconomy.
This Request for Applications (RFA) is open to individuals, nonprofits, institutions of higher education, small businesses, and others, with a full list available in Part III A of the current AFRI SBEBP Challenge Area. Proposed budgets under Regional CAP Grants cannot exceed $3 million dollars annually, and project periods should not exceed five years. A letter of intent for the RFA is due by July 14, 2016, by 5:00 p.m. (EDT), with full applications due by September 22, 2016, by 5:00 p.m. (EDT).
On February 29, 2016, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced eight small business contracts through the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program. The eight Phase II contracts provide the companies with $300,000 each to develop and commercialize innovative products that address environmental and public health issues. Phase II funding is typically made available to companies that have already been granted Phase I funding through the SBIR Program. This round of funding included two biobased businesses, Environmental Fuel Research, LLC, a company that is developing a system to produce biofuel from grease trap waste, and Sustainable Bioproducts, LLC, a company that is developing a low-cost, simple, and scalable microbial process for the conversion of organic municipal solid waste to fuels using fungus. The SBIR Program is open to for-profit U.S. businesses with fewer than 500 employees. Open solicitations for applicants are listed on the SBIR website, but applications for this specific program are currently closed.
On Monday, October 26, 2015, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) presented “Bioproducts in the Federal Bioeconomy Portfolio Webinar,” a webinar on how the federal government is promoting sustainability through three different avenues: bioproducts research; commercialization; and market development. The presenters on these topics were DOE’s Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) Technology Manager Nichole Fitzgerald; U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) BioPreferred Deputy Program Manager Kate Lewis; and the Ohio State University Bioproducts Innovation Center’s Director Dennis Hall. The webinar summary stated that “the creation of a robust, next-generation domestic bioenergy industry is one of the most important pathways for providing Americans with sustainable, renewable energy alternatives,” and “through research, development, and commercialization to produce renewable fuels and products sustainable and affordable, we can provide home-grown alternatives for the transportation, energy, and bioproducts sectors.”
We summarize below some webinar highlights:
- There are substantial emissions reductions that bioproducts can provide compared to their fossil-derived counterparts (varying from 45 percent up to 86 percent).
- Renewable chemicals have many positive bioeconomy contributions and few negative aspects. Renewable chemicals help the bioeconomy in the following important ways:
- Bolsters the economy (e.g., knowledge from bioproduct production can be transferred to biofuels production);
- Market entry (e.g., corporations will support the bioeconomy through the purchase and use of sustainable products); and
- Renewable chemicals are critical for economic success of advanced biofuel production (e.g., reduces risk by allowing biorefineries to pursue a higher value product).
- National unaided awareness of biobased products has increased -- from 30 percent in 2013 up to 48 percent in 2014.
- The U.S. biobased products industry had significant contributions to the economy in 2013, including:
- Adding four million American jobs, as well as adding 1.64 more jobs per every biobased products job; and
- Adding $369 billion to the economy.
More information on biobased issues is available on Bergeson and Campbell, P.C.’s (B&C®) website under subject “Biobased Products, Biotechnology.”