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.

Sandia National Laboratories (Sandia) is investigating whether algae can be used to transform the Salton Sea, one of California’s largest and most polluted lakes, into a productive and profitable resource.  The Salton Sea Biomass Remediation project (SABRE), which is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO), aims to use algae to rid the lake of pollutants while creating a renewable, domestic source of fuel and other chemicals.   Algae are known to thrive in environments like the Salton Sea, which contains elevated levels of nitrogen and phosphorus due to agricultural runoff. 
 
In the first phase of the project, Sandia partnered with Texas A&M AgriLife Research to investigate the efficacy of a new algal farming method, known as the “Algal Turf Scrubber” floway system.  The algae consume the nitrogen and phosphorus from the polluted water that is pumped into the system using solar-powered pumps.  Clean water is then deposited back into the lake.  
 
The second phase began in May and the initial results indicate that the system can produce a quantity of algae comparable to raceways, the traditional algal farming method.  The algae being grown are native to the area which makes it more resistant to attacks from local pathogens and predators.  By helping to clean polluted water, Sandia researchers have overcome a major criticism of algae as a biofuel source, specifically that farming algae requires too much water.  Additionally, the removal of pollutants, such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and other fertilizer components, is expected to provide a model of remediation for algae blooms.


 

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 Kathleen M. Roberts

On August 2, 2017, DOE published a notice in the Federal Register announcing a public meeting of the Biomass Research and Development Technical Advisory Committee.  The committee is comprised of approximately 30 volunteers from industry, academia, nonprofit organizations, and local government that collaborate to:

  • Advise the Secretary of Energy, the Secretary of Agriculture, and the Points of Contact concerning:
    • The technical focus and direction of requests for proposals issued under the Initiative; and
    • Procedures for reviewing and evaluating the proposals;
  • Facilitate consultations and partnerships among federal and state agencies, agricultural producers, industry, consumers, the research community, and other interested groups to carry out program activities relating to the Initiative; and
  • Evaluate and perform strategic planning on program activities relating to the Initiative.

The purpose of the meeting is to develop advice and guidance that promotes research and development (R&D) leading to the production of biobased fuels and products.  The tentative agenda includes updates on the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and DOE Biomass R&D activities, as well as presentations on biomass interface with fossil fuel. 
 
The meeting will take place in Los Angeles, California, from 1:00 p.m.–5:30 p.m. on August 15, 2017, and from 8:30 a.m.–5:30 p.m. on August 16, 2017.  A summary of the meeting will be available for public review on the committee website.


 

 

By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

On July 17, 2017, the U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry announced that $40 million in Department of Energy (DOE) awards will be used to establish four DOE Bioenergy Research Centers (BRC) to be led by a DOE National Laboratory or top university.  Each BRC will focus on laying the scientific groundwork for a new biobased economy by providing scientific breakthroughs for a new generation of sustainable, cost-effective bioproducts and bioenergy.   The following BRCs were selected based on an open competition with external peer review:   

  • The Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center, led by the University of Wisconsin-Madison in partnership with Michigan State University;
  • The Center for Bioenergy Innovation, led by DOE’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory; 
  • The Joint BioEnergy Institute, led by DOE’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory; and
  • The Center for Advanced Bioenergy and Bioproducts Innovation, led by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
While the $40 million in funding will be used to establish the centers in 2018, an additional five years of funding is anticipated.  The current funding represents a follow-on phase to the original DOE BRC program, which consisted of three BRCs.  The new phase will build and expand on the accomplishments of the original BRC breakthroughs and incorporate an additional BRC.

 

By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

On July 11, 2017, DOE announced the selection of three projects focused on reducing the costs of producing algal biofuels and bioproducts that will receive up to $8 million in funding.    The projects aim to generate high-impact tools and techniques for increasing the productivity of algae organisms and cultures and biology-focused breakthroughs.  The project winners include:

  • Lumen Bioscience, which will work with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory on the agricultural production of algae on otherwise non-productive land in rural eastern Washington State by rapidly engineering strains that grow robustly in seawater, resist contamination and predation, and accumulate substantial amounts of energy-rich components;
  • Global Algae Innovations, which will work in partnership with Sandia National Laboratories, University of California at San Diego – Scripps Institution of Oceanography, and the J. Craig Venter Institute to deliver a tool for low cost, rapid analysis of pond microbiota, gather data on the impacts of pond ecology, and develop new cultivation methods that utilize this information to achieve greater algal productivity; and
  • Los Alamos National Laboratory, which will work with Sapphire Energy to help the algal research and development community better understand these metrics at commercial scales by evaluating rationally designed pond cultures containing multiple species of algae, as well as beneficial bacteria, to achieve consistent biomass composition and high productivity.

 

By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

On June 21, 2017, the Department of Energy (DOE) announced that 32 small businesses across 18 states will receive a total of $32 million in grants to develop clean energy technologies that have a strong potential for commercialization and job creation.  The funding was provided by DOE’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs.  The 32 projects were selected based on scientific and technical merit, as well as the commercial potential of the project.  Seven of the 32 proposed projects involve technology for bioenergy and biobased production, specifically:

  • Shockkwave, LLC received $1,000,000 to increase production of domestic, low greenhouse gas biofuel by harvesting corn fiber from corn grain to produce cellulosic biofuels;
  • Mainstream Engineering Corporation received $999,993 to improve the oil yield and reduce aqueous byproducts during hydrothermal liquefaction of wet wastes;
  • BioHybrid Solutions LLC received $995,569 to make biodiesel a cost-effective, sustainable fuel by using new polymer-modified enzyme to convert efficiently cheap and renewable feedstocks into an inexpensive, high-quality biodiesel;
  • CF Technologies, Inc. received $999,997 to convert rancid, no-value, environmentally adverse brown grease into a high quality, valued biodiesel fuel;
  • Sironix Renewables received $1,000,000 to implement a new catalyst technology that produces a new class of detergent molecules from renewable sources that are superior and cheaper than current detergents, enabling detergent formulations with higher concentrations, which reduces chemical environmental impact and manufacturing and transportation energy consumption;
  • MOgene Green Chemicals received $1,000,000 to develop a sustainable, biobased biocatalyst to capture methane, carbon dioxide, and other trace gases present in biogas or natural gas sources and convert them into high value products; and
  • NexTech Materials, Ltd. received $1,000,000 to create new catalysts that will allow more efficient generation of fuels from biogas.

More information on the recipients is available at the DOE Office of Science website.


 

By Kathleen M. Roberts

On June 5, 2017, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), announced that up to $9 million in funding will be available through the Biomass Research and Development Initiative (BRDI) in fiscal year (FY) 2017.  Projects funded by BRDI will focus on developing economically and environmentally sustainable sources of renewable biomass, increasing the availability of renewable fuels and biobased products, and diversifying the nation’s energy portfolio.  DOE and NIFA are soliciting applications from all interested parties, including for-profit entities, universities, nonprofits, and national laboratories, to address any or all of the following legislatively mandated technical areas:

  • Feedstocks development;
  • Biofuels and biobased products development; and
  • Biofuels development analysis.
DOE anticipates funding one to six awards and NIFA anticipates funding three to 14 awards, with awards ranging from $500,000 to $2 million.  Concept papers are due by July 7, 2017, and full applications are due by September 22, 2017.  More information on BRDI is available on DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) Exchange website
Tags: DOE, USDA, NIFA, BRDI, EERE

 

By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

On June 2, 2017, the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) announced the availability of Project Peer Review 2017 presentations.  The biennial event provides an opportunity for external stakeholders to evaluate rigorously the technical approach, progress, relevance, and overall merit of all the projects in the BETO portfolio.  The review was conducted across nine technology areas, including:

  • Feedstock Supply and Logistics;
  • Advanced Algal Systems;
  • Thermochemical Conversion;
  • Biochemical Conversion;
  • Waste to Energy;
  • Analysis and Sustainability;
  • Demonstration and Market Transformation;
  • Co-Optimization of Fuels and Engines; and
  • Feedstock-Conversion Interface Consortium.  

The peer reviewers, which consisted of 47 experienced and knowledgeable bioenergy experts from industry, academia, nonprofit organizations, and government, will provide an assessment of the focus and scope of each technology area, as well as recommendations for strategic direction.  The publicly available 2017 Peer Review Final Report will be prepared in time for the Program Management Review on July 13, 2017.


 
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