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By Lynn L. Bergeson and Ligia Duarte Botelho, M.A.

As part of a White House roundtable to launch the Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF) Grand Challenge to decarbonize the aviation sector by 2050, on September 9, 2021, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced the availability of $64.7 million in funding for projects focused on the production of cost-effective and low-carbon biofuels. DOE aims to advance technologies to replace petroleum fuels used in heavy-duty forms of transportation, such as airplanes and ships.
 
DOE Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm stated that, although heavy-duty vehicles in the transportation sector such as planes and ships are difficult to electrify, decarbonizing transportation is a critical part of the path to achieve net-zero carbon emissions. Also as part of the SAF Grand Challenge, DOE signed on September 8, 2021, a memorandum of understanding with the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The memorandum formalizes the DOE, DOT, and USDA’s collaborative efforts on the required research, development, and demonstration (RD&D) to reach the goals of supplying at least three billion gallons of SAF per year by 2030 and sufficient SAF to meet 100 percent of aviation fuel demand by 2050.
 
DOE selected 22 projects to receive the available funds administered by its Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO). The projects target high-impact bioenergy technology RD&D to increase foundational knowledge and scale up systems to produce low-carbon biofuels at lower costs, covering five topic areas:

  • Scale-Up of Biotechnologies;
  • Affordable, Clean Cellulosic Sugars for High Yield Conversion;
  • Separations to Enable Biomass Conversion;
  • Residential Wood Heaters; and
  • Renewable Natural Gas.

Additional information about the selected projects is available here.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson
 
On June 2, 2021, the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy (EERE) announced that the United States, Denmark, and Norway joined forces with the Global Maritime Forum and the Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller Center for Zero Carbon Shipping to lead a new Zero-Emission Shipping Mission. This effort is part of Mission Innovation, “a global initiative to catalyze action and investment in research, development and demonstration to make clean energy affordable, attractive and accessible to all this decade.” Supported by the governments of India, Morocco, the United Kingdom, Singapore, France, Ghana, and South Korea, Mission Innovation aims to accelerate the Paris Agreement progress toward net zero emissions. According to DOE’s EERE, international maritime shipping represents approximately two to three percent of the world’s total annual greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Without addressing these emissions from maritime shipping, emissions could increase anywhere between 50 and 250 percent by 2050. Therefore, the Zero-Emissions Shipping Mission aims to:

  • Develop, demonstrate, and deploy zero-emissions fuels, ships, and fuel infrastructure across the value chain;
  • Ensure that by 2030, ships capable of running on hydrogen-based zero-emission fuels, such as green hydrogen, green ammonia, green methanol, and biofuels, make up at least five percent of the global deep-sea fleet measured by fuel consumption; and
  • Ensure that by 2030, at least 200 of these zero-emission fueled ships are in service and using these fuels across their main deep-sea shipping routes.

 

By  Lynn L. Bergeson and Ligia Duarte Botelho, M.A.
 
On May 4, 2021, the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory published an article titled “Retrospective Analysis of the U.S. Corn Ethanol Industry for 2005-2019: Implications for Greenhouse Gas Emission Reductions.” Using a life-cycle analysis (LCA), researchers at the Argonne National Laboratory quantified the life cycle of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of fuels to compare relative GHG impacts among different fuel production pathways. According to the retrospective analysis conducted, since 2000, corn ethanol production in the United States quadrupled due to supportive biofuels policies such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). Consequently, carbon intensity (CI) over the past 15 years has significantly decreased by 23 percent. Since 2000, the corn ethanol production pathway, including corn farming and biorefineries, has substantially evolved. Researchers state in the article that this shift into more efficient farming and biorefinery practices increases revenue while also potentially reducing the emission burdens of ethanol production. DOE’s Argonne National Laboratory researchers conclude that biofuels, including corn ethanol, can and likely will play a key role in decarbonizing the U.S. economy.
 
The article’s findings will also be used by DOE to update key corn ethanol parameters in the Argonne National Laboratory’s Greenhouse Gases, Regulated Emissions, and Energy Use in Technologies (GREET) Model 2021, which will be released in October 2021.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson
 
On May 14, 2021, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced $35 million in funding for 15 research projects focused on reducing the carbon footprint of biofuel production. Housed at colleges, laboratories, and universities in nine states, these projects aim to advance new technologies to decarbonize biorefining processes in the agriculture, energy, and transportation sectors. Funding awards are supported by DOE’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) through its “Energy and Carbon Optimized Synthesis for the Bioeconomy” (ECOSynBio) program. The 15 selected teams will research five methods to optimize biofuel production:

  • Carbon-optimized fermentation strains that avoid carbon dioxide (CO2) waste;
  • Engineered organisms that can use a mix of different sources of energy and carbon and avoid evolving CO2;
  • Biomass-derived sugar or carbon oxide gas fermentation with internal CO2 recycling;
  • Cell-free carbon-optimized biocatalytic biomass conversion and/or CO2 use; and
  • Cross-cutting carbon-optimized bioconversion methods that have the potential for high-impact emission reductions.

Additional information about the winning projects is available here.


 

By  Lynn L. Bergeson and Ligia Duarte Botelho, M.A.

On December 19, 2020, the Government of Canada’s Department of the Environment published a proposed rule titled Clean Fuel Regulations. The proposed rule addresses Canada’s concerns in achieving its net-zero emissions by 2050 under the Paris Agreement. In an effort to reduce the largest sources of greenhouse gases (GHG), the Clean Fuel Regulations would require liquid fossil fuel primary suppliers to reduce the carbon intensity (CI) of the liquid fossil fuels they produce in and import into Canada from 2016 CI levels by 2.4 g of CO2/megajoule (MJ) in 2022, increasing to 12 g of CO2/MJ in 2030. The proposed rule would also establish a credit market whereby the annual CI reduction requirement could be met via three main categories of credit-creating actions:

  • Actions that reduce the CI of the fossil fuel throughout its life cycle;
  • Supplying low-carbon fuels; and
  • Specified end-use fuel switching in transportation.

The Clean Fuels Regulations would also retain the minimum volumetric requirements of at least five percent low CI fuel content in gasoline and two percent low CI fuel content in diesel fuel and light fuel oil that are currently set out in the federal Renewable Fuels Regulation (RFR). The RFR would be repealed, and parties that are not primary fossil fuel suppliers would be able to participate in the credit market as voluntary credit creators by completing certain actions. Further details are available here.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On October 20, 2020, Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Representative Mike Levin (D-CA) introduced in the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives the Zero-Emission Vehicles At of 2020 (the Act). The Act would amend Part A of Title II of the Clean Air Act (CAA) to create a federal national zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) standard and address climate change by ending U.S. sales of new gasoline-powered vehicles in 2035. Senator Merkley and Representative Levin’s standard aims to boost the market for battery electric vehicles and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. Sponsored by four other Senators and an additional 15 Representatives, the ZEV standard has also been criticized by conservatives and biofuels industry stakeholders. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) stated that Iowans should not “allow coastal state lawmakers to dictate to Middle America how to live [their] lives or take away the freedom to choose what kind of car to buy.”


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On June 5, 2018, Brazil’s National Energy Policy Council (CNPE) set a target to reduce fuel emissions ten percent by 2028. These targets are part of the RenovaBio law, passed in December 2017, that aims to meet Brazil’s commitments under the Paris Climate Agreement by increasing the share of ethanol and biodiesel in Brazil’s fuel mix and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Andre Rocha, president of the National Sugarcane/Ethanol Forum, a group of 16 state sugar/ethanol producers associations, told Bloomberg Environment (subscription required) that the ten percent target “is not very ambitious, but is sufficient to encourage biofuel producers’ to expand output.”
 
The passage of RenovaBio will set up a carbon credit market for biofuel producers to trade carbon dioxide emissions credits with fuel distributors. Fuel distributors must either purchase credits or additional biofuels to meet annual emissions reductions targets. This carbon credit market will go into effect in 2020, with the carbon credits expected to result in $341 billion in biofuel investments and 8.3 billion additional gallons of ethanol and biodiesel consumption by 2028. On June 11, 2018, The Wilson Center hosted a meeting with a delegation from Brazil’s Ministry of Mines and Energy to discuss the implementation of RenovaBio. The slides from the presentation are available online.


 

By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

On December 21, 2017, Neste, a member of the Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group (BRAG®), announced the launch of its online hub focused on sustainable aviation solutions.  Decarbonizingaviation.com is an online platform designed to raise awareness and facilitate dialog in reducing the aviation industry's carbon footprint.  The results of a recent survey by Neste demonstrate that 50 percent of travelers consider it important that their airline goes above and beyond regulations to be environmentally friendly, and that most passengers are willing to pay a fee for renewable jet fuel.  With nearly 90 percent growth in air travel predicted between 2016 and 2035, a transition towards carbon neutral growth is needed to curb the rise in carbon dioxide emissions from aviation.  According to Paul Paoletta, Head of Neste Aviation Solutions, “Neste is working relentlessly to help airports and all aviation stakeholders to take advantage of sustainable low-carbon fuels in their operations.”


 

By Kathleen M. Roberts

On August 29, 2017, the government of the province of Ontario, Canada announced $25.8 million has been allocated to the Low Carbon Innovation Fund (LCIF) as a part of the province’s Climate Change Action Plan.  The funding will be used to support emerging, innovative technologies in areas such as alternative energy generation and conservation, new biofuels or bioproducts, next-generation transportation or novel carbon capture and usage technologies. 
 
Funding is available either from:

  • The Technology Demonstration stream, which aims to support the development and commercialization of innovative low carbon technologies through testing in real-world settings; or
  • The Technology Validation stream, which aims to fund proof-of-concept or prototype projects from eligible Ontario companies or academic organizations to help them get to market faster.
To be eligible for LCIF, projects must be conducted in Ontario and must show significant potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Ontario.  Ontario’s Climate Change Action Plan is key to its achievement of its goal of cutting greenhouse gas pollution to 15 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, 37 percent below by 2030, and 80 percent below by 2050.

 

 
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