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By  Lynn L. Bergeson

On June 6, 2022, EPA announced the winners of the 2022 Green Chemistry Challenge Awards. EPA states that green chemistry “is the design of chemical products and processes that reduce or eliminate the generation and use of hazardous substances.” According to EPA, the winners “have developed new and innovative green chemistry technologies that provide solutions to significant environmental challenges and spur innovation and economic development.” In support of the Biden Administration’s commitment to tackle the climate crisis, EPA added a new award category recognizing technology that reduces or eliminates greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The 2022 winners include:

  • Professor Song Lin of Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, for developing a new, more efficient process to create large and complicated molecules that are widely used in the pharmaceutical industry. EPA states that the new technology avoids using hazardous materials and has the potential to reduce both energy use and wasteful byproducts.
  • Merck, Rahway, New Jersey, for developing a greener way to make LAGEVRIO™ (molnupiravir), an antiviral treatment for COVID-19. According to EPA, Merck significantly improved the manufacturing process for this antiviral drug in a short time, producing ingredients more efficiently and greatly reducing solvent waste and energy use.
  • Amgen, Thousand Oaks, California, for an improved manufacturing process for LUMAKRAS™ (sotorasib), a novel drug for the treatment of certain non-small cell lung cancers. EPA states that Amgen’s innovation decreased manufacturing time, lowered the amount of solvent waste generated, and established a recycling process for a high-value waste stream.
  • Provivi, Santa Monica, California, for creating ProviviFAW®, a biological pheromone-based product that controls the fall armyworm, a destructive pest of corn. The product’s pheromone active ingredients are produced through innovative green chemistry using renewable plant oils. According to EPA, ProviviFAW™ can reduce the need for conventional pesticides, which can be harmful to beneficial insects, such as pollinators.
  • Professor Mark Mascal of the University of California, Davis, California, in partnership with Origin Materials, for a technology that reduces GHG emissions by producing chemicals for making polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic from biomass derived from sugar fructose rather than petroleum. EPA states that this novel chemistry could have significant climate impacts by replacing fossil-based products with carbon-neutral, biobased products, especially when the technology is scaled to an entire industry.

EPA recognized the winners during the American Chemical Society Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference. EPA states that since 1996, EPA and the American Chemical Society, which co-sponsor the awards, have received more than 1,800 nominations and presented awards to 133 technologies that decrease hazardous chemicals and resources, reduce costs, protect public health, and spur economic growth. According to EPA, winning technologies are responsible for reducing the use or generation of nearly one billion pounds of hazardous chemicals, saving over 20 billion gallons of water, and eliminating nearly eight billion pounds of carbon dioxide equivalents released to the air.


 

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

On April 18, 2022, EPA announced the opportunity for public comment on its proposed analysis of the lifecycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with biofuels produced from canola/rapeseed oil. EPA’s assessment considers diesel, jet fuel, heating oil, naphtha, and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) produced from canola/rapeseed oil through a hydrotreating process. EPA is proposing to find that these pathways would meet the lifecycle GHG emissions reduction threshold of 50 percent required for advanced biofuels and biomass-based diesel under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program. Based on its analyses, EPA is also proposing to approve these fuel pathways, making them eligible to generate Renewable Identification Numbers (RIN) if they meet the definitional and RIN generation criteria for renewable fuel specified in the RFS regulations.

Comments must be submitted by May 18, 2022.

Tags: EPA, GHG, Biofuel, RFS, RIN

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
 
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) New Chemicals Program will hold a webinar on Wednesday, February 23, 2022, from 2:00 to 3:00 p.m. (EST) to learn about requirements under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) and the premanufacture notice (PMN) process for biofuels. As reported in our January 24, 2022, blog item, in January 2022, EPA announced an effort to streamline the review of new biobased or waste-derived chemicals that could displace current, higher greenhouse gas (GHG)-emitting transportation fuels. EPA states that to support this effort, it is offering outreach and training to stakeholders interested in biofuels. According to EPA, the bi-weekly webinar series includes reviewing TSCA requirements, outlining the streamlined approaches for risk assessments and risk management actions, and providing information on how to navigate the new chemicals PMN process. Future webinars will include:

Registration is required for the February 23, 2022, webinar.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson 

On January 10, 2022, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) announced that a team of its researchers has developed a promising approach to control methane emissions and remove methane from the air using zeolite clay. Zeolite clay is inexpensive and abundant. The MIT team found that, when treated with copper, the material is very effective at absorbing methane from the air even at low concentrations. According to researcher and Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Desiree Plata, Ph.D., this process is advantageous over other approaches to removing methane from the air, as other methods tend to use more expensive catalysts that require high temperatures. The method converts methane into carbon dioxide that, according to Plata, is much less impactful in the atmosphere than methane. Methane is about 80 times stronger as a greenhouse gas (GHG) over the first 20 years, and approximately 25 times stronger for the first century.
 
MIT researchers still have outstanding engineering details to address in this process. To do so, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) awarded a $2 million grant for MIT to continue to develop specific equipment for methane removal in places with concentrated sources of methane, such as dairy barns and coal mines. Plata reported that the next phase of the project will focus largely on ways to structure the clay material in a multiscale, hierarchical configuration to demonstrate a proof of concept that this method can work in the field.
 


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
 
On January 21, 2022, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a new effort under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) to streamline the review of new chemicals that could be used to displace current, higher greenhouse gas (GHG) emitting transportation fuels. The Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention’s (OCSPP) New Chemicals Division (NCD) has implemented a “robust, consistent, and efficient process to assess the risk and apply mitigation measures, as appropriate, for substitutes to petroleum-based fuels and fuel additives that use biobased or waste-derived sources to produce biofuels.” EPA states that this effort supports its goals under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program, as well as its 2021 Climate Adaptation Action Plan. According to the announcement, EPA has received over 30 biofuel premanufacture notices (PMN) “that collectively describe plans for close to 800 million gallons per year of production of advanced biofuels, that could contribute to annual volume mandates under the RFS program and help support the goals of energy security through increasing domestic production” within the United States.
 
The announcement includes:
 
New Chemicals Division Integrated Approach to Biofuels
 
Under this effort, NCD formed a dedicated team to collaborate on the review of PMNs for biobased or waste-derived feedstocks used to make transportation fuel substitutes with the goals to use the best available science while creating a consistent and efficient review process. EPA states that NCD developed a standardized process for the way biofuel PMNs are reviewed. For example, the same dedicated team will be conducting reviews for all biofuels PMNs, helping to ensure the assessments and determinations are consistent and aligned with requirements. Further, NCD will generate one report for biofuels PMNs that combines the six different risk assessments typically conducted for PMNs, helping to provide a clearer summary explanation of how EPA conducted its assessment and made its determination.
 
For risk management actions, NCD will apply appropriate mitigation measures to address any potential for unreasonable risk identified in an efficient and consistent manner within TSCA consent orders and significant new use rules (SNUR).
 
Outreach and Training
 
According to the announcement, OCSPP is launching outreach and training for interested stakeholders in the biofuels sector to review TSCA requirements, outline the streamlined approaches for risk assessments and risk management actions, and provide information on how to navigate the new chemicals PMN process.
 
OCSPP will hold a kick-off meeting on February 9, 2022, to provide an overview of this initiative and answer questions from stakeholders. Registration for the meeting is open.
 
Other planned outreach and training related to this biofuels initiative include webinars on:

  • TSCA requirements and the PMN process;
  • The TSCA Inventory, nomenclature, and Bona Fide process;
  • New chemicals risk assessments, including applications of the tools, models, and databases; and
  • New chemicals risk management actions, including TSCA Section 5 orders and SNURs.

EPA states that it may add additional outreach and training sessions, including training opportunities applicable to all new chemical submitters, based on stakeholder interest and feedback.

Tags: Biofuels, RFS, GHG, EPA, TSCA

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson 

On December 28, 2021, EPA announced that it will hold a public virtual meeting to discuss biofuel greenhouse gas (GHG) modeling. EPA is soliciting information on the current scientific understanding of GHG modeling of land-based biofuels used in the transportation sector. According to EPA, the information gathered during this meeting will be used to inform current and future EPA actions, including the method for quantifying GHG emissions under RFS. Of particular interest to EPA, is input on:

  • How to incorporate the best available science into an update of EPA’s biofuels lifecycle analysis (LCA); and
  • The next steps EPA should take in this work area.

Hosted by EPA’s Office of Transportation and Air Quality in consultation with USDA and DOE, the virtual public meeting is scheduled for February 28, 2022, and March 1, 2022, from 12:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. (EST). EPA will also be accepting comments on these topics until April 1, 2022.


 

 By  Lynn L. Bergeson
 
On June 7, 2021, Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm launched the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Energy Earthshots Initiative. Designed to accelerate innovation of abundant, affordable, and reliable clean energy solutions within the next ten years. Secretary Granholm stated that the first Energy Earthshot will be the Hydrogen Shot, which sets an ambitious yet achievable cost target to accelerate innovations and spur demand of clean hydrogen.” The Hydrogen Shot aims to reduce the cost of clean hydrogen by 80 percent to $1 per kilogram (kg) while also creating more clean energy jobs. Currently, clean hydrogen costs approximately $5 per kg. This initiative will drive program development across DOE’s science and applied energy offices, and the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E).
 
DOE’s Hydrogen Program issued a Request for Information (RFI) on viable hydrogen demonstrations that can help to lower the cost of hydrogen, reduce carbon emissions, create jobs, and provide benefits to disadvantaged communities. Topics for the RFI include:

  • Hydrogen Production, Resources, and Infrastructure;
  • End Users for Hydrogen Based on Specific Regions, Cost, and Value Propositions;
  • Greenhouse Gas and Other Pollutant Emissions Reduction Potential;
  • Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), Jobs, and Environmental Justice; and
  • Science and Innovation Needs and Challenges.

RFI responses are due on July 7, 2021, by 5:00 p.m. (EDT). Additional information about the RFI is available here.


 

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 November 18, 2020, U.S. Representatives Cheri Bustos (D-IL) and Jim Hagedorn (R-MN) introduced a bipartisan, bicameral legislation that aims to lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and encourage low-carbon fuel production. Titled “The Streamlining Advanced Biofuels Registration Act,” this bill would eliminate existing barriers for biofuels plants to increase production of cellulosic biomass into renewable fuels. Representative Bustos criticized the lack of timely response from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), adding that through this bill, “we can encourage the use of cellulosic biomass in low-carbon, renewable fuel production and continue to create cleaner, more environmentally-friendly fuels.” The legislation would ensure that EPA acts on outstanding applications under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and compel EPA to accept applications if the fuel could participate in at least one state’s clean transportation program. Biofuels industry stakeholders have demonstrated support for the bill.


 

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.”


 
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