By Lynn L. Bergeson
On July 24, 2018, a research team at the North Carolina State University announced that biobased glucaric-acid or lignin additives can increase the robustness of polyvinyl alcohol fibers, which can be used in biofriendly products including polymers, detergents, paints, and diapers. The team plans to continue its R&D as a movement towards greener alternatives to support industries using additives with known varying levels of toxicity. This discovery could play a large role in processing plastics for safe contact with food, people, and the environment. In 2004, DOE listed glucaric-acid as one of the top 12 sugar-derived chemicals with the potential to be economic drivers for a biorefinery. Lignin is low in cost and also a waste by-product of the pulp and paper industries, which can also make commercial scale production feasible.
By Lynn L. Bergeson
On June 14, 2018, the European Union (EU) reached a deal on the Renewable Energy Directive (REDII),which sets new targets for renewables. REDII represents stricter targets than those discussed in Brussels in 2014, upping the percentage of the EU’s energy that must come from renewable sources to 32 percent of total energy consumption by 2030. The agreement also states that at least 14 percent of transportation fuel must come from renewable sources by 2030, and includes a plan to phase out crop-based biofuels by capping the percentage of such biofuel counted towards EU Renewable Energy requirements at 7 percent of all road and rail transport. In addition to capping the counted percentage of crop-based biofuels, REDII requires the share of advanced biofuels used in transportation to reach 1 percent by 2025, and 3.5 percent by 2030. This agreement is still draft legislation with certain details left to be determined by the European Commission, including a plan to create a certification process of low indirect land use change (ILUC) biofuels that will phase out high-ILUC biofuels, including those made from palm oil. The European Parliament and the European Council still need to approve formally REDII before it goes into effect.
By Lynn L. Bergeson
On April 24, 2018, UPM Biofuels announced that its crude tall oil (CTO) feedstock for BioVerno renewable fuels had received the first ever RSB (Roundtable of Sustainable Biomaterials) low ILUC (indirect land use change) risk certification. This certificate confirms that the amount of CTO used to make BioVerno is sustainable and not diverted from other uses, resulting in little to no ILUC risk. Rolf Hogan, Executive Director of RSB, said of the certification:
The RSB is proud to count UPM among the visionary biofuel producers that are not only RSB certified for their wood-based biofuels in Lappeenranta, Finland and Brassica carinata cultivation in Uruguay, but have now received the world's first RSB low ILUC risk certification. This shows that their biofuels have not only achieved the requirements of our rigorous standard for sustainability, they have also been verified under this module, meaning they have minimal or zero risk of indirect impacts - such as deforestation or increased food prices - elsewhere in the world. With reduced greenhouse gas emissions which meet the highest standards of sustainability and transparency, as well as demonstrating the lowest impacts on nature and food production, these are the biofuels of the future
On February 9, 2017, Avantium announced a partnership with AkzoNobel (a member of the Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group (BRAG®)), Chemport Europe, RWE Generation, and Staatsbosbeheer to develop a reference plant at the Chemie Park Delfzijl in the Netherlands. The plant will use a new technology, referred to as the Zambezi process, for the cost-effective production of high-purity glucose from non-food biomass, including forestry residue, pulp, and agricultural byproducts. Once the woody biomass is converted into sugars and lignin, it can be used to produce a wide range of biobased chemicals and materials. The design of the plant includes an expansion-ready footprint to enable a rapid increase in capacity following the demonstration phase.
Each partner will contribute a unique strength to the overall project. The infrastructure, utilities, and expertise of the reference plant will be based on the AkzoNobel site in Delfzijl. The forestry residue feedstock will be sourced by Staatsbosbeheer. RWE Generation will generate renewable energy from the bio-lignin residue of the Zambezi process, and Chemport Europe will provide strategic support to the project through a range of initiatives.
On September 14-15, 2016, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) hosted a two-day workshop with lead experts on aviation biofuels exploring opportunities to increase competitiveness of alternative jet fuels. The Alternative Aviation Fuel Workshop was organized in four parallel breakout sessions covering the economic and technical competitiveness, fuel conversion and scale-up, environmental sustainability and life-cycle benefits, and feedstock and product supply chains of lignocellulosic biomass based aviation biofuels. During the workshop, Wally Tyner, a professor of Agricultural Economics from Purdue University, presented preliminary results from his team's research into greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the production of soybean based biodiesel. The study focuses on biofuels-induced land use change (LUC) emissions, critically finding that emissions could be as much as 70 percent lower than previously thought (based on induced land use change emissions recently adopted by the California Air Resources Board). Tyner's team used the most recent version of the Global Trade Analysis Project model that reflects changes in agriculture and biofuel that occurred between 2004 and 2011. This model includes expanded biofuel policies as well as improvements in agriculture efficiency such as double cropping. The combination of advancing LUC emissions science and improved agricultural practices are continually increasing confidence in the real environmental benefits of biobased fuels.
On March 11, 2016, a consortium made up of Ecofys, the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), and E4tech announced that the final report on the Land Use Change (LUC) study is now available online. The study was commissioned and funded by the European Commission (EC) and was focused on using the GLOBIOM model to determine ILUC associated with the ten percent renewable energy use target for transportation mandated by the European Union's (EU) 2020 goals. The report, The land use change impact of biofuels consumed in the EU, determined LUC emissions results as well as total LUC caused by the EU 2020 biofuel mandate. Total LUC was determined to be 8.8 million hectares (Mha), with 8 Mha consisting of new cropland, and 0.8 Mha made up of short rotation plantations on existing cropland. LUC emissions were tested by scenario and divided by biomass and biofuel type. Conventional biodiesel feedstocks were found to have high LUC effects, with conventional ethanol feedstocks having lower LUC emissions, and advanced biofuels produced from short rotation crops or perennials having negative LUC emissions.
On June 1, 2015, the Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials (RSB) voted to pass the new Low iLUC Risk Biomass Criteria and Compliance Indicators standard. The standard was approved as an optional module for those undergoing RSB certification, and will be used to show that biomass is produced with low indirect land use change (iLUC), resulting in little impact on food production and biodiversity. It is important to demonstrate how iLUC in order to prove that a biobased alternative to a traditional product is better for the environment than the original product. iLUC takes into account the indirect carbon emissions released due to expansion of croplands for biomass production, in part due to clearance of forest areas.
On April 9, 2014, Montana-based renewable chemicals producer Rivertop Renewables (Rivertop) announced that it has raised $26 million from Cargill, First Green Partners, and existing investors. The Company explains in its press release that it "will leverage these funds and an existing manufacturing relationship to produce market development quantities of salts of glucaric acid for select customers. In addition, it will complete construction and begin operations at a semi-works facility at its headquarters in Missoula, where it will optimize its process for world-scale deployment. Rivertop plans to hire more than 20 employees in the next 12 months to support commercial development, effectively doubling the size of its workforce." A copy of the Company's press release is available online.
Advanced process technologies provider Johnson Matthey Davy Technologies Ltd. (JM Davy) and renewable specialty chemical company Rennovia, Inc. have announced that they are teaming up to develop, demonstrate, and commercialize catalytic process technologies for the production of biobased glucaric acid and adipic acid. According to Rennovia's press release, "nder the collaboration, Rennovia and JM Davy will work together to develop and demonstrate the processes based on Rennovia's technology for the catalytic aerobic oxidation of glucose to glucaric acid, as well as the catalytic hydrogenation of glucaric acid to adipic acid. The goal of the collaboration is to develop and jointly license a technology package enabling commercial production of these chemical products." A copy of the press release is available online.