On September 16, 2016, the U.S. Navy announced the successful flight test of the EA-18G "Green Growler" plane on 100 percent advanced biofuel. Lt. Cmdr. Bradley Fairfax, project officer and test pilot, stated that "The information presented to us in the airplane is pretty simplified but, as far as I could tell, the aircraft flew completely the same as [petroleum-based] JP-5 for the whole flight." This program supports the Secretary of the Navy's (SECNAV) goal to increase the use of alternative fuels by 2020. The Green Growler flew on catalytic hydrothermal conversion-to-jet (CHCJ) fuel, produced by Applied Research Associates (ARA) and Chevron Lummus Global. "We are excited to work with the U.S. Navy as it takes this important step toward the use of 100-percent drop-in renewable jet and diesel fuels in its aircraft and ships," said Chuck Red, Vice President of fuels development for ARA. "Our renewable fuels continue to prove their viability as 100-percent replacements for petroleum in diesel and jet fuel applications."
On August 25, 2016, researchers at the University of Michigan, led by research professor John M. DeCicco, Ph.D., published "Carbon balance effects of U.S. biofuel production and use," a study examining the impact of biofuel production on carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. The study, funded in part by the American Petroleum Institute, examined USDA crop-production data and determined that the increasing use of biofuels has resulted in a net increase of CO2 emissions, with only 37 percent of CO2 emissions from biofuel combustion offset by the increased CO2 uptake from biofuel crops. Biofuels have generally been assumed to be inherently carbon neutral because the CO2 released by combustion is equal to the CO2 that was originally pulled from the atmosphere through photosynthesis. In this study, Dr. DeCicco did not assume that biofuels were carbon neutral, going through crop, biofuel, and fossil fuel production data, as well as vehicle emissions, to determine that biofuels produce more CO2 emissions than gasoline.
MichBio, Michigan's biosciences industry association, issued a strong condemnation of the study, calling it "flawed" and based on inappropriate modeling assumptions. The lifecycle analysis used by Dr. DeCicco provides a carbon storage credit to fossil fuels from existing forests and agriculture that MichBio argues is wholly inappropriate due to the lack of an economic relationship between the petroleum industry and agriculture and forestry. MichBio concedes that biofuels are not carbon neutral, but states that the issue is more complex than Dr. DeCicco implies: "No competent life cycle assessment assumes that biofuels are carbon neutral, only that the actual carbon content of the fuels came from the atmosphere in the first place and returns to the atmosphere when it is combusted. That much is simple chemistry, and without argument. For the rest of the biofuel life cycle, the question of carbon neutrality is very much a research question, not a decided issue as DeCicco would have one believe." MichBio goes on to reference an independently funded study by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory that showed "conventional biofuels reduce greenhouse gas emissions by an average of 34 percent over their lifecycle, while advanced biofuels can reduce emissions by 100 percent or more over conventional gasoline."
On August 8, 2016, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced an open meeting of the Biomass Research and Development Technical Advisory Committee in the Federal Register. The purpose of the meeting is to develop advice and guidance promoting research and development (R&D) for biofuel and bioproducts production. A tentative agenda includes:
- Update on U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Biomass R&D Activities
- Update on DOE, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), and Biomass R&D Activities
- Overview of the Commercial Aviation Alternative Fuels Initiative (CAAFI)
- Presentations on Advanced Biodigester Systems
- Overview of OSTP and Its Role on the Biomass Board
The meeting will be held in Madison, WI, on August 17, 2016, from 8:30 a.m. - 6:00 p.m. (CT) and August 18, 2016, from 8:30 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. (CT). A meeting summary will be provided for public review online.
On July 14, 2016, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), announced $15 million in funding for three projects that will work to improve algal biomass yields to reduce production costs of algae-based biofuels and bioproducts. The projects include Global Algae Innovations (San Diego, California), Algenol Biotech LLC (Ft. Myers, Florida), and MicroBio Engineering, Inc. (San Luis Obispo, California). These projects will coordinate algae strain improvements through harvesting, dewatering, and downstream processing, resulting in lower cost algae-based biofuels.
Designated Federal Officer for the Committee
U.S. Department of Energy
Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy
Mail Stop EE-3B
1000 Independence Avenue. S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20585
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 March 3, 2016, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Bioenergy Research Centers (BRC) announced the 500th invention disclosure since 2007. The BRCs, which consist of the BioEnergy Science Center (Oak Ridge National Laboratory), the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center (University of Wisconsin-Madison and Michigan State University), and the Joint BioEnergy Institute (Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory), work to develop advanced biofuels technologies to bring to the marketplace. Created in 2007, the BRCs have brought together a diverse group of ecologists, economists, engineers, plant biologists, microbiologists, computational scientists, and chemists to collaborate with a focus on producing biofuels from cellulosic biomass.