By Lynn L. Bergeson
In January 2019, scientists at the nova-Institut GmbH, in Hurth, Germany, published a study on the sustainability of first and second generation sugars as a resource for the biobased chemical industry. The study, which includes a comprehensive sustainability assessment, “shows that first generation sugars are as advantageous as second generation sugars for a feasible and sustainable resource strategy of Europe’s bio-based chemical industry.” Despite the negative connotation of first generation feedstocks portrayed in public discussions, the study results indicate that these public concerns are not in any manner based on scientific evidence. Carried out in a context of shifting sugar markets and feedstock sustainability for biobased products and chemicals, the study analyzes 12 different sustainability criteria, concluding that all of the researched feedstocks of sugars offer significant strengths and weaknesses for a feasible climate change strategy in the European Union (EU).
On December 29, 2016, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) published in the Federal Register a notice of available funds regarding the Biofuel Production Incentive (BPI) for companies refining biofuel from certain domestically grown feedstocks. The notice aims to improve transparency and simplify the process of administering CCC funds to support the Farm-to-Fleet program by identifying a specific BPI payment rate. The Farm Service Agency (FSA), which administers CCC funds, will determine the per gallon incentive amount by multiplying the number of gallons of qualifying biofuel blend delivered to the U.S. Department of Navy by the appropriate payment rate based on the table below. The type of feedstock used does not affect the payment rate, as it is solely based on the blend rate of the biofuel. There is currently $50 million in funding available through 2018 to support the BPI payments. Biofuel vendors with a Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) Energy contract that deliver eligible blended F–76 or JP–5 biofuel and meet the eligibility requirements can submit a claim to receive a BPI payment.
||BPI payment rate per gallon
|30% and up to a maximum as permitted by the MILSPEC
On October 3, 2016, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released the proposed Renewables Enhancement and Growth Support Rule. This proposed rule includes suggestions to improve the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program and related pro-renewable fuel regulations. Updated regulations included in the proposed rule include allowing biofuel producers to process feedstock and then convert the material into fuels at different facilities, and an expansion to the availability of high-ethanol fuel blends. The proposed rule allows increases to the types of feedstocks that biofuels can be produced from, allowing cellulosic biofuels to be produced from short-rotation poplar and willow trees; renewable diesel and biodiesel to be produced from non-cellulosic portions of separated food waste; and cellulosic diesel to be produced from compressed cellulosic feedstocks and petroleum. Comments will be due 60 days after the proposed rule’s publication in the Federal Register.
On January 12, 2016, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a Federal Register notice announcing the availability of EPA’s response to a petition it received from the Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group (BRAG®) under Section 21 of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). BRAG requested EPA to promulgate a rule pursuant to TSCA Section 8 that would establish a process to amend the list of natural sources of oil and fat in the “Soap and Detergent Association” (SDA) nomenclature system by considering the chemical equivalency of additional natural sources. While EPA denied the TSCA Section 21 petition, EPA left the door open for additional relief in this area and its notice provides useful information regarding options for doing so.
EPA concurred with BRAG that SDA nomenclature is currently limited to the listed sources. In its notice, EPA states, “[t]he petition correctly recognizes the current limitations of certain TSCA Inventory listings (i.e., those listings that incorporate particular assumptions about the natural sources of fats or oils from which the listed substance is derived, because they were named according to the SDA naming convention). Manufacturers of a new chemical substance that clearly falls outside the definitional scope of an existing chemical substance are not allowed to determine that the new chemical substance is nonetheless sufficiently ‘similar’ to the existing chemical substance, and simply deem the new chemical substance to be an existing substance on the basis of that similarity.”
While not providing details as to how it could be accomplished, EPA’s response seems to indicate that there may be opportunities for BRAG to achieve its goal. EPA stated “the petition presumes, without justification, that until a certain preliminary EPA rulemaking has been completed, those same manufacturers lack a meaningful opportunity to request that EPA enlarge the definitional scope of one or more existing chemical substances named according to the SDA naming convention.” “Although the response indicates that the current SDA Nomenclature system is limited to the original 35 sources, it is encouraging that EPA does not see a regulatory barrier to adding additional sources,” stated Richard E. Engler, Ph.D., Senior Chemist with Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. (B&C®) and BRAG advisor. Further, “[t]his language appears to support the contention that there may be an opportunity to request EPA to expand the SDA naming convention beyond the current list of 35 plant and animal sources.”
Similarly, Kathleen M. Roberts, Executive Director of BRAG, stated “BRAG is encouraged by the language in Assistant Administrator James J. Jones’ letter to BRAG, in which he highlighted Section 5(h)(4) as a potential mechanism to achieve BRAG’s goal with the Section 21 petition.” Section 5(h)(4) allows EPA to develop a rulemaking for exemption of certain chemical substances if EPA determines that the manufacture, processing, distribution, use, or disposal will not present an unreasonable risk.
Ms. Roberts also stated that “BRAG members are evaluating next steps, including careful consideration of the potential pathways to achieve the ultimate goal of the petition that EPA identified in its response.” As part of its 2016 efforts, BRAG is expanding its membership to include more companies that have already been or may be adversely impacted by EPA’s current naming convention policies, such as companies looking to produce bio-based chemicals from algae or non-traditional plant materials.
On October 13, 2015, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a notice inviting comments on its analysis of the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions attributable to the production and transport of jatropha curcas (jatropha) oil feedstock for use in making biofuels such as biodiesel, renewable diesel, jet fuel, naphtha, and liquefied petroleum gas. This notice was issued as a result of two petitions: (1) Global Clean Energy Holdings’ and Emerald Biofuels, LLC’s petition pursuant to the petition process for evaluation of new renewable fuels pathways, 40 C.F.R. § 80.1416, requesting that EPA evaluate the lifecycle GHG emissions for biofuels (biodiesel, renewable diesel, jet fuel and naphtha) produced from the oil extracted from jatropha oil, and that EPA provide a determination of the renewable fuel categories, if any, for which such biofuels may be eligible under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program; and (2) Plant Oil Powered Diesel Fuel Systems, Inc.’s petition requesting that EPA evaluate the lifecycle GHG emissions for the use of neat jatropha oil as a transportation fuel, and that EPA provide a determination of the renewable fuel categories, if any, for which such neat jatropha oil fuel may be eligible.
In response to these petitions, EPA:
- Conducted an evaluation of the GHG emissions associated with the production and transport of jatropha oil when it is used as a biofuel feedstock, and is seeking public comment on the methodology and results of this evaluation; and
- Conducted an evaluation of the GHG emissions associated with the feedstock production and feedstock transport stages of the lifecycle analysis of jatropha oil when it is used to produce a biofuel, including the indirect agricultural and forestry sector impacts. EPA is also seeking public comment on the methodology and results of this evaluation.
Based on this analysis, EPA stated that it anticipates that biofuels produced from jatropha oil could qualify as biomass-based diesel or advanced biofuel if typical fuel production process technologies or process technologies with the same or lower GHG emissions are used.
If appropriate, EPA will update its evaluation of the feedstock production and transport phases of the lifecycle analysis for jatropha oil based on comments received in response to this action. EPA will then use this feedstock production and transport information to evaluate facility-specific petitions that propose to use jatropha oil as a feedstock for the production of biofuel. In evaluating such petitions, EPA will consider the GHG emissions associated with the production and transport of jatropha oil feedstock. In addition, EPA will determine -- based on information in the petition and other relevant information, including the petitioner’s energy and mass balance data -- the GHG emissions associated with petitioners’ biofuel production processes, as well as emissions associated with the transport and use of the finished biofuel, and will then combine its assessments into a full lifecycle GHG analysis and determine whether the fuel produced at an individual facility satisfies Clean Air Act renewable fuel GHG reduction requirements.
Comments are due November 12, 2015 (30 days from Federal Register publication). An incorrect comment due date (October 13, 2015) in the October 13, 2015, Federal Register notice was corrected in an October 19, 2015, notice in the Federal Register.
On September 3, 2015, the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) released a Request for Information (RFI) titled “High Yields through Productivity and Integration Research.” BETO is seeking input from industry, academia, and other stakeholders regarding supply systems and services for the cultivation, logistics, and preprocessing of algal feedstocks.
This RFI provides algae stakeholders with an opportunity to contribute their views on the requirements necessary to develop reliable and sustainable supplies of algal biomass, algal intermediates, and metabolites. Multiple types of algae, including microalgae, cyanobacteria, and macroalgae are of interest.
On April 24, 2015, EPA released a Federal Register notice inviting comment on analysis of the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions produced during the production and transport of Brassica carinata (carinata) oil feedstock for use in the production of biofuels. The plant is not used for food in the U.S., and has high concentrations of erucic acid, making it attractive for use in biolubricants and biopolymers, as well as biofuels. EPA anticipates that biofuels produced using carinata oil will qualify as advanced biofuels, and the analysis will be used to determine if the biofuels will meet necessary GHG reductions required for qualification as renewable fuel under the RFS program. The notice is open for comment until May 26, 2015.
The 6th Annual Next Generation Biobased and Sustainable
Chemicals Summit took place this week in New Orleans, Louisiana. The Summit was
co-located with the InformEx Fine and Specialty Chemical Conference, which
provided expanded programming and exposure to a larger audience. Senior
executives from Verdezyne, Elevance Renewable Sciences, Lanzatech, Succinity, Novasep,
Corbion Purac and more joined with researchers, financiers, and feedstock
providers to discuss current developments and challenges and map out a clear
path for commercialization.
& Campbell, P.C.'s (B&C®) Senior Policy Advisor Richard E.
Engler, Ph.D., led a lively discussion on the viability and
commercial advantages/disadvantages of a variety of renewable feedstocks with
Clement Choy, Ph.D., Senior Director, Product Innovation and Advanced
Technology of consumer goods brand Seventh
Generation; Stafano Facco, New Business Development Director at
European bioplastics company Novamont SpA;
Stacy Jordahl, Vice President, Bio Refining and Emerging Technologies, for MeadWestVaco's
Specialty Chemicals Division; Ray Miller, Chief Business Officer
for Verdezyne, a company
making biochemicals via proprietary fermentation technology; and John Shaw, CEO
of Itaconix Corp.,
which makes specialty chemicals from itaconic acid produced from biobased
feedstocks via fermentation.
The speakers provided candid feedback on the impact of reduced oil
prices and the volatility of that market on their particular product lines.
They also provided unique insight in value chain interactions and customer
needs related to biobased products.
M. Roberts, Executive Director of the Biobased and Renewable
Products Advocacy Group (BRAG®) and program advisor for the Summit,
reported that the program allowed for robust dialogue among varied biobased
industry stakeholders, thus facilitating participants' further understanding of
the challenges faced by the diverse groups represented at the Summit, and their
interest in expanding the biobased market.
Engler and Roberts will both be speaking at next month's ABLC 2015 in
Washington, D.C., a gathering of over 400 of the leaders in the advanced
bioeconomy -- biofuels, biochemicals, policy, finance, and government --
organized and presented by Biofuels Digest. Register for
this important conference online.
Oils Inc. issued a press release announcing the issuance of a feedstock-only
pathway for the production of Camelina-based fuels under the California Low
Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS). According to the release, this action
by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) results in Camelina being the only
scalable, non-food based crop that meets both California and federal fuel
The Bioenergy Technologies Office within the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has issued a Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA), "Landscape Design for Sustainable Bioenergy Systems."
DOE is looking for interdisciplinary projects that integrate landscape design approaches with cellulosic feedstock production within existing agricultural and forestry systems. Projects must maintain, or preferably enhance, environmental and socio-economic sustainability. The FOA includes funding up to $14 million.
This funding will help take the next steps for previous DOE-funded projects that demonstrated potential for increased sustainability through strategic placement of bioenergy feedstock production within a landscape. The FOA will engage landowners and multi-disciplinary stakeholders in the design of the landscape, field research on sustainability metrics, and assessing logistic systems needed to provide high quality cellulosic feedstocks to conversion facilities for bioenergy.
More information on the FOA is available on DOE's website.