By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.
On December 27, 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed to approve new fuel pathways under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program. Specifically, EPA is proposing to amend RFS regulations to define the term “distillers sorghum oil” and to add approved pathways from the production of biodiesel and heating oil from distillers sorghum oil via a transesterification process, and renewable diesel, jet fuel, heating oil, naphtha, and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) produced from distillers sorghum oil via a hydrotreating process. Distillers sorghum oil is grain sorghum oil extracted at any point downstream from sorghum grinding at dry mill ethanol plants.
The proposed rule outlines EPA’s analysis of the lifecycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with certain biofuels produced from distiller sorghum oil. Based on its assessment, EPA determined that using distillers sorghum oil as feedstock results in no significant agricultural sector GHG emissions, and that biodiesel and heating oil produced from distillers sorghum oil via a transesterification process, and renewable diesel, jet fuel, heating oil, naphtha, and LPG produced from distillers sorghum oil via a hydrotreating process, would meet the lifecycle GHG emissions reduction threshold of 50 percent required for advanced biofuels and biomass-based diesel under the RFS program. Comments on the analysis are due by January 26, 2018.
In addition to EPA approval of the new pathway, producers may wish to confirm that the final sorghum-based product and all intermediates are listed on the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Inventory or covered by an exemption prior to commercialization. While naturally occurring substances are automatically added to the TSCA Inventory, the TSCA “naturally occurring exemption” is very narrow. Specifically, a naturally occurring substance includes “any chemical substance which is naturally occurring and: (1) [w]hich is (i) unprocessed or (ii) processed only by manual, mechanical, or gravitational means; by dissolution in water; by flotation; or by heating solely to remove water; or (2) [w]hich is extracted from air by any means.”