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

On October 28, 2021, the Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) announced that several of its scientists discovered in a study that bioplastics can be chemically recycled into nitrogen-rich fertilizers in an environmentally friendly manner. Assistant Professor Daisuke Aoki and Professor Hideyuki Otsuka led the study hoping to address plastic pollution, petrochemical resource depletion, and world hunger. In their novel method, plastics produced from biomass (bioplastics) are chemically recycled back into fertilizers.
 
The study was published in Green Chemistry, a Royal Society of Chemistry journal focused on innovation research on sustainable and eco-friendly technologies.


 

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

On October 29, 2021, the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) issued a notice of intent to release a second Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) to accelerate the scale-up of biofuel and bioproduct refineries. Funded by DOE’s Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO), this FOA will include efforts for pre-pilot, pilot, and demonstration scale projects. The FOA will fund projects in the planning phase, projects that already have a design package and are ready to construct, and projects that were funded by DOE previously for design work.

Tags: DOE, EERE, Biofuel

 

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

On September 30, 2021, DOE announced the launch of a new prize that will award up to $2.5 million in cash prizes to ten groups and organizations that support entrepreneurship and innovation in historically underserved communities. The Inclusive Energy Innovation Prize acknowledges that underserved populations have been and continue to be more susceptible to the negative impact of climate change, global warming, and pollution. DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) and the office of Economic Impact and Diversity (ED), hope to improve disadvantaged communities’ access to clean energy innovation ecosystems and to opportunities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). The prize supports the Biden-Harris Administration’s Justice40 Initiative to prioritize environmental and economic justice in the United States’ transition into a net-zero economy by 2050. The goals of the Prize are to:

  • Enable clean energy and climate innovation at colleges and universities serving large populations of students that are underrepresented in STEM, Minority Serving Institutions (MSI), community colleges, and undergraduate institutions.
     
  • Create and increase participation in clean energy and climate-smart job training and placement, including programs that target participation from:
     
    • Underserved populations;
       
    • Formerly incarcerated individuals; and
       
    • Youth transitioning from foster care.
       
  • Foster just and equitable clean energy deployment through grassroots innovation activities focused on community-centric networks and bottom-up solutions for sustainable development based on the needs of the communities involved.
     
  • Identify and fund activities that will help bring awareness to DOE, federal, state, local government, or private funding in support of the Justice40 goals.
     
  • Enable the development of replicable clean energy transitions that deliver just and equitable benefits to disadvantaged communities.

DOE and ED will distribute Inclusive Energy Innovation Prize funds in two phases. In Phase One, winners will receive an initial cash prize of $200,000 each, with an opportunity to receive additional awards, mentorship, and other services. Phase One winners will also be eligible for participation in Phase Two prizes. In Phase Two, up to three teams will receive cash prizes from a pool of $500,000.

Phase One applications may be submitted until 5:00 p.m. (EST) on February 25, 2022, with winner announcements in March 2022. Phase Two applications may be submitted beginning in March 2023. Information on how to apply is available here.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson 

On September 20, 2021, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced the availability of its revised final guidance for industry on biosimilar development and the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act of 2009 (BPCI Act). Titled “Questions and Answers on Biosimilar Development and the BPCI Act,” the revised guidance aims to inform prospective applicants and facilitate the development of proposed biosimilars and proposed interchangeable biosimilars. The guidance also includes FDA’s interpretation of certain statutory requirements added by the BPCI Act.


 

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

As part of a White House roundtable to launch the Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF) Grand Challenge to decarbonize the aviation sector by 2050, on September 9, 2021, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced the availability of $64.7 million in funding for projects focused on the production of cost-effective and low-carbon biofuels. DOE aims to advance technologies to replace petroleum fuels used in heavy-duty forms of transportation, such as airplanes and ships.
 
DOE Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm stated that, although heavy-duty vehicles in the transportation sector such as planes and ships are difficult to electrify, decarbonizing transportation is a critical part of the path to achieve net-zero carbon emissions. Also as part of the SAF Grand Challenge, DOE signed on September 8, 2021, a memorandum of understanding with the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The memorandum formalizes the DOE, DOT, and USDA’s collaborative efforts on the required research, development, and demonstration (RD&D) to reach the goals of supplying at least three billion gallons of SAF per year by 2030 and sufficient SAF to meet 100 percent of aviation fuel demand by 2050.
 
DOE selected 22 projects to receive the available funds administered by its Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO). The projects target high-impact bioenergy technology RD&D to increase foundational knowledge and scale up systems to produce low-carbon biofuels at lower costs, covering five topic areas:

  • Scale-Up of Biotechnologies;
  • Affordable, Clean Cellulosic Sugars for High Yield Conversion;
  • Separations to Enable Biomass Conversion;
  • Residential Wood Heaters; and
  • Renewable Natural Gas.

Additional information about the selected projects is available here.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On July 2, 2021, U.S. Representatives Angie Craig (D-MN) and Randy Feenstra (R-IA) introduced a bill called the Small Refinery Exemption Clarification Act of 2021. The bill clarifies that only oil refineries that have been continuously receiving small refinery exemptions (SRE) since 2011 should be eligible to petition for extensions of renewable fuel blending requirement exemptions. The SRE Clarification Act follows the Supreme Court’s decision in late June 2021 that, according to Representatives Craig and Feenstra, could negatively influence the biofuels industry by making it easier for oil refineries to avoid Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) blending requirements. Representative Craig stated that “[‌i]t is vital that we continue to support the clean biofuels industry as we reduce the carbon intensity of our transportation sector and make important investments across rural America.” Representative Feenstra emphasized that “we must erase ambiguities and ensure oil refineries are not able to take shortcuts when it comes to blending biofuels.”


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Ligia Duarte Botelho, M.A.
 
On July 6, 2021, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) and National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) announced Phase I selections for the Waste-to-Energy Technical Assistance for Local Governments Program. Designed by NREL to provide assistance in the development of waste-to-energy (WTE) technologies on behalf of BETO, the goal of this program is to identify gaps and gather data and information on organic waste streams. The information gathered is used to:

  • Provide data to local decisionmakers;
  • Deploy the analyses that have been developed for various energy/resource recovery strategies; and
  • Locally foster public-private partnerships.

BETO aims to enable organic waste energy and/or resource recovery at the municipal level by leveraging technical expertise and data to address specific issues each municipality may encounter with their waste streams. Phase I of the program funds collaborations between NREL and 16 local government bodies to provide strategic planning support, quantification of local organic waste resources, and mitigation approaches for localized environmental impacts. A full list of Phase I selectees can be accessed here. Phase II funding will depend on BETO’s funding availability later in 2021.

Tags: DOE, BETO, NREL, Biofuel

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On June 9, 2021, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced that 235 U.S. small businesses will receive $54 million in critical seed funding for 266 projects focused on developing and deploying novel technology solutions that contribute to the goal of achieving net-zero emissions by 2050. Administered by DOE’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs, selected projects include:

  • Grid-smart building controls;
  • Solving laser distortions; and
  • Workforce development and experiential bioenergy.

The class of awardees is designing new solutions to U.S. energy needs through carbon capture and storage, electric vehicle batteries, and solar and hydrogen power, among other types of energy. Additional information about the selected projects is available here.
 
As part of its announcement, DOE released an Inclusive Innovation Request for Information (RFI) to ensure that funding opportunities and innovation activities are more inclusive. More information on the RFI is available here. The deadline for full application submission is August 6, 2021.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson
 
On June 2, 2021, the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy (EERE) announced that the United States, Denmark, and Norway joined forces with the Global Maritime Forum and the Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller Center for Zero Carbon Shipping to lead a new Zero-Emission Shipping Mission. This effort is part of Mission Innovation, “a global initiative to catalyze action and investment in research, development and demonstration to make clean energy affordable, attractive and accessible to all this decade.” Supported by the governments of India, Morocco, the United Kingdom, Singapore, France, Ghana, and South Korea, Mission Innovation aims to accelerate the Paris Agreement progress toward net zero emissions. According to DOE’s EERE, international maritime shipping represents approximately two to three percent of the world’s total annual greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Without addressing these emissions from maritime shipping, emissions could increase anywhere between 50 and 250 percent by 2050. Therefore, the Zero-Emissions Shipping Mission aims to:

  • Develop, demonstrate, and deploy zero-emissions fuels, ships, and fuel infrastructure across the value chain;
  • Ensure that by 2030, ships capable of running on hydrogen-based zero-emission fuels, such as green hydrogen, green ammonia, green methanol, and biofuels, make up at least five percent of the global deep-sea fleet measured by fuel consumption; and
  • Ensure that by 2030, at least 200 of these zero-emission fueled ships are in service and using these fuels across their main deep-sea shipping routes.

 

By  Lynn L. Bergeson

On April 13, 2021, Montana State University (MSU) researchers from its Norm Asbjornson College of Engineering published an article entitled “Biomineralization of Plastic Waste to Improve the Strength of Plastic-Reinforced Cement Mortar.” The study evaluates calcium carbonate biomineralization techniques applied to coat plastic waste and improve the compressive strength of plastic-reinforced mortar (PRM), a type of plastic-reinforced cementitious material (PRC). In an effort to reduce the environmental impact of plastic pollution, the study tested two types of biomineralization treatments: enzymatically induced calcium carbonate precipitation (EICP) and microbially induced calcium carbonate precipitation (MICP). While MICP treatment of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) resulted in PRMs with compressive strength similar to that of plastic-free mortar, EICP-treated PET resulted in weaker strength than that of MICP. MICP treatment, however, affects differently the compressive strength of PRM in various types of plastics. According to the researchers, further work is needed to understand the impact of MICP treatment on interfacial strength. The authors hope that greater knowledge of this mechanism will lead to the establishment of biomineralized PRC as a high-volume method to reuse plastic waste.


 
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