By Lynn L. Bergeson and Ligia Duarte Botelho, M.A.
On March 22, 2022, DOE announced a $34.5 million funding opportunity to improve the science and infrastructure for converting waste streams into bioproducts and biofuels that can benefit the local energy economy. DOE Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), Kelly Speakes-Backman, stated that “through this investment, we see an opportunity to support the bioeconomy and the equitable transition to a clean energy economy.” The FY22 Waste Feedstock and Conversion R&D Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) encourages the development of improved organisms and inorganic catalysts to support the next generation of low-carbon biofuels and bioproducts. This FOA has four topic areas:
- Community Scale Resource and Energy Recovery from Organic Wastes;
- Municipal Solid Waste Feedstock Technologies;
- Robust Catalytic Processes; and
- Robust Microbial Cells.
DOE will accept concept papers for this FOA until 5:00 p.m. (EDT) on April 18, 2022. Applications are due by 5:00 p.m. (EDT) on June 7, 2022. Additional information on this FOA is available here.
By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
On March 16, 2022, the House Science, Space, and Technology Subcommittee on Energy will hold a hearing on “Bioenergy Research and Development for the Fuels and Chemicals of Tomorrow.” According to the hearing charter, the purpose of the hearing is to examine the status of bioenergy research, development, and demonstration (RD&D) activities carried out by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). The hearing will also consider advancements in bioenergy research and the potential role of this resource in a cleaner energy transition. Lastly, the hearing will help inform future legislation to support and guide the United States’ bioenergy RD&D enterprise. Witnesses will include:
- Dr. Jonathan Male, Chief Scientist for Energy Processes and Materials, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL);
- Dr. Andrew Leakey, Director of the Center for Advanced Bioenergy and Bioproducts Innovation at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign;
- Dr. Laurel Harmon, Vice President of Government Affairs, LanzaTech; and
- Dr. Eric Hegg, Professor, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Michigan State University.
The hearing charter notes that in addition to fuels, biomass can be used to create valuable chemicals and materials, known as “bioproducts.” According to the hearing charter, approximately 16 percent of U.S. crude oil consumption is used to make petrochemicals and products, such as plastics for industrial and consumer goods, fertilizers, and lubricants. Common biobased products include household cleaners, paints and stains, personal care items, plastic bottles and containers, packaging materials, soaps and detergents, lubricants, clothing, and building materials. The hearing charter states that the production of bioproducts relies on much of the same feedstocks, infrastructure, feedstock commoditization, and technologies that are central to biofuels production. Therefore, according to DOE, once technologies are proven for bioproduct applications, they could be readily transferred and greatly improve biofuel production.
By Lynn L. Bergeson
The Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA) is offering the first Renewable Chemicals Production (RCP) Tax Credit in the United States. What does this mean? It means that the program provides an opportunity for industry stakeholders to advance Iowa’s economy through a focus on biomass as a feedstock for the production of renewable chemicals. As an attempt to incentivize the production of 30 high-value chemicals derived from biomass feedstocks, IEDA developed the RCP Tax Credit program to “capitalize on its resources and infrastructure and to capture the renewable chemical manufacturing industry.” IEDA is offering tax credit of $0.05 per pound of renewable chemical produced. Start-ups can receive up to $1 million in credit, and established businesses can earn up to $500,000. Applications are open until March 15, 2020, for chemicals produced in 2019.
By Lynn L. Bergeson and Ligia Duarte Botelho, M.A.
First published last week, on November 25, 2019, the article titled “Consolidated Production of Coniferol and Other High-Value Aromatic Alcohols Directly from Lignocellulosic Biomass” has gained media attention across the globe. Given the finite geological oil reserves, the competition to identify alternative biobased and biorefinery processes continues to grow. According to the article, the aim in identifying such products is not only to find alternatives, but most importantly to “overcome significant costs and productivity barriers.” In the aforementioned article, published in the Green Chemistry Journal, scientists write about a novel technique using the biocatalytic production of coniferol (a versatile chemical block) directly from lignocellulosic biomass. The process to do so involves a biocatalytic treatment of lignocellulose, which releases and converts ferulic acid with feruloyl esterase (XynZ), carboxylic acid reductase (CAR), and aldo-keto reductase (AKR). This catalytic reaction achieves the equivalent release of ferulic acid from lignocellulose compared to alkaline hydrolysis, also displaying efficient conversion of ferulic acid to coniferol. Consolidating a biodegradation-biotransformation strategy for the production of high value fine chemicals from waste plant biomass, this novel process offers a potential to minimize environmental waste and add value to agro-industrial residues. A number of grants, including from the São Paulo Research Foundation and David Phillips Fellowship, supported the study outlined in the journal article. Grants of these types continue to arise as the need to address resource efficiency and, therefore, biobased chemical production has become the focus of various government agencies in many countries. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) for example, often provides scientist from all backgrounds similar opportunities.
By Lynn L. Bergeson
On July 8, 2019, the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) announced the winners of the Consider Corn Challenge II, a challenge intended to highlight the range of biobased materials that can be produced with field corn feedstock. The three winners included:
- ExoPolymer, Inc. for a plan to create a new profile of customizable, polysaccharide-based hydrocolloids that are domestically produced by microbial fermentation using corn sugar as a feedstock. These new hydrocolloids will meet the growing needs and performance gaps in the healthcare, personal care, food, pharmaceutical and energy industries.
- Sumatra Biorenewables, LLC for the development and production of novel monomers that are incorporated into polyamides and polyesters to provide tensile strength and low water absorption. These superior performance-advantaged materials have wide-ranging applications in the specialty nylon's industry. Opportunities include improved hydrophobicity, anti-static, flame-retardant, or have tuned mechanical strength to meet customer specifications.
- U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Research Service: National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research in Peoria, IL, for a plan to use emulsifiers, polymer films, and coatings made from corn starch and vegetable oil rather than petroleum.
The diversification of biobased uses for field corn is important in an industry that is working to move away from ethanol production as second-generation biofuel technologies become more advanced and prove to be more sustainable than earlier biofuel types. Nebraska farmer and NCGA Feed Food and Industrial Action Team Chair Dan Wesely said of the challenge, “It is encouraging for farmers to know that companies are looking for more environmentally friendly alternatives for biobased products.”
By Lynn L. Bergeson
On June 18, 2019, Neste, a Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group (BRAG®) member, and LyondellBassell announced the first commercial scale parallel production of biobased polypropylene and biobased low-density polyethylene. This project used Neste’s renewable hydrocarbons, derived from sustainable biobased raw materials, such as waste and residue oils, to produce food packaging bioplastics marked as Circulen and Circulen Plus by LyondellBasell. "We are excited to enable the plastics industry to introduce more bio-based material into its offering. It is very satisfying to see Neste's renewable hydrocarbons performing perfectly in a commercial scale production of bio-based polymers, providing a drop-in replacement option to fossil materials," stated Neste's President and CEO Peter Vanacker.
- Interesting Engineering, “Reversible Plastic Developed That Can Be Repeatedly Recycled”
- Politico, “De Blasio Praises Biofuels, Promises More Recycling at First Iowa Stop”
- RFA, “New Study: Renewable Fuel Standard Saves Consumers 22 Cents on Every Gallon of Gas”
- Saigon Online, “Ministry Proposes Environmental Protection Tax Cut for Biofuel”
- UPI, “Japan’s Renewables-powered Olympics Could Spur Global Race for Clean Energy”
- Reuters, “Britain’s Genus Signs Deal to Bring Gene-edited Pigs to China”
- Ethanol Producer Magazine, “EU Repeals Anti-dumping Duties on US Ethanol”
- The Daily Caller, “Liz Warren Pushes Bill Imposing Green New Deal Climate Goals on the US Military”
- Reuters, “Brazil Seeks China’s OK for Genetically Modified Sugarcane”
- Fast Company, “These ‘Biosolar Panels’ Suck CO2 from the Air to Grow Edible Algae”
- Standard Digital, “Defining Moment as Kenyans Await Cabinet’s GMO Verdict”
By Lynn L. Bergeson
The Minnesota Department of Agriculture is offering an opportunity for funding to advance a bioenergy or biochemical production technology toward commercial scale through the construction and operation of a pilot plant. To be eligible for the AGRI Bioenergy/Biochemical Pilot Project Grant, applicants must be a Minnesota-based company, learning institution, local government unit, Native American Tribal community, or individual (including for-profit businesses and colleges/universities). Eligible grant projects will be for the development of innovative bioenergy or biochemical production technology ideas that have advanced beyond the proof of concept and are at the scaling up to pilot-plant stage. Up to $150,000 will be awarded and must be used for: (1) wages, software, or anything else necessary to perform the tasks of the grant project’s work plan; and (2) equipment needed for the project implementation. Applications are due by 4:00 p.m. (CDT) on April 26, 2019. For further details, see the Request for Proposals.
- Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. TSCAblog™, “EPA Releases Budget Justification that Increases Budget for Chemical Risk, Review, and Reduction Program”
- Phys.org, “Technology Turns Municipal Wastewater Algae into Specialty Chemicals for Biofuels, Bioplastics”
- RealClear Energy, “The Unintended Consequences of the Renewable Fuel Standard”
- Quad-City Times, “Biofuels Are Not the Answer on Climate Change”
- Bloomberg, “These Companies Are Trying to Reinvent Recycling”
- Food Navigator, “Chilean Start-up Creates Bioplastic from Walnut Waste”
- Phys.org, “How to Convert Wheat Straw Waste into Green Chemicals”
- Happi, “Croda Wins ‘Bio-based Industry Story of the Year’ Award”
- Curbed, “This Gorgeous Marble-like Material Comes from Sunflowers”
- Renewable Energy Magazine, “The Role of Renewable Energy in the Manufacturing Sector”
- Interesting Engineers, “Clear Wood: New Material Could Replace Glass”
- de zeen, “Thomas Vailly Uses Sunflowers to Make Bio-based Materials”
- KFGO, “Aerion Designing Supersonic Jet to Run Completely on Biofuels: CEO”
- Ethanol Producer Magazine, “Wheeler Addresses SREs, RVO Reallocations During Recent Hearings”
- Purdue University Research Foundation News, “Technology Shown to Turn Municipal Wastewater Algae into Specialty Chemicals for Biofuels, Bioplastics”
- The Jakarta Post, “EU Biofuel Directive Protectionist, CPOPC Says”
- ScienceDirect, “Biofuel Impact on Food Prices Index and Lang Use Change”
- ScienceDirect, “An Optimal Carbon Fiber Interlayer Integrated with Bio-based Gel Polymer Electrolyte Enabling Trapping-diffusion-conversion of Polysulfides in Lithium-sulfur Batteries”