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By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
 
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) will hold a webinar on December 13, 2022, on the “SAF Grand Challenge Roadmap: Soaring Towards Sustainable Fuel Production Goals.” Attendees will learn about the six action areas that support the Grand Challenge’s goals of:

  • Reducing life cycle greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) by 50 percent compared to conventional fuel;
  • Producing enough sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) to meet 100 percent of aviation fuel demand by 2050; and
  • Enhancing fuel sustainability.

The webinar will feature the director of BETO and speakers from DOE and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, who will discuss engaging with industry to achieve these goals. Speakers will include:

  • Valerie Reed: Director, BETO;
  • Zia Haq: Senior Analyst, BETO;
  • Craig Brown: Bioenergy Systems Technical Integration Lead, National Renewable Energy Laboratory; and
  • Mark Shmorhun: Technology Manager, Systems, Development, and Integration, BETO.

Registration is now open.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
 
The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) published a report on November 3, 2022, entitled Renewable Fuel Standard: Actions Needed to Improve Decision-Making in the Small Refinery Exemption Program. The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) requires that gasoline and diesel fuels be blended with a minimum volume of renewable fuel. Small refineries can petition the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) annually for an exemption from their RFS obligations based on disproportionate economic hardship. EPA must evaluate small refinery exemption petitions in consultation with the Department of Energy (DOE). Congressional requesters asked GAO to review issues related to EPA’s and DOE’s implementation of the small refinery exemption program. GAO examined the information, policies, and procedures EPA and DOE use to make decisions about exemptions and the extent to which exemption decisions are timely. GAO analyzed data and documents related to exemptions from 2013 through 2021 and interviewed agency officials and industry stakeholders.
 
According to GAO, EPA does not have assurance that its decisions about small refinery exemptions under the RFS are based on valid information. In addition, EPA and DOE do not have policies and procedures specifying how they are to consult about and make exemption decisions.

  • Information. Small refinery exemption decisions for compliance years 2019 through 2021 were based on an EPA conclusion that small refineries do not experience disproportionate economic hardship from the RFS. GAO states that this conclusion relies on a potentially flawed assumption -- that all parties pay and receive one price for the tradable credits used to demonstrate compliance with the RFS. GAO found that EPA has not analyzed whether this assumption is valid. GAO’s analysis showed that small refineries have paid more on average for compliance credits than have large refineries. Without reassessing its conclusion, EPA does not have assurance that its small refinery exemption decisions are based on valid information.
     
  • Policies and procedures. According to GAO, EPA has generally documented its decisions. EPA has no policies or procedures for how it assesses petitions and makes exemption decisions, however. Similarly, DOE does not have policies or procedures for how it provides consultation to EPA. GAO states that administration of the program has been inconsistent, and the number of exemptions granted and denied has varied from year to year. Consequently, agency decisions appear ad hoc, resulting in market uncertainty. This can harm small refineries and renewable fuel producers by undermining their ability to plan for infrastructure upgrades and renewable fuel demand.

GAO states that EPA has routinely missed the 90-day statutory deadline for issuing exemption decisions and does not have procedures to ensure that it meets these deadlines. In five of the nine years GAO analyzed, EPA took more than 200 days to issue a decision for more than half of the petitions submitted. According to GAO, these late decisions diminish the benefit of exemptions, create market uncertainty, discourage investment, and undermine the design of the RFS more broadly.
 
GAO made seven recommendations, including that EPA reassess its conclusion that all small refineries recover their RFS compliance costs in the price of the gasoline and diesel they sell; that DOE and EPA develop documented policies and procedures for making small refinery exemption decisions; and that EPA develop procedures to ensure that it meets deadlines. DOE agreed with GAO’s recommendations. EPA disagreed with one recommendation and partially agreed with the others. GAO “maintains that the recommendations are valid.”

Tags: RFS, Biofuel, DOE

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
 
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) and the Agile BioFoundry (ABF) will hold a webinar on September 22, 2022, highlighting technologies used by the ABF to accelerate biomanufacturing. According to BETO, the ABF consortium collaborates with industry and academia to develop technologies that enable commercially relevant biomanufacturing of sustainable bioproducts. During the webinar, attendees will hear from ABF scientists on how they use state-of-the-art machine learning, deep learning, testing, and modeling techniques to guide the bioengineering process and speed up bioproduct development.
 
The webinar will feature the following speakers:

  • Nathan Hillson, staff scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the principal investigator of the ABF. Dr. Hillson leads the consortium’s Integrated Design-Build-Test-Learn task;
  • Taraka Dale, scientist and principal investigator at Los Alamos National Laboratory and co-lead of ABF’s Host Onboarding and Development task;
  • Hector Garcia Martin, staff scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and co-lead of ABF’s Learn subtask, and
  • Philip Laible, biophysicist at Argonne National Laboratory and co-lead of ABF’s Learn subtask.

Registration for the webinar is open. 


 

 By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
 
The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) announced on August 11, 2022, that a research team from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory investigated how potassium in biomass feedstocks poisons a catalyst. The researchers focused their study on potassium, a common alkali metal found in biomass feedstocks, since previous analysis of deactivated catalysts after catalytic fast pyrolysis (CFP) of woody biomass feedstock revealed potassium accumulation on the catalysts’ surface.
 
The research team simulated catalyst poisoning at different potassium levels to trigger deactivation during industrial operations. They then analyzed the catalysts and conducted kinetic measurements to determine how the catalysts’ ability to catalyze chemical reaction changed with the introduction of potassium. According to BETO, the team found potassium poisoning could be substantially mitigated with a developed regeneration method -- a water washing process -- that can successfully remove most of the loaded potassium, restoring more than 90 percent of the catalytic activities.
 
BETO states that the results of these studies provide new insights for the bioenergy industry that will foster improved catalyst design and regeneration for longer lasting catalysts. The studies also created “a solid knowledge base for developers of biomass conversion technologies to continue to build upon, making new and innovative conversion technologies less risky to research and develop.” According to BETO, the work “also supports accelerated process development that can help industry convert biomass feedstocks commercially, leading to more effective and inexpensive production of biofuels.”


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) announced on July 26, 2022, that it “has achieved a significant milestone in decreasing the minimum fuel selling price (MFSP) of drop-in biofuels, which are fuels made from biomass and other waste carbon sources, and that are compatible with existing petroleum fuel infrastructure and conventional vehicles.” BETO partnered with T2C-Energy, LLC (T2C) to validate pilot-scale production of drop-in biofuels with a price of $3 per gallon of gas equivalent (GGE) and at least 60 percent lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions than petroleum, using T2C’s TRIFTS® process.
 
According to BETO, the TRIFTS process converts anaerobic digestor produced biogas (or landfill gas) to liquid transportation fuels. TRIFTS has allowed drop-in renewable diesel fuel to reach an MFSP of $2.91/GGE without the use of credits from the U.S. Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), California Low Carbon Fuels Standard, or other carbon credits while reducing GHG emissions by 130 percent when compared to traditional petroleum diesel fuel.

Tags: DOE, BETO, Biofuel

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) announced on July 21, 2022, publication of a new report entitled The Importance of Chemical Research to the U.S. Economy. The National Science Foundation (NSF), the Department of Energy (DOE), the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and the American Chemical Society (ACS) asked NASEM to convene a committee to consider strategies to sustain and enhance the economic activity driven by fundamental research investments in the chemical sciences. The chapter on “Sustainability for the Chemical Economy” includes the following general conclusions:

  • Implementing a circular economy will require a paradigm shift in the way products are designed, manufactured, and used, and how the waste products are collected and reused. These new processes, and the use of clean energy and new feedstocks to enable these processes, will require novel chemistries, tools, and new fundamental research at every stage of design;
     
  • Transitioning the chemical economy into a new paradigm around sustainable manufacturing, in which environmental sustainability is balanced with the need for products that will improve quality of life, enhance security, and increase U.S. competitiveness, will require substantial investment and innovation from industry, government, and their academic partners to create and implement new chemical processes and practices;
  • As fundamental chemical research continues to evolve, the next generation of research directions will prioritize the future of environmental sustainability and new energy technologies. Keeping sustainability principles in mind during every stage of research and development will be critical to accomplishing this goal;
     
  • Chemical research will have the greatest impact addressing energy and environmental sustainability if researchers and practitioners develop and use tools to quantify and mitigate environmental and human health impacts of new discoveries, are aware of the societal implications of their work, and if the research is driven by policies that identify specific environmental sustainability outcomes; and
     
  • As the world moves deeper into its current energy transition, including the switch to electric vehicles, the implementation of clean energy alternatives, and the use of new feedstock sources, coupled with an increasing focus on circularity, decarbonization, computation, measurement, and automation will significantly alter the operations and processes of current industries, creating new opportunities and challenges that will benefit from fundamental chemistry and chemical engineering advances.

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On June 23, 2022, DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy (EERE) issued a funding opportunity announcement (FOA) of $70 million to establish the 7th Clean Energy Manufacturing Innovation Institute. DOE EERE states that “[t]his new coalition of industry, academia, and government partners aims to develop and scale technologies to electrify industrial process heating and reduce emissions across the industrial sector.” The institute along with a new federal advisory committee, will focus on decarbonization technologies to help the United States reach its net-zero emissions goal by 2050. The Secretary of Energy will appoint 16 to 20 committee members for the federal advisory committee based on individual qualifications and a need to ensure diverse viewpoints, subject matter expertise, and regional knowledge. Nominations are now open until August 1, 2022, and can be submitted here. The new institute will join DOE’s six Manufacturing USA® institutes funded through EERE’s Advanced Manufacturing Office (AMO). DOE will hold an informational webinar on the new institute on July 14, 2022. Concept papers for the institute are due on August 9, 2022.


 

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

On June 1, 2022, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) issued a funding opportunity announcement (FOA) titled “Scale-Up of Integrated Biorefineries.” The FOA states that $59 million is available to expand the production of biofuels and bioproducts. In alignment with a broader DOE strategy to support biorefinery projects for the transportation sector, the FOA aims to reduce emissions in hard-to-decarbonize sectors and create jobs in rural areas of the United States. DOE is focused on applied research, development, and deployment of such products to improve the performance and cost of biofuel production technologies and scale-up production systems in partnership with industry.

U.S. Secretary of Energy, Jennifer M. Granholm, stated, “[e]nergy harnessed from plants and waste presents a huge opportunity to reduce emissions from hard-to-decarbonize sectors such as aviation, rail, and shipping, while supporting high-quality jobs across rural America. DOE’s investment in biofuels is a key component of the Biden Administration’s effort to support clean energy technologies that increase our energy independence and move us closer to a net-zero carbon economy.”

To be eligible for funding, applicants must submit a concept paper to DOE by 5:00 p.m. (EDT), July 8, 2022. Concept papers and applications must be submitted through DOE’s online application portal.


 

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

On March 10, 2022, EPA issued a notice of disclosure to all obligated parties under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program that have petitioned for a small refinery exemption (SRE) or that have submitted certain RFS compliance reports. EPA will disclose information that is claimed to be, or has been determined to be confidential business information (CBI) from May 21, 2021, through December 31, 2023, to the Government Accountability Office (GAO). These records include:

  • All materials submitted by small refineries as part of petitions;
  • Any documentation that the Department of Energy (DOE) provided to EPA stating DOE’s petition findings and scores and any EPA responses thereto;
  • Any EPA record addressing the subject of the exemption petitions; and
  • EPA’s final exemption decisions sent to refineries.

GAO will destroy, delete, or return to EPA all CBI claimed documents at the conclusion of its review.

Tags: EPA, DOE, RFS, Biofuel

 

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.


 
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