Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. (B&C®) is a Washington, D.C., law firm providing biobased and renewable chemical product stakeholders unparalleled experience, judgment, and excellence in bringing innovative products to market.

By  Lynn L. Bergeson and Ligia Duarte Botelho, M.A.
 
On May 4, 2021, the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory published an article titled “Retrospective Analysis of the U.S. Corn Ethanol Industry for 2005-2019: Implications for Greenhouse Gas Emission Reductions.” Using a life-cycle analysis (LCA), researchers at the Argonne National Laboratory quantified the life cycle of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of fuels to compare relative GHG impacts among different fuel production pathways. According to the retrospective analysis conducted, since 2000, corn ethanol production in the United States quadrupled due to supportive biofuels policies such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). Consequently, carbon intensity (CI) over the past 15 years has significantly decreased by 23 percent. Since 2000, the corn ethanol production pathway, including corn farming and biorefineries, has substantially evolved. Researchers state in the article that this shift into more efficient farming and biorefinery practices increases revenue while also potentially reducing the emission burdens of ethanol production. DOE’s Argonne National Laboratory researchers conclude that biofuels, including corn ethanol, can and likely will play a key role in decarbonizing the U.S. economy.
 
The article’s findings will also be used by DOE to update key corn ethanol parameters in the Argonne National Laboratory’s Greenhouse Gases, Regulated Emissions, and Energy Use in Technologies (GREET) Model 2021, which will be released in October 2021.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On February 14, 2019, scientists in China published an article revealing a new methodology developed to safely transform methanol into ethanol.  Given methanol’s toxicity, this recently uncovered method allows for a more secure, user-friendly, sustainable technology that can be more broadly applied.  The scientific article reports a photo-driven one-step conversion of methanol to ethanol at ambient temperature.  A relatively simple process, the methodology used can be broadly applied and enables a green and novel method for generating building blocks in synthetic chemistry.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On October 9, 2018, during a rally in Council Bluffs, Iowa, U.S. President Donald Trump announced that he will order the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to expand its sales of corn ethanol. This action, which farmers across the U.S. have been waiting for, will allow for year-round sales of 15 percent biofuels (E15) ethanol blends. Currently, E15 sales are restricted during the summer months in certain states, limiting the expansion of the market space for biofuels. Well received by many in the industry, the announcement was particularly appreciated by the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO), a Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group (BRAG®) member, which applauded President Trump’s decision in a press release. Brent Erikson, BIO’s Executive Vice President, emphasized in his statement that “[a]llowing E15 to be sold year-round will help unleash the potential of cellulosic biofuels by creating more demand and marked headroom for the next generation of biofuels.”


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On July 2, 2018, Midwest AgEnergy announced that the North Dakota Industrial Commission, a division of North Dakota’s State Department of Mineral Resources, Oil and Gas, had awarded it a $83,810 grant to research using North Dakota barley to produce ethanol with a protein concentrate byproduct for use in aquaculture.  This would be the first ethanol produced North Dakota from a feedstock other than corn, and would include an expansion of the Dakota Spirit AgEnergy (DSA) ethanol plant.  "We're looking to move ahead with a more formal study on a barley protein concentrate project," stated Jeff Zueger, CEO of Midwest AgEnergy, the parent company of DSA.  "If built, it would be a co-located process at DSA that would dehull and mill barley to produce high protein feed and a feedstock for the ethanol process."


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On April 17, 2018, it was announced that Japan’s new biofuel policy will allow imports of ethyl tert-butyl ether (ETBE) made from U.S. corn-based ethanol.  Japan has updated its sustainability policy to tighten the carbon intensity reduction requirements of ethanol that is used to make ETBE from a 50 percent reduction to a 55 percent reduction.  Originally, the policy only allowed sugarcane-based ethanol for import and production of ETBE, but the sugarcane-produced ethanol was not able to meet the 55 percent greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction standard.  The new regulations will allow U.S. corn-based ethanol to meet up to 44 percent of the total estimated annual demand of 217 million gallons used to make ETBE, or as much as 95.5 million gallons of ethanol annually.
 
“The U.S. Grains Council is pleased by this decision and that Japan recognizes these improved benefits of U.S. product. We continue to work around the world, sharing the benefits of U.S. ethanol with other countries that are serious about reducing their GHG emissions,” stated Tom Sleight, President and Chief Executive Officer of the U.S. Grains Council, which has an office in Japan working closely with the Japanese government and industry.  “From this decision, it is unequivocal that continued improvements in carbon intensity reductions are critical to gain and maintain market access for U.S. ethanol.”


 

By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

On February 20, 2018, the European Commission (EC) issued a notice of initiation of an expiry review of antidumping (AD) measures applicable to imports of U.S. bioethanol.  The AD duty that has been in place since 2013 was set to expire on February 23, 2018.  The European Renewable Ethanol Association (e-PURE) petitioned the EC on behalf of producers representing more than 25 percent of the total European Union (EU) bioethanol production to review the AD measures due to the likely recurrence of injury to the EU industry.  E-Pure alleged that the removal of injury was the result of the existence of the AD measures and that an increase of imports at dumped prices from the U.S. would likely lead to a recurrence of injury to the EU industry should the measures be allowed to lapse.  Following its determination that sufficient evidence exists to justify an expiry review, the EC will investigate whether the removal of the AD measures will likely lead to a continuation or recurrence of dumping of U.S. bioethanol.  The investigation will conclude within 15 months.


 

By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

On February 16, 2018, AkzoNobel, a member of the Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group (BRAG®), announced that a consortium of companies signed a project development agreement to develop a waste-to-chemistry facility in Rotterdam, Netherlands.  The facility will convert non-recyclable mixed waste, including plastics, into syngas and then into clean methanol for use in the chemical industry and for the transportation sector.  An estimated 360,000 tons of waste will be converted into 220,000 tons of clean methanol.  The agreement covers the initial investment of nine million euros for the detailed engineering, setup of a dedicated joint venture, and completion of the permitting process.  The final investment decision for the estimated 200 million euro project is expected to be made in 2018.  According to Marco Waas, Research, Development, Innovation (RD&I) and Technology Director at AkzoNobel Specialty Chemicals, “the agreement comes at a very appropriate time given the current challenges in plastics recycling in Europe.  We can convert non-recyclable waste, into methanol, an essential raw material for many everyday products, including sustainable transportation fuel.  Not only can this be used in the existing supply chains and replace fossil sources, but it also avoids CO2 emissions otherwise produced by burning waste.”  The consortium responsible for the project consists of AkzoNobel Specialty Chemicals, Air Liquide, and Enerkem.


 

 

By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

On January 23, 2018, DOE announced that researchers at PNNL have developed a catalyst capable of converting ethanol directly into butadiene.  Butadiene is the building block for nearly every major synthetic plastic or rubber in the U.S, including tires, fuel hoses, and children’s toys.  The project, which is sponsored by BETO, aimed to generate butadiene from renewable sources by developing a new catalyst that can convert ethanol into butadiene.  The current ethanol-to-butadiene catalysts required pure ethanol, free of water, to be passed through multiple times to achieve a 70 percent yield.  The team of PNNL researchers has developed a silver nitrate powder and zirconyl nitrate-based catalyst capable of converting 70 percent of aqueous ethanol to butadiene in a single pass under industrially-relevant conditions.  According to Vanessa Dagle, it is the most active ethanol-to-butadiene catalyst reported to date and introduces the possibility of renewable ethanol as a source of butadiene in addition to petroleum.


 

By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

According to Brazil’s Agriculture Minister Blairo Maggi, Brazil is considering lifting the 20 percent tariff on ethanol imports from the U.S..  Demand for ethanol in Brazil has increased due to record-high gasoline prices.  As indicated in the BRAG blog post Grain, Ethanol Industry Send Letter To U.S. Trade Representative On Brazil Ethanol Tariff, U.S. ethanol producers would welcome the removal of the tariff and renewed access to Brazil, which is the largest destination for U.S. biofuel exports.  Minister Maggi indicated that the decision to remove the tariff would depend on the U.S. lifting the ban on fresh beef exports from Brazil.  In 2017, the U.S. banned fresh beef from Brazil following a food safety scandal and Brazil imposed a tax on ethanol from the U.S. following an increase in imports.  While speaking to reporters on January 16, 2018, Minister Maggi stated that “[t]here is, on the part of the United States, a big demand to withdraw [the ethanol tariff] and we also have this problem with beef. . . . Obviously one thing influences and contaminates the other.”  According to Minister Maggi, Brazil has addressed all U.S. requirements regarding the safety of its fresh beef and is awaiting the U.S.’s decision.


 
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