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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
 
On September 12, 2022, President Joseph Biden signed an Executive Order creating a National Biotechnology and Biomanufacturing Initiative “that will ensure we can make in the United States all that we invent in the United States.” On September 14, 2022, the White House will host a Summit on the National Biotechnology and Biomanufacturing Initiative during which cabinet agencies will announce a wide range of new investments and resources that will allow the United States to harness the full potential of biotechnology and biomanufacturing and advance the President’s Executive Order.
 
According to a White House fact sheet, the initiative will accelerate biotechnology innovation and grow America’s bioeconomy across multiple sectors in industries such as health, agriculture, and energy. It will “drive advances in biomanufacturing that substitute fragile supply chains from abroad with strong chains at home, anchored by well-paying jobs in communities all across America.” It will improve food and energy security, and promote agricultural innovation while mitigating the impacts of climate change.
 
Specifically, the initiative will:

  • Grow Domestic Biomanufacturing Capacity: The initiative will build, revitalize, and secure national infrastructure for biomanufacturing across America, including through investments in regional innovation and enhanced bio-education, while strengthening the U.S. supply chain that produces domestic fuels, chemicals, and materials.
     
  • Expand Market Opportunities for Biobased Products: The fact sheet notes that the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) BioPreferred Program “is the standard for sustainable procurement by government agencies, both providing an alternative to petroleum-based products and supporting good-paying jobs for American workers.” The initiative will increase mandatory biobased purchasing by federal agencies and ensure that the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and USDA regularly publish progress assessments. The fact sheet states that doing so “will provide specific directions to industry about gaps in biobased product options, leading to the creation of new products and new markets.” Together, the initiative will grow and strengthen the BioPreferred Program, increase the use of renewable agricultural materials, and “position American companies to continue to lead the world in bio-innovation.”
     
  • Drive Research and Development (R&D) to Solve Our Greatest Challenges: According to the fact sheet, focused government support for biotechnology can quickly produce solutions, “as seen with the first-of-their-kind mRNA vaccines during the COVID-19 pandemic.” This initiative directs federal agencies to identify priority R&D needs to translate bioscience and biotechnology discoveries into medical breakthroughs, climate change solutions, food and agricultural innovation, and stronger U.S. supply chains.
     
  • Improve Access to Quality Federal Data: Combining biotechnology with massive computing power and artificial intelligence can produce significant breakthroughs for health, energy, agriculture, and the environment. The Data for the Bioeconomy Initiative will ensure that biotechnology developers have streamlined access to high-quality, secure, and wide-ranging biological data sets that can drive solutions to urgent societal and global problems.
     
  • Train a Diverse Skilled Workforce: The United States is facing a shortage of relevant talent spanning all levels, from community college to graduate school. The initiative will expand training and education opportunities for all Americans in biotechnology and biomanufacturing, with a focus on advancing racial and gender equity and support for talent development in underserved communities.
     
  • Streamline Regulations for Products of Biotechnology: Advances in biotechnology are rapidly altering the agricultural, industrial, technological, and medical products landscape, which can create challenges for developers and innovators. The initiative will improve the clarity and efficiency of the regulatory process for products of biotechnology so that valuable inventions and products can come to market faster without sacrificing safety.
     
  • Advance Biosafety and Biosecurity to Reduce Risk: The initiative will prioritize investments in applied biosafety research and incentivize innovations in biosecurity to reduce risk throughout the biotechnology R&D lifecycles.
     
  • Protect the U.S. Biotechnology Ecosystem: The initiative will protect the U.S. biotechnology ecosystem by advancing privacy standards and practices for human biological data, cybersecurity practices for biological data, standards development for bio-related software, and mitigation measures for risks posed by foreign adversary involvement in the biomanufacturing supply chain.
     
  • Build a Thriving, Secure Global Bioeconomy with Partners and Allies: According to the fact sheet, the initiative advances international cooperation to leverage biotechnology and biomanufacturing to tackle the most urgent global challenges -- from climate change to health security -- and to work together to ensure that biotechnology product development and use aligns with our shared democratic ethics and values, and that biotechnology breakthroughs benefit all citizens.

The White House has posted a transcript of the press call announcing the Executive Order.


 

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

On April 18, 2022, EPA announced the opportunity for public comment on its proposed analysis of the lifecycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with biofuels produced from canola/rapeseed oil. EPA’s assessment considers diesel, jet fuel, heating oil, naphtha, and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) produced from canola/rapeseed oil through a hydrotreating process. EPA is proposing to find that these pathways would meet the lifecycle GHG emissions reduction threshold of 50 percent required for advanced biofuels and biomass-based diesel under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program. Based on its analyses, EPA is also proposing to approve these fuel pathways, making them eligible to generate Renewable Identification Numbers (RIN) if they meet the definitional and RIN generation criteria for renewable fuel specified in the RFS regulations.

Comments must be submitted by May 18, 2022.

Tags: EPA, GHG, Biofuel, RFS, RIN

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Ligia Duarte Botelho, M.A.
 
On December 10, 2021, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it will hold a virtual public hearing on its proposal for the “Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) Program: RFS Annual Rules” signed on December 7, 2021. The virtual public hearing is scheduled for January 4, 2022, from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (EST). If necessary, EPA will hold an additional virtual session on January 5, 2022, to accommodate the number of testifiers.
 
EPA is proposing the 2020, 2021, and 2022 renewable fuel standards for cellulosic biofuel, biomass-based diesel, advanced biofuel, and total renewable fuel. It is also proposing to:

  • Address the remand of the 2016 standard-setting rulemaking;
  • Extend certain RFS compliance and attest engagement reporting deadlines for the 2019, 2020, and 2021 compliance years; and
  • Implement several regulatory changes to the RFS program.

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson 
 
On August 27, 2021, DOE’s EERE, in partnership with the Clean Energy Smart Manufacturing Institute (CESMII), announced the selections of four new Smart Manufacturing Innovation Centers (SMICs). SMICs offer specialized training and direct industry engagement to help U.S. manufacturers implement smart manufacturing technologies to optimize their use of materials and energy. CESMII, an institute funded by DOE’s Advanced Manufacturing Office, focuses on accelerating the adoption of smart manufacturing through integration of advanced sensors, data analytics, platforms, and controls. SMICs allow manufacturers to tap into CESMII’s manufacturing resources, helping CESMII expand institute-developed technologies, training, and hands-on demonstrations.


 

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

On March 31, 2021, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy (EERE) announced a new request for proposals (RFP) and $4 million in selections for projects aimed at accelerating the adoption of Smart Manufacturing practices. In support of the Biden Administration’s efforts to encourage innovation and reduce the carbon footprint of the manufacturing sector, the new $2 million RFP will expand DOE’s Clean Energy Smart Manufacturing Innovation Institute’s (CESMII) Smart Manufacturing Innovation Centers (SMIC). SMICs consist of a network of individuals and organizations from industry, government, and academia who allow manufacturers of all sizes to benefit from the network’s assets and competencies and to create test beds. CESMII has also selected 14 new research and development (R&D) projects that will apply Smart Manufacturing solutions to real-world manufacturing process and operation challenges to improve performance, quality, and efficiency of energy productivity.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson 

On July 10, 2020, DOE EERE announced that it has selected eight projects totaling more than $5 million to conduct R&D needed to accelerate the U.S. biomanufacturing sector. These projects are a part of the Agile BioFoundry (ABF) consortium and will leverage National Laboratory capabilities to address challenges in biomanufacturing. Each of these ABF selected projects has been invited to collaborate with National Laboratory research facilities to conduct their proposed research. The seed awards provide up to $500,000 in DOE funds to the laboratories for up to two years. Full awards, however, will receive up to $2 million for up to three years. The aim is for the projects to develop novel microbial hosts and bioproducts, use artificial intelligence and machine learning in synthetic biology, and address the problem of production heterogeneity in industrial microbiology. Each awardee has committed to a minimum of 20 percent cost-share contribution.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On March 18, 2019, (EPA) announced a public hearing to be held for the proposed rule: “Modifications to Fuel Registrations to Provide Flexibility for E15: Modifications to RFS RIN Market Regulations.”  84 Fed. Reg. 9734.  The proposed rule would implement regulatory changes allowing E15 to take advantage of a Renewal Fuels Standard (RFS) program waiver. Currently, the 1-psi Raid Vapor Pressure (RVP) waiver only applies to ten percent ethanol (E10) during the summer months. The proposed rule also includes an interpretative definition of E15 gasoline as “substantially similar” to the fuel used to certify Tier 3 motor vehicles.  Lastly, EPA is also proposing changes to some RFS compliance system elements that would improve renewable identification number market functioning and prevent market manipulation.  The public hearing will take place in Ypsilanti, MI, on March 29, 2019.  The proposed rule was published in the Federal Register on March 21, 2019.  84 Fed. Reg. 10584. Comments are due by April 29, 2019.

Tags: EPA, RFS, RIN, Biofuel

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On February 13, 2019, the University of Manchester was awarded £10 million by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), an organization sponsored by the UK Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) to foster research and innovation. These funds are to be used in the launching of a country-wide biomanufacturing research hub to lead the way in new medicines and sustainable energy solutions. To be led by Professor Niguel Scrutton, the Future Biomanufacturing Research Hub (FBRH) will focus on the development of biotechnologies in three sectors:  pharmaceuticals, chemicals, and engineering materials. Professor Scrutton stated: “With the Manchester Institute of Biotechnology (MIB), the University already has one of Europe’s leading industry-interfaced institutes, with world-leading capabilities in bio-based chemicals synthesis and manufacture. Now, with the addition of the Future Biomanufacturing Research Hub, it will take it to an even higher level.” Part of a £30 million government investment into the UK’s research and manufacturing sector, the funding comes from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC). FBRH intends to bring together 67 partners from industry, public sector, and universities to revolutionize industrial biotechnology.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has included a new data portal on its website to promote greater transparency on small refineries exemptions to the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). Criticized in the past for its lack of transparency, EPA’s new RFS data portal also provides previously undisclosed information on Renewable Identification Number (RIN) transactions, renewable fuel volume production, average RIN prices, and RIN transaction volumes. The data available dates back to July 1, 2010, which is when EPA started collecting the information provided. EPA intends to update the data portal on a monthly basis.

Tags: EPA, Biofuel, RFS, RIN

 
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