Texas Researchers Develop New Yeast for Biodiesel

texasyeast1Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin have developed a new strain of yeast that will make biodiesel production more efficient. This news release from the school says the scientists used a combination of metabolic engineering and directed evolution to develop the yeast which will help make the biofuel more economically competitive with conventional fuels.

Hal Alper, associate professor in the McKetta Department of Chemical Engineering, and his team have engineered a special type of yeast cell, Yarrowia lipolytica, and significantly enhanced its ability to convert simple sugars into oils and fats, known as lipids, that can then be used in place of petroleum-derived products. Alper’s discovery aligns with the U.S. Department of Energy’s efforts to develop renewable and cost-competitive biofuels from nonfood biomass materials.

“Our re-engineered strain serves as a stepping stone toward sustainable and renewable production of fuels such as biodiesel,” Alper said. “Moreover, this work contributes to the overall goal of reaching energy independence.”

Previously, the Alper team successfully combined genetically engineered yeast cells with ordinary table sugar to produce what Alper described as “a renewable version of sweet crude,” the premium form of petroleum. Building upon this approach, the team used a combination of evolutionary engineering strategies to create the new, mutant strain of Yarrowia that produces 1.6 times as many lipids as their previous strain in a shorter time, reaching levels of 40 grams per liter, a concentration that could make yeast cells a viable platform in the creation of biofuels. The strain’s high lipid yield makes it one of the most efficient organisms for turning sugar into lipids. In addition, the resulting cells produced these lipids at a rate that was more than 2.5 times as fast as the previous strain.

The development is expected to also help in the production of biochemicals.

Growth Energy Points to Cruz Record on Biofuels

growth-energy-logoAs Texas Sen. Ted Cruz announces his candidacy for president, Growth Energy is reminding voters of what the ethanol group calls his “pro-fossil fuel, pro-drilling legislation attempts to kill the homegrown renewable fuels industry.” This news release points to Cruz’s American Energy Renaissance Act, which Tom Buis, CEO of Growth Energy, says will promotes Big Oil and deny consumer choice.

“The recent legislation introduced by Senator Cruz is not only shortsighted in terms of a comprehensive energy policy, but it seeks to stifle all production and growth of homegrown, sustainable biofuels that help create American jobs and reduce our dangerous dependence on fossil fuels. This legislation fails to factor in the important role biofuels play in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, while also providing consumers with a choice and savings at the pump.

“Senator Cruz seems to believe that he is exercising leadership by attacking the only energy policy that has contributed to our economic, energy and national security. Yet Senator Cruz fails to challenge or acknowledge the excessive subsidies oil companies have received for 102 years and counting at the expense of the American taxpayer. Let’s be clear – this is not ‘profiles in courage,’ this is pandering to Big Oil.

“He says there are no benefits from renewable fuels; however, the Renewable Fuel Standard has helped reduce our dependence on foreign oil by nearly 50 percent, from 60 to 33 percent, saved consumers at the pump, cleaned our air and revitalized our rural economy. Furthermore, his legislation is a direct attack on America’s farmers, the backbone of this nation, who are working overtime to feed the world and fuel America.”

Growth concludes that Cruz’s legislation would take away the freedom of choice for consumers to choose higher performing, less expensive fuel for which there is a demand.

Emerging Issues Forum Features Biz Issues & Trends

The 10th annual Ethanol 2015: Emerging Issues Forum is set for April 16-17, 2015 in Omaha, Nebraska hosted by the Nebraska Ethanol Board (NEB). The event is designed for ethanol producers and others integrally involved in production, technology, policymaking and marketing of ethanol and its co-products.

NEB has announced that Paul Argyropoulos, senior policy advisor to the Office of Air Quality and Transportation at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), will be the featured speaker April 16th.  Argyropoulos will address EPA’s plans for the final rule on NEB logoRenewable Fuel Standard (RFS) volumes for 2014 and plans for 2015 and 2016. In addition, he will address issues associated with the RFS including steps EPA is taking to get the RFS back on track.

“Paul is as knowledgeable as they come on these issues and we are absolutely delighted that he will be able to join us this year,” said Todd Sneller, NEB administrator. “He has worked on fuel and air quality programs for more than 20 years and with new ozone standards, the Tier 3 program and fuel economy standards all impacting the future of ethanol. It is a very timely addition to the program.”

Other topics during the forum include ethanol marketing challenges; domestic and international ethanol marketing opportunities and barriers; emerging trends in ethanol co-products; low carbon fuel standards; and integrating technology for efficiency, profitability and sustainability.

Lallemand Announces TransFerm Yield Patent

Lallemand Biofuels & Distilled Spirits (LBDS) along with Mascoma, LLC have been awarded a patent for the technology used in TransFerm Yield+ in the US (US 8,956,851 B2). As explained in Lallemand company materials, this yeast product provides for novel metabolic pathways that reduce or Screen Shot 2015-03-16 at 1.56.54 PMeliminate glycerol production subsequently increase ethanol yield by yeast or other microorganisms.

“We are extremely proud to have introduced these products into the marketplace. This drop-in, game-changing technology is one example of how our Mascoma business unit has produced real results,” said Angus Ballard, president, LBDS. “To be able to increase yields and thus increase the profitability of ethanol plants, at a time where margins are tight, is huge. This is just the beginning of a long line of Mascoma developed products that will be brought into the market by our team.”

During the past three years, LBDS and Mascoma introduced TransFerm and TransFerm Yield+ yeasts into the ethanol industry citing that the products help reduce the amount of glucoamylase needed in fermentation and also provide a substantial yield increase through the introduction of the glycerol reduction pathway. Today more than 50 ethanol plants have utilized the TransFerm platform producing over 4 billion gallons of ethanol.

Kevin Wenger, executive vice president of Mascoma, added, “Development of this technology is the result of years of dedicated R&D effort by Mascoma. We are quite pleased that the U.S. Patent Office has allowed the patent; we believe it shows how innovative and significant this new approach really is. TransFerm Yield+ is truly the first product of its kind to offer this type of step change technology in ethanol production.”

New Oregon Gov Ends Sunset on Clean Fuels Law

katebrown1The new governor in Orgeon has signed a measure that ends the sunset on the state’s clean fuels law, something which is seen as a boost to biodiesel and ethanol on the West Coast. Governor Kate Brown cited global warming concerns and neighboring areas’ own rules on alternative energy for signing the Clean Fuels legislation:

“I strongly support SB 324’s goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It is difficult to deny that we are seeing the effects of a warming planet. This year, 85 percent of our state is experiencing drought, with 33 percent experiencing extreme drought. This directly impacts 1.5 million Oregonians, hitting our rural communities the hardest. With California, Washington, and British Columbia moving forward with their own clean fuels programs, which will shape the West Coast market, it is imperative not only that Oregon does its part to reduce greenhouse gas emissions but also that we build a program that meets the needs of Oregonians.

“I appreciate the years of work by countless Oregonians who helped develop this law, and I applaud the Oregon Legislature for its thorough examination of these issues. The work begins now to ensure this program is well implemented and well managed.”

The measure ending the sunset of the Clean Fuels program passed by a very narrow margin in the state legislature. It also comes on the heels of the Oregon Environmental Quality Commission approving earlier this year phase two of the Oregon Clean Fuels Program. The new rules, developed by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, went into effect February 1.

Moms Fight Colorado Roll Back of Renewable Energy

CO_MomsKnowsBest1A group of moms in Colorado are fighting proposed changes in that state’s legislature to Colorado’s renewable energy standards. The group, Colorado Moms Know Best, say they oppose the changes that would rollback from 30 percent down to 15 percent of the energy produced and consumed in the state.

“Moms believe we have a moral obligation to protect children’s health and future, ensuring they have clean air is one of the very basics,” said Data Gutwein with Colorado Moms Know Best. “The reality is that chopping the state’s renewable energy standard in half would mean relying more on coal-fired plants and more kids dealing with asthma and other respiratory problems.”

Colorado has been a leader in renewable energy. In 2004, Coloradans passed the first state ballot initiative to establish a renewable energy standards; 29 states and the District of Columbia have since adopted similar standards. In the years since, Colorado has added tens of thousands of clean tech jobs with an average salary of $78,000, according to the Metro Denver Chamber of Commerce’s 2014 Energy Cluster report.

“Renewable energy is not only good for kids’ health, it’s also great for their future career options,” said Colorado Moms Know Best’s Dana Gutwein. “If Colorado can remain on the cutting edge of the renewable energy industry, our children will be able to prepare for plentiful high-paying, clean tech job opportunities.”

The group has previously helped influence Colorado’s Air Quality Control Commission to adopt stricter air quality standards for oil and gas operations in the state of Colorado.

Vilsack Stresses RFS Support at #Classic15

classic15-vilsack-1Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack spoke to over 7000 agricultural producers and industry members during his 6th appearance at Commodity Classic on Friday. Sec. Vilsack began by stating that he “was in the presence of greatness” and went on to thank farmers for all that they do on a daily basis. He also thanked farmers for their work on the Farm Bill when it came to grassroots support and involvement in motivating legislation.

Among the many issues Vilsack addressed was the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). “There are a multitude of positives about this industry,” said Vilsack, who addressed members of Growth Energy on Thursday. “I’m going to educate my friends at EPA about the importance of this industry.”

classic15-vilsack-rfaThe secretary was applauded when he spoke adamantly in support of biofuels. “There’s a good news story here,” he said. “There’s an opportunity to tell America this is a good, solid industry.”

Strolling through Commodity Classic trade show after his address, Secretary Vilsack stopped by a few booths, including the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) where he picked up a couple of E15 VW bug stress balls for his grandchildren.

Listen to Secretary Vilsack’s complete remarks about biofuels here: Vilsack Addresses Commodity Classic - Biofuels Comments

2015 Commodity Classic Photo Album

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USDA Gives Biomass Energy Development $8.7 Mil Boost

usda-logoUp to $8.7 million in federal funding is being made available for next-generation bioenergy development in biomass. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is funding the bioenergy research and education efforts and will be publishing the final rule for a program that provides incentives for farmers and forest landowners interested in growing and harvesting biomass for renewable energy.

“USDA’s support for innovative bioenergy research and education supports rural economic development, reduces carbon pollution and helps decrease our dependence on foreign energy,” said [Agriculture Secretary Tom] Vilsack. “These investments will keep America moving toward a clean energy economy and offer new jobs and opportunities in rural communities.”

USDA will publish the final rule on the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) in tomorrow’s Federal Register. BCAP provides up to $25 million each year in financial assistance to owners and operators of agricultural and non-industrial private forest land who wish to establish, produce, and deliver biomass feedstocks to a qualifying energy facility. The rule includes modifications to cost sharing, eligible types of biomass and other definitions. Stakeholders are encouraged to visit www.regulations.gov to review program details and provide comments during a 60-day public comment period. Comments are due by April 28, 2015. The full program will resume in 90 days on May 28, 2015. Additional information on application dates will be announced this spring. For more information on the program, visit the web at www.fsa.usda.gov/bcap.

USDA is also looking for applications for research and education grants through the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s Biomass Research and Development Initiative (BRDI), a joint program through NIFA and the U.S. Energy Department (DOE) to develop economically and environmentally sustainable sources of renewable biomass, increase the availability of renewable fuels and biobased products to help replace the need for gasoline and diesel in vehicles, and diversify our energy portfolio.

New Treatment to Cut Biofuel Costs by 30% or More

wyman1A new pretreatment could cut the costs of biofuels by 30 percent or more. This news release from the University of California, Riverside says researchers at the school have invented a novel pretreatment technology that could cut those production costs by dramatically reducing the amount of enzymes needed to breakdown the raw materials that form biofuels.

As partners in the BioEnergy Science Center (BESC), the team from the Bourns College of Engineering Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering and Center for Environmental Research and Technology (CE-CERT) have shown that this new operation called Co-solvent Enhanced Lignocellulosic Fractionation (CELF) could eliminate about 90 percent of the enzymes needed for biological conversion of lignocellulosic biomass to fuels compared to prior practice. This development could mean reducing enzyme costs from about $1 per gallon of ethanol to about 10 cents or less.

The BioEnergy Science Center is a U.S. Department of Energy Bioenergy Research Center focused on enhancing science and technology to reduce the cost of biomass conversion through support by the Office of Biological and Environmental Research in the Department of Energy Office of Science..

“As recent months have shown, petroleum prices are inherently unstable and will likely return to high prices soon as expensive sources are taken off line,” said Professor Charles Wyman, the Ford Motor Company Chair in Environmental Engineering at UC Riverside. “We have created a transformative technology that has the potential to make biofuels an economic sustainable alternative to petroleum-based fuels.”

Wyman’s findings were outlined in a just published paper, “Co-solvent Pretreatment Reduces Costly Enzyme Requirements for High Sugar and Ethanol Yields from Lignocellulosic Biomass,” in the journal ChemSusChem.

State of the Ethanol Industry – RFA CEO Bob Dinneen

This morning at 8am central we will live stream the session from the National Ethanol Conference featuring Renewable Fuels Association CEO Bob Dinneen. Bob will deliver this annual state of the industry address a few minutes after 8am and we’ll be recording it so that you can watch and listen later if you miss the broadcast or want to review it. All you’ll have to do is click on the player button in the video embed below when we’re live.

Post Update: Below is the recording of the presentation.


Live stream videos at Ustream

2015 National Ethanol Conference Photo Album

New President for POET-DSM Joint Venture

POET DSM logoPOET-DSM Advanced Biofuels has announced that Dan Cummings will serve as first president for the joint venture.

“Dan has more than 25 years of experience in the energy sector, and we’re excited to have him leveraging that knowledge to grow cellulosic ethanol production for the world,” said Jeff Lautt, Chairman of the POET-DSM Board. “We look forward to Dan taking the reins and leading this joint venture into 2015.”

cummingsCummings, who previously served as President and Director of INEOS New Planet BioEnergy, will oversee day-to-day operations of POET-DSM, represent the joint venture publicly, and coordinate functions between the parent companies. He will also act as the central point of contact for external relations, which includes all technology licensing activities for POET-DSM worldwide.

“This joint venture has already proven it can change the world, and I look forward to working with the individuals who helped make that happen,” Cummings said. “After two decades in the energy and clean tech sectors, I’m excited to start this new journey with POET-DSM.”

POET-DSM announced the startup phase in September for its 20 million-gallon-per-year cellulosic ethanol plant, which will later ramp up to 25 million gallons per year. The Emmetsburg, Iowa plant, dubbed “Project LIBERTY,” uses corn cobs, leaves, husk and some stalk to make renewable fuel. The joint venture is now marketing its LIBERTYTM Technology package to third parties for continued energy development.

Bacterium, Nitrogen Gas to Partner for Ethanol

nitrogenbacteria1Researchers at the University of Indiana might have come upon a way to partner bacterium with nitrogen gas to make more ethanol. This news release from the school says biologists there have found a faster, cheaper and cleaner way to increase ethanol production by using nitrogen gas, the most abundant gas in Earth’s atmosphere. The discovery could help make cellulosic ethanol more competitive with corn-based ethanol.

The raw materials for cellulosic ethanol are low in nitrogen, a nutrient required for ethanol-producing microbes to grow, so cellulosic ethanol producers are estimated to spend millions of dollars annually on nitrogen fertilizers like corn steep liquor and diammonium phosphate. But an IU team led by biologist James B. McKinlay has found that the bioethanol-producing bacterium Zymomonas mobilis can use nitrogen gas (N2) as a nitrogen source, something that the more traditional ethanol-producer, baker’s yeast, cannot do.

“When we discovered that Z. mobilis could use N2 we expected that it would make less ethanol. N2 utilization and ethanol production demand similar resources within the bacterial cell so we expected resources to be pulled away from ethanol production to allow the bacteria to grow with N2,” McKinlay said. “To our surprise the ethanol yield was unchanged when the bacteria used N2. In fact, under certain conditions, the bacteria converted sugars to ethanol much faster when they were fed N2.”

Knowing the bacterium could use N2 without hindering ethanol production, the team reasoned that N2 gas could serve as an inexpensive substitute for nitrogen fertilizers during cellulosic ethanol production.

“Until recently, ethanol has been produced almost entirely from food crops, but last year there was a surge in cellulosic ethanol production as several commercial facilities opened,” McKinlay said. “Cellulosic ethanol offers more favorable land use and lower carbon emissions than conventional ethanol production. Even so, cellulosic ethanol is struggling to be cost-competitive against corn ethanol and gasoline.”

The researchers believe N2 gas, which can be produced on-site at production facilities, could save an ethanol production facility more than $1 million dollars a year. They have filed for a provisional patent on the idea.

Process to Make Renewable Fuel for Under $1/Gallon

duckweedusaA new process looks to make renewable fuel out of algae, waste water and even vegetable for under $1 per gallon. Duckweed USA says its new thermodynamically reversible process can make clean jet fuel, diesel fuel or gasoline from the less common feedstocks.

Using the patented Linear Venturi Kinetic Nozzle changes the aquatic-mass-to-energy process to one that requires no high-heat processes nor chemicals. 90% of the energy used in production is recoverable and feedstock is self-replenishing. With 3 variables in production cost nearly eliminated, the ideas of energy independence and financial self-sufficiency are now viable options at any level. For investors, no plummet in oil prices can spoil profitability projections when production is under $40 per barrel. Domestically and globally, this breakthrough opens doors to new opportunities of growth never before seen.

For stakeholders at any level, the bottom line is, as Michael Rigolizzo states, “Our system turns energy liabilities into assets. Every school bus that needs gasoline to every jet that needs fuel is a point of profit for synfuel-producing communities instead of a cost.” Duckweed believes its patented process could revolutionize the President’s action plan, the combination of energy types needed and especially the costs to be incurred by taxpayers. “By the time the 5-year initial phase of the action plan would be completed, the Duckweed process could be established – and turning profits – in every community along the Keystone Pipeline,” says Rigolizzo.

Duckweed says it already has interest from groups, such as Sparta, Georgia, Rutgers University and countries from Europe to Africa.

EPA Response on RFS and CARBIO Plan

EPA_LOGOI just received the following response information from the EPA attributed to Byron Bunker, Director, Compliance Division, Office of Transportation and Air Quality. The EPA representative I spoke with says the agency knows of the biodiesel industry concerns and wanted to provide a response to those concerns. The response is in the form of eight bullet points:

1. EPA is committed to getting the RFS program back on track.

We understand industry’s desire for certainty. EPA is committed to getting the RFS program back on track. We expect to take action on 2014, 2015 and 2016 this spring. We look forward to talking with all stakeholders throughout the process.

2. The CARBIO plan DOES NOT lower the RFS sustainability standards for Argentinian biodiesel producers.

Any claim that the CARBIO plan decreases environmental oversight is flatly wrong. The sustainability standards are exactly the same for all parties. This Alternate Biomass Tracking plan is simply one mechanism by which Argentinian producers can meet the record keeping requirements of the program.

The sustainability standards were defined in the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) of 2007. Namely, in order to qualify for the RFS program, planted crop and crop residue used as feedstock for biofuels must be harvested from agricultural land cleared or cultivated prior to December 2007 (the date of EISA’s enactment).

The RFS regulations Congress established in 2007 apply to both foreign and domestic producers. Any foreign or domestic renewable fuel producer or renewable identification number (RIN) generating importer may meet the recordkeeping requirements for tracking feedstock from qualified lands with an alternative biomass tracking program that has been approved by the EPA. In fact, several countries already import biofuel under the existing regulations.

3. The CARBIO program actually provides for more rigorous oversight of Argentinian producers who choose to participate in this program.

For example:

· The plan is intended to ensure that qualifying fuel can be traced to pre-identified and pre-approved lands from which “renewable biomass” may be harvested consistent with regulatory definition of that term. The alternate biomass tracking program is a robust program that covers the whole soybean biodiesel supply chain, from soybean production through intermediate processing, to biodiesel production.

· CARBIO’s method for tracking chain of custody relies on a product transfer document called a cartas de porte, or waybill that has been mandatory in Argentina since 1998. In addition CARBIO will use land cover data from satellite imagery to identify land that was cleared or cultivated prior December 19, 2007 and actively managed or fallow and non forested on December 19, 2007.

· Any volumes that would qualify under this plan would need to have all steps verified by the approved third-party auditor before a RIN can be generated.

· Any and all other necessary RFS regulatory requirements also apply per the regulations.

4. Why would Argentine producers appeal to EPA for more stringent requirements?

It’s like someone asking a professional tax preparer to do your taxes. They know the codes, the regulation and how to manage the documentation. People want certainty and protection that they are complying with the extensive laws, which most common people don’t know or understand, and so they want the protection of the professional tax preparer. This is no different for the parties in Argentina.
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Southeastern Effort to Promote Alternative Fuels

se-fuelsThe Alabama Clean Fuels Coalition has joined sister Clean Cities organizations in the Southeast to promote the use of alternative fuels and vehicles. The joint effort includes U.S. Department of Energy designated Clean Cities coalitions in Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee.

“Drivers recognize that gas prices historically won’t stay at these lower prices for long,” said Mark Bentley, executive director of the Alabama Clean Fuels Coalition. “We suggest fleets ‘bank’ their current fuel savings to invest in new advanced technology vehicles. We recognize alternative fuels have advantages that go beyond the price tag at any particular point in time.”

Bentley said alternative fuels offer fleets in the public and private sectors more stable and predictable costs, as well as lower vehicle maintenance costs. They also offer environmental advantages and economic benefits to local communities.

Bentley notes that the Southeast is a big growth market for alternative fuel vehicles. “For example, Atlanta ranks second only to San Francisco as a market for electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles. Similarly, in 2013, Tennessee ranked ninth in the country for electric car registrations.” He adds that they expect the trend to continue in the region.