Cobalt Demonstrates Biomass Treatment Process

Cobalt Technologies has announced a milestone in the commercial conversion of biomass to sugars with the successful demonstration of its biomass pretreatment process.

The company, which is developing next generation n-butanol, made the achievement in cooperation with ANDRITZ, a globally leading supplier of technologies, equipment and plants for the pulp and paper industry.

Cobalt conducted the testing in the ANDRITZ pulp and paper mill demonstration facility in Springfield, OH, which is specifically designed to validate new processes before commercial-scale implementation. Cobalt’s dilute acid hydrolysis pretreatment process, which extracts sugars from ligno-cellulosic biomass, was validated on woody biomass, bagasse and agricultural residues.

Cobalt tested its pre-treatment process on both a batch and continuous basis and reports that these runs, while processing up to 20 bone-dry tons of biomass per day, successfully extracted sugars from the biomass without the use of enzymes to produce the desired liquid hydrolysate – a liquid-based sugar that is then converted into n-butanol.

“The hydrolysates produced at ANDRITZ’s demonstration facility have been fermented successfully at our facility in Mountain View, California without the need of any conditioning to remove inhibitory compounds,” Bob Mayer, CEO of Cobalt Technologies. “By proving we can meet, and in some areas, exceed our commercial targets and cost metrics at this scale, we are now well positioned to leverage this critical milestone to support our on-going commercialization efforts.”

This milestone also marks the first phase of Cobalt’s partnership with specialty chemical company, Rhodia in Brazil to develop bio n-butanol refineries throughout Latin America utilizing bagasse as a feedstock.

Cool Planet BioFuels Has Breakthrough in Production

Cool Planet BioFuels has made a major breakthrough in converting biomass to gasoline. Using giant miscanthus, an advanced bioenergy crop, the company achieved 4,000 gallons/acre biomass to gasoline conversion in pilot testing. Gasoline has about one and a half times the energy of ethanol, so this is about twelve times more yield than current corn ethanol production levels.

According to the company, the giant miscanthus was developed at the University of Mississippi and provided from a high yield plot by Repreve Renewables. Other advanced bio-energy crops, such as sorghum and switch grass, can provide similar annual yields using this new process.

“These test results are based on nearly optimal crop growth conditions and demonstrate what is possible in a good growing season. Under more routine growing conditions, we estimate yields of about 3,000 gallons/acre should be achievable throughout the Midwest by selecting the proper energy crop for local conditions,” says Mike Cheiky, Cool Planet’s founder and CEO.

Agricultural waste from food crops also can produce up to 1,000 gallons of gasoline/acre using this new technology. The process creates ultra-high surface area carbon in an intermediate step of the conversion process. Some of this carbon can be diverted to form a very potent soil enhancer which can grow more crops and sequester carbon dioxide. Although opting to divert some of the carbon to soil enhancer will reduce the current fuel output, it can generate more fertile farm land for more food and fuel production over a several year period, particularly in areas which have low land productivity today. This sequestering process gives the Cool Planet fuel a low or even negative carbon rating.

Cool Planet’s technology and its potential global impact on climate change and poverty were recently detailed in a talk at Google’s elite SolveForX Conference where 16 speakers presented innovative technologies to address the world’s biggest problems. Each of the talks was reviewed by a group of 50 top scientists, inventors and futurists invited by Google. The consensus on Cool Planet’s presentation was that the company should pursue the carbon sequestration and land productivity enhancement aspects of this technology as well as its fuel production capabilities.

Read more on the renewable cellulosic gasoline process.

Analyst Expects New Biofuels Policy in 2013

A global economic analyst expects that Washington may be taking another look at biofuels policy in 2013.

bayer bill lapp“I think more of that will happen when we know more about who controls the Senate and the House, and who’s the president and where the EPA is on all this after November,” said Bill Lapp of Advanced Economic Solutions during an Ag Issues Forum sponsored by Bayer CropScience this week in Nashville who notes that the biofuels industry is facing a number of challenges. “Not only is the corn-based ethanol mandate going from 13.2 billion gallons to 15 billion, gasoline consumption has continued to decrease in the past couple of years, and we have failed miserably in meeting the goals of cellulosic production.”

Lapp suggests there may be another incarnation of the Renewable Fuel Standard. “Whether you call it RFS-2A, or whatever you want to call it, I think there has to be thought to what are we going to make those ultimate mandates,” he said. “So Congress is going to have a tremendous challenge.”

Lapp also has concerns about biodiesel production, whether the tax credit will be re-instated, and what the mandate will be for 2013.

Listen to interview with Bill Lapp here: Bill Lapp Interview

President Stresses All of the Above Energy Policy

As the ethanol industry was meeting in Orlando last week, President Obama was talking energy just a few hundred miles to the south at the University of Miami.

“If we’re going to take control of our energy future and can start avoiding these annual gas price spikes that happen every year — when the economy starts getting better, world demand starts increasing, turmoil in the Middle East or some other parts of the world — if we’re going to avoid being at the mercy of these world events, we’ve got to have a sustained, all-of-the-above strategy that develops every available source of American energy,” the president said. “Yes, oil and gas, but also wind and solar and nuclear and biofuels, and more.”

President Obama spoke strongly about the need to end oil industry tax benefits. “I said this at the State of the Union — a century of subsidies to the oil companies is long enough. It’s time to end taxpayer giveaways to an industry that has never been more profitable; double down on clean energy industries that have never been more promising — that’s what we need to do. This Congress needs to renew the clean energy tax credits that will lead to more jobs and less dependence on foreign oil.”

The president talked about a variety of renewable energy sources, including algae. “We’re making new investments in the development of gasoline and diesel and jet fuel that’s actually made from a plant-like substance — algae,” he said. “If we can figure out how to make energy out of that, we’ll be doing all right.”

Read the full text of the president’s remarks here.

Futurist Sees Future in Ethanol

Futurist Dr. James Canton says the biggest national security risk today is what he calls the “Petro-Risk” – and only biofuels hold the key to alleviating that risk.

“Clearly, biofuels are the future,” Canton said Thursday at the opening session of the 17th annual National Ethanol Conference. “For all intents and purposes, there’s not an alternative energy that’s non-CO2 that is ready today other than biofuel and the only biofuel that can scale and give us the energy we need is ethanol.”

Canton told the ethanol industry to get ready for “the battle for the barrel” and consider a bolder future that includes a complete biofuels infrastructure. “You have to vertically and horizontally integrate to create the next energy grid, the next vehicles – a complete infrastructure,” he said.

Canton, founder of the Institute for Global Futures, says advanced biofuels will protect America’s future economy and security. “Think different, think big,” he says. “This petro-risk is going to continue and we need to be ready. Petro-risk is geopolitical suicide.”

Listen to Canton’s address to the NEC here: Dr. James Canton at 2012 National Ethanol Conference

2012 National Ethanol Conference Photo Album

The State of the Ethanol Industry

Hello from the 2012 National Ethanol Conference. At approximately 8:10am eastern time we’ll be broadcasting live the State of the Industry Address from Bob Dinneen, President/CEO or the Renewable Fuels Association. Just click on the player below to start the broadcast in your browser. We will record the address and post the recorded version afterward.

Post Update: Thanks to all who tuned in to our live broadcast. Here is the recording (started couple moments late). I’m adding the full audio for you to listen to shortly.

Listen to opening remarks from Chuck Woodside, RFA Chairman: Chuck Woodside Opening Remarks

Listen to State of Industry from Bob Dinneen with introduction by Chuck Woodside: Bob Dinneen State of Industry Address

The full text of the speech as prepared for delivery can be read here (pdf).

Check out our conference photos: 2012 National Ethanol Conference Photo Album

BIO Congress to Feature Advanced Biofuels Sessions

BIOBiofuel and renewable chemical company executives, scientists and government officials from around the globe will speak in breakout sessions at BIO’s 9th annual World Congress on Industrial Biotechnology and Bioprocessing, April 29 – May 2 at the Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center in Orlando.

BIO’s World Congress will feature six breakout session tracks over three days, including tracks on Advanced Biofuel Technologies and Algae and Feedstock Crops. More than 35 sessions will cover the latest progress in commercializing advanced biofuels, consumer benefits from renewable chemicals, company partnerships and more in industrial biotechnology. BIO’s World Congress will also feature investor sessions and business partnering opportunities. The investor sessions will allow executives from companies seeking to raise investment capital to make formal 25-minute presentations on their technology development and business models to an elite audience of investors and analysts.

Early bird registration for the event is now open. Rates go up $400 after February 29.

All About Algae Website Launched

It’s everything you ever wanted to know about algae but were afraid to ask.

The Algal Biomass Organization (ABO) has a new website designed to showcase the potential of algae-based products to provide sustainable and scalable sources of food, energy and fuel.

AllAboutAlgae.com was developed in cooperation with the National Biodiesel Board and provides information, videos and photos all about algae-derived products such as biodiesel, aviation fuel, biochemicals, animal feed and nutritional supplements.

“Products made from algae have incredible potential to meet these needs, and this website is designed to inform and excite people about algae. Allaboutalgae.com is a one-stop shop of comprehensive, easy-to-understand information about this exciting industry,” said ABO Executive Director Mary Rosenthal.

The site includes the most basic to the more complex aspects of algae and answers questions about what algae are and their unique characteristics as a feedstock for fuels, food, feed and more. It includes reviews of the history of algae research, state-of-the-art technology and the latest efforts of the industry to begin large-scale production. Allaboutalgae.com was funded, in part, by the U.S. Department of Energy.

Biodiesel Bike Built by Orange County Choppers

The big news today at the National Biodiesel Conference was the unveiling of the biodiesel bike built by Paul Teutul, Sr., Orange County Choppers. The bike was built in partnership with CIMA Green. Today the bike debuted on stage driven by former NBB Chairman, Ed Hegland. Then Paul Sr. himself drove it onto the biodiesel vehicle showcase floor where he talked about the project with attendees. CIMA Green actually had two bikes built and donated one to the National Biodiesel Board along with a check for $50,000 to use for transportation expenses to showcase the bike at various events around the country.

I spoke with Paul Sr. just prior to his entry into the exhibit hall and he says the bike was a tough one to build. He says it’s not a speed demon but it won’t break down, “It’s just made to go.” The bike has affectionately been named Susie, btw.

Listen to my interview with Paul Sr. here: Interview with Paul Sr.

Listen to Paul Sr. describe the biodiesel bike here: Paul Sr. Remarks

Here’s video of Paul, Sr. driving into the exhibit hall.

Remember that you can follow what the Twitterverse is saying about the conference using the hashtag #NBB12.

2012 National Biodiesel Conference Photo Album

USDA Funds Two Renewable Energy Programs

Two key programs that will encourage the use of renewable biomass and production of advanced biofuels is available through the FY 2012 USDA budget, according to the Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. About $25 million will be made available through each program.

USDAFirst, the Repowering Assistance Program provides approximately $25 million in funding to biorefineries that have been in existence on or before June 18, 2008. The purpose of the program is to provide a financial incentive to biorefineries to use renewable biomass in place of fossil fuels used to produce heat or power. By providing this assistance, USDA is helping these facilities install new systems that use renewable biomass.

Eligible costs must be related to construction or repowering improvements, such as engineering design, equipment installation and professional fees. The application deadline for this program to receive funds for Fiscal Year 2012 is June 1, 2012. For additional details, please see pages 5232 through 5234 of the February 2, 2012, Federal Register.

Second, USDA also announced the availability of up to $25 million to make payments to advanced biofuels producers who expect to produce eligible advanced biofuels at any time during Fiscal Year 2012. To be eligible for these funds, an advanced biofuels producers must have enrolled in the program by October 31, 2011, even if the producer has an existing contract with the Agency.

Payments will be made to producers of advanced biofuels derived from renewable biomass, other than corn kernel starch. These include cellulose, sugar and starch, crop residue, vegetative waste material, animal waste, food and yard waste, vegetable oil, animal fat, and biogas.

Contract payments will be made quarterly. For additional details, please see pages 5229 through 5232 of the February 2, 2012, Federal Register.

“President Obama has laid out a new era for American energy—an economy fueled by homegrown and alternative energy sources that will be designed and produced by American workers,” said Vilsack. “These programs support that vision by helping biorefineries use renewable biomass as a replacement fuel source for fossil fuels and supporting advanced biofuel producers as they expand production.”

National Biodiesel Conference Speech From Joe Jobe

Joe Jobe, CEO, National Biodiesel Board, welcomed attendees to the 2012 National Biodiesel Conference this morning. He started out by telling a story about what biodiesel means to him and how he got involved in energy, politics and history. One of the things that really got him interested in the industry was, “I wrote a paper for my high school economics class about developing a market for ag-based fuels to supplement our energy supply . . . So my paper was overly simplistic and naïve, but after working in this industry for almost 15 years now, the basic idea is clearer than ever, and has now become a reality.” However, he says, “Over the past four decades America has not had a consistent and clear energy policy.”

Joe spent some time talking about the RFS.

The RFS demonstrated last year that effective energy policy can be carried out by actual energy policy. After the first year of implementation it has its wrinkles to iron out and we are going to talk about those in depth. But 2011 demonstrated that the RFS can work at doing what Congress intended, which is to draw renewable fuels into the market. I want to commend the EPA for their work in bringing this program together. They have had a very difficult job to take a brand new complex law and a wide range of stakeholders, and build a workable program.

The RFS has created a clear, predictable, stable and sustainable future for this industry.

Listen to or download Joe’s speech here: Joe Jobe Speech

2012 National Biodiesel Conference Photo Album

Novozymes to Research Ethanol From Seaweed

Novozymes has announced a new research agreement that will explore enzymatic technology to produce fuel ethanol, fine chemicals, and protein from seaweed.

NovozymesThe industrial biotech firm has entered into an agreement with India-based Sea6 Energy to jointly develop a process for the production of biofuels from seaweed. The research alliance will use enzymes to convert seaweed-based carbohydrates to sugar, which can then be fermented to produce ethanol for fuel, fine chemicals, proteins for food, and fertilizers for plants.

NovozymesNovozymes will research, develop, and manufacture enzymes for the conversion process, while Sea6 Energy contributes its offshore seaweed cultivation technology. “Seaweed is a natural complement to our efforts to convert other types of biomass to fuel ethanol,” says Per Falholt, Executive Vice President and CSO of Novozymes. “More than half of the dry mass in seaweed is sugar, and the potential is therefore significant.”

Sea6 Energy is currently trialing its cultivation technology in partnership with a few fishing communities around the coastal areas of South India. Novozymes’ Indian arm will work closely with Sea6 Energy to develop the conversion technology.

GRFA: FAO Director General’s Comments Misguided

As the Global Forum for Food and Agriculture draws to a close in Berlin, the Global Renewable Fuels Alliance (GRFA) has challenged new United Nation’s Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) Director General Jose Graziano Da Silva on his critique of biofuels and their alleged impact on commodity prices.
Global RFA
“Mr. Da Silva has failed to recognize that the rising price of energy is the primary driver in the rising cost of all commodities including corn and sugar,” said GRFA spokesperson, Bliss Baker.

Many international organizations have back tracked on their criticism of biofuels based on research which has found biofuels to have played a very minor role in the escalation of food prices globally. In fact, David Hallam, the FAO’s own Deputy Director has said that “unexpected oil price spikes could further exacerbate an already precarious situation in food markets.”

“Mr. Da Silva would do well to listen to the International Energy Agency’s dire warnings about our energy security future when commenting on biofuels,” said Baker. “The IEA concluded that biofuels could provide 27 percent of total transport fuel by 2050 and avoid around 2.1 gigatonnes of CO2 emissions per year when produced sustainably without jeopardizing food security,” said Baker.

The GRFA has repeatedly called for an increase in the use of biofuels to help reduce the world’s crippling reliance on crude oil.

“I would urge the new FAO Director General to focus on the real cause of high food prices – the rising cost of energy,” added Baker.

Science Magazine Spotlights Seaweed to Biofuel Technology

The cover story in the latest issue of Science Magazine showcases a California-based company’s technology that converts seaweed to biofuel.

The research article details breakthrough technology developed by scientists with Bio Architecture Lab (BAL) using a microbe to extract the sugars in macroalgae that could further the use of seaweed as a feedstock for advanced biofuels and renewable chemical production.

“About 60 percent of the dry biomass of seaweed are sugars, and more than half of those are locked in a single sugar – alginate,” said Daniel Trunfio, Chief Executive Officer at Bio Architecture Lab. “Our scientists have developed a pathway to metabolize the alginate, allowing us to unlock all the sugars in seaweed, which therefore makes macroalgae an economical alternative feedstock for the production of renewable fuels and chemicals.”

“It is both an incredible scientific achievement and a distinguished honor to be published in Science, and I am very proud of our team,” said Trunfio. “It is yet another strong validation of BAL’s breakthrough technology.”

Seaweed can be an ideal global feedstock for the commercial production of biofuels and renewable chemicals because in addition to its high sugar content it has no lignin, and it does not require arable land or freshwater to grow. Globally, if three percent of the coastal waters were used to produce seaweed than more than 60 billion gallons of fossil fuel could be produced. Today, in many parts of the world, seaweed is already grown at commercial scale. BAL currently operates four seaweed farms in Chile and has had great success in growing seaweed at economically viable production yields.

BAL was a beneficiary of the highly selective U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E) awarded to DuPont, for the development of a process to convert sugars from seaweed into isobutanol.

USDA Launches Clean Energy Website

The U.S. Department of Agriculture this week launched a new energy website to provide quick access to the agency’s energy efficiency and renewable energy data.

The website, usda.gov/energy, provides access to all USDA energy resources, including: agricultural, forestry, economic, and social data. This is done in part through a set of new complementary web-based tools: the USDA Renewable Energy Investment Map, the Renewable Energy Tool and Energy Matrix. These tools focus on USDA’s energy, energy efficiency and renewable energy investments and projects; provide information and data to a broad spectrum of stakeholders; and empower the user with the ability to easily navigate USDA’s energy web resources. In addition, the site provides a link to all USDA state and local offices and energy resource coordinators.

The new website was welcomed by the Ag Energy Coalition (AEC). “USDA’s Energy portal demonstrates the positive impact the Farm Bill energy title and related programs are having on job creation, national security, and the environment,” said Coalition co-director Lloyd Ritter. “The Ag Energy Coalition believes Rural America will be a continuing force for change in the advancement of sustainable energy and renewable chemicals production in the years ahead. With the right policies in place, and requisite funding, the promise of a rural renaissance focused on clean energy solutions will become a reality.”

The Ag Energy Coalition includes a membership of organizations and companies representing a variety of clean, renewable energy and bioproducts stakeholders.