USDA Rural Development Supports Biofuel Investment

USDA Rural Business-Cooperative Service Administrator Lillian Salerno went on a three-state Midwest tour last week to highlight USDA investments that are helping expand business opportunities in the bio-economy, including biofuels.

usda-salerno“Creating jobs and expanding economic opportunity for rural small businesses are top priorities for the Obama Administration,” said Salerno, who visited companies in Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota. “The new Farm Bill expands the potential for economic growth in rural America by maintaining momentum for the emerging bio-based industry and the more than 3,000 bio-based companies across the country.”

Salerno’s tour started with a visit to Quad County Corn Processors near Galva, Iowa where they are working on a process to turn corn kernel fibers into cellulosic ethanol and as a result boost the plant’s ethanol production. “It’s a co-op, so all the farmers around there have a vested interest in making this processing unit work,” she said. The company has received nearly $22 million in USDA Rural Development loan guarantees since it opened 13 years ago.

Salerno noted that the United States has the capacity to provide one billion tons of biomass per year by 2030. “This has a possibility of hundreds of thousands of jobs – actually 1.7 million estimated,” she said.

New Waste Biomass Project Announced

Concord Blue USA, Inc. and LanzaTech have entered into an agreement to integrate their individually proven technologies to demonstrate the production of fuels and chemicals from waste materials.

Concord Blue TechnologyLanzaTech will install a Concord Blue Reformer at its Freedom Pines facility in Soperton, Georgia to convert waste biomass from regional forestry operations into syngas. The syngas will be converted by LanzaTech’s gas fermentation process into a range of biofuels and chemicals. The company says the integration and testing at Freedom Pines will serve as an important step towards commercialization of the integrated technologies for multiple projects that both companies have under contract and in development.

“As the U.S. continues to diversify its energy mix and produce more domestic energy, low carbon fuels derived from waste woody biomass and municipal solid waste will play an increasingly important role,” said Dr. Jennifer Holmgren, CEO of LanzaTech. “Our partnership with Concord Blue will enable us to extend our technology to these important resources.”

Concord Blue says it has developed a closed-loop, commercially proven, non-incineration process that recycles nearly any form of waste, including landfill waste and sewage sludge, into energy at virtually any scale. By working closely with leading businesses, governments and communities around the globe, Concord Blue creates tailored solutions that safely and effectively dispose of waste streams while producing clean energy through advanced waste conversion.

“This partnership and demonstration facility lays the foundation for the expeditious development of large scale projects we have been awarded, like the Four Forests Restoration Initiative (4FRI),” said Charlie Thannhaeuser, chairman and chief executive officer of Concord Blue. “This represents a critical step towards achieving our company’s objective to produce drop-in fuels from waste resources and bolster foreign oil independence by producing sustainable non fossil-based fuels.”

New Facility to Turn Ethanol Byproduct into Bio-Resin

bio-res1A Nebraska-based company has expanded its operation to turn an ethanol byproduct into a bio-based resin additive. Composites World reports Laurel BioComposite LLC held an open house and ribbon cutting ceremony for its new 20,000-square-foot manufacturing facility, which will crank out 7 million pounds annually of its trademarked Bio-Res PE.

Tim Bearnes, CEO of Laurel BioComposite, was on hand to welcome special guests Gov. Dave Heineman, Nebraska State Director Maxine Moul, USDA Rural Development and Mayor Mark Patefield. “We held the event to celebrate some important milestones,” says Bearnes. “It also gave us the chance to thank a lot of people that supported our project from its inception and believe in our future.”

Laurel BioComposite’s mission Bearnes explains is to produce Bio-Res PE products from a renewable resource. “Our product replaces a portion of traditional plastic resins and creates a positive environmental impact by reducing the industry’s reliance on crude oil,” he says. “It remains our goal to cost-effectively manufacture a quality bio-based product. We don’t make the plastic. We make the plastic greener.”

The new production line converts feedstock into a powder for thermoset applications or master batch pellets for use in thermoplastics applications such as injection molding.

A second phase currently underway will expand the company’s annual output to 48 million pounds. The products made from Bio-Res include shipping materials, lawn and garden, agricultural and automotive products.

Dakota Bioprocessing Consortium Established

Four universities in North Dakota and South Dakota have been awarded a $6 million grant to establish the Dakota Bioprocessing Consortium (DakotaBioCon) to conduct collaborative research. The award is funded by the National Science Foundation Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research. The consortium includes North Dakota State University, the University of North Dakota, South Dakota State University and the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology.

South Dakota LogosThe primary goal of DakotaBioCon is to establish a multi-state, multi-institution, multi-disciplinary research collaboration that will produce economically viable renewable replacements for existing petrochemicals. The research collaborators will use lignin as a starting raw material. Lignin binds cellulose fibers in wood and plants and will be converted into renewable chemical and polymeric alternatives to petrochemicals.

“The combined research talent at the four institutions in two states provides an opportunity to join forces to develop DakotaBioCon, maximizing research in the field of renewable replacements to existing petrochemicals,” said Philip Boudjouk, co-chair of North Dakota EPSCoR.

DakotaBioCon will leverage its relationships with existing programs and centers such as UND/NDSU’s Sustainable Energy Research Initiative and Supporting Education (SUNRISE) program, the SDSU-based SunGrant Initiative, and the SDSMT/SDSU-based Center for Bioprocessing Research and Development to achieve its objectives.

Phyllis E. Johnson, co-chair of North Dakota EPSCoR said of the project, “This project provides an important opportunity to use our research talents to create new, high-value products from agricultural waste products, thus strengthening further the largest sector of our state economy.” Continue reading

Land Availability Should Determine Biomass Use

According to a paper published by the nova-Institute on agricultural feedstock use in industrial applications, efficiency and sustainability assessed on a case-by-case basis Global Prod Capacity by region 2015should be the sole criteria in judging the choice of feedstock used. The paper reviewed the “food versus fuel” arguments surrounding feedstocks to help shed light on the debate on how feedstocks should be used. The institute further stressed that the real issue is land availability for growing biomass for different purposes.

The paper refers to studies asserting that, even after satisfying food demand of a rapidly growing world population, enough arable land would remain available for purposes other than food production. The authors argue that the best usage of these areas is achieved by considering the land-efficiency of different crops. Studies show that many food crops are more land-efficient than non-food crops. According to the paper, they require less land to produce the same amount of e.g. fermentable sugar (commonly used in biotechnology processes) than non-food crops or so-called second generation feedstock, e.g. lignocelluloses.

“Efficiency and sustainability should be the leading criteria when selecting renewable feedstock for industrial purposes, such as the production of bioplastics,” said Hasso von Pogrell, Managing Director of European Bioplastics, embracing the paper as a welcome contribution to the discussion. “If the industry were to neglect the use of first generation feedstock at this point in time, it would do a disservice to society and the environment,” he added. “In addition to being currently more efficient, the use of food-crops for industrial purposes has the major advantage that, in times of food crisis, these crops could be reallocated to food use.”

European Bioplastics is in favor of promoting the use of second or even third generation feedstock for industrial purposes. However, as long as food crops continue in many cases 13-08 use of harvested agricultural biomassto represent the most efficient feedstock by far, discrediting their use would be misguided and a step in the wrong direction in achieving the European Commission sustainability targets.

“This often very emotional discussion needs to be steered into a more fact based direction,” continued von Pogrell. “Only two percent of the global agricultural area is actually used to grow feedstock for material production and only 0.006 percent is used in the production of bioplastics, compared to 98 percent used for food, feed and as pastures,” he concluded.

These findings echo the conclusion of a study recently published by the World Bank, according to which an increase in food prices is largely influenced by the oil price. Biofuels and, by extension, bioplastics play a negligible factor here. The study looked at food commodities such as corn, wheat, rice, soybeans and palm oil and compared commodity prices to energy prices, exchange rates, interest rates, inflation, income and a stocks-to-use ratio to determine which of these drivers had the most impact on food prices.

Abengoa Inaugurates First Waste-to-Biofuels Plant

Abengoa has inaugurated its demonstration plant that uses Waste-to-Biofuels (W2B) technology. The plant has a capacity to treat 25,000 tons of municipal solid waste (MSW) from which it will obtain up to 1.5 million liters of bioethanol for use as fuel.

The demonstration plant located in Babilafuente (Salamanca, Spain) and uses W2B technology developed by Abengoa to produce second-generation biofuels from MSW using a fermentation and enzymatic Abengoa Salamanca-1-large_300hydrolysis treatment. During the transformation process, the organic matter is treated in various ways to produce organic fiber that is rich in cellulose and hemicellulose, which is subsequently converted into bioethanol.

Abengoa says the the production of bioethanol from municipal solid waste is a major technological breakthrough in the waste management model, since it increases the recovery rate, minimizes the carbon footprint and generates major benefits for society. The company says the fuel produced from its plant will reduce greenhouse gas emissions per kilometer travelled by 70 percent. In addition, Abengoa’s technology maximizes the recovery of the organic fraction of the MSW and  prevents more than 80 percent of the waste ending up in landfill.

During the opening, Manuel Sánchez Ortega, CEO of Abengoa said, “This plant once again highlights Abengoa’s commitment to technological research and innovation, which has enabled it to maintain a competitive advantage in its sectors, leading projects with huge technological potential and programs that involve world-leading research centers and strategic partners.”

The bioethanol produced at the W2B plant has multiple uses such as an additive for gasoline, increasing its octane rating; as fuel for cars; for use in the chemicals and pharmaceutical industry (in solvents or cosmetics, for example), and even as an intermediate product in producing jet fuel.

Biobased Products Made in Europe

Bridge 2020 logoThe European Commission is having a busy week with much of it focused on efforts to mitigate climate change. One such move is the proposal of a €3.8 billion Public Private Partnership (PPP) on Biobased Industries, an initiative that would accelerate the commercialization of biobased products in Europe. The European Commission will invest €1 billion and industry €2.8 billion, from 2014 to 2020, to boost market uptake of new biobased products that are “made in Europe”.

The goal of the partnership is to promote the use of various sources of sustainable biomass and waste to produce everyday products such as food, feed, chemicals and fuels. The use of local biomass and waste will generate growth and jobs in rural areas across European regions, while reducing the European Union’s (EU) reliance on fossil fuels, thereby offering sustainable alternatives to oil-based products and enhancing energy and food security.

Novozymes is part of this initiative alongside 47 leading European companies in the novozymesbiotech, chemical, energy, agro-food and pulp and paper sectors.

“The Biobased Industries PPP is essential for Europe to remain competitive in the global race for the development of a biobased economy,” said Novozymes CEO Peder Holk Nielsen. “It is an opportunity for reindustrialization and for reversing the investment trend currently going to other regions of the world because of more attractive policy frameworks.”

The PPP will capitalize on Europe’s innovation and technological leadership to bring biobased solutions from research labs to the market. Various sectors will be brought together to optimize and create new value chains, such as connecting farmers and foresters directly to consumers.

Research Turns Swine Manure into Biocrude Products

schideman1Researchers at the University of Illinois have come up with a way to turn swine manure into a biocrude oil, as well as growing algae biomass, capturing carbon, purifying wastewater and recycling nutrients. This news release from the school says Yuanhui Zhang and Lance Schideman, both professors in the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering, have combined their years of research for the innovative development.

“We first convert swine manure into crude oil in a hydrothermal liquefaction reactor,” Schideman said. “There is a very strong wastewater that comes off that process. It contains nutrients that can be used to grow algae that simultaneously clean the water. Lately, we’ve added low-cost, bioregenerable adsorbents into the system that allow us to grow additional bacterial biomass and further improve effluent water quality.

“Our recent research, a combination of experimental work and some computer modeling, has shown that we can reuse the nutrients multiple times and thus amplify biofuel production from waste feedstocks,” he explained. “If we start with a particular waste stream that has one ton of volatile solids in it, we might be able to produce three, five or even ten tons of algal and bacterial biomass. This new biomass is then recycled back into the biofuel production process,” he continued. “It can also clean the water with the goal of making it suitable for environmental discharge or reuse in some other application. So we get more bioenergy and more clean water resources – both good things in the long run.”

The biocrude oil has higher oxygen and higher nitrogen content than traditional petroleum, but lower sulfur content. The researchers see the process helping bridge the gap between the smaller refineries and petroleum’s requirements of having refineries that process hundreds of thousands of barrels of material each day.

The biocrude oil is being tested as an asphaltic binder in a piece of pavement leading to Six Flags St. Louis.

LS9 Expands Demonstration Facility

LS9 has announced plans to expand its operations at their Okeechobee, Florida demonstration facility with a successful customer trial. The Florida facility was initially designed, and has been used, to scale-up LS9′s fermentation technology and generate large commercial samples for testing and product qualification by key partners and prospective customers. Since the company’s initial run at 135,000 liter scale in the third quarter of last year, LS9 has made several additional fatty alcohol runs of this size as well as smaller production runs of fatty acid methyl esters (biodiesel).

LS9In addition, LS9 has successfully completed a pilot production run at its Florida plant for another advanced bioproducts company, Cobalt Technologies. According to LS9, fermentation scale-up is an expensive proposition and requires the proper facilities and expertise to make an effective run. The need to run trials is also intermittent so it is not cost-effective for many companies in the industry to make the investment in a larger plant.

LS9 says its Florida demonstration plant was designed to manage a multitude of processes, and with this successful customer run, they have proven they can leverage their state-of-the-art facility and the expertise of its operations staff to work with partners to commercialize renewable products. Given the success of the initial production run, says LS9, Cobalt is considering future work at LS9′s Florida facility.

“The capability to transition from the lab to 135,000 liter scale is a key milestone on our road to commercial success, and we know we are not alone in this requirement,” said Tjerk de Ruiter, President and Chief Executive Officer of LS9. “Our ability to support other companies’ technology scale-up activities is not only an example of the flexibility and the capabilities of our team, it is also an excellent example of how, as an industry, we can work together to make a renewable future a reality. This new revenue source, together with a recent $6 million investment from our current investors, positions LS9 to enter into new partnerships with our technology and advance our own products.”

New Plant-Based Cellulase Enzyme

Iowa Corn Field in Aug Photo Joanna SchroederInfinite Enzymes has launched IE-CBHI, a single activity, plant-based cellulase enzyme. The enzyme is available for research and development projects through Sigma-Aldrich Corporation.

The global industrial enzymes market is projected to reach 3.74 billion by 2015, not including many emerging applications in advanced biofuels and biobased products. Enzymes are a critical role in converting cellulose and hemicellulose in biomass to sugars, which becomes the foundation to produce biofuels, biochemicals or biomaterials.

According to Infinite Enzymes, their technology produces enzymes in a lower value part of the corn kernel thereby creating a new sustainable market for corn processing by-products.  The company says their technology lowers the cost of sugar production needed for developing low-cost biobased plastics and advanced biofuels.

Recently, Infinite Enzymes received a $450,000 Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase II grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to advance its enzyme development technology.

USDA Supports Sustainable Bioenergy Production

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has awarded $10 million in research grants to help develop production of bioenergy and biobased products. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack made the announcement while visiting Michigan State University, one of the grant winners.

Ford Concept Car with Biobased materialsWhile there, Vilsack mentioned the growth potential of biobased products as detailed in a recent study by Iowa State University (funded by USDA) that found that while biobased products in automobile manufacturing is increasing, there are still many parts that can be replaced with biobased materials.

“USDA and President Obama are committed to producing clean energy right here at home, to not only break our dependence on foreign oil, but also boost rural economies,” said Vilsack. “These projects will give us the scientific information needed to support biofuel production and create co-products that will enhance the overall value of a biobased economy. Today, with a strong and diversified U.S. agricultural sector, the American automobile industry has a greater incentive for expanding use of biobased products while supporting good-paying jobs here in the United States.”

USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) awarded the grants through the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI). AFRI’s sustainable bioenergy challenge area targets the development of regional systems for the sustainable production of bioenergy and biobased products that: contribute significantly to reducing dependence on foreign oil; have net positive social, environmental, and rural economic impacts; and are compatible with existing agricultural systems.

Projects were awarded in four areas: 1) policy options for and impacts on regional biofuels production systems, 2) impacts of regional bioenergy feedstock production systems on wildlife and pollinators, 3) socioeconomic impacts of biofuels on rural communities, and 4) environmental implications of direct and indirect land use change. Click here to view a full list of the winners.

Dyadic Receives 12th Patent

Dyadic International has received its 12th patent, U.S. Patent No. 8,304,212 entitled “Methods and compositions for degradation of lignocellulosic material”. The patent covers methods and compositions for using enzymes mixtures to convert plant biomass into fermentable sugars for the production of various products. The patent also covers novel combinations of enzymes including those that provide a synergistic release of sugars from plant biomass.

“In developing and selling industrial enzymes, our customers and partners not only benefit from Dyadic’s patented C1 platform technology but also from Dyadic’s fungal strains and technologies based on the Trichoderma fungal organism,” said Dyadic’s President and CEO, Mark Emalfarb. “Dyadic uses these strains to produce specialty enzymes that can be used for a variety of applications in such fields as animal health and nutrition, biofuels and bio-based chemicals. As with our growing portfolio of patents covering the C1 technology, this patent will provide Dyadic, its customers and licensees with additional protection for our Trichoderma-based enzyme mixtures.”

The patent also specifically describes methods of increasing the yield of fermentable sugars from fermentation of dried distillers grains (DDGs) using enzyme mixtures comprising glucoamylase, beta-glucosidase and alpha-arabinofuranosidase. More specifically, it specifically covers Trichoderma-based enzyme mixtures, which significantly and unexpectedly increase the yield of fermentable sugars from DDGs. DDGs are obtained after the fermentation of the starch derived from a number of grains including corn, wheat, barley, oats, rice, and rye and are typically used for animal feed. DDGs are also a byproduct of ethanol production which creates synergies in using enzymes for both biofuels and animal feed applications.

SG Biofuels Breakthrough

SG Biofuels has expanded it global network of hybrid trial and agronomic research sites with the addition of eight new JMAX Knowledge Centers located in Brazil, Guatemala and India. The company is also expanding it production facility in Guatemala. Current trials are underway in San Diego, California. The company focuses on the the production of Jatropha for use in biofuels, biochemicals and biomaterials.

According to a company statement SG Biofuels’ hybrids are performing better compared to commercial varieties across multiple geographies in terms of plant vigor, health, flowering consistency, stress tolerance and yield. The success validates the ability to produce crude Jatropha oil for less than $99 per barrel in a range of growing conditions.

“The performance of our hybrids in multiple geographies not only validates the strength of our genetics, but our ability to deploy profitable energy crop projects around the world,” said Kirk Haney, president and chief executive officer. “Through our network of JMax Knowledge Centers, we are developing the highest performing hybrids of Jatropha while establishing best agronomic and production practices for deploying those hybrids at commercial scale.”

According to the company, JMax Knowledge Centers are professionally managed trials using experimental design and statistical analysis to evaluate hundreds of hybrids in a range of environmental and agronomic conditions. The centers serve as outdoor classrooms where SGB agronomists and technical teams conduct training and field tours with customers and growers, develop localized agronomic studies and recommendations and develop high performing Jatropha hybrids for commercial deployment. SGB’s hybrids have been developed following five years of research, drawing from a diverse germplasm library including more than 12,000 unique genotypes.

Biodico & Navy Sign Advanced Biofuels Contract

Biodico has signed an agreement with the U.S. Navy for the development and evaluation of advanced biofuels and bioenergy. The goal is to jointly develop renewable fuel and energy technologies that are appropriate for use at U.S. Naval and Department Of Defense (DOD) facilities worldwide. The co-project is supported, in part, by grants from the California Energy Commission.

The collaboration between the Navy and Biodico will optimize the operation of sustainable biorefineries producing renewable petroleum diesel equivalent liquid fuels, bio-based products and energy using renewable resources. The goal is to lower the per gallon cost of production of the alternative energy source and also to push the advanced technology into the marketplace for commercial scale production.

Biodico’s President and Founder, Russell Teall, said, “As part of this agreement we are building a sustainable biorefinery at Naval Base Ventura County that will produce biofuel and bioenergy at prices competitive with unsubsidized conventional fuel and power. The facility is privately funded, with some of the innovations supported by grants from the California Energy Commission. Sen. Pavley’s landmark initiatives have helped make this project possible.”

Through on-site production of liquid biofuels, biobased products and alternative energy, the Navy can get closer to reaching its goal of reducing its dependence on petroleum by 50 percent by 2020. This, in turn, will provide the Navy access to secure forms of energy. Work under the new contract will include a range of technologies including but not limited to transesterification, gasification, gas to liquids, hydrogenation, anaerobic digestion, catalysis, and the production and processing of feedstocks and co-products.

“This announcement is an exciting outcome of the collaboration between Biodico, the Navy and the California Energy Commission,” said California State Senator Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills). “This work is a direct result of California’s commitment to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. The collaboration between Biodico, the Navy and the California Energy Commission will enhance our national security, provide new jobs and improve the environment. It will demonstrate and commercialize advanced biofuel and bioenergy technologies that will be utilized throughout the world. The integration of sustainable agriculture with renewable combined heat and power produced on-site will produce inexpensive advanced biofuels.”

Gevo To Refine Biobutanol Plant

In May of 2012, Gevo, Inc. announced the start-up of its bio-isobutanol plant in Luverne, Minnesota. Since then, the company says it has both produced and shipped commercial quality product in railcars for customers. One thing the company has learned is what works well and what needs to be tweaked. So the company has switched the plant to ethanol production while it refines its bio-isobutanol technology.

“To date, we have proven we can produce bio-isobutanol, and do it on a commercial scale – years ahead of the competition,” said CEO Patrick Gruber, Ph.D. “This start-up is very typical of other start-ups we have done: you have to learn a lot in a very short period of time, both what works well and what needs to be adjusted. Early indications are that, while we are making significant progress towards economic production levels, we will not achieve our desired year-end run rate – instead we would expect to achieve that during 2013.”

“While we have made significant progress towards economic production levels, we have decided to optimize certain specific parts of our technology to further enhance bio-isobutanol production rates,” continued Gruber. He said that it does not make business sense to implement adjustments while having the plant in productions. So their strategy is to switch to ethanol production while the technology is refined.

Gevo has agreements in place with Sasol, Total, VP Racing Fuels, Mansfield Oil, and Land O’Lakes Purina. While the company is currently producing fuel for the transportation market, the company is also developing opportunities in the jet, marine and small engine markets as well as looking at the production of bio-isobutanol for biochemicals and biomaterials.

“In five short years, we have gone from start-up to commercial-scale production at the world’s first commercial bio-isobutanol production facility. Production start-ups are never easy, but we are years ahead of our competition and well on our way to realizing economic production levels during 2013,” Gruber concluded.