USDA Announced Advanced Biofuels Grants

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Tom Vilsack has announced the availability of $6.5 million in grants to 220 producers throughout the country to support their efforts to produce advanced biofuels. There is also an additional $4 million in grants dedicated to advanced the bioeconomy.

usda-logo“Producing advanced biofuel is a major component of the drive to take control of America’s energy future by developing domestic, renewable energy sources,” said Vilsack. “These resources represent the Obama Administration’s commitment to support an ‘all-of-the-above’ energy strategy that seeks to build a robust bio-based economy. Investments in biofuels will also help create jobs and further diversify the economy in our rural communities.”

The funding is being provided through USDA’s Advanced Biofuel Payment Program, which was established in the 2008 Farm Bill. Under this program, payments are made to eligible producers based on the amount of advanced biofuel produced from renewable biomass, other than corn kernel starch. Examples of eligible feedstocks include but are not limited to: crop residue; animal, food and yard waste; vegetable oil; and animal fat.

In other news, USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) announced the award of fiscal year 2014 grants through three other programs supporting bioenergy initiatives.

  • The National Biodiesel Board and Regents of the University of Idaho received $768,000 and $192,000 respectively, through the Biodiesel Fuel Education Program. The program was established to stimulate biodiesel consumption and the development of a biodiesel infrastructure.
  • South Dakota State University (SDSU) received $2.3 million through the Sun Grant Program. This program encourages bioenergy and biomass research collaboration between government agencies, land-grant colleges and universities, and the private sector.
  • Through the Critical Agricultural Materials program, Iowa State University of Science and Technology received $1 million for the development of new paint, coating, and adhesive products that are derived from acrylated glycerol, which is a co-product of the biodiesel industry.

 

BIB Receives $9.9M Biobased Education Grant

The Building Illinois’ Bioeconomy (BIB) consortium has received a $9.9 million grant to create an Illinois network of biobased training and employment pathways that can be completed in two years or less. BIB is comprised of Southeastern Illinois College (SIC), Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville, Carl Sandburg College, Lincoln Land College, and Lewis & Clark College.

Illinois’ bioeconomy is a driving force for economic development and innovation across the state. This biobased industry employs more than 54,000 direct, indirect, and induced jobs generating more than $5 billion in total economic output. The grant funding is part of a presidential directive calling upon industry and institutions of higher learning to partner and create robust, fast-track pathways from training to jobs.

US Dept of LaborDr. Jonah Rice, SIC president, said of the grant, “SIC is a very proud partner in this grant that will provide valuable workforce skills. SIC’s biofuels program will continue to benefit and grow as a national leading certificate program because of this grant.”

All course materials developed through this grant will be available as open educational resources so that others can access and build on successful training models. In this final phase of the TAACCTA, SIC will continue to build upon their innovative Biofuels Program to provide a pathway for displaced workers, veterans, and the underemployed to receive relevant training and stackable credentials that lead to employment in today’s rural workplace.

Renee Loesche, SIC’s biofuels instructor, added, “The true innovation of this grant is that training will be created with industry and trade association involvement to allow fast-track certificates that build upon a person’s current skills and education to train them for jobs that exist in the bio-process industries of today.”

These courses will be online and/or hybrid courses that allows those seeking employment to build upon high school diplomas and/or limited skill sets to improve those skills and become eligible for the jobs of the 21st century.

USDA Report Outlines Biobased Opportunities

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has released a new report, “Why Biobased?” outlining current literature that explores opportunities in the emerging biobased economy. The report is a precursor for a more comprehensive economic study planned for release by the USDA BioPreferred program and will focus on the economic impacts of the biobased products industry.

Why Biobased?“This new report presents the opportunities U.S. agriculture and forests have in the emerging bioeconomy,” said USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack. “The recent inclusion of mature market products into the BioPreferred program strengthens our commitment to the U.S. biobased economy and brings together two of the most important economic engines for rural America: agriculture and manufacturing.”

The new report explores how government policies and industry business-to-business sustainability programs are driving the biobased economy. The report also demonstrates that the biobased economy is, in fact, growing and it offers great potential for increased job creation in numerous sectors across the U.S. For instance, one report cited concludes that biobased chemicals are expected to constitute over 10 percent of the chemical market by 2015. Another report in the study concludes that there is a potential to produce two-thirds of the total volume of chemicals from biobased materials, representing over 50,000 products, a $1 trillion annual global market.

On the heels of this completed study, the USDA BioPreferred program has awarded a contract for a more in-depth economic study of biobased products and economic impacts, including research on job creation and economic value. It will be the first federally sponsored economic report of its kind targeting the biobased products industry in the U.S. Congress mandated the upcoming study in the 2014 Farm Bill.

The Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) has estimated that U.S.-based jobs for the renewable chemicals sector will rise from approximately 40,000 jobs in 2011, which represents 3-4 percent of all chemical sales, to over 237,000 jobs by 2025. This employment level would represent approximately 20 percent of total chemical sales.

How to Establish Biobased Production Chains

The Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RV0), Wageningen UR Food & Biobased Research has developed a method that can help companies and government authorities create biobased chains, from source materials to end products. The method was developed out of a need for companies to develop successful production chains for the production of biofuels or biomaterials from biomass-based resources.

According to senior scientist Wolter Elbersen at the institute for Food & Biobased Research, the method is mainly intended for businesses and investors looking to establish a biobased production chain locally, or for export to the Netherlands or other EU countries. “They often have trouble evaluating whether developing a biobased production or export chain is feasible or how it can be done commercially,” said Elbersen. “This method provides an insight into which factors are at play.”

Setting Up International Biobased Production ChainsThe method is a step-by-step plan for the development of a biobased export chain. It includes a classification of the various types of biomass.

Scientist Jan van Dam at Food & Biobased Research explained that an analysis was made of which crops and products are most suitable, and how market demands are expected to develop. “We then described how businesses or investors can use a SWOT analysis to evaluate whether a local crop is a good starting point for the development of a biobased trade chain. This includes factors such as the availability of the crop and the infrastructure, security of supplies, costs and the degree to which the source material can be produced in a sustainable way.”

The method also offers a list of criteria for determining the most suitable location for converting the source material into tradable products. It deals with questions such as which country has the best infrastructure and the most educated employees? Which location offers the lowest operational costs and the best logistics? And where do the co-products or by-products have the most value? This involves issues such as heat for heating networks, CO2 for CO2 fertilisation or lignin for new chemical products.

Researchers Discover Cellulose Making Enzyme Structure

Researchers from Purdue University have discovered the structure of the enzyme that makes cellulose. They believe this finding could lead to easier ways of breaking down plant materials to make biofuels and other products and materials. In addition the researchers say the findings provide a more detailed glimpse of the complicated process by which cellulose is produced. Cellulose is the foundation of the plant cell wall and can be converted to bioproducts such as biofuels and biochemicals. The research findings were published in The Plant Cell.

“Despite the abundance of cellulose, the nitty-gritty of how it is made is still a mystery,” said Nicholas Carpita, professor of plant biology. “Now we’re getting down to the molecular structure of the individual enzyme proteins that synthesize cellulose.”

carpita-n14Carpita explains that cellulose is composed of several dozen strands of glucose sugars linked together in a cablelike structure and condensed into a crystal. The rigidity of cellulose allows plants to stand upright and lends wood its strength. “Pound for pound, cellulose is stronger than steel,” said Carpita.

A large protein complex synthesizes cellulose at the surface of the plant cell. The basic unit of this complex is an enzyme known as cellulose synthase. The protein complex contains up to 36 of these enzymes, each of which has a region known as the catalytic domain, the site where single sugars are added to an ever-lengthening strand of glucose that will be fixed in the plant cell wall as one of the strands in the cellulose “cable.”

Carpita and a team of researchers used X-ray scattering to show that cellulose synthase is an elongated molecule with two regions – the catalytic domain and a smaller region that couples with another cellulose synthase enzyme to form a dimer, two molecules that are stuck together. These dimers are the fundamental building blocks of the much larger protein complex that produces cellulose.

“Determining the shape of cellulose synthase and how it fits together into the protein complex represents a significant advance in understanding how these plant enzymes work,” Carpita said. Continue reading

Cambi Group Inks Waste-to-Energy Deal

Cambi Group has inked a deal with Beijing Drainage Group (BDG) and Beijing Drainage Construction Company (BDC) to convert Chinese sludge treatment into renewable energy and byproducts. BDG and BDC are exemplifying the direction to meet China’s five goals for sewage sludge treatment: increased biogas production, sludge volume reduction, pathogen kill for safe land application, energy recovery, and recycling of resources.

The Gaobeidian wastewater treatment plant will be fitted with the Cambi THP solution and be operational within 2016. BDG is planning to build another four large-Cambi Groupscale sludge projects in the period 2016-2017. When all of the five sludge plants are operating, all the sewage sludge in Beijing could potentially be treated by the Cambi THP solution and Beijing Drainage Group will become the single largest company using advanced anaerobic digestion in the world.

The general manager of Beijing Drainage Construction Company, Mr. Lei Shi, commented, “Cambi has proven itself to have the best THP solution and technology. Our partnership is truly a historic moment for China and will provide the country with an environmentally friendly solution to the treatment of sludge.”

Cambi’s chief executive officer Per Lillebø celebrated this benchmark by applauding BDC and BDG for choosing the 21st century leading technology and doing what is right for Beijing and China, in terms of technological solution, cost efficiency and environmental sustainability: “We are proud to sign this partnership for the future and are committed to making the Gaobeidian project a successful example for the rest of China and the world,” he said.

Bio Revolution America Uses Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding is coming to biofuels. On August 3, 2014, Bio Revolution America launched a 45 day Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign to fund its biofuels projects in Appalachia and within one week is reporting reaching 30 percent of their goal. The company has developed a Bio extractor machine that has they believe has the potential to change the face of biofuel manufacturing. The extractors are made in America, have six years of field testing and are patent pending.

According to Bio Revolution America, the machine extracts 100 percent carbon neutral bio oil and byproducts from plants using a cold oil extraction process. Cold oil extraction uses no chemicals or solvents and leaves everything in its natural, organic state. The bio-oil can then be used in foods, as biodiesel and the pressed meal can be used for cosmetics, medicine and more.

“There has probably never been a time in the history of America when something this important could happen,” said Bio Revolution America spokesperson Randall Richards. “Everyone wins! We help create jobs and income in the poorest parts of the U.S., We help save the environment, and become the world’s leader in pure, green, bio technology on a large scale!”

Upon reaching their Indiegogo funding goal they plan to help farmers in Appalachia plant seeds this fall so that the plants can be harvested in the spring 2015. The initial outreach is taking place in Appalachia, but will expand from there to the Midwest and Western U.S. in the next year.

Hawaii Funds BioTork Advanced Biofuel Technology

The Hawaii Department of Budget and Finance is now authorized to issue special purpose revenue bonds not exceeding $50,000,000 for the purpose of planning, permitting, designing, construction, equipping, and operating BioTork Hawaii LLC’s commercial facilities. Recently, the state passed legislation to assist in funding a zero waste project that converts crops, crop residues, dedicated energy crops and ag waste into sustainable biofuels and co-products.

According to BioTork, their bioconversion development efforts in Hawaii date back to 2010 when it began research of its technology. The company uses a “proprietary evolutionary optimization approach,” and “enhances the performance of non-GMO microorganisms under real-world industrial conditions in an unrivaled cost efficient way”. The conversion process takes a few days to cycle in a heterotrophic environment, meaning no sunlight is needed, to create oil for biofuel and high-protein feed.

bioTork“The passage of this legislation greatly enhances BioTork’s efforts in Hawaii. It demonstrates the attractiveness and the potential of our technology, which is focused on the bioconversion of agricultural waste, into a higher value product,” said Eudes de Crecy, CEO of BioTork.

Basing its efforts on the requirements of the “Hawaii Zero Waste Program,” BioTork entered into collaboration with the Daniel K. Inouye Pacific Basin Agricultural Research Center. Since that time Hawaii committed $4,800,000 in research, development and capital improvement funding through a contract with DKI-PBARC to focus on BioTork’s evolution technology. Some of these funds have been committed through the state’s barrel tax allocations, which target energy and food security initiatives. Other funds have been appropriated through legislative capital improvement program allocations.

“At BioTork we firmly believe that in many circumstances there is much more value in converting carbon rich organic biomass into high value products, than just burning it, burying it or using it as fertilizer in the field. The model we pursue is to breed the good microbe candidates to specifically address the locally available biomass sources, using natural methods and to create much more value to the local and global economy,” added Tom Lyons, CSO of BioTork.

With the additional support of special purpose revenue bond funding, BioTork Hawaii LLC will be able to fuel the third step of its development program. This would involve scaling up to build and operate commercial facilities that will have the capacity to convert agricultural crops and by-products such as albizia, sweet potatoes, papaya, sugarcane bagasse, glycerol and molasses to biofuels and high-protein feed.

Students Present Research at Ethanol Conference

Several University of Minnesota students are giving the ethanol industry a preview of their cutting-edge research in biofuels, biochemicals and bioproducts during the 27th Annual Ethanol Conference in Minneapolis. One such student is Sahana Ramanna who is a PhD student who is working on improving the pre-treatment technologies used for biomass, specifically Aspen.

Sahana RammanaRamanna explained that one of the most difficult and energy intensive parts of converting biomass (aka cellulose) to sugar is in the initial phase. Using 3D imaging, similar to the technology used for brain scans, she and her team are able to test “pre-treatment” strategies and see how it affects the structure of the biomass.

Ultimately, Ramanna said they are looking to increase the amount of biomass that can be converted into biofuels and other biochemicals and products, thus increasing the amount of biofuels. In addition, the processes they are looking at would significantly improve the energy efficiency during this process. Next steps – refining the process for Aspen and then testing it on other forms of biomass.

Listen to Sahana Ramanna discuss her research here: Interview with Sahana Ramanna

Another student I spoke with is just beginning his PhD studies and has spent the last year working on an interesting biofuels project. Joseph Molde works in the BioTechnology Institute and he and his team are working on a process called hydrothernmal carbinization using distillers grains (DDGs), a bi-product of ethanol production.

Joseph Molde U of MWhat is really neat is the process is producing two new possible co-products: liquid carbon and biochar. The liquid carbon can be used as an organic fertilizer on fields, while the biochar can be used in various applications including biomaterials and biochemicals. Molde said that similar research has been taking place in Europe, but not much has been done with biochar here in the states.

Molde also noted that the process improves efficiency throughout the production process – just one more way the ethanol industry is working to improve its technology and environmental footprint – while also adding valuable additional co-products to an ethanol plant’s portfolio. He said they are scaling up the technology now and that he hopes to see it in commercial scale application in the next five to 10 years.

Listen to Joseph Molde discuss his research here: Interview with Joseph Molde

View the 27th Annual Ethanol Conference photo album.

Free Webinar: Muncipal Solid Waste to BioProducts

Renewable-Waste-IntelligenceMunicipal solid waste is a big concern for cities around the world and many are discovering that they can make money from their waste. How? But converting the waste stream into biofuels and bioproducts. Yet a question that remains to be answered is where and when will this development play out and how are developers strategizing their business model to reach commercialization?

People can learn the answers to these questions by signing up for Renewable Waste Intelligence’s  free webinar, “The challenges of achieving a commercial scale MSW to biofuels and bio-products project“. The webinar will take place Thursday, August 7, 2014 at 10:30 am ET.

Speakers include experts from several of the country’s leading biofuels and bioproducts companies who will share their views on the unfolding project plans, how commercialization has been reached and how MSW can be used to produce a viable and green “drop in” solution for the biochemicals industry.

Speakers include:

  • Tim Cesarek, VP, Enerkem
  • Steve Csonka, Executive Director, CAAFI
  • Sadesh Sookraj, EVP, Novomer

For more information and to register click here.

Heliae Partners with Sincere for Algae Project

Algae production technology company Heliae is partnering with Japan-based Sincere Corporation, a waste management and recycling company, to form a joint venture to develop a commercial scale algae production facility in Saga City Japan called Alvita Corporation. The partnership will combine Sincere Corporation’s operational skill, distribution networks and knowledge of the Japanese market with Heliia’s proprietary algae production technology to supply natural astaxanthin, a powerful antioxidant with broad health benefits, to the growing health and wellness market in the region.

heliae logo“As we investigated technology partners for algae production in Japan, Heliae offered a truly complete package,” said Yukihiro Matsuzaka, President of Sincere Corporation. “From their algae technology platform, their experience at scale, and their extensive  traction in multiple industries, Heliae is clearly a world-class player and we look forward to building upon this joint venture with them and bringing algae production to Japan.”

Construction of the Saga City facility is planned to begin in 2015 and Alvita’s astaxanthin product should bScreen Shot 2014-07-02 at 9.49.27 AMe available on the market in Japan by 2016. The Saga City facility will be designed based on Heliae’s first algae production facility in Gilbert, Arizona. This original facility has been operational since 2013 and produces astaxanthin for the North American market.

“Local support for the project has been significant and we’re proud that the new algae production facility will bring significant community development for the Saga City area through job creation and tax revenue,” said Dan Simon, President and CEO of Heliae.

“We choose our partners carefully, and the Sincere Corporation has a complimentary culture combined with a long track record of success in Japan,” continued Simon. “This is just the beginning of what we believe will become a long-term partnership to deliver high quality algae products to multiple markets throughout the country. We are honored to have been chosen by Sincere and excited about the potential. Now the real work begins.”

Meredian Harvests First Canola Crop for Biopolymer

meredian1A Georgia company has harvested its first crop of canola to make into biopolymers. According to Meredian, Inc. the crop will be turned into the raw materials used to make a wide range of completely biodegradable plastic products from local fields.

The canola oil used in Meredian’s production is the single most important, yet costly factor in their manufacturing process. While theoretically, the company can use any plant derived oil to convert carbon into biopolymers, canola is the perfect option because it possesses the ability to be grown locally, which cuts down on unnecessary and costly transportation steps. Growing locally stimulates Georgia’s economy, while allowing Meredian to continue their mission of manufacturing biopolymers from renewable, natural resources that equal or exceed petroleum-based plastics in price and performance.

“We are thrilled about the successful harvest of our pilot canola fields,” said Paul Pereira, Executive Chairman of the Board of Directors at Meredian, Inc. “The first harvest marks a major milestone in meeting the full scale needs of this facility.”

Currently, Meredian Inc. is repurposing a one-million square foot facility where the equipment will clean and crush canola seeds into oil by a solvent and toxin-free, cold press process. Until crushing equipment is installed, the 850,000 pounds of seeds from the harvest will be stored at Meredian. Once the equipment is installed, the majority of the seeds recently harvested will be crushed to produce oil for the current PHA production needs.

Meredian expects next year they’ll be using canola from 10,000 to 15,000 acres fields to be planted this fall. Eventually, the company wants about 100,000 acres to grow enough canola to supply its 60 million pound fermentation facility.

$14.5M in Bioenergy, Biomass Funding From USDA

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development (RD) has announced up to $14.5 million in funding to two program funding through the 2014 Farm Bill. RD is accepting applications for companies seeking to offset the costs associated with converting fossil fuel systems to renewable biomass fuel systems. USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) is offering $2.5 million in grants designed to improve national energy security through the development of bio-based transportation fuels (biodiesel or ethanol, etc.) biopower and new bio-based products.

USDA Biomass Energy MapAs part of the programs, the USDA is also offering assistance to individuals, or companies interested in starting a bio-energy business called the Bioeconomy Tool Shed. The Tool Shed is a free portal offering users access to a complement of web-based tools and information, statistical data and other resources related to the sustainable production and conversion of biomass into products and fuel, a process often referred to as the bioeconomy.

“These USDA investments are part of the Obama Administration’s ‘all-of-the-above’ energy strategy, and they benefit our economy as well as the environment,” said Tom Vilsack, USDA Ag Secretary. “USDA’s support for bio-based technologies is good for the climate, and enhances rural economic development while it decreases our dependence on foreign sources of oil. These and other USDA efforts will create new products out of homegrown agriculture from this and future generations of American farmers and foresters.”

USDA plans to make up to $12 million in payments for eligible biorefineries through RD’s Repowering Assistance Program, which was reauthorized by the 2014 Farm Bill. Biorefineries in existence on or before June 18, 2008 are eligible for payments to replace fossil fuels used to produce heat or power with renewable biomass. Since President Obama took office, USDA has provided $6.9 million to help biorefineries transition from fossil fuels to renewable biomass systems. Applications, deadlines and details will be published in the Federal Register on Monday, June 16, 2014.

USDA is also seeking applications for NIFA’s Sun Grants program that encourages bioenergy and biomass research collaboration between government agencies, land-grant colleges and universities, and the private sector. Congress authorized the Sun Grant program in the 2008 Farm Bill and reauthorized the program in 2014. The program provides grants to five grant centers and one subcenter, which then will make competitive grants to projects that contribute to research, education and outreach for the regional production and sustainability of possible biobased feedstocks. The project period will not exceed five years.

Students Hope to Get Solar Edge from Soy

Students at Appalachian State University (ASU) are hoping to get the edge during the Solar Decathlon Europe 2014 using soy-biobased products. The student team designed and built a “reimagined” solar-powered row house that is sailing to France to compete against 20 global teams. ASU, located in Boone, North DOEstudentsfastenersinwoodCarolina, is one of three schools chosen for the sister competition to the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon.

“We congratulate these students on their innovation and leadership for sustainability,” said United Soybean Board Customer Focus Action Team Chair John Motter. “People around the world will learn from their example.”

The students worked around the clock to design and build the “Maison Reciprocity” house that they will also disassemble and ship to France from Norfolk, Virginia on May 16, 2014. Once in Versailles, students from ASU along with their partner school, Université d’Angers, will unite to reassemble and then compete in the house that offers multiple environmental attributes.

Soy-based, formaldehyde-free plywood as well as durable floor matting are important features of Maison Reciprocity. Students used 1,700 square feet of Columbia Forest Products’ PureBond® hardwood plywood made with its soy-based formaldehyde-free adhesive on DOEstudenttylerthepanelguyfloors, walls and stairs. The product won the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Presidential Green Chemistry Award. Formaldehyde is classified as a known human carcinogen.

“These panels not only provide an attractive finish, but the fact that they are formaldehyde free is an important attribute that will help our entry compete in the ambient air quality portion of the competition,” said Mark Bridges, a graduate student at ASU and the communications manager for the project. “The floor mat, basically a 30-feet-long runner, will protect the floors from the large amount of foot traffic that the home will experience during its weeks of open houses,” Bridges says.

EcoPath™ and the USB provided the mat backed with EnviroCel™, which uses soy as well as recycled plastics. The mats are widely used at the Pentagon and other major facilities with very heavy foot traffic.

ANDRITZ to Market Tornado Pulper

ANDRITZ Inc. has signed an agreement with Bolton-Emerson Americas, LLC giving ANDRITZ exclusive rights to market and sell the Tornado Pulper for solid and liquid fuel applications, as well as biochemical processes. The Tornado Pulper is Bolton-Emerson’s unique technology ANDRITZ Tornado Pulper Installation with Vatfor preparing non-wood feedstocks (annual fibers, plants, and residues) so that they can be further treated with ANDRITZ technologies for conversion into renewable solid and liquid fuels or biochemicals.

Unlike traditional pulpers found in the pulp and paper industry, ANDRITZ explains that the Tornado Pulper has a side-mounted assembly with replaceable grinding segments to simultaneously wash and chop incoming raw materials and resize them into a uniform slurry. The Tornado Pulper has been proven on difficult-to-process materials such as kenaf, hemp, flax, sugarcane bagasse, cereal straw, and others. The Tornado Pulper can also resize woody materials such as forest waste, waste wood, bamboo, and giant reeds into uniform slurries.

ANDRITZ supplies advanced pre-treatment technologies for biofuel production. The company says these technologies are well-proven in other industrial processes and, through extensive R&D, have been modified by ANDRITZ to satisfy the requirements for biofuel and biochemical producers.