Biobased and Renewable Products Update

Published August 3, 2017

On July 26, 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published its analysis of the upstream greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions attributable to the production of sugar beets for use as a biofuel feedstock. EPA considered a scenario in which non-cellulosic beet sugar is extracted for conversion to biofuel and the remaining beet pulp co-product is used as an animal feed. Based on the findings, EPA anticipates that biofuels produced from sugar beets could qualify as a renewable fuel or advanced biofuel under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program, depending on the type and efficiency of the fuel production process technology used.

Comments on the analysis are due by August 25, 2017. The pre-publication version of the notice was issued on January 18, 2017, as previously reported in the Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group (BRAG®) blog post EPA Seeks Comments on GHG Analysis of Sugar Beets for Biofuel Feedstock.


USDA Announces $15.1 Million In Grants For Bioenergy and Bioproducts

On July 20, 2017, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) awarded 34 grants totaling $15.1 million for research on renewable energy, biobased products, and agroecosystems. The grants, which are funded through the agency’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), are expected to help develop the next generation of renewable energy, bioproducts, and biomaterials; protect the ecosystems that support agriculture; and improve the agricultural systems and processes that help feed the nation.

The following institutions were awarded grants for projects focused on cover crop systems for biofuel production:

■ USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) received $494,000 for the development of lupin, cereal rye, and carinata winter cover crops for biomass in the southern coastal plain;

■ Purdue University received $498,000 for the development of cover cropping for the development of sustainable co-production of bioenergy, food, feed (BFF) and ecosystem services (ES);

■ Iowa State University of Science and Technology received $498,378 for the development of perennial cover crop systems for maize grain and biomass production;

■ Louisiana State University Agricultural Center received $387,000 to study the feedstock production potential of energy cane-sweet sorghum rotation with a winter cover crop system; and

■ University of Nebraska received $500,000 to assess innovative strategies to maximize cover crop yields for biofuel across a precipitation gradient.

The following institutions were awarded grants for projects focused on the socioeconomic implications and public policy challenges of bioenergy and bioproducts market development and expansion:

■ Auburn University received $499,886 to identify the economic barriers to biomass production, to evaluate the effectiveness of the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) in stimulating biomass market expansion, and to explore the economic and ecosystem service implications of biomass production;

■ Colorado State University received $499,000 to produce a unified atlas of marginal lands in the U.S., and provide insight on the costs, potential environmental benefits, and overall practical likelihood of using those lands for biomass feedstock production;

■ Purdue University received $492,099 to develop a dynamic theoretical model on rejuvenating coal-power plants with biomass;

■ Iowa State University of Science and Technology received $499,622 to provide an integrated model-based assessment of the socioeconomic, policy, and market implications of sustainable bioenergy derived from cellulosic biomass; and

■ University of Missouri received $498,441 to evaluate impacts on forest resources surrounding power plants using woody biomass, assess economic impacts of wood biopower systems, and quantify tradeoffs between cost, carbon reductions, and renewable energy generation obtained by the increased use of wood biopower.

More information on the grants is available at the NIFA website.

USDA Releases Annual Technology Transfer Report

On July 20, 2017, USDA released its technology transfer report for fiscal year 2016. The report outlines the public release of information, tools, and solutions and the adoption and enhancement of research outcomes by collaborative partners and formal Cooperative Research and Development Agreements (CRADA) that occurred in 2016.

The report highlights several research initiatives by ARS scientists focused on supporting the bioeconomy, including:

■ Development of a new yeast strain with a unique cellulolytic enzyme that efficiently breaks down biofeedstock, shows resistance to inhibitory compounds, and eliminates the need to add other enzymes to the production process;

■ Engineering a yeast strain from a Brazilian ethanol plant to convert plant xylose to ethanol and then identifying a strain with excellent performance;

■ Identification of a strain of yeast capable of converting inulin, a major polysaccharide derived from coffee processing waste, into cellulosic ethanol;

■Development of genetic methods to control the conversion of agricultural sugars to compounds called liamocins using yeast; and

■ Studying the use of lytic enzymes as an alternative to antibiotics for preventing and controlling bacterial contamination of fuel ethanol fermentations during biorefining.

The full report, titled “Fiscal Year 2016 Annual Report on Technology Transfer” is available on USDA’s website.


AkzoNobel Announces First Biobased Polymer Application Agreement With Itaconix

On July 26, 2017, AkzoNobel, a member of BRAG, announced that its Specialty Chemicals business issued in final the first in a series of application agreements for biobased polymers from its collaboration with Itaconix, a specialty chemicals company and U.S. subsidiary of Revolymer. AkzoNobel develops Itaconix’s proprietary polymers from itaconic acid for commercial use in the coatings and construction industries. Peter Nieuwenhuizen, Research, Development and Innovation Director for AkzoNobel’s Specialty Chemicals business, stated that the collaboration fits closely with AkzoNobel’s Planet Possible sustainability agenda of doing more with less and its approach to embracing open innovation for more sustainable solutions.

AkzoNobel signed a framework joint development agreement with Itaconix to explore opportunities for biobased polymer production on January 27, 2017, as previously reported in the BRAG blog post AkzoNobel to Produce Biobased Polymers with Itaconix.

NBB Announces New CARB Certified Biodiesel Additive

On July 25, 2017, the National Biodiesel Board (NBB) announced that the California Air Resource Board (CARB) certified a biodiesel additive that will make California B20 blends the cleanest diesel fuel with the lowest emissions profile available in the U.S. The additive known as Branded VESTA™1000 reduces every measurable regulated emission, including nitrogen oxides (NOx), when blended with CARB diesel fuel, California’s unique clean-burning biodiesel formulation. A 20 percent blend of biodiesel with the additive reduced NOx by 1.9 percent and particulate matter by 18 percent compared to CARB diesel. The certified additive ensures compliance with CARB’s Alternative Diesel Fuel Regulation, which goes into effect on January 1, 2018. NBB led the initial research and development of the additive.

Other News

■ The Hill, “Court Rejects 2015 EPA Biofuels Waivers

■ Govenors’ Biofuels Coalition, “Action on E15 Bill not Expected Before August Recess

■ Department of Energy, “EERE Success Story — New Membrane Technology Will Improve Efficiency of Biofuel Production

■ PWashington State University, “Algae Cultivation Technique Could Advance Biofuels