Biofuels Digest The world's most widely-read advanced bioeconomy daily Sun, 15 Dec 2019 21:32:20 +0000 en-US hourly 1 RUDN University chemist found a catalyst to improve biofuel production Sun, 15 Dec 2019 21:32:20 +0000

In Russia, chemists from RUDN University, Chulalongkorn University (Thailand), and the University of Cordoba (Spain) developed a new method for the synthesis of biofuels from renewable vegetable raw materials. They proposed to use bimetallic catalysts for the production of 2,5-dimethylfuran (DMF) biofuel. The chemists managed to increase the yield of DMF by one third, up to 95%, and to prolong the stability of the new catalyst to 8 hours during a continuous chemical process of DMF production. The discovery will help improve biofuel production. The article was published in the journal ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering.

“This technology will increase the efficiency of biofuel production,” according to the press release. “While maintaining the volume of raw materials, the yield of finished products will increase, and the amount of waste will be at a minimum.”

Zambia looks to Brazil for sugarcane and ethanol energy opportunities Sun, 15 Dec 2019 21:31:20 +0000

In Zambia, Lusaka Times reports that Zambia’s Ambassador to Brazil, Dr. Alfreda Kansembe has held bilateral talks with Brazil’s sugar, ethanol and energy companies in an effort to find partners to help establish the biofuel industry in Zambia.

Dr. Kansembe toured energy plants in and around the city of Pirajuba and talked with companies like Usina Santo Angelo about business prospects for sugar cane. Dr. Kansembe said that Zambia is trying to reduce its dependence on hydro power because of its high cost, and thus is looking at ethanol and sugarcane as lower cost options for the country.

Usina plans on visiting Zambia in 2020 to look into investing in Zambia’s clean energy businesses. Usina Santo Angelo company produces 3, 300 000 tons of sugarcane, 80 000 M3 of ethanol and 200 000 mega watts of electricity from the harvested sugarcane, according to Lusaka Times.

New Notice of Intent for Joint Funding to Advance DOE’s Plastics Innovation Sun, 15 Dec 2019 21:29:00 +0000

In Washington, DC, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) published a notice of intent to issue a joint Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) titled “BOTTLE: Bio-Optimized Technologies to Keep Thermoplastics out of Landfills and the Environment.”

This FOA, jointly funded by the Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) and Advanced Manufacturing Office (AMO), supports the Department’s Plastics Innovation Challenge, a comprehensive program to accelerate innovations in energy-efficient plastics recycling technologies. This FOA will support high-impact research and development for plastics by developing new bio-based plastics that are capable of efficient recyclability and developing improved recycling strategies that can break down existing plastics into chemical building blocks that can be used to make higher-value products.

Earlier this year, AMO and BETO jointly funded The Bio-Optimized Technologies to Keep Thermoplastics out of Landfills and the Environment (BOTTLE) Consortium, a National Lab-led seed Consortium established to focus on designing new plastics and recycling strategies. This FOA seeks to extend that effort beyond the Consortium and to utilize the resources BOTTLE has developed through partnerships with industry, universities, and others to advance DOE’s Plastics Innovation Challenge.

Agilyx and GE enter AI tech agreement with GE for chemical recycling Sun, 15 Dec 2019 21:28:02 +0000

In Oregon, Agilyx Corporation, a leader in chemical recycling of post-use plastics back into plastics chemicals and low carbon fuels, announced a collaboration in artificial intelligence (AI) technology with the General Electric Company through its Licensing business unit that would combine Agilyx’s experience in chemical recycling with GE’s experience in the application of Industrial AI, with the aim to increase the chemical recyclability of all post-use plastics from the current 10% to over 95%.

This announcement is the result of a year-long, successful effort to assess GE’s advanced modeling technology developed by GE Research, and its applicability to the database of chemical conversions of post-use plastics that Agilyx has amassed over the last 15 years. Together, the companies can greatly improve recycling rates by deploying an innovative set of artificial intelligence (“AI”) technologies, including machine learning (“ML”), predictive modeling (“PM”) and optimization tools, in combination with other supply chain innovations in partnership with a growing number of diverse leaders in the waste and recycling, petrochemical, consumer goods products and retail industries. Additional information about these relationships will be shared throughout the coming months.

BASF invests in Israeli AgTech startup Equinom for seed breeding Sun, 15 Dec 2019 21:26:42 +0000

In Israel, BASF Venture Capital is the lead investor in a funding round for Israeli AgTech startup Equinom. Equinom’s computerized breeding technology provides optimized seeds for the food industry to help it meet growing demand for plant-based products used as ingredients, clean label packed goods and healthier lifestyle cuisine.

With this investment, BASF Venture Capital promotes BASF’s strategy of applying innovative solutions in agriculture. Existing investors who also joined this round include, among others, Fortissimo Capital, a leading Israeli private equity fund that invests primarily in the technology, AgTech and industrial sectors, as well as Roquette, a global leader in plant-based ingredients for food, nutrition and health markets and a pioneer in new vegetal proteins.

The Equinom algorithm analyzes the genomic characteristics from its database of thousands of plants to determine the ideal breeding combination to achieve the desired properties. The system evaluates millions of possible combinations to design optimized seeds that focus on protein, oil or nutrient content, seeds’ functionality, plant yield, disease resistance and other qualities. Equinom then uses the conventional method to crossbreed the plants whose genetic codes complement each other best. Using this exclusive technology and approach, the startup selectively optimizes varieties targeted to food producers’ needs, by creating an application-based solution.

SK Chemicals tests biodiesel blends in marine fuel Sun, 15 Dec 2019 21:25:53 +0000

In South Korea, Reuters reports that biofuel maker SK Chemicals, has started tests on blending its biodiesel with petroleum-based fuels to create low-sulphur marine oil that will comply with new International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) green shipping fuel rules set to kick in in January 2020.

SK Chemicals is also looking at increasing biofuels output by 50% in order to meet demand from the shipping industry, An Jung-bum, head of the company’s energy& petrochemical business, told Reuters. “We see there will be great needs for marine biofuels because they are sulphur-free and that gives an edge to biofuels,” An told Reuters.

According to Reuters, “SK Chemicals can produce 500,000 kilolitres per year of biodiesel and biofuel oil, currently mainly used for fuel blending for domestic transportation and power generation. The company primarily uses palm fatty acid distillate, a non-edible palm-oil, as a feedstock from Indonesia and Malaysia. Last year, it began exports with about 20,000 kilolitres of biodiesel shipped to Europe.”

Caribou Biofuels signs agreement with SUNY for rotary gasifier for biofuels Sun, 15 Dec 2019 21:24:47 +0000

In New York, Caribou Biofuels, a company that develops hardware and systems to process biomass, entered into an agreement with the Research Foundation for SUNY, on behalf of SUNY Cobleskill, to develop and commercialize a rotary gasifier that turns combustible waste into biofuel and a soil supplement.

The patent-pending technology was invented at SUNY Cobleskill by Professor David Waage. The initial research was funded by a joint Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Defense (DOD) program. In 2019, SUNY Cobleskill received a $1.6 million grant from the two agencies to build and demonstrate a fully automated, portable rotary gasifier waste-to-energy system at a domestic military base. A key advantage of Waage’s technology is that it is mobile and can be deployed at the site of the biomass.

Thanks to a series of technical innovations, this gasifier is cleaner, more efficient, and more convenient than its predecessors. From almost any combustible material it produces both gaseous and liquid fuels that are significantly higher energy content than other similar gasification technologies. The fuels burn markedly cleaner than fossil fuels, while reducing overall carbon emissions. The machine built at SUNY Cobleskill can produce 60 kilowatts of power a day from approximately two tons of feedstock, enough to power about 50 standard American homes.

Amyris launches Purecane brand sweetener direct to consumers Sun, 15 Dec 2019 21:23:48 +0000

In California, Amyris launched PURECANE Brand Sweetener, also known as fermented sugarcane Rebaudioside M, on its new website, for consumers. The sweetener is made through a patented fermentation process, that starts with sugarcane and then converts it to a pure, no-calorie sweetener without any artificial chemicals.

The scientists at Amyris have used their technology platform to create a commercial product that is sustainable and natural. The first product available for sale on is a 100-count box of Purecane packets.

“Purecane brings the sweet out of sugarcane without the calories,” said Amyris President & CEO John Melo. “Millions of people struggle to reduce the amount of added sugar that they consume. The health risks are familiar to all of us. We’re delighted to bring the best tasting, natural sweetener direct to consumers. In addition to consumers will soon be able to buy on other e-commerce platforms. They will also soon find Purecane as an ingredient in many other consumer food and beverage brands.”

Vanguard Renewables and Dominion Energy partner up on 1st nationwide network of dairy waste-to-energy projects Sun, 15 Dec 2019 21:15:33 +0000

1st nationwide network of dairy waste-to-energy projects coming soon!

Vanguard Renewables and Dominion Energy partner up to convert methane into RNG

Ughhh, smell that smell? Maybe you won’t anymore! Cows, pigs, humans, we all do it. We fart, we poop, we emit putrid waste products, yes, we are one with nature in many ways. The dairy industry and hog industries in particular are huge methane producers, and it’s awful for us and the planet, so what can we do about it?

Capture and convert!

In today’s Digest, find out how Vanguard Renewables and Dominion Energy are partnering up on a $200 million nationwide strategic partnership to convert methane from U.S. dairy farms into clean, RNG, what this means for RNG and energy industries as a whole, how this is the largest investment yet in dairy manure to RNG in the U.S., and more – ready for you now at The Digest online.

In Virginia, Dominion Energy and Vanguard Renewables announced a more than $200 million, nationwide strategic partnership to convert methane from U.S. dairy farms into clean, renewable natural gas (RNG) that can heat homes, power businesses and fuel vehicles. Multiple projects are under development in Georgia, Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah with additional projects planned nationwide.

Under the strategic partnership, Dominion Energy will own the projects and market the RNG, and Vanguard Renewables’ subsidiary Clean Energy Investment USA dba Vanguard Renewables Ag will design, develop and operate the projects.

Through this new partnership, Vanguard Renewables Ag will develop and operate dairy-manure to RNG facilities across the U.S. These Farm Powered manure-only anaerobic digesters (AD) improve manure and nutrient management, produce clean energy, and provide farms with a new, diversified income stream, according to their press release.

So what does this mean for RNG and energy as a whole? First, we are talking national scale. Second, it’s the largest investment in dairy manure to RNG in the U.S.

“This is the first time dairy manure to renewable energy projects have been developed on a national scale and it is the largest investment in dairy manure to renewable natural gas in the U.S.,” Chase told The Digest. “The strategic partnership builds on Dominion Energy’s leading hog waste-to-energy partnership with Smithfield Foods and Vanguard Renewables’ leadership in the anaerobic digestion space. It also further demonstrates the importance of anaerobic digestion and renewable natural gas production in greenhouse gas emissions reduction and climate change mitigation.”

How to make it happen

It’s no small task to determine which states have the right kind of dairy farms to participate in this project. Vanguard Renewables, Dominion Energy and Dairy Farmers of America first identify states that have the right size and number of dairies to participate. This process has happened in five states already: Georgia, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Utah.

Following the initial identification of opportunity, Vanguard Renewables Ag is meeting with dairies in those states to talk about the benefits of anaerobic digestion, Kevin Chase, Co-founder and Chief Investment Officer of Vanguard Renewables and CEO of Vanguard Renewables Ag told The Digest in an exclusive interview.

Methane Madness

Methane is produced from a variety of natural sources, including dairy, hog and food waste. When released into the atmosphere, methane emits approximately 25 times more greenhouse gases than carbon dioxide. By capturing methane from U.S. dairy farms and converting it into RNG, Dominion Energy’s and Vanguard Renewables’ strategic partnership will reduce annual CO2 equivalent emissions by more than 450,000 metric tons, the same as taking nearly 100,000 cars off the road or planting 7.5 million new trees each year.

A typical dairy waste-to-energy project consists of a cluster of multiple farms totaling 20,000 to 30,000 dairy cows. The methane produced from dairy manure is captured through a process known as Farm Powered anaerobic digestion and is then transported through low-pressure gathering lines to a central conditioning facility. Once the gas is processed and cleaned of any impurities, it is then delivered to local consumers through the existing underground distribution network.

This new program will employ continuous stir anaerobic digesters that will process the manure with a retention time of 30 to 40 days converting the manure to value added agricultural products including animal bedding, compost, and high-grade nutrient-rich effluent; all of which the dairymen can use on their farms, Chase told The Digest.

Backstory on the players

Dominion Energy is a national leader in clean energy, with the fourth largest U.S. solar fleet and the largest offshore wind project in the U.S. under development along the coast of Virginia. The company has joined forces with Smithfield Foods to form the largest agricultural-based renewable natural gas partnership in the U.S., with $500 million committed over 10 years to convert methane from U.S. hog farms into clean energy for local consumers. Nearly 7.5 million customers in 18 states currently energize their homes and businesses with electricity or natural gas from Dominion Energy.

Vanguard Renewables is a national leader in the development of food and dairy waste-to-energy projects, the U.S. leader in farm-based anaerobic digestion, and the largest organics recycling destination in the Northeast, according to their press release. They have a multi-year strategic alliance with Dairy Farmers of America (DFA), the largest dairy cooperative in the U.S. with more than 14,000 dairy-farmer members across 48 states. The Company’s subsidiary Clean Energy Investment USA dba Vanguard Renewables Ag focuses on the development and operation of dairy waste-to-energy projects that improve manure and nutrient management and produce clean energy.

Reaction from the stakeholders

“Through our strategic partnership with Vanguard Renewables and our strategic alliance with Dairy Farmers of America, we’re rapidly accelerating the development of these transformational projects and for the first time on a nationwide scale,” said Diane Leopold, Dominion Energy’s Co-Chief Operating Officer. “The environmental, consumer and agricultural benefits of these projects are truly groundbreaking,” Leopold continued. “We’re substantially reducing greenhouse gas emissions from U.S. dairy farms, delivering new sources of clean energy to U.S. consumers and providing a new source of long-term revenue for family farmers across the country.”

“Our multi-year alliance with Dairy Farmers of America demonstrates Vanguard Renewables’ commitment to working with the dairy community to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and enhance long-term operational and economic benefits for family farmers. For the first time, dairies across the country have partners with substantial financial resources and a deep understanding of the dairy industry working alongside them to take action now to solve these challenges,” said Kevin Chase, Co-Founder and Chief Investment Officer of Vanguard Renewables and Chief Executive Officer of Vanguard Renewables Ag. “This strategic partnership with Dominion Energy and DFA will have a meaningful impact on greenhouse gas sequestration and dairy waste-to-energy production that will significantly benefit the farm community and the environment.”

“As the leading dairy cooperative in the U.S., we have a long-standing commitment to help family farmer-owners solve challenges,” said David Darr, Senior Vice President and Chief Strategy and Sustainability Officer of Dairy Farmers of America. “Our strategic alliance with Vanguard Renewables and Dominion Energy provides a meaningful solution to the greenhouse gas emissions challenge we face, supports stewardship of the land, and enhances the long-term economic viability for farms across the U.S.,” Darr continued. “This is a win-win for the dairy farmers and for the environment.

Bottom Line

Dominion Energy has some lofty goals expecting to cut generating fleet carbon dioxide emissions 55 percent by 2030 and reduce methane emissions from its gas assets 50 percent by 2030. But is it feasible? With projects and initiatives like this one with Vanguard, it’s totally possible.

As for other long-term goals for the project, Vanguard Renewables hope to complete “five clusters in five states over the next five years,” Chase told The Digest. “Each cluster will contain 3-5 dairies. The $200 million commitment is for the first phase and the partners will consider additional projects as the future unfolds.” So stay tuned as the future is looking less stinky than ever before!


Water-based tech converts biomass into food ingredients – Renmatix and Cargill sign Joint Development Agreement Sun, 15 Dec 2019 20:22:26 +0000

We love cookies as much as the Cookie Monster, but make them from sustainable ingredients and a water-based technology and that’s even more exhilarating. Functional food ingredients from unused plant materials is just what Renmatix and Cargill are aiming to explore with their new joint development agreement, but what makes this breaking news even more fascinating is that Renmatix is using their proprietary Plantrose Process which uses only water, heat and pressure. So take Cargill’s feedstocks to make functional food ingredients, add Renmatix’s Plantrose Process and you’ve got something special, like a delicious chocolate chip cookie.

What this means for food and beverage manufacturers looking to meet consumer demand for great-tasting, label-friendly ingredients is that they may have new options in the near future.

As part of the JDA, Cargill will also contribute its food applications expertise and market access to better understand the technical and commercial potential of these new ingredients. The process will be tested at Renmatix’s facility in Kennesaw, Georgia. The food applications work will happen at Cargill’s Vilvoorde and Minneapolis R&D facilities. These materials will then be market tested by Cargill’s leading customers. Both parties will then review findings. Interestingly, they are already into month 2 of the 6 month JDA, according to an exclusive Digest interview with Renmatix and Cargill.

Renmatix’s Plantrose Process

“Thousands have lived without love, not one without water.” -H. Auden

Renmatix’s manufacturing platform is versatile, in that it can handle and process a variety of biomass-feedstocks.

Mike Hamilton CEO of Renmatix said, “Renmatix uses different forms of plant based feedstocks and put through our Plantrose process to make functional food ingredients. Renmatix is currently selling a product called Nouravant, which is made through the plantrose process. With Cargill, we’ll use the Plantrose process using their preferred feedstock to make food ingredients.”

So how does this happen? Water left in its normal states (ice – liquid – steam) does not efficiently dissolve plant structures, or reduce them to the point where they can be separated into their most basic parts. Yet, Renmatix’s chemical engineers have given water superpowers to do just that by applying a distinct combination of heat and pressure to achieve a unique state, called Supercritical. Water in this special state, in essence, dissolves biomass into those simple, valuable, component parts.

The patented, proprietary and efficient Plantrose Process, utilizes Supercritical Hydrolysis to unlock a whole new range of eco-friendly innovative products using only nature’s gifts – no harsh solvents or acids needed, according to their website. And, because they use plant sources that would otherwise go to waste, their products are sustainably sourced and renewable. This new technology delivers affordable bio building blocks and original specialty ingredients that customers are using to introduce their own improved biobased offerings. Plantrose progress means building momentum for, and expansion in, a renewable products revolution.

What food ingredients or products can this be used for?

The Digest asked Hamilton this very question and he said, “Renmatix currently makes a product called Nouravant, using maple fiber. We take residual maple chips and put them through the Plantrose product to make Nouravant, which is an emulsifier. We will be taking a lower value product and upcycling it in a higher value, higher functional product through the Plantrose process.”

“The intent of this JDA is to test the use of the Plantrose technology to process unused plant materials and convert them into functional food ingredients that can be used across the food categories, from baked goods to dairy, soups and sauces, and meat products,” said Hamilton.

Yusuf Wazirzada asked Global Texturizers and Specialties Strategic Marketing Lead at Cargill added, “We will be making functional food ingredients that can act as emulsifiers or hydrocolloids in food products.”

As for what kinds of Cargill feedstocks will be used for this, Wazirzada told the Digest, “Due to the competitive nature of Cargill’s business, we are unable to disclose the specifics regarding feedstocks used or ingredients we are testing.”

Reaction from the Stakeholders

“Renmatix’s Plantrose Process, which uses only water, heat and pressure, supports our commitment to help customers deliver food and beverage products that are label-friendly, sustainable and cost-effective,” said Bruce McGoogan, Cargill strategy and business development leader. “The fact that this simple process can economically and efficiently deconstruct plant materials and convert them into functional food ingredients is a solution we’re excited to explore in order to help us feed the world.”

“The food industry is increasingly turning to plant-based ingredients to deliver a wide variety of benefits, including great taste, functionality and label-friendly appeal. Upcycling, the process of transforming unused feedstocks into new, higher-value materials, is the next step in creating a more sustainable value chain and generating exciting new product benefits,” said Renmatix CEO Mike Hamilton. “We look forward to working with an industry leader like Cargill to develop new materials that bring these benefits to more food producers.” Renmatix introduced Nouravant™ (maple fiber) this summer to the food industry and is seeing growing interest in the emulsification and freshness extending benefits of this ingredient.

Water, water everywhere

Just in the past 2 months there has been news of other companies and researchers looking at water in a whole new light and coming up with innovative ways to use H2O.

As reported in The Digest earlier this month, Yale researchers developed a catalyst that converts carbon dioxide and water into methanol using electricity. It’s a type of catalyst called a heterogeneous molecular electrocatalyst — “heterogeneous” because it’s a solid catalyst material operating in a liquid electrolyte, and “molecular” because the active site of the catalyst is a molecular structure.

In October, the Digest reported that Ecover is using InBev waste alcohol and water from alcohol-free beer to produce detergents. Both the water and ethanol in Ecover’s “Too Good to Waste” detergent line come from InBev’s beer making process, making up at least a quarter of the overall content. Ecover sees waste as a major opportunity for its business and products moving forward and is currently looking at what it can do with waste CO2 as well.

In November, researchers from the University of Houston developed a new oxygen evolution catalyst that allows for low voltage seawater electrolysis, a process that was previously impossible as no known catalyst prior to the study was able to produce hydrogen from seawater without also setting free ions of sodium, chlorine, calcium, and other problematic ions, as reported in The Digest.

Bottom Line

We all knew water was pretty amazing, after all it’s linked to survival, but this JDA means we’ve got more to watch from these two companies and what impact they might have on food and beverage ingredients.

As for where they see themselves in five years, Wazirzada told The Digest, “We’re doing this because we see a lot of commercial promise, that’s why we’re trying to validate further the technical and commercial questions that relate to that opportunity. At the end of this joint development agreement, both parties will get together, look at the work we’ve done, and possibly start working towards a commercial facility.”

Yep, you heard that right…possible commercial facility down the road. Lots to look forward to from this breaking news!