14 for ’15: The Bioeconomy Agenda, 2015

November 30, 2014 |

2015-theagenda14 perspectives on policy, technologies and geographies of compelling interest in the new year

At ABLC Next this year in San Francisco — naturally, the focus is on “what’s next” in technology, finance, deployment and policy, and these 14 voices provided significant new options in 2015 ranging from new policy focal points, the right way to advance new technologies, new markets to develop for, new financing perspective, and perspectives on choosing a new geography for deployment.

New Policy focal points

From the Advanced Ethanol Council

The Perspective: On RFS, “Obama doing administratvely…what oil-patch Republicans failed to get done in 2005.”

Why it’s on The Agenda. Flouting Congressional authority using veto, regulatory or proclamation power? “Emperor Obama” is the charge ion Republican lips, but the Advanced Ethanol Council is worried, also, about the Administration ignoring Congressional intent on RFS in order to find a way to avoid rising gas prices due to pricey RINs.


From the Advanced Biofuels Association

The Perspective: Much success on the Hill in 2014, but pending administrative action on fuel path3ways, farm bill energy title, procurement and RFS2 is holding up progress on advanced biofuels.

Why it’s on The Agenda. Although some worry about the Obama Administration overstepping its authority, at ABFA they note that in many areas the Administration is woefully behind on getting out rules and regs, in ways that stall advanced biofuels financing and deployment.


From the Biotechnology Industry Organization

The Perspective: Progress on the Farm Bill Energy title is critical, but don’t forget action on tax credits for renewable chemicals, says BIO.

Why it’s on The Agenda. The Farm Bill Energy Title has much for the advanced bioeconomy if deployed soon — loan guarantees, the Biomass Crop Assistance Program, R&D funding and an expanded BioPreferred program to drive adoption within government and into the consumer sphere.


Developing New technologies

From DOE

The Perspective: 5 questions determine whether the Department of Energy is likely to intervene to support development of a technology pathway. High Impact, additionality, openness, enduring US benefit and “proper role for government”

Why it’s on The Agenda. The DOE gets it from both sides: some say “too interventionist”, others say “not getting enough done” or “too slow”. With this slide, DOE explains that it is not headline-driven , but focuses on underlying principles in deciding to support development certain technologies as opposed to others — it’s food for thought for both the applied R&D and the project development communities.


Lawrence Berkeley’s Advanced Biofuels Process Development Unit

The Perspective: Critical to success in developing technology, says ABPDU, is robust front-end development, realistic planning on costs and timelines, and a clear stage-gate process for investing.

Why it’s on The Agenda. If there’s anything that slows the advanced bioeconomy down that is under industry control, it is allocating scarce resources to the best technologies, say observers. Keeping costs down and results meeting targets, we’re told at The Digest, means accessing best-of-class partners as early as possible to reduce failure risk at (expensive) full-scale.


New Markets

From the US Navy

The Perspective: With advanced biofuels becoming a daily reality, the development attention shifts to expanding the technology set from HEFA fuels to include alcohol-to-jet, direct sugar-to-hydrocarbon, hydroprocesed depolymerized cellulosic and catalytic hydrothermolysis.

Why it’s on The Agenda. The Navy as a customer wants as many pathways to fueling its ships and planes as possible — to provide competition that stabilizes producer prices and to utilize a wide set of feedstocks so that they, too, stabilize at as low a level as possible. At this time, lab testing for all fourth new routes is 60-95% complete and component testing is either complete or planned to take place by the end of 2015.


From Oberon Fuels

The Perspective: Biobased DME, a novel fuel molecule for , is gaining traction around the world.

Why it’s on The Agenda. Oberon Fuels say that DME offers now only renewable attributes, but a high cetane value and quiet combustion offers performance advantages — and stable pricing independent of the rollercoaster of global oil prices.


From Process Design Center

The Perspective: Hydrous E85 ethanol can be 10% cheaper than the current E85 incumbent and, in lowering the complexity and capex of deploying technology by skipping dehydration units, offers material opportunities for “blendwall-busting” markets for advanced ethanol technologies.

Why it’s on The Agenda. With E10 saturation reached in the US and E15 rollout slow, attention has revived in E85 especially with inexpensive ethanol available from mid 2013 through mid 2014. But even cheaper fuel is out there, says Process Design Center CEO Hans Keuken, via hydrous E85, which is technologically feasible now, he says. With cellulosic technologies in need of new markets should E10 and E15 problems remaining unsolved — hydrous is an option to be investigated.


From Novvi

The Perspective: Novvvi’s renewable oils provide the traditional performance plus the environmental performance, in contrast to environmentally freindly base oils or petroleum base oils already in the market.

Why it’s on The Agenda. End-users want no compromises, they tell The Digest and product developers — environmental attributes must come in addition to traditional price and performance, not in lieu of.


From Anellotech

The Perspective: BTX molecules are an important target for the advanced bioeconomy.

Why it’s on The Agenda. Anellotech says that large consumer markets are there for the bioeconomy in packaging, automotive and apparel via molecules like PET, PS, PC, PU and nylon — but what’s needed, says Anellotech, is a drop-in replacement from benzene, toluene and xylenes that has found economy in design, catalysts and energy or hydrogen use.


Finance and deployment

From OceanPark Advisors

The Perspective: Capital raising activity is dropping steadily from a high point in 2011; it’s tough to source, but there’s plenty out there for the right team.

Why it’s on The Agenda. Capital is the lifeblood of a capital-intensive, fast-developing bioeonomy. But there may be a silver lining to the gloomy three-year decline since a fast uptick in 2009-11: the 2014 figures are through July, and if prorated, suggest that while 2011 was a significant highwater outlier, investment may have relatively stabilized in the 2010-14 period at roughly 4X the 2009 investment level.


New geographies

From Accellergy

The Perspective: Algae is real because of its use of CO2, and China is an immensely improtnt potential deployment market because of a combination of farming needs and emissions issues — but a key focus is using algae to develop biofertilizers to replace petroleum-based incumbents.

Why it’s on The Agenda. One way to address some controversial aspects of food and biofuel development is to attack the fertilizer equation — to reduce NOx off-gases from the farm while sequestering carbon in the soil. In Accellergy’s case, they’ve targeted China for deployment because the focus on farm and fuels is acute and growing.


From Canada

The Perspective: In this slide deck, long-time industry consultant Jeff Passmore summarized the “what’s good” about looking to Canada for technology deployment. Key attributes are across the board in feedstock, siting, partners, markets and capital, he finds.

Why it’s on The Agenda. Deployment is globalizing quickly – usually about finding advantaged opportunities in capital and feedstock — though advantaged siting and available offtakers are big factors too. In this case, Canada makes a strong case that it has the right combinations for developing and deploying a host of technologies targeting agricultural, forest or MSW residues.


From Champagne-Ardennes

The Perspective: “Abundant feedstock” awaits in France’ s Champagne-Ardennes region — wood, grain, straw, and more from multiple co-ops and aggregators.

Why it’s on The Agenda. As we noted above with Canada, “Deployment is globalizing quickly – usually about finding advantaged opportunities in capital and feedstock” — and France has been long considered a forerunner in R&D and investment structure, but less considered for its feedstock. In this case, there’s worldwide awareness of Champagne’s achievements in fermentation for beverages, but feedstock is available in surprising violumes and with aggregators present in the market. Champagne-Adressnes alone has more than 13 million metric tons of available feedstock, or enough for more than 30 full-scale advanced biofuels plants.


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