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-Include high octane/high ethanol Regular Grade fuel in EPA Tier 3 regulations.
-Use a dedicated, self-reducing non-renewable carbon user fee to fund renewable energy R&D.
-Start an Apollo-type program to bring New Ideas to sustainable biofuel and …

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Biofuels Production and Consumption in the US: Status, Advances and Challenges

Submitted by on May 11, 2018 – 6:08 pmNo Comment

by Mahmood Ebadian and James D. McMillan (IEA Bioenergy Task 39 Newsletter)  … The Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) was enacted in 2007 to enhance domestic production of fuels and spur economic development while reducing reliance on imports and improving the environment (through reducing both the absolute level of fossil fuel use (lowering GHG emissions), and fuel combustion-related pollution such as ground-level ozone and smog). This EISA contains a number of provisions to increase the energy efficiency and the availability and use of renewable energy.4 One of these provisions amended the original Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) created under the Energy Policy Act of 2005. The 2007 amended RFS (RFS2) targets the ramping up of domestic biofuel production to 36 billion gallons per year (BGY) by 2022 (over 136 billion liters). As depicted in Figure 1, this comprises 15 BGY of conventional corn starch-based ethanol and 21 BGY of advanced, cellulosic and biodiesel biofuels (i.e., 16 BGY of cellulosic biofuels, 4 BGY of advanced biofuels, and 1 BGY of biomass-based biodiesel).

Over the past decade, the RFS2 has effectively propelled increased production and use of biofuels in the US ….

Similar to ethanol, the RFS has driven increased production and use of diesel biofuels in the last 10 years, both FAME biodiesel and renewable diesel type. As shown in Figure 3, diesel biofuels production reached about 2.5 billion gallons in 2017 as compared to 215 million gallons in 2010. This production level was achieved by 97 plants operating across 37 states. FAME biodiesel and renewable diesel compete for the same oleaginous feedstocks and the recent trend has been renewable diesel starting to outcompete for the limited feedstock, meaning more renewable diesel (HVO/HEFA) production and less FAME biodiesel production.

Despite the substantial presence of conventional biofuels (i.e., starch-based ethanol and biodiesels) in the US transportation fuel market, the production of advanced cellulosic feedstock-based biofuels remains relatively small. Advanced biofuels production volumes remain far below original targets (Figure 1) due to slower than expected progress in scale up and deployment of commercial production of cellulosic ethanol and other advanced biofuels. In 2017, total production of renewable diesel, cellulosic biofuels, and biojet was 453, 10, and 1.7 million gallons, respectively (based on EPA RIN data).9 Future production level increases depend on the ability to export as well as on how fast cellulosic biofuels production can be ramped up.

It is anticipated that biofuels production for the aviation sector will continue to increase, in part due to the anticipated global expansion of commercial aviation and limited alternative options beyond low carbon biofuels to decarbonize this sector. Additionally, the US military previously committed to increase its use of domestically manufactured aviation fuel and biodiesel fuels as part of a national security imperative. However, while the US Secretaries of Agriculture, Energy, and the Navy in 2011 signed a Memorandum of Understanding to commit $510 million ($170 million from each agency) to produce hydrocarbon jet and diesel biofuels6, the future of this initiative is currently unclear and under discussion.

Besides the already introduced RFS, another strong policy driving increased biofuels production and use is California’s Low-Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS).

Other jurisdictions following California include Oregon and Washington in the US and British Columbia in Canada.

The USDA and US DOE and some states also administer a wide variety of programs aimed at encouraging greater production and use of bioproducts and biofuels.

In addition, both USDA and US DOE administer loan guarantee programs intended to buy down the risk of constructing first of a kind scaled up commercial facilities.

There are many other laws and incentives depending upon the fuel type and jurisdiction. The USDOE’s Alternative Fuels Data Center provides a good single site for finding/searching these many laws and incentives at both federal and state levels: https://www.afdc.energy.gov/laws.

In addition to federal and state legislations supporting the production and use of biofuels to help decarbonize the US’s transportation sector, increasing Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFÉ) standards also have been contributing to the decarbonization of the transportation sector by reducing energy consumption through increasing the fuel economy of light duty vehicles (cars and trucks). More information on the US’s CAFE standards can be found at: https://www.nhtsa.gov/laws-regulations/corporate-average-fuel-economy.

With the support from US federal and state agencies and many collaborations among universities, national labs and companies, the science and technology for producing lower carbon renewable biofuels keep marching forward with the efficiencies and technology readiness levels of many routes to biofuels continuing to improve. Recent examples of such advances include:

 Demonstration of commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol production improving: …

 Ethanol production from corn fiber being implemented in existing corn dry mills: …

 Drop-in fuels by co-processing in petroleum refineries advancing: …

 Commercialization of ethanol from CO/syngas progressing: …

 Co-optimization of Fuels and Engines: …

 Algae-based biofuels: …

 Feedstock development: …

In addition to the significant increase in the domestic production of fossil fuels, continuing relatively low petroleum prices and an unclear carbon policy landscape are hindering further investment in conventional and especially advanced liquid biofuels. This situation won’t likely change until the future of both the federal renewable fuel standard (RFS2) and the corporate average fuel economy (CAFÉ) vehicle efficiency standards are better understood. These policies remain under discussion for revision, and policy changes are anticipated, however it remains unclear what they will be.

The high policy uncertainly coupled with low profit margin potential of advanced biofuels in the current market environment has prompted many companies such as Amyris to redirect their RD&D and business strategies towards renewable chemicals.  READ MORE

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