Industry News

February 24, 2009
President Obama Pledges Support for Alternative Energy Research

From Obama's first speech to congress:

We are a nation that has seen promise amid peril, and claimed opportunity from ordeal. Now we must be that nation again. That is why, even as it cuts back on the programs we don't need, the budget I submit will invest in the three areas that are absolutely critical to our economic future: energy, health care, and education.

It begins with energy.

We know the country that harnesses the power of clean, renewable energy will lead the 21st century. And yet, it is China that has launched the largest effort in history to make their economy energy efficient. We invented solar technology, but we've fallen behind countries like Germany and Japan in producing it. New plug-in hybrids roll off our assembly lines, but they will run on batteries made in Korea.

Well, I do not accept a future where the jobs and industries of tomorrow take root beyond our borders — and I know you don't either. It is time for America to lead again.

Thanks to our recovery plan, we will double this nation's supply of renewable energy in the next three years. We have also made the largest investment in basic research funding in American history — an investment that will spur not only new discoveries in energy but breakthroughs in medicine, science and technology.

We will soon lay down thousands of miles of power lines that can carry new energy to cities and towns across this country. And we will put Americans to work making our homes and buildings more efficient so that we can save billions of dollars on our energy bills.

But to truly transform our economy, protect our security, and save our planet from the ravages of climate change, we need to ultimately make clean, renewable energy the profitable kind of energy. So I ask this Congress to send me legislation that places a market-based cap on carbon pollution and drives the production of more renewable energy in America. And to support that innovation, we will invest $15 billions a year to develop technologies like wind power and solar power; advanced biofuels, clean coal, and more fuel-efficient cars and trucks built right here in America.

December 16 , 2008
Biodiesel available in Southern California

After careful reconsideration and deliberation, Dansk Investment Group has decided that the loss our valuable biodiesel customers is not worth the potential increase in profits that would be gained by switching to the lower cost diesel #2. In large part, due to the numerous, well articulated emails we have received regarding our customers reaction to our removal of biodiesel, Dansk has decided to bring back biodiesel (B99) to Conserv Fuel in West Los Angeles!

Your emails are testament to the exceptional loyalty that Conserv Fuel biodiesel patrons have demonstrated regarding your commitment to purchase biodiesel. Conserv Fuel will once again continue to be the sole retail supplier of biodiesel (B99) in the greater Los Angeles area. Please note that our higher biodiesel sales price relative to diesel #2 is due to our higher wholesale supply costs. There is currently a lack of biodiesel supply in California which has resulted in biodiesel selling at a premium price to diesel #2.

We appreciate you taking the time to express your sentiments and would like to inform you that your voices have been heard. We understand that your loyalty to Conserv Fuel is linked to our supply of biodiesel, so we will be switching back to selling biodiesel (B99) hopefully by December 20th, 2008. We will keep you updated on our return to biodiesel at

We appreciate for your continued support,

Dansk Investment Group, Inc.

August 7, 2008
Cellulosic Ethanol Targeted by BP, Verenium

BP and Verenium have formed a partnership to accelerate the development of ethanol made from the enzymatic conversion of cellulosic raw materials.

Under the deal, BP will provide Verenium with $90 million in funding over the next 18 months. In exchange it will receive rights to current and future technology held by the new partnership. Verenium was formed last year through the merger of cellulosic ethanol developers Diversa and Celunol. Earlier this year, Verenium's auditors expressed concern about the company's financial well-being.

According to BP, ethanol made from raw materials such as sugarcane waste, rice straw, and wood chips offers multiple advantages over traditional corn-based ethanol, including higher yields per acre, minimal exposure to commodity price risks, and better greenhouse gas emission reductions. Sue Ellerbusch, president of BP Biofuels North America, says such crops "are the best feedstocks to deliver economic, sustainable, and scalable biofuels to the world."

Beyond this agreement the companies expect to negotiate a second phase in which they will build commercial-scale ethanol plants. Verenium opened a cellulose-based ethanol pilot plant in Jennings, La., three months ago.

The new partnership is one of several BP has formed to advance biofuels. In the U.K., it is working with DuPont on a $400 million plant that will produce ethanol and butanol from wheat. It also has an agreement with the British firm D1 Oils to make biodiesel out of oil extracted from the inedible jatropha plant.

August 4, 2008
Coal-to-methanol plant set for West Virginia

Consol Energy, the largest U.S. producer of bituminous coal, is working with Synthesis Energy Systems to build an $800 million facility that will convert coal into methanol. The plant will be located near Benwood, W.Va., at the mouth of a nearby Consol mine. It will gasify coal into a mixture of carbon monoxide and hydrogen using SES’s U-Gas technology and then into about 720,000 metric tons per year of methanol. According to the partners, the methanol will be used by the chemical industry and also be converted into about 100 million gal per year of gasoline with technology they plan to license from ExxonMobil Research & Engineering. “This project has the potential to transform West Virginia from a major coal-producing state to a national energy center,” Consol CEO J. Brett Harvey says. The partners are also working with Aker Solutions on sequestering carbon dioxide emissions in a deep saline aquifer. Today, the main U.S. practitioner of coal-to-liquids technology is Eastman Chemical, which converts coal to acetyl chemicals in Kingsport, Tenn. Eastman is planning a $1.6 billion coal-to-chemicals project in Beaumont, Texas.

July 28, 2008
Dupont Danisco Plans Cellulosic Ethanol

The three-month-old DuPont Danisco Cellulosic Ethanol joint venture has formed a partnership with the University of Tennessee to build a cellulosic ethanol pilot plant in Vonore, Tenn. Scheduled to open by the end of 2009, the plant will be able to make 250,000 gal of ethanol per year out of switchgrass and corn stover, cobs, and fiber. It will be built with $40.7 million from the State of Tennessee and "a substantial investment" from DuPont Danisco, the partners say.

June 2, 2008
BASF Sets Plant For Biodiesel Catalyst

BASF plans to build a 60,000-metric-ton-per-year sodium methylate plant in Guaratinguetá, Brazil, the company's largest site in South America. Sodium methylate is a catalyst used to convert vegetable oils into biodiesel fuel. "We expect annual global demand for biodiesel to increase to about 18 billion tons in coming years. About 15% of this amount will come from South America," says Ulrich Büschges, vice president of BASF's inorganic specialties business. BASF's German rival, Evonik Industries, is building a similarly sized sodium methylate plant in Mobile, Ala.

May 12, 2008
Europe looks to develop second-generation biofuels

Two German companies—Süd-Chemie and Linde—are teaming up to develop second-generation biofuels based on crops that do not compete with food production.

The partners will focus on developing a biotechnological process to generate fuels such as ethanol from plant matter containing cellulose, such as wheat and corn straw, grasses, and wood.

Süd-Chemie will contribute its know-how in biocatalysis and bioprocess engineering to the joint venture. Linde's subsidiary, Linde-KCA-Dresden, will provide engineering expertise in the areas of biotechnology and chemistry.

The partners stress that their technology, which will be commercially available, will not compete with food and feed crops, as first-generation biofuels do. First-generation biofuels are produced solely from plant matter containing oil, starch, or sugar. Biodiesel, for example, is derived from rapeseed oil, and bioethanol is derived from starch or sugar. Second-generation biofuels, however, use only cellulose-based matter.

Potential competition for land and crops, and escalating food and feed prices, has become a major concern for European consumers and legislators.

But as Mariann Fischer Boel, European commissioner for agriculture and rural development, said in a speech in Brussels on May 6, first-generation biofuels can give the European Union economic and environmental benefits while serving as a bridge "to take us to the next generation."

"I underline the importance of that bridge," she said. "A stable market can cut down the considerable risks faced by potential investors in second-generation fuels. Also, production facilities for some advanced fuels could be built as extensions to first-generation plants."

March 31, 2008
EPA Awards Small Business Grants

EPA announced it is giving $1.75 million in awards this year to 25 companies under the federal Small Business Innovation Research program. The awards go to firms involved in research on nanotechnology and pollution prevention, biodiesel and ethanol biofuels, solid and hazardous waste mitigation, air pollution control, and homeland security. Each company will receive $70,000 for Phase 1 proof-of-concept research. If Phase 1 is successful, companies can receive additional awards to commercialize their technology. "There are huge new opportunities for profits in the booming green technology business sector," says George Gray, EPA's assistant administrator for R&D. Information on the companies and their projects can be found at

March 31, 2008
Perstorp Aquires Biodiesel Business

In October 2007, Perstorp acquired the biobased oil business of the Swedish firm TallOil. Perstorp already runs what it calls Scandinavia's largest plant for the biodiesel fuel rapeseed methyl ester (RME). TallOil's business in biofuels such as pine tar "has the potential of boosting overall sales of our biofuel products" to as high as $300 million, Dankis says.

January 14, 2008
Gevo Licenses UCLA Biofuel Patents

Gevo has acquired an exclusive license to a method developed at UCLA for modifying Escherichia coli bacteria for use in biofuel development. The firm, launched in 2005 to generate butanol from biomass with technology developed at Caltech, has garnered cash from British entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson and alternative energy investment firm Khosla Ventures. According to Gevo CEO Patrick Gruber, the new technology will also allow production of butanol variants useful as chemical intermediates. UCLA chemical engineer James C. Liao, whose research group developed the E. coli technology (C&EN, Jan. 7, page 21), is joining Gevo's scientific advisory board.

February 6, 2008
Partners Debut Method For Purifying Glycerin

Rohm and Haas and France’s Groupe Novasep have formed a global partnership to market a new technology for purifying crude glycerin made as a by-product during biodiesel production. The technology combines Rohm and Haas’s expertise in specialty polymer resins and Novasep’s capabilities in chromatographic separations.

Demand for refined glycerin is considered to be growing for applications such as personal care products, pharmaceuticals, and food and beverages. The purified product can be used in a wider range of applications, the partners note.

Every time vegetable oil and alcohol are reacted to form a gallon of biodiesel, roughly three-quarters of a pound of glycerin is generated. The crude glycerin generally contains high levels of residual catalyst salts as well as other impurities. According to the partners, costly distillation methods are often used for purification.

“The availability of crude glycerin has increased exponentially with the rapid growth of the biodiesel industry, and we hope this will be a welcome solution to reduce costs for biodiesel producers, glycerin refiners, and processors,” says Kim Ann Mink, Rohm and Haas’s vice president and global general manager for ion-exchange resins.

The National Biodiesel Board estimates that 450 million gal of biodiesel was sold in 2007. Production capacity already totals about 2.2 billion gal and is expected to grow more than 50% within about 18 months.

The partners believe their new Ambersep BD50 technology will offer a cost-effective and environmentally friendly alternative for purifying glycerin. For making biodiesel, Rohm and Haas also provides a polymer-based purification process and a solid-catalyst technology for fatty acid esterification.

January 14, 2008
Bayer And Partners Explore Jatropha

Bayer CropScience will work with agricultural processor Archer Daniels Midland and automaker Daimler to jointly develop biodiesel made from jatropha nut kernels. Jatropha is an inedible, drought-resistant plant with seeds that contain more than 30% oil. It is thus being considered as an alternative to biodiesel derived from seed oils that have food value. Bayer plans to develop pesticides for jatropha. ADM operates biodiesel refineries, and Daimler has been conducting research on jatropha-derived fuels for about five years.

January 14, 2008
Biodiesel Spurs Two Agreements

Two pairs of companies have signed agreements intended to increase the availability and stability of biodiesel fuels. In the first, Süd-Chemie will manufacture catalyst for biodiesel firm Benefuel. Developed at India's National Chemical Laboratory, the solid catalyst turns low-grade vegetable oils and animal fats into fatty acid methyl esters, Benefuel says. The first commercial plant to use the technology, a 10 million-gal-per-year unit, is under construction in Seymour, Ind. Separately, specialty chemicals maker Innospec has signed a three-year agreement to provide biodiesel supplier World Energy Alternatives with its Biostable line of additives, which are designed to protect the fuel against oxidation and acid-induced degradation.

November 12, 2007
Venture Set For Cellulosic Biofuels

U.S. venture capital firm Khosla Ventures and the Netherlands-based start-up firm BIOeCON have formed a joint venture, called KiOR, to develop and commercialize BIOeCON's biomass catalytic cracking technology. The technology can convert lignocellulosic biomass, such as that found in agricultural and forestry waste, into a crude product that can be upgraded into biofuels. Cellulosic technologies are being developed to circumvent the "food-versus-fuel" problem associated with using food crops to make ethanol or biodiesel.

April 28, 2008
Ineos, Viridas Cooperate on Jatropha

Ineos is working with the British start-up firm Viridas to cooperate on using jatrophra, a nonedible oil crop that grows on marginal-quality land, as a biodiesel feedstock. Viridas has acquired 250,000 hectares of land in Brazil from which it intends to produce 500,000 metric tons of jatropha oil per year.

November 5, 2007
Neste begins Biodiesel Conversion

Another way to keep down sulfur levels in transportation fuels is to make the fuels synthetically. That approach is being followed in several countries, including Finland, where oil manufacturer Neste Oil, located in Espoo, has recently begun converting vegetable oils and animal fats to biodiesel. Juha Jakkula, a manager with Neste, explains that the company's high-quality sulfur-free biodiesel is made by gasifying wood-based raw materials, which are abundant in Finland, or animal fats to make synthesis gas (a mixture of CO and hydrogen). The gas is then converted catalytically into paraffins.

September 17, 2007
OECD Questions Biofuel Expansion

Strong fears that an international "rush to energy crops" to reduce CO 2 emissions and petroleum consumption will result in global food shortages in the near future were voiced in a recent report prepared by a panel of the Organization for Economic Cooperation & Development. "When acidification, fertilizer use, biodiversity loss, and toxicity of agricultural pesticides are taken into account, the overall environmental impacts of ethanol and biodiesel can very easily exceed those of petrol and mineral diesel," says the report. The report's authors argue that only sugarcane-to-ethanol production in Brazil, cellulosic ethanol made in Sweden and Switzerland, and biodiesel production from animal fat or used cooking oil can substantially reduce CO 2 emissions, compared with gasoline. Other biofuel feedstocks, which compete with food uses, deliver greenhouse gas emission reductions of less than 40%, compared with gasoline and other fossil fuels, the report says. Among its recommendations, the report urges countries to end mandates for biofuel production, as the U.S. does, and replace them with technologically neutral policies, such as carbon taxes that may stimulate energy efficiency and a broad range of approaches to reduce CO 2 emissions. The report is available at

September 10, 2007
Partners Target Propanediol Output

Metabolic Explorer and Institut Français du Pétrole, which specializes in alternative energy research, will collaborate on scaling up MetEx's biotech route for making 1,3-propanediol out of glycerin (C&EN, Aug. 27, page 26). The French partners seek to add value to glycerin made during a biodiesel production process developed by IFP. Met-Ex CEO Benjamin Gonzalez says his firm's route "could play a crucial role in the overall economics of biodiesel production."


Immobilized Lipase on Fe3O4 Nanoparticles as Biocatalyst for Biodiesel Production
Wenlei Xie and Ning Ma
pp 1347–1353
Publication Date (Web): 21 Jan 2009 (Article)
DOI: 10.1021/ef800648y
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Catalytic Partial Oxidation of Methane over Ni-Based Catalysts Derived from Ni−Mg/Al Ternary Hydrotalcites
Zheng Jiang, Jixin Su, Martin Owen Jones, Huahong Shi, Tiancun Xiao, and Peter P. Edwards
pp 1634–1639
Publication Date (Web): 18 Feb 2009 (Article)
DOI: 10.1021/ef800933j
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Kinetic Study of Alcoholysis of the Fatty Acids Catalyzed by Tin Chloride(II): An Alternative Catalyst for Biodiesel Production
Abiney L. Cardoso, Soraia C. G. Neves, and Marcio J. da Silva
pp 1718–1722
Publication Date (Web): 20 Jan 2009 (Article)
DOI: 10.1021/ef800639h
Full Text HTML | PDF w/ Links | Hi-Res PDF | Abstract
Atomization and Evaporation Characteristics of Biodiesel and Dimethyl Ether Compared to Diesel Fuel in a High-Pressure Injection System
Hyung Jun Kim, Su Han Park, Hyun Kyu Suh, and Chang Sik Lee
pp 1734–1742
Publication Date (Web): 2 Feb 2009 (Article)
DOI: 10.1021/ef800811g
Full Text HTML | PDF w/ Links | Hi-Res PDF | Abstract
Cuphea Oil as Source of Biodiesel with Improved Fuel Properties Caused by High Content of Methyl Decanoate
Gerhard Knothe, Steven C. Cermak, and Roque L. Evangelista
pp 1743–1747
Publication Date (Web): 16 Feb 2009 (Article)
DOI: 10.1021/ef800958t
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Performance and Exhaust Emissions of an Indirect-Injection (IDI) Diesel Engine When Using Waste Cooking Oil as Fuel
Ales Hribernik and Breda Kegl
pp 1754–1758
Publication Date (Web): 11 Feb 2009 (Article)
DOI: 10.1021/ef800986w
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