An Advanced Biofuels Symposium was held at the University of Rhode Island in November, 2012. Attendees learned about biodiesel, cellulosic ethanol and biogas production and use. Speakers described the market for Advanced Biofuels, their feedstocks, the chemical process of production and the advantages of biofuels. Federal policies were discussed such as the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 and its associated Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS2) which promote Advanced Biofuels.
The RI Biofuels Study Commission, chaired by RI State Representative Eileen Naughton, sponsored the Advanced Biofuels Symposium. The RI Biofuels Study Commission studies the feasibility and effectiveness of incentives to development and use of Advanced Biofuels the state. Tools include production credits, feedstock incentives and direct use consumer credits.
The Commission also explores the possibility of entering into an agreement with the states participating in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative to develop and implement a low carbon fuel standard for transportation fuels. The Commission will report results and recommendations to the state’s General Assembly every other year starting in 2012.
The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program was created under the Energy Policy Act (EPAct) of 2005 to set a renewable fuel volume mandate. Under the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) of 2007, the RFS program was expanded. RFS2 aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions using renewable fuels, reducing imported petroleum and encouraging the development and expansion of America’s renewable fuels sector. Specifically:
- EISA expanded the RFS program to include diesel fuel, not just gasoline
- EISA increased the volume of renewable fuel blended into fuel from 9 billion gallons in 2008 to 36 billion gallons by 2022
- EISA established separate volume requirements for each of their new fuel categories
- EISA required the EPA to apply lifecycle greenhouse gas performance thresholds to ensure renewable fuels emit less greenhouse gas than the petroleum fuel they replace
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) raised the amount of biodiesel refiners must produce to displace petroleum diesel in 2013 to 1.28 billion gallons. The U.S. diesel market is 55 billion gallons. Learn more about RFS here.
The symposium’s keynote speaker was Tom Verry, Director of Outreach and Development at the National Biodiesel Board. Verry establishes relationships between biodiesel stakeholders including feed stock suppliers, state soybean associations, fuel suppliers, end-users, policy makers, government agencies and environmental/health groups.
Verry said Advanced Biofuel is our best tool to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It has the highest energy balance of any available fuel returning 5.5:1 to 7:1 units of renewable energy for every unit of fossil fuel input used to produce it. The EPA defines this fuel as a non-ethanol renewable fuel, derived from cornstarch with lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions at least 50% below traditional diesel fuel emissions.
Advanced Biofuel production does not and must not compete with food production or negatively affect the environment. The EPA mandates that Advanced Biofuel production must not make direct land use change and may only cause limited indirect land use change.
The EPA has approved Advanced Biofuel production made with these sources: Vegetable oils derived from soybeans, canola and camelina, waste oils or yellow grease, animal fats, DDG corn oil derived from the ethanol production process, algae and secondary annual crops planted on existing cropland. Future sources may include jatropha, pennycress, brown grease and algae.
For a long time, soybean oil has been a by-product of protein meal production for livestock feed. Now much of this oil is being used for Advanced Biofuel production. According to Verry, lower input costs to livestock producers should reduce consumers’ meat costs over time.
According to Verry, four states already have mandated Advanced Biofuel use: Washington, Oregon, Minnesota and Pennsylvania. New Mexico, Louisiana, Massachusetts and Connecticut have added programs since 2011. These eight states mandate 107 million gallons of Advanced Biofuel use. Sixteen states offer consumption and use incentives equal to 70 to 120 million gallons. The production capacity is not yet available.
Forty states mandate or encourage municipal and public works fleets to use renewable fuels including Advanced Biofuels. Incentives can include road tax exemptions, production grants and various tax credits for producers and consumers. As of the fall of 2012, there were over 40,000 people employed at 170 Advanced Biofuel plants nationwide according to Verry.
See Verry’s full presentation here.
The RFS2, RINs & E15
John Rogan, Environmental Specialist at the US Environmental Protection Agency gave an overview of the RFS2 and the issue of Renewable Identification Number (RIN) fraud. He described the phasing in of ethanol blends up to 15% (E15) for newer light duty trucks and cars. See Rogan’s slide presentation here.
Anthony LaRusso, Principal Program Manager, Emerging Gas Operations at National Grid, spoke on Biogas. Cleaned or filtered biogas can be blended and used interchangeably with natural gas. Most biogas is currently burned off as a waste product. LaRusso said now is the time for investment in demonstration municipal-scale projects.
Biogas is created by many renewable sources including wastewater treatment plants, landfills, wood waste, livestock manure, municipal solid waste and energy crops. Renewable biogas is created through either anaerobic digestion (AD) or thermal gasification (TG). LaRusso advocated for state and federal incentives for infrastructure development. See LaRusso’s presentation here.
Biomass Cellulosic Ethanol
Wendy Lucht, Ocean State Clean Cities Coordinator spoke about the Department of Energy (DOE) Biomass Program and the market for Biomass and Cellulosic Ethanol. Advantages for cellulosic ethanol include
- Crop abundance
- Waste products are generally used in fuel production
- Crops can be grown on marginal land
- Cellulosic ethanol replaces fossil fuels
Feedstocks can include agricultural residue, forestry residue, trees, grasses, municipal and other wastes. Cellulosic ethanol is made through cellulolysis, which breaks down cellulose into sugars, or gasification, which breaks down cellulose and creates gases.
Cellulosic ethanol offers the greatest reduction of greenhouse gas emissions versus gasoline at 86% reduction. This is followed by sugarcane ethanol (78%) mixed biomass (52%) and corn ethanol (28%). [Lucht referenced Wang et al. Research Letters.] See the full citation in Lucht’s presentation here.
More Information & Contacts
Learn more about the Advanced Biofuels Symposium, co-sponsored by Ocean State Clean Cities. See photos from the symposium. For questions, contact Wendy Lucht, Ocean State Clean Cities Coordinator via email or call 401-874-2792.
Learn more on Renewable Gas from National Grid here or contact Anthony LaRusso at National Grid’s Sustainable Gas Group via email.
A similar story ran starting on page 16 in the January 7, 2013 New England Edition of Country Folks.