News and Trends

A new ownership and biodiesel process technology are planned for the 75 MMgy Mission NewEnergy plant in Kuantan Port, Malaysia.

The Benefuel International Holdings S.A.R.L., a subsidiary of Felda Global Ventures Sdn. Bhd., the world's largest crude palm oil producer, agreed to a joint venture and will acquire the facility for Benefuel's Ensel solid catalyst technology. The current owner of the plant, M2 Capital Sdn. Bhd., is also included in the venture. The deal is expected to close in late 2014, and the plant is expected to be operational in 2015.

"We are excited to team up with FGV and Mission NewEnergy to acquire and operate the Kuantan Port plant," said Rob Tripp, the CEO of Benefuel. The facility is on a deep water port and logistically advantaged to serve both the domestic and international markets.

Neste Oil's NEXBTL renewable diesel was used to power two major events in Finland this summer: the Flow Festival in Helsinki and the Neste Oil Rally Helsinki Battle street circuit race.

NEXBTL diesel generated 45 percent of the electricity for the Flow Festival and powered the machinery at the site. This resulted in a 22-ton reduction in emissions, equivalent to nearly three round-the-world flights.

"Using Neste Oil's renewable diesel to generate electricity offered us an excellent way to reduce our carbon footprint," said Flow Festivals's Production Manager Emilia Mikkola.

Last year, NEXBTL diesel was also used to power the Down By The Laituri Festival in Turku and the Tall Ships Races Helsinki event.

Coffee waste treatment systems are enabling Central American coffee farmers to generate energy from waste under a project led by the NGO, UTZ Certified.

According to the organization, the project proved that it's possible to generate energy, tackle climate change and protect water resources by treating discharges from coffee mills. The project has been implemented in farms and has already achieved better indoor environments for those who replaced firewood with domestic gas stoves for cooking.

The project started in 2010, addressing environmental and health problems caused by the wastewater produced in the coffee industry. UTZ explained that the solid waste treatment mechanisms and wastewater treatment systems were installed in eight coffee farms in Nicaragua, ten in Honduras and one in Guatemala.

 "Coffee production is only environmentally sustainable when water is used efficiently and polluted water from the wet-mill process is treated," explained Han De Groot, executive director at UTZ Certified.

Research and Development

Pretreatment is an essential step to lessen recalcitrance of biomass for bioethanol production. In the study of Run-Cang Sun of the Beijing Forest University and South China University of Technology, a two-step hydrothermal pretreatment and alkali fractionation was performed on eucalyptus fiber. The characteristics and morphology of the pretreated fibers were then evaluated.

Compared to the hydrothermal pretreatment alone, the combination of hydrothermal and alkali treatments removed hemicelluloses and lignin, resulting in increased hydrolysis rate. An optimum pretreatment condition was found to be at 180°C for 30 min and alkali fractionation with 2% NaOH at 90°C for 2.5 h, in which 66.3% of the cellulose was converted into glucose.

The combination of hydrothermal pretreatment and alkali fractionation is a promising method in overcoming the biomass recalcitrance of eucalyptus fiber.

Hydrogen is an attractive energy carrier due to its high energy content and zero CO2 emission. Hence, hydrogen production from low-cost plant biomass should be considered, such as thermophilic hydrogen production from biomass-based substrates. Shuang Li of South China University of Technology tested the feasibility of this process in hydrogen production.

Sugarcane bagasse was used as the substrate for hydrogen production by Thermoanaerobacterium aotearoense SCUT27/Δldh. Maximum hydrogen production was achieved under the conditions of 2.3% H2SO4 for 114.2 min at 115°C. Given these conditions, the process achieved the best hydrogen yield of 1.86 mol H2 per mol of total sugar and a hydrogen production rate (HPR) of 0.52 liters H per liter of substrate in a 2 liter sugarcane bagasse trial.

Thermophilic, anaerobic fermentation using SCB hydrolysates as the medium for Thermoanaerobacterium aotearoense is an intriguing, practical and eco-friendly process.

Microalgae are regarded by many as the best choice for the production of biofuels. Hence, Semnan University's Ahmad Farhad Talebi, Meisam Tabatabaei and their team now aim to enhance lipid biosynthesis pathway in the microalgae Dunaliella salina for better biodiesel production.

ME and AccD genes from Brassica napus were transferred into the chloroplast genome of D. salina through the particle bombardment. The lipid content and quality parameters of the resultant biodiesel were then evaluated.

The ME/AccD genes were overexpressed in the transgenics and resulted in a 12% increase in total lipid content as well as improvements in biodiesel properties such as algal oil oxidation stability. The success of this study in manipulating the lipid production pathway of microalgae could be helpful for large scale biodiesel production.

Production and Trade

Yeast fermentation is vulnerable to contamination by other organisms such as lactic acid bacteria, which in turn can reduce biofuel yield and inhibit yeast growth. Dominic Sauvageau from the University of Alberta in Canada investigated bacteriophages as potential antibacterial agents in fermentation.

The bacteriophages ATCC® 8014-B1™ and ATCC® 8014-B2™ were tested through the Saccharomyces cerevisiae Superstart™ yeast culture infected by Lactobacillus plantarum ATCC® 8014™. Results reveal that bacteria impeded yeast cultures growth, decreasing its ethanol production. However, the addition of the phage mixture of ATCC® 8014-B1™ and ATCC® 8014-B2™ reduced contamination by over 99 percent.

Phages are good candidates as antimicrobial agents in yeast fermentation processes. Their use along with other contamination prevention methods could further increase their efficacy.

Ultrasonic stimulation was found to stimulate cell growth and metabolite production in algal cultures. Ling Xi and Shi-Kai Wang of the Chinese Academy of Sciences are developing an efficient ultrasound stimulation strategy to improve the biomass and hydrocarbon productivity of Botryococcus braunii as well as explain the possible mechanism of ultrasound stimulation.

Ultrasonic treatment was found to accelerate both biomass and hydrocarbon productivities of Botryococcus braunii algal cells in shake flasks. The most effective strategy was subjecting cells to three 5-min ultrasonic treatments at 4-day intervals with a fixed frequency of 40 kHz and power of 240 W.

The ultrasound-treated algal cells showed the highest biomass productivity of 0.043 g/L per day and the highest hydrocarbon productivity of 13.1 mg/L per day. The improved productivity was found to be due to the enhanced indole-3-acetic acid (IAA) biosynthesis and membrane permeability.