News and Trends

The government of Finland has approved a new national Energy and Climate Strategy plan on how to reach climate targets by 2030.

The government's goal was to have the share of renewables in the Finnish energy pool to surpass 50% in 2020s, with an end goal of reaching carbon neutrality. The share of biofuels in the fuel pool will also be increased to 30% by 2030. The government focused on road transport, where the potential for reduction is the greatest.

Finland also wants to speed up renewing its car fleet and have 250,000 electricity- and 50,000 gas-fuelled vehicles on the road by the end of the plan. By 2030, imports of petroleum products for domestic use will also be decreased by 50% from 2005 levels.

The government is also examining further steps towards being an economy based entirely on renewables by 2050.

The University of Botswana recently launched an experimental vehicle that uses B10 blended fuel, which is 90% petroleum diesel and 10% biodiesel.

The launch was a follow up to a feasibility study on the production and use of biofuels in Botswana in 2007. The study also highlighted Jatropha curcas as the most promising feedstock. The Ministry of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security then initiated a project in 2012 for the establishment of a biofuels industry in the country, especially from Jatropha.

The experimental vehicle produces relatively low pollutants, particularly carbon dioxide which contributes to global warming. If their findings do not reveal any defects, the research team will increase the percentage of biofuel from 10 to 15%. The research team will also be investigating other biodiesel feedstock, including beef tallow.

Finland-based firm St1 has signed letters of intent with Alholmens Kraft and UPM on a sawdust-based ethanol plant in the Alholma industrial area in Pietarsaari, Finland.

The Cellunolix plant, which uses sawdust and recycled wood, is planned for UPM's Alholma industrial area. Alholmens Kraft and UPM would provide the project with services and commodities and would utilize the byproducts of ethanol production in their own processes.

In order for the project to push through, an environmental impact assessment procedure (EIAP) and an approved environmental permit will be required. The project is estimated to be in the investment decision stage in 2018, and the Cellunolix plant manufacturing bioethanol would start in 2020.

Neste Corporation recently announced that Hamburg airport in Germany has started using its renewable diesel to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels and reduce its carbon footprint.

The renewable diesel will power heavy-duty vehicles, such as aircraft tugs and fire trucks, and will complement other alternative energies used in the airport. This move will make Hamburg airport the first major international airport in the world to replace all fossil fuels with renewables in its entire ground fleet.

The airport's vehicle operators reported less soot and smell, and slightly reduced consumption, associated with the renewable diesel use. Furthermore, users also report very good engine performance and reduced maintenance. The 100% renewable diesel is supplied locally as "C.A.R.E. Diesel".

Smaller airports in Sweden, such as Kiruna and Bromma, have also already tested 100 percent renewable diesel in their ground fleet.

Research and Development

The team of Professor Jae Sung Lee of Energy and Chemical Engineering at UNIST discovers a new way to produce biofuel from carbon dioxide. In their study, the team presented the direct conversion of carbon dioxide to liquid fuels by reacting with hydrogen, generated by solar water splitting.

The new delafossite-based catalyst is capable of producing liquid fuels in just a single step, which can then be used by existing diesel vehicles. This new catalyst, composed of inexpensive, earth-abundant copper and steel, will be used to initiate a reaction between carbon dioxide emissions of industrial plants and hydrogen generated from solar hydrogen plant to produce diesel.

The new procedure can help remove harmful carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, as well as create diesel that can be used as an alternative fuel to gasoline. The researchers expect that this breakthrough can expedite elimination of greenhouse gases.

A team of graduate students from Costa Rica Institute of Technology (TEC) has been studying whey and its potential as a feedstock in biodiesel production.

Whey, the liquid produced by the coagulation of milk during the cheese making process, contains 94% water, protein, and fat. Their project, named Cibus 3.0, seeks to utilize bacteria to convert this dairy by-product into biofuel for transportation, industrial machinery and other sectors.

David Garcia, the coordinator of the project, said that the idea to use whey came as a response to the waste problem in dairy product manufacturers. The first two years of the research project focused on studying products that could be achieved from processing whey with bacteria.

The Cibus 3.0 project is expected to close by the end of the year and its results will be presented in 2017.

Anaerobic digestate is the waste from anaerobic digestion, which still contains nutrients and lignocellulosic materials. Using these materials in the digestate can significantly improve efficiency of anaerobic digestion and generate value-added chemicals and fuel products from the organic wastes.

A Michigan State University research team, led by Yuan Zhong, developed a process that uses biogas energy to power fungal fermentation to convert remaining carbon sources and nutrients in digestate into biofuel precursor-lipids. The process contains two operations: anaerobic digestion and digestate utilization.

The process of digestate utilization involves several steps, including alkali treatment of the digestates, enzymatic hydrolysis for mono-sugar release, overliming detoxification, and fungal fermentation for lipid accumulation. The fungal fermentation led to a final lipid concentration of 3.16 g/L on the digestate with10% dry matter.

A freshwater-free process of lipid production from anaerobic digestate was developed by integrating anaerobic digestion and fungal fermentation.

The fermentation of beer and wine can be contaminated with lactic acid bacteria, leading to the production of lactic acid rather than alcohol. This same problem affects the ethanol industry. Ethanol plants fight lactic acid bacteria with antibiotics. However, this is controversial since bacteria evolve resistance to antibiotics.

Lactic Solutions, a new company founded the University of Wisconsin–Madison professor James Steele, is advancing genetic engineering to transform the enemies into friends. Instead of killing lactic acid bacteria with antibiotics, he engineered genes for ethanol production into these organisms to produce ethanol, not lactic acid. The new bacteria are also capable of consuming sugars not available to the yeast.

The ethanol industry understands that antibiotics are a short-term solution. This new technology now offers the industry a long-term solution that also increases conversion of sugars to ethanol.