News and Trends

Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, has confirmed that the city will commit more money to tackle London's air quality crisis. The Mayor has announced that 875 million will be invested to improve air quality by 2022.

The Mayor recently stated that an ambitious and decisive action is needed to clean up the air in London, which currently has 9,400 deaths per year attributed to air quality related illnesses. Furthermore, London's air quality continues to breach legal levels.

A range of far-reaching programs, including launching the world's first Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) in 2019, then extending it to the North and South Circulars for all vehicles have been proposed to solve London's air quality problem. The full ULEZ package will see 610 million of overall investment.

Another approach proposed was to remove older polluting vehicles from central London. The Mayor also wants to "green" its own fleet by phasing out diesel-only buses and a purchasing hybrid or zero-emission double-decker buses from 2018.

Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Vinod Khosla, Jack Ma, John Doerr and 15 other high-profile investors have formed a new venture firm, Breakthrough Energy Ventures (BEV). The project will pour at least $1 billion into "cleantech" companies in the next 20 years.

The firm's goal will be "to provide everyone in the world with access to reliable, affordable power, food, goods, transportation, and services without contributing to greenhouse gas emissions." BEV will invest in technology ventures at any stage, from seed through commercialization. The deals will focus mainly on electricity, manufacturing, agriculture, buildings and transportation.

"I am honored to work along with these investors to build on the powerful foundation of public investment in basic research," said Bill Gates. "Our goal is to build companies that will help deliver the next generation of reliable, affordable, and emissions-free energy to the world."

Further details on the group's ambitions and investment strategy are expected to be revealed before the year ends.

Despite rising fuel prices, the Philippines' Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) has set aside calls by oil players to allow increased imports of ethanol products to effectively lower gas pump prices.

Reports came out that the Independent Petroleum Producers Association (IPPCA) was pushing for 100% imported ethanol to lower petroleum pump prices as sugar-based ethanol from the country was more expensive than imported biofuel. However, planning and policy manager at the SRA, Rosemarie Gumera, emphasized that the government's bioethanol program requires oil companies to prioritize procurement and development of the local ethanol sector.

SRA expects local ethanol production to meet at least half of the mandated biofuel mix once Cavite Biofuels and Pro-Green, formerly known as Emperador Distillery, start operations by next year. Once online, these distillers are expected to narrow the gap in the country's compliance with the ethanol mandate.

The Philippines' current Biofuels Law mandates the use of E10 blended gasoline in the market, which contains 10-percent ethanol.

Research and Development

Consumer perception of industrial processes and food production are more focused on food quality, human health, environmental safety, and energy security. Hence, effort has been given toward adding value to wastes of agri-food industries. A team of researchers from various universities, led by Mouna Kehili of University of Sfax, aimed to develop a process that uses tomato by-products of a Tunisian industry for the recovery of value-added compounds.

The developed process combined supercritical CO2 extraction of carotenoids within the oil fractions from tomato seeds (TS) and tomato peels (TP), followed by a batch isolation of protein from the residues. The remaining lignocellulosic matter was then submitted to a liquid hot water (LHW) hydrolysis and can be used for bioethanol production.

The experiments extracted oleoresin, lycopene, and β-carotene from TP and oil, lycopene and β-carotene from TS. Protein extraction yields of 13.28% in TP and 39.26% in TS, revealed that the two are also rich sources of essential amino acids. LHW treatment showed that a temperature of 160C was the most appropriate for cellulose and hemicellulose hydrolysis from TP and TS.

These results indicate that tomato by-products can be a good source of lycopene-rich oleoresin, tomato seed oil and good quality protein as well as lignocellulosic matter with potential for bioethanol production.

2,3-Butanediol (2,3-BD) is a promising compound with various applications in several industries. Pyruvate decarboxylase (Pdc)-deficient Saccharomyces cerevisiae is an attractive host for 2,3-BD production due to large amounts of pyruvate available. However, the productivity of an engineered Pdc-deficient S. cerevisiae was inferior due to metabolic limitations, such as growth defects caused by a shortage of C2-compounds as well as redox imbalance during the 2,3-BD production, leading to glycerol formation and lower 2,3-BD yield.

To overcome these problems, a team of researchers led by Jin-Woo Kim from Seoul National University, optimized CtPDC1 from Candida tropicalis in S. cerevisiae. The expression of CtPDC1 minimized ethanol production as well as cell growth and 2,3-BD production. The productivity of the resulting strain, BD5_G1CtPDC1, was found to be 2.3 times higher than the control strain in flask cultivation. NADH oxidase from Lactococcus lactis (noxE) was then additionally expressed in the engineered yeast.

A massive metabolic shift in the engineered S. cerevisiae BD5_G1CtPDC1_nox, expressing bot Pdc and NADH oxidase, was observed, suggesting that redox imbalance was a major hindrance for efficient production of 2,3-BD by engineered yeast. These results demonstrate that resolving the metabolic limitations is critical in increasing 2,3-BD production in the Pdc-deficient S. cerevisiae.

Energy Crops and Feedstocks for Biofuels Production

Lignocellulosic ethanol is a promising alternative to fossil fuels because its use is environment-friendly. However, the high costs of feedstock supply and processing requirements of lignocellulosic biomass hinder the development of the lignocellulosic biorefinery. So far, lignocellulosic ethanol production studies have focused on individual feedstocks.

The University of Malaya researchers, led by Mushafau Adebayo Oke, reviewed the use of mixed lignocellulosic biomass (MLB) in biofuel production. While laboratory evaluations have shown that mixed feedstocks can produce comparable or even higher ethanol yields, more studies are needed to prove the possibility of getting significant cost savings in production.

The team also cited some potential benefits of MLB for ethanol production as well as some anticipated limitations. Ways to overcome these limitations have also been suggested.

Ethanol production from MLB is promising provided that measures are taken to ensure the sustainability of the industry.

Policy and Regulation

Estonia's Minister of Economic Affairs and Infrastructure recently submitted a bill amending the Liquid Fuel Act, which would require fuel suppliers to add biofuels to their fuel. Estonia will be the last EU member state to mandate blending.

The bill states that by May 2017, fuel released for consumption must contain at least 3.3% biofuel by volume. This percentage will increase to 6.4 by 2018, to 8% by 2019 and to 10% by 2020. In 2015, only 0.2% of transport fuel used in Estonia was produced from renewable sources.

The requirement comes from the European Parliament's Renewable Energy Directive, which requires all EU countries to ensure at least 10% percent of their transport fuels come from renewable sources by 2020. Latvia and Lithuania have both already reached five percent of their fuels coming from renewable sources, while Finland has already exceeded the 10% mark.

Biofuels Policy and Economics

A study conducted by researchers from the University of Delaware and Washington State University investigated the consumer responses toward fuel from second-generation, lignocellulose processing systems. Data was collected via in-person consumer surveys across three major cities in the USA with two different information treatments. The survey estimated consumers' willingness to pay for this product and analyze factors that affect their choice.

The results suggest that the average respondent was willing to pay an 11% premium for second-generation bioethanol compared to conventional fuel. The willingness to pay was the highest in Portland, Oregon (17%), followed by Minneapolis (9%) and then Boston (8%). However, driving distance was found to have a negative effect on consumer willingness to pay.

Consumers who purchase more organic foods were also found to be more willing to pay a premium for the product. The effect of information regarding the second-generation, lignocellulose process was also found to be significantly positive.