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    Scientists, economists and policy experts representing government and public institutions from more than 40 countries will exchange the latest information on economic and technology opportunities at the U.S. Department of Agriculture's "Global Conference on Agricultural Biofuels: Research and Economics", to be held Aug. 20-21 in Minneapolis. USDA ARS - August 14, 2007.

    A company owned by the Chinese government has expressed interest in investing up to 500 million US dollars in a biofuel project in Indonesia. The company is planning to use jatropha as its raw material and is targeting an annual output of around 1 million tons. Forbes - August 13, 2007.

    Virgin Atlantic, Boeing and General Electric are within weeks of selecting the biofuel for a flight demonstration in the UK early next year. The conversion of biomass via the Fischer-Tropsch process is no longer amongst the biofuel candidates, because the process has already been demonstrated to work. Ground testing of the chosen fuel in a development engine at GE is expected to begin in October-November. The limited flight-test programme will involve burning biofuel in one GE CF6-80C2 engine on a Virgin Boeing 747-400. Flight Global - August 13, 2007.

    Japan's Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry said Saturday it plans to introduce a new preferential tax system in fiscal 2008 aimed at promoting a wider use of biofuel, which could help curtail greenhouse gas emissions. Under the envisaged plan, biofuel that has been mixed with gasoline will be exempt from the gasoline tax--currently 53.8 yen per liter--in proportion to the amount of biofuel included. If blended with diesel oil, biofuel will be free from the diesel oil delivery tax, currently 32.1 yen per liter. Daily Yomiuri - August 13, 2007.

    Japan's Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry said Saturday it plans to introduce a new preferential tax system in fiscal 2008 aimed at promoting a wider use of biofuel, which could help curtail greenhouse gas emissions. Under the envisaged plan, biofuel that has been mixed with gasoline will be exempt from the gasoline tax--currently 53.8 yen per liter--in proportion to the amount of biofuel included. If blended with diesel oil, biofuel will be free from the diesel oil delivery tax, currently 32.1 yen per liter. Daily Yomiuri - August 13, 2007.

    Buenos Aires based ABATEC SA announces the release of a line of small biodiesel plants with modular design, high temperature reaction for the best yield, to produce from 50 to 1000 gal/day (190 to 3785 liter/day) of high quality methylester and valuable glycerol. PRWeb - August 10, 2007.

    Vegetable growers in North Queensland are trying to solve the problem of disposing of polyethylene plastic mulch by using a biodegradable, bioplastic based alternative. Trials are a collaboration of the Queensland Department of Primary Industries with the Bowen District Growers Association. Queensland Country Life - August 8, 2007.

    Hawaii's predominant utility has won approval to build the state's first commercial biofuel plant. It is the first substantial new power generator that Hawaiian Electric Co. has added in 17 years. HECO will build the $142.3 million facility at Campbell Industrial Park on Oahu beginning early next year, and expects to begin commercial operation in mid-2009. It will run exclusively on fuels made from ethanol or biodiesel. Star Bulletin (Honolulu) - August 8, 2007.

    PetroSun Inc. announced today that it conducted its initial algae-to-biofuel program held at Auburn and Opelika, Alabama. The company intends to hold a series of these programs during August and September with biodiesel refiners and firms that are researching the use of algal oil as a potential feedstock for jet fuel production. MarketWire - August 8, 2007.

    To encourage Malaysia's private sector to generate energy from biomass resources, national electricity company Tenaga Nasional Bhd (TNB) has increased the purchase price of electricity produced from palm oil biomass waste to 21 sen per kilowatt hour from 19 sen now. According to Minister of Enegry, Water and Communications, Datuk Seri Dr Lim Keng Yaik the new price structure, under the Renewable Energy Power Purchase Agreement (REPPA), will be implemented immediately. Such projects are eligible for the Clean Development Mechanism. Under the 9th Malaysian Plan, the country's government aims to achieve the installation of 300MW and 50MW of grid-connected electric power from renewable energy sources in Peninsular Malaysia and Sabah, respectively. Bernama - August 7, 2007.

    Aspectrics, which develops encoded photometric infrared and near infrared spectroscopy, will be launching a new range of biofuels analyzers designed to meet the demands of scientists and analysts to carry out biodiesel quality control and analyze biodiesel blend percentages in real time. Bioresearch Online - August 7, 2007.

    Irish start-up Eirzyme has secured a €10m investment from Canadian company Micromill System. The new company will produce low-cost enzymes to convert biological materials such as brewers' grains into bioethanol and biogas. RTE - August 6, 2007.

    Imperium Renewables says it has a deal to provide Royal Caribbean Cruises with biodiesel. The Seattle-based biodiesel maker, which is scheduled to inaugurate its Grays Harbor plant this month, will sell the cruise line 15 million gallons of biodiesel in 2007 and 18 million gallons annually for four years after that. The Miami-based cruise line has four vessels that call in Seattle. It is believed to be the single-largest long-term biodiesel sales contract to an end user in the U.S. Seattle Times - August 5, 2007.

    The J. Craig Venter Institute, leading the synthetic biology revolution, is expanding its Bio-Energy Program, seeking a senior scientist to head the new dedicated department. With ongoing research in biohydrogen, cellulosic ethanol, microbial fuel cells, and bacterial nanowires, the Environmental Genomics and Plant Genomics groups within JCVI are working on active components related to bio-energy. NatureJobs - August 5, 2007.

    Polish power and heat firm Praterm has decided to invest 50 to 100 mln zloty (€13.2-26.4 /US$18.1-36.4 mln) by 2013 in biomass production. The company has already bought Bio-Energia, an operator of four biomass heating plants with a total capacity of 14 MW. Wirtualna Polska - August 5, 2007.

    Brazil and Mexico will sign a cooperation agreement to collaborate on the production of ethanol from sugarcane, Gonzalo Mourão of the Brazilian chancellory's Departamento do México, América Central e Caribe said. Brazil's President Lula is on a tour of Central America and is currently in Mexico, after which he will visit Honduras, Nicaragua, Jamaica and Panama. He is set to sign several bilateral agreements on energy and biofuels with these countries. Reuters Brasil - August 4, 2007.

    Evergreen Pulp Inc. announced that it and Diversified Energy Corp. have been selected by the state of California for a $500,000, 36-month renewable energy project that aims to dramatically reduce natural-gas-use residue and natural gas at its Samoa mill. The Public Interest Energy Research Natural Gas Program, a part of the California Energy Commission, awarded four contracts for research, development and demonstration of technologies to replace natural gas with renewable resources, to four applicants from among a pool of 25. The state’s focus for the contracts was for biomass-to-gas and/or hybrid projects specifically addressing industrial and commercial process heating or combined heat and power needs. Eureka Reporter - August 4, 2007.

    Greenline Industries, which designs and builds biodiesel production facilities, and ULEROM, one of Romania's largest agri-business corporations, today announced the formal opening of their largest facility in Vaslui, Romania. The plant will produce some 26.5 million liters (7 mio gallons) per year. The Romanian facility is the 17th example of Greenline's technology featuring waterless wash, computerized, continuous flow and modular construction. PRNewswire - August 1, 2007.

    US Renewables Holdings announced today that it has successfully closed on $475 million of third party capital commitments in its most recent private equity fund, USRG Power & Biofuels Fund II, LP and related vehicles (collectively, "Fund II"), ahead of the fund's original target of $250 million. PRNewswire - August 1, 2007.

    Malaysian palm oil company Kim Loong Resources Bhd has secured European energy trading group Vitol as buyer for all its carbon credits from its planned biogas plant in Kota Tinggi. The biogas facility generates methane from palm oil mill effluent, a waste product. The project is expected to generate over RM2 million (€423,000/US$579,000) of earnings annually. The methane capture and power generation project was registered and approved by the Clean Development Mechanism. The Edge Daily - July 31, 2007.

    GreenHunter Energy, Inc. announces that its wholly-owned subsidiary, GreenHunter BioFuels, Inc., located in Houston, Texas has successfully acquired Air Emission Permits from TCEQ (Texas Commission of Environmental Quality) under TCEQ's Permit by Rule (PBR) programs. These permits open the way for construction of a 105 million gallon per year (mgy) biodiesel facility including a separate but related methanol distillation facility. PRNewswire - July 30, 2007.

    Together with Chemical & Engineering News' Stephen K. Ritter, the journal Environmental Science & Technology sent Erika D. Engelhaupt to Brazil from where she wrote daily dispatches of news and observations about biofuels research. In particular she focuses on a bioenerrgy research partnership between the American Chemical Society, the Brazilian Chemical Society, and the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (EMBRAPA). Check out her blog. Dipatches from Brazil - July 28, 2007.

    Consultation is under way on a £50 million (€74/US$101million) renewable energy plant planned for the South Wales Valleys. Anglo-Dutch company Express Power plans to build a wood-fuelled biomass plant on Rassau Industrial Estate in Blaenau Gwent. The plant will generate an annual 160,000 MWh (Mega Watt hours) of green electricity for Wales from forestry, recycled wood and wood derivatives. ICWales - July 27, 2007.

    The price of New York crude leapt to 77.24 dollar a barrel on Thursday, marking the highest level since August 9, 2006, as keen global demand and tight supplies fuelled speculative buying, traders said. On Wednesday, the US government had revealed that inventories of American crude fell by 1.1 million barrels last week. France24 - July 26, 2007.

    Arriva, one of Europe's largest transport groups is trialling B20 biodiesel for the first time on 75 of its buses. The company is aiming to reduce total carbon emissions by around 14 per cent by using biodiesel as a 20 per cent blend (predominantly be a mixture of sustainable soya products, along with used cooking oil and tallow). The 75 buses in the innovative trial will carry around 130,000 passengers every week. Minimal engineering changes will be required to the fleet as part of the scheme. Arriva - July 26, 2007.

    Marathon Oil Corporation announces that it has completed two more projects adding biodiesel blended fuel at its Robinson and Champaign terminals in Illinois. The terminals now feature in-line ratio blending in order to provide soy-based B-2 (two percent biodiesel) and B-11 (eleven percent biodiesel). Marathon Oil - July 25, 2007.

    Norway-based renewable energy firm Global Green One has agreed to set up a € 101.6 million bioethanol plant in Békéscsaba (southeast Hungary), with more facilities planned for Kalocsa, Szombathely and Kõszeg, the latter of which was already a target for a €25 million plant in May this year. The Békéscsaba plant would process 200,000 tonnes of maize per year, employing around 100 people. The logistics part of the facility would also create 100 jobs. The company expects the factory to generate €65 million in revenues each year. Portfolio - July 25, 2007.

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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

SunEthanol secures funding for cellulosic ethanol technology based on 'Q Microbe'

SunEthanol Inc., a biofuels technology company, announced today that it has secured funding to commercialize the 'Q Microbe' (Clostridium phytofermentans), a unique natural bacteria capable of converting cellulose into ethanol. Series A financing for developing patent-pending cellulosic ethanol technology around the Q microbe has been provided by VeraSun Energy, Battery Ventures, Long River Ventures and AST Capital. SunEthanol’s Q Microbe technology, licensed from the University of Massachusetts, has the potential to make the production of ethanol from cellulose economically competitive.

SunEthanol’s Q Microbe and the cellulase enzyme it produces (image, click to enlarge) represents true consolidated bio-processing (CBP), a technology that consolidates multiple steps into a single efficient and natural process, potentially resulting in a lower cost of production and the ability to convert various forms of biomass into ethanol.

The microorganism was discovered by University of Massachusetts professor of microbiology, Dr. Susan Leschine in the soil of New England, near the Quabbin Reservoir, and is being developed for cellulosic ethanol production by Dr. Leschine and the SunEthanol lab team. Dr. Leschine serves as a senior advisor to SunEthanol. The team believes that the Q Microbe’s CBP process can be used with a wide variety of plentiful biomass feedstocks including: switchgrass, corn stover, wheat straw, sugar cane bagasse, and wood pulp. It can potentially be used in all parts of the world where biomass is plentiful.
University of Massachusetts faculty are among the most talented researchers in the world. We work hard to engender an academic environment that helps professors convert revolutionary discoveries to solutions to real-world problems and bring them to market. Spinning off new companies like SunEthanol is a win-win for the University and our state and nation’s economy—our professors and students are involved in basic and translational research that allows the University to foster new technologies, new companies and new jobs. - Jack M. Wilson, president of the University of Massachusetts.
Converting cellulose to ethanol is currently a complex, multi-step process. Cellulosic biomass - plant matter - is an abundant, low-cost source of stored energy. However, unlocking that embodied energy has presented a challenge. Cellulosic biomass is composed of highly ordered sugar polymers, which are shielded from enzyme attack by a matrix of other complex polymers. This makes biomass very difficult to break down into its constituent sugars, in order to ferment these sugars into ethanol:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Typically, cellulosic biomass must go through an intensive pretreatment step, after which enzymes are used to break down the biomass into simple sugars suitable for fermentation by yeast into ethanol. Enzymes, along with the intensive pretreatment required for their use, are the largest single cost component of cellulosic ethanol production. SunEthanol's technology eliminates the need for a separate enzymatic conversion step, and broadens pretreatment options.

SunEthanol's proprietary catalyst offers other potential advantages. It can process an unusually diverse range of biomass feedstocks. It is also able to ferment all fermentable components of biomass (both C5 and C6 sugars, as well as other saccharides and polysaccharides), and ethanol is its primary product.
The development of a CBP solution has long been the goal of the biofuels industry, and SunEthanol has proven that their microbiological process has unique capabilities to meet the industry’s objectives. This funding will give them the support needed to increase the performance and scale of their technology as they work toward bringing it to market. - Jason Matlof, partner at Battery Ventures.
SunEthanol is a biofuels technology company that is commercializing the Q Microbe, a proprietary cellulosic ethanol production technology. SunEthanol’s consolidated bio-processing (CBP) microbe technology is expected to consolidate multiple steps into one efficient and naturally-occurring process, potentially resulting in a lower cost of production and the ability to convert various forms of biomass into ethanol. SunEthanol's patent-pending technology was developed by Dr. Susan Leschine and her team of research scientists at UMass. The company is backed by VeraSun Energy, Battery Ventures, Long River Ventures and AST Capital.

Since 1983, Battery Ventures has been investing in technology and innovation worldwide. The firm partners with entrepreneurs and management teams across technology sectors, geographies and stages of a company’s life, from start-up and expansion financing, to growth equity and buyouts.

Battery has supported many breakthrough companies around the world, including: Airespace (acquired by Cisco), Akamai Technologies, Cbeyond, LIFFE (acquired by EuroNext), and Neoteris (acquired by Netscreen). Its current portfolio includes emerging firms such as Advent Solar, BladeLogic, Freshpoint, Lion Cells, NanoConduction and Netezza, as well as more established companies such as ITA Software, Consona Corporation, MetroPCS and Nova Analytics. From offices in Boston, Silicon Valley and Israel, Battery manages nearly $3 billion in committed capital, including its current fund of $750 million.

Long River Ventures is an early stage venture capital firm based in central and western Massachusetts. The firm invests in a mix of seed, start-up, and more advanced early stage companies, typically with revenues under $5MM per year. Long River focuses on identifying promising opportunities and entrepreneurs in the emerging technology and life science centers of New England outside of the traditional Boston and New York metro regions.

VeraSun Energy Corporation, headquartered in Brookings, South Dakota, is committed to be a leading producer of renewable fuel. The Company has three operating ethanol production facilities located in Aurora, SD, Fort Dodge, IA, and Charles City, IA, with three facilities under construction in Hartley, IA, Welcome, MN and Reynolds, IN. VeraSun is in the process of acquiring another three biorefineries currently under construction in Albion, NE, Bloomingburg, OH and Linden, IN. Upon completion of the new facilities and those being acquired, VeraSun will have an annual production capacity of approximately one billion gallons by the end of 2008. The Company also has plans to extract oil from dried distillers grains, a co-product of the ethanol process, for use in biodiesel production.

The Company markets E85, a blend of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline for use in Flexible Fuel Vehicles (FFVs), directly to fuel retailers under the brand VE85TM. VE85TM, the first-ever branded E85, is now available at more than 90 retail locations.

Image: A current research thrust of Dr. Leschine's laboratory is aimed at experimentally manipulating fermentation product formation by culturing microbes under conditions that promote the development of substrate-attached cellulose-decomposing communities known as “biofilms.” Surprisingly little is known about biofilm formation on cellulose, especially considering that biofilm production may dramatically affect cellulose decomposition. Presently, her team is focusing on Clostridium phytofermentans, a cellulose-fermenting microbe that produces H2 and exceptionally large amounts of ethanol. The image shows scanning electron micrographs of a C. phytofermentans biofilm on dialysis tubing (“regenerated cellulose”). A. Low magnification view of the biofilm showing cell aggregates on the surface of shredded dialysis tubing. B. Magnified section of biofilm showing individual cells embedded in a stringy extracellular matrix. Credit: Susan B. Leschine.

SunEthanol: bioprocessing technology.

Massachusetts Technology Transfer Center: Fuels from Biomass: Consolidated Bioprocessing of Biomass to Ethanol by Clostridium phytofermentans.

A. Warnick Thomas, A. Methe Barbara and B. Leschine Susan, "Clostridium phytofermentans sp. nov., a cellulolytic mesophile from forest soil" [*abstract], International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology, Vol 52, 1155-1160, 2002.

Susan B. Leschine: Microbial Physiology and Diversity: Cellulose and Chitin Decomposition, Biofilms on Natural Polymers, Fuels from Biomass, dept. of microbiology at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.


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