Here’s an update on recent news items and other public policy developments relating to the U.S. Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), and the efforts to produce commercial quantities of cellulosic biofuels which qualify to generate Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs) under the RFS.
EPA qualifies additional pathways under the RFS. On February 22, EPA issued a Final Rule adding several new fuel production pathways to the list of approved pathways under the Renewable Fuel Standard. The rule establishes Camelina (Camelina sativa) oil as a feedstock for production of biomass-based diesel and naphtha and liquefied petroleum gas, and energy cane (certain hybrids derived from Saccharum spontaneum) as a feedstock for ethanol, qualified to generate Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs) as cellulosic biofuels. The rule also certified that renewable gasoline and renewable gasoline blendstock made from certain feedstocks such as crop residues and other waste products qualify as cellulosic biofuels, and clarified that renewable diesel explicitly includes jet fuel. This final rule arises from a proposed rule first published by EPA in January 2012, and the final rule includes all the provisions in the proposed rule, except that EPA is continuing to consider whether biofuels produced from giant reed (Arundo donax) or napier grass (Pennisetum purpureum) or biodiesel produced from esterification should qualify under the RFS. EPA received a significant number of comments to the proposed rule, citing the potential invasiveness of these two plant species and opposing the inclusion in the RFS of fuels produced from these species, EPA says it will make a final decision on these elements of the proposal at a later time. Those provisions that are part of the final rule will take effect 60 days after the rule’s formal publication in the Federal Register, which is expected shortly.
Further developments: legislation targeting cellulosic volume mandates. As previously reported, Rep. Gregg Harper (R-Miss.) introduced legislation, H.R. 550, or the “Phantom Fuel Reform Act of 2013,” that would require the EPA to base its cellulosic biofuel volume mandates under the RFS on the prior year’s actual production. An identical bill, S. 251, has now been introduced in the Senate by Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Az.) and two cosponsors. In addition, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wisc.) has filed a similar bill in the House, H.R. 796, that would require EPA to set yearly cellulosic mandates based on the commercially available volume of cellulosic biofuels, and to make corresponding reductions to the Renewable Fuels and Advanced Biofuels volume mandates whenever the cellulosic mandates are reduced. Although most industry observers believe that the RFS will continue to be in jeopardy this year from challenges by Republican legislators, the prospects for these particular bills is unclear at this time, and it is unlikely that any of them will pass Congress in their present form.
Cellulosic fuel projections for 2013. In an online report, Bloomberg News predicts that production of cellulosic biofuels will rise almost 20-fold in 2013 compared to 2012. Based on data from the Energy Information Administration, the report projected that 9.6 million gallons of cellulosic fuels will be produced this year, substantially up from the 500,000 gallons produced in 2012 but less than the RFS-mandated 1 billion gallons.
Progress towards commercial production of cellulosic fuels. A number of recent publications have described commercial-scale and demonstration-scale plants for the production of cellulosic fuels that are planned, under construction, or operational. One of these was a 35-page report profiling U.S. and Canadian cellulosic biofuels facilities and development projects, released by the Advanced Ethanol Council. I have summarized the information presented in this report and other published reports about commercial cellulosic ethanol projects in North America, Europe and Brazil, in two entries in my Advanced Biotechnology for Biofuels blog, which you can access here and here.
Blue Sugars cellulosic plant files for bankruptcy. Western Biomass Energy LLC, a cellulosic ethanol facility based in Upton, Wyoming that is a subsidiary of Blue Sugars Corporation (formerly KL Energy), has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. This facility gained notoriety last year when it became the first to generate RINs for cellulosic ethanol, for 20,000 gallons of production that were exported to Brazil to partner Petrobras. Blue Sugars has said that a reorganization plan is in the works for the Wyoming facility.
Previous Biofuel Policy Watch posts on RFS policy:
- February 12, 2013: Renewable Fuel Standard News
- February 1, 2013: EPA’s 2013 Proposed Rules under the RFS
- January 25, 2013: Appeals Court Ruling on Cellulosic Volume Mandate
- January 15, 2013: RFS Issues and Controversies Part 2
- January 14, 2013: RFS Issues and Controversies Part 1
D. Glass Associates, Inc. is a consulting company specializing in government and regulatory support for renewable fuels and industrial biotechnology. David Glass, Ph.D. is a veteran of over thirty years in the biotechnology industry, with expertise in industrial biotechnology regulatory affairs, U.S. and international renewable fuels regulation, patents, technology licensing, and market and technology assessments. Dr. Glass also serves as director of regulatory affairs for Joule Unlimited Technologies, Inc. More information on D. Glass Associates’ government and regulatory consulting capabilities, and copies of some of Dr. Glass’s prior presentations on biofuels and biotechnology regulation, are available at www.slideshare.net/djglass99 and at www.dglassassociates.com. The views expressed in this blog are those of Dr. Glass and D. Glass Associates and do not represent the views of Joule Unlimited Technologies, Inc. or any other organization with which Dr. Glass is affiliated. Please visit our other blog, Advanced Biotechnology for Biofuels.