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Gene-Editing Algae Doubles Biofuel Output Potential – Another leap forward for sustainable biofuels

Scientists have created a strain of algae that produces twice as much lipid as its wild parent, a substance that can be processed into a biofuel.

https://www.sciencealert.com/gene-editing-algae-doubles-biofuel-output-potential

By using a combination of gene editing tools, including the famed CRISPR-Cas9 technique, they identified and switched off genes that limited the production of lipids. Creating an alga that can pump out commercial amounts of sustainably obtained biofuels.

“We are focused on understanding how to maximize the efficiency of [lipid production] algae and at the same time maximise the amount of CO2 converted to lipids in the cells, which is the component processed into biodiesel,” Eric Moellering, lead researcher from company Synthetic Genomics Inc, told ScienceAlert.

Scientists have been trying to make the concept of using phototropic algae to produce bio-diesel a reality since the 1970s. In the past, it has been said that a new energy sector based on algal biofuels could guarantee transport fuel and food security far into the future.

Despite years of research, the best attempts until now have been limited to industrial strains which, although they have a really high lipid conversion rate, do not make sufficient amounts of lipid to make it commercially viable – limited by the fact it can’t grow very fast.

“Early in the [study] we posed the basic question, can we engineer an alga to produce more lipids while sustaining growth? This publication provides the proof of concept answer to that question is yes,” said Moellering.

In this new research, the team used CRISPR-Cas9, among other editing techniques, and identified 20 transition factors that regulated lipid production. By knocking out 18 of these, the team were able to double the lipid output compared to the non-modified algae.

But here’s the important bit: they were able to do so without stunting the alga’s growth rate. It grew at the same rate as the unmodified type.

The genetically modified algae produced up to 5 grams of lipid per metre per day, about twice as much as in the wild.

Another important metric is the total carbon to lipid conversion. This tells us how efficient the algae is at converting CO2 to lipids. In wild, unmodified alga the conversation rate is about 20 percent, but in the engineered alga it converted 40 to 55 percent of carbon to lipids.

It’s worth pointing out that this study was only performed at the laboratory scale but one of the researchers, Imad Ajjawi, also from Synthetic Genomics, told ScienceAlert that while they consider this a ‘proof of concept’, “they represent a significant milestone in establishing the foundation for a path that leads to eventual commercialisation of algal biofuels.”

Should this research graduate from the lab, bio-fuel production would no longer be reliant on sugars produced by land-grown crops like sugar cane and maize. Studies on the use of crop based biodiesel has shown that it could prove to be incredibly costly and damage our food security.

This research is another win for gene editing and the researchers have shown that new genetic editing tools sit at the centre of talking some of the world’s biggest problems.

“We have also developed the necessary genomic and genetic tools that will enable future breakthroughs to advance this field,” said Ajjawi.

The study has been published in Nature Biotechnology.

The Future of Gas in Decarbonising European Energy Markets

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End derogations for polluting coal plants

Effective regulation of air pollutant emissions from coal-fired power plants could prevent 20,000 premature deaths every year.

http://airclim.org/acidnews/end-derogations-polluting-coal-plants

Establishing and enforcing air pollution standards that are in line with the best available techniques, could reduce the annual number of premature deaths in the EU caused by emissions from coal-fired power plants from 22,900 to 2,600, according to a new study by a coalition of environmental groups.

The report was published in October, ahead of an EU technical committee meeting on the final draft of the large combustion plant (LCP) BREF document. The report called on the Commission and member states to remove derogations and other loopholes from the draft BREF document.

According to the authors of the report, current legislation is failing to deliver its intended health benefits because special exceptions have been granted that allow for emissions that are higher than the agreed minimum requirements of the Industrial Emissions Directive (IED). Currently more than half of the coal power plants in the EU have been granted permissions to pollute beyond the limits set in the IED, with serious implications for public health and the environment. The pollution from these plants alone was responsible for 13,700 premature deaths in 2013, which represented 60 per cent of all coal-related deaths in the EU, the report said.

Through the revision of the LCP BREF document, the EU and member states now have an opportunity to adopt improved environmental performance standards. By agreeing stricter standards and implementing effective emission limits on coal pollution, real progress can be made in improving the health of people across Europe.

The report also called on the Commission and member states to review the directive’s minimum binding emission limit values, and update them to reflect the levels set in the revised LCP BREF. Emission limits and monitoring requirements should reflect what is now technically possible to ensure that EU legislation serves as a driver towards improved environmental performance across the EU.

“The best available techniques we call for in this report are all tried-and-tested and were already being demonstrated under technically and economically viable conditions decades ago. The EU considers itself a world leader on environmental issues but when it comes to coal combustion, decision makers have their heads stuck in a dark cloud!”, says Christian Schaible, Policy Manager on industrial production at the European Environmental Bureau (EEB).

Medical professionals have expressed support for the report; “Air pollution kills,” says Professor Bert Brunekreef of the European Respiratory Society. “Experts in lung health want to see immediate remedial action. Inaction cannot be justified when it is human health and lives that are at stake.”

As there are no techniques that completely eliminate emissions from the burning of coal and with coal power plants responsible for 18 per cent of the EU’s greenhouse gas emissions, the authors of the report conclude that truly lifting Europe’s Dark Cloud will require the complete phase-out of coal power.

“The health of European citizens cannot afford any further delay in enforcing new pollution standards. While the EU’s ultimate goal should be to commit to the complete phase-out of coal and to a transformation pathway to renewable energy and reduced energy consumption, the EU still needs to limit pollution from coal power plants with its deadly and costly impacts on people, health and the environment,” said Joanna Flisowska, Coal Policy Coordinator at CAN Europe.

Christer Ågren

The report “Lifting Europe’s Dark Cloud: How cutting coal saves lives” was produced jointly by the European Environmental Bureau (EEB), the Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL), Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe, WWF and Sandbag, and can be downloaded from: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/0B9LWbY1olzldSFF6TW1MZjBTUms

EEB press release on the outcome of the 20 October IED forum: http://www.eeb.org/index.cfm/news-events/news/now-the-talking-s-over-it-…

world gdp per region 2002

European partnership to investigate trans-sector technological potential to reduce carbon emissions

http://www.chemengonline.com/european-partnership-to-investigate-trans-sector-technological-potential-to-reduce-carbon-emissions/

Solvay S.A. (Brussels, Belgium; www.solvay), ArcelorMittal S.A. (Luxembourg; www.arcelormittal.com), Evonik Industries AG (Essen, Germany; www.evonik.com) and LafargeHolcim (Jona, Switzerland; www.lafargeholcim.com) today announce the formation of a new Low Carbon Technology Partnerships Initiative (LCPRi) across the steel, cement and chemicals industries. LCTPi is a set of programs, gathering 150 global businesses and 70 partners under the auspices of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, to accelerate the development of low-carbon technology solutions to stay below the 2°C ceiling.

This new partnership will look at the potential synergies that exist between the manufacturing processes of these three energy intensive sectors, and how these synergies could be harnessed to reducing CO2 emissions.

As a first step, and following preliminary research, the innovative partnership will produce a study, with the technical support of Arthur D. Little, to identify potential ways to valorize industrial off-gases and other by- products from their manufacturing processes to produce goods with a lower carbon footprint than through the fossil path. The preliminary research already allowed identifying significant potential in selected trans-sector pathways.

The study is aimed at bringing a fact-based overview of carbon and energy sources from industrial off-gases (first at a European level), and evaluating the technical, environmental and economic feasibility of different carbon capture and usage (CCU) pathways and their potential.

Initial findings from the first step already underway suggest that:

• Deploying cross-sector carbon capture and reuse opportunities on an industrial scale – something that does not happen today – could reduce up to 3 GT/y or 7% of global anthropogenic CO2 emissions
• Existing conversion technologies that could be deployed across the three sectors could utilise by- products in the off-gases to create building materials, organic chemicals and fuel. As an example, up to 1–2% (0.4–0.7 Gton/yr) of global anthropogenic CO2 could be reduced with the production of ethanol/methanol alone
• Increased availability and greater access to renewable energy sources, would significantly boost net carbon reduction efforts by those three sectors, within a supportive legislative framework
• Cross sector carbon capture and reuse should also result in job creation, to be further investigated

The study, carried out at European level, is building the ground for similar investigation extended at global level and paves the way for identifying and assessing industrial scale projects on CCU at the interface between the sectors.

Stefan Haver, senior vice president Corporate Responsibility of Evonik, said: “Cross-sector initiatives like this offer great opportunities to steer our economies towards improved sustainability and more circularity. That’s why Evonik strongly supports joined actions in low carbon technologies.”

Speaking in Marrakech, Michel Bande, Corporate Sustainability Officer and Liaison Delegate WBCSD of Solvay, said “The potential to reduce carbon emissions through better collaboration between the chemicals, steel and cement industries looks promising. European energy-intensive industries could, with new and innovative ways to work together, ultimately produce large volumes of final goods with a reduced carbon footprint. In this arena, the chemical industry is key thanks to its enabling technologies. Indeed, linking large sources of carbon with the expertise and processes of the chemical industry could become crucial to develop ground-breaking solutions helping to reach the 2°C goal. The World Business Council for Sustainable Development is instrumental in supporting the emergence of such partnerships that require long term cooperation and vision shared between industry and society”.

Carl de Maré, vice president head of Technology Strategy of ArcelorMittal, said: “We are excited to build a partnership that demonstrates our commitment to developing a low-carbon, circular economy steel business and explores the numerous efficiency opportunities across other energy intensive industries. We believe that steel is a perfect material for the circular economy, but key to exploiting our potential is establishing innovative cross-sector partnerships such as this. This will help us to develop and industrialize carbon re-use technologies, ensuring that waste products created from the steelmaking process are effectively harnessed and re-used, reducing our direct carbon footprint, but also creating commercially valuable products that have a lower carbon footprint than currently available alternatives.”

Bernard Mathieu, head Group Sustainable Development of LafargeHolcim, said: “Concrete offers the highest level of life-cycle sustainability performance and we are continuously developing new products and solutions for a low carbon society. This new ambitious partnership will support our mission to cut our net emissions per ton of cement by 40% towards 2030 (versus 1990) and to develop and further deploy low carbon solutions for the construction sector. But to make this a reality, we will need an enabling regulatory framework and support to innovation.”

Fuel from sewage is the future – and it’s closer than you think

Technology converts human waste into bio-based fuel

http://www.pnnl.gov/news/release.aspx?id=4317

Sludge from Metro Vancouver’s wastewater treatment plant has been dewatered prior to conversion to biocrude oil at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. Courtesy of WE&RF

Sludge from Metro Vancouver’s wastewater treatment plant has been dewatered prior to conversion to biocrude oil at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.
Courtesy of WE&RF

Biocrude oil, produced from wastewater treatment plant sludge, looks and performs virtually like fossil petroleum. Courtesy of WE&RF

Biocrude oil, produced from wastewater treatment plant sludge, looks and performs virtually like fossil petroleum.
Courtesy of WE&RF

RICHLAND, Wash. – It may sound like science fiction, but wastewater treatment plants across the United States may one day turn ordinary sewage into biocrude oil, thanks to new research at the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest national Laboratory.

The technology, hydrothermal liquefaction, mimics the geological conditions the Earth uses to create crude oil, using high pressure and temperature to achieve in minutes something that takes Mother Nature millions of years. The resulting material is similar to petroleum pumped out of the ground, with a small amount of water and oxygen mixed in. This biocrude can then be refined using conventional petroleum refining operations.

Wastewater treatment plants across the U.S. treat approximately 34 billion gallons of sewage every day. That amount could produce the equivalent of up to approximately 30 million barrels of oil per year. PNNL estimates that a single person could generate two to three gallons of biocrude per year.

Sewage, or more specifically sewage sludge, has long been viewed as a poor ingredient for producing biofuel because it’s too wet. The approach being studied by PNNL eliminates the need for drying required in a majority of current thermal technologies which historically has made wastewater to fuel conversion too energy intensive and expensive. HTL may also be used to make fuel from other types of wet organic feedstock, such as agricultural waste.

What we flush can be converted into a biocrude oil with properties very similar to fossil fuels. PNNL researchers have worked out a process that does not require that sewage be dried before transforming it under heat and pressure to biocrude. Metro Vancouver in Canada hopes to build a demonstration plant.

Using hydrothermal liquefaction, organic matter such as human waste can be broken down to simpler chemical compounds. The material is pressurized to 3,000 pounds per square inch — nearly one hundred times that of a car tire. Pressurized sludge then goes into a reactor system operating at about 660 degrees Fahrenheit. The heat and pressure cause the cells of the waste material to break down into different fractions — biocrude and an aqueous liquid phase.

“There is plenty of carbon in municipal waste water sludge and interestingly, there are also fats,” said Corinne Drennan, who is responsible for bioenergy technologies research at PNNL. “The fats or lipids appear to facilitate the conversion of other materials in the wastewater such as toilet paper, keep the sludge moving through the reactor, and produce a very high quality biocrude that, when refined, yields fuels such as gasoline, diesel and jet fuels.”

In addition to producing useful fuel, HTL could give local governments significant cost savings by virtually eliminating the need for sewage residuals processing, transport and disposal.

Simple and efficient

“The best thing about this process is how simple it is,” said Drennan. “The reactor is literally a hot, pressurized tube. We’ve really accelerated hydrothermal conversion technology over the last six years to create a continuous, and scalable process which allows the use of wet wastes like sewage sludge.”

An independent assessment for the Water Environment & Reuse Foundation calls HTL a highly disruptive technology that has potential for treating wastewater solids.

WE&RF investigators noted the process has high carbon conversion efficiency with nearly 60 percent of available carbon in primary sludge becoming bio-crude. The report calls for further demonstration, which may soon be in the works.

Demonstration Facility in the Works

PNNL has licensed its HTL technology to Utah-based Genifuel Corporation, which is now working with Metro Vancouver, a partnership of 23 local authorities in British Columbia, Canada, to build a demonstration plant.

“Metro Vancouver hopes to be the first wastewater treatment utility in North America to host hydrothermal liquefaction at one of its treatment plants,” said Darrell Mussatto, chair of Metro Vancouver’s Utilities Committee. “The pilot project will cost between $8 to $9 million (Canadian) with Metro Vancouver providing nearly one-half of the cost directly and the remaining balance subject to external funding.”

Once funding is in place, Metro Vancouver plans to move to the design phase in 2017, followed by equipment fabrication, with start-up occurring in 2018.

“If this emerging technology is a success, a future production facility could lead the way for Metro Vancouver’s wastewater operation to meet its sustainability objectives of zero net energy, zero odours and zero residuals,” Mussatto added.

Nothing left behind

In addition to the biocrude, the liquid phase can be treated with a catalyst to create other fuels and chemical products. A small amount of solid material is also generated, which contains important nutrients. For example, early efforts have demonstrated the ability to recover phosphorus, which can replace phosphorus ore used in fertilizer production.

Development of the HTL process was funded by DOE’s Bioenergy Technologies Office.

CEC Report: Electric Vehicle Battery Recycling to Surge

http://waste-management-world.com/a/cec-report-electric-vehicle-battery-recycling-to-surge

A new report outlining best practices to recapture and recycle the materials used in electric-drive vehicle (EDV) batteries once they reach end-of-life has been published by the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC).

According to the CEC, an organisation intended to facilitate collaboration and public participation to protect the environment in North America the context of increasing trade and social links among Canada, Mexico, and the US, the market in North America for electric-drive vehicles has surged over the last 10 years and the supply of end-of-life batteries for EDVs is expected to continue to increase.

The report sais that this represents a vital opportunity to recapture and recycle the valuable materials used in EDV batteries, such as nickel, cobalt, steel, and other components.

The study—carried-out in partnership with Environment Canada, Mexico’s Secretaría de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales (Semarnat) and Instituto Nacional de Ecología y Cambio Climático (INECC), and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) – examines how EDV batteries are currently managed at end-of-life across North America to best protect human health and the environment.

The report, Environmentally Sound Management of End-of-Life Batteries from Electric-Drive Vehicles in North America, warned that design changes to incorporate less costly materials in EDV batteries need to be assessed to ensure the continuing environmentally sound management of the batteries at end-of-life.

This report characterises the types, quantities, and composition of batteries used in EDVs in North America, and outlines best practices and technologies to support their environmentally sound management at end of life

Key Findings and recomendations

  • It is projected that about 276,000 EDV batteries will reach EOL in North America in 2015
  • Most of these batteries are likely to be nickel metal hydride (NiMH), which is the predominant battery chemistry used in HEVs
  • By 2030, almost 1.5 million EDV batteries will reach EOL. By that time, close to half the EOL EDV batteries will be lithium-based, with the remainder being NiMH batteries
  • The constituents of EDV batteries (mostly nickel from NiMH batteries and cobalt from Li-ion batteries) provide an economic incentive for recycling at this time. Battery designs are changing so that they contain less-valuable materials; this is a concern for the economics of future recycling efforts
  • Large auto manufacturers such as Toyota and Honda are establishing reverse supply chains to ensure that EOL EDV batteries are recovered and properly recycled
  • Companies already in the battery recycling business (Retriev, RMC, Umicore, Glencore/Xstrata, etc.) can process large-format NiMH and Li-ion batteries as long as they are broken down to smaller components (cells or packs). Companies with smelting operations (sometimes large global companies such as Umicore, Glencore/Xstrata, etc., with global supply chains) are interested in recycling EDV batteries because of their metal content
  • The economics of recycling EDV batteries depends on the value of the metals and other materials which can be recovered. In some cases, companies pay a credit against a processing fee. In other cases a tipping fee is charged
  • The recycling/processing infrastructure for EDV batteries is in its infancy, but large players are already in the market and are assessing options for future expansion. It is likely that more players will emerge over time as the supply of EOL EDV batteries increases.

According to the authors, governments should also be vigilant so that appropriate legislation is in place to support and promote the environmentally sound recycling of these batteries.

Energy, Climate Change & Environment

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Questions to Ask when Evaluating a Waste to Energy Incinerator Project or Proposal

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GASIFICATION THE WASTE-TO-ENERGY SOLUTION

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Waste-Derived Biogas: Global Markets for Anaerobic Digestion Equipment

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