The first day of our sixth annual conference, Biomass 2013: How the Advanced Bioindustry is Reshaping American Energy, is complete. If you missed our live tweeting or couldn't attend the conference, check out some of our key highlights below.
A Welcome Message from Valerie Reed
Acting Director of the Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) Valerie Reed gave the welcoming address and talked about the exciting sessions coming up for the day. She also gave attendees a small taste of the succcesses we've had so far, such as meeting the cellulosic cost target and the partnership with the first commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol biorefinery in the United States. Reed also touched upon the challenges ahead for the industry, such as the need for rapid growth in deployment in order to meet the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) targets and the misinformed opposition campaign against the bioindustry. "We have to keep moving forward in biofuels," Reed said. She finished with a look ahead for the Office, discussing BETO's new technology pathways approach. More information on the pathways can be found online.
Introductory Keynotes, Michael Carr and Senator Grassley
Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Michael Carr, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), provided the introductory keynotes on the first day, focusing on the Renewable Fuel Standard. Senator Grassley expressed his outspoken support of the RFS: "I dismiss any notion to open or change the RFS," he remarked. "The success of the RFS is just beginning."
Energy and Climate Change, Dan Utech
The Deputy Director for Energy and Climate Change at the White House Domestic Policy Council, Dan Utech, provided the Obama Administration's point of view on the bioindustry. He discussed President Obama's "all of the above" renewable energy approach, and affirmed the role that biofuels play in that strategic priority: "Biofuels have to be part of the solution [to meet Obama's 2020 climate goals]," Utech insisted. "The President is strongly committed to the clean energy agenda. We are strongly committed to renewables across the board." To learn more about the Administration's plan, visit the White House's Energy, Climate Change, and Environment pages.
Big News from INEOS Bio, Dan Cummings
Dan Cummings, Vice President of INEOS Bio, made the formal announcement of the opening of the first commercial-scale biorefinery relying on waste-dervied cellulosic ethanol in the United States at their Indian River site. The $130 million project has added more than 65 full-time jobs and $4 million in payroll to the local economy in Florida. In addition to that, the plant purchased approximately 90% of its equipment from U.S. companies. To learn more about the new INEOS facility, read their formal announcement.
Celebrating Successes: The Foundation of an Advanced Bioindustry
Representatives from the Renewable Fuels Association, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and two of BETO's integrated biorefinery partners discussed the progress in the ethanol industry, cellulosic technology advances, biochemicals, and RIN generator technolgoy. Bob Dinneen, President and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association discussed the tremendous leaps the biofuels industry had made to date: "There were 600 million gallons of biofuels when I first started. There are 13.5–14 billion gallons of high-quality biofuels today, and more than 400,000 related jobs across the country," Dinneen said. He also noted that the industry is adding billions of gallons per year, as compared to the 13 year span it took to establish the first billion gallons. He also spoke extensively on ethanol blending, noting that, "We have to overcome the blend wall. Ethanol production is displacing 10% of the liquid fuel supply in this country."
Tom Foust, the Director of the National Bioenergy Center at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, talked about the significant cost improvements of ethanol and the move towards cost-competitve cellulosic ethanol production. Susan Hager, a Senior Vice President at Myriant, spoke about succinic acid production at their facility. "We're producing bio-succinic acid with no green premium cost while reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 94% versus the petroleum-derived industry," Hager stated. She also mentioned her appreciation of BETO support, specifically mentioning the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding that Myriant received to build their successful biorefinery. Lastly, Josh Kasbaum, a Senior Vice President with KiOR, discussed their company's sustainable approach to developing biomass and biofuels. "Cellulosic biofuels facilities have to be located where biomass is located, hence greatly fostering rural economies," Kasbaum said. To learn more about KiOR, Myriant, and other similar projects, visit BETO's integrated biorefinery Web page.
Anne Steckel spoke on successes in the industry so far." (Photo courtesy of the National Biodiesel Board)
The Vice President of Federal Affairs at the National Biodiesel Board, Anne Steckel, wrapped up the morning by touching on a few other successes. One of her key topics was the importance of pursuing multiple feedstocks and conversion techniques. "Diversification equals energy affordability," Steckel exclaimed.
Bioenergy Policy, Margo Oge
Former Environmental Protection Agency employee and current Visiting Scholar at the International Council on Clean Transportation Margo Oge launched the afternoon segment of the first day. Oge focused specifically on the RFS, blending, and transportation changes. "We need to dramatically reduce the carbon footprint of our vehicles and fuels. We need to start expanding the E15 infrastructure," Oge remarked. "Ethanol blends are here to stay, whether RFS remains or not. We must craft more policies good for country, industry, and economy. The second generation of biofuels is an essential part of [the solution]."
Margo Oge explains, "The collaboration of all stakeholders lead to the best decisions and efforts." (Photo courtesy of BCS, Incorporated)
Current Trends in the Advanced Bioindustry
A panel led by BETO's Neil Rossmeissl featured a discussion on the current state of technology, finance mechanisms, and climate change. A memorable moment came from an answer from Michael McAdams, President of the Advanced Biofuels Association. "The United States accounts for 48% of biofuels produced on earth. The biofuel subject matter expert ecosystem is getting bigger, and is well alive."
A large portion of the first afternoon was dedicated to several breakout sessions, where attendees could decide to participate in discussions around clean manufacturing, biofuels in the military and aviation sectors, microbial production, natural gas and biomass-to-liquids technology, or capacity-building and ground-breaking efforts. In the microbial production session, titled "Beyond Biofuels," ARPA-E representative Ramon Gonzalez discussed the portfolio of electric fuel projects, noting that ARPA-E has more than 40 papers on the subject and more than 15 patents. Dan Robertson, Chief Scientific Officer of Joule Unlimited, also joined that session; he noted that Joule Unlimited is striving for 14% photosynthetic efficiency. In the aviation and military session, Casey Howard, a military legislative assistant in Senator Mark Udall's (D-CO) office, stated that use of biofuels was "not part of the radical environmental agenda. We have a real interest in conservation. From the planet...to national security." Steve Csonka, Executive Director of the Commercial Aviation Alternative Fuels Research Initiative, highlighted the curent efforts in the field. "We're making progress on every front: R&D, Demonstration, Certification/Qualification, Environment, Business. Regional and global engagement is vital," Csonka stated. Nate Brown of the Federal Aviation Administration and Chris Tindal with the Secretary of the Navy for Energy both talked about the importance of further developing a partnership with the Department of Energy. "One of the key success factors is strong partnership between government and industry," Brown said. "[Renewable fuels] being produced domestically is very, very important," added Tindal. To learn more about BETO's efforts in renewable aviation- and military-grade fuels, read the formal announcement on project funding.
Closing Remarks: New Directions and New Business Opportunities for BETO, Valerie Reed
BETO's Acting Director Valerie Reed finished the day off with a brief discussion of where BETO is headed in the future. "We're moving into 'new start' areas that include bioproducts. Bioproducts can play a big role in the economics [of the industry]," Reed explained. She gave participants just a small glimpse into the new Office initiatives for fiscal year 2014: the technology incubator program, waste-to-energy work, carbon fiber, and natural gas partnerships.
Visit the blog later this week to get a recap of Day 2 at Biomass 2013.