Biden win shines spotlight on renewable fuels
President Elect Joe Biden looks set to harness growing bipartisan support for renewable fuels as the Democratic Party steers the US in a new green energy direction.
Biden, who has pledged to move the US to a zero-carbon emissions scheme by 2050, may see renewable fuels - whose development is supported by oil and green energy industries - as a way of bypassing a divided Congress.
Some refiners have been investing in cleaner fuels derived from feedstocks like cooking oil, taking advantage of state subsidies that have been designed to reduce carbon emissions, a Reuters report says. State and federal incentives could expand that market, giving energy companies revenue opportunities, while reducing carbon emissions, the report continues.
“I don’t see any reason why a divided Congress would have a problem encouraging renewable fuels, as it affects key states that Democrats and Republicans are motivated in,” Bill Barnes, director of energy consultancy Pisgah Partners, was quoted as saying.
The US consumes roughly 21 million barrels of renewable diesel per year, compared with 4.1 million barrels daily for conventional distillate fuel oil, according to data released by the US Energy Department.
However, the US oil market has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, with demand for motor gasoline falling by 13 percent so far in 2020, forcing several refineries to close or convert operations to produce more biodiesel.
Many refineries have announced plans this year to convert their facilities for renewable diesel production, supported by state incentives. In the state of California, refiners can generate tradable credits by producing renewable diesel because it has a lower carbon intensity when compared to fossil fuels and sell them on to other fuel producers.
Oregon has a similar program, while several other US states are also developing standards for renewable diesel, the report adds.
Legislators in Farm Belt states such as Minnesota, Iowa and Illinois could see the market as a way to help boost demand for their constituents’ products.
Despite this, it remains unclear whether renewable fuels legislation could pass a Republican-led Senate, with senators representing oil states likely to push back against legislation that transitions away from the oil industry.
The oil industry has been braced for more federal incentives for renewables if Biden won the presidency, as he had stated in August that “a Biden-Harris Administration will promote and advance renewable energy, ethanol, and other biofuels to help rural America and our nation’s farmers, and will honour the critical role the renewable fuel industry plays in supporting the rural economy and the leadership role American agriculture will play in our fight against climate change.”
The production of renewable diesel will also help refiners reduce their exposure to costs to comply with US biofuel blending obligations, says Stewart Glickman, energy analyst at CFRA Research.
“If you have something optically ESG-friendly, that probably carries more weight today than it used to,” he says.
The Democratic party aims to increase investment in clean energy and especially water technologies and efficiencies, according to its 'Building a stronger, fairer economy' report (click here).
It will also strive to "close the digital divide" that deprives more than 20 million Americans of high-speed internet access, by investing in broadband and 5G technology, including rural and municipal broadband.
Sakuu Corporation creates 3D printer for EV batteries
Sakuu Corporation has announced a new industrial-grade 3D printer for e-mobility batteries which it claims will unlock the mainstream adoption of electric vehicles.
Offering an industrial scale ‘local’ battery production capability, Sakuu believes the technology will provide increased manufacturer and consumer confidence. Sakuu’s Alpha Platform for its initial hardware offering will be available in Q4.
Backed by Japanese automotive parts supplier to major OEMs, Musashi Seimitsu, Sakuu is set to enable fast and high-volume production of 3D printed solid-state batteries (SSBs) that, compared with lithium-ion batteries, have the same capacity yet are half the size and almost a third lighter.
The company’s KeraCel-branded SSBs will also use around 30%-50% fewer materials – which can be sourced locally – to achieve the same energy levels as lithium-ion options, significantly reducing production costs. Sakuu anticipates the 3D printer’s attributes being easily transferable to a host of different applications in other industry sectors.
"For the e-mobility markets specifically, we believe this to be a landmark achievement, and one that could transform consumer adoption of electric vehicles,” said Robert Bagheri, Founder, CEO and chairman, Sakuu Corporation. “SSBs are a holy grail technology, but they are both very difficult and expensive to make. By harnessing the flexibility and efficiency-enhancing capabilities of our unique and scalable AM process, we’re enabling battery manufacturers and EV companies to overcome these fundamental pain points."
The ability to provide on-demand, localised production will create more efficient manufacturing operations and shorter supply chains, he added.
Sakuu will initially focus on the two-, three- and smaller four-wheel electric vehicle market for whom the company’s SSB proposition delivers an obvious and desirable combination of small form factor, low weight and improved capacity benefits. The agility of Sakuu’s AM process also means that customers can easily switch production to different battery types and sizes, as necessary, for example to achieve double the energy in the same space or the same energy in half the space.
Beyond energy storage, Sakuu’s development of print capability opens complex end device markets previously closed off to current 3D printing platforms. These include active components like sensors and electric motors for aerospace and automotive; power banks and heatsinks for consumer electronics; PH, temperature and pressure sensors within IoT; and pathogen detectors and microfluidic devices for medical, to name a few.
"As a cheaper, faster, local, customisable and more sustainable method of producing SSBs – which as a product deliver much higher performance attributes than currently available alternatives – the potential of our new platform offers tremendous opportunities to users within energy, as well as a multitude of other markets," said Bagheri.
Ongoing research and new funding collaborations
Omega Seiki, a part of Anglian Omega Group of companies, has partnered with New York-based company C4V to introduce SSBs for EVs and the renewable sector in India. As part of an MoU, the two companies are also looking at the manufacturing of SSBs in the country, according to reports.
Solid Power, which produces solid-state batteries for electric vehicles, recently announced a $130 million Series B investment round led by the BMW Group, Ford Motor Company and Volta Energy Technologies. Ford and the BMW Group have also expanded existing joint development agreements with Solid Power to secure all solid-state batteries for future EVs. Solid Power plans to begin producing automotive-scale batteries on the company's pilot production line in early 2022.
"Solid-state battery technology is important to the future of electric vehicles, and that's why we're investing directly," said Ted Miller, Ford's manager of Electrification Subsystems and Power Supply Research. "By simplifying the design of solid-state versus lithium-ion batteries, we'll be able to increase vehicle range, improve interior space and cargo volume, deliver lower costs and better value for customers and more efficiently integrate this kind of solid-state battery cell technology into existing lithium-ion cell production processes."
A subsidiary of Vingroup, Vietnam’s largest private company, Vinfast has signed an MoU with SSB manufacturer ProLogium - which picked up a bronze award at the recent Edison Awards - to accelerate commercialisation of batteries for EVs (click here).
Xin Li, Associate Professor of Materials Science, Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, is designing an SSB for ultra-high performance EV applications. The ultimate goal is to design a battery "that outperforms internal combustion engines so electrical vehicles accelerate the transition from fossil-fuel-based energy to renewable energy," according to The Harvard Gazette.
The dramatic increase in EV numbers means that the potential battery market is huge. McKinsey projects that by 2040 battery demand from EVs produced in Europe will reach a total of 1,200GWh per year, which is enough for 80 gigafactories with an average capacity of 15GWh per year.