Minnesota’s Bioincentive Program: In 2015, the Minnesota legislature created a new incentive program to attract commercial-scale production of advanced biofuels, renewable chemicals, and biomass thermal energy. The incentive is administered by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture through its Agricultural Growth, Research, and Innovation Program. Eligible facilities must be in Minnesota and must source at least 80 percent of their raw materials from the organic portion of solid waste, agricultural, or forestry sources in Minnesota. Additionally, eligible facilities must begin producing biofuels, renewable chemicals, or biomass thermal energy before June 30, 2025. This includes new facilities as well as existing facilities with significant retrofits to allow new production.
Please visit the Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s website for specific program information or to begin an application.
Advanced Biofuels: One benefit of the bioincentive program is that it has supported commercial deployment of corn kernel cellulosic ethanol. It helps existing ethanol plants retrofit to produce cellulosic ethanol. A corn kernel is made up of starch, protein, biomass, oil, and other components. A traditional corn ethanol plant produces ethanol from the starch component, and the remainder becomes high-protein animal feed (known as distiller’s grains). New technology deploys advanced enzymes to produce sugar, and subsequently ethanol, from the biomass component of the corn kernel. This results in increased ethanol production without the need for additional grain inputs and still produces high-protein animal feed. This cellulosic ethanol receives a lower carbon intensity score than traditional starch ethanol and can receive additional value in states with clean fuels policies. At this point, five ethanol plants in Minnesota have deployed this technology.
Anaerobic Digestion: Anaerobic digestion (AD) is the breakdown of organic manner in a controlled, oxygen-free environment that produces biogas and digestate. Biogas, the primary product, is a mixture of methane, carbon dioxide, and other gases that can be combusted for heat or electricity or cleaned up to pipeline-gas quality for use in vehicles and other applications. Digestate, the secondary product, is an organic residue that can be used as a fertilizer. In partnership with the Bioeconomy Coalition of Minnesota and other stakeholders like the Partnership on Waste and Energy, the Great Plains Institute (GPI), which facilitates the Coalition, has continued to investigate the role, benefits, and challenges of using AD as a waste management strategy and pathway to the production of renewable natural gas (RNG).
In 2018, GPI published an Anaerobic Digestion Evaluation Study, which assessed the prevalence of AD in Europe and North America, provided an overview on some of the AD technology currently in use, and highlighted case studies that showcase the variety of potential feedstocks, technologies, and end uses.
In 2020, GPI worked with the Partnership on Waste and Energy to produce a report, Policy and Regulatory Considerations to Develop Food Waste Digestion in Minnesota, which examined existing policies and regulations surrounding AD in Minnesota and in a handful of other states. The report also included a list of policy considerations encouraging the use of AD for food waste management in the state.
In an important move toward expanding the RNG market in Minnesota, the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) approved CenterPoint Energy’s interconnection petition, allowing the utility to accept RNG into their pipelines if the RNG satisfies CenterPoint Energy’s gas quality standards. The Bioeconomy Coalition of Minnesota supported CenterPoint Energy’s petition and submitted comments to the PUC in June 2020 backing the petition.
Emerging Forestry Market Opportunities: In 2017, the Bioeconomy Coalition of Minnesota established the Minnesota Bioeconomy Commercialization Consortium, which named emerging markets for wood a promising area of interest for the bioeconomy. The challenges facing the forestry industry in Minnesota, such as loss of timber markets and the Emerald Ash Borer, and the opportunities that could remedy these issues, such as biochar and wood pellet production, continue to be relevant to the coalition’s mission. In 2020, GPI published a white paper, Emerging Market Opportunities for Minnesota’s Forest Products Industry, which provides an overview on global and national forest industry trends, opportunities for Minnesota, and recommendations to support emerging market opportunities in the state.
Minnesota Clean Fuels Policy: A technology-neutral, performance-focused clean fuels policy (CFP) is an initiative spearheaded by GPI and is supported by a wide variety of stakeholders. If enacted, the policy would drive the production and use of low-carbon fuels, compensate farmers for farming practices that store carbon and reduce nitrogen oxide, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transportation fuels. GPI published a white paper in 2020, A Clean Fuels Policy for the Midwest, which lays out a vision and guiding principles for the design of a Midwestern CFP. The paper was developed by the Midwestern Clean Fuels Policy Initiative, a broad stakeholder effort facilitated by GPI.
Both the Minnesota Governor’s Council on Biofuels and the Minnesota Department of Transportation’s Sustainable Transportation Advisory Council included the development of a Minnesota CFP in their recommendations. Additionally, the State of Minnesota’s 2022/2023 biennial transportation budget released by the governor’s office in January 2021 includes the development of a CFP based on the recommendations from the Governor’s Council on Biofuels and Governor’s Climate Change Subcabinet in collaboration with a variety of stakeholders.
Following the support from state agencies and the governor, and with additional support by 25 members of the Future Fuels Coalition, the Future Fuels Act (FFA) was introduced at the Minnesota House on March 10, 2021. The legislation seeks to implement a clean fuels standard with the goal of reducing carbon intensity of transportation fuels by 20% by 2035. Supporters of the Future Fuels Act continue to conduct outreach to legislators to express their support for the bill with the goal of passing the legislation into law.
If the FFA passes, it will support many industries in the bioeconomy including food waste anaerobic digesters, advanced biofuels, wood-based renewable diesel, and others.