Biorefineries to Produce Advanced Biofuels for Military

Today the Departments of Navy, Energy and Agriculture announced that three companies have been awarded contracts to construct and commission biorefineries to produce “drop-in” biofuels for the military and private sectors. Made through the Department of Defense’s (DOD) Defense Protection Act (DPA) of 1950, the awards support the Administration’s goals to boost and diversify the domestic fuel supply base, make American warfighters less beholden to volatile oil markets, and strengthen national security.

us logos“The contracts being announced today will help expand the operational capability of our Navy and Marine Corps around the world,” said Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus. “In today’s complex fiscal environment, we are balancing our mission with our resources and we must be innovative and forward-thinking. Programs like these help keep our operational capabilities on the cutting edge. This is how Sailors and Marines defend our great nation.”

In total, these projects will produce more than 100 million gallons of military grade fuel beginning in 2016 and 2017 at a price competitive with their petroleum counterparts.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said of the announcement, “This is a tremendous announcement for America’s national security and our economy. Any time our military can use more American grown fuels instead of relying on foreign sources it makes our armed forces more energy secure. And the expansion of our advanced biofuel sector means the creation of good jobs across the country, especially in many of our rural communities.”

The drop-in alternative fuels can be blended at a 50/50 ratio with traditional fossil fuels. This blend was successfully demonstrated during the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) demonstration in 2012 for ships and planes, showing firsthand that this fuel can be utilized in Navy’s warfighting platforms with no degradation to performance or mission. As these fuels become more available, the Department of the Navy will make advanced drop-in biofuel a regular part of its bulk fuel procurement, ushering in the “new normal” of Naval supremacy.

“Advanced biomass-based transportation fuels have the potential to provide a reliable and cost-effective alternative to traditional fuel sources,” said Deputy Energy Secretary Daniel Poneman. “By advancing technologies that reduce our carbon emissions, this multi-agency partnership is demonstrating that by protecting our energy and environmental security, we will enhance our national security as well.”

The companies receiving federal investments for the construction and commissioning of biorefineries are:

  • Emerald Biofuels: To build an 82 million gallon per year refinery on the Gulf Coast using waste fats to create military grade fuel.
  • Fulcrum BioEnergy: To build a 10 million gallon per year refinery in McCarran, Nev. using municipal solid waste as its feedstock and the Fischer-Tropsch process to create fuel. On Sept. 4, USDA announced a $105 million Biorefinery Assistance Program loan guarantee to Fulcrum BioEnergy for the construction of this facility.
  • Red Rock Biofuels: To build a 12 million gallon per year refinery in Lakeview, Ore. using woody biomass, or the by-products of forest management, as its feedstock and the Fischer-Tropsch process to create a refined product.

This effort brought by the U.S. Departments of Agriculture, Energy, and Navy, along with partners in the private sector, will expand military fuel sources, improving the reliability of our overall fuel supply, adding resilience against supply disruptions, and giving the military more fuel options to maintain its readiness and defend the national security interests of the United States.

Volvo Releases All Electic Hybrid Bus

Volvo will be introducing its new 7900 Electric Hybrid during the International IAA Commercial Vehicles show in September 25-October 22 in Hannover. The EV bus is silent, cleaner and with significantly lower fuel consumption and Volvo has already signed contracts with several European cities for the first deliveries.

Volvo Electric Vehicle Hybrid Bus“I am very proud to launch this ground-breaking bus system. Electric-hybrid buses and full-electric buses are tomorrow’s solution for urban public transport. They will allow us to reduce energy consumption, air pollution, climate impact and noise, which are some of the biggest challenges facing large cities worldwide,” said Håkan Agnevall, President Volvo Bus Corporation.

Noise is a growing problem in many cities. The noise level beside an Electric Hybrid is 65 decibels, that is to say normal conversation level. The Volvo 7900 Electric Hybrid runs in electric mode on average 70 percent of the route, silent and emission-free.

The Volvo 7900 Electric Hybrid offers flexibility in operation; it can run as an electric bus in selected areas, but performs as a hybrid on any route. Charging at end stations takes 6 minutes. A number of European cities are showing a keen interest in Volvo’s Electric Hybrids. Hamburg, Luxembourg and Stockholm will implement the new bus system in 2014 and 2015. Series production is scheduled to start in early 2016.

Gevo’s Plant Co-producing Isobutanol & Ethanol

Gevo’s plant in Luverne, Minnesota is now co-producing isobutanol and ethanol with one fermenter dedicated to isobutanol production and three fermenters dedicated to ethanol production. With the completion of the last phase of capital for SBS, Gevo has begun to produce and ship isobutanol in railcar volumes.gevo logo

This equipment facilitates the extraction of isobutanol from the plant, which should enable Gevo to boost production levels of isobutanol by debottlenecking the downstream side of the plant. This distillation equipment was commissioned in early September and is already showing improved results at the plant, such as:

  • A doubling of isobutanol batch sizes;
  • A 50% reduction in isobutanol batch turnaround times;
  • Consistent yields of >90% based on starch content; and
  • A continued decrease in isobutanol production costs towards targeted
    economic rates.

“We are on track with the SBS. We completed the installation of our isobutanol distillation column and it operates well. We are continuing to boost isobutanol production levels while simultaneously driving cost out of our production processes. We are pleased to be shipping both ethanol and isobutanol in railcar quantities. This isobutanol is destined for the solvents and specialty gasoline blendstock markets, as well as to supply our demo plant in Silsbee, TX, to convert our isobutanol into hydrocarbons such as bio-jet fuel and isooctane,” said Dr. Patrick Gruber, Gevo’s CEO.

Gruber continued, “By installing the last phase of capital at Luverne, we remain confident that we will be able to achieve production levels of 50-100 thousand gallons of isobutanol per month by the end of 2014. As we continue to learn and optimize the isobutanol production process, we believe we can ultimately increase our production rate to approximately 2-3 million gallons of isobutanol per annum under the SBS, while we are producing ethanol in the other three fermenters.”

BioEnergy Bytes

  • BioEnergyBytesDFThe Maryland Energy Administration (MEA) has announced the launch of the third round of the Game Changer Competitive Grant Program. The Game Changer Competitive Grant Program is designed to support novel renewable energy (electric and/or thermal) systems or deployment strategies. Successful projects must result in additional renewable energy capacity installed in the state of Maryland, within the grant period. MEA expects to grant awards for successful proposals in the range of $50,000-$250,000 per project. MEA anticipates a cost sharing scheme with applicants whereby MEA would cover up to thirty percent.
  • Jess Hewitt with Gulf Hydrocarbon, Inc. will be leading a panel discussion about making and delivering renewable fuels in the Midwest during the Midwest International Energy Symposium taking place in Bettendorf, Iowa on October 9, 2014. Panel members include Jason Marquis of Marquis Energy, Dave Cepla of Envergent technologies, Judd Hulting of Patriot Fuels and Glenn Johnston of GEVO. Register now.
  • Alstom has announced the third shift of its wind turbines factory located in Camaçari, State of Bahia, Brazil, which will now reach a total manufacturing and assembly capacity of up to 900 MW per year. When the factory was inaugurated in 2011, its total production capacity was 300 MW. This was enhance in 2012 to 600 MW. Three years after its inauguration, the factory has thus tripled its capacity. As a consequence, the additional investment in Camaçari unit will be worth €3 million in the next 4 months.
  • Liberty Power announced that it will donate renewable energy certificates (RECs) to match 100 percent of the estimated electricity usage at the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s (USHCC) Annual Convention. This is the second year in a row the retail energy supply company will donate RECs as part of their sponsorship of the event. The USHCC Annual Convention will take place at the Grand America Hotel in Salt Lake City, Utah, from September 21 – 23. Liberty Power will supply enough RECs from United States wind energy facilities to match the estimated consumption for the event’s venue throughout the three-day convention.

10 Facts About Geothermal Energy in Oregon

geothermal power plantThe GRC Annul Meeting and Geothermal Energy Expo is taking place September 28-October 1, 2014 in Portland, Oregon. To get people excited, the Geothermal Energy Association has created 10 facts about geothermal energy in Oregon.

  1. There is about 33 MW of geothermal power on-line in Oregon producing 165 GWh in 2013.
  2. The latest industry survey identified 19 projects under development in Oregon with estimated subsurface resources of 340 MW that developers expect could provide 60 MW of additional power within the next few years if appropriate contracts are secured.
  3. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that there are an additional 500 MW of discovered geothermal power resources in Oregon and 1,800 MW of undiscovered resources.
  4. Geothermal power provides affordable power according to studies produced in 2014 by the Energy Information Agency, Bloomberg New Energy Finance, California Public Utilities Commission and others.
  5. Geothermal power provides significant numbers of permanent jobs. For every 100MW of geothermal power there are 170 permanent jobs supported and development of 100MW of new projects produces over 600 annual construction and manufacturing jobs.
  6. According to studies geothermal has the lowest life-cycle emission of any renewable technology besides hydropower.
  7. Geothermal power projects have the lowest land density compared to any other renewable power technology.
  8. Geothermal power plants can be engineered to be firm and flexible power sources in addition to being source of a renewable baseload power.
  9. Geothermal fields can operate for 30 years or longer, the largest geothermal field in North America, the Geysers in California celebrated its 50th birthday this year. Geothermal fields in Italy have been generating electricity since 1912.
  10. Every additional megawatt of geothermal power can enable the installation of 3 to 5 megawatt of additional intermittent power like solar and wind power.

Registration is still open. Click here for more information.

Biodiesel Helps Iowa Football Make Winning Drive

iowafootballbus1Iowa is one of the biggest biodiesel producing states in the country, so it makes sense that one of their flagship football teams uses the green fuel to get it to the field this year. The Iowa Soybean Association is touting the fact that biodiesel, mostly made from soybean oil, is being used to power the University of Iowa Hawkeyes’ team bus, and the association is a proud sponsor.

“Iowa farmers excel at providing food, fuel and fiber,” said Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) President Tom Oswald, who farms near Cleghorn. “Biodiesel is a win for the state’s economy and environment. Teaming up with the Hawkeyes to improve air quality by using America’s first advanced biofuel is a victory for all Iowans.”

University of Iowa Athletics Director Gary Barta said the Hawkeye family recognizes the continuous improvement of farmers and the quality products they grow and provide.

“We have a great respect for the role farmers play in feeding and fueling our state and the Hawkeye Nation,” he said. “We’re proud to partner with the Iowa Soybean Association. They’re a great addition to Hawkeye Game Day activities.”

Iowa has 13 biodiesel plants, producing about 184 million gallons per year.

Blue Sun Biodiesel Earns Rare BQ-9000 Quality Status

Blue Sun st joe 2A biodiesel refinery in Missouri has earned a rare quality production status. Blue Sun’s St. Joseph, Mo., biodiesel refinery joined just 50 other companies in the country to receive BQ-9000 Producer status from the National Biodiesel Accreditation Commission (NABC) and National Biodiesel Board (NBB), a cooperative and voluntary program that combines the ASTM standard for biodiesel, ASTM D6751, and a quality systems program that includes storage, sampling, testing, blending, shipping, distribution, and fuel management practices.

“We have always been focused on producing the very highest quality fuel. This recognition of Blue Sun as a BQ-9000 Producer validates the focus and attention to quality fuel that our team gives every day,” said Leigh Freeman, CEO of Blue Sun.

The Blue Sun process includes a biodiesel distillation step, which further elevates the quality of the fuel. Blue Sun fuel exceeds ASTM D6751, particularly in low contaminants including very low monoglycerides (below 0.1%) and excellent cold soak performance.

“Blue Sun consistently demonstrated for BQ-9000 accreditation high quality in all samples received and tested by Gorge Analytical,” said Jeff Fetkenhour, President of Gorge Analytical, LLC.

Blue Sun’s St. Joe Refinery can produce up to 30 million gallons of biodiesel per year.

How Will Low Crop Prices Impact Next Year?

New Holland ZimmPollOur latest ZimmPoll asked the question, “Would you buy an Apple Watch?”

Apple never ceases to amaze us with the new products they come up with. It doesn’t look like many of you will be rushing out to buy their newest techie gadget. I think I fall into the ‘not yet’ category. I don’t see how it can benefit me at the moment, but I certainly won’t rule it out.

Here are the poll results:

  • Absolutely! – 21%
  • Never – 42%
  • Not yet – 27%
  • A what? – 10%

Our new ZimmPoll is now live and asks the question, How will low crop prices impact next year?

Corn and soybean prices have dropped dramatically this year with record crops but the question is how much will that impact plans for next season. Will farmers plant less, buy less, or just plan that prices will go back up next year?

Report: Solar Costs Continue to Decline

According to a new study from the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the average cost of going solar in the U.S. is continuing to decline. The findings were applauded by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and Vote Solar.

“In just a few years, American ingenuity and smart policy have made solar a true success story. These price declines mean that solar power is now an affordable option for families, Tracking the Sun VIIschools, businesses and utilities alike,” said Adam Browning, executive director of Vote Solar. “The result is that solar and its many grid, economic and environmental benefits are shining in communities across the country.”

The seventh edition of Lawrence Berkeley National Lab’s Tracking the Sun, an annual report on solar photovoltaic (PV) costs in the U.S., examined more than 300,000 PV systems installed between 1998 and 2013 and preliminary data from the first half of 2014.

“This report highlights yet another reason why solar energy has become such a remarkable American success story. Today, solar provides 143,000 good-paying jobs nationwide, pumps nearly $15 billion a year into the U.S. economy and is helping to significantly reduce pollution,” said SEIA president and CEO Rhone Resch. “There are now more than half a million American homes, businesses and schools with installed solar, and this is good news for freedom of energy choice as well as for our environment.”

Key findings include:

  • Installed prices continued their significant decline in 2013, falling year-over-year by 12 to 15 percent depending on system size.
  • Data for systems installed in a number of the largest state markets – Arizona, California, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York – during the first six months of 2014 found that the median installed price of systems installed in the first half of 2014 fell by an additional 5-12 percent, depending on system size, over 2013.
    Solar installed costs declined even as PV module pricing remained relatively steady, indicating success in efforts targeting non-module soft costs – which include marketing and customer acquisition, system design, installation labor, and the various costs associated with permitting and inspections.
  • Cash incentives provided through state and utility PV incentive programs (i.e., rebates and performance-based incentives) have fallen by 85 to 95 percent since their peak a decade ago.

The National Lab notes that these findings mark the fourth consecutive year of major cost reductions for the U.S. solar industry. Today, solar is the fastest-growing source of renewable energy in the United States, employing 143,000 Americans, pumping $15 billion a year into the U.S. economy and helping to reduce pollution.

BioEnergy Bytes

  • BioEnergyBytesDFFergus Ewing, Minister for Energy, Enterprise and Tourism, has confirmed his attendance at Ocean Energy Europe 2014 on October 2, 2014. Mr Ewing opens the conference on Day Two with a Keynote Address which will highlight Scotland’s activities in, and commitment to the ocean energy sector. The Scottish Government is firmly committed to the development of a successful marine renewable energy industry in Scotland. It has committed to achieving the EU 2020 target – 20% of EU’s energy consumption from renewable sources by 2020 – through a stated target of meeting 100% of Scotland’s electricity demand from renewable sources by 2020.
  • Innovative Solar Systems has recently received a 15 year purchase power agreement from Duke Energy on the company’s IS 41 project, a 48MW(AC) solar farm to be built in North Carolina and be online in late 2015. The project will be constructed on approximately 300 acres of farm land with panels oriented to face due south. Bids are being accepted from some of the largest panel manufacturers in the world for the roughly 200,000 solar panels that will generate enough electricity to power about 10,000 homes in this area.
  • Alternative Fuels Americas, Inc. (AFAI) announced that it has signed an agreement to form a Special Purpose Vehicle in partnership with Jatro Greentech, Inc., a Toronto based Jatropha centric agro energy company. The SPV shall be called AFAI Jatro Green Ethiopia and will be a U.S. registered entity with AFAI as majority shareholder. The SPV shall pursue Jatropha planting and biofuels production projects in Africa, particularly Ethiopia.
  • A new study says America’s K-12 schools have shown explosive growth in their use of solar energy over the last decade, soaring from 303 kilowatts (kW) of installed capacity to 457,000 kW, while reducing carbon emissions by 442,799 metric tons annually – the equivalent of saving 50 million gallons of gasoline a year or taking nearly 100,000 cars off U.S. highways. Brighter Future: A Study on Solar in U.S. Schools was prepared by The Solar Foundation (TSF) – with data and analysis support from the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) – and funded through a grant provided by the U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot program.

Cellulosic Making Progress Despite Uncertainty

Advanced and cellulosic biofuels producers continue to press the administration for certainty in the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) to continue making investments for future expansion.

“Today we’re at the start, like oil was 160 years ago, or corn ethanol was four years ago, said Steve Hartig with POET-DSM Advanced Biofuels during a teleconference organized by the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) highlighting progress in the industry. His company just celebrated the grand opening of a cellulosic ethanol plant in Iowa. “We have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in this and are convinced cellulosic ethanol will be a key part of our future energy mix.”

Abengoa Bioenergy plant in Hugoton, KS

Abengoa Bioenergy plant in Hugoton, KS

Chris Standlee with Abengoa Bioenergy said his company is also invested substantially in commercializing cellulosic ethanol technology. “Abengoa’s been working on perfecting this technology for over 10 years,” said Standlee, adding that their plant will be holding a grand opening in Hugoton, Kansas next month.

Also participating in the teleconference was Vonnie Estes with GranBio, a plant being built in Brazil using sugarcane straw and bagasse as feedstocks. She noted that the uncertainty of the RFS is impacting their plans because they intend to export at least half of their plant’s production to the U.S. “The company has spent over $200 million in capital on this plant,” she said. “The plant (will be) really good for the U.S. in that it’s a source of low carbon fuels into the market.”

All three company representatives noted that they are postponing decisions to increase production of cellulosic biofuels due to the uncertainty created by EPA.

BIO teleconference on cellulosic ethanol advancements

Minnoco Expands Higher Ethanol Blends in Twin Cities

Independent fuel retailer Minnoco is expanding its outlets with 18 new locations joining the brand. When completed, the brand will feature 24 retailers, many of whom will be offering higher blends of ethanol, such as E15, and biodiesel to consumers.

“Our owners believe we have a competitive advantage by offering more fuel choices like E15 to consumers,” stated Lance Klatt, executive director for Minnoco. “Our new brand not only draws in consumers for more affordable fuels but is also a great business model for retailers.”

Minnoco signLeveraging existing convenience store and automotive repair locations in many cases, retail owners are moving away from a branded oil contract into the independent brand of Minnoco. “With Minnoco, I’m able to offer E15 as a more competitive fuel to my customers at a much lower price vs. regular,” explained Rick Bohnen, president of Minnoco and owner of Penn Minnoco. “This is a better business model for me because it significantly reduces my operational costs vs. branded fuels and I’m able to pass the savings on to consumers.”

In addition, Minnoco retailers have more freedom to offer biofuels that are grown and produced in Minnesota. Though the product offering will vary slightly by retail location, Minnoco will be offering E15, E30, E85 and diesel along with regular grades of gasoline.

“All of our regular 87 gas already contains 10% ethanol,” explained Jerry Charmoli, Minnoco owner and a mechanic for more than 30 years. “E15 is approved for vehicles 2001 and newer and we’ve had zero problems, in fact my customers love the cost savings and extra performance.”

In response to the announcement today by Minnoco, Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis said, “Minnesota has always been a leader in offering renewable fuels to consumers. I am glad to see an increasing number of service station owners and convenience stores offer a higher performing, less expensive, renewable fuel option. Minnoco understands what consumers want, and also appreciates the importance of improving our environment, creating and supporting jobs right here in America that cannot be outsourced, and reducing our dangerous addiction to fossil fuels and foreign oil, all while saving consumers at the pump.”

Bobby Likis Car Clinic Globalcast Features Ethanol

likis-logoBobby Likis Car Clinic recent globalcast featured topic was ethanol with guest Bob Dinneen, president and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA). More specifically the two discussed issues around the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

During the program, Dinneen explained that the RFS and ethanol production saves consumers money at the pump, decreases America’s foreign oil dependence, and helps rural America. He discussed the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed cuts to the RFS and the negative impact those cuts would have on consumers and investment in next-generation ethanol.

Dinneen said, “In today’s environment of misinformation and spin, it is absolutely vital that consumers know the truth about ethanol and understand the role the Renewable Fuel Standard plays in furthering America’s energy independence, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and lowering the price of gasoline for drivers.” He adds, “I was proud to join Car Clinic’s Bobby Likis to give an overview of the political, regional, and agricultural factors that play into the future of ethanol production and explain the benefits of ethanol to drivers all across the country. Their votes of confidence in the RFS will count in the upcoming election.”

Likis, who is an automotive and ethanol expert, reflects, “When presented with facts – which Bob Dinneen delivers in easy-to-understand terms – American consumers and voters are smart enough to make the right decision at the polls in November. That’s how the RFS was passed in the first place. Clearly, the RFS has delivered to voters: lowering prices at the gas pump; reducing dependence on foreign oil; stimulating regional economies; giving the environment a fighting chance; and incenting investors to keep their money in the US as they research and develop new seed and other technologies to increase efficiencies and crop yields.”

Administration Offers New Renewable Initiatives

usda-logoAs USDA announced the investment $68 million in 540 new renewable energy and energy efficiency projects nationwide today, the White House offered new administrative actions to advance solar deployment and promote energy efficiency.

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack made the USDA announcement while in North Carolina to highlight USDA’s investments in rural renewable energy projects being funded through USDA Rural Development’s Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). Vilsack visited Progress Solar in Bunn, N.C., which received a $3.4 million REAP loan guarantee in 2012 for installation of a solar array.

At the same time, President Obama announced new executive actions to further advance the development of solar technologies across the country which includes commitments from a broad coalition of 50 public and private sector partners, including leading industry, community development organizations and housing providers in 28 states. “USDA is proud to play a key role in Obama Administration’s efforts to promote the use of solar technologies,” Vilsack said. “Of the REAP projects funded today, 240 projects are for solar investments of $5.2 million in grants and $55.3 million in loans.”

In North Carolina alone, Vilsack announced $55.3 million in new REAP program loan guarantees and grants for 22 solar energy projects. For example, USDA is awarding a $3 million loan guarantee to Broadway Solar Center, LLC to help finance a 5 megawatt solar array in Columbus County, a $4.9 million loan guarantee for a similar project in Hertford County and a $2.1 million guarantee for a project in Warren County.

Vermont Utility to Turn Sunflowers into Biodiesel

greenmtnpowerA local utility in Vermont will be turning sunflowers into biodiesel and livestock feed. Green Mountain Power announced a new collaboration that will convert the seeds from 20 acres of sunflowers into the green fuel and the feed.

“Green Mountain Power is leading the way in many local energy initiatives,” said Green Mountain Power President and CEO Mary Powell. “Using Vermont sunflowers to power our vehicles and heat our buildings is a beautiful way to keep our energy local and clean.”

Twenty acres of sunflowers are growing at the State Line Farm Biofuels in Shaftsbury and another ten acres are growing at the Ekolott Farm in Newbury. When the oilseeds are harvested this fall, they will be dried and pressed, then the raw oil will be converted to biodiesel, or B100. The solid portion of the seed, the meal, is valuable as a livestock feed. Depending on the crops’ success, the cost of fuel to Green Mountain Power could be up to one dollar less than current B100 prices.

“It is so great to be part of this innovative test with GMP,” said John Williamson of State Line Farm Biofuels. “Projects like this really help support farmers, plus it’s beautiful to see the fields of sunflowers and even more beautiful to realize it will provide a clean and local power source.”

The project is a partnership between GMP, University of Vermont Extension, and the Vermont Bioenergy Initiative, a program that connects diversified agriculture and local renewable energy production for on-farm and community use.