Scholarships Offered for Students to Attend NEC

The Renewable Fuels Association’s (RFA) annual National Ethanol Conference (NEC) is a great place to learn the ins and outs of the ethanol industry as well as network with key industry experts. That is why RFA is offering several scholarships for current college students interested in renewable fuels to attend the 2013 event. The awards will cover the cost of registration, a $775 value, making the cost free to select students.

“Educating America’s students about America’s domestically produced biofuels is an important step in working toward an oil dependent-free future,” said Mike Jerke, General Manager of Chippewa Valley Ethanol Company and Chairman of the Renewable Fuels Foundation. “We encourage students to take advantage of this opportunity to get a foot in the door of an industry that is driving forward in production and technology, and helping to support our rural communities.”

With the scholarships covering registration, recipients will only be responsible for other costs associated with travel to/from the conference, including airfare, hotel and non-conference meals. Additional financial assistance to offset travel expenses may be available at the discretion of the RFF/RFA.

Interested students will be asked to explain in detail how this scholarship will assist them in achieving their academic and/or career goals in 500 words or less. Applicants must provide two letters of recommendation, a current resume and an official school transcript. This scholarship opportunity is open only to those students attending a U.S. institution of higher learning and enrolled in an approved ethanol-related program. All applications must be submitted by November 23, 2012. To download an application, please click here.

Report Shows Ethanol Industry Resilient

The 2011-2012 Biofuels Benchmarking report compiled by biofuels financial experts Christianson & Associates, PLLP (C&A) shows that despite the continual challenges facing the ethanol industry, it is doing well. The ethanol industry has shown resilience while implementing greener practices and production efficiencies even as margins tighten. The annual Biofuels Benchmarking report provides analysis of changes and trends for a broad cross-section of the ethanol industry over the most recent six quarters (January 2011-June 2012).

The information contained in the report is from actual production data gathered from ethanol plants throughout the U.S. and Canada who participate in the Biofuels Benchmarking program administered by C&A. During the past year some significant changes have taken place in the industry including the expiration of the “blenders credit” or VEETC.

John Christianson, principal partner at C&A, notes that although ethanol producers saw increasing challenges in 2012, the industry continues to mature and prosper. “By aggressively seeking out additional co-product revenue streams,” commented Christianson, “plants can continue to remain profitable despite leaner margins.”

The report contains an overall analysis of a variety of factors that contribute to plant efficiency and profit ability. It also highlights ethanol plant performance by geographic region and plant production capacity.

Diatoms Could Lead to Biofuel Breakthrough

Researchers at Oregon State University (OSU) are looking back to life during the dinosaur age and studying the role diatoms could play in algae-based biofuel production. Diatoms are tiny marine pre-historic life forms and can simultaneously produce biofuels as well as semiconductors, biomedical products and health foods. The technology has moved out of a science fiction movie and landed in a fast-paced drama, and with the help of a $2 million, four-year grant from the National Science Foundation, hopefully will become an everyday reality.

Researchers believe, in theory, that the microscopic algae will be able to utilize some of the most abundant and affordable materials on Earth, such as silicon and nitrates, add a bit of sunshine, a few drops of water and carbon dioxide and you have the recipe for affordable products. Using a similar concept as the “biorefinery, this process is called the “photosynthetic biorefinery.”

“This NSF program is intended to support long-range concepts for a sustainable future, but in fact we’re demonstrating much of the science behind these technologies right now,” said Greg Rorrer, an OSU professor and head of the School of Chemical, Biological and Environmental Engineering. Rorrer has studied the remarkable power of diatoms for more than a decade.

Rorrer continued, “We have shown how diatoms can be used to produce semiconductor materials, chitin fibers for biomedical applications, or the lipids needed to make biofuels. We believe that we can produce all of these products in one facility at the same time and move easily from one product to the other.”

While researchers already know that biofuels and other products can be made from algae, often times the cost is prohibitive. OSU researchers believe that this process could significantly reduce cost allowing biofuels to make more economic sense. As part of the work at OSU, researchers plan to develop mathematical models so that various options can be tested and computers used to perfect the technology before actually building it.

“Regular algae don’t make everything that diatoms can make,” Rorrer added. “This is the only organism we know of that can create organized structures at the nano-level and naturally produce such high-value products. With the right components, they will make what you want them to make.”

FuelMule Helps Expand Natural Gas Vehicles

Natural gas vehicles took the stage as part of both the Republican and Democratic National Conventions. It is in the news again today with the launch of the FuelMule, a mobile fast-fill compressed natural gas (CNG) fueling station. Developed by Gas Technology Institute (GTI), the station allows fleets fueling capability at their home base, or anywhere, without the need to build a fueling station.  GTI worked with Ultimate CNG to bring the technology to the marketplace.

Tony Lindsay, R&D Director at GTI said, “This technology helps to overcome the capital investment issues associated with building new fueling infrastructure. In the past, there haven’t been enough NGVs to justify the high investment in building many fueling stations, and there are too few stations to allow widespread growth and adoption of NGVs in various fleets. This new innovation can work to balance things out with its ability to bring fueling capability to where it’s most needed.”

In Tampa, NGV buses transported convention participants to several hotels and local attractions. Peoples Gas partnered with Ultimate CNG to provide CNG fuel for the buses. A better showcase of the technology, though, may be that the NGV buses were driven 1,372 miles from Janesville, Wisconsin to Tampa, Florida without one single fuel stop. When the buses then headed to Charlotte, North Carolina, Piedmont Natural Gas Company keep the buses rolling.

“With FuelMule CNG fueling services, no longer must fleets choose between the convenience of diesel and clean natural gas. They can have access to CNG with no capital investment required and no fueling infrastructure maintenance,” said Dennis Pick, President of Ultimate CNG.

According to GTI, CNG fuel costs about $1.69 less per gallon equivalent compared to diesel.

Eisenhower Corporate Campus Goes Solar

The Eastman Companies’ Eisenhower Corporate Campus in Livingston, NJ has flipped the switch on a 500 kW solar PV system. New Jersey is one of the leading states for solar installations. A portion of the solar system, 68kW, was installed on a hillside near the campus allowing those passing by to see the solar array. The solar system is just one aspect of the company’s sustainability initiatives.

The project was funded by a power purchase agreement (PPA) through Smart Energy Capital and was designed and installed by RGS Energy, a division of Real Goods Solar. A portion of the system is owned by Hudson Energy Solar who will also operate the system.

“As an Energy Star partner and a U.S. green building council member, this solar installation is the latest improvement undertaken by Eastman Companies as part of its ongoing commitment to going green,” said Peter E. Schofel, President of Eastman Companies. “Eighty percent of our improvements have been installed following LEED guidelines, and this complex is a LEED candidate.”

Abe Grohman, Chief Executive Officer of Hudson Energy Solar, added, “The Eastman commitment to solar power will help to significantly lower CO2 emissions over the course of 25 years, which is equivalent to planting over 10,000 trees, and reducing the consumption of 47,813 gallons of gasoline each year.”

Offshore Wind Part of Europe’s Blue Growth

The European Commission is looking at the marine and maritime industry to help Europe’s economic recovery. The European Commission has released its ‘Blue Growth‘ strategy and included in areas of growth is the offshore wind energy industry.

The European Wind Energy Association (AWEA) is predicting the offshore wind energy industry will have a five-fold increase in offshore wind jobs within the decade. In support of this, ‘Blue Growth’ includes offshore wind as a key element of current and future economic growth. The industry contributes to Europe’s competitiveness while also benefiting other industrial sectors such as the manufacturers of the wind turbines and its components.

“EWEA has estimated 35,000 people were employed in jobs related to the offshore wind sector in 2010,” said Anne-Bénédicte Genachte, EWEA’s regulatory affairs advisor for offshore wind, “and this will increase to 170,000 by 2020. EWEA welcomes the Commission’s strategy for the maritime sector and hopes concrete policy initiatives will follow. More specifically, EWEA looks forward to the legislative proposal on Maritime Spatial Planning the Commission should publish soon. Maritime Spatial Planning is key to Blue Growth and should not be further delayed.”

EWEA says to achieve the industry’s expected growth the offshore wind sector requires a policy framework that provides long term regulatory certainty.

Don’t Miss Advanced Biofuels Markets

Today is the last day to register for the Advanced Biofuels Markets conference at the discounted rate in San Francisco taking place on October 29-31, 2012. There are more than 30 CEOs of advanced biofuels companies from around the world scheduled to speak. The focus will be on how to scale up to commercial production levels while tapping into the multi-billion dollar oil market.

Topics of discussion include scaling from pilot to commercial level, how to secure investments, how to identify strategic partnerships, how to improve feedstock economics and the logistics of integrated supply chain delivery networks.

Here is a sampling of speakers:

  • Fred Cannon, President and Chief Executive Officer, KiOR
  • Patrick R. Gruber, Chief Executive Officer, Gevo
  • Jonathan Wolfson, Chief Executive Officer, Solazyme
  • Guido Ghisolfi, Chief Executive Officer, Beta Renewables
  • Daniel J Oh, President and Chief Executive Officer, Renewable Energy Group
  • John Nichols, President and Chief Executive Officer, Codexis
  • Philippe Lavielle, Chief Executive Officer, Virdia
  • Ed Dineen, Chief Executive Officer, LS9
  • Richard Hamilton, Chief Executive Officer, Ceres
  • Dan Simon, Chief Executive Officer, Heliae  
  • Tom Buis, Chief Executive Officer, Growth Energy
Click here to get more information and to register.

Vilsack Tours AGP Biodiesel

AGP Biodiesel based in Sergeant Bluff, Iowa, hosted Agricultural Secretary Tom Vilsack last week who is highlighting the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) action to increase the biodiesel amount required in 2013 under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). The RFS was established by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA) and specifies a one billion gallon minimum volume requirement for biomass-based diesel. Next year the volume will increase to 1.28 billion gallons. Biodiesel is the first and only biomass-based diesel considered an advanced biofuel under RFS.

“President Obama’s all-of-the-above energy plan is working – today, we are importing less foreign oil than we have in nearly two decades and we are creating jobs by producing more of our energy here at home,” said Vilsack. “A key part of the President’s strategy is the development and promotion of biofuels and bio-based products, which are helping us fuel our cars and trucks and displacing petroleum used in the manufacturing of household products. Over the past three years, we have doubled generation from renewable energy and today’s announcement by EPA will ensure that we are continuing to utilize biodiesel to help meet our energy needs, create jobs and strengthen the rural economy.”

In March 2011, the Obama Administration released its “Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future,” laying out an ‘all-of-the-above’ energy plan to reduce the need for foreign sources of oil while also increasing energy efficiency and reducing the impact on the environment. Since Obama took office, domestic oil and gas production has increased each year and renewable energy generation from wind, solar, and geothermal has doubled.

Another Obama initiative is to create new and expanded markets for U.S. grown and manufactured agricultural products. Since August 2011, the White House Rural Council has supported a broad spectrum of rural initiatives including a Presidential Memorandum to create jobs in rural America through biobased and sustainable product procurement, a $350 million commitment in small business (SBA) funding to rural small businesses over the next 5 years, launching a series of conferences to connect investors with rural start-ups, and creating capital marketing teams to pitch federal funding opportunities to private investors.

NEC Moves to New Date

The 18th Annual National Ethanol Conference (NEC): Driving Forward is moving to a new date – February 5-7, 2013 at the Wynn in Las Vegas. The conference will cover key, timely issues within the ethanol industry including regulatory, marketing and policy issues. Experts will speak to the current market situation. In addition, a key focus will be on how the ethanol industry can continue to grow through innovation, new technologies and feedstocks, and developing more diverse and global markets.

You can get more information about NEC online. Registration is also open.

AWEA Wants New 2030 Renewable Energy Target

Several Ministers met earlier this week at an informal Energy Council meeting in Nicosia. In response, the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) warned that their credibility was at risk if they debated future renewable energy policy without considering a new 2030 European Union (EU) Renewable Energy target. The discussion was not on the group’s agenda.

“There is no point debating future renewable energy policy without discussing a 2030 target,” warned Stephane Bourgeois, Head of Regulatory Affairs at EWEA in Brussels. “It makes no sense to ignore the one policy that has worked most successfully up to now. Ministers should recognise the benefits of such a target.”

The European Commission has released information about its Renewable Energy Strategy. The accompanying impact assessment was believed to support a 2030 Renewable energy target. This, the strategy outlined, would create more economic activity, reduce fossil fuel dependence, and create more innovation and competition across the European technology sector.

Bourgeois added, “an EU renewables policy cannot be based only on emission reductions and decarbonisation, as some ministers might wish. Only by enabling investment in renewables can the EU cut the cost of fuel imports and be sure to create European jobs.”

Biodiesel Requirement in RFS Increases

The Obama Administration has announced that there will be an increase in the biodiesel volume requirement for next year under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) decision was released today in a draft proposal that would increase the requirement for biomass-based diesel to 1.28 billion gallons. This represents a modest increase from the industry’s record production last year of nearly 1.1 billion gallons and puts the industry on course for steady, sustainable growth in the coming years.

“This was an incredibly important decision, and the Obama Administration got it right,” said Joe Jobe, CEO of the National Biodiesel Board (NBB), the industry trade association. “It will allow biodiesel plants across the country to invest and expand, creating thousands of jobs. At the same time, it sends a strong signal that the U.S. is standing firm behind its commitment to producing clean, American-made energy to strengthen our energy security and break our dependence on petroleum.”

According to a recent economic study, the 2013 volume increase will support more than 10,000 new jobs. Already, the industry supports more than 39,000 jobs, with plants in nearly every U.S. state with Iowa leading the pack.

Biodiesel is the first and only EPA-designated Advanced Biofuel being produced on a commercial scale across the country. The “advanced biofuel” designation means that the fuel reduces greenhouse gas emissions by more than 50 percent as compared to traditional fuels. The EPA estimates that biodiesel reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 57 percent to 86 percent depending on the feedstock and production technology.

“We applaud President Obama and EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson for supporting an ‘all of the above’ energy approach. We also want to thank Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack for his strong advocacy,” added Jobe. “This decision will continue to diversify our fuel supplies so that we’re not so vulnerable to global petroleum markets and this endless cycle of price spikes. The Renewable Fuel Standard is clearly working to do that, and the benefits of doing so are clear: We’ll continue to create good jobs, expand our economy and reduce harmful emissions. It’s just smart energy policy.”

Ag Energy Coalition Urges Passage of Farm Bill

The 2012 Farm Bill has been big news this week as the agricultural industry, along with dozens of other groups, call for Congress to pass the bill before it sunsets on September 30, 2012.  Earlier this week the Farm Bill Now coalition held a rally in Washington, D.C. that included participation of all Iowa legislators.  The Agriculture Energy Coalition (AgEC) participated in the rally calling on Congress to pass the five-year Farm Bill that includes mandatory funding for a strong Energy Title.

To date, the Senate has passed a version of the bill and the House Agriculture Committee has also passed its a version of the Bill. Yet Congress is not taking action. Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) participated in the Farm Bill Now rally urging Congress to pass the 2012 Farm Bill.

Lloyd Ritter, co-director of the AgEC, said, “Both the House and Senate Agriculture Committees have worked hard this year to move forward with fiscally responsible Farm Bills, and final passage is within reach. Passage of a five-year Farm Bill will provide necessary economic stability and confidence to agricultural producers and rural communities across the country. Inclusion of a strong Energy Title with mandatory funding will increase the economic opportunities in those rural communities.”

Ritter continued, “Farm Bill energy programs have helped the renewable energy industry create thousands of jobs across the country in rural communities where they are very much needed. They have also helped farmers put more than 160,000 acres of underutilized farmland across 12 states back into production. And they have helped hundreds of new American businesses generate 100,000 jobs producing home-grown biobased products. These effective programs are a vital part of the overall Farm Bill.”

Magellan Completes Biodiesel Distribution Facility

Magellan Pipeline Company has completed a new biodiesel distribution facility in Des Moines, Iowa. The new equipment will allow for unloading, storage and blending of biodiesel at the terminal. The infrastructure upgrade will enhance distribution of biodiesel by making it simple for petroleum distributors to access pre-blended fuel.

“Having biodiesel available at major distribution points is critical to maintaining the state’s leadership position in biodiesel,” said Randy Olson, executive director of the Iowa Biodiesel Board, where the announcement of completion was made during the association’s annual board meeting. “Improved distribution capabilities will enhance consumer access to biodiesel, and help the state’s biodiesel industry stand to capture a larger share of federal renewable fuel requirements nationwide.”

Magellan’s Director of Transportation & Marketing Shawn Barker said, “Magellan is pleased to offer biodiesel storage and blending services to our customers in Des Moines. This state-of-the-art system offers our customers accuracy, quality and a variety of biodiesel blend options.”

Magellan received partial funding for the project from the Iowa Renewable Fuel Infrastructure Board, the Iowa Soybean Association and soybean checkoff program, and the Iowa Economic Development Authority (funded by the U.S. Department of Energy).

New Study on Water-wise Biofuel Crops

A new study has shown that putting the water-use-efficient and turbo-charged photosynthesis from plants such as agave into woody biomass plants can hedge against high temperatures and low moisture. It can also enable growers to plant dedicated energy crops on marginal land.

A team of researchers including John Cushman, a biochemistry professor at the University of Nevada, Reno; Xiaohan Yang at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL); James Hartwell at the University of Liverpool, UK; and Anne Borland at Newcastle University, UK and ORNL are exploring the genetic mechanisms of crassulacean acid metabolism (CAM) and drought tolerance in desert-adapted plants as a way to improve drought resistance for biofuel crops.

The study is part of a five-year, multi-institutional $14.3 million U.D. Department of Energy (DOE) grant, “Engineering CAM Photosynthetic Machinery into Bioenergy Crops for Biofuels Production in Marginal Environments.” The funds are through the DOE’s Office of Biological and Environmental Research, Genomic Science: Biosystems Design to Enable Next-Generation Biofuels.

The team will develop novel technologies to redesign bioenergy crops to grow on economically marginal agricultural lands and produce yields of biomass that can readily be converted to biofuels. The development of water-use efficient, fast-growing trees such as poplar for such sites will also help reduce competition with food crops for usable farmland according to the research team.

“With climate change predictions for a 7 degree Fahrenheit (3.8 degree C) increase in temperature and a decrease in reliable precipitation patterns by 2080 for much of America’s breadbasket, and with a greater need for sources of biofuels for transportation, these biodesign approaches to enhancing biomass production become very important,” Cushman, director of the project, said.

The ultimate goal of the project is to significantly improve an energy crop’s drought resistance by enabling the crop to adapt to hotter, drier climates.  Continue reading

Blender Pump Opens in Cresco, Iowa

A new blender pump is opening today in Cresco, Iowa. Twenty-nine local investors applied and were approved for a Resource Enhancement and Protection grant (REAP). They group also received Iowa Infrastructure funding to aid with the costs of installation. The FAST STOP flex-fuel station is located at 22268 Highway 9 West, Cresco, Iowa.

During a grand opening event today from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm, the FAST STOP station offered discounts on all ethanol blends, E15, E30 and E85. To my knowledge, this is the first station in Iowa to sell E15 after it became a legal fuel last month.  In addition to ethanol, three blends of biodiesel, B2 and B10 and off road B5 are being sold. The biodiesel is GROWMARK’S Dieselex Gold premium fuel.

Several industry representatives were on hand during the event to help celebrate with FAST STOP. Groups included GROWMARK, AgVantage FS, Iowa Renewable Fuels Association and Iowa Corn Growers Association.