New Plant-Based Cellulase Enzyme

Iowa Corn Field in Aug Photo Joanna SchroederInfinite Enzymes has launched IE-CBHI, a single activity, plant-based cellulase enzyme. The enzyme is available for research and development projects through Sigma-Aldrich Corporation.

The global industrial enzymes market is projected to reach 3.74 billion by 2015, not including many emerging applications in advanced biofuels and biobased products. Enzymes are a critical role in converting cellulose and hemicellulose in biomass to sugars, which becomes the foundation to produce biofuels, biochemicals or biomaterials.

According to Infinite Enzymes, their technology produces enzymes in a lower value part of the corn kernel thereby creating a new sustainable market for corn processing by-products.  The company says their technology lowers the cost of sugar production needed for developing low-cost biobased plastics and advanced biofuels.

Recently, Infinite Enzymes received a $450,000 Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase II grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to advance its enzyme development technology.

What Do People Think About Biofuels?

What do people in the Southeast think about biofuels? Do they support biofuel ventures? Who will grow the biomass? Will those in established industries fight against it? These are just a few of the questions researchers from the University of Georgia and the U.S. Forest Service are asking as part of studies in locations throughout the Southeast suited for biomass development.

The researchers will use a mix of ethnographic methods to help understand public opinion about bioenergy and also to provide policymakers and business owners with the information they need to make sustainable energy production viable throughout communities.

Corn Stover: Biomass Photo Joanna Schroeder“We’re planning to work on the ground throughout the Southeast,” said Sarah Hitchner, a co-investigator and post-doctoral research associate at UGA’s Center for Integrative Conservation Research. “A lot of people talk about biofuels as being an obvious win-win, but it’s more complicated than that.”

Supported by a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, which funds research projects on sustainable bioenergy through its Agriculture and Food Research Initiative, the research team will begin in Soperton, Georgia-formerly home to Range Fuels and now the Freedom Pines Biorefinery owned by LanzaTech-and then moving on to other areas in Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Florida and North Carolina. While visiting local communities, the researchers will participate in the daily activities of community members and conduct in-depth interviews with a variety of stakeholders, such as landowners, industry representatives, potential employees and county commissioners.

“A big part of this kind of research is to listen to as many perspectives as possible,” said Peter Brosius, professor of anthropology in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, director of the Center for Integrative Conservation Research and co-investigator in the study. “From there you begin to see patterns emerge.” Continue reading

Free Biodiesel Chemistry Kits for Teachers

The Indiana Soybean Alliance is offering high school teachers free Soy Biodiesel Chemistry Kits. The kits were developed by Purdue University researchers in partnership with education professionals with funding from ISA and the Indiana soybean checkoff organization. Indiana science teachers can receive the kit free as part of ISA’s program.

biodieselchemkit2012The kit was first released in 2005 and is now updated with two new lessons along with the most current information about soy biodiesel including how to produce biodiesel and the benefits of its use.

“The kit is an engaging way for high school science classes to apply the basic skills and principles of chemistry,” said Don Wyss, chairman of ISA’s biofuels committee and a farmer from Ossian, Ind. “It is also a great way to introduce soy biodiesel — and renewable fuels in general — to students through hands-on experiments that take complex scientific processes and break them down into easy to understand lessons.”

The free kit includes six lesson plans and hands-on experiments along with the necessary equipment for 10 groups of two students to perform each of the kit’s hands-on exercises and experiments. Lesson topics include the diesel engine and the development of biodiesel, the physical and chemical properties of soybean oil and esters, thin-layer chromatography, determining biodiesel concentrations in diesel, and more.

“The lessons offered in the kit are aligned with the National Science Education Standards, and we think that is an important component to encourage teachers to incorporate these lessons into their classrooms,” added Wyss.

Indiana teachers can receive their free kit by completing the online order form here.

Congress Stands Behind Military

The House and Senate Armed Services Committees finalized the National Defense Authorization Act of 2013 (NDAA) yesterday and today Congress stood behind the military by passing the Act without including controversial proposals that would have banned the Department of Defense from expanding its use of advanced biofuels.

military use of biofuelsIn response to the passage, Jim Greenwood, CEO and president of the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) said, “Military leaders have recognized that building a domestic advanced biofuels industry to produce cost-competitive fuels is a national security priority. They have responded to this need in the same way the United States has responded to similar challenges in the past – by proposing public-private partnerships to produce the needed materials.”

He noted along with other industry leaders that the passage of NDAA will clear the path for the Department of Defense to participate with other federal agencies in partnership with private companies to continue to develop and deploy biofuels for military use.

In a recent report, E2 concluded that more than 14,000 jobs and more than $10 billion in economic activity could be created if the military meets is biofuels goals. The Navy and Air Force have a goal of sourcing 50 percent of their fuel needs from advanced biofuels by 2020.

“Just like it did with industries ranging from aviation to the Internet, the military is leading the country on deploying advanced biofuels,” said Nicole Lederer, co-founder of Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2). “By turning back short-sighted attempts that would have kept the military dependent on a single fuel source – oil – Congress has cleared the way for the Department of Defense to continue to make investments in advanced biofuels that will have positive impacts on the industry and our economy.”

Give the Gift of Time This Holiday

Beginning to panic because you haven’t even begun your holiday shopping? Here is a just in time unique idea – give the gift of time with a corn and bamboo watch. I own one and I recommend it.

Sprout Watches manufactures a line of eco-friendly watches that contain corn resin and bamboo. The watches come in multiple colors, but I chose white because of its neat design on the watch face. Each color watch has a different earth themed design to go along with its earth themed materials.

But back to the corn resin. It’s used as a component of the plastic, rather than using petroleum-based products. Nice, right?  Sprout promotes the technology on its website and notes that corn resin pellets sequester far less fossil fuel and emits much less greenhouse gases.  In addition, the watches are biodegradable and will not leach toxins into the ground. If you want to learn more, they have some neat graphics to demonstrate the process from stalk to watch.

So why did this make my holiday gift guide other than the fact it’s awesome? Because it is another example of what our corn farmers across the country are bringing us today and a glimpse of what they will be helping to bring to use in the future – a myriad of products that are petroleum free.

Consumers Take Action on Global Warming

Screen Shot 2012-12-21 at 1.32.37 PMA new national survey conducted by Yale finds that in the last 12 months, three of of 10 Americans (32 percent) have given business to a company as a reward for their steps to reduce global warming. Twenty-four percent also say that in the past 12 months, they have punished companies for opposing steps to reduce global warming by not purchasing their products. As a follow-up, 52 percent of the respondents answered that in the next 12 months, they intend to reward or punish companies for their action or inaction to reduce global warming.

“Many Americans are no longer content to just talk about global warming, they are doing something about it,” said Dr. Anthony Leiserowitz of Yale University. “Many are acting individually to save energy at home and on the road and are making consumer choices that support business action on climate change.”

Other major findings include:

  • Americans are more likely to use public transportation or carpool (17 percent) and 25 percent say they “always” or “often” walk or bike rather than drive.
  • A majority of Americans say they “always” or “often” set their thermostat no higher than 68 degrees during the winter (53 percent).
  • Americans have become less confident that their individual actions to save energy will reduce their own contribution to global warming (32 percent, down 16 points since 2008).
  • Americans are also less likely to say that if most people in the United States took similar actions it would reduce global warming “a lot” or “some” (60 percent, down 18 points since 2008).
  • Twelve percent of Americans have contacted a government official about global warming by letter, email, or phone, and 15 percent have volunteered or donated money to an organization working to reduce global warming.

Another interesting finding was that no matter what their personal beliefs about global warming, many Americans say they have friends who have different views than their own. In fact, more are likely to have friends who disagree than agree with them about global warming. For example, 30 percent of Americans who believe global warming is happening and human-caused say “all” or “most” of their friends agree with them, but 42 percent say that only “a few” or “none” of their friends agree with them.

This report is based on findings from a nationally representative survey, “Climate Change in the American Mind,” conducted by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication.

GROWMARK System to Acquire Meier Oil Products

GROWMARK logoGROWMARK has announced it will be acquiring Meier Oil Production and Manito Transit. Both businesses have been family owned since 1936 and consisted of a trucking company, fuel terminal facility in Ashkum and bulk fuel facilities at Kankakee, Pontiac, Sheldon and Champaign, all in Illinois.

Kevin Carroll, GROWMARK vice president, Energy, said the acquisition strengthens the GROWMARK System through collaboration between Evergreen FS, Heritage FS and Illini FS and GROWMARK Energy.

“This will allow our local companies to work more efficiently as part of the broader GROWMARK System to serve this expanded market,” said Carroll. “We have a strong heritage of being a reliable supplier of refined and renewable fuels and lubricants. Adding the Meier Oil business enhances our heritage and provides customers meier-oil-logoongoing access to quality products.”

Mike Meier, President of Meier Oil Products, said the transaction reinforces his family’s commitment to the community and to superior customer service. He noted that all the cooperatives are respected members of the industry and communities they serve.

“As such, they share our commitment to our employees and to providing quality products at competitive prices. We are honored our customers will have access to a reliable supply of products and can count on ongoing quality customer service,” said Meier.

Iowa Ethanol Production Holds Steady

Iowa Ethanol SignEthanol production in Iowa held steady during 2012 according to the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA). During the year, 41 ethanol plants produced 3.7 billion gallons during 2012, matching 2011 production. This is around 28 percent of total ethanol production in the U.S. for the year. This is the first time since 2002 where production did not increase year to year.

“2012 will be remembered for the great drought,” said IRFA Executive Director Monte Shaw. “Due to Iowa’s incredible farmers, the state weathered the drought better than most. Iowa was fortunate not to have an ethanol plant shut down in 2012. Most plants pulled back on production due to the drought, but we had another plant operating for a full year that offset those reductions. In the end we held steady, but everyone is praying for rain and a trend-line corn yield in 2013 to really jumpstart the industry.”

In addition to the current operating ethanol plants, Iowa is also the home of two cellulosic ethanol facilities currently under construction.

EnterSolar Solar Project Completed in Delaware

EnterSolar has completed a 185 kilowatt (kW) solar photovoltaic (PV) system on the roof of Ultrachem Inc.’s corporate headquarters in New Castle, Deleware. Motech panels were used for the solar system that will generate approximately 200,000 kilowatt hours per year, enough energy to supply all the building’s yearly energy needs. ultrachem solar PV projectThe project is participating in the Delaware SREC Pilot Program and is interconnected to the New Castle Municipal Services Commission’s utility system.

“We are pleased to announce the completion of this major renewable energy project,” said Bob Whiting, President of Ultrachem. “Not only will the system improve the environment by reducing our reliance on traditional fossil fuels, it also relieves our energy burden from the electric grid during peak hours which benefits the community.”

The  solar photovoltaic system features Delaware-manufactured Motech solar panels, two central inverters and a string-level data acquisition system.

Derick Botha, Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Motech Americas, said: “We are very pleased to be working with EnterSolar providing panels manufactured in Delaware.  It is encouraging to see responsible companies in our state taking initiative to support local manufacturing while helping the environment and creating value for themselves.”

“By installing their new solar PV system, Ultrachem has further established themselves as a community business leader while demonstrating how companies can ‘do well, by doing good’,” said Paul Ahern, President of EnterSolar, “In addition to supporting the environment, Ultrachem will also see a significant reduction in electricity costs while mitigating future power price increases.”

European Committee Proposes US Ethanol Tax

rfa-logo-09The Antidumping Advisory Committee, composed of representatives from member states of the European Union, has reportedly endorsed a 9.6 percent penalty on U.S. ethanol exports to Europe.

In response to the announcement, a joint Growth_Energy_logo (1)statement was released by Growth Energy and the Renewable Fuels Association.

“This is simply one step in an ongoing process. While the Antidumping Advisory Committee has voted in favor of imposing an anti-subsidy duty on U.S. ethanol exports, this is one committee making a recommendation to a larger body and the matter is not final. While we are troubled by the Commission’s preliminary decision, we remain convinced that this matter lacks the merit necessary for imposing such a duty and that, when all the facts are considered, the European Union will rightly decide not to impose any antidumping duties on imports of ethanol produced in the United States.”

Alliance AutoGas Adds to Fueling Network

Wilsons Fuel Company, based in Canada, has become a partner with Alliance AutoGas. The partnership will bring propane fueling to Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador. The two companies will also provide fleet vehicle conversions to propane autogas.

Alliance Autogas Propane Conversion“We joined Alliance AutoGas because it is the world’s most reliable program to help fleets switch to autogas,” said Gary Highfield, general manager at Wilsons. “Autogas is the most viable fuel on the market for fleets because it’s clean, it costs less than gasoline and installing autogas fueling stations is not expensive. As an Alliance partner, we’re now able to help fleets throughout Atlantic Canada start saving on fuel costs right away by running vehicles on autogas.”

With the joining of Wilsons Fuel to the network, the Alliance now offers services in 40 states and two countries. The program provides fleets vehicle conversions, fueling, on-site fuel station installation data integration training and ongoing technical support.

Stuart Weidie, president of Alliance AutoGas and founder of Autogas for America added, “The addition of Canadian partners like Wilsons plays a key role in the continuing international expansion of the Alliance AutoGas network. It only makes sense that such a well-established company, which generations of customers have come to know and trust, now provides local fleets with the most affordable, dependable transportation fuel on the market.”

BlendStar Completes Construction

GPRE logoGreen Plains Renewable Energy (GPRE)’s subsidiary BlendStar LLC has completed construction and begun operations at its 96-car unit train terminal in Birmingham, Alabama. BNSF Railway, who will serve the terminal, has a throughput capacity of 300 million gallons ethanol annually.

“We are pleased to announce the start-up of operations at the Birmingham terminal, which will provide more efficient distribution of ethanol to underserved markets in the southeastern U.S.,” said Todd Becker, President and Chief Executive Officer of Green Plains. “We have unloaded the first unit train of ethanol and expect the terminal to be at full capacity in January 2013. This facility expands our geographic footprint consistent with our strategy to expand our downstream distribution capabilities.”

The Birmingham terminal currently has 160,000 barrels of storage and a four-lane covered truck rack, both with expansion capabilities.

USDA Supports Sustainable Bioenergy Production

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has awarded $10 million in research grants to help develop production of bioenergy and biobased products. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack made the announcement while visiting Michigan State University, one of the grant winners.

Ford Concept Car with Biobased materialsWhile there, Vilsack mentioned the growth potential of biobased products as detailed in a recent study by Iowa State University (funded by USDA) that found that while biobased products in automobile manufacturing is increasing, there are still many parts that can be replaced with biobased materials.

“USDA and President Obama are committed to producing clean energy right here at home, to not only break our dependence on foreign oil, but also boost rural economies,” said Vilsack. “These projects will give us the scientific information needed to support biofuel production and create co-products that will enhance the overall value of a biobased economy. Today, with a strong and diversified U.S. agricultural sector, the American automobile industry has a greater incentive for expanding use of biobased products while supporting good-paying jobs here in the United States.”

USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) awarded the grants through the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI). AFRI’s sustainable bioenergy challenge area targets the development of regional systems for the sustainable production of bioenergy and biobased products that: contribute significantly to reducing dependence on foreign oil; have net positive social, environmental, and rural economic impacts; and are compatible with existing agricultural systems.

Projects were awarded in four areas: 1) policy options for and impacts on regional biofuels production systems, 2) impacts of regional bioenergy feedstock production systems on wildlife and pollinators, 3) socioeconomic impacts of biofuels on rural communities, and 4) environmental implications of direct and indirect land use change. Click here to view a full list of the winners.

Spring Valley Wins Wind Project of Year

POWER-GEN International has awarded Spring Valley Wind facility in Ely, Nevada Wind Project of the Year Award. Owned by Pattern Energy Group, the 151.8 MW project is the first wind project on public land and also the first wind project in the state of Nevada.

“We are honored that Spring Valley has received the prestigious Wind Project of the Year Award; this project was spring_valley_wind_farma tremendous collaboration that would not have been possible without the help of so many in Nevada,” said MikeGarland, CEO of Pattern Energy. “Spring Valley received support from Senator Reid, Senator Heller, Secretary Salazar, and local government officials, as well as the great people of Ely. We collaborated on this project with White Pine County, the State of Nevada, Bureau of Land Management, NV Energy, and several Federal agencies and environmental groups, including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Nevada Department of Wildlife, local Native American tribes, and the Sierra Club.”

The Spring Valley Wind project features 66 Siemens 2.3 MW wind turbines, which can power approximately 45,000 homes. Mortenson Construction was the prime construction contractor on the project.  Pattern has a 20-year power purchase agreement with NV Energy for the sale of energy produce by the wind farm.

“Pattern was proud to bring its environmental leadership to Spring Valley Wind with groundbreaking mitigation measures that minimize impacts on the environment, including the preservation of cultural resources, funding for sage grouse, curtailment standards, modified electrical lines to reduce risks to birds, and an advanced radar system designed to protect birds and bats,” added Garland. “The project also provided a strong economic boost to the region and significant benefits to the community and school system for decades to come.”

Student Transportation Wins Propane Bus Contract

Student Transportation has been awarded a contract with Omaha and Milliard Public Schools in Nebraska to transport students with propane autogas school buses. The company will provide nearly 300 buses with more than 400 to be fueled with propane. The contract will begin in August 2013.

To best serve the schools, Student Transportation will open at least three facilities in the Omaha metro area. Blue BlueBird Propane Fueled School BusBird Corporation will manufacture the propane autogas buses equipped with ROUSH CleanTech liquid propane autogas fuel system technology. The remaining buses in the fleet will be provided by IC Bus, a division of Navistar.

STI Chairman and CEO Denis J. Gallagher said, “Domestically-produced, clean-burning propane autogas is a perfect fit for school fleets with up to 30 percent less greenhouse emissions. By running propane-powered buses, Omaha Public Schools can reduce their carbon dioxide emissions by 2,310,469 lbs. per year, significantly lowering the school district’s carbon footprint, which was its goal for the coming year.”

According to Student Transportation, propane sales currently contribute more than $122 million to Nebraska’s economy.

“This large deployment is the catalyst that alternate fuels needed to become a viable and reliable fuel source for school transportation,” said Gallagher. “We have been leaders in this area and have been pushing and working with our manufacturers to have a final product that can lower greenhouse emissions and lower costs at the same time. We wanted a large project to roll out our initiative in this area so school districts around the country can see there is a better way to transport children to school with a lower cost of operation. “