Iowa Biodiesel Production Remains Strong

Biodiesel production in Iowa remained strong during the 3rd quarter according to the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA). Figures released by the Iowa Department of Revenue show that 10 Iowa biodiesel plants claimed tax credits on more than 44.2 million gallons of biodiesel produced from July 2012 through September 2012. Several of the biodiesel plants have reached the tax credit program cap and as a result, the total production numbers were higher than what was submitted for credits.

In 2011, the Iowa Legislature enacted a short-term, modest biodiesel production tax credit to help Iowa’s biodiesel community compete against states that provide large biodiesel incentives. The Iowa program went into effect on January 1, 2012.

As the 4th quarter is in full swing, the federal biodiesel mandate has almost been met causing a slow-down in the industry. Through the end of September, biodiesel sales in the U.S. totaled 843 million gallons, just 157 million gallons shy of the federal mandate for 2012 that set total use at around 1.1 billion gallons. This number was increased for the 2013 mandate to 1.28 billion gallons per year.

“While 4th quarter demand appears to be down somewhat, Iowa produced more than 150 million gallons of biodiesel during the first three quarters of 2012 and is on target to break the biodiesel production record of 169 million gallons set in 2011,” said IRFA Executive Director Monte Shaw. “That is great news for Iowa jobs and farm income. It is also good news for Iowa livestock producers because biodiesel production increases the value of their animals while reducing their feed costs.”

Economist Bruce Johnson To Address NEB Meeting

Professor of Agricultural Economics at the University of Nebraska/Lincoln, Dr. Bruce Johnson, will be addressing the attendees of the Nebraska Ethanol Board (NEB) meeting tomorrow, October 30, 2012 at 10:00 am CDT at the University of Nebraska East Campus Union in Lincoln. He will be discussing the recently released “2010 Economic Impact of the Nebraska Agricultural Production Complex.” The report focuses on the state’s industries involved in growing, processing and transporting agricultural products, which account for nearly one quarter of Nebraska’s total economy. In addition, Dr. Johnson will address the role of the state’s ethanol industry and prospects for future agricultural growth.

According to statements from NEB, the production and use of ethanol strengthens the state’s economy while lowering fuel costs. Ethanol blended fuels are projected to save Nebraska consumers more than $70 million during 2012. Francisco Blanch, a commodities expert for Merrill Lynch, said that biofuels, like ethanol, lower gas prices by at least 15 percent on a nationwide basis.

“Those energy savings are retained in the domestic economy,” said Steve Hanson, Nebraska Ethanol Board chairman. “The high price of oil and gas is driving up the cost of nearly all consumer products but the ethanol industry is helping to keep the Nebraska economy strong amidst nationwide inflation.”

Phil Lampert, former director of the National Ethanol Vehicle Coalition, will also speak at the Nebraska Ethanol Board meeting. Lampert is nationally recognized for his work to expand the use of E85 and other higher percentage ethanol blends. Lampert will provide an overview of ethanol flex fuel infrastructure development.

Book Review – Clean Energy Nation

This week I read Clean Energy Nation by Congressman Jerry McNerny and Martin Cheek. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I found myself likening the book to the classic Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. Subconsciously I think it was because one of the recurring themes in Brave New World, first published in 1932, is the Fordship’s desire, after Our Ford ‘s first T-Model,” for its citizens to “consume manufactured articles as well as transport.” Ironically, a portion of Huxley’s predictions came true – globally, people have been conditioned to consume both manufactured items and transportation. It is expected that by 2020 or so, there will be two billion cars on the road.

Clean Energy Nation is like most other energy books and begins with a history lesson about energy with special attention paid to the use and development of fossil fuels. In the words of the New World controller, “…you all remember, I suppose, that beautiful and inspired saying of Our Ford’s: History is bunk. History,” he repeated slowly, ‘is bunk’.” While history is not bunk, as a global population we seem to think that it is, and it bears saying that recurrent energy history lessons are much needed.

The next section of the book delves into America’s energy issues and covers all the usual suspects including national security, environment, economy, agriculture, public health, education, and good government. (Or in the case of the U.S., bad government. Since 1973, the U.S. Department of Energy has missed 34 deadlines to set mandatory energy standards.). Finally, the book gets into a discussion about America’s energy future.

The discussion about the “crossroads” of America was very motivational. Continue reading

BP Continues Biofuels Backout

BP is continuing its biofuels backout with the announcement that it is abandoning its $300 million cellulosic project in Highlands County, Florida. This is the second major announcement of the company moving away from the production of renewable energy. Last December, the company exited the solar business. According to an interview with Matt Hartwig in the Washington Post, the company will continue to focus its U.S. efforts on research and development and licensing its technology.

“Ethanol is not something a lot of people are interested in investing money in,” said Mark Schultz, an analyst at Northstar Commodity Investment Co. in Minneapolis, to the Post. “Corn-based ethanol hasn’t been profitable for about a year. BP is seeing that this isn’t the right street to go down anymore.”

Many advanced biofuels players responded to the news today including Brooke Coleman, the executive director of the Advanced Ethanol Council. “BP has been reallocating its resources when it comes to biofuels for some time. BPs’ decision today signals a move by that company away from that particular project. This happens all the time in the oil, gas, and biofuel industries. As BP pulls back in Florida, the first movers in the space continue to move forward with commercial projects in more than 20 U.S. states. We are expecting first commercial gallons of cellulosic ethanol to come online by the end of the year, which is a tremendous accomplishment in this economic climate.”

Many of the 20 companies mentioned by Coleman are members of the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) Continue reading

Investors Ask for Wind Tax Credit Extension

Dozens of investors totaling more than $800 billion in assets have called for an immediate extension of the Production Tax Credit (PTC) for renewable energy, specifically wind power. In a letter delivered to Congressional leaders, investors noted that this critical tax credit creates broad economic benefits, both for wind power producers and their suppliers across the nation. Several of these investors met with Congressional staff to discuss their support for the credit.

The PTC provides a tax credit of 2.2 cents for each kilowatt-hour of renewable power generated. Designed to spur investment, the credit has helped the wind energy industry develop a large domestic network of supplies. According to the American Wind Energy Association, the PTC has spurred $20 billion in private investment and the creation of 75,000 jobs. Investors wrote to encourage. The PTC expires at the end of 2012.

“The Production Tax Credit is vital to fostering a vibrant renewable power sector, which will improve our economic competitiveness while also reducing our reliance on fossil fuels,” said Oregon State Treasurer Ted Wheeler, who oversees the management of $72.5 billion of state funds. “Renewable energy generation opportunities beckon from border-to-border in Oregon, and they promise to produce not only clean and sustainable power but also crucial employment and investments in key infrastructure.”

Oregon wind farms now generate enough energy to power 700,000 homes, and the state is the home to the North American headquarters of wind power companies Vestas and Iberdrola Renewables. Continue reading

Cool Planet – 3 Years, 30 Biomass Plants

Cool Planet Energy Systems has announced a breakthrough in the commercialization and affordability of biofuels from biomass. Using a mechanical process and scaling approach, the company says it can produce high octane gasoline at the cost of $1.50 per gallon without the need for subsidies and also while removing carbon from the air during the course of production.

The company, backed by Google, BP, General Electric, NRG, and others, says it has already successfully tested the technology internally as well as at Google’s headquarters with its campus vehicle, GRide, that has driven 2,400 miles on the fuel. By running on a 5% Cool Planet carbon negative fuel blended with 95% regular gasoline, the test car blend met California’s 2020 Low Carbon Fuel Standard – eight years ahead of schedule according to a Cool Planet statement.

The statement also said the control car used 100 percent regular gasoline, and successfully passed five smog checks with no significant difference between cars. The total mileage of the test car was virtually the same as the control car, driving a total of 2,490 stop and go miles in the test car compared with 2,514 miles in the control car. Additionally, both the test car and the control car were virtually identical in emissions testing. Other field tests are planned.

“Innovations in alternative fuels will be key in addressing growing climate change concerns,” said Brendon Harrington, Transportation Operations Manager at Google, Inc. “We are thrilled to be a part of Cool Planet’s field testing and believe that this product has the potential to make a significant impact on our future energy needs.”

A byproduct of producing the biofuel from biomass is the activated carbon, or biochar that can be used as a soil enhancer increasing land fertility while isolating the carbon captured from the atmosphere. Continue reading

Meet the Who’s Who at NBB Conference

There are more than 10 reasons to attend the National Biodiesel Board’s Conference: Momentum, and here is reason number 5: Meet People. This conference marks the 20th Anniversary of the event and is still the place to meet and greet the real players in the biodiesel industry.

The event is being held in Las Vegas (how apropos they would offer a “wheel of savings” for early bird registrants – enter WHEEL100 when you register to receive your discount) beginning February 4, 2013 and ends on February 7, 2013. This gives you plenty of time to work out your elevator, or in this case, 10 second casino pitch.

Momentum offers four tracks: technical, regulatory, marketing, and petroleum so no matter what, your interests will be covered and your question answers.  And if you play your cards right, you may also walk away with a set of great contacts to develop future partnerships.

In anticipation for the event, NBB CEO Joe Jobe filmed some brief remarks.

Now that you’re duly inspired, why don’t you register already?

State Corn Groups Work For Consumer Choice

State corn associations across the country are working to bring more choice for consumers at the pump through the use of higher blends of ethanol, such as E15. Several programs are in place to help retailers install the infrastructure needed for consumers to take advantage of EPA’s decision to allow E15 to be used in vehicles 2001 and newer. In addition, the groups are working to install flex fuel pumps that dispense mid-level blends of ethanol such as E20 and E30 as well as E85, blends that can only be used in flex-fuel vehicles.

Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota all have efforts to increase the use of higher ethanol blends in their respective states by helping fund the installation of the necessary fuel pumps. From programs that completely support the installation of E85 pumps for retailers looking to convert multiple locations to programs that help cover the cost of signage highlighting ethanol options.

Today there are around 162,000 retail stations nationwide; yet, only 3,000 offer E85 and significantly less offer E15. But for most retailers who were early adopters of ethanol blends, they find a financial advantage to selling the higher ethanol blends in increased sales.

In addition to the various state programs, there are also two additional campaigns, the American Ethanol partnership with NASCAR® and the Blend Your Own program, to help increase infrastructure, awareness and adoption of higher ethanol blends. Retailers looking for more information on aid for the installation of infrastructure for higher blends of ethanol, visit the Blend Your Own Ethanol website.

Citizen’s Guide to Energy

The presidential election is less than two weeks away and although the candidates have discussed energy, neither has debated over the right strategy for global climate change. Our legislators also typically fail to consider the consequences of actions they endorse. Therefore, according to Public Agenda, if the country hopes to move the needle on important issues, such as energy, voters need to understand what’s really at stake.

Issue one: according to research, nearly half of all Americans cannot identify a renewable energy source and almost 4 in 10 cannot name a fossil fuel. So for those ready to learn something new, or just want to rethink the issues surrounding energy policy, Public Agenda has released an interesting free guide, “A Citizens Solutions Guide Energy.”

I found the guide interesting. It establishes where the globe is at today and what global energy needs are predicted to be in the future. Then it discusses “things we do know”. This includes: the U.S. population is growing and the country’s energy consumption is growing as well; world energy demand is expected to increase by nearly 40 percent; most of our energy, 83 percent, comes from fossil fuels; and renewable energy has serious fiscal drawbacks – and we’re nowhere near ready to depend on it at a substantial level.

The guide provides energy tradeoffs, but I did note the only category with costs was renewables. Despite the fact that petroleum, natural gas, nuclear and coal have been around for decades, there is still a costs associated with them. Keep this in mind moving forward. The guide presents three possible approaches to consider and include arguments for and against each approach:

  • Approach 1: Move away from fossil fuels as quickly and as safely as we can. This will protect the environment and in the long run will give us cheaper and more reliable energy sources.
  • Approach 2: Make sure we have enough affordable energy now to support our economy and ensure our energy security.
  • Approach 3: Move toward a more energy efficient society.

While I agree with much of the information provided in the area, there are also areas I don’t agree with. But this is good because the guide achieved its goal – made me think more intelligently and in-depth about energy policy. Let’s hope I don’t forget what I’ve learn  before I hit the polls.

NRC Releases Algae Sustainability Report

This week, the National Research Council (NRC) released a new report, “Sustainable Development of Algal Biofuels in the United States.” The report was a result of a request from the Department of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s (DOE-EERE) Biomass Program.

The purpose of this study was to identify and anticipate potential sustainability concerns associated with a selected number of pathways for large-scale deployment of algal biofuels; discuss potential strategies for mitigating those concerns; and suggest indicators and metrics that could be used and data to be collected for assessing sustainability across the biofuel supply chain to monitor progress as the industry develops. In addition, NRC was asked to identify indicators that are most critical to address or have the greatest potential for improvement through DOE intervention as well as to suggest preferred cost and benefit analyses that could best aid in the decision-making process.

Ultimately, the report found that scaling up the production of biofuels made from algae to meet at least 5 percent, or approximately 39 billion liters, of U.S. transportation fuel needs would place unsustainable demands on energy, water, and nutrients. However, these concerns are not a definitive barrier for future production, and innovations that require research and development could help realize algal biofuels’ full potential.

The Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) today welcomed the report and noted that mitigation strategies are currently being developed to reduce energy, water and nutrients needed to convert algae to biofuels.

Brent Erickson, executive vice president of BIO’s Industrial & Environmental Section, said, “While the National Research Council catalogued and prioritized every potential environmental and resource challenge for the development of algae biofuels, their report correctly concludes that the industry has developed or is developing sustainable strategies to overcome these challenges. Biotechnology will continue to play a crucial role in the improvement of the productivity and economic viability of algae biofuels and other advanced biofuels that are cleaner, safer and healthier than petroleum-based fuels.”

Erickson added, “The potential benefits of developing algae biofuels – which include reducing reliance on foreign oil and contributing to a healthier economy by deploying U.S. technology – warrant continued research, development and commercial development of algae biofuels.”

Boeing, COMAC Kick of Biofuels Project

Hangzhou Energy Engineering & Technology, Co., Ltd., (HEET) will conduct the first research project at the newly formed Boeing-COMAC Aviation Energy Conservation and Emissions Reductions Technology Center. HEET will focus on ways to convert waste cooking oil into sustainable aviation biofuels. The center was created by Boeing and Commercial Aircraft Corp. of China (COMAC) and opened in August at COMAC’s new Beijing Aeronautical Science and Technology Research Institute (BASTRI).

The goal of the project is to identify contaminants in waste cooking oil, which often is described in China as “gutter oil,” and develop processes that may treat and clean it for use as jet fuel. The focus of the project for the first year will be to demonstrate the feasibility of achieving significant cost reduction in converting gutter oils and other waste oils into jet fuel through improvement of conversion efficiency and associated technology.

“As one of the member organizations of COMAC, BASTRI was built for carrying out civil aviation industry research and we aim at expanding knowledge in sustainable aviation biofuels and carbon emissions reduction,” said Qin Fuguang, president of BASTRI, COMAC. “China is the world’s fastest growing aviation market and the biggest consumer of cooking oil. There’s great potential for converting the waste cooking oil into sustainable aviation fuel. It’s a good opportunity for Boeing, HEET and COMAC to work together and make efforts to protect the environment.”

China annually consumes approximately 29 million tons of cooking oil, while its aviation system uses 20 million tons of jet fuel. Finding more efficient ways to convert “gutter oil” into jet fuel could increase regional biofuel supplies and improve biofuel’s affordability, enhancing the potential for commercial use.

Dong Yang Wu, vice president of Boeing Research & Technology – China, added, “HEET is a strong partner for the Boeing-COMAC technology center’s ‘gutter oil’ research project. We are excited about opportunities to partner with leading research capabilities in China to accelerate the global push for renewable jet fuels and support commercial aviation’s growth while reducing its environmental footprint.”

Free Biodiesel Workshop in Sioux Falls

The American Lung Association in South Dakota is hosting a free workshop on biodiesel on Friday, Oct. 26th from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Ramada Inn & Suites at 1301 W Russell Street in Sioux Falls. The event is part of National Alternative Fuel Vehicle Day Odyssey (www.AFVDayOdyssey.org), a biennial event to promote the use of alternative fuel and advanced technology vehicles.

Don’t think biodiesel is that important to you? Think again. Nearly everything we eat, wear, buy or sell in this country is transported by a truck, train or barge powered by diesel, a fuel linked to particulate air pollution.

Now that your ears have perked up, here is some additional information about the workshop. The featured speaker is Hoon Ge, a fuel expert with MEG Corp. Workshops will cover recent refining changes in diesel fuels; how to prevent, identify and respond to issues with diesel fuels; the growing role of biodiesel in the transportation industry; and the coming year-round availability of biodiesel in the region.

The workshop is supported by the South Dakota Soybean Research & Promotion Council and the National Alternative Fuels Training Consortium.  The workshop is free, but attendance is limited. Contact Kelly Marczak at (651) 268-7590 or Kelly.Marczak@lungmn.org.

POET-DSM Partners with ANDRITZ

POET-DSM has signed on the International Technology Group ANDRITZ, to supply a two-step biomass treatment process for the commercial-scale cellulosic bioethanol plant under construction in Emmetsburg, Iowa known as Project LIBERTY. The technology was designed to help draw out available sugar in the collected biomass, in this case corn stover, corn cobs, and husks, so it can be converted into cellulosic ethanol.

The ANDRITZ technology is a two-stage process that includes a vertical reactor, an interstage washer and then the continuous steam explosion technology (Advanced SteamEx process) to draw out available sugars from the cellulose material. It’s those sugars combined with Project LIBERTY’s enzyme and yeast technologies – that will get converted into ethanol.

“We’ve been working with ANDRITZ for over four years, collaborating on the development for a treatment process that aligns with our conversion technology development here at POET-DSM, and we selected them to provide that treatment process,” said James Moe, POET-DSM board member. “We’re happy to have them on-board. To say this has been quite a process is an understatement.”

Jay Miele, VP and General Manager with ANDRITZ Inc. added, “Our design teams have been working closely together over the past four years to optimize our Advanced Steam-Ex pretreatment technology for Project LIBERTY. POET-DSM’s dedication to becoming a leader in cellulosic bio-ethanol is quite evident to us. We look forward to successfully completing our part of the delivery for Project LIBERTY, and we are eager to work together on future projects.”

Constructed is scheduled to be complete in late 2013. In preparation, local farmers are increasing the amount of biomass delivered to the site in an effort to fine-tune storage efforts and refine the biomass collection process. Harvest goals for this fall were to collect nearly 85,000 tons of corn cobs and light stover. Eventually, the biorefinery will need nearly 285,000 tons of biomass per year once at full production capacity of 20 million gallons per year.

REG Breaks Ground on Plant Expansion

The country’s largest biodiesel producer, Renewable Energy Group (REG), has broken ground on the expansion to its biodiesel plant in Glenville, Minnesota. A groundbreaking ceremony was held and many biofuel supporters from across the state and the local community were on hand for the event. The upgrade is estimated to cost $20 million.

“No matter who we’ve talked to, the state or local level, they’re just absolutely thrilled,” Brad Albin, Vice President of Manufacturing at REG was quoted in an article published by KAAL TV. “The plant had been shut down for about a year and we brought it back up, last year. It’s a biodiesel plant that turns feedstock, or things like natural oils and greases, into renewable fuel.”

One of the things the plant expansion and upgrade will do is allow more difficult feedstocks to be processed into high quality biodiesel. The plant will also, said Albin, create additional jobs in the local community.

Area Representative Rich Murray was on hand for the groundbreaking. “It’s just an exciting day,”  he said. “We’ve got 20 some good paying jobs here that people are able to support their families with and now a $20 million commitment to construction here. It’s going to create construction jobs and just every bit of this is good news.”

The upgrade is expected to be complete by June of 2013 and the plant will then have the capacity to produce 30 million gallons of biodiesel each year.

Biodico & Navy Sign Advanced Biofuels Contract

Biodico has signed an agreement with the U.S. Navy for the development and evaluation of advanced biofuels and bioenergy. The goal is to jointly develop renewable fuel and energy technologies that are appropriate for use at U.S. Naval and Department Of Defense (DOD) facilities worldwide. The co-project is supported, in part, by grants from the California Energy Commission.

The collaboration between the Navy and Biodico will optimize the operation of sustainable biorefineries producing renewable petroleum diesel equivalent liquid fuels, bio-based products and energy using renewable resources. The goal is to lower the per gallon cost of production of the alternative energy source and also to push the advanced technology into the marketplace for commercial scale production.

Biodico’s President and Founder, Russell Teall, said, “As part of this agreement we are building a sustainable biorefinery at Naval Base Ventura County that will produce biofuel and bioenergy at prices competitive with unsubsidized conventional fuel and power. The facility is privately funded, with some of the innovations supported by grants from the California Energy Commission. Sen. Pavley’s landmark initiatives have helped make this project possible.”

Through on-site production of liquid biofuels, biobased products and alternative energy, the Navy can get closer to reaching its goal of reducing its dependence on petroleum by 50 percent by 2020. This, in turn, will provide the Navy access to secure forms of energy. Work under the new contract will include a range of technologies including but not limited to transesterification, gasification, gas to liquids, hydrogenation, anaerobic digestion, catalysis, and the production and processing of feedstocks and co-products.

“This announcement is an exciting outcome of the collaboration between Biodico, the Navy and the California Energy Commission,” said California State Senator Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills). “This work is a direct result of California’s commitment to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. The collaboration between Biodico, the Navy and the California Energy Commission will enhance our national security, provide new jobs and improve the environment. It will demonstrate and commercialize advanced biofuel and bioenergy technologies that will be utilized throughout the world. The integration of sustainable agriculture with renewable combined heat and power produced on-site will produce inexpensive advanced biofuels.”