SAFUG Gains New Member

The Sustainable Aviation Fuel Users Group (SAFUG) has added a new member – United Airlines. The group’s goal is to accelerate the development and commercialization of aviation biofuels. The members of SAFUG represents nearly 32 percent of commercial aviation fuel demand, and upon joining, commit to testing and using aviation biofuels.

United Airlines has been one of the leaders of the adoption of sustainable fuel with the airline testing aviation biofuels in November 2011 during a U.S. commercial flight. Prior to this, United Airlines held several demonstration flights dating back to 2009. In addition to joining SAFUG, the company also signed a letter of intent to purchase at least 50 million gallons of biofuels for use in its operations.

“We are excited to collaborate with other industry leaders in our shared quest to advance sustainable biofuels,” said Jimmy Samartzis, managing director of Global Environmental Affairs and Sustainability for United. “We will all benefit from our collective work to find solutions to make alternative fuel available at commercial scale and secure a sustainable future for aviation.”

This move is just one of several United is making to decrease its impact on the environment. The company has also been investing in more fuel-efficient aircraft and equipment and has more than 3,600 ground support equipment vehicles, or nearly 26 percent of its fleet of ground support equipment, is electric or alternatively fueled, among other initiatives.

Group Says No to Clean Energy Victory Bonds

Advanced Biofuels USA is saying no to Clean Energy Victory Bonds. Green America supporters have been working to gain support of the bonds as a way to raise money to be invested in clean energy technologies. Yet according to Advanced Biofuels USA’s Bob Kozak, there are several major flaws in the proposed legislation.

Here are several problems as outlined by Kozak:

1. Because the bonds will require immediate income from the projects to pay the interest income promised to the investor, bonding is not the appropriate method for funding renewable energy research and project prototypes. These bonds could only be used for projects that have already been proven to be commercially viable and would not provide funding where it is needed most in biofuel and other renewable energy development – at the research and commercialization stages.

2. Clean Energy Victory Bonds would duplicate other available funding mechanisms via the requirement to have a return on investment that is higher than current US bond issues, the only projects that would be eligible for funding are those that are relatively low risk that would be funded by existing commercial instruments.

3. Clean energy is not defined. Besides advanced transportation biofuels not being included in the legislation, it also seems that the “dirty” elements of projects would not be factored into a life cycle analysis of the environmental impact.

Kozak counters that there is legislation that could be developed that would be effective. He suggests a $200 billion, 10 year, science-heavy “Manhattan Project” for new renewable transportation, heating and electrical production of energy sources. He also recommends a makeover of accounting and taxation laws that would properly charge for Climate Change and other environmental costs. To learn more, click here.

Chrysler Helps “Tell the Story” of Ethanol

Chrysler sees great value in ethanol. James Frusti, Chrysler Group manager of Fuels, Energy and Regulatory Affairs, presented the company’s ethanol strategy as part of the auto industry’s greater efforts of collaboration during the 25th Annual Ethanol Conference.

Fursti said that center stage of bringing any technology to market is the customer and the technology must provide value to the customer. “Whether it be for vehicle technology, a new energy source, or a new fuel source, to us that’s all technology,” he said. Ethanol is one of these technologies.

At Chrysler, Fursti explained that they are trying to make the internal combustion engine as efficient as possible given the challenging fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas requirements. To do this, they are looking at ethanol and biodiesel. But in order for Chrysler to invest in the development of ethanol engine technology, several things need to happen.

1)   More flex-fuel vehicles (FFVs) need to be sold.

2)   Customers need to understand the value in ethanol. When this happens they will buy FFVs so they need to be more broadly available in the retail market.

3)   Automakers need to be able to obtain greenhouse gas credits and improve their ability to comply with challenging requirements. The soon to be published 2017-2025 Fuel Economy and Greenhouse Gas Rules by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will explain how this will work and it is believed automakers will receive greenhouse gas credits for FFVs.

The next step, said Fursti, is that they need to know with certainty when there is going to be enough mid-level blends of ethanol available at the retail level for them to invest in redesigning their engines.

To succeed, there will need to be effective collaboration between the industries. There will also need to be more communication with the customer and legislators, said Frusti. Stealing a quote from UDSA Ag Secretary Vilsack, you’ve got to tell the story to the customer and you’ve got to tell the story to the legislatures.

You can view James Frusti’s presentation here and also listen to his remarks: James Frusti Tells the Ethanol Story

Ethanol Biorefining Innovations

There are many biorefining innovations taking place in the ethanol industry. During the 25th Annual Ethanol Conference, three company representatives discussed the research and technologies they were implementing or studying to increase the value of the ethanol production process.

Steve McNinch with Western Plains Energy said his company is looking at how to move into the advanced biofuels category of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS2). The biorenfinery, which produces ethanol from sorghum (milo), is currently installing technology to produce methane. His plant is also researching anaerobic digestion technologies that convert waste to energy. In addition, the plant is adding methane technology that will allow the plant to stop using natural gas as its electricity source and improve the ethanol’s carbon intensity score.

You can view Steve McNinch’s presentation here and also listen to his remarks: click here: Ethanol and AD Integration to
Produce Advanced Biofuel

There are several ways you can make your biorefinery more efficient whether you operate a corn ethanol plant or a milo ethanol plant.  Dough Rivers with ICM presented one way you can get from first generation corn to second generation cellulose while using the same biorefinery infrastructure. The first way to get from a dry grind plant is to start doing some things to recover more of your starch to convert more of your targeted end product. ICM has developed a Selective Milling Technology that bolts onto the current plant and increases both ethanol yield and corn oil yield. The company is also developing a fiber separation technology. From here you can start thinking about converting fiber to ethanol and collecting cellulosic RINs (Renewable Identification Number). Today ICM is testing its technologies in its pilot plant and expects to be offering the ethanol industry bolt-on cellulosic technologies soon.

You can view Doug River’s presentation here and also listen to his remarks: click here: ICM Pathway from Gen 1 Ethanol to Gen 2 Ethanol

Highwater Ethanol is one of the last ethanol facilities built in the U.S and the biorefinery is looking at moving into advanced biofuels via isobutanol (biobutanol). CEO Brian Kletscher discussed the current challenges and opportunities with isobutanol. Today ethanol plants have financial pressures, marketing challenges and a cap on first generation ethanol in the RFS2. The industry needs a solution and Highwater Ethanol believes isobutanol is one solution. That is why they signed on as an early adopter with Butamax. Isobutanol has several advantages over ethanol: attractive gasoline blending opportunities; it enables the refineries to increase the use of gasoline out of a barrel of oil up to three percent; it also has some advantages in its molecule. Now that Highwater Ethanol is on board with the technology, its next step is to pursue permitting and begin retrofitting in 2013.

You can view Brian Kletscher’s presentation here and also listen to his remarks: click here: Highwater Ethanol Review of Isobutanol

Do The Math

Recently the American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) celebrated its 25th Annual Ethanol Conference. One of the things ACE knew 25 years ago was that they needed to work with the people who distributed fuel. Ron Lamberty, Senior Vice President and guru of market development, was one of those retailers with whom ACE worked. Twelve years later, Lamberty’s “gig” became full time.

During some remarks he gave before a question and answer session, Lamberty noted that what the industry has to do is what is right for retailers because they are the ones who eventually will make ethanol successful.

“A program that we used to do and are heading back to now is called “Do the Math”. We’d go to petroleum shows and we’d try to explain to them the octane value, the blending value and the price value of E10,” Lamberty reminisced. “Interestingly enough we’re kind of back in that same realm with E15.”

ACE has been and continues to educate mechanics and station owners about ethanol. Today ACE has plans to expand the effort. They also continue to work with the BYO program that helps station owners install pumps to sell ethanol.

Lamberty believes that E15 is going to be a good driver for the ethanol industry. “It’s going to be something that convinces petroleum marketers to spend the money on the pump because the math works for them. We have to be able to show that this is a value proposition for retailers.” And it is he says.

As oil companies sell their stations, the number of single station owners is increasing. Lamberty said these are the type of owners who like ethanol because it helps their business. They make more money and its something they can sell that they’re competitors are not selling. As a result, ACE continues to reach out to these station owners to educate them about ethanol.

In closing, Lamberty reminded everyone that ethanol is the right thing to do. “We’re going to continue to work to find more people to sell more ethanol.”

To listen to Ron Lamberty’s full remarks, click here: Do The Math

World Ethanol Market Projected to Reach 27.7B Gallons

The world ethanol market is projected to reach 27.7 billion gallons by the end of 2012 according to a new report, “Biofuels – A Global Strategic Business Report,” conducted by Global Industry Analysts. The growth, says the report, is due to skyrocketing crude prices, continued concerns over environmental pollution and the switch to biofuels. In addition, worldwide emission standards, biofuels subsidies and tax incentives have also had a positive impact on growth.

In the U.S., growth is being fostered by the goal of increasing domestic fuel production along with attention on the lowering of carbon emissions. Other aids to growth in the U.S., according to the report, is the increased purchases of flex-fuel vehicles (FFVs) and the approval and sale of E15 for vehicles produce in 2011 or newer.

Today, the U.S. and Brazil (as well as South America) dominate production with 50 percent of world sugarcane produced going into the production of ethanol. Together, South America and the U.S. produced 66.5 percent of total volume sales in 2008 with 90 percent of ethanol demand in South America coming from Brazil. Ethanol consumption in Brazil is expected to reach 7.45 billion gallons by 2015. Sales of ethanol in Canada, one of the fastest growing markets worldwide, are expected to rise by approximately 208.25 million gallons between the period 2008 to 2012. The report predicts that markets to watch are India and China.

Globally, volume consumption of ethanol is estimated to grow by about 7,597 million gallons between the period 2008 to 2012. Asia-Pacific dominates the global food & beverage end-use market with a 64.2% share estimated in the year 2008. The solvent end-use market in the United States is projected to consume over 230 million gallons of ethanol by the year 2015. In Europe, Germany and France collectively account for 35.5% of the regional ethanol market as estimated in 2008.

All the major global ethanol players are featured in the report along with all the major biodiesel players around the world. The report provides a comprehensive review of market trends, driver, issues, and challenges in the biofuels global market. It also discusses climates in key regional markets. Also provided in the report is an enumeration of recent mergers, acquisitions, and other strategic industry activities.

UNL Team to Use E85 in SAE Competition

University racing teams participating in the Formula SAE Collegiate design and performance racing series have the opportunity to develop race cars with alternative fuels. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln team has chosen to compete in the 2013 series using E85 racing fuel. Ten of the 81 teams will be competing with E85 racing fuel. The student designed Formula racing type vehicles will compete in a variety of categories including design, performance, acceleration, and endurance.

“After evaluating several fuel options we were confident that E85 would provide the high octane performance necessary to be competitive,” said Jonah Knepper, a member of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Husker Motorsports team. “We initially calibrated our competition engine on high octane gasoline. When we fine-tuned the calibration with E85 we gained a ten percent increase in power output. With additional design and tuning we think we can get another ten percent power output. That is a huge advantage in racing competition,” said Knepper.

E85 has an octane rating of 100 and as a result, Matthew Kalus, one of the team engineers said when they calibrated the 600 cc engine it increased its power output while at the same time cooling the engine. Brazilian racing teams have been using E85 racing fuel and both IndyCar and NASCAR also compete with ethanol blends.

The 2013 Formula SAE competition will be held in Lincoln next year.  Last year the University of Kansas secured first place in the Overall competition as well as the Endurance competition using E85 racing fuel. In addition, the University of Wisconsin won the top spot in the Fuel Economy category using E85. The UNL team is confident they’ll have a chance at the top spot using E85 racing fuel along with some innovative engineering.

MU Grant Studies Biomass Growth on Marginal Lands

University of Missouri (MU) researchers have received a $5.4 million grant from the Department of Energy (DOE) to continue its studies on how non-food biofuel crops grow in marginal land along floodplains. This is an area where crops cannot typically thrive.  he project is part of a $125 million international project to study how use marginal lands to to grow biofuel crops for advanced biofuels.

“In the 10 states along the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers, 100 million acres of marginalized agricultural land is unused or underutilized often due to frequent flooding,” said Shibu Jose, H.E. Garrett Endowed Professor in the School of Natural Resources and director of the MU Center for Agroforestry. “If farmers can plant just 10 percent of marginal floodplain land with crops designated for use in biofuels, we can produce 6 to 8 billion gallons of liquid fuel annually. Planting this land with crops designated for biofuels would have little to no effect on the food supply.”

Several trials are being planned including one that will test 15 types of biomass sorghum and 15 types of switchgrass. Both crops need less water than traditional crops and less care including less fertilizer. Other advantages of these crops is that the root system reduces erosion and water pollution by filtering water as it runs into streams and rivers. Ultimately, the team will identify which varieties grow best under flood and drought conditions and which crops grow best in various soil types.

Many energy producers are looking at biomass as a biofuel and electricity source. Biomass can be converted into pellets and then the pellets can be burned for electricity or produced into biofuels.  Jose envisions a network of farmers producing biomass and shipping it to local pellet-producers, who will ship the pellets to refineries.

“We need to build a network of pellet producers because transportation costs need to be low enough that farmers can still profit off of growing crops for biofuel,” said Jose.“With the smaller condensed pellets, we can transport a great amount of energy at a low cost.”

INEOS Bio Receives EPA Registration

The first cellulosic plant using non-food waste materials in the country has received Parts 79 and 80 registration from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): INEOS New Planet BioEnergy (INPB).  The news came as the facility of the Indian River BioEnergy Center (Center) nears production. The biorefinery will use vegetative, yard waste and agricultural waste to produce cellulosic ethanol and is scheduled to be commissioned in the next few weeks.

When the Center is in full production, it will produce 8 million gallons of advanced bioethanol and 6 megawatts of renewable power.  INEOS Bio, the parent company of the project, has plans to run municipal solid waste at the Center after initial start-up is complete.

“We have completed this new facility on schedule and on budget and look forward to further advancing this bioenergy technology and making it commercially available around the world,” said Peter Williams, CEO of INEOS Bio and Chairman of INPB. “Building more facilities and licensing this technology globally provides a new platform for waste disposal while providing energy security, local jobs and local bioenergy. “New technologies like this will also move us further away from, avoid, and eventually change the food-vs-fuel debate.”

Once the biorefinery is in production, it will be one of the first to produce cellulosic ethanol under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). The facility will feature INEOS Bio’s feedstock flexible BioEnergy technology that uses a combination of gasification and fermentation technology to turn various types of waste materials into fuel and electricity.

Austin Explores Solar Industry

Those living in Austin, Texas can get a inside look at the solar industry during a forum and open house hosted by ImagineSolar. On August 25, 2012 from 9:00 am – 1:00 pm CDT at ImagineSolar’s training facility located at 4000 Caven Road, Austin, TX 78744, community members can see new solar products and services from various solar companies, learn about new courses (attendees are eligible for a $50 discount on one course) and tour ImagineSolar’s solar field lab.

Several solar companies who are looking for local talent will be on hand at the event including Ideal Power Converters, Schletter, Greenbelt Solar, Lighthouse Solar, and more. Several solar associations will also be at the event including Texas Green Network (TGN), Renewable Energy Student Association (RESA), Texas Renewable Energy Industry Association (TREIA), and Sierra Club, Austin.

Austin innovator Michael Kuhn, who is also the founder of ImagineSolar, has been active in public policy for the solar industry since the 1990s. Today he is working with other local solar entrepreneurs to develop breakthrough models for local solar development. The goal is to accelerate solar adoption in the community. Today, current capacity for non-utility-scale solar is around 6 MW and the hope is to reach 300 MW over the next 10 years.

During the event, Kuhn will speak on this work and what to expect in the next several years from the Austin solar industry. “I remember when you could count on your two hands the number of people working in solar in Austin ten years ago,” said Kuhn, “Today we count over 615 people with jobs in the solar industry. We continue to endeavor to ensure that the City of Austin remains a leader for clean energy. Austin’s support for local solar is an engine for job creation.”

For more information about solar opportunities in Austin, download the free eBooks “Career Opportunities in the Solar Industry” and “Career Opportunities in the Smart Grid Industry.”

UN Calls for Easing of U.S. Ethanol Mandates

The concern over the American drought and the impact that ethanol production is having on corn prices has gone global. Jose Graziano da Silva, the director-general of the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization, said that the easing of U.S. ethanol mandates could stave off another world food crisis.

In response, the Global Renewable Fuels Alliance  (GRFA) wrote, “While the current drought in the US Midwest has placed tremendous pressure on farmers, any action to reduce or eliminate the RFS would be premature and have immediate consequences in lost jobs and an increased reliance on crude oil imports.”

GRFA cited that the flexibility embedded in the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) is an effective way of reducing demand for corn during difficult time. U.S. ethanol production is down nearly 14 percent and refiners are holding an estimated 2.6 billion RFS credits that can be used to meet their compliance requirements.

Total grain output globally is expected to drop by 2.9 percent this year; yet, it is still estimated to be the second largest in history. Estimates show grain ending stocks 4% above the 10 year average.

National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) President Garry Niemeyer thanked farmers for having done so much to increase the corn supply. This year’s corn acres paralleled that in 1937; however, this year with advanced agronomic practices, new seed technologies and improved genetics, corn is able to withstand extreme conditions, such as heat and drought, better than ever before.

.”..we remain hopeful that above average yields in some areas will further augment the crop. At the same time, we recognize that it will not fully cover yield concerns.” Without these advanced technologies, said Niemeyer, the production losses would be much greater.

“As prices and emotions rise, so does the temptation to take action that might actually hurt us all in the long run,” added Niemeyer. “Right now, farmers, ranchers, ethanol producers and much of the country is suffering through this historic drought. Yet, we suffer together. We have all seen our investments, be they of time, hard work or resources, wither under the unrelenting heat. With empathy and a strong spirit of cooperation, we will come through these difficulties stronger for the experience and with renewed vigor to build a brighter future for ourselves, our industry and our country.”

Setting the Record Straight On Drought & RFS

The National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) is setting the record straight on the truth behind what would happen if the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) allowed a waiver of the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS2). Garry Niemeyer, NCGA president sent a letter to every member of the House of Representatives along with EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, that included corrects inaccuracies.

“Unfortunately, the letter sent to EPA Administrator Jackson did not provide accurate information about the amount of corn used to produce ethanol or livestock feed,” Niemeyer stated in the letter. “Furthermore, it lacks a comprehensive description of the “burden of proof” required under the RFS waiver provisions. The letter relies on long discredited claims that opponents of the RFS have continued to reference in their on-going efforts to repeal the RFS.”

One of the pieces of misinformation according to Niemeyer is that research has shown that increased worldwide demand and the rising cost of oil and other inputs have had a much greater effect on the price of corn than the ethanol required by the RFS. NCGA believes it is premature for the EPA to waive the RFS at this point and until the harvest numbers are final, it is too early to determine how much corn will be available.

“It is important to remember that a Congressional majority wisely passed a renewable fuel standard that would work in both good and bad crop years,” Niemeyer said. “NCGA urges you to consider the benefits of the RFS to rural America, American energy security and the American farmer.”

Neimeyer also encouraged members of Congress to visit with farmers and community leaders to learn more about the important role they play for America.

10 Ways Ethanol is Helping Livestock Producers

Despite the lack of rain that is occurring across the U.S. this summer, the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IFRA) has released a list of 10 ways ethanol producers are helping livestock farmers during the drought. IRFA says that although the drought is having a profound impact on crop production, because of ethanol production, there is larger corn crop and more flexible supply than ever available during other drought periods.

“Today’s USDA report confirms what we already knew – that the drought’s impact on supply and price will be felt by corn consumers around the world,” said IRFA Executive Director Monte Shaw. “Yet, the ag sector has seen droughts before, and it will survive again. This is a time when all of agriculture should pull together. Unfortunately, national livestock trade associations have chosen to politicize the on-going drought as part of their multi-year effort to return corn prices to $2 per bushel. At times like this, it is important to look past the rhetoric to the facts.”

During the American Coalition for Ethanol 25th Annual Conference, Cindy Zimmerman sat down with Shaw to discuss the call for a waiver of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) with many of the calls coming from the livestock industry. They also discussed 10 ways ethanol producers are helping livestock producers during this tough time.

Monte Shaw interview at ACE

Ethanol helps all types of livestock producers. “We have a better price of corn. It makes them more competitive against the integrators,” explained Shaw. “But then we also have the distillers grains. And if you think about it, we planted 95 million acres of corn this year instead of 75 million because of ethanol. So yes, we’re taking a nasty hit from this drought and this is going to cause pain among all corn users, but we’re going to have a much bigger crop than we would have otherwise.”

“And then the ethanol industry returns that 20 million additional acres of protein goes straight to the livestock industry. So we have 20 additional acres of protein that would not be out in the market, the feed market, if it weren’t for the ethanol industry,” he added. Continue reading

Consumers Choosing Carbon Offsets at Pump

Consumers in California have been choosing to purchase carbon offsets when they fill up at the pump. Propel Fuels has been operating a pilot program with its flagship Clean Mobility Center in Fullerton, California. When a consumer purchases carbon emissions offsets it goes through the Carbonfund.org Foundation. Since Propel launched CarbonOffset in May, nearly 1,000 customers have spent $1.00 per fill and offset more than 160,000 pounds of CO2 at one station.

“It’s encouraging that, even during a period of high fuel prices, consumers are choosing to pay a little extra to offset their emissions, one tankful at a time, to help make progress toward our nation’s clean energy goals,” said Matt Horton, CEO of Propel. “By making carbon offsets convenient and cost effective, we’re helping consumers take part in the clean energy movement, even if their vehicles don’t run on renewable fuels.”

The program is not just for consumers driving cars and trucks. Fleet drivers can also participate and keep track of their efforts through the CleanDrive program. Members receive personalized emissions reports that include CO2 reductions, barrels of oil displaced and equivalent annual impact of mature trees.

When carbon offsets are purchased, Carbonfund.org Foundation uses the money to fund projects focusing on renewable energy, methane capture, energy efficiency, reforestation and other carbon emission reduction projects. CarbonOffset participants are currently helping to fund the Truck Stop Electrification Project, an initiative that provides truck drivers the ability to access heating, cooling, internet, TV and other amenities by plugging into electricity rather than idling their diesel engines.

Due to the early success of the program, Propel plans to expand the program to more locations. “The early success of Propel’s CarbonOffset program is strong evidence that consumers are ready and willing to support clean energy, especially if the cost and benefits are clear,” added Eric Carlson, President of Carbonfund.org. “Thanks to Propel, thousands of drivers can vote with their dollars to support clean energy and domestic, renewable fuels.”

Suntech Reaches 1 Gigawatt Milestone

Suntech Power has reached a major milestone: production and delivery of more than 1 gigawatt of solar panels. The company is one of the first in the world to achieve this feat. Globally, nearly 7GW of Suntech solar panels have been shipped to more than 1,000 customers in 80 countries. In total, Suntech solar panels have the ability to generate close to 9 terrawatt hours of electricity per year.

How much power is that? According to the CIA World Factbook, enough energy to cover the all the power needs of Costa Rica or Paraguay. As in yes, the entire country.

This is a great milestone for our team and, most of all, a tribute to our customers – their success is our success. Although it’s a highly-competitive period for solar manufacturers, there’s never been a better time to be a solar customer and that’s what matters most to our industry’s longevity,” said John Lefebvre, President of Suntech America. “Utilities from Arizona to Chile are recognizing solar’s unique value proposition and ability to deliver low-risk, long-term price stability in an energy era defined by fossil fuel price instability. Solar offers a brilliant value proposition today that will only improve with time.”

Founded in 2007 in San Francisco, California, in 2010, Suntech opened a 30MW solar module production facility in Goodyear, Arizona, which has since expanded to 50MW and now runs around-the-clock. Suntech employs about 180 people throughout the Americas and is continuing to grow.