World Energy Trilemma Report Released at Doha

According to the World Energy Council (WEC), the world is far away from achieving environmentally sustainable energy systems. According to the organization’s global ranking of country energy sustainability performance, over 90 countries assessed are still far from achieving fully sustainable energy systems.

The 2012 Energy Sustainability Index, published within the WEC’s 2012 World Energy Trilemma report, “Time to get real – the case for sustainable energy policy,” finds that most countries still have not managed to balance the energy trilemma. The WEC argues that countries must balance the trade-offs between the three challenges of the trilemma: energy security, social equity, and environmental impact mitigation, if they are to provide sustainable energy systems.

The Index reveals that:

  • Environmental impact mitigation remains a universal problem;
  • Providing high-quality and affordable energy access remains a significant challenge for developing and emerging economies; and
  • Countries at various stages of development struggle with energy security.

“The message of the Energy Sustainability Index is clear: all countries are facing challenges in their transition towards more secure, environmentally friendly, and equitable energy systems,” said Pierre Gadonneix, Chairman of the World Energy Council. “What makes the difference is how they set their final goals, how they balance market economics and public policies, and how they design the smartest policies in order to promote efficiency and to optimise costs, resources and investments for the long term. If we are to have any chance of delivering sustainable energy for all and meeting the +2°C goal, we need to get real.” Continue reading

WindMade Label Expands

During the COP18 climate talks in Doha, The WindMade organization announced the development of a new consumer label for companies and products made using renewable energy. The label is backed by UN Global Compact, WWF, Vestas Wind Systems and the Global Wind Energy Council. WindMade was launched in 2011 as the first global consumer label for companies powered with wind energy.

“Expanding WindMade is a natural progression, and this move follows strong demand from the market,” said Steve Sawyer, WindMade’s Chairman. “Today’s announcement will allow us to engage a wider range of interested partners and supporters for this new renewable energy label, which is built on the success of WindMade.”

The new label will recognize a wide variety of renewable energy sources, including wind, solar, and geothermal, as well as hydro power and biomass from approved certification programs. This will offer added flexibility to companies that use multiple renewable energy technologies in their energy mix.

Georg Kell, executive director of the UN Global Compact, added, “This new label continues the progress made by WindMade to successfully engage companies in addressing the impacts of climate change. It is fully aligned with the UN Global Compact’s efforts to promote greater corporate sustainability through the use renewable energy.”

A global survey of 24,000 consumers across 20 countries, conducted earlier this year, showed that 92 percent of consumers believe that renewable energy is a good solution to mitigating climate change, and that if presented with a choice, most of them would prefer products made with renewable energy, even at a premium. As a result of the survey, the new label, that will be launched in 2013, will build on the technical foundations of the WindMade standard and will be applicable to organizations, buildings, events and eventually products.

EPA Approves RFS Path for Grain Sorghum

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has just announced it’s approval of grain sorghum as an approved pathway for a renewable fuel as part of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). According to EPA, ethanol produced from grain sorghum emits 32 percent less greenhouse gas than the baseline petroleum it replaces and uses one-third less water than some other biofuel feedstocks.

The EPA report states: “EPA’s analysis indicates that ethanol made from grain sorghum at dry mill facilities that use natural gas for process energy meets the lifecycle GHG emissions reduction threshold of 20% compared to the  baseline petroleum fuel it would replace, and therefore qualifies as a renewable fuel. It also contains our regulatory determination that  grain sorghum ethanol produced at dry mill facilities using specified forms of biogas for both process energy and most electricity production, has lifecycle GHG emission reductions of more than 50% compared to the baseline petroleum fuel it would replace, and that such grain sorghum ethanol qualifies as an advanced biofuel under the RFS program.

Bill Kubecka, chairman of the Sorghum Checkoff and a sorghum producer from Palacios, Texas said, “This is a significant step forward for the sorghum industry. This pathway for grain sorghum will make sorghum a more profitable biofuel feedstock for the renewables industry, thus increasing the value and demand for sorghum.”

The EPA’s ruling further affirms the Sorghum Checkoff’s belief that grain sorghum is a feedstock perfectly suited for starch-based ethanol production.

“We believe this new opportunity to produce advanced biofuel will increase demand for the crop and lead to greater profitability for producers across the nation,” added Sorghum Checkoff Renewables Director, John Duff. “Furthermore, it gives us great pride that these producers will play a key role in supplying homegrown advanced biofuel, and we look forward to supporting them in these efforts going forward.”

Green Plains Sells Agribusiness Assets

Green Plains Renewable Energy (GPRE) has completed the sale of 12 grain elevators located in northwestern Iowa and western Tennessee to The Andersons. The sale include approximately 32.6 million bushels of GPRE’s reported agribusiness grain storage capacity and all of its agronomy and retail petroleum operations. GPRE expects to report a pre-tax gain from this sale in the fourth quarter of 2012 of around $46 million. XMS Capital Partners served as financial advisor to Green Plains in the transaction.

EU Commissioner Encourages Geothermal Energy

During a speech at the European Workshop on geothermal energy focused on urban areas, European Union (EU) Commissioner for Energy Günther Oettinger said that, ”The development of geothermal energy should be encouraged.” The European geothermal energy industry came out in support of the Commissioner urging decision makers to pay more attention to the potential role of geothermal energy in heating and cooling applications.

The event was held last week in Brussels to focus on the role geothermal energy can play as part of Europe’s renewable energy mix. If properly encouraged, the geothermal energy industry says geothermal can provide continuously provide electricity, heating and cooling. Geothermal energy is also advantages because underground thermal storage systems can be developed that are well suited to the concept of a smart city.

However,  the geothermal industry, now more than ever, is in need “of a clear regulatory framework for investing in new equipment, such as drilling,” said Philippe Dumas, director at the Council of European Geothermal (EGEC – European Geothermal Energy Council).  “And that is why we are asking for new binding targets for renewable energy beyond 2020. “

Dumas also noted that “policy makers, local authorities and utilities have become more aware of the range of the geothermal resource and their possible applications.”

The EU is currently working on an internal report on renewable energy so the EGEC took the opportunity to urge the them to ensure greater transparency in relation to the costs of each energy technology. The EGEC also asked the EU to evaluate the key bottlenecks for the further development of the geothermal sector.

Hydrogen Fueling Station Opens in Turkey

Hydrogenics Corporation has announced that a Hydrogenics electrolysis-based hydrogen fueling station has been officially opened in Turkey in the presence of Kadir Tobass, Mayor of Istanbul, as well as interested members of the public. The fueling station is located at Golden Horn, the historic inlet of the Bosphorus straight, and can fuel up to 65 kilograms per day of hydrogen at 350 bar. The station is for both land and sea transportation applications where Hydrogenics’ 8kW fuel cells can be used.

“We are very pleased to see the high level of interest shown by the Turkish government in hydrogen technology as a future fuel,” said Daryl Wilson, Hydrogenics President and CEO. “This first hydrogen fueling station in Turkey demonstrates Hydrogenics’ ability to respond to the increasing demand for hydrogen fueling stations across Europe. Our ability to deliver a complete offering addressing quality, safety and economic requirements further validates Hydrogenics as the company with the expertise to manufacture and install hydrogen fueling stations wherever needed.”

The station was financed by the International Centre for Hydrogen Energy Technologies (ICHET), a project of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO). ICHET was founded in Istanbul in 2004 and is supported by the Turkish Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources. ICHET seeks to initiate projects in the developing world that establish or enhance hydrogen production.

Could Biofuels Be Produced from A Tobacco Tree?

Could biofuels be produced from the tobacco tree? With a grant from the European Union, researchers at Royal Holloway, School of Biological Sciences, will test this theory based on initial findings that the Nicotiana Glauca produces compounds that could be used to produce biodiesel or cracked to produce petroleum products.

There are some advantages of the tobacco tree: it is known to grow well in warm and arid climates; it does not require fertile ground; and it can thrive in regions that only 200mm of rainfall a year, with temperatures exceeding 40 degrees Celsius.

“This is a crucial factor,” said Dr Paul Fraser from the School of Biological Sciences. “It means that growing this crop will not be in competition for land space with food crops. Indeed, many farmers have already raised concerns about giving their land over to biofuel crops. Our discovery could potentially solve this issue.”

Initial studies have shown that the plant is able to grow in desert climatic conditions, such as those found in the United Arab Emirates, North Africa and other arid tropical regions of the world.

The European Union has awarded funding to develop this work further through the MultiBioPro project. Together with partners in industry and academia Royal Holloway has received a research grant totalling 5,770,922 euros (approximately £4.4 million). The project will look to provide new insights into biological processes and improve the use of renewable energy resources.

Transforming Marine Algae into a Biofuel Crop

Are marine algae just as good as fresh water algae in producing biofuels? Yes, according to biologists at University of California San Diego. In a research study published in Algal Research, scientists genetically engineered marine algae to produce five different kinds of industrially important enzymes. The same process, say the researchers, could be used to enhance the yield of petroleum-like compounds from salt water algae.

Researchers say this discovery is important because it expands the kinds of environments in which algae can be conceivably grown for biofuels. For example, algal biofuels could be produced in the ocean, in brackish water of tidelands, or on agricultural land where crops can no longer grow due to the high salt content of the soil.

“What our research shows is that we can achieve in marine species exactly what we’ve already done in fresh water species,” said Stephen Mayfield, a professor of biology at UC San Diego, who headed the research project. “There are about 10 million acres of land across the United States where crops can no longer be grown that could be used to produce algae for biofuels. Marine species of algae tend to tolerate a range of salt environments, but many fresh water species don’t do the reverse. They don’t tolerate any salt in the environment.”

“The algal community has worked on fresh water species of algae for 40 years,” added Mayfield, who also directs the San Diego Center for Algae Biotechnology. “We know how to grow them, manipulate them genetically, express recombinant proteins—all of the things required to make biofuels viable. It was always assumed that we could do the same thing in marine species, but there was always some debate in the community as to whether that could really be done.”

The timing of the research was fortuitous – in October, the National Academy of Sciences committee published a report concluding that the production of algal biofuels might be limited by fresh water. “But now we’ve done it,” said Mayfield. “What this means is that you can use ocean water to grow the algae that will be used to produce biofuels. And once you can use ocean water, you are no longer limited by the constraints associated with fresh water. Ocean water is simply not a limited resource on this planet.”

In addition to expanding this research, the scientists would like to determine whether whole algae, post-oil extraction, could be sued as a feed additive to improve animal feeds.

Teaching Biofuels in School

Shane Robinson, associate professor in the Oklahoma State University Department of Agricultural Education, Communications and Leadership wants to teach students math and science through green energy and biofuels. He is partnering with the OSU Biobased Products and Energy Center (BioPEC), who has an objective to provide education about biobased products and energy through secondary education.

“A focus of ours is to produce teachers who can teach science, math and technology in the context of agriculture,” Robinson said. “We really feel like our teachers have a unique opportunity to integrate STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) competencies at the secondary level through real-life application of their students’ agricultural projects.”

It has been nearly three years in the making and now the National Science Foundation Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (NSF EPSCoR) has joined the project. Currently students Marshall Baker and Joey Blackburn, are developing curricular materials for high school agriculture teachers focusing on biofuels and renewable energy. Environmental and energy education has become a primary initiative for teachers around the country, but many need help in developing curriculum and getting access to materials. This initiative is designed to meet this need.

“Everywhere you turn you read about green energy and the need for clean energy,” Robinson said. “We stress the importance of being a lifelong learner to our students. We stress to them the importance of being aware of the current issues of the world we live in and being able to talk about those issues in the classroom. Therefore, it’s important for our pre-service and in-service teachers to be knowledgeable about biofuels and other renewable energies.” Continue reading

Harms Oil Heated Biodiesel Blending Facility Opens

One of the challenges with biodiesel are extremely cold temperatures – the fuel can gell up. But one element of this challenge has been overcome with the opening of the Harms Oil Biodiesel Blending Facility in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. This year-round facility, features two underground tanks – one heated and will hold biodiesel in the winter, while the second tank will also hold biodiesel during warmer months. This will enable southwestern Minnesota, southeast South Dakota and northeast Iowa motorists the ability to fill up with biodiesel all year long – even in the winter.

Trailers coming through the facility will already have diesel on board and be bottom loaded with biodiesel to achieve the desired blend level.

Among those who spoke at the opening were Jill Hamilton of the National Biodiesel Foundation, Bob Metz, a South Dakota soybean grower and a director of the state’s soybean research & promotion council, Jim Willers,  a Minnesota soybean grower and a director of the state’s soybean research & promotion council and Jason Harms, vice president of Harms Oil.  Jeremy Freking, executive director of South Dakota Soybean, emceed the event.

“The opening means that fuel retailers and consumers in southwestern Minnesota, northeastern Iowa and eastern South Dakota will have greater access to biodiesel blends year-round,” said Lisa Thurstin, coordinator of the Twin Cities Clean Cities Coalition. “This investment completes an important link in the alternative fuel infrastructure in the upper Midwest, and is another step toward cleaner and more renewable transportation fuels.”

Fulcrum BioEnergy Raises $175M

Fulcrum BioEnergy has raised $175 million to fund construction of the Sierra BioFuels Plant, its first municipal solid waste (MSW) to low-carbon fuels plant. The monies will also be used to fund the development of other projects. The company had been moving toward an initial public offering (IPO), but with the capital raised, has postponed its IPO plans.

“With our recent success in securing attractive sources of capital, we are proceeding with our planned development program. The current IPO market environment remains challenging, especially for development stage companies like Fulcrum,” said Fulcrum President and Chief Executive Officer E. James Macias. “Because of this we have secured commitments from alternative capital resources to advance our MSW to renewable fuel program and we have withdrawn our registration statement. We intend to pursue an initial public offering in the future when market conditions are more favorable.”

Fulcrum’s engineering and technology teams have made several enhancements to the design of Sierra and to its proprietary MSW to ethanol process. The company expects these improvements will dramatically reduce its cost to produce renewable fuel to less than $0.75 per gallon, down from approximately $1.25 per gallon as previously disclosed. The cost of production at future Fulcrum plants is now expected to be less than $0.50 per gallon, down from $0.70 per gallon as previously estimated.

“These enhancements underscore our confidence in the attractive economics of our business model while further advancing Fulcrum as the industry’s low-cost producer of low-carbon transportation fuels,” added Macias.

ICM Completes 1,000 Hour Run

ICM has completed a 1,000 hour run of its Generation 1.5 Integrated Fiber to Cellulosic Ethanol Technology at its pilot plant in St. Joseph, Missouri. The technology allows existing grain ethanol plants to produce cellulosic ethanol and the company says the successful test proves it can be done with substantial operating and capital expense cost savings over the traditional approach of cellulosic ethanol production.

The completion of the 1,000 hours of continuous production was achieved through the sequential completion of twenty-four 15,000 gallon pilot fermenters and five 585,000 gallon commercial scale reactors. The run also demonstrated that the dried distillers grains (DDGs) co-product of ICM’s integrated fiber cellulosic process have a significant concentration of protein-fat amounts.

The continuous run demonstrated several technological advantages: a 7-10 percent increase in ethanol yield per bushel with an approximate 3.1 gallons per bushel equivalent; greater than 90 percent conversion of C6 sugars and greater than 80 percent conversion of C5 sugars; fermentation yields of greater than 90 percent; co-product market diversification capabilities by delivering substantially higher oil recovery rates and protein concentration; reduced energy usage; ability to co-distill utilizing existing distillation capabilities; and the same quantity of ethanol can be produced with 10 percent less bushels.

“We are grateful for the tremendous efforts that our ICM employees performed to make the 1,000-hour run a remarkable success. We could not have achieved this major milestone without the collaboration of various personnel functions including outstanding efforts made by our research associates, scientists, pilot plant personnel, product development, construction management, engineering, automation, supply chain, accounting and many others,” said ICM Principal Scientist Jeremy Javers, Ph.D.

Corn fiber yields greater than 100 gallons per ton were performed up to the 585,000 gallon fermentation scale with all inputs – enzymes, chemicals, organisms – utilized at an economically-feasible range. Other feedstocks that have been tested include corn stover, corn fiber, wheat fiber, barley fiber, switchgrass, energy sorghum, and bagasse. The successful continuous run now enables ICM to qualify for federal loan guarantees.

Ethanol Industry: Update GHG Analysis

The Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) is calling for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to update their lifecycle greenhouse gas (GHG) analyses of corn and sugarcane ethanol for the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). The association made the request in a letter sent to the EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson.

RFA President and CEO Bob Dinneen wrote, “There have been literally dozens of new studies and modeling improvements since EPA finalized the RFS2 almost three years ago. Overwhelmingly, these new reports and data show that the corn ethanol process is far less carbon intensive than assumed by EPA. Corn ethanol is offering real and significant GHG savings today. Meanwhile, the carbon intensity of crude oil production continues to worsen, as we drill farther and deeper than ever before and get more of our energy from marginal crude sources like tar sands.”

Also noted in the letter is that recent GHG research has shown than lifecycle GHG emissions associated with Brazilian sugarcane ethanol production are worse than originally estimated by EPA. The letter cites since 2006, harvested sugarcane in Brazil has expanded 55 percent with at least 70 percent of the land formerly pasture land. However, when the lifecycle analysis was originally conducted, little land use change emissions were factored in to the data.

While RFA says the EPA underestimated land use change emissions for sugarcane, they also say the EPA overestimated ethanol plant energy use, corn farming energy use and land use change emissions for other forms of ethanol, primarily ethanol produced from corn.

Recent modeling and data improvements were presented in a peer-reviewed paper by researchers at Purdue University and the Department of Energy. According to the research, corn ethanol, on average, reduces GHG emissions today by at least 24 percent compared to gasoline even with speculative LUC emissions included. GHG reductions for ethanol from dry mill plants are even larger. Dinneen concluded that it is imperative that EPA recognizes this new science and data.

Click here to read the letter in full along with supporting charts and sources.

AAA Leaves E15 Facts Stranded on the Roadside

This morning, the AAA released a statement that the EPA should re-evaulate its approval of E15. The call to action was based on a recent survey conducted by AAA. The results found, “a strong likelihood of consumer confusion and the potential for voided warranties and vehicle damage.” The press release went on to state, “An overwhelming 95 percent of consumers surveyed have not heard of E15, a newly approved gasoline blend that contains up to 15 percent ethanol. With little consumer knowledge about E15 and less than five percent of cars on the road approved by automakers to use the fuel, AAA is urging regulators and the industry to stop the sale of E15 until motorists are better protected.”

The ethanol industry came out in response to the survey and subsequent press release and Tom Buis, CEO of Growth Energy said the survey lacked any substantive research or facts, has no scientific basis and is noting more than “hollow criticism lacking any facts to back up the irresponsible claims.”

E15 is the most tested fuel to date and the Department of Energy (DOE), a true expert on the matter has studied the fuel extensively, more than six million miles, coming to the conclusion that, “the resulting Energy Department data showed no statistically significant loss of vehicle performance (emissions, fuel economy, and maintenance issues) attributable to the use of E15 fuel compared to straight gasoline,’” added Buis.

The industry has expressed frustration with the associations attitudes toward ethanol. Prior to the sale of the fuel, a retailer must provide adequate warning information to consumers to ensure only vehicles and light duty trucks manufactured after 2001 use the ethanol blend. It is estimated that nearly 80 percent of the vehicles on the road could use E15.

“If AAA weren’t so deep in the Big Oil politics, they would stop manufacturing concern about the efficacy of ethanol blend use and report enthusiastically about ethanol’s consumer gasoline price savings,” said Bob Dinneen, CEO And President of the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA). “Their misplaced concern today, that E15 should be further tested before being offered for sale reflects a pathetic ignorance of EPA’s unprecedented test program before approving E15 for commercial use. The miles driven on E15 equate to 12 round trips to the moon and back without a single failure, unless you want to count the deer that was killed on the test track! E15 is a safe fuel, as evidenced by the fact auto manufacturers are now providing warranty coverage for it.”

DuPont Breaks Ground On Cellulosic Biorefinery

DuPont has officially broken ground on its $200 million cellulosic biorefinery. When complete in mid-2014, it is expected to be one of the first and largest commercial-scale cellulosic biorefineries in the world. Once fully operational, the facility will produce 30 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol per year from corn stover residues. The company is also adapting its technology for use with other feedstocks such as switchgrass. Using data derived from its pilot facility in Tennessee has allowed DuPont to further minimize process and maximize technology. Once refined, its fully integrated end-to-end production system will be available to license globally.

The cellulosic biorefinery is situated adjacent to Lincolnway Energy in Nevada, Iowa. Joining James C. Collins, president of DuPont Industrial Biosciences, were representatives of the ethanol plant as well as Iowa Governor Terry Branstad.

“During my previous terms as governor, we were excited to bring ethanol production to the state. After many hard years of work by Iowa growers and technology companies like DuPont, Iowa now leads the country in renewable fuel production,” said Governor Branstad. This site in Nevada is the next critical step in our cellulosic ethanol journey. We look forward to bringing these advanced technologies online, creating local jobs and helping to deliver clean, sustainable energy.”

DuPont will contract with more than 500 local farmers to gather, store and deliver over 375,000 dry tons of stover per year into the Nevada facility. In addition to the estimated 60 full-time plant operations jobs, there will be over 150 individuals involved in the collection, stacking, transportation and storage of the stover feedstock seasonally during each harvest. The stover will be collected from an approximate 30 mile radius around the new facility and harvested off of 190,000 acres. Continue reading