New Heating Oil Rail Facility Opens in East

A new heating oil rail facility has official opened in Yaphank, Rhode Island owned and operated by Ultra Green. The terminal will receive diesel fuel produced from vegetable oils or other fats and then will blend the fuel with traditional heating oil to create Bioheat. The biodiesel will be delivered in rail cars and the facility can store up to 250,000 gallons on site. This October, New York City’s biodiesel mandate (Bioheat) will take effect.

“The new BRT Terminal will help us ensure the economic, as well as environmental, success of the NYC Bioheat mandate, and provide lower-cost Bioheat for all of Long Island,” said Michael Cooper, vice-president of Ultra Green prior to the ribbon cutting event. “A Bioheat consisting of 12% biodiesel (B12) blended with the New York state-mandated ultra-low sulfur heating oil burns cleaner than natural gas. We’re working to ensure that every fuel dealer in the region can provide clean, reliable, and renewable Bioheat to its customers.”

Ultra Green was one of the first companies to market biodiesel dating back to 1999 and has been blending Bioheat since 2001. Today the company supplies biodiesel through the self proclaimed largest network of wholesale terminals in the New York/New Jersey region.

The EV Project Expands in Philly

The EV Project is expanding in Philadelphia. ECOtality is offering its Blink(R) smart charging stations free to residents and commercial host sites. The move serves as an effort to expand the EV charging station network that is being developed in tandem with the Department of Energy.

“Now people interested in electric vehicle transportation in the Philadelphia region can join The EV Project and help us build a nationwide network of EV charging stations,” said Don Karner, Chief Innovation Officer of ECOtality, Inc. “By signing up for a free charger, EV owners can take part in this massive research project that can help reduce our country’s dependence on foreign oil. We are excited about bringing The EV Project, which is now in nine states and 21 major metropolitan areas to the greater Philadelphia region.”

Residents in Philly who own a Nissan LEAF or Chevy Volt can quality to receive a free residential Blink wall mount charger as well as a max installation credit of $400.

Craig Adams, PECO president and CEO, is the energy delivery company for the area. “PECO and ECOtality share a strong environmental commitment. Locally, more and more of our customers are exploring the use of electric vehicles and investing in this technology. In June, PECO launched Smart Driver Rebates. The program offers rebates and incentives for residential and business customers investing in new electric vehicle technology.

For those living in the Philly area, you can more about The EV Project at the Host Partners Forum on August 16th at the National Constitution Center.

Alltech Installs Ethanol Distillation Tower

Alltech has installed a 60-foot ethanol distillation tower at its production facility in Springfield, Ky. The plant produces natural animal health and nutrition products. The company invested $4 million dollars in new yeast-production technology, a core of their nutrition products. The new system has the ability to process 52,000 lbs of liquid yeast each day and produce 20,000 gallons of ethanol per week.

This same system will be installed in Alltech’s Thomasville, Georgia production facility that is expected to be completed by the end of 2012.

In addition the company has expanded into algae production. Alltech Algae, based in Winchester, Kentucky is one of the largest algae production sites in the world according to the company. The company continues to invest in extensive research and production as it looks to the future. The company is also expanding operations in downtown Lexington at the Alltech Lexington Brewing and Distilling Co., with a new distillery scheduled for completion in September of 2012.

Grassley Supports Biodiesel Tax Credit Extension

Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) is making a run at getting the biodiesel tax credit extended. He is attempting to mark up a tax extenders package that would include a retroactive extension of the credit for an Iowa leading industry. Biodiesel production increased during the second quarter of 2012 as compared to the first quarter. Iowa is the leading biodiesel producer and 10 plants produced more than 54.9 million gallons from April to June. First quarter the facilities produced 41.8 millon gallons.

With the federal biodiesel tax credit having expired at the end of 2011, biodiesel use is being driven my filling the mandates set by the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

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.

“IRFA members thank Senator Grassley for leading the effort to include a retroactive two-year extension of the biodiesel tax incentive in the Senate Finance Committee’s extenders package,” said IRFA Executive Director Monte Shaw. “Biodiesel has had no better champion than Senator Grassley and we are confident he can shepherd this important provision into the final bill. Big Oil has benefited from a century of subsidies and continues to receive billions in tax breaks each year. Reinstating the biodiesel blenders tax incentive is one small way to help level the playing field so American consumers can have a true fuel choice.”

IU Biologist Receives DOE Young Faculty Award

Indiana University biologist James McKinlay has received the Early Career Research Program award from the Department of Energy (DOE). Along with honor, the award comes with $750,000 that will help McKinlay, who is an assistant professor in the Department of Biology, continue to research how microbes might work together to produce hydrogen gas biofuels.

While others are researching better biofuels with microbes, McKinley said most are focusing on engineering single species that can perform all the necessary tasks needed to produce biofuels.

“Coordinating all these tasks in a single microbe can be challenging and can lead to undesired traits like the inefficient use of the food source,” explained McKinley. “But in nature, diverse microbes often work together to use food sources like plant-derived lignin and cellulose that resist degradation. The idea here is to create a similar cooperative relationship in the lab where each microbe supplies the other with a nutrient required for survival.”

McKinlay is attempting to decipher how metabolisms of two microbes interact, evolve together to improve nutrient transfer and discover how to optimize microbes to create a tailor-made mixture. When taken together, the result would be the economical production of hydrogen gas and other biofuels from renewable resources.

“We’re taking a lesson from nature that multiple microbial species help each other to thrive on food sources such as plant residues that those same species could not use if on their own,” continued McKinlay. “We already know that mixtures of specialized microbes can sometimes outperform a single engineered strain for producing chemicals of value to society.”

With the ultimate strategy of enhancing biofuels production, McKinlay is executing the idea to develop a co-culture of a photosynthetic bacteria and a fermentative microbe that uses sugar and energy from sunlight to produce hydrogen gas.

Biodiesel Production Remains Strong

Biodiesel production in the U.S. remained strong in June. According to a report published by the Environmental Production Agency (EPA), 112 million gallons of biodiesel were produced in June. Total gallons for the first six months of the year is 557 million setting the pace to meet 2012 Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS2) mandates. The EPA has set yearly production of biomass-based diesel (biodiesel is included in this category) at 1 billion gallons.

The EPA reports that 117.5 million gallons of biomass-based diesel were produced in June but this figure also includes production of renewable diesel. Biodiesel is the only EPA-designated advanced biofuel that is produced at commercial scale.

In 2011, the biodiesel industry set a production record of producing nearly 1.1 billion gallons. This achievement was accomplished through the support of more than 39,000 employees.

‘Houses’ Furnished by IKEA Now Include Solar

IKEA has made a name for itself through the sale of neat, affordable household items. A trendsetter in home fashion, IKEA is now on the path to become a trendsetter when it comes to integrating solar into a home’s decor, but maybe not in the way you would think. Over the past few weeks, IKEA has installed solar energy systems at stores in Draper Utah, as well as two area stores in Chicago, Illinois.

Yesterday the company installed solar rooftop arrays on two Philadelphia area stores as well as its U.S. Service Office in Conshohocken, PA. The three solar arrays scale 286,300 square feet, comprise 9,198 solar panels and generate 2,208 kW. The systems were developed, designed and installed by Gehrlicher Solar America Corp.

To date IKEA has completed 29 U.S. solar projects that combined produce 38 megawatts of energy. In addition, 10 more locations are currently in the process of installing PV solar systems. IKEA owns and operates all of each solar PV energy systems and has allocated €590 million to invest in renewable energy over the next three years with a focus on solar and wind energy.

“This solar installation is another example of how we build on our ongoing sustainability commitment,” said Conshohocken store manager Kevin Bohon.

“A solar energy system atop the store reduces our carbon footprint and improves what we do today for a better tomorrow,” added Lisa Christensen, store manager in South Philadelphia.

BP Promotes Biofuels During 2012 Olympics

The Olympics are in full swing in London and while the athletes are showcasing their talents, so are biofuels. BP selected Wayne, a GE Energy Business, as the official fuel dispenser of BP’s “Fueling the Future” Showcase in London during the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. BP, who is the official oil and gas partner, is providing advanced fuels for a fleet exceeding 5,000 vehicles and is capitalizing on the opportunity to show Olympic fans from around the world the Helix dispenser, representing the fueling station of the future.

“Being selected by BP as the featured dispenser for its London 2012 biofuels showcase speaks to the commitment Wayne has made to elevate the standard for the modern fuelling experience,” said Neil Thomas, Wayne Global President. “We created this dispenser for an increasingly globalized world, with significant input from our customers and from motorists worldwide. It’s a product line that will be the same for all Wayne customers in all regions.”

The Helix fuel dispenser will be positioned to offer global consumers increased levels of biofuels including both biodiesel and ethanol. It was designed to meet the standards of both ATEX and UL, global regulatory governing bodies for safety and offers cutting edge payment-security platform. Additional features such as enhanced displays with high-contrast, ergonomic design as well as expanded branding and signage areas visible from multiple angles.

“Being selected by BP as the featured dispenser for its London 2012 biofuels showcase speaks to the commitment Wayne has made to elevate the standard for the modern fuelling experience,” added Thomas. “We created this dispenser for an increasingly globalized world, with significant input from our customers and from motorists worldwide. It’s a product line that will be the same for all Wayne customers in all regions.”

Blue Earth Secures Solar PV Project in Hawaii

Blue Earth has acquired the rights to build a $2 million, ground mounted, 497 kilowatt solar PV project in Hawaii. The company has created a Special Purpose Entity, Waianae PV-2, for the project. The subsidiary will engineer, construct, own, operate and maintain the solar PV plant. Blue Earth has a power purchase agreement with Hawaiian Electric Company (HECO).

Hawaii has passed legislation, a Renewable Portfolio Standard, requiring 40 percent of the state’s energy be supplied by renewable energy by 2030. HECO has a Feed-in-Tariff (FIT) program designed to encourage more renewable energy projects throughout the state and will be “purchasing” renewable energy credits when the solar PV project goes online.

“This project is just one of several planned projects in Hawaii for us,” said D. Jason Davis, CEO of Xnergy, Inc. who merged with Blue Earth. “It represents our expansion into other markets and shows the kind of success we will enjoy by implementing our expansion plans into a key renewable energy market.”

The Waianae PV-2 ground mounted solar power system construction is expected to begin in the third quarter of 2012 and to be completed in the first quarter of 2013.

Radio Ads Featuring President Obama Air in Iowa

Iowans driving to work, or typing away on computers, and listening to the radio, may hear some new advertisements featuring President Obama. Although the biodiesel and ethanol industries have been under serious attack the last few weeks, the Obama Administration has continued to show its support for the growth of the American-based industry. U.S. biofuels production is currently led by Iowa.

“When an industry is under attack, it’s admirable to see elected officials stand up for the ethanol and biodiesel producers that create American jobs, enhance America’s energy security, and improve our environment,” said Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) President Brad Albin. “We commend President Barack Obama and his team for their continued public support for growing our renewable fuels industry, especially as it faces harsh criticisms. The 10,000 Iowa households employed by or invested in Iowa’s ethanol and biodiesel plants will take notice.”

For those of you living, or not living in Iowa and would like a list of the stations the ads are running, or to hear the ads, click here.

Sweetwater Energy Exceeds Funding Expectations

Sweetwater Energy has exceeded its goals for Series A funding raising $9 million, $4 million over its original goal. The New York-based company is developing a process to produce cellulosic sugar that can be used to produce biofuels, biochemicals and bioplastics. The company’s primary target is is refineries.

“As anyone trying to start a business today knows, the economic climate is very difficult for fundraising right now, but we received an incredible response,” says Keith Wilson, Sweetwater’s Chief Financial Officer. “This funding is already launching us into our next stage of development, which includes Sweetwater’s first commercial contracts and the design and fabrication of the first wave of facilities for 2013.”

The company raised $1.2 million in its first round on funding back in 2010 and also secured a grant from New York State Energy Research and Development Authority. In addition, Sweetwater generated some revenue from the sale of cellulosic sugar to the Department of Defense to test for jet fuel production. Today the company is leveraging its work in its pilot scale facility to build a commercial scale facility.

Chesonis concluded, “Ultimately, it’s the economic and cost drivers for lower-cost petroleum substitutes that are fueling the remarkable demand for Sweetwater’s technology. We’re excited to raise this capital and move into the next stage of growth; commercial contracts to fulfill that remarkable demand.”

Government May Be Key to Solar Success

According to a new report by GBI Research, “Solar Thermal Power Market to 2020,” it will take worldwide government support to have a major impact on the renewable energy industry. Government attitudes to solar thermal power, or concentrated solar power (CSP), will be a key determinant to the future success of the market, which today, has a high cost of power generation while the technology achieves economies of scale.

The report comes to the conclusion that government provisions can push forward technological advances and boost installations. These moves will then lower the expense of the technology thus lowering the amount needed for project investments and power generation.

The U.S. and Spain are currently benefiting from Feed-In Tariffs (FIT), says the report. A FIT system offers a financial incentive to producers in various forms that can take the shape of premium tariffs, per kwH, over a fixed amount of time. In America, a regulatory framework among some states establishes mandates requiring utility companies to purchase alternatively generated electricity. In Spain, renewable energy investments are rewarded with tax rebates. Today, Spain and the U.S. hold the greatest share of the global CSP market.

The global CSP market is expected to grow by 2011 installed capacity of 1,546 MW to 47,462.9 MW in 2020, climbing at a Compound Annual Interest Rate (CAGR) of 44%.

Food, Livestock Industries Blast RFS

The Wall Street Journal published an article, “The Ethanol Mandate is Worse Than the Drought,” in which Smithfield Food CEO Larry Pope blasted the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS). This is another example of the orchestrated campaign against the RFS. In the article, ethanol production is blamed for the rising cost of food.

In response to the article, Brian Jennings, Executive Vice President of the American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) called the articles’s conclusion that the RFS is worse than the drought, “uniformed and irresponsible” and criticizes Pope for exploiting the ongoing natural disaster around the country. The U.S. is seeing the worst drought conditions is more than 50 years causing food prices to rise even before the crops are harvested.

“The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has more than adequate flexibility to make adjustments to the RFS if there is a legitimate reason to do so. Iowa State Professor Bruce Babcock recently determined that a total waiver of the RFS would reduce corn prices less than 5% and cause less than a 5% reduction in ethanol production. While Larry Pope may hope that waiving the RFS might pad the profits of Smithfield Foods, it would have damaging consequences for our nation’s energy security and raise gasoline prices,” said Jennings. This is just one topic that will be addressed at ACE’s 25th Annual Ethanol Conference being held in Omaha, Nebraska August 8-10, 2012.

The fight continued this morning when the livestock and poultry producers held a press conference calling for a RFS waiver. Tom Buis, CEO of Growth Energy, noted that the current situation is a result of Mother Nature and not ethanol. To blame ethanol, he said, is “disingenuous and absurd. He also said we will not run out of corn, and the market will adjust to the current situation.

There has been a decrease in ethanol production; yet, there is still a billion gallon surplus of ethanol and another 3 billion RINs available. These two factors, said Buis, will allow obligated parties flexibility to meet ethanol mandates.

“If these groups desire is to pick and choose who gets first access to the available crop – as opposed to letting the market determine the best and highest use thru supply and demand, then they should look at all uses for corn, not just ethanol,” added Buis.

Payments Made to Renewable Feedstocks Producers

Nearly $19.4 million in payments to 125 advanced biofuel producers growing non-food feedstocks for use in development for biofuels has been made by the UDSA. The funding is provided through USDA’s Bioenergy Program for Advanced Biofuels that was established in the 2008 Farm Bill. The goal of the program is to support the research, investment and infrastructure needed to build a diverse American-based biofuels industry.

“Advanced biofuels are a key component of President Obama’s ‘all-of-the-above’ energy strategy to reduce the Nation’s reliance on foreign oil and take control of America’s energy future,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “These payments represent help to spur an alternative fuels industry using renewable feedstocks grown in America, broadening the range of feedstock options available to biofuels producers, helping to create an economy built to last.”

Dozens of different feedstocks can qualify for the program but no corn-based feedstocks are allowed. For example, crop residue, animal, food and yard waste material, vegetable oil, and animal fat are some of the feedstocks that producers are cultivating and biofuels producers are developing.

Representatives of the USDA say that increased biofuel production only plays a minor role in retail food price changes. Feedstock diversity leads to market flexibility and relieves market pressure.

Click here for a list of the advanced feedstock producers that received payments.

Obama Officials Voice Support for RFS

The Obama administration has vocalized its continued support for the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) by rebuffing “alarmist calls” for its end. Last week, Renewable Fuels President (RFA) and CEO Bob Dinneen wrote a letter to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson thanking them for acting responsibly in the wake of calls to modify or dismantle the RFS. Dinneen has been on record multiple times saying changes to the RFS are “simply not warranted.”

Dinneen wrote, “Your comments have provided the kind of certainty and security that is necessary to ensure the renewable fuels industry continues to evolve. Further, your agencies’ recent remarks regarding the RFS serve as important signals to the investment community that the nation’s commitment to diversifying our fuel supply and creating a future market for new advanced biofuel technologies remains intact,” Dinneen wrote.

Opposers of RFS have gained some momentum of late using the record breaking drought conditions as an example of why the RFS will not work. However, Dinneen says the RFS has “tremendous flexibility built into the RFS program” by way of Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs) that allow obligated parties to “bank” credits.

According to research released last week by Iowa State University professor Bruce Babcock, there are an estimated 2.4-2.6 billion RINS available and a reduction in the RFS might only serve to lower corn prices by 4.6 percent. In addition when corn prices began to rise, says Dinneen, ethanol consumption of corn fell nearly 14 percent, a two-year low, while exports increased nearly 15 percent.

Dinneen concludes that waiving RFS mandates will not serve its intended purpose and market signals along with the flexibility of the RFS are working.