New Study to Assess GHG Impact of Ethanol

A new study will come out this fall that found that supplementing cattle feed with corn stover decreases the amount of greenhouse gases created during corn ethanol production. The research was designed to assess the impact on the carbon intensity level of a corn ethanol pathway when factoring in the replacement portion of corn grain for feed with corn stover. The study was conducted by Life Cycle Associates and supported by the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA).

“It only makes sense that farmers place an incredible priority of caring for the environment,” said NCGA Ethanol Committee Chair Chad Willis, a grower from Willmar, Minn. “Natural resources, such as healthy soil and clean air and water, enable us not only to make a living but also  to continue what, for most, is a family tradition.”

“Today’s farmers take an active role in ensuring that we adopt farm practices that have been scientifically shown to raise the largest crop possible using the fewest resources, be they nutrients, land or water,” continued Willis. “NCGA supports our efforts by making the solid, scientific information necessary to act as good stewards is readily available.”

One of the criticisms of life cycle analysis is where to begin and where to end. Researchers can choose different starting and stopping points, for example from cradle-to-grave, cradle-to-gate, cradle-to-cradle and well-to-wheel. When selecting when the life cycle analysis evaluation process begins and ends, it allows researchers to more accurately model the full greenhouse gas impact based on the current situation, or how it would be affected if a variable were changed.

Another advantage of conducting lifecycle analyses is that it can be determined where in the corn or ethanol processes resources are consumed or conserved. This enables the agricultural or biofuels industry to adopt technologies and processes that conserve resources while developing ways to improve the processes that consume the most resources. This also can help both industries save resources and costs.

Aventine Enters Into Restructuring Agreement

Aventine Renewable Energy has announced the company has entered into a Restructuring Agreement with 100% of its term loan lenders. Under the terms of this agreement the company will convert the majority of its outstanding term loan debt into newly issued common equity, representing, on a fully diluted basis, approximately 92.5 percent of the issued and outstanding common stock after the issuance.

The company’s board of directors have approved the agreement and 60 percent of the stock holders have also approved the agreement. If the agreement is fully executed, Aventine’s existing debt should be reduced by nearly $135 million. In addition, the agreement would not affect unsecured creditors and trade creditors will continue to receive payments. The transactions are targeted to close sometime in the 3rd quarter of this year.

“The Company would like to thank its lenders and significant stakeholders for supporting its business and operations. These are difficult times for the industry and the consummation of these transactions is expected to result in a much stronger balance sheet for the Company,” said John Castle, Aventine’s Chief Executive Officer.

Kansas Drivers Have New E15 Retail Station

Drivers who live and travel through Ottawa, Kansas now have access to E15. The Zarco 66 station located at 2518 E. Logan (intersection of I-35 & HWY 68) has become the second retail gas station to offer E15 in the U.S. Earlier this summer, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) gave final approval for the sale of E15 and customers are already showing great support for the higher blend of ethanol. On July 8, 2012 Zarco 66 began offering E15 to drivers in Lawrence, Kansas and the fuel sales are hitting high speeds.

“We are excited to add a high octane renewable fuel choice for our customers on the go in Ottawa, Kansas as we will continue to reduce our dependency on foreign oil through the use of renewable energy sources,” said Scott Zaremba, owner of Zarco 66 stations.

While ethanol has many advantages, one is that it has the ability to help motorists save money at the pump. According to an updated study authored by professors at the University of Wisconsin and Iowa State University, ethanol savings in the Midwest in 2011 were $1.69 per gallon while average savings across the county was $1.09 per gallon.

“American consumers are looking for a choice when it comes to fueling their vehicles, and they now have one more domestic, renewable fuel option with E15 becoming more commercially available,” said Renewable Fuels Association RFA) President and CEO Bob Dinneen. “Ethanol continues to help consumers during these difficult economic times by lowering prices at the pump and supporting more than 400,000 jobs across the country that can’t be outsourced.”

RFA is working with retailers as well as automakers and consumers to ensure E15 is used properly. Vehicles and light duty trucks manufactured after 2001 can take advantage of E15.

The association, along with the American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) have been working together through their BYO Ethanol program to help interested gas retailers install pumps to sell higher blends of ethanol including E15 and E85. Those interested retailers can review the E15 Retailer Handbook for free to learn more about how to make additional revenue through the sale of E15.

POET & Agrivida Sign Technology Deal

POET Research has signed a technology collaboration joint development agreement for cellulosic ethanol with Agrivida, a developer of biotechnology platforms for feedstock and feedstock processing. As part of the four-year agreement, POET and Agrivida will develop Agrivida’s technology platforms as a means of reducing capital and operating costs of commercialized cellulosic ethanol biorefineries.

The first feedstock of focus will be corn stover, the key feedstock that POET has been focusing on to develop cellulosic ethanol at its plant under construction in Emmetsburg, Iowa known as Project Liberty. Agrivida is helping POET to develop traits engineered to improve the pretreatment of corn stover and make it easier to break down cellulose while reducing the cost of enzymatic application. These are key areas that need to be refined to help cellulosic ethanol reach price parity per gallon with other forms of first generation biofuels and traditional transportation fuels.

“POET is committed to working with new and innovative technologies that will improve the cost and value of cellulosic ethanol production,” said Dr. Wade Robey, POET Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer. “If successful, Agrivida’s novel approach to increase the functionality and value delivery of corn stover will work well with other technologies being developed by POET.”

POET will evaluate and test Agrivida’s proprietary, low-severity corn stover feedstock processing technology, which is targeted to provide significant capital and operating cost savings at commercial facilities.

Mark Wong, Agrivida CEO said, “We are excited to be working with POET to improve the economics of advanced biofuels production. POET has one of the most advanced commercial cellulosic programs in the world with strong research, development and commercial deployment capabilities. POET will be a great partner as Agrivida transitions its technology from research and development to a commercialization phase.”

Solar Energy Industry Gets Legislative Win in NY

The solar industry in New York state got a legislative win when Governor Andrew Cuomo approved several bills that give tax exemptions to solar projects in the state. Earlier this month the Governor announced $30 million in funding for 16 PV projects through an NY-Sun sub-program as well as $107 million in funding for customer-sited solar photovoltaic (PV) projects larger than 50 kW. The funding is being distributed over two years with $36.4 million available for 2012 and $70.5 million available in 2013 through the NY-Sun Competitive PV program.

“We applaud Governor Cuomo, as well as Senator George Maziarz and Assemblyman Cahill for their bipartisan work paving the way for solar to succeed in New York State,” said Carrie Cullen Hitt, Vice President for State Affairs at the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). “By making it more affordable for businesses and homeowners to install solar systems, these laws are vital to helping New York realize its goal of 45 percent renewable-powered electricity by 2015. We look forward to continuing to work with state leaders so that New York can meet its total solar market potential in the near future.”

Three bills were signed: Bill A 34-B provides tax credits for solar energy system equipment; Bill A 10620 provides for the amount of tax abatement for solar generating systems in cities of one million or more; and Bill A 5522-B exempts the sale and installation of commercial solar energy systems from state sales and compensating use taxes and allows municipalities to grant these systems a tax exemption as well.

The state also has several other policies in place to promote solar investment. These include a feed-in tariff through Long Island Power Authority (LIPA), a New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) customer-sited tiered program, and rules for net metering that allows customers credit for excess power generated and sent back to the grid.

Nearly 7,500 solar photovoltaic (PV) solar installations have been completed in New York making the state 6th in number of PV systems. When combined, the systems have the capacity to produce 121 megawatts of energy or enough to power around 20,000 average sized homes.

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.”