Calculator Gives Growers Energy Crop ROI

University of Illinois agricultural economists have been calculating the costs for farmers to produce biomass energy crops, and as a result have created a feedstock cost and profitability calculator for farmers to make their own assessments using their individual agribusiness parameters.

Illinois Ag Economist Madhu Khanna says farmers can customize the costs based on their current farming operation, current returns on the land they are considering converting and determine what it would cost to put the land in production to grow an energy crop. Using these calculations, a grower can then determine the minimum price they would need to be paid in order to make a profit.

Khanna recommends farmers gather information about their current operating expenditures before using the calculator, such as the discount rate. She says if farmers are thinking of growing energy crops purely as an investment decision, then they should be interested in getting the same return from their investment in an energy crop over time as they would get if they put the money in the bank. That is the discount rate they should use, she says, so if the bank would give them four percent then they should at least get a four percent return on growing an energy crop instead.

INEOS BioEnergy Plant Begins Production

The INEOS New Planet BioEnergy (INPB) biorefinery is now producing renewable power using its bioenergy technology. The electricity produced is being used to power the facility and the excess power is being added to the grid. At full production, the Center is expected to produce 8 million gallons of advanced cellulosic bioethanol and six megawatts (gross) of renewable power using renewable biomass.

Here is how the process works. Biomass feedstock, including yard, vegetative and agricultural, waste goes through a gasification process, and syngas is created. Heat is then recovered from the hot syngas and fed into a steam turbine and used to generate electricity. The electricity then powers the Center and the excess does onto the grid to help power homes in the local Vero Beach, Florida community.

“The production of renewable power is a significant benefit of our technology. The power generated improves the energy efficiency and greenhouse gas savings of the facility while contributing to the base load of renewable electricity for the local community,” said Peter Williams, CEO of INEOS Bio and Chairman of INPB. “We look forward to rapidly rolling out this technology globally to provide the benefits of bioethanol and renewable power from waste to local communities.”

INPB’s facility was the first large-scale project in the U.S. to receive registration from the EPA using vegetative waste materials as the primary feedstock.

Novozymes Adds Avantec to Enzyme Portfolio

Novozymes has added a new enzyme product to its portfolio called Avantec. According to the company, Avantec enables corn ethanol producers to obtain an extra 2.5 percent ethanol out of the corn thereby improving effieciency and profitability of biofuel production.

“Corn is the single biggest input cost for an ethanol producer, and as prices have gone up, profits have disappeared,” said Novozymes Executive Vice President Peder Holk Nielsen. “Avantec is a vitamin shot for the industry. It allows you to save a lot of corn and still produce the same amount of ethanol. If you’re an ethanol producer in today’s market, that’s a real boost to your bottom-line.”

Nielsen says a typical ethanol plant uses around 900,000 tons of feed-grade corn per year to produce 100 million gallons of fuel ethanol, 300,000 tons of animal feed (DDGS) and 8,500 tons of corn oil. With Avantec, however, this same ethanol plant can save 22,500 tons of corn while maintaining the same ethanol output.

In the United States, corn is the most used feedstock to produce ethanol and is also the biggest cost component for an ethanol plant. Advantec improves the starch conversion to sugar (the sugar is converted to ethanol). “Most U.S. ethanol plants convert 90-95% of the available starch, so there is significant potential for plant owners to increase output and maximize profits,” added Nielsen. “In fact, if all ethanol plants in the U.S. started using Avantec, they would save 3 million tons of corn.”

WindMade Label Awarded to BD

The Windmade label has been awarded to Becton, Dickinson and Company (BD) a global medical technology company, for using wind power to energize its global operations. The label, which is backed by the UN Global Compact and conservation group WWF, requires participating companies to obtain at least 25 percent of their electricity from wind power. BD uses as much as 35 percent of its total electricity consumption from wind power.

“Using a clean source of electricity such as wind power is well aligned with our company purpose of helping all people live healthy lives, and helps us reduce our greenhouse gas emissions,” said Glenn Barbi, BD’s Vice President of Global Sustainability. “Receiving the WindMade label is an important achievement that helps us communicate to our customers and other stakeholders about BD’s commitment to reducing our environmental footprint.”

The WindMade label was created to allow companies to demonstrate their commitment to renewable energy. BD has supported the development of WindMade in numerous ways since joining the Pioneer Program in 2011. As part of this cooperation, Glenn Barbi joined the WindMade Board of Directors as a member in June 2012. In addition, BD’s Director of Sustainable Innovation & Stakeholder Relations, Ellen Kondracki, is a member of WindMade’s technical committee, and has been instrumental in developing a WindMade label for products that is expected to launch shortly.

Henrik Kuffner, CEO of WindMade, added, “BD has been one of WindMade’s Pioneer Companies, and its management’s vision and relentless commitment to sustainability issues have been truly inspiring. We are proud and privileged to be granting the WindMade label to a company where environmental and social values are deeply engrained in the corporate culture.”

SUNdy Floating Solar Field Concept Unveiled

DNV has developed a floating offshore solar field concept coined “SUNdy,” that was unveiled during International Energy Week in Singapore. The core feature of the concept is a hexagonal array which floats on the sea surface. A collection of these arrays, totaling 4,200 solar panels, forms a solar island the size of a large football stadium, capable of generating 2 MW of power. Multiple islands connected together make up a solar field of 50 MW or more, producing enough electricity for 30,000 people.

“The renewable energy market is rapidly changing due in main part to climate change, soaring global demand for electricity, and diminishing fossil fuels,” said Bjørn Tore Markussen, COO for DNV KEMA Energy & Sustainability in Asia. “For DNV, technological innovation is a key element in our strategy to help address these concerns and SUNdy, as an example of our research work, can help illustrate future applications for solar as a truly sustainable resource.”

Sanjay Kuttan, Managing Director of the DNV Clean Technology Centre in Singapore says the SUNdy technology uses a thin-film 560 watt solar panels that are lighter and more flexible than traditional rigid glass-based modules. This allows the panels to undulate, or move with the waves on the ocean’s surface. Separating the solar arrays into prefabricated sections allows for large scale manufacturing and streamlined assembly offshore while the cable grid provides for maintenance access in the form of floating gangways. Below the surface, the shape of the island is maintained by the tensile forces from the lengthy spread mooring.

“The island has been optimized for solar capability and cabling efficiency,” added Kevin Smith, Global Segment Director for DNV KEMA’s Renewable Energy Services. “The solar arrays are divided into electrical zones feeding electricity produced into two main switches collecting the power for voltage step up at a central transformer (2MVA 480/34.5kV). From the offshore solar farm’s central island, 30kV electrical transmission lines connect, tying other islands in series to form a close loop and continue to the electrical sub-station onshore for grid connection.”

Sancton Hill Wind Farm Fully Financed

The 10 megawatt Sancton Hill Wind Farm has been fully financed according to REG Windpower using a 10 year non-recourse debt facility from the Co-Op Bank. According to company statements, the wind regime was analysed on-site through a relatively novel approach, which utilized long-term reference data from short 16 metre met masts combined with a short ZephIR lidar deployment. ZephIR provides measurements up to 200 metres from installed level and importantly down to just 10 metres to provide on-site correlations with the short masts.

The ‘short mast + ZephIR’ methodology was adopted by REG Windpower in 2009 when a strategic approach to wind monitoring across the company’s portfolio of sites currently totaling some 11 operational wind farms and over 900MW in the pipeline, resulted in the purchase of three ZephIR lidars. The technology was used to created a P90 Energy Yield Analysis report that was accepted for use in refinancing the project.

REG Windpower’s Wind Assessment Manager, Simon Pipkin, said, “ZephIR was deployed on site with a low-cost, short mast for just six months and delivered the data we needed to reach financial close for Sancton Hill. This approach allowed us to start monitoring quickly without the need of a tall mast – which themselves encounter significant planning issues now – and deliver bankable, finance-grade wind data to the Co-Op Bank to take the site forward in a timely, cost effective and safe manner. The wind speed recorded by the ZephIR deployed varied from the mast by just 0.9 percent during the correlation period which is far better than often found when comparing two cup anemometers.”

An additional site, Orchard End Wind Farm in Lancashire, England will be financed using the short mast + ZephIR methodology in the near future and a further three to four wind farms are expected to follow.

ZeaChem Completes Cellulosic Biorefinery

ZeaChem Inc. has announced the completion of its 250,000 gallons per year (GPY) cellulosic ethanol biorefinery in Boardman, Oregon. According the the company, the project was completed on budget and is expected to begin production of cellulosic ethanol by the end of 2012. Earlier this year, the company’s core process was commissioned and the fermentation of sugar feedstocks has been replicated in 40,000 gallon tanks exceeding the company’s targets.

The next step in ZeaChem’s phased development and start-up approach is to begin operations of the integrated facility for cellulosic ethanol production. With the support of a $25 million investment from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Integrated Biorefinery program, ZeaChem has added process components to the core facility enabling the utilization of locally-sourced biomass, including wood and wheat straw, to be fermented and converted into intermediate chemicals and ethanol.

“With construction completed, ZeaChem looks forward to starting integrated operations and the production of cellulosic ethanol this year,” said Jim Imbler, president and chief executive officer of ZeaChem. “We are executing a phased start-up approach to limit risk, stabilize and optimize operations, and ensure safety. ZeaChem is focused on successfully demonstrating integrated operations and commercializing its highly efficient, economical and sustainable biorefining process.”

ZeaChem also announced it has closed its Series C financing totaling $25 million in new equity to advance its business strategy and commercial deployment. Imbler said of the financial support, “We are pleased to expand our investor support to new partners in Asia and Australia, which demonstrates ZeaChem’s global potential for biofuels and bio-based chemicals. ITOCHU and Macquarie have established track records in co-developing energy projects worldwide and the ZeaChem platform is uniquely qualified for this due to our feedstock flexibility and diverse product portfolios. These new international partners provide us with a foundation to expand the company’s operations globally.”

Bunge Becomes Cobalt Investor

The Advanced Biofuels Markets conference is underway in San Francisco and many advanced biofuels companies have been making announcements. One of these companies is Cobalt Technologies who has announced that Bunge Global Innovation has joined its Cobalt’s Series E Preferred Stock round an a strategic investor.

The investment comes on the heels of Cobalt’s agreement with Bunge and specialty chemicals company Rhodia Poliamida e Especialidades Ltda. (“Rhodia”) to operate a pilot plant demonstrating the production of n-butanol utilizing sugarcane bagasse as feedstock at the Laboratório Nacional de Ciência e Tecnologia do Bioetanol facility in Campinas, Brazil. The partners will also work together to develop a co-located, demonstration scale biorefinery at a Bunge sugarcane mill.

“We are pleased to have forged this strategic partnership with Bunge, one of the largest sugar producers in Brazil,” said Bob Mayer, CEO, Cobalt Technologies. “Bunge’s investment and supply of raw material for feedstock will allow us to begin demonstrating the value of our biobutanol technology and help unlock its potential.”

Ben Pearcy, Managing Director, Sugar & Bioenergy and Chief Development Officer of Bunge Limited, added, “Cobalt’s promising technology presents the opportunity to leverage Bunge’s sugarcane processing assets to produce new high-value products that diversify our revenue streams and enhance returns.”

CESA Releases Clean Energy Development Trends

This week Clean Energy States Alliance (CESA) has released a comprehensive analysis of state clean energy trends and development. “The Rising Tide of State-Supported Renewable Energy Projects: Results from the CESA Database, 1998-2011,” reports that state clean energy funds have been key major drivers of renewable energy development in the U.S. with nearly 130,000 projects and adding around 4.8 new gigwatts of clean energy to the grid.

“Despite the economic climate, state clean energy funds have continued to demonstrate innovation, support emerging technologies, and advance clean energy markets,” said Mark Sinclair, executive eirector of CESA. “The better news is that, after 13 years of data collection, we feel confident that these industry trends are here to stay.”

The report draws from the CESA National Renewable Energy Database, an ongoing effort to collect and maintain key metrics on investment in renewable energy projects in states that are members of CESA. Data collected includes things such as installed cost and funding leverage across projects and technologies and over time.

Key findings from this year’s CESA Database report include:

  • 2011 saw the most state-funded clean energy projects installed in a single year with 32,734 clean energy projects, an 18 percent increase over 2010 and almost twice the number of projects installed in 2009.
  • Since 1998, states have invested $3.4 billion in public funds in renewable energy projects and successfully leveraged an additional $12.5 billion. Total investment over this period was $15.9 billion.

Projects supported by state clean energy funds are avoiding significant CO2 emissions, and according to the report, each year, these projects generate almost 10.7 million megawatt hours of energy and avoid 8.1 million tons of CO2, the equivalent of taking about 1.4 million cars off the road. The report also features seven clean energy programs that CESA classified as a cut above the rest.

Civilian Jet Powered by 100% Biofuel

On Monday, October 29th, a jet was powered by a 100 percent renewable biofuel produced by Applied Research Associates (ARA) and Chevron Lumas Global (CLG). The two companies partnered with the National Research Council of Canada (NRC), the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) and Agrisoma Biosciences to to test and analyze the ReadiJet drop-in jet fuel during flight that was produced with ARA’s ISOCONVERSION process.

On-ground tests had been completed prior to the flight and while in the air, additional tests were performed on the fuel powering the Falcon 20 against ASTM and military specifications. As the Falcon 20 flew over Canada’s capitol, a second aircraft was tailing behind collecting additional emissions data that will be analyzed and released in the next few weeks.

Today, I flew the world’s first 100 percent biofuel flight,” said Tim Leslie, one of NRC’s pilots. “We have been working hard with our partners for many months, and it is most rewarding to see it all come together. It is truly inspiring to take this step towards an eco-friendly future.”

Canadian Ministers Honourable Christian Paradis, Minister of Industry, and the Honourable Gary Goodyear, Minister of State (Science and Technology) said of the historic, one-hour flight, “I congratulate the aerospace team at the National Research Council of Canada for achieving today’s milestone in aviation history. This is a perfect example of how government and industry work together to bridge the gap between Canadian innovation and commercialization. The NRC, through our government’s investments, helps support the Canadian economy by enabling its partners to develop and bring effective sustainable energy solutions to market.”

Steven Fabijanski, president and CEO of Agrisoma, who provided the Resonance feedstock for the biofuel, said the flight represented the culmination of a strategic and significant effort within Canada to demonstrate leadership in green aviation. Chuck Red, ARA’s alternative fuels program lead added that the flight unveiled the future of alternative fuels and that is one in which innovation will lead the way to cost competitive, 100 percent alternative fuels in the near future.

Novozymes & Beta Renewables Solidify Partnership

Novozymes and Beta Renewables have joined in a partnership to jointly market and develop cellulosic biofuel solutions. As part of the agreement, Novozymes will acquire a 10 percent share in Beta Renewables, paying approximately $115 million cash for the equity, marketing fees, other intellectual property rights and milestone payments. The partners will offer biofuel companies Novozymes’ Cellic enzymes embedded into Beta Renewables PROSEA engineering and production technology.

“This type of complete offering will significantly de-risk cellulosic biofuel projects financially as well as technologically for our customers,” says Beta Renewables’ Chairman and CEO, Guido Ghisolfi. “It will make cellulosic biofuel projects bankable and accelerate large-scale commercialization of the industry.”

Beta Renewables’ PROESA technology will be used in the cellulosic ethanol plant in Crescentino, Italy where operations are expected to begin by the end of 2012. The plant will begin by producing nearly 13 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol per year from wheat straw along with other biomass-based feedstocks. The plant has a nameplate capacity of 20 million gallons per year. In addition, Beta Renewables has a deal to build a manufacturing plant in Brazil with GraalBio and has also received a $99 million loan guarantee from the USDA to build a biofuels plant in North Carolina.

Peder Holk Nielsen, executive vice president at Novozymes, said, “Large-scale commercialization of cellulosic biofuels is taking off, and this is a fantastic opportunity for Novozymes. Beta Renewables is an extremely committed industry front-runner. They are building advanced biofuel facilities all over the world and, by being their preferred enzyme supplier, Novozymes will gain access to significant new business opportunities. We expect Beta Renewables to be able to contract 15-25 new facilities within the next three to five years. The sales potential for Novozymes from these plants could be up to $175 million.”

SG Biofuels Breakthrough

SG Biofuels has expanded it global network of hybrid trial and agronomic research sites with the addition of eight new JMAX Knowledge Centers located in Brazil, Guatemala and India. The company is also expanding it production facility in Guatemala. Current trials are underway in San Diego, California. The company focuses on the the production of Jatropha for use in biofuels, biochemicals and biomaterials.

According to a company statement SG Biofuels’ hybrids are performing better compared to commercial varieties across multiple geographies in terms of plant vigor, health, flowering consistency, stress tolerance and yield. The success validates the ability to produce crude Jatropha oil for less than $99 per barrel in a range of growing conditions.

“The performance of our hybrids in multiple geographies not only validates the strength of our genetics, but our ability to deploy profitable energy crop projects around the world,” said Kirk Haney, president and chief executive officer. “Through our network of JMax Knowledge Centers, we are developing the highest performing hybrids of Jatropha while establishing best agronomic and production practices for deploying those hybrids at commercial scale.”

According to the company, JMax Knowledge Centers are professionally managed trials using experimental design and statistical analysis to evaluate hundreds of hybrids in a range of environmental and agronomic conditions. The centers serve as outdoor classrooms where SGB agronomists and technical teams conduct training and field tours with customers and growers, develop localized agronomic studies and recommendations and develop high performing Jatropha hybrids for commercial deployment. SGB’s hybrids have been developed following five years of research, drawing from a diverse germplasm library including more than 12,000 unique genotypes.

Iowa Biodiesel Production Remains Strong

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

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

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

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

Economist Bruce Johnson To Address NEB Meeting

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

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

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

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

Book Review – Clean Energy Nation

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

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

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

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