About John Davis

Domestic Fuel welcomes our newest blogger, John Davis. John is a 20 years+ veteran of traditional news and is getting his first taste of this "new media." We've known John since Chuck hired him to work at the Brownfield Network in January, 2000 after he served an 11 year stint in the U.S. Air Force as a broadcast journalist. John lives in Jefferson City, Missouri with his wife, two sons, two dogs, a cat, a mouse, and a fish! You can read more about him and his thoughts at his own website John C. Davis Online.

Biodiesel/Hybrid Car Achieves 100 MPG Equivalency

ecoeaglesFlorida students have put together a biodiesel and battery powered hybrid that gets the equivalent of a gas-powered car getting 100 miles to the gallon. This story from NPR station WFSU says the Embry-Riddle University students designed the car as part of the EcoCAR 2 challenge, a program sponsored by GM and the U.S. Department of Energy that has university teams compete to build a car that is both eco-friendly and commercially viable.

The goal is to re-engineer a 2013 Chevy Malibu to use less fuel and cut emissions without sacrificing performance. The Embry-Riddle team call themselves the ‘EcoEagles’. Their spokesman, Calvin Baker, says their vehicle solves the problem with batteries and bio-diesel.

“We have a series plug-in hybrid electric vehicle architecture,” Baker says. “It’s PHEV which means that we have an electric motor in the car, and then also a diesel engine.”

Baker says the batteries alone give their car a 35-45 mile range – plenty for the comings and goings of the average commuter.

“The diesel engine turns on when that range is depleted,” Baker says. “With a full five-gallon tank of biodiesel, and full battery charge the car has a 241 mile range.”

The EcoEagles are showing off the car around Florida, and in June, they’ll compete against other schools around the country in Michigan at the General Motors proving grounds.

Analysis: Surviving Without Biodiesel Tax Credit

regdarlingWhile the expiration of the federal $1-per-gallon biodiesel tax credit (BTC) has been pretty tough on the industry this year, some biodiesel makers could survive without it. This analysis from The Motley Fool, a website that looks at investments, points to how biodiesel giant Renewable Energy Group and renderer and renewable diesel maker Darling International have business models that seem to make it possible, although not easy, to be successful without the credit that expired at the 2013.

REG, for example, anticipated the expiration and took that into account when doing their earnings forecast for the first quarter of 2014. And even while biodiesel production was even lower than the company anticipated, due to an abnormally cold winter that caused natural gas prices to spike, while feedstock costs rose and biodiesel prices fell, REG seems to be weathering the storm.

The silver lining is that Renewable Energy Group was able to produce positive adjusted EBITDA despite a barrage of unfavorable conditions. That can be chalked up to the company’s commitment to operational efficiency derived from willingness to invest in a national logistics network and the best process technology. And, of course, management’s focus on the long term.

Darling International is not focused solely on producing renewable fuels, but has taken advantage of its leading rendering business (animal fats and used cooking greases, or the inputs for diesel) to create the Diamond Green Diesel joint venture. Renewable diesel is a hydrocarbon, has a different molecular structure than biodiesel, and can capture higher RIN values as a next-generation fuel. Despite the advantages, it is still blended into the existing petroleum-based fuel supply, and therefore benefits from the BTC. Luckily, Darling International’s diverse business structure has insulated it from the expiration of the credit. In fact, the company has benefited from the increase in feedstocks since the end of last year.

The article goes on to say that while the return of the tax credit would be good news for REG and Darling, and of course, other biodiesel makers, at least these two companies show you could survive without the credit. In addition, the authors say this short-term uncertainty for biodiesel might present a great buying and investing opportunity if you’re looking at the long term.

Incbio Delivers Biodiesel Plant for Tunisia

incbiologoPortuguese biodiesel equipment maker Incbio has delivered an 8,000MT per year Biodiesel plant to Tunisia. This company news release says Biokast Energy will operate the fully automated industrial ultrasonic biodiesel plant in North Africa.

It uses Incbio’s ultrasonic reactors to produce EN14214 Biodiesel from Used Cooking Oil (UCO), collected from restaurants in Tunis. This will be one of the most advanced and efficient transesterification plants in the world, employing as three most important design parameters which form the base for Incbio’s technology: small footprint, low cost and high efficiency, which is both innovative and widely proven in Biodiesel production plants globally.

The plant is fully built on skids, so it should take less than a week from the time it arrives until it is producing biodiesel.

Characterizing Photosynthesis to Help Biodiesel

algaefull1Researchers in California have found a faster way to figure out more of the secrets of photosynthesis, and that could lead to new strains of algae better for biodiesel. Officials with the Carnegie Institution for Science say they have developed a new technique that will accelerate genetic characterization of photosynthesis:

A type of single-cell green algae called Chlamydomonas reinhardtii is a leading subject for photosynthesis research. Despite its importance in the research world, few tools are available for characterizing the functions of its genes.

A team including Carnegie’s Martin Jonikas developed a highly sophisticated tool that will transform the work of plant geneticists by making large-scale genetic characterization of Chlamydomonas mutants possible for the first time. Their work is published by The Plant Cell.

Their tool is a major step forward in the goal of identifying the genes that are necessary for photosynthesis, as well as other cellular functions such as the production of oily fats that are crucial for biofuel development. The use of similar tools for non-photosynthetic, single-celled organisms has revolutionized the understanding of cellular processes in bacteria and yeast, as well as animals.

New Zealand to Get 5 MMgy Biodiesel Plant

z energyKiwis (the people, not the fruit) will be a little greener, as New Zealand is set to get a 5 MMgy biodiesel plant. This article from Biodiesel Magazine says Z Energy plans to build the $21 million refinery that will use tallow as its feedstock.

“Cities, countries and [corporations] all have a role to play in ensuring the world addresses very real climate change concerns,” [the mayor of New Zealand’s capital city of Wellington, Celia Wade-Brown] said. “It’s great to see local company Z Energy leading new energy sources and developing a green economy for New Zealand. In light of the recent IPCC report, on the severity and costs of adaptation to climate change, we need to support innovation from Z and others in the business community toward a low-carbon future for New Zealand. In addition to having more efficient vehicles on the road, fuel switching to biofuels, hybrids and electric vehicles will be essential to help us achieve the emissions cuts recommended by the IPCC. As production expands, we will take opportunities to work with Z on Wellington’s future fuel picture, including the civic fleet and Wellington’s bus network.”

When fully up and running, the Z Energy biodiesel plant is expected to use about 10 percent of the country’s inedible tallow production.

Biodiesel Maker Holding Small-Scale Webinar

springboardbiodieselJust a week from today is Earth Day, and a biodiesel maker is celebrating the occasion with a free webinar on how to make the green fuel yourself. Biodiesel Magazine reports California-based Springboard Biodiesel is offering the webinar titled, “The Many Benefits of Small-Scale Biodiesel Production,” on April 22.

“Increasingly, biodiesel is being incorporated into the U.S. (and global) transportation fleet, and individuals and organizations are realizing both the environmental and economic benefits of biodiesel,” stated Springboard Biodiesel. “Still, information on the topic is limited and misinformation continues to get passed on. This webinar will strive to clearly present factual information on relevant topics.” The webinar will include information on what biodiesel is and how it’s made; identifying myths and popular misinformation; cost analysis for biodiesel production and usage; case studies; emissions comparisons; equipment options; and strategies for production.

More information and registration is available here.

Tall Ship to Sail the Seas on Biodiesel

perry1She might look like something out of a history book, but a new tall ship is about to set sail using modern biodiesel. This article for Sail-World.com says the new, 200-foot, three masted, square-rigged Tall Ship the SSV Oliver Hazard Perry will serve as Rhode Island’s official Sailing Education Vessel, teaching mariners the ancient ways of the sea while also employing some modern, green technology.

By the nature of sailing itself, the SSV Oliver Hazard Perry will be energy efficient, powered by the wind whenever possible. To reduce its energy footprint further, the ship’s diesel engines and generators will run on biodiesel (supplied by Newport BioDiesel), and ultra-high capability Ensolve separators will cleanse oily waste water down to 2-15 ppm using naturally occurring microbes. On board, the focus will be on sustainable living: conserving water, minimizing trash and reducing food waste. Trash will be separated and all plastics taken ashore for recycling, while black water will be treated in an onboard waste water treatment plant.

‘It is expected that with all these ecologically responsible practices in place, along with first-hand experiences of the fragility of ocean life, a sense of pride, stewardship and passion for the marine environment will be instilled in our shipmates,’ said Richard Bailey, the Captain of the ship.

The Perry is the largest of its kind to have been built in this country in the last 100 years.

Natural Gas, Solar Account for Lion’s Share of Adds

eiaAlternative energy sources made for a good showing of new power-generating capacity added last year. This report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) shows more than half of the utility-scale power generating capacity added last year came from natural gas-fueled plants, with solar accounting for another 22 percent – a significant increase from just 6 percent in 2012. Wind also accounted for another 8 percent of capacity added.
EIAapriladds
Natural gas capacity additions were … 6,861 MW … added in 2013, compared to 9,210 MW in 2012. The capacity additions came nearly equally from combustion turbine peaker plants, which generally run only during the highest peak-demand hours of the year, and combined-cycle plants, which provide intermediate and baseload power.

Nearly 60% of the natural gas capacity added in 2013 was located in California. The state is facing resource adequacy concerns as well as the need for more flexible generation resources to help complement more variable-output renewable resources, particularly solar, being added to the system.

Solar photovoltaic (PV) added 2,193 MW of capacity in 2013, continuing the trend of the past few years of strong growth, helped in part by falling technology costs as well as aggressive state renewable portfolio standards (RPS) and continued federal investment tax credits. Nearly 75% of the capacity added was located in California, followed by roughly 10% in Arizona.

While wind’s numbers in 2013 were only one-tenth of what it did in 2012, (1,032 MW in 2013 compared to 12,885 MW in 2012), EIA attributed this to producers rushing to take advantage of the federal production tax credit at the end of 2012.

Canola for Biodiesel Breaks Rail Jam, Gains Value

canola3 Joel HornAn up-and-coming feedtsock for biodiesel has broken out of a log jam that kept it from going from the farm fields of Canada to the plants where it could be processed, and that is helping push up its value. This article from Barrons says canola has bounced back from 3 1/2-year lows and could end up gaining 20 percent in value by the middle of this summer.

A railway bottleneck in Canada, the world’s largest exporter of the oilseed, pushed canola prices in February to the lowest since June 2010, because buyers turned to other markets and bought alternative oilseeds like soy and palm oil. But last month, the Canadian government introduced tough railway rules that have helped canola start to flow more freely, traders and growers say, which is drumming up demand.

“Logistical issues in Canada have eased considerably, and this has resulted in export customers returning,” says Sterling Smith, a futures specialist at Citigroup in Chicago. That’s helped front-month prices gain 14% from the Feb. 13 low.

The article goes on to point out how canola is also being helped by higher prices for soybeans and the fact that it is strong in the cooking oil market to nearly double the expected demand for the oilseed by 2015.

RFA: CARB’s ILUC Analysis Out of Date, Out of Step

rfa-logo-09A biofuels advocate is taking exception with one state’s evaluation of indirect land use change associated with the green fuels. The Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) says the California Air Resources Board’s (CARB) draft indirect land use change (ILUC) analysis is not in step with current ILUC science.

Geoff Cooper, RFA’s senior vice president, notes in his submission that RFA is greatly concerned by many aspects of the draft.

Cooper writes, “….several of the assumptions and methodological approaches chosen for CARB’s draft analysis run counter to the recommendations of the Expert Work Group (EWG). In particular, the values selected by CARB for key GTAP elasticities are in conflict with values recommended by EWG and well-known agricultural economists. More generally, CARB’s draft analysis lacks sufficient justification for certain judgment calls made by staff with regard to important model parameters.

“… the results of CARB’s draft analysis are in conflict with the results of recent independent ILUC studies. As described in a recent letter to CARB Chair Mary Nichols from 14 scientists and researchers (including CARB-appointed Expert Work Group members), the corn ethanol ILUC results from CARB’s draft analysis are significantly higher than estimates from recent peer-reviewed scientific analyses…. We believe CARB should explain and justify the divergence of its draft results with estimates from other recent studies.”

RFA addresses key modeling parameters in CARB’s analysis, such as crop yield elasticities and emissions factors, which RFA believes are not in line with what current ILUC science says. In addition, the group says CARB needs to correct in its draft price yield elasticity, what RFA considers to be the single more important factor in the analysis. You can read RFA’s full comment letter here.

Minnesota Biodiesel Mandate: I’m Not Dead Yet!

mdalogo1Minnesota’s biodiesel mandate, looking like it could take a hit, has risen up like a Monty Python character and shouted back, “I’m NOT dead yet!” Recently, we told you how the mandate was facing an uncertain future, as the date to finally move to B10, a 10 percent blend of the green fuel, is coming this year. But that put it dangerously close to another milestone of moving to B20 next year. But this article from Biodiesel Magazine says a compromise piece of legislation looks like it could preserve the mandate… just at a slower pace.

State Representative Clark Johnson is an ardent supporter of the biodiesel industry. Last month he introduced a bill for the agriculture department and the biodiesel industry seeking to modify future requirements regarding exceptions, what months higher blends should be required, and the date on which the state will jump from B10 to B20. His bill, House File 3203, missed a deadline to move forward, but Charlie Poster, assistant commissioner at the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, says the agency has made concessions to opponents of the increased biodiesel mandate by incorporating HF 3203’s language into an agency “unsession” bill (SF 2618) that is moving forward.

“The bill that’s signed into law probably won’t be HF 3203, but it will be that language,” Poster tells Biodiesel Magazine. “There was a movement by the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and the Minnesota Automobile Dealers Association (MADA),” Poster says. “They had some concerns about biodiesel, and they wanted to see the biodiesel mandate gutted—and I don’t think that’s too strong of a word. They were proposing some language that, in all but name, would remove our biodiesel standard. And the Department of Agriculture’s position is that biodiesel has worked really well in our state. It’s lowered the price of diesel fuel. It’s added to farmers’ incomes. It’s doing exactly what we want it to do. It’s been a great success.”

The article goes on to say that in order to appease opponents of biodiesel, the agency made four concessions: 1. Move the B20 date to 2018; 2. Shorten by one month the “summer” months part of the mandate, making it April-September; 3. Make permanent some exceptions for nuclear power plants, railroads, mining, logging and the Coast Guard; and 4. Extend the biodiesel blending waiver for No. 1 fuel to May 1, 2020.

Corn Oil Gains in Popularity as Biodiesel Feedstock

cornoilbiodiesel1Corn oil, squeezed from the seeds at the Nation’s many ethanol plants, has seen a meteoric rise in popularity as a feedstock for biodiesel. This article from Ethanol Producer Magazine says use of corn oil as a biodiesel feedstock grew by an impressive 245 percent between 2011 and 2013.

Corn oil’s role as a popular feedstock choice in the biodiesel arena is quite apparent and growing, which made 2013 a great year for corn oil-derived biodiesel. More than 1.04 billion pounds of corn oil were utilized for biodiesel production by the end of 2013, an EIA biodiesel production report showed, making it the second most popular feedstock choice. During the second half of 2013, corn oil finally broke the 100 million pound mark not once, but on three separate occasions.

Corn oil producers have options to sell within local markets, as well as destination markets, says [Joseph Riley, general manager of FEC Solutions]. Locally, the oil can be transported via truck to nearby biodiesel plants or feed producers. In the case of Marquis Energy, the company is located relatively close to one of Renewable Energy Group’s biodiesel plants, says Tom Marquis, director of marketing at Marquis Energy LLC, which installed corn oil separation units in 2008. REG is one of the leading North American biodiesel producers with a 257 MMgy capacity and has been using the feedstock since 2007. “Our freight to their facility is pretty reasonable, so that has been the best market for our plant,” Marquis added.

The article goes on to say that growing markets for corn oil include plants in Louisiana, which use a variety of feedstocks for renewable diesel and California, which likes corn oil’s carbon-related benefits.

NASCAR Leader Testifies for Biofuels

The Senate Agriculture Committee held a hearing this week on advanced biofuels. Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow of Michigan says advanced biofuels are here now, and they are an important part of the energy title in the recently passed farm bill.

“The Energy Title funds critical programs that helps our farmers produce energy from non-food sources and helps companies get low-interest loans for those facilities, and of course, all that creates jobs,” Stabenow said, adding that to continue to grow the industry, there needs to be policies that support it. She said passing the Farm Bill was a strong first step toward to that goal. “Now we need to provide certainty through a strong Renewable Fuels Standard and tax credits to support long-term investments in our energy future.” Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Senate Agriculture Committee

childress-testOne of the witnesses at the hearing was NASCAR team owner Richard Childress who talked about the many benefits of corn-based biofuels, such as the higher fuel performance he has seen in more than five million miles of racing since the E15 ethanol blend was introduced in the 2011 racing season.

“When they decided to go with an ethanol-blend of fuel, in 2010, NASCAR started looking at what was the correct blend to use. After many tests, they came up with E15,” Childress said, pointing out that his own racing team tested up to E30 blends, which he believes would be even better. “Nothing but positive results came out of our tests. Engines ran cooler, ethanol makes more octane so it makes more horsepower, less carbon buildup, better emissions, and our parts when we tore the engines down looked much better.” NASCAR team owner Richard Childress at biofuels hearing

Multifeedstock Refiner Hosting Collective Biodiesel

CBCPiedmontA multifeedstock biodiesel refiner plays host to this summer’s Collective Biodiesel Conference. This article from Biodiesel magazine says Piedmont Biofuels in Pittsboro, N.C. will hold the event Aug. 14-17 with this year’s theme being “Think Differently.”

Piedmont Biofuels is known for its community-based approach to biodiesel production and distribution, as well as its process technology innovations such as the cooperative’s trailblazing work in enzymatic production. Piedmont Biofuels’ 14-acre industrial park in Pittsboro, N.C., features multifeedstock biodiesel processing in addition to hydroponics, aquaponics, biochar production and sustainable agriculture. Co-hosting the event will be Central Carolina Community College, where many of the breakout sessions will be held.

“With the Collective Biodiesel Conference being in Pittsboro, N.C., this year, it will be like going to ‘Biodiesel Mecca,’” said Graydon Blair with the CBC Board and owner of Utah Biodiesel Supply.

“We are delighted to have been chosen as the 2014 host site,” said Lyle Estill, Piedmont founder and president. “For grassroots biodiesel, winning the bid for this conference is like winning a bid for the Olympics.”

Registration has just opened, and for more infromation, click here.

TX Algae Operation Confirms Commercial Potential

auroraalgae1An algae growing operation in South Texas has confirmed it is about ready to go commercial scale. Aurora Algae says after six months of testing and evaluation, it has the potential to go commercial-scale, and the company is expanding its test facility with four, one-acre cultivation ponds and a harvesting system.

“We have successfully tested our algae cultivation system in countries around the world, including Australia, India, Italy, Mexico, and multiple locations in the United States,” said Greg Bafalis, Aurora Algae CEO. “Our most recent test site, near Harlingen, Texas, is meeting and surpassing our growth rate expectations for this area.”

Aurora Algae operated a demonstration-scale algae cultivation facility in Karratha, Western Australia, for over two-and-a-half years, successfully demonstrating production of up to 15 tonnes of dried algal biomass per month while continuing to refine its cultivation and harvesting processes. Aurora management believes the Karratha facility to have been the most technologically advanced algae production system in the world.

Located nine miles from Harlingen, the Aurora Algae evaluation site in Rio Hondo, Texas, sits on a 1,880-acre parcel, which was formerly home to a shrimp farming operation.

Company officials say their particular variety of algae grows best in salt water in warm. arid climates.