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.

Researchers Get Grant to Purify Biodiesel By-Product

saskatchewanulogoCanadian biodiesel producers might soon have a purer by-product from their refining operations. The University of Saskatchewan announced it has received a $500,000+ government grant to purify and convert raw glycerol more cost-effectively.

With this funding, researchers at the University of Saskatchewan (U of S), led by Canada Research Chair in Bioenergy and Environmentally Friendly Chemical Processing and Professor of Chemical Engineering, Ajay Dalai, will be able to purchase highly-specialized equipment for the development and commercialization of new, more efficient and affordable glycerol purification and conversion technologies.

While raw glycerol has limited commercial value, the U of S’ purification technology could double the price that companies can charge for the substance, in turn adding more value to biodiesel production.

“Our Government is pleased to support this collaborative project between industry and University of Saskatchewan,” said The Honourable Michelle Rempel, Minister of State for Western Economic Diversification. “Providing innovative technologies that will help increase the productivity and competitiveness of the biofuel and biochemical sectors in Western Canada.”

University officials say they plan to develop and file three patents: one for the purification technology, and two for the conversion technologies. A Saskatchewan start-up company is expected to manufacture all three technologies for commercial use, and subsequently market them.

Propane Group Promotes Low Cost at Work Truck Show

PERCThe low cost to run work vehicles on propane will be on display at this week’s NTEA Work Truck Show in Indianapolis, Indiana. The Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) will be there to show fleet managers why propane autogas is a great savings on fuel costs.

“Propane autogas is unique in that it offers a strong ROI for fleets and a low total cost of ownership over the lifetime of the vehicle,” said Tucker Perkins, PERC chief business development officer. “When fleet managers consider maintenance, fuel costs, and uptime on our growing portfolio of medium-duty vehicles, they understand why fleets like UPS and DISH have made a switch from gasoline and diesel to a clean alternative fuel like propane autogas.”

Propane autogas’ advantages have prompted PERC to continue investing in the commercialization of medium- and heavy-duty equipment options with leading manufacturers. During the show, PERC is co-hosting two press announcements that highlight two new technologies:

– Blossman Services, Inc., will make a customer announcement about its Ford Transit conversion package on Wednesday, March 4, at 2 p.m. in the PERC booth, 5585.

– Roush CleanTech will make an announcement in its booth, 5103, on Wednesday, March 4 at at 2:35 p.m.

PERC will also host a breakout session, titled “Fueling a Competitive Edge: New Propane Autogas Technology & Offerings”, on March 4 from 4:30-5:15 p.m. Attendees can learn about new propane autogas technologies and offerings for medium-duty vehicles, including a diesel substitution system. Presenters include Ron Anders of FCCC, Ed Hoffman of Blossman Services, Inc., Todd Mouw of Roush CleanTech, and Tucker Perkins of PERC.

Check out PERC’s space at the show, booth #5585.

Syngenta Ups Ethanol Output, Growers’ Profits

syngenta1Agribusiness company Syngenta is working with ethanol producers to have a variety of corn that produces more ethanol at the refinery and makes more profit for the feedstock growers. The company says that growers of its Enogen variety of corn, specifically engineered to increase ethanol production, will receive some more incentives to grow the grain.

According to Chris Tingle, head of Enogen and Water Solutions for Syngenta, ethanol plants are increasingly seeking not just clean, dry corn with little or no damage or foreign material, but also grain with quality characteristics that can help maximize ethanol production.

“A growing demand for high-quality feedstock is creating opportunities for growers to increase their income per acre,” Tingle said. “By supplying the quality grain that ethanol plants want all year long, growers can maximize profitability, while helping to support the ethanol industry.”

Syngenta designed the Ethanol Grain Quality Solution specifically for growers who plant Enogen®, Golden Harvest® and NK® Corn hybrids. Its goals are to raise yields and drive grain quality through effective insect control, early-season weed management, glyphosate weed-resistance management, and Crop Enhancement (the Syngenta global business focused on minimizing the effects of nonliving factors, such as heat, wind and rain, on plants). The Ethanol Grain Quality Solution provides the ethanol plant and its growers more high-quality grain, while improving return on investment.

“Growers with an Enogen contract can receive an additional 10 cents per bushel premium above the current Enogen contract premium by following agronomic protocols outlined in the Ethanol Grain Quality Solution,” Tingle said. “Plus, growers who have purchased Golden Harvest or NK Corn can receive 10 cents more per bushel for any additional bushels of corn produced under the Ethanol Grain Quality Solution protocol, provided those bushels are delivered to the ethanol plant.”

Ethanol producers say Syngenta’s Ethanol Grain Quality Solution is providing a better ethanol feedstock for their plants, and since the farmers get the premium for growing Enogen, they are also able to achieve higher yields because they can afford some of the inputs that maximize production.

USDA Gives Biomass Energy Development $8.7 Mil Boost

usda-logoUp to $8.7 million in federal funding is being made available for next-generation bioenergy development in biomass. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is funding the bioenergy research and education efforts and will be publishing the final rule for a program that provides incentives for farmers and forest landowners interested in growing and harvesting biomass for renewable energy.

“USDA’s support for innovative bioenergy research and education supports rural economic development, reduces carbon pollution and helps decrease our dependence on foreign energy,” said [Agriculture Secretary Tom] Vilsack. “These investments will keep America moving toward a clean energy economy and offer new jobs and opportunities in rural communities.”

USDA will publish the final rule on the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) in tomorrow’s Federal Register. BCAP provides up to $25 million each year in financial assistance to owners and operators of agricultural and non-industrial private forest land who wish to establish, produce, and deliver biomass feedstocks to a qualifying energy facility. The rule includes modifications to cost sharing, eligible types of biomass and other definitions. Stakeholders are encouraged to visit www.regulations.gov to review program details and provide comments during a 60-day public comment period. Comments are due by April 28, 2015. The full program will resume in 90 days on May 28, 2015. Additional information on application dates will be announced this spring. For more information on the program, visit the web at www.fsa.usda.gov/bcap.

USDA is also looking for applications for research and education grants through the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s Biomass Research and Development Initiative (BRDI), a joint program through NIFA and the U.S. Energy Department (DOE) to develop economically and environmentally sustainable sources of renewable biomass, increase the availability of renewable fuels and biobased products to help replace the need for gasoline and diesel in vehicles, and diversify our energy portfolio.

Cross-Country Chicken Fat Biodiesel Trip Back On

Ricketts shows problemA cross-country trip to prove that chicken fat-based biodiesel is a viable fuel is back on after being derailed in November due to a busted drivetrain… but no issue with the fuel. According to this article from The Tennessean, Middle Tennessee State University agribusiness and agriscience professor Cliff Ricketts is heading back on the road on March 8, nearly four months after his 1981 Volkswagen Rabbit diesel pickup’s drive-train transmission broke 25 miles outside Kansas City, Missouri as he was trying to drive 3,550 miles from Key West, Florida, to Seattle on pure biodiesel from chicken fat, an adventure he has taken every year since 2012.

Although Ricketts cut the trip short, he was happy to report one fact.

“The biodiesel did great,” said Ricketts, who added that data showed miles per gallon ranges were from 36 to 45-plus. “Equal speed, power, torque.”

Another factor that stopped the trip in November was a pending winter storm making its way across the Great Plains. Let’s hope spring comes a little early for that region this time.

IRFA: Iowa ‘Gas Tax’ to Boost Biodiesel

IowaRFAlogoThe Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) has joined the Iowa Biodiesel Board in welcoming a state gas tax that is awaiting the governor’s signature that will create a 3-cent per gallon differential tax rate for 11 percent biodiesel and higher blends. The IRFA says the measure would boost the availability and sales of cleaner-burning, locally-produced biodiesel.

Under the legislation, diesel fuel will be taxed at a rate of 32.5 cents per gallon. However, if diesel fuel is blended with 11 percent or more of biodiesel, the state excise tax is reduced to only 29.5 cents per gallon. The 3-cent per gallon differential for B11 and higher blends will go into effect on July 1, 2015.

“The biodiesel community thanks the Iowa Legislature for its commitment to increasing the use and availability of higher biodiesel blends,” stated Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) Policy Director Grant Menke. “The 3-cent differential for blends containing at least 11 percent biodiesel will be a useful tool to build upon the progress we’ve made in cleaning up our air and supporting our economy through the use of homegrown Iowa biodiesel. The B11 differential further demonstrates Iowa’s policy leadership in expanding market access and consumer choice for renewable fuels.”

“With no end in sight on the federal policy uncertainty for biodiesel, I am grateful the Iowa Legislature took this opportunity to drive sales of higher biodiesel blends,” stated IRFA Vice President and Western Dubuque Biodiesel General Manager Tom Brooks. “This 3-cent differential for B11 and higher blends represents another step forward for the economic, environmental and energy security benefits that come along with a strong Iowa biodiesel community.”

Iowa produced 227 million gallons of biodiesel in 2014, about 16 percent of total U.S. biodiesel production for the year.

New Treatment to Cut Biofuel Costs by 30% or More

wyman1A new pretreatment could cut the costs of biofuels by 30 percent or more. This news release from the University of California, Riverside says researchers at the school have invented a novel pretreatment technology that could cut those production costs by dramatically reducing the amount of enzymes needed to breakdown the raw materials that form biofuels.

As partners in the BioEnergy Science Center (BESC), the team from the Bourns College of Engineering Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering and Center for Environmental Research and Technology (CE-CERT) have shown that this new operation called Co-solvent Enhanced Lignocellulosic Fractionation (CELF) could eliminate about 90 percent of the enzymes needed for biological conversion of lignocellulosic biomass to fuels compared to prior practice. This development could mean reducing enzyme costs from about $1 per gallon of ethanol to about 10 cents or less.

The BioEnergy Science Center is a U.S. Department of Energy Bioenergy Research Center focused on enhancing science and technology to reduce the cost of biomass conversion through support by the Office of Biological and Environmental Research in the Department of Energy Office of Science..

“As recent months have shown, petroleum prices are inherently unstable and will likely return to high prices soon as expensive sources are taken off line,” said Professor Charles Wyman, the Ford Motor Company Chair in Environmental Engineering at UC Riverside. “We have created a transformative technology that has the potential to make biofuels an economic sustainable alternative to petroleum-based fuels.”

Wyman’s findings were outlined in a just published paper, “Co-solvent Pretreatment Reduces Costly Enzyme Requirements for High Sugar and Ethanol Yields from Lignocellulosic Biomass,” in the journal ChemSusChem.

Growth Tells Ethanol Producers to Talk to Congress

growth-energy-logoAs alternative energy producers have gathered in Washington, D.C. for the 2015 Energy Independence Summit, the leader of a group representing ethanol producers’ interests is encouraging them to take time to see lawmakers while they are in town. Growth Energy’s Tom Buis told attendees to let their representatives know how critical the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) is in achieving energy independence.

“The RFS has been the most successful energy policy this nation has enacted in the last forty years,” Buis noted. “It has helped reduce our dependence on foreign oil by nearly 50 percent, it is cleaner and better for our environment, it creates American jobs that cannot be outsourced, supports a robust rural economy and in 2014 it contributed more than $50 billion dollars to our GDP. Furthermore, it provides the American consumer with a choice and savings when they go and fill up at the pump.”

Attendees of the Energy Independence Summit are scheduled to meet with members of Congress this week and Buis concluded by encouraging attendees to, “Educate members of Congress on how the RFS plays a critical role in achieving energy security and independence. Explain that is working, and succeeding in reaching the goals it was designed to meet. Now is the time to move forward, not backward on policies that promote renewable energy.”

The 2015 Energy Independence Summit concludes today and is sponsored by a number of ethanol, biodiesel and clean energy groups, as well as some of the companies using them, such as UPS and carmakers. It features the nation’s Clean Cities Coalitions and transportation energy leaders coming together to share best practices and educate federal policy makers about the need for incentives, tools and resources to overcome barriers to the widespread use of cleaner vehicles and fuels.

NREL: Biodiesel Leads Biofuels Growth in US

renewenergydatabookThe latest numbers from the federal government shows biodiesel was the leader in growth among biofuels in the United States. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s (NREL) 2013 Renewable Energy Data Book showed good gains for many of the renewable energy industries, while energy consumption from petroleum actually slumped, despite an overall increase in the amount of energy consumed.

United States overall energy consumption grew to 97.3 quadrillion Btu in 2013, a 2.4% increase from 2012. Energy consumption from coal and renewables grew slightly, while consumption from petroleum and natural gas fell slightly.

Biodiesel was the fastest growing biofuel type, with production increasing by 64% in the United States and 17% globally, from a relatively small base.

Renewable electricity [including hydropower and biopower] grew to nearly 15% of total installed capacity and 13% of total electricity generation in the United States in 2013. Installed renewable electricity capacity exceeded 171 gigawatts (GW) in 2013, generating 534 TWh.

[S]olar electricity was the fastest growing electricity generation technology, with cumulative installed capacity increasing by nearly 66% from the previous year.

[W]ind electricity generation increased 20% in 2013, while wind electricity capacity grew 1.8%.

The report also found that in 2013, renewable electricity accounted for more than 61 percent of all new electricity capacity installations in the United States. By comparison, renewable electricity captured 4 percent of new capacity additions in 2004 and 57 percent in 2008.

Globally, solar photovoltaics (PV) and concentrated solar power (CSP) are among the fastest growing renewable electricity technologies— between 2000 and 2013, solar electricity generation worldwide increased by a factor of nearly 68.

Iowa Biodiesel Board Welcomes State ‘Gas Tax’

iowabiodieselboardThe Iowa Biodiesel Board (IBB) is welcoming a proposal that would raise the state’s fuel tax. This news release from the group says the proposed state legislation would give a partial exemption to the new tax for diesel blended with at least 11 percent biodiesel (B11), encouraging use and growth of the green fuel.

The proposed tax increase (HF 351 and SF 257) is 10 cents a gallon for both diesel and gasoline as part of a plan to address Iowa’s infrastructure needs. A provision provides a 3 cent exemption for biodiesel blends of B11 and above for 5 years.

The IBB, whose membership includes biodiesel producers, soybean farmers and other stakeholders, called the biodiesel nod a bold leadership move.

“This is smart policy on the part of our state leaders that will benefit the entire state, and we thank them,” said Grant Kimberley, executive director of IBB. “Doing everything we can to encourage biodiesel production and usage generates significant economic activity for Iowa. Every gallon of biodiesel we use at home is one less equivalent gallon from the Middle East, and keeps money in our state.”

The bill has a 5-year sunset, but the IBB is hoping to see that extended to 10 years in the future.

Biodiesel Feedstock Theft Prompts New Bill in NJ

njdomeAn increase in demand for biodiesel has, in turn, pushed up the theft of one of the green fuel’s feedstock, used cooking oil. This article from NorthJersey.com says lawmakers in New Jersey are proposing more regulations intended to crack down on the thefts. But not everyone is convinced it will help.

A bill, already passed by the state Senate, would regulate an industry that has until now been a dirty, smelly, under-the-radar business in which the participants have faced virtually no state oversight. The bill would require collectors and recyclers of used cooking oil — also known as yellow grease — to be certified by the state.
Anthony Contorno started a grease collection business in Carlstadt and fears a bill in Trenton to regulate the industry would squeeze out operations like his. At right, Contorno gathering used oil at an East Rutherford eatery.

Supporters say that requiring companies to be certified and to document all sales and purchases of yellow grease would reduce theft, but opponents say it would squeeze little players from the industry and add bureaucracy without curbing theft.

“That’s a question of policing, it’s not a question of licensing,” said state Sen. Gerald Cardinale, R-Demarest, who voted against the bill. “The remedy did not seem to address the problem. You can’t just say we are going to have more regulation and we are going to stop thieves. Thieves are still going to steal, and they will find some way to dispose of product.”

Opponents of the bill worry it will force out small companies from being able to operate. Proponents argue that grease thefts take income away from legitimate operators and hurts the waste-to-biodiesel industry overall.

Pittsburgh to Run City Trucks on Biofuels

pittsburghThe City of Pittsburgh soon could be running some of its trucks on biofuels. This article from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette says a proposal is before the city council to enter into a $150,000 agreement with Optimus Technologies to convert about 20 Department of Public Works trucks to run on the green fuel, which will reduce emissions and save the city money.

Grant Ervin, the city’s sustainability manager, said Optimus’ Vector fuel system was tested on five municipal trucks in a pilot program that started in 2013. The goal is to add it to other city vehicles as an analysis of the city’s fleet needs continues.

“That’s what really exciting about it,” Mr. Ervin said, adding that part of the cost of the program will be covered by state alternative fuel grants. “For us, it’s a tool we can extend to other vehicles. … What the Optimus technology does is basically create hybrid vehicles.”

In cold weather, when biofuel can be plagued by “gelling,” the trucks can be started on conventional diesel fuel and switched to biofuel when it warms up, said Optimus CEO Colin Huwyler.

The biofuel that could be used would be made from recycled cooking oil, non food-grade corn oil from the ethanol industry and rendered animal fat.

Growth, Environmental Groups Comment on CARB

growth-energy-logoGrowth Energy and environmental groups are adding their voices of comments to California’s proposal to its clean air regulations. In a news release, Growth says the California Air Resources Board’s (CARB) proposed amendments to the state’s Low Carbon Fuels Standard (LCFS) Regulation and the Proposed Regulation on the Commercialization of Alternative Diesel Fuels are unnecessary under the state’s environmental mandates.

David Bearden, General Counsel of Growth Energy noted, “If adopted, the current LCFS proposal will have a devastating impact on Growth Energy’s members, who will be forced to exit from the California alternative fuels market. Such an outcome will likely trigger the cost-containment caps in the proposed regulation, and any claimed benefits of the LCFS program will be compromised or lost.”

Specifically, the comments noted:

The LCFS regulation is no longer needed to achieve the greenhouse gas reductions sought in the 2009 LCFS regulation. Since the Board first adopted the LCFS regulation in 2009, much has changed in efforts by the state and federal government to reduce greenhouse gas (“GHG”) emissions from motor vehicles. Growth Energy presented a proposed alternative to the LCFS regulation to CARB staff in June 2014 that would simply adjust California’s cap-and-trade regulation to account for any incremental GHG emission reductions forgone by eliminating the LCFS. Following review of Growth Energy’s proposal, the CARB staff agreed with Growth Energy that Growth Energy’s proposal would likely achieve the same level of GHG emissions reductions as the 2009 LCFS regulation through 2020. Growth Energy’s proposal had none of the unintended negative environmental consequences of the 2009 LCFS regulation, which have been the subject of litigation, and would have eliminated the need for California businesses and consumers to pay for the LCFS program ─ costs that the CARB staff now says may range up to about 12 cents per gallon by 2020.

Growth added that the new justification for the LCFS regulation ignores the federal renewable fuels program, and CARB is not properly accounting for the beneficial effects of the federal renewable fuels standards.

Those sentiments are echoed by the Energy Future Coalition (EFC) and Urban Air Initiative (UAI), which are urging CARB to bring ethanol into the mix.

“Simply replacing gasoline, which is increasingly carbon intensive, with ethanol provides substantial carbon reductions. Using that ethanol to replace toxic compounds used for octane provides a dual benefit of protecting public health,” said David VanderGriend, President of UAI.

“Our research has shown that there is a clear linkage to gasoline and a range of negative health effects. So reducing carbon isn’t just a matter of greenhouse gas and potential climate change but also saving lives by reducing toxic emissions.”

Clean Energy Nets North Carolina $4.8 Billion

NCSEAThe clean energy industry in North Carolina is netting the state $4.8 billion. The NC Sustainable Energy Association (NCSEA) says the sector is a key driver in the state’s economy, growing by about 25 percent since 2012 – outpacing the growth of other industries in the state.

“This year’s Census not only reveals good news for the clean energy industry; it demonstrates powerful news for all of North Carolina,” said NCSEA executive director, Ivan Urlaub. “Consider the rise of clean energy business sectors like building efficiency and energy storage, which are creating immediate jobs and lowering business expenses, while preparing our state to affordably meet future energy demand. Our state is not only better off with clean energy, it’s thriving – and becoming a national model for how clean energy development can help strengthen economic competitiveness.”

Driven largely by the state’s market-based clean energy policies, North Carolina was recently named one of the fastest growing markets for clean energy solutions, and is ranked fourth nationwide in installed solar power. NCSEA created the Census in 2008, a first of its kind nationally, to help measure the impact of North Carolina’s clean energy policies and identify where policy is and is not achieving the results that policymakers, economic developers and industry members envisioned. One such policy is the Renewable Energy Investment Tax Credit, which has reportedly returned $1.93 for every $1.00 utilized by state and local governments.

NCSEA is also crediting growing success in the biomass sector, with animal waste, poultry litter-to-energy and swine-waste-to-energy projects helping fuel the clean energy growth.

You can read the full 2014 North Carolina Clean Energy Industry Census report here.

E15 Would Cut 358K Tons of CO2 Emissions in MN

mnbiofuelsassoc1A new study is showing how a 15 percent blend of ethanol, E15, would cut hundreds of thousands of tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in Minnesota. This news release from Minnesota Bio-Fuels Association touts an analysis by the University of Illinois at Chicago.

In response to a query by the Minnesota Bio-Fuels Association, Dr Steffen Mueller, principal research economist at the University of Illinois at Chicago, said a gallon of E15 saves 1.26 g of CO2 equivalent (CO2e) per megajoule over regular E10 (gasoline that contains 10 percent ethanol). CO2e includes carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and methane.

Annual gasoline consumption in Minnesota averages 2.4 billion gallons. Should all 2.4 billion gallons be converted to E15 from E10, CO2e savings in the state would total 358,000 metric tons annually, Mueller said.

Using the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) greenhouse gas equivalencies calculator, this would amount to eliminating 75,368 passenger vehicles from Minnesota’s roads annually.

“Dr Mueller’s technical analysis is a clear illustration of the benefits E15 has in reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Minnesota.

The 358,000 tons of emissions saved by E15 is on top of the savings already eliminated by using E10, bringing the total CO2e savings to 1.07 million metric tons annually in Minnesota, the equivalent of taking 225,895 vehicles off Minnesota’s roads annually.