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.

China Solar Panel Maker to Install Panels in Malaysia

Wuxi Suntech Power Co LtdOne of the world’s biggest makers of solar panels will work to power rural schools and villages in Malaysia. China-based Wuxi Suntech will put in photovoltaic (PV) panels that will generate 7.5 MW of power under the Rural Solar Hybrid Electricity Project for Villages and Schools in the Interior.

The project was launched recently and is set to be completed in several phases and continue into 2017. The first phase will provide 960 kW to power three schools – SK Nanga Metah, SK Nanga Janan and SK Sungai Tunoh – as well as to 20 surrounding villages. The subsequent rollout of the project will reach a total of 7.5 MW of electricity to additional rural schools and villages.

The PV modules will form a micro-grid system set to provide 24 hour electricity to three schools and 20 surrounding villages. The system will consist of Suntech’s high-efficiency, VDE Quality Tested modules.

“We have been working diligently with our partners Helios Photovoltaics and the Malaysian government for several years to launch this revolutionary project. We’re using diesel generators and German battery packs to backup Suntech’s best in class PV Modules in this system. Many locations in the region are only accessible via boat or helicopter and have previously been left to rely on diesel generation for power. These new micro-grid systems will help to significantly reduce diesel costs and cut 10,000 tons of CO2 emissions per year, providing clean, reliable energy for the schools and villages in Sarawak. We are extremely proud of our work with Helios and the Malaysian Government that has enabled us to bring this project to fruition,” said Samuel Zhang, sales director for APMEA & China at Suntech.

Suntech officials say the company’s recent acquisition by Hong Kong-based Shunfeng Photovoltaics Ltd. has helped its balance sheet and allows it to pursue a a new business strategy that will make it the largest integrated clean energy provider globally.

DF Cast: Syngenta Helps Ethanol Infrastructure Efforts

A company that is getting more ethanol out of corn is trying to get more infrastructure for higher blends of ethanol. Recently, Syngenta announced a new fund to help fuel retailers put in infrastructure to handle higher blends of ethanol from E15 to E85. The announcement was made at a NASCAR event, where fans have been able to witness just how good the higher blends are for engines.

In this edition of the Domestic Fuel Cast, we hear from Syngenta’s David Witherspoon and Growth Energy’s Kelly Manning, as they talk about the effort to get more ethanol infrastructure into gas stations and how Americans, especially NASCAR fans, have really come around to the green fuel.

Domestic Fuel Cast - Increasing Ethanol Blends

You can also subscribe to the DomesticFuel Cast here.

Grassley Adds Biodiesel, Wind Amendments to Jobs Bill

grassley-headA U.S. senator has filed amendments to a jobs bill that would renew the expired wind energy and biodiesel tax incentives… although he admits it could be just political posturing. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) wants to add the renewals to the Bring Jobs Home Act, which he says really is just political messaging and not a serious jobs bill.

“I don’t expect to be allowed to offer my amendments because the Senate majority leader shuts out amendments from the Republican side,” Grassley said. “But I want to draw attention to the potential growth in a sector of the economy that’s right under our noses. This area could get a real boost if the majority in Congress chooses to act to restore these tax incentives.

“In fact, if the majority leader were really interested in jobs, he would devote floor time to debating and processing the pending bipartisan tax extenders legislation as it should be processed, in its entirety, to provide certainty to businesses and individuals alike. There’s no reason this tax relief legislation should be left to sit on the sidelines. Instead, it should be front and center in any effort to spur job-generating economic activity.”

Grassley had already secured renewal of the expired wind energy and biodiesel tax provisions, which expired at the beginning of this year, in a tax measure passed out of the Finance Committee back in April, but that bill is still awaiting action from the full Senate.

New England Biodiesel Maker Turns to Crowd for Improvements

GSB1A biodiesel maker in New England is turning to the crowd to get a little help with its next upgrade and expansion. New Hampshire-based Granite State Biofuels has set up a crowdsourcing website to solicit money for a new piece of equipment with a goal of raising $50,000 total.

We need to purchase analytical equipment which will help us to refine our process in real time. Right now, independent testing labs take several days to report results and are expensive. This $40,000 investment will significantly increase our speed of development and lower our cost of production.

If we are fortunate to secure additional funding, we will use this to begin the process of establishing our second production facility. It has always been our plan to establish a source of clean renewable fuels suitable for marine and then jet applications. Biodiesel is truly biodegradable, it is less caustic than salt and biodegrades faster than sugar making it an ideal fuel for use on and around our precious oceans and fragile atmosphere. These industries know they need to have alternatives but they are simply not there in the quantities required. Numerous market research efforts are predicting very high demand and growth in these areas and we feel we have the technology to deliver in these markets.

Granite State Biofuels currently operates a 3.75 million gallons per year biodiesel production facility.

Navy Adds Biofuels to Fuel Shopping Cart

greenfleetbiofuels1The latest government procurement report shows the U.S. Navy has for the first time put biofuels in the mix for requests for military-specification diesel fuel and jet fuel. This story from U.S. Energy Information Agency (EIA) says the request is for the eastern and inland United States and Gulf Coast and is expected to the Rocky Mountains and West Coast later this year.

The U.S. Navy’s interest in biofuels is part of its goal to generate 50% of its energy from alternative sources by 2020: nuclear energy, electricity from renewable sources, and biofuels. The Navy currently sources about 17% of its energy supplies from renewable and nuclear sources of electricity. No biofuels are currently included in that percentage.

The Navy’s interest in biofuels is limited to those fuels that can be used as direct replacements for petroleum-based gasoline and distillate fuels, also known as drop-in biofuels. These fuels require no modification or operational changes to distribution infrastructure, aircraft, or ships. Although biodiesel blends readily with diesel fuel or jet fuel, and is compatible with most diesel engines, it is not a drop-in fuel. Certain properties limit biodiesel blends from being used in some applications: potential fuel system clogging and poor performance at low temperatures prevent its use in jet fuel for civilian or military use, and water separation problems prevent its use as a marine diesel fuel. Drop-in biofuels are available today on a limited commercial basis, and operable U.S. production capacity is about 210 million gallons per year.

Companies wanting to make a bid to offer drop-in biofuels under the current solicitation can apply to the USDA Commodity Credit Corporation for grants to offset the cost of feedstocks used to produce the biofuels. Some drop-in biofuels might also qualify for Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs).

New Leaders Found for NE Biodiesel Plant Readying to Open

flinthillslogoA Nebraska biodiesel plant completed in 2007 but never opened has received new leadership as company officials prepare to open the refinery. This article from the Beatrice (NE) Daily Sun says Flint Hills Resources named Russell Leighton as plant manager and Jeremy Morse as production manager as Flint Hills and Benefuel eye next year’s opening of their joint Duonix biodiesel plant in Beatrice.

Leighton has more than 25 years experience in the oil, gas and chemical industries and will be responsible for overall management and administration of the facility.

Prior to joining Flint Hills Resources, Russell oversaw quality management systems in the U.S. and abroad as Director of Operations for TETRA Technologies.

Morse will serve as production manager, focusing on the startup and commissioning of the new plant. He was previously the plant superintendent of AGP in Algona, Iowa, where he was responsible for maintaining plant operations and product quality.

Michael Harris, biofuels ventures manager for Flint Hills Resources, said in a press release the pair’s experience will be a beneficial addition to the business.

“We are excited to welcome Russell and Jeremy to the Flint Hills Resources team,” he said. “Their leadership will help drive our biodiesel operations as we prepare to start full-scale production next year and bring this innovative new biodiesel technology to life.”

When the plant is operational, hopefully next summer, officials say it will produce 50 million gallons of biodiesel per year using an innovative biodiesel technology from Benefuel, Inc. called ENSEL.

Grease Still Hot Item in Biodiesel Feedstock Thefts

scalesofjustice1We’re still seeing stories pop up about how thieves are targeting the used grease from restaurants for biodiesel production. The latest story comes from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch where police broke up a mutli-state ring of stolen used grease and cooking oil from O’Fallon, Ill. and the surrounding area.

The suspects — Bo Lin, 32, of Fairview Heights; Tuo Li, 25, of Chicago; and Kentvy Wong, 30, of Flushing, N.Y. — were arrested overnight July 16 at a barn here in the 900 block of Talon Drive. The building, police said, contained about 10,000 gallons of filched grease.

[Police detective Lt. Robert] Schmidtke said the suspects had been selling it to rendering and biodiesel plants.

He said estimating the value of the grease was difficult, but that it easily exceeded $10,000. The National Renderers Association has estimated that grease sells nationally for about $3 a gallon.

Grease thefts have increased since biofuels were introduced to a market once dominated by animal feed and soap industries.

Police say most restaurants might not even report grease thefts, because they don’t realize the value of the commodity being stolen. I guess that’s understandable when you figure it wasn’t that many years ago when before biodiesel became so popular that restaurants paid a price (and many still do) to have it hauled away.

Kansas Ethanol Plant to Add Renewable Diesel Ops

EKAEA Kansas ethanol maker is going to integrate a renewable diesel operation into its facility. East Kansas Agri-Energy LLC (EKAE) says it will soon start building and hopes to complete construction within about a year of the 3 million gallon per year facility at its ethanol plant in Garnett, Kansas that will make renewable diesel from the corn distillers oil (CDO) already produced at the plant.

“This is about maximizing revenue, leveraging activities that we already do every day, and enhancing the value of products we already produce now,” said EKAE President & CEO Jeff Oestmann. “Adding renewable diesel capability aligns perfectly with our business strategy of diversifying our energy portfolio and creating additional enterprises that are sustainable on their own.”

“The main driver is to create greater value for our unit holders,” said EKAE chairman Bill Pracht. “We’ll be taking advantage of our experience and current facilities to create two biofuels out of one kernel of corn. Furthermore, we’ll be adding value to the corn oil we already produce.”

Oestmann said that EKAE already has a receptive market for this new fuel. “We have positive relationships with customers and within the biofuels industry that have come to know EKAE as a reliable and trustworthy supplier,” he said. “By using corn distillers oil we produce as the primary feedstock, we will have quality control that will underscore our reputation for quality in the marketplace.”

Company officials hope to double the 3 million gallon per year capacity sometime after starting operations.

White House Gathers Senate Dems on RFS Proposal

nbb-senatorsIn what could be seen as a sign that an unpopular decision is about to be rendered by the Obama Administration on ethanol and biodiesel, a select group of Senate Democrats have met with the White House. The Hill reports White House adviser John Podesta met with the group on Thursday to discuss the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) plans regarding the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

The senators said they wanted to discuss “urgent concerns” with the RFS, which requires that diesel and gasoline refiners mix a certain amount of renewable fuels such as biodiesel and ethanol into their traditional fuels each year. The Environmental Protection Agency proposed last year to keep the biodiesel volume in 2014 at least year’s level, despite an increase in biodiesel production, and reduce the ethanol volume.

The EPA has not yet finalized its 2014 volumes for renewables.

[Minnesota Senator Al] Franken and his colleagues took particular issue with the biodiesel mandate.

“Such a decision would not only harm the economic growth surrounding biodiesel production in our states, but would be a setback in our national efforts to continue boosting U.S. energy security while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” they wrote.

The National Biodiesel Board (NBB) seems concerned about the meeting as well and issued a statement from from Vice President of Federal Affairs Anne Steckel:

“While we are encouraged by these discussions, the biodiesel industry remains concerned that the Administration still appears to be considering a proposal that would backtrack from last year’s proven production and that threatens biodiesel plants around the country. The fact is that biodiesel is the most successful Advanced Biofuel under the RFS, yet it could see its production cut significantly. This meeting, which was originally requested by a diverse group of 14 Democratic senators from across the country, makes clear that there are serious concerns about the impact that the proposal would have on jobs and economic growth nationwide, in states from Rhode Island to Minnesota to Washington state. This is a critical decision, not just for the biodiesel industry but for the future development of clean, American-made renewable fuels that will help us reduce our dangerous dependence on petroleum.”

Many of those senators participating in this week’s meeting were also critical back in May on the Obama Administration’s proposal to cut the amount of biodiesel and ethanol to be mixed into the nation’s fuel supply, with some of the President’s staunchest backers calling it “disastrous” and a miserable failure of policy.

“Climate of Opportunity” Theme for Biofuels Conference

Screen Shot 2014-07-18 at 12.23.20 PMSome biofuels producers have had some profitable times in the last couple of years, and an upcoming conference will give attendees information on how to take advantage of the opportunities put before them. Nationally known accounting and consulting firm Christianson & Associates will host its 10th annual Biofuels Financial Conference with the theme “Climate of Opportunity,” Aug. 27-28, 2014 in Minneapolis, Minn. at the Bloomington Embassy Suites.

This year’s Biofuels Financial Conference is focused on the best ways to take advantage of the many opportunities to optimize financial health and stability in today’s changing biofuels industry. By understanding current policy and knowing all available options for improving and diversifying production, attendees will learn how to capitalize on current strengths, identify and shore up any potential weaknesses, and create a strategic plan for growth creates an ongoing climate of opportunity.

“It’s important for board members and financial decision-makers to understand the opportunities in the current liquid fuels marketplace,” said [John Christianson, CPA and Partner at Christianson & Associates]. “What is the impact of the latest legislation changes, what are the marketplace opportunities, what are the technology investments that will bring a plant successfully into the next generation?”

Those attending the conference will be able to network with and learn from biofuels professionals from across the industry. More information is available here.

LA Moving Company Converts Fleet to Biodiesel

247vanlinesA Los Angeles-based moving company has converted its entire fleet of trucks to run on biodiesel. 24-7 Van Lines says the conversion helps the environment and helps the company be more energy efficient, which means they can pass along savings for its commercial and residential customers.

According the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), emissions from transportation vehicles amounted to an estimated 28% of all greenhouse gases emitted in the nation in 2011. With newer laws being enacted nationwide designed to curb emissions, and with some being implemented by individual states already, trucks in the moving sector and in other industries will soon have to conform to newer and more stringent standards. With the cost of bio-diesel fuel at a comfortable median to standard diesel, entities that convert their fleets stand to enjoy substantial reductions in cost. For The Commercial Movers, the upgrades make them an officially “green” Los Angeles Cross Country Mover, also enabling them to offer lower rates to their customers as a result of reduced fuel encumbrances.

“We strive to make our services as valuable to our customers as possible, while also being cognizant of the impact that our company has upon the environment,” explained company spokesperson, Mark Tanning. “With our completed upgrade to cleaner burning bio-diesel engines, we are able to tackle both objectives with one move. Now we can offer better prices to our clients and reduce our carbon footprint, simultaneously. And that’s a tune that we can all hum along to.”

More information about the company is available at www.247vanlines.com.

UN: Biofuels to Grow Faster than Food Crops

UNoecdfaoTwo United Nations agencies say biofuel production will grow faster than food crops. This report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations says prices for the major crops worldwide have dropped significantly from record highs in the last couple of years due to the recent bumper crops of 2013 and 2014. In addition, ethanol and biodiesel prices are down due to plenty of feedstocks for the green fuels.

In the next decade, livestock and biofuel production are projected to grow at higher rates than crop production. This changing structure of global agricultural production prompts a relative shift toward coarse grains and oilseeds to meet demands for food, feed and biofuel, away from staple food crops like wheat and rice. The bulk of the additional production will originate in regions where determining factors, such as land and water availability, and policy regulations, are the least constraining.

Crop prices are expected to drop for one or two more years, before stabilizing at levels that remain above the pre-2008 period, but significantly below recent peaks. Meat, dairy and fish prices are expected to rise. In real terms, however, prices for both crops and animal products are projected to decline over the medium term. The expected stock-to-use ratios for cereals improve significantly, which should ease concerns about their price volatility.

The report goes on to say that the Americas will be the dominant export region for crops and biofuels, while Africa and Asia will increase their net imports to meet their growing demands.

Crop Residues, Manure Hold Great Potential for Bioenergy

Crop residues and manure hold great potential as bioenergy sources, especially in areas such as the Midwest where row crops and livestock provide all the ingredients. This report from the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) says those resources will need some help, though, from the right policies, practices, and investments.
UCSreport
UCS analysis finds that by 2030, U.S. farmers could sustainably produce up to 155 million tons of crop residues, many times the current level of production. U.S. livestock could produce another 60 million tons of manure, to be turned into clean-burning biogas.

The right policies, practices, and investments will help these clean energy sources realize their potential—with huge benefits for farmers, communities, and the environment…

Fuel and electricity made from agricultural biomass is potentially clean too. With the right practices, ethanol made from crop residues can produce 90 percent fewer lifecycle emissions, compared to gasoline.

Many states could significantly scale up their use of crop residues and manure. The largest include Iowa, a leading producer of corn ethanol, and Arkansas, the nation’s top rice producer.

Texas and California offer a lot of potential as well because of those states’ large agricultural outputs.

EPA Issues New Rule for RINs Quality Assurance Program

epa-logoIn an effort to assure all parties of better control over possible fraud, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has formally issued its new rule on a voluntary quality assurance program on Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs) used to track compliance with their renewable fuel volume obligations. The EPA proposed the rule earlier this month and issued it late last week that will elements designed to make it possible to verify the validity of RINs from the beginning of 2013 and going forward.

Today’s final action includes a voluntary third-party quality assurance program option for RINs that regulated parties may exercise as a supplement to the “buyer beware” liability as prescribed under existing regulations. The program provides a means for ensuring that RINs are properly generated through audits of renewable fuel production conducted by independent third-parties using quality assurance plans (QAPs), provides an affirmative defense for the transfer or use of invalid RINs that had been verified under an approved QAP, defines the conditions when RINs must be replaced, and a process for determining who will replace the RINs…

- Minimum requirements for a QAP, including such things as verification of feedstocks, verification that volumes produced are consistent with amount of feedstocks processed, and verification that RINs generated are appropriately categorized and match the volumes produced
- Qualifications for independent third-party auditors
- Requirements for audits of renewable fuel production facilities, including minimum frequency, site visits, review of records, and reporting
- Conditions under which a regulated party could assert an affirmative defense to civil liability for transferring or using an invalid RIN
- Identification of the party or parties who are responsible for replacing invalid RINs with valid RINs and the timing of such replacement
- A two percent limited exemption for calendar years 2014, 2015, and 2016 that exempts a small fraction of a party’s Renewable Volume Obligation (RVO) from the requirement of replacement of invalid RINs used for compliance if they were RINs verified through a QAP
- Changes to the EPA Moderated Transaction System (EMTS) that would accommodate the quality assurance program

There’s an interim period that covers back to February 21, 2013 through the end of this year which will finalize two proposed QAP programs, QAP A and QAP B.

Beginning January 1, 2015, there will be a single QAP, and the associated verified RINs will be referred to as Q-RINs.

USDA Promotes Rural Wood-to-Energy Projects

usda-logoRural energy projects from wood on the land where it’s grown are getting a boost. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) awarded more than $2.5 million in grants to develop wood energy teams in 11 states and an additional $1.25 million for nine wood energy projects.

“Renewable wood energy is part of the Obama Administration’s ‘all of the above’ energy strategy,” [Agriculture Secretary Tom] Vilsack said. “Working with our partners, the Forest Service is supporting development of wood energy projects that promote sound forest management, expand regional economies and create new rural jobs.”

The federal funds will leverage more than $4.5 million in investments from USDA partners. Under the terms of the agreements announced today, private, state and federal organizations will work together to stimulate the development of additional wood energy projects in their states. Activities may include workshops that provide technical, financial and environmental information, preliminary engineering assessments and community outreach needed to support development of wood energy projects.

Grant recipients are from: Arizona, Colorado, Kentucky, Montana, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin and West Virginia.

In addition, USDA announced money to use woody material from the National Forest System lands, such as beetle-killed trees, to improve forest health and aid in wildfire prevention. More information is available on the Statewide Wood Energy Teams (SWET) and Wood to Energy Grant Recipients website.