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.

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.
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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.

Company to Make Biodiesel Ingredient in Iowa

ia-flag1Following up on last week’s story of an un-named company planning on building a plant in Iowa to make a key biodiesel ingredient, that company has now been identified. This article in the Mason City (IA) Globe Gazette says New Heaven Chemicals Inc. will start construction at a plant to make sodium methylate at the Manly Terminal in northern Iowa immediately.

“This will be the company’s very first United States location and we are so proud to be a partner with them on this project,” [Teresa Nicholson, executive director of the Winnebago-Worth Counties Betterment Council] said.

Construction is anticipated to completed by the end of 2014. Manufacturing start-up is planned for January 2015.

New Heaven Chemicals is a newly incorporated Iowa company with locations in eight countries worldwide.

Total capital investment in the Manly site is approximately $8.85 million, with a planned expansion in the next three years, Nicholson said.

At start-up, the company will manufacture 12,000 tons of sodium methylate. The planned expansion will triple that capacity, Nicholson said.

This should be of particular interest to the large biodiesel manufacturing market in Iowa and Southern Minnesota as this will be the first sodium methylate plant in the area. The only other sodium methylate manufacturers are located in Indiana, Texas and Alabama.

The Iowa Economic Development Authority and the local county supervisors have approved a combination of tax credits and financial assistance to the company.

Iowa Looks to Attract Company Making Biodiesel Ingredient

ia-flag1A county in northern Iowa is looking to attract a company that makes an important ingredient in biodiesel production. This article from KIMT TV says the Worth County Board of Supervisors is considering some incentives to attract a company that would produce sodium methylate and, if approved, would be the first place in the U.S. for the un-named company.

“Worth County is always pro-development. We’ve been aggressive toward development at that Manly Terminal area. Iowa Northern Railway and their partners have made a significant investment with Manly Terminal development, and we knew when that happened there would be future developments. This is just one of them,” said Teresa Nicholson, Executive Director of Winnebago and Worth County Betterment Council.

Right now, the Manly Terminal is a transport hub of ethanol products and the location of the terminal is what’s attracting the new company to North Iowa. They would produce Sodium Methylate, which is a chemical compound used in bio-diesel production

“The terminal located themselves there because of that 300 mile radius and being able to distribute products for the ethanol industry. This company is also locating because of the 300 mile radius of the bio-diesel industry,” said Nicholson.

The county board is considering a tax incentive. The Iowa Economic Development Authority Board today is also considering the project, which could get underway by the end of this month.

Sapphire’s Algae Project Picked for China Eco Program

Sapphire1Sapphire Energy has been picked to partner with China’s Sinopec’s to produce algae-derived renewable crude oil. This statement from Sapphire says it’s part of the U.S.-China EcoPartnerships program, one of six new U.S.-China partnerships that promote cooperation between the U.S. and Chinese companies that work on clean energy, climate change, and environmental protections.

“This collaboration between our two companies exemplifies the mutual goal of producing cleaner energy solutions for the U.S. and China. Together, we will demonstrate that crude oil from algae can be produced with favorable economics; that it can be integrated into existing fuels distribution networks; and that it will deliver substantial advantages for the reduction of CO2 emissions in both nations,” [said Sapphire Energy CEO Cynthia Warner].

“Projections from the U.S. Energy Information Administration show that China, the world’s most populous country, will be the largest importer of oil in 2014. The need for renewable, sustainable and low carbon energy solutions to meet growing demand is vital. Given China’s leadership and strong support for embracing new, clean, sustainable fuel options, along with the country’s abundant availability of non-farmable land and non-potable water, Sapphire Energy’s proven algae-to-energy technology platform offers a promising solution.”

Sapphire Energy is based in San Diego, Calif. with an R&D facility in Las Cruces, New Mexico, and is currently operating the first Integrated Algal BioRefinery in Columbus, New Mexico.

Benefuel’s New Solid Catalyst Opens Biodiesel Opportunities

BenefuelInnovative ideas in solid catalysts could open new opportunities in the biodiesel market. This article from The American Oil Chemists’ Society’s Inform magazine says Benefuel’s new proprietary solid catalyst process will convert inedible oils and fats into biodiesel, turn both glycerides and free fatty acids into alkyl esters for industrial use, and do it all cheaper than other esterification or transesterification processes.

To us, the path ahead was clear: The biodiesel industry needed a fully continuous, fully integrated production refinery for biodiesel—one that could receive a variety of feedstocks and process them continuously to biodiesel and glycerin. The fixed-bed reactor design and our new catalyst were at the heart of this approach. Although the wide versatility of our catalysts for esterification and transesterification were well recognized, development of other applications had to wait for process validation in biodiesel.

Benefuel’s Ensel® fixed-bed process is quite simple. It employs our second solid catalyst, which was developed in conjunction with Süd-Chemie India Pvt. Ltd. (Kerala)and patented in the United States and Japan (US 8,124,801 and JP 5,470,382) with applications in other countries.

This durable, promoted, metal oxide catalyst is largely insensitive to water and effectively converts every feedstock that has been tested in numerous pilot plant-scale operations. Examples include degummed soybean oil, cottonseed oil, corn oil from dried distillers’ grains with solubles, yellow grease, beef tallow, crude palm oil, palm fatty acid distillate, and even a mixture of degummed soybean oil and oleic acid (7:3, vol/vol).

The article goes on to list several advantages to using a solid catalyst, including economic—continuous production at commercial scale regardless of changes in feedstocks or feedstock blends; a catalyst life of several years instead of “catalyst as reagent,” as in conventional biodiesel production; and an ability to blend feedstocks to achieve optimal cold-flow properties in the final product at a low raw material cost.

Benefuel is retrofitting a biodiesel plant with this technology, the former Axens’ biodiesel plant in Beatrice, Nebraska. The company is also pursuing other opportunities in Southeast Asia and Canada.

REG Could Be Planning Illinois Biodiesel Plant Expansion

reg-logoBiodiesel behemoth Renewable Energy Group (REG) could be looking to expand one of its Illinois biodiesel plants. This article in the Champaign (IL) News-Gazette says REG is buying up lots around its Danville biodiesel plant, as well as asking city officials to vacate alleys and portions of streets around the facility and change the local zoning from residential to industrial. The city council last night unanimously reversed the city’s planning and zoning commission’s original denial of the request back in June.

“We don’t have a project plan that’s approved, but we do have thoughts to expand in the future, and we have thoughts of what we might want to do,” said Bruce Lutes, general manager of the Danville plant at 300 Anderson St., east of the city’s downtown. An approved plan, Lutes added, would be an approved capital project through REG, which has done some expansion at other plants.

“We have an idea of what we would like to do,” he said.

But Lutes would not disclose details about the company’s ideas for future expansion or whether an expansion would include a boost in biodiesel production. REG Danville currently has the capacity to produce 45 million gallons of biodiesel per year, and Lutes said the facility is close to that.

“We have some needs for this place, for space… We are very cramped… and sitting on a small footprint,” said Lutes, who added that the space needs are for additional storage, maintenance and office space. “And there could be other things, but we’re not at the point where we have any definite plans or a project.”

REG officials had characterized the earlier denial of the zoning change as “dumb.”

Novozymes Touts Enzyme-Catalyzed Biodiesel

novozymesEnzymes could be the key to making biodiesel from low-quality oils. This article from The American Oil Chemists’ Society’s Inform magazine says Novozymes, a biotech company specializing in enzyme technology, is touting biodiesel production at Blue Sun Biodiesel in St. Joseph, Missouri and Vieselfuel LLC in Stuart, Fla., based on using lipase as catalyst.

Production at both sites has been in operation for over a year now. Novozymes has been the enzyme supplier and partner, and the accomplishment of full-scale production is the result of lengthy, dedicated research and development work.

The new lipase technology enables the processing of oil feedstocks with any concentration of free fatty acids and with lower energy costs than with a standard chemical catalyst…

Use of the liquid lipases was a breakthrough, as they are much cheaper to produce and provide technological as well as cost benefits. By using the lipase Novozymes Callera Trans®, it is possible to produce biodiesel from a large variety of oil qualities. The ability to produce biodiesel from feedstock regardless of its FFA content ultimately makes the process a more cost-efficient way to produce biodiesel.

The article goes on to say that Novozymes is finishing up the development of the enzymatic biodiesel application and expects to launch the concept later this year.

The same magazine features another article on using a new proprietary solid catalyst process developed by Benefuel to make biodiesel. We’ll have details on that story tomorrow.

Methes Completes First U.S. Biodiesel Transaction

Methes1A producer of biodiesel in Canada completes its first sale in the United States. Last month, we told you how Methes Energies achieved the important BQ-9000 quality standard and that the company planned to ship more than $6 million worth of biodiesel to the U.S. That transaction has now taken place with the imported of biodiesel coming from its Sombra, Ontario facility.

This is the first time that Methes directly generated U.S. revenues. In the past, biodiesel produced at its Sombra, Ontario facility was sold to brokers and intermediaries that would import the biodiesel into the U.S. and resell the biodiesel to obligated parties and fuel distributors. With Methes now having the ability to import biodiesel to the U.S. and itself generate [Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs)], Methes can sell directly to U.S buyers, capitalize on new opportunities and improve its margins.

Nicholas Ng, President of Methes Energies, said, “This is another step forward for Methes and part of our plan to capitalize on more opportunities in the U.S. This is the first time that Methes directly generated U.S. revenues and U.S revenues will now start playing a much larger role in our overall growth strategy and enable us to expand our footprint in several states in the U.S. As for production in Sombra, things are going very well with more feedstock showing up tomorrow. In fact, we will be receiving our largest shipment by rail ever, a total of 12 railcars or over 2 million pounds of oil.”

The Methes refinery in Ontario is capable of producing 13 million gallons per year of biodiesel.

Biostimulation for Algae Growth Could Help Biodiesel

solarmagnatron1Growing algae for biodiesel seems like a viable option when you consider how oil-rich (and thus, feedstock-rich) the one-celled organisms can be. But while algae is one of the fastest growing organisms on Earth, getting enough growth out of the microbes to make the proposition commercially viable is the holy grail for algae-biodiesel producers. Researchers from AlgaStar Inc. have found a way to increase algae growth rates by 300 percent using a technique called biostimulation and a biomass grower called the SolarMagnatron.

Biological stimulation from electromagnetic fields and/or microwaves offers a novel technology that can accelerate algae growth substantially compared with natural sunlight. Laboratory tests at AlgaStar, Inc. and research collaborators at the University of Western Ontario, (UWO) have proven the biostimulation concept but considerably more research is needed. Additional research efforts are now funded for AlgaStar with Los Alamos National Laboratory. Additional grant applications and research sponsor funding will include Dr. Bruce Rittmann’s lab in the Biodesign Institute at ASU, the world class AzCATI Test Bed at ASU, NanoVoltaics, UWO and others.

The AlgaStar algae production and biostimulation system integrates two types of electromagnetic energy. The first is a millitesla generator and the second a millimeter microwave generator that radiates spontaneous growth energy into large volumes of algae biomass. The research teams have demonstrated that electromagnetic energy waves can provide an increase in algae biomass and its corresponding lipid oil production by up to 300%.

AlgaStar is using it’s patented 4500 gallon SolarMagnatron biomass production system that has an automated biosystem controller (ABC), which optimizes biomass production and uses light very efficiently. During the day, it maximizes natural sunlight, and when it’s night, special domed acrylic lenses and flat-panel glass reactors containing high-efficiency florescent and LED lights produce artificial sunlight at specific wavelengths and power levels that optimize algae photosynthesis.

More information is available on the AlgaStar website.

Researchers Make Green Plastic from Biodiesel By-Product

csirlogoResearchers in India have created a green plastic from the biodiesel by-product glycerin. This article from the Business Times says the Central Salt and Marine Chemicals Research Institute (CSMCRI) developed the biodegradable plastic from a jatropha-based biodiesel process.

“We had initiated a research on using the residue of bio-diesel to be converted to plastic.The idea of green plastic came as a result of our concern to effectively utilize the crude glycerol which is the byproduct of the Jatropha biodiesel,” said S Mishra, principal scientist, CSMCRI.

Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR) and CSMCRI have started research related to the development of ‘green plastic’ in 2005 during the second phase of the project entitled ‘Biofuels from eroded soils of India” sponsored by Daimler Chrysler, Germany.

More than 500 gms. of green plastic has already been produced in the laboratory at gram scale which was distributed to some firms for research analysis and studies on its further applications in bio-medical area. “Now ,our target is to scale up the process from gram to kilogram scale per batch production. Besides, we are also trying to improve functional/physical properties of the product,” she added.

A European patent has been granted for these bioplastics that degrade in the soil in three months.

The institute is also looking at developing algae found in the Indian coastline to be made into biodiesel.

Biodiesel Put to the Test in Dodge Ram

Biodiesel PumpIt’s always good to see the results of biodiesel put into real test situations. This great article from Diesel Power magazine put the green fuel at a B20 (20 percent biodiesel) level to the test in a 2014 Ram 2500 and showed just how good biodiesel can be, providing fewer emissions, lubricating the engine better, and actually being a cheaper source of fuel in some parts of the country.

So why all the hate if there are so many positives? One criticism is that biodiesel clogs fuel filters. It is true that in higher-mileage diesels fuel filters will need to be changed more frequently when running biodiesel, but this isn’t because of the fuel itself. It’s due to the fact that biodiesel is a better solvent than petrodiesel and actually cleans the built-up gunk out of the truck’s fuel tank and system. The higher the concentration of biodiesel, the quicker the tank gets cleaned and the filter gets clogged. This leads directly to the second myth of biodiesel: that it provides less power and lower fuel economy. Typically, the cause of this is a clogged fuel filter. See the connection? Keep the filter clean, and you’ll never know there is bio in the tank.

This brings us back to my quick test. I saddled the truck up with the same trailer and load as before and hit the road. At first, it seemed like the engine was louder when running on B20, but after a few hours it all seemed normal. I attribute this simply to a placebo effect. I wanted there to be something noticeably different with the new fuel, so my brain said it was louder. The reality is after I switched back to number 2 the noise level remained the same. The truck’s power felt the same as well, and the truck had absolutely no issues hauling the load on level ground, or up steep hills. I even spanked a Duramax up the infamous Grapevine. With the tow test complete, I unhooked the trailer and ran a tank with the truck empty. Both tests returned fuel economy numbers that were within ½ mpg of the original test.

The bottom line of this article was that B20 is less expensive and better for the environment and a truck’s engine, without losing power or fuel economy.

EIA: Plenty of Potential, But Hydro Limited by Economics

A new study by the Department of energy shows there’s great potential for hydroelectric power in the U.S., but the economics of the situation keeps more power from being added. This report from the U.S. Energy Information Agency (EIA) cites work by Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) that shows there are 61 gigawatts (GW) of hydroelectric power potential in waterways without existing dams or diversion facilities. However, the projected capacity to be added is only 2 GW through 2040.
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The report quantified the technical resource capacity available at more than three million U.S. streams, qualifying its findings by saying “the methodology alone does not produce estimates of generation, cost, or potential impacts of sufficient accuracy to determine project-specific feasibility or to justify investments.”

Although resource potential quantifies maximum feasible capacity additions, EIA’s AEO2014 Reference case also considers market and policy hurdles that can limit actual development of a new hydroelectric power plant. These include economic factors, performance characteristics, federal regulations, electricity demand, and the cost of competing sources for new generation. Because hydropower is a mature technology, most of the technically and economically superior sites have already been developed.

The report does provide new information to assess the technical potential of hydropower and improve the understanding of resources that can take advantage of new technologies such as in-stream turbines.