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.

Dem Convention Runs on Biodiesel, Solar & Wind

If you’ve been watching any of the Democratic Convention you’ve been seeing plenty of windy people talking up a storm (hey, they’re politicians… Republicans will spew plenty of hot air next week!). But wind energy (the kind that turns turbines), along with solar and biodiesel, is helping behind the scenes.

National Geographic’s Green Guide blog has details:

This week’s Democratic Convention is boasting that it will be the greenest political convention ever. Hybrid, alternative fuel and biodiesel buses are transporting the delegates; the stage will be painted with low-VOC paints and solar power, wind energy and biodiesel generators will all be incorporated in running the event.

The post says it is the same thinking that has prompted many big-time concerts to adopt similar measures to reduce their carbon footprints.

Biodiesel By-product Good for Your Heart

Researchers at Virginia Tech have found a way to grow a compound important to human heart health using a plentiful by-product of biodiesel production.

This press release from the school says Zhiyou Wen, assistant professor of biological systems engineering in Virginia Tech’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, has found a way to grow omega-3 fatty acids, known for benefits but lacking in most Americans’ diets, using glycerol:

“High energy prices have led to an increase in biodiesel production, which in turn has led to an increase in the amount of crude glycerol in the market,” said Wen, who explained that biodiesel plants leave behind approximately 10 percent crude glycerol during the production process.

This has led the price of glycerol, a chemical compound widely used in the pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries, to drop in recent years. The rise in biodiesel production over the last decade means that the market can no longer absorb all the extra glycerol. Biodiesel producers must find alternative means for disposing of crude glycerol, which is prohibitively expensive to purify for industry use. Wen and his colleagues have developed a novel fermentation process using microalgae to produce omega-3 fatty acids from crude glycerol

“We have shown that it is possible to use the crude glycerol byproduct from the biodiesel industry as a carbon source for microalgae that produce omega-3 fatty acids,” said Wen, who added that the impurities in crude glycerol may actually be beneficial to algal growth. “After thorough chemical analysis, we have also shown that the algae biomass composition has the same quality as the commercial algae product.”

The release goes on to say that the algae grown in the crude glycerol can be used as an animal feed, including fish and, possibly one day, poultry feed, giving the same omega-3 fatty acids to chicken that fish eaters enjoy.

Wen presented his findings at the recent at the 236th national meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

$100 Million Ad Campaign to Raise Wind Awareness

Wind turbine maker Vestas Wind Systems has launched a $100-million ad campaign.

But, as CNNMoney.com reports, the company isn’t trying to convince everyone in the country to pick up one of its 100-ton wind energy machines:

Instead, the world’s largest seller of wind turbines sees the need to raise Americans’ awareness of wind energy’s potential. To that end, Vestas budgeted $ 100 million for the next two years to bring its “Vestas, No. 1 in Modern Energy” campaign to U.S. living rooms, company Chief Executive Ditlev Engel told Clean Technology Insight.

This is the first year that the company has come out with consumer-targeted ads that will run in print, online, on the radio and on television.

“We want to show people: Here’s technology you have but don’t use,” Engel said.

The article goes on to point out that the marketing effort has political intentions, too, as the industry is still smarting from Congress not mandating more energy from renewable sources: Continue reading

Teacher & Students Complete Cross-Country Biodiesel Trip

A group of students and a teacher from Ponaganset High School in Rhode Island has completed a cross-country trip running their 1997 GMC pickup truck, that had been donated by Con Edison Solutions, on recycled cooking oil made into biodiesel.

This story from the Providence (RI) Journal has details:

“The vehicle handled really great,” teacher Ross McCurdy said when the group marked its return to Rhode Island yesterday at Roger Williams Park.

“We had one catastrophic problem,” said Zane Lewis, a former Ponaganset student. “It was a headlight. We had to change it.”

The foursome left Rhode Island two weeks ago with the truck’s tank full of biodiesel and three reserve tanks holding 250 gallons in the bed of the pickup.

“That was plenty of fuel to get us all the way to California, right down to the water,” said Wylie Smith, another former student.

“We did this to demonstrate that biodiesel is a viable fuel that’s easy to use and it works and it’s reliable,” said McCurdy.

The trip turned out to be more than simply a demonstration of biodiesel, though. The travelers saw a big slice of America.

“There were probably about 50 in ‘coolest things we saw,’ ” said Lewis.

Among the coolest things in the trip from Rhode Island to Los Angeles was a chance to see the Northern California coast and the opportunity to run the truck on the Bonneville Salt Flats.

So what did you do on your summer break?

Nation’s Largest Biodiesel Refinery Hits 50% of Potential

GreenHunter Biofuels has announced that its Houston biodiesel refinery has hit 50 percent of its 105 million gallon per year capacity at the nation’s largest biodiesel refinery.

This company press release says the plant uses mostly animal fats, primarily poultry fat and beef tallow to make the green fuel:

GreenHunter BioFuels is currently contracting for sale its first 4000 metric ton parcel of B100, or 100% biodiesel, to a purchaser with an anticipated ultimate delivery into the international markets.

Commenting on GreenHunter BioFuels’ recent operational achievements, Bruce Baughman, Senior Vice President of Engineering and Technology, stated, “Successfully achieving 50% of nameplate capacity at such a highly technical refinery is a testimony not only to the quality of this unique asset, but to the outstanding work conducted by our plant personnel during this start-up period. By designing a refinery that has the ability to take a multitude of different feedstocks, GreenHunter has the ability to source and procure the least expensive raw materials possible around the world. This allows our Company to achieve the greatest possible operating margins within the business today. We believe the distilled, ‘water-white’ quality performance of the GreenHunter Biofuels facility will contribute to a new quality standard in the global biodiesel marketplace.”

GreenHunter Biofuels is a subsidiary of GreenHunter Energy, a company focused on renewable energy sources, such as wind, hydro, geothermal, solar, biofuels, and biomass power plants. It has plans for wind energy projects in Montana, New Mexico, Wyoming, California, Texas, and China.

Propane Touted as Fuel for Fleets

Motorsports legend Jack Roush joined a group of auto company executives, fleet operators and propane marketers to demostrate to the press and public some propane-fueled vehicles in New York City.

The event was hosted by the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC), and this press release from the council says a Ford propane F-150 pickup developed by Roush Industries was the demonstration vehicle:

“Aside from its superb engineering, this F-150 is a propane alternative-fueled vehicle that has an established refueling infrastructure to support it,” said Jack Roush, chairman of the board of Roush Enterprises and CEO and co-owner of Roush Fenway Racing, Livonia, Michigan. “It has lower greenhouse gas emissions than gasoline and diesel pickups and costs less to operate, and it contributes to the reduction of America’s dependency on foreign oil.”

The other propane-fueled on-road vehicles on display also drew a great deal of interest from fleet operators: a Blue Bird Vision school bus, a medium-duty General Motors truck, a Ford Crown Victoria police cruiser, and a Chrysler 300 sedan. “School administrators using the propane-fueled bus like its performance and its low operating costs,” said PERC Vice President Brian Feehan. The Blue Bird Propane-Powered Vision is factory-built to operate on propane and features the GM 8.1-liter V8 engine with a liquid propane injection system.

The release goes on to point out that, for a long time, propane has been a popular fuel for vehicles such as forklifts and some off-road vehicles. It’s now gaining more acceptance in fleet vehicles, such as buses, taxis and police vehicles. While propane is currently in 11 million vehicles, that number is expected to grow as the cost of conventional fuels and worries over greenhouse gases continue to rise. It’s estimated that propane could trim up to 30 percent of fleets’ fuel costs.

Purdue Study Show Biodiesel Benefits in Buses

A new study from Purdue University shows that buses that have been running 10 percent biodiesel are reducing pollution without any loss of fuel economy.

This press release from the school says the report, prepared by Gregory Shaver, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering, doctoral student Dave Snyder and undergraduate Chris Satkoski, found that upping that mix to 20 percent would have even greater results:

The university’s Technical Assistance Program at the Purdue Research Park arranged for the engineers to prepare the study for IndyGo Public Transportation Corp., which provides mass transit in Indianapolis. The report was presented to Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard earlier this month at Purdue’s Ray W. Herrick Laboratories in a visit organized by the university’s Energy Center.

The report compared bus operations in April 2006 and April 2007 to determine the impact of switching from standard diesel fuel, referred to as B0, to B10, which contains 10 percent biodiesel. IndyGo switched its entire fleet to B10 in 2007.

“In our assessment, we would recommend going to B20,” Shaver said. “We also saw a significant benefit to using the diesel-electric hybrid buses, so we would recommend increasing the number of hybrids in the fleet. The best bang for your buck might be running B20 in hybrid buses, depending on the initial cost of hybrids compared to standard buses.”

The researchers say switching to B20 could save Indianapolis 360,000 gallons a year, while significantly reducing its carbon footprint.

Study to Show CO2 Reduciton with Biodiesel

The National Biodiesel Board has teamed up with two companies to launch a pilot program to show how much lower emissions are using biodiesel. NBB, along with Chicago-based Indigenous Energy, LLC, developers of emissions tracking systems, and Los Angeles-based States Logistics, a fleet and logistics company using clean technology, to put together the six-month over-the-road test.

This press release from the NBB says when they are finished, they’ll put together a report that quantifies States Logistics’ emissions and carbon dioxide (CO2) reduction from using biodiesel:

So far, results for May and June showed a 16.5 ton reduction in CO2 emissions.

“The pilot program uses our patent-pending technology and reporting system with inputs from States Logistics over-the-road activity to show carbon and emissions reduction,” said Peter Probst, President and Director of Research & Development, Indigenous Energy. “States Logistics is a perfect company to develop the pilot because of their commitment to using biodiesel and the concern of their customers for environmental stewardship.”

States Logistics uses B5 and B99 in seven 2007 trucks, running on average approximately 27,000 miles a month. The pilot program takes into account several areas to measure carbon footprint including vehicle type, distance traveled, number of gallons used, percentage of biodiesel used and biodiesel feedstock type, such as soybean oil. The end result is a report on total CO2 emitted from both the petroleum diesel and biodiesel, CO2 reduction from using biodiesel and the quantifiable cost to offset petroleum CO2. The results will be presented at the Mid-America Trucking Show in March.

Eventually, the information can be used by companies to sell carbon offsets. But for now, States Logistics is using it to demonstrate to its customers why it uses biodiesel and how it is good for the Earth… a goal the NBB has in mind:

“When we announced the BioTrucker Fuel Card last year at GATS, we thought about next steps for providing value to cardholders,” said Tom Verry, Director of Outreach and Development for NBB. “This CO2 reduction reporting could become a value-add report for fleets to use as a publicity tool for their customers.”

REG Able to Produce Algae-Biodiesel on Commercial Scale

Iowa-based Renewable Energy Group has announced it has the technology to produce biodiesel from algae on a commercial scale.

This article from Biodiesel Magazine says while the biodiesel maker isn’t producing algae itself, it is providing the crucial elusive step for some companies that are producing the slimy feedstock:

REG has adapted it multi-feedstock technology to refine oil from a variety of algae strains and produce biodiesel exceeding ASTM standards. The results indicate the process can be commercialized when sufficient quantities of algae oil become available. At this time, REG is working with algae companies to develop their process. “We have worked with a variety of algae companies that we think will become producers,” said Daniel Oh, chief operating officer of REG. “We can work with algae companies who are trying to define what they are trying to do from a strain selection perspective to the smartest way to scale up to a commercial scale.”

REG officials believe companies will be able to provide them with algae oil on a commercial scale in the next three to five years.

Biodiesel Maker Looks at Pipeline to Erie, PA’s Ports

Lake Erie Biofuels, the Pennsylvania biodiesel maker with a 45-million gallon a year biodiesel refinery on the shores of Lake Erie (so it’s not just a clever title) is reportedly considering building a pipeline from its plant to the ports of Erie, PA… but company officials aren’t saying much about the project.

However, the Erie Times-News did find somebody who would talk:

Raymond Schreckengost, executive director of the Erie-Western Pennsylvania Port Authority, said the authority has had “very preliminary” discussions with a company about the project.

Lake Erie Biofuels officials could not be reached for comment.

Schreckengost said the company is now transporting about 1.5 million to 2 million gallons of biofuels a month by railroad cars to the port for shipment.

The pipeline would probably be about 6 inches in diameter and would follow the path of an existing sewer line that extends from the former International Paper Co. property, where the biofuels plant is located, to the city’s wastewater treatment plant and then to the port’s facilities.

The article goes on to say that Lake Erie Biofuels plans to pay for the pipeline itself, if it decides to build it, IF it is economically feasible. Port authority officials say they would help the company find a grant to help fund the project, if needed.

Sustainable Biodiesel Looks for Public Input

A non-profit group dedicated to making sure that the production of biodiesel is a sustainable proposition is looking for your input how to keep biodiesel refining, well, sustainable.

The Sustainable Biodiesel Alliance (SBA) has released a first draft of its “Principles and Baseline Practices for Sustainability” for a 45-day public comment and review period. This post on the gas2.0 web site has more details:

The opening paragraph of the report succinctly sums up what their vision of sustainable biodiesel production is:

“Sustainable biodiesel is biodiesel that is produced in a manner that, on a lifecycle basis, minimizes the generation of pollution, including greenhouse gases; reduces competition for, and use of, natural resources and energy; reduces waste generation; preserves habitat and ecosystems; maintains or improves soils; avoids use of genetically modified organisms; and provides community economic benefit that results in jobs and fair labor conditions.”

Much of the document reads like a list of practices and standards that farmers and industry should be adopting regardless of what they grow or produce — whether it’s for biodiesel or not — but there are many included items that are specific to the biodiesel industry. Some examples:

* Use waste oils and rendered oils as a biodiesel feedstock before using crops
* Make sure that the energy put in to making biodiesel is less than the energy produced
* Use local feedstocks whenever possible

Once again, you can read the draft document for yourself by clicking here. Don’t forget to give the Sustainable Biodiesel Alliance your two cents worth as well.

New Law Means New Labels for Biodiesel Pumps

This December, the Federal Trade Commission’s new rules on labeling of biodiesel pumps kicks in. Basically, pumps that dispense greater-than-5-percent biodiesel blends will have to have a label indicating that pump’s blend.

The National Biodiesel Board hosts a web site, AllThingsBiodiesel.com, that sells the new labels… among the many other objects sold there:

“Our goal is two-fold. We want to help petroleum retailers comply with the labeling law as painlessly as possible, while at the same time expand their marketing efforts,” said Doug Whitehead, Director of Operations for the National Biodiesel Board. “We have eye-catching pump topper kits available for sale, for those whose goal is to not only comply with the regulations, but actually market biodiesel to consumers and boost demand.”

The FTC published the final ruling on biodiesel pump labeling on June 23. One of the approved labels is for blends between 5 and 20 percent and the second is for B100 (100 percent biodiesel). If a retailer has a blend between 21 and 99 percent, an order can be placed on AllThingsBiodiesel.com. Hosted by NBB, All Things Biodiesel is the premier online biodiesel marketplace. It houses a directory, an information exchange, classified ads and a store for biodiesel merchandise and marketing materials.

Blends of 5 percent biodiesel and less do not need the label since they meet all the same standard for petroleum diesel, D975.

Future of Wind Energy Could be Offshore

While Congress debates whether America should drill for more oil along the coasts of the country, a more valuable, greener source of energy could be offshore.

The idea of massive wind farms off the coasts of California, New England, the mid-Atlantic, Washington state, the Great Lakes and the Gulf of Mexico could be appealing as winds are strong and more sustainable just a few miles out to sea. And this article from the Bellingham (WA) Herald says those potential wind farms could generate as much power as the country currently produces from all sources:

The winds blowing 15 miles or even farther off the U.S. coasts potentially could produce 900,000 megawatts of electricity, or roughly the same amount as nearly all the nation’s existing power sources combined, according to Department of Energy estimates.

Though the cost of these deepwater offshore wind farms isn’t firm, some estimate the electricity they would produce could be nearly comparable in price to that generated at today’s power plants. Norway, Denmark, Britain and other European nations are already developing such offshore wind projects.

“This is an energy frontier we are just starting to explore,” said Walter Musial, a senior engineer with the Energy Department’s Wind Technology Center in Colorado, adding that far offshore windmill projects in the United States could start appearing between 2012 and 2015.

The article goes on to say that while some windmills near the shore have caused controversy because they could “damage the view, (thanks Ted Kennedy!)” these platforms would be far from shore. And with today’s technology, having deepwater windmills is quite possible.

Nova CEO: Cheaper Biodiesel Feedstocks Key

In a time when many biodiesel makers are having a tough time because of the high costs of their feedstocks, one is looking to expand its operations.

The CEO of Houston, Texas-based Nova Biosource Fuels, which has biodiesel refineries in Iowa, Mississippi and Illinois, Kenneth Hern say the key to his company’s success has been expanding its range of feedstocks to cheaper sources. In this article with the Houston Chronicle, Hern does some Q & A with reporter Brett Clanton, Hern says Nova is even looking to open another biodiesel refinery in the heart of petroleum country… right in Houston:

Q: We’re hearing a lot about how high crop and vegetable oil prices are pinching biofuels producers, even forcing some to close. What’s different about your business model?

A: Nova has a patented, proprietary process that lets us use any material that’s got a triglyceride or a fairly high amount of free fatty acids in it. If you take soy, it has almost no free fatty acid in it. It’s a pure triglyceride. Anyone can make biodiesel from it. It’s a very simple reaction. But when you want to use the feedstocks that are cheaper, almost every time those cheap feedstocks have some amount of free fatty acids. Continue reading

Florida Researcher Wins Award for Work Including Biodiesel

A University of Florida professor has been recognized with the highest honor the Florida State Horticultural Society bestows for his work that includes research to get more oil from plants to produce biodiesel.

This article from the school’s newspaper, InsideUF, says Wagner Vendrame, an associate professor of environmental horticulture at the University of Florida’s Tropical Research and Education Center, Homestead, picked up the society’s Presidential Gold Medal Award:

Presented to Vendrame at the society’s annual meeting this summer, the award is the most prestigious honor from the FSHS, given to the individual whose work published in the previous five years of the Proceedings of the Florida State Horticultural Society has contributed the most to the Sunshine State’s horticulture sciences.

Vendrame joined UF in 2001 and has more than 16 years of experience in plant micropropagation and biotechnology. His research program involves production and conservation of plants using tissue culture, molecular biology and cryopreservation techniques.

Vendrame is well known for his work propagating selected hybrids of the jatropha nut, which has some great potential in the biodiesel business.