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.
California-based Propel Fuels has debuted North America’s first retail rollout of High Performance Renewable (HPR) diesel. This company news release says the green fuel uses Neste Oil’s NEXBTL renewable diesel.
“Diesel HPR exceeds conventional diesel in power, performance and value,” said Rob Elam, CEO and Co-Founder of Propel. “Propel is committed to offering Californians the most advanced low carbon fuels that meet our high standards for quality and value.”
Incorporating diesel refined from renewable biomass through Neste Oil’s advanced hydrotreating technology called NEXBTL, Diesel HPR meets the toughest specifications required by automotive and engine manufacturers, enabling the fuel to be used by any diesel vehicle. Diesel HPR is designated as ASTM D-975, the standard for all ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel in the U.S., and is recognized as “CARB diesel” by the California Air Resources Board. Diesel HPR provides increased engine power and torque, as well as significant reduction in harmful tailpipe emissions, NOx emissions and particulates (PM).
“This renewable diesel joins a growing suite of new, cleaner transportation fuels in California thanks to our Low Carbon Fuel Standard and forward thinking companies like Propel,” said California Air Resources Board Chairman Mary D. Nichols.
Diesel HPR will be available at 18 Propel locations in Northern California.
Some straight talk this weekend on ethanol on the syndicated car-talk program “Bobby Likis Car Clinic.” Judd Hulting of Patriot Renewable Fuels talked with Bobby about the operations, products and statistics of Patriot’s ten-year old, ethanol plant located near the Quad Cities.
Hulting was able to tout the benefits of ethanol, including the growing worldwide export market for American-made ethanol and distillers grain. Likis was already a fan of ethanol and pointed out that while some Americans are worried about moving up to a 15 percent ethanol blend (E15), Brazil has just moved up to E27 as the baseline for gasoline in the South American country.
You can listen to the conversation between Hulting and Likis here.
Today we celebrate National Biodiesel Day, the anniversary of Rudolf Diesel’s birthday in 1858. The pioneer of his namesake diesel engine, Diesel designed it to run on a biofuel, peanut oil. The National Biodiesel Board (NBB) reminds us that on this special day, we can do more than just fill up our tanks with clean-burning biodiesel (although that is a good start).
Those who want to do more to support the advanced biofuel can. It is as easy as joining the Biodiesel Alliance. Alliance members range from farmers to fleet managers, and from trade organizations to municipal agencies and local businesses. Biodiesel Alliance members have easy access to news and information about biodiesel and related topics. Sign up is free and a click away.
“Biodiesel works behinds the scenes to deliver a better alternative. It is here now, working today across the country to improve our environment, support our economy and protect energy security,” said Steven J. Levy, Chairman for the National Biodiesel Board. “It is impressive what we have achieved in ten years and clear that responsible policy and industry innovation is working to expand access to America’s Advanced Biofuel while benefitting consumers.”
NBB also reminds us just how much of an economic powerhouse biodiesel is, with diesel engines moving approximately 90 percent of the America’s goods. And biodiesel provided nearly 1.8 billion gallons of a cleaner burning alternative to petroleum diesel.
The high blend of ethanol, E85, had a big year in Iowa last year. The Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) says a new record of nearly 12 million gallons was sold in the Hawkeye State in 2014, more than a million-gallon increase over 2013.
“Another year, and another E85 sales record in Iowa,” stated IRFA Executive Director Monte Shaw. “The most impressive aspect of this record is that retail gasoline prices dropped significantly in the second half of the fourth quarter of 2014, yet Iowa motorists remained committed to the homegrown, cleaner-burning fuel by setting a new fourth quarter record for E85 purchases. This fourth quarter data proves that not only is E85 being purchased at a record rate where available in Iowa, but consumers are realizing the benefits of this more locally-produced, environmentally-friendly fuel, beyond simply its cost advantages.”
The nearly 3 million gallons sold in the fourth quarter of 2014 was also a fourth quarter record.
The Urban Air Initiative is challenging the federal government’s models on ethanol emissions from automobiles. This news release from the group says it has filed a new petition with the Environmental Protection Agency challenging the EPA’s Motor Fuel Emission Simulator model, which it says “wrongly blames ethanol for creating harmful tailpipe emissions.”
One of the biggest factors currently holding domestically produced ethanol back from reaching its full potential is bad information. This includes focused misinformation campaigns like the tactics used by big oil for years and bad computer modeling basing assessments on erroneous or inaccurate information.
“Many Americans are not aware of the very real and dangerous consequences of our dependence on foreign oil,” said Michigan farmer Jeff Sandborn, who is chairman of the NCGA Ethanol Committee. “Much of the time the focus has been on jobs and ethanol’s economic contributions, but increasingly the urban public is looking at the dangers related to the pollutants in gasoline. Ethanol reduces carbon and these toxic compounds while providing the higher octane modern engines need.”
The EPA’s study and resulting model obscures the fact that “blending ethanol into ordinary gasoline reduces harmful emissions produced when gasoline combusts in an engine,” according to the group’s petition.
EPA’s study, in an effort to look at optimal temperatures and a variety of blends, results in findings that increasing ethanol can be associated with increasing emissions, the petition said. “This conclusion is misleading at best,” the group said, arguing that it ignores real-world factors in burning fuel. Other studies have found that increasing the amount of ethanol in fuels reduces emissions.
The group says this model in question underlies a number of key issues regarding EPA and states’ treatment of ethanol, including state implementation plans to meet a variety of air quality standards.
An Iowa biodiesel plant is the latest victim of the government’s inaction on measures that are aimed to help the biofuels industry. This article from the Dubuque (IA) Telegraph Herald says the 30-million gallon nameplate Western Dubuque Biodiesel has had to stop production completely – just another of the too many biodiesel refiners that have had to shut down due to the federal government’s failure to give clear direction on the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and the expiration of the $1-a-gallon federal biodiesel tax credit.
“All the tanks are full and no one is buying,” General Manager Tom Brooks said. “How do you sell product to a buyer who doesn’t know what he has to blend against? That’s the frustration.”
Across the U.S., biodiesel production fell from a high of 1.8 billion gallons in 2013 to 1.75 billion last year. In Iowa, production fell slightly, but it remains the nation’s leading producer, accounting for 16 percent of biodiesel output in 2014, according to the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association.
Uncertainty sent prices falling nearly 25 percent for all of 2014 and led to a 73 percent decline in industry profitability, Brooks said. The result: Dozens of biodiesel plants have stopped production or laid off workers in recent months.
“It creates doubt and uncertainty for investors and lenders, because they don’t know whether the industry is stable. Is the business growing or stagnating?” he said. “And when you’re running the plant at half capacity, your costs increase.”
The article goes on to say that state biodiesel tax credits have helped a little, but industry officials worry the same uncertainty in federal policy will continue to plague biodiesel in 2015.
The new governor in Orgeon has signed a measure that ends the sunset on the state’s clean fuels law, something which is seen as a boost to biodiesel and ethanol on the West Coast. Governor Kate Brown cited global warming concerns and neighboring areas’ own rules on alternative energy for signing the Clean Fuels legislation:
“I strongly support SB 324’s goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It is difficult to deny that we are seeing the effects of a warming planet. This year, 85 percent of our state is experiencing drought, with 33 percent experiencing extreme drought. This directly impacts 1.5 million Oregonians, hitting our rural communities the hardest. With California, Washington, and British Columbia moving forward with their own clean fuels programs, which will shape the West Coast market, it is imperative not only that Oregon does its part to reduce greenhouse gas emissions but also that we build a program that meets the needs of Oregonians.
“I appreciate the years of work by countless Oregonians who helped develop this law, and I applaud the Oregon Legislature for its thorough examination of these issues. The work begins now to ensure this program is well implemented and well managed.”
The largest biomass plant in the United Kingdom has opened in Scotland and promises to help the UK meet a goal of 11 percent of non-electrical heat demand by renewable sources by 2020. This story from the BBC says the RWE Markinch Biomass plant in Glenrothes replaces the former 1950s coal and gas-fired power station on the site of Tullis Russell.
It represents a reduction in fossil fuel-related carbon dioxide emissions by around 250,000 tonnes per annum,
The new facility is already providing all of Tullis Russell’s electricity and steam requirements, with excess electricity generation being fed into local networks.
Paul Coffey, chief operating officer at RWE Innogy, said: “RWE has taken biomass combined heat and power technology in the UK to the next level.
“The Markinch plant is providing Tullis Russell with a state-of-the art low carbon power source, and exporting enough energy into the local network to power around 45,000 homes.
“With a multi-million pound investment and over 2.6 million man hours spent constructing the plant we’re delighted it is fully operational and has surpassed efficiency targets for energy production and emissions.”
The project was started in 2009 with construction completed in 2014.
According to Dr. Jason de Koff, assistant professor of Agronomy and Soil Sciences, the production of biodiesel fuel from vegetable oil is a viable process that can replace traditional fuel used in existing diesel engines.
“The process can go a long way toward helping ease the financial burden of fuel costs,” said de Koff, who is leading the tour. “It is possible [farmers] could become totally self-sufficient in diesel fuel use.”
Accompanying Dr. de Koff to provide specific expertise will be Mobile Biodiesel team members Chris Robbins, Extension associate for farm operations; Dr. Prabodh Illukpitiya, assistant professor of Natural Resource and Energy Economics; and Alvin Wade, associate Extension specialist for Community Resources and Economic Development.
The workshops will include discussions on the following topics:
Introduction to Biodiesel Production
Feedstocks for Biodiesel Production
Biodiesel Production Demonstration
Economics of Small-Scale Biodiesel Production
Federal Assistance Programs for Biodiesel Production
Some pretty cool videos are helping spread the good news about ethanol, while showing just how creative rural youth can be. Winners in the Nebraska Ethanol Board’s Field to Fuel video contest were announced with Medicine Valley FFA students from Curtis, Nebraska, taking first place honors and a $1,000 prize. Their video titled, “That’s What Makes it Ethanol,” was a parody of One Direction’s “What Makes You Beautiful” pop music hit.
“It was clear that these students had done their research and had a good understanding of ethanol’s impact on the agriculture economy,” said Todd Sneller, Nebraska Ethanol Board administrator. “They took the topic and got creative.”
An agronomy class from Hampton, Neb., took home a second place prize of $600. The students’ video titled, “A Future without Ethanol,” has a dystopian message and includes a variety of special effects.
Rebekah Turnbull, a senior from York, Neb., was awarded third place and $400 for her “Facts I Bet You Didn’t Know About Ethanol” video. Her video featured unique artwork painted by Turnbull with a voice-over narration.
The winning video will debut at the Ethanol 2015: Emerging Issues Forum in Omaha April 16-17.
Neste Oil is now the world’s largest producer of renewable fuels from waste and residues. In this company news release, officials say last year, the company produced nearly 1.3 million tonnes (1.6 billion liters) of its renewable NEXBTL diesel from waste and residues, enough to power all the 650,000 diesel cars in Finland for two years.
“We can be really proud that we have succeeded in increasing our use of waste and residue-based feedstocks in the production of renewable NEXBTL fuels to such a significant extent. Thanks to this, Neste Oil has in just a few years become the world’s largest circular economy enterprise in the biofuels sector. The production of fuels from waste-based feedstock is resource-efficient, and our aim is to have the capability to use 100% waste and residues by 2017. We are constantly searching for new waste-based raw materials of increasingly poorer quality, and use the majority of our EUR 40 million R&D expenditure for raw material research,” says Kaisa Hietala, Executive Vice President of Neste Oil’s Renewable Products business area.
Neste Oil officials say they make their renewable fuel from 10 different feedstocks, including animal and fish fats, used cooking oil and various residues generated during vegetable oil refining.
Truly one of the highlights of Lent, the six weeks from Ash Wednesday to Easter when Catholics make sacrifices, including meat on Fridays, is the church fish fry on those Fridays. This story from the Omaha World-Herald says the leftover fryer grease from those fish fries in the area is going to a very worthy cause: biodiesel production.
Just in time for this year’s Lenten season, a savior appeared: the Omaha Biofuels Cooperative, which is collecting used cooking oil from many area churches. The group places collection barrels out back free of charge and picks up the used oil the next day.
“They took a big-time problem off my hands,” [Pat Rupp runs the fish fries at St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church in Gretna] said.
And what happens next is the cool part: Co-op members make motor fuel out of the used cooking oil. The co-op has a production facility in an industrial park in South Omaha, where the used oil is cleaned up and made suitable for use in powering the motor vehicles owned by the co-op members. Any diesel car or truck made after 1996 can use the fuel without modification, the group says.
The article goes on to talk about how Omaha Biofuels has agreements with many area restaurants to collect their used vegetable oil and turn it into the green fuel.
A sustainable waste-to-energy facility has been approved for construction in Tennessee. PHG Energy (PHGE) says its deal with city of Lebanon, Tennessee, will build a downdraft gasification plant that will cleanly convert up to 64 tons per day of blended waste wood, scrap tires and sewer sludge into a fuel gas that will generate up to 300Kw of electricity. The power generated from this plant will provide the plant’s internal power needs as well as contribute electricity to the wastewater treatment plant where it will be located.
“This is not incineration or burning,” Lebanon Mayor Philip Craighead pointed out. “There is no smoke or odor. The feedstock material is broken down at very high temperatures in a sealed vessel, and about 95 percent of what goes into the gasifier comes out as the fuel gas.” Craighead also said the remaining 5 percent to 10 percent of material exiting the gasifier is a high-carbon biochar that can be recycled or sold for agricultural or industrial uses.
PHGE President Tom Stanzione said the Lebanon project will deploy what his company believes is the world’s largest downdraft gasifier and added, “This is the same basic technology we utilized in all our previous designs, and we have upgraded capacity and power density to accomplish a lot more gasification in what is not a lot more space.”
The Large Frame gasifier, as the company refers to it, has been vetted through a rigorous testing process for more than two years at PHGE’s research facility. A standard PHGE gasifier can convert up to 12 tons of feedstock per day to fuel gas, while the Lebanon model will process up to 64 tons per day without substantially increasing the footprint of the plant.
PHGE officials say the plant will keep more than 8,000 tons of material out of landfills each year – the equivalent of a line of trucks over 4 miles long, as well as cutting carbon dioxide emissions by 2,500 tons each year.
This project will mark the 14th gasifier installation for PHGE.
A group of moms in Colorado are fighting proposed changes in that state’s legislature to Colorado’s renewable energy standards. The group, Colorado Moms Know Best, say they oppose the changes that would rollback from 30 percent down to 15 percent of the energy produced and consumed in the state.
“Moms believe we have a moral obligation to protect children’s health and future, ensuring they have clean air is one of the very basics,” said Data Gutwein with Colorado Moms Know Best. “The reality is that chopping the state’s renewable energy standard in half would mean relying more on coal-fired plants and more kids dealing with asthma and other respiratory problems.”
Colorado has been a leader in renewable energy. In 2004, Coloradans passed the first state ballot initiative to establish a renewable energy standards; 29 states and the District of Columbia have since adopted similar standards. In the years since, Colorado has added tens of thousands of clean tech jobs with an average salary of $78,000, according to the Metro Denver Chamber of Commerce’s 2014 Energy Cluster report.
“Renewable energy is not only good for kids’ health, it’s also great for their future career options,” said Colorado Moms Know Best’s Dana Gutwein. “If Colorado can remain on the cutting edge of the renewable energy industry, our children will be able to prepare for plentiful high-paying, clean tech job opportunities.”
The group has previously helped influence Colorado’s Air Quality Control Commission to adopt stricter air quality standards for oil and gas operations in the state of Colorado.
Europe-based Global Bioenergies says it has made the first isobutene production from waste biomass. This company news release says it used its proven method of using first generation feedstock, such as wheat-derived glucose, and adapted it use non-edible resources, such as wheat straw, corn stover, sugar cane bagasse or even wood chips.
Various companies are presently debottlenecking the conversion of second generation materials into fermentable sugars. These technologies have now matured to commercial scale, with five plants having started operations in the last 24 months. This industry ultimately has the potential to provide fermentation processes with low-cost sugars derived from abundant resources.
Global Bioenergies has recently established collaborations with nine companies from three continents developing the most promising technologies to convert various resources (straw, bagasse, wood.) into fermentable sugars. Preliminary tests have resulted in successful second generation isobutene production at the laboratory scale, with process performances similar to the ones observed using wheat-derived glucose.
Frederic Paques, Chief Operating Officer at Global Bioenergies comments: “We have now demonstrated experimentally that our isobutene production process is compatible with a range of second generation resources. Using impurity-containing sugar solutions is usually difficult in classical fermentation processes that lead to liquid compounds, because the accumulation of such impurities in the culture broth makes purifying the product more complex. Our process, which is based on the production of a gaseous product, alleviates these issues and will allow us to use the
cheapest types of feedstock.”
Company officials add that they want to apply this method to the manufacturing of transportation fuels such as gasoline and jet fuel.