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.

Canola for Biodiesel Breaks Rail Jam, Gains Value

canola3 Joel HornAn up-and-coming feedtsock for biodiesel has broken out of a log jam that kept it from going from the farm fields of Canada to the plants where it could be processed, and that is helping push up its value. This article from Barrons says canola has bounced back from 3 1/2-year lows and could end up gaining 20 percent in value by the middle of this summer.

A railway bottleneck in Canada, the world’s largest exporter of the oilseed, pushed canola prices in February to the lowest since June 2010, because buyers turned to other markets and bought alternative oilseeds like soy and palm oil. But last month, the Canadian government introduced tough railway rules that have helped canola start to flow more freely, traders and growers say, which is drumming up demand.

“Logistical issues in Canada have eased considerably, and this has resulted in export customers returning,” says Sterling Smith, a futures specialist at Citigroup in Chicago. That’s helped front-month prices gain 14% from the Feb. 13 low.

The article goes on to point out how canola is also being helped by higher prices for soybeans and the fact that it is strong in the cooking oil market to nearly double the expected demand for the oilseed by 2015.

RFA: CARB’s ILUC Analysis Out of Date, Out of Step

rfa-logo-09A biofuels advocate is taking exception with one state’s evaluation of indirect land use change associated with the green fuels. The Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) says the California Air Resources Board’s (CARB) draft indirect land use change (ILUC) analysis is not in step with current ILUC science.

Geoff Cooper, RFA’s senior vice president, notes in his submission that RFA is greatly concerned by many aspects of the draft.

Cooper writes, “….several of the assumptions and methodological approaches chosen for CARB’s draft analysis run counter to the recommendations of the Expert Work Group (EWG). In particular, the values selected by CARB for key GTAP elasticities are in conflict with values recommended by EWG and well-known agricultural economists. More generally, CARB’s draft analysis lacks sufficient justification for certain judgment calls made by staff with regard to important model parameters.

“… the results of CARB’s draft analysis are in conflict with the results of recent independent ILUC studies. As described in a recent letter to CARB Chair Mary Nichols from 14 scientists and researchers (including CARB-appointed Expert Work Group members), the corn ethanol ILUC results from CARB’s draft analysis are significantly higher than estimates from recent peer-reviewed scientific analyses…. We believe CARB should explain and justify the divergence of its draft results with estimates from other recent studies.”

RFA addresses key modeling parameters in CARB’s analysis, such as crop yield elasticities and emissions factors, which RFA believes are not in line with what current ILUC science says. In addition, the group says CARB needs to correct in its draft price yield elasticity, what RFA considers to be the single more important factor in the analysis. You can read RFA’s full comment letter here.

Minnesota Biodiesel Mandate: I’m Not Dead Yet!

mdalogo1Minnesota’s biodiesel mandate, looking like it could take a hit, has risen up like a Monty Python character and shouted back, “I’m NOT dead yet!” Recently, we told you how the mandate was facing an uncertain future, as the date to finally move to B10, a 10 percent blend of the green fuel, is coming this year. But that put it dangerously close to another milestone of moving to B20 next year. But this article from Biodiesel Magazine says a compromise piece of legislation looks like it could preserve the mandate… just at a slower pace.

State Representative Clark Johnson is an ardent supporter of the biodiesel industry. Last month he introduced a bill for the agriculture department and the biodiesel industry seeking to modify future requirements regarding exceptions, what months higher blends should be required, and the date on which the state will jump from B10 to B20. His bill, House File 3203, missed a deadline to move forward, but Charlie Poster, assistant commissioner at the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, says the agency has made concessions to opponents of the increased biodiesel mandate by incorporating HF 3203’s language into an agency “unsession” bill (SF 2618) that is moving forward.

“The bill that’s signed into law probably won’t be HF 3203, but it will be that language,” Poster tells Biodiesel Magazine. “There was a movement by the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and the Minnesota Automobile Dealers Association (MADA),” Poster says. “They had some concerns about biodiesel, and they wanted to see the biodiesel mandate gutted—and I don’t think that’s too strong of a word. They were proposing some language that, in all but name, would remove our biodiesel standard. And the Department of Agriculture’s position is that biodiesel has worked really well in our state. It’s lowered the price of diesel fuel. It’s added to farmers’ incomes. It’s doing exactly what we want it to do. It’s been a great success.”

The article goes on to say that in order to appease opponents of biodiesel, the agency made four concessions: 1. Move the B20 date to 2018; 2. Shorten by one month the “summer” months part of the mandate, making it April-September; 3. Make permanent some exceptions for nuclear power plants, railroads, mining, logging and the Coast Guard; and 4. Extend the biodiesel blending waiver for No. 1 fuel to May 1, 2020.

Corn Oil Gains in Popularity as Biodiesel Feedstock

cornoilbiodiesel1Corn oil, squeezed from the seeds at the Nation’s many ethanol plants, has seen a meteoric rise in popularity as a feedstock for biodiesel. This article from Ethanol Producer Magazine says use of corn oil as a biodiesel feedstock grew by an impressive 245 percent between 2011 and 2013.

Corn oil’s role as a popular feedstock choice in the biodiesel arena is quite apparent and growing, which made 2013 a great year for corn oil-derived biodiesel. More than 1.04 billion pounds of corn oil were utilized for biodiesel production by the end of 2013, an EIA biodiesel production report showed, making it the second most popular feedstock choice. During the second half of 2013, corn oil finally broke the 100 million pound mark not once, but on three separate occasions.

Corn oil producers have options to sell within local markets, as well as destination markets, says [Joseph Riley, general manager of FEC Solutions]. Locally, the oil can be transported via truck to nearby biodiesel plants or feed producers. In the case of Marquis Energy, the company is located relatively close to one of Renewable Energy Group’s biodiesel plants, says Tom Marquis, director of marketing at Marquis Energy LLC, which installed corn oil separation units in 2008. REG is one of the leading North American biodiesel producers with a 257 MMgy capacity and has been using the feedstock since 2007. “Our freight to their facility is pretty reasonable, so that has been the best market for our plant,” Marquis added.

The article goes on to say that growing markets for corn oil include plants in Louisiana, which use a variety of feedstocks for renewable diesel and California, which likes corn oil’s carbon-related benefits.

NASCAR Leader Testifies for Biofuels

The Senate Agriculture Committee held a hearing this week on advanced biofuels. Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow of Michigan says advanced biofuels are here now, and they are an important part of the energy title in the recently passed farm bill.

“The Energy Title funds critical programs that helps our farmers produce energy from non-food sources and helps companies get low-interest loans for those facilities, and of course, all that creates jobs,” Stabenow said, adding that to continue to grow the industry, there needs to be policies that support it. She said passing the Farm Bill was a strong first step toward to that goal. “Now we need to provide certainty through a strong Renewable Fuels Standard and tax credits to support long-term investments in our energy future.” Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Senate Agriculture Committee

childress-testOne of the witnesses at the hearing was NASCAR team owner Richard Childress who talked about the many benefits of corn-based biofuels, such as the higher fuel performance he has seen in more than five million miles of racing since the E15 ethanol blend was introduced in the 2011 racing season.

“When they decided to go with an ethanol-blend of fuel, in 2010, NASCAR started looking at what was the correct blend to use. After many tests, they came up with E15,” Childress said, pointing out that his own racing team tested up to E30 blends, which he believes would be even better. “Nothing but positive results came out of our tests. Engines ran cooler, ethanol makes more octane so it makes more horsepower, less carbon buildup, better emissions, and our parts when we tore the engines down looked much better.” NASCAR team owner Richard Childress at biofuels hearing

Multifeedstock Refiner Hosting Collective Biodiesel

CBCPiedmontA multifeedstock biodiesel refiner plays host to this summer’s Collective Biodiesel Conference. This article from Biodiesel magazine says Piedmont Biofuels in Pittsboro, N.C. will hold the event Aug. 14-17 with this year’s theme being “Think Differently.”

Piedmont Biofuels is known for its community-based approach to biodiesel production and distribution, as well as its process technology innovations such as the cooperative’s trailblazing work in enzymatic production. Piedmont Biofuels’ 14-acre industrial park in Pittsboro, N.C., features multifeedstock biodiesel processing in addition to hydroponics, aquaponics, biochar production and sustainable agriculture. Co-hosting the event will be Central Carolina Community College, where many of the breakout sessions will be held.

“With the Collective Biodiesel Conference being in Pittsboro, N.C., this year, it will be like going to ‘Biodiesel Mecca,’” said Graydon Blair with the CBC Board and owner of Utah Biodiesel Supply.

“We are delighted to have been chosen as the 2014 host site,” said Lyle Estill, Piedmont founder and president. “For grassroots biodiesel, winning the bid for this conference is like winning a bid for the Olympics.”

Registration has just opened, and for more infromation, click here.

TX Algae Operation Confirms Commercial Potential

auroraalgae1An algae growing operation in South Texas has confirmed it is about ready to go commercial scale. Aurora Algae says after six months of testing and evaluation, it has the potential to go commercial-scale, and the company is expanding its test facility with four, one-acre cultivation ponds and a harvesting system.

“We have successfully tested our algae cultivation system in countries around the world, including Australia, India, Italy, Mexico, and multiple locations in the United States,” said Greg Bafalis, Aurora Algae CEO. “Our most recent test site, near Harlingen, Texas, is meeting and surpassing our growth rate expectations for this area.”

Aurora Algae operated a demonstration-scale algae cultivation facility in Karratha, Western Australia, for over two-and-a-half years, successfully demonstrating production of up to 15 tonnes of dried algal biomass per month while continuing to refine its cultivation and harvesting processes. Aurora management believes the Karratha facility to have been the most technologically advanced algae production system in the world.

Located nine miles from Harlingen, the Aurora Algae evaluation site in Rio Hondo, Texas, sits on a 1,880-acre parcel, which was formerly home to a shrimp farming operation.

Company officials say their particular variety of algae grows best in salt water in warm. arid climates.

Bioenergy Crops Could Become Invasive Species

invasiveplantjournalWhile some crops could hold great potential as bioenergy sources, they could also pose a threat as an invasive species. A new study in the journal Invasive Plant Science and Management says that a seed-bearing form of giant miscanthus could be trouble for farmers if it escapes cultivation.

The article “The Relative Risk of Invasion: Evaluation of Miscanthus × giganteus Seed Establishment,” reports the results of field tests on the fertile “PowerCrane” line of giant miscanthus…

Giant miscanthus produces abundant biomass, has few pests, and requires few inputs after establishment. While these traits make it an excellent bioenergy crop, they are also traits of invasive species. This species has the ability to produce up to 1 billion spikelets per acre per year that can disperse seed into the wind.

The researchers looked at seedling establishment in seven different habitats and found a high seedling mortality—99.9 percent overall. But that small percentage that escapes would still leave 1 million spikelets per acre in the seed bank. The authors urge caution in establishing any species that has the potential to become invasive to surrounding farmland.

UC San Diego Has Top Algae-Biodiesel Programs

scripps1Plenty of warm Southern California sun must be helping fuel the brains of algae-biodiesel researchers, as two programs at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) are rated tops in the Nation. This article from the school says the U.S. Department of Energy bestowed the high marks.

A program at Scripps Institution of Oceanography was rated the best in the nation. Mark Hildebrand and his team in the Marine Biology Research Division at Scripps Institution of Oceanography received the top honor… The report specifically cited the lab’s “outstanding research” in the genetic manipulation of algae to improve the yield of key components for biofuel production. Another UC San Diego research group, the UC San Diego Consortium for Algae Biofuel Commercialization (CAB-Comm), led by UC San Diego molecular biologist Stephen Mayfield, was recognized by the DOE as the number two-ranked research program.

… Hildebrand’s group has found that diatoms, among the most prevalent oceanic algae, are uniquely suited to biofuel production. In particular, diatoms are a good system for scientists like Hildebrand who hope to use genetic tools to perfect algae biofuel production.

CAB-Comm … partners with industry collaborators Sapphire Energy and Life Technologies, focuses on green algae and cyanobacteria, and was cited by the DOE for “demonstrating how the yield potential of algae can be preserved by controlling pests through development of resistant strains, use of chemical pesticides, and cultivation of consortia of strains.”

Researchers from both groups at UCSD hope the high ratings will help them secure more government funding for their projects.

Propane Users Urged to Get Equipment Ready

Propane-Council logoSpring is in the air, and planting is either started or getting ready to get started across the country. The Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) is urging farmers who use their fuel to make sure spring preparation includes prepping that propane-fueled equipment.

Irrigation Engines
After a long winter, rodents, debris, and exposure to the elements are the most common source of engine issues, said Pete Stout, product manager for Origin Engines. Stout encourages farmers to refer to their product manuals for maintenance needs specific to their engine models, and offers these tips for preparing irrigation engines for spring planting:

* Disconnect the engine battery and check battery voltage.
* Clear away any dirt and debris that have collected on and around the engine. Pay special attention to clutch bellhousings, radiator shrouds, and wire harnesses.
* Inspect wire harnesses for cracked or exposed wires and make repairs if necessary.
* Check front drive belts for proper tension and wear.
“I also urge farmers to place engines inside of structures, such as a simple carport style shelter, for the summer growing season,” Stout said. “UV sunlight and general exposure to extreme weather can be tough on engine power units.”

PERC goes on to suggest that before that spring storm rolls through and knocks out power, propane generators are checked and cleaned. Pickup trucks running on the clean fuel also need to be properly maintained to get the most out of the efficiency propane autogas can bring. The same goes for forklifts and other propane-powered equipment.

In addition, you can check out PERC’s Propane Farm Incentive Program, which could make up to $5,000 available to farmers who switch to propane. More information is available here.

North Dakota Canola for Aviation Biodiesel Explored

CanolaCanola from North Dakota farmers could be the next source for biodiesel for aircraft. This story from the Billings (MT) Gazette says researchers in the northern plains have been exploring the oilseed’s possibility to fill aviation fuel tanks since 2011.

The Northern Great Plains Research Laboratory in Mandan is one of eight locations testing different plant products for biofuels. The focus here has been on oilseeds such as canola, rapeseed camelina and mustard — “all crops that grow well in wheat-producing areas,” soil scientist Dave Archer said.

The scientists at Great Plains have just finished their first year of field trials and are waiting for the second round of fall-planted canola to come up, Archer said.

The oilseed varieties are being judged on their economic and environmental impacts, he said. Researchers are trying to find varieties not used for food that fit into existing crop rotations and that improve soil quality…

“It will certainly help the state,” said Barry Coleman, executive director of the Northern Canola Growers.

Coleman said canola is used for biodiesel production in Velva. If the crop could be used as a jet fuel as well, he said, it would gain popularity among farmers.

About 1.8 gallons of biodiesel are already made from canola each year.

Biodiesel Board Joins EPA, DOJ Against Big Oil

scalesofjustice1While the basketball national championship might have been decided on the court, it could be the courts that decide the future of advanced biofuels in this country. The National Biodiesel Board (NBB) joined forces with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Justice to fight an attempt to dismantle the Renewable Fuel Standard (NBB).

In the current case, Monroe Energy, joined by the American Petroleum Institute and other groups, is challenging the EPA’s handling of the 2013 volume requirements. Among the arguments supporting the EPA’s position, NBB points out that that the petroleum industry’s challenge makes no argument that insufficient volumes of renewable fuels were available in 2013 and fundamentally misinterprets the EPA’s authority to waive volume requirements under the law. NBB maintains that the EPA’s 2013 standards achieved the directives of Congress.

“The renewable fuels industry is united in supporting the RFS to promote production of clean, alternative fuels,” said Anne Steckel, NBB’s vice president of federal affairs. “As the leading producer of Advanced Biofuels in the nation, the biodiesel industry has demonstrated that the Advanced Biofuel standard is working. The simple fact is that we have met or exceeded the Advanced standard in each year of the program, including in 2013 when the RFS delivered more than 3.3 billion RIN-equivalent gallons of Advanced fuels, made up mostly of biodiesel and renewable diesel.”

“Big Oil likes to say the RFS isn’t working, but what’s really broken is the decades-long stranglehold the petroleum industry has on our fuel supplies,” Steckel added.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia is hearing the case, and NBB says the decision will have tremendous implications for the future of advanced biofuels and affirm the EPA’s obligation to maintain the statutory volumes.

Alaska Air Includes Biofuels in Sustainability Plan

alaskairAlaska Air Group announced some aggressive sustainability goals for 2020, and part of that includes aviation biofuels. This company news release says the goals and how to get there are outlined in a new report from the airline.

“We believe running our business sustainably—with an eye on the long run—is simply the right thing to do,” CEO Brad Tilden said. “By integrating sustainable practices and policies into our business, we’re making Alaska, and all of the people and communities we work with, stronger and healthier over time.”

Air Group signed an off-take agreement with Hawaii BioEnergy to buy sustainable aviation biofuels from the Hawaiian Islands beginning in 2018. The airline has set a goal of using sustainable biofuels at one or more of its airports by 2020.

Other sustainability measures being implemented by the airline include flying more efficiently to reduce overall fuel use.

Minnesota Biodiesel Mandate Faces Uncertain Future

mnstatelegis1A delay in Minnesota’s biodiesel mandate could have a ripple effect for more targets in the law’s future. This article in the Mankato Free Press says nearly three years ago, state regulators delayed implementing a B10 mandate scheduled for 2012. Now that officials in Minnesota believe they’re ready for the higher blend, it’s running dangerously close to another target, B20, scheduled for 2015.

That deadline would be extended by three years, to 2018, under a bill from North Mankato Rep. Clark Johnson.

The basic problem with the 2015 deadline is similar to the reasons for the earlier delays: The state just isn’t ready, he said.

The state’s soybean farmers association, Mankato-based Minnesota Soybean, supports the bill, said Mike Youngerberg, its senior director of field services. Another version of the bill, opposed by the association, would have delayed the 10 percent transition and eliminate the 20 percent move entirely. But it failed to pass a Senate committee last month.

Johnson’s bill, too, has an uncertain future — it didn’t pass through its House committees before a March 21 deadline — but he believes it can still pass this year.

Johnson’s bill would also change the summer mandate months from April – October to September. Another provision would allow companies that build generators to test them without biodiesel.

New Biodiesel Mandate Pleases Canadian Farmers

gfoThe new biodiesel requirement north of the border is pleasing farmers in that area. The trade group Grain Farmers of Ontario welcomed its province’s new 2 percent biodiesel mandate, expected to be a boon for soybean farmers.

“The creation of an Ontario Greener Diesel mandate will reduce greenhouse gas emissions generated by the
transportation sector and will help build a market for made-in-Ontario soy biodiesel,” says Henry Van Ankum, Chair of Grain Farmers of Ontario. “Local fuel made from soybeans reduces greenhouse gas emission in vehicles up to 85 percent and the mandate will provide a potential market for 680,000 tonnes of soybeans.”

Creating new markets takes a commitment and collaboration between government and industry. “We were pleased we could work with our partners at the Ontario government and the Canadian Renewable Fuels Association to initiate this Greener Diesel mandate and grow this market for our Ontario farmers,” added Van Ankum.

The mandate started at 2 percent this week and moves up to 4 percent in 2017. It’s expected to reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions equal to taking 280,000 cars per year off the road.