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.

World’s First Wood-to-Biodiesel Plant Running

UPMlogoThe world’s first biorefinery to turn wood into renewable diesel has opened in Finland. UPM says its Lappeenranta biorefinery is now in commercial production, turning out about 30 million gallons of the green fuel a year.

“Lappeenranta Biorefinery is the first significant investment in a new and innovative production facility in Finland during the ongoing transformation of the forest industry. It is also a focal part in the implementation of our company’s Biofore transformation strategy,” saysHeikki Vappula, Executive Vice President, UPM Biorefining.

“The production process works as planned and the high quality end product, UPM BioVerno diesel, fulfils customer specifications. The start-up phase of the biorefinery began in early autumn, and it has included customary new process and production related challenges. The biorefinery is first of its kind in the world. We are now happy to move forward from start-up phase and be able to concentrate on regular production process”, says Petri Kukkonen, Head of UPM Biofuels business.

A lot of the feedstock, a residue of wood pulp production, is produced at UPM’s own pulp mills in Finland. UPM says its BioVerno renewable diesel reduces greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 80 per cent compared to traditional diesel.

New Biodiesel Plant Owner Wants to Re-Open It

glb-logoSpeculation over the new owner of the Great Lakes Biodiesel plant in Welland, Ontario, Canada is over, as Luxembourg-based Heridge SARL has been announced as the winner of a bidding process. And the Welland Tribune reports the new owner is vowing to re-open the $50 million refinery.

“The big message that came out is that they’re not buying this operation in order to take it apart and sell it. They’re not interesting in scrapping it,” [Welland Mayor Frank] Campion said. “They want to make it work. They have money invested in it and they will invest more money in it.”

In early October, the plant went into receivership as a result of court action by Heridge, which said in court it was only repaid half of a $20-million loan used to get the Welland plant off the ground in 2012.

According to court documents and a former employee, Great Lakes Biodiesel was unable to become financially viable largely because it couldn’t secure $65 million in federal funding it was expected to get through Natural Resource Canada.

The new owners are saying that federal funding will be critical in order for them to make the plant successful.

US Ethanol Exports Hit High, DDGS Drop in Nov.

RFANewlogoExports of U.S. ethanol hit a nearly three-year high, while shipments of dried distillers grains (DDGS) slipped in November of 2014. In a piece from Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) Senior Vice President Geoff Cooper, the biggest share of the 90.9 million gallons of ethanol, a 15 percent increase from just a month earlier, went to India and a couple of customers in the Western Hemisphere.

India was the top destination for U.S. product in November, receiving 27.6 mg, or 30% of total shipments. Canada and Brazil were other top customers for the month. Year-to-date exports through November stood at 760.2 mg, implying an annualized total for calendar year 2014 of 829.3 mg.

In a reversal from historical trends, shipments of undenatured fuel ethanol accounted for the majority of November exports. Undenatured fuel ethanol exports totaled 65.9 mg, an all-time monthly record and up 143% from October. India was the leading importer of undenatured product at 27.6 mg, followed by Brazil at 17.0 mg and South Korea at 6.1 mg. The volumes shipped to India and South Korea represented the largest-ever monthly volumes sent to those markets. The Philippines (5.4 mg) and Nigeria (3.3 mg) were other top destinations for undenatured fuel ethanol…

November exports of U.S. distillers dried grains (DDGS)—the animal feed co-product manufactured by dry mill ethanol plants—slid 19% from October to their lowest monthly level since March 2013. The decrease in November DDGS exports was reflective of the continued collapse of the Chinese market. Total DDGS exports for the month were 631,721 metric tons (mt), with Mexico (127,189 mt), Turkey (103,331 mt), and Canada (64,186 mt) again occupying the top three positions. After importing an average of 539,000 mt per month from March to August, China took in just 4,689 mt in November. Still, year-to-date DDGS exports stood at 10.59 million mt, meaning the U.S. achieved a new annual export record in 2014.

At the same time, U.S. ethanol imports hit a five-month high in November, but RFA officials say the numbers were still relatively low at just 4.9 million gallons. Year-to-date 2014 imports through November were just 72.4 million gallons, implying an annualized total of nearly 79.0 million gallons.

Algae.Tec to Expand Biodiesel Ops into China

algaeteclogoAustralia-based Algae.Tec will bring its algae-biodiesel technology into China. This story from Proactive Investors says Algae.Tec will issue a $500,000 convertible bond to China Finance Strategies Investment Holdings (CFS), with another $5 million in conditional options to come.

CFS has extensive relationships in China with its key executives having completed over 250 fundraising and advisory transactions in Greater China Region and invested in over 20 projects involving around US$1.5 billion.

Both companies will jointly explore commercial scale opportunities for Algae.Tec’s technology across Greater China incorporating the People’s Republic of China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau.

Algae.Tec expects its algae based renewable fuel and carbon capture technology to play a meaningful role in contributing to the Strategic Targets China has set for itself.

The potential for biodiesel projects could be helped by a recent U.S.-China agreement on greenhouse gas emission targets.

Market Challenges, Fed Policy Talk at Biodiesel Conf.

2015biodieselconflogo1World energy market challenges and federal policies have had some major impacts on the biodiesel industry as 2014 closed out. That’s why this month, as a new year begins, attendees of the annual National Biodiesel Conference and Expo, January 19 – 22 at the Fort Worth Convention Center in Texas, will talk about what the petroleum glut and the delay of federal renewable fuels volume requirements for gas and diesel mean for biodiesel.

“With a new Congress convening in Washington, DC, promising significant new legislation aimed at biofuels and the energy sector, it just makes sense that we will be highlighting some of these same issues in the heart of the of domestic oil and gas industry,” said Joe Jobe, CEO of the National Biodiesel Board (NBB).

[E]nergy policy will be front-and-center of the discussions, with state and federal experts on all sides of the issue presenting their views and expectations.

Of particular importance to biofuel producers is the fate of the Renewable Fuel Standard, the federal policy enacted under President George W. Bush with bipartisan support that ensures minimum volumes of biodiesel and other renewables are blended into the fuel supply. The year ended clouded in controversy as the EPA never finalized a rule for 2014’s volume requirements.

“Without a rule in place,” Jobe said, “biodiesel producers are hesitant to invest in their businesses and employees. In some cases, the uncertainty over the EPA potentially scaling back volume requirements has led some producers to shutter plants and lay off staff. The industry needs confidence that the federal government is committed to advanced biofuels and supportive of our growth.”

The 12th annual conference and expo also includes:

An opportunity for attendees and the public to test biodiesel vehicles at a unique ride-and-drive experience;
Automakers and fleets will display their latest cars and trucks at the vehicle showcase;
Texas fleet managers will share their experiences with biodiesel and how it’s making a difference in the Lone Star State;
A session on biodiesel infused heating oil shaking up the industry, and much, much more.

But energy policy will be front-and-center of the discussions, with state and federal experts on all sides of the issue presenting their views and expectations.

More information and registration is available at biodieselconference.org.

Fed Policy Blamed for Iowa Biodiesel Production Dip

IowaRFAlogoThe nation’s leader in biodiesel production remained that way in 2014, but federal policy is being blamed for Iowa’s dip from 2013’s record biodiesel numbers. The Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) says the state’s biodiesel production was 227 million gallons in 2014, down slightly from the 2013 record of 230 million gallons.

For the vast majority of 2014, Congress allowed the federal biodiesel blenders tax credit to expire, renewing it only in mid-December, too late to spur meaningful demand. At the same time, the EPA went through the entire year without setting a biodiesel number for the federal Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). That one-two punch led to a nationwide biodiesel production reduction. Due to Iowa’s state-level biodiesel production tax credit, producers in Iowa were able to essentially maintain production in the face of the federal uncertainty.

“Iowa continues to lead in the production of biodiesel,” stated IRFA Executive Director Monte Shaw. “Not surprisingly, the lapse of the federal biodiesel credit and uncertainty over EPA’s Renewable Fuel Standard proposal resulted in an industry slow down. Due to favorable state policies, Iowa was able to weather the storm better than most states.”

Shaw says federal uncertainty still hangs over 2015, but if a strong and growing RFS and a multi-year federal biodiesel tax credit extension is renewed, he believes the biodiesel industry would take a strong step forward.

Bidding Ends on Ontario Biodiesel Plant

glb-logoAfter about a month on the auction block, the bidding period has ended for an Ontario, Canada biodiesel plant. But this article from the Welland (ON) Tribune says it will take a few days to see who gets the $50-million Great Lakes Biodiesel refinery.

In early October, the plant went into receivership as a result of court action by Luxembourg-based investment company Heridge SARL, which said in court it was only repaid half of a $20-million loan used to get GLB’s Welland plant off the ground.

In November, all of the assets of Great Lakes Biodiesel, including the Welland refinery and offices in Toronto, as well as other associated companies, were put up for sale in an open auction.

That bidding closed at 10 a.m. Wednesday, but Heridge SARL was the only bidder that could be confirmed. It submitted an initial offer that would have had to be beaten in order for the company to lose the sale.

A manager at GLB’s Welland facility said Wednesday he wasn’t authorized to speak about the plant or the bidding and directed all calls to KPMG. An official with KMPG, which is handling the GLB receivership proceedings, said he had been advised not to speak with the media.

City officials would only say they have a meeting scheduled this coming Monday with Heridge officials.

Whoever wins the bid will get a biodiesel ready to get back on line practically immediately.

West Coast Biodiesel, Ethanol on the Rise

logo_E2-1Advanced biofuels, especially biodiesel and ethanol, are on the rise on the West Coast. Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2), a national, nonpartisan group of business leaders, investors and others promoting smart environmental policies, says fuel policies in Oregon, Washington state and California, as well as federal initiatives, have helped the country as a whole produce more than 800 million gallons of advanced biofuels in 2014.

“The advanced biofuel industry is meeting the growing demand for cleaner-burning transportation fuels,” said Solecki. “Americans who want more local jobs, cleaner air, and more homegrown energy should demand elected officials enact policies, right now, that will promote the growth of advanced biofuel.”

E2 defines advanced biofuel as liquid fuels made from non-petroleum sources that achieve a 50-percent reduction in carbon intensity compared to a petroleum-fuel baseline. Advanced biofuel companies included in the report range from small biodiesel businesses like Beaver Biodiesel in Oregon, which produces about 1 million gallons annually, to POET, which at facilities in South Dakota and Iowa produces more than 20 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol annually using corn stover, or waste from corn crops, as a primary feedstock.

“If state and federal leaders want to reduce our dependence on foreign oil – and support American farmers, businesses, and entrepreneurs – they should ensure this clean, cutting-edge industry can expand,” Solecki said.

The report highlights, in particular, how Oregon is considering Phase 2 rules of its Clean Fuels Program, which is expected to create as many as 29,000 jobs and save Oregon consumers and businesses up to $1.6 billion in fuel costs. In Washington state, a new clean fuel standard is being proposed that would increase the use of advanced biofuel. And California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard is being credited with lowering carbon emissions in that state.

The complete E2 report is available here.

Indiana Town Considering Sludge-to-Biodiesel Plan

An Indiana town is looking at a plan that would turn sewer sludge into biodiesel. This article from the Princeton (IN) Daily Clarion says that city is negotiating a contract with Terre Haute, just up the road, to haul away the sludge and make it into the green fuel.

Sewer plant superintendant Charlie Woodruff said Terre Haute works with a company that makes biodiesel out of the sludge.

He estimated that Princeton generates about 10,000 to 14,000 gallons of sludge per day.

Hurst said a report will be presented Jan. 20 to the board, comparing the cost of contracting for the sludge disposal with Terre Haute to the cost of the chemicals the city needs to use to try to mitigate the stink that wafts away from the plant on Richland Creek Drive, toward homes and local businesses.

According to the Terre Haute Tribune Star, that city is expected to produce 12 million gallons of biodiesel from its sludge-to-biodiesel program.

EPA Seeks Comments on Sorghum-to-Biofuels GHGs

epa-150The federal government is seeking public comment on its preliminary analysis of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions due to the production of biomass sorghum feedstock to make biofuels. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) invited the comments after a recent study by the agency that showed biomass sorghum is suitable for the same conversion processes as approved cellulosic feedstocks such as switchgrass and corn stover and would qualify for cellulosic biofuel (D-code 3) renewable identification numbers (RINs) or cellulosic diesel (D-code 7) RINs.

This notice explains EPA’s analysis of the growth and transport components of the lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions from biomass sorghum, and describes how EPA may apply this analysis in the future to determine whether biofuels produced from such biomass sorghum meet the necessary GHG reductions required for qualification under the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) program. Based on this analysis, we anticipate that biofuels produced from biomass sorghum could qualify for cellulosic biofuel renewable identification numbers (RINs) if certain fuel production process technology conditions are met.

More information on the comment process and period is available here.

Iowa State Students to Ride Smarter on Biodiesel Bus

cyride1Students at Iowa State University will get to class a little smarter… and not just because of good study habits. The school and the university’s hometown of Ames, Iowa have inked a deal with Iowa-based Renewable Energy Group (REG) that will see CyRide, the transit agency serving the City of Ames and Iowa State University, to supply biodiesel blended fuel in 2015.

REG Energy Services, LLC began providing 350,000 gallons of fuel with biodiesel blends of up to 20 percent for CyRide’s 78 buses January 1. The agreement is REG’s first with a municipality.

“We want to thank CyRide for choosing REG Energy Services as its 2015 fuel partner,” said Don Nelson, REG Director, Regional Sales. “As REG Energy Services expands, we look forward to the opportunity to work with municipalities to provide a high-quality product that provides for energy and food security, job creation and environmental stewardship.”

Ames will increase its use of biodiesel from previous years under the agreement, which provides buses with higher blends of the advanced biofuel during the summer months. The CyRide fleet serves an average of 40,000 riders daily and operates approximately 1.2 million miles a year. The city will see carbon dioxide emission reductions of as much as 658 metric tons in 2015 with the increased biodiesel blends.

The REG biodiesel will come from the company’s Magellan terminal, just down the rode in Des Moines. City officials say with the environmental benefits of the sustainable biodiesel, everyone wins with this deal.

Carolina Biodiesel Producer to Expand Operations

blueridge1Western North Carolina-based Blue Ridge Biofuels will expand its operations to turn oilseeds and used cooking oil into biodiesel. The company says this year’s expansion will take their capability from about 360,000 gallons of the green fuel a year to a million gallons this year and up to 3 million gallons in the coming years.

Early in 2015, we’re setting up shop at the Catawba County EcoComplex in Newton, NC where we can make a lot more biodiesel. Plus, we can expand into new markets, since we are the first biodiesel producer in the Charlotte area to make fuel from used cooking oil. And we’re still going to be here 100% for our fuel customers and restaurant clients in Western North Carolina. One thing we love about making biodiesel is the way it connects us to the community: from farmers who grow oil crops, to restaurants that recycle their used cooking oil, to our partners in the green economy, to our awesome customers who use biodiesel to heat their homes, run their vehicles, and power their businesses. We’re going to keep our biodiesel distribution hub and a used cooking oil collection hub here in Asheville — so we can keep our local economy and community growing.

Blue Ridge Biofuels has also launched a partnership to sell Bioheat – a biodiesel heating oil mix – and is able to claim its first full year under the BQ-9000 quality standard.

Genetics to Help in Biomass-to-Biofuel Conversion

Researchers might have found a more efficient way to turn biomass into biofuel using plant genetics. This article from Phys.org says plant geneticists Sam Hazen at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Siobhan Brady at the University of California, Davis, have sorted out the gene regulatory networks that would have the biggest impacts on the green fuel production.

The authors say that the most rigid of the polymers, lignin, represents “a major impediment” to extracting sugars from plant biomass that can be used to make biofuels. Their genetic advance is expected to “serve as a foundation for understanding the regulation of a complex, integral plant component” and as a map for how future researchers might manipulate the polymer-forming processes to improve the efficiency of biofuel production.

The three key components, found in plant tissues known as xylem, provide plants with mechanical strength and waterproof cells that transport water. Working in the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana, Hazen, Brady and colleagues explored how a large number of interconnected transcription factors regulate xylem and cell wall thickening. Results appeared in an early online edition Dec. 24 in Nature.

An invited commentary in the journal on the significance of this discovery points out that “understanding how the relative proportions of these biopolymers are controlled in plant tissue would open up opportunities to redesign plants for biofuel use.” Hazen, Brady and colleagues’ study identified hundreds of new regulators and offers “considerable insight,” the authors say, “into the developmental regulation of xylem cell differentiation.”

The authors of the study were able to find that most of the proteins including regulators of cell cycle and differentiation bind directly to cellulose genes and to other transcription regulators, giving plants a huge number of possible combinations for responding and adapting to environmental stressors.

Sorghum for Cellulosic Ethanol Update

While corn stover might be the big talk recently in the cellulosic ethanol game, sorghum could emerge as an alternative to the feedstock for the advanced green fuel. During the recent American Seed Trade Association CSS 2014 and Seed Expo in Chicago, Leah Guffey caught up with Scott Staggenborg of Chromatinasta-css-14-chromatin, a sorghum genetics company, and they talked about using sorghum for cellulosic ethanol.

“People forget that many of sorghum’s original uses were for animal feed, so biomass yield is important and digestability is important,” said Staggenborg. “So if you think about cellulosic ethanol production, it’s just really a big, steel or concrete digester, rather than a four-legged digester.”

He went on to say that with the 40,000 varieties of sorghum availability, his company is taking advantage of traditional breeding and modern molecular methods to get the most out of sorghum, especially for cellulosic biofuels. One of the breeds he points to as having great potential for biofuels is sweet sorghum, which he compares to an annual sugarcane, except sorghum has to re-established each year from seed.

“It’s high biomass, and it has high juice yields, as well as high sugar yields,” Staggenborg explained. “Those three combined result in high sugar yields per acre, and that’s the goal of our breeding program, as well as altering the composition of the sugar itself.”

He added that the Renewable Fuels Standard is a big driver in making sure there is a market for sorghum-based, or any other feedstock-based, cellulosic biofuel.

“The RFS establishes a market, establishes a need, sort of primes the pump for the demand, until it becomes something that widely available, although it’s already widely accepted, and allows a fledgling industry to move forward.”

You can hear all of Leah’s interview with Scott here: Scott Staggenborg, Chromatin

Christmas Trees to Power More than Spirit of Holidays

recologyNow that Christmas is done, it’s that time of year to think about what to do with that natural tree that brightened your holiday (although in our house, we like to keep it up as close to the Epiphany as possible). Once you’ve decided that your tree needs to vacate your living room, it can still live on in the form of biomass for renewable energy. This piece from the Mission Local website says that in San Francisco, those green tannenbaums can now be green power.

At the biomass plant, the Christmas trees rise like phoenixes — or at least steam does, when their chips burn inside boilers. The steam-powered turbines generate electricity that is sold to PG&E. Then “it powers your laptop computer,” said Recology spokesperson Robert Reed.

Overall, San Francisco’s Christmas tree chips produce about 20 megawatts of power, or enough energy to serve 20,000 houses for a month, according to Chris Trott at the Tracy Biomass Plant. The plant has paid Recology for the chips for the past two Christmases, but only enough to cover the cost of transporting them to Tracy.

The rest of the year, Tracy Biomass uses peach pits, walnut shells and tree trimmings to power the plant.

Officials add that turning the trees into biomass fuel also reduces Christmas tree-related fires, as well as keeping the material out of landfills.