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.

Iowa Lawmakers Recognized for Renewable Fuel Support

IowaRFA logoSixteen state lawmakers in Iowa are being recognized for their support of renewable fuels, such as biodiesel and ethanol. The Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) PAC announced the 16 recipients of its “Champion of Renewable Fuels” awards for state legislators, recognizing their voting records and leadership in support of the green fuels.

“The IRFA PAC is proud to support these ‘Champions of Renewable Fuels’ who’ve consistently supported and led on important renewable fuels issues,” stated IRFA PAC Treasurer Walt Wendland, President and CEO of Homeland Energy Solutions. “Iowa is number one in the nation when it comes to renewable fuels production, and that doesn’t happen without great leadership and forward-thinking policies from our elected officials. These award winners have demonstrated outstanding commitment to the renewable fuels industry and have worked tirelessly to strengthen Iowa’s economy by improving opportunities for ethanol and biodiesel.”

Recipients of the 2014 Champion of Renewable Fuels awards are:

Iowa Senators
Sen. Bill Anderson SD 3
Sen. Daryl Beall SD 5
Sen. Rick Bertrand SD 7
Sen. Bill Dix SD 25
Sen. Amanda Ragan SD 27
Sen. Rob Hogg SD 33
Sen. Joe Bolkcom SD 43

Iowa Representatives
Rep. Helen Miller HD 9
Rep. Jack Drake HD 21
Rep. Dan Kelley HD 29
Rep. Josh Byrnes HD 51
Rep. Linda Upmeyer HD 54
Rep. Brian Moore HD 58
Rep. Mark Smith HD 71
Rep. Tom Sands HD 88
Rep. Jim Lykam HD 89

This is the third election cycle that the IRFA PAC has given such recognition.

The state is the nation’s leader in renewable fuels production, with 42 ethanol refineries capable of producing more than 3.8 billion gallons annually, including 2 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol production and two more cellulosic ethanol facilities currently under construction, and 12 biodiesel facilities able to crank out nearly 315 million gallons annually.

Algae-Biodiesel By-Product to Power Electric Grand Prix

formulaeA grand prix racing series, the world’s first to run on electric power, will get its energy from a by-product of algae-biodiesel production. This article from GreenBiz.com says the Formula E races will use U.K.-based Aquafuel’s glycerine to power generators.

“It’s a very innovative compound,” [Formula E's sustainability manager Julia] Pallé said at an event at Donington Park last week to unveil some new technologies used by Formula E. “It comes from algae so it’s a first generation compound and it uses glycerine so it has no CO2 emissions, no smoke, no noise, no smell. It’s something that isn’t harmful at all. It’s super-efficient and we’re really happy to be working with [Aquafuel] on that.”

Aquafuel chief executive Paul Day told BusinessGreen in 2011 that glycerine could power everything from generators to ships, calculating that a saltwater algal pond the size of Switzerland would meet global energy demand.

The Formula E races start Sept. 13 in Beijing, and include locations such as Miami, Buenos Aires, Monte Carlo, Berlin, and London.

Bluesphere Plans to Turn Landfill Methane into Power

Blue-Sphere-Corporation-logoIsrael-based Bluesphere Corp. has announced a plan to convert the methane gas coming off U.S. landfills into clean energy. Company officials say it can be done with technology that is already available.

Methane can be converted into energy by drilling pipes into the landfill. Through these pipes methane is directed into a gas turbine or internal combustion engine which converts the gas into electricity. The electricity can either be used on-site or sold to the local electric utility and fed into the grid.

Bluesphere CEO Shlomi Palas commented, “A large number of the landfills in the U.S., particularly in the southeastern region, are not productively using methane gas emitted from landfills. These landfills are the oil fields of the future.”

“We believe we can offer a very favorable partnership to current landfill owners by providing the equipment, expertise, and power purchase agreements to convert what is now an unused asset, methane gas, into a revenue stream. We’ve been in talks with state representatives looking to increase green energy production and reduce methane emissions. They have invited and welcomed our efforts to work with landfill owners in their jurisdictions on methane-to-electricity conversions.”

Bluesphere officials believe this is a win-win-win-win situation, as they’ll generate revenues for landfill owners and Bluesphere, while cleaning up the environment AND generating clean, renewable energy.

Natural Gas, Solar & Wind Biggest Power Generation Additions

eiaSome clean renewables and alternatives to petroleum have added the most power-generating capacity in the first half of this year. The U.S. Energy Information Administration says out of the 4,350 megawatts of new utility-scale generating capacity to come online in the first six months of 2014, natural gas plants made up more than half of the additions, with solar and wind making up more than 25 percent and about 16 percent respectively.

Natural Gas

Four plants accounted for the combined-cycle capacity additions — the new Riviera plant (1,212 MW) in Florida, expansions at the Lake Side Power Plant (629 MW) in Utah, and the Channel Energy Center (183 MW) and the Deer Park Energy Center (155 MW), both in Texas.

Significantly fewer combustion turbine plants were added (130 MW) compared to last year (3,120 MW), making the June 2014 year-to-date additions of natural gas plants overall about half the level of the same period last year.

Solar

Solar additions experienced strong year-on-year growth, with nearly 70% more additions in the first half of 2014 (1,150 MW) than in the same period last year (690 MW). About three-quarters of this solar capacity was located in California, with Arizona, Nevada, and Massachusetts making up most of the rest.

Wind

Wind additions (675 MW) were more than double the amount added in the same period last year (330 MW) and were concentrated in California, Nebraska, Michigan, and Minnesota.

California’s 228 MW of capacity additions came from the Alta Wind X and Alta Wind XI projects of the Alta Wind Energy Center (currently the largest wind farm in the United States at 1,548 MW of total capacity), while Nebraska’s 207 MW came from the Prairie Breeze wind farm. In Michigan, 61 MW of the Echo Wind Park plant came online as well as the 75-MW Pheasant Run II plant. In Minnesota, the 50-MW Lakeswind plant came online.

You can read the full EIA monthly report here.

Canada Handing Out New Grants for Biomass Research

manitobaResearchers looking to turn biomass into energy will get some help from one of the Canadian provinces. Manitoba has doubled the Biomass Energy Support Program funding to $1 million, with the additional $500,000 of new funding targeted to applied research projects that will support the growth of the biomass industry.

“Manitoba’s green economy creates new opportunities for biofuel manufacturers and additional markets for producers,” said [Agriculture, Food and Rural Development Minister Ron] Kostyshyn. “Research and development is needed to build capacity across the province and address any gaps in our biomass sector. Through this strategic investment, we can support even more Manitoba farms and businesses as they invest in a more sustainable future.”

The new funding will be directed to applied research projects that address gaps or identify opportunities for business and technology development in the biomass sector. The minister noted that priority will be given to projects with short turnaround times that support Manitoba’s coal-reduction strategy and that project results will be shared with producers, processors and other stakeholders.

Eligible biomass fuels include:

– Agricultural residue such as wheat and flax straw, sunflower hulls or compacted biomass-like wheat and oat pellets;
– Forestry residues such as wood chips or salvaged timber; and
– Biomass crops such as switchgrass, willow and poplar.

Researchers wanting some of the available funds need to apply by Sept. 1. More information is available at www.manitoba.ca/agriculture/innovation-and-research/biomass-energy-support-program.html.

Navy Remains Full-Steam Ahead on Biofuels

navybiofuelsnimitz1The U.S. Navy is moving full-steam ahead, despite some obstacles that have come up for its program on biofuels. This article from Motley Fool posted on the NASDAQ website says the Navy wants to get 50 percent of its energy from alternatives to petroleum. To make sure these fuels are ready for the fight, the service is looking at drop-in fuels, and with a provision in the recent Defense Department appropriations, the Navy has to do it at the same cost as petroleum-based fuels.

In the past the Navy has tested advanced biofuels that cost upward of $26 per gallon. That price, of course, didn’t sit well with many taxpayers, which is why the National Defense Authorization Act was passed, which limited the Department of Defense from paying higher prices for alternative fuels than it pays for petroleum-based fuels.

In order to combat the high price of commercial drop-in biofuels, the Navy and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, or USDA, worked together to create the Farm-to-Fleet program. Under the program, producers seeking to offer drop-in biofuels can apply to the USDA Commodity Credit Corporation for grants that will offset the cost of the feedstocks needed to produce these drop-in biofuels. Further, some drop-in biofuels can qualify for Renewable Identification Numbers, which can be sold to further offset the cost. The hope is that between these two offsets producers will be able to supply a drop-in jet fuel, which is the most costly fuel the navy uses, for the same price as traditional jet fuel.

Earlier this summer, a government procurement report showed the U.S. Navy has for the first time put biofuels in the mix for requests for military-specification diesel fuel and jet fuel.

Biodiesel Gets Sustainability Award at West. Kentucky

Researchers at Western Kentucky University who worked on turning waste grease into biodiesel have been honored with that school’s sustainability award. The team from the engineering and agriculture departments picked up WKU’s 4th annual President’s Award for Sustainability during an awards ceremony last Friday.

schmaltzwkyu1More than eight years ago, WKU Engineering professor Kevin Schmaltz completed a feasibility study to determine whether the supply of waste vegetable oil from WKU Dining could be transformed into a fuel source that could power the big machines at the WKU Farm. After the study determined that the campus supply of vegetable oil could support the farm’s annual needs of about 3,000 gallons of fuel, Dr. Schmaltz began working with Dr. Jack Rudolph, head of WKU Agriculture, and engaged others by involving 15 students in four teams as their senior engineering project. The first WKU biodiesel was produced in Spring 2012 and since then, more than 2,500 gallons of biodiesel has been produced. The project provides a rich learning opportunity for WKU students, in both engineering and agriculture.

The award honors individuals who exhibit excellence in supporting WKU’s commitment to sustainability by demonstrating exemplary practices and sharing solutions, incorporating sustainability into existing programs, and implementing innovative ideas.

Bolt-On Biodiesel to be Discussed at Biofuels Conf.

hydroboltonbiodiesel1Ethanol operators looking to get more out of their bottom lines might want to make sure they listen carefully when “bolt-on biodiesel” options are discussed at an upcoming conference on the financials of green fuels. Georgia-based Hydro Dynamics, Inc.‘s vice president of R&D, Doug Mancosky, will present his company’s technologies at the 10th annual Biofuels Financial Conference in Bloomington, Minn., this coming Wednesday through Friday, August 27th-29th to show how ethanol plants can diversify co-products and potentially increase profits.

The majority of ethanol plants already recover their corn oil and much of this ends up converted to biodiesel. By integrating a biodiesel plant directly into the ethanol plant a producer can realize many competitive advantages due to reduced transportation cost and shared infrastructure. HDI, along with its partners World Energy and Phibro Ethanol Performance Group, offer both transesterification reactor retrofits and complete biodiesel plants incorporating its cavitation based ShockWave Power Reactor (SPR).

SPR technology is already well established in the biodiesel industry with well over 500 million annual gallons of capacity sold using the SPR technology. The SPR technology has potential to offer ethanol producers a “bolt-on biodiesel” solution with significant initial capital savings and ongoing production cost efficiencies over conventional biodiesel plant technology.

More information is available on the Hydro Dynamics website.

Canola Genome Could Unlock Biodiesel Potential in Plant

PatersonResearchers have unlocked the genome for canola, and their discovery could mean a better plant for biodiesel. The University of Georgia says its scientists are part of the international team that published the genome of Brassica napus, better known as canola, in the journal Science.

“This genome sequence opens new doors to accelerating the improvement of canola,” said Andrew Paterson, Regents Professor, director of UGA’s Plant Genome Mapping Laboratory and co-corresponding author for the study. “We can use this knowledge to tailor the plant’s flowering time, make it more resistant to disease and improve a myriad of other traits that will make it more profitable for production in Georgia and across the country.”

The Plant Genome Mapping Laboratory played prominent roles in the sequencing both B. rapa and B. oleracea in 2011 and 2014, respectively.

“Understanding the genomes of B. rapa and B. oleracea was key to piecing together the canola genome,” Paterson said. “It’s like a genetic love triangle between the three species, with canola sometimes favoring genes from B. rapa or B. oleracea or sometimes both.”

Researchers believe the knowledge will eventually give them a more sustainable feedstock for biodiesel production.

Iowans Want More Biodiesel and Candidates’ Support for It

IowaBiodieselBoardLogoAs one of the nation’s leaders in biodiesel production, it comes as no surprise that Iowans are supportive of the green fuel. But a new survey shows that support is practically through the roof! The Iowa Biodiesel Board says a new survey of registered voters shows that more than three-fourths of those asked not only support biodiesel, but they want the federal requirement for the fuel to increase. And nearly the same amount say a Congressional candidate’s support for the Renewable Fuel Standard was an important factor in their voting decisions.

The 77 percent figure came in response to the question, “Do you support or oppose expanding the national Renewable Fuel Standard, which requires blending some renewable fuels into the nation’s fuel supply, to increase biodiesel use in the United States?”

What’s more, 69 percent said a Congressional candidate’s position on the RFS was “very” or “somewhat” important.

There are four U.S. House seats and one U.S. Senate seat up for election in Iowa.

The survey comes as biodiesel producers are feeling a lot of market pressure because of the Obama Administration’s proposal to slash the RFS biodiesel target far below last year’s production of nearly 1.8 billion gallons. It also comes as candidates are making a big push for that November vote.

Multi-tasking Could be Key for Algae-to-Diesel Ops

algaesystemsA company from Nevada thinks it has found a way to make a profit turning algae into renewable diesel: multi-tasking. This article from the New York Times says Algae Systems, which has a pilot plant in Alabama, believes it will be able to turn a profit by doing several other things while turning the algae oil into a usable fuel, namely, making clean water from municipal sewage, using the carbon-heavy residue as fertilizer and generating valuable credits for advanced biofuels.

“We think it is a really elegant solution,” said Matt Atwood, the chief executive. At its heart is a “hydrothermal liquefaction” system that heats the algae and other solids in the sewage to more than 550 degrees Fahrenheit, at 3,000 pounds per square inch, turning out a liquid that resembles crude oil from a well.

The company sent the liquid to Auburn University, where scientists added hydrogen (a common step in oil refining) to produce diesel fuel. An independent laboratory, Intertek, confirmed that the diesel fuel met industry specifications. The thermal processing has caught the attention of independent scientists. The Department of Energy recently awarded a $4 million grant to a partnership led by SRI International for further work on Algae Systems’ hydrothermal processing system.

Engineers hope the system could dispose of a variety of unwanted or hazardous materials. It also destroys pathogens in sewage.

Developers of the high-temperature processing technology say this method is much less energy intensive than more commonly used practices that dried out the algae and broke down the cell walls to separate the oil from the microbes.

Neste’s Renewable Diesel Keeps Summer Festivals Green

Nestefestival1While summer rains this year might be keeping lawns green, a renewable diesel maker in Finland says its fuel is keeping summer festivals ecologically green. This news release from Neste Oil says its NEXBTL renewable diesel helped generate electricity at the Flow Festival in Helsinki and the Neste Oil Rally Helsinki Battle street circuit race.

NEXBTL diesel generated 45% of the electricity used at the Flow Festival and powered the machinery at the festival site. Using the fuel resulted in a 22 ton reduction in emissions, equivalent in emission terms to nearly three round-the-world flights.

“Using Neste Oil’s renewable diesel to generate electricity offered us an excellent way to reduce our carbon footprint,” says Flow’s Production Manager, Emilia Mikkola.

“NEXBTL diesel has proved itself an excellent fuel for generating electricity, as it has in other areas,” according to Kaisa Hietala, Neste Oil’s Executive Vice President, Renewable Products. “When used to power on-site generator sets, the premium quality of the fuel and its purity cut exhaust emissions and eliminate the odor associated with conventional diesel.”

This isn’t the first time Neste’s renewable diesel kept the party going during a summer event. Last year, NEXBTL diesel was used to generate electricity at the Down By The Laituri Festival in Turku and the Tall Ships Races Helsinki event.

Calif. Gets First Anaerobic Digester to Turn Manure into Biogas

DVOdigester1California gets its first anaerobic digester that will turn manure from a dairy farm into biogas. Wisconsin-based DVO, Inc. announced it has nearly completed work on the anaerobic digester scheduled to open at Calgren Renewable Fuels on September 30, 2014 in Pixley, Calif.

The DVO anaerobic digester, built by Andgar of Ferndale, Washington, is designed to hold approximately 1,400,000 gallons of manure and organic waste. Each day, the digester will receive 55,000 gallons of solid and liquid waste from Four J Farm Dairy, a nearby dairy farm with approximately 2,000 head of cattle.

Biogas, one of the many valuable byproducts of the anaerobic digestion process, will replace thousands of gallons of natural gas currently being used by the Calgren on-site cogeneration facility to produce 55 million gallons of ethanol each year.

Biosolids, another beneficial byproduct of anaerobic digestion, will be sent back to Four J Farm Dairy to be used as a high-quality and low pathogen count cattle bedding. Liquid nutrients from the digestion process will also make its way back to the farm to fertilize growing crops.

DVO officials say the digester will reduce farm waste greenhouse gas emissions by more than 90 percent, while also cutting down on pathogens and odors.

Researchers Help ID Non-Invasive Species for Biofuel

pennycressWith a host of new plants being discovered for their biofuel-producing qualities, everyone wants to make sure what is being grown doesn’t become a destructive invasive plant. To that end, researchers at the University of Illinois have developed a set of regulatory definitions and provisions and a list of 49 low-risk biofuel plants that growers can choose.

Lauren Quinn, an invasive plant ecologist at U of I’s Energy Biosciences Institute, recognized that most of the news about invasive biofuel crops was negative and offered few low-risk alternatives to producers. She and her colleagues set out to create a list of low-risk biofuel crops that can be safely grown for conversion to ethanol but realized in the process that regulations were needed to instill checks and balances in the system.

“There are not a lot of existing regulations that would prevent the planting of potentially invasive species at the state or federal levels. For example, there are currently only four states (Florida, Mississippi, Oregon, and Maryland) that have any laws relating to how bioenergy crops can be grown and that include any language about invasive species—and, for the most part, when those words do appear, they are either not defined or poorly defined,” said Quinn.

In approving new biofuel products, Quinn said that the EPA doesn’t formally consider invasiveness at all – just greenhouse gas emissions related to their production. “Last summer, the EPA approved two known invaders, Arundo donax (giant reed) and Pennisetum purpurem (napier grass), despite public criticism,” added U of I professor of agricultural law A. Bryan Endres, who co-authored the research to define legislative language for potentially invasive bioenergy feedstocks.

One of the issues the researchers tackled first was defining an invasive specie as “a population exhibiting a net negative impact or harm to the target ecosystem.” Once that definition was in place, they were able to put together guidelines that are simple for regulators to understand. Quinn hopes the definitions and suggested regulations could become part of a revised Renewable Fuels Standard administered by EPA.

Some of the feedstocks of concern include pennycress, which has a high risk for invasion, jatropha and some Miscanthus species.

Preaching Conservation with Biodiesel and Ice Cream

icecreamexp1Three recent college grads have been spending their summer winding across the country handing out free ice cream from a truck running on biodiesel. Caleb Kruse, Cameron Kruse and Jordan Fatke have been trekking through what will be 33 states by the end of the Ice Cream Expedition, an effort funded by National Geographic, designed to show conservation from a child’s point of view and share free scoops of Magnolia Tropical Ice Cream as a conversation starter.

They will also encourage children to sign a pledge to explore and protect a place that is meaningful to them, such as a local pond or a backyard garden. Magnolia will be donating all of the ice cream for the trip, and the available tropical flavors will be avocado, mango, guava and a mix of purple yam and coconut…

“I’ve always wanted to drive across the country, and a friend once jokingly suggested I do it in an ice cream truck, and the idea took hold,” said Caleb. “The ice cream truck holds a unique position in a community and can be used as a platform to start talking to people, especially kids — and that’s who we’re trying to inspire.”

“National Geographic Kids is proud to be supporting these Young Explorers in their expedition across the United States,” said Rachel Buchholz, editor and vice president of National Geographic Kids and a committee member of the Young Explorers Grants program. “Through their work, they’re inspiring kids to explore their world as well as protect it. And who doesn’t love free ice cream!”

Along with the love of ice cream, maybe these guys will foster a little love for one of our favorite fuels, biodiesel.

By the way, they’ll be at the Atlanta Botanical Garden today, handing out free ice cream and talking conservation from 11 a.m. – Noon.