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.

RFA Updates Ethanol Quality Control Program

RFANewlogoThe Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) has updated its guidelines for quality control for ethanol plants. The group says the guidelines are an educational tool and information resource to help refiners make sure they turn out denatured fuel ethanol, distillers dried grains, carbon dioxide and corn distiller’s oil that meet customers’ expectations.

“This document underscores the commitment of the Renewable Fuels Association to help ethanol producers provide the highest product quality with the highest product integrity,” said Kristy Moore, RFA’s vice president of technical services.

The document details the basic principles for quality assurance and quality control including testing frequency, sampling, and record keeping. It also includes an expanded discussion on all of the major products being produced at an ethanol manufacturing site: denatured fuel ethanol, distillers dried grains, corn distillers oil, and carbon dioxide.

You can see the full document here.

ABO Petitions White House on CO2 Recycling

ABOA group advocating for algae-based renewable fuels and other products is petitioning the White House to approve carbon dioxide (CO2) recycling as part of the country’s strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Algae Biomass Organization (ABO) kicked off its 8th annual Algae Biomass Summit kicked off today with the group’s Executive Director Matt Carr challenging the algae industry to think:

Forest fires, flooding, shrinking ice caps and other environmental disasters are becoming more prevalent and severe due to climate change. Food pressures, energy supplies and water shortages are become more serious economic and security challenges the world over. Matt reminded the hundreds of Summit attendees that they have gathered in San Diego this week because the algae industry is part of the solution.

As a member of the algae community, you too can take action by signing ABO’s We the People petition to the White House.

The petition asks the White House to ensure that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) permits states to use carbon capture and utilization (CCU) technologies as they work to meet emissions reductions targets set by the agency.

ABO points out that farming algae requires large quantities of CO2, and using the waste CO2 from power generation to grow algal biomass that can be converted in to fuel, chemicals and other valuable products can flip the cost-equation that is traditionally associated with carbon capture. Recycling CO2 can simultaneously reduce emissions and stimulate economic growth.

You can sign the petition here.

Algae-based Biofuels to Get $25 Mil from Feds

US DOE Energy logoAlgae-based biofuels will be the beneficiaries of a government-backed effort to get the fuels made from microbes down to less than $5 per gasoline gallon equivalent (gge) by 2019. The U.S. Department of Energy announced $25 million to reduce those production costs, hopefully down to an eventual goal of $3 gge by 2030.

The funding announced today will support projects in two topic areas: Topic Area 1 awards (anticipated at 1–3 selections) will range from $5–10 million and focus on the development of algae cultures that, in addition to biofuels, produce valuable bioproducts that increase the overall value of the biomass. Topic Area 2 awards (anticipated at 3–7 selections) will range from $0.5–1 million and will focus on the development of crop protection or carbon dioxide utilization technologies to boost biomass productivity in ways that lead to higher yields of algae.

You can learn more about this funding opportunity here, including signing up for an informational webinar to be held on Wednesday, October 8, 2014.

Biodiesel Board Calls for End of European Tariffs

nbb-logoThe National Biodiesel Board has called for the end of duties on the green fuel being sent to Europe. NBB says it’s time to let expire what the group calls unfair European Commission biodiesel tariffs in place for the past five years.

“We have presented a strong case for ending these protectionist barriers that are unfairly hurting U.S. biodiesel producers even as European producers are taking advantage of the U.S. market,” said Anne Steckel, NBB’s vice president of federal affairs. “As we speak, European biodiesel producers are sending biodiesel to the U.S., with significant policy support, while at the same time the European market has been cut off from U.S. producers.”

“Eliminating these duties will level the playing field and allow U.S. producers to fairly compete in accordance with international law – just as we are allowing European producers to do in the U.S. market,” [Steckel said].

Among the points highlighted in NBB’s filing Tuesday:

– U.S. imports of biodiesel from the EU have grown in recent years while EU imports of U.S. biodiesel have been virtually eliminated.
– The U.S. biodiesel tax incentive, which was the primary basis for the EU’s initial trade duties, is currently not in effect and hasn’t been in effect for three of the past five years.
– Because it is structured as a blender’s incentive, the U.S. biodiesel tax incentive is available to European producers, when it is in effect, in the same way it is available to U.S. producers. Additionally, European imports to the U.S. can qualify for the RFS, the policy that requires specific volumes of renewable fuels to be blended into the U.S. fuel supply.
– The U.S. biodiesel market has evolved significantly since 2009 and, with required volumes under the RFS creating a strong and growing domestic market, it is unlikely that eliminating the trade barriers would lead to a flood of U.S. biodiesel exports to Europe.

While the original biodiesel trade duties were set to expire this year, the European Commission, at the request of the European biodiesel industry, has been delaying the expiration by conducting an “expiry review” expected to last 12 to 15 months.

Ford Hauls Bad Guys Away with Biodiesel and E85

fordptv1Ford is doing its part in helping clean up the streets while also cleaning the environment. The automaker has introduced its new 2015 Ford Transit Prisoner Transport Vehicle, or Transit PTV, capable of hauling up to 12 prisoners at a time and able to run on biodiesel or E85 ethanol.

“Transit PTV is the latest example of Ford’s deep commitment to helping provide law enforcement agencies with capable vehicles,” said Jonathan Honeycutt, Ford police marketing manager. “This concept proves Transit is upfit-ready and designed to Built Ford Tough standards.”

Transit is available in three roof heights, two wheelbases, three lengths and four body styles. It provides a range of powertrain choices with a lineup that includes two gasoline engine options, an E85-capable 3.7-liter V6 and an available 3.5-liter EcoBoost® as well as an available 3.2-liter Power Stroke® diesel [able to run on B20 biodiesel].

Ford is known for its police vehicles, with the Transit PTV joining Ford’s Police Interceptor sedan and utility vehicle, Special Service Police Sedan, F-150 Special Service Vehicle and Expedition Special Service Vehicle in the company’s law enforcement vehicle lineup.

The only people who probably won’t like the Transit PTV would probably be, well, the prisoners it hauls.

ReEnergy Lands $289 Mil Biomass Plant Contract

ReEnergyBiomass power plant builder ReEnergy Holdings LLC landed a nearly $289 million contract to provide renewable energy for the U.S. Army’s Fort Drum in upstate New York, home to 37,000 soldiers and family members and employing nearly 4,000 civilians. This news release from ReEnergy says it’s the largest renewable energy project in the history of the U.S. Army.

“This is good news not only for ReEnergy, but for Fort Drum and the North Country region. This will enhance energy security and position Fort Drum as a leader in meeting the military’s ambitious renewable energy goals,” said Larry D. Richardson, the chief executive officer of ReEnergy Holdings. “The ReEnergy team is proud to assist the U.S. Army in meeting its renewable energy goals, and looks forward to enhancing the North Country’s green energy economy.”

The ReEnergy Black River facility, located inside the fence at Fort Drum, has 60 megawatts of generation capacity. Before it was idled in early 2010 by its former owner, the facility primarily burned coal to produce electricity.

Starting November 1st, the facility will turn out all of Fort Drum’s electrical load.

European Refiner Eyes Biodiesel Upgrade for Facility

total_logoEurope’s largest refiner of oil is considering putting in a biodiesel operation as part of an upgrade to a refinery in France. This article from Reuters says Total could convert some of its La Mede refinery near Marseille to producing biodiesel with a decision expected in the spring of 2015.

[Total's head of refining Patrick] Pouyanne said a plan to merge the La Mede refinery near Marseille with the neighbouring Lavera plant belonging to Petrochina and Ineos had failed, two union sources said, due in part to the large investments needed to upgrade the site.

The group nonetheless announced it was working on plans to convert the site, including the construction of a biodiesel making unit and a scrubber, which filters some pollutants, to make the site compatible with environmental legislation by 2018.

“I’m ready to invest the equivalent of three years of losses to make the site sustainable,” Pouyanne told unions, according to the two separate accounts made to Reuters.

La Mede was losing about 100 million euros ($127 million) a year, which would mean upgrades of about 300 million euros, the union sources said.

According to the article, Total has seen its European refining margins drop to near four-year lows this year, losing share to more efficient Middle Eastern plants, as well as too much capacity in Europe and a drop off in gasoline and diesel consumption on the continent.

IRENA: Biomass Could be 60% of World’s Renewable Energy

irenareportBiomass could make up 60 percent of the world’s renewable energy sources – one-fifth of the globe’s total energy supply – by the year 2030. That’s according to a new report from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), which forecasts a major role for modern, sustainable biomass technologies in the report titled, “Global Bioenergy Supply and Demand Projections for the Year 2030.”

“Sustainable bioenergy has the potential to be a game-changer in the global energy mix,” said IRENA Director of Innovation and Technology Dolf Gielen. “Sustainably sourced biomass, such as residues, and the use of more efficient technology and processes can shift biomass energy production from traditional to modern and sustainable forms, simultaneously reducing air pollution and saving lives.”

The new IRENA report shows that approximately 40% of the total global biomass supply potential would originate from agricultural residues and waste, with another 30% originating from sustainable forestry products.

The report also points out that these biomass resources do not compete with food production requirements, such as land and water, and could make significant cuts to global greenhouse gases.

ASU Professor Recognized for Microbe-to-Biodiesel Work

rittmann1A professor from Arizona State University is recognized for his efforts to turn bacteria and algae into biodiesel. ASU announced that Professor Bruce Rittmann received the first presentation of the International Society of Microbial Ecology (ISME)/International Water Association (IWA) Bio Cluster Award in Lisbon, Portugal, for his work to promote research between the microbial ecology and the water and wastewater treatment fields.

Rittmann’s research focuses on the scientific and engineering fundamentals needed to manage microbial communities to provide services to society.

“It’s individual organisms comprising a community that’s working together,” said Rittmann. “And now we have a chance to really manage that community to get the right organisms doing the right job.”

His research team developed the membrane biofilm reactor, a technology now being commercialized to destroy a wide range of pollutants found in waters and wastewaters. This technology can remove harmful contaminants such as perchlorate, nitrates, and arsenate from water and soils – problems that are vital to the future of the Southwest, where Colorado River water is used by seven states.

Rittmann is also part of an ASU research team using two innovative approaches to renewable bioenergy: harnessing anaerobic microbes to convert biomass to useful energy forms, such as methane, hydrogen, or electricity; and using photosynthetic bacteria or algae to capture sunlight and produce new biomass that can be turned into liquid fuels, like biodiesel.

Rittmann and his colleagues are the first to link the modern tools of molecular microbial ecology to understanding and improving the performance of microorganism-based water technologies.

Maverick Unveils Small-Scale Plant for Biodiesel Ingredient

Maverick-OasisA North Carolina company has unveiled an affordable, small scale modular plant for the biodiesel ingredient methanol. Maverick Synfuels says its Maverick Oasis system is the first small-scale, modular methane-to-methanol production plant that can be co-located at the methane source.

The Maverick Oasis factory-built Gas-to-Liquids (GTL) methanol plants are modular, and can be rapidly deployed onsite to produce thousands of gallons per day of ultra-clean methanol from natural gas or methane-rich waste gas. The plants are designed to be low-cost, highly efficient facilities optimized to generate an attractive project rate of return. Each Oasis modular facility comes equipped with performance guarantees based on the designed methanol output rating.

The Maverick Oasis system uses proprietary technology to convert a variety of methane-containing feedstocks; biogas, natural gas (including stranded gas and flare gas), coal bed methane, and landfill gas, into AA grade methanol that meets ASTM D1152 specifications.

With a footprint of just 5,000 square feet, each plant is modular so that it can be shipped to the operational location, where it is assembled by a team of Maverick engineers and integrated with the local infrastructure.

The company goes on the say that each modular facility can crank out 3,000 and 10,000 gallons of methanol per day. The Oasis system is feedstock flexible, able to be used on dairy farms, waste water treatment plants, and other facilities that use anaerobic digesters to process animal, food, and other organic waste, to make methanol. It can even be used on oil and gas fields to produce the important biodiesel ingredient.

Schott, Algatech Ink Research Deal for Biodiesel Feedstock

durantubes1An international glass maker and a biotechnology company specializing in algae production have signed a deal that could improve cultivation of the biodiesel feedstock algae. Schott AG and Algatechnologies Ltd. (Algatech), studied new DURAN® glass tubes that significantly improved cultivation efficiency in the yields of Algatech’s AstaPure® natural astaxanthin and plan to present their findings at the Algae Biomass Summit, at the end of this month in San Diego, Calif.

Algatech sought to optimize cultivation of AstaPure, a premium natural antioxidant known as astaxanthin, as part of its goal to double production capacity. SCHOTT partnered with Algatech in 2013 to produce 16 kilometers—nearly 10 miles—of thin-walled DURAN glass tubes for testing in Algatech’s photobioreactor (PBR) production systems at its array in Israel.

SCHOTT reduced the wall thickness of the special DURAN tubes while maintaining their strength and stability. The thinner walls facilitate higher volume and increased sun exposure of the microalgae. The use of DURAN tubes resulted in an increase in algae production efficiency and higher yields of AstaPure astaxanthin.

“From energy to medicine, cosmetics to nutraceuticals, many different industries rely on algae,” said Raz Rashelbach, R&D manager at Algatech. “The success of the thin-walled DURAN tubing has helped increase the AstaPure production efficiency on a small scale that can now be replicated on a much larger scale.”

“Further testing and development of new products in partnership with Algatech will allow us to continue finding new ways and methods to improve algae production,” added Nikolaos Katsikis, Director, Business Development at SCHOTT Tubing.

The agreement signed is expected to expand the two companies’ joint cooperation on new microalgae-based products.

Bugs Way Ahead in Biomass-to-Energy Production

termite1While scientists have been working for years to come up with the best ways to break down biomass for energy production, termites perfected the technique more than 30 million years ago. A new study from the University of Copenhagen and the Beijing Genomics Institute show that termites have been able to use fungus and gut bacteria contributing enzymes for final digestion.

Fungus-farming termites are dominant plant decomposers in (sub)tropical Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia, where they in some areas decompose up to 90% of all dead plant material. They achieve near-complete plant decomposition through intricate multi-stage cooperation between the Termitomyces fungi and gut bacteria, with the termites managing these symbionts by providing gut compartments and nest infrastructure. Researchers at the Centre for Social Evolution, Department of Biology, University of Copenhagen and Beijing Genomics Institute (BGI, China) discovered this by analyzing plant decomposition genes in the first genome sequencing of a fungus-farming termite and its fungal crop, and bacterial gut communities.

“While we have so far focused on the fungus that feeds the termites, it is now clear that termite gut bacteria play a major role in giving the symbiosis its high efficiency”, says Associate Professor Michael Poulsen, who spearheaded the work.

Experts believe there could be implications for large-scale industrial bioreactors being developed today.

IncBio to Put in Biodiesel Plant in Greece

incbiologoPortugal-based IncBio will put in an 8,000MT/year biodiesel plant in Greece. The company specializing in fully automated industrial ultrasonic biodiesel plants signed a deal with SPA Renewables S.A, a company specializing in turning waste cooking oil into biodiesel, for the refinery in Corinth, Greece.

This will be one of the most advanced and efficient transesterification plants in the world, based on IncBio’s technology parameters: small footprint, low cost and high efficiency, through the use of technology which is both innovative and widely proven in biodiesel production plants globally.

IncBio expects to complete the plant in February 2015 and looks for it to be the beginning of more projects in Greece.

UK Firm Fires Up Straw-Fired Energy Plant

glennmontA renewable energy investment firm has opened a 38 megawatt straw-fired plant in the United Kingdom. Glennmont Partners announced the start of operations at the Sleaford biomass facility.

The plant was built by a consortium of Burmeister & Wain Scandinavian Contractor A/S and Burmeister and Wain Energy A/S. Glennmont purchased 100% of the equity in the project in December 2011, and financed the construction through a debt package provided by NIBC Bank NV, RBS, Siemens Bank GmbH and Unicredit Bank AG.

Sleaford will generate enough electricity to power 65,000 homes as well as providing free heat to local sports clubs and community facilities. It will create and support jobs in local agriculture and has been built to perform to the highest environmental standards.

Joost Bergsma, Managing Partner of Glennmont, said: “Sleaford is a landmark deal not only for Glennmont but for the UK biomass industry as a whole. Glennmont has committed itself to leading the way for institutional investors to realise exceptional value from the renewable energy market, and Sleaford is an excellent example of this.”

Glennmont Partners has a renewable energy portfolio of more than 300MW of biomass, wind and solar power in France, Ireland, Italy, Portugal and the UK.

Researchers Get More Out of Trees for Bioenergy

spainbiomassResearchers in Spain have found a way to manipulate the genes of trees to get more biomass to make more bioenergy. In a joint venture between the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid (UPM) and the National Institute for Agricultural Research and Experimentation (INIA), the scientists figured out how to increase biomass production in a forest with altering the growth, composition or wood anatomy of the trees.

Lateral buds of most of the woody species in warm and cold areas do not sprout in the same season that they are born. These buds, called proleptics, remain latent and do not grow until the following spring. However, some lateral buds sprout during the same season such as poplar trees, other salicaceae species and many tropical species. This way, a syleptic branching can increase de amount of branches, leaf area and the tree growth in general, mainly during their first years of life.

On that basis, researchers at UPM have used a biotechnological procedure to modify the gene expression levels of RAV1 (Related to ABI3 and Viviparous 1) that increases the development of sylleptic branching of woody species. Thus, researchers have found a way of increasing biomass production of a poplar plantation. This process of genetic modification is potentially applicable to any woody species and using their adaptive features to a particular habitat.

The researchers say this will give them better control over biomass production levels without year-to-year variances.