Biodiesel giant Renewable Energy Group will be able to crank out high quality biodiesel from a wide variety of raw materials at its Mason City, Iowa plant, thanks to a major upgrade to the 30 million gallon per year facility. This $20 million project has been a year in the making, and the ribbon cutting attracted several state and local government and business leaders.
The upgrades enable the Mason City biorefinery to utilize multiple raw materials, such as inedible corn oil, animal fats and greases, in addition to the refined vegetable oils the plant was originally designed to process. The upgrades were completed almost two months ahead of schedule and within budget.
“These upgrades further expand and strengthen our multi-feedstock business model, which allows REG to produce and deliver high-quality biomass-based diesel at an affordable price to growing regional and national markets,” said Daniel J. Oh, REG President and Chief Executive Officer. “We are well-positioned to meet growing demand in Iowa, with its retail incentive for advanced biofuels, and in Minnesota as it increases its use of higher biodiesel blends.”
REG also improved the existing front-end technology at the biorefinery that enables higher yields from free fatty acids in the production process.
“Enhancing the plant’s pretreatment and distillation capabilities will enable us to take a broader spectrum of lower-cost feedstocks and produce a high quality product,” said Brad Albin, REG Vice President, Manufacturing. “The increased feedstock flexibility helps drive greater demand for local feedstock suppliers and keeps more of their products in the Midwest.”
REG bought the Mason City biorefinery a year ago this past summer, reopening it just a few months later. The state and local governments kicked in about $2.5 million in incentives to make it a reality. REG completed a similar upgrade to another 30-million-gallon per year plant just up the road in Albert Lea, Minnesota.
A University of Colorado student who includes biodiesel in her research will be flying high – WAYYYY high – as she is awarded a $10,000 scholarship from the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation. Senior Jeni Sorli picks up the scholarship when former NASA astronaut Bruce McCandless presents the honor on campus on Thursday, Oct. 30.
Sorli, a chemical engineering major from Billings, Montana, is the recipient of a number of other prestigious awards. She is a Goldwater Scholar, an Engineering Merit Scholar, a Norlin Scholar, a Presidential Scholar and a Conoco Phillips engineering intern.
Sorli currently is involved with the Engineering Honors Program, the CU Chapter of Engineers without Borders and CU Biodiesel. She has been studying renewable fuels, including working in the lab of Professor Alan Weimer researching biomass degasification.
The Astronaut Scholarship is the largest monetary award given in the United States to science and engineering undergraduate students based solely on merit.
Yesterday was the Second Annual National Bioenergy Day, and more than 40 facilities and organizations throughout the U.S. and Canada opened their doors to show folks the benefits of using woody biomass for heating and electrical power production.
U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has continued to support bioenergy’s role in protecting the health of forests on federal lands, saying, “Renewable wood energy is part of the Obama Administration’s ‘all of the above’ energy strategy. The Forest Service works with its partners to support the development of wood energy projects that promote sound forest management, expand regional economies and create new rural jobs.”
“The continuation of National Bioenergy Day into a second year is truly exciting. We are grateful to our sponsors, particularly the U.S. Forest Service, for their dedication to raising awareness about the role of bioenergy in communities across the nation,” said Bob Cleaves, President and CEO of Biomass Power Association. “Today, all across the country, people are learning about bioenergy and how it helps local economies and forests.”
Some of the National Bioenergy Day sponsors include Biomass Power Association, U.S. Forest Service, Plum Creek, Pellet Fuels Institute, U.S. Industrial Pellet Association, and the Biomass Thermal Energy Council. You can learn more at www.bioenergyday.com.
A tire maker is looking to get tires and biofuels to keep those wheels rolling from the biomass of a plant. This news release from Cooper Tire says the company completed tire builds using rubber derived from guayule plants and new guayule related materials and also hopes to get biofuels from those plant materials.
This development was reported by Cooper to its consortium partners—PanAridus, Arizona State University, Cornell University, and the Agricultural Research Service of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA-ARS)—as the group met recently in Maricopa, Arizona for its third annual meeting and progress report on their $6.9 million Biomass Research and Development Initiative (BRDI) grant, “Securing the Future of Natural Rubber—An American Tire and Bioenergy Platform from Guayule.” The consortium received the BRDI grant in 2012 from the USDA and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to conduct research aimed at developing enhanced manufacturing processes for the production of solid rubber from the guayule plant as a biomaterial for tire applications, as well as evaluating the plant’s residual biomass for fuel applications. The consortium aims to harness biopolymers extracted from guayule as a replacement for synthetic rubbers and Hevea natural rubber used in the production of tires. It is also focused on genomic and agronomic development of guayule and the sustainability impact these biomaterial and bioenergy industries have on the American Southwest, where guayule is grown.
So far, the testing shows the tires are at least equal to tires made of components derived from the more traditional Hevea rubber plant.
A by-product of biodiesel refining could make for a viable alternative fuel for ships. This article from Seatrade Global says the Glycerine Fuel for Engines and Marine Sustainability (GLEAMS) project has concluded that glycerine is fine to use in marine vessels.
The group, comprising Lloyd’s Register EMEA, Marine South East, Aquafuel Research, Gardline Marine Sciences, and Redwing Environmental, proved that the fuel will be a viable option for ship engines. If adopted, the fuel, sometimes called glycerol, could offer a cheaper alternative to LNG and distillates, while also offering a higher efficiency than diesel, with no sulphur emissions, very low NOx emissions and virtually no particulates.
On top of this, retrofit is said to require nothing more than a modification to the engine’s external engine aspiration system; is water-soluble, with little to no damage caused to sea life in the event of a spill; and is “nearly impossible to ignite accidentally”.
A press statement by the group indicated “The GLEAMS project has been particularly successful in dispelling the widely held view that glycerine is unsuitable for use as a fuel due to its physical and chemical properties. The project very publicly demonstrated that glycerine could be used as a fuel in compression ignition engines by displaying the glycerine powered GLEAMS emissions test engine for three days at Seawork International 2014.”
GLEAMS project officials say there are several early adopters they hope to get on board with this technology, including some offshore vessels as well as research vessels.
German firm BDI – BioEnergy International AG will optimize the operations at a California biodiesel plant. The company says it will retrofit the Crimson Renewable Energy LP refinery in Bakersfield, turning waste oil and grease into the green fuel.
BDI will supply engineering services and equipment for several important process phases in order to increase plant capacity to 75,000 tons a year and to modernise the existing biodiesel plant. This will also enable waste materials to be processed more efficiently and more sustainably into high quality, ultra-low carbon biodiesel transportation fuel.
The plant optimization project represents the next milestone in the 8-step BDI RetroFit programme “One Stop Shop” that BDI began work on in 2013 with Crimson to develop the necessary technical data and basic engineering for the RetroFit to improve Crimson’s biodiesel production operations.
BDI officials say this project strengthens the company’s presence in the American biodiesel market. Crimson Renewable Energy is the largest biodiesel producer in California and has been producing the fuel in Bakersfield since 2010.
After the last couple of years filling up vehicles for dry land transportation, Hawaii-based Pacific Biodiesel is once again topping off boat tanks. This article from Pacific Business News says Pacific Biodiesel got a new permit and has expanded its production of the green fuel so everyone can enjoy clean-burning biodiesel.
“Now that we have the larger capacity, and advanced technology that produces the highest quality biodiesel in America, we are expanding into high-value tourism markets with customers who care about the environment and want to attract eco-conscious visitors to their activities,” Bob King, president and founder of Pacific Biodiesel, said in a statement. “The marine industry should be first and foremost about protecting the ocean and delivering a healthier experience for ocean-goers.”
Biodiesel, a cleaner-burning, renewable alternative fuel produced in Hawaii from recycled waste vegetable oil, is safe for all diesel engines and has been registered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as a fuel and a fuel additive.
In April, Pacific Biodiesel said it closed its facility at the Central Maui Landfill after being open since 1996 because it couldn’t justify the costly site improvements that were required to meet the county’s demands.
The article says Aqua Adventures Maui, a customer of Pacific Biodiesel from more than a decade ago, is the first boat company to fuel under the new permit.
Even in the pristine halls of academia, you can learn a lot by getting your hands dirty, especially when it comes to biodiesel. This article from Loyola University Chicago explains how the school’s Clean Energy Lab, the first and only school with an operation license to sell biodiesel in the U.S., is providing a student-run initiative that’s also a certified green business by the Illinois Green Business Association
“The Biodiesel lab is a good experience for students because it gets students involved hands-on in the field they might be interested in,” sophomore Biology major Najla Zayed said. “It helps us realize that sustainability is a practical thing and we can use the knowledge we gain from our labs and classes and project it out in the world, mainly in Chicago.”
Students involved in these course look at the inputs — such as what energy might go into the process — and the outputs such as productivity and byproducts of the process.
“[The students] identified glycerin as byproduct,” said Loyola’s Director of Sustainability Aaron Durnbaugh said while giving a tour Oct. 9. “So they used that to create BioSoap, in which they marketed, and tested.” The BioSoap is used in main bathrooms around the Lake Shore and Water Towers campuses. It is now fully certified as green chemistry by the United States Environmental Protection Agency.
Loyola’s Clean Energy Lab has several other biodiesel-related projects going on, including Bio-Soap, methanol recovery, production efficiency and the creation of household cleaning products.
Propane supplies going into the winter are looking good this year. The Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) is citing U.S. Energy Information Administration information that expects a warmer winter and a propane stocks up 17 percent from a year ago in the Gulf Coast and Midwest, along with a 12 percent increase in production from 2013.
“These are positive signs,” said Roy Willis, president and CEO of the Propane Education & Research Council, “but our industry is working hard to ensure our customers are prepared. Propane retailers across the country remain focused on safety and encouraging customers to consider early fills, automatic refills, and payment programs now before cold weather hits.”
PERC launched a $5.5 million consumer safety and preparedness campaign in early September directing residential heating customers and agribusiness operators, among others, to propanecomfort.com. On the site, propane customers can take a quiz to determine if they are prepared for winter and review energy efficiency tips. Visitors can also sign up for news updates from PERC.
“Preliminary numbers for the campaign show that nearly 20,000 customers have already taken advantage of our online resources and we expect to see continued engagement as we get closer to winter,” said Willis.
PERC will TV ads through Thanksgiving in 30 states most affected by deliverability challenges and temporary price increases last winter.
Researchers for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) are making advancements on an advanced biofuel, cellulosic ethanol. This article from the USDA says the scientists at the Bioenergy Research Unit in Peoria, Illinois, have recently completed studies on multiple approaches that could help streamline cellulosic ethanol production.
In one study, a team led by ARS chemical engineer Bruce Dien looked at using switchgrass, a perennial grass native to the prairie, for ethanol production. The team concluded that biomass producers could optimize cellulosic ethanol production by planting Kanlow variety—a lowland ecotype—and harvesting at either mid-season or post frost. Results from this study were published in Environmental Technology in 2013.
ARS chemist Michael Bowman led another study of switchgrass xylans, which is challenging to convert to sugars with enzymes because of its complex chemical structure. Bowman determined that structural features of xylan remained the same as the plant matures, even though the amount of xylan changed with maturity. This is good news for biorefiners, because it suggests that they can use the same biomass hydrolyzing enzymes to break down xylans in all switchgrass biomass, no matter when the crop is harvested. Results from this study were published in Metabolites in 2012.
The article also gives progress reports on work with microorganisms needed to ferment xylose—molecules that make up xylans—into ethanol and promising field trials with a yeast strain that grew almost four times faster than other strains that contained XI enzymes and one that could produce ethanol at significantly greater yields than other yeasts engineered to ferment xylose to ethanol.
Two biotechnology companies have been recognized for their contributions to making green chemicals. Amyris and Solazyme, Inc., received awards in the Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge for industrial biotechnology applications that produce farnesene and algae oils. The Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) sent its congratulations to its member companies on receiving the awards, which recognize industrial biotechnology’s contribution to reducing pollution at the source.
BIO President & CEO Jim Greenwood said, “Industrial biotechnology applications once again are recognized in the Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge for their ability to prevent pollution. Today’s award for Solazyme marks the first time that a microalgae biotechnology application has been recognized. Solazyme’s algae oils are a sustainable alternative to petroleum. Likewise, Amyris’ farnesane is a breakthrough renewable hydrocarbon that displaces petroleum in diesel and jet fuels. I congratulate both Solazyme and Amyris on receiving their accomplishments.”
Amyris received the Small Business Award for its design of farnesane, a hydrocarbon building block that can be converted into a renewable, drop-in diesel or jet fuel.
Solazyme received the Greener Synthetic Pathways Award for oils produced through microalgae fermentation. These oils can be tailored to replace or improve upon traditional vegetable oils and petrochemicals.
The Environmental Protection Agency has been handing out the Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Awards each year since 1996. About a third of the nearly 100 annual awards given were awarded to biotechnology and biobased applications.
Farmers are using… but also making… a lot of energy. A new report from the U.S Energy Information Administration shows that American agriculture used nearly 800 trillion British thermal units (Btu) of energy in 2012, or about as much primary energy as the entire state of Utah. While growing and harvesting the crops and the energy needed to raise livestock are significant expenditures (with crop operations consume much more energy than livestock operations), those same farms are also big contributors to our nation’s fuel supply.
Energy makes up a significant part of operating expenditures for most crops, especially when considering indirect energy expenditures on fertilizer, because the production of fertilizer is extremely energy-intensive, requiring large amounts of natural gas. For some crops like oats, corn, wheat, and barley, energy and fertilizer expenditures combined make up more than half of total operating expenses. The proportion of direct to indirect energy use varies by crop. For example, corn, which is also used as an energy input for ethanol production, has relatively low direct fuel expenditures but has the highest percentage of fertilizer expenditures.
The energy consumed in livestock operations is almost solely direct energy consumption and is relatively low compared with crop operations, both as a percentage of total operating expenditures and on a total energy basis…
In addition to being major energy consumers, some farms are using renewable resources to produce energy. Wind turbines, methane digesters, and photovoltaics are the most common on-farm renewables. Renewable energy can help to offset the need for purchased energy. In some cases, the renewable energy produced on farms is sold to electric power suppliers, providing additional income for farmers.
The report also says that water and chemicals used in agriculture can be big users of energy resources.
It’s no secret that we think the folks who make biodiesel are angels, but one actually now will get her own HALO! Cassandra Lin, a teenager from Westerly, Rhode Island is part of that area’s Project TGIF, Turn Grease Into Fuel, a student-led project where restaurants and residents recycle their waste cooking oil, it gets turned into biodiesel and is donated to charity to support families who require heating assistance. She’ll be honored by the kids’ TV network Nickelodeon with one of its HALO – Helping and Leading Others – awards. The star-studded musical event is being held in New York City and showing across all Nickelodeon networks, streaming on the Nick.com website and the Nick app on Sunday, Nov. 30, at 7 p.m. (ET/PT).
“We’re taking over New York City with the hottest music performers and the most awe-inspiring kids for one huge fun night at this year’s Nickelodeon HALO Awards,” said [pop music star Nick] Cannon. “The HALO Awards embodies the altruistic spirit of the holidays with its positive message and I can’t wait to celebrate the terrific work of these young heroes.”
If you live in Rhode Island, Project TGIF has more information about drop-off locations and details on its website.
As the world celebrated World Food Day yesterday, the folks at the National Biodiesel Board (NBB), along with their friends at the American Soybean Association (ASA), make the case that the biodiesel industry, soybean growers and livestock producers are an important part of the food chain.
“The world has a protein gap that needs to be filled,” said American Soybean Association World Initiative for Soy in Human Health Chairman Andy Welden. “Our crop offers soybean meal for livestock feed and human food, which at the same time, creates an abundant supply of soybean oil for biodiesel.”
October 16 is annually recognized as World Food Day. The 2014 Theme is Family Farming; Feeding the world, caring for the earth. The United States produces more than 3.2 billion bushels of soybeans a year, offering an abundant supply of meal for human foods and livestock feeds as well as oil for biodiesel and other uses. U.S. soybean growers also participate in support sustainability programs for conservation and other environmental practices.
NBB also pointed that increased biodiesel production benefits poultry and livestock farmers, as increased amounts of soy oil for biodiesel production also means more soy meal is available for livestock feed and human food. The group added that, according to the United Nations, 805 million people are estimated to be chronically undernourished in 2012–14. But that number is actually down more than 100 million over the last decade, in no small part because of the ASA’s World Initiative for Soy in Human Health (WISHH) that assists developing country entrepreneurs and leaders in filling the “protein gap” with nutritious soy-based foods as well as livestock and aquaculture feeds.
Along with reducing the cost of livestock feed, biodiesel also adds value to animal fats. In 2013 demand for fats and oils for biodiesel production increased the value of beef tallow an estimated $567 million, pork fat an estimated $165 million, and poultry fat by more than $51 million, making the production of animal protein more economical.
Technology from Honeywell’s UOP LLC will be used to produce renewable diesel. This company news release says the technology was secured under the U.S. Department of Defense Advanced Drop-in Biofuels Production Project.
Emerald Biofuels LLC will use Honeywell’s UOP/Eni Ecofining™ process technology to refine non-edible oils and animal fats into renewable diesel, also known as Honeywell Green Diesel™, which is a drop-in replacement for conventional diesel derived from petroleum.
Emerald is being supported by a $70 million contract from the Defense department project, which is focused on creating economically viable production capacity for advanced drop-in biofuels, including feedstocks, refining, transportation and logistics. Emerald is expected to produce 85 million gallons of renewable diesel per year under the project.
“Our renewable process technology leverages UOP’s 100 years of refining expertise to produce Honeywell Green Diesel, a drop-in diesel that, unlike biodiesel, is chemically identical to petroleum-derived diesel and does not require changes to engines or fuel infrastructure,” said Veronica May, vice president and general manager of UOP’s Renewable Energy and Chemicals business unit. “This proven technology is being used in commercial production today.”
The Advanced Drop-in Biofuels Production Project is the military’s program to create assured, affordable and economically viable production capabilities and capacities for items, such as drop-in renewable fuels, essential to national defense.
For the last two years, UOP has licensed Ecofining technology to Emerald to produce 85 million gallons per year of Honeywell Green Diesel at a facility on the Gulf Coast. Ecofining technology is also being used by Diamond Green Diesel in Norco, La., to produce renewable diesel from used cooking oil and other feedstocks.