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.

New Leaders Found for NE Biodiesel Plant Readying to Open

flinthillslogoA Nebraska biodiesel plant completed in 2007 but never opened has received new leadership as company officials prepare to open the refinery. This article from the Beatrice (NE) Daily Sun says Flint Hills Resources named Russell Leighton as plant manager and Jeremy Morse as production manager as Flint Hills and Benefuel eye next year’s opening of their joint Duonix biodiesel plant in Beatrice.

Leighton has more than 25 years experience in the oil, gas and chemical industries and will be responsible for overall management and administration of the facility.

Prior to joining Flint Hills Resources, Russell oversaw quality management systems in the U.S. and abroad as Director of Operations for TETRA Technologies.

Morse will serve as production manager, focusing on the startup and commissioning of the new plant. He was previously the plant superintendent of AGP in Algona, Iowa, where he was responsible for maintaining plant operations and product quality.

Michael Harris, biofuels ventures manager for Flint Hills Resources, said in a press release the pair’s experience will be a beneficial addition to the business.

“We are excited to welcome Russell and Jeremy to the Flint Hills Resources team,” he said. “Their leadership will help drive our biodiesel operations as we prepare to start full-scale production next year and bring this innovative new biodiesel technology to life.”

When the plant is operational, hopefully next summer, officials say it will produce 50 million gallons of biodiesel per year using an innovative biodiesel technology from Benefuel, Inc. called ENSEL.

Grease Still Hot Item in Biodiesel Feedstock Thefts

scalesofjustice1We’re still seeing stories pop up about how thieves are targeting the used grease from restaurants for biodiesel production. The latest story comes from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch where police broke up a mutli-state ring of stolen used grease and cooking oil from O’Fallon, Ill. and the surrounding area.

The suspects — Bo Lin, 32, of Fairview Heights; Tuo Li, 25, of Chicago; and Kentvy Wong, 30, of Flushing, N.Y. — were arrested overnight July 16 at a barn here in the 900 block of Talon Drive. The building, police said, contained about 10,000 gallons of filched grease.

[Police detective Lt. Robert] Schmidtke said the suspects had been selling it to rendering and biodiesel plants.

He said estimating the value of the grease was difficult, but that it easily exceeded $10,000. The National Renderers Association has estimated that grease sells nationally for about $3 a gallon.

Grease thefts have increased since biofuels were introduced to a market once dominated by animal feed and soap industries.

Police say most restaurants might not even report grease thefts, because they don’t realize the value of the commodity being stolen. I guess that’s understandable when you figure it wasn’t that many years ago when before biodiesel became so popular that restaurants paid a price (and many still do) to have it hauled away.

Kansas Ethanol Plant to Add Renewable Diesel Ops

EKAEA Kansas ethanol maker is going to integrate a renewable diesel operation into its facility. East Kansas Agri-Energy LLC (EKAE) says it will soon start building and hopes to complete construction within about a year of the 3 million gallon per year facility at its ethanol plant in Garnett, Kansas that will make renewable diesel from the corn distillers oil (CDO) already produced at the plant.

“This is about maximizing revenue, leveraging activities that we already do every day, and enhancing the value of products we already produce now,” said EKAE President & CEO Jeff Oestmann. “Adding renewable diesel capability aligns perfectly with our business strategy of diversifying our energy portfolio and creating additional enterprises that are sustainable on their own.”

“The main driver is to create greater value for our unit holders,” said EKAE chairman Bill Pracht. “We’ll be taking advantage of our experience and current facilities to create two biofuels out of one kernel of corn. Furthermore, we’ll be adding value to the corn oil we already produce.”

Oestmann said that EKAE already has a receptive market for this new fuel. “We have positive relationships with customers and within the biofuels industry that have come to know EKAE as a reliable and trustworthy supplier,” he said. “By using corn distillers oil we produce as the primary feedstock, we will have quality control that will underscore our reputation for quality in the marketplace.”

Company officials hope to double the 3 million gallon per year capacity sometime after starting operations.

White House Gathers Senate Dems on RFS Proposal

nbb-senatorsIn what could be seen as a sign that an unpopular decision is about to be rendered by the Obama Administration on ethanol and biodiesel, a select group of Senate Democrats have met with the White House. The Hill reports White House adviser John Podesta met with the group on Thursday to discuss the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) plans regarding the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

The senators said they wanted to discuss “urgent concerns” with the RFS, which requires that diesel and gasoline refiners mix a certain amount of renewable fuels such as biodiesel and ethanol into their traditional fuels each year. The Environmental Protection Agency proposed last year to keep the biodiesel volume in 2014 at least year’s level, despite an increase in biodiesel production, and reduce the ethanol volume.

The EPA has not yet finalized its 2014 volumes for renewables.

[Minnesota Senator Al] Franken and his colleagues took particular issue with the biodiesel mandate.

“Such a decision would not only harm the economic growth surrounding biodiesel production in our states, but would be a setback in our national efforts to continue boosting U.S. energy security while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” they wrote.

The National Biodiesel Board (NBB) seems concerned about the meeting as well and issued a statement from from Vice President of Federal Affairs Anne Steckel:

“While we are encouraged by these discussions, the biodiesel industry remains concerned that the Administration still appears to be considering a proposal that would backtrack from last year’s proven production and that threatens biodiesel plants around the country. The fact is that biodiesel is the most successful Advanced Biofuel under the RFS, yet it could see its production cut significantly. This meeting, which was originally requested by a diverse group of 14 Democratic senators from across the country, makes clear that there are serious concerns about the impact that the proposal would have on jobs and economic growth nationwide, in states from Rhode Island to Minnesota to Washington state. This is a critical decision, not just for the biodiesel industry but for the future development of clean, American-made renewable fuels that will help us reduce our dangerous dependence on petroleum.”

Many of those senators participating in this week’s meeting were also critical back in May on the Obama Administration’s proposal to cut the amount of biodiesel and ethanol to be mixed into the nation’s fuel supply, with some of the President’s staunchest backers calling it “disastrous” and a miserable failure of policy.

“Climate of Opportunity” Theme for Biofuels Conference

Screen Shot 2014-07-18 at 12.23.20 PMSome biofuels producers have had some profitable times in the last couple of years, and an upcoming conference will give attendees information on how to take advantage of the opportunities put before them. Nationally known accounting and consulting firm Christianson & Associates will host its 10th annual Biofuels Financial Conference with the theme “Climate of Opportunity,” Aug. 27-28, 2014 in Minneapolis, Minn. at the Bloomington Embassy Suites.

This year’s Biofuels Financial Conference is focused on the best ways to take advantage of the many opportunities to optimize financial health and stability in today’s changing biofuels industry. By understanding current policy and knowing all available options for improving and diversifying production, attendees will learn how to capitalize on current strengths, identify and shore up any potential weaknesses, and create a strategic plan for growth creates an ongoing climate of opportunity.

“It’s important for board members and financial decision-makers to understand the opportunities in the current liquid fuels marketplace,” said [John Christianson, CPA and Partner at Christianson & Associates]. “What is the impact of the latest legislation changes, what are the marketplace opportunities, what are the technology investments that will bring a plant successfully into the next generation?”

Those attending the conference will be able to network with and learn from biofuels professionals from across the industry. More information is available here.

LA Moving Company Converts Fleet to Biodiesel

247vanlinesA Los Angeles-based moving company has converted its entire fleet of trucks to run on biodiesel. 24-7 Van Lines says the conversion helps the environment and helps the company be more energy efficient, which means they can pass along savings for its commercial and residential customers.

According the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), emissions from transportation vehicles amounted to an estimated 28% of all greenhouse gases emitted in the nation in 2011. With newer laws being enacted nationwide designed to curb emissions, and with some being implemented by individual states already, trucks in the moving sector and in other industries will soon have to conform to newer and more stringent standards. With the cost of bio-diesel fuel at a comfortable median to standard diesel, entities that convert their fleets stand to enjoy substantial reductions in cost. For The Commercial Movers, the upgrades make them an officially “green” Los Angeles Cross Country Mover, also enabling them to offer lower rates to their customers as a result of reduced fuel encumbrances.

“We strive to make our services as valuable to our customers as possible, while also being cognizant of the impact that our company has upon the environment,” explained company spokesperson, Mark Tanning. “With our completed upgrade to cleaner burning bio-diesel engines, we are able to tackle both objectives with one move. Now we can offer better prices to our clients and reduce our carbon footprint, simultaneously. And that’s a tune that we can all hum along to.”

More information about the company is available at www.247vanlines.com.

UN: Biofuels to Grow Faster than Food Crops

UNoecdfaoTwo United Nations agencies say biofuel production will grow faster than food crops. This report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations says prices for the major crops worldwide have dropped significantly from record highs in the last couple of years due to the recent bumper crops of 2013 and 2014. In addition, ethanol and biodiesel prices are down due to plenty of feedstocks for the green fuels.

In the next decade, livestock and biofuel production are projected to grow at higher rates than crop production. This changing structure of global agricultural production prompts a relative shift toward coarse grains and oilseeds to meet demands for food, feed and biofuel, away from staple food crops like wheat and rice. The bulk of the additional production will originate in regions where determining factors, such as land and water availability, and policy regulations, are the least constraining.

Crop prices are expected to drop for one or two more years, before stabilizing at levels that remain above the pre-2008 period, but significantly below recent peaks. Meat, dairy and fish prices are expected to rise. In real terms, however, prices for both crops and animal products are projected to decline over the medium term. The expected stock-to-use ratios for cereals improve significantly, which should ease concerns about their price volatility.

The report goes on to say that the Americas will be the dominant export region for crops and biofuels, while Africa and Asia will increase their net imports to meet their growing demands.

Crop Residues, Manure Hold Great Potential for Bioenergy

Crop residues and manure hold great potential as bioenergy sources, especially in areas such as the Midwest where row crops and livestock provide all the ingredients. This report from the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) says those resources will need some help, though, from the right policies, practices, and investments.
UCSreport
UCS analysis finds that by 2030, U.S. farmers could sustainably produce up to 155 million tons of crop residues, many times the current level of production. U.S. livestock could produce another 60 million tons of manure, to be turned into clean-burning biogas.

The right policies, practices, and investments will help these clean energy sources realize their potential—with huge benefits for farmers, communities, and the environment…

Fuel and electricity made from agricultural biomass is potentially clean too. With the right practices, ethanol made from crop residues can produce 90 percent fewer lifecycle emissions, compared to gasoline.

Many states could significantly scale up their use of crop residues and manure. The largest include Iowa, a leading producer of corn ethanol, and Arkansas, the nation’s top rice producer.

Texas and California offer a lot of potential as well because of those states’ large agricultural outputs.

EPA Issues New Rule for RINs Quality Assurance Program

epa-logoIn an effort to assure all parties of better control over possible fraud, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has formally issued its new rule on a voluntary quality assurance program on Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs) used to track compliance with their renewable fuel volume obligations. The EPA proposed the rule earlier this month and issued it late last week that will elements designed to make it possible to verify the validity of RINs from the beginning of 2013 and going forward.

Today’s final action includes a voluntary third-party quality assurance program option for RINs that regulated parties may exercise as a supplement to the “buyer beware” liability as prescribed under existing regulations. The program provides a means for ensuring that RINs are properly generated through audits of renewable fuel production conducted by independent third-parties using quality assurance plans (QAPs), provides an affirmative defense for the transfer or use of invalid RINs that had been verified under an approved QAP, defines the conditions when RINs must be replaced, and a process for determining who will replace the RINs…

- Minimum requirements for a QAP, including such things as verification of feedstocks, verification that volumes produced are consistent with amount of feedstocks processed, and verification that RINs generated are appropriately categorized and match the volumes produced
- Qualifications for independent third-party auditors
- Requirements for audits of renewable fuel production facilities, including minimum frequency, site visits, review of records, and reporting
- Conditions under which a regulated party could assert an affirmative defense to civil liability for transferring or using an invalid RIN
- Identification of the party or parties who are responsible for replacing invalid RINs with valid RINs and the timing of such replacement
- A two percent limited exemption for calendar years 2014, 2015, and 2016 that exempts a small fraction of a party’s Renewable Volume Obligation (RVO) from the requirement of replacement of invalid RINs used for compliance if they were RINs verified through a QAP
- Changes to the EPA Moderated Transaction System (EMTS) that would accommodate the quality assurance program

There’s an interim period that covers back to February 21, 2013 through the end of this year which will finalize two proposed QAP programs, QAP A and QAP B.

Beginning January 1, 2015, there will be a single QAP, and the associated verified RINs will be referred to as Q-RINs.

USDA Promotes Rural Wood-to-Energy Projects

usda-logoRural energy projects from wood on the land where it’s grown are getting a boost. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) awarded more than $2.5 million in grants to develop wood energy teams in 11 states and an additional $1.25 million for nine wood energy projects.

“Renewable wood energy is part of the Obama Administration’s ‘all of the above’ energy strategy,” [Agriculture Secretary Tom] Vilsack said. “Working with our partners, the Forest Service is supporting development of wood energy projects that promote sound forest management, expand regional economies and create new rural jobs.”

The federal funds will leverage more than $4.5 million in investments from USDA partners. Under the terms of the agreements announced today, private, state and federal organizations will work together to stimulate the development of additional wood energy projects in their states. Activities may include workshops that provide technical, financial and environmental information, preliminary engineering assessments and community outreach needed to support development of wood energy projects.

Grant recipients are from: Arizona, Colorado, Kentucky, Montana, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin and West Virginia.

In addition, USDA announced money to use woody material from the National Forest System lands, such as beetle-killed trees, to improve forest health and aid in wildfire prevention. More information is available on the Statewide Wood Energy Teams (SWET) and Wood to Energy Grant Recipients website.

Company to Make Biodiesel Ingredient in Iowa

ia-flag1Following up on last week’s story of an un-named company planning on building a plant in Iowa to make a key biodiesel ingredient, that company has now been identified. This article in the Mason City (IA) Globe Gazette says New Heaven Chemicals Inc. will start construction at a plant to make sodium methylate at the Manly Terminal in northern Iowa immediately.

“This will be the company’s very first United States location and we are so proud to be a partner with them on this project,” [Teresa Nicholson, executive director of the Winnebago-Worth Counties Betterment Council] said.

Construction is anticipated to completed by the end of 2014. Manufacturing start-up is planned for January 2015.

New Heaven Chemicals is a newly incorporated Iowa company with locations in eight countries worldwide.

Total capital investment in the Manly site is approximately $8.85 million, with a planned expansion in the next three years, Nicholson said.

At start-up, the company will manufacture 12,000 tons of sodium methylate. The planned expansion will triple that capacity, Nicholson said.

This should be of particular interest to the large biodiesel manufacturing market in Iowa and Southern Minnesota as this will be the first sodium methylate plant in the area. The only other sodium methylate manufacturers are located in Indiana, Texas and Alabama.

The Iowa Economic Development Authority and the local county supervisors have approved a combination of tax credits and financial assistance to the company.

Iowa Looks to Attract Company Making Biodiesel Ingredient

ia-flag1A county in northern Iowa is looking to attract a company that makes an important ingredient in biodiesel production. This article from KIMT TV says the Worth County Board of Supervisors is considering some incentives to attract a company that would produce sodium methylate and, if approved, would be the first place in the U.S. for the un-named company.

“Worth County is always pro-development. We’ve been aggressive toward development at that Manly Terminal area. Iowa Northern Railway and their partners have made a significant investment with Manly Terminal development, and we knew when that happened there would be future developments. This is just one of them,” said Teresa Nicholson, Executive Director of Winnebago and Worth County Betterment Council.

Right now, the Manly Terminal is a transport hub of ethanol products and the location of the terminal is what’s attracting the new company to North Iowa. They would produce Sodium Methylate, which is a chemical compound used in bio-diesel production

“The terminal located themselves there because of that 300 mile radius and being able to distribute products for the ethanol industry. This company is also locating because of the 300 mile radius of the bio-diesel industry,” said Nicholson.

The county board is considering a tax incentive. The Iowa Economic Development Authority Board today is also considering the project, which could get underway by the end of this month.

Sapphire’s Algae Project Picked for China Eco Program

Sapphire1Sapphire Energy has been picked to partner with China’s Sinopec’s to produce algae-derived renewable crude oil. This statement from Sapphire says it’s part of the U.S.-China EcoPartnerships program, one of six new U.S.-China partnerships that promote cooperation between the U.S. and Chinese companies that work on clean energy, climate change, and environmental protections.

“This collaboration between our two companies exemplifies the mutual goal of producing cleaner energy solutions for the U.S. and China. Together, we will demonstrate that crude oil from algae can be produced with favorable economics; that it can be integrated into existing fuels distribution networks; and that it will deliver substantial advantages for the reduction of CO2 emissions in both nations,” [said Sapphire Energy CEO Cynthia Warner].

“Projections from the U.S. Energy Information Administration show that China, the world’s most populous country, will be the largest importer of oil in 2014. The need for renewable, sustainable and low carbon energy solutions to meet growing demand is vital. Given China’s leadership and strong support for embracing new, clean, sustainable fuel options, along with the country’s abundant availability of non-farmable land and non-potable water, Sapphire Energy’s proven algae-to-energy technology platform offers a promising solution.”

Sapphire Energy is based in San Diego, Calif. with an R&D facility in Las Cruces, New Mexico, and is currently operating the first Integrated Algal BioRefinery in Columbus, New Mexico.

Benefuel’s New Solid Catalyst Opens Biodiesel Opportunities

BenefuelInnovative ideas in solid catalysts could open new opportunities in the biodiesel market. This article from The American Oil Chemists’ Society’s Inform magazine says Benefuel’s new proprietary solid catalyst process will convert inedible oils and fats into biodiesel, turn both glycerides and free fatty acids into alkyl esters for industrial use, and do it all cheaper than other esterification or transesterification processes.

To us, the path ahead was clear: The biodiesel industry needed a fully continuous, fully integrated production refinery for biodiesel—one that could receive a variety of feedstocks and process them continuously to biodiesel and glycerin. The fixed-bed reactor design and our new catalyst were at the heart of this approach. Although the wide versatility of our catalysts for esterification and transesterification were well recognized, development of other applications had to wait for process validation in biodiesel.

Benefuel’s Ensel® fixed-bed process is quite simple. It employs our second solid catalyst, which was developed in conjunction with Süd-Chemie India Pvt. Ltd. (Kerala)and patented in the United States and Japan (US 8,124,801 and JP 5,470,382) with applications in other countries.

This durable, promoted, metal oxide catalyst is largely insensitive to water and effectively converts every feedstock that has been tested in numerous pilot plant-scale operations. Examples include degummed soybean oil, cottonseed oil, corn oil from dried distillers’ grains with solubles, yellow grease, beef tallow, crude palm oil, palm fatty acid distillate, and even a mixture of degummed soybean oil and oleic acid (7:3, vol/vol).

The article goes on to list several advantages to using a solid catalyst, including economic—continuous production at commercial scale regardless of changes in feedstocks or feedstock blends; a catalyst life of several years instead of “catalyst as reagent,” as in conventional biodiesel production; and an ability to blend feedstocks to achieve optimal cold-flow properties in the final product at a low raw material cost.

Benefuel is retrofitting a biodiesel plant with this technology, the former Axens’ biodiesel plant in Beatrice, Nebraska. The company is also pursuing other opportunities in Southeast Asia and Canada.

REG Could Be Planning Illinois Biodiesel Plant Expansion

reg-logoBiodiesel behemoth Renewable Energy Group (REG) could be looking to expand one of its Illinois biodiesel plants. This article in the Champaign (IL) News-Gazette says REG is buying up lots around its Danville biodiesel plant, as well as asking city officials to vacate alleys and portions of streets around the facility and change the local zoning from residential to industrial. The city council last night unanimously reversed the city’s planning and zoning commission’s original denial of the request back in June.

“We don’t have a project plan that’s approved, but we do have thoughts to expand in the future, and we have thoughts of what we might want to do,” said Bruce Lutes, general manager of the Danville plant at 300 Anderson St., east of the city’s downtown. An approved plan, Lutes added, would be an approved capital project through REG, which has done some expansion at other plants.

“We have an idea of what we would like to do,” he said.

But Lutes would not disclose details about the company’s ideas for future expansion or whether an expansion would include a boost in biodiesel production. REG Danville currently has the capacity to produce 45 million gallons of biodiesel per year, and Lutes said the facility is close to that.

“We have some needs for this place, for space… We are very cramped… and sitting on a small footprint,” said Lutes, who added that the space needs are for additional storage, maintenance and office space. “And there could be other things, but we’re not at the point where we have any definite plans or a project.”

REG officials had characterized the earlier denial of the zoning change as “dumb.”