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.

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.

Texas A&M Gets Grant for Biomass-to-Energy Project

swregionaldairy1Texas A&M is part of a nearly $16 million nationwide grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in part to fund projects for turning biomass into power. This article from the Stephenville (TX) Empire-Tribune says A&M’s AgriLife Research received money under the USDA’s Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) to help fund a two-year program to demonstrate developing technologies for water purification, treatment and recycling and power generation using biomass at Tarleton State University’s Southwest Regional Dairy Center.

More than $780,000 has been allocated for the two-year project, which aims to demonstrate a proven water treatment and recycling technology developed by Global Restoration and a biomass conversion system developed by [AgriLife Research scientist Dr. Sergio Capareda, associate professor of biological and agricultural engineering at Texas A&M] and others at Texas A&M to produce electrical power.

Capareda says the technology demonstrations will convert dry manure produced by the milking herd at Tarleton’s dairy center into heat and electricity for on-site use. The project also plans to develop resource-conservation practices in handling wastewater and solids from animal manure at the facility while developing several spreadsheet-based monitoring systems.

“The Global Restoration group will take on the water coming out of the facility and the dairy’s lagoon, and purify the water so it may be recycled,” Capareda explained. “This generates large amounts of dry manure, which will be used by our system to generate heat and electrical power.”

Officials say the project could eliminate or at least reduce the size of open ponds, as well as offer another power and revenue stream for farmers.

Charged by Biodiesel, Electric Bike Sets Record

killajoule1The world’s fastest electric motorcycle gets its power from a biodiesel-fueled generator. This article from Torque News says Eva Hakansson made a 270 mph run at Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah in the KillaJoule electric streamliner motorcycle, making it the the fastest electric motorcycle in the world, and its pilot the fastest woman on a motorcycle.

Making its runs and then returning for a recharge from a biodiesel generator as the chutes got repacked and the ice water cooling system was flushed and refilled, the KillaJoule needs little attention outside of these maintenance items between runs. Yet this motorcycle, one of the simplest machines on the raceway, beats all but the smallest handful in speed.

The Shootout had the KillaJoule smashing its own 240 mph record with a phenomenal 270.224 mph average. The team believes that this speed is as fast as the motorcycle can go in its current configuration. The team plans to call this a race year and return to the garage for more tinkering to see if they can’t improve aerodynamics, push a little more juice out of the batteries, and otherwise work towards a 300 mph goal for 2015.

Hakansson says she might shoot to break that 300 mph barrier as early as next year.

Biodiesel Helps Iowa Football Make Winning Drive

iowafootballbus1Iowa is one of the biggest biodiesel producing states in the country, so it makes sense that one of their flagship football teams uses the green fuel to get it to the field this year. The Iowa Soybean Association is touting the fact that biodiesel, mostly made from soybean oil, is being used to power the University of Iowa Hawkeyes’ team bus, and the association is a proud sponsor.

“Iowa farmers excel at providing food, fuel and fiber,” said Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) President Tom Oswald, who farms near Cleghorn. “Biodiesel is a win for the state’s economy and environment. Teaming up with the Hawkeyes to improve air quality by using America’s first advanced biofuel is a victory for all Iowans.”

University of Iowa Athletics Director Gary Barta said the Hawkeye family recognizes the continuous improvement of farmers and the quality products they grow and provide.

“We have a great respect for the role farmers play in feeding and fueling our state and the Hawkeye Nation,” he said. “We’re proud to partner with the Iowa Soybean Association. They’re a great addition to Hawkeye Game Day activities.”

Iowa has 13 biodiesel plants, producing about 184 million gallons per year.

Blue Sun Biodiesel Earns Rare BQ-9000 Quality Status

Blue Sun st joe 2A biodiesel refinery in Missouri has earned a rare quality production status. Blue Sun’s St. Joseph, Mo., biodiesel refinery joined just 50 other companies in the country to receive BQ-9000 Producer status from the National Biodiesel Accreditation Commission (NABC) and National Biodiesel Board (NBB), a cooperative and voluntary program that combines the ASTM standard for biodiesel, ASTM D6751, and a quality systems program that includes storage, sampling, testing, blending, shipping, distribution, and fuel management practices.

“We have always been focused on producing the very highest quality fuel. This recognition of Blue Sun as a BQ-9000 Producer validates the focus and attention to quality fuel that our team gives every day,” said Leigh Freeman, CEO of Blue Sun.

The Blue Sun process includes a biodiesel distillation step, which further elevates the quality of the fuel. Blue Sun fuel exceeds ASTM D6751, particularly in low contaminants including very low monoglycerides (below 0.1%) and excellent cold soak performance.

“Blue Sun consistently demonstrated for BQ-9000 accreditation high quality in all samples received and tested by Gorge Analytical,” said Jeff Fetkenhour, President of Gorge Analytical, LLC.

Blue Sun’s St. Joe Refinery can produce up to 30 million gallons of biodiesel per year.

Vermont Utility to Turn Sunflowers into Biodiesel

greenmtnpowerA local utility in Vermont will be turning sunflowers into biodiesel and livestock feed. Green Mountain Power announced a new collaboration that will convert the seeds from 20 acres of sunflowers into the green fuel and the feed.

“Green Mountain Power is leading the way in many local energy initiatives,” said Green Mountain Power President and CEO Mary Powell. “Using Vermont sunflowers to power our vehicles and heat our buildings is a beautiful way to keep our energy local and clean.”

Twenty acres of sunflowers are growing at the State Line Farm Biofuels in Shaftsbury and another ten acres are growing at the Ekolott Farm in Newbury. When the oilseeds are harvested this fall, they will be dried and pressed, then the raw oil will be converted to biodiesel, or B100. The solid portion of the seed, the meal, is valuable as a livestock feed. Depending on the crops’ success, the cost of fuel to Green Mountain Power could be up to one dollar less than current B100 prices.

“It is so great to be part of this innovative test with GMP,” said John Williamson of State Line Farm Biofuels. “Projects like this really help support farmers, plus it’s beautiful to see the fields of sunflowers and even more beautiful to realize it will provide a clean and local power source.”

The project is a partnership between GMP, University of Vermont Extension, and the Vermont Bioenergy Initiative, a program that connects diversified agriculture and local renewable energy production for on-farm and community use.

FAPRI: Biodiesel, Ethanol Feedstocks Bigger than Expected

FAPRI logoA new report shows that the main feedstocks for biodiesel and ethanol, soybeans and corn, are going to have bigger harvests than previously expected. The Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute at the University of Missouri says while the big crops will push prices for those feedstocks down – even further down than what was projected just a couple of weeks ago – soybean and corn prices will recover a bit as markets adjust.

- Larger corn and soybean crops translate into lower projected 2014/15 prices for many grains and oilseeds. Corn prices drop to $3.50 per bushel, soybeans to $9.92 per bushel… In all … cases, these projected prices are close to the midpoint of the price ranges reported in the September USDA World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates.

– Larger crops in 2014/15 also result in larger beginning stocks and total crop supplies in 2015/16. As a result, corn and soybean prices for next year’s crop are lower than projected in August. Corn prices average $3.80 per bushel in 2015/16, and soybean prices drop to $9.04 per bushel.

– Prices recover as markets adjust. Corn prices average $4.10 per bushel, soybeans average $10.21 per bushel … over the 2016‐18 period.

Previously, FAPRI said that corn prices would stay at about $4 per bushel for corn, but the new, bigger numbers for yield estimates push those prices down even more.

Procter & Gamble’s $230 Mil Biomass Project Moves Forward

albanybiomassA project to put a massive biomass facility at a Procter & Gamble facility in Georgia is moving forward. This article from the Albany (GA) Herald says the $230 million biomass facility has received the go-ahead from local officials and some tax incentives that will ensure the project comes to fruition.

The resolution gives the principles of the agreement, who will be united in the project as Albany Green Energy LLC, two years in which they will not be required to pay local taxes. After that, over the next 21 years, Albany Green Energy will pay $375,000 annually in taxes.

[P&G Global Business Development Manager Bob] Bourbon, who develops business partnerships for P&G Corporate, called the agreement on the biomass project “a partnership on steroids.” He noted that each of seven partners — Georgia Power, the Georgia Public Service Commission, Sterling Energy Assets, Procter & Gamble Corporate, Constellation New Energy, the federal government and the Payroll Development Authority — is vital to the project reaching the end zone.

“Take any one of these partners out of the equation, and it wouldn’t work,” Bourbon said. “Using my football analogy, yes, we’re at first-and-goal, but everyone who gets that close to the goal line doesn’t score. Everyone involved in this project is doing everything possible to make it work. If it doesn’t, there will be a very good reason.”

The 20-year partnership deal is seen as giving the local community a very steady economic anchor, while bringing more clean energy to the region.

The plant is expected to go online in the summer of 2017.

Chevy Offers Van with Biodiesel, E85 Options

chevyvan1Getting close to the end of the year for automakers, which means plenty of them are trying to move what’s left of their 2014 inventory. If you’ve got a big bunch of kids and you’re in the market for some eco-friendly wheels, Chevrolet’s G-Series Express Passenger van might be just the thing to look at right now, with B20 biodiesel-compatible and E85 engine options available.

The powerful Duramax turbo-diesel V-8 is offered in some Express models, delivering best-in-class torque and horsepower. Known by its “LGH” engine code, it is rated at 260 horsepower (194 kW) and 525 lb.-ft. of torque (712 Nm).

Designed to meet more stringent government emissions requirements, the LGH Duramax employs a robust EGR cooling system, along with revised turbocharger tuning that helps enhance EGR performance. It also has a large-capacity selective catalytic reduction system. In fact, the engine features the latest in emission control technology, making it the cleanest Duramax engine ever produced. NOx emissions are controlled via a Selective Catalyst Reduction aftertreatment system that uses urea-based Diesel (Emission) Exhaust Fluid (DEF). The DEF is housed in a 5.83-gallon (20 L) tank and needs to be replenished about every 5,000 miles (8,000 km). Electrically heated lines feed the DEF to the emission system to ensure adequate delivery in cold weather…

A FlexFuel E85 version of the 5.3L V-8 is also available. It delivers the same horsepower and torque as its gasoline counterpart, but runs on E85 ethanol fuel or a mixture of E85 and gasoline. E85 contains 85 percent ethanol, a renewable fuel that is produced domestically.

As I said, this is definitely for a BIG family… or just anyone who needs to haul a bunch of people… as it comes in models able to carry up to 15 people and all their cargo.

Boise State’s Biodiesel Truck to Take Its Shot at Salt Flats

greenspeedtruck1As one truck from Utah State University running on biodiesel just finished tearing up the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, another truck from another school out west is out to prove its power running on vegetable oil and biodiesel. Boise State University’s Greenspeed club is looking at breaking the land speed record for its class of truck at Bonneville at more than 215 mph later this month.

“We’re just using vegetable oil as proof of the concept,” said Dave Schenker, mechanical engineering student at Boise State and co-founder of the club. “It’s in its raw state, not even a fuel. Here we are beating petroleum at its own game.”

According to Schenker, their diesel engine has only been modified for power, which is a testament to the value vegetable oil has as a fuel source. When vegetable oil is heated to 175 degrees, it becomes the consistency of regualar fuel, which can then be used with their diesel engine.

However, this isn’t the only fuel source they use. They also run on diesel and a biodiesel, which they hope to start making on their own soon.

“Vegetable oil is not a good fuel for over the road use, which regular people use in their vehicles,” said Patrick Johnston, graduate of Boise State’s mechanical engineering program. “What we really advocate is biodiesel derived from algae.”

The truck has a computer that reads 70 points of contact on the truck between the chassis and engine, allowing the team can see exactly how each fuel type works with the truck to choose the most efficient.

Team members hope to be running on their own algae-biodiesel next year.