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.

Virginia Biodiesel Plant Gets Permit Extended

tidewaterbiodiesel1A Virginia biodiesel plant that says it needs a little more time to line up the finances to complete its construction has gotten help from a local city council. This story in the Virginian-Pilot says the Tidewater Biodiesel LLC plant in Deep Creek got a six-month extension on the original permission.

The council initially granted permission for the project in 2011, and the plant was to be completed in 2012. But the company said it had to put its plans on hold because of the economic climate and other complications.

A conditional-use permit allowing the project to go forward was set to expire in May.

In a letter to the city, the company said it has taken longer than expected to line up financing and acquire a 5-acre parcel on Steel Street but is close to finalizing those arrangements. It asked for a six-month extension.

By a unanimous vote, the council extended the permit by a year.

When completed, the refinery will produce 10 million gallons of biodiesel per year from waste vegetable oil.

Expiring Biodiesel Tax Credit Pushed Up Profit

The race to take advantage of the expiring federal biodiesel tax credit helped push up profits for the green fuel. Last week, we told you about the University of Illinois analysis on the profitability of ethanol. Well, the analysts from the school are back, and this time they’ve looked into the factors over the past few years that have helped push up biodiesel profits, and fear of losing the credit seems to help that market.

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Figure 1 presents the (pre-tax) estimates of biodiesel profits based on the prices and model assumptions… When returns are in the black the average is $0.35 per gallon compared to -$0.16 per gallon when returns are in the red. The two largest spikes in profitability can be traced to the effects of biofuels policies. The first major spike in 2011 was directly attributable to the race by diesel blenders to take advantage of the blender tax credit that was set to expire at the end of 2011. The second major spike in 2013 was also directly attributable to the race by diesel blenders to take advantage of the blender tax credit that was set to expire at the end of 2013 (the credit has yet to be reinstated for 2014). In addition, obligated parties under the RFS needed to incentivize expanded biodiesel production in order to meet the increased biodiesel mandate for 2013 and build up the stock of biodiesel RINs that could be used to fill the “renewable gap” in future years.

The analysts also show that 2013′s profit margin was a whopping 64.3 percent, the highest of the seven years examined, and 2011′s profit was also an impressive 54.4 percent. Overall for the period of 2007-2013, investors in biodiesel operations saw a 14.7 percent profit, more than twice ethanol’s 5.8 percent return on investment during the same period.

Research Looks Into Water-Free Biodiesel Brewing

waste-vegetable-oil-for-biodieselEfforts to make biodiesel production even more sustainable might get a boost from research into a water-free method of making the green fuel. This story from Biofuels Journal says researchers at the University of Porto in Portugal are looking at a way to eliminate the water normally used water to remove impurities to meet stringent quality standards.

Instead of water, researchers used catalysts to pre-treat and target impurities such as calcium ‘soaps’ in the biodiesel.

The impurities were then removed by absorption into resins or passing through ceramic membranes.

The researchers were able to produce good quality biodiesel from both virgin vegetable oil and, importantly, waste oils used for frying.

The new process could provide significant economic and environmental benefits compared to other more energy intensive water-based production methods.

The researchers believe that finding more water-free or less-water-consuming methods of making biofuels becomes more and more important as more of the world turns to the alternative fuels.

Biodiesel Bites Back… with a Gator CHOMP!

gator-fuel-webWe’ve told you before about how researchers found a way to turn alligator fat into biodiesel. But this article in Biodiesel Magazine says new findings show a method using a supercritical methanol to make the scaly-sourced biodiesel even more efficiently.

Researchers reported on a novel method this week at the 247th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society, to produce biodiesel from crude animal fats, including waste fat from alligators, using supercritical methanol in a flow reactor. “Conversion of animal fat to biodiesel has been around for some time, but the traditional biodiesel process generates significant quantities of solid waste,” said Thomas Junk with the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. “Our new method creates hardly any such residues.” In an earlier study, Junk used alligator fat and a batch reactor, but for his new research, a flow reactor and supercritical methanol were used. “We set up a flow reactor, and the reaction converting alligator fat to biodiesel happened within a few minutes,” said Junk. “That’s important for commercial manufacturing, where you want to produce as much fuel as quickly as possible.”

The biggest advantage to using the supercritical method is that it doesn’t require a catalyst, which creates residue. In addition, the fat doesn’t have to be extracted and can be used in its raw form. That means while gator fat could be a viable feedstock, the researchers also see a bigger application for even more plentiful animals fats, such as chicken and beef, that might otherwise be dumped into a landfill.

German Biodiesel Sales Have Big Drop

Sales of German biodiesel dropped dramatically last year. Germany’s Union zur Förderung von Oel- und Proteinpflanzen (UFOP), an association that advocates for oil and protein crops in that country, says 300,000 fewer tonnes of biodiesel were produced in 2013, down from the previous five-year average of 2.5 million tonnes to just 2.2 million tonnes.
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UFOP has determined that the actual decline in vegetable methyl esters turns out to be much more dramatic because the data of the BAFA also includes the offset amount of hydrated vegetable oil (HVO) and biodiesel from waste oils. Assuming HVO sales as in the previous year (around 420,000 tonnes) and an estimated sale of up to 200,000 tonnes of biodiesel from waste oil, the actual sale of conventional biodiesel is only about 1.6 million tonnes.

The consumption statistics spell out the significance of pure fuel marketing in the years 2007 to 2008 and the total energy quota of 5.25 percent introduced in 2009 as well as its increase to 6.25 for the period 2010 to 2014. However, with the resolution for the Biofuel Quota Act having been passed as a clear indication of political will, the UFOP has criticised that volume balancing for compensation of the incremental reduction in the tax concession – biodiesel has been subject to full taxation since 2013 – will creep in due to the double apportionment of biofuels from waste oils and as a result of HVO imports.

Celebrating Biodiesel Day Advocating for Green Fuel

biodieselday1While yesterday was National Biodiesel Day, our friends at the National Biodiesel Board were not just cutting birthday cake. They were advocating on Capitol Hill for the green fuel. March 18th marks the 156th birthday of Rudolf Diesel, the inventor of the engine that bears his name and a man who wanted it to run on peanut oil, not petroleum. The NBB’s governing board spent the day talking to lawmakers and taking part in meetings in Washington, D.C.

While hearing more about the NBB’s communications efforts, NBB Governing Board Member Tim Keaveney, HERO BX (shown to the right), reviews a selection of the several dozen letters to the editor published to date regarding the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposal to cut drastically the amount of biodiesel required to be blended into the Nation’s fuel supply.

biodieselday2Meanwhile, in this picture on the left, NBB Governing Board members listen to representatives of Bingham McCutchen as they provide an update on litigation related to the RFS.

In a separate news release, while pointing out that the EPA is proposing 1.28 billion gallons of biodiesel to be blended – a sharp drop from last year’s record production in the biomass-based diesel of 1.8 billion gallons – NBB officials made another push for biodiesel.

“Nearly every product that ends up on a store shelf is dependent on diesel fuel to get it there. That heavy reliance on one fuel means our economy is directly linked to petroleum price swings. It’s in everyone’s best interest to have a choice in transportation fuel, and that’s where biodiesel – America’s first Advanced Biofuel – comes in,” said Joe Jobe, National Biodiesel Board CEO.

Old Pipeline Could Get New Life Carrying Biodiesel

Hawaii_state_flagAn old pipeline in Hawaii originally used to transport petroleum-based asphalt could get a new life carrying biodiesel. This article from the Hawaii Tribune-Herald says the state Board of Land and Natural Resources is considering whether to allow the Shell Oil pipeline built in the 1960s at Hilo Harbor to carry the green fuel.

A new company, Hoku Kai Biofuels LLC, has acquired the old asphalt plant property and wants to use the pipe to transport vegetable-based biofuels from cargo ships to storage tanks on its land, according to the state Department of Land and Natural Resources.

BLNR will consider whether to grant in concept a 65-year easement for the pipeline. Final approval is contingent on a finding of no significant impact from an environmental assessment.

In a memo to the board, DLNR staff say the biofuels would be “distributed to various power producers as an alternative to fossil fuels.”

Officials with Hoku Kai Biofuels say they have had some conversations with Hawaii Electric Light Co. about buying the fuel.

Minnesota Biodiesel Mandate Survives Delay Attempt

mnstatelegis1A bill that would have delayed implementation of a 10 percent biodiesel mandate in Minnesota diesel fuels was stopped in a state legislative committee. This story from WDAZ-TV says the bill from Sen. Melisa Franzen, D-Edina, was defeated overwhelmingly in the state Senate Commerce Committee.

She said most cars and light trucks are built to handle 5 percent biodiesel, which now is required to be sold in Minnesota, not the planned 10 percent, known as B10.

Biodiesel supporters said they have heard this argument before, reaching back years to when ethanol first was required to be blended with gasoline. Problems have been few and far between once the state mandated that gasoline and diesel contain plant-based fuel, they said.

Jerry Schoenfeld, who represents soybean farmers and the Minnesota Biodiesel Council, said those who support Franzen’s bill sit on a biodiesel task force but never brought up their complaints until the bill surfaced recently.

Both sides used Illinois as an example to support their cause. Those wanting a B10 delay pointed to fuel-blamed engine problems such as clogged filters and acceleration hesitation. Biodiesel supporters said that even in Illinois, Mercedes-Benz praised biodiesel and urged owners to monitor oil levels and strictly follow oil change intervals, but few problems have been reported.

A 2008 law in Minnesota upped the current 5 percent blend to 10 percent when state officials believe there is enough biodiesel to meet that demand, and they had decided that will come on July 1st.

Wind Power Line to Move Energy to the East

wind energy in U.SA proposed $2.2 billion, 750-mile long, high-voltage overhead transmission line could solve some of the issues of getting wind energy from the areas out west producing it to the areas in the east that need that power. This article from the Minneapolis Star Tribune says Clean Line Energy Partners’ idea is to build a line from the wind turbine farms of Kansas to Indiana, where it can be distributed to urban areas. But the project is meeting some resistance from farmers in the areas it would traverse.

The idea is supported by environmental groups who say it is an opportunity to take a big step forward for an energy source that could reduce the nation’s reliance on fossil fuels and cut air pollution. Clean Line has four other transmission line projects in the works in the West and Midwest.

Clean Line says the project will be an economic boon, with all four states seeing new jobs for construction and local companies providing things like parts and concrete. Lawlor said consumers would benefit, too, by the new source of power that would drive down electricity costs.

Yet many landowners have organized in opposition to Clean Line. They worry about whether the towers and lines will reduce property values, get in the way of farming operations like crop-dusting and irrigation, and even create health risks for those living so close to high-voltage wires.

“This is some of our best ground,” said Kent Dye, 56, who farms about 7,000 acres in northeast Missouri’s Monroe County. “This line — there’s no proven need for it. There are no contracts to provide power, no contracts to sell on the other end.”

Clean Line officials believe that after they have a chance to talk to the farmers and ranchers who have concerns, they’ll be able to convince them of the benefits of easements they can collect money on and the long-term environmental benefits for everyone.

Analysis: Despite EPA Issues, Ethanol Profitable

While most of the news around ethanol seems to focus on its issues with the government, a new analysis shows that the green fuel is in one of its longest profitability runs ever. This analysis from the University of Illinois shows that despite more recent news about troubles with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and its proposal to cut the amount of ethanol in the Nation’s fuel supply, things have been pretty positive for the ethanol industry lately.

There have been basically four sub-periods in terms of net profits: i) high profits from 2007 through mid-2008, ii) breakeven from mid-2008 through the end of 2011, iii) losses for 2012 through early 2013, and iv) high profits again from spring 2013 through the present. The most recent period is the longest run of uninterrupted profits since the series began in early 2007. During this one-year run, profits averaged $0.93 per bushel of corn processed and reached a new high of $2.55 per bushel in early December 2013. The picture presented here is certainly not one of an industry that has suffered because of recent policy proposals.
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The author cites several factors that could keep the recent run of profits from continuing for a longer period of time, including DDGS prices at unprecedented high levels, as well as documented “co-integrating” relationship between ethanol and corn prices, simply, if the ethanol price is too high relative to corn prices, then either the ethanol price must fall or the corn price must rise.

Farmers Offered Incentive to Use Propane

perc-farmFarmers are being offered an incentive to use clean-burning propane in their operations. During the recent Commodity Classic in San Antonio, Tx., Mark Leitman, director of business development and marketing for the Propane Education and Research Council (PERC), talked to Tom Steever with Brownfield Ag News and told him that his council is funded by a 4/10-of-a-cent checkoff that helps research, safety and training programs, and includes a commitment to ag-based operations in the Propane Farm Incentive Program.

“We’re constantly looking for new technologies to invest in, trying to find a new application for propane in agriculture or make a grain dryer, for example, and make it better,” he said, adding that new propane engines are much more efficient than the older models, boosting output by 25 percent or more, as demonstrated from their non-scientific findings from last year’s farm incentive program that had farmers reporting a 36 percent reduction in fuel use and 57 percent in cost savings. That’s why he’s optimistic they’ll get more farmers to sign up for this year’s incentive. “We’d love farmers to take advantage of our Farm Incentive program, where they could receive an incentive of up to $5,000.”

Mark admitted a perfect storm of issues – big crop drying years and a colder than usual winter, among other things – did cause a significant spike in prices for propane this year, but he believes some important lessons were learned that will help his members keep prices more stable in the future.

“We’re taking a look at the infrastructure and trying to figure out where our organization can invest in ways to improve things so we’re better prepared moving forward,” he said.

More information on the incentive program is available at Agpropane.com.

Listen to Mark’s interview with Brownfield Ag News here: Mark Leitman, PERC

2014 Commodity Classic Photos

NYC’s First Large-Scale Biodiesel Plant Coming

unitedmetro1The first large-scale biodiesel in New York City could soon become a reality. This article from the New York World says former Republican mayoral candidate and Gristedes magnate John Catsimatidis is resurrecting the Metro Fuel Oil project.

Catsimatidis-owned United Biofuels is seeking approval from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation for a permit to convert an existing fuel-storage facility on Newtown Creek to take vegetable oil and turn it into fuel that can power diesel-burning vehicles.

Catsimatidis seized the opportunity to acquire the biodiesel operation in the midst of his 2013 campaign, buying it from bankrupt Metro Fuel Oil Corporation and promising to preserve 130 employees’ jobs.

“We wanted to buy a piece of it,” Catsimatidis said in a phone interview. “Before we knew it, we owned the entire thing. By accident, we bought it.”

Metro Fuel Oil had been granted $10 million in bond financing and other benefits from the New York City Industrial Development Agency in 2007 to construct the biodiesel facility but went bust before it could finish the job.

Officials say the refinery would produce between 40 and 50 million gallons of biodiesel per year, and they hope to have it open by the end of this year.

Beers Greened with Biodiesel for St. Pat’s Day

erin1Today is St. Patrick’s Day, and of course, in pubs, bars and restaurants across the country (and the globe), patrons will be toasting the Irish saint and the Emerald Isle with a green beer or two (or many, many more). Why not make your choice a truly green beer and not just one colored with food dye? This article from Biodiesel Magazine says there are many choices of breweries that use biodiesel in their operation.

One example is a company whose flagship Pale Ale brew even has a green label: Sierra Nevada. Ranked as the second largest U.S. craft brewing company by the Brewers Association, Sierra Nevada has used a blend of up to 20 percent biodiesel (B20) for the past six years. Biodiesel blends fuel 15 long-haul and local delivery trucks for the Chico, Calif., company.

“At the brewery we’re always striving to essentially close the loop, and biodiesel helps us turn what could be a waste product into something useful,” said Ryan Arnold, Sierra Nevada communications manager. “The trucks perform well. With up to B20, we don’t see much change in mileage.”

The company grows eight acres of hops and has an onsite garden at its restaurant in Chico, where it also fuels tractors with biodiesel. Other suitability initiatives include diverting about 99.8 percent of its solid waste from the landfill and housing one of the largest privately owned solar arrays in the country.

Several other choices for biodiesel-green beers include Red Lodge Ales, which has used biodiesel for almost 10 years in its small fleet of delivery vehicles; New Belgium Brewing Company, which includes the tasty Fat Tire brands and uses biodiesel made from recycled restaurant grease to fuel trucks and generators for its famous Tour de Fat, a philanthropic “bicycle, beer and bemusement” event that will travel to 10 cities this year; Steam Whistle Brewing, a Toronto, Canada-based craft brewery has a commercial delivery fleet made up entirely of biodiesel-fueled Mack straight trucks and Isuzu Cabover trucks; and Stone Brewing Co., which has a fleet using B20.

So have a truly green beer this St. Patty’s Day. Long live biodiesel and Erin go Braugh!

DuPont Claims Win in Ethanol Enzyme Lawsuit

DuPont_logoDuPont is claiming victory in a lawsuit over a patent on an enzyme to help produce ethanol. Ethanol Producer Magazine reports the case between DuPont-owned Danisco and Novozymes has been ordered to be returned to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

A DuPont spokesperson noted that the ruling was a win for Danisco DuPont. DuPont acquired Genencor International, an ethanol enzyme company, in 2011. “A panel of three judges ruled that the trial court should not have dismissed as premature Danisco’s declaratory judgment lawsuit against Novozymes given the two companies’ extensive history of patent litigation and Patent Office disputes involving alpha amylase enzymes (genetically modified industrial enzymes used for converting corn and other plant material into ethanol),” the statement said. “In the lawsuit that is now revived, Danisco sought a declaration that (1) its RSL alpha amylase enzymes did not infringe Novozymes’ ‘573 patent; (2) that the Novozymes ‘573 patent was invalid, and (3) that Danisco’s ‘240 patent had priority over Novozymes’ ‘573 patent.”

Meanwhile, Novozymes officials say they now consider the case closed, and the “decision does not in any way change or limit Novozymes’ product offerings to customers and the decision does not affect Novozymes’ financial outlook.”

Award for Solar-Powered Remote Weather Monitoring

vantageconnectA solar-powered system to remotely monitor the weather has been recognized for its use in the bioenergy and agriculture industries. California-based Davis Instruments picked up a Gold Award for Remote Monitoring at the 2014 Connected World Conference in Chicago for its Vantage Connect.

“With the growing need to manage water resources, protect crops from frost and mitigate damage to our environment, we believe that remote weather data is more important than ever.” said Susan Foxall, Marketing Director, Davis Instruments.

Solar-powered, Vantage Connect does not require an external power source and uses the cellular network to transmit weather data to the Internet. Real-time alarms for specific weather conditions alert users via text and email messages to changing conditions, allowing them to identify and manage potential problems.

The Connected World award was one of two awards Davis won, also picking up honors for CarChip ConnectR, Davis’ telematics solution for fleet monitoring.