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.

Greenbelt Resources Recognized for Biofuels System

new_economy_awards_logoA company that turns locally available feedstocks into biofuels, as well as fertilizer, animal feed and filtered water, is being recognized for its green efforts. Greenbelt Resources picked up the “Best Biofuels and Biochemicals Solution” in The New Economy magazine’s annual 2014 Clean Tech Awards.

Greenbelt Resources’ small scale systems, can be more energy efficient than traditional large-scale plants due to its patent-pending energy saving membrane-based dehydration module. Where deployed, these systems reduce waste outflow, reduce transport of the F’s, minimize environmental impact, produce overall cost savings and foster local job retention.

“Our unique modular local-scale technology turns industry assumptions upside-down and proves the practicality of cost-effective local resource utilization,” says Floyd Butterfield, chief technology officer of Greenbelt Resources. “Recognition by The New Economy proves that global business leaders share our vision of a distributed energy source future.”

“We envision future off-grid installations to be capable of converting locally grown crops into fuel for both transportation and home appliances, fertilizer, animal feed, distilled water, heat, electricity, and connectivity,” emphasizes Darren Eng, CEO of Greenbelt Resources. “For example, a community in Africa could utilize the system to convert local feedstock into fuel for vehicles and heating stoves, distribute excess electricity to a local grid providing children light at night for their studies, and provide families with clean drinking water.”

The award will be presented at the London Stock Exchange in March of 2015.

Leifmark, New Holland Bale Stover for Ethanol

leifmark-new-holland-1Baling corn stover is part of the next generation of cellulosic ethanol, and two major players in the green fuel and agribusiness markets are moving that process forward. Leifmark, LLC and New Holland Agriculture recently teamed up to test equipment and methods used to gather, bale, and store the corn stover left behind after the grain harvest in two Iowa cornfields.

Paul Kamp, Leifmark’s Chicago-based partner, coordinated the 520-bale collection. “Using local specialists and best practices, we showed stover harvesting on area farms is very practical. That’s good news for three ethanol producers now considering new businesses making cellulosic ethanol from biomass.”

Developing more efficient methods and equipment brings down the overall cost of stover, says Kamp, whose company markets Inbicon Biomass Refinery technology in North America.

“Couple lower stover prices with a predictable supply chain,” adds Kamp, “and you reduce risk perceptions with biomass. So future plant owners can feel confident putting their capital into cellulosic ethanol projects.”

New Holland Agriculture’s Scott Wangsgard emphasizes that “technology companies like Inbicon have certain specifications for corn stover bales. To meet them, we’ve been designing specialized equipment that also boosts collection efficiencies.”

New Holland used a high-capacity baler and automated bale wagon that picks up, transports, and stacks the 3′ x 4′ x 8′ square bales required for Inbicon’s refining process. Officials say the square bales handle more easily than round ones, store in much less space, and pack tighter so flatbed trucks can haul more tonnage per trip.

Researchers Turn Biodiesel By-Product into Lactic Acid

chem-worldResearchers have found a way to turn a biodiesel by-product into a chemical important to the production of plastic. This article from Chemistry World says work in Switzerland has found a sustainable method to synthesise platform chemical lactic acid from waste glycerol.

The increasing demand for biodiesel means an oversupply of glycerol and, currently, any excess glycerol must be disposed of. Glycerol corresponds to around 10wt% of the fuel made. Predictions expect glycerol production from biodiesel to reach about 3.7 million tons in 2020, having seen around 2.5 million tons produced in 2014.

Lactic acid is commonly used to produce commodity chemicals like acrylic acid and pyruvic acid. However, polymerising lactic acid can give a biodegradable plastic called polylactic acid (PLA). PLA has a variety of applications as a packaging material and is anticipated to be a greener replacement for the common synthetic polymer PET.

The article goes on to say this new process for synthesising lactic acid makes the production cheaper and more sustainable.

E85 Ethanol is a Popular Fuel in Iowa

Three Brothers Car Repair E85 pumpE85 ethanol is becoming a popular fuel in Iowa. The Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) says motorists in the state bought more than 3.3 million gallons of E85 in the third quarter of 2014, the third highest E85 sales in any quarter on record, and a more than 350,000 gallon increase (12 percent) over the second quarter of 2014.

“It’s encouraging to see motorists stepping up to improve air quality in Iowa while taking advantage of attractive E85 prices in the third quarter of 2014,” stated IRFA Executive Director Monte Shaw. “Price is often a motivator for consumers, but there are many reasons to use E85, including the energy security, environmental and local economic development benefits. And, while falling petroleum prices may curtail E85 sales in the fourth quarter, a record setting year for E85 sales in Iowa is still within reach.”

In Iowa, E85 is a fuel blend containing between 70 and 85 percent ethanol. E85 is currently sold at more than 200 fueling sites in Iowa, and can be used in all flex-fuel vehicles (FFV). To determine if your vehicle can use E85, please check your owner’s manual, the vehicle’s fuel cap, or click here for a list of FFVs.

A list of E85 retailers in Iowa is available here.

POET-DSM Commends Partners in Cellulosic Ethanol Venture

POET DSM logoPOET-DSM is commending its partners in a cellulosic ethanol venture. This company news release says POET is praising Suomen Bioetanoli Oy and the government of Finland after the Finnish government announced a 30 million euros grant to Suomen Bioetanoli Oy to build a plant that will convert wheat straw into about 24 million gallons of ethanol annually.

“Suomen Bioetanoli Oy is taking a bold step forward in growing Europe’s bioeconomy and expanding our sources for transportation fuel,” said Rob van Leen, Chairman of the POET-DSM Board. “Additionally, the grant award shows Finland’s firm commitment to growing sustainable energy production. Our joint venture partners look forward to working with Suomen Bioetanoli Oy to make commercial cellulosic bioethanol a reality in Finland.”

POET and DSM are in discussions with Suomen Bioetanoli Oy on how to utilize process, yeast and enzyme technology from the respective companies for the conversion of cellulose to ethanol.

RFA Refutes Univ of Minnesota Report on Ethanol

RFANewlogoThose who advocate for ethanol are refuting an academic report about the green fuel. The Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) is countering conclusions made by researchers at the University of Minnesota claiming that ethanol is more harmful to humans and the environment than gasoline. RFA examined the research, recently published in the “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,” finding it ran counter to real-world data, contradicted current lifecycle modeling and research, and omitted key variables when determining the environmental impact of electric vehicles and gasoline, ultimately undermining the credibility of the study.

RFA notes that the paper’s conclusions “…stand at odds with real-world data showing decreases in ozone and PM2.5 concentrations…” and that “Data from 222 EPA sensing sites show that ozone and PM2.5 concentrations have trended downward during the period in which the use of ethanol-blended gasoline has dramatically increased.”

The RFA response goes on to show that “On a full lifecycle basis, the study’s results are contradictory to the results from the Department of Energy’s latest GREET model” and that “There is a substantial body of evidence proving that ethanol reduces both exhaust hydrocarbons and CO emissions, and thus can help reduce the formation of ground-level ozone.”

The study’s reliability is also called into question as it omitted key factors when reaching conclusions on the environmental impact of gasoline and electric vehicles. RFA points out that the University of Minnesota conclusion “…excludes NOx and SOx emissions associated with crude oil extraction, a decision that grossly underrepresents the actual lifecycle emissions impacts of gasoline.” RFA concluded, “Omitting key emissions sources from the lifecycle assessment of EVs and crude oil inappropriately skews the paper’s results for the overall emissions impacts of these fuels and vehicles.”

You can read all of the RFA’s response here.

Proposed Pennsylvania Biodiesel Plant Closer to Reality

pennsylvaniaflagA proposed biodiesel plant for York, Pennsylvania, is closer to reality, as the city Redevelopment Authority (RDA) green-lighted a development agreement with two entrepreneurs who want to turn a long-vacant, RDA-owned industrial building into a biodiesel plant. This article from the York Daily Record says Britta Schwab and James Munene can buy the RDA-owned building for $1,000, if they also get the financing for the refinery.

Schwab and Munene will have to satisfy the RDA that they have financing lined up for the project, including $114,000 they told the authority it will take to renovate the 10,000-square-foot building. They also would have to meet other conditions spelled out in the yet-to-be negotiated development agreement, including submitting plans detailing the renovations they plan for the building, said Shilvosky Buffaloe, the city’s deputy director of economic development.

Schwab and Munene, in their presentation to the authority on Wednesday, said they would create five to 10 new jobs for workers to produce biofuel from used restaurant cooking oil and grease. They plan to provide jobs to ex-offenders, among others, at a time when many in York struggle to find work.

“We’re very excited to have the opportunity to do business in York City,” Schwab said Wednesday.

When completed, the refinery could produce up to 5,000 gallons of fuel a day by fall 2015.

Iowa Lawmakers Honored for Support of Renewables

Three retiring state lawmakers in Iowa have been honored for “their unwavering support and leadership on renewable fuels.” The Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) says the outgoing lawmakers were given the “Lifetime Champion of Renewable Fuels” award for their long, distinguished careers and steadfast support of renewable fuels.

IRFA President-elect Brian Cahill, former Sens. Nancy Boettger and Daryl Beall, and IRFA Executive Director Monte Shaw.

IRFA President-elect Brian Cahill, former Sens. Nancy Boettger and Daryl Beall, and IRFA Executive Director Monte Shaw.

“It’s bittersweet to see these distinguished individuals leave the state legislature after long, successful careers, and we wish them nothing but the best in the future,” stated IRFA Policy Director Grant Menke. “Their unwavering support and leadership on renewable fuels issues will be greatly missed, and we sincerely thank them for their enduring accomplishments.”

The Lifetime Champion of Renewable Fuels awards were given to:

State Senator Daryl Beall of Fort Dodge, Iowa. Sen. Beall was an enthusiastic supporter of renewable fuels who worked tirelessly to promote ethanol and biodiesel both inside and outside the state legislature.

State Senator Nancy Boettger of Harlan, Iowa. As a farmer, Sen. Boettger was a rock solid supporter of renewable fuels who was critical in winning support for Iowa’s renewable fuels policy, including tax credits for retailers offering higher ethanol and biodiesel blends and fuel dispensing equipment grants for renewable fuels upgrades.

State Senator Hubert Houser of Carson, Iowa. Sen. Houser was also instrumental in passing the framework of today’s renewable fuels policy in Iowa, and was active in the creation of Southwest Iowa Renewable Energy (SIRE), an ethanol production facility in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

With 43 ethanol refineries producing more than 3.8 billion gallons annually and 12 biodiesel facilities with the capacity to produce nearly 315 million gallons annually, Iowa is the nation’s renewable fuels leader.

USDA Looks to the Forests for Renewable Energy

usda-logoHarvesting biomass from forests is not only helping those forests’ health, it’s helping the country achieve energy independence. This news release from the U.S. Department of Agriculture says the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) has removed 200,000 tons of biomass that could have been a fire risk and was turned into biofuels.

“This initiative helps to retrieve forest residues that are a fire risk, but otherwise are costly to remove,” said [Agriculture Secretary Tom] Vilsack. “In just three months, working with private partners across the country, the program helped to reduced fire, disease and insect threats while providing more biomass feedstock for advanced energy facilities.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Farm Service Agency administered the program earlier this year. Eligible farmers, ranchers or foresters participating in BCAP received a payment to partially offset the cost of harvesting and delivering forest or agricultural residues to a qualified energy facility. Up to $12.5 million is available each year for biomass removal.

This past summer, 19 energy facilities in 10 states participated in the program.

Amyris Renewable Jet Fuel Gets Approval in Brazil

Amyris-logo (1)Airline regulators in Brazil have approved the use of Amyris’ renewable jet fuel. The company says the sugarcane-derived fuel helps cut greenhouse gases and can now be used in up to 10 percent blends.

“Building on the revised ASTM International standard for aviation turbine fuel approved in June, Brazil’s ANP last week removed the last regulatory hurdle for the use of our renewable jet fuel in Brazil. We meet the most rigorous performance requirements in the aviation industry and are now commercializing our product in Brazil as well as around the world,” said John Melo, President & Chief Executive Officer of Amyris.

“The airline industry continues to experience strong growth and, while current low oil prices may provide a short-lived respite, the impact of carbon pollution is undeniable. Amyris and its partners are contributing to reductions in greenhouse gas emissions with our renewable fuel. We are pleased that leading airlines, such as Air France, Lufthansa and KLM are, or will soon be, flying with a blend of our renewable jet fuel,” added Melo.

A study shows that Amyris’s farnesane can cut greenhouse gases by 90 percent compared to fossil fuels.

Wyoming Biodiesel, CNG, Electric Drivers Could Face Tax

Wyoming logoPossibly trying to prove that no good deed goes unpunished, drivers of biodiesel-, compressed natural gas-, and electric-powered vehicles in Wyoming could face a new road tax. This article from the Jackson Hole News & Guide says a tax on alternative fuels is pending in the state’s legislature.

Most Wyoming drivers pay 24 cents tax at the pump for gasoline; the alternative fuels tax would tax fuels other than gasoline the same 24 cents on an amount equivalent to a gallon of gasoline.

Taxes on gas — and those that would be collected on other energy — are earmarked to pay the cost of the state’s roads.

“There needs to be some kind of equitable way for them to contribute to the upkeep of roads and signage,” said Rep. Michael K. Madden, chairman of the Joint Revenue Interim Committee that will sponsor the bill.

The bill’s sponsor says the new tax would make things more fair.

Ironically, the Wyoming legislature is usually pretty averse to road taxes. But when you consider the amount of fossil fuels produced by the state, it’s no wonder in this case lawmakers are looking at a measure that would give Big Oil another leg up.

Performance Standards for Biodiesel Heating Oil Set

BioHeatNew performance standards are set for biodiesel heating oil, better known as Bioheat. This news release from the National Biodiesel Board says ASTM International, an organization which sets industry consensus standards for fuels and lubricants, has voted to approve performance specifications for blends of 6 to 20 percent biodiesel with traditional heating oil.

The updated ASTM D396 Standard Specification for Fuel Oils, containing the new grade for blends of 6 to 20 percent biodiesel, will be finalized and published by ASTM for public use after the usual ASTM review and editing process. It is expected by February 2015.

“The fuel oil industry is reinventing itself as a 21st century fuel by moving to higher blends of low carbon biodiesel and near-zero sulfur levels across the board,” said John Huber, president of the National Oilheat Research Alliance.

The Bioheat renaissance gives oilheat dealers, mostly small, family-owned businesses, the ability to provide their customers with a desirable new product, according to Huber.

“Bioheat gives consumers the choice to use a clean, domestically produced fuel without having to invest in an expensive natural gas system,” said Paul Nazzaro, who leads the National Biodiesel Board’s Bioheat outreach program. “Setting these performance specs for increased biodiesel levels is hugely significant, because it opens the door for innovation in the heating oil industry and will allow more consumers to enjoy the full benefits of this fuel in their homes and businesses.”

Officials went on to point out that a 20 percent blend of biodiesel puts Bioheat on par with natural gas, the biggest competitor to oilheat. Even higher blends, up to the full 100 percent level, could reduce the carbon footprint of Bioheat up to 80 percent compared to traditional fuel oil.

REG Finishes Upgrades to Iowa Biodiesel Plant

reg-logoRenewable Energy Group has finished upgrades to its Newton, Iowa biorefinery. This company news release says the 30-million gallon nameplate plant in Newton, Iowa, will produce an even higher purity biomass-based diesel from a wider variety of raw materials.

“Enhancing REG Newton’s distillation and processing capabilities strengthens our lower-cost, multi-feedstock biomass-based diesel business and provides customers with more fuel options both in the Midwest and nationwide,” said Daniel J. Oh, REG President and CEO. “This plant was already a high performing facility that deserved additional investment and I am confident the return on investment will be rapid.”

The project provides Newton with production capabilities similar to those at the REG Albert Lea biorefinery. The upgraded process, including distillation, removes impurities and leaves behind a very pure form of biomass-based diesel. The final product far exceeds industry quality standards, while meeting REG’s more rigorous REG-9000™ specifications. The fuel also performs better in colder temperatures.

“These improvements allow REG Newton to provide customers with the highest quality end product at a full 30 million gallons a year utilization rate for a wide array of raw materials, including inedible corn oil,” said Brad Albin, REG Vice President, Manufacturing. “This increased feedstock flexibility drives demand for local feedstock suppliers, enabling them to keep their products in the region.”

REG broke ground on the $13.2 million project last February and completed it just last month, four months ahead of schedule and on budget.

REG now has 10 operational biorefineries in six states, making the company the North American leader in advanced biofuel production.

Philippines Looks to Increase Biodiesel Blends

philippinesflag1Government officials in the Philippines are looking to increase biodiesel blends in the coming year. This article from Business World says that country’s Department of Energy (DoE) is hopeful the country will be able to move from a 2 percent to 5 percent blend in 2015 and possibly up to a 20 percent blend by 2030.

“We are still considering several factors right now like the economic impact [of increasing the blend] and some technical issues,” Mario C. Marasigan, director of the department’s Renewable Energy Management Bureau, said at the sidelines of a solar project inauguration in Manila.

Mr. Marasigan said his departmetn asked the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) to study the overall impact of an increased blend.

“We want to confirm the claims of the coconut farmers that the increase can help their socioeconomic development. At the same time, we want to know the cost to consumers and overall impact of increasing the blend,” the official explained.

Officials hope to get results on the study of the data by early next year.

MN Company Finds Cheaper Way to Brew Biodiesel

superior_process_technologies1A company in Minnesota has found a way to brew biodiesel cheaper and more efficiently. This article from the Minneapolis Star Tribune says Superior Process Technologies figured out how to refine grease, tallow and other waste oils into biodiesel and hopes to take the process to a commercial level.

Superior Process engineers Kirk Cobb and Joe Valdespino, whose innovations draw on decades of experience in the paper and oleochemical industries, now are working toward a big step: constructing a commercial-scale biodiesel refinery.

[Parent company] Baker Commodities plans next year to start building a 20-million-gallon-per-year biodiesel plant in Vernon, Calif., to recycle waste grease into fuel, said Doug Smith, general manager of Superior Process and assistant vice president for R&D at the parent company.

“Our process is superior to the traditional method,” said Valdespino in an interview at the company’s lab and office on NE. Broadway. “It saves energy. It increases yield. … It enables you to use cheaper feedstocks.”

The article goes on to say the process is able to take better advantage of cheaper feedstocks, such as used deep-fryer oils, rendered animal fats and the contents of grease traps in sewer lines, hoping that when the process is commercialized, they’re able to make the green fuel for less than $2 per gallon.