Minnesota soybean farmers are reminding their fellow Minnesotans just how much biodiesel has cleaned up the air they breathe. The Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council (MSR&PC), better known as Minnesota Soybean, launched a campaign that clearly illustrates the advantages of soy-based biodiesel in improving air quality, including the following video airing local TV and cable stations, as well on the group’s social media channels:
“We want to open the consumer’s eyes to the reality of emissions from vehicles that run on petroleum. In fact, vehicle emissions are the largest source of air pollution in Minnesota,” states Bill Zurn, a Becker County farmer and Minnesota Soybean New Uses Action Team chair. “There is a positive message here in the use of alternative fuels.”
“Biodiesel is a cleaner-burning fuel that’s made in Minnesota,” says Bob Moffitt, communications director for the American Lung Association in Minnesota (ALAMN). “We recognize biodiesel as a Clean Air Choice® because of its ability to significantly reduce tailpipe emissions and help lessen our exposure to air pollutants. Not only does using biodiesel reduce particulate emissions, it also reduces greenhouse gas emissions.”
The group also points out that biodiesel in Minnesota alone provides more than 5,600 jobs, adds about $928 million to the economy, and increases demand by 13 percent for the state’s while also increasing in-state soybean processing capacity by 31 percent.
Minnesota Soybean is also offering a “North Shore Clean Air Adventure” to Duluth, rated by the American Lung Association as one of the top 25 cleanest U.S. cities. Winners get a three-night stay in the city and $500 spending money. The website www.biodiesel.mn has more information.
An Austrian trucking company has bought a fleet of trucks able to use up to 100 percent biodiesel. This news release from truckmaker Scania says it has delivered 220 biodiesel-powered trucks to Austrian haulier Nothegger Transport.
“This is both an exciting and prestigious order,” says Christopher Podgorski, Senior Vice President Trucks at Scania. “Scania has invested more than any other manufacturer in being able to offer both breadth and depth in its range of Euro 6 engines. This is clear evidence that we have correctly assessed customers’ needs.”
Nothegger has ordered the 2-axle tractors, intended primarily for long-haulage, as well as 3-axle rigid trucks. The company has also signed a Scania repair and maintenance contract for all of the 220 vehicles ordered.
In Austria, there is a tax incentive to use biodiesel as well as lower prices at the filling stations. Despite the somewhat lower energy content in biodiesel and increased maintenance requirements, Nothegger expects to be able to cut its operating costs. At a total distance driven of 150,000 kilometres per year, the annual saving could be about EUR 4,000 per truck.
The announcement comes on the heel’s of Scania introducing its 13-litre 450 hp engine, which meets Euro 6 standard for biodiesel operation. Continue reading
A fifth-generation family-owned soybean processor and biodiesel maker in Kentucky is starting a new glycerin refinery. This story from Soyatech.com says the Owensboro Grain Company is putting in its USP Kosher Certified Glycerin Refinery right next to its biodiesel and vegetable oil operation on the banks of the Ohio River in western Kentucky.
The new glycerin refinery will refine virgin soy-based crude glycerin produced at the Biodiesel plant, and will meet the USP specification.
“We are excited and proud of our new facility. Our goal is to always not only meet, but exceed the customers’ expectations “said John Wright, Executive Vice-President.
The new facility will operate 24hours/7 days per week and will offer 24 hours around the clock loading. The new plant, located on the CSX rail line and also along the shoreline of the Ohio River, will have the capabilities of loading out refined glycerin by truck, rail or barge.
The biodiesel plant cranks out 45 million gallons of the green fuel each year.
A California biodiesel maker is looking to strike a deal with a casino presumably to recycle the leftover cooking grease from the operation. Extreme Biodiesel Inc. says it is terminating its agreements with Promethean Biofuels so it can pursue the deal with the yet-to-be-identified Indian casino in the state.
Company President Joe Spadafore stated “The relationship with Promethean is being terminated in the best interests of our shareholders as we feel Promethean has not performed. There is a silver lining however in that Extreme Biodiesel is currently pursuing several other prospects including negotiations with an Indian Casino located on an Indian Reservation in Southern California. This is very positive for Extreme, as working directly with the Indians should enable increased profit potential for the Company as well as expansion into other areas.”
While not saying much about the deal, Extreme Biodiesel officials say they are testing some of their equipment on the reservation.
Everything might be bigger in Texas, but some scientists in the state are looking to tiny yeast cells to yield big feedstocks for biodiesel. This news release from the University of Texas at Austin says researchers at the Cockrell School of Engineering have developed genetically engineered yeast cells to produce the lipids to go into biodiesel production.
Assistant professor Hal Alper, in the Cockrell School’s McKetta Department of Chemical Engineering, along with his team of students, created the new cell-based platform. Given that the yeast cells grow on sugars, Alper calls the biofuel produced by this process “a renewable version of sweet crude.”
The UT Austin research team was able to rewire yeast cells to enable up to 90 percent of the cell mass to become lipids, which can then be used to produce biodiesel.
“To put this in perspective, this lipid value is approaching the concentration seen in many industrial biochemical processes,” Alper said. “You can take the lipids formed and theoretically use it to power a car.”
“We took a starting yeast strain of Yarrowia lipolytica, and we’ve been able to convert it into a factory for oil directly from sugar,” Alper said. “This work opens up a new platform for a renewable energy and chemical source.”
The researchers say the biodiesel they get from the yeast is similar to the high quality biodiesel now made from soybean oil. But the yeast won’t take up any land and can be more easily genetically manipulated to get more oils from the yeast.
Biodiesel maker Renewable Energy Group, Inc. (REG) continues to get bigger, this time with an expansion into renewable chemicals. This company news release says the Iowa-based biodiesel giant has bought renewable chemical technology developer LS9, Inc. for up to $61.5 million and will call the new operation REG Life Sciences.
“This acquisition is a major step in realizing REG’s strategy to expand into the production of renewable chemicals and other products,” said Daniel J. Oh, Renewable Energy Group President and CEO. “The industrial biotechnology platform and robust patent portfolio LS9 has been building will now be combined with REG’s proven production and commercialization capabilities to accelerate the commercial introduction of renewable chemicals to meet increasing customer demand for sustainable products.”
LS9’s proprietary technologies harness the efficiency of the fatty acid metabolic pathway of microorganisms and are expected to make a wide range of renewable chemicals for large, diverse markets such as detergents and personal care, as well as renewable fuels. LS9’s technology platform can utilize diverse feedstocks including conventional corn and cane sugars, low-cost crude glycerin from biodiesel production, and cellulosic sugars. LS9 is a cornerstone investment for REG Life Sciences, which also plans to develop adjacent and complementary fermentation technologies.
“LS9 is a leader in developing technology for the next generation of chemicals and fuels to be produced from renewable feedstocks rather than petroleum,” said Vinod Khosla, founding partner of Khosla Ventures, an investor in LS9. “REG’s proven capabilities, track record for execution, and access to lower cost feedstock make it an ideal partner to commercialize LS9’s technology.”
REG already owns and operates eight active biodiesel refineries in four states with a combined nameplate production capacity of 257 million gallons, making it the country’s biggest biodiesel producer. This new venture will stay in LS9′s San Francisco operations.
The federal government continues to go after the few bad actors who are trying to defraud the incentive system for biodiesel production. The Department of Justice announced the indictment of James Jariv, 63, of Las Vegas, and Nathan Stoliar, 64, of Australia that they netted more than $37 million in part from Renewable Identifcation Number (RIN) credits.
The indictment alleges that beginning around June of 2009, the two defendants, James Jariv and Nathan Stoliar, operated and controlled a company — City Farm Biofuel in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada — that held itself out as a producer of biodiesel from “feedstocks” such as animal fat and vegetable oils. Jariv also operated and controlled a company based in Las Vegas, Nevada, called Global E Marketing. The government alleges that these defendants claimed to produce biodiesel at the City Farm facility, claimed to import and sell biodiesel to Global E Marketing, and then generated and sold RINs based upon this claimed production, sale and importation. In reality, little to no biodiesel produced at City Farm was ever imported and sold to Global E Marketing as claimed. The indictment alleges that the defendants’ scheme allowed them to generate approximately $7 million in RINs that were fraudulent, which were then sold to companies that needed to obtain them. Continue reading
Aircraft manufacturing giant Boeing wants the government to approve its plan of using renewable or “green” diesel. This story from TriplePundit.com says the company is appealing to the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and other stakeholders to get permission to fly its planes on biodiesel’s close (but chemically different) cousin.
“Boeing wants to establish new pathways for sustainable jet fuel, and this green diesel initiative is a groundbreaking step in that long journey,” said Julie Felgar, managing director of Boeing Commercial Airplanes Environmental Strategy and Integration, in a statement. “To support our customers, industry and communities, Boeing will continue to look for opportunities to reduce aviation’s environmental footprint.”
“Green diesel approval would be a major breakthrough in the availability of competitively priced, sustainable aviation fuel,” said Dr. James Kinder, a Technical Fellow in Boeing Commercial Airplanes Propulsion Systems Division. “We are collaborating with our industry partners and the aviation community to move this innovative solution forward and reduce the industry’s reliance on fossil fuel.”
Estimates are that there’s about 600 million gallons of green diesel produced in the U.S., Europe, and Singapore, about 1 percent of jet fuel demand.
Boeing is part of the Sustainable Aviation Fuel Users Group (SAFUG), which looks to develop sustainable jet fuels. Back in 2011, Lufthansa became the first airline to test biofuels in regular flight operations.
Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have found a new way to get more out of harvesting solar energy. This article from the school says they’re using the sun to heat a high-temperature material whose infrared radiation would then be collected by a conventional photovoltaic cell.
In this case, adding the extra step improves performance, because it makes it possible to take advantage of wavelengths of light that ordinarily go to waste. The process is described in a paper published this week in the journal Nature Nanotechnology, written by graduate student Andrej Lenert, associate professor of mechanical engineering Evelyn Wang, physics professor Marin Soljačić, principal research scientist Ivan Celanović, and three others.
A conventional silicon-based solar cell “doesn’t take advantage of all the photons,” Wang explains. That’s because converting the energy of a photon into electricity requires that the photon’s energy level match that of a characteristic of the photovoltaic (PV) material called a bandgap. Silicon’s bandgap responds to many wavelengths of light, but misses many others.
To address that limitation, the team inserted a two-layer absorber-emitter device — made of novel materials including carbon nanotubes and photonic crystals — between the sunlight and the PV cell. This intermediate material collects energy from a broad spectrum of sunlight, heating up in the process. When it heats up, as with a piece of iron that glows red hot, it emits light of a particular wavelength, which in this case is tuned to match the bandgap of the PV cell mounted nearby…
The design of the two-layer absorber-emitter material is key to this improvement. Its outer layer, facing the sunlight, is an array of multiwalled carbon nanotubes, which very efficiently absorbs the light’s energy and turns it to heat. This layer is bonded tightly to a layer of a photonic crystal, which is precisely engineered so that when it is heated by the attached layer of nanotubes, it “glows” with light whose peak intensity is mostly above the bandgap of the adjacent PV, ensuring that most of the energy collected by the absorber is then turned into electricity.
The researchers go on to say this technique will make it easier to store solar energy.
Some folks north of the border might call it the little yellow plant that could. But this article from the Toronto Globe and Mail says canola, one of the key feedstocks in Canada’s biodiesel industry, has really taken off from its humble beginnings in the 1970s when the plant was developed to produce a non-acidic, edible cooking oil from the non-edible rapeseed plant to become Canada’s most valuable farm export.
Exports of the small black canola seeds and the cooking oil and animal feed they yield have more than doubled in the past 10 years. And the group that represents growers and marketers of canola figures rising global demand will help it boost canola production by 40 per cent by 2025.
“The world is telling Canada’s canola industry to keep it coming,” said Terry Youzwa, a grain grower in Saskatchewan and chairman of the Canola Council of Canada, a group comprised of growers and the companies involved in the marketing and processing of the crop, including Cargill Ltd., Monsanto Canada and Richardson Oilseed Ltd.
Increasing the size of the canola crop will be no easy feat. The crop competes for field space with wheat, corn, soy and other grains that are rotated each season to let the soil recuperate. But Mr. Youzwa figures the larger crop can be achieved through better yields – squeezing out a lot more plants and seeds with just a small increase in acreage.
Canadian officials go on to say they are continuing to improve canola’s resistance to pest and droughts to make sure the world will continue to get the oil.
About 43,000 producers in Canada grow canola.
An update to a story we told you about last week… an offshore wind energy project in Maine has received a key approval from state regulators. This article from CompositesWorld.com says the Maine Public Utilities Commission gave the go-ahead for the Maine Aqua Ventus project, a pilot offshore wind farm project designed to prove the feasibility of floating offshore wind turbines.
The Maine Public Utilities Commission approved a term sheet for the 12-MW Maine Aqua Ventus project proposed by Maine Prime Technologies, a spin-off of the University of Maine (Orono, Maine, USA) and two general partners, engineering firm Cianbro Corp. (Pittsfield, Maine) and energy services firm Emera Inc. (Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada).
Under the parameters of the term sheet, the project will produce about 43,000 MWh/year of energy at $0.23/kWh, with an annual increase of 2.5 percent per year for 20 years.
The approval by the commission now allows the Maine Aqua Ventus project to compete for $47 million in grant money from the U.S. Department of Energy.
Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have found a way to get more ethanol out of sugars used in the refining process. This university article says they’re using a plant-derived chemical, gamma valerolactone, or GVL.
“With the sugar platform, you have possibilities,” says Jeremy Luterbacher, a postdoctoral researcher and the paper’s lead author. “You’ve taken fewer forks down the conversion road, which leaves you with more end destinations, such as cellulosic ethanol and drop-in biofuels.”
Funded by the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Energy’s Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center (GLBRC), the research team has published its findings in the Jan. 17, 2014 issue of the journal Science, explaining how they use gamma valerolactone, or GVL, to deconstruct plants and produce sugars that can be chemically or biologically upgraded into biofuels. With support from the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF), the team will begin scaling up the process later this year.
Because GVL is created from the plant material, it’s both renewable and more affordable than conversion methods requiring expensive chemicals or enzymes. The process also converts 85 to 95 percent of the starting material to sugars that can be fed to yeast for fermentation into ethanol, or chemically upgraded furans to create drop-in biofuels.
The researchers are adding liquid carbon dioxide to the mix and could reduce the cost to produce ethanol by 10 percent.
A bi-partisan group of lawmakers is calling on the government to end its proposal to reduce the amount of ethanol and biodiesel that will be blended into the Nation’s fuel supply. Led by Democratic Congresswoman Cheri Bustos (IL-17) and Republican Congresswoman Kristi Noem (SD-AL), the group has sent a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over the agency’s proposal to reduce the renewable volume obligations (RVOs) under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).
In a letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, the Members of Congress said that reducing the amount of renewable fuels in gasoline could hurt rural economies, jeopardize American jobs, raise prices at the pump and deter investment in biofuels and biofuel infrastructure. They asked that the EPA revise their proposal before the 60 day comment period ends on January 28th.
“We are writing to express our concern regarding the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed rule for the 2014 renewable volume obligations (RVOs) under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program,” the Congresswomen said in their letter. “The significant reduction in renewable volume obligations under this proposed rule could destabilize the renewable fuel industry and send the wrong message to investors. This risks jobs and threatens the development of advanced and cellulosic biofuels that bring higher-level ethanol and biodiesel blends to consumers.”
The effort is seen as part of a full-court press by biofuels advocates to reverse the proposal, which ends its comment period in about a week.
A research center dedicated to advancing the study and development of ethanol is expanding its research staff. This news release from the National Corn-to-Ethanol Research Center (NCERC) at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville (SIUE) has added Dr. Arun Athmanathan, a postdoctoral fellow specializing in cellulosic and advanced biofuels research.
“Following a national search that generated candidates from premier research institutions across the country, we are pleased to welcome Dr. Athmanathan to the team,” NCERC Director John Caupert said. “Arun’s expertise in cellulosic biofuels research and his studies under biofuels pioneers like Nathan Mosier, Mike Ladisch and Nancy Ho make him an excellent complement to our research division.”
Arun has a broad range of experiences in the characterization and fermentation of many cellulosic and advanced feedstocks, including corn stover and sweet sorghum bagasse, likely feedstocks that the NCERC research team will explore. He received his MS and PhD in Agricultural and Biological Engineering from Purdue University’s acclaimed agriculture school.
The Illinois Corn Marketing Board and SIUE partnered to provide seed funding for NCERC’s postdoctoral fellowship program following the Center’s recent breakthroughs in corn kernel fiber conversion and feedstock characterization. Arun and an additional postdoctoral fellow will work under Research Director Dr. Sabrina Trupia to extend upon the Center’s existing research and identify new areas of study.
“The NCERC continues to be an incredible asset to public and private researchers and the biofuels industry as a whole,” ICMB Chairman and Okawville farmer Larry Hasheider said. “From accelerating the commercialization of new technologies to increasing production efficiency and developing value-added coproducts, the NCERC has defined the cutting edge of the biofuels research for more than a decade. We believe this investment will yield tremendous dividends for the biofuels and agriculture industries through continued research breakthroughs.”
The NCERC also announced the expansion of its research capabilities through a new faculty fellowship program. University faculty can apply for course-buyouts in order to conduct collaborative research with the Center.
A German chemical company has introduced a new liquid stabilizer for biodiesel. This news release posted on NewswireToday.com says LANXESS is now offering Baynox Extra, an easy-to-meter additive that prolongs biodiesel’s shelf life and doesn’t crystallize, even at 10 below Celsius.
LANXESS will present the new product to a trade audience at the international biodiesel congress “Fuels of the Future” taking place in Berlin on January 20-21, 2014. On January 21, Dr. Wolfgang Podestà, Business Manager for Baynox at LANXESS Distribution GmbH, will give a presentation entitled “Biofuels meets Antioxidants Status Quo and Future”. In it, he will explain why antioxidants are important for biodiesel manufacturers, what types are available and which criteria are important to make the right selection.
The highly concentrated antioxidant Baynox Extra (baynox.com) ensures that the biofuel obtained from natural raw material remains stable and can be used for longer. Otherwise, the fuel’s unsaturated fatty acid structures can easily oxidize in contact with atmospheric oxygen. Heat, light and pressure make the oil rancid within a short time. The consequences of such oxidation are a degradation of the biodiesel into short-chained fatty acids and the formation of insoluble polymers (gums), causing damage to the engine and the injection system. LANXESS’ Baynox range is continually being adapted to the rapid developments in the automotive industry and includes increasingly high-performance products. The pressures in diesel engines are continually rising, as are the injector temperatures. On the other hand, tolerances for manufacturers of biodiesel are getting smaller and smaller and the specifications ever narrower. “With Baynox Extra our customers will be ideally equipped in the future too to meet the demands that the automotive industry make of modern fuels,” says Podestà.
LANXESS claims international sales of more than $12 billion annually about 17,500 employees in 31 countries.