In this edition of the Domestic Fuel Cast, we hear from four innovators who talked about their operations and how they are on the cutting edge of biofuel producing technologies during the recent at the American Coalition for Ethanol conference. Among those who spoke were ACE president Ron Alverson of Dakota Ethanol; Ray Baker, general manager of Adkins Energy in northwest Illinois; Mike Erhart, CEO of Prairie Horizon Agri Energy in Kansas; and Delayne Johnson with Quad County Corn Processors.Domestic Fuel Cast - Increasing Ethanol Blends
EcoEngineers is hosting its RIN Academy 2014 on Tuesday, September, 16, 2014 at the Embassy Suites in Des Moines, Iowa from 7:00 am to 6:00 pm. The conference is designed to help unravel the world of Renewable Identification Numbers (RINS). RINS are used to monitor the use of biofuels or renewable volume obligations for obligated parties as part of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).
Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey will deliver the keynote for the event, highlighting Iowa’s leadership in renewable fuel production. In addition to being the largest producer of ethanol and biodiesel, Iowa is home to three of America’s first cellulosic ethanol plants. The conference will also host more than 20 distinguished panelists and speakers, including representatives from the EPA, business leaders, academics, and policymakers.
“As leaders in the renewable fuels industry, EcoEngineers looks forward to bringing everyone together and facilitating substantive discussions around the newest legislation concerning the renewable fuels standard,” said Shashi Menon, managing partner at EcoEngineers. “This year, we’re adding biogas as a topic of discussion because we believe that it has the potential to be a huge asset to Iowa and the country. We want to share what we’ve learned.”
Topics to be discussed include:
• Latest developments and upcoming changes to RFS and RIN policy
• State of advanced biofuels industry and opportunities ahead
• How city and county governments can financially benefit from the RFS
• Opportunities in biogas as a new fuel source
Conference panelists include Robert C. Brown, Director of Iowa State’s Bioeconomy Institute; Delayne Johnson of Quad County Corn Processors, which recently produced the first cellulosic ethanol gallons in Iowa from corn; Mike McAdams, President of Advanced Biofuels Association; Sharyn Lie, Center Director at the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); Steve Ogle, Commercial Business Leader from DuPont; and many others.
Click here for more information and register.
Iowa Governor Terry Branstad paid a visit to the 2014 Farm Progress Show Tuesday and had some harsh words for the Environmental Protection Agency, which just last week sent a final version of the 2014 volume requirements under the Renewable Fuel Standard to the White House for review. He blames uncertainty created by the proposed rule for the recent layoffs at Deere and Company. “The result is the price of corn has dropped so much that farmers are not buying equipment,” he said. “What the EPA has done is not only damaging farm income, but it’s costing us jobs in farm machinery and manufacturing.” Deere announced more than 100 people will be laid off indefinitely from its plant in Ankeny and 460 people will be laid off at its tractor factory in Waterloo.
Branstad also notes that cellulosic and other advanced biofuels production is moving forward with the first gallons produced this summer by Quad county corn processors and two more plants opening soon. “I’m going to the POET grand opening of their new cellulosic ethanol plant and then we have DuPont Pioneer that’s also opening one in Nevada,” he said. “The problem is the oil companies control the distribution and they’ve done everything they can to discourage retailers from offering blender pumps and E15 because ethanol is a lot cheaper than gasoline.”
Listen to my interview with the Governor here: Interview with Iowa Governor Terry Branstad
The advanced biofuels community is responding this week to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) submission of the final 2014 Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) to the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) where it will be reviewed. Although the rule is not public, groups are speculating on what the final rule entails with hope still that advanced biofuels will not see a reversal in volumes.
“A little less than a year ago, press leaks first suggested that EPA might reduce the 2014 renewable fuel standard (RFS) for advanced biofuels to as little as 2.2 billion gallons, which is substantially lower than current production,” said Advanced Biofuels Association (ABFA) President Michael McAdams when hearing the rule had been sent to OMB.
“Since that time, ABFA members and our many allies have clearly demonstrated that such reductions would fall disproportionately on advanced biofuels and represent a significant reversal of the Obama administration’s previous support for our industry. We hope the final rule will be a major improvement and encourage the White House to set RFS volume obligations at levels that are consistent with our industry’s current and projected production capacity for advanced and cellulosic biofuels,” McAdams added.
National Biodiesel Board (NBB) CEO Joe Jobe is hoping to see an increase in biodiesel from the proposal released last year. Joe explained the the proposed rule would cap out biodiesel and cause a dramatic reduction in production.
“This is a cornerstone energy policy that has demonstrated that it works,” said Jobe. “Last year we were able to demonstrate that the program works. We grew from a little over 1 billion gallon in 2012 to just 2 billion gallons in 2013.” Jobe continued by stressing this allowed for investment and growth – all elements of a successful energy policy.
Jobe noted that biodiesel has allowed the advanced biofuel category to be met every year. While OMB has 90 days to review the rule, Jobe hope it will go faster.Interview with Joe Jobe, National Biodiesel Board
Algae Systems has completed a biofuel production demonstration project in conjunction with Japan’s IHI Corporation. The demonstration plant is located in Daphne, Alabama and the process combines wastewater with algae to produce the world’s first energy-generating wastewater treatment process, using carbon-negative technologies. This process will yield both biofuel and drinking water.
Matthew C. Atwood, president and CEO of Algae Systems explains that while algae is a component in a number of worldwide experimental production strategies, their approach differs by using a system that can apply a variety of algae types to production, adding value by treating wastewater, and producing a drop-in fuel solution using hydrothermal liquefaction to produce fuels that do not need to be blended.
“This is the first demonstration of producing clean water and biofuel from wastewater and algae. We have demonstrated that we can treat wastewater at a low-cost while beating the current price of fuel,” said Atwood.
The project approach takes local strains of algae to increase production rates and optimize wastewater treatment opportunities and focuses on a systems approach. Floating membrane photobioreactors accept wastewater from a local community municipal wastewater utility, drawing nutrients from the wastewater to promote algae growth. The algae consume nutrients in the wastewater, reducing the cost of treating wastewater. In this approach, municipal wastewater becomes an asset to produce energy, rather than a commodity to be expensively processed. Photosynthesis creates the chemical reactions that can power our future.
Atwood said the use of offshore photobioreactors means that a valuable land footprint would not be required to deploy the system commercially, and the motion of waves and wind provides ideal temperature and mixing controls as well as a reduction of operating costs. From an environmental perspective, ecological dead zones can also be eliminated.
Another feature of the demonstration facility, said Atwood, is significant advancements made in the production of fuels from biomass. Algae Systems has demonstrated a new proprietary technology for the conversion of wet algae and other biomass feedstocks into biocrude oil, and has successfully demonstrated upgrading the bio-crude oil into diesel, jet and gasoline.
“Building commercial plants around the world that will enable low-cost wastewater treatment and fuel production,” said Atwood when explaining what success looks like. “Our next steps are to find commercial sites and raise additional financing for the company to expand.”
With oil prices on a roller coaster because of the deteriorating situation in the Mideast, Americans United for Change stress that Americans need the EPA to stand by a secure, safe, reliable energy source the U.S. has complete control over: clean-burning, homegrown renewable fuels. Preserving the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and cheaper choices at the pump for American consumers means more stability in gas prices, even in times of instability.
The turmoil in the Middle East is continuing causing volatility in gas prices. And with Labor Day around the corner, gas prices are expected to jump just in time for drivers to hit the roads. One solution to keep gas prices lower? Ethanol. As Jeremy Funk, communications director for Americans United for Change points out, the RFS would ensure ethanol is still available for consumers to choose at the pump.
Yet again, The U.S. Environmental Agency (EPA) has just announced the final biofuel volumes of the RFS for 2014 and it seems unlikely the EPA will announced its proposed RFS volumes for 2015 by mid-November as required.
“If anything should give the EPA pause before deciding to roll back the Renewable Fuel Standard as they have proposed, it’s the bubbling turmoil in Iraq,” said Funk. “That’s why the nation can’t afford to scale back the RFS now and put all our eggs in Big Oil’s basket.”
Funk explained that the oil industry has spent millions to rig the system against the homegrown competition. Those companies’ efforts — aside from leading to higher gas prices — would move American jobs overseas, reduce air quality, and contribute to climate change. That’s why American farmers, renewable energy leaders, veterans, nonprofit organizations, and others have come together to demand protection for the RFS. And Funk said they want consumers to join the fight for the RFS and demand lower gas prices and choice at the pump.
Fuels America is asking President Obama to not undermine the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) especially as it relates to the development of cellulosic ethanol. The coalition has placed a full page ad in the Martha’s Vineyard Gazette to tell the president how a proposal by his administration — if it is not fixed — will inadvertently cause investment in advanced biofuels like cellulosic ethanol to shift to China and Brazil, undermining his effort to tackle climate change.
The advertisement is an open letter focusing on the achievement of a major milestone in the president’s clean energy push as commercial scale cellulosic ethanol production becomes a reality this year as four large advanced biorefineries come online in 2014. While this could be just the beginning of a new American industry, private sector investment in the technology has paused due to a proposal by the EPA to fundamentally alter its approach to implementing the RFS. If the proposal isn’t changed before it is finalized, the letter warns, that investment will likely shift to China and Brazil, depriving the President of a key accomplishment.
The ad ends, “You have always been a strong champion of advanced biofuels and we know it is not your intent to undercut investment. It’s not too late to get the final rule right, so together we can make the United States the leader in producing the cleanest fuels in the world.“
It’s the month of celebration for cellulosic ethanol in Iowa. On Tuesday, September 9, 2014 at 11:00 am Quad County Corn Processors will be hosting a grand opening event for its new “bolt on” biorefinery that produces cellulosic ethanol from corn kernel fiber. Quad County is the site of Iowa’s first cellulosic ethanol gallons and the world’s first corn kernel fiber cellulosic ethanol, a process that was invented by Plant Engineer Travis Brotherson and patented by Quad County Corn Processors.
“After four years of research and development, financing hurdles, waiting on EPA rule clarifications and construction, we are excited to see the ACE project working and are proud to be producing the world’s first corn kernel fiber cellulosic ethanol gallons and Iowa’s first cellulosic ethanol gallons,” said Delayne Johnson, CEO of Quad County Corn Processors. “This state-of-the-art technology will create 2 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol out of the corn kernel cellulose, a feed stock that we already have on site.”
“In addition to creating 4 new full-time jobs in Galva, this process will increase our ethanol yields by six percent, increase our corn oil removal by three times and create a feed product that is much higher in protein and lower in fiber,” add Johnson. “In essence, we will create more value out of the corn bushels we already process which increases our efficiency so we can continue to be a leader in the ethanol industry.”
Confirmed speakers for the ceremony include: Bill Northey, Iowa Secretary of Agriculture; Bob Dinneen, President and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association in Washington, DC; Monte Shaw, Executive Director of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association; Brian Jennings, Executive Vice-President of the American Coalition for Ethanol; and David Witherspoon, Head of Renewable Fuels for Syngenta.
The public and media are invited. Event attendees can meet by the tents on the west side of the plant which is located at 6059 159th Street. Quad County is situated two miles south of Galva at the intersection of Highways 20 and M-25. Due to limited parking and truck traffic safety, guests are asked to park in the field northwest of the plant and enter the parking area from Highway M-25.
POET-DSM’s Project LIBERTY is celebrating the ethanol plant’s production of cellulosic ethanol produced from corn stover and corn cobs during a grand opening celebration on Wednesday, September 3, 2014. The event will be held in Emmetsburg, Iowa and will showcase what POET-DMS calls a “first-of-its-kind technology that is poised to dramatically expand the world’s resources for transportation fuel”.
Project LIBERTY will process 770 tons of corn cobs, leaves, husk and some stalk daily to produce 20 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol per year, later ramping up to 25 million gallons per year. Plant personnel are currently running biomass through the pretreatment process and preparing for the first gallons of ethanol. Project LIBERTY will be the flagship plant in POET-DSM Advanced Biofuels’ plan to license this technology to companies across the U.S. and around the world.
Public tours will be available from 9:00 am to 11:00 am and 1:45 pm to 4:00 pm. A grand opening ceremony will take place from 11:00 am to 12:20 pm. Lunch will be provided and visitors can also view booths and equipment from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. Location is 777 Main Street in Emmestburg, Iowa, 50536. There will be no public parking at the site. Free parking and regular shuttles will run from the Wild Rose Casino parking lot.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has awarded Virent fuel registration for its BioForm Gasoline in blends of up to 45 percent. As a registered fuel, Virent’s biogasoline can now be used in on-highway motor vehicles. According to Virent, BioForm Gasoline is a high octane, direct replacement fuel made from plants that offers the benefits of high performance and blend rates, complete compatibility with existing refining and distribution infrastructure networks and reduced carbon footprint.
“Securing EPA registration of our BioForm Gasoline is further confirmation of Virent’s high quality drop-in fuel and is another step towards commercializing our technology to produce renewable fuels and chemicals from biobased feedstocks,” said Lee Edwards, CEO and President of Virent. “We would also like to recognize our longtime collaborator Royal Dutch Shell for supporting the registration and testing process.”
The BioForm Gasoline blended with conventional gasoline underwent testing at Southwest Research Institute (SWRI) with the results demonstrating that the emissions from the blended fuel were well below the maximum permitted by current regulations, according to Virent. The BioForm Gasoline was manufactured by Virent at its demonstration plant in Madison, Wisconsin, which is capable of producing up to 10,000 gallons of biofuels and biochemicals per year. The EPA testing work was funded by Virent partner Royal Dutch Shell.
Matthew Tipper, Shell Vice President Alternative Energies, added, “Shell is pleased to see continued progress of biofuels as a road transport fuel in the United States as evidenced by this most recent EPA registration of a plant-based alternative fuel. This success demonstrates the progress being made by the biofuels industry. Also, it supports a continuation of a framework for expanding commercialization and use of biofuels, including advanced biofuels produced from non-food based plant alternatives, in the United States.”
Crowdfunding is coming to biofuels. On August 3, 2014, Bio Revolution America launched a 45 day Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign to fund its biofuels projects in Appalachia and within one week is reporting reaching 30 percent of their goal. The company has developed a Bio extractor machine that has they believe has the potential to change the face of biofuel manufacturing. The extractors are made in America, have six years of field testing and are patent pending.
According to Bio Revolution America, the machine extracts 100 percent carbon neutral bio oil and byproducts from plants using a cold oil extraction process. Cold oil extraction uses no chemicals or solvents and leaves everything in its natural, organic state. The bio-oil can then be used in foods, as biodiesel and the pressed meal can be used for cosmetics, medicine and more.
“There has probably never been a time in the history of America when something this important could happen,” said Bio Revolution America spokesperson Randall Richards. “Everyone wins! We help create jobs and income in the poorest parts of the U.S., We help save the environment, and become the world’s leader in pure, green, bio technology on a large scale!”
Upon reaching their Indiegogo funding goal they plan to help farmers in Appalachia plant seeds this fall so that the plants can be harvested in the spring 2015. The initial outreach is taking place in Appalachia, but will expand from there to the Midwest and Western U.S. in the next year.
Cathay Pacific Airways is the first airline investor in Fulcrum BioEnergy, Inc. The investments was made as part of the airline’s biofuel strategy and to help it achieve a target of carbon-neutral growth from 2020. Fulcrum is focused on the development and commercialization of converting municipal solid waste into sustainable aviation fuel or “biojet fuel”. Cathay Pacific also has an option for further investment.
“We are very pleased to become the first airline investor in this sustainable biofuel developer. We are well aware of the impact the aviation industry has on the environment and have been doing a great deal to minimize our own impact,” said Cathay Pacific Chief Executive Ivan Chu. “We are pleased to have identified Fulcrum as a strategic business partner that has the necessary vision and technological know-how to help Cathay Pacific pursue the use of biojet fuels. These fuels are an important component of our sustainable development strategy, under which we aim to achieve carbon-neutral growth from 2020.”
Cathay Pacific has also negotiated a long-term supply agreement with Fulcrum for an initial 375 million U.S. gallons of sustainable aviation fuel over 10 years (representing on an annual basis approximately 2% of the airline’s current fuel consumption) that meets all the airline’s technical requirements and specifications. Fulcrum plans to commence construction of its first commercial plant later this year and to build large scale, waste-to-renewable jet fuel plants at multiple locations, including locations strategic to the Cathay Pacific network, primarily in North America.
Cathay Pacific Biofuel Manager Jeff Ovens said of their technology, “Fulcrum has successfully demonstrated a process of converting municipal solid waste feedstock into sustainable aviation fuel at its scale demonstration facility. The feedstock will be pre-sorted to remove any recyclables prior to being processed into fuels. The company has proved that its technology is viable and has supply commitments in place for feedstock needed for the fuel production. These supply commitments will cover both near-term and future developments.”
According to Jim Macias, CEO of Fulcrum BioEnergy, jet fuel produced by Fulcrum’s waste-to-fuels process will reduce lifecycle carbon emissions when used in aircraft or road transport by more than 80 percent when compared to traditional fuels derived from crude oil and other fossil sources. This process also reduces the amount of municipal solid waste going into landfill sites and the methane gas emissions that result from this. If not captured, methane gas is 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a global warming contributor.
“We value our strategic relationship with Cathay Pacific, one of the world’s premier airlines. Cathay Pacific shares our vision and plan to bring a whole new source of sustainable fuel to the airline industry,” added Macias. “A new fuel that has the exact same molecules as fossil fuel but is cleaner, lower in carbon, renewable and lower cost than traditional fossil fuels. Cathay Pacific is really stepping up to help accelerate deliveries of this fuel to the market. This relationship adds to Fulcrum’s existing feedstock, technology and fuel off-take partners that enhance Fulcrum’s low-cost business model for the production and sale of large volumes of low-carbon, jet fuel.”
The Hawaii Department of Budget and Finance is now authorized to issue special purpose revenue bonds not exceeding $50,000,000 for the purpose of planning, permitting, designing, construction, equipping, and operating BioTork Hawaii LLC’s commercial facilities. Recently, the state passed legislation to assist in funding a zero waste project that converts crops, crop residues, dedicated energy crops and ag waste into sustainable biofuels and co-products.
According to BioTork, their bioconversion development efforts in Hawaii date back to 2010 when it began research of its technology. The company uses a “proprietary evolutionary optimization approach,” and “enhances the performance of non-GMO microorganisms under real-world industrial conditions in an unrivaled cost efficient way”. The conversion process takes a few days to cycle in a heterotrophic environment, meaning no sunlight is needed, to create oil for biofuel and high-protein feed.
“The passage of this legislation greatly enhances BioTork’s efforts in Hawaii. It demonstrates the attractiveness and the potential of our technology, which is focused on the bioconversion of agricultural waste, into a higher value product,” said Eudes de Crecy, CEO of BioTork.
Basing its efforts on the requirements of the “Hawaii Zero Waste Program,” BioTork entered into collaboration with the Daniel K. Inouye Pacific Basin Agricultural Research Center. Since that time Hawaii committed $4,800,000 in research, development and capital improvement funding through a contract with DKI-PBARC to focus on BioTork’s evolution technology. Some of these funds have been committed through the state’s barrel tax allocations, which target energy and food security initiatives. Other funds have been appropriated through legislative capital improvement program allocations.
“At BioTork we firmly believe that in many circumstances there is much more value in converting carbon rich organic biomass into high value products, than just burning it, burying it or using it as fertilizer in the field. The model we pursue is to breed the good microbe candidates to specifically address the locally available biomass sources, using natural methods and to create much more value to the local and global economy,” added Tom Lyons, CSO of BioTork.
With the additional support of special purpose revenue bond funding, BioTork Hawaii LLC will be able to fuel the third step of its development program. This would involve scaling up to build and operate commercial facilities that will have the capacity to convert agricultural crops and by-products such as albizia, sweet potatoes, papaya, sugarcane bagasse, glycerol and molasses to biofuels and high-protein feed.
Boeing, South African Airways (SAA) and SkyNRG are partnering together to develop aviation biofuel from a specific type of tobacco plant. SkyNRG is currently expanding its production of Solaris, an energy crop hybrid derived from the tobacco plant. Pilot farming of the plant, which is effectively nicotine-free, is underway in South Africa with to end goal of producing advanced biojet fuel from the seeds. As the program expands, Boeing expects emerging technologies to increase South Africa’s aviation biofuel production from the rest of the plant.
The project is an effort to expand the support of South Africa’s goals for improved public health along with economic and rural development.
“It’s an honor for Boeing to work with South African Airways on a pioneering project to make sustainable jet fuel from an energy-rich tobacco plant,” said J. Miguel Santos, managing director for Africa, Boeing International. “South Africa is leading efforts to commercialize a valuable new source of biofuel that can further reduce aviation’s environmental footprint and advance the region’s economy.”
In October 2013, Boeing and SAA agreed they would work together to develop a sustainable aviation biofuel supply chain in Southern Africa. As part of that effort, they are working with the Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials to position farmers with small plots of land to grow biofuel feedstocks that provide socioeconomic value to communities without harming food supplies, fresh water or land use.
Ian Cruickshank, South African Airways Group Environmental Affairs Specialist said of the expanded project, “By using hybrid tobacco, we can leverage knowledge of tobacco growers in South Africa to grow a marketable biofuel crop without encouraging smoking. This is another way that SAA and Boeing are driving development of sustainable biofuel while enhancing our region’s economic opportunity.”
“We strongly believe in the potential of successfully rolling out Solaris in the Southern African region to power sustainable fuels that are also affordable,” added Maarten van Dijk, Chief Technology Officer, SkyNRG.
Four ethanol producers who are innovating plants through new process and product technology took the podium at the American Coalition for Ethanol conference this week to talk about what they are doing.
First up was ACE president Ron Alverson of Dakota Ethanol who talked about the importance of carbon, particularly the California Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) and how it impacts ethanol production. Alverson is a corn farmer in South Dakota and he discussed how carbon intensity ratings for corn ethanol are improving and will continue to improve down the road. Ron Alverson, Dakota Ethanol
Ray Baker, general manager of Adkins Energy in northwest Illinois, who talked about the new biodiesel plant they are building to co-locate with their 50 million gallon ethanol plant and use corn oil as a feedstock. “Having corn oil as your main feedstock gives you a competitive advantage,” he said.
Ray Baker, Adkins Energy
Mike Erhart, CEO of Prairie Horizon Agri Energy in Kansas, says he runs a biorefinery, not an ethanol plant. “I think ethanol plant is antiquated,” he said. “It’s now time that we become a biorefinery and start touting that.” Erhart also talked about why his plant is producing renewable diesel. Mike Erhart, Prairie Horizon Agri Energy
Delayne Johnson, Quad County Corn Processors, has the distinction of producing the very first gallons of cellulosic ethanol, just about a month ago. He talked about his plant being the first to use Syngenta Enogen corn and efficiencies they have implemented in the production process.
Delayne Johnson, Quad County Corn Processors