EPA Sets Timeline for RFS Volume Requirements

epa-150Under a court settlement with the oil industry, the Environmental Protection Agency today announced they will propose the 2015 Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) renewable volume obligations by June 1, 2015, and issue the final 2014 and 2015 RFS blending targets by November 30, 2015. In addition, EPA will also release the proposed 2016 RFS RVOs by June 1 and the 2016 numbers will be finalized by Nov. 30.

The biofuels industry reacted immediately to the announcement. “This consent agreement is a good start,” said Renewable Fuels Association president and CEO Bob Dinneen. “We are particularly pleased that the Agency has committed to addressing the 2016 RVO in the same time frame even though that is outside the scope of the consent agreement.”

“By taking this action, they are ensuring that the RFS is back on a path to certainty for the biofuels industry, providing the necessary guidance for the industry to continue to thrive and advance alternative fuel options for American consumers,” Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis said.

“ACE has consistently said it is much more important for EPA to get the RFS done right than it is for them to get the RFS done quickly, and that bears repeating given today’s announcement that the RFS will be getting back on track for implementation,” said American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) Executive VP Brian Jennings.

National Biodiesel Board is pleased the EPA announcement said they would “re-propose volume requirements for 2014, by June 1, that reflect the volumes of renewable fuel that were actually used in 2014.”

“The volumes for Biomass-based Diesel in 2014 were approximately 1.75 billion gallons so EPA reaffirming its commitment to “actual use” appears to be a step in the right direction,” said NBB Vice President of Federal Affairs Anne Steckel.

Advanced Ethanol Council (AEC) executive director Brooke Coleman says the announcement sends a good signal to the advanced biofuels industry. “Now that we have a better idea of when it will happen, we look forward to working with EPA to make sure that the new RFS proposal supports the commercial deployment of advanced biofuels as called for by Congress.”

EPA intends to issue a Federal Register Notice allowing the public an opportunity to comment on the proposed consent decree.

Think Tank Ponders Cellulosic Ethanol Link

3rd-wayA new report from centrist think tank Third Way ponders the quest for cellulosic biofuels and concludes that the pathway is via corn ethanol.

This report confirms what the biofuels industry has been saying for some time now – that you cannot have cellulosic ethanol without the continued production and support of grain-based ethanol,” said Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis.

One of the takeaways from the Third Way report is that, “proposals to reform the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) would discourage engagement from the corn ethanol industry” and thus delay commercialization of cellulosic ethanol and steer investment overseas.

Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) president Bob Dinneen says the report highlights the importance of consistent policy for the continued evolution of biofuels. “Legislative efforts to undermine either will set the nation’s energy and economic future back generations,” said Dinneen. “Third Way should be commended for adding a thoughtful component to this ongoing discussion and I can only hope that it is read with interest by Senators Feinstein and Toomey.

“(T)he biggest point, coming from a thought leader in the space like Third Way, is that Congressional intervention on the RFS would be highly detrimental to the deployment of cellulosic biofuel,” said Brooke Coleman of the Advanced Ethanol Council.

“The success of the conventional ethanol industry has driven serious investment in the cellulosic industry and there is an important linkage between them,” says Adam Monroe, President Americas for Novozymes which produces enzymes used for cellulosic ethanol production. “Tinkering with the corn portion of the RFS now will only hurt both industries.”

The report also concludes that “companies with an extensive background in the corn ethanol industry are cracking the cellulosic code,” and continued investment from these companies in facilities and innovation is critical to growing U.S. cellulosic capacity.”

Advanced Biofuels Group Would Reopen RFS

abfaAdvanced Biofuels Association President Michael McAdams today called on Congress to amend the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) to strengthen it for the “continued development of the advanced and cellulosic industry.”

In an address this morning to the 2015 Advanced Bioeconomy Leadership Conference, McAdams said the “RFS simply doesn’t work as well for companies trying to move cutting-edge technology from a demonstration plant to commercial scale.” He called for changes in several areas, including minimum RIN value for cellulosic fuels, extending the program beyond 2022, and removing “the loop hole that allows the oil industry to opt out from buying a cellulosic gallon.”

The idea of reopening the RFS even to make positive changes is opposed by other biofuels organizations. “By opening up the RFS for legislative changes, you are opening a can of worms that will only create further uncertainty for the industry, which is the last thing biofuel producers of any kind need,” said Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis in a statement.

“We seriously question who ABFA is representing these days,” said Renewable Fuels Association president Bob Dinneen in response to a reporter’s question on a conference call this morning. “There’s nothing ABFA has identified as needed improvements to the program that the agency already does not have the authority to address.”

Novozymes president Adam Monroe added that ABFA “does not represent even the majority of advanced biofuels producers” and doesn’t believe their position is representative of the industry. “It’s the politics that are broken not the legislation,” said Monroe.

RFA and Novozymes comment on ABFA call to open RFS

Biofuels Leaders Defend RFS

Holding a press conference in advance of the American Petroleum Institute continuing its call to repeal the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), representatives of the ethanol and advanced biofuels industry and corn growers defended the law and the fuel.

mess-rfsGrowth Energy CEO Tom Buis said the oil industry is making the same old arguments about ethanol that are simply not true, but he thinks the industry received a good boost over the weekend “when six out of nine of the Republican presidential candidates that came to the Ag Summit expressed support for the RFS.”

National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) first vice president Rob Elliott of Illinois talked about how the facts dispel the perpetual myths about food versus fuel. “Corn prices are now below cost of production … so obviously food prices have not followed a similar path,” he said.

Adam Monroe, president of enzyme producer Novozymes, said if Washington gives in to pressure by the oil industry to weaken the RFS it will keep second generation biofuels from going forward. “It makes it tremendously difficult for us to bring in new investors and spend more money,” he said.

Renewable Fuels Association president Bob Dinneen says no matter what ethanol critics say, there is now real world data that shows no detrimental effects have occurred as a result of the RFS and he encouraged reporters to question API. “Ask them to explain the fact that the price of corn is lower than it was when the RFS was passed,” he said, noting also that food price inflation has been lower, the dead zone has gotten smaller, and hunger worldwide has fallen.

Conference Call with Renewable Fuel Industry Leaders

“Clean, Secure, American Energy” Campaign Launched

This month marks the 102 anniversary of tax breaks signed into law by President Woodrow Wilson, for the oil industry. They were part of the first income tax code that took effect on March 1, 1913. As America marks this anniversary, Fuels America has launched a new campaign, “Clean, Secure, American Energy,” to highlight the success of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). This August will mark the 10th anniversary of the renewable energy legislation, a policy that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been dragging their feet on finalizing for 2014 and announcing renewable fuel volumes for 2015.

fuels-americalogoWhile oil companies have been benefiting from hand outs for more than a century, tax credits for corn-based ethanol expired several years ago. Fuels America cites that during the past 10 years, the commonsense, bipartisan RFS has tripled America’s biofuel production and helped lower our the country’s dependence on oil to the lowest level in decades – all while delivering environmental and economic benefits.

According to Fuels America, the “Clean, Secure, American Energy Campaign” is launching this week with a significant digital advertising campaign that will run on RollCall.com. The ads congratulate the oil industry by “Celebrating 102 Years of Oil Spills and Pollution”.

Last week, renewable fuel supporters highlighted the environmental benefits of the RFS by sending a letter to President Obama, urging him to ensure the EPA’s new multiyear rule for the RFS supports growth for existing and new biofuels technologies and lives up to the original intent of the bipartisan law.

“The RFS is working and has resulted in significant environmental gains,” the letter said. The RFS is America’s only fully implemented policy that reduces greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants.”

Advanced Ethanol Progress and Concerns

nec15-advance-panelWhile it’s making progress, there are still plenty of questions and concerns regarding advanced ethanol production. During the the 20th National Ethanol Conference, a panel of advanced ethanol producers talked about the challenges and opportunities facing their industry.

Advanced Ethanol Council Executive Director Brooke Coleman moderated the panel which included Bill Feehery of DuPont Industrial Biosciences (pictured at the podium), Adam Monroe of Novozymes, Paula Corollo with Beta Renewables, and Abengoa’s Chris Standlee. Coleman said while there are naysayers, who try to talk down the cellulosic industry, saying it’s not going fast enough or isn’t successful enough, he sees incredible progress over the last five years for the industry. But it’s not going to get easier.

“This is a crossroads and the part where it gets hard. This is the part where we diversify feedstock, introduce new technologies, and the [Environmental Protection Agency] has to look down and decide if we’re going to change the fuel markets at a fundamental level or just change them to where the oil industry is comfortable,” Coleman said.

Feehery’s presentation focused on the progress cellulosic ethanol has made, calling the recent advancements that are delivering a cleaner, more sustainable transportation fuel that’s also invigorating rural America’s economy. “It’s a victory of science, industry policy, and plain good, old-fashioned hard work, and it’s an accomplishment we all share together.”

Looking ahead, Feehery said it’s also important to look back at what has been successful to see the path forward. He pointed to efficiencies and technologies, such as enzymes, that are making cellulosic more affordable and more commercially viable. He’s also excited by how celluslosic ethanol is being embraced by American companies not just within the fuels markets, such as Procter & Gamble, which is using cellulosic ethanol in its formulation for Tide laundry detergent. He concluded that these technologies and adoptions by industry are key drivers in how cellulosic ethanol will grow in the years to come.

“What we see is the beginning of a bioeconomy in action,” Feehery said.

Listen to Feehery’s presentation before the group here: NEC 15 Advanced Ethanol Panel

2015 National Ethanol Conference Photo Album

Isobutanol Meets Marine Performance Standards

Four years of testing has been completed on Gevo’s isobutanol and it meets marine performance standards. A consortium of recreational marine industry organizations conducted thousands of hours of testing and determined that isobutanol blends of up to 16.1 percent can be used in marine engines without deterioration of engine or boat performance. The tests were performed in collaboration with the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA), the American Boat and Yacht Council (ABYC) and several engine and boat manufacturers across the industry. The testing was also supported by The US Department of Energy (DOE), Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), and Argonne National Laboratory (ANL).

Tests were conducted on various engine technologies from several engine and boat manufacturers, and included measurements of gaseous and particulate engine exhaust emissions, combustion analysis, cold start, run ability, durability and more. No engine exhaust emissions failures, durability issues or run ability issues were experienced during the multi-year test program.

“This data reconfirms that the properties of isobutanol make it an excellent renewable blendstock for the marine market. We are excited to supply renewable isobutanol for marine and off-road applications and we look forward to growing this market with many of the participants from the consortium,” said Dr. Patrick Gruber, Gevo’s chief executive officer.

gevo logoDuring the Miami Boat Show, Bombardier Recreational Products (BRP) reported results of their tests and offered media and consumers test rides on a 25 Bay Boat by Crevalle Boats powered by an Evinrude E-TEC G2 300 HP engine. The fuel is a blend of 16.1 percent of Gevo’s isobutanol with gasoline.

“Boaters have the opportunity to test how the fuel works first hand at the show, and that’s definitely part of the equation in creating interest and demand for this next-generation bio-fuel,” said Jeff Wasil, engineering manager in Emissions Testing, Certification and Regulatory Development for BRP-Evinrude. “All engines performed very well throughout the testing program. It’s great to have a biofuel that is so transparent to engine and boat performance all the while minimizing fuel related issues such as phase separation of water and corrosion.”

CH2M Hill Involved In Seawater Bioenergy Facility

A pilot-scale bioenergy facility that will use seawater irrigated desert land to produce both bioenergy and food in the water is under development in Masdar City. The Integrated Seawater Energy and Agriculture System (ISEAS) involves a complete seawater agricultural system that will serve as a research and development facility for Masdar Institute (MI) of Science and Technology and the Sustainable Bioenergy Research Consortium (SBRC). The project is expected to be operational in late summer.

Dr. Alejandro Ríos, Director, Sustainable Bioenergy Research Consortium, noted, “This project has potential for groundbreaking innovation, particularly considering the unique conditions in Abu Dhabi’s environment. CH2M HILL has assembled a world-class team of engineers to tackle this very interesting challenge, and we at the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology are confident that the engineering expertise that has gone into the design of the pilot facility will enable such innovation.”

Growing_sustainable_sbrc_enCH2M HILL was commissioned last year to provide technical support and to design a sophisticated pilot-scale facility of the ISEAS on designated land in Masdar City. CH2M HILL said they worked closely during the design phase with MI and SBRC to refine the technical aspects of the new facility, with the intention of an innovative sustainable system that will serve as a research and development facility for MI and SBRC.

A significant aspect of the new pilot-scale facility is the use of seawater to produce water stock to grow seafood, mainly fish and shrimp, (aquaculture) for human consumption and Salicornia plants for fuel and byproduct production. The plants thrive in arid, desert conditions and do not require fresh water or arable land to grow. The effluent is diverted into cultivated mangroves that are used for water treatment and biomass production, removing nutrients and providing valuable carbon storage.

“CH2M HILL is proud of our involvement with this notable pilot research project and of our successful partnership with MI and the SBRC. The project team has not only created an innovative biofuel project to address challenges of energy and water security, but is also playing an essential role in supporting the advancement of sustainable biofuel research in the UAE,” said Neil Reynolds, CH2M HILL’s regional managing irector for Middle East, North Africa and India (MENAI).

NRDC Launches Airline Scorecard

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has launched a first-of-its-kind scorecard that rates airlines’ use of integrating sustainable biofuels into their fleets. Air travel emits more than 650 million metric tons of carbon pollution each year – nearly the amount emitted of 136 million cars. The leader of the pack is Air France/KLM.

“It’s great to see certain airlines becoming leaders in the use of sustainable biofuels,” said Debbie Hammel, senior resource specialist with NRDC’s Land & Wildlife Program and author of the scorNRDC Aviation Sustainable Biofuel Scorecardecard. “As the world rises to the challenge of curbing climate change and cutting carbon pollution, addressing air travel pollution has to be part of the mix. The aviation sector has been pretty proactive about this issue, and an industry-wide increase in the use of sustainably produced biofuels is definitely on the horizon.”

NRDC’s Aviation Biofuel Sustainability Scorecards evaluated airlines’ adoption of biofuels, focusing on the use of leading sustainability certification standards, participation in industry initiatives to promote sustainability certification, public commitments to sustainability certification in sourcing, and the monitoring and disclosure of important sustainability metrics. The leading sustainable carrier is Air France-KLM, followed by British Airways, United Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, Cathay Pacific and Alaska Airlines.

NRDC has found that the airline industry has made great strides in recent years. During the past five years, 40 commercial airlines around the world have flown nearly 600,000 miles powered by biofuels. Low-carbon fuels will play a key role in the industry’s efforts to hold its carbon emissions steady after 2020 and cut net carbon emissions to half of the 2005 level by 2050 according to NRDC. To meet these goals, a new market has emerged to provide biofuels for the aviation sector. But, said NRDC, the adoption of credible, third-party sustainability certification systems are necessary to ensure that the emerging aviation biofuels market is providing fuels that are sourced sustainably.

The scorecard and issue brief encourages airlines to send clear market signals notifying suppliers of the importance of sustainability certification – ideally using the certification framework created by the Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials (RSB) – and make a public commitment to source 100 percent certified-sustainable biofuels.

“How airlines move forward is still up in the air,” Hammel added. “While some in the industry have made real progress in implementing sustainability commitments this past year, there’s more to do. The industry must commit to robust standards for sourcing these fuels to ensure that they’re truly sustainable in the long-term.”

Novozymes Sees Positive Outlook for 2015

Novozymes 2014 annual reportNovozymes saw solid growth in 2014 and increased sales by 7 percent as compared to 2013. The company also reports that the outlook for 2015 is good. Following a strategic business review, the company has released a new purpose statement, strategy and updated long-term targets. Through 2020, Novozymes targets annual organic sales growth of 8-10 percent on average. Novozymes is best known in the biofuels and biomaterials (biochemicals) markets for its enzymes.

”2014 was a good year for Novozymes with 7% organic sales growth and a record EBIT margin”, said Novozymes CEO Peder Holk Nielsen. “Bioenergy was the strongest growth driver, making up for slower growth in Food & Beverages and Household Care. Our growth platforms showed good progress, and in particular I’m excited about how well The BioAg Alliance has gotten off the ground.

“Novozymes is in a strong position today. Our technologies and solutions are in high demand. Going forward, we believe partnering will become more important for bringing innovation to customers,” continued Holk. “This is the outset for our new purpose and strategy – Partnering for impact. In extension of this, we’ve updated our long-term targets. Long-term organic sales growth is expected to be slightly lower than the previous target, whereas we increase the long-term targets for EBIT margin and return on invested capital. In the midst of a slow recovery and volatile markets, we expect 2015 to be another good year for Novozymes.”

Getting Started with National Biodiesel Conference

National Biodiesel ConferenceThe 2015 National Biodiesel Conference & Expo is just kicking off in Ft. Worth, Tx. Here’s the communications team that is helping make it easy for the media to get the stories they need.

I’ll be working out of the media room as the Biodiesel Blogger again this year. That means I’ll be sharing stories here on Domestic Fuel but also on the National Biodiesel Conference Blog.

So, let’s get things started with some pictures. I’ve got an online conference album started for your viewing and sharing pleasure: 2015 National Biodiesel Conference Photo Album

Brazilian Ethanol Summit Planned for June

Sugarcane harvest in Brazil photo unicaThe 5th annual Ethanol Summit 2015 will take place in the Golden Hall of the World Trade Center (WTC) in São Paulo on June 29-30, 2015. The event supported by the Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association (UNICA) and will focus on renewable energy, especially ethanol, biomaterials and biochemicals that can be produced from sugarcane. There are more than 100 speakers in four major plenary sessions, 15 thematic panels and opening and closing ceremonies, as well as side events. Ethanol Summit 2015 will be organized by one of the world congress companies, MCI.
 
“We have a year ahead in which key decisions for the future of the sugarcane industry will be taken, both in Brazil and on the world stage, increasing the importance of the Summit as the main forum for discussions on the most relevant topics for the energy and renewable products coming of cane sugar,” said the president of UNICA, Elizabeth Farina.
 
For the CEO of MCI Brazil, Juliano Lissoni, completion of the Ethanol Summit is an important and highly visible challenge. “It is a high-level event, worldwide established as a major meetings focused on renewable energy. We want to contribute to the Summit grow and go further, contributing directly to the present and the future of this activity increasingly essential for Brazil and the world.”

Registration for the event will be opened in February, with the launch of the official website of the Ethanol Summit 2015.

Algenol Receives EPA RIN Status

Algenol’s advanced biofuel has received D-5 classification status under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). As such, their bio-crude co-product patented Direct to Ethanol pathway, is now eligible for a Renewable Identification Number (RIN).

Algenol Logo“The EPA approval is a milestone event for Algenol. The EPA validates that our suite of fuels meet the GHG reduction requirements set by the EPA for advanced biofuels and allows blenders and refiners to use our fuels to meet their Clean Air Act obligations under the RFS,” said Paul Woods, founder and CEO of Algenol.

RINs can be purchased by blenders to document compliance with the RFS. As part of this approval, the EPA determined that ethanol produced from the Algenol process resulted in an approximate 69% reduction in greenhouse gases when compared to gasoline.

“The RINs ascribe both GHG reduction value and real economic value to Algenol’s fuels,” continued Woods, “but the true game changing part originates from paying for CO2 emissions by converting them into valuable, low cost transportation fuels. Just imagine how refreshing the carbon dialogue would sound if CO2 emissions become a corporate asset rather than a liability.”

UMass Researchers Identify Genes to Improve Biofuels

Plant geneticists including Sam Hazen at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Siobhan Brady at the University of California, Davis, now have a handle on the gene regulatory networks that control cell wall thickening by the synthesis of the three polymers, cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin. This breakthrough could have a positive impact on developing more efficient production technologies to convert cellulose to biofuels and biochemicals.

Screen Shot 2015-01-13 at 9.09.15 AMThe authors say that the most rigid of the polymers, lignin, represents “a major impediment” to extracting sugars from plant biomass that can be used to make biofuels. Their genetic advance is expected to “serve as a foundation for understanding the regulation of a complex, integral plant component” and as a map for how future researchers might manipulate the polymer-forming processes to improve the efficiency of biofuel production.

According to the researchers, the three key components, found in plant tissues known as xylem, provide plants with mechanical strength and waterproof cells that transport water. Working in the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana, Hazen, Brady and colleagues explored how a large number of interconnected transcription factors regulate xylem and cell wall thickening. Results appeared in a recent issue of Nature.

The researchers write in the paper that “understanding how the relative proportions of these biopolymers are controlled in plant tissue would open up opportunities to redesign plants for biofuel use.” Hazen, Brady and colleagues’ study identified hundreds of new regulators and offers “considerable insight,” the authors say, “into the developmental regulation of xylem cell differentiation.”

Specifically, using a systems approach to identify protein-DNA interactions, they screened more than 460 transcription factors expressed in root xylem to explore their ability to bind the promoters of about 50 genes known to be involved in processes that produce cell-wall components. Hazen says, “This revealed a highly interconnected network of more than 240 genes and more than 600 protein-DNA interactions that we had not known about before.”

West Coast Biodiesel, Ethanol on the Rise

logo_E2-1Advanced biofuels, especially biodiesel and ethanol, are on the rise on the West Coast. Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2), a national, nonpartisan group of business leaders, investors and others promoting smart environmental policies, says fuel policies in Oregon, Washington state and California, as well as federal initiatives, have helped the country as a whole produce more than 800 million gallons of advanced biofuels in 2014.

“The advanced biofuel industry is meeting the growing demand for cleaner-burning transportation fuels,” said Solecki. “Americans who want more local jobs, cleaner air, and more homegrown energy should demand elected officials enact policies, right now, that will promote the growth of advanced biofuel.”

E2 defines advanced biofuel as liquid fuels made from non-petroleum sources that achieve a 50-percent reduction in carbon intensity compared to a petroleum-fuel baseline. Advanced biofuel companies included in the report range from small biodiesel businesses like Beaver Biodiesel in Oregon, which produces about 1 million gallons annually, to POET, which at facilities in South Dakota and Iowa produces more than 20 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol annually using corn stover, or waste from corn crops, as a primary feedstock.

“If state and federal leaders want to reduce our dependence on foreign oil – and support American farmers, businesses, and entrepreneurs – they should ensure this clean, cutting-edge industry can expand,” Solecki said.

The report highlights, in particular, how Oregon is considering Phase 2 rules of its Clean Fuels Program, which is expected to create as many as 29,000 jobs and save Oregon consumers and businesses up to $1.6 billion in fuel costs. In Washington state, a new clean fuel standard is being proposed that would increase the use of advanced biofuel. And California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard is being credited with lowering carbon emissions in that state.

The complete E2 report is available here.