GROWMARK System to Acquire Meier Oil Products

GROWMARK logoGROWMARK has announced it will be acquiring Meier Oil Production and Manito Transit. Both businesses have been family owned since 1936 and consisted of a trucking company, fuel terminal facility in Ashkum and bulk fuel facilities at Kankakee, Pontiac, Sheldon and Champaign, all in Illinois.

Kevin Carroll, GROWMARK vice president, Energy, said the acquisition strengthens the GROWMARK System through collaboration between Evergreen FS, Heritage FS and Illini FS and GROWMARK Energy.

“This will allow our local companies to work more efficiently as part of the broader GROWMARK System to serve this expanded market,” said Carroll. “We have a strong heritage of being a reliable supplier of refined and renewable fuels and lubricants. Adding the Meier Oil business enhances our heritage and provides customers meier-oil-logoongoing access to quality products.”

Mike Meier, President of Meier Oil Products, said the transaction reinforces his family’s commitment to the community and to superior customer service. He noted that all the cooperatives are respected members of the industry and communities they serve.

“As such, they share our commitment to our employees and to providing quality products at competitive prices. We are honored our customers will have access to a reliable supply of products and can count on ongoing quality customer service,” said Meier.

USDA Supports Sustainable Bioenergy Production

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has awarded $10 million in research grants to help develop production of bioenergy and biobased products. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack made the announcement while visiting Michigan State University, one of the grant winners.

Ford Concept Car with Biobased materialsWhile there, Vilsack mentioned the growth potential of biobased products as detailed in a recent study by Iowa State University (funded by USDA) that found that while biobased products in automobile manufacturing is increasing, there are still many parts that can be replaced with biobased materials.

“USDA and President Obama are committed to producing clean energy right here at home, to not only break our dependence on foreign oil, but also boost rural economies,” said Vilsack. “These projects will give us the scientific information needed to support biofuel production and create co-products that will enhance the overall value of a biobased economy. Today, with a strong and diversified U.S. agricultural sector, the American automobile industry has a greater incentive for expanding use of biobased products while supporting good-paying jobs here in the United States.”

USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) awarded the grants through the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI). AFRI’s sustainable bioenergy challenge area targets the development of regional systems for the sustainable production of bioenergy and biobased products that: contribute significantly to reducing dependence on foreign oil; have net positive social, environmental, and rural economic impacts; and are compatible with existing agricultural systems.

Projects were awarded in four areas: 1) policy options for and impacts on regional biofuels production systems, 2) impacts of regional bioenergy feedstock production systems on wildlife and pollinators, 3) socioeconomic impacts of biofuels on rural communities, and 4) environmental implications of direct and indirect land use change. Click here to view a full list of the winners.

ISU Researchers Growing Algae in Poultry Houses

A research project conducted by several Iowa State University (ISU) researchers is studying the feasibility of growing algae in poultry houses. Poultry manure generates ammonia, a health and safety concern for both animals and workers. Ammonia can burn the eyes, but if released into the atmosphere, could also cause acid rain. But if Honwei Xin, professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering at ISU he will turn a challenge into an opportunity.

Juhyon Kang, graduate research assistant in food science and human nutrition is joining Xin in the research and are working together, according to an article in the Iowa State Daily, to design and develop a bioreactor that will filter  ammonia out of the exhaust air. The gas will then be repurposed to grow algae in a controlled environment.

“We want to improve the environmental stewardship of the poultry operation,” Xin said. “It would be a perfect match if we could remove ammonia from the exhaust air in poultry houses and use it to grow algae.”

Algae can be used to create a myriad of products including biofuel, biojet fuel, biomaterials, biochemicals and animal feed. Algae thrives on gases that for humans, can negatively affect health such as carbon dioxide and ammonia.

Kang said tests have shown that up to 96 percent of the ammonia is removed from the [air] exhaust. She is currently working on scaling up the algal bioreactor ro commercial scale while other team members study optimal algae growth conditions, analyze algae to produce feed and exploring optimum amounts of ammonia concentration for the algae to grow.

Xin added, “Algae can serve as a feedstock for biorenewable energy or [an additive] for animal feed. It’s a win-win situation; you kill two birds with one stone.”

Green Plains Sells Agribusiness Assets

Green Plains Renewable Energy (GPRE) has completed the sale of 12 grain elevators located in northwestern Iowa and western Tennessee to The Andersons. The sale include approximately 32.6 million bushels of GPRE’s reported agribusiness grain storage capacity and all of its agronomy and retail petroleum operations. GPRE expects to report a pre-tax gain from this sale in the fourth quarter of 2012 of around $46 million. XMS Capital Partners served as financial advisor to Green Plains in the transaction.

National Biodiesel Board Elects Governing Board

National Biodiesel Board members selected their trade association leadership, electing three returning governing board members and four new members to serve on the leadership committee to lead America’s advanced biofuel.

Officers elected to lead the board are:
• Gary Haer chairman, Renewable Energy Group, Inc.
• Ed Ulch, vice chair, Iowa Soybean Association
• Ron Marr, secretary, Minnesota Soybean Processors
• Steven Levy, treasurer, Sprague Operating Resources

Biodiesel board members also voted to fill seven board member spots. Board members elected to the Governing Board included treasurer Steven Levy and:
• Greg Anderson, Nebraska Soybean Board
• Jennifer Case, New Leaf Biofuels
• Mike Cunningham, ASA
• Brandon Foley, Sanimax
• Tim Keaveney, HERO BX
• John Wright, Owensboro Grain Company

Bob Metz, Robert Stobaugh, Kris Kappenman, Ed Hegland, and Jim Conway also continue to serve on the Governing Board.

Farm Foundation Blog: Food & Fuel for 9 Billion in 2050

How do you keep an expected world population of 9 billion people by the year 2050 fed AND meet the world’s energy needs? Our friends at Farm Foundation are taking on those challenging questions, hopefully with some good answers through their new blog, AgChallenge2050.org.

“It’s an opportunity for more people to be involved in the conversation,” said Mary Thompson, Farm Foundation’s Vice President, Communications, adding there are four key areas of consideration: role of science and technology in agriculture, farm and food policy, adaptability resistance, and human capital needs in agriculture and the food system. “We have contributors who will be twice a week posting new ideas and new perspectives in those four areas, and we will encourage all types of stakeholders to come in and be part of the conversation.”

And don’t forget, Farm Foundation has another one of their forums coming up this Wednesday, November 14th looking at what the recently completed election means to agriculture, food and rural policies. It will be held at the National Press Club in Washington, DC and webcast. Click here for more information.

Listen to Cindy’s interview with Mary here: Mary Thompson, Farm Foundation

2012 NAFB Convention Photo Album

Energy Version 2.0 Website Revealed

USDA has revealed an updated version of its Energy website, launched in January 2012. The site now provides additional resources, new reporting features and investment data current through August of this year. The website is co-linked with several other USDA initiatives include their Energy Investment Maps, Renewable Energy Tool, Energy Matrix and Investment Project Reports. Some of the enhanced features of USDA’s Energy Web include:

Energy Investments Map data has been updated to include fiscal year 2012 data, the map legend and data layer, previously designed to toggle between two screens, were combined for easier operation and fast results. The map description has placed in a separate pop up window “About this Map” to visually enhance the Energy Investment map and also supports efficiency.

Energy Investment Report page now enables user access to all energy technologies data that are associated with the Energy Investment Map.  The data can be sorted by program, year of obligation, payment type, total dollar amounts and state/county/district, providing various project details. There are pie charts, graphs and report listing to emphasize investment data.

Renewable Energy Tool now includes easy access links to a number of tools available across USDA agencies with information “pop-ups” describing tool.

According to USDA, the energy website is a work in progress and additional enhancements are underway for next year including enhancements for the mapping feature of the Renewable Energy Tool to include types of data and information such as land use for producing biomass and energy crops, cost to produce crops alternative crops, competition for biomass, fuel stations, state and federal policy, USDA guidelines for and financial assistance, and state and federal office locations for agriculture, energy, environmental protection, and conservation. Initially the focus is transportation fuels.

Field to Fryer to Fuel

Here is a new twist on an old idea: rather than simply recycling used cooking oil into biodiesel, a new initiative will locally grow canola, press the seeds into oil, deliver to local restaurants, pick up the used oil, and then repurpose it into biodiesel. The pilot project, known as Field to Fryer to Fuel (F3) received a $130,000 grant from the Biofuels Center of North Carolina from AdvantageWest to help the state develop a clean energy industry.

The project consists of three core activities: feedstock testing and analysis to assess the economic viability of a large-scale biodiesel and renewable biochemicals production facility in the region; demonstration the F3 business model; and the completion of a biofuels end-user market survey of large consumers of diesel fuel for transportation and heating oil.

“Our objective with this collaboration is to develop and expand Western North Carolina’s hub of clean energy industries,” said Matt Raker, vice president of AdvantageWest’s green-tech program, AdvantageGreen. “A cluster analysis we published with Land-of-Sky Regional Council and other business and community members of the EvolveEnergy Partnership identified biofuels as an area of great potential for our region. We expect this project to measurably advance biofuel production and commercialization.”

Field to Fryer to Field is underway with nearly 50 acres of canola seed already planted on the Biltmore Estate. The crop will be harvested in the spring of 2013 and then the seeds will be pressed into food-grade oil in a mobile unit supplied by Appalachian State University and then processed and refined Blue Ridge Biofuels’ facility.

The resulting 7,000 gallons of food-grade oil Continue reading

Students Rock Ethanol

High school senior Jason Girouard from Brimfield, Massachusetts has won the Ethanol Rocks video contest sponsored by the National Corn Growers Association. Girouard was awarded $1,500. Freshman Emily Yue from Gilford, Connecticut and senior Lewis Kloster of Minneapolis, Minnesota were both awarded second-place honor and $500 a piece.

“The purpose of the contest was to get youth interested in learning about renewable fuel while having fun,” said NCGA Ethanol Committee Chair Chad Willis. “However, I think we may have turned a few of the more inquisitive kids into ethanol evangelists. The enthusiasm about their learning experience was the biggest payoff of the project.”

Students from across the U.S. submitted entries and learned a bit more about ethanol along the way. Many focused on co-products produced during the ethanol production process such as distillers grains and CO2 used to carbonated beverages. Yet what judges found most intriguing was seeing the experiences of an urban American who walked into a corn field for the first time.

Time to Vote

I voted. Have you?

It really is a civic duty and I hope you’ll take the time today to get it done. I’m not writing this to encourage you to vote for a certain person or issue. Hopefully you will have become familiar with the issues in your state and know what to do. As far as the Presidential race, you’ve got a clear choice. I can’t see how anyone can be undecided.

So, let’s get out there and get it done. The results will have a major impact on how we run our businesses in this country and you folks involved in the renewable fuels industry will not be unaffected. If you want to know my vote I’ll be happy to tell you. If you know me well you already know!

I don’t know if you use FourSquare but if you check in from your voting location using the #IVoted hashtag you’ll show up on their voting map.

Calculator Gives Growers Energy Crop ROI

University of Illinois agricultural economists have been calculating the costs for farmers to produce biomass energy crops, and as a result have created a feedstock cost and profitability calculator for farmers to make their own assessments using their individual agribusiness parameters.

Illinois Ag Economist Madhu Khanna says farmers can customize the costs based on their current farming operation, current returns on the land they are considering converting and determine what it would cost to put the land in production to grow an energy crop. Using these calculations, a grower can then determine the minimum price they would need to be paid in order to make a profit.

Khanna recommends farmers gather information about their current operating expenditures before using the calculator, such as the discount rate. She says if farmers are thinking of growing energy crops purely as an investment decision, then they should be interested in getting the same return from their investment in an energy crop over time as they would get if they put the money in the bank. That is the discount rate they should use, she says, so if the bank would give them four percent then they should at least get a four percent return on growing an energy crop instead.

SG Biofuels Breakthrough

SG Biofuels has expanded it global network of hybrid trial and agronomic research sites with the addition of eight new JMAX Knowledge Centers located in Brazil, Guatemala and India. The company is also expanding it production facility in Guatemala. Current trials are underway in San Diego, California. The company focuses on the the production of Jatropha for use in biofuels, biochemicals and biomaterials.

According to a company statement SG Biofuels’ hybrids are performing better compared to commercial varieties across multiple geographies in terms of plant vigor, health, flowering consistency, stress tolerance and yield. The success validates the ability to produce crude Jatropha oil for less than $99 per barrel in a range of growing conditions.

“The performance of our hybrids in multiple geographies not only validates the strength of our genetics, but our ability to deploy profitable energy crop projects around the world,” said Kirk Haney, president and chief executive officer. “Through our network of JMax Knowledge Centers, we are developing the highest performing hybrids of Jatropha while establishing best agronomic and production practices for deploying those hybrids at commercial scale.”

According to the company, JMax Knowledge Centers are professionally managed trials using experimental design and statistical analysis to evaluate hundreds of hybrids in a range of environmental and agronomic conditions. The centers serve as outdoor classrooms where SGB agronomists and technical teams conduct training and field tours with customers and growers, develop localized agronomic studies and recommendations and develop high performing Jatropha hybrids for commercial deployment. SGB’s hybrids have been developed following five years of research, drawing from a diverse germplasm library including more than 12,000 unique genotypes.

Economist Bruce Johnson To Address NEB Meeting

Professor of Agricultural Economics at the University of Nebraska/Lincoln, Dr. Bruce Johnson, will be addressing the attendees of the Nebraska Ethanol Board (NEB) meeting tomorrow, October 30, 2012 at 10:00 am CDT at the University of Nebraska East Campus Union in Lincoln. He will be discussing the recently released “2010 Economic Impact of the Nebraska Agricultural Production Complex.” The report focuses on the state’s industries involved in growing, processing and transporting agricultural products, which account for nearly one quarter of Nebraska’s total economy. In addition, Dr. Johnson will address the role of the state’s ethanol industry and prospects for future agricultural growth.

According to statements from NEB, the production and use of ethanol strengthens the state’s economy while lowering fuel costs. Ethanol blended fuels are projected to save Nebraska consumers more than $70 million during 2012. Francisco Blanch, a commodities expert for Merrill Lynch, said that biofuels, like ethanol, lower gas prices by at least 15 percent on a nationwide basis.

“Those energy savings are retained in the domestic economy,” said Steve Hanson, Nebraska Ethanol Board chairman. “The high price of oil and gas is driving up the cost of nearly all consumer products but the ethanol industry is helping to keep the Nebraska economy strong amidst nationwide inflation.”

Phil Lampert, former director of the National Ethanol Vehicle Coalition, will also speak at the Nebraska Ethanol Board meeting. Lampert is nationally recognized for his work to expand the use of E85 and other higher percentage ethanol blends. Lampert will provide an overview of ethanol flex fuel infrastructure development.

Internationalists Share Views On US Competitiveness

During the recent 2012 Export Exchange a few key leaders in the international market took the stage in a panel to share their perception on United States competitiveness in grain production.

Adel Yusupov, Southeast Asia Regional Director for US Grains Council, served as the moderator for the panel.

Panelists consisted of:
Willis Wu-Yeh Cheng, Chairman, Charoen Pokphand (Taiwan)
Mousa Wakila, General Manager, National Poultry Al Ahlieh (Jordan)
Jamie Rueda, General Manager, Escala (Colombia)
Dennis Inman, Vice President & Commercial Lead, Cargill, Inc.

The panelists were asked to share their candid thoughts on how the United States ranks in grain production and what attributes are most important to them when buying grain. Prices were at the top of all their lists, but they also want reliable market research and stressed that logistics were always a concern. Other items on the list included: consistency, a strong relationship and predictability.

Listen to the International Panel’s presentation here: International Panel at Export Exchange

You can find photos from this years Export Exchange here: 2012 Export Exchange

Green Plains Renewable Energy to Sell Grain Elevators

Green Plains Renewable Energy has entered into an asset purchase agreement to sell 12 grain elevators located in northwestern Iowa and western Tennessee to The Andersons

The sale involves approximately 32.6 million bushels, or 83%, of the Company’s reported agribusiness grain storage capacity and all of its agronomy and retail petroleum operations.

The estimated sales price for the facilities and certain related working capital is $133.1 million, including the assumption at closing of term debt of approximately $28.3 million. In addition, the Company expects to realize net proceeds from the liquidation of retained working capital of approximately $86.7 million before the repayment of approximately $85.2 million under a revolving credit facility and inventory financing arrangements. Working capital and amounts outstanding under debt and inventory financing arrangements are based on September 30, 2012 balances and will be adjusted to final amounts at closing. Net cash proceeds, including working capital liquidation, are expected to be approximately $103.8 million.

“We continually evaluate options to maximize shareholder value and this transaction is about opportunistically realizing that value,” stated Todd Becker, President and CEO of Green Plains. “While we have referred to this as a strategic part of our business, we are by no means exiting U.S. agriculture. We will continue to participate with our remaining grain handling assets and through future grain storage expansions at or near our ethanol plants. Once closed, this transaction will add more than $100 million in cash to our balance sheet and reduce outstanding debt by more than $113 million. Our continued focus is to ensure that Green Plains is positioned to take advantage of growth opportunities throughout our platform.”

Green Plains Renewable Energy is North America’s fourth largest ethanol producer.

Read more from GPRE.