Gen 1.5 – Corn Fiber to Ethanol

scott-kohlSomewhere between corn ethanol and cellulosic ethanol is a midpoint that can be found in the corn kernel.

“Generation one is starch to ethanol and generation two is corn stover and grasses but there is cellulose in the corn kernel,” explained ICM, Inc. technical director Scott Kohl during a session last week at the Corn Utilization and Technology Conference. “That’s the Generation 1.5 – the fiber in the corn kernel.”

Kohl says ICM is developing processes to separate that fiber from the rest of the kernel to make more ethanol so that the yield from a single bushel of corn will increase. “We’ve run nearly 2,000 hours of pilot runs on that system,” he said. “We are now in the process of getting the financing arranged to have the first plant running by the middle of 2015.” Interview with Scott Kohl, ICM

It was just announced last week that Patriot Renewable Fuels of Annawan, Illinois will be one of the first to use Gen 1.5 with ICM’s patent-pending Fiber Separation Technology (FST). “ICM’s ethanol technology is a logical platform on which to build our business as a bio refinery” said Patriot’s VP/GM Rick Vondra. “There are many new product and growth possibilities using corn as our feedstock, and we have identified these as two high potential processes that we can adopt now.”

2014 CUTC Photo Album

Wet and Dry Milling Focus of Conference

cutc-14-martinThe 2014 Corn Utilization and Technology Conference is underway in Louisville, Kentucky and this year the focus is on wet and dry milling technologies and new uses.

National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) president Martin Barbre says the event brings together researchers with the common goal of facilitating the next ground-breaking technologies and corn-based products of the future. “It’s a great place for researchers to see what others are doing,” he said. “We also have a very good international focus with visitors and attendees from all four corners of the world.”

As corn growers are just about finished planting what is expected to be another record crop this year, Barbre says they are happy to see increased export demand for corn and the ethanol co-product distillers grains. “When you put an ethanol plant in, it doesn’t change the market (for corn),” he said. “Really there’s only two things that change the market – weather and exports. We’re working hard to increase corn exports worldwide and we’re even working with other countries to open up new markets.” Interview with NCGA president Martin Barbre


2014 CUTC Photo Album

DF Cast: Senators, Industry Push EPA on Biofuels

Time is ticking down for the Environmental Protection Agency to make a decision on how much renewable fuel will be mixed into the nation’s fuel supply, and ethanol and biodiesel groups are pressing for a change to what’s being proposed.

On the biodiesel side, nearly 120 companies have just sent the White House a letter trying to reverse the proposed 1.28 billion gallons of biodiesel to be blended… a move in the wrong direction from the 1.8 billion gallons produced just last year. The letter adds to a chorus of dissent on the agency’s proposal coming from areas such as the Midwest where renewable fuels are made and from usually staunch Obama Administration backers on Capitol Hill.

In this edition of the Domestic Fuel Cast, we hear from U.S. Senators Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Al Franken (D-MN), Joe Donnelly (D-IN), and Maria Cantwell (D-WA), as they express their frustration with the EPA proposal… and what can be done to fix this.

Domestic Fuel Cast - Sens., Industry Push EPA on Biofuels

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Ethanol Groups Participate in China Trade Mission

RFANewlogoU.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services Michael Scuse led a mission to promote U.S. agricultural exports in northeast China May 5-13. The mission is part of President Obama’s “Made in Rural America” export and investment initiative, designed to help rural businesses and leaders take advantage of new investment opportunities and access new customers and markets abroad.

growth-energy-logoTaking part in the mission to promote U.S. biofuels and co-product exports was Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) Director of Regulatory Affairs Kelly Davis and Jim Miller with Growth Energy.

During a press conference Tuesday to talk about the trade mission, Davis said it was her first trip to China and she was astounded by the number of cars on the roads and sees a great need for both biofuels and distillers grains for livestock feed in that country. Miller added that China provides an excellent market opportunity for the U.S. ethanol industry.

Also taking part in the trip and the press conference was Roger Johnson, president of the National Farmer’s Union. Ethanol Press Conference Opening Remarks

Biodiesel Producer Certain Uncertainty Will End

christjansenThe manager of a biodiesel refinery from the Nation’s largest biodiesel producer believes the uncertainty in the green fuel’s future will disappear. I caught up with Bryan Christjansen, a general manager for Renewable Energy Group’s Albert Lea, Minn. and Mason City, Iowa plants, shortly after a news conference where several biodiesel producers joined with a group of U.S. senators to decry the uncertainty brought by the government’s proposal to lower the amount of biodiesel to be mixed into the fuel supply and Congress’ failure to renew the $1-a-gallon federal biodiesel tax incentive.

“Some of the things happening here on Capitol Hill, as well as in the White House, are not good for our industry. We are here, and [Congress and the Administration] have helped us get to this point, and we need to continue to grow this industry through what you guys have created already,” he said.

While Bryan said that the current Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposal on the Renewable Fuels Standard is hurting the biodiesel industry by causing so much uncertainty, he is certain that will change.

“With this [news] conference and the open comment period with the EPA, I think we’ve voiced our opinion that we need to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, and what better way to do it than by producing biodiesel.”

You can hear my conversation with Bryan here: Bryan Christjansen, REG manager

And you can hear what he and other producers said here: Biodiesel Industry Concerns
And what the U.S. senators attending the news conference said here: Senators Voice Biodiesel Concerns

Biodiesel Producers, Farmers Take to The Hill

goergerBiodiesel producers and farmers who raise the feedstocks for the biodiesel industry took to Capitol Hill this week, joining a group of U.S. Senate Democrats in their calls to end policy uncertainty that is hurting their industry.

“The uncertainty caused by these policy setbacks in Washington, with this proposed retreat on biodiesel volumes under the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) and the expiration of the [$1-a-gallon federal biodiesel] tax incentive is threatening to unravel [the good built up by the biodiesel industry],” said Terry Goerger, a third generation farmer from Mantador, North Dakota. He added that this is especially hard on the industry that took cues from Congress and the Obama Administration and took the risk to try to build up biodiesel. “We feel like the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and the Administration is pulling the rug out from underneath us.”

christjansenBryan Christjansen, who manages Renewable Energy Group biodiesel plants in Albert Lea, Minn. and Mason City, Iowa, echoed those sentiments, saying his company believes in the long-term future of biodiesel but wonders if Washington does.

“If the Administration chooses to go with a short-sighted EPA proposal, it does not just put domestic fuel into jeopardy, but it also harms the local economies and billions of dollars in investments,” he said.

haasJeff Haas, CEO of General Biodiesel in Seattle, said that while his company, as well as much of the biodiesel industry, wants to invest and grow, not knowing what the EPA or Congress will do next makes the industry feel like it is just floating adrift.

“We’re nearly halfway through the year, and we still don’t know what the RFS volume will be or whether the biodiesel tax incentive will be reinstated,” adding that the industry relies on these policies for direction. “It’s analogous to setting off across the ocean without a compass for six months.”

Haas also said that some of the best and brightest in biodiesel are losing confidence and leaving the industry because of the uncertainty, and the delays are just wins for opponents of renewable energy.

presbyWayne Presby, owner of White Mountain Biodiesel in North Haverhill, N.H., said his company was founded on the Obama Administration’s stated desire to lessen our dependence on foreign oil, reduce greenhouse gases, put more Americans to work, and increase our national security. But now, after investing millions in his plant alone, as well as hiring workers and buying supplies for a fledgling business in a community that desperately needed it, and making a successful biodiesel production facility, they can’t expand and grow that business because of the uncertainty in biodiesel policy.

“The industry is constantly taking two steps forward and two steps back because of the policy uncertainty.”

Listen to what the group had to say here: Biodiesel Industry Concerns

Ethanol on the Rails

ethanol-report-adIn the last couple of weeks there have been two derailments of trains carrying crude oil, one in Virginia on April 30 and one in Colorado on May 9. These incidents are just the latest in a string of accidents that began last summer when a runaway oil train carrying Bakken crude derailed and exploded in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, killing 47 people. Other trains carrying Bakken crude have derailed and caught fire in Alabama, North Dakota, and New Brunswick, Canada.

rail-fireWhile crude oil has been the common denominator in these accidents, ethanol has been caught in the cross fire despite its nearly perfect safety record in rail transportation.

In this edition of “The Ethanol Report,” Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) president and CEO Bob Dinneen discusses the safety record of ethanol shipments via the DOT-111A railcar, RFA’s program of safety training and best practices within the ethanol industry, and the need to focus on the root cause of recent derailments, track conditions and human error, and not exclusively on railcar design. Most importantly, he emphasizes “ethanol is not oil.”

Ethanol Report with RFA president Bob Dinneen on rail safety

Subscribe to “The Ethanol Report” with this link.

Senate Dems Against Obama on Biodiesel Proposal

nbb-senatorsNormally, they would be considered pretty staunch allies of President Obama. But a group of Democratic U.S. Senators have taken the Administration to task for its handling of the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposal to drastically reduce the amount of biodiesel required to be blended into the Nation’s fuel supply.

“The EPA’s preliminary November rule will be disastrous,” said Illinois Senator Dick Durbin, normally one of the president’s closest allies in the Senate, adding how the proposal is causing grave uncertainty in the biodiesel market. “We need more certainty of growth in this industry that is going to keep creating good paying jobs right here in America and serve the needs of America’s energy future.”

North Dakota Democratic Senator Heidi Heitkamp put the group together and echoed Durbin’s sentiments. She cited a new National Biodiesel Board survey that shows that nearly 80 percent of biodiesel operations have reduced production, nearly 60 percent idled production altogether or shut down a plant this year; two-thirds have reduced or is expecting to reduce their workforce, with 85 percent delaying or cancelling expansion plans. And just about every biodiesel producer surveyed blamed their reductions on the weak RFS and Congress’ inaction to extend the federal biodiesel tax credit.

“If you look at what this industry depends on from the U.S. Congress, it’s certainty, it is some measure of consistency in public policy. And I have to tell you, on that score, we have failed miserably,” Heitkamp said.

Minnesota’s Sen. Al Franken said he has talked to the President and EPA Gina McCarthy about this proposal and reiterated his belief that this is the wrong signal to investors… especially at a time when biodiesel’s sister fuel, cellulosic ethanol, is gaining support.

“This is not the time to tell investors that we’re backing off,” Franken said. Later on, Franken said his disappointment with the current RFS proposal is pretty obvious, while fellow Minnesotan, Sen. Amy Klobuchar said they were all stunned by the lowering of the amount of biodiesel to be blended.

“We knew they might make some changes, but it was fairly drastic when you look at the numbers,” pointing out that ethanol’s numbers are down 1.4 billion gallons below 2014′s target and only 1.28 billion for biodiesel this year… a drastic reduction from 2013′s approximately 1.7 billion gallons produced.

Indiana’s Sen. Joe Donnelly said it wasn’t the right move by EPA, but it could be fixed.

“They just made the wrong call. They have a chance to fix this and get it right. And what we want to do is make sure they have the right information, all the information they need, and if they do, then we’re expecting the right decision,” he said.

Sen. Maria Cantwell from Washington state said one way she believes they can help is to change the federal tax incentive from a blender’s to a producer’s credit.

“We hope this will also produce some more predictability and certainty in the industry.”

Listen to the senators’ opening statements here: Senators Voice Biodiesel Concerns

Biodiesel Producers Cutting Back Due to Uncertainty

nbb-advancedNearly 80 percent of biodiesel producers nationwide have cut back or idled production this year, due to uncertainty in policy coming out of Washington, D.C. A new survey from the National Biodiesel Board shows that a weak Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) proposal from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Congress’ failure to extend the biodiesel tax incentive is also behind the drive by two-thirds of the producers to cut their workforces as well.

“Inconsistency in Washington is wreaking havoc on the U.S. biodiesel industry,” said Anne Steckel, NBB’s vice president of federal affairs. “It’s not just hurting these producers. It is a setback for local economies where these plants operate, for our environment, for our national energy security, and for drivers who are tired of ever-increasing fuel prices that result from the petroleum industry’s monopoly at the pump.”

Among the other survey findings:

78 percent have reduced production versus 2013
57 percent have idled production altogether or shut down a plant this year
66 percent have reduced workforce or anticipate reducing workforce
85 percent have delayed or canceled expansion plans

The producers nearly universally attributed the industry decline to the weak RFS proposal and loss of the tax incentive.

NBB also attended a news conference in Washington today, where six U.S. Democratic Party senators, along with some biodiesel producers from across the country, blasted the Obama Administration for the EPA proposal, as well as the congressional inaction (we’ll have more on what they had to say tomorrow).

asteckelAfter the senators’ and producers’ remarks, Anne told me while the policy has been uneven and caused the uncertainty for producers, she is appreciative of the steadfast support from the lawmakers at today’s event.

“It’s a strong support of biodiesel, and I think that bodes well for us, as we look for EPA to make this final decision on raising the RFS volumes for biodiesel. We’re very hopeful that this strong support will resonate with the Administration,” she said.

Listen to what Anne had to say after the news conference: Anne Steckel, NBB’s vice president of federal affairs

EPA Chief Explains RFS Proposal

epa-mccarthyThe administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency explained her agency’s proposal to lower the volume requirements under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) to members of the National Association of Farm Broadcasting meeting in Washington DC this week.

“Let me begin by reiterating that this administration sees renewable fuels as a big part of our way to adapt to climate change,” said Gina McCarthy. “I also know that it helps to provide some certainty in the rural economy and to create jobs.”

McCarthy explained that she went through the “gestation period” of renewable fuels. “It was my job to get the Renewable Fuel Standard originally done,” she said. “We were significantly challenged this year because of the high increase in the numbers in the statute and what we believed an inability to get all of the ethanol into the system and usable” which was why she said they “took a re-look at the numbers.”

She says they know “that re-look was not appreciated” by the agriculture community and others, but that’s why they are considering the comments received on the proposal very carefully. “I think you will see those comments reflected in the final rule,” she concluded.

Listen to McCarthy’s comments here: McCarthy RFS comments to farm broadcasters

Ag Secretary Blames Oil Industry for RFS Attacks

vilsack-nafbDuring a meeting with members of the National Association of Farm Broadcasting on Tuesday, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack had strong words for the oil industry and its attacks on the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

“The oil industry has made a concerted, organized, well-financed attack on the Renewable Fuel Standard,” said Vilsack when asked about the EPA’s proposal to lower volume requirements for the RFS. “A lot of focus has been on the EPA and the administration, but it is the oil industry that has gone to court to try to limit the impact of the RFS. It is the oil industry that has gone to Capitol Hill to try to insert in appropriations bills and other bills an elimination or curtailment or restriction of the Renewable Fuel Standard.”

“It’s the oil industry working in concert with others that’s made it very difficult to expand higher blend availability,” the secretary continued. “So, what the EPA is doing I think is responding to the need to make sure that there is a strong, defensible RFS.” Vilsack says USDA shares that desire with the EPA. “Because there is no question there is a concerted attack and it is well-financed – and there is no question where the money is coming from.”

Listen to Vilsack’s comments here: Vilsack RFS comments to farm broadcasters

Thanks to Gary Cooper, AgNet West, for providing the audio.

2012 Ag Census Includes Renewable Energy

2012-censusThe 2012 Census of Agriculture shows a doubling of on-farm renewable energy production since 2007.

According to the census data released by USDA today, there were 57,299 farms that produced on-farm renewable energy in 2012, more than double the 23,451 in 2007. By far the biggest was solar panels, used on over 36,000 farms. Geoexchange systems and wind turbines each were used on more than 9,000 farms.

For renewable fuels, biodiesel was produced on 4,099 farms and ethanol on 2,397. Small hydro systems were used on about 1300 farms and methane digesters on 537.

The census reveals there are now 3.28 million farmers operating 2.1 million farms on 914.5 million acres of farmland across the United States. Those numbers are all lower than 2007 when the census reported 3.18 million farmers, 2.2 million farms and 922 million acres. The top 5 states for agricultural sales were California ($42.6 billion); Iowa ($30.8 billion); Texas ($25.4 billion); Nebraska ($23.1 billion); and Minnesota ($21.3 billion). Corn and soybean acres topped 50 percent of all harvested acres for the first time.

Census data is available from USDA online and a recording of the webcast release of the census data is here: USDA Releases 2012 Census Data

REPREVE Launches Biomass Crop System

A North Carolina-based biomass company has launched a brand new system for the production of high-yielding energy crops that can be used for biofuels and other bio-based products.

repreveREPREVE® RENEWABLES LLC is collaborating with farmers and landowners across the country to use the innovative biomass crop system grow giant miscanthus grass on marginal and underutilized land.

REPREVE developed a comprehensive solution to the challenge of planting rhizome-propagated crops like miscanthus on a commercial scale, according to Jeff Wheeler, chief executive officer. “We’re really excited to be launching this year our new ACCU YIELD™ system,” said Wheeler, explaining that they had to develop specialized equipment to extract and process the rhizomes for planting, and then develop a precision planter to accurately and efficiently plant the crop for the highest yields.

ACCUDROP planter in fieldThe system is comprised of three elements: the ACCU LIFTER™ machine lifts rhizomes from a field in such a manner that reduces damage to the rhizomes thus increasing viability; the ACCU PROCESSOR™ unit sizes and cleans rhizomes for improved germination and quality and the ACCU DROP® planter provides optimal row spacing at varying planting densities to ensure a uniform, consistent and rapid stand establishment.

Farmers and landowners in Iowa, Georgia, North Carolina and Wisconsin are among the first to adopt this inventive approach to diversified land management. “These early adopters of commercial-scale biomass are trailblazers,” Wheeler says. “We provide turnkey solutions to farmers and landowners whereby we plant and harvest the crop. Plus we provide the market for the harvested crop each year.”

The crop is marketed to end users for a variety of renewable products, from biofuel to animal bedding. “Biofuels is one of the markets that we are working to develop,” said Wheeler, who says they have projects ongoing with companies in the advanced cellulosic biofuels arena. “There’s been such great progress made in those technologies and they hold such great promise for energy independence … but the biggest thing the industry needs is consistent and stable policy from Washington.”

Learn more in this interview with Wheeler: Interview with Jeff Wheeler, REPREVE Renewables

Saudi Oil Money Backing Ethanol Smear Campaign

americans-changeAmericans United for Change and VoteVets.org held a press call today to reveal IRS documents showing that Saudi Oil money is helping to finance the multi-million dollar anti-renewable fuel smear campaign ads that the American Petroleum Institute (API) is waging against ethanol and the Renewable Fuel Standard. Also today, the API held a press call to once again call for the lowering of ethanol volumes as mandated by the RFS. As of today, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has not published its final renewable volume obligations (RVO) for 2014 as they continue to sift through more than 25,000 comments submitted in response to their proposal.

In response to the continued attacks on biofuels, Americans United for Change is launching a Sunday show TV blitz aimed at both the public, legislators and key decisions makers in the Beltway in an attempt to set the record straight. Part of the ad calls out how foreign oil interests are attempting to keep America addicted to dirty petroleum products. According to tax documents, Saudi Arabia has been a funder of API dating back to 2008 and an employee of Saudi Aramco – a company with an estimated worth of $7 trillion by Financial Times, actually held a seat on API’s board.

‘The Kingdom’ will air May 4, 2014 on Meet the Press, Face the Nation, This Week and Fox News Sunday in the Washington, D.C. market.

Listen to the full conference here where Brad Woodhouse, Americans United for Change president “follows the Saudi money”: Saudi Oil Money Backing Ethanol Smear Campaign

Brad Woodhouse, President, Americans United for Change said during the press call, “API’s agenda is very simple and very greedy: they want EPA to cut the amount of renewable fuel in gasoline while raising the amount of crude oil. This is about market share, plain and simple.”

“You see, for every gallon of renewable fuels that is blended into gasoline,” he continued, “it’s one less gallon of gasoline the oil industry can sell. And since the United States already consumes far more oil than we can produce, all of that additional oil will have to be imported. Oil demand goes up, which means prices go up, and consumers send more of our paychecks overseas. So we decided to follow the money, and based on what we found, American Petroleum Institute President Jack Gerard ought to be using air quotes whenever he utters his outfit’s name.”

Woodhouse notes that having a lobbyist for the Saudi King helping call the shots at API, is “deeply troubling.” “They’re funneling Saudi Oil money into a campaign to force us all to buy more Saudi oil, and passing it off as American as apple pie.” Continue reading

DF Cast: Fuels America Fights Back with “Oil Rigged”

Backers of renewable fuels say when it comes to the fight against Big Oil, the fight is rigged… oil rigged.

Recently, Fuels America held a pair of news conferences. The first was to announce the launch of its “Oil Rigged” television and digital ad campaign and OilRigged.com, designed to “expose the many ways the oil industry is rigging the system to protect their profits and block the transition to clean, American renewable fuels.” In addition, Fuels America is backing up its claims with more than just talk, unveiling a new survey showing how renewable fuels have added significantly to the country’s economy, especially in rural areas.

In this edition of the Domestic Fuel Cast, we hear from Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis, Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) president Bob Dinneen, Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) Executive Vice President Brent Erickson, and Jon Doggett with the National Corn Growers Association, talking about how they want to rig the debate back to the facts.

Listen to what they had to say after they listened to ACE: Domestic Fuel Cast - Oil Rigged

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