USDA Looks to Get Ethanol from Kudzu

kudzu1It might be the scourge of the south, but kudzu could become the next feedstock for biofuels.

“When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade,” says Lewis Ziska with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS). “One of the possible potential benefits of kudzu is the roots are high in starch, and it may be a potential biofuel.”

Ziska says the USDA is working with the University of Toronto and Auburn University to look at the potential of kudzu roots. Since the USDA certainly doesn’t want to promote the growing of the weed that has overrun so many places in the south, he believes harvesting kudzu from abandoned farmland and other areas where it’s growing unchecked and easily harvested could end up producing as much, or even more, ethanol from an acre of the weed they want to eliminate as would be produced from an acre of corn.

“What we think we could do is to take the existing kudzu and convert into a biofuel for a win-win,” Ziska says.

You can listen to Ziska’s remarks here: Lewis Ziska, USDA ARS

Biodiesel Industry Waiting on RFS and Tax Credit

nafb14-nbb-kalebThe biodiesel industry is doing fairly well right now, but producers are anxiously awaiting some policy decisions that could improve the situation.

The two outstanding issues right now are the final 2014 volume requirements under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and the once again expired biodiesel tax credits, according to Kaleb Little with the National Biodiesel Board. “The delay in the volumes has really hurt production,” said Little. “Overall production, we’re still probably going to be around 1.28 billion gallons for the year, but certainly below 2013’s record production (of 1.8 billion).”

Little says that 2013 is an example of what stable policy could do for the industry, with both the biodiesel tax credit in place and the RFS volumes in line with production capability. “You get those things lined up right in the same year and – record production,” he said. “Producers were glad to see it after some rough years and some ups and downs.”

Policy issues will be at the forefront as always during the 2015 National Biodiesel Conference January 19-22 in Fort Worth, and Little says they will also have some good news about new support for biodiesel from manufacturers.

Listen to my interview with Kaleb here from the National Association of Farm Broadcasting convention: Interview with Kaleb Little, NBB

2014 NAFB Convention Photos

Coverage of the NAFB convention is sponsored by
NAFB Convention is sponsored by FMC

RFA Pleased with E85 Potential

nafb14-rfa-whiteThe Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) is pleased with a new report that shows the potential for growth in sales of 85% ethanol blends.

“There’s no doubt that E85 sales will double or triple over the next decade, but they also predict that the flex fuel vehicle count will continue to grow,” says RFA vice president for industry relations Robert White. “The flex fuel vehicles on the road today could use all the ethanol we produce if they used E85 more often.”

And that would be possible if there were more places for drivers to buy E85, which would happen if the Renewable Fuel Standard were allowed to work as it was intended. “If given its chance, it will create the market and this report clearly shows that more E85 would be sold,” he said.

At the National Association of Farm Broadcasting convention last week, White also talked about RFA’s “Post Your Price” contest which has been getting lots of entries showing the price of E85 around the country. The contest will award free E85 for a year to a randomly drawn entry, but they are also awarding prizes for the largest and smallest price differentials between E85 and E10. “We’ve already got one sent in that E85 was higher than E10,” White said. The lowest price for E85 so far has been $1.64, compared to $2.84 for regular.

Listen to my interview with Robert at NAFB here: Interview with Robert White, RFA

2014 NAFB Convention Photos

Coverage of the NAFB convention is sponsored by
NAFB Convention is sponsored by FMC

RFA’s Geoff Cooper on Bobby Likis Show

likis-smallThe “Bobby Likis Car Clinic” featured Renewable Fuels Association Senior Vice President Geoff Cooper on show’s live globalcast this past Saturday, November 8.

Cooper addressed a variety of topics including the truth behind the fictional food vs. fuel argument, as well as the hot button issue of greenhouse gas – or GHG – emissions and the role ethanol plays in reducing their output into the ozone. Cooper will also share with Car Clinic audiences the benefits and the commercialization of cellulosic ethanol.

“RFA recently conducted a study that shows while corn prices have plummeted, food prices have remained steady or have risen,” said Cooper. “The petroleum industry would like to pin any increase in food prices on the ethanol industry when in fact it is oil that drives food prices.”

Listen to Cooper’s interview with Bobby here and watch the video below: Bobby Likis interviews RFA's Geoff Cooper

Propane Power for UPS

2014 World LP Gas Forum Photo Album

perc-wlpgf14-upsEarlier this year, the delivery giant UPS expanded commitment to propane by adding 1,000 propane delivery trucks and 50 fueling stations at UPS locations.

“It was the easiest alternative fuel they’ve ever transitioned into their fleet…the easiest installation of infrastructure of any alternative fuel,” said Michael Taylor, Autogas Business Director for the Propane Education and Research Council (PERC). The only complaint was that drivers said the new vehicles are “too quiet.”

perc-wlpgf-pachlaPowertrain Integration (PI) was the company that designed the propane autogas V8 packages that are being used in the new brown trucks and president Bob Pachla says UPS adopted the new propane technology very quickly. “Typically what they’ll do is put units into a fleet and test it and you’ll hear from them two or three years later,” said Pachla. “In this case, we put the fleet into production, 20 units, the fall of last year and they made the announcement this year to build a thousand UPS step vans.”

Taylor and Pachla discussed UPS and the propane powered engines at the recent World LP Gas Forum in Miami. Listen to them here and watch the video below: Propane Power for UPS

Simplifying Propane Autogas Dispensers

2014 World LP Gas Forum Photo Album

perc-wlpgf14-superiorOne of the keys to getting more propane-powered vehicles on the road is getting more propane autogas fueling infrastructure and making it safe and simple for users.

Superior Energy Systems offers a whole line of autogas dispensing systems and during a Propane Education & Research Council event at the World LP Gas Forum, Mike Walters talked about how they are making it so easy your grandmother can use it. “The whole idea is to get autogas fueling to the point of being so similar to gasoline that people aren’t afraid of it,” said Walters, showing off what they nicknamed the Granny Nozzle. “It’s so simple that granny can pull into the C-store and fuel up her SUV without having to have personal protective equipment.”

“What we’re talking about here is low emission transfer versus no emission transfer,” Walters said.

Listen to Walters here and watch the video below to see the system. Mike Walters, Superior Energy Systems

PERC Debuts New Videos at World LPG Forum

perc-wlpgf-willisThe Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) released a series of online videos with leading U.S. equipment manufacturers highlighting their investment in developing and commercializing new propane technologies. The videos debuted to an international crowd at the 2014 World LP Gas Forum in Miami, where they ran continuously on screens in the PERC showcase at the event.

Companies featured in the series include Freightliner Custom Chassis Corp., Generac, Kohler Engines and Power Systems, Marathon, Origin Engines, Power Solutions International, and Roush CleanTech. “These world-class companies continue to build and commercialize new equipment that runs on propane for good reason: Propane is a smart investment. It’s clean, economical, and it performs,” said Roy Willis, PERC president and CEO. “On top of that, these companies stand behind propane because it’s an American-made fuel that supports American jobs and our domestic energy independence.”

At the LPG forum, Willis spoke to members of various industry publications that focus on different sectors where propane is used – from agriculture and on-road, to commercial landscaping, building and residential. PERC is an industry checkoff program which has been in existence since 1998, and Willis explained how they have transitioned in recent years from a focus on marketing and advertising to developing new technologies. “The industry recognized that to grow our industry we needed to expand beyond our existing customer base and to do so we needed propane technology that customer base could use,” said Willis.

Listen to Willis’ comments here: Roy Willis, PERC president and CEO

2014 World LP Gas Forum Photo Album

CleanFUEL USA Adds Mass Flow Meter Technology

wlpgf-clean-fuelAt the World LP Gas Forum in Miami this week, CleanFUEL USA announced the addition of mass flow meter technology to its line of propane autogas refueling dispensers.

Global demand is high for mass flow technology, the most advanced meter technology in the world, and CleanFUEL USA is offering immediate availability for the first time in the United States and worldwide. “There’s been a great demand in the world for this technology, more so outside the U.S.,” said Chrystelle Markley with CleanFUEL. “We thought it was important for us, as a technology leader, to bring this technology to the U.S.”

Demand for propane autogas is higher in European and Latin American countries. “There’s about 15 million vehicles in the world running on propane gas, in the United States less than 200,000 today,” said CleanFUEL’s Wayne Moore. “So, the U.S. has the opportunity to increase the amount of vehicles here.”

Mass flow meter benefits include no moving parts, greatly reduced maintenance, remote diagnostics and lifetime calibration.

Listen to an interview with CleanFUEL from the World LP Gas Forum: Interview with Wayne Moore and Chrystelle Markley, CleanFUEL USA

2014 World LP Gas Forum Photo Album

A Global View of LP Gas

perc-wlpgf14-welcomeWelcome to Miami and the 27th annual World LP Gas Forum!

The World LP Gas Association has members in 130 countries and a good percentage of those are represented here at this event. Because it’s in the United States this year, the Propane Education and Research Council (PERC) has a special presence to showcase new innovations for propane use in a variety of markets, including on-road.

perc-wlpgf14-alisonAlison Abbot, marketing and communications director for the World LP Gas Association, says the event moves around the globe each year. “It’s the first time since 2008 we’ve been in the United States, the last time was in Chicago,” said Abbot. Last year it was in London and next year it will be in Singapore.

Abbot says PERC is a very active member of the WLPGA and the work the organization is doing in promotion and research of new markets and innovations for propane. “We work very closely with PERC,” she said. “What we do as the world association is we take what fellow associations like PERC in the United States do and act as a central hub to disseminate it out.”

Listen to my interview with Alison here: Interview with Alison Abbot, World LP Gas Association

2014 World LP Gas Forum Photo Album

Pacific Ag Bales Bundles of Energy

Bill Levy Pacific AgLast week Abengoa’s cellulosic ethanol biorefinery went online and is expected to produce 25 million gallons of advanced ethanol per year as well as 21 MW of bioenergy. But how exactly does the corn and wheat residue get from the fields to the biorefinery in a economical and efficient way? Enter Pacific Ag.

The company was founded by Bill Levy in 1998 and began by baling residue for growers and using the biomass for animal feed both in the U.S. and internationally. It was a natural progression for Pacific Ag to get involved in cellulosic production in the U.S. and to become a major supplier to the industry.

I asked Levy to talk about their residue removal model. He noted that since their inception, they have always focused on having a balanced residue program for growers and they are finding value for those products for them. So taking their successful model from the Northwest and applying it to the Midwest was a good fit. “The fundamentals of having residue removed on a timely basis and in a sustainable way is really the same,” explained Levy. Today they are in California, North Carolina, Iowa, Kansas and he says they have innovated to become “energy balers” because of the new bioenergy market for residue.

There has been talk about the best biomass model for the biofuels industry. I posed this question to Levy and he explained how they have refined their model to be financial feasible. “We have tried to make it easy for growers to be part of the program by taking care of the harvest, we own the machinery, we schedule the harvest or the removal of the residue, or energy crop with the grower and then we provide them with an income stream for that product,” Levy answerPacific Ag Hugoton Kansas teamed. “It’s very important that we have the size that allows us to invest in that equipment and a lot of times it doesn’t make sense financially for a grower to to invest in that harvest equipment just to harvest the residue.” Pacific Ag is the largest purchaser and owner of baling equipment in the world.

“So what growers enjoy is being able to sit back and enjoy a residue removal program and the income from that but not have to put a lot of effort into it,” added Levy.

Pacific Ag is looking for growers of rice, wheat, corn and other biomass crops who are interested in working with them. As cellulosic ethanol plants including Abengoa continue to ramp up to nameplate capacity, more biomass will be needed and Pacific Ag is ready to be the advanced biofuels partner to help make the cellulosic industry and the growers who plant the bioenergy crops, successful.

Learn more about Pacific Ag and how to become involved in the biomass energy revolution by listening to my interview with Bill Levy: Interview with Bill Levy, Pacific Ag

Abengoa Cellulosic Ethanol Plant Grand Opening photo album.

Allison Details Abengoa’s Cellulosic Plant

Danny Allison Abengoa Plant ManagerWho better to learn about how Abengoa’s cellulosic ethanol plant works then from Plant Manager Danny Allison. He explained to the standing room only crowd during Abengoa’s grand opening celebration, how the state-of-the-art biorefinery will produce cellulosic ethanol, bioenergy and other byproducts including ash that farmers can use as organic fertilizer on their fields.

Here is how the plant works:

Biomass: biomass harvested from local growers corn and wheat fields by Pacific Ag is delivered to the Abengoa plant to begin the ethanol production process. Each bale is quality tested for moisture, dust and other contaminants that could hinder the conversion process.

Biomass In-take Lines: six-packs of residue travel down conveyor belts to be separated into single bales by a singulator. Each bale goes through a chopper, cutting the biomass Biomass in-take lines at Hugoton Kansas Abengoa biorefineryinto easy-to-handle materials and then fed into a grinder.

Pre-Treatment: The pre-treatment process is where the starch is converted to sugars using Abengoa’s proprietary enzymes. From there fermentation occurs suing industrial yeast to convert the sugar to alcohol. At the end of fermentation, the liquid, now 5 percent alcohol, goes into a 1.3 million gallon tank, or beer well.

Distillation System and Ethanol Holding Tanks: All solids, water vapor and alcohol are removed. The now 95 percent pure ethanol moves to a column while the remaining 5 percent goes to the bottom for reprocessing and reclamation. After all impurities and water are removed, the finished ethanol is pumped to half-million storage tanks and ready for shipment by rail or truck.

Electrical Power Station: The Abengoa bioenergy plant will also produce up to 21MW of renewable electricity used to power the plant. Excess electricity will be fed to the grid for city use.

Learn more about the process by listening to Danny Allison’s remarks: Danny Allison Remarks

Abengoa Cellulosic Ethanol Plant Grand Opening photo album.

RFA Promoting Distillers Feed at Export Exchange

rfa-exex-2014The 2014 Export Exchange is continuing today in Seattle, Washington with representatives from more than 50 different countries in attendance to learn more about DDGS, the distillers feed product produced by U.S. ethanol plants.

The Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) is co-sponsor of the event with the U.S. Grains Council and RFA president and CEO Bob Dinneen says it’s because we produce a lot of distillers feed. “Our plants, if they were a single country, would be the fourth largest producer of corn equivalent feed, behind only the U.S., China and Brazil,” said Dinneen, who spoke at the event yesterday on agricultural policies and politics. Interview with RFA CEO Bob Dinneen at 2014 Export Exchange

rfa-cooper-exexRFA Senior Vice President Geoff Cooper spoke at the event on the supply and demand outlook for DDGS.

“We have ample supplies of distillers grains coming from the U.S. ethanol industry but the demand picture is somewhat murky,” said Cooper. “That murkiness has to do with trade barriers and interruptions in the global trade of distillers grains that we’re seeing.”

Cooper says the U.S. is expected to produce 36-37 million metric tons of DDGS in the current marketing year, but one of the biggest trade disruptions in the market is being created by China’s demand that shipments of distillers grains must be certified to be free of the MIR162 biotech corn trait. “That kind of certification is not possible,” said Cooper. “So, we expect exports to China to be significantly curtailed or even halted until this situation is resolved.”

Last year, half of the U.S. distillers grains exports went to China, but Cooper says there are other countries increasing imports. “We are seeing continued growth of distillers grains exports to other parts of Asia outside of China,” he said, adding that Mexico is increasing imports and countries such as Egypt and Turkey are also growing markets. Interview with RFA Senior VP Geoff Cooper at 2014 Export Exchange

Ethanol Report on E85 Study and Contest

ethanol-report-adThe Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) is looking for visual evidence of prices for 85% ethanol (E85) around the country.

“We’re doing an E85 “Post your Price” contest,” says RFA Vice President, Industry Relations, Robert White. “That came about from a study we just concluded in St. Louis this summer.”

That study showed evidence of price gouging for E85, with retail prices were around $1 per gallon higher than was justified by wholesale prices for the locally available ethanol blendstock.

In this edition of the Ethanol Report, White talks about the study and the new contest.

Ethanol Report on E85 study and contest

Ethanol Industry Applauds Abengoa

abengoaMembers of the ethanol industry joined with government leaders in applauding Abengoa at the opening of its $500 million cellulosic ethanol plant in Hugoton, Kansas last week.

Among those on hand for the celebration was Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) Vice President of Industry Relations Robert White who says Americans should be proud of the new plant “because this phantom fuel, as the naysayers like to call it, is here and it’s here to stay.”

However, White says they are concerned that this third cellulosic plant opening this year could be the last if EPA fails to continue implementing the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) as Congress intended. “There may never be another celebration like this and it’s sad but true,” he said. “This promise was made years ago and (the administration) needs to stick to it.”

Interview with RFA's Robert White at Abengoa Opening

Abengoa Cellulosic Ethanol Plant Grand Opening photo album.

DOE’s Moniz Congrats Abengoa on Cellulosic Plant

US Energy Secretary Ernst MonizDepartment of Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz was on hand to help Abengoa Bioenergy celebrate the grand opening of its cellulosic ethanol plant in Hugoton, Kansas. With a beautiful day and a full house, excitement was high as Moniz took the stage to congratulate Abengoa’s achievement.

The $500 million biorefinery was supported, in part, by a DOE loan guarantee. Moniz began his remarks by putting the bioenergy plant in perspective of the larger picture and that is as part of President Obama’s “all of the above” energy strategy.

Moniz said the cellulosic ethanol plant serves three major objectives:

  1. Growing the economy – creating jobs.
  2. Advancing our energy security interests. No only for the United States alone, but also for our allies and friends.
  3. Moving towards the low carbon economy- addressing climate change.

Moniz also noted the importance of the innovation chain, “…and what we’re seeing to today is part of that…But if we’re going to kick start this, we have to work with the private sector with state and local governments with our research institutions and laboratories to get these technologies deployed and drive those costs down to be competitive continued Moniz. So this plant shows all of these features.”

He said that while there will be a few rough spots along the road, what the country is seeing today is the beginning of a new industry.

Listen to Energy Secretary Moniz’s complete comments here:

Listen to Energy Secretary Moniz’s remarks: Energy Secretary Moniz Remarks

Check out the Abengoa Cellulosic Ethanol Plant Grand Opening photo album.