REG Finishes Upgrade at 30 Mil Gallon Biodiesel Plant

REGmasoncityBiodiesel giant Renewable Energy Group will be able to crank out high quality biodiesel from a wide variety of raw materials at its Mason City, Iowa plant, thanks to a major upgrade to the 30 million gallon per year facility. This $20 million project has been a year in the making, and the ribbon cutting attracted several state and local government and business leaders.

The upgrades enable the Mason City biorefinery to utilize multiple raw materials, such as inedible corn oil, animal fats and greases, in addition to the refined vegetable oils the plant was originally designed to process. The upgrades were completed almost two months ahead of schedule and within budget.

“These upgrades further expand and strengthen our multi-feedstock business model, which allows REG to produce and deliver high-quality biomass-based diesel at an affordable price to growing regional and national markets,” said Daniel J. Oh, REG President and Chief Executive Officer. “We are well-positioned to meet growing demand in Iowa, with its retail incentive for advanced biofuels, and in Minnesota as it increases its use of higher biodiesel blends.”

REG also improved the existing front-end technology at the biorefinery that enables higher yields from free fatty acids in the production process.

“Enhancing the plant’s pretreatment and distillation capabilities will enable us to take a broader spectrum of lower-cost feedstocks and produce a high quality product,” said Brad Albin, REG Vice President, Manufacturing. “The increased feedstock flexibility helps drive greater demand for local feedstock suppliers and keeps more of their products in the Midwest.”

REG bought the Mason City biorefinery a year ago this past summer, reopening it just a few months later. The state and local governments kicked in about $2.5 million in incentives to make it a reality. REG completed a similar upgrade to another 30-million-gallon per year plant just up the road in Albert Lea, Minnesota.

Biodiesel Researcher Flys High with Scholarship

Jeni_Sorli1A University of Colorado student who includes biodiesel in her research will be flying high – WAYYYY high – as she is awarded a $10,000 scholarship from the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation. Senior Jeni Sorli picks up the scholarship when former NASA astronaut Bruce McCandless presents the honor on campus on Thursday, Oct. 30.

Sorli, a chemical engineering major from Billings, Montana, is the recipient of a number of other prestigious awards. She is a Goldwater Scholar, an Engineering Merit Scholar, a Norlin Scholar, a Presidential Scholar and a Conoco Phillips engineering intern.

Sorli currently is involved with the Engineering Honors Program, the CU Chapter of Engineers without Borders and CU Biodiesel. She has been studying renewable fuels, including working in the lab of Professor Alan Weimer researching biomass degasification.

The Astronaut Scholarship is the largest monetary award given in the United States to science and engineering undergraduate students based solely on merit.

Biodiesel By-Product Makes Viable Marine Fuel

A by-product of biodiesel refining could make for a viable alternative fuel for ships. This article from Seatrade Global says the Glycerine Fuel for Engines and Marine Sustainability (GLEAMS) project has concluded that glycerine is fine to use in marine vessels.

The group, comprising Lloyd’s Register EMEA, Marine South East, Aquafuel Research, Gardline Marine Sciences, and Redwing Environmental, proved that the fuel will be a viable option for ship engines. If adopted, the fuel, sometimes called glycerol, could offer a cheaper alternative to LNG and distillates, while also offering a higher efficiency than diesel, with no sulphur emissions, very low NOx emissions and virtually no particulates.

On top of this, retrofit is said to require nothing more than a modification to the engine’s external engine aspiration system; is water-soluble, with little to no damage caused to sea life in the event of a spill; and is “nearly impossible to ignite accidentally”.

A press statement by the group indicated “The GLEAMS project has been particularly successful in dispelling the widely held view that glycerine is unsuitable for use as a fuel due to its physical and chemical properties. The project very publicly demonstrated that glycerine could be used as a fuel in compression ignition engines by displaying the glycerine powered GLEAMS emissions test engine for three days at Seawork International 2014.”

GLEAMS project officials say there are several early adopters they hope to get on board with this technology, including some offshore vessels as well as research vessels.

German Firm to Optimize California Biodiesel Plant

BDIGerman firm BDI – BioEnergy International AG will optimize the operations at a California biodiesel plant. The company says it will retrofit the Crimson Renewable Energy LP refinery in Bakersfield, turning waste oil and grease into the green fuel.

BDI will supply engineering services and equipment for several important process phases in order to increase plant capacity to 75,000 tons a year and to modernise the existing biodiesel plant. This will also enable waste materials to be processed more efficiently and more sustainably into high quality, ultra-low carbon biodiesel transportation fuel.

The plant optimization project represents the next milestone in the 8-step BDI RetroFit programme “One Stop Shop” that BDI began work on in 2013 with Crimson to develop the necessary technical data and basic engineering for the RetroFit to improve Crimson’s biodiesel production operations.

BDI officials say this project strengthens the company’s presence in the American biodiesel market. Crimson Renewable Energy is the largest biodiesel producer in California and has been producing the fuel in Bakersfield since 2010.

Fuels America Launches Pro Biofuels Campaign

Fuels America has launched a new TV and radio campaign thanking American renewable fuels supporters Minnesota Senator Al Franken, Minnesota Rep. Collin Peterson, Nebraska Rep. Lee Terry and Michigan Rep. Gary Peters for fighting for local jobs and working to end America’s reliance on foreign oil.

The ads, on the radio in Minnesota and in Michigan and on television in Nebraska, thank the elected officials for supporting the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), the policy that allows domestic renewable fuels to compete in the motor fuel market.

Ads include:

  • Michigan Statewide: Radio ad titled “Our Pockets” about Gary Peters’ support of the RFS and fight to break America’s addiction to foreign oil, and how the Koch Brothers and Big Oil have spent millions against Peters.
  • Minnesota Statewide: Radio ad titled “Next Caller” highlighting Senator Franken’s support of the RFS and his work pushing the Obama Administration to increase production of renewable fuels.
  • Minnesota’s 7th District: Radio ad titled “Change Course” highlighting Collin Peterson’s support for a strong RFS, reduced reliance on foreign oil, and a stronger rural economy.
  • Nebraska’s 2nd District: TV ad titled “Solution” highlighting Lee Terry’s support of the RFS.

Pacific Biodiesel Once Again Fueling Boats

pacificbiodieselAfter the last couple of years filling up vehicles for dry land transportation, Hawaii-based Pacific Biodiesel is once again topping off boat tanks. This article from Pacific Business News says Pacific Biodiesel got a new permit and has expanded its production of the green fuel so everyone can enjoy clean-burning biodiesel.

“Now that we have the larger capacity, and advanced technology that produces the highest quality biodiesel in America, we are expanding into high-value tourism markets with customers who care about the environment and want to attract eco-conscious visitors to their activities,” Bob King, president and founder of Pacific Biodiesel, said in a statement. “The marine industry should be first and foremost about protecting the ocean and delivering a healthier experience for ocean-goers.”

Biodiesel, a cleaner-burning, renewable alternative fuel produced in Hawaii from recycled waste vegetable oil, is safe for all diesel engines and has been registered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as a fuel and a fuel additive.

In April, Pacific Biodiesel said it closed its facility at the Central Maui Landfill after being open since 1996 because it couldn’t justify the costly site improvements that were required to meet the county’s demands.

The article says Aqua Adventures Maui, a customer of Pacific Biodiesel from more than a decade ago, is the first boat company to fuel under the new permit.

Loyola Students Get Hands-On Biodiesel Experience

loyola biodiesel-lab1Even in the pristine halls of academia, you can learn a lot by getting your hands dirty, especially when it comes to biodiesel. This article from Loyola University Chicago explains how the school’s Clean Energy Lab, the first and only school with an operation license to sell biodiesel in the U.S., is providing a student-run initiative that’s also a certified green business by the Illinois Green Business Association

“The Biodiesel lab is a good experience for students because it gets students involved hands-on in the field they might be interested in,” sophomore Biology major Najla Zayed said. “It helps us realize that sustainability is a practical thing and we can use the knowledge we gain from our labs and classes and project it out in the world, mainly in Chicago.”

Students involved in these course look at the inputs — such as what energy might go into the process — and the outputs such as productivity and byproducts of the process.

“[The students] identified glycerin as byproduct,” said Loyola’s Director of Sustainability Aaron Durnbaugh said while giving a tour Oct. 9. “So they used that to create BioSoap, in which they marketed, and tested.” The BioSoap is used in main bathrooms around the Lake Shore and Water Towers campuses. It is now fully certified as green chemistry by the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

Loyola’s Clean Energy Lab has several other biodiesel-related projects going on, including Bio-Soap, methanol recovery, production efficiency and the creation of household cleaning products.

EIA: Farms Big Energy Users and Producers

Farmers are using… but also making… a lot of energy. A new report from the U.S Energy Information Administration shows that American agriculture used nearly 800 trillion British thermal units (Btu) of energy in 2012, or about as much primary energy as the entire state of Utah. While growing and harvesting the crops and the energy needed to raise livestock are significant expenditures (with crop operations consume much more energy than livestock operations), those same farms are also big contributors to our nation’s fuel supply.

Energy makes up a significant part of operating expenditures for most crops, especially when considering indirect energy expenditures on fertilizer, because the production of fertilizer is extremely energy-intensive, requiring large amounts of natural gas. For some crops like oats, corn, wheat, and barley, energy and fertilizer expenditures combined make up more than half of total operating expenses. The proportion of direct to indirect energy use varies by crop. For example, corn, which is also used as an energy input for ethanol production, has relatively low direct fuel expenditures but has the highest percentage of fertilizer expenditures.
EIAcropenergy
The energy consumed in livestock operations is almost solely direct energy consumption and is relatively low compared with crop operations, both as a percentage of total operating expenditures and on a total energy basis…

In addition to being major energy consumers, some farms are using renewable resources to produce energy. Wind turbines, methane digesters, and photovoltaics are the most common on-farm renewables. Renewable energy can help to offset the need for purchased energy. In some cases, the renewable energy produced on farms is sold to electric power suppliers, providing additional income for farmers.

The report also says that water and chemicals used in agriculture can be big users of energy resources.

Teen Biodiesel Maker Honored with HALO

Jessie J, Nick Cannon, Lulu Cerone, Yash Gupta, Alanna Wall, Nicholas Lowinger, Cassandra LinIt’s no secret that we think the folks who make biodiesel are angels, but one actually now will get her own HALO! Cassandra Lin, a teenager from Westerly, Rhode Island is part of that area’s Project TGIF, Turn Grease Into Fuel, a student-led project where restaurants and residents recycle their waste cooking oil, it gets turned into biodiesel and is donated to charity to support families who require heating assistance. She’ll be honored by the kids’ TV network Nickelodeon with one of its HALO – Helping and Leading Others – awards. The star-studded musical event is being held in New York City and showing across all Nickelodeon networks, streaming on the Nick.com website and the Nick app on Sunday, Nov. 30, at 7 p.m. (ET/PT).

“We’re taking over New York City with the hottest music performers and the most awe-inspiring kids for one huge fun night at this year’s Nickelodeon HALO Awards,” said [pop music star Nick] Cannon. “The HALO Awards embodies the altruistic spirit of the holidays with its positive message and I can’t wait to celebrate the terrific work of these young heroes.”

If you live in Rhode Island, Project TGIF has more information about drop-off locations and details on its website.

NBB: Soy, Livestock and Biodiesel Go Together

As the world celebrated World Food Day yesterday, the folks at the National Biodiesel Board (NBB), along with their friends at the American Soybean Association (ASA), make the case that the biodiesel industry, soybean growers and livestock producers are an important part of the food chain.
NBBworldfoodday1
“The world has a protein gap that needs to be filled,” said American Soybean Association World Initiative for Soy in Human Health Chairman Andy Welden. “Our crop offers soybean meal for livestock feed and human food, which at the same time, creates an abundant supply of soybean oil for biodiesel.”

October 16 is annually recognized as World Food Day. The 2014 Theme is Family Farming; Feeding the world, caring for the earth. The United States produces more than 3.2 billion bushels of soybeans a year, offering an abundant supply of meal for human foods and livestock feeds as well as oil for biodiesel and other uses. U.S. soybean growers also participate in support sustainability programs for conservation and other environmental practices.

NBB also pointed that increased biodiesel production benefits poultry and livestock farmers, as increased amounts of soy oil for biodiesel production also means more soy meal is available for livestock feed and human food. The group added that, according to the United Nations, 805 million people are estimated to be chronically undernourished in 2012–14. But that number is actually down more than 100 million over the last decade, in no small part because of the ASA’s World Initiative for Soy in Human Health (WISHH) that assists developing country entrepreneurs and leaders in filling the “protein gap” with nutritious soy-based foods as well as livestock and aquaculture feeds.

Along with reducing the cost of livestock feed, biodiesel also adds value to animal fats. In 2013 demand for fats and oils for biodiesel production increased the value of beef tallow an estimated $567 million, pork fat an estimated $165 million, and poultry fat by more than $51 million, making the production of animal protein more economical.

Honeywell’s UOP Tech for Military’s Renewable Diesel

honeywell-uop-logoTechnology from Honeywell’s UOP LLC will be used to produce renewable diesel. This company news release says the technology was secured under the U.S. Department of Defense Advanced Drop-in Biofuels Production Project.

Emerald Biofuels LLC will use Honeywell’s UOP/Eni Ecofining™ process technology to refine non-edible oils and animal fats into renewable diesel, also known as Honeywell Green Diesel™, which is a drop-in replacement for conventional diesel derived from petroleum.

Emerald is being supported by a $70 million contract from the Defense department project, which is focused on creating economically viable production capacity for advanced drop-in biofuels, including feedstocks, refining, transportation and logistics. Emerald is expected to produce 85 million gallons of renewable diesel per year under the project.

“Our renewable process technology leverages UOP’s 100 years of refining expertise to produce Honeywell Green Diesel, a drop-in diesel that, unlike biodiesel, is chemically identical to petroleum-derived diesel and does not require changes to engines or fuel infrastructure,” said Veronica May, vice president and general manager of UOP’s Renewable Energy and Chemicals business unit. “This proven technology is being used in commercial production today.”

The Advanced Drop-in Biofuels Production Project is the military’s program to create assured, affordable and economically viable production capabilities and capacities for items, such as drop-in renewable fuels, essential to national defense.

For the last two years, UOP has licensed Ecofining technology to Emerald to produce 85 million gallons per year of Honeywell Green Diesel at a facility on the Gulf Coast. Ecofining technology is also being used by Diamond Green Diesel in Norco, La., to produce renewable diesel from used cooking oil and other feedstocks.

NBB Cautiously Optimistic About RFS

“We’ve exceeded the goals of advanced biofuels. Then we had the devastating proposed rule that has gone on for a year now. We are cautiously optimistic that we’ll have something here within the next few weeks and that it will be positive,” said Joe Jobe, CEO of the National Biodiesel Board (NBB) who was one of the panel members of panel that discussed federal biofuels policy and the long-term prognosis of the advanced biofuels industry. The discussion was part of the National Advanced Biofuels Conference that recently took place in Minnesota and also included a robust discussion on the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

nabce-14-Joe Jobe NBBJobe noted that the biofuels industry and particularly the advanced biofuels industry is beleaguered. “We’ve been under attack by uncertain policy signals, but we need to keep up the fight and double down on the fight. We need to get more of our message out there. We need to get more involved in policy advocacy, we need to get the RFS working again,” said Jobe.

The industry has demonstrated the RFS can work well said Jobe. “We created it to be a stable energy policy.”

Last year was a record breaker for the biodiesel industry – it grew from producing just over one billion gallons in 2012 to just under 2 billion gallons in 2013. “Advanced biofuels are here. The industry has exceeded the goals of advanced biofuels,” Jobe stressed.

The policy discussion will continue during the 2015 National Biodiesel Board Conference & Expo taking place in Ft. Forth, Texas January 19-22. Registration is open.

Jobe urges the industry to step up its advocacy efforts and its policy efforts to ensure the future of the advanced biofuels industry.

Interview with Joe Jobe, National Biodiesel Board
Remarks from Joe Jobe, National Biodiesel Board

2014 National Advanced Biofuels Conference & Expo Photo Album

Coverage of The Advanced Biofuels Conference and Expo is sponsored by
Coverage of The Advanced Biofuels Conference and Expo is sponsored by New Holland

Small Biodiesel Maker Closing Indicative of RFS Problem

yokayo1While the closing of one small biodiesel maker in California might not seem like big news, it’s certainly indicative of the problems facing the industry, big and small producers alike. This story from the Ukiah (CA) Daily Journal says that Yokayo Biofuels, which turned waste cooking oil into biodiesel, has closed.

[Kumar Plocher, Yokayo Biofuels' CEO] says the biggest reason for their closure was due to a lack of government support both at the state and federal levels. He explains that the carbon credit programs, those where petroleum companies are required to buy a certain amount of renewable fuels, allowed his company to bank carbon credits, normally valued high based on demand. This year state and federal value levels were very low: the state’s due to tampering by global companies that flooded the market and at the federal’s due to the Obama administration and the EPA. “Every year the federal government is supposed to raise the requirement of renewable fuel that should be purchased. At the beginning of 2014, they did not do that; they kept it static. They waited until September to announce a tiny increase, and by that time the damage was done and carbon credits were worthless all year. Every mid-term election year, the dollar per gallon subsidy that goes to biofuels has been absent; they wait until after the election.”

Plocher’s complaint is a common one among advanced biofuel makers and their advocates this year. In fact, at the recent National Advanced Biofuels Conference & Expo, Michael McAdams, founder and president of the Advanced Biofuels Association, said the partnership between the federal government and industry has to have clarity and certainty, but that’s not been the case lately.

“What we haven’t had in the last two years is certainty for the people I represent in the advanced and cellulosic sector,” McAdams said.

Similarly, Bob Dinneen, CEO and president of the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), pointed to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s estimates that corn prices will hit an eight-year low because of the government’s failure to follow through on the promises made in the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

“Indeed, today’s USDA report should be the closing argument in the debate over the 2014 RFS final rule,” Dinneen continued. “When farmers made their planting decisions for the 2014 season, they anticipated that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the White House would continue to enforce the statutory RFS volumes. But in one fell swoop, the EPA’s proposed rule wiped away demand for 500 million bushels of corn and grain sorghum. Now, farmers are faced with corn prices below the cost of production and the risk of returning to an era of increased reliance on federal farm program payments.”

There is a little good news in all of this. Plocher was able to sell Yokayo Biofuels’ biodiesel assets to like-minded Simple Fuels.

Biodiesel Research Leads to Biochar Grant

isubiochar1Researchers at Iowa State University looking into ways to make biodiesel more profitable have found a way for farmers to cash in on biochar, a charcoal-like substance used as a carbon sequestering resource. This article from the school says ISU students Bernardo Del Campo, Juan Proano and Matthew Kieffer are expanding their horizons and have picked up a U.S. Department of Energy for $150,000 to help make the idea a reality.

“In the beginning, it was biodiesel and consulting. It was playing around as a club figuring out ‘How do we do biodiesel? How do we help the farmer?’ Proano said. “In that phase, we figured out that Biochar could be a good addition in order to improve the health of the soils on a farm.”

As the group began looking at the idea of making a profit with the research they had done, it became apparent that a change needed to be made.

“People have been doing this pretreatment for some time, but we did it [for] pennies. It was a really reduced budget.” Proano said.

From there, the company began working with around 20 individuals from many different backgrounds and ethnicities to make different products from another bio-renewable resource, Biochar.

The article goes on to explain that biochar starts as sawdust, and through biomass pyrolysis, the sawdust is turned into the biochar, which acts like a sponge to help clean up farm chemicals from streams and rivers while also enriching the soil.

Study Looks at Biodiesel Particulates

keenebiodiesel_research1While it’s a pretty well established fact that biodiesel produces fewer particulates than its petroleum counterpart, researchers on a new study want to see if those fewer particulates are also less harmful. This story from Keene State College in New Hampshire says they are using real-world testing to see if those biodiesel particulates are less toxic.

“We began this project using exposure as our measurement of health,” [Associate Professor of Environmental Studies Nora Traviss] explained. “We examined whether or not the pollution created by biodiesel combustion resulted in higher exposure for workers than the pollution created by petroleum diesel. It was very much an exposure assessment.”

With the cooperation of the Keene Recycling Center, Dr. Traviss and her research team mounted particle impactors in the operator’s cabs in machinery at the Center, collecting samples of both petroleum diesel and biodiesel exhaust. The impactors can separate out different sizes of extremely tiny particles, which lets the researchers see exactly what the drivers are breathing. This approach makes Dr. Traviss’ study different from all the others, which collect samples from diesel engines set up in a lab. Dr. Traviss’ samples are real-world. “The exhaust we’re collecting is diluted in the air, it’s going through chemical reactions from the sunlight, and it’s combining with other molecules in the air,” Dr. Traviss explained. “We’re studying the quantity of the particulate matter the driver is breathing and its unique chemical composition, which we hypothesize will be different from particles collected directly from the tailpipe.”

So far, Traviss’ team has confirmed that the amount of particulates in biodiesel exhaust is indeed lower than those from petroleum diesel, although they also found that they are chemically different. They’ll now be using a $400,000 grant from the National Institute of Health to test the toxicity of those particulates.