Proposed Pennsylvania Biodiesel Plant Closer to Reality

pennsylvaniaflagA proposed biodiesel plant for York, Pennsylvania, is closer to reality, as the city Redevelopment Authority (RDA) green-lighted a development agreement with two entrepreneurs who want to turn a long-vacant, RDA-owned industrial building into a biodiesel plant. This article from the York Daily Record says Britta Schwab and James Munene can buy the RDA-owned building for $1,000, if they also get the financing for the refinery.

Schwab and Munene will have to satisfy the RDA that they have financing lined up for the project, including $114,000 they told the authority it will take to renovate the 10,000-square-foot building. They also would have to meet other conditions spelled out in the yet-to-be negotiated development agreement, including submitting plans detailing the renovations they plan for the building, said Shilvosky Buffaloe, the city’s deputy director of economic development.

Schwab and Munene, in their presentation to the authority on Wednesday, said they would create five to 10 new jobs for workers to produce biofuel from used restaurant cooking oil and grease. They plan to provide jobs to ex-offenders, among others, at a time when many in York struggle to find work.

“We’re very excited to have the opportunity to do business in York City,” Schwab said Wednesday.

When completed, the refinery could produce up to 5,000 gallons of fuel a day by fall 2015.

Iowa Lawmakers Honored for Support of Renewables

Three retiring state lawmakers in Iowa have been honored for “their unwavering support and leadership on renewable fuels.” The Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) says the outgoing lawmakers were given the “Lifetime Champion of Renewable Fuels” award for their long, distinguished careers and steadfast support of renewable fuels.

IRFA President-elect Brian Cahill, former Sens. Nancy Boettger and Daryl Beall, and IRFA Executive Director Monte Shaw.

IRFA President-elect Brian Cahill, former Sens. Nancy Boettger and Daryl Beall, and IRFA Executive Director Monte Shaw.

“It’s bittersweet to see these distinguished individuals leave the state legislature after long, successful careers, and we wish them nothing but the best in the future,” stated IRFA Policy Director Grant Menke. “Their unwavering support and leadership on renewable fuels issues will be greatly missed, and we sincerely thank them for their enduring accomplishments.”

The Lifetime Champion of Renewable Fuels awards were given to:

State Senator Daryl Beall of Fort Dodge, Iowa. Sen. Beall was an enthusiastic supporter of renewable fuels who worked tirelessly to promote ethanol and biodiesel both inside and outside the state legislature.

State Senator Nancy Boettger of Harlan, Iowa. As a farmer, Sen. Boettger was a rock solid supporter of renewable fuels who was critical in winning support for Iowa’s renewable fuels policy, including tax credits for retailers offering higher ethanol and biodiesel blends and fuel dispensing equipment grants for renewable fuels upgrades.

State Senator Hubert Houser of Carson, Iowa. Sen. Houser was also instrumental in passing the framework of today’s renewable fuels policy in Iowa, and was active in the creation of Southwest Iowa Renewable Energy (SIRE), an ethanol production facility in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

With 43 ethanol refineries producing more than 3.8 billion gallons annually and 12 biodiesel facilities with the capacity to produce nearly 315 million gallons annually, Iowa is the nation’s renewable fuels leader.

Deck Stacked Against Ag and Biofuels in Report

bpcThe Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) appears to be a bit partisan in a new report released this week on “Options for Reforming the Renewable Fuel Standard.”

The report was produced after several meetings during the year with an advisory group that consisted of 23 members, seven of which were oil companies representatives. Only five members of the group represented agriculture or advanced biofuels and biodiesel producers. The rest were a mix of academia (2), big business (4) with two of those representing Toyota, environmental groups (2), and policy organizations (3).

Both of the agriculture representatives were from the National Farmers Union (NFU), president Roger Johnson and vice president of programs Chandler Goule. “It was very important that agriculture that supports the renewable fuels industry be present at the table,” said Goule, who said the meetings were held in a very professional manner. “The problem with the meetings is that they were heavily skewed toward big oil.”

NFUlogoThe report concluded that improvements to the RFS are needed, but did not recommend actual repeal of the law. Goule says NFU has major objections to two of the policy recommendations made in the report. “The flattening of the total renewable fuel mandate at its current level going forward, but continuing to increase the three advanced categories, we have significant concerns about what that would to do ethanol and biodiesel,” he said. “Even more concerning was removing the total renewable fuel mandate and only mandating the three advanced categories. Basically what they are doing is giving in to Big Oil’s conclusion that a blend wall exists, which it does not.”

Chandler talks more about the BPC report in this interview: Interview with Chandler Goule, NFU

Senate Passes Tax Extenders

senateFollowing the recent action by the U.S. House of Representatives, the Senate on Tuesday evening passed the package of tax incentives for 2014 that will expire once again in just two weeks.

For the renewable energy industry, the legislation includes the second-generation biofuel production tax credit and the accelerated depreciation allowance for cellulosic biomass properties, as well as tax credits for alternative fuel vehicle refueling infrastructure, alternative fuel mixtures, and wind energy and the dollar-per-gallon Biodiesel Tax Incentive.

Renewable Fuels Association
(RFA) president Bob Dinneen says the temporary extensions are a step in the right direction, but called on Congress to provide more certainty in the future. “These incentives can help to level the playing field in a tax code that is overwhelmingly tilted toward incumbent fuels and established oil extraction technologies,” said Dinneen. “Congress should be commended for helping businesses and consumers alike. But next year is a whole new ball game and in order to balance the scales and make future tax incentives truly helpful, Congress must take a good hard look at overarching tax reform legislation.”

Noting the short term nature of the legislation, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden said, “With this tax bill, the Congress is turning in its tax homework 11 months late…The legislation accomplishes nothing for 2015.”

The bill now goes to the president who is expected to sign it.

Wyoming Biodiesel, CNG, Electric Drivers Could Face Tax

Wyoming logoPossibly trying to prove that no good deed goes unpunished, drivers of biodiesel-, compressed natural gas-, and electric-powered vehicles in Wyoming could face a new road tax. This article from the Jackson Hole News & Guide says a tax on alternative fuels is pending in the state’s legislature.

Most Wyoming drivers pay 24 cents tax at the pump for gasoline; the alternative fuels tax would tax fuels other than gasoline the same 24 cents on an amount equivalent to a gallon of gasoline.

Taxes on gas — and those that would be collected on other energy — are earmarked to pay the cost of the state’s roads.

“There needs to be some kind of equitable way for them to contribute to the upkeep of roads and signage,” said Rep. Michael K. Madden, chairman of the Joint Revenue Interim Committee that will sponsor the bill.

The bill’s sponsor says the new tax would make things more fair.

Ironically, the Wyoming legislature is usually pretty averse to road taxes. But when you consider the amount of fossil fuels produced by the state, it’s no wonder in this case lawmakers are looking at a measure that would give Big Oil another leg up.

Performance Standards for Biodiesel Heating Oil Set

BioHeatNew performance standards are set for biodiesel heating oil, better known as Bioheat. This news release from the National Biodiesel Board says ASTM International, an organization which sets industry consensus standards for fuels and lubricants, has voted to approve performance specifications for blends of 6 to 20 percent biodiesel with traditional heating oil.

The updated ASTM D396 Standard Specification for Fuel Oils, containing the new grade for blends of 6 to 20 percent biodiesel, will be finalized and published by ASTM for public use after the usual ASTM review and editing process. It is expected by February 2015.

“The fuel oil industry is reinventing itself as a 21st century fuel by moving to higher blends of low carbon biodiesel and near-zero sulfur levels across the board,” said John Huber, president of the National Oilheat Research Alliance.

The Bioheat renaissance gives oilheat dealers, mostly small, family-owned businesses, the ability to provide their customers with a desirable new product, according to Huber.

“Bioheat gives consumers the choice to use a clean, domestically produced fuel without having to invest in an expensive natural gas system,” said Paul Nazzaro, who leads the National Biodiesel Board’s Bioheat outreach program. “Setting these performance specs for increased biodiesel levels is hugely significant, because it opens the door for innovation in the heating oil industry and will allow more consumers to enjoy the full benefits of this fuel in their homes and businesses.”

Officials went on to point out that a 20 percent blend of biodiesel puts Bioheat on par with natural gas, the biggest competitor to oilheat. Even higher blends, up to the full 100 percent level, could reduce the carbon footprint of Bioheat up to 80 percent compared to traditional fuel oil.

REG Finishes Upgrades to Iowa Biodiesel Plant

reg-logoRenewable Energy Group has finished upgrades to its Newton, Iowa biorefinery. This company news release says the 30-million gallon nameplate plant in Newton, Iowa, will produce an even higher purity biomass-based diesel from a wider variety of raw materials.

“Enhancing REG Newton’s distillation and processing capabilities strengthens our lower-cost, multi-feedstock biomass-based diesel business and provides customers with more fuel options both in the Midwest and nationwide,” said Daniel J. Oh, REG President and CEO. “This plant was already a high performing facility that deserved additional investment and I am confident the return on investment will be rapid.”

The project provides Newton with production capabilities similar to those at the REG Albert Lea biorefinery. The upgraded process, including distillation, removes impurities and leaves behind a very pure form of biomass-based diesel. The final product far exceeds industry quality standards, while meeting REG’s more rigorous REG-9000™ specifications. The fuel also performs better in colder temperatures.

“These improvements allow REG Newton to provide customers with the highest quality end product at a full 30 million gallons a year utilization rate for a wide array of raw materials, including inedible corn oil,” said Brad Albin, REG Vice President, Manufacturing. “This increased feedstock flexibility drives demand for local feedstock suppliers, enabling them to keep their products in the region.”

REG broke ground on the $13.2 million project last February and completed it just last month, four months ahead of schedule and on budget.

REG now has 10 operational biorefineries in six states, making the company the North American leader in advanced biofuel production.

New Iowa RFA Officers

IowaRFAlogoThe Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) today announced its Board of Directors, Officers and Executive Committee for 2015, elected at last week’s annual meeting. New officers will serve a one-year term during the 2015 calendar year.

The new officers are:
President Brian Cahill, Southwest Iowa Renewable Energy
Vice President Tom Brooks, Western Dubuque Biodiesel
Treasurer Eamonn Byrne, Plymouth Energy
Secretary Rick Schwarck, Absolute Energy

“The renewable fuels industry had many accomplishments this past year, but many challenges remain for 2015,” says IRFA President-elect Brian Cahill. “Providing certainty in the marketplace and leveling the energy playing field through the restoration of a strong and growing Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), and allowing greater consumer choice at the pump through wider availability of E15 and higher biodiesel blends will be crucial to building upon the progress we’ve made.”

Elected to join the IRFA officers on the executive committee for 2015 are, Past President Steve Bleyl of Green Plains, Inc.; and at-large members Brad Albin of Renewable Energy Group and Craig Willis, Archer Daniels Midland.

Philippines Looks to Increase Biodiesel Blends

philippinesflag1Government officials in the Philippines are looking to increase biodiesel blends in the coming year. This article from Business World says that country’s Department of Energy (DoE) is hopeful the country will be able to move from a 2 percent to 5 percent blend in 2015 and possibly up to a 20 percent blend by 2030.

“We are still considering several factors right now like the economic impact [of increasing the blend] and some technical issues,” Mario C. Marasigan, director of the department’s Renewable Energy Management Bureau, said at the sidelines of a solar project inauguration in Manila.

Mr. Marasigan said his departmetn asked the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) to study the overall impact of an increased blend.

“We want to confirm the claims of the coconut farmers that the increase can help their socioeconomic development. At the same time, we want to know the cost to consumers and overall impact of increasing the blend,” the official explained.

Officials hope to get results on the study of the data by early next year.

MN Company Finds Cheaper Way to Brew Biodiesel

superior_process_technologies1A company in Minnesota has found a way to brew biodiesel cheaper and more efficiently. This article from the Minneapolis Star Tribune says Superior Process Technologies figured out how to refine grease, tallow and other waste oils into biodiesel and hopes to take the process to a commercial level.

Superior Process engineers Kirk Cobb and Joe Valdespino, whose innovations draw on decades of experience in the paper and oleochemical industries, now are working toward a big step: constructing a commercial-scale biodiesel refinery.

[Parent company] Baker Commodities plans next year to start building a 20-million-gallon-per-year biodiesel plant in Vernon, Calif., to recycle waste grease into fuel, said Doug Smith, general manager of Superior Process and assistant vice president for R&D at the parent company.

“Our process is superior to the traditional method,” said Valdespino in an interview at the company’s lab and office on NE. Broadway. “It saves energy. It increases yield. … It enables you to use cheaper feedstocks.”

The article goes on to say the process is able to take better advantage of cheaper feedstocks, such as used deep-fryer oils, rendered animal fats and the contents of grease traps in sewer lines, hoping that when the process is commercialized, they’re able to make the green fuel for less than $2 per gallon.

DOE Honors Alabama Clean Cities Leaders

Alabama Clean Fuels Coalition Executive Director Mark Bentley and President Phillip Wiedmeyer have been honored for their work in making Alabama cities cleaner places to live, work and play by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). National Clean Cities Co-Director Linda Bluestein recently inducted the pair into the Clean Cities Hall of Fame where representatives from nearly 100 Clean Cities coalitions from across the country gathered for the 2014 Clean Cities Coordinator Workshop.

In 2013 alone, the Alabama coalition saved more than 3 million gallons of petroleum and averted more than 12,000 tons of greenhouse gases through the deployment of alternative and renewable fuels, advanced vehicles, idle reduction and fuel economy improvements. The coalition has developed effective programs to support fuels such as ethanol, biodiesel, natural B-W Alabama Clean Fuelsgas, propane, electricity and hydrogen. These accomplishments contributed to Clean Cities’ major milestone in 2013 of reducing U.S. petroleum consumption by one billion gallons in a single year for the first time ever.

“For many years, Mark and Phillip have proved themselves to be true pioneers and have made a significant impact in the deployment of alternative fuels and advanced vehicles, both in their coalition area as well as nationally,” said Bluestein.

Bentley has been the executive director of the Alabama Clean Fuels Coalition since 2006. Wiedmeyer has served as president for the coalition since 2002.

“It’s been our privilege over the years to promote the use of alternative fuels that are better for our environment, easier on our wallets, good for our local economy and a step toward energy independence for our country,” Bentley said. “We are delighted to be recognized for this important work.”

Ontario Biodiesel Plant to go to Highest Bidder

glb-logoA Southern Ontario biodiesel plant is going on the auction block. This article from Canada’s Sun News says the $50-million Great Lakes Biodiesel (GLB) plant went receivership and will be sold to the highest bidder.

It’s the latest chapter in the rocky history of Great Lakes Biodiesel, which opened the production facility in Welland at the end of 2012 to convert canola and soybean oil into biodiesel.

Luxembourg-based investment company Heridge SARL launched the court case because it says it was only repaid half of a $20-million loan used to get GLB’s Welland plant off the ground.

Heridge has now submitted a bid to purchase all assets of GLB, including the Welland plant, which isn’t in operation but still employs 16 people.

The plant is being maintained so it can immediately go back into production once there’s a new owner.
“The plant itself, according to the folks I’ve spoken to across the industry, is state-of-the-art and is a very valuable asset,” Welland MP Malcolm Allen said.

Government officials say GLB was relying relying government money too much to make its business model work.

The article adds that Heridge could take over ownership and would plan to keep the plant running.

REG Buys Germany’s Petrotec AG Biodiesel

reg-logoIowa-based Renewable Energy Group, Inc. (REG) is expanding into Europe with its majority ownership buy of Germany’s Petrotec AG Biodiesel. This REG news release says deal is expected to be closed by the end of this month.

ICG, Israel Corporation’s vehicle for investing in the alternative energy market, today formally accepted an offer from REG European Holdings B.V. to purchase ICG’s 69 percent equity ownership in Petrotec AG for US $20.9 million, or US $1.235 per share, to be paid in newly issued REG shares valued at the 30 trading day volume-weighted average for the day prior to signing. The REG subsidiary will also purchase ICG’s loan to Petrotec AG in the amount of approximately US $15.4 million. In the next several weeks, REG European Holdings B.V. intends to make a cash tender offer for all other Petrotec shares at a price no less than the value per share to be received by ICG.

“REG’s investment in Petrotec is a natural extension of our business strategy which should enable us to better capture value from international trade flows and to participate in European biofuel markets,” said Daniel J. Oh, REG President and CEO. “Petrotec’s people, culture, business model and technology are similar to ours at REG. We look forward to working with the Petrotec team as REG expands its business into Europe and further delivers the key benefits of our international industry: energy security and diversity, environmental stewardship and food security.”

Petrotec collects used cooking oil and other waste feedstocks from more than 15,000 points to produce biodiesel at its two biorefineries in Emden and Oeding, Germany, with a total nameplate production capacity of 55.5 million gallons per year.

Biodiesel, Ethanol & Wind Lead Energy Jobs in Iowa

advancedenergyeconomy1Biodiesel, ethanol, wind and energy efficiency are the leaders in a survey on job growth in advanced energy in Iowa. This news release from the Advanced Energy Economy Institute says those industries employ more than 22,000 people.

Prepared by BW Research Partnership, a leading workforce and economic development research firm, the Iowa Advanced Energy Employment Survey report is available at http://info.aee.net/ia-jobs-report-14. The AEE Institute published a similar report on California’s advanced energy industry, California Advanced Energy Employment Survey, last week, which is available at http://info.aee.net/ca-jobs-report-14.

Advanced energy comprises a significant part of Iowa’s economy, employing 1.3 percent of Iowa’s total workforce. Employment in advanced energy-related businesses is greater than employment reported for crop production, general freight trucking, and animal production in Iowa.

“In states from coast to coast and in between, the advanced energy industry is substantial and growing,” said Graham Richard, CEO of AEE and the AEE Institute. “This first-ever survey of advanced energy firms in Iowa shows that energy efficiency, biofuels, wind power, and other advanced businesses are creating jobs and contributing to the Iowa economy.”

While advanced energy jobs in Iowa dropped by 4 percent from 2013, the survey shows advanced energy employment is expected to rise 6 percent in the coming year.

Pacific Biodiesel Cheapest Diesel in Hawaii

pacificbiodieselAs Pacific Biodiesel celebrates its deal to provide biodiesel to power generators for the state utility Hawaiian Electric Co., the Maui-based green fuel provider is also celebrating the cheapest diesel available at the pump in Hawaii. This article from Maui Now says Pacific Biodiesel’s Hobron fueling station is selling biodiesel for $3.79 per gallon.

Company officials attribute the drop to the falling price of petroleum worldwide.

Representatives with the company say biodiesel is safe for all diesel engines and is registered with the US Environmental Protection Agency as both a fuel and a fuel additive.

Biodiesel is marketed as a cleaner-burning, renewable alternative fuel. The Pacific Biodiesel brand is produced at Big Island Biodiesel from recycled waste vegetable oil.

“A 20% blend of biodiesel offers significant greenhouse gas emission reductions compared with straight fossil diesel,” company officials said in the announcement.