New Leaders Found for NE Biodiesel Plant Readying to Open

flinthillslogoA Nebraska biodiesel plant completed in 2007 but never opened has received new leadership as company officials prepare to open the refinery. This article from the Beatrice (NE) Daily Sun says Flint Hills Resources named Russell Leighton as plant manager and Jeremy Morse as production manager as Flint Hills and Benefuel eye next year’s opening of their joint Duonix biodiesel plant in Beatrice.

Leighton has more than 25 years experience in the oil, gas and chemical industries and will be responsible for overall management and administration of the facility.

Prior to joining Flint Hills Resources, Russell oversaw quality management systems in the U.S. and abroad as Director of Operations for TETRA Technologies.

Morse will serve as production manager, focusing on the startup and commissioning of the new plant. He was previously the plant superintendent of AGP in Algona, Iowa, where he was responsible for maintaining plant operations and product quality.

Michael Harris, biofuels ventures manager for Flint Hills Resources, said in a press release the pair’s experience will be a beneficial addition to the business.

“We are excited to welcome Russell and Jeremy to the Flint Hills Resources team,” he said. “Their leadership will help drive our biodiesel operations as we prepare to start full-scale production next year and bring this innovative new biodiesel technology to life.”

When the plant is operational, hopefully next summer, officials say it will produce 50 million gallons of biodiesel per year using an innovative biodiesel technology from Benefuel, Inc. called ENSEL.

Oily Palms

According to Americans United for Change (AUC), Iowa Republican U.S. Senate candidate Joni Ernst has attracted national attention with her stance on the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) – that she is not supportive of subsidies. This before the news broke last week that the billionaire oil baron Koch brothers maxed out their contributions to Ernst’s campaign on top of the over $20,000 the Koch donor network has funneled to her campaign coffers. The new breaking news is that ExxonMobil PAC is toasting Ernst at a $1,000 a plate in Washington, D.C. this Wednesday, July 30, 2014.

In response, AUC, a pro biofuels and pro-RFS organization, is hitting the radio waves this week in Des Moines, Iowa calling on Ernst to choose a side: Iowa jobs, or Big Oil profits. However, AUC said Ernst seemed to side with the latter.

The group cites that when Ernst was pressed to take a firm stand on the RFS, Ernst stressed she’s “philosophically opposed” to farm subsidies and that she “want[s] people to choose products that work for them and not have them mandated by the United States government.” Not exactly the ringing endorsement for ethanol that Iowa rural communities may be hoping to hear, said AUC.

Jeremy Funk, Comm. Dir., Americans United for Change, which recently ran full page ads in Iowa urging Ernst to clarify her muddy RFS position, said, “There’s easy choices and there’s hard choices. For someone hoping to represent a state that leads the nation in renewable fuels production, you might think that unconditional support for the Renewable Fuel Standard and 73,000 Iowa jobs would be a no-brainer. But for some reason, it’s a hard choice for Joni Ernst.”

“Big Oil has taken notice of Ernst’s begrudging support for the RFS while remaining ‘philosophically opposed’ to it. What is a telling choice is for Ernst to welcome Big Oil’s support with open arms at a decadent Washington fundraiser this week,” continued Funk. “Big Oil lobbyists would love nothing more than to be able to say, “You see, even a Senator from Iowa thinks the RFS is unnecessary.” Big Oil would love to be able to use Ernst as a poster child in their multi-million smear campaign to drive ethanol out of business. They hate that consumers have a cheaper and cleaner option at the pump thanks to Iowa renewable fuels. They hate that every gallon sold of ethanol produced domestically means one less gallon sold of gas made from dirty crude oil from unstable regions like Iraq.”

Funk noted that the more money Ernst receives from Big Oil interest, the more reluctant her support for renewable fuels.” Ernst needs to get her priorities straight: choosing between Iowa’s economy and the special interests shouldn’t be a choice at all,” Funk concluded.

Grease Still Hot Item in Biodiesel Feedstock Thefts

scalesofjustice1We’re still seeing stories pop up about how thieves are targeting the used grease from restaurants for biodiesel production. The latest story comes from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch where police broke up a mutli-state ring of stolen used grease and cooking oil from O’Fallon, Ill. and the surrounding area.

The suspects — Bo Lin, 32, of Fairview Heights; Tuo Li, 25, of Chicago; and Kentvy Wong, 30, of Flushing, N.Y. — were arrested overnight July 16 at a barn here in the 900 block of Talon Drive. The building, police said, contained about 10,000 gallons of filched grease.

[Police detective Lt. Robert] Schmidtke said the suspects had been selling it to rendering and biodiesel plants.

He said estimating the value of the grease was difficult, but that it easily exceeded $10,000. The National Renderers Association has estimated that grease sells nationally for about $3 a gallon.

Grease thefts have increased since biofuels were introduced to a market once dominated by animal feed and soap industries.

Police say most restaurants might not even report grease thefts, because they don’t realize the value of the commodity being stolen. I guess that’s understandable when you figure it wasn’t that many years ago when before biodiesel became so popular that restaurants paid a price (and many still do) to have it hauled away.

Kansas Ethanol Plant to Add Renewable Diesel Ops

EKAEA Kansas ethanol maker is going to integrate a renewable diesel operation into its facility. East Kansas Agri-Energy LLC (EKAE) says it will soon start building and hopes to complete construction within about a year of the 3 million gallon per year facility at its ethanol plant in Garnett, Kansas that will make renewable diesel from the corn distillers oil (CDO) already produced at the plant.

“This is about maximizing revenue, leveraging activities that we already do every day, and enhancing the value of products we already produce now,” said EKAE President & CEO Jeff Oestmann. “Adding renewable diesel capability aligns perfectly with our business strategy of diversifying our energy portfolio and creating additional enterprises that are sustainable on their own.”

“The main driver is to create greater value for our unit holders,” said EKAE chairman Bill Pracht. “We’ll be taking advantage of our experience and current facilities to create two biofuels out of one kernel of corn. Furthermore, we’ll be adding value to the corn oil we already produce.”

Oestmann said that EKAE already has a receptive market for this new fuel. “We have positive relationships with customers and within the biofuels industry that have come to know EKAE as a reliable and trustworthy supplier,” he said. “By using corn distillers oil we produce as the primary feedstock, we will have quality control that will underscore our reputation for quality in the marketplace.”

Company officials hope to double the 3 million gallon per year capacity sometime after starting operations.

White House Gathers Senate Dems on RFS Proposal

nbb-senatorsIn what could be seen as a sign that an unpopular decision is about to be rendered by the Obama Administration on ethanol and biodiesel, a select group of Senate Democrats have met with the White House. The Hill reports White House adviser John Podesta met with the group on Thursday to discuss the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) plans regarding the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

The senators said they wanted to discuss “urgent concerns” with the RFS, which requires that diesel and gasoline refiners mix a certain amount of renewable fuels such as biodiesel and ethanol into their traditional fuels each year. The Environmental Protection Agency proposed last year to keep the biodiesel volume in 2014 at least year’s level, despite an increase in biodiesel production, and reduce the ethanol volume.

The EPA has not yet finalized its 2014 volumes for renewables.

[Minnesota Senator Al] Franken and his colleagues took particular issue with the biodiesel mandate.

“Such a decision would not only harm the economic growth surrounding biodiesel production in our states, but would be a setback in our national efforts to continue boosting U.S. energy security while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” they wrote.

The National Biodiesel Board (NBB) seems concerned about the meeting as well and issued a statement from from Vice President of Federal Affairs Anne Steckel:

“While we are encouraged by these discussions, the biodiesel industry remains concerned that the Administration still appears to be considering a proposal that would backtrack from last year’s proven production and that threatens biodiesel plants around the country. The fact is that biodiesel is the most successful Advanced Biofuel under the RFS, yet it could see its production cut significantly. This meeting, which was originally requested by a diverse group of 14 Democratic senators from across the country, makes clear that there are serious concerns about the impact that the proposal would have on jobs and economic growth nationwide, in states from Rhode Island to Minnesota to Washington state. This is a critical decision, not just for the biodiesel industry but for the future development of clean, American-made renewable fuels that will help us reduce our dangerous dependence on petroleum.”

Many of those senators participating in this week’s meeting were also critical back in May on the Obama Administration’s proposal to cut the amount of biodiesel and ethanol to be mixed into the nation’s fuel supply, with some of the President’s staunchest backers calling it “disastrous” and a miserable failure of policy.

LA Moving Company Converts Fleet to Biodiesel

247vanlinesA Los Angeles-based moving company has converted its entire fleet of trucks to run on biodiesel. 24-7 Van Lines says the conversion helps the environment and helps the company be more energy efficient, which means they can pass along savings for its commercial and residential customers.

According the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), emissions from transportation vehicles amounted to an estimated 28% of all greenhouse gases emitted in the nation in 2011. With newer laws being enacted nationwide designed to curb emissions, and with some being implemented by individual states already, trucks in the moving sector and in other industries will soon have to conform to newer and more stringent standards. With the cost of bio-diesel fuel at a comfortable median to standard diesel, entities that convert their fleets stand to enjoy substantial reductions in cost. For The Commercial Movers, the upgrades make them an officially “green” Los Angeles Cross Country Mover, also enabling them to offer lower rates to their customers as a result of reduced fuel encumbrances.

“We strive to make our services as valuable to our customers as possible, while also being cognizant of the impact that our company has upon the environment,” explained company spokesperson, Mark Tanning. “With our completed upgrade to cleaner burning bio-diesel engines, we are able to tackle both objectives with one move. Now we can offer better prices to our clients and reduce our carbon footprint, simultaneously. And that’s a tune that we can all hum along to.”

More information about the company is available at www.247vanlines.com.

EPA Issues New Rule for RINs Quality Assurance Program

epa-logoIn an effort to assure all parties of better control over possible fraud, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has formally issued its new rule on a voluntary quality assurance program on Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs) used to track compliance with their renewable fuel volume obligations. The EPA proposed the rule earlier this month and issued it late last week that will elements designed to make it possible to verify the validity of RINs from the beginning of 2013 and going forward.

Today’s final action includes a voluntary third-party quality assurance program option for RINs that regulated parties may exercise as a supplement to the “buyer beware” liability as prescribed under existing regulations. The program provides a means for ensuring that RINs are properly generated through audits of renewable fuel production conducted by independent third-parties using quality assurance plans (QAPs), provides an affirmative defense for the transfer or use of invalid RINs that had been verified under an approved QAP, defines the conditions when RINs must be replaced, and a process for determining who will replace the RINs…

- Minimum requirements for a QAP, including such things as verification of feedstocks, verification that volumes produced are consistent with amount of feedstocks processed, and verification that RINs generated are appropriately categorized and match the volumes produced
- Qualifications for independent third-party auditors
- Requirements for audits of renewable fuel production facilities, including minimum frequency, site visits, review of records, and reporting
- Conditions under which a regulated party could assert an affirmative defense to civil liability for transferring or using an invalid RIN
- Identification of the party or parties who are responsible for replacing invalid RINs with valid RINs and the timing of such replacement
- A two percent limited exemption for calendar years 2014, 2015, and 2016 that exempts a small fraction of a party’s Renewable Volume Obligation (RVO) from the requirement of replacement of invalid RINs used for compliance if they were RINs verified through a QAP
- Changes to the EPA Moderated Transaction System (EMTS) that would accommodate the quality assurance program

There’s an interim period that covers back to February 21, 2013 through the end of this year which will finalize two proposed QAP programs, QAP A and QAP B.

Beginning January 1, 2015, there will be a single QAP, and the associated verified RINs will be referred to as Q-RINs.

Company to Make Biodiesel Ingredient in Iowa

ia-flag1Following up on last week’s story of an un-named company planning on building a plant in Iowa to make a key biodiesel ingredient, that company has now been identified. This article in the Mason City (IA) Globe Gazette says New Heaven Chemicals Inc. will start construction at a plant to make sodium methylate at the Manly Terminal in northern Iowa immediately.

“This will be the company’s very first United States location and we are so proud to be a partner with them on this project,” [Teresa Nicholson, executive director of the Winnebago-Worth Counties Betterment Council] said.

Construction is anticipated to completed by the end of 2014. Manufacturing start-up is planned for January 2015.

New Heaven Chemicals is a newly incorporated Iowa company with locations in eight countries worldwide.

Total capital investment in the Manly site is approximately $8.85 million, with a planned expansion in the next three years, Nicholson said.

At start-up, the company will manufacture 12,000 tons of sodium methylate. The planned expansion will triple that capacity, Nicholson said.

This should be of particular interest to the large biodiesel manufacturing market in Iowa and Southern Minnesota as this will be the first sodium methylate plant in the area. The only other sodium methylate manufacturers are located in Indiana, Texas and Alabama.

The Iowa Economic Development Authority and the local county supervisors have approved a combination of tax credits and financial assistance to the company.

Iowa Looks to Attract Company Making Biodiesel Ingredient

ia-flag1A county in northern Iowa is looking to attract a company that makes an important ingredient in biodiesel production. This article from KIMT TV says the Worth County Board of Supervisors is considering some incentives to attract a company that would produce sodium methylate and, if approved, would be the first place in the U.S. for the un-named company.

“Worth County is always pro-development. We’ve been aggressive toward development at that Manly Terminal area. Iowa Northern Railway and their partners have made a significant investment with Manly Terminal development, and we knew when that happened there would be future developments. This is just one of them,” said Teresa Nicholson, Executive Director of Winnebago and Worth County Betterment Council.

Right now, the Manly Terminal is a transport hub of ethanol products and the location of the terminal is what’s attracting the new company to North Iowa. They would produce Sodium Methylate, which is a chemical compound used in bio-diesel production

“The terminal located themselves there because of that 300 mile radius and being able to distribute products for the ethanol industry. This company is also locating because of the 300 mile radius of the bio-diesel industry,” said Nicholson.

The county board is considering a tax incentive. The Iowa Economic Development Authority Board today is also considering the project, which could get underway by the end of this month.

Benefuel’s New Solid Catalyst Opens Biodiesel Opportunities

BenefuelInnovative ideas in solid catalysts could open new opportunities in the biodiesel market. This article from The American Oil Chemists’ Society’s Inform magazine says Benefuel’s new proprietary solid catalyst process will convert inedible oils and fats into biodiesel, turn both glycerides and free fatty acids into alkyl esters for industrial use, and do it all cheaper than other esterification or transesterification processes.

To us, the path ahead was clear: The biodiesel industry needed a fully continuous, fully integrated production refinery for biodiesel—one that could receive a variety of feedstocks and process them continuously to biodiesel and glycerin. The fixed-bed reactor design and our new catalyst were at the heart of this approach. Although the wide versatility of our catalysts for esterification and transesterification were well recognized, development of other applications had to wait for process validation in biodiesel.

Benefuel’s Ensel® fixed-bed process is quite simple. It employs our second solid catalyst, which was developed in conjunction with Süd-Chemie India Pvt. Ltd. (Kerala)and patented in the United States and Japan (US 8,124,801 and JP 5,470,382) with applications in other countries.

This durable, promoted, metal oxide catalyst is largely insensitive to water and effectively converts every feedstock that has been tested in numerous pilot plant-scale operations. Examples include degummed soybean oil, cottonseed oil, corn oil from dried distillers’ grains with solubles, yellow grease, beef tallow, crude palm oil, palm fatty acid distillate, and even a mixture of degummed soybean oil and oleic acid (7:3, vol/vol).

The article goes on to list several advantages to using a solid catalyst, including economic—continuous production at commercial scale regardless of changes in feedstocks or feedstock blends; a catalyst life of several years instead of “catalyst as reagent,” as in conventional biodiesel production; and an ability to blend feedstocks to achieve optimal cold-flow properties in the final product at a low raw material cost.

Benefuel is retrofitting a biodiesel plant with this technology, the former Axens’ biodiesel plant in Beatrice, Nebraska. The company is also pursuing other opportunities in Southeast Asia and Canada.

Don’t Miss the Biofuels Financial Conference

Screen Shot 2014-07-18 at 12.23.20 PMDon’t miss the annual Biofuels Financial Conference: Climate of Opportunity hosted by Christianson & Associates. This year’s event takes place August 27-28, 2014 in Bloomington, Minnesota. The conference is aimed at plant managers, board members, plant CFO’s and more.

This year’s featured session is Expanding Beyond the Baseline. Industry experts will provide critical information about financial opportunities and options available for ensuring that your organization explores all avenues for maximizing the value of your plant’s production capabilities. Topics will cover:

  • Jonathan Olmscheid of Christianson & Associates will provide background on grandfathered volume and on the valid pathways to maximize RIN value beyond your plant’s grandfathered production volume. Since the export market provides another avenue for ethanol sales and thus increased production, Olmscheid will also touch on some key points about the export market and Canadian RINs.
  • Experts from plants and from Merjent will describe in detail the process of petitioning for pathways using two advanced technologies, from an engineering perspective as well as a general plant management perspective.
  • Paula Emberland of Christianson & Associates will review best practices and formulas for evaluating such improvement projects including diversifying co-products and improving processes, to calculate ROI, and an expert from Hydrodynamics will discuss, as an example, their bolt-on biodiesel production technology.

Early bird registration ends July 21. Click here to learn more about the Biofuels Financial Conference and to register online.

REG Could Be Planning Illinois Biodiesel Plant Expansion

reg-logoBiodiesel behemoth Renewable Energy Group (REG) could be looking to expand one of its Illinois biodiesel plants. This article in the Champaign (IL) News-Gazette says REG is buying up lots around its Danville biodiesel plant, as well as asking city officials to vacate alleys and portions of streets around the facility and change the local zoning from residential to industrial. The city council last night unanimously reversed the city’s planning and zoning commission’s original denial of the request back in June.

“We don’t have a project plan that’s approved, but we do have thoughts to expand in the future, and we have thoughts of what we might want to do,” said Bruce Lutes, general manager of the Danville plant at 300 Anderson St., east of the city’s downtown. An approved plan, Lutes added, would be an approved capital project through REG, which has done some expansion at other plants.

“We have an idea of what we would like to do,” he said.

But Lutes would not disclose details about the company’s ideas for future expansion or whether an expansion would include a boost in biodiesel production. REG Danville currently has the capacity to produce 45 million gallons of biodiesel per year, and Lutes said the facility is close to that.

“We have some needs for this place, for space… We are very cramped… and sitting on a small footprint,” said Lutes, who added that the space needs are for additional storage, maintenance and office space. “And there could be other things, but we’re not at the point where we have any definite plans or a project.”

REG officials had characterized the earlier denial of the zoning change as “dumb.”

Novozymes Touts Enzyme-Catalyzed Biodiesel

novozymesEnzymes could be the key to making biodiesel from low-quality oils. This article from The American Oil Chemists’ Society’s Inform magazine says Novozymes, a biotech company specializing in enzyme technology, is touting biodiesel production at Blue Sun Biodiesel in St. Joseph, Missouri and Vieselfuel LLC in Stuart, Fla., based on using lipase as catalyst.

Production at both sites has been in operation for over a year now. Novozymes has been the enzyme supplier and partner, and the accomplishment of full-scale production is the result of lengthy, dedicated research and development work.

The new lipase technology enables the processing of oil feedstocks with any concentration of free fatty acids and with lower energy costs than with a standard chemical catalyst…

Use of the liquid lipases was a breakthrough, as they are much cheaper to produce and provide technological as well as cost benefits. By using the lipase Novozymes Callera Trans®, it is possible to produce biodiesel from a large variety of oil qualities. The ability to produce biodiesel from feedstock regardless of its FFA content ultimately makes the process a more cost-efficient way to produce biodiesel.

The article goes on to say that Novozymes is finishing up the development of the enzymatic biodiesel application and expects to launch the concept later this year.

The same magazine features another article on using a new proprietary solid catalyst process developed by Benefuel to make biodiesel. We’ll have details on that story tomorrow.

Methes Completes First U.S. Biodiesel Transaction

Methes1A producer of biodiesel in Canada completes its first sale in the United States. Last month, we told you how Methes Energies achieved the important BQ-9000 quality standard and that the company planned to ship more than $6 million worth of biodiesel to the U.S. That transaction has now taken place with the imported of biodiesel coming from its Sombra, Ontario facility.

This is the first time that Methes directly generated U.S. revenues. In the past, biodiesel produced at its Sombra, Ontario facility was sold to brokers and intermediaries that would import the biodiesel into the U.S. and resell the biodiesel to obligated parties and fuel distributors. With Methes now having the ability to import biodiesel to the U.S. and itself generate [Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs)], Methes can sell directly to U.S buyers, capitalize on new opportunities and improve its margins.

Nicholas Ng, President of Methes Energies, said, “This is another step forward for Methes and part of our plan to capitalize on more opportunities in the U.S. This is the first time that Methes directly generated U.S. revenues and U.S revenues will now start playing a much larger role in our overall growth strategy and enable us to expand our footprint in several states in the U.S. As for production in Sombra, things are going very well with more feedstock showing up tomorrow. In fact, we will be receiving our largest shipment by rail ever, a total of 12 railcars or over 2 million pounds of oil.”

The Methes refinery in Ontario is capable of producing 13 million gallons per year of biodiesel.

Biostimulation for Algae Growth Could Help Biodiesel

solarmagnatron1Growing algae for biodiesel seems like a viable option when you consider how oil-rich (and thus, feedstock-rich) the one-celled organisms can be. But while algae is one of the fastest growing organisms on Earth, getting enough growth out of the microbes to make the proposition commercially viable is the holy grail for algae-biodiesel producers. Researchers from AlgaStar Inc. have found a way to increase algae growth rates by 300 percent using a technique called biostimulation and a biomass grower called the SolarMagnatron.

Biological stimulation from electromagnetic fields and/or microwaves offers a novel technology that can accelerate algae growth substantially compared with natural sunlight. Laboratory tests at AlgaStar, Inc. and research collaborators at the University of Western Ontario, (UWO) have proven the biostimulation concept but considerably more research is needed. Additional research efforts are now funded for AlgaStar with Los Alamos National Laboratory. Additional grant applications and research sponsor funding will include Dr. Bruce Rittmann’s lab in the Biodesign Institute at ASU, the world class AzCATI Test Bed at ASU, NanoVoltaics, UWO and others.

The AlgaStar algae production and biostimulation system integrates two types of electromagnetic energy. The first is a millitesla generator and the second a millimeter microwave generator that radiates spontaneous growth energy into large volumes of algae biomass. The research teams have demonstrated that electromagnetic energy waves can provide an increase in algae biomass and its corresponding lipid oil production by up to 300%.

AlgaStar is using it’s patented 4500 gallon SolarMagnatron biomass production system that has an automated biosystem controller (ABC), which optimizes biomass production and uses light very efficiently. During the day, it maximizes natural sunlight, and when it’s night, special domed acrylic lenses and flat-panel glass reactors containing high-efficiency florescent and LED lights produce artificial sunlight at specific wavelengths and power levels that optimize algae photosynthesis.

More information is available on the AlgaStar website.