AMRC Looks at Ethanol Plant Profitability Projections

Don Hofstrand, retired agriculture extension economist with the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center (AMRC) located at Iowa State University, has recently published projections for ethanol plant profitability over the next several years. When the ethanol boom really took off, Hofstrand noted that most farmers purchased shares in ethanol plants as a way to hedge against low corn prices. So AMRC began to look track the monthly profitability of ethanol plants.

hofstrandfigure5_E2C7BA3AB4D47“We track the monthly profitability by using the current ethanol prices, the current corn prices, distillers grains (DDGs) and natural gas. Each month we compute that and have a record going back to 2005 of how the profitability of those systems have changed over that period of time to give a indication of the current economic status of ethanol production and biodiesel production,” explained Hofstrand.

Today it appears that there is a saturated ethanol market that may cause an excess of corn supplies. However, Hofstrand said that over the past few years corn prices have been high taking a bite out of ethanol production profits. He finds there will be substantial uncertainly surrounding the ethanol selling price and net returns to the ethanol supply chain. This could be affected by rising corn production costs and where they will trend in the future is uncertain. He also finds that although energy prices may soften, interest rates are expected to strengthen, and with continued improvement in genetics, seed cost may continue to rise, but the rise may be offset by higher yields.

Ultimately, Hosftrand said that what is certain is that corn selling prices need to stay relatively strong in relation to historic levels to continue generating farm operator net returns from the marketplace.

FAPRI: Corn Prices Down, Ethanol Future Depends on EPA

FAPRI logoCorn prices are down, and the future of ethanol seems to hinge upon what the government does on the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS). A new report from the Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute (FAPRI) at the University of Missouri shows that there have been sharp declines in the price for grains and oilseeds used to make ethanol and biodiesel. But the green fuels’ futures seem to hang on what the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) does with its much-anticipated decision on the RFS:

· The potential for record corn and soybean crops has weighed on prices for grains and oilseeds. Corn and soybean prices for the crops harvested this fall could be the lowest since 2009.

· Corn prices fall to $3.89 per bushel for the 2014 crop. Even with a projected decline in 2015 U.S. corn production, prices remain around $4 per bushel in 2015 and beyond.

· Ethanol production prospects depend, in part, on EPA decisions about how to implement the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). With lower prices, ethanol exports continue to increase in 2015.

You can read the entire FAPRI report here.

OriginOil to Take Demo System on the Road

As extreme drought continues to grip most of California, the maker of a system that cleans up water to gather algae (for later applications, such as biodiesel) and take out contaminants from industries such as oil and gas, will be taking a demonstration of its technologies on the road. OriginOil says it will show off an industrial system already cleaning up frack in the Bakersfield, Calif. area and hopes to cash in on the state’s $7.5 billion dollar bond issue to address water issues.

OriginOilbakersfieldwatersampleEckelberry also reported that OriginOil and its partners are preparing to benefit from portions of this bond issue, with an industrial demonstration system already processing Bakersfield-area frack and produced water.

In response to industry requests, Eckelberry also said that the company plans to take a demonstration system on the road starting as early as September.

You can read OriginOil’s full take on the situation here.

DF Cast: Ethanol Innovators Talk New Tech at ACE Conf.

Any manufacturer is looking to get more out of their operations, and it’s certainly no different for biofuel makers.

In this edition of the Domestic Fuel Cast, we hear from four innovators who talked about their operations and how they are on the cutting edge of biofuel producing technologies during the recent at the American Coalition for Ethanol conference. Among those who spoke were ACE president Ron Alverson of Dakota Ethanol; Ray Baker, general manager of Adkins Energy in northwest Illinois; Mike Erhart, CEO of Prairie Horizon Agri Energy in Kansas; and Delayne Johnson with Quad County Corn Processors.

Domestic Fuel Cast - Increasing Ethanol Blends

You can also subscribe to the DomesticFuel Cast here.

27th Annual Ethanol Conference photo album

Fuels America Celebrates Labor Day

Labor Day in America is this weekend and Fuels America is celebrating by highlighting  a recent reportFuels America Economic report on American workers in the U.S. biofuels industry. According to the organization, the renewable fuels industry has tremendously grown since the passage of the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS). Today, the sector supports more than 850,000 jobs and generates $46.2 billion in wages. Combined, the biofuels sector creates $184.5 billion each year in total economic activity.

But Fuels America says these numbers don’t represent the full picture. There are more than 840 facilities supporting renewable fuel production, distribution and research from coast-to-coast.

Did you know that:

  • In Iowa, the biofuels industry supports more than 73,371 jobs and $5.0 billion in wages each year.
  • In Nebraska, the biofuels industry supports 39,629 jobs, and $2.9 billion in wages annually.
  • In Colorado, the biofuels industry supports 10,619 jobs and $642.2 million in wages each year.
  • In Michigan, the biofuels industry supports 22,794 jobs and $1.1 billion in wages annually.
  • In California, the biofuels industry supports 59,665 jobs and $3.7 billion in wages each year.
  • In New Hampshire, the biofuels industry supports 2,156 jobs and $138.7 million in wages annually.
  • In North Carolina, the biofuels industry supports 13,687 jobs and $692.9 million in wages each year.

Find out how the biofuels industry impacts your community by reading Fuels America’s report.

Iowa GOP Under Fire on RFS Stance

image007The Iowa GOP is under fire this week from biofuel supporters including the pro-biofuel association, Americans United for Change for its stance on the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). The Iowa Republican Party published on its site that the “perfect world” is one devoid of the RFS and their site actually called for a repeal of the RFS, until today that is. As other organizations have published, including the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA), Iowa’s biofuels industry supports 73,000 American jobs.

Prior to the Iowa GOP’s site going down, under their “about section” they published their platform. This included:

  • 8.6: The use of biofuels, such as ethanol blended gasoline, biodiesel, and E-85 should be encouraged, but must not be mandated or subsidized.
  • 8.7: We oppose the use of any regulatory body to dictate the type of energy that will be produced and used. Energy production should be based on free-market economics…
  • 8.9: We should end the federal petroleum mandate and allow for consumer fuel choice.

According to a recent poll from the Des Moines Register, 77 percent of Iowa voters support extending the RFS. Americans United for Change Communications Director Jeremy Funk asked the question, “How out of touch are Joni Ernst and the Iowa GOP?

“Looks like Joni Ernst isn’t the only one in the Iowa Republican Party who is ‘philosophically opposed’ to the Renewable Fuel Standard – that’s now the formal position of her political party,” said Funk.  “What were they thinking including RFS repeal in their party platform? Obviously not much about Iowa jobs, and obviously too much about Big Oil money. From the Koch Brothers to the American Petroleum Institute to Exxon-Mobil, to the U.S. Chamber, to the Iowa Republican Party, it’s no coincidence that Joni Ernst is getting her strongest support from the strongest opponents of the RFS.”

Funk added, “While the Iowa Republican Party is clearly a flawed surrogate to defend Ernst’s misguided position on the RFS, it is not stopping them from trying. Earlier this week, the Iowa GOP promoted a news clip of a former Democratic Senator from Virginia echoing the same anti-RFS sentiments that Joni Ernst has voiced time and again. That the Iowa GOP would choose to highlight this news clip suggests that they believe Joni Ernst is above criticism for her anti-RFS views because they are shared by a former Senator from Virginia, a state which produces a tiny fraction of the biofuels that Iowa does. News flash for Iowa GOP: Virginia is not Iowa. News flash for Joni Ernst: you’re running to represent Iowa, not Texas.”

Wastes-for-Biodiesel Firm Gets Sustainability Certification

RSB-Logo1A company that turns waste materials into feedstocks for several products, including biodiesel, has earned an important sustainability certification. Switzerland-based MBP Trading SA earned the Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials (RSB) sustainability certification for their waste material collection, trading and distribution activities.

“MBP Group was built on a sustainable background, adding as much value as possible to industrial by-products. Sustainability was – and still remains – a key ingredient of our business activities and its success. We are pleased to see that our company was certified according to the RSB scheme; this constitutes an important recognition of our continuous efforts for the sustainable management and trade of industrial waste and by-products,” David Magnussen, MBP Group CEO.

“We are very pleased that MBP Group has chosen RSB certification for their sites in the UK, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland. MBP’s commitment to feedstock traceability throughout their operations, which supply a wide range of waste material to the biofuels and bioenergy sectors, fits very well with the robust RSB approach to waste verification,” said Rolf Hogan, RSB’s Executive Secretary.

RSB certification is considered a holistic approach towards sustainability assurance, covering social, environmental, economic and operational aspects in its analysis.

Besides the Swiss headquarters, MBP Group has production/process plants and tank terminals in Sweden, Norway, Denmark, the UK and Canada.

RIN Academy Focuses on RFS

EcoEngineers is hosting its RIN Academy 2014 on Tuesday, September, 16, 2014 at the Embassy  Suites in Des Moines, Iowa from 7:00 am to 6:00 pm. The conference is designed to help unravel the world of Renewable Identification Numbers (RINS). RINS are used to monitor the use of biofuels or renewable volume obligations for obligated parties as part of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

EcoEngineers RIN AcademyIowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey will deliver the keynote for the event, highlighting Iowa’s leadership in renewable fuel production. In addition to being the largest producer of ethanol and biodiesel, Iowa is home to three of America’s first cellulosic ethanol plants. The conference will also host more than 20 distinguished panelists and speakers, including representatives from the EPA, business leaders, academics, and policymakers.

“As leaders in the renewable fuels industry, EcoEngineers looks forward to bringing everyone together and facilitating substantive discussions around the newest legislation concerning the renewable fuels standard,” said Shashi Menon, managing partner at EcoEngineers. “This year, we’re adding biogas as a topic of discussion because we believe that it has the potential to be a huge asset to Iowa and the country. We want to share what we’ve learned.”

Topics to be discussed include:
• Latest developments and upcoming changes to RFS and RIN policy
• State of advanced biofuels industry and opportunities ahead
• How city and county governments can financially benefit from the RFS
• Opportunities in biogas as a new fuel source

Conference panelists include Robert C. Brown, Director of Iowa State’s Bioeconomy Institute; Delayne Johnson of Quad County Corn Processors, which recently produced the first cellulosic ethanol gallons in Iowa from corn; Mike McAdams, President of Advanced Biofuels Association; Sharyn Lie, Center Director at the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); Steve Ogle, Commercial Business Leader from DuPont; and many others.

Click here for more information and register.

Iowa Lawmakers Recognized for Renewable Fuel Support

IowaRFA logoSixteen state lawmakers in Iowa are being recognized for their support of renewable fuels, such as biodiesel and ethanol. The Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) PAC announced the 16 recipients of its “Champion of Renewable Fuels” awards for state legislators, recognizing their voting records and leadership in support of the green fuels.

“The IRFA PAC is proud to support these ‘Champions of Renewable Fuels’ who’ve consistently supported and led on important renewable fuels issues,” stated IRFA PAC Treasurer Walt Wendland, President and CEO of Homeland Energy Solutions. “Iowa is number one in the nation when it comes to renewable fuels production, and that doesn’t happen without great leadership and forward-thinking policies from our elected officials. These award winners have demonstrated outstanding commitment to the renewable fuels industry and have worked tirelessly to strengthen Iowa’s economy by improving opportunities for ethanol and biodiesel.”

Recipients of the 2014 Champion of Renewable Fuels awards are:

Iowa Senators
Sen. Bill Anderson SD 3
Sen. Daryl Beall SD 5
Sen. Rick Bertrand SD 7
Sen. Bill Dix SD 25
Sen. Amanda Ragan SD 27
Sen. Rob Hogg SD 33
Sen. Joe Bolkcom SD 43

Iowa Representatives
Rep. Helen Miller HD 9
Rep. Jack Drake HD 21
Rep. Dan Kelley HD 29
Rep. Josh Byrnes HD 51
Rep. Linda Upmeyer HD 54
Rep. Brian Moore HD 58
Rep. Mark Smith HD 71
Rep. Tom Sands HD 88
Rep. Jim Lykam HD 89

This is the third election cycle that the IRFA PAC has given such recognition.

The state is the nation’s leader in renewable fuels production, with 42 ethanol refineries capable of producing more than 3.8 billion gallons annually, including 2 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol production and two more cellulosic ethanol facilities currently under construction, and 12 biodiesel facilities able to crank out nearly 315 million gallons annually.

Algae-Biodiesel By-Product to Power Electric Grand Prix

formulaeA grand prix racing series, the world’s first to run on electric power, will get its energy from a by-product of algae-biodiesel production. This article from GreenBiz.com says the Formula E races will use U.K.-based Aquafuel’s glycerine to power generators.

“It’s a very innovative compound,” [Formula E's sustainability manager Julia] Pallé said at an event at Donington Park last week to unveil some new technologies used by Formula E. “It comes from algae so it’s a first generation compound and it uses glycerine so it has no CO2 emissions, no smoke, no noise, no smell. It’s something that isn’t harmful at all. It’s super-efficient and we’re really happy to be working with [Aquafuel] on that.”

Aquafuel chief executive Paul Day told BusinessGreen in 2011 that glycerine could power everything from generators to ships, calculating that a saltwater algal pond the size of Switzerland would meet global energy demand.

The Formula E races start Sept. 13 in Beijing, and include locations such as Miami, Buenos Aires, Monte Carlo, Berlin, and London.

Report: US & EU Move To Relax Biofuel Targets

According to a new report from GlobalData, the U.S. and EU are considering relaxing targets on biofuels causing concerns around the growth of the industry and the role of biofuels in global renewable energy targets. The U.S. is considering reducing its biofuels target for 2014 and from 18.2 billion to 15.2 billion gallons while the EU has lowered its ceiling on food-based biofuels used in the transportation fuel mix from 10 percent to 7 percent.

Ethanol in IllinoisThe Third Quarter 2013 Regulatory Outlook finds that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is considering reducing 3 billion gallons from the 2014 renewable volume obligations, (the EPA has submitted its final rule to the Office of Management and Budget but until approved, the industry does not know the final volume requirements) which would mark the first reduction to the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) since its implementation in 2007.

Carmine Rositano, GlobalData’s Managing Analyst covering Downstream Oil & Gas, said, “While gasoline demand has declined over the past seven years, the approved annual use of ethanol in gasoline has not been adjusted to reflect this change, as increasing amounts of biofuels have been mandated to be blended into petroleum products each year through to 2020. The refining industry has warned that increasing ethanol use in gasoline would exceed the 10% mix that dominates car engine designs and the gasoline fueling infrastructure, so revising the mandated amounts for biofuels in the energy mix would make economic sense.”

While U.S. biofuels targets are expected to be cut to mirror the decrease in gasoline demand, the EU has a different reason for its own target adjustments.

Rositano explained, “The EU’s new 7% biofuels ceiling comes in response to claims that using biofuels made from food crops increases inflation on food costs. As the EU is still aiming to achieve 10% of transportation fuels made from renewable energy sources by 2020, the gap between this target and the 7% ceiling of food-based biofuels indicates a reliance on next generation biofuels made from algae, waste and other materials.”

Matthew Jurecky, GlobalData’s Head of Oil & Gas Research, added, “It’s normal for agencies to review challenged policy. Ongoing analysis on the actual reduction of greenhouse gases, inclusive of the entire value chain, the impact they’ve had on food crops and prices, and the simple economics associated with producing them, underlies the regulatory shift. Biofuels will, however, remain a part of meeting mandated renewable energy and emissions targets, but other industries and policies, such as more stringent efficiency standards, will also form a part.”

Navy Remains Full-Steam Ahead on Biofuels

navybiofuelsnimitz1The U.S. Navy is moving full-steam ahead, despite some obstacles that have come up for its program on biofuels. This article from Motley Fool posted on the NASDAQ website says the Navy wants to get 50 percent of its energy from alternatives to petroleum. To make sure these fuels are ready for the fight, the service is looking at drop-in fuels, and with a provision in the recent Defense Department appropriations, the Navy has to do it at the same cost as petroleum-based fuels.

In the past the Navy has tested advanced biofuels that cost upward of $26 per gallon. That price, of course, didn’t sit well with many taxpayers, which is why the National Defense Authorization Act was passed, which limited the Department of Defense from paying higher prices for alternative fuels than it pays for petroleum-based fuels.

In order to combat the high price of commercial drop-in biofuels, the Navy and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, or USDA, worked together to create the Farm-to-Fleet program. Under the program, producers seeking to offer drop-in biofuels can apply to the USDA Commodity Credit Corporation for grants that will offset the cost of the feedstocks needed to produce these drop-in biofuels. Further, some drop-in biofuels can qualify for Renewable Identification Numbers, which can be sold to further offset the cost. The hope is that between these two offsets producers will be able to supply a drop-in jet fuel, which is the most costly fuel the navy uses, for the same price as traditional jet fuel.

Earlier this summer, a government procurement report showed the U.S. Navy has for the first time put biofuels in the mix for requests for military-specification diesel fuel and jet fuel.

Advanced Biofuels Industry Comments on 2014 RFS

The advanced biofuels community is responding this week to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) submission of the final 2014 Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) to the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) where it will be reviewed. Although the rule is not public, groups are speculating on what the final rule entails with hope still that advanced biofuels will not see a reversal in volumes.

“A little less than a year ago, press leaks first suggested that EPA might reduce the 2014 renewable fuel standard (RFS) for advanced biofuels to as little as 2.2 billion gallons, which is substantially lower than current production,” said Advanced Biofuels Association (ABFA) President Michael McAdams when hearing the rule had been sent to OMB.

“Since that time, ABFA members and our many allies have clearly demonstrated that such reductions would fall disproportionately on advanced biofuels and represent a significant reversal of the Obama administration’s previous support for our industry. We hope the final rule will be a major improvement and encourage the White House to set RFS volume obligations at levels that are consistent with our industry’s current and projected production capacity for advanced and cellulosic biofuels,” McAdams added.

Joe Jobe NBBNational Biodiesel Board (NBB) CEO Joe Jobe is hoping to see an increase in biodiesel from the proposal released last year. Joe explained the the proposed rule would cap out biodiesel and cause a dramatic reduction in production.

“This is a cornerstone energy policy that has demonstrated that it works,” said Jobe. “Last year we were able to demonstrate that the program works. We grew from a little over 1 billion gallon in 2012 to just 2 billion gallons in 2013.” Jobe continued by stressing this allowed for investment and growth – all elements of a successful energy policy.

Jobe noted that biodiesel has allowed the advanced biofuel category to be met every year. While OMB has 90 days to review the rule, Jobe hope it will go faster.

Interview with Joe Jobe, National Biodiesel Board

Algae Systems Converts Algae to Biofuels, Clean Water

Algae Systems has completed a biofuel production demonstration project in conjunction with Japan’s IHI Corporation. The demonstration plant is located in Daphne, Alabama and the process combines wastewater with algae to produce the world’s first energy-generating wastewater treatment process, using carbon-negative technologies. This process will yield both biofuel and drinking water.

Algae Systems Daphne projectMatthew C. Atwood, president and CEO of Algae Systems explains that while algae is a component in a number of worldwide experimental production strategies, their approach differs by using a system that can apply a variety of algae types to production, adding value by treating wastewater, and producing a drop-in fuel solution using hydrothermal liquefaction to produce fuels that do not need to be blended.

“This is the first demonstration of producing clean water and biofuel from wastewater and algae. We have demonstrated that we can treat wastewater at a low-cost while beating the current price of fuel,” said Atwood.

The project approach takes local strains of algae to increase production rates and optimize wastewater treatment opportunities and focuses on a systems approach. Floating membrane photobioreactors accept wastewater from a local community municipal wastewater utility, drawing nutrients from the wastewater to Algae Systems Daphne project2promote algae growth. The algae consume nutrients in the wastewater, reducing the cost of treating wastewater. In this approach, municipal wastewater becomes an asset to produce energy, rather than a commodity to be expensively processed. Photosynthesis creates the chemical reactions that can power our future.

Atwood said the use of offshore photobioreactors means that a valuable land footprint would not be required to deploy the system commercially, and the motion of waves and wind provides ideal temperature and mixing controls as well as a reduction of operating costs. From an environmental perspective, ecological dead zones can also be eliminated.

Another feature of the demonstration facility, said Atwood, is significant advancements made in the production of fuels from biomass. Algae Systems has demonstrated a new proprietary technology for the conversion of wet algae and other biomass feedstocks into biocrude oil, and has successfully demonstrated upgrading the bio-crude oil into diesel, jet and gasoline.

“Building commercial plants around the world that will enable low-cost wastewater treatment and fuel production,” said Atwood when explaining what success looks like. “Our next steps are to find commercial sites and raise additional financing for the company to expand.”

Biodiesel Gets Sustainability Award at West. Kentucky

Researchers at Western Kentucky University who worked on turning waste grease into biodiesel have been honored with that school’s sustainability award. The team from the engineering and agriculture departments picked up WKU’s 4th annual President’s Award for Sustainability during an awards ceremony last Friday.

schmaltzwkyu1More than eight years ago, WKU Engineering professor Kevin Schmaltz completed a feasibility study to determine whether the supply of waste vegetable oil from WKU Dining could be transformed into a fuel source that could power the big machines at the WKU Farm. After the study determined that the campus supply of vegetable oil could support the farm’s annual needs of about 3,000 gallons of fuel, Dr. Schmaltz began working with Dr. Jack Rudolph, head of WKU Agriculture, and engaged others by involving 15 students in four teams as their senior engineering project. The first WKU biodiesel was produced in Spring 2012 and since then, more than 2,500 gallons of biodiesel has been produced. The project provides a rich learning opportunity for WKU students, in both engineering and agriculture.

The award honors individuals who exhibit excellence in supporting WKU’s commitment to sustainability by demonstrating exemplary practices and sharing solutions, incorporating sustainability into existing programs, and implementing innovative ideas.