Alt Energy Consultant Lee Enterprises Expands

leeenterprisesThe world’s largest renewable fuels consulting group is expanding its team. Lee Enterprises Consulting has added five new engineers and two additional Ph.D’s to its worldwide team of experts. The company says it is also dividing itself into four internal teams to handle biodiesel, ethanol, emerging technologies and solar/wind projects.

“As the world’s largest consulting group of its kind, we have experts in virtually every area of alternative and renewable fuels”, says CEO Wayne Lee. He notes that the company has now grown to over fifty consultants, and has reached a point where each of these core businesses needed its own dedicated leadership. “[Dr. Gerald Kutney, who will lead the Emerging Technologies Team] is an imminently qualified expert, and his knowledge in the fields of pyrolysis, waste-to-energy (WTE), forestry bioenery/bioproducts, gasification and emerging technologies made him the perfect choice to lead the Emerging Technologies Team,” said Lee. “Likewise, [new Solar/Wind Team lead] Bob Parkins is a Civil Engineer and renowned solar expert, making him the perfect selection to lead our Solar/Wind Team”.

The group also owns National Business Brokerage, Inc., a full service business brokerage firm specializing in the buying and selling of alternative and renewable fuels plants.

Bipartisan Group of Senators Call for Strong RFS

US Capitol at dusk photo Joanna SchroederA bipartisan group of senators is calling on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reverse its current course and strengthen the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). Led by U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Dick Durbin (D-IL), John Thune (R-SD), Al Franken (D-MN), and Mark Kirk (R-IL), the 37 in the group say the EPA’s latest proposal would create uncertainty for ethanol and biodiesel producers and undermine job creation.

“The RFS has already proven to be an effective driver of alternative fuels and economic development,” the senators wrote. “The biofuels volume requirements for 2014 and beyond have serious implications for our economy and energy security. We encourage you to ensure a final proposal continues to work toward achieving the RFS’s long-term economic and renewable energy goals.”

The ethanol industry praised the senators for their action.

“It is encouraging to see such broad, bipartisan, and geographically diverse support for the Renewable Fuel Standard,” said Renewable Fuels Association president Bob Dinneen. “It’s leadership like this that will move America’s energy future forward. Farmers, entrepreneurs, and innovators across the country will applaud these 37 visionaries.”

“Convincing Senators to sign the RFS to Administrator McCarthy was a key part of our grassroots fly-in last month so we’re glad ACE members could play such an instrumental role in securing so many signatures,” said American Coalition for Ethanol Executive Vice President Brian Jennings. “We are also grateful for the strong bipartisan support conveyed by Senators that EPA must get the RFS back on track for implementation by reversing course from their ill-advised proposal which would have limited renewable fuel use at ten percent of gasoline consumption.”

Tom Buis, CEO of Growth Energy, says the letter is a clear message to the EPA. “In no uncertain terms this strong bipartisan coalition of Senators have indicated that they are closely watching the EPA as they seek to finalize this rule and that any changes which would undercut the congressional intent or role of the RFS will be met with intense scrutiny and strong objection,” said Buis.

EPA recently announced it will propose volume requirements by June 1 for 2015 and 2016 and will re-propose volume requirements for 2014 that reflect the volumes of renewable fuel that were actually used in 2014.

Marine Base Goes Green with Ethanol, Biodiesel

marinebiodiesel1Marines in Southern California are going a bit greener, as initiatives at one base are converting much of the vehicles used to run on ethanol, biodiesel and other alternative fuels. This article from DVIDS says Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow, California, is trying to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by four percent in the next two years, to 15 percent in the next six years, reaching a target of 30 percent by 2025.

“We are converting from gasoline and diesel, to compressed natural gas, liquid propane, ethanol, biodiesel, and electric,” [Tim Hutzley, fleet manager at Southwest Regional Fleet Transportation, Yermo Annex of Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow] said. Those conversions have been ongoing, with some of the new technologies working well, and others taking time for the industry to work out the problems. For vehicles that can’t be retrofitted to accept alternative fuels, buying vehicles made to run on more efficient fuels is one of the major ways to meet the target of reducing petroleum-based fuels.

Hutzley added, “Our requirement for 2025 is to have 20 percent of the 127 over-the-road vehicles (that can operate outside the base) as hybrids. And replace the rest when possible with smaller better, technologically advanced vehicles.”

According to Hutzley, more than half of the base’s gasoline type vehicles run on E-85 fuel, meaning 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline, which cost $3.18 a gallon compared to unleaded gasoline at $3.21. California’s consumer summer blend unleaded gasoline has only 10 percent ethanol.

“The upside,” he said, “is we are cutting our dependence on foreign oil as well as cutting our greenhouse gas emissions, which are the main reasons for using alternative fuels.”

Most diesel vehicles on base are running with a blend of 20 percent biodiesel. Biodiesel is typically made from corn, but can also be distilled from other vegetable and animal fats as well as algae, said Hutzley.

Officials add that biofuels are renewable, produced in the U.S., and often cheaper.

New San Francisco Buses to Run on Biodiesel

sfbiodieselbusThe San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) has bought 61 new biodiesel-electric hybrid buses, part of a total buy of 121 alternative fuel transports by SFMTA.

The introduction of the new low-floor biodiesel hybrid and electric trolley busses coincides with this year’s celebration of Earth Day. The new hybrids will run on B20: a blend of diesel and biodiesel, which is made from recycled oil and fat. The new trolleys will operate on 100 percent hydro-electric power. All of our electricity is hydropower – supplied from the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir and is carbon neutral. Muni now has one of the most diverse transit fleets in the world and is also the cleanest multimodal fleet in California.

“New 21st century buses are the very cornerstone of San Francisco’s Transit-First policy, making sure Muni is reliable, affordable and safe for our riders,” said Mayor Edwin M. Lee. “The purchase of a new state-of-the-art fleet of electric trolley and hybrid buses, which reduce or eliminate greenhouse gas emissions, helps San Francisco lead the way to a sustainable future. By offering real solutions to fighting climate change, we can meet the needs of our thriving economy and growing population.”

“Both the biodiesel hybrid buses and electric trolleys allow San Franciscans who ride Muni to celebrate Earth Day every day,” said SFMTA Director of Transportation Ed Reiskin. “More than half of our vehicles run on clean, Hetch Hetchy electric power; our trolley coaches and light rail vehicles and our cable cars are all powered by electric motors, providing more than 125 million zero-emission passenger trips per day.”

Federal grants, along with state and local monies, helped fund the new buses.

Researchers Turn Food Waste into Biodiesel

cincyfoodwasteWaste not, want not. That’s the attitude of University of Cincinnati researchers who are turning food waste into biodiesel. This news release from the school says Timothy C. Keener, PhD, and Drew C. McAvoy, PhD—along with fellow faculty members Pablo Campo-Moreno, PhD, San-Mou Jeng, PhD, and George Sorial, PhD—proposed an innovative Smart Cities Project titled “A Pilot Study to Produce Bioenergy and Fertilizer from UC’s Food Waste.”

The proposal to convert food waste into gaseous fuels, solid fuels, biodiesel and other products was accepted and today, the study flourishes under the direction of Keener and McAvoy. In October 2014, the team launched a pilot plant that has diverted 660 pounds of food waste generated from UC’s Center Court Dining Center for research.

The researchers have since developed a breakthrough synergistic technology that uses anaerobic digestion to turn nutrient-rich organic materials into fuel (biogas), fertilizer, or soil conditioner, while using the carbon dioxide fraction of the biogas to grow algae. Simultaneously, lipid oils in the algae are also extracted and converted to biodiesel.

This novel process, which essentially integrates algae production with anaerobic digestion, allows researchers to almost completely utilize the carbon found in food waste in a renewable manner.

McAvoy explains, “The anaerobic digestion of food waste coupled with algae production seems to be an attractive alternative for not only reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but also for the production of renewable energy.”

The United Nations estimates that “a third of all the food produced in the world is never consumed,” totaling about 1.3 billion tons of waste a year.

France’s Total to Convert Refinery to Biodiesel

totalFrance’s Total is converting its petroleum processor in La Mède to make biodiesel. This news release says the $216 million conversion will make the facility France’s first biorefinery and will stop refinering petroleum by the end of 2016.

“There are three possible responses to the crisis in the European refining industry. The first is to throw in the towel. The second is to do nothing and perish. The third is to innovate and adapt to meet shifting demand trends. The central focus of Total’s plan for our French refining business is to realign our operations and products to changing markets. The plan that we are presenting today offers sustainable solutions for the Donges and La Mède refineries. It gives both facilities a future and strengthens Total’s refining base in France,” commented Patrick Pouyanné, Chief Executive Officer of Total. “As was the case for the project to secure the future of the Carling plant in eastern France, the master words for the plan’s deployment are: anticipation and consensus. Total will implement this industrial transformation without layoffs or imposed geographical transfers for non-exempt employees.”

Total officials say the move is a response to industry and market trends, as European demand for petroleum products has declined 15 percent since 2008, shrinking outlets for the continent’s refining industry.

Biodiesel Use on the Rise in Iowa

irfaBiodiesel continues to be a pretty popular fuel in Iowa. This news release from the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) says the state’s revenue department data shows pure biodiesel (B100) sales in 2014 increased by more than 15 percent over 2013 to an all-time-high of 33.3 million gallons and now accounts for 4.6 percent of Iowa’s total diesel supply, up slightly from 2013.

Additionally, biodiesel is blended into almost 50 percent of all diesel sold, with an average blend level that climbed to 9.4 percent. The increased average blend level is largely due to a sizeable shift amongst retailers from B10 (10 percent biodiesel) in 2013 to B20 (20 percent biodiesel) in 2014.

“In the face of severe federal policy uncertainty, Iowa’s retailers and diesel users remained committed to cleaner-burning biodiesel in 2014,” stated Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) Executive Director Monte Shaw. “With the expiration of the federal biodiesel tax credit and uncertainty over the RFS, the increases in biodiesel sales and blending rates demonstrates the effectiveness of Iowa’s forward-thinking state policies. Policy makers in Iowa have wisely decided that cracking the petroleum monopoly cannot be left to federal policies alone – too much is at stake for Iowa’s economy and consumers. If the feds can reinstate the blenders’ tax credit and reenergize the RFS, Iowa will no doubt see even bigger gains in replacing foreign oil with homegrown biodiesel.”

Iowa has also shown its commitment to biodiesel by providing a tax credit to retailers selling B5 and higher blends, and starting this summer, Iowans buying B11 and higher blends will pay 3 cents per gallon less in state fuel taxes.

Oakland Biodiesel Plant Gets $3.4 Million State Grant

Viridis1A California biodiesel maker is getting a $3.4 million grant to build and operate a refinery in Oakland. Viridis Fuels, LLC, is the benefactor of the California Energy Commission grant that will help the company turn fats, oils and greases into 20 million gallons of biodiesel each year.

The Viridis website says the company will use state-of-the-art technology that delivers 100 percent yields from the feedstock with virtually no contaminated waste water discharge.

The selected refining process, which includes degumming, bleaching, cold soak filtration, transesterification and esterification, can process even the most problematic multiple feedstocks to achieve an ASTM 6751 Grade finished product, in a plant with BQ-9000 Certification, that satisfies and exceeds all state and federal quality standards.

Highlights of the technology process

– Waterless patented resin technology, proven through operation of over 34 plants worldwide, virtually eliminates the need to handle back-end contaminated water.
– Multi-feedstock capability converts even the most problematic waste feedstocks and eliminates dependence on the availability and susceptibility to price changes of a single source of raw material.
– Sulfur and heavy metals removal which had been a serious challenge for earlier processing technologies.
– 100% Free Fatty Acid (FFA) conversion with no stripping so that no raw material is lost in processing.

The plant will use tallow; waste fats, oils and grease (FOG), yellow grease, virgin oils as needed and appropriate and purpose-grown crops and algae as they develop.

to construct and operate a biodiesel production facility in Oakland. This facility will produce up to 20 million gallons of biodiesel annually from fats, oils and grease.

Wilks Equipment Backs New Biodiesel Blend Method

infracal-2-and-infraspec-for-biofuels1Measuring the amount of biodiesel have been limited to Methods D7371 and EN 14078 which required FTIR spectrometers, putting expensive equipment in precarious positions either on a loading dock or in a truck. That’s why maker of analytical equipment, including biodiesel analyzers, Wilks is now backing the move to the ASTM D7861 biodiesel blend method and has the hardware that fits the bill.

Filter-based infrared analyzers, such as the Wilks InfraCal 2 Biodiesel Blend Analyzer and InfraSpec VFA-IR Spectrometer, are rugged, compact and much better suited for the environment where fuels are blended. Therefore, Wilks championed the new ASTM D7861 method which provides a fast, easy-to-use and inexpensive infrared method for measuring biodiesel (FAME-Fatty Acid Methyl Esters) in biodiesel.

The InfraSpec VFA-IR Spectrometer is a spectral range analyzer which contains a linear variable filter and a detector array covering the wavelength range of 5.4-10.8 μm (1850-925 cm-1) making it compliant with the instrument requirements of ASTM D7861. The InfraSpec Spectrometer can not only measure biodiesel in diesel, but also ethanol in gasoline and water in ethanol. It is a compact, portable instrument with a simplified PC interface that provides non-technical personnel with the ability to make measurements on-site at the blending terminal, fuel pump or laboratory where an ASTM method is required. The PC interface also provides data storage and transmission and the Wavemetrics Igor Pro package gives more sophisticated users the option to go beyond the simplified user interface for full spectral analyses. The test takes less than a minute and the measurement range is 0 to 100% with an accuracy of +/- 0.20 %.

Wilks also offers the InfraCal 2 Biodiesel Blend Analyzer, a rugged, compact, fixed-filter infrared analyzer. While is does not comply with D7861, results compare with D7371, EN 14078, and the new D7861 biodiesel blend methods.

EPA Sets Timeline for RFS Volume Requirements

epa-150Under a court settlement with the oil industry, the Environmental Protection Agency today announced they will propose the 2015 Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) renewable volume obligations by June 1, 2015, and issue the final 2014 and 2015 RFS blending targets by November 30, 2015. In addition, EPA will also release the proposed 2016 RFS RVOs by June 1 and the 2016 numbers will be finalized by Nov. 30.

The biofuels industry reacted immediately to the announcement. “This consent agreement is a good start,” said Renewable Fuels Association president and CEO Bob Dinneen. “We are particularly pleased that the Agency has committed to addressing the 2016 RVO in the same time frame even though that is outside the scope of the consent agreement.”

“By taking this action, they are ensuring that the RFS is back on a path to certainty for the biofuels industry, providing the necessary guidance for the industry to continue to thrive and advance alternative fuel options for American consumers,” Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis said.

“ACE has consistently said it is much more important for EPA to get the RFS done right than it is for them to get the RFS done quickly, and that bears repeating given today’s announcement that the RFS will be getting back on track for implementation,” said American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) Executive VP Brian Jennings.

National Biodiesel Board is pleased the EPA announcement said they would “re-propose volume requirements for 2014, by June 1, that reflect the volumes of renewable fuel that were actually used in 2014.”

“The volumes for Biomass-based Diesel in 2014 were approximately 1.75 billion gallons so EPA reaffirming its commitment to “actual use” appears to be a step in the right direction,” said NBB Vice President of Federal Affairs Anne Steckel.

Advanced Ethanol Council (AEC) executive director Brooke Coleman says the announcement sends a good signal to the advanced biofuels industry. “Now that we have a better idea of when it will happen, we look forward to working with EPA to make sure that the new RFS proposal supports the commercial deployment of advanced biofuels as called for by Congress.”

EPA intends to issue a Federal Register Notice allowing the public an opportunity to comment on the proposed consent decree.

Aemetis to Sell Biodiesel to India Tourism Buses

aemetislogo1California-based Aemetis, Inc. will start selling biodiesel to travel bus operators in India’s tourism industry. This company news release says a move by India government that allows biodiesel manufacturers such as Aemetis to sell to customers directly helped make the deal possible.

According to a study carried out by Nielsen Research for the Department of Petroleum Planning and Analysis, Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas, Government of India, buses consume about 10% of the annual diesel used. Diesel use by buses equates to 2.5 billion gallons of yearly consumption in India, of which more than 1 billion gallons is consumed in Southern and Western India providing a potential source of significant demand for the Aemetis biodiesel plant in Andhra Pradesh.

“Prime Minister Modi and the India Government are actively promoting biodiesel as an alternative to petroleum diesel to reduce more than $120 billion per year of crude oil imports,” said Eric McAfee, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Aemetis. “The lower cost of biodiesel compared to diesel is only one of several important drivers for the growth in the biodiesel market. By using biodiesel from Aemetis, travel operators are supporting improved air quality, expanded domestic jobs and reduced operating costs.”

“We have recently begun deliveries to travel bus operators in Southern and Western India,” said Sanjeev Gupta, Managing Director of the Universal Biofuels subsidiary of Aemetis. “The travel and tourism industry contributed about 6.2% of India’s GDP in 2013 and is forecasted to rise by 7% per year through 2024. The travel and tourism industry supports about 22 million jobs and helps India generate meaningful foreign exchange reserves.”

Aemetis owns and operates a biodiesel refinery able to produce about 50 million gallons per year on the East Coast of India.

Iowa Lawmakers Ride-and-Drive on Biodiesel

ia-biodiesel-branstadLawmakers in Iowa got the chance to experience the power of biodiesel for themselves. The Iowa Biodiesel Board (IBB) held its its first ever Ride-and-Drive event at the capitol in Des Moines as part of the group’s annual “Biodiesel Day on the Hill” event, whose riders included Governor Terry Branstad and Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds.

“As a nation, we should continue to prioritize both a diverse fuel supply and clean, fuel efficient vehicles,” said Grant Kimberley, IBB executive director. “With diesel vehicles running on biodiesel blends, you get both.”

Biodiesel is an advanced biofuel made from agricultural byproducts and co-products, such as soybean oil.

Vehicles on hand included a diesel Chevy Cruze, the only small domestic diesel car; a Ford F-250 Superduty pickup; a Ram 3.0L EcoDiesel pickup; and a diesel Jeep Grand Cherokee. All ran on biodiesel blends during the event. The new 2015 models are approved for 20 percent biodiesel (B20).

Iowa biodiesel producers and supporters were also able to thank Iowa legislators for their support. Earlier this year, the state raised the fuel tax while providing a partial exemption for diesel blended with at least 11 percent biodiesel (B11).

Tenaska Buys Iowa Biodiesel Plant

tenaska_logoNebraska-based renewable energy company Tenaska has bought an Iowa biodiesel refinery. This article from the Omaha World Herald says the company acquired the Clinton County Bio Energy refinery in Clinton, Iowa, from a local group of investors, although Tenaska officials are being tight-lipped about the deal.

Terms weren’t disclosed. The centerpiece of the deal is the biodiesel plant on the Mississippi River with an annual capacity of 10 million gallons…

The acquisition marks Tenaska’s third renewables investment this year, after the February purchase of a stake in a California-based installer of residential rooftop solar panels and the purchase last month of a stake in a New Jersey company that specializes in commercial solar projects.

Tenaska had nearly $10 billion in sales in 2013, earning a spot on the Forbes magazine list of the biggest private firms.

Fire Shuts REG Louisiana Refinery

reg-logoA Geismer, Louisiana renewable hydrocarbon diesel (RHD) refinery owned by Iowa-based Renewable Energy Group (REG) is closed after a fire on April 2 which injured two people, according to the company.

REG reports that the fire was contained within a few hours and the two injured employees were in fair condition. “An assessment and investigation into the cause of the fire and the damage to the facility is ongoing,” said a company statement. “The biorefinery will remain shut down until such assessment is complete and repairs can be made.”

REG just held a ribbon cutting in November for the facility which produces RHD using a process which converts a wide range of feedstocks, such as animal fat, inedible corn oil, used cooking oil and vegetable oils, into renewable fuel.

Mobile Grease-to-Biodiesel Company Raises $1 Mil

revolutionfuels1A company that uses a mobile truck to go on location and turn waste grease into biodiesel has raised nearly $1 million in funding. This article from the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal says Revolution Fuels, a startup that mounts equipment for converting grease to biofuel on trucks, rounded up the money through the sale of equity and securities.

Revolution plans to dispatch its trucks to food makers and other businesses that produce waste grease, according to its website. Equipment on the vehicles then converts grease into fuel. Customers can keep the fuel or let Revolution sell it.

The company is led by for Cargill vice president Julie Wheeler.