How to Establish Biobased Production Chains

The Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RV0), Wageningen UR Food & Biobased Research has developed a method that can help companies and government authorities create biobased chains, from source materials to end products. The method was developed out of a need for companies to develop successful production chains for the production of biofuels or biomaterials from biomass-based resources.

According to senior scientist Wolter Elbersen at the institute for Food & Biobased Research, the method is mainly intended for businesses and investors looking to establish a biobased production chain locally, or for export to the Netherlands or other EU countries. “They often have trouble evaluating whether developing a biobased production or export chain is feasible or how it can be done commercially,” said Elbersen. “This method provides an insight into which factors are at play.”

Setting Up International Biobased Production ChainsThe method is a step-by-step plan for the development of a biobased export chain. It includes a classification of the various types of biomass.

Scientist Jan van Dam at Food & Biobased Research explained that an analysis was made of which crops and products are most suitable, and how market demands are expected to develop. “We then described how businesses or investors can use a SWOT analysis to evaluate whether a local crop is a good starting point for the development of a biobased trade chain. This includes factors such as the availability of the crop and the infrastructure, security of supplies, costs and the degree to which the source material can be produced in a sustainable way.”

The method also offers a list of criteria for determining the most suitable location for converting the source material into tradable products. It deals with questions such as which country has the best infrastructure and the most educated employees? Which location offers the lowest operational costs and the best logistics? And where do the co-products or by-products have the most value? This involves issues such as heat for heating networks, CO2 for CO2 fertilisation or lignin for new chemical products.

“PUMP” Coming to a Theater Near You

There is a new documentary coming to a theater near you: PUMP. The film tells the story of America’s addiction to oil. Stories told range from Standard Oil’s illegal tactics to the dominance of oil companies. The goal of the film is to explain why and how consumers can end Big Oil’s monopoly and “win choice at the pump”.

According to the movie’s website, gasoline is our only option of transportation fuel today. With global demand rising and the continued dependence on gas our wallets are thinning. In addition, air pollution is getting worse and Americans are fighting wars in oil-rich countries.

PUMP shows consumers how making a variety of replacement fuels widely available will reduce fuel prices across the board. Diversifying the market with replacement fuels that are cheaper, cleaner and American made will also create jobs, strengthening the economy at home and promoting stability abroad.

The movie features experts including John Hofmeister, former President of Shell Oil Co.; Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors, Inc.; Peter Goldmark, former president of the Rockefeller Foundation; our colleague Jim Lane and other noteworthy figures.

To see where the movie is headed and to buy tickets, visit the PUMP website.

Biomass-to-Biofuel Plant Gets USDA Loan Guarantee

coolplanetA Louisiana biomass-to-biofuel operation received a $91 million loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). This news release from USDA says the agency will back the loan under the Biorefinery Assistance Program to finish building the Cool Planet plant at the Port of Alexandria in Louisiana.

The Cool Planet facilities will produce approximately 8 million to 10 million gallons of reformate per year at full capacity. Often referred to as a “drop-in” fuel, reformate is an ingredient in gasoline and jet fuel that can be added during the regular refinery process. Many biofuels, like ethanol, are fuel additives that are instead blended into a finished product to oxygenate fuel. Reformate enhances the energy content of gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel. Pine chips will be the feedstock source for the Cool Planet facility, but the company can use almost any type of renewable cellulosic material.

Another benefit of Cool Planet’s facility is that it will produce biochar, a bioenergy byproduct that has been noted for its ability to sequester carbon and potentially reduce atmospheric greenhouse gas levels.

Google Ventures, BP, ConocoPhillips, GE, Exelon and NRG Energy are also kicking in on the project, in addition to USDA’s contribution. Cool Planet is putting $50 million in its own equity into the project.

Governors’ Biofuels Coalition: Restore RFS

The Governors’ Biofuels Coalition has sent a letter to the Obama Administration urging action on the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and for the restoration of biofuel levels as designated by the mandate. This, the group said, will protect consumer choice, ensure jobs and reduce dependence on foreign oil. The initiative was led by Governor Pat Quinn and Iowa Governor Terry Branstad, chairman and vice chairman of the Governors’ Biofuels Coalition.

In the letter, the govegovernor-biofuelsrnors write, “The continued expansion of the biofuels industry is essential for our nation’s energy and economic future. Through continued expansion of biofuels plants, it will be possible to deliver millions of gallons of clean, renewable fuel, create thousands of jobs, lower imported oil expenditures, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 80 percent, compared to gasoline.”

The governors also expressed their concern about the impact the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed rule will have on biodiesel. “The EPA’s proposed volume cuts for biodiesel are creating turmoil, resulting in production cutbacks and layoffs. More than halfway through the year, many jobs are in jeopardy and many biodiesel plants have been negatively impacted.”

The letter highlights the impact that the EPA’s proposed rule has had on the emerging cellulosic industry: “[T] he proposed RFS rule has discouraged new investment in the newly emerging cellulosic ethanol industry and now threatens the many new plants about to go into commercial production.”

The letter concluded, “Amending the proposed rule to one that will build and restore America’s robust leadership in the development and production of domestically produced renewable fuels is crucial in ensuring a successful future in rural America.”

Algae-based Biofuels to Get $25 Mil from Feds

US DOE Energy logoAlgae-based biofuels will be the beneficiaries of a government-backed effort to get the fuels made from microbes down to less than $5 per gasoline gallon equivalent (gge) by 2019. The U.S. Department of Energy announced $25 million to reduce those production costs, hopefully down to an eventual goal of $3 gge by 2030.

The funding announced today will support projects in two topic areas: Topic Area 1 awards (anticipated at 1–3 selections) will range from $5–10 million and focus on the development of algae cultures that, in addition to biofuels, produce valuable bioproducts that increase the overall value of the biomass. Topic Area 2 awards (anticipated at 3–7 selections) will range from $0.5–1 million and will focus on the development of crop protection or carbon dioxide utilization technologies to boost biomass productivity in ways that lead to higher yields of algae.

You can learn more about this funding opportunity here, including signing up for an informational webinar to be held on Wednesday, October 8, 2014.

Urban Air Initiative Launches Public Campaign

Urban Air Initiative has launched a public awareness campaign with the first phase the launch of a new website. The consumer-focused site draws attention to the problem of toxic compounds in gas with a call to action for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate some of the most harmful components in fuel.

fixourfuelAccording to Urban Air Initiative President David VanderGriend, “There’s a problem with the air we’re all breathing and it stems from what’s in our gasoline. It’s something that’s too small to see, but too big to ignore.”

The new website is fixourfuel.com and explains why the country needs to clean up gasoline and protect public health through lowered emissions from vehicles said VanderGriend.

“The website takes a story-like approach to make a complicated subject easier to understand. “Right now, toxic compounds called aromatics are added to gasoline to provide octane boost,” added VanderGriend. However that boost is hurting your health. Aromatics, such as benzene, come out of the tailpipe as invisible, odorless ultrafine particles (UFP’s). These UFP’s have been linked to ailments from lung cancer and stroke, to birth defects and developmental disorders in children.”

Under the Clean Air Act, EPA is required to remove these harmful aromatics from gasoline, but not enough is being done. According to Urban Air Initiative officials, there are cleaner and cheaper options available, such as mid-level blends of ethanol. Increased use of these mid-level blends will reduce toxic aromatics and UFP’s.

Fuels America Campaign Focuses on Nat’l Security

As the U.S. government fights ISIS, this week oil fields became a target in the war on terror Fuels America is running a new series of ads online, radio, cable and in the Washington, D.C. market. The ads tell the public and decision makers that the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) could end American’s addiction to foreign oil. The radio ads will run for one week, and the television ads will run during the Sunday morning talk shows as well as Sunday, Monday and Tuesday programming.

The ad warns that the Obama Administration’s proposal to gut the RFS would leave America’s renewable fuel industry—and the thousands of American jobs it supports—at the mercy of the oil industry. Meanwhile, maintaining a strong Renewable Fuel Standard would support American innovation and thousands of American jobs that can’t be outsourced.

The President’s decision on the EPA’s proposal is expected in the coming days. It is currently under review with the Office of Management and Budget and it is not actually known if the final volumes will be lower than the year before and lower than mandated by the legislation. Fuels America points out this the public unveiling of the final 2014 rule comes as oil producing regions around the world remain unstable. As a net importer of oil, every gallon of domestic biofuels the U.S. produces means less foreign oil we must import from hostile foreign regions.

Those ads come alongside a digital campaign that includes a Politico Morning Energy Sponsorship by the Fuels America coalition, which says “Despite the mess in the Middle East, the Obama Administration is calling for a 1.3 billion gallon cut in America’s renewable fuel production—making us even more foreign oil dependent,” and “With turmoil in the Middle East, this isn’t the time to cut back on the clean, domestic alternatives to foreign oil.”

EPA Inaction on RFS Increasing GHG Emissions

According to a new white paper, inaction by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on finalizing the 2014 Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) rules is increasing greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) equal to 4.4 million additional cars on American roads. The paper, published by the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) updated earlier estimates of GHG emissions due to the proposal to reduce biofuel use during 2014.

Brent Erickson, executive vice president of BIO’s Industrial & Environmental Section, said, “During the U.N. Climate Summit this week, the Obama administration is sure to promote the regulatory actions it has taken to reduce climate change emissions from stationary sources such as power plants. But regulatory inaction on the RFS has opened the door to an increase in greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector.”

BIO logo“Last November, EPA proposed a steep reduction in the use of biofuels in order to avoid hitting the so-called blend wall – a proposal the administration still has not finalized,” continued Erickson. “What the agency failed to consider is that demand for transportation fuel has been increasing – the United States is now using several billion gallons more gasoline and diesel than projected. The so-called blend wall is an invention of the oil industry and has simply been a red herring.”

In March 2014, Erickson and coauthors published the study, “Estimating Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Proposed Changes to the Renewable Fuel Standard Through 2022.” That study demonstrated that if EPA reduced biofuel use under the RFS, as the agency proposed in November 2013, the U.S. would experience an increase in greenhouse gas emissions and forego an achievable decrease in emissions.

In the updated white paper uses new data on transportation fuel demand for 2013 and 2014. The U.S. is now projected to use 2 billion gallons more gasoline and 0.5 billion gallons more diesel in 2014 than previously projected.

Erickson concluded, “The administration must finalize the 2014 Renewable Fuel Standard using a methodology based on biofuel production and continue the program’s successful support for commercialization of advanced and cellulosic biofuels. The renewable fuel industry has already created hundreds of thousands of good jobs and boosted economic growth.”

Orrie Swayze: EPA is Destroying Grain Prices

Orrie Swayze, from Wilmont, South Dakota is a long-time ethanol advocate and has been involved with the American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) since its inception more than 20 years ago. He has been following the progress of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) writing of the final 2014 final rule for the Renewable Fuel Standard and as a retired farmer, he is not happy with their direction. While no one knows what the renewable volume obligations will be for obligated parties this year (yes, the EPA is way behind should be releases the proposed rule for 2015 in November) there is grave concern among the renewable fuels industry that volumes will be lower than mandated by the law and from years past.

orrieSwayze is speaking out. “The EPA deceitfully created E10 blend wall destroys free enterprise’s role deciding corn prices because it locks a potential new five billion bushel demand for corn out of the market,” he says. “Free enterprise cannot play a legitimate role in corn and auto fuels markets when EPA’s dishonest policies limit ethanol’s auto fuels market participation to ten percent. Countering free enterprise principles EPA picks gasoline as auto fuels market winner by deceitfully claiming high octane E30 is illegal to use in and damages standard auto engines.”

He notes that unlike gasoline, ethanol does not contain or emit harmful tailpipe emissions that are particularity harmful to children and the elderly. “Therefore it isn’t Clean Air Act defined tampering or illegal, as EPA alleges, to fuel standard autos with E30 because it decreases known human carcinogenic tailpipe/evaporative emissions 30 percent,” explains Swayze.

“Importantly, auto companies urgently request EPA to raise minimum gasoline octane levels,” he continues. “Autos endorse ethanol’s high octane E30 but ridicule low octane E15. E15 cannot provide E30’s air cooling turbocharging effect and 93 ‘safe’ octane that’s required for optimized, efficient high compression engines. Engines autos need to be competitive in international markets plus meet 2017 café standards.”

South Dakota farmers have a deep experience of producing corn and ethanol with the state producing nearly a billion bushels of corn plus a billion bushels of ethanol each year. “We all have hit EPA’s fraudulent blend wall evidenced by a dollar plus lower tumbling corn prices and necessarily all grain/ethanol prices,” says Swayze. “The economic impact of government’s war on E30 use in standard autos creating the e10 blend wall will obviously extort several billion dollars annually from SD’s economy alone.”

Swayze concluded, “Incredibly state government, corn and ethanol organizations assure the blend wall stands firm today: They irresponsibly agree with EPA’s big oil sponsored fabrications that built the blend wall: E30 is illegal to use in and damages standard auto engines.” He is asking corn growers associations and ag associations to stand firm on ethanol and be more proactive in fighting Big Oil who is perpetuating myths about ethanol.

Impact of Ethanol Mandates on Fuel Prices Nill

Professors Sebastien Pouliot and Bruce A. Babcock with Iowa State University’s Center for Agricultural and Rural Development (CARD) have released a new paper, “Impact of Ethanol Mandates on Fuel Prices When Ethanol and Gasoline are Imperfect Substitutes“. The authors note papers that consider the two transportation fuels “equal” have been of limited use in informing current policy debates because the short-to-medium-run reality is one of sets restrictions on how ethanol can be consumed in the U.S.

Mandate Impacts on GasThe authors’ objective of the paper was to improve understanding of how these restrictions change the findings of existing studies. The paper estimated the impacts of higher ethanol mandates using a open-economy, partial equilibrium model of gasoline, ethanol and blending whereby motorists buy one of two fuels: E10, which is a blend of 10 percent ethanol and 90 percent gasoline, or E85 which is a high ethanol blend. The model is calibrated to recent data to provide current estimates.

Mandate Impacts on EthanolThe authors find that the effects of increasing ethanol mandates that are physically feasible to meet on the price of E10 are close to zero. In other words, White House fears of higher RIN prices due to higher gas prices are unfounded. The report also shows the impact of the size of the corn harvest on E10 prices is much larger than the effects of mandates. However, increased mandates can have a large effect on the price of E85 if the mandates are increased to levels that approach consumption capacity. These findings show that concerns about the consumer price of fuel do not justify a reduction ethanol mandates under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

The 2014 RFS rule is currently under review with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

Is Obama is Own Worst Enemy on Climate?

The People’s Climate March” has received worldwide attention to kick off Climate Week in New York and an ad in the New York Times is asking if President Obama is his own worst enemy when it comes to climate. The ad tells the president that if his administration accepts the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposal to alter the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFScreen Shot 2014-09-22 at 11.37.27 AMS) he “will have inadvertently done more to damage [his] climate legacy than [his] worst enemies.”

The ad warns that the proposal would let oil companies off the hook for blocking competition from American renewable fuels, and prompt an exodus of investment in cellulosic ethanol—the world’s cleanest motor fuel—to China and Brazil.

In the ad, the Advanced Ethanol Council and Biotechnology Industry Organization caution President Obama that investments in additional cellulosic production beyond these four plants will likely shift overseas if the President adopts the flawed methodology of the EPA proposal, regardless of whether he decides to actually raise the renewable fuel targets in the rule. This month, two commercial scale cellulosic ethanol biorefineries came online in Iowa and Abengoa will be hosting a grand opening for its cellulosic ethanol plant in Kansas in October.

Maryland Gets New E85 Station

Three Brothers/A1 Auto Repair and Protec Fuel joined forces to launch a new E85 station in Baltimore, Maryland. The public can now fuel with E85 at 3041 Frederick Avenue thanks to partners Maryland Grain Producers Utilization Board (MGPUB) and the Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, DC, Clean Cities Coalitions.

Three Brothers Car Repair E85 pumpThis is the first E85 station for owner Paul Goeller whose stationhttp://www.a1autothreebroscarrepair.com/ also features an auto repair business: A1 Auto Repair. “I noticed all the flex-fuel vehicles coming through and was surprised there was nowhere to fuel with E85 in Baltimore,” said Goeller. “As a mechanic, I wanted to give a choice that not only is better for the environment and our country, but has certain engine benefits such as higher octane, performance and a cleaner engine.”

Paul Spies, eastern shore farmer and president of MGPUB said of E85, “We invest in projects that support U.S. jobs and protect our environment, and the opening of this E85 station well fits that mission. Ethanol is farm-grown and renewable, and today’s answer for replacing petroleum-based fuels from volatile foreign markets. As our domestic alternative fuel industry grows, we expect to provide even greater benefits for U.S. consumers, the environment, and our farmers.”

E85 is a blend of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline that can be used in flex-fuel vehicles (FFVs), as can gasoline. Automobile manufacturers such as Ford, Chrysler, Nissan, Toyota and General Motors all produce FFVs.With more than 16.5 million FFVs on the road, there is strong need for more stations offering higher level blends of ethanol. Visit GoE85.com to check if your vehicle can run on E85 and find more station locations.

“Many cars have flex-fuel capability, whether the drivers know it or not,” added Steve Walk, a VP of Protec Fuel who helped the station add the E18 pump. “Alternative fuels like this, as well as E15 fuel or other ethanol blends, benefit air quality in sensitive areas such as big cities like Baltimore.”

Gevo’s Plant Co-producing Isobutanol & Ethanol

Gevo’s plant in Luverne, Minnesota is now co-producing isobutanol and ethanol with one fermenter dedicated to isobutanol production and three fermenters dedicated to ethanol production. With the completion of the last phase of capital for SBS, Gevo has begun to produce and ship isobutanol in railcar volumes.gevo logo

This equipment facilitates the extraction of isobutanol from the plant, which should enable Gevo to boost production levels of isobutanol by debottlenecking the downstream side of the plant. This distillation equipment was commissioned in early September and is already showing improved results at the plant, such as:

  • A doubling of isobutanol batch sizes;
  • A 50% reduction in isobutanol batch turnaround times;
  • Consistent yields of >90% based on starch content; and
  • A continued decrease in isobutanol production costs towards targeted
    economic rates.

“We are on track with the SBS. We completed the installation of our isobutanol distillation column and it operates well. We are continuing to boost isobutanol production levels while simultaneously driving cost out of our production processes. We are pleased to be shipping both ethanol and isobutanol in railcar quantities. This isobutanol is destined for the solvents and specialty gasoline blendstock markets, as well as to supply our demo plant in Silsbee, TX, to convert our isobutanol into hydrocarbons such as bio-jet fuel and isooctane,” said Dr. Patrick Gruber, Gevo’s CEO.

Gruber continued, “By installing the last phase of capital at Luverne, we remain confident that we will be able to achieve production levels of 50-100 thousand gallons of isobutanol per month by the end of 2014. As we continue to learn and optimize the isobutanol production process, we believe we can ultimately increase our production rate to approximately 2-3 million gallons of isobutanol per annum under the SBS, while we are producing ethanol in the other three fermenters.”

Minnoco Expands Higher Ethanol Blends in Twin Cities

Independent fuel retailer Minnoco is expanding its outlets with 18 new locations joining the brand. When completed, the brand will feature 24 retailers, many of whom will be offering higher blends of ethanol, such as E15, and biodiesel to consumers.

“Our owners believe we have a competitive advantage by offering more fuel choices like E15 to consumers,” stated Lance Klatt, executive director for Minnoco. “Our new brand not only draws in consumers for more affordable fuels but is also a great business model for retailers.”

Minnoco signLeveraging existing convenience store and automotive repair locations in many cases, retail owners are moving away from a branded oil contract into the independent brand of Minnoco. “With Minnoco, I’m able to offer E15 as a more competitive fuel to my customers at a much lower price vs. regular,” explained Rick Bohnen, president of Minnoco and owner of Penn Minnoco. “This is a better business model for me because it significantly reduces my operational costs vs. branded fuels and I’m able to pass the savings on to consumers.”

In addition, Minnoco retailers have more freedom to offer biofuels that are grown and produced in Minnesota. Though the product offering will vary slightly by retail location, Minnoco will be offering E15, E30, E85 and diesel along with regular grades of gasoline.

“All of our regular 87 gas already contains 10% ethanol,” explained Jerry Charmoli, Minnoco owner and a mechanic for more than 30 years. “E15 is approved for vehicles 2001 and newer and we’ve had zero problems, in fact my customers love the cost savings and extra performance.”

In response to the announcement today by Minnoco, Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis said, “Minnesota has always been a leader in offering renewable fuels to consumers. I am glad to see an increasing number of service station owners and convenience stores offer a higher performing, less expensive, renewable fuel option. Minnoco understands what consumers want, and also appreciates the importance of improving our environment, creating and supporting jobs right here in America that cannot be outsourced, and reducing our dangerous addiction to fossil fuels and foreign oil, all while saving consumers at the pump.”

Bobby Likis Car Clinic Globalcast Features Ethanol

likis-logoBobby Likis Car Clinic recent globalcast featured topic was ethanol with guest Bob Dinneen, president and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA). More specifically the two discussed issues around the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

During the program, Dinneen explained that the RFS and ethanol production saves consumers money at the pump, decreases America’s foreign oil dependence, and helps rural America. He discussed the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed cuts to the RFS and the negative impact those cuts would have on consumers and investment in next-generation ethanol.

Dinneen said, “In today’s environment of misinformation and spin, it is absolutely vital that consumers know the truth about ethanol and understand the role the Renewable Fuel Standard plays in furthering America’s energy independence, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and lowering the price of gasoline for drivers.” He adds, “I was proud to join Car Clinic’s Bobby Likis to give an overview of the political, regional, and agricultural factors that play into the future of ethanol production and explain the benefits of ethanol to drivers all across the country. Their votes of confidence in the RFS will count in the upcoming election.”

Likis, who is an automotive and ethanol expert, reflects, “When presented with facts – which Bob Dinneen delivers in easy-to-understand terms – American consumers and voters are smart enough to make the right decision at the polls in November. That’s how the RFS was passed in the first place. Clearly, the RFS has delivered to voters: lowering prices at the gas pump; reducing dependence on foreign oil; stimulating regional economies; giving the environment a fighting chance; and incenting investors to keep their money in the US as they research and develop new seed and other technologies to increase efficiencies and crop yields.”