Largest Government Purchase of Biofuels Announced

The largest government purchase of biofuels for military application was announced today.

U.S. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus and U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack jointly announced that the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) signed a contract to purchase 450,000 gallons of advanced drop-in biofuel.

The biofuel to be purchased is made from a blend of non-food waste (used cooking oil) from the Louisiana-based Dynamic Fuels, LLC, a joint-venture of Tyson Foods, Inc., and Syntroleum Corporation, and algae, produced by Solazyme. The fuel will be used in the U.S. Navy’s demonstration of a Green Strike Group in the summer of 2012 during the Rim of the Pacific Exercise (RIMPAC), the world’s largest international maritime exercise.

“The Navy has always led the nation in transforming the way we use energy, not because it is popular, but because it makes us better war fighters,” stated Secretary Mabus. “This unprecedented fuel purchase demonstrates the Obama Administration’s commitment to seeking energy security and energy independence by diversifying our energy supply.”

“In March, the President challenged me, Secretary Mabus, and Secretary Steven Chu to work with the private sector to cultivate a competitively-priced—and domestically produced—drop-in biofuel industry that can power not just fighter jets, but also trucks and commercial airliners,” said Secretary Vilsack, “Today’s announcement continues our efforts to meet that challenge. This is not work we can afford to put off for another day.”

The biofuel will be mixed with aviation gas or marine diesel fuel for use in the Green Strike Group demonstration.

Read more from USDA and listen to press conference of the announcement.

USDA Announces Insurance Program for Biofuel Crop

USDAThe U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced a new pilot program of insurance for camelina beginning with the 2012 crop year.

According to a release from USDA, “Camelina is an oilseed crop with the potential to create new renewable energy markets in the United States, generate rural jobs here at home, and decrease America’s dependence on foreign oil. The new pilot program will be available in selected counties in Montana and North Dakota for the 2012 crop year, with a sales closing date of February 1, 2012.”

biofuelsCamelina, an oilseed, is a rotation crop for wheat that can be established on marginally productive land. It is an annual, short season plant. Biofuel from camelina is an ideal jet fuel substitute. USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists have long-term studies underway to examine ways to use camelina as a bioenergy crop for producing jet fuel for the military and the aviation industry. In addition, earlier this year USDA announced two Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) project areas devoted to developing camelina as biofuel in several states, including Montana. USDA is also part of several partnerships to develop oilseeds and native and perennial grasses as a biofuels.

Find out details of the program from USDA.

OriginOil Announces Algae Appliance

During the 4th Algae World Asia conference in Beijing, China, OriginOil announced it’s newest algae extraction technology – Algae Appliance. This entry-level commercial algae harvesting system was designed to help producers process algae at a low cost and without chemicals.

Algae Appliance is set for release in the first half of 2012 and is a continuous flow ‘wet harvest’ system that has the potential to remove up to 90 percent of water volume. Field testing will begin shortly and the companies are looking for additional project partners.

MBD Energy’s Technical Director Larry Sirmans, and an OriginOil Australian partner, said of the technology, “This Algae Appliance should be very beneficial to producers and researchers who are developing the most efficient processes for growing algae at commercial scale.”

Bill Charneski, OriginOil senior director of product engineering added, “We are continuing to scale up our technology at MBD’s pilot site in Australia. Now, everything we have learned is going into a standardized entry-level system to help the worldwide algae industry meet the high demand for sustainable, low-cost algae production.”

The company anticipates that this technology, and ultimately algae production, will help to meet the renewable aviation fuels demand of the commercial airline industry and of the various branches of the U.S. military.

San Diego School Buses Now Running on Biodiesel

San Diego-based Buster Biofuels has formed an Alliance with LEGOLAND California, the San Diego Padres, hundreds of restaurants, hotels, and resorts to collect their grease and oil and turn it into biodiesel. Now this biodiesel is being used to fuel the San Dieguito Union High School District (SDUHSD) school buses. Emissions from the use of the biodiesel are being reduced nearly 78 percent as compared to traditional diesel fuel.

“Organizations like LEGOLAND and the Padres have a huge amount of oil and there is just no way they can use it all themselves (in the form of biofuel),” said Buster Halterman, CEO of Buster Biofuels. “The concept is to take that oil and recycle it into biodiesel then to reduce carbon emissions locally by putting the fuel into the buses of the San Dieguito Union High School District.”

The school district is using a B20 blend in two of their buses and is in the process of converting its entire fleet to the biodiesel blend.

“We want to be at the forefront of green technology,” said Daniel Love, the director of transportation for SDUHSD. “It’s really exciting to work with Buster Biofuels and to know that we are some of the first ones making this change.”

Jason Biddle, Chief Sales Officer for Buster Biofuels added, “It’s about asthma, it’s about emphysema and it’s about helping out the kids! It’s about local companies helping local school buses via Buster Biofuels.”

Fuel Better Video Shows Biofuels Benefits

A short animated video just released by Pearson Fuels shows the benefits of biofuels for the United States.

Produced with the support of the American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) and the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), “Fuel Better in Sixty Seconds” is a short but sweet summary of why alternative energy is important for the nation and how it is making a difference. “With the election season ramping up and daily conversations occurring in the media around budget cuts and tax policy, it is important that the public be educated on a few facts about alternative fuels,” said Pearson Fuels co-founder Mike Lewis. “The bottom line is that alternative fuels, and biofuels in particular, displace a massive amount of foreign oil every day in this country. Once Americans understand the benefits of alternative fuel, they can demand the same from their government leaders.”

“Many Americans don’t realize the contributions that alternative fuels like ethanol make to the economy and our environment,” said RFA director of market development Robert White. “Pearson did a great job in getting the message across in an educational and entertaining way.”

California-based Pearson Fuels
has been a leader in providing alternative fuels to both the public and government entities, opening the nation’s first Alternative Fuel Station in 2003. Located in the center of San Diego and specializing in bringing alternative fuels to the public, Pearson was the first facility of its kind and pioneered the first public E85 station on the West Coast.

Watch the video here.

Ethanol Train Terminal to Open in Birmingham

Birmingham, Alabama is going to be the new home of an ethanol unit train terminal located on the BNSF Railway, owned by BlendStar, LLC, a subsidiary of Green Plains Renewable Energy. The new terminal will have 160,000 barrels of storage and accept 96-car unit trains of ethanol per day. Expected to be completed in the third quarter of 2012, it will solely serve BNSF.

“We believe Birmingham is a significant growth market, and development of this unit train terminal is a part of our ongoing effort to expand and diversify our business platform along the value chain,” said Todd Becker, President and Chief Executive Officer of Green Plains. “With superior services provided by BNSF Railway and BlendStar, operation of this new terminal will provide better transportation economics to shippers, as it will be the eastern most point for direct ship on the railroad to receive ethanol from the Midwest. This will result in improved ethanol distribution through one of the most modern and efficient ethanol terminals in the U.S. when it is completed.”

The new terminal will offer a fully-automated rail unloading system with the capacity to distribute nearly 385,000 barrels of ethanol per month with loading service offered 24-hours per day. BlendStar is currently in multi-year negotiations with customers. Once complete, the terminal will be retrofitted to handle other biofuels and liquid products.

Kevin Kaufman, BNSF’s Group Vice President Agricultural Marketing added, “We are very excited about this terminal being built on the BNSF Railway. This shows our commitment to shippers to deliver the most efficient solutions for their logistical needs. BlendStar is the perfect partner to bring this strategic project on-line and operational next year.”

USDA Funds Algae Fuel Project in New Mexico

USDA has issued a loan guarantee that will allow a biofuels firm to construct a facility in New Mexico to produce “green crude” oil from algae which can be refined into transportation fuel.

The loan is going to Sapphire Energy, which intends to design, build and operate a $135 million integrated algal biorefinery (IABR) in Columbus, N.M., for the production of advanced biofuel that is a “drop-in” replacement for petroleum derived diesel and jet fuel. The IABR will be capable of producing 100 barrels of refined algal oil per day, equivalent to at least one million gallons per year. The oil will be shipped to the United States Gulf Coast to be refined by Sapphire’s refinery partner, Dynamic Fuels, located in Geismar, La.

The funding is provided through USDA’s Biorefinery Assistance Program. On December 3, 2009, USDA issued a conditional commitment for an 80 percent guarantee on a $54.5 million loan. The loan closing and issuance of the Loan Note Guarantee for this project took place on October 21, 2011.

IEA Warns of Insecure Fossil Fuels Future

The world is heading for an insecure and inefficient energy future unless there is a “bold change of policy direction” soon, warns a new report from the International Energy Agency (IEA).

The 2011 edition of the World Energy Outlook (WEO), released by IEA last week in London, said there is still time to act, but the window of opportunity is closing. “Growth, prosperity and rising population will inevitably push up energy needs over the coming decades. But we cannot continue to rely on insecure and environmentally unsustainable uses of energy,” said IEA Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven. “Governments need to introduce stronger measures to drive investment in efficient and low-carbon technologies.”

According the report, oil demand will rise 14% between 2010 and 2035, from 87 million barrels per day in 2010 to 99 million in 2035. All net increases in oil demand will come entirely from the transportation sector in emerging economies as economic growth pushes up demand for personal mobility and freight goods.

Global RFA“This is a deeply disturbing picture that the IEA has painted for the world,” said Bliss Baker, spokesperson for the Global Renewable Fuels Alliance. “Such increases are unsustainable making it imperative that all countries quickly bring real crude oil alternatives to market.”

Baker says that according to the report, an amount equivalent to twice the current total oil production of all OPEC countries in the Middle East must be discovered and brought to market by 2035.
“This is a wakeup call to the world that we need to further promote biofuels to meet this ever growing energy demand,” he said.

The IEA also highlighted the potential for supply disruptions in the Middle East and North African countries as a potential threat to world oil supplies saying that “If, between 2011 and 2015, investment in the MENA region runs one-third lower than the $100 billion per year required…consumers could face a substantial near-term rise in the oil price to $150/barrel.”

Alaska Airlines Goes Green on Biofuels

Alaska Airlines has gone green with commercial flights on biofuels.

Starting this week, Alaska Airlines began 75 commercial passenger flights in the United States powered by biofuel made from used cooking oil.

Two maiden biofuel-powered flights left Seattle November 9 bound for Washington, D.C., and Portland, Ore. Alaska Airlines and its sister carrier, Horizon Air, will continue to operate select flights between Seattle and the two cities over the next few weeks using a 20 percent blend of sustainable biofuel.

“This is a historic week for U.S. aviation. The 75 flights that Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air will fly over the next few weeks reflect our longstanding commitment to environmental responsibility and our belief that sustainable biofuels are key to aviation’s future,” Alaska Air Group Chairman and CEO Bill Ayer said. “Commercial airplanes are equipped and ready for biofuels. They will enable us to fly cleaner, foster job growth in a new industry, and can insulate airlines from the volatile price swings of conventional fuel to help make air travel more economical. What we need is an adequate, affordable and sustainable supply. To the biofuels industry, we say: If you build it, we will buy it.”

Alaska Air Group estimates the 20 percent certified biofuel blend it is using for the 75 flights will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by an estimated 10 percent, or 134 metric tons, the equivalent of taking 26 cars off the road for a year. If the company powered all of its flights with a 20 percent biofuel blend for one year, the annual emissions savings would represent the equivalent of taking nearly 64,000 cars off the road or providing electricity to 28,000 homes.

Ethanol Industry Left Out of Hearing Again

The House Committee on Science, Space and Technology’s Subcommittee on Energy and Environment is holding a hearing today on “Conflicts and Unintended Consequences of Motor Fuel Standards” with a witness list that the ethanol industry claims is biased against biofuels.

“This is the second time this year that this subcommittee has held a hearing on ethanol without bothering to include a witness from the ethanol industry. A hearing whose witness list is comprised overwhelmingly of anti-ethanol critics can hardly be considered fair and balanced,” said Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis.

Since ethanol advocates were excluded from presenting testimony, the Advanced Ethanol Council (AEC) wrote a letter to subcommittee Chair Andy Harris(R-MD) and Ranking Member Brad Miller (D-NC) to re-emphasize the advanced ethanol industry’s commitment to the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and efforts to grow the market for ethanol blended fuels.

AEC Executive Director Brooke Coleman wrote that the industry is concerned that the testifying witnessesmay not be “interested in discussing the true value of the federal RFS.”

“First and foremost, the federal RFS is the single-most effective policy ever enacted to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. It is the cornerstone of a bioenergy economy that emerged in rural America in stark contrast to economic trends in which our country lost incredible wealth to China and OPEC,” Coleman said, noting that advanced ethanol industry is currently engaged in developing commercial advanced ethanol biorefineries in several states from California to Kansas to Mississippi.

“Weakening or walking away from the RFS would greatly impede efforts to develop the next generation of biofuel technologies and further embed America’s dependence on foreign oil,” wrote Coleman.

Read the letter here.

USDA Announces More Funding for Advanced Biofuels

USDAAgriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced $44.6 million in payments for 156 advanced biofuel producers across the country to support the production and expansion of advanced biofuels.

“This funding will help local producers increase the production and availability of renewable energy and thus help our nation begin to reduce its reliance on foreign oil,” Vilsack said. “Just as importantly, USDA’s support will help to further develop the nation’s growing biofuels industry and generate green jobs and economic growth.”

The funding is being provided through USDA’s Bioenergy Program for Advanced Biofuels program, the same program that provided $80 million in payments last month. Under this program, payments are made to eligible producers based on the amount of biofuels a recipient produces from renewable biomass, other than corn kernel starch – including cellulose; crop residue; animal, food and yard waste material; biogas (landfill and sewage waste treatment gas); vegetable oil, and animal fat.

Eighteen companies will receive over $1 million, four of them are over $2 million – including Renewable Energy Group of Iowa with $3.7 million; White Energy in Kansas at $3.1 million; Louis Dreyfus in Indiana with $2.4 million and Ag Processing of Nebraska at almost $2.1 million. The majority of the highest payments are for Biodiesel Trans Esterification, with a good percentage for advanced ethanol production, biofuel from waste and anaerobic digesters.

See the full list of recipients here.

Jury Rules in Favor of Novozymes in Patent Dispute

The jury has ruled but the judgement is still out on the lawsuit between Novozymes and Danisco over a patent for enzymes used in biofuels production.

NovozymesA jury in the US District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin determined that Novozymes patent is valid and ordered Danisco to pay damages of more than $18 million for infringement. The jury also found Danisco’s infringement to be willful but the jury’s decision is still subject to the judge’s affirmation and possible appeals.

Novozymes’ patent covers certain alpha-amylase enzymes for use in the biofuel and starch industries. The infringing products have primarily been used to produce ethanol from corn starch in the United States. Novozymes filed the lawsuit against Danisco in May 2010. Danisco was acquired by DuPont earlier this year.

Ag Secretary Wants Biofuels Support in Farm Bill

Outlining his priorities for farm policy this week, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack stressed the need for continued support of renewable fuels in the next farm bill.

“Rural America has done a great job of helping to develop the domestically-produced renewable energy and fuel. That job must continue because when we create those opportunities, we create jobs, we reduce our reliance on foreign energy sources, and we enhance our national security,” Vilsack said during a speech at a John Deere facility in Des Moines on Monday. “USDA has to have the tools to be able to continue to help this biobased and biofuel and renewable energy economy, and we need to make sure that it’s vibrant in all regions of the country. Continuing our investment in renewable energy, biofuel, and biobased products will improve the bottom line for farmers as we find creative ways to use that which they grow.”

The secretary noted that expansion in the biofuel industry has already had an impact. “We’ve gone from importing 60 percent of our oil to 52 percent,” he said. “As a result of our biofuel industries, consumers across America are paying about $0.90, on average, less for gas than they would otherwise pay. So it’s a great opportunity for consumer choice, it’s a job creator, and it improves income opportunities for farmers.”

Specifically, Vilsack wants to see at least the BCAP (Biomass Crop Assistance Program) and the REAP (Rural Energy For America Program) programs continued.

Congressmen Promote Open Fuel Standard

Members of the Open Fuel Standard Coalition joined with Representatives Eliot Engel (D-NY) and John Shimkus (R-IL) to call for consumer choice at the pump during an Energy Security Roundtable and media event in Washington DC on Tuesday

The two congressmen, pictured here with former National Security Advisor Robert McFarlane, outlined their Open Fuel Standard Act (HR 1687) which would set a deadline of 2017 for automakers to stop making cars that run on only gasoline. After than point, all American made cars must be either flex fuel (capable of burning gasoline, ethanol or methanol or any combination of these), or powered by natural gas, hydrogen, biodiesel, plug-in electric, or fuel cell.

“By employing the Open Fuel Standard, we can create competition for petroleum on the open market with other types of fuel. We don’t have to wait for the perfect technology,” said Rep. Engel (center).

“Consumers should have a choice when they pull up to a refueling station,” Rep. Shimkus (right) added. “At a minimal cost, vehicles could be able to accept multiple fuels with consumers choosing based on price or even feedstock for the fuel.”At a minimal cost, vehicles could be able to accept multiple fuels with consumers choosing based on price or even feedstock for the fuel.”

Also at the event were NASCAR driver Kenny Wallace and representatives from the Renewable Fuels Association, the Methanol Institute and ACT! For America.

ZeaChem Grows To Commercialize Advanced Biofuels

Colorado-based ZeaChem has expanded its board of directors and raises new capitol to move closer to commercial production of advanced biofuels and chemicals.

ZeachemZeaChem has raised $19 million in Series C financing, led by Birchmere Ventures, and partner Sean D.S. Sebastian has joined the ZeaChem board of directors. “As an industry leader in the advanced biofuels and bio-based chemicals industries, ZeaChem’s proven capability to produce economical and sustainable petroleum alternatives is an innovation we are pleased to add to our portfolio,” said Sebastian.

ZeaChem also added two independent members to the board. Ross Pillari spent 35 years with BP, including as chairman and chief executive officer of BP America and currently serves on the advisory board of CVC Capital Partners. Charles “Charlie” Shaver has three decades of experience in the chemicals industry, most recently serving as president of The TPC Group, Inc.

ZeaChem’s 250,000 GPY integrated demonstration biorefinery in Boardman, Oregon is scheduled to come on line yet this year. The company is now developing commercial biorefineries for the production of advanced biofuels and bio-based chemicals.