Consumer Fuel Choice Campaign Launched

Ethanol, biodiesel, propane, natural gas, electricity – even regular gasoline – consumers should have choices at the pump and a new campaign is urging lawmakers in Washington to make that happen.

More than 20 worldwide leaders in the effort to commercialize next-generation transportation fuels today announced the new campaign, called FuelChoiceNow. Among the companies that have joined the effort are Abengoa Bioenergy, Battery Ventures, Propel Fuels, and Qteros.

“The purpose behind FuelChoiceNow is to promote consumer choice at the pump,” said Susan Hager, vice president of corporate communications and government affairs for Qteros. “The advocacy group does not promote one alternative fuel over another, we’re here to advocate for consumer choice.”

The group intends to educate and urge lawmakers to enact policies that promote open fuel markets in the United States. “Today in the United States, the transportation fuel market is not an open market, it’s not competitive,” Hager said. “What we’re advocating is room for innovation and new technologies for consumers to choose from.”

FuelChoiceNow has launched a website, along with a Facebook fan page and Twitter account, to encourage a grassroots effort toward expanding fuel choices.

Listen to or download interview with Susan Hager here. Susan Hager of Qteros

Urbee Car Unveiled At Winnipeg Art Gallery

What might the future of transportation look like if fossil fuels cease to exist? If mechanical engineer Jim Kor, along with 11 other engineers and designers, is correct it will look like the Urbee Car. This visionary vehicle is an electric-ethanol hybrid that has been under development since 1996 and was finally unveiled at the Winnipeg Art Gallery over the weekend.

This two-passenger, aerodynamic car is ultra-lightweight and requires only one-eighth the energy of a small, conventional car. It features a single-cylinder, eight-horsepower engine. And the body is manufactured with a three-dimensional printer, yet it’s set to last up to three decades. What else is different about this car? It has no trunk.

Kor, president of Kor EcoLogic, believes one day all cars will be shaped like his. “True progress means using less horsepower,” said Kor in the Winnipeg Free Press.

Less power indeed. His car only has eight horsepower whereas even the smallest cars on the market have at least 68 horsepower. Today, Kor and his team are testing the Urbee to ensure that it is safe to drive on the road.

Several hurdles remain before the car can go “mainstream”. The company must raise at least $1 million to build a second prototype and from there they will build the first 12 working cars- one for each member of the team. Kor anticipates when the car comes to market, it will have a price tag between $30,000 – $50,00. He anticipates the price will go down when the car reaches mass production. In addition, the price will also go down because three-dimensional printing is faster and cheaper than moulds.

While it may take quite some time before this car hits the road, the concept of the electric-ethanol hybrid should take off faster.

How to Engage Your Employees in Safety

To have a profitable business you need to operate safely while producing a high quality product. You can produce a high quality product but if your employees are getting hurt while you’re doing this, you’re not going to be in business long. So it’s important that you engage your employees into your safety program from top to bottom. And that’s the topic of Part 3 of the Biorefinery Safety Series.

To learn how to get people involved, I reached out to Joe Korpi with the Renewable Energy Group (REG), the largest biodiesel company in the country. Korpi said that many safety programs are struggling to answer that question.

“One of the things we’ve discovered is that too often the safety program focuses on the what. What happened in the past? What shouldn’t have happened in the past? How did we make mistakes in the past? One of the things we’ve decided to do here at the Renewable Energy Group, and it seems to work very well in all of the different industries that are trying it, instead of focusing on the what, focus on the why,” explained Korpi. “Train the employees on why they need to do the things they need to do, and, focusing on what specific actions, or behaviors the employees need to be able to demonstrate so they can do our safety programs correctly.”

There are several levels of “accidents” at a biorefinery. The first is the near misses or unsafe acts. These don’t actually result in an “accident”.  The next level is where someone is hurt a little bit, say a burn. Then you have your recordables and then your reportables where you have to call OHSA within eight hours. Korpi said the best practice is to focus on those unsafe acts or near misses. In this situation, you identify something that could have happened but didn’t and focus on ensuring an accident doesn’t occur in the future.

Listen to my interview with Joe Korpi here: Biorefinery Safety Series Part 3: How to Engage Your Employees in Safety Continue reading

Tips For Methanol Safe Handling

Chemicals are an everyday part of operating a biorefinery facility as we learned in Part 1 of Biorefinery Safety Series. Chemicals are also an integral part of biodiesel production. Therefore, it is vitally important that all employees at a biodiesel facility, whether a large operation on a small backyard operation, learn, practice and live safe methanol handling techniques. So today, Part 2 of the Biorefinery Plant Safety Series is going to look how to safely handle methanol.

To learn more, I spoke with Greg Dolan with the Methanol Institute. The association does a lot of work with the National Biodiesel Board because methanol is a key component in biodiesel production.

A gallon of biodiesel is on average between 10-15 percent methanol, said Dolan who explained that you take the oil, could be soybean oil or vegetable oil, add methanol, then add a catalyst and you produce biodiesel. Part of the end product will be some waste methanol and some glycerin and with some production technologies, that methanol can be put back into the front end of the process.

What happens if you don’t handle the methanol safely? Things go boom.

Dolan said methanol is a flammable and toxic chemical and methanol has to be handled properly. “Some of the same precautions we use handling gasoline are also used in handling methanol. For instance, you need to use the proper materials for storage. There are specific guidelines for unloading and loading of methanol at a facility. You also need to pay attention from doing any hot work around any methanol storage. That is something you really want to stay away from. Most accidents we’ve seen at biodiesel facilities result in doing hot work around methanol storage,” he said.

Listen to my interview with Greg Dolan here: Ethanol Safety Series Part II: Methanol Safe Handling Continue reading

White Paper Answers Questions About Ethanol

A new white paper released by Gold Eagle Co aims to answer questions about ethanol blended gasoline. Gold Eagle sells aftermarket fluids and additives such as STA-BIL Ethanol Performance Improver.Petroleum Production, Distribution and Discussion of the use of Ethanol Blended Gasoline” answers such questions as, How is gasoline produced? What is ethanol’s impact on gasoline? What is phase separation? and more.

“Through our conversations with our retail customers and consumers, we believe there is a need to educate the general public on the gasoline refinery process because there is much mis-information, particularly when it comes to ethanol-blended gasoline,” said Mike Profetto, vice president of Product Engineering at Gold Eagle Co.

“We developed a white paper to shed light on the complexity of gasoline – particularly the refining and distribution process and explain the technical aspects as to why gasoline is designed to meet ASTM specifications. The report also highlights the history of ethanol and governmental requirements for biofuels through 2022 and defines ethanol blend fuel specifications and its use throughout the U.S.,” he continued.

In 2010, as estimated 13.23 billion gallons of ethanol were produced in the States. Also in 2010, the Environmental Protection Agency approved the Green Jobs Waiver, allowing the use of E15 in cars and light duty trucks 2001 or newer. However, E15 was not approved for small engines, marine and other specialty engine types.

“We believe that by staying informed about ethanol’s functionality and impact on vehicle performance, automotive repair personnel and consumers alike can help ensure they take proper preventative measures to ensure their vehicles continue to operate smoothly,” added Profetto.

Renewable Fuels Month Proclaimed in Nebraska

September is officially Renewable Fuels Month in Nebraska now after a proclamation signing by the governor today at Husker Harvest Days.

Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman joined state soybean board chair Lisa Lunz, NASCAR Nationwide driver Kenny Wallace and Alan Tiemann, chairman of the Nebraska Corn Board, in making the declaration. “Nebraska’s renewable fuels sector contributes to local communities by providing good paying jobs for thousands of Nebraskans,” said Gov. Heineman. “Renewable fuels are a critical component of becoming energy independent and by providing an alternative to imported oil. We are fortunate to have a strong biofuels industry with thousands of Nebraskans working to fuel America.”

The proclamation was coordinated through the Nebraska Corn Board and Nebraska Soybean Board, who hosted the event at Husker Harvest Days to recognize the contributions of Nebraska farmers and agribusinesses to the nation’s renewable fuel supply.

How to Properly Handle Chemicals in a Biorefinery

I’ve spent the last few weeks speaking with people in the biorefining industry in an effort to learn more about safety issues and best practices. The result is a series on Biorefinery Plant Safety and part one focuses on chemical safety. Chemicals are a necessary component of producing ethanol or biodiesel. On the ethanol side, some plants use chlorine dioxide or sulfuric acid in various aspects of the process – both in fermentation (to kill infections) and as a cleaning agent. On the biodiesel side, methanol is a commonly used.

Many things can happen when working with chemicals – slips, burns, fires, and explosions- and the biofuels industry has not been immune from any of these issues. While no one would tell me exactly what has caused some recent fires or explosions, I believe understanding cause and effect of mishandling chemicals/or properly handling chemicals, should reduce chemical accidents.

To learn more, I spoke with Scott Berger, with the Center for Chemical Process Safety, formed by the American Institute of Chemical Engineers. Their goal is to improve guidelines and improve practices to prevent major chemical accidents such as fires, explosions and toxic gas release. Formed in 1985, they have published more than 100 guidelines with the work being done by their 140 plus members in the chemical, refining, biorefining, and other similar manufacturing businesses.

Berger noted that it doesn’t matter which chemical you decide to use in your facility, every material has a hazard. “If you don’t respect that hazard, don’t identify that hazard, don’t manage the hazard properly, then you can have a problem.”

What is the right way to communicate chemical safety? Berger said the first thing is that management has to recognize that they’re dealing with hazardous materials and then they have to commit that they are going to manage those hazards. He said because without that recognition and that commitment, nothing will happen. From there they need to implement a management system for managing the hazardous materials and the hazardous process.

Listen to my interview with Scott Berger here: Ethanol Safety Series Part I: How to Properly Handle Chemicals in a Biorefinery Continue reading

Day in the Life of Biofuels Photo Contest

Biofuels Digest editor Jim Lane is looking for photos depicting “A Day in the Life of Biofuels” for an upcoming photo essay and he’s paying $1000 for the best photo he gets.

“It has to relate to biofuels in some way – as a consumer, researcher, policymaker, producer, journalist, feedstock grower, industry supplier, student, enthusiast, carmaker, mechanic, and so on,” Lane says. “Could be a grower riding a combine, a hand working in the field, an employee at a producing biorefinery, end users users filling a vehicle – a marketing team brainstorming, a policymaker speaking – anything you can think of relating to biofuels – the more visually creative, the better. Could be about you, your business, your colleagues, your town, your car, your farm, your research project, your product – your call. Documentary, serious, downbeat, upbeat, sad, funny – up to you.”

Lane says all photos submitted with a caption will be published in Biofuels Digest with a credit. Multiple photo submissions are welcome, but additional photos will be published on a space-available basis and Lane says photos “are subject to acceptance by the Digest on the basis of reasonable taste.”

Find out more here.

Canadian Firm Developing Industry Oilseed Crops

Vancouver-based Linnaeus Plant Sciences has been awarded $1.2 million in support from Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC) to further advance production of green alternatives to petroleum oils.

SDTC support will help Linnaeus advance production of camelina and safflower-based oils as renewable feedstock that can substitute for petroleum in a variety of high-value, non-fuel applications including polymers, lubricants, surfactants and other valuable industrial materials.

“Through our support for cutting-edge clean energy technology we are creating high-quality jobs and protecting our environment,” said Minister of Natural Resources Joe Oliver. “This project demonstrates our leadership in driving technology innovation to help create a vibrant clean energy industry in Canada.”

“We’re interested in a greener, more sustainable future for farmers and for all Canadians,” said Linnaeus’ President and CEO, Jack Grushcow. “This is significant support from SDTC. It will help us position these crops as viable substitutes for petroleum in a range of important products. Work being done in the laboratory and on the farm will help shape a more carbon-neutral planet for future generations. We are committed to ensuring that these crops deliver products that command sufficient value to allow the entire value chain to operate at a fair profit.”

“Technologies that will help Canada become less dependent on fossil fuels while creating value for farmers will be key in the country’s transition to a green economy,” said SDTC President and CEO Vicky Sharpe. “We are pleased to be adding this promising project to our portfolio.”

Linnaeus Plant Sciences has developed an integrated process to produce a variety of value-added, renewable, industrial feedstocks from camelina and safflower, for use in various industrial applications.

Students Launch Facebook Campaign to Raise Cash for Biodiesel Program

Rockwood Summit High School located in Fenton, Missouri is on the hunt for dollars to help expand their biodiesel project. But they are not selling candy bars or giving car washes on a Saturday afternoon. They have taken to Facebook to promote their fundraising campaign.

The fundraising campaign is not limited to Rockwood Summit High School. Famous Footwear and Converse have come onboard to offer up to $100,000 to any school that receives at least 75,000 votes in their contest. Of that money, $75,000 will go to the school for their project a $25,000 academic scholarship will go to the student who submitted the essay on behalf of the winning school.

The students at Rockwood Summit hope to build an educational renewable fuel facility if they win. Today, the school’s 80 gallon processor is stored in only 15 square feet of space. The monies will be used to expand the space with extra to grow. Next projects? Researching turning algae into biodiesel.

The students also want to take their biodiesel projects to the street and educate the local community about the environmental and economic benefits of the renewable fuel. They also hope to teach younger students the science behind biodiesel production.

So how do you help them win? Visit the Famous Footwear Facebook page here, and click on the Step It Up For Your School tab. From there, you need to “like” the page then click “Cast Your Vote,” and from there search for “Summit.” To take it on home you just need to Vote for them. Now tomorrow, repeat, and keep repeating until they win.

ACE Announces Winner of Merle Anderson Award

The winner of this year’s Merle Anderson Award goes to USDA Under Secretary for Rural Development Dallas Tonsager for his support of the ethanol industry. The honor was given by the American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) following their ethanol conference. Tonsager, who said he was pleased to win the award, was honored for his lifetime commitment to the promotion of both agriculture and the renewable fuels industry and more specifically, his work on implementing the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP).

The REAP program is currently helping retailers in rural communities install E85 pumps and blender pumps which offer consumers various blends of ethanol that oftentimes include E20, E30 or E40.

“I am excited to receive this honor that recognizes the work that USDA is doing to help our nation develop home-grown energy that creates jobs, helps to break our dependence on foreign oil, and moves our nation towards a clean energy economy,” said Tonsager.

Merle Anderson was the founder and first president of ACE and currently serves as Chairman Emeritus of the ACE board of directors. Brian Jennings, ACE executive VP added, “His work in developing blender pump infrastructure has been tireless and Dallas has always been a champion for the ethanol industry. It means a lot for rural America to have Dallas working in Washington on behalf of agriculture and the ethanol industry,” Jennings said.

Book Review – The Powers That Be

I felt like an academic when I read this week’s book, “The Powers That Be Global Energy For The Twenty-First Century And Beyond,” although author Scott L. Montgomery wanted the book to be “fun.” I sported my black geek glasses and curled up in a chair at a local coffee shop and attempted to give off the personae that I’m smart. Although I’m not sure anyone was fooled, I’m definitely smarter about our country’s energy options now than I was before I read the book.

This is an extremely in-depth look at what our energy landscape looks like today. It also reviews where we stand, as a world, with regard to resources and options as well as politics and policies that are driving the future. In addition, it looks at where we are headed.  As I look at our country, I’ve felt for a long-time that we are “energy illiterate” and need to become better students of energy education. While Montgomery agrees to some degree, he feels the problem lies more in lack of curriculum and the inability for people to learn about energy in a nonpartisan setting.

Montgomery writes, “Energy matters are critical to understand because they are fundamental to our way of life and because they are the subject of endless misconception, misrepresentation, and, as already noted, myth.”

Throughout the book, Montgomery takes an approach that many other authors have not and that’s the view that he doesn’t categorize energy as “dirty or clean” or necessarily “evil versus good.”  He explains that fossil fuels help build and transport renewable sources and also reminds us that every type of energy has an impact on the environment. Yes everyone, there is no “renewable” energy source that is developed, produced or transported without a fossil fuel. Continue reading

This School Year, Transport Your Kids In Cleaner Buses

School is in session.

Millions of children across the country have already started or will head back to class after Labor Day weekend. It’s a good time to ask the question, How clean is the air your children are breathing on the bus?

With nearly 450,000 school buses transporting more than 24 million students each day and covering more than 4 billion miles, many parents have become concerned about their children’s exposure to pollution from diesel exhaust.

One solution? Biodiesel. Biodiesel blends work in most diesel engines with little to no modifications so they can offer an immediate tool to lower toxic emissions. Today, the EPA’s Clean Bus USA program is helping schools convert buses to run with biodiesel.

There are many school districts who are already finding success with using biodiesel blends in their school buses. For instance, Medford New Jersey School District began using B20 back in 1997. Joe Biluck, Director of Operations and Technology says the fuel has performed well even in extremely cold temperatures – those below zero degrees.

“Biodiesel offers the best option to increase our reliance on domestic, renewable fuels while producing significant results in terms of emission reduction,” said Biluck. “Biodiesel’s primary attraction is its ease of integration coupled with the fact it is a technology that is not capital intensive and can be applied to older units as well as today’s vehicles.”

So parents, teachers and administrators, steal a lesson from some other schools and begin using cleaner fuels for the health of your children.

REG Adds Bioheat & Biodiesel Sales Manager

Paul Predaris has joined Renewable Energy Group (REG) as the company’s new Biodiesel Sales Manager. In his role, he will oversee the company’s Bioheat development of the biodiesel market in the Northeastern United States. This part of the country is rapidly adopting Bioheat for home heating and Predaris will closely work with home heating oil and petroleum distributors as well as terminal owners to expand the market.

“Bioheat and biodiesel demand in the Northeast is rapidly expanding due to progressive state and local energy policy and the Renewable Fuels Standard. As America’s largest biodiesel producer, we are committed to focusing our nationwide distribution and logistics resources in this region and the addition of Predaris to our team is evidence of that commitment,” said REG Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Gary Haer.

“Predaris’s extensive experience in the region and knowledge of the biodiesel industry allow him to effectively partner with down-stream supply chain partners in making Bioheat and biodiesel more widely available,” he added.

Prior to joining REG, Predaris spent nearly 15 years with Sprague Energy Corporation in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. He has also served on the board of directors for several state oil and heat councils and associations.

UOP Breaks Ground on Hawaii Cellulose Plant

UOP, a honeywell company, has broken ground on a biofuels demonstration plant in Hawaii that will convert forest waste, algae and other cellulosic biomass to fuel. The project is being helped along by a $25 million U.S. Department of Energy grant. The project will help meet federal biofuel mandates as well as help Hawaii reach its clean energy goals of producing 70 percent of its energy from “clean” sources by 2030.

The Integrated Biorefinery will be located at the Tesora Corp. refinery in Kapolei. The goal of the plant is to prove out the viability of the technology, test the fuels produced and evaluate the environmental footprint of the fuel. The first phase of production is expected to be begin in 2012 with the plant fully operational by 2014.

“Biomass is abundantly available today, and it is an important opportunity to consider as we seek alternatives that will reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and improve our environmental footprint,” said Jim Rekoske, vice president and general manager of Renewable Energy and Chemicals for Honeywell’s UOP.

“Our Integrated Biorefinery will illustrate these benefits as well the potential that biorefineries have to enhance the local economy and provide new green jobs. Our island home is far too dependent on imported fossil fuels, and I am very pleased that this alternative energy initiative has the support of the federal government,” he added.

According to Rekoske, once the technology is proven out, it could produce up to 50 million gallons of drop-in fuels. The Integrated Biorefinery is testing the RTP, rapid thermal processing technology to convert the biomass to biofuels.

Hawaii Senator Daniel K. Inouye said of the project, “Hawaii will play a critical role in helping the domestic biofuel industry thrive and this project will create much needed jobs in Kapolei. I am also pleased that Honeywell’s UOP is partnering with a number of local stakeholders including Hawaii BioEnergy, Group 70, Kai Hawaii, University of Hawaii and Leeward Community College. I will do all I can to ensure that Hawaii continues to serve as the laboratory for renewable energy initiatives in the Pacific.”